Wednesday, May 30, 2012

At Indy 500, The Roar of The Amens

In what's become an annual tradition at the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" -- albeit one not shown on TV -- from the stands at the Brickyard, here's the invocation given before the green flag (and a crowd of some 400,000) at Sunday's Indianapolis 500 by the apostolic administrator of the vacant Hoosier church: the blogging, tweeting, self-described "stah," Bishop Chris Coyne....

Coincidentally, today's General Audience saw the Pope touch on the use of "Amen" as the ultimate expression of one's "yes" to God.

That said, which moment took the cake for the Boston native's day at the races remains an open question: the prayer... or the encounter with Guy Fieri.

With Denver and Baltimore now filled, the 250,000-member Indy church -- vacated on last September's early retirement of Archbishop Daniel Buechlein OSB -- is the last of the three historically influential US metropolitan posts opened toward the end of 2011 which remains to receive its next occupant.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Buffalo, Moving Days

From Buffalo Chancery, Bishop Richard Malone's opening statement on his arrival in Western New York....

Via the local News, meanwhile, more footage from this morning's rollout... complete with the Boston-born prelate's profession of baseball loyalties....

On an interesting context note, the transfer of the head of Maine's statewide diocese -- and the resulting vacancy likely to approach a year's duration -- portends to leave the Portland church bishop-less in the run-up to a November referendum on legalizing same-sex marriage, the Pine Tree State's second in three years.

While Malone took ample doses of both praise and heat for leading a successful, high-profile charge against the measure's passage by voters in 2009, earlier this year the onetime chaplain at Harvard laid out a more teaching-oriented strategy toward the coming vote, anchored by a 24-page pastoral letter on marriage. (As most will remember, New York state enacted full recognition for same-sex unions in a legislative vote last summer.)

Home to some 700,000 Catholics today, the Buffalo church -- which numbered close to a million members in past decades -- is over three times the size of Portland's. Yet in what could be the most emblematic sign of American Catholicism's historic demographic shift away from the old Northeastern bastions toward parts South and West, a metro Atlanta parish has been engaged in a years-long effort to move a closed, basilica-style Buffalo church (above) to the Georgia suburbs to serve as its worship-space.

Dubbed "preservation by relocation," the campaign to haul stone by stone of the onetime St Gerard church 900 miles south has raised close to $3 million to date.

Perhaps Buffalo's most famed church, however -- and still open -- is the mammoth basilica-shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, the spiritual heart of the "City of Charity" built by Fr Nelson Baker, the local cleric whose cause for beatification was bolstered by last year's declaration of his heroic virtue.

With today's twin appointments, the number of vacant Stateside dioceses (Latin-church) rises to seven. The additional count of local churches led by a bishop serving past the retirement age, meanwhile, will stand at nine on tomorrow's 75th birthday of Bishop Walter Hurley of Grand Rapids, then tick up to ten as Bishop John Kinney of St Cloud marks the milestone on June 11th.

Among other domestic nods widely expected by the Vatican's summer recess at June's end is the appointment of a new archbishop of San Francisco to succeed the venerable George Niederauer, who turns 76 in mid-June.


From Denver, the First Word

Here from the Rockies, fullvid of this morning's presser re-introducing Archbishop-elect Samuel Aquila to his hometown church:

Meanwhile, in advance of this morning's Eastern Appointment Day rollout, Buffalo Chancery has announced that Bishop Richard Malone will be installed as the 14th head of the Upstate New York diocese on August 10th.


Tuesday Morning High

And on this post-Memorial morning, a fitting start....

...and as a Denver bonus for a homecome son, of course, "heaven" is Colorado:

It's official now -- at this Roman Noon, the Pope has named Bishop Sam Aquila of Fargo as the fifth archbishop of Denver, and Bishop Richard Malone of Portland in Maine has been tapped to lead the 700,000-member Buffalo diocese (a stolid fold roiled by a flood of nearly 80 parish closings over recent years) on the retirement of Bishop Edward Kmiec, who reached the retirement age of 75 last 4 June and has reportedly been in poor health.

As previously noted, Aquila is slated to be installed as head of his hometown church on July 18th.

And as a wild day on multiple fronts pans out, more to come.


The "Eagle" Returns -- Fargo's Aquila Headed Home to Denver

(The report below was formally announced by the Vatican at Roman Noon on Tuesday, May 29th.)

Much as the shop was planning to hold for Roman Noon, after a late leak to the Mile High City's ABC affiliate, we can proceed.

Earlier tonight, three Whispers sources confirmed that Pope Benedict is to name Bishop Samuel Aquila, 61 -- the Denver-bred head of North Dakota's Fargo diocese since 2001 -- as his hometown's fifth archbishop at Roman Noon (4am Mountain time) today.

As noted below, the putative appointee -- born in California to a family that emigrated West from South Philly -- is slated to appear at the traditional 10am press conference before leading an evening Mass in the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, located in the shadow of the Colorado Capitol. By virtue of his appointment alone, the archbishop-elect would be expected to receive the pallium from the Pope's hands in Rome a month from today on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, alongside the world's other new metropolitans named over the last year.

According to credible reports, Aquila's installation has already been scheduled for Wednesday, July 18th -- 365 days since his predecessor-to-be, Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap., was transferred to Philadelphia, in a move widely seen in church circles as the most challenging assignment an American prelate has been given in at least the last half-century.

A sacramental theologian trained at Rome's Benedictine-run Athaneum of Sant'Anselmo, as director of Denver's Liturgy Office, Aquila served as Master of Ceremonies at Chaput's installation as Colorado's fourth archbishop in April 1997. At the Capuchin's appointment, two years later Aquila took office as founding rector of St John Vianney -- the Denver seminary reconstituted from scratch which, within a decade of its establishment, has become the largest American formation house west of Mundelein. (Just last fall, the archdiocese received 20 first-year seminarians.)

During his ad limina visit with the bishops of the upper Midwest in early March (above), Aquila was praised by the Pope for his push to restore the traditional order of the sacraments of initiation in the 90,000-member North Dakota church, where Confirmation has preceded First Communion since 2005.

* * *
The first and lone US city to host World Youth Day, in August 1993 -- an event termed the "second founding" of the Mile High church -- Denver is viewed by no shortage of key churchfolk both at home and abroad as the de facto seat of the New Evangelization on these shores, a distinction born from the encouragement given to and success experienced by creative apostolates ranging from the celebrated NewAdvent web portal and rapidly-growing college missionary effort FOCUS to the archdiocese's lay-led Augustine Institute and ENDOW, a mission to affirm and amplify the charisms of women in the church. Demographically speaking, meanwhile, a mass influx of Hispanic immigration coupled with the community's birth-rates over the last two decades has now given Latinos a slight but growing majority share of the archdiocese's Catholic population.

The Denver church stretches across some 40,000 square miles of Colorado's Northern third from the Mile High City to the state's Western Slope.

Notably, the last two Denver archbishops have subsequently been named to positions traditionally held by cardinals. While Chaput's Philadelphia predecessors have been given the red hat for the last century, Aquila's predecessor-to-be was returned to the Rockies (where Chaput had already spent a decade as a parish priest and Capuchin provincial) after the 1996 appointment of then-Archbishop J. Francis Stafford to Rome as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Stafford's transfer ostensibly owed itself to the unexpected success of WYD Denver, which was felt in Rome to have "redefined" the concept and scope of the triennial event.

Elevated to the "Pope's Senate" in 1998, Stafford -- still a member of several Vatican offices, including the Congregation for Bishops -- is expected to retire in Denver on reaching his 80th birthday in late July, at which point his Curial memberships cease. Much as the Baltimore-born cardinal has maintained a vigor far younger than his years, the scholar-prince has reportedly kept his wish to be buried with the archdiocese's prior heads in the Bishops' Mausoleum at the local Mount Olivet Cemetery.

On 16 August, the Denver church marks the 125th anniversary of its founding as a diocese under the leadership of Joseph Projectus Machebeuf, the French-born cleric who would lay the groundwork for a sprawling, pioneering and evangelical Colorado Catholicism over the following three decades.

As ever, more to come.

PHOTOS: Reuters(1); L'Osservatore Romano(2)


Monday, May 28, 2012

The Tuesday Line

Fresh off the unofficial start of summer, the news-docket heats up in the morning as three major stories step into high gear....
  • First, tomorrow brings the beginning of the much-anticipated Washington board meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, at which the umbrella-group representing the superiors of some 80 percent of the nation's sisters is expected to address last month's CDF order for a sweeping "renewal" of its mission. In the wake of the wildly controversial Vatican move -- which saw protests in a number of US cities last week -- LCWR has refrained from comment on the outcome of the four-year Doctrinal Assessment until this week's gathering, which runs through Friday. During a trip to Rome last month, however, members of the conference's leadership team reportedly held an initial meeting with the prelate tapped to oversee the process, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, whose well-honed tendencies toward conciliation and dialogue (along with high regard in a famously progressive diocese) has had little bearing on a widespread media portrayal of the as a cataclysmic bust-up. In the run-up to their meeting, LCWR released a prayer calling on "God's Spirit" to aid its discernment, asking that "all who are called to engage in prayer and conversation" on the group's future "come to the table with hearts that are open, transparent, and faith-filled."
  • Second, Msgr William Lynn is expected to take the stand for a third day of cross-examination by the prosecution in the Philadelphia trial where the longtime diocesan clergy chief has become the first US church official to be charged with facilitating a cover-up. As the proceeding wrapped its ninth week, the lead defendant's face remained solidly red through most of the scathing eight hours of questions lobbed at him so far by Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, his argument drawn from a litany of cases of Philadelphia priests who were shuffled to new assignments following abuse reports over Lynn's 12-year tenure as head of personnel (none of the cited cases, however, pertain to the child-endangerment charge for which he's being tried). While Lynn's defense has leaned principally on citing his twin tiers of superiors -- the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and his lead deputies -- as the architects of archdiocesan policy on accused priests (who, he said, could only be removed from ministry on either admitting an abuse claim or a diagnosis of pedophilia or ephebophilia), the 61 year-old monsignor admitted on the stand to never having called police with an allegation, adding that he had been "reprimanded" by his bosses for offering counseling to every victim who came forward. The testimony has drawn the Philly trial's largest crowd since its March opening; closing arguments could be underway by week's end.
  • And lastly, more than two months since B16's last appointments of new heads for US dioceses, several nods are said to be on-deck for Roman Noon, topped by the "crown jewel" of the current Stateside docket: the 600,000-member archdiocese of Denver, vacant since last July's transfer of Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. to the great Northeastern "supertanker." Already, reliable word has emerged that, following the standard 10am MT presser, the Mile High archbishop-elect is to celebrate an evening Mass in the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, with his installation reportedly set for July 18th. (In the interim, despite having yet to take possession of the Northern Colorado church, the nominee would be expected to receive his pallium from the Pope at next month's Roman celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.) Beyond the Rockies, five other Latin-church dioceses are currently vacant, with another nine led by bishops serving past the retirement age of 75. The latter figure increases by one on Wednesday of this week as Bishop Walter Hurley of Grand Rapids marks the milestone.
As ever, more as the butler allows. See you at 6.


The Glorious Dead

"Freedom is a light, for which many men have died in darkness."
--Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolution
Washington Square, Philadelphia

So, Stateside church, whether we've spent this long weekend enjoying the traditional beach-trek or barbeque, basking in the glow of a Confirmation, Ordination, graduation or Wedding, hyperventilating over the arrest of the Pope's butler, or letting the bread-and-circuses frenzy play out until the full brutta figura picture emerges, as another Memorial Day dawns on these shores, let us pause to remember the heroic sacrifices which won us the liberty to each of these and much more, that especially in these days, we may be ever more mindful of the responsibility born of it....

...and per house custom on the great civil feasts -- yet maybe with even more resonance in this moment than most -- here below, the Prayer for the Nation composed and first delivered in August 1791 by John Carroll of Baltimore: the church's founding father on these shores, and a cousin of the lone Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence....
We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Benedict, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his/her excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.



Sunday, May 27, 2012

In the Spirit's Descent, "The Feast of Human Unity"

Keeping his custom on this Pentecost Sunday, B16 celebrated morning Mass in St Peter's to mark the feast his homily termed "the baptism of the church."

During the Regina Caeli afterward, meanwhile, citing the enduring presence of "the Spirit who has spoken by means of the prophets" the pontiff made the notable announcement that, on 7 October -- the Opening Day of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization -- he'll declare Saints John of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen as Doctors of the Church, the 34th and 35th luminaries to be given the distinction, four of them now women.

While Benedict revealed his intent to honor the 16th century Spanish cleric during his pilgrimage to last year's World Youth Day in Madrid, the elevation of the famed 12th century German Benedictine visionary, scientist, musician and healer -- expected for some time -- was fueled by the recent word that the Pope had formally "inscribed" Hildegard into the number of the canonized, after several attempts to declare her a saint following her death were never formally completed.

Now officially set to join Saints Catharine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and Therese of the Child Jesus (the Little Flower, and the last figure to be added among the Doctors in 1997), Hildegard's feast-day is September 17th.

Having taken his annual retreat over the nine days leading up to today's feast prior to becoming Pope, it's worth recalling, too, that Joseph Ratzinger was ordained a bishop on the Vigil of Pentecost 35 years ago in Munich Cathedral. In that light, here's the full Vatican translation of Benedict's homily this morning, notable for its musings on the spiritual fruits of technology and modern "progress."

* * *
Dear brothers and sisters!

I am happy to celebrate this Holy Mass with you – a Mass animated by the Choir of the Academy of Santa Cecilia and by the Youth Orchestra, which I thank – on this Feast of Pentecost. This mystery constitutes the baptism of the Church, it is an event that gave the Church the initial shape and thrust of its mission, so to speak. This shape and thrust are always valid, always timely, and they are renewed through the actions of the liturgy, especially.

This morning I want to reflect on an essential aspect of the mystery of Pentecost, which maintains all its importance in our own day as well. Pentecost is the feast of human unity, understanding and sharing. We can all see how in our world, despite us being closer to one another through developments in communications, with geographical distances seeming to disappear – understanding and sharing among people is often superfical and difficult. There are imbalances that frequently lead to conflicts; dialogue between generations is hard and differences sometimes prevail; we witness daily events where people appear to be growing more aggressive and belligerent; understanding one another takes too much effort and people prefer to remain inside their own sphere, cultivating their own interests. In this situation, can we really discover and experience the unity we so need?

The account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, which we heard in the first reading, is set against a background that contains one of the last great frescoes of the Old Testament: the ancient story of the construction of the Tower of Babel. But what is Babel? It is the description of a kingdom in which people have concentrated so much power they think they no longer need depend on a God who is far away. They believe they are so powerful they can build their own way to heaven in order to open the gates and put themselves in God's place. But it's precisely at this moment that something strange and unusual happens. While they are working to build the tower, they suddenly realise they are working against one another. While trying to be like God, they run the risk of not even being human – because they've lost an essential element of being human: the ability to agree, to understand one another and to work together.

This biblical story contains an eternal truth: we see this truth throughout history and in our own time as well. Progress and science have given us the power to dominate the forces of nature, to manipulate the elements, to reproduce living things, almost to the point of manufacturing humans themselves. In this situation, praying to God appears outmoded, pointless, because we can build and create whatever we want. We don't realise we are reliving the same experience as Babel. It's true, we have multiplied the possibilities of communicating, of possessing information, of transmitting news – but can we say our ability to understand each other has increased? Or, paradoxically, do we understand each other even less? Doesn't it seem like feelings of mistrust, suspicion and mutual fear have insinuated themselves into human relationships to the point where one person can even pose a threat to another? Let's go back to the initial question: can unity and harmony really exist? How?

The answer lies in Sacred Scripture: unity can only exist as a gift of God's Spirit, which will give us a new heart and a new tongue, a new ability to communicate. This is what happened at Pentecost. On that morning, fifty days after Easter, a powerful wind blew over Jerusalem and the flame of the Holy Spirit descended on the gathered disciples. It came to rest upon the head of each of them and ignited in them a divine fire, a fire of love, capable of transforming things. Their fear disappeared, their hearts were filled with new strength, their tongues were loosened and they began to speak freely, in such a way that everyone could understand the news that Jesus Christ had died and was risen. On Pentecost, where there was division and incomprehension, unity and understanding were born.

But let's look at today's Gospel in which Jesus affirms: “When he comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to the whole truth”. Speaking about the Holy Spirit, Jesus is explaining to us what the Church is and how she must live in order to be herself, to be the place of unity and comunion in Truth; he tells us that acting like Christians means not being closed inside our own spheres, but opening ourselves towards others; it means welcoming the whole Church within ourselves or, better still, allowing the Church to welcome us. So, when I speak, think and act like a Christian, I don't stay closed off within myself – but I do so in everything and starting from everything: thus the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of unity and truth, can continue to resonate in people's hearts and minds, encouraging them to meet and welcome one another. Precisely because it acts in this way, the Spirit introduces us to the whole truth, who is Jesus, and guides us to examine and understand it. We do not grow in understanding by closing ourselves off inside ourselves, but only by becoming capable of listening and sharing, in the “ourselves” of the Church, with an attitude of deep personal humility. Now it's clearer why Babel is Babel and Pentecost is Pentecost. Where people want to become God, they succeed only in pitting themselves against each other. Where they place themselves within the Lord's truth, on the other hand, they open themselves to the action of his Spirit which supports and unites them.

The contrast between Babel and Pentecost returns in the second reading, where the Apostle Paul says: “Walk according to the Spirit and you will not be brought to satisfy the desires of the flesh”. St Paul tells us that our personal life is marked by interior conflict and division, between impulses that come from the flesh and those that come from the Spirit: and we cannot follow all of them. We cannot be both selfish and generous, we cannot follow the tendency to dominate others and experience the joy of disinterested service. We have to choose which impulse to follow and we can do so authentically only with the help of the Spirit of Christ. St Paul lists the works of the flesh: they are the sins of selfishness and violence, like hostility, discord, jealousy, dissent. These are thoughts and actions that do not allow us to live in a truly human and Christian way, in love. This direction leads to us losing our life. The Holy Spirit, though, guides us towards the heights of God, so that, on this earth, we can already experience the seed of divine life that is within us.

St Paul confirms: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace”. We note how the Apostle uses the plural to describe the works of the flesh that provoke the loss of our humanity – while he uses the singular to define the action of the Spirit, speaking of “the fruit”, in the same way as the dispersion of Babel contrasts with the unity of Pentecost.

Dear friends, we must live according to the Spirit of unity and truth, and this is why we must pray for the Spirit to enlighten and guide us to overcome the temptation to follow our own truths, and to welcome the truth of Christ transmitted in the Church. Luke's account of Pentecost tells us that, before rising to heaven, Jesus asked the Apostles to stay together and to prepare themselves to receive the Holy Spirit. And they gathered together in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room and awaited the promised event.

Like when it was born, today the Church still gathers with Mary and prays: “Veni Sancte Spiritus! - Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!”




For the Ordinariate, A Flock of Fathers

Much as Pentecost marks the "birthday" of the church, it's rare that this 50th Day of Easter actually lends itself to seeing a community of the faithful take shape and grow in real-time. This year, though, that just so happens to be the case in our midst.

Along those lines, while an early-month briefing on the global Anglican Ordinariate effort said that the first priestly ordination for the venture's North American branch would take place on June 3rd in South Carolina, to use a Roman term, the report has been superseded by a fresh development.

According to a Friday announcement from the Houston-based Chair of St Peter and the archdiocese of Mobile, the first priesting for the key papal project will instead take place a day earlier, as a 31 year-old former Episcopal cleric is ordained next Saturday alongside the Alabama church's own quintet of candidates.

His clearance for orders received from Rome just prior to the weekend, Matthew Alan Venuti will be ordained a transitional deacon tonight by Mobile's Archbishop Thomas Rodi in the chapel of a parish there, which doubles as the worship-space for the local Anglican Use community he leads.

The married father of one became an Episcopal priest in 2010 and was received into the Catholic church last September.

As previously noted, the first cleric ordained for the new structure -- now Deacon Jon David Chalmers -- will become its fourth priest the following day, Trinity Sunday, in the Palmetto State. (The Stateside Ordinariate's existing duo of priests are its head, the married and mitred Msgr Jeffrey Steenson, and Fr Eric Bergman -- a former Episcopal cleric ordained for Pennsylvania's Scranton diocese in 2007 -- who was incardinated into the Chair earlier this month. Despite serving as Steenson's deputy, the Canon to the Ordinary Fr Scott Hurd juridically remains a priest of Washington, where he was ordained under the Pastoral Provision in 2000.)

Said to be on-track to receive 30 new priests just over the summer months (with just as many elsewhere in the pipeline), the twin single ordinations will take place alongside at least two sets of mass additions to the Ordinariate's clerical ranks just within the next week. On Tuesday, Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth will make transitional deacons of six former Episcopal priests; including a father and son (Charles Hough III and IV), the North Texas group will become priests on June 30th. And next Saturday in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl -- the CDF delegate for the domestic Anglicanorum project -- will ordain five metro DC candidates as transitional deacons.

The capital group includes Randy Sly, a lead editor of the Catholic Online portal, and Mark Lewis, the once and future rector of St Luke's, Washington's lead Anglicanorum hub, and one of the few groups able to make the journey while keeping its building.

Wuerl will ordain at least two of the men to the priesthood on June 23rd in St Matthew's Cathedral; the others should likewise have their journey completed by month's end.

Meanwhile, the shot above comes from across the Pond as the founding arm of the project -- Britain's Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham -- ordained 17 transitional deacons yesterday in London's Westminster Cathedral, in what was said to be the UK's largest ordination of any kind "in years."

The new deacons are part of an eventual priesthood class of 30 in the English set-up's second wave, following some 60 former Anglican clerics -- including four Church of England bishops -- who became Catholic priests in the first months after the venture's founding in January 2011.

What's expected to be the final of the new jurisdictions for Anglican groups seeking to enter full communion launches in mid-June with Rome's establishment of an Australian Ordinariate, to be called Our Lady of the Southern Cross.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Spirit of Life, Spirit of Pentecost...."

As the church's first and most important Novena wends into its home-stretch toward the birthday we all share, earlier today B16 -- who, before his election, would take his major retreat of each year between Ascension and Pentecost -- closed a talk to the Italian bishops in notable fashion: with a prayer he penned to the Holy Spirit, here in an English translation...
Spirit of Life, who in the beginning alighted upon the abyss,
help humanity in our time to understand
that the exclusion of God leads us to lose ourselves in the desert of the world,
and that only when we enter into faith do dignity and freedom flourish
and society can be built up in justice.

Spirit of Pentecost, who makes one Body of the Church,
restore unto us, the baptized, an authentic experience of communion;
make of us a living sign of the presence of the Risen One in the world,
a community of saints that lives in the service of love.

Holy Spirit, who enables our mission,
allow us to recognize that, even in our time,
many people are seeking the truth of their existence and of the world.
Make us coworkers for their joy in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
the grain of God's wheat, who makes our life's journey good and assures us the abundance of the harvest.

To one and all, may you know the sevenfold gifts and every grace and blessing this Pentecost and always.

A joy-filled, raucous and Happy Birthday, Church -- safe travels to everyone hitting the road for the long weekend.



The Crux of The Suit

In the wake of Monday's filing of a nationwide civil suit by 43 church entities -- led by 13 (arch)dioceses and four universities -- seeking relief from the impending Federal mandate for contraceptive coverage on religious freedom grounds, the plaintiffs' argument was encapsulated for the cameras by the Cardinal-President of the Stateside bench....

Meanwhile, in a Tuesday turn on CBS' morning show, the Chief accused the White House of seeking to "strangle" the church:

At the same time, while Cardinal Timothy Dolan hailed the prior day's filing as "a compelling display of the unity of the church in defense of religious liberty," the bishops' rare months-long stretch of a "strongly united" approach on the issue and its handling showed its first major crack hours later as a key USCCB chair called for a "deeper discussion" of the church's strategy on the issue amid a concern that "different groups that are trying to co-opt this and make it into a political issue."

In comments published on the website of the Jesuit weekly America, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton -- the bench's Domestic Policy chief -- was said to be "worried that some groups 'very far to the right' are trying to use the conflict as 'an anti-Obama campaign.'

"The question is what is our focus as bishops," Blaire said, "and that we have opportunity to clarify our focus and that we are all in agreement on focus."

Conspicuously, meanwhile, the religious liberty push quietly crept North last week as the Canadian bishops released a pastoral letter headlined by "a pressing appeal for freedom."


"If That's What It Says...."

File by daming file, case by brutal case. One after another after another.

All told, four and a half hours of cross-examination today. And in a word, it was withering.

The cross will resume for a third day when the trial picks up on Tuesday.

More once it's all laid out... at least, as best one can do with something like this.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In His Own Defense: At Philly Abuse Trial, The Secretary Takes the Stand

Not long after Msgr William Lynn became the first US church official to be charged with facilitating a cover-up of abuse cases, word swirled among his Philadelphia confreres that "If Bill goes down, he's taking everyone with him."

Since beginning trial in late March, the longtime Secretary for Clergy of the roiled Northeastern archdiocese has mostly sat expressionless, slumped in his chair at the defense table as a parade of witnesses and reams of Chancery files gave detailed accounts of "powder keg" priests, gut-wrenching romps by serial predators, and at least one cleric whose perceived "disobedience" was dealt with more swiftly and severely by his superiors than seemingly any had been over reports of misconduct with minors.

Today, however, it was Lynn's turn to talk. And while most of the nine-week proceeding has tended to draw a daily crowd numbering little more than a dozen spectators, this time Room 304 of the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center was full, as TV camera-crews congregated in the lobby downstairs, as they only do when major developments arise.

Even for his attorneys' early assurance that the monsignor -- who served as head of clergy personnel from 1992-2004 -- "has a story to tell," whether Lynn would take the stand has loomed as a key uncertainty in the landmark case. Yet while a "no exceptions" ban on electronic devices in the courtroom has made real-time reporting from the proceedings essentially nonexistent, word hit the street within minutes of this morning's indication inside that the lead defendant was about to testify.

After eight weeks of dramatic, often harrowing, prosecution arguments, Lynn's defense began its case yesterday, opening its witness list with two of their client's three priest-deputies in the Office for Clergy, each of whom remained in senior archdiocesan posts until becoming pastors in recent years. But only when their former boss -- a stocky priest with a strong, working-class Philly accent -- followed suit to field hour upon hour of questions has the clash of strategies presented itself in the trial's starkest light to date.

For their part, Lynn's team maintained an approach of presenting the monsignor as a third-, or even fourth-tier functionary in a Chancery apparatus where nothing could be done without the approval of the then-archbishop, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who died in late January after providing two days of videotaped testimony. In an intense cross-examination, meanwhile, prosecutors aimed to portray Lynn as the most significant link in a "chain of information" that -- flowing from a combination of victims, the accused and doctors at an archdiocese-owned hospital evaluating the latter -- would be compiled by the Clergy Office to reach his superiors, who made the ultimate call on the monsignor's recommendations in each case.

For the bulk of his tenure, Lynn's office served as the archdiocese's central venue for abuse-related matters ranging from investigating allegations to victim assistance and implementing actions to be taken on the accused. (In the wake of the Dallas Charter and Norms enacted by the US bishops a decade ago next month, those functions have since been split among a number of newly-created bodies.) The monsignor testified that, under his remit from Bevilacqua, he could only remove a priest from an assignment if the cleric admitted to an allegation, irrespective of the weight of the evidence.

In local shorthand, though, the core of the defense has pitted one floor of the Philadelphia Chancery against another, with Lynn's attempts at "compassion" for victims in his 10th Floor office undermined by the "parameters" dictated from the 12th Floor suites occupied by Bevilacqua, his vicar-general and their staffs.

While his lawyers' tack would seem to indicate a degree of independence, under cross-examination the defendant unwittingly cited the main roadblock to persuading the jury of his innocence.

"When the bishop tells you to do something," Lynn said, "you do it."

* * *
On several levels, the Philadelphia trial has made for a unique moment in the Catholic world's long, crushing road of abuse scandals.

Beyond being the first criminal process in the English-speaking church to probe an administrator's response to allegations, the trial has provided the most in-depth look at a US Chancery's handling of cases thanks to years of subpoenas, which saw several thousand internal diocesan files turned over to prosecutors, no shortage of which would emerge in court.

Of these, the trial has notably been the first American proceeding to obtain and employ items from a local church's secret archive. Despite the provision of Canon 489, which mandates the presence of such a space in every Chancery, Lynn and his deputies testified that they had no idea of the archive's existence until taking up their posts in the Clergy Office, while lawyers from both sides and media coverage alike have uniformly portrayed the secret collection as something both sinister by design and particular to Philadelphia. In reality, as one former Lynn aide, Msgr Michael McCulken, testified yesterday, aside from the abuse files, the secret archive otherwise contained records of testimony from the beatification process of the now-canonized Mother Katharine Drexel and "the wills of the bishops of Pennsylvania." (By court order, all witnesses are barred from speaking elsewhere until the trial is concluded.)

Said to have housed the files of priests accused of abuse before a 1988 reorganization of the archdiocesan Curia, the Philadelphia secret archive was separate from "File 3," or the records of priests subsequently accused of misconduct, which were kept in the Clergy office. Yet even as the relevant canons stipulate that "only the [diocesan] bishop is to have the key" to the secret archive, the two locked cabinets in a 12th Floor record room have come to dominate the trial's focus in light of a 1994 memo prepared by Lynn from their contents, on what he's stated to be his own volition.

Listing 35 priests accused of abuse -- most of whom maintained full faculties at the time and for years afterward -- what was believed to be all remaining copies of the document were shredded on Bevilacqua's orders, according to a handwritten memo found on a surprise surviving copy, which was located on the cracking of a long-untouched Chancery safe in 2006, but only given to prosecutors in the weeks following Bevilacqua's death on 31 January of this year.

In his testimony, Lynn said he "probably" typed up the list, which he compiled with his then-deputy, Msgr James Beisel, during "after hours" sessions spent in the archive over several weeks in early 1994. Having testified to the first of two grand juries a decade ago that he knew of the list, but not where it could be found, Lynn said today that he only learned a copy still existed earlier this year, when the prosecution notified his attorneys that the file had emerged.

According to the surviving copy, the others were shredded by Msgr James Molloy -- the deputy to Bevilacqua's first vicar-general, auxiliary Bishop Edward Cullen -- "in the presence of" then-Fr Joseph Cistone, who would succeed Cullen in the #2 slot in 1998, remaining there until his transfer to the bishopric of Saginaw in 2009.

Now 79, Cullen became bishop of Allentown in 1997 and retired in 2009. Named rector of St Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook later in 1994, then to a suburban pastorate five years later, Molloy died of a reported heart attack in 2006.

At one point in today's testimony, asked about another handwritten notation on a different memo stating that the archdiocese did not probe anonymous allegations of abuse, Lynn said that the script -- previously attributed to Molloy -- wasn't written by the late monsignor, "but the cardinal."

After replying to another question over the whether the general policy on handling allegations and reassigning accused clerics had come from Bevilacqua, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina interjected to ask how Lynn was aware of it.

Having turned red in the face for much of his testimony, the monsignor said that understanding had been made clear to him "by Molloy and Cullen."

In their respective turns, Lynn and his deputies said that all but one of the victims who came forward over their years in the Clergy Office had been adults. In the lone case of a minor who reported abuse, the priest was prosecuted; the victim's family had contacted the civil authorities before coming to the archdiocese.

In his Tuesday testimony, McCulken said that, while Lynn always acted "with compassion" for victims and their office would "drop everything" when an allegation came in, civil authorities were never alerted to allegations brought to the archdiocese as the church's legal counsel advised that no mandatory reporting requirement existed, and the statute of limitations on the cases had lapsed.

Asked if he had done enough, Lynn replied that "I did my best, with the parameters given to me." When queried why parishioners were "left in the dark" when an accused priest was publicly placed on an unspecified health leave, the monsignor said that "a mental health concern is a health concern."

Bevilacqua "didn't allow" public disclosure of abuse claims, Lynn said.

Begun with a reference to Luke 17:2 and a rare courtroom quote from the Baltimore Catechism, prosecution questioning of the monsignor is slated to continue tomorrow morning. The jury is likely to have the case either late next week or shortly thereafter.

At the close of the prosecution's case last week, Sarmina dropped a conspiracy charge against Lynn and his co-defendant, James Brennan -- a suspended diocesan priest indicted over the alleged abuse of a boy in the late 1990s -- on grounds that the state failed to prove the claim that the duo conspired with each other.

The monsignor remains charged on two counts on endangering the welfare of a minor. Brennan's abuse charge likewise remains unchanged.

Two other men indicted by the 2011 grand jury -- a religious priest and lay teacher, both charged with abuse -- are slated to face criminal trial in September.

* * *

On an atmospheric note, Room 304 isn't exactly an easy place to get to.

After passing through the airport-style metal detectors and putting one's belongings through an X-ray machine downstairs, a second, police-monitored checkpoint stands at the courtroom door to keep Sarmina's gadget ban intact. The combination of that ruling and a gag order on all parties to the case -- which, despite the lack of a corporate indictment, extends to the archdiocese -- is, as one local newsroom staffer recently lamented, "killing us" (i.e. the region's media) in terms of coverage.

Then again, for all the attention this trial has garnered in church circles well beyond the nation's fourth-largest TV market, here at home, even its bigger days clearly haven't been deemed the stuff of ratings gold. For example, today's testimony by Lynn was universally given the third, or even fourth story-slot on the city's evening newscasts, following a gridlock-inducing mass protest by public school workers whose jobs are under threat, a fresh sexual-assault arrest involving a teacher at a suburban public high school, and -- per usual for modern local news -- the Memorial Day weekend forecasts.

Beyond these, though, what many ad intra folk have come to see as the Stateside church's "Trial of the Century" has come to be eclipsed on its own turf by the wintertime announcement that 34 parochial schools in the 1.2 million-member Philadelphia church will close next month. Furious as the locals might've been about last year's second grand jury, only at the schools news -- the largest single consolidation of Catholic education ever undertaken by an American diocese -- did upwards of 2,000 people take to one neighborhood's streets to protest, while at least one enraged group attempted to break down the doors of a rectory whose pastor declined to appeal his school's merger. (In the archdiocese at large, the number of Baptisms has fallen by some 45 percent since 1991, while the rate of Catholic marriages conducted has plummeted by more than half. Some 35 Philadelphia Catholic schools had already been closed or consolidated over the last decade.)

All the while, the relative frenzy surrounding the start of Lynn's defense has ended up distracting the local press from what's likely to be the next major disclosure to hit.

After months of chatter indicating some degree of imminent fiscal doom, this Wednesday saw the first briefing of the Philly church's freshly-installed CFO, Timothy O'Shaughnessy, to the archdiocese's pastors on a dire financial state of the beleaguered onetime "empire." (O'Shaughnessy took office in April, nine months after his predecessor, Anita Guzzardi, was removed from the post on being found to have spent in excess of $900,000 in diocesan funds for her personal expenses, including credit-card bills and casino trips. After a civil investigation, Guzzardi was arrested by city officials earlier this year on criminal charges related to the theft.)

A second regional meeting with priests will be held tomorrow, and while the archdiocese has traditionally issued a financial report in late June -- just prior to the July 1st start of its next fiscal year -- for the past decade, a source speculated earlier this week that "the pink slips are about to go out" at its downtown headquarters.

In a March column, Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. previewed the impending release by saying that "Much of this year’s financial information will be new. Some of it will be quite sobering. Nonetheless, beginning this year and every year in the future, we will provide to our people as full a picture of our financial life as a church as we reasonably can."

"We can’t be confident about the future, we can’t even begin to solve our problems, unless we’re well informed," the Capuchin prelate said.

As the charges against Lynn pertain to official acts, among other extraordinary expenses of these days, the archdiocese is footing the bill for the monsignor's counsel at the ongoing trial.

PHOTO: Getty


Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Communications Day, "Silence and Word"

Before these pages go somewhat experimental to mark the occasion, lest anybody forgot, this Sunday -- now marked as Ascension Day in most of the Catholic world -- brings the global church's 46th World Communications Day, the lone observance to be called for by the Fathers of Vatican II.

In a marked departure from B16's chosen themes for recent WCDs -- which emphasized the need for the church to embrace digital media and social networks -- this year, the pontiff turned instead to focus on the need for and value of reflection in the ever-quickening exchange of words and ideas.

Released per Vatican custom last January 24th -- the feast of St Francis de Sales, patron of writers and journalists -- here below is the full PopeText for WCD2012.

* * *




Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we draw near to World Communications Day 2012, I would like to share with you some reflections concerning an aspect of the human process of communication which, despite its importance, is often overlooked and which, at the present time, it would seem especially necessary to recall. It concerns the relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence – indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression. Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.

The process of communication nowadays is largely fuelled by questions in search of answers. Search engines and social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers. In our time, the internet is becoming ever more a forum for questions and answers – indeed, people today are frequently bombarded with answers to questions they have never asked and to needs of which they were unaware. If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive. Amid the complexity and diversity of the world of communications, however, many people find themselves confronted with the ultimate questions of human existence: Who am I? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? It is important to affirm those who ask these questions, and to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue, by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection, something that is often more eloquent than a hasty answer and permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.

Ultimately, this constant flow of questions demonstrates the restlessness of human beings, ceaselessly searching for truths, of greater or lesser import, that can offer meaning and hope to their lives. Men and women cannot rest content with a superficial and unquestioning exchange of skeptical opinions and experiences of life – all of us are in search of truth and we share this profound yearning today more than ever: "When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals" (Message for the 2011 World Day of Communications).

Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives. It is hardly surprising that different religious traditions consider solitude and silence as privileged states which help people to rediscover themselves and that Truth which gives meaning to all things. The God of biblical revelation speaks also without words: "As the Cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by his silence. The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word …. God’s silence prolongs his earlier words. In these moments of darkness, he speaks through the mystery of his silence" (Verbum Domini, 21). The eloquence of God’s love, lived to the point of the supreme gift, speaks in the silence of the Cross. After Christ’s death there is a great silence over the earth, and on Holy Saturday, when "the King sleeps and God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages" (cf. Office of Readings, Holy Saturday), God’s voice resounds, filled with love for humanity.

If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God. "We need that silence which becomes contemplation, which introduces us into God’s silence and brings us to the point where the Word, the redeeming Word, is born" (Homily, Eucharistic Celebration with Members of the International Theological Commission, 6 October 2006). In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation "to communicate that which we have seen and heard" so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbours so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.

In silent contemplation, then, the eternal Word, through whom the world was created, becomes ever more powerfully present and we become aware of the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing throughout our history by word and deed. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, divine revelation is fulfilled by "deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them" (Dei Verbum, 2). This plan of salvation culminates in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the mediator and the fullness of all revelation. He has made known to us the true face of God the Father and by his Cross and Resurrection has brought us from the slavery of sin and death to the freedom of the children of God. The fundamental question of the meaning of human existence finds in the mystery of Christ an answer capable of bringing peace to the restless human heart. The Church’s mission springs from this mystery; and it is this mystery which impels Christians to become heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.

Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world. To Mary, whose silence "listens to the Word and causes it to blossom" (Private Prayer at the Holy House, Loreto, 1 September 2007), I entrust all the work of evangelization which the Church undertakes through the means of social communication.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2012, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales



Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Line Continues

River City, the Third Saturday of May....

In a tradition stretching back to 1853 and the hands of the nation's lone bishop-saint, that could only mean one thing. And so, even amid an epic tide of trials and transformation, the "long black line" continued on here earlier today as, in his first turn at the rite, the Ninth Archbishop ordained six new priests.

The sextet are part a national ordinandi class that, all told, holds at just shy of 500 new priests for the nation's dioceses and religious orders for the year. While 2012's figure of 487 "potential ordinands" is roughly consistent with last year's, the number of new US priests has increased 21 percent since 2008, according to CARA figures.

As local numbers go, leading the pack among the dioceses are two usual suspects of recent years: Archbishop John Myers of Newark ordained 16 men today for New Jersey's 1.3 million-member lead fold, while Cardinal Francis George of Chicago priested 14 of his own last week.

On the flip-side, meanwhile, three members of an announced class of seven new priests for the archdiocese of Hartford mysteriously vanished in the run-up to Ordination Day, and for the first time in memory, just one man was ordained this morning for the nation's second-largest diocese -- the 2.5 million-member New York church. (Keeping with Gotham custom, a second priest was likewise ordained at this morning's rites in St Patrick's Cathedral, but for the Bronx-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.) Elsewhere on the map, Milwaukee's class of seven represents the Beer City's largest crop in two decades, while in the Rose City, the archdiocese of Portland's ten candidates, to be ordained June 9th, will reportedly be the Oregon church's largest group ever.

All that said, it's worth noting that 2012's largest ordination group for an ecclesial circumscription on these shores belongs not to any time-honored outpost, but the new kid on the block. Thanks to the recent establishment of the Anglican Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter and its unique circumstances, the nationwide entity comprising no more than a few thousand souls will welcome somewhere between 30 and 60 new priests over the remainder of this year as freshly-"Poped" Episcopal clergy are cleared for orders and commissioned following the new body's Vatican-approved program of rapid, mostly online formation conducted by Houston's St Mary's Seminary and University of St Thomas.

As previously noted, the Chair's first priestly ordination is slated to take place on June 3rd in South Carolina, with several others quickly to follow. Given the priest crunch in no shortage of US locales, the Ordinariate clerics -- most of them married -- are likely to take on secondary assignments or be sought out for coverage duty in the Latin-church dioceses where they reside. In exchange for the added manpower, at least several US bishops are pitching in to aid the priests and the Houston-based start-up alike by, among other things, providing health insurance and other benefits for their local Ordinariate clergy and their families.

Coming back to where we started, though, from this morning's hometown rites, here's the full ordination preach from Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap.:

On a related note, as if the pressing challenges on the new archbishop's plate weren't already enough, in a column issued prior to today's ordinations, Chaput pledged a thorough remaking of the formation program at St Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, where the appointment of a new Rector is reportedly to be announced in the coming weeks.

PHOTO: Catholic Standard and Times File


Friday, May 18, 2012

"New Signs of Vitality and Hope": For US Church, The Pope's Last Word

Six months since its start, eight years since the last go-round, the ad limina visit of the US bishops to Rome -- the first of B16's pontificate -- has reached its close.

This morning, the final group to make the pilgrimage -- the country's Eastern hierarchs, now teamed up as a region of their own -- provided the audience for the last of the five papal speeches directed to the American church, its focus on immigration and ecclesial unity, with an eye to the Year of Faith beginning in October on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II.

For purposes of context, the Pope's prior addresses to the bench dealt with the New Evangelization (Northeast regions, late November), religious freedom (Mid-Atlantic, mid-January), sexuality, marriage and family life (Midwest in February), and education and faith formation to the Western bishops earlier this month.

On a quick side-note, each of the visiting prelates from the 15 USCCB regions received the pectoral cross shown right as a gift from the pontiff during their respective meetings. It's literally a Benedictine cross -- a replica of a 14th century crucifix that hangs in the Benedictine mother-church at Sant'Anselmo.

The reigning pontiff's arms engraved on the back, no shortage of American prelates have been seen making use of the crosses since coming home, most prominently the conference president, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who donned it for the February Consistory at which he received the red hat.

And here, this morning's closing text....

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection in the Lord. Our meeting today concludes the series of quinquennial visits of the Bishops of the United States of America ad limina Apostolorum. As you know, over these past six months I have wished to reflect with you and your Brother Bishops on a number of pressing spiritual and cultural challenges facing the Church in your country as it takes up the task of the new evangelization.

I am particularly pleased that this, our final meeting, takes place in the presence of the Bishops of the various Eastern Churches present in the United States, since you and your faithful embody in a unique way the ethnic, cultural and spiritual richness of the American Catholic community, past and present. Historically, the Church in America has struggled to recognize and incorporate this diversity, and has succeeded, not without difficulty, in forging a communion in Christ and in the apostolic faith which mirrors the catholicity which is an indefectible mark of the Church. In this communion, which finds its source and model in the mystery of the Triune God (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4), unity and diversity are constantly reconciled and enhanced, as a sign and sacrament of the ultimate vocation and destiny of the entire human family.

Throughout our meetings, you and your Brother Bishops have spoken insistently of the importance of preserving, fostering and advancing this gift of Catholic unity as an essential condition for the fulfillment of the Church’s mission in your country. In this concluding talk, I would like simply to touch on two specific points which have recurred in our discussions and which, with you, I consider crucial for the exercise of your ministry of guiding Christ’s flock forward amid the difficulties and opportunities of the present moment.

I would begin by praising your unremitting efforts, in the best traditions of the Church in America, to respond to the ongoing phenomenon of immigration in your country. The Catholic community in the United States continues, with great generosity, to welcome waves of new immigrants, to provide them with pastoral care and charitable assistance, and to support ways of regularizing their situation, especially with regard to the unification of families. A particular sign of this is the long-standing commitment of the American Bishops to immigration reform. This is clearly a difficult and complex issue from the civil and political, as well as the social and economic, but above all from the human point of view. It is thus of profound concern to the Church, since it involves ensuring the just treatment and the defense of the human dignity of immigrants.

In our day too, the Church in America is called to embrace, incorporate and cultivate the rich patrimony of faith and culture present in America’s many immigrant groups, including not only those of your own rites, but also the swelling numbers of Hispanic, Asian and African Catholics. The demanding pastoral task of fostering a communion of cultures within your local Churches must be considered of particular importance in the exercise of your ministry at the service of unity (cf. Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 63). This diaconia of communion entails more than simply respecting linguistic diversity, promoting sound traditions, and providing much-needed social programs and services. It also calls for a commitment to ongoing preaching, catechesis and pastoral activity aimed at inspiring in all the faithful a deeper sense of their communion in the apostolic faith and their responsibility for the Church’s mission in the United States. Nor can the significance of this challenge be underestimated: the immense promise and the vibrant energies of a new generation of Catholics are waiting to be tapped for the renewal of the Church’s life and the rebuilding of the fabric of American society.

This commitment to fostering Catholic unity is necessary not only for meeting the positive challenges of the new evangelization but also countering the forces of disgregation within the Church which increasingly represent a grave obstacle to her mission in the United States. I appreciate the efforts being made to encourage the faithful, individually and in the variety of ecclesial associations, to move forward together, speaking with one voice in addressing the urgent problems of the present moment. Here I would repeat the heartfelt plea that I made to America’s Catholics during my Pastoral Visit: "We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ" and thus embrace "that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world" (Homily in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, 19 April 2008).

In our conversations, many of you have spoken of your concern to build ever stronger relationships of friendship, cooperation and trust with your priests. At the present time, too, I urge you to remain particularly close to the men and women in your local Churches who are committed to following Christ ever more perfectly by generously embracing the evangelical counsels. I wish to reaffirm my deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country, and to join them in praying that this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church, as well as to their founding charisms. The urgent need in our own time for credible and attractive witnesses to the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel makes it essential to recapture a sense of the sublime dignity and beauty of the consecrated life, to pray for religious vocations and to promote them actively, while strengthening existing channels for communication and cooperation, especially through the work of the Vicar or Delegate for Religious in each Diocese.

Dear Brother Bishops, it is my hope that the Year of Faith which will open on 12 October this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council, will awaken a desire on the part of the entire Catholic community in America to reappropriate with joy and gratitude the priceless treasure of our faith. With the progressive weakening of traditional Christian values, and the threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly, the truth of Christ needs not only to be understood, articulated and defended, but to be proposed joyfully and confidently as the key to authentic human fulfillment and to the welfare of society as a whole.

Now, at the conclusion of these meetings, I willingly join all of you in thanking Almighty God for the signs of new vitality and hope with which he has blessed the Church in the United States of America. At the same time I ask him to confirm you and your Brother Bishops in your delicate mission of guiding the Catholic community in your country in the ways of unity, truth and charity as it faces the challenges of the future. In the words of the ancient prayer, let us ask the Lord to direct our hearts and those of our people, that the flock may never fail in obedience to its shepherds, nor the shepherds in the care of the flock (cf. Sacramentarium Veronense, Missa de natale Episcoporum). With great affection I commend you, and the clergy, religious and lay faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.

PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano/Vatican photo


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Now We Must Be Loyal Americans By Being Bold and Courageous Catholics"


16 MAY 2012

I. Introduction

A. My thanks to the Cardinals who are with us today
and, in a special way, to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò,
thank you for representing our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and
please convey to him the sentiments of loving communion of all here today.
My greetings and thanks to the many Archbishops and Bishops who join us today, as well as the priests, deacons, religious, and laity of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and honored guests from the Archdiocese of Washington, the Diocese of Bridgeport, my dear parents as well as family members and friends from Southern Indiana,
and many other places, together with interfaith and ecumenical representatives, and those who represent both State and local government, welcome one and all!

B. Doesn’t this seem like a good day to reflect on what a bishop does? One answer to that question was given by a third grader
at the Convent of the Sacred Heart School in Greenwich, Connecticut on the occasion of one of my visits.
Asked what a bishop does, she enthusiastically put her hand up and said, “He moves diagonally and protects the king!”
. . . So now you know!

C. Who a bishop is and what he is supposed to be was brought home to me
in this magnificent Cathedral of Mary Our Queen some seventeen years ago. It was here in this very sanctuary
that Cardinal Keeler and Cardinal Hickey presented me to Pope John Paul II for the first time as a newly ordained bishop.
There stood I before John Paul II, an ideal priest and a saintly bishop,
whose life spoke more eloquently even than his words about my vocation. And after I had been presented, I sat down and listened intently
as that magnificent Pontiff proceeded to describe
the unique heritage of this great Archdiocese of Baltimore.
This afternoon I want to express the common debt of gratitude we owe
to Cardinal Keeler who so loved and fostered the living heritage that is ours, and,
I want to join with you also in thanking Cardinal O’Brien, who, in challenging times, gave to this Archdiocese of Baltimore the care of a good and loving shepherd!

II. Paul in the Areopagus

A. We have just heard how St. Paul preached the Gospel in the Areopagus of Athens, the ultimate public square, in the height of the Roman Empire.
Paul did not hesitate to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ into that place
where ideas that mattered were discussed and debated.
By pointing to the altar to an unknown God Paul sought to make connections between the culture of the Athenians and the Gospel.
But never did it occur to St. Paul to present the Gospel
as mere ideas, as an alternative philosophy.
Rather, in that very public square St. Paul preached Christ crucified and risen as the source of life itself, of meaning, and of salvation.
His words were met with skepticism and even ridicule
yet among those who heard him, some came to be believe.

B. Few people in history went to more Areopagai than did Pope John Paul II
as he travelled the length and breadth of the globe proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, as indeed his successor, Pope Benedict, XVI, continues to do.
In so doing they are teaching me, they are teaching us all
how important it is not only to bring the Gospel into the public square
but indeed to defend the right to do so, not for ourselves and for all believers. Standing in this Cathedral, Blessed Pope John Paul II said:
“The challenge facing you, dear friends, is to increase people’s awareness
of the importance for society of religious freedom;
to defend that freedom against those
who would take religion out of the public domain
and establish secularism as America’s official faith.
And it is vitally necessary, for the very survival of the American experience,
to transmit to the next generation the precious legacy of religious freedom
and the convictions which sustain it.”

C. When the bishops from this Mid-Atlantic region recently visited Pope Benedict XVI,
he too spoke forcefully about the need to defend religious liberty in the United States: “With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church,” he said, “has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents,
which . . . seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. . .”
He went on to say that “the legitimate separation of Church and State
cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues,
nor that the State may choose not to engage or be engaged by
the voices of committed believers in determining the values
which will shape the future of the nation . . .”

D. We do not seek to defend religious liberty for partisan or political purposes, as some have suggested.
No, we do this because we are lovers of a human dignity
that was fashioned and imparted not by the government but by the Creator. We defend religious liberty because we are lovers of every human person, seeing in the face of every man and woman also the face of Christ,
who loved us to the very end and who calls on us to love and serve our neighbor with the same love he has bestowed on us.
We uphold religious liberty because we seek to continue serving those in need while contributing to the common good in accord with the Church’s social teaching and to do so with compassion and effectiveness through Catholic Charities,
the largest private provider of human services in the State of Maryland.
We do this because Archbishop John Carroll’s generation of believers and patriots bequeathed to us a precious legacy that has enabled the Church to worship in freedom, to bear witness to Christ publicly,
and to do massive and amazing works of pastoral love, education, and charity
in ways that are true to the faith that inspired them in the first place.
We defend religious liberty in fidelity to the wisdom of James Cardinal Gibbons
who withstood in the breach those who said it wasn’t possible
to be a practicing Catholic and a loyal American.
“...I belong to a country,” he said, “where the civil government holds over us
the aegis of its protection, without interfering with us
in the legitimate exercise of our sublime mission as ministers of the Gospel of Christ. Our country has liberty without license, and authority without despotism.”
Now we must be loyal Americans by being bold and courageous Catholics!

E. So, dear friends, let us be of good cheer.
Let us never imagine that the faith we profess with such personal conviction
is merely a private matter.
By its nature, the profession of faith is a public matter –
for the faith is meant to be spread far and wide and acted upon
in and through Church institutions and in the witness of individual believers.
Let us not shrink from entering the public square
to proclaim the Person of Christ, to teach the values that flow from reason and faith, to uphold our right to go about our daily work in accord with our teachings & values, to defend the sanctity of human life
from the moment of conception until natural death,
to defend the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman,
and to serve effectively those in great need with convictions borne of the moral law.

III. How We Go into the Public Square

A. But, dear friends, St. Paul did not carelessly enter the public square, the Areopagus. Not only did he first carefully study the culture & religious practices of the Athenians, he came filled with the love of God poured into his heart by the Holy Spirit.
He knew that the churches where he had preached and fostered the faith
needed to be both strong and vibrant, faithful and fruitful, truthful and loving. He knew that for his witness of faith to be believed
and for the church to flourish in times of peace as also in times of persecution, that its members must not only stand fast in the truth of the Gospel, but indeed to live the truth in love, to love in accord with the truth we have received.

B. Can there be any doubt how challenging this is?
The Church is endowed with the holiness of Christ
yet in need of constant renewal and purification
for those of us who are her members stand in need of God’s mercy and the mission of evangelization entrusted to us
requires the witness of a blameless conscience. On a day such as this, how hard we should pray
that in God’s grace, I will be a wise and holy bishop
who seeks to model my life and ministry on the Good Shepherd.
Pray that, as the Year of Faith announced by Pope Benedict XVI, unfolds,
I shall not only teach the faith but bear witness to it
in a manner that helps to heal the breach between faith and culture.
Pray that, in God’s grace, I might foster that unity of faith
which makes the Gospel credible, so that together,
we may always warmly invite those who have left the Church for whatever reason to return home in joy, in peace, and with hearts open to God’s love,
. . . and together may we continue to invite and welcome
those sincerely searching for the truth.

C. On a day such as this, how earnestly we should pray
for our auxiliary bishops, our priests, our deacons, who serve our parish communities, day in and day out, often bearing extraordinary burdens, for the sake of the Gospel. Dear brother priests, how happy I am that so many of you wrote to share with me your hopes, your dreams, your concerns for this local church you love so deeply.
I sense your ardent desire for an ever deeper sense of unity and solidarity,
as also your desire that the Church remain a strong and compassionate presence
in the City of Baltimore and all parts of the Archdiocese, including Western Maryland. You seek to marshal and shape all its God-given resources for the sake of the Gospel, and for the sake of those we serve or should be serving, including the blessing
of a growing presence of Spanish-speaking Catholics in our midst.
And because we all so greatly cherish the priesthood
to which you’d dedicated your lives,
let us never be content to think that God isn’t still raising up priestly vocations.
“To those of you who think that Christ may be inviting you
to follow him in the priesthood or the consecrated life, I make this personal appeal:
I ask you to open your hearts generously to him; do not delay your response.
the Lord will help you to know his will;
he will help you to follow your vocation courageously” (John Paul II, 26 I 1999).

D. On this installation day, how I wish to acknowledge and thank
women and men in consecrated life
who serve so generously, faithfully, and effectively in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
With you, I think of the canonized and beatified religious who have served here,
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. John Neumann, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos,
even as we give thanks for Mother Mary Lange whose Cause is underway
and we remember with gratitude and joy the previous visits of Blessed Mother Teresa.

E. On a day such as this how intensely we should pray
that the Lord, who willed to be born into a human family, will bless our families,
and give us the grace to renew family life in this Archdiocese and beyond.
Too often discussions about contemporary life-styles center only on adult feelings and overlook the needs of children and young people.
Let us be a church that honors our elders, sustains those in the prime of life,
but indeed a church that welcomes our young with enthusiasm and joy
and partners with parents in the task of educating and forming the next generation.
I thank our parents and educators who, at considerable sacrifice,
sustain the mission of our excellent schools in a time of great economic challenge, and who support our religious education programs, our youth programs,
as well as adult faith formation, marriage enrichment programs, and so much more. All these exist to sustain you in your beautiful but challenging vocation
as married men and women, as fathers and mothers of families
who are the bedrock of our society and at the same time the strength of our parishes.

F. How earnestly we must also pray for strong, active, and faithful lay leadership whether in our parishes, boards, offices, or agencies of the Archdiocese –
to those of you who, in a spirit of loving service, generously place your talents at the service of the Church’s life and mission – I sincerely thank you.
Here I think also of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, the Order of Malta, the Knights of St. Peter Claver and the Knights of St. John,
and many other dedicated groups within the Church –
yet donning my cap as Supreme Chaplain, allow me to single out
the Knights of Columbus for its spirit of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism – which is a source of immense strength for the Church locally and universally.
Indeed, it was Cardinal Gibbons who ordained the visionary founder of the Knights to the priesthood, Father Michael J. McGivney, for whose canonization we daily pray.

G. St. Paul speaks of a variety of roles in the Church
but also of their orderly functioning for the health of the whole Body of Christ.
As we enter the public square to proclaim the Gospel, to evangelize the culture,
to defend human rights and dignity in accord with the Church’s social teaching,
may our local church be marked by a deep sense of inner solidarity and harmony,
by a unity that is born of truth and love forged by prayer, nurtured by the sacraments, and confirmed by keeping the commandments in the spirit of the Beatitudes.
By doing so, we prove ourselves to be worthy ecumenical and interfaith partners, both in our search for unity-in-truth and indeed in our service to the common good. By doing so, we also prove ourselves to be worthy partners in serving the needs of all together with government, the business sector, and community groups.

IV. Conclusion

A. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to his followers,
“I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now.”
Looking out at you right about now, I’d say that just about sums our situation!
If God spares me, I’ll have fifteen years or so to tell you the rest of what I want to say! So I’ll leave you with this.
This installation takes place practically on the eve of the Ascension.
We can almost hear the Risen Lord telling us to gather with the Virgin Mother of God, to watch, wait, and pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
For it was only with the coming of the Spirit
that the Apostles truly grasped the mystery of Christ and truth of the Gospel
and found the courage to proclaim the Gospel boldly to the ends of the earth.

B. What better way for us to begin this new chapter in the life of the Premier See
than to dedicate the days leading up to Pentecost
praying that the Holy Spirit might be poured forth upon us in ever greater measure? What better way for us to begin than by begging the Holy Spirit
to pour the love of God into our hearts so that we may be formed in Christ,
so that we may proclaim Christ by living the truth in love, by embracing love in truth. Through the prayers of Mary, our Queen,
may God bless us and keep us always in his love!

(Ed. Note: The above text appears in Lori's preferred outline form, the passages laid out in their original verse.)

PHOTO: Pool(1); Angelina Perna/Baltimore Sun(2-4)