Saturday, June 30, 2012

The End... and The Beginning

As a long, brutal 16 months in this River City finally reaches its close, a new day begins at midnight.

Until then, this scribe sits surrounded by 181 years of a history now superseded, in the hope of making sense of it all. Then again -- even in fits of writers-block, it seems -- the line can't help but come to mind that there are no coincidences, only the Providence of God.

Looking at things through the lens of today, for no shortage of our own, this midnight and weekend makes for yet another very difficult, painful, even bitter moment. But only by believing in tomorrow -- a moment whose likes we have not known in quite some time here -- can the significance of the hour soon to strike, and the road of immense promise that lies beyond it, be understood as it deserves.

For the gift of a future as unexpected as it's been needed among us, as a new era dawns in our midst, Phils fans, God grant us the grace to know hope and newness of life... and in the only way a church can, tonight, let us begin again:


SVILUPPO: Lest we forget -- and in the interests of a full perspective -- this July 1st doesn't just bring seismic changes to the life of the church in this place, but the institution that's long been the diocese's lead rival in the hometown discourse.

After 85 years at 400 N. Broad, the new fiscal sees God's Favorite Newspaper -- this scribe's classroom of the craft -- and the suburban rag that's shared The Tower with it leaving their landmark headquarters for slimmed-down space across town... where, among other things, the parking will be considerably more expensive and -- in an aspect of the move that should jar any fan of decent journalism -- the two newsrooms are to be consolidated into a single space.

At the papers' latest change of ownership this spring -- their fourth in five years -- the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer were purchased for roughly a tenth of the $515 million they sold for in 2006.

This might sound like a throwaway bit of local lore for some, but for 33 years until last fall, the bowels of The Tower had a much more meaningful name 'round these parts -- "Dad's office." Thanks to that, finding love at first sight in the newsroom upstairs ended up creating what you see here day in and day out.

An old line says that "Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you're at it." Here's hoping that remains true -- these days, chances are that internet readerships who've become used to getting everything for nothing (and just as much, cut-and-paste websites that do little more than lift content from elsewhere, only to deflate the traffic and revenue that makes actual reporting possible) will end up killing the outlets first.

As recent events in The Tower's long shadow would seem to indicate, that just might make for an unexpected path to a better life. Either way, it's just another way of saying that, in this place, the world as we've long known it is literally changing overnight.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Bring The Wool

Shown at a post-Pallium Mass reception for Canada's three new metropolitans, The Goods -- now with larger, thinner crosses than in years past.

Photo via the Montreal church's Facebook page... and while we're at it, a Happy Canada Day to all our friends up North.

SVILUPPO: Closer to home, meanwhile, here's a Catholic News Service package featuring the trio of Stateside Latin-church archbishops who were invested this morning -- Baltimore's Lori, Philly's Chaput and Denver's prodigal Aquila:

...and next up, one more thing.


"The Theme of Brothers"

29 JUNE 2012

Your Eminences,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are gathered around the altar for our solemn celebration of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal Patrons of the Church of Rome. Present with us today are the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the past year, who have just received the Pallium, and to them I extend a particular and affectionate greeting. Also present is an eminent Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and I welcome them with fraternal and heartfelt gratitude. In an ecumenical spirit, I am also pleased to greet and to thank the Choir of Westminster Abbey, who are providing the music for this liturgy alongside the Cappella Sistina. I also greet the Ambassadors and civil Authorities present. I am grateful to all of you for your presence and your prayers.

In front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, as is well known, there are two imposing statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, easily recognizable by their respective attributes: the keys in the hand of Peter and the sword held by Paul. Likewise, at the main entrance to the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, there are depictions of scenes from the life and the martyrdom of these two pillars of the Church. Christian tradition has always considered Saint Peter and Saint Paul to be inseparable: indeed, together, they represent the whole Gospel of Christ. In Rome, their bond as brothers in the faith came to acquire a particular significance. Indeed, the Christian community of this City considered them a kind of counterbalance to the mythical Romulus and Remus, the two brothers held to be the founders of Rome. A further parallel comes to mind, still on the theme of brothers: whereas the first biblical pair of brothers demonstrate the effects of sin, as Cain kills Abel, yet Peter and Paul, much as they differ from one another in human terms and notwithstanding the conflicts that arose in their relationship, illustrate a new way of being brothers, lived according to the Gospel, an authentic way made possible by the grace of Christ’s Gospel working within them. Only by following Jesus does one arrive at this new brotherhood: this is the first and fundamental message that today’s solemnity presents to each one of us, the importance of which is mirrored in the pursuit of full communion, so earnestly desired by the ecumenical Patriarch and the Bishop of Rome, as indeed by all Christians.

In the passage from Saint Matthew’s Gospel that we have just heard, Peter makes his own confession of faith in Jesus, acknowledging him as Messiah and Son of God. He does so in the name of the other Apostles too. In reply, the Lord reveals to him the mission that he intends to assign to him, that of being the “rock”, the visible foundation on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built (cf. Mt 16:16-19). But in what sense is Peter the rock? How is he to exercise this prerogative, which naturally he did not receive for his own sake? The account given by the evangelist Matthew tells us first of all that the acknowledgment of Jesus’ identity made by Simon in the name of the Twelve did not come “through flesh and blood”, that is, through his human capacities, but through a particular revelation from God the Father. By contrast, immediately afterwards, as Jesus foretells his passion, death and resurrection, Simon Peter reacts on the basis of “flesh and blood”: he “began to rebuke him, saying, this shall never happen to you” (16:22). And Jesus in turn replied: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me ...” (16:23). The disciple who, through God’s gift, was able to become a solid rock, here shows himself for what he is in his human weakness: a stone along the path, a stone on which men can stumble – in Greek, skandalon. Here we see the tension that exists between the gift that comes from the Lord and human capacities; and in this scene between Jesus and Simon Peter we see anticipated in some sense the drama of the history of the papacy itself, characterized by the joint presence of these two elements: on the one hand, because of the light and the strength that come from on high, the papacy constitutes the foundation of the Church during its pilgrimage through history; on the other hand, across the centuries, human weakness is also evident, which can only be transformed through openness to God’s action.

And in today’s Gospel there emerges powerfully the clear promise made by Jesus: “the gates of the underworld”, that is, the forces of evil, will not prevail, “non praevalebunt”. One is reminded of the account of the call of the prophet Jeremiah, to whom the Lord said, when entrusting him with his mission: “Behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you!” (Jer 1:18-19). In truth, the promise that Jesus makes to Peter is even greater than those made to the prophets of old: they, indeed, were threatened only by human enemies, whereas Peter will have to be defended from the “gates of the underworld”, from the destructive power of evil. Jeremiah receives a promise that affects him as a person and his prophetic ministry; Peter receives assurances concerning the future of the Church, the new community founded by Jesus Christ, which extends to all of history, far beyond the personal existence of Peter himself.

Let us move on now to the symbol of the keys, which we heard about in the Gospel. It echoes the oracle of the prophet Isaiah concerning the steward Eliakim, of whom it was said: “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” (Is 22:22). The key represents authority over the house of David. And in the Gospel there is another saying of Jesus addressed to the scribes and the Pharisees, whom the Lord reproaches for shutting off the kingdom of heaven from people (cf. Mt 23:13). This saying also helps us to understand the promise made to Peter: to him, inasmuch as he is the faithful steward of Christ’s message, it belongs to open the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to judge whether to admit or to refuse (cf. Rev 3:7). Hence the two images – that of the keys and that of binding and loosing – express similar meanings which reinforce one another. The expression “binding and loosing” forms part of rabbinical language and refers on the one hand to doctrinal decisions, and on the other hand to disciplinary power, that is, the faculty to impose and to lift excommunication. The parallelism “on earth ... in the heavens” guarantees that Peter’s decisions in the exercise of this ecclesial function are valid in the eyes of God.

In Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel, dedicated to the life of the ecclesial community, we find another saying of Jesus addressed to the disciples: “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 18:18). Saint John, in his account of the appearance of the risen Christ in the midst of the Apostles on Easter evening, recounts these words of the Lord: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). In the light of these parallels, it appears clearly that the authority of loosing and binding consists in the power to remit sins. And this grace, which defuses the powers of chaos and evil, is at the heart of the Church’s ministry. The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners, obliged to recognize their need for God’s love, their need to be purified through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sayings concerning the authority of Peter and the Apostles make it clear that God’s power is love, the love that shines forth from Calvary. Hence we can also understand why, in the Gospel account, Peter’s confession of faith is immediately followed by the first prediction of the Passion: through his death, Jesus conquered the powers of the underworld, with his blood he poured out over the world an immense flood of mercy, which cleanses the whole of humanity in its healing waters.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I mentioned at the beginning, the iconographic tradition represents Saint Paul with a sword, and we know that this was the instrument with which he was killed. Yet as we read the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, we discover that the image of the sword refers to his entire mission of evangelization. For example, when he felt death approaching, he wrote to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim 4:7). This was certainly not the battle of a military commander but that of a herald of the Word of God, faithful to Christ and to his Church, to which he gave himself completely. And that is why the Lord gave him the crown of glory and placed him, together with Peter, as a pillar in the spiritual edifice of the Church.

Dear Metropolitan Archbishops, the Pallium that I have conferred on you will always remind you that you have been constituted in and for the great mystery of communion that is the Church, the spiritual edifice built upon Christ as the cornerstone, while in its earthly and historical dimension, it is built on the rock of Peter. Inspired by this conviction, we know that together we are all cooperators of the truth, which as we know is one and “symphonic”, and requires from each of us and from our communities a constant commitment to conversion to the one Lord in the grace of the one Spirit. May the Holy Mother of God guide and accompany us always along the path of faith and charity. Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.

PHOTOS: Getty, Reuters


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pallium Eve

Even if all remains quiet for now, one of the Catholic imagination's more unique rituals continues as this Friday dawns in Rome.

Every year on the vigil of Saints Peter and Paul, the year's freshly-woven batch of the pallium -- the symbol worn by metropolitan archbishops within their provinces to signify "the fullness of the episcopal office" -- are placed in the gilt casket shown above, to spend this night in the tomb of the First Apostle. From there, come morning, the Pope will confer the lambswool bands of ancient origin on 43 prelates named to archdioceses across the globe over the last year, giving it as "a bond of love, and an incentive to courage."

While newly-named metropolitans have made the trek to the Vatican to receive their pallia from the pontiff since 1984, this year's rite -- beginning at 9am Rome time (3am Eastern; livestream... and worship aid) -- will be unique in two aspects.

For starters, a new change to the ceremonial has moved the distribution of the garment to before the Mass, as opposed to its prior place following the homily. And in a gesture that's both an ecumenical landmark and a treat for a music-loving Pope on the 61st anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, the choir of London's Westminster Abbey -- which blew the Vatican delegation away during Benedict's State Visit to the UK in September 2010 -- will join the usual Sistine Singers to sing at the liturgy.

As this year's recipients go, the 44 archbishops include two prelates already made cardinals -- the youngest member of the Papal "Senate," Berlin's Rainer Maria Woelki, and the Mexican Francisco Robles Ortega, who gets his second pallium after his transfer from Monterey to Guadalajara, the country's second-largest diocese, last year.

Other high-profile figures among the global group include the new patriarch of Venice Francesco Moraglia, Archbishops Chito Tagle of Manila, Christian Lepine of Montreal, Andrew Yeom of Seoul, Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, and Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, the vice-president of the Canadian bishops. Per usual, the world's largest Catholic country -- Brazil -- leads the pack with seven new metropolitans in tomorrow's class.

The US delegation, meanwhile, is led by the figure who's taken on American Catholicism's most daunting episcopal assignment in the last half-century (and the recently-named host of the church's 2015 World Meeting of Families), Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. -- receiving his second pallium 15 years after his first, for Denver -- joined by his successor in the Rockies, the native son Samuel Aquila, who'll be installed on 18 July; the "quarterback" of the USCCB's religious freedom push, William Lori of Baltimore; and, in a rarity for an Eastern metropolitan, William Skurla, the Ruthenian archeparch of Pittsburgh.

The Peter and Paul Mass traditionally marks the end of the Vatican's working year; much like his Curia, the Pope is scheduled to leave Rome next week until late September, in his case to spend the summer hiatus at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo.


Fulton the Venerable

In an audience this morning with his chief Saintmaker, Cardinal Angelo Amato SDB, the Pope assented to several decrees of canonization, beatification and the heroic virtue of souls on the path to sainthood.

Of them all, however, none are as likely to resonate among this crowd more than the declaration as "Venerable" of the figure who's arguably the most celebrated and effective evangelist in the history of the faith on these shores, once the nation's most-watched TV personality -- the epic, great and beloved "Bishop Sheen"....

The declaration of Fulton Sheen's heroic virtue marks the Vatican's affirmation of a process concluded by his native diocese of Peoria in early 2008. A miraculous healing attributed to his intercession has already been presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.


Monday, June 25, 2012

"By Faith..."

As these days seem to be marked by no shortage of tensions and emotions in no shortage of places among our lot, lest anybody else can use it, it just feels like a good moment to step back and reflect on What It's All About.

In that light, here, a passage (par. 13) from Porta Fidei -- B16's letter of indiction for the upcoming Year of Faith to mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.

Much as the 13-month observance doesn't begin until October, the following is fairly timeless, and just as worthwhile....

During this time we will need to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2): in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment. The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offence received and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfilment in the mystery of his Incarnation, in his becoming man, in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection. In him who died and rose again for our salvation, the examples of faith that have marked these two thousand years of our salvation history are brought into the fullness of light.

By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion (cf. Lk 1:38). Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him (cf. Lk 1:46-55). With joy and trepidation she gave birth to her only son, keeping her virginity intact (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Trusting in Joseph, her husband, she took Jesus to Egypt to save him from Herod’s persecution (cf. Mt 2:13-15). With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha (cf. Jn 19:25-27). By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), she passed them on to the Twelve assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1-4).

By faith, the Apostles left everything to follow their Master (cf. Mk 10:28). They believed the words with which he proclaimed the Kingdom of God present and fulfilled in his person (cf. Lk 11:20). They lived in communion of life with Jesus who instructed them with his teaching, leaving them a new rule of life, by which they would be recognized as his disciples after his death (cf. Jn 13:34-35). By faith, they went out to the whole world, following the command to bring the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15) and they fearlessly proclaimed to all the joy of the resurrection, of which they were faithful witnesses.

By faith, the disciples formed the first community, gathered around the teaching of the Apostles, in prayer, in celebration of the Eucharist, holding their possessions in common so as to meet the needs of the brethren (cf. Acts 2:42-47).

By faith, the martyrs gave their lives, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel that had transformed them and made them capable of attaining to the greatest gift of love: the forgiveness of their persecutors.

By faith, men and women have consecrated their lives to Christ, leaving all things behind so as to live obedience, poverty and chastity with Gospel simplicity, concrete signs of waiting for the Lord who comes without delay. By faith, countless Christians have promoted action for justice so as to put into practice the word of the Lord, who came to proclaim deliverance from oppression and a year of favour for all (cf. Lk 4:18-19).

By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life (cf. Rev 7:9, 13:8), have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called.

By faith, we too live: by the living recognition of the Lord Jesus, present in our lives and in our history.

Sure, in some parts right now -- and at some points for each of us along the road -- the days might be long, the strains great, and the challenges often very real....

But lose this, gang, and we lose everything.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Il Consigliere -- Amid Media Meltdown, The Vatican Goes Fox-Hunting

Earlier today, the Pope held another of his occasional "Cabinet" meetings with his dicastery chiefs. Yet while the latest of the sporadic conferences dealt with the fallout of the recent fiasco surrounding leaked Vatican documents -- a story whose resemblance to an Italian soap-opera has made it cat-nip for the global media -- a subsequent development served to underscore the degree to which the failures of the scandal are being chalked up more to failures of messaging than of governance.

Turning to a highly-regarded hand among Rome's foreign press, the Associated Press leaked earlier this afternoon that Greg Burke (above right) -- Fox News' correspondent in the city since 2001 -- was hired by the Secretariat of State as a "senior communications adviser." According to the wire, the lead Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, subsequently confirmed the move.

The Curial office buffeted most intensely by the torrent of leaks, State likewise oversees the various media arms connected with the church's central governance: Vatican Radio and Television, L'Osservatore Romano, and the Holy See Press Office. The four were brought under the umbrella of the "clearinghouse" dicastery in 1984, when the new head of its Information Office, then-Msgr Crescenzio Sepe (today the cardinal-archbishop of Naples) brought aboard the duo who would become the lead framing agents of the pontificate of John Paul II: the Spanish journalist Joaquin Navarro-Valls to lead the Press Office, and the Italian Christian Democratic politician Mario Agnes to run the newspaper, which marked its 150th anniversary last year.

Of course, Burke's nod likewise continues a legacy of Americans brought in to enhance the Holy See's media presence, a line begun by Philadelphia's own John Foley, who led the Pontifical Council of Social Communications from 1984 to 2007. Having moonlighted as the US media's lead Vatican liaison as well as the "patron saint of the Catholic press" both at home and beyond, the beloved graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism was subsequently made a cardinal by Benedict, and kept up his many newsroom friendships until his death last December from leukemia at 76.

A numerary of Opus Dei (like Navarro-Valls), the St Louis-born Burke -- who worked the Rome beat for TIME magazine before joining TV's most-watched news outlet -- will answer to the Sostituto at Stato, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, essentially the
Vatican "chief of staff."

In an AP interview, the newly-named consigliere compared his job to that of the White House Communications Director.

"You're shaping the message, you're molding the message, and you're trying to make sure everyone remains on-message," Burke said. "And that's tough."

Burke said he had previously been offered and declined the position twice.

Following the day's earlier meeting with his Curial heads, Benedict held an evening round-table with four members of the College of Cardinals "who by virtue of their great and varied experience in the service of the church, not only in Rome but also around the world, can have an exchange of ideas and suggestions to help restore the desired climate of serenity and trust in the service of the Roman Curia," as a Vatican statement explained.

The quartet included Cardinals George Pell of Sydney, the prefect of Bishops, the Canadian Marc Ouellet; the French Interreligious Czar Jean-Louis Tauran, and the Slovak Jozef Tomko, former head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who was one of the trio of retired red-hats tapped to oversee an internal investigation into the "Vatileaks" fuore. That group met at length with the Pope a week ago today.

Winding down a three-month sabbatical in Rome, it's notable that the Australian prelate -- a keen provocateur universally described as some variation of "a bull in a china shop" -- was the lone non-Curialist to take part in the discussions. But that stands as an indicator of his enduring status as a papal favorite.

In 2010, Pell had been widely expected to succeed Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re at the helm of the all-powerful Bishops' office, but the choice was switched to Ouellet in the final weeks after a particularly vicious power play had been engineered from within Vatican circles with the intent to block Pell's appointment.


Friday, June 22, 2012


For many, this is justice. For many others, it is a tragedy.

And for those of us who call Philadelphia our church and home, it is now part of our history.

After a 12-week trial and 13 days of deliberations, shortly after 2pm today, a city jury announced that it found Msgr William Lynn -- the beleaguered archdiocese's clergy personnel chief from 1992 to 2004 -- guilty on a single count of endangering the welfare of a minor.

The charge having stemmed from a grand jury's indictment that Lynn (above) covered up the history of another priest who, on the eve of the landmark trial, pled guilty to having abused a 10 year-old boy in the late 1990s, the conviction marks the first time a church official in the English-speaking world has been criminally punished for his handling of an allegation.

In the Catholic world's lone parallel to today's ruling, a now-retired French bishop, Pierre Pican, was convicted in 2001 for failing to report a predator priest to the authorities, and was given a suspended sentence. Later this year, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph is slated to stand trial on a local charge of failing to report a priest whose alleged possession of child pornography was found to have been known by officials in the Missouri diocese for months before civil authorities were alerted.

Acquitted on a conspiracy count and a second child-endangerment charge, the 61 year-old Lynn was seen to be weeping as he was immediately remanded into custody pending an August sentencing. According to wire reports, the single guilty count is likely to bring a jail term of three and a half to seven years; the defendant is said to have turned down a plea bargain prior to the trial's late-March start.

Having built its case on thousands of damning files subpoenaed from the archdiocese's secret archive, the prosecution's case against the monsignor presented Lynn as the linchpin figure in an enduring pattern of reassigning known abusers to parishes where they were able to continue having ample access to children. By contrast, the defense relied on the testimony of the former secretary and his aides to assert that the policy was carried out on the orders of the then-archbishop, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, whose late January death at 88 came a day after he was ruled competent to testify at the trial.

Much as an appeal is possible, late word from Room 304 in the city's Criminal Justice Center relayed that a defense motion for Lynn's sentencing to house arrest would be considered at a later date.

Contrary to most expectations, meanwhile, the jury's stalemate elsewhere led to a mistrial on the charges against the monsignor's co-defendant -- the suspended priest James Brennan, who last year's second grand-jury probing the Philadelphia church's response to allegations accused of abuse and a conspiracy to conceal it, likewise dating to the late 1990s.

At a post-verdict press conference -- the year-long gag orders on all parties to the case
having been lifted at the judgment -- District Attorney Seth Williams said that no determination had yet been reached on a retrial of the Brennan case.

Regarding Lynn's conviction, though, the DA -- a Catholic -- said "this day was a long time coming."

"There is no verdict that could fix the harm done to the victims of adult predators within the church," Williams said. " There is no apology that could heal the wounds these children suffered. There are no words to truly express how sorry we should all be for what happened to them. All there is is an opportunity to ensure something like this never happens again."

Likewise released from the court's ban on public comment at the verdict's announcement, in an unsigned statement, Philadelphia Chancery expressed "a heartfelt apology to all victims of clergy sexual abuse," pledging that "now and in the future, the church will continue to take vigorous steps to ensure safe church environments for all the faithful in Philadelphia."

"The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is on a journey of reform and renewal that requires honesty and hope," the statement said.

While the local church's response began by saying that the trial has made for "a difficult time for all Catholics," the archdiocese gave no direct reaction to the substance of the jury's conclusions. However, with the onetime Clergy chief seen among his confreres as the proverbial "sacrificial lamb" for the lapses of his superiors, one Philly priest said in the verdict's wake that an ostensibly demoralized feeling among the presbyterate was "not even graphable."

Marking the "beginning of the end" of a dramatic, 16-month inferno that's made for the most brutal period an American diocese has endured over the last half-century, if not longer, the verdict comes a day after the once-vaunted archdiocese announced a staggering 20 percent slashing of its roughly 200-member central staff, including the complete elimination of a Youth and Young Adult ministry that was once a global model, and the closing of the diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard & Times -- one of the American church's most storied publications, its roots dating to the 1860s.

Reduced to a monthly schedule amid an earlier round of budget tightening last year (when, as has only been recently disclosed, the archdiocese ran a $12 million operating loss), what would be the final edition of the Standard -- born from an 1895 merger of two local Catholic papers -- rolled out at the beginning of June.

With the cuts, the 1.2 million-member Philadelphia church becomes, by far,
American Catholicism's largest outpost without a print publication of its own. In announcing the drastic cuts, Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. -- named last summer with a mandate for a thoroughgoing renewal in the grand jury's wake -- said that the moves were necessary to avoid a projected deficit of $17 million were the apparatus maintained in its current form over the next fiscal year, which begins July 1st.

The Chancery cuts are the latest part of a draconian cycle of shared sacrifice undertaken over the last year. Earlier this month brought the closing of 27 parish schools in the archdiocese amid decades of declining enrollment, while in his first major sign of a new era, late last year the new archbishop moved to sell the 13,000 square-foot residence on nine acres where his predecessors lived since the 1930s; a new owner for the property has yet to be found. In addition, in a Tuesday letter to his priests obtained by Whispers, Chaput announced the imminent closure of St Joseph's By-the-Sea -- the beloved Jersey Shore house for the archdiocese's clergy -- and its placement on the market.

Placed on administrative leave shortly after his indictment, Lynn has canonically remained as pastor of St Joseph parish in suburban Downingtown -- one of the Philadelphia church's largest communities -- where he was sent in 2004 on his departure from the Clergy Office.

Two more criminal trials launched by the 2011 grand jury are slated to take place in September. The Philadelphia church then faces eight civil abuse suits filed in the wake of the investigation.


Monday, June 18, 2012

On a breather, folks... because, well, if you thought things were crazy now, just wait.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Sr Carol to White House: The "Accommodation" Is "Unacceptable"

In a conspicuous turnabout, the trade-group representing the nation's Catholic hospitals has said it is "deeply concerned with the approach" taken by the Obama administration to its proposed contraceptive mandate, and called for the Department of Health and Human Services to "instead use an expanded definition to exempt from" the new policy "not only churches, but also Catholic hospitals, health care organizations and other ministries of the church."

Coming in a five-page letter sent today by the Catholic Health Association to a top HHS administrator, the move (including draft proposals for an acceptable revision of the controversial Federal rule) follows months of public tension and quiet discussions between the US hierarchy and the association representing some 2,000 health-care facilities under the auspices of the Stateside church after the group's president, Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, voiced her approval of the White House's February "accommodation" on the plan, which the bishops deemed as being insufficient.

Today's letter was signed by Keehan and CHA's immediate past and present board chairs.

Previously, CHA supported the passage of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act over the bishops' objections to the law's treatment of funding coverage for abortions. In appreciation for the role the association's campaign played in the bill's enactment, President Obama famously gave Keehan one of the pens he used to sign the sweeping Federal health-care reform into law.

On the initial announcement of the contraceptive policy in January, however, the CHA president backed the bishops, calling the White House proposal "a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection."

In the wake of that statement, even the New York Times noted that the administration's subsequent undertaking to find an agreeable middle ground "was for" Keehan, who "had told the White House that" as originally proposed, "the new rule... went too far."

"The more we learn," CHA said in today's letter, "the more it appears that the [mandate's] approaches for both insured and self-insured plans would be unduly cumbersome and would be unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other church ministries."

"The exemption in the final rule is narrower than any conscience clause ever enacted in federal law and reflects an unacceptable change in federal policy regarding religious beliefs."

Notably, the CHA intervention stopped short of endorsing the extension of an exemption from the mandate to private business owners who object to it on conscience grounds -- the so-called "Taco Bell" clause -- which has become a particular cause celebre among the US church's conservative wing.

The public comment period on the policy set to end next week, the association's letter comes on the eve of the Fortnight for Freedom called by the nation's bishops to protest the mandate's implications for religious liberty. It likewise arrives less than a month after 43 church entities -- led by the archdioceses of New York and Washington and the University of Notre Dame -- filed suit in a dozen Federal courts seeking an overturn of the HHS rule.

* * *
A copy of the CHA letter obtained by Whispers this afternoon, below are the major portions of its text (emphases original)....
CHA has long insisted on and worked for the right of everyone to affordable, accessible health care. We welcomed the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and support the ACA’s requirement that certain preventive services be available at no cost to the individual. We remain deeply concerned, however, with the approach the Administration has taken with respect to contraceptive services, especially abortifacient drugs and sterilization.

The ANPRM [Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking -- i.e. the contraceptive mandate] is the latest in a series of rulemaking actions by the Departments to implement the ACA requirement that group health plans and health insurance issuers provide coverage for a range of preventive care services without cost sharing by the covered beneficiary, including a subset of women’s preventive care services as set forth in guidelines by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). On August 1, 2011 HRSA issued its Guidelines on Women's Preventive Services: Required Health Plan Coverage (HRSA Guidelines) requiring coverage without cost sharing of all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling for women of reproductive age. At the same time, the Departments issued an Interim Final Regulation (76 Fed. Reg. 46621) proposing to create an exemption to the contraceptive coverage requirement for certain religious employers, defining the term “religious employer” so narrowly as to exclude Catholic hospitals and health care organizations as well as other religious institutional employers. CHA objected strenuously to the inappropriately narrow definition in its comment letter date September 22, 2011 and objected again when it was announced in January 2012 that the Administration would not make any changes to the definition.

The final rule released on February 10, 2012 implemented the narrow religious exemption as proposed, but also indicated the Administration’s intent to propose additional rules to implement the contraceptive coverage requirement in a way that would accommodate the concerns of nonexempt religious employers with objections to providing, paying for or referring for contraceptive coverage. While this new development seemed at the time to be a good first step, our examination and study of the proposal as outlined then and in the ANPRM has not relieved our initial concerns. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below, we continue to believe that it is imperative for the Administration to abandon the narrow definition of “religious employer” and instead use an expanded definition to exempt from the contraceptive mandate not only churches, but also Catholic hospitals, health care organizations and other ministries of the Church. If the government continues to pursue the policy that all employees should have access to contraceptive services, then it should find a way to provide and pay for these services directly without requiring any direct or indirect involvement of “religious employers,” as broadly defined.

The Definition Of “Religious Employer” Must Be Broadened To Cover All Ministries Of The Church.

The Departments state in the ANPRM the two goals they seek to achieve:
-- To maintain the provision of contraceptive coverage without cost sharing to individuals who receive coverage through non-exempt, non-profit religious organizations with religious objections to contraceptive coverage in the simplest way possible, and

--To protect such religious organizations from having to contract, arrange or pay for contraceptive coverage.
The most effective way to achieve the Departments’ second stated goal would be to actually exempt objecting religious organizations from the mandate by expanding the definition of religious employer to include them. This approach would align the policy under the women’s preventive care regulation with existing federal law on conscience protection. The exemption in the final rule is narrower than any conscience clause ever enacted in federal law and reflects an unacceptable change in federal policy regarding religious beliefs.

The ANPRM suggests that Code Section 414 could provide the basis for a definition of the organizations that would quality for the proposed accommodation. We reiterate our suggestion contained in our September 22nd letter that the concepts contained in Section 414(e) be used instead to develop a broader and more appropriate religious employer exemption to the contraceptive mandate. Under those principles, an organization would be covered by the exemption if it “shares common religious bonds and convictions with a church.” This definition would exempt from the contraceptive mandate Catholic hospitals and health care organizations as well as other ministries of the Church.

Making this change could help address the serious constitutional questions created by the Departments’ current approach, in which the government essentially parses a bona fide religious organization into secular and religious components solely to impose burdens on the secular portion. To make this distinction is to create a false dichotomy between the Catholic Church and the ministries through which the Church lives out the teachings of Jesus Christ. Catholic health care providers are participants in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. Our mission and our ethical standards in health care are rooted in and inseparable from the Catholic Church and it's teachings about the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

If The Government Insists That All Employees Have Access to Contraceptive Coverage Without Cost Sharing, Then It Should Provide And Pay for These Services Directly.

As noted above, the Departments’ first goal as outlined in the ANPRM is to maintain the provision of contraceptive coverage without cost sharing to individuals who receive coverage through non-exempt, non-profit religious organizations with religious objections to contraceptive coverage in the simplest way possible. In the ANPRM, the Departments seek comments on (1) the approach of using the insurer to provide contraceptive coverage to beneficiaries of insured plans; and (2) several alternative approaches for implementing its intended accommodation for self-insured religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive coverage.

The more we learn, the more it appears that the ANPRM approaches for both insured and self-insured plans would be unduly cumbersome and would be unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other Church ministries. Given this, if the Departments unfortunately continue to pursue the course that all employees must have access to contraceptive services without cost, then the government will need to develop a way to pay for and provide such services directly to those employees who desire such coverage without any direct or indirect involvement of religious employers (under the expanded definition described above.)...

In conclusion, for the reasons stated above and those included in our letter of September 22, 2011, we urge you at the very least to expand the definition of religious employer using the principles behind Section 414(e) of the Internal Revenue Code to make clear that religious employers, including Catholic hospitals and health care organizations, are exempt from the contraceptive mandate.
SVILUPPO: Late Friday afternoon, CHA posted a (pdf) copy of the full letter on its website.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

From SSPX, A Response "In A Reasonable Time"... Or....

SVILUPPO: Just shy of 12.30 Eastern (6pm Rome), the following communiqué was released by the SSPX's General House, here below in the provided English translation:
On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, accompanied by the First Assistant General, Father Niklaus Pfluger, was received by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who delivered to him his dicastery’s evaluation of the Doctrinal Declaration sent in by the Society on April 15, 2012, in response to the Doctrinal Preamble submitted on September 14, 2011, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

During this meeting, Bishop Fellay listened to explanations and further details from Cardinal Levada, to whom he presented the situation of the Society of Saint Pius X and spelled out the doctrinal difficulties posed by the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Missae. The desire for additional clarifications could result in a new phase of discussions.

At the end of this long, two-hour interview, Bishop Fellay received a draft document proposing a Personal Prelature, in the case of a possible canonical recognition of the Society of Saint Pius X. During the meeting the situation of the three other bishops of the Society was not discussed.

At the conclusion of that meeting, it was hoped that the dialogue might continue so as to allow the parties to arrive at a solution for the good of the Church and of souls.

* * *
(7.05am ET) -- After yesterday's two and a half hour evening summit at the CDF offices ended with sparse comment on all sides, the Holy See Press Office has released the following statement on Cardinal William Levada's meeting with the head of the Society of St Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay (standing, foreground):
On the afternoon of Wednesday 13 June, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and president of the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei', met with Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X who was accompanied by an assistant. Also present at the encounter were Archbishop Luis Ladaria S.J., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei'.

The purpose of the meeting was to present the Holy See's evaluation of the text submitted in April by the Society of St. Pius X in response to the Doctrinal Preamble which the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith had presented to the Society on 14 September 2011. The subsequent discussion offered an opportunity the provide the appropriate explanations and clarifications. For his part, Bishop Fellay illustrated the current situation of the Society of St. Pius X and promised to make his response known within a reasonable lapse of time.

Also during the meeting, a draft document was submitted proposing a Personal Prelature as the most appropriate instrument for any future canonical recognition of the Society.

As was stated in the communique released on 16 May 2012, the situation of the other three bishops of the Society of St. Pius X will be dealt with separately and singularly.

At the end of the meeting the hope was expressed that this additional opportunity for reflection would also contribute to reaching full communion between the Society of St. Pius X and the Apostolic See.
According to early buzz, Fellay's response would be unlikely to come until after the lead traditionalist group's next general chapter, scheduled for 11-13 July at its headquarters in Econe, Switzerland.

As previously noted, the status of a personal prelature -- an extraterritorial entity that, in practice, may establish its own churches, seminaries, schools and other institutions independent of the local diocese -- is currently enjoyed by only one organization: Opus Dei, which was given the standing in 1982 by Blessed John Paul II. The global "Work of God" is headed by a bishop who, for juridical purposes, is referred to as the Prelate.

(On a semi-related note -- perhaps even more interesting now in retrospect -- toward the end of John Paul's 27-year reign, some rumors maintained that the late pontiff considered extending the status of a prelature to the Legionaries of Christ, who markedly rose in favor at the end of the Wojtyla papacy before a precipitous fall on Pope Benedict's watch.)

In an extended interview with the Society's official news organ released last week, the SSPX superior said that "Rome no longer makes total acceptance of Vatican II a prerequisite for the canonical solution" of the fraternity's return.

"[T]he attitude of the official Church is what changed," Fellay said. "We did not."

He added that the Society "
were not the ones who asked for an agreement; the pope is the one who wants to recognize us."


Bench Pointers

Before anyone asks, no idea where the Fortnight Finger came from, nor how you can get one of your own. As soon as word comes in on that, we'll pass it along.

With a report on Communications -- a key thrust of yesterday's remarks by the Nuncio -- the public part of Day 2 of the Midsummer Classic in Atlanta begins at 9am Eastern (an hour earlier than yesterday's start). Lest anybody needs a catch-up, on-demand video of yesterday's Floor business is posted.

Most of this Thursday's agenda, however, will take place in closed-door regional meetings and executive session, the latter of which became a mainstay of USCCB plenaries ten years ago this week at the historic Summer Meeting in Dallas.

PHOTO: Reuters


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"You Broke Open My Deafness": At Patrick's "Purgatory," The Vatican Meets The Victims

As noted in the moment, last night Cardinal Marc Ouellet -- the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and a key B16 confidant -- spent an evening's seclusion at Lough Derg, the traditional site of Irish repentance, in atonement for the scandals of sex-abuse and cover-up which have gutted the Isle church over the last two decades, taking on the mission at the Pope's "express request."

The Canadian prelate's overnight came in the context of his assignment as Benedict XVI's personal representative to this week's 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. While it previously emerged that the cardinal had received requests for a meeting from groups of survivors, only this afternoon was it announced that Ouellet met for two hours with a "representative" delegation of victims from both the country's church-run residential institutions and Irish dioceses during his stay on the Donegal island.

According to a communiqué from the Irish bishops, during the encounter "each survivor spoke of his or her own personal experience of abuse and its impact on their lives."

The meeting echoed the emotional private sessions Benedict has held with victims on several occasions during his pontificate, the first of which took place in Washington during the Pope's 2008 trip to the US' East Coast.

Following the meeting, Ouellet celebrated Mass for the group. During his stay, the Vatican chief was accompanied (above) by the New York-born "director" of the Pope's intended reformation of the Irish church: the newly-named Nuncio to Dublin, Archbishop Charlie Brown, long a collaborator of the now-pontiff's at the CDF, who Benedict ordained himself on Epiphany Day this year.

Known in Ireland as "St Patrick's Purgatory" due to a story from the patron's legend, the choice of Lough Derg as the venue for the survivors meeting struck at least some prominent parties as "strange." In one early response, Marie Collins -- one of the country's most prominent survivors -- mused whether "the Papal Legate [saw] it as part of his penance to talk to survivors."

Collins was the lone victim to speak at the first-ever Vatican-sponsored conference on clergy sex-abuse at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University held in February, during which Ouellet led a liturgy of repentance.

Here, this morning's full homily given by the cardinal-prefect....

And following Ouellet's preach, the Prayer of the Faithful included the following intercessions:
-- For the failure to love, respect, nurture and cherish young people, particularly the most vulnerable, we ask your forgiveness. Lord, hear us.

-- For the crimes and sins of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated against children and young people, especially in Church-run institutions, by clergy and other servants of the Church. Lord, hear us.

-- For the inadequate response often given by Church leaders when abused people told their stories, we ask forgiveness. Lord, hear us.

-- That all whose lives have been broken by abuse of any kind may experience support and lasting healing. Lord, hear us....
...Lord, graciously hear us.

PHOTO: Catholic Communications Office


Al Sant'Uffizio, Deja Vu

And, well, just another day at the (Holy) Office.

According to a report from Catholic News Service, the superior of the Society of St Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, entered the Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio -- the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- at 5pm Rome time (11am Eastern) for the aforementioned meeting to possibly convey a papal decision on the breakaway traditionalist group's reconciliation with Rome.

According to the wire, the once-excommunicated head of the Swiss-based fraternity -- who arrived in a red Peugeot with French plates -- came with two other people.

Over the weeks of deliberations toward a potential accord with the Society -- based upon a "Doctrinal Preamble" which would state its acceptance of most of the teachings of Vatican II -- divisions emerged between Fellay and the other three prelates illicitly ordained in 1988 over a return to Rome. A subsequent statement from the Holy See said that Fellay's confreres would be required to "individually" clarify their positions on an agreement.

Known to be a keen priority of Pope Benedict's, should a reconciliation deal be reached, a special canonical structure to accommodate a restored Society (or, most likely, the portion of it that seeks to return) is almost certain to be established. Years of indications have most often pointed to an extraterritorial set-up akin to either a personal prelature -- a status currently enjoyed only by Opus Dei -- or the new Anglican Ordinariates as the likely arrangement. (On a related note to the latter, CDF is to establish the last of the national jurisdictions for Anglicans entering the Catholic church on Friday; to be known as Our Lady of the Southern Cross, the entity is expected to comprise Australia, New Zealand and other relevant areas of the Asia-Pacific region.)

The SSPX meeting comes little more than a day after another key CDF summit -- the dicastery's meeting to hear out the concerns of the leadership of the US' women religious, whose joint conference was ordered by the congregation to undertake a sweeping reform in April.

In comments to reporters earlier today, the lead Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, said that "no information" on a decision had yet emerged.

Of course, Rome being Rome, the apparent gulf that exists between "no information" on a decision as opposed to "no decision" is to be considered.

Two breaking items for your Wednesday Morning:
  • First, building on last night's report, the Vatican just announced that, as Papal Legate to this week's International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Cardinal Marc Ouellet met for two hours today with a group of survivors of sex-abuse by Irish priests and religious during his pilgrimage to Lough Derg, the nation's traditional place of repentance
  • And in a development that's been intensely awaited for weeks (or, for some, 24 years), quickly-moving reports from French and Italian agencies give word that this afternoon will bring a CDF meeting between Cardinal William Levada and Bishop Bernard Fellay at which the head of the Society of St Pius X is to receive the Pope's decision on the restoration to full communion of the breakaway traditionalist group. Notably, last Saturday's edition of B16's weekly briefing from the CDF -- the dicastery which carried out the years-long doctrinal discussions with the Swiss-based group -- wasn't attended solely by Levada, who invariably goes alone to the papal apartment for the sessions; last weekend, the cardinal-prefect was accompanied to the audience by his deputy, the Spanish Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria. (11.30am ET: According to reports, the meeting began at 5pm Rome time, 11am Eastern.)

On top of those, the Summer Meeting of the US bishops begins in Atlanta sometime around 10 Eastern this morning (livestream), with an extended discussion on religious liberty, and a report on the tenth anniversary of the Dallas Charter topping the agenda.

After a full Opening Day in front of the cameras, the plenary will continue in public session through tomorrow noon. And, well, there's more still to come beyond -- as veterans 'round these parts know well, things tend to ramp up every year at this time as the Vatican's work-year nears its close on June 30th.

As ever, keep it here and on Page Three for more as it emerges on the various fronts... and as an already full plate begins to erupt, it's as good a time as any to keep in mind that these pages only keep coming your way by means of your support....

Sure, the rest might be heady, but there goes the toughest part of the job.... Not to mention that it's either the above or Lights Out. Literally.

As ever, gang, it's your call... That said, off to the races.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Irish Mission, The Pope's Man Goes to "Purgatory"

For over a thousand years, the Irish island at Lough Derg has been a destination of penitential pilgrimage, but never until now has a visitor been sent to atone there on orders from the Pope.

Diagonally across the isle from Dublin -- where he's been dispatched this week as Papal Legate at the International Eucharistic Congress -- Cardinal Marc Ouellet is spending the night at the site known as "St Patrick's Purgatory," where barefoot faithful traditionally fast and stay awake in prayer and reparation.

While the exceptional gesture had been announced on Sunday, earlier today a Vatican statement revealed that the Canadian prelate -- the head of the all-powerful Congregation for Bishops and an increasingly oft-cited papabile -- was making the trip "at the express request of Pope Benedict XVI, to pray for forgiveness, reconciliation and healing in the wake of the sex abuse scandal in Ireland."

To date, the four state inquiries into the Republic's dioceses and church institutions are merely the most in-depth accounting of a staggering history of abuse by the country's priests and religious, and patterns of cover-up by their superiors that, in some places, extended into the last decade. According to one leading survivors group, over a quarter of Ireland's population have experienced sexual abuse in one or another context.

Even if the Congress' opening days have borne witness to a rare spirit of unapologetic zeal amid Irish Catholicism's two-decade "long Lent," Ouellet's penitential turn is perhaps the starkest contrast yet to this gathering's landmark predecessor in 1932, when the scarlet-clad emissary of Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Laurenzo Lauri, arrived at Dun Laoghaire to the panoply of a state welcome (above) before parading through the city center in a cappa magna, its train stretched full-length as throngs lined the streets.

A liturgy of reconciliation largely written by survivors is to be held Thursday, led by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

On the legate's return to Dublin, meanwhile, survivor groups have requested meetings with Ouellet before the Congress' Sunday close. A response has yet to emerge. (SVILUPPO: The Vatican announced Wednesday that the cardinal met for two hours with a group of victims during his pilgrimage, celebrating Mass afterward for the group.)

The trip to Lough Derg is the second act of penance the Quebec-born Bishops' chief has undertaken over recent months as the pontiff's designated representative; the first came in February, when the cardinal-prefect led a service of atonement (below) during an unprecedented Vatican-sponsored conference on abuse sponsored held at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Held in a darkened Roman church, Ouellet's homily at the earlier vigil included the following passages....
The tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by Christians, especially when done so by members of the clergy, is a source of great shame and enormous scandal. It is a sin against which Jesus himself lashed out: “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Lk. 17:2). Abuse is a crime, in fact, which causes an authentic experience of death for the innocent victims, whom God alone can truly raise to new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, with profound conviction and awareness of what we do, we turn to and implore the Lord.

This gesture of purification involves the entire Church, and each one of us - Bishops, Religious Superiors, educators, all Christians - feels the pain of what has occurred. We ask that the Spirit of God, who heals and radically renews all things, come down upon us.

As members of the Church, we must have the courage to ask humbly for God’s pardon, as well as for the forgiveness of His “little ones” who have been wounded; we must remain close to them on their road of suffering, seeking in every possible way to heal and bind up their wounds following the example of the Good Samaritan. The first step on this road is to listen to them carefully and to believe their painful stories.

The road of renewal for the Church, who will continue to educate people and establish proper structures to help prevent similar crimes, must include the sentiment of “never again”. As Blessed John Paul II said, “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young” (Address of Blessed Pope John Paul II to the Cardinals of the United States, April 23, 2002, n. 3). It is intolerable that the abuse of children would take place within the Church. Never again!...

In this new path, we Christians should be aware that only faith can guarantee an authentic work of renewal in the Church: faith understood as personal, as a true and life-giving relationship of love with Jesus Christ. Mindful of our own lack of living faith, we ask the Lord Jesus to restore us all and to lead us through the agony of the cross towards the joy of the resurrection.

Sometimes the violence was committed by deeply disturbed persons or by those who had themselves been abused. It was necessary to take action concerning them and to prevent them from continuing any form of ministry for which they were obviously not suitable. This was not always done properly and, once again, we apologize to the victims....

Still shocked by these sad occurrences, we hope that this Vigil liturgy helps us to view the horrible sins that took place among the People of God in the light of salvation history, a story which we have retraced together here tonight. It is a story that speaks of our misery, of our repeated failures, but most of all of God’s infinite mercy, of which we are always in need.

And so we entrust ourselves entirely to the powerful intercession of the Son of God, who “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7) in the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption, and who has taken upon himself every evil, even this evil, destroying its power so that it would not have the last word.
And as the morning brings not just the opening of another Summer Meeting of the US bishops, but ten years to the day since the body's then-president convoked the Stateside bench at Dallas with a call to responsibility and penance, in a way, a long decade now comes full circle.

Notably, it's widely expected that, over the coming months, Ouellet will oversee the appointment of a successor to Ireland's top churchman, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, whose conduct in a 1970s investigation of abuse committed by the country's most infamous predator priest sparked a fresh round of calls for his resignation in the run-up to this week's Eucharistic Congress.

PHOTOS: Archive of University College Cork(2); Getty(3)


Habemus Inquisitor?

While the Stateside audience has spent the morning fixed on the CDF's LCWR summit, a much less conspicuous piece of related news slipped into today's Vatican's Daily Bollettino could prove at least as significant.

Amid months of speculation that's increasingly tipped him as the front-runner to succeed the soon-to-retire Cardinal William Levada at the helm of the former "Holy Office," Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of Regensburg was quietly given a seat on two key Curial dicasteries at Roman Noon by the Pope.

Said to be particularly close to Benedict -- whose held his last professorship in Regensburg during the 1970s -- the 64 year-old theologian (above) was surreptitiously added to the memberships of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Given the crucial tie-in of doctrinal matters with the church's educational institutions and ecumenical efforts, Levada is the lone senior Curialist who currently has a vote in both offices.

On the reigning pontiff's appointment, Muller -- bishop of Regensburg since 1992 -- has been a member of CDF for the last several years.

Beyond the long trail of buzz pointing to the German as the next "Grand Inquisitor," the announcement is likely to spike chatter as, at least for some, today's move recalls an apparent precedent.

In early May 2008, it sparked notice in some quarters when then-Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis was quietly named to two dicasteries, the Congregation for the Clergy and the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. Less than two months later, Benedict called Burke to Rome full-time as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the church's "chief justice."

Other notable prelates figured into this morning's batch of nods to the two offices. Among them, Manila's Archbishop Chito Tagle -- the 54 year-old CUA alum named to lead Asia's largest diocese late last year -- and Bishop Charles Morerod OP of Lausanne and Geneva (a former rector of the Angelicum) were tapped to join the Catholic Education table, while Bishop Don Bolen of Saskatoon, the onetime lead pointman for the church's relations with Anglicans and Methodists at the Unity council, now returns to his alma mater as a member.

Considering his expertise on (and close engagement with) the Orthodox world, likewise named to the latter body was the head of Catholicism's largest Eastern church: the de facto patriarch of the 6 million-member Ukrainian Greek-Catholic flock, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev, who at 42 is almost certain to become the youngest cardinal in the last half-century in the not too distant future.

* * *
The structure of the Curia's top organs roughly corresponds to that of Congressional committees. While the day-to-day business of a congregation or council is handled by its full-time staff, the membership of each -- usually a group of 20 to 25 cardinals, plus a handful of bishops -- technically forms the dicastery itself. Major decisions and recommendations are made by a vote of the full body at periodic meetings, which tend to be held weekly for the congregations given the senior organs' task of overseeing the church's internal affairs.

Though every cardinal under 80 has at least a handful of Curial assignments on top of their principal post, the routine membership meetings are usually only attended by prelates resident in Rome.

Head of the chief congregation since 2005 -- when the newly-elected Benedict tapped him for the post the pontiff had held for 23 years -- Levada turns 76 on Friday. The highest-ranking American in Vatican history, the tenure of the LA-born prefect has seen the CDF largely immersed in high-profile matters largely focused on the English-speaking church, from overseeing the handling of clergy sex-abuse cases to facilitating the establishment of the Anglican ordinariates and, of course, the four-year doctrinal assessment of the superiors' conference of the US' religious sisters.

Beyond principally Anglophone affairs, meanwhile, since 2010 the CDF's head has likewise doubled as president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei -- the Curial arm which manages relations with traditionalist groups. As few would need reminding, topping that office's plate is the ongoing reconciliation effort with the Society of St Pius X, a cause especially close to Benedict's heart, and one widely believed to be approaching a definitive outcome over the weeks just ahead.

As previously noted, the cardinal-prefect is expected to retire around the same time as his best friend from his seminary days -- his successor in San Francisco, Archbishop George Niederauer, who turns 76 on Thursday.

Accordingly, the Chancery by the Bay has taken the unusual step of sounding alarm bells of an appointment there "in the near future," laying out a likely schedule for the morning of an announcement in a press release late last week.


At the "Holy Office," The Sisters' Summit

SVILUPPO (8.15am ET): At the close of this morning's meetings, the Holy See Press Office released the following statement....
Today the Superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met with the President and Executive Director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States of America. Most Rev. Peter J. Sartain, Archbishop of Seattle and the Holy See’s Delegate for the doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, also participated in the meeting.

The meeting provided the opportunity for the Congregation and the LCWR officers to discuss the issues and concerns raised by the doctrinal Assessment in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality.

According to Canon Law, a Conference of Major Superiors such as the LCWR is constituted by and remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See in order to promote common efforts among the individual member Institutes and cooperation with the Holy See and the local Conference of Bishops (Cf. Code of Canon Law, cann. 708-709). The purpose of the doctrinal Assessment is to assist the LCWR in this important mission by promoting a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium.
...and the following post-chat response emerged from LCWR:
On June 12, LCWR president Sister Pat Farrell, OSF and executive director Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, met with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and Archbishop Peter Sartain. The meeting had been requested by the LCWR to address what the conference considered deficiencies in the process and the results of the doctrinal assessment of the organization released by the CDF in April.

“It was an open meeting and we were able to directly express our concerns to Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Sartain,” said Sister Pat Farrell.

Sister Pat and Sister Janet will now return to the United States to discuss the meeting later this week with the LCWR board. As previously stated, the conference will gather its members in regional meetings and in its August assembly to determine its course of action in response to the CDF assessment.
An editors' note attached to the sisters' group's statement said that its leaders will be giving no interviews "at this time."

* * *
(5.45am ET) Almost two months since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's order for a sweeping reform of the the group representing the superiors of a majority of the US' religious sisters sparked a global storm of reaction, the story takes another prominent turn this morning as the president and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious return to the Vatican's guardian of orthodoxy to "to raise and discuss [their] board’s concerns."

LCWR leaders last met with CDF officials on April 18th, hours before the dicastery released the findings of a four-year Doctrinal Assessment that accused the sisters' group of embracing ideas at its assemblies which, the congregation said, constituted a "rejection of faith" and fostered a "prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

Concluding that "the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern," the congregation tapped Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as its Delegate to oversee a revision of the group's statutes and review of its published materials and plans for its meetings. (Known in church circles as a conciliatory figure with an approach centered on dialogue, Sartain -- whose mandate extends for up to five years -- will be present at today's summit.) Yet even as the dicastery cautioned that "this doctrinal assessment concerns a particular conference of major superiors and therefore does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of Women Religious in the member Congregations which belong" to LCWR, the storyline of a "War on Nuns" quickly took hold regardless.

Emboldened by a wide outpouring of public sympathy -- one aided by heavy media coverage -- in its first response after a six-week period of declining public comment, in a June 1 statement the LCWR board hit back, charging the CDF with basing its findings on "unsubstantiated accusations and... a flawed process that lacked transparency."

"The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community and created greater polarization," the conference said.

After today's meetings, LCWR's earlier response said that the conference would consult its membership in regional groups, culminating at its already planned national assembly in August in St Louis, to form a full response to the reform plan.

At a briefing yesterday, the lead Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, said that this morning's sit-down was intended to establish a "reciprocal understanding" of the concerns and goals underpinning the process.

At least four key players will take part in the talks: the California-born CDF prefect, Cardinal William Levada and Sartain on the Vatican side, and LCWR's president, Sister of St Francis Pat Farrell with the group's executive director, Sister of St Joseph Janet Mock.

More to come.