Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Fallout, Part One

Later this week, eight days after a historic storm cloud broke over the Stateside church, Catholic Washington will gather for the ordination of a new auxiliary of the capital's 750,000-member fold.

The rites coming all of three weeks since Bishop-elect Mike Fisher's appointment – an unusually quick timeframe – while the longtime DC Chancery personnel chief is widely well-regarded as a gentle, low-profile operator, the whole tenor of the moment has changed, the joy of the occasion now overtaken by the sudden elephant in the room.

To be sure, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has known for several months that a judgment of some kind was at hand on an allegation of abuse against his predecessor, but whether the rapid scheduling of Fisher's elevation was intended to get ahead of the findings on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's case or circle the wagons in its wake is unclear.

In any event, with the now-removed iconic figure likely never to be seen at a major liturgy again, and a full turnout of the capital's laity and clerics, the Mid-Atlantic hierarchy and the Nuncio all to converge in the Basilica of the National Shrine for the non-ticketed Mass, the stage is set for one of the more daunting moments of Wuerl's three decades as a diocesan bishop...

...yet as if the aftershocks of last week weren't palpable enough, Thursday's ordination will take place on the anniversary of another notable entrance into the episcopate: McCarrick's own, 41 years to the day, at the hands of his mentor, Cardinal Terence Cooke.

*  *  *
In the modern era of the church's sex-abuse crises – usually defined as 2002 onward – for everything the period has seen across the globe, Wednesday's announcement from the New York Chancery was genuinely uncharted territory on a number of levels.

For starters, it's been nearly a quarter-century since a cardinal has left the public stage amid substantiated charges of abusing a minor – and the last time it happened, Vienna's Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer was already 75 and merely retired from the Austrian church's lead post, slipping off to a secluded monastery of his Benedictine community with no process to determine the veracity of the multiple claims, nor public penalties beyond disgrace.

Here, by contrast, what hasn't been sufficiently absorbed yet is how a system often – and, at least sometimes, rightly – criticized or not trusted for being a stacked clerical deck has effectively been upended: for the first time in memory, an ecclesial process saw laypeople sit in judgment of a cardinal, and the Pope enforce their conclusion.

By no means did things need to happen that way – if anything, it defies practically every classic argument in the canons. But if you're looking for evidence that a cultural shift has broadly, consequentially taken hold, even as a hypothetical, it would be difficult to find a clearer example than this. That it came to pass within the same week as the anniversary of the passage of the Dallas Charter is merely coincidental, but it underscores the point.

At the same time, correcting an element in Wednesday's first story, given the sole accountability of cardinals to the Pope himself, with the suspension in place imposed as a temporary remedial act, the final determination of McCarrick's sentence is pending before Francis alone, unless – as happened with the preliminary investigation in New York – the pontiff delegates the CDF to conduct a process of its own, whether administratively through its staff or a full tribunal.

As previously noted, while the since-deceased Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien was made to resign the rights and privileges of the red hat in 2015 over admitted sexual misconduct with adults, to repeat, an instance of a cardinal facing a substantiated report of abuse against a minor hasn't occurred since Groer. What's more, though, among the College, never before have both degrees of scandal converged at once.

Again, this is simply uncharted territory... and given the other shoe to come, it seems the summer ahead won't be as quiet as one might've hoped.

*   *   *
Among other cobbled notes, two aspects from the process' "ground zero" stick out.

First, it bears recalling that the abuse allegation against McCarrick came in the context of one of the more underreported stories in the recent trajectory of the scandals. Amid ongoing fears among the New York bishops that the state assembly in Albany will eventually pass a "window" law suspending the statute of limitations on civil abuse suits for a year or two – a move which has sent roughly a dozen dioceses in other states into Chapter 11 bankruptcy – in late 2016 the Gotham archdiocese initiated the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program: an in-house effort to resolve reports of past abuse out of court, with settlements determined by mediators retained by the church.

While the strategy has since been echoed by other Chanceries upstate, in the nation's third-largest diocese, the first phase reported payments of $40 million to some 200 survivors late last year. Including the accusation against the cardinal (filed in January), the process' second round closed in April; last week, the lawyer representing McCarrick's victim told New York outlets that his client's compensation had not yet been determined.

In total, the program's costs are being drawn from a $100 million loan on the archdiocese's considerable real-estate holdings.

On another front, meanwhile, Wednesday's development might just have ramifications in terms of the still-active American hierarchy. For starters, even if late-2017 expectations pegging Wuerl's retirement and successor in Washington to come right within these weeks had suddenly dwindled earlier this year – in hindsight, perhaps in light of the unexpected abuse case which would impact the 750,000-member capital church – though the process' opening stage remains to move as of this writing, once it does get underway, in one form or another the fallout of the removal is likely to figure into the calculus that produces DC's next archbishop.

Yet even more to the point, ever since Easter, ranking ops both in Rome and the States have focused to an unusual degree on an even stranger prospect: with Cardinal Edwin O'Brien said to be "feeling his age" at 79 amid a constant slate of heavy travel as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a remarkably prominent and consistent buzz through the spring has tipped Cardinal Timothy Dolan as O'Brien's potential successor again, repeating a handover first seen in 1994, when Dolan replaced the Bronx-born Army chaplain as rector of the Pontifical North American College, the beginning of his staggeringly rapid ascent through the hierarchy's ranks.

Of course, the kicker would be seismic – a post held by each of its occupants until death from its inception until Cardinal Edward Egan retired from it in 2009, Dolan's return to Rome would vacate New York for a man of Francis' choosing in the place the Vatican still sees as the "capital of the world," by far the most prominent post in the American church. As for who could take it, well, the thousand year-old order would've had to lend this scribe some body armor to survive what would easily shape up as the most significant and intense US selection process of this pontificate.

Granted, a rumor of the kind is normally the kind of thing that should instinctively be tagged as too far-fetched and tossed out... yet given where it was coming from, it couldn't be in this case.

All that said, prevalent as it's been, the trail has suddenly halted in the wake of McCarrick's removal amid an early sense that either a move to open New York would inevitably be viewed as a commentary on the McCarrick case... or, indeed, that further related developments would dictate a need for stability at the helm of the archdiocese.

Whatever happens, the report is here for the sake of the historic record – if nothing else, far too many scribe-hours have gone into tracking it lo these many weeks.

*  *  *
And, lastly... well, that can wait – for now, it's been a long four days and a good bit else to put together.

Just in the last two hours, several sudden blips have admittedly distracted focus; along the way, there's a Consistory on Thursday, all the usual close-out announcements before the Vatican's summer exodus begins next weekend, and perhaps another curveball or two, to boot.

As it's a lot to trudge through, the one thing this scribe is hoping not to sweat about is being able to pay the bills that keep this shop running... ergo, as ever, these pages only keep coming your way thanks to your support:


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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

With A Cardinal's Fall, The Crisis Returns Home

With the specter of sex-abuse returned to the fore with a vengeance across the Catholic world, the story's mounting American angle has suddenly yielded a historic, shocking development: early Wednesday, the archdiocese of New York announced that the Holy See had removed Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from all public ministry following a 47 year-old allegation of abusing a minor during his days as a priest in the city.

By far, the 87 year-old retired archbishop of Washington – who marked his 60th anniversary of ordination last month – becomes the highest-ranking US cleric to be suspended due to a report deemed credible and substantiated, and the third member of the global College of Cardinals to face a founded allegation of sexual misconduct. A fourth, Cardinal George Pell – the Australian tapped by Pope Francis as the founding head of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy – will face a double trial in his home country over the coming weeks on two charges of historic sex crimes; since becoming the first cardinal to be criminally charged on abuse counts a year ago next week, Pell has been on a voluntary leave from public ministry and his Roman role pending the outcome of the court process in Melbourne, where the 77 year-old served as archbishop through the 1990s.

Having remained one of American Catholicism's most influential prelates despite being well over a decade into retirement, McCarrick – who recently moved to a Washington nursing home – said in a statement this morning that he was "shocked by the report" and was "maintaining my innocence."

"In obedience I accept the decision of The Holy See, that I no longer exercise any public ministry," he said.

"I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members, and people I have been honored to serve in my sixty-years as a priest.

"While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people."

The cardinal is reportedly planning to appeal the finding to Rome; while a canonical recourse of the kind would normally be judged by the Congregation for the Clergy in the case of a priest, here it would ostensibly fall under the purview of the Congregation for Bishops, whose membership includes his successor in the capital, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Together with the announcement of the abuse finding, the current holders of the cardinal's first two diocesan assignments – northern New Jersey's archdiocese of Newark and diocese of Metuchen – made the joint revelation that their Chanceries had "received three allegations of sexual misconduct [by McCarrick] with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements." The cardinal's response made no mention of this aspect of the announcement.

On the historical front, in the lone prior case of similarly established misconduct with adults by a cardinal, in 2015 Francis "accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges" of membership in the College – an exceedingly rare act – submitted by the Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who forfeited his participation in the 2013 Conclave as the allegations surfaced. Following his renunciation, O'Brien lived in exiled obscurity in England until his death at 80 in March.

According to the New York statement, the finding of the abuse report as credible came by means of the standard process to which all allegations against priests, deacons and lay employees are submitted in the wake of the US bishops' 2002 "Dallas Charter" and Norms, which are particular law for the national church. As bishops are exempt from the remit of the Charter, the archdiocese said that the Holy See – which enjoys exclusive competence in matters pertaining to prelates – directed that the protocols applying to any other case be maintained, a decision without precedent in the case of a high-ranking cleric.

In itself, that context is extraordinary given the process' central role of a diocesan review board comprised exclusively of independent lay experts, which deemed the allegation credible and provided the basis for McCarrick's removal from ministry, a judgment carried out by the Pope's top deputy, the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, on Francis' behalf.

Given the allegation's cited timeframe of 47 years, in 1971 then-Msgr McCarrick would have been freshly named as priest-secretary to New York's Cardinal Terence Cooke after a stint as rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico.

By tradition the most powerful post in the Gotham Chancery after the archbishop himself, the future cardinal remained at the helm of Cooke's office even after his appointment as an auxiliary bishop in 1977 at the age of 46.

Notably, while a push for the beatification of Cooke has been a passionate cause among many since the cardinal's death from leukemia in 1983, the momentum for the project has stalled in recent years amid reports that Cardinal Timothy Dolan was concerned over his late predecessor's perceived mishandling of abuse cases during his 15-year tenure, fearing that the Roman investigation into Cooke's life would resurface the issue. At the time, a source close to McCarrick relayed to Whispers that the DC cardinal was irate over the blocking of his mentor's cause.

*   *   *
All that said, while a development of this sort would be seismic regardless of which cardinal it involved, that sense is exponentially amplified given the outsize role McCarrick has held both on the national and global stage for more than three decades.

Even before he transformed the role of Washington's archbishop into a formidable pulpit far beyond its own turf, from his days in Newark, the slight figure in a threadbare jacket universally known as "Ted" has been and remained one of the Stateside leadership's principal forces of nature, carving out a massive profile that's extended from raising untold millions of dollars for church causes of every stripe to serving as the American church's de facto goodwill ambassador to the wider world and parachuting into more humanitarian emergencies than most folks knew existed, so much so that the long-standing quip among his priests was that "his official portrait should be taken through the window of an airplane."

Along the way, his fan-base transcended borders – when George W. Bush came to the White House in 2001, his first dinner party in Washington was at the cardinal's Chancery apartment; to the expletive-laden fury of his then-counterpart across the Hudson, McCarrick prodded John Paul II to land instead in New Jersey on the now-saint's last US tour in 1995 (with then-President Bill Clinton waiting on the tarmac); as the cardinal was being treated at a Roman hospital shortly after the 2013 Conclave, the newly-elected Francis rang his cellphone to check up on him, and last summer, before a crowd of 90,000 at the capital's FedEx Field, U2's Bono dedicated "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" to "our old friend."

At the church's topmost levels, meanwhile, the legacy is no less widespread: now the senior of McCarrick's "sons," his vicar-general in Washington has joined him in the Pope's "Senate" on becoming the cardinal-head of the Vatican's organ for the laity and family life, while in his beloved Newark, it was a "Ted talk" to Francis that saw New Jersey score a red hat of its own in the form of the Pope's closest Stateside friend...

...and for now, shattering and simply unreal as all this is, it's to that "adopted son," Cardinal Joe Tobin, that the last word belongs:
Cardinal McCarrick served this Archdiocese for almost fifteen years. No doubt many of you developed strong relationships with him and appreciate the impact of his service. Those feelings are likely hard to reconcile with the news of a credible and substantiated claim of abuse of a minor. While Cardinal McCarrick maintains his innocence and the canonical process continues, we must put first the serious nature of this matter with respect and support for the process aimed at hearing victims and finding truth.

The abuse crisis in our Church has been devastating. We cannot undo the actions of the past, but we must continue to act with vigilance today. I renew my commitment to seek forgiveness and healing, while ensuring a safe environment for children in this Archdiocese. I will continue to report immediately to civil authorities any accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy and will cooperate fully in the investigation and adjudication. I continue to urge anyone who was abused by clergy to come forward, as brave survivors before you have done. To the priests, religious and all other members of this community, I join you in continued prayer that God carry us together in his love with commitment to our faith and each other.
*   *   *
Even as today's news represents a watershed moment in the US church's three-decade journey through the scandals, McCarrick's removal nonetheless heightens the epochal nature of the days at hand.

Sometime next week, the Pennsylvania attorney general, Josh Shapiro, is expected to release the most extensive civil report to date on the US church's response to abuse, the result of a two-year grand jury that's probed six of the state's eight Latin-church dioceses (Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton).

As first reported by the British daily The Guardian, the findings – drawn from extensive testimony and subpoenaed personnel-files dating back to the late 1940s – are expected to fill nearly 900 pages.

Though the sprawling text is tipped to make for an explicit drubbing of the handling of cases by prelates long since retired or deceased, Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer reported that no criminal charges will be recommended by the panel, ostensibly against neither alleged abusers nor diocesan officials.

The nation's first civil investigation of abuse to stretch beyond a single diocese, the six local churches will respond individually to the report upon its release.

SVILUPPO (4.40pm): In an unexpected ruling late Wednesday afternoon, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a stay preventing the publication of the grand jury report amid unspecified "legal challenges" to its release.

According to the two-paragraph ruling, the report's issuance has been halted "pending further order" of the seven-member court – all its members elected on party lines, currently a Democratic majority of 5-2.

No timeframe for a potential order to publish was given, and the breakdown of the justices' vote was not disclosed.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

With Prime Target's Ouster, Pope's Chilean Cleanout Begins

Three weeks since the bishops of Chile offered their joint resignation to the Pope in an unprecedented response to a deepening abuse crisis, Francis' concrete moves to right the ship have begun precisely as the victims would've hoped.

At Roman Noon this Monday – all of five months since the pontiff's last public defense of Bishop Juan Barros – Francis' stunning turnabout came full circle as he accepted the 61 year-old prelate's resignation from the helm of the diocese of Osorno, ending a three-year tenure marked on the ground by protests and resistance from its outset. (Above, Barros is seen caught in the midst of demonstrators at his 2015 installation.)

On his transfer to the remote, southern church from Chile's military ordinariate, Barros was implicated by the victims of the country's most notorious predator, Fr Fernando Karadima, of having witnessed their abuse as a young priest in Santiago in the 1980s. Over the last six weeks, the Pope has invited groups of Karadima survivors for two weekends' worth of talks at the Domus.

Having previously submitted his resignation twice only for it to be declined by Francis, while Barros had become the most prominent target of calls for his removal – all as the Osorno cathedral has been occupied by "sit-in" vigils since his arrival – today's departures did not extend to the handful of other Karadima proteges who've since become diocesan bishops. Then again, the trio of moves announced today are only expected to be the first strike of an ongoing clearout that, according to some projections, will eventually see roughly half of the nation's 33-man active bench leave office.

Alongside Barros, the two other prelates relieved of their posts – Archbishop Christián Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortazar of Valparaiso, the country's second-largest diocese – are both over the retirement age of 75, thus rendering their participation in the en bloc resignation a purely symbolic act.

While a Chilean priest recently said he had lodged an allegation of Duarte's complicity in "sexual abuse, abuse of conscience and power" with the country's Nuncio in 2008 and never received a response, the Pope's move to include Caro in the first wave of the ousters is especially notable on two fronts: first, as metropolitan of the province which includes Osorno, the archbishop has had a degree of supervisory authority over Barros and the suffragan diocese. In the face of the protests, Caro proved one of Barros' most resolute defenders in the hierarchy, openly attacking the Osorno demonstrators and maintaining as recently as last month that, although the scandals presented a serious issue for the Chilean church, the ongoing tide of revelations and outrage was not to be considered "a crisis."

On another significant front, today's announcements come as the Pope's special investigators for the Chilean church, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and the CDF staffer Msgr Jordi Bertomeu, are slated to return tomorrow for a week of further interviews with victims and other impacted parties, only now shifting their focus from Santiago to Osorno itself.

Given both the delicate situation and the separate need to reconstruct the country's apparatus for episcopal appointments in light of the implication of the current Nuncio, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, in the handling of events, alongside today's resignations Francis named apostolic administrators for the three vacant dioceses. As two of the temporary picks are auxiliaries of Santiago, the choices further indicate that not all of the bishops' resignations will be accepted, not to mention that it will almost certainly be a long wait until permanent successors are appointed. (Unlike elected diocesan administrators, as an apostolic administrator's mandate derives from papal appointment, the latter may exercise the full authority of a diocesan bishop for the duration of their mission.)

As previously noted, even with Barros' departure from center stage, the Chilean church's three most critical personnel decisions remain pending before Francis: a new archbishop of Santiago, the country's most senior post, where Cardinal Riccardo Ezzati is well over a year past 75; a new Nuncio to replace the tainted Scapolo and manage the bench's rebuilding, and perhaps most prominently, the fate of the retired Santiago Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa – long an outspoken opponent of Karadima's victims – who maintains his seat on the Pope's "C9" group of lead advisers.

On the latter piece, the 25th meeting of the "Gang of Nine" began today at the Domus. Whether Errazuriz was in attendance won't be disclosed by the Vatican until the gathering's close on Wednesday.

Among other recent developments, following the bishops' return from their three-day May summit with Francis, the local landscape was further roiled by the suspension of 15 priests amid fresh allegations in the diocese of Rancagua, whose ordinary, Bishop Alejandro Goic, happens to be the chairman of the Chilean church's commission on sexual abuse.

While Barros issued a statement seeking forgiveness for his "limitations" and "what I couldn't accomplish," the de facto face of Karadima's victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, issued the following response shortly after the resignations were announced:
Having been among the first group of survivors to meet with Francis in late April, in other statements Cruz has used the phrase "Que se vayan todos" in reference to the bishops – that is, "They all should go."

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Sunday, June 03, 2018

"In This Way, We Live 'Eucharistically'" – On Corpus Christi, Today's "Abandoned Tabernacles"

For the first time since John Paul II came to Peter's Chair, a Pope took the traditional Corpus Christi Mass and procession outside the majestic heart of Rome....

That Francis did it, however, should surprise no one – yet again, the inspiration came from Paul VI, who led the rite in the same ancient port of Ostia fifty years ago.

Whether this year's departure from the customary site at St John Lateran is a one-off remains to be seen. But in a reinforcement of Papa Bergoglio's intent in moving the event to the "peripheries" of Rome's eldest suffragan church, his homily tonight offered a potent reflection on what the reception and veneration of Christ's Body and Blood entails....
The Gospel we just heard speaks of the Last Supper, but surprisingly, pays more attention to the preparations than to the dinner itself. We keep hearing the word “prepare”. For example, the disciples ask: “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (Mk 14:12). Jesus sends them off with clear instructions to make the necessary preparations and they find “a large room… furnished and ready” (v. 15). The disciples went off to prepare, but the Lord had already made his own preparations.

Something similar occurs after the resurrection when Jesus appears to the disciples for the third time. While they are fishing, he waits for them on the shore, where he has already prepared bread and fish for them. Even so, he tells the disciples to bring some of the fish that they have just caught, which he himself had shown them how to catch (cf. Jn 21:6.9-10). Jesus has already made preparations and he asks his disciples to cooperate. Once again, just before the Passover meal, Jesus tells the disciples: “I go to prepare a place for you… so that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn 14:2.3). Jesus is the one who prepares, yet before his own Passover, he also asks us urgently, with exhortations and parables, to be prepared, to remain ever ready (cf. Mt 24:44; Lk 12:40).

Jesus, then, prepares for us and asks us to be prepared. What does he prepare for us? A place and a meal. A place much more worthy than the “large furnished room” of the Gospel. It is our spacious and vast home here below, the Church, where there is, and must be, room for everyone. But he has also reserved a place for us on high, in heaven, so that we can be with him and with one another forever. In addition to a place, he prepares a meal, the Bread in which he gives himself: “Take; this is my body” (Mk 14:22). These two gifts, a place, and a meal are what we need to live. They are our ultimate “room and board”. Both are bestowed upon us in the Eucharist.

Jesus prepares a place for us here below because the Eucharist is the beating heart of the Church. It gives her birth and rebirth; it gathers her together and gives her strength. But the Eucharist also prepares for us a place on high, in eternity, for it is the Bread of heaven. It comes down from heaven – it is the only matter on earth that savors of eternity. It is the bread of things to come; even now, it grants us a foretaste of a future infinitely greater than all we can hope for or imagine. It is the bread that sates our greatest expectations and feeds our finest dreams. It is, in a word, the pledge of eternal life – not simply a promise but a pledge, a concrete anticipation of what awaits us there. The Eucharist is our “reservation” for the heavenly banquet; it is Jesus himself, as food for our journey towards eternal life and happiness.

In the consecrated host, together with a place, Jesus prepares for us a meal, food for our nourishment. In life, we constantly need to be fed: nourished not only with food but also with plans and affection, hopes and desires. We hunger to be loved. But the most pleasing compliments, the finest gifts, and the most advanced technologies are not enough; they never completely satisfy us. The Eucharist is simple food, like bread, yet it is the only food that satisfies, for there is no greater love. There we encounter Jesus really; we share his life and we feel his love. There you can realize that his death and resurrection are for you. And when you worship Jesus in the Eucharist, you receive from him the Holy Spirit and you find peace and joy. Dear brothers and sisters, let us choose this food of life! Let us make Mass our priority! Let us rediscover Eucharistic adoration in our communities! Let us implore the grace to hunger for God, with an insatiable desire to receive what he has prepared for us.

As he did with his disciples, so too today Jesus asks us, today, to prepare. Like the disciples, let us ask him: “Lord, where do you want us to go to prepare?” Where: Jesus does not prefer exclusive, selective places. He looks for places untouched by love, untouched by hope. Those uncomfortable places are where he wants to go and he asks us to prepare his way. How many persons lack dignified housing or food to eat! All of us know people who are lonely, troubled and in need: they are abandoned tabernacles. We, who receive from Jesus our own room and board, are here to prepare a place and a meal for these, our brothers and sisters in need. Jesus became bread broken for our sake; in turn, he asks us to give ourselves to others, to live no longer for ourselves but for one another. In this way, we live “eucharistically”, pouring out upon the world the love we draw from the Lord’s flesh. The Eucharist is translated into life when we pass beyond ourselves to those all around us.

The Gospel tells us that the disciples made their preparations once they “set out and went to the city” (v. 16). The Lord calls us also today to prepare for his coming not by keeping our distance but by entering our cities. That includes this city, whose very name – Ostia – means entrance, doorway. Lord, how many doors do you want us to open for you here? How many gates do you call us to unbar, how many walls must we tear down? Jesus wants the walls of indifference and silent collusion to be breached, iron bars of oppression and arrogance torn asunder, and paths cleared for justice, civility and legality. The vast beachfront of this city speaks to us of how beautiful it is to open our hearts and to set out in new directions in life. But this requires loosening the knots that keep us bound to the moorings of fear and depression. The Eucharist invites to let ourselves be carried along by the wave of Jesus, to not remain grounded on the beach in the hope that something may come along, but to cast into the deep, free, courageous and united.

The Gospel ends by telling us that the disciples, “after singing a hymn, went out” (v. 26). At the end of Mass, we too will go out; we will go forth with Jesus, who will pass through the streets of this city. Jesus wants to dwell among you. He wants to be part of your lives, to enter your houses and to offer his liberating mercy, his blessing and his consolation. You have experienced painful situations; the Lord wants to be close to you. Let us open our doors to him and say:

Come, Lord, and visit us.
We welcome you into our hearts,
our families and our city.
We thank you because you have prepared for us
the food of life and a place in your Kingdom.
Make us active in preparing your way,
joyous in bringing you, who are the Way, to others,
and thus to bring fraternity, justice, and peace
to our streets. Amen.
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Monday, May 28, 2018

"To These, O Lord...."

Fortunately for once, the standard reality that's long seen US holidays coincide with outbreaks of Peak Francis hasn't been the case this weekend... maybe the Boss was told that Memorial Day was last week.

In any case, and all seriousness, if there's a day on the civic calendar to pause and reflect, this is it – all the more as, far from the beaches and barbecues that mark the occasion for many, the ultimate sacrifice continues....


As ever for one of the great feasts of state, here again is the Prayer for the Nation and its Church written and first delivered in 1791 by American Catholicism's founding pastor, John Carroll of Baltimore – one offered especially today for the Premier See, where catastrophic flooding from a storm leveled the core of at least one suburban town overnight:
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 Francis, 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 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. Amen.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Before anything else, thanks again to everyone for the many prayers and kindnesses amid the tumult behind the scenes – thank God, Dad and things are far better than they were, but there’s still a good bit of cleanup and watch-keeping in process.

Back to all this, as was said early last week, it was a grace to have the space to return to the desk "given the moment now on tap... of which [the Chile summit] is just one critical piece."

Given what’s transpired on several fronts since, well, now you see it.

Hopefully there’s not too much rust showing in the gears – either way, frequent as it is for anything that comes up on this beat to be overdramatized in some quarters, it's honestly hard to recall a more significant and impactful cycle than the input overload which unfolded in rapid order through the weekend just past.

And, yep, there’s more where that came from – not to mention the fresh threads of the road to a Consistory, the ongoing fallout over Chile, etc. But in the meantime, as none of this is possible without being able to pay the bills that bring the product to you, as ever, these pages can only keep plugging along by means of your support....


As ever, all thanks and then some – these last days have had some memorable war stories... but it's worth ensuring that the electric and data connections stay up first.

Ergo, back to the mine?

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Doubling Down – Bishops’ Fates In the Balance, Pope To Consult Chile Victims. Again.

Five days after all the Chilean bishops moved to offer their historic joint resignation to the Pope, late tonight brought a further sign of Francis' immersion in the country's abuse crisis – a sudden Vatican announcement that a second group of victims would spend next weekend staying with the pontiff at the Domus (above) for private talks.

Most critically of all, the five men – survivors of what, in a striking description, the Vatican termed the "systemic abuse" or "abusive system" of the now-removed predator priest Fernando Karadima – are all now priests in their own right, marking the first occasion that a Pope will have met with clerics who have themselves been victims.

Their names not disclosed, during their 1-3 June stay, the priests will be accompanied by two other unnamed clergy "who have assisted in their legal and spiritual journey," and two laypeople who've likewise supported them. Francis will celebrate Mass with the group on June 2nd, then meet with them all together before sitting down alone with each.

While much of the focus on the Chile storm has centered on the embattled Bishop Juan Barros – the Karadima protege accused by his victims of having witnessed the abuse, now stationed in a far-flung diocese – as with the trio of survivors received last month for a first weekend visit, the invite to the next group indicates that Francis' spotlight remains fixed on "El Bosque," the wealthy Santiago parish where Karadima was pastor and carried out his crimes through the 1970s and '80s, during which time he was considered one of the country's most powerful clerics. As the succession to Cardinal Riccardo Ezzati at the helm of the capital's archdiocese – by far, the country's largest and most prominent see – was already pending before the en bloc resignations with the top prelate a year past the retirement age of 75, the coming talks will accordingly be part of the consultation that informs Francis' call on the most significant personnel-choice he'll make for the future of Chilean Catholicism.

On yet another front, meanwhile, extraordinary as the papal U-turn on the situation has been since January, tonight's development has broader implications: just a few months after Francis came in for heavy criticism from some leading survivors for temporarily letting the initial mandate for his child-protection commission lapse, then reconstituting the group without representatives of victims in its membership (a marked change from its initial makeup), the pontiff has suddenly taken an aggressive shift to approaching survivors and inviting them in on his own, without the involvement of intermediaries.

Whether this new tack is unique to Chile remains to be seen, but it is significant that it comes three months before another major test-case of his and the wider church's response to abuse: the Pope's August visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, against the backdrop of what remains the most devastating and widespread outbreak of the scandals over their three-decade trajectory across the global church. (According to one Whispers op, Papa Bergoglio has already begun his standard quiet conversations to prepare his talks and the general approach he'll take for the summer trip.)

Back to Chile, even as the Pope's determinations for the path ahead remain to be made, the combination of factors has already spurred a remarkable state of affairs – with last week's yet-unaccepted resignations of the 33 bishops having again upped the ante for Francis to act decisively, while prior Vatican attempts at managing abuse crises have largely been entrusted to the Curia or specially-tapped investigators (as took place for the Chilean church earlier this year), that dynamic has shifted, and we're now seeing an apostolic visitation effectively being carried out by the Pope himself, its resolution to be orchestrated by him alone.

In tonight's announcement, the Holy See Press Office said that, by inviting the second group, "the Pope wants to show his closeness to the abused priests, to accompany them in their pain and hear their valuable sense of how to improve the current preventive measures and the [overall] fight against abuse in the church.... These priests and laypeople represent all the victims of abuse by clergy in Chile."

While the Vatican said that the June talks will conclude "this first phase" of Francis' meetings with Chilean survivors, "it cannot be discounted that similar initiatives will be repeated in the future."

*  *  *
Before word of the next survivors' visit emerged, the return of abuse and its fallout across the world's front-pages was reinforced further by this morning's conviction of one of Australia's leading prelates, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, on a criminal count of failing to report another cleric's misconduct to police in the 1970s, when he was a parish priest.

Twice elected president of the Australian bench a decade ago, Wilson, now 67 and reportedly in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, could face up to two years in prison upon his sentencing in June.

As of tonight, the Vatican has issued no reaction to the verdict.

The church's lead figure in Southern Australia since 2001, Wilson has remained in office throughout the court proceedings and pleaded not guilty to the charge. According to a response from the Australian conference, he has not indicated whether he plans to appeal the ruling.

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