Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"The Hour of Power," Roman Edition

CHRIST CATHEDRAL, ORANGE COUNTY – "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad."

For a quarter-century, that verse of the Psalmist was Dr Robert Schuller's sign-on from this crystal sanctuary as he began his Sunday broadcasts across the globe... and now, it's fitting to return to it on this day, as one of American Christianity's most prominent and cherished venues begins its second incarnation as a Catholic church and the seat of this 1.5 million-member diocese, now one of the US' ten largest.

Beginning with a 10am local pre-show, here's the livefeed:

The most complex ecclesial rite of all, the Dedication Mass is expected to run approximately three hours.

While today's launch marks the fifth launch of a Stateside cathedral since 2008, you'd have to go back even further to find one as significant as this: to September 2, 2002, when the debut of Los Angeles' $190 million, 5,000-seat Our Lady of the Angels altered the Downtown landscape of the nation's Western hub, likewise signaling the culmination of the LA church's rapid emergence as the largest fold American Catholicism has ever known.

On another context note, only after this date was set in 2017 did the locals realize a "magical" confluence of events – as it happens, today marks the 64th anniversary of the opening of the even better-known shrine down the street: Disneyland.

Ergo, it's doubly meaningful that – as with the respective cathedral anniversary of each local church – every July 17th in Orange will be marked as a proper feast, with the texts of the Dedication Mass employed that day across the diocese.

In a rarity for a new diocesan seat on its Opening Day, the wider community will get its first chance to enter Christ Cathedral tonight; with all 2,100 seats (and 1,000 overflow spots) all long taken for this morning's rites, the general public is invited to see the space for themselves from 5-8pm, while an open-air festival takes place in the plaza outside.

And with that, it's been a long wait – away we go.

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The Crown Jewel – Today in The OC, The Church Comes Home

“Holy is the Church,
the chosen vine of the Lord,
whose branches fill the whole world,
and whose tendrils, borne on the wood of the Cross,
reach upward to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed is the Church,
God’s dwelling-place with the human race, a holy temple built of living stones,
standing upon the foundation of the Apostles with Christ Jesus its chief cornerstone.

Exalted is the Church,
a City set high on a mountain for all to see, resplendent to every eye
with the unfading light of the Lamb,
and resounding with the sweet hymn of the Saints....
CHRIST CATHEDRAL, ORANGE COUNTY – Once upon a time in America, a Catholic bishop and a secular architect joined forces to envision a radical concept in church design: a temple open to the world around it through the use of clear glass.

The materials sent a message – the Church need not shelter itself behind its imported encrustations, keeping the pluralistic, free society outside at bay… If anything, in this unique setting, she came with an open hand to take her place among the community at large, to help build it up and make it thrive. In sum, the place was meant to say in structure that God’s People had nothing to fear from daylight.

In its original sense, this idea doesn’t refer to what’s happening now, but to the Cathedral of the Assumption in Baltimore – built by the founding Bishop John Carroll and the Capitol designer Benjamin Latrobe, the nation’s first diocesan seat, and the one place every American Catholic can genuinely call home. And today, on the eve of the Assumption’s bicentennial, in the heart of the largest province Carroll’s heirs have ever known, his vision has met its match.

Forty-three years ago, when Rome spun off Orange County from the mothership of Los Angeles as its own local church, the one-county see numbered some 350,000 members. Now become the nation’s sixth-largest civic seat, its Catholic population has boomed to almost five times that. Yet even as it erupted into one of the Stateside church’s densest and most diverse outposts – bigger than Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia and Seattle among others – the diocese has been an ecclesial nomad, the downtown parish-turned-bishop’s seat quickly overwhelmed by the rapid growth, its major events subsequently imposing by need on its already hectic larger parishes. But today, at last, they’ve now got a “common home” to call their own – one explicitly intended from its birth to emphasize man’s intrinsic link to the creation around him.

To be sure, Orange’s fire-sale acquisition of the Crystal Cathedral and its 33-acre campus has been a failsafe conversation-starter in US church circles ever since the diocese emerged victorious from the 2011 court-fight over the prime property a mile from Disneyland. Regardless, as the long, sometimes challenging journey to today gradually began to bear fruit – first in giving the diocese a ready-made nerve-center in rapid order, then becoming an ad intra “destination” in ways the previously envisioned built-from-scratch compound in Santa Ana never could’ve dreamt of being, it’s become increasingly clear to the locals that this most unlikely of moves has been, as many here have said through the years, no less than “an act of providence.” (Indeed, on handing his creation over to the Orange church, the Crystal’s builder, Dr. Robert Schuller, told then-Bishop Tod Brown and his priests of his longtime hope “that this place would someday return to the mother church.”)

Given the worldwide outpouring of shock and grief upon the Holy Week fire at Notre-Dame, it’s curious that some folks still wonder why cathedrals are necessary. Clearly, their great-grandparents and beyond who sacrificed their pennies to build them felt rather differently. Here, the folks have waited for this day, they’ve believed in it, and even grown some more along the way – already, the dozen weekend liturgies in the 1,000-seat temporary “parish” invariably swamp the space, and with the 2,100-seat centerpiece now complete (in a place where the average parish comprises ten times that number), it’s a pretty safe bet that the regulars won’t be able to count on too much stretching space for long.

All that said, the decade of planning and renderings has come to an end, and it's time for the "Hour of Power" – the Mass of Dedication of Christ Cathedral begins at 10.30am local (1.30pm Eastern, 1930 Rome) today, and you can find the livefeed here at that hour.

To Bishop Kevin Vann and his top-shelf crew, who’ve devoted untold hours over these many years to reach this moment, kudos on a job well-done – thanks to all of you, today, this “periphery” of the City of Angels is the center of the American Church.

SVILUPPO: Livefeed link, etc.

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Saturday, June 29, 2019

On Pope's Day, Two Priorities: "Witnesses"... and Processes

By custom the "last day of school" at the Vatican – marking the end of the Curia's working year and opening the 10-week summer recess – the centerpiece of this feast of Saints Peter and Paul is usually the morning Mass which the Pope concelebrates with the world's new archbishops named over the last year (video), at whose close they receive a box containing the Pallium, the symbol of their office.

While today brought the 35th anniversary of that custom, per usual, Francis threw some unexpected fireworks into the gears: shortly after the last major liturgy of the cycle wrapped up, the Holy See released a nearly 5,000-word letter from the pontiff to "the People of God journeying in Germany," intended to serve as his contribution to the "binding synodal process" launched by the bishops there in March, specifically with an eye to potential shifts in its concept of ecclesial governance – read: the responsibilities and composition of leadership, ordained and lay – as well as discussions on the church's teaching on sexuality.

Issued only in its original Spanish and a German translation, Francis urged the German effort to "courage, because what we need is much more than a structural, organizational or functional change." Nonetheless, the Pope did not exclude the possibility that, when approached through a collegial hermeneutic, a synodal push at the national level "can reach and take decisions on essential questions for the faith and the life of the church."

Needless to say, the German letter and its repercussions – together with the freshly-released blueprint for October's all-important Synod on the Amazon – will dominate the summer reading lists in much of Churchworld.

Back to today's feast, however, though Francis has devoted prior homilies on Peter and Paul to significant programmatic reflections on the Petrine ministry and his intended evolution of it, this year's preach on the main papal feast was devoted to the "witness" of the lead Apostles – the twin patrons of Rome – which, of course, led to their respective martyrdoms 1,952 years ago.

Here, the English of the Pope's morning homily (emphases original):
The Apostles Peter and Paul stand before us as witnesses. They never tired of preaching and journeying as missionaries from the land of Jesus to Rome itself. Here they gave their ultimate witness, offering their lives as martyrs. If we go to the heart of that testimony, we can see them as witnesses to life, witnesses to forgiveness and witnesses to Jesus.

Witnesses to life. Their lives, though, were not neat and linear. Both were deeply religious: Peter was one of the very first disciples (cf. Jn 1:41), and Paul was “zealous for the traditions of [his] ancestors” (Gal 1:14). Yet they also made great mistakes: Peter denied the Lord, while Paul persecuted the Church of God. Both were cut to the core by questions asked by Jesus: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (Jn 21:15); “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Peter was grieved by Jesus’ questions, while Paul was blinded by his words. Jesus called them by name and changed their lives. After all that happened, he put his trust in them, in one who denied him and one who persecuted his followers, in two repentant sinners. We may wonder why the Lord chosen not to give us two witnesses of utter integrity, with clean records and impeccable lives? Why Peter, when there was John? Why Paul, and not Barnabas?

There is a great teaching here: the starting point of the Christian life is not our worthiness; in fact, the Lord was able to accomplish little with those who thought they were good and decent. Whenever we consider ourselves smarter or better than others, that is the beginning of the end. The Lord does not work miracles with those who consider themselves righteous, but with those who know themselves needy. He is not attracted by our goodness; that is not why he loves us. He loves us just as we are; he is looking for people who are not self-sufficient, but ready to open their hearts to him. People who, like Peter and Paul, are transparent before God. Peter immediately told Jesus: “I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8). Paul wrote that he was “least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle” (1 Cor 15:9). Throughout life, they preserved this humility, to the very end. Peter died crucified upside down, since he did not consider himself worthy to imitate his Lord. Paul was always fond of his name, which means “little”, and left behind his birth name, Saul, the name of the first king of his people. Both understood that holiness does not consist in exalting but rather in humbling oneself. Holiness is not a contest, but a question of entrusting our own poverty each day to the Lord, who does great things for those who are lowly. What was the secret that made them persevere amid weakness? It was the Lord’s forgiveness.

Let us think about them too as witnesses to forgiveness. In their failings, they encountered the powerful mercy of the Lord, who gave them rebirth. In his forgiveness, they encountered irrepressible peace and joy. Thinking back to their failures, they might have experienced feelings of guilt. How many times might Peter have thought back to his denial! How many scruples might Paul have felt at having hurt so many innocent people! Humanly, they had failed. Yet they encountered a love greater than their failures, a forgiveness strong enough to heal even their feelings of guilt. Only when we experience God’s forgiveness do we truly experience rebirth. From there we start over, from forgiveness; there we rediscover who we really are: in the confession of our sins.

Witnesses to life and witnesses to forgiveness, Peter and Paul are ultimately witnesses to Jesus. In today’s Gospel, the Lord asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The answers evoke figures of the past: “John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. Remarkable people, but all of them dead. Peter instead replies: “You are the Christ” (Mt 16:13-14.16). The Christ, that is, the Messiah. A word that points not to the past, but to the future: the Messiah is the one who is awaited, he is newness, the one who brings God’s anointing to the world. Jesus is not the past, but the present and the future. He is not a distant personage to be remembered, but the one to whom Peter can speak intimately: You are the Christ. For those who are his witnesses, Jesus is more than a historical personage; he is a living person: he is newness, not things we have already seen, the newness of the future and not a memory from the past. The witness, then, is not someone who knows the story of Jesus, but someone who has experienced a love story with Jesus. The witness, in the end, proclaims only this: that Jesus is alive and that he is the secret of life. Indeed, Peter, after saying: “You are the Christ”, then goes on to say: “the Son of the living God” (v. 16). Witness arises from an encounter with the living Jesus. At the centre of Paul’s life too, we find that same word that rises up from Peter’s heart: Christ. Paul repeats this name constantly, almost four hundred times in his letters! For him, Christ is not only a model, an example, a point of reference: he is life itself. Paul writes: “For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). Jesus is Paul’s present and his future, so much so that he considers the past as refuse in comparison to the surpassing knowledge of Christ (cf. Phil 3:7-8).

Brothers and sisters, in the presence of these witnesses, let us ask: “Do I renew daily my own encounter with Jesus?” We may be curious about Jesus, or interested in Church matters or religious news. We may open computer sites and the papers, and talk about holy things. But this is to remain at the level of what are people saying? Jesus does not care about polls, past history or statistics. He is not looking for religion editors, much less “front page” or “statistical” Christians. He is looking for witnesses who say to him each day: “Lord, you are my life”.

Having met Jesus and experienced his forgiveness, the Apostles bore witness to him by living a new life: they no longer held back, but gave themselves over completely. They were no longer content with half-measures, but embraced the only measure possible for those who follow Jesus: that of boundless love. They were “poured out as a libation” (cf. 2 Tim 4:6). Let us ask for the grace not to be lukewarm Christians living by half measures, allowing our love to grow cold. Let us rediscover who we truly are through a daily relationship with Jesus and through the power of his forgiveness. Just as he asked Peter, Jesus is now asking us: “Who do you say that I am?”, “Do you love me?” Let us allow these words to penetrate our hearts and inspire us not to remain content with a minimum, but to aim for the heights, so that we too can become living witnesses to Jesus.

Today we bless the pallia for the Metropolitan Archbishops named in the past year. The pallium recalls the sheep that the shepherd is called to bear on his shoulders. It is a sign that the shepherds do not live for themselves but for the sheep. It is a sign that, in order to possess life, we have to lose it, give it away. Today our joy is shared, in accordance with a fine tradition, by a Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, whose members I greet with affection. Your presence, dear brothers, reminds us that we can spare no effort also in the journey towards full unity among believers, in communion at every level. For together, reconciled to God and having forgiven one another, we are called to bear witness to Jesus by our lives.
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Upon his election in 2013, Francis slightly tweaked the custom of his predecessors – where now-St John Paul II and Benedict XVI upended centuries of tradition in conferring the Pallium on the new archbishops on this feast, Papa Bergoglio simply gives the woolen band to the metropolitans in a box at the close of the Mass, that each might be invested with it before their people at home: a return to the ancient protocol that, as a jurisdictional insignia, it is never to be worn outside the archbishop's own province.

Among the 31 new metropolitans who took part in today's rites were the head of Australia's largest diocese, Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne; the new leader of Africa's biggest local church, Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (with some 6.3 million Catholics, now one of the global church's five largest outposts); two Canadians – Archbishops Peter Hundt of St John's in Newfoundland and Michael Mulhall of Kingston; from Britain, the new archbishop of Southwark, 50 year-old John Wilson – the youngest member of the English bench, now catapulted into one of its top posts; and two Americans: Archbishops Michael Byrnes, the Detroit-born missionary sent to heal an abuse-wracked church on Guam, and Wilton Gregory, now saddled with doing no less under the searing spotlight of the nation's capital.

Though it usually takes several months to line up schedules for the Pallium ceremony to take place in a local church, Francis' Washington pick will formally receive his second one in rapid order: at the 11.30 Sunday Mass on 14 July in St Matthew's Cathedral. (As the vestment is tied to a place, not a person, a transferred archbishop must receive a fresh Pallium for his new charge.)

Notably, today marks the first time since 2017 that a Stateside archbishop has taken part in the Pallium rites, but the US will be making up for the relative dearth over the next two years – as previously reported, no less than six home-turf metropolitans could be named by mid-2020.

In Seattle, the newly-arrived Coadjutor-Archbishop Paul Etienne is expected to take the reins of that million-member fold as early as October; both his replacement in Anchorage and Gregory's own successor atop the 1.2 million-member Atlanta archdiocese are pending, and this very weekend brings the 75th birthdays of both Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Robert Carlson of St Louis, thus signaling the respective "victory laps" of episcopal tenures which began before each turned 40.

All told, the coming ad limina of the US bench – their first Roman report to Francis, beginning this fall – is likely to serve as the Pope's "auditioning" for his next major picks to lead the nation's largest religious body... and, indeed, he'll have ample time to do so: according to preliminary schedules for the visit obtained by Whispers, the Man in White has carved out two-and-a-half-hour blocks for his free-flowing dialogue with each of the USCCB's 15 regions, roughly one group a week from November through February.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Day 3: At Last, The Votes

BALTIMORE – Normally, the end of a USCCB plenary tends to be more whimper than bang.

For the millionth time, however, these days are anything but "normal"... and indeed, seeing a good few of the bishops trying to mask themselves underneath floppy fisherman's hats while off the Floor has only underscored it.

Fifty-one weeks since the exposure of the then-cardinal, now-laicized Theodore McCarrick as a predator blew open American Catholicism's second round of an all-encompassing abuse crisis – in reality, a crisis of confidence in the ability of church leadership to handle cases – the response has always been focused on what's finally happening today.

In that light, seven months after the first attempt toward more stringent accountability norms was halted by the Vatican at the very last minute, the three main planks come up for debate and vote shortly after 9am Eastern.

Underscoring the significance of the package – and the degree of the 250 prelates' intent to fine-tune it to the utmost degree possible – the trio of items, now headlined by the US protocols for the application of Pope Francis' Vos estis lux mundi, will take up the entire morning session through the usual 12.30 lunchtime.

Here's the livefeed:


As ever, more to come.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Day 2: The "Lay" of the Land

BALTIMORE – Lest you're wondering what's going on, well, even the bench is trying to figure that out.

For all yesterday's curveballs and tangents – Woodstock, anyone? – the fault-line on this plenary's prime matter came down just as expected, and produced the only relative "lock" we've got so far: defying the draft of the US' directives for Vos estis, there will be a mandate for lay involvement worked in... but the question remains of how exactly it'll be codified.

On that, the moment of truth won't come until very late tonight – final amendments on the abuse-related texts aren't due until 5pm today, and then have to be vetted by the bishops' canonical arm before hitting the Floor for final debate and vote tomorrow morning: the first order of business on this meeting's last public day.

Nonetheless, when even the USCCB's own lay advisory groups express open and sizable skepticism about "essentially" maintaining the practice of "bishops policing bishops" – and, more pointedly still, the de facto ghostwriter of Francis' new procedural norms urges a means to "institutionalize" the role of the laity in the US' adaptations for the process – the caution of the canonists has little choice but to yield.

All that said, while the crisis-centric documents each require a two-thirds vote in favor to pass, none are being presented for recognitio (approval) by the Holy See, which past major texts have traditionally required to take binding force across the country.

While today's business in regard to the crisis was handled behind closed doors in this morning's meetings of the conference's 15 regions, the bench returns to the Floor at 2pm Eastern for assorted minor votes on liturgy and a cause for beatification.

As ever, here's the livefeed....



...and lastly, as this scribe was able to pull off the trek here by the skin of our budgetary teeth, a world of thanks to everyone who pitched in to make it possible. Yet as there's still a ways to go on the usual bills back home, it bears stating that none of us are off the hook just yet:


Indeed, more to come.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

On The Floor, Deja Vu

Under normal circumstances, the June meeting of the US bishops travels to a different city each year, staffed by a skeleton crew and with barely a quorum of prelates on hand.

Of course, however, these days are anything but normal, so the bench has returned to its usual November site in Baltimore for two reasons – first, the level of business at hand requires a larger presence of the DC-based staff... and, as one senior prelate said of the initial venue (in Santa Barbara), “We didn’t want a Ritz-Carlton.” Even so, just the cancellation fee to make the switch ran into six figures.

The complete agenda released late yesterday, with the Floor slated to get underway at 9am Eastern, the crisis-related items shelved in November remain the focus, but abuse and its fallout won’t be the only topic at hand. Among the other matters on tap are a discussion on the church’s engagement with the growing population of the religiously unaffiliated (the so-called “nones”), a vote to integrate the Pope’s categorical ban on capital punishment into the US’ adult catechism, and the bench’s approval of the first text to fall under Francis’ new rules on liturgical translations, which give the Holy See less of an oversight role.

All that said, here’s the livefeed – beyond the usual opening formalities, today’s business will be dominated by the usual preliminary presentations of the matters at hand; the final debates and votes won’t take place until later on Wednesday and early Thursday.



As ever, more to come.... On another scheduling note, though, the public meetings between now and Thursday will be unusually spotty: all Wednesday morning will be spent in closed-door regional meetings and, above all – given the lead role to be played by metropolitans in Francis’ new accountability norms, this afternoon brings a private summit of the nation’s 32 archbishops, the first time that’s happened in at least some three decades.

While all this is the brief version of what we do know, the focus from here tends to be on what we don't. With that in mind, stay tuned.

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Thursday, June 06, 2019

Coming Soon: "High Noon," Part 2

As if the run-up to next week's USCCB plenary in Baltimore wasn't tense already, a round of fresh stories over the last 48 hours – capped by a brutal Washington Post report detailing the six-month investigation into West Virginia's quickly-retired and now-suspended Bishop Michael Bransfield – has thrown a new batch of fuel and focus onto the bench's attempt to finish the job they hoped to accomplish last November, until being thwarted by Rome: the final passage of enhanced accountability protocols for prelates accused of abuse or grave negligence in the handling of cases.

Granted, that's a long sentence... but, well, it's been a long year. And if recent days have served as a reminder that, even at its 12-month point, this cycle of the abuse crisis hasn't lost its ability to shock, well, don't expect that to let up over the short-term road ahead.

That said, much as the new disclosures – including the revelation of over $10 million in lobbying fees spent by Northeastern dioceses in the hope of keeping civil statutes of limitation intact – have added to the drama and pressure surrounding the four-day Baltimore meeting, the substance of the plenary's agenda hasn't yet been reported in depth....

Until now.

According to drafts of the major documents obtained by Whispers, despite significant calls across ideological lines in the wider church for an ample lay role to be assured in investigating prelates, the proposed US adaptations for Pope Francis' new accountability norms do not mandate a place for non-clerics in the processes, merely recommending that a delegated investigator – chosen by the metropolitan archbishop overseeing a probe – "can make use of other proven experts... chosen predominantly from among lay persons" in performing the task.

An almost wholesale adoption of the "metropolitan plan" successfully argued for by Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich and now executed by Francis, the proposed USCCB tweaks for the domestic implementation of Vos estis lux mundi – which entered into global force last weekend – have summarily ditched the conference's initial design for a national lay panel to oversee allegations and make final recommendations on cases involving bishops.

As the push for lay-led reviews was nixed by Rome last fall, an attempt earlier this year by the bench's leadership for a "hybrid" model that would combine the metropolitan's role with an in-built collaboration of newly-charted regional review boards is likewise absent from the draft "Directive" being presented to the 250-odd voting prelates for their approval. In its place is a clause that a metropolitan is "highly encouraged" – yet by no means bound – to choose from a list of persons previously approved by his province to aid in handling top-level cases.

On another salient front, the draft does not obligate a metropolitan to inform a complainant of the Holy See’s decision on the outcome of an investigation, but simply suggests that the archbishop “may inquire whether and how” he might inform the accuser of the result, with that determination being made by the relevant Curial dicastery.

Of course, drafts like these are virtually certain to be heavily amended by the body of bishops before their final debate and passage. Nonetheless, the starting provision for laity as optional assistants chosen by and under the supervision of the relevant investigating archbishop is especially significant. (While it's fairly standard that most of the bishops don't start poring over a meeting's proposed texts and agenda until the weekend before a plenary, it's a pretty safe bet that some have already taken to sharpening buzz-saws to criticize the proposed setup.)

Together with a redo of November's delayed protocols to allow for restricting the ministry of retired bishops accused of abuse of adults or covering up cases – a lacuna not addressed by either the Dallas Charter or Vos estis (which pertains solely to reports against active hierarchs) – and other items, each of the accountability documents require a two-thirds vote in favor to pass.

In that light, two things bear noting: first, November's drafts garnered such broad skepticism or disagreement over the specifics that, in hindsight, a consensus quickly came to realize that the texts wouldn't have garnered the needed supermajority at that time; and with it, while summer meetings traditionally have a high level of absent bishops, this one will likely be a "full house" given the matters at hand, but no firm turnout can be gauged until everyone is in place.

In another crisis-related item, the bench is to vote on a joint statement called "Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments" which, toward its close, contains this striking passage:
We realize that too often, some bishops have acted more as administrators than as pastors. In his personal letter to the U.S. bishops in January 2019, Pope Francis reminded us that the consequences of our failures cannot be fixed by being administrators of new programs, or new committees. They can only be resolved by self-examination, humility, and conversion. It is our hope that by acknowledging what the Word of God and the Church expects of us, we will continue our efforts in regaining the trust of the people of God.
On one last top-line front, the bishops are slated to discuss and decide on the establishment of a national third-party hotline to receive allegations.

As the setup's projected $1 million cost has caused at least some sticker-shock among the prelates, we'll see what happens.

* * *
Beyond the Floor business which starts Tuesday morning, the broader scene along the Inner Harbor will be a moment of taking stock.

If anything, look at it this way – of the 12 Stateside dioceses which claim Catholic populations larger than 1.3 million, all but two are currently under some kind of investigation or review by civil authorities. While some of these have been charted at the municipal or county level, last week saw Iowa become the 18th US jurisdiction to open a statewide probe since last August's release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. And none of these include the Federal investigation opened last October which, for the time being, is understood to remain limited to Pennsylvania's seven dioceses and two eparchies, but can expand at any time.

On another front, with the USCCB's first ad limina report to the Vatican in nearly eight years – its first to Francis – beginning in November, the conference faces a "Quo vadis?" moment in terms of its wider direction.

In other words, the background of next week's talks will serve as a gut-check on the state of the bench and its needs ahead of this fall's election of the bishops' next President and his deputy. Normally this would take place in the run-up to the November voting but, as previously reported, a sizable chunk of prelates will be absent from that meeting due to the ad limina, casting their votes in real-time from Rome. (And of course, all this doesn't include the prospect of another round of protests outside over these coming days.)

All that said, while it's obviously Whispers' intent to be in Baltimore for the meeting, as things stand, the budget is preventing this scribe from pulling it off... and lest anyone forgot, no budget = no content.

Ergo, as ever, the only way it can happen is thanks to your support:


If there was ever a time when radio silence wouldn't be so good, this is it.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Live from "Borys-fest"

After three decades abroad, the longtime "star" hierarch of the US' largest Eastern Catholic fold has come home to the nation's top non-Roman post.

Born in Syracuse, a Harvard Ph.D., until now the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church's leader in Western Europe – and for most of his priesthood, the lead architect of his people's intellectual rebuilding on its native turf as the persecuted church emerged from the Communist-era catacombs – this morning sees the enthronement of Borys Gudziak, 59, as metropolitan of Philadelphia and head of the nation's 65,000 members of the global church's largest Oriental branch.

With the de facto Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk on hand to preside, the choir flown in from the Motherland, and some 3,000 of the faithful overflowing into tents on the archeparchy's sprawling campus – now prime real-estate in a gentrified neighborhood – here's a livefeed of the 11am rites in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception...



...and even more importantly than usual, the full liturgy-book with side-by-side translations.

SVILUPPO: Due to a technical flub, the livefeed above began just before the three-hour liturgy's midpoint, well after the rite of enthronement at its start.

Ergo, here's delayed video of the seating of the new metropolitan, punctuated as ever by the threefold chant of "Axios!" ("Worthy!"):



As Shevchuk remained the liturgy's principal celebrant throughout given his role as "Father and Head" of the Ukrainian church, he likewise kept the preaching duties, so Gudziak didn't get to give an inaugural homily per se.

At the morning's close, however, the prodigal hierarch repeatedly turned emotional while giving an unscripted post-Communion talk, roaming around the main aisle of his new cathedral and notably focusing on the women of the metropolia:


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