Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Everybody's Hailing Pharaoh

Talk about playing nice, Philly got some reflected sunlight yesterday. In his installation homily, the new archbishop of Atlanta offered this tip of the hat:

In the words of a bishop whom I deeply admire, spoken to his priests in a similar situation, I now utter to you: 'You mean everything to me.'

Those words were used by Justin Rigali at his installation as archbishop of St. Louis, and again at the "now from the heavens descending" coronation in Rome -- er, Philadelphia (Rigalian slip, sorry) -- 15 months ago.

Wilton Gregory then proceeded to strangle the newly-retired Jim Keleher, who created the "sex-ring" mess in Belleville the former was sent in to clean up, then took credit for his successor's efforts.

Just kidding, at least about the choking part. Many congratulations and happy returns to Joe Naumann, new archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas, my fellow Wendy's late-night regular and, by all accounts, a prince and a gentleman.

Can John Blake of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution be forgiven for taking the "everything" comment out of context, presenting it as being uttered to the whole congregation? No, of course not... what did Wilton say about encouraging "expert commentary" from the secular press, members of RNA? And now his beat guy can't distinguish the presbyterate from the whole? Crikey -- I'm so much better than even I thought at this.

On Monday, the Belleville News-Democrat ran another gem from one of the most quotable people out there: Ronald Modras, a professor of theological studies at St. Louis University. Modras will be remembered by history for crowing that "Cardinal Re is the new pharaoh of the Vatican" when Justin Rigali was named to Philadelphia. And yesterday, another memorable salvo:

"I know some of us in St. Louis wish [Gregory] was sent here rather than Atlanta."

Some?! I guess "some" in this case means everyone who doesn't wear a mantilla or have excess millions for an ostentatious Marian shrine in the middle of cornfields. This is an understatement of understatements -- and time's shown that Cardinal Re is not the new pharaoh in the Vatican, but Modras' poppy quotes get him off the hook for that. (Plus he knows the difference between a comment addressed to priests and one for the whole congregation.)

Have faith, people, have faith. I haven't gotten any whiny e.mails from Jamie Allman just yet.... But I'm waiting, it's still early.

Bring it on, Jamiebomber.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Introducing the Jamiebomber

Well, I haven't posted in a couple weeks, so the cycle is rife. Hopefully you're all having as spectacular a New Year -- and it's still new -- as is going on in Philly.

The fault line of things these days is evidenced by the appointments of two communication professionals in major American sees. First, on the home front, all the congratulations in the world to Donna Farrell, newly-appointed director of communications for the archdiocese of Philadelphia. As a fellow Penn alum, and a long-time admirer of Donna's superlative commitment and myriad talents, I couldn't be more pleased -- and no one could carry out this job as she will, with grace, integrity and brilliance.

And then there's Ray Burke's choice of Jamie Allman -- a former St. Louis investigative reporter and radio host -- to serve as Burke's chief spokesman in the "Rome of the West." When you're Burke, who managed to infuriate so many people at home in La Crosse -- well, except $25 million worth of Guadalupe shrine donors -- that the papers there are already greeting his newly-appointed successor like he's the Messiah, what you need is someone who can finesse the message and downplay the archbishop's polemics. If anything, contrary to this wisdom, Allman's statements already indicate that the nuclear arsenal on Lindell Blvd. is proliferating at a furious pace.

He hasn't yet gotten a paycheck -- salary said to be $125K, and the St. Stanislaus trust is inviolate? -- but since the first of the year, the Jamiebomber's accused the St. Stan's parishioners of "hijacking" the parish (again, his money's gotta come from somewhere), whined that a columnist has a vendetta against him, and is making the collective blood boil down on the Mississippi by frequent use of the term "Roman Catholic" -- more a Protestant slur in that part of the world than a statement of self-identity.

And then, there's "Jamie Allman's Reading List" -- which he should've pulled a long time ago. Scroll down for the "Pictures From Iraq That Are Too Shocking & Graphic for the Mainstream Media," and we have a question of whether the St. Louis archdiocesan spokesman (who once considered a run for Congress as a Republican) sides with the, um, Roman Catholic church on questions of war, peace and human dignity. Cafeteria Catholicism at its finest from the people who love using the term.... Hijacking the church? Pot calling the kettle black, Jamie?

Just when one would hope for more encouraging news... sorry, there isn't any.

Continuing his "Extreme Makeover" of the diocese of Phoenix, Tom Olmsted this week fired the nationally-recognized head of his child and youth protection office because she married her long term partner (who is dying of cancer) in a civil ceremony.

This is akin to putting a probationary program for sex offenders in the same building as the victim assistance office (see Philadelphia, archdiocese of).

Of course dioceses want their employees in "regular" marriages (i.e. witnessed in the ecclesiastical forum), but come on -- further proof that pastoral sensitivity (which even the legendarily rigid Cardinal Ottaviani was said to have in spades) is out the window. Decades and decades of immoral, illegal complicity, including a near-takeover by the D.A.'s office, and just when they're turning the corner, they've come for their rescuer's head?!

What's the next step: the Vasa-esque requirement of everybody signing an oath of fidelity? Is use of contraception a firable offense?

Just like the gay parents who enrolled their kid in a parochial school -- to the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth of the Roman Catholic Faithful (headquartered in a pizza shop, how Roman Catholic of them) -- the bosses, and the self-anointed "queens of doctrine" who coddle 'em, still have it in their bloodstream to get on the backs of the wrong people.

Even in belief -- especially in belief -- there is something called the greater good. May those of us who remember that, despite the long odds, keep working for it in this New Year and always.

And a heads-up: Monday will see the installation of Wilton Gregory in Atlanta, where he will be welcomed with waving palm branches.... Stay tuned.