Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Here's One Response...

Here's something which has been e.mailed to me by several people through the day today -- apparently, it's circulating quite quickly in progressive circles. Considering the source (a member of the theology faculty at the Angelicum), this reflection on the Instruction is worth a look and a thought......

(NOTE: As I've gotten a good many e.mails asking where else this response appeared or with questions about it, the short answer is that this is the only place you'll find it. It was e.mailed heavily, but has not been published anywhere else. I can attest to its veracity.)

Rome and Gays: (2)
A Nuanced Response

Bruce Williams, O.P.
Faculty of Theology, Angelicum, Rome

November 30, 2005

The subtitle of this follow-up reflection carries two meanings: (a) Rome has given a nuanced response on the issue of admitting gay men to the priesthood; (b) the way we read and respond to this new Instruction should be likewise nuanced.

A number of advance comments, based on a leaked text circulated about a week before yesterday’s official release of the Instruction, have picked up on the nuanced language of the document. Other comments have not. The latter group comprises reactions at extreme opposite poles. Among pro-gay and anti-gay advocates alike, several have concluded – whether sorrowfully, angrily, or gleefully – that at least in practice the Instruction totally bans gay men from the priesthood. These commentators either ignore or dismiss as insignificant those elements of the Instruction involving vague language, calling for prudent vocational discernment by candidates and formators in individual cases, and professing respect for the gay men concerned.

Such refusal to countenance nuance is not only unfair to the authors of the Instruction but unhelpful to the task of applying the document in practice. Engagement with nuance is indispensable if we are to follow the sage advice of my esteemed Dominican brother Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of our Order, who urges us to read the Instruction as benignly as reasonably possible (London Tablet, November 26). This would not preclude expressing disappointment with certain statements or omissions in the Instruction. Nor does it mean that we play clever word games so as to invent fictitious nuances that belie the document’s clear intent. The benign reading Fr. Timothy calls for must, of course, be consistent with honesty. But if we ignore or reject nuances that are quite evidently called for in the text of the Instruction itself, our reading of the document is neither honest nor benign. – Frankly, it appears to me that many of the unnuanced readings noted above reflect attitudes either toward the magisterium (on the one side) or toward gays (on the other) that are quite the opposite of benign.

By contrast, readers attentive to nuance have generally concluded that the new Instruction does not expressly or even implicitly require the absolute exclusion of all gay men from the priesthood. Naturally the main focus of these commentators has been on this key passage in the document: “…[T]he Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’.” The expression of profound respect for the persons in question should be accepted as genuine, in line with the over-all benign approach advocated above. As for the description of those held to be unsuitable for priestly candidacy or ordination, let us examine each element in turn.

a. Those who practice homosexuality. This is obvious. Men who are actually involved in unchaste behavior of any kind – here, specifically, genital interaction with other men – clearly are not effectively committed to or preparing for a way of life that demands celibate chastity.

b. Those who present deep-seated homosexual tendencies. Here most commentators have fastened on the expression “deep-seated,” and some have also proposed to nuance “tendencies.” While it is appropriate to raise questions about these terms, it may be even more fruitful to begin by examining the word “homosexual.”

As popularly understood nowadays, “homosexual” (or even “gay”) is apt to refer generically to anyone whose affective sensibilities are mainly geared toward others of the same sex, whether or not those sensibilities are expressed in genital or pre-genital actions or desires. But in documents of the Roman magisterium, consistently and without exception, the word “homosexual” always bears on genital activity. Maybe the clearest example is in Homosexualitatis problema (CDF 1986) where “the homosexual condition” is described as “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil” (n. 3). The genital reference is likewise clear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nn. 2357-2359). I know of no instance in which the magisterium has employed the word “homosexual” merely to describe affective sensibility unrelated to the issue of genital behavior.

Granting the likelihood (as we should) that the meaning of “homosexual” in the present Instruction is consistent with its meaning in all other official Roman church documents, it would follow that by “homosexual tendencies” we are to understand a pattern of “more or less strong” impulses (“tendencies”) toward genital interaction with same-sex partners (“homosexual”). The further qualification “deep-seated” suggests at least that these genital desires are chronic and will likely pose a serious issue for the person throughout his life.

As noted in the first installment of these reflections (October 7), the magisterium supposes that the psychic and spiritual life of such a person is apt to be impaired in various ways. His fragile and precarious interior chastity is seen as evidence of affective immaturity and as impeding him “from relating properly to men and women.” The Instruction then refers without further specification to “negative consequences” of ordaining such persons – perhaps just summarizing the above, perhaps suggesting other unmentioned problems such as the absorption of psychic energy in a perpetual struggle against unchaste urges. All such impairments would foreseeably impede one from faithful and fruitful ministry.

c. Those who support the so-called ‘gay culture’. Here the obvious questions are: (a) what is meant by “gay culture”? and (b) what constitutes “support” for it? Taken in the strongest sense, these terms would denote someone actively involved in gay social/cultural/political activities – an involvement that would normally include being an “out” gay man, whether engaged in homogenital activity or not. The sense of the Instruction might well extend also to some less thoroughgoing forms of “support” for “gay culture,” e.g., political activism in gay causes without significant involvement in gay social life, or vice versa.

I would suggest two more precisions in this regard. First, one might very well be “supporting gay culture” without being gay himself; I personally know some unquestionably “straight” men who are gay-culture supporters at least in the qualified sense just explained. Second, endorsing some particular political objective (e.g., anti-discrimination legislation) should not, of itself, be construed as supporting gay culture; surely there is a difference between promoting a specific political proposal and promoting gay culture as such. The latter would at least suggest an affirming attitude toward gayness in a global sense; and since the magisterium does not share this attitude, it understandably does not want priests to espouse it.

Summing up this whole analysis, the following may serve as thumbnail descriptions of the men who the Instruction says should be excluded from Seminary or Holy Orders:

- genitally active gay men;

- gay men who habitually contend with genital desires / impulses;

- men who define and affirm themselves as “gay” in a way that bespeaks impaired relational ability;

- men who broadly identify with gay sociopolitical interests, even if they do not fall into any of the three previous categories.

These criteria would appear not to exclude a good number of men who might be broadly described as “gay” in common parlance. Consider a man who was homogenitally active in the past and overcame or outgrew this activity in young adulthood. He still experiences warm affection toward men, but homogenital temptations are extremely infrequent and always dismissed quickly and easily. He has never been sexually attracted to women, though he relates normally and even warmly to them also. He does not participate or take an interest in “gay culture,” though he does favor some particular political initiatives aimed at securing civil rights for homosexual people. He is comfortable with who he is by the grace of God, and wants to give himself to the Lord’s service as a celibate priest. He is not “in the closet” about his sexuality, but sexual orientation does not enter into his self-definition; it simply is not an issue in his life, nor is he driven to make an issue of it in dealing with others. Many people might still label such a man as “gay”; he might even accept this designation, understanding it as an acknowledgment of some affectional and lightly erotic but essentially non-genital bearing toward other men. One could argue whether the appellation “gay” is appropriate here; but, as far as I can see, one cannot plausibly argue that this man has “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” or “supports gay culture” in the sense conveyed by the new Roman Instruction. (As indicated last month, I would have preferred to see the Instruction include some mention of such men, many of whom serve faithfully and fruitfully as priests.)

Key to this whole line of argument is a distinction between sexuality in its affective dimensions and sexuality in its genital bearing. I acknowledge that this distinction can often be murky in practice and perhaps also to some extent even in theory; but I would also strongly maintain that the distinction is at least vaguely definable in theory and is vividly evident in a good number of practical cases. In heterosexual as well as homosexual contexts, we are all too painfully familiar with sordid scenarios of exploitation and violence illustrating the pursuit of genital gratification devoid of anything resembling love or affection. Conversely there are also clear instances of genuine interpersonal love devoid of any genital interest, though not without significant emotional components that could be broadly designated as “sexual.”

True, in a great many other cases the distinction between genital and non-genital “sexuality” cannot be so neatly drawn. That is one major reason, among several others, why the Instruction must insist on prudent discernment of each person’s vocation – primarily by the man himself, but in a relationship of openness and docility with formators and spiritual directors or confessors. These elements of the Instruction are not just cosmetic; they are essential for a proper application of the norms in question. Is a particular candidate, once actively gay, now safely past any likely reinvolvement with homogenital activity? How frequently and severely does he experience homogenital fantasies or impulses or desires? How does he understand himself as a sexual person? Are there problems in his over-all relationships with men and/or women? How does he relate to “gay culture”? to the sexual teaching of the magisterium? The answers to such questions, and their significance for the candidate’s vocation, cannot be found in a prefabricated formula; they can only be arrived at through a sensitive prudential process.

Approaching its conclusion, the Instruction calls upon aspirants and candidates to be honest with their superiors and counselors, warning that it would be “dishonest” and “deceitful” for one to “hide his own homosexuality” so as to avoid being rejected for ordination. Again it seems evident that “homosexuality” here refers to genital activities or proclivities, or to other psychosexual issues, which present serious doubts about one’s prospects for living chastely or for engaging in wholesome interpersonal relationships such as are requisite for authentic Christian ministry. Rather than reacting against the Instruction’s admonition as though it were an attempt to intimidate candidates, we should understand it as a reminder that honesty – with oneself and others – is an indispensable ingredient in the prudential process of vocational discernment.

At the same time, we may note that the honesty commended here is likely to depend on the candidates’ being assured that the discernment process they are involved in is not one of intimidation but of prudence, for their own good as well as that of the Church. This assurance must include their confidence of being heard and treated with genuine respect and sensitivity. Ideally the process should be one in which the candidate and his formators collaborate in discerning together the appropriate solution to questions that arise regarding a vocation, in light of an honest and thorough examination of all relevant factors. When the factors point to a negative conclusion as to one’s vocation, the Instruction admonishes confessors and spiritual directors to “dissuade” the candidate from continuing. Unmentioned, though not expressly repudiated, is the specific directive from former times that in the event of unchastity confessors were to prohibit the candidate from proceeding toward the priesthood, on pain of denial of absolution, in case the candidate refused to be “dissuaded” and still proposed to go forward. In any case, the Instruction expressly reiterates the obligation of secrecy attaching to any communication in the internal forum.

The reader will have noticed that most of the points raised here do not apply exclusively to candidates who are “homosexual.” Analogous considerations would be applicable, mutatis mutandis, to heterosexually oriented candidates as well. No responsible formator would discern a likely priestly vocation in one who is or has recently been sexually involved with women, or whose energies are significantly taken up with the corresponding fantasies or desires, or who frequents “swinging singles” clubs, or advocates cohabitation, and the like. Again, my previous reflection included a wish that the Instruction would call attention to this.

Why, then, the special focus on homosexuality? A two-fold reply seems warranted here.

The first and simplest one is that the Instruction expressly states, in its Introduction, that it “does not intend to dwell on all questions in the area affectivity and sexuality that require an attentive discernment during the entire period of formation.” It is purposely focusing on “a specific question, made more urgent by the current situation, and that is: whether to admit to the seminary and to holy orders candidates who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” Again notice the last phrase here, which we analyzed above in connection with its recurrence in the Instruction’s norms. So, the Instruction does not deny that comparable points would be appropriately applied to the vocational discernment of heterosexual candidates; but it prescinds from these candidates so as to concentrate on a particular current issue connected with an ongoing crisis. This last point, moreover, does not amount to “scapegoating” gay men for the scandal of clergy sex abuse and hierarchical coverup. Its brief mention is no more than an acknowledgment that the scandal has furnished an added occasion for revisiting the “specific question” concerning those with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”

The second reply admittedly involves some hypothesizing, based on extrapolation from between the lines of the Instruction as well as a consideration of the present cultural and political climate. I agree with others who have speculated that a significant part of the agenda of this Instruction, beyond its stated objective of addressing the need for sound priestly vocational discernment, is to combat the notion – influential within as well as outside the Church – that homosexuality can be a wholesome orientation on a par with heterosexuality. Among a considerable number of Catholics, as well as many others, homosexuality is viewed as a “neutral or even good” variation within God’s creation. Even priests who renounce genital acts or desires by way of a religious commitment to celibacy might support this “overly benign” view of homosexuality as an orientation (cf. CDF 1986, n. 3). A very lucid explanation of why the magisterium frowns on this attitude was offered more than 20 years ago by Fr. Robert Nugent, S.D.S. Nugent himself later ran afoul of the CDF over homosexuality; but here he explains the outlook of the magisterium clearly:
“…Many people are opposed to public disclosures of homosexuality among celibates simply because they disvalue not only homosexual behavior on moral grounds, but…also the orientation on psychological, social, and other grounds…. Nor do they believe that a homosexual orientation can fulfill the real meaning of human sexuality in the same way that heterosexuality does. Heterosexuality remains “normative”…. And so if a person believes that a homosexual orientation is “morally neutral,” but still deficient in other ways (lack of procreative possibilities, lack of complementarity, violation of the fundamental sexual differences and symbolism, etc.), he or she will not want to give the impression that a homosexual orientation is as acceptable as a sexual identity, apart from actual behavior, as a heterosexual orientation….”

(R. Nugent, ed., A Challenge to Love [1983] 264; his italics.)
This broader issue is barely hinted at in the present Instruction, though the accompanying commentary in today’s Osservatore Romano – which does not share in the authority of the Instruction itself – is much more explicit here (and generally suggests a more stringent interpretation of the Instruction’s norms than what I have proposed). I stated in my October reflection, and I restate now, that I count myself among those calling for a more open and far-ranging theological conversation in the Church concerning the broader spectrum of issues pertaining to homosexuality. The Instruction does not foreclose such a conversation; it merely takes for granted the received tradition of the Church, and on that basis addresses a “specific question” of current interest. Rather than lament the Instruction’s non-pursuit of the larger issues that underlie its more specific concern, we do better to welcome the practical guidance it does offer and, above all, to take up its call for a discernment of priestly vocations that is characterized by rigorous integrity as well as genuine benevolence toward all persons concerned and indeed toward the Church.

A Moment in Time

Now, this type of photo usually isn't my cup of tea -- but I find it incredibly striking. Not to mention that it's the first Tridentine photo I've ever seen where the altar wasn't being used as a hat stand.


The Archbishop Played Bongos

If a Catholic bishop wore something of this kind, the sane among us would never hear the end of the fury.

Unless, of course, the lion was taken as some kind of Narnia allusion and that crowd all started creaming their pants about it. (I just don't get all this salivation over the CS Lewis stuff. I never have. Then again, I've never been a fiction person to begin with.)

Anyway, John Sentamu's installation as archbishop of York seemed to go off without a hitch earlier today. Some very interesting stuff in the Order of Service, though -- he was anointed, his family was anointed, he lit 12 candles, washed the feet of children, there was African dancing in the sanctuary (which was so beautiful) and all the best of the high Anglican tradition which will be deigning soon at a Catholic church near you.

You know, I wouldn't mind more celebrants playing bongos at their liturgies... it might help make ministry seem a bit more relevant in these challenged times. Sadly enough, though, relevance and clericalism cannot coexist. And on this side of the ecumenical divide, relevance went out the window long ago.

A friend who recently wrote Sentamu -- as a couple thousand others did -- to express congratulations just got a personal "thank you" in the mail from the new archbishop. I don't know how he does it; I can't even handle my own e.mails.

Even if it is Anglicanism -- which I can't say I terribly mind -- it's nice to see that, indeed, there are still Christians somewhere in the church. What a welcome reminder.


More on Translations....

Alongside the sterling piece on ICEL in the upcoming Commonweal is the maiden piece in its pages by Kevin Eckstrom, national correspondent for Religion News Service.... Do check it out.
In thirty pages of written comments released by Trautman’s committee, there are harsh responses from several bishops. Trautman said the divisions among the bishops fell along traditional “liberal/conservative” lines, but declined to elaborate. Some bishops complained that the language seemed “too British.” Others called the new translations clumsy, awkward, archaic, wordy, or stilted. “Painful to the ear,” one bishop noted. “During the years I was teaching Latin,” another bishop observed, “had a student submitted comparable translations for classical Latin texts, I would have given him a low grade.”

Not all bishops were critical. Some praised the new translations as more dignified and elegant, with “an air of solemnity and formality that is sometimes missing from current translations,” which were completed under great time pressure in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. The most frequent commendation of the new translations concerned the text’s “fidelity” or “faithfulness” to the original Latin (two terms, frequently used by those of a conservative bent within the conference, which echo Benedict XVI’s view that a “reform of the reform” is needed).

On the whole, the bishops found more things to dislike than to praise. “The new ICEL translation is like doing drastic major surgery on a patient in need of a few cosmetic procedures,” one bishop said. One archbishop seemed positively frightened by what might happen when trying to introduce the new translations to the laity: “Some usually quite civil people turned ugly about more changes,” he said....

Beyond all the sparring over grammar and sentence structure, the bishops demonstrated a deep pastoral concern for their flocks, a concern that is not always evident in the operation of the church’s administrative bureaucracies. Time and again, bishops said their people would not understand-and probably not accept-changes to the prayers they had come to embrace over the thirty-five years since the council’s liturgical reforms were implemented. “What ought to be a source of stability-the liturgy-will become a source of uneasiness and frustration for the good people who continue to come to the Eucharist,” one bishop remarked.

Meet the Press

Wow, that Stasiu's just talking to everybody these days.... It's all about one thing -- Santo! Santo! Santo!

Here's the result.

PHOTO: Giancarlo Giuliani/Catholic Press Photo


The End of ICEL

Friday's funeral of liturgical movement giant Fred McManus will bring together the past and present of luminaries in the worship field. Even Msgr. Harbert has deigned to attend.

The timing is almost fortuitous. Buzz has been spreading in the last week about a "blockbuster" piece on the International Commission for English in the Liturgy -- which McManus helped found -- in the pages of Commonweal Magazine, to be published in this weekend's edition.

Written by John Wilkins, the eminent former editor of my paper, it has appeared in resplendent glory.....

Some snips to whet your appetites:
Repeatedly the council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stressed that what the church desired was “full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgical celebrations” by “all the faithful.” This aim was “to be considered before all else”; here was “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.” Full participation was “their right and duty by reason of their baptism”; it was this that showed them to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people.”

On December 4, 1963, at the end of the council’s second session, the constitution was passed by a massive majority: there were only four dissenting votes. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who would later lead a schismatic movement against the council’s work, is said to have been in favor of it.

The overwhelming consensus was achieved in part because the opening to the vernacular was endorsed in guarded terms. “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites,” the document cautioned, before opening up the way ahead: “But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, may frequently be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended.” This passage was followed immediately by the commissioning of bishops’ conferences to put the council’s wishes into practice. It was the local bishops who had the responsibility “to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used.” Their decrees must then be confirmed by Rome, the document said.

So from the first, local bishops were clearly understood to be in control of the liturgical translations. This approach was in line with one of Vatican II’s key achievements, confirmed by a vote of the whole council on October 30, 1963. On that day, by a huge majority, the bishops affirmed that the church must be seen to be governed on the model of Peter and the Eleven. Leadership therefore belongs to the whole college of bishops, with and under the pope. Each bishop is a vicar of Christ in his own diocese. Sharing of authority, within Catholic unity, is proper to the church. As with the liturgy, though, this necessary counterbalance to Vatican I’s emphasis on papal and Roman power was a reform easier to approve in principle than to implement in practice....

By 1978, ICEL had produced English translations of all the texts issued by Rome. The first versions had been published in a cheaper, provisional format for experimental use. Next, as had always been envisaged, came the time for revision. Everyone concerned with the translations recognized the need for improvement. ICEL began this stage in 1981, aiming at a fuller, richer, more poetic and exalted tone. Behind the scenes, intense discussion continued about how best to achieve faithful translations that would enable English-speaking congregations to feel they were really praying in the living language-as requested by Paul VI.

ICEL was now at a zenith. There was time and space in the early 1980s to revise, amend, and refine, and the commission was proud of what it was producing. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was taken out of storage and made available to the whole church. Before embarking on the mammoth task of revising the entire 1973 missal, ICEL had decided to begin with the Order of Christian Funerals, a comparatively manageable project. In accordance with the mandate given by bishops’ conferences in 1964 and by the Vatican in 1969 that the commission’s work should extend to the provision of original texts, ICEL included some forty new prayers for situations not covered in the Roman books, such as suicides and the deaths of children. This was creative pastoral work. The reform was beginning to settle down and take root.

But the climate in Rome was changing. In 1978, Karol Wojtyla was elected pope, and he saw it as part of his mission to reimpose theological order and central control. In line with perceptions that a “restoration” was under way, John Paul II consulted all the bishops about allowing the former Tridentine rite to be more widely celebrated again. Almost the entire episcopate of the world opposed the proposal, on the ground that two forms of the Roman or Latin rite within the one church would bring disunity. This had been the concern of Paul VI when he ruled in 1969 that the Tridentine rite must be regarded as having been replaced. He was acutely aware that for the Lefebvrist dissidents, the rite was a badge of rebellion against the Second Vatican Council-for them, he said, it was like the white flag of the French monarchists with its fleurs-de-lis.

John Paul II went ahead regardless. In 1984 he issued an indult permitting the Tridentine rite to be publicly celebrated in certain circumstances. Just as the bishops had feared, groups hostile to the Second Vatican Council’s reforms took heart from the decision. The tide bearing ICEL along had now passed its peak, though at the time this was not apparent. Seeing the way things were going, bishops became more nervous. There was controversy over the question of inclusive language, which ICEL was already grappling with in the late 1970s....

ICEL’s major work, the revision of the Roman missal, began in 1983. In 1988, the first of three extensive progress reports was issued, to be followed, suddenly and unexpectedly, by the appearance of a threatening cloud on ICEL’s horizon. The prefect of the CDW was now the German cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer, OSB, a brilliant linguist who had previously been secretary of the Congregation for Religious. There he had reined in American women religious who in his view had gone too far in rewriting their constitutions in accordance with the instructions of Vatican II. At one gathering, Mayer observed that the bishops approved some original prayers for the missal simply “because they were on the market.” The episcopal vote, he alleged, had become a rubber stamp. A religious sister who was present raised her hand. “Your Eminence,” she asked, “do I understand you to say that the bishops haven’t really prepared beforehand how to vote on these texts?” Mayer slammed his fist on the table. “I said nothing of the kind!” But he had. And in 1988, just before he stepped down at the age of seventy-seven, Mayer sent a letter to the conferences of bishops saying that ICEL needed to be reformed, restructured, and redirected....

The clouds were now dark across the sky. In June 1998, the storm broke. ICEL’s episcopal board was holding its annual meeting in Washington. They were anticipating the arrival of Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, who was now the American representative on the board. Cardinal George was coming from Rome.

There was as usual a full agenda. The bishops had finished morning prayer and had just started their discussions when George arrived. As soon as the then-ICEL chairman, Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway, Scotland, had finished welcoming him, George asked that the order of the agenda be changed. He wanted immediate discussion of the relations between ICEL and the Vatican congregation. The bishops froze.

Bishop Taylor brokered a compromise. The agenda should be adhered to, he said, but provision would be made for the cardinal to address the meeting toward the end of the day. When the time came for Cardinal George to speak, in the late afternoon, he warned the participants that the commission was in danger. They were at a turning point. The principles that had governed ICEL’s approach to translation had been rethought. Rome wanted a vernacular, he said, that was different from the vernacular of the contemporary marketplace, so as to lead worshipers into the nuances and deepest meanings of the texts.

The project as ICEL understood it was no longer considered legitimate. According to George, the commission’s thoroughgoing use of inclusive language in its translation of the Psalter had been one of the reasons for disillusionment among the American bishops. There was a pent-up impatience with the commission. If ICEL gave the impression that it owned the Second Vatican Council or the liturgy, it would make bad matters worse, he said. It had to change both its attitude and, in some cases, its personnel. Otherwise it was finished. If necessary, the American bishops would strike out on their own. George spoke vehemently.

Aware that a fundamental principle-the governance given the bishops by Vatican II-was now at stake, Maurice Taylor as chairman of ICEL sought in every way to fend off this demand while mollifying the congregation. In an exchange of letters, he continued to speak of revising ICEL’s “constitution.” But Cardinal Medina was relentless. He spoke of “statutes” and he was going to get them....

But the CDW was moving toward its knockout blow. On March 28, 2001, it published a new instruction on the use of the vernacular, titled Liturgiam authenticam (Authentic Liturgy), which overturned the entire basis on which ICEL’s work had rested for nearly forty years. And in July a supervisory committee of cardinals and bishops known as Vox clara (Clear Voice) was established to ensure that the Vatican would get exactly what it wanted. The English-speaking language group is the only one to have had such a committee imposed on it.

Liturgiam authenticam did not recommend, it commanded. It insisted that translations follow an extreme literalism, extending even to syntax and rhythm, punctuation, and capital letters. The clear implication was that in this way it would be possible to achieve a sort of “timeless” English above the change of fashion, a claim reminiscent of that made for the Ronald Knox translation of the Bible, which today is so dated that it is not read except as a period piece.

A stipulation that appeared to mark a further retreat from Vatican II perspectives ruled out ecumenical cooperation over liturgical translations. This meant the end of pioneering links begun in 1967 between ICEL and the North American Consultation on Common Texts and the International Consultation on English Texts. Moreover, according to Liturgiam authenticam, “great caution is to be taken to avoid a wording or style that the Catholic faithful would confuse with the manner of speech of non-Catholic ecclesial communities or other religions, so that such a factor will not cause them confusion or discomfort.”

Could the framers of the Vatican instruction really be suggesting that translations of the Gloria and Creed agreed upon with other churches were causing “confusion” and “discomfort” to Catholic parishioners who had heard them used in non-Catholic liturgies? As recently as 1995, in his ecumenical encyclical Ut unum sint, Pope John Paul himself had encouraged the preparation of agreed-upon texts for the prayers of the liturgy that the Christian churches have in common.

When he first heard the news of Liturgiam authenticam’s prescriptions, one American Presbyterian who for thirty-five years had worked to foster liturgical dialogue with the Catholic Church was so distressed that he slumped into a chair and wept. “I realized,” wrote Professor Horace Allen, Emeritus Professor of Worship at Boston University, “that something terrible had happened which in my own worst imaginings I had never anticipated. A trusted and beloved ecumenical partner had suddenly and effectively walked away from the table.”

It's a powerful read -- and if you've just been reading these snippets, you ain't seen the half of it.


Battle Episcopal

So it's the morning after, and now the bishops are fighting amongst themselves over What It All Means.

From the Washington Post....
"I think one of the telling sentences in the document is the phrase that the candidate's entire life of sacred ministry must be 'animated by a gift of his whole person to the church and by an authentic pastoral charity,' " Skylstad, the bishop of Spokane, Wash., said in an interview. "If that becomes paramount in his ministry, even though he might have a homosexual orientation, then he can minister and he can minister celibately and chastely."...

Bishop John M. D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., said yesterday that Skylstad's interpretation is "simply wrong" -- a rare public clash among bishops, who usually go to great lengths to preserve an image of collegiality, even when they disagree.

"I would say yes, absolutely, it does bar anyone whose sexual orientation is towards one's own sex and it's permanent," D'Arcy said of the document. "I don't think there's any doubt about it. . . . I don't think we can fuss around with this."....

Although each bishop can apply the document as he sees fit in his diocese, the fallout could reach thousands of Catholic schools and parishes as gay men who are considering the priesthood -- and some who have been ordained -- reevaluate their place in the church.

"I think every gay seminarian faces a question of conscience now," said a 33-year-old gay seminarian from New England who requested anonymity because he has not yet decided whether to leave his seminary. "There's no question of leaving the church. I'll die a Catholic. The question is whether I can with integrity be a priest."...

Several prelates, including Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, indicated that they will continue to ordain seminarians regardless of sexual orientation, as long as the candidates are committed to live in celibacy and to uphold church teachings.

"It is important to look at the whole person. One issue of many that are looked at in the overall evaluation process is in the area of human sexuality," McCarrick said in a written statement. "Applicants for the Archdiocese of Washington must have a demonstrated commitment to living a chaste life and must fully embrace, through belief and action, the Church's teachings, including those on human sexuality."

Asked whether that means the archdiocese will still accept gay seminarians, the cardinal's spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs, said: "We don't anticipate our admissions policy changing based on the document. There can be people whose orientation is homosexual if it's not such a strong part of their makeup that it interferes with their ability to live out church teaching. It's part of the larger picture we have to look at."

Skylstad took a similar approach. He said the barring of men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" refers to those who are "principally defined by" or whose "primary identification" is their sexual orientation. Although the document does not say so, he said, the same implicitly applies to men who have deep-seated heterosexual impulses.

Let the slice-and-dice begin.


Looking to the Anglicans for Model Bishops. Again.

This morning, John Sentamu, a Uganda-born lawyer who fled the regime of Idi Amin, was enthroned as the archbishop of York and second-ranking prelate in the Church of England.

Here are some snips of an interview he gave the other day in the pages of The Independent

Since his appointment was announced five months ago, he has spent much of his time responding personally to some 4,000 letters from well-wishers. There have, he said recently, been "a few nasties" in the postbag too - by which he means a handful of racist hate mail, some of it smeared with excrement.

"You ask yourself, 'Why has a person who has never met me done this?' And because it is anonymous, I can't write back or invite them for a cup of tea." Instead, he prays for them. "Jesus said you should pray for people who persecute you. Persecution is a bit strong here, but he meant those who don't like you. You can't be angry with a person you are praying for."

It's not his first encounter with Britain's uglier, racist face. The very first time he took a funeral, the son of the deceased asked: "What has my father done to be buried by a black monkey?" In the 1980s, the National Front tried to burn down his house. When he lived in London, he was stopped by the Metropolitan Police six times in eight years under their stop-and-search policy....

Compared with his inauguration in Birmingham, where he became bishop in 2002, this is tame stuff. Then, he arrived at the Cathedral on foot, via the Metro, and circled the Cathedral with a troupe of children and African drummers before entering the building. He declared himself "Bishop for Birmingham" rather than "Bishop of Birmingham", and set about winning the hearts of the entire city, whether or not they were interested in the Church. The delighted local media dubbed him the "rocking bishop"....

"The trouble in this country is that there is no balanced view of leadership, and we don't recognise that the Government will get some things right and some things wrong. It would be a good thing if our MPs could think, 'How could we improve education, health, policing?' without shouting at each other from opposite sides of the House. These are not party political but national issues. Why is it always wrong to have consensus? Why pretend they would do it differently, especially when they are all fighting over the centre ground? That's urinal diplomacy and it must stop."

He is convinced that the Church retains an important role in public life. "We may be a bit thin on the ground, but we are still one of the biggest voluntary organisations in Britain, if you take all the faith communities together.

"If we pulled out of all the help-your-neighbour schemes, the country would be in a mess. There are old people's lunches, urban projects, mother-and-toddler groups, the Mothers' Union giving tea to prison visitors - I could go on and on. The Church needs to be there in the pressure areas, where no one else will go. We must practise our presence. That presence is not about people becoming Christians, but about nurturing friendships, creating neighbourliness and a sense of belonging."

The Church is uniquely placed to hear the voice of the poor, he says. "My predecessor Archbishop William Temple went to the East End with William Beveridge to make friends with people. He said that the poverty was visible and smellable and intractable, and something had to be done. Out of that came the welfare state.

"The Church today has got to find the poor, the disaffected and disadvantaged and make friends with them. The trouble is, we don't like listening. My mother used to say, 'John, God gave you one mouth, two eyes and two ears. Use them in proportion.' So I try to listen twice as much as I speak."

People are still drawn to the Church in times of need, he says. "When Diana died, and after the Soham murders, people ran to churches to burn candles. Where else in modern Britain would you have held that service in St Paul's [for the victims of 7 July]? In a football stadium? A mosque? St Paul's Cathedral offered a very clear public service when people were in pain."

None the less, he knows that the Church has sometimes fallen short. "Something about our language of hope has not come through. Instead, there's been something more moralising and judgemental. Our divisions don't help."

He has never been afraid to criticise the Church of England, for being "too monochrome" and for getting bogged down in bureaucracy. "When the last trumpet shall sound, a commission will be set up on the significance of the trumpet, the financial implications of that trumpet, and for a report to come back in three years' time," he once said.

I wonder if Cormac was there....

PHOTO: REUTERS/Darren Staples


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In My Times....

Under any normal circumstances, the following would be a blurb to note and then place aside
Gays and the Priesthood

"Concerning the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons With Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to Seminaries and Holy Orders," the pithy title of the Vatican's much-anticipated pronouncement on gays and the priesthood, has not yet been officially released, but is available in an unofficial translation.
But when one considers that this was published in The New York Times Week in Review, if you're me, you get a little dizzy and feel the love of God in your brain. As the son of a newspaperman, and a devoted worshipper at the altar of the Ochs family, this is Ichiban. However, I'm still poor, so if anyone from the Times sees this, I am taking offerings in the guitar case (button on the right).

There's only one place to end up from here, my friends.... On the cover of the Rolling Stone.


Body Blow

It's a double-shot Tuesday on gays at the Vatican.... From Phil Pulella at Reuters
The Vatican newspaper [L'Osservatore Romano] said on Tuesday that homosexuality risked "destabilizing people and society", had no social or moral value and could never match the importance of the relationship between a man and a woman.

The remarks were contained in a long commentary published to accompany the official release of a long-awaited document that restricted the access of homosexual men to the Roman Catholic priesthood.

The article by Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a French Jesuit and psychologist, said homosexuality could not be considered an acceptable moral alternative to heterosexuality.

"During these past years, homosexuality has become a phenomenon that is always increasingly worrying and in many countries is considered a quality that is normal," the article in L'Osservatore Romano said.

The article was specifically approved by the Vatican's secretariat of state.

"It (homosexuality) does not represent a social value and even less so a moral virtue that could add to the civilization of sexuality," Anatrella said. "It could even be seen as a destabilizing reality for people and for society."

The Catholic Church, the article said, had a duty to reaffirm its position that homosexuality is "against conjugal life, the life of the family, and priestly life".

"In no case is this form of sexuality a sexual alternative, or even less, a reality that is equivalent to that which is shared by a man and a woman engaged in matrimonial life," the Italian-language article said.

"It (homosexuality) cannot be encouraged or even less so, supported with pastoral initiatives," it said in an apparent reference to Catholic priests who administer to homosexuals without reminding them of the Church's position against gay sex.

It said homosexuality was "a sexual tendency and not an identity" and repeated the Church's stand against allowing gays to marry or to adopt children. It also called homosexuality "an incomplete and immature part of human sexuality".

Just when you thought the Document alone would make for a crazy day. This screams "crackdown."


Am I Missing Something Here?

Having gotten the 800-pound gorilla off his back and that of his Congregation after four long years, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (and best friend of Dziwisz) gave an interview to Vatican Radio this morning. It's the closest thing we'll get to a press conference.

But the most curious thing in the long dialogue is this. The Cardinal was speaking about the definition of homosexual tendencies which are "deeply-rooted" (profondamente radicate) and, ergo, render a man inadmissible to priestly formation.

Here's my translation, from the original Italian, of this snippet -- I almost fell over when I heard it:
Evidently, when we speak of 'profoundly (deeply) rooted tendencies,' this means that there are times when these can be transitory tendencies or transitory cases which do not constitute an obstacle [to the sustenance of the vocation and the man's remaining in the seminary]. For example, an uncompleted adolescence, some kind of curiosity; or perhaps accidental circumstances, a drunken state, maybe particular circumstances like a person who was imprisoned for many years. In these cases, homosexual acts do not come from a rooted tendency, but are determined according to the circumstances. Or, these acts are done because one wants to obtain some sort of advantage... these acts, in those cases, do not provide for a 'profound tendency' but are given of other transitory circumstances, and these cases do not constitute an obstacle to seminary admission or to holy orders. However, where these cases exist, they must cease at least three years prior to one's ordination to the diaconate.
OK, so there we have:
1. Jail
2. Sexual favors
3. Drunkenness
4. "Accidental circumstances" (Some accident that is.)
5. Curiosity
6. Momentary Immaturity

In the eyes of the man responsible for implementing this Instruction, the above-mentioned circumstances do not inhibit a man's vocation. In other words, this dog won't hunt.

I don't know about you, but for me that screams two words: WIGGLE. ROOM.

Now, just so you boys stay on the safe side, don't do a damn thing. Keep up with your new favorite pasttime: figuring out which office I was Capo ufficio in during my previous incarnation....


This Is Dangerous For This Man's Ego

People lining the streets, summit meetings with high-level dignitaries, open-air Masses and performing a mass ordination.... Cardinal Sepe makes his Papal Visit to Vietnam. Only problem is, he isn't the Pope.
"I salute my hosts... It is of high significance that this ordination ceremony here is taking place at the start of the Christmas season," Sepe said to enthusiastic cheers from the crowds.
It's actually the start of the Advent season, but you'll forgive His Eminence's Freudian slip -- the high-wattage exposure is his Christmas present, three weeks early.

To quote Sandro Magister on the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and his "career that knows no bounds":
[E]ven Propaganda is becoming too small for Sepe. His new goal is the secretariat of state. His new goal, but not his last: just look at the way he goes around the world dressed in white, among crowds that “greet me as if I were pope.”

PHOTO: AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam


Encore Presentation

OK, so as the text has been released -- but has not yet appeared in an .html version -- and was proven to be that of the original leak a week ago, we re-air for the benefit of everyone the first published English text of the Instruction of the Congregation for Catholic Education, officially issued this morning in Rome....

When I have the official English text in replicable format, I will post it.

Working translation from Italian by Robert Mickens, THE TABLET
This text was received by the Italian news agency, ADISTA






In continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and, in particular, with the decree Optatam totius on priestly formation, the Congregation for Catholic Education has published various documents to promote an adequate integral formation of future priests, offering guidelines and precise norms concerning its different aspects. The Synod of Bishops in 1990 also reflected on priestly formation in the current circumstances, with the intention of complementing the conciliar teaching on this issue and make it more explicit and incisive in the contemporary world. Following this Synod, Pope John Paul II published the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis.

In light of this rich teaching, the present Instruction does not intend to dwell on all the issues in the affective or sexual realm that require attentive discernment throughout the entire period of formation. It contains norms regarding a particular issue, made more urgent by the current situation, and that is the admission or not to Seminaries and Holy Orders of candidates that have deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

1. Affective maturity and spiritual fatherhood (paternity)

According to the constant Tradition of the Church, only baptised males validly receive sacred Ordination. Through the sacrament of Orders the Holy Spirit configures the candidate, with a new and specific designation, to Jesus Christ: the priest, in fact, sacramentally represents Christ, Head, Shepherd, and Spouse of the Church. Because of this configuration to Christ, the entire life of the sacred minister must be animated by the gift of his entire person to the Church and by authentic pastoral charity.

The candidate for ordained ministry, therefore, must attain affective maturity. Such maturity will allow him to relate properly with men and women, developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood for the ecclesial community that will be entrusted to him.

2. Homosexuality and Ordained Ministry

Since the Second Vatican Council up until today, various documents from the Magisterium – especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church – have confirmed the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies.

Regarding acts, it teaches that, in Sacred Scripture, these are presented grave sins. Tradition has always considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. As a consequence, they can never be approved under any circumstance.

As regards to deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are present in a certain number of men and women, these also are objectively disordered and are often a trial for such people. They must be accepted with respect and sensitivity; every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter.

In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, together with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, deems it necessary to clearly affirm that the Church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.

Such people, in fact, find themselves in a situation that seriously obstructs them from properly relating to men and women. The negative consequences that can result from the Ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be obscured.

When dealing, instead, with homosexual tendencies that might only be a manifestation of a transitory problem, as, for example, delayed adolescence, these must be clearly overcome at least three years before diaconal Ordination.

3. The Church’s discernment of the suitability of candidates

There are two inseparable aspects of every vocation: the free gift of God and the responsible freedom of man. The vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church, and for service of the Church. By responding to the call of God, man offers himself freely to Him in love. The mere desire to become a priest is not sufficient and there is no right to receive sacred Ordination. It rests with the Church – in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for reception of the Sacraments instituted by Christ – to discern the suitability of the one who wishes to enter the Seminary, to accompany him during the years of formation, and to call him to Holy Orders, if he is judged to possess the required qualities.

The formation of the future priest must articulate, in an essential complementarity, the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. In this context, it is important to recall the particular importance of human formation as the necessary foundation of all formation. To admit a candidate to diaconal Ordination, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate for priesthood has attained affective maturity.

The call to Orders is the personal responsibility of the Bishop or the General Superior. Keeping in mind the view of those to whom they entrusted the responsibility of formation, the Bishop or General Superior, before admitting the candidate to Ordination, must arrive at a morally certain judgment regarding his qualities. In the case of a serious doubt, he must not admit him to Ordination.

The discernment of the vocation and the maturity of the candidate is also the grave duty of the rector and other formators in the Seminary. Before every Ordination, the rector must give his judgment on the qualities of the candidate required by the Church.

In discernment of the suitability for Ordination, the spiritual director has an important task. Even though he his bound by secrecy, he represents the Church in the internal forum. In meetings with the candidate, the spiritual director must clearly recall the Church’s demands regarding priestly chastity and the specific affective maturity of the priest, as well as help him discern if he has the necessary qualities. He has the obligation to evaluate all the qualities of the personality and assure that the candidate does not have sexual disorders that are incompatible with priesthood. If a candidate is actively homosexual or shows deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director, as well as his confessor, has the duty to dissuade him, in conscience, from proceeding towards Ordination.

It remains understood that the candidate himself is primarily responsible for his own formation. He must offer himself in trust to the discernment of the Church, of the Bishop that calls him to Orders, of the rector of the Seminary, of the spiritual director, and of any other educator in the Seminary to which the Bishop or General Superior has given the task of forming future priests. It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality, regardless of everything, to arrive at ordination. Such an inauthentic attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty, and availability that must characterise the personality of one who considers himself called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministerial priesthood.


This Congregation reaffirms the necessity that Bishops, Superior Generals, and all those responsible carry out an attentive discernment regarding the suitability of candidates to Holy Orders, from the admission to Seminary to Ordination. This discernment must be done in light of a concept of ministerial priesthood that is in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Bishops, Episcopal Conferences, and Superior Generals should assure that the norms of this instruction are faithfully observed for the good of the candidates themselves and to always assure for the Church suitable priests, true shepherds according to the heart of Christ.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, on 31 August 2005, approved this Instruction and ordered its publication.

Rome, 4 November 2005, Memorial of St Charles Borromeo, Patron of Seminaries.

Zenon Card. Grocholewski

+ J. Michael Miller, C.S.B.
Titular Arch. of Vertara


Unofficial translation from Italian by Robert Mickens, THE TABLET
This text was received by the Italian news agency, ADISTA

Not With a Whimper, But With a Bang

Well, it's out.

The Instruction of the Congregation for Catholic Education was released at 0900 Rome time (3am Eastern) today. Precisely one minute later, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops posted its press release on the PR Newswire.

Summaries are everywhere, and if you're listening to BBC Radio (as I am), you'd think that the Pope was dead again because of all the celebrity Catholics who've been pulled in to comment. There is no text up in webpage format, but the Conference has posted the definitive document as a .pdf Adobe file, so knock yourselves out.

The text is no surprise -- it is precisely the same document as was leaked last week to Adista and, with the translation of Robert Mickens, Rome correspondent of The Tablet, made its English-language debut right here.

In my mainstream capacity as commentator on things Catholic and a US correspondent for The Tablet, I'm open for interviews, backgrounders, etc. I can be reached via e.mail.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Gone to the Heavenly Liturgy

Just when you thought the picture couldn't be bleaker for the liturgical movement, word's come from Boston that Msgr. Frederick McManus, the father of the American renewal, passed peacefully away early yesterday. He was 82.

McManus, a canon lawyer by trade known to one and all as "Fred," became the founding president of the Liturgical Conference in 1959 and was named the following year to the body from which flowed the Conciliar Decree on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium. Instrumental in the establishment of ICEL and the return of the church's public prayer to an austere, dignified sense of substance, America's most eminent liturgy award -- given by the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions -- was named for McManus in 1995.

On accepting the Frederick R. McManus Award in 2003, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie -- who was nominated from the floor by his conferes the following year to return to the chairmanship of the US Bishops' Committee for the Liturgy -- spoke of the state of the movement its namesake championed
In 1956 Pope Pius XII summed up in one sentence the meaning of the liturgical movement. He said that the liturgical movement was a sign of the providential disposition of God, a sign of the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church to draw people more closely to the mysteries of faith and the riches of grace which flow from active participation in liturgical life. Note the key phrase in the Pope’s message: “The liturgical movement is a sign of the movement of the Holy Spirit” in the Church today. It is not a fad, it is not the work of liturgical terrorists, not the invention of liberal liturgical scholars; the liturgical movement is the will of the Spirit for all of God’s people.

Today liturgists face major challenges. The euphoria of Vatican II has ended. As the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy fades in time, is it also fading in influence? Do we recognize a pullback from the liturgical principles, a lessening of collaboration, a return to devotionalism rather than Eucharistic celebration? Is there a liturgical backsliding that causes us to be disillusioned, dejected, disheartened? We need to recall the founders of the American Liturgical Movement. These liturgical pioneers did not give up and we must not give up. We must not surrender the progress made at Vatican II.

St. Paul once told his parishioners: While you are waiting for the Lord to come, “Do not quench the Spirit”. Do not stifle the Spirit. These are words for the Church today. When we encounter those who advocate a “reform of the reform”, we must say, “Do not quench the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit was present at Vatican II and gave us new liturgical direction. When we encounter people who harken back to rigidity in rubrics, we must say. “Do not quench the Spirit.” When inculturation is denied and one liturgical form is forced on all, we must say, “Do not quench the Spirit.” When the Scripture translations in our Lectionary are flawed and not proclaimable, we must say, “Give us the richness of God’s Word: Do not quench the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit prompted the renewal and reform of the liturgy. Now, more than ever, we must say, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
McManus' funeral is slated for Friday in the Boston suburbs. The timing is almost providential, as the gathered ICEL alums and worship gurus will have some interesting new developments to observe by that time.


I Bambinelli Vengono a Filadelfia

Many of you who know the cycle of the seasons in Rome are aware of one of the city's more charming rituals -- the late-Advent blessing of the Bambinelli, the little figures of the newborn Jesus which are placed in the Christmas creches of homes. The Popes have traditionally blessed the figures brought by attendees at the Sunday Angelus immediately preceding December 25, and now our favorite local Rome alum is bringing the custom home.

On December 18, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia will bless the Bambinelli, not from The Window at which he so often assisted Paul VI, but in his own Cathedral.

This should be oh so sweet to witness.


Media Notes

It's Allen time -- well, in 10 minutes it is as JLA appears on Fresh Air to plug the book on the Work.... Excerpts and audio (after 3PM ET, 2000GMT) here. But I get the (not-so-)sneak preview via satellite in precisely nine minutes....

In other news, it's good to know that rumor cycles don't just exist in this business, one of whose denizens once referred to it, and rightfully so, as "The Village of Washerwomen."

Philadelphia is currently abuzz as Knight-Ridder -- the owner of both of our major newspapers, the Inquirer and Daily News, along with the flagship papers in Kansas City, Miami, Detroit, San Jose, the Twin Cities, Charlotte, Columbus, Ft. Worth, etc. etc. -- "pursues strategic alternatives," i.e. the likely sale of the company. Everyone from private-sector execs to politicos and journos alike are about as skittish as gay seminarians over who the potential buyer will be.

And every day, a different name comes up. The mega-chains (Gannett, Tribune, NYT, et al.) have been ruled out, given the significant regulatory hurdles which picking up a company of KR's size would present. Other days, private capital firms have been mentioned... But today's nominee is either a sign of the currents of the media business or that the buzzmill has gone completely and irrevocably into unreasonable conniptions.

That's what happens when Google is rumored to be interested in acquiring one of the US' largest newspaper chains.


The John Paul Gravy Train Chugs Along

If John Paul movies are your thing, this is your week.... From the Boston Globe
[S]ome two hours after John Paul II's death, Lorenzo Minoli, a producer of 2000's ''Jesus" miniseries, looked out his window overlooking the Vatican, phoned his partner Judd Parkin, and said, ''Let's do it."

Meanwhile, the Italian production house Lux Vide, which had worked with Minoli and Parkin on ''Jesus," was nursing an idea for a pope film of its own.

Eight months later -- lightning-speed, in filmmaking terms -- TV is set to unroll two dramatizations of the pope's life, appearing within days of each other on competing networks. Minoli and Parkin's ''Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II," airs on ABC on Thursday. The Lux Vide version, the miniseries ''Pope John Paul II," starts next Sunday on CBS and continues the following Wednesday.

To be honest, it's surprising that these movies -- despite being in the can -- were not shown during the November Sweeps period, which ends Wednesday.

Then again, that's a hopeful sign, one which indicates that it wasn't a complete pander for money-and-ratings. Or, alternatively, the biopics were deemed too controversial, which means that the decision still would've been dictated by money-and-ratings.

On network TV, competition is its own sort of religion.

In truth, the dueling pope movies are strikingly different in scope, theme, and feel. ABC's ''Have No Fear," a two-hour movie, is a psychological take on the pontiff's life, focusing on the loss of his mother and his decision to remain pope despite his increasing frailty. This Karol Wojtyla is pious from the start -- as a little boy, he volunteers to pray with his sick mother -- but feels guilt over his indifference to slain San Salvador archbishop Oscar Romero. He is played by German-born Thomas Kretschmann from teenagehood to heavily-made-up old age.

CBS's four-hour miniseries ''Pope John Paul II," written and directed by TV film veteran John Kent Harrison, tells a broader story about late-20th-century history and geopolitics, seen through the eyes of an extra-intelligent pope. This Wojtyla is a reluctant world player, surprised as anyone when he is named bishop of Krakow, and not above being the butt of some gentle comic relief. He is played by British actor Cary Elwes until the moment he takes over as pope, when he miraculously turns into Jon Voight.
However, if the Networks really want to do all this evangelism about how wonderful the late Pope was, wouldn't it be nice if they put their money where their mouth is and donated some of that lucrative ad revenue to the Holy See's relief efforts which meant so much to John Paul and enabled him to send some reassurance and help to a lot of suffering places in the world?

I'm just sayin'.

One awkward nugget is the scene, I believe it's from the ABC movie, where the frail John Paul is told: "Holy Father, we have received new information about sexual abuse of children by American priests." Good God.

And just so you know, the TV-types won't be the only people making buckos off of Wojtyla Nostalgia this Christmas season. Peggy Noonan went on CNN yesterday to plug her new book, "John Paul the Great" -- which, from her interview, sounds like it should be called, "What John Paul II Means To Me."

Why?! Why would I, a simpleton consumer, want to know what John Paul means to Peggy Noonan? (To be honest, even MoDo's "Are Men Necessary?" hits closer to home. Not to mention the fact that I simply adore her.)

Elia Toaff? Now that's a "JP changed my life" story I'd like to read. Dziwisz, of course, is the gold standard in the department -- when you've lived with the man for forty years, that's a story worth reading. But Peggy Noonan? Um, no thanks. Or she simply could've put it on a blog so it could be skimmed for free. Anything else just reeks of self-aggrandizing weirdness.

If this is what can masquerade as a book, writing my own tome in the near future will be a cakewalk.


The Cry of the Suffering

Benedict XVI this morning received Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako of Khartoum in the Sudan with a delegation. And the Holy See released the Pope's greeting, given in English, which highlighted the plight of the Darfur.

Note the unusually specific reference to John Garang -- a rebel leader who, weeks after becoming the country's vice-president, died in a helicopter crash. That should be an indicator of how close the Sudanese situation is being watched at the Vatican.

Full text is below.
Your Eminence,

Brother Bishops,

Distinguished Visitors,

It gives me great satisfaction to welcome you to the Vatican and through you to send heartfelt greetings to the people of your country. I very much appreciate the sentiments which have prompted your visit, and I wish to reassure you of my prayers and deep concern for the peaceful development of civil and ecclesial life in your nation.

The cessation of the civil war and the enactment of a new Constitution have brought hope to the long suffering people of Sudan. While there have been setbacks along the path of reconciliation, not least the tragic death of John Garang, there now exists an unprecedented opportunity and indeed duty for the Church to contribute significantly to the process of forgiveness and national reconstruction. Though a minority, Catholics have much to offer through inter-religious dialogue as well as the provision of greatly needed social services. I encourage you therefore to take the necessary initiatives to realize Christ’s healing presence in these ways.

The horror of events unfolding in Darfur, to which my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II referred on many occasions, points to the need for a stronger international resolve to ensure security and basic human rights. Today, I add my voice to the cry of the suffering and assure you that the Holy See, together with the Apostolic Nuncio in Khartoum, will continue to do everything possible to end the cycle of violence and misery.

Dear friends, upon you and your people I invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, fortitude and peace!


Zero Hour, 9AM

It's just been announced that the official text of the "Instruction on the Criteria of Vocational Discerment Regarding Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in Light of their Admission to Seminaries and Sacred Orders" (preliminary English translation here) will be formally available to the journalists accredited to the Holy See at 9 tomorrow morning, Rome time -- 3AM on the US East Coast. The document will be translated from the original Italian into German, French, English, Spanish and Portugese. There will be no press conference.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Card Aid

As I rev up from what was a stupendous, wonderfulous, brilliant Thanksgiving Weekend -- holiday shopping not included -- just a quick thanks to everyone who sent e.mails recommending various makers of Christmas Cards. Now I just have to check the websites and we'll see what works.... But I'm so grateful for the kindness and time of those who dropped me a line. This readership never ceases to amaze me in its goodness.


Moshiach, Handel Style

So, despite having listened to it hundreds of times on CD and radio, I've never seen a performance of Handel's Messiah.... And I'm feeling like this has to be the year in which that unfinished business is finally taken care of. It's just one of those holiday trappings whose absence would make Christmas something less than... Christmas, especially as it doesn't feel like it for some reason this year..

But here's the funny thing. I once knew a priest 'round these parts -- a Trad-leaning guy with the requisite trappings of black chasubles and such; a wonderful man -- who refused to attend the annual Messiah concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra because, in his view, the Oratorio "is Protestant." However, he'd religiously attend the post-performance dinners and receptions.

Does this strike you as odd? It's just one of those idiosyncratic clerical things I remember from my younger years....

And I don't know about you but, for what it's worth, I've never heard anything akin to, "For unto Canterbury a child is born." I guess I'll find out for certain in two weeks' time.


13 Billion vs. Roughly 7,000

Justin Webb, the BBC's Washington Correspondent, is alarmed about the state of the American polity.... But which is in excess?
I put the question to [five year-old] Meade: "When did the dinosaurs live?"

There is an agonising pause as he considers it. American children are wonderfully earnest and Meade is not going to be rushed.

Eventually he says it is in a book his Dad bought him.

We hunt the tome, find it, open the page and behold a diagram which has been explained to Meade.

It all floods back.

The dinosaurs, he informs me with great authority and aplomb, are millions and millions and millions of years old. I could have hugged him and his parents; we are, after all, inhabiting the same mental planet.

But many modern members of the Republican party, including some in positions of great power, do not seem to be living on that planet....

Describe an American as a Roman Catholic and you say nothing about his or her political and social beliefs.

Left-wing flower-power Democrats can be Catholics, so can right-wing socially conservative Republicans.

American Jews, Hindus, even Muslims are not politically defined by their faith.

But evangelical Christians, operating inside the Republican party, have coalesced their energies and their resources around a set of beliefs on homosexuality, abortion and Darwinism which place them on the authoritarian right of every political question and at odds with science campaigning. For instance, to tell visitors to the Grand Canyon that this wondrous sight is not millions of years old, which it is....

The [opposition to the Evangelicals] have noticed two things. Number one, that the zealots are spending more energy fighting Charles Darwin than cutting taxes, and number two - and this is much more important - that the zealots outside Kansas are not receiving the support of the nation at large.

And if Evangelicals and right-flank Catholics get any closer, then Advent homilies warning of the impending Rapture will soon be conspicuous by their absence.


I Can See the Fallout On This One Coming From A Mile Away

Here's the latest trip off the wire -- from The Star-Ledger in Newark, of all places....

If you asked for this Instruction, the first-fruits of your activism have sprung up.
He left the Catholic priesthood in 1998, he said, because he was tired of shielding his identity as a gay man from a church that condemns homosexuality.

The Rev. Mariano Gargiulo, now an Episcopal priest in the Newark Archdiocese involved in a long-term relationship, said he believes an expected Vatican edict this week banning most gay men from entering the seminary also will force many priests from the clergy.

Gargiulo, who said he remains friends with dozens of gay Catholic priests from his days in the Archdiocese of Newark, predicted the ruling, while not applying to current priests, will heighten tensions within the church....

Older priests are less likely to leave, Gargiulo said, because they will need the Catholic Church to support their retirement.

"They're going to hide," he said. "They're going to put themselves deeper in the closet because it's a comfortable lifestyle."

But was Garigulo a gay seminarian?

Gargiulo said he was not part of any gay scene at the archdiocesan seminary, Immaculate Conception in Mahwah, which he attended in the late 1970s. He said he previously sensed he was gay but did not fully realize or "deal with it" until 1982, the year after he was ordained....

In the mid-1980s, Gargiulo said he broke his priestly promise of celibacy six times, most of the time with other Catholic priests. Still, he said, he planned to remain a Catholic priest.

"I was coming to grips with the fact that I was human and would have slips or mishaps," he said. "But then, as you understand yourself more and more ... you begin to realize, this is not right."

He said he would stand by the altar at Catholic weddings, administering marriage vows and feel like a hypocrite for breaking his celibacy promise.

"This is not right," he would tell himself, he recalled. "I'm asking these people in front of me to be faithful to their marriage vows. ... And am I being faithful?"

Well, at least he's being honest about it, right? And he's unabashed in his praise of the former archbishop of Newark -- you know him.
Gargiulo met with Theodore McCarrick in 1998. He told the archbishop he was gay and in a five-year relationship with another man.

Gargiulo said McCarrick told him he wanted him back as a priest, but that he would have to be celibate. Gargiulo told McCarrick he would not return.

"I said to him, 'I have to tell you that my partner is in the outer office, and if you'd like to come and meet him that would be fine, and if you don't, I understand that completely.'

"He said 'Oh no, I'll come out and meet him.' He came out, he shook his hand, he was very nice. He said, 'Mariano's worked very hard for us for many years, and you take care of him. And God bless you both.'

"I have to say, he's a gentleman. He truly is."

Yup, to paraphrase Molly Ivins, Uncle Ted's so much better a human being than anyone who's ever trashed him, it's a monument to his Christianity. Say what you will, but it's true.

So the wayfaring padre then went Episcopalian....
Gargiulo was then shocked, he said, by a letter he received three years later from McCarrick's replacement, John J. Myers, in response to a letter from Gargiulo saying he had decided to become an Episcopal priest.

Myers' letter told Gargiulo he was classified as a schismatic and thus automatically excommunicated. (James Goodness, a spokesman for Myers, said the excommunication had nothing to do with Gargiulio's sexual orientation.)

Hate to hurt anyone's feelings but, well, duh. Schism is schism, whether you've gone ECUSA or SSPX. It's all the same.
Gargiulo showed the letter to Jack Croneberger, who had recently become Newark's Episcopal bishop. A month later, as Gargiulo was received into the Episcopal Church, Croneberger stunned Gargiulo by doing something a Catholic bishop would never do.

"He invited (my partner) up, and he had us on each side of him, and he grabbed both our hands. He said, 'I want to thank you for being an example in the church of what a gay couple can be and how a loving gay couple can be part of the church community.'"

Hey, nobody said these would be easy days.... And who asked for it, again?


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Culture Corner

So Santa Rock is in his Workshop right now (ho ho ho) putting together a mix CD -- a service to the cute suburban girls one stumbles across in bars on Thanksgiving Eve....

As good mixing requires structuring, plotline and balance, and because I haven't touched a CD in almost two years thanks to St. iPod, the process is one of my favored manifestations of the soul -- it gives me an excuse to actually listen to my collection, which now mostly sits dormant thanks to my satellite wonder. God, I love that thing. It's even got EWTN on it.

In other things musical, as I keep missing his appearances here, earlier today I checked the website of the Hasidic Reggae singer Matisyahu to see when he'd be back in town. After a swing through Israel in mid-December (General Admission: 129 Shekles. Seeing the price of something listed in Shekels: Priceless.), Matis is playing the Theatre of the Living Arts (the most amazingly intimate and fun venue in Philadelphia)... on Christmas Eve.

To think: straight from the "Waiting for Moshiach" party, I'd be off to Midnight Mass. Talk about your quickly answered prayers.

From the wonderful world of publishing, it hasn't been plugged anywhere else, but John Allen is going to be on NPR's Fresh Air Monday as the Opus Dei media blitz continues. And just today, I got a gift copy in of the Via Crucis as written by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger for Good Friday, 2005, just released by Pauline Books and Media. It's goregous -- Ratzi the aesthete would be well-pleased with the artwork chosen to match his prophetic meditations.

During the American Academy of Religion Conference last weekend here in Philly, I was much-pleased to share some good beer and even better conversation with Peter Manseau, author of Vows, the story of his parents and their ecclesiastical journey, both within the structures of the church and in their marriage. The book has been (rightfully) well-received, and anyone interested in a "People's History" of the archdiocese of Boston spanning the last fifty years will find it a fascinating, emotional and challenging read.

For any of our friends in the Boston area who may be interested, Manseau will be making an appearance and reading from the book in Cueninville (heretorefore known as Newton) this coming Tuesday night. More info, directions, etc. can be found here.

And one last thing: Anyone interested in Summer School? Not just any Summer School, of course; the inimitable Fr. Reggie is taking applications.... As several of our good readers privileged enough to call themselves Reggie Alums can tell you, it's quite an experience.

If you plan to apply, good luck -- however you say it in Latin.


The New Year

Big Daddy opened the ecclesiastical year in style on this vigil of the First Sunday of Advent, wearing a cope, stole and mitre from the winter collection of the House of Marini (yes, thank God, he's still there) and a morse of the Lamb of God last worn by John Paul at, I think, the consistory in 2001. No comment on the allegedly Prada shoes.

Some of you might've seen the Evening Prayer, which ran this morning US time. If you didn't see it, you should've seen it. As the Pope was coming down the aisle, the cellphone-cameras being trained at him by people either jumping on chairs or sitting on the shoulders of others -- this was inside the Basilica, mind you -- the casual observer might've thought that an XBox360 or something was being processed in.

Your typical Italian pandemonium means that, seven months in, the natives love this guy.

In his homily, the Pope said (all translations are my own):

"God calls us to communion with himself, one fully realized at the return of Christ, and he calls us to do that which enables us to be ready for this final, decisive encounter. The future is, so it's said, contained in the present or, better still, in the presence of this same God, in his unfailing love, which never leaves us lonely, which doesn't abandon us even for an instant, but as a father and mother never fail to guide their children in their growth."

Benedict XVI went on to speak of the Pauline delineation of man as "'spirit, soul and body'... a unity articulated in somatic, psychic and spiritual dimensions. Sanctification is given of God and is his initiative, but the human being is called to correspond with his whole self, leaving nothing excluded."

PHOTO: AP/Pier Paolo Cito


Friday, November 25, 2005

Black Friday of a Different Kind

In this weekend's just-posted edition of The Tablet, the former Master of the Dominicans Fr Timothy Radcliffe examines the issues at stake in the coming instruction
The Church has a right and a duty to exercise careful discernment in the admission of seminarians. When the document says that this has been made “more urgent by the current situation”, then presumably it is thinking of the crisis of sexual abuse that has shaken the Church in the West. So there are two questions: does this document provide good criteria for discerning who has a vocation? And will it help to address the crisis of sexual abuse? ...

The document states that the Church “cannot admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture”. The first criterion is straightforward. The same could be said of those who are actively heterosexual. The second two need clarification....

It is right that seminarians or priests should not go to gay bars and that seminaries should not develop a gay subculture. This would be to celebrate as central to their lives what is not fundamental. Seminarians should learn to be at ease with whatever is their sexual orientation, content with the heart that God has given them, but any sort of sexual sub-culture, gay or straight, would be subversive of celibacy. A macho subculture filled with heterosexual innuendo would be just as inappropriate....

Finally, there is the question of “spiritual fatherhood”. This is not a concept with which I am familiar. Can only heterosexuals offer this? This is the view of the Bishop to the American armed forces, who said recently: “We don’t want our people to think, as our culture is now saying, there’s really no difference whether one is gay or straight, is homosexual or heterosexual. We think for our vocation that there is a difference, and our people expect to have a male priesthood that sets a strong role model of maleness.” I cannot believe that this is what is intended by the document. There is little evidence of muscular Christianity in the Vatican. If the role of the priest was to be a model of masculinity, then he would be relevant to less than half of the congregation and one could therefore argue that women should also be ordained as role models of femininity. I presume that the “spiritual fatherhood” is above all exercised through the care of the people and the preaching of a life-giving fertile word, but neither has any connection with sexual orientation.
And you thought it was interesting on Tuesday?