The Friday Whirl
For the curious, the above photo is from the festival of La Purisima ("The Most Pure") -- an annual event held in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, to mark the Immaculate Conception.
Anyways, here's a potpourri for you, with more on the way:
- Whither Pittsburgh? Not that anything's afoot just yet, but today's been one of the more-buzzed about days when the appointment of Donald Wuerl's successor could come.... The only problem being, of course, that the Vatican is closed on 8 December, and on the other swirling date of 6 January, Roman Epiphany. While the Steel City's TV stations have been keeping the story going (pieces with video here and here), word is that the case-file has not even approached the final stages. On the ground, many of the diocese's priests got together earlier in the week for an Advent prayer service and dinner, and the mood was said to be "relaxed." In the meantime, diocesan administrator Bishop Paul Bradley is presiding over a bit of a policy shop. Sure, an administrator can undertake no great initiatives under the law, but the auxiliary has been keen to ensure that the new ordinary arrives to find the best and most comprehensive briefings and recommendations possible on the issues facing the diocese, most acutely the shortage of clergy. When the interregnum comes up, the usual response runs something along the lines of "We have a bishop." And while the guys recognize that the appointment could become a political football, a broad consensus seems to indicate that the bishop they have is the bishop they want... and not just on an interim basis.
- The long, slow sundering of world Anglicanism continues. On Wednesday, the ECUSA bishop of San Diego presided at a farewell service for two of his priests and an estimated 150 to 200 parishioners, who are going on to form a community under alternative oversight. Diocesan officials there say they've lost about 1,000 of their 14,000 members over the recent unpleasantness. Across the grass, however, you know things are really going off the rails when, as one in-house report put it, "relationships between the Global South Primates and their supposed supporters in the secessionist dioceses of the USA are not as harmonious as they might wish the outside world to believe." (Tip to the ever-informative Thinking Anglicans.)
- Next time those of us who went to see of The Passion of the Christ or own a DVD copy of it go to confession, it might be wise to seek God's forgiveness for... material participation in schism. As his new Apocalypto rolls out, it's come to light that in 2005 Pope Mel I (Gibson) has invested another $8 million into "the tax-exempt entity... designed to run his privately built and owned Holy Family Catholic Church in Malibu." In case anyone's confused, privately built + owned = not a Catholic Church. Fox News reports that the increase in Gibson's endowment to the A.P. Reilly Foundation, the Tridentine church's operating fund named for his late mother, "seems due to profits from 'The Passion of the Christ.'" Oy vey.
- Speaking of our wall-facing friends and those who love 'em (or not so much), the French episcopate has recently attracted flagons full o' fury from other Old Rite fans livid at the bishops' public statement urging caution on the foreseen universal indult for the Pian Rite. Well, the eveques have tackled a new issue of late, going after France's Muscular Dystrophy Association for funding embryonic stem-cell research, albeit to a relatively small degree. The French MDA's annual telethon -- whose prominence there was likely aided by the national fascination with all things Jerry Lewis -- begins tonight. The NYTimes reports that it all began in October, when one bishop said his diocese could no longer participate in the telethon as “Christians cannot cooperate with evil.” (A statement that quickly disappeared.) In time, Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris said that MDA couldn't receive "a blank check," ethically speaking and on Tuesday Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon that “For us, these embryos are not things, but human beings. And from the depths of our faith, we cannot accept that they are selected, destroyed, the objects of experiments.” The conference, however, issued a statement that no bishops have "called for a boycott of the telethon. Quite the contrary.” Barbarin said that, despite the dispute, “Kids must continue to break their piggy banks for the disabled.”
- Across the border in the Pope's native land, one of his close confidants has stirred the pot on the question of interreligious interaction. Heretofore famous either for his (joyous) weeping at Ratzinger's election or his archdiocese's hosting of World Youth Day last year, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne has banned schoolteachers under his jurisdiction from "participating in multi-religious events." Given the cultural currents at play in Germany, the state broadcaster Deutsche Welle says the directive has evoked more than a wee bit of controversy, with one Social Democratic politico calling for the teachers to ignore Meisner, the acknowledged leader of German Catholicism's conservative wing, and one Green party leader who dared the cardinal "to go ahead and throw out the Shrine of the Three Kings" from Cologne Cathedral, as "the Three Magi are believed to have been Persian astrologers." The city's top paper got in on the gang-up in today's editions, saying in an editorial that "Cardinal Meisner deals with Christianity like a landlord who bolts the door as soon as the bell rings -- without first checking who's outside."
- The continuing reach of blogging in the church never ceases to be, in a word, amazing. Two years ago next week, after a brain fart and with a readership of three, these pages came to life... and something really bizarre happened along the way. Now, the richness of breadth and scope soars even higher as Msgr Mark Langham, the Administrator (Rector) of Westminster Cathedral settles into the click-and-publish life with his contribution, appropriately titled Solomon I Have Surpassed Thee. (Cardinal Vaughan taunting Edward the Confessor, you say?) Especially as the mother church of England and Wales is always a hub of activity on London's religious and cultural scene, not to mention a treasure of art and the living sacred, check it out.
- And lastly, at a Mass last night in Syracuse, Bishop James Moynihan manned the fountain of honor as the diocese received eleven new monsignors and its first taste of Purple Rain in thirty years (Msgr Prince, intone the hymn...). Coming from a local church where papal honors for the clergy fall just short of the Eucharist on the list of "sources and summits of the Christian life," we celebrate this precious gift of God's love for upstate New York. And Syracuse isn't the only place to resurrect the practice of late; Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph recently celebrated its first class of honorees since 1968, and last month the diocese of Knoxville was granted the first two monsignori in its history. (How on earth did they survive so long?) In a recent editorial, NCR indicated that it wasn't terribly keen about this resurgence, and it's very true that papal honors can be, and have been, the vehicle for all kinds of excesses. However, as with most things, such lapses/horror stories aren't sufficient justification for chucking the whole notion of ecclesiastical gong-giving. Especially after the last five years in this country, it seems widely the case that those who've stayed and keep selflessly at the work are just chomping at the bit to celebrate something good in the life of the church. Not to mention that some bishops seem to forget that papal honors aren't just the province of the ordained.... Benemerenti, anyone? Sure, some dioceses have instead created and conferred some variation of a "Bishop's Medal" or "Diocesan Cross" -- partly to avoid the tax due to the Holy See when requesting Roman ones, partly to "keep it intimate" -- but just as a rising tide lifts all boats, a little papal recognition for a couple exemplary souls, clerical and lay, could be just the thing to boost morale.
PHOTO: AP/Esteban Felix