Wednesday, May 31, 2006

When In Rome....

Just so you know, this shot was taken before Cardinal Dias' appointment as the new Red Pope.

On a weightier note, if you believe what you hear, we're in the home stretch to the appointment of a new Secretary of State, which could come as early as Friday.

It'll be a busy weekend -- the appointment of the new Lord of San Damaso could touch off several other shifts in the upper ranks of the Curia, from the Governatorato to the Congregations and down into the Councils. Or those will all be coming soon thereafter....

These days, anything is possible.

And, of course, the meeting of the "New Movements" began this morning with a Mass celebrated at Rocca di Papa by Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The encounter runs through the weekend.

Now, as the three main speakers will be Cardinals Christoph Schonborn, Angelo Scola and Marc Ouellet -- all adherents of the Comunione school -- and we have a cieline Pope, don't be surprised to hear the Don Gius playbook emphasized above the others. Again. Again. And again.

And that ain't no accident, either.



Tuesday, May 30, 2006

His Own Pilgrimage

On the papal visit to Auschwitz on Sunday, the images of Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne in tears struck a chord with many people.

Only later did I learn that, like many survivors of the camps and their descendants who have no burial spot where they could pay tribute to their deceased loved ones, the remains of the cardinal's father are somewhere in Serbia, in a mass grave. And that, from Poland, Meisner was headed to the Balkans to dedicate the restored Archbishop's Residence in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

As Cologne is one of Europe's -- and the world's -- most fiscally-solvent local churches, it wouldn't be a stretch to believe that the cardinal has supported the small Catholic community there, especially given the personal tie to the place.

Knowing that, after Auschwitz, Meisner would be going to Serbia, "where he would love to pray at the grave of his father," one op noted that it was natural for the cardinal to be "a bit emotional."

Indeed it would be, and indeed it was.

PHOTO: Reuters/Katarina Stoltz


Monday, May 29, 2006

The Pre-South Bend Takeover Party

Well, they've finally found a use for Maida Temple (known to many of you as the John Paul II Cultural Center/White Elephant).

On June 18, Installation Week in Washington kicks off with a Mass for the whole archdiocese, celebrated by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in thanksgiving for McCarrick's five and a half year stewardship of the church in the nation's capital.

Following the liturgy, a dinner will be held for McCarrick and the priests of the archdiocese in the JPII Center.

Four days later, Archbishop-elect Donald Wuerl will be installed in the Basilica, which the archdiocese uses for most of its larger-scale events. Contrary to the usual practice when an installation Mass is held at a venue other than the cathedral of the place, no Vespers service is scheduled for Installation Eve at St Matthew's Cathedral. At said service, when it's employed, the formal act of canonical possession -- the presentation of the papal letter of appointment to the local college of consultors -- ordinarily takes place. So we'll see all this rolled into one on the 22nd.

Archbishop Wuerl will celebrate his first Mass at St Matthew's on Sunday, the 25th. The following day, with an archdiocesan pilgrimage, the new archbishop leaves for Rome to receive the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI.


Stasiu... Stasiu....

So the last word of this Polish sojourn belongs to the cardinal-archbishop of Krakow.

The man Benedict XVI referred to on Saturday as "dear Cardinal Stanislaw" made what seemed like a bit of a faux pas at Sunday's liturgy in Blonia Park when he wore his pallium in the presence of the Pope.

The conventional read is that said practice is a no-no. For some reason, however, former Roman officials have a peculiar habit of doing it....

Showy, you say?

I recall vividly hearing Stanislaw Dziwisz's voice for the first time. It was completely as I hadn't expected -- a baritone even more resonant than that of his boss of 40 years. "Stentorian" would be a good word for it.

What really would've been impressive was if he conceded the rationale, the ancient vestment proper to the archbishop of Krakow, for the Pope to wear. However, given the cut of the Petrine pallium, it would've been a bit cluttered.

And if there's one thing the House of Marini line isn't, it's cluttered.

Having lobbied for the papal trip, overtaken Warsaw in its scheduling, and having presided over a very successful memorial pilgrimage where the "hope" of canonization was assured, Dziwisz is the winner of the week.

AP/Czarek Sokolowski


Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Shepherd One Beerhaus

So last year, on Memorial Day weekend, the Pope made his first trip outside Rome to the Italian Eucharistic Congress at Bari. And, now, this year, to Poland. Is he trying to crimp our style here in the US or something? Seems like there was a barbeque on the Lot plane heading back.

Don't be fooled, however -- it may look like Hoegaarden or some kind of Hefeweisen, but it's more likely the Pope's beloved Orangina/Fanta....

Given two elements in this shot, it's an easy caption. Four words will suffice: "BAD DAY FOR SSPX."

And, lastly, today's visit to Auschwitz (fulltext of B16's message) marked the third occasion in a year on which Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne has shed public tears.

This isn't a bad thing -- it's actually quite moving, actually, not to mention refreshing, and the cardinal deserves thanks for reminding all of us how nice it is when a prelate doesn't let his emotions be conditioned out of him along the path of ascent.

Four years ago at Dallas, remember well that the US bishops held a "Mass for the Gift of Tears." Suffice it to say, it wasn't a gift God granted them....

Despite the delay, maybe Meisner could lend an assist and serve as the gift-bearer. Yes, it'd be a bit belated... but better (four years) late than never.

PHOTO 1: AP/Czarek Sokolowski
PHOTO 2: AP/Andrew Medichini
PHOTO 3: Reuters/Katarina Stoltz


"I Could Not Fail To Come Here"

Having capped a successful pilgrimage to his predecessor's homeland, the Pope is on his way back to Rome.

In the most-anticipated moment of his journey to Poland, just before departing Benedict XVI issued a strong and moving message on visiting the most infamous concentration camps of the German occupation of Poland, Auschwitz and Birkenau.

From the fulltext, spoken in Italian:
To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible -- and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a Pope from Germany. In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence -- a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?

In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again.

Twenty-seven years ago, on June 7, 1979, Pope John Paul II stood in this place. He said: "I come here today as a pilgrim. As you know, I have been here many times. So many times! And many times I have gone down to Maximilian Kolbe's death cell, paused before the execution wall, and walked amid the ruins of the Birkenau ovens. It was impossible for me not to come here as Pope."

Pope John Paul came here as a son of that people which, along with the Jewish people, suffered most in this place and, in general, throughout the war. "Six million Poles lost their lives during the Second World War: a fifth of the nation," he reminded us. Here, too, he solemnly called for respect for human rights and the rights of nations, as his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI had done before him, and added: "The one who speaks these words is ... the son of a nation which, in its history, has suffered greatly from others. He says this, not to accuse, but to remember. He speaks in the name of all those nations whose rights are being violated and disregarded ..."

Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people. I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here.

I had to come. It is a duty before the truth and the just due of all who suffered here, a duty before God, for me to come here as the successor of Pope John Paul II and as a son of the German people -- a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation's honor, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people was used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power....

This is the same reason why I have come here today: to implore the grace of reconciliation -- first of all from God, who alone can open and purify our hearts, from the men and women who suffered here, and finally the grace of reconciliation for all those who, at this hour of our history, are suffering in new ways from the power of hatred and the violence which hatred spawns.

How many questions arise in this place! Constantly the question comes up: Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?

The words of Psalm 44 come to mind, Israel's lament for its woes: "You have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness ... because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!" (Psalm 44:19,22-26).

This cry of anguish, which Israel raised to God in its suffering, at moments of deep distress, is also the cry for help raised by all those who in every age -- yesterday, today and tomorrow -- suffer for the love of God, for the love of truth and goodness. How many they are, even in our own day!

We cannot peer into God's mysterious plan -- we see only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history. Then we would not be defending man, but only contributing to his downfall. No -- when all is said and done, we must continue to cry out humbly yet insistently to God: Rouse yourself! Do not forget mankind, your creature!

And our cry to God must also be a cry that pierces our very heart, a cry that awakens within us God's hidden presence -- so that his power, the power he has planted in our hearts, will not be buried or choked within us by the mire of selfishness, pusillanimity, indifference or opportunism.

Let us cry out to God, with all our hearts, at the present hour, when new misfortunes befall us, when all the forces of darkness seem to issue anew from human hearts: whether it is the abuse of God's name as a means of justifying senseless violence against innocent persons, or the cynicism which refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules faith in him.

Let us cry out to God, that he may draw men and women to conversion and help them to see that violence does not bring peace, but only generates more violence -- a morass of devastation in which everyone is ultimately the loser.

The God in whom we believe is a God of reason -- a reason, to be sure, which is not a kind of cold mathematics of the universe, but is one with love and with goodness. We make our prayer to God and we appeal to humanity, that this reason, the logic of love and the recognition of the power of reconciliation and peace, may prevail over the threats arising from irrationalism or from a spurious and godless reason.

The place where we are standing is a place of memory. The past is never simply the past. It always has something to say to us; it tells us the paths to take and the paths not to take. Like John Paul II, I have walked alongside the inscriptions in various languages erected in memory of those who died here: inscriptions in Belarusian, Czech, German, French, Greek, Hebrew, Croatian, Italian, Yiddish, Hungarian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Romani, Romanian, Slovak, Serbian, Ukrainian, Judeo-Spanish and English.

All these inscriptions speak of human grief, they give us a glimpse of the cynicism of that regime which treated men and women as material objects, and failed to see them as persons embodying the image of God.

PHOTO: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski


Ascension Sunday in Krakow

Last night, in a particularly moving moment, the successor to Karol Wojtyla appeared at the window of the Archbishop's Residence in Krakow, the vantage from which Wojtyla communicated with his flock in his pre-papal days, and then through the night on his homecoming pilgrimages as Pope.

And on this, the last day of the John Paul II Memorial Pilgrimage, a crowd estimated at 900,000 showed up in Krakow's Blonia Park as Benedict XVI celebrated the Mass of the Ascension -- the first time a Pope has marked the end of Jesus' earthly life not on its traditional observance of Thursday. (The Solemnity is also marked today in the majority of the US and many other countries.)

As he prepares to visit the most infamous of the Nazi concentration camp, the AP reports the following:

A shadow was cast over the Auschwitz visit by an attack Saturday on Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich. Police said Schudrich was unhurt and the assailant fled, and that they were treating it as a possible anti-Semitic attack.

The Holy See has published the translation of this morning's homily.... Some snips:

Today we heard the words of Jesus: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Centuries ago these words reached Poland. They challenged, and continue to challenge all those who say they belong to Christ, who consider his to be the greatest cause. We need to be witnesses of Jesus, who lives in the Church and in human hearts. He has given us a mission. On the day he ascended to heaven, he said to his Apostles: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation … And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (Mk 16:15,20). Dear brothers and sisters! When Karol Wojtyła was elected to the See of Peter in order to serve the universal Church, your land became a place of special witness to faith in Jesus Christ. You were called to give this witness before the whole world. This vocation of yours is always needed, and it is perhaps even more urgent than ever, now that the Servant of God has passed from this life. Do not deprive the world of this witness!

Before I return to Rome to continue my ministry, I appeal to all of you in the words spoken here by Pope John Paul II in 1979: "You must be strong, dear brothers and sisters. You must be strong with the strength that comes from faith. You must be strong with the strength of faith. You must be faithful. Today, more than in any other age, you need this strength. You must be strong with the strength of hope, the hope that brings perfect joy in life and which prevents us from ever grieving the Holy Spirit! You must be strong with love, the love which is stronger than death ... You must be strong with the strength of faith, hope and charity, a charity that is conscious, mature and responsible, and which can help us at this moment of our history to carry on the great dialogue with man and the world, a dialogue rooted in dialogue with God himself, with the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit, the dialogue of salvation" (Homily, 10 June 1979, no. 4).

I too, Benedict XVI, the Successor of Pope John Paul II, am asking you to look up from earth to heaven, to lift your eyes to the One to whom succeeding generations have looked for two thousand years, and in whom they have discovered life’s ultimate meaning. Strengthened by faith in God, devote yourselves fervently to consolidating his Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity and mercy. I ask you to bear courageous witness to the Gospel before today’s world, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the lost and abandoned, the desperate and those yearning for freedom, truth and peace. By doing good to your neighbour and showing your concern for the common good, you bear witness that God is love.

I ask you, finally, to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world the treasure of your faith, not least as a way of honouring the memory of your countryman, who, as the Successor of Saint Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness. And remember me in your prayers and sacrifices, even as you remembered my great Predecessor, so that I can carry out the mission Christ has given me. I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!

PHOTO 1: Reuters/Jerry Lampen
PHOTO 2: AP/Pier Paolo Cito


"Loving God and Loving the Little Guy"

Yesterday, as many of you won't enjoy admitting, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick ordained 12 priests for the archdiocese of Washington, its largest class since 1973.

As the Washington Post highlights today, four of the District's new clerics were mentored by a priest who was murdered in 2000.

Before an overflow crowd of about 2,700, the Wells guys were among a dozen men who became Catholic priests at a solemn yet joy-filled ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast Washington.

One by one, the names of the new priests were proclaimed "for service of the church of Washington." One by one, each answered "Present!" When they turned to face the congregation -- which gave them a long, heartfelt round of applause -- some struggled to contain their emotions. Blinking eyelids, bobbing Adam's apples and firmly pressed lips betrayed their composure....

Four had worked with Wells at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bethesda, and one met him at a parish in Bowie.

"It's so rare to see this many from one place," said the Rev. Edward Burns, who heads the office of vocations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "It just shows the impact one priest can have."

Not to be outdone, McCarrick -- currently Washington's apostolic administrator until the 22 June installation of Archbishop-elect Donald Wuerl -- gave the commencement address last week at Stonehill College, a suburban Boston school run by the Congregation of the Holy Cross.

Gratefully, the college has posted the text of the cardinal's address. It's Vintage Ted: the Truths of faith couched in the lure of humor, contagious affability, and a resonant, uplifting message.

Pray with me for a minute, just informally, that I say something important because the most important thing is that I say something that should be useful to you on this very special day in your lives -- a very special day in your lives; but, even more, a special day in the lives of your parents because they look at this day as an extraordinary accomplishment for the whole family.

And, I think they take, if it’s possible, more joy and more pride in this day and in what you’ve done than even you do. So, I tell them how proud I am of them too because of what they have managed to do in helping you reach this very special moment in your own life.

I want to share with you the secret of happiness, that’s why I’m here. I will do that by first talking about a cartoon. I’m a big cartoon person. They say the Irish when they open the newspaper, they first look at the obituaries. When I open the newspaper, I first look at the cartoons because often they are the only things I really understand.

There’s a great cartoon in Hagar the Horrible. I don’t know if Hagar the Horrible is in any of the papers around here, but Hagar the Horrible has all kind of wonderful theological and philosophical reflections in the four frames of his cartoon. One day, he’s going up this huge hill. It must have been a Sunday because there were more than four frames. He’s climbing up this hill, climbing up this hill, climbing up and, finally, he gets to the top of this mountain on which is sitting the guru. And, he says “Oh, great guru, please tell me the secret of happiness.”

On the next frame, you see him going down with a real quizzical look on his face. He’s going down, going down, going down. In the last frame, he looks right at us and he says, “It’s really got to be more than just buy low and sell high.” And, it is, and it is.

The secret of happiness is to love each other and to love God, that’s it. No, I’m not going to sit down right now. But, that’s the secret of happiness.
Coming the weekend after the Holy See's announcement on Marcial Maciel, the meditation on Fr Basil Moreau, the founder of the CSCs who "was a great builder, he was a great visionary, and he died as an outcast... divorced from his Congregation and died in terrible poverty and in disgrace" is notable for the confluence of timing.

CNS File


Saturday, May 27, 2006

In Wojtyla's Land, Benedict Joins the Chorus

Earlier today, while visiting the Marian shrine at Kalwaria so dear to his predecessor, Benedict XVI offered his "hope [that] Divine Providence will soon concede the Beatification and Canonisation of our beloved Pope John Paul II."

The impromptu remark was delivered under the watchful eye of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, who served Karol Wojtyla as private secretary for four decades and has devoted himself to ensuring the canonization of his boss. Notably, the Pope referred to Dziwisz not by his last name, but -- in an echo of his Roman nickname -- called him "Cardinal Stanislaw."

Today the pontiff also visited the parish church of Wadowice, where Karol Wojtyla was baptized, and the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Krakow, where a large group of the sick and the suffering.

"Through you and through your suffering," Benedict said at the Mercy Shrine, "he bows down towards humanity with love. You who say in silence: 'Jesus, I trust in you' teach us that there is no faith more profound, no hope more alive and no love more ardent than the faith, hope and love of a person who in the midst of suffering places himself securely in God’s hands. May the human hands of those who care for you in the name of mercy be an extension of the open hands of God.

"I would so willingly embrace each one of you," the Pope concluded. "But since this is impossible, I draw you spiritually to my heart."

AP/Alik Keplicz
PHOTO 2: Reuters/Damir Sagolj


Friday, May 26, 2006

Bobby the Hero

I had gotten a bit of feed about this some weeks ago, but it's made today's edition of The Tablet: Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez of San Juan picked up plaudits a couple weeks back as he played broker in bringing together Puerto Rico's political leaders to halt a government shutdown.

Word from the island is that, in public opinion surveys, the New Jersey-born archbishop -- a former auxiliary of Boston and bishop of Corpus Christi -- polls higher than that of any of its political class, a feat accomplished on the mainland by Cardinal McCarrick and... Cardinal McCarrick.
Along with the leaders of the island’s main evangelical and Pentecostal Churches, he chaired a mediation committee that brought together Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and opposition leaders to agree on raising an emergency loan of more than US$700m (£370m).

Archbishop González Nieves explained that he saw it as the Church’s duty to intervene in economic, social or political crises when the stability of the country was under threat. “Our action is predicated on the need to protect the dignity of the individual, the right to work, health and peace,” he told the San Juan daily El Nuevo Día this week.

The crisis arose when the government of the Caribbean island, which is a semi-autonomous territory of the United States, was unable to persuade the opposition-dominated legislature to approve a tax package designed to plug a gap in this year’s budget.

PHOTO: Reuters/Ana Martinez


The Best Laid Plans...

The recent spate of O'Malleyization in Boston has hit a stumbling block.

Last night marked the first night of a previously-planned Ascension-to-Pentecost novena of liturgies at which Cardinal Sean O'Malley and the clergy of the archdiocese would express remorse over the abuse revelations there. At Holy Cross Cathedral, O'Malley and the clergy in attendance prostrated themselves as a litany of repentance was sung, and the cardinal renounced his cathedra for the front pew as a victim-survivor took the pulpit.

It would've been top news, and further impetus for good will for the beleagured local church and its embattled head. However, this week's revelations of sexual harassment by the head of the archdiocesan health system and his subsequent ouster have overtaken the pages.

This morning's Boston Globe characterizes the prevailing mood:
The contretemps over O'Malley's initial decision to reprimand but not fire the president of the Caritas Christi Health Care System after multiple allegations of sexual harassment is the latest in a series of controversies that have severely damaged O'Malley's reputation as a healer and fixer of troubled dioceses, and now some prominent Catholics are wondering whether the Franciscan Capuchin friar has the administrative skills and decisive temperament to oversee the complex and troubled Archdiocese of Boston.
Just when we thought he was out, they pulled him back in....

George Martell/Archdiocese of Boston


Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Loss for the Long Black Line

Everyone 'round these parts is more than just a little stunned at news of the sudden and tragic death of Fr Todd Reitmeyer, a priest of Sioux Falls killed yesterday in a jetski accident while on vacation with his family in Austin.

Ordained in 2003, Fr Todd was one of the "father-bloggers," and his site has been for many a place of encouragement and solace as readers journeyed with him through his ministry; his most recent assignment has been as administrator of three parishes in the sprawling South Dakota diocese.

You'll forgive me for being shaken up -- I just heard from him two days back. On writing about the episcopal vacancies to be filled, I had forgotten to list Sioux Falls, and Reitmeyer joked that "being such a small diocese, we're used to" being overlooked.

In our correspondence, his eagerness for the coming of Sioux Falls' new bishop was clear. As the diocese has been waiting 17 months since Bishop Robert Carlson's appointment to Saginaw, Fr Todd hoped that the appointment would be soon.

To use his quote on the topic, "I hate living without a Bishop."

Fr Todd will be buried at home in Texas, with his mentor Carlson presiding.

I have prayed far too many Offices of and other prayers for the Dead this year, and I've lost at least five readers to life eternal just in these last few weeks. But that sorrow comes with the territory of being part of a community, of a communion, even one where people just know each other through e.mails and posts or, even more simply, through prayer.

The treasure of the liturgy gives us this prayer:
Lord God,
you chose our brother Todd to serve your people as a priest
and to share the joys and burdens of their lives.

Look with mercy on him
and give him the reward of his labors,
the fullness of life you promised to those who preach your holy Gospel.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
May Fr Todd enjoy the company of the angels and -- in these days, the difficulty of which is almost impossible to imagine -- may his family and many friends and admirers be gifted with abundant consolation and peace.

Diocese of Sioux Falls


A Cardinal's Work... and Play

You've gotta love the photo -- Cardinal Edward Egan of New York and the legendary Sirio Maccioni at the opening of "Le Cirque 3.0," the third "incarnation" of the institution long viewed as the city's premier restaurant. Before moving to its new digs on East 58th its predecessor was, of course, Le Cirque 2000, where Cardinal Sodano could usually be found on his trips to Manhattan.

Last week, Egan ordained eight priests in St Patrick's Cathedral. Two nights later, he conferred his first batch of papal honors on the New York clergy when 38 new monsignori -- led by the the Cathedral's new rector, now Mons. Robert Ritchie -- picked up their rescripts in another St Pat's ceremony.

As the cardinal nears his sixth anniversary at the helm of Big Apple Catholicism, plans have started to be announced for the bicentennial of the archdiocese's founding in 2008 (none of the other Sees celebrating 200 years have done a damn thing yet), his parish reconfiguration plan is getting a much smoother reception than anticipated and -- lest anyone forget -- there's the not-so-little matter of the church's breakout into satellite radio when "The Catholic Channel" debuts in the fall on Sirius.

Hey now.

After a couple bumps along the road -- and, it must be said, less than a year off his 75th birthday -- it seems that for the current occupant of 452 Madison, life is good right now. But the work's still getting done, too. Suffice it to say, it looks like a healthy balance.

John Lei/The New York Times
PHOTO 2: Chris Sheridan/
Catholic New York


Note to Ted: Don't Stop "Thinking of" Us

In light of his retirement last week as archbishop of Washington, today's Catholic Standard in the capital carries the news that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick "has decided to stop writing his weekly 'Thinking of You' column" for the archdiocesan paper.

It's the end of an era -- and with it goes another precious bit of what little hierarchical sanity we have in these strange days.

However, and luckily, we've still got the column's archives going back to 2002... And maybe, if we're lucky, the Ted'll pen a book in his retirement.

What a gift that'd be. And just in case it happens, I've already cleared a place for it on my shelves -- right next to Thomas à Kempis.


"What's 'Che Gioia' in Polish?"

So, yes, the John Paul II Memorial Pilgrimage has begun.

Benedict XVI -- who, for some strange reason, has been wearing the ermine mozzetta and lace rochet all day long -- is currently greeting civil dignitaries after paying a courtesy visit on Polish President Lech Kaczynski at his residence.

While Benedict and Kaczynski were in their meeting, the Vatican television camera seemed a little lost as it followed Cardinal Sodano while he killed time looking at the artwork on the walls. Following the private session, the Pope prayed in the chapel of the presidential palace. (Yes, there's a chapel.... It is Poland, after all.)

Following a speech on his arrival at Warsaw Airport praising his amato predecessor -- whom the Holy See Press Office this morning referred to as Benedict's "Venerated Predecessor the Servant of God John Paul II" -- the day's major talk was at the capital's St John Cathedral, where he addressed a large gathering of priests and bishops.

The Sala Stampa, recognizing where the Pope's visibility comes from, has gratefully taken to translating the speeches into English... at least, so far....

Here's a snip from the Cathedral. Readers of "A New Song for the Lord" will recognize some of the concepts at work.

The faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life. With this end in view, when a young priest takes his first steps, he needs to be able to refer to an experienced teacher who will help him not to lose his way among the many ideas put forward by the culture of the moment. In the face of the temptations of relativism or the permissive society, there is absolutely no need for the priest to know all the latest, changing currents of thought; what the faithful expect from him is that he be a witness to the eternal wisdom contained in the revealed word. Solicitude for the quality of personal prayer and for good theological formation bear fruit in life. Living under the influence of totalitarianism may have given rise to an unconscious tendency to hide under an external mask, and in consequence to become somewhat hypocritical. Clearly this does not promote authentic fraternal relations and may lead to an exaggerated concentration on oneself. In reality, we grow in affective maturity when our hearts adhere to God. Christ needs priests who are mature, virile, capable of cultivating an authentic spiritual paternity. For this to happen, priests need to be honest with themselves, open with their spiritual director and trusting in divine mercy.

On the occasion of the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II frequently exhorted Christians to do penance for infidelities of the past. We believe that the Church is holy, but that there are sinners among her members. We need to reject the desire to identify only with those who are sinless. How could the Church have excluded sinners from her ranks? It is for their salvation that Jesus took flesh, died and rose again. We must therefore learn to live Christian penance with sincerity. By practising it, we confess individual sins in union with others, before them and before God. Yet we must guard against the arrogant claim of setting ourselves up to judge earlier generations, who lived in different times and different circumstances. Humble sincerity is needed in order not to deny the sins of the past, and at the same time not to indulge in facile accusations in the absence of real evidence or without regard for the different preconceptions of the time. Moreover, the confessio peccati, to use an expression of Saint Augustine, must always be accompanied by the confessio laudis – the confession of praise. As we ask pardon for the wrong that was done in the past, we must also remember the good accomplished with the help of divine grace which, even if contained in earthenware vessels, has borne fruit that is often excellent.....

Stand firm in your faith! To you too I entrust this motto of my pilgrimage. Be authentic in your life and your ministry. Gazing upon Christ, live a modest life, in solidarity with the faithful to whom you have been sent. Serve everyone; be accessible in the parishes and in the confessionals, accompany the new movements and associations, support families, do not forget the link with young people, remember the poor and the abandoned. If you live by faith, the Holy Spirit will suggest to you what you must say and how you must serve. You will always be able to count on the help of her who goes before the Church in faith. I exhort you to call upon her always in words that you know well: "We are close to you, we remember you, we watch."
More as it happens.

AFP/Dimitar Dilkoff
PHOTO 2: AFP/Alberto Pizzoli


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Win For the "Soul Patrol"

America, meet your new Idol.... Well, that's if the majority of 63.4 million votes are to be believed.

It's official -- American Idol has surpassed Catholicism as the US' dominant religion.

As many of you (hopefully) saw, at the top of the hour 28 year-old Alabama native Taylor Hicks -- aka "Gray Charles," Commandant of the "Soul Patrol," etc. -- won the annual competition which has become TV's behemoth.

Held in the room built to host the Academy Awards, the Idol finale seems to have overtaken even the Oscars themselves.

Populist triumph or harbinger of the Apocalypse? You decide.

I'll admit -- I sent a text message vote in (...or two... or ten) for Kat McPhee, seeing her as the heir apparent to Kelly Clarkson, who, as veteran readers know, is my flavor.

Oh well, seems that consummating the McPheever wasn't her destiny. And has anyone figured out how it is that, after Clarkson, the best-remembered AI contestant is William Hung?

(Speaking of which, a quick story. A good friend of the family, a priest of Vietnamese descent, once came to a clan function. From across the room, one of my aunts could be overheard screaming, "Oh my God! Oh, my God! It's William Hung!" -- our friend wasn't wearing clerics.... She ran over and asked the good Father to sing "She Bangs." Thankfully, being a good sport is one of his many qualities..... But I digress.)

Just so you all know, props are out there to anyone who's able to work -- or already has worked -- Idol into the context of a homily. Talk about a surefire way to get people's attention and lead them to something even bigger than an overproduced, fleeting reality extravaganza.

If the Idol idea hasn't crossed the minds of our preachers, take a swing at it. Chances are, it'll pay off.

(SVILUPPO: This post was originally run shortly after 10pm Eastern. Shortly thereafter, however, I received an e.mail from a not-too-happy reader in California who let me know that I ruined the finale for him, as its airing on the West Coast had not yet begun. As he put it: "I hope Philly gets ten feet of snow tonight just for you!!!!" My sincerest apologies....)

Reuters/Chris Pizzello


The Cardinal and the Football

As some readers wanted to come at me with pickaxes when I wrote about the liturgical celebration of New Year in the neighborhood where I was raised, I'm curious what you'll all make of this.

In that photo is Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City. In his hand is what we Yanks call a soccer ball. And the men in suits are Mexico's national soccer team, who leave on Saturday for the World Cup, which begins shortly in Germany.

Apparently, la nacion -- the people who gave us the most beautiful cultural-liturgical manifestation of all time with the 12 December mananitas -- showed up en masse at Mama Guadalupe's house to pray -- for victory, apparently.
Legions of fans -- some sporting game regalia like clown costumes and Mexican flag-capes -- packed the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to attend a special Mass for the "Tri," as the team is affectionately called in Mexico.

"As Mexicans we are joyful and supportive of our brothers who will be representing our country," Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera said during the May 20 Mass.

"They have come to the holy feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe," the cardinal said....

Throughout the Mass, the cardinal's words were followed by applause and soccer chants, and churchgoers in team jerseys made the sign of the cross as they whispered prayers for the players....

A crowd of thousands ran alongside the team bus as it made its way down the boulevard bound for the airport.

PHOTO: Reuters/Henry Romero


"Scio Cui Credidi"

Those words -- taken from the first letter of Paul to Timothy -- mean "I know him in whom I have believed."

Tomorrow, at a Mass at his beloved Fordham, Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, who employed the verse when he unexpectedly had to take on a motto five years ago, will celebrate his Golden Jubilee of priesthood. (The precise anniversary is 16 June.)

Dulles' story is a well-known one -- the scion of a blue-blood political dynasty who entered the church in his late 20s, became a Jesuit, launched into a prolific service as a theologian, authoring over 750 articles and 22 books and was honored as no prior American priest had been when John Paul II elevated him to the College of Cardinals at the 2001 consistory.

However, the emblematic sign of Dulles' commitment and love for the church he's made his own is one which has been manifested not before his red hat, but since.

It would've been quite easy and universally understood if the octogenarian marvel -- who'll mark his 88th birthday in August -- chose to rest on his laurels and enjoy the quiet life. But, if anything, the cardinal has only increased his amount of engagement, teaching and service since his elevation, so much so that those half his age who've tried to keep up with him in the process will tell you that, even now, it is no easy task. As all the obligations he takes on aren't rooted in the duties of another post, but simply out of the love of his craft and an eagerness to share his wisdom where it's sought, it's no stretch to call this "prelate without portfolio" the hardest-working American cardinal.

A flood of well-wishers headed up by three other cardinals will join Dulles for tomorrow's liturgy and a fund-raising dinner for Fordham. As he marks this great milestone, many congratulations, thanks and happy returns to His Eminence.


Serenade Season

So next weekend, this year's docket of four weddings -- and, please God, no funerals -- kicks off.

As many of you might've heard, even for the diaspora here in the States, an Italian wedding isn't a one day affair, but one with months' worth of preludes and parties in the run-up. And -- at least, in the old neighborhood -- Wedding Week traditionally kicks off with the Bridal Serenade.

I could write a book-length chapter on it, but in a nutshell the "family" (not simply blood relations, mind you, but long-moved away neighbors, childhood classmates, the local clergy... basically, everyone you've ever known who's still alive) congregates, usually at the "suitably" (i.e. garishly) decorated home of the bride's parents, where an open-house is prepared, complete with home-cooked, buffet-style extravaganza meal. Not to mention lots of booze. The whole block on which the house is located is usually closed off as the revelers spill into the street, and it's not unknown that a couple tents are brought in to shelter the overflow. A DJ is stationed by the front door, and it's hour after hour of eating, dancing in the streets and catching up with people you haven't seen in ages and you won't see again until the next iteration of these things.

More often than not, once everyone's in the proper disposition, an accordion is brought out.

The night reaches its climax when a 30-foot ladder is brought out and the bride-to-be appears at the upstairs window. The groom climbs the ladder, wireless mic in hand (knowing my cousin, he'll find some way to bring the accordion up, too), and the DJ spins the instrumental track to three or four sappy love songs, which the groom sings.

I've been tapped to read at the Nuptial Mass -- which I've basically planned -- and am reminded that I have to write the intercessions, and call to get the names of the deceased they want mentioned.... For the first time in a decade, I'll be returning to the ambo where my lectoring days began. After doing it practically weekly all through middle school, high school and college, I haven't proclaimed a reading in public in a long time. I'd love to return to it on a regular basis, as it's such a charge. But oh well.

Lastly, a word to our clergy-readers: I don't know how you lot deal with some of these Bridezillas out there, who treat their Big Day as if it's nothing less than the zero hour of salvation history. Fortunately, my cousin's intended next week isn't one of the sort but, suffice it to say, I've seen some real craziness in my time, so much so it makes neo-Tridentines look relatively sedate.

Again, I don't know how you guys do it, but God love you for your patience and fortitude.


Kabuki Madness

Some of you may remember the story last week about the priest in the diocese of Bridgeport -- i.e. Fairfield County, Connecticut, the richest place in America -- who took the trap-door exit after a private investigator that he bilked his parish in excess of $200,000 on expenses for his, er, lifestyle... with another man.

Well, it gets better... Worse, actually. But you get the idea.
A priest hired to replace a pastor accused of using church money to pay for a lavish lifestyle with another man has resigned, admitting he was the one who hired a private investigator to look into the pastor.

Bishop William Lori said he agreed to the request Tuesday by the Rev. Michael Madden to resign as acting administrator of St. John Church in Darien. Madden was appointed last week to replace the Rev. Michael Jude Fay in response to suspicions of financial wrongdoing. Fay resigned last week....

Madden admitted Tuesday that he and the parish bookkeeper hired the private investigator with their own money even while working with the diocese in connection with its own probe of Fay.

"I'm sorry Father Jude did what he did," Madden told parishioners Tuesday, according to a copy of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "I'm sorry that the accountant and the finance board were asleep at the switch. And I am sorry and angry that the diocese failed to come to my rescue when there were red flags waving everywhere."

Madden called the past four years "a living hell" for him. He said the diocese is "ripping mad" at him and the bookkeeper "for what we saw as a prudent effort to protect ourselves."

"I don't know what is going to happen to me now, but whatever it is, it will be a welcome relief from the extreme physical and emotional strain I have been suffering," Madden said. "I simply could not stand behind that altar and look out at you good people, knowing what was being done to you."

Suffice it to say -- as if it wasn't enough being Chairman of the CUA Board, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and (not to be outdone) Chair of the USCCB Committee for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices -- Lori's got his hands full these days.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Prefect's Letter, Chairman's Response

In light of the recent leaking of Cardinal Francis Arinze's 2 May letter to USCCB president Bishop William Skylstad on the issue of liturgical translations, the chair of the US Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, has issued a response.

Trautman's complete statement reads as follows:
Bishop Skylstad has forwarded to all Latin Rite Bishops a copy of Cardinal Arinze's letter concerning translation of the Order of Mass, which is presently under consideration by the members of the USCCB and scheduled for vote by the U.S. Bishops at their June meeting. I see this letter as a clarification and further restatement of criteria for translation previously authored by the Congregation in its document Liturgiam authenticam. This recent correspondence offers additional input for the deliberation of the Bishops.
That's all, folks.



The Pharaoh's onetime consigliere has become a Pharaoh in his own right.

As buzzed here yesterday, the Philadelphia Media Holdings team led by former DEFCON 1 archdiocesan media operative Brian Tierney (left) has inked a deal to purchase the city's Inquirer and Daily News from McClatchy for the tidy sum of $562 million.

If you need an indicator of Tierney's background, just look over his shoulder at the portrait in the background.... Same photo's being used in the Inky's story. Press conference expected shortly.

Tierney, a Philadelphia public relations and advertising executive who organized the local buyers, said that Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C. intended to be long-term owners. "Our plan is to invest in and grow both papers," he said in a news release....

The deal will return The Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News to local private ownership for the first time since since Walter H. Annenberg sold the papers to Knight Newspapers Inc. in 1969.

"I sincerely hope it will be a good deal for the papers," McClatchy chairman Gary Pruitt said in an interview. "I understand the concerns. I think it will be a good outcome." In a statement he called it a "win-win deal" for McClatchy, the buyers and Philadelphia. He called it a "full, fair price."

Local ownership by a group with diversified business and political interests could cast the papers' editorial independence into doubt, some observers have worried.

The deal included $515 million in cash and $47 million in assumed pension liabilities.

Congrats to the new owners, my dad's new bosses.... After nine months of anxiety, the old man is breathing a sigh of relief.

To know that feels so good. And, almost as good, God's favorite newspaper lives!

Philadelphia Inquirer/File


And Now, the Real Story....

You might remember hearing that there was more to the Caritas Christi brouhaha than met the eye in the original coverage of the Boston Globe....

See, I told you so.

It didn't take rocket science to figure out that it was never really about the harrassment charges, the investigation, the SVP for human resources, etc. etc. etc.

Under the surface, it was about what it has always been about in Boston from 2003 until early April...

...and that might be......
[I]n a reflection of simmering tensions within the archdiocese, Bishop Richard G. Lennon, who was O'Malley's vicar general until he became bishop of Cleveland last week, issued a statement saying that O'Malley removed him from two joint Caritas boards just hours before last Thursday's vote. Lennon, according to several people he has talked to, had strongly urged that Haddad be dismissed, and would have made that argument to the governing board.

The archdiocese contradicted Lennon's account.

Thank you. That's all we need to know -- i.e. now that he's not running that curia anymore, Lennon is taking arms against it from afar.

Word from Boston is that Mike Barnacle is exploding on-air, going bonzo about how, even when the bishop of Cleveland is now supposed to be gone from the local scene, he isn't.

Well, when you think about it, neither is the archbishop-emeritus of Boston, really....

Ergo, par for the course.


Snippets from Down Under

I sometimes hear from readers in Australia who feel neglected with all the coverage of things US and Roman. Hopefully, this'll make up for my omissions... somewhat.

First off, the planning committee for the next World Youth Day extravaganza, to be held in Sydney in two years' time, sat last week for a major meeting under the serene and kindly gaze of the event's secretary-general, Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher, OP.

Among the major issues discussed were the need for an event-specific official hymn. A competition will probably be held, but the organizers are looking for something playable in both English and Latin, with easy translations into Spanish, Italian and French (but not German?). Of course, considering the event's true focus, couldn't the chorus just be adapted from the old workhorse, "We're off to see the Wizard, the incorrigible Wizard of Oz?"

On the evening of Benedict XVI's anticipated arrival -- he'll be 81 by that time -- the plan is to hold vespers for the Pope and bishops in attendance at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral.... As one friend says, "So much for the 'Y' in WYD...."

One of the showpiece events is looking to be the Stations of the Cross, and the organizers are said to be keen for it to be held on Sydney Harbour with barges -- which means that it'll be a million times more expensive than the first Stations. For the vigil and final liturgy, the area around Homebush Stadium -- or, as it was better known in 2000, "Olympic Stadium" -- is being sighted, with the young people (and the Pope and bishops) on an adjacent field, handicapped pilgrims in the velodrome, and adults in the 100,000-seat stadium proper.

Going back to the Harbour Stations idea, it'd be a bit odd to have the Cross be carried via barge as opposed to foot, no? If Cathy Freeman could walk on water at the Opening Ceremonies of the Sydney Games, can't Jesus do the same for World Youth Day?

I'm just sayin'....

Speaking of advancing the Aboriginal cause, Benedict recently addressed the Holy See's new Australian ambassador on the importance of seeking the forgiveness of the continent's native population.

Archbishop Barry Hickey said today he was pleased Pope Benedict XVI had spoken about the "international shame" of Australia's treatment of Aboriginal people. Pope Benedict reportedly has told Australia's new ambassador to the Vatican, Anne Marie Plunkett, the Australian Government should seek forgiveness from Aboriginal people and open the way to lasting reconciliation.

It was believed to be the first time the Pope has spoken of the plight of Australian aborigines.

Today, Archbishop Hickey, who was also Chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, said people in his congregation and the wider Catholic community would also welcome the Pope's moral leadership on the issue.

Everyone should do what they can to form relationships and friendships with Aboriginal people, Archbishop Hickey said.

And, in case you don't already, a worthwhile weekly listen/read is Stephen Crittenden's Religion Report on ABC (that's Australian Broadcasting's) National Radio. It airs weekly on Wednesday, i.e. Tuesday afternoon in the States.

Last week's programme (text and audio at the link) focused on three stories of which would be of interest here: Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay on a new secular initiative for laypeople in church service who'd take promises of celibacy in his diocese, just north of Sydney; an interview with The Tablet's Eastern Europe correspondent on the continuing furor over the controversial Polish broadcaster Radio Maryja on the eve of the Pope's visit (he leaves Thursday), and a tribute to Jaroslav Pelikan.

Aussies, as always, you know we're here for you on the other side of the globe.... Keep the stories comin'.


Monday, May 22, 2006

From Kansas City: The Nun's Story

A fortnight ago, the National Catholic Reporter devoted its cover story to an unfortunate but predictable hatchet-piece on its hometown bishop, Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph.

Suffice it to say, the piece was more a paean to NCR's ecclesiology of choice than a constructive contribution to the future and the good of the local church in which it's based.

Make of that what you will.

Well, if the Reporter wasn't happy then, this week's Catholic Key will have them jumping out of windows.

In addition to ordaining a transitional deacon at the Benedictines' Conception Abbey, located in the diocese, Bishop Finn welcomed a new Benedictine community to KCSJ: the sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, who marked their move to northwest Missouri (at Finn's invitation) with the vesting of a new member.

A snip from the latter:
When Communion was finished, Bishop Finn presided over ceremonies clothing Sister Greta with the habit of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. Sister Greta, the novice-to-be, dressed as a bride, approached the altar, accompanied by two older sisters.

In Latin, Bishop Finn said, "Quid petis?" (What do you ask?)

She responded, "Misericordiam Dei et habitum sanctae conversationis." (The Mercy of God and the habit of holy conversion.)

Following prayer, Sister Greta's wedding veil was removed and the bishop cut her hair.

After she changed from her wedding gown to her tunic, Bishop Finn presented Sr. Greta with her cincture, her scapular (the monastic garment that rests on the shoulders), her veil and a candle.

Sister Greta became Sister Misericordia, Latin for "mercy." Her smile at that moment was brighter than any ray of sunshine.
And so, the church in KC continues on, diversifies, flourishes -- call it what you will.... If only NCR might share the journey and, so, accomplish the same.

John Baccala/Catholic Key


No Recap Here

You know, the funny things never cease.

Keeping an eye on the numbers earlier today, I noted an inordinate number of visitors who dropped in by Googling the term "Sopranos recap." This was probably as I'd written about the show tangentially a few weeks back.

So if you're popping in to find out what happened last night (and because you don't have OnDemand or TiVo), no dice. Sorry, but HBO would sue the pants off me.

On second thought, if you scroll down to the next photo below, you'll find something in the shot which looks like it came from a motel room in Fort Lee.

But that's all I'm sayin'.


Tierney? To the Rescue?!

After being put on the block first by Knight-Ridder -- and then again by McClatchy -- it seems the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are being bought by... locals.

In a related development, the temperature in hell is rapidly dropping.

The all-Philly bid, led by McMansion magnate Bruce Toll and advertising/PR guru Brian Tierney, advised by a cast of (very influential/monied) thousands, is within range of returning the two papers -- run by the Knight-Ridder behemoth since 1971 -- to hometown ownership at a cost somewhere in the $500 mil range.

The presence of Tierney is of particular note given: 1. his heavy involvement with Republican causes, 2. his heavy involvement with Catholic causes (he was made a Knight of St Gregory the Great in 1998) and 3. his prior role as PR consultant/DEFCON1 spokesman for the archdiocese here.

The best news of all, however, is that God's favorite paper -- the Daily News -- will be spared.
The potential deal would inaugurate a new era in Philadelphia journalism and would be very good news for the Daily News in particular, because Tierney has pledged not to close the People Paper and to instead try to use his local connections and marketing savvy to grow the newspaper and its advertising. There have been five other bidders for the Philadelphia newspapers, and at least one had threatened deep cuts to reporting staffs.

People familiar with the negotiations did caution that while an end to the saga -- which began when the entire Knight Ridder chain was put up for sale last fall -- appears to be finally at hand, the deal is not final.

“Until I see something on the record, I assume it’s not a completely final deal,” said Henry Holcomb, an Inquirer reporter who is president of the local chapter of the Newspaper Guild, the union that represents newsroom employees. The Guild had partnered with another bidder, the “worker friendly” Yucaipa Cos., and Holcomb said Yucaipa has not contacted union leaders to report that it’s out of the running.

If Tierney’s Philadelphia Media Holdings is indeed successful, it would mean the newspapers will be in the hands of private owners as opposed to a public company such as Knight Ridder or McClatchy, which faces constant pressure to meet the quarterly profit demands of Wall Street. Local ownership would also buck the trend over the last half-century toward consolidation of the American media, including newspapers, in the hands of a shrinking number of conglomerates.
More as it happens.


Monday Morning Grab Bag

A couple things to start the week:

First, the clock hadn't struck 8am yesterday when the following message arrived from Boston: "All hell is breaking loose at Caritas Christi Health Care." A sexual-harrassment case involving the provider's president was splashed on the front page of the Globe, where it continues today. Cardinal Sean O'Malley issued a "stern reprimand," the head of Caritas' HR didn't like that and went to the press -- despite the board's voting to back the sanction and nothing more.

Not pretty and, so I'm told, a bit more complex than meets the eye.

Second, this might be a rerun, but if you haven't heard it, then it's new to you: the Pope's Latinist -- Reggie Foster, OCD -- on the translation of Benedict XVI's first encyclical Deus caritas est. (Link opens as RealAudio.) Foster always makes good copy, as they say, but this is the great one in especially rare form. Money quote: "And I told the students the other day -- we were reading St. Augustine -- they were almost in tears over St. Augustine, it's so beautiful. I said 'Well, you have nothing to say. Just translate St. Augustine in the pulpit, and sit down, AND SHUT UP!'"

Third, it was a thrill to spend a chunk of Saturday with Bill McGarvey, rockstar/editor in chief of Busted Halo, as he made a triumphant return trip to his native city. In a church which seems ever more internecine and inaccessible to the wider world in its discussions amongst its members, BH -- an apostolate of the Paulists -- serves as a much-needed reminder of why the church exists, and how far the biz often finds itself from its true mission in our times. In case you already haven't, do check it out.

And, finally, last call for the "words of wisdom" to the newly-ordained. I'm running behind on everything... All apologies. Doesn't help that I'm a bit stuffed up with a head cold and that the machine I've had for four months (the readership's gift) is already crashing left and right, programs aren't opening, and I've had to restore my files four times in the last week. I might need Reggie to perform an exorcism on this thing. In the meantime, word to the wise: don't buy a Dell. And, suffice it to say, as the exigencies allow, I'm converting to the cult of Apple.


More Liturgy

Thanks to Todd for picking up last night's post. As he's an actual liturgist and always tries to find some balance in the chaos, you might find his insights more than just worthwhile.

The way it looks now, it seems that the episcopal conferences -- i.e. those with reservations -- are being pressured to vote "yes," so as to avert disquiet in their obsequience to the Holy See. To "sweeten" the deal, the assurance is that, so long as they affirm the new translations, all concerns will be vouchsafed after the votes are in.

So much for trust, but verify. (Or however that phrase would be rendered in the Ex-Anglica -- er, Roman Missal.)

Within a year, the new translations will be implemented. As the vote will be a fait accompli by the time it's taken, my mind's already trying to figure out where the best place will be to show up on the first Sunday of their use.

Of course, on that morning, when the serene and kindly gaze of the Almighty will be resplendent with vivaciousness, celebrants everywhere will be impinged to play schoolmarm and utter something to the effect of, "Starting today, the church commands that when I say 'The Lord be with you,' you reply, 'And with your spirit.' Let's try that now...."

And then, when the people keep replying, "And also with you," some will ride with it.

Others, however, will have a conniption.

I'm strategizing where I'll find the biggest conniption. And when I figure it out, I'll be there, watching from the cry room -- shedding tears not from sorrow, but sheer hysterics.


Credibilitam Authenticam

So everyone's buzzing at the CWN leak of a letter from the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to the USCCB President as the Armageddon vote on the translations nears next month in the City of Angels... On which day there will not be many a serene and kindly gaze in the room.

The most touching phrase of Arinze's missive is where he says of Liturgiam authenticam (OW-tent'-EE-kahm), the blockbuster 2001 instruction on liturgical translations, that "Both [CDW] and the Bishops’ Conferences are bound to follow its directives."

All well and good. Che gioia and all that.

However, following the logic, if same Dicastery issued a similar decree on another aspect of liturgical life, all parties would be "bound to follow its directives" as well....

...and, if said similar instruction -- issued under the signature of said-same cardinal-prefect -- (wisely) reinforced the Roman church's long-held practice that "The vestment proper to the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated, is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole"....

Then to what do we owe this?

Ergo, if rules are rules, then let he who is without sin cast the first stole.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Working the Window To Fight Hunger

Well, it's Sunday, and you know what that means: B16. Window. Regina Caeli. Translation.
Dear brothers and sisters!

The book of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that Jesus, after his resurrection, appeared to the disciples for forty days and then "was taken up on high before their eyes" (1:9). It is the Ascension, which feast we celebrate on Thursday 25 May, although in some countries it's transferred to the following Sunday. The significance of this final act of Christ is a twofold one. Above all, by ascending "on high," he reveals in an unequivocal way his divinity: he returns to where he came from, in God, after having completed his mission on earth. Additionally, Christ ascends to heaven with the humanity which he took on and resurrected from the dead: this humanity is our own, transfigured, made divine, become eternal. The Ascension, therefore, reveals the "highest vocation" (Gaudium et spes, 22) of each human person: that he is called to eternal life in the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of love, of light and of peace.

On the feast of the Ascension we celebrate the World Day of Social Communications, sought by the Second Vatican Council and now in its 40th year. This year has for its theme: "The Media: Net of Communication, Communion and Cooperation." The Church watches the media with attention, as it represents an important vehicle to spread the Gospel and to further the solidarity among peoples, to turn its attention toward the great problems which profoundly plague them. Today, as an example, with the "World March to Fight Hunger" (Walk the World) initiative, announced by the World Food Program of the United Nations, is intended to increase awareness among governments and public opinion on the necessity of concrete and timely action to guarantee to all, in particular to children, "freedom from hunger." I'm close in prayer to this event, which is taking place in Rome and in cities in around 100 other countries. I wish deeply that, thanks to the contribution of all, we may overcome the scourge of hunger which afflicts humanity, placing at serious risk the hope of life of millions of people. I'm thinking, in the first place, of the urgent and dramatic situation of the Darfur, in the Sudan, where great difficulties persist in satisfying even the primary nourishment needs of the population.

With the customary recitation of the Regina Caeli we particularly entrust today to the Virgin Mary our brothers oppressed by the scourges of hunger, that many may come to their aid and all those who operate means of social communication contribute to resolidifying among peoples the bonds of solidarity and peace. We also ask Our Lady to make fruitful the apostolic voyage to Poland which, please God, I will undertake from Thursday to next Sunday in memory of the beloved John Paul II.

Regina Caeli, laetare, alleluia....

PHOTO: Reuters/Chris Helgren


The "Domino Effect"

In today's edition of Il Messaggero, Orazio Petrosillo -- the paper's resident Vaticanista who sounded the warning siren on the Sepe appointment to Naples two weeks back -- says that, in the mind of Benedict XVI "The true reform of the Curia... won't be made up of the waltz of appointments and the makeup of the dicasteries, but in a slow purificaion of faith, at the risk of giving the impression of inactivity."

At the same time, however, we're told to expect the appointment of a new Secretary of State on the 10th of June, if not the preceding Saturday. And that the retirement of Angelo Sodano will set off a "domino effect" of appointments across the church's central administrative structure.

The Pope made the front pages of the big dailies today, not for the Sepe move, but a speech given yesterday to Spain's new ambassador to the Holy See, Francisco Vazquez Vazquez, in which he said that "the family must not be supplanted or obfuscated" by other constructs which would wish to diminish it.

"The Church proclaims without reserve the primordial right to life," Benedict said, "from its conception until its natural end, the right to be born, to form and live in a family."


Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Tsunami, Wave One

Some weeks ago, you all were advised to expect the first major throes of Benedict XVI's curial reshuffle before the Pope's departure for Poland on the 25th.

Well, right on time and just as predicted for about a year, this morning the Holy See announced that Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, heretofore prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, has been appointed archbishop of Naples in succession to the retiring Cardinal Michele Giordano.

To succeed Sepe, the long-standing buzz was also confirmed: the new Red Pope is Cardinal Ivan Dias, the veteran of Vatican diplomacy who has served as archbishop of Bombay since 1996. Dias, shown at left, turned 70 last month. He was elevated to the College at the mega-consistory of 2001.

While secretaries of congregations have often been sent from Rome to archdioceses of their own in the recent past, today's move is the first time in memory that a cardinal-prefect has been exiled from the Curia.

In tandem with Sri Lankan Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, secretary for the Congregation of Divine Worship, the selection of Dias to head the Propaganda Fide is the second of Benedict XVI's three major dicasterial appointees to date to have been called from the Indian subcontinent.

And next up is.....

AP/Aijaz Rahi


Friday, May 19, 2006

"Holy At Last"

For those interested in the people and personalities who make up the court of Benedict XVI, the current Vanity Fair contains a very notable profile on Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis.

(...and where'd you hear about her before?)

Many of you love TNT, as she's affectionately known, for her Christmas gift of the ermine mozzetta and camauro to her longtime friend, now Pope. The even-more-legendary blue tracksuits, too, are said to be her doing.

The piece draws a broad sweep, from Gloria's wild-child past, her role in the resurrection of the dynasty's fortunes, into her evolution as papal confidante. (As an example of the article's depth, the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest -- a favored cause of the furstin's -- comes up... and at several points, no less.)

You'll have to buy the mag for more -- the text isn't available online -- but here's a money quote straight from the princess on how she views the Pope's liturgical mind:
"[Ratzinger] understood that the Second Vatican Council had gone too far, and that now we had a happy-clappy situation with guitars and drums and people gathering around the altar and yelling. The cardinal felt that people who believed in the old traditions needed to have an existence in the Church, too."
Coming from someone who probably knows what Ratzi thinks better than his own Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, it makes for a very. interesting. statement.


The Daily Does DaVinci

From experience, I can tell you there's no better place in journalism to begin a career than the august Philadelphia Daily News.

The Daily's values of edginess, dead-on incisiveness -- not to mention punch-packing brevity -- are increasingly going by the wayside in today's print marketplace. But they're sensibilities which have earned it a widespread repute for its love for its readership, and the public's affinity for the Little Paper That Could... or, rather, the Little Paper That Better....

Anyways, in keeping with the DN's grand tradition, here's a snip from the paper's DaVinci Code review, written by its movie critic Gary Thompson.

And, by the by, the movie gets panned.

First, as a non-Catholic, let me say the notion of Christ's being married does not offend me. Part of the appeal of Jesus is that he was sent to earth to feel our pain, to be just as miserable as the rest of us. What better way than being married?

What did offend me was the idea that the real legacy of Christ, who blessed the poor and meek, evicted the money changers and told Caesar to bugger off, was as sire to a monarchy, another tiresome European aristocracy: a "royal bloodline" whose members can marry tennis players, get DWI citiations and end up on Page Six.

There are those who found the bloody Christ of Mel Gibson's "Passion" hard to take. I prefer the bloody to the bluebloody.


A "Cross" of His Own Making

Following this morning's statement of the Holy See, the Legionaries of Christ have released a response to the judgment against their founder, Marcial Maciel.

Yet again, the community likens its founder to Jesus Christ, views the Vatican's directive to "a new cross that God... has allowed [Maciel] to suffer," and implies that the founder -- who must now live out a restricted ministry of prayer and penance -- will continue to be referred in-house as "Padre Nuestro."

Below is the statement in its entirety.
In reference to the news regarding the conclusion of the investigation of the accusations made against Fr. Marcial Maciel, our beloved father founder, the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ offer the following statement:

1. Fr. Marcial Maciel has received during his life a great number of accusations. In the last few years, some of these were presented to the Holy See so that a canonical process would be opened.

2. Facing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way.

3. Considering his advanced age and his frail health, the Holy See has decided not to begin a canonical process but to "invite him to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing to any public ministry".

4. Fr. Maciel, with the spirit of obedience to the Church that has always characterized him, he has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquility of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.

5. The Legionaries of Christ and the members of the Regnum Christi, following the example of Fr. Maciel and united to him, accept and will accept always the directives of the Holy See with profound spirit of obedience and faith. We renew our commitment to work with great intensity to live our charism of charity and extend the Kingdom of Christ serving the Church.

From The Tablet...

It's Friday again, so that means the weekly rollout of the World's Best Catholic Paper.

Powerful editorial on the Code, on this, its day of release. And a cover piece on Mary Magdalene with this goodie: "Beyond the myth of her ‘bloodline’ is the real debate that as the first witness to the risen Christ she could have a better claim as founder of the Church than Paul himself...."

From the humble US correspondent, a brief on the aforementioned (but still very exciting) Sirius deal which'll bring the New York archdiocese's envisioned "Catholic Channel" to the satellite airwaves, starting in the fall.