The Sunday Spin-Wheel
No small-talk... here's your round-up:
- In what some will see as a rather allegorical development, Vatican II’s most prominent chronicler has died. Giuseppe Alberigo, head of the revered – or, depending on one’s gustibus, reviled – "Bologna school," was 81 when he passed on Friday night. Head of the Institute for Religious Studies at the university there and editor of the five-volume history widely viewed as the definitive account of the Council’s development and activity (English edition in web form here), tributes on Alberigo’s passing were led by Italian Premier Romano Prodi, a relative of the professor's by marriage, who praised the late scholar for his "profound contributions to the awareness of crucial moments in Christian history." In his life, however, Alberigo's praise-chorus was far from universal; while the Bologna school’s thesis that Vatican II marked a divergent, new path for the church was the dominant thrust of the first decades of the Council’s aftermath in the Catholic world, in recent years the concept has come under fire from Rome’s dominant minds and voices. In a 2005 lecture, the then-president of the Italian bishops Cardinal Camillo Ruini characterized the Bologna interpretation of a “new beginning” as “very feeble today.” Still papal vicar for Rome and a key ally of Benedict XVI, Ruini said that the "rupture" advanced by Alberigo and the school's prime mover, the late Fr Giuseppe Dossetti, “has no real foothold in the body of the church.” The new Pope then backed up his vicar in the programmatic speech of his first Christmas on Peter’s chair, when – using language almost identical to that employed months earlier by Ruini – Benedict panned the continuing presence what he termed “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” that predicates “a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church”; Papa Ratzi also received the professor in a private audience earlier this year. Alberigo may have been called to his rest, but the already decades-long slap-fight over what really happened between 1962-65 doesn’t look to be following suit anytime soon.
- A key element behind why disputes over the Council will likely outlive every last individual among this readership is, of course, the battleground of the liturgy, currently emblemized in the Pope’s impending motu proprio on the “freedom” of the Tridentine Mass. In the morning papers over there, Il Giornale’s Andrea Tornielli confirms reports that the document has been signed, also offering glimpses of its text.. According to Tornielli – whose book on Pius XII was formally presented two weeks ago in the presence of the Cardinal-Secretary of State, who spoke at the event – the text’s release should follow “in the coming days,” most likely before B16 begins his vacation in early July. Citing a 1982 decision of a commission of five cardinals convened at the request of John Paul II, he writes that the group – led, of course, by Joseph Ratzinger – voted unanimously to “readmit” the Old Rite, on the conditions that its celebration “presupposes the full acceptance of the new norms produced by Vatican II” and that no suspicion be expressed that the Novus Ordo “might be heretical or invalid.” The report comes a day after London’s Telegraph broke the story that, following protests from the French and German bishops, the Episcopal conference of England and Wales has registered its own misgivings on the affirmation of the pre-Conciliar liturgy. In related news, St Louis sealed its claim to the distinction of the nation’s (traditionalist) capital on Friday as Archbishop Raymond Burke ordained two new priests from a Tridentine-exclusive society in the city’s cathedral-basilica. The Pontifical High Mass featuring the ordinations was said to be the first of its kind celebrated in a US cathedral in over four decades.
- As another ordination season wends its way into the history books, two other items of note stick out. First, further proving the rapid emergence of US Catholicism’s Vietnamese contingent as its “new Irish” in terms of priestly recruitment, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington ordained two brothers from the community who emigrated to the States last month. The new Frs Paul Phu Duc and John Tung Nguyen spent years apart after leaving Vietnam separately; their ordination marked the first time their father had been reunited with his entire family in 18 years. This year’s survey of the national priesthood ordination class found that, after the US, Vietnam tied with Mexico as the country providing the most candidates, each with 6%. Elsewhere, the nation’s 17,000 so permanent deacons experienced another significant uptick in number yesterday, as Cardinal Roger Mahony ordained 60 men to the ministry… for just one region of the archdiocese of Los Angeles. So large was the Santa Barbara region’s diaconate class that, while most ordinands have memories of prostrating on the cold marble of a cathedral floor, yesterday’s men of the hour had to do so on Astroturf – the liturgy was held in the football stadium of a local college.
- Pre-meeting committee business at the US bishops’ retreat in Albuquerque winds down today in advance of tomorrow’s opening of the hierarchy’s triennial retreat. Even so, the usual musings about USCCB sessions -- and the amount of time they subtract from one’s expected stay in Purgatory -- have already begun… at least, among those showing up. Given the retreat, standard protocol dictates that no American appointments will be announced from Rome during the course of the weeklong gathering, where the bishops will be led in prayer and meditation by the Canadian primate Cardinal Marc Ouellet. However, while the ink is barely dry on Archbishop-elect Joseph Kurtz’s appointment to Louisville to succeed a retiring ordinary, the transition docket already has a new case on its hands: Omaha, where Archbishop Elden Curtiss hit the big 7-5 yesterday. Then again, reaching the mandatory resignation age doesn't signal the end of the process, but merely that the order for a new shepherd is just being sent in (and “standard shipping” = 9-12 months... optimistically). In that light, said to be approaching the on-deck circle at some point soon is the archdiocese of Mobile, where Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb turned in his letter last September. Yet it’s the open seat in Alabama’s “other diocese” that’s been garnering the lion’s share of the attention. The bishopric of Birmingham is now in its 26th month without an occupant, thus taking the cake as the longest-running vacancy in the US hierarchy’s modern history. If you believe what you hear, the reasons behind the exceptional delay could be summed up but with a single word – and a four-letter one, at that.
- And, lastly, whilst on the circuit a few weeks back in New York, I bumped into the head of Philadelphia's ecclesiastical diaspora: the venerable Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Most know Foley as the voice of Christmas Eve -- since taking up the post overseeing the church's response to the "rapid development" of mass media 23 years ago, he's been the English-language commentator of the Pope's Midnight Mass, beamed to somewhere about a billion souls the world over. But outside that yearly gig, the poor man can never seem to catch a break: as if it wasn't enough that the longest-serving head of a curial dicastery still has yet to see a red hat, the young woman working the registration desk asked "Who are you, again?" no fewer than three times. Being as humble as his mentor was grand, the only person ordained both priest and bishop by John Cardinal Krol repeated "I am the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican" each time in that famous voice without a flinch, nor a shard of pretense in evidence. Whether that'll stay the case for the 71 year-old prelate, however, has become a Roman question of late. The Pope is said to be weighing the appointment of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the #2 official of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) -- the curial organ that oversees the Vatican's Internet Office -- to Foley's job, sending the reigning communication supremo to the Grand Magistrate of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, where he'd replace Cardinal Carlo Furno, who's leaving the post at the age of 85. As oversight of the venerable band of Jerusalem's do-gooders carries with it ex officio membership in the college of cardinals, Philadelphia's long vigil for Foley's time to come would finally reach its fruition. What's more, as the PCCS has gone 28 months without a secretary, the reshuffle is tipped to give official sanction to the council's de facto arrangement of recent years, elevating its acting #2 official to the job on a permanent basis. Married and the father of two, Dr Angelo Scelzo -- previously vice-editor of L'Osservatore Romano -- was already the highest-ranking layman in the curia on his appointment as the council's undersecretary in 2000, and the promotion would mark yet another break in the curia's clerical ceiling. For the record, none of this came from our chat; Foley being Foley, the conversation was more Lansdowne than Lazio.... This is the man, after all, who once chided the Vatican Press Corps for its practice of using anonymous sources.