Getting Up to Speed
Just in case anyone's been missing a quick summary, you're in for a treat:
- Yesterday, Msgr Guido Marini took the Pope's side for his first liturgy at B16's chief master of ceremonies. The debut of the Genovese cleric, a former private secretary to Cardinals Dionigi Tettamanzi and Tarcisio Bertone during their reigns on St Siro's chair, is but the most prominent indicator of the continuing rounds of the Curia's "musical chairs." Rome's top Worship Czar, Cardinal Francis Arinze, reached the retirement age of 75 on All Saints' Day, and expectations are that it might not be long before Sri Lankan Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith -- the current #2 at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments -- gets the nod to succeed the Nigerian cardinal. Arinze's sound-byte-friendly statements have made him a favorite of the global press, but not the "extraordinary rite" folk; a leader of the Curial charge that opposed what became Summorum Pontificum, one top Tridentine hand once accused the prefect of "attacking the Mass." ("The Mass" meant "Old Mass," of course.) But in Ranjith -- a favorite of Benedict's whom the Pope restored to the Curia after a 2001 power play saw him banished from the Urb -- the papal leanings on the liturgy would gain another ally in a key post. And it'd mark another first, with two heads of Roman congregations hailing not only from Asia, but South Asia at that.
- Speaking of Ranjith, the CDW lieutenant has, to use a friend's term, "gone on a rampage" of late, using the Italian news-outlet Petrus to encourage bishops to "set aside all pride and prejudice" in implementing the wider permission for the 1962 Missal and, according to CWNews, employing another recent speech to observe that prelates opposed to the new norms were being "used as instruments of the devil." And speaking of MC Marinis, with his successor now firmly in place, the former papal ceremoniere Archbishop Piero Marini -- now president of the Pontifical Commission for International Eucharistic Congresses -- is primed to spread his wings on his own in the weeks to come, with an English-language treatise on the liturgical reform now on the shelves, and a spate of appearances set to take flight.
- Keeping with the Main Office personnel, appearances are that the longstanding (and just as confounding) buzz linking the "Grand Inquisitor" Cardinal William Levada to the archbishopric of New York has become The Rumor That Won't Go Away... which means one of two things: 1. there could be something to it... or 2. (and, more likely,) that Someone (or, again, more likely, several Someones) are keeping it afloat out there, but to no small degree. While both at home and abroad, Team Levada has furiously downplayed the talk as an attempt to undermine the Pope's choice to succeed Himself as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, questions about the scenario haven't stopped coming in at a steady clip, even from traditionally-reliable (and just as customarily-cautious) quarters. As previously noted, stranger things have usually happened -- but not if this one actually came to pass. (Still, don't hold your breath on it.) Actually atop the Pope's HR plate, though, are key openings for the top job at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the #2 post at the Congregation for Catholic Education. Given the consistent priority the Holy See places on the academy -- a concern only upped exponentially in this pontificate -- the latter appointment has garnered no small amount of attention. Reportedly, however, the job -- vacated by summer's appointment of Archbishop Michael Miller CSB as coadjutor of Vancouver -- has already been declined... more than once. Suffice it to say, the state of things across the Tiber has B16 and Bertone headhunting for a few good men... on second thought, more than just a few sounds more like it.
- Speaking of New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee -- whose own name hasn't lacked for mention in the Gotham Stakes -- will swing through the Big Apple this weekend for an appearance at the annual mega-watt weekend meeting of the Order of Malta's US branch. Alongside a Saturday Mass at the Waldorf-Astoria for the American association's Knights and Dames, the former NAC rector is slated to give a talk focusing on "The Priesthood and the Future of the Church in the United States." Given the profile and place of the gathering, some have already mused that this is "the introduction," and others might be tempted to quote the lyrics of an old song, the one that begins "Sign, sign, everywhere a sign." Feel free to do either, but just keep in mind that it's still early... and, as always, stay tuned.
- Keeping close to home, the mega-series chronicling a year with Bishop Thomas Tobin continued Sunday in the Providence Journal with two more parts. The project sounded impressive at its outset, but in its precision, fairness and detail of context, Wayne Miller's package has been a gift. (Full disclosure: this author was involved in the prep for the series as an informal consultant on the fine-tuning... and to have lent a hand on something like this is one of the reasons I love my job.)
- Hard to believe, but it's already been six months since the aforementioned scribe found himself in one of the US church's hidden hotspots: Madison, Wisconsin. To say that the place blew me away on multiple levels doesn't scratch the surface; as with so many others, the MadCity experience lives with me and keeps me encouraged everyday. You see, in the heart of what's been termed the "People's Republic" for its prominence as a bastion of hard-core secularity, quite a vibrant community is emerging -- one that's young, alive, awake, open and warm in spirit, and large both in number and heart. And the fruits are considerable: in recent years, the number of seminarians in the diocese of 280,000 has spiked to 30, on a beautiful spring Friday (the first of the year there) just as many twenty-somethings were holding the fort in downtown's lone adoration chapel, and the campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin -- where weekend Mass attendance goes long into the thousands -- has spilled over into the two downtown parishes, which have experienced a concurrent uptick in energy and responded with an outreach and engagement of the top-flight kind. Presiding over it all is Bishop Robert Morlino, who recently sat for an extended interview (transcript) with one of the city's mainstream broadsheets. After four years of driving over iced lakes in Montana as bishop of Helena, the Scranton-born onetime Jesuit who began his teaching years on Philly's Hawk Hill landed on the Madison Isthmus in 2003; asked why he thought he was sent to a town known for its tough crowd, the bishop mused that it might've come about "because the Lord has given me the grace not to be afraid." A moral theologian by training and accomplished chef in his spare time, Morlino's fearlessness extends to the heart of the public square; when his ability to mix it up "quite often" was noted, he shot back with "Oh no, it's been a while.... Have I been in a controversy the last six months?" (He hasn't.) "[T]he culture is not conducive so much to the flourishing of an institution whose engine — the church's engine — is driven by obedience," he said later. "The engine that drove Christ was obedience to the Father, and the engine that drives the Catholic Church is obedience to Christ. Churches are an obedience-driven communion. So when you're in a culture that's not so warmed up to obedience, then you have your problems. But you just embrace those problems and go on with joy. And that's what I do." Among other things joyously on-deck for the strong-speaking bishop and his ecclesiastical boomtown: a "worthy" new St Raphael Cathedral to replace the 19th-century structure destroyed in a 2005 fire, and a '62 Mass to be celebrated by Morlino on Laetare Sunday.
- And, on a final note, it might be T -6 days 'til the US bishops ratify Cardinal Francis George's ascent to their top post in Baltimore, but two other major conferences of the global church have already elected new heads in recent weeks: the Canadian bishops tapped Archbishop James Weisberger of Winnipeg as their new president at last month's annual plenary in Cornwall and, yesterday at Lourdes, the French episcopate chose Cardinal-designate Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris to lead them for the next triennium; the Parisian prelate succeeds Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux. The (American Catholic) world might be awaiting next Monday's address of the nuncio to Washington Archbishop Pietro Sambi with bated breath, but in the meantime, the Cornwall remarks of B16's representative to Canada Archbishop Luigi Ventura are well worth a read (and maybe the "extra credit" types might like to review Sambi's '06 talk). Among the common agenda items for the conferences (US included) this fall has been the election of delegates to the next Synod of Bishops, scheduled for next October in Rome. Its theme: "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."