Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Around the Radar

A quick round-up from the grid over recent days:
  • For starters, lest anyone missed it the first time, the Holy See's Final Report (15-page pdf) of the 2005-6 Apostolic Visitation of US Seminaries, with the cover-comments of the US bishops' chair for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap. of Boston.
  • In its biggest stride yet into the world of new media and Web 2.0, come Friday, the Vatican will announce a partnership with Google for a stand-alone PopeChannel featuring original viral content from Vatican Radio and the television arm CTV; the deal with the 'net monolith (and owner of YouTube) will be rolled out at the traditional press conference unveiling the papal message for the 43rd World Day of Communications, this year's dedicated to the theme "New Technologies, New Relationships -- Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship." While the Revolution is about to be webstreamed, however, even money says it won't be quickly translated.
  • As the latest national figures report unemployment approaching the 2 million mark, the economic downturn has begun hitting the chanceries: layoffs were recently announced in the archdioceses of St Louis (25 positions -- 6% of its central work-force) and the diocese of Yakima, where half its 32 chancery posts will be eliminated. What's more, in the nation's sixth-largest diocese, Brooklyn, the closing of 11 schools was confirmed last week, making for a total of almost 40% shuttered since 2002. In another part of the 1.7 million-member diocese's effort to streamline operations, longtime chancery employees were offered early-retirement packages late last month, with the warning that those who didn't take the buyout might still lose their jobs. Over the weekend, the diocese of Albany likewise revealed the shuttering of one-fifth of its 165 parishes by the end of 2011.
  • The nation's longest-serving pastor -- 97 year-old Msgr Stephen Hrynuck -- is retiring. A priest of the Ukrainian archeparchy of Philadelphia, Hrynuck -- ordained in 1938 -- has served as pastor of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Olyphant, Pennsylvania for 57 years.
  • The transfer of power now accomplished and the balls wrapped up, now the work begins and the divisions return for the new administration. With President Obama expected to quickly reverse the "Mexico City" policy of his Republican predecessors banning Federal funding of overseas efforts whose programs include abortion or pre-abortion counseling, the chief of the Stateside church -- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago -- sent the new President pre-inaugural letters on behalf of the bishops outlining both the bench's common causes and potential areas of conflict with the new West Wing, with the USCCB head calling for the preservation of both "Mexico City" and former President Bush's recent executive order firming up "conscience protection" rights for health care professionals, which went into effect yesterday.
  • As the inaugural festivities close with this morning's 9.30 ecumenical prayer in Washington National Cathedral, across the capital things will just be getting underway as a larger-than-usual flood of pro-lifers begin converging for Thursday's March for Life marking the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. Per usual, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception will be filled to overflowing, with over 16,000 expected on-hand for tonight's Vigil Mass for Life (7pm ET; webstreams) and ballpark estimates for tomorrow's March running in the 200,000 range; given the lack of lodgings in the District due to the inauguration, even more thousands than usual will be spending the night camped out on floors both in the nation's largest church and the adjacent the Catholic University of America to rest up. Of course, much of this year's talking-points revolve around the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), whose signing Candidate Obama once pledged as the "first thing" he'd do in office. Even though the bill that would overturn state or local restrictions on abortion and nullify all conscience exemptions has languished in committee since 1989 -- and, especially given the intake of pro-life Dems in the party's enhanced majority, will likely remain there in the 111th Congress -- a torrent of anti-FOCA postcards are set to head to Capitol Hill beginning this weekend in a parish-level nationwide push coordinated by the USCCB's Pro-Life Secretariat. Last week, however, the Mothership also stepped in to call out a recent anonymously-circulated novena seeking prayers against the bill's passage as "misleading"; the widely-spread prayer-call said that FOCA was "set to be signed if Congress passes it on January 21-22," warning that the proposal could potentially "force women by law to have abortions in certain situations... and could even regulate how many children women are allowed to have." In the dioceses of the United States, liturgical law stipulates that 22 January is to be observed as a "particular day of prayer and penance"; per the norms, the Votive Mass for Peace and Justice "should be celebrated" and violet vestments worn.
  • And because no presidential inauguration (or, for that matter, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity) would be complete without at least one high-watt ad intra food-fight, the top of the card finds Barack Obama's lead pewside surrogate Doug Kmiec vs. a healthy chunk of the Catholic blogosphere which, in a piece for the current Commonweal, the onetime Reaganite -- said to be keeping a close eye on the new administration's selection of a Vatican ambassador -- accused of "unrelenting personal attacks" after he went public with his support of the Democratic candidate early last year. In response, the authors maintained that they were simply pointing out the holes in the longtime pro-lifer's defense of what one termed "Obama's pro-abortion zeal." Bottom line: as ever, on and on -- and on -- it goes.
Lastly, it's worth noting that, with this Sunday bringing the Pope to St Paul's Outside the Walls for the annual ecumenical Vespers, this 25 January marks a half-century since the newly-elected Pope John XXIII shocked his cardinals -- and much of the rest of the church -- by calling an ecumenical council.

(How'd the cardinals find out, you ask? Reporters... because some things never change.)

While the day's feast of the Conversion of St Paul would normally cede its observance to the Sunday of Ordinary Time, the current celebration of the Pauline Year has seen an indult for the ancient commemoration to take a one-time Sunday precedence.