Thursday, October 22, 2009

At the Vatican, Secretaries' Day

Half a year exactly from the annual day set aside to honor assistants, this morning the Pope bolstered two of his second-tier dicasteries this morning with the appointment of new Secretaries to the Pontifical Councils for the Family and Justice and Peace, both of whom reflect B16's technocratic leanings but, notably, come to their posts from outside the offices they'll now help oversee.

To the Family council, where Cardinal Ennio Antonelli arrived a year ago with a more encouraging, affirmative approach in mind, the pontiff named French Msgr Jean Laffitte, 57, until now the #2 at the Pontifical Academy for Life. Unlike his predecessor, Laffitte -- a member of the Emmanuel Community -- was elevated to the episcopacy with this morning's move.

A moral theologian ordained a priest at 36, the bishop-elect has spent most of his priesthood working the life and family beat; a former vice-dean of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and Family, he served briefly (2005-6) as the #3 official at Family before being named vice-president of the Academy for Life, the Vatican think-tank founded in 1994 by the late pontiff to examine medical and bioethical issues with an eye to forming an ecclesial response geared toward "the promotion and the defense of life."

In the council post, Laffitte succeeds the Polish cleric Gregorz Kaszak, who was named Secretary at Family in late 2007 before being sent home as a diocesan bishop earlier this year.

Meanwhile, three months after the release of B16's "social encyclical," one of the reported hands behind the drafting of Caritas in Veritate has been tapped to serve as #2 at the global church's social-justice arm.

A member of the Salesians of Don Bosco (the community of this pontificate's "Vice-Pope"... and a sizable horde of its appointees), Bishop-elect Mario Toso is not a complete stranger to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; he's been a consultor there for some time while serving until earlier this year at the helm of his order's Roman university, where he had been a lecturer in philosophy since 1980.

Born in Treviso, along Italy's northeast coast, the 59 year-old appointee was professed into the Salesians at 17, ordained a decade later, and spent practically his entire priesthood in the academy. A highly-sought expert in Catholic Social Teaching whose studies have delved into the nature of the welfare state, Toso said that Caritas in Veritate "proposed anew, in a positive sense... the construction of an ethical capitalism" in a summer interview with the Italian bishops' daily Avvenire.

Likewise named a bishop this morning, both Toso and Laffitte bring multilingual abilities to their new posts; the Italian speaks four languages, the Frenchman five. That said, while Laffitte's new superior is known to all, who Toso will be working for remains -- at least, officially -- a question mark; with the longtime Justice and Peace chief Cardinal Renato Martino soon to be two years past the retirement age of 75, months of heavy speculation has remained fixed on Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson as the post's next holder... as of this writing, though, the move remains unconfirmed... and so, the wait continues.