Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hatman: Being Pope "Would Be a Nightmare"

A year ago today saw a Vatican earthquake of sorts as the Pope named one of his closest disciples to head up the all-powerful dicastery overseeing the world's 5,000 bishops.

As the appointment made Cardinal Marc Ouellet one of the Roman Curia's "Big Three" and only served to further burnish a unique resume that's taken the Quebecois from Communio articles to Latin American seminaries, a Roman professorship, prominent ecumenical posting and seven years at the helm of Canada's oldest diocese, perhaps the immediate uptick of talk dubbing the Sulpician prelate a leading papabile would've been more conspicuous by its absence. Still, having capped his first year leading the "Thursday table" of the Congregation for Bishops with the move of a fellow member of the pontiff's "kitchen cabinet" to the helm of Europe's largest diocese, the media-friendly cardinal-prefect has gone on the record to address speculation of his odds in a potential Conclave, saying that, for him, being Pope "would be a nightmare."

In front-page-inducing (left) comments to Quebec journalists in Rome to cover yesterday's reception of the pallium by his successor, the New England-bred Archbishop Gerald Lacroix, Ouellet said that while "you can't keep the world from dreaming things up," seeing Benedict's workload at close range makes the prospect of the papacy "not very enviable."

"It is a crushing responsibility," the cardinal mused. "It's the kind of thing you don't campaign for."

Asked about his own years as archbishop of Quebec, the highest-ranking Canadian ever to serve at the Vatican said he could end up in "tears" recalling them.

"It is difficult to leave," he said. "I have incredible memories."

At the same time, the 67 year-old cardinal defended his penchant for stirring the civic pot in the highly-secularized province, where the cardinal sparked a heated reaction early last year for calling abortion a "moral crime" -- a "small phrase" which, he said at the time, had been "twisted" out of its original context and "created" as "a weapon... to discredit [him]."

In retrospect, though, "I did what I had to do," Ouellet remarked yesterday. "I don't regret anything.

"I loved the people very much. And when you have to say a difficult truth, even that's an act of love, even if it's hard to accept."

Despite having departed for Rome, the defining word on Quebec's Catholic future lies all the more in Ouellet's hands -- the majority of the region's diocesan bishops are either at or within a few months of the retirement age of 75, led by Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal, who marked the milestone earlier this week.

* * *
Speaking of Parts North, with tomorrow marking the 144th anniversary of confederation, it's as good a moment as any to wish all our friends up there -- Francophone and Anglophone alike -- a sweet, restful and Happy Canada Day:


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"I Call You Friends": B16, 60 Years a Priest

On this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI reflected much on today's 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Perhaps the most telling reflection of all, however, was that many -- if not most -- of the 40 metropolitan archbishops who received the symbol of their office from him at this morning's Mass weren't even born on 29 June 1951, when Joseph Ratzinger, his elder brother Georg and 42 others became priests in Freising's Cathedral of Ss. Mary and Corbinian at the hand of Cardinal Michael Faulhaber.

That distinction applies to all four members of this year's US Pallium delegation, a particularly historic group led by the head of the largest diocese the Stateside church has ever known -- Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, now head of some 5 million Catholics, who marks his 60th birthday at Christmas.

For the first time from an American fold at the verge of a demographic tipping-point (read: a Hispanic majority), the lambswool band signifying "the fullness of the episcopal office" was imposed on a duo of Latino prelates from these shores as the nation's youngest metropolitan -- Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, 54 -- took his place in the line. Since Blessed John Paul II's 1984 institution of the rite that brings the world's province chiefs named over the prior year to Rome to receive the insignia each 29 June, all of one US Hispanic archbishop had made the cut.

Now, in one day, the figure's tripled.

Rounded out by Archbishops Peter Sartain of Seattle, 59, and Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, 56, the 2011 delegation from the States has brought the number of domestic metropolitans named by Papa Ratzinger to 19 of the 32-prelate group, just shy of 60 percent of the bunch. The next change among the top rank is widely expected to take place over the coming weeks with the much-awaited appointment of the ninth archbishop of Philadelphia, where the intense fallout of February's second grand-jury investigation on clergy sex-abuse has -- at least, in terms of the imminent challenges that await -- arguably made for Benedict's most high-stakes personnel choice to date in the United States.

Beyond the home-crowd, other notable figures among this year's Pallium Class include the Canadian primate, Archbishop Gerald Lacroix of Quebec, the Filipino José Palma of Cebu, Italy's Cesare Nosiglia of Torino, South Africa's William Slattery of Pretoria, the new Welshman George Stack of Cardiff, the Chilean primate Ricardo Andrello of Santiago, and the top prelates of Jamaica, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador and Latvia, along with a staggering seven Brazilians.

In addition to the 40 metropolitans present, five new archbishops were unable to be on hand, including Archbishop Guire Poulard of Port-au-Prince, the successor to Archbishop Joseph-Serge Miot, who died in the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. The absent prelates will receive their pallia (each sent to them today) in their own cathedrals -- the traditional means of the vestment's conferral until 1984.

All that said, here below is fulltext of the Jubilarian's homily from this morning's Mass, in its official Vatican translation. (Below is Joseph Ratzinger's original ordination announcement, which was reproduced in this morning's liturgical program.)

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Non iam dicam servos, sed amicos" - "I no longer call you servants, but friends" (cf. Jn 15:15).

Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination, I hear once again deep within me these words of Jesus that were addressed to us new priests at the end of the ordination ceremony by the Archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber, in his slightly frail yet firm voice. According to the liturgical practice of that time, these words conferred on the newly-ordained priests the authority to forgive sins. "No longer servants, but friends": at that moment I knew deep down that these words were no mere formality, nor were they simply a quotation from Scripture. I knew that, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way. In baptism and confirmation he had already drawn us close to him, he had already received us into God’s family. But what was taking place now was something greater still. He calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way. He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only he, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins. He wants me – with his authority – to be able to speak, in his name ("I" forgive), words that are not merely words, but an action, changing something at the deepest level of being. I know that behind these words lies his suffering for us and on account of us. I know that forgiveness comes at a price: in his Passion he went deep down into the sordid darkness of our sins. He went down into the night of our guilt, for only thus can it be transformed. And by giving me authority to forgive sins, he lets me look down into the abyss of man, into the immensity of his suffering for us men, and this enables me to sense the immensity of his love. He confides in me: "No longer servants, but friends". He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim his word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts himself to me. "You are no longer servants, but friends": these words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one’s own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness.

"No longer servants, but friends": this saying contains within itself the entire programme of a priestly life. What is friendship? Idem velle, idem nolle – wanting the same things, rejecting the same things: this was how it was expressed in antiquity. Friendship is a communion of thinking and willing. The Lord says the same thing to us most insistently: "I know my own and my own know me" (Jn 10:14). The Shepherd calls his own by name (cf. Jn 10:3). He knows me by name. I am not just some nameless being in the infinity of the universe. He knows me personally. Do I know him? The friendship that he bestows upon me can only mean that I too try to know him better; that in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who come to me, sent by him, I try to come to know the Lord himself more and more. Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with his will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself. Over and above communion of thinking and willing, the Lord mentions a third, new element: he gives his life for us (cf. Jn 15:13; 10:15). Lord, help me to come to know you more and more. Help me to be ever more at one with your will. Help me to live my life not for myself, but in union with you to live it for others. Help me to become ever more your friend.

Jesus’ words on friendship should be seen in the context of the discourse on the vine. The Lord associates the image of the vine with a commission to the disciples: "I appointed you that you should go out and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15:16). The first commission to the disciples, to his friends, is that of setting out – appointed to go out -, stepping outside oneself and towards others. Here we hear an echo of the words of the risen Lord to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ..." (cf. Mt 28:19f.) The Lord challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to the world of others, so that it pervades everything and hence the world is opened up for God’s kingdom. We are reminded that even God stepped outside himself, he set his glory aside in order to seek us, in order to bring us his light and his love. We want to follow the God who sets out in this way, we want to move beyond the inertia of self-centredness, so that he himself can enter our world.

After the reference to setting out, Jesus continues: bear fruit, fruit that abides. What fruit does he expect from us? What is this fruit that abides? Now, the fruit of the vine is the grape, and it is from the grape that wine is made. Let us reflect for a moment on this image. For good grapes to ripen, sun is needed, but so too is rain, by day and by night. For noble wine to mature, the grapes need to be pressed, patience is needed while the juice ferments, watchful care is needed to assist the processes of maturation. Noble wine is marked not only by sweetness, but by rich and subtle flavours, the manifold aroma that develops during the processes of maturation and fermentation. Is this not already an image of human life, and especially of our lives as priests? We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel. In hindsight we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognize the constant presence of his love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us.

Yet now we must ask: what sort of fruit does the Lord expect from us? Wine is an image of love: this is the true fruit that abides, the fruit that God wants from us. But let us not forget that in the Old Testament the wine expected from noble grapes is above all an image of justice, which arises from a life lived in accordance with God’s law. And this is not to be dismissed as an Old Testament view that has been surpassed – no, it still remains true. The true content of the Law, its summa, is love for God and for one’s neighbour. But this twofold love is not simply saccharine. It bears within itself the precious cargo of patience, humility, and growth in the conforming of our will to God’s will, to the will of Jesus Christ, our friend. Only in this way, as the whole of our being takes on the qualities of truth and righteousness, is love also true, only thus is it ripe fruit. Its inner demand – faithfulness to Christ and to his Church – seeks a fulfilment that always includes suffering. This is the way that true joy grows. At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross. Gregory the Great once said in this regard: if you are striving for God, take care not to go to him by yourselves alone – a saying that we priests need to keep before us every day (H Ev 1:6:6 PL 76, 1097f.).

Dear friends, perhaps I have dwelt for too long on my inner recollections of sixty years of priestly ministry. Now it is time to turn our attention to the particular task that is to be performed today.

On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul my most cordial greeting goes first of all to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I and to the Delegation he has sent, to whom I express sincere thanks for their most welcome visit on the happy occasion of this feast of the holy Apostles who are Rome’s patrons. I also greet the Cardinals, my brother bishops, the ambassadors and civil authorities as well as the priests, the confrères of my first Mass, religious and lay faithful. I thank all of you for your presence and your prayers.

The metropolitan archbishops appointed since the feast of Saints Peter and Paul last year are now going to receive the pallium. What does this mean? It may remind us in the first instance of Christ’s easy yoke that is laid upon us (cf. Mt 11:29f.). Christ’s yoke is identical with his friendship. It is a yoke of friendship and therefore "a sweet yoke", but as such it is also a demanding yoke, one that forms us. It is the yoke of his will, which is a will of truth and love. For us, then, it is first and foremost the yoke of leading others to friendship with Christ and being available to others, caring for them as shepherds. This brings us to a further meaning of the pallium: it is woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of Saint Agnes. Thus it reminds us of the Shepherd who himself became a lamb, out of love for us. It reminds us of Christ, who set out through the mountains and the deserts, in which his lamb, humanity, had strayed. It reminds us of him who took the lamb – humanity – me – upon his shoulders, in order to carry me home. It thus reminds us that we too, as shepherds in his service, are to carry others with us, taking them as it were upon our shoulders and bringing them to Christ. It reminds us that we are called to be shepherds of his flock, which always remains his and does not become ours. Finally the pallium also means quite concretely the communion of the shepherds of the Church with Peter and with his successors – it means that we must be shepherds for unity and in unity, and that it is only in the unity represented by Peter that we truly lead people to Christ.

Sixty years of priestly ministry – dear friends, perhaps I have spoken for too long about this. But I felt prompted at this moment to look back upon the things that have left their mark on the last six decades. I felt prompted to address to you, to all priests and bishops and to the faithful of the Church, a word of hope and encouragement; a word that has matured in long experience of how good the Lord is. Above all, though, it is a time of thanksgiving: thanks to the Lord for the friendship that he has bestowed upon me and that he wishes to bestow upon us all. Thanks to the people who have formed and accompanied me. And all this includes the prayer that the Lord will one day welcome us in his goodness and invite us to contemplate his joy. Amen.

PHOTOS: Getty, Reuters


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

“It is clear that we are faced [today] with a framework that is radically different from that which prevailed up to the 1980s, and it seems to me that the church, in this context, has to insist on the fact that the ‘I’ does not exist without relationships. This is the point. Because it is from the ‘I’ that the dynamism of the truth, the good and the beautiful is documented within the human family and, in my view, this fact is irrepressible....

It seems to me that, in this context, the mission of the church is more relevant than ever. Indeed, I believe that the Christian proposal is particularly relevant now, because if we read the Gospel we see it revolves around the theme of happiness and freedom. Jesus said that if you wish to be happy, come and follow me, and he who follows me will be truly free. It inserts the dynamic of truth, goodness and beauty within the horizon of happiness and freedom.

So when the Christian proposal is freed from the many things that weigh it down because of the contradictions and sins in the men and women of the church, and is re-proposed in its youthful simplicity as an encounter with a humanity made whole by Christ, then it is more relevant than ever....

An effective dialogue requires that I engage my faith in a dynamic way. It implies an identity, but a dynamic identity, and so we return to what we spoke about earlier: What is Christianity? The event of Christ, by which he gives himself as a gift to mankind to be the way, the truth and the life, is open to dialogue at 360 degrees. But if I reduce Christianity to a question of doctrine only, then I reduce it to a dialogue of a purely speculative kind.

Certainly, Christianity implies a doctrine and a moral teaching, but they are incarnated in the life of a person and in the life of a community. Therefore, if I practice the Christian life for what it is – ‘the good life’ which the Gospel documents and witnesses to, then I can go and dialogue with everyone....”
--Cardinal Angelo Scola
Archbishop-elect of Milan
Interview with
The Universe
26 June 2011

And so, at the close of a day that's seen B16 name his "chosen one" (an internet enthusiast, no less) to the helm of Europe's largest local church, then launch himself into the Twitterverse, perhaps there are no better words to sum up not just the last 24 hours... but what, at its core, all the rest is all about.

PHOTO: Getty


One Small Tweet for Pope....

Money shot....



Suffice it to say, that went way better than ever could've been imagined years back.

Launching -- a significant revamp of the Holy See's online information presence -- on the eve of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (and, of course, his 60th anniversary as a priest), the moment didn't just see B16 tooling around on an iPad to launch the portal with a "PopeClick," but likewise a first tweet from a Roman pontiff....

In the shot above, the Pope was flanked by the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, and his freshly-arrived Sostituto (Chief of Staff), Archbishop Angelo Becciu, whose presence on Facebook shows how far and how fast things have come.

While Vatican officials sought to focus primarily on the "PopeClick" in the run-up to tonight's launch, the previously-unannounced papal tweet -- which was sent out in English and Italian -- took the headline of a lengthy piece running in tomorrow's edition of L'Osservatore Romano, which hit newsstands shortly after the website went live.


...and as history goes, what you see there will rank alongside this -- the launch of Vatican Radio by Pius XI, 80 years ago this winter:

On a side-note, good to see the Home Office finally got its iPad 2s in -- two senior Curialists who took the plunge and ordered the latest revision to the tablet shortly after its spring release spent weeks waiting for their arrival, just like the rest of the world.



Monday, June 27, 2011

Benedict's "School of Community": Venice's Scola to Milan

SVILUPPO: At Roman Noon Tuesday, 28 June, the Milan move as reported below was formally made by the Pope.

A prominent scholar of Islam and key member of B16's "kitchen cabinet," it's all but official that Europe's largest diocese will shortly go to the cardinal considered the Italian hierarchy's top intellectual heavyweight.

The move months in the making, the über-reliable Andrea Tornielli relayed earlier today that, at Roman Noon tomorrow, the Pope is set to name Cardinal Angelo Scola, the 69 year-old patriarch of Venice, as archbishop of Milan and head of its 5 million Catholics.

Named to the canal-side post in 2002 and elevated to the college of cardinals the following year, Scola (shown above with Benedict during the pontiff's trip to Venice last month) would become the second consecutive Milanese pastor to be transferred into the post from another Italian cardinalatial see; the prelate he's tipped to succeed, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, now 77, was the scarlet-clad archbishop of Genoa for four years before his own return to his hometown in 2002.

Its ecclesial roots dating to the 4th century, the Lombard capital is home to one of global Catholicism's five largest local churches, a top-shelf group rounded out by Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles and Madrid. And now, for the second time in a row, it's slated to be led by one of its own -- in this case, a native son of the city, but one who was denied priesthood there.

Reportedly turned away from Milan's seminaries due to his heavy involvement in Communion and Liberation -- the influential lay movement founded in the city (and, more recently, Joseph Ratzinger's movement of choice) -- Scola was ordained far to the south, in Abruzzo, in 1971. Early on, the scholar-cleric developed a close bond with the then-Professor Ratzinger and became a charter contributor to Communio, the theological journal founded by the theological power-trio of the now-Pope with Henri deLubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, both of whom would likewise go on to receive the cardinal's red hat.

Another significant influence on Scola was the CL founder Msgr Luigi Giussani, who was memorably eulogized by then-Cardinal Ratzinger at his February 2005 funeral in Milan's cathedral, weeks before the preacher's election to Peter's chair. Both formative experiences were said to have come together in Scola's proposal to the Pope for a Vatican organ completely dedicated to the New Evangelization, which Benedict established a year ago this week and gathered for its first full meeting last month.

Scola's been a consultor to the CDF since 1986, five years before he was named a bishop.

Between them, the posts Scola leaves and enters produced no less than five 20th century Popes, totaling five of the last eight Roman pontiffs -- St Pius X, Bl John XXIII and John Paul I from Venice, Pius XI and Paul VI from Milan. Only in the last half-century, however, with the latter's exponential growth and emergence as Italy's hub of industry and population has the Lombard mega-see come to be viewed as the country's most prominent ecclesiastical outpost.

Accordingly, while Scola's name duly made the rounds among the Italian papabili prior to the 2005 Conclave, the cardinal's profile as a potential successor to his mentor would only skyrocket with the Milan appointment. Likewise, the reported move would open up another hotly-contested selection for the Venice post... and given recent history, that one would bear just as close watching -- after all, the successor named to Genoa on Tettamanzi's transfer to Milan was the then-secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, now B16's "Vice-Pope" as the pontiff's immensely influential Cardinal-Secretary of State.

All of 1,640 years since the acclamation of Ambrose by the Milanese as their choice to become the city's bishop, according to Tornielli, the installation of the saint's next successor is foreseen for late September.

SVILUPPO: As the Italian wires buzzed with word of a last-minute summons of Venice's civil authorities and press corps to the Patriarch's headquarters for an unspecified "extraordinary gathering" at midday Tuesday, the immensely high stakes of the Milan nod -- which nearly a century of Popes had traditionally reserved to themselves -- were duly underscored by the illustrious historian of the Council Alberto Melloni, who told Il Foglio's Paolo Rodari prior to Scola's emergence that....
Whoever gets picked [for Milan] will be the 'chosen one' of the Pope. Because it's evident that if Ratzinger welcomes the thoughts of his collaborators in the case of other dioceses, he decides Milan on his own. There's no more important appointment for a pontiff than Milan. The nomination is a highway to the papacy and, as such, is as decisive for the whole church as it is for the Ambrosian see. And this time, the feeling that Tettamanzi's successor could likewise know the end of an Achille Ratti (the future Pius XI) or a Giovanni Battista Montini (Paul VI) is great.
PHOTOS: Getty(1,3,4)


"I've Been Down a Little Recently": In New York, the Aftermath

Making his first personal comments since Friday night's Albany cliffhanger that legalized same-sex marriage in New York state over a high-octane ecclesial protest, the Empire State's chief prelate (and USCCB president) faced the cameras following yesterday's Corpus Christi Mass and procession in St Patrick's Cathedral, the tumult having gone unaddressed during the liturgy itself.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan's question time came as a throng estimated in the range of a half-million people began to pack Fifth Avenue outside the cathedral's doors for what's been roundly described as a "triumphant" edition of the Big Apple's annual Gay Pride Parade (above), featuring the bill's champion, Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- a Catholic Democrat -- basking in the gratitude of the crowd. Elsewhere in the color department, group of gay Catholics came early to stand outside the Cathedral during the mid-morning Mass traditionally celebrated by the archbishop, saying they bore "no animosity" toward him and wished to enter into "dialogue."

All that said, here's Dolan's presser, in full:

(On a completely unrelated note, the sight at the clip's start of Joe Zwilling -- for 28 years and over four tenures now, the venerable spokesman of the archbishops of New York -- walking with the Boss' crozier, crook "open": Priceless... and rather fitting, to boot.)

Back to the matter at hand, while the national Chief took to refining his message, sounding some conciliatory notes in the wake of a historic policy defeat for the church, across the East River, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the 1.7 million-member Brooklyn church remained in full-on "protest" mode, penning an editorial for the region's most-read Sunday paper, the Daily News:
Tragically, we no longer understand the primary purpose of marriage as the institution by which a man and woman bring new life into the world and teach the child to become a productive citizen.

In striving for that end, the man and woman discover their own mutual consolation. Tragically, we somehow have come to view marriage as legitimizing our individual need for love and affection.

As a consequence we have all witnessed the surge in numbers of divorce, single parenthood and cohabitation outside of marriage. Not even thirty years ago this would have been almost unthinkable and certainly scandalous.

I believe the passage of same sex marriage is another "nail in the coffin" of marriage.

It is destructive because we fail to view marriage in the context of a vocation: a calling to participate in the great enterprise of forming the next generation.

Marriage is reduced to an empty honor.

We who opposes [sic] Same-sex Marriage are not callous to the very real human longings for friendship, affection and belonging that proponents of this legislation espouse as the rational "Marriage Equality".

Indeed, we like other New Yorker discuss these issues with our friends, family, co-workers and loved ones who have same-sex attractions. We have in part failed as the proponents of the historical understanding of marriage as that between a man and a woman precisely because we have sought to be sensitive to those who have same-sex attractions. Perhaps we must now speak more forcefully and clearly.

As the chief shepherd of the Catholics in our City's two most populous boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens, the decision of our Catholic Governor and State Legislature to overturn the common understanding of marriage that, despite many developments over thousands of years, has always been understood between a man and woman. That there was virtually no public debate on the issue and that the entire matter was concluded in just over thirty-minutes late on a Friday evening is disgraceful.

As a protest, I have asked my collaborators not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected official, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future.

Our children in NY State deserve the best and unfortunately there seem to be very few if any "Profiles in Courage."
Back to Fifth Avenue, in his own remarks, Dolan noted the experience of other places where gay couples have received full legal sanction, vouching "that our own apprehension" on the matter of protections for religious groups opposing the unions "is not paranoia." And coincidentally enough given the backdrop, on full display at the archbishop's left hand during yesterday's Mass was a visiting figure who's likewise made headlines for sounding alarm bells on the proverbial "slippery slope" many church leaders fear will spring from redefining marriage.

To be sure, the Gotham seat's 10.15 Sunday liturgy invariably attracts prominent ecclesiastics on New York trips as its main concelebrants. In keeping with the custom, yesterday's Mass saw the cathedra flanked to one side by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem -- the longtime Vatican diplomat Archbishop Fouad Twal -- and to the other, Archbishop Terence Prendergast SJ of Ottawa, who was in New York to lead lectio divina during a Biblical celebration the day before at archdiocesan headquarters.

Even if the timing of his St Pat's turn was, again, purely a coincidence, it's still worth noting that in a 2007 interview -- two years after Canada legalized same-sex marriages nationwide -- the Jesuit prelate cited the parliamentary move as potentially paving the way toward polygamy in parts North.

While he had heard the argument that the shift of the institution "hasn't caused any great effects," Prendergast said, "Well, just give it time."

Citing 1968's still-controversial landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, B16's man in Canada's capital added that "Pope Paul VI said if you separate sexual communion from procreation you are opening yourself to a whole series of ills... If you read that text, what he foretold would take place is taking place."

In late 2006, months prior to his transfer to Ottawa, the Montreal native took the extraordinary step of barring a gay couple from receiving the Eucharist, citing the mens' placement of a newspaper announcement of their civil wedding as creating "public scandal." (In New York, unless a coordinated strategy is agreed to -- and, given the spread, that would seem unlikely -- any potential decisions on that front would fall to the respective diocesan bishops.)

Prendergast was named to head the church encompassing Parliament Hill a year after the Pope, in an ad limina speech to the bishops of Canada's largest province, portrayed the scene in the country as follows:
Today, the impediments to the spread of Christ's Kingdom are experienced most dramatically in the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere. Canada has a well-earned reputation for a generous and practical commitment to justice and peace, and there is an enticing sense of vibrancy and opportunity in your multicultural cities. At the same time, however, certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways. In the name of 'tolerance' your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of 'freedom of choice' it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children. When the Creator's divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost.

False dichotomies are not unknown within the Christian community itself. They are particularly damaging when Christian civic leaders sacrifice the unity of faith and sanction the disintegration of reason and the principles of natural ethics, by yielding to ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls. Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle; otherwise Christian witness to the splendor of truth in the public sphere would be silenced and an autonomy from morality proclaimed. In your discussions with politicians and civic leaders I encourage you to demonstrate that our Christian faith, far from being an impediment to dialogue, is a bridge, precisely because it brings together reason and culture.
In a rarity for an ad limina address, the Vatican arranged to have the talk recorded for television and radio broadcast.

Given recent domestic developments on the marriage front, smart money would bet on the issue resurfacing from the Pope come late year, as the US bishops begin their long-awaited report to Rome for the first time in the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

SVILUPPO: Same church, six blocks up Fifth Avenue from St Pat's, but bearing a drastically different emphasis, the freshly-released edition of the Stateside church's publication of record -- the Jesuits' America magazine -- features the following, unsigned "Current Comment" on the church's tack on marriage:
The church’s stance on same-sex marriage is very well known. It has been made well known by the Vatican; and it has been made clear by many bishops in this country. The church teaches, in short, that same-sex marriage is not permissible because it promotes homosexual activity and redefines the traditional concept of marriage. There can be few Catholics, and non-Catholics, who do not know this.

What is less well known is the church’s teaching on gay and lesbian people themselves. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that gays and lesbians are to be accepted with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” Jesus Christ asks us to love everyone, not simply those with whom we agree, not simply those in our churches and not simply those who “follow the rules.” But the church’s message on gays and lesbians is often obscured by its vocal opposition to same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians hear about little else in church circles. And with no other group does the church speak almost exclusively the language of prohibition, rather than that of welcome.

That is why bishops who speak of love and acceptance should be praised, like Joseph M. Sullivan, a retired auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, who wrote in the Buffalo News on June 2: “For most Catholics, there can be no statement that better summarizes an attitude of welcoming of our LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] brothers and sisters than those of Jesus, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’” There is nothing wrong with telling people that they are loved and lovable. And that all are, indeed, welcome.
Along those lines, while it's seemingly gone forgotten in the haze of the recent fight, it's worth recalling that last year's New York Pride Week conspicuously coincided with a high-profile Dolan visit to a place the archbishop termed "a booster-shot of hope": Chelsea's St Francis Xavier -- the city's leading gay-friendly parish....

PHOTO: Getty


En Vivo de Hotlanta... y El Vaticano

By all accounts another smashing success, the final march into this year's Atlanta Eucharistic Congress -- turnout: 35,000-plus -- was fittingly led by La Nueva Mayoridad, which (as in many other places) has quickly come to form roughly half of the million-member church in the 404....

Lest anyone still seeks to quibble with the Stateside church's most epochal demographic shift in 170 years, this week will see the Eternal City experience its most powerful taste yet of the American Catholic future, as the number of Latino metropolitans from these shores ever to have received the archbishop's pallium from the Pope triples in one fell swoop come early Wednesday, led by the head of the largest diocese the US church has ever known (a 5 million-member fold that, today, is no less than 70% Hispanic).

Ergo, as a historic week begins, and the calendar passes beyond halfway toward another 12 December -- one which, as ever, promises to be even bigger than the last -- que viva la Morenita de Tepeyac, Estrella de Nuestra Esperanza, Madre de una Nueva Vida por esta Iglesia entre nosotros....


Sunday, June 26, 2011

At CRS, Hail to the Chief

In a notable move at center stage, the longtime leader of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business is set to become one of the most prominent women -- if not the most -- in the leadership of the Stateside church.

After an intensive search that's lasted the better part of this year, Carolyn Woo (above) was named Friday as the incoming president of Catholic Relief Services, succeeding Ken Hackett, who's led American Catholicism's lead humanitarian arm with distinction for 18 years, growing it to a global staff of over 5,000 in more than a hundred countries, with a budget just shy of $1 billion.

The handover formally takes place on New Year's Day.

Born in Hong Kong, where she was taught by Maryknoll Sisters, the president-elect, 57, came to the States to attend Indiana's Purdue University, earning bachelors and masters degrees and a Ph.D in strategic management there before serving on its faculty and as an administrator. Over her 14 years at the helm at Notre Dame's biz-school, Mendoza -- quite possibly the only building in the country where daily Mass is held amid management classes -- has come to be ranked repeatedly as the top undergraduate business program in the country by the financial wire Bloomberg.

Among other memberships and commitments away from the Golden Dome, the incoming Relief Chief serves as a lead adviser to the United Nations on responsible management.

Hailing the choice made under his watch, the current bishop-chair of CRS, Tucson's Gerald Kicanas, said that Woo is "a woman of deep faith with a strong commitment to the mission of the church... [who] will bring exceptional abilities and gifts to the task of serving the poor around the world in the name of Catholics throughout the United States."

While several other church social-service arms have taken heavy fire in recent years over claims of an insufficient Catholic identity, CRS' Baltimore Mothership has gone practically unscathed in the ad intra battles. Now, after one landmark tenure that's left it bearing the "special diadem" of a solid, strong ecclesial link, the shop falls into the hands of a daily communicant -- and, in any age, you can't really get more faithful than that.

A mother of two who met her husband at a daily Mass in her Purdue days, a certain member of the search committee (and former CRS chair) reports that Woo's youngest is studying for a Master's in theology at Notre Dame.

Over recent decades, a sizable influx of (among others) Filipinos, Vietnamese, Indians, Chinese and Koreans has swelled the US church's Asian ranks to an ever more significant standing among the nation's 67 million faithful, as many as 4 million of whom trace their origin to the world's largest continent. With Woo's ascent, for the first time, one of their own will take on a position of top-tier visibility and import in the American Catholic orbit.

In other words, the dream continues, even into our own time.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Bread of Angels...."

On this Corpus Christi Sunday, with a national Eucharistic Congress taking place this weekend at the spiritual seat of a rebuilding Irish church, and as Dublin prepares to host next year's 50th International gathering dedicated to the "Bread of Angels," it's worth recalling the centerpiece moment of the epochal 1932 Congress in the Isle's capital -- an event that, in nation's lore, looms large even into the present....

Sung before a crowd in excess of a million at the closing Mass of the 31st International Eucharistic Congress in the Phoenix Park, John McCormack's rendition of Panis Angelicus would go on to serve as the immemorial shorthand for the mega-gathering, which proved itself the apogée of the notion of "Catholic Ireland," marking the newborn Free State's emergence onto the global stage on its own terms... and, among other lasting legacies, saw the launch of what's now the state radio and television broadcaster.

The most celebrated voice of his age, the original Irish tenor became a naturalized American citizen after World War I, and shortly thereafter was awarded Notre Dame's Laetare Medal. Toward the end of his life, McCormack returned to Ireland, and was made a Count of the Papal Court in 1928 by Pope Pius XI.

Clearly, the shape of next year's meeting will be rather different than its illustrious predecessor. Still, they could always get McCormack's modern heir to offer an encore... or even a certain inspired hymn of his own:

To be sure, the question at the heart of that one finds itself on many minds 'round here these days on both sides of the Pond... and as its answer goes -- at least, for the crowd closest by -- suffice it to say, "All good things in God's time."

All that said, every wish for a blessed and buona festa a tutti -- as always, stay tuned.


Friday, June 24, 2011

In New York, Marriage "Altered Radically and Forever"

At 10.30 tonight, after weeks of heated debate and charged negotiations, the New York Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill by a 33-29 vote, making the Empire State the sixth -- and, by far, most consequential -- Stateside jurisdiction to enact full legal status for gay unions.

Within minutes of the result -- signed into law an hour later by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (above) and slated to take effect in 30 days' time -- the following statement was released by the New York bishops, who provided the measure's lead institutional opposition:
The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled.

We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.

We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.

Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.
While the influential Catholic Conference overseen by the prelates coordinated the church's intense lobbying effort in the halls of the Albany Capitol -- and won significant conscience protections for religious organizations opposed to the unions in the legislation's final draft -- the decision of the majority-Republican body represents a particularly heavy blow for the state's metropolitan, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who waged the most concerted public-policy push of his 26-month tenure in Gotham to battle for the bill's defeat.

Despite the loss, however, it was a notable sign of the church's clout in the debate leading up to the final vote that two of the three senators who rose to explain their support for the bill cited their own Catholic roots as a key point of tension in their respective paths toward approving the move.

The lone pre-vote speech backing the bishops' stance on the legislation came from the plan's leading opponent in the chamber, Democratic Sen. Reuben Diaz of the Bronx, a Pentecostal minister.

SVILUPPO: While the New York bishops principally responded to the vote as a group, shortly after the measure's passage, the following eruptive reaction came from the head of the state's second-largest diocese, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn:
Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature have deconstructed the single most important institution in human history. Republicans and Democrats alike succumbed to powerful political elites and have passed legislation that will undermine our families and as a consequence, our society.

With this vote, Governor Cuomo has opened a new front in the culture wars that are tearing at the fabric of our nation. At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling to stay in their homes and find jobs, we should be working together to solve these problems. However, the politicians have curried favor with wealthy donors who are proponents of a divisive agenda in order to advance their own careers and futures.

What is needed in our state is leadership and not political gamesmanship.

In light of these disturbing developments and in protest for this decision, I have asked all Catholic schools to refuse any distinction or honors bestowed upon them this year by the governor or any member of the legislature who voted to support this legislation. Furthermore, I have asked all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.

The above request is intended as a protest of the corrupt political process in New York State. More than half of all New Yorkers oppose this legislation. Yet, the governor and the state legislature have demonized people of faith, whether they be Muslims, Jews, or Christians, and identified them as bigots and prejudiced, and voted in favor of same-sex “marriage.” It is mystifying that this bill would be passed on the last day of an extended session under the cover of darkness.

This issue has been framed as upholding marriage equality. This is not the case since one of the principal purposes of marriage is to bring new life into the world. This cannot happen in same-sex marriage. It is not a civil rights issue, but rather a human rights issue upholding the age-old understanding of marriage. Our political leaders do not believe their own rhetoric. If they did, how in good conscience could they carve out any exemption for institutions that would be proponents of bigotry and prejudice?

Republicans and Democrats equally share responsibility for this ruinous legislation and we as Catholics should hold all accountable for their actions.
PHOTO: Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times


"You Will Not Change Me into Yourself... You Will Be Changed Into Me"

As a prep for this weekend's (transferred) feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, here's the Vatican's English rendering of B16's homily at yesterday's traditional outdoor Mass for Corpus Christi at St John Lateran.

On a related note, Wednesday's feast of Saints Peter and Paul marks the pontiff's 60th anniversary of priestly ordination.

* * *
Dear brothers and sisters!

The feast of Corpus Domini is inseparable from the Holy Thursday Mass of in Caena Domini, in which the institution of the Eucharist is also celebrated. While on the evening of Holy Thursday we relive the mystery of Christ who offers himself to us in the bread broken and wine poured out, today, in celebration of Corpus Domini, this same mystery is proposed to the adoration and meditation of God's people, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of towns and villages, to show that the risen Christ walks among us and guides us towards the Kingdom of heaven. Today we openly manifest what Jesus has given us in the intimacy of the Last Supper, because the love of Christ is not confined to the few, but is intended for all. This year during the Mass of Our Lord’s Last Supper on Holy Thursday, I pointed out that the Eucharist is the transformation of the gifts of this land - the bread and wine - intended to transform our lives and usher in the transformation of the world. Tonight I would like to return to this point of view.

Everything starts, you might say, from the heart of Christ, who at the Last Supper on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God and, in doing so, with the power of his love transformed the meaning of death which he was about to encounter. The fact that the Sacrament of the altar has taken on the name "Eucharist" - "thanksgiving" - expresses this: that the change in the substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself, a gift of a love stronger than death, love of God which made him rise from the dead. That is why the Eucharist is the food of eternal life, the Bread of life. From the heart of Christ, from his "Eucharistic Prayer" on the eve of his passion, flows the dynamism that transforms reality in its cosmic, human and historical dimensions. All proceeds from God, from the omnipotence of his love One and Triune, incarnate in Jesus. In this Love the heart of Christ emerges, so He knows how to thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and thus changes things, people and the world.

This transformation is possible thanks to a communion stronger than division, the communion of God himself. The word "communion", which we use to designate the Eucharist, sums up the vertical and horizontal dimension of the gift of Christ. The beautiful and eloquent expression "receive communion" refers to the act of eating the bread of the Eucharist. In fact, when we carry out this act, we enter into communion with the very life of Jesus, in the dynamism of this life which is given to us and for us. From God, through Jesus, to us: a unique communion is transmitted in the Holy Eucharist. We have heard as much, in the second reading, from the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ"(1 Cor 10:16-17).

Saint Augustine helps us to understand the dynamics of Holy Communion when referring to a kind of vision he had, in which Jesus said to him: "I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me"(Confessions, VII, 10, 18). Therefore, while the bodily food is assimilated by the body and contributes to its maintenance, the Eucharist is a different bread: we do not assimilate it, but it assimilates us to itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ and members of his body, one with Him. This is a decisive passage. Indeed, precisely because it is Christ who, in Eucharistic communion, transforms us into Him, our individuality, in this encounter, is opened up, freed from its self-centeredness and placed in the Person of Jesus, who in turn is immersed in the Trinitarian communion. Thus, while the Eucharist unites us to Christ, we open ourselves to others making us members one of another: we are no longer divided, but one thing in Him. Eucharistic communion unites me to the person next to me, and with whom I might not even have a good relationship, but also to my brothers and sisters who are far away, in every corner of the world. Thus the deep sense of social presence of the Church is derived from the Eucharist, as evidenced by the great social saints, who have always been great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, recognize their brother who suffers, who is hungry and thirsty, who is a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, and they are attentive to every person, committing themselves, in a concrete way, to those who are in need. So from the gift of Christ's love comes our special responsibility as Christians in building a cohesive, just and fraternal society. Especially in our time when globalization makes us increasingly dependent upon each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity will not be built without God, without true Love. This would give way to confusion and individualism, the oppression of some against others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity not imposed from above, or by ideological or economic interests, but from a sense of responsibility towards each other, because we identify ourselves as members of the same body, the body of Christ, because we have learned and continually learn from the Sacrament of the Altar that sharing, love is the path of true justice.

Let us return to Jesus’ act in the Last Supper. What happened at that moment? When He said: This is my body which is given to you, this is my blood shed for you and for the multitude, what happened? Jesus in that gesture anticipates the event of Calvary. He accepts his passion out of love, with its trial and its violence, even to death on the cross; by accepting it in this way he transforms it into an act of giving. This is the transformation that the world needs most, because he redeems it from within, he opens it up to the Kingdom of Heaven. But God always wants to accomplish this renewal of the world through the same path followed by Christ, indeed, the path that is Himself. There is nothing magic in Christianity. There are no shortcuts, but everything passes through the patient and humble logic of the grain of wheat that is broken to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God. This is why God wants to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and Blood is truly present, Christ transforms us, assimilating us in him: he involves us in his redeeming work, enabling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live according to his same logic of gift, like grains of wheat united with Him and in Him. Thus unity and peace, which are the goal for which we strive, are sown and mature in the furrows of history, according to God's plan.

Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humble awareness that we are simple grains of wheat, we cherish the firm conviction that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death. We know that God is preparing for all people new heavens and new earth where peace and justice prevail - and by faith we glimpse the new world, that is our true home. Also this evening as the sun sets on our beloved city of Rome, we set out again on this path: with us is Jesus in the Eucharist, the Risen One, who said: "I am with you always, until the end of world "(Mt 28:20).

Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your loyalty, which sustains our hope. Stay with us, because the evening comes. "Jesus, good shepherd and true bread, have mercy on us; feed us and guard us. Grant that we find happiness in the land of the living". Amen.

PHOTOS: Reuters; Getty


Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Hotlanta, the Juggernaut Returns

Sweet Wilton, it's that time again.

With the Pope slated to preside outside St John Lateran come evening in Rome, today might be the traditional feast of Corpus Christi... but as the solemnity of the Lord's Body and Blood now falls on Sunday in most of the global church, this weekend yet again brings Stateside Catholicism's signal celebration of Ecclesia de eucharistia: the Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta, which now draws a crowd in excess of 30,000 to the 404's convention center over two days beginning tomorrow, with this year's gathering to be headlined by the host's current successor as chief of the nation's bench.

The North Georgia church grown sixfold in size since 1990 -- and, like the Congress' turnout, with a current population roughly split between Latinos and Anglos (hence a Colombian-born auxiliary) -- its yearly Wilt-fest now ranks as the largest meeting of the church in the American South, and fourth among the home-fold's biggest annual reunions, all told.

The theme invariably sprung from a different aspect of the Eucharist, this year's talks and liturgies will focus on vocations in the church -- lay, professed and ordained alike.

Unfortunately, no livestreams are planned, so if you're going, please, just take videos like crazy and beam 'em up. In the meanwhile, though, for a taste of what's on-deck, here -- featuring clerics, First Communicants, Asian drummers and the sound of either matachines or a landing plane -- a look at an earlier edition's procession outside the hall...

...and the final liturgy within:

See, when they said "The South will rise again," they were right... it just turned out to be far better than expected.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For 100 Years, "The City's Voice"

However they've been interpreted over the years in some places, the Council documents state clearly that "in the Latin church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things."

Ergo, celebrating said "wonderful splendor" isn't just something limited to the high-culture crowd but, really, a manifestation of the spirit of Vatican II. Along those lines -- even if it isn't in a worship-space, at least per se -- as today marks the 100th anniversary of the planet's most massive set of playable pipes, the River City's own Wanamaker Organ (located in what's now Macy's), let the church pay tribute....

Originally built in smaller form for the 1904 World's Fair in St Louis and considerably enlarged on its acquisition by John Wanamaker, the "heroic instrument" still plays at least twice a day, for free, in the Center City temple where, come year's end, it shares the sanctuary with the beloved Light Show (albeit in the latter's botched, perhaps Masonic-inspired, Novus Ordo format).

It's funny, though -- just a few days back in Seattle, this scribe was telling a longtime friend about the Wanamaker, not realizing its centenary was just at hand. So as an added taste of the 28,500 pipes, and a nod the Emerald City crowd would likely appreciate more than most, hopefully this classic does the trick:

* * *
For the record, the Wanamaker isn't the only house organ marking a century this week -- today in Pittsburgh brings the opening of the annual Catholic (Old-)Media Convention, this year's celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Catholic Press Association on these shores... and in a special treat for the festivities, the "patron saint" of ecclesial newsrooms everywhere will be on hand to blow out the candles and cut the cake.

Despite pronounced weakness and the ongoing effects of the leukemia that forced him to retire far earlier than he would've wished, John Cardinal Foley traveled west earlier today for what could be his valedictory appearance before his colleagues, and to receive another meaningful, impeccably-merited tribute as the association establishes a lifetime-achievement award named in his honor.

To be sure, the 75 year-old "Voice" of Vatican Christmas for English-speakers worldwide isn't marking his own 100th this year -- and, in his inimitably kind but clear way, would be none too pleased if anyone thought he was. Still, while the words of Sacrosanctum concilium on the "instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things" were written in praise of the organ, in a uniquely human way, they serve well to describe "His Foleyness" and the instrument he's been over the decades -- most prominently as the the tour-guide to the faith for an unparalleled audience of billions... but all the more over a half-century of priesthood, as a friend, father, brother and support to a crowd can easily seem as large: a parade of friends one by one, spread across the globe and every walk of life.

Over the years since 1911, the House That Wanamaker Built has come to see no shortage of other names adorn its pillars and the bags carried out of its doors (...Hecht's, anyone?). Even for the many changes of time and ownership, though, a very similar "voice" able to draw the masses and lift them with its gentle strength has ever remained its cherished heart.

And so it is with this local church. In these weeks to come, all appearances are that another name not of this place will, as it were, be affixed to the venerable building, introduced with great fanfare before the judgment of the initially curious, instinctively suspicious city that ever passes outside. Yet step inside, and -- even if, as inevitably happens, some of the veteran floor-staff will be turned out and a new guard arrive, the budgets get overhauled, departments find themselves rearranged or consolidated, and the historic central core of display-counters are drastically slashed and spread apart -- the irreplaceable, beloved "heroic instrument" will stay the same as it's ever been.

For the moment, the terms of sale still being written up, all eyes on an executive suite far from the old Boardroom upstairs, the distinctive feeling of edginess runs thick in the air: above all, for the clerks and customers on the floor, still holding on amid brutal times for a better day ahead... yet more than usual, the suspense running almost as high among their counterparts elsewhere, looking on in a way they hadn't in earlier deals for this fallen shrine as, whatever its shape, the handover being hammered out for it this time will serve as a significant indicator of the wider industry's outlook.

Even against the backdrop of the clamor, though, the faithful, consistent "message" no management can change remains at the soaring center of the shop. And much as the anxious crew inside and a waiting city beyond might, at times, let their familiarity take its daily sound for granted, even now, if they let it, its voice recalls the Founder's enduring presence, keeps alive the same spirit that built the place and still moves it along... and tough as it can be while its future hangs in the balance elsewhere, offers a priceless shot of hope that everything will pan out for the best -- because, if nothing else, the house's latest crop of heirs have earned precisely that.

Sure, these days around this town's most enduring sacred space (one considerably older than The Eagle) might have their challenges and then some, on an epic scale not known locally in centuries. Even so, though, wherever we might be on the map, let's never forget how blessed we are by the world-class instruments who, however unsung they might go on most days, play on in our midst, often thanks to the teamwork of the many pipes who make 'em up. And just as each of these have served to raise minds and hearts "to God and to higher things" in eras of light and darkness alike, so may they remain with us well along the road ahead, that they might ever more remind us of what's above, good and lasting... and above all, that from the inspiration they so freely and sweetly give day in and day out, the lot of us will ever seek and know the grace not just to listen, but to follow suit.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"We Have the Duty, Not Just the Right": On Abuse Response, CDF Enlists the Nunciatures

Even if the saga is public knowledge, such is the common "meme" on the topic that, for starters, the story could use yet another retelling.

In 2001, after a prolonged push, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrested the ultimate oversight of clergy sex-abuse cases into the hands of his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (above) after the official then charged with overseeing Rome's response -- Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, then head of the Congregation for the Clergy -- was thought to have lacked a sufficient understanding of the severity of the cases, and the damage they wrought.

Yet while the now-Pope won the "air-war" portion of the Curial turf-battle -- birthing what Ratzinger termed his "Friday penance" as he devoted each week's close to poring over the abuse files -- the daily groundwork of the CDF's combat operation (quickly pressed into overdrive with the following year's eruption of the Stateside crisis) fell to his "district attorney" at the Holy Office: Msgr Charles Scicluna, whose first major investigation at his boss' behest unearthed the evidence that leveled the powerful founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, who was banished from ministry by Benedict XVI in 2006. In time, Scicluna's initial probe would spur the pontiff to radically reconfigure the Legion amid findings of gross sexual and financial misconduct (including at least one illegitimate child) on the now-deceased founder's part that, the Holy See concluded, "at times constitute[d] real crimes."

At the peak of Maciel's considerable clout in the reign of John Paul II, such a result would've been little short of unconscionable. More broadly, though, in the decade since Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela brought the harrowing case-load to his desk, the team led by the Maltese promotor of justice (above) has processed over 3,000 allegations submitted (as is now mandatory on abuse claims) for review from around the globe.

Some 80 percent of the reports have resulted in the Congregation's ex officio sentence of permanent removal from ministry, with the other 20 percent referred to local tribunals.

This time last year -- as, under Scicluna's lead, the body previously gazetted as the "Inquisition" was finalizing its revised global norms which made child pornography a canonical crime, stipulated the abuse of mentally-challenged adults as equivalent to that of the young and permanently extended the statute of limitations on the reporting of cases -- a significant amount of Roman buzz tipped the low-profile monsignor as on the rise, going to the Clergy office as its archbishop-secretary. Even if the move didn't pan out -- the post eventually went to Clero's longtime #3 aide -- that could be taken far less as an instance of the proverbial "passover" than B16's indication that there was still work to do at the CDF, and no one who could do a better job of it. (Speaking of those who've led the Curia's "attitude adjustment" behind the scenes, it was announced earlier this month that the last of the three American canonists loaned to the Congregation to assist with cases in the immediate wake of 2002 would finally be heading home; later this summer, Msgr Bob Deeley is returning to his native Boston, this time to serve as Cardinal Sean O'Malley's lead vicar-general.)

* * *
Having spoken in his few public interventions of Jesus' "words of fire" toward those who would "scandalize the young," rapped "a certain culture of silence" which, he said, remains prevalent in Italian culture on sexual abuse, urged survivors who came to the Congregation to bring their allegations to civil authorities, delivered a message of "amputation" at a Service of Atonement in St Peter's itself and, just recently, defended the "freedom" of the scandals' most widely-acclaimed healer -- Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin -- "to say whatever he thinks needs to be said" about the church's future in Ireland, perhaps Scicluna's most brow-raising remarks on the church's response to the ongoing crisis came over the weekend, as the lead prosecutor appeared at a Vatican press conference announcing two new initiatives: an "e-learning center" for church officials to study the nature and scope of abuse as an aid in forming their response, and a Holy See-sponsored 2012 conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University slated to address "Healing and Renewal" in the scandals' fallout.

Fresh from his latest triumph -- the CDF "Circular Letter" that, in a notable shift from Rome's ways of old, mandated local guidelines on handling abuse cases from each episcopal conference worldwide by next May -- as well as preaching a first Mass for a fellow Maltese ordained into England's Anglicanorum Ordinariate, here below are the key grafs of Scicluna's answers to reporters' questions, as translated by Zenit:
[On the response of bishops:] As is said in English, there are bishops of all "sizes," of all types, but there is an attitude of the bishop that does not stem from a personal option, but from his vocation to be a "good shepherd." When a good shepherd sees an enemy he does not flee, but rather he waits for the enemy at the door in order to defend his flock, as Jesus said. At the beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI also said: "Pray for me that I won't flee before the enemy, but that I will have the courage to be a good shepherd." Jesus' words, actualized also by the Pope, can be the ideal of every bishop today....

On giving bishops parameters for action, the Circular Letter sent by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith represents a very strong sign on the part of the Holy See. When we receive bishops on their "ad limina" visits we realize that there is a widespread awareness of the problem and also of the Pope's position in this regard. Moreover, each [member of the faithful] faithful has the right to express his concern about the diocese directly to the Holy See, through the nuncio. My work has made me appreciate very much the activity of the nuncios, who represent to the local community, not only to the governments, the closeness of the Holy Father.

People must know that they can turn to the nuncio when there are issues that have repercussions in the pastoral ministry of bishops, but not to denounce them, but to say: "We have confidence in the ministry of Peter, which the nuncio represents; we have a concern, and we have the duty, not just the right, to present it to Peter." This possibility also forms part of the education of the ecclesial community....

[On the media's role in reporting the crisis:] The media has opened everyone's eyes on the phenomenon, and has obliged us to address the truth of the events. Jesus has told us that the truth will make us free. There can be no healing, it is not possible to free oneself of this weight if we are not sufficiently humble and courageous to address the truth about the events, the truth of the wound, the need to fulfill our duty better. From this point of view, I see how Benedict XVI, with great humility, has been able to give a great example not only to the Church but also to the world.
To be sure, that might not be enough for some folks to say "case closed." Still, as a long decade of drastic change wends toward its close, the shift deserves fair credit.

PHOTOS: Getty(2); 3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC(3)