Friday, February 18, 2005

Mahareshi on the Carpet, Part One

It's nice to know that John Allen -- my guru of transcendental Vaticanology -- is human. He sure came crashing down to earth today.

In his weekly Word from Rome, Allen waxed about the great possibility of a coming consistory (the gathering at which the pope makes a new batch of cardinals). Ever the numbers guy, he expounds that a new group of red hats would be "premature" at this stage, given a 16-month interval since the last consistory of creation in October, 2003.

But the stats belie the reality of evolution in this pontificate. If anything, the time between consistories -- it was every third year from 1979 to 1994, with a slightly longer gap from June '91 to November '94, then to February '98 -- has been growing smaller and smaller. The 2001 class (which broke all precedent by having 44 members, and being announced over a two-week period) returned the cycle to three years, and 2003 narrowed the cycle below the three-year line.

Allen goes on, "Further, some suggest that given the pope's still-unstable health, it's unwise to be contemplating a move as significant as the creation of new cardinals right now." Any gloriously anonymous curial source who opines that Wojtyla and Dziwisz won't do this because it seems "unwise" is an idiot who doesn't know the mind of this pope -- therefore qualifying him, at least according to the modern standards, for nomination as the archbishop of St. Louis. Or Newark.

After the surrealist flights of megalomania the apartment has wrought these last two weeks, do I really need to remind my brethren who should know better that


And not just balls -- you'll get run over by JPII in the illuminated Popemobile (Legionaries with pom-poms following behind, in cassocks of course, to finish the job on foot) if you even dare to get in the way.

Continuing on, in the "Ones to Watch" column, the great John Allen stoops to a lamentable, grave and grievous low -- giving credence to a Jamie Allman pipe dream: that Delta, er, Ray Burke (got my designing women confused, sorry) could be named to the college of cardinals, the august senate of the popes.

In the name of professional standards, I try to keep the obscenities here to a minimum. But, John, GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK! (This scenario probably came from the same source who said creating new cardinals would be unwise.) If the beloved -- not to mention dead quiet, because the pope has told him to be so -- Justin Rigali, who John Paul came to St. Louis to see, who labored in the direct service of three popes, couldn't get a red hat out of the "Rome of the West," then why would Delta get moved to the top of the heap in a year? Because he's got a big mouth?

This isn't to say that the apartment, as is obvious to anyone with eyes, doesn't do more than its share of irrational things. But the sheer thought of the Jamiebomber spinning a Cardinal Burke is even past that reach.

A hidden thread here seems to indicate heavily that Allen and Chaput -- who, not all that long ago, were quite close (Allen giving a lecture in Denver, Chaput editing draft's of John's All the Pope's Men) -- have had a falling out. To put Wilton Gregory, Delta Burke and Gomez in contention, but not the well-established and prominent archbishop of Denver who is (as testified to most recently by the meteoric rise of his former auxiliary bishop) eminently well-regarded in Rome?

Again, John, I love ya -- but GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK.

To name Chaput a cardinal would be more probable, given the pope's well-known and evidenced love for Denver, the site of one of the great triumphs of this pontificate, the 1993 World Youth Day. The WYD experience served as a catalyst for a rapid expansion and renewed vigor of the church in Denver, an enthusiasm heightened eight years ago today with the promotion of a descendant of the Potawotami Prarie Band tribe to carry forward the work.

In the eyes of some, Wilton Gregory still has sins for which he must repent, and his day will come. Jose Gomez will be the first Latin archbishop of Los Angeles, and his day will come. Ray Burke -- who begins each homily with a 15-minute litany of the saints which has been described as "popular piety of the worst kind" -- sounds like he's having a heart attack every time he opens his mouth (that's what happens when brimstone clogs one's arteries), and if his day comes, it'll be like throwing a Molotov cocktail across the Pond.

By the way, Allen initially listed Burke's age as being 72. Were that true, and the archbishop of St. Louis aged 16 years overnight (he's 56), it'd be the greatest intercessory miracle of Philippine Duschesne ever. (NCR corrected the error once I called 'em out on it.)

Still reeling from the crucible and rage of cataclysmic scandal, does Rome really want to design a new crisis for the American church that badly? I doubt it.

Think this: how did Ted McCarrick become such a well-known, respected and visible face for American Catholicism (albeit its centrist faction)? By being accessible, living his ministry with integrity, not giving the impression of ever being threatened or having anything to hide, and by conveying a consistent reputation and presence in communication which shows an understanding and respect for the lives and work of normal people -- in short, by being a normal person, not some cloistered, queenly grandee.

To keep a place in the public square, the Right needs McCarrick's star-quality and authenticity to be counterbalanced in an American cardinal -- George is too academic do it, Egan's too busy playing his piano, Rigali's chained to the desk writing long strategic e.mails to Re'.

Allen's personal ax aside, the Great Right Hope should be Chaput. I don't always agree with him (actually, it's almost never), but I know him to be the real deal. And that's not a judgment I make about any among us lightly.

I'm not done with the Fallen Allen yet. More in a special weekend edition. Sit tight.



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