Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Siegfried and Carlson

Welcome to Retreat Week. The Holy See is basically closed 'til next Monday for the annual Lenten exercises, this year led by Italian Bishop Renato Corvi of Novara on the theme "The church in the service of the new and eternal covenant."

John Paul II knows the importance of the annual retreat preacher -- he gave the 1976 retreat to Paul VI and his household. It is said that this moment gave the Curia its first solid look at Cardinal Wojtyla of Krakow, something the curial cardinals would remember two years later. And the one-time speaker has, himself, given the stage judiciously to people, regions and disciplines of spirituality and academe he feels the need to expose his collaborators to.

In a first -- a precedent meant to shield the papal household from charges of "hiding" the pope -- the retreat will close on Saturday with a public liturgy in St. Peter's. (In years past, it had ended with reflections in the Pauline Chapel, where the rest of the week's events take place.) It's not said yet whether the Big Man will be in attendance, but this is all being done around him....


In a prior post, I called on Tom Gumbleton to "take one for the team," stop grumbling and submit his required resignation at his 75th birthday. Well, he did. But, as always, he's going on his own terms -- the letter questioned the need for resignations, and if one glances at the photo attached to the Detroit Free-Press report, clearly visible is a woman in what appears to be an alb and stole. Brilliant, Tom -- exactly the way to keep them from not just taking your resignation as soon as it hits the desk, but coming to Detroit, body-snatching you and sending you to live in a Roman suburb with Archbishop Milingo (who, observant readers will remember, is known to history for his wild exorcisms and marriage to a Moonie).

To Gumbleton's credit, the piece says "He sleeps on a futon on the floor of a room next to the church office. The rectory has been turned over to a program that helps new mothers beat addictions." That's more than sweet. If only something like that reverberated in the province of Detroit....

It became public over the weekend that the incoming bishop of Saginaw, Bob Carlson -- an appointment I previously referred to as the "American Chur" -- had decided on a $330,000 home before he even takes possession of the diocese. (For those in need of briefing, Carlson's predecessor, Ken Untener, spent every month or so in a different rectory in the diocese, eliminating the need for a central bishop's residence.)

In the interests of full disclosure, last week a colleague I have great esteem for seemed to ask if I wasn't going overboard about Carlson. So I went back, took another look -- I'm the first believer in being fair -- and basically came out thinking that, even though he is more versatile than his detractors would admit, his (professional) liaisons and the platforms he's used as bishop of Sioux Falls are like throwing a red cloth in front of the Untener legacy, which the people in Saginaw view as a great point of pride and asset to the diocese.

And then the house story came out....

OK, get a nice house -- by all means, it's a right established in law. But $330K in Saginaw, Michigan?! That'd easily be $1 million-plus here in Philadelphia! (Yes, Pharaoh -- or, as he is known to laypeople, the archbishop of Philadelphia -- lives on the Main Line as it is... but he didn't buy the house! If he tried, history shows that would be a problem....) Do the words "Just live in the Cathedral rectory for six months, it won't kill you" have any resonance? Look at Sean O'Malley... then again, he has a vow of poverty... and, so I'm told, a $400 Burberry raincoat.

And, according to senior officials, the new digs will remain a private residence -- just Bob and his three hunting dogs (and, please God, let one of them be named Montecore).... What a way to win friends!

My dear bishop, just because your new diocese came out in the clear inre: abuse scandals (and that's thanks to a refreshing lack of clericalism overdose) doesn't mean that the extra money becomes your "Keeping Up With the Pharaohs" fund.

In the court of public opinion, Gumbleton wins this round.



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