Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Unwinding in a suburban apartment after a long evening of drinks and music, a deeply philosophical friend of mine uttered these unforgettable words: "The most important word in existence is 'Why.'"

After a couple months of blogging away and looking at all of this -- especially as my readership expands -- I think this is a good point to answer the "Why?" here, at least why this compilation exists. And the overlapping answer is that thirteen and a half years of viewing this Byzantine maze of Catholicism from courtside have taught me much, most of which few others get to see and shouldn't be my exclusive province. But it goes deeper....

  • High up on my list of priorities is for my insights to be a resource, especially for the secular press -- which (great exceptions in Pittsburgh, et. al. notwithstanding) doesn't always have the space or time to master the interminable nuances of two millenia of the church's cultural anthropology (an often unintentioned dearth which can, and does, cause tragic misunderstandings) -- but also for anyone who's looking to fill in the "blind spots," as it were. This is a watershed moment in the Catholic world, and it needs a boatload of understanding what came before for this time to be seen for everything that it is.
  • These days being what they are, there is so much hidden behind the words "The pope said...." A colleague remarked to me about all these letters and documents still streaming out under the papal signature -- but the coat of arms cloaks the worldviews (and churchviews) of several factions of feuding forces behind the chair of Peter. When John Paul speaks, is he using the words of Dziwisz, of Sandri, of Ratzinger, of Lustiger, of Jim Green (head of the English-language desk at SegStat and a native Philadelphian), of whom? Given the absolute power vested in his person, the consequences and implications of the pope's words, especially given the state of this pope's infirmity, make "Cui parla?" an incredibly valuable and necessary question to keep at the top of our minds.
  • As I've said before, the first reason I've been able to see so much of this from my youth derived from the blessing of being held closely under the wing of a cardinal-patron: Anthony Bevilacqua, my archbishop-emeritus here in Philadelphia. In this line of work, a cardinal's blessing and willingness to teach gives one carte blanche, and to have had it in curia and beyond for 12 years will long remain a lifetime's gift. My mentor was often ambivalent, sometimes infuriated, at the press coverage here -- especially where the church's culture didn't always translate into easy copy. Given the toll such miscommunication often took, and even though I didn't fulfill the destiny my Cardinal had outlined for me in my early days (one which, I was often told, would make me a bishop by 40), seeing what I have seen gives this work, and these words, a deeply resonant sense of personal mission. (The cardinal always warned me against the great temptation of moral relativity, so that's where my special solicitude for ostentatious bishops and George Weigel (VEEEEE-gil) finds its root.) His Eminence's retirement is now spent away from the public glare, and it's tough even for me to reach him, but if my commitment to bringing the biz and the press to a better and more fruitful understanding of each other pays off even slightly, then my task will be one well done -- and, I pray, those who were with me at the start will be vindicated... Bevy primo di tutto....

These two realms are not as dissimilar as we might be led to believe. At least in the theoretical, we both are deeply imbued with the importance of seeking truth and justice -- and reinforcing those principles where necessary. And that gives us something quite substantial to build on....

My e.mail address is hidden way down in the first post. So anyone who doesn't want to make that trip and still get in touch with me can find me at rpalmo@alumni.upenn.edu.

As always, all thanks for reading. Stay tuned and be in touch!



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