Monday, May 30, 2005

Ecclesiology 101

As a committed Anglophile, I've always believed we could learn a lot from the Brits. And some recent events across the Pond have proven that instinct right.

First, there's the story of David Hope, the archbishop of York and primate of the north of England. Upon reaching retirement age from his churchwide office last year, Archbishop Hope gladly left it behind and interviewed to become a simple vicar in a rural church. Here's a great story from the Times I've been meaning to post for a long while on the happiness the reborn "Father David" has found. Other bishops might find it useful -- Hope did not require lavish renovations in the six-figures before he moved into the vicarage.

Speaking of shirking the grandeur, a noteworthy figure in the Catholic ambit of Western Europe is Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the archbishop of Westminster. Hated by conservatives, the man his co-workers call "Father Cormac" has carved out a humble and gentle presence heightened over his five years as head of the church in England and Wales. His archdiocese recently completed an extensive consultation spree on how to best tackle a future of dwindling vocations and the ever-pressing needs of the faithful. The "Green Paper" (full text here) is an excellent read for anyone interested in smart pastoral planning and how to go about it while averting the potential for sit-ins born of top-down missives.

These passages stood out. The first from the consultation phase:

"Without compromising their mission to the world, lay people are asking to be allowed to use their own talents and experience... in partnership with their parish clergy and under their leadership. Respondents described how a priest could be enabled to concentrate on his own specific ministry as a priest, through the administration of the Sacraments, leadership in catechetics and evangelisation, and in offering spiritual guidance to the parish community and its individual members.... It was recognized that the priest exercises his leadership most fully when he encourages and facilitates the charisms of all in the service of the whole community, and in presiding at the Eucharist which was recognised as the spiritual heart of the parish community."

"Many priests expressed frustration that so few people step forward to offer their services in the parish, or assume that they had nothing of value to offer. In a few extreme cases, some priests felt isolated in their ministry to the extent that everything depended on them and there was no room for delegation or collaboration."

And from the section on the vision of the future:

"The Church as Communion is a theological model which has come into prominence since the Council as a new basis for understanding ministries and roles in the Church. All office in the Church is service.... Priests and lay people are increasingly coming to understand their interdependent relationship in the one mission of Christ. The Catechism... speaks of "two participations in the one priesthood of Christ" (1546) shared by all the faithful by virtue of their baptismal call to be priest, prophet and king, and by bishops, priests and deacons specifically through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. While it recognises that [the two] "differ essentially... they are "ordered to one another..." [I]t is one of the tasks of the ordained ministry to develop the graces and gifts which all members of the Church receive at baptism. Ministerial priesthood is ordered to building up the ordinary priesthood... and is in turn built up by it. One cannot exist without the other."

In other words, Father's job is more than screaming at laypeople and booting them from the exercise of their charisms in favor of seminarians. If anything, a priest who ministers that way isn't doing his job. No comment on how many of those I have seen.... Father Cormac is not one among that grouping, obviously.

But it's a double-edged sword -- with the invitation to collaboration comes the need for responsibility and maturity on the part of laypeople. Are our people prepared for the mission?


Reader Supported?

Here's a question I've had recently: What's the blogger's equivalent of an open guitar case?

As I was pondering this, I got a report that a prominent Roman Catholic Cathedral (no, not in Rome) had recently removed its poor box for the St. Vincent dePaul Society. This is the same place that's sidelining its devoted parish volunteers in favor of unknown seminarians, because no matter how professional, seasoned and well-prepared one is, no matter the experience and fervor a layperson brings to an assisting role in liturgy, it's the mission of the church to boot them in favor of sems-come-lately because the latter wear a collar and, ergo, are closer to God and holier than laypeople.

That's usually called sarcasm, folks. But it's really happening, and it sure ain't funny.... Elevating the clerical and erasing the Christian, how ridiculously conservative. It's a rare double-whammy.

But back to the open case question and a bit of advice: if you know anyone who seeks fulfillment in writing about the Holy See and the Catholic church, do everything you can to talk them out of it. They'd be better off editing cookbooks or driving the getaway van for militant Filipino hostage-takers, if it pays.

That said, welcome to my quandry. You're reading the ultimate not-for-profit source of news and commentary on the toughest beat in the world to cover. But six months in, I'm at a crossroads. I'd love to grow audience and keep on top of the beat 24/7 at all costs, but I have to be realistic for once (I hate realism) and do some navel-gazing as to whether the market's there for this style, for this information in real-time. If it isn't, then I'll have to go drive the getaway van and won't be around for the next big appointment, and that would just drive me somewhere else....

Hopefully, you've come to see that I'm not the sell-out type. Many, if not most, of my peer-blogs have either advertisers, publishers or books to back them up and that they can flog. I'm not that lucky -- but then again, weekly advertiser "shout-outs" or turning this into a subscribers-only platform dilutes focus and inserts variables that don't belong in an open forum.

I have three firm beliefs for the future, whatever it may bring:
1. That this Loggia should be beholden solely to news, not selling anything.
2. That it should remain open to anyone with a salient curiosity, and
3. That it should be kept as a public trust.

But as job postings for Vaticanisti are few and far-between (and as I've beaten the ones who hold those jobs to several major scoops -- which you've gotten to see before the rest of the world), I'm praying I can keep on. Then again, prayers can only keep access to a working cellphone and internet account going for so long, a scenario which makes even hostake-taker bosses look appealing.

So quo vadimus, denizens? I'm eager for your advice -- this place belongs to you as much as it does to me, and your feedback has made me feel that keeping on with this is a worthwhile project. Now it's your call: where do we go from here? Please comment here or drop me a line with your thoughts.

Thanks for all your support and candor these last months, it means the world. Keep it coming!


Forget Avignon.... It's the Kansas Papacy

In the name of due praise, I have to admit one of my guilty pleasures: the "News Bytes" articles on They really do find amazing stuff. And the story of one of their kindred might just be the best yet....

This gem from the AP chronicles Pope Michael I, a 45 year-old shopkeeper (and former SSPX-er, until he was too borderline even for them) elected by a conclave of six, his parents and then-girlfriend among them, in 1990. His mom compares him to Jesus and he declares that all of heaven and purgatory are with him....

"My home is Rome," he said - then added with a laugh, "but I don't see getting there until Benedict XVI moves out of my apartment."

Look, no matter what one feels, you've gotta give the libs and the progs their due. At least they acknowledge the Pope as the Pope. Between the Levada theatrics and this, it's the loud cons who want Ratzi out.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the church turned upside-down. I never thought it'd be so tough to right-side it.


The Papal Road Show

So B16 went to Bari yesterday, his first trip outside Rome since the election. Great photos, great syntheses are out there, but here are two nuggets I found -- both from today's NYTimes brief on it.

First off, a beef: Ian Fisher calls the eucharist "the sacrament of bread and wine." Period. Why is something so ridiculously simple to describe even in objective terms the biggest tongue-twister for the secular press? AP had to issue a correction about the same thing last week; Amy told us this.

And now for the fun stuff.... The new pope's approach has been described as "businesslike," but this is warmer than business:

"About halfway home, though, his helicopter dropped low over the town of Duronia and hovered as he blessed a crowd gathered on a soccer field.... The pilot was from the town."

Imagine it: you're watching a game, hanging out on a soccer field, and out of the heavens descending, it's the Pope. That's hot.

And then Benedict asked what could well be called The Question, one we often don't ask ourselves enough:

"How can we communicate with the Lord if we don't communicate among ourselves?"

That's why this setup exists.... I'm grateful for the papal plug.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Aggiunto Non di Piu'


The buzz has come in fits and starts and spanned years and two pontificates. But after conversations across the pond, Benedict XVI now seems prepared to send his predecessor's heart back to Poland, appointing Stanislaw Dziwisz as the new archbishop of Krakow.

As John Paul neared the end, it was whispered that the succession to Cardinal Francizek Macharski, who turned 78 last week, would be handled on the pope's deathbed. There were even reports around 1pm on April 1 that Dziwisz had been named a cardinal. Neither came to pass at the time, but it's good that timetable wasn't followed -- for Don Stanislaw, the emotion of sending his brother-mentor of 40 years home required a "breather."

Well, he's back -- Stani and Ratzi have long enjoyed a good rapport, whilst the former papal secretary and Sodano legendarily clashed all the time. And this Pope is giving Dziwisz pride of place; he was at Benedict's side when he reopened the Apartment after his election, and at the screening of a film on John Paul last week, the place at the pope's left usually occupied by Ganswein was given to Dziwisz, Georg taking a back-seat for the evening.

If Papa Ratzi didn't like Dziwisz, he would've been banished immediately. But the title of "Adjunct Prefect of the Papal Household," created for Dziwisz in 1998, was created to get the longtime keeper of John Paul out of the clutches of the Secretariat of State (where papal secretaries are traditionally accredited) -- Sodano interfered with Dziwisz too much, and John Paul took care of that by promoting Dziwisz and putting Jim Harvey, who would never get in his way, over him. The job function was no different, it was just a chart reshuffling to ensure that Dziwisz could get done what the Pope wanted done, and that he could keep the backdoor to the Apartment wide open. (Friends who have gone through that backdoor speak with great love of Don Stanislaw, that his gentleness and kindness are exactly those of John Paul II.)

But Benedict has his own people, rendering the aggiunto role of Dziwisz redundant. And the man needs a new sense of mission after having lost the raison d'etre of most of his 66 years.

Lastly, John Foley (who, if the buzz is to be believed, will be hacked into four pieces and made ordinary of San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington and Lake Charles) tells a story about a lunch that illuminates Dziwisz's qualities and the role he played for John Paul the Great:

"The pope knew that I didn't drink. I don't drink alcohol. And his secretary, Archbishop Dziwisz, knew the same thing, so Archbishop Dziwisz, when I'm eating this rum-soaked cake with gusto, said, "Archbishop Foley, what do you call a person who doesn't drink alcohol but eats it?" and I looked at him and I said, "A hypocrite." And the pope had his mouth full and went...."

The pope had to cover his full mouth, because he was laughing so hard -- keeping the late pope balanced and happy was the aggiunto's most important job. And now, a new mission seems to await....


Yup, She's Still Here...

Zadok the Roman presents an impressive account of the Corpus Christi festivities in Rome this past Thursday.... Admittedly, I'm biased, but I just love this exchange between its author and a friend while watching it unfold at the Lateran:

'Is that her?' I asked my friend.
'Stampa, Ingrid Stampa. Ratzinger's secretary.'

This was another novelty. Previously we would have spotted Archbishop Dziwisz, Pope John Paul's right hand man amongst those assisting him. Now Benedict's right hand man is a woman and sits with the other members of the Papal family who take care of the Holy Father's personal arrangements.

From the shameless self-promotion desk, you all might enjoy knowing that "The Pope's Right-Hand Woman" was Beliefnet's most viewed piece of the last month. Grazie mille to everyone who blogged and read it!



Thursday, May 26, 2005

Vanguard Bishop Steps Up


Some snippets from this morning's statement of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Full text can be found here; the italics are my own.

Now that I have been asked to assume these responsibilities, I ask for your prayers and support that, with God’s help, I will persevere in service to the whole people of God and effectively foster the life of the Church in this Northwest corner of Missouri . To all of you here and to the faithful throughout the Diocese I pledge my love and service and I say to you: You must pray for me and support me. Without this unity of mind and heart before God we cannot carry out this truly supernatural work for the good of God’s people.

Though the work is significant I am consoled by the fact that this is not a responsibility I take on alone.

In the last months I have spent much time, studying, consulting and praying about some questions I am asked most frequently: What is my vision for the Diocese? What are my plans for the Diocese? Most recently, “Are you going to change anything?”

At the risk of disappointing you, I must say that much of this vision and these plans will still have to be formulated in more concrete terms. For this I will depend on a host of advisors, co-workers, and faithful parishioners as time goes on. The vision must always be consistent with the light and wisdom of our Catholic Tradition, and in total and clear accord with the Holy Father. The People of God expect nothing less. The planning will not be done only in the Chancery office, and if it is to be fruitful, it will require time, hard work, sound social science, persevering collaboration and much prayer...

[A] special commission [will be formed]. This working group will gather information from many sources around the diocese, and seek to determine the whole wide array of needs that the Catholic faithful have for religious formation and education. The work of the commission will not, at this moment, look at our elementary and secondary schools, but primarily focus on needs for adult religious education.

For example: Do pastors and parishes need catechists? teachers of religion? Do Catholics need and desire opportunities for spiritual enrichment? Bible study? Theological coursework? Retreat opportunities? The premise of the commission’s work will be as a “zero-base” study that says, in effect, IF we did not have anything in place, what would we need to provide so that Catholics can grow in a sound and mature faith and live this faith life more fully?

Mhmm. Mhmm. And mhmm.... "Mature faith," "adult faith" -- these are the chief Benedictine buzzwords. And the lack of adult catechesis has not served things well at all.

Here begins a way forward.


Apostolic Mission

This is the kind of stuff I'd like to see from an American bishop:

A Roman Catholic bishop found himself answering an unusual call on Wednesday when he agreed to drive the get-away truck for a group of hostage takers.

Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar sat in the front with three gunmen while about a dozen hostages were in the back.

Ressourcement at its finest....


Truth Under the Knife

It's always fun when John Foley speaks. God love him, in the tradition of his hometown (Philly, for the uninitiated), the man always has something to say. And, as my colleagues learned during the interregnum, he's got a guerilla website or two up his sleeve, to boot.

With a hat tip to the Fair Amy, here's an excerpt from an address (full text) given yesterday by the PCCS president at a Catholic Press Association powwow in Orlando. It's thought-provoking to be sure -- the emphases are my own.

Since I was informed before the publication of certain recent news that one of the communicators to share the podium today is Father Thomas Reese, let me first say that I had absolutely nothing to do with the current situation, that I found out about it in the newspapers, that I appreciate receiving America magazine each week, and that Father Reese is a fine gentleman and a fine priest who did excellent work during the recent events in Rome -- where we occasionally encountered one another, but that I generally find myself in agreement with a recent editorial in Our Sunday Visitor and with Russell Shaw's op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that a priest-editor, who in some way is expected to represent the magisterium of the Church, cannot appear to give equal weight in a publication sponsored by a religious community to articles which present the teaching of the Church and articles which dissent from it.

In August 1968, the editor of The Catholic Standard and Times in Philadelphia was on vacation when "Humanae Vitae" was published -- and I found myself in charge. A number of Catholic publications ignored the fact that there was dissent from the encyclical; a greater number highlighted the dissent and put the encyclical in a subordinate position. I decided to use the encyclical as the lead story and to use the dissent as a separate story on an inside page with the jump of the encyclical story from page one -- and then I did an editorial in support of the encyclical.

I felt that the encyclical represented the official teaching of the Church, which had to be highlighted and with which I happened to agree then, as I do now, but that the dissent was a significant fact that could not and should not be ignored. I also thought that the official teaching of the Church should be supported editorially -- both through comment and through story placement. If I were still an editor, I think that would remain my publication philosophy today.

Now, fast-forward to today's Catholic Standard & Times. If there were dissent, they would be the ones to ignore it and ask, "What dissent?" And if it were impossible to ignore, then there'd be some "news" story about angels hitting heretics over the head with 2x4's. Yes, welcome to Philly -- check your reason at the door.

But, seriously, I know this will be an inflammatory question but it invites itself: Does truth, as advanced by the church, really need to be enhanced by a policy of affirmative action?

If truth is truth, then it should need no cosmetic surgery, no "this is the church's position" parental-warning sticker, no tiara or cappa magna on top of it to set itself apart; it should be able to stand on its own and be acclaimed for its logic, for its simple beauty.

To use a music business analogy, truth able to stand on its own and creating "truth" through falling-over-yourself buzz is the difference between artistry and exploiting the audience, it's like raising Clay Aiken to the level of U2 based on Aiken's PR, not his talent. In the process, of course, Dr. Bono's integrity gets watered down -- and that's just intolerable, it's an insult to him.... Get it?

Back to theology, the result is that if you're giving all those bells-and-whistles, the emphasis on the logical element is diminished and the incentive for thinkers in communion to deliver something cutting, salient and innovative is lessened with it because they have the Good Churchkeeping Seal of Approval regardless. What is more, by setting one view above through artificial means, the counter-point gets the benefit of the very human fascination with the verboten, attracting more interest because it is seen as banned, anathema, off-the-reservation.

But then again, the church doesn't get this lesson -- every time they come after me, they fail to realize they're giving me the best p.r. money doesn't have to buy. If Neuhaus, Weigel, et. al. can do what they do with impunity and blessings, then so can Rock.

Hey, even Foley said it, I'm not a priest-editor -- I don't take my truth Botoxed.....


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Quel Surprise

Usually, I disagree heatedly with George Weigel, the late papal biographer extraordinaire. But, as a fellow lay pundit who writes with impunity, I've got to give him due props: his latest column, on the "reform of the reform," is quite good and makes excellent points -- Bugnini-haters will be excited.

Even though George uses some annoying turns of language, gratefully there's nothing as flaming here as "occasioned a brouhaha." So with a (red) hat tip, this is worth everyone's time to read.

And now, hell will freeze over. Grazie.


Boys, Pom-Poms DOWN!

OK, somebody's gotta call a halt to the Legionaries' "Padre Nuestro, Thou Art Loosed" Party -- Maciel isn't off the hook just yet and Rome's doing the Jedi mindtrick thing again. Playing fuzz on this one is the recently AWOL John Allen....

In a nutshell, Allen reports that the announcement of "no process" came not from CDF, which investigates abuse cases, but in an unsigned document from SegStat (where it's one big Maciel-loving family, thanks to Brian Farrell....).

Now, if John Paul still lived, there would be no unsigned document; underlings would be fighting over who got the privilege to sign because whoever defended Maciel would be made a bishop by a grateful Dziwisz. Signature or not, it's clear the Curia's still trying to play the "divide and conquer" strategy which rendered the system an administrative and policy mess of fiefdoms the last five years.

It's funny, since around 2000 the Curia has been like -- everytime something happened one office or another didn't like, they'd get all American and start spinning and screaming and accusing everyone of "smoke of satan" motives. That all should've ended with John Paul's death and the election of a taskmaster pope.

Obviously, though, old habits die hard.

We can be sure that B16 isn't happy about this kind of blunder at all. Bottom line: heads will roll at SegStat, and Sodano's succession will be expedited.... This is the pope's proof that, as they pay homage to his face (SegStat staff were received on Saturday), behind his back they're out of control in San Damaso.


Monday, May 23, 2005

No Chariots Please, We're Catholic

If there's anyone reading in the Northwest, just know that Alex Brunett wants his help quickly. He's got a national profile to get crackin' on....

It is the requirement of law that, from "provision" -- i.e. appointment -- bishops must be installed within two months of the announcement. This period is extended to four months when the bishop-elect requires ordination. (Of course, Bishop Braxton is exempt -- he got his two month leeway extended by a month because he absolutely cannot move into a half-renovated house in Belleville that wasn't all that decrepit in the first place.)

Usually, this period is used to the maximum. But Seattle will have its two auxiliaries ordained in record time -- on June 6, twenty-five days after their appointment. It takes me that long to get a coffee at Starbucks. Such a short turnaround is unheard of; forget the guest lists, the flowers, the big dinner: just get the bishops, the chrism and the bulla to the church on time -- it's a shotgun ordination!

On appointment day, in the post linked above, I waxed pleasured about Joe Tyson, the 47 year-old bishop-elect who is pastor of three parishes and holds a bunch of curial odd jobs. I noted that his background in communications (he studied it at UWash) would be a very good thing. Now we find something better....

How'd Fr. Tyson find out what was coming his way? He got a cellphone call from the archbishop while biking it around town. Now, being from Philadelphia, where Pharaoh has a chariot on call and even the auxiliaries have chauffeurs most of the time, this is incredible. A bishop on a bike... I can't imagine it. (Priests here have been known to buy Harleys, but they didn't last all that long. A priest of Camden once had a canary yellow Lexus, but was ordered to sell it... tres South Beach, it was.)

But this is the bishop of the future, and it's very exciting to see. I've been waiting for an American Anthony Fisher....



It's spring. The trees are blooming and the beaches are booming. And just as constant in Philly's cycle of the seasons, habemus presbyterorum -- we have new priests.

Yesterday was Third Saturday; another year, another batch of ordinandi as we've had every single year since 1837. Five men comprised the class of 2005.

Bevy was present, which is always a blessing. But this year's iteration of the rite of spring will be remembered not for what did happen, but what didn't.

Last time we checked, priests were ordained to go out into the world and change it through their engagement. But this is Philadelphia, where the faithful are an afterthought and it's all clericalism all the time. And so, as opposed to giving communion to his flock (on this day, the parents and families of the ordained) Pharaoh stayed behind the line and held the ciborium for the other priests to take the host.

Such a gesture, however lacking in sound ecclesiology, might be appropriate on Holy Thursday at the Chrism Mass. But ordination is not Chrism Mass, Part Deux. Laypeople are Catholics, too. (Isn't that the most bizarre statement that's ever been called for?)

Behold, it gets better....

One of the time-honored traditions of Philadelphia culture -- a favorite moment of mine -- comes after the Ordination liturgy. After the pictures in front of the altar, the new priests station themselves at different points in the galleries which flank the nave, where they would receive congratulations from the public and give their first blessings to all takers, a beautiful way of starting their ministry.

Not this year.

At the 2004 ordination, his first as archbishop of Philadelphia, Rigali broke custom and gave the newly-ordained their assignments from the Chair at the end of mass. (In Bevy's time, they would have a "honeymoon" of a few weeks before receiving their assignments with the rest of the clerical changes.)

But again, this is Philadelphia, where "open" is synonymous with "verboten." And so, keeping with that rule -- "because the Holy Father told us to" -- the class of '05 were summoned into the Cathedral Rectory to receive their charges. They did not return to the Cathedral, and the gathered friends and relatives seeking those first blessings were left cold.

Candidly, it's tragic deprivation, another case of the unnecessary usurpation of pastoring by administration. Then again, remember that these are the people who tried to keep Daddy from walking his little princess down the aisle on her wedding day, then balked because the gathering stampede of people running away from the church could be felt at the chancery.

Given such a record, it's par for the course.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Loggia Mailbag

Keep those cards and letters coming, my gentle snowflakes. From time to time, I'd like to comment on the mail I get -- I love it.

I've been having some interesting conversations about the Anglican Use. As the ECUSA gets more polarized, the invocation of the pastoral provision -- by which former Anglican, Lutheran, etc. priests and ministers become Catholic priests and keep their wives! -- is becoming more widespread. Just now in Pennsylvania, two Anglican priests with their parishes are crossing the ecumenical divide. A former priest of the church of England, Alan Hopes, is now auxiliary to Father Cormac at Westminster.

But I got the most interesting response about my CWNews post. Here's a snippet:

"One of the more offensive things that occured on their blog was around the time of JPII's funeral. The very psychologically disturbed Diogenes made his usual snarky anti-gay comments and accompanied them with a picture of Cardinal McCarrick and the rector of St. Matthew's Cathedral, Monsignor Ronald Jameson embracing, implying that the two men were lovers. Within the day, the CWNEWS removed that post."

That it was there in the first place is disgusting. And to remind, if the buzz is to be believed, Diogenes is no other than Joe Fessio, who was chronicled in my dear San Francisco Chronicle yesterday.

It's somewhat counter-intuitive, but every time I see an outraged conservative writing in a homosexual panic, I wonder more about the writer than the one being written about. Dom Bettinelli's been going on for three days screaming about gays and trying hard to "out" the bishop of Memphis for writing a pro-civil rights column. The only problem with his Terry Steib crusade is that there's no there, there. But let's be honest: has that ever stopped the sash fringe before?

Sorry if this news to anyone, but to put a new twist on an old expression, honeys, the boys have always been with us. And (surprise, surprise!) they're more likely to flock to the cassocks and lace than the post-conciliar types who get called all kinds of libelous names, so watch where you direct your guns -- they might just be pointed in the wrong direction.

I know this because the boys of the old school have always been the first to try and put the moves on me. And I'm straight!

Do I go on screaming hellfire about this? No -- it's between a man and his God, who am I to get in the way? The belief always was, if my catechism is correct, that God (not CWNews) is the supreme judge of the world and all will get their due, so why fret? Why this need to get all control-freaky and play Cardinal Ratzinger, snowflakes? Somebody feeling inhibited?

And to reiterate, the more hung-up people get about sins of the pelvis, the more I question the motivation behind it.... I'm not alone in that. Just breathe and let it go.

Now we have to ask ourselves -- purely hypothetical -- what if the bells-n-smells crowd loves, absolutely adores a priest who turns out to be not as comformist to doctrine as they thought him... but he said a killer Tridentine Mass.... what would become of him in their eyes? In sum, the truth would be cast aside, an offensive of six words on his behalf subbing for it: biased media, anti-Catholicism, liberal smears.

That's not orthodoxy, it's obsession with bella figura. And bella figura doesn't make for a purer church, but a gilded one -- nice on the outside, rotted out beneath the surface. Whither that? Just ask the people in Boston, where Phil Lawler (Cardinal Law apologist and editor of CWNews) got his start.

What was the line about "worry not about the speck in your neighbor's eye, but the plank in your own"? Who said that? NCR? Kung? No... wait... it was Jesus.

He's always given good advice -- Christians (and some Catholics, I'm told) call that advice "the word of God."

Time to heed it, no?


Friday, May 20, 2005

From the Rome Desk...

In another sign that authentic Catholicism is more sophisticated and tolerant than some of its verbose fringes would make it out to be, Bill Clinton was received with open arms at the Vatican today. No, the place did not collapse in flames, nor were exorcists waiting with salt and holy water. The Swiss Guards saluted him on arrival.

It seems that Cardinal Sodano and Archbishop Cordes (president of Cor Unum) were eager for an update on American tsunami relief efforts. The discussion also included US foreign aid efforts and the continuing fight against AIDS, with a particular focus on Africa.

Did the prelates call Clinton on the carpet, a la the Caped Crusader, Ray Burke? Nope.

But should they have? Again, nope -- the 00120 is smart enough to realize that what Big Bill's doing is the real gruntwork of the "gospel of life," as opposed to taking credit for it before the cameras while slashing it to bits behind the scenes.

Good call for the Romans, now if they could only pass the "get smart" memo around....


BREAKING: Marcial Law

Fresh off the wire: a CNS report that "no canonical process" will be carried out in the case of the LC's Padre Nuestro, Maciel. This comes from Benedetti in Sala Stampa....

I'm not blowing a gasket, at least not yet. But Sandro Magister seems to have been duped, 12 hours after anticipating a Maciel trial.

I see cassocked boys with pom-poms in the distance....


Bring Out the Crow...

No, Fessio has not been appointed archbishop of San Francisco. But way back, in the early days, I reported that sources were saying that Jim Nicholson's successor as US ambassador to the Holy See would be a prominent theocon -- Weigel, Michael Novak, someone who could use theology to justify the Bush administration's positions to the Holy See.

Well, I was wrong.

John Allen is reporting that Francis Rooney, an Oklahoma businessman and Bush Ranger (i.e. $$$$$$$ for the GOP), has gotten the nod. But it's not a breaking story -- Inside the Vatican (home of the brilliant and fabulous Delia Gallagher and Bob Moynihan, who singlehandedly saved CNN's interregnum coverage) had it over a month ago, even before the conclave opened.

In the words of one of our denizens, Rooney's appointment "has 'lost opportunity' written all over it." Especially after Jim Nicholson, who did much on human trafficking, garnering much respect from the boys of the Curia and, by extension, Justin Rigali.

But JLA makes some good points about conservative rage over Levada in this week's Word. "Some of it verged on hysteria," he opined. M-hmm. That's right. Go on, son....

John quotes the Fair Amy Welborn -- a Loggia devotee, she is -- and I echo his assessment that, for all the antics of her readers, Amy "always comes across as measured and generous."

You know, I never cease to be amazed by Amy, my friend Matthew and others among us in the best possible way. They do what they do, and they really witness to their faith in these forums and beyond on top of juggling the hectic glee of young kids and family life. As a committed bachelor, a status which shows no signs of going anywhere anytime soon, I stand in awe. Get ready, Gib....

Uncle Jack, known to the world as the great Cardinal O'Connor of New York, once spoke to this tragically unsung admiration in a letter to his priests. When considering the anxieties moms and dads face over matters of budget, choosing schools, the constant need to be protective of and nurturing to their kids, he told the priests, "Ours is the easier part," and urged them to always be aware, affirmative and appreciative of the ministry of parents.

So thanks to the parents in our midst for taking the harder part, and reminding us all in the process what's truly important. Words can't do justice to your work....


Words Over Breakfast

Chaput's Keynote from this morning's prayer breakfast can be found here.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

It'd Be Funny, If Only it Weren't So Sad

Oh, how I love thee,, let me count the ways....

It's the greatest nut factory around -- the stories are as slanted as the new breed of roller-coasters -- but the best is the response of the people. It's actually the worst, and nothing beats it as a demoralizer for the future of the church. Somebody told me last week that I might want to consider that "these people have been wounded by the church." Well, it's further proof of the immortal adage given me by a priest, that "hurting people hurt people."

Look, sex-abuse victims have been hurt by the church -- often in several ways, often damaging them irreparably. Priests are hurt by the church they've given their lives to everyday because of the crimes of the few and the lack of responsibility on the part of many bishops. The church does hurt people, but just because the church doesn't fit one's personal preferences every time, all the time doesn't give one the right to call him/herself a victim.

That's not victimhood, but petulance. It's not faith, but dissent.

Imagine this scenario: a brawl breaks out and some guy gets kicked and punched down to the floor by the big boys. There are a couple scrawny, scared kids on the periphery and they just watch it unfold. The damage is done and the perps walk off, and then the kids go to the wounded, look down, sneer and say a condescending, "Yeah!" as if they did it.

Those kids who have no right to be cocky but still are comprise, in a nutshell, the CWNews forum -- home of the "yes gloating" memo.

Here's a sample from a story today about an Austrian bishop's resignation. The conspin had it a given that Maximilian Aichern was axed over liturgical abuses, but in reality, he asked to be released early to return to his Benedictine roots. Made no difference to the zealots, though:

"[Arinze] is a no nonsense leader of Our Lords Church. Watch for him to be the next leader of the Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith after Archbishop Levada's background is exposed and he CHOOSES to retire."

Levada's background? Oh, that's right, his background is just that someone doesn't agree with him nor, by extension, the pope who chose him. Hmmm.... Arinze is not the brightest bulb in the bunch, you know. I guess that explains the admiration, and intimidation.

It keeps rolling:

"The worst cases all seem to be getting the message.....with the exception of Cardinal Hollywood [Mahony] - I think it will take a direct takedown to get him to realize that his day is done."

"Well, well. What goes around comes around. Passengers should fasten seat belts -- we may be in for some turbulence. Stewardesses (oops -- flight attendants) will pass out air-sickness bags to passengers needing them. Please enjoy your flight -- I know that I will."

To be fair, in the midst of the sophomorics, a voice of reason did arise:

"With all due respect to those who comment, and I mean that sincerely, wouldn't our comments and criticisms be taken more seriously if we left out the sarcasm, the name calling and the rush to judgements? ... we come across, at least to me, as pretty sour individuals. And there she goes, name calling! I agree with many of the thoughts, I am distressed by the tone."

Of course, he was shouted down.

At this rate, I am waiting for these people to get all military-ed out, like Jeff Gannon, land on an aircraft carrier and strut down the runway. It's that bad.

And they dare call me a scandal. Well, I have facts, and not even all the screaming in the world can morph lies and bias into the truth.


More Feed...

As it's commencement season, may future generations of event planners remember that the best speakers are Irish....

In that vein, here's a gem of a speech from the Eire-born Bishop Ray Boland of Kansas City-St. Joseph; its insights are useful. (I like Boland, but I just love his coadjutor -- Bob Finn is a Loggia favorite if ever there were one.)

And for those curious about the bishop-elect of Honolulu, Larry Silva, might enjoy this nugget from his introductory luau/press conference:

"I've often said that I really don't have any problem with what the church teaches, but sometimes I do have a problem with the way it teaches. It's because we can't teach in sound bites, but in profound truths in a simple way."

We call that "progress"....

And also from the Loggia favorite desk, I'm gearing up for tomorrow's "National Catholic Prayer Breakfast" featuring Bush, with Chaput as the keynote and more cons than one can shake a crozier at.

The speaker is pumped and ready to go -- tune into C-SPAN tomorrow morning and see what happens.


Now Does This Mesh?

Thanks to Rich for sending me this piece from the American Spectator. It's an interesting analysis, but a slanted one -- more slanted than me, to be sure.

Roger McCaffrey -- who visits Rome regularly, allegedly -- says, "San Francisco Archbishop William Levada came from nowhere to get [the CDF] post." No, he didn't -- if you read this blog, you knew it was coming while the cons screamed "RUMORS! RUMORS!" I haven't been to Rome in years and had this story; "it's not rocket science," as Harry Caray used to say.

Yet here again do we have an example of Benedict's reputed "base" (at least, they're his base when he makes them happy) undermining their man. Excuses are still being made to almost make B16 look bound, or at least something less than free, to choose his own person to succeed him as prefect -- do some of you really see your Pope as being that weak?

As if it wasn't before, it's really getting ridiculous now. Heterodox and hypocritical, too.

McCaffrey says:

"My theory: during the conclave, Cardinal Ruini of Rome, said to have been the kingmaker, suggested to the crucially important American cardinals that the time had come for one of their own to be in one of Rome's top two dicasteries. Naturally, Ruini would go on, the new Holy Father had to decide the details and it would be wrong, very wrong, for him to even mention this to his man during the conclave."

This implies that, in conclave, Joseph Ratzinger did not have the moral credibility to stand head-and-shoulders above the College and had to go scrounging for votes like it was a Philadelphia judicial primary or something. That's an almost scandalous indictment of the Pope, simply outrageous. And, regardless, Cardinal George was the American ringleader in the making of Benedict XVI.

Elsewhere, McCaffrey asks:

"So who is new, under Benedict? No one. It is the same team we had under John Paul. Everyone was asked to stay, the rough equivalent of a new president asking pre-election cabinet officers to stay on."

This is a case in point of the gross error of applying American political culture to the Holy See -- Tom Reese got his head on a silver platter for exactly this, the cons' favorite pasttime. Only when one realizes that the Vatican is a completely different milieu for which there is no comparison on this earth can one begin to comprehend how it operates.

Obviously, I still have a mission ahead of me yet.

People looking for Curial heads to roll will be intrigued to know that it wasn't until 1985, a full seven years after his election, that John Paul II had reshuffled the prefects he inherited from Paul VI and John Paul I. It was another four years -- 1989, eleven years in -- before all the appointees at superior level (i.e. prefect/president, secretary, undersecretary) were his own.

I've spoken about this before, but one of my favorite con games -- and it really is one -- is how the John Paul fan club completely worshipped the man, absolutely loved everything he did, but felt free to unleash venom on any bishop who didn't meet their standards. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

Well, who the hell put your bishop in office? Stop spinning -- with few exceptions, John Paul did.

I loved JPII more than words could say, but it is impossible to criticize a bishop without the logical progression to the man whose assent put him there. Wojtyla was saint, hero, visionary, prophet-god to me and my generation, but something had to give in all of that, and what gave was the daily minutiae of the church's governance, particularly in the appointment of bishops. That explains a lot behind the choice of Ratzinger.

Come on, Cardinal Law as advocate of a culture of life? Culture of Deceit, sure. Culture of DeLay, absolutely. But not Culture of DeLife. This goes for many others.... And John Paul, God rest him, must take some blame for this -- just because a man is pope means he is not immune from bad decisions. But if he is to be called to account for them, it must be done from a mature, analytical vantage, not rabble rousing of the smoke of satan....

To say such a thing is a disservice to the church and another hole in the bark of Peter. We should be able to expect better from the self-described "fan club."

Sounds more like a "sham club" to me.


Great Compromise?

Recently, the determination of a group wearing Rainbow Sashes during liturgies in several American cities has occasioned a brouhaha. (Something Fr. Neuhaus would know a thing or two about.) In the name of "Bringing the Gifts, the Witness and the Challenge of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people into the Heart of the Church," all they've accomplished is this: politicizing the eucharist against the Left in the way the "Caped Crusader" (Ray Burke) does for the Right. It's not healthy at all. And why do any laypeople need to wear Rainbow Sashes anyway? Father wears one, and that's more than enough -- the color changes every day, thank you very much; he wears it for the whole community.

So I just wish that LGBT in the church -- at least, those who are public about the cause (suffice it to say, our walk-in closets are impressive) -- could be a bit more deft about their means of operating, because when they're not the whole community is dealt a further setback. The Sashes are not appropriate to an ecclesial context and, in reality, ask something which the magisterium is not able to give.

However, per usual, the usual AgitProp machine (not the one you read about in The Wanderer) is turning this into a traditional zero-sum game: liberal pain, conservative gain. And that's just as wrong as the sashes in the first place. So in the name of being a fair arbiter and distributing the penance equally, there is this proposal -- if it can be accepted, great. But it belongs on the table:

Progs (Libs, AmChurch, VOTF, Tree-Huggers, whatever you call yourselves): NO RAINBOW SASHES! Keep them stashed away in a drawer. Sometimes, you're guilty of lifting the political over the cultic -- you're not alone at this. But liturgy is not the time to go about making this kind of, literally, flamboyant statement. It'd be welcome, I'm sure, in an Episcopalian parish, but we really need to have community practice in these days, and the Sashes hinder that. Monday thru Saturday can be days to share with parishioners and attempt to persuade them that LGBT in the church is a cause worthy of attention and respect, but when it comes time to go to the altar, all that is best left behind. Deal?

Again, this is a dual-sided penance. Behold, the other shoe drops:

Cons (RadTrads, Self-Declared "Orthodox," Single-Issue Bush Voters): NO MANTILLAS! Honeys, leave the veils at home, keep them stashed away in a drawer. Sometimes, you're guilty of lifting the political over the cultic -- you're not alone at this. But liturgy is not the time to go about making this kind of, literally, flamboyant statement. It'd be welcome, I'm sure, at EWTN, but we really need to have community practice in these days, and the mantillas hinder that -- they reek of "more-Catholic-than-thou," and that detracts from the mass. Monday thru Saturday can be days to share with parishioners and attempt to persuade them that esoteric traditions in the church are a cause worthy of attention and respect, but when it comes time to go to the altar, all that is best left behind. Deal?

Of course, the one exception to the "no mantillas" compromise would be the Vatican, because it's, well, the Vatican -- and nothing beats seeing Silvio Berlusconi's 30-ish wife (who has already had more than her share of plastique done) wearing a black veil. It doesn't help the institutional perception that all women must wear black (and veils) in the presence of a man in white so he can look even more fabulous, but I'm an old softy for it.

And the exception to the "donne nella nera al Vaticano" rule is? Cons should know this pretty easily....

Teams: talk this proposal over amongst yourselves. Discussion is open.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Tom Reese and the Future

B.L. (Before Levada), I was kicking around a piece on Tom Reese and the whole America debacle. Now that the story has subsided, some still might find my take thought-provoking, or just anger-provoking, or just... something. Whatever the case, may you find it unboring, maybe even educational.... Several points I've blogged on are reflected in it. Thanks in advance for feedback. Enjoy!

The Bishops Apart

PHILADELPHIA – Beat writers rarely have it easy. From cop checks to bedroom suburbs and city councils, every news-worthy niche requires an immersion into an often long and nuanced institutional culture. But ask any seasoned writer the toughest niche of all to cover, and the Catholic church is the seemingly universal reply. It’s not news that the best of journalists often get tripped up trying to master two thousand years of intertwining history, ritual and politic under the guillotine of deadlines, with nary an expert around when needed most.

Given this degree of difficulty, the religion beat suffered a body blow with last week’s resignation of the Rev. Thomas J. Reese as editor of the Jesuit magazine America. The departure of Father Reese, the pre-eminent scholar of church politics who decoded its twists and turns for a generation of reporters, capped years of tension between the Jesuits and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over the nature of the magazine, but even more in regard to its editor’s activities in the secular press.

Under its former head, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI – the body formerly known as the “Holy Office of the Inquisition” (a name it retained until 1965) maintained a reputation for cracking down on what it interpreted as theological dissent. However, the America case is unique because its trail began not
in Rome, but in the magazine’s backyard. What is more, the articles cited as unorthodox had little to do with the penalty.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, which broke the story behind Father Reese’s ouster, the initial momentum for a Roman clampdown on the magazine came not from Cardinal Ratzinger’s office but from unnamed American bishops who complained that the priest’s role as media commentator on church affairs “should be solely [their] province.” While even respectable Catholic conservatives have admitted to finding none of Father Reese’s insights as to the church’s inner workings controversial, the story’s statement makes plain that his chastisement is but the latest victory for a group of American bishops eager to reassert their authority following the devastating exposure of cover-ups of clerical sex abuse by bishops and their inner circles.

The America decision marks a new low for those prelates who, eager to impose their guilt for their lack of oversight on others, have capitalized on the abuse scandals to settle personal vendettas with priests who have never been accused of a single violation of celibacy. This “pass the buck” strategy extends the cycle of mistrust and further damages the relationship which binds the two groups, a tie singled out in Catholic theology as sacrosanct.

Following closely on the heels of last year’s drive in certain dioceses to bar pro-choice Catholic politicians from Communion, and the US bishops’ adoption of a watered-down policy of “fraternal correction” for prelates accused of unsavory deeds, moving Father Reese is just another step toward pushing lower clerics – usually the “middlemen” between rank-and-file Catholics and the bishops – closer to their parishioners and further from the hierarchy for whom they work. Such discord among the ordained is not what Rome desires of any local church, let alone its American branch, which has long been seen as wildly off the page, both in terms of its doctrine and practice.

Like most religions based around divine revelation, Catholicism claims the deposit of absolute truth – Benedict XVI came to the papal throne last month denouncing the relativism of Western society. Father Reese’s critics claim that, under his leadership, America gave a platform to articles which wrongly critiqued that
truth and opened it to debate.

But such a charge ignores a crucial pillar of Catholic theology: the “sensus fidelium,” or “sense of the faithful,” which holds that the church’s members will instinctively know what is true from what isn’t. This principle alone should render any interference in the popular judgment from Rome or American bishops superfluous. That such intervention has occurred is a counterintuitive indicator that the church lacks the trust in its teachings for them to be persuasive solely on the basis of merit. It is that relativism of confidence which is, by far, the most worrisome outcome of this sad episode.

In a 2003 address to religion beat writers gathered in Seattle, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, then the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, emphasized “the importance of the media having expert, knowledgeable and professional personnel to report on religion.” Bishops are known to hold grudges about news stories being taken out of context and lacking accuracy in terms of church policies and procedures.

But next time a story seen as inaccurate comes around, the American hierarchy has no excuse to continue its cycle of blame. Father Reese was always the point-man who ensured that accuracy, and the bishops will have no one to blame for his absence but themselves.


Rage Stage Two

I've gotta say, for all the destruction and division they cause, if it weren't for the cons and their anger, the church would be downright boring.

Stage One of conservative anger (again, conservatism being a secular political ideology profanely and counter-productively imposed on an ecclesial context, in contrast to true orthodoxy which is not political but doctrinal) is rage. All out, throw everything including the kitchen sink-style fury.

Then, when it's realized -- belatedly -- that being incandescent is a screaming invitation to backlash, we come to Stage Two: denial. So that's what the Ignatius Press people -- still nursing their fantasy of the mighty Fessio using God's mighty sword to slay the heterodox Fr. Privett and smoting the sodomites as Levada's successor in San Fran -- are up to today on me, doing the whole "it's just rumors and innuendo" thing....

In my defense, it's rumors and innuendo if you haven't eyes to see.

This cycle of anger and attempted marginalization means nothing less than that I'm doing my work incredibly well -- note what an AMU grad said about Fessio below..... The press is getting blamed, I'm getting blamed, the Pope is getting flamed, and it's all just one big self-fulfilling prophecy.

You know, the Pope was right on, dead on, when he spoke about all the filth in the church, and that it seems at times like it is a boat about to sink. Recognizing that -- and, sometimes, taking a look in the mirror and really contemplating if we're helping it float or just punching a hole in the side of the bark of Peter -- is step one to embracing a renewal which is not as doom-inducing as one's biases may make it out to be.

Archbishop Chaput of Denver -- who is, in my mind, an absolute genius, the best American bishop around and thus a Loggia favorite -- wrote last year that "When the Church is criticized, she is purified."

You'll note, cons and others, that I critique persons and theories, but I never critique the church or its teachings. This tradition is, in my mind, the summit of the human imagination and experience -- and I'm here because I see it being assailed from all sides, even those who voice obeisance to it while taking a hammer to the boat.

Point is, none of us have integralized the fulness of orthodoxy, the plenitude of the teachings, in our daily life and practice. None of us. So to be "pro-life" and opposed to enhancing the quality of that life post-birth, or to profess faith in the prince of peace while supporting an unjust war, or to get all wrapped up in esoteric finery and forgetting that the first mass -- the truest mass, for those who believe -- was celebrated by men wearing rags, the faith in its fulness does not square with that. And many have gotten away with that lacking standard, that absence of a challenge to step it up, for a long time, and pejoratives of the most un-Christian kind have flowed from those who have given God the service of their lips, but not their hearts....

But if the church is really going to step up to the world in all its complexity, all its need, then the time calls for what B16 refers to as an "adult faith," a "mature faith." Sometimes this means shutting up and listening, contemplating whether we're committing the gross fault of taking our politics and making them doctrine because that's what we feel comfortable with. But church is not what makes us comfortable, what makes us happy -- it is ours only for a season, as Justin Rigali says, quoting Paul VI. And many of us have lost that along the way.

May we rediscover a spirit of humility along the path, and the ability to discern our personal leanings from the truths of faith. Corraggio!


GOOD Stuff...

The following words could almost be a mission statement for what I seek to do:

"Understanding the complexity of the world and all its people, of God and all his ways is a lifelong task. Yet love can draw us on. In John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America reference is made to such mundane issues as drug trafficking, governmental corruption, and the oppressive burden of debt in poor countries. These are not issues one approaches with starry-eyed naivete. They are issues that are so complex that they demand exacting analysis. They also demand commitment to action that will surely bring us to a martyrdom of misunderstanding if not to the actual shedding of blood.... If we approach our ongoing studies as an encounter with the living Jesus Christ, and if we are truly in love with the one who has been given 'the throne of David his father' and whose 'reign will be without end,' we will willingly do whatever is required to help bring about that kingdom of justice, peace and love."

No, these observations are not from some heretic guilty of the mortal sin of not appreciating lace albs. It is a passage from a 2000 homily given by Fr. Larry Silva of the Diocese of Oakland, yesterday appointed the next bishop of Honolulu.

Think about it.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ecclesiastical Muckraking

First off, you all might like to know that "Purple Rain" -- the song of the day, for obvious reasons -- is still blasting on my stereo.

OK, a certain sash fringe out there loves Joe Fessio. We know this... But I found this comment posted out there in response to the flight of fantasy. It's full of typing errors, but I've pasted it unedited. Check it -- cons, feel free to respond:

Disillusioned Ave Maria grad said...
I don't know whether Fessio would be agood Archbishop or not. for all his theological acumen, he's shown a distressing willingness to overlook systemic unethical administrative actions in his new position, as well as a hesitation to put Catholci social teaching int action by treating employees and former employees well. The whole AMU thing is a mess internally, however birght, shiny, and hopeful it looks from the outside.

While it's true that I don't appreciate anonymous posts here, I have stated that exceptions are welcome for those who would report voodoo dolls in chancery offices, or other things of the sort -- and Pharaoh, he's exempt from the rule too. So this plays, take it or leave it.

Sing it, Prince!


Bomber, Anyone?

Word from St. Louis a couple weeks back was that after all of four months, Jamie Allman -- so controversial he makes me look like a kindergarten teacher -- was packing up as spokesman to the Caped Crusader, Ray Burke. That's 12 feet of cape, now, don't mess....

Well, he's still around. In a very selfish way, for all the damage inflicted, I wouldn't want to see Jamiebomber gone so soon -- we need to have things depicted in terms like "public theological mud wrestling match" -- it restores credibility.

And they say the Republicans aren't the party of the church -- we give jobs to all their defeated and potential candidates for office.


More From the Bay

If Joe Fessio is to be believed, he is Benedict XVI's firstborn. As events haven't shown that, let's return to reality.

Last week, the cons tried to soothe their rage over Levada by floating as a possibility their dream of destiny: Fessio being named archbishop of San Francisco, where he will slay the evil Fr. Privett with God's mighty sword and smote the sodomites (again, these are cons talking, check your logic at the door).

Of course, this also means that Ignatius Press would have to be put into a blind trust -- but that wouldn't come until after the nukes had been dropped on USF in the name of orthodoxy, loss of human life and violations of human dignity and freedom obviously notwithstanding.

Back in the sane world, something is brewing which may not fulfill that grandiose fantasy but won't leave them hanging all that much. And if that Fessio thing goes down, as I'm already on-record as saying, bring me a raw crow and I will eat it. Amy can bring it.

I wish to remind that there exists another Italian-American priest with better Ratzi cred than Fessio. His integrity is unquestioned, his experience broad.... Think about it.

The process will be short e nella stessa parrochia.


Something to Chew On

First of all, my editio typica on the Levada appointment can be found here. Discussion, as always, is open.

It's Tuesday, and that means new bishops -- Frank DiLorenzo's successor in Honolulu and a coadjutor to Fort Worth. The latter, Msgr. Kevin Vann, until now vicar for clergy of Springfield in Illinois, is the big story.

Vann, 54, made headlines last year for his skirmish with Democractic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Durbin, who lives in Vann's parish, was specifically called out on his pro-choice stance by the new bishop-elect in an interview Vann gave to a local newspaper. Vann said he would refuse communion to the senator.

What does this mean? Be wise to remember, these appointments were John Paul holdovers, but B16 had to confirm them. So it's still an open question and we'll see what happens down the line -- don't jump to conclusions.

Press conference will be interesting. More feed as I have it... Stay tuned.



Indeed, after only 18 months -- and despite Roman quotas on the practice -- Pharaoh has guided Egypt back to the fount of honor. Purple Rain!

For the uninitiated, that's code for new monsignori in Philly. There are 15 -- two Chaplains, the remainder Prelates, four of whom have been promoted from the "half-reds."

I have the names, but it belongs to the Boss to reveal them. Congrats to the honorees!

"I only want to see you laughing...."


Monday, May 16, 2005

PHILADELPHIA DIGEST: Changes, Changes, Changes

Can you feel it in the air?

Well, if you are a Philly clansman, you can. It's May -- flowers sprouting, the smell of Chrism on the hands of new priests, and the skittishness behind the scenes. There's some changin' in them thar hills!

Unlike most dioceses, Philadelphia (ever the traditional) issues the bulk of its pastoral assignments in one fell swoop every year at the end of May. We do this because the Holy Father told us to! He didn't, but that's always the excuse for everything.

The church here reflects its secular milieu well. In its politics, sports, business and neighborhood cultures, Philly is a city so aversive to change that the sheer thought of it leads to an epidemic of hives. This isn't just an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach -- it's more like "Even if it is broke, so what? Don't fix it; it's the way it's always been, my grandfather broke it 75 years ago and it means a lot to the family to keep it that way."

As an example, tomorrow is the Democratic primary for the election of judges here. The money and corruption involved would easily be enough to make Cardinal Law blush. Is it any way to responsibly elect a judiciary? Of course not, but it's always the way it's been, and we must be faithful to our traditions, even the criminal ones, mustn't we now? If anyone went to jail over it, oh well, they just played too high a hand. That's Philly for ya.

Well, ever the outlier among Philly boys, I love changes time. People who should have the serenity of faith get all kinds of freaked out. (Consider, too, that a foreign trip for most Philly people is New York.) But Pottstown? It's only an hour away, you can still get Channel 6 (our legendary ABC affiliate) there.

So we've established that everybody gets nuts. A big explanation for this is that they don't know what's going on. Well, at least they don't now. The late 90s was fun....

Under Bevilacqua, the appointments used to be determined over a series of months. But, starting in around '97 or '98 -- POOF! -- around May 10, everything would leak out three weeks before it went public. This went on for a few years.

But how? Well, regardless of how, the Cardinal hit the ceiling that phone lines in rectories everywhere were being blown out on a Saturday morning because the word was on the street.

The really funny thing is -- I guess this is a by-product of striving to be a good brother and clansman, and knowing the system -- every year, starting around the end of January, I start getting phone calls from the guys. "I don't like [Pastor's name here]. We're not getting along and I need to be at [assignment name here] -- the people are just great." If I had a dime for every time it happened.... But all I can do is listen, and do what little talking around I can -- sometimes, not even priests realize the pressure the board is under. It's a tough job, and the grass is always greener on the other side.

However, especially in these days, might it not go a long way to restoring credibility if we had a layperson or two of exceptional character on our priest personnel boards? I don't have the character for it -- give me enough Hoegaarden and a nice dinner and I'll send anyone anywhere, I realize this -- but there are laypeople out there who instinctively know and understand the church and are pretty well-briefed when it comes to the members of their diocesan presbyterates, the qualities and drawbacks of each.

It doesn't really help the church when the people who are ultimately served at the parish level have no say over who would best serve them -- that is, no say until they run the guy out of the parish and cause a whole boatload of problems. Nick DiMarzio (known to the cheeky as "Nicky Thug") had a layperson on the board when he was bishop of Camden. I don't know if he's done the same in Brooklyn, but Joe Galante promptly returned the board to an all-clerical one. (As Galante has a strong, uber-competent religious woman as his counsel and liturgical MC, he is forgiven this.)

I'd like to get everyone's mind on this. It is another one of those changes which need no revamping of law, but would help the church more than all the PR money in the world.


On a final note, as I write this I'm watching my successors march into Franklin Field -- the 249th Commencement of the University of Pennsylvania is underway. A year ago tomorrow, I made the victory lap around the nation's most legendary track on my own graduation day, so it's a moment of great pride and reminiscence. (I must add that, at my recommendation, our speaker was my favored Christian thinker of our time, Bono, lead singer of U2 and close friend of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.)

I love my faith and cherish its traditions. But just as much, I am devoted to my alma mater's mission of pursuing rational thought free from the ravages of clerical control. Its values and influence on my work has, I believed, served me well. If I can pass that on to others, or at least get them thinking in a way they didn't before, better still.

Whatever the case, Hurrah for the Red and the Blue!


Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Weight of the Structure

Now this is interesting -- the Pope's critique, albeit indirectly, of Tom Reese.

At The Window (it's a clean window, Deal Hudson being nowhere in sight) for his Regina Caeli, Benedetto made a pointed statement -- pointed straight at the former editor of America and Vaticanologists everywhere. As I don't have the formal translation, I must subject everyone to my barely passable Italian, but will publish the original text below for review and comparison.

The Pope said (italics are my emphasis):

"The happy coincidence of Pentecost and the priestly ordinations calls me to underline the indissoluble link which exists, in the Church, between the Spirit and the institution..... The Chair [of Peter] and the Spirit are intimately joined in reality, as are the call and the ordained ministry. Without the Holy Spirit, the Church is reduced to being a merely human organization, weighed down by its own structures. But, in his time, in the plan of God the Spirit has continually served by human means to work in history. According to Christ, who has built his Church on the foundation of the apostles and, in turn, on Peter, he has also enriched us with the gift of his Spirit, granting in the course of centuries its comfort, and its guidance toward all truth. May the ecclesial community remain always open and docile to the action of the Holy Spirit as the credible sign and effective instrument of the action of God among men!"

"La felice coincidenza tra la Pentecoste e le Ordinazioni presbiterali mi invita a sottolineare il legame indissolubile che esiste, nella Chiesa, tra lo Spirito e l’istituzione.... La Cattedra [di Pietro] e lo Spirito sono realtà intimamente unite, così come lo sono il carisma e il ministero ordinato. Senza lo Spirito Santo, la Chiesa si ridurrebbe a un’organizzazione meramente umana, appesantita dalle sue stesse strutture. Ma, a sua volta, nei piani di Dio lo Spirito si serve abitualmente delle mediazioni umane per agire nella storia. Proprio per questo Cristo, che ha costituito la sua Chiesa sul fondamento degli Apostoli stretti intorno a Pietro, l’ha anche arricchita del dono del suo Spirito, affinché nel corso dei secoli la conforti (cfr Gv 14,16) e la guidi alla verità tutta intera (cfr Gv 16,13). Possa la Comunità ecclesiale restare sempre aperta e docile all’azione dello Spirito Santo per essere tra gli uomini segno credibile e strumento efficace dell’azione di Dio!"

The discussion is open.


Gammarelli Digest

I don't usually show this side of things, but one of my specialties is the bells-and-smells of ritual -- I am from Philadelphia, so this is to be expected.

A couple notes on B16 and his vesture choices:

  • If one looks at the Installation Mass, the Lateran Mass and this morning's ordination, the Pope has worn the same miter -- a gold one adorned with shells, with a sitting figure embroidered at the center of the base. He seems to have a real attachment to it, evidenced by his wearing it long before his election when he ordained Josef Clemens a bishop. It is the matching miter for the chasuble worn at the Installations at St. Peter's and St. John Lateran. But the best part about it is that it still has Cardinal Ratzinger's coat of arms -- red galero and all -- at the base of the flaps on the back.
  • At the 1965 close of the Council, Paul VI elected to carry a unique crozier emphasizing his role as the universal pastor of the church. His successors have followed suit -- John Paul being given a new one by Lello Scorzelli (the original craftsman) in 1990 on his 70th birthday. Interestingly enough, Benedict XVI has returned to use the first pastorale of Paul VI. It's distinctive by its bronze tone and larger crucifix.
  • The new-style pallium is really something to consider. Don't be surprised if, maybe not this June 29 but next, the pope sends it as a gift to all the metropolitans of the world -- he wants it to be a more prominent symbol of communion with the Holy See, hoping that its wearers will take its meaning to heart.
  • It's been a month, but the pope's coat of arms is still not on the sash fringes yet. It may not ever get there, he has likely decided to lay that aside. Whether we'll again see the straight white cassock (no shoulder cape) he test-ballooned after installation is anyone's guess.

And, lastly, before anyone gets anachronistic hopes up, I don't think we'll be seeing fiddle-backs or excess lace anytime soon -- the new pallium dates to the days when the Gothic chasuble was the norm; it had to be "adapted" (some would say profaned) to better mesh with the Roman model.

Liturgical Gothic... saucy. Hey, it's a ressourcement church.


The Long Black Line

On this Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church, Benedict XVI has ordained 21 new priests for the diocese of Rome. In American dioceses, the same ritual will be unfolding cathedral by cathedral over the next few weeks. To all the newly ordained, "Congratulations and God love you." Hopefully all join in the sentiment.

But even more, the nature of the times impels us to add, "Be strong, and of good courage -- you will need it."

I don't envy being a priest in these days. I once saw a bulletin insert that started: "If the priest starts Mass on time, he's a perfectionist. If he starts late, he's lazy.... If the priest never asks for money, he wants the parish to fall apart. If he always asks for it, he's a thief." You get the idea -- the people always want something more, something different.

Those were the days when we could joke about it, but it's not a joke any longer.

At his ordination, every new priest is presented with the paten and chalice as his bishop tells him: "Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate -- model your life on the mystery of the Lord's Cross." The past three years have offered American priests more than ample opportunity to do just that.

A priest's life was never his own, yet now his friendships are scrutinized, his words weighed, his service marginalized as never before -- and it's coming from both sides of the tightrope he walks.

The faithful love screaming at or about bishops, forgetting as they do that such polemics often make even heavier the load of the man they see at their parish altar on Sunday morning. Not to be outdone, as usual, bishops have turned the abuse crises into an excuse to settle old rivalries and "cleanse" the ranks, not to purify the church, but to avoid legal liabilities and silence whistleblowers; the traditional priest-bishop relationship, exalted in theology, has been shredded with the memos. In its place, a double standard no orthodoxy can justify has risen.

It's a blessing of my work to know, hear and see many good, hardworking, decent priests in my travels -- I am what I am because of their loyalty, diligence and friendship through the years. But living in an "if it bleeds, it leads" culture as we do, the focus never hits them because they're actually doing something good in the world -- they're doing the gruntwork which gets the collar the respect given it.

And for all they do -- among my personal favorites: taking phone calls from depressed parishioners at 4am, just popping in the people's houses to say "hi" (literally), driving the stranded to work when their car's in the shop, helping others find work or a roof to sleep under, submitting themselves to the charity "dunk tank"/the New Year's Polar Bear frolic to raise money, the list goes on -- are they getting any respect?

As one exasperated priest told me when he called the other day, "It's so bad, Rock. All [the bishops] want to do is shut us down and shut us up, there's nothing we can do or say -- if we did, if we even dared, God knows where we'd be headed." And this from a relatively conservative guy who's had a stellar record of really inspiring people and being completely non-controversial, so far as his diocese is concerned. "We can't speak the truth anymore, and someone has to, but we can't."

I asked another guy, who was (literally) spat on because he had the temerity to wear clerics in public during the height of the abuse scandal, how he got through the days. "I have to," he told me, "these people need me -- and I need them. This is a 'for better or worse' deal, no?"

If you haven't already noticed, I do a lot of what I do because I hear stories like this every day. When a good number of people hear the term "justice for priests," they see it as being the polar opposite of zero-tolerance and go nuclear. (Thank David Clohessy for that.) That's so misleading it's crazy -- if anything, making sure priests get their due means that you bust your ass to keep abusers out forever and a day, thus allowing the silent 98% to remind the world what integrity in priesthood is.

And if anything, the ones who need to be cleared out the most are still around and showing no signs of going anywhere. They say there's no justice in the world. I'm starting to believe it -- but what of those who have to suffer because of it?


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Nomen Est Omen

My friends will be happy to know that the 90 minutes' sleep I got going into yesterday was compensated last night. A good eight hours or more has been hard to come by these past six weeks, but it's been beautiful fun.

Much has been made of the name "Whispers in the Loggia." One commentator went so far as to call it "delicious" -- a term more at home with the singular, conservative Vaticanisti than my humble self; I don't do lace....

But I've never explained the story behind it. Yes, there is one, and this weekend is the second anniversary of the moment which gave birth to this name. So, with thanks for the cottage it spawned, let's sit 'round the fire and sing "Kumbaya" -- cons, it's not the Our Father, it's OK to hold hands....

On every second Saturday of May here in Philly, we ordain our transitional deacons in anticipation of Third Saturday, when the previous year's deacons are ordained to the priesthood. In years past, the transies were ordained in parishes so that young boys might feel the lure from the ceremony into the seminary. When it was realized that the high ritual didn't work well in concrete bowl suburban churches, the diaconate ordination was returned to the archdiocesan seminary at Overbrook, in the sumptuous St. Martin's Chapel.

My choirboy rehearsals were at St. Charles Seminary, so I've always had an affinity for the place. I'd always show up for diaconate to get back to the old stomping grounds, and of course to work the circuit and visit with friends. The "Lower Side" -- the most expensive seminary ever built when it was finished in 1928 at a cost of $5 million (~$500 mil in today's dollars) -- is connected with the chapel by means of a wide, bright, open marble hallway, a Loggia if ever there were one. On the big sem days, the place is buzzing with activity, cassocks flowing, conversations taking place along the walls, incense and organ music wafting in from the chapel narthex: in sum, a fabulous manifestation of what has been termed "the Catholic imagination."

When Charles Morris called Dennis Dougherty -- the native son who was our first cardinal, built the seminary and is universally acknowledged as the first of the Pharaohs -- an "ecclesiastical tycoon," he did not note that the accolade within the archdiocese's walls was an inherited one. Fittingly, on this day in 2003, the morning buzz had nothing to do with the ordination. Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, my mentor who had more than ably served as archbishop for 15 years, was two months off his 80th birthday, and his imminent retirement was known to all. It was a transition feared even by Bevilacqua's critics.

As Philadelphia culture is, in the depiction of one of its clansmen, "a ticking bomb living on borrowed time," the advent of a new Pharaoh causes more than the typical amount of skittishness given the centrality and power of this figure's unique place in the American Catholic context as the head of the last great diocesan empire in a post-conciliar church. It was a singular moment of anxiety for me as, having been particularly close to and protected by Bevilacqua, the end of his active ministry marked the end of the first phase of my education in the institution -- and my fortunes just as much as anyone else's would be determined by Rome's choice of the new archbishop.

Before the Mass, as I was getting reacquainted with the grounds, I came to the loggia expecting to breeze through. From the other end, I saw one of the men of the house coming my way who was an old friend. We found a spot along the wall and caught up for a couple minutes. As one would expect, the topic turned to the transition. He asked me what I had heard, and I rattled off the terna of gossip. He smiled and I couldn't help but ask, "What?"

"It's Rigali," he replied.

And there it was. Justin Rigali, the 68 year-old archbishop of St. Louis, a familiar Roman name which had surfaced for every major American appointment of the prior decade -- climaxing in a war over his potential nomination to New York, a battle royal which resulted in Egan's appointment -- had finally gotten the nod which would make him a cardinal in succession to his beloved mentor, the great Giovanni Benelli. With this appointment, the famous widows would be care of, indeed.

But I had to get this in stone -- at least, stone that wasn't Bollettino-stone. Within days, thanks to the network Bevilacqua's patronage opened to me, it was confirmed by sources in Rome and elsewhere, who told me Rigali had learned of it the Christmas before. It wouldn't be confirmed for two more months, on July 15, twelve years and a day after I first met Bevilacqua.

At 20, I had my first big story.

That transition was more than even I expected it would be, as it was a personal movement. It gave me a new life and presaged the beginning of a career, and even though the goal of the seminary which was envisaged for me was not realized, hopefully I've made something of the stellar experiences of my childhood and formative years and given back enough to show that all the investment put in me by so many wasn't for nought.

I'm descended from one cardinal by blood and from another in spirit and sonship. This is the root of my ecclesiastical sensibilities, and if I've betrayed them in any way, then I've betrayed myself.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Viva Il Papi?

I don’t usually have the attention span for the unedited C-Span feed of things, but given the historic nature of the day, this is the complete text of the Prefect’s first public statement from this afternoon's press conference:

On the occasion of the announcement of my appointment as the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith I want to express first of all my profound gratitude to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, for the trust he has placed in me to ask me to take the position that he himself filled so effectively for the past 24 years. I can only say that I will do my best to live up to that expression of trust, with the help of God.

I have known Pope Benedict since 1981, when he came to the Vatican as the then-new Prefect of the same Congregation, where I was working at the time, on loan from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. My return to California in 1982 had already been scheduled by his predecessor, Cardinal Franjo Seper, before the latter’s retirement and Cardinal Ratzinger’s appointment had been announced.

In 1987 I was appointed by Cardinal Ratzinger, whom Pope John Paul II asked to develop the project for a new catechism for the universal Church, to serve on its Editorial Committee, a group of 7 bishops whose task it was to prepare a draft of the catechism, conduct a consultation among the bishops of the world and many scholars, and develop a final text under the direction of the Commission of 12 Cardinals of which Cardinal Ratzinger was President. I remember many occasions when he would unexpectedly join our discussions, role up his sleeves, review the proposed changes and amendments, ask our opinions and discuss them with us – we felt blessed by his insights and his encouragement, and by his real spirit of collegial work.

Since 2000 I have been a Member of the same Congregation, participating in many meetings under his guidance as Prefect. No doubt his choice of me is in part due to my familiarity with the work of the Congregation over the years. This choice is also a tribute to the Church in the United States, and a recognition of our important contribution to the work of the universal Church. I hope my 22 years of experience as a bishop in the United States will help to represent the Church here well at the Holy See, and to make the bonds between the See of Peter and the American Bishops ever stronger.

The work of the Congregation seeks principally to promote a sound understanding of the content of the Christian faith, as that has been handed on through the Church since the time of Christ, and to assist the Pope and the bishops of the Church throughout the world in the delicate task of clarifying erroneous doctrinal positions when that is judged necessary.

I look forward to undertaking this work as a service to the Petrine ministry of Pope Benedict, who has been called by Christ to serve the People of God – and especially their bishops – throughout the world. At the same time I will be sorry to have to leave San Francisco, where I have served almost ten years, and developed close ties with many priests and people. But it is comforting to know that my ties with San Francisco will not be broken, since in my new position I will retain my link with this local church by having the official title Archbishop of San Francisco emeritus, a title also enjoyed by my immediate predecessor, Archbishop John Quinn.

I plan to visit the Congregation to meet the staff and get an overview of the tasks ahead during the first week of June. I expect to relocate permanently to Rome during August, with my official date of resignation as Archbishop of San Francisco to be set for August 17, the 10th anniversary of the announcement of my appointment as Archbishop here. I ask for God’s grace and blessing on this new ministry to which He has called me, and I earnestly ask for the prayers of all who hear or read this statement. May Our Lady of Fatima, whose feast the Church celebrates today, intercede for me and guide me.


And one last thing…. There is this anonymous poster out there who calls himself Vaticanisti. As the Italian word for a journalist who covers the Holy See is Vaticanista (with an a), this improper use of the plural irks me greatly.

I am a Vaticanista, with an a – it’s the rule of the language and I'm comfortable enough in my heterosexuality to not go about changing it. Whenever a man shows skittishness about a feminine default in a Romance language, I’ve been around long enough that alarm bells go off. (His clear enjoyment of B16’s lace albs and approving of the Swiss Guards' "flamboyant fashion" doesn’t help.) By his construct, the Pope would be Il Papi.

While such linguistic distortion may be acceptable in contemporary rap music, the language of my forebears deserves a bit more respect.


For the Record

Some housekeeping: Of course, the policy in place is that anything learned here which is used in media reports must be credited to the author -- who is anything but anonymous. Comes in handy on days like these....

It's whirring in the bunker -- seven hours since the champagne already? Wow.

Between interviews, here's something to chew on: the Levada appointment's play in the news cycle has been drowned out by B16's move to expedite John Paul's inevitable canonization. Could the timing have been a sop to angry heterodox cons whose fury over the CDF post has opened them up to accusations of lip-service loyalty to their man Ratzi? It's possible.... Now that's saucy.

I'm told that Amy's Open Book is closed to more Levada flaming from the masses. Ouch. Cons, give the man a little respect right now. We'll all be the better for it.



As reported here 10 days ago, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has named The Most Reverend William Joseph Levada, until now the archbishop of San Francisco, as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


Champagne for everyone!


Thursday, May 12, 2005

And One Last Thing....

I've noticed that several conservatives have taken to prefacing any comment on the Levada buzz by saying "IT'S A RUMOR" over and over again, as if by putting their fingers in their ears and humming "Pange Lingua" ceaselessly, they will be able to brainwash Papa Benedetto away from a move that they're fearing for no other reason than that Levada is not conservative enough for their taste -- he only rates a 95% on their scorecard. Boo hoo hoo. And they say they're not political....

Conservatism and orthodoxy are two very different things -- the former is a secular political ideology, the latter a doctrinal necessity. The two are not interchangeable, and are most certainly not wedded by any stretch of the imagination.

Along those lines, why are some among us keeping scores on bishops, again? If you love the pope as you say you do, love his bishops -- he picked them. Accepting this tenet is orthodoxy, ignoring it when you don't agree with it is conservatism.

Regardless, the apocalyptic apoplexy -- which I love watching, however heterodox it is -- will not be aided by the following....

Earlier this week, on Monday to be precise, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone -- former #2 to Ratzi at CDF, now archbishop of Genoa, Italian soccer commentator and Master of the Bonfire of the Vanities (aka The DaVinci Code) -- made it known that: 1. he knew the identity of the new prefect of CDF, 2. it wasn't him and, 3. the announcement was "imminent."

Now, just as 2 + 2 = 4, if all this Levada focus were misplaced, would it not be reasonable to expect that he would issue a similar statement saying "I have not been offered the prefecture of the Congregation. Thanks for the attention. I pray for whomever is chosen"?

As opposed to his spokesman's post-election statement that Bill "does not have his bags packed," they're not saying a word now, when a simple comment that's more than just "rumors, rumors" -- i.e. "rumors not true, rumors not true" -- could kill the buzz if necessary. "Rumors" is just an ecclesiastical synonym for "it hasn't been announced yet." Remember Ed Egan's appointment to New York five years ago yesterday? We did this dance for the whole week before!

The truth is already with us. And loud voices aiming to shoot it down or drown it out serve not the interests of orthodoxy, but those of dissent.

Cons, the cafeteria is closed. Get on the bus!


From the Space Tower

The champagne is still in the fridge, waiting for its early-morning corkpop.

But in other news, look west. Seattle got two auxiliaries this morning -- the place has only had three auxiliaries over the last thirty years (and Donald Wuerl almost doesn't count, given the circumstances of his mission), so it's an unexpected bishop-boon there. The archdiocese of Seattle is home to 904,000 Catholics. That's really stunning when one remembers that Denver only has 380K, 422K in San Fran, and the latter two are much more prominent -- as the past couple days have obviously shown.

Ergo, Seattle is the largest archdiocese no one's ever heard of. At least not recently. And Microsoft is not solely responsibile for that, thank you very much.

The amazing thing, given Rome's caution with naming bishops these days -- the docket is as backed-up as a sex-abuse tribunal, as it takes 18 months or more to get an auxiliary -- is the youth of these bishops-elect. Joseph Tyson is 47 and Eusebio Elizondo, a member of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, just turned 50. It's a sure vote of confidence in Alex Brunett, of that much we can be sure.

For a journo on the Catholic beat, Tyson is very good news. He apparently took his undergrad degree from U.Wash in Communications and a master's in International Studies. So he didn't enter seminary at 12, as they do in Burkeworld... That's a good thing -- puberty before cassocks, please....

Better still, Tyson wasn't ordained until he was 32, so he had some sense of the real, working world for a couple years. This has relevance because the average age at which most new priests are being ordained -- and, as it's ordination season, this is the perfect time to talk about it -- is in their early 30's to mid 40's, often even older. Guys go out, work, then find the daily grind of the office unfulfilling and end up in the sem. It's really interesting and, best of all, it gives priests an eye as never before into what their parishioners have to deal with in their daily lives -- more than ever, they've been there, too.

But the big story on this one is that today's appointments are the final coda of the long shadow of the Witchcraze of 1985-88, when Rome went bonkers on Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. Between sending in an American Inquisition, then naming Wuerl as auxiliary with special powers, then -- when Donald, through no fault of his own, went over like a lead balloon -- sending Tom Murphy as coadjutor, etc., it made for a heady experience.

However, with Brunett at the top, George Thomas (formerly Seattle's long-serving VG) now in Helena, and young auxiliary bishops, the extreme makeover is only completed today.

I guess they're thinking the less press they get up there, the better. But at least they've got a bishop who has the cred to handle it now. Here's to more of this to come.