Thursday, June 30, 2005

Call the Caption

Before a humble (and poor) writer heads to a favored establishment -- where he will drink good beer and bask in the company of the whole cohort -- just wanted to take care of a couple orders of business....

First, a shout-out to Jimmy Akin & Co. who have seen fit to praise my "avatar" -- that picture of a certain cardinal on his way home from a long day.... They're soliciting potential captions for the shot, so check it out and post your best thought.

And another shout-out to Greg Popcak and the gang at the Pastoral Solutions Institute -- here's their blog. As Greg tells me, "[PSI] want to help people apply the treasure of their faith to the everyday struggles inherent in marriage family and personal life." The site has great links and insight, and I've found it to be a pleasant respite from all the screaming that takes place here and in many other forums. So take a look and tell 'em Rock sent you.

I'll resurface in the morning... or early afternoon. Buona notte!


"I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty...."

(PHOTO: Institute of Christ the Sovereign Priest)

A correspondent just wrote with the following note: "Don't throw away your grandmother's old lace tablecloths. It appears they have a a redeemed role in liturgical drag...."

Anyone getting all kinds of apocalyptic about the need for "more masculine priests" (as if bringing in the Village People will solve all problems?) needs to take a good look at this picture and think for a minute. This is not the most macho-looking menangerie I've seen in this business, Fr. Mason.

Before we go incandescent about anklets, people, remember at least that they're not worn supposedly in the name of God. And, for the millionth time, there was no lace to be found at the first Mass... so why mess with a good thing?

Say what you will about his sartorial style, but at least Jesus was in touch with the people.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Scenes from the Red Line

Except for the consistories, the convergence of the new metropolitans for Peter and Paul is the most diverse and exciting pilgrimage period in Rome. The dicasteries all schedule meetings around 29 June so as many residential cardinals and bishops possible have the excuse to make it over before vacation season (when the city clears out), and the whole week has a real "family reunion" feel.

I heard earlier that the confluence of Romans and Texans (from the two pilgrimages, Houston and San Antonio) has been particularly noteworthy. Each must be looking at the other like a gaggle of aliens just touched down -- this from the Romans who, as JLA says, pride themselves on having seen it all before. Picture it, people, cowboy boots and cappellini don't mix.

An operative waiting at fermata Ottaviano sends along these boldface bullets, and I pass them along with great thanks:

Archbishop Burke of St. Louis was overheard to say he would be pending part of his vacation in "southern Germany." (Well, he will be in Cologne....)

The St. Peter's statue
was all decked out in cape and tiara for the feast of Peter and Paul! (Well, cons, at least something got crowned.)

Statuettes of Peter and Paul adorned the altar DURING the liturgy, along with a multiplicity of altar candles. (Philly has those same statuettes of P&P. They're out all the time.)

Archbishop Chaput of Denver
was seen dropping euros in the cup of a gypsy boy violinist as he returned to St. Peter's from the North American College. (Kind as ever, he is...)

Archbishop Dziwisz
received the loudest and longest applause of the pallium recipients. (But no chanting "Santo! Santo! Santo!"?!)

Receptions for American archbishops were all held at the North American College, but in separate venues. (But who was running the salons at each? I have my guesses....)

Many American clergy and laity attending the events, already wearied from the strongest heat of the summer, were not impressed with the shoving/pushing crowds afterwards as St. Peter's emptied. Some complained to both civil and ecclesiastical authorities. (Obviously the complainers have no clue about the Italian system of fair play -- i.e. those who kick the hardest get through first.)

If Piero Marini ran crowd control, everything'd run much more smoothly. I'd love to see him head up Divine Worship. Arinze can go to Ischia, Teheran, Steubenville, wherever -- but put the real expert where he belongs....


Full Circle


Stanislaw Dziwisz receives his pallium from B16.... Just thought it was a sweet photo and it deserved an audience -- these two have been through a whole lot together.


State: "Boston Sucks!"

Buona festa a mi!

Let's face it, snowflakes, St. Rocco was just some Frenchman who got his leg licked by a dog -- it's apocryphal. Ergo, as almost everyone calls me "Rock," and we know what that translates into in Latin, welcome to my feast day. It's pallia time....

The subject line deserves some explanation. Once upon a time, I was sitting in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium (site of the first papal mass ever in the Americas, appropriately enough), and it was Free Hat Day. So, like a fascist army, the pinstriped masses were all outfitted in complimentary blue caps, and even more fired up because of it.

That day, the Toronto Blue Jays were the opponent. But, out of nowhere, as "Happy Birthday" sounded on the legendary organ, a chant overswept the crowd....


Someone held up a t-shirt with said statement printed on it from one of the shops across the street. And the birthday pause didn't matter a fig -- as always, BSox hate trumped everything else. Even when The Team That Ruth Left hadn't won a World Series in 84 years. Even when a Canadian team was on the field.

I've gotten a lot of e.mails asking about the prior posts about the curial tendency toward turf warfare -- i.e. "score 2 for CDF." And the baseball analogy goes a long way to explaining it. Apparently, some people are late to the realization that, like any bureaucratic structure, the Roman Curia is a very territorial place.

Because Italians are involved, this is more the case than usual.

Think of State as the Bronx Bombers -- they've basically run the table through the 20th century, thanks to three popes who hailed from and empowered it (Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI). Under them, there was no question of what office constituted la suprema, and where the focus of the Holy See lay -- ad extra, in the affairs of princes and states.

Despite the dominance, however, the "1918" (or whatever the Roman equivalent) banners and chants would still be pointed toward Sant'Uffizio from the Apostolic Palace.

Yet six months after Red Sox Nation came roaring back in 2004, whupped the Yanks in the LCS and won the Series, the first Grand Inquisitor in memory became Pope. And suddenly, just as the Sox were restored to their historic glory, so was the CDF -- the longtime suprema of former days. (Remember well that the leaders of the faction which tried to block Ratzinger's election were the titans of State, uniting all the great diplomats who usually squabble amongst themselves: Re, Sepe, Sodano, Rigali, Cacciavillan, et. al. Talk about your miracles....)

In these first days of a CDF Pope, the divide has basically broken down into State people vs. CDF people. It extends through the whole of the hierarchy, if you look closely enough. And everyone's keeping their eye on the box scores.

Could anyone imagine the Evil Empire and Fenway at peace? Just take that logic and apply it to 168 acres of Rome. Don't be surprised to see how well it fits.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Musical Curialists?

An interesting comment just got dropped. I'll parse it:
Piero Marini will be named to an Italian Diocese.
I noted a couple weeks ago a report that Marini's name was in the hopper to go to Ischia. Teheran? Not so much... it's much nicer than Teheran, even in the glory days of the Shah.
Mgr. Franco Camaldo will replace him as Vatican Master of Ceremonies.
Is Camaldo the one whom, I'm told, tried to sit down and stay in the Sistina after Marini declared "Extra omnes"? Very respectful gesture, there -- a sign of things to come.
Mgr. Josef Clemens will become Prefect of the Papal Household...
The CP (Casa Pontificia) would be in for a Teutonic rein-tightening. Score one for CDF.
...and the current Prefect, Archbishop James Harvey, will replace Archbishop Levada as Archbishop of San Francisco.
It's funny, the Milwaukee-born Harvey's name has been going around for a couple places here -- a well-connected bishop went so far as to suggest to me a couple weeks back that Harvey could get DC, which would fit with his background in the Secretariat of State. It wouldn't be a con victory by any stretch; Harvey's smart, too smart to be a political puppet.

If Harvey ends up on this side of the pond again, score two for CDF -- and -2 for State.


The Glorification of Sin

So after a week of unparalleled national mourning, Manila laid Cardinal Sin to rest today. Imelda Marcos and her shoe collection were conspicuous by their absence.

As expected, Soc Villegas (the protege whom Sin ordained auxiliary in Manila when Villegas was around 19 years old) gave the homily. As Gaudencio Rosales, who succeeded Sin, is already pushing 70, the 44 year-old Villegas has the inside track on his succession.

"Thank you for glorifying Sin," Villegas said in his message. "It's the one glorification of Sin in which the Lord takes delight."

Three cardinals were present: Ricardo Vidal, the Filipino archbishop of Cebu; the Indonesian Jesuit Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja (who was spotted walking around Rome in cassock and baseball cap during the interregnum); and Roger Mahony.

Mahony's everywhere these days. He might be prepping to be the next Bernie Law.... But if Roger got a Roman gig as a basilica archpriest, could you imagine the fury of his enemies? Abuse, schmabuse -- they'll just exploit whatever excuse they can find to shoot that man to the moon. It's really scary how whipped up the cons get at the mention of his name.


Warning Siren

Tom Doyle speaks.... And it sure ain't pretty:

"The epicenter is California," Doyle said. "One diocese just paid out $36 million, and the Diocese of Orange paid out $110 million. When Los Angeles bursts, it will make Boston look like an altar boys' picnic."
Well, he said it -- at a VOTF convention, of all places. And now the Mahony-haters will flock to pay him tribute.... Indeed, church politics makes strange bedfellows.


Philadelphia Captivity

The Ministers of Misinformation are on the hot seat. Again.

Now it can be told that, during the interregnum, I gave an interview to the national Knight-Ridder wire speaking quite highly of Rigali and his Roman cred. And the lockjaw mouthpieces here still got pissed and tried to muzzle me for the Conclave, as if Philly were Catholic Iran or something -- Ayatollahs welcome.

If they got pissed at me, God only knows what kind of venom they have for John Grogan of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who launched into two columns bashing the Pharaoh for attending the Novemdiales liturgy celebrated by that great exemplar of human dignity, Bernie Law, who taught us how great the difference truly is between being pro-birth and pro-life.

Admittedly, the premise of the Grogan columns -- i.e. Rigali should've boycotted the mass -- wasn't savvy, and it was an uninformed fight to pick. But oh well.

Whatever the case, he's back at the well today, writing about a recent lunch with a priest:
Last week, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia quietly made public the defrocking of seven priests for misconduct involving minors. This is a step in the right direction, and one that is occurring in dioceses across the country. And yet it seems inadequate.

The announcement was buried inside an archdiocese newspaper, as if maybe no one would notice. It could not bring itself to call the misconduct sexual, but that's what it was.

When my Inquirer colleagues called Cardinal Justin Rigali seeking comment, he declined. Excuse me, cardinal, but there are 1.5 million members of your flock who need to hear from you about this.
Hearing from Rigali? With our "bella figura-obsessed" Communications shop? Seeing the Birds win the Bowl in our lifetime is more likely. I'd love to see both, but I'm just being realistic.

Grogan raises what's possibly the most important question for the public good, one completely ignored by the CS&T (where abuse news goes to die, lest it become public knowledge):
Now I wonder: With the fallen priests stripped of their vows, will the Church continue to monitor them? Or are they alone and on their own?

Sorry, John. They're on their own. But we have a house for the others....


Monday, June 27, 2005

Keeping Afloat

I hate doing this -- I always hate doing this -- but I need to make another request for your support. This outlet is the new PBS, I know... but Washington can't chop my budget, it's already painfully limited.

As everyone here knows, the first of the month is coming, and it's time to pay the bills. Writing at this level doesn't come cheap -- just today, I logged a couple hours of trans-Atlantic calling to get some on-the-ground feed for you, my gentle snowflakes -- so if you enjoy, appreciate and are able to support the work you and hundreds of others see every day, please click the donation button on the right sidebar and throw a couple coins in the guitar case.

It'll go a long way to keeping everything rolling along and ensuring that I can stay on top of things, as opposed to having to find work driving getaway vans in the name of fiscal stability.

Time to blow off some steam and head out. Grazie mille and goodnight!


Family Reunion, Fire Sale

Quite possibly for the last time, it's pallium week in Rome, and the Americans are showing up to support their own. Ray Burke is there, the cardinals are flying in for dicastery meetings, and the archbishops of Atlanta, San Antonio, Galveston-Houston and Kansas City in Kansas have brought planeloads of friends and faithful to soak up the joys of the city and witness this crowning moment (not a literal one, as noted earlier).

But away from public view, possibly at the Arciprete, possibly at Schotte's old place on the Via della Conciliazione, the real action is taking place over a bottle of Brunello and some chamomile tea.

The Pro is on a long (i.e. seven day) weekend. And with the trusty Re ever at his side, the "all appointments must go" strategy to pick the next crop of American bishops is being worked out, in the hope that B16 is too excited about Cologne to interfere by having Georg ask for the case files. He's only the Pope, after all.

This could well be the last hurrah for the team which has held sway over practically every American appointment since Roger Mahony was sent to Los Angeles in 1985, the team which recently suffered a massive blow when they couldn't save their beloved Secretariat of State from the Ratzinger who is determined to emasculate it and once and for all undo the Pauline organization which made it la suprema -- the clearinghouse of the church's central administration. (Of course, the vacuum will be filled by the cons' favorite, Archbishop Levada, and our friends at the CDF.)

Complicating this further is the impending appointment of a new SegStat. As if it wasn't bad enough that the State boys disappeared off the San Damaso balcony as soon as they heard the name "Ratzinger," then Sodano -- il cardinale-decano chi non diventara' Papa -- had to shoot himself in the foot by authorizing the note to the Legionaries of Christ declaring that no juridical process was foreseen against his beloved Marcel Maciel.

There are two schools of thought on Sodano's succession. The first is that Re will be called back to the top job, which will be the cause of much festiveness among the First Section (General Affairs), from which Re hails and in which he thrived as one of the famous widows of Benelli back in the 70s, wrapping up a decade's run as Sostituto in late 2000. The upshot of this move is that the Pope would get his own guy in at Bishops, whose work he sees as a pre-eminent priority.

But another theory has sprung up, and it'd be a true surprise.

John Paul's favorite State staffer of all was the long-time Secretary for Relations with States, Jean-Louis Tauran. The late Pope's immense appreciation for the 62 year-old Frenchman was expressed when he placed Tauran as the first creation of his last consistory. Moved to the relatively low-maintenance post of Librarian and Archivist due to an early onset of Parkinson's, Tauran's health rendered him a nonentity in pre-interregnum chattering circles which focused on the future of State.

But reports from Rome are signaling that he can't yet be counted out, a nod which would completely shut the Italians out of the top tier (Pope, SegStat, CDF) for the first time in memory. It seems he's up to the task -- it'd be the Curial equivalent of Lazarus rising.

Suffice it to say, it's all worth watching.


The Papal Commuter

Anyone in Rome might be wise to drop down to the Piazza della Citta' Leonina before dinnertime. You might just get a private audience on the street.

In the parlance of Benedict XVI's Vatican, I'm told, the apartment Cardinal Ratzinger occupied for 24 years (right by the last stop of the 62 Bus on which everyone gets groped) is still referred to as "home." The fifth floor of the Apostolic Palace is the dwelling above the shop.

A correspondent tells me a police car is parked outside the home base at all times, and that its "former resident" still gets back there a couple times a week for lengthy visits. It's an open question as to whether he might even be spending the night.... Everyone wants to know whether or not he has cats. Ingrid has maintained he doesn't, and who's in any position to challenge her? I'm still waiting for Ignatius Press to release a CD of him speaking in Bavarian dialect to his feline friends -- it'll become the aural equivalent of the TV fishbowl that gets the kitties all excited.

I'd buy a crate of copies.

Whatever the case, this just goes to show that Joseph Ratzinger -- even in white robes -- knows what he likes and won't be deterred from what makes him happy and puts him at ease. You know, even the Pope deserves some R&R, and as he's never lived within the Vatican walls before, it seems that peace is something the "office" can't provide.



Absorb this image, snowflakes.... As a correspondent writes of the Tridentine fantasy shown here: "COUNT THE HATS on the ALTAR! Two mitres and one HUGE tiara! Is the altar a hat stand or the altar of sacrifice (we dare not use the term Lord's Table)?"

Suffice it to say, hats are not a triumph of ressourcement. Fixation on temporal dominion, yes. Authenticity, no.


Crowning the Archbishop?

From the "Confused Coverage" desk, we have a piece from yesterday's Houston Chronicle on the growth of the newly-elevated archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

The story used as its tie-in the December division of Texas into two provinces, a transition which becomes complete on Wednesday, when Jose Gomez of San Antonio and Joe Fiorenza of G-H receive their pallia at the hands of B16.

But check this lede: "Pope to crown archbishop."

The Pope hasn't even crowned himself! (As the crocodile tears of a certain fringe remind us daily....) The misinterpretation is just too funny, and it's further explanation of how and why all these people are flocking to Dan Brown as the Scriptural and theological commentator du jour.



The Anti-Sweetie Pie

Now let's be clear: Bill McClellan of the beloved St. Louis Post-Dispatch is a snarky character. So much so he makes this blog look like all those cheezy Fr. Lovasik books from the '50s which form the inspiration for the current editorial stance of our Catholic Standard & Times (poster-boy priests, page one; predator priests, page eight).

But, despite his biases, McClellan shows off his bishop-meter today, in a column about his daughter's confirmation by the then-St. Louis auxiliary Edward Braxton:

[B]ut everybody seemed on edge for Braxton's visit. I could see why as soon as he arrived. He was stern, aloof, very formal. He did not smile as he approached the children.

"We are in St. Francis Xavier Church," he said. "So tell me: Who is Francis Xavier?"

The kids stood there mute. As far as they knew, this was College Church. More importantly, this was not one of the facts they had been required to learn for their confirmation. There was an uneasy stirring in the audience. This wasn't fair! This was making the kids uncomfortable. This was making their teachers look bad.

"What is a bishop?" Braxton asked one of the kids. This was a more familiar question, but still, the child was rattled. "He is ordained and serves as a pastoral leader to his fellow Catholics," said the young person.

"Does that sound right to you, Bishop Kraus?" Braxton asked the pastor, the Rev. Len Kraus, who is, of course, not a bishop but is ordained and does serve as a pastoral leader.

Ouch.... And for those from the "he was having a bad mitre day" school of thought, hold off a sec.
I wrote about Braxton's visit and people called me. "He did the same thing at our church!" Oddly enough, most people were upset. Few were entertained.

And the rub is that, even now, confirmation is the one time when most Catholics have any kind of personal interaction with a bishop. Given all the preparation and the uniqueness of the moment, this is not the kind of conduct that keeps our kids -- who are embattled enough already -- motivated to keep engaging their faith.

But, ah, the man who took Edward's place knows what to do. Even when he's a guest, they call him "The Ultimate Host."
Some years later, my son was confirmed. The auxiliary bishop who presided was Timothy Dolan. He was friendly, informal, approachable. He asked the kids the questions for which he knew they had prepared. If they hesitated or were slightly off, he gently coached them along. Everything went smoothly. There was no drama. I felt cheated.

McClellan may have felt cheated, but to see Tim Dolan is to love him. Even to watch him on television, he just exudes goodness a la Uncle Ted. Even when he has to eat crow (i.e. saying "bass-ackwards") in Milwaukee, one can't help but come away with a "just folks" feeling about the guy. As a friend says, "he's such a sweetie-pie."

When we speak of a new model of bishop, that quality is a good place to start.


Late to the Party

Happy Monday, snowflakes.

You know, I was looking forward to the six-monthiversary of my first post in this forum... After some checking, I learnt it was last week. So welcome to half-year celebration week, and what a week it is; Peter and Paul always brings buzz back from Rome, it's a tres newsworthy period across the Pond.

Here's something for everyone to keep an eye for. The big date-marker is coming up: fourteen years since I got into all this. And fourteen for me is a very lucky number, always has been.

As that July day when it all began (and the same day exactly a decade later when everything took a dramatic turn) draws near, I'll be telling the story of the first ten years, and how celebrating the past in a faraway place opened the door to an unexpected and brilliant future.

I've survived six months of blogging... Happy Monthiversary to me!


Sunday, June 26, 2005

A Sign of Canonization Awareness

A cultural meditation: since "Livestrong," we've had wristbands for various charities abound... Breast cancer (pink), heart disease (red), the plight of inner-city youth (dark blue).. and the list goes on.

Now some marketing genius has created one to advocate the canonization of John Paul II: Introducing the Santo Subito wristband. Even for me, and I loved the man, this is a bit much. But it'll be mandatory EWTN wearing in short order.

They're charging $5 a bracelet. That's extortion. As Sr. AnnJoan says, there's no indication that the proceeds here are going to help the work of the cause for JP's canonization, which open's Tuesday.

But, hey, the same mindset gave us the phone company (whose name eludes me) that isn't just any phone company, it's Jesus' phone company... Direct lines to Heaven are an add-on for $6.99 a month. God help us.

Thanks to nunblog and Big Sis in Rome for the tip :)


The Pope Says "Drive Safe"

I just had to put this up. The first paragraph of this morning's Angelus was about the celebration of Peter and Paul this coming Wednesday. And then B16 made an impassioned plea to vacation commuters to be careful while driving.

As the full text is not yet available in English, here's my rough translation of the graf appealing for road safety:

"The end of June marks, for the countries of the northern hemisphere, the beginning of the summer season and for this reason starts vacation season. While I wish a happy vacation to all who are able to spend peacefully some time of well-deserved rest and relaxation, I'd like to make an appeal to prudence to all those who take to the roads to reach their holiday destinations. Each day, sadly, but especially on the weekends, accidents occur where human lives are tragically cut short, and more than half of the victims are of a young age. In recent years, efforts have been made to prevent these tragic events, but more can be done with the contributions and the help of all. We must combat distractions and superficiality, which in a moment can ruin one's own future and that of others. Life is precious and unique: we must respect and protect it always, and we do this also by our correct and prudent behavior on the road."

Now that's a pro-life speech. I put it right up there with John XXIII's Window Exhortation to "Go home, kiss your children and tell them the Pope loves them."


Friday, June 24, 2005

A Breather

It's been quite a week, snowflakes, and I feel spent. So I'm taking the weekend off to recharge and unwind, because the Italian in me doesn't cope well long with a furious pace.

Keep the comments and e.mails coming and I'll be back on Monday all revved up.

For those who might be interested, I'm a contributor to this weekend's edition of The Tablet, with a take on the state of the American bishops. For anyone who finds it, let me know your mind....

Happy Friday! Cheers to all!


Christ in the Desert

Ono Ekeh has issues:
I read Whispers in the Loggia every now and then, about twice a week. There is a reason I can't read him more often. Even though I suspect he's more on my side of things on the political spectrum, I can't stand his self-righteous exalted middle stance (i.e, the conservatives say this, the liberals say that, but I say . . .). But it appears it's not only me....

Of course it's not only you, Ono. But thanks for being stand-up about it -- it engenders respect.

I feel for Ono because he got railroaded by Deal Hudson, who was livid that someone in a position of Catholic leadership had the temerity to stand up to the teaching authority of Archbishop Bush, known to the world as the President.

But in the piece explaning his termination from his post at the USCCB, Ono gives us a valuable definition of diversity in the church:
I believed that the Catholic church in the United States appreciated the benefits of a vigorous discussion from differing ideological arenas, where criticism and divergent views signal the health and vibrancy of a community and not a lack of commitment.

Accusations of self-righteousness are nothing new for me. If they were, I'd have to have my head checked, no? An ex-girlfriend gave me the better part of three years of ribbing what she called my "Christ in the Desert" complex. And I completely agree -- when it goes down, hide the women and children... or at least give them earplugs.

But don't blame me for polarization -- I didn't invent the poles. I just report on what I see, and if there weren't all this screaming, then there'd be less to report. Think about it.

And, seriously, the screaming far left and the screaming far right are united in at least one thing: that they can't stand the words coming out of this blog.

So how 'bout this, gentle snowflakes: stop screaming and use your shared gripes as a moment for unity. Talk amongst yourselves (maybe for the first time) about common hopes, common ideals, using the human exchange of understanding and intellect to form a shared vision of who we are, what we do and, most importantly, where we need to go. Engage and respect each other and discuss differences in a manner of kindness, logic and mutual respect. It's not as hard as it may seem, people -- just don't shoot the messenger.

If we can be constructive in our dialogue, the world would be well-served by it and it'd alleviate a lot of unnecessary energy and rage. And if that service could be goaded along a bit by this outlet, then I can slip off to Hawaii and know that my work wasn't in vain.

As the good Cardinal Pell recently said, "I don’t think a Christian can say 'I’m a lover, not a fighter.'" But at least fight the good fight and not the nasty one.


The Spokesman Exits

You may not be able to believe everything you read in the papers, but after months of rumors and denials, it's now official: the Jamie formerly known as Bomber is resigning as St. Louis' archdiocesan spokesman. He'll be returning to radio on August 1.

However you look at it, Jamie Allman experienced a baptism by fire these last six months. He got a lot of heat, especially from this writer -- and the "flame factor" of what I wrote is sizable beyond question.

St. Paul wrote of how "We see through a glass darkly, but then face to face." Recently, I've been blessed to experience Allman's graciousness and know the good heart he has brought to the table on Lindell Boulevard, one often obscured by the events his time at the Chancery called him to address.

Archbishop Burke may be losing a spokesman who served him well, but I've gained a friend and supporter. For that, I'm humbled and grateful.

Grazie mille, Jamie, and God love ya.


Philadelphia Freedom

From the revisionist history desk, I woke up this morning to find that Rome had laicized seven priests of Philadelphia.

As no one in this town reads the Catholic Standard & Times, where the story was buried "in a spare notice on page 8," the Inquirer did the public service of announcing the move:

The scope of the announcement was evident in the priests' biographies: Over the last four decades, they had served in some 35 parishes and five Catholic high schools across the Philadelphia region.

While the published notice began with the words, "in the spirit of transparency," archdiocesan officials provided no details of the abuse. The announcement did not use the word sexual in describing the accusations, saying only that the priests were defrocked for "misconduct involving minors...."

Cardinal Justin Rigali declined to comment yesterday. Donna M. Farrell, spokeswoman for Rigali and the archdiocese, said the cardinal "does offer deep apologies to the victims of sexual abuse."

Say what you will, but we've had nine laicizations in the last month. Rigali is flexing his Roman muscle to expedite the purge, and that's a good thing. If only we had a more credible operation to publicize that.


Scarlet Spice

One of my favorite exhortations in the Scriptures is the Second Book of Timothy's warning against "teachers who tickle men's ears."

It's a very human temptation to build an echo chamber where all we hear is what we (and others who look, think, and pray like us) are saying, but doing that in this context just politicizes and denigrates a community of faith where mutual respect isn't an option, but a commandment.

Of course, the head table -- the people who keep telling the unwashed that the cafeteria is closed, but only so they can have it to themselves -- flock to such ear-tickling gurus without any heeding a whiff of Timothy. And, as opposed to just saying they disagree with me and why, they love telling me how stupid I am.... Thank you, Honeys. Your faith just shines through. Eat your veggies.

The latest beyond-the-pale revisionist from the "Faux Magisterium" desk is one of their celebrated ones, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney.

Pell -- who, during his decade as archbishop of Melbourne, ordained a group of young lace devotees known around Australia as the "Spice Girls" -- is an EWTN favorite always available for a Raymond Arroyo puff interview. The sessions highly resemble those coreographed "Ask the President" meetings with Bush where, as opposed to questions from the highly vetted audience, the people cry like they're on the Oprah show and thank God for his Administration.

I always like to have faith in the popular intelligence. Obviously, I'm way too idealistic.

But back to Pell. Some weeks ago, I'm told, His Eminence was present at a symposium in Sydney on the Eucharist. Much was made of the following exposition from Sacrosanctum Concilium, paragraph 7:
[Christ] is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross," but especially under the eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20) .

Don't get too excited, libs. By no means is this an excuse for "concelebration" by dancing women religious with ukeleles.

The multi-faceted presence, a triumph of ressourcement, is why I get livid whenever Father incenses every statue and candle at the offertory, but the thurifer then ignores the assembly... That moment speaks volumes without a word.

Anyway, at the end of the conference, Pell got up, thanked the presenters, etc. He then launched into an assault on the paragraph quoted above, working from a belief that the Central Commission of the Council was hijacked by moderates, that many of the threads of the Council as promulgated were not the intent of the Fathers of Vatican II, and basically that the four-fold presence was hogwash.

He closed with the favored distinction, "This is just my personal opinion, I'm not speaking as archbishop of Sydney or for the Church."

As it's an academic symposium, the distinction can be respected. And the charade would've held if the good Cardinal, on a following Sunday, decided not to give a homily at one of the Sydney mega-parishes at Fairfield basically reiterating the exclusive presence of Christ in the Eucharist alone, using his teaching authority to discount the Magisterium.

From the other side of the planet, I can hear the Spice Girls wailing about monstrances. Lovely.

As a priest familiar with the situation told me, Pell and his cronies love screaming "Ohhh, the Magisterium! The Magisterium!" as if it's a blunt weapon to beat sodomites and heretics over the head with. The sheer mention of the word makes liberals cringe, or run for a dictionary.

But here we go with both sides putting faith in the spin cycle again.

Just as libs need to realize that the binding Magisterium didn't begin in 1965, cons need to realize that the binding Magisterium didn't end in 1965. And while some on both sides may have an emotional attachment to certain things which do not fit into the church's current understanding of itself, as one of Lawler's loudest screamers (deceptively) calls itself, "Truth over Sentiment" needs to be the focus. (Hey, if nothing else, at least the name's right.)

A source took me into Pell's worldview: "He's a 1958 man, he wants to go back to those days. The way he thinks, back then, Mum and Dad were still together -- there was no divorce. The kids didn't speak up. We had a conservative government that kept things quiet and orderly. Gays were not seen nor heard. Father ran the Church, the nuns and people knew their place and no one spoke up. And he thinks, 'Weren't those great days? We need to get back there.'

"But you have to remember, back then you could bash your wife. Back then, blacks and whites rode on seperate buses. Back then, all these seminarians who love being able to run to St. Peter's Square to celebrate and scream for Benedict's election would have been kept behind closed doors. Etc.... If people really want to go back there, they have to realize everything they'd be getting. Why would anyone want to go back there? ... But George sees all these questions, and says people want truth. But, he's really thinking, they don't want truth so much as certitude. They want to be certain, and that's what made 1958 what it was."

So as opposed to "Truth over Sentiment," it's "Sentiment and Certitude over Truth."

The romanticism of wanting to freeze one's childhood worldview for eternity got Michael Jackson into big trouble. It's not the best course for a church that's supposed to be living as opposed to turned upside-down and sealed in a cyrogenic tube somewhere in Arizona.

Lastly, I want to post two really sterling comments that show how faith always trumps hubris in its dignity. The first is from our own revered Jeff, who said on the dance question:
In the end, I'll do what the Pope says and support what the norms require. And
try to learn from it. Shouldn't others do the same? I'll bow instead of genuflect before Communion if my bishop asks me to. Shouldn't others be willing to forgo their tastes and theories in the interests of universality and obedience as well?

Jeff could teach Cardinal Pell much....

And the last word belongs to a very reasonable person who somehow didn't fail the CWNews psychological test for their posters, i.e. he's sane. Lawler posted an article about Paul Martin, the Canadian PM, calling himself a "very strong Roman Catholic."

Of course, as Martin doesn't see eye-to-eye with George W. Bush (who, according to the revision of history you've been missing, was baptized by Fulton Sheen and confirmed by Cushing), the Tribunal declares that Martin's not as strong as he claims. Deal Hudson, of course, is tres Catholic in the eyes of these same people. Coincidence?

But, while knocking Martin (who said what he said to ward off Fred Henry while the Commons rammed through a gay marriage bill), Heathcliff gives us this pearl of wisdom:
It doesn't seem to have entered the heads of public figures like Paul Martin that it is not a person's prerogative to decide whether he or she is "a strong Catholic." It is the Church's decision to make. The Church is a human institution as well as divine. Every human organization lays down qualifications one must possess in order to have membership. Cafeteria Catholics are Catholic only in name, not in fact.

And the cafeteria is closed -- even for cardinals.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Dispatch From the Road

Cari fratelli e sorelle, greetings from St. Starbucks.

I had to skip town for the day, but was able to commandeer a laptop -- thank God for wireless internet... it could well be the eighth sacrament. And iPod is the ninth.

Cons, know that I witnessed your fantasy this morning -- yes, there was lace.... And altar girls wearing veils and scapulars, four altar crosses, frescoes of Pius XII's coat of arms above the sanctuary (Pius X's shield is painted over the door) and matching violet chasuble and pall at the Funeral Liturgy I was attending. And my personal favorite, the congregation wasn't incensed. Nota bene, this was a Novus Ordo liturgy.

You lot would salivate.

I spoke with the pastor who built all this -- an old pal -- afterwards. As viscerally as I disagree with his ecclesiology, he's a good man absolutely devoted to his vision of the church, even if it's more ressourcement of the 1950s than anything else. "We're just keeping along, doing the Lord's work," he told me. And he is -- his is a damn fine ministry, and at moments like this, he is a picture of what it means to be pastoral and consoling.... For all the pre-Concililar fixation, the theoretical element goes out the window in times of grief.

From what I'm seeing, it doesn't look like much is going on today, which is good as I've needed a breather. So, as I'd like to see more discussion here, I'd like to ask an existential question: what gives you a lift, overall? I'm not talking about lace or religious women dancing with ukeleles -- I'm asking about life in general.

One of the reasons I'm attracted to this niche of journalism is that faith -- and the people who profess it -- is rich in romanticism, feeling and the cognizance of inspiration, so I'm keen to hear your perspectives.

As for me, it may seem as if I run a 24-hour shop. That's not always the case -- if it were, I'd go insane. This business, more than most, requires its getaways to stay level-headed. If you've read much of me at all, you've seen that I'm losing that battle. Big time.

Moments like this, sitting in a Starbucks with light streaming through the windows in the middle of nowhere, keep me going. But more than anything else, I gravitate toward the sensual things: good friends, roaming around outside on beautiful days, and music.

We now have a Pope who has said he isn't an AC/DC fan. But I still do my Brian Johnson impersonation with relish. I've mentioned my U2 addiction before, one which is so great that I had to have Bono as my commencement speaker, and he came. The wonder of U2 is the resonance of faith-filled imagery in a milieu which isn't usually geared toward the broad questions of God and existence.... Anyone who doubts this should look up the lyrics of "The First Time," a song they did for a movie project Bono was working on.... Basically, it's a contrast of eros, philos and agape. Can you get more theological than that?

Continuing with the Irish mentality of faith, there's my boy Damien Rice -- with whom I've spent some evenings carousing in New York. No matter who you are or where your from, the stuff will blow your mind. Same goes for Jeff Buckley -- we'll have to exempt from the norms to have his version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" played at my funeral... on that topic, a friend of mine wants The Rocky Horror Picture Show's "I'm Going Home" at hers.

So that's the basic outline of what keeps me going; I could go on for hours but that's not the raison d'etre of this outlet. I just thought we could use a little break from the ephemeral and contributions are earnestly sought....

Being driven toward this work (God's blessing and curse on me) hasn't always been the easiest thing, but I'm starting at long last to enjoy the ride. For that, I have you all to thank.

Grazie mille!


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Lord of the Dance

Now, this is shaping up to be a fun discussion.

In my previous post, I expressed utter delight at the praise dancers who carried forth the incense and Book of the Gospels at today's installation in Belleville. As an aside, I snarked at how the cons would condemn the dancers and, as the self-anointed orthodoxy police know no limits, the congregation who applauded.

Lo and behold, the fury has poured itself into my inbox.... I should be surprised?

But let's talk about this as adults, without that trouble-making Lord-impersonator in the room.

Catholics should shudder whenever the universality of the church is marginalized by personal and geographical agendas. There's reason to be particularly skittish when faith is viewed not through a distinctly catholic (i.e. universal) perspective, when it is diluted and objectified by the imposition of a white, Western European cultural mentality onto a global church. This is particularly relevant on the question of liturgical dance and the broader issue of inculturation.

In his homily today, Braxton observed that "No two communities have ever answered the Gospel's question of 'Who do people say that I am?' in the exact same way." And that's a very rich statement. He's answered it by redoing the house.

But, seriously, the sense of the sacred of cultures which are not our own needs to be respected if the full potential of a truly universal church is to be realized in our time. For example, my diocese respects other cultures -- they keep a voodoo doll of me which is treated to daily acupuncture at the office.

Jeff, in his wisdom, asked "If we wonder, with Pope Benedict, whether dance is proper in the liturgy, does that make us vicious in your eyes?"

When one wonders, when one asks, there is no viciousness because there is room for dialogue, respecting the other side and the flexible status of an open question.

But when some -- acting on nothing but xenophobia and their own authority -- aim to close the question and promulgate their own (heterodox) doctrine, that is viciousness, that's anti-Catholicism (in the small "c" sense, too).

While Cardinal Ratzinger expressed a personal opinion on liturgical dance, we would be wise to recall the distinction between what Joseph Ratzinger wrote and said as an academic theologian and his formal pronouncements as prefect of the CDF. The two are not one and the same. Even he has made that clear, and he couldn't have published in his own name as prefect were that line not drawn.

We must remember, too, that we're dealing with a Pope who said in his Installation Homily that "My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church..." In that regard, many would do well to listen to the advice of the church's chief teacher as opposed to flocking to teachers who tickle their ears, like that Mother Spice down Sydneyside who wants to take us back to 1958 and hammer home the difference between black and white.

In our white, Western European milieu, we may not see dance as a sacred act and a manifestation of praise of God's creation. Therefore, it is not appropriate in a whitebread American context. But in Oceania, it is. Among African-Americans, it is. In Hawaii, it is. For Native Americans, it is -- and the list goes on. What's so heterodox about celebrating the power of God within the validity of the norms? Even Chainsaw Frank DiLorenzo -- who got the Holy See to reverse a decision against liturgical hula and routinely wore leis over his chasuble -- has no qualms with it.

I'm not keen to disenfranchise vast swaths of this church, nor denigrate the valid and beautiful cultural contributions they bring to our table. If anyone else is, go ahead -- but just know that ethnocentrism jams the notion of communio into the shredder.

The church is alive, the church is young only when we embrace it with the openness and enthusiasm of life and of youth. And as youth are uniquely keen on discovering, there is a world, and a Church, elsewhere.

As always, the comment board is open. Speak up!



A big thank you card to the Belleville diocesan sound people and prelates who don't know how to turn a clip-on microphone off.

Braxton's about to launch into his installation homily, where he'll sing "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" to his new flock, but live mics caught some interesting sotto voce slips in the first moments of the liturgy.

As Braxton was about to be led to the Chair, Cardinal George joked, "Well, we know the Bull is authentic, but is this really Edward Braxton?" Once Belleville's bishop was seated, George leaned in to whisper, "You're in! You're in!"

At least, George thought it was a whisper.


Wait, wait... PRAISE DANCERS! YES!

At the "Alleluia," 12 African-American young women swayed up the aisle, dancing around the bowl of incense and the book of the Gospels which they bore. The Gospel book had an African angel on the cover. Goregous....

Wow... this is fabulous. I can only imagine how furious any watching cons are -- this is pure Piero Marini-style beauty.

The people are applauding the dancers. The cons, in their liturgical purity (lace, anyone?), would condemn them all to hell.

And so it begins... homily time.


Audience Participation

Anyone interested in watching a liturgy which might well include catcalls from Pope-hating priests should click here around 4PM Eastern time (2000 GMT).

KSDK, a St. Louis television station, will be streaming the Braxton installation from Belleville. Even if flashes of civility are present and no one boos at the reading of the bull of appointment, it will still be a sumptuous event. Nothing but the best for Edward....

I'll be watching, glass of Brunello in hand.


No Stopping the Bull

Well, after three months of furor, Bishop Braxton today takes the reins in Belleville. And if those priests don't shut up once that letter is presented, their credibility is shot.

In this business, you really have to pick your battles.

But here's an interesting piece from today's Chicago Tribune. When everyone hears about how whipped up the priests are getting, consider these words from one of them:

Rev. Clyde Grogan, who oversees ministries in East St. Louis, counts on his right hand what he calls the "Killer B's," or those politicians and clergy who do not have the community's best interests at heart: "Benedict, Bush, Blagojevich, Blunt and Braxton"--a list including the pope, the president and the governors of Illinois and Missouri.

Wow. At least Grogan's bi-partisan, but that's quite a hit list, no? The cons would say, "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, Levada, [Bob] Lynch, Durbin, and whoever Fox News and the Holy Father [i.e. Phil Lawler] tell us not to like."

It's particularly funny because even pro-life Catholics in St. Louis think Matt Blunt's a nutball... pro-life Catholics, people, not pro-birth Catholics -- there's a big difference there.


And, going Eastward, I noted yesterday that Archbishop Favalora down in Miami is 0 for 2 when it comes to naming auxiliaries.

To clarify, the archbishop's goose-egg score is good for the Church -- in sending Felipe Eztevez and now John Noonan to assist Favalora, both times the Holy See passed over Favalora's favored nominee, Tomas Marin, a former cardiologist who was ordained and reigned as Chancellor there for many years.

Estevez, in particular, has struck me with his sense of humility and just being a real person. I don't know enough about Noonan to form a judgment, but I like what I've seen.

Still, look at how pissed Favalora is over Noonan's appointment:

It is my pleasure to inform you that this morning, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, announced the appointment of Monsignor John Noonan as Auxiliary Bishop for Miami. I rejoice with all of the priests, religious and laity of the Archdiocese on this very fitting appointment.

After the press conference this morning, Bishop-Elect Noonan will concelebrate Mass with me at the Pastoral Center at 11:45 a.m.

His Episcopal Ordination will take place on Wednesday, August 24, 2005, Feast of Saint Bartholomew Apostle, at 1:00 p.m., at the Cathedral of Saint Mary. Formal invitations will follow.

Please keep Bishop-Elect Noonan in your prayers. I look forward to his collaborative assistance in the Church of Miami.

One shouldn't sound terse when announcing an auxiliary bishop, but Favalora does -- these are not the words of a happy man. Why's he not happy? Well, because Noonan is not Tomas, just as Eztevez (for all his gifts and goodness) was not Tomas.

But when your first choice is said to have, um, issues -- and Rome knows about them -- I'd rather the church be well-served in the best choice than the one which would make Boss happiest....

We all remember what happened with Jim McCarthy, don't we?


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Eat a Peach for Peace

Forgive me -- your humble writer has spent the last 24 hours on special assignment.... The hills were alive with the sound of bishops calling.... I don't know about you, but that's music to my ears.

For the unmitigated gall I sometimes get (grazie, cons), I never cease to be amazed at the power of all this to bring people together, to get us talking and in touch. That's why this outlet was started -- to be a presence against polarization -- and its mission is being fulfilled in these days.

If you look down at some comments, you'll see that the Purgemongers still want to tear it up. Thing is, we can't let them.

Before I get away from the desk for a few, here's a fun story. The word came down before 6 this morning that Miami was to receive a new auxiliary bishop. I was fearing it would be the favored son whose nomination would cause South Beach to rock with celebration.

Yet again, though, it wasn't. Favalora's 0 for 2....

More soon....


Monday, June 20, 2005

A Legend in His Own Time

Word's come from Manila that Cardinal Sin died tonight, aged 76. The Philippines will mourn in a monumental way. Even the BBC's top story is the passing of the man once dubbed "the Divine Commander-in-Chief."

Think about the numbers -- one million people mobilized by Sin for People Power, seven million (the largest crowd in human history) who came to see John Paul II ten years back at WYD in Manila. The funeral will be like the events of April in microcosm.

Jaime Sin was unique -- presidents came and went, but he brought the standing of the church as national conscience to unseen levels over his three decades as archbishop of Manila. He didn't just know the power brokers, he was the power broker, toppling two presidents in the name of the common good. Above all, this was a man who saw that political corruption ran contrary to the principles of the Gospel. His example could teach many Americans....

In her statement tonight, the Filipino President -- who took office after Sin led a revolt against her predecessor -- called the late cardinal "A great liberator of the Filipino people and a champion of God."

We could use more of that kind of courage in our own lands, no?

Poor Soc Villegas.... He must be devastated.



Just when you thought formal schism wasn't enough, the head of the SSPX wants a meeting with B16 -- whom they refer to as the "distant successor of Pius V."

Hmm. The "distant successor" to a saint vs. the close successor to a schismatic. And I thought it was the cons who wanted to have their cake and eat it, too.

The Lefevbrites thought they could keep it intra muros.... Honeys, this is the Roman Catholic church -- schism or not, the washing well remains.

The documents below sound exactly like the CWNews Tribunal as Levada was named to the CDF -- judgmental, catty, more "Catholic" than the Pope. But, to its credit, SSPX has the sophistication to not stoop to the depths of, say, claiming triumph when B16's "background is exposed and he CHOOSES to retire."

For the uninitiated, that gem was from a Lawlerite who thought he found Jesus by taunting Levada. It was actually the Lord-impersonator.

A source from the Society sends these presents (emphases are my own):


After the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Cardinal Ratzinger, who took the name of Benedict XVI, we are in expectation of what this pontificate will be. Obviously, Cardinal Ratzinger's past is scarcely encouraging and one might indeed well be fearful. Nevertheless, one might equally entertain some hope, however faint, for the liturgy should the Pope have the courage of the convictions he expressed as a private author in his different publications over the last few years. One of the first, keenly awaited, gestures which should give us a fairly significant indication will be his nomination for the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

It seems that, after a moment of panic, the hard-liners have begun to recuperate their position and to encircle the new pope so as to keep a free hand to continue to spread in the Church deleterious seeds. As the Anglo-Saxons say: "Wait and see . . . "

FYI, to use the term "Anglo-Saxon" is so French pejorative....

So that was the "news briefing." Here is the letter regarding the audience.

Circular Letter 2005-05EX
17 May 2005

Dear Confreres:

The election of Pope Benedict XVI after the death of John Paul II is an event that must hold the attention of the Society and its superiors, even though significant changes from the course described by the preceding pontificate probably cannot be expected. The Pope's recent authorization to open the cause of beatification of his predecessor, waiving the five-year period that is supposed to elapse first, can scarcely inspire confidence.

Nevertheless, as our beloved and venerated founder Archbishop Lefebvre did upon the election of Pope John Paul II, it seems useful and necessary to contact the new pope to request an audience. This is Bishop Fellay's intention, determined in consultation with his council, and which he desires to make known to you by this letter.

Yet, so that this intention may be rightly understood, I have been charged with explaining to you his reasoning as regards this request for an audience. What is its purpose? Above all, it is a matter of making the presence of Tradition felt at Rome, of bearing witness to what we are so that the voice of Tradition may be heard at the heart of Christendom, even if we must not have any illusions about the kind of echo it will encounter. It is an episode in the combat of the faith that we are waging, and which must necessarily also be waged in Rome.

This audience will equally be the occasion to solemnly reiterate in a personal, direct manner, the call for the restoration of the Tridentine Rite of Mass in all its rights, so that the ostracism of which it is the object may cease. It will be the occasion to remind the Pope that Cardinal Ratzinger belonged to the Commission of nine Cardinals that unanimously judged in 1986 that no one could prevent a priest from celebrating this Mass. If there was unanimity, then necessarily he must have voted thus.

Will he be responsive to this argument? It is hard to say, but it is our duty to remind him of it, and to go and proclaim the inalienable right of this rite before the distant successor of St. Pius V.

Bishop Fellay considers it very important to inform you at the outset of this initiative so that it can proceed in the light of day, and so that all the members of the Society can understand its scope and meaning. Please note well that there is no intention at this time of resuming "negotiations" of any kind.

You are asked to please inform the members of the Society entrusted to your solicitude, so that all may know the reasons for this request of an audience and its goal. On the other hand, this letter is not supposed to be disclosed outside the Society, even if experience has taught us that this type of news rarely remains "intra muros" . . .

Confiding this step to Popes St. Pius V and St. Pius X, I assure you, dear Confreres, of my prayers to the united Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

+ Fr. Arnaud Selegny
Secretary General

Comments, anyone?


Close Call

I'm not usually the biggest fan of Bob Vasa, the bishop of Baker.

Vasa (formerly VG to Fabian in Lincoln -- where the altar rail doubles as an electric fence) will be remembered in history for showing up at a VOTF meeting in someone's backyard and screaming at the attendees for 20 minutes.

However, Vasa writes a really intuitive and candid weekly column for his paper out in Oregon. This week's is about a car accident he was recently in, but he was able to walk away unscathed. Seems that the car was totaled, but this should be proof to everyone of the importance of seatbelts! (Vasa was wearing one and hanging from the ceiling of the overturned car.)

Contrary to Philadelphia theory, a Roman collar does not keep a person from being subject to the laws of gravity.

What an experience he relates, and he finds the grace in the moment.... Honestly, I'm just glad he's OK. From his telling, it's almost a miracle.


A Legacy of Kindness

From the Washington Desk, Uncle Ted on what's next:

Less than one month from the age of mandatory retirement for Catholic bishops, Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said he hopes to leave a legacy of kindness after his 28 years as a bishop in New York, Metuchen and Newark, N.J., and Washington.

"Every priest needs to be kind," he said. "Every bishop needs to be kind... If I try to be kind, that's the most important thing. Get the bad people made good, get the good people made better. That's my legacy."

Anyone concerned about the image of the church in the US should be on their knees, praying the man doesn't go anywhere soon.
"I am energetic enough [to stay]," the cardinal said, "but I have a lot of things I could do in retirement. I want to get myself ready to go home [to heaven], you know? [Retirement] would give me more time to do that."

It would also give him more time to go fishing, he said, especially in New Jersey, where he lived for 23 years. However, John Paul II, near the end of his reign, extended several cardinals' terms well past retirement age. Benedict XVI could follow suit.

"If he wants me to continue, I'm open to that, too," the cardinal said. "Whatever. I'm easy, I really am. I learned years ago you always do what the Lord tells you to do. ... Whatever the Lord tells me through the Holy Father, I am open to whatever he wants."
As I've always said of McCarrick, as Molly Ivins once said of someone else, "His manners are so much better than anyone who's ever trashed him, it is a monument to his momma."


Così Dicono

When clericalism gives you lemons, make lemonade.

It seems that a side discussion has crept up about how chatty clergy get amongst themselves, and the things that fly over drinks in ecclesiastical circles. Some seek to deny that this type of communication exists -- e.g. "Archbishop Burke would never say that."

I wonder what planet they come from.

So from the Romanita' desk, here's this week's Letter from Rome of Robert Mickens of The Tablet. Mickens really seems to know what he's talking about, except when he says "clericalism is back."

Clericalism is back? Where did it ever go?


Archbishop Paul Marcinkus (now there’s a blast from the ecclesiastical past!) used to call it the “washing well”. It was his reference to the gossip mill in clerical Rome. Now, if you didn’t know that clericalism is back (and in a big way), and if you don’t know who Marcinkus is, then you must have tuned-out some time last century. “Chink” – as the archbishop is nick-named – was a looming presence in the Montini-Luciani-Wojtyla era as papal bodyguard, governor of Vatican City State, and Vatican fall-guy for the Ambrosian Bank scandal. He is currently somewhere in sunny Arizona improving his golf game and – we all suspect and hope – writing his memoirs. “You can see all the dirty laundry at the washing well,” he used to say. And there’s no better place for that than at the coffee bars and trattorias throughout the Borgo where the gossip oozes as thick as the espresso priests and news hacks
gulp down in tiny porcelain cups. “Che dicono?” is a favourite ice-breaker – “what are people saying?” And from there it can be “off to the races” with an earful of juicy titbits, or – quite frequently – a tricky and disciplined game of cat-and-mouse. Usually the curial “deep-throats” end all their revelations with a qualifying, “così dicono,” which basically means, “Hey, don’t blame me if this isn’t true; this is just what people are saying.” Indeed, the snoops and gossipmongers often get their items mixed up at the washing well. The other day a Vatican type said he had a hot tip for me, but he couldn’t remember where he had heard it. It turned out not
be a hot tip at all, but something he got from me! By the way, the ever-shrewd Marcinkus made this famous remark, as he was about to “retire” to the United States: “The psalmist says, ‘Put not your trust in princes.’ That goes especially for princes of the Church.”


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Journey Into the Asylum

Usually, it's a particular type of story that makes me cringe -- a massive terrorist attack or Third World massacre, the Darfur, tragic stuff....

Well, today I'm cringing at my own backyard.

If you want to see how, if unchallenged long enough, Christianity can be used and exploited in the name of anything, check this article from today's NYTimes Magazine about how whipped-up a certain brand of American Christians are doing everything but sacrificing their children to the gods to stop gay marriage.

The kids may be safe (well, as safe as they can be with parents like these), but their parents have more hang-ups than Oprah Winfrey's closet.

For some reason, I just can't see what about gay people gets the Lord-impersonators so panicked -- I guess I'm just too focused on fixing my own shortcomings and being a better person as opposed to judging swaths of the population who are different than me. As Margaret Cho has memorably said, "I just can't imagine drag queens breaking into their homes and stealing their wedding photographs and Champagne glasses."

But the cons would gladly do a similar bust-in. Because God told them to.

Is God really going to send an asteroid to earth if gay marriage goes forward, people? Will averting something which has been twisted into something bigger than 9/11 solve our crippling national debt, the wrath of terrorists, corporate greed, the epidemic of poverty, the crisis in our schools, etc. etc. etc. etc.? In short, absolutely not -- it's a convenient distraction to get people's minds off everything else that is actually something to be outraged about.

When Jimmy Swaggart can make hay by calling homosexuality an "a-bommm-nation!" [sic], that basically just sums up how far we have to go as a culture.

Call me crazy, but I have this revolutionary (retrograde?) idea -- as opposed to chomping at the bit against the marriages we don't have, how 'bout working on the ones we do?

If implemented, gay marriage would cause nowhere near the pain, damage to children and destruction of the so-called "traditional" family which has already been wrought by divorce. But it seems the common attitude toward that real societal crisis -- even among the very Evangelicals who would secede if two men got married -- is to shrug one's shoulders and sweep the counsel of Jesus under the rug.

Cons love their distractionary tactics, and this isn't to say that so many divorces are fraught with tension and great sadness. But I'd feel reassured about the motives if we didn't have a double standard of self-anointed cultural police barring marriage to some while their own ilk flout the sanctity they love proclaiming -- so long as they don't have to live by it themselves.

Just me being idealistic, I guess.


Everybody Loves Raymond

Like it or not, snowflakes, Ray Burke is the topic of conversation in PopeWorld these days. Speculation of all kinds, JamieBomber profiles, "he said, he said" nonsense.... it's a festival of gossip!

I got more than a little heat about my Friday night report that the Caped Crusader/Gloved One of St. Louis has told friends he's headed to DC. Imagine: more "oh no, oh no" venom from the same people who invented the buzz that Archbishop Chaput's transfer to the capital was inevitable in the hope that they could create the momentum to make it happen.

How civilized....

For the millionth time, people, don't shoot the messenger. I don't report speculation on the basis of whether I like it or don't -- that's unethical, biased and just grossly unprofessional. I base what I run on the reports I get from on-the-ground in Rome and elsewhere, trying to discern the credible from that which exists just to fill a vacuum of truth. If it's the spreading word on the Borgo, it goes here. If it's partisan ambitions masquerading as valid speculation, it doesn't.

Lastly, everyone deluded enough to think that appointments just drop out of the sky catching bishops unawares would be wise to remember a story from Burke's recent past.

In August, 2003, before Justin Rigali even left St. Louis, the Pharaoh-elect had Burke over for dinner at the residence Burke would move into six months later. The then-Bishop of LaCrosse was welcomed to the house by a well-connected cleric who greeted "the archbishop-elect of St. Louis."

That was four months before Burke actually was named there.


Happy Birthday, Dear Paulines

First off, a blessed and happy Father's Day to all the hard-working and committed Dads among us. Same goes for all the good priests who provide us all with examples of fatherhood, integrity and faith. Dads of all stripes, thank you and God love you.

This past Thursday marked the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the Daughters of St. Paul. The Paulines, whose mission is to utilize every available means of communication in the service of the Gospel, are near and dear to my heart -- they're a gift.

My beloved Big Sis was kind enough to send me a link to Sr. AnnJoan's nunblog, a Pauline's piece of cyberspace. It's definitely worth a look. Check this critique of Good Catholic Girls (whose author once was a conversation partner of mine on prime-time TV):

I keep thinking about that matter of "fighting to change the Church." It just strikes me as so amazingly inappropriate. And I wonder how many of the women highlighted in the book, which I am bringing to Mundelein with me, really see that as their goal. I mean, to believe yourself so guided by the Spirit, and so purely motivated as to give your own experience and perspective that much weight hardly seems rational. I guess I found out the hard way that something can be true without being "the truth."

There is another issue that I noticed at play in the pages I flipped through: the postmodern tendency to identify a statement of doctrine with a moral judgement against a person. This is the most mystifying thing in the world to me, but I see that it is quite common. It makes even holding something as objective reality an offence against someone!

Here is another issue that is out there: believing that Church teachings are some sort of pious ideal that you are most welcome to pursue if so motivated. This is really insidious, because--again--it treats objective truth as an option, and not as the real measure of things. I noticed when I lived in Europe that Europeans do not take laws, for example, nearly as seriously as we Americans do. (I've written about this before, in another context.) But "laws" and "truths" are not the same thing. Falling short of a law and falling short of living by the truth are very different! (Didn't St. Paul indicate as much in Romans and Galatians--never mind 1 and 2 Corinthians?!) And yet our postmodern culture identifies even truth as a kind of law, and allows you to observe it or not. Again, if you have this mindset, then of course you will "fight to change
the Church" which insists that truth is true whether you want to conform to it or not: when truth is not recognized as the reality of a thing, it is bound to be seen as oppressive.

In all this, I am not saying that there are no huge institutional failures. I'm just saying you can't identify "the Church" as "the enemy" when it is more likely a matter of "group think" or an effect of corporate culture. These things are not, as we would say in catechism language, "marks of the Church." They are more like the "scars of the Church," the wounds of our own sinful contribution.

I guess it comes down to: you want to "change the Church"? Look in the mirror.

Wow.... Grazie Dio per le Paulini!


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Princely Rank and Precedence

Pio Laghi tells a great Philly story. Only thing is, it happened in Chicago.

When Laghi -- apostolic delegate to the US at the time, now a cardinal retired from the Curia -- installed Bernardin in the Windy City in 1982, he noted that the papal bull naming Bernardin referred to Chicago as maxima -- in Latin, the "greatest," ostensibly because of its size.

As Laghi said it, "No sooner did I mention this when a voice which sounded suspiciously like that of Cardinal Krol [the third Philadelphia Pharaoh] was heard to exclaim, 'Maxima, forsa, sed non optima!'" -- "Perhaps the largest, but not the best!"

Almost twenty years after Krol's retirement, and a decade after his death, that anecdote says a lot about how Philadelphia church sees itself, then and now. But the quote could well inform a decision that B16 has coming on his hands when he announces a new batch of cardinals in the forseeable future.

Even before the death of John Paul, there had been much talk that the Americans were in for a reshuffling of red hats to meet the demographic recomposition of the US church, with the former East Coast Catholic masses now spread across the Sun Belt of the South and West.

It's important to note that, for the first 50 years of American cardinals after John McCloskey of New York got his red hat in 1875, the number of US princes of the church was frozen at three -- the first berths going to New York, Boston and Baltimore. And whenever a new one was elevated, the celebrations were huge. In 1921, the first Philadelphia cardinal, Dennis Dougherty, was welcomed back to America with a tickertape parade in New York. And this town hasn't been celebrated in the Big Apple ever since....

Since roughly the 1960s, the heads of US archdioceses with Catholic populations exceeding 1 million were almost automatically raised to membership in the College of Cardinals. As precious few jurisdictions meet this criteria, the names are pretty familiar: LA, Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit. Despite its relatively small population of 600,000, Washington's status as the capital see keeps it on the list.

But could this practice of cardinalatial sees change? Does maxima immediately connote optima? It is a crucial question, one which could show Benedict XVI's hand on the question of a smaller, more faithful church, and the practice of mega-dioceses within it.

I once brought this up with a Ratzinger-favored bishop over dinner. "I don't like the practice of cardinalatial sees," the bishop told me. "It encourages too much positioning among bishops who want to get them and, because of all the obligations, de-personalizes the role of the bishop." He went on to say that, if he could have his way, no diocese would be larger than 400,000 people, so the bishop can be relatively close to his people, without the massive bureaucracies which mark the large urban dioceses.

It was a refreshing view, a very pastoral one. But, as cardinals are a necessity (we wouldn't have a pope without one), and every pope re-jiggers the selection process a bit to fit his view, B16's experience is very rich.

This can't be underestimated: for the first time since the 1600s, the cardinal-dean became Pope.

As Dean, Cardinal Ratzinger presided over the daily general congregations of the cardinals where the state of the church was discussed. According to several accounts, he knew each cardinal -- and, presumably, his background as well -- by name. He encouraged the Third Worlders to speak up more, and tried to curtail the First Worlders who spoke too much. As a curialist of two decades, he knows the international picture better than anyone, and he knows the global south is underrepresented in the college. Moreover, he knows what he's looking for in cardinals, but his predecessor's appointments might hinder him as regard certain customs.

So while JP felt somewhat tradition-bound in the area of cardinals, if B16 prefers the work-ethic and pastoral leadership of, say, the archbishop of Santa Fe or Atlanta to that of the archbishop of a traditionally cardinalatial see, this Pope would have no inhibitions to elevate the guy from the less-prominent place to the College. He knows from experience the power the red hat has to energize a local church, and he knows (as John Paul did) that some off-the-radar communities could use the boost.

Usually, the Deanship of the cardinals is a nice honorific. But Ratzinger worked at it and learned the college inside and out. That education will make his first consistory, whenever it comes, a concrete teaching moment of where he wants to take things.


Place Your Votes, Place Your Bids

Anyone who wants a shot at the aforementioned tally sheet from the Conclave can now find it on eBay at this link. As of press, there are precisely 0 bids....

Being a starving Vaticanologist, I'm out of the running. But go get it, people! It's history!


Friday, June 17, 2005

Sic Transit Cappa Magna?

Take this with a grain of salt, but as it's the buzz on the ground, it deserves an airing.

According to a Roman source, Ray Burke has told friends he expects to be named the next archbishop of Washington.

Happy, happy, joy, joy?


Chicago Update

As predicted, the USCCB passed the renewed norms by a wide margin (229-3) this afternoon.

But, as expected:

The modifications drawing the loudest protests concern the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel the bishops created that reformers consider critical to monitoring the church.

Some former board members angered Catholic leaders by openly challenging bishops. Now, the revised policy emphasizes that the panel remains under the bishops' authority and could someday include clergy.

Church leaders say the language is meant only to clarify the relationship between the board and bishops. But Illinois Justice Anne Burke, a former chairwoman of the board, contended the prelates were trying to undermine the panel.

"What they're really saying here is they don't like the way the board functioned, and they didn't like the independence of people on the board," she said.

In other news from the floor, the bishops elected Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson as the new chair of their Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practices by a "convincing margin." Serratelli fills the vacancy left by Levada's transfer to that Big Doctrinal Office across the pond.

Cons will be happy to know that Serratelli is a McCarrick protege. (I can see the seething faces.) But the venom will be tempered by knowing that he was up against Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, a former LA auxiliary.

Of course, as both cardinal-mentors are the daily targets of conhate, some will see no winners here. But those who know Serratelli's cred and qualities are very happy. And Montalvo is just thrilled.

I'm not touching the "Memorial Acclamation" debate except to say that Egan's intervention was eminently well-received and the biggest surprise of the meeting.


Happy Birthday, Father-Mentor

The giant of my life who started all this turns 82 today, so I have to pay a brief tribute.

Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua gifted me with the fount of (spiritual) riches and a life's mission when his example and encouragement inspired me to a take an active place in the church. Over fourteen years, I've seen some amazing things and have a treasure trove of stories and blessings from the journey, but none of it would've happened without his support, his presence, his fatherly solicitude and goodness to me.

I'll never be able to repay it.

Just the other day, I spoke with a priest who happened to meet the Cardinal under serendipitous circumstances. Even now, his memories were vivid -- "He was so interested in pastoral ministry, he kept asking me questions about my people," the priest recalled.

That encounter is, in microcosm, the consistent thread of 56 years of a priesthood impeccably lived: an all-encompassing love of the church and its people, especially the young, and a single-minded commitment to realizing the priestly power of effecting renewal and change in people's lives, and the pastoral imperative of being a source of comfort and strength for the flock. Two years after his retirement, those little moments of blessing babies, of encouraging families, of energizing youth, all through the devotion of this one man continue resonate in the life of our local church and in the hearts of our people. You all see this in me every day.

The Cardinal is enjoying retirement and its opportunities for long-delayed travel and rest -- but, ever the man of action, he misses the daily immersion and engagement of active ministry. Most of all, he misses the people. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers, he's got the whole world in his.

Buon compleanno, Eminenza!


Place Your Votes

Coming soon to an online auction near you.... A tally sheet from the Conclave. (Note the slots for the signatures of the counters and tellers at the bottom.)

I'm told this was found in the Sistina during the cleanup. You thought the papal VW Golf went for a pretty penny? This is gonna be huge.


Old Cologne?

Now that America has to mind its p's and q's a bit more, I've really gotten keen on The Tablet. Good, balanced pieces from a very rich intellectual footing.

From the "Young People and Gloved Ones" Desk (ecclesiastical division), this week's edition features a piece by their Rome correspondent on a Tridentine movement, Juventutem, that wants to rock WYD -- in a very buttoned-up way, of course.

The Burkie cape is going on a world tour.... Summer is no excuse for lacking fashion.


The Senator Against the Tank

Great insight from John Danforth -- former Republican governor of and senator from Missouri, Episcopal priest -- in today's NYTimes:

In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.
By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

As I've said before of others, a business where someone like Jack Danforth is seen as some kind of raving, free love hippie isn't just conservative, it's fascist.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Refreshing Perspective

One of the blessings of this work, one of life's blessings, is the ability we have to hear all sides and come to the table with a more rounded view of things. To think through something is a very healthy, even very Christian, gift. This creature we call Truth is a very nuanced thing.

I was really happy to have one of those experiences of clarification today. I got a call earlier from one of the church's good servants, a friend in Southern Illinois keeping an eye on l'affaire Braxton. And some exceptionally smart and pastoral points were brought up.

In the name of balance, given all the apoplectic coverage out there (to which I have, admittedly, contributed), these nuances belong in our dialogue:

First, it's a very Roman MO to do business everywhere but the office. It's a very human thing, too -- when people are relaxed, they're ostensibly more open. I'm told the residence of the bishops of Belleville wasn't so much a center of diocesan life in decades past, but Braxton is aiming to change that. Apparently, and I've heard this before, his meetings, dinners, etc. would bring upwards of 2,000 people to his house every year in Lake Charles. And he's aiming to make his residence in Illinois the same kind of environment for dialogue and listening so his ministry can be as well-briefed as possible. Smart, no? We could even call it "transparent."

Second, while admirable for their conviction, it seems the priests of Belleville who signed onto the letter protesting the lack of local consultation in the process are aiming for an unrealistic and, candidly, impolitic end: the reversal of Braxton's appointment. While a critique of the handling of the process will serve the church well down the line, coming for the bishop's scalp before he even takes the chair shows a lack of cooperation from those who are supposed to be the first co-workers of the episcopal order, and it also politicizes good governance much more than it should be.

In a democracy, educated participation is key. But even though the church is not a democracy, the impetus, the necessity of understanding, respecting and working effectively in its culture and processes is ever more pressing and imperative. It is how respect is won, and how clout where it matters is eventually attained. If it hasn't already done so, the reaction in Belleville could well end up being a black mark against the priests and shake out in Braxton's favor, earning him sympathy in Rome which wasn't there before.

Third, given the recent history of the Belleville diocese (crippling scandal and two bishops moved upward), could the house redo be seen as a sign of commitment to the diocese? If so, that's very promising. Could it be Braxton saying, "I want to die here. I want to be here"? (His return to the region has already prompted much joy from St. Louis' cultural community....)

The rise and ambition of the bishop-climber is something many of us in larger metropolitan sees don't really have to deal with -- jumpy auxiliaries aside. For a small diocese, a bishop already looking to the next thing is often a demoralizing reality of church life. In that context, a solid guy committed to sticking around is a keeper.

So the points are out there. Let's get talkin'.


A Quick Request

We obviously don't all see eye to eye here in the blogosphere, but I just saw that Dom Bettinelli's brother, John, suffered a heart attack this afternoon and he's asked for prayers. John's only 41 and he and his wife just brought their sixth kid into the world.

This being a more journalistic forum, I don't usually do the prayer circle request, but as all of us are in this together, please remember Dom, John and their family in your thoughts at this tough moment.


Passing the Torch


#1 and #2.... The two most powerful Americans in Vatican history sitting together on the floor. Just had to put this up -- it's a great shot.


The Fall of Mafia Irpinia

Say it ain't so, Navarro.

Days after being reconfirmed as head of the Holy See's Press Office, Joaquin Navarro-Valls is foretelling that the end is near.

"I will continue until the Pope accepts that a change is good and positive," Navarro Valls announced Monday....

"At that time, I will return to my first profession, which is so far from the activity I am now engaged in," he explained, as reported by the Veritas agency. Prior to being a journalist, Navarro Valls was a practicing psychiatrist.

In related buzz, the rumors are flying around Rome that one of the most powerful coalitions in recent Vatican history lies squarely in B16's crosshairs.

In 1984, the Spaniard Navarro-Valls -- then head of the Italian Foreign Press -- was named director of Sala Stampa on the advice of the young information chief of the Secretariat of State, Crescenzio Sepe. That same year, Sepe engineered the appointment of a friend from home, Mario Agnes, as editor of L'Osservatore Romano.

Together with the omnipresent Mother Tekla Famiglietti, Superior of the Brigittine Sisters, Sepe (the mastermind behind the 2000 Jubilee Year, now cardinal-prefect of Evangelization) and Agnes comprised what became known in Rome as "Mafia Irpinia," for the Italian region from which they hail.

But their future is uncertain. Word's flying that Agnes is leaving L'Osservatore and that Sepe, the consummate curialist if ever there were one, is up for a Benelli-esque exile to Naples in the fall. If that comes to pass, together with Navarro's departure, it gives B16 several major openings for his own loyalists who have his mission at heart. It is, beyond doubt, a situation worth watching.

However, as anyone who has watched the Holy See for more than 48 hours knows, Sepe has the goods and can't ever be underestimated or counted out until his fate is written in Bollettino-stone.

Can the Capo of the Iripinese manage yet another comeback?


More from Belleville

St. Louis is just one hopping mad place these days.

First, Ray Burke -- 10 feet of amaranth silk trailing behind -- turns off the large chunks of the archdiocesan family who aren't mantilla-leaning. He's the kind of bishop Karl Lagerfeld would love.

Then Larry Biondi, the Jesuit president of St. Louis U., infuriated libs and cons in equal measure by firing two wildly popular campus ministers and advocating stem-cell research.

And, of course, the culmination of it all is the Edifice Complex which has split the diocese across the river, in Belleville.

Jim Keleher presided over what has been called a "sex ring," Wilton came in to clean it up, and now all his humble efforts at restoring credibility are being thrown into the shredder.

Ed Braxton is unique among the American bishops. Brilliant (Rome and Harvard-educated), cultured, an inspiring writer, speaker and a beautiful mind. But at the same time, does he really have to be so stupid?

As a rule, bishops who want to flex diva muscle usually wait six months after installation so as not to make waves from the outset. Not Braxton -- and he's paying the price, with 3/4 of his new presbyterate stacked against him a week before his installation.

Tim Townsend returns to the well today:
Monsignor James E. Margason, vicar general of the diocese, said "more than 50" of Belleville's active diocesan priests signed a letter that was sent to George in Chicago. There were 70 active priests at the time the letter was signed. Now there are 72. Margason would not talk about the content of the letter.

According to several priests who attended a meeting where it was signed, the letter expressed concern about how Bishop Edward K. Braxton was selected as their new bishop.
The Pro's Midwestern picks have been getting a lot of resistance on-the-ground lately -- and, by his own admission, he's not close to B16 "at all." Don't be surprised if Georg's already asked for the case files on Braxton to Belleville. Somebody wants to see them upstairs....

The American bishop-making apparatus is in for a shock to its core. And Cardinal Re might well be taking the heat for it.