Sunday, July 31, 2005

Philly's Front Page

Buona domenica a tutti, snowflakes.

Our paper of record -- which has been hitting hard on the continuing drip of sex-abuse stories -- covers an angle usually forgotten in this morning's edition: what becomes of the laicized priest?

As the canonists among us know, this is a sticky area. Once a suspension is brought down, even though an accused priest is removed from active ministry, the law's obligation of providing for his welfare remains (within limits, of course). Yet when the dismissal from the clerical state is granted (whether forcibly or by request), all demands upon the local church or order into which he was incardinated cease.

This from Jim Remsen at the Inquirer:

The church had already suspended the clerics after finding the child-abuse allegations against them to be credible. Now, as it defrocks them, expelling them from the priesthood, the men are quietly reentering civilian life with only the barest notice to the public, and no ongoing oversight by the church.

Nor is law enforcement certain to be watching them.

In most instances, the statute of limitations in their cases expired years ago. This means they face no prospect of prosecution for past sex offenses.

"As a citizen, I would be concerned and would want to know if such an individual was living on my block," said Capt. John Darby, head of the Philadelphia police Special Victims Unit, which investigates sex crimes.

But only convicted sex offenders' names appear on "Megan's Law" public registries checkable by neighbors, Darby said - and few of the defrocked priests were ever charged or convicted.

And the public revelation of something known inside the walls for months:

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has set up a residence for suspended priests at the annex to Villa St. Joseph, its residence for retired priests, in Darby. They agree to live there instead of being defrocked, and undergo "a supervised life of prayer and penance," with their activities monitored, according to the archdiocese.

Ten other suspended priests, over 75 and infirm, live in the main Villa St. Joseph retirement building, where they, too, are watched and counseled, the archdiocese said.

When priests are defrocked and leave its oversight, the archdiocese said, it does not notify civil authorities or maintain contact with the men.

This is a thorny issue which requires cooperation between the canons and civil law, and it's one the bench of bishops hasn't touched in a substantive way. Here's hoping they get crackin' on it.


Saturday, July 30, 2005

Sandro the Prolific

Capping a week of mind-blowing flow, Magister rides again with a piece on Monday's encounter with the priests at Introd.
Of the addresses delivered until now by Benedict XVI, one stands out as entirely special. The pope did not write it, but improvised it, speaking off the cuff. He made his remarks behind closed doors during his vacation in the Alps, at the little church of Introd, in the presence of the bishop and priests of the diocese of Aosta. It was not released by the Vatican press office, but appeared two days later, on July 27, in "L'Osservatore Romano" and on the website of the Holy See, exclusively in Italian, in a transcript from the tape recording.

It is an address of great interest, because it permits getting a live reading on some of the questions closest to the heart of Joseph Ratzinger. They are the questions on which his reflections emerge spontaneously, on which his vision is clear, with startling features. And there are questions for which he admits to not having definitive answers.
As for the last part, let us remember the sage words, "Il Papa non e' un oracolo" -- and don't dare render the last word as "prophet."


Some Want Weapons

Karen Hall on liturgical dancers:
Have I mentioned that liturgical dancers always make me wish I had a beebee gun? I think I have.
Welcome to NewChurch, worse than the old church.


Frist Backs Stem Cells, Right-Wing Flips Out

From the Washington Post:

A dozen religious leaders and conservative advocacy groups, in blistering language, attacked Frist for abandoning the Bush policy.

"It certainly gives one pause in trusting his commitment to the sanctity of life," said Lanier Swann, government relations director of Concerned Women for America.

The Christian Defense Coalition said Frist should not expect its support in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, while the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania took the opportunity to issue a pointed reminder that the church views embryonic stem cell research as "morally unacceptable."

Catholic League President William Donohue called Frist "Dr. Duplicity." An editorial in the conservative Weekly Standard magazine said: "The incoherence of Frist's position is staggering," while the National Pro-Life Action Center lambasted what it called Frist's "sell-out."

Aides said Frist informed the president of his decision in a phone call Thursday evening, and McClellan said Bush told the majority leader to "vote your conscience."

So will Bush be seen as going softy too, now? Whatever the case, it beats an examination by videotape.


Scribes and Cardinal-Haters

From the "And They'll Know that We Are Catholics By our Anger" Desk, this week's award goes to those bullhorns of little faith on CWNews.

Uncle Ted -- who isn't going anywhere just yet, I'm told -- wants to establish an archdiocesan community of women religious in The District, a la Uncle Jack's Sisters of Life or the diocesan communities that That Fabe is establishing in Lincoln. And the reaction from the world's looniest comment boards?
I'll admit it, I do get discouraged. A REAL shot in the arm for me would be to hear that Card. McCarricks resignation has been accepted. Also, would be good to learn that the "diocesan sisterhood" has begun, and is flourishing in love & orthodoxy in service to the Church in Wash., DC... and it's new Cardinal Archbishop.

I'm still waiting for the verification that Pope Benedict has accepted Cardinal McCarricks retirement papers and for the name of his successor.
There are more princesses on those boards than in your average Middle Eastern sultanate. Why does that first one get discouraged? Sure ain't the Good Cardinal's fault.... I am reminded of the recent words of another smart, trusted prelate: "I am amazed at the insecurity that surrounds the faith of so many. A relationship which engenders insecurity, anxiety, and fear is not the Christian relationship of faith in God."

For my part, I just love the delicious irony -- absolutely sumptuous -- that the insecure people who love banging others on the head with terms such as "Cafeteria's closed," "The church is not a democracy," and howling their Trojan-horse "Magisteriummmm" act as if the cafeteria's wide open (for them), the church is a democracy (for them) and that the interpretation of their beloved word belongs to them and not the competent authority which they feel free to accept or dismiss on a whim. And Fascism will come to America disguised as 100% Americanism.

You couldn't find such high-grade hypocrisy if you paid for it.


Caption Call

Uncle G sends along this delightful shot from the mountains.... Somebody's got to come up with a good tagline for it. (Photo: AP)


Preparing for Senatorial Armageddon

Amy the Fair had this first, but as I'm the one who actually gets to vote in Casey-Santorum (even if I've succeeded Navarro-Valls by November '06), this deserves some treatment from a native Pennsylvanian writing from the River City of the Pharaohs, and William Penn too.

Bob Casey -- the Democratic nominee for Senate against Sick Rick -- gave an interview to Ignatius Insight. Shrewd move on Bob's part; those cats once had the temerity to question my credentials because I didn't view Archbishop Levada as the Devil.

Bill makes the Legionaries tremble. And I should be scared? Please.

For its part, Insight's interview sounds more like it's being given by Ed Gillespie or Karl Rove (or even that thing Deal Hudson) than an outlet which claims some kind of balance. The impression is more GOP Butterscotch Stallion than "Insight." And we should be surprised, snowflakes? But oh well.

Here are some noteworthy excerpts: As a Catholic, does your faith shape your positions and actions? If so, in what ways?

Yes. My Catholic faith and the values reflected in that faith have always had a profound impact on me as a person and as a public official. I try to live up to the teachings of my faith in my personal life and in my public life. Sen. Santorum has criticized you for your support of the judicial filibuster that he says is used solely to enforce compliance with Roe v. Wade. Could you comment on that?

The filibuster is one of the only mechanisms available in the Senate that forces more bipartisanship. We need more common ground and cooperation in Washington. My opponent has filibustered Democratic nominees. He’s trying to have it both ways.... You are described as a pro-life Democrat. Would you explain your stance on the death penalty, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research and human cloning?... How do your positions differ from those of your opponent?

I believe that being pro-life means the right to a decent life for a mother and her child before and after birth.

I am and I have always been pro-life....

As a U.S. Senator, I will strongly support funding for stem cell research that doesn’t destroy an embryo. There are many promising techniques under development that don’t require destroying the embryo and there’s good reason to hope that soon we’ll be able to remove the politics from this issue.

I also strongly support increased federal funding for research on stem cells derived from adult cells, bone marrow and placentas — areas where tremendous progress has already been made.
Wow. The Boy has neutralized the Republicans -- even on guns, which is HUGE in this biggest state in terms of NRA membership.... And he's pro-social justice, in favor of helping the underprivileged as opposed to voodoo tax cuts. Un vero catolico!

This is going to be the greatest Senate race in American history. And I'll get to vote in it. For Casey.


Friday, July 29, 2005

End of the Innocence?

Traditional Catholic Reflections & Reports ponders the state of mandatory celibacy.... Stephen writes:
I think [the end is near]. It is a matter of time. But while it is something we pray for and expect, it is not in any way a matter of dissent or rebellion on our part. God forbid. And it will only strengthen the higher calling of a more freely chosen celibacy from whose holy ranks the bishops will be drawn, as in the east.

I hope it is sooner than later, so that we can widen the pool of good candidates to guarantee our churches the Eucharist and other sacraments in the difficult and challenging days to come. For a long time now, married priest-converts from other denominations have been allowed into Catholic priesthood. Allowing married candidates who present themselves for seminary and priesthood is something we must reconsider, whether 'in economia' or along other theological lines.

This is worth a discussion.

For my part, I concur with the discipline in place -- the twin demands of priesthood and family are too great, and one inevitably has to give -- but if someone voices the right argument (not "Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene"), I'm open to a rethinking.

Let's get talkin', people. Contributions from worthy permoids are especially welcome.


Selling the Priesthood

Greetings from Starbucks again, snowflakes. Goregous day here in the River City of the Pharaohs, a beautiful dusk visible outside the picture windows of my favorite coffeehouse.

I've been thinking a lot lately -- especially in light of B16's comments about "the hope of social promotion" -- about priesthood and how to best promote it given the context of the post-modern world in which we live. There are some recent examples of note in this realm.

The archdiocese of Indianapolis, headed by the well-regarded catechesis supremo of the USCCB, Dan Buechlein of St. Meinrad's, has approached it by doing a Matrix-esque campaign. I'm not one for that approach -- it strikes me as being as intelligent and sophisticated as Keanu Reeves, himself -- but if it works, and actually arouses interest in guys of substance as opposed to Dungeons and Dragons devotees and tribal-chief wannabes, then as Benelli once said, "It's OK. We go. We do." (And if someone can send Jacob the Vatican Watcher one of those posters, I'm sure he'd be very grateful.)

The archdiocese of Denver -- home of the rustling wind -- recently introduced a new vocations site as well. It says nothing about being a tribal chief and everything about giving one's life in service. This pure, back-to-basics strategy should not be surprising, but the tribal-chief bit is, sadly, not a foreign one to our shores. That said, using it in recruitment is as unthinkable as comparing Marcel Maciel to Jesus and Levada to Pilate.

Oh, wait. That happened, too.

A couple years back, one prominent diocese dropped seven figures (that's $1million-plus, people) on a multimedia campaign to show off how beautiful priesthood was by... showing off aesthetically pleasing priests. Genius, right? Well, it was sure a triumph for bella figura.

In reality, it was a disaster, and the diocese in question actually had fewer candidates entering the seminary than the year before the boys started appearing on TV screens and billboards, answering once and for all (as if there was a question) that symbolism without the substantive witness of priesthoods of service does not a vocations crisis unmake.

Has anyone seen the movie "Zoolander"? A brief primer for those who haven't: Ben Stiller plays a top-tier male supermodel who's been moved to the sidelines by a blond, long-locked wonder called Hansel (played by the Butterscotch Stallion himself, Owen Wilson). Every time Hansel walks into a room, a house-style soundtrack resounds which keeps groaning his name and the A-list designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell) remarks, "Hansel. So hot right now."

Which brings me to my approach, and an assist from the Pope's athletic/photogenic/other adjective here secretary. Could Georg Fabulous be the man to save us?

I'm envisioning a poster with a poster with Georg -- just Georg -- looking at the camera as he tends to do. And the caption running along the bottom is simple and to the point:

PRIESTHOOD. So hot right now.

Call me crazy, but I think I'm onto something.


Fuma Lei, Santità?

My molto-beloved Tablet has posted its editorial synopsis of the First 100 Days. But it contains a curious intimation...
Benedict’s personal style as Pope has been good-humoured, even making self-effacing jokes about being German. On one occasion he wore a white baseball cap; he smokes, plays the piano and likes cats.
He smokes?! I sure haven't heard that one.... This is a good place to note that in the last revision of the Legge Fondamentale, the legal code of the Vatican City State, smoking was banned in the entirety of Vatican City, indoors and out. Se e' vero, this might explain why Papa Bear slips out of the Office so much. Don't forget that felines, too, are banned within the walls.

I'm still waiting for Joe Fessio to release the "Pope Speaks to Cats" CD. Beats JP saying the Rosary... When it comes out, I will back a truck into Ignatius' loading dock and stock up.

Elsewhere in the World's Best Catholic Paper, we have a review of a new book on the papal gravy train: Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy, by Cambridge don John Pollard. He seems to uncover that The Tab had something to do with the resurrection of Peter's Pence, a revelation which should shut up the ideologues who call it a liberal publication.

Pollard only covers the period of 1850-1950. It gets much more interesting after that time -- enter Chink, Calvi and a golf course in Arizona.... And it would be another 15 years before The Pro (he who is "amazing" with money and monied people) would arrive in Rome. The place would never be the same again.

Would love to get the book and critique it, but it's $85 and my two donors have given too much already. Now if the guitar case were a bit fuller....


World Spice Day

John Allen announces that Pell and Sydney will host WYD 2008.

The news sent world lace production soaring by about 23%.


Waiting at the Tomb

From CNS -- the people who turned an oracle into a prophet -- comes this take on the scene in the Vatican Grottoes, four months hence:
The line takes visitors around the outside of St. Peter's Basilica, directly into the underground grotto, past the tomb and outside again. Those who want to visit the church must then get into a short, quick line....

Only a lucky, persistent few have a chance to pray before the tomb.

With the long lines and, especially, pilgrimage groups wanting to see the tomb, the basilica's ushers rather brusquely keep the lines moving.

Visitors who look like they are about to take a photograph of the tomb are asked to refrain. Those who sneak in a shot are snapped at.
Knowing the Romans, everyone's probably kicking and screaming their way down the ropeline. Hands in faces, you name it -- full-contact queueing, as nobody can do like Italians.

Big Sis -- in Rome on special mission -- has gotten requests to bring intentions to be touched to the Tomb. And the guards know better not to mess with her. She's gotten the job done on several occasions and gotten relatively lengthy time to stay and pray. (Pic courtesy of her.)

But the handling of all this leads one to believe that it is not a permanent solution.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Gossip, et. al.

While I spend the evening banging away on the continuation of my series of reflections on the journey (Part I -- Part II), here are some noteworthy things to see until Part III appears:

One of my favorite Angelenos, Clayton over at The Weight of Glory, muses on Tom Cruise and the things we say, for good or ill.

Someone on the comment boards has compared Marcel Maciel to Jesus and Levada to Pilate. In case that didn't process the first time, I repeat: someone on the comment boards has compared Marcel Maciel to Jesus and Levada to Pilate.

Talk about raising your middle finger heavenward. Not to mention a compliment to Pilate -- first time that's happened in a long time, eh?

And, lastly, the future of the church (if all this catfighting and Mahony-Bernardin-USCCB Hatred keeps up) was explored on the cover of this morning's NYTimes in a piece on the culture of Midwestern steel-cage fighting. As the enlightened reader who e.mailed a copy of it around said in his subject line, "You straights sure present good role models for us intrinsically disordered folks."

Exactly why I'm not normally one for the company of my fellow straight men. As I always say, I have not been sent to save the race -- if I were, it'd be so much more than a full-time job and there'd be no energy left for this.


The Top 15 List

ZENIT has a "Best of the First 100 Days" compilation of excerpts from the speeches of the B16. Definitely worth a long look.... Here are a few.

Ecumenism: "With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers" -- first message from the Sistine Chapel, April 20.

Interreligious dialogue and dialogue with non-believers: "Aware of this, I address everyone, including the followers of other religions, or those who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address all with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to continue to weave an open and sincere dialogue with them, in the search for the true good of the human being and of society" -- first message from the Sistine Chapel, April 20.

Human rights and the defense of life: "The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being to slavery" -- homily during the Mass to take possession of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, May 7.

Family: "The Church cannot cease to proclaim that in accordance with God's plans (cf. Matthew 19:3-9), marriage and the family are irreplaceable and permit no other alternatives" -- letter to Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, May 17.

Relativism: "Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own 'ego'" -- address to participants in the ecclesial congress of the Diocese of Rome, June 6.

Solidarity: "To make a concrete response to the appeal of our brothers and sisters in humanity, we must come to grips with the first of these challenges: solidarity among generations, solidarity between countries and entire continents, so that all human beings may share more equitably in the riches of our planet. This is one of the essential services that people of good will must render to humanity. The earth, in fact, can produce enough to nourish all its inhabitants, on the condition that the rich countries do not keep for themselves what belongs to all" -- audience to seven new ambassadors to the Holy See, June 16.


Magister and Prophet

Look at this headline... I'm putting it in bold:


Wonderful. Fabulous. That alone is sufficient....

Go on, Sandy -- he's on fire this week:
As a decree issued against the founder of a religious order on the basis of accusations going back decades for sexual abuse carried out against his followers, the decree against Fr. Burresi recalls an analogous case, but one of much greater significance. It, too, is being examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: the case of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

And it is not out of the question that the severity adopted against Fr. Burresi is the prelude to similarly rigorous actions against Fr. Maciel.
Score 18 for CDF. And there's still more:
What is certain is that the preliminary investigation in the Maciel case has moved forward since the pseudo-denial of May 20, with the accumulation of more testimonies and documents. And it is on the basis of this investigation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – not the secretariat of state – will make its decision on the canonical process against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

The Burresi case teaches a lesson. It seemed to have been definitively filed away after the favorable sentence handed down on May 10, 2002. But it was reopened, and a much more severe conclusion was reached – with the presiding judge being Ratzinger, who has since become pope.
Score another 12 for CDF... Don't even ask about State.


Even More Ingrid

The sweetest comment appeared in the boxes this morning. A "CBM" writes:
By the way...I met Ingrid Stampa on 28 June on the Borgo Pio. She was very friendly and smiles broadly. She is NOT a member of Schoenstatt nor does she wear a veil. She was dressed in a SLEEVELESS white summer dress and sandals. God bless her, it was 100 degrees!
So Georg's wearing pants and Ingrid's wearing sandals. God Bless them both. To reprise what I said this morning, and we could make it a slogan: "Benedict XVI: Bringing the Papacy into Reality, One Less Mantilla at a Time."

We know Ingrid doesn't wear a veil, nor does she wear a habit -- even though her ensemble at the Installation bore a strong resemblance to some kind of cowl. Yet as she supervises the renovations of the papal apartments at the Apostolic Palace which are currently underway, it seems that the question of her affiliation with the Schoenstatt community is lingering.

After the election, the wire services reported that she was a "member of the Schoenstatt Sisters" -- an inaccuracy. My own sources have clarified that she is a lay affiliate. The Times of London went so far as to call her "Sister" in early May, and as recently as two weeks ago, Sandro Magister wrote the following:
Benedict XVI loves to write by hand, in German, in a miniscule script that is perfectly legible to his trusted secretaries, Ingrid Stampa and Birgit Wansing, both of whom are German and belong to the spiritual movement of Schönstatt, which was started in 1914 in a small Marian sanctuary in the Rhine valley and today is found in eighty countries throughout the world.
So, barring a first-hand statement to the contrary, I'm sticking with the "lay affiliate" line.


Chicago Digest

From the "When Fran Speaks, We Listen" Desk, the Chitown prelate hits the press... again. This time at a symposium at Medill; tip to Ichiban....
Cardinal George said the late Pope John Paul II had expressed high ideals for the press in his speeches and encyclicals, talking about the media's role in creating a town square and helping transform the world into a "global village."

He said the media, particularly in the last century, has even come to see itself as an "ersatz" church at times, solving society's ills.

"If anyone doesn't believe that, take a look at the Tribune Tower," he quipped, eliciting laughter from the audience packed into the McCormick Tribune Center Forum.

He admitted, though, that the media's "in-built" penchant for finding conflict in stories "drives religious people to be frustrated with the media."

Cardinal George said stories on Catholic funding problems focused on the closing of schools -- sometimes inaccurately fanning concerns -- rather than on what the church was doing to manage the crisis.

You already have a newspaper to tell people what the church is doing, or has The New World been forgotten so quickly? Don't blame the Tribune because the spin falls flat.

Similarly, on the sexual abuse scandal involving priests, the media necessarily reported the story about the abuses, which Cardinal George called "deeply perverse" and a "betrayal" to church members.

He said some rumors, though, were accepted as true, and the great efforts of the Roman Catholic church to help victims often went unreported....

To McClory's question that the church isn't always forthcoming with journalists, Cardinal George said the church's role is "keeping people together; that's our job."
Hmm... I'm just fascinated by the "keeping people together; that's our job" statement. That approach can cover all manner of sins, no? As we've spent three years learning all too painfully, gut-wrenchingly, day in and day out, it already has... all manner of crimes, too. And what of teaching, sanctifying, healing, consoling, nourishing, elevating the soul? Those aren't the church's jobs? As long as everybody's in the tent, everything's OK?

Dear Eminence, if we're really going to be forthcoming, can't we just say "Bella figura; that's our job"?


Encore! Encore!

Even though I posted them last night, a particular section of the remarks of the Pope at Introd is noteworthy for its blunt, provacative commentary on the vocations crisis.

Especially considering the American situation -- where Cinderella stories abound, even to our present day -- these words deserve a re-airing. Here goes:
In these last weeks, I have had "Ad limina" visits with the bishops of Sri Lanka and from part of South Africa. Here vocations are growing, even so much so that they are not able to build enough seminaries to accommodate the young people who want to become priests. Naturally this joy also brings with it a certain sadness, since part of this, at least, comes from the hope of social promotion. In making themselves priests, they become sort of tribal chiefs, they are naturally privileged, they have another form of life, and so forth. Thus weeds and wheat come together in this beautiful growth of vocations, and the bishops have to be very attentive in discernment and not be simply content to have many future priests, but to see how many are real vocations, to distinguish the good grain from the chaff....

Note the words "in making themselves priests" -- "Facendosi sacerdoti," nell'italiano -- implying that the traditional belief that God makes a priest is, in these cases of VINO (Vocation In Name Only), not applicable.

Ergo, this line of thinking leads, the case for dismissal from the clerical state is made easier as the disposition of the one receiving the sacrament was fundamentally lacking at the time of its conferral.

Hmmmm.... Talk about fascinating.


The JPII Mosaic

Well, this week's "Highlights for Catholics" -- The Catholic Standard & Times -- has been posted, and there's a really nifty idea that's sprouting out there. Check it:
The late Pope John Paul II had a profound impact on the world’s youth. For that reason, the World Youth Day on-line team wanted to do something – something big – to give young adult Catholics a way to express their gratitude to the saintly man who acknowledged them as the present and future of the Church.

That witness inspired the World Youth Day on-line team to create the world’s largest mosaic of Pope John Paul II, made with individual photos of millions of young people from around the world — the very people JPII called to gather once again for the 20th WYD in Cologne this year.

Each person who e-mails a photo will receive information showing where his or her photo has been placed in the giant mosaic.

The monumental undertaking has been funded by Fuji Film, Dom Radio Koln and other partners, and is scheduled to be complete by the time WYD begins in August.
Article and link info for the mosaic here.


Lost in Translation

From the "Translation is a Thorny Process" desk, we have something very interesting....

In the Pope's remarks to the clergy at Introd the other day, he said these words:
Vorrei, brevemente in quanto posso, rispondere alle parole di Sua Eccellenza, ma vorrei anche dire che il Papa non è un oracolo, è infallibile in situazioni rarissime, come sappiamo. Quindi condivido con voi queste domande, queste questioni. Soffro anch'io. Ma tutti insieme vogliamo, da una parte, soffrire su questi problemi e anche soffrendo trasformare i problemi, perché proprio la sofferenza è la via della trasformazione e senza sofferenza non si trasforma niente.
The curious word there is "oracolo" -- translated, it says, "...but I want also to say that the Pope is not an oracle, that he is infallible in only the rarest of situations, as we know." The whole paragraph in English reads (translation courtesy ICEL):
I would like as briefly as I can to respond to the words of His Excellency, but I want also to say that the Pope is not an oracle, that he is infallible in only the rarest of situations, as we know. Therefore, I share with you these questions, these issues. And I suffer too. But all of us together want, on the one hand, to suffer from the problems and also by suffering to transform the problems, because suffering is precisely the way of transformation and without suffering nothing is transformed.
CNS, in their piece the other day, rendered "oracolo" as "prophet." That's not a literal translation as the Italian for the latter is "propheta."

I have to ask: Is the Pope using the word "oracle" so bad that it has to be "cleaned up" for him? I'm reminded of a story from when John XXIII came to office. Even until that time -- and remember that, until 1958, visitors didn't just kiss the Pope's ring but his shoes as well -- L'Osservatore Romano would cite the papal remarks using such ostentation as, "The Pope illumined his listeners with these words..." "In an enlightened discourse, the faithful were exhorted..." and other such hysteria.

John, noting this, summoned the editor of the Vatican newspaper and told him, "Just say 'The Pope said...'"

Seems we're back to square one. And if people start kissing shoes again, it's all over.


A Little Too Magnificent

Georg, stop looking at the camera!

The papal secretary and breakout star of the pontificate has been widely acclaimed for his looks... but he seems to have some kind of wild radar on any camera pointed at him, because no matter if it's in the Square, the Apartment or on vacation, he's always looking straight into the lens. It is very unusual.

And, yes, Georg's wearing pants in this picture, too. A heretofore-unheard of thing in the presence of the Pope. Then again -- and Communioni can correct me if I'm wrong -- the members of Memores Domini don't wear veils, and neither do the Schoenstatts.... There goes the "cover everybody up in black" rule.

This Pope wants to bring his office deeper into the real world, one less mantilla at a time.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Must-See Video

Patrick sends along the following comment that is too good to remain hidden downstream:
The rather sacreligious clown mass was actually done at Trinity Church, Wall Street. Click on the link and go to the video cast about 40-45 minutes into it where during the fraction rite, the clown-celebrant breaks the bread, the cymbals clash, and the inmates greet the fraction with kazoos and noisemakers.

I'm fairly confident that the LA Cathedral would not do this.
I just watched it, and I've never seen anything quite like it in my life. And that's saying something.

To witness the fraction, speed the video to about 48:30 and watch the magic. Comments are especially welcome on this one.


Passing Through The Tunnel

The Pope's Address to the Priests of Aosta went on so long the other day that even he confessed, "I have gone on too long."

But here are some really striking nuggets. Translations courtesy of Don Giorgio.

In the past week we've heard two or three times, it seems to me, this parable of the sower which is really a parable of consolation in a different situation, but in a certain sense also a situation similar to ours.

The work of the Lord had begun with great enthusiasm. They saw the sick healed, everyone hearing with joy the message: "The Kingdom of God is near." It seemed that truly the changing of the world and coming of the Kingdom of God was something that was imminent; that, finally, the sadness of the people of God would be changed into joy. There was an expectation of a messenger of God who would be able to take in hand the rudder that would guide history. But afterwards they saw that, yes, the sick had been healed, the demons cast out, the Gospel proclaimed but, for the rest, the world remained as it had been. Nothing changed. The Romans still dominated. Life was difficult every day, despite these miracles, these beautiful words. And thus, the enthusiasm flickered out and, finally, as we learn in the sixth chapter of John, even the disciples abandoned this Preacher who had preached, but who had not changed the world.

What is this message? What is this Prophet of God getting at? All are finally asking. The Lord speaks of the sower who sows in the field of the world. And the seed seems like his Word, like those healings, a truly small thing when confronted with historical and political reality. Like the seed it is small, negligible, so also the Word.

Nevertheless, it is said that in the seed the future is present, because the seed carries within itself the bread of tomorrow, the life of tomorrow. The seed appears as if it is nothing, nevertheless the seed is the presence of the future, and the promise - already present - today. And thus with this parable he says: we are in the time of sowing, the Word of God seems a single word, as nothing. But have courage! This Word carries in itself life! And it bears fruit! The parable also says that the greater part of the seed does not bear fruit because it falls on the path, on dry ground, and so forth. But the part that falls on good soil bears fruit thirty, sixty, a hundredfold....

In the last weeks I have had "Ad limina" visits with the bishops of Sri Lanka and from part of South Africa. Here vocations are growing, even so much so that they are not able to build enough seminaries to accommodate the young people who want to become priests. Naturally this joy also brings with it a certain sadness, since part of this, at least, comes from hope of social promotion. Making themselves priests, they become sort of tribal chiefs, they are naturally privileged, they have another form of life, and so forth. Thus weeds and wheat come together in this beautiful growth of vocations, and the bishops have to be very attentive in discernment and not be simply content to have many future priests, but to see how many are real vocations, to distinguish the good grain from the chaff....

The Catholic Church is not in as bad shape as the great historical Protestant Churches, but naturally shares the problem of our historical moment. I don't think there is a system for a rapid change. We ought to go forward, to pass through this tunnel with patience in the assurance that Christ is the answer and that in the end his light will appear anew.

So the first answer is patience in the certainty that without God the world is not able to live, the God of Revelation - and not just any God: we see how dangerous a cruel God is, an untrue God - the God who has shone his Face in Jesus Christ. This Face which has suffered for us, the Face of love that transforms the world, in the way of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground.

How sweet it is to have a fluid, lyrical Pope. The book-length encyclical -- in which we're bound to see a lot of this very material -- is shaping up to be such an enjoyable read.


Rock Recommends....

OK, I have to give a shout to anyone who cites me for "assembling a page this week that approximates art in its incisive, witty minimalistic style and writing (don't try this on your blog at home!)"

Art? Me? I've never intellectualized the craft. I just throw myself to the four winds, do it and watch cons cry as I tear the wings off butterflies while listening to Jeff Buckley or Joni Mitchell and lighting matches just to light matches.... but I digress.

Grazie, pace e bono to Stephen Hand and the crew over at Traditional Catholic Reflections & Reports, a genuinely Catholic news outlet. They prove that there's no such thing as a valid correlation between decibel levels and real news.

Check 'em out if you haven't already -- Magister and John Allen are fellow tifose grandi.


Cento Giorni Benedetti

Another great shot of our guy getting his rest on.

And, as if it wasn't obvious before, he ain't just sittin' pretty:
Mainstream churches in the West appear to be dying as societies that are increasingly secular see less need for God, Pope Benedict said in comments published on Wednesday.

His outlook was even glummer than that of his predecessor John Paul, who lamented the decline of faith in the developed world and said it explained the Catholic Church's struggle with falling attendance in the West in recent years.

Benedict said many developing countries were, by contrast, enjoying a "a springtime for faith."

"It is different in the Western world, a world which is tired of its own culture, a world which is at the point where there's no longer evidence for a need of God, even less of Christ...."

It's intriguing that he's been very uninhibited in the statements he's made on vacation, much more free-flowing and provacative than he's been in the addresses we've been hearing in Rome.

Ratzinger has always used his summer holidays for symposia, conferences, and other free-wheeling speaking engagements -- the interviews for the Messori book and the Seewald books were done over the summer months as well, if memory serves.

To the priests the other day at Introd, B16 said the following (translation courtesy of ICEL):
"For a Pope there is always the danger of being a little removed from real life, from the reality of every day, and above all from the priests who are working on the front lines, indeed here in Val (d'Osta), and in so many parishes and right now... with the lack of vocations, in conditions that demand special physical strength.

"So for me it is a grace to be able to meet, here in this beautiful church, the priests and the presbyterate of this Val (d'Osta). And I want to say thank you for having come - because for you, this is vacation time, too! To see you gathered together, and thus to see myself united with you, to be close to the priests who work day by day for the Lord as the sowers of the Word, is for me a comfort and a joy."
What a joyous hundred days it's been.


The Pope on Divorce


In the name of clarity, while the CNS story posted earlier was a good brief, this might be a bit more helpful for everyone....

I've gotten a copy of the fulltext of the Pope's remarks on the topic, given in a Q&A session with priests at Aosta. Here's a working translation of the majority of the remarks, hope it helps... Will have the completed English of the question up soon, but this is about 80% of it.

Enjoy, comments welcome.


We all know that this is a particularly painful problem for those who are living in situations where they are excluded from Eucharistic communion, and naturally for the priests who wants to help these people to love the Church and love Christ. This presents a problem.

No one among us has a cure-all solution, because the situations are always different. For my part, I’d say that particularly painful is the situation of many married in the church who did not really believe and did it for reasons of tradition, then entered into a new, invalid marriage, found the faith and yet were excluded from the Sacraments. This is, in reality, a great suffering, and when I was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I invited the various Episcopal conferences and specialists to study this problem: a sacrament celebrated without faith. I won’t dare say if it’s really possible to find a moment of invalidity because of the lack of a fundamental dimension. I’ve personally thought that, but from my discussions I understood that the problem is extremely difficult and must be explored further. But given the situation of the suffering of these people, it becomes an even deeper question.

I won’t attempt to give a response now, but in each case two aspects seem very important. First: although they may not receive sacramental communion, they are not excluded from the love of the Church and the love of Christ. A Eucharist without immediate sacramental communion is certainly incomplete, lacking an essential element. Yet it’s also true that participating in the Eucharist without Eucharistic communion is better than doing nothing, as it is always linked to the mystery of the Cross and the resurrection of Christ. It is always a participation at the great Sacrament in the spiritual and pneumatic dimensions; in the ecclesial dimension and not strictly a sacramental one.

Given that it is the Sacrament of Christ’s Passion, the suffering Christ embraces these people in a particular way and communicates with them in another way, that they may feel embraced by the crucified Lord who came to earth and suffered and died for them, with them. It is necessary to make understood, therefore, that although they may lack a fundamental element, they are not excluded from the great mystery of the Eucharist, from the love of Christ here present. This is so important, and as it is important for the pastor and the parish community to, on the one part, respect the indissolubility of the Sacrament, on the other hand we must love these people who suffer also. And we must also suffer with them, because they give an important testimony, because we know that in the moment in which we give in out of love, the same Sacrament is twisted and its indissolubility appears less real, less true....


*Honk Honk* Amen

The e.mail that came with this shot says it all....

"No, it is not the Los Angeles Cathedral; it is Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City."

Apparently, Guadalupe Basilica has a liturgy every year where circus performers come to pay homage to the tilma.

I think this is wonderful and very sweet, but for anyone who has ever griped about the LA clown mass (and you know who you are), this is your chance to show your objectivity, as opposed to ax-grinding bias. Notes of complaint may be sent to Su Eminenza Senor el Cardenal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Arzobispado, Ciudad de Mexico. Cc Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Don't blame Mahony, he had nothing to do with it.


Not Just Independent Contractors

People, take a break from your Mahony hate and check out Cardinal Pell's legal strategy:
[T]he church argues it cannot be held liable for any damages claim because Duggan was not employed by the Sydney Archdiocese. Rather, priests have "a contract with God" and not with their employer.
Oh, wait... Pell -- who cultivated the vocations of the Melbourne clique known as the "Spice Girls" -- wants to bring the church back to 1958. You lot like that.... So you'll just keep trashing Mahony and let Mama Spice off the hook.

But "a contract with God" makes Ed Egan's "independent contractors" defense of abuse cases in Bridgeport look downright pedestrian.

Hat tip to the newly-promoted Archbishop Ichiban Jim.


Le Divorce, Part Deux

First report posted here yesterday.... From CNS today:
"The pope is not a prophet," he told the priests. "He is infallible in very rare circumstances, as we all know."

Therefore, he said, in trying to find ways to spread the Gospel, to strengthen the faith of Catholics and to help the suffering, "I share your questions. I, too, suffer."

Asked specifically about ministry to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, Pope Benedict told the priests, "None of us has a ready-made solution, including because each person's situation is different."

"I would say that a particularly painful situation is that of those who were married in the church, but were not really believers and did so just for tradition, and then finding themselves in a new, nonvalid marriage, convert, find the faith and feel excluded from the sacrament," he said.

Pope Benedict said that when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he asked several bishops' conferences and experts to study the problem, which in effect was "a sacrament celebrated without faith."
Fascinating. I will have something else in this vein within the hour. Stay tuned.


The Cardinal in the Public Square

Whenever Francis George speaks, American Catholics would be wise to start taking note.

Ever since he was the shock choice to succeed Bernardin (who is still being villified a decade after his death by some kookie-kookies with too much time and anger on their hands), Fran has of course been the head of the nation's second-largest diocese with a major bully pulpit. But now, as the de facto head of the USCCB (don't let that pesky "vice-" prefix fool you) and The Pope's Man in America, the church he wants to see is the church that US Catholics will see -- and Rome will not put up a fight.

So of particular interest are George's recent comments on politicians and their religious identity, something the good cardinal can speak about with the secular cred of an academic with a sterling background in social psychology. (As an aside, he preached about George Herbert Mead -- the founder of the discipline -- in his installation homily.)

The column, bearing the attention-grabbing title, "A Lenin in America, 2005" is reprinted in today's Denver Catholic Register. The following paragraph particularly struck me.
It strikes me that our approach to pluralism in race and culture furnishes the paradigm for approaching religion in public life. If someone suggested that an African-American had to keep his race confined to his house and wear white face in public, the suggestion would be immediately condemned as racist and bigoted. A healthy public life welcomes diversity in public and then figures out ways to share differences among peoples so as to enrich everyone. The question of religion is more complicated, of course, because religion is a way of life with moral demands, and moral demands overlap with law and politics. But the solution is not to put religion in a private closet, because that imperils the freedom of everyone. American “separation” of church and state is supposed to encourage the practice of religion as part of the common good, respecting every difference and oppressing none.
Comments, anyone?


The Curial Earthquake Pregame Show

Keeping with the armchair quarterback vein of last post, CWNews runs a story on plate-shifting at the Mothership. Effective 1 August, the faculty of dismissal from the clerical state will be transferred to Clergy from Divine Worship, ending an arrangement which was always an awkward fit -- one devised in Pastor Bonus.

Now, according to bureaucratic theory, if the amount of one's responsibilities is equal to one's clout, this is a slight to St. Francis Arinze, patron of ecclesiastical refrigerators and waterparks in the boonies.

The new state of affairs allows CDW to get back to what they do best -- bizarre translations and debacles like the whole "Et, elevatis manibus, benedixit eos" woodcarving....

Congrats to Arinze and family. Many happy returns.


Life in a Sports-Mad City

For the football fans among us, I found something amusing enough to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming.

As some might know, Ricky Williams -- who bolted the NFL last year because he couldn't kick his pot habit -- returned to the Dolphins' training camp this week. Observant sportsnuts will remember vividly that Donovan McNabb was viciously booed by the famously-civil Philly fans when the Eagles drafted him over Williams back in '99.

What d'ya want? We're a tough crowd.

Not to be outdone, the Philadelphia Daily News (one of my major writing influences) had a full-sheet picture of Williams on its back page yesterday with this memorable headline:



Say It Ain't So

The Fair Amy on hiatus?! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Fear not, Snowflakes. Seems she's got something good on tap -- and we take A at her word here -- so keep her in your thoughts as she gets crackin'.... As long as nothing stops her audience with me next week, it's all good.

To help our communal Open Book withdrawl, this little hallway of Blogdom will be open and rockin'. So feel free to come, stay a while, read, comment, have a drink, scream at me, call me a "gay whale," whatever. And I love e.mails, so if you're keen enough to drop me a line, I'd love it.

Come on, people, do a little Mark Shea-style screaming.


Georg the Magnificent

So who is this Georg Ganswein?

It's one of the top questions I get -- and every day, about 15 or 20 people Googling his name come and stay here awhile.

As it's the Pope's 100 Days, it's an opportune time to get up to speed on the breakout star of this pontificate.

Just as John Paul II had the famous "Polish Mafia" of friends and collaborators around him (Dziwisz, Jaworski, Rylko, Stryczen, et. al.), the 48 year-old Ganswein -- commonly called "Don Giorgio" -- shares the German origins of Benedict XVI, as, of course, do the towering figures of Ingrid, Clemens and Birgit.

Despite having worked in the CDF, his background isn't so much in theology as it is in canon law, making him the first canonist papal secretary since Pasquale Macchi in the days of Paul VI. It's Pure Ratzi to have a canonist on hand to counterbalance and supplement his theological aecumen, another example of the telling quality this Pope has of bringing the best and brightest around him, reflecting his strong prefererence for an exchange of ideas which might just change or refine his mind to a gaggle of voiceless aides.

Ganswein taught the canons at the University of the Holy Cross, the Opus Dei Institute in Rome, and it's said he exhorted his students to "Never judge on the basis of prejudices or appearances -- always be reflective." It's a good quality in a segretario particolare.

Georg was brought into the lower ranks in the CDF in the late '90s. At the elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger's beloved right-hand aide of 24 years, Mons. Josef Clemens, to the episcopacy and the secretary's post at the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Ganswein got the nod to succeed him as head of the Prefect's inner office. In this capacity, he operated on several occasions as Ratzinger's media spokesman, most prominently in the aftermath of the October 2003 Bunte article when the latter was quoted as saying John Paul II was "in a bad way" -- a line which led Dziwisz to severely rebuke Ratzinger, causing the cardinal to weep.

In his downtime, I'm told, the secretary enjoys skiing, tennis, other athletic pursuits, and he's known around Rome as quite the sociable dinner guest. That the secretary has a life of his own by no means clashes with the Pope's mentality of work. Under B16, the demands of the job, while still great, aren't what they were with John Paul. Benedict XVI enjoys diving into the details of things which Wojtyla routinely left to Don Stanislaw or others.

Moreover, the secretary's requisite presence at dinner is no more -- the Pope prefers to dine alone (often at home), leaving the work behind at the office. He sees relaxation and fun not as luxuries, but a necessary component in maintaining a healthy sense of life, a "work hard, play hard" sense of balance he encourages in the people around him.

The laid-back approach which the Germans have brought to the Apartment has already yielded significant dividends, but the next hundred days are promising to be more tumultuous than the first. Stay tuned.


Santità? E' vero?

For some comic relief -- albeit with a more conservative bent than its alter ego, himself -- check this, with my high recommendation... Should make for a good laugh.

Even "The Pope" is blogging now..... Has the craft jumped the shark?


Inland Empire?

San Bernardino's new auxiliary got a little press yesterday morning, and more today....

For the first time, the bishop and auxiliary of a diocese are both of Hispanic origin. Trivia buffs, take note.

But what amazes me is that the San Bernardino diocese counts 1.2 million Catholics. That's huge. Newark, Philly, Rockville Centre-huge -- it's the third-largest non-archdiocese after Brooklyn and The House That Murphy Renovated (after the nuns got kicked out). And they're only getting one auxiliary? We have 1.5 mil here in Philly, and we've got four. Miami has around 950K and they've got two.

Gerry Barnes said yesterday that he submitted his terna in late 2003 -- this holds to the new (i.e. post-Scandal) working timetable that, from first request until appointment, dioceses are told to wait an unprecedented 18 months or more for a new bishop or auxiliary. Sioux City is still hanging, and it's been vacant since 16 January 04 -- a monumental lag now in its 19th month.

I am really led to believe something in the process is awry. Somebody get The Pro on the case.

Bishop-elect seems to be a nice guy, though -- he likes to shoot pool with sems and composed handwritten notes to each member of his parish staff, thanking them for their goodness to him.

As we've seen with the Pope, a little bit of kindness and respect goes a long way, no?


A Difference of Style

Today is the 100th day of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. My take on the first 100 will be posted later in the day -- come back for it -- but, in the meantime, here's a tease....

Now it can be told that, on one of John Paul II's early American trips, a top adviser played a prominent role in a papal liturgy, standing at close range to the late Pope. Something seemed to get Wojtyla's wheels turning, because at one point, he gestured to the altar party, pointed toward the crowd and said, "All these people -- for me."

B16, by contrast, sees his role in a much less high-profile light. He had another press conference on Monday. Being Italian, the media pack kicks, pushes -- and asks innumerable questions. So they were taking advantage of the opportunity to query a Pope who doesn't just talk to reporters when he's locked in a tube with them 35,000 feet above land when, I'm told, he put up his arms and said, "We're not going to save the world in the middle of summer vacation."

Some change, indeed.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More Ingrid

Last week, I was sent this piece from the 19th July Berliner Zeitung in its original language with the message, "I hope you read German."

Regrettably, I don't -- but that's what the Secretariat of State is for. So with thanks to a Lady of the Papal Family and the Latin and German desks, I'm pleased to post a really beautiful English translation.

And to remind those who haven't yet seen it, I wrote much of this a long time ago....

Dumplings for the Pope

The Rheinlander Ingrid Stampa is the housekeeper for Benedict XVI. In the Vatican she is also regarded as his closest confidant.

Bernhard Huelsebusch

Rome, in July. When she, a few steps behind him, accompanied the white-clad Pontiff on his first appearance in the Vatican, she was clothed mostly in black. Thus it was when Benedict XVI inspected the papal apartments in the Vatican for the first time, into which he then entered and into which she, at a fitting distance, followed him. Ingrid Stampa-thin (gaunt), dark hair, glasses-remains always in the background. Nevertheless, the 55-year old German is, if one believes one papal biographer, his closes confidant. She has not only been his housekeeper for many years, but also the advisor of the amateur pianist Ratzinger in musical and literary matters.

Ingrid Stampa comes from Niederrhein, from the area of Kleve. Although a believing Catholic, she began her career in chiefly Protestant Hamburg, where she, playing a magnficient viola de gamba, advanced to the rank of professor at the College of Music. With regard to her Italian last name, it is said in Rome that she was married to an Italian, who however-caring devotedly for her-died after a short time. Actually, Ms. Stampa was, in her own words, married to music. "I have sacrificed everything else for its sake," she says.

A Woman of Music

At the end of the 80's the equally pious and resolute German came to Rome. 1991 Maria Ratzinger, the sister of the Bavarian cardinal, who had supervised the household of her brother for thirty years, died there.

Through the offices of Renato Buzonetti, the papal physician, Ingrid Stampa took over her position. Thereafter, the Rhinelander cared for the physical and in certain ways the psychological wellbeing of Ratzinger, the Protector of the Faith. According to papal biographer Peter Seewald, she at first prepared Italian cuisine for him, but then learned to cook for the cardinal his favorite dishes from his Bavarian homeland: apple strudel, steamed noodles, and bread dumplings.

On the terrace of Ratzinger's apartment situated immediately next to St. Peter's Square she created for him a meditative place of stillness, a roof garden, which she lovingly tended. Ingrid Stampa attended to the necessary shopping on her bicycle. Between the "Man of the Faith" and the "Woman of Music" there developed a trust, indeed a deep friendship. Seewald writes that when Ratzinger worked without stopping on the documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, she placed sandwiches on his desk, which he usually left untouched until his work was completed. And when the cardinal required something, he dialed her cell phone number.

Since Ingrid Stampa speaks Polish well, she moreover translated several books of Pope Wojtyla into German. At the beginning of April, 2005, just as she had completed the German version of Karol Wojtyla's "Memory and Identity", John Paul II died in the Vatican. On April 19 the conclave chose Joseph Ratzinger, Ingrid Stampa's boss, to be the new pope.

When she saw the white smoke ascend from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, recalls the German, she ran to nearby St. Peter's Square and sought, an acquaintance recalls, to learn the details. But the cell phone network had collapsed. "As I then heard the words, 'Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger", I broke out in tears, overcome. I had never though that this would come to pass."

Even before the dinner in the Vatican's Saint Martha Guesthouse shortly after the papal election, at which the members of the conclave gathered, Benedict XVI, alias Joseph Ratzinger, came to her and said, "God has willed it so. Let us both follow the will of God."

Ingrid Stampa, so it is said all along the Tiber, offers the new pope a home in the Eternal City. Ingrid Stampa once described herself as a "free, foreign bird in the Vatican." The Ratzinger biographer Peter Seewald writes, she is a free bird who animates the Pope.

Not much new, but still great stuff.


Some Have... Hatred

(Second in an occasional series....)
326. What is the effect of episcopal Ordination?

Episcopal Ordination confers the fullness of the Sacrament of Orders, making the Bishop the legitimate successor of the Apostles and inserting him into the College of bishops, sharing with the Pope and the other Bishops the solicitude for all the Churches, and granting him the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing.

327. What is the function of the Bishop in the particular Church entrusted to him?

The Bishop to whom a particular Church is entrusted is the visible head and the foundation of the unity of that Church where, as vicar of Christ, he fulfills the pastoral office, aided by its priests and deacons.
The above are translations from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Does anyone wish to quibble?

It seems that, yet again, Karen Hall does. They must've skipped the significance and primacy of the episcopacy in her RCIA, because it seems she was taught that Catholicism was the free-for-all Anglicanism with which she trys to tar those of us who actually study the church.

To her credit, Karen's taught me something of great value -- that if you've been a TV writer for going on 27 years, the profession must really get under your skin and the urge to create salacious, attention-grabbing fiction becomes second nature. Because it seems that she's always chomping at the bit to pull some more material out of thin air for her pilot (picked up by EWTN for a September debut) starring R. Kelly as Cardinal Mahony and Boy George as Tod Tamberg. Or something else so captivatingly ostentatious only a TV writer can envision it.

Karen gripes that there are no liturgies in LA which correspond to the NASCAR schedule. Since when were race cars a valid consideration when it comes to the Eucharist? Karen once had the distaste to surmise that I wrote a piece about Ingrid Stampa because, in her ignorance of how the church works (or, for that matter, who Joseph Ratzinger is), a woman's presence in the Pope's circle immediately means that the Holy Father might just be less than holy.

That's just disgusting beyond words, an insult to my professional integrity and an unfounded, disgraceful insinuation against the character of the Pope.

Well, hey, think of it this way: Ratzi and I are in good company, because she really loves smearing Mahony, too.

Here's a memory meme -- I'll now make up for some catechist in SoCal who lost Karen's attention: It is not kosher, nor is it Catholic, for someone who loves screaming "Magisterium!" to go to extreme, uncharitable, un-Christian lengths to denounce, discredit and deny the mandate (signed, "John Paul II") given a validly ordained and appointed prelate who, according to the traditions of the church Karen accepted by her own assent "is the visible head and foundation of unity" of her community of faith. It is not kosher, nor is it Catholic, to seek to trump up charges and divide the church against its competent authority on unsubstantiated grounds stemming solely from personal distaste.

Yet, because Karen wants to remake the church in no image other than her own, she persists in the obstinate denial of this tenet -- and, unlike her slanted gripes (you might have to miss NASCAR for Mass -- poor baby), she's transgressing an article of faith here.... Well, unless she wants to deny the authority of the Catechism, and she can be my guest at that.

Remember that she had the gall to call me Episcopalian and tell me to "go save the gay whales." Indeed, darlings, anything is possible when you live in a parallel universe -- where the only Magisterium in force is one's arrogant, uninformed whim.

That's not the kind of record you want when claiming the ground of a proper formation and causing scandalous consternation over liturgical "abuses" which aren't. It gives one a perspective as credible as Stevie Wonder chewing out an interior decorator....

And Stevie would never do such a thing because he's always got the love lights on. That's what Christians are called to do.

In a recent comment, Karen wants to ask the Pope why "Mahony gets away with relentless blatant heresy."

Fine, make that charge -- but give us proof. And, more than anything, respect people's intelligence and the church's dignity. For the love of God, if you want to be taken seriously and not as some sort of reject rodeo clown, give us balance, not hysterics. Going overboard and somehow trying to tie Mahony to Gino Burresi says more about you than it does about the man your faith impels you to accept as "vicar of Christ" in the church entrusted to him. And it doesn't say much for the Catholic spirit you say you've got.

Karen said tonight that she wants to send a U-Haul truck to the Roman Catholic Faithful in their investigation of Mahony.

If that's the Catholic thing to do, then your Pope lives in Kansas....

Some authority he's got. But then again, if I've got your thinking right, who's Roger Mahony to say he's a Catholic bishop?


Libreria Editrice Whispers

I've been asked to translate some more questions from the Compendio -- some have even requested a translated Q&A couplet each day. As much as I'd love to do this, I won't to any significant extent, and here's why:

Anyone who's ever been involved in translating knows how hypersensitive the process is and the external pressures placed upon it. Anyone who's been involved in translating doctrinal texts knows the extremes of this. And those involved in translating liturgical texts endure the worst stupidities and hubris of humankind. I will not name names, but many of the banes of a translator's existence live on the West Coast....

And Ichiban Jim is not one of them.

This is the basic funnel of translating anything Roman of an official nature: Just because a translation is authentic to the original text doesn't mean it's theologically precise. Just because it's theologically precise doesn't mean it's grammatically fluid. And just because it's grammatically fluid and theologically precise by no means ensures that it'll get the recognitio of the Holy See. (My beloved ICEL darlings, how well you know this.)

So even though I am not keen to tie the hands of the official translators in the execution of their much-anticipated work, when exegencies deem it appropriate for a Q&A on a certain topic to be thrown out into the forum, I will hammer out a translation and publish it. However, while my English rendering represents the "gist" of what is to come (and my tendencies veer toward a literal translation), it is not to be taken as the editio typica English translation confirmed by the Apostolic See.

You'll have to wait til October for that, and you'll have to wait til later in the evening for a Q&A or two.... Y'all come back now.



A British reader was Visitor 20,000 at 6.36pm Pharaoh Daylight Time (2236 GMT). Thanks again to all!

To save everyone the downscroll time, these are the musings of the moment.


The Pope Speaks... Some More...

Some fascinating nuggets from the Italian wires.... Tip to Papabile for this Agency brief, dated 25 July:
The need to study further the issue of admitting divorced and remarried people to the sacraments was pointed out today by Pope Benedict XVI, who apparently lingered on those people who re-approach faith after a second marriage, perhaps marrying the first time without really understanding the value of the sacrament. According to Ratzinger, the basic principle to be followed is that of defending the values of marriage, but without making those who can't receive the sacraments because of their irregular situation feel excluded from the communion of the church. "In all cases," said the Pope, "we must see how close they can be to the Church. We must share their suffering, which must be lived with patience."
Around interregnum time, there were whispers from Rome that Your Friendly Neighborhood CDF was working on a document possibly allowing the party not at fault -- the respondent, in canonical terms -- in a divorce and annulment readmission to the sacraments if that party entered into a second marriage. It seems that buzz did have something to it....

AGI also reports that newly-named nuncio to Austria, Archbishop Edmond Farhat, is a former vice-director of Sala Stampa, the Vatican Press Office. Very shrewd move on the part of the Pope, as nuncios usually don't talk to press... Well, except in the Philippines. Or when Montalvo makes a grand faux-pas.

Given that background, putting the Libyan-born Farhat in the heart of German Catholicism can be seen as the Pope's assertive move toward combatting future iterations of the disasters the Austrian church has faced the last few years -- Groer, Krenn, et. al. Be wise to remember that Papa Bear knows the backstory firsthand; if it weren't for Ratzi, Kurt Krenn would've become the archbishop of Vienna. Suffice it to say, even the possibility of something awry along those lines won't happen again. And Krenn was so conservative, much good it did him....

Think of Vienna as the prototype for the major diplomatic appointments of the pontificate.


Abuse Tracker, Italian Desk

Suffice it to say, my local paper has found religion....

A story from the Inquirer's Rome bureau chief about an Italian celebri-priest accused of abuse. Apparently, it's big news across the Pond:
First, Ben Hsin and several other inmates say, Lodeserto, known here as "Don Cesare," watched and participated while carabinieri guards and other staff members beat them with truncheons. Then, the inmates say, the guards forced them to eat pork, in a mockery of the Muslim ban on that meat, by shoving it into their mouths with the batons.

"They pushed pork down my throat, and they left me outside with no clothes," Ben Hsin said in an interview, repeating his court testimony. "Don Cesare ordered it."

Some of the inmates were severely bruised, allegedly from the beatings, and prosecutors have charged a doctor with filing a false report claiming that the bruises came from falls during the escape attempt. Lodeserto also has been charged with obstruction of justice over allegations that he tried to intimidate witnesses into changing their testimony. Prosecutors say he ordered a woman to falsely accuse a key witness of raping her.

In a separate case, prosecutors have accused Lodeserto of illegally confining several Moldovan women in another part of the facility. The women had been brought to Italy as part of a sex-trafficking ring, and, having fled their captors, had been granted immigration permits that allowed them to move about freely....

In addition to highlighting the plight of immigrants in Italy, the scandal has underscored the increasing willingness of a new generation of prosecutors to take on the Catholic Church. Prosecutors began investigating the center after they discovered what appeared to be a second set of accounting ledgers for it in an unrelated matter. They opened the other cases after the inmates complained to human-rights activists.

"I am a Catholic. I know the value of Catholicism," said Carolina Elia, a lead prosecutor in the case. "There is very little Catholic in all of this."
We in the States know that latter truth all too well, don't we?


Trids in Köln

From the WYD Desk, a ZENIT reminder about Juventutem:
At least 3,000 youths and 60 priests of a group supportive of the Latin Mass of Pope Pius V plan to attend World Youth Day in Cologne, an official says.
Three-thousand? Quite a number. Let's see if it pans out....
The first Juventutem group was made up of followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who met in Brazil. For the past three years, Juventutem has been in full communion with the Church of Rome. Its members will attend the Aug. 21 Mass presided over by Benedict XVI.
What a way to mark a third birthday -- their first ever Novus Ordo liturgy. Isn't it ironic?
In the preceding days, at 7:30 a.m. the Juventutem group will attend a Mass celebrated in Latin in the old rite, in the Church of St. Antonius in Duesseldorf, which, together with Bonn and Cologne, is one of the three areas in which World Youth Day events will be held.

The church was assigned to them by the Pontifical Council for the Laity with the approval of Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne.
Meisner is the German hierarchy's lead conservative; as if he'd disapprove?

For all the anxieties which could be had about this, it is an encouraging sign. And they're pulling out the heavy hitters -- Arinze, Pell, George, Burke, and the Brazilian bishop of Campos who is Catholicism's only full-time Tridentine bishop.

In other Cologne news, the Pope's schedule for the three-day trip is making the rounds. B16 is celebrating mass in private for two of the days at the Archbishop's Residence.... Whether this is strictly private (i.e. just Georg, Ingrid, Carmela and Loredana) or if some of the young people are invited to join remains to be seen.

And, in an interesting touch given the impending Federal elections in September, the first German Pope since Luther will be meeting not only with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (who, according to opinion polls, will lose his bid for re-election), but also with Angela Merkel, the leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Union who is tipped to take the Chancellor's office from Schroeder's Social Democrats. Wolfgang Thierse, the speaker of the Bundestag (a former GDR Communist), rounds out the group.


If You Build It...?

Wow. It's 13.00 and the counter's already showing 380 visitors for the day. This is proof positive of what Blog Researchers have come to call The Amy Effect.

Sometime today, if things keep up, the 20,000th Visitor to this little hallway of Blogdom will be received. While I'm still hoping and praying for a gig to pay the bills, the interest and support of this audience -- of all of you -- has both warmed my heart in affirming the importance and value of this work, and served as proof to the people around me who think I've lost my mind that I am, in fact, doing something productive, even if survival at this point is a daily struggle. (To aid with the latter, you'll see a donation bar on the right sidebar. Please support the mission!)

I was really humbled the other day to receive a word from one of the legends of the field -- who, as it turns out, is a committed reader. (Imagine my shock and awe. Those Curia boys are way too loose-lipped when it comes to their fonti.) When he started out, he told me, he thought he'd be read by "a couple-hundred Vatican junkies," and now he's huge, he's everywhere.

That's just one of the many expressions of support I've gotten which mean the world everyday and keep my morale up, so tutte grazie to you all. Thanks for visiting (often frequently), staying awhile, making your voices heard, keeping in touch, keeping me sane and spreading the word. If I could ask a favor, please keep spreading that word. And apologies to everyone whose e.mails I have yet to return!

As my Dad has spent the better part of three decades in big-city newspaper circulation, I'm very cognizant of the role of numbers in journalism, so here's a brief summary for the curious. Since starting the counter on 4 June, it took 31 days to reach the first 10,000 visitors. Since then, 22 days to 20,000 -- between the two milestones, readership has increased 36%, which is nothing to thumb your nose at. The average viewing time clocks in at about four and a half minutes, which is unusually high for a blog. The numbers spike at the beginning of the workday on the East Coast, yet there is also a curious uptick in the middle of the night Eastern time, coinciding with midmorning in Rome -- or, more appropriately for this time of year, Les Combes. This is all very gratifying.

Lastly, a personal blurb: even though I opened this Loggia up in December on the advice of friends, I decided to make it a full-time commitment after the Events of April. Before we lost JP, I was doing positively mind-numbing things (like PR for strip malls), and it drove me crazy because I knew what I loved but didn't think that the audience existed for it. And then arrived this moment of grace, when what I've always seen as my life's cause and beloved work was played out on the front pages, computer screens, radios and televisions of the world, and I was able to be a part of explaining and analyzing it for a mass audience. Having spent most of my life preparing for it and years operating behind-the-scenes, I took to the task with such great senses of joy, love and fulfillment that I decided I had to keep at it, even if it meant going for broke.

What's life if you stop yourself from doing what you love, right?

Well, that's where I'm at -- gone for broke and waiting for redemption. So hopefully things will tick up. Until then and always, just gotta keep Rock n' Rollin....