Monday, July 31, 2006

Quote of the Day

The stars of today's circus held a press conference last night, yielding this precious nugget:
Roman Catholic Womenpriests wants the church to be "non-hierarchical, non-clerical and inclusive," said Patricia Friesen, considered a bishop in the group.
OK, so if this is to be taken at face value, they want the church to be "non-clerical" whilst, um, being clerical -- or, at least, desiring to be clerical.

They're joking, right?

Bottom line: It's days like this which are merely the symptoms of a cause. For all the talk and finesse, this whole fiasco just proves yet again that the bad fruits of clericalism and the perception of priesthood not as a means of selfless service, but the vehicle of power, prestige and social advancement remain alive, well and in our midst. (As if we didn't know this already, but still....)

For all the sadness and difficulty of this day, that's one thing you can't blame on the boating party.


His Old Kentucky Home

As many of you know -- and some of you have queried about -- Archbishop Thomas Kelly OP of Louisville, the second-longest serving US metropolitan, recently marked his 75th birthday and sent the requisite letter of resignation to Rome.

Having served at the helm of one of the oldest American dioceses since 1982, the road to Kelly's successor has aroused more than the usual breakout of hives and jitters among his clergy and faithful.

The archbishop sat with the Courier-Journal for a reflection on his stewardship of the 200,000-member archdiocese:

Once the Vatican has decided on a new head for the archdiocese, Kelly hopes to spend a year at a residence owned by his Dominican religious order in Washington, D.C.

"It's always been the practice for the retiring bishop to get out of Dodge for a while" as the new bishop gets established, he said.

After a year, Kelly said, he'll ask the new archbishop for permission to return to Louisville, perhaps to live with fellow Dominicans at St. Louis Bertrand Church

Kelly said the archdiocese is only beginning to emerge from "four torturous years" of confronting the sexual abuse of minors by priests and now has an extensive system of training and screening employees and volunteers.

Louisville was one of the hardest-hit dioceses in the United States when the crisis erupted worldwide in 2002 and 2003.

The archdiocese was sued by more than 250 plaintiffs; nine priests were removed from ministry, and four were convicted of abuse-related charges. To date, the archdiocese has paid nearly $30 million in settlements and in legal and medical bills.

"Nobody, I think, was really well prepared for the extent of the problem: the impact, the harm and injury that could be done to people," Kelly said. "And I have to admit to my own absolute incredulousness that such a thing could be prevalent here and I not know about it. It took a couple of kicks to make me understand the extent of the difficulty."

Although Kelly said he didn't know the extent of the abuse, he was very much aware of its existence.

For most of his tenure, until bishops adopted a zero-tolerance policy in 2002, Kelly allowed some priests to remain in ministry after learning they had abused children, according to internal church documents released during litigation.

"I regret that so much," Kelly said. "I did that with the approval of (mental-health) professionals."

When asked whether those priests could be reassigned, therapists said they could, Kelly said.

But his decisions have been difficult for victims and their families, said Michael Turner, who was a plaintiff against the archdiocese.

"I think we need somebody new in here to let the church heal itself some more," he said. "There are still a lot of people with a lot of hurt."

A parallel piece also ran on the succession.

Given Benedict's reputation before becoming pope as the Vatican's doctrinal enforcer, his high-profile appointments since becoming pope last year have been "strikingly pastoral," said John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

"Some people were expecting Benedict would pick bishops who would steer the church sharply to the right," he said. "To date we haven't seen that."...

"These are not liberals," Allen said of the new appointees. "But these are people who are not ideologues. They are open, very concerned with people, typically not overly political in their approach to things."

Reese said most Catholic bishops, although politically conservative in some areas, "are to the left of liberal Democrats" in others, such as opposition to capital punishment, the Iraq war and crackdowns on immigrants.

Which reminds me of one bishop's recent memorable quote: "'You have something to learn here,' he said. 'You have something to learn here, and it's the Gospel.'"

It's a keen summation of B16's appointments to date.


Here's To the Knights

The 124th Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus convenes tomorrow in Orlando.
"You're going to think Rome moved west," said Charles Leppert, 64, of Davenport.

Legions of Knights in plumed, 19th-century hats, colorful capes, sashes and swords will accompany about 80 bishops and archbishops and 10 cardinals -- including the primate of Mexico -- as they march into the ballroom of the Orlando World Center Marriott and Resort Center.

About a thousand Knights, representing 1.7 million around the globe, will be in Orlando to consider a variety of issues, from stem-cell research to immigration reform. The meeting ends Thursday.

Bishop Thomas Wenski, leader of the Diocese of Orlando and himself a Knight, will lead a convention Mass on Tuesday morning....

Nationally, the Knights donated $139 million to charity in 2005, including $9 million for hurricane relief, and 64 million hours of volunteer service, according to the organization.

Locally, one Orlando unit alone distributed 3,000 to 4,000 Christmas gifts last year and donated computers to area schools.

"That's what the Knights of Columbus is about," says Thomas Fusco, 67, of Altamonte Springs, a member for 44 years.
At a preliminary meeting yesterday, the Knights voted to send $100,000 in aid to Lebanon.


Father's Day

On this, the 450th anniversary of the death of Ignatius of Loyola, a happy patronal feast to the many, many Jesuit readers and friends of these pages.

Ostensibly to commemorate the milestone, the Superior-General of the Society, Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, gave an interview to Zenit.

Observant readers will remember that plans are underway for the 35th General Congregation of the Company of Jesus, which will open in Rome in the first week of 2008.

The marquee agenda item of GC35 is the election of Kolvenbach's successor (previously reported on here).

Snips from Father-General:
[Kolvenbach on retirement]: St. Ignatius saw valid reasons to prescribe that the office of superior general be for life. And, of course, it cannot be denied that it entails certain advantages.

However, that decision of St. Ignatius was made in the 16th century when life expectancy was much shorter than now. Ignatius died at 65, a rather advanced age for the time, after having been superior general for 15 years. His two immediate successors died respectively at 53 and 62 years of age, after a generalate that in both cases was reduced to seven years.

Compared to them, my period as superior general is already longer than 22 years, and if God so wills, in 2008 I will be about to celebrate 80 years of age and 25 as superior general. These are circumstances which question legitimately the appropriateness of putting an end to such a long period.

Q: There have been ups and downs in the relationship between the Society and the Pope. Why?

Father Kolvenbach: In the framework of a special relationship between the Pope and the Society of Jesus -- desired and professed by both parties -- it is understandable and human that historical circumstances influence the tenor of this relationship.

On the other hand, as Pope Paul VI said so affectionately, in an address in which points of attention were not lacking in regard to certain tendencies he observed in the Society. The Jesuits have always been in the trenches, at the crossroads where problems have been debated that did not always have a clear answer.

It is not strange that, in the service of the Church, some abandoned the security of the trenches to launch themselves defenseless beyond the orthodox demarcations in search of new answers to new problems.

The case of Father Mateo Ricci is enlightening. Profoundly knowledgeable of the Chinese culture and mentality, he made the effort to show that reverence to ancestors was not an idolatrous worship as was said in the West, but a social and family custom which did not contradict the Christian faith or justify the denial of baptism to those who remembered their ancestors in that way.

This position made him the target of criticisms by other religious and, finally, of Rome's condemnation. There is no doubt that this closed the door to many possible converts. Only in the 20th century was Ricci recognized as ahead of his age in the proclamation of the Gospel and as a precursor of inculturation in the missionary endeavor.

Not all the Jesuits who have been called to Rome can attribute to themselves Ricci's preparation and nobility of intentions, but neither have those who have served the Church with faithfulness and dedication been few, who were not recognized until a long time after. Father Teilhard de Chardin is, perhaps, one of the most representative cases....

Q: Will some juridical formula be studied, during the next congregation, to integrate lay men and women in the Society of Jesus?

Father Kolvenbach: The last general congregation gave it a green light so that for a decade, on an experimental basis, the provinces were able to establish groups of men and women associates united with a contractual agreement without that implying integration in the body of the Society.

In this way their lay vocation is safeguarded even when they take part in the Jesuits' apostolic work. The experience of these last years will be subjected, without a doubt, to discernment by the general congregation.
Again, a happy founder's day to all the sons of Ignatius.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Word from Chicago

The last official update yesterday morning said that Cardinal Francis George "continues to do well," and is grateful for the outpouring of prayers since his Thursday surgery for bladder and ureter cancer.

Today's Tribune touches on the cardinal's openness in addressing his illness.
At a time when life-threatening ailments have afflicted other high-profile figures, including Cook County Board President John Stroger and Chicago First Lady Maggie Daley, George's battle with bladder cancer is distinguished by his candor. As the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, however, George has a different role than most newsmakers.

"A pastor is like a father figure," said Colleen Dolan, communications director for the Chicago archdiocese. "They should be very open with their extended family. He's always been incredibly candid about things. That's very helpful to people who care about him, and it helps people get to know him."

Chicago's archbishops have not always been so forthcoming.

When Cardinal John Cody died in 1982, most people did not know he had suffered from congestive heart failure for quite some time.

Many believe it was Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's public battle with pancreatic cancer in 1995 and 1996 that set the tone for how much a prelate should share about his health with the wider church. Some believe George's instruction to his staff to speak openly about his illness also reflects his lifelong struggle as a survivor of polio--a childhood disease he rarely brings up, but one that has helped shape his ministry.

"Here's a man who has lived with disability most of his life, needing assistance to get up the steps and walking with a limp, and so I think he's conscious of mortality that we all share," Senior said. "There's nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide behind. He's been schooled in that all his life."

Others believe it represents a holistic understanding of a person as both body and spirit.

"If spiritual leadership is not just confined to the human spirit, but it can touch the whole of our human experience, then it ought not be restricted to just spiritual matters," said Rev. Gilbert Ostdiek, a professor at the Catholic Theological Union.

Sharing the experience with others, Ostdiek said, can open doors of compassion and deepen the faith of those around them.
Further updates on George's condition will be posted on the archdiocesan website. Results of the crucial pathology tests are expected to be completed near the end of the week.


Out With 'Im?

The Sunday Telegraph reports on a "growing whispering campaign aimed at ousting" the cardinal-archbishop of Westminster at his 75th birthday next August.
One senior figure in the Westminster diocese noted: "The main frustration is the lack of any real communication with the cardinal. Virtually everything he does is done without consultation."...

Many believe Pope Benedict XVI will ask the cardinal to step down next August. Although canon law requires all cardinals to offer their resignations at 75, those in the Vatican's favour are asked to remain in office. Senior Catholics believe the Pope will be keen to replace Cardinal Murphy O'Connor with someone who shares his more orthodox approach.

Ian Ker, a Church historian, said: "There is a perception at the Vatican that the English Catholic Church has become too detached from Rome in recent years. They'll be looking for someone who will steer the Church away from the liberal course it has been pursuing, which Rome believes has been a major factor in the decline of Catholicism here."

Attendance at Mass in 1991 was recorded as 1.3 million, representing a drop of 40 per cent since 1963, but it fell further to 960,000 in 2004. The number of priests in England and Wales has slumped by nearly a quarter in 20 years, from 4,545 in 1985 to 3,643 in 2005.

In a recent book, The Future of the Catholic Church in Britain, Tom Horwood said: "The Church in Britain is suffering from a terminal decline in membership, irregular commitment among the remnant, and, in the wake of persistent child abuse scandals, a leadership that has toppled from its pedestal with a mighty crash."

Among potential successors named in the piece is Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, the chairman of ICEL. Before being named an auxiliary to Murphy-O'Connor in 2001, Roche was general secretary of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, an institution traditionally headed by the archbishop of Westminster.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

This Far By Faith

Yet another of the far-too-unsung treasures of the church here in the States is its rich and varied ethnic ministries.

Then again, when the state of things is such that they don't so much reflect the values of genuine Catholicity as those of gas-guzzling white suburbia, should we be surprised?

Sure, there's been a lot of attention about the impending milestone when Latinos overtake Anglos as US Catholicism's dominant ancestral group (the bishop of Tulsa got an earful 'bout that a few weeks back), and a recent story termed Vietnamese-American Catholics the "new Irish" in terms of the high number of vocations (12% of seminary students) from a community which makes up 1% of the almost 70 million-member American Catholic fold.

Relatively ignored in the midst of it all, however, are African-American Catholics, who number 2.5 million. The black Catholic hubs in the inner cities of places like New York, Detroit, Newark, Chicago, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Memphis, Richmond, Washington and so many others keep working, and joyfully so, against daunting odds, often facing the specter of the chancery axe. And, more than just sometimes, such is the clout of the traditional "Black Church" that many black Catholics have been misunderstood and persecuted in their communities -- something which is especially true in the case of converts.

When we say we're a catholic church, that means that that we can never stop learning from and sharing with every element within this rich communion of ours. In an age when, with all its battles and hang-ups, much of the wider church has lost its intrinsic sense of soul and verve, our black Catholic communities can teach us so much about how to get it back and keep it alive.

Moral of the story: under the theme "Let Us Gather At the Table," the National Black Catholic Joint Conference met earlier this week in Louisville.

Women and men stepped rhythmically down the church aisle, clapping and swaying as the choir sang an upbeat gospel song to the accompaniment of electronic piano, bass and tambourine:

"The power of the Lord is here.

I feel it in the atmosphere."

It could have been a midweek service at any black Baptist or Pentecostal church, except the procession at St. Martin de Porres Church was made up mainly of nuns and priests, the choir was made up of singers from local African-American Catholic churches, and it was a prelude to a 2 1/2-hour Mass....

"With apologies to the liturgist, I've got to tell you I came to praise the Lord," said Sister Antona Ebo of St. Louis, a veteran of civil-rights marches who yesterday was celebrating the 60th anniversary of her first night in a convent.

"What you hear will set you on fire," she said before reading a Bible passage about the growth of the early church, which she punctuated with several exclamations of "Have mercy."...

The annual conferences have taken place since 1968 "to learn who we were as black Catholics in the Roman Catholic Church, and to encourage each other," said Sister Donna Banfield of Memphis, Tenn.

Top concerns include efforts to recruit more African-American priests and nuns and the closing of inner-city parishes and schools as Catholic populations shift to suburbs.

Banfield said schools and parishes can be an investment in the future.

"We've always been evangelizers," she said of her religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, which traditionally teaches African-American and Indian children. "When you close the schools, you're putting a block on people coming into the church."

The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament were, as you know, founded by a saint.

PHOTO: Jim Winn/The Courier-Journal



The first acronym, of course, means "Head of the Church." Of Boston, that is....

Cardinal Sean O'Malley will have a session with the founding chapter of Voice of the Faithful on Friday.

O'Malley's office downplayed the significance of the meeting, and said the cardinal has not revised the Archdiocese of Boston's policy toward the group, which includes a ban on meetings in parishes by chapters formed after October 2002, when the group was first banned by Cardinal Bernard F. Law .

O'Malley last met with the national organization in November 2003 and said he would reconsider the ban, but he did not make any change.

But leaders of the organization, which was formed in Wellesley at the height of the clergy sex abuse crisis in February 2002, view the gathering as symbolically significant, in that it demonstrates O'Malley's willingness to talk with a group that has been demonized in some quarters of the church.

O'Malley has not been critical of the group, and in fact appointed one of its founders, David Castaldi of Brookline, to lead an important archdiocesan committee overseeing the sale of property from parish closings.

The upcoming meeting with the leadership of the Boston chapter of Voice of the Faithful was apparently triggered when a group leader approached O'Malley this spring, during his 10-day pre-Pentecost pilgrimage to parishes that had been shepherded by sexually abusive priests, and raised the possibility of a meeting. O'Malley, who said the pilgrimage was to be an occasion for repentance and hope, agreed to talk with the group, and his office then scheduled it.

``In response to a request by representatives of Voice of the Faithful, Cardinal Sean and Father Richard M. Erikson , vicar general and moderator of the curia, will meet with those representatives," O'Malley's spokesman, Terrence C. Donilon , wrote in an e-mail. ``By way of the request, the VOTF representatives expressed a desire to be helpful to the Archdiocese. Cardinal Sean continues to demonstrate a willingness and openness to dialogue, and is committed to vibrant parish life throughout the church of Boston. We welcome the participation of all people who wish to assist with this work."

As always, interesting times in Beantown. More senior officials fleeing Caritas, the continuing search for the permanent CEO there, the archdiocesan official who quit after announcing that she had been "ordained to the priesthood" last year, and now this.

Stay tuned.


Ecclesiastical Security

Every year, the annual Collection for Retired Religious conducted by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops yields the largest response of any of the national appeals conducted by the hierarchy. Since its inception in 1988, it's brought in just under half a billion dollars.

Riffing on a new book, an AP piece indicates that even more is needed:

Though billions of dollars have been salted away, there still remains an unfunded future liability of $8.7 billion for current nuns, priests and brothers in religious orders. The financial hole is projected by a consulting firm to exceed $20 billion by 2023.

A June survey by the church's National Religious Retirement Office, not yet released to the public, puts spending for retiree care at $926 million last year alone. That compares with a total of $499 million received over the last 18 years from annual special parish collections to aid retirees.

The retirement realities far overshadow the burden from well-publicized sexual abuse cases, which have cost the American church more than $1 billion since 1950, with tens of millions of dollars in pending claims....

The problem is discussed in the new book "Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns" (Doubleday) by former New York Times religion editor Kenneth Briggs. The book's main theme is that church authorities vetoed sisters' hopes for dramatic changes that would provide more freedom and effective ministries in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.

When Briggs completed his research, the annual care cost was running at $800 million and aid collections then totaled $480 million. He reports that the annual collections generate more than twice the receipts from the next largest special appeal, showing the regard parishioners have for the sisters and other retirees.

Time to get the money-minded together.... For everything our retired religious have done and given to the church in this country, the least it can give in return is a secure future.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Second Surgery for George

The following statement was released this morning by the archdiocese of Chicago:
Cardinal Francis George returned to the operating room just before midnight last night for an exploratory surgery. The Cardinal had exhibited an unstable blood pressure and a drop in blood count despite having received blood transfusions. These conditions were discussed with the Cardinal and a decision was made to return to the operating room.

In a two-hour procedure, Dr. Robert Flanigan, assisted by Dr. Fred Luchette, Chief of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Loyola, found a small blood vessel in the pelvis that was bleeding. The source was successfully closed, the bleeding was stopped and the Cardinal stabilized. He tolerated the operation well and is resting comfortably this morning.

Although the episode of postoperative bleeding represents a complication of the radical cystectomy, it is not an unusual occurrence and is not expected to have a significant impact on Cardinal George’s recovery. During the next few days he will continue to be closely monitored.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Post-Op: Card. George "Awake, Speaking"

4.15pm ET: In the first indication of Cardinal Francis George's condition after bladder cancer surgery earlier today, Chicago vicar-general Fr John Canary began the press conference by expressing his feeling that "the prayers have worked."

"I'm happy to report the cardinal is doing well," a priest-doctor told the flock of media who gathered for the briefing at Chicago's Loyola University Medical Center. However, the medical team which conducted the three-hour procedure reported that the cardinal chose the aggressive treatment undertaken today because the cancer was also found in his right ureter.

An hour after the conclusion of the surgery which removed his bladder, prostate, lymph nodes and a portion of his ureter, his caretakers said that the 69 year-old cardinal was awake and talking.

One doctor said that the team is "very happy about the results of what we have" -- however, a definitive prognosis cannot be made until the end of next week with the results of a pathological exam on the removed tissue.

The oncologists said that they're very hopeful for the best possible result, and confident the cardinal can return to his active work.

The cardinal, head of the 2.4 million-member archdiocese of Chicago and vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, first reported blood in his urine on 8 June, and went for a preliminary exam the following day. Two weeks later, on the 23rd, a bladder exam and cytologic test found "typical cells suspicious for cancer" indicating a "high grade tumor, though still superficial." Further tests, both invasive and CT scans, found that his right was ureter partially blocked and dilated. At that time, a stent was inserted as initial pathology results were anticipated.

The cardinal "did very, very well," one of the doctors said, reporting that it went "very smoothly" and that the patient was "strong."

When asked about the method by which George's urinary function would be reconstructed, the medical team invoked the cardinal's request that they not discuss his choice until he is able to speak about it himself. Once he awoke, he asked how the surgery had gone and replied that he was feeling no discomfort.

At several points, the doctors underlined that, while the initial senses remains positive as the carcinoma in situ found in biopsy is a superficial type of cancer, the pathology will determine if the disease is "superficial or invasive." The media was told that multiple urinalyses over the last three years and an ultrasound of the cardinal's right kidney taken two years ago all turned up "perfectly fine."

George's gastro-intestinal tract is expected to restart itself in the next few days, the doctors wish to have him moving around tomorrow morning, and eating again in three to four days.

Another briefing is scheduled for tomorrow, and another when the pathology results are completed.


The Cardinal Counters

On the first day of his episcopacy, one thing Danny Thomas can pride himself on is that he got Ted McCarrick and George Weigel into the same room without a whimper.

Sure, it was a big room, but that's not the easiest accolade to attain these days. For a baby bishop, it's nothing short of monumental -- a sign that, contrary to current trends, bishops can be a sign of unity... even if it's just 'til the Mass has ended.

It shouldn't be news to anyone that Weigel and the Ted don't always see eye to eye. In the latest chapter of the saga, the Wojtyla-indebted columnist went after the Wojtyla-created cardinal again last week in a column intended to fisk the recently-retired Washington prelate's penchant for moderation, saying that "It’s not easy to know what Cardinal McCarrick means by his oft-repeated admonition to" it.

Well, in an extraordinary move, McCarrick has broken the low profile he's kept since the late June installation of his successor, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, to respond, accusing Weigel of "at the minimum, deceptive journalism, if not worse." The response will soon run in the papers which syndicate Weigel's column, but for now you can find it at dotCommonweal.

If it hasn't already, this could get interesting.


All Eyes on Chicago

At this hour, Cardinal Francis George remains in surgery to remove a cancerous bladder at Chicago's Loyola University Medical Center. A medical briefing is expected at 2.30pm local time (1930GMT).
This morning, George left his hospital room at dawn in jovial spirits after a good night's rest, said Colleen Dolan, communications director for the archdiocese. Before rolling out of his room, Rev. John Canary, the archdiocese's vicar general, Dolan, and a cousin from Chicago joined him for morning prayers.
In Rome and the States, there's a good bit of nervous pacing going on. Since his 1997 appointment to the US' second-largest local church, the 69 year-old George has gradually filled the role of the national hierarchy's de facto leader and its intellectual voice.

Long the Holy See's American point man on liturgical matters, George's preeminence both at home and abroad was solidified by his 2004 election as vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the college of cardinals' choice of Pope Benedict XVI five months later. Both in their views and personal friendship, the Chicago cardinal is the closest US-based prelate to the Pope.

As reports circulated that George's prognosis appeared less certain than the optimism conveyed in the public statements, a marathon vigil will take place this evening at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral. While the public rosaries and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will end at midnight, the church will remain open for silent prayer around the clock, with exposition beginning again at 5am local time tomorrow morning.

The archdiocese of Chicago also announced that a midday ecumenical prayer service was conducted at the hospital by the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

AP File/Nam Y. Huh


"Standing Before the Risen Christ...."

Only after I returned from the festivities last night did I find out that yesterday's ordination of Bishop Daniel Thomas was streamed live over the web.

For everyone who had written in asking about it, sorry. Wish I knew.

Thankfully, though, the archived video has been made available via Windows Media, along with the text of Cardinal Justin Rigali's meditation on the role of the bishop as sign of Jesus Christ. Coming from one former official of the Congregation of Bishops to another, it was one of the signal messages of Rigali's tenure.

So if you're keen to see what all the fuss is about, enjoy -- and, through the gift of technology, welcome to Philadelphia.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Oh No, Not Again....

Earlier today, the following statement was released from the office of the archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, OMI:

“Tomorrow morning I will undergo surgery at Loyola University Medical Center to remove cancer discovered very recently in my bladder. I am informed that I can expect to make a full recovery from this cancer and the surgery to remove it. I have asked my doctors and Archdiocesan officials to fully brief you after the surgery on the specifics of the operation and my recovery. During my recovery and absence, Father John Canary, the Vicar General, will provide day to day governance of the Archdiocese. He and the Auxiliary Bishops and Mr. Jimmy Lago, the Chancellor, will be in contact with me as necessary.

"I ask my fellow priests, the religious, all Catholics in the Archdiocese and other friends and colleagues to pray for me. I trust that the Lord will give me the strength and grace I need during these next days and weeks.”

Word from Chicago is that the surgery has been scheduled for 7am tomorrow, local time. The diagnosis was made last week and the cardinal's auxiliary bishops, other close collaborators, family and friends were notified shortly thereafter. This morning, the USCCB vice-president said Mass with his auxiliaries, during which he was given the Sacrament of the Sick.

In his own statement, Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville -- a Chicago native -- relates that George told him "it is all in God's hands now."


Deed Ith Done

OK, so it's over.... And if you don't know what "it" is, keep reading and hopefully you'll figure it out.

It was, in a word, beautiful -- which is exactly how everything is in this local church.... Great time, smiling faces old and new, shiny crosses and even a surveillance operation (oh, my!). And a couple tears, of course.

Teaser: I met George Weigel.

Full recap subito dopo.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

This Day in B16 History

A year ago today, a vacation-time meeting with the clergy of the diocese of Aosta (most of whom were, shock and horrors, not wearing clerics) provided the stage for a key moment of the then-new pontificate.

At the encounter in Introd, Benedict XVI stunned many observers by going unplugged for the first time, answering an impromptu range of questions from the priests and speaking publicly without a net on his concept of the church for the first time following his election.

Even if you've seen it before, the extensive transcript is worth reading again. But the part that bears repeating above the others is a warning which has still largely gone unheeded:

In these past few weeks I have received ad limina visits from the Bishops of Sri Lanka and from the southern part of Africa. Vocations there are increasing; indeed, they are so numerous that it is proving impossible to build enough seminaries to accommodate all these young men who want to be priests.

Of course, this joy also carries with it a certain sadness, since at least a part of them comes in the hope of social advancement. By becoming priests, they become like tribal chiefs, they are naturally privileged, they have a different lifestyle, etc. Therefore, weeds and wheat grow together in this beautiful crop of vocations and the Bishops must be very careful in their discernment; they must not merely be content with having many future priests but must see which really are the true vocations, discerning between the weeds and the good wheat.

And may it be so next year....


But Are They Processing In Gondolas?

Today's ordination in Venice (Florida) is such big news that there's a story out there about the line to get into the cathedral.

They’re eager to welcome [Coadjutor Bishop Frank] Dewane to the diocese.

“I’m so excited I can’t stand it,” Betty Galvano of Fort Myers who attends St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.
Che gioia -- the bishop gets a honeymoon.
In a press conference earlier today, Dewane pledged to be a spiritual leader of Southwest Florida’s 233,000 Catholics.
Now that's bold. After the brouhaha, guess he just wanted to play it safe.


Via Col Vento in Filadelfia

By now, it's safe to say that the Pontifical North American College has assembled in exile here in the River City.

Benvenuti, hope you all had a safe trip, enjoy your stay in the Empire -- but, please, please, no sing-alongs around the piano... some things are best left back on the Hill.

To keep our canonist crowd occupied in advance of tomorrow's ordination, a daylong seminar for JCDs and JCLs is being held today at St Charles Borromeo Seminary in conjunction with the canon law faculty of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

That'll end by 5.30, of course, so the reverend revellers from near and far can make the Holy Hour at the chapel of the Cathedral-Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul.

As tomorrow's ordination is, for all intents and purposes, invite-only, and considering the principle that bishops are ordained for the whole church (i.e. the people of God), you'd think that an evening vigil service before an invite-only event would be opened to a wider swath of the faithful than can make tomorrow's afternoon liturgy.

Well, if you'd think that, you obviously don't know how we operate. It's clergy-only, so as tempted as I'd be to show, to pray, to greet and to observe, I know our long black line well enough to realize that the sight of but one tie in a sea of collars would encite a fair amount of boos, hissing and catcalls from the assembled... and maybe the hurling of an object or two. So I'll be doing some house-cleaning instead, and the prayers and gathering will have to wait.

It's just another day in Pharaohville.


McGowan, Undoer of Knots

The lion of Scranton is laid to rest amid yet another outpouring:
The mother church of the 11-county diocese brimmed with family and friends, as well as scores of current and former elected officials and dignitaries. Clergy flanked both sides of the altar and took up an entire bank of pews at the far-right of the cathedral.

In a moving homily laden with Scripture, the Rev. John A. Walsh conveyed the sense of communal loss left in the wake of Monsignor McGowan's death.

"We feel and bear some of your grief and your sense of loss and the emptiness that human death so often visits upon all of us," Father Walsh, a longtime friend and colleague of the monsignor, said to the large contingent of McGowan family members in attendance.

Focusing on Monsignor McGowan's love of scripture and of God, a side sometimes lost on those only familiar with his quick, biting wit, Father Walsh chose one word from the New Testament to describe his friend: Astonishing.

"He spent his life and he exhausted it out of the love of God," he said. "He was astonishing, and those around him became astonished at his life and the work of that man. He helped me untie the knots in my life.

"Love is stronger than death," Father Walsh added. "It's the one thing we take with us."...

"The rest of us will have to split up his jokes," said former Scranton Mayor Jimmy Connors. "We all stole them anyway. He didn't mind."

Mr. Connors, who was often introduced by Monsignor McGowan as "the captain of the Titanic," said the priest helped guide his life both publicly and in private.

"He tried to see everything in good cheer. I never forgot him saying to me, 'The more they criticize you, the more you smile,'" said Mr. Connors. "We should all keep our sense of humor."
Some might be curious as to why you this story has been appearing regularly on these pages. Well, there are a few reasons, most importantly two:

1. Faced with the obstacles of the times -- many of which don't just come from outside, but ex intra as well -- a lot of priests out there have a tough time remembering the good they can accomplish in ministry. This crisis of faith and morale has been manifested in many ways, but the tribute of the town is an example that, for all the prophecies of doom out there, a priest who lives and dies in the saddle and consistently gives his life for his own can be and is a wellspring of life and grace, not just for the church but the wider community.

It's not hard at all... that is, if you just try.

2. The timing of Joe McGowan's passing was almost providential. For the past two weeks, The Times-Leader of Wilkes-Barre, a paper in the Scranton diocese, has been running a series on the Catholic future with all the customary alarm bells and re-dredging up of everything everyone knew to begin with. It's caused some pain among the locals. But, in the midst of it all, in death, here came McGowan, again, to effectively save the day, take some wind out of the litany of ecclesiastical misdeeds and failures and remind the gang of what the church can do at its best.

Lastly, it was initially noted -- whether rightly or wrongly -- that Scranton's retired Bishop James Timlin was to celebrate yesterday morning's funeral liturgy. In the end, the diocesan bishop, Joseph Martino, took his chair... and provided a bit of an unusual coda to the manifestations of grief:
"Monsignor McGowan remains a priest forever. But there is a huge vacuum of the priesthood in his passing," Bishop Martino said before the packed pews at St. Peter's Cathedral. "We may have someone here who could be as humorous as Monsignor McGowan."

But, in a series of statements that seemed more like nonsequiturs, the bishop also acknowledged some of the criticisms levied against him, by those both within and outside the Diocese of Scranton, saying they have weighed "more heavily on my thought." Explaining that he was in need of rest and a respite, he did not attend a luncheon after the funeral or the burial at St. Mary's Cemetery in Hanover Township....

The brief address at the end of Mass appeared to ruffle some feathers.
Give Martino credit -- on top of being a brilliant mind, he can be quite candid, a quality which earned him a fair bit of scorn as a priest and auxiliary bishop here in his hometown. As said candor is more often seen as vice than virtue in the local ecclesiastical culture, I've always respected him greatly for this.

But that he did so on this occasion -- one when, um, it's not about him -- does lead one Philadelphian to worry about another, and hope that everything's OK....


Monday, July 24, 2006

Ordination Prep

Get on your planes, Romans. The Empire awaits.

Happy Love Week to you and yours from the center of it all.

As you know by now, the festivities reach their peak in two days' time as Auxiliary Bishop-elect Daniel Thomas is ordained before the largest turnout of hierarchy these shores have seen for an episcopal ordination since another former resident of the Gianicolo was elevated five years minus three weeks ago.

(Hint: Justin Rigali was the ordaining prelate that day, too.)

While we await the commemorative photo of the new bishop in his dress reds -- and the tears I usually shed at seeing those for the first time -- Danny Thomas' episcopal arms have made their appearance.

Rendered in the silver and blue of the archdiocesan seal, it's a double cant on his name: Daniel, who "when [he] was found praying to the Lord... was thrown into a den of lions" and Thomas, who the Gospel of John referred to "as 'Thomas, called Didymus,' a Greek name meaning 'twin.'

"The 'twin' lions on the shield thus call to mind the apostle known as 'the Twin,'" saith the summary.

The absence of heraldic tributes to the Holy See where the 47 year-old prelate served for 15 years, the NAC where he lived for that time, to his mother and to his eminent mentor-patron are notable. However, in deference to the feast day of the ordination (a tribute to the ordinand's late mother) a relic of St Anne will be on display in the Cathedral-Basilica, and word is that flowers will be brought to it during the liturgy.

The motto, however, brings to mind the story of the morning when a bishop in liturgical vestments was approached by a friend who bowed deeply and exclaimed, "My Lord!"

The bishop responded by similarly bowing, exclaiming back, "And my God!"

If you expect to see anything of the kind here ever, good luck... just don't hold your breath.

Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Strafford, where Thomas has served as pastor since his November return to town, has purchased the silver gilt crozier the new bishop will receive at the Mass. As for the rest, it'll either be the gift of the Overbrook Class of 1985 or culled from the extensive Philadelphia patrimony of pontificalia (a sight which many of you would greet with -- what else? -- a serene and kindly gaze).

Fret not: given Thomas' wide ties and the usual custom of out-of-town prelates offering gifts of gold, amethyst and filigree to Philly's baby bishops, he'll be very well-set.

The pontificalia to be used on Wednesday will ostensibly be blessed at a Holy Hour for visiting clerics to be held tomorrow evening. A simultaneous Holy Hour will be offered at the Strafford church.


The Beautiful Hands of a Priest

You know a priest is a giant among his people when a secular paper makes his legacy the editorial cartoon of the day.

So it was for Northeast Pennsylvania's Msgr Andrew McGowan, who died last week at 80. The funeral liturgy is taking place at this hour in Scranton's St Peter's Cathedral, and last night -- in the same hall where former Gov. Bob Casey had his lying in state -- a grateful community converged to pay tribute....

The story remains top news up the Blue Route.
For five hours they streamed by, a steady parade of familiar faces and complete strangers.

Alternating between her own two feet and a chair near the casket, Lee Rosica shook hand after hand. With each greeting inside the rotunda at Marywood University, Mrs. Rosica picked up new tidbits about her brother’s long-lasting reach.

An entire region grieves along with the loved ones of Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan, 80, who died last week at a Maryland hospital after a brief illness.

“It’s overwhelming,” Mrs. Rosica, of Clarence, N.Y., the monsignor’s only remaining sibling, said of the public support. “I met at least 100 people who said they had dinner with him every week. At least 20 said he was their mentor.
“When did he have time to do that?”
He had time to do it as he was actually ministering. But that's another story for another day.
Still going strong at 96 years old, James Tedesco slowly approached the casket and gently laid a hand on those of his longtime friend. Mr. Tedesco served on various boards and committees with Monsignor McGowan, including the Mercy Hospital board of directors. The pair dined together most Saturday nights with a small group of friends.

Despite his high-profile positions and penchant for the podium, Monsignor McGowan shunned the spotlight when it came to good works, both big and small, said Mr. Tedesco.

“He would never brag. You’d have to drag it out of him,” he said. “There was nothing I wouldn’t do for him. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for me.

“He’ll be missed.”
So it seems.

John Cole/Scranton Times-Tribune


You May Be Sugar, Spice, Everything Nice -- But You're Not Jesus' Little Girl

43 year-old mother/self-described "descendant" of Jesus and Mary Magdalene to write a book.

For, however outlandish Ms McGowan's claims, they are being taken seriously by one of the world's most respected publishing houses. Simon & Schuster is publishing her book and ploughing a marketing budget of more than a quarter of a million dollars into promoting it. It has already invested a seven-figure sum in the rights to her book, The Expected One. "I certainly expect there will be a backlash," said Ms McGowan. "But I have the support of my family and friends and that's what I draw from."

Claims to such a genetic lineage might normally draw scepticism from a world where an author's credibility can make or break a book. But rights to Ms McGowan's story of religious intrigue have been sold in more than 20 languages and the first print run in the US alone is 250,000. Her novel - which was first self-published last year and sold just 2,500 copies - goes on sale in Britain next month. It is the first part of a trilogy.

Digby Halsby, of Simon & Schuster's UK division, said Ms McGowan had been working on the book since 1989 and thus predated Dan Brown's efforts. When asked how a publisher could authenticate the author's claim about her heritage, he said: "It's impossible to verify. It's all to do with a matter of faith. She makes a very convincing argument."

Ms McGowan's claim to be descended from a child of Mary and Jesus is outlined in the afterword to what she says is a partly autobiographical novel.

She has offered no proof of her heritage but said she had traced it to an ancient French lineage that claimed to trace its roots to the pair.

I think I need to bang my head against a wall for a few minutes....


Gumbleton's Back

At the national SNAP meeting in Jersey, the retired Detroit auxiliary returns to the fore....
"It's become a corporate entity," Gumbleton said of the church.

"I find it hard how any bishop could care more about money than about children," he said. "Even if we became totally poor, that's where the church started -- who cares?"

In January, Gumbleton became the first and only Catholic bishop in America to reveal he was sexually abused by a clergy member.

"I'm honored to stand here not just before you, but with you," Gumbleton told SNAP members. "I am with you as a survivor."

And of course, Ladies and Gentlemen... David Clohessy.

On Friday night, SNAP National Director David Clohessy urged victims to keep pushing for legislation to remove statutes of limitation that prevent many victims from suing dioceses in decades-old abuse cases.

"The next few years are going to be tough," Clohessy said. "Public attention, let's face it, is beginning to wane. Public outrage is ever so slowly on the decline. There are people out there, probably many of them, who are getting tired of hearing about these horrific crimes and about our enduring pain.

"The good news is, I did not say that the hardest times are ahead," Clohessy said. "The hardest part really is behind us. The abuse itself is behind us."

Er, there's still a lot of abuse going on out there. It may not be sexual, but the exploitation, unresolved grief, and lack of faith the waves of post-2002 fallout have induced continue to bear effects just as tragic in the lives of so many of our faithful -- not to mention loads of our priests in the trenches.

No, no, friends, the abuse is not behind us. If anything, the pain's just been spread further still.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Not Yet Ordained and, Already, A Press War

You'll remember yesterday's post on Coadjutor Bishop-elect Frank Dewane of Venice's interpreted statement, in a run-up interview before his Tuesday ordination in Florida, that Catholic politicians whose public positions conflicted with church teaching shouldn't be denied the Eucharist. In the interview, Dewane said that he thought " it's uncomfortable for us all if sacraments become something used in the public arena."

Well, just when you thought it was safe, the backstepping has begun and a brouhaha has been occasioned. Interesting when you consider that not a one of this readership -- scrupulously close readers that you all are -- called the original reporting into question.

The one bright light of it is that a fuller portion of Dewane's answer has seen the light of print.... (Note to editors: Posting the full audio of the 45-minute session would be better still.)
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Venice said his comments during an interview were misinterpreted.

But the spokeswoman wouldn't say what Dewane's stance was on the controversial issue. Asked if Dewane hadn't made up his mind, diocese spokeswoman Mary Campo said that wouldn't be correct. Asked if he supported withholding Communion, she said that wouldn't be correct, either.

"He would prefer not to comment," Campo said....

During Thursday's 45-minute interview, a Herald-Tribune reporter asked Dewane his opinion on withholding Communion on the basis of abortion-rights policies.

Dewane responded: "I'm going to address that by saying a bishop, I believe, should know the politicians in the region, whether it's senators, whether it's congresspeople, and address them specifically."

He continued: "I think it's uncomfortable for us all if sacraments in that sense -- and that's specifically what you are referring -- become something used in the public arena -- 'used' -- and that can be a broad sense of the word."

The church teaches that with rights come responsibilities, he went on to explain.

When it was suggested that sounded like the bishop didn't want to politicize the sacrament, Dewane responded, "That is absolutely true. The sacrament is not a political thing. It's spiritual, and we need to -- all parties need to respect that."

Campo, the diocese spokeswoman, said it would be incorrect to conclude that meant Dewane would not deny Communion to politicians who support abortion rights.
Just when a "yes" or "no" answer seemed less like rocket-science.

The ink parade continues with a piece in this morning's papers on the bishop-elect's boyhood:
Old friends say they are not as surprised by his rapid rise within the church as they were by his decision to enter the priesthood.

"We all felt that he was going somewhere, even during high school," said Jack Olsen, a close boyhood friend. "But to expect that he would end up as a bishop -- that might have been a little far-fetched."

As a teenager at Denmark High School, Dewane stood out among his peers. A popular student and a lineman on the football team, Dewane was known for his smarts and maturity. The caption of accomplishments that accompanies his picture in the 1968 Denmark High School yearbook (which Dewane edited) takes up more space than any other alongside the pictures of his 108 fellow graduates. Friends say Dewane could take over a classroom discussion, engaging teachers in lively debates. His peers praise his humility and say he moved among the cliques of jocks, geeks, farm boys and city kids.

"It was like he never had a bad day," said Wayne Krueger, who shared classes with Dewane. "If he did, he didn't show it."

Dewane's talents helped him and his friends navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of teenage years.

"If we needed someone to go in and make peace with the parents, we usually sent Frank in," said his friend, Olsen.

After a softball game in Green Bay during junior year (Dewane kept stats for the team), Dewane, Olsen and friends stayed out partying into the wee hours of the morning, Olsen said. Olsen couldn't face his parents' fury. Dewane went in first to talk them down.

"And Frank told them that I really wanted to be home a lot earlier, but Frank had made a decision that, because things were going so well and because there wasn't any risk involved, we decided to stay out a little longer. And he's asking Mom how her peas are growing and, you know, how the corn is growing," Olsen said. "So from that time on mother decided, 'Well, if you're out with Frank Dewane, you're in good hands.'"
Even if there's a bit of hemming and hawing on tough questions, it seems.

Andrew West/The News-Press


The Tablet: Now Easier To Take

As I've heard more than a bit of grumbling at how long my paper takes to get to its worldwide base of subscribers (usually six days in my case; up to two weeks elsewhere), it's a joy to plug The Tablet's revamped website. Thankfully, subscribers can now view the entire paper via PDF on the day of publication.


All we need now is to give the free world a taste of Robert Mickens' Letter from Rome -- the best piece of church beat writing around, period -- and we'll really be set.


The Racing Form

Reporting that "there is a push" to have Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl's successor as bishop of Pittsburgh named by year's end, the Post-Gazette's Ann Rodgers unveils a shortlist of eight -- five of whom are currently diocesan bishops, with a Philadelphian and a former priest of Philly Lite (i.e. Allentown) thrown in for good measure.

Word's come from on high that, in keeping with recent US trends, the 12th bishop of Pittsburgh will be coming to the Steel City from the head of another local church.

As always, stay tuned.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Diplomat of Venice

Before Love Week reaches its triumphant climax here in Philadelphia, the Roman party train will be stopping in Venice, USA, as that diocese ordains its new coadjutor-bishop, Frank Dewane. The Wisconsin native, a former #3 official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was named to the Florida post on St Mark's Day.

Breaking recent precedent, which has given the consecration of coadjutors to the metropolitan of the place, Venice Bishop John Nevins will be the ordaining prelate at Tuesday's liturgy in Epiphany Cathedral. Co-consecrators will be the metropolitan, Archbishop John Favalora of Miami and -- as a sign of God's goodness -- Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, a former secretary of Iustitia et Pax.

The diocese says that four cardinals (led, as you would expect, by Renato Martino) and 19 other bishops will be in attendance.

Not a bad turnout, but Danny Thomas is getting a better one. Philly may not be Florida, but we know how to party here.

In an interview with a local paper, the 56 year-old Dewane is but the latest B16 appointee to state that he doesn't see the Communion rail as an appropriate place for political cage-match:
The decision to grant the sacrament of communion to abortion-rights leaders is a hot-button issue for the church.

In 2004, several bishops made headlines during the presidential election by refusing to give communion to Sen. John Kerry. Catholics teach that the sacrament should not be given to those in a state of sin. Kerry's pro-choice politics, they reasoned, did just that.

Last month, the U.S. Conference of Bishops said the decision on whether to offer communion should be decided by bishops, giving the local leaders freedom to deny the sacrament over the abortion issue.

Dewane said he wouldn't.

"I think it's uncomfortable for us all if sacraments become something used in the public arena," he said.

But Dewane made clear in a closely timed, 45-minute interview with reporters Thursday at the diocese offices that he intends to be vocal in political as well as spiritual issues.

"A bishop, I believe, should know the politicians in the region – whether it's the senators, it's the congresspeople – and address them specifically," Dewane said. "When issues arise within the diocese that have a component of values, of morals, I do believe that it's the role of religious leaders to speak out."

Specifically, Dewane said he would follow Nevins' efforts to support rights for undocumented workers. The Venice Diocese includes thousands of migrants from Mexico and Central America.

"It's something I will speak out on," said Dewane, whose recently served as a negotiator and diplomat for the Vatican at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and international conferences. "We have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters."
To further stymie those who like pigeonholing their prelates, the bishop-elect is a keen supporter of another recent flashpoint of discussion:
Dewane also said he supports a new English translation of the Mass now under consideration by the Vatican. Some priests and parishioners are disappointed with the proposed changes, which are considered a more formal, literal translation of the original Latin liturgy.

"These are good changes that have been looked at," said Dewane. "We can get so comfortable that we know all the words and can just rattle them off. Now there's a change, and it's going to force us to pay attention."
Either the Pope is sending a message with his appointments... or the Pope is sending a message with his appointments.


Wild On, Les Combes Edition

No sash, no cape, still Fluffy...

...and check out the Papal Sneakers.

You've got to feel a bit of pity for the man, though. Never again -- even on what's supposed to be his vacation -- will he be able to exit a visible door in anything but that cassock, chain around his neck, a zucchetto on his head.

The cross of that is much heavier than the little piece of gold you see.

Of course, if he so chose, Papa Ratzi could break precedent -- but as it would lead to howls of "scandal," rigid ones jumping out of windows and encite the especially far-gone to think that the "Accepto" means nothing and without the white he's not the Pope, the reaction might be a bit much to deal with... however amusing it would be to watch.

As you all know, St Peter never went without the best Gammarelli.

Pity the poor Pope. Others can wear street gear, but the eternal rig proves yet again that his is the world's great gilded cage.

Can't help but love this shot, though.

No, they're not stuffed.

PHOTO 1: AP/Antonio Calanni
PHOTO 2: Reuters/L'Osservatore


Friday, July 21, 2006

The High Priest Returns

My latest is posted at Busted Halo.


The Vox Clara Report

left to right, seated: Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, Cardinal George Pell (chairman), Archbishop Oswald Gracias, Cardinal Justin Rigali
left to right, standing: Reverend Anthony Ward, Bishop Philip Boyce, Archbishop Alfred Hughes, Monsignor James Moroney, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, Archbishop Kelvin Felix, Archbishop Peter Sarpong, Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, Father Dennis McManus

So, they met, they prayed, and the chairman wore white.

Viva il Pellpa

Below, and hot off the presses, is the fulltext of the traditional press release issued from Vox Clara at the end of its summer session earlier today. The meeting marked the fifth anniversary of the first sitting of the body on English-language liturgical translations, and the milestone was commemorated by the membership's sitting for the above photo.
The Vox Clara Committee met for the tenth time from July 17-21, 2006 in the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome.

Established by the Congregation five years ago, on July 19, 2001, this Committee of senior Bishops from Episcopal Conferences throughout the English-speaking world was formed to give advice to the Congregation regarding the translation of Latin liturgical texts into the English-language, and to strengthen effective cooperation with the Conferences of Bishops in this regard.

The Vox Clara Committee is chaired by Cardinal George Pell, Sydney (Australia). The participants in the meeting were Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, Mobile (USA), who serves as First Vice-Chairman; Archbishop Oswald Gracias, Agra (India), who serves as Second Vice-Chairman; Cardinal Justin Rigali, Philadelphia (USA), who serves as Treasurer; Archbishop Alfred Hughes, New Orleans (USA); Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Halifax (Canada); Archbishop Peter Kwasi Sarpong, Kumasi (Ghana); Archbishop Kelvin Felix, Castries (Saint Lucia), and Bishop Philip Boyce, O.C.D., Raphoe (Ireland). Other members of the Committee, though not present at the meeting, are; Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Westminster (England), who serves as Secretary; Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Chicago (USA); and Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona, O.C.D., Infanta (Philippines). The members were assisted in their work by the following Advisors: Monsignor Gerard McKay (Rome), Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B. (England), Reverend Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B. (USA), Reverend Dennis McManus (USA), and Monsignor James P. Moroney (USA).

The members of the Committee welcomed the news that several Episcopal Conferences had recently approved the “Gray Book” of the Order of Mass I. The success achieved in the completion of this foundational segment of the Roman Missal, including the parts assigned to the people at Mass, is the fruit of the work of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and its collaboration with member Conferences and the Holy See over the past several years. Observing the fifth anniversary of its establishment as an advisory body to the Holy See, the Vox Clara Committee was grateful for the privilege of contributing to this important work.

At the request of the Congregation, the members of the Vox Clara Committee examined at length the “White Book” of the Order of Mass I, including amendments submitted in the course of the confirmation of this segment. Recommendations regarding the granting of the recognitio were formulated.

The major work of the Vox Clara Committee at this meeting consisted of a review of the “Green Book” translation of the Order of Mass II, consisting of the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation and Various Needs, as well as Prefaces, Solemn Blessings and Prayers Over the People. The members were gratified by the quality of this segment of the Roman Missal and, over the course of four days of discussions, made numerous suggestions for improvements to the text.

On the next to last day of its meeting, the Committee appreciated the visit with the Secretary to the Congregation, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith. The Secretary met with the members and advisors and thanked them for their work, reminding them of the calls by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to do everything possible to assure the expeditious completion of an English-language edition of the Roman Missal. The importance of keeping to the timelines for the completion of the Roman Missal was discussed with the Secretary, noting that with the publication of the “Gray Book” of Order of Mass I, and of the “Green Book” of the Order of Mass II and the Proper of the Seasons, twenty-nine percent of the Missale Romanum has been approved or reviewed by the Bishops of ICEL’s members Conferences. It is the hope of the Vox Clara Committee that all involved in this important work will continue to devote all necessary resources to its expeditious and effective completion.

The next meeting of the Vox Clara Committee is scheduled for October, 2006.

The Cardinal Club?

From Boston, yet something else you couldn't make up if you wanted to:

The Italianate manse that came to symbolize the Archdiocese of Boston over a century as the grand residence of archbishops of Boston is now a candidate for conversion to a new branch of the Boston College club, where alumni and friends of the Jesuit university network, hobnob, dine, and maybe even sleep.

Boston College, which acquired the 40-room house as part of a $107 million purchase of archdiocesan land in 2004, recently sent an e-mail survey to thousands of East Coast alumni, suggesting that ``the development of a new private club" for alumni in the building that the college called ``a highly visible landmark property."

The idea, which college officials insist is just preliminary, provides the first hint of how the university imagines it might use the iconic structure, which has been the subject of much speculation since it was acquired by BC....

Ironically, the building was completed in 1927 for a Boston College alumnus, Cardinal William Henry O'Connell, who graduated from The Heights in 1881. O'Connell's successor -archbishops lived there until Law's resignation in 2002. The next year, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, a Capuchin friar, moved out of the building into a shabby cathedral rectory in the South End, and in 2004 he sold the structure.

Not only did the archdiocese agree to sell O'Connell's house, and the nearby hill on which he is buried, but it has also agreed to exhume his body and remove his tomb. Church officials are still trying to find the appropriate place to relocate O'Connell's remains.

The conversion of the house into an alumni club, even for his own alma mater, would not make O'Connell happy, according to his biographer, Boston College history professor James M. O'Toole.

``He would probably be horrified that anybody other than himself or his successors was living there," O'Toole said.

Remember what O'Connell told the Sulpicians when he ordered them to vacate even their cemetery to make way for his mausoleum: "Dig up your dead, and take them with you."

In other Boston buzz, what's this about a recent dinner at Anthony's Pier 4?

AP File/Michael Dwyer


A Million Little Whispers

Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Bill McGarvey, editor-in-chief of Busted Halo (where "Almost Holy #3" will be appearing shortly) with word that the Trusty Ticker had surpassed a million visitors.

That's right, friends: in little over a year, Whispers hit seven figures and everything's still standing. So far, at least.

It's a bloody miracle.

Seriously, though, I just want to take this moment to say a heartfelt thanks to all of you who, each in your own way, have made that number and these pages possible. While it's beyond question that, if ever there were one, this is one big freak of nature experience, being at the center of the storm is the joy and grace it is solely because of the gift of all of you, which never ceases to astonish and humble me.

I learn more from, and am continually challenged more by, this readership than I've ever learned or been challenged in my life. Thank you, and may its blessings show. Though I'm woefully bad at getting back to the e.mails and even worse at staying as on top of things as I should, the support, encouragement, patience, kindness upon kindness, helpful critiques, information, candor, sheer savagery, examples of goodness and profiles in courage so many of you have gifted me with over time mean the world, all day, every day.

I've always told you all that these pages are only as good as their readership. Usually in spite of the writer, what has unfolded has been, in a word, amazing. It's been a bit of work on my part, sure, but I'm keenly aware that the credit is not mine to claim. "Success has many fathers..." the old saying goes -- and in this case, that's especially true. Not to mention bishops, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends. And my aunt and uncle.

Earlier in the day, a friend in the Curia checked in, opining that "It's time to give it up while you are ahead!"

He might just be onto something.... Many of you know that, if I had my way, I would've folded ages ago and disappeared to a comfortable, quiet desk job slaving away for The Man so I could actually pay my bills. Then again, I learned early on that if you want to make God laugh, you tell him your plans -- and there's no way any of this could've been planned any better or more fun than it's turned out: errors, faults, foibles and all.

Again, all thanks for your understanding and patience.

One last thought. For those of you who work in or keep an interest in the sciences, I've gotta apologize. As a student, I mixed with them as well as oil does with water. To the point of having to take my alma mater's Quantitative Studies requirement three times. (Or was it four? I've put a bit of a mental block on it.)

Anyways, my high school chemistry teacher -- who, to this day, never fails to greet me with the words, "You were so horrible at Chemistry, but you were always such a delightful child" -- kept a big sign at the front of her classroom which bore a simple truth that needs no experimentation to prove: "None of us is as smart as all of us."

I may have forgotten everything else from that year, but that message hasn't slipped my mind once, and I've always been convinced that it's a good yardstick to measure our actions by. Not just in 10th grade chemistry, or the church, but in life.

These days, we've been dealt the hand of living in a world, and in a church, where an often-senseless sense of division has come to the fore, encompassing fault lines of every sort. Most of these are arbitrary and childish at best, and they result in nothing but wasted time, wasted energy, needless damage and the idolatry of selfishness.

Good news: these fractures -- which often devolve to the point of contradicting everything we, and they, are supposed to be about to begin with -- don't take superhuman resolve to overcome. Bad news: overcoming them does require the simple difficulty of living the talk. Or, at least, trying to. After all, we're not perfect.

At his ordination, a new deacon is exhorted to "Teach what you believe, and put into practice what you teach." In its own way, this medium in this context has given a new form of diakonia to the intersection of a church which moves in centuries with a world which, with each passing day, moves more and more at the speed of light.

Keeping that responsibility in mind, and remembering that alone we are nothing, may we all continue to place ourselves at the service of the whole, in whose embrace each of us is nothing more than but a drop in an endless ocean. None of us is as good, holy, brilliant, productive, perceptive, faithful, creative, (preferred adjective here) as all of us, and only when we realize that do we find the way forward.

Eternal thanks from your humble scribe. God love you all forever.


Arinze: Wojtyla Santo Subito

When the Vox Clara Committee of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is meeting in Rome at the same time the prefect of said-same dicastery is in... Pittsburgh, you've got a better impression of the state of things in these confusing times.

Then again, it's but the latest double message from the Vatican's liturgy czar.

Indeed, Cardinal Francis Arinze made his customary appearance at the Apostolate for Family Consecration's annual benefit in the Steel City the other night. While it wasn't as action-packed as his prior turns for the Bloomingdale, Ohio-based AFC, it wouldn't be an Arinze event if he didn't say something of note.

Even as the Pittsburgh "Bishop's Race" heats up, Ann Rodgers of the Post-Gazette has the story:
The late Pope John Paul II is certain to be beatified and then canonized a saint, said a visiting cardinal who has a hand in the decision.

"It's only a matter of time," said Cardinal Francis Arinze, speaking Wednesday night at a benefit dinner on Mount Washington for the Apostolate for Family Consecration. The cardinal, 73, a top-ranking Vatican official, spends summer vacation at the group's headquarters in Bloomingdale, Ohio, making video and audio teaching tapes on Catholic doctrine.

At the dinner he spoke about the "five pillars of the family" -- understanding God's call, family prayer time, Mass as the center of life, genuine love and parental responsibility for teaching the children. He also fielded questions from the 125 guests, including an inquiry about Pope John Paul's cause for sainthood....

He reminded his audience that canonization is simply a formal declaration by the church that someone is in heaven.

"We [at the Vatican] do not decide who goes to heaven, but we decide who is canonized down here," said Cardinal Arinze, a native of Nigeria.

Does this mean we can start taking over/under wagers on the timeframe?



In her column for the Religion Newswriters Association's bi-monthly newsletter, RNA president Yonat Shimron of the Raleigh News and Observer (which was thisclose to being the Inky and Daily's McClatchy sister) writes on the impact of blogs on the religion beat:
I don't know about you, but all of a sudden, bloggers are popping up everywhere in my Rolodex. In June, the Southern Baptist Convention made headlines after a group of bloggers challenged the denomination's endorsed candidate and succeeded in getting someone else elected. How many religion reporters covering the convention interviewed pastor and blogger Wade Burleson, from Enid, Okla.? My guess? They all did.

As a religion reporter with 10 years experience, this is new to me. I've seen how e-mail, then websites, has changed the dynamics of religious institutions. Blogging, I think, has even broader implications. Bloggers have the ability to wreak havoc on religious institutions used to top-down structures and orchestrated spin control. Sure, there's a lot of drivel in the blogosphere. But every so often, an intelligent voice rises to the surface with something substantial to say.

More important for us, religion reporters, blogging is changing the nature of our beats. Some reporters, Frank Lockwood, of the Lexington Herald-Leader, for example, have become bloggers. Many more are challenged to respond to bloggers. First, it means we must get to know them. In addition to picking up the phone, we have to get in the habit of scanning online journals if we want to stay on top of the game. And we have to be a lot quicker about it.

In many cases, bloggers are ahead of us, reporting-wise. Often, they are insiders with deep knowledge and deeper sources. We couldn't scoop them if we wanted to—at least not all of them. In most cases, bloggers are specialists interested in a particular institution, while we're generalists writing for a wider audience. As with the introduction of a 24-hour news cycle, our job is to analyze the chatter and interpret the news fairly and accurately. Or as Samuel Freedman writes in his new book, Letters to a Young Journalist, "You must shape reality without misshaping it."

Some of you will remember that Shimron did a piece on religion blogs for the N&O shortly after the Southern Baptist vote... Southern Baptists being for the Tar Heel State what our lot are in the Northeast.

And, yes, someone you know recently had a long dinner with the RNA chief. An enjoyable time was had by all.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Another Legend Gone

So your narrator may not be a clericalist, but I've gotta admit that I have a real place in my heart for the priests of the old school: the humble, hardworking lot whose silent labors and mammoth legacies defined an age in the life of the church, a group which imbued priesthood with dignity and whose precious example is being slowly lost as, one by one, its members pass to their eternal reward.

Whenever one of these is lost, it's a loss for us all. And the latest of these greats to take his leave is Msgr Andrew McGowan of the clergy of Scranton, who died yesterday at 80. The Times-Leader and Times-Tribune each have lengthy tributes, and a handful of Joe McGowan's proteges have been sending me words of their own. It's becoming clear to me that it's with good reason that McGowan "was a giant" in his part of the world.

One priest tells me that "It was the hope of a great many of our Priests that Msgr. would someday become our Bishop." McGowan served on a series of national boards and committees, so many that at one point the late cleric "was chairman of the Boards of eleven different institutions nationwide," in addition to serving as the onetime chair at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and head of the National Organization of Vocation Directors.

In the '70s and early '80s, McGowan was Rector of St Pius X, the Scranton seminary. One of his alums tells me that "He always told us, 'Men, I know I am responsible for forming pastors for the year 2000.' And no one did it better." Msgr McGowan's brother, Bill, was the founder of MCI, the telephone giant. At his funeral, Bill McGowan's prayer card read ""The meek shall inherit the earth... But they will never increase profit shares."

McGowan told friends that his happiness and fulfillment as a priest didn't come until he was able to put his youthful ambitions behind him and stopped thinking about becoming a bishop. "He was known as the Toast Master General of the [Scranton] Diocese," one of its clergy writes, "and traveled the country attending religious and business affairs as the toaster master and powerhouse. I will remember him as the the Man who should have been Bishop. I will remember his laughter and sense of the humor of life. But most of all, I will remember him as the man who saved my Priesthood."

Some tidbits from the papers:

His work with charities and community groups made him the recipient of numerous awards for and earned him honorary degrees from the University of Scranton, Wilkes University, King’s College and College Misericordia. Despite his many honors, McGowan would typically downplay his role and praise the group giving him accolades.

“He was one of the most brilliant men I have ever known, and his intelligence was tempered with an unparalleled wit and deep love of people,” said U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski in one of many public eulogies issued in the hours after McGowan’s death....

In addition to his deep involvement in the community, McGowan was widely known for his famous sense of humor. Mooney recalled one event he covered at the Ramada Inn in the 1980s as a reporter where McGowan was on the program. “He sent the room into gales of laughter with a tale of a bunch of hippie-types shaking their heads at the sight of him and his fellow priests in clerical garb and commenting ‘all the nuts are out tonight.’”

* * *

[As toastmaster, h]is presence on a dais would become legendary....

He once spoke at 19 formal dinners in 21 days and averaged about 15 to 20 speaking engagements a month, both here and throughout the country.

"I'm convinced in Scranton we have 200 people who don't have a kitchen," he told the Times in 1986. "They represent the banks and various civic and social groups. It seems like they're at all the dinners. If they stayed home, my job would be easy."...

The barbs flew his way in September 1978, when Monsignor McGowan subjected himself to a public roasting to kick off the United Way's $1.8 million campaign drive that year. More than 700 people showed up at St. Mary's Center to poke and prod the monsignor, who was working his 18th United Way drive.

During the roast, the Rev. William Byron, S.J., then president of the University of Scranton, said Monsignor McGowan, in community service circles, was known for doing the work of two men - "It's just a question of whether it's Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello."

After dozens of good-natured potshots, Monsignor McGowan addressed the crowd.

"Nonsense and laughter are very important to a community. Lord, preserve us from being too solemn, or severe or pretentious. Humor is the sign of the best of our humanity. You don't find any laughter in prejudice, no joy in intolerance. Where there is a rigid and closed mind, there is no smile. Humor kind of blushes us with a touch of humility that we need."

Four years later, in March 1982, the B'Nai B'Rith honored the monsignor with its 13th annual Americanism award. He was the first cleric of any denomination to receive the award.

"Monsignor, I understand the committee signaled your selection with a puff of white smoke," Gov. Dick Thornburgh said at the dinner....

Part of his legacy includes the Andrew J. McGowan Institute for Community Health Initiatives, which has raised millions of dollars for residents in need of medical care. An arm of the Mercy Healthcare Foundation, the institute formed when Monsignor McGowan marked his five decades as a Roman Catholic priest.

In lieu of gifts, visitors and well-wishers donated more than $400,000 in his honor to kick-start the health-care initiative. The tremendous outpouring coalesced at his giant 50th Jubilee bash at the Woodlands Inn & Resort in Plains Township in June 1999.

The final tally was $100,000 higher than the anticipated goal.
As a testament to his commitment to the community and health care, McGowan was an organ donor. So, not only in a figurative way, he'll be living on in others.

Now more than ever, it's that spirit of life-giving which makes priesthood great.


Shore Digest

Greetings from Maison Saint-Blaise.

Still at the beach, but yet again relocated.... You'll be happy to know that the poached WiFi is a lot better at this spot.

Need I confess for stolen internet connections? If so, dear priests, may I be absolved?

It's usually the case that you don't realize what you have 'til it's gone. But I've always loved these little islands at the edge of the Garden State. I spent my childhood summers a couple blocks away from where I'm sitting right now, and I can safely say that the only big thing I'll ever want in life is to have a little pad somewhere down this shoreline, a place where my friends and family have an open door, the sea breeze tempers the summers, the moisture tempers the winters, and Philly and New York aren't all that far away.

Deus providebit, they say. In a word, it's simply Paradise. And I realized that I'm still in my little corner of the world while pulling into Wawa earlier tonight and hearing someone scream "PALMO!" from across the parking lot.

To get that kind of greeting without a follow-up as to who'd be their next bishop was terribly refreshing. Not to say that I don't love you all with every fiber of my being -- which I do, of course -- but it's good to be reminded that there is a world elsewhere. And, for me at least, it's here.

For those of us in the global north, I really hope you're all getting away a bit and doing what you love in your downtime... be it bass-fishing, kite-flying, board-walking, sitting on a breezy dock, watching bears run, spending time with the friends and family you rarely get to see, whatever it may be. Moments like this allow a connection we don't often get in our daily lives -- with ourselves, with the people and things our work too often keeps us from, and with God. If anything, that recharge only helps what we do the rest of the time and makes it better.

Get ready, Loggiaheads... here comes a million.