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.