Tuesday, October 31, 2006


In light of the reports of recent days, Pope Benedict has relieved Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos of the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and named Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, heretofore archbishop of Sao Paolo, to take the post. (Castrillón remains president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei until further provision is made.)

The Pope has also accepted the resignation, for reasons due to age, of Cardinal Francesco Marchisano as archpriest of St Peter's Basilica. Marchisano is succeeded by his coadjutor, Archbishop Angelo Comastri.

Closer to home, Benedict XVI accepted the age-induced resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Robert Brucato of New York, who turned 75 in August. Ordained to the episcopacy in 1997 while serving as chancellor, Brucato has been a vicar-general of New York since 1999. In 2000, he served as apostolic administrator of the archdiocese for the six week vacancy between the death of Cardinal John J. O'Connor and the installation of then-Archbishop Edward M. Egan.


Monday, October 30, 2006

As I plug away....


On Cathedral Street

Greetings from the Premier See, the mother of all the living....

Suffice it to say, I have seen The Light.

Story and photos on the other side of the drive back.

Basilica of the Assumption Historic Trust


Oh, Danny Boy... The Tongues, The Tongues, Are Wagging

A bit of "historical moments in US Catholicism" trivia for you -- for the time being, the oldest and youngest active bishops in the church in America both belong to the archdiocese of Detroit.

Cardinal Adam Maida introduced his new auxiliary, Bishop-elect Daniel Flores, to a rapt crowd Saturday afternoon at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where the appointee addressed the gathered media and faithful in both English and Spanish.

Noting Flores' die-hard affinity for the New York Yankees, the Free-Press declared that, fresh from the AL champion Tigers' playoff run -- which included a first-round trouncing of said Yankees -- the new auxiliary's "a candidate for conversion."
"He's a real down-to-earth guy," Michael Mantz, a deacon at Corpus Christi Cathedral in Texas, where Flores most recently served as rector, said Saturday. "I would say that Msgr. Flores is probably one of the most well-liked and respected priests in this diocese."
From the reaction of the inbox, it's a sentiment widely shared; one former student of the cleric seemingly known to one and all as "Monsignor Danny" said that he "can't speak highly enough" of the 45 year-old with a knack for multitasking who told his hometown paper of "two sleepless nights" after getting the news of his appointment two weeks ago.

He's "a genius and at home in the Patristics," I'm told, blessed with the rare knack of being able to "compare and contrast something Augustine said in his Confessions to Star Wars or Lord of the Rings," apparently with the wish of being able to eventually teach a class on the Catholic theology of the Tolkien trilogy.

"He is a man who is accessible and available, but very humble... [who] always spoke words of compassion." He's been described by others as "down-to-earth" and "blue-collar" -- qualities sure to win the hearts of shot-and-a-beer Detroiters. And, just in case you were curious, Flores is an alum of the Latin course of the legendary Fr Reginald Foster (who, as many of you know, was unceremoniously dismissed from the faculty of the Pontifical Gregorian University earlier this month after 30 years of service there).

While the confluence of circumstances -- a very young designee sent from near-Mexico to near-Canada to assist an ordinary widely thought to be near-Retirement (and all on a Saturday, no less) -- have markedly upped this appointment's buzz quotient, it's important to note that the trends at work here are not at all unusual... that is, when considered individually.

Of the 13 priests elevated to the episcopacy on these shores over the last year, almost a third are fortysomethings, a distinction Flores shares with Bishop Alex Sample of Marquette (who turns 46 next week) and Auxiliary Bishops Frank Caggiano of Brooklyn and Daniel Thomas of Philadelphia, both 47.

As for the drastic change of address, remember, too, that auxiliary bishops from ethnic minorities are customarily not named from the local churches in which they serve, but from a national list of suitable candidates comprising both secular and religious clergy. (Latinos may comprise almost 40% of the membership of the US church, but only 6% of its priests.) Bishop Carmody hinted yesterday that the Hispanic list of episcopabili numbers about 100 clerics.

Other Hispanic auxiliaries drawn from the outside their dioceses of appointment include current Auxiliary Bishops Gustavo Garcia-Siller, M.Sp.S. of Chicago, Emilio Allue, SDB of Boston and, from the past, Jose Gomez in Denver (now archbishop of San Antonio) and Roberto Gonzalez, OFM in Boston.

Elevated at the tender age of 38, Gonzalez was named to Corpus Christi as coadjutor in 1995 and, after two years as diocesan bishop, was promoted to the archdiocese of San Juan in 1999. The better-known African-American list has yielded such "journeyman" auxiliaries as Terry Steib, SVD and Edward Braxton (Chicago) to St Louis, Jesuits George Murry in Chicago and Gordon Bennett in Baltimore, Josephite John Ricard in Baltimore, and Leonard Olivier, SVD and Martin Holley (Pensacola-Tallahassee) in Washington, among others... with more to come.

It's also quite true that the Holy See isn't normally given to granting auxiliary bishops to prelates nearing or past their 75th birthdays and, thus, on the retirement docket. In recent years, however, Rome has shown an increasingly positive disposition to such benefices -- always for the good of the fold, of course, but just sometimes with a political consideration or two looming slightly beyond the limelight.

Never lacking for episcopal assistance in his archdiocese, with Flores' appointment Maida has received five auxiliaries in the last four years alone. And while the new bishop's English remarks were fairly stock and staid, with a nod to the "many friends with whom [he] studied in Rome" who serve on the seminary staff, the more resonant ones -- y non solamente por razones de su voz -- were offered in Spanish.

Maida asked Benedict XVI for "a helper," Flores said in his ancestral tongue, "someone who could lend his arms and shoulders to the task of stretching the networks on the boat of the Lord, principally among the Hispanic community."

Speaking eloquently of his family's roots in Mexico, then Texas in a time when "a national border didn't exist" along the Rio Grande, the new bishop confessed that he felt himself "little prepared for this mission.

"I feel my soul tremble before so great a challenge."

The challenge begins with his ordination, but 30 days away.

Ankur Dholakia / The Detroit News


Terror Behind the Walls, Vatican Edition

Newly-updated with blogging capability, NCR's John Allen cites a La Stampa report that the Pope is poised to name the archbishop of Sao Paolo, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, as the new head of the Congregation for the Clergy, succeeding Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who turned 77 on the 4th of July.

As the veteran curialists are all hoping for treats on All Hallows Eve (or any other day, for that matter), Benedict XVI's fifth major curial appointment -- the fifth to be given to someone currently outside the Roman Curia -- will likely arouse some frightened screaming in the halls. Again.

While reports are mixed as to whether Castrillon will remain head of the Vatican's Tridentine outreach as president of the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei, indications are that, given the sensitive climate of the traditionalist brief at this time, a change in that post would be unlikely at this point.

Though La Stampa chimed in yesterday, readers of The Tablet already knew to keep an eye for something in the "goody bag" on October 31.

In his "Letter from Rome" in the paper's current edition, published Friday, Rome correspondent Robert Mickens tipped Halloween 2006 as the day when "Pope Benedict XVI will initiate the first phase of personnel changes in the upper echelons of the Roman Curia," saying that "if it’s true, the wry old Pope could not have picked a more symbolic date to begin issuing the new appointments."

According to Mickens, first on the retirement docket are Castrillon and Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, the 76 year-old prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. But "the word is that other significant offices will also get some new blood," the First Section of the Secretariat of State first among them.

Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who's served as Sostituto -- effectively, the Vatican equivalent of the White House chief of staff -- since 2000, is tipped to head to calmer pastures, a change foreseen in recent weeks with the naming of Sandri's closest aide to the staff of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington.

Back to Hummes, 72, there is this curious angle, taken from Marco Tossati's scoop: "In effect, to be a well-rounded candidate [for the papacy, Hummes] lacks something: the experience of government in the Curia, necessary to complete the 'cursus honorum' ['the sequence of offices'] alongside the pastoral care of diocese. Then, with the appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, the curriculum is complete.

"And who knows if Benedict XVI didn't think of this prospect -- we hope one long in coming -- when signing the decree of appointment."

Finally, elsewhere on the curial scorecard, the number of American undersecretaries at the Congregation level will double in short order. At least, it'll double briefly -- one, a curial vet, in; the other, a papal favorite, onward... and upward.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Five Days To Rededication

The Baltimore Sun kicks off Basilica Week with a package of story, detailed graphic and audio from its new religion reporter, Liz Kay.

One thing the coverage lacks, however, is a sneak preview. That changes tomorrow afternoon.

My inner church-history/art-and-architecture nerd is so excited about this restoration, you have no idea.

Algerina Perla/Baltimore Sun


From Mepkin: A New Beginning

Gratefully, the Trappist premium on silence doesn't apply to e.mails....

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum -- earlier today, the Trappist community of Mepkin Abbey elected yet another Philadelphian as its abbot. Dom Stanislaus Gumula, OCSO, takes the reins of the South Carolina community in succession to Abbot Francis Kline, who succumbed to a lengthy battle with leukemia in late August, aged 57.

The new abbot, 65, served until today's election as Mepkin's "Cellarer," or bursar. He entered the community of Gethsemani in 1959, made his solemn profession in 1980 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2003 by the retired bishop of Charleston, David Thompson (yet another Philadelphian who found his way to the Palmetto State).

Shortly after his selection by Mepkin's Conventual Chapter, Dom Stanislaus was installed as abbot by Dom Damien Thompson, the abbot of Gethsemani and Mepkin's Father Immediate.

The inauguration of Mepkin's new head will conclude with his abbatial blessing by the local ordinary, Bishop Robert Baker of Charleston, at a date yet to be determined.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Saturday Surprise

People of Detroit, sorry about the Tigers. In other news, meet your new auxiliary.

I'm not kidding.

Earlier this morning -- in the first American appointment to be announced on a Saturday since God only knows when -- the Pope named Msgr Daniel Flores, rector of the cathedral of his native diocese of Corpus Christi and vice-rector of St Mary's Seminary in Houston, as auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit. Born in August, 1961, the 45 year-old bishop-elect becomes the US hierarchy's youngest member.

Ordained for Corpus Christi in 1988, Flores was immediately placed on the fast track by then-Bishop Rene Gracida, who the new bishop served as his personal secretary, parochial vicar of Corpus Christi Cathedral, vice-chancellor and episcopal master of ceremonies. After five years as the diocese's vocation director, he was sent to Rome, where he earned his license and doctorate in theology from the Angelicum.

Returning home, the bishop-elect was named chancellor of the diocese while serving as a professor of theology at the University of St Thomas in Houston and St Mary's, where he was named vice-rector in 2002. Named earlier this year as rector of Corpus Christi Cathedral, he speaks Spanish, Italian, and Latin in addition to English.

The timing is more than notable; Cardinal Maida reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in March, 2005, and Detroit has been abuzz with anticipation not for the naming of a new auxiliary, but of its new archbishop. (Hot name in the mix: Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of the Military Services.) That the archdiocese's first-ever Latino bishop has been tapped at what seemed to be the tail-end of Maida's tenure is quite the surprise. Per the provisions of the canons, Bishop-elect Flores must be ordained to the episcopacy and take office in the Motor City within four months of this morning's appointment.

In other Vatican news on this early Saturday, the Pope received the bishops of Ireland for their ad limina's closing audience and his public message. Building on his Thursday remarks to Bishop Denis Brennan of Ferns, Benedict said the following on the topic of sexual abuse by clergy:
In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of purification will enable all God’s people in Ireland to "maintain and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God" (Lumen Gentium, 40).

The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren. I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem. Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church. At one time, Ireland was blessed with such an abundance of priestly and religious vocations that much of the world was able to benefit from their apostolic labours. In recent years, though, the number of vocations has fallen sharply. How urgent it is, then, to heed the Lord’s words: "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:37-38). I am pleased to learn that many of your dioceses have adopted the practice of silent prayer for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament. This should be warmly encouraged. Yet above all, it falls to you, the Bishops, and to your clergy to offer young people an inspiring and attractive vision of the ordained priesthood. Our prayer for vocations "must lead to action so that from our praying heart a spark of our joy in God and in the Gospel may arise, enkindling in the hearts of others a readiness to say ‘yes’" (Address to Priests and Permanent Deacons, Freising, 14 September 2006). Even if Christian commitment is considered unfashionable in some circles, there is a real spiritual hunger and a generous desire to serve others among the young people of Ireland. A vocation to the priesthood or the religious life offers an opportunity to respond to this desire in a way that brings deep joy and personal fulfilment.
Fulltext here.

SVILUPPO: Statement from Detroit; ordination scheduled for 29 November.... Flores to have "special focus on Hispanic concerns" in the archdiocese, Maida "delighted" that new auxiliary "is now a part of our team" (read: that Szoka was able to pull one more outta the hat).

Bishop Carmody of Corpus Christi: Flores is a "true servant-priest and leader, someone who is kind, pastoral, intelligent, and highly-organized, someone who relates well to everyone... the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly"; new bishop "humbled": "I am a priest of Detroit now, by the will of the Holy Father, and I look forward to learning and serving in my new home."

...all well and good, but can he help free Maida & Co. from The $40 Million Hole?

The South Texas Catholic


Friday, October 27, 2006

The Weight Is a Gift

Happy Friday and Happy Weekend to all. The fortnightly musing is posted.


Vox Clara Rides Again

The special committee on English-language liturgical translations of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments -- here pictured at their summer meeting -- convened again this week in Rome, announcing that it will keep to an enhanced schedule of four meetings for 2007.

Here's the end-0f-gathering communique in full..... And just in case you were curious -- no, VC had nothing to do with the return of the EMOC-purification ban.

October 27, 2006

The Vox Clara Committee met for the tenth time from October 23-26, 2006 in the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome.

Since its establishment by the Congregation on July 19, 2001, this Committee of senior Bishops from Episcopal Conferences throughout the English-speaking world has provided advice to the Holy See concerning English-language liturgical books, ever seeking to strengthen effective cooperation with the Conferences of Bishops in this regard. The terms of the members and advisors were recently extended by the Congregation.

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 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). Bishop David McGough was present as a pro-tempore representative of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Westminster (England), who serves as Secretary. Other members of the Committee, though not present at the meeting, are: Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Chicago (USA); Cardinal Justin Rigali, Philadelphia (USA), who serves as Treasurer; Archbishop Oswald Gracias, Mumbai (India), who serves as Second Vice-Chairman.

The members were assisted in their work by the following Advisors: Monsignor Gerard McKay (Rome), Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B. (England), Father Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B. (USA), Father Dennis McManus (USA), and Monsignor James P. Moroney (USA). Secretarial support was provided by Father Robert Keighron (USA). The Committee continues to receive valuable assistance and support from the officials of the Congregation.

The preponderance of the work of the Committee was devoted to a review of the most recent ICEL Green Book translation of the Common of the Saints. The improvement that had been previously noted in the translations was manifested in many texts of a truly outstanding quality. At the same time, the Committee provided the Congregation with extensive commentary on certain problems and noted the importance of continuing to rely upon the principles of the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam and its particular application in the Ratio Translationis [the guidelines for liturgical translations]. The Committee appreciated that ICEL is maintaining its increasingly ambitious schedule for completion of translations of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia.

On the second day of the meeting, the members and advisors met with Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. At the conclusion of his remarks, Cardinal Pell thanked Cardinal Arinze for his “regular and constant support” of the work of Vox Clara.

The Committee was also asked to conduct a final review of the Ratio Translationis for the English Language, which serves as a reliable application of the principles of the instruction Liturgiam authenticam to English-language translations of Roman liturgical texts (cf. Liturgiam authenticam, no. 9). Between June, 2005 and August, 2006, the Congregation conducted a consultation on a provisional text of the Ratio, which will be published by the Congregation in a definitive form in the near future.

The members of the Vox Clara Committee noted their satisfaction with the work of translation as the completion of the Roman Missal draws ever closer. The careful and patient collaboration of the Conferences of Bishops and the Holy See in the review of the translations produced thus far by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy remains the key to the successful completion of this project. The members of the Vox Clara Committee join with the ICEL Commissioners and the Bishop members of the English-language Conferences of Bishops in working toward a translation of the Missale Romanum which is “characterized by a kind of language which is easily understandable, yet which at the same time preserves these texts’ dignity, beauty, and doctrinal precision.” (Liturgiam Authenticam, no. 25)

The Committee will meet again in December, 2006 and has planned for four meetings in the course of the coming year.


The Pope's "Horror"

It's the top story in Ireland -- meeting yesterday with Bishop Denis Brennan, the new head of the abuse-rocked diocese of Ferns, Benedict XVI spoke of "his own personal anguish and horror" at the "incomprehensible behavior" of some clergy there.

The Irish bishops have been on their ad limina visit these last two weeks; the Irish government's comprehensive report on abuse in the church bears the name of the diocese.

What the Pope said:
The Holy Father expressed to Bishop Brennan his deep sorrow and distress at the suffering endured by the victims of child sexual abuse involving some priests of the Diocese of Ferns. He asked Bishop Brennan to assure those, who have been sexually abused by priests, of his concern for them and his deep regret at the harm and suffering they have experienced. His prayer at this time is for healing and peace of all those who have suffered.

Pope Benedict also asked Bishop Brennan to convey to all the faithful of the Diocese of Ferns, his care and solicitude for them, as supreme Pastor of the Universal Church.

The Holy Father expressed prayerful solidarity with the lay-faithful, religious and priests of Ferns in the sufferings they have endured and in the deep pain caused by the scandal of sexual abuse of the young, by some of those entrusted with the sacred ministry.

Pope Benedict expressed his own personal anguish and horror at the incomprehensible behaviour of those clergy, whose actions have devastated human lives and profoundly betrayed the trust of children, young people, their families, parish communities and the entire diocesan family.
Coverage from the RTE and the Irish Times.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Egan Speaks: Letter's Authorship "Remains A Secret, A Secret of Cowards"

Today's edition of Catholic New York features a long, detailed message from Cardinal Egan, writing in his standard column, "In the Holiness of Truth."

As this is the cardinal's first public message in recent weeks, and in light of his statement that "All who do not see this publication will know only what those who control the culture want them to know, and truth and decency will pay the price," below is the column's complete, unedited text, with the relevant links of cited documents added for purposes of context.



This a sad tale, but a tale that needs to be told, fully and accurately.

On Tuesday, Oct. 10th, a "blog" in Philadelphia that specializes in Church gossip published a letter attacking my pastoral service to the Archdiocese of New York. The letter was unsigned and alleged to be the product of a "committee" of clergy. In point of fact, it may have been written by a member of the clergy, a member of the laity or even a group of clergy and/or laity. Curiously, there are several indications that argue against clerical authorship. It is unlikely, for example, that any of the clergy would be unaware of my pastoral involvement after the tragedy of September 11th, 2001; and one hopes that most priests would know that the word "disinterested," is a positive rather than negative quality. Nothing, however, can be concluded with certainty about the authorship of the letter. It remains a secret, a secret of cowards.

Whatever of this, the press, television and radio had a field day attributing the letter to "key members of the New York clergy," "leaders among New York priests" and such. And tragically, most of the faithful will in all likelihood believe these unsubstantiated attributions of the media. Thus the damage is done.
[TEXTBOX] 'We Stand With Him In Confidence'

Following is the statement issued by the Priests' Council of the Archdiocese of New York on Oct. 16

The Priests' Council of the Archdiocese of New York met for two hours today with His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan. As representatives of the clergy of the Archdiocese, we came together to meet with our Archbishop and to discuss with him the letter that has circulated among some of the priests and in the media.

We are appalled that the letter was sent anonymously, and that it can and has been used by those who seek to damage the Church. As today's meeting has shown, it is possible to meet and discuss any issue with Cardinal Egan, and if any priest has a concern he can raise it and discuss it at any time. A letter of this sort does a grave disservice to the entire Church, and to this Archdiocese in particular.

We are also upset and dismayed that our Archbishop has been personally vilified in this manner. At today's meeting, the members of the Priests' Council reiterated their support for His Eminence. We stand with him in confidence, and look forward to his continued ministry to the clergy, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of New York. [/TEXTBOX]
The story received further attention when a New York tabloid reported on October 16th that Msgr. Howard Calkins, vicar for the South Shore of Westchester, had announced that the letter was supported by the majority of priests of the Archdiocese. And to this he added that the principal reason for the support was the unjust treatment that had been and was being inflicted by me on priests who were accused of sexually abusing minors, even though all of the alleged incidents had taken place during the tenures of my predecessors and decisions regarding the priests accused of abuse were the fruit of analysis and discussion by a board of distinguished laity and clergy without any involvement on my part.

As the press, television and radio turned up the heat, the public was made to believe that some sort of "revolution" had developed against the "embattled Cardinal." Photographs of me with a twisted expression on my face were attached to articles about the affair and played off against a portrait of Msgr. Calkins in priestly vestments, kneeling and embracing an African-American girl of six or seven years of age. No one could fail to understand what was happening. It was the kind of thing the Catholic Church has endured for many a generation and will undoubtedly endure for many more.

To further illustrate how vicious the attack had become, it might be interesting to note that one of the television channels reported that I had scheduled a meeting of the Presbyteral Council to discuss the anonymous letter at the same time as the funeral of a popular pastor in Chappaqua because I was "completely out of touch with the Archdiocese." As a matter of fact, the meeting was scheduled and the priests had been invited to attend it before the pastor passed away. Though requested to correct the report, the television channel let the allegation stand.

The aforementioned meeting to discuss the letter and its fallout was held at my residence on October 16th. I had it there because just five weeks earlier I had had a total knee replacement at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan and my physical therapist felt it unwise for me to attempt to journey back and forth to the seminary in Yonkers where meetings of the Presbyteral Council are regularly held.

The meeting opened with my reading a letter from the above-mentioned Msgr. Calkins that had been delivered to my residence in the morning. It was a partial correction of the misstatements in the tabloid and a curious protest of loyalty. I made no comment on the letter and believe that the priests were pleased that I did not. The assertions and the attempt to water them down were frankly an embarrassment for us all.

In any case, the letter was given to the newspapers, television channels and radio stations, most of which quoted a few phrases from it and immediately returned to repeating in detail the accusations in the anonymous letter. A signed letter evidently carried less weight with the media than an unsigned one.

After dispensing with Msgr. Calkins' letter, I invited the priests to make whatever observations they wished about the entire episode. This approach came as no surprise to anyone. For at meetings of the Presbyteral Council all freely say whatever is on their mind, just as all did at two overnight convocations of the clergy of the Archdiocese two years ago.

When each had said what he wanted to say, I asked for a break in which I might walk about the residence for several minutes to keep my knee from stiffening up. This done, I spoke at length about the situation under discussion and as well about several other matters that needed to be brought out into the open and clarified. At this time I am considering another set of convocations in which I might be able to repeat to all of the priests of the Archdiocese what I said to the Presbyteral Council.

Having completed my remarks, which occasioned numerous comments and questions from the priests, I went upstairs to do a set of leg exercises that are part of my rehabilitation program. Downstairs, without any urging or participation on my part, the priests put together a formal declaration that was given immediately to the media. One newspaper on Staten Island printed it, and this I considered quite an achievement. For not even one newspaper anywhere in New York printed the so-called "letter of apology" from Msgr. Calkins. Indeed, in its evening newscast after the meeting of the Presbyteral Council, one of the television channels ignored the declaration of the Presbyteral Council altogether and spent all of its time on repeating the ugliest accusations from the anonymous letter, all of which it had aired over and again for days.

Happily, Catholic New York makes available in this issue both the declaration of the Presbyteral Council and Msgr. Calkins' letter. (Cf. pages 5 and 6). All who do not see this publication will know only what those who control the culture want them to know, and truth and decency will pay the price.

In his statement to the tabloid, Msgr. Calkins indicated that the basis for the anonymous attack on me is the unjust treatment that has allegedly been meted out to priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors. The anonymous letter suggests the same, and in my judgment both are correct.

When a priest accused of sexually abusing a minor has had his case investigated by the Office for Priest Personnel and heard by the Archdiocesan Advisory Review Board, he is free to tell his friends and all the world whatever he pleases about the case. The Archdiocese, on the other hand, is expected to remain silent out of respect for the priest.

This must not continue. For it leads to accusations against the Archdiocese and its Archbishop which many will believe if the accusations are not challenged; and as a result, immense harm is done. Accordingly, I will be instituting a process whereby the Archdiocese will be in a position to deal appropriately with the situation.

Let us suppose that a priest who has been accused of sexually abusing a minor has had his case investigated and decided according to the established Archdiocesan process. Let us further suppose that he is found to be telling tales about what he has done and what has been done to him. Such a priest will be invited to write me a letter taking back all untruths and proffering a fitting apology. If he refuses, he will be asked to appear before a panel of six priests -- three from the Presbyteral Council and three Vicars -- to make his case. When he is finished, a representative of the Archdiocese will present to the panel what it knows about the matter along with all relevant documentation. It will be up to the panel to report to the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council as to whether the case has been handled properly. Inasmuch as all cases treated during my tenure have, I believe, been so treated, I am confident about the outcome. This, however, will be determined by the panel.

If the priest refuses to write the letter mentioned above and refuses as well to appear before the panel, a representative of the Archdiocese will make the case of the Archdiocese to the panel, so that an appropriate report can be set before the Presbyteral Council.

All of this I will be asking the priests of the Archdiocese to discuss at their Vicariate meetings in November so that the process can be addressed by the Presbyteral Council at its December meeting. I will then reduce my load of liturgies, meetings, visits, dinners and such during January, February and March so that I might go over the process in depth at 19 Vicariate meetings. If a convocation cannot be arranged in the reasonably near future, I will also use the occasion of the Vicariate meetings to go over with the priests what I said to the Presbyteral Council members on October 16th. With the help of the Lord, the good name of the Church will thus be protected and we will be able to move on to other matters of crucial importance at this time in our history—matters of faith, holiness and service to the Savior and His People.

Edward Cardinal Egan

Archbishop of New York


Root Causes, Anyone?

Hot of the press from the bishops' conference, another piece of the November Meeting agenda.



WASHINGTON— The U.S. bishops will vote during their fall meeting in Baltimore, Nov. 13-16, on a proposal to release $335,000 of the one million dollars they earmarked last year for research on the causes and context of sexual abuse by clergy.

The money would be used to underwrite the first three segments of the research, which is being undertaken by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.

Last November the bishops accepted a proposal from John Jay for the study of the Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Children and Young People by Catholic Clergy in the United States, as called for by the bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

As part of the proposal, John Jay is to raise funds for the study which is estimated to cost $2-3 million.

The entire study is slated for completion in 2009.

The first component of the study will look at the historical context and influences on the problem. According to Karen A. Terry, Ph.D., principal investigator on the study, “this component involves collection and analysis of archival, longitudinal data related to the demographic and normative changes in society and its institutions, including the Catholic Church in the United States, to frame our analysis of sexual abuse by priests.”

Hypotheses to be explored include “whether the incidence of abuse of children by priests is or is not consistent with overall social patterns of deviant behavior during the last half century,” the proposal notes. If these patterns are observed to be distinctly different “then the hypotheses to be explored would inquire about ministry-specific factors.”

The second component, Institutional Response by Church Leadership, will focus on “gaining understanding of the temporal, structural, and leadership factors within the Catholic Church that framed the response of individual dioceses to the crisis.” It will focus on diocesan responses after 1985, when many people became aware of the problem because of the notorious case of Louisiana priest Father Gilbert Gauthe.

“The actions of three dioceses with optimal response to reports of sexual abuse made after 1985 and three dioceses with notably (via public record) unsuccessful response will be studied,” according to the proposal.

The third segment, the Clinical/Psychological Component, aims “to understand on an individual level, how priests with allegations of sexual abuse differ from other priests (those with and without other problems) as well as sex offenders who are not priests.”

The proposal highlights the merits of the study.

“It is important to recognize that the Church is funding a study of ground-breaking significance in the field of research into sexual abuse of children," the proposal notes. “Additionally, however, the study will have historical significance for the Church itself. It is important, in many years from now, to understand as much as possible about the individual priests who committed acts of child sexual abuse, to share this understanding with bishops, priests and their diocesan associates, so as to prevent future crises.”

The proposal also notes that John Jay researchers are preparing to begin a study of sexual abuse within other religious institutions. Dr. Terry will also be the principle investigator for that study, according to the proposal.

Patricia Ewers, Ph.D., chair of the National Review Board, which advises the bishops on addressing the sexual abuse crisis, emphasized the significance of this study.

“The National Review Board is committed to working with the bishops and John Jay on this study that will benefit not only the church but also our entire society,” Dr. Ewers said. “We need to know what led to this violation of a sacred trust in order to take the steps needed to prevent future offenses. All relationships are based on trust and some relationships are sacred. This study will provide vital information to benefit not just the church, but also families, schools, sports programs and other situations in which young people are placed in the care of adults.”


Church-State Alliances.... Or the Lack Thereof

Just in case you were curious, the ecclesia-political dance isn't particular to these shores.

Facing a Sunday runoff, the Brazilian president Lula da Silva has kickstarted his leftist party's old ties with the liberation-theology crowd while his opponent "has had to deny rumors he is a member of Opus Dei" -- an insinuation that, apparently, can cause some waves in the world's largest Catholic country....
Corruption scandals that dogged Lula's first term and some of his economic policies had disenchanted many clerics and the faithful. Lula, who is ahead in polls, is now seeking to rekindle their support with assurances that Brazil's first working-class president will do more to fight poverty than his conservative rival.

"Their support used to be unconditional. But now there are negotiations, and you can see support coming Lula's way again," said Prof. Ruda Ricci, a sociologist and religion expert.

Opinion polls now show Lula with over 60 percent of the votes, leading his challenger Geraldo Alckmin by over 20 points. In the first round on October 1, Lula finished with a seven-point advantage over Alckmin.

Lula, a former union leader, and his Workers' Party have roots in Christian groups that cater to the poor and promote Latin America's home-grown liberation theology, which combines religious teachings with calls for social justice.

Both Lula and Alckmin are Catholics, as is about 70 percent of the population in this country of 185 million. It is rare for a presidential candidate not to be a Catholic.

Ricci said many poor Catholics in rural areas still see the bearded Lula "as a sort of neo-Moses guiding his people toward liberation" and always vote for him.

But he added that it is crucial for the president to regain the allegiance of opinion-makers like priests and religious social movements to obtain more votes.

Commentators say Alckmin has done little to win over the Catholic left in the run-up to this election, betting instead on support from the conservative circles of the church, which has been only modest. He has had to deny rumors he is a member of Opus Dei, an ultraconservative Catholic organization.

"If it was a Lula campaign trick, it worked. To those in more liberal Christian communities Opus Dei is the ultra-right threat, and they firmly associated Alckmin with it," said another religious specialist who did not want to be named.

As an institution, the Catholic Church in Brazil does not support any candidate. But since the first round Lula has received the formal backing of notable "political bishops," like Pedro Casaldaliga and Mauro Morelli.

Carlos Alberto Libanio, a prominent Dominican friar known as Frei Betto, issued a public statement calling to reelect Lula. He defended the president's record despite a slew of scandals and praised social programs.
Meanwhile, in Britain, some in the upper ranks have gotten the vapors from their American brethren and are threatening electoral pain for Labour:
Catholics are threatening to inflict serious ballot box damage on Labour over admissions quotas for faith schools, it emerged.

The church is galvanising the country's two million Catholic voters to fight Government moves to require new schools to reserve places for non-believers.

In an unprecedented campaign, parishioners have been asked to write to their MPs expressing "outrage" at the proposals.

The church is already warning that many will withhold support from MPs who fail to fall in line during an expected Commons vote next month.

Catholic voters, often traditionally Labour, are numerous in key marginal seats in London, Birmingham and the North West.....

Leading Catholics have condemned the shake-up as "prejudiced" against the church and insist their schools already promote integration.

Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, has warned that forcing schools to adhere admissions quotas risks alienating the Catholic church.

He has written to all 2,000 Catholic head teachers in the country urging them to lobby their MPs to oppose the plans.

They in turn have sent letters home to parents mobilising them to join the campaign against the admissions overhaul.

Meanwhile bishops have urged local priests to use the pulpit to raise awareness of the planned changes.

Laura McCann, policy officer for the Catholic Education Service, said: "We are currently being deluged with support from the Catholic community, including many phone calls and emails from parents, teachers, governors and parishioners who have written to their local MPs."

"Many are telling us that their disquiet over the Government's proposal and the lack of consultation could well be felt at the ballot box in future."

And, not to be outdone, John Allen speaks to this week's meeting between a leader of Italy's "theo-dem" school of approach and lead Vatican theocon Lopez Trujillo.

By the by, there's something to be said about the increasingly cataclysmic campaigning over a Missouri stem-cell initiative -- an ad war which has now reached sideshow levels with Jim Caviezel's employment of the Arimaic he picked up whilst playing Mel Gibson's Jesus.

Until I get around to it, let Thomas the AmP be your guide.


Confitemini Domino

After 22 months, the US' longest diocesan vacancy ends later today with Bishop-elect Paul Swain's ordination and installation in Sioux Falls.

The diocesan site's set out a very sweet open page with everything you'll need; webcast begins at 2pm local time (1900GMT).

May they have some good towels on hand -- that chrism can get tricky.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Corpore Sano in Ecclesia Sana

Many of you will remember Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston from his two decades as rector of "Mary's House," Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

In late 2004, the Philadelphia native was dispatched to West Virginia and the helm of the state's lone diocese, with its two see cities almost 200 miles apart. Ordained the following February, it wasn't until last week that Bransfield issued his first pastoral letter, one surely worth the wait. For a church whose policy engagement doesn't always lend itself to adjectives like "savvy" or "substantive," it's quite the step forward.

Then again, leave it to Bransfield to raise the bar.

Saying that "principles run the risk of being platitudes unless we specify actions to breathe life into them," the 14-page pastoral, A Church That Heals, grew from the bishop's finding that, in his travels across the diocese, "we are far from the place called health."

Issued on the feast of the patron of physicians -- St Luke the Evangelist -- Bransfield cites the state's place behind the national curve when it comes to the well-being of its residents. With its points and plans derived from consultations around the diocese, he says he's compelled to ask "how our living faith may be an instrument of healing not only of symptoms but of the root causes of the social conditions that affect the well-being of our communities."

A snip:
Jesus, from the first, expresses his mission in terms of healing. He affirms God’s particular concern for the poor and leads us to be in solidarity with all who find themselves involved at the front line in a struggle for liberation from the forces of oppression.

It is most appropriate on the Feast of St. Luke, Physician and Evangelist, to reflect upon the health and well-being of our communities. Luke relates evangelization and healing in Jesus’ commissioning of the Twelve. He summoned the disciples and sent them on mission to engage in ministries that would restore health and well-being to individuals, families and communities. Jesus also sent the seventy-two, our predecessors:

Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.”

For Jesus, healing is never just the healing of the body but also mind, heart and spirit. It is not just about making people physically better, but it is about hearts made whole, sins forgiven and a world healed. The very proclamation of the word is meant to heal and cannot be separated from care of neighbor. As we share meals with the stranger, as the seventy-two did, we naturally build relationships which will lead us to a deeper concern for their health and well-being. As we let go of our self-interest and focus on the healing needs of others we will restore God’s covenant with those who have been denied the opportunity for health.

Healing has always been a significant concern and an ongoing activity of the Church. The relationship of reconciliation, healing and salvation are recurring themes in Luke. Jesus called his followers to repentance and to a transformation of their old attitudes and way of living into a radically new set of relationships and attitudes. The Sacraments of Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation are concerned with the healing of body, mind, heart and spirit and restoration to the community. Both our prayerful concern and human efforts at healing are necessary acts of faith, hope and love.
The diocese is putting its money where its mouth is, having announced a $400,000 grant to serve as a booster for better local health initiatives. And when it's said that "If the Church’s call to healthy living is to be at all credible, it must testify to healthy living by example," it's a charge that goes far beyond Wheeling. Far, far beyond Wheeling.

Money quote: "You called us to be a Church that heals.... To address the irony, if not the hoax, of public policies that give with one hand and take with the other."

For the church's long-desired emergence as a true, constructive policy-player, it's a new day. And it's about time.

Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston


Capital of the World, Capital of Brutta Figura

Spot-on or not, when the New York Daily News picks up Letter #2 with the screaming headline "Egan labels revs sickos: Sez critics molesters," you know it's shaping up to be quite the Wednesday.

Gotham is simmering. Again. Well, more than just simmering.

Just as the fracas over the original, anonymous missive calling for a "no confidence" vote in him was dying down, Cardinal Edward Egan's Monday retort to his priests has thrown the church in the Big Apple into a renewed tumult. Not pretty at all, Romans puzzled at what on earth is going on -- and, intriguingly enough, both the Post and religion writer Gary Stern at the Westchester Journal-News are floating the name of Msgr Charles Kavanagh as the possible target of Egan's wrath.

(OK, one of them.)

A John O'Connor confidant entrusted with the late cardinal's least-favorite thing to do -- i.e. fund-raising -- Kavanagh served as the archdiocese's director of development through the end of O'Connor's tenure until he was suspended on allegations of inappropriate conduct in 2002. As Stern writes on his blog, "Kavanagh openly challenged Egan’s handling of [his] case, wearing his clerical collar in public after being told not to. This past January, the Vatican granted him a church trial. But it has not yet been scheduled."

While the priests largely backlashed at the unsigned letter's tactic, allowing its anonymity to detract from and overshadow its strong critiques of Egan, the mood in the wake of the second letter has now veered toward what we could call a "backlash of the backlash."

All are saddened, all are exasperated and, as one cleric put it, "all wish the thing would go away and all feel for Howie."


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

George: B16 "Very Concerned" About US Church

Freshly returned from his first trip to Rome following bladder cancer surgery, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago tells the Tribune about his trip... and a papal surprise.
On his second day in Rome, as planned, George attended the canonization of Mother Theodore Guerin of Indiana, the first U.S. saint in six years. What wasn't planned, he said, was an invitation that day to concelebrate mass with the pope....

"I hadn't expected that, and I was very pleased to do that," he said.
Last Monday, as vice-president of the Conference, the cardinal joined USCCB president Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane and Msgr David Malloy, the body's general secretary, for the group's biannual papal audience.
George said the pope was worried about the state of the church in the United States.

"He was very concerned about the seminary system and the morale of priests who have been ordained for some years, especially in the current crisis," he said.
Bit of a counterpoint to the "there's no crisis of morale" response often heard on this side of the Pond, eh?


Monday, October 23, 2006

From NY: "The Second Volley"


Dated October 20, the archdiocesan priests of New York received a strongly-worded letter today from Cardinal Edward Egan in further response to the events of the last two weeks.

In his first direct message to his priests since the circulation of the anonymous letter which called for a vote of "no confidence" against him, Egan laid blame for the document's "core" at the feet of "stories that are being told by priests who have been found guilty of sexually abusing minors." Saying that the unsigned document was "so shamelessly exploited by the media" and that the matter needs to be addressed "head on," Egan announced a stringent new procedure to clarify the record when a priest who is guilty of abuse is found "to be speaking untruthfully about the matter" so that "the road of savaging the Archdiocese and the Archbishop with falsehoods" can be averted.

The cardinal also announced that he will be amending his typical schedule for the first three months of the new year so that he may visit with the priests of each of the archdiocese's 19 vicariates at their monthly meetings.

Below is the fulltext of the letter.

* * *
October 20, 2006

Dear Father:

The recent anonymous letter criticizing my pastoral service to the Archdiocese has done immense harm largely because it has been so shamelessly exploited by the media. At the core of the letter and the declaration in support of it by Monsignor Howard Calkins are stories that are being told by priests who have been found guilty of sexually abusing minors after thorough treatment of their cases according to well-established Archdiocesan procedures.

Many claim that they have been the victim of unjust treatment, deception and lack of understanding. Unfortunately, no one challenges what they have to say. And the reason is clear: the Archdiocese has always been careful to respect their privacy.

* * *

This situation cannot be allowed to continue, as the recent episode of the anonymous letter, the declarations of Monsignor Calkins, and other negative statements to the media have amply proved. Thus it is that I believe we need to address this matter head on. We cannot be left open to all manner of lies, leading to all manner of scandal and damage to the Archdiocese and the Archbishop from people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

When a priest who has been found guilty of sexually abusing a minor and appropriate action has been taken in his regard, if he is reported to be speaking untruthfully about the matter, he will be called in to see me and invited to write a letter correcting his statements and offering his apology. His letter will then be made public.

If he refuses to write the letter, he will be asked to appear before a panel of six priests -- three members of the Presbyteral Council and three Vicars -- to make his case. Thereafter, officials of the Archdiocese will make our case. The panel will study the matter and issue a report to the Presbyteral Council.

Confident that all cases of the sexual abuse of minors by priests that have been treated during my tenure have been handled properly, I have no doubt what the conclusion of the panel will be. The conclusion, however, will be theirs.

The faithful will then be informed of what has happened and the road to savaging the Archdiocese and its Archbishop with falsehoods about cases regarding the sexual abuse of minors will be definitively closed.

* * *

All of this I would invite you to discuss at your Vicariate meetings in November so that the matter can be added to the agenda of the Presbyteral Council at its December meeting. In January, February, and March, I will reduce my usual load of liturgies, meetings, conferences, dinners, and such so as to visit all nineteen of the Vicariates at their regular meetings. On these occasions, I will go over the process outlined above and, if time allows, I will repeat the substance of what was said at the special meeting of the Presbyteral Council on October 16th, in my residence.

With prayerful best wishes, may I remain

Very truly yours in Christ,


Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Looking Forward

Hard to believe, but next weekend it'll be time for the annual spate of Halloween parties.... Haven't picked my costume yet, but there's always the temptation to call in the cassock and Gammarelli surplice I wore in '03.

(Sure, it was quite the day for the "cultic" model of priesthood -- people in the street forgot it was Halloween, approaching with the request that I hear their confessions, at which they were pointed to the nearest rectory -- but it might just be best to reserve the rig to years in which the archbishop of Philadelphia is elevated to the Sacred College.)

To business, in a shameless rip from TIME, Whispers closed 2005 by naming its first Churchman of the Year. Two, actually -- monumental year that it was, the award was divided, with Don Giussani taking the international honors and then-Archbishop Levada claiming the US prize.

As November and December always tend to become a black hole of everything Christmas -- card-writing, party-hopping, excessive gift-buying, etc. -- it seems optimal to get a head start on the process with the means by which everything good gets done here: reader input.

Given these pages' increase in audience size over the last ten months, this should make for a lot of fun, with a wider range of voices enabling a more comprehensive field of nominees.

Ideally, the honoree(s) is/are tied in with one of the year's major stories or guiding trends. For obvious reasons, last year was easy, but given Regensburg/Liturgy Wars/the Coming of Bertone/various appointments/et al., the field just opens all the more.... And, just so you know, the "churchman" doesn't have to be a cleric, nor a man -- the primary criterion, however, is ad intra resonance.

I might already have a name or two in mind, but the year's far from over -- and the readership has far greater a wisdom than its author. So feel free to send nominees my way, with 50-100 words as to why your choice deserves the nod.

Many thanks in advance; the designee(s) will be announced toward December's end.


The Ted In Full

So the Canadian episcopal conference has done us the favour of posting the complete text of Cardinal McCarrick's remarks to the CCCB plenary the other day on dialogue with politicians.

Notably, as scripted, the remarks given by the retired DC prelate -- pictured here with Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, the Canadian primate (and B16 "kitchen cabinet" member) -- are missing some of the zingers featured in first-cycle reports from the gathering... extemporaneous adds, you say?

Anyways, give it a full read. With all the Deus caritas est quoting, it makes for quite the au courant voter guide.

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops


Catholic Education: Both Sides of the Coin

From the "This is news?" file, the US' most storied Catholic university seeks... more Catholic professors.
A recent gift will create an endowment to support chaired faculty positions for top scholars who also demonstrate a commitment to [Notre Dame] university's Catholic mission.

The gift was provided by Notre Dame board of trustees chairman emeritus Donald Keough, his wife, Marilyn, and their five children, all Notre Dame graduates. Keough, a retired president and chief operating officer of the Coca-Cola Co., now is chairman of the board of Allen & Co., a New York investment banking firm. The amount of the gift was not disclosed.

To be called Keough-Hesburgh professorships, in honor of Keough and the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president emeritus, the initiative will create two chaired faculty positions and fund university efforts to identify and attract younger faculty and graduate students to work with a Keough-Hesburgh professor.

The goal of the professorships is to attract outstanding faculty members of all ages, for visiting or tenured positions in all academic fields.

Part of the Keough gift has been used to establish an office led by the Rev. Robert Sullivan, a history professor and director of the Erasmus Institute, to identify possible future Catholic faculty hires.

At the request of Dean of Arts & Letters Mark Roche, Sullivan's office in 2005 started compiling a database of Catholic academics elsewhere who specialize in liberal arts disciplines.

"We compiled 700 to 750 names in departments for that college," Sullivan said. Some Catholic scholars are suggested by current Notre Dame faculty and others are identified by combing through academic publications and other public documents, he said.

The success of that effort prompted the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, and Thomas Burish, the university provost, to expand it to all disciplines. That effort is just being started.
Meanwhile, a Catholic school in Britain is under scrutiny as authorities allege students aren't being taught enough about other faiths.
St Catherine's Catholic High School, in Halifax, has been placed in special measures in the wake of a highly- critical report from the Office for Standards in Education.

Former headteacher Michael Savage has taken early retirement and Mike Woods, a headteacher from Leeds, has been brought in to lead the school until the end of the academic year.

The report, published yesterday, rated the school's teaching, leadership, curriculum and academic standards as "inadequate". The school's GCSE results were described as "poor".
It went on: "The pace of improvement since the last inspection has been too slow; actions that have been taken have had too little impact on the quality of provision and of the pupils' achievement.

"The school does not have the necessary capacity to improve and does not provide value for money."

The report said the pupils, who are largely from white backgrounds, are well behaved but "there is limited development of the pupils' awareness of Britain's cultural diversity."

The comments made by inspectors coincide with the nationwide debate on the role of faith and faith schools in state education.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson outlined measures earlier this week aimed at forcing new faith schools to take more students from different backgrounds.
Talk about your divergent trends.


"It's Time."

Bishop William Friend of Shreveport turns 75 today, telling the local press as he does that he sends his letter willingly ...and dreads getting the "donec aliter provideatur" response. Friend was named to the episcopacy at 47 and awaits retirement in his native Florida.

With 40,000 Catholics and 11,000 square-miles -- which works out to less than 4 per square mile? -- the Shreveport diocese is among the US' ten smallest local churches.


The Pittsburgh Vacancy Halftime Report

The Workhorse is back in his hometown today to preside at the centenary-closing Mass of Pittsburgh's St Paul Cathedral, which was dedicated on 24 October 1906.

Coincidentally, the Sunday Post-Gazette returns to the question of Wuerl's succession... which might become a bit of a football on the Roman side as the US kingmakers jockey for position.
There are reports that Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, of Washington, D.C., who left Pittsburgh in May, is urging a speedy appointment, possibly before the U.S. bishops meet Nov. 13.

"There's talk that it will be right before or right after Christmas. Dec. 8 is often a day that bishops are named, and so is Jan. 6," said Francesco Cesareo, dean of the liberal arts college at Duquesne University, who studies Catholic church governance. Those two dates are, respectively, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Epiphany.

On the other hand, a Pittsburgh priest who enjoys prognosticating predicts June at the earliest. Of 195 U.S. dioceses, seven are vacant, two for more than 18 months. Another 14 bishops, including two cardinals, are past the retirement age of 75.

"I don't hear anybody saying that there is anything urgent that would push Pittsburgh to the top of the list," said the Rev. Louis Vallone, pastor of St. John of God in McKees Rocks.

"We have no immediate issues, like finances or scandals. And, unlike some other dioceses, our diocesan administrator is a bishop, so we're not backed against the wall for the sacrament of confirmation. Everyone is agreed that Bishop [Paul] Bradley is doing a very creditable job as administrator. So, from the outside, there is nothing that militates for a quick appointment for Pittsburgh," he said.

But Pittsburgh is by far the largest diocese without a full-fledged diocesan bishop.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette previously identified eight bishops who Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio to the United States, appears certain to consider as he chooses three names to forward to the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops. They are Bishops Blase Cupich, 57, of Rapid City, S.D.; Kevin Farrell, 59, auxiliary of Washington, D.C.; Joseph Kurtz, 60, of Knoxville, Tenn.; Joseph McFadden, 59, auxiliary of Philadelphia; John Nienstedt, 59, of New Ulm, Minn.; Thomas Paprocki, 54, auxiliary of Chicago; Dennis Schnurr, 58, of Duluth, Minn.; and David Zubik, 57, of Green Bay, Wis.
Most are mentioned for more than one diocese. For instance, Bishop Farrell is considered a strong contender for Dallas, where the bishop is past retirement age.
Reported here in the past, Farrell's name has garnered a heightened buzz for Dallas in recent days, with some confident enough to say that an appointment to the 930,000-strong diocese could happen by year's end.

Then again, this shouldn't be so surprising; Rome's been waiting quite some time for its Big D moment.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Just a quick word to say a woefully insufficient, blown-mind "Thank You!" to everyone who's been so kind to lend a hand since Wednesday's pitch.

Much as I'm never keen to impinge on your collective goodness, the response never ceases to stun, awe and humble me, so please, please always remember that, and know that it pushes me to create an even better product. That isn't terribly hard, of course; as you can see, these pages need all the improvement in the world.

I'm spending the weekend doing my darndest to get back to anyone and everyone who threw some coins in the case and my fellows of the debt-saddled, twenty-something Ramen-eating contingent who were good enough to send lots of love and kind words... because that's basically all we have; our alma maters have eaten up the rest.

In case you didn't realize it, there's a lot of needless bitterness and anger out there these days, both in the church and in the world, and each warm word and kind gesture serves as a balm against the wound, and it's the only way any of us actually begin accomplishing something, not to mention doing justice to all we've been given by those who came before. So for that most precious of gifts, thank you.

Being what they are, your scribe's chronic disorganization and the realities of the news cycle might mean that I won't be able to get back to acknowledging everything, so just in case (or even if it just takes me three weeks to trudge through it all), just know how much it all means and... well... there are no words that can truly express that. Just so you know, I beat myself up for everything I can't get to. And that makes my GQ (guilt quotient) quite high.

Possibly the greatest message of all arrived the other day from a reader for whom reading Whispers is "like watching Dynasty!!"

How reassuring it is to know that one's being faithful to his beat. As always, you can thank the cast of characters for the never-ending supply of priceless material.

That said, on with the show.


"One Küng Is Enough For Us": Ratzinger at Tübingen

From the "Know Your Ratzi" desk, the English edition of 30 giorni runs a long take on what was, arguably, the most transformative period of the life of B16 -- his five years at the University of Tübingen, where his invitation to the faculty was championed by none other than... Hans Kung.

Just a couple snips:
In 1966 Joseph Ratzinger was still not forty, but his hair was already white and his fame as the enfant prodige of German theology has been established by his intense and decisive participation in the Council venture. Vatican II was coming to its end, the air was still vibrant with trusting hope. But the expectation of good weather in the world for the Church was marked by other, strange portents. Already in that year, in a lecture summing up the Council, Joseph the Bavarian took account of these mixed conditions. «It seems to me important», he said, «to show the two faces of what has filled us with joy and gratitude to the Council…. It seems to me important to point out also the dangerous, new triumphalism into which the denouncers of past triumphalism often fall. While the Church remains a pilgrim on the earth, it has no reason to glory in itself. This new way of glorying could become more insidious than tiaras and gestatorial chairs that, in any case, are by now more a reason for smiling than for pride».

The person in the Catholic Faculty at Tübingen who had pulled the strings, so that the vocatio was sent to the professor who had been teaching at Münster for only three years, was Hans Küng, supported by another young colleague, Max Seckler. Seckler now recalls for 30Days: «There was a generational turnover at the time with the retirement of various elderly professors. To strengthen the faculty, some people were pushing to offer the chair of Dogmatic Theology to more mature professors, with better defined profiles. I was thirty-nine in 1966, Küng thirty-eight. It was we who fought to call in another young man. And Ratzinger, then, was the man of the future». The well-mannered and reserved Bavarian professor and his headstrong and argumentative Swiss colleague had known each other since 1957. They had collaborated during the closing session of the Council as expert theologians and already evident differences as to how the Council was to flow back into the great river of the everyday life of the Church had come to the surface between them. But then, as Ratzinger explains in his autobiography, «both of us considered this a legitimate difference in theological positions» that «would not affect our deep agreement as Catholic theologians». In 1964 they both appeared among the founder members of Concilium, the international review of the “united front” of Council theologians. Seckler explains: «Küng was aware that he and Ratzinger thought differently on many things, but he said: with the best one can negotiate and work together, it’s the mean-spirited who create problems». Professor Wolfgang Beinert, a former student of Ratzinger’s at Tübingen, adds: «Küng maybe called Ratzinger precisely because he wanted the students to be able to check against another Council theologian different from himself, someone who would be a counterweight to his unilateral theology. Other more narrow-minded teachers didn’t even perceive the distance between them, and they looked at Ratzinger as a dangerous reforming liberal. They said: one Küng is enough for us»....

The human and character differences between the two big men on the faculty, holders of the two chairs in Dogmatic Theology, had always been evident. The impulsive Swiss went around in his white Alfa Romeo, dressed with middle-class elegance. It was to him that the journalists went when looking for someone to let off a salvo in the clashes that were tormenting the post-Council Church. The mild-mannered Bavarian went on foot or used public transport, said mass each morning in the chapel of a female hall of residence, and for the rest studied and prepared his lectures, in tune with his austere and reserved style. «Once when we happened to go on a trip with some students and we stopped at a tavern for lunch,» Kuhn remembers, «he just ordered Viennese würstel for himself and also for us. He thought that we were all as frugal as himself. That time we didn’t dare make him understand that we were young and hungry. Maybe he grasped it for himself, and on other occasions of that kind he ensured that everyone chose what they wanted from the menu…». But in the concrete routine of faculty life, among lectures, seminars, conferences and examinations, under the apparent “Council” unanimity, the increasing distance between Ratzinger and some of his colleagues reached altogether more critical levels.

Ratzinger believed that all the important things that had exulted him during the Council - the biblical and patristic renewal, the opening towards the world, the sincere urge for unity with other Christians, the freeing of the Church from all the baubles that burdened and hampered it in its mission – had nothing to do with the corrosive and iconoclast frenzy that agitated many of his colleagues. The role played by so many theologians in giving direction to the work of the Council had mutated in many of them into a professional pride that demanded that even the most elementary features of doctrine and of the life of the Church be submitted to the court of “experts”. «In lectures», Moll recounts «even the most minimal agreement on the essential given of the faith seemed to have been lost among the different professors. And the students’ heads were whirling. One was always having to take a stance on things that before had seemed beyond debate: does the devil exist or not? Are there seven sacraments or only two? Can the unordained celebrate the Eucharist? Is there a primacy of the bishop of Rome, or is the papacy only a despotic regime to be overthrown?» The Redemptorist Réal Tremblay, who arrived in Tübingen from Canada in 1969 to do a doctorate under Ratzinger, and who now teaches at the Alphonsian Academy, hazards a guess: «I’ve always believed that a certain aggressiveness in Küng springs also from the problems he met with in Rome as a student. He’s one of those who have been unable to rid themselves of anti-Roman bile resulting from their personal experience as young men. Ratzinger didn’t have those problems, not least because he didn’t study in Rome»....

At Tübingen Küng and his friends also suffered. The “rebels” also took over the university parish of Saint John and demanded the democratic election of the chaplain. Then they stretched out on the stairs of the faculty, preventing the staff from entering: there was no longer time for listening to useless lectures, one had to get ready for the coming revolution. Ratzinger more than once underwent the “people’s courts” held by the students. As Martin Trimpe recalls: «They interrupted the lectures with chants, or they took the platform and forced him to answer their “revolutionary” questions». Other teachers tried to wink an eye at the protesters. Ratzinger answered with his even and logical argumentation. But his light voice was often overwhelmed by the shouting. Seckler again notes: «He does very well in steady and reasoned discussion. But he gets lost in violent argument. He doesn’t know how to shout, he’s incapable of shouting others down in bullying fashion».
Eminently insightful and worth a full read.


More from the Fall Classic

No, not the World Series -- which begins tonight in Motor City -- but the peak-season of the church's cycle of internecine cannibalism on issues of human sexuality.... The last couple years, it's been as endemic to October as the foliage.

Intriguingly timed, given the confluence with the bishops' doc on the topic, a Long Island parish has pulled a Catholic Medical Association pamphlet on homosexuality from the narthex racks:
The Curé of Ars church in Merrick has removed copies of a glossy green pamphlet called "Homosexuality & Hope" after receiving complaints about the brochure's assertions that homosexuality was a disorder preventable with psychotherapy....

It also says, "Current clinical therapy shows that there is hope for prevention" and offers information on support groups and research.

Critics said the pamphlet's advice on therapy as a way to prevent homosexuality is not scientifically proven.

The Rev. Charles Mangano, the pastor of the church, said he had first ordered the brochure from the Massachusetts-based Catholic Medical Association in 2005 after a parishioner called him seeking guidance during a sexual identity crisis. The pamphlet, written by physicians with the association, had been available to parishioners for the past year and a half, Mangano said.

"The content of this pamphlet was intended to offer direction to those who are struggling with their sexual identity and those seeking guidance and conformity with the teaching of the church," Mangano said. Mangano said he decided on Wednesday night to pull about 100 pamphlets from the church's literature racks, with support from the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Mangano said he recently received two complaints about the brochure.

"It was a mixture of theory and Catholic teaching," said Sean Dolan, diocese spokesman. "And the theory in some places is dated."

Ordination Week in SoDak

Bishop-elect Paul Swain hasn't even been ordained yet -- that happens on Thursday -- and, already, the new head of the diocese of Sioux Falls got served with the now-famous "let's just sue everybody" disclosure filing.

Sure, the lawyers may want you to know that Bishop Skylstad "was served [both] as Bishop of Spokane and again as president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops." However, as a civil legal beagle and onetime general counsel to the governor of Wisconsin, Swain's among the few who can unpack the thing head-on.

As the big day approaches, get ready for the usual bundle of laudatory stories and other incoming-episcopal coverage... albeit with a twist. A piece that ran in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader at September's end featured this joshing assessment of the new bishop, given by a colleague from his government days: "He's terrible at returning phone calls.... His rule was, if it's really serious, they'll call three times. The rest of us are jumping on every call, and he's very cool."

Does that work for e.mails?

Thursday's ordination in Soo Foo's St Joseph's Cathedral will be televised and, for the benefit of the wider church, webcast; it all begins at 2pm local time (1900GMT). Check the diocesan site for more info. The local metropolitan, Archbishop Harry Flynn of St Paul-Minneapolis, will serve as principal consecrator, assisted by Swain's predecessor, Bishop Robert Carlson of Saginaw and Bishop William Bullock, emeritus of his home diocese of Madison.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

16 Days....

Especially these days, rare is the ecclesiastical project completed on-time and on-budget. $34 million might sound like a lot, but the experts who've seen the restored Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore are saying that Keeler & Co. got themselves a bargain deal given the quality of the work.

As the clock races toward the reopening of US Catholicism's mother church, St Anthony Messenger tackles the story:
A dream is coming true in Baltimore, one that is expected to stir Catholic sensibilities around the nation and impress every American who cares about religious liberty. It will happen on Nov. 4 when the historic basilica will reopen.

It has been restored over the past two and a half years to the original purity, grace and elegance envisioned by its architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe (who also designed the U.S. Capitol), and by Bishop John Carroll (who led the infant Roman Catholic Church in the United States from Baltimore).

On that Saturday – 200 years after the basilica’s cornerstone was laid in 1806 – the $32-million restoration project will be revealed to a public whose interest has been greatly heightened as more and more people begin to understand the basilica’s special place in U.S. Catholic history, not only as a symbol of religious liberty but also as an architectural gem....

When it was dedicated May 31, 1821, about 15 years after the cornerstone was laid by Bishop Carroll on the high hill near what is now the corner of Mulberry and Cathedral streets, the first cathedral built in the United States represented not only one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture in the world but, as Cardinal Keeler often emphasizes, a distinctive symbol of the nation’s newly won freedom of religion.

“The first place in the English-speaking world that had religious freedom by law was Maryland,” he said. “This is the most precious property of the Catholic Church in the United States.”

Baltimore’s basilica is considered Latrobe’s masterpiece, even more so than the Capitol building. Brownell called it “one of the great buildings of Western architecture.”

But if Bishop Carroll and his architect Latrobe were to have visited their Baltimore cathedral just three years ago, they would most likely have been very disappointed, if not downright shocked. The years since the basilica’s completion, which neither man lived to see, brought many changes. The most dramatic of these was the removal in the early 1940s of the skylights that had lent charm and mystique to the building.

That same period also saw the plain, translucent glass windows, set in the Colonial manner, replaced by stained glass, reducing even further light to the north and south sides of the basilica. Once bright and welcoming, the old cathedral had turned dark and inward.
...and now, everything old is new again.

Case in point: I still have to apply for my credentials.


Pharaoh Under the Knife

What's with this epidemic of knee surgeries among the American Cardinals?

Earlier in the day, it was announced from On High that Cardinal Justin Rigali underwent "outpatient, arthroscopic" surgery to repair a torn miniscus in his right knee at Lankenau Hospital, just across the city line.

For the next ten days, our archbishop will work from home -- seemingly precluding his attendance at next week's scheduled Vox Clara meeting in Rome. Rigali, 71, will resume his public calendar on the 29th.

Please join me in keeping the boss and his quick and complete recovery in your prayers.

In other news from the "Eminent Knee On the Mend" desk, Cardinal Egan's recuperation from his September joint-replacement op is keeping him from presiding at tonight's Al Smith Dinner in New York. The annual white-tie funder for the archdiocese's Catholic Charities has long been one of the major events of the city's calendar, bringing together the top tier of its worlds of media, commerce and church. Presiding from the multi-leveled dais, the archbishop of New York traditionally serves as the evening's MC/ringmaster.

Fret not, though -- particularly given what went down last week, it's looking as if Egan'll have one more Smith Dinner to oversee... at least one more, that is.

So much for months 'til France.