Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Curial Revolution Continues... In More Ways Than One

Through the ages, we've been warned to "Beware the ides of March".... And another wave of fright passed through the Vatican today, as Pope Benedict tossed yet another top curialist from the train and sent him home.

It's kinda like "Survivor, Rome Edition" -- it's just not so much the tribe, but the pontiff, has spoken. And he's nowhere near done, either.

This morning, B16 named Archbishop Csaba Ternyak, heretofore secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, as archbishop of Eger in his native Hungary. Ternyak, 53, had served as the #2 official of the Vatican office that oversees matters pertaining to the world's priests and deacons since 1997. He's the second secretary of a Vatican congregation to face the ax in this pontificate -- the first was Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, who was banished up the road to the diocese of Assisi early last year. A bete noire of activists supporting the "freedom" of the Tridentine Mass, Sorrentino's departure cleared the Congregation for Divine Worship's #2 post for papal favorite Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, a confirmed (and, so they say, confirming) devotee of the Pian Rite.

The vacancy at Clero strengthens the hand of the dicastery's newly-arrived prefect, Cardinal Claudio Hummes OFM, allowing him to choose a right-hand more attuned to his tastes. Ternyak's successor was not immediately named.

Notably, while his two predecessors (Gilberto Agustoni and, most famously, Crescenzio Sepe) were moved from the congregation into posts which earned them red hats, the 690,000-member archdiocese of Eger is half the size of Hungary's lone cardinalatial church of Esztergom-Budapest, where 54 year old Cardinal Peter Erdö -- the youngest member of the sacred college -- still has yet to hit his prime.

The Pope made two other appointments at his Curia's "superior" level this week.

Today, Marist Fr Anthony Ward -- a longtime staffer at CDW -- was tapped as the office's undersecretary, or #3 official. A veteran combatant in the church's "liturgy wars," Ward is believed to be a prime force behind the congregation's still-controversial instruction on the translation of English texts Liturgiam authenticam, which marks its fifth anniversary at the end of this month.

Of even greater importance, last Saturday Benedict elevated Servants of the Poor Fr Vincenzo Bertolone to the episcopacy, sending him to head the Italian diocese of Cassano all'Jonio.

Since 2004, Bertonlone, 60, has served as undersecretary at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Vatican office that supervises religious communities. Also a longtime staffer there, he was named undersecretary six weeks following the precedent-shattering appointment of Salesian Sr Enrica Rosanna as the sole holder of CICLSAL's #3 position after arguments won the day that a woman religious -- devoid of holy orders, of course -- lacked the grace of office to supervise priests.

Yet again, Sr Enrica -- the highest-ranking woman in the history of the Vatican bureaucracy -- is the congregation's lone sottosegretario. If that holds, it'd be the surest sign yet that Benedict is intent to keep making good on his much-burnished record of giving women the most collaborative place possible at the table of ecclesiastical administration.

And for all his other moves on the chessboard, it'd be his most significant sign yet, to boot.