Thursday, May 31, 2007

PM Edition

There's a good bit floating around today, but it's too much to put into individual posts... so here's a taste:
  • As you can see from the photo, Cardinal O'Brien's dropping of what another senior prelate recently termed the "atom bomb" earlier today got quite the outpouring of attention. Critics have accused the Scottish primate of using "inflammatory language," the BBC reports, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster responded with a softer line, calling "all Catholics, especially those who hold positions of public responsibility, to educate themselves about the teaching of the church, and to seek pastoral advice so that they can make informed decisions with consistency and integrity." The Times notes that, at Westminster, "abortion is creeping up the political agenda."
  • You probably don't need any further proof that, in the pontificate of the former Grand Inquisitor, the CDF is King -- or, rather, Pope. But just in case anyone forgot, Benedict XVI likes giving the occasional reminder, the latest of which came earlier today. A day after the CELAM plenary wrapped in Aparecida, the Pope announced the Vatican's new top point-man for things Latin American: Columbian Archbishop Jose Octavio Ruiz Arenas of Villavicencio. A native of Bogota, Ruiz, 62, will head to Rome as vice-president for the Pontifical Commission of Latin America, succeeding Archbishop Luis Robles Diaz, who died on Holy Saturday. The CAL (as it's called over there) oversees the gamut of things pertaining to the life of the church south of the border -- and, reflecting the usual means of oversight, its ex officio president is the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Before his 1996 ordination as an auxiliary of Bogota, Ruiz spent eleven years as an official at -- you guessed it -- Cardinal Ratzinger's CDF. In his new post, he'll be working under Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the lifelong veteran of the Secretariat of State. Bottom line: it's a marriage made in curial heaven.
  • By now, veteran readers have become quite familiar with the new archbishop of Toronto. Not only is Thomas Collins a rather prolific fount of good reading (and listening), but the communications folk of Canada's largest see have set a gold standard in allowing TC's trees, as it were, to resound across a more populated forest. In his most prominent foray yet into the public square, the archbishop delivered an address on "The Contribution of Religion in Society" earlier today at TO's Empire Club. True to form, the text and audio are already available. As always, the speaker makes for well-worthwhile reading... and, even moreso, listening.
  • Fifty years ago this week, the period's dominant demographic trend in the American Catholic evolution received Rome's recognition in the erection of the nation's first suburban diocese at Rockville Centre on Long Island. Today, the church in Nassau and Suffolk counties -- previously part of the diocese of Brooklyn -- numbers 1.6 million Catholics, and this weekend the anniversary will be marked in a uniquely double fashion, beginning with tomorrow's ordination of its new auxiliary, Bishop-elect Peter Libasci, who was five years old at the diocese's founding. Preceded by a Vespers service tonight, the ordination -- and Sunday's jubilee liturgy -- will all be streamed live via the diocesan TV station, Telecare. Until now the parish priest of Montauk on the Island's South Fork, Libasci is moving and will have to make do with his new digs... in the Hamptons. He's chosen "Arise and Walk," taken from the Acts' account of Peter, John and the lame beggar at the temple gate, as his motto.
  • A new "guide for the casual churchgoer" -- written by a self-disclosed "former Catholic" -- is plugging itself by noting that, while Catholics comprise the US' largest religion, the nation's second-largest religious body are "inactive Catholics."... Let the blames begin.
  • As the Senate moves toward a compromise bill on immigration reform, the ecclesial interventions on the heated topic continue. In Washington State, Bishop Carlos Sevilla SJ of Yakima reaffirmed the church's advocacy of the rights of migrants as opponents of the legislation let loose on local politicians who have indicated likely support for it. And in Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. observed in his weekly column that the immigration question has generated "more confused, misinformed and angry mail... than any other issue during my 10 years in Denver." Offering an example, Chaput said that "Bishops routinely get some very strange mail".... Suffice it to say, I know the feeling.

Reuters/David Moir


Quote of the Day

"We will not print opinions that are in contradiction of church teaching – any more than a newspaper for, say, Greenpeace would print a letter in support of the slaughter of whales."
Ye Olde Providence Visitor has been redesigned and rechristened The Rhode Island Catholic.

The web part of the overhaul, however, is still in development.


In Scotland, "The Ultimatum"

On Scotland's "Day for Life" -- held annually on this feast of the Visitation -- Cardinal Keith O'Brien of St Andrew's and Edinburgh issued the strongest statement yet by a top-shelf prelate urging pro-choice politicians to refrain from receiving the Eucharist. The remarks came during a noonday Mass to mark the pro-life observance at the Scottish capital's St Mary's Cathedral.

Saying that "the killing is beyond our grasp," the cardinal noted that "in Scotland we kill the equivalent of a classroom full of school children every day.

"As a society we wilfully ignore these realities," he said.

In the political community, O'Brien emphasized that "I speak most especially to those who claim to be Catholic.... I remind them to avoid cooperating in the unspeakable crime of abortion and the barrier such cooperation erects to receiving Holy Communion."

The Scottish primate's call follows last month's comments from Pope Benedict aboard the papal plane to Brazil, in which the pontiff voiced his support for bishops willing to deny Communion to politicians who advocate open access to abortion in defiance of church teaching.

Simon Dames, a spokesman for the Scottish hierarchy provided a summation of O'Brien's stance during an interview with the BBC.

"When it comes to the abortion issue," Dames said, "do not promote it, do not support it -- and if you do, we're talking about refusing the Eucharist. You're excluding yourself from the Catholic church."

Amid perceptions of liberalism in some of his prior statements, O'Brien was compelled to make a public Profession of Faith before his 2003 elevation to the cardinalate. In a recent edition of The Tablet, the cardinal wrote of a visit to India, where he reflected on elements of Gandhi's teaching of satyagraha (non-violence) and Paul VI's encyclical on the development of peoples Populorum Progressio, which marks its 40th anniversary this year.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"The Ministry of Service"

As Ordination Season winds down and the True Priesthood's new entrants revel in their "Super Sweet First Masses," often -- and unfortunately -- lost in the shuffle are a group of candidates even larger in number and just as intense in their commitment: your new permanent deacons.

It's often an undercovered story, but the restoration of the diaconate beyond a months-long prelude to priesthood, and the order's opening to married men, has been a success story of the post-conciliar church. From preaching, baptisms and sick calls, to the nuts and bolts of parish administration and community life, deacons and their wives can be found, aided by a wealth of experience in the working world that their pastors often lack.

The US has almost 17,000 deacons alone, and in just one example of the diaconate's size and impact out there, the diocese of Brooklyn -- home to 1.6 million Catholics -- ordained 52 deacons (36 English-speaking and 16 Spanish-speaking) in two ceremonies earlier this month. And as proof that they're omnipresent not just in the church, but the world, too, among the ordained was the new Reverend Mr. Greg Kandra, a 25-year veteran of CBS News who now runs its lead anchor's blog, Couric & Co. (Kandra's shown above leaving his 19 May ordination with his wife of 21 years, Siobhain.)

Hopefully Kandra's ordination will bring some grace to Katie's lackluster ratings. But in the meantime the new deacon -- who's been assigned to his home parish of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills -- has penned a piece on his journey to orders for BustedHalo.
On Saturday, May the 19th, I completed a five-year odyssey and was ordained a Permanent Deacon for the Diocese of Brooklyn. Suffice it to say: this isn’t exactly what I’d planned for my life. It’s not exactly what my wife had in mind when she married me 21 years ago, either. But as John Lennon (British, not Yiddish) put it: life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

The plans I’d made included a successful career in broadcasting, a nice home, a comfortable life, a happy marriage. To my astonishment, I achieved all that.

I’d worked with some of the giants in television—Charles Kuralt, Dan Rather, Ed Bradley—and, by chance or just dumb luck, managed to have a front row seat for some of the defining events of my generation, including the first Gulf War and 9/11. I’d amassed some attractive dust collectors— including two Peabodies, two Emmies, and four Writers Guild Awards. I was making a nice living. So why wasn’t I happier? In the middle of making a living, and making a name for myself, I discovered a yawning cavern in my life. Something was missing.

t started around the time my parents died, in the early 1990s, and I began to feel asense of my own limitedness—my own mortality. And the cavity grew in the wake of 9/11. After the towers fell, I spent two days in New York City, writing special reports for CBS News, unable to make it home because all the roads and subways were closed; in the days that followed, between the candlelight vigils and photocopied pictures taped to bus stops and the endless funerals accompanied by bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace,” I had a growing sense that there had to be something more. My cradle Catholicism had faded into indifference; mass was something I attended when I felt like it. My faith, if you can call it that, was patchy at best.

But after 9/11, I realized with a blinding clarity that the tidy life I’d established for myself could vanish at any moment. Then, one day, on the way back from picking up bagels, I passed a homeless guy on the subway, begging for money. I offered him a fresh bagel. He thanked me with so much enthusiasm, you’d have thought I’d given him a fresh cut of sirloin. When my train came, I looked over my shoulder to see where he’d gone. And there he was, at the end of the platform: he’d broken his bagel in half and was sharing it with another homeless man.

This withered old man who had next to nothing gave half of what he had to someone who had even less. Deep in the recesses of my Catholic memory, something stirred. “And they knew him in the breaking of the bread.” Something began to speak to me.

I realized: I’d been given much. What could I give back?...

While on retreat at a Trappist monastery in 2002, I found my answer. There, I stumbled on something unusual: a deacon. He was from England, but at that time was living in France. I’d never met a deacon before. I’d heard about them, and once or twice I’d seen them, but my parish back in Queens never had one, and I was intrigued. (Deacons, I discovered, are married, and they have jobs outside the church. They are part of the Catholic clergy, and receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. They preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals, and can proclaim the gospel at mass and preach.) We spent a long afternoon talking about the diaconate, and I was amazed to learn that he also worked in broadcasting, for the BBC. He’d done some freelance work for CBS, too, and we knew a lot of the same people. Was God trying to tell me something?...

When I returned home and told my wife, she understandably thought I was nuts. But time and prayer and lots of long talks around the dinner table convinced the both of us that maybe, just maybe, this is something I could do, and should do, and soon. When I joined the diaconate program in September 2002 my life as I knew it was about to end.

What followed were five years of classes, homework, workshops, and retreats. Weekends were taken up with church work—as a lector or Eucharistic Minister. Evenings were spent on schoolwork. The comfortable and uncomplicated world I’d known became less comfortable, and more complicated, as I juggled all the different demands of my job, my marriage, and my schoolwork. More than a few times, I thought: am I out of my mind? What was I thinking?

My colleagues at CBS took this development in my life in stride – Katie Couric started calling me “Father Greg”—and over time, I became the one person everyone in the newsroom went to with a question about anything even remotely Catholic.

But what I remember most of all from those years of formation was the sense of unending anticipation—of waiting, and watching, and wondering. It was a long period of extended discernment. All of it came to an end, fittingly, just a few days after Ascension Thursday—the time when the apostles had been left alone, and were waiting for the Holy Spirit. At my Mass of Thanksgiving following ordination, I spoke in my homily about feeling like the apostles during that time before Pentecost—living in an upper room, unsure of what was about to happen, prayerfully yearning for the next part of their lives to begin.

I knew how they must have felt. And on May 19th, my waiting was over. I left my upper room.

A world of congrats to Greg, and to all the new deacons springing up these days. May it be everything you hoped and expected... and then some.

SVILUPPO: Clearly, Kandra enjoys his day job -- he's started a ministry blog, The Deacon's Bench.


The State of the Docket

Earlier this month, presenting B16's Jesus of Nazareth before a full house at Washington's JP2 Cultural Center, the papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi responded to a detailed introduction chronicling his life by noting that "the miracle will come in the next chapter."

The line got a laugh, of course. But its full context was likely lost on most in attendance.

Though he's reportedly said that his nunciature "is not a bishop-making factory," one of the main competencies of Sambi's "laboratory" at 3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW is the preparatory work for the nation's episcopal appointments. Led by Birmingham -- now in its 25th month without a diocesan bishop -- eight US dioceses currently lack an ordinary. And, just as a hypothetical, if none of those, or dioceses with bishops serving past the retirement age of 75, are filled before year's end, the docket would contain a staggering 25 American Sees in line for new leadership come December.

And that's not counting coadjutors and auxiliaries, nor vacancies that arise from deaths or early resignations.

"It is without precedent," one diocesan bishop recently mused on the state of things. "We have a crisis of vocations to the episcopacy." Add to the mix a more deliberate pontiff, a sprinkling of the traditional Roman squabbles and a more thorough emphasis on consultation, and there are the causes of your backlog.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

For his part, however, Sambi's due diligence has won accolades for his "thoughtfulness" toward the outgoing ordinaries -- many of whom have made no secret of their desire to run for the door as soon as possible. Retiring diocesans have been canvassed on who they think would be a good fit to take their place, and at least some have gotten to see the terna for their successor, with the option of consulting on the traditional shortlist of three. And already, months before he's required to do so, one of 2008's superannuating bishops has submitted his letter of resignation, reportedly with the assurance that his successor will be in place in a timely manner after the retiring bishop's 75th.

The docket is headlined by Baltimore and Detroit, where Cardinals William Keeler and Adam Maida have long seen their letters off and await the other shoe to drop. While some in the provinces have predicted quick appointments, others closer to the situations report that the transitions have yet again been delayed, with the possibility that it could be Advent before either or both of the two see new archbishops. (The US' third over-75 cardinal-archbishop, Edward Egan of New York, is widely expected to remain in office until after the archdiocese's bicentennial celebrations close next April.)

Elsewhere, the archdiocese of Louisville -- where Archbishop Thomas Kelly sent in his papers last summer -- is said to be nearing its day in the sun. But even so, the States still faces the potential of a first-of-its-kind situation, in that it could well be that no American prelate will receive the pallium from Pope Benedict in a month's time. By contrast, Canada's four new archbishops named within the last year will be present, with the possibility that they'll be joined by a yet to be named fifth metropolitan. (An archbishop-elect may receive the garment proper to the office in advance of his installation.)

It's useful to keep in mind that, though Benedict XVI has appointed but three prelates to lead US archdioceses to date, two of the three have been promoted from within the provinces they now (or, in the case of Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis, will soon) head.

The third, Washington DC, only has one suffragan see -- St Thomas in the Virgin Islands... which, apropos of the state of things, is currently vacant.


The Earth is Not an Exile

Not all that long ago, canonizations weren't big news but a seemingly daily occurrence.

John Paul II raised 482 individuals to the honors of the altar during his 27 year reign -- so many that, last month, the Holy See announced that the mandatory memorials listed on the General Roman Calendar will be reviewed as there's not enough room for everyone, even those who've already made the cut. By contrast, Benedict XVI has added but 10 new saints to the rolls so far in his pontificate, and that number will increase by four this Sunday, as the feast of the Trinity sets the backdrop to the current Pope's fourth canonization liturgy, in St Peter's Square.

Among the new class are the priest-catechist George Preca, the first saint of the Catholic mecca of Malta, the 15th century Polish Franciscan Simon of Lipnica, Bl Charles of St Andrew, a 19th century Passionist who settled in Ireland and became known as the "saint of Mount Argus" even in the immediate aftermath of his death, and Marie-Eugenie Milleret, the French-born foundress of the Religious of the Assumption.

The child of parents little more than formally religious, Milleret was said to have had a mystical experience on the day of her first Communion. After a mission at Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral solidified her faith, she founded the community in 1839 with one other young woman. She was 22, and her simple "credo" was innovative for its time in that it signaled not a contemplative charism, but one turned outwards:
I believe that we are in this world and in this particular time to help bring about the Father’s reign in ourselves and in others.

I believe that Jesus Christ delivered us from the past by his cross, so that we might freely work for the fulfillment of the Word of God there where we are.

I do not believe that this earth is a land of exile. I consider it a place of glory for God.

I believe that each of us has a mission on earth. It is simply a question of seeking how God can use us to make his Gospel known and lived.

I believe that we must carry out this mission courageously and by means of faith — the poor means of Jesus Christ. We know that all success comes from Jesus Christ.

I believe in a truly Christian society where God, although invisible, reigns everywhere and is preferred to everything.

To make Jesus Christ known as liberator and King of the world, to teach that everything belongs to him, that he wants to form in each of us the great work of the Kingdom of God and wishes each of us to enter into his plan – either to pray, to suffer or to act – this is for me the beginning and end of all Christian education.

My gaze is fixed on Jesus Christ and the extension of his Kingdom here on earth.
Since Milleret's death in 1898, her foundation has spread to 34 countries around the world, with four houses remaining in the US, to which the RA's arrived in 1919 on the invite of a prelate who got to know the community as a missionary bishop in the Philippines: Dennis Dougherty, the newly-arrived archbishop of Philadelphia.

Thanks to Dougherty's great favor, which enabled it to especially thrive over his 33 year reign as Catholic Philadelphia's first Pharaoh, the Assumptions maintained a particularly close tie to this area through the years. The community maintains two houses in the archdiocese, although their primary foundation of Ravenhill -- a girls' academy based in an early-1800s mansion in the city's northwest -- closed in 1982 and now houses offices and classrooms for the adjacent Philadelphia University. Among Ravenhill's alumnae was a daughter of St Bridget's parish in nearby East Falls: Grace Kelly, the future Hollywood star and princess of Monaco who died in 1982.

On a personal note, I've often said that, though I've never spent a day in a church school, my public school teachers gave me a Catholic education that would give the parochial establishment a run for its money. This is, in large part, due to the reality that many of these mentors and heroes of my formative years had, in the grand tradition of this town, tried their hand at the seminary or religious life before hearing the call to the ministry of the secular classroom.

However "public," though, it was never terribly secular; each saw and lived their work as a vocation in the highest sense of the word, and each kept a love and appreciation for their faith, and an encouragement to keep it, without which this work would've never been possible.

One of these was a former Religious of the Assumption whose family was close to Dougherty. After years of furtive attempts to study the language on my own, she was actually my first formal Italian teacher -- and whatever little I'm able to accomplish in the ancestral tongue is owed directly to her. To say I'm immeasurably grateful is understatement and, given her family's history, her post-convent choice of profession was cryptically fitting; a daylong discussion could be had as to which half of the term "Roman Catholicism" the late cardinal -- who, perfect in all things, died on the 61st anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood (56 years ago tomorrow) -- was more beholden.

Signora's roots and formation were never far off the table, especially at the end of every class, which she'd mark by stopping wherever she was and simply saying "Amen." On those days when the wrap-up ran long, mutters of "Amen" could be heard from the desks in the hope of speeding things up....

Despite the rationale, the word has probably never been heard so much in any other public school in recent decades.

Beatifying Marie-Eugenie Milleret in February 1975 -- the first beatification of that Holy Year -- Pope Paul VI put a question to the crowd. "Isn't Mother Marie-Eugenie our contemporary," Paul asked, "in the problems that she lived with and the solutions that she attempted to bring to them?

"Because they are the intimates of God," he replied, "the saints do not become outdated!"

Amen. Amen... and Amen.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wrapping Up at Aparecida

As the CELAM plenary in Brazil draws to its close, the final message of the assembled bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean is coming to light.

CNS caught an early draft... Here's the skinny:
The bishops are grappling with the fundamental question of how to inspire Catholics to take ownership of their faith, seek a personal conversion that leads them to follow Jesus, and live out that commitment in the church and the world. The church leaders must candidly examine trends in both society and the church that lead some Catholics to join evangelical groups while a much larger number remain Catholic in name only.

The outcome should be pastoral guidelines for Catholics navigating amid the uncertainties of a region marked by explosive urban growth, uncontrolled environmental damage and wildly unequal income distribution that leaves nearly half the region's population without a decent livelihood, spurring massive migration.

At 86 pages, the draft is far from the "brief and agile" document that one bishop promised. The structure is confusing, with overlapping themes resulting in redundancy and inconsistency in the depth with which topics are treated.

Nevertheless, it is a good start that should improve with successive drafts.

The draft begins with an overview of the changing world to which the church must respond, examining issues such as ecology and the faces of the "new excluded," including the elderly, prisoners and victims of trafficking. Some bishops, however, would like to see a more solid theologically based critique of the economic system that has excluded so many people from the fruits of the region's recent economic growth.

In the description of "light and shadows" in the church, many of the strengths listed -- such as catechesis, liturgy, base communities and the use of the media -- are areas that bishops cited in the first two weeks of their conference as needing improvement or reinforcement. The draft describes weaknesses, including an overemphasis on sacraments to the detriment of the other aspects of faith life; financial troubles; clericalism; and discrimination against women and indigenous people. However, it offers few concrete steps toward solutions.

Nearly half the draft is devoted to the theology underlying the bishops' views of discipleship and mission, with specific sections devoted to issues such as vocations and formation. The document emphasizes the need to make Scripture central to Catholic life, a constant theme since the pope's speech May 13. It also notes the centrality of the Eucharist, a difficult challenge in a region with an average of one priest per 7,000 parishioners.

Christian initiation, continuing formation and Catholic education are seen as key to developing a sense of missionary discipleship. This must be further nourished through participation in groups such as base communities or lay movements, which are given relatively equal weight in the document, although they tend to reflect different ideological stances.

Some inconsistencies in the draft language reflect undercurrents of tension, although several observers have said the tension is less overt than it was at the 1992 general conference in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

One inconsistency involves the use of the terms "base ecclesial communities," "ecclesial communities" or "small communities," depending on the section. The difference, which proponents of base communities say is one of substance rather than semantics, apparently reflects differing viewpoints among the members of the 16 subcommittees that drafted the different sections.

The last third of the document describes pastoral priorities that reflect the faces of the "new excluded." It also calls for renovation of church structures, but offers few concrete recommendations for change.

As plans for the fifth general conference developed over the past year and a half, the greatest expectations were not of a document, but of a "great continental mission" that would breathe new life into evangelization.

Little was said about the mission until May 24, when Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil, who now heads the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, raised the subject in the assembly. Afterward, he told journalists that the goal is not to convert non-Catholics, but to reach baptized but inactive Catholics.

Some bishops envision door-to-door canvassing, while others say that is not the main thrust. They must still define how and by whom the mission will be carried out.

One prelate commented that the region's conferences of bishops differ in their degree of enthusiasm and preparedness for such an effort. Another pointed out that before a "great continental mission" can be launched, the church needs high-quality promotional and training materials.

The bigger question, however, is to what kind of church lapsed Catholics are being invited to return. If it is structurally the same one they left, there is no reason to expect them to stay. Unless the bishops answer that question, neither the final document nor the great continental mission will have the desired effect.



Notes from Tucson

Having zipped his diocese past bankruptcy and set fundraising records in its wake, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson is now taking on the nuts-and-bolts of church life in the Arizona diocese of 350,000.

Currently in his sights: ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics.... Viz.:
Some criticize the Church for being harsh, insensitive, unfair and discriminatory to people of same sex orientation. Others say the Church and its bishops are “too tolerant of gays.”
I, too, encounter this broad range of thoughts and feelings.
I have met persons who fear the Church is marginalizing gay persons, driving them away from the Church and making them targets for contempt and even violence.

I have met others who call for a clear denunciation and repudiation by the Church of people of same sex orientation.
Several years ago, I talked about ministry to homosexual persons with our Presbyteral Council (a primary consultative body made up of priests who represent the different regions in our Diocese and key priest advisors). We discussed how we might reach out pastorally to Catholics in our parishes who are gay and to parents and family members who struggle with accepting and loving their sons and daughters who have disclosed their orientation.
The consensus of our discussion was this:
Ministry to homosexual persons is best accomplished at the parish through spiritual direction and the sacrament of Reconciliation.

At the parish, priests need to receive people of same sex orientation with compassion and should assist them pastorally in their efforts to live as disciples of Christ.
I thought then that this was a sound approach to ministry to those with same sex orientation. I still think that, but I also now believe we should be doing more.
Last November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published the document “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care.”
The document calls on diocesan bishops to develop a ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination. It calls pastoral leaders and diocesan bishops to exercise leadership and to provide support for such a ministry.
I met recently with a group of pastoral leaders and parishioners to reflect on this document and to formulate some ideas toward developing a ministry.

The discussion was lively, engaging and wide ranging.
I heard that in whatever ministry we ultimately may develop we must challenge any attitudes, language or actions in the Church and in society that demean people of same sex orientation.
I heard that we need to be clear about the Church’s moral teaching on homosexuality.
I heard that it is important that we articulate a positive vision of how a person of same sex orientation can live in communion with the Church and remain faithful in living as a Catholic....

Some suggested that it would be helpful if there would be a parish where Catholics of same sex orientation could worship in an accepting environment that would help them in living faithfully as Catholics.
The group suggested that pastoral leaders in our parishes – priests, religious, deacons and laity – need catechesis and formation on how to respond pastorally to people of same sex orientation.
There was emphasis in our discussion on these three points: that pastoral leaders must listen carefully to the lived experiences of their people and try to relate the Church’s teaching to those experiences in a convincing way; that while there are some people of same sex orientation who want no part of the Church we need to continue to reach out to them and invite them to return home; and that we need to find ways to assist those with same sex orientation who want to remain in communion with the Church....

Our plan also must challenge any degradation and violence toward homosexual persons in the spirit of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 statement, “On Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” that states, “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been the object of violent malice in speech or action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors, wherever it occurs.”

I am very sensitive to the concerns I have heard from people of same sex orientation that they feel they have no place in our parishes or in the household of faith. We need to consider how we as a Diocese or how I as bishop may be generating such misunderstanding.
And today, in an interview with the local paper, Kicanas -- the former chair of communications for the American bishops and currently secretary of the USCCB -- outs himself... as a White Sox fan.
Though he loves Tucson, Kicanas not surprisingly finds the Magnificent Mile more vibrant than Congress Street....

Favorite team?

"The Chicago White Sox. I'm happy they train in Tucson; that is nice. My great nephew, great niece and niece came out and we went to their baseball games and got autographs."

What are your favorite memories?

"Chicago is a beautiful city and the lakefront in particular is beautiful. When I went to high school at Quigley (Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary — a high school for boys wanting to become clergy) we could walk to the lakefront. The rivers are so dry here in Tucson. When I moved here I kept hearing about these rivers, and the river walk. But there was no water in the rivers."

Monday, May 28, 2007

The "Dialogue" Unto Itself... Again

It's yet another sign of the times that, these days, there's no better Vatican leaker than the Secretary of State, himself.

In an interview with the Turinese La Stampa published at the weekend, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB announced that Benedict XVI will undo the arrangement of March 2006, when the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and Culture were both entrusted to a single cardinal-president (Paul Poupard), with an eye to the eventual consolidation of the two.

(As a matter of precis, the councils were never "downgraded," but simply shared a head; both maintained separate officials and staffs. Their status and competencies continued unchanged.)
The department's return to its former status occurred as Catholic-Muslim dialogue is still suffering the negative effects of Benedict's Regensburg speech last September in which he appeared to equate Islam with violence.

Catholic and Muslim officials on Monday hailed the decision as a positive step that could help improve relations.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in Italy's La Stampa newspaper at the weekend that the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue would again become "a separate department."

Benedict downgraded the office in March 2006 by putting it under joint presidency with the Vatican's culture ministry and removing its president, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, a Briton.

"This would be a very positive thing for Muslims," said a senior Muslim official active in inter-faith dialogue who asked not to be named. He said Muslims had seen the council's downgrading as a sign Benedict was not very interested in Islam.

"I think it's a great idea," said Father Tom Reese, senior fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center and a world-renowned Vatican expert.

In France, home to Europe's largest Muslim minority, the priest in charge of relations with Islam said the change would help him in discussions and debates with Muslims.

"This is a sign, to Muslims and people of other faiths, that the policies of Pope John Paul will continue," Father Christophe Roucou said, noting Muslims respected the late Polish-born pontiff for his pioneering openness towards other faiths.

Vatican sources said Bertone's comments meant the department would soon get its own head again.
The other shoe, of course, is who gets the job. Though unlikely, a full U-turn would see the return of the dicastery's former president Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, whose exile from Rome to the nunciature in Cairo was met with near-grief in the interreligious community, particularly its Muslim contingent, with which the English-born prelate had a particular closeness and expertise. (Fitzgerald speaks Arabic fluently.)

The restoration of a full-time head at Interreligious Dialogue would likely coincide with a new president of the Pontifical Council for Culture -- Poupard is over a year beyond the mandatory retirement age of 75. Other senior curialists who've passed that mark include Cardinals Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Jose Saraiva Martins CMF of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and Sergio Sebastiani, the Holy See's economic guru.

In the coming months, however, a flood more will join them, including the Major Penitentiary Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, who turns 75 in July, Cardinals Renato Martino (Justice and Peace/Migrants and Itinerants) and Francis Arinze (Divine Worship) in November.

In 2008, the over-75 group of curial heads increases even more with the superannuations of Cardinals Javier Lozano Barragan (Health Care Workers) in January and Walter Kasper (Christian Unity) in March.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Meet the Ordinands

Ordination Season's in full swing here in the States, and the papers are taking notice...

Yesterday in Paterson, a retiree whose wife died in 2000 became the "Reverend Grandfather":
After three blissful Italian vacations, the striking scenery of Sorrento had settled snugly into Carmen Buono's memory. Glorious sunsets off the hotel balcony. Stunning cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. The woman he loved -- his wife, Barbara -- at his side.

Then, in 2002, at age 63, Buono returned to Sorrento with friends, one of them a Franciscan monk. He again inhaled the coastal beauty, aching more than a little as he thought of Barbara, who had died two years earlier. And he felt drawn, for the first time, to voice what had been on his mind for months.

He wanted to become a Roman Catholic priest.

The monk replied Buono was too old to join the order. But once home in New Jersey, Buono spoke with Paterson Diocese clergy, who seemed open, and in 2004 he entered a specialized seminary. Now, on Saturday, he will be ordained, becoming one of a small number of Catholic priests with children. And apparently the oldest new Catholic priest in the country.

The Church is ordaining 475 priests in the United States this year. In New Jersey, the Paterson Diocese will ordain four; the Newark Archdiocese, 13; the Trenton and Camden dioceses, five apiece; and the Metuchen Diocese, one.

Buono's age -- he turns 69 on June 17 -- makes him an anomaly among priests even in a Church where the ages of newly ordained priests have been rising. The average age is 35 this year, up from 28 in the 1960s and 26 in the 1940s. As a national shortage of Catholic priests has worsened, bishops have come to rely more on "second-career priests."

Buono, a retired therapist and public school principal who raised a family in West Caldwell, says he decided to become a priest be cause he wanted to exert his energy in a meaningful, spiritual way after his wife died. And while he liked dating, he did not want to re marry.

"I was committed to her in the marriage, as she was to me, and with that ... not here all of a sud den, I knew I needed something more," he said this week. "And it directed me toward my vocation. I feel it (the priesthood) is absolutely the right thing for my life, because of ... what had occurred."

Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli, who will ordain Buono and three younger men at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Paterson, says he is unfazed by the prospect of a priesthood starting at a time of life when most people contemplate retirement.

"Moses was 80 and Aaron was 83 when they were given their call," said Serratelli. "Look at the pope: He (Benedict XVI) took over running the church at 78.

"Age has changed. The way we look at age has changed. A lot de pends on health, energy and commitment. ... Like any new priest, he has to learn, but he has a lot to offer and he'll approach the ministry like a very zealous 68-year-old person. He's very energetic."
Lest anyone forget, the three years since Serratelli's arrival in the Northwest Jersey diocese -- Catholic population: 420,000 -- have seen its number of men in formation zoom from 6 to 38.

Meanwhile, in the Motor City, Cardinal Adam Maida presided at the first solo ordination in the modern history of the archdiocese of Detroit:
The ordination of a single Catholic priest in Detroit on Saturday, when dozens of young men once stood nervously before the altar in this annual ritual, was a poignant reminder of the dire shortage of clergy in the country's largest denomination.

The day focused on the Rev. Anthony Camilleri, but Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida urged the crowd to think of other men who can follow his example. Looking out across the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, he said, "We pray that there are others among you -- young men who may follow God's calling, too."...

Next spring, a half dozen priests are expected to be ordained, although some could have second thoughts before then, said the Rev. Jim Bilot, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

"I'm praying that more Catholics become aware that they need to play a role in this by encouraging people they feel are called to consider the priesthood," Bilot said.

One of the priests who laid his hands on the head of Camilleri to complete his ordination was Msgr. Michael LeFevre, who is not only rector of the cathedral but also is the pastor in charge of supervising three other nearby parishes. Because there are so few full-time priests, LeFevre is able to keep all four parishes running only by continually recruiting priests, mainly men who have weekday jobs outside the church, to help him out with weekend masses. This kind of parish clustering is becoming a common part of Catholic life across the United States. There are 70 million U.S. Catholics, including 1.5 million in metro Detroit.

"I was ordained 25 years ago," LeFevre said after the mass. "And, even back then we could see what was coming. We'd talk about, 'So, what will we do when the shortage gets bad?' Now, we're living right in the middle of it."

Despite the situation, everyone at the cathedral seemed to have enthusiastic praise for Camilleri, who has been assigned to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion.

"He's got such energy and compassion for people," said Julie Owens, who taught Camilleri in the early 1990s when he was a student at St. Mary's high school in Orchard Lake. Owens was so eager to express her praise to her former student that she scurried out of the mass fast enough to be first in a line of hundreds who greeted Camilleri in a sometimes rainy outdoor reception.

Camilleri, 30, grew up in Farmington and says he felt called to ministry while working on a bachelor of science degree in health and fitness at Central Michigan University. He switched career goals and spent nearly eight years in programs at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

Camilleri added a personal touch with a salute to his father, Anthony Camilleri. As the mass ended, the new priest had an opportunity to address the crowd -- and quickly focused on his father in the front row.

Describing how his father always carried a rosary and made no secret of reciting a daily cycle of prayers, Camilleri told his father, "You taught me that praying is something that a man can do and should do."

David Crumm/Detroit Free Press


"In One Place, Together"

Before all else, thanks to so many for the e.mails wondering whether I was: 1. alive and 2. OK. Thankfully, I'm both... and more than just sometimes, I find that to be a miracle in itself.

Away from all the facts and figures, one thing I'm trying to burnish is living liturgically, living in the calendar, and it seems the days between Ascension and Pentecost really sucked me in. This feast is often called the church's "birthday," and no anniversary or milestone for anything we're part of is duly observed without a moment of reflection, a time for taking stock of things, figuring out what's working and what isn't, and resolving to take the best of the past (while leaving its lesser elements behind) that the future might be better still.

We each have to do this for ourselves, and more than just sometimes -- I've learned that, especially in my own journey, if I don't do it with something of a relative frequency, others tend to experience the consequences rather easily, and that doesn't help anything. So thanks for the patience.

The timing of this mini-retreat was particularly apropos to today's celebration. "Going underground" is exactly what the early church did for the ten (or, in much of today's Catholic world, seven) days after the Son's departure and the Spirit's descent. They didn't know what the next step was or how it would make itself manifest, but "devot[ing] themselves to prayer," the account in today's First Reading tells us they were all "together in one place." And so, together, there came the "tongues as of fire" that split off and "came to rest on each of them."

...and only from there did they go forward ...only from that being in the same place and encountering the same phenomenon could they go forward and the work begin.

Of course, it was the same fire that parted and "came to rest" on those in attendance in the Cenacle that day, but what it brought out in each was unique to the one who was receiving it. That doesn't mean that the gifts enflamed in one or another was greater or lesser than the rest -- each was as different as each was necessary, and the project that lay ahead couldn't be its best, truest and most effective self unless everything the fire brought out in those who received it was incorporated inside the Upper Room and advanced in the great outdoors.

Sure, fire can destroy. But it also purifies, it tests and tries, it instinctively calls to those fumbling in the darkness to come and see -- and in that latter sense, it unites, it enlightens, it helps us see things more clearly than we would've were it not there.

Ergo, just as it was on that "birthday" two millenia ago, that fire's still in this place -- or, at least, it's still supposed to be. There are more than a few out there who need to see it, and that's not a call to start stacking up old couches and score a couple gallons of fuel or lighter fluid. Let 'em see it in you, may we see it in each other, and don't forget that it all begins with, albeit figuratively, being in that same room, together in the same place. Even if it doesn't always mean every one is up to the same thing or meshes instantly and perfectly, keep in mind that it still comes from the same Source.

Of course, we have a name for all this: the vocation (for our newcomers: yes, they're more than just to the priesthood) or the charism.

In layman's terms, it could well be called "the thing that makes you burn."

And what's yours?

Whatever the answer, go on and let it burn... burn to shine.

No less than B16 had a few things to say about this oft-neglected aspect of the life of the "birthday church" earlier this year, in his Q&A with the clergy of Rome.

Take it away, Boss:
It seems to me that we have two fundamental rules.... The first was given to us by St Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians: do not extinguish charisms. If the Lord gives us new gifts we must be grateful, even if at times they may be inconvenient. And it is beautiful that without an initiative of the hierarchy but with an initiative from below, as people say, but which also truly comes from on High, that is, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, new forms of life are being born in the Church just as, moreover, they were born down the ages.

At first, they were always inconvenient. Even St Francis was very inconvenient, and it was very hard for the Pope to give a final canonical form to a reality that by far exceeded legal norms. For St Francis, it was a very great sacrifice to let himself be lodged in this juridical framework, but in the end this gave rise to a reality that is still alive today and will live on in the future: it gives strength, as well as new elements, to the Church's life.

I wish to say only this: Movements have been born in all the centuries. Even St Benedict at the outset was a Movement. They do not become part of the Church's life without suffering and difficulty. St Benedict himself had to correct the initial direction that monasticism was taking. Thus, in our century too, the Lord, the Holy Spirit, has given us new initiatives with new aspects of Christian life. Since they are lived by human people with their limitations, they also create difficulties.

So the first rule is: do not extinguish Christian charisms; be grateful even if they are inconvenient.

The second rule is: the Church is one; if Movements are truly gifts of the Holy Spirit, they belong to and serve the Church and in patient dialogue between Pastors and Movements, a fruitful form is born where these elements become edifying for the Church today and in the future.

This dialogue is at all levels....

Now, as a synthesis of the two fundamental rules, I would say: gratitude, patience and also acceptance of the inevitable sufferings. In marriage too, there is always suffering and tension. Yet, the couple goes forward and thus true love matures. The same thing happens in the Church's communities: let us be patient together.

Let us be grateful to the Holy Spirit for the gifts he has given to us. Let us be obedient to the voice of the Spirit, but also clear in integrating these elements into our life; lastly, this criterion serves the concrete Church and thus patiently, courageously and generously, the Lord will certainly guide and help us.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Consistory: Wednesday or Bust

Earlier in the month, the lion's share of indications -- including a sudden curtailing of curial business on 28 June -- pointed to the likelihood of a consistory for the creation of as many as 20 new cardinals on that date.

A new intake to the Pope's senate on the vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul -- the first on Rome's patronal feast since 1991 -- would coincide with the distribution of the pallium to the metropolitan archbishops named in the past year, and the 30th anniversary of Joseph Ratzinger's own reception of the red hat. (On a side note, Benedict XVI marks his 30th as a bishop this week; the pontiff was ordained archbishop of Munich and Freising on 28 May 1977, the vigil of Pentecost.)

According to the latest, however, it's looking as if the smell of fresh scarlet might just be held past the summer, possibly 'til October or beyond. It wouldn't be the first time a B16 initiative hit a delay -- first slated for an Easter release, the promised letter to Chinese Catholics was said to be hitting print in time for this Pentecost, but has not yet materialized; plus, of course, there's the ever-elusive motu proprio on the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, which several curial officials have openly confirmed as imminent as reports have tipped it for a May publication. And these are but two among others.

While the Chinese letter's delay is seemingly tied in with the heightened stakes of Sino-Vatican relations after the April death of Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan, the senior prelate of the state-backed Patriotic Association, and the document "freeing" the pre-Conciliar liturgy has been bogged down by complaints from various episcopal conferences and resistance in the Roman Curia, the cause of a seeming consistory holdup isn't as clear. A late fall date would give Benedict two more electoral slots to fill -- Cardinals Edmund Szoka and Angelo Sodano turn 80, the age of ineligibility to vote in a conclave, in September and November, respectively -- or the Pope could simply be biding his time, using the period to fill more top slots in his Curia and the global church, enabling him to bump more of his appointees to the front of the "red line," as it were.

Cardinals-designate receive the phone call informing them of their impending elevation three days in advance of the papal announcement, which is traditionally given by the Pope at either the his Sunday Angelus or the Wednesday General Audience. At present, there's no detectable ground movement of the kind seen in the run-up to the calling of the consistories in 2003 and 2006.

The June plan could still be put into effect, however, with the last theoretical date for its implementation being this Wednesday, the 30th, one day later than John Paul II's announcement of the class of 1991. Barring that, the traveling circuit will have to put its dreams of the weeklong festival away... for a few months.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Patroness of Peace... and the Impossible

Those who know the unique little corner of the world where I was raised are well-aware that all the cars idled on the traffic islands of South Broad Street over the last nine days weren't the usual abandoned vehicles, just the traditional parking lot for The Novena.

Today is the feast of St Rita of Cascia, the 14th century Augustinian nun known as a "patroness of hopeless causes." Her national shrine in Philly draws pilgrims all year, but the usual number goes through the ceiling over the nine days leading up to today's observance, which always begins with a candlelight Mass and vigil the evening before.

Still staffed by the Augustinians who founded the parish and built its sumptuous church, the recently-renovated shrine (featuring the above mural) marks its centenary this year. But the mass pilgrimages are nothing new at Broad & Ellsworth, where the novena (scroll down for the prayers) continues throughout the year each Wednesday.

In 1998, in one of his final treks to his native city, the late John Cardinal O'Connor of New York brought a group from St Rita's parish on Staten Island. He had previously promised to lead a parish trip to the saint's tomb in Italy, but such was his schedule that the "next best thing" down the Jersey Turnpike became the only feasible option.

As a boy, the cardinal's mother took him by trolley-car and foot to the shrine, where she gave thanks for being cured of a year of blindness in her son's youth, an occurrence she credited to St Rita. Celebrating Mass for the group, the son of Southwest Philly wistfully recalled the old trolley routes, the streets and the neighborhood churches which, seven decades prior, he passed along the way.

The sentimental return to his beloved hometown also accomplished an ulterior purpose. Having longed to be the archbishop of Philadelphia even after his appointment to New York, O'Connor pulled a fast one, conspicuously bringing along his pallium.

Though well outside his ecclesiastical province, the band of lamb's wool proper to the local metropolitan wasn't left in the sacristy.

National Shrine of St Rita of Cascia


Great White Way + Great White(-wearing) Pope = Wojtyla Festival

Last week, John Paul II would've marked his 87th birthday. Yet even in death, the late pontiff -- an actor and playwright in his younger days, and a poet almost to the end of his 27-year occupancy of Peter's chair -- keeps on finding new audiences in the most unexpected of places.

Sure, the Tonys might be the "purple rain" of Broadway, but the theatre's returned the compliment: Papa Wojtyla's gotten new on-stage buzz thanks to a monthlong festival featuring four of his plays.

It even made the NYPost:
“I don’t know if anyone has attempted this sort of festival before in New York City,” says Michelle Kafel, associate producer. “Who would ever imagine John Paul II off-Broadway?”

Peter Dobbins, the theater’s co-founder, did.

Dobbins found a translation of the pope’s plays in a Texas bookshop 20 years ago, and was taken with them while he was a young performer. “If you sat and read it in your room, you would think this was kind of deep and heady,” Dobbins says. “But when actors say it, it becomes a different experience, it becomes light and beautiful.”

The theater group - which has produced everything from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” to “Linnea,” a retelling of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” - had been talking about putting on the plays for years, but only recently secured the rights from Pope John Paul II’s translator Boleslaw Taborski. Taborski, via e-mail, says the pope actually wrote one other play, “David,” which has never been found....

The first of the two plays being staged this month, “The Jeweler’s Shop,” is a meditation on love and God, which involves six people: a joyous married couple, an estranged couple and a child from each of those relationships who are set to walk down the aisle.

“This is people giving glimpses into their personal life,” says Elizabeth Wirth, an actress in “Jeweler’s Shop.” The play is “giving voice to a lot of questions that we all have often, but don’t ask out loud: Is this the right person? Is this going to last?” The pope finished the play in 1960 when he was the [auxiliary] bishop of Krakow, and was inspired to write by his counseling sessions with parishioners, says Dobbins.

“Our God’s Brother,” the other play beginning Wednesday, written from 1940 to 1950, is based on a 19th-century Polish freedom fighter and artist named Adam “Brother Albert” Chmielowski, and focuses on his struggle between living the life of an artist and serving the poor and the oppressed. Dobbins says the play mirrors a similar quandary faced by the pope, who was ordained as a priest in 1946 and later canonized Chmielowski a saint.

The plays, which each run about an hour-and-a-half, are not without risk - they rely on the spoken word, rather than the flash of special effects. But the theater, which stresses its trying not to push any message or agenda, hopes the audience will give the pope’s work a chance.

“This is really about reflecting in, rather than being saturated on the outside,” says Wirth. “I have a lot more in common with these characters than I do with Spider-Man.”
The festival runs through 17 June.


Papal Lobbying 101

Known for lending his bully pulpit to heighten the visibility of oft-obscure initiatives and observances, at a Sunday Regina Caeli last year the Pope plugged the UN World Food Program's annual Walk the World day "to call for an end to child hunger," according to its organizers.

This year, the WFP wanted the Walk to get another papal mention... From Rome, TIME's Israely tells of how it got done:
Matt Keller spent a decade in Washington lobbying senators and congressmen on campaign finance reform and ethics legislation. But lobbying the Pope presented a unique challenge to the 42-year-old former senior staffer at Common Cause, who could once get John McCain or Warren Beatty on the phone. Keller has, since 2003, worked for the United Nations World Food Program in Rome, and his mission, ahead of the Pope's trip to Brazil, was simple: get Benedict XVI to mention the aid group's annual worldwide anti-hunger march, Walk the World, which coincided with the final day of the pontiff's trip. And Benedict could be assumed to be amenable: After all, he has repeatedly called for action against hunger, and even commended last year's Walk the World march during a weekly prayer in Rome. Still, a papal endorsement amid the raised visibility of the Brazil trip would be both a bigger boost and a bigger challenge, given the clamor of demands on the papal agenda while he's abroad.

Getting access to the Pope proved incomparably more difficult than lobbying Washington lawmakers. "Talking to someone like me is part of certain people's job description [on Capitol Hill]," says Keller. "At the Vatican, it all seems so shrouded in mystery." But as an advocate for the global poor, his objective is not crafting legislation, but "raising visibility." And on that front, Keller quips, "The Pope is a 2-for-1 deal. He's world famous, and can speak with moral authority."...

Keller made one last push, just 36 hours before the Pope headed for Sao Paulo. He went in person to Duncan MacLaren, executive director of the worldwide Catholic charity Caritas, at the group's Vatican headquarters....

"It's a long process. You can't just ring up the Pope. You have to use your natural contacts in the [Vatican bureaucracy]. It's Italian culture here too — who you know is important."

By the Pope's second day in Brazil — with Keller in Sao Paulo monitoring his every word and simultaneously working with a local group to organize thousands to join the march on May 13 — an email arrived from Lenz: the Pope's top aides had been made aware of the hunger event. On May 12, the Pope's final evening in Brazil, Keller got an email that left him elated. Lenz had been told that the Pope would indeed mention the march the following day during a speech to hundreds of thousands of Brazilians.
Yet another reminder that Rome is more issue-oriented than many would give it credit for... and it's good to see said attribute getting more ink.


Press Week, Peace Week

Up in Gotham -- that's New York, for the uninitiated -- it's almost like the Catholic version of Fleet Week.

The national youth ministry forum ended earlier today (but not without the tedium of bearing with yours truly yesterday), the Catholic Media Convention begins in the morning, and it's also the annual Catholic Social Teaching Seminar for college students hosted by the Path to Peace Foundation, which is an auxiliary of the Holy See Mission to the UN (you know, the vanguard of the church's "green" contingent).

Each gathering's drawing its share of heavy-hitters, but today's address given to the latter group by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver on "Religious Tolerance and the Common Good" is particularly noteworthy, even bordering on the epic.

Fulltext here... snips:
I have two tasks today. I want to talk about religious tolerance and intolerance. And I also want to talk about you. As college students, you’re already young adults. In a few years you’ll have jobs and families. Some of you will be doctors, teachers, or business leaders. Some of you will go into politics or the military. Many of you will have children. And all of you will be responsible.

What I mean by “responsible” is this. St. Paul tells us: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 14:20). You’re about to inherit the most powerful nation in history. Each of you has the talent, goodwill, and energy to use that power well.

God made you for a purpose. The world needs the gifts he gave you. Adulthood brings power. Power brings responsibility. And the meaning of your life will hinge on a simple, basic choice. Will you engage the world with your heart and brains and faith, and work to make it a better place—not just for yourself and the people you love but also for people you don’t even know whose survival depends on your service to the common good? Or will you wrap yourself in a blanket of noise and toys and consumer junk, and stay a child?

God gave you a free will. How you use that gift is your choice—but it’s a choice you won’t be able to avoid. And that choice has consequences.

I want you to remember the women and men I mention today. Remember them because they come from our own time, and they were your age when they made their own choices.

Edith Stein was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Germany in 1891. She lost her faith in God early in her life. But she had brilliant mind and a hunger for the deeper questions about the world. So she became a student of, and then an assistant to, the philosopher Edmund Husserl. By the time she was thirty, Stein was one of the most promising young intellectuals in Europe.

On a summer evening in 1921, she picked up a copy of St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. She read it without stopping through the night. Later she wrote, “When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth.” Six months later she was baptized into Christ as a Catholic. She tried to enter religious life almost immediately, but her spiritual directors disagreed. They asked her to stay in the secular world and use her intellect and teaching skills to bring others to Jesus Christ.

She did that until 1933, when the Third Reich barred anyone of Jewish origin from teaching. In 1934, she joined the Carmelite order, where she continued her research and scholarship. In 1939, as anti-Semitism became even more vicious in Germany, she wrote, “I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death . . . so that the Lord will be accepted by His people and that His Kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world.”

In August 1942, the Gestapo arrested Stein and many other Jewish Catholics as a reprisal against Catholic bishops who had publicly condemned Nazi racism. She was quickly shipped to Auschwitz, where she was gassed almost immediately. In October 1998, Pope John Paul II canonized her as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a confessor and martyr of the Catholic faith.

Stein chose to engage the world with her intellect, through persuasion and reason, and with her heart through prayer. Others made a similar choice using different skills. The young Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer organized a movement called the Confessing Church among German Protestants to resist Adolph Hitler. He had several chances to save himself by studying and teaching in America. But he returned to Germany to actively work against the Nazi regime. He was caught and eventually hanged just weeks before the end of the war.

He wasn’t alone. Sophie and Hans Scholl—along with Christopher Probst and many other young German university students—were murdered by the Third Reich for their nonviolent resistance work with the White Rose movement in 1943. The Scholls and Probst all came from active Christian backgrounds. Probst converted to the Catholic faith shortly before he was executed.

I have one final example. In Russia at the end of World War II, a young Soviet captain made the mistake of criticizing Josef Stalin in a private letter in 1945. For that crime he spent the next eight years in prison camps and three more years in exile. But his experience turned out to be a catastrophe for the regime. Out of his own suffering and the suffering of thousands of other victims he saw in the gulag, Alexander Solzhenitsyn developed into one of the great writers of the twentieth century, and one of the great modern champions of human freedom.

What leaves the deepest impression about Solzhenitsyn’s work is his Christian spirit. He went into the gulag as an atheist. He was a Christian when he came out. What he saw in the Soviet prison camps, including the persecution and murder of tens of thousands of religious believers, changed him permanently.

Here’s my point. People who take the question of human truth, freedom and meaning seriously will never remain silent about it. They can’t. They’ll always act on what they believe, even at the cost of their reputations and lives. That’s the way it should be. Religious faith is always personal, but it’s never private. It always has social consequences, or it isn’t real. And this is why any definition of “tolerance” that tries to turn religious faith into a private idiosyncrasy, or a set of personal opinions that we can have at home but that we need to be quiet about in public, is doomed to fail.

The mentality of suspicion toward religion is becoming its own form of intolerance. I have seen a kind of secular intolerance develop in our own country over the past two decades. The modern secular view of the world assumes that religion is superstitious and false; that it creates division and conflict; and that real freedom can only be ensured by keeping God out of the public square.

But if we remove God from public discourse, we also remove the only authority higher than political authority, and the only authority that guarantees the sanctity of the individual. If the twentieth century taught us anything, it’s that modern states tend to eat their own people, and the only thing stopping this is a resistance based in the human spirit but anchored in a higher authority—which almost always means religious witness.

You know, there’s a reason why “spirituality” is so popular in the United States today and religion is so criticized. Private spirituality can be quite satisfying. But it can also become a designer experience. In fact, the word spirituality can mean just about anything a person wants it to mean. It’s private, it’s personal, and, ultimately, it doesn’t place any more demands on the individual than what he or she wants.

Religion is a very different creature. The word religion comes from the Latin word religare—to bind. Religious believers bind themselves to a set of beliefs. They submit themselves to a community of faith with shared convictions and hopes. A community of believers has a common history. It also has a shared purpose and future that are much bigger than any political authority. And that has implications. Individuals pose no threat to any state. They can be lied to, bullied, arrested, or killed. But communities of faith do pose a threat. Religious witness does have power, and communities of faith are much harder to silence or kill....

As Catholics we have a duty to treat all people, regardless of their beliefs, with justice, charity, mercy, prudence, patience, and understanding. We’re not asked to “tolerate” them but to love them, which is a much more demanding task. Obviously, tolerance is an important democratic working principle. Most of the time, it’s a good and vital thing. But tolerating lies about the nature of the human person is a sin. Tolerating grave evil in a society is an equally grave evil. And using “tolerance” as an excuse for not living and witnessing Jesus Christ in our private lives and in our public actions is not an act of civility. It’s a form of cowardice.

Remember that courage is also a true Christian virtue. The Epistle of James tells us to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (1:22). James also says that “faith without works is dead” (2:20). And Jesus himself tells us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19). Jesus didn’t say, “unless you’re in college” or “unless you’re an American.” He said, “make disciples of all nations,” and he was talking to you and me. Right now, in our time.

How can this command from Christ himself fit in with ideas like interreligious dialogue and interfaith peace? Catholics who really study, understand, and love their faith believe the following things.

First, every human person has an inviolable dignity and inalienable rights as a child of God made in his image. No other person or outside power has the authority to violate those rights.

Second, we should sincerely respect every element of truth and beauty embodied in other religious communities. We have an obvious family bond with other Christians and a special reverence for the Jewish people as our elder brothers in the faith. We should also seek to build mutual respect with Muslims, who claim their own descent from Abraham. But our goodwill should extend to every sincere expression of humanity’s search for God, including especially the great religious traditions of the East, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Third—and we should never, ever try to diminish this fact—while all religions have some elements of truth, all religions are not equal. Only Jesus Christ is Lord. Only Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one is saved except through him—even if other people don’t know or accept him by name. No other way to the Father exists, except through Jesus Christ.

Fourth, only the Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ in its fullness, and therefore the Catholic Church teaches with his authority.

Fifth, the Church has the duty to preach Jesus Christ and propose the truth of God’s revelation. But she can’t coerce anyone to believe the truth without violating the rights of the individual person and betraying the message of the gospel. In other words, every person is free to accept or reject the message of salvation.

Sixth and finally, every person has a right to freedom of conscience and the serious duty to follow his or her conscience. But conscience never develops in a vacuum. Conscience is never just an exercise of personal opinion or preference. Every person has the obligation to form his or her conscience in the light of God’s truth. And for all men and women, in every age and every culture, the truth about God and the human person is taught in a complete way only by the Catholic faith.

The choices we make about our religious beliefs matter not just in this world but also in the next. God created us for heaven, but we arrive there by living the witness of his love right here and now. We have a duty to pursue the truth, to live it and preach it to others. And that means we need to respect the beliefs and greatness of other people and work with them to build a more humane world in every legitimate way we can. But we can never allow that to stop us from witnessing and advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ with every breath we take. The only guarantee of real human freedom is God, and the truest path to God is through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Earlier I mentioned the names of Edith Stein, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the members of the White Rose, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It can be tempting to think of them as heroes who lived in an extreme time, a different time, and therefore remote from our experience. But today is your time, and it isn’t so very different.

Chancery for Sale, Part Deux

First LA, and now -- even though the official word says speculation is "premature" -- it's looking as if Boston might follow suit:
The Archdiocese of Boston, which for decades has run one of the nation’s largest Catholic communities out of its stately Brighton Chancery, is exploring a move out of Boston to a low-key suburban office park.

Archdiocese officials are weighing plans to move Chancery operations, as well as Catholic Charities and several other units, now spread out over several locations, to one central location in a red brick Braintree office building, said Thomas Flatley, a major church benefactor and developer who owns the property.

Flatley said the building at 66 Brooks Drive “is only nine years old and would work well for them.” At 160,000 square feet, the building, which is in between tenants, is large enough for hundreds of employees.

Flatley also hinted he would not be charging a market rate rent, if and when lease terms are ironed out. Any move is likely a year or two down the line, though, he cautioned.

“How can I charge the house of the Lord $25 a square foot?” Flatley asked. “We will treat them reasonably.”

The Archdiocese, in a statement, did not directly address the Braintree proposal, though it indicated there may be other options on the table as well. “Speculation that the Archdiocese is moving its central operations from Brighton is premature at this point. We have been studying the long-term needs of the administrative offices of the Archdiocese and are exploring several scenarios,” the statement by spokesman Terry Donilon said....

By moving out of its Brighton offices, the Archdiocese, under a deal struck in 2004, would have the option to sell the property to neighboring Boston College for $20 million.

Monday, May 21, 2007

PA's First... Priestless Parish

Speaking of Pittsburgh -- faced with an intensifying shortage of clergy, the diocese has named its first "parish life collaborator":
Sister Dorothy Pawlus, 49, will assume many of the administrative duties at St. Bartholomew Parish after the Rev. David J. Bonnar concludes his six-year term as pastor next month. Sacramental duties -- such as saying Mass, hearing confessions, and performing baptisms and weddings -- will be performed by the Rev. James A. McDonough of St. Regis Parish in Oakland.

The steady decline in the number of priests serving the diocese's 214 parishes prompted then-Bishop Donald Wuerl last spring to approve a plan to appoint parish life collaborators in parishes with no resident priest. Two dozen priests in the Diocese of Pittsburgh serve as pastors for two or more parishes.

The parish life collaborator will have 40 responsibilities, including worship, education, pastoral service and administration.

"This is sort of a trial," said the Rev. Ronald P. Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese. "It's the first time in our diocese, the first time in the state of Pennsylvania, and we need to look at it and see if it is as effective as it can be."

In the year since the new position was announced, seven applicants -- two deacons, two lay women, a lay man and two nuns -- have been approved. Others will be announced in the months ahead.

"If there ever were enough priests in the future where we could staff parishes with priests, then it's possible that the role of the parish life collaborator would not be necessary any longer," Father Lengwin said. "But that's not the way the trend is going. We're expecting that there will be more parishes in the future that will also have parish life collaborators."

Father Lengwin said the diocese has high hopes for the program, which has been modeled after programs that have worked in other parts of the country for decades. And while Sister Dorothy is the first parish life collaborator, he said it would be wrong to place the burden of the local program's success on her.

"She's quite capable," he said, "but different parishes are unique in their own way. There's a lot of cooperation that needs to take place here."

A Day in the Wuerlpool

Though he was appointed to Washington a year ago last week, Pittsburgh's still keeping a close (and fond) eye on its native son and eleventh ordinary, now Archbishop Donald Wuerl.

Recently -- in a May Sweeps coup -- the Steel City's NBC affiliate traveled to DC to spend a day with Wuerl, and quite a day it was -- his keynote appearance at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, a White House meeting with President Bush on the future of Catholic education, and the annual dinner of the capital's John Carroll Society.

As B16's most prominent US appointee to date mused on politicians, Pennsylvania and potholes, it's worth noting that, referring to the hometown where he led the church for 18 years, Wuerl -- systematic in his thinking and precise in his language -- still says "we." That the 66 year-old prelate misses the 'Burgh much is no secret; having made several trips back over the last year, he returned most recently to receive an honorary doctorate from St Vincent's University, located at the Benedictine archabbey in Latrobe.

Of course, since Wuerl's transfer to Washington, the city's hasn't just been missing Wuerl but, in more general terms, a diocesan bishop. The wait continues and, as things stand, is looking to stretch through the summer... if not longer.

Then again, as the locals keep saying, "We already have a bishop..."

...and just because his mandate is on an interim basis doesn't mean his stock isn't rising.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Yanks in Aparecida

Opened by Pope Benedict last week at the Marian (Redemptorist) Shrine of Aparecida in Brazil, the CELAM plenary continues for another ten days. Each morning's session of the decennial summit of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean begins with the Eucharist celebrated in the shrine basilica by a different prelate from each country.

As previously mentioned, alongside senior Vatican officials and the heads of other major episcopal conferences from the global church, a five-member delegation from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is participating in the gathering.

CNS caught up with 'em the other day:
The United States was "an unspoken theme" in the first days of the gathering, as bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean described problems related to immigration and globalization, said Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., an observer at the May 13-31 Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean.

"There is an undercurrent that many of the things that affect Latin America have their origin in the United States," Bishop Ramirez said.

Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, headed the U.S. delegation, which included Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas; Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto of Orange, Calif.; and Msgr. Carlos Quintana Puente, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat for the Church in Latin America.

Bishop Skylstad was one of four bishops from outside Latin America and the Caribbean who could both speak and vote at the meeting. The others were the presidents of the bishops' conferences of Canada, Spain and Portugal. All four countries have large numbers of Latin American immigrants.

Being granted a vote in the conference was "a bit of a surprise," as well as a sign of the close collaboration between the Catholic Church in the U.S. and the Catholic Church in Latin America, especially in Mexico and Central America, Bishop Skylstad said.

"I'm here to listen and to learn what the situation here is so that we can be of greater assistance and solidarity" with the church in Latin America, he said.

Besides immigration, other common concerns of the church in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres include "evangelization, the need for conversion, the need to be more people of the word, (and) the need to deal with justice issues," he said....

"That happens in the United States as well," Bishop Skylstad said. "It calls us to ask ourselves (if we are) doing things as well as we should be -- whether it's our liturgical celebrations, whether it's our continued formation of people, whether it's an active faith community that really reaches out and cares about people."

While "it's easy to criticize evangelicals," he said, the Latin American bishops are focusing on what the church is "not doing that we should be doing that will attract people and hold them and be a genuine Catholic community of faith."
And what would a CELAM piece be without a line from the gathering's most-quoted prelate?
"We feel a shared responsibility for the evangelization of Hispanics" in the United States," said Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. "I would like to propose that each diocese collaborate with the bishops of the United States in the evangelization of their own people" who have migrated.