Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Evening Remix

Here's a sampling from the Wide World o' Church:
  • As pundits and politicos swirl around the remains of the White House's "grand compromise" on immigration reform, the US hierarchy's senior immigrant has lent his voice to the church's efforts to keep the issue on the front burner. Penning an op-ed yesterday in his hometown San Antonio Express-News, Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote that despite last week's Senate defeat of the bipartisan deal, the issue "won't go away, no matter how much politicians would like it to," saying that while it's a given that "our system is broken and past fixing," the time had come "to summon the courage, the compassion and the spirit of compromise we need." Born in Mexico, the nation's top Hispanic churchman -- a numerary of Opus Dei -- wrote that the heated debate had led people to be "scared now, expressing fears in angry and polarizing rhetoric," noting among the "legitimate concerns" that "we're afraid we're mired in a foreign war we might not win." However, saying that he spoke from the vantage of "a Catholic archbishop and a proud American citizen," Gomez exhorted the political class to be mindful that "we can't legislate out of fear."
  • If this one were a post all it's own, its headline would be something like "Heading For the Door, Brighton Rector Conjures Salem." Brighton, of course, is shorthand for Boston's St John's Seminary, whose library recently formed part of the sale of a second chunk of the archdiocese's onetime central campus to neighboring Boston College (price tag: $65 million). And the latter refers to the site of the famous witch trials of the late 1600s. So, why Salem, you ask? Because one can almost hear Dominican Fr John Farren seeking to resurrect the charges against the incoming Jesuits. A month before his term was set to expire, Farren jumped ship in advance after the archdiocese announced the BC sale, and his briefing to the seminary board and letter of resignation were leaked to the Boston Globe, where fireworks were had. The outgoing rector accused the chancery -- which is leaving its longtime headquarters for a suburban office park -- of "fail[ing] to consider that a seminary is more than property." Flouting the pontifical secret on the findings of 2005's Apostolic Visitation of US Seminaries, Farren cited the Vatican report re: St John's, specifically the visitation team's recommendation that "in order to ensure the integrity of the seminary... no more property [on the campus] should be sold." He also took issue with the site's impending occupancy by the faculty of BC's Weston Jesuit School of Theology, saying that "several" of its staffers were "self-professed gays or lesbians," with others "currently under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." The sale's procceding, he noted, would cast a conception that St John's "has no realistic probability of surviving" and that, in Boston's bicentennial year, "there could be nothing but shame and embarrassment if we appear to forsake our own mandate, mission and values for 30 pieces of silver." Speaking for the archdiocese, vicar-general Fr Richard Erickson told the paper that "We are preparing men for ministry in the 21st century in an extraordinarily diverse diocese of 144 communities, 2 million Catholics, and many urban centers, and if our seminarians don't face these challenges and issues as seminarians, they will the day they're ordained. I'm not afraid that having a very diverse and wide experience at seminary is somehow going to corrupt our seminarians." (In other things Beantown, the gay marriage referendum sought by the bishops of the commonwealth fell five votes short of making it to the ballot; the vote in today's Constitutional Convention was 151-45. Supporters of the amendment needed 50 votes for the measure to proceed.)
  • The ever-addicting daily bytes from Catholic World News pulled up a notable 2004 interview with the Holy See's then-point-man in Iraq, now the incoming Vatican "chief of staff" Archbishop Fernando Filoni, who was named Sostituto of the Secretariat of State over last weekend. Remembered for his solicitude to the bombed-out communities in the wake of the US invasion, Filoni was one of the few top diplomats to remain in Baghdad as the war's fury bore down. When asked the country's state a year after the war's start, he told the influential Italian journal 30 giorni that "the degradation of the civil and moral fiber of the population is grave" and that "the precariousness of daily life is visible everywhere." "The dignity of a people has been offended," he observed, "its ancestral traditions ignored, its soul divided." Citing John Paul II's advocacy for peace in the run-up to the conflict, Filoni recalled a story of a blocked aid delivery to Sadr City. Thinking it was a provision from the Western forces, the food and water were only admitted after "the people knew that it was aid from the Pope, [and] they said: these we accept, and we are grateful." Currently the papal nuncio in the Philippines, Filoni takes office as the top aide to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on 1 July.
  • Last week, city council here in Philadelphia kicked up the dust by declaring the City of Brotherly Love a "pro-choice city." Members seemed to forget that, though the Democratic primary (which, for all intents and purposes, is the city's general election) took place last month, they still face voters again in November. After complaints "flooded" City Hall, and members realized the move could make the autumn ballot something less of a formality -- though, candidly, not by much -- the symbolic resolution was rescinded at this morning's weekly session. On a side note, the winner of last month's five-way nomination for the city's top job, former Councilman Michael Nutter, is a product of the city's Jesuit high school St Joe's Prep. Unless you count Mayor (now Governor) Ed's stint at Villanova Law, Nutter -- in effect, the Mayor-in-waiting 'til the November coronation -- will be the first holder of the office with a Catholic education since the late, loved, lamented Frank Rizzo. Born into Catholicism, Nutter -- also a Wharton grad -- now worships with his wife and daughter at their Baptist church, something his opponents sought to tar him by leafleting the parishes the Sunday before the election. Thankfully, the trick didn't stick. Oh, and Councilman-at-large Juan Ramos, a permanent deacon, won't be returning to the chamber come January; he lost his fight for re-election at the primary.
  • Speaking of abortion in the public square, the Holy See isn't bringing Amnesty International flowers (or funding) anymore over the latter's push to see abortion access increased. In comments this week to the National Catholic Register, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Cardinal Renato Martino railed against "the pro-abortion pressure groups which continue their propaganda in the framework of what (the late pope) John Paul II called 'the culture of death,'" saying it was "extremely worrying that an organisation as worthy as Amnesty International bends to the pressures of these groups." Amnesty hit back, saying that "a misrepresented account of our position on selective aspects of abortion" on the part of the Vatican "is placing in peril work on human rights."
  • Closer to home, after his Rudy riposte of two weeks ago, a liberal pressure-group has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Bishop Tobin of Providence, alleging that the prelate's critique of Giuliani's abortion stance violated the prohibition of "electioneering" required by tax-exempt organizations. And, after a protest by the lay PAC Fidelis, the campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has removed a photo of the Democratic contender with Bl. Teresa of Calcutta from one of its advertisements.
  • And, lastly, while one of his counterparts is said to be holding an "episcopal telethon" under fiscal duress, the head of the Italian episcopate Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa has received another death threat -- three bullets in an envelope. The package, the second of its kind, follows in the wake of remarks the archbishop gave in late March assailing Italy's proposed DICO legislation, which would grant marriage-esque rights to cohabitating, unmarried couples, same-sex included. In his controversial speech to church workers, Bagnasco framed the church's opposition to the measure as the same response it would give to proposals that would give state sanction to incest and pedophilia. Within days, the Genoa cathedral was scrawled with graffiti and, amid an early wave of threats, the prelate was placed under police guard.