Sunday, August 12, 2007

Meet the Bertone

It's often been said of late that we're living in strange days. And one of the things to easily fall under that umbrella is the phenomenon of the Secretary of State acting as the de facto papal spokesman.... say nothing of the reality that the career non-diplomat currently running Vatican diplomacy has maintained his candid ways.

Thanks to a steady stream of interventions in the press almost from his first days as B16's "Vice-Pope," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (shown above at an Italian presser last year) has exercised freely his Boss' confidence to speak -- even leaking headline-making announcements -- on topics ranging from the 1962 Mass to the role of Catholic politicians and, confirming a prediction made on these pages from the first days of the current pontificate, plans for a coming infusion of women into senior posts of the Roman Curia.

While last week's Knights of Columbus convention in Nashville provided the stage for the SegStat's first solo foreign trip in the Holy See's #2 job, the change of scenery -- and need for translation -- didn't make him any less comfortable with the gaggle.

You've read the speech -- and now, the transcript of Wednesday's press conference has also been posted....

Snips (questions in bold):
Regarding conversations with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and a possible visit of Pope Benedict to the United States.

The telephone conversation should really remain private – notwithstanding the fact that some of those conversations may be able to be tapped. The conversations dealt primarily with the state of Christians in the Middle East. I recognize the untiring efforts of the American Secretary of State in her work. I told her that her travels by plane, in her efforts for peace, are accompanied by the angels. If they weren’t accompanied by the angels, then she would never be able to knit back together all of these relationships that have been so fragile and difficult....

As a Salesian priest [you have a] strong connection to young people; what is your message to the Knights of Columbus and other young people as they try to bring more young people into the fold?

It appears that many of the great organizations like yours, or Catholic Action in Europe, are suffering from the lack of young people. We have to think about for example of Pope John Paul II and how many people responded to his invitations to come together, for example, to the World Youth Days.

I look over the panorama of World Youth Days and I consider how so many thousands of young people came together and rediscovered their faith through the Papal invitation to World Youth Day.

We have to take the approach of St John Bosco. His approach was to reach out to young people and to have great faith in them, a great confidence in them. Pope John Paul II believed in young people.

I have seen among the Knights a very good representation of young people; however, the average age is a little bit high.

What do you think is the average age of the [Nashville] Dominican Sisters I just visited? The average is 33 years old. Write that down! There are many girls with university degrees that are being attracted to this way of life....

In 2004 there was a great debate in the United States about those politicians who support abortion and whether they should be denied communion. In the 2008 election we may also see Catholics running for office including those who support abortion is this a debate beyond the United States and is this something where the Vatican may wish to issue guidelines to guide the bishops?

I don’t think it is necessary to repeat new norms because the norms are well explained in the doctrine of the Church, and those norms which deal with the proper stance and stance of people who want to receive Communion.

I’d like to underline one particular thing, especially here in the United States where the freedom of conscience is a major issue. On the basis of the Catholic identity, the man who is in public office or the man who is a politican, I can’t understand how a party whether it be an American party or an Italian party, how a particular political party can impose an ethical choice on the member of that particular political party.

I am speaking here about the question of abortion, about homosexual marriage, about embryonic research, all the points that were dealt with so eloquently by the Supreme Knight Anderson yesterday.

It’s exactly based on the question of this freedom of conscience that a party cannot impose a particular choice on an individual. I find this a great contradiction here in the United States but also in other places as well that these ideas can be imposed by a particular party.