Saturday, January 31, 2009

On Bowl's Eve, Bishops Booing Cardinals

As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to take on the Arizona Cardinals in tomorrow's Super Bowl XLIII, it's worth recalling that the Black and Gold will have no shortage of fans in high places... high-hat places, that is.

And these days, their number just keeps on growing. And not by bandwagon, either.

Sure, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence -- a native of the Burgh -- might be famous for decking out his Pats' Nation residence (above) in Steeler banners and Terrible Towels year-round, keeping a "shrine" in his office, and once crushing an 8-foot inflatable Patriot a hometown fan left on his porch... the freshly-retired Cardinal Adam Maida might never have parted with his season tickets despite being away from his hometown for a quarter-century... and Bishop David Zubik's homecoming as Pittsburgh's 12th ordinary might've seen the post-Mass celebrations move from St Paul's Cathedral to the city's major house of worship -- Heinz Field....

But all the way in Juneau, Alaska, yet another "devout" of the Nation said he could probably be heard "screaming back in Pittsburgh" a fortnight ago as the celebrated franchise picked up its seventh AFC championship.

The next morning, Juneau's Steeler Screamer -- Msgr Ed Burns -- was named its bishop.

Indeed, the line runs deep on the bench -- and thanks to the Burghers now holding key spots or still on the rise, it'll probably get longer still in the months and years ahead. That said, anyone thinking it ends with those born and bred along the Three Rivers would be guilty... of underreach.

After years of speculation over his football loyalties, in a pre-season interview while on book junket, no less than the shepherd of Broncos Country publicly admitted that he was "secretly still a Steelers fan."

Once a student at St Fidelis -- the now-closed Capuchin seminary behind the Steel Curtain -- Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver explained that while he "shouldn’t be saying that publicly... I was there when they won all their Super Bowls, and it’s hard not to be attracted to that kind of spirit and energy."

Suffice it to say, here's to Number Six. In the meantime, party at Tobin's.


They Want Back, Too

Supported by Tradition and law, many will see it as apples and oranges... but even so -- lest anyone didn't see it coming after the Lefevbrist "remit" -- the excommunicated women who've claimed priestly ordination over recent years now seek a similar revocation of their sanctions.

Press Release snips:
Roman Catholic Womenpriests call on Pope Benedict to lift the decree of automatic excommunication issued on May 29, 2008 against all in our movement as a gesture of reconciliation and justice toward women in the church. As is well known, the Congregation for Bishops, instructed by the Pope, removed the excommunication of four traditionist [sic] bishops on Jan. 21, 2009. Therefore, Roman Catholic Womenpriests call on the Pope to lift the decree of excommunication against us. This gesture will be a step away from the institutional church’s treatment of women as second-class citizens. We stand firmly in the tradition of Vatican ll which declares:

"Any kind of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language or religion, must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design." Gaudium et Spes, art. 29, 2

No priest pedophiles have been excommunicated.
No bishops who were responsible for their continued placement in parishes after their pedophile history was known have been excommunicated.

Theologians who teach and support Vatican II teachings and who support women's ordination are silenced and/or excommunicated.
Women ordained as priests are excommunicated.
Priests and laity who support women priests are excommunicated.
Priests who reject Vatican II and who deny the holocaust and who openly deny the full equality of women are "rehabilitated" after earlier excommunication?

What's wrong with this picture?
Last year, after individual excommunications for participants in the rites (usually held on boats) were announced by decree, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith definitively stated that anyone who attempts to confer ordination on a woman, or any woman who seeks the same, incurs automatic excommunication. Subsequently, the CDF excommunicated Fr Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest and longtime social-justice activist who participated in one of the ceremonies.

On a related note, one figure surprisingly silent over the last week is the excommunicated prelate who's arguably the best known of all -- the Zambian exorcist/soul-singer Emmanuel Milingo, ordained archbishop of Lusaka by Paul VI in 1969, then brought into the Roman Curia a decade later amid suspicions over some of his practices.

After marrying a member of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification church in a 2001 mass wedding, then renouncing her later that summer after pleas from John Paul II, Milingo reunited with Maria Sung in 2006 and founded a movement dedicated to ending the Latin church's discipline of mandatory celibacy for priests.

Initially suspended from ministry, Milingo was excommunicated following his illicit ordination of four married clergy from breakaway groups as bishops in a September 2006 liturgy in Washington; the four were likewise sanctioned. The Holy See ruled the ordinations invalid.

PHOTO: Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Another Saturday... Another Storm

In this morning's dispatches, the Pope named Fr Gerhard Wagner as auxiliary bishop of the Austrian diocese of Linz.

A veteran pastor with a Gregorian doctorate in theology, the 54 year-old's appointment wouldn't normally make headlines outside of, well, Linz -- considered in some quarters as Europe's "most liberal diocese." Throw some incendiary comments from the nominee into the mix, however, and you've got the last thing the Vatican needs right now -- another worldwide brutta figura.

An Austrian pastor who has been quoted as calling Hurricane Katrina God's punishment for sin in New Orleans is being promoted to the rank of bishop....

In 2005, Wagner was quoted in a parish newsletter as saying that he was convinced that the death and destruction of Hurricane Katrina earlier that year was "divine retribution" for New Orleans' tolerance of homosexuals and laid-back sexual attitudes.

Kath.Net, a Catholic news agency in Austria, released in 2005 excerpts of what it said were comments Wagner made in a parish newsletter in Linz about Katrina.

It said the newsletter quoted Wagner as saying that Katrina destroyed not only nightclubs and brothels in New Orleans, but also abortion clinics.

"The conditions of immorality in this city are indescribable," Wagner was quoted as saying.
...and more:
Wagner, 54... first gained notice in 2001 when he described J. K. Rowling's popular Harry Potter novels -- which take place in a witchcraft and wizardry school -- as "satanism" and warned against the magical spells and formulas used in the novels.

After the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005, he again commented: "It's no coincidence that in New Orleans all five abortion clinics as well as night clubs were destroyed."

And he asked: "Is the noticeable rise in natural disasters a consequence of environmental pollution or rather of spiritual pollution?"
The bishop-elect is to be ordained on 22 March.


"We Are Embarrassed"

Long a key voice in Catholic-Jewish relations, Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap. of Boston blogged a response to the week's events late last night:
The Vatican announced this week that the Holy Father has lifted the excommunications of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X. I was pleased with the news which shows, once again, the Holy Father’s concern for unity and reconciliation in the Church....

[The Pope's] outreach to the communities who follow these bishops is just one more manifestation of his ardent desire to bring these people (which some estimate to be as many as 1.5 million) back into the fold. We know that these are generally people who practice their faith and try to live a Christian life seriously but, unfortunately, I believe that they have been misled by their leadership.

Of course, lifting the excommunications was a first step; it does not regularize these bishops or the Society of St. Pius X, but it opens the way for a dialogue. This step was in response to a letter in which they professed their desire for full participation in the life of the Church.

It was tragic that one of the four bishops, Bishop Richard Williamson, had made outrageous statements about the Holocaust and about the September 11 attacks on the United States. It certainly raises questions as to the caliber of the leadership that the Society has. Additionally, as terrible as the comments were, it underscores the importance for the Holy Father to have increasing influence over those communities.

We are very sorry that the people in the Jewish community have been so pained and outraged by Bishop Williamson’s statements. I think the Holy Father’s statements and those of Cardinal Walter Kasper, chairman of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, have been very clear to dissociate the Catholic Church from those kinds of sentiments. I was pleased that the head of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, also repudiated the statements of Bishop Williamson.

It is very important for us to always remember the Holocaust so that such an atrocity could never take place again. I recall the words of the Holy Father this week: “May the Shoah be for everyone an admonition against oblivion, negation and reductionism, because violence against a single human being is violence against all.”
In his weekly post, O'Malley likewise recalled Rabbi Leon Klenicki, the interfaith "pioneer" over whose 2007 investiture as a papal knight of St Gregory the Great he presided; the rabbi's obit appeared in the pages of today's New York Times.

Meanwhile, the US bishops' lead ecumenists have likewise gone public:
“It has been very hurtful to our Jewish partners,” said Father James Massa, executive director of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. “They’ve been calling us for answers for what this means. The mood is very tense.”...

“Bishop Williamson’s disgraceful remarks ... indicate his contempt for those who oppose his advocacy of Holocaust denial,” said Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, the American Jewish Committee’s U.S. director of interreligious affairs.

“While we appreciate that Pope Benedict has again declared his support for the Jewish people and his rejection of Holocaust denial,” he continued, “we fear that the Vatican’s decision to invite (Bishop) Williamson back into the Catholic Church will give legitimacy to these outrageous lies and suggest toleration of those who perpetuate them.

“Doubtless, this will contribute to the deterioration of the excellent relations between Jews and the Catholic Church,” the rabbi said in a statement.

The entire ordeal has created a lot of confusion, Father Massa told Catholic News Service Jan. 29.

There is a difference between the lifting of excommunication and being in full communion with the Catholic Church, he said.

“Removing excommunication doesn’t mean they are fully reconciled as priests and bishops of the Catholic Church,” Father Massa said. “Like any other Catholic, they can go to Mass and receive holy Communion, but they cannot perform the sacrament themselves as fully recognized ministers of the church.”...

“In no way am I excusing (Bishop) Williamson,” Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, said in a Jan. 26 blog.

“But I am willing to entertain that however much pain his reinstatement might cause relative to this issue,” he said, “it may not be the only basis upon which the pope should make his decision, nor should it govern the future of church-Jewish relations, as some have already suggested/threatened it will.”

Though Jewish-Catholic relations in the U.S. may be strained at the moment, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the foundation is solid and he is confident they will forge ahead with friendships intact.

“We (Catholics) are embarrassed during this episode, like when a family member has said a shameful thing,” Archbishop Gregory told CNS Jan. 30.

“We’ll have to take those steps necessary to let them know we value those (Catholic-Jewish) relationships, as well as our bond, love and unity with our Jewish counterparts,” he said, “and that we don’t in any way indent to step aside from our great tradition of friendship in this country.”

The archbishop noted he was to speak at an upcoming Jewish event in his city that he already had on his calendar, and he planned to take that opportunity to assure the Jewish community he will do whatever he can to reinforce Catholic-Jewish relations.

“That is what many bishops in America will have to do – to take that opportunity to let them know of our esteem, and strengthen our relations,” he said. “The vehicles are there. We need to use them. We need to show our Jewish friends our desire to continue to move forward.”

It is important now for the Catholic hierarchy to explain theological and canonical distinctions to their Jewish partners, and assure them of the church’s commitment to Jewish-Catholic dialogue based on Vatican II, Father Massa said.

“We are expressing our profound dissatisfaction with the egregiously offensive comments of Bishop Williamson,” he said. “It is unacceptable for a bishop who seeks to be in communion with the Catholic Church to deny the historical fact of the Shoah.”

Friday, January 30, 2009

First, the Seminaries... Now, the Convents: The Visitation Returns

Months after the Holy See's top official for religious life rapped some US communities for "accept[ing] the present situation of decline [as] the sign of the Spirit on the church," plans were revealed this morning for an Apostolic Visitation of the nation's orders of women.

Beginning immediately by decree of the Congregation for Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the examination of the "quality of life" of the 400 or so Stateside institutes will focus exclusively on "apostolic" communities -- namely, "those actively engaged in service to church and society," as a release announcing the initiative put it.

To coordinate its work, the Congregation has named Connecticut-born Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior-general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as sole Apostolic Visitor. At the three-stage process' expected end in 2011, Millea will be required to submit a report detailing her observations to the dicastery overseeing religious life, along with recommendations on areas where action should be taken.

While most of the investigation will involve its overseer's interaction with the various superiors and the collection of information on the life of each institute, "selected on-site visits will be made" to community houses in the process' final leg.

In remarks at a Washington press conference announcing the Visitation, the venture's media liaison described its purpose as twofold.

"We hope to discover and share the vibrancy and purpose that continue to accomplish so much," Sr Eva-Maria Ackermann FSGM said, "as well as to understand the obstacles and challenges that inhibit these individuals and institutions, thus limiting their growth and/or re-directing their resources and outreach."

A member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St George, Ackermann is director of the archdiocese of St Louis' Office for Consecrated Life.

Currently in Argentina for the dedication of a new convent for her community, Millea added in a statement that "the simple reason" behind the move was "that these communities are integral to the entire life of the Catholic Church, in the United States and beyond."

Green-lighted by Pope Benedict in November, the placement of convents under Rome's microscope reflects concerns aired in recent months in Vatican circles over various aspects of religious life in the US, from the orthodoxy of priestly formation in seminaries run by mens' orders to the aging ranks of most communities, not to mention perceptions of dissent or a lack of obedience among houses of both sexes.

At a September conference on consecrated life in Massachusetts, the church's top official on religious life -- the prefect of Religious Vincentian Cardinal Franc Rodé -- took aim at what he termed a "pseudo-aggorniamento" religious life, its effects including "those who have simply acquiesced to the disappearance of religious life or at least of their community, and seek to do so in the most peaceful manner possible, thanking God for past benefits.

"[W]e must admit too," he added, "that there are those who have opted for ways that take them outside communion with Christ in the Catholic Church, although they themselves may have opted to 'stay' in the church physically. These may be individuals or groups in institutes that have a different view, or they may be entire communities."

Over the course of the same gathering, Missionary Sister of the Blessed Trinity Sara Butler critiqued the umbrella groups for the professed -- including the Leadership Council of Women Religious -- for "focus[ing] so resolutely on the world’s agenda and global issues and giv[ing] so little attention to the urgent needs of the church."

A professor of the Scriptures at New York's St Joseph's Seminary and veteran consultor to the Roman Curia, Butler called the trait "puzzling and even a cause for embarrassment."

At this morning's DC announce, Ackermann said that the Visitation was formally announced to officials of the two main groups of women religious -- the more progressive Leadership Council and the conservative-leaning Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious -- in letters received only hours before. The Visitation's work will get underway in short order with Millea's canvass for input from superiors and members of the communities.


Miller Time... on TV

On Sunday, Archbishop Michael Miller CSB of Vancouver formally kicked off his ministry in the half-million member church with a Mass in the BC hub's Holy Rosary Cathedral.

The former president of Houston's University of St Thomas and secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, the 62 year-old Basilian Father took the reins of Western Canada's largest archdiocese earlier this month following the retirement of Archbishop Raymond Roussin SM.

Miller was named coadjutor of the diverse, growing Vancouver church in June 2007.

Salt + Light will broadcast Sunday's liturgy at 8.30pm Eastern (0130GMT) tonight, preceded by a 7pm special. Both will repeat from 11pm Eastern (0400GMT); as always, the TO-based network's webstream is up and running.

In the meantime, there's on-demand audio of Miller's Sunday homily, its fulltext in the viewer-window below:


He's Baaaack...

As prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Raymond Burke is no longer a member of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Always ready with a money quote (or an arsenal), however, that didn't keep the global church's ever-controversial chief justice from offering some impressions on things Stateside in a recent interview:
A document of the US Catholic Bishops is partly to blame for the abandonment of pro-life teachings by voting Catholics and the election of the “most pro-abortion president” in US history, one of the Vatican’s highest officials said....

Burke, the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, named a document on the election produced by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that he said “led to confusion” among the faithful and led ultimately to massive support among Catholics for Barack Obama.

The US bishops’ document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” stated that, under certain circumstances, a Catholic could in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports abortion because of "other grave reasons," as long as they do not intend to support that pro-abortion position.

Archbishop Burke, the former Archbishop of St. Louis Mo. and recently appointed head of the highest ecclesiastical court in the Catholic Church, told that although “there were a greater number of bishops who spoke up very clearly and firmly ... there was also a number who did not.”

But most damaging, he said, was the document “Faithful Citizenship” that “led to confusion” among the voting Catholic population.

[C]iting an article by a priest and ethics expert of St. Louis archdiocese, Msgr. Kevin McMahon, who analysed how the bishops’ document actually contributed to the election of Obama, [Burke] called its proposal “a kind of false thinking, that says, ‘there’s the evil of taking an innocent and defenceless human life but there are other evils and they’re worthy of equal consideration.’

“But they’re not. The economic situation, or opposition to the war in Iraq, or whatever it may be, those things don’t rise to the same level as something that is always and everywhere evil, namely the killing of innocent and defenceless human life.”

Archbishop Burke also cited the work of the official news service of the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference, that many pro-life observers complained soft-pedalled the newly elected president’s opposition to traditional morality.

“The bishops need to look also at our Catholic News Service, CNS, they need to review their coverage of the whole thing and give some new direction, in my judgement,” he said.
Having said during the presidential campaign that the Democratic party "risks transforming itself definitely into a death," the interview was the prefect's first since his Election Eve counsel that "a good citizen must support and vote for the candidate who most supports the inalienable dignity of innocent and defenseless life, and the integrity of marriage."

Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest


"Abhorrent"... and Apology

In response to the global outcry over SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson's comments disputing "what is widely believed today" about the Holocaust and after requests for a response from Canada's Jewish community, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has released the following statement:
In response to questions that have been received regarding statements concerning the Holocaust (Shoah) by Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the Society of Saint Pius X, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following comments:
  1. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops finds abhorrent the notion that somehow the terrible evil of the Holocaust is not a fact of history, and joins the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in calling on all people to recognize that the Holocaust is “an admonition against oblivion, negation and reductionism” (see;
  2. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops joins the Holy See in criticizing and rejecting the comments that Bishop Williamson has made on the Holocaust;
  3. The Catholic Bishops of Canada, together with the Holy See, remain committed to dialogue with the Jews, as was reaffirmed by the Bishops of Canada at their September 2008 Plenary Assembly;
  4. The Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has apologized concerning the remarks made by Bishop Williamson and announced that Bishop Williamson has been forbidden to speak further on this question (see;
  5. It is only the declared excommunication of the four Bishops who are members of the Society of Saint Pius X, including Bishop Williamson, that has been lifted for the offence of their having received episcopal ordination without pontifical mandate. The lifting of the excommunication does not affect penalties for other offences. The decree made public on 24 January 2009 by the Holy See does not allow Bishop Williamson or the other Bishops to exercise sacred ministry licitly or to exercise any office or act of governance in the Catholic Church. It simply opens the possibility of restoring them to full communion with the Catholic Church (see
On Wednesday, Williamson wrote the following letter to the Holy See's lead liaison with the traditionalist communities, the president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos:
Your Eminence

Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.

For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God. So I have only one comment, from the prophet Jonas, I, 12:

"Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you."

Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday. Most humbly I will offer a Mass for both of you.

Sincerely yours in Christ

+Richard Williamson
In a brief preface to the letter on his blog, Williamson opined that the "media uproar" following his interview was "surely aimed rather at the Holy Father than at a relatively insignificant bishop."


Amato Does the Dome

As Rome roiled last weekend, what many consider to be Stateside Catholicism's holiest ground -- namely, the University of Notre Dame -- hosted a key member of the reigning pontificate's inner circle on his first major US visit.

Now prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints -- and, ergo, at the front of the queue for a red hat at the next consistory -- Archbishop Angelo Amato SDB served as #2 to then-Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal William Levada at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before being named the church's saintmaker-in-chief in June.

Before succeeding his Salesian confrere Tarcisio Bertone at the former Holy Office in late 2002, as a consultor to the CDF Amato is widely believed to have been the key author behind what would become Dominus Iesus, the Congregation's 2000 decree on revelation in other faiths (or the lack thereof). Along the way, he also took a lead role in the Vatican's assault on The DaVinci Code before its theatrical release in 2007.

In South Bend, the archbishop celebrated and preached Sunday's main liturgy (fullvideo) in the university's Basilica of the Sacred Heart, looked on (and received a standing ovation from the crowd of 13,000) as UConn ended Irish basketball's home win streak at 45 on Saturday night and, most prominently, gave a Monday night lecture on "Catholicism and Secularism in Contemporary Europe" before a packed lecture hall, with a full overflow room watching via closed-circuit.

The fulltext of the lecture is below; just scroll through the window....

PHOTO: University of Notre Dame


The Long Shadow of Schism

For purposes of clarity, the Pope's relevant text on the week's big story, in full, from Wednesday's audience:
In the homily delivered on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of my pontificate, I said that the "call to unity" is an "explicit" duty of the pastor and I commented on the Gospel passages about the miraculous catch of fish, saying: "Though there were so many fish, the net did not break." I continued after these Gospel words: "Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn!" And I continued, "But no -- we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. … Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!"

Precisely in fulfilling this service to unity, which determines in a specific way my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I decided some days ago to concede the remission of the excommunication incurred by four bishops ordained without pontifical mandate in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre. I have carried out this act of paternal mercy because repeatedly these prelates have manifested their sharp suffering in the situation in which they found themselves. I trust that following from this gesture of mine will be the prompt effort on their part to complete final necessary steps to arrive to full communion with the Church, thus giving testimony of true fidelity and true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope and the Second Vatican Council.

In these days in which we remember the Shoah, my memory turns to the images taken in during my repeated visits to Auschwitz, one of the concentration camps in which was carried out the brutal massacre of millions of Jews, innocent victims of a blind racial and religious hate. As I renew with affection the expression of my total and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, I hope that the memory of the Shoah moves humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart.

May the Shoah be for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all. No man is an island, a well-known poet has written. May the Shoah teach especially, as much the old generations as the new ones, that only the tiring path of listening and dialogue, of love and pardon, leads peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the desired encounter of fraternity and peace in the world. May violence never again humiliate the dignity of man!
That said, as the freshly de-excommunicated head of the Society of St Pius X moved to keep his controversial confrere on the sidelines...
We have learned of an interview given by Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of our Society of Saint Pius X, to Swedish television. In this interview, he comments on historical questions, particularly the question of the genocide of Jews by the National Socialists.

It is obvious that a Catholic bishop can only speak with ecclesiastical authority about matters concerning faith and morals. Our Society claims no authority on other matters. Its mission is the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine, set forth in the dogmas of the Faith. It is for this that we are known, accepted and esteemed throughout the world.

We are deeply grieved to see how much harm the violation of this mandate can do to our mission. Bishop Williamson’s statements do not in any way reflect the position of our Society. This is why I have forbidden him, until further notice, to make any public statements on political or historical issues.

We ask forgiveness of the Sovereign Pontiff and of all people of good will for the dramatic consequences of such an act. While we recognize how inappropriate these declarations were, we can only note with sadness that the incessant accusations against our Society are also obviously intended to discredit it.

This we cannot accept, and we declare that we will continue to preach Catholic doctrine and administer the sacraments of grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
...yet another member of the Lefevbrist fraternity made waves by backing the latter up:
[A]nother leader in the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X has questioned whether the Nazis used gas chambers for anything other than “disinfection,” and said that people who hold revisionist views on the Holocaust are not anti-Semites.

Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz, a pastor and spokesperson for the Society of St. Pius X in northeastern Italy, also referred to Jews as “a people of deicide,” referring to the death of Christ, and suggested that the Jewish Holocaust has been “exalted” over what he called “other genocides,” such as the Allied bombing of German cities and the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip.

On the other hand, Abrahamowicz insisted that the traditionalist movement founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is not “anti-Semitic.” Among other things, Abrahamowicz said, he himself has Jewish roots on his father’s side....

Reacting to protest in Italy over the Abrahamowicz interview, the Italian superior of the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Davide Pagliarani, issued a press release saying that the society confirms Fellay’s earlier statement on Williamson and “reproves every single word inconsistent with it.”

Abrahamowicz is himself a well-known figure in Italy. In 2006, he gave a television interview in which he said that Erich Priebke, a German SS officer convicted of war crimes for a 1944 massacre in Rome, in which 335 Italian civilians were killed in reprisal for the deaths of 33 German soldiers, should not be seen as an “executioner” but rather a soldier who acted “with regret and a heavy heart.” In 2007, Abrahamowicz celebrated a Latin Mass for Italian politician Umberto Bossi, leader of the far-right Northern League party. Bossi and his party have sometimes been accused of xenophobia, particularly towards Muslim immigrants.

In 2008, after Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan had expressed support for Muslims seeking to open new mosques in Italy, Abrahamowicz said on Italian radio that Tettamanzi was an example of “infiltrators” attempting to “subvert the church from within.”

Meanwhile, in the country where the global reaction to last Saturday's "remit" of the 1988 sanctions has, arguably, run strongest -- Germany -- the lead council of Jews has followed the lead of Israel's chief rabbinate and cut its Vatican ties... all while the Neo-Nazi community there has found itself a new "hero," but making sure it hails him within the confines of the country's Holocaust-denial laws.


Pope's Russian Wish: A New Era

As a very happy Holy See prepares to send its top ecumenical duo -- and possibly even the "Vice-Pope" -- to Moscow for Sunday's enthronement of the newly-elected Patriarch Kirill...
[Cardinal] Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the Holy See, and the council's secretary, Bishop Brian Farrell, will attend the ceremony to enthrone Metropolitan Kirill as patriarch, a Russian church official said.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone may also attend the ceremony, the source said, adding however that his visit had not been officially confirmed.

The representative of the Holy See in Russia Archbishop Antonio Menini and head of the Moscow Catholic Archdiocese Paolo Pezzi will also be present at the ceremony at the sumptuous Christ the Savior Cathedral in central Moscow, which will also be attended by senior Russian and foreign government officials and public figures....

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said in an official statement that the Roman Catholic Church congratulated Metropolitan Kirill and hoped for better ties between the churches despite the "difficulties."

"We are happy that the new patriarch is a person with whom we had brotherly relations for many years," the statement said.
...the Pope put Russia's Catholic bishops on notice that their part in smoothing the path toward better relations is imperative:
Catholics in Russia must work together with the country's much larger Orthodox community to defend human life and the family and promote strong moral values, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The pope met the four Catholic bishops of Russia Jan. 29, the last day of their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses and just two days after the Russian Orthodox Church elected a new patriarch.

In a situation where Catholic-Orthodox differences involving theology, church structure and practice make formal dialogue a challenge, the pope said, the bishops must engage in dialogue on a personal level.

"Such contacts contribute to greater mutual understanding, thanks to which it is possible to work together in areas of common interest," he said.

"It is important that Christians unite to face the great cultural and ethical challenges of the present moment concerning the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights, the defense of life at every stage, the safeguarding of the family and other urgent economic and social questions," the pope said.

In a country like Russia, so deeply marked by more than 1,000 years of Orthodox tradition and culture, "it is essential to take into account the necessity of a renewed commitment to dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters," Pope Benedict said.

While again offering his best wishes to Patriarch-elect Kirill of Moscow, the pope also prayed that God would "confirm us all in the commitment to walk together on the path of reconciliation and fraternal love."
PHOTO: Reuters


In LA, "Mystified and Puzzled"

As word of a Federal investigation into his archdiocese's policies on transferring abusive priests leaked out, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles took to the airwaves yesterday to defend his handling of accused clergy, seeking to underscore that any malpractice in personnel decisions took place "years ago, decades ago."

Calling into a local talk-radio station for an extended chat, the head of the nation's largest local church said he "didn't know" what the goverment was looking for.

"Basically, we were mystified and puzzled by the whole thing" the cardinal said, noting that of the 22 priests whose records were subpoenaed by Federal prosecutors, two are dead and the other twenty laicized "and long gone."

Asked whether he was a target of the probe, Mahony said he didn't know.

"We have not been told anyone is a target of investigation," he said.

However, "if I can glean between what's being leaked, etc.," he added that "it seems to have to do with who got transferred when, and how, and whether or not all the folks in the parishes were notified," going on to say that "most of these situations" of the 22 whose records were requested "go back into the '60s and '70s -- years and years ago -- and there's no question that the way things were done then is not the way things are done today."

"We have said repeatedly that our understanding of this problem and the way it's dealt with today evolved," Mahony said, "and that in those years ago, decades ago, people didn't realize how serious this was.

"And so -- rather than pulling people out of ministry directly and fully -- they were moved. But that started changing in the early '90s, and over the years, we just don't do that anymore."

Mahony became head of the 4.2 million-member LA church in 1985. Long on the hot seat for the archdiocese's handling of abuse cases, he oversaw the largest settlement with clergy sex-abuse victims agreed to by a US diocese -- 2007's $660 million deal with 508 survivors.

In 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported that "the number of abusive priests" in the SoCal church "peaked in 1983." According to the paper's investigation, 11% of Los Angeles' active presbyterate as it then stood would eventually be accused of sexual abuse.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Seven Years On, Enter the Feds

In a first since the US clergy sex-abuse scandals began their major eruption in 2002, the nation's largest local church -- the 4.2 million-member archdiocese of Los Angeles and its head, Cardinal Roger Mahony -- is under Federal investigation over its response to reports of abusive clergy:
The probe, in which U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien is personally involved, is aimed at determining whether Mahony, and possibly other church leaders, committed fraud by failing to adequately deal with priests accused of sexually abusing children, said [two law-enforcement] sources, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Authorities are applying a legal theory in an apparently novel way. One federal law enforcement source said prosecutors are seeking to use a federal statute that makes it illegal to "scheme . . . to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services."

In this case, the victims would be parishioners who relied on Mahony and other church leaders to keep their children safe from predatory priests, the source said.

To gain a conviction on such a charge, prosecutors would have to prove that Mahony used the U.S. mail or some form of electronic communication in committing the alleged fraud, the source said.

The inquiry has been underway since at least late last year, the source added.

O'Brien declined to comment, refusing to even confirm the existence of the investigation.

J. Michael Hennigan, who represents Mahony and the archdiocese, confirmed that federal prosecutors had contacted the archdiocese and requested "information about a number of individual priests, at least two of whom are deceased."

He said he was also aware that some witnesses had testified before the panel.

But Hennigan said he has been informed that Mahony is not a target of the inquiry.

"We have been and will continue to be fully cooperative with the investigation," Hennigan said.

Mahony has repeatedly apologized for the church's sex scandal and asked for forgiveness for not acting sooner to remove priests who abused minors. He has declared that the archdiocese handles abuse allegations seriously, notifying police when complaints are made and removing priests from active ministry when allegations are deemed credible.

As the Catholic Church's highest-ranking official in Southern California, Mahony has been dogged for years by allegations of covering up the sexual misconduct of priests....

The district attorney's office launched a grand jury investigation into the archdiocese several years ago, but no charges were filed. District attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said Wednesday that prosecutors are continuing to look at documents from the archdiocese for evidence of molestation by priests and former priests but that charges against Mahony are "highly doubtful."

Two years ago, the archdiocese agreed to pay $660 million to 508 people who accused priests of sexual abuse. The payout was the largest settlement in a scandal that has involved an estimated 5,000 priests nationwide and cost the Roman Catholic Church more than $2 billion to resolve cases in this country alone.
Absent from November's USCCB meeting in Baltimore, the 72 year-old cardinal -- who's headed the LA church since 1985 -- was received by Pope Benedict in a private audience over recent weeks.


"The Power to Love"

Following is the fulltext homily given by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit at his Installation Mass (photos) earlier today in Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.

* * *
“God gave [Thomas Aquinas] surpassing wisdom which he taught without deceit and shared freely with others.” (“Magnificat Antiphon, 28 January, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas)

1. Later tonight, at Vespers for the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Church will use these words to “magnify her Lord,” and rightly so, for the Lord’s gift of “surpassing wisdom” to St. Thomas is surely one of the “great things” God has done for his people (cf. Lk. 1: 46, 49). Throughout the Sacred Liturgy today, not only in the Divine Office but also in the Mass for this Memorial, the Church never tires of repeating her thanks for the gift her Lord has bestowed on her in her son, Thomas, who is justly claimed as the “Doctor communis” (“Everybody’s Teacher”) and fittingly praised as the “Doctor angelicus.”

In reflecting on the graces which filled the life and ministry of St. Thomas, the Church recognizes that the encomium to wisdom we heard in the first reading set the heart of Aquinas on fire and shaped every day of his life. St. Thomas “pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to [him]…. Beyond health and comeliness [he] loved her, and [he] chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep” (Wis., 7: 7, 10). He worked day and night, often to the point of exhaustion, to make his own what God in Jesus Christ revealed as the deepest and most penetrating insight about what is first and most important and about how these insights should direct all our thoughts and actions.

Because St. Thomas made this prayer from the Old Testament his own, and because God granted what he asked, in churches and chapels throughout the world, the Church, today, gives thanks to God, just as we are doing here in this Metropolitan Cathedral. But our memorial of St. Thomas has a peculiar character, one not shared with any other congregation. In this Liturgy I have taken the place which our Holy Father Pope Benedict has assigned to me on the cathedra, and I am preaching my first sermon and offering my first Mass as your Archbishop.

2. In my homily for our celebration today, I would like to help us understand the complementarity of these two liturgical actions: thanking God for bestowing wisdom on the Church through the ministry of St. Thomas and my being installed as the tenth bishop of Detroit.

[In Spanish] The installation of a bishop is a time for him and his flock to be renewed in their identity and mission. Celebrating my installation as Archbishop on the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas helps us understand that an essential dimension of our identity and mission is to hold and teach the wisdom of Christ. St. John teaches us that at the heart of this wisdom is loving Christ and one another as Christ has loved us. St. Paul reminds us that in this fallen world such love will always involve sharing in the cross of Christ. At this Mass let us commit ourselves anew to be apostles of the wisdom of Christ, and let us receive from Christ in the Holy Eucharist the power to live lives that are truly wise, that is, the power to love.

The installation of a new bishop is always an occasion for him to be renewed in his identity and mission. But it is this graced moment not just for him, but for his Particular Church and for all her members as well. That Providence has made my installation coincide with the Feast of St. Thomas is a reminder that part of the Church’s identity is to be the repository on earth of her Lord’s own wisdom and that it is essential to her mission for all of us to share this wisdom. Or, as Jesus told us before his Ascension, “to make disciples of all nations,… teaching them to observe all things that [he] commanded” (Mt. 28: 19-20).

It is because our forebears zealously obeyed this great commission that here in the Archdiocese of Detroit we are blessed to find this divine wisdom expressed in the rich diversity of languages and cultures of the communities which make up our one communion of faith.

3. St. Paul and St. John, in the portions of their writings read to us today, help us greatly to accept the renewal of our identity and mission as servants of God’s own wisdom by delineating the basic profile of that wisdom.

In the Gospel, St. John reports to us what Jesus himself said is the essence of life’s wisdom: it is to love. This is wisdom: “to love one another as [he has] loved [us]” (cf. Jn. 15: 12). And this wisdom is not something only of this world, only human. It is supernatural; it is divine. It is as he has loved us, that we are to love. And how has he loved us? He tells us: “as the Father has loved him” (cf. Jn. 15: 9, emphasis added).

This love of the Father for his only-begotten Son is a love beyond all measure. The Father gives all that he is to the Son; he pours his very being into the Son. The Father’s love is the total gift of himself to the Son. Having “learned” this wisdom about the deepest meaning of existence, “to be” [esse], the Son, when he came to us in the flesh, loved us in the same measure, with the same total gift of himself, loving us “to the end” (cf. Jn. 13: 1). And we, in our turn, if we would be wise about what is first and most important, will understand that this is the truth of who we are: we are framed and shaped to make a total gift of self. The truly wise thing is to commit one’s self to loving to the end. This wisdom is the measures of all our thinking and acting which aspires to be truly wise.

4. St. Paul in today’s Epistle gives us wise teaching about love in the context of this fallen world, scarred as it is by that refusal to love which is sin – the originating sin of Adam and Eve and every other sin, which ratifies that first sin. St. Paul tells us that the total gift of self is signed with the cross. It was on the cross that Christ “loved us to the end,” loved us with the love he learned from his being loved by the Father. And we, if we love, must share in the cross. Here below the gift of self will always be a death to self.

That is why the wisdom of divine love in this world will, as St. Paul says, appear to be foolishness to those who do not have faith. For those who do not recognize that Christ crucified is the ultimate manifestation of divine love, his death cannot but seem to be an absurdity. However, those who think like God, those who, by the light of the Holy Spirit, understand God the way he understands himself, recognize that the impotence of Christ, freely willed for love of us, is the act of the wisest man, for it is the act of divine wisdom itself.

In every age the wisdom of this crucified love has been mistaken as foolishness by many, and is often for them a stumbling block along the way of Christ. It is certainly so in our own time, with our ethic of radical autonomy, which, in exalting the rights of the individual, sees no sense in sacrificing one self and one’s comfort and convenience for the love of others.

There are many ways in which this conflict between the true wisdom of the gift of self and the pseudo-wisdom of self-sovereignty are exemplified in our society. I will mention three of those that seem to me among the most lamentable. First, there is the conflict between those who base their decision about a state in life or their selection of a profession on discerning the will of God and those who make these choices on the basis of gaining wealth or security or the world’s esteem. Second, there is the conflict between those judge it wise always to protect the right to life of others, even at a cost to themselves, and those who would be willing to violate that right, if that is the price to be paid to keep control of the circumstances and conditions in which they have decided to live. Third, there is frequently in our society a conflict between those who make the well-being of their spouses or children the first priority in their lives and those who are convinced that their families exist to bring them self-gratification.

5. The sorts of conflicts I have sketched out and which we all feel so deeply form the context in which we are called today at this Installation Liturgy to renew our commitment to our identity and mission as apostles of the wisdom of God, after the example of St. Thomas Aquinas.

I, on this first day of my service as the principle pastor of the Church of Detroit, renew my resolve, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to preach and to teach and, above all, to live this wisdom, the revealed wisdom of Christ crucified, entrusted to the Church and handed on to us by the Apostles and their successors.

I invite my brother bishops and priests and our deacons, especially the priests and deacons of the Archdiocese, to join me in renewing this commitment. The world’s hostility to the wisdom that we preach often brings us trials, and so we need the mutual support and encouragement that come from our fraternal communion in our pastoral ministry.

I invite those who have vowed themselves to the consecrated life to find in today a providential moment, a kairos, to respond anew to their vocation to live in this present age the life of the world to come, so that our world will see for themselves that the really wisest course is to “lose one’s life in order to gain it” (cf. Mt. 16: 25).

And today is just the right day for all the faithful of the Archdiocese to embrace again the wisdom of the Gospel and to promise again what was promised at their Baptism: that they renounce the empty show that passes as wisdom in the world and that they will place all their hope for real happiness in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the life of the world to come which is already lived in the communion of the Church.

This wisdom of total abandonment to God and his will for us does not direct us to turn our backs on the events and circumstances of this age. Rather, it teaches us to see that the trials and triumphs of our times are guided by our Heavenly Father’s loving Providence, and that they are opportunities to grow in love by responding to these events with the love that is born of complete trust in God. This wise love is our main source of strength in these challenging economic times.

And those of you who are parents, please teach this wisdom to your children by what you say, and most of all by the way you live. This wisdom of the cross is the greatest gift you can give those whom you love so dearly.

I particularly want to voice to young Christians – adolescents and young adults – the invitation which the Holy Spirit makes today: that we be renewed in our taking hold of the wisdom of crucified love. You are at a moment in your own life’s journey when each day you are becoming ever more powerfully aware of your capacity to give and receive love. There are many voices that seek to shape your talent for love according to their own vision and their own purposes. Let Christ’s wisdom about love direct and form this talent which is blossoming in your hearts and mind, for God is the author of your wanting love, and his wisdom is the only plan for truly fulfilling that desire.

6. As I move to conclude my preaching, I wish to acknowledge two bishops who in their priestly ministry have given exemplary service to the wisdom of crucified love. The first is our Holy Father Pope Benedict. My taking up the leadership of the Archdiocese of Detroit today is an act of profound ecclesial communion with him and, through him, with the whole Episcopal College and therefore with all the People of God. Archbishop Sambi, we are particularly grateful for your presence today, since you, as the Holy Father’s representative, give us a visible expression of this communion. Today, as we do every day, but today especially we pray that the Lord who called him to the Chair of Peter will continue to strengthen him, so that he may always be able to “strengthen his brothers and sisters” (Lk. 22: 32). Let us continue to cherish his fatherly love and care for us, and love him in return.

Second, I wish to acknowledge Cardinal Maida, who for close to nineteen years has, like his predecessor Cardinal Szoka before him, guided this Archdiocese in the ways of Christ’s wisdom. To him, on behalf of us all, I offer heartfelt thanks for his ministry and promise our continued prayers and our enduring affection.

7. Now there remains nothing for us but to remember the death and resurrection of the Lord in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. According to the Father’s plan, it was not enough to show us divine love itself in the Son’s Pasch, but he has willed to make the Paschal Mystery present to us through sensible signs and, even more wondrously, to make him our food and drink in this Most Blessed Sacrament. As the Holy Spirit, through my ministry – unworthy though I be – pours into our hearts and minds the wisdom of crucified love, let us, like St. Thomas Aquinas, open ourselves to this grace, so that we become in our own day worthy students and effective apostles of this truth.

(Via EWTN.)

PHOTOS: David Guralnick/The Detroit News(1); AP/Paul Sancya(2,3)


The Rabbis Are Out

In a backhand to the Pope's comments on the matter earlier today, B16's lifting of the Lefevbrite excommunications on the back of Williamson's gas-chamber assertions has prompted the chief rabbinate of Israel to cut ties with the Vatican:
Israel's chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on Wednesday to protest a papal decision to reinstate a bishop who publicly denied 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. The Jewish state's highest religious authority sent a letter to the Holy See expressing "sorrow and pain" at the papal decision.

"It will be very difficult for the chief rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before," the letter said. Chief rabbis of both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews were parties to the letter.

The rabbinate, which faxed a copy of the letter to The Associated Press, also canceled a meeting with the Vatican set for March. The rabbinate and the state of Israel have separate ties with the Vatican, and Wednesday's move does not affect state relations.

Pope Benedict XVI, faced with an uproar over the bishop, said Wednesday he feels "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews and warned against any denial of the full horror of the Nazi genocide.

The remarks were his first public comments on the issue since the controversy erupted Saturday.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican hoped that in light of the pope's words, "the difficulties expressed by the Israeli Rabbinate can be subjected to further and deeper reflection."

Lombardi expressed hope that dialogue between the two parties can continue "fruitfully and serenely."

Oded Weiner, the director general of the chief rabbinate's office, welcomed the pope's remarks, calling them "a big step toward reconciliation."

With his comments, the pope reached out to Jews angered by his decision to rehabilitate bishop Richard Williamson, who told Swedish TV in an interview broadcast last week that evidence "is hugely against 6 million Jews being deliberately gassed." He said 300,000 Jews were killed at most, "but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber."

About 6 million Jews were systematically murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. Many were gassed in death camps while others were killed en masse in other ways, including shooting and starvation. About 240,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel.

Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Israel's quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, denounced the Vatican for bringing a Holocaust denier back into the fold.
As of this writing, Papa Ratzi is still tentatively scheduled to visit Israel and Jordan in May.


"What I Can Give Back"

In Detroit Rock City, the Mass is ended... but until the homily fulltext appears (...and here it is), scenes from a press conference held earlier in the day:
Prior to his installation, [Archbishop Allen] Vigneron said he is about to give back the gift of faith he received in the Archdiocese of Detroit as a little boy and a seminarian.

"What the church and the archdiocese has given me, it's made my life rich," said Vigneron, the first of 10 bishops of Detroit to have been born and raised in the archdiocese. "And it's what I can give back in return."

Vigneron said he is looking forward to the opportunity to serve the church in Detroit, where he returns after five years as bishop of the Diocese of Oakland, Calif.

There are "wonderful human resources and human gifts here, and it isn't as bad as people make out," he said, in response to a question about the difficulties in Metro Detroit. "So many of the people I know are churchgoers and have a tremendous faith in God. I am one who believes that kind of culture can produce a better day. But we have to forget the culture of the past."

Vigneron, 60, grew up in southern St. Clair County in the Immaculate Conception parish that his ancestors helped found in the 19th century.

In a news conference this morning before he was installed, Vigneron discussed the need to foster Catholic schools in the 1.4 million-Catholic archdiocese and to attend to the vast cultural diversity within Metro Detroit.

"We need to look at cultural differences as blessings and as gifts," he said. "It is much more than just sharing international cuisines."

About Catholic schools, more than 80 of which have closed since 1990, when his predecessor, Cardinal Adam Maida, came to Detroit, Vigneron said he would do what he could to maintain the education of Catholic children.

"I would like to be able to say to any Catholic child, 'We'll make it possible for you to go to a Catholic school.' But we can't print money," he said.
While some four cardinals and almost 40 bishops had committed to attend today's festivities, several were conspicuous by their absence, ostensibly due to the area's latest winter storm last night and today. The high-hats were joined by over 230 priests.

PHOTO: Donna Terek/The Detroit News


Start Your Engines

As southeast Michigan gets blanketed with another three to six inches of snow today -- current Motor City temp: 18F -- all eyes are on something else white: the cathedra of Detroit's Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, where Archbishop-elect Allen Vigneron's installation begins in just over two hours' time (and the webstream goes live at 1.30pm Eastern, 1800GMT).

Still gleaming after an extensive 2003 renovation, the 1912 Gothic landmark that comfortably seats 800 will, roads permitting, be filled to overflow... yet while most of the 2pm rite of possession will follow the customary protocol, one added twist has been worked in along the way:

Before the beginning of the liturgy, Archbishop-designate Vigneron will go to the outside door of the cathedral and knock on it, probably with a silver hammer. Cardinal Adam Maida will open the door from the inside to welcome him into the cathedral....

The Apostolic Letter of Appointment, the official letter from the Vatican appointing Archbishop-designate Vigneron to the position of archbishop of Detroit, will then be shown to the College of Consultors, a group of archdiocesan priests who serve as advisors to the archbishop, and read aloud. Then, Cardinal Maida and Archbishop-designate Vigneron will process to the altar together. Archbishop-designate Vigneron will then be led to the bishop's chair, the cathedra, and be given a miter (the bishop's hat), and crosier (the bishop's staff). Although Archbishop-designate Vigneron already has these adornments as bishop of Oakland, he receives them in the new diocese to symbolize taking on the role of main shepherd; in fact, he'll be using the crosier given to him by his family when he was first made a bishop.

For those keeping score, today's Mass will be the second Stateside installation in a row to close with the hymn "Church of God, Elect and Glorious," following its use at December's rite welcoming Archbishop Dennis Schnurr as "adjuticor" of Cincinnati.

Following the liturgy, invitees and the general public won't be at a hotel for the customary post-Mass reception, but the archdiocese's Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Again, that is, roads permitting -- drive safe, Motor City.

PHOTOS: Archdiocese of Detroit


Amid Clash, a Kaddish

As the firestorm over the de-excommunication of the SSPX bishops and the resulting blow to Catholic-Jewish relations continues, a key figure in the decades-long dialogue between the faiths has quietly passed to his rest.

Rabbi Leon Klenicki, who died Sunday at 78, served from 1973-2000 as director of Jewish-Catholic relations for the New York-based Anti-Defamation League. From 1978, he likewise taught Jewish studies at Long Island's formation house, Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington and, on the global level, played a lead role both in the community's dealings with the Latin American mega-conference, the CELAM, and with the Holy See.

In 2007, Pope Benedict named the rabbi a Knight of St Gregory the Great in appreciation of his efforts.

At news of Klenicki's death, his good friend Cardinal William Keeler, the retired archbishop of Baltimore who remains the US bishops' moderator of the Catholic-Jewish dialogue, sent his sympathies and tribute to the rabbi's widow, Myra:

With great sadness I learned of the death of your beloved husband and my esteemed friend, Rabbi Leon Klenicki. This faithful son of Torah leaves behind more than thirty years of scholarship and leadership in interfaith relations. For the Catholic Church in the United States and Latin America, Leon was a pioneer in the promotion of a vision of Catholic-Jewish relations that drew inspiration from the Second Vatican Council and the vital streams of contemporary Jewish thought.

One can only look back on Leon's career with gratitude to God for the paths that he opened up for so many religious leaders committed to reversing centuries of estrangement between their own faith community and other traditions. His innovative lecture at the first continent-wide Latin American meeting of Catholics and Jews in 1968 elucidated, for the first time in that milieu, the practical and pastoral implications of Vatican's II renewed teaching on the Jewish people and Judaism, captured famously in the decree Nostra aetate. Later on, Leon labored as an advisor to Catholic educators, even while carrying on his other ample responsibilities for the Reform Jewish movement in the U.S. and for the Anti-Defamation League as its chief interreligious officer. In his vast body of writings, Leon identified the principles of a new methodology in the way Catholics speak of their "elder brothers and sisters in the faith" in both catechetical and homiletic contexts. As a teacher to Catholic seminarians, as a friend to bishops, priests, and lay scholars—and as a respectful critic of whatever he perceived as departing from the necessary agenda of advancing mutual respect and understanding between Jews and Christians—Leon was a prophetic voice in our dialogues.

I am thankful to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and to the Holy See for recognizing Leon's achievement in building relationships of esteem and collaboration between the faithful of the First Covenant and the faithful of the Church. In May, 2001, when Leon was honored by the Pontifical Commission for Interreligious Relations with Judaism, I acknowledged publically that his numerous books and articles constitute "an extremely valuable resource for anyone who is in the field of Catholic-Jewish relations." More recently, when the present Pontiff made Leon a Papal Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, I recognized this distinction as an apt tribute to the life and service of one who has been a true bridge-builder between faiths.

As I said in my telephone call to you, when Leon and I flew back from Rome to the United States, he and I were united in reciting the Psalms of King David: I as a priest praying the Divine Office in Latin, which is largely made up of the Psalms, and he praying the Psalms in Hebrew, the sacred language of the First Covenant. To be sure, the two of us were united in a fraternal bond that is deep and abiding.

May the name of Rabbi Leon Klenicki be cherished by all who call upon the name of the Lord, and may his soul now rest in the arms of a loving God whom he served with such dedication and charity.


In an effort to stem the nightmare of perception born from his lifting of the excommunications of the four illicitly-ordained bishops of the Society of St Pius X and concurrent comments from one of the clerics disputing the use of gas chambers by the Third Reich during World War II, the Pope used this morning's General Audience to give a reflection on the Holocaust and his weekend decree removing the gravest of sanctions from the ultratraditionalist leaders.

The Vatican transcript of the catechesis has yet to emerge... more when it does.

SVILUPPO: One snip, via Vatican Radio:
Speaking in Italian following his catechesis on St Paul, Pope Benedict immediately addressed an issue that has been dominating international media this week: The Holy See’s decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops from the Fraternity of St Pius X.

“In the homily I pronounced at the outset of my Pontificate” began the Pope”, “I affirmed that the call to unity is the “explicit” duty of a Pastor”. Moreover, he added, it is the a qualifying aspect of the ministry of St Peter’s Successor. Pope Benedict said that he arrived at his decision to lift the excommunication of the four prelates, because they had made known to him on repeated occasions “the suffering caused them by their situation”. “I decided to carry out this act out of paternal mercy” he said, adding that he hopes his gesture will lead to their commitment “to realise full communion with the Church, by their fidelity to and full recognition of the Magisterium and authority of the Pope and the Second Vatican Council”.

Pope Benedict’s thoughts then turned to the Shoah, the memorial of which was celebrated this week. He said “the memories and images of my many visits to Auschwitz come back to me in these days, a death camp in which blind racial and religious hatred led to the ferocious extermination of millions of Jews and other innocent victims”.

Then Pope Benedict firmly said “While I renew my affection for and complete solidarity with our Brothers of the First Alliance, I urge that the memory of the Shoah lead humanity to reflect on the unforeseeable power of evil when it conquers the Human Heart. May the Shoah be a warning to all against oblivion, against denial or revisionism, because violence committed against any one single human being is violence against all humanity. No man is an island, a well known poet once wrote. The Shoah teaches both the new and older generations, that only the demanding journey of listening and dialogue, of love and forgiveness can lead the world’s peoples, cultures and religions towards the desired goal of brotherhood and peace in truth. Never again may violence humiliate the dignity of man!”.

"With Gladness"

The two already familiar with each other from some two decades of contact, as expected, this morning the Pope sent a congratulatory telegram to the newly-elected Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox church, its text as follows:


In Motor City, the Son Rises

Of course, this week's Main Event on the circuit comes later today with the installation of Archbishop-elect Allen Vigneron as head of the 1.5 million-member church in his hometown of Detroit, the nation's sixth-largest diocese.

Four years in the making, the return of the first native ever to return as the Motor City's ordinary has been greeted with even more anticipation than usual as the economic downturn has hit the auto capital with a singularly devastating force -- the nation's highest by state, Michigan's unemployment rate of 10.6% increased over three points just in the last month.

Sure, he was long foreseen to get the post in succession to his twin mentors... but even so, as the historic appointment finally came to pass earlier this month, the expectations awaiting the 60 year-old Vatican vet became all the greater. Now, with his parents and five siblings -- one of them an auto worker -- in attendance (and, at 23 days, after the shortest transition period of recent decades on these shores), the former bishop of Oakland and builder of its cathedral will take the reins at a 2pm ET (1900GMT) liturgy in Blessed Sacrament Cathedral; a webstream is being provided, and the worship aid's already posted.

All that said, who is Detroit's sixth archbishop? On Installation Eve, his hometown paper of record took its best grasp at an answer:
Allen Vigneron is a bookish man, a theologian with a doctorate in German philosophy who spends his spare time reading medieval history and British authors such as Charles Dickens.

All are tools he has used to aggressively defend the teachings of the Catholic Church in his decades as a clergyman. Vigneron has shown he is not afraid to act on controversial issues -- from removing teachers he thought strayed from church doctrine at Sacred Heart Seminary, to helping lead a massive protest against gay marriage in California. And he plans to continue speaking out as the next archbishop of Detroit.

In a wide-ranging interview, he said he also wants to boost Catholic schools, help needy people, continue the interfaith work promoted by outgoing Cardinal Adam Maida and create ethnic harmony. It will be a challenge given the diverse cultures and opinions that make up the 1.4 million Catholics of southeast Michigan.

Set to assume his new role Wednesday, Vigneron also said he plans to first spend a great deal of time listening, something for which he is well known, according to those who work with him.

"He's just a totally collaborative leader," said Sister Glenn Anne McPhee, chancellor of the Oakland, Calif., diocese where Vigneron is the outgoing bishop. "He takes ... advice. He doesn't make arbitrary decisions."
His strong beliefs, though, come with a gentle demeanor, said those who know him and have followed his work.

Speaking last week from California, Vigneron stressed the importance of Catholic teachings on issues such as abortion and stem-cell research, comparing them to slavery and racism. Asked about the success of a stem-cell research proposal on the Michigan ballot in November, he said: "Having lost a political battle ... we're not going to give up the war."

Slowing down to emphasize his views, he added:

"Once we begin to treat any one human life as if it could be put to the use of another human life, without any concern for the one we're exploiting, we're back to a place we really don't want to go."...

In a 1987 Free Press story, he criticized "cafeteria Catholics" who pick and choose which doctrines to believe in, saying they "are confused about what it means to be a Catholic."

In Detroit, he worked closely with the Muslim community on fighting a ballot proposal that would have made assisted suicide easier; one night in 1998, he spent hours in conversation with Imam Mohammed Elahi, head of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights -- a discussion interfaith leaders recall as a pioneering effort in outreach.

In California, Vigneron was an effective administrator who was able to deal with the dizzying range of Asian and Latino cultures that make up a sizeable chunk of Catholics in northern California.

While the past three Detroit archdiocese leaders were golf buffs outside of work, Vigneron enjoys quiet contemplation.

"He's an introvert, and needs space and quiet," McPhee said. "But he also loves being with his people."
* * *
Today's installation comes three days after Cardinal Adam Maida marked his 25th anniversary as a bishop and bade farewell from the cathedra at a special Mass that, according to local reports, drew a "huge" crowd.

After some time off down south, the 78 year-old cardinal will return to Detroit, where an apartment has been prepared for him at the archdiocese's onetime minor seminary (...and some apartment it is...).

After a 19-year tenure marked by charity and controversy, the Pittsburgh-born compatriot and confidant of the Polish Pope did his own round of press in advance of his departure from office, predicting a rebound for the long-beleaguered city:
[Maida] pointed to [the archdiocese's] recent purchase of several storefronts along Washington Boulevard as a sign of his optimism about the future of a region he has lived in for the last 18 years.

"Some of these stores are still vacant," said Maida, 78, sitting in front of stained glass windows in the chancery offices next to St. Aloysius Church on Washington. "So we just bought three ... of them right next door because this is going to be a hustling, bustling place one day. ... The church is going to be here. It's going to be here for the people, for our society."

When Maida assumed leadership of the archdiocese in 1990, the local Catholic Church faced demographic challenges that went back decades, with many Catholics moving out to the suburbs and leaving behind churches they or their ancestors built across the city.

Since then, the Catholic population in southeastern Michigan has shrunk to about 1.4 million.

But Maida said the archdiocese will not abandon Detroit because the church plans for the long term, often making decisions with the distant future in mind -- as he put it, "a 100-year vision."

Sixty years ago as a student, he recalled "coming down Washington Boulevard in those days and visiting Hudson's."

"It's going to happen again. It won't be the same stores ... but this is going to be a very busy, beautiful place. I won't see it in my lifetime, but I feel very proud of the fact that I've been part of this history and that I've seen some of the transformation already taking place."

During his tenure, Maida had to close many Catholic schools and parishes and merge others.

It was painful for him, he said, but necessary to survive.

"The very big hopes and plans you have, have to be realistically addressed," Maida said. "And so, maybe one of the hardest parts of my ministry is rather than building up, I had to downsize in some ways. ... And it looked like in the eyes of some, we were going out of business, but that's not so. What we're doing is reorganizing so that we can become stronger."

Sort of like the auto industry, Maida said.

"These closings ... are not unlike what's happening in the automobile industry," he said. It was once "the heart of our economy." But now, "it's got to downsize."

"And so it is with the church," he said. "The church has to keep changing. We don't change our fundamental truths, our doctrines, our values. But we have to maybe change the way in which we do things."
PHOTOS: Archdiocese of Detroit(1,2); Roman Blanquardt/Detroit Free Press(3)