Thursday, April 30, 2009

Laetare Thursday: a Medal Two-Fer

And the 2009 Laetare Medal goes to....

Nope, ain't happenin'.

Three days after Mary Ann Glendon declined the US church's most prestigious prize and the University of Notre Dame began seeking out another recipient -- all in light of the Golden Dome's invitation to President Obama to serve as its commencement speaker next month -- this morning the following announcement came from South Bend:

Judge John T. Noonan Jr., the 1984 recipient of the Laetare Medal, has accepted an invitation to deliver an address in the spirit of the award at Notre Dame’s 164th University Commencement Ceremony on May 17. His speech will be in lieu of awarding the medal this year.

“In thinking about who could bring a compelling voice, a passion for dialogue, great intellectual stature, and a deep commitment to Catholic values to the speaking role of the Laetare Medalist – especially in these unusual circumstances – it quickly became clear that an ideal choice is Judge Noonan,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame. “This commencement ceremony, more than anything else, is a celebration of our students and their families. Judge Noonan will join with President Obama and other speakers in that celebration, sending them from our campus and into the world with sound advice and affirmation.

“Since Judge Noonan is a previous winner of the Laetare Medal, we have decided, upon reflection, to not award the medal this year.”
Noonan was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan.

In addition to his service on the federal bench, Noonan has been a consultant for the Presidential Commission on Population, the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Law Institute.

Noonan has served as a consultant for several agencies in the Catholic Church, including Pope Paul VI’s Commission on Problems of the Family, and the U.S. Catholic Conference’s committees on moral values, law and public policy, law and life issues, and social development and world peace. He also has been a governor of the Canon Law Society of America, and director of the National Right to Life Committee.

A Boston native, Noonan was graduated from Harvard University in 1946, studied English literature at Cambridge University for a year, and returned to this country to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. Noonan received his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1954 and went on to serve on the Special Staff of President Eisenhower’s National Security Council. He subsequently practiced law in Boston for six years.

Noonan’s long teaching career began in 1961 when he joined the faculty of Notre Dame Law School. He taught at Notre Dame from 1961 to 1966, also serving as editor of the Natural Law Forum, later the American Journal of Jurisprudence. He taught at the University of California Law School at Berkeley from 1966 to 1986. He also has been a visiting professor of law at the Angelicum in Rome, Notre Dame, Boston College, Harvard, UCLA, Southern Methodist University and Stanford. He has been the Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Lecturer at Harvard Law School and the Pope John XXIII Lecturer at Catholic University.

Noonan is the author of numerous books, including “A Church that Can and Cannot Change: The Development of Catholic Moral Teaching,” “Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by Catholic Theologians and Canonists,” “Power to Dissolve: Lawyers and Marriages in the Courts of the Roman Curia,” “Bribes,” “The Lustre of Our Country: The American Experience of Religious Freedom,” and “Narrowing the Nation’s Power: The Supreme Court Sides With the States.” He also has contributed essays, articles and reviews to such magazines and journals as Commonweal, The Tablet, The Wilson Quarterly, National Review, America, and The New York Times Book Review.

...meanwhile, as Glendon isn't speaking to the press after deciding not to accept the 126 year-old prize, a web column critiquing the former Vatican ambassador's decision to decline the Laetare was suitably blasted by her daughter, the Rome-based art historian and writer Elizabeth Lev:
The Laetare Medal is the highest honor conferred on Catholics in the United States. For a Catholic, it has greater prestige than a Nobel Prize for a scientist or an Academy Award for an actor, as the award is given for career-long achievement, for "staying the course" in the words of St. Paul. It doesn't just showcase a single discovery or film role.

To renounce it, therefore, is not the lightest of matters. Professor Glendon has spent a month thinking, consulting, and given her deep faith, praying about this decision. (This, for those of you who don't know, means asking God to help one put aside one's own personal concerns and act in the way that will produce the greatest good). (Kaitlynn) Riely's dismissive "thanks, no thanks" rendering of her decision, while pithy, is reductive.

Professor Glendon was to have been honored for not only for her scholarship, but for her second career, her pro-bono work -- ranging from the civil rights movement of the 1960s to the great civil rights issues of the present day -- namely, the defense of human life from conception to natural death. Her concerns range from the aging and dying population to the unborn to the well-being and dignity of every life, regardless of race, religion, or economic status. Her outstanding work in this field has earned her the respect of the most brilliant minds of the international community, regardless of whether they agree with her position. So again, to see her merely as "strongly anti-abortion" instead of as a tireless defender of the dignity of life, is to reveal not only a lack of understanding of the subject's work, but also the writer's real interest in this question.

Furthermore, during his first 100 days in office, President Obama has worked tirelessly to undermine Professor Glendon's lifetime of work; he is funding abortion out of the bailout package and planning to suppress the protection of conscience for health care workers.

Your notion that her "training in diplomacy" might somehow ease this situation does not take into account that she has a five-minute acceptance speech and he will have a lengthy commencement speech. There is no "engaging" here. Diplomacy generally teaches that if you have a rapier and your opponent has a missile launcher, try not to engage.

That Professor Glendon "did not like that Notre Dame was claiming her speech would serve to balance the event" is again facile and simplistic. What is there to like in being the deflector screen for inviting a profoundly divisive figure to give the commencement speech? What is likeable about a Catholic University named for the most important woman in Christianity exploiting a woman who has already dedicated her life to protecting the Church's teaching by turning her into a warm-up act for a grotesque twist on a reality show?

Finally, after 50 Catholic bishops condemned the university for its direct defiance in honoring a man in open conflict with the Church's teaching, it is right that Professor Glendon let her silence speak louder than her five-minute allotment of words would have.
Now resigned from the ambassadorship and back at Harvard Law, it's worth noting that Glendon remains in Vatican service as president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The Holy See's global think tank of economists, political scientists, lawyers and sociologists, Pope John Paul II named Glendon to head the academy on its founding in 1994.

With the university's boards of trustees and fellows slated to meet tomorrow, bound lists of the first 300,000 signatures of a petition opposing Obama's presence on the commencement dais -- where he'll receive an honorary doctorate of laws alongside giving the day's big speech -- were sent yesterday to Notre Dame's president, Fr John Jenkins CSC, and numerous Vatican officials.


Tornando a Colombo

Early word from Rome on this last day of April forecasts a significant, long-tipped move in the liturgy world: Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli reports that, possibly come Saturday, the Pope will transfer the #2 of the Congregation for Divine Worship Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith back to his native Sri Lanka as archbishop of Colombo.

First aired last October in the pages of The Tablet, the move for the B16 favorite would place the 60 year-old prelate (right) at the forefront of the crucial Asian church and possibly, Tornielli writes, in line for the cardinal's red hat, an honor given to just one previous Sri Lankan over Catholicism's centuries of history in the war-torn island-nation.

An auxiliary in the 700,000-member Colombo church before stints as a diocesan bishop, Vatican official and papal diplomat, Ranjith's become a flashpoint in church circles over his staunch support for the 1962 Missal and traditional practices such as receiving the Eucharist kneeling and on the tongue, all elements of Benedict XVI's liturgical program. While the archbishop was restored to the Curia months after his patron's election to Peter's chair as lieutenant to the then-CDW prefect Cardinal Francis Arinze, the dynamic atop the global church's liturgy office has shifted even more decisively in Benedict's favor since the arrival late last year of its new head Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, a longstanding collaborator of the Pope's whose closeness to Benedict once earned him the nickname "Ratzingerino," the "Little Ratzinger."

With the Congregation overseeing the approvals for the revised translation of the Missale Romanum in English, Tornielli notes that Ranjith's successor at Divine Worship is "with all probability" likely to be "an Anglophone prelate." If the Colombo appointment proceeds as reported, the Curialist would succeed Archbishop Oswald Gomis, who reached the retirement age of 75 in December 2007.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Newman's Miracle Deacon

With word on the wire that Cardinal John Henry Newman has cleared the "miracle hurdle" to attain beatification, the "unassuming" Massachusetts deacon whose healing from spinal paralysis on the English theologian's intercession reportedly got Rome's green-light is now in the spotlight:
Lying in a hospital bed after surgery on his spine, unable to walk and in agonizing pain, Jack Sullivan propped himself up on elbows and prayed.

Not to some vast, unknowable god, but to a specific figure in the Catholic Church, vastly respected, yet mortal: Cardinal John Henry Newman, an Englishman who died in 1890.

The healing, as Sullivan tells it, was almost immediate. He felt a tingling all over, was flooded with warmth, and, as easy as that, he could walk....

For Sullivan, who said he has remained pain-free since his prayers were answered and who has lately been busy fertilizing his rose garden and celebrating 40 years of marriage to his wife, Carol, the Vatican finding confirms what he has long believed.

In an interview at his home, the good-natured, rosy-cheeked Sullivan said his most striking memory of that summer day in 1991 is the wave of well-being that swept over him as he prayed.

"The most important thing was the sense of exuberance I felt, exuberance and confidence that all would be well, all would be rosy, and a tremendous happiness," he said yesterday, sitting in a comfortable brown armchair with views of towering pine trees. "I got up and walked all over the place, twisting my cane like Charlie Chaplin."...

Sullivan's suffering erupted on June 6, 2000, he said, when he woke up with excruciating pain in his back and legs. At Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, a CAT scan showed several vertebrae squeezing his spinal cord. A doctor told him to find a surgeon fast, because his spinal stenosis could lead to paralysis. In the meantime, Sullivan said, he was forced to walk hunched over, his right hand gripping his right knee for support.

He learned that the long recovery from surgery would keep him off his feet for months and dreaded the timing: Halfway through a four-year program that would lead to his ordination as a deacon in the Catholic Church and passionately devoted to his goal, he was in the midst of classes and a 120-hour internship at a Boston hospital.

One night, watching television to escape his troubles, Sullivan happened on a show about Cardinal John Henry Newman. Born in London in 1801 and widely admired as a funny, brilliant thinker and writer on religion, Newman converted to Catholicism in his 40s after clashing with leaders of the Church of England over what he saw as a shift away from the church's roots.

The television show described the current movement, based in England, supporting the cardinal's beatification and appealed to viewers for news of miraculous happenings that might help make the case. Sullivan wrote down the address. And that night he asked Newman for help.

"I said, 'Please, Cardinal Newman, help me so I can go back to classes and be ordained,' " Sullivan said. "The next morning I woke up, and there was no pain."

Sullivan remained free of pain for eight months, but after his last class, the pain returned, he said. He had surgery at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston on Aug. 9, 2001. Five days later, his second prayer to Cardinal Newman was answered. He was ordained in September 2002, and now serves as deacon at St. Thecla Parish in Pembroke, where his duties include assisting at Mass, performing baptisms, and teaching classes for local prisoners.

After Sullivan shared his story with leaders of the campaign for Newman's sainthood, years of investigation followed, culminating in hearings in Boston where Sullivan and his wife both testified about his recovery.

The inquiry was exhaustive, he said, and for good reason. "Just because you want to believe something, it doesn't mean it's so," he said.

He said he does not know why Newman helped him, except that he wanted so badly to become a deacon. "The point is, there is a greater reality," he said. "We don't have to worry."

Sullivan isn't the only US Catholic whose verified cure recently put a heavenly cause over the top.

Last year, the inexplicable healing from cancer of Audrey Toguchi, a retired Hawaiian teacher, secured the canonization of Blessed Damien deVeuster, the Belgian "leper priest" who ministered there and will be formally declared a saint on 11 October in Rome.

PHOTO: Debee Tlumacki/Boston Globe


"The Hundred Days That Didn't"

Building on the post below, the following is an English translation of the L'Osservatore Romano piece on the Obama administration's first 100 days.

The front-page editorial in the 29 April edition was penned by the daily's frequent contributor on foreign affairs, Giuseppe Fiorentino, who wrote the laudatory lead editorial that ran on the front-page of the "papal paper" on the day following the presidential elections.

An institution of the Roman Curia, de facto control over L'Osservatore's editorial content is exercised -- especially on sensitive topics -- by the Vatican Secretariat of State.
* * *
Obama in the White House
The hundred days that didn't shake the world
One thousand three hundred sixty-one days separate Barack Obama from the end of his mandate. No one can know nor imagine what will happen in this time. In fact, many analysts describe the "occupation" of the president as a reactive one. Planned political strategy leaves the post -- as the case of the Bush presidency after 11 September 2001 proves -- to choices dictated by events.

In another perspective, this 29 April marks a hundred days of the first African-American president in the White House, traditionally a much-awaited point for an initial assessment, however inevitably partial. But rivers of ink have already flowed over these weeks that, according to many commentators, they've signified a decisive turn from the past, a redefinition of the very image of the United States in the world.

It might be that this capacity to communicate is one of the great traits of the president, recalling that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Like the architect of the New Deal, Obama utilizes the modern media -- radio then, internet today -- to spread the message of hope which the nation needs. The great crisis of 1929 can't be compared to the current one. And still the imprint seems the same. So too the ability of shifting the attention of public opinion in a pragmatic and functional way.

In these months Obama has seen his popularity grow only by having opened the doors to changes: he proposed direct negotiations with Iran to resolve the question of Tehran's nuclear program and invited Russia to new discussions for the reduction of its strategic arsenals. Above all, he's proposed a different role for the United States on the American continent, beginning to imagine new relations with Cuba. But in other and more concrete international scenarios, continuity in respect to the past is anything but compromised. Like in Iraq, where the administration is applying the exit strategy begun by Bush, and in Afghanistan. Here -- Obama declared -- is found the new front of the fight against terrorism. New only to a point, as it was in Afghanistan where the first US military intervention after September 11 took place. And not everything as a wish for discontinuity can be seen by the retention of Robert Gates at the helm of the Pentagon.

Even when, opening to Cuba, he's broken a taboo, Obama isn't much moved from his predecessors in the request for tangible signs on the part of Havana.

Similar evaluations can be made for the economic stimulus undertaken by the president. It's been accused of excessive statism by some, if not placing the country on the path to socialism. A calmer analysis, however, notes that Obama moves with caution: very reluctant in the face of the nationalization of financial institutions, he opened the private sector to his plan to save credit institutions. Revealing, according to the International Herald Tribune, an unexpected similarity with Ronald Reagan, the president who placed a flag for the state's retreat from the private sector. And much more statism revealed itself in the final months of the Bush-Paulson team with the partial nationalization of the titans of property lending, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Even on ethical questions -- which, from the electoral campaign, have been the forceful concern of the Catholic episcopate -- Obama doesn't seem to have confirmed the radical changes he had aired. The new guidelines regarding embryonic stem-cell research don't, in fact, line up with the changes foreseen months ago. They don't permit the creation of new embryos for purposes of research or therapy, for cloning or reproductive ends, and federal funds may be used solely for experimentation with surplus embryos. These don't remove the motives for criticism in the face of unacceptable forms of bioengineering that contrast with the human identity of the embryo, but the new regulations are less permissive.

A certain surprise has otherwise come about in these days through a bill designed by the Democratic party: the Pregnant Women Support Act would move to limit the number of abortions in the United States through initiatives of aid for distressed women. It's not a negation of the doctrine until now expressed by Obama on matters of the interruption of pregnancy, but the legislative project could represent a rebalancing in support of motherhood.

Signals of innovations in the Obama administration are undeniable. Above all on matters of the care of environment and in particular the partnership that seems born with Beijing. But maybe it's early to talk of revolution or imbalance in judgment, whether positive or negative. These hundred days have not shaken the world. Better to await the next one thousand three hundred sixty-one.

Vatican Daily on First 100: Less Bang Then Whimper

No question, some folks will disagree -- and mightily so -- but on this much-touted 100th Day of the Obama administration, the Holy See's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano has rolled out its verdict in a front-page editorial:
[U]nder the headline, "The 100 days that did not shake the world," [L'Osservatore] said the new president has operated with more caution than predicted in most areas, including economics and international relations.

"On ethical questions, too -- which from the time of the electoral campaign have been the subject of strong worries by the Catholic bishops -- Obama does not seem to have confirmed the radical innovations that he had discussed," it said.

It said the new draft guidelines for stem-cell research, for example, did not constitute the major change in policy that was foreseen a few months ago.

"(The guidelines) do not allow the creation of new embryos for research or therapeutic purposes, for cloning or for reproductive ends, and federal funds may be used only for experimentation with excess embryos," it said.

It added that the new guidelines "do not remove the reasons for criticism in the face of unacceptable forms of bioengineering" but are "less permissive" than expected.

The article saw a positive sign in the recent introduction of the Pregnant Women Support Act, which would help women overcome problems that often cause them to have abortions. It was sponsored by a group of pro-life Democrats.

"It is not a negation of the doctrine expressed up to now by Obama in the matter of interruption of pregnancy, but the legislative project could represent a rebalancing in support of maternity," the newspaper said.
Full translation to come... in the meantime, however, the Pregnant Women Support Act received a significant ecclesial green-light last week when it was publicly backed by the US bishops' pro-life chair, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia.

In a 24 April letter to members of Congress urging their support for the measure, Rigali promoted the bill for offering "an authentic common ground" that "will provide many kinds of life-affirming support for pregnant women and their unborn children.

"[P]regnant women need our assistance now so that abortion is not promoted to them as their only choice," the cardinal wrote (emphases original).

Earlier this week, Rigali likewise issued a retort to an assertion by veteran pro-lifer Doug Kmiec -- once a Reaganite, now an Obama surrogate -- that the administration's recently released guidelines for embryonic stem-cell research were "ethically sensitive."

On another point of church-state contention, lead oversight of the administration's abortion and health-care policy is now officially in the hands of a stridently pro-choice Catholic.

Yesterday, the Senate filled the final vacancy in the Obama Cabinet by confirming Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services by a 65-31 vote.

A thorn for the church's pro-life base long before her selection for the Federal post, last year Sebelius was publicly asked to refrain from the Eucharist by her ordinary, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City. In recent weeks, aides to both Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington have indicated their expectation that the Kansas prelate's request of Sebelius would continue to be honored by the now-Secretary after she moves to the capital.

PHOTO: Getty


"The Lord Has Not Abandoned You"

Apologies, folks -- after a daylong glitch that saw the pages locked up and unable to post, away we go again.

Of course, yesterday's big story took place some 60 miles from Rome as the Pope went to bring solace and hope to Abruzzo, where hundreds were killed, thousands injured and displaced after the 6.3 magnitude Holy Week earthquake rocked the region in Italy's worst natural disaster in three decades.

The scene, from CNS' brief:
With the sun struggling to break through thick rain clouds, the pope told survivors it had been his desire to come see them from the very moment the earthquake struck this mountainous central Italian region April 6.

"I would have liked to have gone to every town and every neighborhood, to all the tent cities and to have met everyone if it had been possible," he said under drizzling rain in the makeshift tent encampment a few miles outside L'Aquila....

"Dear friends, my presence among you is meant to be a tangible sign that the crucified and risen Lord has not abandoned you," he said.

He said God is present and not deaf to their cries for help and their worries after having lost their homes, savings, jobs and loved ones.

The pope said those who lost their lives are with God and that they would want to see their surviving friends and relatives go forward with courage and hope.

The outpouring of help and support cannot end with just emergency aid, he said.

Efforts must continue and "become a steady and concrete project" so that the city and surrounding towns can rise again, he said.

The pope expressed his concern for the many young people who have been "suddenly forced to tackle a harsh reality," children who can no longer go to school and elderly deprived of their homes.

When the pope finished his remarks, he warmly greeted residents and aid workers. Mothers brought their babies and toddlers to the pope to be blessed.

The pope then rode through the devastated village across a freshly graveled road in a white civil defense minibus....

The pope then went on to L'Aquila to visit the severely damaged Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio.
Surrounded by firefighters wearing helmets, the pope went through the basilica's holy door to venerate the remains of St. Celestine V, a 13th-century pope who abdicated just a few months after his election....

Heaps of debris were still sitting on the floor inside the basilica, and the pope asked the parish priest, "It all collapsed?" The priest replied that it did.

Firefighters warned the papal entourage that it was too dangerous to linger inside.

The pope was visibly taken aback by the level of destruction.

Father Nunzio Spinelli, the basilica's rector, said the pope told him, "Now that I have seen the damage with my own eyes I can see that it is even worse than I imagined."

The pope then visited the site of a university dormitory that collapsed and claimed eight students' lives.

He met with about a dozen students, blessing them and talking with them. He urged them to continue with their studies because "it's for your future."

The pope told those who were majoring in engineering to help the town build good homes.

Independent investigators are studying why so many recently built buildings gave way during the quake. There have been accusations of builders using shoddy construction materials and not following building codes.

The pope called for everyone "to make a serious examination of conscience" and take responsibility for his or her actions now and in the future.

He also called for an appropriate solution to be found soon for the thousands of people still living in tents.
The pope made the comments during an outdoor gathering at a military school and barracks just outside L'Aquila. It was the same courtyard where a funeral Mass was celebrated April 10 for some 200 victims of the quake.

To an audience that included local bishops, religious men and women, government authorities, aid workers, rescuers and survivors, the pope said he was deeply moved by their hospitality.

He praised their unified and well-coordinated efforts not only for dealing with the disaster and its aftermath quickly and efficiently, but also for having been motivated by love.

Emergency efforts should never just be a well-oiled machine, he said, but should display "soul and passion."

Solidarity with those in crisis gives a sign of hope amid the darkness "like a burning ember hidden beneath the ashes," he said.
On a side-note, as previously noted B16 paid homage before the remains of St Celestine V -- the last Roman pontiff to resign the office -- which are kept at the L'Aquila basilica.

Though the Vatican noted in advance that Benedict would place a "papal pallium" before Celestine's glass casket as a sign of respect, only yesterday did it become clear that the Pope had chosen to leave behind (above) the now-discarded incarnation of the woolen band envisioned by the longtime overseer of papal liturgy Archbishop Piero Marini, who aimed to "restore" the garment's ancient, longer form on the installation of the successor of John Paul II.

After two decades at the pontiff's left hand, Marini was transferred from the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations in 2007. Shortly thereafter, his successor Msgr Guido Marini -- no relation -- designed a new "papal pallium" of his own, which Benedict first donned at last year's celebrations for the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

Getty(1,2); Reuters(3)


At April's End, The Doctors Are In

As it has for some six centuries, this 29 April again marks the feast of one of the great saints of ecclesiastical renewal: Catherine of Siena (1347-80), who served in turns as a nurse, mystic and Dominican tertiary... but remains most famous for her pen, with which she corresponded as adviser (and often scourge) of her day's hierarchs:
Even at a young age, Catherine sensed the troubled society around her and wanted to help. She dreamed of dressing up like a man to become a Dominican friar; more than once she ran into the street to kiss the ground where Dominicans walked.

Catherine's parents tried hard to discourage her from becoming religious, but eventually, when she was about sixteen-years-old, Catherine, with the help of the Holy Spirit, was permitted to enter the sisters of Penance of St Dominic, the Mantellate.

During her life as a religious, St. Catherine had numerous visions and long ecstasies, but she is most remembered for her writings...

Her bold letters, even today, have a way of shocking the reader into reality. The style of her letters was lean and direct. She sometimes broke with polite convention. For example, during the Great Western Schism, in defense of Pope Urban VI, she rebuked three Italian cardinals who were supporting the anti-pope, writing to them, "what made you do this? You are flowers who shed no perfume, but stench that makes the whole world reek."

These words are strong, and it is not recommended that we imitate them. St. Catherine had a unique call from God, which Pope Paul VI referred to as her "charism of exhortation." 3 it was her great love and fidelity to the Pope and college of bishops that prompted her to respond to God's urgings that she be forthright with those who were against the Vicar of Christ.

Wanting Pope Gregory XI to leave his residency in Avignon and return to Rome, and knowing the Supreme Pontiff was afraid of being poisoned, Catherine wrote to him, "Be not a timorous child, but manly . . ." She spoke to him as a loving daughter would. In other parts of her letters to the Popes she used an affectionate pet name for them: Babbo, which means Daddy.

To Giovanna, the Queen of Naples, who supported the anti-pope and was accused of murdering her husband, St. Catherine wrote, "You know that you do ill, but like a sick and passionate woman, you let yourself be guided by your passions."

Catherine risked death by sending such words to the authorities of her time. But she was not afraid. "I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, not in myself" was one of her favorite prayers.
In 1970, along with Teresa of Avila, Paul VI broke precedent by making Catherine the first woman given the ancient accolade of "Doctor of the Church."

"What did she understand by renewal and reform of the church?" Papa Montini asked in conferring the title. "Certainly not the subversion of its essential structures, rebellion against pastors, a way of liberty and personal charism, arbitrary innovations in worship and discipline-as some would wish in our day.

"To the contrary," Paul noted, "she repeatedly affirms [the desire] that the church retain the beauty of the Bride of Christ and that renewal could only come 'not with war, but peace and serenity, with humility and the ongoing prayer, sweat and tears of the servants of God.'"

* * *
St Catherine's Day follows the memorial of one of the most popular "modern saints" added to the roll of the canonized in the pontificate of John Paul II.

For just the fifth time, yesterday marked the feast of St Gianna Beretta Molla, a Milanese pediatrician who died at 40 to save the life of her fourth child....
She diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while, at the same time, applying her faith through generous apostolic service among the youth of Catholic Action and charitable work among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. After earning degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in Pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and there after gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and poor.

While working in the field of medicine-which she considered a “mission” and practiced as such-she increased her generous service to Catholic Action, especially among the “very young” and, at the same time, expressed her joie de vivre and love of creation through skiing and mountaineering. Through her prayers and those of others, she reflected upon her vocation, which she also considered a gift from God. Having chosen the vocation of marriage, she embraced it with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself “to forming a truly Christian family”.

She became engaged to Pietro Molla and was radiant with joy and happiness during the time of their engagement, for which she thanked and praised the Lord. They were married on September 24, 1955, in the Basilica of St. Martin in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi, in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and balance she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.

In September 1961 towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain; she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. She worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that.

A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decided between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. Save him”. On the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you», the mother died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. The Servant of God lies in the cemetery of Mesero (4 km from Magenta).

“Conscious immolation," was the phrase used by Pope Paul VI to define the act of Blessed Gianna, remembering her at the Sunday Angelus of September 23, 1973, as: “A young mother from the diocese of Milan, who, to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own, with conscious immolation”. The Holy Father in these words clearly refers to Christ on Calvary and in the Eucharist.
At her canonization in May 2004, the great saint-maker -- presiding over the last of his pontificate's 38 saint-making ceremonies -- said that St Gianna "was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love.
In a letter to her future husband a few days before their marriage, she wrote: "Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women".

Following the example of Christ, who "having loved his own... loved them to the end" (Jn 13: 1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfil themselves.
While Gianna enjoys considerable popularity in the trenches on this side of the Pond, her feast hasn't been placed on the local calendars in North America... at least, not yet.


He "Expressed His Sorrow": First Nations Meet the Pope

As previewed earlier this week, the Pope received a group of Canadian First Nations following this morning's General Audience in the hope of reconciliation amid the abuse inflicted on thousands of the community's members over several decades by church workers in government-run residential schools.

After the private session, the Holy See released the following statement:
At the end of the General Audience, the Holy Father met with Mr Phil Fontaine, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, and the Most Reverend James Weisgerber, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with those accompanying them, and he listened to their stories and concerns.

His Holiness recalled that since the earliest days of her presence in Canada, the Church, particularly through her missionary personnel, has closely accompanied the indigenous peoples. Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian Residential School system, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity. His Holiness emphasized that acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society. He prayed that all those affected would experience healing, and he encouraged First Nations Peoples to continue to move forward with renewed hope.
...and the reaction:

Following the meeting, Fontaine, who is also a residential school survivor, called the Pope's words a "very significant statement."

While he said it did not amount to an official apology, Fontaine told CBC News he hoped the expression of regret would "close the book" on the issue of apologies for residential school survivors.

"The fact that the word 'apology' was not used does not diminish this moment in any way," he said. "This experience gives me great comfort."

Fontaine added it was important to note the delegation came to the Vatican at the invitation of Benedict himself.

"We never thought for a moment we would be here to be received by the Holy Father to talk about an experience that has caused so much pain and suffering with so many," he said....

The Pope spoke in Italian and had his words translated into English by an aide, said Edward John, grand chief of the Tl'azt'en First Nation in north-central British Columbia, who also attended the meeting.

John said the Pope acknowledged the suffering of those who are still living with the consequences of their experiences at the schools.

"I think in that sense, there was that apology that we were certainly looking for," John told CBC News.

In keeping with the Vatican's standard practice for papal encounters of an emotional nature, no still nor video recording of the meeting took place.

Reuters(1); AP(2)


Monday, April 27, 2009

"Comfort My People"

Making good on his Holy Week promise, tomorrow Pope Benedict travels to L'Aquila, where he'll visit the epicenter of the 6.3-magnitude quake that struck Central Italy's Abruzzo province in the days before Easter.

In the course of the day-long trek, the pontiff will meet survivors both at a collapsed dorm and in the tent city that remains home to a sizable number of the area's 65,000 displaced residents.

The 6 April quake killed some 300 people, most of whom were laid to rest after an unprecedented Good Friday funeral liturgy was held with a Vatican indult.

Away from the headlines, the recent discovery in the rubble of a fragile 15th century clay statue of the Madonna and Child that remained intact despite the basilica that fell around it has been seen by the community as a sign of hope.

Early estimates have placed the region's rebuilding in the range of €12 billion (US$16 billion). Several of the area's age-old cultural treasures, however, are lost to eternity.

More, as always, as it happens.



The Two-Edged Sword?

While things Notre Dame continue to dominate the scene, campus controversies involving politicial speakers are now afoot on both sides of the aisle.

Best known for his stout advocacy in favor of tight controls on immigration, former Congressman Tom Tancredo won't be speaking at Providence College Wednesday night despite a student group's invitation.

Earlier today, Dominican-run PC blocked an on-campus appearance by the Colorado Republican, citing the "direct contrast" of his views on immigration with those of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin.

Tancredo now plans to deliver a speech at the college's gates on Wednesday. In the past, PC has hosted pro-choice politicians, including Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, seemingly without incident.

Last year, Tobin made headlines -- and took heat -- for his call on Federal immigration officials in the Rhode Island diocese to conscientiously object from performing raids on undocumented workers. More recently, the bishop's warned of the "relentless" specter of same-sex marriage in the Ocean State, home to the nation's most densely-Catholic population, and taken heat for writing up an "interview" he imagined having with President Obama.

On a related note, over the weekend Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans announced his withdrawl from next month's commencement exercises at the Crescent City's Xavier University over the school's choice of veteran Democratic operative Donna Brazile as its commencement speaker.

A New Orleans native and prominent African-American Catholic, Brazile's selection by the historically Black university founded by St Katharine Drexel had raised an outcry from conservative groups. In the statement announcing his boycott, the archbishop referred to Brazile as a "pro-abortion strategist."

"I recognize that Ms. Brazile is a Catholic Louisiana native who has worked effectively in service to the poor and African Americans in particular," Hughes wrote Xavier President Dr Norman Francis.

"However, her public statements on the abortion issue are not in keeping with Catholic moral teaching."

As the local Times-Picayune pointed out, however, no protests ensued over the choice of Xavier's 2006 commencement speaker: Barack Obama.

And so it is, and so it goes.

PHOTO: AP/Kevin Sanders


Heil... Father?

Stick around these parts long enough, and odds are you'll hear the word "fascist" -- or some variation of it -- tossed into the mix about someone or other.

Whatever the thought-process behind its use, however, odds are this is worse:
A priest has shocked parishioners by welcoming them to church wearing a swastika armband.

Fascist Father Angelo Idi, 51 - who once saw off a charity box thief with a truncheon at his church in Vigevano, Italy - confessed: "I am proud of my right wing beliefs. But people shouldn't care about my politics, they should care about how good a priest I am."...

Last month a right wing Italian priest who is a member of Richard Williamson's Pius fraternity [i.e. SSPX] was caught giving the Hitler salute at a neo-fascist rally -- but claimed he was just trying to bless his flock.
Catholic [sic] priest Giulio Tam, well known for his extremist right views, raised his right arm when speaking at a rally of the neo-fascist Forza Nuova party in Bergamo, northern Italy.

After a picture revealed Tam raising his right hand, he argued: "The young people of the Forza Nuova wanted me to bless them. I'll always be on their side."
Blessing or salute? You decide.

According to Italian reports, Tam -- who's reportedly celebrated Requiem Masses at the grave of Benito Mussolini -- is the Forza Nuova ("New Strength") candidate in June's mayoral elections in Bologna.

...just in case anyone thought things were crazy in the States.

SVILUPPO: Contrary to the Austrian report cited above, Angelo Idi (shown above right) is not a priest, but the lay sacristan of a parish church.

Doesn't make it any better, of course.


In the Vineyard

For all the "sexier" stuff out there, it's sometimes easy and all too tempting to forget that at its truest and best, the work of the church -- and its teachings in action -- take place a long ways away from the headlines.

Along those lines, then, a couple stories from the trenches....

First, CNS notes the severe injuries suffered by a local Caritas director who went into the line of fire in a war-torn corner of Sri Lanka "where tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in recent days":
Father T. R. Vasanthaseelan, director of Caritas Vanni-Hudec, had to have one leg amputated after shells struck St. Anthony Church in Valaignarmadam April 23. Many civilians had sought safety in the church.

According to Caritas Internationalis headquarters in Rome, Father James Pathinathan, a member of the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development, also was injured and was taken to a hospital in Anuradhapura. Caritas is an international confederation of Catholic relief, development and social service organizations.

Caritas Internationalis Secretary-General Lesley-Anne Knight expressed concern for the people of Vanni and the church personnel working there.

"Father Vasanthaseelan is a much loved figure in Sri Lanka and throughout the Caritas confederation. He is a man of peace, courage and hope. He has lived among the people he seeks to serve and accompanied them through their suffering," Knight said in a statement.

"That aid workers are suffering only underlines how innocent people, women and children are being killed and injured in Sri Lanka's civil war and reinforces our calls for an immediate cease-fire," she said.

"Both the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tiger rebels have obligations to protect the lives of civilians and allow humanitarian access. The United Nations and the international community must hold them to these commitments," she said.

Caritas Internationalis said it had launched an appeal to provide emergency assistance to the war victims, including those made homeless by the fighting, returnees and war-affected families, especially women and children.

Caritas Sri Lanka's national director, Father Damian Fernando, said Caritas was continuing to help the needy and negotiate with the government to find a lasting solution for peace in the country.

"Sri Lanka is undergoing the worst scenario. Innocent civilians are paying a huge cost and are the worst hit. Already there are more than 130,000 who have crossed over to the government-controlled side," Father Fernando said.

"These people are coming out in highly traumatized conditions. Most of them are tired and worn out after months of suffering. Many of them are injured and some of them are very severely wounded. The hospitals have totally exceeded their capacity to receive the wounded," he said.

Vanni is the last bastion of the Tamil rebels, known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who run a de facto state of more than 300,000 ethnic Tamil people. The rebel group launched an independence struggle against the Sinhalese-led government in 1983; since then the war has killed about 80,000 people and displaced more than a million.
...and -- with an eye to the HolyLand PopeTrip that begins in just ten days' time -- highlights the work of an Israeli home for disabled kids run by Vincentian sisters:
The creamy stones of the Sacred Heart Home gleam in the sun, and squeals of delight echo in the corridors when Sister Pascale Jarjour enters a room.

When she talks about an individual child's case, tears fill her eyes. But when she's with one of her 60 little charges, it's all smiles, caresses and kisses.

Sister Jarjour is one of four members of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and 105 staff members who care for the 60 severely physically and mentally disabled children who call Sacred Heart their home. Two hundred children attend the day care center in the same compound.

Like the inhabitants of Haifa itself, the residents and staff of the home are Muslims, Jews, Druze and Christians.

Some parents arrange for their children's baptisms or bar mitzvahs while they are at the home, and several take their children home briefly for their own religious holidays, Sister Jarjour said. During Passover this year, one couple brought everything needed for a Seder and celebrated with their 1-year-old son who suffered severe brain damage as a result of choking.

"Whether we are Christians, Muslims, Druze or Jews, suffering is the same and the small joys are the same," Sister Jarjour said.

"Many families say they want to share this experience with the politicians, to say to them, 'We can live together,'" she said.

The Lebanese-born sister has worked in Israel for 30 years and spent the last 20 of them in Haifa at the home for disabled children, who range in age from 2 months to 21 years.

While only about 5 percent of the children are from Christian families, Sister Jarjour said the work "has been a profoundly Christian experience."

"I would love to tell everyone about Jesus, but in this situation I cannot," she said. "However, in this work, what you do is more important that what you say, and people see what we do."
And in China -- where the genuine difficulties often experienced by Christians are no secret -- the church recently mourned a 93 year-old priest who, after thirty years in a prison camp, returned to the simple ministry of a catechist on his release:
The Catholics of Guangzhou today said their last goodbye to Fr. Francis Tan Tiande, who died last April 23 at the age of 93. He spent almost 30 years of his life in a prison camp in Heilongjiang. But the fame of his witness and his apostolic work is far from dead....

[T]estimonies are coming from all over the world about the way in which Fr. Tan helped many to discover the beauty of Christianity, and then accompanied them to baptism. For many new faithful in the diocese of Guangzhou, the life of Fr. Tan, and even his imprisonment, are "a blessing for us Catholic Chinese."

Teresa, a young Catholic, was baptized in 2003. She arrived at the faith after a long journey of searching. Unlike the Catholics older than her, she has not experienced persecution, but she knows well what happened in the past, and has great respect for the confessors of the faith. Among these, Fr. Tan Tiande has a special place. In addition to meeting with him each week, Teresa also read his famous book of brief but intense recollections of his thirty years in prison. Like many other Catholics from Guangzhou, she has enormous respect for him. She considers him a priest of strong faith, who truly loved God and men.

Before receiving Baptism, Teresa went a number of times to the Mass celebrated by Fr. Tan, and was struck by his preaching, an unvarnished call to conversion.

Shortly after being set free, Fr. Tan returned to his service at the cathedral, where for years he was involved in teaching the catechumens. He stopped teaching catechesis only in the past few years, as he was growing weaker. Every Sunday, he made himself useful by greeting the many people attending Mass, talking with them, encouraging them, blessing the religious objects they had bought.

Shortly before he died, Teresa went to visit Fr. Tan in the hospital. In his room were the bishop, priests, sisters, and many others who had come to say goodbye to the elderly priest. Teresa stopped at the entrance to watch, deeply moved. Fr. Tan held his arm up in the air, constantly blessing everyone. "That gesture," Teresa says, "was his goodbye to us of the Church of Guangzhou. It was a blessing to us Catholic Chinese, so that, like him, we may remain faithful to God until the end."

Amid the storms of a 24-hour news cycle, it's often easy, and all too tempting, to define the days by what's bad as opposed to what's good, to glom on controversies, crusades or buzz at the expense of the stories and people a waiting world that wants to believe should know, and deep down inside, really longs to hear.

This is the Easter Season -- that moment of grace when the first witnesses of the Resurrection changed the lives of masses not by spreading around their own interests, causes or tastes, but with one simple, unimpeachable testimony: "We have seen the Lord."

Then as now, we owe our faith to these folks, who realize day in and day out that the church doesn't rise and fall on what everybody else does or doesn't do, but what they -- what every last one of us, in every place we go and for each person we meet -- do or don't.

Even this Easter, even in our midst, these witnesses exist in droves -- from the clinic to the classroom, the sanctuary to the minefield, the office and the shelter, all across the globe... and even to our own kitchen tables.

Sure, they exist far from the headlines and aren't the "sexiest" story going. When it comes to the life of this body, however, they're the most valuable and crucial thing we've got.

In each of them, we haven't just seen the Lord -- we see Him anew all the time. Both on and off the printed page, may we always give 'em the admiration, attention and thanks they deserve.


Moving "Laetare"

Declined this morning by its 2009 recipient -- whose name was, per tradition, revealed on the Fourth Sunday of Lent -- American Catholicism's most prestigious honor is taking a mulligan.

Within the hour, Notre Dame president Fr John Jenkins CSC announced that South Bend will choose "another deserving recipient" of the Laetare Medal to replace Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, who renounced the 126 year-old prize earlier today amid continuing heat over the university's selection of President Obama as its commencement speaker and the recipient of an honorary degree.

In all likelihood, the new Laetare laureate will follow in the footsteps of past honorees, receiving the medal and citation and offering an acceptance speech at the university's 17 May commencement.

And now, we've officially entered the Twilight Zone.


Goodbye, "Tara"

Once compared to -- no joke -- the main house in Gone With the Wind, Bishop George Murry SJ of Youngstown has put the Ohio diocese's episcopal residence (above) on the market.

Price tag: $339,000....
The home at 4762 Logan Way was put up for sale three months ago.

Murry said there are several reasons for the move.

“I would like to live in the city. ... I grew up in a city [Camden, N.J.] and am comfortable in cities.” As a Jesuit priest, he spent time as a pastoral associate in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia and served as an auxiliary bishop in Chicago.

The bishop is moving to a residence on Gypsy Lane. “It’s easily accessible to the chancery and [St. Columba] cathedral,” both on West Wood Street. He said he’s been looking since he came to the Youngstown diocese and the time is right for the move. He also noted the diocese bought the house on Gypsy for a reasonable price.

“[The sale also ] is part of the downsizing of the diocese to a certain extent,” Bishop Murry said. “I wanted to take the lead in that.”

Bishop Murry described the house on Logan Way as “a tool” used by the bishop to do his work.” He said he has used the house as a place for priest and chancery meetings and social functions of the diocese.

But he acknowledged that the large house in Liberty, situated on about 2 1/2 acres, with five bedrooms, two family rooms, large living room and dining room, is much more than he needs. The actual move date isn’t set yet.

“Youngstown is the seat of the diocese. I want to be there ... and be part of the rejuvenation of Youngstown.”

Bishop Murry said the house on Logan Way was bought by the diocese in1998 when his predecessor, Bishop Thomas Tobin, served. Bishop Tobin was here from 1996-2005. As with Bishop Murry, Bishop Tobin used the house for diocesan meetings and social functions.

Bishop Murry’s future home on Gypsy Lane is where Bishop Tobin lived before moving to the Logan Way property.

Of the furnishings, Bishop Murry said some pieces will go to Catholic Charities.

Bishop Murry said he considered using the Logan Way house as a place for meetings and retreats but after consulting with his staff, he decided against that. He said that Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center in Villa Maria, Pa., the Ursuline Center in Canfield, Walsh University and St. Michael the Archangel, both in Canton, are already set up for such activities. Bishop Murry said.

“The house is property that we just don’t need.”
PHOTO: Geoffrey Hauschild/Youngstown Vindicator


Laetare, Declined

A full update on the continuing controversy surrounding President Obama's selection as Notre Dame's commencement speaker is in the works... in the meantime, however, just hitting the wires comes news that former US ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, the intended recipient of the university's highest honor, the Laetare Medal, has declined the award, citing "the very serious problems" raised by the university's invite -- one taken, she said, "in disregard of the settled position of the US bishops."

Long ago dubbed "God's Lawyer" and the "First Lady" of the Stateside church, the Harvard law prof -- a highly-respected figure at the Holy See -- made the announcement in an open letter to University President Fr John Jenkins CSC published this morning by First Things, whose site is currently down, ostensibly crashed from the demand.

Glendon received notice of her selection as the Medal's 127th winner in December, months before the President's appearance at the 17 May ceremonies was arranged.

More soon -- as always, stay tuned.

SVILUPPO: As the FT site's still down for the count, here's the letter's fulltext....

April 27, 2009
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon


For First Nations, Top Apology

Following Wednesday's General Audience, the Pope will receive representatives of Canada's indigenous First Nations communities in a private meeting where he's expected to express his regret for the abuse suffered by its members at the hands of workers in government-established residential schools, 75% of which were church-run.

At the pontiff's invitation, the meeting was planned on the initiative of the Canadian bench's president, Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, who spoke with B16 about the need for reconciliation after First Nations chief Phil Fontaine addressed the bishops at their plenary last fall.

In the gathering's run-up, high hopes of "turning the page" and a "renewed partnership" between the church and the community have set the tone for the day:
“This meeting has the potential to be a historic and momentous occasion for First Nations, survivors, Canadian Catholics and indeed all Canadians,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine at an April 15 news conference. “I am both honoured and excited to have this opportunity to meet with the Pope to discuss this important matter and to move forward to work towards real reconciliation.”

“The Pope is a bridge builder,” said Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) president Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber of Benedict XVI's invitation....

“He has invited us to visit him in Rome, in a gesture of reconciliation and healing.”...

The Pope is expected to present the aboriginal leaders with a written statement to mark the common desire to pursue reconciliation and forgiveness.

Weisgerber told the news conference about the “close association” between the Catholic Church and Canada’s indigenous peoples that goes back 500 years to the earliest settlements.

“Most of this history has been a wonderful sharing of faith and witness, but there have also been moments of sorrow,” he said, describing the former residential schools as “among the greatest disappointments.”

Though many Catholics dedicated their lives to provide a good education in these schools, they faced “terrible challenges” that included cultural differences inadequate funding, human failings and “instances of exploitation and cruelty,” he said.

Fontaine also spoke of the healthy relationship that existed with the Catholic Church before the “terrible policy of the federal government” designed to “eradicate any sense of Indianness” fractured it. Various church denominations and Catholic religious orders and dioceses ran schools for the government that forced children out of their homes and communities into the schools....

Weisgerber said he met with the Pope last November and told him about the “great suffering of the aboriginal community in Canada.” He said that in order for the Catholic Church to be able to help, the legacy of the residential schools needed to be addressed. The Pope understood “very quickly,” he said.

Last June, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of the government of Canada for the schools that Fontaine said was designed to “kill the Indian in the child.” The Anglican, United and Presbyterian Churches have all issued formal apologies for their role in running the schools. In advance interviews, Fontaine said he hoped for an apology from the Catholic Church that would “close the circle” and begin the path of reconciliation.

He avoided using the word apology at the news conference, however.

“It is my fervent hope that this papal audience will include a statement from Pope Benedict XVI to all the survivors of Indian residential schools,” said Fontaine. “We also hope that the statement will reference the role the Catholic Church played in the administration and operation of the schools and the impact it had on survivors and our communities.”

Journalists pressed both leaders on whether the Pope would issue a formal apology.

“It would be impolite to tell the Pope what to say,” the archbishop said, noting that words like apology have different meanings in different languages that pose linguistic problems.

“What I think is most important is that there be acknowledgement of the pain and suffering of the kind of dysfunction of the schools and the role of the church in all of that.”...

“Thousands of individuals were harmed in the residential schools here,” he said. “In whatever language, however it’s expressed — the hard work lies beyond us, after this particular audience is done, we have to move on.”
Along similar lines, the Pope met privately with victim-survivors of clergy sex abuse both on his visits to the US and Australia last year.

In 2005, the Canadian government agreed to a CA$2 billion reparation pact with the First Nations for the seven decades of abuse claimed by thousands of its members.



Lest anyone who wanted to didn't get to see it the first time 'round -- because the livestreaming servers, er, prostrated themselves -- fullvideo of Bishop Jim Wall's Thursday ordination in Gallup is available on-demand courtesy of Boston's CatholicTV.

(Money quote from the 44 year-old prelate: "This year, when the Arizona Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl, I thought that was the biggest surprise of my life.")

The coverage rounds out with an impressive photobook from Phoenix's Catholic Sun that links to a quickly-growing Facebook "fan club" for the nation's youngest diocesan head... alongside video of a rare ecclesial occurrence: Purple Rain in the Desert.

For your Monday morning, it's all a nice taste of the Southwest... you know, where the church is actually growing.

On a related note, with the "Land of Enchantment" now back to its full complement of three bishops, word from Santa Fe says that -- weeks after Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson got Roman praise for signing a state moratorium on capital punishment -- the state's bench is pursuing a possible "Levada solution" compromise on a domestic partnership measure expected to return before its legislature after failing earlier this year.

PHOTO: Andrew Junker/Catholic Sun


The Family That Tweets Together....

Celebrating the centenary of the birth of the "Rosary Priest" in his home parish, the primate of All Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady voiced his hope yesterday for a twitter-savvy re-commitment to Fr Patrick Peyton's call to "try prayer -- it works":
Fr Peyton had a great gift for using the most up-to-date means of social communication. He was pioneering in his use of television to communicate the Gospel and the power of prayer through the Rosary. He attracted the support of many famous film stars along the way. I am sure if there had been mobile phones in his day Fr Peyton would have been big into texting and twitter! He would rejoice in the power of the internet and email to join people together in prayerful solidarity instantaneously and across the world.

In the name of Fr Peyton I would like to make an appeal to every Christian in Ireland today who sends texts, twitters or uses e-mail. I appeal to you to think about setting up groups of prayer between you and your friends using these modern means of communication. I ask young people in particular to think of sending their friends and family an occasional twitter or text to say that you have prayed for them. Make someone the gift of a prayer through text, twitter or e-mail every day. Such a sea of prayer is sure to strengthen our sense of solidarity with one another and remind us those who receive them that others really do care.
A priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Peyton -- best known for his axiom that "the family that prays together, stays together" -- died in 1992. His cause for canonization was opened shortly thereafter.


Habemus Pub-Date?

With 1 May -- the day most of Europe celebrates its laborers and the church marks the feast of St Joseph the Worker -- close at hand, the latest forecast from behind the walls has tipped the release of Pope Benedict's "social encyclical" for 29 June.

Subject to repeated delays since its intended 2007 publication, the latest hold-ups of Caritas in Veritate reportedly owe their origin to the global economic crisis, which Benedict intends to treat in the text, alongside threads on the environment, globalization and the care of the poor and the marginalized.

Framed as a contemporary answer to Paul VI's 1967 Populorum progressio and John Paul II's 1991 Centesimus annus -- the latter written to mark the 100th anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum novarum, the foundational text of Catholic social teaching -- Caritas would be the third top-level text of the Ratzinger papacy, following 2006's Deus caritas est and Spe salvi, released in late 2007. Despite the delays, however, the pontiff has frequently teased the document's themes in his public talks over the course of its drafting behind-the-scenes.

Shortly after the Vatican's justice czar Cardinal Renato Martino floated the June date in the Italian press late last week, reports emerged that a secret meeting took place during Easter Week at which four top cardinals were said to have advised Benedict on the section of the draft dealing with the market's downturn.

According to the wires, the red-hats summoned to Castelgandolfo for the Saturday morning summit were Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, the president of the Italian bishops; his now-retired predecessor Camillo Ruini, the former vicar of Rome and a key figure in Italian political life; the patriarch of Venice Angelo Scola and Benedict's "crown prince," Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, seemingly recovered from the arm's-length stance he projected during the twin winter crises that rocked the Vatican and the Austrian church.

The solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the late June date traditionally marks the end of the Vatican year before the Pope and Curia flee Rome for the summer holidays.