Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pope's Prayers: "Hope" for Advent... and Healing for AIDS

Hours after rolling out his new ferula (left) at the kickoff of the new Church Year, the Pope talked hope at today's Angelus...
“The contemporary world needs hope above all; this is true for developing peoples but especially for developed peoples. Increasingly, we realise that we are in the same boat and that we can save ourselves together. With the collapse of so many false certainties, we are becoming especially aware of how we need reliable hope and that this is found only in Christ, who according to the Letter to the Hebrews Jesus “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8). The Lord Jesus came in the past, comes in the present, and shall come in the future. He embraces all of time’s dimensions. Because he died and rose, he is the ‘Living’, and whilst he shared our human precariousness, he is always there, offering us God’s stability. He is “flesh” like us, and “rock” like God. Anyone who yearns for freedom, justice, and peace can stand erect and raise his head because in Christ redemption is at hand (cf Lk, 21:28).”
...then closed with his annual plug for Tuesday's World AIDS Day:
“[This coming 1 December sees the world day against AIDS.] My thoughts and prayers go to every person afflicted by this disease, especially the children, the very poor, and all those who are rejected. The Church does all it can to fight AIDS through its institution and staff. I urge everyone to make their contribution with prayers and actual care so that those suffering from the HIV virus may experience the presence of the Lord, source of comfort and hope. Lastly, I hope that, through more coordinated efforts, we may be able to stop and eradicate this disease.”
Earlier this year, of course, the pontiff was embroiled in controversy over comments he made during in-flight press conference on the use of condoms as a means of eradicating the disease. The question arose as Benedict began his weeklong trek to Cameroon and Angola in March -- this pontificate's first journey to Africa.

That said, this weekend likewise sees the second anniversary of the release of Spe Salvi, B16's encyclical on Christian hope.

PHOTO: Reuters


Saturday, November 28, 2009

A New Year's Prayer

"All-powerful God,
increase our strength of will for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming
and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven
where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever."
On this First Sunday of Advent, every blessing, joy and grace of this (liturgical) "New Year" to one and all....

Hope it's off to a great start, gang.

PHOTO: Dave Doolittle/Corpus Christi Parish, East Sandwich MA


Cuenta Atrás el "Super Bowl"/Countdown to Guadalupe, '09 Edition

For all the words of Irish decline in recent days, it seems an especially good moment to note that the increasingly dominant face in the life of American Catholicism (North and South alike) gets its biggest annual turn again two weeks from today with the "Super Bowl": the 12 December feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe... which has indeed become "bigger than Christmas" in the Stateside church.

Already, the annual Guadalupe Torch Relay's into the home stretch of its journey from Mexico City's mother-sanctuary to New York, and from Indiana to Iowa to the day's traditional hubs in the Southwest, plans for the usual all-out celebrations are already well apace... with public safety folks in several locales anticipating even bigger turnouts than usual given this year's Saturday fiesta of La Morenita, the "Empress of the Americas."

30,000 in Dallas... 150,000 in Chicago... and, church, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

For yet another year, gang, prepare to be amazed. And inspired, too.


Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

From today's Irish Times, two ad intra glimpses at the fallout of Thursday's devastating Murphy Report on abuse in the Dublin church.

On the high-hat front....
PRESSURE ON the five bishops who still hold office and whose handling of clerical child sex abuse was addressed by the Dublin diocesan report increased throughout yesterday.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said all bishops implicated in the report should resign immediately. He said those who were in positions of authority in Dublin archdiocese, and who knew what was going on, should no longer continue in such positions.

“This is another appalling litany of shame. Apologies here are not good enough,” he said....

Speaking at foundation day ceremonies at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin yesterday, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said the story of how the sexual abuse of children was managed in the archdiocese, as shown in the report, “was inexcusable”.

He noted that “regrettably this hospital was also the scene of abuse by at least two chaplains, who exploited their role of representing the care of Jesus for the children at their most vulnerable. Information about that abuse was inexcusably not shared with the hospital authorities, even though the archbishop of the time was also the chairman of the board.”
...while priests are feeling the sting at ground level:
A PROMINENT priest in the diocese of Derry has said the Catholic Church in Ireland no longer had any standing, credibility or moral authority following the disclosures in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Fr Michael Canny, spokesman for the Derry Diocese, said he would probably spend the rest of his life as a priest trying to rebuild trust and confidence in the Catholic Church as a result of the inquiry’s finding that the church routinely covered up clerical sex abuse of children.

Describing the abuse as depraved and incomprehensible, he said the reputation of the Catholic Church was “in tatters”, and said people were rightly angry.

“There is no good in saying other than the truth. The church at this state has no credibility, no standing and no moral authority. The issue is now one of trust, and that is why it will take the rest of my lifetime as a priest to build up that trust again, because the trust and confidence in the church has been broken on a fundamental level.

“I must admit I am angry at the way the abuse was handled. I feel betrayed and let down to a terrible extreme,” he continued.
What's more, amid heavy criticism (even from bishops) of both the Holy See and its nuncio to Ireland over their failure to respond to the state inquiry, the Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi SJ told the paper that the "commission had not gone through 'appropriate diplomatic channels.'"

As for the whole scenario, the director of the Holy See Press Office said that "We leave all comment to the local church involved."

On the paper's website, a reader poll is currently split 3-2 on whether "the Catholic Church has a future" in Ireland in the report's aftermath... with the "No" side holding the lead.

SVILUPPO: In comments to the Sunday Business Post, the Isle's former primate -- retired Cardinal Cahal Daly of Armagh -- termed the disclosures "beyond belief."

Now 92, Daly led St Patrick's diocese from 1990 until 1996.



Friday, November 27, 2009

New Cycle, New Staff

While everyone's hopefully enjoying the long Thanksgiving weekend, the Pope is about to make his first turn with an early Christmas present.

For tomorrow night's first Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent -- the start of the new liturgical year -- B16 will debut a new pastorale ("pastoral staff") made especially for him, replacing the ferula of Bl Pius IX, which the pontiff has used since Palm Sunday 2008.

First announced in today's L'Osservatore Romano, the New Liturgical Movement breaks the story in English:
As Msgr. Guido Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, tells tomorrow's edition of the [Vatican daily]: "Similar in shape to the ferula of Pius IX so far in use this can be considered to all intents and purposes the pastoral staff of Benedict XVI."...

[T]he new staff is donated to the Pontiff by the Circolo San Pietro, a Roman association founded in 1869 in support of the papacy. It is slightly smaller and lighter than the ferula of Bl. Pius IX.

On the front side of the new ferula is depicted in the centre the Lamb of God, and on the four points of the cross, the symbols of the four Evangelists. The arms of the cross are decorated in a net-like pattern which evokes the fisherman whose successor Pope Benedict is. On the backside there is in the centre the Chi-Rho, the monogram of Christ, and on the four points of the cross, four Fathers of Occident and Orient, Augustine and Ambrose, Athanasius and John Chrysostom, the same who also carry Bernini's cathedra. On the top of the shaft is the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI.
Likewise earlier today, the UK's Catholic Herald announced that, as expected -- but not, until now, confirmed -- Benedict will break with his pontificate's well-established custom to personally beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman on his visit to Britain next fall.

The papal vespers to kick off the "New Year" will run at 5pm Rome time, 11am Eastern, tomorrow, with EWTN running the livestream.

PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

As Archbishop of a Diocese for which I have pastoral responsibility, of my own native diocese, of the diocese for which I was ordained a priest, of a Diocese which I love and hope to serve to the best of my ability, what can I say when I have to share with you the revolting story of the sexual assault and rape of so many young children and teenagers by priests of the Archdiocese or who ministered in the diocese? No words of apology will ever be sufficient....

The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime [in] canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Report is that while Church leaders – Bishops and religious superiors - failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what has involved. Almost exclusively their primary motivation was to try to ensure that what happened to their child, or in some case to themselves, did not happen to other children. Their motivation was not about money or revenge; it was quite simply about that most basic human sense of right and wrong and that basic Christian motivation of concern for others. The survivors of abuse who courageously remained determined to have the full truth heard by all deserve our recognition and admiration....

How did those with responsibility dramatically misread the risk that a priest who had hurt one of those whom Jesus calls “the little ones” might go on to abuse another child if decisive action was not taken? Excuses, denials and minimisations were taken from priest abusers who were at the least in denial, at worst devious in multiple ways, and decisions were taken which resulted in more children being abused. Efforts made to “protect the Church” and to “avoid scandal” have had the ironic result of bringing this horrendous scandal on the Church today.

The damage done to children abused by priests can never be undone. As Archbishop of Dublin and as Diarmuid Martin -- a person -- I offer to each and every survivor, my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened to them. I am aware however that no words of apology will ever be sufficient....

The hurt done to a child through sexual abuse is horrific. Betrayal of trust is compounded by the theft of self esteem. The horror can last a lifetime. Today, it must be unequivocally recalled that the Archdiocese of Dublin failed to recognise the theft of childhood which survivors endured and the diocese failed in its responses to them when they had the courage to come forward, compounding the damage done to their innocence.

For that no words of apology will ever be sufficient.

--Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Response to the Report of the Commission of Investigation
Dublin, 26 November 2009

At the close of a long day, Martin sat for a half-hour interview on Irish TV, the fullvideo of which serves to encapsulate the emotional fallout of this "Black Thursday."



"Shockwaves" in Hanoi: Ngo Wants to Go?

In a seismic development for the suffering Vietnamese church, the country's most visible -- and controversial -- prelate has reportedly announced his intent to depart his post.

Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi (left) told his priests earlier this month that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict, according to a report filed Monday on a Vietnamese church-news site.

Only 57 years of age, Ngo cited "health reasons" for the move -- a rationale the locals quickly cast doubt upon:
Judging by his appearance, the prelate seems to look healthy and has been able to keep up with a tight schedule for such a large archdiocese. For most Vietnamese Catholics, the underlying cause of his resignation is obviously the persistent pressure from Vietnam['s] government after a series of church land disputes in recent years....

Rumors on the prelate’s “must go” plan has circulated among Catholics after the "Ad Limina" visit of Vietnamese bishops in June 2009.
Since their outbreak in early 2008, the archbishop had been the guiding force behind his faithful's response to the government's seizures of church property, which saw peaceful protests reportedly met with police investigations of participants, beatings of journalists covering the vigils and threats of expulsion from school for the demonstrators' children.

Along the way, Ngo volunteered to be jailed for his flock if the government maintained its aggressive response, then -- after a campaign against him in state-controlled media -- found himself for a time under de facto house arrest as, according to one report, the authorities attempted "everything they can to intimidate [him], with the unconcealed objective of forcing his resignation or removal."

Given the backdrop, the acceptance of Ngo's resignation would appear to be further evidence of an emergent Holy See policy of sidelining outspoken prelates with an eye to winning the church an improved footing with Communist regimes. Along these lines, the ferociously candid leader of Catholic China's Beijing-skeptic faction, Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, was succeeded by a significantly less political prelate earlier this year.

In his ad limina address to the Vietnamese bishops in June, B16 delivered the following, pointed message:
Lay Catholics for their part must show by their life, which is based on charity, honesty and love for the common good, that a good Catholic is also a good citizen. For this reason you must ensure that they have a sound formation, by promoting their life of faith and their cultural standard so that they may serve the Church and society effectively....

You know, as well as I do, that healthy collaboration between the Church and the political community is possible. In this regard, the Church invites all her members to be loyally committed to building a just, supportive and fair society. Her intention is certainly not to replace government leaders; she wishes only to be able to play a just role in the nation's life, at the service of the whole people, in a spirit of dialogue and respectful collaboration. By active participation in her own province and in accordance with her specific vocation, the Church can never be exempt from practising charity as an organized activity of believers, and on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice humans need, and will always need, love. Furthermore, it seems important to me to emphasize that religions do not represent a threat to the nation's unity since they aim to help individuals to sanctify themselves and through their institutions desire to put themselves generously and impartially at the service of their neighbour.
The news of Ngo's intended departure came as the Vietnamese hierarchy opened a Jubilee Year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its establishment.

In a notable gesture, the papal legate to the celebrations, retired Vatican Cardinal Roger Etchegaray -- the quintessential Vatican diplomat -- publicly gave his crozier to the Hanoi prelate at the close of the opening Mass.

In the days since, it's been interpreted by Ngo's supporters as a possible sign that the archbishop's resignation might not be taken.

Earlier today, the Vatican released a papal message for the Jubilee in which Benedict voiced his hope for "a time of grace in which to reconcile ourselves with God and our fellow man.

"To this end," the pontiff said, "we should recognise past and present errors committed against brothers in the faith and against fellow countrymen, and ask for forgiveness.

"At the same time," he added, "it would be appropriate to commit to increasing and enriching ecclesial communion, and to building a more just, united, equal society through authentic dialogue, mutual respect and healthy collaboration."


In Dublin, a "Perversion of Power"

It might be Thanksgiving here in the States, but in Ireland, this Thursday's mood is one of stunned, furious sadness.

After a three-year state inquiry, today saw the release of the Murphy Report into clergy sex-abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin, which implicated the city's four previous archbishops in its conclusion that "no doubt" could be had over the presence of a decades-long cover-up of abusive clergy coupled with the mistreatment of survivors -- a state of affairs in which both the government and the police were complicit, and for which both quickly apologized this afternoon.

The nearly 700-page report's available in several parts... for summary purposes, though, let the lede on the national wire suffice:
The Catholic hierarchy in Ireland was granted immunity to cover up child sex abuse among paedophile priests in Dublin, a damning report has revealed.

Authorities enjoyed a cosy relationship with the Church and did not enforce the law as four archbishops, obsessed with secrecy and avoiding scandal, protected abusers and reputations at all costs.

Hundreds of crimes against defenceless children from the 1960s to the 1990s were not reported while gardai treated clergy as though they were above the law.

In a three-year inquiry, the Commission to Inquire into the Dublin Archdiocese uncovered a sickening tactic of "don't ask, don't tell" throughout the Church.

"The Commission has no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities," it said. "The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up. The State authorities facilitated that cover-up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all and allowing the Church institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes."
Meanwhile, at the start of an intense press conference full of heated questions and outraged questioners, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin made a statement, here snipped below:
It is difficult to find words to describe how I feel today. As Archbishop of a Diocese for which I have pastoral responsibility, of my own native diocese, of the diocese for which I was ordained a priest, of a Diocese which I love and hope to serve to the best of my ability, what can I say when I have to share with you the revolting story of the sexual assault and rape of so many young children and teenagers by priests of the Archdiocese or who ministered in the diocese? No words of apology will ever be sufficient....

The Report of the Commission gives us some insight into the crimes that took place. But no report can give an indication of the suffering and trauma endured by the children, and indeed the suffering also of their family members.

Many survivors have not yet been able to speak about abuse they experienced. For them the publication of the Report must be truly traumatic. I urge them to turn to some trusted friend, to a counsellor or counselling service of their choice, to the health services, to the Gardai [police] or if they so wish to the Diocesan Child Protection Service....

The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Report is that while Church leaders – Bishops and religious superiors - failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what has involved. Almost exclusively their primary motivation was to try to ensure that what happened to their child, or in some case to themselves, did not happen to other children. Their motivation was not about money or revenge; it was quite simply about that most basic human sense of right and wrong and that basic Christian motivation of concern for others. The survivors of abuse who courageously remained determined to have the full truth heard by all deserve our recognition and admiration....

How did those with responsibility dramatically misread the risk that a priest who had hurt one of those whom Jesus calls “the little ones” might go on to abuse another child if decisive action was not taken? Excuses, denials and minimisations were taken from priest abusers who were at the least in denial, at worst devious in multiple ways, and decisions were taken which resulted in more children being abused. Efforts made to “protect the Church” and to “avoid scandal” have had the ironic result of bringing this horrendous scandal on the Church today.

The damage done to children abused by priests can never be undone. As Archbishop of Dublin and as Diarmuid Martin I offer to each and every survivor, my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened to them. I am aware however that no words of apology will ever be sufficient.

The fact that the abusers were priests constituted both and offence to God and affront to the priesthood. The many good priests of the Archdiocese share my sense of shame. I ask you to support and encourage us in our ministry at what is a difficult time. I know also that many others, especially parents, feel shocked and betrayed at what has been revealed. I hope that all of us - bishops, priests and lay persons - working together can rebuild trust by ensuring that day after day the Church in the Archdiocese of Dublin becomes a safer environment for children....

The hurt done to a child through sexual abuse is horrific. Betrayal of trust is compounded by the theft of self esteem. The horror can last a lifetime. Today, it must be unequivocally recalled that the Archdiocese of Dublin failed to recognise the theft of childhood which survivors endured and the diocese failed in its responses to them when they had the courage to come forward, compounding the damage done to their innocence.

For that no words of apology will ever be sufficient.
A statement of regret likewise came from Cardinal Desmond Connell, Dublin's top prelate from 1990-2004.

The last of the archbishops implicated in the cover-up, the 83 year-old cardinal took his successor to court early last year in an attempt to keep privileged documents from being handed over to the inquiry, defying Martin's policy of transparency on the part of Archbishop's House (the Dublin curia).

After a two-week drubbing in the papers which only did further damage to perceptions of the church's response, Connell dropped his complaint, and the 5,000 files were released.

Two decades after the first revelations of abuse began shaking Irish Catholicism to its foundations, today's release is the third devastating chronicle of its failures to drop just this year: May's Ryan Report detailed similar patterns of misconduct by religious communities in their operation of the country's residential schools, and January's Cloyne Report led to the effective removal of Bishop John Magee, a former private secretary to three Popes.

SVILUPPO: The Isle's Cardinal-Primate -- Sean Brady of Armagh, likewise the president of the Irish bishops -- reacted in a similar vein:
I am shocked and ashamed by the abuse of children described in the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin, published today.

I want to apologise to all those who have been hurt and their families.

I also want to apologise to all the people of Ireland that this abuse was covered up and that the reputation of the Church was put before the safety and well-being of children.

I am deeply sorry and I am ashamed.
PHOTO: "Papal Cross," Phoenix Park, Dublin/AP(1); Reuters(2)


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tim on Thanks

Lest anyone had visions of Tim Dolan riding a float in Thursday morning's Macy's Parade, you can sleep in -- the Gotham prelate's gone home to St Louis to spend Thanksgiving with his Mom... but not before one last breakneck day that included meeting with his Priests' Council, a turkey giveaway in the Bronx... and a blog-post on the holiday's greatest gift of all:
I can’t say it often enough: no matter what happens in my life, no matter how many blessings I receive, there will never be anything for which I am more grateful than to have been the son of Robert and Shirley Dolan. I am very much looking forward to spending a few days with Mom, to celebrate this special holiday with her, and to taste once again what I still consider to be the best pumpkin pie anywhere in the world.

It is my sincere prayer that your Thanksgiving will be similarly filled with a realization of the Lord’s blessings for you and your family.
Again, to one and all, every joy and grace of Thanksgiving and the weekend -- safe travels, good times... and, of course, buoni appetiti.

* * *
On one last note from Timworld that might be useful for some calendars out there, the date of his successor's Milwaukee installation has finally been set: Archbishop-elect Jerome Listecki's inaugural Mass will take place in St John's Cathedral on Monday, 4 January, at 2pm.

PHOTO: Michelle Anna Pagano/Archdiocese of New York


For Cantuar, a Cross

Rome's recent rollout of plans to welcome groups of disaffected Anglicans might've left Rowan Williams with what he termed a "sore ego," but at his Saturday audience with B16, the archbishop of Canterbury came away with a notable gift (above): a pectoral cross, set with an amethyst... the stone traditionally reserved for bishops.

It wasn't the first time the Anglican chief received episcopal tribute from a pontiff -- at their lone meeting, John Paul II not only gave another cross to the 103rd successor of St Augustine, but raised some eyebrows by kissing Williams' ring.

For context purposes on the latter bit, though, it's important to add that the ring Williams wore to the 2003 audience was the same one Pope Paul VI removed from his hand and gave to Archbishop Michael Ramsay at their 1966 encounter, only the second such meet-up between a Pope and English primate since the Reformation.

PHOTO: Reuters


TobinTV: The Tour Continues

First, Hardball... now, the Factor -- his monthlong clash with Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy still running high in the headlines, Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin kept up his media rounds tonight with the following prime-time interview with Bill O'Reilly on FoxNews:


"What Is This Power?"

As previously noted, gang, it's a pretty quiet week, with no shortage of back-office stuff to take care of....

Hopefully no one's minding the slowdown too much. But to those of you heading out early to beat the "heaviest travel day of the year" rush on the roads, rails and in the skies, a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

That said, we're still in the last week of the liturgical year... and in the quieter moments of the last couple days, one passage (house translation) from B16's Angelus for Christ the King has had its way of sticking out:
What does this "power" of Christ the King consist of? It isn't that of the kings and the great ones of this world; it is the divine power of giving eternal life, of freeing from evil, of defeating the dominion of death. It is the power of Love, that can draw good from evil, move a hardened heart, bring peace to the harshest conflict, spark hope in the most enduring darkness. This Reign of Grace never imposes itself, and always respects our freedom. Christ came to "bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18:37) -- as he declared before Pilate: he who welcomes this witness places himself under its "flag," according to the image cherished by St Ignatius of Loyola. To each conscience, then, it becomes necessary -- this very choice: who do I want to follow? God or evil? Truth or falsehood? Choosing Christ doesn't guarantee success as the world's criteria would have it, but does assure that peace and joy only He can give. Every age shows the experience of so many men and women who, in the name of Christ, in the name of truth and justice, knew to set themselves apart from the enticements of earthly powers with their different masks, and thus signed with martyrdom this fidelity of theirs.
The news might be slow, folks, but you can probably find at least a week's worth of pondering in that.

It also brought a certain piece to mind... one perfect for this Messiah-rich time of year:

Again, just a thought.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Tobin Does the Thunderdome

Amid the recent escalation of his monthlong public dispute with Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy given the latter's pro-abortion rights stance and panning of the church's engagement in the health-care reform debate, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence made his highest-profile media turn to date, appearing on MSNBC's Hardball earlier tonight.

Be advised that, as the segment begins with a clip of the (in)famous "Houston speech" given by the eight-term Democrat's uncle during his historic run for the Presidency, Chris Matthews' intended trajectory presents itself even before he starts yelling....

That said, here below, the fullvid:

On the bright side, when was the last time you heard "Your Excellency" used on big-time TV?

And, well, let the reactions begin.

SVILUPPO: Of course, the above didn't take terribly long....

In a quickly-penned response to the faceoff, the widely-circulated Deacon Keith Fournier's headline says it all: "Matthews should be fired."


The Turkey Week Slowdown

So, folks, with the balloons preparing to take flight and the turkey-buying frenzy well underway, the scene finds itself pretty quiet at the start of this Thanksgiving week -- and as experience says that when a rare breather presents itself, you take it, your narrator's doing just that.

For what it's worth, I'm still recovering from last week's triple-whammy... lots of e.mails piled up behind the scenes -- and a private briefing for our "sponsors" nearly, finally, finished up and just needing to be sent around -- and that's a project in itself.

Of course, the calm can be broken at any time, so you might not want to completely head for the hills just yet. Seriously, such are the days right now that you never know when something's gonna break... and that reality has made for a pretty wild year, one that's flown by way more quickly than expected.

Hope all's great on your end -- as ever, more as it happens... whenever it starts happening again. 'Til then, a Happy Monday to one and all.

SVILUPPO: (...and now, many more of you know what that means.)

Anyways, the donor-notes are being sent; all the PayPal crowd should have theirs now, but to those who've helped out via snail-mail, please send an email address so it can find its way to you, too.... I'm doing everything I can to be sure no one's left out.

On a newsier note, the bishop of Providence apparently played Hardball earlier tonight in light of l'affaire Kennedy in the Ocean State... video to come as soon as it drops.



Marriage, "Manhattan" and DC

Fresh off a Plenary briefing on their efforts to combat same-sex marriage -- and as financial disclosures highlighted the assistance of over 40 dioceses in funding the movement behind this month's citizens' veto of Maine's law permitting the unions -- 15 leading US bishops joined in signing an ecumenical "call to conscience" last week that not only decried the "impulse to redefine marriage," but likewise repented "as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce."

Released Friday at a Washington press conference, the "Manhattan Declaration" emerged from a group of 150 Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical leaders, ordained and lay alike. For its part, however, the American hierarchy was represented by a veritable A-list flank that included Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, Archbishops Donald Wuerl of Washington, Tim Dolan of New York, Charles Chaput of Denver, Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, John Myers of Newark, John Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis, Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, and Bishops Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, David Zubik of Pittsburgh, and Richard Malone of Portland, who spearheaded Maine's successful repeal push.

Among others, the prelates were joined by several leading lights of the Catholic right, including Ignatius Press chief Fr Joseph Fessio, First Things editor Joseph Bottum, papal biographer George Weigel and Fr Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute.

Beyond its treatment of marriage, the signers pledged their energies to "to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion," to "not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent" and "to embrace our obligation to speak and act in defense of these truths."

Of course, the doc rolled out against a heated backdrop in the capital that's seen the DC archdiocese raise the specter of declining city funding for its Catholic Charities if, as expected, Washington's City Council sanctions same-sex marriage -- and, more crucially, mandates the according benefits for city-funded agencies -- as soon as next month.

In an an op-ed on the controversy in yesterday's Washington Post, Wuerl called for a compromise that "more fairly balances different interests," allowing an exemption for religious groups that would allow them to continue city-funded services "without compromising the tenets of their faith."

PHOTO: Basilica of the Assumption, Baltimore


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tobin/Kennedy, Round 4

Topping the news this Liturgical New Year's Eve (i.e. Christ the King Sunday): the disclosure by Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy that Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence had "instructed [him] not to take Communion" in light of the eight-term Democrat's "consistent actions" in defiance of the church's "clear teaching" on abortion... which, within hours, Tobin responded in detail by noting that his request was made "personally and confidentially" in February 2007, nearly three years before the two entered a public joust late last month, beginning when Kennedy criticized the US bishops' push for abortion-neutral language in any morally acceptable health-care reform plan as a "red herring" and, before today, culminated in a 12 November column where the bishop said he wasn't "sure whether or not [Kennedy] fulfill[ed] the basic requirements of being a Catholic," terming the congressman's pro-choice stance "a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision... re-affirmed on many occasions" that made it "unacceptable to the church and scandalous to many of our members"... and, indeed, a position that "absolutely diminishes [his] communion with the church."

Put simply, so it continues.

SVILUPPO: Not long after saying he was "disappointed that the Congressman would make public my pastoral and confidential request of nearly three years ago that sought to provide solely for his spiritual well-being," Tobin himself lit up the wires:
Tobin told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday that he's praying for the younger Kennedy, who has been in and out of treatment for substance abuse, and said Kennedy has been acting "erratically."

"He attacked the church, he attacked the position of the church on health care, on abortion, on funding," Tobin said. "And that required that I respond. I don't go out looking for these guys. I don't go out picking these fights."...

The bishop said he would probably not personally give Kennedy Communion and might have "a little conversation" with any priest who gave Kennedy the sacrament.

PHOTO: G. Wayne Miller/Providence Journal


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Shot of the Day... Week... Month

Today's noteworthy glimpse of church life comes to you from Kansas City, where over 22,000 members of the fold's rising generation shut down the center of town yesterday for a Eucharistic procession as part of the biennial National Catholic Youth Conference, which wraps tonight... and as it does, livestreams are available (and, so we've been promised, on-demand video to follow).

And, well, as you can't really top that, all good wishes for a Happy Saturday and blessed, relaxing weekend.

PHOTO: The Catholic Key


For Antigonish, "Dunn Deal"

In big, much-anticipated news from Points North, this morning Pope Benedict sent Auxiliary Bishop Brian Dunn of Sault Ste. Marie back to his native Atlantic Canada to head Nova Scotia's scandal-rocked diocese of Antigonish.

As foreseen over recent weeks, the Holy See fast-tracked an appointment to the 130,000-member church following the mid-September arrest of Bishop Raymond Lahey on charges of possessing child pornography, after which the 69 year-old prelate quickly resigned the post. Lahey's shocking fall came just one month after the diocese inked a CAN$15 million settlement on its clergy sex-abuse claims. (The case was temporarily shelved earlier this month, after Lahey's lawyers sought further disclosure of evidence.)

Ordained an auxiliary of the southern border diocese just 13 months ago, this morning's choice comes widely acclaimed both for skills of mind and heart. After two decades ministering in tandem as a parish priest and diocesan official in his native Newfoundland, the Ottawa-trained canonist (and Notre Dame-trained liturgist) was named to the faculty of St Peter's Seminary in London, serving as a professor of the canons and dean of students until his appointment as bishop.

In recent weeks, as Dunn's name floated to the top of the buzzmill for the difficult assignment, friends praised the possibility, with many saying they themselves "had come up with the idea."

The 54 year-old appointee "is an eminently sensible man," one said. "While empathetic, he is no-nonsense. While a careful listener, who considers positions thoughtfully, he is no ditherer and no pushover."

Per custom above the 49th, no Appointment Day presser was held, but the diocese's interim head released a letter asking prayers "that the Holy Spirit grant [Dunn] the grace required for the episcopal ministry that has been entrusted to him.

"I know you will welcome him and be supportive of him," Archbishop Tony Mancini of Halifax wrote.

While no installation date has been announced, the canons require an incoming ordinary to take possession of his charge within two months... and given the circumstances, it'll probably be a tad sooner.

The Antigonish move was the swan song of the now-former nuncio to Ottawa, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, who met with Pope Benedict yesterday to receive his marching orders before arriving in Paris to begin his mission as the Vatican's man in France.

SVILUPPO: Via CBC, the appointee's first public comments:
The promotion will be challenging, he said.

"My first response was a response of gratitude, but at the same time, I really realized that there will be difficulties in the whole assisting people to be healed," said Dunn.

"And so there were some hesitations — do I have enough experience? Am I able to be with people in their difficulties? So there were some hestitations," he said.

"But ultimately, I have a sense of the church, I have a sense of a call, I have a sense of faith that I believe will be helpful to this appointment."
At this point, it's worth noting that one of Dunn's co-consecrators at his ordination last year was the prelate he's been chosen to replace.


Rowan Returns

A month after the Holy See announced its historic initiative to accommodate groups of Anglicans seeking inclusion into the Roman fold, and a fortnight since the Apostolic Constitution paving the way to "personal ordinariates" was released, this morning the Pope received the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for the duo's third private meeting.

Here below, the Vatican release on the session:
This morning His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI received in private audience His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

In the course of the cordial discussions attention turned to the challenges facing all Christian communities at the beginning of this millennium, and to the need to promote forms of collaboration and shared witness in facing these challenges.

The discussions also focused on recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, reiterating the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans, and recalling how, over coming days, the commission entrusted with preparing the third phase of international theological dialogue between the parties (ARCIC [the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission]) is due to meet.
In an Audience Eve conference (fulltext) at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, Williams raised some eyebrows by terming the state of ecumenism a "glass half full," recent developments included.

PHOTO: Reuters


To the Artists

This morning, the Pope received a global group of 250 artists in the Sistine Chapel, commemorating the tenth anniversary of his predecessor's Letter to Artists and the 45th anniversary of Paul VI's encounter with the world of art.

Here below, B16's address to the gathered:
Dear Cardinals,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished Artists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

With great joy I welcome you to this solemn place, so rich in art and in history. I cordially greet each and every one of you and I thank you for accepting my invitation. At this gathering I wish to express and renew the Church’s friendship with the world of art, a friendship that has been strengthened over time; indeed Christianity from its earliest days has recognized the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation. This friendship must be continually promoted and supported so that it may be authentic and fruitful, adapted to different historical periods and attentive to social and cultural variations. Indeed, this is the reason for our meeting here today. I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, and likewise to his officials, for promoting and organizing this meeting, and I thank him for the words he has just addressed to me. I greet the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests and the various distinguished personalities present. I also thank the Sistine Chapel Choir for their contribution to this gathering. Today’s event is focused on you, dear and illustrious artists, from different countries, cultures and religions, some of you perhaps remote from the practice of religion, but interested nevertheless in maintaining communication with the Catholic Church, in not reducing the horizons of existence to mere material realities, to a reductive and trivializing vision. You represent the varied world of the arts and so, through you, I would like to convey to all artists my invitation to friendship, dialogue and cooperation.

Some significant anniversaries occur around this time. It is ten years since the Letter to Artists by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II. For the first time, on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Pope, who was an artist himself, wrote a Letter to artists, combining the solemnity of a pontifical document with the friendly tone of a conversation among all who, as we read in the initial salutation, "are passionately dedicated to the search for new ‘epiphanies’ of beauty". Twenty-five years ago the same Pope proclaimed Blessed Fra Angelico the patron of artists, presenting him as a model of perfect harmony between faith and art. I also recall how on 7 May 1964, forty-five years ago, in this very place, an historic event took place, at the express wish of Pope Paul VI, to confirm the friendship between the Church and the arts. The words that he spoke on that occasion resound once more today under the vault of the Sistine Chapel and touch our hearts and our minds. "We need you," he said. "We need your collaboration in order to carry out our ministry, which consists, as you know, in preaching and rendering accessible and comprehensible to the minds and hearts of our people the things of the spirit, the invisible, the ineffable, the things of God himself. And in this activity … you are masters. It is your task, your mission, and your art consists in grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colours, forms – making them accessible." So great was Paul VI’s esteem for artists that he was moved to use daring expressions. "And if we were deprived of your assistance," he added, "our ministry would become faltering and uncertain, and a special effort would be needed, one might say, to make it artistic, even prophetic. In order to scale the heights of lyrical expression of intuitive beauty, priesthood would have to coincide with art." On that occasion Paul VI made a commitment to "re-establish the friendship between the Church and artists", and he invited artists to make a similar, shared commitment, analyzing seriously and objectively the factors that disturbed this relationship, and assuming individual responsibility, courageously and passionately, for a newer and deeper journey in mutual acquaintance and dialogue in order to arrive at an authentic "renaissance" of art in the context of a new humanism.

That historic encounter, as I mentioned, took place here in this sanctuary of faith and human creativity. So it is not by chance that we come together in this place, esteemed for its architecture and its symbolism, and above all for the frescoes that make it unique, from the masterpieces of Perugino and Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli and others, to the Genesis scenes and the Last Judgement of Michelangelo Buonarroti, who has given us here one of the most extraordinary creations in the entire history of art. The universal language of music has often been heard here, thanks to the genius of great musicians who have placed their art at the service of the liturgy, assisting the spirit in its ascent towards God. At the same time, the Sistine Chapel is remarkably vibrant with history, since it is the solemn and austere setting of events that mark the history of the Church and of mankind. Here as you know, the College of Cardinals elects the Pope; here it was that I myself, with trepidation but also with absolute trust in the Lord, experienced the privileged moment of my election as Successor of the Apostle Peter.

Dear friends, let us allow these frescoes to speak to us today, drawing us towards the ultimate goal of human history. The Last Judgement, which you see behind me, reminds us that human history is movement and ascent, a continuing tension towards fullness, towards human happiness, towards a horizon that always transcends the present moment even as the two coincide. Yet the dramatic scene portrayed in this fresco also places before our eyes the risk of man’s definitive fall, a risk that threatens to engulf him whenever he allows himself to be led astray by the forces of evil. So the fresco issues a strong prophetic cry against evil, against every form of injustice. For believers, though, the Risen Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For his faithful followers, he is the Door through which we are brought to that "face-to-face" vision of God from which limitless, full and definitive happiness flows. Thus Michelangelo presents to our gaze the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of history, and he invites us to walk the path of life with joy, courage and hope. The dramatic beauty of Michelangelo’s painting, its colours and forms, becomes a proclamation of hope, an invitation to raise our gaze to the ultimate horizon. The profound bond between beauty and hope was the essential content of the evocative Message that Paul VI addressed to artists at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on 8 December 1965: "To all of you," he proclaimed solemnly, "the Church of the Council declares through our lips: if you are friends of true art, you are our friends!" And he added: "This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration. And all this through the work of your hands . . . Remember that you are the custodians of beauty in the world."

Unfortunately, the present time is marked, not only by negative elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair. The world in which we live runs the risk of being altered beyond recognition because of unwise human actions which, instead of cultivating its beauty, unscrupulously exploit its resources for the advantage of a few and not infrequently disfigure the marvels of nature. What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation – if not beauty? Dear friends, as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.

Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy "shock", it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum – it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it "reawakens" him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft. Dostoevsky’s words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: "Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here." The painter Georges Braque echoes this sentiment: "Art is meant to disturb, science reassures." Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.

Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy. It is a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day. In this regard, Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, quotes the following verse from a Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid: "Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up" (no. 3). And later he adds: "In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, the artist gives voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption" (no. 10). And in conclusion he states: "Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence" (no. 16).

These ideas impel us to take a further step in our reflection. Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. This close proximity, this harmony between the journey of faith and the artist’s path is attested by countless artworks that are based upon the personalities, the stories, the symbols of that immense deposit of "figures" – in the broad sense – namely the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures. The great biblical narratives, themes, images and parables have inspired innumerable masterpieces in every sector of the arts, just as they have spoken to the hearts of believers in every generation through the works of craftsmanship and folk art, that are no less eloquent and evocative.

In this regard, one may speak of a via pulchritudinis, a path of beauty which is at the same time an artistic and aesthetic journey, a journey of faith, of theological enquiry. The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar begins his great work entitled The Glory of the Lord – a Theological Aesthetics with these telling observations: "Beauty is the word with which we shall begin. Beauty is the last word that the thinking intellect dares to speak, because it simply forms a halo, an untouchable crown around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another." He then adds: "Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. It is no longer loved or fostered even by religion." And he concludes: "We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love." The way of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity. Simone Weil wrote in this regard: "In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious." Hermann Hesse makes the point even more graphically: "Art means: revealing God in everything that exists." Echoing the words of Pope Paul VI, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II restated the Church’s desire to renew dialogue and cooperation with artists: "In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art" (no. 12); but he immediately went on to ask: "Does art need the Church?" – thereby inviting artists to rediscover a source of fresh and well-founded inspiration in religious experience, in Christian revelation and in the "great codex" that is the Bible.

Dear artists, as I draw to a conclusion, I too would like to make a cordial, friendly and impassioned appeal to you, as did my Predecessor. You are the custodians of beauty: thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. Be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty! Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! And do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty! Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful.

Saint Augustine, who fell in love with beauty and sang its praises, wrote these words as he reflected on man’s ultimate destiny, commenting almost ante litteram on the Judgement scene before your eyes today: "Therefore we are to see a certain vision, my brethren, that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived: a vision surpassing all earthly beauty, whether it be that of gold and silver, woods and fields, sea and sky, sun and moon, or stars and angels. The reason is this: it is the source of all other beauty" (In 1 Ioannis, 4:5). My wish for all of you, dear artists, is that you may carry this vision in your eyes, in your hands, and in your heart, that it may bring you joy and continue to inspire your fine works. From my heart I bless you and, like Paul VI, I greet you with a single word: arrivederci!
PHOTO: Reuters


Thursday, November 19, 2009

For "Mary's House," the Big 5-0

As noted in yesterday's wrap-up feed, this afternoon's seen much of the bench heading to the capital for tonight's Golden Jubilee Mass of Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, whose Great Upper Church was dedicated a half-century ago tomorrow.

With DC Archbishop Donald Wuerl on as celebrant, Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston (the revered former rector whose skill-set arguably saved the place) giving the homily, two cardinals concelebrating and all the rest, on-demand video of the evening liturgy is available through CatholicTV.

North America's largest Catholic church and one of its most beloved, "Mary's House" attracts over a million visitors annually, counting as its parishioners all 64 million American Catholics.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last Call at Fall Classic

And so, for the final public session of this 2009 USCCB Plenary, here, for the last time, your vid-stream (live at 8.45 ET, 1345 GMT)...

(Post-close note: all sessions from this week's Meeting may be found by clicking the "on-demand" box in the video player... you can find that once you've turned it on....)

...and, once more, the feed from the box:

As ever, it's been a blast -- and thanks for being a part of it.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two Down... Missal Done

And the Big Story at this Plenary Tuesday's close -- the US Bishops have completed their work on the revision of the Roman Missal in English, green-lighting five of five votes and sending their approval of the re-worked Mass texts to Rome, where their approval by the Holy See is expected come Spring... after which, so it's said, the new books'll need anywhere from a year to 18 months to be printed and, finally, implemented.

All the rest is in the feeds -- morning and afternoon alike.... For those who weren't around for the buzz in real-time, happy reading to one and all.



Lit. and Marriage: Day 2, Part 2

And now, the Afternoon Session... in living color:


Day 2

Again, a Happy Meeting to one and all...

...and keeping up on things just got easier still.

Live from the press box:



A Call to Unity... A Call to Authority

It took a while to surface, but finally, here below in full is yesterday's Presidential Address from the USCCB chief, Cardinal Francis George OMI of Chicago:


Tuesday: Trautman's Last Stand

Looking forward for a minute, just a heads-up that today's agenda brings all the votes of this November Meeting -- committee chairs, marriage pastoral, revision on nutrition and hydration... and, closing out a full two decades of annual battles over liturgical translations (not all of them eventually implemented), the final votes on the new English rendering of the Roman Missal, its recognitio from the Holy See already tipped for April, with implementation to follow roughly a year hence.

Given the lengthy prevalence of the "liturgy wars" storyline over these meetings, it'd be hard to overstate the degree to which the early afternoon worship ballots mark the end of an era.

Yet even as the clock ticks down, the project's lead critic isn't going without a fight.

Over recent weeks, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie has stepped things up one last time, delivering a high-profile Washington lecture on the translation's shortcomings, and making a final vouch for his case in the press before the full Missal ends up in Rome's hands.

That said, at this point there's little indication the votes'll go his way -- even if, to be sure, many who wish they did will end up voting "yes." When the US bishops shocked everyone (themselves included) by sending the second major part of the revision to the gibbet at last year's Summer meeting in Orlando, the Vatican responded two weeks later by announcing its approval of the first pillar of the texts, the standard Order of Mass.

That the recognitio for OM1 arrived in the dead of Roman summer only made the implicit message even clearer.

While the action votes appear, in essence, to be a fait accompli, the better gauge of the body's mind on things liturgical at this plenary is shaping up to be today's mid-morning vote on the bench's top post for things ritual: the chair-elect of the Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, who'll take office next year.

The BCDW slate finds a head-to-head between two freshly-named archbishops of contrasting styles -- Detroit's Allen Vigneron, one of the translation process' staunchest backers, against Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, an ever-rising leader of the bench's moderate bloc.

As the especially observant will recall, the former's sought the worship chair before -- at the 2003 November Meeting, both Vigneron (then bishop of Oakland) and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia suddenly found themselves bested for the post by Trautman, who had been nominated from the Floor just before the vote in a turn of events one long-timer recently termed "the most astonishing thing" he'd ever seen at a plenary.

On another note, per custom, day's end will see the annual report to the bishops on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the body's community organizing arm that's come under heavy fire from conservatives over, among other things, its now-discontinued funding to the controversial street organization ACORN. With the annual CCHD collection taking place this coming weekend -- and CCHD taking new steps to clear the record -- at least one prelate has nixed the pitch in his diocese; ordained just this past July, Bishop John Barres of Allentown informed his pastors late last month that the Lehigh Valley church would not participate in the collection.

Tuesday will be the lone day the 300-plus bishops in attendance spend in open meeting; after a morning's worth of reports tomorrow -- including an update on the body's efforts to work against same-sex marriage initiatives in the states -- the prelates go into closed-door executive session Wednesday afternoon, ending the weeklong plenary with a Thursday morning Holy Hour.