Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ar Ithir Na hÉireann

For those who've been asking about the radio silence, with your narrator on a previously-noted speaking tour (and shadow Visitation) in Ireland, greetings from Dublin -- and as they sweetly say 'round here, as ever, "you're very welcome."

Wifi's been spotty the last few days and, suffice it to say, it's been a pretty packed week... but an equally moving and fascinating one, to boot. Good thing the news cycle's done its part by keeping slow.

More once the schedule eases up. In the meanwhile, every wish for a Happy Sunday to one and all and hope all's great on your end.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The President... The Cardinal: Leaning on Newman, Garvey "Begins" in Brookland

Delayed two months thanks to the sudden scheduling of a November consistory, earlier today saw the inauguration of John Garvey as the 15th president of the Catholic University of America (fullvid).

Having been in post since July 1st, as the layman rector formally inherited the helm of the national academy of the Stateside church -- chartered as such by Pope Leo XIII in 1887 -- the former BC Law dean drew heavily from an earlier exemplar of the Catholic academy, now Blessed John Henry Newman, in his Inaugural Address -- titled Intellect and Virtue: The Idea of a Catholic University, its fulltext provided here below:

PHOTO: The Catholic University of America


On Conversion... and Renewal

Good Tuesday mornin', church... and especially 'round here, what a feast it brings.

Of course, today sees the time-honored celebration of the Conversion of St Paul, and if there are any other scribes out there likewise in need of conversion, especially today, oremus pro invicem.

Seriously, though, between B16's repeated outline of the "four pillars" of unity over this Week of Prayer for it, and yesterday's meditation on the promise and limitations of the Word in the digital space, today's feast provides a perfect context in which to reflect... and with it, to remember that if any of us thinks we've got it down, we might just need to start from scratch.

As ever, just a thought. God love you lot forever, and buona festa to one and all.


Monday, January 24, 2011

In NorCal Shakeup, Vasa Lands a Rose

Setting up what promises to be a significant change at the helm of the church along California's North Coast, this morning the Pope named Bishop Robert Vasa, head of eastern Oregon's Baker diocese since 1999, as coadjutor to Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa, who turned 73 in October.

Against the backdrop of a turbulent last decade for the NorCal diocese -- its prior bishop resigned after admitting a sexual relationship with one of his priests who sued him for harrassment, sizable abuse settlements, and Walsh himself placed under scrutiny after allegations that he failed to promptly report an abusive priest to the authorities -- the eventual next head of the Napa Valley fold has been known to inspire wildly diverse reactions across the ecclesial spectrum, all of which reflect back to what the 59 year-old nominee once termed his "bias for action."

In contrast to Walsh -- a native San Franciscan and protege of the city's liberal lion of the post-Conciliar era, Archbishop John Raphael Quinn -- Vasa (pronounced "Va-SHa") comes with an enthusiastic national following on the Catholic right.

An occasional guest commentator on EWTN who's described himself as "hard as nails, but a teddy bear on the inside," the Lincoln-born canonist (who served as Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz's top aide until being named to lead the 63,000-square mile Baker church) has made waves over the years for a steady stream of headline-making moments, among them last year's stripping of a Catholic hospital's ecclesial standing in the face of the medical center's practice of performing tubal ligations, keeping an open door to the possibility of excommunication for Catholic public officials whose acts in office conflict with church teaching, interpreting a candidate's position in favor of legal abortion as a "disqualifying" factor from receiving the faithful's vote, and a recent extensive critique of episcopal conferences which advanced that, given their "pastoral" nature, statements from the full body of bishops "tend to appeal without necessarily being too direct or critical," and "are open to a broad range of interpretation and misinterpretation" as a result.

In an ecclesiastical province long regarded as one of the nation's most progressive, Vasa's appointment marks the second straight importing of a figure with prominent cred among church conservatives, following early 2009's naming of Bishop Salvatore Cordileone to Oakland. The church's standout voice of advocacy for the passage of Proposition 8 -- California's successful referendum on protecting traditional marriage (currently under challenge in Federal court) -- the East Bay prelate was recently named the US bishops' new lead spokesman for the national church's significant efforts on the defense of marriage.

Vasa's Mass of Welcome in the 150,000-member diocese will be held on 6 March.

Developing... more to come.

PHOTO: Andy Tullis/The Bend Bulletin


"The Social Network," B16 Edition

Keeping with the Vatican's longtime custom on this feast of the patron of journalists St Francis de Sales, this morning saw the release of the papal message for the 45th World Communications Day, this year's focusing on "Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age."

Here, B16's text:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the 45th World Day of Social Communications, I would like to share some reflections that are motivated by a phenomenon characteristic of our age: the emergence of the internet as a network for communication. It is an ever more commonly held opinion that, just as the Industrial Revolution in its day brought about a profound transformation in society by the modifications it introduced into the cycles of production and the lives of workers, so today the radical changes taking place in communications are guiding significant cultural and social developments. The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.

New horizons are now open that were until recently unimaginable; they stir our wonder at the possibilities offered by these new media and, at the same time, urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age. This is particularly evident when we are confronted with the extraordinary potential of the internet and the complexity of its uses. As with every other fruit of human ingenuity, the new communications technologies must be placed at the service of the integral good of the individual and of the whole of humanity. If used wisely, they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.

In the digital world, transmitting information increasingly means making it known within a social network where knowledge is shared in the context of personal exchanges. The clear distinction between the producer and consumer of information is relativized and communication appears not only as an exchange of data, but also as a form of sharing. This dynamic has contributed to a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations. On the other hand, this is contrasted with the limits typical of digital communication: the one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.

Young people in particular are experiencing this change in communication, with all the anxieties, challenges and creativity typical of those open with enthusiasm and curiosity to new experiences in life. Their ever greater involvement in the public digital forum, created by the so-called social networks, helps to establish new forms of interpersonal relations, influences self-awareness and therefore inevitably poses questions not only of how to act properly, but also about the authenticity of one’s own being. Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world. In the search for sharing, for "friends", there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.

The new technologies allow people to meet each other beyond the confines of space and of their own culture, creating in this way an entirely new world of potential friendships. This is a great opportunity, but it also requires greater attention to and awareness of possible risks. Who is my "neighbour" in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there is a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world "other" than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting? It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.

In the digital age too, everyone is confronted by the need for authenticity and reflection. Besides, the dynamic inherent in the social networks demonstrates that a person is always involved in what he or she communicates. When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals. It follows that there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others. To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christian are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

The task of witnessing to the Gospel in the digital era calls for everyone to be particularly attentive to the aspects of that message which can challenge some of the ways of thinking typical of the web. First of all, we must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its "popularity" or from the amount of attention it receives. We must make it known in its integrity, instead of seeking to make it acceptable or diluting it. It must become daily nourishment and not a fleeting attraction. The truth of the Gospel is not something to be consumed or used superficially; rather it is a gift that calls for a free response. Even when it is proclaimed in the virtual space of the web, the Gospel demands to be incarnated in the real world and linked to the real faces of our brothers and sisters, those with whom we share our daily lives. Direct human relations always remain fundamental for the transmission of the faith!

I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment (cf. Eph 1:10). The proclamation of the Gospel requires a communication which is at once respectful and sensitive, which stimulates the heart and moves the conscience; one which reflects the example of the risen Jesus when he joined the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). By his approach to them, his dialogue with them, his way of gently drawing forth what was in their heart, they were led gradually to an understanding of the mystery.

In the final analysis, the truth of Christ is the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks. Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the web from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others. On the contrary, believers encourage everyone to keep alive the eternal human questions which testify to our desire for transcendence and our longing for authentic forms of life, truly worthy of being lived. It is precisely this uniquely human spiritual yearning which inspires our quest for truth and for communion and which impels us to communicate with integrity and honesty.

I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world. I repeat my invitation to them for the next World Youth Day in Madrid, where the new technologies are contributing greatly to the preparations. Through the intercession of their patron Saint Francis de Sales, I pray that God may grant communications workers the capacity always to carry out their work conscientiously and professionally. To all, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2011, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales


Sunday, January 23, 2011

"We Are One Body": On March Eve, The Chairman's Speech

Sticking more to script than usual, but still packing the customary punch, here below, fullvideo of the homily of the USCCB pro-life chair, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, at tonight's Vigil for Life:


On Life... and the "Central Beatitude"

Later today sees one of the high points of the Stateside church's year as upwards of 15,000 pack into every possible inch of Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the traditional Vigil Mass for Life in advance of tomorrow's March.

Beyond the mega-liturgy -- customarily the largest gathering of the American bishops outside the bench's spring and fall plenary meetings -- the nation's largest church doubles for the night as one of the capital's biggest inns as the sleeping bags of room-less pilgrims from around the country take up practically all the lower level's open space. While the Life Mass has invariably drawn a standing-room house since its inception in 1976, in recent years the crowd's swelled to the point that satellite rites to accommodate the overflow have had to be planned elsewhere on the campus of the Catholic University of America, whose buildings have likewise taken in campers unable to fit in the "Shrine Hotel."

To kick off the annual series of events symbolizing the church's commitment to the unborn on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, yet again anchoring the hourlong procession of prelates, clerics and seminarians by the hundreds will be the bench's chairman for Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, nearing the halfway point of his three-year term in the USCCB's pre-eminent policy post, its holder always tasked with the celebrating and preaching duties for the Vigil Eucharist.

In a marked contrast to his predecessors in the pro-life chair, the first Southern cardinal's homiletic tone for the event has, to date, been less policy-heavy "State of the Movement" message (complete with a score of applause breaks) than a meditation on the spiritual underpinnings of the pro-life cause. And his style has tended to be more free-wheeling, to boot; more comfortable and evocative when he's working without a script, DiNardo essentially shredded his intended text for last year's preach once he ascended the Basilica's High Pulpit.

In that light, the Mass begins at 6.30 Eastern and fullvideo of this year's chairman's meditation will run shortly after delivery... but for now, here's an advance reflection culled from the archives -- a transcribed edition of the Houston prelate's early morning pre-March homily from 2008:


Saturday, January 22, 2011

"A Day of Penance"

On this 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion on these shores, the liturgical norms offer all that need be said:
In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass "For Peace and Justice" (no. 22 of the "Masses for Various Needs") should be celebrated with violet vestments as an appropriate liturgical observance for this day.
PHOTO: Rod Lamkey Jr/The Washington Times


Friday, January 21, 2011

On Agnes' Day, Send in the Lambs

Earlier today, a longtime Vatican tradition on this feast of the early martyr St Agnes returned again as the Pope blessed the two lambs whose wool will be shorn to make this year's editions of the pallium, which the metropolitan archbishops of the Latin church named over the prior year will receive from B16 on 29 June's feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

The name Agnes deriving from the Latin "agnus" -- "lamb," of course -- the baby sheep now head to the Benedictine convent of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, whose sisters are tasked with the weaving of the two-inch wide band marked with six crosses, which the metropolitans don within their respective provinces as the liturgical symbol of "the fullness of the episcopal office."

Though the Pope's appointment year is just past its halfway point, 2011's Pallium Class already has its share of still-rising figures, particularly from Latin America -- this year's group will include the new archbishops of Guatemala City, Quito, Bogotá, Santiago de Chile and Bahia in Brazil, all customarily cardinalatial sees. From points beyond, likewise among the 25 metropolitans named to date are the pontiff's freshly-tapped picks for Turin, Jakarta, Port-au-Prince, Pretoria, Riga, the Philippines' largest see of Cebu and the de facto Beninese capital of Cotonou, which Benedict is slated to visit in mid-November both to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the West African country's first evangelization, and to pay tribute to his closest friend in the Roman Curia: Cardinal Bernardin Gantin -- the first African ever to serve as dean of the College of Cardinals -- who left Rome to retire to his homeland in 2002 and died in 2008.

Likely to join the group before its convergence at the confessio of St Peter are the successors to the current cardinal-archbishops of Manila, Guadalajara, Seoul, possibly Cologne -- and above all, the next head of Europe's largest and most influential local church: the 5 million-member archdiocese of Milan, where Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi turns 77 in March as Italian reports indicate that the succession stakes for the mega-post have begun in earnest over recent weeks.

For the States, meanwhile, this year's "dance card" is already filled out in full, and historically so.

Though the American contingent of four new archbishops is consistent with the quotas of recent years, in a moment without precedent for the US church, two Hispanic metropolitans from these shores -- Archbishops José Gomez of Los Angeles and Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio -- will receive their pallia together.

With all of four Latino prelates named to lead Stateside provinces over the last century, never have two been tapped in the same year. And with Hispanics soon to comprise a majority among the nation's 68 million faithful, the duo's presence will make for Rome's clearest picture yet of the American Catholic future -- at least, until Gomez receives his red hat sometime around mid-decade.

The US delegation will be rounded out by Peter and Paul... literally: Archbishops Peter Sartain of Seattle and Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, who'll be installed on 11 February.

Speaking of Stateside metropolitans, it bears noting that, having named 19 of these shores' 33 archbishops in less than six years as Pope (no less than 12 of them in just the last 24 months), B16 has, in essence, cleared through the existing domestic docket for the senior posts. Though Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia reached the retirement age of 75 last April, it is widely presumed that he'll remain in post until the most sweeping reorganization the 1.1 million-member River City church has undergone in quite some time -- an extensive review and reboot of parish, school, and chancery configurations alike -- wraps up, seemingly toward the end of 2012.

As future openings go, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco celebrates his 75th in June, with Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland in Oregon marking the milestone early next year.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quote of the Day

“We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom -- symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning -- signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe -- the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world....

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge -- and more....

United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do -- for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder....

So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us....

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah -- to "undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the oppressed go free."

And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor -- not a new balance of power, but a new world of law -- where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved....

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again -- not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need -- not as a call to battle, though embattled we are -- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation," a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself....

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
--John F. Kennedy
35th President of the United States
Inaugural Address
20 January 1961

* * *
Fifty years ago today, after three centuries of persecution, struggle and prejudice, the American Catholic journey into the nation's mainstream was accomplished as a member of the fold took up the highest office in the land.

As if the milestone of a half-century wasn't striking enough on its own, the poignancy of it has increased as the "last link" to those days -- Sargent Shriver, the cardinal's altar boy, Kennedy in-law, father of five and daily communicant who founded the Peace Corps, led Special Olympics and the War on Poverty and whose all-around "life of grace" been praised across the spectrum as "personifying the ideal" of the Catholic public servant -- died Tuesday at 95.

Striken with Alzheimer's, Shriver's spirit of devotion endured even as his memory vanished. "At 93, my dad still goes to Mass every day," Maria Shriver once said. "And believe it or not, he still remembers the Hail Mary. But he doesn't remember me."

Baptized by Gibbons, married by Spellman, his kids baptized by Cushing (and shown above in the Rose Garden with JFK), Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl will lead Shriver's funeral, which begins tomorrow at Holy Trinity in Georgetown -- the same church where he joined the President-elect for early Mass on Inaugural Morning... fifty years ago today.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Life, Marriage, Economy, Internet Policy, and More: President Dolan's "State of the Union" Message

We interrupt Cardinal Castrillón's latest brutta figura for a special bulletin from the Mothership....

It might be another week until President Obama ascends the rostrum of the House chamber to deliver his "State of the Union" address, but in a letter dated Thursday, the new president of the US bishops, Archbishop Tim Dolan of New York, continued his predecessor's tradition of outlining in depth the bench's policy priorities and areas of concern to the members of the 112th Congress.

Lest anyone needed reminding, the US' roughly 68 million Catholics comprise, by far, the nation's largest religious body.

Here below, the fulltext of the message (emphases original).

* * *
Dear Member of Congress,

As a new Congress begins, I write to congratulate you and to outline principles and priorities that guide the public policy efforts of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). As President of the Bishops’ Conference, I assure you of our prayers and hopes that this newly elected Congress will advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially vulnerable and poor persons whose needs are critical in this time of difficult economic and policy choices. We continue to seek ways to work constructively with the Administration and the new Congress and others of good will to pursue policies which respect the dignity of all human life and bring greater justice to our nation and peace to our world.

As bishops, of course we approach public policy not as politicians but as pastors and teachers. Our moral principles have always guided our everyday experience in caring for the hungry and homeless, offering health care and housing, educating children and reaching out to those in need. We lead the largest community of faith in the United States, one that serves every part of our nation and is present in almost every place on earth. From our experience and our tradition, we offer a distinctive, constructive and principled contribution to the national dialogue on how to defend human life and dignity, promote and protect marriage and family life, lift up those who experience economic turmoil and suffering, and promote peace in a world troubled by war and violence.

Most fundamentally, we will work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill. We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death. Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all to seek common ground, reducing the number of abortions by providing compassionate and morally sound care for pregnant women and their unborn children. We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion. We will work to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of health care providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion. The Hyde amendment and other provisions which for many years have prevented federal funding of abortion have a proven record of reducing abortions, and should be codified in permanent law. Efforts to force Americans to fund abortions with their tax dollars pose a serious moral challenge, and Congress should act to ensure that health care reform does not become a vehicle for such funding.

In close connection with our defense of all human life and particularly the most vulnerable among us, we stand firm in our support for marriage which is and can only be a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of one man and one woman. There is good reason why the law has always recognized this, and why it should continue to do so. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children. Children need, deserve and yearn for a mother and a father. All human societies in every era of history, differing greatly among themselves in many other ways, have understood this simple wisdom. No other kinds of personal relationships can be justly made equivalent or analogous to the commitment of a husband and a wife in marriage, because no other relationship can connect children to the two people who brought them into the world. For this reason, we will continue to vigorously support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and strongly oppose legislative or executive measures that seek to redefine or erode the meaning of marriage. We suggest Congressional oversight of executive actions that have the effect of undermining DOMA, such as the expansion of spousal benefits to two persons of the same sex, and the weak defense of DOMA in court against constitutional challenge. We will seek to reflect respect for the family in every policy and program, to protect the rights of children, and to uphold the rights and responsibilities of mothers and fathers to care for their children. We will also continue to monitor legislation and federal regulations that protect our children and families from the destructive repercussions of pornography, which degrades human sexuality and marital commitment.

Our nation faces continuing economic challenges with serious human consequences and significant moral dimensions. We will work with the Administration and Congress for budget, tax and entitlement policies that reflect the moral imperative to protect poor and vulnerable people. We advocate a clear priority for poor families and vulnerable workers in the development and implementation of economic recovery measures, including appropriate new investments, finding ways to offer opportunity and strengthening the national safety net. Poor families and low-income and jobless workers have been hurt most of all in the economic crisis. The difficult choices ahead on how to balance needs and resources, and how to proportionately allocate the burdens and sacrifices need to take into account the vulnerability and capacity of all, especially those most affected by poverty, joblessness and economic injustice. We urge the Administration and Congress to seek the common good of our nation and people above partisan politics and the demands of powerful or narrow interests.

With regard to the education of children, we call for a return to the equitable participation of students and teachers in private schools in programs funded through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. When students in private schools are counted in order to determine the total amount of federal education funds a public school district receives, the funds generated by these students should benefit them and their teachers, not be used for programs in which only public school students and personnel can participate. We also continue to support initiatives, such as tax credits and scholarship programs, which provide resources for all parents, especially those of modest means, to choose education which best addresses the needs of their children.

We welcome continuing commitments to empower faith-based groups as effective partners in overcoming poverty and other threats to human dignity. We will continue to work with the Administration and Congress to strengthen these partnerships in ways that do not encourage government to abandon its responsibilities, and do not require religious groups to abandon their identity or mission.

As the Internet continues to grow in its influence and prominence in Americans’ lives, we support legislation and federal regulations that ensure equal access to the Internet for all, including religious and non-profit agencies, as well as those in more sparsely populated or economically distressed areas. True net neutrality is necessary for people to flourish in a democratic society.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States have worked for nearly a century to assure health care for all, insisting that access to health care is a basic human right and a requirement of human dignity. Basic health care for all is a moral imperative, not yet completely achieved. We remain committed to our three moral criteria: 1) Ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all; 2) Retain longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protect conscience rights; and 3) Protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access. We will continue to devote our efforts to improving and correcting serious moral problems in the current law, so health care reform can truly be universal and life-affirming.

We will work with the Administration and the new Congress to fix a broken immigration system which harms both immigrants and our entire nation. Comprehensive reform is needed to deal with the economic and human realities of millions of immigrants in our midst. We realize that reform must be based on respect for and implementation of the law and for the legitimate and timely question of national security. Equally, however, it must defend the rights and dignity of all peoples, recognizing that human dignity comes from God and does not depend on where people were born or how they came to our nation. Truly comprehensive immigration reform will include a path to earned citizenship, with attention to the fact that international trade and development policies influence economic opportunities in the countries from which immigrants come. It also must foster family reunification, the bedrock principle upon which our national immigration system has been based for decades. Immigration enforcement policies should honor basic human rights and uphold basic due process protections.

On international affairs, we will work with our leaders to seek responsible transitions to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and promote religious freedom for all, acting against religious repression of our fellow Christians and others. The recent attacks against Christians in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria and the assassination of a Pakistani governor who opposed blasphemy laws highlight an appalling trend of increased violence aimed at vulnerable minority communities. In all foreign policy deliberations, we urge a greater emphasis on human rights, especially religious freedom, which we view as an essential good so intricately tied to other human rights and to the promotion of peace. We especially urge continued and persistent leadership to bring a just peace to the Holy Land, to promote peaceful change in Sudan, and to rebuild Haiti. We will continue to support essential U.S. investments to overcome global poverty, hunger and disease through increased and reformed international assistance. Continued U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV-AIDS and other diseases in ways that are both effective and morally appropriate have our enthusiastic backing. Recognizing the complexity of climate change, we wish to be a voice for the poor and vulnerable in our country and around the world who will be the most adversely affected by threats to the environment.

This outline of USCCB policies and priorities is not complete. There are many other areas of concern and advocacy for the Church and the USCCB. For a more detailed description of our concerns please see Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (USCCB 2007), pages 19-30.

Nonetheless, we offer this outline as an agenda for dialogue and action. We hope to offer a constructive and principled contribution to national discussion about the values and policies that will shape our nation's future. We seek to work together with our nation's leaders to advance the common good of our society, while disagreeing respectfully and civilly where necessary in order to preserve that common good. I am enclosing a brochure from our Office of Government Relations, directed by Nancy Wisdo, for your future contacts with the Conference.

In closing, I thank you for responding to the noble call of public service and I renew our expression of hope and our offer of cooperation as you begin this new period of service to our nation in these challenging times. We promise our prayers for all of you, and in a special way for your colleague Gabrielle Giffords and all those killed or injured in the horrific attack in Tucson. We hope that the days ahead will be a time of renewal and progress for our nation as we defend human life and dignity, seek greater justice for all God’s children, and bring peace to a suffering world.

With prayerful best wishes, I am

Faithfully and respectfully yours,

Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, USCCB

* * *
(At the same time, with the House taking up its new Republican majority's long-pledged debate and vote on the repeal of the health-care reform package passed and signed into law last year, the following letter, dated today, was sent to its 435 members from the conference's three key chairs on the health-care debate: the Pro-Life chair Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston; the Migration chair, Los Angeles Coadjutor-Archbishop José Gomez, and the Domestic Policy chair, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton:)

Dear Representative:

As Congress prepares to resume debate on health care reform, we wish to make clear the position and priorities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on this vitally important issue.

Throughout the last Congress the Catholic bishops of the United States affirmed our strong support for universal access to health care. Basic health care for all is a moral imperative, not yet completely achieved. It has never been, and is not now, for the bishops to decide the best means to realize that essential goal. However, regardless of which means are chosen, they must fall within certain fundamental moral parameters, which the bishops have a duty to articulate strongly and clearly. We have urged and continue to urge that legislation on health care reform reflect the following three moral criteria:
  • Ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all;
  • Retain longstanding requirements that effectively protect conscience rights and that prohibit use of federal funds for elective abortions or plans that include them; and
  • Protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access.
  • Rather than joining efforts to support or oppose the repeal of the recently enacted health care law, we will continue to devote our efforts to correcting serious moral problems in the current law, so health care reform can truly be life-affirming for all.
In the 111th Congress, H.R. 5111 was introduced by Congressmen Pitts and Lipinski to ensure that the new health care law will maintain longstanding federal policies on abortion in the areas of federal funding and conscience rights. H.R. 6570 was also introduced by Congressman Fortenberry to ensure that all people -- Catholics and others alike -- maintain their current ability under federal law to provide and purchase health coverage that is consistent with their faith and values. We will strongly support laws like these in the new Congress and we will seek ways to ensure a more just health care system for immigrant families.

For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for reform of our health care system so all may have access to care that recognizes and affirms their human dignity. As Pope Benedict recently stated, in the health care sector “it is important to establish a real distributive justice which, on the basis of objective needs, guarantees adequate care to all.” Moreover, “if it is not to become inhuman, the world of health care cannot disregard the moral rules that must govern it” (Message to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, November 15, 2010). We wholeheartedly commit ourselves to health care reform that achieves these worthy goals. We will advocate for addressing the current problems in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as others that may become apparent in the course of its implementation.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Committee on Pro-life Activities

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire
Diocese of Stockton
Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez
Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Committee on Migration

PHOTO: Ozier Muhammad/
The New York Times


Recalling the Lion

Lest we forget, this week would've seen the 91st birthday of American Catholicism's last great leader -- a figure from what's now a bygone ecclesial age....

Yet even now, that famous voice -- and its quiet, perceptive take on things -- still echoes, and still offers much to teach us.

So, here -- live from 452 in late 1994 -- an interview with the "Last Lion" of Madison Avenue...

...and at the 10th anniversary of his death last May, a tribute from some of the folks who knew the goldleafer's son from Southwest Philly best:

To be sure, church, we likewise live in historic days, and great figures of our own time have risen to the moment. Still, we may never again see the likes of "Mighty John O'Connor," nor the era in which he flourished.

Just like any "good priest," though, the example and lessons he left behind only become all the more worthwhile as time marches on.

May his witness remain ever with us.


The Ordinariate's "Supreme Law"

Two days after his ordination to the Catholic priesthood -- and, with it, his papal appointment as head of the groundbreaking Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans in England and Wales -- Fr Keith Newton (left) held a press briefing yesterday on the new structure, whose 14-month trajectory from Vatican plan to ecclesial reality remains fairly breathtaking by Roman standards.

Reflecting both his prior life as an Anglican bishop and his new status as the leader of an entity with the juridical status of a diocese (including financial votes in the episcopal conference), in keeping with the special provision of Anglicanorum coetibus for prelates-become-priests, the new cleric donned a pectoral cross and -- in another first-of-its-kind moment (at least, this side of Canterbury... not to mention Milingo) -- an episcopal ring on his right hand alongside the wedding ring on his left.

Fullaudio's posted of the briefer at the Eccleston Square headquarters of the bishops' conference of England and Wales, where the new apparatus -- currently numbering three priests, their wives and a handful of religious -- will have its temporary offices. (Newton said the Church of England has allowed him to remain in the home he held as a "flying bishop" until the end of March; he's still seeking a new place to live.)

What's more, though, as the founding set-up is expected to serve as the canonical model for the subsequent Ordinariates to be formed over the coming months in Canada, Australia and the US -- the latter likely to be the largest -- the more canonically-minded might appreciate seeing the full text of the Decree establishing the community as a particular church, issued Saturday by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and released yesterday.

* * *
of the Personal Ordinariate
of Our Lady of Walsingham

The supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls. As such, throughout its history, the Church has always found the pastoral and juridical means to care for the good of the faithful.

With the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, promulgated on 4 November 2009, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, provided for the establishment of Personal ordinariates through which Anglican faithful may enter, even in a corporate manner, into full communion with the Catholic Church. On the same date, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published Complementary Norms relating to such Ordinariates.

In conformity with what is established in Art. I § 1 and §2 of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, having received requests from a considerable number of Anglican faithful and having consulted with the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham within the territory of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales.

1. The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham ipso iure possesses juridic personality and is juridically equivalent to a diocese. It includes those faithful ,of every category and state of life, who originally having beloned to the Anglican Communion, are now in full communion with the Catholic Church, or who have received the sacraments of initiation within the jurisdiction of the ordinariate itself or who are received into it because they are part of a family belonging to the Ordinariate.

2. The faithful of the personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham are entrusted to the pastoral care of the Personal Ordinary, who, once named by the Roman Pontiff, possesses all the faculties and is held to all the obligations, specified in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus and the Complementary Norms as well as in those matters determined subsequently by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on request both of the Ordinary, having heard the Governing Council of the Ordinariate, and of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales.

3. The Anglican faithful who wish to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate must manifest this desire in writing. There is to be a programme of catechetical formation for these faithful, lasting for a congruent time, and with content established by the Ordinary in agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith so that the faithful are able to adhere fully to the doctrinal content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and, therefore, make the profession of faith.

4. For candidates for ordination, who previously were ministers in the Anglican Communion, there is to be a specific programme of theological formation, as well as spiritual and pastoral preparation, prior to ordination in the Catholic Church, according to what will be established by the Ordinary in agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in consultation with the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales.

5. For a cleric not incardinated in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham to assist at a marriage of the faithful belonging to the Ordinariate, he must receive the faculty from the Ordinary or the pastor of the personal parish to which the faithful belong.

6. The Ordinary is a member by right of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, with deliberative vote in those cases in which this is required in law.

7. A cleric, having come originally from the Anglican Communion, who has already been ordained in the Catholic Church and incardinated in a Diocese, is able to be incardinated in the Ordinariate in accord with the norm of can. 267 CIC.

8. Until the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham may have established its own Tribunal, the judicial cases of its faithful are referred to the Tribunal of the Diocese in which one of the parties has a domicile, while taking into account, however, the different titles of competence established in cann.1408-1414 and 1673 CIC.

9. The faithful of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham who are, temporarily or permanently, outside the territory of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, while remaining members of the Ordinariate, are bound by universal law and those particular laws of the territory where they find themselves.

10. If a member of the faithful moves permanently into a place where another Personal Ordinariate has been erected, he is able, on his own request, to be received into it. The new Ordinary is bound to inform the original Personal Ordinariate of the reception. If a member of the faithful wishes to leave the Ordinariate, he must make such a decision known to his own Ordinary. He automatically becomes a member of the Diocese where he resides. In this case, the Ordinary will ensure that the Diocesan Bishop is informed.

11. The Ordinary, keeping in mind the Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis and the Programme of Priestly Formation of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, is to prepare a Programme of Priestly Formation for the seminarians of the Ordinariate which must be approved by the Apsotolic See.

12. The Ordinary will ensure that the Statutes of the Governing Council and the Pastoral Council, which are subject to his approval, are drawn up.

13. The location of the principal Church of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham will be determined by the Ordinary in agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in consultation with the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales. Likewise, the Seat of the Ordinariate, where the register referred to in Art. 5 § 1 of the Complementary Norms will be kept, will be determined in the same way.

14. The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has as its patron Blessed John Henry Newman.

Everything to the contrary notwithstanding.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15 January 2011

William Cardinal Levada

+ Luis F. Ladaria, S.I.

PHOTO: Mazur/


Monday, January 17, 2011

The "Way," Forward: Pope Praises Neocats... Then Calls Them to Heel

In an "audience" that, by turns, ended up turning out to be part concert, pep-rally, and Liturgy of the Word, this morning the Pope received some 5,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way as he commissioned some 200 new families for the movement's mission "ad gentes," joining the nearly 600 already in rotation worldwide.

Accompanied by a priest per unit, the missionaries will break up into groups of three or four families, each group sent to a "de-Christianized" area to which they've been invited by the local bishop.

Known for their lively, en masse energy -- the Way's lead "initiator," the Spanish painter Kiko Arguello, animatedly pointed out the movement's seminarians, rectors and bishop-collaborators to B16 from a second microphone before breaking into one of the Way's unmistakable songs, backed by a mid-sized orchestra -- when the pontiff finally got to address the nearly-full Paul VI Hall toward the end of the 40-minute gathering, he praised the half-century old movement as a "particular gift of the Holy Spirit," yet dedicated much of his talk to indicating the high-profile concerns over the Neocats' behavior in the local churches where they take up, clearly in the hope that his words could goad the Way to a more communion-centric path ahead.

Calling the Neocatechumenate "a gift of God for his church," Benedict quoted its statutes to remind its members that their charism is "placed at the service of the bishop as one way of diocesan action toward Christian initiation and permanent education in the faith." The Pope then recalled the group's first encounter with one of his predecessors, citing a 1974 address from Paul VI that described the group's charism as "renewing in today's Christian communities the effects of maturity and deepening," which the early church focused on prior to baptism.

Referring to the Vatican's 2008 approval of its statutes and the CDF's recent sign-off for a Catechetical Directory for the million-member movement, B16 added that "with these seals of ecclesial approval the Lord today confirms this precious tool which is the Way and again entrusts it to you so that, in filial obedience to the Holy See and the pastors of the church, you may contribute with renewed energy and ardor to the radical and joyful rediscovery of the gift of Baptism, and offer your own original contribution to the cause of new evangelisation.

"The church has recognised in the Neocatechumenal Way a particular gift created by the Holy Spirit. As such it naturally tends to insert itself into the harmony of the ecclesial Body. In this light I exhort you always to seek profound communion with [the] pastors, and with all members of the particular churches, and of the very different ecclesial contexts in which you are called to work.

"Fraternal communion between the disciples of Jesus is, in fact, the first and greatest witness to the name of Jesus Christ."

SVILUPPO: Here below, a vid-grab of the centerpiece of today's Neocat spectacle -- the premiere of a "brief opera," as Kiko Arguello put it, titled Espada (that is, "Sword"):

PHOTOS: L'Osservatore Romano(1); Reuters(2)


Between "Both Great Scandals," the Visitation Continues

It might've been his 64th birthday, but yesterday saw Archbishop Thomas Collins faced with a less-than-celebratory task -- leading a penance service for the Irish clergy sex-abuse scandals on his Apostolic Visitation to the country's southern province.

During the rite at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles, Co. Tipperary -- seat of the archdiocese of Cashel and Emly -- the Toronto prelate revisited the lone-voiced approach to the crisis that he first employed during its European eruption last year: a line of thought that, among others, won plaudits from no less than the New York Times....
“What does the most persistent journalist who reports priestly evildoing have in common with St John Vianney, the holy Curé of Ars, patron of parish priests?

“They both expect priests to be holy.”
...and more:
Collins said a practical way in which the Catholic Church could show its concern was by "doing all that we can to learn from this experience of evil, and so to try to be sure that it never happens again"....

"We cannot escape the horror of this by pointing out that the great majority of priests serve faithfully, with integrity and compassion....

"[E]ven one priest gone wrong causes immense harm, and throughout the world priests have done unspeakable evil, sometimes within the very sacramental setting which should above all environments be most sacred and safe.

"But it is the sacred responsibility of us all, but most especially of the authorities in the church, to do what we can to prevent such evil, and to deal with it effectively whenever it is found.

"The crimes themselves, and the failure of church authorities to respond adequately to them, are both great scandals.

"We recognise the courage of the victims and their families who came forward and shone the cleansing light of truth on their suffering."
* * *
On a related note, with the seminary leg of the Visitation begun over the weekend as Archbishop Timothy Dolan arrived at the Irish College in Rome, it's emerged that, in tow, the Gotham prelate has brought along a "dream team" of prelates with top-shelf formation cred to aid him in the process.

Beyond the previously-reported addition of Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore -- Dolan's predecessor as rector of the Pontifical North American College (as well as a two-time rector of New York's St Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie) -- the group likewise includes President Tim's top protege, Bishop Bill Callahan OFM Conv. of LaCrosse (a highly-regarded spiritual director at the NAC before being dispatched back to the States as Dolan's auxiliary in Milwaukee); Msgr Francis Kelly, a priest of Worcester currently serving as rector of the Casa Santa Maria (the NAC's home for priest grad-students), and two sons of Pittsburgh: the once-longtime head of the USCCB's vocations desk, Bishop Ed Burns of Juneau, and Bishop Bernie Hebda of Gaylord, a former #3 at the Vatican's canon-law council, who doubled as a spiritual director atop the Gianicolo while in the Curial post.

From Rome, the team heads to the Isle's four domestic seminaries, beginning with St Patrick's, Maynooth, on 31 January.

While the seminary look-in's lead is, of course, no slouch it comes to articulating a gold-standard of formation, as yardsticks go, it could be said that the guiding vision for what Dolan & Co. will be seeking was given on Irish soil last year: the address the Visitor gave last May at Maynooth, only hours before the Holy See announced the unprecedented inquest.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

"The Messiah Was a Refugee" -- B16 Celebrates Migration Sunday

Fresh off the Stateside church's annual Epiphany-driven observance of Migration Week, this Sunday saw the global church's 97th World Day for Migrants and Refugees.

Dedicated this year to the B16-chosen theme of "One Human Family," the pontiff gave the issue-day precedence over his usual theme of today's Gospel at his noontime Angelus:
On this Sunday is observed the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which every year invites us to reflect on the experience of many men and women, and many families, who leave their own country in search of better conditions of life. Sometimes this migration is voluntary, sometimes, unfortunately, it is forced by wars or persecutions, and it often happens -- as we know -- in dramatic conditions. Because of this the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was instituted 60 years ago. On the feast of the Holy Family, immediately after Christmas, we noted that even Jesus' parents had to flee their own land and take refuge in Egypt to save the life of their child: The Messiah, the Son of God was a refugee. The Church itself has always known migration. Sometimes, unfortunately, Christians feel forced to leave, with suffering, their land, thus impoverishing the country in which their ancestors lived. On the other hand, the voluntary movement of Christians, for various reasons, from one city to another, from one country to another, from one continent to another, are occasions to enhance the missionary dynamism of the Word of God and make the witness to faith circulate more in the mystical Body of Christ, crossing peoples and cultures, and reaching new frontiers, new environments.

"One single human family:" this is the theme of the message that I composed for today's observance. It is a theme that indicates the end, the goal of the great journey of humanity across the centuries: forming one family, naturally with all the differences that enrich it, but without walls, recognizing all as brothers. Thus says the Second Vatican Council: "All peoples constitute one single community. They have one origin since God made the whole human race inhabit the whole face of the earth" ("Nostra aetate," 1). The Church, the Council continues, "is in Christ as a sacrament, that is, sign and instrument of intimate union with God and the unity of the whole human race" ("Lumen gentium," 1).
As the pontiff spoke, his concerns were echoed in a wire report filed within the same hour, noting the increasing tide of Iraqi Christians "fleeing in panic" to neighboring Turkey amid an increasingly violent reality for the already-decimated community over recent months.

Migration Sunday is but one of several topic-oriented moments of the calendar that'll come to the fore over these next days. For the 104th time, the global Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins Tuesday, running through the 25th's feast of the Conversion of St Paul. Here in the States, the ecclesial focus turns in earnest toward next week's 38th anniversary of the legalization of abortion -- a day of prayer and penance for the national church -- the observance to be capped with the annual Vigil and March for Life in Washington, beginning a week from tomorrow. And next Monday's feast of the patron of journalists, St Francis de Sales, will again see the release of this year's papal message for the the 45th World Communications Day, 2011's focusing on "Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age."

While the Pope's WCD reflection is traditionally issued on 24 January as a nod to the patron of the press, the ecclesial media-fest doesn't actually take place until the Seventh Sunday of Easter, which most of the Catholic world now celebrates as the feast of the Ascension -- that is, the church's "Go into all the world" Day.

At his midday appearance, Benedict XVI likewise made his first public comments about the beatification of Pope John Paul II, which he approved on Friday and will "have the joy" of making official on 1 May, becoming the first pontiff in a millennium to raise his immediate predecessor to the honors of the altar.

"The many who knew him, the many who respected and loved him, can only celebrate with the church for this event," Benedict said.

"Let us rejoice!"

* * *
Back to where we began, though, even if he didn't issue a public statement for these shores' week dedicated to welcoming the stranger, in his New Year's message to his presbyterate, the archbishop of New York -- now, of course, likewise the elected chief of the nation's bishops -- did have a thing or two to say on the topic of migration here at home:
My New Year got off to a bad start when I opened up our hometown paper to see the headline that some of our states, and some in the Congress, intend to push for restrictive, harsh immigration laws. Those who blast us bishops for only being concerned about pro-life and defense of marriage issues will be shown to be what we’ve told them they are for a long time -- wrong!

Not that we can ever flag in our earnest promotion of “equal protection under the law” for our most vulnerable citizens -- the baby in the womb -- or in reminding government that it has no right to redefine marriage . . . but the Catholic Church in the United States has been and will continue to be on the side of the immigrant. Yes, government indeed has the duty to protect -- especially given the genuine threat of terrorism -- our borders and enforce sane, fair, and just immigration laws. But to get mean and punitive is not the answer.

This New York community, with the Statue of Liberty at our door, has always been a welcoming home for the immigrant, and as such is an icon of America at her best. And this archdiocese has been, is, and always will be a sanctuary for the alien, (most of whom, if you have not noticed, are Catholic), and, as such, has been a reflection of the Church at her best.
PHOTOS: Reuters(2)


Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Venerable Baker: Gettysburg Vet... Saint-to-Be?

Largely lost under the tidal-wave of yesterday's mega-news -- the announcement of the beatification of Pope John Paul II, and its scheduling for May 1st -- was the progress of a cause closer to home: the declaration of the "heroic virtue" of a Civil War veteran who went on to minister for decades in the trenches of Western New York.

Conferring with it the title "Venerable," the papal decree on Fr Nelson Baker (1841-1936) signifies that the standard extensive investigation into his life and correspondence concluded that the veteran pastor was an exemplar of genuine holiness. With the development, the cause may proceed to the presentation of a miracle which, if verified, would secure the beatification of Buffalo's "Apostle of Charity"; along those lines, a local paper reported that a possible healing is already pending before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

A native of the Lake Erie coast, Baker enlisted in the New York Militia's 74th Regiment during the Civil War, which fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. On his return from the field, he began a grain and feed business which, though very successful, still yielded to the lure to the seminary, from which he was ordained at 34 -- then an elderly age for a new cleric.

After serving in several parishes of the Buffalo church (where, even today, he's still universally known as, simply, "Father Baker"), the young priest capitalized on the region's natural-gas boom of the early 1900s to build a "City of Charity" that came to encompass orphanages, an occupational school, a maternity hospital and home for unwed mothers and their babies alongside assorted other initiatives which combined to take in, feed, clothe and serve hundreds of thousands each year. As its capstone, in his waning years the "Padre of the Poor" built his long-desired dream-church -- a mammoth shrine to his personal patroness, Our Lady of Victory -- which was completed in time for his golden jubilee of priesthood and, partly as a tribute to its builder, made the nation's second minor basilica a mere two months after its opening.

(In another testimony to its champion's talents, the shrine was finished with no outstanding debt; in today's dollars, the project would've totaled just shy of $40 million.)

Though, unlike beatifications or canonizations, the "Venerable" designation is effective from the moment the Pope affirms a decree of heroic virtue, a Buffalo celebration of Baker's progress toward the altars is expected to take place at the Victory Basilica once the formal documents arrive from Rome.


Kikopalooza: For the Neocats, a Papal Party

Against the backdrop of a highly-public brawl with the Japanese bishops -- who tried to ban them from the country but were overruled by the Holy See in recent weeks -- in another rare coup, the Neocatechumenal Way is set to hold a prominent Vatican celebration led by the Pope himself.

Shown above flanking B16 at a recent private audience, the "initiators" of the oft-controversial million-member movement -- Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez and Italian Fr Mario Pezzi -- will lead a Monday crowd of Neocats gathered in the Paul VI Audience Hall as, continuing a tradition begun by the soon to be Blessed John Paul II, the pontiff commissions 230 new missionary families for the Way before they're sent to some 46 countries. The audience will also commemorate the CDF's recent approval of a Catechetical Directory for the movement, which is intended to provide "security for [the Way's] implementation... offering also [a] doctrinal guarantee" of its purity in teaching "to all the shepherds of the church."

Now present in 105 countries, the Way's governing statutes were given final approval by Rome in 2008. Beyond its lay mission-work, the movement boasts over 70 Redemptorist Mater seminaries worldwide, five of them in the US.

Viewed by its critics as a "sect" (or even a "cult") for its tendency to form a "totally separate" life from the local churches in which it exists -- not to mention its unconventional liturgies and highly-regimented subgroups (where placement is contingent on one's advancement in the Way's methods) -- the group's most prominent clash with a local hierarchy has come over the last several years in Japan, where a former president of the nation's bishops once slammed the Spanish-born movement's presence there for, he said, having "caused sharp, painful division and strife within the church."

After the Japanese prelates first voiced their concerns over the Way's m.o., in 2006 Rome approved the closing of the country's Redemptorist Mater seminary. More recently, when the bishops pushed for a full ban of the Way for five years, they were publicly rebuffed by a message from the Secretariat of State, which instead called for a dialogue to begin immediately, mediated by a delegate yet to be named. In response, a leading Japanese prelate said this week that "in those places touched by the Neocatechumenal Way, there has been rampant confusion, conflict, division, and chaos" and that the bishops "could not ignore the damage."

At a 2006 commissioning of Neocat families, the Pope lauded the Spanish-born movement for birthing "a true 'springtime of hope' for the diocesan community of Rome and for the universal church."

However, the same text likewise gave voice to the criticism of the movement. "Your apostolic action, already very praiseworthy, will be all the more effective to the extent that you strive to constantly cultivate that yearning for unity which Jesus communicated to the Twelve during the Last Supper," Benedict said.

"Before the Passion our Redeemer prayed intensely that his disciples all would be one so that the world would be impelled to believe in him, because this unity can come only by the power of God. It is this unity, a gift of the Holy Spirit and a ceaseless quest of believers, which makes each community a living structure that is well integrated into the Mystical Body of Christ.

"The unity of the Lord's disciples," Benedict said, "is part of the very essence of the church and is an indispensable condition for its evangelizing action to be both fruitful and credible."

Even for the tough-talk, however, it bears noting that only one other "new movement" has received a similar outpouring of public en masse Pope-Time: Benedict's beloved Comunione e Liberazione -- whose founder he famously eulogized, and whose weekly "School of Community" is held in the papal apartment.

Following Monday's event, the founders will hold a press conference. From there, Arguello is expected to lead a catechesis for 200,000 young adults during August's World Youth Day in Madrid.