Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving....

For the Peanuts fans among us, a Turkey Day classic...

...and if the buzz currently blowing up the wires as √Čireann pans out, then it's all the more perfect, indeed.

As always, gang... well, you know.

SVILUPPO (Thursday, 6.20am): First and foremost, a blessed and happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

As for the above, while some late indications tipped an announcement for today, it'd seem that Rome has taken to playing Lucy with the football.

Hinted at above after chatter ticked up yesterday, a brief in this morning's Irish Times echoes reports received here that, in a convention-shattering move on multiple fronts, the Pope is set to name Msgr Charles Brown (right), 52 -- a priest of New York and long-trusted aide of B16's at the CDF -- as apostolic nuncio to Ireland.

In addition to the ex officio elevation to the rank of archbishop, the job of representing the pontiff in the historically Catholic country carries with it the Deanship of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Irish Republic. Given Ireland's long-vaunted status in the ecclesial orbit, it has long been considered a plum posting of Vatican diplomacy, reserved for meritorious veterans of the Pope's corps.

This time, however, the picture is rather different. The appointment to the Dublin posting has been closely monitored both on Irish soil and beyond given a historic degree of tensions both between church and state, and between the country's bishops and the Holy See in the fallout of multiple civil inquests on a cataclysmic history of sex-abuse and cover-up that have battered the once vaunted Isle church.

While the conclusions of three of the investigations have been made public, the release of a fourth is pending.

In recent weeks, further tumult was stoked as Ireland's coalition government announced the closing of its embassy to the Holy See. While the lack of "economic return" from the mission was officially cited as the rationale, the move was widely viewed as a further snub to the church.

Educated at Notre Dame and Oxford, Toronto and Sant'Anselmo, the widely well-liked, low-key and savvy New Yorker -- a figure, indeed, universally known as "Charlie" -- would prove an unmistakable signal of the degree to which Benedict means business, both in shaking up Irish Catholicism and more forthright and effective relations with the state.

In contrast to the longtime practice of dispatching Italian diplomats at the end of their careers -- all of them said to have been "dominated" and sidelined by a strong, insular native hierarchy -- the appointment to Dublin of a native English-speaker with an instinctive grasp of the Pope's mind and no diplomatic experience whatsoever (let alone on his first posting as a mission chief) would make for a significant recasting of the Nuncio's role as a force to be reckoned with. Add in the key attribute of a direct line to his mentor, and the reported pick would essentially be sent from Rome with a blank check to reshape the Irish church to the pontiff's specifications.

Though no native Anglophone has held the posting in the Phoenix Park since the 1960s, the strategy as proffered would echo the Curia's choice of prelates who conducted last winter's Apostolic Visitation to the country -- namely, foreign-born prelates from the Irish diaspora.

That the Nuncio would follow suit has been spoken of for some months; among others said to have been considered for the post was the Philadelphia-born Archbishop James Green, a former head of the Secretariat of State's English Desk, who instead ended up being transferred to Peru from his prior station in South Africa. Yet as reports cropped up of resistance to the Visitation's far-reaching changes -- most significantly, the reduction and consolidation of Irish dioceses from the current 26, and quite possibly a radically altered approach to priestly formation -- it's ostensibly been determined that the extensive heavy lifting could most successfully be carried out by one of Benedict's own.

According to the Times, the Irish Cabinet granted its requisite clearance for the appointment on Tuesday. Internally, meanwhile, beyond whatever alterations to the landscape Rome is considering, seven of the current 26 dioceses are now on-deck to receive new heads following yesterday's early retirement at 71 of Bishop Séamus Hegarty of Derry, who cited ill health as the reason for his departure.

Three of the vacant sees were led by bishops who resigned under pressure following civil inquests that highlighted their actions (or lack thereof) that contributed to cover-ups. Hegarty's former diocese of Raphoe, which he led from 1982-94, is the next to be reported on by a state panel.

Business aside, church, every blessing and grace of Thanksgiving again to you and your loved ones.

For all the rest, as always, stay tuned.

SVILUPPO: At Roman Noon on Saturday, 26 November, Pope Benedict formally appointed Brown as his legate to Ireland.