Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lakes and Oceans

So it seems, even Rome's getting in on the Trade Deadline action -- at least as evidenced by this morning's appointment of Msgr Lawrence Persico as bishop of Erie on the retirement of one of the last "giants" of the Stateside bench, Bishop Donald Trautman.

Heretofore doing double-duty as vicar-general of Greensburg and a pastor in the Western Pennsylvania diocese, the 61 year-old cleric will be ordained by the Lake on October 1st.

Home to 225,000 Catholics, the Erie church comprises the 13 Northwestern counties of the Keystone State -- an area encompassing over 10,000 square miles.

* * *
While the more observant would've noticed the warning shot on the Inside Pages yesterday, with the shop on its traditional (and already-delayed) Summer Hiatus, the rest will have to remain aside for now.

Some things in life are just more important, folks -- and 'round these parts, the gifts of these lazy, hazy days (well, what's left of them) run very high on that list.

Every blessing and good thing of summer to you and yours, church. Enjoy it while it lasts.


Friday, July 27, 2012

B16's "Bombshell By the Bay" -- Marriage Chief Cordileone to Rock San Francisco

(2pm ET -- updated below with video, statements, etc.)

Depending on how one looks at things, this Friday morning brings either the most courageously bold -- or stunningly brazen -- American appointment in the seven-year reign of Pope Benedict XVI.

For the better part of the last four months, the machinery of the archdiocese that -- at least, under normal circumstances -- many US bishops consider the nation's most daunting episcopal assignment has quietly prepared its 450,000 members for a transition at the top. Yet while the pontiff's selection of the ninth archbishop of San Francisco had almost universally been expected by late June, an apparent delay was explained by credible reports of a backroom Roman "fight" over the state and direction of the famously progressive local church in the capital city of American liberalism.

Now, finally, the dust has cleared... and even for a city well-accustomed to seismic activity, the ecclesial Richter Scale both by the Bay and well beyond is about to record a right whopper.

A "major announcement on the future of the archdiocese" already set for 10am local time at St Mary's Cathedral, at Roman Noon the pontiff named Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, 56 -- the San Diego-born head of the neighboring Oakland church since 2009, and lead hand behind the US bishops' national effort to defend the traditional definition of marriage -- to succeed Archbishop George Niederauer, who reached the retirement age of 75 in June 2011.

After a half-century of occupants accused by conservatives of soft-pedaling church teaching in favor of a more conciliatory approach toward constituencies ranging from gays and lesbians to Nancy Pelosi -- a group of prelates among which even the recently-retired lead guardian of church doctrine, Cardinal William Levada, was not exempt from stinging criticism -- the move delivers the long-desired "Holy Grail" of the American Catholic Right firmly into the faction's hands, in the form of a prelate already known widely both for his forcefulness and a stringent doctrinal cred almost unequaled among his confreres on the national bench.

For liberal Catholics, meanwhile, the appointment is likely to be received as something akin to the city's Great Earthquake of 1906, or even more apocalyptic events. In a nutshell, an appointment of this dramatic, potentially explosive nature is enough to make even last year's blockbuster move in the States -- likewise a final US move of the Curia's annual work-cycle -- appear almost mild by comparison.

Either way, as the onetime lawyer at the Vatican's "supreme court" (his surname Italian for "lion heart") crosses the Bay Bridge with a mandate to reshape the House of Quinn with his own distinctive style and emphases over a tenure that could well extend over two decades, it seems pretty safe to say that, this morning, progressive Catholicism on these shores has a new leading bete noire -- and one who'll be around and kicking for quite some time, at that.

With the appointment, Cordileone becomes the youngest non-Hispanic among the 33 American archbishops; Gustavo García-Siller -- the Mexican-born archbishop of San Antonio -- turns 56 in December.

The next-youngest Anglo metropolitan, Oklahoma City's Paul Coakley, turned 57 last month. With Cordileone now included, the trio are the only Stateside archbishops younger than 60.

* * *
A protege of the preeminent "ultra-conservative" of the American hierachy, Cardinal Raymond Burke (now the church's de facto "chief justice" as head of the Apostolic Signatura, where the duo served together in the early 1990s), the clash that a Cordileone appointment signifies with the city that is arguably the global capital of open, unabashed gay identity and culture was first notably evidenced by an initially quiet move amid a high-stakes moment: a $2,000 donation the then-auxiliary of San Diego made out of his own pocket to the nascent 2008 battle in support of Proposition 8 -- the California ballot initiative whose passage overturned a court ruling that sanctioned same-sex marriage in the nation's largest state -- along with some key assists in the effort's early stages. Over the course of the year-long campaign, the new archbishop is said to have given a combined $6,000 of his own money to the cause. (Previously assigned to the Mormon home-base as bishop of Utah's booming Catholic fold, Niederauer made his own significant contribution to the Prop 8 push by enlisting the significant financial and organizational resources of the LDS faithful to back the referendum's passage.)

Four months after the marriage vote's successful outcome, Cordileone was dispatched north to Oakland -- a prominent progressive diocese in its own right -- following the return of Allen Vigneron to the archbishopric of his native Detroit. The East Bay move would launch a conspicuous trend of Rome's turning to standout prelates from the church's "orthodox" wing to fill diocesan openings in Northern California. A year later, Bishop Robert Vasa would be transferred to Santa Rosa, yet only today has the thread reached its ultimate consummation with the all-important metropolitan nod.

His latest column having focused on the more Left-friendly topic of immigration reform, Cordileone's San Fran suit comes bolstered by a fluency in Spanish -- a key asset to serve a local church whose Latino population has grown considerably enough of late that the archdiocese recently launched a Spanish-language newspaper.

In his charge until today, the trained canonist -- likewise a firm supporter of the pre-Conciliar Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite -- made further waves on the charged issue of homosexuality in the church with a call earlier this year for a national ministry association for Catholic gays and lesbians based in his diocese to sign oaths of "personal integrity" in response to a list of concerns that, according to published reports, included a passage in the group's materials that lamented the "negative language" of church documents on same-sex activity, and its use of the terms "gay" and "lesbian."

In response, the Berkeley-based Catholic Association for Gay and Lesbian Ministries (CALGM) refused to make the profession the now-archbishop sought.

Under normal circumstances, the notion of a staunch conservative being sent into a flagship bastion of liberal American Catholicism would quickly be brushed aside. Given the pattern of recent moves in California's Northern province, however, prominent sources did anything but discount a serious outbreak of springtime buzz that placed Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix -- another onetime Vatican staffer with a penchant for stirring the pot -- in the mix for the San Fran post. In the end, even if the choice ultimately fell to a younger and even more forthright pick, keeping with recent trends of an appointment process gone increasingly unpredictable in its final stages, the later indicators pointing toward a "bombshell" nominee to oversee the Bay's main fold panned out nonetheless.

Perhaps it's a telling sign of Burke's perceived high clout in Benedict's Vatican that the San Fran nod is the second major appointment in just three days to bear a clear link to the Wisconsin-born top jurist, now one of three American cardinals to hold a seat on the powerful Congregation for Bishops, which recommends choices for vacancies to the Pope. The other was the pontiff's Tuesday selection of Bishop Philip Tartaglia to lead his home archdiocese of Glasgow; Burke served as a co-consecrator at the Scot's episcopal ordination in 2005.

Within hours of his appointment, the likewise outspoken Glaswegian sparked a firestorm with the airing of a comment he made earlier this year that the recent death of an openly-gay parliamentarian at 44 could have been owed to the man's sexuality.

After a quick apology, the incoming head of the largest Scottish diocese was slated to meet with the politico's partner. The appointment came as the devolved Scottish executive pressed forward on its intent to legalize same-sex marriage north of the English border -- a proposal that, Tartaglia reportedly said in a TV interview on his appointment, he "could see [him]self going to jail" over, "if [he] spoke out" against it.

Back by the Bay, meanwhile, per the norms of the canons Archbishop-elect Cordileone must be installed in the modern landmark known by locals as "St Mary Maytag" within two months of this morning's announcement. In the meanwhile, the Golden Gate nominee is to spend at least part of the coming weekend to the north of the Bay Area, where he's scheduled to celebrate a Tridentine Mass on Sunday at the annual summer conference of the Napa Institute -- a think-tank of prominent American Catholic conservatives.

While San Francisco's three-county Catholic population now ranks smaller than most of the Golden State's dozen-plus dioceses -- including Oakland and San Jose, now the nation's tenth-largest city, whose territory was broken off from the San Fran church in 1981 -- the cultural status "The City" holds in American life has traditionally rendered the heads of the 150 year-old archdiocese as leading figures in the national church.

Notably, today's move is Benedict's second placement of the lead prelate behind a key American Catholic policy push into the helm of a historically influential, albeit mid-sized archdiocese in recent months, after the March appointment of William Lori -- chair of the bench's new arm dedicated to religious liberty -- as archbishop of Baltimore, the nation's oldest local church. The nod likewise continues what's now a half-century tradition of Southern Californians being sent to occupy the state's senior metropolitan seat.

According to the San Francisco Chancery's preliminary Appointment Day plans, today's presser (10am Pacific/1pm Eastern) will be livestreamed over the web.

Suffice it to say, buckle up.

SVILUPPO: According to early word from One Peter Yorke Way, Cordileone's installation as archbishop is slated for 4 October -- St Francis' Day, the city's patronal feast.

In an early statement released by the archdiocese, Niederauer -- the first US archbishop named by Benedict following his 2005 election -- said that “I am pleased to welcome Archbishop-elect Cordileone and to assure him of our prayers, loyalty, support and cooperation, as well as our friendship and affection.”

No lines from the archbishop-elect were included in the day's opening release.

In their shared retirement, Niederauer and Levada -- seminary classmates and best friends for almost six decades before becoming predecessor and successor -- have planned to keep their primary residence on the grounds of the archdiocesan seminary, the Sulpician-run St Patrick's in Menlo Park.

* * *
(11am Pacific) The relatively "quiet" slate of formalities just wrapped up at St Mary's -- dedicated 40 years ago, the third San Fran cathedral to bear the name -- here's fullvideo the Appointment Day presser introducing the ninth archbishop to his new charge....

...and, below, Cordileone's prepared statement in English:
I am humbled by the confidence that Pope Benedict XVI has placed in me by entrusting to me the pastoral care of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. As the old saying goes, “God writes straight with crooked lines,” and I trust that, even with my limitations and shortcomings, God’s will is being accomplished in the midst of this unexpected call in my service to the Church.

I am and will always remain grateful to the priests and people of the Diocese of Oakland who welcomed me with such gracious hospitality immediately upon my arrival in the Diocese. I regret that my time among them as the pastor of that local Church was so brief. The East Bay is a place rich in diversity and cultural and spiritual vibrancy, and I was so looking forward to continuing to build on these resources with so many of my valued collaborators by tapping into the creative energy that has always characterized the Diocese of Oakland. To all of the wonderful priests and priestly people of the Oakland Diocese, please know that I love you and will continue to hold you in prayer and remain grateful for all you have taught me about what it takes to be a leader in the Church today.

At the same time, I look forward to assuming my new pastoral responsibilities with and for the priests and people of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. I wish to thank Archbishop Niederauer in particular for the support he has always shown me from the day of the announcement of my appointment to Oakland, and especially now in my transition as his successor. The Church of San Francisco has a tremendous legacy of Catholic ministries and participation in the local community for serving the common good. While assuming the pastoral care of a local Church as its bishop is always a daunting challenge, I am encouraged by the history we have to build upon and take confidence that, with much prayer and hard work, and with the grace of God, we will, together, be able to further the New Evangelization in this corner of the world we call home.
As prominent local reactions go, meanwhile, a not unexpected response to the move came from the scion of one of the city's top political families -- the openly-gay California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano -- who told the San Francisco Chronicle that he'd be "willing to talk turkey" with Cordileone, but only "if there is ever a change in attitude there."

"This isn't a marriage made in heaven," Ammiano said.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On the "Nun Wars," Fresh Blair... and A Word from the "Holy Office"

As the promised follow-up to last week's Fresh Air interview of the LCWR president, Sr Pat Farrell (above left), in the run-up to the body's crucial August assembly in St Louis -- at which the umbrella-group representing a majority of the superiors of the nation's women religious is expected to formally respond to the Vatican's April order for its effective reconstitution -- earlier today the NPR mainstay ran a conversation with Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, the CDF delegate who oversaw the four-year Doctrinal Assessment of the group.

Along with Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Blair now serves as one of two deputies to Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle -- a figure known in church circles for his measured, conciliatory approach -- in guiding the review process born from the original assessment. The trio's mandate for the project can extend as long as five years.

Here, fullaudio of the Ohio prelate's 47-minute chat with Terry Gross....

* * *
On a related note, Rome's supervision of the LCWR reform now falls to the CDF's new head, the German Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller.

In an extensive interview released in today's editions the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the incoming prefect made his first public comments on the inquest since being tapped to head the onetime "Holy Office" in late June.

Referring both to the sisters' group and the other hot-button item on the office's current docket -- the high-stakes, yet currently stalled, reconciliation talks with the traditionalist Society of St Pius X -- Müller said that "for the future of the church, it is important to overcome ideological clashes" with the faith, "wherever they might come from."

"One can't take the three religious vows [of poverty, chastity and obedience] and not take them seriously," Müller said, nor could the SSPX "make reference to the tradition of the church and then accept only some of its parts."

Curiously, much of the new appointee's remarks pertaining to the LCWR question dealt with the church's teaching on a male-only priesthood. Referring to pushes for women's ordination in the general sense, Müller said that while "for the Catholic church it is fully evident that man and woman have the same worth," advocates for a change to the doctrine "ignore an important aspect of priestly ministry.

"To be a priest does not mean to create a position for oneself," he said. "
Priestly ministry can't be considered a sort of position of earthly power, thinking that people are emancipated only once everyone is able to occupy it."

As the prefect reiterated that American religious of both genders "have realized extraordinary things for the church, for education and the formation of youth," he likewise emphasized that "it's important to reinforce a reciprocal trust rather than working [as] one against the others."

Reuters(1); Bayerischer Rundfunk(2)


For Santiago's Day, Holy Smoke

As today's liturgy brings the feast of St James, there's no better time to roll out one of the Catholic imagination's many great pieces of eye candy: the famous flying "smokeboat" at the shrine of the first martyred Apostle.

Of course, that's the botafumeiro -- the unique mega-thurible suspended from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrims' mecca for well over a millennium, where the remains of Spain's patron are kept.

Its purpose eventually "baptized" after its practical roots as an air-freshener for the massive crowds of the long-traveled was eventually superseded, the device is said to measure five feet tall and weigh in at 176 lbs. Filled by shovels and powered by a crew of robed devotos, the botafumeiro's peak swing sees it hit a height of some 200ft off the cathedral floor at speeds in excess of 40mph. Prone to mid-swing accidents in its earlier incarnations, a predecessor to today's model -- in use since 1851 -- flew out a window of the cathedral, which was dedicated in 1128.

Here's how it looked in November 2010 during the Pope's pilgrimage to Santiago....

(Sung during the rite above is the traditional Compostelan hymn to St James: "Holy Leader, Patron of the Spaniards....")

All that said, to all our Jameses, Jimmys and Jims out there, buon onomastico... however you say it in Spanish.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

For Bill Lynn, "Hard Time" -- Clergy Chief Gets 3-To-6 for Philly Cover-Up

The first church official in the English-speaking world to be held criminally liable for his handling of sex-abuse cases, this morning a Philadelphia judge sentenced the former archdiocesan head of clergy personnel, Msgr William Lynn, to a prison term of three to six years.

After a landmark trial sparked by a 2011 grand-jury report that served to implode the "Last Empire" of the American church, the 61 year-old cleric was convicted in June on a single count of endangering the welfare of a child in a 1999 case involving a since-laicized priest who had been kept in ministry and continued abusing despite archdiocesan officials' judgment that he had long been "guilty" of previous assaults on minors.

The now-former cleric, Edward Avery, pled guilty to abuse and conspiracy charges on the eve of the trial's March opening, and was sentenced to two and a half to five years behind bars.

Lynn's sentence falls just shy of the maximum three and a half to seven-year jail term for the charge sought by prosecutors. The monsignor's attorneys have vowed to appeal the conviction, and a high-court review could come as early as this fall.

Given the unprecedented criminal action against an Anglophone church administrator for his response to allegations, the Lynn proceedings and their fallout have been heavily watched around the Catholic world and become an immensely symbolic moment for victim-survivors of sex-abuse in the church and their advocates.

In a statement before handing down the sentence, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina rapped Lynn for having enabled "monsters in clerical garb... to destroy the souls of children, to whom you turned a hard heart."

"You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn," the judge said, "but you chose wrong."

While even Lynn's defense conceded that the leadership of the Philadelphia church -- a place once perceived in church circles as a "model" bastion of ironclad Catholic fidelity -- conducted a sweeping, systemic cover-up of allegations and reassigning of accused clerics that spanned generations, the monsignor and his lawyers asserted that, as Secretary for Clergy from 1992-2004, the defendant was a third-tier functionary who sought to do the good he could within the parameters of a policy established by the auxiliary bishops who served in turn as vicar-general and, ultimately, the then-archbishop, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, whose death in January came one day after he was ruled fit to testify at the trial. (A videotaped deposition of the cardinal by lawyers from both sides, recorded at his seminary apartment weeks before his death at 88, was not shown during the proceedings.)

The monsignor was acquitted of a conspiracy charge and a second child-endangerment count at the close of the three-month trial. As the jury failed to reach any judgment on Lynn's codefendant, the suspended priest James Brennan -- charged with abuse dating to the late 1990s -- Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced yesterday that Brennan will be retried, most likely in 2013.

Two additional criminal trials stemming from the grand jury -- for a religious priest and lay teacher both indicted for abuse -- are slated to begin in September. Eight civil lawsuits against the archdiocese and its prior leaders are expected to proceed once the criminal cases are concluded.

Having become a popular suburban pastor after his 12-year tenure in the Chancery, Lynn's sentencing comes after weeks of charged post-verdict arguments, during which the prosecution convinced Sarmina that the convicted cleric should not be granted house arrest in the event that he sought to flee to the Vatican.

Kept in protective solitary confinement at Philadelphia's main prison since the verdict, the onetime Clergy chief is now to be moved into the general population at a state correctional facility outside the city.

As the 1.2 million-member Philadelphia church begins to emerge from the most turbulent period any American Catholic outpost has experienced in the last half-century -- a cataclysmic 18-month cycle that, beyond legal matters, has witnessed last month's closing of a staggering 27 schools and a 20 percent slashing of what had been a 250-person central staff, revelations of more than a decade of sizable operating deficits, the arrest and guilty plea of its chief financial officer on charges of stealing over $900,000 in diocesan funds, a revolutionary shift of leadership, the placement on the block of the long-inviolate chief symbols of its clericalist culture, the beginning of an extensive parish consolidation effort, and the removal of nearly 30 priests from ministry over allegations of various misconduct -- the Capuchin sent to lead its rebuilding from the ashes mused last weekend that "we in the archdiocese have had a difficult time with our pastors, haven't we?"

Springing off from Sunday's First Reading in his homily at his weekly evening Mass for young adults in the Cathedral-Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Archbishop Charles Chaput acknowledged that "we've been scandalized by the actions of some of our priests, and people have been upset at bishops for not doing a better job of protecting the sheep of the flock and of leading the church in these difficult times. And so those of us who serve the church as your bishops have to look at ourselves and take the criticism that you offer and the criticism of the Scriptures very seriously, and then to recommit ourselves to be good shepherds after the fashion of Jesus Christ."

"The Lord challenges us to be faithful," Chaput said, "and he warns us:
'Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord.'

"May the Lord guide us so that we won't experience the 'Woe.'"

In a statement released shortly after today's ruling, the national office of the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests said that, while it was disappointed that Lynn did not receive the maximum jail-time, "this sentence sends a powerful message: cover-up child sex crimes and you’ll go to jail. Not house arrest. Not community service. Not a fine. You’ll be locked up."

For his part, Williams -- who inherited the three-year second grand jury on becoming DA in 2010 -- told reporters in an appearance outside the city's Criminal Justice Center that, much as Lynn's jailing was "unprecedented in American jurisprudence... no matter what the sentence was it wouldn't really be enough for the victims of child sexual abuse."

In a late-day statement, meanwhile, the Philadelphia Curia -- which issued a "heartfelt apology" to victims on last month's verdict -- said that "fair-minded people will question the severity of the heavy, three to six year sentence imposed on Msgr. Lynn today," voicing its "hope that when this punishment is objectively reviewed, it will be adjusted."

"The public humiliation of the church has emphasized the vital lesson that we must be constantly vigilant in our charge to protect the children in our parishes and schools," the response added. "Since the events some ten years ago that were at the center of this trial, the archdiocese has changed."

Hearings related to Lynn's appeal are set to begin within weeks.


Friday, July 20, 2012

In Aurora, The Dark Night... And "The Dawn"

Yet again, the eyes of the world have turned with shock to the suburbs of Denver, and another unspeakable loss of life.

Thirteen years after two high-school students in the same metro area murdered 11 of their classmates and wounded over 20 others before killing themselves, a lone gunman's overnight rampage at an Aurora movie theater claimed 12 lives among 71 people shot during a midnight showing of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

Having returned to his hometown as head of its local church less than 48 hours ago, Archbishop Samuel Aquila and his auxiliary, Bishop James Conley, released the following statement this morning:
Last night at the Century Movie Theater in Aurora, a gunman walked into a full theater and opened fire on scores of moviegoers. In the largest mass shooting in America in more than five years, 12 people were killed and about 50 were wounded by gunfire. We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy. Our hearts and prayers go out to those impacted by this evil act.

In the chaos of the moment, people poured from the movie theater into the darkness of the night—the darkness of confusion, of ambiguity, of despair. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters cast into that darkness. They do not stand alone. As Catholic bishops, we “weep with those who weep.”

But in Aurora, which means “the dawn,” the sun rose this morning. In a city whose name evokes the light, people of hope know that the darkness may be overcome.

For those who were killed, our hope is the tender mercy of our God. “Neither death nor life,” reflected St. Paul, “can separate us from the love of God.” We commend their souls, and their families and friends, to God’s enduring love.

For those who were wounded—physically, emotionally and spiritually, our hope is in their recovery and renewal. To them we offer our prayers, our ears to listen, and our hearts to love. The road to recovery may be long, but in hope we are granted the gift of new life.

We hope also for the perpetrator of this terrible crime, and we pray for his conversion. Evil ruled his heart last night. Only Jesus Christ can overcome the darkness of such evil.

We hope that all of us may find the peace which surpasses understanding.

The Archdiocese of Denver stands ready to assist the victims of this tragedy, and our community. Regina Caeli Counseling Services of Catholic Charities will offer counseling over the next few weeks to those who need it. We look for opportunities to pray with our community. And we continue to work to support families and communities in forming people of peace.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What We Have Seen and Heard

For all the attention that surrounded last week's triennial General Convention of the Episcopal church in Indianapolis, it's worth noting that a gathering is afoot this weekend in the same place for another faith-group with a million more members than the Episcopals... and a Catholic one, to boot.

Surely, your Full-Salaried Media's told you all about it. Or, per usual, maybe not.

Indeed, today in Indy -- likewise the site of last month's Catholic Media Convention -- brought the opening of the quinquennial Black Catholic Congress, at which some 3,000 delegates will represent the 3 million-plus African-Americans of the Stateside fold.

The roots of the Congress date to 1889, when a Washington gathering was believed to be the first national gathering of Catholic laity in the US. This time around, meanwhile, the four-day event is slated to celebrate a belated 25th anniversary of what's known in the community as "The Pastoral" -- What We Have Seen and Heard, the landmark 1984 letter issued by the African-American bishops of the US.

Its focus on evangelization, the legendary document came amid what's been termed a second "Golden Age" for Black Catholicism on these shores, following its first boon in the late 19th century, which saw the emergence of figures like Fr Augustus Tolton and the illustrious Healy clan. Yet these days, while its famous zeal remains, the ebullience of the '80s has been replaced in at least some quarters by a sense of being "lost in the shuffle" amid the recent ascendancy of Hispanics in the American Catholic orbit, and the sizable growth in numbers of Catholic emigres from Africa -- above all from Nigeria -- who've come with an ecclesial style and emphases distinct from the classic Black Catholic experience.

While the community's signal leader now presides over a juggernaut archdiocese of a million members and another of its prelates serves on the executive of the US bishops, perhaps the most telling evidence of a different era is that it's been nearly six years since an African-American priest has been elevated to the nation's episcopate. Still, amid what could be seen as a "crossroads" moment, though, it seems fitting to mark the Congress with the words of the community's most iconic figure of modern times -- the preach given by a weakened, wheelchair-bound, but still mighty Sister Thea Bowman to the US bishops at their 1988 summer meeting, as the saintly Franciscan who "made doers of watchers" entered the final stages of the bone cancer which would claim her two years later at 52....

Now, if Thea were still with us, it seems a safe bet that this whole LCWR eruption would be stitched up and defused in about ten seconds. And should anyone doubt that, well, Michael Pfleger and Bernard Law clearly won't be having church together at your funeral like they did at hers.

Seriously, she really was just that good. And it's our shared loss and shame that, 22 years and so many rough seas later, anyone who even comes close in our midst remains conspicuous by their absence.

* * *
With cultural diversity being one of the five super-priorities indicated by the US bishops over recent years, as the Black church gathers in the Midwest, this weekend in Albany likewise brings the annual Tekakwitha Conference -- the lead convocation of the Stateside fold's roughly 600,000 Native American Catholics, who comprise a fifth of the nation's total aboriginal population.

Of course, this year's edition of the event is even more prominent than usual given the upcoming canonization of its patroness, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, in Rome on October 21st. (Kateri's feast -- at least in the States -- was last Saturday, 14 July. In Canada, she's commemorated on April 17th.)

Even if it's a coincidence, the group's meeting in upstate New York -- where the Mohawk convert and catechist lived for many years before her death in present-day Quebec at 24 in 1680 -- likewise evokes the more recent American likewise cleared for sainthood come the fall: the Syracuse-bred Mother Marianne Cope, whose fame of sanctity was secured by her work on Molokai, the Hawaiian leper colony where she aided and eventually succeeded the now-St Damien de Veuster as its principal caretaker.


Live From 5280

SVILUPPO: Its text still to emerge late Wednesday, below you'll find fullvid of the Fifth Archbishop's half-hour inaugural preach -- a call to "docility, receptivity, humility and obedience" in imitation of the Madonna, under whose patronage today's Mass was offered:

* * *
Lest anybody missed it in real-time, here's an on-demand feed of this afternoon's homecoming installation of Archbishop Samuel Aquila in Denver's Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception....

...and, to help follow along, your worship aid.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On LCWR Reform, The Sister-President Speaks

As the group representing the superiors of a majority of the US' religious women approaches its all-important St Louis assembly early next month -- at which it is slated to decide a formal response to the recent Vatican mandate for its thoroughgoing "renewal," the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, made her most extensive comments to date on the situation on today's edition of NPR's Fresh Air.


For balance's sake, the revered daily program's host, Terry Gross, said that the show would air an interview next week with Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo -- the CDF delegate whose conclusions from a four-year Doctrinal Assessment precipitated the reform push.

Himself a onetime Curial staffer, Blair now serves as one of two deputies to Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, who the Holy See tapped to oversee the effective reconstitution of the LCWR.

As previously noted, since the move was among the final acts taken by the office charged with maintaining church teaching under the stewardship of Cardinal William Levada, what will become of the inquest under the California-born prelate's freshly-named successor, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, is a key variable that bears watching as, over the coming months, the German prelate settles into the post whose occupant was previously termed the "Grand Inquisitor."

Despite heated complaints from traditionalist quarters over the changing of the guard at the "Holy Office," it is a particularly telling sign of the Pope's esteem for his pick to lead the dicastery he himself helmed for 23 years that Müller -- whose appointment gives Germany two of the Vatican's top three offices (a dominance heretofore known only by Italians) -- has been given the apartment just outside the Vatican's Santa Anna Gate last occupied by one Joseph Ratzinger.


In Denver, The Appointed Hour

Tomorrow, the focus of Churchworld -- at least on these shores -- turns to the Rockies as a native son takes his seat as the Fifth Archbishop of Denver.

The MC at his predecessor's 1997 installation, the festivities for Archbishop Samuel Aquila's homecoming begin tonight with Vespers at a suburban parish....

Before they do, though -- in the interest of a handoff set in its best context -- one particular moment bears recalling: the notably impassioned Last Word given by the Second Founder of that incredible church from the chair at Logan and Colfax... its message worth heeding well beyond the Mile High City:

Lest anyone doesn't grasp the frame of reference, it's long been no secret 'round here that "while this scribe's churchman's mind is 99.44/100% pure Philadelphia, whatever's good and alive in my Catholic soul owes its origin to Denver...."

And over the moons since, suffice it to say that -- as only It could -- Providence took care of the rest, and brought it all to fulfillment.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Quote of the Day

“You know, we like talking about the Vatican!

Today many people seek to understand and study us.... Yet many people assure you that the church thinks certain things, without ever having asked the church what she thinks.

But we realize that it is far from easy to understand what is done and what is talked about in the world of the church. Even the Pope, you know, sometimes has a hard time understanding the contemporary world.

--Pope Paul VI
Interview with Corriere della Sera
24 September 1965
(Quoted in L'Osservatore Romano, 20 January 2011)



Monday, July 09, 2012

Religious Freedom vs. "That's Not Fair" -- From the White House, A Mandate Update

Normally, local-TV interviews at the White House tend to be ho-hum, starstruck affairs at which genuinely newsworthy developments are few and far between.

Six months since the Obama administration announced a sweeping contraceptive mandate, however, and days after much of the US church concluded two weeks of prayer for religious liberty -- an effort largely spurred by the HHS proposal's reach into Catholic institutions -- a reporter from New Orleans' CBS affiliate, WWL, asked the President about the policy earlier today during an availability intended to focus on an East Room announcement of enhanced tax-cuts.

Here, the POTUS' exchange with WWL's Karen Swensen....

Over recent weeks, the mandate -- and its subsequent "accommodation" announced by the Democratic White House -- have been deemed insufficient by two of the administration's key church allies: the national office of Catholic Charities and the Catholic Health Association, the latter's support of the Affordable Care Act having proved crucial to the bill's passage over the
objections of the US bishops.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

Midsummer Classics, Catholic Style

Even if the news has blessedly let up, it's worth noting that there are still Big Things Moving on the beat....

Just not the ones we're used to.

As the rhythm of the calendar goes, high summer always brings the year's big outbreak of devotional festivals -- a lost or unknown art in many places, but one that, where it's been perfected over a century or longer on these shores, serves as little else to bring the faith into the streets and reach that part of the world who wouldn't normally step inside (and, these days, likely many of this church's own, too).

Much as Corpus Christi processions remained well in evidence last month, while each of the later events includes at least one outdoor march (and usually more), these rites of summer are a different animal, extending over days as opposed to hours, their ritual side spilling into performances, games, merchants, amusement rides, sometimes fireworks… but always, in particular, old friends and good food -- and lots of both.

In short, it's the Catholic imagination-as-block party. And while St Anthony's Day in June makes for a popular start to the months-long roster -- the best-known of which is arguably mid-September's San Gennaro-fest in New York's Little Italy -- next week's feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel finds what is quite possibly the tradition's yearly peak nationwide, as scores of communities in the Northeast and Midwest launch another edition of the colorful inherited rites.

Even if Mount Carmel's in Israel and the site figured solely in the Old Testament, devotion to the Marian title has customarily run high elsewhere in the Mediterranean -- not just among Italians (who, even if we've got enough saints of our own, still tend to co-opt everyone else's), but likewise in Spain and on Malta, where large, long-standing celebrations of 16 July are still fairly common. Like so much else, the devotion wasn't left behind one bit when the members of the various communities emigrated to these shores -- if anything, the tributes' Stateside incarnations tend to be bigger, glitzier and more costly than their various European ancestors… and in more ways than one, Mt Carmel sees the annual appearance of its most massive proof.

While the feast is marked on one side of the Hudson by what's been called New Jersey's "best fireworks display"…

…these days in Brooklyn are indelibly observed with the emergence of the Williamsburg giglio -- the four-ton, 65-foot tower that forms the moving centerpiece of its 12-day Mount Carmel observance, its roots from Nola, hence the tandem honoring of the southern town's St Paulinus, whose statue tops the structure.

With a full band and priest standing on the platform attached to its front) the apparatus is "danced" around by a group of 112 bearers, their shoulders lugging it anywhere from 20 to 40 yards at a time.

Traditionally restricted to men both in the Old Country and its Outer-Borough offshoot, the rite of "dancing" the giglio has become such a sought task that a women's lift was instituted at the Brooklyn feast over recent years, and things have become so advanced that the celebrations are now livestreamed.

Ergo, for those who'd enjoy a the taste of the experience from afar, have at it:

Italians being Italians and all, the scene wouldn't be complete without a rival giglio and festival, which takes place in Harlem next month in honor of St Anthony.

* * *
Even as the old festivals offer up a time-honored shot of color and culture, in an era that's witnessing the most dramatic shift the Stateside church's makeup has undergone in nearly two centuries (read: you're living in it), the tradition is being duly added onto -- and, indeed, amplified -- by the new rising tides among the faithful.

After all, the biggest of today's Midsummer Classics isn't of European descent, but Asian -- early August's Marian Days in Carthage, Missouri, the five-day campout which draws upwards of 70,000 Vietnamese-American Catholics from around the country, swelling the community's usual size of 14,000.

Marking its 35th year next month, the Days (Mass-crowd, above) comprise the second-largest regular gathering of the nation's faithful, with the Mother of All Ecclesial Reunions now held in Chicago every 11 December, as roughly a quarter-million devotees of Our Lady of Guadalupe horde out to the suburban shrine dedicated to Mexico's patroness for the 36-hour outdoor mega-event that doesn't just mark the Morenita's triumphant feast, but arguably illustrates the faith's national future more powerfully than anything else.


"Women in the Church Are Angry!": L'Osservatore's "First Lady" Speaks

On his 2007 appointment as editor of L'Osservatore Romano, Gian Maria Vian was widely expected to make a more lively read of the venerable Vatican daily.

Several times over, that's happened in spades -- both literally, in the paper's rapid transition to color presses and free online circulation of its full editions, and content-wise in giving space to pieces both internally provocative and able to score worldwide buzz on topics ranging from the Beatles to the Obama administration.

Of all his moves, though, as Vian's fifth anniversary in the post approaches, perhaps his most significant, consequential move has been the featured role he's given to the Italian historian Lucetta Scaraffia as one of the paper's top contributors -- the first woman to bear that distinction in L'Osservatore's 151-year history.

The 66 year-old academic -- a Mason's daughter who became one of Italy's founding feminists in the '60s and described herself as a "heretic" before a conversion experience two decades ago -- marked out an iconoclastic path from her first major column, a September 2008 prod to rethink the church's teaching that brain death does not constitute the end of life.

While the front-page piece promptly spurred a clarification from the Holy See Press Office that its author's views did not reflect any authoritative "position of the Magisterium," Scaraffia's profile has only increased since, perhaps as an echo of the Pope's own 2010 statement that Catholic newspapers should "encourage authentic dialogue between the various members of society" and serve as "training-grounds for comparison and loyal discussion between different opinions."

In a piece that year for the Papal Paper, Scaraffia said that the Vatican's 1994 permission for girls to become altar servers -- still a topic of heated debate in some church circles -- proved a watershed for women as "entering into the area of the altar signified the end of an attribution of impurity to their sex."

More recently, Scaraffia's standing rose even further this spring as Vian launched a monthly section on women's issues, an initiative born from an idea of hers.

According to editor and columnist alike, the new feature was undertaken with B16's thumbs-up.

* * *
The background only serves to underscore the columnist's latest rattling of a Roman "taboo," one that could mark a significant turn on the church's long-simmering discussion on issues of gender, power and the role of women -- a thread already running high of late in the Stateside news-cycle amid the recent CDF order for reform of the LCWR and the US bishops' charge for religious freedom in the wake of the proposed Federal contraceptive mandate.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse published yesterday, Scaraffia (left) amplified a point she first aired in a 2010 L'Osservatore piece -- namely, that the lack of women in positions of ecclesial decision-making helped give rise to, among other things, the scope and depth of the church's sex-abuse scandals.

"The pedophilia scandal was almost exclusively male," Scaraffia told the wire's Jean-Louis de la Vaissiere.

"If there had been women in positions of power," she said, "they would not have allowed those things to happen.

"Women have long been reputed as sexually dangerous. But it's clear that the danger" of abuse and its mishandling by church officials "lay with men and children," she added.

Elsewhere in the sit-down, Scaraffia spoke of what AFP termed a "lonely battle," saying that, in some parts of the Curial world, "The indifference is terrible.... There is misogyny in the church.

"It's a closed world, caught up with issues of power. Many in the clergy are afraid that if women come onto the scene there will be less room for them.

"It's not possible to go on like this," she said. "Women in the Church are angry!"

While similar critiques have tended to fire away at the Man in White, however, the columnist effusively praised Benedict, saying that the pontiff -- who has long relied on women as key collaborators behind-the-scenes -- "has the courage to see things as they are" in tackling the crises facing the church, whether the long trail of abuse or the Vatican's recent fiasco over the leaking of confidential documents.

As opposed to an approach that "always covered scandals up," Scaraffia said Benedict "lets them come to light."

While "many people believe it is better to hide things," for Benedict, "the church is not protected by silence," she said.

The Pope "thinks that, for purification, there needs to be shame."

She added, however, that "if there were women with authority in the church, nothing would be leaked."

A day after her most recent column appeared
above the fold on the Sunday Osservatore's front-page, Scaraffia's high-octane turn in the wires comes five years after Benedict's influential "Vice-Pope," the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB, called for more women to be given leading posts in the church's central government.

Progress in that regard, however, has been a slow plod -- in early 2010, the Italian development specialist Dr Flaminia Giovanelli was named to the #3 slot at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, while last December the Pope tapped Italian Sr Nicoletta Spezzati as an undersecretary of the "Congregation for Religious" to succeed the retiring Salesian Sister Enrica Rosanna, the first woman in history to rise to the rank of "superior" in a top Vatican office.


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

At Fortnight's Close, "We Belong to God, And Only to God"

Before an overflow crowd in the nation's largest church -- Washington's 3,500-seat Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception -- here, fullvid of the homily given at this afternoon's closing Mass of the US bishops' Fortnight for Freedom by Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. of Philadelphia....

...and, below, the text (emphases original, adapted to delivery).

* * *
My dear faithful people of God and people of Good will,

Philadelphia is the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were written. For more than two centuries, these documents have inspired people around the globe. So as we begin our reflection on today’s readings, I have the privilege of greeting everyone here today -- and every person watching or listening from a distance -- in the name of the Church of my home, the Church of Philadelphia, the cradle of our country’s liberty and the city of our nation’s founding, so greetings to all of you from the people of Philadelphia. May God bless and guide all of us as we settle our hearts and minds on the Word of God.

Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil, between yes and no. He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids . . . He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.”

Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.

We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a different century. And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the reason we come together in worship this afternoon.

Most of us know today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew. What we should, or should not, render unto Caesar shapes much of our daily discourse as citizens. But I want to focus on the other and more important point Jesus makes in today’s Gospel: the things we should render unto God.

When the Pharisees and Herodians try to trap Jesus, he responds by asking for a coin. Examining it he says, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” When his enemies say “Caesar’s,” he tells them to render it to Caesar. In other words, that which bears the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar.

The key word in Christ’s answer is “image,” or in the Greek, eikon. Our modern meaning of “image” is weaker than the original Greek meaning. We tend to think of an image as something symbolic, like a painting or sketch. The Greek understanding includes that sense but goes much further. In the New Testament, the “image” of something shares in the nature of the thing itself.

This has consequences for our own lives because we’re made in the image and likeness of God. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same word, eikon, is used in Genesis when describing creation. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” says God (Gen 1:26). The implication is clear. To be made in the image of God is more than a pious slogan. It’s a statement of fact. Every one of us shares -- in a limited but real way -- in the nature of God himself. When we follow Jesus Christ, we grow in conformity to that image.

Once we understand this, the impact of Christ’s response to his enemies becomes clear. Jesus isn’t being clever. He’s not offering a political commentary. He’s making a claim on every human being. He’s saying, “render unto Caesar those things that bear Caesar’s image, but more importantly, render unto God that which bears God’s image” -- in other words, you and me. All of us.

And that raises some unsettling questions: What do you and I, and all of us, really render to God in our personal lives? If we claim to be disciples, then what does that actually mean in the way we speak and the way we act?

Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important. It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens. But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature -- a creature of this world -- and Christ’s message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves. Obviously we’re in the world. That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it. For Christians, patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honorable thing. As Chesterton once said, if we build a wall between ourselves and the world, it makes little difference whether we describe ourselves as locked in or locked out.

But God has made us for more than the world. Our real home isn’t here. The point of today’s Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing – at least nothing permanent and important – belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar’s image, we bear the stamp of God’s image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us, “Indeed religion” -- the RSV version says “godliness” – “with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.” My dear friends, true freedom knows no attachments other than Jesus Christ. It has no love of riches or the appetites they try to satisfy. True freedom can walk away from anything -- wealth, honor, fame, pleasure. Even power. It fears neither the state, nor death itself.

Who is the most free person at anything? It’s the person who masters her art. A pianist is most free who -- having mastered her instrument according to the rules that govern it and the rules of music, and having disciplined and honed her skills -- can now play anything she wants.

The same holds true for our lives. We’re free only to the extent that we unburden ourselves of our own willfulness and practice the art of living according to God’s plan. When we do this, when we choose to live according to God’s intentions for us, then -- and only then -- will we be truly free.

This is the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It’s the freedom of Miguel Pro, of Mother Teresa, Maximillian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all the other holy women and men who have gone before us to do the right thing, the heroic thing, in the face of suffering, adversity and death.

This is the kind of freedom that can transform the world. And it should animate all of our talk about liberty – religious or otherwise.

I say this for two reasons. Here’s the first reason. Real freedom isn’t something Caesar can give or take away. He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy.

Here’s the second reason. The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom. Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for the good of society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ. What good is religious freedom, consecrated in the law, if we don’t then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind, our whole strength, our whole soul and all that we are?

Today, July 4, we celebrate the birth of a novus ordo seclorum – a “new order of the ages,” the American Era. God has blessed our nation with resources, power, beauty and the rule of law. We have so much to be grateful for. But these are gifts. They can be misused. They can be lost. In coming years, we’ll face more and more serious challenges to religious liberty in our country. This is why the Fortnight for Freedom has been so very important.

And yet, the political and legal effort to defend religious liberty – as vital as it is – belongs to a much greater struggle to master and convert our own hearts, and to live for God completely, without alibis or self-delusion. The only question that finally matters is this one: Will we live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ? If so, then we can be a source of freedom for the world. If not, nothing else will do.

God’s word in today’s first reading is a caution we ignore at our own expense. “Son of man,” God says to Ezekiel and to all of us, “I have appointed you as a sentinel. If I say to the wicked, ‘you will surely die’ – and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them . . . I will hold you responsible for their blood.”

Here’s what that means for each of us: We live in a time that calls for sentinels and public witness. Every Christian in every era faces the same task. But you and I are responsible for this moment. Today. Now. We need to “speak out,” not only for religious liberty and the ideals of the nation we love, but for the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person – in other words, for the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.

We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in words, but also in deeds. In the end, we’re missionaries of Jesus Christ, or we’re nothing at all. And we can’t share with others what we don’t live faithfully and joyfully ourselves.

When we leave this Mass today, we need to render unto Caesar those things that bear his image. But we need to render ourselves unto God -- generously, zealously, holding nothing back. To the extent we let God transform us into his own image, we will – by the example of our lives – fulfill our duty as citizens of the United States, but much more importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ.

May God bring to completion the good things he begins in us today.


Let Freedom Ring

As the Liberty Bell hasn't rung since 1835 -- when its famous crack appeared as it tolled the death of John Marshall -- at this noon hour, the next best thing....

Again, to one and all, every wish for a Happy 4th.


"Repair My House" -- On This 4th, Freedom Begins At Home

The 4th of July in the West's Cradle of Liberty....

Always and everywhere, this Day is one to celebrate freedom's march and seek renewed strength to continue it onward. Yet for the first time in a good while, perhaps that's truer for no place more than this.

Tempting as it is to explain, after a Fortnight's worth of stabs at recounting a 16 months whose equal no American Catholic community has experienced in the last half-century, that story will have to wait.

For starters, the demands of a 24-hour news cycle fail any sound piece on the 181 years which laid the landmines of this period, or said history's upending in a matter of weeks. Even closer to home, meanwhile, it's just going to take a good, long coma to begin to recover from the experience... and with nothing either impending or ongoing on the scene that matters most for the first time since February 9th, 2011, only now is a quality breather finally possible.

Well, almost.

All that said, any original feed was only intended to set the stage for returning the Last Word -- at least, in the immediate frame -- whence it rightly belongs.

* * *
As ever, the eyes of many will be on Independence Hall later this morning for the traditional rites just outside the Assembly Room where the Declaration was signed and the Constitution subsequently approved, just next door to the first halls of Congress from which the Bill of Rights would be sent for the ratification of the states.

That's the Philadelphia story everybody knows -- and, for most, it tends to end there.

These days, though, given the realities around, two other key threads relevant to recent history would later come to erupt here, and these streets speak powerfully and painfully of them both in ways no others can match.

In the earlier instance, the generation that heard Independence and its promises first proclaimed in daylight as children likewise lived to see nights when burning torches wielded by heirs to the Revolution destroyed Catholic churches -- plural -- within blocks of the Old State House, an act grown from a belief that the truths and freedoms declared there for "all men" did not extend to the newest immigrants who followed their own fathers to these shores.

A century later, meanwhile, another blaze would be set inside the church. Left to spread far longer and wider, this second inferno ended up inflicting even more devastation, a toll owed in large part to its source -- not the instruments of external persecution, but of internal failure on a scale that, by comparison, makes the paranoid, hate-filled, riotous Marchers of 1844 seem almost innocent.

Indeed, to a degree without parallel elsewhere, both these fires came to pass in this place. In their time, each scorched this earth, made hope difficult to find and caused seemingly irreparable wounds to individuals, families and the wider community alike whilst driving as many or even more innocent souls of good faith and goodwill to scatter. Yet as it was before, so it is now that another fire has begun to spring up in the wake of an epic collapse -- the Fire that will raise, unite, heal and purify this people anew, and restore to this place something it haven't known in quite some time: newness of life, and the fullness of truth.

In the mysterious design of Providence, the decision which would secure that future was made in Rome a year ago today. So in that Spirit -- and with his most candid assessment to date of the state in which the Church in this rocked Cradle, and well beyond, currently finds itself -- the Ninth Archbishop of Philadelphia delivered the following keynote (fullaudio) over recent days at the Catholic Media Convention in Indianapolis....
I’ve known Greg Erlandson as a friend for many years.  So I was very happy to accept his invitation to join you tonight.  And I’m very glad to speak on the theme of religious liberty because events in our country have made it an urgent concern.  I can sum up my remarks tonight in five simple points. 
First, religious freedom is a cornerstone of the American experience.  This is so obvious that once upon a time, nobody needed to say it.  But times have changed.  So it’s worth recalling that Madison, Adams, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson – in fact, nearly all of the American Founders – saw religious faith as vital to the life of a free people.  Liberty and happiness grow organically out of virtue.  And virtue needs a grounding in religious faith. 
Gertrude Himmelfarb, the historian, put it this way:  The Founders knew that in a republic “virtue is intimately related to religion.  However skeptical or deistic they may have been in their own beliefs, however determined they were to avoid anything like an established Church, they had no doubt that religion is an essential part of the social order because it is a vital part of the moral order.”

Here’s my second point:  Freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship.  The right to worship is a necessary but not sufficient part of religious liberty.  Christian faith requires community.  It begins in worship, but it also demands preaching, teaching and service.  It’s always personal but never private.  And it involves more than prayer at home and Mass on Sunday – although these things are vitally important.  Real faith always bears fruit in public witness and public action.  Otherwise it’s just empty words.   
The Founders saw the value of publicly engaged religious faith because they experienced its influence themselves.  They created a nation designed in advance to depend on the moral convictions of religious believers, and to welcome their active participation in public life. 
Here’s my third point:  Threats against religious freedom in our country are not imaginary. They’re happening right now.  They’re immediate, serious and real.  Earlier this year religious liberty advocates won a big Supreme Court victory in the 9-0 Hosanna-Tabor v EEOC decision.  That’s the good news.  Here’s the bad news.  What’s stunning in that case is the disregard for religious freedom shown by the government’s arguments against the Lutheran church and school.   
And Hosanna-Tabor is not an isolated case.  It belongs to a pattern of government coercion that includes the current administration’s HHS mandate; interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers and private employers, as well as individual citizens; and attacks on the policies, hiring practices and tax statuses of religious charities and ministries. 
Why is this hostility happening?  A lot of it links to Catholic teaching on the dignity of life and human sexuality.  Catholic moral convictions about abortion, contraception, the purpose of sexuality and the nature of marriage are rooted not just in revelation, but also in reason and natural law.  Human beings have a nature that’s not just the product of accident or culture, but inherent, universal and rooted in permanent truths knowable by reason.   
The problem, as Notre Dame law professor Gerry Bradley points out, is that critics of the Church reduce all these moral convictions to an expression of subjective religious beliefs.  And if they’re purely religious beliefs, then – so the critics argue – they can’t be rationally defended.  And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice.  In effect, 2,000 years of moral tradition and religious belief become a species of bias. Opposing same-sex “marriage” thus amounts to religiously blessed homophobia.

There’s more. When religious belief gets redefined downward to a kind of private bias, then the religious identity of institutional ministries has no public value -- other than the utility of getting credulous people to do good things.  So exempting Catholic adoption agencies, for example, from placing kids with gay couples becomes a concession to private prejudice.  And concessions to private prejudice feed bigotry and hurt the public.  Or so the reasoning goes.  This is how moral teaching and religious belief end up getting hounded as hate speech. 
Here’s my fourth point:  Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we’re going to lose it.  It’s already happening in other developed countries like Britain and Canada. 
The U.S. Constitution is a great document -- historically unique for its fusion of high ideals with the realism of very practical checks and balances.  But in the end, it’s just an elegant piece of paper.  In practice, nothing guarantees our freedoms except our willingness to fight for them.  That means fighting politically and through the courts, without tiring and without apologies.  We need to realize that America’s founding documents assume an implicitly religious anthropology – an idea of human nature, nature’s God and natural rights that many of our leaders no longer really share.  We ignore that unhappy fact at our own expense. 
Here’s my fifth and final point:  Politics and the courts are important.  But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Catholic faith – in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it.  Religious liberty is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak.  Or to put it more bluntly, if people don’t believe in God, religious liberty isn’t a value.  And that’s the heart of the matter.  It’s the reason Pope Benedict calls us to a Year of Faith this October.  The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t “out there” among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three.  The worst enemies are in here, with us – all of us, clergy, religious and lay – when we live our faith with tepidness, routine and hypocrisy. 
Religious freedom isn’t a privilege granted by the state.  It’s our birthright as children of God.  And even the worst bigotry can’t kill it in the face of a believing people.  But if we value it and want to keep it, then we need to become people worthy of it.  Which means we need to change the way we live – radically change, both as individual Catholics and as the Church.  And that’s where I’d like to turn for the rest of these brief remarks. 
[*     *    *] 
A year ago I was serving happily in Denver, laughing at rumors I was getting moved anywhere.  That turned out to be a mistake.  Since then I’ve been asked many times how I like Philadelphia.  The answer is pretty simple.  I don’t “like” it.  I love it – or rather, I love the people and clergy of Philadelphia because they’re easy to love.  They’re now my family, an intimate part of my life.  And I hope that each passing year will draw me deeper into the life of the community because Philadelphia is really more than just a great city.  It’s the birthplace of our country and a jewel in our national legacy.  It’s also an icon of the American Catholic experience.  So it’s a joy and a blessing to serve there as bishop. 
“Joy” may seem like an odd word to use, given events in Philadelphia over the past 16 months.  Obviously the abuse tragedy has burdened the life of the local Church in a very painful way.  Our laypeople are angry, and they should be.  Their frustration shows in the pews.  In Denver about 40 percent of registered Catholics attended Mass weekly.  In Philadelphia, barely 18 percent do.  The scandal has caused terrible suffering for victims, demoralized many of our clergy, crippled the witness of the Church and humiliated the whole Catholic community. 
That’s the bad news -- at least some of it -- and it’s not simply “bad,” it’s also bitter and damaging for everyone involved, beginning with victims and their families, but rippling throughout the community.  As a bishop, the only honest way I can talk about the abuse tragedy is to start by apologizing for the failure of the Church and her leaders -- apologizing to victims, and apologizing to the Catholic community.  And I do that again here, today. 
There is also good news.  Even now, after all the challenges of the past decade, the Church in Philadelphia plays a very large role in the life of the region, and in many quarters, she still draws -- and still earns -- great respect.  I think the staff Cardinal Rigali assembled last year after the second grand jury report to reach out to victims and prevent abuse in the future is strong by any professional standard.  And from what I’ve experienced over the past 10 months, the Church in Philadelphia today has a much deeper understanding of the gravity of sexual abuse and a sincere zeal for rooting it out of the life of the Church and helping anyone hurt in the past. 
One reason the Church has survived at all in the current crisis is the extraordinary reservoir of good will and fidelity among the clergy and people of the diocese.  Pennsylvania remains a largely faith-friendly environment.  Our people have strong prolife and pro-family instincts, respect for religious ministries; we have a history of saints and excellent Catholic schools.  The habits of Catholic culture run very deep in the Philadelphia region.  Our Catholic health and social services, and our Catholic school system, are among the largest and best in the United States.  The Church contributes in a substantial way to the welfare of the general public, and most people on some level understand that. 
But the abuse crisis, as grave as it is, masks other problems that also run very deep, and they belong to the same troubled Catholic culture.  They began building decades ago.  And while they may be especially sharp in Philadelphia, I’d wager that some version of these problems touches many of the dioceses you belong to across our country.   
Here’s an example.  The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently owed about $60 million by our own parishes for insurance premiums, assessments and other expenses shared by the whole local Church.  Much of this can’t be recovered because the parishes simply don’t have money. More than two-thirds of our 267 parishes have operating deficits.  
About 100 are in some form of financial distress.  More than 90 parishes minister to fewer than 400 families.  And the archdiocese itself has struggled with frequent budget deficits for about 15 years.  We’ve reached a point where – if we did nothing to fix the problem – the gap between our projected expenses and our projected income for Fiscal 2013 would exceed $17 million. 
Now that’s not going to happen -- it will end.  The Church is finally a family, and no family can survive for long if it spends more than it takes in.  In the first nine months of Fiscal 2012, the archdiocese of Philadelphia spent more than $10 million on legal and other professional fees. But as crushing as that sounds – and it is – the real problems of the Church in Philadelphia are more subtle than money and more chronic than a habit of bad budgets.  They’re not even financial.  And they’re not at all unique to Philadelphia. 
We need to look honestly at the arc of Catholic history in our country.  The lessons may not be comforting.  American Catholics began as an unwelcome minority. The Church built her credibility by defending and serving her people.  She developed her influence with the resources her people entrusted to her.  A vast amount of good was done in the process.  We need to honor that.  But two other things also happened.  The Church in the United States became powerful and secure.  And Catholics became less and less invested in the Church that their own parents and grandparents helped to build. 
I think it’s fair, in part, to blame Church leaders, like bishops, for a spirit of complacency and inertia, clericalism, even arrogance, and for operating off a model of the Church – often for well-intentioned reasons -- rooted in the past and out of touch with reality.  But there’s plenty of blame to go around.  Too many ordinary Catholics have been greedy to lose themselves in America’s culture of consumerism and success.  Too many of us have been complicit in the dullness -- the acedia -- that has seeped into Church life, and the cynicism and resentment that naturally follow it.   
These problems kill a Christian love of poverty and zeal.  They choke off a real life of faith.  They create the shadows that hide institutional and personal sins.  And they encourage a paralysis that can burrow itself into every heart and every layer of the Church, right down to individual Catholics in the pews.  The result is that Philadelphia, like so much of the Church in the rest of our country, is now really mission territory – again; for the second time. 
Now my point is this.  We live in a world of illusions when we lose sight of who Jesus Christ really is, and what he asks from each of us as disciples. One of the novelist Ray Bradbury’s characters once said this: “I wonder if God recognizes his own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down?  He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar crystal and saccharine.” 
Father John Hugo, a friend and counselor of Dorothy Day -- a priest of the diocese of Pittsburgh -- put it even more forcefully when he wrote of our “falsified picture of Jesus [with his] eyes perpetually raised to heaven, soft, even girlish in beauty, [the] very incarnation of impotence.” 
And then Fr Hugo went on to say this, “The real Jesus did not hesitate to condemn the rich, to warn the powerful, to denounce in vehement language the very leaders of the people.  His love and goodness were chiefly for the poor, the simple, the needy.  And his love for them was not a limp, indulgent love, like that of a silly, frivolous mother.  To his friends he preached poverty of spirit, detachment, the carrying of the cross.  No more did the kindness of Jesus spare his followers, than the kindness of God the father spared his son.  We are to drink of the same chalice that he drank of.”
My dear friends, what Fr Hugo describes is our vocation.  That’s a life of honesty, heroism and the sacrifice God calls us to as a Church and as individual believers.  And in our eagerness to escape it, to tame it, to reshape it in the mold of our own willful ideas, we’ve failed not only to convert our culture, but we’ve also failed to pass along the faith to many of our own children. Just look at your own families. 
Emerging American adults – in other words, young people in the 18-23 age cohort – are not only skeptical of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, but they often lack the vocabulary to engage in, or even identify, issues that require basic moral reasoning.  As a group they have unusually high rates of intoxication, loneliness and sexual alienation.  They also, contrary to popular belief, have very little interest in public affairs or political engagement, and have a lopsided focus on materialistic consumption and financial security as the guiding stars of their lives. 
Of course, tens of thousands of exceptions to what I just said are walking around right now -- some in this room.  We all know some of them.  These are young adults of faith and strong moral character, determined to do something worthy with their lives.  Just this week Our Sunday Visitor did a portrait of Catholic young adults who live the Gospel with really wonderful passion and joy. 
Their lives will touch hundreds of other lives.  And that should give us enormous hope, because God never abandons his Church or his people. 
But their good witness only brings us back to the conversion that you and I and the whole Church in the United States need to undergo. 
Notre Dame scholar Christian Smith and his colleagues, whose research on emerging adults is so compelling, wrote that “most of the problems in the lives of youth have their origin in the larger adult world into which youth are being socialized . . . [One] way or the other, adults and the adult world are almost always complicit in the troubles, suffering and misguided living of youth, if not the direct source of them.  The more adults can recognize and admit that fact, [the] sooner we will be able to address some of young people’s problems more constructively.” 
I suppose that’s obvious to most of you.  But if it’s really so obvious, then who let it happen?  And what are we going to do about it? 
We’re becoming a nation where, as Ross Douthat describes it, “a growing number [of us] are inventing [our] own versions of what Christianity means, abandoning the nuances of traditional theology in favor of religions that stroke [our] egos and indulge, or even celebrate, [our] own worst impulses.” 
And it’s happening at a time when the Church is compromised by her own leaders and people from within, and pushed to the margins or attacked by critics without. 
Tomorrow we start the Fortnight for Freedom.  It’s a moment for each of us to be grateful to our bishops for doing the right thing – the important and urgent thing – at the right time.  If we don’t press now and vigorously for our religious liberty in the public arena, we will lose it.  Not overnight and not with a thunderclap, but step by step, inexorably.  And each of you as a Catholic media professional plays a key role, a really vital role, in that effort because our prestige news media, with very few exceptions, simply will not cover this issue in a fair and comprehensive way. 
But we also need to remember with Pope Benedict that resistance is “part of the task of the Church,” and with Henri de Lubac that it’s “not our mission to make truth triumph, but to testify for it.” 
Scripture says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).  We work best for religious freedom by first opening our hearts to God’s will instead of our own; and loving our country and our Church; and renewing the witness of the Church with the zeal and purity and obedience of our own lives.  That freedom, that joy, no one can ever take from us. 
From the cross at San Damiano, Jesus said to St Francis:  Repair my house, which is falling into ruin.   
Those same words fill this room tonight.  How we respond is up to us, and I hope you respond.  
Thanks so very much.