Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Pastor Bonus Is Over... We Need to Write Something Different" – Live from Canada, The Óscar Pre-Show

Two years ago, Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga was licking his wounds on the Roman scene.

After a power play orchestrated by the Roman Curia, the Honduran cardinal's top collaborator at Caritas Internationalis – the charity confederation's secretary-general, Lesley Anne Knight – had been denied a second term by the Vatican, for reasons that the Caritas board wouldn't disclose, but greeted with stated "incomprehension." Widely seen as the most formidable laywoman in a global-level church post, Knight's allies later portrayed the British-Zimbabwean chief's black-balling in the context of her gender, lack of orders and outspokenness at high levels in defending her agency's work.

Yet now, as only a transition of Popes can bring about, it's suddenly a new world: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Salesian confrere with whom Rodriguez shared little else in common, is 17 days from retiring... and this week, the Honduran's restoration to center stage (and then some) completes itself as Don Óscar takes the principal place alongside Pope Francis at the first summit of Bergoglio's advisory commission of eight cardinals as the group's designated "coordinator."

Believed to have been the key driver behind the Latin American bloc that put the Argentine on this Conclave's map in the first ballot, it's not a stretch to say that Rodríguez, 70 – a dynamic polyglot with three decades' experience on the global stage – now enjoys the role of papal "shadow," and the near-limitless portfolio that comes with it, which in times past had been the province of the Secretary of State. Indeed, unburdened with the minutiae of running a dicastery as he cris-crosses the globe, perhaps it isn't even too much to cast the first of the "Super-Cardinals" as Francis' "Vice-Pope"... at least, with one key difference from before: unlike the Benedict-Bertone tag-team, the new Pope has no qualms about being his own linebacker.

Earlier this week, Rodríguez popped up North of the Border for the Canadian bishops' Fall Plenary, both to address the bench on the responsibility of charity in their ministries, and in a closed-door session (said to have been marked by "excitement"), to take the prelates'
 temperature on the state of the Curia and their proposals for its reform. 

Along the way, the cardinal-coordinator of the "Super 8" sat down with Fr Tom Rosica CSB of Toronto's Salt + Light for a half-hour interview that, after a touch of biography, veered into the mandate of the commission, and a preview of what's likely to emerge from the days ahead....

In an earlier sit-down with the network during the CCCB plenary, Rodríguez likewise pointed anew to the apparent centerpiece of Francis' Curial reform with his declaration that "The Synod [of Bishops] will be transformed."

While the "Gang" members have remained in frequent contact both amongst themselves and with the Pope since the council's constitution in April, early expectations are that the group will gather with Francis on a quarterly basis; the path forward will reputedly be set in stone at this week's summit.

On the other side of the inaugural meeting, meanwhile, Rodríguez's world tour is set to hit these shores: the cardinal is slated to give both the English and Spanish keynotes at the annual University of Dallas Ministry Conference, set for October 25th in Irving. Keeping with the profile of his new post, the talk's topic in both languages is no less than "The State of the Church," albeit with an added eye to the New Evangelization. And speaking of Synods, the day after brings Rodríguez to Miami, where he'll be the main speaker at the closing of an archdiocesan Synod for the 1.3 million-member South Florida church. (The Miami Synod is one of an unusually high three of the local legislative processes currently taking place among Stateside archdioceses; the others are in New Orleans and Washington.)

In announcing a Monday briefing on the upcoming summit, the Vatican prodded journalists to keep in mind that "the Group is constituted to offer advice to the Pope, and not to take decisions per se."