Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Evening Briefing, Day 1

Even as this Opening Day in St Louis proved rather full – both in reports and the off-Floor conversations surrounding them – at least a good bit of the spotlight was arguably stolen by Rome in the form of two major developments....

First, as previously relayed, at Vatican Noon the Holy See formally announced the rollout of the Pope's Eco-cyclical, its title confirmed as "Laudato Si': On the care of our common home," the document's first words indeed taken from Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Sun.

In token of the massive interest surrounding the text, the traditional rollout press conference on 18 June has been moved from its usual site of the Press Office to the considerably larger Synod Hall, with a rather unorthodox duo of speakers named to present it alongside the Social Justice Czar Cardinal Peter Turkson: Metropolitan John of Pergamo, a leading Orthodox theologian representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the German academic John Schellnhuber.

The latter choice is especially rich – having been invited to address a Vatican-backed conference on climate change last year, Schellnhuber's talk was said to be so "dark" that, as one expert in attendance put it, "by the time it was finished, you wanted to drink the Kool-Aid." Closer to home, meanwhile, it's emerged that the text's launch-day messaging in the US will have its prime locus at a National Press Club briefing in Washington to be led by the USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, joined by the capital's Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who spoke at a Vatican-backed Rome conference on the "new climate economy" last month.

Secondly, but no less significant, this morning's close of the tenth days-long meeting the Pope's had with his "Gang of Nine" cardinal-advisers saw the news that Francis had accepted a proposal initiated by Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston to establish a tribunal within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge "abuse[s] of office" by bishops "connected to the abuse of minors" – in other words, the mishandling of allegations.

While members of the O'Malley-led, Francis-established Commission for the Protection of Minors were known to have advanced accountability proposals over recent months, the lightning-quick acceptance of their ideas by the rest of the cardinal-counselors and the Pope himself proved stunning to even the most steeped of ops on the cause. That said, the full remit of the new entity – which, in an immensely significant aspect, is to be overseen by a freshly-named second Secretary of CDF (the top-ranking of the nine congregations, each of them normally having one Archbishop-Secretary each) – will only become clear with the release of statutes from Francis which will explicitly enumerate the process the tribunal will follow, and the penalties the canonical court is entitled to impose.

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All that said, now comes the most intense part of the Whispers day – a long night of catch-ups all over the place... yet even as much as it's a joy and grace to take all this in – while, for you, the result is free of charge – on this end, the process comes nowhere near as cheap: with just the travel/lodging costs for this week running in excess of $1,000, and as this scribe stares down the even greater (read: frightening) expense of covering the stops of the September PopeTrip, the reminder's in order again that these pages keep afloat solely by means of their readership's support.

Along these lines, much as it's the last thing I'd want to admit, I pray this'll only be needed once: as things have stood for some time here, roughly 3 percent of this shop's daily visitors have done your part to lend a hand, and after expenses, I've honestly been lucky to clear a "salary" of $30,000 a year over these last several... put bluntly, little has changed since the last time this kid made it here to the "Rome of the West."

As the experience has been too priceless all around, even for the circumstances, I don't regret a bit of it. If anything, as ever, the toughest thing would be to conclude that the work has failed – not because (as no shortage of the folks here know painfully well) of the failure of the servants, but the apathy and presumption of the served.

Especially amid the moments to come, please God, may this be an instance of something different.