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7/4/2009 1:03 PM
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Vatican closes Pauline year
with a few surprises

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY, July 3 (CNS) -- Talk about a grand finale.

The Vatican waited until the last day of the year of St. Paul to wow the world with two surprising scientific findings: the presumed bones of the apostle and the oldest known portrait of the saint.

During a vespers service at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls June 28, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the presumed tomb of St. Paul contains bone fragments from a human who lived between the first and second century.

"This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the apostle Paul," the Pope said.

Just two days before the announcement, officials from the Pauline basilica cleverly dodged questions about whether experts had been poking around inside the tomb.

During the June 26 press conference detailing the highlights of the Pauline year, the basilica's archpriest, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, said, "It certainly is tempting" to open the enormous marble sarcophagus, "which has been there for 20 or 19 centuries and has never been opened."

A Vatican engineer for the basilica, Pier Carlo Visconti, said they tried to X-ray it to see what was inside, but the 10-inch-thick marble was impenetrable.

When asked specifically if they still deny that a hole was drilled in the marble to insert a small camera and whether bone fragments were found, the cardinal replied, "I am not changing what we have said."

The cardinal obviously didn't want to steal the Pope's thunder; the Pope said a "very tiny perforation" had been drilled into the marble to insert a small probe and withdraw fragments of what was inside. [See related story in the BENEDICT NEWS thread, in which the cardinal explains the secrecy that had to protect the investigation and why.]

Experts found traces of purple linen, a blue fabric with linen threads, grains of red incense and bone fragments that date from the time of the apostle's death, the Ppe said.

Then, as if the Apostle of the Gentiles knew his special year was soon coming to an end, he made a surprise appearance before Vatican archeologists restoring a catacomb in Rome, not far from the Pauline basilica.

Restorers with the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology used St. Paul's feast day to announce in the Vatican newspaper that they had uncovered the oldest known depiction of St. Paul.

While using a laser to blast off limestone encrusting the ceiling in the catacombs of St. Thecla, archeologists made the important discovery June 19.

The beauty and detail of the fourth-century portrait was so stunning "it took the restorers' breath away," said one article in the two-page newspaper spread devoted to the discovery.

The image of a bald man with a stern expression, a high forehead, large eyes, distinctive nose and a dark tapered beard tipped experts off that this was St. Paul because it matched images of him from later centuries.

This portrait is in fact one of "the oldest and most detailed" portraits found in ancient Christian art, the paper said.

[I think equally important were the 'matching' portraits of St. Peter and two other apostles found in the same ceiling panel, as well as the Good Shepherd which is the centerpiece - but about which little has been said so far. The Peter portrait -photo in one of the posts above - is just as impressive as St. Paul's, and I have not yet seen a photo of the 'Good Shepherd' image.]

Even though the year of St. Paul is officially over, St. Paul probably will continue making headlines.

Archeologists working at the catacombs of St. Thecla are expected to uncover more important artwork as their restoration project continues.

And Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo said June 26 the Vatican has not excluded the possibility of conducting a complete study of the presumed sarcophagus of St. Paul and its contents.

Because part of the sarcophagus is wedged beneath building material, opening it would mean demolishing the papal altar above it and removing the 13th-century marble baldachin.

He said the Pope did not want such an invasive project to be done during the Pauline year, but "if afterwards it could be studied and done, we will think about it," said the cardinal.

The Vatican also plans to begin a massive expansion of the Pauline basilica's facilities.

The cardinal, who has a degree in architecture, said he has designed a new three-story building that will cover 10,700 square feet not far from the basilica.

The extra space is needed, he said, because the basilica has no storage or office space, and modern restrooms and a first aid center for pilgrims and tourists are needed.

The building was delayed while the cardinal waged a minor battle with Vatican archeologists who did not want any construction done near the basilica.

All the deep digging necessary to lay the foundations would have disturbed layers upon layers of old construction going back to the fifth century, he said.

He said the archeologists wanted him to place the new building further away from the site, but he said he told them, "No, I'm making the facilities close by. I can't send pilgrims a quarter of a mile away to go to the bathroom."

"After fighting for two years, finally we have found a compromise," he said.

The building will be constructed near the basilica, but a below-ground museum will be constructed to allow visitors to see some of the archeological finds.

The cardinal said the core samples and vertical digs came up with little of value, in his opinion, but he admitted that as an architect he is biased against what he sees as unreasonable demands in the name of preservation.

It's impossible to dig anywhere in Rome without uncovering something from the past, but not all of it is valuable or important, he said.

For example, Vatican archeologists found construction debris dating from the seventh century and told him a convent for nuns had been built there.

"Humph! I say, to be able to tell from a chunk of wall that it was a convent, I find that a little difficult," he said.

He said he and the Vatican archeologists are working well together now and he hopes the archeological finds will enrich the lives of people today.

"We have to work for the living, not the dead," he said.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/4/2009 2:30 PM]
7/4/2009 2:22 PM
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Yesterday, Sandro Magister posted a lengthy post
about the case of the 9-year-old Brazilian girl whose twin pregnancy (resulting from rape by her stepfather) was aborted medically - about whom the fairly new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Mons. Rino Fisichella, wrote a controversial front-page editorial for L'Osservatore Romano last March that was approving of the abortion.

For a number of reasons, I decided against posting it right away, but today on his blog, Magister provides additional eyebrow-raising information about this confused case, which should supplement a reading of his longer article (and an accompanying article refuting Fisichella's position, written by a Belgian theologian who is a member of three pontifical academies, including the Pontifical Academy for Life, and who decided to raise the issue to the Pope himself].

The Fisichella episode ties in with two other incidents this week in which ranking Curial officials have made questionable statements reported in the media as 'Vatican statements' of "Vatican positions' even if they were stated as the personal opinion of the prelate speaking.

One was by Mons. Agostino Marchetto, an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (and a respected scholar of Vatican-II) who denounced as "xenophobic and anti-Christian" a draft legislation by the Italian Parliament which would regulate the treatment and the actions of illegal immigrants. It prompted a clarification from both the Vatican spokesman and the Italian bishops' conference that the prelate was speaking for himself.

The other was by the Vatican Archivist, Mons. Sergio Pagano, who commented during a presentation of the new book containing all the documentation of Galileo's trails by the Roman Inquisition that "The Church should learn from the Galileo episode that it should not speak prematurely about ongoing research such as those on stem cells and genetics".

Pagano is neither a biologist nor a theologian, as even the secular Italian media pointed out, and in any case, the Church opposes embryonic stem cell research, not all stem-cell research, and it opposes the use of new genetic technology for eugenics, not genetic research in general! He promptly issued a clarification.

All this raises the question of a lamentable lack of prudence and discretion on the part of ranking prelates who should know better, because when they say something in public these are inevitably reported as "Vatican statements' by virtue of the positions they hold.

However, the most troubling and controversial of recent cases continues to be Mons. Fisichella's 'exception-making' on the principle of abortion, in a case where the health of the pregnant girl was not an issue.

Here is a translation of Magister's blog.

Vatican 'secrecy' - but not really:
Pro-life academicians want their president
to explain his position but he refuses;
so does the CDF and the Secretariat of State -
and now they want the Pope to step in

Translated from

July 4, 2009

To the facts published in yesterday's article in www.chiesa about the controversy over the abortion of a twin pregnancy in a 9-year-old Brazilian girl, some important behind the scenes facts must be added.

The article by Mons. Rino Fisichella, published March 15 on Page 1 of L'Osservatore Romano, was striking not only or that it said and how it was published but because Fisichella is the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Well, 27 out of the 46 members of the Academy wrote a joint letter on April 4 to Fisichella, asking him to correct the 'erroneous' position he had espoused in the article.

Fisichella answered them on April 21, declining to do so. [Come on, what reasons did he give????]

On May 1, 21 of the signatories wrote Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, requesting the CDF to issue a clarificatory note on the Church doctrine about abortion.

The letter was delivered to Levada on May 4, but there was no response. The academicians were told by an official at the CDF that their letter had been sent to the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, "because Fisichella wrote the article at Bertone's request".

[Now this gets really hairy-scary! Why ever would Cardinal Bertone have rushed to make a federal case out of the Brazilian incident? This was just a few days before the condoms controversy, but it had received a lot of attention in the Brazilian and French media, although apparently Mons. Fisichella was not in full possession of the facts when he wrote the article. It got pushed out of the 'hot issues' in Brazil and France after the Pope made his statement about condoms and AIDS.]

Two members of the Academy therefore decided to send the Pope directly a dossier on the entire case.

On June 8, Benedict XVI was said to have discussed the case with Bertone and ordered publication of a declaration that would clarify the Church stand on abortion [presumably one that would cover delicate cases such as when the pregnancy happens to a child!]

Such a statement has yet to be published.

There are those who oppose its publication in L'Osservatore Romano [which had previously tarnished itself further by refusing to publish the reply of the Brazilian bishops involved in the case, to Fisichella's article which, they point out, was written without full knowledge of the facts and without even consulting them].

These quarters feel that the clarification should be given through reserved channels and only to the bishops and the academicians involved in the case.

This is madness! It is as though Bertone and Fisichella have realized how 'rash' they were to begin with, and would now like to sweep their embarrassment under the rug. But it's the Church and the Pope who bear the brunt of being seemingly inconsistent about applying the doctrine on abortion, which also leaves in confusion all those faithful who are aware of this controversy!

Both Bertone and Fisichella - like Marchetto and Pagano - are obviously intelligent men who would not have reached where they are if they were stupid.

One can only conclude that ego can get in the way so much that even prelates like them - whose loyalty to the Pope and the the Church one cannot doubt, either - find self-assertion to be more irresistible than consideration of the larger picture, namely, what is good for the Church and for the faithful

That is why we all need to continually pray for the men and women of the Church - because the Pope cannot do everything by himself nor without the intelligent cooperation of those who work with him and everyone else who carries out the work of the Church.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/14/2010 3:07 AM]
7/5/2009 1:48 AM
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With the inauguration of the Pauline chapel today, we finally have the first definitive photographs of the restored Michelangelo murals -they look so fresh and clean!

The Conversion of St. Paul

The Crucifixion of St. Peter

7/6/2009 12:55 AM
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Sorry for this belated post. I had every intention yesterday of translating the Vatican bulletin which was interestingly detailed. I will post it as soon as I can translate, but meanwhile this givees the highlights.

Vatican posts deficits in 2008
due to economic downturn

VATICAN CITY, July 4 (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI has not escaped the economic downturn, with donations hit by the global financial storm, official figures showed Saturday.

The Vatican City ended 2008 with a deficit of 15 million euros (21 million dollars) and had been affected "like other states, by the economic and financial crisis", a statement said.

Gifts from churches to the head of the Roman Catholic Church had gone down, particularly at the festivals of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and came to around 54 million euros (76 million dollars), the Vatican said

This represented "a small drop due to the economic situation," it added. But the finances of the Holy See fared much better in the downturn.

The see registered a deficit of around 911,510 euros (1,275,000 dollars), much improved from the previous year's deficit of nine million euros (12.6 million dollars).

The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Pope, and the central authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

It is distinct from the Vatican City, which is a city state.

The biggest donations last year were made by American, Italian and German Catholics, and the countries with the highest number of contributors were South Korea and Japan.

Sandro Magister also had an important blog entry yesterday on major changes in the management of the Vatican private bank known by its Italian acronym IOR (for Institute delle Opere Religiosi), which I will try to summarize later - because it's about how Benedict XVI's own men may finally take over the management rather than the team put in place by John Paul II (more correctly, by Cardinal Sodano) which has been linked to questionable business matters. Not as terrible as those that involved the late Archbishop Marcinkus and the failed Italian banks and the banker's suicides that stained the IOR in the earlier years of the Wojtyla Pontificate, but still rather fishy.

P.S. Meanwhile, here's the VIS account of the Vatican's 2008 fiNancial statements, posted only today because VIS does not operate on weekends.


VATICAN CITY, 4 JUL 2009 (VIS) - The 63rd meeting of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See was held in the Vatican from 1 to 3 July, under the presidency of Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B.

A communique published this afternoon explains that the Holy See consolidated financial statements for 2008, presented to the cardinals during the meeting by Archbishop Velasio De Paolis C.S., president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, show a deficit of 911,514 euro, the difference between an income of 253,953,869 euro and outgoings of 254,865,383 euro.

The outgoings are due above all to the ordinary and extraordinary expenses of the dicasteries and offices of the Holy See, which employ 2,732 people of whom 761 are ecclesiastics, 334 religious and 1,637 lay people.

The meeting also examined the consolidated financial statements of the Governorate of Vatican City State for 2008, which show a deficit of slightly more than 15 million euro. A total of 1,894 people work under the jurisdiction of the Governorate.

The communique explains how, during the period in question, the Governorate began to study an integrated communications infrastructure including telephone and internet services, and installed photoelectric panels on the roof of the Paul VI Hall.

It also mentions the "notable economic and financial burden of protecting, evaluating and restoring the artistic heritage of the Holy See (restoration of the Pauline Chapel and work on the papal basilicas of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls and St. Mary Major)".

Finally the consolidated financial statements of Peter's Pence were also presented. This fund consists of offers made to the Holy Father by the particular Churches, especially for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, and contributions by institutes of consecrated life, societies of apostolic life, foundations and various members of the faithful.

In 2008 a total of 54,387,714 euro was raised and, although the number of donations went up, the total fell slightly due to the general economic situation.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/6/2009 9:33 PM]
7/6/2009 1:02 AM
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Russian President says
'We want better ties
with the Vatican'

VATICAN CITY, July 5 (AP) – Russia's president says Moscow plans to improve its ties with the Vatican.

Tensions between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches over property disputes and other issues have so far made it impossible for any Pope to visit Moscow.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Italian reporters in an interview ahead of the G-8 summit in Italy this week that relations between his country and the Vatican will "in all likelihood be developed further." He also said the possibility of diplomatic ties is under discussion.

He declined to say if Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Russia anytime soon. [Not going to happen unless Patriarch Kirill tells the government the Russian Orthodox Church is OK with it! That doesn't seem likely any time soon!]
The previous pontiff, Polish-born John Paul II, was frustrated in his desire to go to Russia.

Part of the interview was shown Sunday on Italian state TV.

One will perhaps better appreciate the significance of Russia's interest in having diplomatic ties with the Vatican when one considers that with an area of 17-million square kilometers, Russia is by far the largest country in the world (its expanse can be appreciated by looking at how it spans the globe, in the inset photo), and the Vatican is the smallest. Its 110 acres is just a bit larger than the area of the Moscow Kremlin (left photo).

Indeed, the first time I saw the Kremlin, the first thing that came to my mind was the Vatican, a similar medieval walled city with a number of churches within. The Moscow Kremlin has six major cathedrals inside it, and Cathedral Square is considered the heart of the Kremlin. Footnote: The Kremlin walls were built by Italian masons in the early 16th century! The Kremlin became a UNESCO World Heritage site in the early 1990s, but I am not too happy at the addition of so many modern government buildings after the end of the Soviet regime (when the only modern building added was a so-called Palace of Congresses that also housed an opera houce and concert hall.)

Now is the time to post David Goldman/Spengler's insightful blog in FIRST THINGS about the prospects of Vatican ties with China, now that the Chinese PM Hu Jintao is in Italy for the G8....It's one of those items I mentally earmarked last week...

Hu Jintao in Italy:
'China’s Catholic Moment'?

by David P. Goldman

An Asia Times dispatch today from Francesco Sisci, author of the essay “China’s Catholic Moment” in the June-June issue of First Things, observes that Chinese premiere Hu Jintao next week embarks on a state visit to Italy, the first for a Chinese leader in a decade. The visit, Sisci argues, may portend a breakthrough in relations between China and the Vatican:

Hu will come as close as possible to breathing the air around one of the pillars of Western civilization – the Papacy, the Holy See, the Vatican, the headquarters of the largest unitary religion in the world.

For centuries, the Vatican has been part of the very way of thinking in the West. The idea of balancing powers came from the Roman republican tradition of two consuls, the democracy of the Greek city-states, preventing a concentration of power; it continued with the balancing of clashes and friction between the emperor and senate during the Roman Empire, and for centuries it was embodied in the talks and dialogue between European kings and the popes – the political and religious powers of the Western world.

During all that time, China had only the idea of concentration of power in the hands of the emperor. If the emperor failed to hold on to power, the empire would break up (as happened many times in the past 22 centuries) or the dynasty would fall.

Religious leaders simply had to obey to the emperor, in one way or another. But since the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, China has forfeited the idea of an emperor, a single paramount leader.

China’s decision-making process is developing fast and learning from the West, and China is looking around for inspiration. As the Vatican is part of this Western tradition of balancing powers, it is inescapable for the Chinese leaders.

Jiang, at the turn of the 21st century, started the process of normalizing ties with the Vatican, a process that stalled for a few years after the Holy See decided to canonize 120 Chinese martyrs on October 1, 2001, the PRC’s 51st National Day, the first PRC’s National Day in the new millennium.

After a few years, the process re-started. Two years ago the Pope issued a groundbreaking letter to Chinese Catholics that, for the first time since the beginning of the Cold War, recognized the legitimacy of the PRC and thrashed the old hostility between Catholic believers and the officially communist Chinese government. It said that a good Chinese Catholic ought to also be a good Chinese citizen.

Comments on Sisci’s “Catholic Moment” essay were overwhelmingly negative, even hostile; a number of posters accused Sisci of parroting the Chinese Communist line and acting as an apologist for a murderous regime.

My own view is that such outbursts betray a sort of cultural illiteracy that is sadly typical of Americans, who assume that if the rest of the world simply acted as they do, all would be well. They forget that America called out from among the nations a tiny percentage of individuals who wished to make a new start at the price of abandoning their own ethnicity.

Many of my conservative friends seem to think that if we jump up and down on the table and scream about China’s lack of democracy, we would improve the situation. I can’t decide if ignorance or petulance dominates in this attitude.

China always has been a empire, never a nation state. It holds together a welter of difference ethnicities speaking different languages through a common system of ideograms and a common culture, and always has opposed a centralizing power to centifugal tendencies.

It is an inherently unstable system. Communism erased China’s traditional culture, the Confucian system that linked the “little emperor” at the head of an extended family to the “big emperor” in Beijing through a set of analogous filial obligations.

In the midst of the greatest social upheaval in modern history, the largest popular migration in all of history, Chinese leaders are painfully aware that a great empire cannot survive merely on the impetus of consumerism.

That is why China’s leaders are looking to the West for more than methods of business administration. It is impossible to predict, of course, how this will proceed, but potentially it could be one of the most momentous developments of our time.

Those in the United States who want China to fail should be careful what they wish for. Iraq, Iran, or Belarus could sink into the ground without a trace and the world would carry on regardless; an unstable China would make the world security situation unmanageable, not to mention the world economy.

My mystical intuition tells me that Hu’s decision to visit Italy implie something more than the Chinese passion for Italian cuisine (the regional cuisine of Shanghai is Italian, judging from the number of restauarants operating their from Pizza Hut to haute cuisine, and the city’s signature dish is osso buco alla gremolata).

My mystical intuition thinks that Hu’s presence in Italy has something to do wtih the fact that the Vatican is located in Italy. We will see; my mystical intuition gets it wrong a good deal of the time.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/27/2009 5:59 PM]
7/6/2009 4:49 AM
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The fabled city of Machu Picchu, and not far from it, the mountain glacier area that is the center for a fascinating Catholic folk festival.

High in the Andes, Peruvians mark
Christ's appearance to shepherd boy

By Barbara J. Fraser

OCONGATE, Peru, June 26 (CNS) -- At the end of an all-night procession, several thousand pilgrims in colorful garb gathered on a hilltop in this remote corner of the Andes, waiting for dawn. As the sky brightened behind an eastern mountain peak and light swept along the ridge, a tall young man sounded a long, plaintive note on a conch horn.

The sun burst over the Andes and Quechua-language prayers floated over the frosty fields. Melodies rose from wooden flutes and drums played by musicians with weathered faces.

The assembly broke into smaller groups, dancing down the mountain in colorful columns that snaked and twined, celebrating the new day and the end of a pilgrimage that drew some 60,000 people.

At the bottom of the hill, Jesuit Father Luis Herrera waited in a rustic adobe chapel, where a solemn procession arrived, carrying images of Jesus and Mary. Father Herrera prayed with the group, bringing the nearly weeklong pilgrimage to a close. If God wills it, he said, they will gather there again next year.

The festival of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit'i, marking Christ's appearance to a young shepherd boy and coinciding with the full moon nearest to the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, dates to the 1780s, though its roots probably go back further. Like many religious traditions, it has evolved over the centuries, but it is now threatened by tourism, global warming and simple economics.

"We do this out of faith," said Adolfo Quispe, 23, leader of a group of 18 young dancers who set out from their hometown of Chincheros, near the tourist mecca of Cuzco, four nights earlier, June 6. "We are faithful Catholics who believe in Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in many ways."

During the pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit'i, he and the other dancers thanked God for those blessings and made a promise of faith for the coming year. Setting out before dawn June 7, they hiked five miles up a valley, where llamas and alpacas grazed along a stream fed by glacial meltwater.

At the top of the valley, more than 14,000 feet above sea level near the foot of a glacier, they quickly set up camp and changed into traditional garb. For the next three days, Andean melodies rang out day and night as hundreds of groups of young people dressed in traditional costumes followed the same steps performed by generations of pilgrims before them.

The Jesuit priests who work in the highlands around Cuzco and have celebrated liturgies in the Qoyllur Rit'i sanctuary for decades say the modern world is infringing on local traditions.

"The nature of the fiesta has changed," Father Herrera said. "It is no longer a celebration of llama and alpaca herders."

Father Antonio Sanchez-Guardamino, a Jesuit from Spain's Basque region and pastor in the town of Ocongate, recalled that in the early 1980s, when he began celebrating liturgies at Qoyllur Rit'i, most of the confessions he heard were in the local Quechua language. Now, he said, 85 percent are in Spanish.

While the fiesta originally drew mainly farm families from the remote highland villages, it now attracts pilgrims who have migrated from the countryside to towns in search of employment or education.

The dancers from Chincheros are among those who remain faithful even though they live in town. For three days, they stop only to eat and to sleep for an hour or two before the trio of musicians rouses them with a melody. They dance in the sanctuary before an image of Jesus on a rock that marks the spot where Christ appeared, then dance uphill to a small chapel dedicated to Mary and down toward the sanctuary again in a ring of color and melody.

The sanctuary bell tolls several times a day, and more than 2,000 pilgrims jam into the church, standing elbow to elbow, for a liturgy in Spanish and Quechua. At this altitude, nighttime temperatures drop below zero, but the sanctuary is warmed by body heat and the banks of candles lit by pilgrims. There are no shelters for sleeping, so a few pilgrims pitch tents, while many more huddle under wool blankets and sheets of blue plastic sold by enterprising vendors.

The fiesta has become more commercial in recent years. When Eugenio Huaman, 46, first made the pilgrimage 25 years ago, people carried everything they would need -- a blanket and scant food rations -- in bundles on their backs. Now vendors sell everything from sunglasses to holy cards to full meals. Money-changers exchange dollars, euros and Peruvian currency.

The night of June 8, fireworks burst overhead while dancers and musicians filled the plaza outside the sanctuary, a concrete square below the church and the areas in front of the Marian chapel. Thousands of pilgrims prayed or watched the dancing.

In the middle of the night, columns of men dressed in shaggy robes representing bears or black alpacas slipped away by moonlight and climbed for several hours over narrow, rocky trails to glaciers high on the mountain walls. The men, known as "pablos," play a special role during the fiesta, and their pilgrimage to the ice is a high point of the celebration.

In the past, they hacked blocks of ice off the glacier and carried them down to the sanctuary at dawn as an offering to the Lord of Qoyllur Rit'i. It was a point of pride to take the largest blocks possible, despite the discomfort of the frigid loads on their backs. They then carried the ice home to their villages, a sign of the gift of life.

Glaciers in the Peruvian Andes are retreating rapidly, raising the prospect of water shortages during the annual dry season. This year, the pablos were prohibited from carving ice blocks from the glaciers, although some people returned with small chunks of ice or bottles filled with slush.

Scientists say the glaciers could be gone in another 20 years, and Father Sanchez-Guardamino said he worries about what will happen to high-mountain herders if the glaciers disappear. Meltwater flowing from the ice fields forms braided streams that merge to flow past the sanctuary, down the valley and into the Vilcanota River, sustaining pastureland for alpacas.

Father Sanchez-Guardamino said he is also concerned about water pollution, especially after tens of thousands of pilgrims have camped for three days in the valley, which has virtually no infrastructure, and have left tons of trash and waste. The local government now provides a few latrines and trash cans, but all waste must be packed out on horses.

Although changes in the fiesta are inevitable, Father Sanchez-Guardamino said the pilgrims' faith remains firm. Nevertheless, he urges people to nurture their faith throughout the rest of the year.

"It is obvious that people live and breathe faith and devotion" at Qoyllur Rit'i, he said, "but if this is not lived out, (the fiesta) will just become a tourist attraction and a show. If the devotion is not accompanied by a life of mercy, help for one's neighbor, truth above all else, and justice, it will be empty -- it will one day be just folklore, with no meaning."

Finally, I have an excuse to use these pictures of Cardinal Ratzinger in Machu Picchu way back in 1987, when he travelled to Peru with his then secretary Mons. Josef Clemens. In the left photo, he makes the acquaintance of a llama, the wool-bearer of the Andes. I am sure the cardinal would have been told all about Qoyllur Rit'i.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/6/2009 4:50 AM]
7/7/2009 3:31 AM
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We were fortunate to have excellent and extensive news agency and photo reportage of the Pauline Chapel inauguration last Saturday, so what Sandro Magister has to say about it is simply supplemental. Not what he says about the Pope's 'art review' since we had the full text of the Pope's homily, but Magister gives details about the changes introduced by Paul VI, which have now been put to right.

The Pauline Chapel
reopens for worship

ROME, July 6, 2009 - The Pauline Chapel is not open to visitors. Situated in the Vatican buildings just a few steps from the Sistine Chapel, it is a place of prayer reserved for the Pope.

After undergoing a complete restoration, it was reopened for worship on Saturday, July 4, by Benedict XVI, who presided over vespers there.

The news of the reopening of the Pauline Chapel for worship received scant coverage in the media, being overshadowed by the imminent publication of the encyclical Caritas in Veritate and by the meeting between the pope and Barack Obama. [Not so scant, Mr. Magister. The Italian news agencies reported it well, and there were even ample news photos. After all, how could they possibly ignore two major Michelangelo works - not to mention an art critic-Pope!]

But at least two new developments must be noted.

The first is that the renovation included a restructuring of the sanctuary, in fidelity to the liturgical tradition.

In 1975, Paul VI had replaced the altar turned toward the tabernacle with an oval-shaped altar detached from the wall, to be used while facing the faithful.

He had also eliminated the wooden communion rail, and replaced it with an ambo in carved marble. The floor was covered with a red carpet. So were the side walls, up to the level of the frescoes.

Benedict XVI has put the previous altar back in its place, although still a short distance from the tabernacle, restoring it for 'ad orientem' celebration.

He has had the ambo removed, and the communion rail put back in its place. The red carpet has disappeared from both the floor and the walls, which have been restored to their original appearance.

The second important new development concerns the interpretation of the two frescoes by Michelangelo dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, in particular the interpretation of Peter's expression.

The traditional interpretation says that Peter - while he is about to be crucified upside down - is turned to look at everyone who enters the chapel, to remind him that martyrdom can be the fate of those who follow Jesus.

In support of this interpretation, it is recalled that until 1670, many conclaves were held in the Pauline Chapel. Peter was looking into the eyes of the cardinals preparing to elect his successor. And the newly elect, who from then on would go into that chapel to pray, would exchange glances each time with the first of the apostles.

Those in charge of the restoration, in presenting the renovated chapel to the public on June 30, also adhered substantially to this interpretative tradition.

So then, the new development is that Benedict XVI has distanced himself from it. In the homily for vespers with which he reopened the Pauline Chapel for worship, he gave a new interpretation of Peter's expression in the fresco by Michelangelo.

The Pope said that Peter's gaze, instead of being directed at the visitor, is instead intended to be directed at the face of Paul on the opposite wall: at Paul, who bears within himself the light of the risen Christ. "It is as if Peter, in the hour of the supreme trial, were seeking that light which gave the true faith to Paul."

Naturally, the Pope added, this does not change the fact that this dialogue of gazes between the two apostles is a great lesson for those who enter to pray in the Pauline Chapel, and in particular for the successors of Peter.

Magister then posts the excerpt from the Pope's homily having to do with the faces of Paul and Peter in the murals. The complete text of the homily in in the BENEDICT NEWS thread, in which the Pope also remarks on the Transfiguration painting that dominates the altar.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/7/2009 5:03 AM]
7/11/2009 1:19 AM
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At long last, a clarification - though not unqualified - that took four months to come! It is in reference to the March 15, 2009, front-page article in L'Osservatore Romano in which the fairly new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life appears to censure the local Church hierarchy in Recife, Brazil, for condemning the medical abortion performed on a nine-year-old girl who conceived twins after being raped by her stepfather).

The article implied, at the very least, that the abortion was justified in this case, and criticized the actions of the local bishop, without ascertaining the facts nor asking the bishop first. In short, apart form the confused message Fisichella conveyed regarding the Church teaching on abortion, he was also unfair to the bishop involved.

Now, after the bishop in question has formally retired (he is 76) - with many news items about his retirement implying or saying outright that it was 'punishment' for his actions in connection with the case which took place more than half a year ago (much as even a veteran like John Allen wrote off Cardinal Castrillon's retirement at age 80 as 'punishment' for his 'shortcomings' in the Williamson case, even hough that was almost six months prior to his retirement) - comes a clarification from the CDF.

What has yet to be explained is why - if Vatican reporting is true - Cardinal Bertone, who rides herd over L'Osservatore Romano, asked Fisichella to write the article.

If only out of fairness, intramural politics or personal vendettas in the Vatican should not be played out in the OR - to which the rest of the Church outside of the Secretariat of State has no guaranteed access - any more than its editors' political biases should be reflected in their choice and treatment of stories. But both, unfortunately, appear to be the case

Chiarification by the CDF
on procured abortion

Translated from
the 7/11/09 issue of

Many letters have recently come to the Holy See, even from personalities in the political and ecclesial world, about the confusion created in many nations, especially in Latin America, following the manipulation and instrumentalization [fairness requires that the noun should simply be 'publication'] of an article by His Excellency Mons. Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the sad episode of the "Brazilian girl".

In that article, which appeared in L'Osservatore Romano on March 15, 200i, the doctrine of the Church was proposed even while taking note of the tragic situation of the girl who - as it was verified subsequently - had the benefit of every possible pastoral sensitivity, particularly of the then Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, His Excellency, Mons. Jose Cardozo Sobrinho.

In this respect, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterates that the doctrine of the Church on procured abortion has not changed nor can it change.

This doctrine is stated in Numbers 2270-2273 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as follows:

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth."

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

"You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish."

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves.

Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.

"A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae," "by the very commission of the offense,"7and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.

The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin.

"Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.

"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law.

"When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . .

"As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."80

In the encyclical Evangelium vitae, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed such doctrine with his authority as Supreme pastor of the Church:

"That the authority Christ conferred on Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops - who at vsarious times have condemned abortion and which in the previously cited consultation conducted worldwide, unanimously approved this doctrine - declares that direct abortion, whether intended as an end or as a means, always constitutes grave moral disorder, being the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

"This doctrine is founded on natural law and on the written Word of God, transmitted in the Tradition of the Church and taught in the ordinary and universal Magisterium" (No, 42)

In the case of procured abrtion for some complex and difficult cases, the clear and precise teaching of John Paul II is applicable:

"It is true that many times the choice of abortion represents a tragic and sorrowful decision for the mother, insofar as the decision to get rid of the product of conception is not due to purely selfish resons or reasons of convenience, but because it is desired to save some important benefits, such as her own health or a dignified way of life for the other members of the family.

"Sometimes, there is concern that the unborn child may be born to conditions of existence such as to make one think it would be better that he were not born.

"Nonetheless, these adn similar reasons no matter how grave and tragic, can never justify the deliberate suppression of an innocent human being" (Enc. Evengelium vitae, No. 58).

As to the problem of certain medical treatments in order to save the health of the mother, one must distinguish between two different cases: on the one hand, any intervention that directly causes the death of the fetus, sometimes inappropriately called 'therapeutic' abortion, which can never be licit since it is the direct killing of an innocent human being; and on the other, ann intervention that is by itself non-abortive but could result in the death of the child as a collateral consequence.

"If, for instance, saving the life of the mother-to-be, independent of her pregnant state, would actively require surgical action, or other therapeutic application, which would have the death of the child as an accessory consequence - not wanted or intended in any way, but inevitable - such an act may not be considered a direct attempt against an innocent life.

"Under such conditions, the operation may be considered licit, like other similar medical interventions, as long as it has to do with protecting a good of such high quality, such as life, and the treatment cnanot be postponed until after the birth of the child, nor is there any other possible treatment" (Pius XII, Address to the Fronte della Famiglia and the Associazione Famigle Numeroxse, Nov 27, 1951).

As for the responsibilities of health care workers, one must remember the words of John Paul II:

"Their profession makes them custodians and servants of human life. In the social and cultural context today, in which science and medical art are in danger of losing their inherent ethical dimension, they can sometimes be strongly tempted to transform themselves into artificers of manipulating life if not ouright agents of death.

"In the face of such a temptation, their responsibility has grown enormously today and it finds its most profound inspiration and strongest support precisely in the intrinsic and indispensable ethical dimension of the health professions, as recognized in the ancient and still current Hippocratic oath, according to which each health worker is asked to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness" (Enc. Evangelium vitae, No, 59).

But even this clarification - while it acknowledges that the ex-Archbishop of Olinda and Recife acted with appropriate 'pastoral sensitivity' - contrary to Mons. Fisichella's censoriousness - plays partisan by claiming 'manipulation and instrumentalization' of Fisichella's article.

While many in the secular media did do that rather gleefully, it is unfair to impute the same motivation to Catholic prelates and laymen alike who were greatly disturbed in theri conscience by Fisichella's article.

To begin with, OR never balanced its reporting on the case, even refusing to publish the immediate response of Bishop Sobrinho and other Brazilian bishops who came to his defense, to the point that these bishops had to say so to the secular media.

And we had to learn from Sandro Magister how half of the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life called on Fisichella to make a public clarification - which he also refused; that they then wrote the CDF which did not answer them but let it be known it had passed on their objections to the Secretariat of State, since Cardinal Bertone had reportedly asked Fisichella to write the article; and that finally, at least two of the dissatisfied academicians wrote the Pope himself to step into the picture.

Apparently, the Pope has laid down the law, but human intrigue continues to bedevil even this clarification. At the very least, the CDF clarification should also have mentioned the honest and concerned point of view of the protesting academicians, who were certainly not 'manipulating' or 'instrumentalizing' Fisichella's article in any way, since they properly made their protest in private.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/11/2009 7:47 AM]
7/11/2009 12:23 PM
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Uncovering Michelangelo:
Restored Pauline Chapel frescoes
challenge myth that the artist's
powers failed in his final years

by Elizabeth Lev

ROME, JULY 9, 2009 ( The last works of Michelangelo were often perceived as old and world-weary, the artistic rumblings of a man who had had his fill of Rome and the papacy.

This week, however, the unveiling of the restored Pauline Chapel dispelled that myth by wiping the years of grime and faulty restorations from Michelangelo’s final painting and allowing his masterful hand and his startling palette to shine forth.

The Pauline Chapel, situated close to the Sistine Chapel, was constructed under Pope Paul III Farnese in 1539 in honor of his name saint. In 1541, the Pope awarded the decorative commission to a 66-year old Michelangelo, fresh from his labors on the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.

The pairing of the subjects was unusual. Tradition dictated that the death of Peter mirror that of Paul. But in this case the martyrdom of St. Peter found its complement in the Conversion of Saul, for each, the pivotal moment of witness. Stretched across some 445 square feet, the fortunate few of the papal court privy to the private chapel watched these enormous dramas play out as they approached the altar.

Centuries of huge candelabra set up for the Forty Hour’s devotion, atmospheric damage to the wall and heavy alteration to the chapel had dimmed the colors and buckled the surface to represent a dingy mass of barely comprehensible figures.

Art history, taking its cue from the introspective, heart-heavy poetry of the aging artist, saw in the work evidence of a painter who had lost his spark, the vast ambition of the Last Judgment dissipated into a few figures gathered in the lower part of the panel.

Historian John Symonds, in his biography of Michelangelo, wrote, “We cannot refrain from regretting that seven years of his energetic old age should have been devoted to work so obviously indicative of decaying faculties.”

Now, the loving five-year restoration by Maurizio de Luca has brought to light not a tired artist of swiftly degenerating talents, but a recharged and rejuvenated Michelangelo, ready to face new challenges and offer yet more innovative inspiration for future painters.

The most striking element of the work is the brilliant color palette. After the flesh tones against a lapis sky of the Last Judgment, Michelangelo used a rainbow of hues for his images of St. Peter and St. Paul.

According to Maestro de Luca, the deep mulberry, sunflower yellow and flashes of poppy red recall the 15th century works illustrating the lives of Christ and Moses lining the walls of the Sistine Chapel.

Included among the prestigious painters who worked on the panels in 1480, when Michelangelo was a mere child of 5, was Domenico Ghirlandaio, in whose studio the young Florentine would first learn to paint. These painters favored the technique of “buon fresco," a layer of fresh plaster quickly painted with water soaked pigment to form a kind of colored stone.

The principal pigments were made from inexpensive organic materials, so to render their works more precious, studios added more costly colors “a secco” or on dry wall. Malachite for green, and lapis lazuli for blue, were two colors guaranteed to garner attention and favor from viewers, while gold leaf was a surefire dazzler.

In the Sistine Chapel ceiling where he had painted almost 30 years earlier, Michelangelo eschewed the secco pigments and copious gilding for the most part, preferring his work to be admired for more than its weight in gold. In the Last Judgment, he lavishly covered the wall with lapis, but then rigidly limited his palette for the figures.

Only in this last fresco does Michelangelo return stylistically to the studio where he first took a brush in hand, by using vivid jewel tones throughout both the stories of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Michelangelo generally avoided adding portraits to his paintings. His old master Ghirlandaio, on the other hand, was famed for the amount of contemporaries he could squeeze into any given sacred scene.

In the Pauline Chapel however, he made several exceptions. In the Conversion painting, Saul is seen as an older man, when indeed he would have been about 30 at the time of this event.

The aged face of Saul appears to be a portrait of his patron Paul III, looking quite similar to the famous portrait of the Pontiff executed by Titian. Michelangelo also added his own image in the painting of St. Peter’s martyrdom, arms folded in the lower left-hand side, gazing sadly upon the murder of the first Pope.

Michelangelo made a career of challenging the pictorial space. His figures always seem to occupy three dimensions, suspended between our world and theirs. Michelangelo’s Pauline painting enhanced this dynamism, with horses running into the distance and figures running from distant hills, while other personages seem to lean out into the chapel.

Michelangelo’s St. Peter turns from his cross and challengingly glares at all who enter the chapel. Conversion, like that of Saul, ultimately means witness, like that of Peter.

The intensity of these works, from the sharply foreshortened Christ flying through space to the groups of emoting onlookers, project far more spiritual tension thaN his cycle on the Sistine vault.

This Michelangelo, in the heat of the Reformation, seems to be remembering another aspect of his youth, the fiery sermons of conversion and repentance of Girolamo Savonarola, whose work, Vasari tells us, Michelangelo “kept in great veneration.”

As Michelangelo painted these works, controversy and conflict raged around him. The Reformation was in full swing, the Church had lost people and prestige. Yet Michelangelo drew from the traditions and piety of his youth to present a vision that would speak powerfully to the future, the very definition of a masterpiece.

* * *

Luke's other story

In the same century that Rome nurtured the genius of Michelangelo, the city also took steps to ensure a succession of well-trained and successful artists by founding the Academy of St. Luke.

Although the age of Pope Sixtus IV had seen the first tentative statues for a “University of Painters and Miniaturists," the official foundation dates to 1577, the reign of Pope Gregory the XIII. The Pope gave the fledgling academy a first home on the Esquiline Hill in the Church of St. Luke, patron of painters.

Luke the Evangelist was something of a Renaissance man himself. According to tradition, the saint was not only a doctor and best-selling author, but also responsible for painting the first image of the Madonna and Child.

A close friend and collaborator of St. Paul, Luke was also a Gentile, which opened the door for the rich artistic tradition of the Greco-Roman world to lend its gifts to the spread of God’s word. This tradition highlights how Luke evangelized with words and images, setting a lofty goal for Christian artists.

Raphael reputedly immortalized this story in a painting that still graces the Academy’s present headquarters of the Palazzo Carpegna by the Trevi Fountain.

Luke’s painting, on the other hand, had another fate. Tradition has it that Luke sent the portrait to Antioch with the text of his Gospel. It remained there until the middle of the fifth century, when it was taken to Constantinople and placed in a monastery.

Finally, the icon was brought from Constantinople to Cyprus during the 12th century and is present now at the "Holy Royal Monastery of Kykko Founded with a Cross" in Cyprus. The Madonna Salus Popoli Romani in St. Mary Major is believed to be an ancient copy of the work.

The Academy was furthered and assisted by several popes, particularly Urban VIII Barberini. Some of history’s greatest artistic stars were inducted into the Academy. Annibale Carracci, Bernini, Guido Reni, and even Velasquez and David numbered among the members. Two women, Lavinia Fontana in the 17th century and Angelica Kaufmann in the 18th, were admitted into the elite group.

While the principal function of the Academy was to offer lectures and lessons for artists, particularly in drawing, the backbone of Italian art, the spiritual side was never neglected.

The members met in the Church of San Martina and San Luca by the Forum, rebuilt after Pietro da Cortona, the prince of the Academy, found the remains of the virgin martyr Martina in the crypt while preparing a place for his own burial. Pope Urban VIII, thrilled by the discovery, funded the rebuilding by Pietro da Cortona and the result was the first Baroque church.

After 1870, the Academy dwindled in importance, but still remains active today sponsoring lectures and restorations. But sadly, St. Luke remains only in name; the evangelizing spirit that fueled his brush is long gone.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/13/2009 2:40 AM]
7/13/2009 2:29 AM
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Catholicism as antidote
to turbo-capitalism


Published: July 11, 2009

MUNICH — The collapse of Communism in the East two decades ago did not provide much of an opening for the Catholic Church to influence economic policy, but perhaps the near-collapse of Western capitalism will.

Two German authors — one named Marx, the other his patron in Rome — are certainly hoping so.

The Archbishop Marx Das Kapital was published in October last year, and is subtitled 'A Plaidoyer for Mankind', the French-derived legal term plaidoyer meaning 'a speech in defense of'. The prelate's beard and hair are not quite as bushy as his namesake Karl's.

The first is Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, who has written a best seller in Germany that he cheekily titled Das Kapital (and in which he addresses that other Marx — Karl — as “dear namesake”).

The second is Pope Benedict XVI, who last week published his first papal encyclical on economic and social matters. It has a more gentle title, Charity in Truth, but is based on the same essential line of thinking.

Indeed, Archbishop Marx had a hand in advising the Pope on it, and a reading of the archbishop’s book helps explain the intellectual context in which the encyclical was composed.

The message in both is that global capitalism has raced off the moral rails and that Roman Catholic teachings can help set Western economics right by encouraging them to focus more on justice for the weak and closely regulating the market.

Unlike the 19th-century Marx, who thought organized religion was a trick played on the impoverished in order to control them, Archbishop Marx and other Catholics yearn for reform, not class warfare.

In that, they are following a long and fundamental line of Church teaching. What is different now is that some of them see this economic crisis as a moment when the Church’s economic thinking just may attract serious attention.

Archbishop Marx has already drawn a following in Germany by arguing that capitalism needs, in a grave way, the ethical underpinnings of Catholicism. The alternative, he argues, is that the post-crisis world will fall back into furious turbo-capitalism, or, alternatively, experience a renaissance of Marxist ideology based on atheism and class divisions.

“There is no way back into an old world,” Archbishop Marx said in a recent interview, before the encyclical was issued. “We have to affirm this world, but critically.”

Catholic voices have long had influence on the debate in the West about social justice, but never as much as the Church would have wished. That reflected the enduring challenge of devising alternative policies, rather than simply criticizing secular authorities.

Pope John Paul II, a Pole with an intuitive feel for Communism’s injustices, was an important voice in bringing that system down. But he had to watch in the 1990s as Eastern Europe embraced Communism’s polar opposite — a rather pure form of secular capitalism, instead of any Catholic-influenced middle way.

“John Paul II was often very clear what he was against: He was against unbridled capitalism and the kind of socialism of the Soviet sphere,” said John Allen, the National Catholic Reporter Vatican watcher. “What he was for was less clear.”

Now Archbishop Marx, who at 55 occupies an ecclesiastical perch once held by Benedict, is trying to wriggle out of that intellectual straitjacket.

With his talent for turning a provocative phrase, he has more in common stylistically with the evangelist St. Paul or the philosophes, who popularized Enlightenment thought, than with Karl, who ground out his dense texts from exile in London.

After beginning his book puckishly by addressing Karl Marx personally, the archbishop races through 200 years of Western economic history in a way that pays tribute to Karl’s core analytical conclusion — that capitalism embodies contradictions that threaten the system itself.

But he also makes it clear he is no Communist. He admires Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, a 19th-century writer who put Catholic theory into practice as a member of Germany’s first national Parliament in 1848, and later became a bishop and a fervent critic of Karl Marx.

The gregarious Archbishop Marx has cut a profile in the German business community for his willingness to walk into a roomful of executives and raise the roof. (“Are you marionettes?” he once asked a manager who protested that markets sometimes dictate unethical actions.)

In his book, which was published last fall, he offers a vision of a world governed by cooperation among nations, with a vibrant welfare state as the core of a market economy that reflects the love-thy-neighbor imperatives of Catholic social thought.

On the first point, Archbishop Marx is in good, cosmopolitan company; many officials, from New York to London to Beijing, are calling these days for a world in greater regulatory harmony, though the specifics may be hard to agree upon.

He sounds considerably more German when exhorting the world to create, or recast, the welfare state. People need the welfare state before they “can give themselves over to the very strenuous and sometimes very risky games of the market economy,” Archbishop Marx said. The burdens of aging, illness or unemployment “need to be borne collectively,” he added.

In support of his argument, the archbishop calls for a “global social market economy,” based on a concept familiar to Germans as the model for their own postwar system.

Of course, the archbishop says he realizes that a European’s ideal of welfare states and border-straddling institutions might not have universal appeal.

At the end of his book, he quotes Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, who has said, “I approve of the notion that Europe sees itself, unpretentiously, as a model for the world, but the consequence of that is that we would have to constantly change that model because we are not the world.”

Neither, he might have added, is the Roman Catholic Church. [Which is nonetheless almost a quarter of the 'world' in terms of number - and more than one-third Christian, counting the orthodox and Protestant denominations].

As the Wikipedia entry of Archbishop Marx is rather sketchy, I turned to the site of the Munich-Freising Archdiocese for a bit more background on him and what made the Pope turn to him as one of his consultants on CIV.

About Archbishop Marx
Translated from

Born Sept. 21, 1953, in North Rhineland-Westphalia, Reinhard Marx studied philosophy and theology in Paris and Paderborn, where he was ordained a priest in 1979.

In 1981, he was named spiritual director of the Kommende ['coming forth'], the Social Institute of the Diocese of Dortmund. (This might have kindled his interest in this aspect of Church doctrime and activity.)

In the same year [the year Cardinal Ratzinger left Munich to become Prefect of the CDF], he started working for a doctorate in theology in Muenster and then Paderborn.

He finally earned the doctorate in 1989, with a dissertation on "Is the Church different?: Possibilities and limitations of a sociological viewpoint". In the same year, he was named director of the Kommende.

In 1996, he started to teach Christian social doctrine at the Theological Faculty in Paderborn. In 1999, he was named chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission of the German bishops' conference.

In 2001, he was named Bishop of Trier, where he served until Benedict XVI named him Archbishop of Munich-Freising in November 2007.

He published his Das Kapital in October 2008.

Here is what Deutsche Welle wrote about him at the time:

Catholic archbishop writes
his own 'Das Kapital'

October 30, 2008

Archbishop Reinhard Marx of Munich is not related to 19th-century communist founding father Karl Marx, but the clergyman's surname draws wonderment and wisecracks wherever he goes.

Despite the similar nomenclature, Marx says readers should not expect a defense of communism in this new book.

Instead, the Roman Catholic archbishop who is the most outspoken of Germany's 27 diocesan leaders in his criticism of big business, says that his work is to some extent "an argument with Marxism."

The book begins as a letter addressed to his "dear namesake."

"The consequences," he tells the 19th-century ideologist, "of your thinking were disastrous."

The modern-day Marx demands that the whole world adopt a market economy that is kinder to the weak and downtrodden instead of "heaping even more rewards on those who behave immorally."

"That's not utopia. It's a necessity for the sake of humans," said Marx in Munich.

The 300-page book, "Das Kapital: A Plea for Man", deliberately borrows its title from the "bible" of communism in which Karl Marx claimed 140 years ago that capitalism would automatically collapse.

With this new book, however, Marx intends to highlight the value of Catholic social teaching in a globalized world.

"Capitalism without humanity, solidarity and justice has no morals and no future," Marx writes.

He said we need to take a fresh look at social justice, or the world might veer back to dangerous ideologies such as Marxism.

The Holy Father obviously read Archbishop Marx's book and thought he would be an appropriate consultant for his social encyclical - or knowing his background, which he must have studied before naming him to Munich, he must have consulted him even earlier.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/13/2009 2:41 AM]
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Of course, not even all the todo about Obama's visit to the Vatican distracted me from the CDF clarification about procured abortion that appeared in the 7/11/09 issue of OR, posted in the afternoon of 7/10/09 [see 3 posts above] - if only because I did feel strongly that the OR had been 1) wrong, one-sided and hasty about its March 15 Page 1 commentary by Mons. Rino Fisichella about the case of the Brazilian girl (as was Fisichella himself); and 2) even more wrong to refuse to publish the reply of the Brazilian bishops concerned. It was making an ethical error twice in succession.

What I didn't realize because, foolish me, I didn't bother to check, was that Sandro Magister, who had conscientiously presented the case for both sides, would react promptly. He is appropriately glad that the OR 'rectified' its earlier mistake - even though it did so by what can only be called 'force majeure! It couldn't refuse to publish a formal Note of Clarification from the CDF written at the apparent behest of the Holy Father, could it? Pope trumps Bertone, any time!

Here is Magister's rather blunt reaction

Retractions: The Holy Office
teaches Archbishop Fisichella a lesson

The CDF has issued a "clarification" that in fact repudiates the article published in L'Osservatore Romano
by the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the abortion performed on a Brazilian child.

ROME, July 10, 2009 - This afternoon, at the very same time as Benedict XVI was meeting at the Vatican with the United States President Barack Obama, L'Osservatore Romano printed a "clarification" by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "on procured abortion."

The "clarification" is what many were waiting for after a controversial article published last March 15 by the same newspaper of the Holy See, signed by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The "clarification" is printed on Page 7 of the newspaper of the Holy See, and is announced on the front page.

Fisichella's article concerned the case of an extremely young Brazilian mother-child who was made to abort the twins she was carrying in her womb, and was interpreted by many as justifying the double abortion.

There followed a lively public controversy, which www.chiesa related in two extensive articles. But at the same time, the Vatican authorities received many protests about the article and requests for clarification through private channels.

These included the step taken by 27 of the 46 members of the pontifical academy for life. On April 4, they wrote a joint letter to Fisichella, their president, asking him to correct the "mistaken" positions he had expressed in the article.

On April 21, Fisichella responded to them in writing, rejecting the request.

On May 1, 21 of the signers of the previous letter then went to Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the CDF, asking the congregation for a clarifying statement on the Church's teaching on the matter of abortion.

The letter was delivered on May 4, but did not receive any reply. The writers learned from an official at the congregation that the letter had been forwarded to the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, "because Fisichella's article had been written at his request."

Two members of the Pontifical Academy for Life then sent a dossier on the matter directly to the Pope.

On June 8, Benedict XVI discussed the case with Bertone, and ordered that a statement be published reconfirming that the Church's teaching on abortion is unchanged.

The "clarification" published in the July 11, 2009, issue of L'Osservatore Romano, is precisely the fruit of this decision.

[Magister then publishes a translation of the CDF note.]

I still would like to know what was Cardinal Bertone's stake in the whole muddle if it is true he solicited Fisichella's article! And why editor Vian did not have the gumption to question its rightness on doctrinal grounds (seeming to justify the abortion in this case), and on journalistic grounds (lack of facts about the case from the point of view of the bishops involved, since it was clear Fisichella based his article merely on media reports about the case].

7/17/2009 1:36 AM
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I find the statements by Paul VI on the moon landing profoundly moving.

Vatican Radio marks 40th anniversary
of moon landing with Paul VI texts

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, July 16 (CNS) -- "Honor, greetings and blessings to you, conquerors of the moon, pale lamp of our nights and our dreams," Pope Paul VI said in a message to the three Apollo 11 astronauts who had just landed on the moon.

The night of July 20-21, 1969, Pope Paul had spent time looking at the moon through the telescope of the Vatican Observatory at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Then he watched the actual landing and the first moon walk on television.

But his message to the U.S. astronauts and a congratulatory telegram to then-President Richard Nixon represent only a tiny portion of what Pope Paul had to say about the expedition months before the July 16 launch and months after the July 24 return to earth.

Marking the 40th anniversary of the first manned mission to land on the moon, Vatican Radio published its collection of Pope Paul's audience and Angelus talks about the mission, his reflections on the day of the landing, and the text of his speech to astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, whom he met at the Vatican Oct. 16, 1969.

Pope Paul told Armstrong that he was right on the mark in describing the mission as "one giant leap for mankind."

"Man has a natural urge to explore the unknown, to know the unknown; yet man has also a fear of the unknown," Pope Paul told the three men. "Your bravery has transcended this fear and through your intrepid adventure man has taken another step toward knowing more of the universe."

Pope Paul told the men that the time, energy, talents, resources and teamwork behind their successful trip "pay tribute to the capacity of modern man to reach beyond himself, to reach beyond human nature, to attain the perfection of achievement made possible by his God-given talent."

The pope also prayed that people's knowledge of God's creation would continue to grow and that it would lead them to see more clearly God's power, infinity and perfection.

Pope Paul began talking about the Apollo 11 mission at his weekly general audience May 21, 1969.

In his audience and Angelus addresses over the next two months he repeatedly emphasized that the Catholic Church applauded the accomplishments of science, technology and human ingenuity, but he always drew people's attention back to God as the source of their creativity and the creator of the universe they were trying to explore.

Speaking July 13, he said that, just as the mission drew people's attention to the moon, it also should provoke questions about human life and identity.

A week later, just hours before the moon landing, he cautioned that, while technology could allow humanity to reach great heights, its use for good or evil always depended on human minds and hearts.

"The human heart absolutely must become freer, better and more religious as machines, weapons and the instruments people have at their disposition become more powerful," he said.

"Today we celebrate a sublime victory," he said, but human beings also must dedicate their time, talent and creativity to solving problems on the planet that is their home.

"As we know, there are still three wars under way on the face of the earth: Vietnam, Africa and the Middle East and a fourth has been added, already claiming thousands of victims in El Salvador and Honduras," he said in the July 20, 1969, speech.

Adding that "hunger still afflicts entire populations," he asked, "Where is real humanity? Where is brotherhood? Where is peace?"

My goodness, time does fly. Forty years ago, I was a young TV journalist vicariously 'covering' the moon landing as part of support operations for a CBS newsteam headed by Don Hewitt (who would eventually go on to pioneer the program 60 MINUTES) - they used our studios to anchor their Southeast Asian coverage of the moonshot (reactions frompeople of various ages and walks of life)....

One does not forget such an event - and watching it all through NASA"s cameras as it happens - which was a quantum leap in terms of human experience, and saying to oneself, "And I am privileged to be living at this time!"

I can't imagine any comparable peak event for mankind in general after that - but certainly for me, it came on April 19, 2005

BTW, here's a beautiful video from based on the 'one step' idea....

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/17/2009 1:58 AM]
7/20/2009 3:28 PM
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Behind the scenes
at the Pope's newspaper

by John Hooper

July 20, 2009

The Vatican daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, may have a small circulation, but it is hitting the headlines in its own right. So what really goes on in the offices of the Pope's in-house paper?

Newspapers around the world may be suffering, but at least one very small one is making a big impression.

[In over a century of existence, OR, through its succession of editors and their variety (or lack thereof) of editorial styles and initiatives, has always been attributed an importance in the world of diplomacy and politics - not culture, in general - that has nothing to do with its limited circulation. And the importance is not to everything the newspaper says but to papal pronouncements and official Vatican texts.

So let's not over-interpret nor misrepresent the media interest it has attracted lately, because of an apparent editorial bias minimizing the importance of life issues in the Vatican's Realpolitik, nor the obvious and welcome willingness to accommodate a spectrum of cultural opinion (eg, on the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Harry Potter and Oscar Wilde).]

The Vatican daily paper, sells only 12,000 copies. Even taking account of its six weekly and one monthly edition in languages other than Italian, the total circulation is less than 100,000.

And yet in recent months it has developed a knack of getting itself into other newspapers and media. This week, it hit the spotlight again with a review of a book on Oscar Wilde that argued he was "one of the personalities of the 19th century who most lucidly analysed the modern world".

Published in any other paper, it would have passed unnoticed. But coming from the Pope's house organ, it was hailed as a sign that the Vatican had forgiven Victorian England's most scandalous gay writer (though, in fact, Wilde was received into the Catholic church on his death bed).

For a paper with such visibility, [the offices of] L'Osservatore could scarcely be harder to reach. Anyone who tries to enter the Vatican soon finds their way blocked by a Swiss Guard. But, at one of the side entrances, the Porta Sant'Anna to the north of St Peter's, if you have accreditation or a letter of authorisation, the guards in their florid Renaissance uniforms will wave you through.

Take the first street on the right and follow it to the end, and you will end up in front of a nondescript building of the sort that is disappointingly characteristic of much of the "secret city".

There, on the first floor, is the office of the bearded and bespectacled academic who is responsible for much of the fuss.

Gian Maria Vian, a 57-year-old former teacher of patristic philology, was put into the editorship of L'Osservatore Romano by the Pope in 2007, and has since proved to have a flair for controversy that would do credit to Max Clifford.

"This is a very special newspaper, which has enormous responsibilities because it is the newspaper of the Pope," he says. "But at the same time it has to try to be normal."

That is the big change. Until two years ago, L'Osservatore was anything but normal. Its relationship to the Vatican was like that of Pravda to the Soviet-era Kremlin. There were two sorts of articles: those in which a Vatican department had directly intervened (signalled to the knowledgeable by three discreet asterisks), and those that had been written by L'Osservatore's staff, but with such care not to embarrass or offend that, with rare exceptions, they were stiflingly boring.

"When I took over the paper", says Vian, "the Pope wrote me a letter in which he said that L'Osservatore had to be present in the cultural debate." Now that may not sound to you or me like an explicit remit to jazz it up. But Vian, who is perfectly attuned to the subtleties of Vatican communication (his father was the chief librarian), is certain it was.

Just like Rupert Murdoch outlining his demands to a new editor of the Times, Benedict had a list of things he wanted to see in the revamped paper: "The pope asked me for more international coverage, more attention to the Christian East, and more space for women."


"Yes, get more women writing and devote more attention to women's issues."

So, like any editor keen to keep the proprietor happy, Vian hired L'Osservatore's first-ever female staffer. [No, it has had other female staffers before on the non-Italian editions. What was new was to have female contributors writing articles adn even Page 1 editorial commentary with their bylines, e.g. the Jewish professor Anna Foa, or Catholic historian and ethicist Lucetta Scaraffia).]

The daily and its various offshoots have a tiny complement of only 25 journalists, and a total staff of less than 100.

[To put this in the right perspective, the newspaper and its language editions (except the monthly Polish one) is only 8 pages; and the language editions are weekly compendiums and translations of what already has appeared in the daily Italian edition.

What the newspaper could use are foreign correspondents which it doesn't have and probably can't afford. It should be able to work out a system where it can get usable information from the Apostolic Nunciatures in all the countries where they exist - the Vatican has relations with 170 states, but many Nunciatures serve more than one state if they are small enough and located in a contiguous geographical area.

Once in a while, this happens, as from the Nunciature and Church in Iraq, India and a few African countries lately - and when it does, even if the report is short, it usually provides information not seen in the regular media.]

Not the least interesting aspect of the changes that have swept through this tiny media outcrop is that they offer a quite different view of a Pope generally regarded as ultra-conservative and a bit other-worldly. Vian insists this is a caricature and that, insofar as the media is concerned, Benedict has a firm grasp of the processes involved.

"When the deputy editor and I were invited to see the Pope to talk a bit about the paper three weeks after we were appointed, he gave us to understand that he'd like to see a few more pictures in it."

Vian made it a rule to use colour photographs every day on the front and back as part of a redesign that he says has turned L'Osservatore into "one of the most elegant of European newspapers".

But the really important difference is the content. The paper's international coverage is still closely monitored by the Vatican's secretariat of state (though Vian says its desk officers "do not go through every line"), but the cryptic asterisks have disappeared.

The new editor has freed his contributors to write about a much wider range of topics, and allowed them to express views that are not necessarily those of the Vatican, let alone Benedict XVI, but which catch the attention of outsiders all the same.

(When Britain's ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell, suggested to Vian that the prime minister might write a piece for the paper ahead of his visit to see the Pope, he leapt at the idea, even though nothing like it had been done since L'Osservatore was founded in 1861.) [And Gordon Brown did himself proud with a thoughtful article on the economic crisis.]

Much as the editor welcomes the publicity, however, he says that a lot of it is generated by a fundamental misunderstanding. "This is not an official newspaper."

Referring to another recent article that made waves, he explains: "When we publish an article on Michael Jackson and say that he was an important phenomenon, that does not mean the Pope is giving him his blessing."

Some readers, though, would argue it does – or, at least, that it should. In its former, dryer guise, if L'Osservatore liked or hated or took something into consideration, then it was a fair bet His Holiness [whoever he was] did too.

And now? Vian is almost impossible to pin down. The paper may not be "official", but he concedes that it "represents an authoritative point of view". L'Osservatore is a "newspaper of its environment that is conditioned by that environment". [Should it be conditioned by its environment? Is that not relativistic? And if it is ebcause some conditioning is inevitable, to what degree can it 'adapt' or play to that environment?]

One theory among those who monitor the Vatican is that this ambiguity is actually quite useful to the Pope and his advisers, because it can say things they may not believe but do not mind being said.

Vian says that the most heated controversy of his editorship so far arose over an editorial that he published ahead of President Obama's visit to see Benedict earlier this month.

Conservative Catholics in the US and elsewhere were appalled to see that, despite the new President's moves on abortion and stem-cell research, the Vatican's daily took a positive view of his first 100 days. There were calls for Vian to resign.

One Italian commentator branded him a pro-abortionist, and some in the US concluded he was a maverick liberal whose views ought not to be taken seriously. [No. Vian is obviously not stupid, but he is perhaps naive in 'pontificating' on the American political scene in a way that shows (to Americans who keep track of media coverage and the increasingly sensitive daily tracking polls of public opinion) that he is far from fully informed.]

In fact, Vian's approach may have been closer to the Pope's than they thought. The Vatican's agenda stretches far beyond the pro-life/pro-choice battleand in many other areas, such as social justice, disarmament, the Middle East and Cuba, the US's new Democratic administration is more in tune with its thinking than the previous Republican one.

[Hooper's assumption is fundamntally wrong. While the Vatican's diplomatic agenda obviously goes beyond life issues, these continue to be non-negotiable principles of the Church. And for the Pope, as spiritual leader of the Church and as Vicar of Christ on earth, that can never take second place to ideological conflicts in the Middle East or elsewhere.

The Pope - as well as the Vatican, through its press office and through the way OR itself reported the meeting (possibly under explicit orders) - made that very clear in his meeting with Obama.]

Certainly, the editorial cleared the way for a cordial visit and what one insider described as the most substantive recent conversations held between a Pope and a US president. [CAN YOU SEE THE PRO-OBAMA MEDIA WHEELS SPINNING???? Except for the Pope's emphasis on life issues, who can say it was any more substantive than the talk he had earlier with, say, the Prime Minister of Japan?]

Clearly, Vian is still taken aback by the ferocity of that row, but reasons that "It's a sign of interest. It shows that we count." [Don't kid yourself! OR 'counts', as it has always done in the past - because it puts official papal declarations and important Church documents on paper for the rest of the world. But with the Internet, it is so much easier for the rest of the world to just go the Vatican online. So even in that respect, it already counts less.

And it's not going to 'count' as a big media player in terms of affecting cultural attitudes in a meaningful way because it is a small paper, small in terms of content (how much culture can you put into an 8-page paper that has to accommodate other things as well) and likely to remain small in circulation (the Internet, you know).]

And, he says, while the controversies that have surrounded his editorship have not increased L'Osservatore's circulation, "I consider that to be a success in the context of an Italian press which is suffering a truly dreadful crisis." [Not really. It means OR has its particular captive audience, or niche, that, for now, will always be there - the embassies and all the Curial offices, to begin with.]

In any case, as he quipped in an interview with the conservative US magazine National Review, "It's my publisher, the owner, who is infallible, not me".

I share the following comments posted by Ignatius Insight readers to the above article:

If the new editor, Vian, sees L'Osservatore as a "newspaper of its environment that is conditioned by that environment" and he panders to it (as he seems to be doing), but concedes that L'Osservatore also "represents an authoritative point of view" of the Vatican, the Pope, and the Church then he is on a very slippery slope of (you name it): denigration, defamation, calumny, slander, and even derogation.

The world needs to know that the "new" L'Osservatore is not just unofficial but worse, a pretender, a fake capable of causing significant harm.

Posted by: Ed S | Monday, July 20, 2009 at 08:35 AM

If L'OR weren't the pope's paper, it would not last a week. Period.

Posted by: Ed Peters | Monday, July 20, 2009 at 11:38 AM

Ah, good, the New York Times-ecclesiastical edition. We all needed that.

Posted by: David Deavel | Monday, July 20, 2009 at 01:55 PM

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/23/2009 2:04 AM]
7/22/2009 5:38 PM
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The 'double life' of disgraced LC founder Fr. Marcial Maciel appears to be worse than one has learned before - but even worse is the personality cult he promoted among his followers and imposed with a vow of silence that they may never say anything against him or about the order to other people, much less for public consumption.

The visitation ordered by Pope Benedict XVI should be the first step in a housecleaning that the Legionaries and their lay arm, Regnum Christi, apparently need most urgently.

Vatican investigates Maciel's LC:
Church looks into cult allegations
— and $1,000 hams

By Jason Berry
Special to GlobalPost

July 19, 2009

Editor's note: A sweeping Vatican investigation of an international religious order — and the cult of personality built around its founder — has just begun in Rome. Five bishops are delving into the finances and internal dynamics of an organization suspected of influence peddling.

Award-winning investigative reporter and author Jason Berry has tracked these events for years in a book he co-authored and a documentary he produced on events leading to the Pope's decision to investigate.

In this exclusive report for GlobalPost, Berry breaks new ground on the Vatican investigation of the Legionaries of Christ, and the case against Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder.

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI recently appointed five bishops from as many countries to investigate the Legionaries of Christ, a religious order founded in 1941 by the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a Mexican priest who is accused of sexually abusing young seminarians, and who left a grown daughter who was born out-of-wedlock.

Even after death, Maciel wields power through the influence he secured.

While the American Catholic Church has been publicly battered by two decades of priest sexual abuse scandals that erupted in the press and devastated church finances with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on compensating victims and legal fees, the Maciel scandal has gone largely unnoticed by most of the American press.

There’s a reason: For decades, the Legion shunned the media while Maciel cultivated relationships with some of the most powerful, conservative Catholics in the world.

He also forced his priests and seminarians to take vows never to criticize him, or any superior. The legion built a network of prep schools and an astonishing database of donors.

In Maciel's militant spirituality, Legionaries — and their wing of lay supporters, Regnum Christi — see themselves as saving the church from a corrupted world.

Behind the silence he imposed, Maciel was corrupt - abusing seminarians and using money in ways that several past and present seminarians liken to bribery, in forging ties with church officials.

The silence Maciel imposed on his followers allowed Maciel to pursue a double life.

Maciel, who was born into a wealthy ranching family in Mexico, wooed cardinals and bishops with money, fine wines, $1,000 hams and even a new car — and in so doing secured support for his religious order inside the Roman Curia.

Now, as the investigating bishops, called “visitators” — from America, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Chile — begin travels for interviews in the order’s far-flung religious houses, two Vatican officials are in the Legion’s corner.

Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals and the former Secretary of State, and Franc Rode, the cardinal who oversees religious congregations, were both longtime allies of Maciel and strong supporters of the order today.

The issue facing Benedict has no precedent in modern church history: whether to dismantle a movement with a $650 million budget yet only about 700 priests and 2,500 seminarians, or to keep the brand name and try to reform an organization still run as a cult of personality to its founder.

Excessive materialism and psychological coercion tactics continue Maciel’s legacy.

Two years ago Benedict abolished the “secret vows” by which each Legionary swore never to criticize Maciel or any superior, and to report any criticism to the leadership. The vows helped facilitate Maciel’s secret life of sexual plunder.

[The Vatican should never have allowed Maciel to add those secret vows to him, in the first place! It's wrong of any founder of an to demand this kind of enforced personal fiefdom - priests owe avowed loyalty to the Church and the Successor of Peter, not to an individual other than the Vicar of Christ.]

In 2006 Benedict ordered Maciel to “a life of prayer and penitence” after an investigation of pedophilia charges that shadowed him for years. Ex-Legionaries from Mexico and Spain filed the allegations in 1998 in the tribunal of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected Pope in 2005.

Maciel, who died last year at 88, was the greatest fundraiser of the modern church. He courted rich supporters in building dozens of elite prep schools and several seminaries and universities, backed by a 60,000-member lay group called Regnum Christi (Kingdom of Christ).

The Legion and RC distribute promotional videos in which Pope John Paul II appears with Maciel, celebrating the movement’s resurgent orthodoxy.

The Legion’s biggest benefactor is Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire [and drug lord] who is by some accounts the world’s richest man. Slim recently lent The New York Times $240 million in its financial struggle. The Oriol family, among the wealthiest in Spain, aided Maciel early and often.

Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican under the last President Bush, scoffed at the abuse allegations Maciel faced before his punishment. So did William Donahue of the Catholic League.

Bill Bennett, the conservative Reagan-era official and CNN contributor, has been a featured speaker at Legion fundraisers. Jeb Bush spoke at a 2007 gathering in Atlanta.

The Legion typically pays its speakers and draws support from commercial sponsors, explained insiders in Rome.

Benedict ordered the new investigation after Legion superiors, hand-picked by Maciel, disclosed to followers in February that he had a daughter. In the Spanish press and on websites she has been identified as 23 and living with her mother in Madrid.

The question of financial support for his daughter and her mother and how long Legion officials have known about it is a question of the inquiry.

Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, not one of the visitators, banned the Legion and Regnum Christi from his archdiocese, all but calling them a cult.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput is the American visitator in the case. Earlier this summer, Chaput and four other bishops were given a dossier of findings on Maciel at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Ratzinger as cardinal directed for years.

Starting in 2004, at least 30 witnesses testified to Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the C.D.F. investigator, that Maciel abused them as youths. But the 2006 Vatican order punishing Maciel failed to specify what exactly he had done, nor did it acknowledge the victims.

Legion leaders used the vague wording in a bizarre spin control on its website, pledging support to Benedict while casting Maciel as wrongly accused, a future saint.

Sodano, then secretary of state, softened the language of the order, easing the blow against Maciel and effectively encouraging the Legion's damage control campaign, according to two priests here close to the case, speaking on background.

"When the Holy See asks a person to live a life of 'prayer and penitence,' it presupposes that an investigation has been concluded and that person has been found guilty," explained a Vatican canon lawyer. "The Maciel case was about a lifetime not compatible with his vocation. It's wrong to say Maciel was not condemned." [That is obvious to anyone with common sense and who is not b linded by personal loyalty to Maciel.]

The Legion website, however, suggests no such guilt.

Marcial Maciel befriended Angelo Sodano in Chile in the 1980s when the latter, an Italian archbishop, was the Vatican ambassador. As Maciel and Sodano became close, the Legion cemented ties with the Pinochet regime in building a prep school, college and radio station.

Back in Rome, in the 1990s, as cardinal-secretary of state, Sodano, according to several former Legionaries, helped Maciel gain zoning variances in Rome to build Regina Apostolarum, a Legion university campus here.

“Sodano was instrumental,” said Glenn Favreau, now an attorney in Washington, D.C. According to others, Sodano’s nephew, an architect, worked on the building project. Sodano appears with Maciel in a promotional video for the university.

When Maciel died last year, the Legion's website, with no whiff of irony, said he went to heaven. But he was buried in his remote hometown, Cotija, Mexico, far from the tomb in Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Rome, which he built during his rise to power.

Maciel stepped down from the Legion leadership in 2004 after Ratzinger ordered the investigation. He picked the director general, Father Alvaro Corcuero, and his assistants, Fathers Luis Garza and Evarista Sada. All come from well-to-do Mexican familes.

For the bishop-visitators, questions loom. Is the Legion subsidizing Maciel’s daughter and her mother? If so, how long did the priests know about Maciel’s shadow life? When did they tell the Pope and Vatican officials?

Larger issues of integrity have emerged. The Legion uses sophisticated web and mass mail appeals for mission work and seminary expenses.

“When donors learn how money is actually spent, they will think again,” said Jose Barba, a Mexico City college professor who filed the 1998 Vatican case against Maciel.

Barba said that the bishop-visitators should investigate Legion finances. “Fifty people in the States wanted to give testimony to Scicluna on [the legion's] financial abuses, but couldn’t get to Rome.”

The lay affiliate, Regnum Christi, raises funds and helps run Legion prep schools — some 21 in America alone. Maciel’s letters are a staple of RC prayer circles.

The atmosphere in the House of Studies is bizarre,” a Legion priest said glumly, sitting on a bench near the Tiber River, fearful of repurcussions should his name be used. “Even now, the brothers [seminarians] have not been told about Maciel’s pedophilia. Their mail is screened and web access restricted.”

He considers the 320 seminarians “brainwashed. They read the letters of Nuestro Padre” — Our Father, as Maciel, touted internally as a future saint, was called. “Three years after the Holy Father punished him, they still study his writings. Priests can spend time freely outside. The brothers are in a concentration camp.”

Fr. Thomas Berg, who recently left the Legion for the New York archdiocese, in an interview with L’Espresso called on the order to completely disavow Maciel. He worried that other Maciel abuse victims would emerge.

In February, when the superiors revealed that Maciel had a daughter, the Legionary priest in Rome said: “We were told Maciel had multiple personalities, but that despite the founder’s flaws, the Legion is God’s instrument for good.”

Money was an instrument by which the Legion secured Vatican support.

Maciel spent lavishly to woo cardinals and bishops, even after a 1997 Hartford Courant investigation exposed his sexual abuse of early seminarians.

Another Legionary, over coffee, fumed: “So much money at Christmas goes to the wine, the whiskey, and the special hams for the gift baskets. Legionary brothers are sent in cars to deliver them to cardinals and other allies, always for a purpose. To gain power for the Legion and Maciel ... . A small gift, I understand; but a large gift is a bribe.”

He said that Maciel had subsidized the publication of a book for a Latin American cardinal, and presented a new car to the late Cardinal Pio Laghi, former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., who spent his final years as Vatican prefect of the Congregaton for Education. This was when Maciel was building the university. Laghi rebuffed the offer. The car went to another cardinal, who has since died, according to the priest.

Religious centers typically send gifts to church officials in Rome at Christmas, said Father Giovanni Adena, an inactive priest and editor of Adista, an independent religious news service in Rome.

Adena considers the Legion extreme in gift-giving, but he said it has been encouraged by Cardinal Franc Rode, the Vatican prefect in charge of religious orders. “When Rode’s congregation asks groups for gifts, those who want the support will send money and presents. Rode loves this kind of stuff,” said Adena. [Shame on Rode if this is true - it would indicate he is corrupt in his own way.]

Rode has spoken glowingly of the Legion in speeches and sermons since Maciel’s dismissal. In 2007, according to a Legion insider, the cardinal was a guest at a Legion conference in Atlanta on family values, where Jeb Bush was keynote speaker. He said Rode went on to a Legion-paid vacation in Cancun.

Rode’s office said the cardinal was not in Rome, and unavailable for comment.

Christmas gifts were divided into category by declining levels of importance, the Legionary continued. For weeks, “eight or 10 brothers prepared the baskets in the basement. Fine Spanish hams cost quite a lot — 30 euros per kilo. You can spend $1,000 for a large one,” said one of the Legion priests who spoke on condition that his name not be used.

Another priest here who left the Legion years ago recounted how Maciel in 1946 arrived in war-ravaged Rome and presented Cardinal Clemente Micara, then the vicar of Rome, with $10,000 cash.

“That was an enormous amount in those days,” the former Legion preist said.

Micara would return the favor at a pivotal moment in Maciel’s life.

In 1956 the Legionary founder was suspended by Pope Pius XII while hospitalized for morphine painkiller addiction, amidst abuse allegations in the seminary.

Barba and others have stated that as boys he abused, they lied to protect Maciel in questioning by Vatican officials. “We obeyed our vows to the Legion,” he said. “You must realize, it was the only world we knew.”

When Pius died in 1959, Micara had Maciel reinstated, though whether the cardinal had the formal power to abort a papal investigation is in doubt. Micara would preside at the opening of the Guadalupe Basilica Maciel built in Rome.

Letters accusing Maciel that several men sent to the Vatican in the 1970s and 1980s were ignored.

Pope John Paul II was impressed with the sight of dozens of Legionaries in formation, and the large number of men ordained in the 1990s. John Paul’s presence in Legion videos was pivotal to its marketing efforts.

The 1998 charges Barba filed in Ratzinger’s tribunal sat dormant for six years, a sign of Sodano’s power over the process, he says. In late 2004, with John Paul’s health failing, Ratzinger — perhaps sensing he would one day become Pope — ordered Scicluna the canon lawyer to begin his investigation. By the time the report was done, Ratzinger had become Pope.

Adena, the news editor and inactive priest, faults John Paul for failing to investigate Maciel. “Hard questions must be asked as the Vatican considers him for sainthood.”

Adena considers Benedict’s 2006 order removing Maciel from active ministry “a mistake. He should be have been excommunicated. But he was protected because of the money he was bringing into the church.” [But 'regular' crime is not a basis for excommunication, and Adena should know that. In any case, what could have been more telling and punitive - and at the same time, charitable - for a man of MacieL's age (88 at the time) and stature than to be ordered to 'stop exercising his priestly ministry and live a life of repentance'?]

Last week in Atlanta, a small liberal arts school, Southern Catholic College, announced that it merged with the Legion “to attract students from across North America,” the SCC president Jeremiah J. Ashcroft stated. "This expanded reach and support greatly enhances our ability to achieve our mission to prepare moral and ethical leaders who will enlighten society and glorify God."

Jason Berry is coauthor of “Vows of Silence” a book on the Maciel case. He is producer of a film based on the book, which recently screened as part of RomaFictionFest. He is working on a book about church financial conflicts.

It seems to me that somewhere along the way, the LC ceased to be an order dedicated to the greater glory of God and became a power-hungry empire. We should add them to the list of those who need our prayers most.

Archbishop O'Brien's deep alarm over the LC, its personality cult and its imposition of virtual thought control over its members can now be seen to be quite prescient. Here's an article from last February that I posted in the PRF:

U.S. archbishop reaffirms
grave concerns about Legionaries of Christ

By George P. Matysek Jr.

BALTIMORE, Feb. 26 (CNS) -- Concerned that the Legionaries of Christ order stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency, Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien of Baltimore told its director general in Rome that he cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone join the Legionaries or Regnum Christi, its affiliated lay movement.

In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Legionaries of Christ are affiliated with Woodmont Academy in the Baltimore suburb of Cooksville. Regnum Christi is also active in several parishes.

The archbishop's action came in the wake of revelations that the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, fathered a daughter while serving as leader of the international religious order.

Pope Benedict XVI had previously removed the Mexican priest from public ministry in 2006, asking him to lead a life of prayer and penance after Father Maciel faced allegations of sexual abuse of seminarians and financial irregularities.

"It seems to me and many others that this was a man with an entrepreneurial genius who, by systematic deception and duplicity, used our faith to manipulate others for his own selfish ends," Archbishop O'Brien told The Catholic Review, Baltimore archdiocesan newspaper, in a telephone interview following his Feb. 20 Rome meeting with Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legionaries.

Scott Brown, executive director of the Woodmont Academy, declined to comment to the Catholic paper and referred questions to Jim Fair, a U.S. spokesman for the order, who said that revelations about Father Maciel have been a "great shock" and "great disappointment" to members, but that the order has achieved "very positive things" for the church.

"We're processing that mystery, that the Holy Spirit could use what was very clearly a flawed instrument to do good," Fair said. "So while this is certainly disappointing, we have a charism that is approved by the church and we'll continue to work on behalf of the church on our various apostolic works."

Fair said he hoped the Legionaries will be able to prove to Archbishop O'Brien that "we have some value that would help his ministries and the archdiocese."

Archbishop O'Brien told The Catholic Review, "Father Maciel deserves our prayers, as every Christian who dies does, that he'll be forgiven and we leave the final judgment to God as to what his life and death amounted to."

Saying that the Legionaries' founder "leaves many victims in his wake," the archbishop called for the "full disclosure of his activities and those who are complicit in them or knew of them and of those who are still refusing to offer disclosure."

He added that the finances of the order should be opened to "objective scrutiny."

Archbishop O'Brien said he has grave concerns that the Legionaries foster a "cult of personality" focused on Father Maciel.

"While it's difficult to get ahold of official documents," Archbishop O'Brien said, "it's clear that from the first moment a person joins the Legion, efforts seem to be made to program each one and to gain full control of his behavior, of all information he receives, of his thinking and emotions."

The archbishop said many members who leave the order suffer "deep psychological distress for dependency and need prolonged counseling akin to deprogramming."

Saying that he knows there are good priests in the movement and acknowledging that Legionaries members are in full accord with the theological teachings of the church, the archbishop also said some of the practices of the movement are unhealthy.

"This is not about orthodoxy," he said. "It is about respect for human dignity for each of its members."

The archbishop noted that he has heard reports that the movement claims the first duty of a Legionary is to love the order. Such policies subject a person's use of reason not to one's own judgment but to that of a spiritual director, Archbishop O'Brien said.

"It's been said that the founder is alone called 'nuestro padre' ('our father') and that no one else can have that title," Archbishop O'Brien said. "All are bound to identify with him in his spirit, his mind, his mission and in his life. This would suggest that the very basis of the Legion movement should be reviewed from start to finish."

Last June, Archbishop O'Brien asked the order's leader to appoint a liaison who would inform the archbishop of all of the Legionaries' activities within the archdiocese. He also asked for more transparency of Regnum Christi programs and for the order to stop giving spiritual direction to minors.

"As far as we can judge, they are responding well to our requests," Archbishop O'Brien told The Catholic Review, "but these larger questions are looming ever more threateningly."

Father Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ in 1941. He died Jan. 30, 2008, at the age of 87.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/23/2009 9:41 PM]
7/22/2009 8:36 PM
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For some reason, Sydney 2008 seems farther in the past to me than just one year ago, and yt, who could forget the constant excitement of those days and how well the Australian media covered it in real time, so we could follow it almost integrally and with great detail on the PRF.

Here's a nice littie YouTube reminder of those days - minus the Pope's 'acclimatation' rest at Kenthurst, however.

Sydney celebrates one year since WYD -
Largest gatherings in Australian history

SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 21, 2009 ( In Sydney, Catholics are gathering from different regions once again, to remember the World Youth Day event one year ago that touched their lives with grace.

A press release from the Sydney Archdiocese reported today that its archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, celebrated a Mass Monday to commemorate the first anniversary of World Youth Day in that city.

Bishop Anthony Fisher, an auxiliary of the archdiocese, affirmed in the homily: "Some of you may have been a little preoccupied a year ago.

"We had our tasks to perform and so we might not have heard all the messages or seen all the graces. But an anniversary is a chance to relive, re-collect, re-vision."

The Mass was presented live over the Internet on the archdiocesan Web page, to allow global World Youth Day participants to watch from their computers.

Bishop Fisher recalled, "On this date, July 20th, last year over 400,000 people, including 4,000 priests, 420 bishops, 26 cardinals and one very happy Pope gathered for the largest youth gathering, the largest religious gathering, indeed the largest people gathering in one place for any purpose in the history of Australia and Oceania."

He added that through television and the Internet, "the rest of our nation and another billion people around the world" were looking on "in awe."

The prelate recalled that this even was "undoubtedly the happiest and holiest week in the history of our city, with its streets vibrating with the spirit of God, the spirit of youth, the spirit of friendship."

The Mass was attended by priests from the country and overseas, those responsible for other commemorative activities going on this month, people who coordinated and organized last year's event, and government and business representatives.

After the Mass, Cardinal Pell welcomed the guests to a dinner at the cathedral house, where he thanked the youth day organizers and expressed the hope that the fruitful legacy of the event will be seen for many years.

7/23/2009 1:58 AM
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Distressing news in the Year for Priests! Obviously, things like these are infinitely more painful to the Holy Father than his temporary disability! Let us pray for all bishops and priests.

Ireland report shows
'horrific acts of depravity'


DUBLIN, July 22 (AP) — A new report by investigators into the Catholic Church's cover-up of child abuse in Dublin details "horrific acts of depravity" that went for decades without prosecution, Ireland's justice minister said Tuesday.

The report to Justice Minister Dermot Ahern comes two months after publication of an even bigger investigation into how scores of church-run schools, orphanages and reformatories harbored child abusers in religious orders from the 1930s to 1990s.

Irish taxpayers have already paid out nearly euro1 billion ($1.4 billion) to more than 12,000 victims from that system.

Ahern said he would publish the new report, which probes how the Dublin archdiocese's bishops dealt with scores of priests accused of child abuse from 1975 to 2004, after Attorney General Paul Gallagher vets it for legal problems.

The justice minister suggested that the government might be advised to censor details involving criminal cases against three Catholic priests expected to face trial in Dublin next year. The Justice Department said the review could take several weeks.

"I am anxious that the matters dealt with in the report are put into the public domain as quickly as possible," Ahern said.

The Dublin report took three years to produce under the direction of a Dublin High Court judge, Justice Yvonne Murphy.

It covers the cases of 46 priests implicated in abusing hundreds of children — and, in almost all cases, being transferred to new parishes by bishops who didn't tell police or other child-protection authorities about the crimes or dangers. The 46 cases were drawn from a much larger pool of priests suspected of harming children.

Several of the cases are already well known to the Irish public, thanks in part to a former altar boy, Andrew Madden, who in the early 1990s became the first abuse victim to sue the church in Dublin for protecting sex-abuser priests. The Dublin archdiocese paid him a confidential out-of-court settlement — but he went public with the deal after church leaders claimed they had admitted no wrongdoing in his case.

The priest who raped Madden, Ivan Payne, was convicted in 1998 of raping at least eight boys and removed from the priesthood.

Madden predicted that the Dublin report would fire a new wave of anger at the church.

"The thing that will really shock people this time is simply seeing how many senior church people in Dublin knew exactly what was going on," he said in an interview. "They had so much evidence of the dangers these priests were posing to children, but they just kept moving them on to new parishes."

In Madden's case, the priest who sodomized him was sent to a different part of Dublin — where he was placed in charge of that parish's altar boys.

Catholic abuse scandals have done exceptional damage to the Church's standing in Ireland, a once-devout nation where Mass attendance has slumped over the past two decades.

Second child abuse uproar
engulfs Church in Ireland

by David Sharrock

July 22, 2009

A report detailing the alleged sexual abuse of 450 children by Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin was handed to the Irish Government yesterday.

It is the second one this year to examine the extent of abuse perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church in Ireland and will undermine further its position in a country that only a few decades ago conformed rigidly to standards set by the Vatican.

The Report of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was delivered to Dermot Ahern, the Justice Minister, who must decide if and when to make its findings public.

Two priests named in the report are facing prosecution and publication may prejudice their trials.

When the Ryan commission report found systematic sexual, physical and emotional abuse of hundreds of thousands of children in institutions run by the Christian Brothers, Sisters of Mercy and other religious orders, there was national anger.

Dr Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, has already acknowledged that this is likely to be repeated once the latest report is published. Dr Martin handed over 66,583 documents to the commission, which is presided over by Justice Yvonne Murphy.

In a television documentary, he said that since 1940, more than 400 children had been abused by at least 152 priests in the Dublin area. In April the Archbishop told his congregation that the report’s revelations would “shock and horrify us all”.

He said: “It is likely that thousands of young people across Ireland were abused by priests in the period under investigation and the horror of that abuse was not recognised for what it is.”

The commission was established in 2006 and has investigated how allegations of child sex abuse made against a representative sample of 46 priests were handled by 19 bishops in Dublin from January 1975 to April 2004.

The report is likely to produce evidence of how bishops sought to cover up the activities of paedophile priests by moving them from diocese to diocese, thereby facilitating the abuse of children over a wider area. [Sounds distressingly familiar from the US experience!]

The arrest in 1994 of Father Brendan Smyth, who was convicted of abusing children in Dublin, Belfast and the US over 40 years, led to the collapse of the Irish Government.

Last year Cardinal Desmond Connell, who was replaced as Archbishop of Dublin by Dr Martin in 2004, abandoned a lengthy legal challenge to his successor’s transfer of tens of thousands of church files to the commission.

The cardinal, who retired under criticism for his handling of clerical sex abuse allegations, had argued that the files were legally privileged.

The commission investigated nineteen bishops, seven of whom are dead. Its report is expected to name fifteen priests, eleven of whom have been convicted.

7/25/2009 8:14 PM
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Particularly in this Year for Priests, I will try to report every story I come across about priests who commit sexual offenses, especially when they are disciplined by the Church.

Vatican defrocks Scranton priest
after sexual misconduct probe


Scranton Times-Tribune
Published: July 23, 2009

SCRANTON, Pennsylvania - A priest who worked in several Luzerne County churches and Bishop O'Reilly High School in Kingston, as well as SS. Peter and Paul Church in Scranton, has been defrocked by the Vatican after accusations of sexual misconduct with minors.

Edward J. Shoback was an active priest in the diocese from 1967 through 2004. He was relieved of his duties after the diocese said it learned he allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor two decades before. An allegation concerning a second minor surfaced in 2006.

In a statement published Thursday in The Catholic Light newspaper, diocesan Chancellor James B. Earley announced Mr. Shoback "has been dismissed from the clerical state ... in response to a finding of sexual misconduct involving minors."

Mr. Shoback, 67, cannot function as a priest, hold office in the church or teach theology in a Catholic institution, the statement said

Mr. Shoback has never been criminally charged. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful Thursday.

Diocesan spokesman William Genello wrote in an e-mail the diocese would have no comment beyond Chancellor Earley's statement.

Mr. Shoback served at St. Ann Parish in Shohola, St. Stephen Parish in Plymouth, Holy Rosary Parish in Ashley, St. Aloysius Parish in Wilkes-Barre, St. John Nepomucene Parish in Luzerne, Transfiguration Parish in West Hazleton and SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Scranton, according to The Catholic Light. He was also director of religious education at the former Bishop O'Reilly High School in Kingston while residing at St. Therese Parish in Wilkes-Barre.

At least 25 priests from the Scranton Diocese have been accused of having sexual contact with minors since 1950, according to diocesan reports.

In 2007, the diocese agreed to a $3 million settlement with a Duryea man who was sexually abused by a diocesan priest from 1999 through 2002, beginning when he was 14. The settlement was largely paid through the diocese's insurance carriers and its own insurance funds, the diocese said at the time.

The priest in that case, Albert M. Liberatore Jr., 45, was defrocked by the Vatican after he pleaded guilty to abusing the boy and was sentenced to 10 years probation.
7/27/2009 2:33 AM
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Conditions improve for Russian Catholics

WARSAW, Poland, July 26 (CNS): The secretary-general of the Russian bishops' conference said the Catholic Church's working conditions in Russia had improved, and he was hopeful that would lead to the development of higher-level diplomatic relations.

"Our Church's ties with state and society here have significantly improved recently, and we hope this process will now develop further," the secretary-general Fr Igor Kovalevsky told Catholic News Service in a July 14 telephone interview.

"A full relationship will clearly facilitate links at a time when both the Holy See and Russian Federation share common views on many international questions," Fr Kovalevsky said.

The Interfax news agency reported earlier in July that the Vatican's representative in Moscow Archbishop Antonio Mennini said talks on diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Russia would end soon after "covering a lot of ground".

A spokeswoman for Archbishop Mennini's office told CNS on July 14 that a timetable for diplomatic ties would depend on the Russian side, adding that "nothing had been decided" about possible dates.

In a July 5 interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera daily, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he believed diplomatic ties were "likely to develop", adding that Russian and Vatican negotiators had discussed "increasing them to full ambassadorial, diplomatic format".

Fr Kovalevsky told CNS that foreign Catholic clergy were finding it "significantly easier" to obtain permits to minister in Russia. He said local problems were caused by "burdensome Russian bureaucracy" rather than "bad attitudes to the Catholic Church".

"The whole of Russian society suffers from the same bureaucratic unpleasantness - this isn't a special problem for Catholics, and it isn't in any way a sign of persecution or hostility," he said.

He said Catholic ties had improved with the Russian Orthodox Church and attributed this to its new leader Patriarch Kirill, who was elected in January to succeed the late Patriarch Alexy II.

"Although conditions were improving before that, expectations have been largely justified thanks to the new patriarch's stance," Fr Kovalevsky said.

The Vatican and Russia exchanged diplomatic envoys in 1990 following a historic Rome visit by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Closer ties were believed impeded by repeated Orthodox complaints that Catholics were trying to recruit their believers, as well as by Orthodox objections to the February 2002 creation of four Catholic dioceses in Russia.

Two days ago, there was this report which did not look so good for the Catholic Church in Russia....Altohough, since the Russian Orthodox Church is so jealously protective of its prerogatives, including presumed ones such as deciding that the Catholic Church cannot establish dicoeses in Russia, it is understandable they would limit religious instruction in Christianity only to their own.

Russia to teach four religions
for children under 10,
but not Catholicism

MOSCOW, JULY 24, 2009 ( In a move welcomed by the Orthodox Church, Russia is introducing religion classes in its schools, but Catholicism is not one of the four creeds to be taught.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill praised the initiative announced Tuesday by President Dimitri Medvedev, which programs a choice of classes on Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism, or on a combination of these four creeds, or on secular ethics.

Medvedev explained that children under 10 in 12,000 schools of Russia's 18 regions would receive these classes.

Patriarch Kirill praised the proposal: "All of the worries that society expressed will be taken care of with this free choice."

The Russian Orthodox Church has been encouraging the proposal to teach religion in schools, though Church and state are officially separate. Three years ago, some regions took up the proposal and began offering classes on Russian Orthodoxy.

Medvedev pointed to the choice between classes as a response to nonbelievers who opposed the plan.

"Any coercion or pressure would be absolutely inacceptable and counterproductive," he affirmed. And he added that the proposal is "only" for the four creeds mentioned.

The pilot program to begin next year will cover some 20% of Russian schools.

It is calculated that some 80% of Russians are members of the Orthodox Church, though perhaps only as many as 15% to 20% are practicing.

Some minority Christians have lamented being excluded from the program to teach religion in schools.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/27/2009 3:18 AM]
7/30/2009 3:41 AM
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Anglican leader addresses
recent Episcopal pro-gay ruling

LONDON, JULY 29, 2009 ( Archbishop Rowan Williams, the leader of the Anglican Communion, has spoken to the decision of the Anglican church in the United States to go forward with ordaining homosexual bishops and blessing same-sex unions.

In his statement Monday, Archbishop Williams addressed the decisions made at the Episcopal general convention, held early this month.

The declaration, titled "Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future," expressed concern about the U.S. church decisions regarding same-sex lifestyles, noting that "a realistic assessment of what [the] convention has resolved does not suggest that it will repair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces; very serious anxieties have already been expressed."

The archbishop said the issue is a matter of "whether the Church is free to recognize same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage."

"In the light of the way in which the church has consistently read the Bible for the last 2,000 years," he said, "it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding."

In consequence of this reality, the archbishop further expressed hesitation with the ordination of same-sex clergy.

"[A] person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires."

Still, the Episcopal Church is overwhelmingly in favor of the move to ordain homosexuals (the vote in the Houses of Bishops and Deputies was more than two-thirds in favor) and bless same-sex unions.

Faced with such a situation, Archbishop Williams recognized that there is a broader issue of "how a local church makes up its mind on a sensitive and controversial matters."

He said that a local church needs "some way of including in its discernment the judgment of the wider church. Without this, it risks becoming unrecognizable to other local churches, pressing ahead with changes that render it strange to Christian sisters and brothers across the globe." [This is an argument that applies equally well to dissident Catholic bishops who seem to pride themselves on enforcing dostrine and practices within their own diocese that is against the universal Magisterium.]

The archbishop contended that to give un-challenged priority to local factors "would be to abandon the possibility of a global consensus among the Anglican churches."

"It would be to re-conceive the Anglican Communion as essentially a loose federation of local bodies with a cultural history in common, rather than a theologically coherent 'community of Christian communities,'" he said. [Idem!]

Archbishop Williams contrasted the approach of those who see communion as "best expressed in a more federalist and pluralist way" with the approach that has "generally shaped the self-understanding of our Communion."

Given that reconciliation of these perspectives might not be possible, the archbishop offered the "two-tier model," saying "there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance: that is, a 'covenanted' Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave, able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with 'covenanted' provinces."

"Perhaps," the church leader recognized, "we are faced with the possibility rather of a 'two-track' model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure."

The Episcopal decision obviously has consequences not only within the Anglican Communion, but also for its ecumenical relations.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, addressed the Anglican Communion at their Lambeth Conference a year ago.

He noted that the blessing of same-sex unions is one of two issues under consideration by Anglicans (along with the ordination of women) that poses deep problems for ecumenical relations with the Catholic Church.

"In light of the tensions of past years in regard [to questions on human sexuality]," Cardinal Kasper said on that occasion, "a clear declaration from the Anglican Communion would offer us greater possibilities to provide a common testimony on human sexuality and matrimony, a testimony painfully necessary for the world of today."

[I haven't really had a chance to think about it, but my initial gut reaction to Archbishop Williams's 'two-tier' compromise is not favorable at all. After an excellent justification of why same-sex marriage has always been rejected by the Anglican Church, he ends up proposing a two-tier church! But that's allowing Episcopalians to have their own doctrine and practice and still claim they belong to the Anglican Communion. It's a compromise that might as well be total surrender.

I must look up the reaction of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) to Williams's virtual capitulation in the interest of not having the US Episcopal Church openly breaking away from the Anglican Communion. TAC is the group that has been 'negotiating' with the CDF for mass conversion to Catholicism.]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/13/2010 10:21 PM]
7/30/2009 11:18 PM
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Having been incensed - and still am - over this entire disgraceful affair perpetrated by ranking Vatican prelates simply because they could against a 76-year-old bishop who was simply doing what the Church expects him to do and whose side the OR never presented, I welcome this article by Phil Lawler, and hope more of the same could be written.

I can understand that 'to save face' and for PR purposes, the Secretariat of State, Mons. Fisichella and the OR editors, are all loath to come forward and admit a mistake, much less apologize for it - if they were garden-variety government bureaucracies and politicians, but they are not: they are ranking representatives of the Church and the Holy See!

Until Mons. Fisichella and the editor of the OR - which is under the thumb of the Secretary of State - find it in their Cbristian hearts to do the right thing, or at least explain rationally their side of the story, we can only conclude they acted rashly and thoughtlessly to begin with.

But for the life of me, I cannot imagine any plausible reason for what looks like a hatchet job on Mons. Cardozo other than that he did something to displease the Apostolic Nuncio in Brazil (who reports to the Secretariat of State) or that someone high up in the Secretariat just wanted to do him in for the usual petty reasons that motivate our quotidian human actions.

As for Mons. Fisichella, I cannot believe that the man who helped Cardinal Ratzinger draft Fides et ratio for John Paul II has so far shown only bad faith and lack of reason in this whole affair.

A Brazilian archbishop is vindicated -
or is he?

by Phil Lawler

July 29, 2009

Earlier this month, after several weeks of heated debate and background maneuvering within the Vatican, L'Osservatore Romano published a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), reaffirming the Church's absolute prohibition on direct abortion, and confirming that involvement in procured abortion merits the penalty of excommunication.

That CDF statement was a vindication for an embattled Brazilian archbishop, whose public stand against abortion had been criticized by - of all people - the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

But that vindication was long overdue, and the short, impersonal notice in the Vatican newspaper fell far short of the apology the archbishop deserved.

The details of this intramural Vatican intrigue remain murky, but the story is a remarkable one, illustrating the entrenched power of the Vatican bureaucracy - specifically, the Secretariat of State - and the immense difficulty that even an archbishop can face when his plea for justice runs counter to the interests of that bureaucracy.

The story began with a public controversy in Brazil, over the case of a 9-year-old girl who was pregnant with twins. Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife drew heavy criticism in the Brazilian media when he insisted that the unborn children should not be aborted, and reminded everyone concerned that the Church stipulates the penalty of excommunication for anyone involved in direct abortion.

When the abortion was done despite those warnings, the archbishop reluctantly announced that the adults involved had brought that canonical penalty upon themselves.

Thus far the case was straightforward. Under extreme circumstances, Archbishop Cardozo had applied the clear and unswerving teaching of the Catholic Church. No doubt he realized that his stand would be politically unpopular, and he was prepared to take the inevitable criticism.

But Archbishop Cardozo could not have anticipated that some of that criticism would come from the Vatican. Rather than offering public support to the Brazilian prelate, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life joined forces with the critics

In an article for L'Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella defended the Brazilian doctors who had made the "arduous decision" to proceed with the abortion, and suggested that Archbishop Cardoso had taken a harsh and inflexible stand that "unfortunately hurts the credibility of our teaching."

That article in L'Osservatore Romano gave many secular reporters the impression that the Vatican was shifting its position on abortion, suggesting that under some circumstances a direct abortion could be justified.

Archbishop Fisichella surely did not intend to convey that message, but as president of the Pontifical Academy for Life he is expected to handle such issues with clarity, and in this case he definitely did not.

To compound the problem, Archbishop Fisichella misstated the facts of the case.
- He suggested that the abortion was medically necessary in order to save the girl's life; it was not.
- He suggested that Archbishop Cardoso had failed to express sympathy and support for the young mother; he had.
- He suggested that the excommunications were announced in an unfeeling public statement; they were not.

Apparently this influential Vatican official had drawn his understanding of the case entirely from the sensationalistic Brazilian media accounts, which were written by critics of Archbishop Cardoso.

Naturally the Brazilian archbishop was upset. He asked for an opportunity to present his own side of the story in L'Osservatore Romano, to set the record straight. His plea was ignored. He hinted that he might file a canonical lawsuit to clear his reputation; that threat too was ignored.

Then on July 1 the Vatican announced that Archbishop Cardoso's resignation had been accepted by Pope Benedict XVI. It's true that he was 76 years old: a full year beyond the normative retirement age; his retirement was overdue.

Still, in light of the controversy swirling around him, the timing of his announcement was certainly not helpful to the archbishop as he sought to defend his reputation.

[And of course, everyone in the media, including someone who should know better like John Allen, quickly tied the retirement to the aborton case! As though Mons. Cardozo earned rightful censure for his action and the Vatican was exercising that censure!]

Meanwhile, Archbishop Fisichella was coming under pressure, too. A solid majority of the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life - 27 out of 46 - wrote to protest their president's public criticism of the Brazilian archbishop.

Still Archbishop Fisichella was unmoved. He replied that he would not issue an apology, and did not regret penning the column in L'Osservatore Romano, because he had been asked to write it by the Secretariat of State.

Imagine: the article in L'Osservatore had given an inaccurate presentation of the facts, a misleading perspective on an important Church teaching, and an unfavorable portrayal of a Church leader who was doing his job under difficult circumstances. Yet all these faults were irrelevant, Archbishop Fisichella seemed to suggest, because the Secretariat of State wanted that message aired!

The bureaucratic imperative trumped the demands of justice and charity.

Now, thanks to the new CDF statement, the record has been set straight. But the damage has been done.

Scores of newspaper articles are in print, claiming that the Catholic Church will accept abortion under extreme circumstances. Thousands of people have been led - by the Vatican newspaper - to believe that the penalty of excommunication is too severe. A brave archbishop's critics have been emboldened. And worst of all, even the "clarification" from the CDF fails to acknowledge the damage that has been done.

This case calls for more than a "clarification." What's needed is a clear, unequivocal apology and retraction.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/31/2009 12:25 AM]
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