Benedetto XVI Forum


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1/27/2013 10:52 PM
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January 27, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Middle photos: Painting by Bozzoli, and founder statue in St. Peter's Basilica.
ST. ANGELA MERICI (Italy, 1470-1740)
Third-Order Franciscan, Founder, Company of St. Ursula
Born in Desenzano by Lake Garda, Angela spent most of her life in nearby Brescia. Early on,
she became interested in educating poor children and joined the Third Order of St. Francis
for laywomen. In 1524, she was on her way to visit the Holy Land and was said to have gone
suddenly blind in Cyprus. She proceeded with the pilgrimage anyway, and on her way back to
Italy, is said to have regained her sight in the same place in Cyprus where she went blind.
At the age of 62, she founded the Company of St. Ursula, named after the patron saint of
medieval universities, dedicated to 're-Christianising family life' through educating girls to be
Christian wives and mothers. The Ursulines were the first teaching congregation of sisters, but
they remained 'secular' - not living in communities - for 17 years before seeking recognition
as an order. Their sisters have since then had the choice to be 'religious' enclosed nuns, or
'congregated' who follow the original plan. Ursulines were the first missionary nuns to Canada
and what is now the United States. Today, Ursuline educational institutions are found worldwide.
Mother Angela was canonized in 1807.
Readings for today's Mass:


Sunday Angelus - Reflecting on today's Mass readings, the Holy Father cites Jesus's brief comment
on the passage from Isaiah that he was given to read at the synagogue in Nazareth, about which he told
the congregation, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The Pope said the adverb
'today' applies to all men between the first and second coming of Christ, and that on this day,
it also refers to Sunday, which must be dedicated to the Lord in listening to his word, in prayer,
and in the celebration of the Eucharist. And to every day that man must be ready for conversion,
ready to 'seize the day' when the Lord calls us to salvation. Afterwards, he greeted the youth arm of
Italian Catholic Action for their annual Caravan for Peace, releasing two doves of peace with two children
representing the movement; and reminded everyone that it is also Holocaust Remembrance Day today,
as well as World Day of Prayer for the Holy Land, and World Leprosy Day.

January 29, 2013
P.S. Two days late, but nonetheless worth noting:

Wolfgang Mozart,
born January 27, 1756

by R.J. Stove

MOZART, WOLFGANG (Austrian, 1756–91). No, not “Amadeus” - his baptismal certificate reads “Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart” - “Amadé” (the form of his middle name that Mozart himself preferred to use) being the Gallicized form of Theophilus.

The face that launched tonloads of chocolate boxes belonged to one who seethed with anger over rivals now largely forgotten; whose repeated failures to obtain or keep well-paid jobs with emperors and prelates derived in almost every case from his own inability to hold his tongue; and who employed servants even during his worst periods of Viennese impoverishment, a detail irksome to sentimentalists.

One thing in his largely misbegotten career he did get right: he acknowledged Haydn’s genius, and a symbiotic relationship existed between the two men. To a minor composer who sniffed at an unconventional passage of Haydn’s — “I would not have written it that way” — Mozart delivered a bruising snub: “Nor would I. And do you know why? Because neither I nor you would have thought of it!”

Difficult though it is to single out a solitary area of Mozart’s chamber composition for special applause, his string quintets are almost universally regarded as excelling all else that he produced in chamber music. Of Mozart’s mature operas, The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, and Don Giovanni have been favorites for most of the last two centuries. Così Fan Tutte, on the other hand, only entered the repertoire after World War II, its few stagings before that date having often been in bowdlerized versions. No aspiring pianist would even consider ignoring the best of Mozart’s twenty-seven concertos; similarly, no aspiring conductor could possibly ignore Mozart’s three last symphonies, including the Jupiter. The list goes on. [Stowe fails to mention Mozart's sacred music./C]] There are 626 items in the official catalogue of Mozart’s works, a catalogue compiled not by Mozart but by nineteenth-century musicologist Ludwig Köchel (hence the “K” that appears before the number of a particular composition). When it comes to discovering Mozart, you have your whole life before you...

As a child, I was so impressed by the odd occurence that in 1956, the University of the Philippines, which would become my Alma Mater, saw fit to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mozart's birth with a yearlong music festival dedicated to his works.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/30/2013 7:00 PM]
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Reflecting on today's Mass readings, the Holy Father cited Jesus's brief comment on the passage from Isaiah that he was given to read at the synagogue in Nazareth, telling the congregation, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Pope said the adverb 'today' applies to all men between the first and second coming of Christ, who are within the 'today' of God's salvation made possible by Jesus.

But that it can also refer to this particular day, Sunday, which must be dedicated to the Lord in listening to his word, in prayer,
and in the celebration of the Eucharist.

More in general, 'today' is every day that man must be ready for conversion, to 'seize the day' when the Lord calls us to salvation.

In English, he said:

In today’s Gospel Jesus fulfils Isaiah’s prophecy in his own person, as he proclaims new sight to the blind and freedom to captives. In this Year of Faith, especially through the Sacraments, may we deepen our confidence in Christ and embrace his grace which sets us free. May God bless you and your loved ones!

It is a day of multiple observances, as the Pope reminded the faithful after the prayers:

Today is the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Nazism in the Holocaust.The memory of this enormous tragedy which struck at the Jewish people, must represent for everyone a constant warning that the horrors of the past may never be repeated, that every form of hatred and racism may be overcome, and that respect for the dignity of the human being must always be promoted.

Today is also the 60th annual observance of the World Day for Lepers. I express my closeness to all those suffer from this affliction and I encourage the researchers. health care workers, and the volunteer caregivers for lepers, especially those who are part of Catholic organizations and the Association of Friends of Raoul Follereauxz.

I invoke for everyone the spiritual support of St. Damian de Veuster and St. Marianne Cope, who have their life in the service of lepers.

This Sunday also marks a special Day of Intercession for Peace in the Holy Land. I thank all those who have promoted it in all parts of the world and those of them who are present here today.

Here is a full translation of the Holy Father's reflections today:

Dear brothers and sisters,

The liturgy today presents us, joined together, two distinct passages from the Gospel of Luke. The first (1,1-14) is the prologue, addressed to one 'Theophilus'. Since this name, in Greek, means 'friend of God', we can see in him every believer who is open to God and wishes to know the Gospel.

The second passage (4,14-21) presents Jesus who "with the power of the Spirit", goes on the Sabbath to the synagogue in Nazareth.

As a good observant Jew, the Lord does not evade the weekly liturgical rhythm and joins the assembly of his townmates in prayer and to listen to Scriptures. The rite includes the reading of a text from the Torah or the Prophets, followed by a commentary.

That day, Jesus got up to do the reading and found himself reading a passage from the prophet Isaiah which begins thus: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor" (61,1-2).

Origen commented: "It was not by chance that he opened the scroll and found the chapter of the reading that prophesies about him = this was the Providence of God" (Homily on the Gospel of Luke, 32, 3).

Indeed, once Jesus had finished the reading, amid a silence that was charged with attention, said: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4,21).

St. Cyril of Alexandria states that the 'today' - placed between the first and ultimate coming of Jesus = is linked to the capacity of the believer to listen and to see himself anew (cfr PG 69, 1241).

But in an even more radical sense, Jesus himself is the 'today' of salvation in history, because he brings to completion the fullness of redemption. The term 'today', very dear to St. Luke (cfr 19,9; 23,43), brings us back to the Christological titled that this evangelist prefers, namely, Savior.

Already,in his infancy narrative, it comes in the words of the angel to the shepherds: "Today in the city of David is born for you a Savior, Christ the Lord" (Lk 2,11).

Dear friends, this passage also interpellates us 'today'. First, it makes us think about how we live Sundays - day of rest and day for the family, but above all, a day to dedicate to the Lord, taking part in the Eucharist, during which we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ and by his Word of life.

In the second place, in our dispersed and distracted times, this Gospel invites us to ask ourselves about our own capacity for listening. Before we can speak of God and with God, we must listen to him first, and the liturgy of the Church is the 'school' of listening to the Lord who speaks to us.

Finally, the word 'today' tells us that every moment can be the 'today' that is propitious for our conversion. Every day (kathemeran) can become the day of salvation, because salvation is a continuing story for the Church and for every disciple of Christ.

This is the Christian sense of 'carpe diem' = to seize the day when God calls you to give you salvation!

May the Virgin Mary always be our model and our guide in learning to recognize and accept, every day of our life, the presence of God, our Savior and that of all mankind.

After the plurilingual greetings in other languages, he began his greeting to Italian pilgrims by acclaiming the youth arm of Italian Catholic Action after their annual Caravan for Peace through the streets of Rome on the last Sunday in January. Two thousand children from the parishes of Rome converged on St. Peter's Square, where a boy and a girl representing them assisted the Holy Father in releasing two doves of peace from his study window.

The children told the Pope that the funds collected by the children of Rome this year will be donated to the forgotten children of Egypt, through the Jesuit Community of Alexandria, in particular Brother Atef, who heads a theatre group for street children titled ‘Art and Life’.

Here is what the Pope said during the release of the doves:

I have a special greeting for the children and young people of Azione Cattolica Ragazzi of Rome. Welcome!

Two of you, with your diocesan officials, are here with me. Dear children, your Caravan for Peace is a beautiful testimonial. May it be a sign of your daily commitment to help build the peace wherever you live. Let us now listen to your brief message. [The message is read by one of the children with the Pope.

Thank you. Now, we shall release the doves, symbol of the Spirit of God who grants peace to all who welcome his love. Let us try to let these doves go...

There! We have succeeded... I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/28/2013 3:15 AM]
1/28/2013 4:29 AM
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Pope Benedict XVI honors
Walk for Life West Coast

Record crowd tops 50,000 in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, January 26 - Pope Benedict XVI commended the “outstanding public witness to the fundamental human right to life” of the Walk for Life West Coast, in a special message delivered by his delegate to tens of thousands gathered in front of San Francisco’s City Hall Jan. 26.

SAN FRANCISCO, January 26 - The Walk for Life West Coast rally at Civic Center Plaza filled the plaza, before participants walked the two miles from City Hall to the Ferry Building, traveling through the heart of the city’s shopping and financial districts. More than to 50,000 participated, organizers estimated.

Pope Benedict XVI’s representative to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, delivered a message from the Pope along with his papal blessing. Pope Benedict’s message said His Holiness “is grateful to all those who take part in this outstanding public witness to the fundamental human right to life and the moral imperative of upholding the inviolable dignity of each member of our human family, especially the smallest and most defenseless of our brothers and sisters.”

“You are a powerful witness that God’s truth cannot be silenced,” said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, who blessed participants to begin the event. “Yes, we are here to stay because life is good and life is holy.”

The speakers at the Walk included Lacey Buchanan, the mother of a disabled child; Elaine Riddick, who was forcibly sterilized by the state of North Carolina at age 14; Kelly and Matthew Clinger who regret their abortions; and the Rev. Clenard Childress, Jr., who has spoken at nearly every walk since its founding in 2005.

“Truth is rising up and you are the picture of that truth,“ said Rev. Childress to loud cheers. “We will not draw back until every child is free.”

A Jumbotron displaying a graphic video of aborted children was set up by an anti-abortion group midway along the Walk route, despite efforts by Walk organizers to dissuade the group from playing the video.

The March for Life and Walk for Life events are,of course, timed around the anniversary of the now increasingly infamous Roe v Wade decision by which the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand everywhere in the country. Let me just post for the record the letter from the US bishops dated January 16 about the nationwide Novena for Prayer, Penitence and Pilgrimage from January 19-27 among several initiatives to mark the 40th anniversary of that decision this year.

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the tragic U.S. Supreme Court rulings Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Without grounding in the Constitution, law or human rights, these decisions have made it legal for the past forty years in the United States to end the life of an unborn child.

Since then fifty-five million children never had the chance to be born. The scope of this loss is staggering, yet the Court and many in our society relegate it to a matter of personal choice.

As part of the ongoing response to innocent children's lives being taken with the protection of the law, the U.S. Catholic bishops have launched a major pastoral initiative calling for prayer and penance to promote and build a culture of life, marriage and religious liberty.

The initiative includes "Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage" from January 19 to 27, 2013. I invite Catholics in the United States to join me in this novena. It includes daily prayer intentions for the healing and conversion of our nation, for elected officials who support abortion, and for all people whose lives have forever been changed by an abortion.

The novena is available through social media, text messaging and email, to be helpful for youth and other pilgrims traveling to pro-life events and marches and for those wishing to participate from their parishes and homes.

Our nation greatly needs our prayers and personal sacrifices. The evil of abortion inflicts unimaginable pain, but Jesus offers us healing and renewal. He came not to condemn us, but to free us from the burden of the wrongs we have done so that all might be saved. His Divine Mercy knows no limits; we need only to ask his forgiveness. If you know of anyone suffering from the effects of an abortion experience, please encourage them to seek help.

It is our hope and prayer that our defense of human life and religious freedom, our witness to the dignity of each and every human person, our compassionate service and our prayers calling on the infinite love and mercy of God will spark a renewal of love and commitment to the true good of others.
Only a love that seeks to serve those most in need, whatever the personal cost to ourselves, is strong enough to overcome a culture of death and build a civilization worthy of human beings created in God's image.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, OFM Cap.
Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

NOTE: For more information: On the Supreme Court's abortion decisions:
For the daily reflections and prayers for the Novena
For help available after an abortion:

Personal note: I have been relentlessly harsh on Mons. Vigano for what I will always consider a major breach of proper behavior for a ranking Catholic prelate, but I would like to think his participation in the West coast Walk for Life event yesterday was somehow a way to make amends in an indirect way on the first anniversary of the public disclosure of his letters to the Pope and Cardinal Bertone that opened up the malarial swamps (or miasmic sewers) known as Vatileaks. A baleful anniversary that seems to have been ignored by everyone...
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/31/2013 10:46 PM]
1/28/2013 6:08 AM
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9 months since Gotti Tedeschi was sacked,
the IOR still has no president

Meanwhile, the cardinals' oversight commission
under Bertone is due for an overhaul next month

by Andrea Tornielli
Translated from the Italian service of

Last June, the Vatican indicated that a new president for IOR would definitely be named in September 2012, "when the Pope returns from his apostolic trip to Lebanon".

The position has been vacant since Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was dismissed in a no-confidence vote by his own Executive Board in May, in a way that has been unprecedented in the annals of the Holy See.

Then the appointment was put off for the end of 2012. On December 10, Carl Anderson, Supreme Commander of the Knights of Columbus and member of IOR's lay Executive Board - also the author of the harsh statement of charges against Gotti Tedeschi in an internal memo released to the media after his dismissal - said that the choice was "up to Cardinal Bertone" whom he expected to announce a name in January. [It may be "up to Cardinal Bertone" to announce a name, but isn't Anderson taking it for granted that Benedict XVI will necessarily approve the choice? - i.e., whoever will be named to IOR has to be approved by him, so it is really "up to Benedict XVI"!]

Now that January is almost over, they are saying that we will know next month. Whatever, it will probably be after a new term begins on February 23 for the five-man commission of cardinals that has oversight over the IOR.

Sources at the Secretariat of State point out that any changes in the composition of this commission would be 'routine', coming at the end of the five-year term for the previous members. But any changes could have a crucial relevance to the choice of a successor for Gotti Tedeschi.

In February 2008, Benedict XVI renewed the memberships of Cardinal Bertone, ex-officio president of the Commission as Secretary of State,and of Cardinal Atilio Nicora, at the time president of the APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See). He named three new members - Cardinals Jean-Louis Tauran (France), president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialog; Telesphore Toppa, Archbishop of Ranchi (India), and Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paolo (Brazil). [/[No one has ever explained their specific qualifications for overseeing bank operations, but one must assume they do have such qualifications.]

In September 2009, the cardinal supervisors overhauled the lay membership of the IOR's Executive Board (responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations). The new Board elected Gotti Tedeschi as IOR president. Cardinal Bertone had personally hand-picked Gotti Tedeschi to implement transparency measures and IOR safeguards against money laundering activities in a way that would meet international standards, as Benedict XVI was determined to enforce.

But after only two years and eight months on the job, Gotti Tedeschi was 'thrown out the window' in a way that has been unprecedented for the Holy See in modern times. The internal memo prepared by Anderson and released to the media not only accused Gotti Tedeschi of 'incapacity' to continue with his duties and of "lack of prudence and precision", but he was also suspected of having participated in Vatileaks because "he was unable to explain the release of some documents that were in his possession". [Just to put things in perspective, the documents were a couple of memoranda or letters from Gotti Tedeschi himself and from Cardinal Nicora opposing the changes made to the December 2010 law establishing the Vatican's Authority for Financial Information that made the AIF subject to the Secretariat of State. If these memoranda had been sent to Benedict XVI, was it not more likely that they were among the documents copied by Paolo Gabriele and provided to Nuzzi? And what business is it of the IOR Board, anyway, if Gotti Tedeschi expressed his objections, considering that he had a hand in having the first law on AIF drawn up for Benedict XVI - a task that was technically outside the purview of his task as president of IOR.}

Indeed, internal tensions over the Vatican's new financial transparency law 127 contributed to the deterioration of relations between Gotti Tedeschi and the Secretariat of State. The December 2010 law was rewritten hastily by persons appointed by Cardinal Bertone during the Christmas holidays in 2011, supposedly in compliance with Moneyval requirements, but the amended law limited the autonomy of the AIF under Cardinal Nicora. These changes have, in turn, been corrected in recent weeks in response to specific recommendations and criticisms by Moneyval.

Despite the ritual denials and the obvious attempt to make the lay Executive Board of IOR responsible for Gotti Tedeschi's sacking, the modality employed was questioned and debated within the five-man cardinals' oversight commission.

Inside sources said Cardinals Nicora and Tauran had expressed their objection to the way it was done. When reports about this first trickled out last June, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican news director, denied there were any internal dissensions among the five cardinals, saying that the commission had merely 'taken note' of Gotti Tedeschi's dismissal.

That does not help explain why there is still no IOR president almost nine months now since Gotti Tedeschi was dismissed.

However, it is now said that the cardinals' oversight commission will soon include Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, a Bertone protege who has succeeded Cardinal Nicora as head of APSA, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches.

Nicora will not be re-named to the Commission because he has turned 76, presumably to concentrate on the AIF, which has also acquired a lay executive director, Rene Bruehl. The Moneyval report last July said that there was a 'conflict of interests' in his being head of APSA, a Vatican financial-economic agency, and also heading the AIF, which was created to oversee the financial conduct of all Vatican organisms.

But an earlier Moneyval report (April 2012) had said that "there are no indications that Cardinal Nicora's double role compromises the independence of the AIF".

1/28/2013 3:06 PM
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The horror of the Holocaust transcends all issues:
It is inherent in the inhumanity all around us

By Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith

January 28, 2013

It was rather sad to see that for some people Holocaust Memorial Day was all about political point scoring...

The Memorial Day fell yesterday, which is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. That one place name still has a remarkable resonance. I imagine everyone has heard of Auschwitz, and if they claim not to have done so, I would very much like to know why that were the case.

The concept of memory is an extremely important one for all human beings. According to an online concordance provided on the Vatican’s website, the word ‘remember’ occurs 169 times in the Bible; ‘remembered’, 50 times; ‘remembering’, 8 times; ‘remembers’, 13 times, and ‘remembrance’, 18 times. The word ‘memorial’ occurs 30 times, and ‘memory’ 39 times; ‘memories’ is used twice and ‘memorials’ thrice.

Time and again the people of the Old Testament are told to remember what God did for them in liberating them from Egypt; and we, the people of the New Testament, are told to carry out the memorial of Christ our Saviour. So, you get the picture: Holocaust Memorial Day is something that should come as second nature to us, as the act of rememberance is hardwired into our religious DNA.

And not only our religious DNA; it is part of human nature. Non-religious people also keep anniversaries and attend memorials.

But why remember? One remembers because it is dangerous to forget. To forget may be to risk the making the same mistakes once more and allowing the same catastrophe to happen again. But there is more to it than just that, important as that is.

To remember the Holocaust is an act that helps constitute our identity. We did not live through it, most of us; if we had lived at that time, we might have been bystanders, or even perpetrators; but we who live now live in its shadow, and its shadow makes us who we are – or rather should do. We need to remember so that we can become the people we ought to be: the people who live in a post-Auschwitz world. Because the fact of Auschwitz changes everything.

The horror of Auschwitz establishes beyond any doubt, to my mind, that humankind is flawed. It blows to pieces the myth of the Noble Savage told us by Rousseau: human beings left to their own devices, contrary to what he said, will commit the most awful atrocities. [Surely one of the best literary illustrations of this inherent savagery in man is William Golding's powerful Lord of the Flies, to which I had referred to on another occasion. The first novel written (1954) by a British author who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in 1983, it tells what happens to a group of English schoolchildren (all younger than 13) who survive a plane crash on a desert island and devolve into primitive savagery as they try to govern themselves and survive their isolation. It is all the more powerful because the characters are children.]

Humanity is not intrinsically noble; it is not society that has deformed us. We are deformed in our very nature. The Holocaust illustrates that civilisation is only skin deep; it lays humanity bare, exposing humanity’s lack of humanity.

So, to return to my original point, Holocaust Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for the victims, of course, but not really a day for thinking about Israel and the Palestinians, for it transcends all that.

Rather it is a day for contemplating the radical insufficiency of human nature. This is how we are, and this is the horror to which we can sink. And the Holocaust, though unique in scale and in its depravity, is hinted at in inhuman behaviour all around us today: in the cruelty of human being to human being, in the ruthless lack of pity, in the hardening of the human heart to love and compassion.

The remembering the Old Testament asks us to do, is the remembering of God’s goodness to us. On Holocaust Memorial Day we need to remember our past wickedness to each other, and what we are capable of, still.

But after you have looked at human depravity, where will you next look? Will you shrug and move on? Will you say that there is no help for it? Will you claim that such depravity is not typical, or the product of certain historical circumstances alone? Or will you, having looked at what human beings are capable of, then look towards God, with a fervent prayer that he will not leave us in our sins?
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/30/2013 7:20 PM]
1/28/2013 4:56 PM
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Monday, January 28, Third Week in Ordinary Time

Second from left, detail from Gozzoli's Triumph of St. Thomas,1471; and second from right, St. Thomas from a fresco by Fra Angelico, ca 1435.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (Tomasso d'Aquino] (Italy, 1225-1274)
Dominican , Philosopher-Theologian, Doctor of the Church (Doctor Angelicus)

NB: The popular English form of the saint's name might indicate that Aquinas was his family name; it is not - it his his provenance, just as 'da Vinci' (from Vinci) is for Leonardo.
The Italian form, Tomasso d'Aquino - he was Italian, after all - says it right: Thomas from (or of) Aquino.

Born the son of a count in a castle that still stands not far from Rome, Thomas was sent to the Benedictines at Monte Cassino at age 5. His parents expected him to grow up to become its abbot like his paternal uncle. But at 18, when studying in Naples, he was attracted to the Dominican Order. Two years followed during which his family 'imprisoned' him in the hope of dissuading him from joining the Dominicans. But eventually his mother helped him escape in a face-saving gesture, and he went on to Paris for further studies. Albertus Magnus was one of his teachers, and when he was sent to Germany, Thomas followed him to Cologne. In 1252, he returned to Paris where he was named master of theology at the university. In 1259, his order recalled him to Naples to set up a school, then went on to Rome in 1965 for the same purpose, at which time he began work on his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica. He returned to Paris in 1268-1272 for a second turn as master of theology at the university, after which he returned to Naples. During all this time, he wrote volume upon volume of what are considered to be the bedrock texts of scholastic theology. En route to the Second Council of Lyons in 1274, he struck his head on a tree and never fully recovered. A year before he died, he decided to stop writing, saying famously that "all I have written seems like so much straw compared to what has been revealed to me". He is a towering figure in the history of Western thought. Compared to what has been written about him as a thinker, not much is generally written about his spiritual life, but in many medieval images, he was portrayed as a mystic.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy Father met with

- Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments

- Eight bishops from the Campania region of Italy (regional capital Naples) on ad-limina visit

The Vatican also released the following:

- The text of the Holy Father's telegram to the Archbishop of Santa Maria (Brazil) for the nightclub fire
Saturday night that killed more than 200 people.

- The decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary granting special indulgences on the Occasion of the
21st World Day for the Sick on February 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

- The announcement that to commemorate his recent apostolic trip to Lebanon and to invite the universal Church to pray for the Middle East and its Christian communities, the Holy Father has asked His Beatitude Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Patriarch of the Christian Maronites, to present the texts for the meditations and prayers to accompany the Good Friday Via Crucis at the Rome Colosseum. The texts themselves will be prepared by two young Lebanese Catholics under the Patriarch's guidance, keeping to the traditional design of fourteen stations of the Cross.

One year ago today...

The Holy Father presided at an extraordinary meeting of all the heads of Vatican congregations, councils
and offices, ostensibly to discuss better coordination among these various organisms. The meeting had
been scheduled before the unexpected expose on TV of Mons. Carlo Maria Vigano's letters to Cardinal Bertone
and the Pope in May and June 2011, protesting his reassignment from the Vatican to being Apostolic Nuncio
to Washington.

- Reporting on Paolo Gabriele's new employment (working for a social cooperative in the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital's brand-new facility near the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls), Panorama's Ignacio Ingrao says in an article entitled 'A second life for the crow': "Paoletto and the members of his family have committed themselves to not giving out any intervIews or statements, in a written commitment signed by Gabriele. In return, he obtained his new job... in which he will not be in contact with the public".

[One certainly hopes the written commitment also covers not writing - or taking part in the writing - of any book about his experiences as the Pope's valet and/or his role in Vatileaks! Because the next thing we know, Gianluigi Nuzzi will be peddling a new book about Gabriele on the anniversary of his Vatileaks book - and he can always say it was based on information given to him by Gabriele in earlier times, i.e., before Gabriele signed the commitment!)

Ingrao tries his usual cheap trick of seeing direct links where there are really none, by saying, in effect, "Paolo Gabriele and his former boss, Cardinal James Harvey, are together again, now that Gabriele will be working for an institution located not far from St Paul outside the Walls, where Harvey is now the Arch-Priest - both exiled to the same place in the wake of Vatileaks." He also says that renovation of a new apartment for Gabriele, 'two steps from the Basilica', is almost complete, "where probably he will remain under surveillance by the Vatican police".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/28/2013 9:17 PM]
1/28/2013 6:07 PM
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It's worth looking back on 'the Vigano letters' -
as disreputable and bizarre as they prove to be

Before the MSM, particularly the Italian media, get into fresh conniptions about Vatileaks one year since it all started oozing out like slime, I thought it might be useful to re-post the letters written by Mons. Vigano to Cardinal Bertone and the Pope that began the dribble... I was able to find the texts of both letters and translate them for the Forum several days after they were first disclosed - in the course of which 1) the Vatican had issued an immediate statement questioning the accusations implicit in the letters; 2) Andrea Tornielli looked into these 'accusations' and reported that the Pope had ordered them investigated in 2011 by a special commission headed by an auditor of the Roman Rota. and they were found to be unsubstantiated; and 3) the Vatican Press Office released a statement by Cardinals Giuseppe Bertello and Giovanni Lajolo, current and immediate past presidents of the Governatorate, respectively, along with the current Secretary (Vigano's successor), and his deputy (who was also Vigano's deputy) explicitly saying, "These assertions (Vigano's) are the outcome of erroneous judgment, or based on fears that have not been borne out by proof but openly contradicted by the principal persons cited by the letters as witnesses to such assertions".

This is significant, because all three statements - especially the fact that the Pope had already ordered Vigano's accusations investigated by a special commission - have hardly ever been referred to in all the subsequent reporting about Vigano's shotgun attack {"If I shoot as many bullets as I can. I'm bound to hit something!"), yet his letters have been held up by the media as Exhibit #1 to 'prove' the charge made by Paolo Gabriele that "there is evil and corruption everywhere in the Vatican".

I said at the time that the tone and content of the Vigano letters were bizarre and anachronistically Byzantine. They sound even more so now. I also noted then that the US media seemed "wary and careful about reporting the 'Vigano case' beyond the bare minimum, to the point of not even pressing Vigano to make a statement about an issue that would otherwise be scalding hot - one that the Italian and European media have quickly morphed into a case of corruption against the Vatican, rather than a rather low tale of ambition and frustration at a fairly high ecclesiastical level".

So, for the record - and with my fisking where necessary and relevant - here are the two Vigano letters. Avoid the blue, if you do not wish to be burdened by my comments. Ellipses, indicated by '...' are omissions decided upon by the editor of Il Fatto Quotidiano which published the letters:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

His Eminence
The Most Rev. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State
Vatican City

In the private letter that I addressed to you on March 27, 2011, which I personally entrusted to the Holy Father in view of the sensitive matters it contained, I stated that I thought the very radical change in your opinion about my person that Your Eminence showed me at our meeting on March 22 could only be the result of grave calumnies against me and my work [at the Governatorate]...

And now, after various items of information that have come to my possession, and in sincere and faithful support of the work of Your Eminence, who has been given a responsibility that is very onerous and exposed to pressure by persons who are not necessarily well-meaning... in a spirit of loyalty and faithfulness I think it is my duty to refer to Your Eminence facts and initiatives about which I am completely sure, that have emerged in recent weeks designed expressly with the end of leading Your Eminence to radically change your opinion on my account, with the intention of preventing that the undersigned will succeed Cardinal Lajolo as President of the Governatorate, something that has been well-known in the Curia for some time. Reliable persons have spontaneously offered to me and to Mons. Corbellini, vice Secretary-General of the Governatorate, proofs and testimonials of the following:

1. As the deadline for the abovementioned change of leadership at the Governatorate, the strategy carried out to destroy me [per distruggermi]in the eyes of Your Eminence included the publication of some articles in Il Giornale, which contained calumnious judgments and malicious insinuations against me.

Already last March, independent sources, all of them particularly qualified - Dott. Giani
[Domenico Giani, former Italian fiscal police and secret service officer, now the security chief and Chief Inspector of the Vatican Gendarmerie]; Prof. Gotti Tedeschi [president of the Vatican bank IOR], Prof. Vian [Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L'Osservatore Romano], have verified with proof a close link of the publication of such articles with Dott. Marco Simeon, at least as the conveyor of [defamatory] fliers coming from inside the Vatican.

To confirm, but above all, to supplement such reports, written testimony came to me and to Mons. Corbellini
[Vigano's deputy SG at the Governatorate] from Dott. Egidio Maggioni [ex-president of the of the advertising firm Socially Responsible Italia s.p.a., which has business relations with the Vatican], a person who is well connected in the media, well-known and esteemed in the Curia, among others, by Dott. Gasbarri [administrative director of Vatican Radio and coordinator of papal trips], by Mons. Corbellini himself and by Mons. Zagnoli, ex-head of the Ethnologic-Missionary Museum of the Vatican Museums. [The whole paragraph-long sentence is to bolster the 'credentials' of Maggioni. before disclosing what he reportedly told Vigano, as follows:]

Dott. Maggioni has testified that the author of the amonymous fliers coming from the Vatican is Mons. Paolo Nicolini, delegate for the administrative-managerial services of the Vatican Museums. Dott. Maggioni's testimony takes on a decisive value in that he received this information from the editor of Il Giornale himself, Mr. Alessandro Sallusti, with whom Maggioni has a had a close friendship of long standing.

2. The involvement of Mons. Nicolini, which is particularly deplorable since he is a priest and an employee of the Vatican Museums, is confirmed by the fact that the same monsignor, last March 31, during lunch, confided to Dott. Sabatino Napolitano, director of Economic Services at the Governatorate, during a conversation between them as football enthusiasts, that very soon, in addition to celebrating the championship victory of Inter, a more important event would be celebrated, namely, my removal from the Governatorate...
[Omitted by the editor].

3. On the same Mons. Nicolini, other reprovable facts emerged concerning the correctness of his administration, starting from his time at the Pontifical Lateran University where, according to testimony by Mons. Rino Fisichella [now president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, and before that, Rector Magnificus of Lateran U], he was found to have been responsible for falsifying invoices and a cash shortage of 70,000 euro.

The monsignor also has interests [stocks?] in the Societa SRI Group of Dott. Giulio Gallazzi, a corporation which is currently in default for at least 2,200,000 euro to the Governatorate and which had previously defrauded L'Osservatore Romano, confirmed to me by Don Elio Torreggiani
[director general of Tipografia Vaticana, the Vatican printing press], of more than 80,000 euros, and APSA [the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See], of more than 50,000 euro. Tables and documents in my possession demonstrate these affirmations, along with the fact that Mons. Nicolini holds a credit card in the name of the SRI Group (enabling him to charge) up to 2,500 euro a month.

4. Another chapter concerning Mons. Nicolini has to do with his management at the Vatican Museums...
[details edited by the newspaper]A; vulgarity of behavior and language; arrogance and domineering towards co-workers who do not show him absolute servility; preferences, promotions and arbitrary assumptions made for personal ends - the complaints that have reached the Governatorate from Museum employees have been innumerable...{further omissions by the editor].

5. Since the behavior and acts of of Mons. Nicolini described above - beyond representing serious violations of justice and charity - are prosecutable as crimes, both in canon law as well as in civilian law, if there are no administrative proceedings against him, I will consider it my duty to take the judicial route. [So will Vigano be suing Nicolini now for these 'prosecutable crimes'????]

8. As for Dott. Simeon, although it is a more delicate task for me to speak about him, given that according to the media, he is someone particularly close to Your Eminence, nonetheless I cannot excuse myself from testifying that, from what I have personally come to learn as Delegate for Pontifical Representations [??? I have now read in another report that before being assigned to the Governatorate, Vigano was head of the Personnel Department at the Secretariat of State, i.e., a holdover from the Sodano administration; the ambiguous title he cites may be the official designation of that position], Dott. Simeon turns out to be a calumniator (in the case of which I have precise knowledge, he calumniated a priest) and that he himself is... [OMISSIS, i.e., further omissions exercised by the editor], and this was confirmed to me by prelates of the Curia and the Diplomatic Service. Regarding this serious affirmation about Dott. Simeon, I am able to furnish names, including bishops and priests, who have knowledge of the facts. [It has been hinted in an Italian media report that Vigano accused Simeon of homosexual practices.]

7. To the acts of denigration and calumnies against me, Dott. Saverio Petrillo [director of the Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo] has also contributed, having been wounded in his pride because of an inquiry carried on by the Pontifical Gendarmerie following a robbery that occurred last year in the Pontifical Villas about which Dott. Petrillo failed to inform either his superiors at the Governatorate nor the Gendarmerie.

Further provoking his hostile reaction against me was the decision taken by Cardinal Lajolo (not by me) as Governatorate President, to entrust the management of the greenhouses in Castel Gandolfo to Luciano Cecchetti, who is in charge of the Vatican Gardens, with the intention of creating a synergy between the needs of the Gardens and the resources available at the Pontifical Villas, whose annual operating loss comes to 3.5 million euros.
[Note he does not specify what 'acts of denigration and calumnies' Petrillo is alleged to have done.]

8. It should therefore not surprise anyone if other department heads at the Governatorate would be formulating criticisms against me, given the incisive actions to restructure and contain costs and expenses that I have carried out following the criteria of good administration, the instructions given to me by the Cardinal President, and the management advice from the consulting firm of McKinsey. I do not yet have proof of this [expected criticism from other Governatorate department heads]...[Omitted by the editor]

I consider that what I have described above is sufficient to dissipate the lies of those who intended to overturn the judgment of Your Eminence about my person and on my qualifications to continue my work at the Governatorate... [Omitted by the editor]

I have considered it my duty to do this, animated by the same sentiment of loyalty that I have for the Holy Father.

I actually was quite apprehensive that my recollection of the letter may be worse than it actually is, but translating it now has made me realize that my first overwhelmingly negative impression was correct. Vigano sought to 're-impress' Cardinal Bertone with why he ought to be kept on at the Governatorate and made its President by calumniating a wide assortment of persons whom he claims to have calumniated him, citing a gaggle of prominent names in the Vatican as 'witnesses' who either told him about the bad actions of his 'enemies' and/or have proof of such bad actions.

His argument amounts to: "Keep me on because look how bad other people are who are trying to prevent me from becoming President of the Governatorate (and cardinal). And I know they are bad and did bad things, because So-and-So and So-and-So told me so!" He sounds like a schoolyard snitch polishing an apple for the principal/school chaplain to convince him everyone is so bad and that only he ought to be class president or acolyte-in-chief.

And he comes off as a whiny, petty, paranoid, and TEEEEDIOUSSSS! gossip, certainly showing conduct unbecoming of a priest, let alone a bishop. Imagine him setting people to work to dig up dirt about Nicolini after he was told the story of that lunch! ("it emerges that...') And that's what John Allen calls 'high-mindedness'??? I believe Allen did not read the letter to Bertone at all, or he did, but chose to pretend it does not exist because it would undercut his 'saintly role model' hypothesis of Vigano!

I must repeat that I had absolutely no prejudices at all about Vigano before this 'scandal' erupted, because I did not know anything of him other than Tornielli's June 2011 report on why he was being moved out of the Vatican... I assumed he took his reassignment with disappointment but with good grace, not with this volcanic discontent, in which he does not care if the Pope and the Vatican get besmirched and targeted all over by media and other detractors! What is important to him is that he vents his rage and to hell with the consequences!... IMHO, the letters represent the unguarded depths to which an intelligent man can sink deliberately in pursuit of ambition.]

Vatican City-State
The Secretary General

To His Holiness
Pope Benedict XVI
Vatican City, July 7, 2011

Most Holy Father,

With deep sadness and disappointment I have received from the hands of the Most Eminent Cardinal Secretary of State the communication of the decision of Your Holiness to appoint me Apostolic Nuncio in the United States of America. In other circumstances, such an appointment would be a reason for joy and a sign of great esteem and trust in my regard, but in the present context, it will be perceived by all as a verdict of condemnation of my work, and therefore as a punishment.
[That's whining, on the basis of a false premise. Only the few within the Vatican who were aware of the internal wrangling would even have thought about it at all. Not even the Vaticanistas made much of it at the time. Only Tornielli, to my knowledge, even bothered to report his nomination in the context of what had gone on in the Governatorate.]

In spite of the great damage to my reputation and the negative repercussions that this provision will provoke, my response cannot be anything but full adherence to the will of the Pope, as I have always done during my other than brief service to the Holy See. In the face of this harsh trial as well, I renew with profound faith my absolute obedience to the Vicar of Christ. [Full adherence??? Absolute obedience??? Vigano has much to learn about these virtues from Mons. Renato Boccardo - who had been Secretary-General at the Governatorate but was 'promoted and removed' to be Bishop of Spoleto-Norcia because of some issues which were never publicized (and one gathers had to do with financial maladministration)! And what 'great damage to my reputation' was Vigano worried - at a time when no one outside those directly concerned in the Curia, and the usual busybodies, knew about this whole thing. I don't think he meant reputation so much as 'losing face' among his peers for seemingly blowing his chance to become a cardinal when he fully expected to become one soon!]

The meeting granted to me by Your Holiness last April 4 brought me great comfort, as did the subsequent news that the Pope had instituted a special Committee super partes, charged with clarifying the delicate matter in which I have been involved; and thus it seemed reasonable to me to hope that any provision in my regard would be taken only at the conclusion of the work of the aforementioned Committee, in part so that punishment would not seem to be given to the one who, out of the duty of his office, had brought to the attention of his immediate superior, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, gravely deplorable actions and behaviors that, moreover, His Excellency Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, deputy secretary general, had in vain repeatedly reported and documented for the same superior – long before my arrival at the Governatorate – and that, in the absence of action on the part of the same cardinal, he had felt the need to report also to the secretariat of state. [Even to the Pope, he begins by accusing the man who was his immediate superior, Cardinal Lajolo, of ignoring reports of misdeeds, although he acknowledges here that the Pope had created a commission to investigate his charges. If that's not bad faith, what is?]

And I was even more saddened to learn, following the audience with the Most Eminent Cardinal Secretary of State last July 2, that Your Holiness agrees with the judgment of my actions in the terms in which this was previewed last June 26 in a blog post by Andrea Tornielli, namely that I am said to be guilty of having created a negative climate at the Governatorate, making relations more and more difficult between the secretary general and the heads of the offices, so much so as to make my transfer necessary.

In this regard, I would like to assure Your Holiness that this does not at all correspond to the truth. The other cardinal members of the Pontifical Committee of the Governatorate, who know very well how I have acted over the past two years, could inform you with greater objectivity, not having a stake in this matter, and easily prove how far from the truth is the information about me that has been reported to you, which has been the motive for your decision in my regard.
[He does not know exactly what information was provided to the Pope, nor what motivated the Pope's decision! He cannot presume to know this on the basis of his own deductions! And once again he invokes the testimony of 'other cardinals' to vouch for him. ]

I am also grieved by the fact that, unfortunately having to care personally for an older brother who is a priest, seriously affected by a stroke that is gradually debilitating him mentally as well, I should have to leave right now, when I had expected to be able to resolve in a few months this family problem that so greatly worries me.

[Uncalled-for 'Woe is me!' argument! But worse, if we go by the court testimony cited in Il Giornale - even if the newspaper is supposed to be prejudiced against Mons. Vigano - is stretching the truth, to say it charitably: The brother has lived in Chicago since the 1980s; Mons. Vigano has never had a hand in his care (he had a stroke that partially paralyzed him), and has in fact asked a Milan court to declare his brother mentally incompetent in a bid to avoid giving him his fair share of a joint account controlled by Mons Vigano since they decided to pool their share (said to be about 30 million euros) of the family fortune after they both became priests.]

Your Holiness, for the reasons presented above, I turn to you with trust to ask you, for the sake of my reputation, to postpone for the necessary time the implementation of the decision you have already made, which at this moment would appear as an unjust sentence of condemnation in my regard, based on behaviors that have been falsely attributed to me, and to entrust the task of exploring the real situation of this matter, which also sees two Most Eminent Cardinals involved, to a truly independent body, for example the Apostolic Signatura. This would allow my transfer to be perceived as a normal replacement, and would also permit me to find a solution for my brother priest more easily.

[Three points: 1) Vigano's overriding concern was to save face because by not becoming President of the Governatorate, he would not now be a certainty for cardinal; 2) he reiterates his false claim about 'finding a solution for my brother priest'; and 3) God truly moves in mysterious ways, because all of a sudden, Mons. Pietro Sambi, who was the Nuncio to Washington, died on July 27 (20 days after the date of this letter], and there was no question of a postponement!]

If Your Holiness would grant me this, I would ardently desire, in honor of the truth, to be able to provide you personally with the elements necessary to clarify this delicate matter, in which the Holy Father has certainly been kept in the dark. [Again, how can he presume this? He does not know what information, pro and con, has reached the Holy Father, and who from. And the audacity of proposing to the Holy Father to fall in with a proposal intended only to advance his own personal plans, and not for any other reason - it's just breathtakingly selfish!]

With profound veneration, I renew for Your Holiness sentiments of filial devotion,

in Christ the Lord
+ Carlo Maria Viganò

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/28/2013 6:28 PM]
1/28/2013 8:36 PM
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The Pope on Twitter:
How's it going after the first month?

Translated from the Italian service of

January 28, 2014

The number of followers (more than 2.5 million now, of which 1.5 million are Anglophone) of Benedict XVI's Twitter posts is obviously not the only important datum for evaluating the pros and cons of the Pope's presence on this very popular social network.

[Considering that the most 'followed' Twitters are pop idols Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry (each of whom has about 30 million followers), and that even the 'famous for absolutely nothing' Kim Kardashian has 17 million followers - I literally cringe everytime someone in the Vatican touts the number of @Pontifex followers. Why even set the Pope up in competition with run-of-the-mill celebrities?

The world has 1.2 billion Catholics, and if we go by the current figure that Twitter now has 500 million followers (roughly 7 percent of a world population of 7.1 billion), and cutting that percentage by half - to 3.5%, to factor in the fact that many Catholics live in the underdeveloped world - the potential base for @Pontifex followers would be as many as 420 million. Cut that figure further to one-tenth, to be ultra-realistic, and we have 42 million. Does Mons. Celli think that figure will be reached any time soon?]

The magazine Popoli (Peoples) of the Jesuits of Milan commissioned the first in-depth analysis of the responses thus far to Benedict XVI's tweets. There were 270,456 responses in the first month of the tweeting.

Among these, "more than 200,000 were neutral in content; 26,426 were considered positive; and 22,542 negative, among which 26% were focused primarily on the issue of sex-offender priests and 25% - about 5,000 - consisted in true and proper insults".

[Now that makes me feel better. We have a figure now - 5,000 responses out of 270,456 (less than 1.9%) - were malignant messages, and more generally, 22,542 responses (8.3%) were negative. It tells me that the anti-Pope/anti-Church hate brigades aren't as numerous or industrious as one may suppose they could be - if they were more industrious, they could pack the record as they want, the way voters cast as many votes as they can on American Idol.]

As for the positive responses, the highest percentage were retweets (26.5%) [This is the category that Papal tweets are most aimed at in order to truly 'spread the Word', but it represents quite a low figure right now!], followed by messages of thanks and best wishes (25%). [So, should we assume that the rest of the positive messages were simply favorable comments?]

The inquiry also analyze the Twitter accounts of a Curial head (Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi), seven cardinals who are metropolitan archbishops (Angelo Scola of Milan, Odilo Scherer of Sao Paolo, Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban, South Africa, Timothy Dolan of New York, Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcellona, Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogotà, Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston), and of a prelate who is increasingly an authoritative voice on the question of faith and technology, the Jesuit Fr. Antonio Apadaro, editor of the Rome-based Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica.

Their current following ranges from 1,900 for Cardinal Martinez Sitaach to 71,000 for Cardinal Dolan. Their average tweets per day is 2.5, from O'Malley's one to Spadaro's 9.

The retweet rate is interesting - 40% for Scola, 100% for Dolan, while Ravasi, Scherer, Salazar and O'Malley are re-tweeted by 82-90 percent.

Using a popular indicator used by the social networks, Klout (klout-com), Popoli assigned an index of influence of 79 to Ravasi and 3 to Spadaro.

A sense of how Twitter is used is given by an analysis of the first five tweets on each account according to the type of messages originally tweeted.

Ravasi chooses to show balance and courage by citing distinguished persons, from Swift to Calvino, through De Souvre, Gandhi and Pasolini. Scola prefers to exhort and call on the faithful to keep their focus on God. Scherer uses his messages to campaign for causes, especially against abortion. Napier uses playful irony to recall the principles of the Church and uses direct examples such as Obama and his support of same-sex 'marriage'. Dolan is all about calling the faithful back to the ways of God. Martinez Sistach urges his followers to support activities promoting peace and a healthy economy. Salazar Gomez spices up his calls for observance of Catholic values with personal 'news' about himself. O'Malley is also exhortative, usually promoting Catholic values.

I do not have the time to look into the above Twitter accounts, so I do not have any idea how their tweets compare with what the Pontifical Council for Social Communications has been generating so far for Benedict XVI. Since I only want the very best for our beloved Pope, all I can say of the PCSC-generated tweets so far is that surely they can do better about fashioning tweets that say what the Pope often says - much more forcefully and indelibly - in a way that does better justice to him and to the message. So far, the tweets have been rather 'blah'.

For purposes of 'serious' messaging, composing a tweet has to be seen as an art form, like a Japanese haiku, and cannot be left to earnest but ultimately uninspired bureaucrats. It's not just a question of being able to boil down a message to 140 characters, but how the message is expressed in 140 characters.

This, of course, is only one of my many reservations about the Twittermania in Mons. Celli's dicastery. Not a day goes by that he is not making a statement about the Pope's tweets, the latest being that it will soon add Chinese to its repertoire. We have heard more from Mons. Celli in the past month than we have ever heard from him in a decade, almost as if he finally has found a platform to make himself noticed and heard.

It makes me share Dino Boffo's weekend tirade about the 'inebriation' with Twitter in the Vatican (read the Pontifical Council for Social Communications) that, he warns, may prove to be counter-productive.

I don't know that it will necessarily be counter-productive, because it does provide another online platform from which to spread the Christian message, regardless of its actual reach and influence. And if it attracts hate mail, think of the hate mail Jesus might have provoked if there had been Twitter in his time! You have to expect that, if you go against the mainstream as Christians do these days.

So, going by the Hippocratic principle of 'First, do no harm', I suppose the Twitter venture by the Vatican gets a passing grade for now...

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/28/2013 8:39 PM]
1/29/2013 1:21 AM
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Even in the United States, bishops generally do not express themselves about public policy in specific terms unless such policy expressly intersects the values and interests of the Church, as Obamacare does, or Roe v Wade. But Cardinal Bagnasco, head of the Italian bishops' conference, has never shied away from passing judgment on Italian government policy and legislation, in general and specific terms, insofar as they negatively affect the Italian people. He does so again in his opening remarks Monday afternoon to the weeklong working meeting of the CEI Permanent Council... Since Cardinal Bagnasco had a private meeting with the Pope last week in preparation for the Council sessions (the Pope is Primate of Italy), one might infer that he provided the Pope with a copy of his text, and that it has his imprimatur...

Cardinal Bagnasco speaks out:
Politicians should not waste
the sacrifices Italians have made

with nothing to show for it
after three years of crisis

Translated from the Italian service of

January 28, 2013

The Italian bishops, noting more new fronts in the 'appalling' national crisis, say politicians must not "waste the sacrifices being undertaken by the Italian people" in adapting to the economic crisis these past few years, but they are not telling the faithful who to vote for. [As they never have! They promote the Catholic view on issues that are to be voted for in a referendum, but never candidates for office!]

Left, Cardinal Bagnasco addressing the CEI bishops today; right, greeting the Holy Father at the last Christmas audience for the Roman Curia.

Rather, the mission of the Church in Italy is "to implant the seed of eternity into the human management of life", said Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops' conference (CEI) in opening today a weeklong meeting of the CEI's Permanent Council.

"It is not true that we are interested in playing politics - our interest is Jesus," but he pointed out that for citizens, "voting is an irrevocable duty".

Less than a month away from the scheduled national elections for a new Parliament (and a new government), Cardinal Bagnasco outlined the high bar for the private and public life of Catholics.

He called into question "the mechanism of consumership, government spending and public debt" and called on politicians to "abandon the logic of illusions that have fatally proven their absolute moral and practical inadequacy".

The current model of government must be 'revolutionized', he said, "by a new way of thinking which is firmly convinced that work is a defining element of the human being.... work (as) the noble participation of man in the work of the Creator, which allows him to sustain himself in a dignified way and to contribute to building society and to general harmony, and which generates a future for everyone".

He said "justice demands that we overcome the imbalance between those who have things in excess and those who lack even the essential". He acknowdleged that "important actions have been taken recently to bring back a sense of reliance and authority to the government, but it has been at the price of heavy sacrifices that have not always been proportionately distributed among Italians... But they have held on, sensing intuitively that what is being done is what needs to be done. Now it remains to consolidate, even visibly, this willingness of the people to accommodate themselves to political and economic necessity".

There is an imbalance, he said, "between the desire of the people to emerge from the tunnel and the measures that are being taken by public authorities in order to promote private enterprise".

He noted that youth unemployment is 'an epidemic that cannot be dammed', and "we must ask ourselves whether the legislative initiatives that have been taken have relieved or worsened the situation".

"There is no institutional firmness worthy of the name," he went on, "if there are no political formations that are capable of consolidating the popular will, and interpreting it scrupulously according to their respective sensibilities, as long as they ultimately converge" [on an effective plan of action].

He said the sacrifices already made by the Italian people - "such a patrimony of responsibility and sacrifice, of dignity and adaptation" - cannot be wasted because the politicians fail to act. It would be an 'insult' to Italians, he said, when instead. "they should be starting to see results from all their sacrifices".

Bagnasco said that the political logic of 'being against, whatever' must be abandoned as "an insult to the intelligence and to the gravity of the issue". He called this "the logic of ideological suspicion, which generates artificial divisions, unwanted consequences, and reprisals that are superficial but tragic".

"To promote respect for the social and civilian economy and for its most typical experiences in what has been called the 'third sector' (non-profit non-governmental social work) is a condition for being able to continue deriving income from an economy that touches people most closely and that favors the common good", he added.

Bagnasco also expressed great concern about the state of health care in Italy. He condemned "the imbroglios, maneuverings and tricks going on in a sector which has a very high altruistic calling" while calling for government spending cuts to be "guided by criteria that always have the patient at the center of considerations".

Whatever his age and condition, the cardinal said, "the person of the patient must be safeguarded above all", for which "there are specialties, competences and research work that must be strategically kept".

On another major problem that is endemic to Italy (as nowhere else, except perhaps Mexico), while he said there ought not to be 'privileges' meted to some interests, neither should there be "narrow and punitive attitudes", especially not for the population of southern Italy "who, not just today, have been oppressed by organized crime whose tentacles have reached out across the nation".

Rather, "we must look out, resist, encourage, denounce, restore and recuperate - all through the lens of education of human promotinm which are inseparable from evangelization".

The Council's agenda this week includes an examination of Benedict XVI's recent motu proprio Intima Ecclesiae natura, underscoring the responsibility of bishops in dealing with the multiple forms of charitable work carried on by Christian communities and organizations.

One outcome will be a Pastoral Note (to be prepared by the Episcopal Commissions for culture and social communications, and for family and life) on the value and mission of parish oratories (multi-purpose community centers used for catechesis, general instruction, work training, as well as recreational activities). Italian bishops consider the oratories as a parish reality that has a long tradition in Italy but which are also capable of continuous renewal in order to respond to actual educational demands.

The bishops will also consider a proposal to draw up an appropriate manual of orientation for catechists; and evaluate the most recent developments on the Italian government's intention to collect property taxes from hitherto-exempt Church properties and institutions.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/29/2013 3:37 AM]
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Between 1510 and 1512, Leonardo da Vinci drew the human fetus with startling and unprecedented accuracy.

According to Arizona State University’s Embryo Project Encyclopedia, Leonardo is regarded as “the very first in history to correctly depict the human fetus in its proper position within the womb. He was also the first to expertly draw the uterine artery and the vascular system of the cervix and vagina.”

Scientific advances, beginning with Leonardo and culminating in the ultrasound, have played no small part in helping us recognize the fetus’s human face. [Embryology and scientific study of fetal development had taught us that much earlier, but nothing has been more dramatic for the skeptics than ultrasound images of the baby in the womb and all it is capable of.]

These chalk and ink images, then, should be seen as a minor milestone in the acknowledgment of our brotherhood with the unborn.

The new attention to Da Vinci's drawings of the fetus comes at the tailend of a week that has highlighted the cause of the unborn. That we even need to plead the casuse of the unborn in the heart of what is supposed to be the world's most sophisticated generation ever is truly absurd.

However, liberals and seculars who purport to be the only ones in the world who can actually 'think' - those who do not agree with their worldview are all idiots or benighted creatures - will openly deny scientific fact when it belies that worldview. (Look at their record on the global warming hypothesis.)

That stubborn denial is offensive to any person who truly thinks, and to all believers who hold life sacrosanct because it is a gift from God. It is far more offensive than the denial of the Holocaust by negationists is to Jews.

Every adult human being develops from a baby who is born, who in turn developed for nine months in the womb from that simple one-cell zygote that represents the fertilized egg, the physical reality that shows conception has taken place.

There is no discontinuity in that development, from the fertilized egg to the aggressive secular who refuses to recognize that he, like every other human being, began as what he calls 'a tissue blob' in the womb that is not even worthy of being considered a person. Next to the denial of God, this is the great denial of our time.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/30/2013 12:19 AM]
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Mons. Giampaolo Crepaldi, Archbishop of Trieste and director of the Cardinal Van Thuan International Observatory for the Social Doctrine of the Church, refers to the new colonization attempted by the West to impose the ideology of gender, in which enormous international pressures are exerted so that governments will change their legislation to allow new and unnatural arrangements regarding procreation, the family and life. This alarming trend is reflected in the Observatory's fourth annual report on the Social Doctrine of the Church which was presented in Trieste on January 26.

The Observatory, based in Verona, was established in 2009 to promote the application of the Social Doctrine of the Church to all sectors of Christian life, and was inspired by the life and work of Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuanh (1928-2002) of Vietnam, who was president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1998 till his death.

Van Thuanh, a nephew of South Vietnam's late President Ngo Dinh Diem, had a distinguished career in the local Church. One week after being named Coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon, the city fell to the Vietcong and he was arrested, not so much for being a bishop but because he was a nephew of the infamous Diem. He spent 13 years in prison, nine of them in solitary confinement, and his later account of how he survived those years in prayer and perseverance has inspired Vietnamese Catholics. He was released to house arrest in 1988, and three years later, was allowed to go to Rome on condition that he would not return to Vietnam. He worked for a refugee agency in Geneva and became a much-sought speaker on the international circuit. In 1994, John Paul II named him vice president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, becoming president when Cardinal Roger Etchegaray retired in 1998. In 2001 he was named a cardinal. He died of cancer in September 2002. The cause for his beatification formally began in 2007 on the fifth anniversary of his death.

The following is the introductory synthesis of the Fourth Report prepared by the Observatory's Editorial Committee{

The new colonialism:
How the ideology of gender seeks cultural dominance -
It has already succeeded in once-Catholic Argentina

The phenomenon of the “colonization of human nature” emerged with all its pervasive power and might in 2011, the year to which this Fourth Report refers. We consider this to be the new datum of interest for the Social Doctrine of the Church, making it necessary to rethink cultural and political strategies on the world level.

This year as well there have been grave emergencies on the world stage linked to poverty and exploitation, but we nonetheless feel that albeit dramatic in their own right, they do not represent anything new, nor do they constitute a cause of damage comparable to this “colonization of human nature”.

This phenomenon is spreading on a vast scale also as a result of the immense resources invested in it and the militant mobilization of the mass media. Its concrete aspects can be seen in the way it undermines social bonds, functionally fragments interpersonal relations, heightens disincarnated individualism and strives to remould social relations no longer on the basis of human nature, but rather on the basis of individual and self-referential desires.

It would suffice to consider the case of Argentina, which we illustrate in the Five Continents section. In the course of one year alone, 2011 in fact, added to the legislation of that great nation of Christian tradition were the following parliamentary acts:
- A law on artificial procreation, which attacks the very nature of procreation;
- A law recognizing “gender identity”, which saps the very nature of the family;
- A change in the Code of Civil Law to permit the practice of “the uterus for rent” [surrogacy - in which women who are unable to bear their own children because they no longer have a womb use a surrogate womb, that of a healthy young woman who is willing for the right sum to have a couple's embryos resulting from in-vitro fertilization to be placed into her uterus, bear the baby for nine months and deliver him or her, to be handed over to the baby's genetic parents], which sabotages the very nature of parenthood.

Some of the bills in question actually became law early in 2012, but had been drafted and discussed the year before. Some are still on the agenda of one branch of Parliament after having been approved by the other branch, but the trend is crystal clear.

In the space of a single year the foundation of Argentine society at large has been revolutionized, the notion of “human nature” has been discarded, and the inspiration of the Catholic faith for the construction of society has been shunted aside.

It would be mistaken to consider the issues of procreation and family as merely sectoral in nature. They have a constituent and structuring influence on society as a whole, and hence the new Argentine laws tend to literally dismantle society as we know it today in order to construct a completely different one.

It is by no means a question of mere adjustments. Argentina had received from its Spanish colonizers the Christian vision of the individual and life, and Argentines have always sustained that this legacy is part and parcel of their identity as nation.

At present, however, Argentina is in the process of importing exactly the contrary from secularised Spain, that is to say, a clear refusal of a moral and religious life imprinted by natural law and the Catholic faith, in exchange for a radical libertarian outlook whereby nature is set against culture, and liberty is understood as emancipation from nature.

Behind such laws now assaulting both Latin American and other countries (in the Philippines the Church is engaged in a stiff battle against the law on contraception, which is but the leading edge of what we might call the new post-natural approach to procreation and the family) with quite disquieting velocity and violence is an ideology, the ideology of gender, hand in hand with vast economic resources invested by international lobbies and political support on the part of individual countries and international organizations.

The European Union is the main financier of abortion in the world and the agencies of the United Nations are hyper-active channels for these anti-nature and anti-family ideologies. This also poses a very serious question about the usefulness and sustainability of these organizations.

This is the reason why our Fourth Report dedicated its study on the “problem of the year” to the ideology of gender, and allocated pride of place as the teaching of the year to the speech delivered by the Holy Father at the Reichstag in Berlin on 22 September 2011, when he proposed anew the doctrine of natural moral law as the basis and foundation of political power.

The ideology of gender encountered little or no opposition as it spread in advanced countries and is by now also being taught in textbooks used in public schools without giving rise to very much in the way of protest. It is now being exported to emerging and poor countries in a systematic way.

It is a subtle and pervasive ideology which evokes “individual rights” that the Western world has raised to the level of dogma, and a presumed equality conferred on asexual or abstract individuals in order to lead the way to a dismantling of the entire structuring of society.

If sexuality understood as behavior and not sex understood as an anthropological datum is at the origin of social relations, then it becomes something we 'choose' not something 'given' to us.

Under the gender theory, individuals in the abstract should be able to choose their sexual orientation regardless of their natural state, the datum with which they were born. This would mean discriminating against heterosexuality, or sexual difference, and the cultural imposition of transsexuality, or sexual indifference. It would come down to an absolute dominion of technology [??? I see it more as the dominion of selfish will!] in human relations.

Technology has made it possible to emancipate culture from nature, and hence has created unnatural situations in which it possible to be a mommy without being a woman, a daddy without being a man, a man while still being a woman, a woman while still being a man, a father or mother without knowing of whom, and a child without knowing of which father or mother.

This has all denatured sexuality, rendering it as a mere functional exercise by persons bereft of authentic identity. What we have now is not the absolutization of sex, but the absolutization of sexuality, whereas sex [as the inherent difference God confers on his human creatures to enable them to perpetuate the human species] is shunted aside, a topic that only the Catholic Church seems willing to talk about today.

The ideology of gender is a new attempt by the West to colonize the rest of the world. But among the many negative aspects of the old colonialism there were also some heroic features, and it was driven by the desire to export something meaningful [such as Western civilization which in at the height of the colonial era still represented a great legacy with its synthesis of Greco-Roman culture with Judeao-Christian principles].

This new western colonialism is the exportation of nothingness. Abstract and asexual individuals are in fact identity-less, except for the identity they arbitrarily assign to themselves. In their quest to divest themselves of any and all natural characteristics, they postpone their identity to future choices and future contacts with other individuals, becoming subservient to the worst of conditioning factors: nothingness. [Sounds murky to me. What I thought the argument was leading to, which makes sense is, rephrasing what the sentence tried to say: "In defining themselves by the choices they make and the relationships (not contacts) they choose to have now and in the future, then the 'gender'-driven are really led by belief in nothing but whatever is expedient and pleasing to them at the moment."]

The new ideology of gender imbues all aspects of society and seeks to reshape it on unnatural bases. The inevitable consequence of recognizing de facto heterosexual cohabitation and same-sex unions as equivalent to traditional marriage is the reform of family law, fiscal law, and the aims and methods of educational structures.

The fact that it has become impossible to morally condemn homosexuality without the risk of being formally charged with homophobia compromises the free expression of ideas and the education of children, and challenges the idea of projecting the heterosexual family as the model family. The “new families” are championed by the mass media with no possibility of frank debate because this is the one and only prevailing school of thought among them.

Public authorities have mostly abdicated their role to safeguard the public morality of society. By abstaining from fostering a vision linked to natural moral law in these constituent fields, limiting themselves to registering the desiderata of citizens and turning them into rights, and accepting a complete pluralism of ethical behavior, they have retreated from ethics and are then unable to restore that dimension in other areas of social life because it has disappeared from the fundamental spheres of that life.

If relationships are personal only in questions of procreation and family, if the necessary complementarity of sexes is ignored, what kind of human relations outside of family relations can result?

The seriousness of the situation is not widely perceived, and even active proponents of the Social Doctrine of the Church at all levels pursue other issues, which certainly are not to be underestimated, but this means they do not concentrate on this essential challenge.

Essential because gender theory and all its corollaries de-structures essential elements and transform society into a set of functional roles regulated by contracted procedures. If being a man or a woman is only a function assumed by personal volition, all the other dimensions of society will become functions to be assumed as a result of personal volition, But a society without duties cannot survive.

From here on, what follows is more my paraphrase of what the article says, rather than presenting it word for word, though I try to keep as much of the words and syntax as I can. I resort to this because the expression gets murkier (and I don't think it is just because of faulty translation by the Observatory's translators of the Italian original, nor an unclear idea of what they are trying to say, because I think I can understand the sense that they fail to articulate clearly):

The subversion being perpetrated by this world view necessarily concerns Catholicism. We considered above the example of Argentina, a country that was once outstanding for its Christian tradition.

The decision to ignore the natural order of being human may initially seem focused against nature itself, but it doesn't take much to see that this is against the Christian religion as well.

The abolition of the natural family by law prevents people from living the experience of family. [I'm leaving that sentence the way it was written in order to dispute it. Law cannot abolish the natural family - it just allows unnatural living arrangements to become legally equivalent to the natural family, and this necessarily weakens the family as institution by diluting what it means to be a family. And yes, unnatural arrangements will never 'provide the experience of family', so that is how law 'prevents' those who are in such unnatural arrangements from 'living the experience of family'.]

In fact, living the experience of family has a social function, being an apprenticeship for living in the larger society. But it also has a religious function: the vocabulary of Christian life uses the terms for family, and whoever does not know what Father, Mother, Child, Bride and Spouse mean, cannot understand the relationships inherent in Christianity.

Eventually, not living the experience of the natural family destroys society ['subverts, undermines, damages', perhaps, but 'destroy'?], and above all, helps to destroy the Church. In Argentina, as in other secularized countries, people want Christianity to just disappear, by depriving it of the conditions it needs for being known and understood.

The divergence from nature promoted by laws that minimize natural procreation and the role of the traditional family is a challenge that must be joined in a cultural battle. In the eyes of the anti=nature forces, the sexual identity with which each person is born is nothing but a biological datum that can be ignored... But besides the expression of a person's 'congenital sex' in physiological terms, this inborn and essential characteristic has a metaphysical and existential dimension that cannot be overlooked in the cultural battle over gender theory.

Active proponents of the Social Doctrine of the Church cannot overlook this dimension, and applying the doctrine on the level of the social sciences alone is failing to do battle against the secular attempt to colonize human mentality.

All these subjects and issues officially entered the Social Doctrine of the Church with Benedict XVI's Caritas in veritate. But the attention of those active in the Church’s social doctrine is still mostly focused on more traditional social issues.

The Christian people at large are still far from well informed about these challenges. It is difficult to rally widespread militancy against trends such as these. There must be a strategic change with new priorities aimed at fighting back these attempts to impose unnatural concepts of marriage and family on contemporary society.

Thus, this Report includes an article buy Mons. Crepaldi on the 'non-negotiable principles' necessary to do battle against the new, radical and pernicious ideologies of gender and contradiction of nature.

Activists promoting the Social Doctrine of the Church should take them on as priorities in no uncertain terms - to mobilize consciences to respect these principles and to wield in the non- violent battle against those who wish to eliminate them...

The commitment to non-negotiable principles must be cultural, legislative and political, so that procreation and the family are not reduced to functions but rather seen as they are - expressions of being human, in the intrinsic complementarity of male and female. This cannot be possible without a deep life of faith and without the missionary thrust of a new evangelization.

The original English version of the above summary may be found on
1/29/2013 4:01 PM
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The marriage at Cana, Gerard David, c 1503.

A less technical view of the social crisis brought on by Western liberalism's attempt to circumvent nature and natural law comes from a lay professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio (who, by the way, has ten children)...

Why marriage matters
in God's design

by Regis Martin

January 21, 2013

It was, not so very long ago widely regarded in this country as morally wrong and, not infrequently, socially ruinous, for a man to walk out on his wife and children.

In 1961, for example, Nelson Rockefeller, who was then Governor of New York, decided to divorce his wife of more than twenty years, for a much younger woman (who thereupon divorced her husband, leaving him with custody of their four children). The result? Despite every prediction that Rockefeller would easily become the Republican Party’s nominee for President in 1964, the scandal of divorce so undermined his credibility at the convention that he finally withdrew from the race. (Of course, his squishy republicanism was not exactly helpful, either.)

In addition to committing political suicide, Rockefeller’s defiance of society’s mores earned him the opprobrium of vast swaths of ordinary Americans.

Now fast forward to the recent presidential sweepstakes and observe, in lurid contrast, the approval rating of Republican stalwart Newt Gingrich, who has compiled an impressive number of conjugal conquests (four so far). Has that seriously impeded his standing among voters? Not at all. Even ardent conservatives appear undisturbed by the obvious disconnect between his repeated failures to remain faithful to the covenant of marriage alongside his eagerness to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

But take another look back at that halcyon age. What other aberrations did people in that quaint and distant time find abhorrent? How approving were Americans of, say, abortion? Or pornography? And what about homosexuality? Were these hot-button issues back in 1961? Hardly.

Had anyone back then dared to propose the legalization of abortion-on-demand, a porn-fed reading public, and same-sex marriage, not only would people have found their ideas incomprehensible, but their morals reprehensible. And yet today these are issues around which fashionable opinion has rallied in the most robust and shameful way.

Pornography, for example, has gone totally viral, becoming as ubiquitous as smoking once was. And, of course, the toxicity fallout is far, far greater inasmuch as it targets the soul while, at the same time, victimizing the innocent in ways that second-hand tobacco smoke never could. In other words, smut doesn’t poison the lungs, but it will infect everything and everyone else, leaving a mushroom cloud of defilement and degradation that only the grace of God can remove.

And then of course there is homosexuality. Not only has it come defiantly out from the closet, even social sanctions no seem no longer in force. Indeed, it has become a force itself, perhaps more powerful than any other in the deformation of the culture. Just ask the Democratic Party if it can safely ignore the Gay Lobby. Or the entertainment industry, which is not only hospitable to the homosexual community, but increasingly harnessed to its agenda.

Yes, we’ve certainly come a long way, baby.

But this is not an argument for going back to the world before recent history hit us with a freight train (and, in any case, there was much that was already rotten amid the seeming innocence of those days). Still, it shouldn’t be necessary to have specialized in social pathology to predict the demise of a civilization. And, without question, the one we’re living in now is, by all accounts, guttering and gasping on the cusp of complete dissolution. Can the disease be arrested? Or must the patient die?

These are questions that, as Pascal would say, take a man by the throat. In the meantime, I will venture this—that if our civilization is to go up in smoke, there is one very good reason for it, and that is the current crisis of marriage and family life, which threatens to destroy the principal institution making possible the life of civilization.

It is not rocket science, I am saying, that tells us that the world’s health and happiness finally depend on the survival of something not only antedating the civil and societal order, but nourishing and sustaining it at every turn.

And what is it that truly distinguishes life in a family? It is something that hardly ever gets talked about, not even in families. It is the belief that here is a safe and reassuring place in the midst of an otherwise harsh and pitiless world; a place where one is loved, not for anything he or she might do, but simply for being who they are. Without that carapace of warmth and welcoming love, one is left alone and bereft in a world trembling with the cold.

“A man is uncivilized, barbarian, in the degree to which he does not take others into account,” wrote Jose Ortega y Gasset more than eighty years ago in his great work, The Revolt of the Masses. “Barbarism is the tendency to disassociation.”

Now there’s a thesis that, in light of all that has happened since, seems positively prophetic. Indeed, with uncanny accuracy, Ortega put his finger on what really goes on between two people and the life that springs from the loins of their love. Because what else does it mean when two people marry and have babies but that they must now take others into account. That they are now to live so entirely for the other that the two become one flesh.

“God was in love,” Fulton Sheen used to say, “but He could not keep the secret. The telling of it was creation.” How else does God go about telling us how much He loves us if not through the institution of marriage? It is the high road of nature that God chose to lead us through, in order that, in grace, we might then experience the wonder and majesty of divine love.

The opening chapter of Genesis makes this abundantly clear with the creation of Adam and Eve, whom God enjoins to be fruitful and multiply. Here, among other equally obvious data, is a procreative power surely beyond the capacity of same-sex unions to achieve.

Is there anything in society more foundational than this? Why it is nothing less than the great revelational event in the history of the world! At the level, that is, of nature. It is God’s way of telling us how He wants life to begin: through the mysterious coupling of two disparate human beings, thus creating a bond the origin and strength of whose union is so sacred not even governments can sever it.

“Home is the place where,” Robert Frost reminds us, “when you go there, they have to take you in.” Or put it this way: the place where, when you arrive, it suddenly becomes what it was always meant to be, i.e., a family. And we all find ourselves more or less inserted into its fabric.

Why should it then surprise us to learn that God is himself a family? (“It is not well,” warns Chesterton, “for God to be alone.”) Or that He should take an interest in our own families? Are they not replications of His family, which is to say, little domestic churches?

And when He fashioned for Himself a body with which to redeem us, God chose a family to be the place where it should all begin. Joseph and Mary and Jesus. It is the family, in other words, after whose perfection we are to model our own efforts to become perfect.

The world is to be saved by beauty. But only because of that prior absolute Beauty which, in Jean Danielou’s lovely and expressive phrase, “cascades down from the Trinity.” Only in the love of Christ, who is the beauty of God Incarnate, will the world find salvation.

And what else is marriage but the love of two people annealed in a common enterprise whose exalted purpose is nothing less than to demonstrate before the world the very Face of God.

“Who speaks the things that Love him shows,” writes Coventry Patmore, “shall say things deeper than he knows.” When a man and a woman fall in love, a terrible beauty is born. A beauty which, please God, may become yet more beautiful when, quickened by the springs of Love itself, the miracle of life happens and, all at once, we witness the laughter and the smiles of little children.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/29/2013 4:02 PM]
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Tuesday, January 29, Third Week in Ordinary Time

From left: A children's book on Juniper; Murillo's 1618 painting; and the Brother Juniper cartoon.
Servant of God BROTHER JUNIPER [Fra Ginepro] (Italy, d 1258)
One of the original Franciscans with St. Francis
Little is known about Ginepro's life before he joined Francis and his band of brothers in 1210, except
that he was a close friend of Francis from his younger days. Although he has come down in Franciscan
annals as the 'Franciscan clown' or 'jester of the Lord', he was entrusted by Francis to set up
Franciscan 'places' in Gualdo and Viterbo, and he was with St. Clare, conforting her on her deathbed.
He was renowned for his simplicity and kindness. A 1618 Murillo painting depicts him about to give up
his garments to a beggar. Five centuries later, the 18th-century missionary Junipero Serra would take
his religious name from Francis's friend. In 1958-1989, Brother Juniper inspired a popular syndicated
cartoon depicting him in modern situations.
Readings from today's Mass:


No events announced for the Holy Father.

The Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations released the Pope's calendar for February-March 2013.

A news conference was held to present the planned events for the 2ist World Day for the Sick, observed
by the Church annually on February 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. This year, the celebration will be
centered at the Marian shrine of Altoetting in Germany.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/29/2013 5:03 PM]
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The great literary figure Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was a towering cultural influence for literate men in the first half of the 20th century and has continued to be so for devotees. Venerable Fulton Sheen considered him the strongest influence on his own writing. Chesterton himself, a true master of the English language, who wrote 80 books and about 4000 articles, has been proposed for beatification. Always a devout Anglican, he converted to Catholicism in 1922, after which he wrote many books on apologetics and religion, among the latter, short but extraordinary biographies of St. Francis (1923) and of St. Thomas Aquinas (1933). Ignatius Press published both in a single volume recently. The following is from Chesterton's Introduction to the Aquinas biography, and for those who have not had the pleasure of reading Chesterton before, an excellent introduction to his exceptional thinking, his fresh use of language, and his unique and vivid writing style.

Some time ago I wrote a little book of this type and shape on St. Francis of Assisi; and some time after (I know not when or how, as the song says, and certainly not why) I promised to write a book of the same size, or the same smallness on St. Thomas Aquinas.

The promise was Franciscan only in its rashness; and the parallel was very far from being Thomistic in its logic. You can make a sketch of St. Francis: you could only make a plan of St. Thomas, like the plan of a labyrinthine city.

And yet in a sense he would fit into a much larger or a much smaller book. What we really know of his life might be pretty fairly dealt with in a few pages; for he did not, like St. Francis, disappear in a shower of personal anecdotes and popular legends. What we know, or could know, or may eventually have the luck to learn, of his work, will probably fill even more libraries in the future than it has filled in the past.

It was allowable to sketch St. Francis in an outline; but with St. Thomas everything depends on the filling up of the outline. It was even medieval in a manner to illuminate a miniature of the Poverello, whose very title is a diminutive. But to make a digest, in the tabloid manner, of the 'Dumb Ox' of Sicily passes all digestive experiments in the matter of an ox in a tea-cup.

But we must hope it is possible to make an outline of biography, now that anybody seems capable of writing an outline of history or an outline of anything. Only in the present case the outline is rather an outsize. The gown that could contain the colossal friar is not kept in stock.

I have said that these can only be portraits in outline. But the concrete contrast is here so striking, that even if we actually saw the two human figures in outline, coming over the hill in their friar's gowns, we should find that contrast even comic. It would be like seeing, even afar off, the silhouettes of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, or of Falstaff and Master Slender.

St. Francis was a lean and lively little man; thin as a thread and vibrant as a bowstring; and in his motions like an arrow from the bow. All his life was a series of plunges and scampers: darting after the beggar, dashing naked into the woods, tossing himself into the strange ship, hurling himself into the Sultan tent and offering to hurl himself into the fire. In appearance he must have been like a thin brown skeleton autumn leaf dancing eternally before the wind; but in truth it was he that was the wind.

St. Thomas was a huge heavy bull of a man, fat and slow and quiet; very mild and magnanimous but not very sociable; shy, even apart from the humility of holiness; and abstracted, even apart from his occasional and carefully concealed experiences of trance or ecstasy.

St. Francis was so fiery and even fidgety that the ecclesiastics, before whom he appeared quite suddenly, thought he was a madman. St. Thomas was so stolid that the scholars, in the schools which he attended regularly, thought he was a dunce. Indeed, he was the sort of schoolboy, not unknown, who would much rather be thought a dunce than have his own dreams invaded, by more active or animated dunces. This external contrast extends to almost every point in the two personalities.

It was the paradox of St. Francis that while he was passionately fond of poems, he was rather distrustful of books. It was the outstanding fact about St. Thomas that he loved books and lived on books; that he lived the very life of the clerk or scholar in The Canterbury Tales, who would rather have a hundred books of Aristotle and his philosophy than any wealth the world could give him. When asked for what he thanked God most, he answered simply, "I have understood every page I ever read."

St. Francis was very vivid in his poems and rather vague in his documents; St. Thomas devoted his whole life to documenting whole systems of Pagan and Christian literature; and occasionally wrote a hymn like a man taking a holiday.

They saw the same problem from different angles, of simplicity and subtlety; St. Francis thought it would be enough to pour out his heart to the Mohammedans, to persuade them not to worship Mahound. St. Thomas bothered his head with every hair-splitting distinction and deduction, about the Absolute or the Accident, merely to prevent them from misunderstanding Aristotle.

St. Francis was the son of a shopkeeper, or middle class trader; and while his whole life was a revolt against the mercantile life of his father, he retained none the less, something of the quickness and social adaptability which makes the market hum like a hive. In the common phrase, fond as he was of green fields, he did not let the grass grow under his feet. He was what American millionaires and gangsters call a live wire.

It is typical of the mechanistic moderns that, even when they try to imagine a live thing, they can only think of a mechanical metaphor from a dead thing. There is such a thing as a live worm; but there is no such thing as a live wire. St. Francis would have heartily agreed that he was a worm; but he was a very live worm. Greatest of all foes to the go-getting ideal, he had certainly abandoned getting, but he was still going.

St. Thomas, on the other hand, came out of a world where he might have enjoyed leisure, and he remained one of those men whose labour has something of the placidity of leisure. He was a hard worker, but nobody could possibly mistake him for a hustler. He had something indefinable about him, which marks those who work when they need not work. For he was by birth a gentleman of a great house, and such repose can remain as a habit, when it is no longer a motive.

But in him it was expressed only in its most amiable elements; for instance, there was possibly something of it in his effortless courtesy and patience. Every saint is a man before he is a saint; and a saint may be made of every sort or kind of man; and most of us will choose between these different types according to our different tastes.

But I will confess that, while the romantic glory of St. Francis has lost nothing of its glamour for me, I have in later years grown to feel almost as much affection, or in some aspects even more, for this man who unconsciously inhabited a large heart and a large head, like one inheriting a large house, and exercised there an equally generous if rather more absent-minded hospitality. There are moments when St. Francis, the most unworldly man who ever walked the world, is almost too efficient for me.

St. Thomas Aquinas has recently reappeared (in the 1930s), in the current culture of the colleges and the salons, in a way that would have been quite startling even ten years ago. And the mood that has concentrated on him is doubtless very different from that which popularised St. Francis quite twenty years ago.

The Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age.

Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what the people want, but rather what the people need. This is surely the very much mistaken meaning of those words to the first saints, "Ye are the salt of the earth," which caused the Ex-Kaiser to remark with all solemnity that his beefy Germans were the salt of the earth; meaning thereby merely that they were the earth's beefiest and therefore best.

But salt seasons and preserves beef, not because it is like beef; but because it is very unlike it.

Christ did not tell his apostles that they were only the excellent people, or the only excellent people, but that they were the exceptional people; the permanently incongruous and incompatible people; and the text about the salt of the earth is really as sharp and shrewd and tart as the taste of salt.

It is because they were the exceptional people, that they must not lose their exceptional quality. "If salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?" is a much more pointed question than any mere lament over the price of the best beef. If the world grows too worldly, it can be rebuked by the Church; but if the Church grows too worldly, it cannot be adequately rebuked for worldliness by the world.

Therefore it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most. St. Francis had a curious and almost uncanny attraction for the Victorians; for the nineteenth century English who seemed superficially to be most complacent about their commerce and their common sense.

Not only a rather complacent Englishman like Matthew Arnold, but even the English Liberals whom he criticised for their complacency, began slowly to discover the mystery of the Middle Ages through the strange story told in feathers and flames in the hagiographical pictures of Giotto.

There was something in the story of St. Francis that pierced through all those English qualities which are most famous and fatuous, to all those English qualities which are most hidden and human: the secret softness of heart; the poetical vagueness of mind; the love of landscape and of animals.

St. Francis of Assisi was the only medieval Catholic who really became popular in England on his own merits. It was largely because of a subconscious feeling that the modern world had neglected those particular merits. The English middle classes found their only missionary in the figure, which of all types in the world they most despised; an Italian beggar.

So, as the nineteenth century clutched at the Franciscan romance, precisely because it had neglected romance, so the twentieth century is already clutching at the Thomist rational theology, because it has neglected reason.

In a world that was too stolid, Christianity returned in the form of a vagabond; in a world that has grown a great deal too wild, Christianity has returned in the form of a teacher of logic. In the world of Herbert Spencer men wanted a cure for indigestion; in the world of Einstein they want a cure for vertigo.

In the first case, they dimly perceived the fact that it was after a long fast that St. Francis sang the Song of the Sun and the praise of the fruitful earth. In the second case, they already dimly perceived that, even if they only want to understand Einstein, it is necessary first to understand the use of the understanding.

They begin to see that, as the eighteenth century thought itself the age of reason, and the nineteenth century thought itself the age of common sense, the twentieth century cannot as yet even manage to think itself anything but the age of uncommon nonsense.

In those conditions the world needs a saint; but above all, it needs a philosopher. And these two cases do show that the world, to do it justice, has an instinct for what it needs. The earth was really very flat, for those Victorians who most vigorously repeated that it was round, and Alverno of the Stigmata stood up as a single mountain in the plain.

But the earth is an earthquake, a ceaseless and apparently endless earthquake, for the moderns for whom Newton has been scrapped along with Ptolemy. And for them there is something more steep and even incredible than a mountain; a piece of really solid ground - the level of the level-headed man.

Thus in our time the two saints have appealed to two generations, an age of romantics and an age of sceptics; yet in their own age they were doing the same work; a work that has changed the world.

Again, it may be said truly that the comparison is idle, and does not fit in well even as a fancy: since the men were not properly even of the same generation or the same historic moment. If two friars are to be presented as a pair of Heavenly Twins, the obvious comparison is between St. Francis and St. Dominic.

The relations of St. Francis and St. Thomas were, at nearest, those of uncle and nephew; and my fanciful excursus may appear only a highly profane version of "Tommy make room for your uncle."

For if St. Francis and St. Dominic were the great twin brethren, Thomas was obviously the first great son of St. Dominic, as was his friend Bonaventure of St. Francis. Nevertheless, I have a reason (indeed two reasons) for taking as a text the accident of two title-pages; and putting St. Thomas beside St. Francis, instead of pairing him off with Bonaventure the Franciscan.

It is because the comparison, remote and perverse as it may seem, is really a sort of short cut to the heart of history; and brings us by the most rapid route to the real question of the life and work of St. Thomas Aquinas. For most people now have a rough but picturesque picture in their minds of the life and work of St. Francis of Assisi.

And the shortest way of telling the other story is to say that, while the two men were thus a contrast in almost every feature, they were really doing the same thing. One of them was doing it in the world of the mind and the other in the world of the worldly. But it was the same great medieval movement; still but little understood.

In a constructive sense, it was more important than the Reformation. Nay, in a constructive sense, it was the Reformation.

About this medieval movement there are two facts that must first be emphasised. They are not, of course, contrary facts, but they are perhaps answers to contrary fallacies. First, in spite of all that was once said about superstition, the Dark Ages and the sterility of Scholasticism, it was in every sense a movement of enlargement, always moving towards greater light and even greater liberty.

Second, in spite of all that was said later on about progress and the Renaissance and forerunners of modern thought, it was almost entirely a movement of orthodox theological enthusiasm, unfolded from within. It was not a compromise with the world, or a surrender to heathens or heretics, or even a mere borrowing of external aids, even when it did borrow them.

In so far as it did reach out to the light of common day, it was like the action of a plant which by its own force thrusts out its leaves into the sun; not like the action of one who merely lets daylight into a prison.

In short, it was what is technically called a Development in doctrine. But there seems to be a queer ignorance, not only about the technical, but the natural meaning of the word Development.

The critics of Catholic theology seem to suppose that it is not so much an evolution as an evasion; that it is at best an adaptation. They fancy that its very success is the success of surrender. But that is not the natural meaning of the word Development.

When we talk of a child being well-developed, we mean that he has grown bigger and stronger with his own strength; not that he is padded with borrowed pillows or walks on stilts to make him look taller. When we say that a puppy develops into a dog, we do not mean that his growth is a gradual compromise with a cat; we mean that he becomes more doggy and not less.

Development is the expansion of all the possibilities and implications of a doctrine, as there is time to distinguish them and draw them out; and the point here is that the enlargement of medieval theology was simply the full comprehension of that theology. [FSSPX and Vatican-II 'spiritists', do you read this?]

And it is of primary importance to realise this fact first, about the time of the great Dominican and the first Franciscan, because their tendency, humanistic and naturalistic in a hundred ways, was truly the development of the supreme doctrine, which was also the dogma of all dogmas.

It is in this that the popular poetry of St. Francis and the almost rationalistic prose of St. Thomas appear most vividly as part of the same movement. There are both great growths of Catholic development, depending upon external things only as every living and growing thing depends on them; that is, it digests and transforms them, but continues in its own image and not in theirs.

A Buddhist or a Communist might dream of two things which simultaneously eat each other, as the perfect form of unification. But it is not so with living things. St. Francis was content to call himself the Troubadour of God; but not content with the God of the Troubadours. St. Thomas did not reconcile Christ to Aristotle; he reconciled Aristotle to Christ.

Yes, in spite of the contrasts that are as conspicuous and even comic as the comparison between the fat man and the thin man, the tall man and the short: in spite of the contrast between the vagabond and the student, between the apprentice and the aristocrat, between the book-hater and the book-lover, between the wildest of all missionaries and the mildest of all professors, the great fact of medieval history is that these two great men were doing the same great work; one in the study and the other in the street.

They were not bringing something new into Christianity; in the sense of something heathen or heretical into Christianity; on the contrary, they were bringing Christianity into Christendom.

But they were bringing it back against the pressure of certain historic tendencies, which had hardened into habits in many great schools and authorities in the Christian Church; and they were using tools and weapons which seemed to many people to be associated with heresy or heathenry. St. Francis used Nature much as St. Thomas used Aristotle; and to some they seemed to be using a Pagan goddess and a Pagan sage.

What they were really doing, and especially what St. Thomas was really doing, will form the main matter of these pages; but it is convenient to be able to compare him from the first with a more popular saint; because we may thus sum up the substance of it in the most popular way.

Perhaps it would sound too paradoxical to say that these two saints saved us from Spirituality; a dreadful doom. Perhaps it may be misunderstood if I say that St. Francis, for all his love of animals, saved us from being Buddhists; and that St. Thomas, for all his love of Greek philosophy, saved us from being Platonists.

But it is best to say the truth in its simplest form; that they both reaffirmed the Incarnation, by bringing God back to earth.

Let me add the other Ignatius special yesterday on St. Thomas Aquinas:


So bound up is the life of St. Thomas Aquinas with the thirteenth century that the year in which the century reached its mid-point, 1250, was likewise the mid-point of Thomas's life, though he was only twenty-five years old at the time and still sitting at the feet of Albertus Magnus as a student in the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Cologne.

The thirteenth century has been called the specifically "Occidental" century. The significance of this epithet has not always been completely clarified, but in a certain sense I too accept the term. I would even assert that the special quality of "Occidentality" was ultimately forged in that very century, and by Thomas Aquinas himself. It depends, however, on what we understand by "OccidentaIity." We shall have more to say on this matter.

There exists the romantic notion that the thirteenth century was an era of harmonious balance, of stable order, and of the free flowering of Christianity. Especially in the realm of thought, this was not so. The Louvain historian Fernand van Steenberghen speaks of the thirteenth century as a time of "crisis of Christian intelligence"; [1] and Gilson comments: "Anybody could see that a crisis was brewing." [2]

What, in concrete terms, was the situation? First of all we must point out that Christianity, already besieged by Islam for centuries, threatened by the mounted hordes of Asiatics (1241 is the year of the battle with the Mongols at Liegnitz) — that this Christianity of the thirteenth century had been drastically reminded of how small a body it was within a vast non-Christian world. It was learning its own limits in the most forceful way, and those limits were not only territorial.

Around 1253 or 1254 the court of the Great Khan in Karakorum, in the heart of Asia, was the scene of a disputation of two French mendicant friars with Mohammedans and Buddhists. Whether we can conclude that these friars represented a "universal mission sent forth out of disillusionment with the old Christianity," [3] is more than questionable. But be this as it may, Christianity saw itself subjected to a grave challenge, and not only from the areas beyond its territorial limits.

For a long time the Arab world, which had thrust itself into old Europe, had been impressing Christians not only with its military and political might but also with its philosophy and science. Through translations from the Arabic into Latin, Arab philosophy and Arab science had become firmly established in the heart of Christendom — at the University of Paris, for example.

Looking into the matter more closely, of course, we are struck by the fact that Arab philosophy and science were not Islamic by origin and character. Rather, classical ratio, epitomized by Aristotle, had by such strangely involved routes come to penetrate the intellectual world of Christian Europe. But in the beginning, at any rate, it was felt as something alien, new, dangerous, "pagan."

During this same period, thirteenth-century Christendom was being shaken politically from top to bottom. Internal upheavals of every sort were brewing. Christendom was entering upon the age "in which it would cease to be a theocratic unity",[4] and would, in fact, never be so again.

In 1214 a national king (as such) for the first time won a victory over the Emperor (as such) at the Battle of Bouvines. During this same period the first religious wars within Christendom flared up, to be waged with inconceivable cruelty on both sides. Such was the effect of these conflicts that all of southern France and northern Italy seemed for decades to be lost once and for all to the corpus of Christendom.

Old monasticism, which was invoked as a spiritual counterforce, seems (as an institution, that is to say, seen as a whole) to have become impotent, in spite of all heroic efforts to reform it (Cluny, Cîteaux, etc.). And as far as the bishops were concerned — and here, too, of course, we are making a sweeping statement — an eminent Dominican prior of Louvain, who incidentally may have been a fellow pupil of St. Thomas under Albertus Magnus in Cologne, wrote the following in a significant homily:

In 1248 it happened at Paris that a cleric was to preach before a synod of bishops; and while he was considering what he should say, the devil appeared to him. "Tell them this alone," the devil said. "The princes of infernal darkness offer the princes of the Church their greetings. We thank them heartily for leading their charges to us and commend the fact that due to their negligence almost the entire world is succumbing to darkness." [5]

But of course it could not be that Christianity should passively succumb to these developments. Thirteenth-century Christianity rose In its own defense, and in a most energetic fashion. Not only were great cathedrals built in that century; it also saw the founding of the first universities. The universities undertook, among other things, the task of assimilating classical ideas and philosophy, and to a large extent accomplished this task.

There was also the whole matter of the "mendicant orders," which represented one of the most creative responses of Christianity. These new associations quite unexpectedly allied ihemselves with the institution of the university. The most important university teachers of the century, in Paris as well as in Oxford, were all monks of the mendicant orders.

All in all, nothing seemed to be "finished"; everything had entered a state of flux. AIbertus Magnus voiced this bold sense of futurity in the words: Scientiae demonstrativae non omnes factae sunt, sed plures restant adhuc inveniendae - most of what exists in the realm of knowledge remains still to be discovered. [6]

The mendicant orders took the lead in moving out into the world beyond the frontiers of Christianity. Shortly after the middle of the century, while Thomas was writing his Summa Against the Pagans, addressed to the mahumetistae et pagani, [7] the Dominicans were founding the first Christian schools for teaching the Arabic language.

I have already spoken of the disputation between the mendicant friars and the sages of Eastern faiths in Karakorum. Toward the end of the century a Franciscan translated the New Testament and the Psalms into Mongolian and presented this translation to the Great Khan. He was the same Neapolitan, John of Monte Corvino, who built a church alongside the Impenal Palace in Peking and who became the first Archbishop of Peking.

This mere listing of a few events, facts, and elements should make it clear that the era was anything but a harmonious one. There is little reason for wishing for a return to those times — aside from the fact that such wishes are in themselves foolish.

Nevertheless, it may be said that in terms of the history of thought this thirteenth century, for all its polyphonic character, did attain something like harmony and "classical fullness." At least this was so for a period of three or four decades. Gilson speaks of a kind of "serenity." [8] And although that moment in time is of course gone and cannot ever again be summoned back, it appears to have left its traces upon the memory of Western Christianity, so that it is recalled as something paradigmatic and exemplary, a kind of ideal spirit of an age which men long to see realized once more, although under changed conditions and therefore, of course, in some altogether new cast.

Now as it happens, the work of Thomas Aquinas falls into that brief historical moment. Perhaps it may be said that his work embodies that moment. Such, at any rate, is the sense in which St. Thomas's achievement has been understood in the Christian world for almost seven hundred years; such are the terms in which it has repeatedly been evaluated.

Not by all, to be sure (Luther called Thomas "the greatest chatterbox" among the scholastic theologians [9]); but the voices of approbation and reverence have always predominated. And even aside from his written work, his personal destiny and the events of his life unite virtually all the elements of that highly contradictory century in a kind of "existential" synthesis. We shall now speak of these matters at greater length, and in detail.

First of all, a few remarks regarding books.

The best introduction to the spirit of St. Thomas is, to my mind, the small book by G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas. [10] This is not a scholarly work in the proper sense of the word; it might be called journalistic — for which reason I am somewhat chary about recommending it.

Maisie Ward, co-owner of the British-American publishing firm which publishes the book, writes in her biography of Chesterton [11] that at the time her house published it, she was seized by a slight anxiety. However, she goes on to say, Étienne Gilson read it and commented: "Chesterton makes one despair. I have been studying St. Thomas all my life and I could never have written such a book."

Still troubled by the ambiguity of this comment, Maisie Ward asked Gilson once more for his verdict on the Chesterton book. This time he expressed himself in unmistakable terms: "I consider it as being, without possible comparison, the best book ever written on St. Thomas. . . . Everybody will no doubt admit that it is a 'clever' book, but the few readers who have spent twenty or thirty years in studying St. Thomas Aquinas, and who, perhaps, have themselves published two or three volumes on the subject, cannot fail to perceive that the so-called 'wit' of Chesterton has put their scholarship to shame. . . . He has said all that which they were more or less clumsily attempting to express in academic formulas."

Thus Gilson. I think this praise somewhat exaggerated; but at any rate I need feel no great embarrassment about recommending an "unscholarly" book.

[1] Fernand van Steenberghen, Le XIIIe siècle. In Forest, van Steenberghen, and de Gandillac, Le Mouvement doctrinal du Xle au XIVe siècle. Fliche-Martin, Histoire de l'Eglise vol. 13 (Paris, 1951), p. 303.
[2] Etienne Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (London and New York, 1955), p. 325.
[3] Friedrich Reer, Europäische Geistesgeschichte (Stuttgart, 1953), p.147.
[4] Marie-Dominique Chenu, Introduction à l'etude de St. Thomas d'Aquin (Paris—Montreal, 1950), p. 13.
[5] Gustav Schnürer, Kirche und Kultur im Mittelalter (Paderborn, 1926), II, p. 441.
[6] Liber primus Posteriorum Analyticorum, tract. 1, cap. 1 Opera Omnia. Ed. A. Borgnet (Paris, 1890), tom. 2, p. 3.
[7] C. G. 1,2.
[8] Gilson, History, p. 325.
[9] Joseph Lortz, Die Reformation in Deutschland (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1939), I, p. 352.
[10] Heidelberg, 1956.
[11] Maisie Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton (New York, 1943), p. 620.

Editor's note: Pieper's book was originally published in English in 1962 by Pantheon Books. The Ignatius Press edition was published in 1991.

Googling Chesterton led me to an interview I had not seen before, in which an Italian professor-author, who wrote a book last year about Benedict XVI's simple virtues, discussed the affinities between Joseph Ratzinger and G. K. Chesterton. It's almost a year old but timeless....

'Good sense, good life, good humor':
A Chestertonian reading of
Benedict XVI's Pontificate

By Paul De Maeyer

ROME, FEB. 7, 2012 ( G.K. Chesterton and Benedict XVI have plenty in common, according to a professor of literature and Catholicism from the Pontifical Lateran University.

Andrea Monda will defend this perspective Saturday in Genoa at a conference titled "Common Sense Day. The Paradoxical Beauty of the Everyday. A Day for G.K. Chesterton."

Monda was to close the event -- dedicated entirely to the English writer and thinker -- with a talk on "Good Sense, Good Life and Good Humor: G.K. Chesterton and Benedict XVI."

In the course of his presentation, Professor Monda will provide some excerpts from his next book, Benedetta Umilta (Blessed Humility about "the simple virtues of Joseph Ratzinger," described as a "Chestertonian" reading of Benedict XVI's pontificate (Lindau Publishing House, Mar 2012).

ZENIT spoke with the professor about his vision of the author and the Pontiff.

What relationship is there between Chesterton and Joseph Ratzinger?
Young Joseph Ratzinger read and appreciated several of Chesterton's books; in fact, here and there, whether before or after the papal election, direct or indirect quotations emerge from the work of the inventor of Father Brown.

However, what I tried to do in the book, and what I will do in Genoa, is not so much a philological reconstruction of these quotations, but an approach to the figures of the English thinker and the Bavarian theologian-Pontiff, on the themes that are at the center of the attention of the congress's organizers: good sense, good life and good humor.

In the collective and media imagination, Pope Benedict XVI is not associated with humor, right?
The truth is that Joseph Ratzinger is a mystery, a complex reality often poorly rendered by the image that prevails in the mass media. That is why I felt the need to write a book that gives weight and perspective to a picture that is otherwise trite and two-dimensional - the myth of the Pope of "No," the German Pope as staunch defender of the rigors of Christianity.

What is true in all of this is that Joseph Ratzinger is a serious person. However, be careful, says Chesterton, when he recalls, with his typical use of paradox, that "serious is not the opposite of amusing; the opposite of amusing is not amusing, but boring."

The Pope is obviously a serious person, who takes seriously the Gospel and every man he meets, but also an amusing person, who knows the value of good humor and of smiling.

Is this liking for paradox the point of contact between Chesterton and Benedict XVI?
Yes and no. Certainly yes: being two persons of great acumen and intelligence, their reasoning is not trite but sparkling, at times unsettling, which also calls for flexibility in the mind of the interlocutor. In other words, they require appropriate interlocutors, who are able to 'get' them.

At the same time, Chesterton and the Pope are not two intellectuals merely content to give us paradoxical phrases and wit. Their reasoning is ordered to create a dialogue - not to set off fireworks - but to have a relationship with the other (even with the one who is distant, who does not believe, who is an "enemy" of the faith) without ever betraying adherence to their faith which, in their case, is lived and practised, not just spoken about and preached.

How do you propose to show that the two figures both embody good sense, good life and good humor?
This is what I will talk about at Genoa's congress. All three aspects are connected, and they can all be seen in the two figures.

In regard to good sense: for Chesterton, it is verifiable even in children's fairy tales whose "morals" are still valid today, and he gives the example of Cinderella, which he says has the meaning of the line "He has exalted the lowly" in the Magnificat.

He opposed the contemporary thinking that good sense means overcoming the world of childhood, full of unreal pleasant fantasies, to enter into the world of reason and hopefully of experimental science, seen as the only source of truth (but, unfortunately, not of meaning).

Papa Ratzinger also goes against the current: for him good sense is what emerges from the Gospel and from the Christian faith, as well as the supreme paradox of giving one's life out of love. All this seems discordant in a world that has relegated Christianity to the same sphere as fairy tales, that is altogether superfluous when one attains maturity and autonomy.

And in regard to the good life?
The description I gave above of the Pope may seem to present him as a severe custodian of the truth, as someone who would use truth as a club against freedom. Instead, the dialectical relationship that guides Benedict XVI is not just that of truth/falsehood but also that of joy/boredom. For both Benedict XVI and Chesterton, the good life, as in the case of good sense, is that which flows from adherence to the Gospel.

This 'good life' is not in fact tranquil but rather something like a battle. The good life is the profound desire that animates and stirs the heart of every man. "No matter what type of man he is," writes Chesterton, "he is not sufficient unto himself, whether in peace or in suffering. The whole movement of life is that of a man who seeks to reach some place and who fights against something."

The Pope says, "Only the infinite fills man's heart." To live well does not mean being "respectable", but to live life as an adventure. The good life is not an easy compromise, it is not about having found the formula to have everything at the same time. The good life is to surrender to Christ, sign of contradiction. The life of faith is an adventure because it is not an encounter not with an idea, but with the person of Christ. Only an encounter with someone greater can make man happy.

And good humor? What do the two have in common?
In both cases humor has ts roots in humility. After all, at the etymological level, both words come from the root humus, earth. He who does not raise himself in pride is well-grounded, and gifted with humor, because he knows irony and self-irony. Because he perceives, even if in a confused way, that a larger world exists beyond his own "I" , that there is Someone who is far greater than everything else.

From this point of view, the modern world is disturbing because instead of humor, there is anger; no irony but sarcasm; no sentiment but resentment. However, as Jacques Maritain said, a society that loses its sense of humor is preparing for its funeral.

In different times and ways, Chesterton and Ratzinger cry out against the madness that envelops the life of Western men, to remind everyone that there is a possibility for joy, not just for pleasure which is always transient and never enough. In the last page of his masterpiece Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote: "Joy is the gigantic secret of Christianity."

And it is also the secret of Benedict XVI who, with his ready smile, with the strength of his ordered, clear, honest, quiet intelligence, and with the energy of a faith lived with the abandon of a child, daily challenges the temptations of contemporary man towards laziness and short cuts, towards ideologies and idolatries which flourish in spirits steeped in anger, bad humor and resentment.

Indeed, Benedict XVI can be described as the Pope of joy, which is perhaps the most recurrent word in his addresses after God and Jesus. As he said in the book-length interview Light of the World: "All my life has been suffused by a guiding thread: Christianity gives joy, it widens the horizons."

Here, in one phrase, is the whole of Ratzinger and, of Chesterton. reason, faith, joy - good sense, good life, good humor.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/30/2013 5:05 AM]
1/29/2013 9:56 PM
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It's a troubling indicator of how I am starting to take it for granted that the Vatican - through any of its media channels - is not likely to come (promptly) to the defense of truth when facts about the Church, the Vatican, and the Pope are openly and wildly misrepresented in the MSM. I didn't even note that the Vatican newspaper had failed at all to respond to the UK Guardian's malicious 'reporting' about Vatican investments in London - tracing them to mythical 'Mussolini's millions'.

I did report Fr. Lombardi's reaction, which fell far short of what I expected the Vatican spokesman to do, since he did not even bother to correct the idea of 'Mussolini's millions' invested by the Vatican, which was the whole point of the Guardian's misbegotten story - that the Vatican got rich by investing personal funds paid by the Fascist dictator to 'buy' Vatican recognition of his regime. A blatant falsehood to anyone who has any knowledge at all of the Lateran Agreements of 1929 (about which I had to learn on the 80th anniversary of the Agreements in 2009).

So, in tomorrow's issue, the OR finally speaks up on the matter - with a commentary by editor Giovanni Maria Vian and an article on material recently unearthed from the British Archives about how Pius XII invested millions during World War II to promote the Allied cause against the Nazis. It would be charitable to say that perhaps Vian wanted to wait until he had a legitimate news item by way of countering the Guardian canard, instead of merely speaking out right away to protest that newspaper's inveterate lie-mongering about the Church... Here first is Mr. Vian's commentary.

Hiatory should not be mistreated
by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from the 1/30/13 issue of

The Vatican, finances and fascism, all of it wrapped in secrecy and intrigue - these were the lip-smacking ingredients of a supposed 'scoop' by The Guardian, the authoritative [???? Really?] London daily, which published a story that has been taken up by some media outlets but which really deserved little attention.

It is a melange of inexact or unfounded reports put together awkwardly to give the impression that the Vatican built an international real estate empire from "Mussolini's millions", a fortune that was supposed to have been obtained in return for recognition of Mussolini's regime by the Holy See in 1929, and which has since then been hidden under layers of secrecy.

To round up the picture of Vatican duplicity depicted by the above, the article cites unspecified articles supposedly from British war archives attesting to Vatican activities against the Allies by a company controlled by the Vatican.

Even the most summary reading of the article would show its inconsistencies, but unfortunately, its resonance has damaged not only the perceptions of many readers but the most elementary historical truth.

It would have taken the writers (and editors) no effort to check out that the Lateran Pacts which in 1929 closed the so-called "Roman question' between post-unification Italy and the Papacy since 1870, included a financial agreement, according to which the Kingdom of Italy indemnified the Holy See with cash and property titles equivalent to 1.2 billion euro today. A sum which, according to the financial agreement itself, was 'much less' than what the State owed the Holy See [for all the Church properties confiscated in the former papal states which were absorbed by the unification of Italy in 1860-1870] as established by an Italian law passed in 1871, but which the Popes had rejected consistently.

The Lateran Pacts were far from a 'shameful' agreement between the Church and fascism, but a necessary and balanced solution [to the Roman question]. [What Vian fails to point out, because he assumes that OR readers should know their history, is that 1) the agreement was between the Apostolic See and the State of Italy, then a Kingdom under Vittorio Emmanuele, not with 'fascism' which was the political movement led by Benito Mussolini, who happened to be the King's Prime Minister in 1929; and 2) the Lateran agreements created Vatican City State as a sovereign state.]

The content of the Lateran Pacts was largely incorporated into the Constitution of the Italian Republic in 1947. The Pacts themselves have been favorably judged by historians of various tendencies and overchanging times, as well as by all Italian governments since 1929, including postwar leaders Alcide De Gaspari [the exemplary Christian Democrat] and Palmiro Togliatti [head of the Italian Communist Party].

[For the sake of completeness, Vian should have added the 1984 updating of the Lateran Pacts which, other than rescinding the provision that Catholicism is the state religion of Italy, also institutionalized the 'otto per mille' or 0.008% annual share of Italian tax revenues that devolve to the Church in Italy through the Italian bishops' conference, in continuing compensation for the Church's confiscated properties. This is a detail that is hardly ever pointed out in Anglophone reporting about the Vatican.]

Finally, as to the alleged activities of the Holy See against the Allies in World War II, it is timely that in the December 2012 issue of the trimestral Historical Journal from Cambridge University, historian Patricia McGoldrick of London's Middlesex University has published a lengthy and detailed study of the Vatican's financial activities during World War II, about which Luca Possati writes on this page.

Based on a series of documents recently made accessible by the British National Archives, the article confirms what has been emerging in earlier historical research, and demonstrates the exact opposite of what the Guardian article claims with such superficial lightness. And that is, that through wartime investments made mostly in the United States, the Holy See under Pius XII directly supported the Allied cause against Nazism.

Apropos, this is a post on this thread on the occasion of the anniversary of the Lateran Pacts in 2011:

At the Vatican, February 11 is not just a religious feast day. For the state of Vatican City, it is also its birthday as a sovereign state...

The Lateran Pacts:
a bird's eye view

11 FEB 2011 (RV) - On February 11th 1929, the Lateran pacts were signed by Cardinal Gasparri for the Holy See and by Benito Mussolini for the Italian State (at the time, the Kingdom of Italy). It was a major milestone in the Papacy of Pope Pius XI.

The Pacts take their name from the Lateran Apostolic Palace attached to to the Lateran Basilica (the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome), the venue for negotiation and final signing of the pacts .

In an interview with Vatican Radio, a Professor of History at the University of Virginia in the United States, Jesuit Father Gerald Fogarty focuses on these pacts and specifies the difference between the Treaty and the Concordat signed eighty two years ago:

"...The Lateran Treaty guaranteed the creation of Vatican City State, and therefore, the spiritual and political sovereignty of the Holy See. The Concordat regulated relationships between the Church and the Italian government within Italy...and then finally there was an agreement, a third pact that was signed in regard to financial remuneration and so forth ... so this definitively ended the Roman Question."

[The Roman question refers to the dispute between the Papacy and the new unified Italy, a dispute that lasted from 1861 to 1929. Italian reunification had abolished the papal states found all over Italy, but Pius IX had opposed the establishment of the Italian monarchy. For almost 10 years, the Pope 'held' Rome, protected by the troops of Napoleoo III, In 1870, the very year of the First Vatican Council, Napoleon was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War. Without his protection, Italian troops took Rome and made it the capital of Italy. Pius IX never recognized the legitimacy of the Italian government, and neither did his successors, until Pius XI began the negotiations that led to the Lateran pacts, through which the Holy See and its protector state, the Vatican, also formally recognized the sovereignty of Italy over the former papal states.]

Father Fogarty highlights the importance of these pacts for the Universal Church : "...The little plot of land was to guard the spiritual sovereignty of the Pope and his communication with the Church throughout the world... In order to guarantee the spiritual autonomy, authority, freedom of communication of the Pope, there had to be some type of sovereign state to safeguard all that, and so Vatican City State was created..."

Finally our historian explains how by becoming an independent state, Vatican City acquired the right to communicate with other states. That's why the day after the signing of the pacts Pius XI entrusted Guglielmo Marconi - the Italian physicist who won the 1909 Nobel Prize in physics for developing radio communications and wireless telegraphy - with the task of setting up the Vatican's radio station, inaugurated two years later.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/30/2013 12:12 AM]
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Chaldean bishops meet in Rome
to elect a new Patriarch

Adapted from

January 29, 2013

In Rome today, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Babylon began a Patriarchal Synod to elect a successor to His Beatitude, Cardinal Emmanuel Delly II who recently resigned as Patriarch upon reaching age 80.

The Synod was convoked by Pope Benedict XVI, under the Presidency of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Fifteen bishops, mostly from Iraq, ancestral home of the Chaldean Church, but also from neighboring Iran, Syria and Lebanon, along with those from the growing Chaldean Diaspora in Australia and North America, are taking part.

Opening the Synod on Monday morning, Cardinal Sandri underscored the crucial timing of the Synod at a ‘delicate historical moment’ for the region and the need for unity in its leadership.

He said that “this act of election of a new Patriarch is of paramount importance before God, the Church and all the faithful is the equal responsibility of each bishop”.

On this, he added, depends “the very future of the Chaldean Church, Her tradition and heritage, her ecclesial, social and historical circumstances, the elaboration and application of pastoral guidelines”.

About the Patriarchal Chaldean Church
In 1551, some Chaldean Orthodox bishops and faithful gathered at the ancient monastery of Rabban Yochanan Hormisda in what is now Mosul, present-day Iraq. They elected Abbot John Sulaqa as Patriarch, and sent him to see Pope Julius III in Rome, where he converted to Catholicism.

In 1553, the Pope created a Catholic Patriarchate of the Chaldean Rite, but full communion with Rome was not definitively established till 1830, when Pope Pius VIII conferred its head with the title Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

Until the end of the 20th century, its seat remained in Mosul, but since 2000, it has been in Baghdad, seat of the Patriarch of Babylon. Membership is about one million, of whom 250,000 live in Iraq and represent a majority of the Christian population there. The Chaldean Church also has communities in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Australia, the USA, and Jerusalem.
1/30/2013 1:11 AM
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February - March 2013


1/30/2013 2:45 AM
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There is a Pope... but US bishops
are not really following Vatican-II
on pushing the Papal Magisterium

By Bevil Bramwell, OMI

Sunday, 27 January 2013

If there is a Pope... Well, there is. What follows from that fact?

First of all, he is not an isolated figurehead or a religious figure who is far away in another country. That would be the Protestant view and the common cultural view in the United States. [Besides, in the hyperlinked global village, the whole world is virtually just a mouse click away, and no one, least of all a major leader, is isolated any more.]

Rather in the Catholic Church, Christ “rules through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops.”(Vatican II) In the Church, we speak of the mystery where, in reality: “The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are [the] profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion.”

In the same document (Lumen gentium, the Constitution on the Church), the Council was very specific about the relationship between the faithful and those in the government of the Church: “In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.”

Now, in the United States, we know that this does not happen in the majority of cases. So are any bishops animated enough to teach on this point? Is this even seen as an issue? The answer would certainly explain the hierarchy’s failure to reach people before the election.

Bishops do speak, of course. But why the reticence to explain what their speaking implies? An issue for another time perhaps, because then the Council continues:

This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme Magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.

Remember this the next time someone tries to push something different by invoking Vatican-II. [Indeed! Never let it be said that Vatican-II came short in any way in emphasizing the role of the Supreme Pontiff and the supremacy of his Magisterium, and the necessity for all the faithful, including bishops and priests, to be 'in communion' with him. Every time I read a Vatican II document, this principle appears to be re-stated on every possible occasion. But disobedience to the papal (and therefore, Church) Magisterium has been the arrogant calling card of those who beat their breasts hardest about representing the 'spirit of Vatican II'. That 'spirit' certainly has a notoriously selective memory - what psychologists also call false memories, that imagine teachings Vatican-II never advocated and ignore all the teachings that the spiritists find inconvenient or objectionable, memories as false as their professed 'spirit' which is certainly not holy in any way.]

And point out the specific mention of the Magisterium of the Pope – pace all those who erroneously think that we only offer religious submission to formally infallible teachings. Also, there is nothing in there about American exceptionalism. Political parties superseding what the Pope teaches says is not mentioned once.

Given the need for this relationship of “special reverence,” where in the American Church is the immersion in papal teaching that Vatican II prescribed? Where are those who should be helping the faithful towards religious submission of mind – all the bishops, the clergy, the religious superiors and religious? Am I leading too cloistered a life to see the tens of millions of U.S. Catholics being taught on evenings and weekends in the meaning of the latest encyclical?

Granted we live in a Protestant culture, but why do we have to fall so completely for Protestant parochialism? This widespread bias denies part of the nature of the Catholic Church, and a large part too. Most Americans Catholics live with paltry knowledge of the faith because dioceses have left them with the notion that they know enough just the way they are. What could our wonderful American people possibly learn from Familiaris consortio or Verbum Domini?

The reciprocal relationship of communion between the faithful and the Pope is basic to Catholicism. Unfortunately, we have had at least fifty years of the Church being out of the religious education business once people are confirmed – and of a Church being afraid to ask people what they believe. This smacks of Protestant individualism. Church officials seem to be furthering Unitarianism rather than Catholicism and doing remarkably well, if a bystander might comment.

What is at stake is communion in truth, where the Holy Father is at the center pointing to Christ, the Word, the source of all truth. This communion does not consist of individuals occasionally imagining that they are in union with the Pope, but rather of individuals who actually know what he says in his ordinary Magisterium and then join themselves to the truth (the Word) by their religious assent to what he says.

This union is personal rather than impersonal, close rather than distant, and based on truth rather than imaginings. It relies on everyone knowing what the Pope says in substantial detail. The people in large part will only learn that from their pastors. Since the United States is not under occupation or ravaged by epidemics, dioceses are free and able to do their part in sustaining the communion of the faithful with the Holy Father – or not.

Papal teaching also holds a privileged place because it has a formidable consistency and clarity. One looks in vain for the same level of scholarship and knowledge of the intellectual tradition from other world figures, theologians or writers. [I could mention a few Catholic commentators and good writers who stand out in this regard in the American Church - Father Schall, Archbishop Chaput, Father Barron, much like the Venerable Fulton Sheen before them. Reading them is not just often spiritually exhilarating, but always an education as well because like, Benedict XVI, they have academic knowledge they can and do marshal, casually and unostentatiously, in the service of advancing the faith.]

We have been blessed with Popes who are intellectual and spiritual giants at a time when few bishops and no academics can hold a candle to them. [It always amazes me that the world - even most Catholics, I believe - generally under-estimates the caliber of the Popes that the Church has had in modern times, in the past 200 years, to be more precise, from Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Benedict XV, and Pius XI to Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and now Benedict XVI. I limit myself to that time frame because these Popes are of 'recent memory' and there is endless material about them. Most of them fit the conventional 'image' of the intellectual, but even the reassuringly down-to-earth John XXIII and the ever-amiable John Paul I were intellectuals who brought the peasant wisdom in their genes to the considerable academic knowledge they had acquired. George Weigel wrote a great essay in recent years on the awesome qualities of the modern Popes.

Yet what are we to make of the apparent disdain with which supercilious seculars and Catholics (the worst offenders of all) condescend to Benedict XVI, eternally lecturing him as though he were a dull-minded schoolboy who has no mind of his own and must be rapped on the knuckles every so often to remind him he is Pope! Wait a minute, isn't that exactly what Paolo Gabriele thought of Benedict XVI? So this syllogism would conclude by saying that all those supercilious condescending pundits who fancy themselves to be great minds against whom Joseph Ratzinger is a flyweight are no better than a megalomaniac simpleton who deluded himself that he had much more common sense and brains than Benedict XVI. That's right, they aren't.]

In this time of frightening intellectual mediocrity, when more people will listen to a movie star than a Pope – and many Church officials treat this as harmless – the value of truth for human society itself needs to be very clearly explained. Then perhaps papal documents will not stall at the water’s edge.

Bevil Bramwell, priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, teaches theology at Catholic Distance University. He holds a Ph.D. from Boston College and works in the area of ecclesiology. His new book, Laity: Beautiful, Good and True - Hans Urs von Balthasar's Theology of the Laity, is now available from Amazon.

I would never be able to imagine the pastoral burdens of being a bishop, but in terms of their teaching function, would it not make sense to set their priorities such that every week, they can be guided first by what the Pope says in his catechesis or Angelus mini-homily or major message during the week, after which they can speak about what they consider to be their local pastoral priority, tying it in if they could to the papal theme for the week? I do not know why in the Internet age, all bishops and parish priests do not do that now. Does it diminish them to follow the lead of the Pope? Should they not be grateful that we have a teaching Pope who can frame the Magisterium in the simple and direct and ever-fresh way that he does, and all they have to do is take off from that - or even use it substantially as is? I cannot think of a better way for the Church to speak as one voice when all its pastors and clergy speak the message of Christ with the words of the Vicar of Christ. Or am I being unrealistic?
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/30/2013 3:31 AM]
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Wednesday, January 30, Third Week in Ordinary Time

ST. GIACINTA (Hyacinth) MARISCOTTI (Italy, 1585-1640)
Virgin, Third Order Franciscan, Founder, Oblates of Mary
Daughter of a noble family in Viterbo, Clarice Mariscotti decided to join the Franciscan
Third Order for laywomen, taking the name Giacinta, after a nobleman she hoped to
marry chose her sister instead. However, she spent the next 15 years living comfortably
amid colleagues who strictly observed the Franciscan rule. During a severe illness,
her confessor counselled her to change her ways, and she did - divesting herself of
every comfort and thereafter living penitentially, doing humble work in the convent.
She later established confraternities devoted to helping the poor, the aged and
prisoners, and to promote Eucharistic adoration. She became so renowned for her
holiness that when she died, people who came to venerate her took away pieces of
her clothing so that her garments had to be replaced three times while she lay in
state. She is buried in the Poor Clares convent in Viterbo and was canonized in 1807.
Readings for today's Mass:


General Audience - Continuing with his presentation of the articles of faith that we profess in the Credo.
the Holy Father focused on the second phrase in the first article, "I believe in God the Father almighty",
as the first fundamental definition of God that we are given, a God who shows us what it truly means
to be a father.

@Pontifex 1/30/13

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/31/2013 1:53 AM]
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On the proposed French law of 'marriage for all':
Too many sophisms and not the right questions

by Silvia Guidi
Translated from the 1/30/13 issue of

The right to have a baby does not exist, but the baby has rights which legislators ought to protect. This sums up the position of Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of the Institut de France on the proposed legislation popularly called 'mariage pour tous' (marriage for all).

[ The Institut de France is the country's national institute for arts and sciences, and is composed of five academies: the Academie Francaise, concerned with the protection and promotion of the French language; the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, generally described as the academy for the humanities and history; the Academies des Sciences; the Academie des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts); and the Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, the academy which elected Joseph Ratzinger as an associate member - only Frenchmen can be full members - in 1992 to take the seat vacated by the death of Soviet Nobel-winning physicist and peace activist Andrei Sakharov.

The academy statement said it was necessary to begin with a 'calm and deep-delving' debate on such an important theme - that there has not been enough reflection on the juridical, anthropological and psychological repercussions of a reform which would mean, to begin with, the disappearance from the Code of Civil Law of every reference to the sex of the partners in a marriage.

[I will never understand how the people of Spain meekly accepted the Zapatero government's similar legislation years ago in which the terms 'husband', 'wife', 'father', 'mother', were replaced with 'Partner A', 'Partner B', 'Parent A', 'Parent B'! (OK, all you feminists: Are you going to insist that A should always be the female? Oh, I forgot, between lesbians, one has to be A and the other B.) You can't even look at those terms, let alone say them, without gagging at their utter stupidity! That's what secularists did overnight to a nation that produced Teresa de Avila, Juan de La Cruz and a constellation of great saints who were also major thinkers and writers!]

Too many sophisms under a generic sentimentalism have obscured the conceptual nodes of such a delicate question, wrote Nathalie Heinich, a sociologist, in the January 27-28 issue of Le Monde. Sophisms which she describes as "excelling in solitary escape" and indifferent to "the codes of the global tribe", as Le Monde itself once observed.

Heinich is prominent on the current cultural scene in France but is not easily categorized. From her vast production of scholarly articles and many interests, she can be described as an expert in unusual viewpoints from which to see the world, who has been acute in her analyses of the conventions of the contemporary mind - invisible to most because they have become so widespread - and able to unmask in such thinking all the reflexes and statements that are really empty and meaningless.

One must be careful about the use of words, Heinich reiterates, in an article entitled "Mariage gay: Halte aux sophsimes" (Stop the sophisms on gay marriage), subtitled "The discussion on the proposed law of 'marriage for all' has obscured the fact that filiation is at stake". ['Filiation' refers to the individual's direct line of descent].

Careless use of words, Heinich says, can lead, in this case, to automatically transforming - without being conscious of doing so - a desire into a right, and a non-critical acceptance of everything that is brought to our attention by an intense and continuous publicity barrage exerting a 'dictatorship of global desires'.

She says one must never lose sight of the literal meaning of what is being said, especially when such words become compressed into a slogan. What, she asks, does 'mariage pour tous' mean? "For all" can never have a literal meaning, she points out, since, to cite an obvious example, marriage ought to be prohibited - and remain prohibited - to children.

[But Ms. Heinich, can't you see the activists of these new made-up 'rights' soon extending their allow-everything mentality to that point? Their extremists already promote 'man-boy love', and presumably 'woman-girl love' (in the USA, there is an activist association called NAMBLA, for National Man-Boy Love association, that, since the 1990s, has been actively advocating pedophilia and pederasty, and the abolition of all laws about consent to sexual union) - and that's not far from advocating the legitimacy of polygamy and polyandry, of marriage between children, or marriage between a man and his dog, and similar absurdities, in the name of the right of anyone to do anything he pleases.]

"What makes the difference and what constitutes the basis of the social institution of marriage is the possibility of generating children", Heinich says, saying this is the central question, which has been relegated to the sidelines in the current discussions over the proposed marriage law.

"To consider the love between two persons and not the generation of children as the factor that legitimizes the matrimonial bond," she warns, "would allow the State to interfere in questions that do no not concern it at all, such as the affective relations and sexual relations between adult consenting persons. An undue interference which, rightly, the associations defending the rights of homosexuals have fought tooth and nail when homosexuality is sanctioned by law in any way."

The right to have a child does not exist, she underscores, unless the child is considered property which one can appropriate. And the questions that should be asked do not concern the rights of adults as much as they do the duties that adults have towards children, such as "What will be their civil status?" [Of children adopted by gay couples?] "Will they have access to the identity of their biological parents?" [The Italian word for 'parents' - genitori - is very exact - parents are the persons who generated you]

In an article in Le Figaro last Saturday philosopher Remi Brague [who won one of the two Ratzinger Prizes for Theology awarded in 2012] focused on analyzing the programmatic optimism with which every juridical novelty is greeted as an advance for civilization, without ever questioning the short= and long-term consequences of such new norms.

In "Mariage homosexuel: quelle avancée?" (Homosexual marriage - does this represent progress?), Brague sees in the contemporary 'dogma of progress' a cultural relic that is a misunderstanding and distortion of Christian Providence, emptied of its profound religious significance and reduced in a metaphysical freefall to a widely-shared generic category meant to be good for all seasons.

I hope to be able to find the articles referred to by Guidi and post full translations, because the item above is more like a teaser. She does not say when and under what circumstances the Academy issued its statement; whether Heinich is a member of the academy whose article expands on the statement, or whether she wrote it entirely on her own account; and does not bother to explain what the Academy is, for readers who may not know about it - never assume your readers are omniscient! - and why its statement matters; nor, not the least, Benedict XVI's membership in that Academy, since one would hope the statement was circulated to him as to all the other members for his comments and approval before it was made public! Guidi's editors obviously did not think any of the above was at all necessary.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/30/2013 6:49 PM]
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