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00Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:44 AM

Talks on child abuse
in Germany criticised

BERLIN, April 23 (AFP) - Round table talks on the child abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic church in Pope Benedict XVI's native Germany began on Friday amid criticism that victims are being excluded.

In common with other European countries, Germany has been rocked in recent months by revelations that children were physically or sexually abused in institutions, the vast majority ones run by the Roman Catholic Church.

The hundreds of cases of abuse mostly date back decades and can no longer be the subject of criminal investigations, but one of the issues the round table will look at is changing the statute of limitations.

The talks, including some 60 representatives from the Catholic and Protestant churches, children's charities, psychologists and other experts, will also look at possible compensation and how to prevent future abuse.

But some highly renowned independent organisations that provide advice to victims feel they are under-represented, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported.

"I have the impression that the victims are being shut out," Ursula Enders, co-founder of one of these organisations, the highly regarded Zartbitter, told the newspaper.

Thomas Schlingmann from Tauwetter, another such organisation, said he was sceptical that the talks would produce concrete results that would boost child protection, fearing instead only well-meaning but ineffective appeals.

Do they really have to re-invent the wheel? To begin with, why don't they look at what has worked in the US for the past eight years and adapt it to German conditions?

00Saturday, April 24, 2010 11:10 AM
*rant alert*

This round table was created to prevent sexual abuse of children ‘throughout society'. A very noble, but also a very impossible task.
Surely, the main institutions will be there and they will be in the spot-light. Mostly, of course, the Catholic Church. The protestants are simply too boring and too conform to be concerned about.
The main part is the failure inside families. This problem will not be solved. I assume it will get bigger. Considering the huge and growing amount of single parents and patchwork families we have in his country.
Also, the huge amount of children given up for day-care when they're under one, or two years old won’t make it better. The systematic devaluation of families.... and… and… and...
It would certainly bust this format to go and on about what's wrong with this country...
I do think, in this particular case, it was a good move by Zollitsch to refuse the plans for a 'separate' round table - exclusively reserved for the Catholic Church (!!!).

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As for the resignation of Bishop Mixa: words fail me on that one.
He was successfully brought down by the media. Surely, he could have taken the Georg Ratzinger approach and admitted to have occasionally disciplined a child by slapping it in the face and he could have apologized for it in a sincere, heartfelt way (as we all know – slapping was a very common and standard measure back then –> irony: tens-of-thousands of teachers should now step up an apologize). His initial denial to have done so, mixed with the bias, relentless, intentionally incorrect reporting by our own version of 'Hells Bible' -> SZ, gave it a good push.

Considering, that the original accusation was brutally mistreating orphans when he was Priest of Schrobenhausen, by beating them with objects such as carpet beaters, or by punching them with his fist, he is now taken down for first denying to have used physical violence, and then admitting to have occasionally slapped a child.

I do assume his media adviser (who has now been sacked) should have done a better job handling this matter and/or advising the Bishop to simply lay out the facts.
None of those severe punishment accusations have been proved. None of the ‘victims’ have agreed to a meeting with Mixa to explain their point of view. Acc. to SZ, there are affidavits, but they were not given to a court, or to a laywer, but to a newspaper!!!?

And then!!! The worst of all!!! Zollitsch and Marx (!!!) publically asked Mixa to ‘take some time off’. Not during quiet consultations in a private meeting, but in public!! And in the press!! They handed him over to the frenzied mob on a silver platter!

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You have NO idea how disappointed I am in Archbsp. Marx. He's due to get his red hat this year. What kind of an example is he giving to young Bishops? Caving in to the pressure and handing his brother in faith and in office over to a bunch of atheists? What’s his goal? Trying to soothe the media? That's just inexcusable!

Bishop Mixa was also the official Catholic Military Bishop of the German Army, which is engaged in heavy fighting in Afghanistan, and which is sending home dead soldiers on almost weekly basis.
The secretary of defense - K.T.- zu Guttenberg - has finally managed to make people accept that our soldiers are not merely keeping peace, but they’re at war with the Taliban.
Many soldiers have spoken up and are furious about having lost ‘their’ pastor, whom they had the highest regards for. I seriously hope that there will be a quick solution for them! You can’t leave them in the field with the knowledge that they’re without a shepherd!

Now, we have members of the ultra leftist German media with the taste of first blood on their tongues. Who’s going to be next? Mons. Müller??

And! Now we have politicians (!!) advising the Pope on whom/or what he should appoint.
One statement was: “I hope it will be liberal Bishop like Mons. Marx of Munich!” O M G !!!!!!!

I really hope that B16 will go for the worst case scenario and appoint the most conservative, outspoken, media savvy, educated, fearless, in-your-face candidate to the chair of St. Ulrich. Preferably a member of a rather conservative order - Opus Dei would be the best!!
Nothing to lose at the moment, anyway!!

Here is an interesting article about a piece in ‘Stern’ – showing the real fear of the press, and disclosing their real agenda!


One good thing is: many people are being awakened out of their comfortable slumber to finally get a taste of reality!
When even members of the Supreme Court are warning against anti-Christian tendencies in our society, when Altars are torched and when forums are spilling over with pure hate and ignorance, it’s time to wake up and it’s time to stand up and fight!
Many are prepared to do so. And many of them are very young, educated and orthodox and they love their Pope and the true, non-diluted catholic faith with a passion!!

Germans do have a tendency for mass hysteria. That's the scary part!

Sorry I didn't get to see this earlier. I have been inhabiting the BENEDICT thread to the exclusion of others,,, Thanks for your observations on how things stand in Germany about all this sound and fury.

I, too, was rather surprised at how Mons. Mixa was apparently sidelined without the usual 'fraternal courtey' that bishops owe each other, particularly when one of them is in trouble. Zollitsch and company showed the same surprising lack of courtesy as did Fr. Lombardi with Cardinal Castrillon, as I observe in the next post.

The Norwegians and the Belgians were more considerate of their disgraced bishops, giving them a chance to make their statements along with or slightly ahead of their respective bishops' conference announcements.

It's not very Christian to treat sinners or unpopular persons like instant pariahs, and I don't understand why some men of God are setting such a bad example.... It's sad when their first criteria seems to be 'What will the media think?' of 'Let's not give the media more ammunition to use' not 'What would Jesus do?"....


00Monday, April 26, 2010 9:52 PM

I am glad someone has written this. I still find it shocking that obviously, no one in the Vatican sought to reach Cardinal Castrillon (after the French magazine made public a letter he wrote back in 2001), out of simple courtesy, to begin with, and to coordinate a media response. Castrillon still lives in Rome since his retirement, and even if he was in Murcia on the day the news broke, there was no reason he could not have been reached by cellphone or text message or e-mail.

Has Cardinal Castrillon
been treated fairly?

by Michael Cook

April 26, 2010

If anyone is reflecting on McCarthyism and moral panics at the moment, it must be Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, of Colombia. From 1996 to 2006 he was the prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, a most distinguished gentleman.

Back in 2005, when Time magazine was surveying potential Popes, it wrote:

He has gone deep into Colombian jungles to mediate between leftist guerrillas and right-wing death squads, and once showed up at the house of cocaine king Pablo Escobar disguised as a milkman. Revealing himself, Castrillón Hoyos implored Escobar to confess his sins, which, presumably at some considerable length, the vicious gangster did.

Yet now, even Catholic groups shun him as if he had been Escobar himself. The cardinal was supposed to have presided over a Latin Mass at the National Basilica in Washington DC marking the fifth anniversary of the Pope's inauguration. At the last minute the organisers revoked the invitation to preserve "tranquillity and good order".

Why? Because a French newspaper revealed that he had written a letter in 2001 praising the decision of a French bishop to go to jail rather than turn an abusive priest over to the police.

"I rejoice to have a colleague in the episcopate that, in the eyes of history and all the other bishops of the world, preferred prison rather than denouncing one of his sons and priests," Castrillón wrote.

That one sentence made him a pariah. Even Vatican officials have distanced themselves. The official Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, told the media almost immediately that Castrillon’s letter offersed "another confirmation of how timely was the unification of the treatment of cases of sexual abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy under the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

Priestly sex abuse is such a scourge for victims and the Church that the inflexible protocols pioneered by Benedict XVI seems clearly the best one. But Cardinal Castrillon’s angle left room for strictness. It is a measure of the stifling McCarthyist atmosphere that has developed in the past two months that none, none, of the journalists who damned Castrillon quoted his one sentence in context. [Neither did Fr. Lombardi, which is a pity!]

Here is the paragraph which followed the offending words. The complete letter is available in French at the magazine Golias and in English on Wikipedia:

For the relationship between priests and their bishop is not professional but a sacramental relationship which forges very special bonds of spiritual paternity. The matter was amply taken up again by the last Council, by the 1971 Synod of Bishops and that of 1991.

The bishop has other means of acting, as the Conference of French Bishops recently restated; but a bishop cannot be required to make the denunciation himself. In all civilised legal systems it is acknowledged that close relations have the possibility of not testifying against a direct relative.

“The bishop has other ways of acting”: in other words, Castrillon was not saying that bishops should conceal the crimes of priests, but that they themselves should not hand the offender over to the authorities. He would probably encourage the victim or the victim’s families to report the crime.

Is this a realistic policy? Perhaps experience has showed that it is not, especially with recidivist paedophiles. Perhaps, too, victims are psychologically incapable of denouncing their tormenter. Perhaps some bishops would not be courageous enough to engineer a denunciation by a third party.

But that single sentence should not be used to smear a man courageous and zealous enough to seek the conversion of Colombia’s vilest drug lord.

Quite apart from the personal merits and achievements of Cardinal Castrillon, the least he was owed was a telephone call from someone in the Vatican. The organizers of the DC Mass were more proper, as they obviously discussed with the cardinal - who was back in Rome - that they had no choice but to ask someone else to offer the Mass for the Pope. It was sensible to do so - not as a judgment on the Cardinal's 2001 letter, nor even out of security concerns because of threatened protests against his presence, but simply because the unilateral condemnation his letter received would have distracted completely from the purpose of the Mass, which was to celebrate five years of Benedict XVI.

On the other hand, the cardinal should also have had the good sense to place a call to the Vatican, to Mons. Gaenswein or Mons. Xuereb, just to convey to the Holy Father his side about the letter - before talking to media as he did to say John Paul II approved his letter and that Cardinal Ratzinger was present at a meeting when the letter was discussed and presumably given the green light.

Castrillon showed himself to be gracious last year when he took the blame assigned to him for the Williamson fiasco, while giving his side dispassionately in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung. He may be a traditionalist but he is able to explain the positions he takes, so he should be given that chance. For instance, he should explain his 2001 letter more fully in an interview with someone like Sandro Magister. One may not agree with his position, which appears not to be arbitrary on his part, but in accordance with how he understands the bishop-priest relationship.

00Tuesday, April 27, 2010 4:27 PM
Rome priest on trial for abuse

ROME, April 27 (AP) - The bishop responsible for a politically connected priest accused of molesting seven boys has admitted in court papers obtained by The Associated Press that he knew of the allegations for two years but didn't remove the priest from working with children.

The case of Rev. Ruggero Conti, who once advised Rome's mayor on family policy issues, resumes in court on Tuesday after a several-week break as attention increasingly turns to clerical sex abuse in the Vatican's backyard.

A week after Pope Benedict XVI wept with victims of clerical sex abuse in Malta and promised everything in the church's power to protect children and bring abusers to justice, Italian victims are now seeking a papal audience.

And Benedict on Sunday indirectly acknowledged that Italy has had its fair share of cases by praising the work of an Italian anti-pedophilia group headed by a Sicilian priest, Don Fortunato di Noto. The Pope said he wanted to "encourage all those who are dedicated to prevention and education."

But casting a harsher spotlight on abusive priests in Italy is the court date Tuesday for Conti, who is on trial in Rome for allegedly molesting seven young boys at the Nativita' di Santa Maria Santissima parish in a working class neighborhood of the capital.

Conti has denied in court that he abused any of the boys. But he has admitted that he was fond of them, saying that he would cuddle or pat them - using the Italian word "coccole," which implies paternal affection ['Fond affection' is more appropriate, because 'coccole' is not limited to paternal affection.]

"I can only think that these boys had a distorted interpretation, that their stories have crossed," Conti said during a 2008 hearing.

In police interrogations, the boys - some as young as 13 at the time of the alleged abuse - said that Conti would masturbate them and force them to perform oral sex on him in his home where he frequently invited them to eat dinner and watch movies.

Conti's bishop, Monsignor Gino Reali, admitted in a prosecutors' interrogation obtained by the AP that he knew of vague accusations two years before Conti was arrested by police, yet didn't remove him from pastoral work or otherwise report him to authorities.

Conti was arrested June 30, 2008 - as he prepared to travel with youths from his parish to World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia - and is on trial on charges of sexual violence and prostitution.

The Conti trial is being closely watched as the clerical abuse scandal swirls around the Vatican since it involves a priest who was so well regarded that he served as a family policy adviser to Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno during his 2008 mayoral election campaign.

The Vatican's sex crimes prosecutor, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, has acknowledged he learned about the case in July 2007, a year before the arrest, when an anti-pedophilia group met with him seeking advice on how to proceed against him. Scicluna has said he advised the group, Caramella Buona ("the good candy"), to go to police, which they did.

In the December, 2008 interrogation Reali admitted that he first heard about the accusations from Conti himself in September 2006. He said he continued to hear reports, including from a youth who told him that he had been molested by Conti during a summer retreat. At a certain point Conti asked to leave the parish, but returned.

Reali said he asked Conti if there was any foundation to the reports, and said the priest denied there was any basis to them. Reali said he told Conti not to let boys visit his home but acknowledged he wasn't in a position to enforce such a measure.

Pressed by Prosecutor Francesco Scavo why he didn't pursue the case even after one of Conti's colleagues complained, Reali responded: "Yes, they're serious facts, but it's not like I can do an investigation of this type unless there's a precise complaint."

"You know that there are so many 'rumors,'" Reali continued. "And I can't run after each one of them."

Attorney Nino Marazzita, who is representing two of the youths in the trial, has said he plans to put Reali on the stand. If Reali testifies he knew of the abuse yet didn't take measures to report it to police or his superiors, that could constitute aiding and abetting a crime, the lawyer said.

"Silence is always a form of moral complicity," he told reporters last week.

Reali's office has declined repeated requests for comment.

Reali also admitted in the interrogation that in 2005 he sent back to Spain a priest who had been accused by some parents of sending explicit text messages to young boys. The Spanish diocese of Getafe, outside Madrid, has said it wasn't informed in advance of the Rev. Jose Poveda Sanchez's problems in Italy.

The Getafe diocese said it learned of the probe in 2008 from the priest himself, and transferred him to work at a nursing home in Aranjuez.

As the Conti case continues, an Italian anti-pedophilia group, Prometeo, has asked for an audience with Benedict so he can meet with Italian victims of abuse. Benedict has met with U.S., Australian, Canadian and Maltese victims.

"The time has come for them (the Vatican) to take seriously the enormity of the phenomenon, healing the wounds of the past and preventing new ones from opening," the group's head Massimiliano Frassi said in a statement.

Unless there are two Italian bishops with the name Gino Reali, I don't know exactly how Mons. Reali is involved in the case of a priest serving in the Diocese of Rome - I checked Italian Wikipedia, and it seems he has been Vicar General of Spoleto-Norcia since 1986 but also since March this year, Apostolic Administrator of Civitavecchia-Tarquinia, a diocese near Rome.

P.S. The Wikipedia item has not been updated apparently. I just saw an Italian transcript of Mons. Reali's deposition about Conti, in which he says he was made an auxiliary bishop in Rome in May 2002.

00Tuesday, April 27, 2010 7:55 PM

The 'sinner Church'?
Getting it straight

The formula is increasingly popular, but is misunderstood and foreign to the Christian tradition.
Saint Ambrose referred to the Church as a "chaste whore" in the sense that her sanctity overrides
the sins of her children.

ROME, April 26, 2010 – In reporting on Benedict XVI's meeting with the cardinals at the fifth anniversary of his election, L'Osservatore Romano wrote that "the Pontiff referred to the sins of the Church, recalling that she, wounded and sinful, experiences the consolations of God even more."

But it is doubtful that Benedict XVI expressed himself in exactly this way. He has never used the expression "sinner Church" - which he has always held to be mistaken.

[Unfortunately, the Vatican Press Office never did publish a transcript of what the Pope said, exactly. However, anyone who has followed what Benedict XVI has said all these past five years cannot doubt that for him, the Church is always holy - it's part of what we profess in the Apostle's Creed, 'the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church' - but the people who compose it are sinners, as are all human beings, and so they are in the Church to be continually purified and sanctified.]

To cite just one example from among many, in the homily for Epiphany in 2008 he defined the Church in a completely different way: "holy and made up of sinners."

And he has always defined it in this other way with careful consideration. At the end of the spiritual exercises for Lent in 2007, Benedict XVI thanked the preacher – who was Cardinal Giacomo Biffi that year – "for having taught us to have more love for the Church, the 'immaculata ex maculatis', as you have taught us with Saint Ambrose."

The expression "immaculata ex maculatis" comes from a passage of Saint Ambrose's commentary on the Gospel of Luke. The expression means that the Church is holy and without stain, although it is made up of men who are sinners.

In 1996, Cardinal Biffi, a scholar of Saint Ambrose – the great fourth century bishop of Milan who baptized Saint Augustine – published a book dedicated to precisely this issue, using St. Ambrose's expression in the title: "Casta meretrix," chaste whore.

This last formula has for decades been a commonplace for progressive Catholicism. To say that the Church is holy, "but also sinful," and must always ask forgiveness for its "own" sins.

To confirm the formula, it is usually attributed to the Fathers of the Church as a group. For example, Hans Küng, in his 1969 book The Church – perhaps his last book of real theology – wrote that the Church "is a 'casta meretrix' as it has often been called since the patristic era."

Often? As far as can be determined, in all the works of the Fathers the formula appears only once: in Saint Ambrose's commentary on the Gospel of Luke. No other Latin or Greek Father ever used it, before or after.

The recent fortune of the formula may have been fostered by a 1948 book on ecclesiology by the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, entitled precisely Casta meretrix. In which, however, there is absolutely no direct application to the Church of the nature of "sinner."

But in what sense did Saint Ambrose speak of the Church as a "casta meretrix"?

Left, Cardinal Biffi's book in English translation; right, engraving of Rahab.

Saint Ambrose simply wanted to apply to the Church the symbolism of Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho who, in the book of Joshua, sheltered and saved fugitive Israelites in her home (above, in an engraving by Maarten de Vos from the end of the sixteenth century).

Even before Ambrose, Rahab was seen as a "prototype" of the Church. In the New Testament, and then in Clement of Rome, Justin, Irenaeus, Origen, Cyprian. The formula "outside of the Church there is no salvation" emerged precisely from the symbol of Rahab's house of safety.

Here is the passage in which Saint Ambrose applies the expression "casta meretrix" to the Church:

"Rahab – who was a whore figure but who expresses the mystery of the Church - had in her blood the future sign of universal salvation amidst slaughter in the world. She does not reject union with the numerous fugitives - and is more chaste the closer she unites with the greater number - she who is immaculate virgin, without wrinkle, uncontaminated in her modesty. public lover, chaste whore, sterile widow, fecund virgin... Chaste meretrix because many lovers come to her for the attractions of love but without the contamination of sin" (In Lucam III, 23).

The passage is very dense, and is worthy of closer analysis. But to limit ourselves to the expression "chaste whore," here is how Cardinal Biffi explains it:

"The expression 'chaste whore', far from alluding to something sinful and reprehensible, is intended to indicate – not only in the adjective, but also in the substantive – the sanctity of the Church. Sanctity that consists just as much in adhering without wavering and without inconsistency to Christ her spouse ('casta'), as in the desire of the Church to reach all in order to bring all to salvation ('meretrix')."

The fact that in the eyes of the world the Church itself might appear to be stained with sins and struck by public disdain is a fate that echoes that of its founder, Jesus, also considered a sinner by the earthly powers of his time.

And this is what Saint Ambrose says again in another passage of his commentary on the Gospel of Luke: "The Church rightly takes on the appearance of a sinner, because Christ also assumed the aspect of a sinner" (In Lucam VI, 21).

But precisely because it is holy – with the indefectible sanctity that comes to it from Christ – the Church can welcome sinners into it, and suffer with them for their evils, and care for them.

In disastrous times like the present, full of accusations meant to invalidate the very sanctity of the Church, this is a truth that must not be forgotten.

00Thursday, April 29, 2010 8:16 PM

NB: The statistical yearbooks are always a year behind because obviously, statistics for the full calendar year being reported are generrally only received and processed after that year is done. So the latest issue of the Church's statistical yearbook is current up to December 2008.

Some Church statistics
as of December 31, 2008

VATICAN CITY, 27 APR 2010 (VIS) - The Vatican Publishing House has recently released a new edition of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, comprising information on the main aspects of Catholic Church activity in various countries for the period 2000-2008.

Over these nine years, the Catholic presence in the world has grown from 1,045 million in 2000 to 1,166 million in 2008, an increase of 11.54 percent.

Considering the statistics in detail, numbers in Africa grew by 33 percent, in Europe they remained generally stable (an increase of 1.17 percent), while in Asia they increased by 15.61 percent, in Oceania by 11.39 percent and in America by 10.93 percent.

As a percentage of the total population, European Catholics represented 26.8 percent in 2000 and 24.31 percent in 2008. In America and Oceania they have remained stable, and increased slightly in Asia.

The number of bishops in the world went up from 4541 in 2000 to 5002 in 2008, an increase of 10.15 percent.

The number of priests also increased slightly over this nine-year period, passing from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008, an overall rise of 0.98 percent.

In Africa and Asia their numbers increased (respectively, by 33.1 percent and 23.8 percent), in the Americas they remained stable, while they fell by 7 percent in Europe and 4 percent in Oceania.

The number of diocesan priests increased by 3.1 percent, going from 265,781 in 2000 to 274,007 in 2008. By contrast, the number of regular priests showed a constant decline, down by 3.04 percent to 135,159 in 2008.

Of the continents, only Europe showed a clear reduction in priests: in 2000 they represented 51 percent of the world total, in 2008 just 47 percent. On the other hand, Asia and Africa together represented 17.5 percent of the world total in 2000 and 21.9 percent in 2008. The Americas slightly increased its percentage to around 30 percent of the total.

Non-ordained religious numbered 55.057 in the year 2000 and 54,641 in 2008. Comparing this data by continent, Europe showed a strong decline (down by 16.57 percent), as did Oceania (22.06 percent), the Americas remained stable, while Asia and Africa grew (respectively, by 32 percent and 10.47 percent).

Female religious are almost double the number of priests, and 14 times that of non-ordained male religious, but their numbers are falling, from 800,000 in 2000 to 740,000 in 2008.

As for their geographical distribution, 41 percent reside in Europe, 27.47 percent in America, 21.77 percent in Asia and 1.28 percent in Oceania. The number of female religious has increased in the most dynamic continents: Africa (up by 21 percent) and Asia (up by 16 percent).

The Statistical Yearbook of the Church also includes information on the number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries. In global terms, their numbers increased from 110.583 in 2000 to more than 117.024 in 2008. In Africa and Asia their numbers went up, whereas Europe saw a reduction.

So, the numbers confirm a continuing decline in almost all categories in Europe.

00Friday, May 7, 2010 8:12 PM
Pontiff names a conservative
bishop for Clogher, Ireland

Friday, 7 May 2010

Pope Benedict moved yesterday to impose his conservative stamp on the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland in the wake of the clerical abuse scandals with the appointment of a new Bishop of Clogher.

At noon yesterday the Vatican named Monsignor Liam MacDaid to succeed Joseph Duffy, whose resignation on the grounds of his age was simultaneously accepted by Pope Benedict.

Monsignor McDaid (64) has been second in command in Clogher since 1994 when he was promoted to chancellor from diocesan secretary and communications officer.

It covers Co Monaghan, most of Co Fermanagh and portions of counties Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan.

Speaking in Bishop's House in Monaghan, Mgr McDaid said he would like “to be free” to return to the more basic aspects of the ministry in the wake of the child abuse scandals, which have devastated the Church in recent times.

“We have been quite rightly forced to deal with the whole question of child abuse over the last number of years and I feel that now, if all of the things that are in place are implemented, it will change drastically and I hope that it will free us as priests of the diocese to go back to serving the people in the way in which we would wish to,” he said.

Although Bishop Duffy (76) submitted his resignation 15 months ago on reaching the retirement age of 75, the appointment of his successor was expected to form part of a post-Murphy reorganisation and reform of the Bishops' Conference.

Last month Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty, but the pontiff did not name a replacement.

Although not directly criticised by the Murphy Report, Bishop Moriarty resigned because he had failed to speak out against a culture of secrecy which put the good name of the Church above the protection of innocent children from paedophile clerics.

Nor has Pope Benedict appointed a successor to the diocese of Limerick which has been vacant since before Christmas when Bishop Donal Murray resigned after the Murphy Report severely criticised his handling of abuse complaints when an auxiliary bishop in Dublin.

No decision has yet been made by Pope Benedict to accept or reject the resignations on Christmas Eve of two Dublin auxiliary bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field.

But Pope Benedict yesterday accepted the resignation of Bishop Francis Lagan, an auxiliary in the diocese of Derry, who had tendered his resignation on age grounds.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Sean Brady, who was on sick leave after weeks of intense pressure to resign over silencing to secrecy 35 years ago two children abused by paedophile monk Brendan Smyth, will today address a conference on Catholic education in Loughboy, County Kilkenny.

00Friday, May 7, 2010 11:01 PM

In Church scandal,
dioceses take the lead


May 7, 2010

Roman Catholic bishops in several countries across Europe are attempting to get ahead of a widening sexual-abuse scandal by employing a potentially risky strategy—pre-emptively digging through church archives to see what skeletons remain to be unearthed.

In Germany, Austria and elsewhere, dioceses say they have begun poring through decades of archives to see how old abuse allegations were handled, or mishandled.

In many cases, in an effort to convey their seriousness and openness in addressing a wave of allegations against priests and other church officials, these dioceses have banded together and named investigatory teams run by nonpriests.

In Belgium last month, Catholic leaders said a special commission headed up by a prominent child psychologist was examining old records, and called for silent victims to speak out.

A commission in the Netherlands run by Wim Deetman — a former mayor of The Hague, an elder statesman and a Protestant — is set to present recommendations to bishops Friday on how to investigate new cases.

The varied response from country to country, and even diocese to diocese, contrasts with that of the Vatican, which has played little role in coordinating the response to the broadening scandal. The Vatican has argued that while it guides spiritual teachings, it is up to local dioceses and their bishops to form their own responses to the scandal.

"There are a number of initiatives and concrete measures that are rightly being announced and carried by local authorities. We appreciate and support this, but we don't want to take their place," said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi. "The Church is not as monolithic-centralistic as people think."

Some key events in Europe's unfolding sexual-abuse scandal:
1993: Bishop Philippe Bar of Rotterdam resigns after sexual-abuse allegations.
1995: In Netherlands, world's first commission to investigate sexual abuse by clergy.
1998: Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer resigns amid sexual abuse allegations
2000: Belgium sets up investigative commission after high-profile cases of child sex abuse, in and outside the church
2002: German bishops establish guidelines for dealing with abuse cases.
2009: Belgium sets up second investigative commission, nine years after its first, headed by child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens.
Feb. 25, 2010: German church appoints bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, to coordinate its response to sexual-abuse scandal.
March 8, 2010. Netherlands' Church launches new investigative commission headed by elder statesman Wim Deetman, pledge new era of transparency.
March 23: Danish church starts inquiry into old abuse cases.
March 28: Austrian church establishes independent commission to investigate claims.
March 30: German bishops set up telephone hotline for abuse allegations; thousands call within first few days.
April: Belgian Bishop Roger Vangheluwe admits to past sexual abuse, resigns. Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard asks new victims to come forward.

The approach of dioceses has drawn praise from some corners, for going beyond reacting to former victims' allegations. But the strategy is also a mine field.

As church-appointed teams pore through records, they risk dredging up more embarrassing revelations damaging to Church leaders — including possibly Pope Benedict XVI, whose former Munich archdiocese is among those digging into its past.

Many dioceses have concluded they have little choice. If the sexual-abuse scandals that unfolded over the past decade in the U.S. and Ireland offer any indication, the hundreds of similar allegations emanating in recent months from Europe could be just the beginning. Many church officials there fear the scandal could drag on for years.

"They see how many people are leaving the Church and the trust that's been lost," said Barbara Schäfer-Wiegand, former social minister of the German state Baden-Württemberg, who belongs to a commission overseeing the German archdiocese of Freiburg's efforts to examine old cases. "They know they have to go about this thoroughly to assure their credibility."

In Austria, the diocese of Graz-Seckau suspended three priests in recent months after a review of cases dating back 15 to 25 years. One of the priests admitted at the time to sexual abuse and the others were prosecuted at the time for "exhibitionism" and a sexual act with a minor, a 17-year-old.

Although no one has come forward with new allegations since, church officials have said they wanted to re-examine the priests' cases and have them undergo psychiatric evaluations for the sake of "maximum security."

In Belgium, Catholic leaders used April's sexual-abuse confession by Bishop Roger Vangheluwe to convey that it is serious about addressing allegations.

At a late April press conference shortly after Bishop Vangheluwe offered to resign, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard said that a special commission on sexual-abuse complaints, set up in 2000 and reconvened in 2009, was examining old records.

Child psychologist Peter Adriaenssens, 53 years old, took over the commission's helm two months ago and played a pivotal role in Bishop Vangheluwe's case.

This spring, Bishop Vangheluwe approached retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels to say he had sexually abused his nephew, the cardinal has said. The cardinal brokered a meeting between the bishop and the bishop's nephew, but the session failed to achieve a reconciliation between the two parties. On April 20, the nephew went public, filing a complaint to Mr. Adriaenssens's commission.

Mr. Adriaenssens questioned Cardinal Danneels, one of Europe's most respected clerics, about why the commission hadn't learned about the allegation earlier. A spokesman for Cardinal Danneels said the cardinal had been waiting for a second meeting between the sides but that the meeting never happened. The cardinal's spokesman says the cardinal would never have kept the allegations secret.

But two priests came forward and alleged that Cardinal Danneels had known about the alleged relation between the bishop and nephew 15 years earlier. The cardinal called a press conference to explain that he hadn't known about the allegations years before but had only recently learned of them.

"It's out of the question to hide anything," Mr. Adriaenssens told La Libre Belgique newspaper. "The church here really is trying to fix things, which is not the case everywhere."

Belgian bishops are meeting the Pope in Rome on Thursday and Friday to discuss the state of the Church in Belgium and the abuse scandal.

Still, some critics have questioned how intent the church is on unearthing its skeletons. On Monday, a Belgian nonprofit group, Human Rights in the Church, published a report saying that in 1998 it had alerted the church to 87 cases of abuse, none of which were subsequently investigated.

Not true, says the Church. "They never sent us any names for us to investigate," says Church spokesman Eric de Beukelaer. "We replied with a letter, but there was never any follow-up." Without indications in the archives of specific allegations and suspects, there will be no further inquiry, he says.

Nor is it entirely clear what the various archive searches will yield. The task has been made more difficult in that many decades-old diocese personnel records contain only vague notes on abuse allegations or investigations.

"Things were kept secret," said Hermann Haarmann, spokesman for the northern German diocese of Osnabrück.

Church researchers in Osnabrück are now interviewing past personnel directors about cases they can recall, some 30 or more years old, then following up in the archives. So far, there have been only obscure notes to pursue. "But we're not finished," Mr. Haarmann said.

One of the most sensitive audits is happening in the German archdiocese of Munich. There, a team of four researchers, including an outside lawyer, has been sifting since February through more than 5,000 personnel records spanning 60 years. That includes five years from 1977 to 1982 when Pope Benedict, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, presided over the archdiocese.

One matter that has already come to light, though not through the Church's efforts, has raised questions about how the future Pope handled abuse cases earlier in his career. A German newspaper reported in March that a priest who had abused boys in another diocese was transferred in 1980 to Munich during then-Cardinal Ratzinger's tenure.

The priest, the Rev. Peter Hullermann, was soon after returned to ministry and, several years later, convicted of fresh abuse. The archdiocese has said Cardinal Ratzinger was never aware of the priest's reassignment. Officials there declined to comment on the progress of their audit but said they aim to make some findings public this summer.

Belgian bishops dismiss US sex abuse norms
hailed by Vatican but vow firm response

ROME, May 7 (AP) — Tough U.S. norms about dealing with clerical sex abuse that have been hailed as a model by the Vatican aren't appropriate for Belgium, even as it deals with dozens of new reports of priests molesting children, a leading archbishop said Friday.

Brussels Archbishop Andre-Mutien Leonard said the context in which the U.S. norms were created — amid a major scandal in 2002 — required a much tougher response than what Belgium or Europe requires. But he said the Belgian church nevertheless was taking a firm stance against pedophile priests, albeit a more measured one than in the U.S.

"In Belgium, we are truly determined to be firm, transparent and rigorous on this question, but perhaps the European context, the Belgian context is not the same as the American context," he said. "In Belgium, we always like to speak in a language that can be very firm but one might say 'velvety' — a bit soft. But firm."

Leonard spoke to reporters Friday after a week of previously scheduled meetings with Vatican officials that followed the April announcement that the country's longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, had resigned after admitting he sexually abused a boy.

The revelation has shaken the Belgian Church, sparking what Leonard has said was a "crisis in confidence" in an institution that has already seen a sharp decline in the number of priests in recent years.

The Pope addresses the Belgian clergymen Saturday.

Cardinal Joseph Levada, the American who heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is in charge of clerical abuse cases, has said the U.S. norms could be a model for bishops around the world — as well as for Boy Scouts, public schools and other institutions catering to children.

"I do think that the United States can rightly offer a model and I will look forward to helping my brother bishops around the world see what can be done if you take good concrete steps," to screen and educate priests and establish safe environment programs for children, Levada told U.S. public broadcaster PBS last month.

The U.S. norms, which the Vatican accepted as Church law in the U.S., bar credibly accused priests from any public church work while claims against them are under investigation. Diocesan review boards, comprised mostly of lay people, help bishops oversee cases. Clergy found guilty are permanently barred from public ministry and, in some cases, ousted from the priesthood.

The U.S. policy does not specifically order all bishops to notify civil authorities when claims are made. Instead it instructs bishops to comply with state laws for reporting abuse, and to cooperate with authorities. All dioceses were also instructed to advise victims of their right to contact authorities themselves.

The Belgian church in 2000 created an independent panel of experts to look into abuse complaints, but it quickly clashed with the Church leadership. The panel has accused the Church of tardiness in compensating victims.

Leonard recently posted an appeal on the website of the Belgian church's news agency urging victims and the abusive priests themselves to report abuse to civil authorities, or to the panel of experts at the very least if the statute of limitations has expired.

He didn't mention the duty of bishops to report abuse. Recently the Vatican posted a policy on its website saying bishops should report abuse to law enforcement where civil laws require it.

Hasselt Bishop Patrick Hoogmortens said Friday that clergymen aren't required by law to report such abuse in Belgium. But he said they do so when there is an "urgent" need to remove an abusive priest.

He said that since the sex scandal erupted in Europe nearly two months ago, Belgium's panel had received reports from more than 150 alleged victims.

00Friday, May 7, 2010 11:19 PM

Metropolitan Filaret:
Time to take a step toward unity

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The time is now for the Orthodox and Catholic Churches to take a step toward unity, and for Benedict XVI and the Orthodox patriarch of Moscow to meet, says the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus.

Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Sluck said this Tuesday at the international conference held in Rome on "The Poor Are the Precious Treasure of the Church: Orthodox and Catholics Together on the Path of Charity."

During the conference, which was promoted by the Sant'Egidio Community, participants reflected on the reception of the most frail in our societies, the testimony of the Fathers of the Church, and the challenges dictated by new social problems.

According to Metropolitan Filaret, the time has come to take decisive steps toward unity, reported the country's Catholic news service.

The Orthodox leader added that both Churches seek to establish full unity, and stressed that he has come to this conclusion based on the fraternal dialogue and the meetings that they have held with representatives of the Catholic Church.

If Benedict XVI and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia were to meet, it would be a first for the two pastors of Rome and Moscow.

Metropolitan Filaret's statements coincide with the announcement of the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican," which will be held May 19-20, and which will culminate with a concert offered to Benedict XVI by Kirill I.

The musical event will include compositions of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the Department for Foreign Relations of the Patriarchy of Moscow.

On Wednesday, Metropolitan Filaret visited the Holy Shroud of Turin and Cardinal Severino Poletto, archbishop of Turin.

"The impression is so profound that one cannot express the joy one feels," commented the Orthodox representative after seeing the Shroud.

Metropolitan Filaret, in this post since 1978, received the recognition of "Hero of Belarus" in 2006, by decision of President Alexander Lukashenko, in recognition of the service to the spirituality of his country.
00Friday, May 7, 2010 11:56 PM

A thoughtful look at the agenda for the coming Middle East Synod.

The Daily Star is the expatriate English newspaper of Lebanon. John Donohue is a Professor at Saint Joseph’s University and has taught at Georgetown, the American University of Beirut, and the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. He lived in the Middle East over the last 40 years, first as Superior of the Jesuit Mission in Iraq, then in Lebanon. He has written widely, including The Buwayhid Dynasty in Iraq 334H./945 To 403H./1012: Shaping Institutions for the Future, Brill, Leiden 2003.

On the disappearing Christians:
The Vatican Synod for the Churches of the Middle East

By John Donohue, SJ
Special to The Daily Star

Thursday, May 06, 2010

In October 2010 the Catholic Bishops and Patriarchs of the Middle East will convene in Rome for a Synod to discuss the problems of the region as they affect the church.

Here in Lebanon, the notion of a Synod is familiar. John Paul II convened a Synod on Lebanon in 1995. The Catholics had become alienated from the hierarchy as a result of an intra-Christian clash at Nahr al-Mawt in 1990; the Synod, despite various obstacles and objections, turned out to be positive and strengthened the Catholic church in Lebanon.

What are the possibilities of a successful Synod on the Middle East? What is the problem and why a Synod?

The problem is that the steady emigration of Christians from the Middle East has reached frightening proportions. The Iraqi hierarchy asked for a Synod to discuss the problem. Since its institution in 1969 by Paul VI in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the Synod has become a standard instrument for treating church problems.

There are several types of Synod: ordinary synods, extraordinary synods and special synods. There have been only two extraordinary synods, one in 1969 on “Cooperation between the Holy See and Episcopal Conferences,” and another in 1985 on “The 20th Anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican II.”

Ordinary synods, treating general church problems, are the most frequent. Special synods deal with matters concerning a particular region or nation, like those for Europe (1991), Africa (1994), Lebanon, (1995), America (1997) and Asia (1998).

The special Synod for the Middle East proposes to reflect on “the current situation, which is a difficult one of conflict, instability, and political and social evolution in the majority of our countries.”

The real concern is the exodus of Christians from Iraq and from Israeli occupied territories in Palestine. The Christian population has decreased from 20 percent of the total to less than 2 percent of the 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Iraqi Christians have been fleeing to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon to escape the kidnapping and violence perpetrated by extremist Sunni groups to destabilize the regime. There are no statistics for Iraq but estimates indicate that the Christian population which was between 800,000 to 1.3 million when the Americans invaded is now less than 300,000. Given all the problems afflicting Iraq at present, the flight of Christians has low priority in international political circles.

Meanwhile, Israeli colonization of the Occupied Territories obscures the Christian exodus which is provoked by small but constant irritations for Arab Christians in the area. One such case received a bit of publicity in 1999 when a Muslim group supported by the Israeli government laid claim to part of the property of the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth on the pretext that it had been a tomb of a nephew of Salah al-Din.

Much has been written of late on the exodus of Christians from the region. It is a political and socio-economic problem at base. Christians are leaving the Middle East because of fear and even more so because their future and that of their children in the region is extremely dim and problematic.

Christians in the Middle East, Lebanon excepted, have rarely had a place in politics. The political realm was a Muslim reserve. Commerce, on the contrary, was an open sector and many Christians did well, buying and selling and investing. When Arab socialism became the mode in the 1950s and 60s, the commercial sector was absorbed into government institutions and Christians were squeezed out. The result was Christian emigration in slow but steady numbers.

Now with the conflict in Iraq and Israeli expansion, the slow seepage has reached alarming proportions. Some observers are predicting that soon there will be no Christians in the Middle East. This is considered a real setback for the general development of societies.

The 21st century was seen as the century of pluralism, giving all societies a new caché. Christian Europe is absorbing sizeable Muslim emigrant populations which provide labor. Emptying the Middle East of Christians goes counter to this tendency and raises the specter of an invasive Islam in search of lost glories.

What does the upcoming Vatican Synod propose?

The convening of the Synod should give hope to the many Catholics and Christians remaining in the region, a sense that they are neither forgotten nor neglected. The Iraqi hierarchy in proposing the Synod was seeking a means to encourage Christians to remain and the “Lineamenta” for the Synod (general guide lines) published by the Vatican at the end of last year states that “the aim of the Synod is twofold:
- to confirm and reinforce the Christians in their identity by the Word of God and the sacraments, and
- to revive ecclesial communion among particular churches, so that they may bear witness to Christian life in an authentic, joyful and winsome manner.”

The document proposes that the Synod will offer an occasion to give Christians a clear vision of the meaning of their presence in their Muslim societies and of their role and mission in each of the countries. In fact, the Synod will be “a reflection on the present situation which is difficult, a situation of conflict, instability and political and social evolution in the majority of our countries.”

Such is the aim stated in the Introduction of the Lineamenta. It concludes with two questions asking: do you read the scriptures personally, in family or in community? And does scripture inspire your choices concerning family, professional or political life?

Reading the introduction, one gets practically no sense of the plight of Christians and the urgency of finding a solution, especially a political solution. On the contrary, the message of the introduction seems to be: you are on your own, bear up, it is your mission to be where you are. Reflect on the current situation and read the scriptures.

The Lineamenta

The document is divided into three parts, following the introduction:

I. The Catholic church in the Middle East: the situation of Christians, the challenges they face, and their reactions.

II. Ecclesial Communion: in the Catholic church and among other Christian churches.

III. Christian Witness: in the church and with other churches; particular relation with Judaism; relations with Muslims; and Christian contribution to society.

Part I presents an overview of the history of Christianity in the region and notes that:

It would be a loss for the Universal Church, were Christianity to disappear or be diminished precisely in the place where it was born. Consequently, we bear a grave responsibility not only to maintain the Christian faith in these holy lands but, still more, to maintain the spirit of the Gospel among Christian peoples and their relations with non-Christians, as well as to keep alive the memory of these Christian beginnings.

Then in describing the challenges confronting Christians and the resulting emigration, we find a more appropriate reflection concerning emigration.

“Although certain measures can be taken to reduce emigration, still the root cause remains in existing political realities. It is here that action must be taken, and the church is called to engage itself.” (No. 26)

Here, the English translation lacks the force of the French. The latter reads: “On peut prendre certaines mesures pour réduire l’émigration, mais les racines sont les réalités politiques existantes. C’est là qu’il faudrait agir, et l’Eglise est invitée à s’y engager.” [My translation: "One can take certain measures to reduce emigration, but the roots are in existing political realities. It is there where one should act, and where the Church is called on to engage herself".]

The English reads: “Where certain measures can be taken to reduce emigration, its roots lie in prevailing political realities, which should be the focus of action and the area of engagement for the church.”

What exactly is intended by the Cchurch” in this paragraph is not clear at first reading. It would appear to mean the Church at large, namely Rome, but the document is not consistent in its terminology since it speaks both of the Church in the Middle East and the churches in the region. [I think Church in meant in all its senses, or levels - the universal Church, as well as the regional Church adn the local Churches.]

For this reader the guidelines appear to be a bit skewed. They note a lack of evangelical ardor (13) and the loss of values in civil society and among Christians (16), the need to educate our Christians in the Social Doctrine of the Church (32), better formation of the clergy (34), introduction of contemplative life among religious, and the need for personal conversion of Christians (32). The basic premise is enunciated in 31:

The manner of living the faith is directly related to proper understanding what it means to be a member of the Church.

A deep faith is the basis for a secure, committed sense of belonging, where, on the contrary, a superficial faith leads to a casual sense of belonging.

In the first case, membership is true and authentic; believers participate in the Church’s life and exercise every aspect of their faith.

In the second case, membership is “confessional only.” In this case, believers demand that their Church meet every aspect of their material and social needs, leading to “extreme reliance” and passivity.

Exactly how this relates to the “prevailing political realities” of No 26 is not immediately evident. It appears more apt for the formation of missionaries than for uplifting the spirits cast down by the prevailing political realities.

Instead of addressing the trials and tribulations of the Christian population in the Middle East as announced by the Pope last September, the guidelines give more space to enumerating the foibles of the Christian population.

Part II addresses the communion of the Catholic Church with other churches, and the communion among bishops, clergy and faithful. It is brief, 10 paragraphs. Part III, Christian Witness, is much longer, 40 paragraphs.

Here, relations with Judaism are labeled particular because of the relation between the Old and New Testaments, but given the political conflict in the region, relations with Judaism are specific to the churches of Jerusalem. Meetings and dialogue are suggested as the means of witness. And we are told that the most important dialogue is that of the Holy See with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

However, on the political level, the guidelines refuse to engage the Church, contrary to what was said in no. 26.

On this level, the political leaders concerned, with help from the international community, have the responsibility to make the necessary decisions in accord with the resolutions of the United Nations. (no. 63)

Nonetheless, we find in no. 86 that the Israeli-Palestine conflict is the center of the other conflicts which exist in the region and that:

Our duty is to denounce violence courageously, no matter its source, and to seek a solution, something which can only be achieved through dialogue. Dialogue and encounter are also recommended for relations with Muslims. In addition, no. 73 states that a simple presentation of the New Testament and Christ is urgently needed for mutual understanding.

Under the rubric, 'Two Challenges for our Countries', the challenges of peace and violence are mentioned. To meet the challenge a pedagogy of peace is recommended. Then a third element is introduced, modernity.

We are told that for believing Muslims “the phenomenon is atheistic and immoral,” and that “Modernity is also a risk for Christians.” “From this point of view, both Muslims and Christians share a common agenda.”

Here the reader is not sure where these Muslims and Christians are located. They are certainly not very visible.

The conclusion puts all on the spiritual level. The choice to emigrate or to remain should be made in faith, detached from an earthly point of view, abandoning oneself to Divine Providence.

Where, on the one hand, global politics will likely have an impact on a decision to stay in our countries or emigrate, on the other hand, accepting our vocation as Christians within and on behalf of our societies will be the paramount reason to remain and witness in our countries. At one and the same time, it is a question of politics and faith. (87)

Hope means, however, trusting in God and his Divine Providence, which watches over and guides the course of history for all peoples, and acting in union with God, as his “co-workers” (1 Cor 3:9), doing whatever is humanly possible to contribute to the developments now taking place.

Our catechesis needs to give greater expanse to the limitlessness of God’s love for all; catechesis needs to form the faithful into true co-workers, under God’s grace, in every aspect of public life in our societies. (90)

Abandoning ourselves to God’s Providence also means a deeper communion on our part, a greater detachment from an earthly point of view and more freedom from the thorns which stifle the word of God and his grace in us. (91)

It would be rash to judge these guidelines too severely. They put together several themes to provoke reflection and discussion. It is the Working Paper (Instrumentum laboris) which will organize the results of discussions stimulated by the guide lines. That Working Paper will be announced by the Pope in his visit to Cyprus in June.

Nonetheless, it is evident that the basic political and socio-economic problem is obfuscated by the resort to spirituality.

00Monday, May 10, 2010 11:36 AM


New York, May 6, 2010

Here below is the Statement of H.E. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, on "2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons", given at the UN Headquarters on May 6th 2010:

Mr. President,

Allow me to congratulate you on your election to the presidency of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. My Delegation assures you of its full support in your endeavours towards a successful outcome of the Conference.

At the outset, I would like to read the message that Pope Benedict XVI has sent to this Conference:

"The process towards a coordinated and secure nuclear disarmament is strictly connected to the full and rapid fulfillment of the relevant international commitments. Peace, in fact, rests on trust and on respect for promises made, not merely on the equilibrium of forces.

"In this spirit, I encourage the initiatives that seek progressive disarmament and the creation of zones free of nuclear weapons, with a view to their complete elimination from the planet.

"I exhort all those participating in the New York meeting to overcome the burdens of history and to weave patiently a political and economic web of peace in order to foster integral human development and the authentic aspirations of peoples".

Nuclear weapons have remained a central item on the disarmament agenda for decades now. These weapons continue to exist in huge quantities, some of them in a state of operational readiness. They are no longer just for deterrence but have become entrenched in the military doctrines of the major powers. The danger of proliferation has escalated. The threat of nuclear terrorism has become real.

In this context the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) remains a valid and indispensable multilateral instrument binding States Parties in its totality and particularly in its call to negotiations "in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control" (Art. VI).

One of the challenges is the fact that nuclear-weapon States, 40 years after the NPT entered into force, have still to pursue in a clear and effective way these negotiations mandated by Art. VI of the NPT, to comply with the ruling of the International Court of Justice that negotiations leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons must be concluded and to take the steps adopted in the year 2000 for their complete elimination.

Nuclear disarmament is one of the pillars of the Treaty which ultimately conditions the other two for a simple fact: as long as nuclear weapons exist they will allow and even encourage proliferation and there will always be a risk that nuclear material produced for the peaceful use of energy will be turned into weapons.

The effectiveness of our concerns and endeavours to put an end to nuclear proliferation needs to be supported by a strong moral authority. Moral authority comes first and foremost from respecting and delivering on promises and commitments.

The military doctrines which continue to rely on nuclear weapons as a means of security and defence or even measure of power, de facto slow down nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation processes.

The Holy See strongly advocates transparent, verifiable, global and irreversible nuclear disarmament and for addressing seriously the issues of nuclear strategic arms, the tactical ones and their means of delivery.

In this context, the Holy See welcomes the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is of the highest priority. The universal banning of nuclear explosions will inhibit the development of nuclear weapons, and thus will contribute to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and will prevent further damage to the environment.

In this direction, it is crucial to halt the production and transfer of fissile material for weapons. The immediate commencement of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) is a matter of responsibility and must not be further delayed.

The Holy See also encourages nuclear-weapon States and those which possess such weapons to ratify the respective Protocols to the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones Treaties and strongly supports efforts to establish such a zone in the Middle East. Nuclear-weapon-free zones are the best example of trust, confidence and affirmation that peace and security is possible without possessing nuclear weapons.

The international community needs to seek new approaches to nuclear disarmament. It is a fact that no force on earth will be able to protect civil populations from the explosion of nuclear bombs, which could cause as many as millions of immediate deaths.

Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are indeed essential also from a humanitarian point of view. Every step on the non-proliferation and disarmament agenda must be geared towards ensuring the security and survival of humanity and must build on principles of the preeminent and inherent value of human dignity and the centrality of the human person, which constitute the basis of international humanitarian law.

Important lessons can be learned from the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty, which both demonstrate that it is possible to make a real difference for human security by breaking old habits.

Mr. President, the world has arrived at an opportune moment to begin addressing in a systematic way the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear weapons free world. For this reason, preparatory work should begin as soon as possible on a convention or framework agreement leading to the phased elimination of nuclear weapons.

Thank you, Mr. President.

00Monday, May 10, 2010 1:53 PM

Link to a lengthy London Times article by a known anti-Catholic writer, John Cornwell, detailing supposed medical expert dissents to the miracle that led to Cardinal John Newman's beatification.... A pretext to discredit the Church and the Pope before the UK visit and the beatification rites...

00Wednesday, May 12, 2010 3:07 AM
No good deed goes unpunished
By Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. - May 11, 2010

Did Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna “attack” Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and former Vatican secretary of state? If The Tablet weekly in London were your only source of information, you’d think so, because that’s what the headline screamed.

What happened?

Cardinal Schönborn, who like his mentor Pope Benedict is a model of openness and transparency, invited the editors of Austria’s dozen or so major newspapers to a meeting at his residence in Vienna. How many bishops can you name who have extended such an invitation to the press?

The journalists agreed that this would be an “off the record” meeting so that everyone could take part freely and frankly. Was this to impose silence on the press? To cover up once again the misdeeds of clerics? No, it was an attempt by Cardinal Schönborn to be as open as possible and to make himself available to answer any question that was asked. It was an attempt to help educate the press on matters that the press often finds difficult to grasp—such as the essential foundations of the hierarchical and sacramental structure of the Church, and the intricacies of moral theology.

Cardinal Schönborn is a Dominican and a professor. Which means that he has a serious scholar’s grasp of the foundations as well as the conclusions of moral theology, particularly as expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Perhaps Cardinal Schönborn overestimated the capacity of the invited journalists for a serious academic discussion. Just what did the cardinal do?
First, he explained that it is important to avoid the errors of a Kantian moral philosophy, that is, one based on the categorical imperative of duty alone. Thomas Aquinas, inspired by Aristotle, elaborated what scholars would call a eudaimonistic rather than a deontological moral philosophy. That is, a moral philosophy not based on mere duty, but based on the natural desire of all men for happiness.

The Tablet, apparently drawing on other published sources, wrote: “Instead of a morality based on duty, we should work towards a morality based on happiness, [the cardinal] continued.” This is in itself accurate. But in the context of the Tablet article, it implied that the Church should change her teaching on homosexual relationships and divorced and re-married Catholics. (Both were mentioned immediately preceding the above quote.)

But what did Cardinal Schönborn mean by the reference to eudaimonism? He tried to explain it to the journalists. The Church attempts to lead men to their ultimate happiness, which is the vision of God in his essence. Moral norms are meant to do that; they have that as their end or purpose. The norms themselves are unchanging. However, our approach to obeying them is gradual and our efforts are a mixture of success and failure. This means that while certain moral norms are absolute, that is, they hold in all circumstances without exception, our approach to obeying them may be halting and imperfect.
This is commonly referred to as “the law of gradualism” and is opposed to “the gradualism of the law,” as if the law itself were somehow variable.

This is the context for the cardinal’s saying: “We should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships,” adding: “A stable relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous.” This does not at all mean that the cardinal was advocating or even suggesting that the Church might change her teaching that homosexuality is a disorder and homosexual activity is always a grave evil. It is always grave, but there can be gradations of gravity—or, to call it by its true name, objective depravity.
This is also the context of the Tablet’s statement: “The cardinal also said the Church needed to reconsider its view of re-married divorcees ‘as many people don’t even marry at all any longer’.” This “reconsideration” does not mean a change in the Church’s teaching that a valid marriage is indissoluble, and that someone who is validly married cannot remarry validly. It means that perhaps—but only perhaps, because this is an opinion that does not have the authority of a magisterial pronouncement—the Church should find new ways of leading the weak and confused to the difficult but liberating challenge of Christ’s demands.

In the course of this “off the record” meeting, the cardinal also frankly expressed his belief that a “reform of the Roman Curia” was needed. It’s not as if nothing had been done. In fact, the cardinal recognizes that the transfer of all sexual abuse allegations against priests to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) in 2001 was already a major reform. He was referring to an attitude of secrecy and defensiveness, as well as an inability to comprehend the gravity of the scandal. He cited Cardinal Sodano’s Easter remark as an example. It was a criticism, not an attack, of a fellow cardinal. It was much milder than what he could have said.

In the 1990’s when both then-Bishop Schönborn and Cardinal Ratzinger wanted a full investigation of allegations against the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, Cardinal Sodano, along with many other entrenched curial prelates, was able to prevail with Pope John Paul II and prevent an investigation. Both Bishop Schönborn and Cardinal Ratzinger lamented what they (and I) believe was a serious mistake. As cardinal and now Pope, Ratzinger has done much corrective work—as the case of Father Marcial Maciel abundantly illustrates. Cardinal Schönborn did not “launch an attack,” as the Tablet states; he made a criticism. And to characterize the substance of the meeting with such a false and misleading headline is typical of the treatment the pope, Cardinal Schönborn and the Church have been receiving at the hands of a sensationalist press.

So much for the Tablet’s headline and its story.
Less sensational than the Tablet’s lead but certainly deserving of public attention is the vigorous action Cardinal Schönborn has just taken. He has appointed Waltraud Klasnic, the former head of Styria province — a person something like a U.S. governor — as head of a commission to investigate the Church’s response to the sex-abuse crisis. This person is a woman, a practicing Catholic and a highly respected political figure. Her mandate is to choose her own commission and to carry out the investigation as she chooses. The Church will not only not oversee or direct the investigation, but will cooperate in making available all necessary materials.
Perhaps some will now criticize Cardinal Schönborn for not appointing such a commission sooner. If so, it will only demonstrate a will to criticize, not a desire to seek the truth.

In sum, Cardinal Schönborn is not calling for any change in the Church’s teaching or discipline. He is calling for a deeper understanding of the struggle to live the high demands of the moral law. He is critical of an attitude of defensiveness and dismissiveness still present in the Roman Curia (not to mention many episcopal curias—but the meeting was not about that). And he is trying to be transparent and responsive to the press.

Here again, though, the adage is confirmed: No good deed goes unpunished.


00Wednesday, May 12, 2010 3:13 AM
Cornwell’s analysis of Newman’s miracle is seriously flawed
by Jack Valero (According to Zenit) - May 11th, 2010

John Cornwell’s attack on Cardinal Newman’s miraculous healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan (‘Why Newman is no saint’ The Sunday Times May 9) is seriously flawed.

Cornwell wants to show that Sullivan’s healing was not miraculous, but medically explicable because of the surgical treatment Sullivan received. To this end, Cornwell assembles experts who testify that such surgery is generally successful, and that improvements in Sullivan’s underlying condition can flow from purely natural influences. Cornwell’s arguments, however, are very misleading.
Sullivan’s healing consisted in instantaneous, complete and lasting freedom from debilitating pain and immobility, following a prayer to Cardinal Newman on August 15 2001, six days after his operation. Nothing in the expert testimonies adduced by Cornwell show that such a recovery, in such a time period, can be attributed to surgery, or natural causes in general.

Cornwell also suggests that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and Pope Benedict XVI conspired to suppress the truth about Sullivan’s healing to portray it as medically inexplicable. The suggestion is absurd. The Church’s procedures have been faithfully adhered to and everything is in the public domain.

An article appearing towards the end of this week will demonstrate in detail the failings of Cornwell’s arguments.

Cornwell makes clear that his agenda is discrediting Pope Benedict XVI and Papal teaching, to promote a ‘progressive’ view of Cardinal Newman as a ‘dissident’, above all concerning individual conscience in relation to the teaching of the Catholic Church in Faith and Morals. The Pope however is the leading authentic interpreter of Newman’s teaching on conscience, which Cornwell and other ‘progressive’ Catholics misunderstand and misrepresent.
Readers of Cornwell’s article should be aware that his attack on the Newman miracle is not only unfounded, but another attempt to recruit Newman to the factional cause of ‘liberal’ Catholicism. Newman’s doctrine of conscience, in fact his life-long contribution to Christianity as both an Anglican and a Catholic, are in opposition to the rejection of authority in Faith and Morals which ‘liberal’ Catholics are determined to promote.


00Sunday, May 16, 2010 8:09 PM

I did not see this article during the visit, but what it says is not just topically relevant. The person Allen interviews expresses my own strong belief that the content of the 'third secret' - no matter how apocalyptic - is not the point of the apparitions at Fatima, and obsessing about whether it has all been revealed or not is a useless exercise. The message of Fatima has been the divine message to man since the Fall - 'Penitence, penitence, penitence'. Nothing else matters about Fatima, other than the fact the the Blessed Mother chose three simple children of pure faith as her messengers. Personally, I find the story of Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia perhaps the most powerful testimony of faith in the 20th century.

A tale of two Fatimas
Fatima, Portugal

May 13, 2010

In a sense, there have always been two Fatimas in the popular Catholic imagination.

One is a gentle devotion focused on Mary’s appearances to three illiterate shepherd children, an icon of God’s special favor for the simple ones of the earth.

Then there’s the other Fatima, a darker and harder-edged subculture focused on speculation about the errors of Russia, nuclear annihilation, and the great apostasies of the Catholic church after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

That second Fatima, according to some, has often obscured and perverted the first. Writer and commentator Carlos Evaristo, for example, says feverish devotees can become so engrossed by the second Fatima that they almost have to be “deprogrammed.”

“Unfortunately, many people who have a devotion to Fatima start with the regular devotions of the rosary and the First Saturdays, and then they get into some of the more exoteric literature,” Evaristo said.

“Once you get people into that mentality, it’s very hard to get them back.”

Evaristo runs several foundations in Fatima – including one launched by the late American Catholic layman and millionaire John Haffert, founder of the Blue Army – and publishes widely on the subject. Evaristo’s father witnessed one of the reported appearances of Mary in Fatima in 1917.

Evaristo sat down with NCR on May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.

Evaristo knows something about the hawkish Fatima subculture, having once been a protégé of Canadian Fr. Nicholas Gruner, the famed “Fatima priest” who publishes the Fatima Crusader and who for decades has promoted a hard-line reading of the Fatima revelations – insisting, among other things, that the version of the “Third Secret” of Fatima published by the Vatican in 2000 is incomplete, omitting details about the end of the world and a condemnation of modernizing currents in the church.

In 1992, however, Evaristo broke with Gruner after publishing an interview with Sr. Lúcia Santos, the only one of the three visionaries of Fatima to have survived the influenza epidemic of 1918. In Two Hours with Sr. Lucy, Evaristo quoted Sr. Lúcia to the effect that:

• John Paul’s 1984 consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary satisfied the conditions laid down in the Fatima revelations;
• The “conversion” of Russia referred to in Fatima does not necessarily mean explicit conversion to the Catholic faith;
• The “third secret” of Fatima did not have to be revealed in the 1960s, meaning that the Vatican had not been guilty of a decades-long cover-up.

Each point was anathema to Gruner and like-minded Fatima devotees, who questioned the authenticity of the interview and speculated about Evaristo’s motives for publishing it.

(All this unfolded in the wake of a 1992 symposium Gruner sponsored in Fatima as a rival to an official program put on the shrine, both of which attracted 60 bishops from around the world. Evaristo says that because of his split with Gruner, he ended up with thousands of dollars in debt for the event that Gruner refused to pay.)

Today, Evaristo, who grew up in Canada, sees Gruner as an example of an exegetical free-for-all that’s long percolated in the Fatima underground.

“What happened with the Fatima message is that Sr. Lucy related it but never interpreted it,” Evaristo said. “That left space for all sorts of strange theories.”

Make no mistake – Evaristo is a true believer. For example, he accepts at face value Sr. Lúcia’s claim that John Paul’s 1984 consecration prevented a nuclear war that was set to happen in 1985. Had Pius XI adequately carried out the consecration, he believes, World War II would have been prevented.

Yet Evaristo is insistent that the core elements of the Fatima message – penance, conversion, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the promise of salvation for performing a series of “First Saturday” devotions – don’t need to be “sexed up” with end-time fervor or pervasive suspiciousness about Vatican plots.

“The message of Fatima is already so majestic that it doesn’t need science fiction,” Evaristo said. “It doesn’t need hocus-pocus.”

Evaristo says that much of the speculation promoted by Fatima devotees amounts to a kind of “brainwashing” premised largely on fear.

“It was a perfect spirituality for the Cold War,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people still live in the Cold War.”

In broad strokes, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who's in Fatima for the papal visit, echoed the point.

"I’ve always been struck by the simplicity of the message – conversion and prayer," O'Malley told NCR. "It’s a devotion of the little people, and as a Franciscan, that excites me. This is where the anawim are. I think there’s something beautiful about that."

Simplicity, O'Malley said, and not eschatological prophecy, is what Fatima should be about.

00Tuesday, May 18, 2010 3:25 AM

Defending Benedict may mean
tainting John Paul II


May. 12, 2010

Vatican City - Under ordinary circumstances, Pope Benedict XVI’s mastery of German literature might not seem an obvious way of preparing for the papacy. At the moment, however, it feels spot-on, because Benedict and his admirers face a choice straight out of Goethe’s Faust: In order to salvage Benedict’s reputation on the sexual abuse crisis, they’re almost compelled to tarnish that of Pope John Paul II.

It’s not clear whether mounting criticism of John Paul’s record will be enough to slow down his beatification, but it may well color the late Pope’s legacy in the eyes of history.

Chapters of John Paul’s pontificate are being re-examined today, in large part because they’ve been adduced to prove Benedict’s resolve, include:

•Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, whom the Vatican recently denounced for leading an “objectively immoral” private life, including various forms of sexual misconduct and abuse (see story on Page 9). Benedict ordered Maciel to live a life of prayer and penance in 2006, but that edict left unanswered why Maciel, who died in 2008, was sheltered for so long under John Paul. (Accusations against Maciel first surfaced publicly in the mid-1990s).

•Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër of Vienna, Austria, who was accused in the mid-1990s of having abused novice monks while serving as a Benedictine abbot. Even after a group of Austrian bishops announced they were “morally certain” of Groër’s guilt, the Vatican declined to look into the case. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna recently revealed that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, had wanted to act, but groused at the time that “the other side won” -- an apparent reference to other Vatican officials who blocked an investigation.

•When a September 2001 letter from Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos applauding a French bishop for refusing to report an abuser priest to the police was recently unearthed, a blunt Vatican statement said the letter confirms the wisdom of putting Ratzinger in charge. Yet if Castrillón was indeed part of the problem, why did John Paul keep him on as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy for the rest of his papacy? (Castrillón has said that John Paul authorized the 2001 letter.)

[I think judgment of Castrillon's letter has been rather rash for the most part. From what I have read of it, he was praising the French bishop for not testifying about one of his priests 'as a father would not turn over his son', added to the circumstance that the bishop apparently learned of the priest's offense in a confession, although he was also later informed about it by other sources. But to extrapolate from that letter to say that Castrillon is one of those bishops who advocate covering up for their priests at any cost is, I believe, rushing to judgment. ...

Nor do I think Castrillon was lying when he said John Paul II had seen his letter and approved of it, since Karol Wojtyla's experience under Communism apparently conditioned him to protect his priests as a first reaction to accusations of sexual misconduct. In any case, I don't think Castrillon would lie about it, much less publicly.]

•Given that sexual abuse crises had erupted in various parts of the world throughout the 1980s and 1990s, why did it take John Paul until May 2001 to issue a motu proprio outlining new procedures for such cases? (That motu proprio proved unwieldy enough that Ratzinger was forced to secure special faculties from the Pope in early 2003 to ensure that it would work.)

It’s tough to make a case for Ratzinger’s determination, without also conceding that there were obstacles at the top -- and that, in turn, cannot help but cast a critical light on the Pope who allowed those obstacles to fester.

[I disagree. If only because John Paul II's holiness - which no one doubts - militates against that. Benedict XVI's resolve to pursue sex abuse cases when he was Cardinal Ratzinger has been openly reported and commented on since he punished Maciel, but I don't believe it has impacted on John Paul II's reputation at all on the part of the 'faithful faithful' - perhaps among some of the commentariat, yes, but few have said so explicitly... Clearly, this is a special case, where saying the truth about Cardinal Ratzinger need not reflect badly on John Paul II: the questions that it understandably raises will simply be glossed over as not significant or untenable insofar as they pertain to John Paul directly.

Especially since the scandals came to a boil during the last decade of John Paul II's life when the Curia was, in effect, running on autopilot. The impression about him, after all, is that he was so focused on how the Church affected the outside world that he generally 'neglected' intra-Church affairs, leaving his Curia to deal with them. If one believes this about the years when he was healthy, then all the more reason to believe he was 'out of it' by the time Parkinson's had taken such an open toll on his health.]

Whether these questions will be sufficient to slow down momentum toward beatification of John Paul remains to be seen. An official Vatican inquest into John Paul’s life concluded in 2009, before the recent wave of attention to his record on the crisis. On Dec. 19, Benedict signed a “decree of heroic virtue,” testifying to the saintliness of John Paul’s life, qualifying him to be called “Venerable.”

Veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, who covers Vatican affairs for the conservative daily Il Giornale, said that the positio -- the Latin term for the official study of John Paul’s life, which formed the basis for the decree of heroic virtue -- treats the sexual abuse crisis only in a “rapid and hasty” fashion.

Tornielli has reported that the lone document considered in the process about the Maciel case is a Nov. 17, 2007, letter from Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asserting that there was no “personal involvement” of John Paul in the way the Vatican handled the charges against Maciel. That letter was written in reply to a request from the officials responsible for John Paul’s cause, seeking clarification.

For some time, it’s been expected that John Paul’s beatification could come as early as October of this year, marking the anniversary of his election to the papacy on Oct. 16, 1978. At the moment, the process may have hit a speed bump for an entirely different reason. Polish media reported in mid-March that a miracle attributed to John Paul -- the healing of a French nun from Parkinson’s disease -- may be in doubt, since, according to the report, the nun’s diagnosis is not certain.

The Vatican dismissed that report as “without foundation.”

Others have raised doubts not about the ultimate outcome of John Paul’s cause, but its pace. In June 2008, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano sent a letter to the commission studying John Paul’s life. Sodano, who served for 15 years as John Paul’s secretary of state, wrote that he has no doubt about John Paul’s saintliness, but wondered aloud about the wisdom of fast-tracking the cause while Popes Pius XII and Paul VI are still in the queue.

Once a miracle has been certified by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, it will be up to Benedict to decide when to stage a beatification. Even the late Pope’s most ardent admirers are now suggesting that it would be a good idea to clear up the question marks about John Paul’s record beforehand, especially on the Maciel case.

“As a matter of prudence, and to help ensure that the third paragraph in every news story the day after the beatification doesn’t feature Maciel, who doesn’t deserve the attention, I would hope that the beatification follows a public accounting of how this deception took place,” said George Weigel, who authored the John Paul biography Witness to Hope.

Weigel said that such an accounting can occur only after the Vatican has put a solution in place for the Legionaries of Christ. A May 1 statement from the Vatican indicated that Benedict plans in the days ahead to name a personal delegate for the Legionaries, and a commission to study the order’s constitutions, to lead them on a “path of profound revision.”

A defense of John Paul’s record on the sexual abuse crisis will likely feature five key arguments:

•John Paul was an ad extra Pope, meaning that his focus was on evangelizing the wider world rather than internal ecclesiastical administration. He depended upon his lieutenants to handle such matters, implying that if someone dropped the ball on the crisis, primary responsibility lies with figures such as Sodano, and John Paul’s private secretary, now-Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland. Tornielli said that in the Vatican these days, some are quietly suggesting that Dziwisz needs to “assume his own responsibility.”

•By the time the crisis erupted with full force in the United States in early 2002, John Paul was already in physical decline and arguably unable to respond with the vigor the situation required. That argument is likely to accelerate the tendency to shift responsibility to the late Pope’s aides.

•Whatever administrative shortcomings John Paul’s record may show on the sexual abuse crisis, they don’t impugn his personal saintliness. When a Pope is beatified or canonized, the Vatican routinely insists that the act is not tantamount to endorsing every policy choice of his pontificate.

•A mixed record on the sexual abuse crisis does not erase the accomplishments of John Paul’s reign, such as his role in the collapse of communism, or his breakthroughs in Catholic/Jewish and Catholic/Muslim dialogue. [Which, however, have nothing to do with his 'heroic virtues' which refer more to his personal qualities, not to his policies, unless they were catastrophic for anyine!]

•John Paul also inspired a new generation of priests who take their calling seriously. Weigel puts the argument this way: “He attracted tens of thousands of young men who brought with them a heroic concept of priestly life and ministry, and who understood the crisis of priestly sin and crime as a crisis of fidelity,” he said. “Those young priests are the medium- and long-term answer.”

Those arguments may be enough to clear the path toward beatification. [Naah! I still believe that the only open question in the beatification is the final verdict on the miracle.]

“There’s no chance of Benedict delaying the beatification because of the abuse scandal,” said Giancarlo Zizola, another leading Italian expert on the Vatican. “On the contrary, I expect he’ll accelerate it.”

The longer-term question, however, is whether the case for the defense of John Paul vis-à-vis the sexual abuse crisis will withstand the verdict of history -- and right now, the jury seems decidedly hung.

When Benedict was elected to the papacy five years ago, the result was widely seen as a vote for continuity with John Paul -- an impression reinforced on the morning after the conclave of April 2005, when Benedict told the cardinals still gathered in the Sistine Chapel that he could feel John Paul’s “strong hand holding my own.”

From Benedict’s perspective, therefore, the almost mathematical correlation between exonerating his own record and impugning John Paul’s [A 'correlation' that's questionable, at the very least!] may bring to mind a line from Faust himself: “Even hell hath its peculiar laws.”

[Does Allen think that Benedict XVI himself faults John Paul II directly for not having been more aggressive about the sex-abuse problem? He did issue the 2001 Motu Proprio that gave the CDF jurisdiction over sex abuse cases, and he did call the US cardinals to the Vatican at the peak of the US 'scandals'. And Cardinal Ratzinger himself in December 2002 decried what he considered media exaggeration of the US situation since arguably the number of priests involved constitutes an insignificant percentage of American priests.

As for Maciel, we have not been told why the CDF temporarily halted its investigation of him before 2004 and then resumed it. It's difficult to think John Paul II had anything to with it directly, and equally difficult to believe that an objection from, say Cardinal Sodano, or from then Mons. Dsiwisz, would have stopped Cardinal Ratzinger. He had to have had a valid technical reason. Or perhaps, it is not even true that the investigation was temporarily halted. And since Popes cannot write a memoir of their own Papacy, perhaps someday, Mons. Amato who was #2 to Cardinal Ratzinger at the time, will write about it. Or Mons. Scicluna will.

Alternatively, Cardinal Ratzinger may have found a way to broach the Maciel case to John Paul tactfully, and the latter may have said, 'Hold off while I make some inquiries myself' and then gave the green light in 2004. If Cardinal Ratzinger could express his reservations about the first Assisi love-in to John Paul II (who followed his own counsel, however) surely he would not have hesitated to bring up Maciel's case....]

00Tuesday, May 18, 2010 1:29 PM

The Remnant is a traditionalist newspaper. This interview was done just before the Holy Father's visit to Portugal.

Mons. Fellay on the Rosary Crusade -
20 million for the Pope -
and doctrinal talks with the Vatican

By Brian Mershon

Published 5/11/10

Houston, Texas — Superior General Bishop Bernard Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X recently spoke to The Remnant in an exclusive interview following the completion of their third Rosary crusade for the Holy Father on March 25, 2010.

Despite Cardinal Kasper’s most recent obvious attempt to “poison the well” and upend the ongoing discussions with the Society’s theologians and representatives of the Holy See (talks in which, it should be noted, he has no role whatsoever), the Holy Father will visit Fatima this week and deliver an intense message.

Our Blessed Mother cannot be circumvented when it comes to answering prayers as she so wills as the mediatrix of all graces. Let us pray, then, that the Holy Father’s message at Fatima this week will be an answer to the most recent rosary crusade for the intention of the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Hear of Mary and for the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart.

Five and half million rosaries from the U.S. and a total of 19,142,065 rosaries by Traditionalist Catholics worldwide have been offered for this intention. We thank His Excellency most sincerely for taking time away from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

Your Excellency, what is your reaction to the Society’s request for 12 million rosaries with a result of more than 19 million actually being offered?
First of all, I am very, very happy to see such enthusiasm and such an answer to our call. I’m certain that this number isn’t only from the Society’s faithful; I’m sure that many many others have joined for whom we don’t have the total figures. That’s the first thing.

Secondly, I’m pleased with the enthusiasm for understanding the importance of this matter. This subject matter is very, very important.

The two other rosary crusades resulted in rather quick and historic responses — the freeing of the Traditional Latin Mass to all priests everywhere in the world, and the dissolving of the excommunications of the Society bishops, which in turn led to the commencement of doctrinal talks with the Holy See. Do you anticipate a similarly dramatic response to this third rosary crusade?
I leave it to be totally in the hands of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. But, probably not. One never knows, but I would be very surprised if the Pope consecrated Russia. It would be a great, great surprise. But, on the other hand, we have already been surprised before, so I would not be amazed if it were to happen so quickly. This time what we’re asking for is so important and so big and it is so directly involved in all the events of the history of our times.

Ever since Pope Benedict was elected and the new Russian Orthodox Patriarch was chosen, there has been an obvious thaw in relations, and for the better, I believe. The Russian Orthodox Patriarch even published a book of the Pope’s writings to be disseminated to his lay faithful! How do you read this? Is this related to the Third Secret of Fatima as well?
I personally believe there is something on the move in Russia. There definitely does seem to be something moving in Russia. There is something in the air. How far and how deep? I do not know. But, there are many things that show there is a revival of religion in Russia.

Has the Society already sent the bouquet of rosaries?
It is going to happen [soon].

What is the Society’s attitude on the worldwide media attacks on the Holy Father and the Church?
I think we have there a good demonstration that the Church really does still have enemies. And these enemies have real names. You can see that through this ongoing campaign. It is very revealing. On the one hand, we have the old-guard U.S. enemies and, on the other hand, we have the leftists from Europe both working together.

Do you think these attacks are related to the chastisements foretold by Sister Lucia in the Third Secret?
It’s too difficult to say. But if there is one quote from Fatima that I would quote that applies — it is this: “The Pope will suffer a lot. The Pope will suffer a lot.” And you have it there.

The ongoing doctrinal talks with the Holy See are occurring outside the media spotlight for obvious reasons. What do you expect to happen as a result of these? What has to happen in the doctrinal talks for the Society to agree to a canonical structure? Are the talks even related to a possible canonical solution?
It’s impossible to say. Absolutely impossible. It depends upon too many factors right now. I don’t have the answer.

Some critics say that the Society’s rejection of a canonical or practical solution is a sign of obstinacy or ill will. How do you answer that?
It is very simple. The Holy See has agreed that the doctrinal talks should happen, so that should answer the questions without putting the burden on me. Besides that, it is very clear that whatever practical solution that would happen without a sound doctrinal foundation would lead directly to disaster. We don’t want that. We want and need the security of a sound solution on the level of doctrine to go ahead. So to pretend there is something definitive prior to engaging in the doctrinal talks…

We have all these previous examples in front of us — the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, and all of the others are totally blocked on the level of doctrine because they first accepted the practical agreement.

Do you believe the Pope personally sincerely desires a canonical solution with the Society of St. Pius X?
Yes, I think so. Yes, I do. I think the Pope desires this. He wants the Church to be better and he wants to complete the quest of the consecration of bishops with the Society.

You have mentioned in previous interviews that the Society has positive acquaintances or even friends as bishops, cardinals — and even in the Roman Curia. What advice do they give you as these doctrinal talks are ongoing?
Nothing at all. They are very discreet right now. I think the discussions we’re having are very good and are happening at a very discreet level. The next talks are taking place this month.

Are you aware of any group of priests, lay faithful or dioceses in the recent history of the Church who have offered such large bouquets of rosaries to the Holy Father as the Society has now done thrice?
Not to my knowledge. It might have happened, but I don’t have any reference. But it is obvious that such a crusade is something unique. I believe that Fr. Gruner [a priest engaged in promoting the Fatima message] is now going to do the same thing.

What is your advice to Catholics who desire to open an FSSPX chapel in their area? Is the Society putting on the brakess where expanding chapel locations is concerned, due to the doctrinal talks?
First, the lay faithful should contact us and then we try to do something for them. Right now, we have so many requests that we can hardly fulfill them. This year, we have a good year for ordinations, but even so we are too short of priests [to fulfill all the requests]. We can hardly answer all the requests.

But we continue our normal life as before. It would be totally counterproductive to think we would have to stop any increase in our life because of talks with Rome. It should be quite the contrary.

Your Excellency, Do you have any final thoughts?
Prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary have to continue. Some might think that since we achieved our rosary crusade, now everything is fine. No. No. No. It is now very clear that we are engaged in a battle with the real enemies of the Church. So Catholics, be ready! Gain the victory with the rosary!

00Wednesday, May 19, 2010 5:42 AM

Cardinal Brady to stay in office
as he asks for assistance

by PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

May 18, 2010

THE CATHOLIC primate Cardinal Seán Brady last night said he would he would ask Pope Benedict to appoint a bishop to assist him and indicated he had decided to stay at the head of the Irish Catholic church.

In a statement issued to welcome yesterday’s report from the Catholic Church watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children, he announced he had “asked Pope Benedict XVI for additional support for my work, at Episcopal level”.

He has done this, so he could be assisted “in addressing the vital work of healing, repentance and renewal, including engagement with survivors of abuse, as well as the many other challenges and opportunities which confront the diocese of Armagh and the church in Ireland at this time.”

The cardinal (70), who had to take time off last month after he became ill at a Confirmation ceremony in Kildress parish church, Co Tyrone, is currently assisted at episcopal level in the Armagh archdiocese by Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Clifford (69).

In the years that remain to him as Archbishop of Armagh, he would be “fully committed to building on the substantial progress made in child safeguarding in recent years and to working to bring about the healing, repentance and renewal set out for the church in Ireland by Pope Benedict XVI,” he said.

Cardinal Brady has faced calls to resign since it emerged on March 14th last that in 1975 he conducted an investigation into allegations of child sex abuse by Fr Brendan Smyth which involved him swearing two teenagers to secrecy.

In his statement he repeated that he had asked for Armagh diocese to be included in the apostolic visitation announced by the Pope last March. He had also asked the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) to prioritise a review and audit of Armagh diocese and committed himself to fully implementing its recommendations and to having its findings published.

He would shortly advertise for a full-time director of child safeguarding for the diocese who would have responsibility for handling all future suspicions and allegations of child abuse, and for reporting these directly to the civil authorities.

The diocese would participate fully in the work of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority in Northern Ireland, including the sharing of “soft” information (sometimes unsubstantiated information).

He regretted that the statutory safeguards required to facilitate this were only available in that part of his diocese which is in Northern Ireland. He would welcome the establishment of a similar system for sharing information on a North-South basis.

He thanked the safeguarding children board for “holding us to account and for pointing out frankly and constructively those areas of policy, practice or attitude which require corrective action or further development.”

The board’s report disclosed 197 allegations of physical, emotional but mostly sexual abuse had been made to it in the year to March 31st last. All allegations were made by adults.

Of the 197 individuals against whom allegations were made, some 140 had not faced such allegations before. Some 87 of the allegations related to priests of the 26 Catholic dioceses, while 110 came through religious congregations and missionary societies. All were reported to the relevant statutory authorities.

None of the new allegations were made by children or young people. Some referred to incidents which took place in the 1950s and 1960s but were now emerging for the first time. Some 83 of the 197 alleged perpetrators of abuse were dead. Of the living 114, 35 had been laicised or dismissed from their congregation.

Cardinal Brady's full statement

I welcome the publication today of the Second Annual Report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI). I want to thank the members of the Board and the National Office of the NBSCCCI for their outstanding dedication, professionalism and commitment in supporting the sincere desire of Bishops and leaders of Religious Congregations to become exemplars of best practice in safeguarding children.

I also want to thank them for holding us to account and for pointing out frankly and constructively those areas of policy, practice or attitude which require corrective action or further development. This has been a year of extraordinary challenge for the NBSCCCI with the publication of the Ryan Report and Murphy Report which made exceptional demands on the members and staff of the Board and the National Office.

I hope today’s Report will help to reassure everyone that while important challenges remain, the Catholic Church in Ireland has come a long way in addressing the failings of the past.

I welcome in particular the Report’s two clear conclusions: "Firstly, that children should be safer today within the Church than they once were. Secondly, those that seek to harm children should feel much less secure.

I also welcome the news that 2,356 individuals have been trained and are now acting as child safeguarding representatives in Parishes across the country, with coverage of all Parishes to be achieved in the coming months.

This represents an extraordinary achievement by any standard and is a remarkable example of lay participation in the life and ministry of the Church.

I want to thank all those who give of their time, talent and expertise in safeguarding children. Building whole communities that actively keep children safe, together with effective structures of accountability and transparency, is the key to the future of child safeguarding within the Church and, indeed, within society as a whole.

Each one of us has to take responsibility for keeping children safe and for addressing the attitudes and practices which had such tragic consequences for so many children in the past.

There is no room for complacency. The tragic experience of the past reminds us that constant vigilance is needed as well as full adherence to robust, comprehensive and ongoing systems of accountability.

As Pope Benedict XVI said to the Bishops in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, "Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives. This must arise, first and foremost, from your own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal."

I want to thank all those whom I have met over recent weeks as part of my own reflection on the next steps we might take. I listened firstly to those who are survivors of abuse. Some of these meetings were made known to the public while others were held in private at the request of those I was meeting. I thank them all for their generosity and courage in sharing their experiences and their wide variety of views with me.

I also listened to people from the Diocese, in Parishes and in Diocesan groups. I spoke with lay Catholics from across the country, as well as to many priests, religious and others. Again, I want to thank them all for their honesty and help and for the tremendous support and encouragement they have given me.

In the years that remain to me as Archbishop of Armagh, I am fully committed to building on the substantial progress made in child safeguarding in recent years and to working to bring about the healing, repentance and renewal set out for the Church in Ireland by Pope Benedict XVI. I am fully committed to the path that as a Church we must take to the truth that will set us free.

As part of this process, and as a sign of my personal commitment to the task of renewal that lies ahead, I am taking a number of practical steps:

I have asked the Holy See to include the Diocese of Armagh among those Dioceses to be included in the Apostolic Visitation announced by Pope Benedict XVI. The distress caused to many survivors of abuse and others as a result of the drip-by-drip revelation of past failings has to be addressed.

In 2009, I asked the National Board for Safeguarding Children to engage with all Bishops and leaders of Religious Congregations in Ireland to explore the possibility of a voluntary and comprehensive audit and review of safeguarding practice.

The Board is now engaged with the members of the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union to explore how this process can be brought forward and completed as quickly as possible.

I have asked the Board to prioritise the review and audit of the handling of cases and the implementation of agreed policies in the Archdiocese of Armagh.

I commit myself to fully implementing the recommendations of that review and to sharing its findings in the first phased publication of such reviews proposed today by the National Board.

To build on the excellent work already undertaken in recent years by the Child Safeguarding staff in the Diocese of Armagh, I will shortly be advertising for a full-time director of Child Safeguarding for the Diocese, who will have responsibility for handling all future suspicions and allegations of child abuse, for reporting directly to the civil authorities, North and South, and for supporting all Parishes and Diocesan organisations in ensuring compliance with civil obligations and Church policies in this area.

I have asked the Child Safeguarding staff in the Diocese of Armagh to make all necessary preparations for our full participation as a Diocese in the work of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority, which comes into place in Northern Ireland later this year.

In the future, it will be this statutory authority and not the Church (or any other organisation which works with children in Northern Ireland) that will decide who is permitted to work with children.

As part of our registration with this new Independent Safeguarding Authority, Bishops in Northern Ireland will give a commitment to sharing ‘soft information’ held or known about any person working in a Church context, as well as all allegations of abuse, with the new Authority. I regret that this important statutory safeguard will only be available in that part of the Diocese of Armagh which is in Northern Ireland. I would welcome the establishment of a similar system for sharing of information on a North-South basis.

To assist me in addressing the vital work of healing, repentance and renewal, including engagement with survivors of abuse, as well as the many other challenges and opportunities which confront the Diocese of Armagh and the Church in Ireland at this time, I have asked Pope Benedict XVI for additional support for my work, at Episcopal level.

In recent weeks, in my capacity as President of the Irish Episcopal Conference, I have encouraged Bishops, lay associations and ecclesial movements, youth groups, religious and clergy to continue the process of reflection and dialogue on the Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland.

In particular, I have asked for their proposals on the "new vision" that we need, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, "to inspire present and future generations to treasure the gift of our common faith.

I commit myself, with all my human weaknesses, to walk humbly with all in the Church in Ireland as a fellow pilgrim on this journey of renewal and to discern God’s will for the Church at this time.

I will seek, as Pope Benedict XVI has asked us, to work ‘with courage and determination’ – and with humility, sincere repentance and careful listening – to address the many challenges which confront us. As a fellow pilgrim, searching with the whole community of faith for a clear way forward, I will do all I can to help sow the seeds for a genuine healing and renewal in the Church which, for so many of us, is our family and our home.

00Thursday, May 20, 2010 8:46 PM
Cardinal O'Malley supports decision
to rescind acceptance of a lesbian couple's child
to a parochial school but says
the issue must be studied

By Jim Lockwood


BRAINTREE, Massachusetts — Following a week-long controversy that erupted following a Hingham parochial school’s decision to rescind its acceptance of a child of a same-sex couple, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said the Archdiocese of Boston should look to the precedent set by another American archdiocese that has already grappled with this issue.

“The Archdiocese of Denver has formulated a policy that calls into question the appropriateness of admitting the children of same-sex couples. It is clear that all of their school policies are intended to foster the welfare of the children and fidelity to the mission of the Church,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a rare mid-week blog post. “Their positions and rationale must be seriously considered.”

Earlier this year, the Archdiocese of Denver upheld a Boulder school’s decision not to re-enroll the child of a same-sex couple.

Cardinal O’Malley issued his blog on May 19, roughly one week after St. Paul School in Hingham withdrew its acceptance of a lesbian couple’s child. The cardinal was on a pilgrimage to Fatima when the news originally surfaced. The May 19 post is printed in its entirety in this week’s edition of The Pilot.

The blog post [also] went on to defend the school’s decision, as well as the character of its pastor, Father James Rafferty. Cardinal O’Malley said that Father Rafferty’s actions were based on what he thought would be best for the child.

“He made a decision about the admission of the child to St. Paul School based on his pastoral concern for the child. I can attest personally that Father Rafferty would never exclude a child to sanction the child’s parents,” Cardinal O’Malley also said. “After consulting with the school principal, exercising his rights as pastor, he made a decision [rescinding acceptance of the child - i.e., rejecting admission] based on an assessment of what he felt would be in the best interests of the child.”

In a May 18 interview with The Pilot, the archdiocese’s vicar general and moderator of the Curia echoed Cardinal O’Malley’s defense of Father Rafferty and the cardinal’s assessment that the priest acted in the interest of the child.

“In this (case), the decision he made had far-reaching consequences,” said Father Richard Erikson, who also defended Father Rafferty’s right to make a decision for his school, citing Canon Law.

While the archdiocese’s schools office is upholding the St. Paul’s decision, they have promised to help the parents find another Catholic school for their child and said the diocese does not prohibit children of same-sex parents from attending Catholic school.

Mary Grassa O’Neill, the archdiocese’s superintendent of schools, said in a May 13 statement that she met with St. Paul’s officials about the decision and told the applicant’s parent she would help her find another Catholic school for her son.

“She was gracious and appreciative of the suggestion and indicated that she would look forward to considering some other Catholic schools that would welcome her child for the next academic year,” O’Neill’s statement said in part.

“We believe that every parent who wishes to send their child to a Catholic school should have the opportunity to pursue that dream,” her statement also said. “Our schools welcome children based on their parent’s understanding that the teachings of the Church are an important component of the curriculum and are part of the students’ educational experience.”

Father Erikson said that the archdiocese does not have a specific policy that addresses whether children of homosexual parents should be admitted to Catholic schools.

He also expressed appreciation at O’Neill’s leadership in arranging other Catholic schools for the student and in making a commitment to clarify the policy of the archdiocese going forward.

Cardinal O’Malley praised O’Neill’s work with this issue as well.

“She was respectful of all the people involved in this matter and showed leadership in attempting to resolve the matter as was within her responsibilities as Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese,” Cardinal O’Malley said.

St. Paul’s decision has also drawn a wide variety of responses from local and national sources.

Father Frank Daley, pastor of Sts. Martha and Mary Parish in Lakeville and a close friend of Father Rafferty, said that the Hingham priest has received numerous phone calls both supporting and criticizing his decision. Since the incident occurred, Father Rafferty has declined media interviews and referred all inquiries to the archdiocese.

“He is very upset by the whole situation. It’s been a tough week and a half,” Father Daley said.

“I think it is a very unfortunate situation,” he also said. “He is trying to run a Catholic school and uphold the teachings of the Church and the morality of the Church.”

Other responses have been generated as well.

The Catholic Schools Foundation (CSF), an independent organization that provides scholarships to students at inner-city Catholic schools, issued a letter clarifying the foundation’s funding requirements. The May 13 letter was signed by CSF executive director Mike Reardon and sent to the administrators of all elementary and high schools in the archdiocese.

Reardon’s letter said the organization will not fund schools that have “an exclusionary admissions policy or practice” and that refuse to admit students of same-sex parents.

“We believe a policy or practice that denies admission to students in such a manner as occurred at St. Paul’s is at odds with our values as a Foundation, the intentions of our donors, and ultimately with Gospel teaching.”

According to Reardon’s letter, this CSF policy has been in effect since its founding in 1983.

The decision to deny the child enrollment is being opposed by national groups as well.

Catholics United, a national Catholic organization that promotes social justice, circulated a petition on its website calling for the archdiocese to allow the applicant to attend St. Paul’s and “allow all children to have access to a Catholic education.”

The group of 42,000 Catholics has collected nearly 5,000 signatures, according to organizing director James Salt. Those signatures were delivered to Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s office via e-mail, the website also said.

However, officials from Cardinal O’Malley’s office said they had not received the electronic petition.

“We humbly ask Cardinal O’Malley to intervene in this matter and allow this child to attend St. Paul Elementary School,” said Chris Korzen, Catholics United’s executive director, said in a May 13 press release. “In making this request, we do not intend to challenge the church’s teaching on marriage and relationships. Rather, we simply believe that no one should be denied the benefits of a Catholic education on the basis of their parents’ background.”

“We welcome Dr. O’Neill’s statement, and look forward to a final decision regarding this matter,” Korzen added.

However, Catholic Action League of Massachusetts executive director C.J. Doyle called upon the archdiocese to support St. Paul’s, calling the school’s action “entirely appropriate, warranted, and necessary.”

The admission of a child of a lesbian couple to a Catholic school would only result in self-censorship, and de facto acceptance of same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption,” Doyle’s statement said in part. “The archdiocese must support Saint Paul’s.”

Doyle also questioned why a same-sex couple would want to enroll children in Catholic schools.

A student is admitted to a parochial school with the expectation that the parents will cooperate in imparting Catholic values, a condition which it clearly does not obtain in this case. The real question here is why two people who radically repudiate the moral teachings of Catholicism would want their child educated in a Catholic school,” he said. “It would seem that they are either looking for an excuse to litigate, or an opportunity to embarrass the Church in the court of public opinion.”

00Thursday, May 20, 2010 10:02 PM
The media, the Church and the HSE (Health Service Executive)
by David Quinn - May 20th 2010

The pressure was on Cardinal Sean Brady once again this week to resign. This contrasted sharply with the lack of pressure on the HSE following the murder of Daniel McAnaspie despite being in the HSE's care, and the report of the Children's Ombudsman showing very widespread failure by the HSE to properly implement the State's child protection guidelines, Children First.

Once again no-one within the HSE was held accountable on either score, and no-one has had to resign. The Ombudsman's report received scant coverage but the report of the Church's child protection office, released on Monday, received very extensive coverage.

That report showed that the Church's very stringent child protection norms are being very widely implemented - in contrast with the HSE. It also showed that no allegation of child abuse received by the office related to the last nine years.

We must ask again why the media are employing such a double standard in their coverage of child protection by the Church, and child protection by the State. If they cared equally about child protection everywhere the current failings on the part of the State would if anything receive more coverage precisely because they are current.

It's no wonder so many attentive Catholics believe the media are biased against their Church.

00Thursday, May 20, 2010 10:12 PM
Is Newman’s Miracle Credible? A Response to John Cornwell
Newman Cause Website - May 19th 2010

John Cornwell (author of Hitler’s Pope about Pope Pius XII) is at it again. In The Sunday Times (’Why Cardinal Newman is no saint’, May 9 2010) he has published an elaborate but unconvincing attack on Newman’s miraculous healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan.

With his book on Newman due out at the end of the month, it’s hard to resist the thought that Cornwell has unveiled his case against the miracle with an eye to enhancing his sales. But there is more to it than that. Cornwell’s tendentious reading of contemporary Catholicism, and his disconcerting disdain for Pope Benedict XVI, both on display in his article, constitute his wider agenda.

The real issue is Newman’s doctrine of conscience. With the intellectual case for Catholic dissent now in ruins (thanks to this Papacy and the last), its increasingly few remaining enthusiasts (who retain, nonetheless, disproportionate influence) are desperate to recruit Newman to their cause. If only they could liberate Newman from the machinations of Vatican saint-making, their vision of Newman as the conscience-driven ‘patron sinner’ of Catholic dissent will gain in credibility.

So Cornwell has assembled an impressive array of experts to suggest that nothing medically inexplicable was involved in the Newman miracle. Before turning to his detailed arguments, however, which are presented with an appearance of great rigour, it is worth getting a feel for the value which Cornwell accords to accuracy and candour in the incidentals of his case.

And here we find a festival of inaccuracy. Cornwell claims that after a period of remission, Sullivan’s pain returned ‘in May’ 2001; in fact, it was on April 22. Sullivan’s healing took place not nine days after his operation, as Cornwell asserts, but after six days, on August 15. The Pope will beatify Newman on Sunday September 19, not as Cornwell asserts on Saturday 18.

Contrary to Cornwell’s assertion, the Catholic Church does not think that Beatification implies that a person ‘went straight to heaven’. Nor does the Church think that he or she has ‘literally proved his or her influence with God by persuading the Almighty to perform just one ‘testable’ miracle.’

Again, Newman certainly wanted his body rapidly to decompose, but not as Cornwell asserts in order ‘to thwart attempts to make a cult of his remains’ (thereby ‘cheating the saint-makers…[and]… clerical gravediggers’ as Cornwell puts it). A contemporary report from the Birmingham Daily Post of August 20 1890 makes clear that Newman favoured the rapid decomposition of his remains because of ‘his reverence for the letter of the Divine Word; which, as he conceived, enjoins us to facilitate rather than impede the operation of the law ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’.’

Such misinformation is surely something more than a mere mistake? The most telling instance is perhaps his claim (conveyed with a clear implication of insider status) that what he describes as that ‘rare kind of book’, the official analysis of Newman’s miracle in the Positio Super Miro, ‘came into my hands…not so long ago’. It was in fact given to him by the Birmingham Oratory, as a gesture of good will, during a lunchtime visit he paid to us one sunny Sunday in early July 2009.

The Oratory has in this way made gifts of the Positio to many different people, by no means only to ‘a hand-full of bona-fide researchers with a specialist interest in Newman’, as Cornwell suggests. The Positio is not secluded away by the Vatican and the Oratory. It is in the public domain. Anyone can read it who wants to.

Given all this, we are entitled to approach the intricate arguments in which his case against Newman’s miracle consists with a certain caution. Is he really concerned with arriving at the truth, or intent on raising a smokescreen, to baffle and disconcert the believer and exhilarate the sceptic?

The nub of Cornwell’s case against Newman’s miracle is that in approving it the Vatican’s experts ignored one of the most important of their own norms. The norm states that no one who is healed miraculously should have undergone medically ‘effective treatment’. But Sullivan, Cornwell points out, underwent laminectomy for his spinal stenosis. On this basis alone, he suggests, Sullivan’s case should have been dismissed.

Once the significance of the laminectomy is liberated from Vatican suppression, Cornwell argues, it is no surprise that the independent specialists whom he has assembled (’remote from the supernatural and the Vatican ambit’) find nothing medically inexplicable in Sullivan’s post-operative recovery.

Even at a first glance, there is something implausible in Cornwell’s argument. However cynical about Rome one wants to be, is it credible to suggest that the Vatican experts, who know that everything relating to the case, including their own reasonings and conclusions, will be placed in the public domain, nonetheless conspired to suppress Sullivan’s ‘effective treatment’ in order to portray his healing as medically inexplicable?

Of course not. Sullivan’s laminectomy and its importance have not been suppressed; on the contrary they are open to view. So what is the truth?

The key point is this. Newman’s miracle was not healing Jack Sullivan of his spinal stenosis. It consisted in Sullivan’s instantaneous, complete and lasting freedom from pain and restoration of unrestricted mobility. The Vatican experts could not have been clearer on this point: ‘the judgement of non-explicability’, they say, ‘refers exclusively to the immediate recovery of post-operative function, absolutely not foreseen in the specific case.’

It is in this light that the question of whether Sullivan’s laminectomy counts as ‘effective treatment’ needs to be assessed. From the moment he made his short but intense prayer to Cardinal Newman on August 15 2001, Sullivan was instantaneously, completely and lastingly free of pain and enjoyed unrestricted mobility. Now are these among the range of effects which laminectomy could conceivably produce? If not, then there is no reason to regard the laminectomy as ‘effective treatment’.

That is presumably why Dr De Rosa, whom the Vatican has employed as a medical expert, implies (in words Cornwell quotes) that an investigation is necessary to determine whether something counts as ‘effective treatment’. ‘We have to be satisfied‘, Dr De Rosa explains, ‘that effective treatment has not been applied.’ The key question is not whether treatment has taken place, but whether, if it has, it could conceivably explain the healing in question.

Cornwell’s theory about the question of ‘effective treatment’ therefore reduces to a much less ominous consideration. Was Sullivan’s healing conceivably a result of his laminectomy? The Vatican’s experts decided it was not; Cornwell’s experts, he claims, say that it was.

But do they? We need to look very closely at what they say.

Mr Powell of University College Hospital says that after laminectomy ‘most patients…walk out happy at two days’. But what does ‘walking out happy’ mean? Does Cornwell intend us to conclude that Sullivan’s recovery was normal?

It would seem so. But then what are we to make of the testimony of Sullivan’s surgeon Mr Banco? He has said that in 15 years of practice he had treated over 1500 patients like Sullivan without ever witnessing a post-operative recovery at all comparable. Does this, as Cornwell implies, contradict Mr Powell? Not at all. Mr Powell says, in effect, that laminectomy is a procedure that typically leads to significant improvement in a patient’s condition. Presumably Mr Banco agrees, else why would he have performed so many laminectomies? But for Mr Banco the exceptional character of Sullivan’s recovery was different, indeed inexplicable. What Mr Powell says is not inconsistent with that.

What of Mr Powell’s remarks concerning possible non-surgical factors underlying post-operative pain relief? He mentions ‘bending over a supermarket shopping trolley…good physiotherapy…[or] relaxing holidays in warm places’.

Sullivan, however, didn’t recover in a supermarket or on holiday. On the day of his healing he was in hospital, in excruciating pain, barely able to move, and the day before had had to be carried back to his bed shortly after his session of physiotherapy had begun.

Cornwell doesn’t tell us any of this, leaving it to his readers to conclude that the kinds of factors mentioned by Mr Powell must have been operative in Sullivan’s healing. But they weren’t. Immobilised by pain, Sullivan said a short prayer to Cardinal Newman while doubled up at his hospital bedside. His pain and immobility instantly vanished, and have never returned. Mr Powell’s remarks, which Cornwell orchestrates to discredit Sullivan’s experience, in truth simply fail to engage with it.

Doubly so, in fact, since Mr Powell speaks in this context only of relief that is ‘fairly quick’ or lasts ‘for a significant period’. Does Cornwell not see that all this leaves Sullivan’s healing untouched?

Mrs Fernandez of Addenbrooke’s seems no more useful to Cornwell than Mr Powell. A careful reading of her testimony shows that she is mostly considering pre-operative spontaneous improvement, because she speaks about patients cancelling their surgery. According to Mrs Fernandez, such ’spontaneous improvement…is not uncommon’. But what degrees of improvement? Cornwell doesn’t say, although he must realise that unless Mrs Fernandez means instantaneous, complete and lasting improvement, her testimony is simply not to the point.

Patients who cancel, she tells us, ‘generally return some time later, but not always.’ Cornwell wants us to think that the reason some of them don’t is that, even without surgery, they have recovered just as Sullivan recovered. But this is obviously a non sequitur. There may be various reasons why some people choose not to return. Surgery is unappealing, and even quite high levels of pain can be managed. What light does any of this shed on Jack Sullivan?.

As for post-operative recovery, Mrs Fernandez says ‘improvement is expected in 60-70% of patients’. This means that like Mr Powell, and Sullivan’s surgeon Mr Banco, Mrs Fernandez knows that laminectomy is a generally successful procedure. No one denies it, but in Cornwell’s article the crucial question is left hanging. Does laminectomy in Mrs Fernandez’s experience ever produce instantaneous, complete and lasting freedom from pain and immobility? One suspects Cornwell didn’t ask. ‘Full recovery from surgery’, she tells us, ‘with full improvement can take some time.’ Although Cornwell wants us to think otherwise, this is too vague for his purposes. What exactly is ‘full improvement’? And is it ever instantaneous?

Cornwell, however, has a final card to play. Professor Kirsch of Hull University says that ‘blocking pain despite continued physical pathology does seem more like a placebo effect than a miracle.’

His reference to pain relief during ‘continued physical pathology’ suggests that Professor Kirsch is commenting on Sullivan’s pre-operative freedom from pain between June 2000 and April 2001. This is because no one knows about Sullivan’s post-operative physical pathology. In the earlier period, despite Sullivan’s freedom from pain, various scans did indeed reveal continuing spinal stenosis. In late April, Sullivan’s pain returned, worse than before, and his laminectomy on August 9 was intended to rectify his underlying condition. But its success is unknown, because since his laminectomy Sullivan has not been scanned.

Therefore when Cornwell asserts that ‘the underlying physical condition, [the] stenosis, was rectified by the laminectomy operation of August 2001′, he is saying more than we know. The extent of the rectification has not been determined.

Professor Kirsch, in any case, seems not to be commenting on Sullivan’s actual healing. He is commenting on an earlier, transient period of relief. Is it this transience, perhaps, that for Professor Kirsch makes an explanation in terms of ‘the placebo effect’ preferable to invoking the miraculous?

Cornwell doesn’t give this question the time of day. Taking up what Professor Kirsch has said, he asserts that the placebo effect ‘would certainly explain Sullivan’s alleviation of pain in both 2000 and 2001′. But would it? What evidence is there that the placebo effect might explain the instantaneous and enduring freedom from pain and immobility that Sullivan had enjoyed since August 2001?

In this connection, Cornwell introduces the well-known effects of ‘hypnosis, relaxation and altered states of mind’. Might these phenomena help us to understand Sullivan’s prayer to Newman? Cornwell wants us to think so, but he doesn’t tell us what Sullivan’s prayer actually consisted in. Fortunately, Sullivan has: ‘Please Cardinal Newman’, he prayed, ‘help me to walk so I can return to my Diaconate classes and be ordained.’

Now is this modest utterance something which might have induced an ‘altered state of mind’ sufficient to produce and sustain, over nine years, complete freedom from debilitating pain and immobility?

Over the preceding thirteen months Sullivan had doubtless said dozens of such prayers. Why would this one in particular suddenly function, so dramatically and definitively, as a placebo?

Besides which, Cornwell knows very well, from Dr De Rosa, that the Vatican experts ‘immediately discard’ any case suspected of involving ‘autosuggestion, hypnosis [or] psychology’. We have seen how unfounded is Cornwell’s claim that the Vatican by-passed the exclusion of ‘effective treatment’. Is he suggesting that they evaded ‘the placebo effect’ as well?

Having looked at Cornwell’s case against Newman’s miracle, then, we are entitled to conclude that for all its show of sophistication it just doesn’t add up.

But will Cornwell mind? His ultimate target is not Sullivan or Newman, or even the Vatican experts. His animus seems to be directed against the Pope himself. Cornwell’s attack on Newman’s miracle is all about discrediting ‘the papal role as final adjudicator of the scientifically tested supernatural’; and with it ‘the traditionalist wing of Catholicism’ which the Pope represents, and in particular his desire to ‘[sanitise] Newman’s progressive Catholicism in preparation for the beatification.’

He all but challenges Pope Benedict, when he comes to the UK in September, to take as his theme Newman’s supposedly ‘progressive’ and ‘dissenting’ reflections on Conscience and the Papacy. The Holy Father has meditated deeply upon this very question, so let us hope that (even if inadvertently) he responds to Cornwell’s provocation.

In the meantime, perhaps Cornwell himself could do some thinking about the very question with which he taunts the Pope. What text could be more appropriate for Cornwell’s meditation (and for all who think like him) than Newman’s explanation of how an authentic conscience is clarified and completed by the Papal Magisterium?

…we shall find that it is by the universal sense of right and wrong, the consciousness of transgression, the pangs of guilt, and the dread of retribution, as first principles deeply lodged in the hearts of men…that [the Pope] has gained his footing in the world and achieved his success. It is his claim to come from the Divine Lawgiver, in order to elicit, protect, and enforce those truths which the Lawgiver has sown in our very nature, it is this and this only that is the explanation of his length of life…The championship of the Moral Law and of conscience is his raison d’être. The fact of his mission is the answer to the complaints of those who feel the insufficiency of the natural light; and the insufficiency of that light is the justification of his mission.

00Friday, May 21, 2010 5:39 PM

The Shroud's stillness:
Joining the orderly lines in Turin

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, MAY 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Last week I became one of the 1.5 million pilgrims (and counting!) who've visited the Shroud of Turin during its extraordinary display, which began April 10 and ends Sunday.

The pilgrimage was led by Steve Ray, Catholic apologist extraordinaire, and counted over 150 people. An ambitious undertaking, but then the Shroud is no ordinary object. In my one day in Turin, I saw thousands upon thousands of people taking time from work, school and even lunch (in Italy, no meager sacrifice) to meditate for a few minutes on Christ’s suffering.

The iron gray skies over Turin, the lost luggage and hair-raising trip due to the Icelandic ash cloud, couldn’t dampen the spirits of Steve’s pilgrims who, less than 24 hours after getting off the plane, got in the formidable line to pray before the Shroud.

Unlike in the (much shorter) lines for the Vatican Museums or designer boutique sales, there was no cutting, hostility or impatience. People talked, prayed, sang and socialized and the time flew by. The only other time I have ever seen such order among people was in the line to view the body of Pope John Paul II after his death in 2005.

Adding to the joyous spirit of the pilgrimage were the dozens of signs lining the streets from our hotel to the Shroud exhibit warmly welcoming Benedict XVI, who had made his pilgrimage to the Shroud on May 2. The festive climate continued to the front door of the cathedral where the yellow and white floral homage to the Successor of St. Peter brightened the rainy day.

During the wait, we talked about the remarkable pilgrimage of the Shroud from Jerusalem to Turin via at least three other centers, meditated on the near-miraculous preservation of the ancient linen cloth despite fire, travel, handling and time and hashed through the results of the scientific tests, but none of these “facts” seemed to matter when standing before the Shroud.

Captivated by the faint russet imprint of the body of the flagellated, crucified, mocked and stabbed man, everyone falls silent. The contrast between the violence done to the body and the peaceful pose and the serene expression seem like a silent rebuke to “forgive those who trespass against us.”

But most striking against the “negative” imprint of the body are the “positive” crimson marks of blood on the wrists, feet, side and laced throughout the head and body. Bright against the dull colors of the Shroud, those wounds struck me as love letters, testifying to Christ’s passionate, vibrant and enduring love for man.

* * *

Turin's claims to fame

The Mole Antonelliana dominates the skyline of Turin.

When people hear of Turin these days (Torino, in Italian), they think of last year’s winter Olympics. But Turin is a city of Italian innovation.

The first unified urban plan of Italy was implemented here in the 1630s by the King of Savoy, and FIAT, one of Italy’s first automobile plants was founded at the turn of the 20th century. The locals -- Torinesi -- even were the first to figure out how to solidify chocolate, so we could eat it instead of just drinking it. (Thank you.)

Turin was the first capital of a Unified Italy from 1861 to 1865 and it ultimately produced the first king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II, who ousted Pope Pius IX and took over his residence in the Quirinal palace. It was however, the last king of Italy, Umberto II, who gave the Shroud of Turin, Savoy family property, to Pope John Paul II in 1982.

Turin has produced more than automobiles and chocolate. This city, a fascinating study in faith, industry, piety and progress, has also seen and produced some of the most important saints of the modern era.

St. John Bosco, (1815-1888) who in the midst of the industrial revolution, found innovative ways to care for, teach and form orphans, child laborers and other young victims of the new era of industry, is entombed in the splendid shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians.

Another spiritual giant from Turin, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, (1901-1925) is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his beatification this year. This son of a newspaper owner and senator grew up in the political nerve center of Torino. His personal charity and humility serves as an example to Catholic youth in politics.

Alongside the great saints, however, powerful secular forces have long gathered around the city of the Shroud. On one hand, Turin fondly remembers the celebrated pilgrimage of St. Charles Borromeo to venerate the Shroud after the plague of Milan.

Only a few years earlier, Nostradamus, the renowned Parisian astrologer, captivated the Savoy court in Turin with his dire predictions of death and disaster.

Turin landmarks: Left, the Mole Antnelliana; center adn right, the Cathedral of Turin and the adjoining Chapel of the Holy Shroud.

The Mole Antonelliana, a 167-meter tower containing the Italian Museum of Cinema, now dominates the city skyline, but not many years ago it was the spiraling dome of the chapel of the Holy Shroud by Guarino Guarini, built from 1667-1690, that held this honor.

Guarino Guarini, a Theatine priest from Modena, studied in Rome, particularly focusing on the churches of Borromini such as San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane.

Fr. Guarini was called to Turin for a complicated task: the Shroud needed a new chapel to accommodate the many pilgrims and to showcase the importance of the relic in the era of the Catholic Restoration.

The Shroud, as Christianity’s most celebrated relic, was appropriately to be kept in the Cathedral of Turin, but as the personal property of the kings of Savoy, it seemed destined for a royal chapel.

Father Guarini built a chapel extending from the apse of the cathedral, but at the same time communicating with the royal palace next door (nestled between Church and state, as it were).

In his startling design, Guarini attempted to capture all the wonder and meaning of the Shroud in his architecture. The chapel started with a circular plan, the typical design of a victory temple in Rome and the same shape as the Holy Sepulcher, the site of the Resurrection.

The Theatine priest then inserted three more circles into the floor plan in the form of an equilateral triangle simultaneously evoking the Holy Trinity in the space. The resulting swoop and curve of the chapel took visitors by surprise, but in the center, where the relic stood, there was stillness.

Guarini’s dome, however, was his great innovation in Baroque architecture. By abandoning the hemispherical domes like those of the Pantheon and St. Peter’s, he lifted his dome towards the heavens, angling the curve upwards, puncturing the masonry with lace-like windows, and increasing the light as eye rises upward.

As opposed to the defined space of Roman domes, Guarini drew the pilgrim toward the infinite, peeking upward toward the light of heaven. The Triune God came among men in Christ, who died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Like the Creed in brick and stone, Guarini’s chapel articulates the central Mysteries of the Christian faith.

Sadly, the fire of April 1997 seriously damaged the chapel, so the Shroud is on display over the main altar while the chapel remains under restoration. But one hopes that by the next exposition of the Shroud, pilgrims will be able to enjoy the extraordinary space designed for it.

Turin’s most famous monument, the Mole Antonelliana, was begun as a synagogue in 1863, but soon grew too large and too expensive for Turin’s Jewish community. After disputes and disappointments, it was traded to the city of Turin in exchange for another plot of land in 1876.

The citizens of Turin, proud of what promised to be the tallest building in Italy, plied architect Antonio Antonelli with funds and assistance, until he completed this modern-day Tower of Babel in 1888, the same year he died at the age of 90.

The Mole Antonelliana was originally crowned with a winged figure on its spire. Many took it to be an angel, but the statue was really drawn from the iconography of pagan Rome and represented a winged “genius," the deity present at the divinization of men. The figure was swept away by a storm in the mid-20th century but was replaced by a five-pointed star, the symbol of the freemasons, at the apex of the spire.

The skyscrapers and lofty monuments of Turin tout industrial success stories and political victories, but tucked among them, the ancient, humble relic of the Shroud proclaims the greatest triumph of them all, that over sin and death.

Elizabeth Lev teaches Christian art and architecture at Duquesne University’s Italian campus and University of St. Thomas’s Catholic Studies program.
00Tuesday, May 25, 2010 6:17 AM

Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew I
on May 22-31 visit to the
Russian Orthodox Church

His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople arrived in Moscow on May 22 at the invitation of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

He is accompanied by a delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople consisting of Metropolitan Michael of Austria, Irinaios of Myriophyton and Peristasis, Emmanuel of France, general secretary of the Holy Synod archimandrite Elphidophoros, archimandrite Bessarion, archdeacon Maximos, and several laymen. The visit will last till May 31.

The programme includes Moscow, the Lavra [monastic ommunity] of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius, the Monastery of the Transfiguration on Valaam, and St. Petersburg.

On May 23, the Day of the Holy Trinity, the two Patriarchs celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Lavra of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius.

On May 24, the Feast of the Holy Spirit and the commemoration day Ss. Cyril and Methodius Equal-to-the-Apostles, the Enlighteners of the Slavs, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.

May 24 marks the Name Day of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. After the divine service, the Patriarchs took part in the opening ceremony of the Days of Slavonic Literature and Culture. In the evening the high guests were invited to the concert at the State Kremlin Palace and the reception given on behalf of the government of the Russian Federation.

On May 25, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I and his suite will visit the Moscow Kremlin to venerate holy relics in the Kremlin cathedrals. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill will receive the high delegation of the Church of Constantinople at his residence in Peredelkino in the afternoon.

On May 26, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew will meet with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and with the faculty and students of the Ss. Cyril and Methodius Postgraduate and Doctoral School of the Russian Orthodox Church. The high guests will venerate holy relics of the Moscow churches and monasteries and will visit the St. Demetrius College of Nursing.

In the evening, the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople will be received by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Greece to Russia H.E. Michalis Spinnelis.

In the morning of May 27, the delegation will meet with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Pleniponentiary of Turkey to Russia H.E. Halil Akinci. His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and his suite will depart for the Monastery of the Transfiguration on Valaam and stay there till morning of May 29. The abbot of the monastery Bishop Pankratiy of Troitsk will welcome the guests.

On May 29, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew will arrive in Kronstadt and be introduced to the restoration works at the Naval Cathedral. The guests will visit the State Hermitage and churches and monasteries of St. Petersburg. A reception will be given in honour of the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople at the St. Petersburg Metropolia.

On May 30, the Sunday of All Saints, the two Patriarchs and members of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at St. Isaac’s Cathedral of St. Petersburg.

His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew will visit the restored building of the Holy Governing Synod. A solemn reception in honour of the delegation will be given at St. Catherine’s Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.

In the morning if May 31, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and his suite will leave for Istanbul.

00Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:11 PM

More than 2 million venerated
the Shroud of Turin in 45 days

By Carmen Elena Villa

TURIN, Italy, May 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Turin has been transformed in the last 44 days for the display of the cloth believed to have enshrouded Christ's body in the tomb.

The city has welcomed some 2 million pilgrims to see its most famous possession: the Shroud of Turin. The exposition concluded today.

Since April 10, lines stretching for miles started forming at 6:30 a.m., with thousands of people waiting to enter the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, where the Shroud is kept.

A DVD with a complete documentary and books on the Shroud were sold; men and women distributed booklets with cultural activities in Turin, prayers and holy cards; volunteers gave away free copies of a special edition of the Turin archdiocesan newspaper, La Voce del Popolo.

This was the environment of the last month and a half during which the Shroud once again went on display and was observed and contemplated by so many new eyes from various countries throughout the world.

Many pilgrims arrived in buses, in groups from nearby dioceses, parishes, orders and ecclesial movements. Others came on their own by train, plane or car. There were skeptics and the merely curious who did not want to miss the exhibition. The reasons that brought so many people to Turin are various, but all united by a single name: Jesus of Nazareth.

In the long lines one heard comments in a multitude of languages about the curiosity and the enigma of this linen cloth and the particularities that have been discovered in recent years (its three-dimesionality, details about the image, the presence of pollens from 2,000 years ago that were only found in Jerusalem, the Carbon 14 testing …).

“We will leave to serious scientists and historians -- not to a priori prejudices -- the task of evaluating and resolving the questions about the authenticity of the Shroud,” said the city's archbishop, Cardinal Severino Poletto to La Voce del Popolo.

"For us it is enough that those who have studied it carefully and with objective scientific criteria have not succeeded in explaining how that image formed, concluding that it is definitely not manufactured -- and so many probabilities in favor of its authenticity retain a basis."

Around 4,000 volunteers -- the youngest 16 and the oldest 86 -- worked three and a half hour shifts each day to help manage the exhibit’s organization.

Dressed in distinctive violet t-shirts, they offered their time to provide information to tourists and watch over the flow of people into the entrance.

Some 800 of the volunteers were in charge of wheelchairs for the handicapped so that they would be able to see the Shroud.

Nearly 100 of the volunteers led the recitation of a special prayer each time a new group of pilgrims arrived.

Those who led the prayer also left time for silence and recollection. After five minutes in front of the display the pilgrims moved on to let the next group come in.

The faithful who wanted were permitted to remain in the cathedral to pray and look at the Shroud from a greater distance.

The volunteers answered “the simpler questions, like those about the times and the logistics of the visit,” said Carlo Stroppiana, their coordinator for this event. “They also made some recommendations about the proper conduct, reminding people that they could not use cameras in the church.”

To maintain the spirit of prayer, various tents were set up to administer the sacrament of penance (200 priests were present and confession was available in various languages, with a special confessional for the handicapped) and a tent for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which was typically full.

For many of the faithful, seeing the Shroud was a fundamental moment for faith and spirituality.

“Looking at the Shroud, I thought about how real and human Jesus was. The Shroud was for me the testament of the reality of Jesus’ sufferings and his unity with us in humanity,” Regina Glassi, a university student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, studying in Rome for a semester, told ZENIT.

There were also cultural events also connected with the exhibit, the most important being that titled “Jesus: The Body Wrapped in Art,” an exhibition with works depicting the various phases in the life of Christ, created in different periods and with different techniques.

The exhibit contains 150 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, frescoes and miniatures. The artists range from Michelangelo to Rubens, from Donatello to Correggio. The show will be open until the beginning of August.

In regard to the logistics for the Shroud exhibit, the mayor of Turin, Sergio Chiamparino, underscored “the effort of an entire community, religious and lay, to welcome in the best possible way the many people who have come to us."

The 2010 exhibit was an event that awed hundreds of thousands of faithful, who, finding themselves before this mysterious and fascinating linen cloth were able to conclude, like Blessed Sebastiano Valfré: “The Shroud is a sign of Jesus comparable to the Cross, but with this particularity: The Cross received Jesus alive and gave him death. The Shroud, instead, received him dead and restored him to us alive.”

Above, left, the negative of the Face on the Shroud, from the first photographs ever taken of it by Secondo Pia in 1898; center, the part of the Shroud that shows the Face; right, a contemporary computer-enhanced version of the negative at left. Below, the first full-length photograph of the Shroud by Pia as positive and negative photo images. Outline-frames of the front and back images on the Shroud in the positive image were added for clarity.

I regret that I was unable to post more often about the Shroud exposition. I hope I can make up for with post-exposition stories, which will surely be numerous.

00Friday, May 28, 2010 1:45 PM

The arrogance of some priests (and bishops) never ceases to amaze me. Here's one from yet another arrogant Jesuit who formulates his own theology and Magisterium on the basis of what he thinks to be his 'superior' thinking over 2000 years of Catholic doctrine and the most stringent intellectual analyses by Dcctors of the Church.

He takes after the Jesuit Superior General Adolfo Nicolas, who may not have expressed anything quite as outrageous, but who argues that his long missionary experience in Japan equips him with a 'better understanding' of how the faith ought to be 'inculturated' by modifying it in order to be 'better understood' by the natives.

If anything, I think this claim to knowing a foreign culture so well as to feel that one speaks for it - and lectures the outside world and the Church herself about it - is arrant presumption.

The blurb on the writer is this: Father Michael Kelly SJ has been executive director of UCA News since Jan. 1, 2009. He has worked in radio and TV production since 1982 and as a journalist in Australia and Asia for various publications, religious and secular.

A word to say about liturgy
by Michael Kelly, SJ

Published Date: May 24, 2010

Being an Australian living in Asia as I do has some distinct advantages. It makes it possible to see familiar things in a new light provided by unfamiliar contexts. One such is words and their meanings.

A friend of mine who has been a missionary in Japan on and off for 40 years told me a fascinating story recently about how the Japanese bishops changed their minds about something quite critical to Catholic belief.

Japanese is a complex language whose complexity is intensified by the nuances words get from the social context they’re uttered in, especially by where someone sits on the social scale.

Other languages in Asia are similar, and Thai and Javanese spring to mind as ones with such patterns. You talk up or down depending on your social standing and the standing of the one you are interacting with. Respect, deference, honor and regard all vary depending on age, family, education, accent, even inherited characteristics such as the pecking order in caste or royal connection. [Big deal! So do most Filipino lanuggaes - and we have more than 90 distinct ones - but generations of Filipino Catholics since 1521 to Vatican II never had any problem accepting the basic teachings of the Church, especially about the Eucharist!]

When the Catholic liturgy was translated from Latin into all the languages of humanity, including English, the words used in English by a Eucharistic Minister offering Communion are “The Body of Christ,” which is also the title of the feast we celebrate on June 6.

In Japanese, an intensely reverential word that put “body” into remote inaccessibility was used. Then, my missionary friend told me, the Japanese bishops did an unusual thing. They admitted they had made a mistake and got the translation theologically wrong.

Putting Jesus at a remote distance from the nourishment the Eucharist provides and segmenting the Body of Christ away and apart from Christ’s embodiment in the Church sends all the wrong messages.

So they changed the translation away from the hieratic and deliberately remote words [Words in liturgy are hieratic for a reason - not to make them 'deliberately remote' but to appropriately honor the grandeur and the glory of God with our poor human means!] to ones closer to the Christ who lives among us, nourishes our journey in faith and is embodied in the living community of faith – the Church.

But nothing human lasts, and the Vatican’s current “reform of the reform” of the liturgy is pushing the translation back to the hieratic phrase the Japanese bishops changed decades ago.

The Feast of Corpus Christi provides an opportunity to focus on what Vatican II described as the “source and summit of the Church’s life.” Catholics can become fanatical about one form of the Body of Christ in the bread of the Eucharist as the REAL presence of Christ.

However, it is the unambiguous teaching of the Church that this is only one form of the real presence of Christ.[?????] The other real presences of Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist are found in the gathering of the community, in the proclamation and reception of the Word of God and in the hearts and prayers of believers gathered in His Name.

[What I was taught, almost with my mother's milk, is that, of course, Christ is present in the latter forms = indeed, he is everywhere, as God is everywhere - but not as the 'real presence of his Body and Blood' that he is in the Eucharist.]

Regrettably, all too frequently, the only Presence focused on is Christ’s presence in the elements of bread and wine.

Inadequately described as the change of the “substance” (not the “accidents”) of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, the mystery of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist carries the intellectual baggage of a physics no one accepts.

Aristotelian physics makes such nice, however implausible and now unintelligible, distinctions. They are meaningless in the post-Newtonian world of quantum physics, which is the scientific context we live in today

The Church’s teaching has always focused on the mystery of the Eucharist, recognizing that its explanation will limp. Words can never exhaust or fully account for a mystery. [The Church never claimed so! That is why a mystery is a mystery! A person can believe with his heart what his mind cannot comprehend - and that is the wondrous mystery of faith.] Just think about why you love someone: you can never do justice to the experience in the words you might use to “explain” it.

What does this mean in the present context of liturgical reform? It comes down to a simple question. Will the “reform of the reform” which has been legislated and promulgated from the Vatican for implementation next year[/S} [What on earth is he talking about? Does he mean the new translation of the Missal into English to replace the provisonal translation that has been in use for the past decades? But work on this started ten years ago!] be as energetic in securing the full range of Vatican II’s reforms as it aims to be about language?

Or will it simply head the liturgy where the Japanese have had to follow – into a world of words that makes the mystery of Christ in the Eucharist not a celebration of the one in whom we “live and move and have our being” but rather consigns our public prayer to reaches that are remote and inaccessible to all but Latin-educated clerics? [Did Ignatius Loyola of Francis Xavier or Matteo Ricci ever think that at all about the post Council of Trent liturgy? Fr. Kelly insults the great Jesuits including two whose work of 'inculturated' evangelization in Asia was far greater than condescending modern Jesuits like Kelly can even dream about!

One thing that the Spanish and Portuguese missionaries who brought the faith to Latin America and the Orient in the 15th-18th centuries never did was to condescend to the 'natives' and think that they had to dilute the Catechism in order to make them understand.

Faith is not all about understanding with the intellect, but with the heart as well. Christ imbued his Church and its ministers with the Holy Spirit - and we can only explain the continuing success of evangelization since the original Pentecost as a gift of the Holy Spirit that has made Christians able to transmit the undiluted faith in all times and in all circumstances to all peoples in all places.

Whatever the faults of those early missionaries, they did not err in their teaching of the unadulterated faith even if they had to learn - as most of them did - new and strange languages to make themselves understood. [And, as I can attest from my country's own history, in the process, compiled the first grammars and dictionaries for dozens of the disparate languages - not dialects - spoken in the Philippine arcbipelago and continue to be today.]

If the natives of remote islands in the Pacific Ocean had no trouble accepting the fact that Jesus becomes 'really present' after the bread and wine are consecrated at Mass, I don't see why Fr. Kelly, with his facile (but I suspect superficial and far from genuine) citation of modern physics, has any problem other than that his Catholic faith is severely challenged!

By the way, here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about 'trans-substantiation':

The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation." (no. 1376)

Now, I didn't learn my catechism from anything as hefty and abundantly footnoted a source as the Catechism published in 2000, but from the child-friendly Baltimore Catechism that starts out by telling me that I am in this world "to know God, to love him and to serve him".

Catholics have had 2000 years to perfect the ways for teaching the faith, and those who have honestly done so have not strayed into heresy or near heresy as so many Jesuits have done in the past five decades! Condescending to the 'natives' is a risible excuse for 'adapting' the faith as one deems 'fit'.

00Sunday, May 30, 2010 1:04 PM

Courtyard of the Gentiles:
A new outreach initiative
to atheists and agnostics


May 28, 2010

As part of Pope Benedict XVI’s efforts to further the New Evangelization, the Pontifical Council for Culture is setting up a new foundation aimed at reaching out to atheists and agnostics.

Called The Courtyard of the Gentiles, the foundation will be a network and forum for nonbelievers and believers, consisting of a series of major meetings and events.

[NB: The project arose from a suggestion expressed by Pope Benedict XVI in his annual address to the Roman Curia last December.]

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told the Register March 18 that the format of these meetings will be large open discussions between “a believer, such as a theologian, and an atheist, conducted in the main languages of Europe.”

Vatican officials are hoping the first events will take place in Paris in March 2011, at the Sorbonne (the University of Paris), UNESCO and L’Académie Française, the pre-eminent French academic institution.

The initiative will complement another similar project in North America, already begun by the council, called “From Sea to Shining Sea,” which aims to foster dialogue between faith and reason, secular culture and the Church.

Archbishop Ravasi stressed that the new foundation is only interested in a “noble atheism or agnosticism, not the polemical kind — so not those atheists such as [Piergiorgio] Odifreddi in Italy, [Michel] Onfray in France, [Christopher] Hitchens and [Richard] Dawkins.”

He sees such atheists as closed to dialogue: They view the truth with “irony and sarcasm” and tend to “read religious texts like fundamentalists.”

Rather, he said the new initiative wants to reach out to an atheism that is open to dialogue — what the archbishop calls a “qualified atheism” — and to do so through encounter and discussion. During these events, the aim will be to “search for truth” and to “show atheists the seriousness of theological thought,” he said.

Faith and science are not in conflict but are “on different levels,” Archbishop Ravasi said, quoting Stephen Jay Gould, the late American paleontologist and historian of science.

“We’re not looking for union but harmony, points of commonality on subjects concerning ethics, virtue, peace, nature,” he explained, adding that the subject of transcendence will also be tackled. “For them, there’s a limit to creation, a finitude — the finiteness of science, for example,” the archbishop said. “But that doesn’t explain to them everything about reason.”

The idea for the foundation came from Archbishop Ravasi, but its impetus originated from Pope Benedict XVI and, in particular, his annual message to members of the Roman Curia last December.

In his address, the Holy Father stressed the importance of reaching out to atheists and agnostics, even if they are unaware of God’s presence.

“We, as believers, must have at heart even those people who consider themselves agnostics or atheists,” the Pope said. “When we speak of a New Evangelization, these people are perhaps taken aback. They do not want to see themselves as an object of mission or to give up their freedom of thought and will. Yet the question of God remains present even for them, even if they cannot believe in the concrete nature of his concern for us.”

Although the Pontifical Council for Culture has traditionally reached out to nonbelievers, Vatican officials are currently speculating on whether these initiatives will be incorporated into the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, a new department that Benedict XVI is thought to be setting up to help re-evangelize the increasingly secularized West.

The “court of the Gentiles” concept comes from the words of Jesus and the prophet Isaiah in reference to the Temple of Jerusalem, which was to be “a house of prayer for all nations.”

Jesus was thinking of the place in the Temple, the Pope said, which was “cleared of extraneous affairs so that it could be a free space for the Gentiles who wished to pray there to the one God, even if they could not take part in the mystery for whose service the inner part of the Temple was reserved.”

He added: “I think that today, too, the Church should open a sort of ‘court of the Gentiles’ in which people might in some way latch on to God, without knowing him and before gaining access to his mystery, at whose service the inner life of the Church stands.”

Max Bonilla, coordinator of the “From Sea to Shining Sea” project in North America, said the timing of both initiatives couldn’t be better. Tensions between the Church and the secular world appear to be increasing, he said, “but rather than retreating, it’s important to engage a dialogue with people of good will, those who are interested in seeking and understanding the truth even though they may not agree with our vision of truth.”

He said the council initiatives are not interested in “shallow engagement, but in-depth conversation about truth and the place of men in the world, not just the place of the Pope, bishops or priests in the world, but that of men standing before creation, before the world, before society.”

He said the projects aim at discussing “what is the meaning of life, the purpose of human reality, why would men and women form a community which leads to life. Those are essential questions, and they’re being asked more than at any time in recent history.”

Father Laurent Mazas, the Vatican official in charge of setting up the foundation, said April 30 that its overall goal will be to establish a kind of “alliance” between believers, atheists and agnostics. “A culture of suspicion doesn’t serve anyone,” he said, “but dialogue can only be useful for society and today’s world.”


The inspiration for the Culture Council's initiative came from something the Holy Father said during his yearend message to the Roman Curia last December 21:

In Paris, I spoke of the quest for God as the fundamental reason why Western monasticism, and with it, Western culture, came into being.

As the first step of evangelization we must seek to keep this quest alive; we must be concerned that human beings do not set aside the question of God, but rather see it as an essential question for their lives. We must make sure that they are open to this question and to the yearning concealed within it.

Here I think naturally of the words which Jesus quoted from the Prophet Isaiah, namely that the Temple must be a house of prayer for all the nations (cf. Is 56: 7; Mk 11: 17).

Jesus was thinking of the so-called "Court of the Gentiles" which he cleared of extraneous affairs so that it could be a free space for the Gentiles who wished to pray there to the one God, even if they could not take part in the mystery for whose service the inner part of the Temple was reserved.

A place of prayer for all the peoples by this he was thinking of people who know God, so to speak, only from afar; who are dissatisfied with their own gods, rites and myths; who desire the Pure and the Great, even if God remains for them the "unknown God" (cf. Acts 17: 23).

They had to pray to the unknown God, yet in this way they were somehow in touch with the true God, albeit amid all kinds of obscurity.

I think that today too the Church should open a sort of "Court of the Gentiles" in which people might in some way latch on to God, without knowing him and before gaining access to his mystery, at whose service the inner life of the Church stands.

Today, in addition to inter-religious dialogue, there should be a dialogue with those to whom religion is something foreign, to whom God is unknown and who nevertheless do not want to be left merely Godless, but rather to draw near to him, albeit as the Unknown.

Photos are from a scale model of the Temple found in the Jewish Museum in Jerusalem.

A description of the actual Court of the Gentiles in the temple of Jerusalem that Jesus attended:

The central sanctuary was approached through a series of spacious outer courts, each court progressively more exclusive. The outermost was the COURT OF THE GENTILES, a huge rectangular area about 35 acres in size. It was paved with colored stones and enclosed by tall, stately columns.

Visitors entered through a number of immense double and triple gates, which stood at intervals along the outer court. As its name suggests, the Court of the Gentiles was open to Gentiles as well as Jews, and it was usually crowded with people from many backgrounds and walks of life.

On a typical day a visitor would encounter Jewish pilgrims from all over Palestine and the Roman Empire; merchants selling doves, young sheep and cattle for sacrifice; moneychangers converting foreign currency into Jewish shekels; Jewish scribes and rabbis discussing points of Mosaic law; and others simply passing the time of day

At the center of the Court of the Gentiles stood a second enclosed compound, posted with signs in Greek and Latin warning: "No foreigner is allowed within the balustrades and embankment about the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his ensuing death." [It's on the stone enlarged in the left photo above.]

00Tuesday, June 1, 2010 1:02 PM

Czech Republic and Catholic Church
come to agreement in long-standing
dispute over Prague cathedral

Prague, Czech Republic, May 31, 2010 (CNA) - The Czech president and the Archbishop of Prague have announced an agreement resolving a property dispute over St. Vitus’ Cathedral dating back to the communist era.

In a May 24 meeting which included state representatives, church dignitaries and the press, President Vaclav Klaus and Archbishop Dominik Duka signed an agreement outlining joint administration rules for the cathedral.

“The state and the Catholic Church will work together to administer and maintain the cathedral as they have done for centuries,” President Klaus explained, according to Radio Prague. “The Church will continue to use the cathedral as a metropolitan church and the state will secure the necessary funds for its maintenance.”

The agreement will create a board of administrators made up of the Czech Republic’s leading representatives. They will meet once or twice each year to discuss issues related to the cathedral’s maintenance and use.

The Catholic Church will be allowed to use two adjoining buildings, part of the Prague Castle compound, free of charge.

Archbishop Duka’s predecessor, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, began a legal case concerning the property soon after the fall of communism. The cardinal said he was prepared to take the dispute to the European Court of Human Rights.

Radio Prague reports that the new archbishop said the court fight, almost two decades old, was pointless.

“It is clear that this particular property cannot be judged on purely legal grounds,” he commented. “This cathedral is a historical, spiritual, national and cultural symbol dear to the heart of all Czechs – regardless of their faith.”
00Tuesday, June 1, 2010 6:20 PM
Moscow turns ownership of
secularized monasteries
over to Orthodox Church

By Fred Weir, Correspondent

May 27, 2010

Novodevichy convent: The oldest structure at the Russian Orthodox Church monastery is the five-domed Cathedral of Our Lady of Smolensk, built in the 1500s. In Soviet times, it was turned into a state museum and apartments. Nuns were allowed to return in 1994.

Moscow — The stunning 16th-century fortified convent of Novodevichy, a pearl of Russian architecture nestled in a broad bend of the Moskva River about three miles from the Kremlin, is at the heart of a tense battle.

Cultural secularists want the UNESCO Heritage Site to remain a state-run museum, but the Kremlin has made a political decision to return the entire complex to the stewardship of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In January, Prime Min­ister Vladimir Putin ordered the handover, which will make Novodevichy a fully functioning convent for the first time since the Bolsheviks seized the property almost a century ago.

But the directive may also force museums to relinquish thousands of icons and other worship-related items that originally belonged to the site, so they, too, can be used once again in religious ceremonies.

Novodevichy is the last of about 20 Moscow-area monasteries to be returned to the church, along with hundreds of similar buildings around the country, in a process that church spokespeople and nationalist politicians in the State Duma hail as "historical justice."

But critics allege the mass giveaway of art and real estate to the church endangers precious artifacts, removes vast swaths of Russia's heritage from the public sphere, and cements a controversial political compact between church and Kremlin.

"Novodevichy is an outstanding historical monument, and it should be left to professionals to preserve it," says Alexei Lebedev, with the Institute of Cultural Studies in Moscow, which is run by the Ministry of Culture.

"This process of 'demuseumification' that's going on now is a sign of serious social illness. The Church is not an institution dedicated to preserving the heritage of history and culture, it has a different mission. It's not going to be their keeper, and that's a potential tragedy." [He should know better not to generalize. All he has to do is look at the history of Italy and many other nations in Western Europe where the Church has been a very vigilant custodian of all the cultural patrimony that is under its care! And has kept much of it accessible to the public all these centuries.]

Church leaders, however, insist the returned assets are needed to serve Russia's huge Orthodox community, who associate the historical buildings and objects with the foundations of their faith.

"Novodevichy is an ancient convent that has been at the center of our nation's spiritual life for centuries," says Sergei Zvonaryov, a spokesman for the patriarch, who is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. "It was created for this purpose, and every Russian believer knows of it. This is a sacred place, and with its transference Novodevichy will again become a place of prayer, a place one can associate with God."

No one is exactly sure how many churches and monasteries have been given back since "restitution" began in earnest about a decade ago.

But the director of Russia's State History Museum, Alexander Shkurko, says about two-thirds of all former church buildings nationalized by the Communists have already been returned, and he would like to see the new legislation being drafted in the State Duma set some limits on the handovers and require the church to cooperate with the museum service.

"There are thousands of specialists working in museums who love these places and objects and are professionally qualified to take care of them," he says. "The church should be interested in working with us. But, unfortunately, the laws do not so far provide any role for the state museums after these places have been handed over. Nor is there any clarity on the final aim of this process."

The church estimates that more than 70 percent of Russians are Orthodox, but critics say that statistic includes every ethnic Russian. An opinion survey conducted in March by the state-run Public Opinion Foundation found that two-thirds of respondents did indeed self-identify as "Orthodox Christian."

But when asked if they observe religious rites and festivals, the vast majority answered no. For example, 80 percent said they do not attend church regularly.

"It's not at all clear that the church needs all these structures and, in any case, why is it being given all the most prominent ones, which have already been fully restored by the state museums?" asks Konstantin Mikhailov, coordinator of Arkhnadzor, an independent preservationist society. "Why don't they take some of the thousands of derelict churches around the country and restore them for use by believers?"

The church insists it will maintain public access and preserve the monuments to the level that state museums have.

"Novodevichy will be open to the public just as before," says Mr. Zvon­aryov. "Of course, there are some special rules of life in a monastery, but that won't affect visitors.... The Soviets turned Novodevichy into a museum, but it can't go on that way. It has to be alive."

Some critics allege the Kremlin is violating the spirit of Russia's 1993 Constitution, which mandates separation of church and state, by restoring the Orthodox Church to its traditional czarist-era role as ideological pillar of the government. They say that the policy was authored by Putin, who turned away from democratic ways of securing public consent, and resorted to buying the backing of the church.

"The growing role of religious organizations can cause problems, but the majority of our society insists upon this," says Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin member of the State Duma's committee on religious affairs.

"Russia lacks fully developed institutions, and people don't fully trust the state, but they do believe the church can be relied on," he says. "Putin and Medvedev believe that sometimes the law has to be bent in order to solve problems. [Cooperation between Kremlin and church] is a practical necessity at this stage."
00Wednesday, June 2, 2010 4:21 PM

I do not know what occasioned this report about something that was first widely reported late last year when the book first appeared. (See post on page 11 of the CHURCH&VATICAN thread on 12/4/09.) In any case, this new story has some interesting anecdotes....

The Vatican Secret Archives by Paul Van den Heuvel

The Vatican Archive: the Pope's private library
From Henry VIII io Hitler -
'secret' archives are secret no more

By John Preston

01 Jun 2010

VATICAN CITY - The man standing outside the Porta Santa Anna Gate of the Vatican wearing a blue Gap shirt and none-too-expertly pressed Muji trousers could easily pass as an academic, or the cultural correspondent of an obscure television channel.

In fact, he is neither of these things. He is a man on a mission, a mission of the utmost delicacy.

Soon the man will pass beyond the gate and the Swiss guards with their navy blue uniforms with brown belts, white collars and black berets, designed by Commandant Jules Repond in 1914.

Overhead, a flock of starlings, ancient symbols of undying love, wheel in the morning air.

Under escort, he will be taken into the inner sanctum of the Vatican, through an enormous pair of brass doors upon which some of the gorier scenes of the Old Testament are picked out in bas-relief.

Passing through various security cordons, each one staffed by guards more suspicious than the last, he will mount a narrow winding staircase.

Up the staircase he goes, past barred windows and tiny panelled chambers in which black-soutaned figures sit reading by the light of hushed lamps, to the very top of the 73m-tall tower.

This is the Tower of the Winds, built by Ottavinao Mascherino between 1578 and 1580, a place to which mere members of the public are never normally admitted.

Here in the Hall of the Meridian, a room covered in frescoes depicting the four winds, is a tiny hole high up in one of the walls.

At midday, the sun, shining through the hole, falls along a white marble line set into the floor. On either side of this meridian line are various astrological and astronomical symbols, once used to try to calculate the effect of the wind upon the stars.

But this is not the real reason why this man with the shabby trousers, the oddly distinguished-looking grey hair and the abundance of irrelevant detail has come to the Vatican.

No, the real reason for this lies elsewhere in the Tower of Winds, in rooms lined with miles and miles of dark wooden shelves – more than 50 miles of them in fact.

Here, bound in cream vellum, are thousands upon thousands of volumes, some more than a foot thick.

This is the Vatican secret archive, possibly the most mysterious collection of documents in the world.

Here you can find accounts of the trial of the Knights Templar held at Chinon in August 1308; a threatening note from 1246 in which Ghengis Khan’s grandson demands that Pope Innocent IV travel to Asia to ‘pay service and homage; a letter from Lucretia Borgia to Pope Alexander VI; Papal Bulls excommunicating Martin Luther; correspondence between the Court of Henry VIII and Clement VII; and an exchange of letters between Michelangelo and Paul III.

There are also letters from Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, St Bernadette, Voltaire and Abraham Lincoln.

And here too – depending on how much faith you have in the novels of Dan Brown – lies proof that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and continued their own earthly line.

Once, Napoleon had the whole of the secret archive transported to Paris.

It was brought back, albeit with some key documents missing, in 1817 and has remained in the Vatican ever since – a constant source of myth and fascination.

But now the Vatican Secret Archive is secret no more.

This story begins two years ago when a Belgian publisher called Paul Van den Heuvel asked a friend of his who works in the Vatican if there was any hope of his being allowed to do a book about the secret archive.

This friend, says Van den Heuvel, is ‘very close’ to the Pope.

As he admits, Van den Heuvel is not a particularly ecclesiastical man. He’s not a particularly ecclesiastical publisher either.

An excitable, gap-toothed Belgian, his previous book was a lavishly illustrated coffee table volume on The Most Beautiful Wine Cellars in the World.

To his surprise he received word back that highly placed sources within the Vatican had been impressed with The Most Beautiful Wine Cellars in the World. As a result, he was told, his proposal might be given the go-ahead.

Just what the Vatican’s motivation was is none too clear. Scholars have been allowed in the archive since 2003, so long as they know exactly which document they’d like a look at – browsing is not allowed.

Certainly, they haven’t always looked kindly on book proposals about the secret archive.

Fifteen years ago, when a priest and former Vatican archivist called Filippo Tamburini published a book called Saints and Sinners about the clergy’s indiscretions, the full weight of the Vatican’s disapproval came down upon him.

He had, it was claimed, perpetrated ‘an abuse’ that was ‘strongly deplored’. But largely as a result of the Vatican’s intervention, Tamburini’s book sold far more copies than it would otherwise have done.

According to Monsignor Sergio Pagano, Prefect of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano: ‘A lot of hypotheses and stories about the archive have been going around. We want to show it as it really is.’

For three days Van den Heuvel was given the run of the archive with no restrictions placed on what he could inspect or photograph – or so he claims.

In fact, this turns out not to be quite the case: there was one extremely big restriction in place. He wasn’t allowed to look at any documents that dated from after 1939.

The reason given was that these include Papal annulments of marriages of people who might still be alive.

It’s at this point that the keen conspiracy theorist throws up his or her hands and exclaims ‘Ha!’.

What a coincidence that this should also cover the most sensitive periods in recent Vatican history: the Second World War and the continuing scandal of paedophile priests.

There may be something in this, of course.

Nine years ago, a joint plan by Jewish and Roman Catholic scholars ended amid acrimony with the Vatican refusing to allow the Jewish scholars further access to its archives – and the Jewish scholars protesting that the Vatican was plainly trying to cover something up.

This came after a report that said the documents examined ‘did not put to rest significant questions about the Holocaust’.

However, one should also remember that the Vatican has recently released a number of wartime documents, which, they say, help to prove that Pope Pius XII, far from being a Nazi-sympathising anti-Semite – as his detractors claim – was in fact working behind the scenes trying to help the Jews.

The present Pope, back in the days when he was plain Cardinal Ratzinger, authorised the opening of one section of the archive in 1998.

This dealt with the Spanish Inquisition. To great surprise in some quarters – and less surprise in others – these documents revealed that the Inquisition hadn’t really been such a bloody business after all.

The Catholic Church had executed a mere one per cent of the alleged heretics they put on trial. As for the others, they had been dealt with by ‘non-church tribunals’ – over-enthusiastic freelancers
[Doesn't this strike the writer at all as very apropos and ironic with respect to the highly disporportionate media furor today over pervert priests?]

A similar thing happened when a document about the Knights Templar was released three years ago.

According to the document, Pope Clement V was not the persecutor of the Templars as had previously been claimed. Far from it: he initially absolved the Templar leaders of heresy.

Only after he’d come under pressure from the French king, the far-from-appropriately-named Philip the Fair, did he reverse his decision. But even then, it seems, Clement’s intention was to reform the Templars, not drive them from the face of the Earth.

By the end of his three days, Van den Heuvel had whittled his choice of documents down to 125. The oldest document in the archive dates from the end of the eighth century.

Among the more recent is a letter written by Pope Pius XI to Hitler in December 1934. However, anyone hoping for something bullish in tone will be looking in vain.

The letter – in response to an earlier letter from Hitler asking Pius to try to improve relations between Germany and the Vatican – addresses Hitler as ‘Illustro and honorabili viro Adolpho Hitler’, which must have brought pleasure to the Führer. [Dear Lord! Such ado about a formulaic salutation! It's merely the traditional courtly way of addressing people of rank - there are far fancier formulations in the epistolary stylebook of all the major European languages, especially the Romance ones!]

However, as the text points out, the Pope markedly omits to offer Hitler his blessing at the end. Not exactly a brush-off, but a diplomatic snub just the same.

Here, too, is a letter written in 1530 by the Archbishop of Canterbury along with five other bishops and 22 mitred abbots to Clement VII complaining about the Pope’s ‘excessive delay’ in annulling Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon (there was also, some time later, an excessive delay in finding the document; it was discovered under a chair, in 1926).

Any refusal by the Pope to issue an annulment, they intimate, would result in them taking extreme measures for the good of the kingdom; request denied, Henry formed the Church of England.

Among the seals with which the letter is festooned – plus the red ribbons that inspired the phrase ‘red tape’ – is one belonging to Thomas Wolsey, ‘Cardinal and Archbishop of York’.

Fifty-six years later, Mary Queen of Scots wrote to Pope Sixtus V on the eve of her execution. Mary declares that she wishes to die in the grace of God and regrets that she does not have recourse to the sacraments.

As the letter goes on, it becomes steadily more plaintive, more poignant. She begs the Pope to take care of her son, James, and concludes with a postscript in which she warns him that there may be traitors among his cardinals.

Voltaire’s letter to Pope Benedict XIV, written in 1745, strikes a more sycophantic tone:

‘Allow me, Holy Father, to present my best wishes together with all of Christendom and to implore Heaven that Your Holiness might be most tardily received among those saints whose canonisations you have so laboriously and successfully investigated.’

Legend has always had it that an infuriated Napoleon snatched the crown from the hands of Pius VII and stuck it on his own head at his Coronation in December 1804.

In fact, as a document here makes plain, the Pope was eager to keep his own involvement in the whole affair to a minimum.

Napoleon, by contrast, didn’t think anyone else was worthy of crowning him and was more than happy to do the job himself.

One of the archive’s more fragile documents is a letter from a group of Christian Ojibwe American Indians, written on birch bark.

Dated ‘where there is much grass, in the month of the flowers’ (in other words, Grassy Lake, Ontario, in May), the letter is addressed to Pope Leo, or ‘the Great Master of Prayer, he who holds the place of Jesus’.

If there is anything among the tomes about Jesus getting hitched to Mary Magdalene or about St Paul making up the Resurrection you won’t find it here.

That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t there. The truth is that no one really knows just what exactly is in the archive.

There are only 30 archivists – plus a small team charged with digitising their finds – and they have an awful lot of volumes to examine.

Three years ago, a Michelangelo drawing was found – ‘a partial plan for the radial column of the cupola dome of St Peter’s Basilica’.

Hardly the most exciting Michelangelo ever unearthed, but a Michelangelo none the less.

Perhaps more interesting is the note in which the artist complains that his payment for work on the dome is three months overdue.

For the time being Van den Heuvel’s The Vatican Secret Archives should keep the non-specialists satisfied.

Along with a main edition of 14,000, he is publishing 33 ‘unique collectors’ editions’ priced at just under £4,360 a throw – each ‘fully hand-bound in sheep parchment and hand-stitched with cotton thread’.

One of these unique collectors’ editions is being reserved for the Pope himself.

Soon, it will no doubt occupy an honoured place on his Holiness’s shelves – perhaps next to his copy of Great Wine Cellars of the World.

Buy (Vdh Books, £55) from Telegraph books
00Tuesday, June 8, 2010 10:49 AM

Mons. Padovese's murder is looking
less like a madman's act than
Islamist anti-Christian aggression

by Geries Othman

Iskenderun, TURKEY, June 7 (AsiaNews) - A funeral service for Mons. Luigi Padoverse, killed by his driver Morat Altun on Thursday morning, was to take place this afternoon, as new details have emerged on the dynamics and motives of the killing that has prostrated the Turkish Church.

The funeral ceremony will be held in the Church of the Annunciation, with the participation of the apostolic nuncio, Mgr. Antonio Lucibello, the Latin bishops of Istanbul and Izmir, the Armenian Catholic Bishop of Istanbul, as well as the priests in Turkey, representatives of foreign embassies, and a delegate of the Conference of Bishops of Europe,

After the services in Iskenderun, the body of Mgr. Padovese will be brought to Milan, Italy, where funeral services will be held, probably on Monday, June 14. The delay is due to the fact that the Italian courts have asked to do their own autopsy.

Meanwhile, new details have emerged on the story of the murder and the alleged "insanity" of the assassin.

The doctors who performed the local autopsy reveal that Mgr. Padovese had knife wounds all over his body, but especially in the heart (at least 8). His head was almost completely detached from his neck, attached to his body by only the skin of his nape.

Even the timeline of the killing is clearer: the Bishop was stabbed in his house. He had the strength to go out to the front door, bleeding and crying for help, and there he was killed and all but beheaded.

Witnesses said they heard the bishop cry out for help. And then, they heard screams from. who reportedly climbed on the roof and shouted: "I killed the great Satan! Allah Akbar!".

With the beheading, it looks the murder was committed as a ritual sacrifice against evil. Ultranationalist groups and Islamic fundamentalists openly want to eliminate Christians from Turkey.

Moreover, the Turkish newspaper, Milliyet, reported in its June 4 issue that the murderer had told police his actions were the result of a "divine revelation."

Faced with these new chilling details, perhaps the statements by the Turkish government and the first views expressed by the Vatican need to be revised.

The initial reaction was that the killing did not have political or religious implications. Benedict XVI said en route to Cyprus that this murder "cannot be attributed to Turkey or the Turks, and should not obscure dialogue".

Adding to the pontiff's justifiable concerns, are the increasing demands of

Meanwhile, Catholics and some Turkish NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are urging that police should not stop the investigation at the presumed "insanity" of Murat, but proceed and delve deeper into his possible links with organizations of the "Deep State" [????], even beyond the Turkish government.

The alleged insanity of the 26-year-old who for more than four years lived and worked next to the bishop now appears to be indefensible. There is no medical certificate attesting to his mental disability. Recently he said he was depressed, but now it is thought that this was all a strategy to defend himself later.

Yesterday, a representative of the Ministry of Justice came directly from Ankara to Iskenderun and explicitly condemned the act and ensured that he will do everything possible to shed light on what happened.

Establishing the truth is necessary for the Turkish State, because it shows its to guarantee rights.

According to police sources, it seems that Murat is offering a new justification for his action: claiming that his victims was a homosexual, and that he, Murat, was "forced to suffer abuse." Therefore, in this context, the killing of the bishop was an act of "legitimate defence". [This is awful! It could provide fresh fodder for likes of the New York Times and AP ]

But according to experts of the Turkish world, the killing of Mgr. Padovese shows an evolution in the work of the "Deep State", since this is the first time they have aimed at such a high-profile figure.

So far they had been targeting ordinary priests, but now they have attacked the head of the Turkish Church (Mgr Padovese was president of the Episcopal Conference of Turkey). At the same time, their actions are becoming more sophisticated, less crude than before.

Their claims are no longer limited to “insanity”, already used for the murder of Father Santoro, but they are finding new 'explanations' to confuse public opinion nationally and internationally.
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