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00Friday, July 30, 2010 1:40 AM

This is a companion piece to the above article on the Bishop of Shanghai.

July 2010

Hong Kong remains Asia’s most modern city, bursting with people and rising materialism. Nestled within the island’s network of winding roads, steep escalators, and soaring skyscrapers is a small building that houses a community of modest Salesians who serve the poor and educate the young after the example of St. John Bosco. It is difficult to imagine when first arriving at this unassuming community that it is the home of China’s most prominent and outspoken Catholic prelate, Cardinal Joseph Zen, S.D.B.

After being granted a private interview, Father Paul Mariani, S.J. and I awaited His Eminence downstairs in his residence at the Salesian House of Studies. Cardinal Zen joined us, adjusted the air conditioning, and informed us that he was feeling “a bit unwell” that day. Despite his illness, he was generous with his time, and lived up to his reputation of honesty and candor regarding the situation of the Church in China.

Zen served as bishop of Hong Kong from 2002 to 2009, and was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006. When asked in a previous interview whether he intended to rest in his retirement, he answered: “I am retiring, but I’m not going to stop working for the Chinese Church.”

It is clear that Cardinal Zen is a deeply pious laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, and that his heart is unflinchingly committed to improving the status of China’s long-suffering Catholic community. He is perhaps the most informed man alive today regarding what transpires among the Christians who live within the Great Wall.

Our discussion began with a reflection on Tertullian’s statement that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. We asked Cardinal Zen why it is that China has produced a comparatively large number of Christian martyrs in its history, and why persecution against Catholics persists so strongly today.

He responded, “When we talk about the situation in China, we are talking about the persecution under the Communist regime.” He noted that while Communism is in principle the same everywhere, it has different characteristics depending on the country in which it exists.

“China is fundamentally a place where Christians are the minority,” and in China the Christian mission “has been considered imperialist,” according to Zen. Thus, the Communist persecution of Christians in China has been “cruel and pitiless.” Also, since “China’s Communist regime is an ‘improved edition’ of Communism,” control there over religion is particularly tight.

We asked why it is that while the Chinese government wants the Catholic community to be indigenous, it nonetheless suppresses the veneration of the Chinese saints canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000. [It's a dictatorship! They can be as arbitrary as they please. They do not have to be logical. All they want to do is protect their general strategy on religions, which is to control them. Is anyone laboring under the delusion that 12 million Catholics in a country of 1.2 billion can have any weight at all on a temporal timescale? ]

Zen noted that “you never know what’s in the mind of the Communist government in China”; it is “very secretive” about its proceedings. But, he said, after the Vatican’s announcement that the canonizations would take place, the authorities asked Catholics “to sign a document against the Pope.”

He also recalled that the decision to hold the canonization ceremony on October 1, China’s national day, “was, of course, a big mistake.” Choosing the day that China celebrates the beginning of its Communist government to canonize Catholic saints was viewed by the Party as an intentional insult.

And due to the government’s control over the Church’s activities, “very few Chinese Catholics are aware of the 120 canonized martyrs,” Zen stated.

Another problem China’s Church faces is rising nationalism. Cardinal Zen insists that Chinese Catholics remain Chinese, “just like before.” The Church, he said, does not threaten Chinese identity.

Regarding the Mainland’s escalating nationalism, Zen maintains that the first thing to bear in mind is that Chinese and Western cultures are in fact quite different. “The missionary coming here brings his own nationality, and in spite of all the efforts he makes he is still a foreigner. You should not be scandalized by this.”

Nonetheless, “The missionaries brought the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas with them when they came to China. What’s wrong with this? They brought the best of the Church with them.” While nationalism grows more extreme, the cardinal maintains that Westerners and Chinese are in the end different, and that both should honor each other’s gifts.

When asked why the canonized Chinese martyr-saints date only as recent as 1930, Cardinal Zen responded that perhaps the Vatican “did not want to irritate the Communist government.”

But Zen wondered, “Why should we not publicize all those martyrs who died under the Communists?” And he added, “People here don’t dare to publish. They say, ‘We wait for better times.’ But I would say, ‘When would there be “better times”? Now is the better time.”’

Zen calls on Catholics who suffered through the anti-Christian cruelties of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) to recount their stories. And he also exhorts scholars to write histories of what happened. Zen suggested that it is a pity that Catholics do not publish now, while persecution is still rampant in China; “now is when people need encouragement.”

“Martyrdom means ‘witness,’” he said, and China’s martyrs — those who are canonized and those whose stories are not yet known — must be written about and discussed in order to strengthen the faith of those who suffer today under mistreatment.

We asked Cardinal Zen about the current situation of the “underground” and “above-ground” Catholic communities; while some have said that the line between them is disappearing, many Chinese priests and bishops today assert the opposite—that the division between them is growing more intense. Zen said:

Between 1989 and 1996 I was living in China six months a year teaching in the seminaries of the open Church, and my conclusion as I taught at the Shanghai seminary was that they are Catholics, just like the Catholics anywhere else in the world.

And so I told people that they should not think that the underground is loyal and the open Patriotic Church has betrayed the faith. No, not at all.

At a synod I told the bishops that there is only one Church in China, because in their hearts [Chinese Catholics] have the same faith. But if you look from the structural point of view, how they are run, it is clear that you have two separate Churches.

The underground Church is beyond the law. It has a kind of freedom, and it doesn’t accept the control of the government. But the open Church is still held tightly under the government’s power. So, surely you cannot say that the line is disappearing.

Some people say that the underground should surface. That’s absolutely wrong. It’s not in the letter of the Holy Father [to the Catholics of China, published in 2007], and this view has been clarified in the footnotes of the [letter’s] compendium [published in 2009]. The Holy Father was talking about a reconciliation of hearts, not a merger into one system.
[I posted the relevant part of the Holy Father's letter in the story of the China situation today in the BENEDICT thread. IMHO, Cardinal Zen's interpretation is disingenuous and dictated by his own hard line against 'compromising' in any way with the government.

But when the Pope points out that each community must decide what to do and that everyone should abide by whatever consensus is reached by the community, he is clearly saying the two 'churches' can integrate within the community if there is such a consensus. In which he must surely have considered workable compromises such as those in the dioceses of Beijing and Shanghai.]

If the government’s control of the open Church is so imposing, Zen asked, “Why should the underground surrender to the open Church?” After all, he stated, “They have suffered for so long, and to suddenly surrender is not at all a fair expectation.”

Cardinal Zen’s directness is often disparaged, but he says that he is not concerned with popularity; he is, like Pope Benedict XVI, a man committed to the truth.

“When in China, if anybody talks against the underground I will defend the underground, and if anybody talks against the open Church I will defend the open Church, because they are all under persecution.”

Unfortunately, Zen suggested, “The Holy Father’s generosity in legitimizing the bishops of the open Church has not born the fruits it was supposed to produce.”

“This was a compromise from both sides,” Zen explained. “The Holy Father recognized and approved [these government-selected bishops] without demanding any acts of rebellion against the government [But why would the Pope 'demand any acts of rebellion against the government???] , and on the other hand, the government accepted this without punishing the bishops who were endorsed by the Pope.”

So, Zen asks, why do the two communities remain so divided? “A solution can be found… so it is really beyond my understanding why it is still the same. I blame those bishops in China who are not following the will of the Church’s leaders, but rather only wish to follow their own advantage.”

Another problem is that many of those bishops approved by the Pope are not strong. And, Zen states, “Even some who are in communion with Rome will say in their speeches, ‘I want an independent Church.’ How can they say they are in communion with the Holy Father? This is incredible.”

Cardinal Zen, himself deeply committed to the Vatican, calls upon his fellow bishops in China to be undivided, to follow Rome without equivocation. This, he insists, is what it means to be an “authentic bishop in the Catholic Church.”

We asked Cardinal Zen whether he felt that the Pope’s letter to China actually removed the underground Church’s raison d’être, in light of the Pope’s suggestion that being “underground” is not the normal way the Church functions. Has the Pope’s statement somehow created new confusions in the Chinese Church?

Zen says no, asserting that in China, “Catholics are scandalized that official bishops who have been recognized by the Pope are still on the side of the government.”

He stated that the Pope has not in fact asked the underground Church to surface and join the Patriotic Church, but rather has highlighted the extremity of China’s abnormal situation. The cardinal proposes that the underground community has good cause to be suspicious of the sanctioned Church, though this view has received some criticisms. To his critics he says:

People say, “Who are you, Cardinal Zen? You live in a peaceful environment and you push your brothers to martyrdom.” I don’t push anyone to martyrdom; martyrdom is a special grace from God. But I think that if you are a bishop you must be coherent with your faith. The most important thing to the Communists is control, and they have found a way to control the Church in China through the Patriotic Association.

When asked to elaborate on how the Patriotic Church is controlled in China, Cardinal Zen pointed to Liu Bainian, the current vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Zen affirms that Liu is perhaps one of the most significant factors in the government’s efforts to control China’s Catholics.

“For many years [Liu] has been head of the whole Chinese Church, and the bishops are really just his slaves,” Zen expalined. “At dinners with Mr. Liu and the bishops, Liu is the only one who talks. But when he goes away everyone can speak; this is very humiliating. Some, however, consider him a saint. What can we do? It’s amazing.”

When asked about detractors who claim that Liu and Zen are two extremes who keep the Chinese Church divided, the cardinal responded:

They are not wrong. We really are two extremes. He [desires] the whole Chinese Church to remain in a state of separation from Rome; he has pushed for the illicit ordination of bishops, and he pushed for the 50-year celebration of the Patriotic Association. We even have evidence that many things he does go beyond what the government orders. When the government calls for five bishops to attend a Chinese synod, Liu sends a sixth. The government cannot be happy about this.

Cardinal Zen stated that it would help the situation in China if the bishops would simply begin to honor the Holy Father’s recent letter to the Chinese Church. “I cannot understand how it is that so many people do not take his letter seriously; some even give the letter a distorted interpretation.”

Despite the serious problems facing the Church in China, the number of Catholics continues to rise. One wonders what the Church there is doing right.

“It is no surprise,” Zen says, “that people find consolation in Christianity when China is in such a disordered state.”

He also asks the world to bear in mind that “Chinese Christians are still a very small minority,” and that people “should not be overly demanding of the Chinese Church at this time.”

He says, “The Chinese Church today has to fight for survival, unlike the Church in other parts of the world. But despite its need to fight for survival it manages to evangelize and offer charitable services.” [Who is managing to do that? If Cardinal Zen means the underground church, then it obviously has enough freedom to evangelize and bear witness, which means to come out in the open. But if it is maintained that the underground Church has to remain underground for safety, then the evangelization and charitable work is done by the 'official' church which means it is doing something right. The testimony of Shanghai's Bishop Jin in the post above surely means something!]

Finally, we asked Cardinal Zen what Catholics outside of China can do for the Chinese Church. His answer was quite simple:

I think the first thing is to get to know the Church in China. The pity today is that there are many people who know about what is happening in China but do not talk, and many people who do talk about China’s Catholics but do not really know anything. People must know the reality — the true reality of the situation. Today there’s too much confusion — too much confusion.

Though I am obviously an outsider who has no firsthand knowledge of thhe situation at all, I do not see why the Pope's recommendations on promoting unity among Chinese Catholics cannot be followed. It's not as if a workable integration has not been worked out at all between underground anf official communities.

If enough leaders of the 'underground' Church decide to evaluate their local situation wisely and see whether they can come to a modus vivendi with their fellow Catholics in the open Church if they come out, there would be less confusion. By all accounts, active persecution is mostly a function of the local officials in power - most are generally lenient or passive as long as no one causes 'scandal' (as even the Pope warns in his letter) by which they mean open provocation, but a few provinces are notorious for their active hostility. But again, the Pope himself suggests acting on a case-by-case basis.

There has to be a willingness to try, not outright dismissal that any workable integration could ever be possible.]

Cardinal Zen also noted, “The Holy Father today is very clear in his ideas regarding the Church in China, and we are lucky to have such a Pope.” [One of the things he seems clear about in the 2007 Letter is that it is possible to work out unity on a case-by-case basis - i.e., you cannot wait for an ideal situation before attempting unity on the local level. Why does Cardinal Zen ignore that?]

As we completed our discussion we recalled again the words of Tertullian, that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. We reflected on how China’s history of Catholic persecution continues to inspire Chinese Catholics toward deeper commitment to their faith.

Cardinal Zen ended with a prayer to Our Lady, Help of Christians, “to bless all those who are suffering for their faith, and also the people who are trying to help them.” [What about praying for the Chinese who have chosen the way of compromise - be it simply bureaucratic - and who are able to practice their faith openly? I wish Dr. Clark had asked Cardinal Zen about the example of Shanghai, because it seems to be so obvious! And what about all the local churches Dr. Clark himself has visited in China where local Catholics who practice their faith openly appear fairly untroubled?]

As we stood to leave, Cardinal Zen said, “Well, I need to rush off so I can offer my daily Mass.” He blessed for us a number of images of Our Lady of China, and left the room.

Zen is a man of the Church, profoundly concerned for the faith and freedom of his fellow Chinese. And it is clear that he will not rest until the Communist government of China gives the Church complete independence from its control. As Zen said, “The final word should not be exclusively on the side of an atheistic government.” [No, but they will continue to have the last works unless something as phenomenal as the fall of the Berlin Wall or a complete generational change in Chinese leadership takes place to change the paradigm!]

It appears that Cardinal Zen intends to get little respite in his retirement years, for he has set himself to no less a task than contending with a government that he describes as “cruel and pitiless.”

Despite China’s struggles, Zen is a man of hope; as he has said, “Winter has passed and spring will come.”

While I admire Cardinal Zen for his zeal and determination, from the practical aspect. his hard line cannot make it any easier for the underground Catholics he is solicitous about on the mainland.

Also, the Communists - who own HongKong - have given him a pass all these years despite his militancy, leading annual demonstrations against the regime for its various violations of democratic rights. Whatever their reasons, that is a 'plus' mark so far for them.

BTW, Catholic World Report would have done better by running both the Jin and Zen interviews done by Clark, instead of just Cardinal Zen's, because together they give two sides of the picture.]

AsiaNews today published an article by Cardinal Zen
in which he rebuts a recent 30 GIORNI article claiming to see a hopeful signal in the fact that the Vatican and Beijing have agreed on many recent episcopal nominations.

Sandro Magister and AsiaNews editor Fr. Bernardo Cervellera were just as dismissive in recent articles about the significance of the agreements on new bishops. I don't think anyone in the Vatican, much less Benedict XVI himself, is reading too much into it, as welcome as it is, and even if 30 GIORNI does (which does not speak for the Vatican), but surely, the Vatican is not disdainful of it either! Here are the links to Magister and Cervellera:
>Seven new bishops do not a summer make
>The mirage and religious freedom for the official and underground church

The only reason I am not posting them is that I have no time just now to review their English translations. They are both excellent news sources, but I always have problems with their English translations, especially since their originals in Italian are available.

00Wednesday, August 4, 2010 4:10 AM

An Anglican priest shared this open letter through his bolg, simply called Holy Trinity Reading, identifying his church and parish.

15 Anglo-Catholic bishops write
their clergy to uphold opposition
to women and gay bishops - but also
point to Roman Catholic alternative

by Fr. David Elliott
Church of the Trinity (Anglican)
Reading, England

July 31, 2010

Fifteen bishops have written to Church of England clergy voicing their concerns over the crisis in the Church of England.

The letter is signed by serving bishops but does not include evangelical bishops such as Wallace Benn and Michael Nazir-Ali, or retired bishops like Edwin Barnes, John Gaisford, James Johnson, or David Silk. There are at least two other diocesan bishops who would agree with the contents.

As the letter may be shared with the laity here it is in full:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

'God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you, but I will tell you the good and proper way.' (1 Samuel 12:23)

These are grave times in the Church of England especially for those of us unable in good conscience to accept that any particular church has the authority to admit women to the episcopate. While we certainly accept the good faith of those who wish to make this change believing it to be God's will, we cannot rejoice with them, not least because of the disastrous cost to Catholic unity. [Intersting that they refer to themselves as Catholics in the Church of England itself! I did not know that before.]

Our concerns are not only about sacramental assurance though that is of profound importance. If the legislation now proposed passes, it will not provide room for our tradition to grow and flourish. We will be dependent on a Code of Practice yet to be written, and sadly our experience of the last almost twenty years must make us wonder whether even such an inadequate provision will be honoured in the long term.

Neither the Report of the Revision Committee nor the legislation itself shows a proper understanding of our reservations, however carefully these have been presented through the consultation process and in the College and House of bishops.

It remains a deep disappointment to us that the Church at large did not engage with the excellent Rochester Report and paid scant attention to the Consecrated Women report sponsored by Forward in Faith.

We must now accept that a majority of the members of the Church of England believe it is right to proceed with the ordination of women as bishops, and that a significant percentage of those in authority will not encourage or embrace with enthusiasm the traditional integrity or vocations within it.

Nor is it their intention or desire to create a structure which genuinely allows the possibility of a flourishing mission beyond this generation.

However, the closeness of the vote on the Archbishops' amendment for co ordinate jurisdiction, concerns though there are about its adequacy, suggest at least a measure of disquiet in the majority about proceeding without a provision acceptable to traditionalists.

The Catholic group [Again!] fought valiantly on the floor of the synod and we are grateful for that, and while many in the Church and press are speaking as if the legislation is now passed, final synodical approval is still some way off.

Whatever happens in the Synod, there are some Anglo Catholics, including in our own number, who are already looking at, indeed are resolved to join the Ordinariate as the place where they can find a home in which to live and proclaim their Christian faith, in communion with the Holy Father, yet retaining something of the blessings they have known and experienced in the Anglican tradition.

Of course the Ordinariate is a new thing, and not all of us are trailblazers or can imagine what it might be like. Some will undoubtedly want to wait and see how that initiative develops before making a decision. Yet others will make their individual submission and find their future as Roman Catholics.

Were the present proposals not to be substantially amended or defeated, many more of us will need to consider seriously these options.

A number will remain, perhaps even reluctantly because of personal circumstances, family loyalties, even financial necessity, but with a deep sense of unease about the long term future, an unease that is surely well founded.

There are faithful Catholic clergy and lay people, though deeply opposed to the likely Synodical decision who cannot currently imagine themselves being anywhere else but within the Church of England.

They wonder how they can stay, yet cannot imagine leaving their much loved church and parish. They do not want to be forced out of the Church they love and will persevere where they are, whatever the theological or ecclesiological ambiguities, and seek God's blessing on all they do.

Those who are not actively seeking a home elsewhere must work to defeat the currently proposed legislation. It is essential that traditionalists engage in the debate and discussion in their diocese and are active in the election process for the next quinquennium of the General Synod when the two thirds majority in each House will be required if the legislation is to pass. Whatever our individual futures, and however disheartened we might feel, the Church of England needs strong Catholic hearts and voices.

The text quoted at the beginning of this letter was the one used by John Keble in his famous Assize sermon, often regarded as the starting point of the Oxford Movement. It seems remarkably apposite, and gives a clue to an appropriate attitude of heart for this process: prayerful and gracious, but clear. [What an irony - or is it a harbinger - that the leader of the Oxford Movement ended up being the most celebrated Anglican convert o Catholicism and will be beatified soon!]

We are all bishops united in our belief that the Church of England is mistaken in its actions. However, we must be honest and say we are not united as to how we should respond to these developments.

Nevertheless we are clear that each of the possibilities we have outlined has its own integrity and is to be honoured. We are resolved to respect the decisions made by laity, bishops, priests and deacons of our integrity, and call on you to do the same.

It would be a sad and destructive thing indeed if we allowed our happiness and wondering to drift into unguarded or uncharitable criticism of those who in good conscience take a different path from our own. We must assume the best motives in one another, and where there are partings let them be with tears and the best wishes of Godspeed.

You will we hope know of the meetings in both provinces to take place in late September when there will be opportunities for discussion and an exchange of views about the future.

Be assured of our prayers as you reflect about how best to respond to the challenges which face us, and we ask your prayers for us too as we seek to be faithful to the Lord, and to the Faith once delivered.

Please share the contents of this letter with your people, and indeed with any who might be interested to know of it.

The Rt Revd John Hind, Bishop of Chichester
The Rt Revd Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Europe
The Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn
The Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett, Bishop of Beverley
The Rt Revd John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham
The Rt Revd Peter Wheatley, Bishop of Edmonton
The Rt Revd John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley
The Rt Revd Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet
The Rt Revd Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Pontefract
The Rt Revd John Ford, Bishop of Plymouth
The Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham
The Rt Revd Martin Warner, Bishop of Whitby
The Rt Revd Robert Ladds
The Rt Revd Lindsay Urwin OGS

00Friday, August 6, 2010 1:14 AM

I must confess I felt a shudder down my spine and my stomach churned into overdrive when I first saw the headings on this article - and it got worse after I read it, despite admonishing myself to stay calm. I certainly hope my gut has it all wrong this time, and that a flaming liberal has not just infiltrated into Papa Ratzinger's Curia in the robes of St. Alphonsus Liguori's order!

New Vatican appointee 'extremely positive'
on US nuns: Mons. Tobin says his appointment
suggests 'how badly the visitation
of US women religious has gone down'

By John L Allen Jr

VATICAN CITY - Saying he hopes to offer the Vatican a "different picture" of women religious in the United States, Rome's new number two official for religious life says he suspects the choice of an American for that job, and one known to be sympathetic to women religious, may reflect awareness of "just how badly" a controversial Vatican investigation of women's orders has been received. [Not by all the female orders, only by the liberal nuns who are offended that the Vatican should do this at all! As if the Vatican had absolutely no right to supervise what they do when they so obviously think of themselves as a counter-Magisterium, defying the Pope at will!]

Fr. Joseph Tobin spoke with NCR Aug. 3, one day after his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI as the new Secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, colloquially known as the "Congregation for Religious." It oversees affairs involving some 190,000 religious priests and brothers, and roughly 750,000 sisters, worldwide.

Tobin, 58, is a native of Detroit who served from 1997 to 2009 as Superior General of the Redemptorist order in Rome. He had been at Oxford University in England on sabbatical prior to his Vatican appointment. He will be ordained an archbishop when he takes up the post.

Traditionally, the secretary of a Vatican congregation is the official who coordinates its day-to-day work, while the cardinal-prefect provides broad overall direction. Tobin's role is likely to be all the more important in the Congregation for Religious given that its current prefect, Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé, is already past the usual retirement age of 75 and is widely expected to be replaced soon.

Speaking on background, Vatican sources told NCR in early August that one reason Tobin was appointed was to ensure that someone with a strong background in religious life is already in place when that transition occurs.

Though Tobin will have broad responsibility for matters involving religious life all over the world, one hot-button challenge he inherits right away is the Apostolic Visitation of women's religious orders in the United States. Some American sisters have taken the investigation as a vote of "no confidence" from the church's male-dominated power structure. [UGHHHH! Typical knee-jerk female-chauvinist paranoia! This has nothing to with gender at all, but about obedience and discipline. Even Mary mMagdalene, whom they would probably invoke as their putative but totally fanciful source of 'apostolic succession' for women in their relentless mythbuilding!]

"There's a great deal of misunderstanding among American religious about the decisions of the Holy See, and in particular the visitation of women religious," Tobin said.

"Maybe I can offer a different picture of American women religious than the one that sometimes has been presented in Rome," Tobin said. "My own impression is extremely positive." [Really now? One must find out what company he kept among the nuns. Has he never really met anyone who has been openly contemptuous and defiant of the Pope, which would be clear to anyone who reads the magazine John Allen writes foR? Did he find it 'positive' when some nuns marched ostentatiously in Washington to support a healthcare bill that would allow the use of public funds to support abortions? How come Allen did not ask Tobin a single challenging question????

At present, the visitation is in what organizers refer to as "phase three," meaning a series of on-site visits to women's orders in America. It follows phase one, constituted by personal exchanges between Sacred Heart of Jesus Sr. Mary Clare Millea, the coordinator of the visitation, and the superiors of women's orders, and phase two, formed by written responses to questionnaires mailed to every congregation in the country.

The fourth and final phase will consist of preparing detailed reports on all 420 "units" of women's religious life in America, meaning orders as well as their individual provinces, to be sent to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life during 2011.

In terms of what Rome eventually does with that input, Tobin said he hopes to bring a fresh perspective. [Will he begin by telling the liberal nuns that it is their duty to cooperate with the visitation and there is nothing to be defensive about? In fact, they should consider it their chance to tell the Vatican frankly and objectively why they say the things they say, without hysterics or hyperbole!]

"I feel I can bring something to that, because I've worked all my life with women's religious," Tobin said. "They taught me when I was a kid, and my mother's family was very close to the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters. I've preached women's retreats and listened a lot to them over the years." [But that's assuming that all nuns today are 'equal'! Not since Vatican II, they haven't been! Inflamed by delusions of self-conferred authority encouraged by the Vatican II progressivists, liberal nuns have turned into a distasteful tribe of arrogant harpies who think each one of them is every bit as authoritative as the Pope, and who have lost all notion of obedience and discipline.]

Tobin speculated that perhaps the choice of an American for the secretary's role in the Congregation for Religious could "suggest some awareness of just how badly this thing [the visitation] has gone down." [In itself, a statement of bias on his part! One would think he has not been reading the magazine Allen writes for, where half the headlines on any given day blares forth the latest condemnation of the Pope and the Vatican from types like the Chittister harpy? How can any right-thinking person consider any of that right or proper at all?]

This week, Tobin is in Long Beach, Calif., for a meeting of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, the umbrella group in the United States for men's religious orders. Officers from the companion body for women, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, will also be attending, and Tobin said he intends to meet with them.

"I want to have a frank discussion, to help me shape my thinking and whatever proposals I might bring to the congregation," he said.

Tobin said his main aim will be to find a way to "bring life" out of the Apostolic Visitation, meaning to convert it into a positive experience. [Good luck with that! As though these self-styled 'we know best' types would ever consider anything initiated by the Vatican to be positive! At least he is not thinking of asking the Vatican to shut down the process!]

Leaders in women's religious life seem bullish about the Tobin appointment. [But will they be just as bullish if it turns out, God willing, that he tells them they must cooperate with the proces and not refuse to answer questionnaires or be openly hostile to the visitators?]

"Fr. Joe Tobin is held in high regard by U.S. men and women religious," said an Aug. 3 statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

"He brings a breadth of knowledge of matters impacting religious life and has a wide range of experience and expertise. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious looks forward to working with him in his new position."

Tobin said he anticipates being back in Rome to take up his new post sometime in early September.

00Thursday, August 12, 2010 6:39 PM
Since we have no separate thread for cultural news in general, I am posting this here, on the pretext that the Muslims are inaugurating this clock on the first day of Ramadan today.

The new clock tops a new hotel mega-complex overlooking the Kaaba, Islam's holiest place [giant black cube in the center of the square]. It antedates Islam and is believed to mark the site of the first house ever built by Adam, over which subsequently, Abraham rebuilt. Muslims face east towards the Kaaba during their five-times-a-day prayers and in their mosques. It is also the object of the hajj, the pilgrimage that is near-obligatory for all Muslims who can afford the trip.

Muslims have world's tallest clock
in world's 2nd tallest building!

MECCA, August 12 - If all goes well, the world's newest, largest clock should start ticking off its first seconds today in the city of Mecca. Its tower also happens to be Saudi Arabia's tallest building, and the tower's complex is the largest hotel in the world. Talk about going for broke!

At 151 feet in diameter, the four clock faces on the Mecca Royal Clock Hotel Tower is just about as wide as an American 160-foot-wide football field, and absolutely dwarfs the world's most famous tower clock faces, Big Ben's 23-footers. It also takes advantage of modern technology, as its four faces will light up the sky with two million LEDs.

The rest of the building is no slouch, either. The Royal Clock Hotel's clock tower is just shy of 2,000 feet tall (Big Ben, by comparison, stands 316 feet tall), and, when it's completed sometime in Autumn next year, it'll be the second tallest skyscraper in the world after Dubai's Burj Khalifa.

An earlier report:

Not just supplanting London's Big Ben,
but will Mecca time also replace GMT?

Saudi Arabia is hoping that the debut of what is said to be the world's largest clock in Islam's holiest city of Mecca will help establish the city as an alternative time standard to the Greenwich meridian.

The new four-faced clock, which looms over Mecca's Grand Mosque and is perched atop what is expected to be the world's second tallest building when completed, is to enter a three-month trial period this week -- the first week of the holy month of Ramadan.

Situated in the heart of the massive Abraj al-Bait complex -- comprising hotels, shopping malls and conference centers -- the clock will run on Arabia Standard Time, three hours ahead of the Universal Time standard.

Each of the clock's four faces are 151 feet in diameter and will be illuminated by 2 million LED lights, along with huge Arabic script reading: "In the Name of Allah." Another 21,000 white and green colored lights, fitted at the top of the clock, will flash to as far as 19 miles to signal Islam's five-times daily prayers.

The clock reflects a goal to replace the 126-year-old Universal Time standard, also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is seen as "colonial" by some Muslims.

"Putting Mecca time in the face of GMT -- this is the goal," Mohammed al-Arkubi, manager of one of the hotels in the complex, told The Telegraph.

With the global population of Muslims growing at a rapid rate, the building project is part of the Saudi government's plan to enable Mecca to accommodate as many as 10 million pilgrims each year. And for Mecca residents, the plan already seems to be successful.

"Before, we heard and saw famous clocks in the West," Ahmed Harleem, an Egyptian living in Mecca, told AFP. "But today, we can as Muslims be proud of this giant project ... it means an honor for a place, and time for me."

00Thursday, August 12, 2010 6:54 PM
Babel comes to mind.. and this is another reason to find an alternative energy source to fossil fuel, ASAP!

A comical thing would be a direct hit by a bolt of lightning along with a booming voice: "I smite thee!!!"

Ahem... with no human injuries involved, of course.

00Saturday, August 14, 2010 10:40 AM
Turkey allows Dormition liturgy
in historic monastery turned museum

Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I will celebrate
and thousands will come from Greece and Russia

ROME, August 13, 2010 – The news was announced last June by the agency Fides of the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

On August 15, which for the Orthodox is the feast of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, the Turkish government has authorized the celebration of liturgy in a place that is a symbol of the Christian faith of the East - as much of its flourishing as of its violent uprooting: the monastery of Sumela or (its Greek name) of the Mother of God of the Black Mountain.

The concession was greeted with surprise by the Orthodox community, not only in Turkey, where the Greek-Byzantines of the Patriarchate of Constantinople have been reduced to a few thousand, but also abroad, especially in Greece and Russia.

Nonetheless, it's a concession limited to only a few hours. The liturgy will be allowed to be celebrated only once, outside of the monastery, in front of the ruins.

The monastery of Sumela, in fact, after withstanding the storms of history for fifteen centuries and staying alive even during Ottoman rule, was emptied and reduced to ruins in 1923, with the expulsion of the Greek Orthodox by the modern Turkish state.

Since then, it has been forbidden to celebrate the liturgy there. The monastery, a small portion of which has been restored, has become a destination for tourist excursions from nearby Trabzon, the city on the Black Sea where on February 5, 2006, a young Muslim killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro.

For August 19, the Turkish government has made a similar concession for the Armenians. It has authorized the celebration of a liturgy in the Church of the Holy Cross in Akhtamar, on an island of Lake Van.

This church, which had also fallen into ruin, was renovated in 2007. But it was set up as a museum, and until now, liturgy has not been permitted to be celebrated there.

When the Armenian Patriarch asked for permission to place a cross on top of the renovated church, the Turkish authorities refused. The church had to remain without a cross, without bells, without sacred markings, without pastors, and without faithful.

Instead, the ceremony for the conclusion of the renovations prominently featured images of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish state.

The liturgies at Sumela and Akhtamar on August 15 and 19 will be attended by a few thousand faithful, many of them from abroad: an unusual number for Turkey, a cradle of the early Christianity propagated by Paul, and for centuries, a land of flourishing Christianity, but where today the churches – or the few of them that remain – don't even have legal recognition.

Moreover, last August 5, two churches dating back to the fourth and sixth centuries in the village of Yemisli in the region of Mardin in southeastern Anatolia were reopened for worship. The buildings were renovated by seventy-two families of the Syriac Orthodox community, which numbers about 5,000 faithful in Turkey.

The concessions made this August by the government of Ankara are being interpreted as a move on the chessboard of Turkey's problematic entry into the European Union, which is impossible without minimal standards concerning religious freedom.

But these and other appearances of openness continue to be accompanied by massive and persistent constraint. One of the reasons why the Turkish authorities oppose religious freedom is the fear that an increase in places of worship would bring out into the open the many secret Christians, registered as Muslims, believed to be living in the country.

On the two imminent celebrations, and in particular, on the history and symbolic significance of the monastery of Sumela, here is what was written for the August 1 issue of "L'Osservatore Romano" by a highly informed expert on the subject, Franciscan Fr. Egidio Picucci.


A celebration at
'Monte Cassino of the East'

by Egidio Picucci
Translated from

The month of August will be remembered in Turkey for two extraordinary religious events: on the 15th, after 87 years, the "divine Eucharist" will be celebrated in the former monastery of Sumela, on the outskirts of Trabzon, ancient Trebizond, abandoned by the monks in 1923; and on the 19th, another will be celebrated in the Armenian church of the Holy Cross in Akhtamar, built on an island in the splendid Lake Van, in the eastern part of the country.

The Turkish government has granted the authorization - greeted with surprise and satisfaction by the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople, which is organizing itself so that everything will go smoothly, seeing that about 10,000 Greek and Russian Orthodox are expected, with the attendance of a few politicians from these two countries.

Greek television will broadcast the entire celebration live, so that in particular, the descendants of the Greeks who had to leave the Pontus during the Turkish occupation will at least be able to see the places where their ancestors lived and come to know one of the most significant places for Eastern Orthodoxy.

In fact, Sumela is known as the Monte Cassino of the East, because for fifteen centuries, from 385 to 1923, it was the monastery-guide for the safeguarding of Greek tradition, art, history, and culture, and of religion all over the territory of the Pontus, whose inhabitants heard their own language being spoken by the apostles in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.

The monastery is located fifty kilometers from Trabzon, among the gorges of the Altindere (Torrent of Gold), at an elevation of 1,200 meters, spanning forty meters of a long rocky outcrop of Mount Zigana, at the precipice of a deep ravine.

According to tradition, it was the Virgin herself who showed the place to the Athenian monks Barnabas and Sophronios, who, coming from the Chalkidiki peninsula, turned the smaller caves of the mountain into cells, and the largest one into a church, displaying there the most artistic of the three icons venerated at that time in Athens and attributed to Saint Luke.

Clockwise, from upper left: the icon venerated in Sumela; the monastery's famous 'rock church'; and frescoes in the rock church.

The fame of the mountain shrine and of the sanctity of the two monks, who died in 412 (on the same day, tradition assures us), drew pilgrims, obtained donations, and above all summoned other monks, becoming the leading center of culture and pilgrimage in all of northeast Asia Minor.

Even the emperor Justinian mingled among the humble people who braved the nearly inaccessible mountain, on the way back from one of his campaigns against the Persians, leaving a silver urn to house the relics of Saint Barnabas and the text of the four Gospels written on gazelle skin.

In spite of everything, the monastery was an easy target for bandits, who did not spare even the monastery, pillaged and burned in 640, but rebuilt four years later by Christophoros of Vazelon, a courageous monk who restored the morale of his fellow monks and fortified the construction so ingeniously that Athanasios of Trebizond reproduced it in building the Great Lavra of Mount Athos.

Experience, nonetheless, taught the monks that in order to protect themselves they needed stronger, military-style fortifications, so they made the monastery an almost inaccessible perch, turning it into an oasis of peace in the midst of a growing turmoil of wars and struggles, allowing it to reach its greatest splendor at the time of the empire of the Komnenos family, the rulers of nearby Trebizond.

In 1350, Alexios III asked to be crowned emperor there, and left a "chrysobull," or golden seal, there. With him, the monastery became a masterpiece of Byzantine art. Manuel III was also crowned there, leaving as a gift a relic of the cross, which was placed in the treasury; a great relic in a great reliquary.

The monastery's activity was not even interrupted by the Turkish conquest in 1461. On the contrary, Mehmed II Fatih ("the Conqueror") paid a very respectful visit there, leaving a "firman," an imperial decree, guaranteeing the monks ownership of the surrounding land.

Selim I also held it in high esteem, staying there during a hunting expedition and later sending five huge spiral candlesticks, as tall as himself, encrusted with jewels and gold inscriptions. He returned there on the eve of the war against Ismail of Tabriz, and a third time after his victory, to deliver two massive golden candelabra taken from his enemy.

Gifts and privileges came from other sultans and from various patriarchs, sign of a devotion that placed the "Panàgia tu Mèlas," the All-Holy of the Black Mountain (the name Sumela seems to be derived from a corruption of "tu Mèlas") above even the shrine of Hagia Sophia in Trebizond, the glory of the city nestled on the coast of the Black Sea.

The life of Sumela seemed imperishable: faith, art, technology – it is said that an ingenious communication system permitted messages to be sent between the monastery and Trebizond in just ten minutes – and culture had made it the soul of the Pontus, a cardinal point of the spirit for pilgrims, scholars, and artists; the monks had turned it into a balcony wide open to heaven, and not just a way station in the countryside. Its reddish doors seemed to be painted with the blood that saved from death.

But in the winter between 1915 and 1916, the dream was shattered for the first time in fifteen centuries: the war forced the monks to leave mountain and monastery. They returned after the Russian occupation, and again following the armistice of 1918. It was a parenthesis of five years, because the Greco-Turkish war of 1923 drove them away forever, while unknown hands tried to obliterate Sumela with fire.

The memory of the monastery lived on in time thanks to European scholars who sifted among the ruins, bringing to light the remains of frescoes of surprising freshness and of intense spirituality. The monk Ambrosios saved the most precious relics walled up in the church of Saint Barbara: the icon of the Virgin was taken to the monastery of Dovràs, near Veria, in Greece, and the manuscript of the Gospels went to the Byzantine museum of Athens.

Today, not a few enthusiasts confront the mountain to visit the ancient relic amid the vegetation, so surprisingly attached to the mountain that it seems suspended between heaven and earth.

Even if the remains of a few heavy windows seem like the eyelids of death, behind them flutter recollections of life. The library, the remains of the church of the Dormition, the refectory, the 72 cells for the monks distributed over four floors, the lookout spot on the fifth floor, pulse with memories and are a genuine balcony over the infinite, cradled by the waters of the Altindere, snaking through rocky ravines.

Led by Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, the Orthodox will therefore experience at Meryemana Monastiri, the present Turkish name for Sumela, moments of profound emotion, proud that such ancient vestiges of faith have withstood the fury of time and of men.

Orthodox images of the Dormition of Mary:

Travel notes:

The 1000-year-old Monastery of the Virgin Mary at Sumela is among the most impressive sights of Turkey's Black Sea coast.

The monastery's alpine setting, clinging to a sheer rock cliff in the midst of evergreen forests loud with the splash of chill mountain streams, comes as a surprise for those who think of Turkey as a land of rolling steppe. The land around the monastery is now preserved as Altindere National Park.

It's a 1-km (6/10 mile), 35 to 45-minute hike uphill from the parking lot to the monastery entrance. You rise 250 meters (820 feet) in the climb.

The excursion to Sumela is best done as a half-day excursion from Trabzon, 46 km (29 miles) away.

00Monday, August 16, 2010 3:57 PM

On the Feast of the Assumption:
Thousands of pilgrims evacuated
after bomb threat at Lourdes‎

By Peter Allen

August 16, 2010

Thousands of pilgrims, including the sick and handicapped, were evacuated from the shrine of Lourdes yesterday during a bomb scare.

Police received a warning that four devices were about to go off among some 30,000 worshippers, priests and nuns congregating for midday Mass.

Army bomb disposal experts and sniffer dogs spent three hours searching the grotto in the foothills of the Pyrenees, in south-west France, but nothing was found.

‘It was a cruel hoax,’ said a police spokesman. ‘Somebody wanted to cause as much disruption as possible to people already suffering illness and handicaps.’

Pierre Adias, spokesman for Lourdes, said: ‘We have no idea who is behind this. Bomb scares are not something you associate with Lourdes.’

The two main Masses of the morning were over when the evacuation began. The police spokesman added: ‘There was some panic, but people soon started to leave in an orderly fashion. Priority was given to those in wheelchairs.’

Most of the pilgrims were gathered around the Lourdes grotto where, 152 years ago, the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared in front of 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous.

About 200 million have visited since 1860, and the Roman Catholic church has recognised 67 miracle healings, the last in November 2005.

Despite this, Lourdes has built up enemies among those who criticise ts commercialism. It makes millions a year from tourism and the sale of souvenirs.

Others, including members of the Catholic Church, are deeply sceptical of its alleged healing powers, attributing them to superstition. Those hit by the Lourdes hoax were celebrating the feast of the Assumption, when Mary was said to have risen up to Heaven.

It is a particularly important day in the Lourdes calender, ensuring lots of extra visitors.

00Saturday, August 21, 2010 9:45 PM

Reflected glory:
The Raphael tapestries
and their cartoons

By Jan Dalley

August 20, 2010

London, April
In the Victoria and Albert Museum, the cool old-fashioned gallery that contains the Raphael Cartoons is an oasis of hush. There are four other people in the high-ceilinged room; all, like me, on their own. Around the walls the seven luminous paintings of the lives of the saints Peter and Paul, vivid scenes alive with muscular figures, have the gentle glow of watercolour.

After a bit one’s eye acclimatises and the subdued beauty of these works begins to grow. Each is three metres high and five or six metres wide, their figures a little more than life size: we can walk into these scenes.

These “cartoons”, completed in 1515-16, were designs for seven of the 10 tapestries woven for the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican; and next month, as Pope Benedict XVI makes his visit to England and Scotland, four of the Sistine tapestries will be sent from Rome to be displayed here, next to the paintings that are their templates, for the first time.

For the moment, though, my footsteps echo in the room. From the gallery next door, there are bursts of excited chatter from the eager crowd visiting an exhibition of Grace Kelly’s dresses. They are looking at an actress’s frocks; we are looking at great serene tableaux that for several centuries have been considered some of the greatest works of the High Renaissance.

It’s a postmodern sort of juxtaposition, perhaps, but Raphael himself would have understood about visual fashion and its changing currents. He was a pragmatic artist. He had arrived in Rome as a 25-year-old in 1508, and when he painted these “Lives of the Saints” to the commission of Pope Leo X in 1513-16 he was making religious work in a very worldly context, and in an atmosphere of fierce competition.

Michelangelo had finished his magnificent ceiling for the Sistine Chapel only three years earlier, commissioned by Julius II, and Raphael had his chance to measure up to his rival.

Michelangelo loathed Raphael, who was eight years younger and already very successful; he had a highly productive studio employing 50 assistants, and had already carried out the great frescoes of the Papal apartments of the Vatican, including his masterpiece “The School of Athens”.

The rivalry between Pope Julius and his successor was as intense as that between the artists. When Julius died in 1513, it was the new Pope’s chance to make his mark as a patron, and he played to the fashions of the moment.

In the early 16th century tapestry was one of the most highly regarded art forms, so expensive to manufacture that it was the preserve of popes and princes and the richest nobles. The 10 Sistine tapestries were to be Leo’s monument, and Raphael’s creations did indeed cost almost five times as much as Michelangelo’s ceiling.

I gaze at a heron. The long legs of three waterbirds gleam through the reedy shallows in front of a boat where Jesus shows his disciples, earnest burly fishermen with gnarled hands “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes”, a homely vision in translucent blues and intense flesh tones.

Across the room, in “Healing of the Lame Man”, women breast-feed their pudgy babies under twisted classical columns; a great soft-eyed cow awaits its fate in “The Sacrifice at Lystra”. The three tapestries made from these cartoons will be travelling to London, together with “Christ’s Charge to Peter”, the representation of the biblical passage that forms the scriptural basis for the papacy.

Yet these dramatic scenes have a domestic quality that seems at odds with the pomp and circumstance of their original home, more fitted to this silent brown Victorian gallery than to the dazzling richness of the Vatican walls.

Rome, July
Along a hundred yards of pavement outside the Vatican, people are queuing four deep in the pounding summer heat. Inside, the press of bodies trudging doggedly past frescoes and statues, Madonnas and miracles, is like the London Underground at rush hour, and just about as edifying. There is no air conditioning.

The queues for the Sistine Chapel are held behind ropes in bunches at intervals along a great hallway, like the waves of runners at the start of a marathon. As we duck under a silky red rope and walk through, a woman in trainers shoots me a look of pure hatred.

In a large low-lit space where spotlights pick out Raphael’s peerless painting of the “Transfiguration of Christ”, the floor-to-ceiling glass vitrines around the walls are empty. The Raphael tapestries usually housed here are already gone – some to the restoration workshops, some in readiness for the event we have come to watch.

The Sistine Chapel
For the first time in 27 years, some of the tapestries are to be hung in the chapel for which they were made. It’s a rare occasion and even Vatican regulars are excited.

In 1983, to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s birth, these precious objects were brought from their museum cases and hung on the hooks that have been there for almost half a millennium: no one can remember the time before that.

In fact they were always intended to hang only on special occasions; when the finished tapestries were delivered to Rome from Brussels, from the master-weavers of Pieter van Aelst’s workshops, the first seven were put up in the Sistine Chapel in time for Christmas 1519.

Today is Wednesday and, in good Italian fashion – despite the eager hundreds still sweating at the gates – the Vatican is to close for the afternoon. The human floodtide ebbs like water draining from a sink, and one after another the mighty rooms are stilled and emptied, their cupids and caryatids writhing and cavorting to nobody.

Outside, in one of the Vatican courtyards, the shade of a café table umbrella hardly dims the lunchtime heat. Father Mark, sitting opposite me, takes a slim mobile from the pocket of his immaculate habit and purrs a few orders to distant gatekeepers. He is ridiculously handsome, a milk-fed blond from Ohio who looks like an unlikely extra in a Vatican-set thriller.

And this charm is put to good use: his role is to co-ordinate the Friends of the Vatican Museum, fundraising groups around the world whose donations help to maintain its treasures.

The English arm of the organisation, and notably its chief benefactor, hedge fund mogul Michael Hintze, is funding the tapestries’ loan to the V&A, as well as restoration work. As Father Mark sips his iced tea, I struggle to do a sum in my head: given that a single Raphael drawing sold for £29m earlier this year, what might the insurance estimate of four tapestries be? I give up.

Father Mark leads us on a brisk journey through high deserted corridors, past stripey-pantalooned Swiss guards. The Sistine Chapel is deserted, though brilliantly lit. The figures in Michelangelo’s great busy “Last Judgement” are still squirming and writhing and tumbling through clouds, while the huge serene ceiling glows overhead. Along the top tier of the walls run the brilliant frescoes by the early band of Tuscan masters who did their work just after the chapel was completed in 1480 – this must be the only place in the world where superb works by such as Botticelli and Ghirlandaio are almost sideshows.

Below them, along the second tier, run the frescoed “Stories of Moses” along one side, the “Stories of Christ” along the other. It’s the bottom tier of the three that holds the tapestries.

Up at the altar end of the chapel, beneath one of Michelangelo’s particularly vicious serpents, five hard-hatted workmen are assembling a scaffolding tower just as the first tapestry arrives, rolled up like an enormous carpet and marched in by six young women restorers, whose identical white lab coats and bright orange trainers make them look as if they are about to break into a dance routine.

Through the long afternoon, the light falls across the masterpieces around us. Slowly the tapestries and borders go up, the curators in a wincing agony of concern for their fragility. Four are to be hung today, not the whole set of 10: that would take too long, and some are not in good enough condition. They will be here for only a day: this evening the public will be allowed in to see them.

Part of the point of today’s exercise is to address a scholarly dispute about where each was originally designed to go: do the six scenes from the life of St Paul hang on the left wall beneath frescoes of the life of Moses, and the four of St Peter on the right-hand wall beneath Perugino’s scenes from the life of Christ? Or, as some scholars now contend, the other way round?

Were there originally plans for 16, not 10, in the set? The discussions rumble quietly on. What about the way the shadows fall? What about the fact that the chapel’s choir screen was moved? I’ve stopped listening: this is a moment for the eyes and the senses, not the brain.

And when an Italian camera crew arrives and turns off the chapel’s electric lights to adjust its own lighting, for almost the first time in living memory we can see the Sistine Chapel as it was intended to be: lit only by upward shafts from the high windows, every tier of its walls covered by almost impossible riches.

London, August
This time, there is only one other person in the V&A’s Raphael gallery. These gorgeous works now seem like old friends: much travelled, hardened survivors.

We have seven cartoons; no one knows what happened to the other three; but it is extraordinary that any of them made it down the centuries. Each was made up of hundreds of sheets of paper glued together and painted in distemper, and then cut into strips a metre wide to fit under the horizontal looms the Belgium masterworkers used.

They worked on the tapestry from the back, so that tapestry and cartoon are mirror images. Woven in wool, with highlights of silk and even gold and silver thread, reflecting in exquisite detail the colours, light and shade of the original, the work was highly skilled, more akin to embroidery than weaving.

Weavers even had their specialities: one was known for foliage, another for the feathers of the prancing water-birds, the most prestigious being those who could reproduce the subtleties of flesh.

More than one set of tapestries could be made from the cartoons, of course. A second set was made for François I of France (during the French Revolution it was melted down to recover the silver and gold in the thread), and a third in 1542 for Henry VIII of England (this perished in another conflagration, in Berlin in 1945). In 1623, more than a century after they left Raphael’s hands, the cartoons were still in strips when England’s King Charles I (then Prince of Wales) bought them and had a set of tapestries woven for himself at workshops in Mortlake, west of London.

Another civil war could easily have claimed these too, but when Oliver Cromwell took power in England in 1653, surprisingly he did not destroy or sell either the tapestries or the cartoons along with the rest of Charles I’s fine art collection.

The Puritan dictator seems to have appreciated these images from the home of the papacy: the muscular simplicity of the biblical scenes must have transcended doctrinal differences.

Apart from Charles’s tapestries, several sets made in Mortlake still exist in British collections, notably that of Scotland’s Duke of Buccleuch. But by the end of the 17th century the taste for tapestries was waning, and the cartoons came into their own as independent masterworks.

In 1690 the strips were reassembled and backed on canvas, as the artist had probably intended (although made to be reproduced in mirror-image, Raphael included tomb inscriptions with lettering the right way round – a giveaway).

Thanks to print-making, his designs were widely known to artists and art-lovers as icons of the High Renaissance, their cool classicism an antidote to over-excited Baroque.

The cartoons also achieved such fame for the simple reason that they were on public display. In 1699 William III commissioned Christopher Wren to build a gallery devoted to the Raphaels at Hampton Court that was open to the public; when Queen Victoria created the V&A, she decided in 1865 to make a special room for these treasures.

It seems to me that it is Raphael himself who is about to be brought back to us. He would never have seen his cartoons reunited with the tapestries woven from them – in fact, he probably never saw a full set of the tapestries at all, because he died just as they were completed, in 1520, at the age of only 37 – after, as Giorgio Vasari claims in his Lives of the Artists, a fever brought on by a night of riotous sex with his mistress.

00Sunday, August 22, 2010 11:24 PM

Sorry I am a few days late posting this item...

The Church needs bishops
who are bold men of faith,
says Cardinal Ouellet

By Deborah Gyapong

QUEBEC CITY, August 18 (CCN)—In his new duties helping the Pope choose bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet will be looking for bold “men of faith” who have “the guts to help people live it out”

A bishop has to lead the community, so he needs a deep supernatural vision as well as the capacity to assess the political, cultural, and sociological context, said the new Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops in an interview.

Above all, a bishop must be “audacious in proposing the Word and in believing in the Power of the Word and the power of the Spirit.”

“We have to dare to speak to the deep heart, where the Spirit of the Lord is touching people beyond what we can calculate,” said Ouellet. “We need spiritual discernment and not just political calculation of the risk of the possibility of the message being received.”

Eight challenging years as Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada have forged Ouellet’s vision of the episcopacy. During that time he faced preaching the Good News in a culture that has fallen away from its Christian roots.

Being faithful to Catholic teaching meant opposition from Quebec’s deeply secularized, post-Catholic society. At the same time he had the challenge of making sure his priests were following him. “They are also in a situation of tension,” he said. “This is a difficult balance.”

Ouellet also stressed the importance of solidarity among bishops.

Earlier this year, Ouellet had spoken out against the lack of episcopal support for the Holy Father during the firestorm of media criticism for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis. Ouellet, too, has often stood alone inside a negative media maelstrom in Quebec.

But he recognized that in a large province like Quebec, each bishop has a different context. A rural diocese in a homogeneous part of the province faces different challenges from a big multicultural city like Montreal in how the Gospel message is conveyed, he said.

The need for unity and solidarity goes far beyond any political statements, he said, but involves a personal commitment that rises beyond a dogmatic faith to an “existential faith that means spiritual discernment of the presence of God and of God’s will.”

We are in a world where the Christian heritage is being strongly contested, so we have to recognize that and propose it better, though not through an attempt to restore the past, he said.

“We have to tell people about the Crucified and Risen Lord, who is shaping the Church today, with people faithful to His Word, to His Divine Presence and to the community he wants to see living of His Spirit.”

A bishop must always take a personal approach, he said. Bishops not only must state dogmatic positions, they must believe in them deeply, “then you have the power of conviction.”

“If you state it only formally and in the end you do not really want to see it applied because you don’t believe that it is possible that people accept it, you are in trouble for the transmission of the message,” he said.

Bishops must also be close to people, he said. Being spiritual does not mean keeping a distance.

“The Lord has given us his own heart to be a presence of His heart in the midst of the people,” the cardinal said. “So we have to be aware of that and cultivate what we call holiness, unity with Him, daily unity, in a way that is very human and very spiritual.”

He advocated an ascetical attitude in prayer to maintain purity of heart. “The love of the people is fulfilling the life of the priest.”

Ouellet takes on his key role in the Vatican at a time when the Church faces a worldwide sexual abuse crisis, especially in the west, fueled by a secularist news media.

Ouellet said he shared Pope Benedict XVI’s view that the focus on priests' sins during the Year for Priests gives the Church “an opportunity for purification.”

Reports that go back as far as 40 years have created a sense of panic that has distanced many people from the Church, he admitted. But Ouellet said sexual abuse is a worldwide problem well beyond the Church.

After the Church goes through her purification, the community of the faithful will help the rest of humanity to face this horrific problem, he said.

We have to solve the problem by virtue and prevention, not only by punishment and legal means, he said.

Ouellet came into Quebec eight years ago facing some suspicion as the “man from Rome” sent to set things straight.

He leaves Quebec beloved by many of the faithful, not only in Quebec but across Canada. At his final public celebration of the Eucharist before leaving for his new job, more than 2,000 people packed the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré to wish him farewell, sending waves of applause and gratitude and thronging him afterwards.

Already speculation is growing on who might replace him as Archbishop of Quebec. In the next two years, nine or ten bishops in that province reach retirement age.

“We have to have a rebirth of the Church in Quebec, and it will come,” Ouellet said.

“My prayer and my wish would be obviously that we have living communities with good priests, well-trained intellectually, spiritually, with a sense of deep commitment to Christ, of evangelical life for themselves and love for the people.”

Ouellet called for openness to new movements in the Church, and expressed hopes those already in Quebec, such as Famille Marie-Jeunesse, Catholic Christian Outreach, and the Eucharistic movement around the Youth Summit/Montee Jeunesse will “multiply.”

“I believe deeply there will be a new evangelization,” he said.

The Cardinal also called for a new intellectual dynamism, especially a reform of education to “recapture the spirit of Christianity and “create a new Christian culture.”

“We need intellectuals for that, theologians, philosophers, Christians who really believe in the Gospel and share the doctrine of the Church on moral questions,” he said.

“We have suffered from this mentality of dissent” that is “still dominating the intelligentsia.”

“There is no real discipleship there, real discipleship,” he said. “The discipleship that is emerging is from those who believe and who really love the Church.”

00Monday, August 23, 2010 12:09 AM

Another news item I sidelined in recent days is the following, because this was all pre-announced last April when the Vatican gave its approval to the third edition of the Novus Ordo Missal in a new English translation:

US to start using the Roman Missal
in its new English translation
at Advent next year

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien

WASHINGTON, August 20 (CNS) -- Catholics in the United States will begin using the long-awaited English translation of the Roman Missal on the first Sunday of Advent in 2011, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago said today/

The cardinal's announcement as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops marks the formal beginning of a more than 15-month period of education and training leading to the first use of the "third typical edition" of the Roman Missal at English-language Masses in the United States on Nov. 27, 2011.

The missal, announced by Pope John Paul II in 2000 and first published in Latin in 2002, has undergone a lengthy and rigorous translation process through the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), followed by sometimes heated discussions over particular wording at USCCB general assemblies during much of the past decade.

The USCCB said April 30 that the Vatican has given its "recognitio," or confirmation, of the new English translation of the missal, but final editing by Vatican officials was continuing at that time.

In a decree of proclamation sent to the U.S. bishops Aug. 20, Cardinal George said, "The use of the third edition of the Roman Missal enters into use in the dioceses of the United States of America as of the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, 2011. From that date forward, no other edition of the Roman Missal may be used in the dioceses of the United States of America."

He added that the U.S. Catholic Church "can now move forward and continue with our important catechetical efforts as we prepare the text for publication."

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, expressed gratitude about the final Vatican approval.

"I am happy that after years of preparation, we now have a text that, when introduced late next year, will enable the ongoing renewal of the celebration of the sacred liturgy in our parishes," he said.

The changes to be implemented in late 2011 include new responses by the people in about a dozen sections of the Mass, although changes in the words used by the celebrant are much more extensive.

At several points during the Mass, for example, when the celebrant says, "The Lord be with you," the people will respond, in a more faithful translation of the original Latin, "And with your spirit."

The current response, "And also with you," was "not meant as 'you too' or something like 'back at you,'" Father Richard Hilgartner, associate director of the USCCB Secretariat of Divine Worship, told Catholic News Service. Rather it is "an invocation to the priest as he celebrates the Mass, a reminder that he is not acting on his own, but in the person of Christ" -- a distinction that the new language will highlight, he said.

"The order and structure of the Mass will not change at all," he added, but Catholics will see some new texts for prayers, new observances for saints added to the church calendar in recent decades and such additions as a Mass in thanksgiving for the gift of human life and an extended vigil for Pentecost, similar to the Easter Vigil.

Since mid-April, Msgr. Anthony Sherman, director of the USCCB divine worship secretariat, and Father Hilgartner have been conducting workshops around the country for priests and diocesan leaders on implementation of the new missal. The workshops will continue into November.

Msgr. Sherman said participants often tell him that they had seen introducing the new missal as "an absolutely impossible task" before the workshop but said afterward, "I think I can actually do this," especially because of the wealth of resource materials that will be available to them.

The USCCB has prepared a parish implementation guide that includes a detailed timeline, bulletin inserts, suggestions for homilies and adult education classes on the liturgy and a wide variety of other resources. Audio, visual and print resources for priests, liturgical musicians and laypeople also are available now or in the works.

Sister Janet Baxendale, a Sister of Charity of New York who teaches liturgy at St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, N.Y., and its Institute of Religious Studies, is a consultant to the bishops' Committee on Divine Worship. She said the new translation has been needed for a long time.

When the Second Vatican Council endorsed a new missal and permitted Catholics around the world to begin celebrating Mass in their local languages, the translation work that followed "was at its best a rush job," she said. The Vatican's translation principles at the time also favored "a looser construction, with the thought that in this way it could be adapted to various people more readily," she added.

"As time went on, it became evident that ... in many instances, the richness and power of the Latin text didn't really come through," Sister Janet said. "This was true of all the translations, not just the English."

The new translation offers "more poetic texts, more beautiful texts," she said.

Father Hilgartner said Pope Benedict XVI has placed his own personal stamp on the liturgical changes by adding two new options for the dismissal prayer at the end of Mass, emphasizing the "connection between the Mass and living the Christian life."

In place of the current "The Mass is ended, go in peace," celebrants will be able to choose from four options, including the pope's suggestions -- "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" and "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."

There has been a lot of enthusiasm at the workshops for those added texts -- "an audible kind of 'oooh,'" Father Hilgartner said. "There's a reaction of some awe and enthusiasm for just these two phrases, and I think that's worth getting excited about."

I must confess that since I now attend traditional Mass regularly, I have not been too 'excited' over the new translation of the Novus Ordo, much as I appreciate that it has sought to be closer in sense and tone to the original Latin, in contrast to the rather pedestrian language that has marked the translati0n(s) used till now. I am old-fashioned even in preferring the elegant if archaic language of the King James Bible to the banality of the New American Bible, and while I am all for the most simple and direct way of privately praying to God, I cannot say enough for the need of public prayer in a language that is most 'worthy' of God, that has the power to uplift, and which allows the liturgy to be something other than routine and commonplace...

00Friday, August 27, 2010 9:23 PM


aUGUST 27, 2010

The Vatican today called on religious and civil authorities to stop inter-religious violence in a message to Muslims for the coming end of the Ramadan fasting month in early September.

Christians and Muslims:
Together in overcoming violence
among followers of different religions

Dear Muslim Friends,

1. ‘Id Al-Fitr, which concludes Ramadan, presents, once again, a favorable occasion to convey to you the heartfelt wishes of serenity and joy on behalf of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

Throughout this month, you have committed yourselves to prayer, fasting, helping the neediest and strengthening relations of family and friendship. God will not fail to reward these efforts!

2. I am delighted to note that believers of other religions, especially Christians, are spiritually close to you during these days, as is testified by the various friendly meetings which often lead to exchanges of a religious nature. It is pleasing to me also to think that this Message could be a positive contribution to your reflections.

3. The theme proposed this year by the Pontifical Council, Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming violence among followers of different religions, is, unfortunately, a pressing subject, at least in certain areas of the world.

The Joint Committee for Dialogue instituted by the Pontifical Council and al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions had also chosen this topic as a subject of study, reflection and exchange during its last annual meeting (Cairo, 23 - February 24, 2010). Permit me to share with you some of the conclusions published at the end of this meeting.

4. There are many causes for violence among believers of different religious traditions, including:
- the manipulation of the religion for political or other ends;
- discrimination based on ethnicity or religious identity;
- divisions and social tensions.
Ignorance, poverty, underdevelopment are also direct or indirect sources of violence among as well as within religious communities.

May the civil and religious authorities offer their contributions in order to remedy so many situations for the sake of the common good of all society!

May the civil authorities safeguard the primacy of the law by ensuring true justice to put a stop to the authors and promoters of violence!

5. There are important recommendations also given in the above mentioned text:
- to open our hearts to mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, for a peaceful and fruitful coexistence;
- to recognize what we have in common and to respect differences, as a basis for a culture of dialogue;
- to recognize and respect the dignity and the rights of each human being without any bias related to ethnicity or religious affiliation;
- To promulgate just laws which guarantee the fundamental equality of all;
= to recall the importance of education towards respect, dialogue and fraternity in the various educational arenas: at home, in the school, in churches and mosques.

Thus we will be able to oppose violence among followers of different religions and promote peace and harmony among the various religious communities.

Teaching by religious leaders, as well as school books which present religions in an objective way, have, along with teaching in general, a decisive impact on the education and the formation of younger generations.

6. I hope that these considerations, as well as the responses which they elicit within your communities, and with your Christian friends, will contribute to the continuation of a dialogue, growing in respect and serenity, upon which I call the blessings of God!

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul expressing the wish, "Let us love, let us be loved", for the Feast of Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

00Saturday, August 28, 2010 2:00 AM

The liturgical experts’ long tassels
by Fr. George Rutler
Pastor, Church of Our Savior, NYC

Aug 27, 2010

Under the avalanche of commentary on the new translation of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, just approved by the Vatican, I poke my head above the erudite criticisms, to speak as a man whose entire priesthood has been in parishes.

I am not a liturgist and, from the parochial perspective of a pastor who has studied worship much less than he has done it, I risk the tendency of many like me who probably unfairly think that liturgists are the ecclesiastical equivalent of lepidopterists.

A pastor is too busy leading people in worship to attend workshops on how to lead people in worship, and his duties in the confessional prevent him from attending seminars on how to hear confessions.

I do know that if I followed the guidelines of one liturgical commission, suggesting that I greet each penitent at the church doors with an open Gospel book and then lead a procession to a reconciliation room which looks more like an occasion of sin than a shrine for its absolution, the number of confessions in the middle of the metropolis where I serve would be severely reduced.

Publicly owned corporations are more accountable to their shareholders than tenured bureaucracies, which may explain why it took the Ford Motor Company only two years to cancel its Edsel, and not much longer for Coca Cola to restore its “classic” brand, while the Catholic Church has taken more than a generation of unstopped attrition to try to correct the mistakes of overheated liturgists.

The dawning of the Age of Aquarius is now in its sunset repose and the bright young things who seem to be cropping up now all over the place with new information from Fortescue and Ratzinger, may either be the professional mourners for a lost civilization, or the sparks of a looming golden age.

One thing is certain to a pastor: the only parishioners fighting the old battles are old themselves, their felt banners frayed and their guitar strings broken, while a young battalion is rising, with no animus against the atrophied adolescence of their parents, and only eager to engage a real spiritual combat in a culture of death. They usually are ignorant, but bright, for ignorance is not stupidity.

They care little if the Liturgy is in Latin or English or Sanskrit, as long as they are told how to do it, for they were not told. Some critics of the new translations have warned that the changes are too radical, which is radioactively cynical from people who in the 1960’s wantonly dismantled old verities overnight, in their suburbanized version of China’s Cultural Revolution.

Our Lord warned enough about the experts of his day who loved long tassels, and who swore by the gold of the temple rather than the temple, to stay us from placing too much hope in ritual and texts to save lives.

Neglect of the aesthetics of worship is not remedied by the worship of aesthetics. A pastor will sometimes observe an over-reaction to the corruption of the Liturgy, so that ritual becomes theatre and Andrei Rubleyev yields to Aubrey Beardsley. Any group or religious community that is too deliberate about external form sows in itself the seeds of decadence.

Liturgy should be chantable, reverent, and expressive of the highest culture we know, without self-consciousness. Ars est celare artem. In tandem with Ovid, for whom it is art to conceal art, Evelyn Waugh said that Anthony Eden was not a gentleman because he dressed too well.

It is typical of some schismatic sects that the more they lapse into heresy, the more ritualistic they become. So one will see pictures of a woman claiming to be a bishop, vested like Pius X on his jubilee.

A genius of the Latin rite has been its virile precision, even bluntness. Contrast this with the unsettled grammar of “alternative opening prayers” in the original books from ICEL (the International Commission on English in the Liturgy), whose poesie sounds like Teilhard on steroids.

They were much wordier than the Latin collects or their English equivalents, and gave the impression of having been composed by fragile personalities who had not had a happy early home life. So too, the Prayers of the Faithful cloyingly pursued “themes” usually inspired by an undisciplined concern for air pollution and Third World debt.

I think there should be few options in the Liturgy, and no attempt to be “creative,” for that is God’s particular talent. As Vatican II taught in Sacrosanctum Concilium, "[T]here must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” [Obviously never read - or more likely, willfully ignored - by the gung-ho liturgists of the bastardized versions of the Novus Ordo!]

Unfortunately, we have not yet resolved the problem of the simply bad Lectionary texts. While the Jerusalem Bible and Revised Standard Version are licit, only the Revised New American Bible is accessible for parish use. The Jerusalem Bible is a tool for study but was translated with a tin ear.

I grew up with the King James translation and thus am stunned when Job 38:17 (“Hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?”) is given as “Have you met the janitors of Shadowland?” So Sheol becomes a theme park.

But none of this matches the torture of the trans-gendered RNAB which manages to neuter every creature except Satan who remains male. Our Lord sometimes sounds like the Prince of Wales: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world …?” and other times like a bored anthropologist: “Two people went up to the temple to pray….” But then the inevitable pronouns kick in and we find out that even after the liturgical gelding, these were men.

The Liturgy by grace changes lives. Any pastor who is blessed with an abundance of priestly vocations in his parish knows that they come in spite of epicene worship, demotic liturgy committees, and flailing song leaders. They simply join the chorus of the Greeks: "Sir, we would see Jesus."

I recall a prelate saying that even as a seminarian he hoped one day to be able to say Mass facing the people. It was a revealing statement, inasmuch as when he said Mass he seemed annoyed that the Lord was sometimes getting in the way.

While I am glad for the new and more accurate translation of the Mass, which is not perfection but closer to it than one deserves in an imperfect world, a far more important reform would be the return of the ad orientem position of the celebrant as normative. It is the antidote to the tendency of clerisy to impose itself on the people.

When a celebrant at Mass stops and says, “This is not about me,” you may be sure he thinks it may be about him. It would be harder for him to harbor that suspicion were he leading the people humbly to the east and the dawn of salvation.

John Henry Newman was the greatest master of English letters in his century of brilliant English, but he gave no countenance to his vernacular replacing the sacral tongue. That is another matter for another day.

But he knew the meaning of cupio dissolvi ['I crave dissolution'], and he taught that without such self-abnegation the gift of personality reduces the Passion to pantomime. It was because his priestcraft was also soulcraft, that he solemnly invoked the Sacred Heart at the altar in order to speak "heart to heart" with the people in the street:

Clad in his sacerdotal vestments, [the priest] sinks what is individual in himself altogether, and is but the representative of Him from whom he derives his commission. His words, his tones, his actions, his presence, lose their personality; one bishop, one priest, is like another; they all chant the same notes, and observe the same genuflections, as they give one peace and one blessing, as they offer one and the same sacrifice.

The Mass must not be said without a Missal under the priest’s eye; nor in any language but that in which it has come down to us from the early hierarchs of the Western Church. But, when it is over, and the celebrant has resigned the vestments proper to it, then he resumes himself, and comes to us in the gifts and associations which attach to his person.

He knows his sheep, and they know him; and it is this direct bearing of the teacher on the taught, of his mind upon their minds, and the mutual sympathy which exists between them, which is his strength and influence when he addresses them. They hang upon his lips as they cannot hang upon the pages of his book.

Father George W. Rutler is pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in New York City and the author most recently of Clouds of Witnesses: Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive. His The Spirit of Vatican II appeared in First Things and He is Not Here, his homily for the Mass for the repose of the soul of Richard John Neuhaus, and Words and Reality in “On the Square.”

I feel very lucky that I attend Fr. Rutler's church for the traditional Mass that he celebrates every Sunday morning. In place of his regular Pastor’s column in the weekly newsletter, starting Sunday, he is running istead excerpts from some of Cardinal Newman’s writings.

00Saturday, August 28, 2010 2:22 AM

The Archbishop of Denver, along with the former Archbishop of St. Louis and now prefect of the Apostolic Segnatura, Mons Raymond Burke, have emerged as the most fearless voices of Catholic orthodoxy in the United States - each in his own way amplifying the basic messages that Benedict XVI has been articulating. Here is another Benedict-like discourse from Archbishop Chaput.

Catholics must resist secularization
and its intolerance of Christianity

August 24, 2010 (Spisske Podhradie, Slovakia) - Charles Chaput, Catholic Archbishop of Denver, Colorado, addressed the first session of the 15th symposium for the Canon Law Association of Slovakia on Tuesday. He called upon Catholics in America and in Europe, to resist the world's intolerance of Christianity.

Here is the full text:

Living within the truth:
Religious liberty and Catholic mission
in the new order of the world

by the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Denver

Tertullian once famously said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. History has proven that to be true. And Slovakia is the perfect place for us to revisit his words today.

Here, and throughout central and eastern Europe, Catholics suffered through 50 years of Nazi and Soviet murder regimes. So they know the real cost of Christian witness from bitter experience -- and also, unfortunately, the cost of cowardice, collaboration and self-delusion in the face of evil.

I want to begin by suggesting that many Catholics in the United States and Western Europe today simply don’t understand those costs. Nor do they seem to care. As a result, many are indifferent to the process in our countries that social scientists like to call “secularization” – but which, in practice, involves repudiating the Christian roots and soul of our civilization.

American Catholics have no experience of the systematic repression so familiar to your Churches. It’s true that anti-Catholic prejudice has always played a role in American life. This bigotry came first from my country’s dominant Protestant culture, and now from its “post-Christian” leadership classes. But this is quite different from deliberate persecution.

In general, Catholics have thrived in the United States. The reason is simple. America has always had a broadly Christian and religion-friendly moral foundation, and our public institutions were established as non-sectarian, not anti-religious.

At the heart of the American experience is an instinctive “biblical realism.” From our Protestant inheritance we have always – at least until now -- understood that sin is real, and men and women can be corrupted by power and prosperity.

Americans have often been tempted to see our nation as uniquely destined, or specially anointed by God. But in the habits of daily life, we have always known that the “city of God” is something very distinct from the “city of man.” And we are wary of confusing the two.

Alexis de Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, wrote: “Despotism can do without faith, but liberty cannot . . .” Therefore, “What is to be done with a people that is its own master, if it is not obedient to God?”1

America’s founders were a diverse group of practicing Christians and Enlightenment deists. But nearly all were friendly to religious faith. They believed a free people cannot remain free without religious faith and the virtues that it fosters.

They sought to keep Church and state separate and autonomous. But their motives were very different from the revolutionary agenda in Europe.

The American founders did not confuse the state with civil society. They had no desire for a radically secularized public life. They had no intent to lock religion away from public affairs. On the contrary, they wanted to guarantee citizens the freedom to live their faith publicly and vigorously, and to bring their religious convictions to bear on the building of a just society.

Obviously, we need to remember that other big differences do exist between the American and European experiences. Europe has suffered some of the worst wars and violent regimes in human history. The United States has not seen a war on its soil in 150 years. Americans have no experience of bombed-out cities or social collapse, and little experience of poverty, ideological politics or hunger.

As a result, the past has left many Europeans with a worldliness and a pessimism that seem very different from the optimism that marks American society. But these and other differences don’t change the fact that our paths into the future are now converging.

Today, in an era of global interconnection, the challenges that confront Catholics in America are much the same as in Europe: We face an aggressively secular political vision and a consumerist economic model that result – in practice, if not in explicit intent -- in a new kind of state-encouraged atheism.

To put it another way: The Enlightenment-derived worldview that gave rise to the great murder ideologies of the last century remains very much alive. Its language is softer, its intentions seem kinder, and its face is friendlier.

But its underlying impulse hasn’t changed -- i.e., the dream of building a society apart from God; a world where men and women might live wholly sufficient unto themselves, satisfying their needs and desires through their own ingenuity.

This vision presumes a frankly “post-Christian” world ruled by rationality, technology and good social engineering. Religion has a place in this worldview, but only as an individual lifestyle accessory. People are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and do not presume to intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on the workings of government, the economy, or culture.

Now, at first hearing, this might sound like a reasonable way to organize a modern society that includes a wide range of ethnic, religious and cultural traditions, different philosophies of life and approaches to living.

But we’re immediately struck by two unpleasant details.

First, “freedom of worship” is not at all the same thing as “freedom of religion.” Religious freedom includes the right to preach, teach, assemble, organize, and to engage society and its issues publicly, both as individuals and joined together as communities of faith.

This is the classic understanding of a citizen’s right to the “free exercise” of his or her religion in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It’s also clearly implied in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In contrast, freedom of worship is a much smaller and more restrictive idea.

Second, how does the rhetoric of enlightened, secular tolerance square with the actual experience of faithful Catholics in Europe and North America in recent years?

In the United States, a nation that is still 80 percent Christian with a high degree of religious practice, government agencies now increasingly seek to dictate how Church ministries should operate, and to force them into practices that would destroy their Catholic identity.

Efforts have been made to discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as “hate speech.” Our courts and legislatures now routinely take actions that undermine marriage and family life, and seek to scrub our public life of Christian symbolism and signs of influence.

In Europe, we see similar trends, although marked by a more open contempt for Christianity. Church leaders have been reviled in the media and even in the courts for simply expressing Catholic teaching.

Some years ago, as many of you may recall, one of the leading Catholic politicians of our generation, Rocco Buttiglione, was denied a leadership post in the European Union because of his Catholic beliefs [on homosexuality].

Earlier this summer we witnessed the kind of vindictive thuggery not seen on this continent since the days of Nazi and Soviet police methods: the Archbishop’s palace in Brussels raided by agents; bishops detained and interrogated for nine hours without due process; their private computers, cell phones, and files seized. Even the graves of the Church’s dead were violated in the raid.

For most Americans, this sort of calculated, public humiliation of religious leaders would be an outrage and an abuse of state power. And this is not because of the virtues or the sins of any specific religious leaders involved, since we all have a duty to obey just laws. Rather, it’s an outrage because the civil authority, by its harshness, shows contempt for the beliefs and the believers whom the leaders represent.

My point is this: These are not the actions of governments that see the Catholic Church as a valued partner in their plans for the 21st century. Quite the opposite. These events suggest an emerging, systematic discrimination against the Church that now seems inevitable.

Today’s secularizers have learned from the past. They are more adroit in their bigotry; more elegant in their public relations; more intelligent in their work to exclude the Church and individual believers from influencing the moral life of society.

Over the next several decades, Christianity will become a faith that can speak in the public square less and less freely. A society where faith is prevented from vigorous public expression is a society that has fashioned the state into an idol. And when the state becomes an idol, men and women become the sacrificial offering.

Cardinal Henri de Lubac once wrote that “It is not true … that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true, is that without God, [man] can ultimately only organize it against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism.” (2)

The West is now steadily moving in the direction of that new “inhuman humanism.” And if the Church is to respond faithfully, we need to draw upon the lessons that your Churches learned under totalitarianism.

A Catholicism of resistance must be based on trust in Christ’s words: “The truth will make you free.” (3) This trust gave you insight into the nature of totalitarian regimes. It helped you articulate new ways of discipleship.

Rereading the words of the Czech leader Václav Havel to prepare for this talk, I was struck by the profound Christian humanism of his idea of “living within the truth.” (4) Catholics today need to see their discipleship and mission as precisely that: “living within the truth.”

Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life. It means believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for.

Living within the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.

Two of the biggest lies in the world today are these: first, that Christianity was of relatively minor importance in the development of the West; and second, that Western values and institutions can be sustained without a grounding in Christian moral principles.

Before I talk about these two falsehoods, we should pause a moment to think about the meaning of history.

History is not simply about learning facts. History is a form of memory, and memory is a foundation stone of self-identity. Facts are useless without a context of meaning. The unique genius and meaning of Western civilization cannot be understood without the 20 centuries of Christian context in which they developed.

A people who do not know their history, do not know themselves. They are a people doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past because they cannot see what the present – which always flowers out of the past -- requires of them.

People who forget who they are can be much more easily manipulated. This was dramatized famously in Orwell’s image of the “memory hole” in his novel 1984. Today, the history of the Church and the legacy of Western Christianity are being pushed down the memory hole. This is the first lie that we need to face.

Downplaying the West’s Christian past is sometimes done with the best intentions, from a desire to promote peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic society. But more frequently it’s done to marginalize Christians and to neutralize the Church’s public witness.

The Church needs to name and fight this lie. To be a European or an American is to be heir to a profound Christian synthesis of Greek philosophy and art, Roman law, and biblical truth. This synthesis gave rise to the Christian humanism that undergirds all of Western civilization.

On this point, we might remember the German Lutheran scholar and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He wrote these words in the months leading up to his arrest by the Gestapo in 1943: “The unity of the West is not an idea but a historical reality, of which the sole foundation is Christ.” (5)

Our societies in the West are Christian by birth, and their survival depends on the endurance of Christian values. Our core principles and political institutions are based, in large measure, on the morality of the Gospel and the Christian vision of man and government.

We are talking here not only about Christian theology or religious ideas. We are talking about the moorings of our societies -- representative government and the separation of powers; freedom of religion and conscience; and most importantly, the dignity of the human person.

This truth about the essential unity of the West has a corollary, as Bonhoeffer also observed: Take away Christ and you remove the only reliable foundation for our values, institutions and way of life.

That means we cannot dispense with our history out of some superficial concern over offending our non-Christian neighbors. Notwithstanding the chatter of the “new atheists,” there is no risk that Christianity will ever be forced upon people anywhere in the West.

The only “confessional states” in the world today are those ruled by Islamist or atheist dictatorships -- regimes that have rejected the Christian West’s belief in individual rights and the balance of powers.

I would argue that the defense of Western ideals is the only protection that we and our neighbors have against a descent into new forms of repression -- whether it might be at the hands of extremist Islam or secularist technocrats.

But indifference to our Christian past contributes to indifference about defending our values and institutions in the present. And this brings me to the second big lie by which we live today -- the lie that there is no unchanging truth.

Relativism is now the civil religion and public philosophy of the West. Again, the arguments made for this viewpoint can seem persuasive. Given the pluralism of the modern world, it might seem to make sense that society should want to affirm that no one individual or group has a monopoly on truth; that what one person considers to be good and desirable another may not; and that all cultures and religions should be respected as equally valid.

In practice, however, we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism.

In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruelest intolerance; respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own; the teaching of “live and let live” justifies the strong living at the expense of the weak.

This diagnosis helps us understand one of the foundational injustices in the West today -- the crime of abortion.

I realize that the abortion license is a matter of current law in almost every nation in the West. In some cases, this license reflects the will of the majority and is enforced through legal and democratic means. And I’m aware that many people, even in the Church, find it strange that we Catholics in America still make the sanctity of unborn life so central to our public witness.

Let me tell you why I believe abortion is the crucial issue of our age.

First, because abortion, too, is about living within the truth. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. If that right is not inviolate, then no right can be guaranteed. Or to put it more bluntly: Homicide is homicide, no matter how small the victim.

Here’s another truth that many persons in the Church have not yet fully reckoned: The defense of newborn and preborn life has been a central element of Catholic identity since the Apostolic Age.

I’ll say that again: From the earliest days of the Church, to be Catholic has meant refusing in any way to participate in the crime of abortion -- either by seeking an abortion, performing one, or making this crime possible through actions or inactions in the political or judicial realm. More than that, being Catholic has meant crying out against all that offends the sanctity and dignity of life as it has been revealed by Jesus Christ.

The evidence can be found in the earliest documents of Church history. In our day -- when the sanctity of life is threatened not only by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, but also by embryonic research and eugenic temptations to eliminate the weak, the disabled and the infirm elderly -- this aspect of Catholic identity becomes even more vital to our discipleship.

My point in mentioning abortion is this: Its widespread acceptance in the West shows us that without a grounding in God or a higher truth, our democratic institutions can very easily become weapons against our own human dignity.

Our most cherished values cannot be defended by reason alone, or simply for their own sake. They have no self-sustaining or “internal” justification.

There is no inherently logical or utilitarian reason why society should respect the rights of the human person. There is even less reason for recognizing the rights of those whose lives impose burdens on others, as is the case with the child in the womb, the terminally ill, or the physically or mentally disabled.

If human rights do not come from God, then they devolve to the arbitrary conventions of men and women. The state exists to defend the rights of man and to promote his flourishing. The state can never be the source of those rights. When the state arrogates to itself that power, even a democracy can become totalitarian.

What is legalized abortion but a form of intimate violence that clothes itself in democracy? The will to power of the strong is given the force of law to kill the weak.

That is where we are heading in the West today. And we’ve been there before. Slovaks and many other central and eastern Europeans have lived through it.

I suggested earlier that the Church’s religious liberty is under assault today in ways not seen since the Nazi and Communist eras. I believe we are now in the position to better understand why.

Writing in the 1960s, Richard Weaver, an American scholar and social philosopher, said: “I am absolutely convinced that relativism must eventually lead to a regime of force.”

He was right. There is a kind of “inner logic” that leads relativism to repression.

This explains the paradox of how Western societies can preach tolerance and diversity while aggressively undermining and penalizing Catholic life. The dogma of tolerance cannot tolerate the Church’s belief that some ideas and behaviors should not be tolerated because they dehumanize us. The dogma that all truths are relative cannot allow the thought that some truths might not be.

The Catholic beliefs that most deeply irritate the orthodoxies of the West are those concerning abortion, sexuality and the marriage of man and woman. This is no accident. These Christian beliefs express the truth about human fertility, meaning and destiny.

These truths are subversive in a world that would have us believe that God is not necessary and that human life has no inherent nature or purpose.

Thus the Church must be punished because, despite all the sins and weaknesses of her people, she is still the bride of Jesus Christ; still a source of beauty, meaning and hope that refuses to die -- and still the most compelling and dangerous heretic of the world’s new order.

Let me sum up what I’ve been saying.

My first point is this: Ideas have consequences. And bad ideas have bad consequences. Today we are living in a world that is under the sway of some very destructive ideas, the worst being that men and women can live as if God does not matter and as if the Son of God never walked this earth.

As a result of these bad ideas, the Church’s freedom to exercise her mission is under attack. We need to understand why that is, and we need to do something about it.

My second point is simply this: We can no longer afford to treat the debate over secularization -- which really means cauterizing Christianity out of our cultural memory -- as if it’s a problem for Church professionals.

The emergence of a “new Europe” and a “next America” rooted in something other than the real facts of our Christian-shaped history will have damaging consequences for every serious believer.

We need not and should not abandon the hard work of honest dialogue. Far from it. The Church always needs to seek friendships, areas of agreement, and ways to make positive, reasoned arguments in the public square. But it’s foolish to expect gratitude or even respect from our governing and cultural leadership classes today. Naïve imprudence is not an evangelical virtue.

The temptation in every age of the Church is to try to get along with Caesar. And it’s very true: Scripture tells us to respect and pray for our leaders. We need to have a healthy love for the countries we call home. But we can never render unto Caesar what belongs to God.

We need to obey God first; the obligations of political authority always come second. We cannot collaborate with evil without gradually becoming evil ourselves. This is one of the most vividly harsh lessons of the 20th century. And it’s a lesson that I hope we have learned.

That brings me to my third and final point today: We live in a time when the Church is called to be a believing community of resistance. We need to call things by their true names. We need to fight the evils we see. And most importantly, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that by going along with the voices of secularism and de-Christianization we can somehow mitigate or change things.

Only the Truth can set men free. We need to be apostles of Jesus Christ and the Truth he incarnates.

So what does this mean for us as individual disciples? Let me offer a few suggestions by way of a conclusion.

My first suggestion comes again from the great witness against the paganism of the Third Reich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The renewal of the Western world lies solely in the divine renewal of the Church, which leads her to the fellowship of the risen and living Jesus Christ.” (7)

The world urgently needs a re-awakening of the Church in our actions and in our public and private witness. The world needs each of us to come to a deeper experience of our Risen Lord in the company of our fellow believers. The renewal of the West depends overwhelmingly on our faithfulness to Jesus Christ and his Church.

We need to really believe what we say we believe. Then we need to prove it by the witness of our lives. We need to be so convinced of the truths of the Creed that we are on fire to live by these truths, to love by these truths, and to defend these truths, even to the point of our own discomfort and suffering.

We are ambassadors of the living God to a world that is on the verge of forgetting him. Our work is to make God real; to be the face of his love; to propose once more to the men and women of our day, the dialogue of salvation.

The lesson of the 20th century is that there is no cheap grace. This God whom we believe in, this God who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to suffer and die for it, demands that we live the same bold, sacrificial pattern of life shown to us by Jesus Christ.

The form of the Church, and the form of every Christian life, is the form of the cross. Our lives must become a liturgy, a self-offering that embodies the love of God and the renewal of the world.

The great Slovak martyrs of the past knew this. And they kept this truth alive when the bitter weight of hatred and totalitarianism pressed upon your people. I’m thinking especially right now of your heroic bishops, Blessed Vasil Hopko and Pavel Gojdic, and the heroic sister, Blessed Zdenka Schelingová.

We need to keep this beautiful mandate of Sister Zdenka close to our hearts:

“My sacrifice, my holy Mass, begins in daily life. From the altar of the Lord I go to the altar of my work. I must be able to continue the sacrifice of the altar in every situation. … It is Christ whom we must proclaim through our lives, to him we offer the sacrifice of our own will.” (8)

Let us preach Jesus Christ with all the energy of our lives. And let us support each other -- whatever the cost -- so that when we make our accounting to the Lord, we will be numbered among the faithful and courageous, and not the cowardly or the evasive, or those who compromised until there was nothing left of their convictions; or those who were silent when they should have spoken the right word at the right time. Thank you. And God bless all of you.


1. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. 1, pt. 2, chap. 9 (New York: Library of America, 2004), 340.
2. Henri de Lubac, The Drama of Atheist Humanism (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1998), 14.
3. John 8:32.
4. See Václav Havel, “The Power of the Powerless” (1978), in Open Letters: Selected Writings 1965–1990 (New York: Knopf, 1991), 125–214.
5. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (London: SCM, 1983), 72–73.
6. Richard Weaver, “Relativism and the Crisis of our Times” (1961), in In Defense of Tradition: Collected Shorter Writings of Richard M. Weaver, 1929–1963 (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001), 104.
7. Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 95.
8. See “Novena to the Blessed Zdenka Schelingová,” at www.holycrosssisters.org/s_zdenka.html.

00Saturday, August 28, 2010 12:57 PM
Great to read the discourses of Fr Rutler and Archbishop Chaput. I found Chaput's speech very clear, logical and inspiring. Many bewildered laypeople could, by reading this, get a summary of the why and how of the ills of present day society and the attacks aginst the Christian faith. Thanks for posting!

Hi, Mags! Sorry for the belated response, but I was away most of Sunday and it always takes me some time to recover my work rhythm on the Forum especially if I must first catch up on what has happened while I was away. Worse if I can't keep awake until I am able to catch up....

I have great hopes for Mons. Chaput - he's part American Indian - and it would be great down the line eventually to have him as a potential Pope. I find his unqualified orthodoxy and clarity of thought and language truly outstanding among the current crop of bishops who make the news. A fearless and blunt orthodoxy he shares with Mons. Burke. The impressive thing is that they proclaim their orthodoxy so well and openly. Offhand, I can only think of Italy's Cardinal Bagnasco as being in the same mold. Cardinal Scola may be more intellectual but he strikes me in many ways as being, like Cardinal Schoenborn, too transparently aware of his 'papabile' stock and working at it... Meanwhile, we all pray Benedict XVI will be with us a long long while, and I am rather livid about the British jorunalist whose idea of writing a preparatory story on the Pope's visit was to sing the praises of a 'papabile' who will be travelling with him - Ghana's Cardinal Turkson, about whom I do hope to learn more but not in such an inopportune manner!

As for Fr. Rutler, what makes him even more interesting is that he was an Episcopalina minister first!


00Tuesday, August 31, 2010 4:13 AM
Here's a sick twist on the 'priest cover-up' charges - because the crime alleged in this case is mass murder!

Irish bishop disputes media claim
alleging a priest was involved
in a 1972 bombing that killed 9

DERRY, Northern Ireland, AUG. 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The retired bishop of Derry is protesting assumptions from the media that a priest, recently implicated in a police report on the 1972 Claudy Bombing, was guilty of mass murder.

Bishop Edward Daly stated this in an opinion article published today by the Irish News, in which he responded to a public report from a police ombudsman for Northern Ireland published Aug. 24 regarding the Claudy Bombing of July 31, 1972.

The tragedy involved three car bombs and resulted in nine deaths, including an 8-year-old girl and two adolescents.

The recent police report implicated Father James Chesney, who was at that time a priest at a nearby parish, but died in 1980 at age 46.

Bishop Daly, who headed the Derry Diocese from 1974 to 1993, stated: "Does anyone sincerely believe that if Cardinal [Cahal] Conway and my predecessor Bishop [Neil] Farren believed a mass murderer was in the Church's ranks they would have permitted him to continue in the active priesthood?

"I cannot believe they would have omitted to tell me when I was appointed as Bishop of Derry in 1974 if they had for a moment believed one of the priests in my future diocese was a mass murderer."

"Mass murder cannot be compared with any other sin or crime," the prelate affirmed. "It is the foulest and most obscene of deeds."

"I witnessed mass murder at first hand in 1972," he recalled. "I am more aware than most of how appalling and grotesque it is and the enormity of it."

The bishop continued, "It is a huge insult to suggest I would knowingly allow someone whom I knew to be a mass murderer to serve as a priest in my diocese."

Bishop Daly lamented the media's coverage of the recent police report, noting that "the once sacrosanct presumption of innocence has been dispensed with and replaced with a presumption of guilt."

"Now, media portray as fact unsubstantiated claims emanating from agencies whose history is anything but clean," he noted.

The prelate said, "I find media coverage of the Claudy Report very disquieting."

He harkened back to a time years ago when journalists "soared above the pressures of spin from government and combatants on all sides" and "did not sheepishly follow Establishment or State."

He noted that the press has put forth only "theories," and has "not questioned key aspects of the ombudsman's report."

The bishop asserted, "I am not at all convinced that Father Chesney was involved in the Claudy bombings."

The prelate admitted "constructive scepticism" about these allegations against the priest, arising from "personal involvement in several major miscarriage of justice cases."

He continued: "I have seen convictions based on signed admissions and forensic evidence completely overturned years later.

"Father Chesney was never arrested, questioned, charged or convicted. He cannot answer for himself. He has been dead 30 years."

The prelate noted that when he himself lived in South Derry during those years, "I was often terrified and humiliated by the treatment and delays I experienced at security force checkpoints as I returned from confirmations and other pastoral duties late at night."

In this light, reflecting on the strict law enforcement at that time and in the following years, the prelate asserted, "Why was the ombudsman unable to find evidence against him after years of investigation?"

Nonetheless, the bishop underlined the importance of carrying out a thorough investigation, stating, "Claudy has at last received its legitimate and long overdue recognition as one of Northern Ireland's most despicable acts of terror."

He concluded, "I will continue to pray that 'the truth will out.' The families, the community and Father Chesney's relatives need to hear it."
00Thursday, September 2, 2010 1:22 AM

Cardinal Bagnasco tells Italians
a culture without children
and elderly is warped

ROME, Italy (Zenit.org) - A culture without children and without elderly people is seriously warped and unable to function, says the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference.

Benedict XVI offered a Golden Rose for the Madonna when he visited Genoa in May 2008.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, made this affirmation Sunday when he celebrated the solemnity of the Madonna della Guardia with a Mass at the shrine of Liguria at the top of Mount Figogna.

The prelate reflected on the beauty of fidelity and on the family as the "womb of life."

Speaking of Italy's negative birthrate (-0.047%), the cardinal asserted that "demographic balance is not only necessary for the physical survival of a community -- which without children has no future -- but is also a condition for that alliance between generations that is essential for a normal democratic dialectic."

He said the Church's long-time assertion that a demographic crisis points to a "serious cultural catastrophe" is because of this.

A lack of children creates not only a bleak future, the cardinal reflected, but also a "lack of balance between generations" and an "educational poverty."

"Boys and girls and young people, in fact, constrain us to engage in discussions, make us come out of ourselves, we who, because of age and feebleness, tend to fall back on our own immediate needs," the cardinal proposed. "It is not only parents that, having children, must change their points of view and styles, they must plan and organize themselves in relation to the children in their various ages."

"A society without babies and children," he continued, "just as a society without the elderly, is seriously mutilated and unable to function."

Cardinal Bagnasco observed that the issue of falling birthrates is linked to cultural values.

"If we look at the sacred image of Our Lady with the Child we do not have to make an effort to imagine the life of Nazareth: they lived in absolute simplicity, in the joyful toil of daily work, at home and in the carpenter's shop; they lived the life of the village, relationships with their next door neighbors, participation in worship, the presence of God," he reflected.

"Everything makes one think of a profound and positive adherence to life as a gift that is given and which is not our absolute property," the cardinal said. "It makes one perceive the awareness of being within the history of generations, of a tradition that does not coerce but helps. In a word, we feel the breath of hope."

On the contrary, Cardinal Bagnasco contended, in the cultural climate of today, couples and families seem to collapse before "the blows of life and of relationships."

"The efforts of every day seem tedious and without meaning, hence unbearable," he considered. "The future loses value and polish, the present is emphasized for what it promises of immediate satisfaction."

In this context, the prelate said, "fidelity is understood as something repetitive, tedious, deprived of thrills."

But fidelity is the condition of growth, Cardinal Bagnasco affirmed. Love in family life is transformed over time: "from the initial effervescence, it changes into something more profound and rooted, strengthened by joys and efforts."

"In this growth, the daily repetition of so many little and great duties, of so many actions that seem grey, is like the tranquil and continuous rain that bathes the earth and fertilizes it," he suggested. "It is not the storm of great passions and impetuous transports that make one grow or that measure the substance of love, but daily and humble fidelity in the sign of love."

The Italian prelate affirmed that the family is a "school of humanity and faith."

One learns to love by being loved, one learns to trust in oneself, one discovers "the beauty of the different ages," he said. And in the family, one sees firsthand the values of acceptance, humility, reliability and the "miraculous power of forgiveness given and received, of the ability to endure."

In the family there is also "prayer made together every day, participation in Sunday Mass, liturgical festivities with their traditions, pilgrimages to shrines, sacred images in the home," the cardinal added. Every word is a lesson of faith, a "moment of that school that will leave a sign in the heart."

"Can a mother turn away from the gaze of her children?" Cardinal Bagnasco reflected. "We know it is impossible, and this is sufficient to look ahead with trust."

I truly wish I had the time to trasnlate Cardinal bagnaso's homily in full, It is available on the website of teh Dioece of Genoa.

00Thursday, September 2, 2010 2:34 AM

German bishops expand sex abuse guidelines

BERLIN, August 31 (AP) - Germany's Roman Catholic church introduced new guidelines Tuesday on handling reports of sexual abuse that require prosecutors to be informed of any suspected case unless the victim objects to that.

The expanded guidelines come in response to hundreds of allegations of abuse at the hands of clergy that emerged earlier this year and rocked the church in Germany, Pope Benedict XVI's homeland.

Most cases date back years, if not decades, and the statute of limitations has passed on the majority of them. Often victims were afraid to report abuse, and the Catholic Church has been accused of covering up abuse cases it knew about, and not telling prosecutors about them.

Stephan Ackermann, the bishop of Trier who was tapped by church authorities to lead the revision of guidelines drawn up in 2002, said special attention had been given to the issue of involving law enforcement officials.

"Because in the past it has led to misunderstandings, I stress again that the investigations by Church authorities and by prosecutors are parallel investigations," Ackermann told reporters in Trier on Tuesday.

The earlier guidelines only "advised" that priests contact prosecutors on their own in "proven cases" of abuse. Church authorities were not required to contact law enforcement officials.

Yet critics charged Tuesday that the revamped rules do not go far enough in addressing the issue of abuse, by failing to clarify issues of financial compensation for victims and by allowing offending clergy to continue to serve within the Church.

"Once he has been an offender, we really don't want someone like that in the diocese anymore, even working in a nursing home or a prison," said Christian Weisner of the We Are Church group, insisting there should be a "zero tolerance" policy on abuse in Germany.

Under the new guidelines, offenders are to be removed from jobs involving work with children and to undergo assessment by professionals to indicate what kind of jobs they are to be allowed to do.

The German government said it welcomed the bishops' efforts to work more closely with prosecutors, but criticized the fact that the new guidelines left open what the Church would do if a victim demanded that prosecutors not get involved.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the basic principle should be one of "immediately informing prosecuting authorities about suspected cases."

Ackermann argued that many victims would shy away from informing the Church at all if that meant prosecutors would have to get involved immediately.

The American victims' group SNAP criticized the new guidelines as inadequate in general.

"The problem isn't inadequate policies, it's a corrupt structure and system in which bishops exercise virtually limitless power and are accountable to virtually no one," Barbara Blaine of the American victims' group SNAP told The Associated Press.

However, the new rules require each diocese to have at least one "commissioner" who is not part of its leadership to serve as the first point of contact for anyone wishing to report a case of suspected abuse by clerics, monks, employees or volunteers working for the church.

The rules also say that as soon as there are any credible indications of sexual abuse of minors a church figure "shall forward the information to the state criminal prosecution authority."

The new guidelines define what is considered sexual abuse based on the definition used by common German law and require that suspected offenders be immediately removed from any duties that involve contact with children and young people.

Prevention measures include requiring anyone who works with children or youths to show proof of good conduct and undergo sensitivity training for personnel management.

The Bishops Conference reworked its original guidelines amid criticism that they did not go far enough in involving law enforcement officials in sex abuse cases. The new guidelines are valid for three years, at which point they are to be reviewed again.

00Friday, September 3, 2010 3:33 AM

This is Cardinal George's column in the current issue of the Archdiocese of Chicago's weekly newspaper. Cardinal George is the preisdent of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Liturgy: translation and much more

August 29, 2010

On July 24, 2010, the Apostolic See of Rome confirmed the proper calendar, texts and adaptations for the dioceses of the United States of the third edition of the Roman Missal in the English language. The parishes of this and other dioceses in our country will begin using this missal on Nov. 27, 2011, the first Sunday of the liturgical season of Advent.

What does this decree mean? First of all, it means that a translation project begun 10 years ago to bring from Latin into English the third edition of the official missal for public worship in the Church is now complete. The book will soon be in the hands of the publishing companies.

Secondly, it means that information about the new translation will have to be given in a systematic way, because much of the information found so far in various articles and new stories has been incomplete and sometimes erroneous.

The priests who celebrate Mass here, both archdiocesan and religious order priests, will come together on Oct. 19 for a full day of study. Other opportunities will also be available for the priests and deacons; and the Office for Divine Worship, under the direction of Todd Williamson and with the help of many trained in liturgy, will put on workshops for the laity. We should be somewhat familiar with the text by the time we begin to use it for public worship.

This third edition of the Roman Missal includes new eucharistic prayers, prefaces and feast days. The text will sound somewhat different than what we have become used to in praying with the second edition, now in use. Some sentences will be longer, but no longer than the sentences used in Polish and Spanish for the past 40 years.

The English vocabulary will be richer, and the tone will be more expressive of our humility before a God who is so merciful that he gives us the power to address him in prayer.

The translations have been made with singing them in mind, so there should be more music in the eucharistic celebration. Liturgical musicians have been working on adaptations and new melodies for the Mass chants.

Postures, gestures and symbols will remain what they are now, because we are already using the General Introduction to the Roman Missal to regulate our movements at Mass.

But we can renew our appreciation of these instructions, with special attention to the symbols used at Mass and the unity of the rites. They were simplified in the liturgical renewal after the Second Vatican Council so that their meaning would be more evident to all.

Thirdly, however, the time spent preparing to receive and use this new text can be a long moment to look again at what the Mass is, at what we are doing to participate fully and actively in its celebration, and how the liturgy connects us to the life of the entire Church for the sake of the conversion of the world.

This next year and a half can be a blessed time for us, bearing good fruit in our life of prayer and service, if we take the time to deepen our understanding of ourselves as a priestly people, a eucharistic assembly.

It is evident to me, as I go from parish to parish, that the archdiocese has worked hard in the last 40 years to implement the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The results are not entirely uniform, but good effort is made everywhere.

The most important results, however, show up outside the texts and gestures and actions, in the hearts and minds of those who pray the liturgy and in the activities in which they engage to transform the world.

When I was a young seminarian, one of my favorite spiritual authors was Catherine de Hueck Doherty, a Russian noblewoman who came to live in this country and in Canada and who was very conscious of the connection between the Church’s worship and the Church’s mission.

In 1938 she wrote: “The daily sacrifice, fully participated in, will open to us the mind of Christ, and we will radiate him in our lives. And then we shall be able to go forth and fight the good fight of Christ against poverty, misery, injustice. Participation in the Mass will teach us the full understanding of the Mystical Body of Christ, leading us to a Christian sociology which is the cornerstone of the Christian social order and which alone can save our mad world from destruction.”

We begin now a time of preparation, together. It should be a joyful time, preparing us to sing a joyful song to the Lord, together as his people.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago

00Sunday, September 12, 2010 4:37 AM
Church-commissioned report reveals
some 500 accusations of sex abuses
by Belgian priests in the past 70 years


LEUVEN, Belgium, Sept 11 (AFP) — An independent commission Friday released a report detailing hundreds of previously undocumented cases of sex abuse in Belgium's Catholic church, and recommended that the church establish victims' groups and a treatment center for abusive priests to prevent future incidents.

"Victims deserve a church brave enough to confront its vulnerability and find a fair response," the commission said in a statement. The 200-page report caps a three-month investigation by the panel, which was set up by Belgium's Catholic church.

Belgian Catholic leaders declined to comment on the report. On Monday, they are slated to present plans for dealing with sexual abuse in the church.

The report documents cases of abuse over the past 70 years, involving 475 perpetrators, all men, and 506 victims, two-thirds of them male. The age most susceptible to abuse was 12, the commission reported, and there were 13 cases of suicide linked to abuse.

Three-quarters of the alleged abusers were priests, the rest were teachers or other authority figures such as leaders of school-activities groups. Two-thirds of the victims expressed no desire to file criminal complaints.

Some members of the commission resigned in protest, after police raided church property near Brussels on June 24, and removed documents on abuse cases.

Panel members who stepped down said they couldn't complete their work while police were investigating allegations of a coverup of sexual abuse by the Belgian Catholic church.

Excerpts from accounts in the report, translated from French or Dutch:

'I was not a child. I was 17 when the abusive relationship began….The feeling of guilt is suffocating me. I've gone through awful depressions that included suicide attempts.'

'Raped by a priest as a child, I myself became an abuser of adolescent boys. In 1994, I was sentenced to eight years in prison.'

'In 1941, when I was 13 and naïve, I was grabbed in school by Mr. A....A few years later, my brother confessed to the same experience.'

'I belonged to a group of 11- and 12-year-olds who were abused by a priest, a Latin teacher, around 1950. I am now 71 years old and have never said anything to anybody. Given the current circumstances, I consider it my duty to tell society. The offender is now deceased.'

"There's enormous frustration that we couldn't finish our job after all these people came forward," said Commission Chairman Peter Adriaenssens, a 53-year-old child psychiatrist. Panel members said they had hoped to solicit testimony from more victims before preparing their report.

As in many Western European countries, Belgium has been slow to confront sexual abuse in a church which once oversaw society from cradle to grave.

That changed in April with the high-profile resignation of the former bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who confessed to sexually abusing his nephew for many years.

Outrage increased with the recent publication of transcripts of recordings of Cardinal Godfried Danneels advising the nephew not to go public with the story.

Transcripts showed that Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels helped to cover up the issue involving Bishop Roger Vangheluwe.

Belgium has no law mandating that church officials report sexual-abuse crimes to authorities.

Msgr. Danneels, who has retired as Cardinal of Belgium [Not as Cardinal - only as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and therfore Primate of Belgium], this week admitted wrongdoing and apologized.

Msgr. Vangheluwe is living in Westvleteren monastery in Belgium. He hasn't been charged or defrocked.

Forty-three percent of the victims whose accounts are in the commission's report came forward in the week after the Vangheluwe story broke.

"The Vangheluwe case was a landmark because it was the first time people saw you could have a normal, famous person who was actually a hidden sociopath," Dr. Adriaenssens said.

The report, published in French and Dutch and available online, includes 124 anonymous testimonies from victims.

"Their stories help answer the question of how there could have been so much abuse and nobody said anything," said Dr. Adriaenssens. He blames church leaders "for giving psycho-sociopaths a place to hide for many years."

Victims-rights groups acknowledged the panel's work, but said the more important job is implementing justice.

"The head of the panel is a respected psychologist, but this is not a job for a psychologist, it's a job for police and prosecutors," says David Clohessy, director of Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests in the U.S.

Mr. Clohessy and others say that lack of accountability for the church's 4,000 bishops is to blame.

"This isn't just about priests abusing boys. It's about nobody ever getting punished for covering it up," he said.

On Thursday, a Belgian court returned records seized by police in the June raid of church offices. Prosecutors said their investigation will continue.

"It is in everybody's interest that the rule of law is respected," said Archbishop André-Joseph Leonard.

00Thursday, September 23, 2010 3:33 AM

New Chinese bishop
pledges loyalty to Pope

September 21, 2010

Father Peter Wu Junwei was ordained the third bishop of Xinjiang (Yuncheng) diocese with both papal approval and government recognition today.

In his speech, Bishop Wu thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his appointment and trust. “I am determined to be loyal to the Pope forever,” he said.

He also urged his flock to follow the example of Saint Matthew the Apostle, whose feast is celebrated today, to give up everything to follow Jesus and spread the Gospel.

He told ucanews.com he will give priority to diocesan priests’ spiritual formation as they have not had a retreat together since 2006.

The former rector of the Shanxi Montecorvino Major Seminary is also concerned about laity formation. Though the local Church baptized many in recent decades, the number of Catholics remains small, he said.

The diocese now has 28 priests and about 40 nuns serving 15,000 Catholics, two-thirds of whom are farmers.

The 48-year-old bishop comes from a staunch Catholic family. His brother is a priest while his sister is a nun. Their great granduncle, Saint Peter Wu Anbang, was martyred during the Boxer Uprising of 1900. He was canonized among the 120 Chinese martyrs in 2000.

The ordination in northern Shanxi province was officiated by Bishop John Huo Cheng of Fenyang, assisted by Coadjutor Bishop Paul Meng Ningyou of Taiyuan who was just ordained five days ago, Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing and Coadjutor Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiaoting of Yan’an (Yulin).

All the bishops have papal approval and government recognition.

About 140 priests concelebrated the Mass at the cathedral in Xinjiang county for about 2,000 people.

Profile of Bishop Wu:

• Born in 1962, the eldest of six children
• Studied at the Xinjiang minor seminary and the Taiyuan major seminary
• Ordained a priest for Taiyuan diocese in 1990
• Served at a parish 1991-1996
• Served simultaneously as rector of Taiyuan’s minor seminary, diocesan treasurer and director of Church affairs from 1996-2001
• Rector of the Shanxi Montecorvino Major Seminary from 2001-2009
• Appointed by the Pope as third bishop of Xinjiang in May 2009
• Elected bishop candidate by the local Church in September 2009

00Thursday, September 23, 2010 5:19 AM

A promise to Pope John Paul II
by George Weigel

Sept. 15, 2010

On the evening of December 15, 2004, I had dinner in the papal apartment with Pope John Paul II and several of his aides. Although his health had been deteriorating steadily for years, the Pope was in good form that night, his sense of humor intact and sharp.

Knowing that he liked large photo albums, I gave him a volume on national parks of the United States as a Christmas present. When an aide opened the book to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Pope put on as much of a smile as his Parkinson’s disease would permit and said, “Denver: World Youth Day 1993! The bishops of the United States said it couldn’t be done. I proved them wrong!”

We all laughed as John Paul flipped through the pages; in his mind’s eye, he was back hiking in the Rockies.

The conversation over dinner was wide-ranging, and at one point, after the usual papal kidding about my having written “a very big book,” John Paul asked about the international reception of Witness to Hope, his biography, which I had published five years earlier.

He was particularly happy when I told him that a Chinese edition was in the works, as he knew he would never get to that vast land himself. As that part of the conversation was winding down, I looked across the table and, referring to the fact that Witness to Hope had only taken the John Paul II story up to early 1999, I made the Pope a promise: “Holy Father,” I said, “if you don’t bury me, I want you to know that I’ll finish your story.”

It was the last time we saw each other, this side of the Kingdom of God.

The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II – The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, which was published by Doubleday on September 14, is the fulfillment of the promise I made to John Paul during our last evening together.

In addition to revisiting Karol Wojtyla’s epic battle with communism through the prism of previously classified and top-secret communist files, given to me by Polish researchers, the book offers a detailed account of the drama of the Pope’s last six years:
- the Great Jubilee of 2000 and his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land;
- September 11th, and the Pope’s efforts to frustrate Osama bin Laden’s insistence that his war with the West was a religious crusade;
- the Long Lent of 2002, when the Church in America grappled with the twin crises of clerical sexual abuse and episcopal misgovernance;
- John Paul’s ongoing efforts to build bridges of dialogue and reconciliation with the Churches of the Christian East;
- his struggle with illness, which brought him into at least one “dark night” spiritually; and
- his heroic last months, in which his priestly death became, metaphorically, his last encyclical.

The End and the Beginning concludes with a lengthy evaluation of Karol Wojtyla, the man, and John Paul II, the Pope. There, I’m able to tell some stories not previously on the public record, while assessing all that went right, and the things that went wrong, in one of history’s most significant pontificates.

The story of Wojtyla vs. communism in The End and the Beginning is by no means simply a reprise of Witness to Hope; on the contrary, the Polish, East German, Soviet, and Hungarian secret police and foreign ministry files I obtained from Polish colleagues shed new, and often dramatic, light on the communist effort to destroy John Paul’s work and his reputation, as well as on communist efforts to penetrate the Leonine Wall and recruit collaborators in the Vatican.

In a world quickly forgetting what the Cold War was about, these once-secret classified documents are a powerful reminder that, as John Paul’s longtime secretary once put it to me, “It was ‘we and they,’ ‘us and them,’ all the time.” And they were not scrupulous about playing the hardest of hardball.

John Paul II was the great Christian witness of this era. Telling his story in full has been the privilege of a lifetime.

00Thursday, September 23, 2010 11:53 PM
Medjugorje seers to speak at Vienna cathedral
I watched about twenty minutes of it online a few hours ago. From what I could see, the Cathedral was packed full.


The Catholic Herald: 22/09/10

Two of the alleged Marian seers from the Bosnian town of Medjugorje have been invited to speak at Vienna’s Catholic cathedral.

Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti and Ivan Dragicevic will speak tomorrow at the Stephansdom in Vienna as part of a peace initiative organised by the Community “Oasis of Peace”. They are two of the six seers who have reportedly had Marian apparitions since 1981. Miss Pavlovic-Lunetti allegedly receives messages from the Virgin Mary every month. Since the first sighting, she has reportedly appeared to the seers over 40,000 times, imparting hundreds of messages.

The authenticity of the Marian apparitions in Bosnia-Herzogovina is currently under review by the Vatican. A report in July from the Italian news agency ANSA said that the commission, established in March this year and run by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, was considering interviewing the alleged seers.

Annually about one million pilgrims travel to Medjugorje even though the place has not been declared a shrine and “official” pilgrimages are forbidden by the Vatican. The 1991 Zadar declaration, made by the bishops of former Yugoslavia, ruled that the apparitions were “not established as supernatural” and could therefore not be authenticated.

Earlier this year, the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, caused some controversy after travelling to Medjugorje and celebrating Mass there. He said his visit was in part to “de-dramatise” the “Medjugorje phenomenon”. He said the alleged Marian apparitions were secondary to the “school of normal Christian life”.

He said he had gone to Medjugorje to see the tree which bore fruits such as Cenacolo, a community which helps rehabilitate drug users.

Cardinal Schönborn, who leads the Austrian bishops’ conference and is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), said he did not want to pre-empt the Vatican’s ruling by visiting.

Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno is strongly opposed to the phenomenon and expressed his dismay at the cardinal’s visit in January.

The event at St Stephen’s Cathedral also includes Sister Elvira Petrozzi, the founder of the Cenacolo community, and will be followed by Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. Organisers expect hundreds of young people to attend.

Cardinal Schönborn took part in the event last year and told the press he was moved by the number of people who had come to the cathedral, to rediscover the sacraments.

The Medjugorje Commission, appointed by the CDF, includes the Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko, retired prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Cardinal Julian Herranz, and Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect for the Congregation for Saints’ Causes and former secretary of the CDF.


te-deum.blogspot.com/ (A running commentary)
00Monday, September 27, 2010 10:49 AM

Rowan Williams's authority goes up in smoke
as he replies 'Pass' to a question
about eventual gay bishops

September 25th, 2010

From behind the (London) Times’s paywall, the sound of the Archbishop of Canterbury digging a hole for himself so deep that it will soon swallow him up.

Dr Rowan Williams has given a disastrous interview to the paper today that leads his interviewer, Ginny Dougary, to describe his position on homosexuality as “both confusing and rather revolting”.

Well, she’s certainly right on the first count. Here’s my paraphrase of the Archbishop’s current position:

Does he still think it’s OK for gay couples to have sex, as he wrote years ago? “That’s what I wrote as a theologian, you know, putting forward a suggestion. That’s not the job I have now,” he tells Dougary.

No gay bishops, then? Actually, gay bishops are OK, as long as they don’t have sex. (The same prohibition doesn’t apply to lay people, for reasons lost in the mist of time.)

So it’s appropriate for the celibate Jeffrey John to be a bishop? Here +Rowan really squirms, saying he “let down” John by blocking him as Bishop of Reading. But we don’t discover why, this year, the still-celibate Dean John unexpectedly disappeared from the candidates’ list for Southwark.

But does the Archbishop hope that one day gay bishops can have partners? “Pass”.

Yes, he really did say that. Now, you may regard Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality as wrong, amounting to a declaration that it’s OK to be left-handed but not to write with your left hand, but it is at least clear. It’s inconceivable that Benedict XVI would produce the game-show reply “Pass” to a question about sexual morality.

What will it take, I wonder, for my liberal Catholic friends to recognise that – irrespective of your views on this matter – Rowan Williams emerges from this debate neither as a radical prophet nor a defender of biblical morality, but as a source of confusion and anxiety?

Archbishop of Canterbury
fails to bridge gay row gap

26 Sep 2010

In an extensive newspaper interview, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, says there is "no problem" with gay clergy and bishops.

But he adds that because of the controversy in the Church and the lack of consensus for change on the basis of inherited teaching and conservative interpretation of the Bible, non-celibate homosexual clergy cannot be endorsed.

The comments have already produced an angry reaction from both sides in the argument between those who wish to exclude LGBT people from the church's ministry, and those who argue that the central dynamics of the Christian Gospel points towards inclusion and embrace.

Dr Williams' lengthy interview with The Times newspaper on Saturday 25 September 2010 is not freely available on the internet, because of proprietor Rupert Murdoch's imposition of a 'pay wall', but it has been picked up through excerpts in the wider media.

Conducted by Ginny Dougary, prior to Pope Benedict XVI's recent visit to Britain, the exchange is a wide ranging discussion of many of the current controversies surrounding Dr Williams' time as Archbishop of Canterbury.

It includes an account of Dr Williams' sense of personal failure in failing to support Dr Jeffrey Johns's election to a bishopric, his opposition to creationism, his reflection on Professor Stephen Hawking's category mistake in writing of the non-necessity of God, his experience of 9/11 (the Archbishop was in Manhattan at the time), relations with the Roman Catholic Church, the case for women bishops, and the "materially heretical" idea that making money is doing God's work.

It is Dr Williams's comments on gay clergy and bishops which have drawn instant attention from reporters and commentators, however.

He declared: "There’s no problem about a gay person who’s a bishop... It’s about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So there’s always a question about the personal life of the clergy.”

Asked what is wrong with a gay bishop having a partner, the Archbishop replies: “I think because the scriptural and traditional approach to this doesn’t give much ground for being positive about it. The Church at the moment doesn’t quite know what to make of it...”

In the past, before assuming his key role within the Established Church, Dr Williams, as a pastor and acdemic, had affirmed gay relationships both pastorally and academically.

But he sees his priority now as holding the Church of England and the Anglican Communion - with its warring factions - together.

Responding to his latest remarks, gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell accused him of being inconsistent and hypocritical, while the hardline group Anglican Mainstream strongly objected to any gay bishops.

In its own leading article, The Times newspaper challenges the idea that the Church has no room for reform or change on traditional, scriptural grounds - which has been the basis of the argument for welcoming gay people advanced by a growing number of evangelicals in recent years.

The paper declared: "In seeking a settlement within Anglicanism, Dr Williams risks diminishing its prophetic voice. If he were to worry less about politics, he might find the resources to strengthen Anglicanism and find spiritual fulfilment of his own. For with his profound theological insight, Dr Williams is better placed than anyone to, in the words of Matthew’s Gospel, discern the signs of the times.

"Secular culture acknowledges the injustice of discrimination against homosexuals. The treatment of Canon Jeffrey John, a chaste homosexual twice rejected as a bishop, offends against a widely held sense of natural justice. In electing homosexual bishops, Anglicanism might suffer defections; but it would affirm its soul.

"This is not a call to choose modern mores over biblical authority, for Anglicans have long understood that the interpretation of Scripture lies in the hands of the Church. The Apostle Peter enjoined: 'Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.'

"Interpretation belongs to the tradition... in which Dr Williams takes an historic role. He should affirm as a Christian leader and a theologian that discrimination against homosexuals is wrong. In the Church, as in the nation, let justice be done — and the heavens will not fall," said the Times.
00Friday, October 1, 2010 12:49 PM

An entire Maryland Episcopal parish
will vote soon whether to become Catholic

By Randy Sly


WASHINGTON, DC - In a letter to parishioners, the Reverend Jason Cantania, rector of Mount Calvary Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, announced that the vestry of the parish had voted unanimously in favor of two resolutions.

First, they have voted to leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) where they are a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, and, second, to become an Anglican Use parish in the Catholic Church through the new initiative from Rome - the Apostolic Constitution Anglicorum Coetibus.

The entire Church membership will vote this month on the two resolutions.

Under the terms of this apostolic constitution, the Church has provided opportunities for "personal ordinariates for Anglicans entering full communion with the Catholic Church."

As an Anglican Use parish, they will be authorized to use an authorized version of the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer called the "Book of Divine Worship."

Mount Calvary Episcopal Church, founded in 1842, is located in the heart of the city of Baltimore. On their website they describe themselves as a parish that has "borne faithful witness to the essential truth of Catholic Christianity and the tradition of the Oxford Movement for over 150 years, and remains to this day a bulwark of orthodox Anglo-Catholic practice.

[The Oxford Movement was a movement in the early 1800's of "high church Anglicans" who were desiring to maintain faithfulness to essential Catholic teachings. One of the early principle proponents of the Oxford Movement was John Henry Newman, who, as a Catholic convert, received the red hat as a Cardinal. He was recently beatified by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to England.]

"From its foundation, Mt. Calvary has 'contended for the faith once delivered to all the saints,"'the Catholic and Apostolic faith grounded in Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Fathers and Councils of the undivided Church."

The church will come together for a special meeting on October 24th to vote on the vestry's resolutions.

The process which brought the whole parish to this historic moment began with a Vestry retreat in October 2007 where it was decided unanimously that Mount Calvary should explore the possibility of becoming part of the Roman Catholic Church.

Since then the All Saints Sisters of the Poor were received into the Catholic Church and Anglicanorum coetibus was prmulgated.

00Monday, October 4, 2010 5:36 PM

Another belated post. But it will have to be this way. In choosing to focus on seeking out news and commentary related primarily to Benedict XVI, I am consciously setting aide other Church-related news that are not 'headline' material until I have time to post them, if only for the record.

Spanish archbishop will lead
visitation of Legionaries' lay movement

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY, Sept. 30 (CNS) -- A Spanish archbishop, who was part of the Vatican-led investigation of the Legionaries of Christ, will be the apostolic visitor of the congregation's lay movement, Regnum Christi.

Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez of Valladolid, Spain, is one of a number of appointees named recently to help the papal delegate, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, in his task of governing the Legionaries and helping reform the order.

The four advisers who will help Archbishop De Paolis are Bishop Brian Farrell, a member of the Legionaries himself, and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; along with three canon lawyers: Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, Sacred Heart Father Agostino Montan, and Msgr. Mario Marchesi, according to earlier media reports.

The Vatican confirmed the list of appointees to Catholic News Service Sept. 30.

The papal delegate, Italian Archbishop De Paolis, has broad powers of authority over the Legionaries of Christ as part of a major Vatican-led reform of the order.

Archbishop De Paolis will lead a commission in charge of revising the order's constitutions, and all members of the order have been encouraged to take an active part in the reform.

The role the advisers will play is flexible. According to the Vatican decree published in July detailing the papal delegate's role, "the delegate will have four personal advisers to aid him in carrying out his work, according to the circumstances and possibilities. These aides may be assigned specific tasks, particularly visits 'ad referendum.' With their help, the papal delegate will identify, discuss, and clarify the principal topics as they arise during the process he is called to lead."

Archbishop De Paolis, who will coordinate the visitation of the Legionaries' Regnum Christi movement, was in charge of naming the movement's visitor, Archbishop Blazquez.

Archbishop Blazquez, 68, served as president of the Spanish bishops' conference from 2005 to 2008 and headed the bishops' commission for the doctrine of the faith from 1993 to 2003.

The former professor of theology was one of five bishops appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 to conduct a visitation of the Legionaries of Christ. He led the investigation of the congregation's centers and institutions in Europe, excluding Italy.

Among the four advisers to Archbishop DePaolis is Bishop Farrell, 66, who was born in Dublin, and was ordained a priest for the Legionaries in 1969. He served from 1970 to 1976 as director of the Legionaries' U.S. novitiate in Orange, Conn.

Italian Msgr. Marchesi is the vicar-general of the Diocese of Cremona and has taught canon law at the Legionaries' Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University in Rome.

Father Montan, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is episcopal vicar of the Rome Diocese's office for consecrated life and a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

Father Ghirlanda is a canon lawyer and the former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The papal delegate and his four advisers have had the chance to work together before in their roles as advisers to several important Vatican agencies.

Archbishop De Paolis, Father Ghirlanda and Father Montan are consultors to the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Msgr. Marchesi and Fathers Ghirlanda and Montan serve as consultors to the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Archbishop De Paolis and Father Ghirlanda also are members of the Vatican's Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature and the Pontifical Council Legislative for Texts.

The Vatican-led investigation into the Legionaries and Regnum Christi came in the wake of revelations that the Legionaries' founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, had fathered children and sexually abused seminarians.

His "most grave and objectively immoral conduct" called for "a path of profound revision" in the order, the Vatican said. Father Maciel's "true crimes" reflected "a life devoid of scruples and of authentic religious sentiment," it said.

00Monday, October 4, 2010 7:37 PM

Issue of October 2010

George Weigel, author of Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (HarperCollins, 1999), has just published another volume on the same subject, The End and the Beginning (Doubleday, 2010). He recently spoke to CWR about it.

Your biography of Pope John Paul II brought the account of his life and ministry to the threshold of the third Christian millennium. Does your new book contain evidence that the late Pontiff’s hopes for a New Evangelization are being fulfilled in the 21st century?
In The End and the Beginning, I offer a comprehensive analysis of the accomplishments of the pontificate of John Paul II, including his efforts to define, promote, and advance the New Evangelization.

I think you can see positive results of those efforts on many fronts: in renewal movements and new Catholic communities; among seminarians and religious in formation today, and among younger priests and religious; in a new generation of Catholic intellectuals; in the vitality of our best parishes, and in the extraordinary number of people who are baptized or enter into full communion with the Church every year; in those bishops who have discovered a “John Paul II voice” and are taking the Church’s proposal forcefully into the public square.

Of course, I’m speaking largely of the United States here; the New Evangelization hasn’t gotten much traction yet in “Old Europe.”

In 2002 stories about the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy received massive media coverage in the United States. Although most of the incidents were decades old, the scandal raised serious questions about Church governance. During his long pontificate, could John Paul II have done more to address the root causes of such clerical abuse?
As I hope I showed in Witness to Hope, and as I made a special effort to show in The End and the Beginning, John Paul II was a great reformer of the priesthood, a point completely ignored by the mainstream media and largely ignored by the Catholic media. .

He was, as Cardinal William Baum once put it, the “greatest vocations director in history,” and the kind of men he attracted to the demands of the Catholic priesthood through the power of his own example are men who will carry out his reform far into the future — and are very, very unlikely to be abusers of anyone.

No one who reads [his post-synodal apostolic exhortation] Pastores Dabo Vobis or understands the effect it was already having on American seminaries in the 1990s can doubt that the reform of the priesthood in the United States was well underway years before the Long Lent of 2002. [But what percentage of US seminaries have been teaching orthodox Catholicism in the past 30 years? Orthodox Catholic education produces orthodox Catholic priests. Heterodox post-Vatican II teachers, curricula and reading material won't.]

That this was not the case in, say, Ireland, is also true, but the fault there, as in many other circumstances where clerical corruptions have come to light, is primarily to be laid to the account of local bishops who were incompetent, malfeasant, or willfully obtuse.

In your opinion, are the bishops appointed by John Paul II and a generation of priests who were trained during his pontificate helping to resolve the post-conciliar crisis in the Catholic Church?
Frankly, I’m more confident about the priests than about the bishops, although there are many good bishops who are modeling their episcopal ministry after that of Karol Wojtyla.

But one has to give John Paul (as with any pope) mixed marks on the appointment of bishops. He did the best he could, I think, with the process as it has evolved. But it’s the process that needs to be re-examined, particularly in terms of the criteria used by the nuncios and the Congregation for Bishops to identify and assess potential candidates for the episcopate.

The new criteria I outlined in 2002 in The Courage To Be Catholic, which centered on a man’s evangelical effectiveness, still seem to me the appropriate ones.

I’m a bit more sanguine about the John Paul II generation of priests, for the reasons I mentioned a moment ago. But where we can see genuine change, powerfully influenced by the late Pope, in “resolving the post-conciliar crisis,” is in theology. The silly season is over; you'd never know it by reading the program of the Catholic Theological Society of America, of course, but that sad fact is a reflection of the archaic tenure system. [Which will continue to be taught in seminaries and 'Catholic' institutions for as long as CTSA-type theologians continue to teach.]

A younger generation of theologians is being formed in the magisterium of John Paul II and in light of that magisterium’s determination to put the riches of the Catholic intellectual tradition into vigorous conversation with the claims of late modernity. The days of pre-emptive surrender to the culture are over, even if they haven’t figured that out in certain theology departments yet.

In Witness to Hope you mentioned that the founder of the Legionaries of Christ was instrumental in obtaining permission for the Pope to visit anti-clerical Mexico in 1979. John Paul II became a great supporter of that congregation and declined to investigate credible accusations against Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. Has that omission become an obstacle to the process of beatification for the late Pope?
The obstacles to a full investigation of the charges against Maciel did not come, to my knowledge, from the papal apartment. As I state in The End and the Beginning, John Paul II was clearly deceived by Maciel, as were many, many other people, including many other very smart people. But that deception did not involve, to my knowledge, venality or willful ignorance on John Paul II’s part. So the fact that John Paul II was deceived by Maciel does not bear on the question of his heroic virtue.

Did Pope John Paul II succeed in internationalizing the Roman Curia? What effect did those efforts have on the governance of the Universal Church?
He was successful in internationalizing the Curia during his most vigorous years, but in the last half-decade of his life the Curia became increasingly Italianate, both in terms of personnel and style, largely, I think, because of the influence of Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

The real problem with the Roman Curia is its present structure, and a future Pope will have to address that. John Paul II tried to complete the curial reforms of Paul VI, but a more thoroughgoing look at the whole post-conciliar structure of the Curia is imperative in the next pontificate.

Perhaps most strikingly, John Paul II (with the aid of Joaquin Navarro-Valls) reformed and professionalized the Vatican Press Office, which was an enormous help in getting the Pope’s message out, despite the usual difficulties posed by an often-uncomprehending media. Alas, this pattern did not hold into the present pontificate, which has suffered badly from a well-meaning, but truly inept, communications apparatus.

Karol Wojtyla was a professor at a Catholic university for more than 20 years. How has his theology of the body affected Catholic teaching on human sexuality and marriage? Why is it that his apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, has been so widely ignored, especially in the United States?
The theology of the body has had a marked effect on both intellectual and pastoral life throughout the United States, and will continue to do so as a new generation of scholars, clergy, and pastoral counselors “translate” this often-dense and challenging material into a language appropriate for marriage preparation, catechesis, preaching, etc.

I don’t agree that Ex Corde Ecclesiae has been ignored. It has been and continues to be debated vigorously. The mandatum is being sought by faculty in unexpected places. And the places that ignore Ex Corde Ecclesiae have clearly branded themselves as less-than-fully Catholic, if their boards of directors, alumni, and local bishops would please take notice.

Please explain the Pope’s reasons for establishing World Youth Day in 1984. Do you think that this movement will continue to inspire young people during future pontificates?
Karol Wojtyla did not buy the notion, widespread among the world episcopate, that the Church’s evangelical and moral proposal was of no interest to modern and post-modern young people, a judgment based on his own extensive experience in ministry to the young and university chaplaincy work.

So he decided to test that conviction by creating World Youth Days, which were successful beyond anyone’s imagining — except, perhaps, his. I think these events have now established themselves as part of the regular rhythm of global Catholic life, and I expect them to continue.

World Youth Day 2011, in Madrid, will be an important test of whether there can be effective pushback against the increasingly aggressive secularist atmosphere of Europe.

Did the “Pilgrim Pope” cover any new ground in his international pastoral visits in the 21st century?
The most significant ground he covered was the old ground of the Holy Land, where his epic pilgrimage during the Great Jubilee of 2000 left an indelible impress on Catholic-Jewish relations. Of his 21st-century pilgrimages, I would also cite as particularly important his pilgrimage to Ukraine (where he spoke of Ukraine’s “European vocation”), and his forays into historically Islamic and Orthodox lands.

In human terms, his 2004 pilgrimage to Lourdes, where he memorably described himself as a “sick man among the sick,” will live long in many memories as a witness to the inviolable dignity of human life in every and any condition.

In your opinion, which of the 14 encyclicals by Pope John Paul II has or have been the most influential? Would you answer that question differently from a non-Western perspective?
From a non-Western perspective, Redemptoris Missio, with its frank recognition of the general failure of Christian mission in Asia in the first two millennia, and its commitment to take up that task with greater vigor in the third millennium, probably looms largest.

When China finally opens itself fully to the outside world, it will become the greatest field of Christian mission since the Europeans came to the Western hemisphere in the 16th century. Redemptoris Missio may then be seen as having prepared the way.

In the West, I would name Redemptor Hominis (for its Christian anthropology), Veritatis Splendor (for its reclamation of moral theology), Centesimus Annus and Evangelium Vitae (for their analysis of the requisites of the free and virtuous society), and Fides et Ratio (for its challenge to the idiocies of post-modernism) as among the encyclicals with real influence, now and likely in the future. But the entire corpus of John Paul’s magisterium is important, and will be debated and pondered in the Church and in the world for centuries.

When he was debilitated by illness and old age, did John Paul II ever seriously consider resignation?
I discuss this at length in The End and the Beginning. The short answer is “No,” not in the sense that the media meant “resignation.” There were, as there were during the pontificate of Paul VI, discussions among senior churchmen about how to handle the case of an incapacitated or otherwise impeded the Pope.

Can you tell CWR readers something about the process for the beatification of John Paul II? Is a miraculous cure attributed to his intercession being investigated?
There are numerous miraculous cures, attributed to John Paul II, under investigation. The most touching thing I discovered in the postulator’s office was the fact that letters arrive there from all over the world, simply addressed to “Pope John Paul II, Heaven.” That tells us something about the popular judgment on the man and his heroic virtue.

The Polish Pope, the first non-Italian in centuries, was succeeded by another from Europe, a Bavarian. Could the next conclave elect a cardinal from some other continent?
The conclave can, of course, do anything it wishes or deems to be the will of the Holy Spirit. In practical terms, I would be surprised if the next Pope was from the Third World, but then, I’ve been surprised before.

Michael J. Miller translated The Legacy of John Paul II: Images and Memories for Ignatius Press. This article appears in the October 2010 issue of CWR.

Re Weigel's point about John Paul II as a great reformer of the priesthood, at least in the United States, I believe his effect was largely though his personal example and Christian witness, and not through any changes in the kind of formation that was being provided and continues to be provided in seminaries that espoused 'spirit of Vatican II' Catholicism as soon as they could, declaring this emblematically by discarding Latin from the curriculum....

Unfortunately, such heterodox seminaries cannot be renewed overnight because mass replacement of teachers is not possible. That may explain why Benedict XVI has been consistently pushing his pastoral solicitude and exhortations for priests, seminarians and bishops every chance he gets, because reforming the seminaries is a generational task. Perhaps he should have declared a Decade for Priests rather than just a year because there is so much to be undone.

00Monday, October 4, 2010 8:53 PM

This is a another gem from my favorite American bishop, and I apologize for posting it so late, especially since he expresses so well all my continuing frustrations and objections to MSM reporting. I do not know who make up the organization that he addressed, but I would like to know if they have any responses at all. Because he skewers journalistic irresponsibility so masterfully and kindly without blunting his points in any way...

Religion, journalism, and
the 'New American Orthodoxy'

by Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Denver

September 24, 2010

In an address delivered before the Religion Newswriters Association, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver commended America’s journalists of religion and challenged them to approach their important work with integrity, fairness, and humility.

It’s good to be with you today. Of course, most speakers say that, but I actually mean it — for two reasons. First, I’ve been a heavy reader all my life. A lot of my reading has been, and still is, newspapers and news magazines, although now I mainly read them on my Kindle. And second, I love my country. I think there’s something wrong with a man unless, somewhere in his heart, he really loves his homeland — its people, its beauties, and its best ideals and institutions.

A free press is part of the American identity, and also one of its best institutions. I respect that. I value what journalists do for the same reason I value the importance of religious faith in American life — both in the private home and in the public square.

A responsible press and a faith shaped by the God of charity and justice share two things in common: a concern for human dignity, and an interest in truth.

We might define that word “truth” differently, and the differences might be serious. But an honest search for it creates a kind of maturity. And that maturity allows us to make a decent future through our choices here and now.

Freedom means that our choices matter. It also means that our mistakes have consequences. That’s why lots of people really prefer unfreedom. What many people really want is a rescue from the burden of personal responsibility. They want deliverance from the drudgery of thinking critically about themselves, their mortality, their world, and the purpose of their lives. We all struggle with these temptations.

Americans as a people are no exception. So I can imagine an America without a free press. And I can imagine an America with much less religious freedom. But in either case, it would be a worse America and a disappointment to the generations that built it.

The kind of journalism that tracks our religious life is so important because journalism is the profession where two of our defining freedoms meet.

The very best religion journalists — I know a few of them personally - aren’t “normal” people. They’re amphibians. They live in two very different worlds, and at their best, they can understand and honor the dignity of both. That’s hard work. It takes patience and intelligence. Not many people can do it well. But those who do enrich the common good.

Most of you in this audience have read George Orwell’s Animal Farm at some point. It’s a modern classic. But he had a very hard time getting it published. The reason why is interesting.

Orwell, you’ll recall, was a man of the left. He was also no friend of organized religion, especially the Catholic kind. He was also a veteran of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. While fighting in Spain, where he was nearly killed himself, he saw the duplicity and brutality of the Soviet secret service, which spent more time murdering its Spanish allies on the left than it did fighting fascism.

By the time he finished writing Animal Farm in 1943, Britain had joined with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. Orwell couldn’t find a single publisher honest enough to release his allegory of the Soviet regime, in which the main characters were a breed of shrewdly cynical pigs.

Editors said his book would be “inopportune.” When it finally appeared in 1945 near the end of the war, Orwell tried to add a preface titled, “The Freedom of the Press.” The essay didn’t make it into print. It remained unknown for more than 20 years after his death. Scholars found the typescript among Orwell’s papers.

Six decades later, this essay still has value. And here’s why: Most arguments for press freedom deal with the media’s need for independence from state censorship and propaganda. That makes sense. But Orwell focused on something very different — kind of undermining of free thought and expression unique to modern democratic societies.

He saw his problems with Animal Farm as part of a much bigger pattern of “self-censorship” in wartime England. Nobody demanded the media’s fawning coverage of the Soviet Union. Nobody required the falsification of facts, or the ugly attacks on critics of Stalin, or the covering-up of unpleasant truths. Nobody forced journalists and editors to do these things. They freely chose to do them.

The news media of the day were staffed by decent men and women. They felt they were on the side of social progress. They thought the Soviet Union, whatever its flaws, was fighting for human progress too. So they ignored unhappy details and hard questions about the reality of Soviet life.

Their assumptions created what Orwell saw as a new form of religious orthodoxy. That orthodoxy shaped the boundaries of permissible thought and expression. And Orwell warned that this unspoken tendency toward group-think would threaten the press in democratic societies well into the future. He wrote:

At any given moment, there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas, which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that, or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it . . . [And] anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness.

A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, whether in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

I think Orwell’s words capture the way many people feel today toward the news media and coverage of religion news. In practice — at least in the eyes of ordinary people I hear from every week — a new body of ideas seems to shape the limits of acceptable thought in American public life.

This new orthodoxy seems to influence the selection of religious news and how that news gets presented. It seems to frame which opinions are appropriate and which ones won’t be heard. And it seems to guide the historical narrative that media present to their audiences.

At its core, it has a set of assumptions about the nature of human life, the purpose of government, and the proper role of religion in the lives of individuals and in society that veers away from past American habits of thought.

This new thinking seems to presume a society much more secular and much less religious than anything in America’s past or anything warranted by present facts; a society where people are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they don’t intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on government, the economy, or culture.

Whether these ideas really dominate today in American newsrooms is debatable. I think they’re more common than journalists want to admit. I do know reporters and editors whom I admire, and whose fairness and skill I commend. But I think the deficiencies in today’s coverage of religion are too real to ignore. And they’re not simply issues of deadlines and resources. They’re also attitudinal, even ideological. [Well, the bishop has to be diplomatic with his audience. But their reporting is not what it is because of deadlines and lack of resources! It's entirely attitudinal and ideological. And the attitude is primarily that of complete unconcern and disregard for what were once the inviolable standards of the profession of journalism - on the expedient principle that any means, even shoddy and sleazy ones, justify ideological ends.]

One of the worst habits many Catholics had at the start of the clergy sex abuse crisis, including many bishops, was to minimize a very grave problem. But news media show many of the same patterns of denial, vanity, obstinacy, and institutional defensiveness in dealing with criticism of their own failures.

Some of the best proof of the problems I’m talking about is published every day by the journalists at getreligion.org. We now commonly see religion coverage that’s illiterate about the subject matter, or narrows the scope of facts or sources to fit an unfriendly narrative—especially when it comes to the Christian faith and its traditional content. Coverage of Islam tends to be equally ill-informed and confused on matters of history; but also more respectful and even sympathetic, as in the recent New York mosque controversy.

In contrast, the Christian story now told in mainstream media often seems to be a narrative of decline or fundamentalism, or houses divided against themselves along predictable lines of sex and authority. It’s a narrative of institutions and individuals that —insofar as they stay true to their historic beliefs — act as a backward social force and a menace to the liberty of their fellow citizens.

Freedom of the press clearly includes the right to question the actions and motives of religious figures and institutions. Our constitutional safeguards for the press developed partly in response to efforts by Puritans like Cotton Mather to have editors and publishers tossed into jail for satirizing local pastors and mocking Christian beliefs in their pages.

But freedom doesn’t excuse prejudice or poor handling of serious material, especially people’s religious convictions. What’s new today is the seeming collusion - or at least an active sympathy — between some media organizations and journalists, and political and sexual agendas hostile to traditional Christian beliefs. When this happens, the results are bad for everybody.

It’s no accident that freedom of religion and freedom of the press are both named — in that order — in the First Amendment. The country’s founders believed that protecting these two freedoms would be vital to the American experiment. They saw that a self-governing people needs truthful information and sensible opinion from sources other than the state. They also believed that morality grounded in religious belief is fundamental to forming virtuous people able to govern themselves.

These beliefs about American liberty were once widely shared by media professionals. In the mid-19th century, one might often find anti-Catholic sentiment on the editorial pages of America’s major papers — just as we do today. But it served a Protestant consensus. Newspapers attacked “Popish” infiltration, the better to push Protestant goals like prayer and Bible reading in public schools.

The question back then was not whether religion had a place in our public life. Most newspapers assumed, along with most of the cultural establishment, that religious faith and the role of believers were vital to shaping public morality, laws, and policies.

The importance of religion for America’s civic life was never at issue. The rights of religious believers, their leaders, and their communities to preach, teach, organize, and engage society and its political issues were also never at issue. The only issue was whether Catholics should fully enjoy those same rights.

Of course, 2010 is not 1850. A lot has changed. More change is coming. Both Barna Group and Pew Research Center data show two key qualities to our religious landscape today.

First, Americans remain a broadly Christian people. Somewhere between 75 percent and 80 percent of us self-identify as Christian. And Americans continue to have a very high rate of religious practice compared to other developed nations.

Second, old religious loyalties are softening. The percentage of people who claim no religious affiliation has doubled since 1990. For young adults age 18-29, a quarter of them are unaffiliated. And their view of Christianity is more negative than any previously recorded generation at the same age.

This is interesting information. But it’s probably more interesting to our knowledge classes than it is to the ordinary people who get lumped into these social trends.

My point is that we need to understand and use social data. But we also need to be skeptical about them. They don’t predict or determine anyone’s future. The late media scholar Neil Postman liked to argue that social science isn’t really “science” at all, but a disguised form of moral theology.

There is a measure of cultural self-delusion in the prevalent belief that psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and other moral theologians are doing something different from storytelling. The New York Times could help if it stopped reporting their work on its Science page. It could help even more if it added a Moral Theology page to which ‘social scientists’ of every variety (including economists) could regularly contribute.

Many factors explain our current religious landscape. But four strike me as most useful.

First, more of our immigration now comes from non-Christian cultures than at any time in the past.

Second, economic, scientific, and technological changes have shaken up our traditional patterns of thinking and learning. They’ve also changed our understanding of the world and of ourselves. In the process, they’ve diminished the place of religion.

Third, Christians have done a terrible job of transmitting our faith to our own children and to the culture at large. The reasons for that would need another discussion on another day.

But in general, I think too much of American Christianity is habit and inheritance. And too little of it is personal conviction and witness— within the family.

By the way, for me, the argument that the so-called “religious right” alienated a generation of young people with its activism seems flatly wrong. And it would have little merit even if it were true, since the mass media play a huge role not just in informing the public but also in shaping opinion — including opinion about religion.

Religion has always played a big role in American public life. The religious right comes from the same soil as the religious left did in its civil rights and peace movement forms. The content is different. The roots are much the same.

I know that from personal experience, because I worked on both the Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Carter campaigns as a young Capuchin. My own thinking as a young priest was heavily influenced by groups on the religious left like Pax Christi.

This brings me to my fourth and last factor in thinking about our religious trends. Some of you, I’m sure, have read Christian Smith’s collection of essays The Secular Revolution. The book has two key themes.

First, American public life went through a massive secularization between 1870 and 1930, and the process continues today. Second, the process wasn’t an accident. Secularization didn’t happen naturally. It wasn’t the inevitable result of “progress.”

Secularization took place in large measure — as Smith and his fellow scholars prove in great detail - because academics, educators, journalists, economists, and scientists consciously attacked and overthrew America’s Protestant establishment.

[I agree with all that, except for the target of the attacks, if by 'Protestant establishment' is meant the emblematic WASP - white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. That is to say, what they attacked and continue to attack is not so much that 'establishment' as a political or cultural bloc, but specifically, the Christian values that they affirm, since they contradict the secular thrust of all so-called 'progressive' thought. In which 'progressive' is code for radical, ultra-liberal, inherently Godless causes such as Obama and his acolytes are trying to impose now! In fact, perhaps the underlying drive for so many white liberals' (the WASS, white Anglo-Saxon seculars) manic and totally uncritical support for Obama whatever he says or does is that, as a black man, even if he is half-white, he is their ideal weapon against the WASP, the ultimate putdown of the WASP, if you will.]

In the words of Smith,

[This] rebel insurgency consisted of waves of networks of activists who were largely skeptical, freethinking, agnostic, atheist or theologically liberal; who were well educated and socially located in knowledge-production occupations; and who generally espoused materialism, naturalism, positivism, and the privatization or extinction of religion.

As Smith and his colleagues show, knowledge professionals have their own kind of orthodoxy. They place a high premium on their own skill and autonomy. This has consequences. It predisposes them to be uncomfortable with, and even hostile toward, any claims of revealed truth, religious institutions, traditions, doctrines, and authority.

These are strong statements, but history supports them. Obviously, exceptions do exist. Many people in the knowledge occupations do believe in God. Many practice a religious tradition. The Catholic Church, after all, has one of the longest and greatest intellectual traditions in human history.

The point I want to leave you with is this:

Journalism is a “knowledge profession.” But like any other profession, the work of journalism doesn’t necessarily translate into self-knowledge or self-criticism. And any lasting service to the common good demands both.

Journalism has its own unstated orthodoxies. It has its own prejudices. And when they go unacknowledged and uncorrected - they too often seem to do - they can diminish our public life.

Religion journalism deals with the most fundamental things about human meaning, things intimate, defining, and sacred to many millions of people. So -
- Master and respect your material.
- Know yourself and your prejudices.
- Acknowledge mistakes, and don’t make them a habit.
- Be as honest with yourself as you want your sources to be.
- Understand believers and their institutions as they understand themselves.

And if you do that — and do it with integrity, fairness, and humility —then you’ll have the gratitude of the people you cover, and you’ll embody the best ideals of your profession.G]

Many thanks.

00Tuesday, October 5, 2010 9:48 PM

Head of Vatican 'Academy for Life'
criticizes Nobel prize winner for
unwanted consequences of IVF

by Nicole Winfield

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 4 (AP) – The Vatican's top bioethics official said Robert Edwards, who received the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for developing in vitro fertilization, opened "a new and important chapter in the field of human reproduction" but is also responsible for the destruction of embryos and the creation of a "market" in donor eggs.

Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the newly appointed head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said awarding the Nobel to Edwards is "not completely out of place." But he said it raised a great number of questions, not least because his research didn't treat the underlying problem of infertility but rather skirted it.

Edwards, an 85-year-old Briton who is professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge, won the prestigious award on Monday. The Nobel medicine prize committee said some 4 million people have been born through IVF.

The Vatican is opposed to IVF because it involves separating conception from the "conjugal act" — sexual intercourse between a husband and wife — and often results in the destruction of embryos. Church teaching holds that human life begins at conception, and must be given the consequent respect and dignity from that moment on.

In a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press, Carrasco nevertheless said Edwards "is not a figure to be under-estimated."

"He has inaugurated a new and important chapter in the field of human reproduction, whose best results are evident to all," he said citing Louise Brown — the first baby to be born through IVF, in 1978. Carrasco noted the woman, now 32, is herself the mother of a naturally conceived baby.

Still, he said, "without Edwards there wouldn't be a market of eggs.
Without Edwards, there wouldn't be freezers full of embryos waiting to be transferred in utero or, more likely, be used for research or to die, abandoned and forgotten by all
," Carrasco said.

Carrasco stressed that he was offering a personal opinion, not a Vatican statement.

He was appointed in June to head the Vatican's pro-life academy, an advisory office composed of Catholic doctors, bioethicists, clergy and others who advise the Pope on such hot-button and emotionally-charged issues as abortion, the right to die and assisted procreation.

In his statement to the AP, Carrasco blamed Edwards for the "current state of confusion of assisted procreation: children with four or five parents, babies born from their grandmothers."

"Edwards built a house but opened the wrong door," Carrasco said. IVF paved the way for "donations and sales involving human beings" and Edwards did not address the pathology of infertility.

Carrasco said the solution to the problem of infertility lies elsewhere and called for patience in research.

Mons. Carrasco is to be commended for his prompt and thoughtful reaction to Dr. Edwards's Nobel Prize, and for making it clear that he is expressing his personal opinion, not that of 'the Vatican' (a qualification not usually made by other Curia members whose often controversial statements end up being attributed flatly to 'the Vatican', as though they were from the Magisterium of the Church.]

And AP must likewise be commended for presenting this story without apparent bias. Even if the resulting headlines catalogued on online news summaries about the Papacy and the Vatican seek to portray Mons. Carrasco's statement as if it were a reflexive, hysterical anti-science reaction rather than the well-considered and balanced opinion that it is.

00Wednesday, October 6, 2010 3:42 AM

Cardinal Schönborn lauds
alleged Medjugorje seers

October 05, 2010

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn lauded alleged Medjugorje seers Ivan Dragicevic and Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti as he welcomed them to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna on September 23, according to an English translation of his remarks recently posted on YouTube.

“Thank you for your service across so many years, for your work, for your service of being messengers of the Gospa [Our Lady],” the cardinal said. “You give us, you bring us children of this world, children of humanity, her love and her presence, and may God pay you back a hundredfold for what you are doing tirelessly.”

So Schoenborn did go ahead to proclaim, in effect, his own Magisterium about Medjugorje! Not even the courtesy of waiting till thr Pope's Medijugorje inquiry commission does its job! What was so urgent about placing his own stamp of approval on the purported seers? Isn't this an 'IN YOUR FACE' and almost raising his third finger to the Pope????

00Wednesday, October 6, 2010 7:20 PM
Priest denies making claims about MacKillop's excommunication
by Clare Rawlinson and James Madden: The Australian October 07, 2010

THE priest who spent 25 years lobbying for Mary MacKillop's canonisation has angrily dismissed recent media reports.

The reports said the soon-to-be saint was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for exposing acts of child sex abuse by a South Australian clergyman.

Paul Gardiner, chaplain of the Mary MacKillop Penola Centre, said the claims, published on ABC Online and in Fairfax newspapers last month, were false, and he feared the misleading coverage was an attempt to take a swipe at the church and distract the public in the lead-up to MacKillop's canonisation on October 17.

ABC Online and Fairfax both reported that MacKillop's ousting from the church in 1871 was prompted by her exposure of a Kapunda priest's abuse of local children. The claims were based on remarks made by Father Gardiner in a documentary made for ABC TV's Compass program.

But both Father Gardiner and the program's executive producer deny ever making such an inference. "Early in 1870, the scandal occurred and the Sisters of Saint Joseph reported it to Father Tenison Woods, but Mary was in Queensland and no one was worried about her," Father Gardiner told The Australian.

Father Gardiner, considered the nation's foremost authority on the history of MacKillop, said his words had been twisted to suit the "ill will" of media outlets.

"There was a long chain of causation. Somehow or other, somebody typed it up as if to say I said Mary MacKillop was the one to report the sex abuse," Father Gardiner said.

"I never said it - it's just false - it's the ill will of people who are anxious to see something negative about the Catholic Church. There's already enough mud to throw, though."

The executive producer of Compass, Rose Hesp, told The Australian that the documentary, which will air on the ABC on Sunday, does not suggest MacKillop was excommunicated because of her role in exposure of the child abuse.

"At no stage . . . is it claimed Mary MacKillop was excommunicated because she personally reported instances of abuse to the Catholic Church," she said.


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