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00Sunday, August 9, 2009 12:15 AM

The Knights of Columbus must be commended for the theme they chose for their recently concluded 127th annual convention. This lay organization has consistently manifested a fidelity to Catholic orthodoxy that puts many bishops to shame. God bless...

Here are some reports and photos from their site.

Knights declare 'We stand with Peter'
at their 127th Supreme Convention

August 4, 2009

Eight cardinals, more than 80 bishops and a hundred priests concelebrated the Mass that opened the 127th annual convention of the 1.78 million member Knights of Columbus in Phoenix this morning.

Several thousand Knights and family members have gathered for the convention at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.

Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted was the principal celebrant and homilist at today’s Mass, which occurs on the feast of the patron saint of priests, St. John Vianney.

The theme of this year’s convention is “We stand with Peter in solidarity with our bishops and priests,” and occurs during the Year for Priests declared by Pope Benedict XVI.

In his homily, Bishop Olmsted noted the special significance of opening “the Supreme Convention of the largest lay Catholic organization in the world, founded by a priest, Father Michael McGivney,” on St. John Vianney’s feast day.

He explored the subject of fear, which “is part of our human experience. We all have fears to face, those that arise from natural causes, such as the squalls and storms on the Sea of Galilee, and other storms, more spiritual and social in nature, that arise within our hearts or in our relations with others.”

Cardinal Levada says Catholics
must risk true discipleship

August 5, 2009

In societies that are becoming more secular and technological, Knights of Columbus, along with all Catholics, must bear witness to the fact that only God’s word can give “life-giving refreshment” to satisfy the human heart, said Cardinal William Levada in a homily on Wednesday.

A special guest at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention, Cardinal Levada is Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. Formerly Archbishop of San Francisco, he was chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to succeed him as Prefect of the congregation in 2005.

The principal celebrant at the Mass, offered on the Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C.

Here is the text of Cardinal Levada's homily:

Homily by Cardinal William J. Levada
Knights of Columbus Convention Mass
Feast of the Dedication of St. Mary Major
August 5, 2009

"For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it." (Is 55: 10-11)

The ancient Israelites lived in a desert climate; rainfall and snow meant literally the difference between life and death. And so these elements were seen as a powerful illustration of God’s life-giving, creative word. God’s word makes the desert bloom.

While Pope Liberius’s church is shrouded by legend, the existing basilica of St. Mary Major stands clearly in history: it was built immediately after the Council of Ephesus, which met in the year 431.

That council marked a significant milestone in the development of our understanding of who Jesus Christ is. The chain of events which led to Ephesus began around the year 428, when a preacher in Constantinople referred to Mary as the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to God.

Although the title had been used for some time in that city, the bishop, who was from Antioch, was scandalized. How could we say that Mary, a mere creature, was the Mother of God?

Time does not permit us to explore all the theological issues of the debate, but the conclusion reached at the Council of Ephesus was very clear.

The doctrine is expressed very well in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “… the One whom Mary conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity.

Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos).” (CCC 495) The title “Mother of God” may seem paradoxical, but it is orthodox: paradoxical, because Mary as a creature could not be the Mother of God as God; orthodox, because to say that Jesus was truly born of Mary and is the eternal Son of God effectively proclaims that he is fully human and fully divine.

We see in the mystery of the Incarnation the most remarkable example of the power of God’s word: the Word himself becomes flesh, the Son of God is born in time.

There are two important lessons I would like to point out in connection with this mystery. First, the work of creation and salvation is first, last, and always God’s initiative. Life is God’s gift, not our accomplishment.

But secondly, we, too, have a role to play. Mary was not simply a vehicle or instrument by which the word became flesh, a lifeless patch of land made fruitful by the downpour of God’s word. She is a human being with a free will, and as such she cooperated in God’s saving plan.

Mary freely and joyfully embraced God’s will, and for this reason she is intimately connected with her Son’s mission. This is suggested by the words of Simeon in today’s Gospel.

After stating that “This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted”, he then says to Mary: “and you yourself a sword will pierce”. (Lk 2:34-35)

The Mother of Jesus is involved in the whole mystery of the life of Christ, she is we might say a “co-conspirator” in God’s plan of salvation.

The significance of this for us is both very simple and very awe-inspiring. Only once in history did God himself literally become Man, so that Mary’s child is uniquely the Son of God. But spiritually God the Son assumes a human nature in each of us. Throughout the pages of the New Testament we are constantly confronted with this amazing doctrine.

St. Luke relates the annunciation to Mary, when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and the Word became flesh; and then he begins the Acts of the Apostles in the same way, with the Spirit descending upon Mary and the other disciples.

St. Paul writes that it is no longer he who lives, but Christ who lives in him. At the Last Supper Jesus assured his disciples that by the gift of the Spirit he and the Father would live in them.

This union with Christ begins in our baptism, and continues throughout our earthly pilgrimage, each of us in some way allowing the Word to become flesh in our lives.

In a few moments the same Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary will sanctify our gifts of bread and wine, transforming them into the Body and Blood of Christ; and he also sanctifies us, making us more truly the Body of Christ – to the extent that we open ourselves to God’s will in our lives.

As we gratefully contemplate how the sacraments bring about an ever-deepening union with Christ, we are aware of the integral role of our priests to our sacramental pilgrimage through life.

With the memory of yesterday’s beautiful celebration of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, fresh in our minds, I want to thank you for your constant and unflagging support for priests.

The Knights of Columbus are proposing many ways to celebrate this “Year of the Priest”, and your longstanding program “In Solidarity with our Priests” has done much to strengthen and encourage priests in their awesome and challenging vocation.

In announcing this special year our Holy Father has spoken eloquently of the mutual love between priests and their people, and Knights have always given a fine example of this love; I encourage you to continue to do so.

All Christians are called to give over their lives to Christ, to allow Him to live through them. Let me conclude with a specific application of that truth to us as Catholics in America, and for us as Knights of Columbus in our beloved country.

Our first reading offers us another image, not unlike that with which I began this homily:

"I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.” (Rev 21:2-3)

The new Jerusalem does not rise up to heaven from the earth; that city is Babel, not Jerusalem. Rather it comes down from heaven to us.

In some versions of the legend of Our Lady of the Snows, we are told that the snow fell in the exact outline of the church to built there. That may be a somewhat fanciful image, but I think it makes a good point.

Although we sometimes sing about building the City of God, in fact our task is more modest: we do not build heaven on earth, we simply prepare the site to welcome the new Jerusalem which comes from God.

This is an important lesson for us Americans. Our nation has been blessed with many gifts and resources, and at times that abundance can blind people to our utter dependence on God, and the need to seek to do his will.

We Knights of Columbus are dedicated to fostering both faith and patriotism in your members; and you experience the tensions when our religious ideals come into conflict with a society that is becoming increasingly secular.

The Christ who lives in us is truly “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel”, but he is also “a sign that will be contradicted”. (Lk 2:32, 34)

Like Mary, we too will be pierced by that sword of opposition if we are faithful to Christ. That is the cost of discipleship. As American Catholics, we can and we should work with all people of good will, regardless of their religious beliefs, to improve the lot of others.

But we must also bear witness to our conviction that the American “city set on a hill”, no matter how remarkable its scientific accomplishments or technological advances, will always be a barren patch of earth without the life-giving refreshment of the word of God.

00Sunday, August 9, 2009 1:57 AM

To finish the week, the Knights of Columbus segued from their Supreme Convention to the First International Marian Congress and a related Guadalupe Festival.


Visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City last March, Hillary Clinton infamously asked, "Who painted it?" when she was shown the cloak with the miraculous image on it. It was one time Madame Secretary was obviously not prepped for the visit.

Image on Juan Diego's cloak
‘completely beyond' scientific
explanation, says researcher

Phoenix, Arizona, Aug 7, 2009 (CNA) - Researcher and physicist Dr. Aldofo Orozco told participants at the International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe that there is no scientific explanation for the 478 years of high quality-preservation of the Tilma or for the miracles that have occurred to ensure its preservation.

Dr. Orozco began his talk by confirming that the conservation of the Tilma, the cloak of St. Juan Diego on which Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared 478 years ago, “is completely beyond any scientific explanation.”

“All the cloths similar to the Tilma that have been placed in the salty and humid environment around the Basilica have lasted no more than ten years,” he explained.

One painting of the miraculous image, created in 1789, was on display in a church near the basilica where the Tilma was placed. “This painting was made with the best techniques of its time, the copy was beautiful and made with a fabric very similar to that of the Tilma. Also, the image was protected with a glass since it was first placed there.”

However, eight years later, the copy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was thrown away because the colors were fading and threads were breaking.

In contrast, Orozco said, “the original Tilma was exposed for approximately 116 years without any kind of protection, receiving all the infrared and ultraviolet radiation from the tens of thousands of candles near it and exposed to the humid and salty air around the temple.”

Dr. Orozco then discussed the Tilma’s fabric. He noted that “one of the most bizarre characteristics of the cloth is that the back side is rough and coarse, but the front side is ‘as soft as the most pure silk, as noted by painters and scientists in 1666, and confirmed one century later in 1751 by the Mexican painter, Miguel Cabrera.”

Following an analysis of some of the fibers in 1946, it was concluded that the fibers came from the Agave plant. However, noted Dr. Orozco, the researchers couldn’t figure out which of the 175 Agave species the Tilma was made from.

Years later, in 1975, “the famous Mexican researcher Ernesto Sodi Pallares said that the species of the agave was Agave popotule Zacc,” Orozco explained, “but we don’t know how he reached this conclusion.”

Before concluding his presentation, Dr. Orozco made mention of two miracles associated with the Tilma.

The first occurred in 1785 when a worker accidentally spilled a 50 percent nitric acid solvent on the right side of the cloth. “Besides any natural explanation, the acid has not destroyed the fabric of the cloth, indeed it has not even destroyed the colored parts of the image,” Orozco said.

The second miracle was the explosion of a bomb near the Tilma in 1921. Dr. Orozco recalled that the explosion broke the marble floor and widows 150 meters from the explosion, but “unexpectedly, neither the Tilma nor the normal glass that protected the Tilma was damaged or broken.” The only damage near it was a brass crucifix that was twisted by the blast.

He continued, “There are no explanations why the shockwave that broke windows 150 meters afar did not destroy the normal glass that protected the image. Some people said that the Son by means of the brass crucifix protected the image of His Mother. The real fact is that we don’t have a natural explanation for this event.”

Dr. Orozco thanked the audience for listening to his presentation and closed by reassuring them that “Our Lady visited Mexico 478 years ago, but she remains there to give Her Love, Her Mercy and Her Care to anyone who needs it, and to bring Her Son, Jesus Christ to everyone who receives Him.”

The miraculous cloak as it is venerated in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

In the 'REFLECTIONS ON OUR FAITH... thread in the PRF, I put together some basic information about the apparition and the cloak on
and about the Basilica in Mexico City on

00Sunday, August 9, 2009 3:34 PM

The Church will have no part
in health care that destroys life,
New York archbishop insists

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 6, 2009 (CNA) - “Health care reform is a good thing,” New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan told CNA on Wednesday during in interview in Phoenix, Arizona.

However, if it “leads to the destruction of life, then we say it’s no longer health care at all - it’s unhealthy care and we can’t be part of that.”

Responding to a question about the Catholic Church’s view health care reform, Archbishop Dolan explained to CNA that the Church regards health care reform as a good thing.

“The Catholic Church has been saying that for a long time,” he explained, adding that because of our human dignity, “means that one has access to quality affordable first rate health care.”

Speaking directly to President Obama’s current initiative to reform health care, the archbishop said that “in principle” the Church says, “bravo!”

“That having been said, the devil is in the details,” he warned. While the Church agrees on the “what,” namely, “on the reform and renewed, reinvigorated health care,” it has some things to say on how it is carried out.

The Archbishop of New York explained that the first thing that needs to be said is that “every health care system exists only to serve human life, not the other way around.”

“Human life is not some commodity, some customer, some cog that is at the service of a bigger system or some bureaucratic network,” but rather, it is “the end in itself and health care is how it is protected."

If health care begins to lead to the “destruction of human life” through avenues such as abortion, end of life care, or the discarding human embryos, then “we say it’s no longer health care at all.

“It’s unhealthy care and we can’t be part of that,” Archbishop Dolan stated.

While some people question the Church’s involvement in the debate surrounding health care reform, Dolan insisted that the Church should have a voice in the health care debate “because nearly one out of every five patients in the United States who is in a hospital is under the embrace of the Church in a Catholic health care network.”

“So please listen to us because we’ve been in this business a heck of a long time,” he said recalling that members of the Catholic Church were the ones who “opened up the first clinics, hospitals and health care networks.”

“Don’t exclude us now because you might be uncomfortable with the very values that gave rise to this magnificent network,” he urged

00Monday, August 10, 2009 5:17 AM

Turkey turns down Vatican request
to restore St. Paul church from
museum to place of worship

VATICAN CITY, August 5 (CNS) — Despite a personal request from Pope Benedict XVI and repeated requests by Christian leaders in Turkey, the Turkish government has decided that the only church in Tarsus, the city of St. Paul's birth, will remain a government museum.

The Church of St. Paul, built as a Catholic church in the 1800s and confiscated by the government in 1943, was used throughout the 2008-2009 year of St. Paul for prayer services by Christian pilgrims.

After the end of the yearlong celebration commemorating the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul's birth, the Turkish government decided the building could not be used exclusively for worship.

Bishop Luigi Padovese, the apostolic vicar for Anatolia and president of the Catholic bishops' conference of Turkey, told the Vatican newspaper Aug. 1 that the government decided to return to the practice of allowing Christians to pray in the church as long as they made reservations three days in advance and bought an admission ticket.

Meeting the Turkish bishops in February during their "ad limina" visits to Rome to report on the status of their dioceses, Pope Benedict had expressed his hopes that the government would give Christians permanent use of the building for prayer.

Bishop Padovese told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that in addition to asking Christians to pay to enter the church, Turkish authorities have placed a time limit on Masses and other prayer services so they do not disrupt the normal operation of the museum.

"It is a lack of respect for the right to religious freedom and freedom to worship," the bishop said.

00Monday, August 10, 2009 7:48 AM

This item from

DVD teaching set on the Traditional Mass

The blurb:
An official multimedia production in four languages in order to help priests and laymen to learn the Roman rite in its extraordinary form. This is the first concrete contribution of the Holy See to promoting the papal intentions stated in Summorum Pontificum.

This is a teaching project previously announced by then Ecclesia Dei President, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, shortly after the Motu Proprio took effect (Sept. 14, 2007), and completed just as Cardinal Castrillon retired from his office upon reaching age 80.

The first DVD contains the complete film of a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, introduced by remarks from th3 Cardinal President. The disc also includes some Gregorian masses, including the Pontifical Mass held in 2003 in Santa Maria Maggiore.

The second DVD is the filmed didactic on the Mass, in which gestures and rubrics of the Mass according to John XXIII are explained in detail, from the preparatio ad missam to the post-Mass ritual in the sacristy.

00Tuesday, August 11, 2009 2:58 PM

Jonathan J. Bean, Ph.D.
A Guest Op-Ed for

July 27, 2009

In 1935, a French politician asked Joseph Stalin to appease the Pope by tolerating Catholicism in the Soviet Union, where atheism was the state "religion." Stalin roared "The Pope! How many divisions has he got?"

In fact, the Pope had many divisions throughout the world. Catholic churches and schools taught the faithful that God, not man, ruled over the universe. These unarmed divisions destroyed Soviet-style communism from within and exerted Western Catholic pressure from without.

That was then, this is now. Has Pope Benedict XVI lost his divisions, especially schools, to the relativism that he denounces in his recent encyclical (Caritas in Veritate)?

From Rome, the Pope calls for virtuous conduct in the marketplace, yet Church teaching no longer "trickles down" to the Catholic masses the way it once did.

As spiritual "transmission lines," Catholic schools face two challenges: the exodus of Catholics to "value-neutral" public schools, and the subversive influence of academics who flout the "Magisterium" (the "teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church").

Historically, Catholic schools played a special role in America, where immigrants faced hostile Protestants who used public schools to impose their brand of Christianity on the "inferior races" arriving from Eastern and Southern Europe.

In Race and Liberty in America, I show how anti-Catholicism peaked in the 1920s when the Ku Klux Klan persuaded Oregon to ban all church schools. The Supreme Court struck down this odious law, declaring that children were not "mere creatures of the state." Catholic schools continued to operate without State interference, thus offering Catholics and black migrants an alternative to state-run education.

As a graduate of Catholic schools, I benefitted from this school choice. During the 1970s, my public schooling culminated with the violent anarchy of junior high school. My parents sent me to a nearby Catholic high school. The absence of fear was liberating. The nuns, priests, and lay teachers offered a well-rounded education, including religious training.

In 1980, I was off to Catholic college for study of the Great Books, history and rigorous coursework in religion (biblical criticism is not for lazy students). I gained a deeper understanding of Church teaching even if my "work-hard, party-hard" side sometimes got the better of me.

In 1994 I returned to my alma mater as a lecturer. The college had opened its doors to sixties radicals bent on reconstructing the school in their own image.

As I taught History, the tenured radicals pummeled students with sensitivity training, lessons on "white privilege," feminist discussion of the Goddess, and library display of gay or transgender authors.

The Great Books program was gone, replaced by a "diversity" curriculum. There was no time left for schooling future professionals in the virtues that the Pope and Church deem necessary for living the Good Life.

Fifteen years later, the situation is worse. Catholic schools have blended into the great Blob of Diversity that has homogenized State schooling.

We are witnessing a disuniting of the American Catholic body by those hostile to Churchteaching.

Academic administrators, eager for the respect of their peers, mimic the schools that once sneered at "dogmatic" Catholic education. The best education, progressives argued, was "pragmatism" based on modern (later postmodern) notions of citizenship.

Few paused to consider how time passed by their pragmatic causes: eugenics, admission quotas limiting Jews — progressives rushed off to new causes forgetting the damage wrought by their past handiwork.

One might ask: Who will pass on the essence of Pope Benedict's latest teaching? Or the basic Truths of the Church? Or simply offer school choice to those trapped in failing public schools?

Non-Catholics ought to be concerned about the survival of Catholic schools because Catholic dioceses subsidize the tuition of disadvantaged minority students — an act of charity that our government has yet to take (and probably shouldn't given the State's track record).

American Catholics must recover sanity in their schooling. In his latest message, the Pope reminds us that a marketplace of value-neutral people is on the road to destruction.

Benjamin Franklin said as much 200 years ago: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

It is time for Catholics and others to abandon value-neutral schooling. This is something that Catholics, Protestants, and Jews can agree upon. The Catholic school is just one avenue to "get the message across." Home schools, Protestant schools, yeshivas are essential as long as the State abandons public school children to the anomie of mass culture.

"Trickle-down" theology via the mass media is not enough. Virtue takes conditioning, and like learning a language, it is better to start young.

If Catholic schools don't do it, parents will simply leave the Church (as they have in droves), for what have we to offer our children if we are like the rest of society?

"You cannot go on seeing through things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. . . . If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To see through all things is the same as not to see." —C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
00Friday, August 14, 2009 2:37 PM
Vatican newspaper hails
Swiss-US bank deal

VATICAN CITY, August 14 (AP) – The Vatican's newspaper on Thursday praised as a step toward "ethical finance" a deal announced by the Swiss and U.S. governments to settle American demands for the identities of suspected tax dodgers.

L'Osservatore Romano said the deal marks "significant progress in the fight against tax evasion and in the direction of a more controlled finance."

It is "a step forward toward that model of ethical finance described by (Pope) Benedict XVI," Osservatore wrote.

Benedict last month published an encyclical calling for a new world financial order guided by ethics, denouncing the profit-at-all-cost mentality blamed for causing the global financial meltdown.

An encyclical is the most authoritative document a ope can issue and July's was the third of Benedict's pontificate.

The deal announced Wednesday is a hard blow for tax havens and Europe should follow the U.S. example and do more in the fight against tax dodgers, Osservatore wrote.

So far, details of the agreement have been kept under wraps, including how many of the 52,000 names sought by the IRS tax agency from banking giant UBS AG will be revealed.

00Friday, August 14, 2009 5:51 PM

U.S. puts India on 'watch list'
for inaction on violations
of freedom of religion

by Nirmala Carvalho

MUMBAI, August 14 (AsiaNews) - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has placed India on the so-called Watch List, which includes countries in which religious and ethnic minorities suffer severe discrimination.

The USCIRF ais asking President Barak Obama to put pressure on the government in New Delhi, which, it says, "deserves" to be placed on the list for the "largely inadequate response" to fundamentalist violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and Christians in Orissa in 2008-2009.

India’s reaction has been one of anger at finding itself compared to countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Somalia and Cuba.

Vishnu Prakash, spokesperson for the Indian Foreign Ministry, described the inclusion in the so-called Watch List "aberrant" and an "undue interference" in internal affairs of the country.

Fr. Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI), told AsiaNews that the USCIRF decision "is a clear indication of the growing concern of the international community to the repeated failure of India to take decisive corrective measures to curb religious intolerance ".

Relations between India and the U.S. in matters of religious freedom have long been troubled. The Annual Report on Religious Freedom by USCIRF presented in Washington May 1st spoke of "positive signals" from India.

In July, however, the Commission asked to visit Orissa to check the situation of Christian refugees in the area and their conditions after the Hindu pogrom of August 2008. The Indian authorities denied entry visas arousing controversy. Now the government in New Delhi finds itself included in the Watch list.

00Friday, August 14, 2009 6:05 PM

Asian bishops discuss relevance
of Eucharist amid war and poverty

MANILA, Aug. 13 (UCAN) - Asian bishops discussed the prospects and challenges of living the Eucharist in their countries on the second day of meetings at the 9th FABC Plenary Assembly in Manila.

Seventeen bishops' conference heads and two associate members of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) on Aug. 12 discussed the working paper of the Aug. 11-16 assembly, taking place at Pius XII Catholic Center.

Titled after the assembly's theme, "Living the Eucharist in Asia," the paper was presented to them the previous afternoon by its author, theologian Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Imus, the Philippines.

A committee has been tasked to draft a final document, incorporating the inputs of participants.

During the discussion session, the Church leaders spoke about the situations in their countries and how the Eucharist was considered the "source and summit" of the life of their Churches.

For Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka, the Eucharist in Bangladesh is a reflection of his people's need for "daily bread" and the Christian belief in sharing wealth with the poor. The average daily wage in Bangladesh is only about US$0.50.

Several bishops stressed the value of inculturated Eucharistic celebrations.

"Attempts must be made to use Asian culture and symbols related to the Eucharist," said Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay, India. He thinks there are times when too much talking and singing goes on in the liturgy with not enough time for silent reflection.

"The Eucharist is meant to transform Catholics," the Indian bishop said. For healing and reconciliation to take place during Mass, there need to be moments for silent prayer and reflection on the Scriptures, he said.

He also acknowledged the need to address, through the Eucharist, the call for a Church response to poverty and other issues, such as equal rights for women.

He added that the Church "should promote the sanctity of the body, since we are temples of the Holy Spirit, especially the sanctity of the woman's body" which in many cases has been "sold into prostitution and slavery."

Korean Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju suggested providing concrete examples of "living the Eucharist in Asia." If not, the bishop warned, the meeting's final statement could end up as just another Church document read by a few and then forgotten.

He believes Sunday Mass can be more meaningful if small "communities of believers" gather ahead of Mass to read and meditate on Scripture.

He cited the practice of Jewish families who gather on the eve of the Sabbath to prepare for religious ceremonies the next day.

He also suggested the Eucharist could be used for people to reflect on the continuing "arms buildup" in Asia. The Eucharist, he said, is about unity and peace, and noted that nations are increasingly preparing for war.

Sri Lankan Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy said people in his country are tired after decades of civil war. They need the Eucharist to help bring about reconciliation, trust and forgiveness, he said. While Catholics remain loyal to the Church, he added, there is a need for them to reach out to other faiths.

He stressed that there is a need to emphasize the "Word of God" because people are hungry for Christ's message.

Bishops from Indonesia, Laos and Myanmar said their people's "hunger" for the Eucharist is difficult to satisfy because of a lack of priests and catechesis.

In many places in these countries, where Masses are held irregularly, Catholics celebrate a Liturgy of the Word conducted by catechists or lay ministers.

In Laos and Cambodia there are only about 60 priests to cover vast areas, said Church leaders from these countries.

Catechetical work is also sporadic in Laos because of the Communist regime, they added.

Thai Bishop George Yod Phimphisan of Udon Thani said that participation in Basic Ecclesial Communities has changed Thai Catholics. They now come together to meditate on the Word of God, and then go out and live the Eucharist in their small communities.

He said the use of some Thai and Buddhist symbols also makes the Eucharist more understandable to Thai people, who are mostly Buddhist.

The FABC is a voluntary association of episcopal conferences in Asia, established in the 1970s to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia.

From Uzbekistan, though, comes a small sign of genuine liturgical renewal. In an interview with UCAN, the Apostolic Administrator of that country, Msgr. Jerzy Maculewicz, said that he has started "...to invite people to pray with the breviary in front of the Blessed Sacrament on weekday evenings. About 10-30 people attend each time."

00Friday, August 14, 2009 7:48 PM

I previously posted items about this in the BENEDICT NEWS thread, but it bears posting on this thread, of course. This report provides the appropriate context for Archbishop Nichols's statement - it is actually the Preface to the booklet for the training conference described in the article.

Archbishop of Westminster
backs both forms of Mass

By Anna Arco

14 August 2009

Mons. Nichols celebrated Mass at the transfer of Cardinal Newman's remains to the Birmingham Oratory last November.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has stressed that unity in Christ is at the heart of the Church's liturgy ahead of Britain's first diocesan training conference for the traditional Latin Mass.

In a letter addressed to the priests taking part in a training seminar later this month the Archbishop echoed the Pope's words in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum which liberated the older form of the Roman Rite in 2007.

He said that Benedict XVI had made it clear that both forms serve "one and the same Rite". He said: "The Mass is the source and expression of the unity of the Church, for that unity comes from Christ. We have no other. Our unity does not consist in a uniformity of personal taste or preference.

"Indeed, such matters should play a minimum part in our liturgy, particularly in the ministry of the priest. What we priests are to provide, as a key element of our ministry, is the liturgy of the Church."

Although the Latin Mass Society has hosted training conferences for priests wishing the to learn how to celebrate the older form of the Mass in the past, this will be the first to be provided by a diocese in conjunction with the LMS.

Archbishop Nichols said that both forms of the Mass would find their place at the conference. But he said that there was no place in conference for those who hold that the newer form of the Mass is inferior to the 1962 Missal.

He said: "The view that the ordinary form of the Mass, in itself, is in some way deficient finds no place here. Indeed, anyone who holds such a view does not come under the generous provision of Summorum Pontificum. Such a person is inexorably distancing themselves from the Church."

He said that the principles of good liturgy, "such as the 'active participation' of all taking part in the Mass, both in the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist" applied to either form being used.

Concluding, the Archbishop said that priests and bishops had been given the delicate task, namely the "provision of the extraordinary form of the Mass in response to genuine needs as outlined in the Motu Proprio".

Archbishop Nichols previously criticised the mindset that rejects the ordinary form of the Mass, in a recent interview with The Catholic Herald where he stressed the importance of the fact that it is "perfectly clear in the teaching of the Church that there is one Roman Rite, there is one gift of the Eucharist, one sacred order by which that gift is actualised and made present in every corner of the world".

00Wednesday, August 19, 2009 7:03 AM

Program for closing event
of the Year for Priests

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Testimonies, prayer time, confession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are just some of the activities planned for the world meeting of priests that will close the Year for Priests next June.

In a letter dated last Friday, the Congregation for Clergy announced the itinerary for the June 9-11, 2010, event in Rome, Vatican Radio reported.

[Simultaenously, the program was posted on clerus.org, the website of the Congregation for the Clergy.]

The first day will be celebrated in St. Paul's Outside the Walls, with prayer and a conference on "Conversion and Mission." There will also be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, time for confession and the celebration of Mass.

Day two will bring the priests together in the Basilica of St. Mary Major where they will focus on the theme "The Upper Room: Invoking the Holy Spirit With Mary, in Fraternal Communion." At the end of the day, the participants will be taken to St. Peter's to celebrate a vigil service, with testimonies and music, as well as adoration.

Benedict XVI will participate in this latter event, offering a discourse to the priests.

Friday, June 11, solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will be focused on the theme "With Peter, in Ecclesial Communion." On that day, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's, closing the Year for Priests and marking the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests.

The Congregation for Clergy has entrusted the organization of these events to the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican institution whose mission is to evangelize through pastoral tourism and the ministry of pilgrimage.

The conference will follow the line of previous international priestly encounters held from 1996 to 2004 in Fatima, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, the Holy Land, Rome and Malta.

Priests who want to participate in the event should register with the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (the Web site is presently only in Italian).

The Holy Father has recently reflected on the significance of the Year for Priests on various occasions. Last Aug. 2 during his Angelus address at Castel Gandolfo, he affirmed that the Year for Priests "is a precious opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the value of the mission of priests in the Church and in the world."

He also pointed to "real models of spirituality and priestly devotion" whose feasts are celebrated in August: St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Cajetan da Thiene, St. Dominic and Pope Paul VI.

Last Aug. 5, during the general audience dedicated to a reflection on St. John Vianney, Benedict XVI invited the faithful during this year to pray that "God will give holy priests to his Church and will increase in the faithful the desire to sustain and help them in their ministry."

00Friday, August 21, 2009 8:04 PM

I have always found it difficult to hide my dislike for the de-feminized if not 'masculinized' religious sisters who have been aggressively feminist - they have allowed their feminist liberal politics to override their status as supposed 'religious' and are clearly ignoring the part of their vows about obedience to the Church and its Magisterium.

Thus, my cup of forbearance long spilt over into irritation, to say the least, at their press campaign in recent days questioning the Vatican on why it is investigating them - in a classic 'turn the issue on its head and make them the villains' ploy generally used by politicians. Eventually, I knew, someone would comment and express the same opinion that I have.

Here's one from a priest's blog that also clears up a great many points about the status quo and differentiates clearly between the strident anti-Church activist sisters and the general universe of women religious in teh United States.

The red-herrings of the LCWR
by Philip Neri Powell, O.P.

August 19, 2009

Meeting recently in New Orleans, the LCWR (League of Catholic Women Religious?_ issued a statement on the upcoming theological assessment by the CDF.

Among the predictable "pearl clutching" exclamations of indignation are two charges against the Vatican's probe that are meant to serve as red herrings. Both these charges are made under the general charge of "lack of transparency":

1). Why can't we see the report itself?

2). Who's paying for this investigation?

The first charge sets up an ominous specter of secretive Vatican-doings. You can almost hear the dark, foreboding music in the background as the sisters furrow their collective brow.

The second charge plants the idea that the investigation is being bankrolled by some nefarious right-wing group, implying that the investigation would not be taking place if this group had not paid the Vatican to do it.

Why are these charges red-herrings? How do they attempt to distract readers?

The LCWR is either teaching with the Catholic Church, or it isn't. They are either leading their associated nuns and sisters in the apostolic faith, or they aren't.

The investigation is set to determine whether or not these women religious - vowed to serve the Church - are, in fact, serving the Church honestly or using their vast resources and influence to undermine the Catholic faith.

Having access to the reports will not change nearly forty-years of public statements supporting women's ordination, same-sex marriage, feminist political ideology, etc. Knowing who (if anyone) is paying for the investigation will not change these public statements either.

Basically, these charges by the LCWR are analogous to a reckless driver charging the police officer who stops him with reckless driving himself. How else did you catch me, Officer? You must have been speeding too! The officer's speeding in no way mitigates the recklessness of the indignate driver.

Here's what the LCWR is really afraid of:

From, the Instrumentum Laboris (this is not the CDF document but the working instrument for the assessment of the quality of life for the sisters, a separate investigation):

If any sister wishes to express her opinion about some aspect of her religious institute, she may do so freely and briefly, in writing and with signature, specifically identifying her institute by title and location.

In order to respect each sister’s freedom of conscience, any sister may send her written comments directly and confidentially to Mother Mary Clare Millea at the Apostolic Visitation Office (PO Box 4328, Hamden, CT, 06514); or by fax: (203-287-5467) by November 1, 2009.

Why is this scary? The LCWR knows what many of us know about the "sisters in the convents." They do not support the neo-pagan/eco-feminist agenda of their leadership conference, but often find themselves intimidated into silence.

By allowing individual sisters to write to Mother Clare (the lead investigator for this assessment), the Vatican is encouraging sisters to express themselves outside the tightly controlled, ideologically pure agenda of the LCWR.

In other words, this move undermines the power of the LCWR to manage the message. The last thing the leadership of any self-proclaimed revolutionary movement wants is public criticism from those they claim to represent. How often do "people's revolutions" end up in the hands of elitist demagogues?

My own experience with nuns and sisters with regard to both assessments is telling. I've yet to run across a "sister in the convent" who understands the reasons for these assessments.

When I describe the stated reasons, they are often shocked and saddened to hear what the LCWR has been spewing against the Church in their name. All they hear about the assessments comes from the LCWR.

It it vitally important for Catholics to understand that the CDF's theological assessement of the LCWR is NOT an investigation into the theological opinions of individual sisters or congregations.

The leadership conference itself is being assessed; that is, the focus of the assessement is on the public statements of conference speakers, conference resolutions, and projects funded by the conference to determine whether or not these adhere to basic Church teaching.

In its forty-year history, the LCWR has publicly supported women's ordination; overturning the Church's teaching on same-sex morality; and seriously questioned the unique and final role of Christ in salvation history (i.e., Christ may not be the only way to God, leading some to hold that other religions can lead to salvation on their own terms). These three areas of dissent have been marked for special attention by the CDF.

This bears repeating: any negative conclusion made by the CDF with regard to its investigation accures to the LCWR itself. . .NOT to individual sisters or congregations; meaning, if the CDF concludes that the LCWR has been deficient in teaching the Catholic faith, this should not be understood as a condemnation of any one sister or congregation.

Investigations into the work of individual theologians is an entirely different process that sometimes takes up to ten years or more.

I am being so adamant about this distinction b/c I fear that faithful Catholics may conclude that a negative evaluation of the LCWR by the CDF means that all (or even most) American religious women are involved in dissident activity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am confident that the overwhelming majority of our sisters are doing exactly what they vowed to do: serve the Church. The "non serviam" that the LCWR often proclaims to the Church should not be extended to most sisters.

Please offer prayers and fasts for the LCWR, the CDF, Mother Clare, and especially for the innocent sisters and nuns who are being subjected to this investigation through no fault of their own. Also, encourage individual sisters to write to Mother Clare and express themselves freely.

The fact that the LWCR wuld even bristle at the thought that the Vatican is investigating them is bad enough. Any person who believes himself/herself above suspicion on any matter does not behave so defensively. If you are innocent of any wrongdoing or intention of wrongdoing, you would be the first to welcome any investigation.

It's the prerogative of the Vatican to investigate members of the religious orders which exist by virtue of Vatican recognition, and this means supervision through the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life.

And yet, these defeminized militants are all acting with 'injured pride', virtually saying "We are above Church law and supervision", that is to say, "We are above the Church Magisterium - we make our own Magisterium. We are better Christians than the Pope or the Curia.". HOW CONTEMPTIBLE! It's hard to cite something that could be more an example of 'bad faith' in more ways than one than this.

But as Jesus said, "Father forgive them..." We can only pray.

00Sunday, August 23, 2009 7:45 PM

Here's a fairly balanced news account of the issue:

Sisters under scrutiny:
The state of the religious sisterhood
in the United States

By Charles Lewis

August 22, 2009

A Vatican investigation into the state of women’s religious communities in the United States appeared to start innocently enough.

Rome this year called for an “apostolic visitation,” to see how it could correct a potentially dire situation for the country’s 59,000 nuns and the orders they belong to.

In the United States, the number of nuns has dropped dramatically, and those who remain are largely seniors.

But no sooner was the investigation announced than the accusations began to fly that the Vatican had an ulterior motive: it was using the apostolic visitation to bring to heel those nuns who had broken with tradition — those who no longer wear the habit and eschew the semi-cloistered community to live alone.

“This is a subtle wrestling match over will,” said Francine Cardman, a professor of Church history at Boston College. “It’s about independence running up against authority and how much diversity can Catholicism tolerate.”

Writing this week in the National Catholic Reporter, Sister Sandra Schneiders, a professor at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, in California, attacked the apostolic visitation as a sham.

“The current Apostolic Visitation is not a normal dialogue between religious and Church authorities,” she wrote. “It is [similar to] a grand jury indictment, set in motion when there is reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a prima facie case of serious abuse or wrong-doing of some kind.”

[My, my! If you thought you were completely above board and could not possibly be guilty of any offense, would you invoke such a panoply of criminal law metaphors to describe your situation?????? I am surprised these overly defensive sisters do not realize that they 'do protest too much'. I even detect a sort of Lady-Macbeth guilt syndrome, wringing bloodied hands in despair! If I may mix metaphors, guilty slips are showing all over the liberal-nun landscape.]

Earlier this year she wrote: “I do not put any credence at all in the claim that this is friendly, transparent [and] aimed to be helpful. We cannot, of course, keep them from investigating. But we can receive them, politely and kindly, for what they are: uninvited guests who should be received in the parlor, not given the run of the house.” [Forget that sisters like this ever meant the 'obedience' in their vows!]

But Sister Catherine Marie Hopkins, executive director of the Dominicans of St. Cecilia in Nashville, a conservative and traditional order, said she was thrilled the Church was taking action.

“As women religious, we don’t work apart from the Church, we work in the heart of the Church,” she said. “Having the interest of the universal Church to us is a positive thing.”

The stated goal of the investigation, which is meant to wrap up in 2011, was to assess the “quality of life” of religious sisters, assess their contribution to the Church and society and find ways to attract young people to religious life.

Earlier this month, a separate study by the U.S. National Religious Vocation Conference found the number of nuns in the United States had fallen a stunning 66% over the past four decades from 180,000 to 59,000, and 90% women living a religious vocation are now over the age of 60 — a trend that could see many of the existing 400 religious communities vanish if new recruits are not found. (In Canada, there are 19,000 nuns, down 54% from 42,000 in 1975.)

The U.S. study also found that the majority of young people today are joining the more traditional orders, where wearing the habit is the norm and living and praying in community is considered paramount.

“In order to know what we can do to help them, we have to understand the present reality,” said Mother Mary Clare Millea, the American nun charged by the Vatican to carry out the apostolic visitation.

“People wanted to know if there’s a motive: [It is] the overall concern for the diminishment of vocation and what will happen to the American Church and what will happen without women in religious life. It’s a dramatic diminishment and we do want religious life to continue so let’s see what will promote it among young people so that kind of presence and witness will continue in the future.”

Sister Kathleen Cannon, a Dominican nun and associate dean at the University of Notre Dame, said a major problem was that there was no consultation before the investigation was launched, which raised suspicions among many religious sisters that they were being ambushed.

“I think some of the things that make people suspicion is that there seemed to be no reason that occasioned this now,” said Sister Kathleen. “There are suspicions about what provoked the Vatican to move in this direction. I’ve been in religious life 50 years and this is the first time I’ve heard of anything like this.”

['No reason that occasioned this now'? How utterly disingenuous! As if it wasn't clear that it's the past 40 years of defiance and disobedience that constitute the cumulative occasion for such an investigation.... And Sr. Kathleen has 'never heard of anything like this' in 50 years because before then, religious sisters kept their vows faithfully and humbly!... And excuse me, the Vatican needs no prior consultation to exercise its supervision. It's enough that it notifies those who are to be visited.]

Over the past 40 years, since the reforms of Vatican II, many women have left their semi-cloistered communities, where much of their day was spent in prayer together, and now live out on their own or in small groups and lead more secular lives where the focus is on individual good works.

And more visibly, many have stopped wearing the habit, the most traditional outward sign of leading a life of chastity, poverty and obedience.

“The habit is an issue, absolutely, and it goes toward the issue of conformity,” said Sister Kathleen, who no longer wears the habit and lives alone.

Amy Leonard, a professor of Church history at Georgetown University in Washington, said there is a very good reason why the Church used to insist on the habit for all its sisters.

“It gives the sisters a sense of authority, it sets them apart and gives them a certain amount of respect and it empowers the position as well. It says: ‘I have embraced this life so fully that it defines all of me.’”

She said much of tension that has come out over the apostolic visitation is the continuing fight between conservatives and liberals in the Church over the meaning of Vatican II.

Pope Benedict in particular has been known as someone who wants to retrieve much of the tradition, like the Latin Mass, that went out the window after Vatican II.

“My reading of this is there are a lot of nuns supporting what the Vatican is doing and they’re coming from the more traditional, more conservative orders, those still wearing habits. They see these liberal orders as outliers. And the majority of new nuns are choosing the more traditional, conservative, habit-wearing orders. And that says something about this whole conflict: the Vatican perhaps is seizing this moment to bring the liberal orders into line or purge them.”

Sister Catherine Marie Hopkins of the Dominicans of St. Cecilia said living a traditional life is exactly the reason why her order has been so successful. Many of the 225 sisters do teach in area Catholic schools but otherwise live as a community, including communal prayer that begins at 5:30 each morning and ends each day.

The order, known informally as the Nashville Dominicans, has an average age of just 36. And whereas most orders get two or three postulants a year, five if they are doing really well, her order just welcomed 23, many of whom are young professional women.

A big selling point, she said, is the habit.

“The habit is no so much to set us apart but as witness to a commitment that is whole-hearted,” said Sister Catherine Marie.

“There’s nowhere we go that we don’t attract attention in a positive way and people understand we represent a life of service. It’s a visual reminder to us and the people we serve of what we’re called to.

“The generation that came through in the ’60s and ’70s were in a pattern of rebellion. A lot of children were raised in more permissive homes. Today a lot of young people see the value in structure. It’s radical to take on tradition whereas before it was the other way around.”

00Monday, August 24, 2009 7:41 AM

This has been reported in the blogs in the past week, but I have only now gotten round to it. Thanks to

for the link to the original story on a Spanish Catholic website.

Bishop Galarreta will head
FSSPX panel for theological
discussions with the CDF

Translated from

The Spanish-Argentine Bishop Alfondo de Galarreta has been named president of the FSSPX theologians' commission that will be holding doctrinal discussions with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He will coordinate and direct meetings for that purpose with the corresponding panel from the CDF.

Galarreta is currently in charge of the Our Lady Co-Redemptrix Seminary in La Reja, near Buenos Aires, Argentina, taking the place of the disgraced Mons. Richard Williamson.

He will therefore have to program his time to allow for him to travel to Rome as and when needed for the discussions expected to begin in the fall.

Usually very low profile, he is known to have hardline doctrinal positions. Nonetheless, he is known to be very reasonable in his dealings and is also known to be a realist.

But he hardly ever deals with the media. His pastoral style has gained the respect of the faithful adn teh clergy of the FSSPX, particularly for his ability to give counsel, and the clarity in exposing his thoughts.

FSSPX sources said that Galarreta will continue to head the seminary in Argentina, but a determination will be made later whether his role in the discussions with the Vatican will require him to stay away too long or too often from the Seminary.

The current practical impossibility that Bishop Williamson can carry out any responsibility within the FSSPX has only added to the burden of the three other FSSPX bishops.

No date has yet been set for the first meeting between CDF and FSSPX theologians. The FSSPX has requested a definitive clarification of ambiguous language in the documents of Vatican II, particularly those that have to do with religious freedom, inter-religious dialog and liturgy.

Meanwhile, Father Christian Bouchacourt has been confirmed for another six years as Superior of the FSSPX South American District

00Monday, August 24, 2009 2:25 PM

This is a very compelling story on many counts.

Church mourns India’s first
'untouchable' bishop

HYDERABAD, India, Aug. 19 (UCAN) -- Church and political leaders were among the more than 20,000 mourners at the funeral of India’s first dalit [caste of the 'untouchables', lowest in India's multi-millennial traditional society] bishop on Aug. 18 in Andhra Pradesh state.

Bishop John Mulagada of Eluru died on Aug. 16 while undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Vijayawada, a major town in the southern Indian state. He had been suffering from cancer, diabetes and paralysis, and had undergone heart surgery several years ago.

The archbishop, 71, belonged to the dalit community (former “untouchables” in the Indian caste system) and had headed Eluru diocese for more than 32 years as its first bishop.

Fransalian Archbishop Mariadas Kagithapu of Visakhapatnam led the funeral Mass at St. Xavier’s Grounds in Eluru. Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad conducted the last rites.

More than 700 priests and about 1,500 nuns attended the funeral.

“His death is a big loss for the poor and marginalized,” said Archbishop Joji, head of the Catholic Church in Andhra Pradesh.

Archbishop Joji described Bishop Mulagada as the “people’s prelate” because he was so approachable. “People could meet him without an appointment.”

The late prelate was also known as “the bishop of shrines” as he helped build several Marian shrines in the state, Archbishop Joji added.

Bishop Mulagada was born in 1937 near Visakhapatnam, a harbor town. His parents died when he was a child, and his aunt and grandfather brought him up.

He was ordained a priest in 1965 for Visakhapatnam, which was a diocese then. He served many parishes there before being appointed bishop of Eluru in 1977. Eluru was formed out of Vijayawada diocese.

Archbishop Joji said Bishop Mulagada had helped promote social awareness and literacy through the Andhra Pradesh Social Service Society of which he was chairperson for more than two decades.

He also helped rebuild houses in the coastal areas of the diocese, which are prone to natural calamities such as cyclones and floods.

Bishop Mulagada “was the first Telugu bishop,” said Jesuit Father Elango Arulanandam, who has worked in the state for decades. Telugu is the official language of Andhra Pradesh.

Father Arulanandam told UCA News that the late prelate had promoted education among his people, who are mostly dalit. “He opened schools and parishes to help his people educationally and spiritually,” he added.

00Monday, August 24, 2009 8:12 PM

Here's a beautifully written brief history of how St. Peter's came to be built, which also brings up some information one may not have known before.

The Splendor and the Scandal

The story of St. Peter's Basilica,
a miracle in stone that took
more than a century to complete


August 24, 2009

The first time I saw St. Peter's, I was 19, new to Rome and starting to panic. I was late for a papal audience. Rushing in the general direction of the Vatican, I arrived breathless and confused at the outer rim of Bernini's colonnade. I didn't realize where I was, until I burst through the Doric columns into the sublime surprise of St. Peter's Square.

In 1505 when the formidable Pope Julius II began planning a new basilica to St. Peter, he imagined a miracle in stone that would dwarf the epic constructions of the Caesars and proclaim the power and the glory of Christ and his Church.

How that dream was realized over a ­tumultuous century, at an incalculable cost, is a saga as convoluted and controversial as the Church of Rome.

Conceived on a colossal scale, created from a confusion of ideas and consuming the genius of the greatest artists of the age, St. Peter's ­became both the splendor of the High Renaissance and a scandal of epic proportions.

Rome already had a basilica of St. Peter, erected 12 centuries earlier by the Emperor Constantine. It was a sacred site where every Holy Roman Emperor since Charlemagne had been crowned.

When Pope Julius ­decided to replace the old church, he provoked such fury that his architect, Donato Bramante, was forced to adopt a novel approach. Instead of leveling the original basilica and laying a new foundation, he proceeded in sections, demolishing and then constructing piece by piece.

Bramante, a middle-aged ­architect with no singular ­accomplishment, seemed an ­uninspired choice. (His ­Tempietto, or "Little Temple," the Renaissance architectural ideal in microcosm, was still ­under construction.) But Bramante's ambition was as extravagant as the Pope's.

He envisioned a large Greek cross, its four equal arms surmounted by an immense saucer dome that rested on four discrete piers. It was a risky experiment. The dome was 142 feet in diameter, equal to the Pantheon, and at 300 feet more than twice as high. No one had ever vaulted such a broad expanse at such a dizzying height and balanced it on such dubious supports.

Bramante was so eager to raise his huge dome that he ­employed an unorthodox strategy. He built the basilica from the center out. By completing the crossing and the four giant piers, and joining them with coffered barrel vaults, he ensured that the heroic scale could not be diminished.

When Bramante died in 1514, other architects began to question his plan. Although many artists, beginning with Raphael, tried their hand at building St. Peter's, no one dared to raise the dome.

Years passed. Architects and plans changed, building costs escalated. To pay for them, succeeding popes peddled indulgences. Absolution was bartered for building funds, infuriating Martin Luther and other Reformation figures, and culminating in the division of the Christian West into Protestants and Catholics. The Basilica project was abandoned.

Sketches from the period show the husk of St. ­Peter's like a failed dream — an apt symbol, some thought, for a Church that had lost its way, forgotten its purpose and forsaken its mission.

Resuming work on the basilica became a priority of the first Counter-Reformation Pope. Paul III saw a glorious new St. Peter's as a metaphor for a reborn Church of Rome, and he turned to Michelangelo Buonarroti to realize it.

At first, Michelangelo refused. The whims of Popes ­infuriated him. Paul flattered, ­cajoled and ultimately commanded obedience.

Michelangelo was 70 when he assumed the grand enterprise "against my will." Although ­ambitious young architects complained that he was impossible to work with — he was too old and his faculties were failing — for almost two decades, through five pontiffs, Michelangelo worked with undiminished fervor.

He completed the drum, erected most of the attic and ­designed a new dome. When he died in 1564, in his 89th year, he left a 15-foot scale model so that the dome of St. Peter's would be completed to his exact ­specifications.

Many architects followed Michelangelo, just as many had followed Bramante. More than 20 years passed. No one was able to build the dome or dared to suggest an alternative. The basilica drum towered over the city like a headless giant until 1585, when Sixtus V, another stubborn old man, was elected Pope.

Sixtus commissioned ­Giacomo della Porta to complete the dome, and he allowed the ­architect 30 months to do the job.

Della Porta, who had been Michelangelo's pupil, did the ­unthinkable. He redrew the master's design, creating a far bolder silhouette, and he raised the new dome in just 22 months.

Dwarfing every other construction, the dome of St. Peter's soars 452 feet and spans a 138-foot diameter. It is three times the height of the Pantheon dome and 100 feet higher than the Duomo in Florence.

The inner shell visible inside the basilica retained Michelangelo's rounded contour. The outer shell that fills the sky over Rome is a higher, more dramatic ellipse.

Della Porta died in 1602, having brought the new St. Peter's to the point of completion. All that remained was to add the ­façade. Instead, a new pope, the Borghese Paul V, and his architect, Carlo Maderno, returned to the drawing board.

They ­extended one arm of the ­Bramante-Michelangelo-della Porta design, changing it from a Greek to a Roman cross that would accommodate larger crowds. The flamboyant baroque genius Gianlorenzo Bernini would give the basilica a grand entry, enclosing a space the size of the Colosseum with his magnificent piazza and colonnades. But that would come later.

With the structure finally finished, on Nov. 18, 1626, 1,300 years to the day after the dedication of Constantine's basilica, the new St. Peter's was consecrated.

It had been 120 years since ­Julius II broke ground. Over the decades of construction, Magellan's fleet had sailed around the world; Henry VIII had taken six wives and disposed of four of them; Shakespeare had made the world his stage; the Mayflower had landed at Plymouth Rock; and an extraordinary feat of ­architecture and engineering had emerged.

Two million tons of stone were transformed into spirit, creating what Rome's pre-eminent historian, Edward ­Gibbon, called "The most glorious structure that ever has been applied to the use of religion."

Today, the visitor entering St. Peter's experiences unity as ­immutable as dogma with no hint of the conflicts and perils overcome. Human follies seem too petty to have ever played a part here. The heart stops. The soul soars. The power of the idea is transcendent.

Ms. Scotti is the author of Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa (Knopf 2009).
00Wednesday, August 26, 2009 5:13 PM

NCRegister picked up and translated an ANSA story I did not see:

Miracles continue at Lourdes
Posted by Tom McFeely

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One hundred and fifty-one years after the Virgin Mary first appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous at the Grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, France, healings continue to occur at the Marian pilgrimage site.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported Aug. 24 about an apparent cure of a 50-year-old Italian woman who was afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal and medically incurable nerve disease.

Reported ANSA:

Turin, August 24 — A woman suffering from a killer nerve disease says she has ditched her wheelchair and even run since a visit to Lourdes earlier this month.

“Ever since I came back I have been walking, doing everything normally, and I’ve even run,” Antonia Raco, 50, told ANSA Monday.

Raco had been in a wheelchair for four years because of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, until the August 5 trip to the Catholic shrine in France.

The woman, from a village near the southern Italian city of Potenza, will be examined Tuesday by a specialist at Turin’s prestigious Molinette Hospital, Adriano Chio’, who has been treating her since 2006.

“He’s the one who’ll be able to fully understand what has happened to me,” said Raco.

“For the moment I’d rather talk about a gift, an act of mercy, rather than a miracle,” she said.

When she was in the ‘healing’ bath at Lourdes, she said, “I felt a voice encouraging me and a strong pain in my legs.”

00Thursday, August 27, 2009 2:52 AM

Why are the liberal German bishops
so obsessed and mean about the FSSPX?
Cardinal Lehmann sounds off

ROME, August 26 (Translated from ASCA) - Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Archbishop of Mainz, who was president of the German bishops' conference for 12 years, said today that the Fraternity of St. Pius X is a "sinkhole that collects all those who are disappointed and frustrated with the Church".

[That's a strange statement to make - because that would include all those 'We Are Church' types that Lehmann and his fellow liberals have been bending over backwards like contortionists to 'make nice' with. It is, of course, meant to indicate contempt for the Lefebvrians whom the liberal German bishops have been treating most un-Christianly like they were the scum of the earth!]

He goes on to say that "even if they continue their provocations against the Pope nnd the Vatican...there is no need to have recourse to excommunicating them again."

[Gee, thanks, how generous! The fact is that liberal dissenters within the Church have not been excommunicated nor are threatened with it at all, because excommunication is punishment for violations of canon law, more usually imposed in our time on clerics rather than laymen. The FSSPX bishops are as free as the most progressive among the German bishops who open defying the Magisterium, to express their disapproval of some Vatican II decisions - or more properly, the way such decisions have been interpreted and implemented.

Why can Mons. Zollitsch, president of the German bishops conference and Lehmann's ideological twin, get away with saying on German TV that Christ "did not die for the sins of the people as if God had provided a sacrificial offering, like a scapegoat" but that rather, Jesus had offered only 'solidarity with the poor and the suffering"? He is echoing all the liberation theologians and Biblical exegetes who see Christ as nothing more than a social activist! Have the Lefebvrians said anything so outrageous? Even Mons. Williamson's anti-Holocaust lunacy pales beside Zollitsch's theological apostasy - Williamson's 'heresy', after all, does not involve a tenet of the faith!

I find it odd and emblematic that the European press raised such hue and cry over Austrian Mons. Wagner's statements on Katrina and Harry Potter, and hardly paid any attention to Zollitsch's 'heresy'!

Lehmann made the statements in an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau.

He said further: "If the Lefebvrians continue to behave inconsiderately and continue to play games with the Pope and the Curia, then we must say that they really have no place in our community".

[Hmm, let me see: Who were those who 'behaved inconsiderately' - indeed, almost contemptuously - towards the Pope after he lifted the excommunications last January? Gosh, can you believe it? None other than Lehmann and his fellow German liberal bishops, seconded by their linguistic brothers in Austria!

It wasn't the FSSPX bishops to whom the Pope felt he needed to write a letter last March 10 to express his sorrow about the negative reactions to his compassionate gesture towards the Lefbevrians! But Lehmann is hardly motivated by compassion for arguing against re-excommunication, Read on!]

"Excommunication," he said, is considered today to be as obscurantist and regressive a measure as one can possibly take.

And yet, he went on, "when some people, like the Lefbevrians, don't follow the Church's agenda, then one hears other Catholics crying for excommunication."

[DIM]pt[=DIM][Really? How many 'regular folk' Catholics are even aware the Lefebvrians exist? Other than the Pope and his allies in the Curia, no one appears to be particularly interested in the Lefebvrians except bitter European liberal bishops who seem to be unduly uncharitable towards the FSSPX for disagreeing with Rome at all - obviously not seeing their long-festering practice of the hermeneutics of rupture as a disagreement with Rome!]

"But the Pope certainly does not have that style [combative? harsh?] and has acted as 'the supreme shepherd who is doing his duty" by responding positively to the Lefebvrians repeated requests for reconciliation.

Nonetheless, he said, "this does not take away the fact that the FSSPX is a sinkhole that collects all those who are disappointed and frustrated with the Church".

"There are those," he went on, "who reject modernity altogether, some who never accepted the French Revolution, and some who oppose the idea of religious freedom and the liturgical reforms after the Council."

He granted that "many are reconcilable, but there are the 'unreformables' among them, like the Holocaust denier, Mons. Williamson.

"Perhaps," he said, "such distinctions should have been made beforehand and in a clear way" to avoid what he called "the pain and the abandonment of the Catholic Church that followed the recall of the excommunications".

[But Lehmann and company inflamed public opinion by their denunciations of the Pope's decision at the time, instead of using the occasion to explain the situation as it really is! And are we really to believe that German Catholics left the Church in significant numbers because the Pope revoked those excommunications? Whoever 'left' were probably just waiting for a good pretext. Besides, I believe Church membership in German requires the individual to pay a tax - so formally leaving the Church is conceivably a way to get out of paying one more tax.]

00Friday, August 28, 2009 6:25 AM

New US ambassador
arrives in Rome

By John Thavis

ROME, Aug. 27 (CNS) -- The new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, arrived in Rome and said he was eager to help expand the "special relationship" between the United States and the Holy See.

Diaz, a 45-year-old Catholic theologian, arrived with his wife and four children at Rome's Fiumicino airport Aug. 27, six days after he was sworn in as ambassador in Washington. He was expected to present his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI at a ceremony later this summer.

"I look forward to the coming weeks as my family and I put down new roots in Rome. I will be honored to serve President (Barack) Obama and the American people in my new role, and it will be a unique honor to meet His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI," Diaz said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

"I welcome the opportunity to deepen and expand upon the special relationship that has evolved between the United States and the Vatican over the past 25 years of formal diplomatic ties," he said.

The embassy said it would work with the Vatican to establish a date as soon as possible for Diaz to present his credentials letter to the Pope. The Pope is residing at his summer villa outside Rome until the end of September, and maintaining a reduced schedule of official meetings.

The formal presentation of credentials offers the Pope and the new ambassador a chance to give speeches that touch on relations between the two states.

Diaz, a professor at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, is the first Hispanic and the first theologian to represent the United States at the Vatican.

A native of Cuba who came to the United States as a child with his parents, he was the first of his family to attend college. He is a former president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians and a board member of the Catholic Theological Society of America. He is fluent in Italian, Spanish and French.

00Friday, August 28, 2009 10:02 PM

Now, the media have been robbed of an opportunity to exploit Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi for attending the religious feast in L'Aquila today - and dinner with Cardinal Bertone afterwards! He won't be there at all.

Background and context for this story can be seen in the BENEDICT XVI NEWS thread - a translation of Cardinal Bertone's long interview in the OR today.

Here is the unusual announcement from the Vatican Press Office reproduced in tomorrow's issue (8/29/09) of OR.

Statement from
the Vatican Press Office

August 28, 2009

At the invitation of the Archbishop of L'Aquila, Mons. Giuseppe Molinari, and the committee in charge of the Celestinian Pardon observance, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, went to L'Aquila today to reaffirm to the people the spiritual closeness and affection of the Holy Father.

His Eminence was to preside at the solemn Eucharistic celebration at 6 p.m. which opens the 715th observance of the Celestinian indulgence.

After the Mass, Archbishop Molinari had planned to organize a dinner for Cardinal Bertone, his fellow bishops and civilian authorities, in appreciation for their presence and their work to assist the victims of the earthquake in March.

But he decided to cancel the dinner and contribute what it would have cost to the earthquake fund.

In the morning, the Secretary of State visited the provincial command headquarters of firemen to express appreciation and thanks for their extraordinary work.

In order to avoid having his visit instrumentalized, the President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister, Hon. Silvio Berlusconi, named the underscretary of the cabinet, Giovanni Letta, to represent the Italian government at the Celestinian observance

AP, reporting the above, managed quite a lot of 'instrumentalization', nonetheless, with an almost tabloid-style headline:!

Berlusconi nixes religious observance for sins

ROME, Aug. 28 (AP) – Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has been embroiled in a sex scandal for months, canceled his planned participation in a Catholic religious service for the remission of sins Friday after his presence was deemed problematic.

Berlusconi was supposed to have attended the annual "Perdonanza," or forgiveness observance, in the earthquake-stricken city of L'Aquila alongside the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and then attend a dinner with him.

But, less than three hours before the service was to begin, the Vatican announced that the L'Aquila archdiocese had canceled the dinner to avoid an 'exploitation' of the situation. It didn't elaborate, although it said the money for the dinner would instead go to quake victims.

The cancellation gave Berlusconi a face-saving excuse to cancel his trip and avoid the prickly question of whether the twice-married premier would receive a so-called plenary indulgence, an extra spiritual step many faithful seek for remission of sins already forgiven through confession.

[Now, that's a stretch - and quite unfair! There has been no evidence that Berlusconi has openly sought to receive communion anywhere.

For example, he attended the Pope's Mass in Cagliari, Sardinia, last September, but did not present himself for Communion.]

Pope Celestine V issued a papal bull, or edict, in 1294 granting a plenary indulgence to anyone who entered L'Aquila's basilica between the nights of Aug. 28 and 29 and was "truly repentant and had confessed."

Each year, thousands of the faithful flock to the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio to participate in a procession and Mass and to take advantage of the indulgence.

According to Vatican rules, though, the faithful must be in the state of grace, have gone to Confession, received Communion and prayed for the pope's intentions to receive the indulgence.

As a divorced and remarried Catholic, Berlusconi isn't supposed to receive Communion. The Catholic Church doesn't permit divorce, and people who remarry and consummate their new marriages are considered to be living in sin, and thus ineligible to receive the Eucharist.

Berlusconi — and numerous other Catholics in his position — have lobbied the Church to change its teachings on the matter, but the Vatican has remained firm.

Berlusconi divorced his first wife and married Veronica Lario in 1990. Lario has announced she wanted to divorce Berlusconi because of his reported dalliances with young women, including an escort. Her accusations have sparked months of tawdry headlines about Berlusconi's personal life.

Berlusconi's presence at the L'Aquila commemoration had also raised eyebrows because he had planned to go with his equal opportunities minister, Mara Carfagna, a former model and TV starlet to whom the premier once professed: "If I weren't married, I'd marry you." Berlusconi later apologized to Lario after she publicly complained.

After the sex scandal broke, Berlusconi denied any improper relationships with women and said he had never paid a woman for sex. But he has admitted he's "no saint" and has reportedly promised to turn over a new leaf.

Since Berlusconi couldn't participate fully in the religious observance, his office designated his right-hand man Gianni Letta, who has not been divorced, to take his place.

While the Vatican itself has remained silent on Berlusconi's personal problems, influential Italian Catholic publications have taken him to task. Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic weekly distributed in parishes across Italy, said Berlusconi had exceeded the "limits of decency" with his behavior.

And the newspaper of Italy's bishops conference, Avvenire, urged him to respond to the accusations.

On Friday, the left-leaning La Repubblica daily — which has been at the forefront in exposing the scandal — said Berlusconi had filed a euro1 million ($1.4 million) defamation suit.

At issue is the newspaper's daily set of 10 questions it wants Berlusconi to answer concerning the scandal, including whether he could assure Italians that he couldn't be blackmailed by any of the women.

Ties between Berlusconi and the Church have been futher damaged by criticism over the conservative government's crackdown on immigration. Italian media had suggested the meeting with Bertone would have given the two sides a chance to smooth over differences.
[This is also misleading, since there is nothing to smooth over. It wasn't Berlusconi's party that raised a ruckus over a Curial prelate's statements regarding the drowning death of illegal Tunisian immigrants in the sea off Italy.]

The religious observance in L'Aquila has taken on particular resonance following the April 6 earthquake, which killed nearly 300 people in L'Aquila and surrounding areas, drove some 50,000 from their homes and leveled entire blocks of buildings. The basilica was severely damaged, with its roof partially caved in.

In addition, this year marks the 800th anniversary of the birth of Celestine, a hermit and saint who was the only Pope to have resigned. As a result, Bertone was dispatched to represent the Vatican at the commemoration, and until he canceled, Berlusconi would have been the first head of government to have attended.

00Saturday, August 29, 2009 6:56 PM

With regard to the Celestinian Pardon:
When history is ignored

by Lucetta Scaraffia
Translated from
the 8/29/09 issue of

"In the ancient Church, penitence was a serious matter. It had to do with sins like homicide, apostasy, and adultery, and was administered publicly."

Thus starts an article by Vito Mancuso [lay theologian much lionized by the Catholic left and author of best-sellers that promote heterodox religious thought] in La Repubblica [Italy's leading ultra-liberal daily which is also relentlessly anti-Church and anti-Benedict XVI], that one can say, even at first glance, is particularly deficient in historical fact.

It is with such 'knowledge' that Mancuso uses to attack the cardinal Secretary of State for an encounter that had been scheduled to take place in a well-defined institutional setting.

Mancuso should know that the Church today continues to consider penitence a serious matter, and that it should not be confused with contingent controversies such as those that the newspapers indulge in.

That is why the Church in Abruzzo celebrates every year the occasion of the Pardon, the gift of indulgence that Celestine V gave to the people of his region in a spirit of spiritual charity as well as for economic reasons.

The occasion of the Pardon - like the Porziuncola indulgence in Assisi - attracted pilgrims and penitents to a place not usually visited by travelers, therefore benefiting the local citizens.

Even Celestine, whose contemporaries saw as the embodiment of the Papa angelicus, knew that alongside spiritual assistance, material incentives were indispensable to people who are very poor.

And because of the importance given by the Church to forgiveness, the Church celebrated the Great Jubilee of 2000 by underscoring constantly, among other things, that pilgrimage must be accompanied indispensably by repentance, confession and a change of life.

This year, after the serious earthquake that brought such tragedy to the Abruzzo, the observance of the Celestinian Pardon has understandably received particular solemnity with the attendance of the Secretary of State to represent the Pope.

In his selective reconstruction of the history of penitence in the Church, Mancuso seems to forget that starting in the middle of the third century, confession was established as an individual and auditory experience - it takes place between the penitent and his confessor, and it is secret, as penitence should be.

It is a method that doubtless favored recourse to confession by many sinners, but above all - as many historians acknowledged - it also became the basis for the birth of individualism in Western civilization.

Evidently, this confessional secrecy does not please everyone: there are those who want a Church that is ever ready to condemn individuals publicly, instead of the individual care that it gives to individual consciences.

And there are those who want this public condemnation for particular individuals, because whenever the Church states its positions publicly on sexual behavior in general, these same people consider it to be unwarranted interference.

In other words, these elements would want the Church to contradict what is the proper moral position by condemning the sinner and not the sin. [La Repubblica has been on a months-long campaign to pillory Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for alleged sexual indiscretions and immoral behavior, and apparently wishes the Church to do the same thing.]

Which would also be a nihilistic position as well as partisan involvement in contingent political events - which is exactly what both Benedict XVI and Cardinal Bertone wish to avoid.

Mancuso's superficial moralism leads him to a stunning comparison between John the Baptist's attitude towards Herod Antipas, and what was to have been a social dinner between Cardinal Bertone and the Italian Prime Minister.

Once more, Mancuso appears to ignore that the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod because of his subversive preaching, not just for reproaching his private life. But above all, Mancuso seems to see prophecy as a radical opposition to institution.

Indeed, according to him, the Church should be deprived of its institutional foundation, which along with the prophetic dimension, has characterized it throughout its history.

But the Church, which lives in the world, is guided above all by charity and the salvation of souls.


Another 'scandal' involving the Church in Italy indirectly has erupted in Italy, arising from a report in Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by the brother of the Prime Minister, in which the editor reveals that Dino Boffo, editor of Avvenire, the Italian bishops' newspaper, for the past 15 years, was found guilty in 2004 by a local court in Terni of telephone harassment of a woman with whose husband he was allegedly having an affair, and fined for the offense. The report said that it was not the first time Boffo had been denounced in Terni for homosexual practices.

Boffo immediately answered in Avvenire that he was the object of journalistic character assassination but did not deny the report itself. The Italian bishops conference also immediately issued a statement of 'full confidence' in Boffo, and this morning in Genoa, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, CEI president, did the same.

The Vatican has not weighed in on the matter, which some quarters find significant. Questions are being asked whether Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who initially hired Boffo, was aware of his alleged 'criminal' record, and whether Cardinal Bagnasco should investigate the matter inasmuch as Il Giornale apparently merely cited court records which are open to the public.

Meanwhile, shouldn't Mr. Boffo resign temporarily until the matter is cleared up? It's a terrible scandal to weigh over the Church in Italy if it should turn out that the moralizing editor of the bishops' newspaper has such a record.

On second thought, if he had been convicted as reported, Mr. Boffo should have informed the CEI at the time of his conviction. Not informing them then merely raises the suspicion level now about his honesty.

Of course, questions have been raised about the timing of the Il Giornale story which came out yesterday - in the midst of the brouhaha over the Prime Minister's attendance at the observance of the Celestinian Pardon. Berlusconi immediately denied he had anything to do with the report.

Whether the timing is suspicious or not, what is more important is for Mr. Boffo to disclose the full truth and for the CEI to do what is right and proper - remembering that any scandal affecting the Church or one of its priests or prominent laymen ends up being laid at the Pope's doorstep. Mr. Boffo and the CEI owe it to the Pope to spare him new grief.


P.S. Mr. Boffo published a reply today in Avvenire to the charges against him made in Il Giornale in which he says, among other things:

1) the claim that he had previously been denounced for alleged homosexual offenses was not from any official report, but from an anonymous letter that had been sent to the CEI and many Italian bishops months ago;

2) that the Italian Minister for the Interior called him to say that his ministry (which is also in charge of all police prefectures) had nothing to do with the release of any document used by Il Giornale, and that to his knowledge, there were no records of previous complaints against Boffo;

3) that Boffo indeed paid a fine to a court in Terni in 2004 for molesting telephone calls made from his cell phone, not by him, he claims, but by a teenage ward that he had been helping to cure of his drug addiction; that he paid the fine of 536 euros to clear up the matter; and that he informed the CEI about all this in 2004.

The Il Giornale story claimed that Boffo was having an affair with the woman's husband, but Boffo says the husband's only involvement in the whole episode was that he, too, had been a ward at the rehabilitation center where Boffo's ward was enrolled [the boy died eventually of drug overdose].

4) that, in effect, Il Giornale manipulated its reporting of available documents to present the story that it did about Boffo.

Lella on her blog observes that the CEI came so promptly to the defense of Boffo, and wishes they were as prompt when it has to do with supporting the Pope.

Actually, Cardinals Ruini and Bagnasco have been exemplary about issuing a prompt response in support of the Pope, when needed - in their personal capacity and in the name of the CEI - but certainly, not the other Italian bishops, in their individual capacity.

00Monday, August 31, 2009 5:22 PM

Vatican and Israel about
to finalize economic agreement?

ROME, Aug. 31 (JTA) -- The Vatican and Israel are working toward finalizing their bilateral relations with an economic agreement.

According to a statement over the weekend by the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See, the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel met last week to continue talks on the issue.

The statement said the talks "took place in an atmosphere of cordiality, and the delegations believe that they have contributed to taking the talks forward towards the desired agreement."

The Vatican and Israel signed an agreement establishing diplomatic relations in 1993, but several financial issues, including tax exemptions and property rights for the Church, have remained unresolved since then, despite years of fitful negotiations.

The statement reads exactly like the boilerplate that has been issued periodically over the past 14 years since these bilateral talks have been going on. What makes JTA think this is any different? There was the same optimism earlier this year at the time of the Papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but nothing appeared to move forward. Does JTA, being a Jewish agency, have inside information perhaps that leads them to be optimistic?

00Tuesday, September 1, 2009 4:24 PM

Fr. Lombardi says Vatican
and Italian bishops conference agree
despite sometimes conflicting positions
taken by their newspapers

VATICAN CITY, Sept. 1 (Translated from Apcom) - The Vatican has issued a statement on the case of Dino Boffo, editor of the Italian bishops' newspaper Avvenire, who was the object of a personal attack by Il Giornale, owned by a brother of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, told newsmen today that he shared the solidarity shown by the Italian bishops behind Boffo, even as he denied media reports of conflict between the Vatican and the Italian bishops conference (CEI) with regard to the Italian Prime Minister.

"I confirm that the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, spoke with Dr. Boffo to express his own personal solidarity," Lombardi said.

"Of course, the Holy See and the Church in Italy are in agreement about their respective competencies," he continued. "There is frequent contact and a relationship of profound esteem and respect between Cardinal Bertone and the president of the CEI (Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco). Therefore, it is futile to try and create opposition between them".

He explained however that "it should not be surprising if Vatican media and those of the Catholic Church in Italy take different approaches to ongoing issues in Italian society and politics, because they have different audiences and different priorities. It is obvious that Vatican media have an international audience, not just Italian, and also reflect the positions of episcopates in other countries."

[NB: Additionally, Giovanni Maria Vian criticized an editorial by Avvenire's Marina Corradi, claiming that she had likened the neglect of African illegal immigrants endangered in high seas to the Shoah. Corradi has written a reply to say she never did so, and cites her editorial textually to prove it.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera published yesterday (8/31), Vian also criticized Avvenire for its editorial positions critical of the Italian government's immigration hard line and of Prime Minister Berlusconi's loose private morals. Why Vian would go out of his way to criticize Avvenire in public - and erroneously, yet - is questionable, to begin with. It's not kosher at all!]

Luigi Accattoli offers a very sensible overview of the Boffo case:

The dark side of an old 'anonymous' attack
on Avvenire's editor - and why he should now
just tell us the facts about the case

by Luigi Accattoli
Translated from

Sept. 1, 2009

In the whole song-and-dance of the Feltri-Boffo duel - both old friends of mine - only one thing is important: what really took place in the case that Dino Boffo, editor of the Italian bishops' newspaper Avvenire, settled with a fine of 514 euros in 2004.

What exactly was the 'telephone molestation' for which he was cited by a court in Terni?

We know for sure that Boffo had explained the case to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who was president of the CEI then, and later to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, when he took over the CEI presidency.

Why should he not now give the same explanation to the public? I consider this the only interesting aspect because it would present all the facts of the case, after which everything else will be self-explanatory.

I will try to summarize what is publicly known about the case and what follows self-evidently in order to explain why I think Boffo should clear up what is not now publicly known.

When I read the attack against him in Il Giornale last Friday and Boffo's immediate reply, it was clear that Boffo would litigate, as he did announce Sunday and as his lawyers were supposed to do yesterday.

It was also clear to those who knew previously about Boffo's settling the Terni case that Boffo would have a good case against the newspaper for making allegations against him based on a pathetic piece of 'information' by an anonymous writer [previously sent to Italian bishops and some media, and dismissed for not being verifiable], but how such a suit would end up is, of course, not known.

That anonymous letter had been known for some time and not merely in whispers: Notizie radicali and Panorama both wrote about it, and it was all over the Internet.

Ans so, all that editor Vittorio Feltri of Il Giornale did was to generate new smoke that was more or less persecutory against Boffo, who was referred to as 'widely known to be homosexual' in the anonymous letter cited by Feltri who, however, made it appear that the 'information' came from police sources. [The Italian Minister of the Interior subsequently said the police never released any information about Boffo.]

It is now clear to everyone - regardless of who sent the anonymous letter - that it was just that, and not official police information.

That anonymous letter was sent to many Italian bishops last spring, although some say it was first sent years ago when Cardinal Ruini was still head of the CEI.

Ruini, along with the then CEI secretary-general Giuseppe Betori, now Archbishop of Florence, and Cardinal Tettamanzi of Milan, were cited by Il Giornale to have had 'indubitable knowledge... of the crime' allegedly committed by Boffo.

But sources in the CEI say that Boffo had explained the facts of the case to Cardinal Ruini, who was CEI president till 2007, and later to Cardinal Bagnasco when he took over. On Saturday, Bagnasco called Feltri's attack against Boffo 'disgusting and very serious'. Both cardinals considered Boffo's explanation satisfactory.

But I do think that Boffo should now make that explanation public.

It is true that Feltri did not 'discover' anything new but what he did was to bring it to public attention front and center, while inflating it. The public now has a right to know all the facts about the original court complaint that Boffo settled. After which, as I said, everything else will be self-explanatory.

It doesn't take much to see the journalistic and political reasons that motivated Feltri, without necessarily implying an active participation by Prime Minister Berlusconi in the activities of his brother's newspaper.

Also self-evident is the vast solidarity that Boffo has earned around him, including the full confidence in him that was reaffirmed by the CEI.

But the antecedent facts of the complaint will not be cleared unless Boffo himself does so. [NB: The court of Terni yesterday denied newsmen access to the proceedings that had to do with Boffo's case, only allowing them to make copies of the penal decree that imposed the fine.]

Boffo may well end up winning a suit against Feltri simply because Feltri cannot prove any basis for the accusations he made on the basis of the anonymous letter.

Boffo paid a fine for at least three telephone calls made on his cellphone in 2001-2002 to a woman or a couple in Terni, as reportedly gathered from Boffo himself who has not been quoted directly.

It's easy to speculate on the reasons that have kept Boffo from explaining the case in public. He might have paid the fine simply to end a contentious and embarrassing situation and to protect his own image.

But now, the issue is no longer private, and I am convinced he can clear it up. Let him give his version of the facts - which he described Friday as 'an event regarding annoying telephone calls of which I myself was the first victim' (really not explaining anything) - and we can all be behind him solidly.

Meanwhile, I express my own personal solidarity with him.

I personally have a problem with the manner Boffo chose to respond to Feltri's accusations. Instead of simply saying "These accusations are false - this is what happened", his frst reaction was hysterical vitriolic against Feltri - understandable in the circumstances, but unwise and not prudent on his part, without offering any facts to back up his outrage. He did so two days later, but without explaining the original court case itself.

I also find it questionable that both Cardinals Ruini and Bagnasco simply threw their full support behind Boffo, without calling on him to explain to the public what really happened in order to put a definitive end to the dispute, especially since they alread heard his explanation and had no problem accepting it. Transparency is very much at issue here, and both cardinals seem to be strangely oblivious of that - they have both been usually quite media-savvy.

The longer Boffo postpones explaining the antecedent facts as Accattoli suggests, the more his credibility with the public will suffer - which is not good for Avvenire and not good for the Italian bishops' conference.

I also think that out of 'delicadeza' [one's inherent sense of propriety], he should have stepped down provisionally as Avvenire editor until the matter is fully cleared up. It would simply have been a matter of days if he had decided to completely come clean right away, as Accattoli suggests.

It must be made clear that the sense of Feltri's rash accusations was that Boffo had no moral standing to keep pounding on Prime Minister Berlusconi's alleged libertinism in Avvenire, since he himself has questionable morals.

Even if Boffo happens to be homosexual, which no one of his supporters has addressed in public, that does not make him immoral nor sinful in the eyes of the Church unless he habitually practises homosexual acts.

The only reason I can think of that Cardinals Ruini and Bagnasco have not pressured him to tell all in public is that he may indeed be a self-acknowledged homosexual, and no matter how chaste he has lived his life, the very label alone applied to the editor of the Italian bishops' newspaper would leave Avvenire and the CEI open to all kinds of unsavory inferences. Human nature being what it is, that would unfortunately damage Avvenire's moral credibility - and nothing could be worse for a Catholic newspaper.

00Wednesday, September 2, 2009 8:21 PM

A lack of prudence and its consequence
in enormous damage to the Church

Translated from

Sept. 2, 2009

Like everyone in my milieu, various rumors have reached me for some time about the alleged court appearance of the 'Boffo Dottor Dino, from Asolo' [a lame attempt at an Italian play on words by those who coined it, since 'boffo' means 'a resounding hit', as in a box-office success] for a homosexual 'story'.

And why before a court in Terni? Because, the gossips would answer with a malicious smile, "that is the location of Don Gelmini's community and... you know, Don Gelmini was reduced to the lay state becasue he was accused of pederasty". [This was a long-running story in Italy in 2006 or 2007, that I 'chronicled' in translation in the PRF, because it involved an octogenarian priest whom many considered a living saint because of his lifelong work to rehabilitate drug addicts. The malicious insinuation of guilt-by-association is just too patent!]

I knew then that somehow, someone would try to get court records about it - those documents that can be made public under the law, but held back when appropriate to protect the reputation of the accused.

As a Catholic, I listened to the gossip calmly. Even if sooner or later, there would always be someone - because of political enmity, out of vedentta, or simply in search of a scoop - who would disclose any embarassing files.

And it has happened, with the enormous damage to the image of the Church that I feared, regardless of how the whole episode turns out.

Let me make clear: I confirm to Dino my fraternal closeness during this terrible time that he is having, and wish him - and for all of us - that he may clear everythign up.

Allow me, among other things, to offer proof of his professional honesty. Many Catholics in Italy are convinced - despite all my denials - that Boffo was responsible for ending the twice-weekly column 'Vivaio' that I wrote for Avvenire for years, and which attracted both passionate readers as well as enemies. It ended because of a decision made by me alone, which, in fact, provoked Boffo's sincere regrets.

In any case, thanks to him, we have admired the leap in quality and autoritativeness of a newspaper which had once seemed like nothing more than a semi-official news bulletin.

This being said, honesty leads me to confess that I am disconcerted by the conduct of the Church hierarchy on which the CAtholic media system depends.

And in this, Boffo is the hinge - as editor of Avvenire, and director of both Sat2000, the TV outlet in which the CEI has invested and contnues to ivnest millions, and of InBlu, the CEI's radio network with more than 200 stations. A virtual human institution, though a layman, occupying soem of the most sensitive positions in an ecclesial institution.

In reviewing the history of the Church, I always admired one constant element: cardinals and bishops had always accompanied their virtues with that of prudence, ever vigilant to turn aside dangers.

What has now happened, we ask. In effect, after the 2004 judicial incident, traditional prudence would have suggested that the 'accused' be asked to resign, to take on other responsibilities less exposed to blackmail and scandal. Regardless of whether the incident was the result of an equivocation, a vendetta or judicial error.

Plutarch praised Caesar for repudiating his wife on the basis of inconsistent suspicions, saying that the prestige of the Head of Rome could not tolerate any shadows even if invented ones.

Was the Terni sentence disputable? Or was it all just 'junk'? If it should turn out to be so - as we believe and hope - then we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

But meanwhile, a man who is a symbol of the Church in Italy has been plastered on the front pages and will continue to be, under suspicion of 'unusual' tastes whose very shadow continues to weigh heavily today on the Church.

This case was bound to become public sooner or later, and in a malicious way. Why then did five years have to go by with no one doing anything to avoid just this kind of terrible diclosure? As one would normally do with a clear conscience.

If another newspaper has now attacked Boffo on its front pages, it is because the cardinals and bishops, whose duty it was to act, failed to name him to other responsibilities earlier, away from political aggressions.

These are difficult issues to raise, certainly. But they are the questions of a believer who knows that the last thing the Church needs now is yet another case that allows many to shake their heads and murmur, even if unjustly, "Well, that much we know - priests and their friends moralize to us, while they, in secret, are behaving even worse..."

Whatever happens, the shadow and the suspicion will stay.

There is a dear price to pay when one forgets the virtue of prudence.

I agree the responsible cardinals and bishops at CEI should have known better - to 'protect' an important human asset from just this kind of malicious attack by not giving him such high-profile responsibilities.

They could have erred by naivete - simply trusting that whatever Boffo's private morals are, he would be invulnerable to the kind of foul play that is always possible in he public arena. Which is sheer naivete to think!

But Boffo himself should have realized that when he paid that court fine - regardless of the objective facts of the case - he opened the door to potential blackmail and character assassination. And he could have asked the CEI then to give him a less visible post.

Many reports in the Italian media claim that besides all his formal titles, Boffo had also emerged as chief adviser and strategist on public affairs for Cardinal Bagnasco. That's a 'hidden' role that he might have continued to play without the public exposure he has as the CEI's trimedia czar.

Far more than Caesar's wife, the Church and its prominent members should be above suspicion!

But maybe it is too much to expect that someone can keep all his wits about him at the prospect and actual chance to be a lay titan in the Church.


Now, for the first time, I find myself questioning the common sense and wisdom of Cardinal Bagnasco!

I just came across a Corriere della Sera article today that says Boffo left the editorial offices of Milan yesterday morning to travel to Rome and present his resignation to Cardinal Bagnasco. Who promptly rejected it and reportedly said that "More than ever, you should stay".

That Boffo did not stand his ground and say, "It would be better for everybody that I go, at least until everything is cleared up", tells me he cannot have been very determined to resign!

His friends claim he returned to Milan 'more determined than ever to stand his ground and resist'. I think his ego is very much in the way in all this.

Especially after Cardinal Bagnasco got the telephone call from the Pope yersterday afternoon, assuring him of his full "esteem, respect and confidence' in the Italian bishops' conference, while asking for "information and assessments on the situation". {That does not sound to me like the Pope thinks the last word has been said on Boffo's case!]

For all that he may be worth as a human being and as a media whiz, why do Boffo's person and career seem to be more important to Cardinal Bagnasco than the image of the Church???? Surely, there must be someone in Avvenire who can take over as editor at short notice, at least for the time being! Executives - and employees - must never forget that no one is indispensable; when things must change, you will find someone to fill the gap.

A couple of other reputable Catholic conservatives wrote articles today saying Boffo must go because, in effect, the Church must be above suspicion, especially at this time.

The estimable Roberto Di Mattei has very compelling arguments in behalf of the Church for why Boffo should resign, in which he says what has been unsaid so far - Boffo has not once denied that he is homosexual, although he has denounced homosexual acts as morally reprehensible.

Marco Politi has also written a sensible piece about the Pope giving the signal to the hierarchy to close ranks in the matter of dealing with the Italian government. I will post the articles as soon as I can translate them.

P.S. It turns out the bylined article about Boffo submitting his resignation to Cardinal Bagnasco on Tuesday was apparently unfounded. Boffo denied it categorically Wednesday - but how ironic that the following morning (today, Thursday), he would in fact resign irrevocably from all the top positions he held in the CEI trimedia empire.

I rashly expressed my disappointment in Cardinal Bagnasco for not accepting the resignation on Tuesday - because I trusted that Corriere della Sera would not have run a bylined article on Boffo's supposed resignation if the journalist who wrote it did not have his facts right! See, I can still be trusting - at the wrong time! - despite my general distrust of current journalism!

00Friday, September 4, 2009 12:31 AM

Avvenire reports its editor's resignation today in an online bulletin:
Editor Boffo has resigned: 'A calm and lucid decision'

On the right, a page from the 9/3/09 issue with letters of support from readers.

ANSA's English service has a story that's supposed to wrap up the Boffo story, and I was hoping it would be better than the Anglophone services like AP and Reuters, because at least it would have the Italian perspective. But it makes a couple of factual errors that cannot be overlooked, coming from Italy's premier news agency, and overall, the article is almost as bad as the Anglophones.

The English wire agencies have been reporting sketchily this whole Berlusconi-Avvenire-Church-CEI-Boffo events, according to their prefabricated storyline, so they report only what fits that storyline. Whereas the Italian-based correspondents of the major British dailies have been focused on the sordid and salacious aspects of the case,

Perhaps that explains why after almost a full week of this landmark event in the current cultural wars (orthodox Catholics and their 'devoted atheist' allies vs secularists of all stripes) in Italy, not a single American blog or commentary has so much as referred to it, except to decry or shrug their shoulders over Mr. Berlusconi's peccadillos, which are not news at all since he has been this way for decades!

Anyway, here is the ANSA report:

Bishops daily's editor Boffo quits
after six days of 'scandal'

ROME, September 3 (ANSA) - The editor of a Catholic Church daily who criticised Silvio Berlusconi's private life quit Thursday after the Italian premier's family newspaper sought to expose him as a homosexual with a criminal record.

Dino Boffo, 57, tendered his resignation in a letter to Msgr Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian bishops conference which publishes the Avvenire daily, saying his family and professional life had been 'raped' by a 'barbaric' attack.

"I cannot accept a war of words continuing about me day after day, (a war) that is wrecking my family and leaving Italians more and more stunned," Boffo said in the letter.

He claimed a 'shady anti-clerical power bloc' was behind the campaign started by Il Giornale and taken up by other conservative dailies.

Bagnasco said he was accepting the resignation 'with regret' and voiced 'unchanged regard' for the former editor, whom he said had been the subject of 'an indescribable media attack'.

The guild of Catholic journalists voiced concern about freedom of speech, echoing the Italian journalists' guild which has organised a September 19 rally in defence of press freedom after Berlusconi sued left-leaning dailies La Repubblica and L'Unita.

Bagnasco and Pope Benedict XVI* had supported Boffo during a week-long campaign by Il Giornale, a daily owned by the brother of the conservative premier.

*[Now, that outright falsehood is unpardonable of ANSA - Fr. Lombaardi's statement about Cardinal Bertone's telephone call to Boffo made it clear Bertone had only expressed his own personal support for Boffo, not the Pope's.

And the CEI press release on the Pope's telephone call to Bagnasco said not a word about the Pope expressing his solidarity with Boffo, only that he wanted more 'information and assessment' of the situation]

Il Giornale [its editor, Vittorio Feltri, to be precise] alleged a week ago that Boffo had been fined several years ago for harassing the wife of a man with whom he was in a relationship.

Feltri, left, and Boffo. Finally, we have faces to go with the stories!.

After the attack, from which Berlusconi distanced himself, the premier called off a trip to a forgiveness Mass [another error by ANSA - the scheduled appointment was for dinner, not for the Mass]reportedly set up to mend fences with Catholics concerned about reports on the premier's alleged relationships with young women and a call girl who claimed she slept with him.

In an August 12 editorial in Avvenire, Boffo voiced 'malaise, mortification, and suffering' about the premier's 'arrogant departure from a sober lifestyle'.

Last Friday Il Giornale's editor Vittorio Feltri accused Boffo of being a 'supermoralist' who was not qualified to set himself up as a moral arbiter.

Feltri has refused to back down, claiming the facts of the case were clear and had not been denied. A court order on the fine Boffo paid has been released but judges have withheld details of the case, citing privacy.

[ANSA was duty-bound - but preferred to ignore that duty - to say that the facts of the case are by no means clear, precisely because the police and the courts have only released the bare facts, namely: Boffo paid a fine for some telephone molestations he claimed were made on his cellphone by someone else, but the judge did not believe this, so he imposed the fine. It was a procedure that did not require a trial. The court made it clear there were no sexual elements in the charge at all.

Boffo's two-page spread rebuttal of Feltri in the 9/3/09 issue of Avvenire.

ANSA also fails to mention that in today's issue (Sept. 3) of Avvenire (the issue was out online and in the streets before he submitted his resignation) Boffo answered Feltri's statements point by point.]

The Italian press says it has tracked down the woman who reportedly sued Boffo in the Umbrian town of Terni but she has refused to answer questions.

P.S. I checked out Boffo's resignation letter to see if it was worth translating - but with a shock, I find out it's rather lengthy, rather rambling, and not at all 'calm and lucid' as his newspaper headline claims his decision was.

Boffo is relentlessly defensive about himself and just as relentlessly angry about his attackers - his responses since the atack on him have been rather hysterical - and he has not really explained the circumstances behind the telephone calls for which he paid a fine.

I hate to beat on him since he has resigned, but he, more than anyone, should know that righteous indignation without a satisfactory explanation does not clear the air in any way.

That said, he has done a great service to the Church and to the Pope by minimizing the exploitation of his misdemeanor, however justified he may have been, to target the Church and the Pope

I will post any farther developments in this case that do not directly involve the Church or the Pope in NOTABLES.

00Friday, September 4, 2009 8:32 PM

I was hoping I might be able to post John Allen's article on the Boffo case without having to interject too much, but it was not to be.

For a first presentation to Anglophone readers of the events of the past week affecting the Church in Italy, it has a number of basic factual errors, unfortunately. And naturally, he puts his own spin on the events.

What he means by his headline is that Catholic bishops are losing their influence on their flocks.

Church's 'power distance index' in decline

Sep. 04, 2009

Given all the recent American Catholic ferment -- the Kennedy funeral, the surprise resignation of Scranton's Bishop Joseph Martino, debates over health care reform, etc. -- it's been understandably tough for Catholic news from anywhere else in the world to register. Yet there's a bizarre story out of Italy this week that deserves its moment in the sun.

It's a soap opera, really, as tawdry and tragic as these bits of voyeurism usually are, yet it also suggests two points with potentially broad implications:

•The political and cultural ties in the West that in recent decades have bound the Church to the political right may be unraveling.
•The "Power Distance Index" in Catholicism, meaning the willingness of ordinary people to accept the authority of the bishops to manage the internal affairs of the church, is declining rapidly, and not just in countries scarred by the sexual abuse crisis.

I'll sketch the details in a moment, but first, here's a thought exercise for American readers to capture the drama of what's happened.

Imagine that while President George Bush was still in office, he had been engulfed by something like the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and that the Catholic News Service, the official news agency of the U.S. bishops, had carried strong editorials insisting that Bush must explain his behavior.

Next, imagine that the editor-in-chief of CNS was accused on the front page of The Wall Street Journal of being a homosexual who had harassed a woman because he had an affair with her husband.

Imagine further that The Wall Street Journal was owned by Bush's brother, so that many suspected political payback. Next, imagine that in protest of the accusation, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops cancelled a one-on-one dinner with Bush, while conservative politicians split between defenders of the church and defenders of The Wall Street Journal.

{To use the WSJ as an analog for Il Giornale - a rather pedestrian daily newspaper, except for its outstanding Vaticanista, Andrea Tornielli - is unfair to the WSJ. Allen might have used, for instance, USA Today, one of the few American dailies that are 'national' in scope as opposed to the city-based major media.]

Finally, imagine that the CNS editor resigned, with many American Catholics regarding him as a martyr to a vicious political attack.

If any of those things were true, we'd be talking about the deepest church-state crisis in recent American history, one with profound implications for the perceived alliance between the Catholic hierarchy and the Republican Party.

For the record, of course, none of the above is even remotely true, but it comes awfully close to capturing what's unfolded in Italy over the last couple of weeks.

In recent months, conservative Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a 72-year-old media and real estate tycoon who's also known as something of a lothario, has been plagued by one personal scandal after another.

Allegations include that women were paid to attend parties at his Sardinian villa, while a high-class prostitute said she spent a night with him at his Rome residence. His second wife, a former actress, has filed for divorce on the basis of his alleged "infatuation" with young women.

The Vatican has not had much publicly to say, but not so L'Avvenire [when will Allen stop calling Avvenire L'Avvenire erroneously? Doesn't he look at the newspaper at all? I will use the right form for the rest of his article], the official newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference.

Edited by Catholic layman Dino Boffo, Avvenire has published essays suggesting that Berlusconi has set a poor moral tone and needs to make full disclosure. Boffo is a well-known figure, among other things credited with engineering a spike in both Avvenire's circulation and its relevance.

Last Friday, all hell broke loose around Boffo.

The secular daily Il Giornale, which is owned by Berlusconi's brother and edited by a legendary conservative journalist named Vittorio Feltri, published a front-page "scoop" claiming that in 2004, Boffo was charged in an Italian court for harassment on the basis of a series of phone calls made during late 2001 and early 2002 to a woman in the city of Terni. (Under Italian law, the case remained confidential.)

Il Giornale produced an alleged court document suggesting that Boffo, who is unmarried, is a "well-known homosexual" who made the calls because he had had an affair with the woman's husband. The document, it turns out, had been mailed anonymously to all the bishops in Italy three months [even much earlier, a number of times, since the 2004 fine] before the Il Giornale report.

[Allen inexplicably has it all wrong here. There wasn't one 'document': Il Giornale published two texts - one, a photocopy of the court decree acknowledging that Boffo paid a fine of 516 euros for 'telephone molestations' - which provided absolutely no details of the case; and 2) the text of an anonymous, coarsely produced anti-Boffo flyer familiar to Italian media for years, which Feltri inexcusably presented as an 'informativo' from the Italian police. I can't believe Allen can get this fact wrong.

Clearly, the document on the right cannot be considered by anyone in his right mind to be a police bulletin!

The latter is not strictly a 'document' since it was not any official text at all, but something Italian media itself has known about for some time and ignored, necause the anonymous flyer has been sent from time to time to dozens of Italian bishops since 2004, - and according to the CEI always timed when the anti-Church elements in Italy want to 'damage' the Church.]

Boffo immediately claimed that the document was fake, and he may well be right. [He didn't say it was fake. He acknowledged the court decree readily. But referring to the anonymous text, he said in effect that it was recycled trash previously known to the CEI and dismissed because it was 1) anonymous and 2) baseless. Especially since the day after the Giornale 'expose', the Interior Minister, which is in charge of the police prefectures of Italy, called him to say the police had not released any information, much less that there had been repeated complaints against him for homosexual offenses, as the flyer claims.]

Italian magistrates have said there's nothing in their files about Boffo's sexual orientation, and that several other details in the document [tne anonymous letter] are obviously wrong. (For example, it asserts that Boffo's phone was wiretapped, which magistrates say didn't happen.) Thus there is real doubt about the document's authenticity. [That is an understatement! Allen also does not take into account that the anonymous flyer was common knowledge to the Italian media and many Italian bishops, but rightly ignored as 'news', though I believe, wrongly under-estimated by Cardinals Ruini and Bagnasco as to its potential to damage the Church by exposing one of the most prominent influential laymen in the Italian Church to insinuations and possible blackmail.]

On the other hand, magistrates have also confirmed that there was indeed a process against Boffo for making harassing phone calls, that those phone calls included references to sexual relations between the unnamed woman and another man, and that Boffo paid a fine of roughly $800.

Boffo has claimed that he paid the fine because he considered it an administrative technicality, not an admission of guilt. Moreover, he asserted that someone else made the calls using his cell phone, although magistrates say they looked into that possibility at the time and judged it "not credible." [That is why they fined him. The Italian judicial process is different from what we may be used to. There was no trial in this case - a charge was made against Boffo, which was subject to a penalty by fine, snd from all accounts, he did not even bother to go to Terni; he just sent a lawyer to represent him and pay the fine.

As for the cell phone from which the calls were made, it turns out it was not Boffo's personal phone but one of several assigned to him for use by his staff.]

In typical Italian fashion, in other words, the truth remains somewhat obscure. To date, judges have refused to release the complete file on Boffo, citing privacy concerns.

In one sense, however, the truth almost doesn't matter. Psychologically, Italians have long adhered to an inverted form of Occam's Razor: the most complex possible explanation of any set of facts is likely to be correct.

In this case, Italians almost unanimously agree that whatever the reality behind the charges, news value wasn't why Il Giornale published them. Instead, it's because Berlusconi's brother owns Il Giornale, because Avvenire and the Italian bishops have been critical of Berlusconi, and this was a way of punching the Church in the nose. (For the record, Feltri has denied coordinating publication with Berlusconi or anyone in his government.)

The leadership ranks of both the Italian Church and the Vatican have circled the wagons around Boffo. Last Friday, the president of the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genova, called the charges against Boffo "disgusting." The Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, cancelled a dinner with Berlusconi last Friday night in protest. [Not sure if there was really this cause-and-effect in that cancellation. It wasn't seen so at the time - rather it was interpreted then as avoiding the presence of Berlusconi, a 'sinner', at the observance of the Celestinian Indulgence, of all things, which was the reason Bertone would be in L'Aquila, where Berlusconi has been visiting periodically to follow up rehabilitation work following the March earthquake.]

Pope Benedict XVI telephoned Bagnasco early this week to express full support, and the Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, has alluded to "the suspicion that someone wants to foment confusion by spreading false accusations." [This comment followed Feltri's fresh and illogical accusation the day after the Pope's telephone call to Bagnasco, claiming that the anonymous flyer had been produced by the 'Vatican secret services'. Fr. Lombardi promptly said 1) there is no 'Vatican secret service", and 2) the wild accusation was intended to foment more chaos in the Church by implying that the Vatican has been plotting to undermine the Italian bishops!

And how, Mr. Feltri, would attributing the scurrilous flyer to the Vatican fit with your opening 'scoop' that it was an 'informativo' from the Italian police?

Despite that show of support, Boffo resigned on Thursday. In a three-page letter to Bagnasco, he asserted that he was the victim of a "colossal set-up" which was "fictional and diabolically executed."

Nonetheless, Boffo wrote, "I cannot accept that my name will continue to be the focus of a daily war of words, upsetting my family and leaving Italians ever more dismayed."

For his part, Feltri remains defiant, writing: "Bagnasco judges our 'attack' to be disgusting, but doesn't find the episode that generated it, the protagonist of which was Dino Boffo, disgusting? What kind of morality is that? Since when is reporting a crime worse than committing it?"

On Tuesday, Il Giornale splashed a banner headline across its front page asserting, "The bishops knew everything for a long time," while the subhead accused them of "pretending to know nothing."

[They never pretended not to know anything. CEI sources said from the beginning that both Cardinal Ruini and Cardinal Bagnasco were told by Boffo about the Terni case and that they were satisfied with his explanation.

Their confidence in Boffo is admirable, but their naivete as to thinking that the case would never be made public is astounding - especially since they were also well aware of the flyer that was sent out periodically to many Italian bishops after that!]

God alone knows how the story might develop from here -- whether we'll ever know what, if anything, really transpired between Boffo and the woman in Terni, or who might have concocted the "secret memo." (It's probably a fair question whether any of us actually need to know, especially on the first point.) In the meantime, two broader observations suggest themselves.

First, the Boffo affair seems likely to nudge the Church into a more non-partisan stance, loosening its ties to the political right. Much like in the United States, in Italy in recent years the hierarchy has been driven into a marriage of convenience with conservative political forces, mostly due to hot-button moral issues such as gay unions, euthanasia, and artificial reproduction.

In fact, the Italian Church is counting on its alliance with the center-right this fall in a parliamentary debate over a restrictive new law on euthanasia.

While Boffo's travails are thus unlikely to make either the Vatican or the Italian bishops more favorably inclined to the left, the case may at least render Church officials wary of uncritical alliances with any political formation.

This is an especially plausible trajectory, given that a growing number of conservative European politicians seem to want to put some distance between themselves and the church.

In Italy, the heir-apparent to Berlusconi as the leader of the center-right, Gianfranco Fini, has warned against moving toward an "ethical state" rather than a "secular state" -- the former widely understood to mean a state dominated by Catholic moral precepts.

[OOPS!!! And a big one here. Surely Allen is aware that Fini is a controversial politician because until 1995 at least, he was the leader of Italy's neo-Fascist party, making statements like "We are fascists, the heirs of fascism, the fascism of the third millennium", or "After almost half a century, fascism is ideally alive", or "Mussolini was the greatest Italian statesman of the twentieth century (and) Fascism has a tradition of honesty, correctness and good government".

I normally would not know a whit about Fini except that he made statements revisiting his neo-Fascist past last autumn, and as he is a minister in Berlusconi's coalition government, I had to look him up. Would the Church associate politically with some like him?]

Lest one think that any such development will be confined to Italy, it's important to recall that Rome is where a broad cross-section of the church's leadership class congregates.

Catholic bishops from around the world spend considerable chunks of time in Italy -- they may have studied in Rome as seminarians or young priests, some of them have had assignments in the Vatican, and many take both working trips and vacations to Italy.

For many bishops, Italian is the language they know best after their own, and Italian culture is where they feel most comfortable away from home. As a result, Italian developments wield a disproportionate influence in shaping the imagination of the policy-setting class in the Church.

If Catholic institutions in Italy, especially the Vatican and the Italian bishops, reconfigure their political allegiances, it may set a tone elsewhere.

[Allen's simplistic interpretation of the relations between the Church in Italy adn the Italian government is very misleading. If anything, Cardinal Ruini is considered by many, friends and foe alike, to have wielded the successful strategy that enabled the Church to influence public policy on social issues important to the Church, after the 1990s collapse of the Christian Demodrats, who had been the Church's 'house party' following World War II. The strategy was hardly based on obilgatory alliance with the right, but very much on Realpolitik.

Ruini and Bagnasco managed to defeat the leftist Prodi government's attempt to legislate gay marriages in 2007 not by relying on the Italian political right but by mobilizing lay Catholics as in the Family Day rally.]

Second, the Boffo affair offers another reminder that the era in which most people, most of the time, were willing to trust bishops to manage the internal affairs of the Church is long dead. [That's a sweeping statement to make, and is not nevecessarily true everywhere. Certainly not in dioceses where orthodox Catholics still outnumber their cafeteria cousins.]

Back in the 1960s and '70s, Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede, then working for IBM, famously developed what's called the "Power Distance Index." It measures how much a particular culture values and respects authority.

Highly traditional Malaysia consistently scores at the top, followed by several Latin American and Arab nations. At the bottom are keenly egalitarian societies such as New Zealand, Denmark and Austria.
[There you go! It proves my point. Liberal Catholics don't 'trust' their bishops only if the bishop insists on orthodox, i.e., traditional, Catholicism, but if he happens to share their 'progressivism', they are fine with them.]

Applied to Catholicism, one might say the Boffo affair illustrates that while the Church may once have been Malaysia, today it's more like New Zealand. [Once again, a sweeping conclusion. The fact is that the Church has its Malaysias and it has its New Zealands. What is Benedict XVI about but to try and minimize/reduce the New Zealands in favor of teh Malaysias?]

Once upon a time, had a journalist such as Feltri stumbled across a scandal involving a prominent ecclesiastical personality, he would have privately passed the information along to the bishops and let them make the call. (Although Feltri is a non-believer, that's simply how things worked in ultra-Catholic Italy.)

Today, the tendency is to try to publicly shame the bishops into action. That's no novelty in the United States, of course, after the sexual abuse crisis, but the Boffo saga illustrates that it's happening across the board.

In that light, an essay on Wednesday by famed Italian Catholic writer Vittorio Messori is particularly revealing. To be clear, Messori is no dissident. He's the only journalist to have collaborated on books with two different popes: The Ratzinger Report with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1984, and Crossing the Threshold of Hope with John Paul II in 1994.

Yet there Messori was in Corriere della Sera, scolding the Italian bishops for failing to move Boffo to a less "exposed" position back in 2004. [He didn't scold, he reproached - and properly so. Refer to the translation of Messori's article I posted earlier on this page.]

They should have known, Messori argued, that even the whiff of scandal around Boffo would do damage to the Church. In an earlier age, someone like Messori would have made that argument behind the scenes, if at all; today, he's got no qualms about needling bishops in public for, in his eyes, failing to do their job.

[There are Vaticanistas, however, who interpreted Messori's article as the early signal from the Vatican, before the Pope's telephone call to Bagnasco, that preceded the eventual resignation of Boffo. I think Messori writes autonomously. It doesn't take the Vatican to point out the poor judgment of Cardinals Ruini and Bagnasco in not seeing that the Church, more than Caesar's wife, should be above suspicion.

I don't know if coming out in public preemptively with the facts of the case, at the time Boffo informed them of the fine he paid, would have helped prevent a contingency such as the Feltri expose, but they should have considered it then, if they thought Boffo was too 'indispensable' in his job to move out of the way for prudence!]

Whether this decline in the Catholic "Power Distance Index" is good or bad -- and, undoubtedly, it's some of each -- is beside the point. It's a reality, even in Italy. That's precisely the burden of being a Catholic bishop these days: leading a high-PDI institution in a low-PDI age. [Ugh! I detest these facile 'technical' formulations! It is never easy to be a bishop, period. They deserve all the prayers we can give them.]

Conspicuously missing from Allen's article is the role Benedict XVI played in clearing the bottleneck of Cardinal Bagnasco's unwavering trust in Boffo and Boffo's own righteous obstinacy - the Pope's telephone call was obviously crucial in leading to Boffo's resignation!

I'm not backing any particular horse in this issue - except that the Pope and the Church as an institution should not be tainted, even indirectly, by scandals like these.

In this case, it was entirely preventable - and could have been prevented with more candor and less naivete on the part of the CEI leadership, and more humility and realism by Boffo about the potential of his personal vulnerabilities, real or not, to damage the Church which he has served so well.

The other Italian media have been generally opportunistic - like the 'tabloid'-minded Rome correspondents of the British papers - using the occasion to hit at the Church as well as at Berlusconi.

The Italian Prime Minister apart from his prompt denial that he had anything to do with the Giornale expose - maybe not, but it is not plausible to the public since his brother owns Il Giornale - has not said anything lately.

But in general, although he has a record for questionable and even crude jokes, breaches of protocol even among his fellow heads of government, and arrogance towards media who are not employed by him, he does not have a record of belligerence or disrespect towards the Church itself (other than his libertinism!].

As far as I have been able to find out, he has always known to step back, keep his head down and his mouth shut in matters regarding the Church. He supports the 'conservative' social legislation that he does because of his own personal beliefs, not because it is what the Church wants, so he is not likely to suddenly change his mind about them because of this contretemps.

Feltri needs a serious examination of conscience; Dino Boffo needs a good spiritual retreat; Berlusconi should be more discreet (if not disciplined) about his self-indulgences and stop 'doing as he pleases' just because he is Italy's richest man or whatever; and for the good of the Church, Cardinals Bertone and Bagnasco should learn to get along without openly jockeying for power, which makes them fodder for the media.

00Thursday, September 10, 2009 2:23 PM

Sandro Magister updates his analysis of the intra-Church squabble made evident by the Boffo case, but with too much emphasis, I think, on Avvenire, which is merely incidental to the issue, not the issue itself.

Boffo case underscores differences
between the Italian bishops' leadership
and the Vatican Secretariat of State

Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops, is under attack, and its editor has resigned.
It is even getting hit by friendly fire - from the Secretariat of State.

ROME, September 10, 2009 – In his September 3 letter of resignation as editor of Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, Dino Boffo denounced the existence of "ecclesiastical factions" at war with each other, stirred up by the controversy surrounding him.

In a letter to the bishops a few months ago, Benedict XVI was even more straightforward: "If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another."

The fact that there are divisions and conflicts among the Church's upper hierarchy, sometimes exploding disastrously, is beyond question.

The main disagreement at the moment is over how to deal with Italian politics: between the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Italian bishops' conference (CEI).

Avvenire is the CEI newspaper. And the attack conducted against the private life of its now ex-editor Boffo, by the newspaper Il Giornale, owned by the brother of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been viewed and experienced in different ways on the two sides of the Tiber.

For the Secretariat of State, the real and proper attack was and is something else - one conducted by an anti-Catholic force that is spearheaded by La Repubblica, the leading newspaper of the secularist left, and is ultimately aimed at the Pope and his Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

On the morning of August 28, Bertone was much more infuriated over an article by the lay theologian Vito Mancuso in La Repubblica than over the simultaneous eruption of the campaign by Il Giornale against Boffo for his criticisms of Berlusconi's reported private behavior.

Mancuso accused Bertone of sitting obediently at Herod's table, by meeting with Berlusconi as was scheduled that day, instead of denouncing his lustful lifestyle with the courage of a Saint John the Baptist.

A few hours later, in fact, on that Friday afternoon, L'Osservatore Romano came out with a prominent front-page commentary against the Mancuso article by its leading commentator, Lucetta Scaraffia.

That issue (for August 29) carried only a couple of lines in the inside pages to the anti-Boffo offensive by Il Giornale, quoting a statement from the CEI.

Even in the following days, in the thick of the firestorm against Boffo, Cardinal Bertone held firm to his interpretation of events.

For him, the real climax of the aggression against the Church was when Repubblica, on September 1, ran a headline saying that Benedict XVI had intervened personally in support of Boffo, and therefore also of his criticisms of Berlusconi.

In fact, the first and only official Vatican statement on the Boffo controversy was released a few hours later, precisely in order to deny the Pope's involvement in the row.

[This is wrong! The Vatican statement came before the false Repubblica headline. Fr. Lombardi issued a formal statement on Sept. 1 saying Cardinal Bertone had called Boffo to express his personal solidarity; Lombardi's statement made no mention of the Pope at all. But Repubblica then reported falsely that Bertone had also conveyed the Pope's solidarity.]

The statement confirmed that only Bertone had expressed solidarity with Boffo, while the Pope – according to a parallel statement from the CEI – had limited himself to telephoning the president of the episcopal conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, in order to ask him for "news and perspectives on the current situation," and to express "esteem, gratitude, and appreciation" for him and for the Italian bishops.

[Now I am really distressed! Lombardi's statement about Bertone's telephone call was made on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 1. The Pope's call to Cardinal Bagnasco was made Tueday afternoon, Sept. 1. The CEI press release about that telephone call was therefore not in any way 'parallel' to Fr. Lombardi's statement. I am not nitpicking here - I am simply upset by erroneous reporting, no matter who does it, especially on very recent events, whose facts can be easily checked out.

Also, Lombardi made two other statements on the matter - the first, to deny Repubblica's false report that the Pope had expressed his solidarity with Boffo; and then after Boffo resigned, to scoff at a claim by Il Giornale editor Vittorio Feltri - author of the concocted story against Boffo - that an anonymous flyer he had claimed in his original expose to be a police 'informativo' against Boffo was, in fact, a product of the 'Vatican secret service', which, as Lombardi, pointed out, does not exist. Lombardi also said the Giornale accusation was yet another attempt 'to foment chaos'.]

In leafing through [the issues of] L'Osservatore Romano, the newspaper edited by Professor Giovanni Maria Vian and overseen by Cardinal Bertone, one sees almost no trace of Boffo's Passion Week.

The news of his resignation was given on September 3, in a little column of 22 lines on page 7, under the uninformative title "National office for social communications of the CEI", reporting nothing more than the statement from the bishops' conference.

But editor Vian was much more talkative in an interview with Corriere della Sera on August 31. His words clearly expressed the dissatisfaction of the Vatican secretariat of state with Avvenire for its "imprudence and exaggeration" in criticizing the government and in lambasting the private vices of the prime minister. Vian implied L'Osservatore Romano had not written a single word on this latter subject, by deliberate choice.

This desire for a relationship of "institutional serenity" with the government in power, whether it is right, left or center, is one of the constants of Vatican diplomacy with all countries of the world, dictated by political realism.

But the central administration of the Catholic Church is one thing, and the effervescent national Churches are another, with their bishops, their clergy, their faithful.

Under the presidency of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Italian bishops' conference took control of relations with the Italian political sphere, in full agreement with John Paul II and with his successor Benedict XVI, achieving unquestionable successes.

Avvenire, under Boffo, was the flagship publication of Ruini's leadership.

But when Ruini left the stage, Cardinal Bertone decided to grasp the helm of Church policy in Italy himself, and said so in black and white in a letter dated March 25, 2007, addressed to the new president of the CEI, Cardinal Bagnasco.

The bishops did not at all accept this loss of authority [not that Bertone's intentions were actually ever put into practice!], and since then there has been constant friction between the Vatican and the CEI, which has sometimes degenerated into open conflict.

[Does anyone recall such 'open conflict' other than the one atendant to the Boffo case? Cardinal Bagnasco very tactfully 'ignored' the Bertone letter by not answering it at all, in writing or in any public statement, and went ahead, calmly indicating the CEI's positions on public issues in his regular pastoral statements at the start and close of the bi-annual CEI Permanent Council meetings - along lines laid down by the Primate of Italy, Benedict XVI. Magister himself in his last analysis of the Boffo case described Bagnasco's attitude towards the Bertone letter as 'return to sender'!]

But in the meantime, the CEI has changed. It is no longer the well-oiled machine that it was in its heyday with Ruini.

Cardinal Bagnasco has been faithful in continuing Ruini's legacy, but he does not have the same authority. The new secretary of the CEI, Bishop Mariano Crociata, quickly showed that he is not up to the role. Currently the CEI has many heads and many voices, which are often discordant with one another.

[The CEI has always had 'many voices' because many Italian bishops are not exactly known for their reticence or prudence, and some are openly defiant of the Pope. But they are not represented in the CEI Permanent Council, and the record shows that the CEI itself has only always spoken through Cardinal Bagnasco.]

Yet another reason why, from the Vatican, Bertone would be ratcheting up his leadership ambitions, encouraged in this by the politicians, who see him as a more reliable counterpart compared to a CEI that seems uncertain and confused.

It has also been confused in reacting to the offensive against Avvenire and its editor. For months, since the controversy d begun in Italy over the private life of prime minister Berlusconi, the newspaper edited by Boffo had found itself navigating stormy waters.

Pressure from the readers, and even more, from part of the Italian episcopate, had forced Boffo to do what he never would have done with a Ruini in command: preach against the private immorality of the prime minister.

The preaching was moderate, respectful, carefully measured. But this meant it was bound to displease many, because of its excess or lack of vigor, depending on one's point of view.

In the Secretariat of Ctate, naturally, the "moralistic" imprudence of the bishops' newspaper could only be a presage of ruin [????], as the devastating retaliation by Il Giornale would later confirm.

Seen by the CEI as an attack on Ruini's approach, the offensive against Boffo brought to his defense, on the front lines, Cardinal Ruini himself, and his successor, Bagnasco, with the army of that "Church of the people" which Boffo has been extraordinarily effective in expressing and interpreting in fourteen years at the helm of Avvenire [and of the CEI's Sat 2000 TV and InBlu radio network]. of his direction.

But among the cardinals, the bishops, and the clergy, some kept their distance, while some immediately called for Boffo's resignation, despite the fact that the initial accusations against him were quickly revealed to be largely unfounded.

Boffo himself raised suspicions by waiting for several days before writing a detailed defense of himself, prior to making an exclusively personal decision to resign, against the wishes of the president of the CEI and apart from any request by the Pope, which he never made.

By the end of September the CEI board will appoint his successor, who will probably be Domenico Delle Foglie, a Ruini man through and through. In part because, paradoxically, neither the anti-Ruini camp nor Cardinal Bertone have an alternative candidate of their own.

It is possible that Vaticanistas are exaggerating the extent of the CEI-Secretariat of State conflict (and the putative conflict with Berlusconi, for that matter, since the latter appears to continue being eager for good relations with the Vatican).

I cannnot imagine that Cardinal Bertone would be so jealous about his prerogatives as Secretary of State as to treat the CEI as an enemy or rival, when the Bishop of Rome is also the Primate of Italy - the CEI are his bishops, and the CEI president and secretary-general are named by him! In fact, the CEI executes the Pope's pastoral intentions for the Church in Italy which he heads as a local Church.

Furthermore, the Church in Italy and the Italian bishops are in a different category from other national churches and bishops' conferences because of the unique provisions of the Concordat between the Vatican and the Italian state.

00Thursday, September 10, 2009 3:06 PM
I must post a note here about a very informative but lengthy article in French (also available in Italian translation) by Abbe Claude Barthes, the French 'armchair Vaticanista' whose accounts of behind-the-scenes happenings in the Vatican are widely read and credited for providing context to the activities of the Curial bureaucracy.


This new article is all about the CDF theologians reportedly named to represent the Church of Rome in the upcoming 'doctrinal discussions' with their counterparts from the FSSPX - and the fact that they all have a reputation for being open to discussing conflicts and ambiguities arising out of the Vatican II documents.

It is something I must translate eventually, soon I hope. Though Rorate caeli and/or Father Z will probably provide a translation sooner.

00Thursday, September 10, 2009 6:35 PM

It was not a coincidence that the Holy Father dedicated his catechesis last week to St. Odon, second abbot of Cluny. The abbey is celebrating its 11th centenary this year.

Cluny Abbey to begin 1100th anniversary
celebrations on Saturday

Cluny, France, Sept 10 (CNA).- The French city of Cluny is preparing to begin a year of celebrations for the 1100th anniversary of the famous Cluny Abbey.

Cluny Abbey then (before the French Revolution), Cluny today.

The abbey, founded in the year 909, was instrumental in the spread of Christianity and the development of monasticism in Europe in the Middle Ages.

Bishop Benoît Rivière of Auton, Chalon and Mâcon will celebrate a Mass in Cluny on Saturday, the Italian bishops' news service SIR reports. The twelve gates of the city will be symbolically opened to mark the beginning of the Year of Celebrations.

Fr. Pierre Calimé, spokesman of the diocese, said celebrants want the anniversary to be “above all a spiritual event” and not only a celebration of a cultural and artistic heritage.

“The great work of Cluny is the life of thousands of monks entrusting themselves to the Rule of Saint Benedict,” he explained.

“Cluny 2010 must be an opportunity to rediscover what the heart of the abbey is: ‘Do you want the true life?’”

Fr. Calimé praised the virtues of Cluny’s founding abbot, St. Odo, and said the Benedictine Rule contains aspects and lessons still relevant to today’s laity. This relevance has inspired the idea of holding some workshops on the Benedictine Rule and of holding a talk on Cluny’s order.

Planned events include a High Mass for the dead on November 2 and the commemoration of St. Hugh, the sixth abbot of Cluny, on April 23, 2010

Here's a report from a French site:

Cluny is in northeast France, a few miles to the west of Macon [see map), about 60 miles north of Lyon, the nearest big city. After most of the abbey complex was sacked during the French Revolution, it has never been rebuilt to its previous scale.

One of Europe’s most ancient religious buildings, the Abbey of Cluny, will commemorate its 1100th anniversary in three Franche-Comté towns, Gigny, Dole and Baume-les-Messieurs from the 10th to the 12th of September with a series of topical lectures and religious music concert by candlelight.

In 909, Cluny’s founder, the Abbott Bernon left Franche-Comté with six monks from Gigny and six from Baume les Messieurs to establish Cluny, which will be later known as one of the most important abbeys in Western Europe.

Those three cities houses masterpieces sharing a common history with the Cluny Abbey. Visitors of Gigny will discover its 10th century abbey and the preliminary features that inspired Cluny’s religious building. Dole will also display its impressive range of holy statues portraying prophets and apostles. Finally, Baume-les-Messieurs will open the doors of its abbey which shelters a priceless 16th century altarpiece, a showpiece for Cluny’s religious influence.

Located in Eastern France, Cluny’s medieval heritage will be celebrated during more than a year through a wide range of events organised across Europe.

Exhibitions, concerts and lectures will retrace the history of the abbey, from its regional influences to the spreading of its architectural style throughout the continent, under the auspices of the Cluny Site Federation.

Created in 1994, the Federation includes 126 religious sites, spread across six European countries.

For more information relating to the Cluny Abbey’s 1100th anniversary visit www.sitesclunisiens.org

00Friday, September 11, 2009 2:45 PM

Message to Muslims
to mark the end of Ramadan:
Chrisrian and Muslims together
in overcoming poverty

Dear Muslim Friends,

1. On the occasion of your feast which concludes the month of Ramadan, I would like to extend my best wishes for peace and joy to you and, through this Message, propose this theme for our reflection: Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming poverty.

2. This Message of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue has become a tradition cherished by us all, which is looked forward to each year and this is certainly a cause for joy. It has become, over the years, an occasion of cordial encounter in many countries between many Christians and Muslims.

It often addresses a matter of shared concern, making it therefore conducive to a confident and open exchange. Are not all these elements immediately perceived as signs of friendship among us for which we should thank God?

3. Coming to the theme of this year, the human person in a situation of impoverishment is undoubtedly a subject at the heart of the precepts that, under different beliefs, we all hold dear.

The attention, the compassion and the help that we, brothers and sisters in humanity, can offer to those who are poor, helping them to establish their place in the fabric of society, is a living proof of the Love of the Almighty, because it is man as such whom He calls us to love and help, without distinction of affiliation.

We all know that poverty has the power to humiliate and to engender intolerable sufferings; it is often a source of isolation, anger, even hatred and the desire for revenge.

It can provoke hostile actions using any available means, even seeking to justify them on religious grounds, or seizing another man’s wealth, together with his peace and security, in the name of an alleged "divine justice".

This is why confronting the phenomena of extremism and violence necessarily implies tackling poverty through the promotion of integral human development that Pope Paul VI defined as the "new name for peace" (Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 1975, n. 76).

In his recent Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate on integral human development in charity and truth, Pope Benedict XVI, taking into consideration the current context of efforts to promote development, underlines the need for a "new humanistic synthesis" (n. 21), which, safeguarding the openness of man to God, gives him his place as the earth’s "centre and summit" (n. 57). A true development, then, must be ordered "to the whole man and to every man" (Populorum Progressio, n. 42).

4. In his talk on the occasion of the World Day for Peace, 1st January 2009, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI distinguished two types of poverty: a poverty to be combated and a poverty to be embraced.

The poverty to be combated is before the eyes of everyone: hunger, lack of clean water, limited medical care and inadequate shelter, insufficient educational and cultural systems, illiteracy, not to mention also the existence of new forms of poverty "…in advanced wealthy societies, there is evidence of marginalization, as well as affective, moral and spiritual poverty…" (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2009, n. 2).

The poverty to be embraced is that of a style of life which is simple and essential, avoiding waste and respecting the environment and the goodness of creation. This poverty can also be, at least at certain times during the year, that of frugality and fasting. It is the poverty which we choose which predisposes us to go beyond ourselves, expanding the heart.

5. As believers, the desire to work together for a just and durable solution to the scourge of poverty certainly also implies reflecting on the grave problems of our time and, when possible, sharing a common commitment to eradicate them. I

n this regard, the reference to the aspects of poverty linked to the phenomena of globalization of our societies has a spiritual and moral meaning, because all share the vocation to build one human family in which all - individuals, peoples and nations - conduct themselves according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility.

6. A careful study of the complex phenomenon of poverty directs us precisely towards its origin in the lack of respect for the innate dignity of the human person and calls us to a global solidarity, for example through the adoption of a "common ethical code" (John Paul II, Address to The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 27 April 2001, n. 4) whose norms would not only have a conventional character, but also would necessarily be rooted in the natural law written by the Creator in the conscience of every human being (cf. Rom 2, 14-15).

7. It seems that in diverse places of the world we have passed from tolerance to a meeting together, beginning with common lived experience and real shared concerns. This is an important step forward.

In giving everyone the riches of a life of prayer, fasting and charity of one towards the other, is it not possible for dialogue to draw on the living forces of those who are on the journey towards God? The poor question us, they challenge us, but above all they invite us to cooperate in a noble cause: overcoming poverty!

Happy ‘Id al-Fitr!

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata

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