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    00 6/6/2009 8:50 PM

    Earlier posts today in the preceding page:
    - New statistics about the US Church
    - Worldwide ban for Brisbane's rebel priest
    - L'Osservatore Romano 'steps back', sort of, on Barack Obama

    The following two editorials have to do with the Church in the United States, specifically, with the widespread failure of many Catholic institutions of learning to abide by the Magisterium, best exemplified, of course, by the now notorious 'Notre Shame' [one could also say 'Notre Sham'] affair.

    Two models of hope:
    Notre Dame chooses Obama’s
    over its namesake’s

    By George Neumayr

    June 2009 issue

    Last September, Pope Benedict XVI visited the original Grotto in Lourdes where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette. During his visit, Pope Benedict spoke about the West’s need to recover the Marian model of hope: that salvation comes not through obedience to man’s will but through humble obedience to God’s.

    The modern world has largely chosen the man-centered model of hope over Mary’s, and this choice, as the grim and unfolding chapters of recent history illustrate, has delivered not salvation but despair.

    The ideology that promises man’s perfection through the domination of relativized science, technology, and politics — what one might call the false self-sufficiency of secularism — has led once-Christian countries into dystopias of one kind or another, nations so bereft of real hope that they abort thousands upon thousands of their own children.

    On May 17, in a sports arena not far from a replica of that original Grotto in Lourdes, Barack Obama received an honorary degree from Notre Dame — a moment of hollow good cheer in which a university founded in Our Lady’s honor extolled an American president not for habitually hoping in God’s promises but in his own. Father John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, hailed Obama’s “audacious hope for a brighter tomorrow.”

    As the first acts of his administration demonstrate — paying for abortions at home and abroad, rescinding the Bush-era conscience clause for pro-life doctors and nurses, authorizing the over-the-counter sale of abortifacients to teens, placing gay-marriage proponents and aggressive secularists in powerful positions —this “audacious hope” rests not on God’s immutable will but on Obama’s willful rejection of it: that killing unborn children is a “right,” that redesigning marriage and sexuality according to fluctuating human taste and desire is “enlightened,” and that “reason” is not the product of God’s mind but man’s.

    Behind all the buzzwords and honeyed phrases in Obama’s speech to Notre Dame’s graduates lay an essentially man-centered, not Marian, model of hope. His advice to them contained an insidiously deceptive bow to religion even as he advanced unproven secularist claims that render God irrelevant to public life:

    Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey. Stand as a lighthouse. But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It is the belief in things not seen. It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what he asks of us, and those of us who believe must trust that his wisdom is greater than our own.

    This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness, and service that moves hearts and minds

    This is a jumble of half-truths and lies.

    First of all, it is not beyond our capacity to know the intentions of God; he has written them on our hearts and promulgated them through our minds.
    - It is certain, not doubtful, that killing unborn children and the elderly is unjust.
    - It is certain, not doubtful, that man is made for heterosexuality, not homosexuality.
    - It is certain, not doubtful, that God exists and man owes him piety.

    What is doubtful, indeed destructive, is Obama’s glib notion that a civilized democracy is attainable without these truths.

    Notice that Obama’s straw-man secularism defines all of faith, including its preambles, as willfulness while cordoning off his own willful rejections of reality from rational scrutiny.

    To what universal truth, for example, does he appeal when describing abortion and same-sex civil unions as “rights”? There isn’t one; his claim springs from his own denial of the self-evident realities that make any moral reasoning possible.

    And herein lies the fatal sectarianism, or to use his phrase, the “parochial principles” of secularism in this time and place.

    A country that gives Obama’s skepticism and relativism a privileged and honored place in public life while treating the existence of God and the natural moral law as mere “opinions” and uncertainties has stripped away the grounds for hope.

    And it is only the reconciliation of reason and revelation, which was once the mission of Notre Dame, that can restore them.

    Man, as a dependent creature who comes from God and culminates in him, cannot save himself from death nor his society from disintegration.

    By honoring Obama’s “audacious hope,” Notre Dame has put its faith in princes and forgotten the model of hope that its namesake preeminently embodies.

    Mr. Neumayr had an equally cogent editorial on the Notre Dame affairs in the May issue of CWR, i.e., before the speech, which focuses Notre Dame's explicit defiance of the Magisterium - specifically, John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, in its misguided decision to give Obama an honorary degree.

    Ex Corde Ecclesiae
    and the Notre Dame affair

    By George Neumayr

    June 2009 issue
    May 2009 issue

    Will Notre Dame’s decision to honor the most pro-abortion American president ever occasion a serious and widespread implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae? If not, the outrage over it is idle.

    Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities and colleges has gathered dust since its 1990 release. These schools, with exceptions here and there, remain either indifferent or hostile to it.

    Notre Dame’s conferral of honors on Barack Obama is merely the latest and most graphic symptom of a larger disease that has coursed through Catholic colleges for decades.

    What’s needed now is not more feckless and stalling discussions about “Catholic identity” but unapologetic and comprehensive episcopal application of Ex Corde.

    Notre Dame’s decision to honor Barack Obama was not surprising but utterly predictable. Where a college’s faculty, student body, and curriculum are, there its heart will be also.

    The scandal at Notre Dame originated not in 2009 but in 1967, when its then-president Theodore Hesburgh, along with academics and then-future bishops like Theodore McCarrick (who, decades later as the powerful archbishop of Washington, DC, would hide from his fellow bishops the Vatican’s memo on pro-abortion Catholic politicians), signed a de facto declaration of independence from Catholicism called the “Land O’ Lakes Statement on the Nature of the Contemporary Catholic University.”

    That declaration gave birth to the modern American Catholic university, which would henceforth be modern and American but not very Catholic.

    “The Catholic University today must be a university in the full modern sense of the word,” it stated in part. “To perform its teaching and research functions effectively the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself.”

    Long before honoring Obama, Notre Dame, fostering this academic ethos, had honored the modern liberal ideology he represents by secularizing its curriculum and faculty. It cast aside the magisterium and marginalized the Catholic intellectual tradition as it ceaselessly hired professors who reduced Catholicism to “progressive” politics in the minds of their students.

    That a majority of Catholics, many of whom graduated from colleges and universities like Notre Dame, voted for Obama is one of the legacies of the Land O’ Lakes manifesto.

    And Obama knows it, which is why he leapt at Notre Dame’s honorary degree, seeing in it one more opportunity to cement confusion and spread chaos within the Church.

    Nothing if not an adroit politician, Obama pursued this divide-and-conquer strategy from the beginning. He found Catholic academics to serve on his “National Catholic Advisory Committee,” solicited donations from faculty members at Catholic schools (professors at Jesuit Georgetown ranked seventh among all faculties in donations to his campaign, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education), and used the specious defenses of “pro-lifers,” such as former Notre Dame Center on Law and Government director Doug Kmiec, to soften Catholic resistance to his agenda.

    “A passionate tumultuous age will overthrow everything, pull everything down,” wrote Soren Kierkegaard, “but a revolutionary age that is at the same time reflective and passionless leaves everything standing but cunningly empties it of significance.”

    Obama is that cool revolutionary. He won’t even bother to topple the Church in America; he will leave it standing and co-opt it from within

    Whenever possible, it appears, he will enlist nominal Catholics for the work of neutralizing the Church’s influence in public life. He has already found a Catholic Health and Human Services secretary in Kathleen Sebelius to hasten the transformation of Catholic hospitals into secularist ones, a Catholic vice president in Joe Biden to lock anti-Catholic morality into place through the executive branch, and a Catholic Speaker of the House in Nancy Pelosi to seal the moral revolution in the legislature, all the while receiving honors from the Catholic bishops’ most prominent university and hosannas from Catholic academics.

    This unfolding and grotesque farce defies even the satirical imagination of an Evelyn Waugh. And come May 17 a new scene in it will emerge: a staged, PR-necessitated “dialogue” between Obama and Notre Dame, as if the two don’t already basically agree, as if the middle distance (supposing that Notre Dame and Obama even wanted to get there) between grave error and orthodoxy isn’t still error.

    Father John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, scrambling for cover in the wake of the controversy, spun the honorary degree as a chance for “positive engagement.” But the only positive engagement that could come from it is the engagement of bishops at long last with Catholic higher education.

    Will they let this charade continue? Or will they finally enforce Ex Corde, not just at Notre Dame but at all Catholic colleges? Divided against themselves they cannot stand.

    Unfortunately, I have yet to read what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops plans to do about enforcing Ex Corde Ecclesiae - teh USCCB not having done anything since Pope Benedict XVI's address to the rectors and officials of American Catholic universities in Washington on April 17, 2008.

    And I don't read about any serious action to exclude Notre Dame from the official directory of Catholic schools in the United States, which is the very least one might expect as an aftermath to the Obama dog-and-pony show.

    For the full English text of Ex Corde Ecclesiae:

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/16/2009 7:07 PM]
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    00 6/6/2009 10:59 PM

    The 'Notre Shame' controversy has made it into the venerable pages of COMMUNIO, the international Catholic journal co-founded by Joseph Ratzinger.

    President Obama, Notre Dame,
    and a Dialogue That Witnesses:
    A Question for Father Jenkins

    by David L. Schindler

    Forthcoming in Communio:
    International Catholic Review 36, no. 1
    Spring 2009

    (1) In its invitation to President Obama, Notre Dame started a controversy it surely could have anticipated would exacerbate divisions among Catholics in America. The controversy was not necessary: it did not come to, but was brought about by, the university.

    To say that the university went ahead with the invitation simply for reasons of prestige would be reductive. On the contrary, Father Jenkins stressed President Obama’s achievements regarding the economy, two wars and health care, immigration and education reform, and racial prejudice, even as he distanced the university from support of Obama’s positions regarding “the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.”

    The primary reason for the invitation was thus to honor Obama, America’s first African-American president, while using the event also as an opportunity for “further positive engagement” and “dialogue” regarding differences in the “life” issues.

    My comment focuses on the nature of the dialogue implied by Father Jenkins’s invitation, in light of the reasons offered by him.

    Father Jenkins says his expression of personal disagreement with President Obama regarding abortion and embryonic stem-cell research demonstrates that the honor extended does not “suggest support” for all of the latter’s actions.

    We can grant that Father Jenkins indeed does not support all of the President’s actions. The relevant question, however, is whether an honorary degree carries a distinct meaning of its own, and what Notre Dame’s invitation implies in this regard.

    An honorary law degree bestowed on a solemn occasion such as a commencement ceremony obviously is meant to honor someone in the name of the university, hence in the name of the ends of education for which the university stands. Father Jenkins’s invitation thus cannot but bear implications – however unintended – with respect to how he thinks these ends are to be understood.

    The pertinent fact is that, while recognizing Obama’s achievements and also registering disagreement with respect to what he judges to be Obama’s deficits regarding protection of human life, Father Jenkins went forward with the invitation.

    This fact itself testifies, even if not altogether deliberately, to a proportionate weighting of the content of these achievements and deficits in relation to the purpose of Notre Dame as a Catholic institution of higher education.

    (2) Father Jenkins points toward dialogue as the mediating principle in this weighting. He insists that dialogue on the occasion of the President’s commencement address and degree award would provide adequate testimony to his own personal, and the university’s institutional, disagreement with Obama’s views.

    On this occasion, the University of Notre Dame, through Father Jenkins, would stress its strong opposition to abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, and in so doing show that its weighting of social-moral issues differed from that of President Obama.

    The problem is that Father Jenkins’s appeal to dialogue here overlooks the crucial point: that his invitation to the President already helps define the basic terms and horizon of the intended dialogue.

    The fact of the invitation itself begins a conversation the terms of which already reflect a proportional ordering of social-moral issues much like that of the President himself.

    Not surprisingly, President Obama took the occasion of his commencement address to clarify the nature of this proportional ordering. According to the President, there exists a “seamless garment” of issues that weaves into a “consistent ethic of life,” and this consistent ethic entails that we can judge the significance of any one social-moral issue only as proportionately related to the spectrum of other social-moral issues.

    Or at any rate we must do so insofar as we would propose a particular moral position for consideration in the public domain. Only in this way do we arrive at the “common ground” necessary for reasonable human communication. (As President Obama emphasized, we need “open hearts, open minds, and fair-minded words,” noting that this had already led in his case not to changing his position but to telling “my staff to change the words on my Web site.”)

    Now one does not need to call into question the saintliness of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, whose name President Obama invokes, in questioning how the rhetoric of a “seamless garment” of human-ethical issues has often been employed to set “proportionalist” terms and limits for reasonable dialogue in moral matters.

    Nor, in criticizing a “proportionalist” rendering of a “consistent ethic,” should one deny that all ethical issues have to be engaged as comprehensively as possible.

    A “seamless garment” of moral issues, however, can be rightly understood only in terms of the venerable Catholic principle of analogy. According to analogy, the community among these issues exists only simultaneously with what are always their real – even radical – differences (maior dissimilitudo).

    It is the intrinsic nature of each moral issue that determines the significance of its difference from the others. Thus rudeness and the taking of innocent life are both intrinsically wrong and should both be opposed, but only coincident with recognizing the radical disproportion within the “proportion” implicit in their both being wrong.

    The question I wish to pose to Father Jenkins in this context is simply whether there exists any unconditional social-moral good whose gravity is such that its defense would entail a dialogue different from that defended by President Obama – a dialogue, for example, inclusive of the need for what may be termed “witness.”

    Note that “witness” here is not conceived as a counter to reason but rather as the fullest realization of reason. The burden of witness rightly understood, in other words, is not that one is unwilling to dialogue with another, but that the dialogue called for in given cases demands clarity from the outset regarding the gravity of what is at stake.

    A grave unconditional moral good can be properly defended only with the gesture of one’s whole being and in the flesh, and only with a reason exercised from inside this more comprehensive testimony.

    Indeed, it is reason intrinsically tied to witness in this sense that is the raison d’etre of any adequately conceived university, especially a Catholic university and especially in our time.

    What I mean to suggest, then, is that the most consistently human and Catholic way of dialoguing in the present case would have been for Notre Dame precisely not to have invited President Obama, and then if necessary to have provided the pertinent people with a patient explanation of the reasons for the university’s embodied-symbolic witness (cf. 1 Peter 15) on behalf of what it wished to uphold as an unconditional moral good.

    Father Jenkins to be sure would want to affirm unconditional moral goods, and it is not at all my intention to deny this. The point is not that he explicitly espouses a “proportionalist” view of the good –he does not – but that the kind of dialogue presupposed in the fact of Notre Dame’s inviting and officially honoring President Obama carries just such a “proportionalist” view.

    (3) As indicated, President Obama invokes the idea of a “common ground” necessary for genuine dialogue. But the idea of “common ground,” rightly understood, has its roots in the common nature shared by human beings.

    Inscribed in the heart of every man is a desire for the good, and this desire implies recognition of the intrinsic good of life in its originally given innocence.

    No appeal to a ground common to dialogue partners – however deeply divided these partners may be in their explicit views on important issues – can reasonably ignore this deeper common nature, and this common restlessness for what is transcendently good, which all human beings share inside their differences.

    A rightly conceived appeal to a “common ground,” in other words, involves bringing to light what lies naturally in the depths of every human being, as a necessary condition for realizing an authentic common reasonableness.

    Dialogue and “common ground” as conceived in the dominant culture, in contrast, are not ordered toward unconditional but only proportionalist “truth.”

    Dialogue tends of its proper logic only toward ever-more dialogue, without inner dynamic for (possible) conversion to or termination in an unconditional good making an intrinsic demand on all those participating in conversation.

    Indeed, in the present cultural circumstances, dialogue paradoxically becomes the only good that one cannot reasonably question, and thus the only unconditional good.

    [That's for all those who use 'dialogue' as a convenient shibboleth intended to signify their open-mindedness and tolerance, when in fact they mean a relativist "we'll go our way, you go yours, and never the twain shall we meet". It's the same old logical argument against the concept of 'theological dialog' between faiths - it makes no sense if the idea is to work towards 'reconciling' essentially conflicting convictions.]

    The problem with Notre Dame’s decision is that it evidences no awareness of a notion of dialogue or common ground different from that of the dominant culture.

    (4) We stand now at a time when we can take a long look back at the events of the twentieth century, with its massively brutal taking of innocent human life.

    We can look back, knowing that we now have at our disposal ever-greater technological capacity for ever-more subtle forms of brutality, especially with respect to human life in its weakest and most vulnerable beginnings.

    The lesson of this past century is clear: there are unconditional moral goods whose gravity is such that only a dialogue rooted in witness with one’s whole being, in the flesh, suffices.

    I do not mean the comparison here to be inflammatory. I nevertheless do mean to ask quite literally whether there is not resident in America’s dominant liberal culture a peculiar tendency toward a “compassionate” and “subtle” violence driven by techno-science that rivals the worst evils of history.

    “Compassionate”: because the violence perpetrated is expressly in the interests of alleviating someone’s suffering–to be sure always someone other than the one being terminated.

    “Subtle”: because the violence perpetrated is characteristically against those who cannot exercise the agency of self necessary to claim rights on his or her own behalf – against embryonic human beings, for example, who of their very nature are always “silent” and always “invisible.”

    And so, again, my question to Father Jenkins: if not this homicidal instrumentalism against the weakest and most vulnerable, then what other intrinsic moral evil, might call for a dialogue not circumscribed by the proportionalism of the dominant culture?

    To be sure, addressing the issue raised here is a responsibility scarcely unique to Notre Dame. These are not ordinary times, however, and the University of Notre Dame is not an ordinary institution.

    The university plays an important role in articulating the reasonable nature of Catholic higher education, not to mention the cultural meaning of Catholicism in America. And it articulates these in a singularly solemn way in its awarding of honorary degrees on the occasion of its commencement.

    The unfortunate effect of the university’s decision on this occasion is that it leaves the broader culture’s proportionalist reason and dialogue fully intact, and indeed reinforces these within the Catholic community.

    What the university could and should have done is use the occasion instead to embrace a deeper kind of dialogue and to witness more profoundly in the flesh, on behalf of the weakest of the weak whose inherent dignity we all wish to affirm unconditionally.


    David L. Schindler is also the Provost/Dean of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/6/2009 11:00 PM]
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    00 6/6/2009 11:26 PM

    FSSPX defends plans to ordain 21 priests
    Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

    6 June 2009

    The four Lefebvrist bishops whom Pope Benedict XVI partially rehabilitated in January have defended their decision to ordain 21 priests into the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), sparking alarm among German-speaking bishops. In January the Pope lifted the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops, including British-born Richard Williamson, a Holocaust-denier, but the men remain suspended.

    The ordinations are to take place in three of the Society's seminaries at the end of June, according to a round-robin letter published on SSPX websites on Monday. Three men will be ordained at Zaitzkofen in Bavaria, 13 at the St Thomas Aquinas Seminary at Winona, Minnesota, and the rest at the SSPX headquarters at Ecône in Switzerland.

    The President of the Vatican's Ecclesia Dei Commission, Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, is considering visiting Ecône on 29 June, according to a French priest Claude Barthe, the French right-wing newspaper Présent reported. The priest said the cardinal's visit would be aimed at hastening the implementation of a provisional agreement "for the good of [the clerics'] souls". On 4 July the cardinal turns 80, the age at which membership of ­curial congregations usually ends, and it is widely believed that Cardinal Castrillón wanted to have the SSPX fully reintegrated before he retired.

    Following the huge outcry over the lifting of the excommunications, in March the Pope wrote an unprecedented letter to bishops around the world expressly stating that the Society did not have a canonical status in the Church and its ministers did not exercise legitimate ministries.

    However, the SSPX communiqué argues that the ordinations will be taking place with the permission of the Holy See.

    "During the period in which convergence and understanding with Rome is being sought, the SSPX has a provisional legal status for an indefinite period of time until, after the theological talks are over, a definitive canonical ruling is found. That is what the ‘line of approach' which has been agreed to by the Vatican foresees.

    "In none of the talks up to now has there ever been any mention of ‘putting a stop to ordinations' in general. On the contrary, the lifting of the excommunications was meant to show a willingness to cooperate without putting any restrictions on the life of the Society."

    There was no comment from the Vatican on the SSPX's statement.

    In an interview with Vatican Radio on 1 June, the Bishop of Regensburg, Gerhard Müller, in whose diocese Zaitzkofen lies, said he contacted the Zaitzkofen seminary as soon as he read about the SSPX plans. "I told them that the ordinations were against canon law and that in such a precarious situation one must allow Rome to prescribe how to proceed."

    Calling the ordinations "a provocation", he said: "One simply must suspend everything until this Society's position is cleared up as far as canon law is concerned. In the letter the Society wrote to the Pope in January, they said they fully accepted the Pope's primacy ... [T]hey are not prepared to take the consequences."

    Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who founded SSPX, was suspended a divinis in 1976 for ordaining priests without church approval, and excommunicated in 1988 automatically when he ordained four priests as bishops illicitly.

    I am really quite surprised that there should be any question about this at all. I do not pretend to any theological or canon law expertise, but as I understand it, the FSSPX bishops were illegally but not invalidly ordained, so their actions as bishops, particularly in ordaining new priests, remain valid. My understanding comes from obvious facts:

    Even if the FSSPX bishops were excommunicated because they were illegally ordained, the rank-and-file faithful belonging to the FSSPX were never excommunicated.

    The Vatican has always recognized FSSPX priests, and I will take Pope Benedict XVI's own words, in his letter to the bishops of the world about them in which he says:

    Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church? I think for example of the 491 priests...

    It makes me wonder that even a theologian like Bishop Mueller of Regensburg would now express opposition to the new ordinations.

    The decree revoking the ecommunication of the bishops, as well as Ecclesia Dei's previous dialogs with the FSSPX, did not prohibit the FSSPX from ordaining priests or from proceeding with their seminary training. Perhaps because, in fact, the quality of priests trained by the FSSPX is far supereior to the run-of-the-(seminary)-mill priests turned out by many seminaries who relaxed their doctrinal and liturgical discipline after Vatican II.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/6/2009 11:32 PM]
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    00 6/8/2009 3:51 PM

    Here's some disturbing, outrageous and completely unexpected news!

    Israel seizes Church funds
    pre-empting ongoing fiscal negotiations
    in the bilateral commission

    by Arieh Cohen

    TEL AVIV, June 8 (AsiaNews) - Only weeks after Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel, Tax Chief Yehezkel Abrahamoff, has seized Church funds in Israel to force ecclesial institutions to pay tax, instead of waiting for the outcome of negotiations on the fiscal status of the Church in Israel.

    A personal initiative or a change in the policy of the Netanyahu government?

    The Chief Tax Collector at Israel's Finance Ministry, Yehezkel Abrahamoff, notified institutions of the Catholic Church in Israel that he has seized their funds, in order to force them to submit at once to all of the fiscal demands that he considers applicable to them, ahead of the Agreement on the fiscal status of the Church, which is being negotiated, among other things, between the Holy See and the State of Israel.

    In the last few hours, AsiaNews has received both documentation and testimony to this effect. The institutions concerned have, however, insisted on not being named, for fear of reprisals on the part of the Tax Authority.

    The radical initiative of Mr. Abrahamoff comes only a few weeks after the departure from Israel of Pope Benedict XVI, whose visit was thought to favour precisely progress towards the much awaited Agreement between the Holy See and the Jewish State.

    At this time it is not yet possible to know whether it is a matter of the personal decision of a single functionary, albeit a particularly powerful one, or whether it reflects a radical change of direction by the Netanyahu Government.

    An expert on Church-State relations in Israel, reached by AsiaNews, says he is confident that the Government knows nothing of what he says must be the idea of a single individual. The expert foresees that when the Head of the Government is informed of the matter, the functionary will be reprimanded and the attachment orders annulled, with apologies.

    The negotiators for the Holy See and the State of Israel, the expert recalls, issued their most recent Joint Communiqué on 30 April, when they spoke of the talks as being conducted "in friendship", and re-committed the Parties to working out bilaterally an agreed fiscal regime for the Church in Israel.

    But the Government, he adds, will have to intervene quickly to avoid the serious damage that the "excesses" of a single functionary could cause to the good relations with the Church.

    In any case, he observes, the Government's intervention to quash the orders will have to be very quick, since otherwise the institutions of the Church, especially schools and hospitals may soon find it difficult to cover essential expenses for the purchase of goods and services.

    Church funds seized in the Holy Land:
    Fr. Jaeger speaks out for the Custody

    Rome, June 8 (AsiaNews) – “An extraordinary step” which hopefully “will be disowned” by the Israeli government, in the framework of ongoing negotiations on the Fundamental Agreement between Israel and the Holy See: this is how the delegate of the Custody of the Holy Land, Fr. David Jaeger comments to AsiaNews on the news that the Israeli Ministry for Finance has seized the funds of some ecclesiastical institutions.

    The move came only a few days after Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel, and was carried out by Yehezkel Abrahamoff, Tax Chief at the Israeli Ministry for Finance.

    It appears that the seizure of funds is aimed at forcing the Church to pay taxes, without waiting the outcome of ongoing negotiations between the Holy See and Israel, which also deal with the fiscal status of the Church in Israel.

    So far there has been no statement from the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See. An embassy official told AsiaNews that ambassador Mordechay Lewy is not in the office today.

    In a statement to AsiaNews Fr. David Jaeger, the delegate of the Custody of the Holy Land, said: "Not having received any instructions as to this - and given the extreme delicacy of the subject matter - I am at this time unable to reply to reporters' questions as to whether the Custody of the Holy Land has been targeted by the attachment of Church funds reportedly decreed by an official of the Finance Ministry, a Mr. Yehezkel Abrahamoff”.

    “In a personal capacity, I can express only the hope that this extraordinary initiative, if confirmed, be found to be that of an uninformed individual functionary, and that in the next few hours it will disowned and overturned by his Superiors, in keeping with the well-known treaty obligation of the State (in the framework of its Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See) to abstain rigorously from any such unilateral moves while negotiations are pending on the plane of public international law."


    JERUSALEM, June 8 (Translated from ANSA) - There will be no diplomatic 'incident', sources at the Israeli foreign ministry assured ANSA, who said that the reported freezing of funds belonging to a Catholic institution in Israel [the Custody of the Holy Land] was the 'result of a technical error' and 'a misunderstanding', and that the order has been revoked.

    The freeze, said the high-level representative, was taken 'at the level of a functionary' without a directive from the government.

    "It was a misunderstanding due to the lack of awareness about the Catholic institutions whose fiscal status have been under negotiation between Israel and the Holy See," he said.

    The Israeli finance ministry, whose chief tax collector gave the freeze order, avoided comment.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/8/2009 5:06 PM]
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    00 6/9/2009 5:52 PM

    After Fellay-Levada meeting last Friday,
    are doctrinal talks with FSSPX set to start?

    Thanks to

    for leading us to the Spanish website that is the source for this news.

    reports today that Mons. Bernard Fellay, superior-general of the FSSPX, was received by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican last Friday.

    Benedict XVI had said in his letter to all bishops last March 10 that the CDF would be in charge of discussions to resolve doctrinal questions by the FSSPX regarding Vatican II, which is the next step in the Pope's efforts to bring back the FSSPX into full Communion with the Church.

    This is Mons. Fellay's first visit to Rome since January, when he was surprised to be informed that the Pope had revoked his excommunication along with the three other bishops who were consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 without the approval of the Vatican.

    The FSSPX welcomed the Pope's initiative, since it has always maintained that its main dispute with Rome was about ambiguities in the Magisterium of Vatican-II.

    Sources at the Vatican indicated that the impending canonical retirement of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos (who is turning 80 soon) as head of Ecclesia Dei, may lose the FSSPX a main supporter in the Curia, where some ranking prelates do not approve of the Pope's rapprochement with the FSSPX.

    [Father Z notes that the offices of Ecclesia Dei are located in the CDF building.]

    The take-home message I get from Mons. Fellay's visit to the Vatican on Friday - besides it being a sign that a start has been made towards those all-important doctrinal talks - is that German bishops Mueller and Zollitsch had better take back their condemnations of planned new priestly ordinations by the FSSPX.

    What could have been a better occasion to 'put Mons. Fellay in his place' if the Vatican opposed the ordinations at all? Because, surely, in the unlikely eventuality that it intended to stop the ordinations, both the Vatican and the FSSPX would have made an announcemnt to that effect - and there would have been a great big howl of protest from the FSSPX!

    Let us pray to the Holy Spirit that Benedict XVI's charity aiming to heal the rift with the FSSPX will not go to waste

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/10/2009 7:48 PM]
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    00 6/11/2009 5:34 PM

    Final statement by Irish Bishops
    on Ryan Report:
    They are 'ashamed, humbled and repentant'

    News release from
    the Archdiocese of Armagh

    Thursday, June 11st, 2009

    Ireland’s Catholic bishops have said that they are “ashamed, humbled and repentant” in the wake of the Ryan Report.

    In a statement following their Summer General Meeting yesterday, the bishops said that the Report’s account of the failure of Church institutions to protect abused children was “a disturbing indictment of a culture that was prevalent in the Catholic Church in Ireland”.

    The statement added: “Heinous crimes were perpetrated against the most innocent and vulnerable, and vile acts with life-lasting effects were carried out under the guise of the mission of Jesus Christ.

    “This abuse represents a serious betrayal of the trust which was placed in the Church. For this we ask forgiveness. We are ashamed, humbled and repentant that our people strayed so far from their Christian ideals.”

    The bishops went on to describe their “heavy sadness at the suffering of so many” and to invite those who suffered abuse to engage with them “to see how we can assist those who have been abused”.

    The bishops also discussed the meeting of Pope Benedict with Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin in Rome on Friday.

    The Holy Father, they said “urged the Bishops and all in the Church to continue to establish the truth of what happened and why; to ensure that justice is done for all; to see that measures put in place to prevent abuse from happening again are fully applied, and, to help to bring healing to the survivors of abuse”.

    However, the bishops also reiterated their commitment to providing “Catholic schools to cater for the needs of parents who wish their children to have a Catholic education”.

    In the wake of the Ryan report, a number of politicians, including Government Chief Whip Pat Carey and Labour’s Education spokesman, Ruairí Quinn, called for schools run by the Church and the religious to be handed over to the State.

    The bishops’ statement continued: “The Church accepts and supports choice and diversity within a national education system. We believe that parents who desire schools under different patronage should, where possible, be facilitated in accessing them.

    The statement acknowledged that in some areas, because of population changes, “there were more Catholic schools than are required by the local community”.

    "In these locations this will mean reducing the number of Catholic schools, and we are ready to do this," they said.

    The statement also pointed out that the Catholic Church was fully accountable and operated under State regulation. Specifically, the bishops pointed out that the safety and welfare of pupils in schools are assured by State law and regulation.

    The standards operating to safeguard children in Catholic schools were State policies, and were being implemented, the statement added.

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    00 6/11/2009 6:40 PM

    Here is the address to seminary rectors on the situation in C atholic seminaries today cited by Sandro Magister in his short article on the Year of the Priest [posted in the BENEDICT XVI NEWS&COMMENTARY thread yesterday, 6/10/09. It is a translation by Magister's English translator.

    I find it very significant that all this comes from a French cardinal, formerly Bishop of Angers, considering that much of the French episcopate and clergy have been among the earliest and most widespread advocates of post-Vatican-II laissez-faire in doctrine adn practice.

    Formation for the priesthood:
    Between secularism and
    2 models of the Church

    Address to the Rrctors of Pontifical Seminaries in Rome
    by Cardinal Jean-Louis Bruguès
    Secretary, Congregation for Catholic Education
    Translated by Matthew Sherry from
    the 6/3/09 issue of

    It is always risky to explain a social situation on the basis of a single interpretation. Nonetheless, some keys open more doors than others do. I have long been convinced of the fact that secularization has become a key word for thinking about our societies today, but also about our Church.

    Secularization represents a historical process that is very old, having emerged in France in the middle of the 18th century before spreading to all modern societies. Nevertheless, the secularization of society varies greatly from one country to another.

    In France and Belgium, for example, it tends to prohibit signs of religious membership in public, and to push faith back into the private sphere. The same tendency can be seen, but with much less strength, in Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain.

    In the United States, however, secularization harmonizes easily with the public expression of religious convictions: we saw this also during the last presidential election.

    Over the past decade, an extremely interesting discussion has emerged among the specialists. Until it began, it seemed that it had to be taken for granted that European-style secularization constituted the rule and model, while the American kind constituted the exception.

    Now, however, there are many - Jürgen Habermas, for example - who think that the opposite is true, and that the religions will play a new social role in postmodern Europe as well.


    Regardless of the form it has taken, secularization has provoked a collapse of Christian culture in our countries. The young men who come to our seminaries know little or nothing about Catholic doctrine, about the history and customs of the Church. This generalized lack of education forces us to carry out important revisions in the practice followed until now. I will mention two of these.

    First of all, it seems indispensable to me to provide these young men with a period - a year or more - of initial formation, of "recovery," catechetical and cultural at the same time. These programs can be designed in various ways, based on the specific needs of each country. Personally, I am thinking of an entire year dedicated to assimilating the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which presents itself as a very complete compendium.

    In the second place, our formation programs should be reviewed. The young men who come to the seminary know that they are ignorant. They are humble, and eager to assimilate the message of the Church. Working with them brings excellent results.

    Their lack of education has this positive aspect: they no longer drag behind them the negative prejudices of their older brothers. Fortunately, therefore, we find ourselves working with a "tabula rasa." That is why I am in favor of a comprehensive, organic theological formation that is focused on the essential.

    This implies, on the part of those responsible for instruction and formation, the discontinuation of an initial formation marked by a critical spirit- as was the case for my generation, for which the discovery of the Bible and doctrine was contaminated by a systematic spirit of criticism - and of the temptation of premature specialization: precisely because these young men lack the necessary cultural background.

    Allow me to share with you a few questions that occur to me at this moment. It is absolutely reasonable to want to give future priests a complete, top-level formation. Like an attentive mother, the Church wants the best for its future priests. For this reason, the number of courses has been multiplied, but to the point of weighing down programs in a way that is, in my view, exaggerated.

    You have probably perceived the risk of discouragement in many of your seminarians. I ask: is an encyclopedic perspective appropriate for these young men who have received no basic Christian formation?

    Has this perspective not, perhaps, provoked a fragmentation of formation, an accumulation of courses and an excessively historicizing outlook?

    Is it truly necessary, for example, to give young men who have never learned the catechism an in-depth formation in the human sciences, or in the techniques of communication?

    I would advise choosing depth over breadth, synthesis over dispersion in details, architecture over decoration.

    Similar reasons lead me to believe that learning metaphysics, as demanding as this is, represents the absolutely indispensable preliminary phase for the study of theology. Those who come to us have often received a solid scientific and technical formation - which is a good thing - but their lack of general culture does not permit them to undertake theology confidently.


    On many occasions, I have spoken about generations: about my own, about the one before me, about the future generations. This is, for me, the crucial pont of the present situation. Of course, the passage from one generation to another has always posed adjustment problems, but the one we are living through now is absolutely exceptional.

    The theme of secularization should help us to understand better, even here. This secularization saw unprecedented acceleration during the 1960's. For the men of my generation, and even more for those who preceded me, who were often born and raised in a Christian environment, it constituted an essential discovery, the great adventure of their lives. They therefore came to interpret the "openness to the world" called for by Vatican Council II as a conversion to secularization.

    In this way, in fact, we have experienced or even fostered an extremely powerful self-secularization in most of the Western Churches.

    The examples are many. Believers are ready to exert themselves in the service of peace, justice, and humanitarian causes, but do they believe in eternal life?

    Our Churches have carried out an immense effort to renew catechesis, but does not this catechesis itself tend to overlook the ultimate realities?

    For the most part, our Churches have embarked upon the ethical debates of the moment, at the urging of public opinion, but how much do they talk about sin, grace, and the divinized life?

    Our Churches have successfully deployed massive resources in order to improve the participation of the faithful in the liturgy, but has not the liturgy for the most part lost the sense of the sacred?

    Can anyone deny that our generation, possibly without realizing it, dreamed of a "Church of the pure," a faith purified of any religious manifestation, warning against any manifestation of popular devotion like processions, pilgrimages, etc.?

    The collision with the secularization of our societies has profoundly transformed our Churches. We could advance the hypothesis that we have passed from a Church of "belonging," in which the faith was determined by the community of birth, to a Church of "conviction," in which the faith is defined as a personal and courageous choice, often in opposition with the group of origin.

    This passage has been accompanied by startling numeric variations. Attendance has visibly diminished in the churches, in the courses of catechesis, but also in the seminaries. Years ago, Cardinal Lustiger nonetheless demonstrated, setting out the figures, that in France, the relationship between the number of priests and that of practicing Catholics had always remained the same.

    Our seminarians, like our young priests, also belong to this Church of "conviction." They don't so much come from rural areas anymore, but rather from the cities, especially from the university cities. They often grow up in divided or "split" families, which leaves them with scars and, sometimes, a sort of emotional immaturity.

    The social environment to which they belong no longer supports them: they have chosen to be priests out of conviction, and have therefore renounced any social ambition.

    [What I am saying is not true everywhere; I know African communities in which families or villages still nurture the vocations that have arisen within them. For this reason, they offer better-defined profiles, stronger individuality, and more courageous temperaments. In this regard, they have the right to our full esteem.]

    The difficulty to which I would like to draw your attention therefore goes beyond the boundaries of a simple generational conflict. My generation, I insist, has equated openness to the world with conversion to secularization, and has experienced a certain fascination regarding it.

    But although the younger men were born in secularization as their natural environment and drank it together with their mother's milk, they still seek to distance themselves from it, and defend their identity and their differences.


    There now exists within the European Churches, and perhaps within the American Church as well, a line of division, sometimes of fracture, between a current of "composition" and a current of "contestation."

    The first leads us to observe that secularization includes values with a strong Christian influence, like equality, freedom, solidarity, responsibility, and that it should be possible to come to terms with this current and identify areas of cooperation.

    The second current, on the contrary, calls for keeping distance. It maintains that the differences or points of opposition, above all in the field of ethics, will become increasingly pronounced. It therefore proposes an alternative to the dominant model, and accepts the minority opposition role.

    The first current emerged mainly during the period following the council; it provided the ideological framework for the interpretations of Vatican II that were imposed at the end of the 1960's and in the following decade.

    Things were reversed beginning in the 1980's, above all - but not exclusively - under the influence of John Paul II.

    The current of "composition" has aged, but its proponents still hold key positions in the Church. The current of the alternative model has become much stronger, but it has not yet become dominant. This would explain the tensions at the moment in many of the Churches on our continent.

    It would not be difficult for me to provide examples illustrating the contrast I have just described.

    Today the Catholic universities fall along this dividing line. Some of them play the card of adaptation and cooperation with secularized society, at the cost of finding themselves forced to take a critical distance from this or that aspect of Catholic doctrine or morality. Others, of more recent inspiration, emphasize the confession of the faith and active participation in evangelization. The same applies to the Catholic schools.

    And the same could be said, to return to the topic of this meeting, in regard to the typical profile of those who knock on the doors of our seminaries or religious houses.

    Candidates of the first tendency have become increasingly rare, to the great displeasure of the priests of the older generations.

    The candidates of the second tendency have now become more numerous than the others, but they hesitate to cross the threshold of our seminaries, because often they do not find what they are looking for there.

    They are concerned about identity (and are sometimes mockingly described as "identitarians"): the Christian identity - how should we distinguish ourselves from those who do not share our faith? - and the identity of the priest, while the identity of the monk and the religious is easier to perceive.

    How can harmony be fostered between educators, who often belong to the first current, and the young people who identify with the second?

    Will the educators continue to cling to criteria of admission and selection that date back to their own time, but no longer correspond to the aspirations of the young?

    I was told the story of a French seminary in which adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament had been banned for a good twenty years or so, because it was seen as too devotional: the new seminarians had to struggle for a number of years to have it reinstated, while some of the professors preferred to resign in the face of something that they judged as a "return to the past"; by giving in to the requests of the younger men, they had the impression that they were renouncing what they had fought for their entire lives.

    In the dioceses in which I have been bishop, I have experienced similar difficulties when older priests - or even whole parish communities - have had great difficulty in responding to the aspirations of the young priests who were sent to them.

    I understand the difficulties that you encounter in your ministry as seminary rectors.[
    More than the passage from one generation to another, you must ensure a smooth transition from one interpretation of Vatican Council II to another, and possibly from one ecclesial model to another. Your position is delicate, but it is absolutely essential for the Church.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/14/2009 3:00 AM]
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    00 6/14/2009 2:52 AM

    German bishops tell 'Spiegel'
    they feel abandoned by the Vatican
    in their anti-FSSPX offensive

    ROME, June 13 (Translated from Apcom)- According to the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, after a few conversations with the Vatican, the Lefebvrians will celebrate the ordination of three new priests at the end of June in Bavaria more grandly than earlier planned, with the an open-air Mass which will be led by FSSPX Superior-General Mons. Bernard Fellay, who is coming to Zaitkofen, near Regensburg, from Switzerland.

    Expected to attend are at least 1,000 German traditionalists who belong to the FSSPX.

    In the past weeks, several German bishops had protested the ordination, claiming that it was a deliberate provocation to the Vatican. [The ordinations were scheduled even before the controversial lifting of the FSSPX bishops' excommunication last January. The FSSPX bishops have been ordaining priests since their 1988 excommunication without any protest from the Vatican.]

    Spiegel claims that during his visit to the Vatican two Fridays ago, Mons. Fellay "did not get any signal that the forthcoming ordinations were in violation of canon law".

    The magazine says the protesting German bishops feel 'abandoned' by the Vatican in their stand against the Lefebvrians.

    Neither the Bishop of Regensburg, Mons. Gerhard Mueller, nor the Bishop of Fulda, Mons Heinz Josef Algermissen, who wrote the Pope asking for instructions on how to treat the Lefebvrians, have not received any answers.

    They think it is because the formal transition of competence over the Lefebvrian issue only became formalized this week [announced only, because the Motu Proprio that effects that changeover still has to be published].

    {Trying to put the best face on it, eh? Can't they take a hint? The fact that Fellay himself was not explicitly prohibited by the CDF from proceeding with the ordinations is the best answer they can get - it also saves them from the direct embarrassment of a written Vatican putdown.]

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/14/2009 2:53 AM]
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    00 6/14/2009 6:48 AM

    'The new iconoclasts
    have destroyed the faith'

    by Maria Antonietta Calabro
    Translated from

    June 13, 2009

    A review of

    Cantagalli, 2009, 252 PP

    Published in English in 2006
    The Heresy of Formlessness:
    The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy

    Martin Mosebach's book, a defense of traditional Catholic liturgy, will be out in bookstores in Italy on Tuesday. The volume is published in a series of cultural publications based on the teachings of Benedict XVI, who during the liturgy of Corpus Domini on Thursday, reiterated that "liturgy must be respected", referring to the 'secularization even within the Church" with the view of 'transforming it into an NGO' [non-governmental organization - those international advocacy groups beloved by the UN because they generally support liberal causes dear to UN bureaucrats] .

    In the very society that is dominated by a culture of image, the Church has undergone an assault by the new iconoclasts, who by their debasement of the liturgy, have managed to deal a very grave blow to the Catholic faith, resulting in "a historical and religious catastrophe'.

    The hues used by Martin Mosebach are downright Caravaggio-like, and his polemics do not spare anyone. This passionate apologia for the beauty of the Church's great liturgical tradition is developed not by a theologian nor a canon law expert, but by one of the most important of contemporary German writers.

    That means he comes from the country where the post-Conciliar distortions have been the worst, the native land of Benedict XVI himself, who often underscores the threat of secularization to the Church (most recently in his Corpus Domini homily last Thursday) and that 'liturgy must be respected".

    "Linguistic and musical kitsch, as well as in contemporary images and architecture, have completely inundated the external image of the Church's public activities," writes Mosebach.

    His book title and subtitle leave no doubt: he describes the heresy of formlessness, alluding directly to a Mephistophelean enemy of the ancient Roman liturgy "which should properly be called Gregorian" but is rather referred to as Tridentine, almost as if to negatively underscore its association with the Counter-Reformation. [The Council of Trent was called specifically to counteract the Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther.]

    The publication of the book will surely rekindle the debate over the Lefebvrians, on the restoration of tradition, and even on the rapprochement between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Churches, which, starting with teh Orthodox Churches, have been able to 'preserve' the pluri-millennial tradition of liturgy that is more or less that of the Latin Church.

    "The Mass of St. Gregory the Great is today found confined to the 'extremist fringe' of the Roman Church, while the divine liturgy of St. John Chrysostom lives in all its splendor in the very heart of the Orthodox Church(es)".

    On the level of 'common sense', of a writer who describes behavior, Mosebach follows in the wake of the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar whose principal work was Glory, for a theological esthetic, whose first volume is entitled 'Perception of form".

    In the same way that man is soul as well as body, form and content cannot be separated, Mosebach affirms, that is, 'diabolically' separated [Greek diaballein, to separate].

    For this reason, the form that liturgy has assumed over the centuries, through a slow and almost involuntary process, is not independent of the salvific content of the Mass.

    "Only saints like Ambrose or Augustine or Thomas Aquinas," writes Mosebach, "could have added anything to the Mass, not men closeted in some office, not even if they live in Vatican City."

    It was thus, he says, that "the modernizer and progressivist Paul VI" became a 'tyrant of the Church" in the sense of the word as used in antiquity, when "the interruption of tradition on the part of the sovereign was defined as an act of tyranny".

    [Personally, what I found most unsettling and troubling about the liturgical reform of 1969-1970 - as objectionable as the very changes made - was the fact that radical change in a liturgy more than 500 years old was imposed literally overnight.

    But I wonder if anywhere in the book, Mosebach acknowledges that Paul VI - whom I will always hold it against Paul VI that he gave in to his liturgical advisers and their misguided idea that protestantizing the Mass would 'popularize' it - apparently realized soon enough how the Novus Ordo had opened the door to all kinds of liturgical abuses, emblematic of all other post-conciliar liberalizing abuses, and used an allusion to Satan as Mosebach does when he spoke about 'the fumes of Satan that had somehow infiltrated into the Church'.]

    The only historical comparison to describe this war against 'the beauty of the liturgy' - the visible face of mystery, according to Mosebach - was the Byzantine iconoclasm during the the 8th and 9th centuries, the so called War of teh Icons.

    But the liturgical iconoclasm of our time had something different: "To my mind, it arose from religious ischemia and exhaustion".

    In its essence, it constitutes a forgetting: "The standard that holds for art must, to a greater degree, apply to the public prayer of the Church: namely, that the ugly can only come from the untrue, and in the field of religion, this means the presence of the Satanic".

    The German writer gives this pitiless definition: "The model of this new liturgy is the presidential table at a party meeting, an assembly with microphones and leaves - to the left, an ikebana vase with exotic and bizarre plants with old roots, and on the right, two TV lights set into handmade candle holders. With seeming dignity and thoughtfulness, the members of the administrative council look at the public, as clerics do during a concelebration.

    "Such an assembly, regulated by a democratic order of the day, is the phenotype of the new liturgy and this is none other but the inevitable consequence of the fact that those who do not approve of supra-temporal mystery inevitably wind up in political and social affairs".

    There is no third way, the author says. And naturally, one often arrives at rupture: "There are clerics who do not find it easy to decide on the face they should have at the Consecration. What should be the facial expression of someone who performs the Consecration?"

    So, the success of a 'celebration' of Mass is gauged by the 'performance' of the priest. On the altar, in place of the crucifix, they have the microphone to amplify their preaching
    - which could be 'unctuous or all-knowing, intellectual or bombastic, intimate or sober". Not to forget night-light type candles.

    A quotation from Goethe - a dialog from Faust - expresses the unappealable verdict of the writer: "I have often heard this boast - that a comedian can preach to a priest. But surely if the priest is a comedian, sometimes this can happen".

    On the part of the faithful, there is their so often cited 'active participation' in the Mass. What was active in the washing of the feet, it is asked, seeing that St. Peter did not want to be part of it?

    For the faithful today, it makes no difference now whether they are standing or seated. And that they almost never kneel.

    In contrast, "it was through the signs of adoration that I could see from my earliest infancy," Mosebach writes, "that the Host became for me that which the tradition of the Church says that it is: a living Being".

    P.S. I have found an extensive book review of Mosebach's book by a Benedictine Oblate when it came out in the English translation, but it is in PDF format and I dom't have the time to do the line by line adjustment needed when converting PDF to regular text formatting, so here is the link:

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/21/2014 12:41 AM]
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    00 6/15/2009 10:26 PM

    All the Denarii of Peter:
    Vices and virtues of the Vatican bank

    Two hundred million dollars a year for the Pope's charities.
    Where does it come from? Where does it go?
    New revelations on past malfeasance in the Istituto per Opere di Religione (IOR), the Vatican bank.
    And on obstacles in the way of its full rehabilitation from the scandals of the 1990s.

    ROME, June 15, 2009 – In early July, the Vatican will publish its financial report for 2008, as it does every year, in two chapters plus an appendix.

    The first chapter will list the income and expenditures of the Amministrazione del Patrimonio della Sede Apostolica, APSA, which manages the fixed and current assets owned by itself, the curia, the diplomatic corps, the publishing house, the radio and television stations.

    The second chapter will list the income and expenditures of the governorate of Vatican City State: land, services, museums, stamps, coins.

    The appendix will present the balance sheets for Peter's Pence, the Church collection for the Pope taken all over the world every year on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, plus the donations made directly to the pope over the course of the year.

    In 2007, for example, the collection and donations totaled 94.1 million dollars, 14.3 million of which came from a single donor who wanted to remain anonymous.

    This is what is published each year.

    Nothing else. Not a line about the other income, apart from Peter's Pence, intended for the Pope's charities. But not a line about how this sum is used.

    There is an office in the Secretariat of State that deals with precisely this matter. It was directed for many years by Monsignor Gianfranco Piovano, who was replaced a few months ago by Monsignor Alberto Perlasca. Both men are career diplomats.

    In addition to Peter's Pence, funding comes from contributions that the dioceses all over the world are required to make to the Successor of Peter, according to Canon 1271 of the Code of Canon Law.

    Money is also sent by the religious congregations and foundations. In 2007, according to a confidential report that the Vatican sent to the dioceses, these contributions amounted to 29.5 million dollars, which together with the Peter's Pence, total 123.6 million dollars.

    This money is earmarked for the Pope's charities. In a lecture to diplomats from various countries in the Middle East and North Africa, given in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University in May of 2007, the banker Angelo Caloia, president of the IOR (which means Istituto per le Opere di Religione) the "Vatican bank," described the use of this money:

    "It is directed above all to the material needs of poor dioceses, to religious institutes and communities in grave difficulty: the poor, children, the elderly, the marginalized, victims of wars and natural disasters, refugees, etcetera."

    In that same lecture, moreover, Caloia referred to another funding source of the Pope's charities: the profits of the IOR. In March of every year, in fact, the IOR makes entirely available to the Pope the difference between its income and expenditures during the previous year. This total is kept secret, but it is believed to be close to that of the Peter's Pence. At least this was the case in the four years for which figures were leaked.

    It came to 60.7 billion Italian lire in 1992, 72.5 billion in 1993, 75 billion in 1994, and 78.3 billion in 1995. During those same years, the Peter's Pence was just slightly above these amounts.

    Given this state of affairs, 2007 should have brought Benedict XVI, for his charities, a sum total of about two hundred million dollars.

    During that same year, the ledgers showed a deficit of 9.1 million euros for APSA, and a surplus of 6.7 million euros for the governorate. Chopped liver, by comparison.


    Caloia said little about the IOR in his lecture to the diplomats. He emphasized that this "does not have a functional relationship" with the Holy See. And he stated that the only authorized depositors are "individuals or persons juridically endowed with canonical legitimacy: cardinals, bishops, priests, sisters, brothers, religious congregations, dioceses, chapters, parishes, foundations, etcetera."

    But the reality has not always corresponded to this description. When Caloia became head of the Vatican bank in 1990, it had just emerged from a terrible deficit connected to the name of Caloia's predecessor, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, and to the reckless operations he undertook with the financiers Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi, both of whom later died violent deaths under mysterious circumstances.

    Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Secretary of State at the time, had resolved the dispute by ordering that the creditors be paid 242 million dollars as a "voluntary contribution."

    In an agreement with the Italian government, Casaroli appointed two specialists in finance and administrative law, Pellegrino Capaldo and Agostino Gambino, to investigate the operations of the Vatican bank, together with a prelate in the Curia who had his absolute trust, Monsignor Renato Dardozzi. Dardozzi was born in 1922 and became a priest at the age of 51. He received degrees in engineering, mathematics, philosophy, and theology, and was a telecommunications manager before finally becoming director and chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

    From that time until a few years before his death in 2003, Dardozzi continued to oversee the operations of the IOR on behalf of the Vatican Secretariat of State, under Casaroli and his successor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

    Dardozzi documented his work of oversight. And this documentation has now been made public in a book recently released in Italy, written by Gianluigi Nuzzi and published by Chiarelettere.

    The documents cited and reproduced in the book are absolutely reliable. They demonstrate that the removal of Marcinkus and his replacement by Caloia in 1990 was not enough to purge the IOR of malfeasance right away.

    In fact, Monsignor Donato De Bonis stayed in the key role of "prelate" of the Vatican bank until 1993. And during those years, he launched a sort of parallel shadow bank, under his exclusive command, that again risked plunging the IOR into deficit.

    It was in the spring of 1992 that Caloia began to suspect that there were irregularities. He ordered a thorough investigation, and verified that in effect De Bonis controlled accounts attributed to fictitious foundations, which in reality concealed illegal financial operations, in tens of billions of lire.

    In August, a detailed report on these fake accounts came to the desk of the secretary of John Paul II, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz.

    De Bonis was removed from the IOR in March of 1993. No one replaced him in the post of the bank's "prelate," which remained vacant. De Bonis was consecrated bishop and appointed military chaplain of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a role that enjoys diplomatic protections.

    [I find the Vatican practice of transferring erring prelates to other prestigious jobs very disturbing. I found it questionable when John Paul II decided to name Cardinal Law to be Arch-Priest of Santa Maria Maggiore, and it is just as questionable when a De Bonis was made Patron of the Knights of Malta - with diplomatic immmunities - after committing apparent financial hocus-pocus in a big way!

    At least, at Santa Maria Maggiore, no one has accused Cardinal Law of coddling sex offender priests under him, but this Mons. De Bonis went on committing his questionable activities even after he left IOR!]

    But even after his departure from the IOR, De Bonis continued to operate through officials connected to him. Alarmed by this, at the end of July Caloia wrote to Cardinal Secretary of State Sodano:

    "... It is increasingly clear that criminal activity is being conducted deliberately by those who, according to their chosen way of life and the role they fulfill, should instead have provided a strict critical conscience. It is becoming more and more difficult to understand the continuation of a situation such that the person in question [De Bonis] continues, from a no less privileged position, to manage indirectly the activities of the IOR...".

    The risk was all the more severe in that, precisely during those months, the Italian judiciary was investigating a colossal "bribe" paid illegally by the company Enimont to the politicians who had favored it. And the investigations also led to the IOR, as a concealed intermediary for these payments through the fake accounts operated by De Bonis.

    In the autumn of 1993, the magistrates in Milan asked the Vatican, by rogatory, to provide information on the disputed transactions. The Vatican complied by providing the minimum required, less than what it had discovered in its own investigations. Some officials were replaced, the fake accounts were blocked, and De Bonis did not recover so much as a lira of the funds deposited in them.

    Along with De Bonis, the cardinal in the Vatican who had been his biggest support also left the scene, José Rosalio Castillo Lara, president of both the APSA and the governorate.

    In 1995 Caloia was confirmed for another five-year term as president of the IOR. And again in 2000. And yet again in 2006, after a year's extension "ad interim" amid insistent demands that he be replaced immediately.

    In the summer of 2006, before leaving the Secretariat of State to his successor, Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Sodano nonetheless restored the post of "prelate" of the IOR, assigning it to one of his own secretaries, Monsignor Piero Pioppo.

    There are still occasional calls for a change at the head of the IOR. But Caloia, 69, with an English wife and four children, is holding an appointment that lasts until March 14, 2011.

    Without a doubt, thanks to him the IOR is getting closer – more so than ever before – to the image of the virtuous bank described in the lecture two years ago to the diplomats from the Middle East and North Africa.


    The address on the finances of the Vatican given by the president of the IOR to the school for diplomats of the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2007 is contained in the volume of the proceedings:

    Angelo Caloia, The financial structures of the Holy See, in Franco Imoda, Roberto Papini (eds.), "The Catholic Church and the International Policy of the Holy See / L'Eglise Catholique et la Politique Internationale du Saint-Siège", Nagard, Milan, 2008, pp. 148-151.

    *I must note here that the English translation provided by Magister inexplicably used the term "Pope's charity" in quotation marks. I have replaced that in this post by Pope's charities - without quotation marks - as the more idiomatic and appropriate translation for 'carita del Papa' (in Italian, the singular and plural forms of the noun carita are identical].

    Besides, using the quotation marks for 'Pope's charity' as Magister's translator does throughout the article somehow tags this 'charity' as questionable even if that may not have been the intention.

    By the way, the IOR is not listed at all among the Vatican agencies on the Vatican website. A so called 'Vatican Bank website' on the Net turns out to be a 'global URL' set up by someone and contains nothing at the moment but isolated and random news items about the Vatican from the wire services. The items have nothing to do with Vatican finances, but I don't have time to check out all the items that have been posted to see what, if any, selection principle is used for the items chosen.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/15/2009 10:40 PM]
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    00 6/16/2009 12:41 AM
    The procession of the Holy
    By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome

    On Thursday evening, June 11 — the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which is celebrated on Sunday (today) in the United States, Australia, and a number of other countries — Pope Benedict XVI, after driving in a car from the Vatican across Rome to St. John Lateran, celebrated Mass on the square in front of the basilica (photo), then led a Eucharistic procession to the basilica of St. Mary Major.

    Today, in Belarus, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz led a similar procession for four and a half hours through the streets of Minsk, accompanied by some 10,000 Catholic faithful, despite a steady rain.

    The ceremony of a public eucharistic procession has in recent decades become less common, but these two processions, and many others elsewhere, suggest the return of this manifestation of popular eucharistic piety in the public squares of the world.

    In his homily, Pope Benedict commented on the words pronounced by priests at the moment of consecration: "This is My Body... This is My Blood."

    Addressing his remarks to priests, the Holy Father said: "Becoming the Eucharist: let this be our constant desire and commitment!

    "So that the offer of the Body and Blood of the Lord we make upon the altar may be accompanied by the sacrifice of our own lives.

    "Every day we draw from the Body and Blood of the Lord the free and pure love that makes us worthy ministers of Christ and witnesses to His joy. What the faithful expect from a priest is the example of authentic devotion to the Eucharist. They like to see him spend long periods of silence and adoration before Jesus, as did the saintly 'Cure of Ars' whom we will especially recall during the imminent Year for Priests."

    The Pope continued: "Aware that, because of sin, we are inadequate, yet needing to nourish ourselves from the love the Lord offers us in the Eucharistic Sacrament, this evening we renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Such faith must not be taken for granted!"

    He added: "Today there is a risk of insidious secularization, even inside the Church. This could translate into a formal but empty Eucharistic worship, in celebrations lacking that involvement of the heart which finds expression in veneration and respect for the liturgy.

    "There is always a strong temptation to reduce prayer to superficial and hurried moments, allowing ourselves to be overcome by earthly activities and concerns," he warned.

    "With the Eucharist, heaven comes down to earth, God's tomorrow descends into the present moment and time is, as it were, embraced by divine eternity."

    After Mass, the Pope presided at the Eucharistic procession along Rome's Via Merulana to the basilica of St. Mary Major. Along the route, thousands of faithful prayed and sang accompanying the Blessed Sacrament. A covered vehicle transported the Sacrament in a monstrance, before which the Holy Father knelt in prayer (photo).

    Benedict did not hide his joy at being able to accompany the Blessed Sacrament along the path to St. Mary Major; he invited the faithful to raise up this prayer: "Stay with us, Christ, give to us the gift of yourself and give us the bread that nourishes us for eternal life. Free this world from the venom of evil, of violence and of hate, which contaminate consciences; purify this world with the power of your merciful love."


    Today, in Belarus, generally regarded as one of the most strictly-controlled, authoritarian states in the world, a similar procession followed Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.

    "It was raining, but there were a lot of people," Kondrusiewicz told me a few minutes ago by telephone. "The official estimates are from seven to ten thousand people, and I am sure they are not exaggerated. We began with Mass at the cathedral, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, then we walked to Victory Square, where there is an eternal flame, then to the Square of the October Revolution, then to the so-called 'Red Church' of St. Simon and Elena, then back to the cathedral again. We had no problem receiving government approval to process through the main streets of the city."

    The Catholic Church in Belarus has very good relations with the government, Kondrusiewicz (photo), who previously was the archbishop in Moscow from 1991 until September, 2007, said.

    He noted that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was treated as if he were a head of state when he visited Belarus one year ago, in June 2008.

    On that visit, Bertone met with President Alexandr Lukashenko and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Head of the Council of Religious Affairs. (Bottom photo above: BelarusForeign Minister Sergei Martynov with Cardinal Bertone in Minsk, June 19, 2008)

    Cardinal Bertone was on an official visit for talks with government, Catholic and Orthodox leaders in the country.

    Bertone was even invited to deliver an address to the State University, something very unusual for a religious leader. (In fact, some six months later, Kondrusiewicz was invited to deliver a lecture there as well.)

    After the country's majority faith, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism is respected as the second important traditional religion in the country.
    Last year, Lukashenko, in Bertone's presence, highlighted that Belarus is respectful of the right to religious freedom. Bertone thanked Lukashenko for his words, and offered the Church's support for Belarus in its role as a bridge between East and West.

    "I am very happy," Kondrusiewicz told us. "But I need to build churches! And my curia! I need to build 15 or 20 churches in the coming years, for my 300,000 Catholics in Minsk. The government has given me permission to build the churches, which is the first and biggest hurdle. Now, I must build them. A small chapel costs about $400,000 to build. You have to organize your readers to build one church for me! When the churches are built, I will put up a plaque, thanking all those who have contributed!"

    Kondrusiewicz, who spent 16 years in Moscow, said he has not been back to the Russian capital since his transfer. I asked him if it had been difficult for him to leave after so many years.

    "When I went to Moscow from Belarus in 1991, they asked me the same question," Kondrusiewicz said. "Look, I am a soldier of the Church. I serve the Holy Father. I do not go where I want to go, and I do not stay where I want to stay. I am under orders. And this is my happiness — to carry out those orders, to the best of my ability, believing that this is what God wants from me, and nothing else."

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/16/2009 12:42 AM]
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    00 6/16/2009 3:15 PM

    Mons. Fellay talks about
    forthcoming events

    By Kris Dmytrenko

    TORONTO, Canada, JUNE 15, 2009 ( An announcement that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will now oversee discussions with the Society of St. Pius X is imminent, says the society's general superior.

    Bishop Bernard Fellay revealed to ZENIT that the congregation told him to expect the publication of a statement issued "motu proprio" (on his own initiative) by Benedict XVI on the new structure of Ecclesia Dei before June 20.

    The bishop confirmed that he met June 5 with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During a visit today to Toronto, the general superior explained that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, established precisely to oversee the process of healing the society's separation from the Church, will remain a distinct entity within the Church's dicastery for doctrinal matters.

    "According to what we have heard," noted the bishop, "most probably, one of the monsignors of the congregation will be the executive head of Ecclesia Dei. So it will be very tightly united with the congregation."

    Along with three other bishops ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 without Vatican approval, Bishop Fellay had been automatically excommunicated, only to have the penalty lifted in January by Benedict XVI.

    The Society of St. Pius X still lacks the canonical status required for the legitimate exercise of ministry, which, according to the Pontiff in a letter sent in March to all the Church's bishops, will only be granted when the society accepts the authority of the Second Vatican Council, along with the magisterial teachings of popes since the council.

    Since 2000, the pontifical commission has been led by Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, whom Bishop Fellay describes as "very friendly" to the society. The bishop shared that, even after his June 5 meeting with Cardinal Levada, he remains unsure how the expected changes will affect negotiations with the Vatican.

    "I don’t know [Cardinal Levada] enough to really answer the question. […] When we were received it was very courteous. He was gentle. […] I don’t frankly know what and if there will be a real change."

    New excommunications

    Most pressing for the new Ecclesia Dei leadership will be averting a new series of excommunications. On June 27, Lefebvrite Bishop Alfonso de Galaretta is scheduled to ordain three priests and three deacons in the society's Zaitzkofen seminary in Bavaria, Germany.

    Bishop Gerard Muller of Regensburg has warned the society that, until the issue of canonical status is resolved, the ordinations lack proper authorization and would thus merit disciplinary action.

    "Our bishop is waiting for Rome to advise on how to respond," said diocesan spokesperson Jakub Schotz earlier this month. "But it will almost certainly result in excommunication for these priests and the bishop who ordains them." [Quite an assumption to make, considering that no one else in the FSSPX outside the four bishops (and the late Mons. Lefebvre and a departed Brazilian bishop who orained the four bishops) has been excommunicated in all these 20 years!

    Also as a common sense consdieration, wasn't Cardinal Levada's meeting with Mons. Fellay the appropriate occasion for the Vatican to haev conveyed to him that the FSSPX should not proceed with more ordinations? Apparently no such warnings were given even if Bishop Mueller reportedly brought the question to the CDF (of which he is a bishop member)].]

    Bishop Fellay counters that the Society of St. Pius X already delayed subdiaconate ordinations in Regensburg earlier this year, and that he believes that the Vatican now "has no basic problems" with the upcoming priestly ordinations.

    "We cannot just now say, 'stop breathing,'" he argues in defense of the society's continued administration of the sacraments. "We need to breathe. And, definitely, if the Pope was so good to take away the excommunications, that means he doesn’t want us now to die."

    The society is planning to proceed with the ordinations, despite Bishop Fellay’s concern that new excommunications could "jeopardize everything" and derail the society’s discussions with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    [Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but since there was an earlier report in Der Spiegel (see earler post on this thread) that the Zaitkofen ordination has been 'upgraded' with Mons. Fellay himself to perform the rites, it seems he feels confident enough now of where the FSSPX stands vis-a-vis the Vatican.]

    Central to those talks are the society's unambiguous condemnations of the Second Vatican Council, particularly in reference to the council’s affirmations of religious liberty, ecumenism and the separation of Church and state.

    While the Swiss-born superior general prefers to resolve these doctrinal issues before he accepts canonical status in the Church, he insists that he is open to reaching a provisional compromise position with the Vatican.

    "If Rome gives us enough guarantee, so to say, of survival, I think probably we would certainly consider it," he said. "We have no problem with the Church recognizing us, of course."

    * * *

    Kris Dmytrenko is an associate producer of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Television Network. Salt and Light will air an exclusive interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay on the Sunday, June 28, episode of Witness, hosted by Basilian Father Thomas Rosica.

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    00 6/16/2009 7:07 PM

    Cardinal Zen gives the first comprehensible overview I have yet read of the confusing back-and-forth of relations among the Vatican and the Chinese government, and the official and underground Churches in China.

    Cardinal Zen says
    'Time to carry out Pope's letter -
    whatever the cost'

    by Gianni Criveller

    HONGKONG, June 16 (AsiaNews) – In an impassioned dialogue with AsiaNews, Cardinal Joseph Zen says the time has come for the Chinese Church and the Holy See to stop accepting any form of compromise with the Beijing regime and to put into real effect the indications set out by Benedict XVI in his Letter, to safeguard the religious freedom of the Church.

    Cardinal Zen, Archbishop Emeritus of Hong Kong (he retired last
    April), is concerned above all by the 'official' Church's transparent submission to the Patriotic Association, which constitutes a “slap in the face” to the Pope and the clear directives that he indicated in his Letter to Chinese Catholics two years ago.

    The prelate qualifies the importance of seeking diplomatic relations at all costs between Beijing and the Holy See, saying this risks being a mere illusion if there is no religious freedom in the nation.

    The text that we publish today is part of a long interview that AsiaNews will publish in the August- September edition of its monthly magazine.

    In this excerpt, Cardinal Zen recalls the commitment of the Church and the Holy See to reconciling the two Catholic communities in China (the official and non-official, or underground church) and he speaks of his future as a teacher in Hong Kong, but above all in constant contact with Christians in China.

    Eminence, tells us about your commitment to religious freedom for the Church in China.

    Since the late ‘70’s to the early ‘80’s, many people have been committed to the Church in China. And what happened was that the reality of the Church in China slowly began to be reflected outside China.

    In other words, the division between the so-called open and official Church and the underground church created, at least at first, two different positions, both in Hong Kong and in the Holy See. Here in Hong Kong – I am speaking about the early years after the opening up – those who helped the Church in China fell into two groups. There were those who supported the underground community and were almost hostile to the official community, and on the contrary, those who sympathised with the official Church and looked with suspicion upon the underground community.

    People who were well connected to the Church in China, who had intimate knowledge of what was taking place, were naturally on the side of the underground church, because it was more faithful to the Church and because it had courageously suffered for the faith. They viewed the official Church with suspicion, judging it to have given itself up to the government.

    But a certain number of people in Hong Kong who were not familiar with China, or young missionaries who had never worked in China, were easily enthused by what there saw during their brief trips to China: open churches, congregations singing etc….. Therefore they were heartened by the freedom that they believed to be real.

    As a result they accused the underground Church of stubbornness, unwilling to accept a new reality.

    This was also the case within the Holy See: it is widely known that in the past there was friction between the Secretary of State, which tends towards mediation to re-establish diplomatic relations, and Propaganda Fide [Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples], which instead aims to ensure for the Church in mission lands a free and real ecclesial life.

    After some years of exchange between the Chinese and Universal Churches, above all, thanks to those of us who went there to teach, we saw that the official Church was not in any way schismatic or separate. We realised that it is the government that is keeping it artificially separate from Rome.

    The people, in their hearts, have preserved the Catholic faith, like the rest of us. And thus a little at a time the two positions drew closer. This is true of the Holy See and Hong Kong. Of course there are those few groups who still like to polarize the situation, and who are only on one side or the other.

    We could say that as the Universal Church became more familiar with the concrete reality, it began to accept the so-called official Church. This resulted in the beginning of a recovery process of the faithful of the official Church, with older bishops presenting themselves to the Pope seeking forgiveness and asking to be recognised as bishops.

    The Holy See had a very open attitude to this: after necessary investigation and with the consensus of the legitimate underground bishop, it recognised many of the bishops, without ever demanding public announcements of their newly bestowed legitimacy of them.

    At the beginning this would have rendered the process of legitimisation very difficult. The Holy See’s tolerance was, to a certain extent, matched by the tolerance of the government. In fact at a certain point, the latter came to know about these events but did not react with hostile acts or the suppression of those bishops who had obtained Rome’s approval.

    A second phase was dealt with in the same way, during which young bishops after their election [according to the “democratic” election procedure imposed by the government – ed.] wanted to receive papal approval ahead of their ordination. In this case too the Church was very generous and approved many of them, naturally as long as they were acceptable. And in these cases the government turned a blind eye and did not refuse them for the fact that they had sought Rome’s approval. Therefore there was a period in which there were concessions and compromises so that everything could finally be officially put to rights.

    But that never happened: there was no continuity in reflection, we pushed ahead inertly, without necessary meditation and without ever trying to really improve the situation.

    Now we have arrived at a point in which it is no longer right or possible to accept further compromise. The moment is mature for a new chapter to begin. The Pope’s Letter to the Catholics of China (2007) must mark this new beginning.

    In fact the Pope spoke very clearly about the principles that must guide this new phase in the life of the Church in China[1]. Unfortunately over the past two years this move towards greater transparency has not taken place. In fact it seems to me that we are worryingly sliding down the slope of compromise.

    The most disturbing episode, which goes against everything indicated by the pope, is the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first illegitimate consecrations in 1958. This really worries me: it appears almost impossible to stop the shape events are taking.

    I truly am frightened by the prospect of the possibl'e Assembly of the Catholic Church in China'. Should that meeting, as I fear it will, succeed in securing the participation of many bishops and priests, it would mean the end. I repeat: it would mean the complete waste of all the efforts made in the previous years and it would be an insult to the Holy Father. Yes, it would be a slap in the face, because it would mean completely ignoring his Letter.

    Who is responsible for the failed implementation of the directives contained in the Holy Father’s Letter?

    Certainly in China, they tried to do everything to block the Pope’s Letter. But I also believe that the Holy See should have given greater support to the Letter. The Holy See should have carried on implementing the Pope’s directive for transparency for a greater length of time.

    [Who, exactly, is working for the interests of the Holy See inside China, officially or unofficially?????]

    Last January you wrote an editorial for the Catholic press in Hong Kong in which you asked China’s official bishops to have the same virtues as Saint Stephan, the first martyr, and not to submit to the will of the State when it is contrary to the faith. You have asked them to “stand their ground” and resist pressure from the Patriotic Association, to remain faithful to the pope [2].

    The point that I am making, as laid out in the article that I wrote in January, may seem somewhat cruel, because to some it may seem that I am calling for martyrdom.

    Martyrdom is not something we can choose. If a situation calls for martyrdom, there will be the Grace of the Lord that will give us strength. Martyrdom is not the fruit of our own initiative, but if the circumstance so requires, then we must be ready for martyrdom, there is no choice.

    If the circumstance requires martyrdom, but the person subtracts himself from it, then it means that he is reneging on the witness of the faith that is his duty to offer.

    The phrase “stand your ground” may seem brutal, but we must be clear, we must be firm. The other option is surrender. We do not have the right to surrender. We must stand firm in the faith.

    On many occasions the Pope has said that we must stand firm in the principals of the faith, even if at first we appear to fail. Unfortunately some believe that we can renounce a part of our faith in order to be able to evangelise. But this is absurd, that is why I ask: but what Gospel are you talking about? A reduced Gospel? Of a discounted Gospel?

    What are your thoughts on dialogue between the Holy See and China and the possibility of future diplomatic relations?

    At times too much importance is given to diplomatic relations; they alone do not rectify everything. In fact sometimes they can deceive by giving the false impression that religious freedom exists. The most important thing is religious freedom, which certainly can be facilitated by diplomatic relations. But it is not necessarily true that when there is one there is the other.

    Therefore you cannot have relations as your sole aim without ensuring real freedom. Currently the establishment of diplomatic ties appears improbable given that relations between Beijing and Taipei are greatly improved.

    So to save face in front of Ma Yingjiou (the president of Taiwan) Beijing is in no rush for relations with the Vatican, which would mean a breaking off in relations between the Vatican and Taiwan.

    It seems there is tacit reciprocal that Beijing will allow Taiwan to maintain its relations with a series of small States, whereas up until recently it pursued a campaign of taking these states from under Taiwan’s nose by offering economic concessions. Currently there is an armistice on this point.

    Your plans for the future....

    I said that I desired to leave the office of the diocese in order to withdraw and concentrate on service to China. This is why the Holy Father made me cardinal. I felt that it was impossible to do both well. I would receive many letters and people, but I could not follow the details of every diocese in China well. I could not keep up.

    I would read the letters and put them aside, I would receive a guest (from China), say what I thought was right, but then it would finish there - I was not able to go any further. Now I hope to be able to do more.

    This is my main aim: become better informed about the Church in China and each diocese in particular, thereby I will be in a better position to give advice. Right now I feel I am informed about the Church in China in a general sense, not about each single diocese. Many problems are on a single diocesan level.

    Moreover because my previous work was in seminary formation, I would very willingly continue this work which is not incompatible with my work in China. This is why when Msgr. Tong asked me to help in teaching and seminary life, I was happy to accept.

    Equally I would have willingly withdrawn altogether, to leave a clear field, perhaps to go to a Salesian college in Africa where they are in need of teachers. But I must remember that I am 77 years old, I do not know how much longer I will be able to carry on. I hope that my health will hold for a few more years still. And then when I am no longer able to serve, I will retire to a Salesian home.

    [1] Ref. dossier Pope's letter to the Church in China.
    [2] Ref CERVELLERA B., “The bishop of Beijing and compromise with the Patriotic Association”, in AsiaNews, February 2009, pp. 27-30. Ref.:, 03/01/2009 Cardinal Zen asks Chinese bishops for more courage and 03/02/09 The bishop of Beijing, the Vatican and compromising with the Patriotic Association

    If Cardinal Zen - who appears to be the best informed Church official about the situation of the Church in China - says he does not have enough information on a diocesan level, then who does? Do the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for Bishops and/or Propaganda Fide get any reports from the individual dioceses at all? If not, why not?

    There has to be an institutional system set up for the Vatican to monitor the Church in China, both official and underground, rather than simply relying on someone like Cardinal Zen, who, with all his contacts, cannot operate as a one-man mission!

    In effect, all that we, the interested public, know about the situation of the 'Church in China' is isolated patches of an unknown beast as in the fable of the blind man trying to recognize an elephant simply by what he can touch of it!

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/16/2009 9:53 PM]
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    00 6/16/2009 9:48 PM

    Cathedral of Saint Paul
    designated a National Shrine

    MINNEAPOLIS-ST.PAUL, Minnesota - The Vatican has designated the Cathedral of Saint Paul to be the first national shrine in honor of the Apostle Paul.

    This special distinction was granted by the Office of the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, following a request by The Most Rev. John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

    This will be the first national shrine in the State of Minnesota and the only national shrine in North America dedicated to honor Saint Paul.

    According to canon (church) law, “The term shrine signifies a church or other sacred place to which the faithful make pilgrimages for a particular pious reason with the approval of the local ordinary (bishop).”

    Those wishing to participate more fully in the life of the National Shrine can become members of the Archconfraternity of the Apostle Paul.

    Tens of thousands of people, particularly tourists, already visit the Cathedral of Saint Paul every year. Bus loads of children also come to learnabout the role of the Mother Church of the Archdiocese. The number of visitors is expected to increase significantly as a result of this designation as a national shrine dedicated to Saint Paul.

    Over the decades, the Cathedral developed as a catechism in stone and glass by evangelizing through its grandeur and beauty.

    The patron Saint Paul is particularly honored through a series of bronze grills that depict major events in his life, from his conversion to his martyrdom.

    The Shrine of the Nations, which features patron saints of ethnic groups from Europe who settled the area, serves as a reminder that the work of the Apostle to the Gentiles continues through every age.

    Welcome words

    The Cathedral of Saint Paul is one of the largest and most historic churches in the United States. Its architectural grandeur and prominent site make it an integral part of the landscape of the capital city of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St.Paul — whose name derives from the title of this great building.

    The Cathedral is rightly listed as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is a treasure for all Americans and one that we can proudly compare to the great cathedrals of Europe.

    As a monument, the Cathedral is a destination for people of all beliefs. We respect and welcome people who may not share our faith in Jesus Christ. The transcendence of this sacred place encourages the best in all of us and shows us that beautiful dreams can come true. We are committed to engaging our fellow citizens in a dialogue as to how people of faith may contribute to the common good of our society.

    As the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the Cathedral serves as the spiritual center of its approximately 700,000 members.

    Here the most important moments in the Archdiocese's life take place, such as ordinations and the welcoming of a new archbishop. And at any time, this is a place where all Catholics may come to pray or participate in our many vibrant programs.

    As a parish, the Cathedral is the primary spiritual home of nearly 2,500 families. Thus it is a living community of faith which tries hard to welcome some 200,000 visitors whom we receive each year. We pray that this website may encourage you to visit us in person.


    One of the most distinctive cathedrals in the United States, the now N ational Shrine of St. Paul sits on Cathedral Hill overlooking downtown St Paul and features a distinctive copper-clad dome. The current building opened in 1915 as the fourth cathedral of the archdiocese to bear this name.

    The design was inspired by French Renaissance architecture. The dome of the cathedral is 76 feet (23 m) in diameter and 186 feet (57 m) high. Warm-colored paint and gold leaf were added during a major renovation of the dome in the 1950s.

    The exterior walls of the cathedral are Rockville granite from St. Cloud, Minnesota. The interior walls are American Travertine from Mankato, Minnesota. The interior columns are made of several types of marble.

    The interior is illuminated by twenty-four stained glass windows featuring angelic choirs.

    The life of Saint Paul is honored in the bronze baldachin, as well as massive bronze Te Deum and Magnificat grilles.

    The cathedral also has six chapels dedicated to the patron saints of the European ethnic groups that settled the area around the city: St. Anthony for the Italians, St. John the Baptist for the French Canadians, St. Patrick for the Irish, St. Boniface for the Germans, Saints Cyril and Methodius for the Slavs; and St. Therese of Lisieux for the missionaries.

    There are also chapels dedicated to the Sacred Heart, to Mary, the mother of Jesus and to St. Joseph, her husband, as well as to Saint Peter.

    iN 1974, The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 3/6/2010 10:22 AM]
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    00 6/17/2009 1:38 PM
    TERESA BENEDETTA, 09.06.2009 17:52:

    After Fellay-Levada meeting last Friday,
    are doctrinal talks with FSSPX set to start?

    The take-home message I get from Mons. Fellay's visit to the Vatican on Friday - besides it being a sign that a start has been made towards those all-important doctrinal talks - is that German bishops Mueller and Zollitsch had better take back their condemnations of planned new priestly ordinations by the FSSPX.

    What could have been a better occasion to 'put Mons. Fellay in his place' if the Vatican opposed the ordinations at all? Because, surely, in the unlikely eventuality that it intended to stop the ordinations, both the Vatican and the FSSPX would have made an announcemnt to that effect - and there would have been a great big howl of protest from the FSSPX!

    At last...and long overdue...

    What do you say now Teresa?

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    00 6/17/2009 5:10 PM

    From my starter-post for the day in BENEDICT XVI news:


    Here is a translation of a communique from the Vatican Press Office today:

    In response to frequent questions these days regarding the priestly ordinations of the Fraternity of St. Pius X scheduled for the end of June, we refer to what the Holy Father said in his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church last March 10:

    As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church... Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

    The ordinations are therefore still considered illegitimate.

    Int he same letter, the Pope announced his intention for a new status of the Ecclesia Dei Commission which will be attached to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    There is reason to believe that the definition of this new status is imminent. This will constitute the premise for opening dialog with the responsible officials of the FSSPX towards the desired clarification of doctrinal questions - and any consequent disciplinary questions - which remain open.

    [In other words, nothing has changed so far. Life will go on for the FSSPX as it has for the past 22 years, and they will continue their ordinations, knowing full well the canonical implications, as they always have. And the Vatican has not expressly prohibited them from going on, nor has it threatened a new excommunication, as the German bishops did!]

    P.S. I would still refer to the Holy Father's March 10 letter to thw bishops, in which he is clear about doctrinal and canonical considerations (as in the paragraph cited in the Vatican communique today), which continue as before the January 21 decree, as well as the spirit of charity with which he is trying to repair the virtual schism of the FSSPX, as in these words:

    Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church? I think for example of the 491 priests...

    The Pope did not use the word 'priests' with quotation marks or say 'so-called priests' or 'illegitimate priests' - and that is because, as with the priests of China who were ordained by bishops who were 'illegitimately' ordained, the sacraments continue to be valid even if the ordained ministers are not legitimate.

    The whole purpose of the upcoming doctrinal talks is towards an eventual legitimization of the anomalous canonical status that the FSSPX now has, once there is agreement on the doctrinal issues.

    I personally believe that the FSSPX Catholics, if they follow the commandments of God and practice Church liturgy appropriately, are better Catholics and Christians than Catholic liberals who do neither.

    P.P.S. The following paragraph comes from the wrap-up story on this episode by Salvatore Izzo, senior Vatican correspondent for the Italian news agency AGI. This is a translation:

    But today's communique from the Vatican has another meaning: In fact, it rejects the call for new excommunications and confirms the desire of the Pope to get the theological dialog with the FSSPX under way as soon as possible with the intention of bringing back the FSSPX into full communion and allow their juridical re-integration into the Catholic Church.

    Surprisngly, the AP story about this stated the canonical situation in clear and accurate terms. It would have been clearer if it had explicitly stated that the canonical situation of the FSSPX, even after the bishops' ecommunication was lifted, remains status quo ante.

    Vatican: FSSPX ordinations
    are valid but illicit


    VATICAN CITY, June 17 (AP) -- Priest ordinations planned by an ultraconservative group won't be legitimate even though Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunications of the organization's leaders, the Vatican said Wednesday.

    The Vatican issued a statement reiterating that the schismatic Society of St. Pius X still has no status within the Catholic church and that its clergymen do not legitimately exercise any ministry.

    The Vatican in 1988 excommunicated the society's four bishops after they were consecrated without papal consent by the late traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre founded the society in 1969, opposed to the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council and especially its outreach to Jews and other religions.

    Benedict in January lifted the bishops' excommunications in a bid to bring the dissidents back into the church. But the move sparked outrage among Jews and Catholics since one of the prelates, Bishop Richard Williamson, had denied the Holocaust.

    Benedict subsequently made a rare acknowledgment of a Vatican mistake, saying in a March letter to Catholic bishops worldwide that he was unaware of Williamson's positions when he lifted the excommunications. In the letter, Benedict noted that the society had no legal status within the church and that its priests didn't legitimately exercise any ministry.

    The Vatican reiterated those points Wednesday in response to the society's announcement earlier this month that it planned to ordain three priests and three deacons on June 27 at a seminary in southern Germany.

    Any ordinations by the group "must be considered illegitimate," the Vatican said.

    German bishops had urged the Vatican to intervene against what they called a provocation prior to difficult reconciliation talks between the two sides.

    The Church considers the society's ordinations are "valid but illicit." They are valid because Lefebvre was a validly ordained bishop in the Catholic Church, and thus could validly ordain others.

    But because Lefebvre was suspended in 1976, he had no authority from the Pope to consecrate bishops, meaning their consecrations were illicit, or illegal in the Church's eyes. Subsequent ordinations the group carries out are similarly considered "valid but illicit."

    Wednesday's Vatican statement also said the Pope would take another step to absorb the Vatican office that has handled the Lefebvre case, the Pontifical "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    The commission, charged with healing the schism with the society, has been at the center of the criticism on how the case was handled since it apparently never knew about Williamson's views, which had been published in the mainstream media.

    The Congregation will now oversee planned theological talks with the society in hopes of reabsorbing it into the church.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/19/2009 2:15 PM]
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    00 6/18/2009 12:11 AM

    Thanks to New Catholic at

    who has translated a statement from the FSSPX's Sacred Heart Seminaary in Zaitzkofen, near Regensburg. Apparently, the statement was posted on their site before the Vatican communique:

    FSSPX seminary issues statement
    about coming ordinations

    The Seminary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, regarding the Ordinations to the priesthood planned for 27 June, 2009, declares the following:

    1. These ordinations are bestowed with the intention of serving the Catholic Church. We bestow these priestly ordinations because we wish to express our unity with the Church of Rome. This unity consists of the same doctrine, the same sacraments, and the holy sacrifice of the Mass of all times.

    The newly ordained priests, as well as all of the members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, recognize the office of the Pope and the authority of the Church.

    Just as all other clergy of the Fraternity, the candidates for ordination will pray by name for the reigning Pope as well as the local Ordinary - an expression of solidarity, which the Fraternity has practiced since its founding more than 30 years ago.

    We do not want a parallel Church, but instead wish to preserve the incalculable treasure of Catholic Tradition within the one true Catholic Church.

    2. When Rome, on January 21, 2009, repealed the decree of excommunication that had been declared against the 4 bishops of the fraternity [the number includes the ordaning bishops, Mons. Marcel Lefebvre and a Barazilian bishop, who have since died], the Holy Father surely intended it as a provision of life, and not of death.

    The generous gesture was primarily intended to be a confidence-building measure for the coming theological discussions with representatives of the Holy See, in which, through difficult negotiations, the difficulties which still remain will presumably be eliminated.

    3. An emergency requires and justifies corresponding emergency measures. Is there an emergency in the Church today? We refer to an appendix attached to this declaration, in which representative statements from popes, cardinals, bishops, and theologians are documented.

    Pope Paul VI, for example, speaks of the "self-destruction of the Church", Pope John Paul II speaks of "silent apostasy".

    Additionally we give two numerical examples: In 1950 in Germany, 13 million Catholics regularly attended Sunday Mass. Today it is less than 2 million - a reduction of more than 85 percent. The number of priestly ordinations in German dioceses in 2008 reached a record low of less than 100.

    It is a question of the existence or the dissolution of Christianity in Europe.

    Should the ordination of these new priests, who have been formed on the solid foundations of Catholic tradition and who are so necessary for the survival of the Church, be postponed?

    Instead, as true vocations become more and more uncommon, should we not with great devotion thank God for the grace of such vocations? There can be no talk of an insult to the unity of the Church and most certainly, not of a rebuff of the outstretched hand of the Holy Father, for whom we pray daily.

    4. The bishops, in their fury, continuously invoke canon law. But consider an analogy: a valuable building is burning down, a group of courageous young men rushes to the blaze to extinguish the fire, or at least to contain it and then afterwards to begin with the rebuilding. But they are detained by law enforcement for having exceeded the speed limit.

    Isn't the last canon of the 1983 code of canon law still valid today, according to which the highest law of the Church is the salvation of souls?

    5. Since the current problems are not of a disciplinary nature, the discussion has to be conducted at an entirely different level; in particular, at the level of faith.

    When Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter to the bishops of March 10, 2009, made the dramatic declaration that the faith is in danger of being extinguished in many parts of the world, is it not urgent that we together make every effort to ascertain the causes of this crisis of faith and to utilize the means at our disposal to remedy this crisis?

    In this spirit we renew our readiness to engage in dialogue with the German bishops in an atmosphere of peace and intellectual honesty, far removed from all polemics and unhelpful accusations.

    Zaitzkofen, June 13, 2009
    Father Stefan Frey, Rector of the Seminary

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/18/2009 4:23 AM]
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    00 6/18/2009 12:43 PM
    Found this by accident

    Some of you may already have seen this site. I found it by accident while trying to access Felici Foto [which is down, this morning]. How could anyone suggest that Papa Benedetto condones the marital state of Sarkozy and Carla Bruni? HE DOES NOT!!!! He could not have been so rude as to refuse to meet the president of France and his [supposed] wife. I really dislike sites like this. [SM=g7707]

    I have to say I so much preferred the Jordanian example: King Abdullah and his wife, Queen Rania and their four lovely children. What a difference!

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    00 6/18/2009 7:24 PM
    Mary...So you have stumbled on to that site! It's run by far-out traditionalists who consider any Pope after Pius XII heretical,
    so their thing is to cite as many instances they can of actions, statements and photographs of the 'heretical' Popes to prove their point.... Sometimes, they do come upon some unusual pictures, like their recent series of photos showing Karol Wojtyla in camping situations as a young priest when he is weating shorts, etc. (he was heretical because of that and because he was photographed with women! - that's their kind of shtick!]

    Everything they say is outrageous, so what they said about the Pope and the Sarkozys is par for their course.

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    00 6/18/2009 11:24 PM
    I mistakenly posted a CNS story about Mons. Augustine Di Noia here yesterday, and have now transferred it to PEOPLE AROUND THE POPE where it more properly belongs. I am replacing it with this item from John Allen, who posted other columns earlier this week on the spring meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    Two of those made it clear that the USCCB as a group was not going to do any serious follow-up to the Notre Shame outrage - such as moving to take off Notre Dame University from the list of Catholic institutions of learning.

    So, as courageous as it was of the 83 bishops who publicly opposed Notre Shame's granting of an honorary degree to a fully unabashed pro-abortion President like Barack Obama, they do represent just about one-third of active diocesan US Catholic bishops. Quite a way to go for the American bishops in terms of faithfulness to Catholic orthodox doctrine and practice regarding the inviolate sanctity of human life.

    Taking the bishops' temperature
    on Obama-Notre Dame

    June 19, 2009

    I spent much of this week in San Antonio for the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops, where the press gallery was the loneliest corner of the room. Largely because the bishops opted not to put the flap over Notre Dame and President Barack Obama on their public agenda, many media organizations, including every major secular news outlet in the country, took a pass.

    In reality, the fact that the Notre Dame-Obama controversy wasn't floated in public merely meant that it was talked about everywhere else.

    Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco said on Wednesday that it came up "at breakfast, over coffee and in the hallways," and several bishops reported that the topic surfaced during their private regional meetings Wednesday morning.

    Bishops also reported that it came up in Thursday afternoon's closed-door executive session, in the form of a discussion of the conference's 2004 policy statement on engaging figures in political life. (That statement stipulated that Catholic institutions should not honor politicians who hold views contrary to Church teaching, a provision that many bishops felt Notre Dame violated.)

    The session was led by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center, chair of the bishops' committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, which is responsible for the document.

    I tried to take the bishops' temperature on the Notre Dame controversy, and I came away with four basic impressions about where things stand, and where they might go from here.

    The bishops (surprise!) don't all think alike.

    One question left hanging in the air from the controversy has been what to make of all the bishops who didn't speak out. To be sure, the number of bishops who came out against the university was extraordinary.

    The web site came up with a total of 83, far in excess of the number of bishops who normally take up other hot-button issues, such as communion bans for pro-choice politicians.

    Still, there are a total of 425 bishops in the United States, including 258 who are active as diocesan bishops or auxiliaries. So, how should one interpret the silence of the more than 300 prelates who held their tongues?

    One thing my time in San Antonio made clear is that at least some of those 300-plus bishops were not entirely on the side of the critics.

    "I'm sure the enemies of the church were delighted to see the bishops attacking the country's premier Catholic university, but I wasn't delighted," one bishop told me. He said he was "appalled" by the criticism from some of his brother bishops.

    Another prelate pulled me aside to ask why Obama's Catholic critics didn't give him credit for pledging at Notre Dame to respect a "conscience clause," meaning legal protection for health care workers who object to providing abortion services. Yet another bishop said he's concerned that the approach of some of his colleagues vis-à-vis Obama risks becoming "too negative, too narrow, and too partisan."
    [Since all the bishops who opposed Notre Dame's action oopposed it on the simple basis of being faithful and consistent with Catholic teaching about the sanctity of life and a specific guideline decreed by the USCCB itself agains honoring politicians who promtoe anti-Catholic values and practices, who is being partisan here but those who think the opposing bishops were being 'partisan' for opposing Obama?]

    I have no way of knowing to what extent such views represent a larger body of opinion among the bishops, but I can at least confirm they exist.

    Of course, this isn't exactly a shocker. In a group of more than 400 headstrong leaders, there's likely to be more than one view on most matters.

    Yet it never fails to confound some people that there are different currents within the conference, perhaps because it makes it more difficult to engage in lazy generalizations about what "the bishops" think.

    Sources said that when the bishops got into executive session, some argued that matters such as the Notre Dame affair should be left in the hands of the local bishop, without a scrum of prelates from other parts of the country piling on.

    Others complained that when some bishops speak up on an issue and others don't, it allows activist groups to cast various bishops as either heroes or villains.

    Still others suggested that the conference needs to consider questions of enforcement when Catholic institutions don't heed directions from the bishops.

    When I asked Curry the day before if he felt the bishops were likely to reach a decision in the executive session, he laughed.

    "It would be wonderful if we could have a decision that everyone would agree on," he said, "but I doubt very much that everybody is going to come to a consensus at the moment."

    Why didn't the moderates speak out?

    An obvious question begged by the foregoing is why bishops one might describe as "moderate" on the Notre Dame/Obama controversy weren't willing to speak publicly.

    To some extent, the answer is that it always works this way. On virtually every issue in the church, it's easier to find sharply defined voices on either side than in the middle. Moderates believe in collegiality, so they're hesitant to be seen as criticizing brother bishops.

    Further, the whole point of being a moderate is to see oneself as a mediator of conflict, not a party to it. When self-described moderates see a fight brewing, their instinct is to not to take sides, but to explain why both have a point.

    [Sitting on the fence in this case is an act of cowardice, and 'moderation' is being used as a code word for cowardice.

    How can any Catholic bishop dispute the Obama oppositors' 2 main points:- 1) Life is sacred and inviolable from the moment of conception; and 2) Why would you then confer an honor from a Catholic institution on someone who not only does not believe that but has always spoken and acted to promote and defend abortion and abortion rights up to late-term abortions?

    Faith is about consistency - you believe something or you don't. To wimp out on the basic principle of the sanctity of life is simply unconscionable to any person of faith adn principle, especially if he is a Catholic bishop.]

    In the case of the Notre Dame controversy, I suspect two other factors were also in play.

    First, Notre Dame didn't just invite Obama to give a speech, but they also awarded him an honorary doctorate. Many bishops saw that as out of step with their 2004 statement, "Catholics in Political Life," which included the language cited above about withholding honors from politicians whose views conflict with church teaching.

    (The extent to which its provisions apply to Obama has been debated, since he's not Catholic. Most bishops presume, however, that when it's a question of a moral truth, the principle applies to non-Catholics as well. [Of course! Moral truth does not change whatever your religion is, or lack therof!])

    Some bishops said privately that had it not been for the honorary doctorate, they wouldn't have objected to seeing Obama speak at Notre Dame; after all, they say, he's the President of the United States, and the church is obligated to deal with him.

    In the abstract, some might have been inclined to see the invitation favorably even with the honorary doctorate, but they felt duty-bound to respect a collegially enacted policy of the conference.

    Second, many bishops regard it as a matter of principle that any response to a local dispute, even one with national implications, ought to come from the local bishop, who in this case was Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

    Once D'Arcy had expressed his opposition to the Obama event, many bishops would have felt uncomfortable taking a different position, whatever their private views.

    During their executive session on Thursday afternoon, there was discussion about issuing a statement of support for D'Arcy, who also made a presentation to the body.

    Compounding this point was the impression that D'Arcy, now 76 and on the brink of retirement, was not adequately consulted by Notre Dame.

    Since D'Arcy is a widely respected figure, not to mention someone perceived to have gone to great lengths over the years to defend the university, this impression was another reason why some bishops might have hesitated to say anything that could be perceived as unsupportive of him.

    One cardinal laughingly put the impact of it all on D'Arcy this way: "That was one hell of a retirement present!"

    A paradox for the center-left

    Using political categories to evaluate the church is always sloppy, but at a rough-and-ready level, sometimes it can help make sense of things.

    Applying that framework to American Catholicism, one might say that the "center-left" in the States has long favored a strong bishops' conference, often accusing the Vatican and/or conservative American bishops of undercutting the authority of the conference.

    During the 1980s, hard-hitting documents from the U.S. conference on the economy and on nuclear war were celebrated by progressive-minded Catholics.

    Still today, center-left Catholics generally expect strong leadership from the conference on their core concerns, including immigration reform, the death penalty, and opposition to conflicts such as the U.S.-led war in Iraq. If it's not forthcoming in a given case, center-left Catholics often rue the "decline" of the conference.

    Yet there's a growing tendency today among moderate-to-progressive Catholics to argue for allowing certain matters to be resolved by individual bishop, rather than seeking a binding national policy.
    [Because it's so much easier and more convenient for them to lobby successfully on a local level than on a national level!]

    That was the position taken by the center-left during debate over implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, John Paul's document on Catholic higher education, and it's the same position increasingly taken in liturgical disputes.

    Famously, the commission led by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick regarding communion bans for pro-choice politicians ended up recommending that the decision be left to the local bishop, an outcome hailed by many on the center-left and blasted by many on the center-right.

    On the direct question raised by the Notre Dame controversy -- whether the bishops need a stronger policy governing speakers at Catholic universities -- the dynamics seem likely to play out the same way, with moderate-to-progressives arguing for local flexibility, and conservatives clamoring for a tough national stance.

    Obviously, a partial explanation for all this is easy to spot: As the conference has become less likely to adopt positions congenial to the center-left, those Catholics have become less eager for bold leadership from the conference.

    So here's the paradox. On the one hand, the center-left can't hold onto an expectation of strong national leadership only on the issues it likes, which may imply gradually declining expectations of the conference.

    As enthusiasm for the conference in that camp diminishes, however, so too may commitment to it, suggesting that the historical tendency of center-left bishops to win elections and to hold key positions in the USCCB may abate -- which could clear the way for the center-right to adopt precisely the strong positions that at least some on the center-left might fear.

    The $64,000 question for the center-left camp is whether those bishops can figure out a way to argue for local flexibility, while at the same time maintaining a strong investment in the conference. To say the least, it will be interesting to see how that paradox is resolved.

    From bishop-as-ruler to bishop-as-teacher

    Despite the popular mythology that Catholicism is rigidly centralized, the Notre Dame/Obama affair offered a classic reminder of the limits of episcopal power.

    In this case, the combined force of 83 bishops -- including the bishop of the local diocese, the president of the national bishops' conference, and five cardinals -- wasn't even enough to compel a Catholic university to find another commencement speaker.

    Like many Catholic universities in America, Notre Dame is sponsored by a religious order and governed by an independent board of directors (consistent with the famous 1967 Land O'Lakes statement), which means that bishops have few direct ways to impose their will.

    Further, the decade-long battle over Ex Corde illustrated that casting the relationship principally in terms of power is usually a losing proposition, regardless of the eventual outcome.

    [Why there should even be a 'battle' over Magisterium that comes down from the Pope - Ex Corde Ecclesiae was an Apostolic Constitution for Catholic Universities, not just a simple decree - shows the extent to which bishops have mistakenly arrogated too much authority to themselves, over and above the Pope's!]

    Going forward, some bishops may want to cast about for new ways of forcing places like Notre Dame to toe the line. One wonders, however, if that's the right lesson to draw. The way the Obama controversy played out could plausibly support another conclusion: In the absence of power, to fall back on persuasion. (Whether the bishops were actually persuasive is, for purposes of the theory, beside the point.)

    I ran this hypothesis past Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York on Thursday, who was among the 83 bishops who criticized Notre Dame for the Obama invitation. In broad strokes, he seemed to agree.

    "As far as authority and power go, it may look like a defeat. But in terms of a recovery of episcopal voice and muscle, it may have succeeded," Dolan said.

    "I always look at things as a church historian," Dolan said. "Twenty-five years from now, when somebody's doing a master's thesis on all of this, it could be a chapter where the bishops came together and said, 'This is a moment when we need to exercise some teaching authority.'"

    "We kitchen-tabled an issue," Dolan continued. "In normal Catholic homes throughout the country, people are talking about this. Granted, there might not be unanimity, but there's recognition that the bishops have something to say, they need to say it, and they ought to say it." [Well said, Archbishop Dolan! I am proud and glad to have an archbishop like you in what is now my home diocese.]

    In truth, not every Catholic home in America may concur that those 83 bishops needed to say what they did. The discussion in Thursday's executive session would seem to suggest that even some bishops aren't inclined to look at the Notre Dame affair as a shining moment in the recent exercise of the teaching office.

    Yet Dolan's reply nonetheless points to a possible paradigm shift: Circumstances may be compelling bishops to become more comfortable exercising their authority in the academy through the bully pulpit, through public teaching (and even, to some extent, through public "shaming"), rather than edicts. [Isn't that the way they are supposed to do it all the time? 'Edicts' - written rules - are still necessary anyway as a common reference.]

    If the model of bishop-as-teacher is indeed gaining strength, it's a potentially fascinating transition -- ironically, one for which many leaders in Catholic higher education have long clamored. Some may not like what the bishops had to say, but having said it may help the bishops to be less inclined to engage in battles over power, and more willing to embrace the art of argument.

    Over the long run, who knows where that might lead?

    I suppose this all means that majority of American bishops still lack the backbone to stand up for the faith unequivocally when push comes to shove? Well, let us be thankful for the 83 that did stand up and pray that the Holy Spirit may blow the way of dissenting bishops - and priests!

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/19/2009 7:36 PM]