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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Discerning

This last week when I was home for Thanksgiving, I talked to my mom and my brother a bit about a latent desire to learn more about the priesthood. After some serious discussion and a few jokes to lighten the mood by my brother, we finished up our chat and then had supper.

As I noted, it's a pretty latent desire. My discernment of a true vocation has been more along the lines of questioning my motivations, but it should move towards a more positive vein.

My primary concern is finding something that I can in fact do, should I become a priest. As you all know, I'm relatively deaf (my hearing's not all gone, but it's getting there). I also have a hard time speaking due some paralysis in my throat. On the other hand, I'm a college graduate with a degree in political science and religious studies. The question is what kind of use can be made of that degree in the Church and where would I go/which order might I join to put myself to the fullest possible use?

At this point, this is more for my own personal edification than any kind of deliberate move towards a vocation. If anyone has any thoughts, I'd really appreciate reading them, either via the comment box or by email.

My email is Sephiroth9611(at)aol(dot)com and if you use AOL or AIM, feel free to instant message me.

A strategy for victory

While we're discussing documents of various kinds, here's one that is rather interesting.

The new White House document, the first of its kind to be released publicly, defines who the US sees as the enemy in Iraq, listing three groups in declining order of size:

* "Rejectionists" - primarily Sunni Arabs who fared well under Saddam but have lost influence and authority. The US says their resistance will fade if a new democratic government protects minority rights

* "Saddamists" who were active members of the former regime. The US expects their power to wane to the point where Iraqi security forces can defeat them

* "Terrorists" associated with al-Qaeda who want to establish a totalitarian Islamic empire, and who must be killed or captured through counter-terror operations.

Long-term victory will come when Iraq is "peaceful, united, stable and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the war on terrorism", the document says.

Read the complete article Bush outlines Iraq 'victory plan' from BBC News.

National Strategy For Victory In Iraq
- A PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat is required.

Now all President Bush needs is an hour in primetime to illustrate his point with graphs and charts like Kennedy did with his U-2 photos of the missiles in Cuba.

No news is good news, right?

The ever-humble Rocco (:D) has snippets from an article with the latest on the ICEL and the 'crack-down' by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

The versatile multi-tool Amy (yes, I want one for Christmas!) summarizes the reactions so far to the Document from various people and she includes her own comments (basically her reaction to the reporting in the media, etc.).

City Manager Rick (urban renewal at its best) expounds on the not-quite-Solomonian justice of the Canadian legal system in punishing both parties in a legal dispute over refusing to rent a facility for a lesbian couple to get married.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pope: Latin is cool (in not so many words)

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI encouraged the teaching of Latin, especially to young people, with the help of new methodologies.

The Pope made this proposal today when greeting the participants in a meeting organized by the Latinitas Foundation, a Vatican institution that promotes the official language of the Latin-rite Catholic Church.

The Holy Father, who addressed the participants in classical Latin, congratulated the winners of the Certamen Vaticanum, an international competition of Latin prose and poetry.

Benedict XVI said that this foundation must see to it that Latin continues to be part of the daily life of the Church, so that understanding of many of its treasures will not be lost.

The Latinitas Foundation, founded by Pope Paul VI in 1976, has the dual aim of promoting, on the one hand, the study of Latin and classical and Christian literature, and on the other, the use and spread of Latin through the publication of books in that language.

The foundation publishes a quarterly magazine, Latinitas, and every year celebrates the Certamen Vaticanum. The foundation has also published a dictionary, the Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis, containing more than 15,000 neologisms translated into Latin.
[...]

Read the complete article Benedict XVI Encourages Teaching of Latin from Zenit News Agency.

I still think Latin should be a required subject in Catholic schools and universities. But you've all read my thoughts on that the last time around. Learning a language is up there with taking up an instrument as a form of mental discipline that leads to brighter students who get ahead academically.

Latin I think could definitely serve as a tool in places like Europe as well. Imagine, if you will, Turks in Germany, Algerians in France and other minority groups across the continent along with the native Germans, French, Poles, et cetera all being able to communicate by speaking a common language, Latin. If the EU wanted to do something positive, it ought to be pressing for a common language and Latin certainly has the historical roots to work.

Then of course, its association with the Catholic Church would damn it right from the start, but one can always dream...

The Immaculate Conception

VATICAN CITY, NOV 29, 2005 (VIS) - According to a decree made public today, Benedict XVI will grant the faithful a Plenary Indulgence for the forthcoming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2005). The decree is signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Fr. John Francis Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
[...]

For this reason, the decree continues, the Holy Father "has kindly granted the gift of Plenary Indulgence which may be obtained under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff), with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin, on the forthcoming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, by the faithful if they participate in a sacred function in honor of the Virgin, or at least offer open testimony of Marian devotion before an image of Mary Immaculate exposed for public veneration, adding the recitation of the Our Father and of the Creed, and some invocation to the Virgin."
[...]

Read the complete article Plenary Indulgence for Solemnity Immaculate Conception from Vatican Information Service.

Is it a subtle way of urging people to go to Mass next Thursday?

Monday, November 28, 2005

French cleric writes on celibacy

Bloomberg.com has a rather atypical story on a French cleric, Abbe Pierre.

The cleric gives no details about his liaisons, writing only that he indulged himself very rarely. The sex he did have brought him little, and was ``a real source of dissatisfaction, because I felt that I was not being true to myself.''

So he felt guilty and he wants to remove that guilt by allowing priests to marry? He notes:

For churchmen like Mathieu's father, Abbe Pierre recommends marriage. Jesus, he writes, had both married apostles like Peter and unmarried disciples like John. Marriage is acceptable for priests in the Eastern Orthodox Church and in the Maronite and Coptic Catholic sects, he adds. The Vatican's rejection of married priests ``does not hold up,'' he says.

So if a rejection of married priests does not hold up, I'm confused as to why Abbe Pierre feels guilty. After all, if sex is okay, why should he feel guilty? Maybe it's because, despite his assertions, he knows what he did was wrong...

In any case, I'm playing the same game the secular media is playing. Priests having sex should not lead to the question of removing the prohibition of priests marrying. It should lead to the question of priests, like any other unmarried men, having sex out of wedlock.

Universal health care

Catholic News Service has a story on the sixtieth anniversary of the first call for universal health care by President Truman.

Sister Bernice Coreil, who has been working in health care for more than 50 years, said the key problem is the lack of a national will to achieve comprehensive health care coverage for all Americans.

"We said we would get people to the moon by a certain time, and we did it, but we do not have a health care policy that says by the year 2015, every American will have access to health care," said Sister Bernice, also a Daughter of Charity.

The problem, Sister, is that we went to the Moon a few times and then the Apollo program got axed in budget cuts. Once universal health care is instituted and Americans can get relatively cheap medical services, costs are going to spiral out of control and are our politicians going to be willing to cut it?

Look at the current situation with penicilin. The drug is losing its punch because Americans get sick, go to the doctor and ask for a shot. Do we really think that with cheap health care, Americans will exercise any more common sense? Even will high costs under the current system, people sneeze and go to the doctor. Anyone living in a utopian mindset that universal health care will be efficient and effective needs to stop 'thinking of the children' and start thinking of how much of his or her income he or she wants to pay to the government on a regular basis for waiting hours for a doctor's appointment and other simple services to say nothing for CAT scans, MRIs and everything else.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Getting up to speed

I return. I thank those of you who left well-wishes. They are much appreciated.

How that I'm back home, I'll be getting back into the swing of things.

First, on the 24th, the Vatican negotiators met with their Israeli counterparts in the first meeting after the Holy Father's hosting of the Israeli president. According to news sources, the meeting was cordial and progress (undefined) was made. No date was set for tne next round of talks, though all were looking forward to them.

Second, the document dealing with homosexuals has been floating around for awhile now. It's pretty obvious that people are going to read into it whatever they want.

1. There are those who don't think it goes far enough and that it leaves too much wiggle room.
2. There are those who think it is just fine.
3. There are those who think that it is very harsh.

I have yet to see anyone point at the wiggle room and comment on it in a positive light. Surely there are some pragmatists out there somewhere?

In other news, today is the First Sunday of Advent and there are only twenty-eight days to Christmas.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Where I am

1. It's the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, so I am visiting my parents.

2. My maternal grandfather died yesterday (D.F. Hall, 1917-2005) and we're working on the funeral for Saturday.

Happy Thanksgiving and be sure to check out Rocco for the info on the newly released Doomsday Doc.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Birthday boy

Vatican, Nov. 21 (CWNews.com) - Cardinal Angelo Sodano (bio - news) will celebrate his 78th birthday this week, amid new rumors that he may soon be replaced as the Vatican Secretary of State.

The complete article Vatican Secretary of State turning 78 is from Catholic World News. A subscription is required to read the entire article.

The curial sweep has been predicted for months now. According to Rocco here, Domenico Sorrentino was sent from his post as secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship to Assisi as the first wave of the tsunami of change.

I just can't help but think that at this rate, if they do one or two men per week, it's going to be a long transition.

Accord on the Lateran Accords

Vatican, Nov. 21 (CWNews.com) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi visited Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) at the Vatican on Saturday, November 19. An official Vatican statement released after the meeting said that their talks had centered on "the mutual desire for collaboration" under the terms of the Lateran Accords.
[...]

Both the Vatican and the Italian government mentioned that the talks had revolved around the Lateran Accords. The mention of that agreement was probably deliberate, as a response to some Italian politicians who have floated the suggestion that the Lateran Accords should be revised. Statements by Church leaders on issues that are currently on the docket for Italian political debate-- [...] have prompted some lefist leaders to suggest revising the Lateran Accords in order to curb the political activity of Italian prelates and Vatican officials.

The Lateran Accords, signed in 1929, govern the relationship between Italy and the Holy See. Vatican officials have indicated that they see no reason to revise the agreement.

Read the complete article Berlusconi, Benedict XVI talk; support Lateran Accords from Catholic World News.

So certain members of the left in Italy want to put a muzzle on the Roman Catholic Church by revising the Lateran Accords. Does that strike anyone else as kind of tyrannical? Instead of debating your opponents and winning by the merits of your arguments, you'll simply 'revise' a treaty and silence your opponents...

By the way, there has been a lot of commentary floating around out there on the length of the prime minister's audience with the Holy Father. Perhaps it is without precedent for Benedict XVI, but keeping it in context, the two men certainly have a lot to talk about. The Vatican is in Rome and Rome is the capital of Italy and the Vatican's place as a city-state surrounded completely by Italy is pretty significant.

Monday, November 21, 2005

If we don't report it, it didn't happen

Beijing (AsiaNews) - “China is still afraid of religious freedom,” a bishop of the underground Church told AsiaNews commenting on the fact that, as of this morning, Chinese media have yet to mention Bush’s participation in yesterday’s liturgical services at the Protestant church in Gangwashi.

“In the preceding days,” the bishop went on to say, “Chinese media said that the American president would have visited a Protestant church. But this morning, Chinese newspapers made reference neither to his church visit nor to his insistence on human rights.”
[...]

Xinhua news agency was the only media outlet yesterday to mention, in an English-language report (nothing appeared in Chinese), Bush’s church visit, but omitted to quote him on religious freedom and human rights.

This afternoon, the www.china.com site reported briefly on Bush’s visit to the church saying that it was normal for the American president “to attend church services on Sunday,” adding also that “Beijing is obliged to offer such services.”

Fearing that Bush’s visit could serve as a sounding board to launch messages and petitions internationally, the Chinese government arrested Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo and several other Catholic priests. Even some Protestant pastors, such as Hua Huiqi and Zhang Mingxuan, had been forcibly transferred to the Sichuan and Henan regions, thousands of kilometres from Beijing. [...]

The government is increasingly nervous about the growing cooperation between human right activists and religious personalities. The Party’s fear is that religious communities will become the milieu for channelling social discontent. [...]

Read the complete article Beijing: Chinese media practically silent on Bush’s church visit and human rights from AsiaNews.it.

The bolding is my own. That is exactly the point why rapprochement with the People's Republic as a means toward encouraging religious freedom is not going to work. The Communists (like good communists) see religious institutions as threats to the Party and its regime.

US pressures the Holy See?

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran is going to Taiwan later this week and The Times of London recounts the current situation of the Holy See, the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China with all the requisite Sodano quotes, etc. One interesting paragraph stood out:

Diplomats said that Vatican moves to mend fences with China had the “active backing” of the Bush Administration. Francis Rooney, the new US Ambassador to the Holy See, said that Mr Bush hoped that a rapprochement would give “further impetus to religious freedom in China”.

Read the complete article Taiwan may be left in limbo as Vatican and China make up.

I admit, the title of this post is a bit misleading. Do I think that the United States Government is actively pressuring the Holy See on its China policy? Doubtful. But then of course, ever since the early 90s, US policy towards the PRC has been disagreeable to me. I can just see the State Department nudging things along here and there in a quiet way in order to further bring the PRC into the community of nations. After all, after over a decade of engagement, human rights still are terrible. So the only sensible thing to do is to further engage the Chicoms. You know, that tried and tested way of isolating the Soviet Union just takes too long.

If Mr. Rooney's statement that Mr. Bush is hoping that a rapprochement will lead to religious freedom in the People's Republic is correct, Mr. Bush ought to get along quite well with all the other optimists in the Secretariat of State.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Aftermath: Israeli-Vatican relations

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – The audience granted by Pope Benedict XVI to Israel's President Moshe Katzav, at the Vatican, on 17 November, has been the subject of a great deal of interest, and has served to confirm that the relationship is at a crossroads. The Press Office of the Holy See emphasised that "particular attention" was given at the meeting to "the [need for] implementation" of the two treaties already signed and ratified by Israel with the Holy See. As is well known, twelve years after signing the Fundamental Agreement, Israel has not yet initiated the procedures for writing it into Israeli law; last year, the Government actually told the Supreme Court that it did not consider itself bound by it at all, and has declined to modify this position in spite of diplomatic and other protests.
[...]

Thus, according to a dispatch from Agence France-Presse, the Holy See has told the Israelis that a Papal visit to Israel—in response to President Katzav's courteous invitation—would only be appropriate after Israel has implemented the Fundamental Agreement (1993) and the "Legal Personality Agreement" (1997), and has allowed the completion of the all-important further Agreement now being negotiated. Agence France-Presse has been for years, so it is believed, the preferred "vehicle" of certain Vatican offices for news that it is not opportune to announce officially.

Read the complete article Katzav’s promises to the Pope to be tested soon from AsiaNews.it.

If the report from AFP is correct and the Holy See is prepared to play hardball with the State of Israel on the negotiations, I would be quite impressed. Papal visits are very impressive events and can grant a lot of prestige to a government (Castro on stage with John Paul II comes to mind). John Paul II visited Israel in 2000, so it's not as if Israel is lacking in this category.

John Paul II's visit was important because of all the efforts he had made toward the reconciliation between Catholicism and Judaism. He was not visiting as a head of state so much as the Supreme Pontiff of a billion Catholics recognizing the debt owed by Christianity to its elder brother in the worship of the God of Abraham. The process began with John Paul II.

However, the Holy See's relationship with Israel has reached a new level. Now, the devil is in the details. Photo ops and grand gestures must be replaced with deeds and the details must be worked out and finalized or else all the grand gestures will be hollow. The hope is that the visit of Katzav will serve to close the circle and bring a resolution to the decade-long delay in wrapping up what John Paul II started.

On the same day that President Katzav was in the Vatican, Israel's top negotiator with the Holy See, Mr. Nimrod Barkan, the head the of intelligence department at the Foreign Ministry, was in Washington.

The diplomat, who is also the intelligence chief at the foreign ministry, was meeting with American officials and Catholic personalities, in an attempt to persuade them that he is trying very hard to reach agreement with the Holy See's own negotiators on the serious questions that remain unresolved between the Parties.

As the Washington correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports, the purpose of Israeli diplomacy there is to get the U.S. to cease pressing Israel to show greater commitment to the talks. The correspondent speaks of the decisive role of the U.S. in inducing Israel to resume the negotiations in 2004 (after suddenly abandoning them on 28 August 2003), and of the continuing interest that both the U.S. Catholic Church and the U.S. Government take in the state of the negotiations.

In considering US-Israeli relations, I find Mr. Barkan's visit to Washington to be very interesting. Only a few days before, the US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, was in Israel to take part in talks for border crossings and the transit of Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank. That Mr. Barkan, a senior official, would go to the US to lobby for a change in US policy perhaps illustrates the importance Israel places on its own policy towards the Holy See and how it views the US's interest in the matter.

The AsiaNews article sums it up best (the bolding is my own):

Others though allow themselves a measure of scepticism. They recall Israel's foreign minister's visit to the Vatican in July 2003, when the minister declared that he expected to return "within three months" to sign the new Agreement. Yet his very next step was to withdraw his delegation from the negotiations (on 28 August that year)....

But Father Jaeger has no patience with such sceptics, and is determined to concentrate on the positive signs: "The past is the past. We must trust that the President's visit inaugurates a new era."

Such optimism will soon be put to the test. The Holy See's next negotiating session with Israel is set for 24 November.

Going into the weekend

I went to the dentist yesterday. No cavities were found, though I was told that I'd probably have to have my wisdom teeth removed eventually. But I already knew that. I have to go back next week and make an appointment to get an old chipped tooth fixed since it's been bothering me lately. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

The news today
Sandro Magister examines the Holy Father's remarks to the bishops of Italy and Austria. The former were praised and the latter were told to try harder. I'm looking forward to seeing what Benedict XVI will have to say to the US bishops when the time comes. Also included is the interesting anecdote of how the trip to Brazil for the Latin American bishops' meeting was planned:

But Benedict XVI said to them all of a sudden: “It will be held in Brazil,” and immediately asked what the country’s most venerated Marian shrine is. “The Aparecida,” they replied. And the pope: “In Brazil, at the Aparecida, in May. I’ll be there.”

Catholic News Service reports on Nicholas Negroponte's stop at the Vatican to talk about his $100 laptop for children in the Third World. Negroponte is the founder of Wired magazine and a professor at MIT. I've been following Negroponte's efforts since he first announced the idea. The laptops are going to be running Linux and will have a lot of features for power efficiency, etc. They should sell them commercially in the First World with a healthy mark-up to raise money for the discounted units in the Third World. I'd probably buy one. Too bad that's not how they're doing it.

While some participants at the Vatican workshop praised the initiative, others expressed some ethical and practical concerns, such as how governments of poor countries would raise the money for what would cost, at a minimum, $100 million.

Negroponte said international loaning institutes like the World Bank are "fully prepared to finance" a project such as this interest-free.

"Kids in the United States and Italy," he added, "could help pay for a laptop for a kid in the Third World."

From AsiaNews.it:
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The forthcoming visit of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran to Taiwan has created expectations and rumours that the Vatican is about to break its diplomatic relations with the island and resume relations with Beijing. There has, however, been no confirmation of this from the Vatican.
[...]
These hasty suppositions were denied, however, by a spokesperson of the Taipei government. Figures close to the Vatican told AsiaNews that “there is nothing new to signal,” in relations between China and the Vatican. A priest in Hong Kong stated that Beijing’s timid steps of overture following the death of John Paul II have been “betrayed” by the recent arrest of priests and bishops.

The Tidings out of Los Angeles discusses collegiality. It's a long, drawn-out piece. Read it all and draw your own conclusions. For my part, I am all for collegiality, as long as doctrine/dogma/tenets of the faith are not subject to a majority vote (cf. the mainstream churches in the United States undergoing serious upheaval).

That's it for the morning.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Other news this Thursday

I have a dentist appointment later this morning, so I'll make this brief. Hopefully they won't find anything too terrible in there. Wish me luck and say a prayer.

Marci Hamilton at FindLaw.com discusses here a list of actions that need to happen before the Church will truly have the sex abuse crisis behind it. It's basically a reiteration of what SNAP has been saying for a long time.

Ireland Online has a little blurb on Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern's reaction to accusations that he is a pawn of the Church as Ireland continues to struggle through it's own sex abuse crisis.

In other news
Bob Woodward went and got himself ensnared in the Valerie Plame thing. A senior administration official dropped the name on Woodward earlier this year during a casual conversation and now here is Bob facing the fire.

My own take on the whole Namegate/Spygate/whatevergate is that while the name dropping is illegal, those who claim that it's some kind of payback against Ambassador Wilson for his trip to Niger and what he supposedly learned there need to realize that Wilson didn't learn much of anything there. Scooter is going to get a plea bargain (if he gets worse than Sandy Berger, that will be unfair), everyone will still think Bush 'lied' to the nation and the Republican Party, despite controlling the House, the Senate and the White House, will still be in disarray.

[/rant]

All that hype over 25 minutes

Vatican City, 17 Nov. (AKI) - Israel's President, Moshe Katsav, became the first Israeli head of state to pay an official visit to the Vatican when he met Pope Benedict XVI here on Thursday. At the end of their 25-minute private meeting in the Pope's library, Katsav presented Benedict with framed photos of recently discovered mosaics that are believed to be from the Holy Land's oldest church. Benedict, for his part, gave the president a framed and signed copy of the Vatican's landmark 1965 document "Nostra Aetate," which revolutionised the Catholic Church's relations with Jews.
"It is a real pleasure to meet you," Katsav told the Pope as he arrived for the meeting, shaking both of Benedict's hands.
[...]

Katsav said Wednesday that during the meeting he would invite the Pope to visit Israel - an invitation first extended by Israeli premier Ariel Sharon in a letter to the Pope in July.
[...]

Accorging to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in his meeting with the Pope, Katsav was to explain that Israel has already made many concessions, and ask that the Vatican demonstrate some flexibility as well.
[...]

Read the complete article Vatican: Pope meets Israel's President from AKI.

So it's over. Hopefully real progress was made on the issues between the Holy See and the State of Israel. I'm a bit perplexed by the president's statement on how Israel has made 'many concessions'. I didn't realize they were agreeing to the meetings as specified in the original agreements often enough to do any real negotiating.

We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A recurring invitation

President Moshe Katsav said Wednesday he would invite Pope Benedict to visit Israel when he meets the Pontiff on the final day of his present trip to Italy on Thursday.

Katsav's talks with the Pontiff at the Vatican will mark the first time an Israeli head of state has paid a visit to the pope's official residence.

"I have the intention to invite him for a state visit to Israel," Katsav told a news conference.

Read the complete article Katsav says he will invite Pope to Israel at Vatican meeting from Haaretz.

How many times has Benedict XVI been invited to Israel since the start of his pontificate?

The most intriguing is this:

Speaking after two-hour talks with Berlusconi, Katsav said that the Italian prime minister believes Israel should be able to join the European Union, Israel Radio reported.

This is the first time I've seen anything on Israel possibly joining the European Union. I'm interested in what Israel views as the benefits of joining the EU.

On the campaign trail (Church interference part II)

VATICAN CITY, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict warmly praised pro-life activists on Wednesday as the Italian government was considering deploying them into abortion advice centres to try to dissuade women from terminating pregnancies.

The pope's comments came amidst a controversy in Italy over abortion that has led to accusations the powerful Catholic Church was trying to interfere in domestic politics.
[...]

Read the complete article Pope enters Italy pre-electoral abortion debate from Reuters AlertNet.

This article is definitely worth reading in full, as it gives a nice list of the issues that the Church aims to tackle in the months before the next election in Italy.

In other news in Italy
Italy is set to pass a controversial reforms bill which could result in the first major changes to the country's constitution since the fall of fascism.

The Constitutional Reform Bill is aimed at the eventual devolution of extensive powers from Rome to the regions.

The bill will give more powers to the prime minister, reduce numbers of MPs in both houses and allow Italy's 20 regions to make many decisions.

Italy set to revamp constitution from BBC News.

The regionalization of Italy is a trend that began back when the post-World War II constitution was written. Italy was divided up into regions and there were vague clauses directing how the regions were to function and so on. These clauses were not implemented after the war and the regions for many decades were a dead letter.

In 1970, the Italian central government created new governments for the regions and granted the regions some budgetary powers. In his book Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, published in 1993, Robert D. Putnam examined the evolution of the regions in Italian politics over the two decades of their new existence. Putnam's book is one I recommend wholeheartedly.

The reason I bring this up is because I'm wondering what implications such a devolution of power will have on the Church's ability to affect policy in Italy. Rome's concentration of government power is great at the moment. With power centered in one place, effective lobbying is facilitated by having all the principals in one central location. Even referenda on issues are tackled as 'national' issues. But when much government power is divided up among twenty regions, new challenges will have to be overcome.

Italian readers are welcomed to comment on this.

A visit from the 'Jewish' president

JERUSALEM, NOV. 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- This Thursday, Benedict XVI is scheduled to receive Israeli President Moshe Katsav in audience in the Vatican.

For perspective on the implications of this meeting, ZENIT interviewed Jean-Marie Allafort, correspondent in Jerusalem for the French broadcasting station Radio Esperance.

Read the complete article On the Israeli President's Upcoming Visit to Pope from Zenit News Agency.

One news agency interviews a correspondent from another news agency... You get the idea. It's a rather bland interview, nothing truly earth-shattering. Two observations, one near the beginning and one towards the end, are worth noting:

Although President Katsav represents the state of Israel, he is also perceived as a top representative of the Jewish people. For Israel, this visit will be special, because of the past, including the recent past, of relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, as well as between the Vatican and the state of Israel.
[...]

Allafort: I think the future of relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people passes today also through Israel. It is a fundamental evolution.

Until now, the Judeo-Catholic dialogue was promoted by the Jewish communities of the Diaspora, especially the American. Today, it is moving toward Jerusalem.

For Rome, Israel is not only a state, but also a legitimate representative of the Jewish people. Since John Paul II's visit to the Holy Land, in March 2000, one sees an evolution in this sense. A commission has been created between the Vatican and the Rabbis of Israel, which meets every six months, either in Rome or in Jerusalem.

To accommodate itself with reality, the dialogue between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church must take the state of Israel into account. The Jewish people is not only that of the Diaspora.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An overview of Concordats

VATICAN CITY, NOV 15, 2005 (VIS) - Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States delivered a speech today at a congress promoted by the Polish embassy to the Holy See on the theme: "The Diplomacy of the Holy See in the Twentieth Century: Types of Concordats."
[...]

Read the complete article Holy See diplomacy from Vatican Information Service.

In 'International Politics', a course taught by Professor Hall at the University of Iowa, the primary text was Professor Hall's own book. It was divided up according to the structure of the state at various points in history, such as the state as the personal holdings of the dynast, etc. and the idea of what is sovereign (for instance, Napoleon was the sovereign Emperor of Elba, since he himself was a sovereign).

In reading Archbishop Lajolo's speech on the topic of the diplomacy of the Holy See, those divisions came to mind as the archbishop mentioned various treaties and how they changed in form and subject over time with the changing of the types of government with which the Holy See interacted.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas


(ANSA) - Vatican City, November 15 - Vatican preparations for Christmas got properly under way on Tuesday as workmen began erecting the traditional nativity scene in front of St Peter's Basilica.

The nativity scene, or crib, has been a regular Christmas fixture in St Peter's since 1982, when the custom of building a four-metre-high house with lifesize figures in it was started by John Paul II. Along with the giant fir tree which is always placed near it in the square, the crib has become a trademark of Roman Christmases and families often make special trips to see it.

Carpenters on Tuesday began building the temporary two-floor wooden house, in and around which the figures of Mary, Joseph, shepherds and wise men will be arranged. Electricians will later adorn the scene with lights.

During his papacy, John Paul made a habit of holding a special ceremony to inaugurate the St Peter's nativity scene in the last few days before Christmas. The Vatican has not yet announced whether Benedict will continue this tradition.

Read the complete article First sign of Christmas in Vatican from ANSA.it.

Is being a mama's boy a sin?

The plain fact is that Italians just are not having children, a situation the Roman Catholic Church, headquartered in an enclave in this capital city, sees as something of a crisis.

Pope Benedict XVI brought attention to the issue with the beatification — a major step toward sainthood — of a woman known as “Mamma Rosa,” who lived in the early 20th century and raised 11 kids. She married a widower with two small children, then gave birth to nine children of her own (and also took in four others).

But while the pope praises couples who choose to have several children, most Italian families limit themselves to one.
[...]

But while such a phenomenon [condom sales] demonstrates the cliché of the “Latin lover,” statistics reveal the other side of the Italian male — as a “mamma’s boy.”

The latest report from ISTAT, the Italian Statistical Institute, shows that 40 percent of Italian men between the age of 30 and 34 still live with their parents.

There are multiple reasons: stagnant incomes, lack of affordable housing, education and employment.

But those don’t address the cultural and psychological factors which have an even greater sway on this trend: the fact that it is socially OK for a grown man to live with his mother.

Whereas Anglo-American society often views an adult male living at home as being somewhat peculiar or inadequate, Italians think it’s absolutely normal.
[...]

There were 10,000 fewer marriages in 2004 than in 2003, for a total of 250,000. In a country of 58 million people, that’s not very many.

And not only are more Italian men choosing to live with their significant others rather than to marry, but they are also becoming fathers at an older age than in any other country in the world.

The average age of the father of a first child here is now 33, and the report also notes that when 35 year olds marry they are 80 percent less likely to want to have children than men who get married at 25.

These numbers reflect a society that is becoming more and more secular, less religious, and more self-centered.

And the fewer the children, the more Italian mothers seem to cling to them for as long as they can.

Read the complete article No babies? Italy blames its 'mamma's boys' from MSNBC.

While this article is fairly critical of the male lifestyle in Italy, what about the mothers? My mom is kind enough to do my laundry and cook for me when I come home. (Love you, Mom!) But when it's time to go, she is okay with that.

These Italian mothers who facilitate their sons' irresponsible lifestyles should bear some of the responsibility. While we're talking about stereotypes, what happened to the scheming Italian mother hell-bent on seeing her son married off to some nice girl of good family?

Voight on Wojtyla

"I have to tell you, I had a wonderful time doing the Pope, maybe because I understood more than most what he was since I had a Catholic background," he said.

"I was not intimidated to take this role because I did not have to go to school from scratch to be comfortable with the surroundings of the Church. I'd been there before," he said.
[...]

He said that looking back on his own life he realized that one of the most important lessons was learning how to use freedom wisely -- one of the late Pope's leitmotivs.

"Free love -- what a poison that was," he said, recalling the 1960s.

"Free love, the destruction of family life and loyalties and the responsibilities of parents, and I've gone through that, so I know ... that balance has to be achieved, you have to understand what freedom really means," he said.

Read the complete article Jon Voight:from aspiring stud to Pope from Reuters.

It's nice to see Hollywood actors getting religion, even if it is 40 years too late.

Canterbury to Rome; Rome to Canterbury

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the official Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenical dialogue continues, questions have arisen regarding the potential impact on the dialogue of Roman Catholics or Anglicans who switch communities.

While Anglicans -- especially Anglican bishops or priests -- becoming Roman Catholic after disagreeing with their community's stands on ordaining women or openly gay men has made news, the movement of Catholic priests and laity to Anglicanism seldom makes headlines.
[...]

The article quotes Bishop John Flack, head of the Anglican Center in Rome, who talks about people both leaving the Roman Catholic Church and joining from the Anglican Communion. Bishop Flack is the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome.

Among those changing denominations, the Roman Catholics generally say they long to breathe the "free air" of the Anglican Communion, with Catholic priests usually saying they plan to marry, the bishop said. The Anglicans usually say they have had enough of the "woolly thinking" of their leadership, he added.

"Anglicans who become Roman Catholic generally become very conservative Roman Catholics, while Roman Catholics who become Anglican tend to become very liberal Anglicans," he said.

Bishop Flack, who is the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury's representative to the Vatican, said he usually counsels people to stay within their community as a valuable voice in continuing debates.

"Changing your spots makes the Anglican Church more liberal and the Roman Catholic Church more conservative," Bishop Flack said.
[...]

Read the complete article When Anglicans, Catholics switch churches, what happens to dialogue? from Catholic News Service.

Aside from the issue of individuals converting, the article also discusses the Traditional Anglican Communion and other groups like it. Bishops usually handle the conversions of individuals, with the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith signing off on issues such as Anglican priests entering the Catholic Church. The Traditional Anglican Communion however wants to have direct discussions with CDF on issues that would lead to an 'Anglican Rite', should the Communion enter into communion with Rome.

Bishop Flack said establishing an Anglican rite within the Roman Catholic Church before the church and the entire Anglican Communion established full unity "would have a worsening effect on relations. It would be seen as interference in the internal affairs of the Anglican Communion."

"I hope the Roman church would be very careful, consulting us, keeping us informed and being open with us," Bishop Flack said.

Such a reaction is of course to be expected. I really feel for the Anglican Communion. I just don't know how they're going to hold it together in any meaningful way. Rome can wait until after things come apart and then institute measures such as an Anglican Rite, but personally, the Anglican Communion is already coming apart at the seams in slow-motion. Might as well go forward now.

Monday, November 14, 2005

In light of the 'Bekaa Valley' post

I was reading about the French bishops' response to the riots over there in France. They were denying that the riots were organized or were spurred by religion.

On the latter point, I would agree that to some extent that religion is not the cause of the uprisings, but it is one of the causes. Islam is as much an identity for those groups as being Algerian or Moroccan. After all, Islam has throughout its history been a means of overcoming ethnic differences as Muslims have united in common cause.

On the former point, these guys were using cell phones, instant messaging and had organized Molotov cocktail factories, real signs of unorganized activity.

Church interference?

(ANSA) - Rome, November 14 - The Roman Catholic Church will not interfere in the affairs of the Italian State, Pope Benedict XVI said Monday.

He also stressed the Vatican was not looking for special benefits.

In a message to parliament, Benedict said: "The Church in Italy and every other country does not intend to claim any privilege but rather to fulfill its mission in legitimate respect for the secular nature of the State." The pope's message on the third anniversary of his predecessor John Paul II's historic visit to the House came amid polemics over the Church's allegedly privileged position in Italy. A new budget provision allows the Church not to pay property tax on its extensive real estate, effectively giving tax breaks to all Church activities, even commercial ones.

Some small and strongly secular parties such as the Socialists and the Radicals vainly fought the budget amendment, which was passed by a solid cross-party majority.

In recent years politicians on both sides of parliament have been accused of pandering to the Church's conservative positions in the hope of winning votes in what is still a deeply Catholic country.

Read the complete article Church won't clash with state from ANSA.it.

The article goes on to describe the tax cuts afforded to the Church, the issues of abortion, the referendum that the Church successfully boycotted, etc.

Aside from the whole tax issue, I do not believe that the Church swaying its members to vote on way or another on issues is interfering in the secular realm. After all, when it comes to politics, the Church is simply another interest group trying to make its point and sway the voters. Those who would deny the Church any place in politics and who would shove it off into the corner to be seen and not heard are going against the very traditions they believe they are protecting.

After all, it's not the Church's fault that it is a two-millennia-old institution that traces its origins back to the living God incarnated as Man on Earth. That's just the way it goes.

It must have been the Bekaa Valley

ROMA, November 14, 2005 – Since the end of August, the Holy See has had a new apostolic nuncio for Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, and Qatar.

The new nuncio in these Gulf states is archbishop Mounged El-Hachem (in the photo), 71, a Maronite from Lebanon, previously the bishop of Baalbek and Deir El-Ahmar, in the Bekaa valley. Before that he worked at the Vatican secretariat of state. From 1970 to 1978, when he was in Rome, El-Hachem was also the vice-director of the Holy See’s press office. He speaks fluent Arabic, English, French, and Italian. He lives in Kuwait.
[...]

Read the complete article The New Nuncio in the Gulf Is Off to a Good Start – By Bowing to Terrorists from www.chiesa.

After laying out El-Hachem's credentials and past experience, Sandro Magister goes on to lay out the reasons for his title for the article. Magister quotes the archbishop's comments to a Lebanese weekly where the archbishop laid out an analysis of Islamic terrorism (including the idea that such terrorism is not related to Islam). Here is the quotes from the Lebanese weekly in full from Magister's piece:

But one passage from his first public interview has provoked surprise and disappointment in the Vatican.

El-Hachem gave a long, elaborate interview to the English-language Lebanese weekly “Monday Morning,” which published it in its edition number 1714, dated October 31, 2005.

In it, he restated the Church’s opposition to the war in Iraq, which “can only deepen the gulf between the parties and increase fanaticism.”

He didn’t say a word about the present phase of democratization in that country.

But he dedicated many words to analyzing Islamist terrorism and expressing appreciation for its motives.

To a question about the link between religion and terrorism, El-Hachem replied:

“First of all, I categorically reject any link between religion and terrorism, although I understand your question in view of the present situation. I consider that terror is the result of repression, of suffering, of injustice directed against a person, a group or a particular people, who lose all that they possess and no longer have anything to regret or to lose.

“This reminds me of the distressing incident at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, when young Palestinians massacred Israeli athletes. I recall the shocked outcry throughout the world and the strong condemnation by the international community. At that time I was in the Vatican. It was a sunny Sunday and pope Paul VI appeared at his window and addressed the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square in these words: ‘We too reprove and denounce the massacre in Munich, but we ask the following question: why have young Palestinians committed this act? We reply: because the Palestinian people (it was the first time anyone had spoken of the Palestinian ‘people’) have been the victims of the most dangerous of injustices in the history of humanity, an innocent and peaceable people turned out of their land, who have lost their roots and identity amid the indifference of the entire world… What impelled these young men to commit this act was to attract the attention of the world to their cause.’

“This papal intervention greatly changed opinion on this drama. The terrorism through which we live today is the result of an accumulation of events. Terrorist acts flow from distress and from a despair of ever recovering one’s rights. And such is the despair, in some cases, that an individual may be driven to suicide as a means of protest and of drawing attention to his plight. Religion, on the contrary, offers hope, faith in God, in man and in divine justice, which makes up for the earthly justice that is sometimes deficient.”

Magister goes on to debunk the comments of the archbishop. First of all he cites the comments of the present Pope, who links terrorism to a perversion of Islam and condemns it. Magister then goes on to point out that Pope Paul VI, the supposed linchpin of the archbishop's argument, said no such thing as is attributed to him in 1972.

But if you re-read the words Paul VI really spoke at the Angelus and at the Wednesday general audience before that, where he also commented on the massacre in Munich, you will find nothing of what El-Hachem puts into his mouth.

In the authentic words of Paul VI, one does not find the expression “Palestinian people,” nor, above all, the explanation of the massacre carried out by the terrorists as something animated by their condition as innocent victims.

And of course, Magister gives the comments of Paul VI from September 5th and 12th in full. Check those out yourself. The piece ends with this:

At the beginning of his interview with “Monday Morning,” El-Hachem asserted that the first task of an apostolic nuncio is that of “representing the pope as the head of the Catholic Church.”

But on the question of Islamist terrorism, during the same interview he “represented” ideas that do not at all coincide with the authentic ideas of Paul VI, nor with those of the current pope.

Amen. By the way, in case you don't know, the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon where the archbishop served for a number of years is one of the centers of Hezbollah activity in that country.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Irish Church and the Irish Republic

Nonetheless, it must also be acknowledged that the vast majority of priests and nuns are above question. Moreover, the Church has wielded a highly positive influence on this country’s social and educational development.

But modern Ireland is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Our many-layered society is multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Increasingly, parents are demanding greater choice in the education of their children.
[...]

It goes without saying that the debate sparked by Ms O’Donnell ranges far beyond the controversy currently engulfing the Church over the appalling sexual abuse of children by priests.

Arguably, given the rapid transformation of Irish society, an educational regime that puts 98% of primary schools under the managerial control of one Church is no longer feasible or desirable.

Amid mounting clamour for a radical overhaul of the Church’s involvement in the realm of primary education, a dispassionate and in-depth review of its role and of its special relationship with the State is not only warranted but long overdue.

Read the complete article Church and State - Review of clerical role is long overdue from Irish Examiner.com.

From the points made in the article, it would seem that the Catholic Church running the primary schools of Ireland is a bit outdated. It's just too bad that the debate of the role of the Church in education has to come about due to sex abuse reports and a backlash against the Church.

As the article noted, Ireland is becoming more and more multi-ethnic. Yet unlike other areas of Europe, this multi-ethnic society has come about due to a rapidly growing economy and not enough trained Irish to fill positions. This was also the case forty years ago, when guest workers were invited to come work. Such places tend to not be so stable socially when the economy slows down.

In bookstores, one often sees a title along the lines of 'how the Irish saved the West'. Perhaps they can do so again by being a model of how the Catholic Church can integrate society through education and a shared morality held by all citizens (even if they're not Catholic). The Catholic schools will have to prove their worth by providing quality education for the 21st century.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Some different observations

Some observations from the bishop-elect's associates back in Colorado:

Nickless has a reputation for being quietly effective, according to those who have worked closely with him in Denver.

"He is just a very gentle spirit," said Marie Sailas, who was Nickless' administrative assistant when he was vicar for clergy and seminarians. "I knew a long time ago he was bishop material. When I told him, he would just shrug his shoulders. To me, this is an answered prayer."

The Rev. Kevin Augustyn served as associate pastor under Nickless at Our Lady of Fatima Parish. The bishop-elect set a good example as a prayerful priest and as a leader, Augustyn said.

"As vicar of clergy, he represented the bishop to priests in good and bad times," he said. "He has a lot of experience with supporting priests but also with disciplining them."

Father Augustyn's words along with the mention of Monsignor Nickless' response to the crisis in Denver are in the past, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests:

The Iowa chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests urged Nickless to make the protecting of children his top priority and to be open and honest with parishioners and the public about sexual misconduct in the church.

"We wish the bishop-elect well, but tangible actions will gain him respect from those who were betrayed by Catholic clergy," said Steve Theisen, Iowa SNAP director.

Read the complete article Denver priest named bishop of Sioux City after long wait from Des Moines Register.com.

Christianity in Iran

ROMA, November 11, 2005 – At the very moment when Iran is more at the center of the world’s attention than ever – on account of its nuclear weapons program and its restatement of its desire to eliminate the state of Israel – even the Vatican, which is usually prudent diplomatically, has made a little foray out of its customary silence.
[...]

Read the complete article The Church Breaks its Silence over the Islam of the Ayatollahs from www.chiesa.

For a long time, I was hoping that the Iranians would rise up against the Council of Guardians and overthrow the theocratic regime that rules their country. But the frustration over Khatami's inability to do much of anything and the continued removal of reform candidates from the ballot for Parliament by the Guardian Council has just led to this period of stagnation.

I don't know what the conditions are first-hand in Iran, but I would say that Iran has entered a period similar to China. Rather than have some revolution leading directing to some form of real democracy, the Iranians will slowly coast forward while the Shi'ite clergy hangs onto power for as long as possible.

Hopefully along the way, the Christians of Iran will survive and eventually thrive.

Lest we forget

As much as I admire the idea of Veterans Day, when it swings around, I always like to put a bit of thought into its predecessor, Armistice Day.

The whole 'at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month' concept and what that meant for a Europe that lost a generation in the trenches.

On this Armistice Day, remember to thank a veteran for his or her service.

From Sioux City

As promised, linked below is the article from the Sioux City Journal on the appointment of Monsignor Nickless. A lot of it is simply a recap of what was floating around out there yesterday. The quotes offer some insight into Nickless' character and where he will take the diocese.

Nickless, who said he had never been in Iowa before, arrived in Sioux City Wednesday afternoon. He spent three hours visiting every church in the city with Monsignor Roger J. Augustine, who has been administering the diocese in the absence of a bishop. Nickless was introduced publicly here Thursday in a news conference at the chancery.

"From today forward, this diocese is my home," he told the priests, staff members and reporters gathered there. "From this day forward, this diocese is my family. Nothing could give me a greater blessing."
[...]

In Sioux City, Nickless asked everyone to pray that he will be the kind of bishop God wants him to be and that the church needs. He said he thinks sometimes people in the Midwest don't see how important the church in places like Sioux City is for the whole American Catholic community.

"I think God intends this church to be a witness of what the heart of America really is," he said, "the things that really matter in life: good marriages, strong families, solid Catholic education, a love of neighbor, personal character, and zeal for the common good."
[...]

[Monsignor Roger J.] Augustine, 73, [the administrator] will continue to perform all the functions of a bishop, except for consecrating altars and blessing the holy oils, until Nickless is installed. He praised Nickless' 32 years of service in Denver and said his "belief that Catholic schools add much life and vitality to a parish" is a gift to Sioux City, where Catholic schools are important.
[...]

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver praised Nickless' work there as a pastor, vicar, counselor and friend. "We'll miss him sorely," he said, predicting the people of the Sioux City Diocese "will quickly find in him a great brother and shepherd."

Read the complete article Denver priest is named Sioux City Diocese bishop-elect from the Sioux City Journal.

The bishop-elect's belief in Catholic schools will serve him well, though he arrives at a time when a lot of them have been closed up or consolidated. Where they remain, they form an important part of the Catholic community that they serve.

I don't know whether this is a factor, but western Iowa has a growing immigrant population from Mexico and other places in Latin America. As the article points out, the previous bishop, Daniel DiNardo, was sent from Sioux City to Houston-Galveston down in Texas.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

News round-up

Here is a brief listing of various news sources, all with a lot of unoriginal material on the subject of the appointment of Bishop-elect Nickless. The Denver Post link has the most extensive article.

Catholic News Service, Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post (via Rocco), KCAU TV 9, KTIV TV 4.

Tomorrow morning, we'll see what The Sioux City Journal has to say on the subject.

What I did today

The Holy See had to pick today of all days to announce the appointment of the Bishop of Sioux City...

I have been busy today with job-hunting related things and haven't been able to scout around for info. Look for more tonight and tomorrow.

More on Monsignor Nickless

From the Archdiocese of Denver:

“He’s been an outstanding pastor, vicar for clergy, vicar general, friend and counselor,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., commenting on Msgr. Nickless’ s selection and his distinguished manner of service for the Archdiocese of Denver. “He has a great heart for families and a deep devotion to Catholic education and his brother priests. We’ll miss him sorely but also feel great joy for the people of the Diocese of Sioux City. They will quickly find in him a great brother and shepherd.”
[...]

Bishop-elect Nickless was ordained in 1973 and has spent his entire priestly ministry in various capacities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Most recently, he has served as pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Lakewood, Colo., and Vicar General of the archdiocese. He has also previously served as Vicar for Clergy and Seminarians, pastor of the Shrine of St. Anne Parish in Arvada, member of the College of Consultors, member of Archdiocesan Priest’s Retirement Committee and Assistant Vocations Director for Seminarians.
[...]


A snippet from Our Lady of Fatima:

In June 2001, Monsignor Walker Nickless succeeded Father Thompson as pastor. Monsignor Nickless was no stranger to the parish. During his assignment as Vicar for Clergy and Seminarians and Vicar General of the Archdiocese, he lived at Our Lady of Fatima Rectory. On his first Sunday as pastor, he had to deal with a major leak from the air conditioning system that caused considerable damage to the rectory roof. Since that fateful day, however, Monsignor Nickless has led the parish in adopting the new liturgy, revitalized the junior and senior high school youth groups and has been very involved in the parish school. He has overseen many needed improvements to the school's physical plant, all while still fulfilling his responsibilities as Vicar General.


Archbishop Chaput's official statement:

November 10, 2005

Statement from Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap
on the appointment of Bishop-elect R. Walker Nickless


At noon Rome time, 4 a.m. Denver time today, Pope Benedict XVI named Msgr. R. Walker Nickless as the seventh bishop of Sioux City, Iowa. Bishop-elect Nickless is in Sioux City today visiting the priests and people of his new local Church.

Bishop-elect Nickless has served the Church in northern Colorado in an outstanding way as pastor, vicar for clergy and vicar general. We will all greatly miss him as a friend. But his leadership will be a wonderful blessing for the Church in Sioux City.

Please join me in wishing our friend and brother Bishop-elect Nickless our warmest congratulations and prayers.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

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

Ask and ye shall receive

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, NOV 10, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

- Msgr. Ralph Walker Nickless, vicar general and pastor of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in the archdiocese of Denver, U.S.A., as bishop of Sioux City (area 37,587, population 468,549, Catholics 94,186, priests 150, permanent deacons 36, religious 86), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in Denver in 1947 and ordained a priest in 1973.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Breaking: Blair loses terror vote

Prime Minister Tony Blair has lost the vote to allow police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge. The defeat is the first major one in his eight-year tenure as premier of the United Kingdom.

High profile MPs rushed home from trips abroad to vote on the measure, which was predicted to be very close.

Alda should get the Emmy

From Manuel L. Quezon III.

One of my favorite TV shows is the West Wing. Its most recent episode featured an interesting experiment. The show has Alan Alda (as Sen. Arnold Vinick) running against Jimmy Smits (as Rep. Matt Santos) as the Republican and Democratic candidates respectively; the episode (number 7 in the 7th season of the show) had a debate broadcast live between the two. So you have a presidential debate between two actors but broadcast live and with a minimum of scripting, as if it were a real presidential debate (actually, more free-wheeling than any real presidential debate). Then, apparently, a survey was undertaken. Via Free Republic, this surprising story from the Washington Post: young viewers have swung to the right:

Before the episode, viewers between 18 and 29 preferred Santos over Vinick, 54 percent to 37 percent. But after the debate, in which veteran Alda gutted pretty-boy Smits without him even knowing it, Vinick now leads among viewers under age 30, 56 percent to 42 percent.

(Among viewers 65 and older — or, as TV execs like to call them, the Irrelevantest Generation — Santos has a lead of 68 percent to 27 percent.)

Today in history

Today is 9 November. It has a particular place in history in Germany, where it is known as Schicksalstag (literally 'day of fate'). A friend of mine who was born in the German Democratic Republic on 12th remarked to me the other day that while her mom was in the hospital giving birth, everyone else was crossing the newly-opened border to West Germany.

* 1848: After being arrested in the Vienna revolts, liberal leader Robert Blum is executed. The execution is often seen as a symbolic event for the ultimate failure of Germany's 1848 revolution.

* 1918: Monarchy in Germany ends when Emperor Wilhelm II abdicated after being informed that the Army no longer supported him.

* 1923: The Beer Hall Putsch marks the emergence of the Nazi Party as an important player on Germany's political landscape.

* 1938: In the Kristallnacht, synagogues and Jewish property are burnt and destroyed on a large scale. For many observers, it is the first hint of Germany's radical anti-Jewish policies.

* 1989: The fall of the Berlin Wall ends German separation and starts a series of events that ultimately lead to German reunification.

From Wikipedia.

Last night's Frontline

Amy has a short little entry about last night's Frontline episode, 'The Last Abortion Clinic'. The show's site can be found here.

The show was pretty biased (it's PBS after all). My reaction at the end of the show was not what the producers intended, I'm sure. The lady said in reference to the pro-choice movement, "We're losing." My reply was, "Good."

The show also had another effect that I think the producers may have not intended. When the camera was in the exam room at the public health clinic in Clarksdale, MS, the nurse was talking to the young girl who was there about her situation and it was noted that the child she was carrying would be her fourth. I think it was the nurse later who said this or perhaps it was someone else, but it was said that these girls are poor, they have no access to birth control and no access to an abortion clinic, so they are left to keep on having children because they have no other choice...

My reaction went something like this...

STOP HAVING SEX!

The conspiracy of silence

I quoted Ellen Horowitz yesterday when discussing Israeli policy. Today she has a new opinion piece out that discusses the near-silence of the mainstream media in Israel on the issue of the Upper Room exchange and recapitulates her opposition to it.

It may not have been considered earthshaking news. But I would have thought that the announcement of a possible agreement over the control of a Jerusalem holy site, emanating from a respected Vatican media source and appearing in the London Times, would have certainly warranted an article in Israel's mainstream Hebrew and English press.

While there have been a wealth of columns ushering in a new and brilliant era of Catholic-Jewish dialogue here in Israel, there has hardly been a footnote addressing the price Israel may have to pay for the dramatic upgrade in relations.

The news of a possible deal between the Vatican and Israel - which would hand the Catholic Church control over portions of a building on Mt. Zion that just happens to house King David's Tomb and the Diaspora Yeshiva, in exchange for a former synagogue building in Toledo, Spain - first appeared in the international press on October 12th. A full week later, the item continued making the rounds in various respected publications, but still no word from Israel's mainstream media. There were no confirmations or denials from our diplomats and government officials, nor were there any retractions from the news agencies that broke or reported the original story.

Meanwhile, a lot of us who had already read the draft agreement, viewed the maps and had heard audio clip interviews, via "lesser" news agencies and sources, began to question our sanity.

I'm not crazy. This is newsworthy, right?
[...]

Read the complete article Follow the Papal Paper Trail from Israeli National News.com.

Near the end of her piece, she related her comments to a group of evangelical Christians visiting northern Israel:

Two weeks ago, I addressed a group of evangelical Christians who were visiting the north of Israel after having attended their annual "Feast of the Tabernacles". I explained to these very fine people that my caution in approaching the Christian community didn't stem from hatred, historical scars or from anti-Semitic paranoia. My discretion is directly connected to my passionate love for and commitment to the Land of Israel. I compared this passion to a protective and maternal love, and I used our matriarchs, patriarchs and prophets to drive home my point. The concept was well accepted by the listeners (and it didn't hurt my sales, either).

Personally, while I think the Catholic Church taking up ownership of the Upper Room would be nice, letting it go and just giving the Jews the synagogue/church in Toledo as a free-will offering would be much better and a true example of Christian charity.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Historic summits make good incentives

This is short enough, I'll just post all of it:

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – The Delegations of the Holy See and the State of Israel met on Monday 7 November for a round of negotiations which lasted about four hours. The meeting was shorter than expected and no press statement was issued at the end. Even the fact itself that the meeting was held was not announced; it was revealed to AsiaNews by reliable sources in Israel.

Negotiations between the delegations go back as far as 1999 and their purpose is to secure the definitive recognition by Israel of fiscal and property rights acquired by the Catholic Church throughout the centuries before the State of Israel was created in 1948.

Given the stipulations of the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel (1993), such an accord was expected already by 1996. The significant delay weighs ever more heavily on the bilateral ties.
The necessity and urgency of reaching such agreement could well be the focus of the announced visit to the Vatican by the President of the state of Israel, Moshe Katzav in the middle of the month. There are hopes that this event will provide the opportunity for the declaration of a new direction in Israeli policy, which will pave the way for a rapid conclusion of the eagerly anticipated agreement.

Read the complete article Israel-Vatican relations need a new stage from AsiaNews.it.

So they want to have something ready for when the President of Israel comes to the Vatican later this month... I'm just a bit skeptical of Israeli motivations on this. The Israeli government has been putting off a resolution to this for years. Yet at the same time, they're prepared to turn over the Upper Room in Jerusalem in exchange for a synagogue in Spain.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that I'm confused by Israeli policy lately. I read an opinion piece written by a Jewish woman who deplored the handing over of the Upper Room location, as it houses a yeshiva school and is the traditional site of King David's Tomb in Jerusalem. Ellen Horowitz wrote:

That means that no matter how overwhelmingly impressive you find the pomp, ceremony and architectural achievements of an oval office, Vatican complex, or synagogue-turned-church in Toledo, there is nothing more valuable or precious than the Land of Israel. It is simply not to be swapped, sold or surrendered.

"For Your servants have cherished her stones and favor her dust." (From the words of King David, Psalms 102:15)

At the same time as Israel is playing these games with the Holy See while aggravating its own population over handing land over to the Roman Catholic Church, as AsiaNews reported here the Orthodox Patriarch is having to go to court in order to force recognition of his election by the Israeli government. So far they have wanted nothing to do with him (since he intends to investigate the illegal sale of land to Israeli developers by his predecessor).

What we're seeing here is perhaps a conflict of identity. Is Israel the Jewish State or is it a modern, liberal, secular state? You be the judge.

Some pragmatism

Rome, Nov. 08 (CWNews.com) - Conflicts between the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow are not close to resolution, the Vatican's top foreign-affairs minister said in a November 8 appearance on Vatican Radio.

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, who traveled to Moscow in October for talks with both government leaders and Orthodox prelates, said that there are "objective difficulties" between Rome and Moscow, which "require deeper study." Although he described his meetings with Orthodox leaders as "cordial and productive," he did not foresee rapid progress in ecumenical ties.

Read the complete article Rome-Moscow tensions linger, Vatican official says from Catholic World News. Subscription is necessary to read the entire article.

Though optimistic, Archbishop Lajolo's words of caution regarding the rate of progress and the expectations of the Pope travelling to Russia anytime soon are certainly welcome.

I'm definitely hoping and praying for a breakthrough and progress is always great news, whereas a lack of progress is not so great. However, it seems like there's been a lot of wishing going on lately and not enough reality in Catholic-Orthodox relations in the Russian Federation.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Nixon goes to China!

Not quite...

In a new sign of improving relations between the Vatican and China, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has just returned from China, where he met with Catholic church and government officials and publicly celebrated Mass in a parish church in Shanghai.

Mahony, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, said this week that he was "very optimistic" that diplomatic ties between the church and Beijing would be established, opening a new chapter in a long and sometimes difficult history in church-state relations. Mahony's low-key journey was not announced in advance because of what archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg called diplomatic sensitivities. Although Mahony described the tour as a private sabbatical, he said he is preparing a report of his findings for the Vatican.

Mahony was not the only U.S. cardinal to visit China recently. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington paid a two-day call on Beijing in mid-October -- his seventh to that country.
[...]

Read the complete article Vatican, China inch closer to reconciliation from The China Post.

Blah, blah. Your usual article recounting the visit of a dignitary to some foreign land and the basic recap on Holy See-People's Republic relations since Benedict's election. The cardinal's comments at the very end though bear pointing out:

But Mahony said that change will come gradually, quoting Chinese bishops as calling it "a marathon of tiny steps."

"There can't be a decisive moment or events and big dramatic changes like that. Things just begin to happen and slowly begin to change," Mahony said. "There are no winners. There are no losers. Guess what? This is the way things are going now."

No winners, no losers... Tell that to the guys you weren't allowed to visit who are sitting in house arrest or worse.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What is he waiting for?

According to Catholic-Hierarchy, Daniel DiNardo was appointed as Coadjutor Bishop of Galveston-Houston on January 16, 2004. Since that day, the See of Sioux City, from which Bishop DiNardo was appointed, has been vacant.

At present, the diocese of Sioux City is just about two months shy of being leaderless for two full years. Much has been said that the Holy Father is exerting direct control over the selection of bishops. Since his election in April, Benedict XVI has appointed new bishops to sees all over the world. So why is Sioux City, a diocese of 94,480 souls, still waiting?

Let's look back.
Yesterday (November 4th), the Holy Father appointed Tommaso Valentinetti as Archbishop of Pescara-Penne, Italy, the same day that Valentinetti's predecessor officially retired. The archdiocese had a population of 292,000 Catholics in 2003.

On October 25th, the Holy Father appointed Juan Carlos Romanin as Bishop of Río Gallegos, Argentina, the same day that Romanin's predecessor officially retired. The diocese had a population of 200,000 Catholics in 2003.

On October 19th, the Holy Father appointed Guillermo Rodrigo Teodoro Ortiz Mondragon as Bishop of Bishop of Cuautitlán, México. Ortiz Mondragón's predecessor died on June 26th of this year and the see had been vacant for just short of four months. The diocese had a population of 3,392,000 Catholics in 2003.

On October 10th, the Holy Father appointed Jabulani Nxumalo as the Archbishop of Bloemfontein, South Africa. The see of Bloemfontein had been vacant since April 6th, 2003, a slightly longer vacancy than Sioux City. The archdiocese had a population of 112,706 Catholics in 2003.

On September 28th, the Holy Father appointed Ruy Rendón Leal as Bishop Prelate of El Salto, Mexico, the same day that Rendón Leal's predecessor officially retired. The prelature had a population of 304,000 Catholics in 2003.

Note, these are the last five appointments of actual ordinaries.

The diocese of Sioux City consists of parishes located in small towns with populations from 100 or less on up to cities like Sioux City with over 50,000 people. Though Catholics are widespread, they are not the largest group, as western Iowa was heavily settled by Lutherans and other Protestant groups.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Grand Master awarded peace prize

Nov. 04 (CWNews.com) - The grand master of the Knights of Malta, Fra Andrew Bertie, has been named to receive the Path to Peace award, conferred each year by a foundation that supports the work of the Vatican mission to the UN.

Read the complete article Knights of Malta leader named for peace prize from Catholic World News.

That's nice. The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, etc., etc. does good work around the world with its ambulance services and other charitable works. The interesting thing is the following:

The venerable Order, which now has 10,000 members active in 120 countries, has its headquarters in Rome. The Order of Malta enjoys international sovereignty, issues its own passports, has diplomatic relations with 93 countries, and enjoys permanent-observer status at the UN.

A reader and I recently exchanged emails on this subject (the legal status of the Holy See and the Vatican City State and microstates in general). One of the examples that came to mind was the Order of Malta. After the Order surrendered to Napoleon at the end of the eighteenth century, the British took Malta after the French defeat. According to the treaty at the end of the war, they were to give it back to the Knights, but that never happened.

The Grand Master should go to Malta and negotiate a treaty granting the order a parcel of land and independence (along the lines of the Vatican City State) in exchange for some kind of health care services for the people of the island...

And then they can declare themselves a principality of the restored Holy Roman Empire!

Holy Roman resurrection

When Bavarian Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope, a fellow countryman and the leader of Germany’s most Catholic province said, “I am certain that the new pope will be able to win over and rally all the world’s Catholics, not only because he is the most brilliant theologian of all time, but also because of his human and pastoral qualities.”
[...]

Now, Benedict xvi has visited with Edmund Stoiber. On November 3, Stoiber led a 160-member delegation to the Vatican—ostensibly to invite the pontiff to visit Bavaria sometime next year.

During this visit, the pope lauded the religious virtues of Bavaria, saying that this German province “unites a heritage of generosity and a rich religious harmony: elements which hold real promise for the future.” Of course, by "religious harmony" he is referring to Bavaria being the most solid bastion of Roman Catholicism in Germany.
[...]

After the official meeting with Stoiber’s complete entourage, the pope met privately with Stoiber for about 10 minutes. No “official statements,” no political hobnobbing, no cameras—just two Bavarians behind closed doors.

What intriguing timing. Stoiber has just turned down a cabinet post in a messy grand coalition that seems to have been doomed before it even started. He has no portfolio in the new government. Yet he is the only German politican to have an audience with the most powerful man in the world’s largest single religion. Is it not strange?
[...]

The world is staring down the barrel of another resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire. Based on key prophecies scattered throughout the Bible, we at the Trumpet have been looking for a Germanic resurrection of such an empire.
[...]

Read the complete article Benedict and Stoiber—a Relationship to Watch from The Trumpet.

It's kind of a neat idea. I can just imagine Germany from say Bavaria on south down through Switzerland and all of Italy uniting in a resurrected Holy Roman Empire with Stoiber as Chancellor and a Hapsburg pretender on the throne as a figurehead crowned by the Holy Father...

Dan Brown, are you reading this?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It's in the tea

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As they heard oral arguments Nov. 1 in a case over a religious group's use of a federally prohibited tea in its rituals, the Supreme Court justices seemed inclined to support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on which the church's case is premised.

The Brazilian-based church, O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, known as UDV, has only about 140 members in the United States. The case began in 1999 after U.S. Customs agents seized a shipment of hoasca tea, which is used by the church's followers in sacramental rituals that are derived from Amazonian spiritual traditions and Christian theology.

The tea is made from plants that contain dimethyltryptamine, a hallucinogen known as DMT, which the federal government classifies as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Lower federal courts ruled in favor of the church, saying that the government failed to prove a compelling interest in prohibiting its members from using a controlled substance.

Read the complete article Religious rights, international treaty at issue in church tea case from Catholic News Service.

Further down, there is this:

From the direction of their questions, most of the Supreme Court justices seemed to be trying to support the church's right to use hoasca, though they struggled with federal obligations under an international drug control treaty and whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA, trumps those commitments.

At the most basic level, the Free Excercise clause trumps treaties signed by the US. RFRA should in this case be the governing law, since drug control is not an explicitly constitutionally granted power of the US while the free exercise of one's religion is an explicit right under the First Amendment. But I have no real qualifications in constitutional law... Feel free to dissect my opinion.

All Souls' Day

The commemoration of all the faithful departed is celebrated by the Church on 2 November, or, if this be a Sunday or a solemnity, on 3 November. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy and all the Masses are to be of Requiem, except one of the current feast, where this is of obligation.

The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body, are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred from the Beatific Vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, almsdeeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass. (See PURGATORY.)

@ Catholic Encyclopedia
@ Wikipedia

Amy has devoted a post to prayer intentions. Check that out or leave them here in the comment box.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

When the Saints go marching in!

It's a Tuesday and all, but since it's a Holy Day of Obligation, make sure you know what time Mass is this evening for all you folks at work.

All Saints' Day @ Catholic Encyclopedia

All Saints' Day @ Wikipedia

I'll be at Mass at 12:10 at St. Mary's. It's the incense Mass. I'll make sure I get a good seat up front so I can inhale my Catholic faith in large amounts.

I'd put this guy in charge

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Mgr Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop of Hong Kong, does not believe the Vatican ought to break ties with Taiwan before talks with Beijing begin on normalising Sino-Vatican relations.

“It is unreasonable to request the Vatican to first estrange from Taiwan before starting the negotiations,” the Bishop said.

Read the complete article Beijing should open talks with the Vatican before asking it to cut ties with Taiwan, says Bishop Zen from AsiaNews.it.

The Bishop of Hong Kong has a pragmatism that is refreshing, especially in light of Cardinal Sodano's pandering.

Still, the head of Hong Kong's Catholic Church was upbeat on the progress of relations.

“There are some hurdles that may need to be overcome," he noted, “especially after the death of the late Pope John Paul and the election of the new Pope Benedict,” but according to him it was obvious that opportunities for the Catholic Church on the mainland were arising.

I'm not sure what the death of John Paul II has to do with it. Since Benedict was elected, the Holy See seems to be hell-bent on severing ties with Taiwan and joining hands with the People's Republic. The pandering:

The Vatican Secretary of State Card Angelo Sodano said last week that the Holy See was ready to return to its nunciature in Beijing and break its ties with Taiwan, provided the central government respected religious freedom.

“When other states ended their relations with Taiwan they moved immediately to Beijing. Why can't the Holy See, if it ends its contacts with Taiwan, go immediately to Beijing?” he asked.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan responded by reiterating China’s view that the Holy See must sever ties with Taiwan.

This last quote illustrates perfectly what the Holy See is getting into with its new relationship with the PRC. The Holy See is ready to cut off relations with Taiwan at the drop of a hat. But the Foreign Ministry of the People's Republic 'reiterated' that the Holy See must sever ties with Taiwan.

The Holy See is ready to do it. They're ready to move the shop to Beijing tomorrow and the PRC is still 'reiterating' and complaining. The People's Republic is not going to be appeased, people! They're not! As soon as the nunciature is set up in Beijing, I bet you a dollar that the nuncio is going to hear it about 'internal affairs' and 'Catholic interference'. It will go on and on and never end and all the while, the Chicoms will get the PR benefit of having orchestrated one more de-recognition of Taiwan in favor of itself.