Policies

All correspondence is confidential unless permission is granted. All posts are open to comment for seven days; after that, they are moderated. Please email if you are unable to leave a comment, it will be posted for you.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

It's the last day of the year

I forgot I was going to do this.
My little list...

1. Benedict XVI - he was chosen by the Holy Spirit, what more needs to be said?

2. Cardinal Ruini - the boycott of the referendum this last summer in Italy should be studied by all when working political action through the Church.

3. Archbishop Levada - from SF to CDF and power-broker in the appointment of new bishops (and soon to be favored with a new color for his wardrobe).

4. Archbishop Dziwisz - the paragon of true faith and service this year to his master and friend.

5. John Paul II of blessed memory - In life and in death, he leads by example.

Three rosaries or a good fall?

My penance from this morning was three rosaries. I came home, got out of the car and headed for the side door to my building when I promptly slipped and skinned up my left hand.

Do I still have to say my rosaries?

Just kidding. :)

In any case, my hand is rather sore from my little impromptu meeting with the concrete of the parking lot, so blogging this coming week may be a little light. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2005

For your prayer intentions

A British friend of mine is a good friend of the young woman, Kate Burton, who has been kidnapped in Gaza along with her parents.

Please pray for them.

According to the Foreign Office, Israel and the Occupied Territories aren't very safe.

We advise against all travel to the Gaza strip because of the security situation and continuing threat of kidnap of foreign nationals. Three British Nationals were kidnapped in Gaza on 28 December 2005. Urgent enquiries are being made. British nationals have also been kidnapped in previous incidents.

Exorcizing Emily

Having received the DVD of The Exorcism of Emily Rose yesterday as a Christmas present, we promptly watched it.

I shalln't bore you with a reiteration of the basic points of the movie and the ambiguity involving whether or not Emily was in fact possessed and her demons needed exorcizing.

Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson as Father Moore were convincing. My family wanted a bit more certainty. With this movie, I don't think it's necessary. If Emily or Father Moore were the actual protagonists, it would have been good to have a fitting conclusion with the forces of Good winning over the forces of Evil. However, the movie's underlying theme was the conversion of Father Moore's lawyer, Erin Bruner. Not a complete conversion, but as St. Augustine wrote about himself, a finding of the right path that will lead to God.

What I was most intrigued by was the part of the prosecutor, the devout Methodist whose faith was mentioned all of two times, in the beginning when he was chosen and at the end when he gave his summation. In the courtroom, he was expected to represent the interests of the People, etc. But I was expecting more. All the different reviews I had read at the time of the movie's release indicated that his faith would play a bigger role, with soul searching of some kind. But aside from his being annoying and argumentative in the courtroom, his character came off as nothing more than the epitome of the 'Enlightened' Man who views anything spiritual as superstition.

I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it. It is a worthy and credible addition to the genre despite its flaws. Aside from the prosecutor, the characterizations were excellent. I especially liked the look of the Rose family at the beginning of the movie with their 'thousand yard stares'. Laura Linney is one of my favorite actresses currently working. I'll give it four and a half stars out of five.

By the way, in case you're wondering why we're dissecting this now, unless it's a foreign film with subtitles, watching films in the theater is pretty pointless for me these days unless I'm there simply for the visual element of a film on the big screen and some buttered popcorn and a Coke.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Distancing

From this morning's release from VIS:

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Archbishop Major of Kyiv-Halyc, with the consent of the Synod of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church and after having informed the Apostolic See, transferred Bishop Ihor Vozniak, C.SS.R., from Auxiliary Bishop of the Archeparchy of Lviv of the Ukrainians to residential Archbishop of the same see.

Rocco here discusses the ins and outs of what this little snippet may mean.

My thoughts
I am not qualified to disagree with Rocco's reading the fine print of the above excerpt, so I will take his word for it.

As far as the distancing, while it will give the Vatican 'technical', canonical cover, I doubt the Orthodox are really going to buy that. The Russian Patriarch will fume and rage and complain and all that. But since there is pretty much nothing he can do about it except spurn further attempts by the Holy See at reconciliation, the Catholic Church will just have to live with an extension of the status quo.

If Husar plays his cards right and acts in the new role with some humility and discretion, I wouldn't be surprised if some of those Orthodox factions started paying some attention to his calls for a single Ukrainian patriarchate.

In a larger sense, Benedict XVI has a possible strategy here to lure the Orthodox back from schism by pointing at the Ukrainian Greeks and saying, 'They operate with pretty much total autonomy'.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Not in it for a photo op

More words from Moscow; they are basically a reiteration of the standard line. The third paragraph is rather interesting in its directness.

Moscow, December 28, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate awaits Vatican’s concrete actions that would corroborate its intention to overcome current conflicts, in particular, proselytism practiced by the catholics in Russia and the CIS countries and the uniates’ expansion in Ukraine.

‘It is early yet to speak about any concrete rapprochement. We welcome the statement of the new Pope about the necessity to continue dialogue. We hope that this statement will be followed by actions’, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II said in an interview published by BBC Russian.

‘Why to meet (with the Pope - IF) in front of TV cameras? Just to show to the world that there are no problems between us? But we have problems, don’t we? Such meetings should be well prepared. The problems worrying the Russian Orthodox church and its flock should be solved for the meeting to take place’, the patriarch added.
[...]

Read the complete article Vatican’s move against proselytism and Greek Catholic expansion would ensure meeting with the Pope of Rome from Interfax.

The Patriarch of Moscow also laments the attempts to break off the Ukrainian Church from Moscow.

He also regretted the attempts of some Ukrainian politicians to interfere in church affairs. ‘Some politicians have been striving to establish a church independent from Moscow at all costs. It is cutting an open wound! There are many mixed marriages; we venerate many saints together!’ Alexy II noted.

This paragraph is interesting in that while the rest of the article seems to make the Greek Catholic Church the big bogeyman in Ukraine, the patriarch here acknowledges that his flock in that country battle not only the Catholics, but other Orthodox factions as well. He also ought to know full well why Ukrainian politicians aren't that keen on ties with Russia, given Russian attempts to interfere with internal politics, elections, etc.

I knew I knew that name from somewhere

Rocco has posted a couple times lately on the change of leadership at the North American College in Rome (I don't have the links handy). Rector Monsignor Kevin McCoy left his post earlier this month (in the middle of the term) for a post in Washington, DC to direct the college's capital campaign.

Whispers in the Loggia has speculation on why McCoy suddenly changed jobs.

Where I know Monsignor McCoy? For a number of years when official diocesan announcements were published in The Globe, along with +Lawrence D. Soens, Bishop etc. would be Kevin McCoy, Chancellor.

Yes, I know, I should have picked this up long ago, but as my family can testify, I'm lousy with name recognition... Thankfully, my grandparents had their copy of the diocesan newspaper in one of the usual spots. I picked it up and read the piece on the monsignor on page one, top right column.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Merry Christmas one and all on the Feast of the Holy Innocents (hey, it started at sunset!).

Considering the recent talk of dropping Limbo, does this feast lose something? After all, the little children would have gone to Heaven with or without the baptism of blood under current thinking. Thoughts?

If you've all been checking out the blogs under the Daily readings on the left, you'll have pretty much kept up to date on what's been going on. Rocco has been busy and Amy has returned from unfastening action figures from their pesky packages.

I hope you all had a blessed Christmas and are still fully involved in the season. Given the fact that I was born on the fifth of January, the entire period from Christmas to the Epiphany has always been one big holiday, even when I was just a little kid who didn't know any better.

If you've been following the situation in St. Louis, the esteemed Dr. Peters has points to make here and here on the subject (thanks to Amy for bringing them up). The new look of Dr. Peters' blog is pretty nice too. I could use a nifty banner across the top here...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas

I'm going to be gone for a week or so to visit my parents. Everyone have a Merry Christmas. Also, a friend of mine from Germany is in New York City with her family for the next few days. Say a few prayers on their behalf as they are forced to trudge around the Big Apple on foot.

God bless you all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Russians are coming!

I suppose though that the cry of alarm loses something when it's Russians themselves who cry out...

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Orthodox deacon Andrej Kuraev, a young well-known theologian, has invited the youth branch of an ultranationalist movement to organize, for December 24, a picket “in defence of Russian Christmas” outside the Catholic cathedral of the Mother of God.

The proposal was launched through the deacon’s web-site (www.kureav.ru/forum) and intends to be a “defence of Russian Christmas, in other words the traditions of celebrating Christ’s birth according to the old calendar.” The Catholic Church, with the Gregorian calendar reform, celebrates Christmas on December 25. The Russian Orthodox Church, which still follows the Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on January 7.
[...]

The deacon is proposing that only young people take part in the picket, with “a kind expression on their face, not one that suggests irritation or protest.” But he also claims that “the Nasha (Our People) youth movement has given its juridical and organization support to the demonstration.”

This movement is considered to be among the most extremist and fundamentalist in Russia, so much so that is has been dubbed the “Putin-Jugend”, in a clear reference to Nazi youth.
[...]

According to organizers’ intentions, the picket is not to foresee political statements or comments, while plans are to “extend good-hearted and non-polemical holiday wishes to Catholic parishioners passing by.”

Deacon Andrei Kuraev is among the most influential theologians and publicists in the Russian Orthodox world. His web-site ranks first for site visits and reference. He is not an “official voice” of Moscow’s Patriarchate, but is known to launch initiatives only if he has the hierarchy’s tacit approval.
[...]

Read the complete article December 24 picket planned by ultra-Orthodox in front of the Catholic cathedral of Moscow from AsiaNews.it.

Watch on Kiev

It's been awhile since we've heard from Cardinal Husar.

Kiev, December 19, Interfax - The head of the UGCC, Cardinal Lubomir Husar, has again spoken for establishing one Local Church in Ukraine.

‘The Churches have not been established by officials, but by Jesus Christ. We as Christians should unite, and it is our tragedy that we are still separated’, Cardinal Husar said at a press conference in Kiev on Monday.
[...]

Read the complete article Head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, transfer of his residence to Kiev has helped considerably to Ukrainian Churches to come closer together from Interfax.

The quote above is the basic gist of the article. Husar merely expresses the same thought in several different permutations. The last few paragraphs describe the status of the cathedral-church that is being constructed in Kiev.

You'll all remember the last time Cardinal Husar spoke out on a coming together of the Ukrainian confessions. The article here provides a bit more detail in that Husar seems to not be looking for a unified church so much as everyone working together for the common Christian goal, Perhaps he sees such cooperation as the preliminary move toward securing a united patriarchate.

Do they really call it Czechia these days?

I saw that term used somewhere... But anyway, not all is well in relations between the Republic and the Holy See, despite cordial Christmas greetings.

PRAGUE, Dec 20 (CTK) - President Vaclav Klaus received the Papal Nuncio to the Czech Republic, Diego Causero, in the presidential seat at Prague Castle today where they exchanged Christmas wishes and Klaus expressed his invitation to Prague for Pope Benedict XVI.
[...]

"It was a polite meeting before Christmas. We wished merry Christmas and a happy new year to one another," Causero said.

The Archbishop of Prague, Miloslav Cardinal Vlk, fielded the question of a papal visit, giving the standard reply:

"This Pope will not travel as much as his predecessor and it is not much realistic to expect him to visit the Czech Republic in the following few years," Prague Archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vlk said in an interview for Saturday's issue of the daily Mlada fronta Dnes.

Vlk added that Pope Benedict XVI could connect a visit to the Czech Republic with a trip to his native Bavaria, scheduled for mid-September, 2006.

The article then delves into the nitty gritty of Czech politics, as it notes that the Archbishop won't be meeting with the president for Christmas due to strain in the relationship. Vlk's comments on the recent signing of an amendment to a law governing church education and charities was unconsitutional 'disappointed' the president. In addition to this, a treaty between the Czech Republic and the Holy See has been stalled for a number of years:

During the past three years, deputies have not agreed on the treaty. Klaus said he would not sign it in the proposed version as it would guarantee too many privileges for the Catholic Church.

Read the complete article Klaus receives Papal Nuncio, invites Pope Benedict XVI to Prague from Prague Daily Monitor.

An interesting article in that it touches on the continuing struggle in Eastern Europe (in the new alignment, the Czech Republic is actually in Central Europe) as post-communist states continue to feel their way across the religious/political landscape. But hey, not every country can be Poland.

UPDATE 12/21, 10:01 AM
From a different article of Prague Daily Monitor:
PRAGUE, Dec 20 (CTK) - Pope Benedict XVI will probably come on a visit to Prague next September, Prague Archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vlk told CTK today.

In such a case, the Pope will link his visit to the Czech Republic with the planned trip to his native Bavaria, Vlk said, adding that Benedict XVI has already received the invitation by Czech bishops, but an invitation from President Vaclav Klaus is necessary, too.
[...]

More on Nashville

The Tennessean has reaction from various quarters and a list of what the bishop-elect did on his first day.

The Most Rev. James Niedergeses, bishop of Nashville from 1975 to 1992, said he was on hand when Choby was born at Saint Thomas Hospital. He was chaplain there then and spoke to the future priest's mother and prayed with the family.

The Vatican could not have made a better choice, Niedergeses said.

His only advice? "To keep up the kind of leadership he has demonstrated as a priest," he said.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This is cool! or Why I wish I had a billion dollars

Matthew over at Shrine of the Holy Whapping explains his fall project:

This fall, our studio project for the School of Architecture was to design a 500-700-seat parish church for a site at 1500 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, a lot currently occupied by the 1997 Old St. Mary's Church, a ministry of the Paulist Fathers originally founded in 1833. Old St. Mary's was begun shortly before the housing boom in the area led to a massive upsurge in gentrification. Land prices have shot up and a large number of urban professionals and young families have begun to make their home there. As a consequence, any church placed on the site has a golden opportunity to evangelize.
[...]

The associated sketches and pictures can be found here (pictures copyright Matthew Alderman).

Really though, I must admit that if I had a billion US dollars to my name, social justice would not be at the top of my list of priorities (a failing, I know), but rather I would be spending on projects like Matthew's in a bid to ressurrect the church as an art form, from the cathedral down to the local parish church.

Nashville's new man

As Amy predicts here and reports here, Nashville has a new bishop in the form of its administrator, Father David R. Choby.

Rocco in his post on the subject gives some biographical details on the bishop-elect and expounds on outgoing nuncio "Montalvo's preference toward "native son" episcopal candidates".

Favorite movie?

This month on Turner Classic Movies (the cable channel based on Ted Turner's MGM library of films) is honoring Bing Crosby by showing his movies on Monday nights. Last night, the channel started off the evening with Going My Way, followed up by The Bells of St. Mary's. After that, they had more, but I was off for bed.

As long time readers will know, I'm interested in how the clergy is portrayed in movies and the long term effect such portrayals have on the culture.

Going My Way initially made $16 million according to IMDb, a huge sum at the time. It won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor (Crosby), Best Supporting Actor (Barry Fitzgerald), Best Song, etc.

Questions
1. Given its popularity at the time, what impact do you think Going My Way may have had on humanizing the Catholic Church, if any?

2. What is your favorite movie that gives clergy a starring role?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Catholic psychiatrists wanted

Burn your Oujia boards and cover your ears if anyone named Captain Howdy starts speaking to you...

(ANSA) - Rome, December 19 - Italy's leading exorcist said on Thursday there were up to 330 priests practising the Vatican-approved procedures for casting out the Devil all over the country.

In the Catholic Church exorcists must be priests and they have to be given a sort of 'licence' to perform the special rites by their local bishop.
[...]

While exorcists were busy trying to expel Satan from possessed Italians, Father [Gabriele] Amorth implied that many in the country were unwittingly inviting the Devil into their lives through involvement in the occult.

Exorcists say that contact with the occult is one of the ways the Devil can gain access to a person's mind, sometimes exploiting the situation to 'possess' that individual. "In all these years the Church hasn't noticed that churches are getting emptier while at least 13 million Italians are turning to seers, sorcerers, witches and specialists in the occult," he said.
[...]

Speaking at the presentation of a new book on his experiences, he also touched on some of the lesser known aspects of exorcism, such as the need for a psychiatrist to help formerly possessed people recover.

Monsignor Andrea Gemma, a bishop and exorcist who also attended the presentation, said it was crucial that the psychiatrist brought in was a Catholic.

"If you don't believe in the existence of the Demon it's easy to fall into the solution of the psychiatrist who labels a patient as suffering from paranoia and ends up pumping him full of sedatives," he said.

"Pump him full of sedatives..." That makes me grin and it's so true of our culture. If he's sick, just give him some penicilin or some ritalin or some prozac.

Read the complete article Italy has army of exorcists from ANSA.it.

Doing good work in Ireland

In his letter to The Irish Examiner, Mr. John Hanlon of County Kildare wrote the following (which I'll include in full, as it is a great letter):

YOU have given much coverage to Liz O’Donnell’s ‘lambasting’ of the Catholic Church’s over-involvement in the education of our children, including her statement that the Church “has failed the public.”

Well it did not ‘fail’ in providing an education to my severely autistic son, now aged 21, when the State failed miserably.

Between 1987 and 1996 he had been wholly misplaced in a non-religious, State-run special school for emotionally disturbed children in west Dublin.

Following its burning down in 1996 the children were sent home with nowhere to go.

Who came to the rescue?

The Church, of course, through the generosity of the Daughters of the Cross in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, who additionally opened their doors to the novel concept of the very first autism-specific school in Ireland, where he did very well.

Fast forward to 2003 and post the State’s appeal of Mr Justice Barr’s landmark High Court judgement in the Sinnott case to the Supreme Court, which effectively established 18 as the ‘cut-off’ point concerning the State’s obligation to provide education to autistic children. Accordingly, as the State had directed that funding cease for my son’s continuing placement in Stillorgan, he was given a ‘free transfer’ home with no daycare placement offered by the State.

Who stepped into the breach? Yes, the Church in the shape of the St John of God Brothers, Celbridge, Co Kildare, where he continues to be most happy.

At present, there are two other autistic children aged 14 in Co Kildare whose cases are before the High Court seeking second-level schooling, having finished their ‘special classes’ in primary school. The State had not made provision for post-primary educational requirements.

Who has answered the call? No, not the State-run secondary schools, but the Church again. This time it’s the Salesians in Celbridge.

Who’s going to educate these special needs children ‘down the road’ when there are no more religious left in the schools?

Liz O’Donnell may not have offended Bertie, but she did offend the many religious educating children with special needs and their families.

John Hanlon
[His address I'll not include]

God bless all the religious who do His good work here on earth.

The Roman Pontiff as savior of the West

In his piece today, Magister includes an address by a prominent historian at a conference at the Pontifical Lateran University and a commentary by a well-known Muslim in the Italian daily la Repubblica.

Read the complete article From Lepanto to Baghdad, There’s a Road that Leads through Rome from www.chiesa.

Walter Brandmüller the historian in his address recounted the place of the Christian in traditional Muslim society. He explained the use of the word 'jihad' and discussed the attacks on Christianity by the Muslim Caliph of Egypt that led to the First Crusade (in contradiction to the assertion that Muslim society at the time was a place of peaceful tolerance).

Brandmüller looked at Pius V and that Pope's organization of a league of Christian kingdoms to fend off and destroy the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The historian pointed at the victory as the means by which Europe was able to not be dominated by Islam and was able to follow through with the Renaissance and after that the Enlightenment. He added at one point the following on the neutralization of the only uniting force in European history by "secularism":

The so-called “secularism” that would silence all the monotheistic religions through accusations of fundamentalism, or that exalts dialogue by negating their differences, intends to blot out the age-old conflict that has pitted the two religious communities against one another. Above all, it intends to neutralize the Roman pontiff, who has shown himself capable of blocking the Islamic advance and saving Christian civilization.

Khaled Fouad Allam the Muslim commentator in his piece in the Italian daily talked about the political process in Iraq and especially the reformation of Iraqi society by bringing together the different groups, ethnic Kurds and Arabs, confessional Shi'ites, Sunnis and Christians, etc. into the democratic process.

Because it will be precisely on the terrain of politics, of the forces in play and the game of alliances, that the new Iraqi society’s capacity to define itself politically will be demonstrated. Politics is the very strange art of living together: but to practice it, the Iraqis need to rediscover their liberty, which was taken from them in the name of the nation, eliminating what a society is, meaning its ethnic, religious, and cultural complexity. I maintain that the Americans saw things properly in considering the communitarian perspective an obligatory step for the reformulation of Iraqi society.

But Allam also sounded a warning:

There remains a fundamental problem: the situation in Iraq, if it does work, will work only in the context of a homogeneous Middle East. If this new democracy remains surrounded by countries governed by antidemocratic forces, the risk is a weakening of what has just been constructed.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

New DVC coming to a bookstore near you

I think it was David Spade on Saturday Night Live who said it... It's appropriate here.

"I liked Under Siege the first time I saw it when it was called Die Hard."


LISBON: Pope John Paul I, who died from an apparent heart attack just 33 days after becoming pontiff in 1978, was in fact assassinated over his plans to radically reform the Catholic Church, a novel to be published worldwide next year charges.

Portuguese author and television scriptwriter Luis Miguel Rocha, 29, said he based The Last Pope on documents he obtained through an undisclosed Vatican source, which he will make public once the novel is published in April.

Read the complete article Pope John Paul I was assassinated: Author from DNA - World.

Can't beat Bono or the Gateses

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church has to settle for 'European Newsmaker of the Year'...

But hey! It's not like Time or any other news-weekly is all that important in the scheme of things. Read the complete article European Newsmaker: A Man On A Mission from Time. I've pulled out a few excerpts for comment.

Some, according to Vatican sources, actually believe the Pope prophesied to Ratzinger that the German would be his successor.

I don't think I've ever read this rumor before. I might have, but it's interesting.

After the release of a new Vatican document that would prohibit any person who was openly gay — even if celibate — from becoming a priest, the writer Andrew Sullivan, a gay Catholic, said Benedict "has identified a group of people and said, regardless of how they behave or what they do, they are beneath serving God. It isn't what they do that he is concerned with. It's who they are."

The obligatory jab from Sullivan without any material explaining the Pope's side of the issue. Typical.

Yet away from the most controversial issues, the Pope has shown an ability to preach eloquently about the core issues of modern existence — good and evil, charity and consumerism, and the slippery slope of instantaneous self-fulfillment. Ratzinger, says a top aide to a progressive European Cardinal, "has a brilliant way of summing up a concept in a single sentence. He can clean off the window of modern history, and give you a clear vision of what's wrong with our society."

I like this quote particularly just because of how absurdly it is structured (it comes almost right after the Sullivan excerpt). The Pope is mean-spirited and more than willing to condemn a large group of people to being 'beneath serving God'. But of course, on less controversial issues, the Pope can preach most eloquently. Hard issues, Monolithic Papacy oppressively cracks down hard; soft issues, Eloquent Papacy brilliantly explains core issues of existence: got it!

Over all, it's a positive piece. I don't give much thought to Time's assessments though. When it comes to choosing the most important newsmaker of the year, the magazine has chosen a lot of people over the years for the right reasons and a lot of people for the wrong reasons.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

'New' Catholic

You scored as New Catholic. The years following the Second Vatican Council was a time of collapse of the Catholic faith and its traditions. But you are a young person who has rediscovered this lost faith, probably due to the evangelization of Pope John Paul II. You are enthusiastic, refreshing, and somewhat traditional, and you may be considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. You reject relativism and the decline in society that you see among your peers. You are seen as being good for the Church.

A possible problem is that you may have a too narrow a view of orthodoxy, and anyway, you are still a youth and not yet mature in your faith.

http://saint-louis.blogspot.com - Rome of the West

New Catholic

90%

Traditional Catholic

76%

Neo-Conservative Catholic

57%

Radical Catholic

31%

Evangelical Catholic

14%

Liberal Catholic

7%

Lukewarm Catholic

0%

What is your style of American Catholicism?
created with QuizFarm.com

To the US

From Reuters:
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Saturday appointed the Vatican's former ambassador to Israel and the Palestinian territories to be its ambassador in the United States.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi will replace Gabriel Montalvo who has retired as Apostolic Nuncio, the Vatican's title for an ambassador, the Vatican said in a statement.

Since sex abuse scandals in 2002 involving U.S. clergy, one of the key jobs of the ambassador to the United States has been to keep track of reforms implemented by the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.

Friday, December 16, 2005

News round-up: dialogue and a sales tax

As CNS reports, on the 15th, a committee chaired by Cardinal Kasper and a representative of the Patriarch of Constantinople met to prepare for the first meeting of the International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

The last meeting of the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue was held in 2000 to discuss the role and theological implications of the agreements that led to the formation of the Eastern Catholic churches. That meeting ended without any conclusions or decisions agreeable to Orthodox and Catholics.

Fifteen autonomous Orthodox churches, meeting at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey, agreed in September that the dialogue should be restarted.

Encroachment on Orthodox territory by the Catholic Church is a long-running sticking point (cf. the Russian patriarch's almost-militant hostility) along with Roman primacy. However, the more they talk, the more they can figure each other out and work on some kind of joint statement with the needed nuance so that each side can keep the traditions its held for millennia while still agreeing.
-----

Ireland Online reports that the European Union is asking Spain to begin charging the Catholic Church in Spain sales tax.

Spain says a 1979 agreement with the Vatican obliges it to give the church an exemption from value added tax for the goods it buys.

But the EU’s executive Commission said EU rules do not allow such a tax break, threatening to take Spain to court unless it took action within two months.

However, the EU said Spain could charge the sales tax and then compensate the church for some or all of the tax that it has to pay to the tax authorities.

It costs money to collect a tax and it costs money to account for and return tax money. So basically the EU's suggestion means that Spain gets to lose money rather than simply not bothering with the tax in the first place.

Of course, Spain could go to court, but the socialists in power probably aren't all that interested in battling on behalf of the agreement with the Holy See. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Spain just started charging the Church and keeping the money.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An update on Sioux City

Having corresponded with the very helpful director of communications for the diocese, I've learned the following:

Thursday, January 19th
Vespers Service
Cathedral of the Epiphany - Sioux City
7:00 P.M. - Open to the public

Friday, January 20th
Ordination
Church of the Nativity 0 Sioux City
2:00 P.M. - By Invitation Only

Seats are very limited given the crowd expected from the Denver archdiocese. A webcast is hoped for and if the Sioux City television stations do as they did last time, the ordination will be broadcast live.

Archbishop Hanus will be the main celebrant. Con-celebrants will be Archbishop Chaput of Denver and Bishop Tobin of Providence, RI, who is a classmate of Bishop-elect Nickless.

I'm hoping to be in Sioux City for the Vespers Service. We'll see how January turns out.

New guy in San Francisco

Rocco of course breaks the big appointments with background on the bishop-elect and commentary on Archbishop Levada's place as bishop-maker in his place as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In an earlier post, Rocco tells readers why it is bishop-elect and not bishop-designate and also includes etiquette for the ordination and installation of new bishops.

A rather simple explanation

The entire thing is very well written, but the final two paragraphs stand out as they talk about an issue that has been largely ignored in the coverage I've seen.

The more important reason concerns priestly identity. Priests serve as icons of Christ and pastors to their flocks. It's not for nothing that an old adage teaches, "priests and bishops take a thousand of their flock with them to heaven or hell." For far too long, priestly formation has been influenced by the prevailing cultural zeitgeist, which these days is reflective of self-assertion and narcissism in all matters, sexuality included.

In the wake of the church's latest instruction, many self-identified "gay priests" took to the airwaves to denounce it. Suffice it to say that a man who feels compelled to do such a thing on national television is putting the zeitgeist, not Christ, at the center of his identity. That is what the instruction sought to correct.

Read the complete article Vatican instruction on gays not new from The Enquirer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Who gets to publish what?

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Companies that have held the rights to publish the written works of the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger met at the Vatican to discuss the limits and obligations of those rights.

The Dec. 13-16 meeting was called to discuss "common editorial policies to protect the thought of Joseph Ratzinger," said Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, whose Ignatius Press holds the English-language rights to works written by Pope Benedict XVI prior to his election.

The meeting, sponsored by the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, included a daylong discussion of legal issues with the publishers, most of which are based in Germany and Italy.

Read the complete article Companies holding publishing rights of pope's works meet at Vatican from Catholic News Service.

World Peace Day message

The complete text of pope Joseph Ratzinger’s message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, to be celebrated January 1

Read the complete article “In Truth, Peace” – The First Lesson of Benedict XVI on Peace, War, and Terrorism from www.chiesa.

The 'article' is simply the text of the Holy Father's message that will be delivered on New Year's Day. It is dated December 8th. In skimming through it, there's nothing extraordinary. The condemnation of terrorism is quite forceful. Give it a read and consider it in the context of Magister's previous piece from the other day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Another anniversary

On this date in the Year of Our Lord 1545, His Holiness Pope Paul III convened an ecumenical council in the city of Trent on response to the effects of the Reformation.

A land of trees between two lakes

- Appointed Fr. Alexander King Sample of the clergy of Marquette, U.S.A., diocesan chancellor, as bishop of the same diocese (area 42,152, population 317,616, Catholics 68,360, priests 100, permanent deacons 28, religious 70). The bishop-elect was born in Kalispell, U.S.A. in 1960 and ordained as a priest in 1990. He succeeds Bishop James Henry Garland, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

The snippet is from the Vatican Information Service.

Father Sample, aside from being the diocesan chancellor, is also the head of the official effort for the canonization of Marquette's first bishop, Frederic Baraga. Here are his comments on Bishop Baraga, found here:

"He was way ahead of his time in respecting the language and culture of the Indian people," said Fr. Alex Sample, a diocesan priest, who is overseeing the cause, reported the Detroit Free Press.

Fr. Sample says prayers to Bishop Baraga recently helped a woman deliver a perfectly healthy baby, who was expected to have all sorts of medical problems and likely die. The Vatican has already approved as historically accurate a thick description of Baraga's missionary work in Michigan.

More of Father Sample's words on the subject can be found here.

Having been to the upper peninsula of Michigan several times for summer vacations, I can attest that it is beautiful country. In certain parts up toward Copper Harbor, the trees line the edge and overhang the road, creating green leafy tunnel. Bounded on the north by Lake Superior and on the south by Lake Michigan, the UP is somewhat isolated and enchanting in its isolation.

More information on the diocese
Diocese of Marquette - website

UP Catholic - newspaper

1st image: UP Catholic | 2nd image: Catholic Herald (Superior, WI)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Geopolitics explained

Magister sounds off with an in-depth analysis of the Holy See's geopolitical goals (in all their myriad forms).

What follows is an analysis of the Church’s international politics – its highlights, its shadows, its confusion – as it appears at the beginning of Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

The Church has an undeniable originality as an historical entity. It is simultaneously an earthly city and a heavenly city. But as an earthly city, it belongs to the same order that governs other states. And so it can be analyzed within this order, according to its greater or lesser proximity to the dominant lines of international politics in the last decades: realism, isolationism, internationalism, neoconservatism, etcetera.

From this intro, Magister runs down the Holy See's position in world politics from Roman times up to the present and then runs through those four theories of international relations. It's long and detailed and I suggest reading through it, though it is rather technical in places.

In the end, Magister sums up with the following:

In short, in the Vatican’s vision of geopolitics, peace and war are not necessarily incompatible. In addition to peace, war can also have its just reasons. The final confirmation of this vision came a few months ago. In September of 2005, at the United Nations, nuncio Celestino Migliore presented, in the name of the Holy See, a proposal aimed at linking war and peace. And this is how he explained it:

“The wars of the twentieth century demonstrated how politics for the cessation of war and postwar operational planning are essential for reestablishing justice and peace, and for providing protection. In the past, great attention was rightly paid to the ‘ius ad bellum’, the conditions necessary for recourse to force, and to the ‘ius in bello’, the legal parameters of ethical behavior in war. The moment has come to focus upon and develop a third dimension of the jurisprudence connected to war, the ‘ius post bellum’, or how to arrive rapidly and effectively at a just and lasting peace, which is the only objective admissible for the use of force.”

Read the complete article Between Venus and Mars, the Church of Rome Chooses Both from www.chiesa.

How does one win the peace? That is a question that has dogged international relations for centuries. The problem though is that peace is usually something that has to occur organically. In places such as Kosovo and Iraq, building an artifical peace in the context of decades of autocracy and current anarchy is extremely difficult. Europe in general has known peace now for only sixty years and it took over a millennium for that situation to work itself to this point. More recently, the United States became a successful federal union basically because the individual states had been practicing democracy and living under the rule of law for a couple of centuries before the break with Britain.

The needed benchmarks to be reached in winning the peace are not difficult to conceptualize. Rather, it's the follow-through in meeting those benchmarks that is extremely difficult. State-building as the US government can truthfully say is expensive in both lives and money.

I'll take it under advisement

(AGI) - Vatican City, Dec. 12 - "Thank you, I will think about it," said Pope Benedict XVI in a tireless response to advice put forth by the Curia of Cardinals in talks which began following the start of his pontificate. However, the new Pope makes his decisions on his own and in his own time. According to the French Catholic Agency, "The Media", "this behaviour in fact destabilizes members of the Curia." [...] "The Media" article, entitled, "The Style of Benedict XVI", described the nominees [Levada, et. al.] as being "outsiders, and made reference to rumours that have been circulating since the beginning of his pontificate regarding his intentions of reforming the Roman Curia according to simplifying criteria advised to him during meetings of the General Congregations before the Conclave, by Cardinal Attilio Nicora, President of Apsa, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic Sea. According to indiscretions revealed by the Catholic article, Cardinal Nicora today heads a Commission that includes members of the Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.(AGI).

The article is from AGI Online.

It's unclear... Is Cardinal Nicora the head of a commission to 'reinvent' the Curia (like Al Gore)?

Is Limbo in fact just a 'theory'?

Father Brian Harrison doesn't think that Limbo can be so easily cast aside with comments that it is just a 'theoretical construct', one possible solution to a sticky question that is not necessarily the right one.

Hence, I feel it important to stand by, and indeed, reinforce, the position I expressed earlier, to the effect that this potential new 'development' of doctrine is a matter of serious concern. I argued, first: that it would clearly be impossible for the Pope to make an infallible (ex cathedra) definition contradicting the Church's bimillennial tradition that (at least after the proclamation of the Gospel, and apart from a rare 'baptism of blood' — being slain, like the Holy Innocents, out of hatred of Christ) such infants are eternally excluded from the beatific vision; and secondly, that in view of this impossibility of our reaching any certainty of their eternal salvation, any (non-infallible) magisterial document raising further hopes to that effect would be inopportune and irresponsible. For such a document would inevitably accentuate the already-existing tendency for Catholic parents to be lax and negligent about having their children baptized promptly after birth, and would therefore run the risk of being partially, but gravely, responsible for barring Heaven to countless souls, in the event that Limbo does turn out to exist after all.

Read the complete article Could Limbo Be 'Abolished'? from Spero News.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Job description and benefits you'll never see in the want ads

Obviously, the position has been filled. Benedict XVI has been the leader of the Roman Catholic Church for almost eight months now, but you still might want to file away a copy of "How to Be Pope" (Chronicle Books, $10.95, 127 pages) for, as they say, "future reference."

Piers Marchant's collection of truly useful tips, subtitled "What to Do and Where to Go Once You're in the Vatican," is a laugh and a half, a self-help guide whose humor lies in its straightforward and detail-driven approach.

For most readers, of course, the possibility of being elected pope is purely a hypothetical proposition, but who can resist the imaginary trip to Rome? Read on for a sample of news you could use if you ever woke up and found yourself bishop of Rome, vicar of Christ or pontifex maximus.
[...]

Read the complete article This is your life . . . as the pope from The Oregonian.

As Nancy Haught's review and summary of the book explains, Marchant's book tells you everything you'll need to know, from identifying prelates by their clothing (cardinals wear red) to who does your washing (you get to pick some nuns for housekeepers).

A look at the Italian contest

The Financial Times takes a look at what issues are taking center stage in the run-up to the Italian elections next April.

From abortion and same-sex unions to tax breaks for the Roman Catholic Church, Italy's general election next April is being influenced by religious issues in a fashion without parallel since the 1970s.
[...]

Read the complete article Religious issues colour Italian election build-up.

After the boycott of the referendum on IVF this last summer, it was stated that Italy's abortion law from 1978 was not going to be under any attack. But now it looks as if that statement is not going to be worth much.

Last week Pier Ferdinando Casini, a centre-right leader who is speaker of parliament's lower house, agreed to set up a legislative inquiry into how the 1978 law is applied at Italy's 2,000 abortion clinics.

Francesco Storace, health minister and, like Italy's churchmen, an opponent of abortion, said women going to the clinics should know "the law isn't just about the right to abort, it's also about the right not to abort".

The opposition sees the matter differently. "Only months before a general election, the centre-right suddenly feels a need to investigate the application of the abortion law. This is aimed not at the hearts and consciences of Catholics but simply at their votes," said Giovanna Melandri, a centre-left former minister.

Pro-life advocates in the United States are always trying to push the envelope in regulating abortion to the point where clinics are pushed out of business while not calling for an outright ban (as a reversal of Roe v. Wade would be needed first). It looks as if Italy's lawmakers may be starting down that path as well in while not revisiting the 1978 law, they're going to go over the nitty-gritty in how it is applied.

The opposition is not free from the temptation to woo Catholic voters. To boost Italy's low birth rate, the Catholic-inclined Margherita party, the second biggest on the centre-left, is proposing to pay €250 a month - from the sixth month of pregnancy until birth - to housewives, unemployed women and others whose total household income is below €40,000. As it happens, abortions in Italy appear to be on the decline. In a nation of 58m people, there were about 235,000 in 1982 but only 136,000 last year.

I just hope that if such a program is created, they add safeguards to ensure that they don't breed an entitlement class of women who have children simply to live off the government.

A reader's comments

December 9, 2005

JAMES CARROLL feels wronged by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church (''Basilica of Denial," op ed, Dec. 5). Like many Catholics, I, too, have been overwhelmed by the brutal fact that many bishops felt that protecting themselves and predator priests was more important than protecting children. Yet I disagree with Carroll's assessment that the Vatican's instruction barring certain men with homosexual tendencies from the priesthood indicates that the church ''has no real interest in reckoning with the priest abuse catastrophe."

The truth is that this document was produced to address the problem of homosexuality in seminaries and has been 10 years in the making. The document was never intended to be a ''priest abuse problem" solution. By highlighting the sins of so many Catholics throughout the ages, Carroll does nothing more than stamp his feet at a situation he cannot change.

Apparently Carroll's answer to the problem includes ordaining women and repealing the church's teaching on the meaning of sex. His problem is not with the church but with the author of the teachings with which he finds himself at odds. Carroll's problem is with Jesus Christ.

MICHAEL COLLINS, Quincy

The letter is from The Boston Globe. It's nice to see that despite all that has gone on up in Boston with the Sex Abuse Crisis and the school-closing debacle, Catholics still take the time to strongly and lucidly defend their faith.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

That fur thing looks warm

If you've been over to Rocco's, you'll have seen the pictures of some arcane papal garment. It was lined with fur along the collar and looked rather cozy. Here today, it is snowing and that would have been quite nice. Unfortunately, I'm not Supreme Pontiff, so I made due with my more mundane overcoat.

Mass at 12:10 went well. The cantor brought out a guitar, but didn't use it. I decided to go today rather than last night at 5:10 or tonight at 7:00.


It's called a mozzetta

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Michael Burke, writing for The Jamaica Observer, writes in his column on the Immaculate Conception.

Burke discusses the origins of the feast and how it has no mention in the Bible. However, he briefly explains quite well the how and the why behind Catholic tradition.

This doctrine is not found in any definitive way in the scriptures, which is not a significant factor to Roman Catholics who believe that divine revelation is both in scripture and sacred oral tradition. The Bible did not come before the church but the Church came before the Bible. Indeed, it was the church that put the Bible together by putting all of its sacred books into one volume. The Bible itself points to sacred oral tradition.

At the end of the gospel of John, the writer says that if everything that Jes us did was to have been recorded, all the books in the world could not contain it. And St Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians Chapter 2 verse 15 states, "Stand firm brethren and safeguard all traditions whether written or by word of mouth."

Just before giving the above explanation, Burke gives this example of Divine approval of the doctrine behind the feast:

The reported apparitions of Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes in France in 1858 and the subsequent miraculous healings seem to suggest that Almighty God concurs with the doctrine. Bernadette, an illiterate shepherd girl, reported visions of a lady who identified herself as the Immaculate Conception. The lady told her about a stream that would flow and heal people. As many as 705 doctors, many of whom were not Roman Catholic, appointed to investigate the claims, reported that the healings were beyond medical comprehension.

After summarizing the Second Vatican Council, Burke concludes with why Catholics hold up the Virgin Mary and pay so much attention to her.

No wonder then, that the council ended on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The church holds up the Blessed Virgin Mary as the principal role model for all of mankind to follow. Mary the queen of peace and the first Christian, is a symbol of the unity that her son Jesus Christ taught and instituted in the Eucharist at the feast of the Passover on the night before he was crucified. The Blessed Virgin Mary is testimony that we can live a life in following the teachings of Jesus Christ. And Mary's greatness was in saying yes to the Lord.

The entire column deserves reading in its entirety. Go check it out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Weeping statue won't face scrutiny

A statue of the Virgin Mary that appears to be weeping blood is drawing hundreds of people to a small Catholic church in California.

The red streak on the face of the statue at the Vietnamese Catholic Martyrs Church outside Sacramento first appeared Nov. 9. After a priest wiped it off, it reappeared on Nov. 20, the Sacramento Bee said.

Many experts say the red stain is either a hoax or a naturally occurring effect. But the faithful still make their way to the church, carrying lighted candles after dark.

People are anxious to see something tangible, writer Joe Nickell told the Bee. Rather than go to church and maybe hear a sermon, you could just go be near a miracle.

The Sacramento diocese does not plan to investigate the statue.

The article 'Weeping' madonna draws crowds to church is from webindia123.com. The bolding is of course mine.

So there won't be an investigation. That of course is tacit approval of the statue, since the diocese is showing no interest in discrediting it if it is in fact a hoax.

Farm subsidies have to go

FARMERS have rejected a call by the Catholic Church in Ireland to eliminate “all trade distorting farm subsidies” dismissing the suggestion as naïve and preposterous.

The Irish Bishops Conference Commission for Justice and Social Affairs said that while accepting the validity of direct income supports for farmers that are not related to current production levels or prices, it must be recognised that subsidies in general, and in particular export credits, encourage over-production and dumping. It stated that both of these have the effect of depressing the price of primary products and impoverishing subsistence farmers in the least developed countries.
[...]

Read the complete article Farmers dismiss Church call to eliminate subsidies from Irish Examiner.com.

The Church is being naive...

The farmers of Europe are cruel, heartless people who oppress Third World farmers by depressing crop prices...

I would personally side with the Church on this matter. While in Europe, subsidies tend to protect farmers who rule over their little plots of land that are inefficient and should have been consolidated years ago, in the US they tend to protect multi-nationals like ADM while the little family farmers get pushed out. If subsidies were to go, both would probably be evened out by market forces.

Recant! Return to chant!

Okay, so the title wasn't that clever. Magister does his usual intro and presentation of a substantive essay by an outsider. Today we have Valentino Miserachs Grau, president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, who expounded on the banality of present-day liturgical music and the merits of a return to Gregorian Chant.

Latin and Gregorian chant, which are deeply linked to the biblical, patristic, and liturgical sources, are part of that “lex orandi” which has been forged over a span of almost twenty centuries. Why should such an amputation take place, and so lightheartedly? It is like cutting off roots – now that there is so much talk of roots.

The obscuring of an entire tradition of prayer formed over two millennia has led to conditions favorable to a heterogeneous and anarchic proliferation of new musical products which, in the majority of cases, have not been able to root themselves in the essential tradition of the Church, bringing about not only a general impoverishment, but also damage that would be difficult to repair, assuming the desire to remedy it were present.
[...]

We have undervalued the Christian people’s ability to learn; we have almost forced them to forget the Gregorian melodies that they knew, instead of expanding and deepening their knowledge, including through proper instruction on the meaning of the texts. And instead, we have stuffed them full of banalities.
[...]

What a serious mistake! I would go so far as to say that without Gregorian chant, the Church is mutilated, and that there cannot be Church music without Gregorian chant.
[...]

But unfortunately, after us the curtain fell. Why this resistance to restoring, either completely or partially depending on circumstances, the Mass in Gregorian chant and Latin? Are the generations of today, perhaps, more ignorant than those of the past?

The new missal proposes the Latin texts of the ordinary in addition to the modern language version. The Church wants this. Why should we lack the courage of conversion?

Gregorian chant must not remain in the preserve of academia, or the concert hall, or recordings; it must not be mummified like a museum exhibit, but must return as living song, sung also by the assembly, which will find that it satisfies their most profound spiritual tensions, and will feel itself to be truly the people of God.

It’s time to break through the inertia, and the shining example must come from the cathedral churches, the major churches, the monasteries, the convents, the seminaries, and the houses of religious formation. And so the humble parishes, too, will end up being “contaminated” by the supreme beauty of the chant of the Church.

And the persuasive power of Gregorian chant will reverberate, and will consolidate the people in the true sense of Catholicism.
[...]

Read the complete article Gregorian Chant Is Returning from Exile. Maybe from www.chiesa.

It makes for convincing reading, though the follow-through at the local level would be interesting to see. Aside from massive liturgical reform as called for by some, one wonders if it would simply be enough for Mass to include Latin and chanting with all the elements: incense, holy water, etc. The Tridentine Mass is supposed to be wonderful, but what percentage of ordinary Catholics have actually seen what Novus Ordo could be if some effort were put into it?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Technical difficulties

Sorry about the quintuple posting. Blogger wasn't responding, so I just kept hitting the 'Post' button until something happened.

If you commented on any of the deleted posts, sorry about that too.

On the sainthood issue

A long-time reader sent me the following email, which I quote with permission.

To me the important reason to put the brakes on this would-be express to canonization is the need to restore the pre-JP II rules for canonization...he lowered the bar and made sainthood cheap,and letting him take advantage of his mistakes rather than be penalized for them would compound his blunder.

Bring back the extra miracle requirements and the Advocatus Diaboli!

I pretty much agree with it. Benedict XVI has begun the process by no longer presiding over beatification Masses, but more substantive revision of the process would be a good thing. It's not like true saints need the instant recognition in order to intercede for us down here on earth.

Secular culture is often criticized as the culture of instant gratification. Shouldn't the Church remind us of the virtue that the best things come to those who wait?

Anyone else care to sound off?

L'Osservatore Beijingo

By HUBERTUS HOFFMANN
UPI Outside View Commentator

MUNICH, Germany, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- There are two cities on the globe in which L'Osservatore Romano -- the official newspaper of the Vatican -- is carefully studied word-for-word and whose reports and commentaries are paid special attention to: the Holy City in Rome and Beijing in the State Administration of Religious Affairs.

The latter is a kind of "Office of the Inquisition" of the Communist Party that ensures that for the People's Republic there is only one God in China: the Communist Party itself. The counterpart in Rome, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was for years the Catholic "Inquisitor," guardian of the pure teachings of the Pope. Currently, at the very top of Benedict XVI's wish list is the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Beijing. Who will win: the Pope or Beijing?
[...]

Read the complete article Outside View: The Pope and China from UPI.

The article is an interesting look at what would be gained by improving relations with the People's Republic of China.

With its small flock of committed Chinese Catholics, Rome would like to make a positive contribution to developments in China. This is exactly what has transpired for some time now in the second important major power in Asia -- India -- which with one billion people, is of an almost equal size. There, the 17 million Catholics have taken on a series of influential government positions: George Fernandes from the former Portuguese colony Goa is the long-standing leader of the Socialist Party and the Rail Workers' Union, father of the Indian atomic bomb and was Defense Minister until 2001.

The future of the Catholic Church lies in a well-educated, young, committed and influential elite in Asia. The Catholics have become catalysts among intellectuals in a relation far beyond their actual number.

The idea that Catholics could follow the same path as they have in India is an interesting one. If the PRC were a functioning democracy, then I would agree with it wholeheartedly. India has been a functioning republic since its independence in 1947. The People's Republic has not followed the example of its southern neighbor.

Hoffmann concludes with the following:

n the last 54 years, the Catholic Church could neither be put on Mao's leash nor cut off from the Vatican. It has not become extinct, but has rejuvenated itself.

The Chinese who "think around the corner," as Fritz Kraemer put it, could even see long-term advantages in the warming of relations.

Unlike the predominantly Catholic Poland of the revolutionary with his cross and miter by the name of John Paul II, Catholics present no threat to the claim to power of communists in Beijing -- their numbers are simply too small.

Even in the strictly communist and primarily Catholic nation of Cuba, the Vatican and dictator Fidel Castro have aligned in the last few years without damage to the powers of state. Alone among communist countries, Castro even ordered a national mourning for John Paul II, lasting several days.

The problem with such a conclusion that Catholics are just too small a portion of the population to cause any trouble if relations are improved is that once you start giving religious freedom to the Catholics, what about Falun Gong? The Tibetans? The mass of Protestant missionaries? Is China willing to open Pandora's Box? I just don't think so.

Calls for sainthood premature?

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Dissident theologians opposed to the beatification of Pope John Paul have issued an appeal urging Catholics critical of the late pope to tell the Vatican if they also think he should not be made a saint.

The 11 Catholic theologians said Church officials who are reviewing John Paul's life and pontificate should also consider the "negative evaluation" liberal critics have of the nearly 27-year-old papacy that ended when John Paul died in April.

The Rome diocese has opened a beatification cause for the Pope. Church officials have asked all Catholics to come forward with personal experiences or evidence of possible miracles that could support a reputation for holiness.

In their appeal, which received wide play in major Italian newspapers on Tuesday, the theologians from Italy, Spain, Austria and Latin America said those judging the case should also take into account "negative" aspects of John Paul's papacy.
[...]

"We invite such persons (critical of the late pope) to overcome their shyness and timidity and formally express, with gospel freedom, facts which according to their consciences and convictions should be an obstacle to beatification," they wrote.
[...]

Read the complete article Don't make John Paul saint - dissident theologians from Reuters.

The theologians' appeal includes examples of 'conservative positions' on Church teaching, mishandling of the sex abuse crisis and the murky dealings of the Vatican Bank. Also noted is the suppression of liberation theology.

I wonder how one judges a Pope's administrative doings when judging the man for canonization. Being the head of a Church that spans continents and counts over a billion souls as baptized members, should one judge along with the Pope the entire Church that he governed when considering whether he is a saint or not?

John Paul II was obviously a man of holy character and if the reports are true, his intercessions in Heaven are already being heard and resulting in miracles. Stopping the canonization of the late Holy Father on the grounds listed by the theologians just isn't going to happen.

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's just a coincidence

Also in last night's movie, the Pope was given the 'Ferrari of skis' by a woman who was all smiles as the Pope thanked her and patted her cheek.

(ANSA) - Vatican City, December 5 - Pope Benedict XVI on Monday received a handsome check from the auction of a Ferrari sports car donated to his predecessor, John Paul II .

The 950,000-euro check was handed over during a private audience with Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, who had led the Ferrari delegation to its January 17 audience with Benedict's predecessor .

After this meeting Ferrari announced it would donate to the pope a special edition if its top line model the 'Enzo', basically a street version of its Formula 1 racecar .

Ferrari explained that the car would be auctioned off to raise money for the victims of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia last December 26 .

The car was the 400th 'Enzo' Ferrari made and would normally have had a starting list price of 640,000 euros .

Montezemolo also gave Benedict a high-tech Formula 1 steering wheel which had been used and autographed by Ferrari's seven-time world champion driver Michael Schumacher, who like the pope is German .

"It's very complicated to use, Your Holiness," Montezemolo told the pope, to which he replied: "It's very complex guiding the Church, too" .
[...]

Read the rest of the article at ANSA.it. The bolding is my own.

It is a reply like the one Benedict gave the Ferrari exec above that you just can't write for a movie.

Let's review

Pope John Paul II aired last night on CBS.

In the first part that was shown last night, it started with JP being shot by the Turkish guy in St. Peter's Square in 1981. The trauma of the attack led to a series of brief flashbacks that ended with the movie seguing into 1939 with young Karol (played by Cary Elwes, who either fattened up a bit for the role or has let himself go now that he's older) as a university student and actor with a girlfriend.

Young Karol spent most of the early part of the movie watching his friends being dragged off by the Nazis and asking the Bishop for help in figuring out how to resist. One poignant scene was where Karol at the rock-splitting worksite was telling the Polish laborers about the evils of communism over lunch.

Later, as Archbishop of Krakow, Karol stood up to the Communist Stormtroopers who were about to overrun his outdoor Mass. As the troopers were converted and pulled off their helmets to take part in the Mass, a woman behind Karol noted something along the lines of how Karol is the light God has sent to bring Poland out of the darkness. Heady words!

I think Cary Elwes is a very good actor, but frankly, the first part was bad, with cheesy dialogue and Karol all too obviously finding his way while surrounded by his Jewish friend, the saintly Bishop who foiled the Nazis and later the Communists, etc.

Not that I want to see Jon Voight be as bad, but I would be disappointed if he gets more to work with than Cary.

Pope John Paul II: two stars.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sharon is the Christian's best friend

At the bottom of an Asia News piece on Perez leaving Labor for Sharon's new center-right party in Israel are two interesting paragraphs on the place of Christian Israelis in the general electorate.

All of this is of little direct significance to Israel's tiny Christian community. The great majority of Israel's Christian citizens belong to the Arab national minority, and their overriding concern - civil rights and equality - is shared with the much more numerous Muslim Arab citizens There has never been a "Christian vote", much less a "Catholic vote" in Israel. There is also no agreement where precisely the "Christian interest" lies. In principle, the Christian interest would appear to be in having as secularist and as left-wing a government as possible, since in Israel it is the secularist left wing that is normally most committed to civil rights and religious freedom.

Nonetheless, in concrete political terms, Israel has never had a Prime Minister more attentive to the Catholic Church than Ariel Sharon. It was the last Labour Party government (of Ehud Barak) that had decided to build a mosque for Islamist extremists right in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and it was Ariel Sharon who later cancelled this decision.

Read the complete article The new alliance Peres- Sharon , a “post-modern tragedy” from AsiaNews.it.

A tangent
It's little snippets like this that lead me back to pondering questions I've raised before regarding the State of Israel. Is it 'the Jewish State' or 'the beacon of liberty and secularism' in a Middle East of Muslim states.

If you all recall the tension over the removal of the previous Patriarch of Jerusalem and the election of his successor over the illicit transfer of land from the Patriarchate to Israeli developers, also consider the response in Israel to the trade between the Holy See and Israel, the Toledo ex-synagogue for the house with the Upper Room in Jerusalem. Basically, it comes down to the issue of property rights. In a 'Jewish State', can any land be held by non-Jews and not come under scrutiny as some kind of bid to deprive the Jews of their land? If Israel retains ultimate sovereignty over its land, is it doubly required that every single square inch of Israeli territory has to be privately owned by Jews as well?