Friday, September 30, 2005

From the NCRchive

From September 14th, 2001:

One unmistakable sign that a papacy is winding down comes when the figures that symbolize its most lacerating debates leave the stage. The next few months are likely to witness the exits of two such prelates: Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the archbishop of Milan, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


In recent months Ratzinger, who seems increasingly fatigued, has distanced himself from day-to-day operations. He planned to allow his lieutenants to handle a meeting with Jesuit theologian Fr. Jacques Dupuis in September 2000, for example, and had to be persuaded that he could not delegate such a sensitive responsibility.


Ratzinger and Martini may or may not have written the last chapters in their extraordinary careers. There are camps in the church that would like to see both men as the next pope, and given that John XXIII was just shy of 77 when he was elected in 1958, there is still time.

Read it all here.

An online quiz

From The City of God:

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!

Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Level | Score
Purgatory | Very High
Level 1 - Limbo | High
Level 2 | Low
Level 3 | Low
Level 4 | Very Low
Level 5 | Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis | Very Low
Level 7 | Low
Level 8- the Malebolge | Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus | Very Low

Level descriptions:
Take the test:

Into the Synod

The Word From Rome is updated and Allen covers the Synod, (cue dramatic music) the Homosexual Document and (cue happy music) the Meeting Between Kung and his old buddy/nemesis/buddy Joseph Ratzinger.

Allen as usual covers a lot of ground, so I won't quote anything directly. But one point on the Synod is in order.

Do I think a 'universal indult' will be granted?
No. Let's look back. Aside from the usual chatter on the subject, the issue of the universal indult really only came up due to the meeting with Fellay. Despite the relative positive outcome of the meeting itself, Fellay's words in the aftermath illustrated that a universal indult wasn't the panacea that would end the schism. Yet talk of the universal indult has left the context of the SSPX and continues on its own.

There may be a compromise of some kind to provide the Tridentine Mass on a permanent basis, but the universal indult is not going to happen.

* * *

Aside from that, most of the other questions outlined by Mr. Allen are pretty much 'executive' rather than 'legislative' questions. We'll see how it goes as the Year of the Eucharist reaches its conclusion.

Swiss Guards are doing better than the US Army

CHEAP holidays in Rome and a flashy website are just two of the weapons in the armoury of the 500-year-old Vatican Swiss Guard to lure recruits. And it seems to be working.

Television pictures of the guards in their colourful uniforms and bearing medieval weapons were beamed across the world after the death of Pope John Paul II, giving the Vatican's gatekeepers a rare place on the world's front pages.

The publicity has been so successful that they are now turning candidates away.

Read the complete article Vatican's Swiss Guard on a roll from The Age.

These guys are trained in the use of halberds along with more modern weapons. They learn hand to hand combat. I would not want to mess with them. It's nice that Swiss males are joining up in great numbers. Although, I have to say, if the trend from a few years ago had continued, the Holy See might have given Catholic males from the rest of the world a shot at serving the Holy Father.

But I don't begrudge the Swiss the privilege. They've done such a great job of it over the centuries, they've earned it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

On this date in history

In 1978, Pope John Paul I was found dead in his Vatican apartment just over a month after becoming head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Read the other factoids here.

Was it murder? Was it a broken heart over his treatment by the Curia? Was it simply poor health? Only God knows. However he died, as ANSA reports, his canonization process is well underway.

From the daily email


VATICAN CITY, SEP 29, 2005 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls released the following declaration to journalists today, concerning this morning's meeting of the Holy Father with Boris Tadic, president of the Republic of Serbia:

"In the course of the cordial meeting which lasted 25 minutes, President Tadic illustrated to the Pope the current situation in the Republic of Serbia. Talks concentrated particularly on the need to teach values to young people, especially in the scholastic field.

"President Tadic also invited the Holy Father to visit the Republic of Serbia. In thanking him for his invitation, Benedict XVI expressed the hope that such a visit may take place in the future."


- The Archived press release for today

According to Wikipedia's List of John Paul II's travels, the Holy Father never made it to Serbia. If Benedict does indeed go, it will be a first.

Of course, now that he is has been invited, it is traditional to elicit an invitation from the local Christian authorities, namely the 91 year-old Pavle, Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovac and Serbian Patriarch. Judging by what Wikipedia has to say about him, I doubt Pavle would be against such a visit, unlike his brethren in Russia.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Survey says?!

No, this blog is not a homage to Family Feud. But at National Catholic Reporter, there is a very interesting look at a survey conducted on 'religious literacy' and its impact on dissent.

The Catholic hierarchy in the United States is very concerned about religious illiteracy and its link to dissent from church teachings. This concern contains two important assumptions: that religious illiteracy is higher among younger Catholics than among older ones, and that religious illiteracy fosters disagreement with church teachings. But, is there any empirical basis for these assumptions? Is religious illiteracy really more widespread among younger Catholics than it is among older ones? Is there really a link between illiteracy and disagreement with church teachings? We explored these questions using a combination of previous research and results from our 2005 survey. The results raise serious doubts about both assumptions.

Read the complete article: Challenging assumptions about young Catholics.

There is a lot of technical jargon and statistics analysis. I recommend reading through all of it. The conclusion, however, sums up nicely.

First, religious illiteracy appears to be rather widespread. If half of Catholics do not feel they can explain their faith to others, we are inclined to agree with the bishops that religious illiteracy really is a problem in today’s church. The question is how much priority to give to illiteracy compared to other problems facing the church. Bishops have clearly made it a high priority. So far at least, lay people have not. A 2003 national survey shows that lay people give much higher priority to dealing with the problem of sexual abuse and doing something about the priest shortage than to the problem of religious illiteracy.

Note the difference in priorities between the bishops and laity. In the instance of the sex abuse problem, solving religious illiteracy is not going to end the problem. But the priest shortage is something that could be directly affected by a fuller understanding of the faith and the priesthood.

Second, religious illiteracy does not appear to be any more widespread among today’s young adults than among other Catholics. If anything, it is more pronounced among pre-Vatican II Catholics than among post-Vatican II Catholics and members of the Millennial generation. One implication of this finding is a recommendation that church leaders view religious illiteracy as an ongoing concern, not as a problem that is peculiar to the current generation of young adults. The church’s efforts to increase religious literacy should be oriented to Catholics of all ages, not just young adults.

This conclusion is at once superficially surprising, but at the same time really not surprising. Young adults of my generation and after as demographers and sociologists keep reminding us are leaving being the selfishness of the baby boomers of the 60s. This generation is embarking on journeys to find meaning, since its parents didn't provide it with any. Only this journey is in the opposite direction of sexual 'liberation', etc.

The third conclusion is pretty self-explanatory, so I won't comment... Personally though, I found the 'surprise' at finding no correlation between illiteracy and dissent to be rather amusing.

Third, there appears to be little or no connection between illiteracy and dissent. This finding has two implications. If the church puts a priority on increasing religious literacy, it should not assume that its efforts in this area will necessarily have the effect of increasing compliance with church teachings. Understanding the faith and agreeing with its tenets seem to be two quite separate processes. Also, if church leaders believe dissent is a problem that needs to be fixed, they should look elsewhere for its root cause, not at illiteracy. In this effort, leaders need to appreciate the fact -- evident in this study and several other studies we have done -- that there is relatively little dissent on issues such as the Resurrection that lay people may not fully understand but consider core teachings of the church. Dissent is greater on issues such as the need for a celibate clergy, which lay people may very well understand but do not consider core teachings. Thus, dissent is not so much a result of a lack of understanding as it is a disagreement with specific teachings that lay people do not believe are central to the faith.

Comments on THE REPORT

In Rocco's latest post, he discusses the meeting Cardinal Rigali had yesterday with his priests. The clergy of Philadelphia were quite hostile. Read the entry for details and then check out this quote at the end after Rocco makes a rather interesting analogy between 'sweeping changes in the Church in the 60s' and the sex abuse scandal:

"You have the choice of staying and obeying, or leaving," Krol said. "Non datur tertium" -- "There is no third choice."

With those words, as practically every other See succumbed to the excesses of the Conciliar wave, John Krol drew his line and beat back the tide in his archdiocese.

Given these recent events and the newfound openness of the priests, is it safe to say that the tide averted for so long is back with a vengeance?

Sorry, but the tide Krol was averting back in 1964 is NOT the same tide that may be sweeping Philadelpha today. Comparing the zealousness of the Conciliar wave to indignation over the response of the archbishop's response to the grand jury report is just...

As the Inquirer quotes, a fourth priest told the cardinal it was "the wrong time to defend the indefensible."

That's not a wave of dissent, that's just plain common sense.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The coming conflagration

Ukraine is far away, but it is a popular topic of this journal. If you've read Papabile, you've probably seen his post on Cardinal Husar's comments on a unified patriarchate in Ukraine. That state is at the forefront of not ecumenism but direct confrontation between the Greek Catholics, two independent Orthodox patriarchates and the Russian Orthodox Church as represented by the Metropolitan of Kiev.

Today we have a piece by Daniil Spassky, who is quite sympathetic to the Russian Orthodox position. He writes on the increasing government interference in religious matters and the growing intrusion of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Instead, the Fanar delegates have had intensive discussions on all this with the schismatics and state officials behind the back of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev. So much so that a bishop from Constantinople even attended a council of the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church among the participants in which were anathemized Filaret Denisenko and Yuschenko’s adviser A.Sagan.

With regard to Constantinople, it is all clear: it cherishes the desire to enter the territory of Ukraine, to consolidate its grip on it and then to increase its presence disregarding the interests of the Ukrainian Church and its faithful. The matter is more complicated with regard to the state’s attitude. The present Ukrainian president nearly vowed in Maidan to prevent the state from interfering in church affairs, but now we see civil servants actively participating in the development and implementation of Constantinople’s project. It means that they either violate the will of the president thus setting him up or have his approval. But hasn’t he broken his word then?

Read the complete article Constantinople and Ukraine: church representations as a new turn in the church crisis from Interfax.

Husar is not a patriarch, but they refer to him that way. Alexei II of Moscow is trying to save the bulk of his church's income and vocations. The other two Orthodox churches are just doing their thing (if I were them, I'd be doing some serious unificaiton talks). And the Patriarch of Constantinople's guys are showing up and stirring the pot for some as-yet-unknown reason.

I'll take a moment and simply note on an academic, not-very-serious note that relativism needs to be fought in Western Europe if for no other reason than it is just so boring compared to places like Ukraine.

Monday, September 26, 2005

For richer, for poorer

In today's Off the Record entry of 'Pointing, guessing, and self-reporting' discusses just how one discriminates between heterosexual candidates and homosexual candidates for the priesthood when homosexual candidates may or may not be forthcoming in revealing their sexual orientation.

Diogenes suggests a change in lifestyle to 'weed out the non-hackers'.

It’s true that a diocesan seminarian isn’t signing up to become a Carthusian, but if he found a life closer to that of a monk than of a playboy, perhaps he’d have a chance to harden into a man of service. And if Spartan conditions were the norm for priests (and dare I add bishops?) perhaps we’d get the sort of men we need to be priests. If seminaries and rectories lacked TV, alcohol, soft furniture, and air conditioning, the kind of man who seeks pleasure in material things would self-select rather than have to self-report.

It comes down to this: you can’t provide someone with virtue, but you can provide him with the material pre-conditions for virtue.

It’s a lot easier to say, “this man has shown he can live a tough life,” than to say, “this man will be able to live a tough life.”

Do we have any readers out there in the clergy? I never realized you guys were living such opulent lives. I admit, I envied Father John's pretty cool sedan back in the day, but aside from that, the priests I've known were really not rolling in the dough.

But then I tend to forget that there are places like St. Louis, New York and Los Angeles and then there is the real world where the majority of us 1 billion Catholics live our lives.

As the visitation begins

This is an interesting article from The Des Moines Register. A lot of it is simply a recap of the visitation's mission and the reaction, accusing it of being a 'witch hunt'. The interesting part of the story is the reaction from parishioners at Pope Pius X in Urbandale:

Catholics interviewed after 11 a.m. Mass at Pope Pius X Catholic Church in Urbandale on Sunday said they approve of the policy change.

"I believe the Catholic Church teachings about homosexuality and the priesthood need to be made clear. I believe that after Vatican II homosexuals exploited loopholes (in church policy), and the fruits of that lax attitude are reflected in the abuses that have come to light," said John O'Connor of Des Moines.

Tanny Armstrong of Urbandale said: "I think it is a good thing if the church excludes homosexuals as candidates for the priesthood. I love homosexuals but I don't love what they stand for. I don't think they should be accepted as candidates for seminary."

Hanna Jones of Des Moines, a lifelong member of Pius X, is conflicted about barring gays from the priesthood.

"I guess it depends if you believe homosexuals choose the lifestyle or are born gay or not. It's kind of like being an alcoholic — is it a sickness or a choice? I'm thankful to God that I don't have to decide."

Read the complete article Vatican to review seminary operations from

Let's face it. While our good friends Fathers Reese and Fessio and others comment on the visitation and prognosticate, we have very little info on what on-the-ground Catholics are thinking about it. The last quote from Hanna Jones is instructive. It would seem though that suburbanites are generally positive on the visitation and do not interpret it as a witch hunt.

While you're thinking that Iowa suburbanites are not exactly representative of the whole, I'll provide a little background. Urbandale is a suburb of Des Moines. It and its fellow western suburbs along with other towns westward into Dallas County are among the fastest growing areas in Iowa and I think the nation (been awhile since I've seen those stats).

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Weekend update

I went to Mass this morning and when I arrived, there was an ambulance and a firetruck double-parked out front. I went in and found my usual spot and watched out of the corner of my eye as paramedics worked on an older gentleman. They had an IV going from the looks of it and then they lifted him up onto the cot and wheeled him out. He appeared to be conscious, so I'm guessing he fainted and was revived immediately after.

Pray that he has an enjoyable stay at Mercy Hospital and is feeling better.

On another note, I 'officially' joined my parish awhile ago and two weeks ago we had a special induction blessing at the end of Mass. Afterwards, fellowship was had downstairs with cinnamon rolls and coffee. Amid other materials provided to us newcomers, there was a very interesting booklet on the statuary of the church. The most interesting discovery was that this statue of a saint dressed as a cardinal was in fact St. Bonaventure. I've been looking for an image online of Bonaventure dressed as a cardinal since then. If any of you know where to find good pictures, let me know.

In case you've missed my fellow bloggers who've covered these stories, the Swiss Guard is celebrating its 500th anniversary, the Pope has a cool new electric cart in which to scoot around the Vatican (Amy has an image) and Rocco continues his comments on the Philadelphia grand jury report and defense of his cardinal-benefactor. These stories and more can be found under the 'Daily Readings' heading on the left.

Happy reading and God bless.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A different image

A reader in the comments of the latest post on the Croatian issue included a link to the picture above, wondering about my comments on Mrs. del Ponte's appearance as 'scary'.

I don't find middle-aged women threatening by any means and Mrs. del Ponte does look fine in the above picture (though I'm not fond of that blonde look at any age).

The management apologizes for any misunderstanding.

Allen's warning

At The Word From Rome, John Allen addresses the homosexuals in seminaries question and publishes comments he made at a university on the global Church. I'd recommend reading both in their entirety because I'm not going to cite specific quotes.

On the seminary question, Allen says little and calls for patience until the actual document is released. He makes an excellent point. In the second part, Allen addresses the global Church and the variety of issues that confront it. He makes the point that the issues facing the American Church are not necessarily those that face the global Church in its entirety.

Taking this concept that the US is not the center of the Roman Catholic universe, one wonders what kind of reception the document on homosexuals in seminaries is getting in other lands around the world. It is going to be a global document, but in our Western pluralist milieu, it seems like a giant cleaver is about to fall and the homosexuals are about to be cut away in one stroke.

But what about Nigeria for instance? Lately, the Nigerians have been dealing with gas price increases due to the end of government subsidies. People are out protesting in the streets. Today we see a militia has taken control of an oil pumping station and shut it down. For a country that without oil would be just another dirt-poor African state (oh wait, I forgot. Due to corruption, it is dirt-poor anyway), this is national news. Is the Nigerian Church sweating a ban of homosexuals in its seminaries? I doubt it.

But why should we care? As Allen so ably points out with nice facts and figures, US Catholics number 67 million. That's high enough to stand at fourth place on the list of countries with the most Catholics. But what about the three that are ahead of us?

Brazil at 144 million, Mexico at 126 million and the Philippines at 70 million are all concerned with their own problems. Brazil has gone through a number of crises, Mexico has its ethnic divisions and the gap between rich and poor and the Philippines has been dealing with a major scandal and constitutional crisis for several months now that has involved the bishops (as the bishops have long been considered the watchdog of government, having toppled two sitting presidents). Do you think Catholics in those three countries are sweating the document? I doubt it.

Allen doesn't point it out directly, but it seems obvious that in joining the two different topics today, he wants us to connect the dots and realize that whatever major implosion of the American clergy we may be imagining is in the works, the majority of the Catholics in the world who will live under the same document probably aren't devoting much attention, if any.

EDIT: The reference I initially made about Brazil was based on my own recollection that I remembered offhand is was not correct. Thanks to BrazCath for the correction.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Reaction in Croatia

I'm just going to quote most of this and run with it from there. By the way, that's Mrs. del Ponte on the right. She's rather scary looking.

Del Ponte’s statement provoked a storm of protests within the Church hierarchy and Anton Suljic, a spokesman for the Croatian Bishops Conference, said Del Ponte’s accusations were absurd. “We know that the Hague prosecutor is frustrated, for whatever reasons, and we could only ascribe her qualifications to such emotional state”, Suljic said.

Reporters of the daily “Slobodna Dalmacija” made a tour of several monasteries and in today’s issue published reactions of monks who hurled insults at Del Ponte, bordering on obscenity. “Gotovina currently can’t come to the phone, because he’s sleeping”, was the flippant reply of Petar Odak, a monk at the monastery on the Adriatic island of Vis.

Father Ivan Iko Mateljan, the head of the Croatian Franciscan order, skipped the irony and was more direct. “The best thing would be if Carla herself came to the monasteries and checked where Gotovina was, possibly under the robe of each monk and whatever she finds, well found”, he said.

Most monks told “Slobodna Dalmacija” they wouldn’t report if they knew where Gotovina was hiding because he was a “martyr and patriot”, not a war criminal.

Gotovina has been indicted by ICTY for crimes against Serb civilians in Croatia’s 1991/95 war of secession from former Yugoslavia. Croatian authorities claim they have no knowledge of his whereabouts, though the European Union has blocked talks on Croatia’s accession until Gotovina is extradited.

Suljic said that the international community, which appointed Del Ponte, should explain to the Church, Croatia and Vatican her behavior and dismiss her. (Vpr)


So the monks claim that the general is not there and invite the woman to check under their robes. If they want to be sarcastic, I suppose that's their perogative. What does give me pause is that some of them view Gotovina as a martyr and a patriot. The Holy See had better be damned sure he's not being harbored by some misguided Franciscans or else it is not going to look very good at all. With all the controversy surrounding the Church's alleged support for the puppet regime in Croatia back during World War II, it is hardly the time for the local Franciscans to be harboring this general.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Thoughts on Renaissance festivals

The redoubtable Amy referenced my post in the Renaissance Festival and that sparked some discussion at her blog. That in addition to the comments on my previous post have inspired me to respond a bit more fully on the topic.

One of Amy's commenters suggested that the Church should do something along the lines of a Renaissance festival and I think that would be an excellent idea. Most every festival you'll find today is run more as a muney-making and entertainment venture than as something that is meant to actually educate. That's the most important thing to keep in mind. This is not to say that festivals that focus on historical authenticity would not be money-makers, but as most of them stand today, 'RenFests' exist to for a specific niche of society and appeal to the larger population with pseudo-authentic crafts and shows.

Let's say a local diocese was to take up the challenge. What would it need, what would it want?

1. Education through entertainment. Finding episodes during the Renaissance and associated periods that illuustrate the Church's role in a positive way and presenting them.

2. Catechism. How could the Church present its teachings in the format of such a festival? Through plays? Though 'living history demonstrations'? What would be most effective?

3. Recreation. Recreating an authentic atmosphere would be absolutely necessary. 'Living history demonstrations' would serve here as well as the actors would do more than simply stand up on a stage and act. Others would actually live out village or town life, etc.

What would be needed to pull all this together? Funding of course would be at the top of the list. Experts from history departments would be there as well. Actors would act, etc. There would be the requisite craftspeople selling their stuff (though no devil's horns!). All this would definitely require someone with a clear vision and excellent fundraising skills. Would it be a success? I can't say. But I do think that if everything came together, such a venture would be an excellent tool for educating not only Catholics but the larger population as well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Vatican denies hiding criminal

Vatican City, Sep. 20, 2005 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Holy See, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, and the Croatian Episcopal Conference both rejected the accusations of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for Ex-Yougoslavia (TPIY), Carla del Ponte, of protecting alleged war criminals.

Read the complete article Holy See rejects accusations of harboring Croatian war criminal from Catholic News Agency.
Navarro-Valls said the Secretary for Foreign Relations asked the UN prosecutor for specifics and was met with no reply. At the same time, the Croatian bishops' conference is also denying any knowledge as to the whereabouts of the general sought by the war crimes tribunal.

The prosecutor has made accusations and offered no evidence as to which Franciscan monastery the general is holed up in. Mrs. del Ponte's credibility is not getting any stronger.

Vatican hiding war crimes suspect?

The Vatican is helping Croatia's most wanted war crimes suspect evade capture, a top UN prosecutor alleges.

Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, has said she believes Gen Ante Gotovina is hiding in a monastery in Croatia.

Ms del Ponte's spokeswoman told the BBC News website that the Vatican had refused to help in the search for him, despite being in a position to do so.

Read the complete article War crimes chief accuses Vatican from BBC News.

In the article it says that the Vatican will be coming out with a statement on this. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Holy See has to say. My first thought would be that this is pretty much a Croatian Church matter as far as if there is any hiding being done. Would the Holy See want to crack down and tell the Croatian bishops to stop aiding the general? We'll see what the forthcoming statement has to say.

Ms del Ponte's spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, told the BBC News website that "the law applies to everyone, including the Vatican".

What law is Ms. Hartmann referring to, by the way? I suppose the Holy See is a signatory of various international conventions, but citing international 'law' in such a way is almost laughable. The Holy See ought to see this general turned over for the right reasons, not because they want to pull the 'law' card. What are they going to do, recommend that the UN and the EU punish the Holy See with sanctions...?

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Renaissance

I was at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival on Saturday. I returned home from the trip today and will back into the swing of things tomorrow. But I'll leave you all with a few observations.

The Renaissance Festival was really not very 'Renaissance'. The costumes, the wares and everything else... It would seem that a more appropriate name would be the 'Medieval Festival' or the 'Pirate Festival'.

The single most glaring omission was anything Christian. To put it succinctly, there may very well have been no Renaissance without the Church. However, the festival in Minnesota is completely lacking. They have people dressed up as the King and his court, the Lord Mayor and a host of other characters, but no one playing any clergy.

On the other hand, there were plenty of visitors to the festival who dressed up as wizards and witches. Apparently, the Renaissance was not so much Christian as it was pagan I guess...

This is not to say I didn't have a good time. The Minnesota Renaissance Festival's goal is not historical authenticity and I am fine with that. But the festival itself is an interesting demonstration of how popular culture views that time period.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Kelo v. New London and the Church

I don't have time to comment on this extensively. I'll do so on Monday. Read and consider...

Church wants immigrant’s property via ‘eminent domain’

Brief absence

Starting later this morning and running through Sunday, I will be absent. It's off to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

Take care and God bless.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The national convention

At the end of his weekly general audience on Wednesday Pope Benedict greeted Italian exorcists who, he disclosed, are currently having their national convention, presumably in Rome.

The Pope encouraged them to "carry on their important work in the service of the Church."

Problem was, that until the Pope spoke, few people outside the inner circle knew that a convention of Beelzebub busters was going on, presumably in Rome.

And where are they holding it? A church, a hotel, a graveyard?

"They try to keep these things quiet," said a Catholic professor who has dealings with exorcists.

Read the complete article Pssst. Where the devil is the exorcists convention? from Reuters.

The article recounts as well the course at the Regina Apostolorum. It also explains a bit why there is so much interest in exorcisms in Italy these days:

According to some estimates, as many as 5,000 people are thought to be members of Satanic cults in Italy with 17-to 25-year-olds making up three quarters of them.

Interest in the devil and the occult has been boosted by films such as "The Exorcist" in 1973 and last year's "Exorcist: The Beginning".

Last year, Italy was gripped by the story of two teenage members of a heavy metal rock band called the "Beasts of Satan" who were killed by other band members in a human sacrifice.

The deaths horrified Catholic Italy, with pages of newspapers given over to descriptions of the black candles and goats' skulls decorating one victim's bedroom and witness statements of sexual violence.

That recalls the great wave of hysteria over Satanism in the United States during the 1980s. Hopefully, the Italians won't go so far as some Americans did in accusing their neighbors of sick perverse stuff that led to the removal of children, etc., when the neighbors were in fact innocent.

Monday, September 12, 2005

O'Brien: Gays need not apply

the title of this post is not very fair, but it's catchy, isn't it?

The American prelate overseeing a sweeping Vatican evaluation of every seminary in the United States said Monday that most gay candidates for the priesthood struggle to remain celibate and the church must ``stay on the safe side'' by restricting their enrollment.

Archbishop Edwin O'Brien made the comments as Roman Catholics await word of a much-anticipated Vatican document on whether gays should be barred from the priesthood. O'Brien and several other U.S. bishops have said they expect that document to be released soon.

O'Brien, who leads the Archdiocese for the Military Services in Washington, told The Associated Press that ``there are some priests, I don't think there are many, some ordained people with same-sex attractions and they've done very well'' remaining celibate.

``But generally speaking, in my experience, the pressures are strong in an all-male atmosphere,'' he said. ``And if there have been past failings, the church really must stay on the safe side. ... The same-sex attractions have gotten us into some legal problems.''

O'Brien had told the National Catholic Register, an independent newsweekly, that ``anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity, or has strong homosexual inclinations, would be best not to apply to a seminary and not to be accepted into a seminary,'' even if they had been celibate for a decade or more. O'Brien told The AP that the church is not ``hounding'' gays out of the priesthood, but wants to enroll seminarians who can maintain their vows of celibacy.

Read the complete article U.S. Prelate: Gays Shouldn't Be Ordained from Guardian Umlimited.

The rest of the article is a recap of the situation. An expert is quoted as saying that Archbishop O'Brien's comments cannot be dismissed due to his position and his connections. The document in question has been floating around for some time and reports are contradictory as to if or if not it will be released.

The question is why is O'Brien speaking out now? He could simply be fulfilling his mission in talking about an issue that he sees as something than needs to be addressed for seminaries to function, regardless of any official position by the Vatican. O'Brien could be the point man as far as the initial soundings before the document is finally released. Or he could just be expressing his personal opinion.

Regardless, only time will tell how this will all shake out.

Summing up

Sandro Magister's latest opens with his usual intro and then the guest essay. Today's topic is the lack of condemnation by missionaries in places like Singapore that are emerging as leaders in human cloning and other bio-industries.

Amy the Well-Informed talks about the Catholic blogging niche of 'hierarchial reporting'. Go take a look at that. And many thanks to Amy for the nod and link.

The Register proves its worth

There are times when I hate The Des Moines Register. But it does have David Yepsen, who is always good. He and Mike Glover are /the/ guys on the archaic political world of Iowa, where all future presidents are vetted like nowhere else, not even Philly (sorry Rocco).

From the Register:

Catholic priests are emerging from dark days of the child sexual abuse scandal with a new sense of hope and accomplishment, according to a new survey that will be published before the end of the year.

The survey mirrors the sentiments expressed by three veteran priests of the Des Moines Catholic diocese, who spoke to the Des Moines Sunday Register about what it has been like to be a priest during the scandal.

The priests talked about feeling anger and betrayal toward abusive priests. They also were fearful that under the U.S. bishops' new zero-tolerance policy, they might be unjustly accused and removed from the priesthood. However, all said they have been buoyed by the support of their parishioners.

Read the complete article Ragsdale: Priest morale rebounds from

Yesterday's article is on the morale of the priesthood, with extensive quotes from Des Moines-area priests. I'm not all that familiar with the Des Moines diocese, hailing myself from Sioux City and having spent much time in Davenport.

The following caught my eye in particular:

"We were talking last week that there isn't a priest shortage, that we are moving out of a surplus," Siepker said. "Catholics got spoiled in the U.S. Most parishes had its own priest, and some had several. There were three or four Masses on the weekends. Now, outside of Des Moines and Council Bluffs, almost every parish is paired. We are more like the pioneer priests, traveling from parish to parish."

Hess likes being a parish priest, but, at 60, he's feeling "spread thinner."

"I'm not as young and vigorous as I used to be," Hess said. "There never seems to be enough time to pray and reflect so you can do a good job. We're pulled in all kinds of different directions."

The greatest gift today's priests said they could receive from their congregations would be to be relieved of parish administrative tasks, according to the survey.

As far as Iowa goes, I would agree with that assessment. All over the state, parishes are not closing to the degree as they are in other places, but they are being grouped together. In my hometown of Fort Dodge, the three parishes along with several others from surrounding smaller towns are grouped together in a 'Team Ministry' format. This is good in some ways and bad in others, given the fact that last year, due to scheduling mishaps, at one parish everyone showed up for Christmas Mass except the priest.

Larger cities can close down parishes and have the people drive a few extra blocks to the next parish. In Iowa, closing a parish entails driving 30 miles or more to the next town. Solutions are worked out, but as the surplus passes, more and more will have to be done.

And now for something complete different

From In Today's Catholic World, bringing us the news of the pontificate of Gregory XVII and his secret successor who is out there somewhere.

Remember, my friends, the truth is out there.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Emily Rose

A disclaimer: I have yet to see the movie. We'll have to wait for it to come out on DVD.

Somehow the movie really never takes off into the riveting fascination we expect in the opening scenes. Maybe it cannot; maybe it is too faithful to the issues it raises to exploit them. A movie like "The Exorcist" is a better film because it's a more limited one, which accepts demons and exorcists lock, stock and barrel, as its starting point. Certainly they're good showbiz. A film that keeps an open mind must necessarily lack a slam-dunk conclusion. In the end Emily Rose's story does get told, although no one can agree about what it means.

Read the complete article The Exorcism of Emily Rose (PG-13) from

The above is how Roger Ebert ended his review of the movie about Emily Rose, the poor college girl who was either possessed or nuts and her priest who was either prevented from saving her due to drugs or didn't save her because he took her off the drugs. Or something.

Aside from plot details, in the little except above, Ebert compares the movie to the ultimate of the genre, The Exorcist. Ebert claims that the former keeps an open mind, even up to the end, while the later accepts demons as a given. I would have to disagree to some extent. The Exorcist as a novel and even as a film was specifically up to a certain point supposed to be ambiguous. Yes, as members of the audience, we probably figured it out that Regan was possessed, but the characters, especially Father Karras, operated pretty much up to the climax as if it were just some kind of manifestation of a psychosis. But I'm quibbling with Ebert.

In any case, in a broader discussion, one wonders where prosecuting a priest for the rite of exorcism falls under freedom of religion. As one reviewer I've read noted, the biggest suspension of disbelief for The Exorcism of Emily Rose is getting a grand jury to indict the priest in the first place.

The church is curiously ambivalent about exorcism. It believes that the devil and his agents can be active in the world, it has a rite of exorcism, and it has exorcists. On the other hand, it is reluctant to certify possessions and authorize exorcisms, and it avoids publicity on the issue. It's like those supporters of Intelligent Design who privately believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, but publicly distance themselves from it because that would undermine their plausibility in the wider world.

Ebert claims that the Church is ambivalent. The conventional wisdom of the post-Vatican II Church would agree. However, such wisdom is according to many sources outdated. I challenge any of you to call your local diocese and ask them who is the appointed exorcist and see what kind of a response you get. I'm willing to bet that you will get more than just a disclaimer and ambivalence.

What kind of cross are you?

From Unam Sanctum:

You are the San Damiano Cross: Rich in symbolism,
this cross was first painted in the twelfth
century gathering images from the Gospel of
John. Christ is the central figure and is
surrounded by the angles, the apostles and the
Virgin Mary. The cross became well known
because it was the cross in front of which St.
Francis was praying when he received the call
to rebuild the Church.

What Kind of Cross are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

One of the questions for the quiz is in which movie you'd prefer to be a character; I picked 'Ben Hur' over 'The Passion of the Christ'. Mel's vision is a great one and I admire his movie, but 'Ben Hur' is the complete package.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Ecumenism with the East

Allen starts off with the obligatory Katrina news, focusing on world reaction. Then he looks to the news out of Assisi and the symposium sponsored by the Pontifical University Antonianum on the Eucharist in the East and the West.

Despite centuries of theological, liturgical and political controversies between East and West, most Orthodox and Catholic observers believe that today those differences could be understood as healthy diversity, rather than motives for schism. At bottom, there is only one real remaining obstacle to unity, but it's a whopper: the role and power of the pope, summed up in the word "primacy."

Read the complete article here.

In short, the Orthodox are quite adamant that structural unity will probably never come about, but say that ecumenism should be directed toward issues of common interest: secularization, etc. A Roman attendee was more optimistic on structural unity.

"In the Orthodox world, even the patriarch can't celebrate Mass outside his own diocese without the permission of the local bishop, and sometimes it is refused," he said. "The bishop enjoys a quasi-absolute position."

Another factor, he said, is political.

"There is a small percentage of fanatics in the Orthodox church who see Rome as the enemy, but they have a strong hold on the bishops, who don't want to rile them," Vassiliadis said.


"I think we can enrich one another's theology, we can get to know one another better, and I think we can work together on things we both care about - the fight for the soul of Europe, for example," Vassiliadis said. "To expect more than that is probably asking too much."

One step forward, Vassiliadis said, would be for the Orthodox to do for Catholics what Catholics have already done for Orthodox -- recognize them as "sister churches."

"Catholics recognize the validity of our ministries and sacraments, but it's not as clear from the Orthodox side," he said. "I think it would be very helpful to clarify this."

The senior Catholic official who was optimistic on unity also discussed with Allen the prospects of a papal visit to Constantinople. The Patriarch wants the Pope to come. The Pope wants to go, but the Turkish government is hesitant.

Padovese confirmed something that has long been rumored, which is that the hold-up in terms of making the visit official comes from the Turkish civil government, not the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, which is eager for the visit. It's the opposite of the situation in Russia, where Putin's government has said it has no problem with a papal visit, but it's blocked by the Russian Orthodox.

Why is the Turkish government skittish?

"In part, it has to do with the internal politics of Turkey," Padovese said. "The trip will not be accepted by all. Not everybody wants a dialogue with the Western world, or with the Christian church. There are radical circles within Islam that the government has to worry about," he said.

Padovese said security is undoubtedly also a concern.

I asked if Joseph Ratzinger's reservations about Turkey's admission to the European Union, expressed before he was elected pope, were also a factor.

"If he comes, it would give him the chance to make his views a little more precise," Padovese said. "It was presented in the Turkish press like a complete refusal [of Turkey's candidacy], but it's more open than that."

Padovese speculated that the government may be waiting to formally announce the invitation to the pope until after Oct. 3, when negotiating sessions on membership with the EU begin. If it seems clear from the outset that the negotiations are going well, it would be easier to manage any domestic opposition to the pope's arrival; further, inviting the pope at that time would be an ideal way for Turkey to demonstrate its openness to the West, as well as its capacity to handle security and logistics for the travel of major world leaders.

If the talks go well? In the current political environment, it would be unwise for the Turks to pin the Pope's visit on if the talks go well.

Exorcism and Satanism

ROME, SEPT. 8, 2005 ( Interest in Satanism hasn't waned.

That is why the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University and the Socioreligious Research and Information Group are offering a course on "Exorcism and the Prayer of Deliverance," the second of its kind.

To better understand the objectives and reasons for the course, which starts Oct. 13, ZENIT interviewed one of the program's teachers, Carlo Climati, a journalist who has written on youth Satanism.

Read the complete article Why Another Course on Exorcism and Satanism from Zenit News Agency.

As I think I've mentioned before, I've written on exorcism for my degree and it's been an interest of mine. When I first really started reading up on the subject academically, there were no high level courses offered on the subject. It's interesting to see moves to 'professionalize' the occupation of 'exorcist' (as far as that is possible) bearing fruit.

An amusing idea is that of all the Catholic sacraments and rituals, exorcism is probably at once the most well-known and superficially well-understood, but at the same time the most misunderstood. Could the average Catholic today tell you exactly when and how transubstantiation takes place? Could the average Catholic today tell you how Jason Miller and Max von Sydow exorcised the demon in Linda Blair?

Food for thought.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Back on the Orthodox beat

(AGI) - Vatican City, Sep 8 - Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church continues and regarding the improvement of relations, Card. Walter Kasper, President of the Pontificate Council for Christian Unity, said "we are on the right path," in reply to journalists at a press conference. "There was no negative reaction from the orthodox Christians on the decision of moving the Easter Rites Ukrainian Catholic Church's headquarters to Kiev, and [Russian Orthodox Christians] seem to be interested in the situation in Europe". (AGI) -
081354 SET 05
COPYRIGHTS 2002-2005 AGI S.p.A.

From AGI.

I read the above and am just wondering what Kasper knows that hasn't leaked out to the media yet.

As we saw in the last episode of 'East Meets West', the Russian Orthodox Church was quite upset over the move from Lviv to Kiev. Now there is 'no negative reation'... If you say so, Your Eminence, if you say so.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Visiting Constantinople

Papabile caught this first...

Vatican official says he expects November papal trip to Istanbul

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A top Vatican official said he expects Pope Benedict to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, in late November for a meeting with Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Read it all here.

The November 30/Feast of St. Andrew date was mentioned again and the article basically recounts the ecumenical meetings that began back in 1964 when Paul VI met the Patriarch in the Holy Land. There has been no official confirmation thus far on the trip.

There was a news story that I read the other day that discussed Turkey's EU bid and how with the situation being what it is, the roadmap was stretched out over a decade and longer... I wonder just how they're going to handle Benedict XVI.

The Holy Land

ROMA, September 7, 2005 – With harsh and unexpected words, the Custodian of the Holy Land, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, has called everyone's attention back to the increasing violence and humiliation that the Christians of Cisjordan suffer at the hands of Muslims.

And farther down:

At the end of July, a firestorm broke out between the Vatican and the Israeli government.

Read the complete article The Custody Must Be Doubled in the Holy Land from www.chiesa.

In the first part of the article, Magister details the situation in the Holy Land as Christians continue to be persecuted by Muslims, aided and abetted by the Palestinian Authority. Land fraud, intimidation and violence are the methods of choice. Magister gives one example that happened just recently.

And on the very day this public protest appeared, another case of anti-Christian violence was reported in Taibeh, the ancient city of the Bible known as Ephraim, a village east of Ramallah.

In Taibeh on Sunday, September 4, thirteen homes inhabited by as many Christian families were attacked and burned, the streets devastated, a statue of Mary demolished.

The reason for the destruction: the love relationship between Hiyam Ajai, a young Muslim woman of the nearby village of Deir Jreer, and Mehdi Kouriyee, a Christian from a prominent family of Taibeh that owns a brewery that bears their name.

When her family learned that she was expecting a child, they shut her up inside the house and beat her. On Thursday, September 1, Hiyam was found dead. The parents explained: “That Christian raped her, and she tainted herself.” Vengeance was called for, and the assault prepared. The Christian families of Taibeh found safety by fleeing their homes. By the time the Palestinian police arrived, the damage had already been done.

Since the Second Intifada began five years ago, Christians have been increasingly targeted as the secular (and Christian) nationalist figures of the Palestinian movement have been displayed by radical jihadist figures. The article points out how the Christian population is falling rapidly as Christians emigrate to escape persecution, adding to their increasing marginalization.

The second part of the article explains the sequence of events that led first to the firestorm of criticism between the Vatican and Israel and the eventual reconciliation. I can't help but think that Magister tied the two points together to make a larger one...

Despite all the righteous protestations by the State of Israel, the Jews aren't necessarily the ones who are hurting the most over there right now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Good news

Today, after over a month of dial-up service, the cable company finally sent someone to take care of things (installing the cable jack, verifying that everything works, etc.). So now the morning can be spent more profitably.

In a general round up of what's been going on...

Rocco and Papabile have been commenting on the curial shake up that now seems to be postponed until after the upcoming Synod. The Archbishop of Washington being retained in his office is also noted with general approbation.

Amy keeps up on the Katrina situation. Her blog has turned into a clearinghouse of requests for aid, links to ways you can donate and contribute, etc. Check it out.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Politicizing Katrina

My more widely-read colleague at Whispers in the Loggia posted here today on the slow response to Hurricane Katrina. Rocco uses his bully pulpit to quote a African American religion professor at NYU. The professor's piece criticizes Bush and implies he is some kind of anti-Christ.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine today.

[Friend]: Um, if there wasn't such a selfish, moronic, dumbass in charge of this country, there wouldn't be so many people desperate for help. :)

Sephiroth9611 [me]: Yeah, just blame it all on whipping boy.

[Friend]: Well, perhaps if the whipping boy would do something instead of milking the never ending gas price gouging with his cronies, there wouldn't be any need to blame anyone.

My friend is a college graduate. She's intelligent and knowledgeable on many topics. But her comments above... If it wasn't so sad, it'd be funny that anyone can be that naive on how the world works. The same has to be said for the African American religion professor.

Tens of thousands of people are roaming, looting, raping, murdering, dying in a flooded wasteland. A New Orleans police officer compared it to Somalia, with armed thugs driving around in the back of pick-ups raping and pillaging. It's not something you solve in a week, no matter what your color or creed.

If it's Frday, it's...

John Allen comments on the meeting between the Pope and Fellay. He also has comments on WYD debriefings and the big shindig last week in Italy of the Communion and Liberation movement.

Read first, then read my comments, I won't quote extensively.

On the Lefebvrites:
Allen's comments on the why and the how of the Lefebvrite movement's validity vs. illicitness are very well timed. The context of the negotiations are typically glossed over in the mainstream Catholic press. The fact that the SSPX could very well build a 'valid' mirror Catholic hierarchy is a very important one. Kudos to John for explaining this in detail.

On Islam:
The Pope met with Oriana Fallaci, the famed Italian journalist who is terminally ill with cancer. Allen makes the connection that her audience with the Holy Father is yet another example of the new stance of jihadist Islam and the tacit approval of a lot of the mainstream Islamic leaders.

The idea that those countries under Shariah law are somehow not completely civilized is I think a slight mistake. As I've noted before. the problem is more with ingrained social custom. In places like Spain, the Caliph had to beg the Christians not to make trouble. One exception perhaps, but it goes to show that blanket condemnations are not always the best.

On gay martyrs:
Here I'll quote something:

Philip and Randi Reitan of Eden Prairie, Minn., said they had symbolically "adopted" Ormando as their own son, since his natural family had rejected him. "We know so many young gay men like him, so hurt by the teachings of the church," Randi Reitan said. "When the church teaches people not to accept and to love their own children, it destroys a mother's heart."

Don't blame the Church and its teachings for the social taboos of rural Sicily, thank you very much.

Finally, On Communion and Liberation:
I'll quote again, this time CL's founder:

"A movement in the church is like an unplanned pregnancy … the child may be unwanted, but it can't be aborted,"

An interesting and rather striking insight into such things...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

We deal in threes here

I was the 6,001st hit this morning. Thanks for reading.

As for me, I'm talking a little break from really typing a lot, as my wrist is bothering me.

Read Magister's full text of the Holy Father's ecumenical speech during WYD. As Magister points out, the actual speech was twice as long word-wise as the printed speech distributed beforehand.