Monday, October 31, 2005

Samuel Alito, Jr. nominated to the Supreme Court

If confirmed, Alito would be the 11th Catholic in U.S. history to sit on the Supreme Court and would become the fifth Catholic justice on the current court, forming for the first time a majority of Catholics on the nine-member court.

Other Catholics currently on the nation's highest bench are recently appointed Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

Past Catholics on the Supreme Court included two other chief justices, Roger Taney, 1836-64, and Edward White, a justice from 1894 to 1910 and chief justice, 1910-21. Other former Catholic justices were Joseph McKenna, Pierce Butler, Frank Murphy and William Brennan Jr.

Read the complete article Alito would be fifth Catholic on Supreme Court from Catholic News Service.

Not that having a majority of Catholics on the Court makes a difference, given that Kennedy isn't exactly of the same juridical temperment as Scalia or Thomas. We have ourselves a nice 'cross-section' of the Catholic Church in the US.

One of the great questions of Bush's presidency will be why he didn't go with Alito in the first place instead of enduring the debacle of Harriet Miers. Those out there who think that Mier was was a ploy need to realize that Bush has been on thin ice with the conservative base for a long time. As a colleague of mine summed up in his blog this last summer, the Republican Party is composed of several parts with goals that are somewhat counter to each other. Judicial nominations were a big reason why libertarian types voted Bush. If Bush wants to play games with those people, the mid-term elections are already looking to be a bloodbath for the Republicans unless they turn things around sooner rather than later.

All Hallows' Eve

It's the 31st, isn't it? I woke up and found out that Sam Alito had been nominated by President Bush (why didn't he just go with him the first time, I don't know). But then I was reminded of the date and that reminded me that tonight is the night.

No, I don't plan on going trick or treating. I went to a costume party last weekend and that took care of any need to dress up in some horrific outfit. Instead, I intend to make my second pilgrimage to the Black Angel, situated in Oakland Cemetary on the north side of Iowa City.

I first read about the Black Angel in W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, the novel upon which Field of Dreams is based. A lot of the action in the novel takes place in Iowa City itself. Kinsella was involved in the Writers Workshop back in the late seventies and his Iowa City is one that had pretty much disappeared by the time I arrived in 1999. In the novel, some of Iowa City's folklore is recounted, including the traditions surrounding the Black Angel, a bronze statue in Oakland Cemetary that turned black shortly after its erection almost a century ago.

Bob Hibbs writing in the Iowa City Press-Citizen summed up the history of the Black Angel best, telling of the various stories that claim to be the truth of why the monument was commissioned and placed in Oakland Cemetary.

Other websites recount the superstitions that surround the Black Angel. One site gives a version of the tale of the famous 'virgin kiss' beneath the Black Angel.

She incarnates a mother’s desperate love for a son who died at age 18 in 1891. But, students claim no woman is a true UI coed unless she had been kissed beneath the Black Angel, preferably at midnight. Fraternity members claim that if such a coed is “innocent of men” the statue will turn white. Nobody ever said myths were fair!

Another site reminds us that some of the other superstitions are not so benign.

However, the main phenomena here appears not to be something lingering in the cemetery, but something that vandals and disrespectful people take away from the cemetery. Many stories involve people who have touched or desecrated the Angel in some way who were rewarded subsequently by death. One well-known story is about four boys who urinated on the monument, and died later that night in a car wreck. Another tells of a young man who used a hacksaw to cut the thumb off the Angel (and indeed a thumb and a few fingers are missing) who basically lost his mind and was eventually found dead in the Chicago River. His cause of death was strangulation, and the sole piece of evidence was a single thumbprint on his neck. Days later, a caretaker supposedly found a blackened piece of bronze in the shape of a thumb at the base of the Black Angel monument.

Tonight, I'll walk through the darkness and see if I can not get lost on my way to my meeting with the supernatural. I don't plan on touching the Angel myself, nor do I have a virgin co-ed with whom to test whether or not drastic color change is possible. But walks through the dark under the trees are spooky enough. Happy Halloween.

Lajolo visits the Third Rome

Moscow (AsiaNews) - "Every encounter brings hope, but this one with Russia has been a confirmation”. Thus did Mgr Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican Secretary for Relations with other States, sum up his first visit to Russia. He was speaking to AsiaNews at the end of a four-day visit to Moscow, where he went on the invitation of the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergei Lavrov. The pope’s “foreign affairs minister” described as “positive” meetings held with civil and Orthodox authorities. One meeting which stands out is that in Danilovskij monastery with Metropolitan Kirill, president of the external relations department of the Moscow Patriarchate. Already on the eve of his visit, Mgr Lajolo had talked about improving ties with the Moscow Patriarchate “even in view of bearing a needed shared witness to all Christians, in today’s world, about evangelistic values”.

Read the complete article Mgr Lajolo’s Moscow visit instills high hopes for Russia’s Catholic Church from

The rest of the article describes Monsignor Lajolo's homily and comments on the Eucharist and the Eucharistic Congress in Moscow.

As far as the success of Lajolo's mission, only time will tell. The next time the Russian Orthodox Church speaks out on the Catholic issue in Russia will be a good indicator.

One thing that doesn't get near enough press is the relationship between the Holy See and the Russian Federation. I'm surprised that in his special way, President Putin doesn't put more pressure on the Patriarch of Moscow to bury the hatchet with the Holy See in order to get the Pope to Russia. The Pope in the Kremlin would certainly be an amazing photo op and a feather in the cap of Mr. Putin.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Latin is a dead language (who knew?!)

The post-mortem on the language of the Church.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Latin limped through another synod in October, as bishops paid lip service to the assembly's official language but did their real communicating in the vernacular.

When Cardinal Angelo Scola opened the synod with the traditional reading in Latin of the "relatio ante disceptationem" (pre-discussion report), bishops throughout the synod hall reached quickly for their translation headphones.

The Vatican's translators, also unprepared for the task, had to work from a parallel Italian text.

Latin came up in one of the synod propositions on liturgy, which called for training of seminarians so they are able to say Mass and lead prayers in Latin. But a proposal to promote Mass in Latin for international, multilingual gatherings of Catholics was downgraded from a recommendation to a suggestion.

He [Father Richard Foster] recalled that the proceedings of the Second Vatican Council, which ended 40 years ago, were conducted entirely in Latin.

Since then, he said, Latin "hasn't really been squelched -- 'oppressa est' -- but it's just been neglected -- 'neglecta est,' put off to the side."

Most younger priests and bishops don't know Latin well, he said, and the church's Latin teachers are disappearing, too. [...]

Read the complete article Rigor mortis? At synod, bishops give lip service to Latin from Catholic News Service.

I'm working on learning Latin myself. It's an intellectual exercise that I could use at this point, post-college. I would have taken it in school, but Latin I at the University of Iowa was at 8:30 AM, Monday through Friday... You get the idea. We'll see how my self-study goes.

Rooney to the rescue (of Taiwan)

The recently confirmed Francis Rooney arrived in Rome to begin his new job as Ambassador to the Holy See. John Allen reports on a question fielded by Rooney during his hearing.

During confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in late September, Rooney made brief comments about a couple of issues he'll tackle as ambassador. Rooney said Benedict XVI has made it clear he intends to continue John Paul II's work in promoting human dignity and "building bridges to the Muslim world."

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., who presided over the hearing, said he was concerned about reports the Vatican is considering severing relations with Taiwan. Allen said he didn't want to see the Vatican recognizing China over Taiwan.

Rooney said he would make it a priority to ensure the Vatican has "a sensitivity to the feelings of our government" on the issue.

He'll be facing an uphill battle, especially in light of recent comments from Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano to the effect that the Vatican is ready to cut ties with Taiwan right away if it can be assured of the immediate launch of relations with Beijing.

Read the complete article at The Word From Rome.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Luckily, paranoia reigns

While Rome crosses its fingers and makes promises, one tends to forget that the PRC is a totalitarian regime and such regimes tend to be rather paranoid and implacable. Behold.

From AsiaNews:
Beijing (AsiaNews) – China puts the blame back on the Vatican for not doing enough to improve diplomatic relations. Kong Quan, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that the Holy See in China expects “facts” and not “words”. This is how Kong commented on statements by Cardinal Angelo Sodano according to which Rome is willing to immediately transfer its nunciature from Taipei to Beijing.

[...] "China is not able to understand that a division between state and church is needed; the government fears that, at a time of crisis, Catholics will obey the Pope more than China.”

From Pravda:
The Vatican must not interfere with China's internal affairs if it wants to restore diplomatic relations, Beijing said Thursday, responding to the Holy See's call for dialogue. [...]

Just when I thought...

...that I wasn't going to find anything really interesting to blog this week, Magister rides to the rescue. I don't have any great-great-...-great-uncles who were cardinals like Rocco and I don't have any kids about whom I can tell stories like Amy, so when I'm browsing around through the news and nothing is jumping out at me, sparking a thought on how I can discuss it meaningfully... You've all seen how active I've been this week.

On to Magister

Signs of growing closeness between China and the Vatican alternate with sudden breakdowns. The four empty seats at the synod. The new bishop recognized by both the government and the pope. The invitation to the sisters of Mother Teresa. "La Civiltà Cattolica" adds up the figures

by Sandro Magister

Read the complete article Rome Is Calling Beijing – But the Connection Keeps Getting Interrupted from www.chiesa.

In the opening section, Magister sums up his reporting lately on China. He starts with the four missing bishops at the Synod and the correspondence between them and the Holy Father. The bishops enjoying approval from both the CPA and the Holy See is noted. Nothing much new. But it's all basically background for the piece from La Civiltà Cattolica.

Produced in Rome by a group of Jesuits, each edition of "La Civiltà Cattolica" is examined by the Vatican secretariat of state before it is printed. It therefore authoritatively reflects the point of view of the Holy See on the topics it discusses, in this case on China.

With everything that has gone on since April and the reporting that Magister has done on it, I can't help but smile that he still mentions that La Civiltà Cattolica is reviewed by the Secretariat of State and that somehow translates into reflecting the view of the Holy See as a whole...

Hans Waldenfels, S.J's article, excerpted by Magister, 'China Is Opening Up. Impressions from a Voyage', tells of his trips to China and his impressions. I skimmed it in places and came at last to the good father's points on the questions holding up greater PRC-Holy See relations: the approval/appointment of bishops and the recognition of the Republic of China (i.e. Taiwan). Waldenfels (and the Holy See via the Secretariat of State if you buy that talk about authoritative approval) gives the Taiwan issue all of eighteen words.

As for Taiwan, there have long been signs that discussions should begin and that the problem seems resolvable.

So what we have here is the Holy See (apparently) is willing to write off relations with a democracy in the interests of making nice with the Chicoms. So with that messy little item cleaned up neatly, Waldenfels launches into a long discussion on the appointment of bishops...

My position is well-known to long-time readers (appeasement bad, standing strong good). I just feel like we're on a broken record here. Rome keeps putting out this material in the news that relations are improving, things are getting better with China. And I just keep saying, "Yeah, right."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The best Pope ever

This last week, I was asked who I thought the best Pope was in history.

After considering this for some time, I came up with St. Peter, since he denied Christ three times and still became the Rock upon which Christ built His Church.

I guess that brings up the logical next step of who is the second-best Pope? In the United States, historians love to rate the presidents. Is that a common thing to do in the Catholic world?

How would one rate them? By saintly living? By what they achieved? By popularity?

I'm sure there are those who would suggest that one should not try and rate those who've been chosen by the Holy Spirit to serve as Supreme Pontiff, since the ways of the Lord are mysterious and not to be understood by Man. But it remains a question I've been pondering and I'd by interested in some feedback.

The quiz itself from which this question sprang
You can ask me six questions.
Any six questions you like!


I will try to answer them truthfully.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Papal veto vs. Papal fiat

(AGI) - Vatican, Oct 24 - The Pope is rumoured as not agreeing with the Synod's views on whether divorced couples should be allowed to partake in Catholic mass. According to cardinal Walter Kasper, who chairs the Vatican's Office for Christian Unity, "divorced couples which have remarried are a serious issue for us: the Synod hasn't issued its final word on the matter. [...] any bishop in any western country knows this to be an issue; the Synod on that note has heard all parties, not just the majority. Each and every priest, even the Pope, knows that there are worthy cases [...]. I too subscribe to such views". (AGI) Siz241430 OTT 05 -
241535 OTT 05

Read the complete article Vatican: Pope may 'overturn' Synod decision on divorcees from AGIonline.

I read this at more than one place, but AGI tends to have these brief little blurbs that are eminently suitable for complete copying and pasting rather than pulling out a few choice quotes from long articles.

A few things
1. The Synod didn't make any decisions to be overturned. But then you all know that by now. It's there to consult, not legislate. The Pope is not vetoing anything. It's the Pope who decides what's going to happen, God bless him.

2. I'm intrigued by Cardinal Kasper's words. The Synod closed up shop yesterday, but it hasn't issued its final word on the matter...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The morning after

Well, not quite morning yet in Rome...

The Synod wrapped up today (it's still Sunday in the US). Mass was said. Saints were canonized. Bishops went back to their lodgings and prepared to head home.

I read the other day that there is some speculation that the Pope will not issue a huge final document, given the fact that the Synod was on the Eucharist and the Eucharist has already been a favorite topic of Cardinal Ratzinger. The Holy Father has nothing left to say...

I'm not going to toss in my hat and make a prediction, but the encyclical that is coming out in December could very well serve the purpose. Just a thought.

In any case, attention has been turning back to the curial shuffle. To borrow a phrase from Al Gore, we'll see how His Holiness reinvents the government of the Catholic Church. It's like reinventing the wheel, I know.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Latin lovers unite!

(ANSA) - Rome, October 21 - In a bid to stop Latin falling entirely into disuse, bishops meeting in the Vatican have proposed that the language be used for masses at major international events.

Bishops suggested that the Catholic Church's official language be used for the key prayers and rites in masses while homilies and readings from the bible should remain in the language of the host nation.

Read the complete article Bishopes ask Pope to save Latin from

I hope they push through with this and the Pope makes it a reality. The question then becomes if people are simply learning Latin prayers by rote or if they'll have any real understanding of the language itself. Personally, I'd like to see Latin taught in all Catholic schools. (Like that will ever happen...) After all, foreign language study makes for better students and what better language than the basis for the Romance (and a good portion of English) languages?

Use of Latin has been declining in the Catholic Church for many years. This synod is believed to be the first one in living memory in which it was impossible to set up a Latin-language working group because too few prelates spoke the language well enough.

Apart from in the opening address given by the Venice Patriarch, Cardinal Angelo Scola, Latin was hardly heard during the talks. When Scola started his speech, which was entirely in Latin, prelates had to reach for headsets in order to hear a translation.

Only one synod participant spoke Latin the whole time: the archbishop of Riga, Cardinal Janis Pujats.

The Cardinal-Archbishop of Riga has my admiration.

Rising stars?

By John Thavis:

Traditionally, the Synod of Bishops has been a good place to watch ecclesial careers on the rise.

The church's future all-stars are often found in the lineup of top synod positions like presidential delegate or recording secretary and among the small number of papal appointees to the assembly.

Read the complete article Rising stars: Synod a good spot
to watch ecclesial careers
from The Tidings.

Aside from Scola and Arinze and Ouellet, here are some of the unknowns and Thavis' comments on each.

Telesphore Cardinal Toppo of India, 65

The Ranchi archbishop stood up at a 2001 synod and said bishops need to live with the poor in the style of Jesus --- a revolutionary step that he said could attract many Asians to the Gospel.

Archbishop Roland Minnerath of Dijon, France, 58

[Scola's assistant as Relator] ...who impressed people when he prodded synod debate toward some sharp questions midway through the assembly. Already a seasoned expert in Vatican diplomacy and management, don't look for him to end his career in Dijon...

Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, 56

The bishops elected most of the other commission members, including one relatively unknown leader of a new generation of Italian church leaders...

Bishop Jean-Louis Brugues of Angers OP, 61

...current head of the French bishops' doctrinal commission. A papal appointee to the synod, Bishop Brugues made an impression when he helped write the International Theological Commission's landmark document in 2000, "Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past."

I'm sick

I got up yesterday and was ill. By afternoon, I was back in bed. This morning, I'm still not 100%.

As always, check out the links down the left for what's going on, especially 'Daily Readings'.

Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with some more energy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

At the library

Today I'm at the UI library. My car is in the shop being repaired and I have no way home unless I want to take the bus as far as it goes and then walk for another 15 minutes.

The wedding on Saturday
There's not really much to say. The church itself was pretty. It had a window in the back wall of the sanctuary area that looked west. Given the setting sun (the wedding started at 5 pm), there was a nice golden color coming through. The pews were padded, but the comfort factor was mitigated since we stood through the entire ceremony.

Mass on Sunday
I went to the Newman Center on campus for the 6 pm Mass. The center does not have pews, it has chairs that are padded and the chairs do not have kneelers. I've been there before, so this was not a big deal for me. What was a big deal was the lack of missalettes. Luckily (aside from the readings), I do have the various parts of the Novus Ordo pretty well memorized. (The lack of kneeling did throw some confusion into it...)

That's all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The meeting

(AGI) - Vatican City, Oct.18 - Benedict XVI wants to meet Moscow patriarch Alexis II: Moscow Catholic Archbishop mons. Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz said so to the reporters on the sidelines of the Synod. "Let's pray they will meet - he said - This event would allow to start a new page in the history of relationship between the two churches, the largest in the world".

Nothing new here at all. The Holy Father, both the previous one and the current one, wants to meet with the Patriarch of Moscow. Is it going to happen anytime soon? Doubtful.

Mons. Kondrusiewicz also mentioned the proposal of a common Synod with the Orthodox, suggested in May by card. Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican Council for Christian Unity, recently mentioned again by Leopolis archbishop, card. Lubomyr Husar. "THe proposal was met very well by the Orthodox authorities".

Who exactly are these 'Orthodox authorities' that have met this proposal with a positive response? The Russians? I doubt it. The Ukrainians themselves? Other parties? Anyone who really counts? We'll see if there is any follow-up to this.

"In Russia, the catholic church is expanding: there are now 220 official parish churches (6 in Moscow), another 300 communities are currently waiting to be officially enrolled by the authorities, 120 priests are working on it, 90 pct foreign, and there already 65 seminarists in St.Petersburgh. "Proselitism is not our policy - said the archbishop - we are not supporting the coversion of orthodox, but the people who want to turn to catholicism are to be respected. Despite these problems, everyone expects important steps towards unity: it's no longer time to throw stones, but to pick them up".n(AGI) -
181815 OTT 05

With statistics like this, all the optimism in the world is not going to placate the Russian Orthodox Church. Cardinal Kasper and the Archbishop of Moscow either have inside sources that tell them things that the Russians do not admit when they're talking in the press about Catholic infringement or the cardinal and the archbishop simply make these comments and hope for the best, as if talking will change attitudes.

Read the complete article The Pope wants to meet Alexis II from AGI.

Benedict XVI packs St. Peter's Square

First the figures:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's public appearances are drawing huge crowds of pilgrims to the Vatican -- even more than those of his beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

According to Vatican statistics, more than 1 million people have attended the pope's weekly general audience or his Sunday blessing since his election in April.

That's more than twice the number of pilgrims who attended the same events in 2004 which were presided over by an infirm Pope John Paul.

Observers cited a "new pope" effect, saying people want a personal look at Pope Benedict. Interest may have broadened after the global media attention given the Vatican during the period of papal transition.

Many of the pilgrims say they are coming to see two popes, visiting the tomb of Pope John Paul in the Vatican grottoes and attending an audience or blessing with Pope Benedict.

According to the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, about 410,000 people attended Pope Benedict's general audience in the period May-September, compared to 194,000 last year.

In the same period, the Sunday Angelus blessing drew 600,000 this year and 262,000 last year, it said.

Read the complete article Pope Benedict's public appearances drawing huge crowds from Catholic News Service.

Are these large crowds merely from the 'New Pope' effect or are they representative of a trend? As it's pointed out in the article, the cold will have an effect. The question is will the crowds still come over the long term?

We'll see how they hold up through the winter.

NEWS FLASH: a brother who listens to his brother?!

(ANSA) - Vatican City, October 17 - The pope is scheduled to attend two concerts in his honour in the Vatican this week, hearing music by Mozart, Wagner and his own brother Georg.

The first, to be held on Thursday in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, will be given by the Regensburg cathedral choir and the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

It will feature church music by Mozart, Liszt, Verdi and Wagner. The choir will also sing some pieces composed by Georg Ratzinger.

The pope's older brother, who is also a Catholic priest, directed the prestigious cathedral choir of Regensburg in Bavaria for many years.

The choir, believed to be the oldest cathedral choir in existence, will again be on stage again on Saturday for a concert in the Sistine chapel.

Read the complete article Pope to listen to brother's music from

I just found this rather amusing. When the brothers are off on their vacations together, who does the reporter think Father Ratzinger uses as a captive audience when trying out new compositions?

While we're off topic

A mass rally took place on October 14 in Kiev in protest against the opening of church representations of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine and Fanar’s interference in the Ukrainian church affairs. Thousands-strong rallies were held at the Turkish embassy, as well as the Supreme Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Presidential Administration. Special appeals were adopted, addressed to the Ukrainian president and the Turkish and Greek ambassadors.

Why to Victor Yushchenko is clear enough. The government has promoted the project for opening the Constantinopolitan church representations and interfered in church affairs, pressing for the absorption of the unrecognized UAOC group by the uncanonical ‘Kievan Patriarchate’, and all this despite the president’ promises that the government will not interfere in church affairs.

Read the complete article Orthodox Ukraine appeals to wisdom of Turkish authorities from Interfax Religion.

Daniil Spassky once again reiterates his pro-Russian position in the piece. His main point is that the Ukrainians and everyone else should put pressure on the Turkish government through boycotting Turkish resorts and other things Turkish so that the government will crack down on the Patriarch of Constantinople and halt the Church of Constantinople's 'interference' in Ukrainian affairs.

(I wonder if Mr. Spassky is cognizant of the fact that if Turkey starts limiting the freedom of the patriarch in church affairs that it would be putting its EU admission at risk...)

The final paragraph:

Accordingly, the question is whether the Turkish government will have enough resolution, will and resources to influence Patriarch Bartholomew. Indeed, there is already some talk that he dreams of establishing a kind of Orthodox Vatican in Fanar and obtaining the exterritorial right from the Turkish authorities. But still, the potential appeal to boycott Turkish resorts and goods appears quite telling for the Turkish interests. With an effective informational support this action may inflict millions-worth damages on the economy of this country. Thus, theoretically Turkey may become directly interested in putting her citizen in his right place as a one who causes damage to her relations with the countries which make up the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The bolding is my own, of course. If the Patriarch of Constantinople were to receive some kind of extraterritorial status in Fanar, that would certainly change the dynamic under which the patriarchate operates, since as it stands, you have to be a Turkish citizen to be chosen to the office.

It reminds us of all that once was good...

Hats off to Albert Pujols for his game-winning home run last night in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. The official distance was 412 feet, but if that pesky window had not been in the way, that ball would have been out in the street (or whatever is out there beyond the right field wall).

Kudos also go to my beloved David Eckstein for his indomitable spirit and Jim Edmonds for showing some uncharacteristic patience at the plate.

Game 6 in St. Louis, tune in.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Editorial: EWTN is so annoying

The Eternal Word Television Network is admittedly one of the most visually stimulating 'Christian' channels on cable. Let's be blunt. TBN's graphics, etc., look about as cheap as that pink-haired woman and the guy in the white suit who sits in that golden chair. On the other hand, EWTN does come across as quite professionally done. The network has a variety of programming on different subjects. And of course, how can you go wrong with documentaries on Renaissance church restoration?

But as the title states, the network is still annoying. Why? Closed captioning is pretty much nonexistent.

As I've alluded a few times here, I do not hear very well at all and it is only getting worse. About this time last year, my hearing descended below the point where one-on-one conversation could be held without a lot of 'huhs' and 'whats'. I've needed closed captioning for awhile now. Thankfully, most everything I want to watch has it.

But EWTN's captioning of programs is hit and miss at best. They caption the recitation of the Rosary with Mother Angelica and a few independent documentaries have captioning as well. But the shows that I wouldn't mind watching once in awhile, like 'Rome Reports' and 'The World Over', have nothing. Raymond Arroyo looks like he has something really interesting to report on, but his facial expressions and the little box over his shoulder don't do much for conveying information...

So until the network decides to put some time and effort into reaching the world of the hearing impaired in its home country instead of worrying about reaching the far reaches of the Third World, it will just have to remain one of those channels I flip past on my way between CNN and Bloomberg.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

What would the late Pope say?

I'll post about the weekend as promised later, but this needs to be addressed.

Rome, Oct. 14 ( - The Vatican no longer needs to appoint bishops to serve the "underground" Catholic Church in China, because the "official" Church is moving toward full union with Rome, according to the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica.

Articles published in Civilta Cattolica are approved in advance by the Vatican Secretariat of State. Thus an article that will appear in the October 15 issue of the magazine, by Father Hans Waldenfels, presumably reflects the thinking of top Vatican officials.

Read the complete article No more need for an "underground" Chinese Church? from Catholic World News. Note, a subscription is required to read the entire article.

The piece cited in the CWN article lists a lot of examples of a detente between the Catholic Church and the CPA. But let's be clear on this, even if the Secretariat of State doesn't necessarily want to be clear.

The People's Republic of China is a post-communist oligarchy. Its technocrat elite may be willing to make nice with the Vatican for the moment if that means the dropping of recognition from Taiwan, but if the Catholic Church enters the elite's sights as a threat to the Party, I see no reason for them to not crack down.

The majority of Chinese are not Christians. They've not batted an eye about Tibet. They've not batted an eye about Falun Gong. They sure haven't up to this point been protesting in the streets over the presecution of Christians. The students of 1989 are long gone and today's students and middle class are more concerned with getting ahead in the middle class than with political dissent.

There have been a lot of reports lately about protests growing more frequent over issues such as government corruption and democracy. The Holy See is hitching itself to the wrong side of Chinese society.

Since the election of Pope Benedict, it has been noted that John Paul II was the anti-communist Pope and that his time had come and gone. John Paul's enemy was not communism, but tyranny. What would he say about all these comments coming from the Holy See about melding the state organ of a tyrannical government with the 'Roman' Catholic Church in China?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Gone again?!

Yes, I'm afraid so.

Tomorrow my cousin is getting married down in central Missouri and I must put in an appearance. I'll be driving down with my family today and should be back on Sunday. Don't expect any updates until at least Sunday evening or Monday.

When I return, I'll report back on the sights of the Methodist church where the wedding is taking place and any Catholic church I can find down there for Mass on Sunday before we head home.

On a side note:

Reuters thinks that the Chicoms allowing a funeral for an unofficial bishop is a thaw.

But Liu Bainan, vice chairman of the Catholic Patriotic Association, said he knew about Zhang's funeral but did not read anything into it.

"I don't think it indicates anything," he said.

In this one instance, I'll have to agree with the CPA.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Interest in an indult

Amid other things, Cardinal Arinze was asked about something that we've heard nothing about so far.

Questioned on a different topic-- whether the Church might expand the permission for celebration the Tridentine-rite Mass-- Cardinal Arinze replied that the topic had not been discussed at any length during the Synod, and was not one of the "priorities" of the assembly.

Read the complete article Prelates tackle controversial Synod issues (Thursday update) from Catholic World News.

I didn't think anything would come of a 'universal indult' or anything else for the Tridentine Mass. As I noted before, aside from the usual buzz from the 'traditional' folks, it wasn't until the meeting with Fellay that a lot of noise was made on the topic. With the SSPX dialogue back to where it was before, a unilateral move on the part of the Holy See just didn't seem probable.

Define 'breakthrough'

In his tenth report from the Synod in Rome, John Allen starts off with the following paragraph which can be found here at The Word From Rome:

In a potential indication that one should not expect breakthroughs from the 21st Synod of Bishops on the tough questions of celibacy or communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, a Western European cardinal told the bishops that he understood all the positions expressed on those issues, and cautioned bishops not to go home “feeling as if they have not been heard.”

Now the word breakthrough usually means that progress is made on a topic, a moving forward to something positive. I'm wondering just what kind of breakthrough Mr. Allen has in mind when saying that one shouldn't be expected on such issues as celibacy and the reception of the Eucharist for those in a state of sin. Would married priests be positive? Would allowing any and all to partake at the Lord's Supper be positive?

Is it a poor choice of a word or is Mr. Allen speaking to his most likely readers?

Bergoglio won't talk

Vatican, Oct. 13 ( - The Argentine cardinal who was reportedly the main challenger to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the April papal election does not want to comment on leaked reports from the conclave.

"I am still confused and a bit hurt" by the published reports about the papal election, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio told the Italian daily L'Indipendente. "I don't want to talk about these indiscretions."

Read the complete article Argentine cardinal refuses to discuss conclave support from Catholic World News. Note, subscribing is required to read this article.

Good for Cardinal Bergoglio. As Magister summed up in his article on the leak, ask five different cardinals and they'll give you five different versions of what happened. Bergoglio is not only wise to honor his vow of secrecy, but it's also good to not descend into playing the guessing game of what happened.

I can carve Christ better than you!

Someday, someone is going to figure out that a historically accurate film/television show based on the Renaissance would be a big money-maker. Not just for the non-celibate clergy or the constant tug-of-war between the Empire and the Pope, but just for the soap opera of the artists...

In Vasari's words, "Filippo said that it seemed to him that Donatello had put the body of a peasant on the cross, not the body of Jesus Christ." Angered by the comment, Donatello challenged Brunelleschi to do better, reportedly saying "you get some wood and try to make one yourself."

When he had finished the cross, the architect invited Donatello to lunch .

Vasari then recounts that "going into the hall, Donatello paused to study Filippo's crucifix and found it so perfect that he was completely overwhelmed and dropped his hands in astonishment... "Your job is making Christs and mine is making peasants", Vasari quotes Donatello as humbly telling Brunelleschi.

Read the complete article Donatello 'peasant' Christ returns from

(ANSA) - Ancona, October 12 - An art expert has uncovered a sculpture of Christ on the Cross he claims Salvador Dali made to thank an Italian friar who exorcised him .

Armando Ginesi found the piece, measuring 60cm by 30cm, among the personal belongings of Gabriele Maria Berardi, a friar who died in 1984, in a storeroom in Rome.

Read the complete article Dali's gift to exorcist uncovered, also from

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Vatican II... officially

Rick Lugari quotes Levada from Zenit saying that he hopes in 10 years time (in time for the 50th anniversary) there can be a new, precise translation of the documents of the Second Vatican Council in all the main languages. Read through Rick's comments after the Levada/Zenit quote. A lot of good insights that I agree with for the most part.

Fortunately, understanding Vatican II in an academic sense has no bearing on the salvation of our souls, so I have found it beneficial personally not to reflect on it too much. I assent to the Church’s teaching with heart and mind, whether I understand it in all its intricacies or not. Besides, there is enough written before and after Vatican II to present the Church’s teaching accurately without having to personally dissect VII in all its compromising ambiguity or to rely on the repugnant word of the Indifferentist and Modernist Spirit of Vatican II types.

Read all of Rick's comments at his post New Translations of Vatican II Texts Needed, Says Prefect from De Civitate Dei.

'Fraternal' comments

During the Fourteenth General Congregration, the fraternal delegates had an opportunity to speak. These included not only several delegates from the Orthodox Church, but also the representative of the Anglican Communion.

Read the complete article Fourteenth General Congregation from Vatican Information Service.

The general theme of their comments was of course the Eucharist. As Metropolitan Johannis Zizioulas of Greece noted,

"There may still be things that separate our two Churches but we both believe that the Eucharist is the heart of the Church. It is on this basis that we can continue the official theological dialogue of our two Churches, which is now entering a new phase. Eucharistic ecclesiology can guide us in our efforts to overcome a thousand years of separation. For it is a pity to hold the same conviction of the importance of the Eucharist but not be able to share it at the same table."

Bishop John Hind of Chichester, England on behalf of the Anglicans asked for the prayers of the Synod during the difficult times the Communion is going through. He then went on to discuss the Eucharist. After recalling the instance of Roger Schutz receiving Communion earlier this year, he went on, saying that a reasoned view of what is a 'mystery of faith' is not the best way:

"The Eucharist is not primarily a matter or rite or ceremonial but a living of the new life in Christ. If it is to be truly Christian, there must be criteria for mutual recognition. No less important is the extent to which we suffer with each other. ... In the Eucharist it is not our fellowship that is being celebrated, but our reconciliation with God which creates our fellowship. ... If the Eucharist is itself 'Mysterium fidei' then it must follow that our fellowship or communion in the Church is also a 'mysterion,' in other words, speaking something we cannot understand by reason alone. Finally, being united with Christ in His self-offering orients us not only towards God but also towards every single one of our human brothers and sisters, for whom in their amazing diversity the Son of God gave His life."

Given the tenor of the comments so far from a good number of the Synod Fathers, Bishop Hind's words are perhaps a little late if they are meant to bring a different view of the Eucharist to the fore. Reliving the 'act' of the Sacrifice of Christ as a means of fraternal brotherhood is a tiny bit different from the Transubstantiation and the reception of Christ Himself...

Summarizing the first half; other items

Magister looks at the first half of the Synod and sums up the different points of the primary discussions and he also comments on the relative lack of discussion over celibacy.

ROMA, October 12, 2005 – At its halfway point, the synod of bishops on the Eucharist has shown the worldwide Church a portrait rich with contrasts.

Read the complete article The Synod: The Eucharist Determines the State of the Church’s Health from www.chiesa.

Vaticanisti discusses the confirmation of the new US ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Rooney here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

General update 10/11/05

Bulletin of the Synod of Bishops for yesterday.

I skimmed through the VIS email (its contents haven't been posted yet at the site). The Eucharist almost exclusively was the topic yesterday afternoon and in today's morning session. Julian Cardinal Herranz, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, addressed the 'right' to participation in the Eucharist. His comments from yesterday can be found here.

"Humanity has no right before God to receive the Eucharist, precisely because this is an act of infinite generosity and mercy. But once God has given the sacraments to the Church for the good of His people, all the faithful enjoy the following right formulated by ... canon 912: 'Any baptized person who is not forbidden by law may and must be admitted to Holy Communion.' ... We are dealing here with a fundamental right but not, as some think, an absolute one. There are, in fact, personal requirements limiting that right. The need of a state of grace to receive Holy Communion, which the people concerned must judge for themselves, also has certain external manifestations that make demands on Pastors. [...]

In other news, a new book, Revolution of God, has been published by the Vatican printing organ. It is a collection of the Holy Father's discourses during World Youth Day and includes his remarks during a general audience after which summed up the legacy of the event.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Husar: Synod with Orthodox needed

During and after today's session of the Synod, Cardinal Husar of Kiev spoke out on the relationship between the 'two lungs' of the Church.

Husar then suggested that the pope call a new synod of the world's Catholic bishops to discuss the role of the Eastern rite church, saying there was a lack of understanding among other Catholics about its role.

He suggested Orthodox clerics be included in the meeting.

In an interview with The Associated Press after his speech, Husar noted that the late Pope John Paul II had frequently said the Catholic Church "breathes with two lungs" - a reference to the Eastern and Western halves of the church.

"At the moment we do not feel that the church is breathing with these two lungs," he told the AP.

Read the complete article Ukraine cardinal wants synod with Orthodox from The Mercury News.

A synod with a lot of Orthodox invited to attend would do what exactly? I'm surprised he doesn't just go all the way and make some noise for an ecumenical council with everyone, East and West, invited to attend.

There is an upcoming meeting of the group responsible for dialogue. I'm interested in seeing what they come up with as far as the issue of the primacy and other details. Husar seems really caught up in this whole ecumenism with the East, though he seems to not realize his very own position in Ukraine is a large part of the problem (or so it appears).

I'm wondering though... In the interests of moving things forward, is the Patriarch of Constaninople willing to do an end-run around the Russians? What are his representatives doing in Ukraine? We'll see.

Pursuing the plan?

Let's see, what did I miss over the weekend...

On the 8th was the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Synod of Bishops. Various bishops spoke. It was noted that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI had served as relator general. The Holy Father will no doubt live a long while, but does his position now give Scola the added leg up in the eventual conclave? We shall see.

Clemens August Cardinal von Galen was beatified (minus direct Papal participation).

In a letter to the Pontifical Lateran University, Benedict XVI commenorated the centennial anniversary of the birth of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Pursuing the plan

The Synod continued today with its deliberations. From today's VIS email:


VATICAN CITY, OCT 10, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, in the presence of the Holy Father and of 244 Synod Fathers, the Eleventh General Congregation of the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was held. The president delegate on duty was Cardinal Francis Arinze.

Following are excerpts from some of the speeches delivered this morning:

CARDINAL LUBOMYR HUSAR M.S.U., ARCHBISHOP OF LVIV OF THE UKRAINIANS, UKRAINE. "My premise is that there can be no doubt whatsoever that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the life and the mission of the Church. But this is also true for Oriental Churches! (Therefore) if the Liturgy is a 'regula fidei' ('lex orandi, lex credendi'); if the divine liturgy celebrated by Oriental Churches in communion with the See of Rome, and by Orthodox or Apostolic Churches, is identical; if there is mutual recognition of the apostolic succession of bishops and, consequently, of priests that celebrate the Eucharist, then my question is: what more is required for unity? Is there perhaps another 'fons' or another 'culmen' superior to the Eucharist? And if not, why isn't con-celebration permitted?"

As you'll all remember (since I can't find the link), Husar suggested a couple of weeks ago that there should be one Church in Ukraine under one patriarch, in communion with Rome. Are his words here a further step in floating the idea?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

All in the family

In light of the ongoing discussions at the Synod, when I found this article while browsing through a magazine (Esquire), I was rather intrigued. Unfortunately, I didn't have the cash to buy the magazine.

FATHER JIM MCGHEE won't hear his wife's confession. That would just be . . . awkward. Other than that, Ann McGhee is a parishioner like any other at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, Texas, where her husband says three or four masses a week. Who sanctioned this scenario? Pope John Paul II. Back in the late seventies, an Episcopal priest from South Carolina named James Parker decided he'd had it with the leftward drift of his church, which ordained its first female priest in 1977. So Parker sought full communion with the Catholic Church, and the Church ......

Read the complete article Catholic Priests & Their Wives from Esquire.

In order to read the rest of the article, you'll need to either go find the October issue or be a subscriber to access the premium content. I only browsed through the issue and I'm not a subscriber. It looks pretty interesting.

An interesting tale from the heartland

Next summer, Mark Neal will be ordained as a priest by the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines. His faith was tested after adopting and raising a deeply troubled boy, but he remained steadfast. Through pain and heartache, he truly has earned the title, Father.


Read the complete article Faith of the Father from Des Moines

Read about soon-to-be Father Mark's travails as as a father. It made for good reading on the car-ride home from northwest Iowa.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Communion Rail: traveling NW Iowa

On Friday, my brother and I reached our destination of Okoboji, IA, where we checked into our hotel and visited our high school for the football game. The next morning, we had breakfast at a quaint little restaurant known by the name of its founders, the O'Farrell sisters. After, we went to our first stop of the day, St. Joseph's in Milford.

When I was a kid, the colors of choice for church decoration were earthy. When we first arrived at St. Joseph's parish, the earthy tones were there. Yellowing off-white, if you can imagine that, would be what I'm thinking of for the color (aside from the wood-work). The primary features of the church were the main altar with its own integrated tabernacle, the intact communion rails and the two great confessionals, one left, one right, flanking the statues of Mary and Joseph.

By the mid-90s, efforts were afoot for a redecorating. A thorough repainting of the interior was in the works. A new reconciliation room and the removal of the confessionals were also planned. As a high school student on the fringes of parish affairs, I was not privy to the ins and outs of the redecorating scheme, but one matter that did reach my ears was the communion rails. They were to go as well, because it was thought they were some kind of psychological barrier between the assembled laity and the sanctuary and the workings of the Mass. Barrier breaking won out and the communion rails were each hacked in half and the rump rails were each placed to the sides as decoration. When we arrived there Saturday, we found it much the same.

* * *

When I think of the 'earthy' sensation, I am thinking principally of Corpus Christi Church in Fort Dodge. My grandmother taught school there in the 70s and when I described how it looked when I went to Mass there in the 80s, she said it sounded nothing like the church she'd known. During the later 80s and early 90s, the church was your everyday US post-Vatican II church. Wood-panelling dominated a rather drab interior. There was no communion rail (and no psychological barrier to speak of).

By the early to mid-90s, Corpus Christi was also pursuing redecorating. I'll not recount details beyond saying that things went from bad to worse as far as drabness. However, there was one interesting addition. A wooden partition was built, dividing the sanctuary in half. The altar, etc. were placed on the outer side and on the inner side was the tabernacle...

* * *

Two parishes in the Sioux City diocese redecorated at about the same time and went in two opposite theological directions. Which was right? Were both right? Were both wrong? In the finale of the Year of the Eucharist, hopefully the brethren bishops in Rome will decide.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Absence and abstinence

Starting today, I'll be gone through Sunday. Thus I won't be blogging before then. Remember, Friday is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Read through this and consider taking the time to recite the Rosary, given the global struggle against Wahhabi fundamentalism.

Have a good weekend and may Christ be with you all.

Spokesman for the Orthodox

If there’s a son of the Eastern Church who in the past years has given proof of confronting the thorny question of the primacy that still divides Catholics and Orthodox with a view free of old prejudices, this is Ioannis Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamum, member of the Synod of the Ecumenic Patriarchate of Constantinople. It was he who led the Constantinople delegation that came to Rome at the end of June to pay homage to the new bishop of the Eternal City on the occasion of the patronal festival of Saints Peter and Paul. It will be he, recognized by all as one of the most authoritative Orthodox theologians living, who will be co-president of the Orthodox part of the International Commission of dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches that, after years of troubled existence should resume meeting next autumn, to place the very discussion of the primacy itself on the agenda. Given these premises, it doesn’t take much to imagine that in this coming discussion the historical analyses and the reflections themselves, matured over the years, by this gentle and hieratic metropolitan, – the same that he outlines in detailed fashion to 30Days in this interview – will constitute a more than authoritative point of reference.

Read the complete article Where the Eucharist is, there is the Catholic Church from 30 Days.

This interview is really worth reading. The basic premise of the Metropolitan's ideas surrounding a reconciliation between West and East is that a synod cannot operate without a primus. The local Churchs are bound together in a Universal Church through a universal primus, with in a reunited Church would be the Successor of Peter.

However, as His Eminence the Metropolitan points out in the interview (though not in so many words), the devil is in the details. However, he does have confidence in Rome's new bishop.

One last question. You knew Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. What do you think the approach and contribution of the new Pope to these issues could be?

ZIZIOULAS: I had the honor and privilege of meeting the then Cardinal Ratzinger in the early eighties when we were members of the International Commission on the official Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches. He is a great theologian and an expert in ecclesiology, both Western and Eastern. In his new capacity as Pope he can certainly contribute decisively to the convergence between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox understanding of primacy. In the past he made some important suggestions for the solution of this problem. It may prove to be providential that he is Pope at this crucial moment of the discussion of this matter.

You saw Godfather III, right?

(ANSA) - Rome, October 6 - Some 175 people were called to testify Thursday at the start of a trial for the murder of 'God's Banker' Roberto Calvi, found hanging from a bridge in London more than 20 years ago .

The prosecution did not release its witness list but some experts think one may be the 81-year-old former head of the Vatican Bank, Cardinal Paul Marcinkus, who retired to Arizona shortly after the death of Calvi, the former head of Italy's biggest private bank .

Prosecutors claim there are other motives for the killing .

These include a desire on the part of those who commissioned the murder to gain leverage among Calvi's extensive network of contacts with masonic lodges, Vatican bank Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), political and institutional figures, and public-sector agencies .

Licio Gelli, 86, the convicted head of the subversive Propaganda Due (P2) lodge, is one of a dozen suspects in a related probe to establish who ordered the hit .

Read the complete article from

Murder and mayhem surrounding on of Italy's largest banks at the time, the Vatican Bank and the elite secret lodge of Propaganda Due...

Future media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, currently Italian premier for the second time, took out membership shortly before Gelli's fall. He has claimed he thought the lodge was a sort of gentleman's club.

As you all no doubt recall from previous posts, this is also the same circle that is alleged by conspiracy theorists to have killed John Paul I because he was going to 'clean up' IOR and end the corruption.

I don't give any credence to such theories, but putting together the death of a Pope and Mafia mischief certainly makes of an interesting movie plot. I'm surprised that no one else over the years except Puzo and Coppola has tried. Given the fascination with the Mafia in the United States, it would probably do well.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


In today's VIS Bulletin were the usual excerpts from the speeches at the Synod of Bishops. Read the excerpts here. Aside from the hot button issues that gets the blood pressure pumping, there has been an undercurrent that has as far as I've seen gone unreported.

A lot of these bishops are pretty serious about not only the Eucharist but Penance as well.

BISHOP RIMANTAS NORVILA OF VILKAVISKIS, LITHUANIA. "Without the will or the possibility of sacramental reconciliation, it becomes impossible for Catholics to experience the most profound union with Jesus Christ and the Church, favored by the Eucharist. Thus Christians reach a point where they cannot appreciate the value of the Eucharist as a source of grace and, little by little, they lose their bonds with the parish community and their closeness to the whole Church. At the same time, without the practice of reconciliation, subjectivism tends to increase, and it becomes more difficult to evaluate personal behavior and religiosity. The decline of the practice of this Sacrament is very obvious throughout the world.

Another bishop made a suggestion that during Lent on Fridays, no celebration of the Eucharist be held.

BISHOP LORENZO VOLTOLINI ESTI, AUXILIARY OF PORTOVIEJO, ECUADOR. "Refraining from the celebration of Mass on Friday in Lent would help the faithful to feel greater hunger for the Eucharistic food, and it would give priests the chance to put themselves at the disposal of the faithful for the Sacrament of Penance, thus establishing a relationship of equal dignity and necessity between the two Sacraments. ... I propose it be suggested to dioceses or National Conferences, or at least allowed to those that request it, that they establish a day of Eucharistic fasting, preferably during Lent and perhaps on Fridays. This should not be experienced as a day of Eucharistic absence but as a period of preparation for and expectation of the Eucharist. It should not be considered as an interruption of the practice of celebrating the Eucharist each day, but as a way to give worth to the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, equally celebrated in Penance and in the Eucharist in the totality and complementarity of the two Sacraments."

In a speech from the other day, one of the bishops suggested that the upcoming year be declared the Year of Penance.

Reconciliation is perhaps the 'bastard child' sacrament of the West (and perhaps the rest of the world, given the bishops making these suggestions are from places like Lithuania and Ecuador. Mainstream Catholics get cleaned up and tromp off to Mass Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, but I would really love to see some statistics comparing weekly Mass attendance and weekly confession.

It is often pointed out that weekly Mass attendance is supposed to be some kind of 'indicator', but I would submit that the latter, weekly confession, would be the true measure of a practicing Catholic. Levada asked his fellow bishops for comments on allowing politicians who support anti-Catholic positions to receive the Eucharist. He ought to be asking his fellow bishops about allowing the unconfessed masses to receive the Eucharist week in and week out without so much as a word from the pulpit.

Back in the sixteenth century, there was so much conflict over the Reformation and which side the princes should choose because one of the factors was that the princes were personally responsible for their subjects' souls and if they chose wrong, they were condemning them all to eternal damnation. The clergy might want to consider this point as well.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Russians and their traditions

[Bishop Yegorevsky Mark, deputy head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarch, who is leading a Russian Orthodox Church delegation to the Vatican] said changes made 40 years ago had substantially relaxed access to Catholic communion.

"The aim of the Catholic Church to adapt to the modern world, to make Christianity more understandable and 'easy' for the world has had serious negative consequences," he said.

According to Mark, this situation has also caused a reverse reactionary process, geared towards returning to the same traditions the Orthodox Church has faithfully observed.

"We view this process as a confirmation of the correctness of our own experience and the importance of maintaining our traditions," the bishop said.

Read the complete article Orthodox bishop says Vatican assembly confirms Orthodox traditional values from RIA Novosti.


Magister reloaded

Some tidbits and comments:

The Legion is closing ranks in defense of Fr. Maciel, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano and other curia leaders are defending him, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has gathered corroborative denunciations over the past few months, and on the basis of these it will decide by next winter whether or not to open a formal process. Fr. Maciel’s advanced age – he is 85 – and the fact that he no longer holds any official post make it likely that the sentence, if there is any, will be as nontraumatic as possible for the order he founded.

It is likely that a housecleaning will take place, beginning in the United States, among the rectors and professors of many seminaries, for both disciplinary and doctrinal reasons.

A decision is coming up this winter and may be adjusted to fit Father Maciel's age. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of response they have for him after the previous case that Magister outlines. The reference to the visitation in the US and possible housecleaning seems to contradict the idea that its proceedings are going to be a whitewash.

In Ratzinger’s vision, in fact, only a more “purified” Church can address itself more effectively toward those outside of it – without disguising any of its originality.

He told the representatives of the Protestant communities that he does not believe in an ecumenism made of negotiations on how to democratize the Churches. For the pope, the first question to put on the agenda for Christians is how to bear witness to the Word of God to the world. And the second is how to respond in unison to the “great ethical questions posed by our time” without giving way to the reigning relativistic culture.

One model of ecumenism between Protestants and Catholics that Ratzinger has said he admires is the “interiorized and spiritualized” ecumenism of the monks of Taizé. But he didn’t make the slightest reference, in Cologne, to the meetings in Assisi and the spectacular recreations of these organized every year by the Community of Sant’Egidio.

Meetings, negotiations, papering over differences... bad. Men and women coming together to live and share their personal faith in a Christian community... good. I would guess this is why monasticism has proven so popular for the last fifteen-hundred years and more.

Even with the Muslim exponents he met in Cologne on August 20, pope Ratzinger acted with all his cards showing. He did not visit the mosque, as they had asked him to do; he received them at the archbishop’s residence with a great crucifix behind him.

There are those who lament its absence and those who are glad it's gone. But you don't need the Triple Tiara to know how to intimidate people with the trappings of your office. Make them come to you and put a really big symbol of what you stand for behind you for them to look at as you talk.

To date, Benedict XVI has spoken only once about communion for those who have divorced and remarried. And this was not to reinforce the unconditional ban, but to say that the question “must be studied more deeply” at least in one case: that of the person who was married in church even though he did not believe, and then, having been separated and remarried with another person, arrives to the faith, but sees himself excluded from Eucharistic communion.

Can a non-member of the Catholic Church take part in a sacrament? Is the validity of the sacrament based on belief of those who take part in it? I'd like to see really what they come up with on this question.

Read the complete article The First Synod after the Conclave Gets Underway. The Pope Is Being Tested from www.chiesa.

How the pendulum swings

(ANSA) - Rome, October 4 - Foucault's Pendulum, one of the most famous scientific experiments in history, will be recreated in Bologna on Saturday with the help of Italian philosopher and author Umberto Eco .

The experiment, whose name provided the title for one of Eco's best-selling novels, proves that the earth turns on a north-south axis, completing one rotation each day .

It was first performed by French physicist Jean Bernard Foucault in Paris's Pantheon in 1851. He hung a 28-kg sphere at the end of an 11-metre pendulum from the ceiling and gave it a push .

The pendulum swung backwards and forwards across a point on the floor for several hours, making lines in piles of sand left there for this purpose. Instead of always following the same track, as non-scientists expected, the lines gradually twisted around .

The experiment finally demonstrated unequivocally something that physicists had long worked out but been unable to prove - that the earth spins as it flies through space. Some 155 years later, Eco will set a similar pendulum in motion in Bologna's Basilica of St Petronas. He will introduce the stunt with the same words that Foucault used in Paris: "You are invited to witness the earth turn around." The recreation of the experiment is part of a four-day initiative organised by Bologna city hall and the city's university in a bid to help popularise scientific studies .

Read the complete article Umberto Eco proves the earth spins from

I have not yet read the book, but I'm sure I will one of these days. The recreation of this experiment is an interesting look at science at time when concepts we take for granted today were still considered mere theory.

It's funny though. The 'theories' of relativity and evolution are mere theories, possible explanations that could be true and seem to be true in observing nature. Physicists take Einstein and work to prove him right or wrong, constantly coming up with new experiments to test the theory of relativity. Yet there are so many people out there who accept evolution as a 'law' without blinking an eye, even scientists who ought to know the scientific method better. When was the last time you read about a nifty experiment proving evolution in a controlled experiment?

Remember the Philippines?

Earlier this summer, the Pope sent a letter to the bishops of the Philippines, asking/telling them to stay out of the election scandal that had surrounded President Arroyo. This came after a long tradition of the bishops, led by Cardinal Sin, in intervening to ensure that democracy reigned.

But now...

The borrowed French term is déjà vu, although maybe it should be a comparable word in Latin. This with clerics of Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church once again becoming politically active, albeit hush-hush, in ways reminiscent to the involvement of prelates during the run-up years to Mexico’s 1988 presidential election.

In September the Pope made several major statements about Mexico, first expressing concern to an initial group of visiting Mexican bishops about escalating corruption, impunity, narcotics trafficking, organized crime and other challenges. A week later, while accepting the credentials of Mexico’s new ambassador to the Vatican, he amplified on his distress with respect to illegal drugs, crime and violence in Mexico.

Moreover, in a subsequent visit with another delegation of ad limina apostolorum bishops from Mexico, he delved into partisan politics more directly. According to Texcoco Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, who is also secretary general of the CEM, Pope Benedict encouraged Mexico’s bishops to “positively” participate in the current electoral process.

Read the complete article Déjà vu politics and the Mexican Catholic Church from MEXIDATA.INFO.

So, all those bishops from Mexico who've been streaming through Italy the last month or so were advised to 'positively' participate in the political process. Mexico certainly has problems, but I'm wondering what is the difference between the Philippines and Mexico when it comes to episcopal involvement in the political process.

I am thinking that the Pope wants clear and direct Church participation, but that he would like to get past the days when Cardinal Sin and his colleagues basically decided if a president had been fairly elected or not.

Mother Angelica's empire

Raymond Arroyo's authorized biography of Mother Angelica made The New York Times bestseller list in the first week of its publication. Remarkable for any book, but particularly so for a study of an American Roman Catholic nun. And one whose name probably means very little to most people reading this column.


The Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s intended to open one or two windows. Modernist radicals were more interested in smashing stained glass. Genuinely Catholic bishops, priests, teachers and activists found themselves marginalized and in some cases persecuted.

Then the great change -- Pope John Paul the Great. The faithful were empowered and a new wave of organizations, publishers, periodicals and colleges began to flourish. EWTN was part of the exquisite counter-reformation.

Mother Angelica herself is an unlikely hero. Born Rita Rizzo, she grew up in an Ohio slum dominated by organized crime where prostitutes and thugs walked the streets. Her mother suffered from acute and sometimes suicidal depression, her father abandoned the family and left them in poverty.

She became a cloistered nun and expected to spend the rest of her life as such. But she saw at first-hand the contrived decay of the Catholic Church and felt obliged to intervene. As is so often the case with people who have been mugged by the reality of the inner city, she has never suffered liberals lightly and was not about to blithely accept establishment driven rusty relativism.


Read the complete article The nun who became a mogul from National Post.

The article goes on to recount more Canadian concerns that long-time readers of Relapsed Catholic should be familiar with from RC's writings.

In any case, the article at the National Post is a fascinating look at both Mother Angelica and the Canadian religious experience. Raymond Arroyo's book is of course an authorized biography, but as another article I read recounts, he didn't leave out a screaming match between Mother and a bishop. I think I'll go ahead and pick this up on Amazon.

On a sidenote, I watch EWTN very little. They don't close-captioned a lot of their programming, which is in my book a pretty serious sin of omission.

On another sidenote, Raymond Arroyo and his family fled Katrina. If you're looking for a good charitable act, you could pick up his book as your good deed for the day.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Conclave secrecy: what canon law has to say

Dr. Edward Peters points out the relevant sections of canon law in light of the recent publication of a cardinal's diary from the conclave.

2. According to ecclesiastical law, however, no penalty is specified for cardinals who break their solemn oath. The small number of support staff who are permitted into conclave precincts are bound by oath to observe secrecy and their oath is enforceable by penalty, but even there the penalty is not excommunication. Rather, it is that “which the future Supreme Pontiff will see fit to adopt, in accordance with Canon 1399 of the Code of Canon Law”

(UDG ¶ 48).The sanction enabled by 1983 CIC 1399 is “a just penalty” which might or might not extend all the way to excommunication. There is also ¶ 55 that threatens "grave penalties according to the judgment of the future Pope" for those who violate secrecy, but the context of ¶ 55 is electronic eavesdropping, and in any case, the penalty need not be excommunication. Per ¶ 71, elector notes are to be burned, but again, no specific penalty (excommunication or otherwise) is attached to the violation of this norm.

In brief, if this sad story is true and if the offending cardinal is identified, Pope Benedict XVI may deal with the situation any way he sees fit, for no specific response to this particular offense is dictated by the words of Church law.+++ The Next Papal Conclave: Current Eligible Electors

Read read all of Dr. Peters' comments here.

So excommunication is not the penalty, but rather it is at the discretion of the Supreme Pontiff himself. Can one strip a cardinal of his cardinal robes?

The Italian scene

As you'll all remember, back in the early summer, Italy had itself a referendum on a law governing IVF among other things. The Church's campaign of persuading voters to stay at home so that the referendum would lack a quorum was a complete success.

Here is a further and quite interesting look at the state of Italian politics and the revival of the Church's agenda:

[...] But the road to a left-center victory has proved exceedingly bumpy so far. Here's why:

For four decades after the end of WWII, the Catholic Church wielded power in Italy through the Christian Democrats, so thorougly discredited by corruption scandals that the party was dissolved in the early 1990s after its last Premier, Giulio Andreotti, was found by a court to have extensive Mafia ties. But now, following 15 years of enforced slumber, the Roman Catholic Church has made the decision to relaunch the Church in Italy as a political force -- and all signs are that it will work. And even as the front-running Prodi campaigns up and down the Italian peninsula from a proletarian yellow bus, the Vatican -- with a vintage1950 political ideology and strategy -- has moved into higher gear too.

Other events that should be getting attention are being stifled by the press...

Instead, day after day, the big headlines are going to the Church -- for example, to a debate over whether high school and university students in Siena had a right to boo the Cardinal Primate of Italy, the austere Cardinal Ruini, for saying that he opposes "de facto marital unions," meaning unwed heterosexuals as well as gay couples. In this September 23 incident, 40 students ousted from the hall where Riuni was speaking then congregated outside, waving placards like, "Free love in a free State," and "We are all homosexuals."

Ruini subsequently announced that he has not only the right, but an obligation to speak out on issues which concern the Church. Then Ruini went further, suggesting that a proposed law permitting legal recognition of civil unions between unmarried heterosexual couples and gay couples would be unconstitutional. Momentarily, at least, the fact that a cardinal spoke on the constitutionality of proposed Italian legislation put the cat among the pigeons. Curiously, what is now emerging is a groundswell of growing support for the Church and, tacitly, for what his opponents call Ruini¹s meddling.

Read the complete article Italy: The Church Re-enters Politics, Dividing the Left from ZNet.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

O'Brien: It's my personal opinion

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The archbishop overseeing a Vatican-run inspection of U.S. seminaries said that he was not speaking for the Vatican or the U.S. bishops when he said he opposed admitting to seminaries men who have engaged in homosexual activity in the past or who have strong homosexual tendencies.

"I was reflecting my personal opinion and offering a prudential practice based on 12 years experience as rector (president) of two U.S. seminaries," said Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, in a Sept. 30 statement.


Read the complete article Archbishop says he's not speaking for Vatican on gays in seminaries from Catholic News Service.

Readers will no doubt remember the previous post when O'Brien made his comments.

A couple of observations

The archbishop wants to defend the visitation from becoming a one-issue affair. He's got his work cut out for him there.

The archbishop has seen the document and his position does not represent its contents. This may be true. I'm not going to speculate too much on the actual contents of the document, but regardless of the 'Italian' mentality of enforcement that has been kicked around this last week, I just have a hunch that the document will be far milder than than the apocalyptic thing it is believed to be.

The archbishop perhaps caught some flak for his comments before. As the head of the visitation, one would expect him to keep his mouth closed while on the job. This 'clarification' of the hat he was wearing when he made his comments is telling.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

A lost idea

I was driving last night and a great idea for a post here came to mind. But alas, events unfolded and I forgot the idea until this morning. I remembered having the idea, but couldn't for the life of me remember what the idea was. It is a loss, I know.

Today is the feast of the Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

Tomorrow is Life Sunday (also known as the 27th (?) Sunday in Ordinary Time). Organizers are hoping to see 100 million Catholics say the Rosary with the intention of life and ending abortion tomorrow. Get to Mass early and take a moment to say the Rosary for the worthy cause.