Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What the voters want

"They want what every first-term administration wants: A second term."

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) -- “Hamas will enter into the peace process because there’s no other choice”. The Palestinian people voted for Hamas to punish Fatah for its foolishness and errors. But the people, at least 78%, want peace with Israel and improved economic conditions. Hamas cannot ignore the people’s will.” This in the words of Nabil Kukali, director and founder of the Palestinian Centre for Palestine Opinion, which has been studying Palestinian public opinion since 1994. Kukali, a Christian, is also a professor at Hebron University, in one of the most heated areas of the West Bank and what is held to be a Hamas stronghold.

Professor Kukali is about to release a survey on the reasons for the Palestinian vote, following Hamas’ victory in parliamentary elections. Survey results show that if Hamas wants to maintain popular support, it must change tactics and program. “As long as Hamas was not in power, it could ‘resist’, but if it takes on government it can’t enter into dialogue and ‘resist’ at the same time.”

As for the worries expressed by Christians and moderate Muslims that the legislature might go off on a fundamentalist tangent, Prof Kukali is straightforward. “We Christians have lived here since the time of Christ and they cannot throw us out. We shall see how things evolve over the next few months. But I think the main perception among Palestinians is that we are a single people, Muslims and Christians, Hamas and Fatah supporters.”

Read the complete article Electors want peace with Israel: the constraint on Hamas from AsiaNews.it.

Not going after all

Rumors of where the Holy Father might visit float around and then are burst like a balloon, being pricked by the sharp object of the fact that Benedict is in fact old.

PRAGUE- Pope Benedict XVI will not visit the Czech Republic in September, Martin Horalek, spokesman for the Czech Bishops Conference, said.

Information about the Pope's possible visit to the Czech Republic emerged last December when it was announced that he will visit his native Bavaria.

"The visit of the Pope to the Czech Republic will not take place this year for organisational reasons, his schedule will not make it possible for him to arrive," Horalek said.

Read the complete article Pope will not arrive in Czech Republic - Vatican from Czech News Agency.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Catholic professor says not to worry

An online friend of mine wrote at his blog the other day about how the election of Hamas has absolutely no positives. A Fatah professor who is Catholic was elected and thinks differently.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Within the new Palestinian government there are some who still have faith in dialogue between Hamas and Israel. Prof. Bernard Sabela, a Catholic member of Fatah elected to parliament is “optimistic” : if Hamas wants to avoid disappointing voters then it will have to continue the peace process, Palestinians want stability. Then he reassures Christians : it’s premature to speak of sharia.

Sabela, who is also a professor at the Pontifical University in Bethlehem, won one of the two seats assigned to Christians in Jerusalem. The politician holds the January 25th poll “ a victory for Hamas and for democracy”. “People decided – he says- and now Hamas must respond to the peoples demands and needs and they must do so quickly”. “If the leaders are sincere in their intent in to help the population, then Hamas must answer the calls of the people who voted them into power”. For this reason Sabela says he “hopeful” that a path to peace is still possible: “The government cannot separate the political plan from the social need and to ensure stability education , employment , to fight the economic crisis, they will have to have an agenda which foresees the end of occupation and progress in the peace process”. “If you lead the political process in your nation and the people are in need of basic services, and stability you must make that political process work”, he adds.

Read the complete article Palestine, Catholic Fatah member elected to parliament; a path to peace is still possible from AsiaNews.it.

I just don't believe that the election of Hamas is a completely bad thing. The terrorist activities of Hamas must end before it can be a legitimate partner for peace. However, the Palestinians since the creation of the Palestinian Authority have lacked internal security. The Fatah-staffed security agencies have up to this point been either powerless or simply apathetic. Hamas is in a position to seriously clean up the security services, end corruption and enforce order within the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the Occupied Territories.

After watching the Palestinians self-destruct over and over again over the last decade, a serious effort at efficient government that works for the people will open a lot of eyes as long as it is done fairly.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The surly bonds of Earth

On this date in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger was destroyed 73 seconds after launch, killing all aboard. The destruction was blamed on an O-ring in one of the solid rocket boosters that failed due to the cold January day in Florida.

The crew:
Francis "Dick" Scobee
Michael J. Smith
Judith Resnik
Ellison Onizuka
Ronald McNair
Gregory Jarvis
Christa McAuliffe

Godspeed Challenger.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The (rite of) Passage

Mr. Harper, the soon-to-be Prime Minister of Canada, met with the US ambassador, who wished to convey the US position on Canada asserting its sovereignty over the far north (don't get uppity and claim territory that isn't yours).

Mr. Harper replied in an assertive fashion (and I paraphrase), "I was elected by Canadians, not by the President of the United States!"

The far north is becoming a big deal as the polar ice cap shrinks, opening a possible Northwest Passage starting at Greenland and going over to the Bering Strait. In years past, it had been suggested that massive submarines be built with large cargo areas to travel under the cap. But thanks to climate change, the world is supposedly warming (tell that to Russia and Eastern Europe this past week).

Mr. Harper gains for himself some credibility as not being a US stooge and he's not even Prime Minister yet.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Quran's place in Islam

I posted here the other day on how there was a difference of opinion on whether or not the Holy Father believed that Islam was reformable and compatible with democracy.

Father Fessio, the proponent of the interpretation that the Holy Father does not believe it's possible, has now retracted his previous remarks.

From www.chiesa:

In a January 20 letter to “The Washington Times,” and in a January 23 message to www.chiesa, Fr. Fessio admits having “misrepresented what the Holy Father actually said.” He acknowledges that “Samir Khalil Samir’s recollection is accurate.” And he explains:

“The most important clarification is that the Holy Father did not say, nor did I, that ‘Islam is incapable of reform.’ [...] I made a serious error in precision when I said that the Koran ‘cannot be adapted or applied’ and that there is ‘no possibility of adapting or interpreting it.’ This is certainly not what the Holy Father said. Of course the Koran can be and has been interpreted and applied. I was making a (too) crude summary of the distinction which the Holy Father did make between the inner dynamism of the Koran as a divine text delivered as such to Mohammed, and that of the Bible which is both the Word of God and the words of men inspired by God, within a community that contains divinely appointed authorized interpreters (the bishops in communion with the pope).”

Fr. Fessio adds that language difficulties were also involved:

“The meeting was an informal one of the Holy Father and his former students. The presentation and the discussion were in German, and the Holy Father was not speaking from a prepared text. My German is passable, but not entirely reliable. My later remarks in a live radio interview were extemporaneous. I think that I paraphrased the Holy Father with general accuracy, but my mentioning what he said at all was an indiscretion, and my impromptu paraphrase in another language should not be used for a careful exegesis of the mind of the Holy Father.”

In essence:

“I would like to set the record straight and avoid unnecessary embarrassment to the Holy Father. The truth is always crucial, but especially so here where the stakes are so high. I am disconsolate that I have obscured the truth by my ambiguous remarks.”

Magister also includes remarks from other former students who were present at the big meeting of the Ratzinger Alumni who clarified Magister's own misconception that the meeting was on Islam and democracy, when in fact the emphasis was on the Quran as the literal word of God vs. the Bible as the word of men inspired by God.

Ceccanti – who teaches constitutional law at the Rome university La Sapienza – recalls that “in studying the Islamic declarations on the law, I have noted that what is blocking the recognition of democracy and human rights is precisely the weight of the Koran, which is used directly as the applicable law, since it is seen as the unmediated word of God. In order to bring a lasting solution to this legal and political conundrum, we must first address and resolve the theological one. In fact, in examining the individual constitutions of the Muslim countries, one finds even today nothing but pragmatic concessions (such as defining Shari’a as ‘one source of law’) which do nothing to prevent these countries from turning in upon themselves. So the Muslim world’s progress toward democracy is possible, but it faces serious obstacles.”

Coming home to roost

The Palestinian Fatah prime minister has resigned. Early results are giving 70 seats out of 132 to Hamas.

Israeli reaction is of course expected:

Speaking on election night, acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel could not deal with a Palestinian Authority which included Hamas.

"Israel can't accept a situation in which Hamas, in its present form as a terror group calling for the destruction of Israel, will be part of the Palestinian Authority without disarming," Mr Olmert's office reported him as saying.

"I won't hold negotiations with a government that does not stick to its most basic obligation of fighting terror."

The United States and the State of Israel may be adamantly opposed to dealing with a Palestinian Authority government led by a Hamas prime minister and parliamentary majority, but both are going to have to make a decision.

Since the early nineties, when Clinton was busy with Rabin and Arafat, the US and Israel hung their hopes on Arafat and the PLO/Fatah faction as 'moderates' and 'secularists' who were essentially Palestinian nationalists. Unfortunately, Arafat and his cohorts were also self-serving and hardly interested in securing a peace that would benefit the poor souls of Gaza and the West Bank.

Despite this corruption of the PLO/Fatah, the US (Israel gave up on Arafat, but then came back once Abbas took over) took its chances in the hope that Fatah would somehow come around, getting itself cleaned up and able to govern. This never happened.

In the meantime, Hamas may be a terrorist organization beyond the Occupied Territories, but in places like Gaza, Hamas maintains order, it runs medical clinics and schools, it provides the basic needs for living for a lot of poor people who have nowhere else to turn.

Now honestly. You're poor, you're hungry, you and your kids are living in a refugee camp. Are you going to vote for the guys who've been lining their pockets with aid money for over a decade or are you going to vote for the guys who've built the school and the clinic and provided clean drinking water?

So we have the decision. The US and Israel can either shut down all negotiations and completely ignore Hamas. Or they can figure out a way of communicating because I am willing to guess that the same thing that happens all the time around the world after elections is what may very well happen to Hamas. People start to actually govern for the first time and suddenly the whole worldview changes.

They played the game with Arafat and this is how it turned out; the US and Israel have to find a way to go forward.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Deus Caritas Est

Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious and all the Lay Faithful on Christian Love

(Titles are important.)

Magister at www.chiesa

Bermudez here and here at Catholic Outsider

Rocco of course has a series of posts at Whispers in the Loggia

Coverage of the encyclical in the wide world

More to come throughout the day, including my reaction.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

An interview

This is from Alan Keyes' website. It's fairly straightforward. It'll be in The Wanderer on the 26th.

But Bishop Bruskewitz [Lincoln, Neb.] is not alone. The Cardinal Bernardin factor, which has dominated the makeup of the USCCB for the past 30 years, is finally giving way to younger prelates much more in line with the perennial teachings of the Church. Quietly, but assuredly, Bishop Álvaro Corrada of Tyler, Texas, is indeed one of these quiet, unknown bishops. His and Bishop Bruskewitz's perspectives on the Pope's recent remarks follow.

Bishop Bruskewitz and Bishop Corrada share their unique and complementary perspectives on the Second Vatican Council and Pope Benedict's December 22 address. This first interview deals specifically with the reception of the Second Vatican Council.

* * *

Q. Your Excellencies, Pope Benedict XVI's pre-Christmas Roman Curia address had a theme of the competing claims, and subsequent struggle, for the true Second Vatican Council. Do you have any comments?

Bishop Corrada: The Holy Father has been following this theme, and he picked it up from Pope John Paul II, but has emphasized it more. I think that Pope Benedict XVI has a very deep insight because of his philosophical and theological formation that the authentic teachings of the Church have to be followed, and that the Church has to come back to certain disciplines that some bishops and many of the faithful and priests have gotten away from.

And that discipline is the discipline of the sacraments, the discipline of the liturgy, and even the discipline of the Latin language. I think that is what he is making reference to, and I think it is wonderful that he is making that emphasis.

Bishop Bruskewitz: The majority of the Second Vatican Council fathers and the Popes never saw the council as discontinuous and as a rupture with the past. The emphasis was always in accord with the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council — the unbroken continuity of Catholic Tradition, both in doctrine and in many other areas. There are those who understood, and still understand, the Second Vatican Council as some sort of revolutionary destruction of the past — a sort of French Revolution — that we are destroying everything in the past and starting new all over again, with a whole new [liturgical] calendar and everything.

It is not at all what the Second Vatican Council [fathers] understood themselves as doing.

What happened, however, is there was a para-council of periti, of experts, who all dominated through the whole matrix of media representation of what was going on at the council. Because of that, there were horrible distortions in the popular imagination, including the clerical imagination, including the priests. Even they saw this as a complete rupture. Emotionally and psychologically, people who intellectually might understand that the Mass is the same if you offer it in English or in Latin, [nonetheless] thought, "We have a whole new world here, and this doesn't really mean what it said."

We had this whole rising expectation, this para-council that gave this impression to the world that there was this big revolution. So, when this revolution hit some blank walls like "no women priests" and "no married priests," I think what happened was that then these expectations were frustrated. Then, people got all upset and more in a dissenting and rebellious mood.

When the history of the council is explained, it will be clear that Pope John XXIII never thought he was going make a tabula rasa by throwing away everything in the past and starting all anew, that this wasn't his idea at all. In fact, Pope John XXIII was super-traditional in many of the things he said and did.

Read the complete article Bishop Bruskewitz says... para-council distorted Vatican II from Renew America.

Anyone remember this?

ALBANY -- Although a decision was issued last week restricting attorney John Aretakis and others who are protesting outside a Catholic church, the case is not over.

More hearings are expected in the near future in the lawsuit brought by Holy Cross Church in an attempt to curtail demonstrators who have shown up during Sunday services since May.

In an interim ruling Friday, state Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo extended a temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction.

The injunction continues to keep protesters 100 feet away from church entrances. It will remain in effect until the lawsuit is concluded and a final order is issued.

Singling out Aretakis, the judge described him as an adviser to the group and called his conduct "aggressive and hostile." Spargo ordered the attorney to stay 300 feet from the church and school during services and classes.

The protesters want Holy Cross pastor, the Rev. Daniel J. Maher, removed. They allege he molested an altar boy in 1973. An investigation by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese cleared the priest.

Read the complete article Church's suit continues from timesunion.com.

I thought I blogged about this a long while ago, but I can't seem to find any posts on the topic. As I recall, the lawyer, Aretakis, refused to provide any concrete evidence of his allegations (witness statements, etc.). The Albany Diocese conducted its own investigation and if I remember correctly, it hired a former state attorney (or a police detective?) to conduct it and nothing was found.

If you search for "John Aretakis" at Google, there's a long list of links, including interviews on MSNBC and reports on his ethics case being kicked around the New York Committee on Professional Standards.

I love Ruini

Though I do disagree with his language.

ROME: The leader of Italy's Roman Catholic Church attacked the European Parliament over a resolution calling for homosexual and heterosexual couples to be treated equally.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, yesterday denounced last week's resolution as ''profoundly wrong and full of negative consequences''.

The January 18 resolution passed by the Strasbourg assembly warned the 25 member states that they would face possible legal action if they did not combat homophobia.

Ruini, president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, branded the resolution ''part of moral pressure aimed at weakening the very cornerstones of our civilisation''.

Read the complete article Italy church leader attacks European Union parliament over gays from newKerala.com.

The kind of language that Cardinal Ruini chose is probably not the best. Taking the Christian message to the masses is important, but in this particular instance, I would myself choose to use more secular language along the lines of 'national sovereignty', etc. After all, while the smacking down of the EU Constitution was a victory of sorts for a Christian Europe, it was largely due to fears of greater EU control over local affairs.

This issue needs to be framed in that same way, otherwise it's just going to be one more 'reactionary' Church position that will go in one ear and out the other of most of Europe.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The growing(?) backlog

In the various news stories on the upcoming encyclical, it has been noted that a good portion of it was composed for John Paul II. The completion of it, as with so much else (the discourses on the Psalms last summer, etc.), fell to Benedict XVI.

After I read about Deus Caritas Est being partly John Paul's work, I had this funny little fantasy where each pope would leave unfinished business and that due to a succession of short pontificates, there would be this backlog of work that each new pope would pick up on, leaving less and less original work before the start of a new pontificate...

Now there is a post by Catholic Outsider on a proposed encyclical on charity that was not begun before John Paul II died.

I just hope that the Holy Father doesn't feel too obligated to pick up every loose strand left from John Paul.

Islam and democracy

Magister in his latest at www.chiesa discusses the question of Benedict XVI's views of Islam in the context of the meeting last September of the Holy Father and his former students.

On the one hand, Fr. Fessio (of Ignatius Press/Ave Maria U.) in an interview on a radio talk show asserted that the Pope believes that Islam and democracy are incompatible. There is the most relevant portion of the interview excerpt:

JF: Well, the thesis that was proposed by Father Troll was that Islam can enter into the modern world if the Koran is reinterpreted by taking the specific legislation, and going back to the principles, and then adapting it to our times, especially with the dignity that we ascribe to women, which has come through Christianity, of course. And immediately, the Holy Father, in his beautiful calm but clear way, said well, there's a fundamental problem with that, because he said in the Islamic tradition God has given his word to Mohammed, but it's an eternal word. It's not Mohammed's word. It's there for eternity the way it is. There's no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it, whereas in Christianity, and Judaism, the dynamism's completely different, that God has worked through his creatures. And so, it is not just the word of God, it's the word of Isaiah, not just the word of God, but the word of Mark. He's used his human creatures, and inspired them to speak his word to the world, and therefore by establishing a Church in which he gives authority to his followers to carry on the tradition and interpret it, there's an inner logic to the Christian Bible, which permits it and requires it to be adapted and applied to new situations. I was... I mean, I wish I could say it as clearly and as beautifully as he did, but that's why he's pope and I'm not, okay? That's one of the reasons. One of others, but his seeing that distinction when the Koran, which is seen as something dropped out of heaven, which cannot be adapted or applied, even, and the Bible, which is a word of God that comes through a human community, it was stunning.

If it's left at that, the Pope would simply be one in a large group of people who believe that since Muslims view the Quran as God's Word, there's no way to reform the interpretation of it aside from the most literal. But as we all know, Benedict XVI isn't that easy and Magister goes on to point out that he consulted Samir Khalil Samir, "an Egyptian Jesuit and professor of Islamic studies at the Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut and at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome." Fr. Samir was also at the September meeting and he told Magister that the Pope does believe it is possible to reconcile Islam and democracy.

According to this account, the pope sees a meeting between Islam and democracy as possible, but “on the condition of a radical reinterpretation of the Koran and of the very conception of divine revelation.”

Magister goes on to provide a large excerpt from The Salt of the Earth, one of the book-long interviews that Cardinal Ratzinger has done. In the excerpt, Cardinal Ratzinger talked about the global power of Islam as Christianity has faced its crisis in the West:

I think that first we must recognize that Islam is not a uniform thing. In fact, there is no single authority for all Muslims, and for this reason dialogue with Islam is always dialogue with certain groups. No one can speak for Islam as a whole; it has, as it were, no commonly regarded orthodoxy. And, to prescind from the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, it also exists in many varieties. There is a noble Islam, embodied, for example, by the King of Morocco, and there is also the extremist, terrorist Islam, which, again, one must not identify with Islam as a whole, which would do it an injustice.

So the Muslims now have the consciousness that in reality Islam has remained in the end as the more vigorous religion and that they have something to say to the world, indeed, are the essential religious force of the future. Before, the shariah and all those things had already left the scene, in a sense; now there is a new pride. Thus a new zest, a new intensity about wanting to live Islam has awakened. This is its great power: We have a moral message that has existed without interruption since the prophets, and we will tell the world how to live it, whereas the Christians certainly can't. We must naturally come to terms with this inner power of Islam, which fascinates even academic circles.

Cardinal Ratzinger specifically mentioned the King of Morocco and his 'noble Islam'. It is coincidental perhaps that just the other day, Father Jim at Dappled Things posted here a link to a Der Spiegel piece entitled Morocco's King Aims To Build a Modern Islamic Democracy.

Back in August, I wrote a bit about this in the context of the 'clash of civilizations' debate. The essay is in four parts: One, Two, Three and Four.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The watch continues

As you've all no doubt figured out by now, the Holy Father didn't make an announcement. This morning as I watched, I figured that out as well (though in my sleep deprived state, I was still hoping (cf. the previous post)).

As we all know, Benedict likes to keep this kind of stuff to himself. My current theory is that there will be no warning whatsoever for when the announcement is made. That would be rather impractical, but the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other...

On the previous topic

Getting up early wasn't such a great idea. It was fun, but not being able to follow along with what was being said was kind of a hinderance to confirming whether or not the announcement regarding new cardinals was made.

We'll see what turns up in the press. If anyone else watched (or more importantly listened to) the Angelus today, leave a comment telling us one way or another.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Consistory Watch: the awaited announcement

According to sources, Benedict XVI will be announcing the new cardinals tomorrow at the Angelus.

More as it becomes available.

The morning after

From The Sioux City Journal:

'The mission has begun,' Nickless tells flock

With resounding trumpets and all the pageantry of the Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. R. Walker Nickless was ordained and installed Friday as the seventh bishop in the 103-year history of the Diocese of Sioux City, ending the longest episcopal vacancy in the United States.

Eleven archbishops, including the Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Nickless' home Diocese of Denver, two dozen bishops and more than 100 priests, processed into the Church of the Nativity Our Lord Jesus Christ in Sioux City, replete in white robes and flanked by a Knights of Columbus honor guard in plumed hats, their ceremonial swords held at attention.

Nickless' parents, five sisters and four brothers were also among the nearly 1,000 people who filled the vast sanctuary.

Following Scripture readings in Spanish, Vietnamese and English, Archbishop Jerome Hanus of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, served as principal consecrator and also delivered the homily.

Despite massive crowd, everything goes smoothly before ordination
When Jim and Theresa Larson of Denver needed a baby sitter, they would call up R. Walker Nickless.

Nickless and his younger sisters cared for the couple's six children decades ago, teaching them "patience."

"We wish he was still baby-sitting them," Jim Larson said.

The Larsons and another Denver couple, Don and Jeanne Ping, drove to Sioux City to witness the ordination of their former baby sitter.

Photo: Mary Chind/The Register

Friday, January 20, 2006

Joining the EU maybe wasn't such a good idea

From Catholic News Agency:

European Parliament urges member states to adopt legislation enacting homosexual marriage.

But if they don't follow through on what the EU urges:

European parliament to punish countries that do not approve homosexual “marriage”

This issue is particularly important for the countries of central and eastern Europe who have bans on homosexual marriage already. I read an article a long time ago about the failure of imagination in the post-communist countries. Basically the article suggested that joining the EU was wrong, given the EU's economies were totally different from post-communist economies and that a flood of cheap western goods into the east was not what local industries and businesses just emerging from communism needed.

The author of the article suggested as an answer to that problem that the newly democratic and capitalist countries form their own central/eastern European trading bloc, not in competition with the EU, but as a buffer for their own economies so that they could trade with each other while their economies got off the ground while at the same time regulating as a whole incoming imports to avoid unwanted effects.

Now, more than ever, these countries that are just now joining the EU or are on their way need to consider just how much of their sovereignty they want to sacrifice on the altar of 'Europe' after spending forty-five years with no sovereignty under the yoke of the Soviet Union.

Fighting poverty

By David Mikhail:

While the most expansive African debt forgiveness initiative yet was coming to fruition in Gleneagles last summer, the Vatican’s presence was only marginally visible. Not a papal delegation but a collective of African bishops met with G8 representatives to lobby for debt relief for their continent. The fact that the full voice of the new papacy was not heard on this cause is an indication of a broader issue that may have a significant adverse effect on the Catholic Church as it exists in the African continent. If Pope Benedict XVI does not personally adopt a larger advocacy for poverty elimination in Africa, this same poverty, coupled with the perception of the church’s indifference towards it, will trigger a significant exodus from the Catholic faith over the next twenty to thirty years. The dimensions of the problem become clearer when one notes that the Vatican has benefited tremendously from a dramatic increase in African followers, whose numbers have gone from 55 million to 144 million since the late 1970s.

Though it would be inaccurate to say that Pope Benedict never broaches the issue of African poverty, he has rarely made it the center of his advocacy. Meeting bishops from Burundi in response to the nation’s history of civil war, he encouraged them to address poverty because many Burundians "know extreme poverty and interior distress, and are tempted to return to ancient practices not purified by the Spirit of the Lord, or to sects." During a Sunday prayer in July 2005, he sandwiched a brief call for the G8 to address African poverty between the Prayer of the Angelus and a salutation to the English-speaking visitors of St. Peter’s Square. While Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan demand more leadership and economic involvement from the international community in battling the global AIDS pandemic, Pope Benedict, in his recent speech on " World AIDS Day", focused on how fidelity and abstinence programs have been a successful approach to combating the disease on the African continent.

Read the complete article Pope Benedict’s indifference and Africa’s faith from open Democracy.

There's more. The piece goes on to discuss just why the Catholic Church's position in Latin America has been decreasing in the face of Evangelical encroachment (Evangelicals have a 'better' message when it comes to poverty).

Overall, Mikhail's piece is rather lengthy. If I were his editor, I would have helped him slim it down a bit. As far as the actual content, Mikhail obviously didn't put much effort into understanding Benedict XVI. The current pope's priority is getting souls back into the Church so that they can be saved and gain salvation. Aside from basic differences like that, Mikhail also forgets that this is a different man with a different personality and style. I doubt Bono's going to be getting any audiences in the near future.

Mikhail does make one good point, though it probably wasn't his intent: the Vatican social justice machinery is rather unwieldy, with congregations and councils, etc. all doing working here and there and everywhere. John Paul II was a pope with a specific agenda when it came to poverty and he was a big enough personality to see that his own message was carried through.

Benedict on the other hand has other priorities and in the meantime, the Catholic message may appear to be rather voiceless. I would hope that in the coming curial reform that in the same manner as what has been proposed for the Holy See's communications organs that the social justice organs be streamlined so that one point-man can be appointed and act as the pope's top lieutenant and overseer and voice when it comes to issues like poverty.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


We say good bye to Papabile, vaticanisti and De Civitate Dei. Hopefully they'll all someday return to activity in the blogosphere.

We welcome as I mentioned previous Catholic Outsider.

A new tandem forms

Alejandro Bermudez, the director of Catholic News Agency, began a blog on 3 January called Catholic Outsider, which is hosted by CNA.

Bermudez's insights are definitely worth reading; next time I update the sidebar, you'll find the link.

Aside from the content, what I find most interesting about this blog is the niche it is building for itself in the Vaticanisti world. For example, in Sandro Magister's column from today, down at the botton in the associated notes and links, in note 7, Magister points the reader to Bermudez's blog post that critically examines Paul Elie's analysis in this month's Atlantic Monthly.

This citing of each other could be due simply because of Bermudez's reference to Magister first and then Magister returning the favor on the same topic (what Magister refers to in today's column as the 'black legends of the conclave'). However, in Magister's post at his own blog on Bermudez's new effort, the praise flows:

To its blog - that it is in English language - Bermudez has given to the title it: "Catholic Outsider". Its declared attempt is to watch the facts of the Church in the United States and Europe with the eye of that it is "outside": and for this he is able to bring to light aspects that a western one has more difficulty to see. The new one blog of Bermudez has only little days of life: has left slid 3 January. But it is prevailed of overhong like an obliged reading, for who wants to explore the life of the Church. If you the cables with its easy and cleaned up English, you include endured "Catholic Outsider" between your preferred ones!

That is a really hideous translation via Altavista's Babelfish, but one gets the sense that Magister is quite delighted at this new blog.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More from Our Lady

In the comments for the previous post on this subject, a person who apparently attends Our Lady posted the following. I thought I'd make sure it is well-seen, as the information is quite a bit different from what's presented in the Post article.

Since I go to this church and I'm pretty curious with what other people have to say, I'm very glad that I found your post to this. It gave me another view of everything that's going on.

I don't believe that it's racism but it wasn't just because Fr Fest wanted to "keep order". He came in and took away a majority of our traditions--things that are Catholic doctrine and that are tradition. When we didn't like it, we said so and he told us that it was his way or the highway. Order was kept; the group that did the picket line was no kin to Alston's group. They were comprised of people who hadn't been there in months, many before Fest was put in.
The man he put in power? He wasn't wanted from the start. He came to us because of a scandal with him in New Orleans and is only here to stay because the Archdioses wants him in. Not because he does good work or helps people.
Nobody cares that this religion has this or this religion has that. All we care about is having a little order and a compromise or two.

A quiz

From Matthew over at The Shrine of the Holy Whapping.

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com

Thank God for anarchists

Wide-scale interference in public affairs in Italy by popes, bishops, cardinals and various catholic ministers is reaching truly embarassing levels. Just a few months ago we were being told how the clash of cultures was being won by the superiority of western civilization which, on the contrary to islamic states, was able to make a clear distinction between civil affairs and religious affairs. Now, however, not a day goes by without having to listen to some lofty pronouncement from the Vatican on a whole range of issues.

Those who had hoped for a media-unfriendly pope, penalized by the charismatic nature of his predecessor, were not entirely wrong: this pope is, and remains, particularly unpleasant.

Read the complete article Italy, Playground of the Vatican from Anarkismo.net.

The essay was brought to us by the Federazione Dei Comunisti Anarchici Council of Delegates. Next time I need a good laugh and smile, I'll have to find more of their material.

Water, water, everywhere...

The Roman Catholic Church, which in the past few years has broadened its social justice mission to include global access to clean drinking water, has stepped up its efforts by summoning its first Pontifical Academy of Sciences meeting on the subject.

The gathering of the 402-year-old Vatican body in November came amid shrinking access to safe drinking water worldwide. [...]

Exactly what Catholic thinkers or the church, itself, should do is not altogether clear. Nonetheless, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is looking to get the faithful more involved. “The bishops seek to create an authentically Catholic voice in the environmental debate — a voice that reminds us of the special place of the human person in nature,” Walt Grazer, a spokesman for the conference of bishops, said at a Villanova University environmental conference titled, “Catholic Social Teaching and Ecology,” also held in November. “A voice that says that our concerns are part of a larger effort to bring about the common good of the entire human community and planet, and a voice that echoes the cry of the poor and vulnerable,” said Grazer. The event marked the 12th anniversary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Environmental Justice Program.

Pope Benedict XVI has made clear the high value he places on the environment, said Lucia Silecchia, professor of law at Washington, D.C.–based Catholic University, at the Villanova conference. “When it comes to environmental issues, Pope Benedict will not write on a blank slate,” said Silecchia. “It is highly likely that all of the ecological teachings of Pope Benedict will arise directly from his creation theology.

Read the complete article Vatican, scientists consider world’s water rights from Science & Theology News.

'Water wars' have been a big thing in international relations studies for a long time. For example, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians could be reduced to being a water war over the Jordan River. Look at the toxic spill in China a few months ago and how the spill affected not only China, but Russia downstream.

That the Holy See is getting into the act on this issue is good to see. It should be a part of a larger strategy for the fair and equitable use of natural resources. However, the Holy See and the local conferences should be careful to not allow their thinking to be transformed into an environmental version of Liberation Theology.

It's not a well known fact because it is so largely underreported, but the largest domestic terrorist threat in the US comes from environmental groups who spike trees, sabotage equipment causing injury, spray paint SUVs in parking lots and trash car dealerships, causing millions of dollars in damage. The last thing the Church needs to be doing is giving these people moral credibility.

How does that song go?

Why, oh why, oh why?
Because, because, because, because,
Goodbye, goodbye, good bye.

(It's a folk song, the lyrics don't have to make sense.)

The order from the archdiocese had been clear: Stop the accusations, the name-calling, the disobedience to the authority of the Catholic Church.

But parishioner Bill Alston, bundled against the cold outside a church, didn't care as he passed out fliers alleging to his fellow Catholics that a leader at his nearby home congregation, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Anacostia, was "disrespectful, insulting and profane" and that the diocese was sweeping it under the rug.

The unusual public confrontation last month between priest and parishioner was one more point of friction in a year-long dispute -- Alston calls it a crusade -- in which a cadre of longtime members at Our Lady, one of Washington's historically black Catholic congregations, is in mutiny against the white pastor.

Those members contend that the Rev. Donald Fest has ruled by fiat and has refused to confer about decisions or seek compromise. They don't like the administrator he put in charge, and they don't like the new rules on using the church hall, the famous Panorama Room.

The story at Our Lady is one of clashing opinions and, for Alston and his disgruntled brethren, an attempt to regain control of what they view as their church. Their ancestors built it, and generations since have maintained it, tithed to it, sent their children to its school.

What they have learned is that butting heads with a 2,000-year-old institution is no easy task. People at every level of church hierarchy have told them the same thing: The Catholic Church is no democracy.

"We've existed for 2,000 years," Fest said of the Catholic Church. "This parish has existed for 85 years. The pastor has certain rights and responsibilities. It's not a majority-rule kind of thing."

The last straw for the disgruntled parishioners came when Tyree began implementing changes that Fest ordered for the Panorama Room -- changes that the archdiocese said has resulted in a healthier bottom line.

People who used to have keys and unfettered access now must seek permission to use the room, and only for church purposes. Events sponsored by partisan groups were banned, and Fest, in concert with archdiocese policy, required all groups to acquire their own liability insurance before renting the room.

Ronald Saunders, a member of the church finance committee, said the changes were necessary, although some didn't like them.

"Their parents and forefathers built the church, but you can't live by those regulations anymore," Saunders said. "They don't want to live by the laws that govern us now. This is an archdiocese church. This is not their church."

What got them all suspended was passing out fliers, with their names attached, making the allegations about Tyree and gathering 100 names on petitions seeking his removal. The suspensions infuriated the men.

"If that's not racism, I don't know what is," Alston said at a recent caucus. After several people made similar accusations, Paul Kearney, a former federal investigator and community activist, piped up: "I don't agree with you calling [Fest] a racist."

The men view their fight as a symbol of larger injustices associated with being black in America. For more than a century, black Catholics have lobbied, with some success, for recognition of their unique cultural expressions within the church, such as using gospel music and Protestant-like sermons. Still, many believe the Catholic Church isn't doing enough.

At one meeting, Bill Shelton, a lawyer, shared a passage from Randall Robinson's "Quitting America," which chronicled his decision to move to the Caribbean island of St. Kitts rather than endure racism in the United States.

"I am convinced now that I cannot change them from within or without, and even attempting to from within is to run the risk of losing one's soul," read Shelton, a suspended parish council member.

All nodded their heads in agreement.

Read the complete article Revolt Simmers at Church from The Washington Post. I quoted way too much, but one has to create an account at the website. Since that's annying, the gist of the article is above.

The priest made changes. No one likes changes. The priest gave a lot of power to a man who has been working at the parish for seventeen years. That certainly has to rankle long-time members. Then, in order to use parish facilities in a fiscally responsible manner, access to the Panorama Room was restricted and other policies instituted. Add to the mix general feelings of discontent because the Catholic Mass doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Baptists and other protestants down the street (and it's not like that discussion is anything new for the global Church).

Is there anything in there that would lead one to think that the priest is a racist because he suspended people from their duties in an effort to keep order?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Woe is me

I was consumed by an activity last night that kept me up until 1 am. I crawled into bed, having decided to not do my daily exercises for my shoulder.

Bad move!

I woke up late this morning, having tossed and turned trying to find a good position and not finding it. Blogging will be light until I wake up.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Another invitation

Vatican: Rome rabbi invites pope to visit synagogue

Pope invited to Rome synagogue.

This is just an observation on the media's reporting...

The way everyone trumpets how Benedict is old and doesn't want to do much travelling, I would not be surprised if by the end of his pontificate, the perception is that the Holy Father visited more synagogues than churchs due to all the invitations by the rabbi-leaders of Judaism.

Out of the Windy City

Cardinal George sat down with a reporter and gave what is an annual interview. It ranges from the cardinal's participation in the conclave to sex abuse and its aftermath in Chicago.

From informed sources, I have heard only good things about Cardinal George's straight-forward style. Some tidbits:

"I noticed when I got back, because it was so closely followed -- and because they had that shot of me on CNN that everyone seemed to have seen -- people seem to recognize me more now," George says laughing. He's talking about some famous footage of him, dressed in cardinal red, standing on one of the balconies of St. Peter's Basilica, after Pope Benedict XVI greeted the crowds in the square below for the first time.

George lingered a long while -- he was perhaps the last cardinal to go back inside the basilica -- surveying the scene below him. Before he walked inside, the cardinal brushed his hands together in a sweeping motion, a gesture some observers believed was his way of saying "my work here is done." In reality, he was just knocking some dust from the balcony's stone railing off his hands. (Although, truth be told, one of his assistants has since informed me that it was pigeon droppings, not dust.)

On the homosexual document and the visitations:

"The document itself goes back almost 10 years. The visitations grew out of the discussions in April 2002 between the [American] cardinals and the [Vatican] curia," about the sexual abuse crisis in the United States. "We said, 'If you do this [publish the document during the visitations -J], it will be taken as a commentary on the visitations and we'll get into this whole business that the gay community is so sensitive to of, 'You're blaming us for the pedophilia.'"

The Vatican's response to his pleas? Tough noogies, basically.

"Their response was, 'Well, we're sorry about that, but this is a universal document. It's not directed at the United States. It's directed to the whole church. So we're gonna do it.' They have their own schedule," George says matter-of-factly.

On the sex abuse crisis:

"That level of anger can't be sustained indefinitely," George says. "You get worn out. So that's just exhaustion maybe. I don't want to say it's over, because it's not. But even if it were, I shouldn't be the one to say it. I have no credibility saying that; it would be defensive.

"I would say, on the basis of what the statisticians tell me, is that it's contained. It's not over, but it's contained. It will never be over for the victims, even with healing. And I've talked to a lot of them," he says, quietly. "And if it's not over for them, it's not over for us."

Read the complete article 'That month in Rome' not soon forgotten from The Chicago Sun-Times.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Venezuelans in red

Rosalio Castillo Cardinal Lara

President Hugo Chavez

Venezuela's leader has demanded an explanation after a Roman Catholic cardinal said that the country was becoming a dictatorship.

President Hugo Chavez described the Church's behaviour as "undoubtedly a provocation" and demanded a full apology for the "insults" and "hate".

He said there was a conspiracy in Rome and at home to bring his government.

So far, there has been no public reaction from the Church leadership to this latest row with President Chavez.

Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, the most senior Catholic clergymen in Venezuela, told thousands of worshippers at a pilgrimage in honour of the Virgin Mary that the country had "lost its democratic course and presents the semblance of a dictatorship".

Venezuela's socialist leader has now hit back by saying this was "shameful for the Catholic Church".

Read the complete article Venezuela head angry at cardinal from BBC News.

President Chavez is amusing. Every single time Cardinal Lara or some other cleric makes the comment that Chavez is on the path to becoming a dictator, Chavez responds with the same rhetoric, that it is shameful for the Church to accuse him, Hugo Chavez, of becoming a dictator.

What is shameful is that Hugo is already a dictator...

Italian to English is harder than we think

At least for The Times of London...

Through the good offices of Kathy at relapsed catholic, we are led to a post that does much to clarify how Judas and fourth century gospels bearing his name became lost in translation.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Our pope is an eccentric?

The Holy Father's trips back to his apartment are well known to those paying attention. I just found this story rather entertaining for its tidbits, especially the following:

Discretion seems to be the catchword for the Pope's recent evening visits to the security of his old home. He does not even stop for a chat with his former room-mates, who La Stampa said, would be relieved that he no longer indulges in his old habit of playing Bach and Mozart a little too loudly.

Read the complete article Mystery of Pope's night-time visits to his old haunts from news.telegraph.

TV musings

Anyone catch 'The Book of Daniel' tonight? I missed it myself, as I have other things to watch and do. But after ten here (eleven on the east coast), I check out The Blog of Daniel to see what the response was via the comments.

My prediction: the show is headed toward cancellation after only its third episode and second week on the air.

Why: it's past midnight on the east coast and there are a total of seven comments today (including those posted throughout the day and those posted tonight after the show).

Compared to last week's comments numbering in the hundreds... Viewer apathy anyone?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Farewell for now

Rick, administrator of The City of God and longtime commentor here, has put aside his blogging in favor of drawing stick figures and animating them.

We wish Rick well in his new endeavors.

Judas goes the way of Limbo?

I know, it's merely coincidence that in only a few months, both Limbo and now the picture of Judas as an 'evildoer' are being reconsidered. If anyone wants to speculate on what's next, feel free.

JUDAS ISCARIOT, the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, is to be given a makeover by Vatican scholars.

The proposed “rehabilitation” of the man who was paid 30 pieces of silver to identify Jesus to Roman soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane, comes on the ground that he was not deliberately evil, but was just “fulfilling his part in God’s plan”.

Now, a campaign led by Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science, is aimed at persuading believers to look kindly at a man reviled for 2,000 years.

Mgr Brandmuller told fellow scholars it was time for a “re-reading” of the Judas story. He is supported by Vittorio Messori, a prominent Catholic writer close to both Pope Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II.

Signor Messori said that the rehabilitation of Judas would “resolve the problem of an apparent lack of mercy by Jesus toward one of his closest collaborators”.

He told La Stampa that there was a Christian tradition that held that Judas was forgiven by Jesus and ordered to purify himself with “spiritual exercises” in the desert.

The move to clear Judas’s name coincides with plans to publish the alleged Gospel of Judas for the first time in English, German and French. Though not written by Judas, it is said to reflect the belief among early Christians — now gaining ground in the Vatican — that in betraying Christ Judas was fulfilling a divine mission, which led to the arrest and Crucifixion of Jesus and hence to man’s salvation.

Mgr Brandmuller said that he expected “no new historical evidence” from the supposed gospel, which had been excluded from the canon of accepted Scripture.

But it could “serve to reconstruct the events and context of Christ’s teachings as they were seen by the early Christians”. This included that Jesus had always preached “forgiveness for one’s enemies”.

Some Vatican scholars have expressed concern over the reconsideration of Judas. Monsignor Giovanni D’Ercole, a Vatican theologian, said it was “dangerous to re-evaulate Judas and muddy the Gospel accounts by reference to apocryphal writings. This can only create confusion in believers.” The Gospels tell how Judas later returned the 30 pieces of silver — his “blood money” — and hanged himself, or according to the Acts of the Apostles, “fell headlong and burst open so that all his entrails burst out”.

Read the complete article Judas the Misunderstood from Times Online.

Negotiating is good

Israel and the Holy See are moving forward with their talks. There is some concern about the situation of Ariel Sharon.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – Negotiations continue between Israel and the Holy See to reach a comprehensive bilateral accord, despite the difficult political situation in Israel following Ariel Sharon’s illness. Delegations of the Holy See and the State of Israel have continued today, Wednesday, January 11, their negotiations aimed at reaching the "comprehensive agreement" mandated by the 1993 Fundamental Agreement, on the fiscal status of the Church in Israel, and on safeguarding ecclesiastical property, especially Holy Sites. [...]

[...] Franciscan Father David-Maria A. Jaeger, is not unduly preoccupied: "As is often mentioned these days, the State endures and, with it, endure its obligations, and its need to fulfil treaty obligations in particular. It matters not what the precise composition is of the council of ministers at any one time, the relationship other Sovereign entities, such as the Holy See, have is with the State as such, and there has never been, nor will there be, a time when the State is without legitimate representation on the international plane."

Apart from these impeccable juridical considerations, the fact remains that the future outcome of negotiations could also depend on political factors. Knowledgeable sources close to negotiations say that decisive factors are, nevertheless, situated in Washington, in the United States. It was Washington that persuaded Sharon of the importance of paying due attention to the Catholic Church, and it will fall to Washington to continue to press this matter on his successors, both before and after elections in Israel.

Read the complete article Talks continue between Israel and the Holy See, in the post-Sharon crisis from AsiaNews.it.

The first line of the third paragraph of my excerpt above is amusing. Any political science major who has spent some time studying international relations or constitutional law will eventually hear or read about the 'no person is bigger than the office' idea. Don't shower the kudos too heavily on Father Jaeger for stating the obvious.

What's wrong with this?

Jan. 10 (CNA/CWNews.com) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, criticized what he termed the “xenophobic attitude” of the United States on hearing news that construction of a 559-mile fence along the US-Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out is moving ahead.

After celebrating Mass at the archdiocesan cathedral, the cardinal said such expressions of xenophobia were beneath the United State, or any other country in the Americas.

Read the complete article Mexican cardinal raps "xenophobic" US stance on immigrants from Catholic World News.

The last time I checked, the US admits more legal immigrants every year than all other states on earth combined, but the US is still labeled "xenophobic" because it doesn't want to let people cut in line?

This is very simple. There is no justice in accepting that Mexicans have some kind of special pass to get into the US simply because they happen to live next to the US. What does that say to the millions of people who have immigrated to the US legally over the last 200 years? Are today's Africans waiting to come to the US any less worthy than the Mexicans? Or the Chinese or the Iraqi or anyone else?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Details on the Cover Story

Rocco here talks about the Paul Elie article from The Atlantic. He includes a correction of what the Archbishop was wearing when he walked through the Holy Door with John Paul II back in 2000.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Magister's breakdown

Sandro Magister has at www.chiesa a breakdown of the Holy Father's speech to the diplomatic corps. Much of it is excerpts from the speech itself interspersed with transitory comments. However, the piece does bear reading for what Magister thinks are the primary points that Benedict was making.

Cover story

The Year of two Popes

How Joseph Ratzinger stepped into the shoes of John Paul II—and what it means for the Catholic Church

by Paul Elie


This is the story of how Joseph Ratzinger took hold of the papacy, and of what his accession means for the Church today. It is the story of a man "inwardly seized by Christianity" (as he once wrote), seen preparing to seize the moment, putting human ambition in the service of suprahuman demands. It is a story of power and its exercise, though not in the usual pejorative sense. Ratzinger's stern stewardship of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had led the press to dub him "Ratzweiler"—and to luridly point out that the CDF was the successor to the Inquisition. But Ratzinger was at once more and less than an inquisitor. On the one hand, he was a crack theologian reduced to vetting Vatican documents; on the other, he was an intellectual with portfolio, speaking truth from power rather than to it.

Read the complete article from The Atlantic Online. Subscription is required. If you have one, also check out the accompanying interview with Paul Elie.

A few excerpts:

My friend John remembers clearly the first time he thought that Ratzinger would become pope. It was during a grand mass on October 16, 2003, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of John Paul's election. The mass was held in St. Peter's Square at twilight, so as to recall the evening in 1978 when Karol Wojtyla stepped out onto the central loggia of the basilica and introduced himself to the world as the new pope "from a far country." But the effect was to suggest the twilight of his pontificate. After several hundred cardinals and archbishops strode in procession to an altar outside St. Peter's, John Paul was rolled out on a special conveyance, a cross between a throne and a wheelchair that was now his principal means of getting around in public. Then Ratzinger gave a stirring encomium to his great co-worker. He likened John Paul to Paul the apostle, who also had "tirelessly traveled the world" and had suffered bodily at the end of his life. It was then, as the standing Ratzinger addressed John Paul, who was slumped in his chair, that John felt Ratzinger would be the one. "I can't give you a reason why I thought this. I just remember sitting there, watching and listening to him, and suddenly it hit me: He could be pope. He may be pope."

This was most obvious in the ad limina visits, in which the world's nearly 5,000 bishops come at five-year intervals for face-to-face meetings with the pope, followed by meetings at the CDF and other Vatican departments. The tempo of everyday life in Rome is set by these visits. But poor health had made it hard for John Paul to receive the bishops—several dozen in some weeks—and had reduced those receptions he did have to pro forma affairs, often consisting of little more than a handshake and a blessing.

A curial official who has been in Rome since Vatican II became greatly agitated as he told me the story of one archbishop's visit, specially scheduled because of an urgent problem in his diocese. "The archbishop traveled to Rome, coming from a very long distance, and went to the papal apartments. Less than an hour after the appointed time I received a call saying he was at the portinería downstairs. I was afraid that something had gone wrong—that I had not prepared him properly. I went down and found the archbishop very upset, nearly apoplectic. He asked if we could take the conversation to my office so that no one would hear him in this state. So we came upstairs, and he sat right there where you are sitting now and told me what had happened. First of all, he was not pleased to see that the pope's private secretary would take part in the meeting. He began to explain the matter that concerned him to the pope. After only a few minutes the private secretary addressed the pope and indicated, 'I can take care of this.' The pope shook his head, and the archbishop continued. Only a few more minutes later the private secretary made the gesture again: 'I can take care of this.' This time the pope nodded yes. At that point the archbishop rose, collected his case, and said to the secretary, 'I have not come all this way to discuss this matter with you, but with the Holy Father!' He went out of the papal apartments and down to the street, without shaking Dziwisz's hand."

As John Paul's meetings grew more ritualized, Ratzinger made his own meetings with the bishops more substantive. Men long in service to the Church had been meeting with him during their ad liminas since the early 1980s. A number of them told me that the Ratzinger they met on their most recent visits seemed more alive and engaged than before. "In December [2004], when I made my ad limina visit, I became even more impressed by his warmth and his listening presence," Harry J. Flynn, the archbishop of Minneapolis—St. Paul, told me. His ten-minute meeting with John Paul, in the company of eleven other bishops from Minnesota and the Dakotas, was followed by a much longer meeting with Ratzinger at the Palazzo Sant' Uffizio, and the contrast between pope and prefect struck him powerfully. "The Holy Father was quite ill—he had weakened considerably in the last years," Flynn recalled. "Cardinal Ratzinger really stood out from the times I'd seen him before, though I can't say that I understand why. He greeted us warmly and individually, looking right into our eyes. Then he sat us down and asked, 'Now, how can we help you?' He was curious about the challenges facing the Church in the United States and in our individual dioceses. He had a beautiful peace about him, and gave the sense that here is a person who truly values my opinion." As they left the palazzo, Flynn turned to the other bishops and, as he remembers it, "expressed the hope that Ratzinger would be elected pope when the time came."

Inevitably, John Paul's failing health called forth prognostication about who the next pope would be. The favorite papabili—the press's favorites, at any rate—were Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan, Cláudio Hummes of Brazil, and Francis Arinze of Nigeria. Ratzinger was sometimes mentioned as a "kingmaker" or a "compromise" candidate. In truth, though, his candidacy was by then well advanced, and several people of influence were actively trying to bring his election about.

The article is broken up onto six different webpages. I would quote at length, but there would be a lot. If you have a chance, check out the January/February 2006 issue of The Atlantic and check it out.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Foreign affairs

The Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See for the Traditional Exchange of New Year Greetings (in English)

Read through it first and then read the rest of this post.

The Holy Father's theme is a commitment to Truth and how that commitment leads to peace, understanding, etc. A couple of points that stand out are below.

The commitment to truth on the part of Diplomatic missions, at both bilateral and multilateral level, can offer an essential contribution towards reconciling the undeniable differences between peoples from different parts of the world and their cultures, not only in a tolerant coexistence, but according to a higher and richer design of humanity. In past centuries, cultural exchanges between Judaism and Hellenism, between the Roman world, the Germanic world and the Slav world, and also between the Arabic world and the European world, have enriched culture and have favoured sciences and civilizations. So it should be again today, and to an even greater extent, since the possibilities of exchange and mutual understanding are much more favourable. To this end, what is needed above all today is the removal of everything that impedes access to information, through the press and through modern information technology, and in addition, an increase in exchanges between scholars and students from the humanities faculties of universities in different cultural regions.

The bolding is mine. The Holy Father's point here is interesting in that so often, the Holy See has viewed Globalization in a not-so-positive light. There is a wide view among those who study international relations that the basic reason why there is terrorism and conflict is because there are information haves and information have-nots. The Internet, despite all its smut, is the great equalizer and those who have access to it are not going to be easily recruited into terror organizations, etc. The Holy Father's comment on this specific point can be seen in light of efforts by Negroponte and his associates in bringing inexpensive laptops to the Third World and other similar efforts.

I come now to a third point: commitment to truth opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation. This necessary link between peace and the commitment to truth has given rise to an objection: differing convictions about the truth cause tensions, misunderstandings, disputes, and these are all the more serious the deeper the convictions underlying them. In the course of history these differences have caused violent clashes, social and political conflicts, and even wars of religion. This is undeniably true, but in every case it was the result of a series of concomitant causes which had little or nothing to do with truth or religion, and always, for that matter, because means were employed which were incompatible with sincere commitment to truth or with the respect for freedom demanded by truth. Where the Catholic Church herself is concerned, in so far as serious mistakes were made in the past by some of her members and by her institutions, she condemns those mistakes and she has not hesitated to ask for forgiveness. This is required by the commitment to truth.

An implicit challenge: we can apologize for the sins of the past. Can you?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Turbulent air ahead

I received a link this morning from a friend. The link leads to a messageboard thread that discusses China's plans to depeg the yuan from the dollar and diversify its foreign capital reserves.

The messageboard is a haven for survivalist types who make sure they have plenty of weaponry available for when as they say TSHTF, etc. They tend to be rather pessimistic.

But knowing myself just how dependent the United States is on foreign governments financing its debt... To be honest, I'm feeling a bit anxious about this this morning.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Getting some press of his own

Foreign Policy, one of those expensive current events magazines, has a profile of Sandro Magister, the professor of church history at an Italian university who moonlights as one of the leading Vaticanisti (or is that the other way around?).

The profile (which is archived and only subscribers can see) is written by Stacy Meichtry, a fellow Vaticanista.

After visiting UPS and finding out their store is closed on Saturdays (though their website says otherwise), I visited my local Barnes & Noble to use some more credit from my gift card. I took the opportunity to read the piece on Magister. It's an informative look at the man's place in the food chain of reporting on the Vatican (he's close to if not at the top). His outlet is well-known for its leftist leadings, but Magister is equally well-known for his support for a 'muscular', centralized papacy.

Subscribe or grab the magazine and park yourself in a nearby chair and take a look.

The Word (from Rome, not /the/ Word)

John Allen (whose book on Opus Dei I'm currently reading (full disclosure, you know how it goes) and am enjoying) got back from his vacation silence to post a new 'Word' for January 6th.

It can be found here.

Some of it is familiar. Some of it is new. The most interesting are the comments on the 2005 conclave by an anonymous (surprise surprise!) Brazilian cardinal who alleges that the Holy Father orchestrated his election to the papacy with the (dare I say nefarious) help of the Roman Curia and Opus Dei.

Mr. Allen with his usual style pokes a lot of holes in such allegations and reaffirms the idea that then-Cardinal Ratzinger was ready to pack it in and head home to Bavaria to write in retirement.

I'm taking John Allen's word over that of the cardinal (sorry, Your Eminence).

St. Stan's is sent packing

Two articles, both of which start by announcing the suppression of St. Stanislaus's by the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The first article from the Post-Dispatch discusses the implications of this:

There are a few practical implications of the order for the church, such as obtaining their own insurance and tax exempt status. St. Stanislaus will also lose its listing in the archdioceses' official directory.

But the larger issue is whether this decree clears the way for a lawsuit against the board members. The original articles of agreement state the purpose of the corporation is to unite a church congregation of Polish Roman Catholics to maintain a Polish Roman Catholic Church.

Bernard Huger, a lawyer for the archdiocese, points out that the church is no longer an Roman Catholic parish. While the Archdiocese has not acted upon that inconsistency, someone else may, he said.

Zabielski said the board expects the punishment against the church to escalate and will probably lead to a lawsuit against them.

"They're doing everything they can to get the property," he said.

Burke wrote in his letter that he issued the decree "with great sadness given the parish's long history" and prays daily for reconciliation.

Read the complete article St. Stanislaus out of Catholic church from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The second article from the Springfield News-Leader discusses the canonical ins and outs of such a suppression and the appeals process:

Charles W. Wilson of the St. Joseph Foundation in San Antonio, an organization of canon lawyers, said the archbishop has the legal right to dissolve any parish within its jurisdiction. By church law, all parishes, he said, must be "embraced" by a diocese or archdiocese.

Suppression is a routine method of closing a parish, he said.

Because the St. Stanislaus parish corporation owns the property, part of the conflict with Burke, the archdiocese cannot close or sell the property.

The members of the parish are not removed from the rolls of the church, Wilson said. Instead, they are automatically shifted to the parish where they live, or they can transfer to St. Agatha's parish in St. Louis, which Burke has made the official Polish parish in the archdiocese. That is a role that St. Stanislaus has held for 125 years.

An appeal of the suppression must be made within 10 days, Wilson said. After filing the appeal, the action is suspended until a decision is made by the Vatican.

The St. Joseph Foundation has been involved in more than 70 cases of suppression. None of the appeals have been successful, Wilson said.

Read the entire article St. Stanislaus removed from church from the Springfield News-Leader. The second article also includes some choice quotes from Father Bozek, the excommunicated priest who was hired by St. Stan's. Standing out among others are these two:

"I believe this is a move motivated by panic and fear," said Bozek [referring to Archbishop Burke].


"We are patiently waiting for a response from the Vatican," he said [good luck with that...].

The official decree of suppression can be read here at the archdiocese's site. Note that it is a PDF file.

Behind those windows

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When he was elected last April, Pope Benedict XVI inherited the papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace, but it wasn't until Christmas that the pope could really call it home.

The apartment, about 10 rooms in all, underwent a three-month renovation this fall. Electrical wiring was replaced, new pipes were installed, the kitchen was refurbished and a custom-fitted private library was put in place.

"I can only admire the things you've done, like these beautiful floors," he told the more than 200 architects, engineers and workers involved in the remodeling project.

"I really like my new library, with that antique ceiling. For me it's like being surrounded by friends, now that there are books on the shelf," he said.

The floors were the original 16th-century marble slabs and inlay, restored to their original luster. The library solved the problem of where to put the pope's 20,000 books, which he did not want to leave in storage somewhere.

Those who frequented the papal apartment under Pope John Paul II have no doubt that the place needed an overhaul. Polish film director Krzysztof Zanussi, a friend of the late pope, once said he was astonished at the gloominess of the place, with its outmoded furnishings and lack of lighting.

"Everything was in semidarkness, somber and without inspiration. The chairs were like the ones my aunt had in the suburbs of Warsaw," Zanussi said. "It was not a place that made one feel good."

The fact that workmen finished the pope's apartment in only three months impressed everyone in Rome, where even small-scale renovations seem to take forever.

"I had a small house built for me in Germany once," the pope told the workmen. "I'm convinced that anywhere else this project would have taken a year or perhaps longer."

From a German pope to his Italian makeover team, it was a high compliment.


Read the complete article No place like home: Papal apartment gets extreme makeover from Catholic News Service.

I love rooms that are well lit and have a lot of windows opening up to the outside. A nice yellow coat of paint absorbs and diffuses sunlight so well. But I have to admit, reading that they added better lighting to the papal apartments... Come on! They're supposed to be dark and give the aura of secret meetings and conspiratorial conversations!

No, really. I don't have quite as many books as the Holy Father (yet), but I would dearly love a library with marble floors and excellent lighting to read under.

The other Christmas

From Rome:

Vatican, Jan. 06 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) sent his greetings to the Orthodox churches that were celebrating Christmas, during his Angelus audience on January 6.

As the Vatican celebrated the feast of the Epiphany, the Holy Father called attention to the Eastern churches that continue to follow the old Julian calendar. Speaking to a crowd of about 50,000 from the window of his apartment in the apostolic palace, the Pontiff sent his Christmas greetings to those Eastern churches.

"Now, I cannot hear those words without returning in spirit to that memorable event, which represented a true epiphany," the Pope said, referring to World Youth Day. "Today I am happy to extend to the whole Church the message that I offered to the young people gathered on the banks of the Rhine: 'Open your heart wide to God!'"

Read the complete article Pope sends best wishes to Eastern churches celebrating Christmas from Catholic World News. The bolding is mine.

From Moscow:

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Follow Christ and do not be slaves of idols imposed by the modern world. Such was the invitation extended to Alexei II to 5,000 faithful gathered yesterday evening in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow for the Christmas vigil. During the celebration, the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias exhorted those present to commit themselves to “good actions: try to share the joy of Christmas with those around you, especially those who are alone. Let this joy follow you in your life and give you the strength to overcome trials and tribulations”.

The Patriarch addressed many political figures including the Prime Minister, Mikhail Fradkov, and religious personalities, like the Nuncio in Russia, Mgr Antonio Mennini. In his message of greetings to Alexei II, the President Vladimir Putin – who was visiting Yakutskha in Siberia yesterday – thanked the Orthodox Church for “its contribution to promoting peace, agreement and mutual understanding in society”.

Alexei II launched an appeal to members of the congregation to follow Christ, the source of “true good” and not to allow themselves to “be enslaved by idols of power, glory and pleasure imposed by the world around”.

Read the complete article Orthodox Christmas, Alexei II: follow Christ to be truly free from AsiaNews.it.

Combined message:
Open your heart to Christ and then follow Him where He leads you.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Iowa's corner of the sex abuse crisis

The Vatican has defrocked a retired Iowa priest accused of sexually assaulting several Waterloo Columbus High School boys in the 1960s and '70s.

Dubuque Archbishop Jerome Hanus on Thursday announced that Pope Benedict XVI had removed William Schwartz from the clergy in November, and the process was finished in December.

Schwartz, 73, who is believed to be living in Arizona, is the second Iowa priest to be defrocked in the sex abuse scandal that has swept the U.S. Roman Catholic Church since 2000.

Read the complete article Vatican defrocks retired Dubuque priest from DesMoinesRegister.com.

This piece from Sioux City's paper has a more general look at the report and everyone included in it.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque said in a report that 20 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of children have been filed in recent months involving eight priests.

The annual report, dated Jan. 4, summarizes activities involving allegations of abuse in the past year and names the priests.

Lawsuits have been filed in recent months against the archdiocese in connection with the Revs. Albert Carman, Albert Forster, William Goltz, Patrick McElliott, John Peters, William Roach, John Schmitz and William Schwartz, the report said.

Read the complete article Dubuque Archdiocese releases report on clergy abuse from The Sioux City Journal.

One article I read awhile ago in the Davenport Diocese's paper was about a priest who had been removed from active ministry and had relocated to St. Louis. The diocese dispatched a deacon to go find him down there and check up.

Visit to Constantinople confirmed

PALM HARBOR - Pope Benedict XVI has agreed to make a historic visit to the headquarters of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Istanbul, the Orthodox patriarch announced Thursday.

The trip, which has not been scheduled, will be the first time a Roman Catholic pope has made such a visit since 1979. It could go a long way toward healing a schism that has existed for nearly 1,000 years.

Read the complete article Patriarch: Pope to visit Istanbul from St. Petersburg Times Online.

Okay, there's nothing really new to this announcement, as we all knew Benedict XVI was planning on going. The following though is interesting to say the least:

The Eastern Orthodox Church has been headquartered in present-day Turkey since the fourth century A.D., when Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire east, to a city he named Constantinople. The city remained the single worldwide center of Christianity until the Catholic Church broke away in the Great Schism in 1054.

Rome broke away from Constantinople? That is an interesting way of putting it...

Running for office where?

Leading independent hopeful? Anyone know who this guy is?

(openPR) - January 5, 2006 - West Palm Beach, FL - Today, leading 2008 independent presidential hopeful, Daniel Imperato expressed his position on US involvement with Italy and relations with the Vatican.

“I call on the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI to not only further spirituality, human rights, and Christianity, but also to work closely with Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy, and analyze the mistakes that I believe are grave pertaining to the wonderful country of Italy,” expressed Imperato.

The Vatican, according to Imperato, could help Italy rid itself of the corruption that currently plagues the nation.

“The country of Italy, being very corrupt, is also a leader of many products in the areas of design, technology, and engineering. Italy needs to work closely with the Vatican to clean up the corruption in the country and to utilize the great manpower of the Italian people to support collaborative investment in specific places around the world where Italy can play a huge role in the area of manufacturing and productivity,” said Imperato.

Read the complete article 2008 White House Contender Imperato on Berlusconi, Italy, and the Vatican from openPR.

The Epiphany

AsiaNews summary of the Pope's comments at the Angelus

AsiaNews summary of the Pope's homily

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – A great silence, permeated by attentive reflection and prayer, greeted the words of Benedict XVI as he finished his profound homily during Mass in the Basilica of St Peter to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. This is one of the novel aspects introduced by this pope, that the liturgy is an encounter with the mystery of Jesus, not a show to be watched.

In effect, the pope’s words are a composition of doctrine and of beauty which leave one breathless, provoking an awed silence. The Epiphany (a Greek word which means ‘manifestation’) recalls the arrival of the Magi from the east to the hut in Bethlehem to adore Jesus, manifested as the King of Kings.

Benedict XVI defined the Epiphany as “a mystery of light” that of Christ, which “radiates on earth, spreading as though in concentric circles”: to the Virgin Mary and to Joseph; to the “shepherds of Bethlehem”, representative of the “rest of Israel, the poor, the anawim”; and “finally reaching the Magi, who constitute the first fruits of the pagan people”. “The palaces of power of Jerusalem remain in the shadows,” continues the pope. “Paradoxically, the news of the Messiah’s birth is delivered there by the very Magi, provoking not joy but fear and hostile reactions. A mysterious divine plan: “The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19)