Sunday, February 26, 2006

A reader's comment

A reader left the following in the combox for the stereotype post below. Since Haloscan isn't that great for long detailed replies, I thought I'd go through and detail my response in a full post.

To start out, I will cite some data. Pope Paul VI decreed that the number of electors should be 120. After that, in three consistories, Paul VI created 55 cardinals (18.34 cardinals per consistory). After that, John Paul II waived the limit as he created 231 cardinals in nine consistories (25.67 cardinals per consistory). This all can be found here. I haven't found any data on what the make-up of the College was after each of Paul's consistories, but I assume he followed his own rule.

The primary purpose of the office of Cardinal is to elect the successor of St. Peter. It has gone through numerous changed throughout the centuries. Paul VI's limits are not dogma and they do not consititute a magical number that cannot be changed.

As the Church grows in numbers and diversity (ethically, geographically, linguistically, etc.), the number and distribution of this office needs to change. The Church is an organic institution. We need to be flexible so that the representation of Christ's body on earth is given a voice.

Of course it's not dogma and there is no such thing as a 'magic number'. However, observing how representative bodies interact across the world, a number that represents the best compromise between representation and efficiency can be decided upon. As it's noted, the college's size has gone through numerous changes, but as circumstances have changed, so to has the number. Just the other day, Benedict announced his hope that the college would serve as a senate and meet regularly to discuss the issues of the Church. So there are two choices. One, the college can be really large and representative, like the US House or the UK Commons with their restrictive debate rules and practices or the college can be small like the US Senate with its rules of free-flowing debate.

Given these two models, what parallels can we find in the Church itself? Just last year, we had two examples of assemblies gathering. The first was of course the college before and during the conclave. The second was the Synod of Bishops. As I noted in the other posts, there were reports of cardinals before the conclave not knowing each other and various quick meetings to figure out who was who, etc. At the Synod, there were new rules put in place to bring about more debate, but as the new rules dictated, bishops were given less time to speak, not more.

We have the College of Cardinals that be default has a limit of 120 members. These members serve collectively as the executive consultive body for the Supreme Pontiff. Then there is the Synod of Bishops, which has hundreds of members and lots of rules to make sure that everyone gets his five minutes of speech-time.

Your argument that around 100 cardinals is good because it allows them all to know each other, from a non-theological and practical point of view, sound deceptively like a great idea; however, it lacks a theological motive or justification.

I don't think any modern pope has created Cardinals just for the sake of makign Cardinals. I think John Paul II created a marvelous precedent. He greatly diversified makeup of the college so that the needs and concerns of some of the poorest local churches could be voiced at the highest levels.

The offices of the Church, in the end, serve a pastoral purpose. The needs of the Church, for the sake of the salvation of souls, is the highest law of the Church. It is in this light that we need to reflect on the number of Cardinals we need in the Church. The needs in the late 60s are not the same needs as the church in 2006. A lot has happened, my friend.

First of all, that kind of theological motive is needed? As the reader noted, "The primary purpose of the office of Cardinal is to elect the successor of St. Peter." When all the cardinals were pretty much Italian and more generally European, a large number was tenable since due to geographical proximity, everyone knew or had at least heard of each other. However, now with cardinals scattered to the four winds, this rubbing shoulders is not as easily done.

One can either have a huge college that is basically an example of senior cardinals stage-managing the lesser cardinals into massive voting blocs based on similar thinking and geography or one can have a smaller college where a hundred or so cardinals know each other intimately and know what kind of man each cardinal is deep down.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Off to Rome?!

Nope, 'fraid not. While Amy and her family jet off to the Eternal City, I myself have other plans, such as driving my car across the (not quite) frozen fields of Iowa with a visit to my parents as my destination.

Posts (if any) will be few and far between.

Enjoy the last weekend in Ordinary Time we'll see for awhile.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The (other) list

At Neil Young's Film Lounge, Neil maintains a list of Papabili. The previous version of the list, compiled at the time of the election of Benedict XVI, also included in interesting breakdown of the Brazilian cardinals as far as their Papabili-status.

Neil's interests are quite eclectic; a geriatic folk rocker who maintains a site dedicated to film and also keeps up a list of the top candidates for Pope...

With the upcoming consistory and new cardinals being added to the mix, Neil updated the and included quite a few new names to the top five.

1. Norberto Rivera Carrera (1942) Mexico
The Cardinal-Archbishop of Mexico City remains atop the list. Cardinal Rivera Carrera has recently come under some criticism here for his comments on the US-Mexico border.

2. Juan Cipriani Thorne (1943) Peru
Cardinal Cipriani Thorne was on the list last time around and in the top five. With the removal of a few front-runners, the Archbishop of Lima is now number two.

3. Jose da Cruz Policarpo (1936) Portugal
Making an appearance in the top five for the first time is the Patriarch of Lisbon.

4. Angelo Scola (1941) Italy
Making his own debut in the top five is Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice and the founder of Oasis, the magazine dedicated to east-west dialogue. In the last Synod, Scola served as relator, a post that some regard as a major stepping stone to the papacy.

5. Antonio Canizares Llovera (1945) Spain
Closing out the list is the Archbishop of Toledo. He is a cardinal-designate and will receive his red hat on March 24th. Canizares Llovera is the one of the first cardinals of Benedict XVI. As primate of the Church in Spain, Llovera presided over the massive protests against the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Spanish Cortes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

This stereotype that's going around

The limit to the number of cardinal-electors is 120. It was set by Pope Paul VI. With the news of the upcoming consistory and the number of cardinal-designates who will be eligible to vote at a conclave at 12, Benedict XVI has set the stage for there to be 120 cardinal-electors.

There is going around this idea that it is Benedict's 'German' attitude and outlook and need to have nice round numbers that is behind his choosing of only 12 to meet the limit set by Paul VI. This comes after consistory after consistory during the JP II pontificate when the previous pope exempted himself from the limit set down by Paul VI.

There is a perfectly logical reason why Benedict is only going with 12 and it fits in quite well with the other news surrounding the announcement. As I explained here, an upper limit to the number of cardinals who can participate in a conclave is important:

However, 120 cardinal-electors is not a bad thing. Rewind back to last April when all the cardinals showed up in Rome. There were all the stories floating around about how due to the global Church, cardinals didn't know each other and there was a flurry of hurried 'get to know you' sessions in addition to the Meetings prior to the conclave.

120 men is right around the right number for everyone to know each other on a good enough basis so that when the big event rolls around, people aren't forced to tack on the 'My name is X' tags. The US Senate is at 100 members. Here in Iowa, the state house has 100 members and the state senate has 50.

It's true that the more cardinals there are, the better represented the Church is as a whole across the world when conclaves come up. But representation can be provided for not necessarily by adding cardinals but by redistributing the red hats. Some thought will need to be put into making sure there are hats in the right places while at the same time making sure that everyone will know everyone else.

Look also at the report that Benedict XVI intends to hold a consistory every year to bring the college to Rome and discuss the business of the Church. With a group of cardinals of a limited size meeting every year, they will get to know each other and learn what each other's thoughts are on various issues. They won't have to spend hurried days going around and trying to figure out who that guy sitting down the table was because the college is just so huge in size. There were plenty of reports of that during the conclave. As the dean of those proceedings, Benedict is wise to not want to repeat such an event. On the same token, getting 120 Princes of the Church together is going to be hard enough. Creating cardinals just for the sake of doing so is not in the best interests of the Church or the cardinals themselves.

So everyone, enough with the 'Benedict is so German' and 'Benedict likes round numbers'. Let's not shoe-horn the man into some stereotype. There was enough of that back when he was the 'Panzerkardinal' and 'God's Rottweiler'.

By the way...

Today is the birthday of George Washington, first President of the United States.

When you're all past the celebrations on the announcement of the consistory, take some time and have a piece of cherry pie.

Image hosting by Photobucket
Grant Wood's famous painting

Conspicuously absent

Archbishop Angelo Comastri...

As longtime readers know, down the left is a list of papabili and since this blog began, the archbishop has graced that list, albeit with an asterisk, given he wasn't a cardinal yet. According to all sources at the time, the archbishop's red hat was a foregone conclusion. Even with the recent swirl of names and lists of prospective cardinals, Comastri was a name that wasn't often absent.

Why he isn't getting his red hat on the 24th I don't know, but we have yet another illustration of Benedict XVI going against expectations and following his own counsel.

The list

The twelve cardinal-electors:

Archbishop William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Archbishop Franc Rode C.M., prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Archbishop Agostino Vallini, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

Archbishop Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino of Caracas, Venezuela.

Archbishop Gaudencio B. Rosales of Manila, Philippines.

Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, France.

Archbishop Antonio Canizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain.

Archbishop Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul, Korea.

Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley O.F.M. Cap., of Boston, U.S.A.

Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland.

Archbishop Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, Italy.

Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun S.D.B. of Hong Kong, China

The three cardinals over the age of 80:

Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls.

Archbishop Peter Poreku Dery, emeritus of Tamale, Ghana.

Fr. Albert Vanhoye S.J., formerly rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

The details of the consistory:

In closing, the Holy Father expressed his intention to preside at a concelebration with the new Cardinals on the day following the concistory, March 25 and Solemnity of the Annunciation. "For that occasion I will invite all members of the College of Cardinals, with whom I also intend to hold a meeting of reflection and prayer on March 23," the day prior to the concistory.

From Vatican Information Service.

More on Marcinkus

The New York Times gives a rundown of the archbishop's life.

The Telegraph in its article is a bit more conspiratorial.


Four people are currently on trial in Italy charged with murdering Roberto Calvi; there had been speculation that the accused might attempt to call Marcinkus as a witness, although his diplomatic status would have made this difficult.

Despite the efforts of prosecutors in several countries, Marcinkus was never questioned about claims of money laundering, shell companies, the collapse of the Vatican Bank or the death of Calvi.

Some even implicated Marcinkus in the supposed murder of Pope John Paul I, who died a month after his election in 1978. The motive for murder was allegedly the Pope's determination to clean up the Vatican's finances.

According to David Yallop, whose book In God's Name (1984) articulated the theory of John Paul I's "murder": "Marcinkus is a crook, a criminal, a man who in the normal world would have served a long prison sentence for his part in a whole array of financial crimes."

Marcinkus always denied any wrongdoing. On his departure from Rome, he had provided journalists with his own candid epitaph: "I have no doubt that I will be remembered as the villain in the Calvi affair."

To what extent he was villain or dupe remains unclear; he himself was never willing to assist those who attempted to shed light on the issue.

The BBC's Vatican correspondent shares several anecdotes, including one of the archbishop's sense of humor.


In May 1982 we, the Vatican's international press corps, were back on the road again, this time in Portugal, where John Paul II visited the Catholic shrine to the Virgin Mary at Fatima to offer thanks for what he regarded as a miraculous escape from death.

After worshipping at the shrine, the Pope narrowly escaped another attempt on his life.

A Spanish priest who, it later transpired, was suffering from serious psychiatric problems, suddenly lunged at him with a knife.

Marcinkus, at the Pope's side as always, threw himself on the assailant who was quickly handed over to Portuguese police.

I rang the archbishop later that evening to check reports that were coming out about the incident.

"No," he told me, "nothing happened."

The following day local TV transmitted pictures of the priest brandishing a knife at the Pope and we all saw how the archbishop had apparently saved the Pope's life.

Marcinkus came the following night to the Lisbon hotel where the Vatican press were staying.

I asked him to clear up the discrepancy between what we had all seen on TV and his previous denial that anything had happened.

"Oh, you know," he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "you can't always believe everything you see on TV."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Everyone from Open Book

Greetings to all of you sent this way by the wondrous Amy. Stick around and leave some comments. :)

Was it natural or murder???

Rocco reports that Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, one-time head of the Vatican Bank and top official of two popes, died Monday in Arizona, his choice of residence since his retirement after the scandal broke.

No, I don't think that his death is due to foul play. He was 84 after all. However, longtime readers will no doubt recall my interest in the entire Vatican Bank affair and the associated conspiracy theories. Check out those old posts here and here.

Archbishop Paul Marcinkus in the foreground with JP II behind.

We don't get any respect!

Ah, Rodney Dangerfield, where have you gone?

On the 17th of February, the Catholic League issued a press release on the suspension of two editors of the Daily Illini student newspaper at the University of Illinois.

The February 9 edition of the Daily Illini, the student newspaper at the University of Illinois, republished cartoons that made fun of Muhammad. Those responsible for doing so, the editor in chief and the opinions page editor, have now been suspended.

The response of school officials to this incident is the subject of Catholic League president Bill Donohue’s news release:

“Richard Herman, the chancellor of the University of Illinois, is critical of the decision to reprint the anti-Muhammad cartoons. He maintains that a discussion about the controversial Danish cartoons could have taken place without republishing them. He’s right, but that is not the way the university treats anti-Catholic fare on campus.

“In March 1997, the same Urbana-Champaign campus displayed drawings by Michele Blondel that showed red glass vaginas hanging inside European Roman Catholic cathedrals; two of them had red glass holy water cruets with crosses on them. I wrote a letter to the president registering my objections, and received a reply from the chancellor, Michael Aiken.

“Aiken said he regretted that the art ‘disappointed’ me (flat beers disappoint me, not lousy art). He instructed, ‘Most viewers find Blondel’s art to be quite subtle as it invites the viewer to contemplate and reflect on topics as diverse as the body, the church, and architectural and religious symbolism.’ Stupid me—I thought it was Catholic-bashing porn. His closer was precious: ‘The University believes that true intellectual discourse extends not only to written communication but also to the visual.’ Except when Muslims get angry.

“So what’s changed? Do Catholics have to call for beheadings to get respect? How else to explain the condescending response I got, and the sympathetic response afforded Muslims? Similarly, nobody was disciplined for offending Catholics, but two kids have been suspended for offending Muslims!”

Of course, instances like this are the Catholic League's forte. Alejandro Bermudez at Catholic Outsider brings to his readers' attention the infamous South Park episode where a statue of the Virgin Mary bleeds, etc. In his post, Bermudez explains the latest flashpoint.


Despite the protests of the seven Catholic bishops of New Zealand, the station will transmit an episode in which a cardinal sees an image of the Virgin Mary bleeding and calls Pope Benedict XVI, who finally decides that the Virgin is having her menstrual period.

Of course Rick Friesen, spokesman of the TV station came with the same “you Catholics get the beating and shut up” argument: “There are so many other issues in the world about which Catholics and members of other religions should worry instead of a half an hour satire. This is just television. It is nothing important.”

The bishops have called the 700,000 Kiwi Catholics to boycott the TV station. But some wonders if Catholics would not get more respect by torching the TV station a-la-Muslim.

Nevertheless this episode made my point about why we should not rush in support of the newspapers and media ridiculing Mohammed. There is, without doubt, something wrong with the Muslims, but there is something even worst with the anti-religious sense of humor of the Secularists.

Torching embassies is obviously not the Catholic way. As Bermudez affirms in his post, "We believe in a God that was crucified." Amen to that. His final point about how we should not so quickly be supporting the secular media is quite valid. However, I do think that in cases like the Daily Illini, (self-)righteous college newspaper editors deserve our support. I don't get a daily copy of the Daily Iowan anymore, but I would bet a buck they've not printed the cartoons. Let's remember one fact. The Daily Illini printed the pictures on February 9th. By then, the cartoons were no longer political statements, but images at the center of worldwide news. All the media outlets around the world who still have not printed the cartoons are may not be cowardly or hypocritical, but they sure are failing to report the news.

A columnist at the Daily Illini seems to agree:


The New York Times decided they would not publish the cartoons. This is an understandable position, seeing as how the cartoons are very offensive. However, the Gray Lady rarely leaves itself in an understandable position.

One of the articles on the cartoon controversy in the Times examined past artistic works that have evoked passionate opposition, including Ofili's piece, and lo and behold, the Times decided they would publish a picture of this piece just to remind readers what they were talking about. The hypocrisy is blinding.

Most anyone looking at this situation would see a huge problem here. Maybe I'm just not as enlightened as those brainy editors at the New York Times. Of course, it's considered fashionable and intelligent to sling mud at the Catholic Church, but offenses against other religions and ideologies are bigoted and completely unjustified. So goes the logic at the paper of record. Here's hoping they can one day deserve that nickname.

John Ostrowski is a junior in Communications. He would like to note that he is, in fact, as enlightened as those brainy New York Times editors. His column appears Tuesdays. He can be reached at

Monday, February 20, 2006

Wouldn't it be nice?

The United States' Powerball Lottery prize that was won on Saturday night was $365 million, the largest prize in the history of the lottery.

I wasted a few dollars on two changes to win, though the odds of doing so are at about 146 million to 1. In my spare moments, I was considering just what I would do with my millions. It was an interesting experience.

Aside from my medical expenses and other necessities of life, my first thought was how my parish and diocese would deal with a sudden contribution of tens of millions of dollars. Would I spread it out or take care of it in one fell swoop?

In my more frivolous moments, I was considering how much I would have to contribute to the new parish church that is being planned in a suburb of Iowa City that ensure that its design is not as bad as the parish's current building.

Then of course, there was the obligatory pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem...

A visit to the Vatican

CWN reported here that the top ecumenical official of the Russian Orthodox Church was going to visit the Vatican today. I'm waiting to see what news will come out if the meeting (that is if they met at all).

According to VIS, the Holy Father didn't meet the Russian metropolitan. Hmmm.

More later.

Friday, February 17, 2006

On the cartoons

Islam has the same prohibition against idols that the Jews do from the Old Testament. When the Muslims took Mecca from their enemies, they went to the Kabbah and promptly removed all the idols inside and thus dedicated the structure to Allah and only Allah.

Simple as that, right?

In the deserts of Saudi Arabia long ago, the House of Saud (the current ruling house) made a pact with Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab and his successors. The House of Saud would support him religiously if he and his ultra-conservative sect supported them politically.

One of the principal points of Wahhabi doctrine is that idols are evil and that any kind of image is essentially an idol. Photographs, statues, etc. are all possible idols and thus evil. Even mirrors are not a great idea. There are no pictures representing Muhammad in Wahhabi Islam because the Wahhabis cannot allow anyone to venerate the Prophet in any way, shape or form that may imply Muhammad was anything more than an man graced by God to be His Prophet. This is why the Saudi government to this day is intent on finding any remaining traces of Mecca and Medina from Muhmmad's day and obliterating those traces to prevent any kind of shrines from being created.

Muslims who are aware of what the Saudi government is up to have lamented this destruction of their religious history, but they are powerless to do anything. In the meantime, those scholars who dig around in Saudi Arabia are more and more hiding their findings from the government to prevent more concrete being poured over the past.

Given the Wahhabi dislike, it's not surprising that the reports are indicating that the riots and violence around the world are being fueled by Wahhabi jihadists.

That's not to say though that it's just a few extremists. Let's review a simple fact. Since the oil crunch of the 1970s, the Saudis have been flush with cash and since then, one of their missions to placate Wahhabis at home is to export Wahhabism abroad. Wahhabi clerics have been spreading their message around the world for over 30 years. We are now seeing first hand just how far their message has spread.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

An end and a beginning

Long time readers will recall that one my early interests was discussing what the Holy Father had to say in his catechesis on the Psalms.

I'll quote at length:

VATICAN CITY, FEB 15, 2006 (VIS) - At the beginning of the general audience Benedict XVI recalled that today's catechesis was the last "of the long cycle begun years ago by my beloved predecessor, the unforgettable John Paul II," who wished to cover "the entire sequence of Psalms and Canticles that constitute the basic fabric of the Liturgy of the Hours and of Vespers.

"Having reached the end of this textual pilgrimage - like a journey through a flower garden of praise, invocation, prayer and contemplation - we now come to the canticle that closes the celebration of Vespers: the Magnificat."

The Pope went on: "It is a canticle that reveals ... the spirituality ... of those faithful who recognized themselves as 'poor,' not only in detaching themselves from all forms of idolatry of wealth and power, but also in profound humility of heart, free from the temptation to pride and open to the irruption of divine saving grace."

If the first part of the Magnificat, the Holy Father explained, is "the celebration of divine grace which irrupted into the heart and the life of Mary, making her Mother of the Lord," Mary's personal witness was nonetheless "not solitary, ... because the Virgin Mother was aware she had a mission to achieve for humanity, and her own story is part of the history of salvation."

In the second part, "the voice of Mary is joined by the entire community of faithful" who celebrate God's actions in history. "The 'style' that inspires the Lord of history is clear: He takes the side of the least and the lowliest." On this subject, the Pope quoted the words of St. Ambrose: "May each one of us glorify the Lord with the soul of Mary. ... If, according to the flesh, the mother of Christ is one, then according to the faith, all souls generate Christ."

Prior to the general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope went to the Vatican Basilica to greet a group of Italian students and participants in a pilgrimage promoted by the French religious family, "Freres de Saint-Jean."

Addressing the students, Benedict XVI spoke of his recent Encyclical "Deus caritas est," recalling that "the love of God is the source and motive for our true joy. I invite each of you to understand and accept ever more this Love that changes life and renders you credible witnesses of the Gospel."

The Holy Father then turned to the participants in the pilgrimage of the "Freres de Saint-Jean" who are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the foundation of their organization. "May your pilgrimage be a time of renewal, one in which to analyze the experiences you have had, learn the appropriate lessons, and discern with ever greater profundity the vocations that arise and the missions to which you are called, in trusting collaboration with the pastors of local churches."

The work of John Paul comes to an end in another instance and Benedict is free now to pursue something new and different. I'm interested in seeing what topic he'll cover next time. He could spend a little time on Deus Caritas Est or perhaps he'll take up a Lenten theme? We'll have to wait and see what the professor will talk about next.

The Magnificat (by verse)

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Church and sports

Though it won't compete, Vatican represents global church at Olympics

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

TURIN, Italy (CNS) -- Though the tiny nation wedged in the middle of Rome has its own flag and national anthem, Vatican City State will not be vying for any medals at the Olympic Winter Games in Turin.

Some have suggested the Vatican could help pay witness to the games' ideals of fostering peace among all peoples by joining with the other nations competing in this international sporting event.

If there were such a team, uniforms for "Team Vatican" could be yellow and white, the colors of the Vatican flag, and medal winners would have to remember the Latin lyrics to their nation's anthem when their flag was raised to the strains of Charles-Francois Gounod's "Hymn and Pontifical March."

But it's a scenario Olympic spectators will probably never see, said one Vatican official.

"Every country does different things, so I see an opportunity to maybe get some synergy going," to network with chaplains and national Olympic committees and to look for ways pastoral plans could be shared among the different nations, he said.

Father Lixey said he did not think the Vatican would ever start training its own Olympians.

"We're not a team competing, but we're there for all the athletes," he said.

The priest said some people tend to see the Vatican as a country that might want to boast its own national identity, but the pope is not the leader of a nation; he is the universal shepherd guiding the world's faithful.

"We're every country really. We represent the church throughout the world, not just the small city state of Vatican City," said the priest, a native of Flint, Mich.

And then there's this:

Clerics swap robes for soccer togs

Priests and friars team up for Europe's football grail

(ANSA) - Rome, February 6 - Italian clerics are on a new mission from God: to show they can beat Europe's religious best at soccer .

Swapping their robes for football gear, priests and friars have teamed up in a bid for a new holy grail, a European Champions Cup for holy brethren .

Eleven fathers have combined forces with a selection of Capuchin monks to take on the best of Europe on Monday, when the second annual 'Champions Clerum' tournament kicks off in Zagreb .

"We decided to opt for strength in numbers," said defensive pillar Fr. Leonardo Biancalana .

The priests' side has been up and running since 2001, he explained, while the friars have been fighting it out for more than a decade .

"So we'll be relying on their experience" .

Soccer clerics have to cope with unusual challenges in their preparation for matches, Biancalana pointed out .

"We only manage to get together twice a month, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and often have to do without players because of a heavy load of marriages or baptisms .

"And our rhythm is sometimes upset when new talent is shipped to missions abroad" .

The playing padres say a special prayer before they take to the field - usually only a simple Our Father or Hail Mary since there is as yet no patron saint of soccer .

"But some of our members like to ward off injury by having a word with St. Christopher" .

They regard the patron of travellers as a protection as strong as their shin pads, Biancalana said. One of their most fancied opponents are the Spanish outfit, 'Os Chipas' (The Sparks), who take their name from their motto, He Is The Light, We Are Mere Sparks .

The two-week competition features sides from Germany, Austria, France, England, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Romania and the holders and hosts Croatia .

At the very least, the Vatican should put together a side for the next World Cup qualifying.

Mending fences: there's not a lot left to mend

Spain and Vatican to test waters

Bilateral tensions will be in the air at Friday meeting

(ANSA) - Madrid, February 14 - The Vatican and Spain will have a chance on Friday to take steps towards improving a relationship made uneasy by Madrid's recent measures on religious education and 'gay marriage'.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose nation is set for a papal visit in July, is scheduled to meet Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano in the Vatican.

Contact between the Vatican and the Socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has been minimal over the last year, a period during which the Spanish Catholic hierarchy has complained of a "drift of values" in the country.

No member of the Zapatero government has yet been received by Pope Benedict.

The obvious reason for Friday's meeting between Sodano and Moratinos is to arrange details for the pope's trip to Valencia on July 8, when he will attend an international event organised by the Catholic Church to celebrate the family.

But it will also be an opportunity for the two sides to discuss relations, which have become difficult in the wake of some of the reforms pursued by Zapatero's administration.

The Catholic Church is extremely hostile to Spain's new legislation on unions between unmarried couples and same-sex partners, seeing them as a threat to the traditional family based on marriage between heterosexuals.

Another local development which has alarmed the Vatican regards the teaching of religion in Spanish schools. Hundreds of thousands of Spanish Catholics protested in November after the government presented a bill to make religion classes optional.

The visit by Moratinos to the Vatican comes a few days before the nomination of Spain's new ambassador to the Holy See, a Catholic Socialist who has been chosen to "improve" relations with Rome.

The pope will have a perfect platform to speak out on the gay marriage theme when he attends the Catholic 'family forum' in Valencia. Most analysts think it unlikely that he will pass up the chance.

The German pontiff is to spend about 24 hours in Spain, leaving after a public mass on July 9.

Spain's entire Catholic community is said to be mobilising for the event and the world's 4,000 bishops have been asked to attend.

Ever since the Madrid bombings, Spain has moved to the left. At this point with the current government of socialists, I'm not sure at all whether there is a concrete way for Spain and the Holy See to improve relations short of the socialists changing their minds on a lot of proposals. That would not do a whole lot to soothe the traditional Catholics of Spain, but it would alienate the socialist base. That's not how governments stay in office.

The trip to Valencia will be interesting to watch.

Was there any doubt? Ruini reconfirmed

Vatican: Pope reconfirms chief Italian Bishop

Vatican City, 14 Feb. (AKI) - Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday reconfirmed Camillo Ruini as president of the Italian bishops' conference (CEI), which he has chaired for 15 years, "donec aliter provideatur". This means Ruini, who will turn 75 on 19 February, the retirement age of cardinals, will be able to remain in office - though not necessarily for the entire five-year mandate. In an unprecedented move, the pontiff will consult Italy's 226 bishops before appointing the successor to Ruini, whose mandate expires on 6 March, Italy's largest circulation paper Corriere della Sera reported.

Corriere della Sera reported that consultations to replace Ruini kicked off on 26 January with a letter by Vatican nuncio (envoy) Paolo Romeo asking Italian cardinals to suggest a candidate. However, the paper suggested the bishop could stay in office at least until the National Ecclesiastical Congress scheduled to take place in Verona on 16-20 October, which was prepared by the CEI presidency and which the cardinal is slated to chair.

The pontiff's decision to call "primary elections" - as they have been dubbed by the Italian media - before appointing Italy's most senior cardinal were perceived as a sign that he means to award more autonomy to the CEI, progressively giving it the same status as other bishops' conferences worldwide.

Bishops' conferences abroad appoint their presidents while the pope has so far nominated CEI's chairman after consulting with the presidents of regional conferences.

The most likely successors to Ruini are reportedly the Patriarch of Venice Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Genoa, Tarcisio Bertone, Turin's Archbishop Severino Poletto, Milan's Archbishop Dionigi Tettamanzi and the Archbishop of Florence Ennio Antonelli.

I love Ruini. I certaionly consider the good cardinal to be the top churchman of last year due to his direction of the Catholic boycott of the Italian referendum last summer. That kind of leadership paired with grassroots campaigning to effect political action is an example to the Church in the First World.

As far as a successor, given his position at the last synod, I will take a stab and say Scola, though this is purely a preliminary feel and nothing substantive.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Siri thesis

From Inside the Vatican is an interesting piece on conspiracy theories and their debunking. The piece is rather long and there are a lot of good excerpts (I didn't hold back, as you will notice by reading down). In the context of Benedict's priority of bringing the SSPX back into the fold, the content of this is welcome news indeed.


In other words, given the crisis in the liturgy, in Mass attendance, in traditional sacramental belief, in the priesthood (the various scandals), in the episcopate, in the Church’s seminaries and universities, in the family life of ordinary Catholics, it is understandable that thoughtful Catholics should ask, "What went wrong?"

It is not the purpose of this article to offer a comprehensive answer. It would require the work of many thoughtful scholars and believers, and perhaps many decades of time, even to begin to formulate such an answer. But it is our purpose to suggest that now, 40 years after Vatican II, at the beginning of a new pontificate, following a pontificate which lasted for 26 years, may perhaps be an opportune time to begin to try to sort through things and to bring a bit of clarity out of the confusion.

Confusion has always been and will always be the enemy of the Church. Precision in language, exact definitions, clarity of understanding, do not readily allow for confusion. This is what we need.

In this context, we were intrigued by a small newsletter which recently arrived in our editorial offices. It was the December 2005 issue of an 8-page typewritten newsletter entitled "The War Is Now!", edited by Hutton Gibson, the father of Mel Gibson the actor and film producer.

In this newsletter, Hutton Gibson gives a fascinating glimpse into the minds of Catholics who have grown so frustrated and confused by the shifting "trends" in the post-conciliar Church that they have latched onto various "conspiracy theories" to explain what has happened.

The elder Gibson argues that one of the more elaborate of these conspiracy theories, called the "Siri thesis," simply isn’t true and must be discarded.

The "Siri thesis" argues that the rather conservative cardinal archbishop of Genoa, Giuseppe Siri, was actually elected Pope in 1958, but that his election was suppressed, leading to the election of Angelo Roncalli, who became John XXIII, called the Council, rehabilitated Giovanni Battista Montini, who became Paul VI, thus ushering in the entire "post-Pius XII" era in the Church.

The "Siri thesis" is built upon one key point: the issue of the "white smoke" that appeared for a brief time on October 26, 1958, before changing to black. The thesis is that Siri was elected on that occasion, that the smoke was white to signal his election, but that the color changed to black when the conclave annulled or overturned Siri’s election.

A key piece of evidence for this theory has been an article written by Silvio Negro for the evening edition of Corriere della Sera (Milan, Italy) for October 27, 1958.

But, according to the elder Gibson, the Negro article has been misunderstood by the proponents of the "Siri thesis." Negro narrates a story from the 1939 conclave, when the smoke was also a confusing mixture of white and black, until the secretary of the conclave, one Monsignor Santoro, sent a note to Vatican Radio to advise that, so matter what color the smoke seemed, it was white, and that Eugenio Pacelli had been elected Pope Pius XII.

In the elder Gibson’s December newsletter, however, this "Siri thesis" is denounced as false, built on shoddy scholarship and inadequate fact checking.

We find this announcement by the elder Gibson interesting because it reveals two important things: (1) how people who are perplexed by change (in this case, some traditional Catholics), may grasp at untenable theories in order to explain disturbing realities; and yet (2) how an openness to sifting theories to ascertain their conformity to historical truth can persist even in these same traditionalist Catholic circles.

As one associate of the elder Gibson expressed it to us: "If the truth about our current confusion is ever to be clarified and understood, the necessary first step must be for those suspicious of Rome and of recent pontiffs to commit themselves to seeking the truth even if it goes against deeply-held positions arrived at without all the evidence in hand."

Thus, the "Siri thesis" has been dismantled by "insiders," members of that very traditional Catholic milieu which had been favorable to the idea in principle.

If this is the perspective of the most radical of the Catholic traditionalists, there seems room for guarded optimism about the possibility of coming to some sort of meeting of the minds over the questions which most trouble Catholic traditionalists, involving the changes in the Church’s liturgy and in her rites of ordination of priests and consecration of bishops. In this new pontificate, the time may have come for traditional Catholics and "conciliar Rome" to "reason together" to find a way forward in a complex and confusing world.

The Vatican Olympics

What would go into the Vatican City hosting the Olympics? The state is only a few square acres in size, yes, but with the diocese of Rome all around providing ventures, size should not matter too much.

The symbolism of the Greek Olympics being hosted by the Vatican would be great. It would be a modern, physical metaphor for the influence of Greek thought on the Christian tradition. The pagan Olympic flame would be relayed to Rome and be used to light not a cauldron, but a Paschal Candle.

So how would it play out? Of course, the opening and closing ceremonies would be held in St. Peter's Square. If the funeral of John Paul II showed us anything, it is that people are willing to come and stand in the square and the adjoining streets for hours to be a part.

What would go into an opening ceremony? Given the Olympics are a rather secular, materialist event, would the Vatican go so far as to celebrate Mass for the opening? What better way of uniting the world would there be than using some chanting and Latin to capture the hearts and minds of a world wide audience?

Then the Holy Father would bless all the athletes and send them out to sanctify their competitions by offering them up for the greater glory of God...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Our latest martyr

Priest Killed in Turkey a Martyr, Says Cardinal Ruini

Announces Intention to Open Process of Beatification

ROME, FEB. 10, 2006 ( Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, announced his intention to open the process of beatification and canonization of the priest killed last Sunday in Turkey.

The announcement -- which the cardinal included in his homily during the funeral service for the priest of Rome's Diocese in the Basilica of St. John Lateran -- was greeted with applause.

The faithful also applauded when the cardinal quoted the priest's mother: "Don Andrea's mother forgives with all her heart the person who armed himself to kill her son and feels great sorrow for him, because he is also a son of the one God, who is love."

Cardinal Ruini spoke of the Father Santoro's mission to Turkey, where he was needed as a Fidei Donum priest, "gift of faith, sent by Rome to make Christ present in those lands where the Christian faith had taken robust and fecund roots at the beginning."

Father Santoro began his stay in Turkey in 2000, first in Urfa, later in Trabzon, where "with joy and confidence he continued to pray, trying to do good while respecting the local laws, up to last Sunday," recalled the Pope's vicar.

"We must reject with indignation the absurd and slanderous accusations and insinuations of illicit means to obtain conversions, completely rooted out by his rigorous conscience as Christian and priest," said the cardinal.

"Father Andrea took Jesus Christ very seriously," the Pope's vicar said, "and tried with all his strength to move always and rigorously in the logic of Christ," being "inseparably a man of faith and witness of Christian love," said the cardinal.

He was guided by a "simple conviction: Jesus Christ gave his life on the cross and therefore a disciple of Christ, especially a priest, must in turn love everyone and spend himself for all, without distinction."


A "man of penetrating intelligence," Father Santoro "knew well that in that land and among those peoples his apostolic drive would have to accept very many limitations and, indeed, he had accepted them and interiorized them serenely," said Cardinal Ruini.

"He was convinced that the presence of prayer and testimony of life would speak for itself, would be an effective sign of Jesus Christ and leaven of love and reconciliation," he continued.

The cardinal pointed out that Father Santoro had "Christian courage, that typical courage of which the martyrs have given proof, through the centuries, on innumerable occasions," and which "has its root in the union with Jesus Christ, in the strength that comes from Him, in such a mysterious as well as real and concrete way."

The priest's accused murdered admitted that he was driven by hatred aroused by the publication the caricatures of Mohammed published in the Western press, which in recent days have sparked protests in several Muslim countries.

Canon law states that unless there is a specific disposition of the Pope for the process of beatification to begin, the prescribed period of five years will come into effect.

Photo: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Another dead, another attacked

Vatican Grieves Murder of Portuguese Missionary in Angola

Elderly Priest Killed at Short Range

BAILUNDO, Angola, FEB. 10, 2006 ( The Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples expressed its sadness over the murder of Portuguese missionary Father José Afonso, 80.

The priest of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, "was shot seven times at close range in the face," a church source in Angola told Fides.

"The missionary had just gone to bed when about 15 armed men broke into his room and shot him dead without even giving him time to get out of bed," reported Fides.

Police think the motive was robbery. "[T]he modest house was turned upside down and the catechist, the missionary's assistant, was threatened and ordered to hand over objects of value," Fides reported.

While Father Afonso was killed by thugs looking for valuables, Father Kmetec managed to escape with his life:

Priest Is Attacked in Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey, FEB. 9, 2006 ( A group of youths attacked a Franciscan friar in Izmir, Turkey, only days after an Italian missionary priest was murdered in Trabzon.

"The boys grabbed him by the throat shouting, 'We will kill you all,'" Bishop Luigi Padovese, apostolic vicar of Anatolia, told AsiaNews.

According to the bishop this latest aggression is the "fruit of rampant fanaticism." The attack against Father Martin Kmetec took place within a monastic compound. The priest hails from Slovenia.

Bishop Padovese said that Father Kmetec reported the incident to local police but "they took little heed of the attack."

Only today the Vatican officially confirmed that Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has invited Benedict XVI to pay an official visit to the nation this Nov. 28-30. The Pope has accepted the invitation.

Last Sunday, Italian-born Father Andrea Santoro was shot and killed in his parish church.

New visitors

Welcome to all the new visitors from Stick around as we plumb the depths of apostolic succession and other historical oddities.


Top Church Leaders Insist Splinter Group Not Catholic from

Catholic leaders yesterday maintained that a splinter group - the Lefebvrites - had been ex-communicated by the Vatican.

Nairobi archbishop Ndingi mwana a'Nzeki, Nyeri archbishop John Njue and Kenya Episcopal Conference secretary Vincent Wambugu said the Vatican had not lifted the order.

Archbishop Ndingi said: "This church is staffed by members of the schismatic Lefebvrites group which refuses to acknowledge the authority of the Pope."

They were reacting to a story in yesterday's Nation, in which the Lefebvrites in Kenya said they were part and parcel of the Catholic Church.

Last Sunday, a visiting Lefebvrite priest from Rome, Fr Alan Mark Nely, celebrated Latin Mass assisted by the regional superior, Fr Christophe Nouveau. He said: "Very soon, the Vatican will issue a statement on the status of our movement."

The Lefebvrites insist on celebrating Mass facing the altar, their backs to the congregation, the way Mass was celebrated before Vatican II reforms.

Archbishop Ndingi said he received the group in his office last Thursday, but had not discussed their movement.

"The group is not under my archdiocese," he said. "They were invited to the country by a lay person. Go and ask them who brought them here and under whom they are operating as missionaries."

I think the SSPX people on the ground are a bit removed from what their upper echelons have had to say lately...

Browbeaten, that's harsh!

At The Raw Story is this headline: Exclusive: Time, ABC reporters called out by nun on Vatican visit

It refers to the following excerpt from the press pool report of the audience of First Lady Laura Bush.

The press pool was in the charge of a nun, attired in blue, who could not conceive of ABC’s Ann Compton taking a laptop into the palace. The reporters had been told to bring their stuff with them because they would be running to catch the motorcade as Mrs. Bush departed. “Leave it to a colleague outside,” the nun said insistently. “You don’t need a computer.” “Finally, the nun did away with diplomacy and said, “There is no way.” An Associated Press reporter from Rome (whose uncanny hearing and generosity are responsible for some of the quotes above) asked about a tape recorder. “Absolutely no recorder in the library of the pope,” the nun replied, then clicked her tongue reprovingly, as if in a movie. Even the back halls of the Vatican have marble floors and art on the wall. The nun hurried reporters along one of the narrow corridors saying, “That’s the way.” At one point, scolding your pooler for an unintentional and mysterious infraction, she said, “You understand English? Do you prefer me to use Latin? Spanish? Italian? No more ‘Yes, ma’am’! I will call a Swiss Guard and have you removed” She carried a black, portfolio-like bag. Apparently deciding the sin was not venial, she granted absolution by reaching in her bag and handing over a color map and a fact sheet, with a businesslike smile.

The complete pool report is given in full farther down. It's an interesting and detailed description of the audience and the aftermath.

The church-state line

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Keep the above in mind as this goes on.

By Don Collins
Friday, February 10, 2006


Writing in the online magazine American Chronicle ("Above the law," Jan. 27), Barbara Anderson points out the strong influence the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has had on immigration policy.

It has caused Catholic pulpits nationwide to urge open borders for legal and illegal aliens alike, she notes. "The Catholic Campaign for Human Development uses money from generous Catholics to train illegals to lobby and agitate for 'rights' for illegals," says Anderson.

This is far from new business for this powerful Vatican-directed agency. Despite the new pope's encyclical disclaimer about trying to influence public policy, Rome and these bishops have been hard at work trying to shape U.S. public policy for decades. And, to a large degree, they have succeeded. Let me illustrate.

Those who occupy chairs in the citadels of religiosity are naturally covetous of the "true faith" they embrace -- not because it represents the truth but because it represents temporal power of the most useful kind. That, for example, the world's richest institution, the combined resources and property of the Catholic Church, exposes the obvious basis for its biases on contraception, abortion and male-only priests as a means of flock control -- particularly over women but also in a much broader sense over the American body politic.

The one question that was not raised at the Alito hearings was whether he felt that the activities of his church were legal under current statutes.

The column goes on to describe the supposedly huge political machine of the USCCB that has infiltrated all levels of government in an effort to end abortion. Only in the last paragraph does the author get back to the immigration question.

Samuel Alito has been confirmed and installed, and this behind-the-scenes plan should get much of the credit. And if the bishops have their way, real immigration reform as proposed in House Resolution 4437 will not occur. The most recent example of its efforts can be found in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter on migration ( The pastoral plan can be read in its original text at

Read the complete article Catholic bishops cross church-state line from Pittsburgh Live.

First of all, I should just state that I never realized the Catholic Church had so insidiously infiltrated the federal, state and local governments in such a thorough way! Second, I am not as liberal-minded when it comes to immigration as the bishops of the USCCB.

My purpose though is not to debate these policy points, but rather to reflect on the underlying theme of the column, namely that the line between church and state is a bright one. Scrolling up and looking at the First Amendment and specifically the bolded part directly referring to religion, the framers' intent is really quite clear. Congress is prohibited from establishing a 'Church of the United States' and Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise of one's religion.

Life and public policy making would be a lot easier for one and all if it were that simple.

The upper limit

It's been reported (it's not where I thought it was and I can't find it) that the Holy Fathe intends to keep the number of new cardinal-electors small enough to conform with the 120-elector limit. As we all know, John Paul II didn't pay much attention to it.

However, 120 cardinal-electors is not a bad thing. Rewind back to last April when all the cardinals showed up in Rome. There were all the stories floating around about how due to the global Church, cardinals didn't know each other and there was a flurry of hurried 'get to know you' sessions in addition to the Meetings prior to the conclave.

120 men is right around the right number for everyone to know each other on a good enough basis so that when the big event rolls around, people aren't forced to tack on the 'My name is X' tags. The US Senate is at 100 members. Here in Iowa, the state house has 100 members and the state senate has 50.

It's true that the more cardinals there are, the better represented the Church is as a whole across the world when conclaves come up. But representation can be provided for not necessarily by adding cardinals but by redistributing the red hats. Some thought will need to be put into making sure there are hats in the right places while at the same time making sure that everyone will know everyone else.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

An interesting observation

Benedict XVI's Love of Dante; Why Fish on Fridays?

"The Divine Comedy" Resonates

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, FEB. 9, 2006 ( Benedict XVI's new encyclical on love came as a surprise to most everyone. Some wags commented on the paradox of the "German Shepherd" exclaiming that God is Love. Others are amazed that the erstwhile watchdog of Church doctrine would choose to dedicate so much ink to social teachings.

My surprise had nothing to do with this. I was floored when the Holy Father said he was inspired by Dante.

Why would this avant-garde theologian, eyes firmly fixed on the contemporary Church and its modern maladies, draw from 700-year-old poetry to describe love? Could he be teaching us that the great works of Christian art -- whether literary, musical or visual -- have lessons and messages pertinent to us today? What sweet music to the ears of an art historian.

I found it interesting that Elizabeth Lev starts off by referring to Cardinal Ratzinger by his uber-conservative nickname and then in the second excerpted paragraph, she uses the phrase 'avant-garde theologian' in the same context in comparing his reputation to that of Benedict XVI, author of Deus Caritas Est. As prefect of the CDF, rightly or wrongly, Cardinal Ratzinger was labeled the 'German Shepherd', but I've never seen him described as 'avant-garde'.

Regardless, Deus Caritas Est and the Holy Father's appreciation of Dante are not the first examples of his efforts to use the long tradition of Christian art as a lesson for Catholics in the modern day. Indeed, I believe it was the issue of the full-color illustrations and Benedict's persistence in ensuring that they be included that caused the first delay in the publication of the Compendium last year.

In any case, the points on Dante are all quite fascinating. The personal story regarding the baptism of the children and subsequent events illustrates the point all the more. Of course, read Elizabeth Lev's story and then consider that Limbo is only a hypothetical construct.

It's official: the trip to Turkey is on

From VIS:

VATICAN CITY, FEB 9, 2006 (VIS) - At midday today, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls released the following declaration to journalists:

"I confirm that Ahmet Necdet Sezer, president of Turkey, has invited His Holiness Benedict XVI to make an official visit to that country from November 28 to 30, 2006.

The Holy Father has accepted the invitation. The details of the visit are being defined."

Where will the Holy Father visit? Aside from the obligatory stops in Ankara and Istanbul, I am going to predict that Benedict may visit Trabzon and the parish of Father Santoro along with the Patriarch of Constantinople and they will hold an ecumenical memorial service to a man who died while serving Christ.

And the Church thinks Europe is bad off

The number of Japanese who killed themselves in suicide pacts made over the internet rose sharply last year.

Police said 91 people died in the pacts in 2005, compared to 55 in 2004 and 34 in 2003, when the records started.

Alarm at the rise has led to increased vigilance by internet service providers, who now report suspected suicide pacts to the authorities.

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and the pacts may appeal to those scared to die alone.

Police figures showed 34 internet-arranged suicide pacts were recorded last year. Of the 91 people who died, 54 were men and 37 were women, with most being in their twenties or thirties.

But the number of cases may now be falling. Twenty of the 34 cases took place in the first three months of last year, before internet service providers started working with the authorities to tackle the problem.

Read the complete article Web suicide pacts surge in Japan from BBC News.

Japan is now where Europe would be, except for the fact that Europe allows immigrants and Japan doesn't hardly at all.

Pay attention, everyone, to the Japanese. They are in a culture that is in terminal decline. Unless they have a baby boom starting now, it's not going to go very well for them over the next half-century.

First Lady meets First Servant

Mrs. Bush and her daughter Barbara (left) are dressed for the occasion as they meet with the Holy Father.

Feb. 08 ( - Laura Bush, the wife of US President George W. Bush, will meet privately with Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) on Thursday, February 9.

The meeting-- the first encounter between the American "first lady" and Pope Benedict-- is scheduled to last about 20 minutes, Vatican sources say. Mrs. Bush, who will be accompanied by her daughter Barbara, was last at the Vatican for the funeral of Pope John Paul II (bio - news) in April 2005. Because she herself holds no government office, her visit with the Pope will be a private audience, without the traditional exchange of gifts and public statements that are reserved for papal meetings with visiting political leaders

Read the complete article US First Lady to meet Pope from Catholic World News.

Photo: Reuters/Yahoo

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Slovakia stays the course

Slovakia Treaty Allows Conscientious Objection

ROME, FEB. 8, 2006 ( A new "Treaty between the Republic of Slovakia and the Holy See on the Right to Exercise Conscientious Objection" reaffirms the universal right to life and to human dignity.

Thus states the concordat project between the Holy See and Slovakia, expected to be signed next week, according to the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation.

This agreement would protect the right of all to exercise conscientious objection in relation to universal values, the group said.

Thus a Catholic doctor would have the right to refuse to participate in objectionable practices such as abortions, assisted procreation, experimentation with human embryos, euthanasia and sterilization.

The treaty has met with opposition in Europe. In the face of a campaign of pro-abortion groups, such as Catholics for Free Choice, the European Union's network of experts on fundamental rights published a notice Dec. 15 on the "right of religious conscientious objection in concordats."

According to the European report, the concordat project between Slovakia and the Holy See, by recognizing the right of conscientious objection, would have a negative impact on what it called "fundamental rights," including abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia.


Therefore, the European network has stated that it is opposed to conscientious objection.

Bruno Nascimbene, a law professor at the University of Milan and a member of this network, who is not a Catholic, deplored the European notice, considering it "unjust" and "preposterous."

"On one hand, he said that all the associations which have been heard promote abortion, and on the other, he pointed out that many member countries of the Union have already signed concordats with other Churches in which conscience clauses are included," the Lejeune Foundation reported. "For him the question of separation between church and state is not part of the competencies of the European Union."

Indeed. The European Union's opposition to this now looks rather backward compared to the support around the continent for free speech.

But then of course, if one wishes to not perform an abortion due to belief, that's just backward superstition, whereas defending free speech is enlightened.

It's all relative, so why get worked up, right?

ANKARA, Turkey, FEB. 7, 2006 ( A teen-ager accused with killing an Italian missionary priest admitted to police that he was influenced by the recently published caricatures of Mohammed, NTV Turkish television reported.

Read the complete article Teen Arrested in Killing Cites Mohammed Cartoons from

This is the third point of the Holy See's response to the cartoons:

3. However, it must be said immediately that the offenses caused by an individual or an organ of the press cannot be imputed to the public institutions of the corresponding country, whose authorities might and should intervene eventually according to the principles of national legislation. Therefore, violent actions of protest are equally deplorable. Reaction in the face of offense cannot fail the true spirit of all religion. Real or verbal intolerance, no matter where it comes from, as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace.

Father Andrea Santoro is the victim of a crime that's not any worse than the 'crime' of depicting Muhammad with a bomb on his head... Right?

This is just kind of pathetic

Compendium of Catechism Available March 31

WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 7, 2006 ( The new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will be available starting March 31, says the U.S. bishops' conference.

The 200-page synthesis of the 1992 Catechism will be published exclusively by USCCB Publishing, the publishing office of the episcopate.

USCCB Publishing will launch the Compendium in English and Spanish at the 2006 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. The paperback version will be available first with the hardcover to follow shortly after.

The Compendium consists of 598 questions and answers, echoing to some degree the format of the popular Baltimore Catechism which was a standard text in many Catholic parishes and schools from 1885 to the 1960s.

Monsignor Daniel Kutys, the episcopate's deputy secretary for catechesis, noted that the Compendium "is not meant to replace religion textbooks, but to augment and complement them."

The Compendium is available for order at

I ordered this book on January 4th. Amazon said and still says that it would be shipped sometime between February 3rd and February 17th. Now we find out that, after delays already, it's not going to be out until the end of March (I'm going to tack on an 'at the earliest' just because I'm feeling so pessimistic over this book at the moment).

I really hope that the USCCB is prepared to have a lot of copies out there, ready to go when the time comes...

And you know what else, the USCCB should be prepared to include with all the books of the first printing some kind of free special gift in gratitude to all of us waiting so patiently for so long.

Monday, February 06, 2006

This is hilarious, so why are we not laughing?

Lord God, we pray that your servants on earth display better sense than to employ Michael Jackson in this climate of sexual abuse controversy... Too late.

ROME (Reuters) - Pop star Michael Jackson could sing some of the prayers written by the late Pope John Paul, the head of the music company coordinating the project said on Monday.

Father Giuseppe Moscati of the Edizioni Musicali Terzo Millennio, which specializes in church music and organizes musical events at the Vatican, said his company had the rights to 24 of Pope John Paul's prayers and wanted to put together a group of international artists to set them to music.

"We have been contacted by people close to Michael Jackson who have expressed interest and we are thinking about it," Moscati said.

He dismissed the recent controversy surrounding Jackson, who is living in Bahrain after a Californian court acquitted him of child molestation charges last June.

"He has been cleared of all charges," Moscati said.

"As a celebrity he is perhaps a bit remote from the teachings contained in the Pope's prayers. But if he can help us put together a group of singers that fulfil the criteria of the project then we'll study the proposal," he said.

Read the complete article Michael Jackson may sing late Pope's prayers from Reuters.

Vatican deputy spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini said the Vatican was not involved in the initiative.

Thank God!

The saga of the Cartoons

In reply to the continuing controversy of the publishing of various cartoons in a Danish newspaper that depict the Prophet Muhammad, the Vatican issued yesterday a statement. has the translation.

In response to several requests on the Holy See's position vis-à-vis recent offensive representations of the religious sentiments of individuals and entire communities, the Vatican press office can state:

1. The right to freedom of thought and expression, sanctioned by the Declaration of the Rights of Man, cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers. This principle applies obviously for any religion.

2. In addition, coexistence calls for a climate of mutual respect to favor peace among men and nations. Moreover, these forms of exasperated criticism or derision of others manifest a lack of human sensitivity and may constitute in some cases an inadmissible provocation. A reading of history shows that wounds that exist in the life of peoples are not cured this way.

3. However, it must be said immediately that the offenses caused by an individual or an organ of the press cannot be imputed to the public institutions of the corresponding country, whose authorities might and should intervene eventually according to the principles of national legislation. Therefore, violent actions of protest are equally deplorable. Reaction in the face of offense cannot fail the true spirit of all religion. Real or verbal intolerance, no matter where it comes from, as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]

To be honest, I am conflicted over this statement. The first point is a nice ideal and the second point is a true statement. Yet the implication of both in the Western civilization of our times is that political correctness comes out ahead of freedom of speech.

The third point most of all is what I see as being really not a very good statement. Just yesterday, I read about Tony Blair's defeat in trying to pass a religious hate law. Hate speech is a subjective thing. One person's graphical critique of Jihadist influence in Islam is another person's blasphemy. Does the second person's right to not have his sensibilities offended trump the first person's right to make a statement? In fact, is there even really a right to not having one's sensibilities offended?

Basically, the statement calls for national legislatures to clamp down on free speech in the name of not hurting anyone's feelings while at the same time saying that printing cartoons is equal to torching embassies. And I thought we as a Church were trying to get away from moral relativism.

I also wish to commend the large number of moderate Muslims around the world who have come out to vigorously condemn the violent protests. Hopefully they'll take this lesson to heart and realize that due to their relative silence over the last five years, they've let themselves be marginalized by the extremists and that they need to come out and reclaim their place in their religion.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Doing the legal leg work

Dr. Peters over at In the Light of the Law takes a frank look at what needs to canonically happen for the four bishops of the SSPX to return to the Church.

As he points out, "The SSPX membership has never (to my knowledge) been declared to be under a penalty; its leadership (the surviving bishops) have been so declared. It is their canonical status that is at issue just now; other things are certainly related, but canonically distinct. In short, one problem at a time."

Bridging the chasm

This was going to be posted yesterday, but Blogger wasn't functioning for some reason. So here it is a day late.

Is it any wonder that schism and chasm are two short little words that share four letters? Just an observation there. I should look and see what (if any) relationship there is between the two in the English language.

In any case, Zenit had a article a few days ago on the third meeting of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches that took place in Armenia. The meeting was hosted by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians. Karekin II is head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is neither Catholic or Orthodox, but rather "separated both from Rome as well as from the Byzantine Orthodox Churches at the Council of Chalcedon in 451."

Aside from the host, the meeting had three topics, which should be familiar by now.

The three topics were: "bishops in the apostolic succession, the relationship between primacy and synods/collegiality, and the functioning and ecclesiological importance of synods at the local and ecumenical level."

Two expositions were presented on each of these topics, one Catholic, the other Orthodox.

Nothing official has emerged from the meeting yet aside from the communique from the Holy See. It should be interesting.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Resigning at 80

Before now, it's been speculation, though well-informed speculation. Now it's been officially announced:

ROME, FEB. 2, 2006 ( Father Hans Kolvenbach, superior general of the Jesuits, announced his intention to resign from his office, adding that he will convoke a general congregation to elect his successor.

In a letter he sent to the members of the Society of Jesus, Father Kolvenbach officially convoked the order's 35th General Congregation. It will open Jan. 5, 2008, in the General Curia of Rome.

The letter, published today, said: "During the Congregation of Procurators of 2003 and during the recent meeting of Major Superiors of the Society of Jesus, it became increasingly clear that the Society has reached a situation foreseen by Saint Ignatius in the Constitutions (680): in which there are 'very difficult things touching upon the whole body of the Society,' 'for more service to God our Lord.' It is a situation that requires a General Congregation."

Thus, the general congregation is convoked with the dual objective of electing a new superior general and addressing other important matters for the Society of Jesus.

Read the complete article Jesuits' Top Superior to Step Down from

As it's been noted elsewhere, Father Kolvenbach and Benedict XVI have a good relationship and that this will allow the pope to take a firmer hand in the choice of a new superior general. 2008 is a long way way and in the run-up to the general congregation the situation will no doubt change. How that affects successors will be interesting to watch.

A break from the action

Cardinal George left behind accusations of cover-ups and incompetence and went north to Milwaukee to speak as part of the Pallium Lecture Series up there.

George's lecture, titled "At the Holy Center: Pope Benedict XVI" addressed the new pope's role as leader of the Catholic Church and what issues he is likely to address.

After addressing the process of electing a new pope, George outlined what Benedict's mission will be during his papacy.

"Pope Benedict XVI wants to be a peacemaker," George said. "He is concerned with unity."

It is the theme of unity, held together by love, that is the basis for the pope's first encyclical, according to George.

"It is no wonder his first encyclical is about love," George said. "It comes from his desire for peace."

The encyclical, titled "Deus Caritas Est" or "On Christian Love-God is Love" was released Jan. 25. It discusses the self-giving love of God and how humans can practice that type of love in their earthly relationships, according to George.

The pope, motivated by love, points out that the Church must work with other charities for the well being of all humans, George said.

"He will be a servant of the truth, a servant of unity. A witness of God's love to the world and divine charity," George said.

Read the complete article Cardinal discusses Vatican from The Marquette Tribune.