Thursday, July 26, 2007

Papal diplomacy

The Economist has an article on the Papal diplomatic service and its reputation around the world. To make a long story short, they're tireless and efficient or so we're led to believe.

But what interests me more is the editorial stance of the article to the effect that the Holy See should drop its status as a sovereign entity and start being the largest NGO of the world. But would that be the best method of getting across the Catholic message in an institutional way? Aside from the historical and traditional points surrounding the Papal States, Vatican City and the juridical status of the Holy See, diplomatic status does have its benefits for the Pope's nuncios.

Read and think about it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On the frontier

Sandro Magister has a piece on the Church in the Congo. He explains through a first person account of a priest the difficulty in getting the news or even the Pope's book to the interior of that country and others like it.

Raphaël Dila Ciendela, 44, a priest of the diocese of Mbujimayi, found out only at the beginning of June that pope Benedict XVI had published – almost two months earlier, on April 16 – the book entitled “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I learned about it by chance, while talking with a priest friend, the rector of a seminary in my diocese, who had received the volume from a confrere who had just returned from Europe.”

Soon after it was Fr. Raphaël’s turn to take a trip to Europe. That was when he had the chance to see with his own eyes, for the first time, a copy of the volume.

“It was June 21, and I had just arrived in Italy. I saw the book by chance at the home of a friend of mine in Pisa. I finally bought the French edition for myself in Bordeaux, on July 11, the feast of Saint Benedict.”

Magister talks about the spotting internet access, the lack of TV, newspapers, book, etc. Jusb about the only thing they have is radio and there they must rely on things like the BBC and Vatican Radio on shortwave.

There are of course the usual recommendations for the Holy See:

End of story. In the Vatican, the secretariat of state, the pontifical commission for social communications, and the other officials in charge of media matters should place at the top of their agenda this very problem: how to bring news and documents from Rome quickly to the diocese of Mbujimayi and to all the other regions of the Church that find themselves in a similar situation, not only in Africa.

And all the more so in that these segments of the Catholic population are not the rear guard of the Church. They are often the youngest and most lively components, with the most fervent faith, the strongest missionary impulse. They are its future.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Going to the library

The BBC has a story on the upcoming closure of the Vatican Library until 2010. Scholars complain about their disrupted schedules, etc. etc.

There is a lot of good information on the library itself.

The Vatican Library was started by Pope Nicholas V in the early 1450s with an initial 350 Latin manuscripts. By the time he died in 1455, the collection comprised some 1,500 documents and was already the largest in Europe.

The collection now contains more than 1.5 million printed books, in addition to 150,000 precious manuscripts, the earliest of which date back to the days of the late Roman Empire.

One of the library's greatest treasures is the Codex Vaticanus, the world's oldest Bible, written by hand in the days of the first Christian Emperor Constantine, early in the 4th Century AD.

Mr Piazzoni, a layman, is proud that the Vatican Library is in the vanguard of digital technology. Microchips have already been installed inside some valuable books, which tell librarians if a book is missing from its regular stack.

In co-operation with a Japanese company, new techniques have also been developed to read palimpsests, or ancient documents that have been written over again in the days when parchment or paper was a valuable commodity.

"Using ultraviolet rays we can now easily scan documents digitally to reveal the writing underneath, which is invisible to the naked eye," Mr Piazzoni said.

I asked him why stacks of old card indexes still fill one of the reading rooms when the library catalogue has been transferred to a digital database.

"We shall never destroy them because scholars often prefer to use the old library cards, and they are a permanent record which we can always use to check possible mistakes in the database," he explained.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A pope speaks out

CAIRO (Reuters) - Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox church, criticised Pope Benedict on Saturday over a Vatican document asserting Catholic primacy, saying his pride in Catholicism was making him enemies.

"The man (Pope Benedict) makes enemies every time. In his first statements a few months back, he lost all the Muslims. And now this time, he lost a lot of the Christian denominations because he has begun to err against Christians themselves," Shenouda told the state-run daily Al-Ahram.

Article link

Pride in Catholicism... I bet almost every martyr who has ever lived and has ever died for the Faith has had Pride in Catholicism. But you know, that kind of Pride just isn't appropriate when directed towards others, even if it has been Catholic teaching for how many centuries?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Three reasons

Michael McGough of The LA Times has a piece on the MP.

This little snippet really says a lot:

The worst-case scenario is that the pope is reaching out to traditionalist followers of the late "rebel archbishop" Marcel Lefebvre, whose followers have problems with post-Vatican II Catholicism that extend well beyond the language in which the Mass is recited.

By God, it's a damned travesty if the Pope actually reaches out right instead of left!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Someone's got it backwards


The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches said in a statement that Rome's position threatened past ecumenical progress. It added that it was concerned that the Catholics would "no longer be in universal communion with other churches."

Shouldn't that be universal communion with the Catholic Church? I assume this quote is in referring to protestant groups: I didn't realize we were in universal anything with them...

It can't be broken if it never existed in the first place. But thanks for playing.


If you're going to comment with something along the lines of 'There is no God' or 'There is no Pope' or 'I didn't have a choice', don't bother. Comments are moderated and I'm just going to reject those.

The other day, I got in my inbox a message for a comment to be moderated. It was a link to a YouTube movie that I /watched/ with images and text that made the point as far as I could tell that someone was unhappy because he 'didn't have a choice' as far as a religion while he was still a minor living off his parents' dime. Maybe the movie had a point and maybe it didn't, but any longtime reader will be smart enough to remember my physical condition and not post links to YouTube considering that such movies are notorious for not being closed captioned for the hearing impaired...

The interweb is a great thing, but podcasts and vidcasts are kind of pointless to those who can't hear them. :)

How many minutes to Midnight?

"Basically, what we are in the grip of at the moment, and Benedict is one of the engineers of this, is what I would call a strong re-assertion of traditional Catholic identity,"

-John Allen, quoted by a Reuters story entitled, "Is Pope Benedict turning back Catholic clock?"

Father Reese of America fame chimes in in the same article:

"This is the Pope being the German professor who is going to clarify language in his classroom," said Father Tom Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. "And he thinks the world is his classroom."

"The problem with that is that he defines what a church is and by doing so takes any discussion of what a church is off the table in dialogue (with other religions)," said Reese, a leading U.S. Jesuit author.

"His intention is not to insult people but many times that's the way it come across," Reese said. "He uses words the way he defines them whether people like it or not, whether it upsets gays, women, theologians, Protestants or Muslims."

George Weigel, a prominent U.S. lay Catholic theologian, author and leading conservative commentator:

"Christian communities which maintain a clear sense of their doctrinal and moral boundaries can not only survive the encounter with modernity, they can flourish within it. Whereas Christian communities which fudge their boundaries tend to wither and eventually die,"

And of course Mr. Allen gets the last word:

"The Vatican's calculation is that the retrenchment we are going through now may result in a smaller church but it will be a church that is more focused, more energetic, and in the long term that will pay off,"

Have fun as pundits, guys. I know I didn't reading you. :/

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

For Father Tucker...

...who quoted Barry Goldwater here.

Another quote that might not go along with his point but bears thinking about:

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

-Speech accepting the Republican Presidential Nomination


"Unfortunately, among them there are immigrants in an irregular situation, who, however, independently of their legal status, have inalienable human dignity. Therefore their rights must be safeguarded and not ignored or violated. An irregular migration status, in fact, does not mean criminality. The solution is better international cooperation that discourages irregularity, with increased legal channels for migration."

-Archbishop Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, during the Global Forum on Migration and Development, held in Brussels, Belgium from July 9 to 11 [bolding mine]

Right, so if I live in Country A and I want to enter Country B and Country B has certain laws regarding immigration and I choose to circumvent those laws when I enter Country B, I am not breaking the law, I am simply irregularly entering Country B...

And when I commit a sin, I don't need to go to confession because I didn't actually commit a sin, I committed an irregularity...

In between

While the secular media has its way with the motu proprio and the Responses (prayers calling for Jews to convert = not very nice and the Catholic Church leaving out all the Protestants = how cliquish!), I mention another article I read that the readership might find interesting.

The Hoover Institution's Policy Review has an article entitled, "How the West Really Lost God" by Mary Eberstadt. I read through it already last week. I'd quote from it, but it's not very easy and the gist is easy enough to understand...

In some cases (Eberstadt likes to qualify every statement of hers with that phrase or something similar to it, as if by using it she cannot be accused of generalizing), family decline came before a decline in religious participation in Europe, contrary to the normally held sociological view that one finds religion and then goes on to breed as ordered to by God. She points out how the filtering through Western society of the ideals of the Enlightenment has not come out the way it was supposed to as religious belief carries on despite the fact that 'God is dead'. She points out that in a few cases, it seems more likely that a breakdown in family came before a decline in religious belief and participation. Eberstadt points out that long before the 1960s, Europe was demographically headed downhill. She also points out that prevailing sociological theory on the subject tends to atomize the individual instead of seeing him or her as a part of the larger whole...

So with family decline /preceding/ religious decline, Eberstadt plugs some holes and makes the point that maybe we've got it backwards, 'at least in a few cases'.

Read it all and decide if you agree.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Church of Christ



[In English]

"It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church"[12].

I was going to sort through one of the articles I read about the Responses, but the article is just too full of misinformation to even bother with and the reader response at the bottom is kind of sad.

Monday, July 09, 2007

EDITORIAL: Admissions

Now that the motu proprio is out and vacation looms for the Holy Father, I find myself at a crossroads.

Whatever the results of the sharing of the good points of each form of the rite may be, they won't necessarily affect me. Given my lack of hearing, singing, chanting and such is not really my concern, so while the motu proprio is a great intellectual exercise, liturgy just isn't my thing at this point.

We'll see what pops up on the news. Hopefully the Pope will finally get to curial reform... ;)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Summorum Pontificum




[In Latin]

[In English]

On a day like today...

I'm sick. See you all tomorrow.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Dawn in the Eternal City

It's 11:20 PM here. I'm going to bed. The MP will be released as I sleep. Good morning, Rome. Have a happy day!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Gone again

I will be gone starting tomorrow through Thursday as the fourth is the principal holiday of the US civic religion (such as it is...). I'll leave with two quotes...

Pacem in Terris (1963) - John XXIII

But first We must speak of man's rights. Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life...

Declaration of Independence (1776) - Thomas Jefferson

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Continue to pray for the motu proprio's positive reception.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The open Church's bishop

The Atlantic Monthly has in its July/August issue an article on Jin Luxian, the longtime open bishop of Shanghai and more recently the de jure bishop of that diocese. The article online requires a subscription.

Included here are several paragraphs that aren't necessarily in order along with commends.

Under this policy, Jin was asked to take up his old responsibilities as rector of Shanghai’s seminary. Though the CPA would be looking over his shoulder, he saw the necessity: In all of China, there were at most 400 priests to serve 3 million Catholics. He believed that if the Church was to have any chance of survival, China would need young, well-educated priests, even if they were subjected to Communist propaganda during their training. Through a “foreign friend,” Jin requested permission from Rome. The response was that he should “wait for the collapse” of the Communist Party, then reopen the seminary. “They underestimated the Chinese Communist Party,” says Jin. And so, after “much prayer,” he acted in what he believed to be the best interests of China’s Catholics. “I didn’t obey the directive of Rome. I said, ‘Let the Catholic Church survive.’”

In conversation, Jin exhibits few doubts about his decisions, but occasionally his answers turn defensive. During one of our interviews, I asked about his impressions of the underground Church. He began to answer, then suddenly interrupted himself. “[The members of the underground Church] say they are loyal to the pope,” he said. “But I am as loyal as them. Why become bishop? I led the [Chinese] Catholics to pray for the pope and even printed the prayer! I reformed the liturgy. Before me, it was all in Latin. But the underground Church did nothing. If I stayed with them, I would do nothing, too.”

The last few sentences are interesting given the shifting liturgical landscape in the West. Ditching Latin and reforming the liturgy might not be the best things to take credit for when discussing one's achievements as bishop.

Then, as now, Beijing had two conditions for normalizing relations with the Vatican: the severing of the Vatican’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan (and as a consequence, the transfer of its embassy to the mainland) and an agreement not to interfere in China’s internal affairs. The Vatican has indicated that it’s prepared to meet the Taiwan condition, but the second issue, which encompasses the selection of bishops, is more difficult. Informally, the Vatican might be satisfied with a compromise similar to the process used to nominate Xing in Shanghai. However, public declarations to the contrary, it’s been suggested that both the government and the underground Church have a tacit interest in preventing a deal, since it would inevitably empower the open bishops and their conference, diminishing the government’s influence and the underground Church’s prestige.

Whether an immediate way can be found through the impasse may depend on what Benedict XVI has to say in a promised letter to Chinese Catholics. Leaked reports and the impressions of a source close to the drafting of the letter suggest that it will call, as John Paul II did, for reconciliation between the open and underground churches, and focus largely on pastoral concerns. Ultimately, it’s expected to portray China’s Catholics as largely united after a half century and to acknowledge that any diplomatic solution will need to accommodate both the vitality of the open Church and the struggles of the underground one.

Which the letter did..

The article as a whole is a biographical piece on Jin and his struggles. The main thrust seems to be Jin's efforts at creating a Chinese Church, even if it meant collaborating with Beijing. The main 'bad guys' seem to be Rome and the underground Church itself: it was described as both heroic and to blame for Catholicism's backwardness before Jin reformed everything.

It's on newsstands now, go check it out.