Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"In Short, the Witness of Sanctity": For New Evangelization, the Pope's "Charter"

Nearly a year after B16 announced its inception, this week brings the first full meeting of the Roman Curia's first new addition in nearly a quarter-century: the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

Its designated mission largely geared toward media -- both in terms of studying its potential and supporting its use as a tool for transmitting the Gospel -- the council's A-list membership reflects the Pope's keenness not only on the dicastery's long-frame success, but that the venture's initial efforts might get off the ground with the maximum possible exposure.

Named by Benedict in January, among other charter members of the council taking part in this week's session are five key cardinals -- the CDF prefect William Levada and chief of Bishops Marc Ouellet, Sydney's George Pell, Vienna's Christoph Schönborn and Angelo Scola of Venice -- plus a host of the globe's top-tier archbishops including the UK's Oxford-bred Bernard Longley of Birmingham, the prominent Italian theologian Bruno Forte, the German episcopate's president Robert Zollitsch, Belgium's controversial André-Joseph Leonard (who's made strange headlines after taking at least five pies to the face over recent months) and, of course, the blogging USCCB president, New York's Timothy Dolan.

Fresh off his high-profile exchange of letters with the House Budget chair, Congressman Paul Ryan, for the Gotham prelate -- likewise a key player on the wintertime Apostolic Visitation to Ireland, whose conclusions are currently being examined by the Holy See -- the PCPNE seat marks the first of what promises to be many Curial assignments over the years to come. Accordingly, in vintage Dolan style, the moment will be commemorated with cameras: just as the newly-installed Evangelization Czar, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, co-hosted the morning show on Italy's state broadcaster RAI to open the Beatification festivities for Pope John Paul II, early Thursday the Stateside chief will take Meredith Viera's chair alongside Matt Lauer and Al Roker as NBC's Today Show does a remote edition from Rome.

Coinciding with both Ascension Day and this Sunday's observance of the church's annual World Communications Day, the archbishop's appearance on the ratings juggernaut -- with over 5 million daily viewers, the country's most-watched newscast -- marks Dolan's second megawatt TV turn over recent months, following his very successful March interview on CBS' 60 Minutes, whose often hard-hitting questioning of leaders and titans has long burnished the Sunday institution's rep as the toughest test in American media.

Back inside the walls, however, with the new evangelization tapped as the focus of next year's Synod of Bishops and, in general, looming large over the agenda of the current pontificate, B16's speech to the PCPNE gathering both took a stab at setting a definition for the Wojtyla concept, and indicated the "crisis" behind his desire for a reinvigorated push:
The term, “new evangelization” recalls the need for a renewed manner of proclamation, especially for those who live in a context, like the one today, in which developments of secularization have left a lasting mark, even in traditionally Christian countries. The Gospel is the always new proclamation of the salvation operated by Christ which makes humanity participants in the mystery of God and in His life of love and opens it to a future of sure and faithful hope. To underscore that at this moment in history, the Church is called to carry out a new evangelization, means intensifying her missionary action so that it fully corresponds to the mandate of the Lord. The Second Vatican Council recalled that “Moreover, the groups among which the Church dwells are often radically changed, for one reason or other, so that an entirely new set of circumstances may arise.” (Ad Gentes, 6) The far-seeing Fathers of the Council saw the cultural changes that were on the horizon and which today are easily verifiable. It is precisely these changes which have created unexpected conditions for believers and require special attention in proclaiming the Gospel, to give an account for our faith in situations which are different from the past. The current crisis brings with it traces of the exclusion of God from people’s lives, from a generalized indifference towards Christian faith to an attempt to marginalize it from public life. In years past, it was still possible to find a general Christian sensibility which unified the common experience of entire generations raised in the shadow of the faith which had shaped culture. Today, unfortunately, we are witnessing a drama of fragmentation which no longer admits a unifying reference point; moreover, it often occurs that people desire to belong to the Church, but they are strongly shaped by a vision of life which is in contrast with the faith.

Proclaiming Jesus Christ the only Saviour of the World, today appears more complex than in the past; but our task remains identical to that at the dawn of our history. The mission has not changed, just as the enthusiasm and courage that moved the Apostles and first disciples must not change. The Holy Spirit which prompted them to open the doors and made evangelizers of them (cf. Acts 2, 1-4) is the same Spirit which today moves the Church to a renewed proclamation of hope for the men of our time. Saint Augustine affirms that we must not think that the grace of evangelization was extended only to the Apostles and with them that fount of grace was exhausted, but “this fount is revealed when it flows, not when it ceases to pour out. And it was in this way that the grace through the Apostles reached others too, who were invited to proclaim the Gospel… it has continued to be a call right up to these days for the entire body of His Only Son, that is, His Church spread throughout the earth.” (Sermon, 239,1) The grace of the mission continually needs new evangelizers capable of receiving it so that the salvific news of the Word of God never fails to be heard in the changing conditions of history.

There is a dynamic continuity between the proclamation of the first disciples and ours. Throughout the centuries, the Church has never ceased to proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that same message today needs renewed vigor to convince contemporary man, who is often distracted and insensitive. For this reason, the new evangelization must find ways of making the proclamation of salvation more effective; a proclamation without which personal existence remains contradictory and deprived of what is essential. Even for those who remain tied to Christian roots, but live a difficult rapport with modernity, it is important to realize that being Christian is not a type of clothing to wear in private or on special occasions, but is something living and all-encompassing, able to contain all that is good in modern life. I hope that in your work during this assembly, you will be able to delineate a project capable of helping the whole Church and the different particular Churches in the commitment to a new evangelization; a project where the urgency of a renewed proclamation involves formation, especially for new generations, and is combined with a proposal of concrete signs able to make evident the answer which the Church intends to offer in this distinctive moment. If, on the one hand, the entire community is called to reinvigorate its missionary spirit to proclaim the Good News that the men of our times are waiting for, we cannot forget that the style of life of believers needs to be genuinely credible and all the more convincing for the dramatic conditions in which those who need to hear it live. For this reason, we want to make the words of the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI ours, when he said with regard to evangelization, “It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity” (Evangelii nuntiandi, 41).
* * *
On a side-note, set to travel to Croatia this weekend for the 19th overseas jaunt of his pontificate, earlier tonight the pontiff closed Rome's observance of the Marian month with the traditional visit to the Lourdes grotto in the Vatican gardens.

Along those lines, to end May where we began, here again is the prayer to the Madonna which Benedict used at the Circus Maximus vigil for the beatification of John Paul II -- a text the now-Blessed Pope himself prayed at Lourdes in 2004 on the final journey of his 27-year reign:
Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman,
Blessed by the Most High!
Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era,
We join in your song of praise,
to celebrate the Lord’s mercy,
to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom
and the full liberation of humanity.

Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord,
Glorious Mother of Christ!
Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word,
Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word,
and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit,
attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience
and to his manifestations in the events of history.

Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows,
Mother of the living!
Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve,
Be our guide along the paths of the world.
Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ,
to stand with you before the innumerable crosses
on which your Son is still crucified.

Hail Mary, woman of faith,
First of the disciples!
Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always
to account for the hope that is in us,
with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love.
Teach us to build up the world beginning from within:
in the depths of silence and prayer,
in the joy of fraternal love,
in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.

Holy Mary,
Mother of believers,
pray for us.
PHOTOS: Getty(1); Reuters(2)


The Great Commission

While most of the country -- and, indeed, the global church -- has the luxury of five more days to prepare for Ascension Day, in the part of this land that (at least, if the stats/scandals are any indicator) could arguably use the most reflection on the meaning of "Go and make disciples of all nations... and, behold, I am with you always," all of 48 hours remain to dwell on the Christ's Last Words on Earth, to say nothing of what they call His Own to take on -- and, candidly, make new -- in this challenging moment of our walk....

To be sure, Catholicism in the American Northeast is well known for being traditional, even to a fault. How well that approach has lately served its people, however, is a question best left for the historians -- at least, in the hope that the long-frame chronicle of things might prove itself happier than its "first draft" over recent decades.

That aside, though, regardless of whether we mark Easter's 40th Day at the weekend's start or its close, the force and value of The Day's Charge remains the same. Ergo, to sufficiently prep for it -- especially in those places where, candidly, its cry needs to be heard most of all, especially in these days -- whatever our place in the bunch, let its words in song be a reminder and, where needed, push for the lot of us......



Monday, May 30, 2011

"To These, O Lord": In Memoriam... In Service

Culturally speaking, this last weekend of May might mark the start of summer on these shores... lest we forget, though, our freedom to enjoy it owes itself to the sacrifice of thousands over the centuries -- and, indeed, even into our time.

Their number increased by over 6,000 just in the last decade, in appreciation both of those who gave their lives that the rest of us might have ours, not to mention all those who've risked (and still risk) the same for the good of the rest, between our barbeques and beach-trips over these days, let's pause for a Memorial Day tribute to "The Glorious Dead" -- albeit one borrowed from our friends across the Pond, who set the gold standard for Remembrance....

...and much closer to home, keeping with these pages' longtime custom for civil holidays, here again, the "Prayer for [this] Nation" and its nascent church, written and first delivered in 1791 by the Father of American Catholicism -- John Carroll of Baltimore, the heroic founding shepherd of this faithful on these shores:

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Benedict, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

* * *
Yet lastly, as ever -- but especially given the campaigns of recent years -- Memorial Day brings into a particular ecclesial focus the work of the DC-based archdiocese for the Military Services, whose global turf encompasses some 1.5 million American Catholics in uniform; a flock upon which "the sun never sets," comprising roughly a quarter of the nation's entire Forces, at home and abroad alike.

Long keeping today's observance for its lead annual gathering as a local church, the AMS has posted the Memorial Mass homily of the Services' chief shepherd, Archbishop Timothy Broglio -- a reflection on the Good Shepherd, with a tribute to a well-known 20th century pastor who wore combat boots: New Orleans' celebrated Archbishop Philip Hannan, a World War II chaplain who (even despite recent health scares) remains the Crescent City's first citizen and "Energizer bunny" ten days into his 99th year.

That said, the Military church faces a dire shortage of Catholic chaplains these days -- some 275 clerics in all for a sprawling five-branch flock... so, along those lines, his well-honed Roman diplomacy stretched to its limit, the Cleveland-born commander made a pointed call for more help to his confreres at last November's USCCB plenary, outlining the unique challenges the AMS and its pastors and people face, and how the quality of its response impacts the wider church:

While Broglio was seeking an improvement in the bench's level of collaboration, for its part, Rome has given a particularly conspicuous vote of confidence in its reinforcements to the Forces' top ecclesial rank of late, providing auxiliaries for the AMS in two separate air-drops over the last year: the down-home Alabaman (via Baltimore) Rick Spencer in September, and Broglio's fellow Clevelander Neil Buckon, a Bronze Star winner who was ordained in February.

Both new auxes hail from the Army chaplain corps.

PHOTOS: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA(2)


Saturday, May 28, 2011

"That He May Bide With You For Ev'r..."

From one of the more memorable moments of last year's PopeTrip to Britain -- the start of a liturgy that, truth be told, left the Vatican delegation on-hand longing for more -- the classic musical reflection on this Sunday's Gospel....

Buona domenica a tutti
-- hope you're all getting a beautiful, restful and easy Memorial Weekend... and with two weeks to go, welcome to the Pentecost Countdown.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Airborne: Davenport Rector to "Rapid"... and A "Beer City" Deputy

Among the Native Americans who comprise a quarter of its faithful, the Rapid City church’s last two bishops were respectively known as “Rustling Wind” and “White Thunder”....

But now, the question begs itself: what will they dub a pilot?

Putting Stateside Catholicism’s longest vacancy to rest, at Roman Noon the Pope named Msgr Robert Gruss, 55 -- heretofore rector of Davenport’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and a onetime vice-rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome -- as the next head of western South Dakota’s 30,000-member diocese: one of the US church’s smallest outposts by population, sure, but a seat whose most recent occupants have gone on to enjoy significant national prominence.

A native of Wisconsin (and the second NAC #2 to be beamed up since February), the bishop-elect worked for several years as a commercial airplane pilot and flight instructor before entering seminary formation. Following his 1994 ordination (at 38) by the Iowa church’s now-retired Bishop William Franklin, Gruss spent a decade in parish work before being named Davenport's Vocations Director, then Chancellor in 2005. Two years later, he was returned to the Gianicolo -- where, not long before, he had studied -- as deputy head of the nation’s Roman seminary. Last July, the nominee came home again, this time as rector of Sacred Heart, whose three weekend Masses include one in Vietnamese.

Notably, Rapid's incoming captain will be welcomed by a familiar face on touching down. Much like his next Boss, the diocese’s interim administrator, Fr Steven Biegler, was formed at the NAC and ordained in his mid-30s (a year ahead of Gruss) and subsequently returned to the College, in his case as Director of Pastoral Formation from 2003-2006. Having served as chaplain to the see-city’s Catholic schools and Newman center since his return, following his election to look after things following Bishop Blase Cupich’s June 2010 transfer to Spokane, what one local called Biegler's "low key-super organized job" has garnered high reviews among his own.

As noted above, even for the diocese's small population, its last two bishops have garnered an outsize standing in the wider church even before subsequent assignments. Named to the Black Hills at age 43 in 1988, Rapid City's sixth bishop -- now-Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap of Denver -- had already carved out a national reputation for media-savvy candor before getting the call to the Rockies in 1997. And not long after his 1999 appointment, Cupich's more progressive profile as a keen "conference man" and management guru began to take flight, culminating in the Omaha native's continuing stint as the US bishops' point-man on clergy sex-abuse.

In accord with the norms of the canons, Gruss' ordination and installation must take place within four months.

* * *
At the same time, continuing the aforementioned crop of auxiliaries recent months have produced on these shores, this morning B16 named Fr Donald Hying, 47 -- rector of Milwaukee's St Francis Seminary since 2007 -- to aid the Beer City's Archbishop Jerome Listecki.

Named the archdiocese's chief formator by the now-archbishop of New York, Hying's appointment comes less than a year after Tim Dolan's chief Milwaukee deputy, Bishop Bill Callahan OFM Conv, was transferred across Wisconsin to LaCrosse. Among his assignments, the bishop-elect spent three years as head of a mission parish in the Dominican Republic, reflecting the relatively recent priority for Hispanic outreach in Milwaukee given the community's sudden arrival and dramatic growth in the 850,000-member church. Even as the late 2000s saw St Francis' ordination classes grow to decades-long highs, Hying's appointment to the seminary's helm coincided with the spin-off of its academic program to nearby Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners.

The youngest of six, a Marquette alum and sometime blogger on the archdiocesan website, Listecki's new top aide has never served in chancery work, but now takes on a lead role in the wake of Milwaukee's January filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid multiple abuse suits. In recent weeks, attorneys for victim-survivors have sought to clarify the legal ownership of the Cousins Center -- the archdiocesan headquarters (long eyed for sale) -- in an attempt to have the 44-acre property listed among the Milwaukee curia's assets.

Notably, both of today's appointees have spent their priesthoods in local churches among the eight US outposts which have gone the Chapter 11 route; having made its filing in 2006 -- during Gruss' tenure as chancellor -- Davenport emerged from the process after a $37 million settlement in 2008.

While Hying will be ordained to the episcopacy on 20 July, as previously noted, both bishops-elect will be expected to make the USCCB's June meeting in Seattle at which, despite lacking ordination, they'll be able to sit as full voting members of the body by virtue of their appointment.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Everybody Hats: Circuit Digest, Spring Edition

Three weeks from tomorrow, the Stateside church's Midsummer Classic begins in Seattle as -- for the first time ever under a New York presidency -- the nation's bishops gather to tackle a significantly more action-packed plate than the body finds at most of its June meetings.

Abuse, Anglicans, and political engagement dominate the three-day agenda -- all in a Spring Plenary site that, for once, promises anything-but-sweltering weather... and quite possibly with a bigger turnout than most mid-year sit-downs, to boot.

In the meanwhile, though, the bench's ongoing reboot has kept up over recent weeks as the various nods made over the last few months take effect, with another couple likely to emerge in the home-stretch of the Vatican's working year, which rounds out at June's end.

All-around, the latest set of B16's moves on these shores has been dominated by a long-awaited crop of auxiliaries, their ordinations continuing on throughout these Easter days. Tomorrow in Silicon Valley brings the latest of the bunch as Bishop-elect Tom Daly, 50, completes his Roman transfer from San Francisco to San Jose, becoming the booming young church's first-ever adjunct high-hat. (The 2pm Pacific liturgy will be webstreamed, its worship aid already up.) Still, perhaps the most notable of the season's group came earlier this month in Detroit as the US' first triple-elevation since 2006 took place (fullvideo), a Hockeytown hat-trick begun with two highly-regarded local pastors and completed by the bench's new youngest member, 41 year-old Bishop Arturo Cepeda (above).

Elsewhere, after the Ord Day livefeed crumbled under the weight of clicks from Bishop Bill Waltersheid's native Harrisburg (sending the attached combox into expressions of fury over the inadequacy of church communications), a reliable feed's now available of the Easter Monday rites inaugurating Pittsburgh's new auxiliary -- memorable, Steeler-ringed homily and all.

Looking forward, meanwhile, still to come are Visitation Day's homecoming of Bishop Joe Tyson to Yakima, and two more ordinations: of Cincinnati's new deputy, Auxiliary-elect Joe Binzer, on 9 June and, just across the Indiana line, the Peter-and-Paulmas launch of Evansville's feverishly-awaited Bishop-elect Chuck Thompson.

On a salient note, while the Cinci pick will have his day just before the Seattle plenary opens, given the rhythms of the calendar, it's worth reminding that a priest named to the episcopacy claims full sitting and voting rights in his respective conference of bishops by virtue of his appointment, not ordination. Ergo, that applies to any others so tapped before Seattle's opening day on 15 June. (And since we're at it, it bears recalling that, even before they're ordained, bishops-elect are likewise entitled to all the insignia and titles of their new office, save those liturgically conferred by their principal consecrator -- namely, the ring, mitre and crozier.)

Fresh from the June Meeting, at least four Stateside prelates will be departing for an even bigger trip -- to Rome, where as newly-named metropolitan archbishops they'll receive the pallium from B16 on the 29th's feast of the Urb's patrons, all accompanied by sizable pilgrimages of their friends and flocks.

Though the size of this year's US pallium class is fairly standard for recent times -- which have seen the reigning pontiff name a majority of the nation's 32 Latin-church metropolitans since his 2005 election -- 2011's group will offer an especially keen glimpse of the nation's Catholic future to the Vatican crowd: as never before, half of this year's American delegation is Hispanic (namely, Archbishops José Gomez of Los Angeles and his successor in San Antonio, Gustavo García-Siller MSpS, both of them Mexican-born).

For purposes of context, since now-Blessed John Paul II established the practice of bringing the metropolitans together to invest them with the ancient band of lambswool himself in 1984, until now, only one of the archbishops from these shores has been Latino. With the community soon to claim for itself a majority of the American Catholic population, however, the historic duo's presence before the confessio of St Peter will underscore anew the curious reality that the Holy See appreciates the dramatic, rapid ascent of Hispanics in the nation's pews significantly more than many among this domestic church's own ranks.

While Gomez, García-Siller, Archbishops Peter Sartain of Seattle and Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City have all been several months in their new posts, archbishops who are named in the weeks prior to the Rome rites customarily scramble over to receive their pallia, even if their installations remain to take place.

Beyond the remaining auxiliaries still to be named, the top posts six US Latin-church dioceses remain vacant (in chronological order: Rapid City, Salina, Fresno, Baker, Pensacola-Tallahassee and Steubenville), with another six (again in order: Philadelphia, Savannah, Manchester, Lincoln, Bismarck and Rockford) led by ordinaries serving past the retirement age of 75.

That said, three more diocesans are scheduled to submit their walking papers in June alone: Bishop Edward Kmiec of Buffalo on the 6th, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco on the 14th, and Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie ten days later.

PHOTOS: Larry A. Peplin/The Michigan Catholic(1); St Louis Review(2); Getty(3)


"Our Faith Doesn't Give Us Answers, It Gives Us Courage"

The latest in a line of giants, and acclaimed with a standing ovation under the arms of Touchdown Jesus on receiving American Catholicism's most venerable prize, as promised, here's Sunday's Laetare Medal acceptance of the River City's own Sister Mary Scullion RSM, founder of Philadelphia's pioneering Project H.O.M.E. -- and, thanks to her work, a figure widely viewed as her hometown's preeminent moral authority.

Speaking on behalf of herself and her co-founder, Joan McConnon, without any further ado, our fearless, ever-formidable "Power Nun"....

PHOTO: Joe Raymond/University of Notre Dame


Pray for Joplin

In the wake of the worst tornado to hit these shores in nearly six decades, the shot above shows what's left of St Mary's church in Joplin, Missouri, where an F4 funnel -- three-quarters of a mile wide at its peak, with top speeds just shy of 200mph (300kph) -- killed at least 116 late Sunday, leveling some 2,000 buildings in its wake.

The parish school was similarly gutted, and the city's St John's Hospital was said to have taken major damage.

Home to a resident population of 49,000 in predominantly Evangelical country, the town has a notable link to current-day American Catholicism -- seven miles up the road in Carthage is home to August's traditional Marian Days, the five-day festival of faith, food and piety that sees upwards of 70,000 Vietnamese-American Catholics converge for a camp-out on the grounds of a former seminary given to a religious community that settled in the area after its postwar exile. While Carthage is said to have been spared the twister's wrath, thousands of Days attendees traditionally stay in Joplin hotels, many of which are now wiped out.

As rain and hailstorms continue to pummel the area, hampering the timeframe of recovery efforts, the local diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau has posted information on supporting its relief efforts.

Bishop Vann Johnston is slated to get his first look at the devastation later today... and for the rest of us, whether we're near or far from the scene, just another chance to do what our kind do best.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

“Beyond doubt, it is impossible to ignore a reality that ever more assumes the characteristics of a "cultural movement," able to intercept and interact with the public in uncontrollable ways. We can say that we are in new squares and new cathedrals -- virtual spaces, to be sure, but ones inhabited by people who communicate, express ideas, tell stories, ask hard questions and expect answers. We can not, then, avoid this call to dialogue, taking into account that it entails a fluid world, a complex, articulated one in continual movement....

The desire that governed us in organizing this event was, then, to welcome, understand, and listen to the requests, hopes, fears, doubts, the aspirations and challenges of this most vast community that follows the life of the church more than we could possibly imagine.

From this appeared the need, expressed clearly during the meeting, to decipher the mentality, the culture and philosophy that animates the bloggers, so that the church might be able to undertake a new evangelization and spark public opinion, learning itself to be interactive and not anchored only to a pyramidal style of communication that is foreign to the culture of our time. It can overcome a merely one-directional communication, without possibilities of dialogue and exchange, something destined to leave an impression of rigidity and self-reference.

It remains an indisputable given that the culture and the philosophy of bloggers needs to be decodified, surpassing the prejudice that speaks of an unthinking, instinctive communication. On the blogs we don't solely find a pigeonholed postcard at digital speed, in which news emerges in real time and everyone affirms what he wishes and as he wants, like an online newscast in which all can find, for free, their own information and receive it in exchange. Surely, this is an aspect of the blogosphere, but above all, the cultural dimension of the phenomenon needs to be singled out: we are in the presence of a "way of life." In fact, the weblog (the original word for blog) is a chronicle in electronic format that doesn't just list facts but comments on them from one's personal sensibility, so it is a reflection on daily life and, in a certain way, an interpretation of existence....

The encounter of 2 May has made us understand that a new reality is growing that communicates emotions, sentiments, impulses of the spirit, opinions and stories in an unedited way that [Marshall] McLuhan himself would never have expected.... Let us seek, then, to reflect on the ideas raised in this dialogue, even the most suggestive, interesting and even slightly provocative, to highlight the necessity of not letting this meeting of bloggers remain only one event to be consigned to the annals of history, but that it becomes the first step of a long path of listening to the many people who wish to speak with us.
--Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
"Between church and bloggers, a successful face-to-face"
L'Osservatore Romano
22 May 2011

Three weeks after the Vatican "Blogfest," lest any doubt remained, the place is still standing, and everyone got out alive -- and, for that matter, un-excommunicated.

Memorable and sweet as it was, the experience has made for quite a lot to process and reflect on since, so a couple thoughts from this end should finally see print over the next few days.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

"The Kingdom, Our True Home"

Amid the darkest hour this place has known in nearly two centuries, it's been a brilliant, historic day for the River City church....

Even if it's the Third Weekend of May, though, the traditional ordination-date merely happened to coincide with it. Just another sign of the sea-change afoot in our midst.

Ergo, live from Commencement Sunday under Our Lady's Golden Dome, here's the citation that conferred the Laetare Medal on two of our own for the first time in the 130-year line of American Catholicism's most venerable and prestigious award.

* * *
At the 166th Commencement

The May Exercises

Sister and Madam,

Dorothy Day, who preceded you by two score years in the honor we bestow today, once wrote that “we have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”

Her words, and more conspicuously, her life, sharpened and gave witness to that yearning, most notably in the loving hospitality which became a central feature of the Catholic Worker movement she founded.

She also inspired two daughters of the “City of Brotherly Love” whom we now celebrate. You both, like her, have felt the pangs of that long loneliness and have admirably contended with it at least since 1989, when you opened a temporary winter shelter for some 50 homeless men in the locker room of one of Philadelphia’s municipal swimming pools.

It was rough going at first: Your guests, turned away from the city’s other shelters, entered early in the evening and left early in the morning; you managed to improvise the hot meals you served them by means of an overworked microwave oven; and in the absence of a kitchen sink you used a washing machine hose to clean the dishes. You and your work subsisted on companionship and sporadic generosity, as friends offered what they could: a couple of bucks here and there, a meal or two, or a few hours of their time.

But they had begun to catch on to something that was irresistible in the plainspoken articulation of your shared vision: “None of us is at home until all of us are home.”

Since those days that vision, animated by your love and labor, and supported by the thousands of Philadelphians your example has summoned, has given rise to Project H.O.M.E., an organization devoted to ending homelessness in Philadelphia.

What began so precariously as a makeshift shelter now includes 480 units of housing and two businesses which provide employment to formerly homeless people. Of the more than 8,000 men and women participating in Project H.O.M.E. programs, 95 percent have not returned to the streets, and Philadelphia’s homeless population has been reduced by half. Now a national model for community development, the project is engaged in the renovation of inner city vacant lots, home-ownership initiatives for working poor families, and education and employment programs for youths and adults. It also has leveraged more than $80 million toward housing and economic development.

Project H.O.M.E. – begotten by your conviction, commitment, and compassion – has transformed the “City of Brotherly Love” from a mere sobriquet to a glimpse of that Kingdom which is our true home, in celebration of which the University of Notre Dame rejoices to confer upon you both its highest honor, the Laetare Medal,


Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson McConnon
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

...and, well, Thanks be to God.

* * *
Slightly edited at the last minute, Sr Mary's remarks to come.

The first joint winners of the Medal who aren't a married couple, while the Laetare laureates took center stage alongside the day's main speaker, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, American Catholicism's marquee college conferred a dozen honorary degrees in all during the morning exercises, including on the Iranian rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi; Coach Lou Holtz, who oversaw the Fighting Irish squad's last national championship run in 1988, and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, a longtime friend of the Dome, whose diocese recently announced that three of its parish schools would be the first in the country to be fully operated by Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education, an initiative to strengthen the church's teaching work, with a focus on bolstering struggling schools.

University of Notre Dame


The Pope of the Moon: In Historic Linkup, B16 Talks to Space

Over four decades after his predecessor of the time greeted the prelate whose diocese encompassed Cape Canaveral as the "Bishop of the Moon" and hailed the Apollo 11 team as the "conquerors" of the lunar surface, earlier today saw Benedict XVI boldly go where no Pope has gone before as the pontiff held a live chat with the crew of the International Space Station, which took place as NASA winds down its decades-long investment in the shuttle program.

Beyond a discussion of science, the group's vantage and the troubles of the planet, B16 turned personal in the 15-minute Q&A session -- arguably the greatest extension of his preferred encounters (but, this time, with him asking the questions) -- referencing the January attack in Tucson that killed several and gravely injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (the wife of the American captain of the venture, Capt. Mark Kelly) and the recent death of the mother of an Italian crew-member, astronaut Paolo Nespoli.

For the full treatment, thanks to "Houston," here's the complete video of the Pope's Moontalk....

...and via the Holy See, the chat's full text/translation:
Pope: Dear astronauts,

I am very happy to have this extraordinary opportunity to converse with you during your mission. I am especially grateful to be able to speak to so many of you, as both crews are present on the Space Station at this time.
Humanity is experiencing a period of extremely rapid progress in the fields of scientific knowledge and technical applications. In a sense, you are our representatives – spear-heading humanity’s exploration of new spaces and possibilities for our future, going beyond the limitations of our everyday existence.
We all admire your courage, as well as the discipline and commitment with which you prepared yourselves for this mission. We are convinced you are inspired by noble ideals and that you intend placing the results of your research and endeavours at the disposal of all humanity and for the common good.
This conversation gives me the chance to express my own admiration and appreciation to you and to all those who collaborate in making your mission possible, and to add my heartfelt encouragement to bring it to a safe and successful conclusion.

But this is a conversation, so I must not be the only one doing the talking.
I am very curious to hear you tell me about your experiences and your reflections.
If you don’t mind, I would like to ask you a few questions…

First Question [Pope]:
From the Space Station you have a very different view of the Earth. You fly over different continents and nations several times a day. I think it must be obvious to you how we all live together on one Earth and how absurd it is that we fight and kill each other one. I know that Mark Kelly’s wife was a victim of a serious attack and I hope her health continues to improve. When you are contemplating the Earth from up there, do you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here, or about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?

Reply (Mark Kelly, USA):
Well, thank you for the kind words, Your Holiness, and thank you for mentioning my wife Gabby. It’s a very good question: we fly over most of the world and you don’t see borders, but at the same time we realize that people fight with each other and there is a lot of violence in this world and it’s really an unfortunate thing. Usually, people fight over many different things. As we’ve seen in the Middle East right now: it’s somewhat for democracy in certain areas, but usually people fight for resources. And it’s interesting in space … on Earth, people often fight for energy; in space we use solar power and we have fuel cells on the Space Station. You know, the science and the technology that we put into the Space Station to develop a solar power capability, gives us pretty much an unlimited amount of energy. And if those technologies could be adapted more on Earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence.

Second Question:
One of the themes I often return to in my discourses concerns the responsibility we all have towards the future of our planet. I recall the serious risks facing the environment and the survival of future generations. Scientists tell us we have to be careful and from an ethical point of view we must develop our consciences as well.
From your extraordinary observation point, how do you see the situation on Earth?
Do you see signs or phenomena to which we need to be more attentive?

Reply (Ron Garan, USA):
Well, Your Holiness, it’s a great honour to speak with you and you’re right: it really is an extraordinary vantage point we have up here. On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been given is; but on the other hand, we can really clearly see how fragile it is. Just the atmosphere, for instance: the atmosphere when viewed from space is paper-thin, and to think that this paper-thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and is all that protects us, is really a sobering thought. You know, it seems to us that it’s just incredible to view the Earth hanging in the blackness of space and to think that we are all on this together, riding through this beautiful fragile oasis through the universe, it really fills us with a lot of hope to think that all of us on board this incredible orbiting Space Station that was built by the many nations of our international partnership, to accomplish this tremendous feat in orbit, I think … you know, that just shows that by working together and by cooperating we can overcome many of the problems that face our planet, we could solve many of the challenges that face the inhabitants of our planet … it really is a wonderful place to live and work, and it’s a wonderful place to view our beautiful Earth.

Third Question:
The experience you are having right now is both extraordinary and very important – even if you must eventually come back down to Earth like all the rest of us.
When you do return, you will be much admired and treated like heroes who speak and act with authority. You will be asked to talk about your experiences. What will be the most important messages you would like to convey – to young people especially – who will live in a world strongly influenced by your experiences and discoveries?

Reply (Ron Finchke, USA):
Your Holiness, as my colleagues have indicated, we can look down and see our beautiful planet Earth that God has made, and it is the most beautiful planet in the whole Solar System. However, if we look up, we can see the rest of the universe, and the rest of the Universe is out there for us to go explore. And the International Space Station is just one symbol, one example of what human beings can do when we work together constructively. So our message, I think - one of our many messages, but I think one of our most important messages – is to let the children of the planet know, the young people know that there is a whole universe for us to go explore. And when we do it together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.

Fourth Question:
Space exploration is a fascinating scientific adventure. I know that you have been installing new equipment to further scientific research and the study of radiation coming from outer space. But I think it is also an adventure of the human spirit, a powerful stimulus to reflect on the origins and on the destiny of the universe and humanity. Believers often look up at the limitless heavens and, meditating on the Creator of it all, they are struck by the mystery of His greatness. That is why the medal I gave Roberto as a sign of my own participation in your mission, represents the Creation of Man – as painted by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. In the midst of your intense work and research, do you ever stop and reflect like this – perhaps even to say a prayer to the Creator? Or will it be easier for you to think about these things once you have returned to Earth?

Reply (Roberto Vittori, Italy):
Your Holiness, to live on board of the International Space Station, to work as an astronaut on the shuttle Soyuz of the Station, is extremely intense. But we all have an opportunity, when the nights come, to look down on Earth: our planet, the blue planet, is beautiful. Blue is the colour of our planet, blue is the colour of the sky, blue is also the colour of the Italian Air Force, the organization that gave me the opportunity to then join the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. When we have a moment to look down, beauty which is the three-dimensional effect of the beauty of the planet is capturing our heart, is capturing my heart. And I do pray: I do pray for me, for our families, for our future. I took with me the coin and I allow this coin to float in front of me to demonstrate lack of gravity. I shall thank you very much for this opportunity and I’d like to allow this coin to float to my friend and colleague Paolo: he will make return to Earth on the Soyuz. I brought it with me to space and he will take it down to Earth to then give it back to you.

Fifth Question – in Italian – for Paolo Nespoli:
Dear Paolo , I know that your Mother passed away recently and that when you get back home in a few days she will not be there to greet you. We are all close to you in your loss, and I personally have prayed for her…How did you cope with this sorrowful time? Do you feel alone and cut off in your Space Station? Do you suffer a sense of separation, or do you feel united among yourselves and part of a community that follows your endeavours with attention and affection?

Reply (Paolo Nespoli, Italy):
Holy Father, I've felt your prayers, your prayers even now: it's true, we are away from this world, orbiting around the earth and having a vantage-point of looking upon the earth and feeling all that's happening on it. My colleagues here aboard the station have been close in this important, very intense, time for me, just as my siblings, my aunts, cousins and relatives were close to my mother in her last moments. I'm grateful for all this. I've felt myself far, but also very close, and surely the thought of feeling all you close to me, closely united in this moment, has been an extreme comfort. I also thank the European and American space agencies which made their resources available so I could talk to my mother in her last hours alive.

Pope: Dear astronauts,
I thank you warmly for this wonderful opportunity to meet and dialogue with you. You have helped me and many other people to reflect together on important issues that regard the future of humanity. I wish you the very best for your work and for the success of your great mission at the service of science, international collaboration, authentic progress, and for peace in the world. I will continue to follow you in my thoughts and prayers and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.
PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano


Thursday, May 19, 2011

So, gang, it might look quiet 'round here... behind the page, though, it feels like your narrator's running Air Traffic Control -- and that's on top of a double-shot of family stuff and jury duty over these days.

Wild times, sure, but fret not -- as you've come to expect it, all the news that's fit to print will be yours in due course... but only when it's fit to print. (Sometimes, see, such is the job that climbing the mountain of a story can make for a tad more of a haul than usual.)

In the meantime, an early Happy Friday to one and all, and hope all's great on your end.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Abuse, The Study Drops

Years in the making, and produced at a cost of $1.8 million -- mostly funded by the US bishops, but with a contribution from an arm of the Justice Department -- this hour sees the release of the Study on the Causes and Contexts of Clergy Sexual Abuse, prepared by a team from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The full report's available as a mega-pdf, and the USCCB president, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, has issued a statement on the doc's release.

Ergo, as ever, let a thousand reactions bloom.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

For Steubenville, a Bigger Funnel -- Ohio's Conlon to Joliet

Resolving a much-awaited opening at the edges of Chicagoland, at Roman Noon today, B16 named Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, 63, head of Ohio's Steubenville church since 2002, as bishop of Joliet.

In the suburban post -- whose 660,000-some Catholics comprise roughly 17 times the size of Conlon's current fold of 40,000 -- the incoming point-man for the USCCB's child and youth protection efforts succeeds Peter Sartain, four years his junior, who was launched to the archbishopric of Seattle last September.

A native of Cincinnati and alum in the canons from St Paul's in Ottawa, the appointee served in parish work and as Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk's chancellor prior to his cross-state move. Crucially, he's said to speak Spanish -- an increasingly key quality in the Joliet diocese, whose Latino bloc has spiked over recent years.

A figure both low-key enough to slip into the crowd while a group from Steubenville's celebrated Franciscan University led Good Friday Stations of the Cross, but so well-regarded among his confreres to be entrusted with national-level tasks, Conlon's tenure has had some notable turns.

With the diocese undergoing the same ebbing numbers of priests and demographic shifts that have battered the bulk of the Rust Belt church, after the bishop announced plans to build a new cathedral on the merger of six see-city parishes -- even laying its cornerstone with the then-CDW prefect looking on -- the bishop iced the project in late 2007, saying that it would incur "an imprudent amount of indebtedness" on the part of the diocese. (In recent weeks, a diocesan-wide consultation was taken up over whether or not the project should be resumed.)

On another front, days after the high-profile announcement that the bishops of England and Wales are seeking a return to year-round "meatless Fridays," their call came more than two years after Conlon sought the same thing, asking that the faithful's savings from the weekly meat-fast be donated to pro-life efforts. Likewise, Conlon made news for his ministry to a death-row inmate in the man's final weeks, up to the night of his execution. As a young priest, the prelate knew Michael Beuke before his onetime parishioner took three lives in a shooting spree, and in the wake of the man's death, the bishop told a local paper that although "what Michael did 27 years ago was to take the place of God by ending someone's life[,] capital punishment, in effect, does the same thing."

In a message issued just prior to the 2008 elections, however, though Conlon called on his own to "render unto God" in the ballot box, he underscored that "as a bishop, I cannot steer members of the church to a particular party or candidates, either explicitly or through a pointed discussion of issues.

"There is no 'Catholic' party or candidate," he said.

Elected to lead the US bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children by a 3-to-2 margin at last November's USCCB plenary, the Joliet pick becomes the second head of the high-profile task-group to be transferred to another diocese in the last year, following last June's move of Bishop Blase Cupich to Spokane amid the fallout of the Washington church's fraught bankruptcy filing due to the abuse claims filed against it.

While the Joliet church's difficulties are nowhere close to Spokane's straits, some cases of note have arisen in the Illinois diocese, including last year's saga of a recently-ordained cleric who jumped 20 feet from a choir loft in an attempt to kill himself after he was removed on the report of an allegation. (During his years in the diocese, Sartain was seen among some as having been "too stringent" in enforcing the Charter... that is, if such a thing is possible.)

This morning's move keeping the number of Stateside Latin vacancies at six, Conlon's installation has been scheduled for 14 July in Joliet's Cathedral of St Raymond Nonnatus.

[Narrator's Note: For purposes of context, the headline's use of "funnel" refers to the well-known metaphor for the episcopal ministry -- namely, that everything comes down on the bishop's head -- employed by the Steubenville church's second ordinary, Bishop Albert Ottenweller, who led the diocese from 1977-92.

[A month after his 95th birthday, Ottenweller remains well and kicking.]

PHOTO: Diocese of Steubenville


Monday, May 16, 2011

On Abuse, a CDF Circular

Published at Roman Noon by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, here below is the English fulltext of today's release to the world's episcopal conferences on the formulation of norms on clergy sex-abuse.

In an accompanying cover letter, the head of the "Holy Office," Cardinal William Levada, called on every national bench to complete their own procedures on the handling of cases and forward them to the Holy See "by the end of May 2012."

* * *


To assist Episcopal Conferences in developing Guidelines

for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by clerics

Among the important responsibilities of the Diocesan Bishop in his task of assuring the common good of the faithful and, especially, the protection of children and of the young, is the duty he has to give an appropriate response to the cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics in his diocese. Such a response entails the development of procedures suitable for assisting the victims of such abuse, and also for educating the ecclesial community concerning the protection of minors. A response will also make provision for the implementation of the appropriate canon law, and, at the same time, allow for the requirements of civil law.

I. General considerations:

a) The victims of sexual abuse:

The Church, in the person of the Bishop or his delegate, should be prepared to listen to the victims and their families, and to be committed to their spiritual and psychological assistance. In the course of his Apostolic trips our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, has given an eminent model of this with his availability to meet with and listen to the victims of sexual abuse. In these encounters the Holy Father has focused his attention on the victims with words of compassion and support, as we read in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland (n.6): "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated."

b) The protection of minors:

In some countries programs of education and prevention have been begun within the Church in order to ensure "safe environments" for minors. Such programs seek to help parents as well as those engaged in pastoral work and schools to recognize the signs of abuse and to take appropriate measures. These programs have often been seen as models in the commitment to eliminate cases of sexual abuse of minors in society today.

c) The formation of future priests and religious:

In 2002, Pope John Paul II stated, "there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young" (n. 3, Address to the American Cardinals, 23 April 2002). These words call to mind the specific responsibility of Bishops and Major Superiors and all those responsible for the formation of future priests and religious. The directions given in the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis as well as the instructions of the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See take on an even greater importance in assuring a proper discernment of vocations as well as a healthy human and spiritual formation of candidates. In particular, candidates should be formed in an appreciation of chastity and celibacy, and the responsibility of the cleric for spiritual fatherhood. Formation should also assure that the candidates have an appreciation of the Church’s discipline in these matters. More specific directions can be integrated into the formation programs of seminaries and houses of formation through the respective Ratio institutionis sacerdotalis of each nation, Institute of Consecrated Life and Society of Apostolic Life.

Particular attention, moreover, is to be given to the necessary exchange of information in regard to those candidates to priesthood or religious life who transfer from one seminary to another, between different dioceses, or between religious Institutes and dioceses.

d) Support of Priests

1. The bishop has the duty to treat all his priests as father and brother. With special attention, moreover, the bishop should care for the continuing formation of the clergy, especially in the first years after Ordination, promoting the importance of prayer and the mutual support of priestly fraternity. Priests are to be well informed of the damage done to victims of clerical sexual abuse. They should also be aware of their own responsibilities in this regard in both canon and civil law. They should as well be helped to recognize the potential signs of abuse perpetrated by anyone in relation to minors;

2. In dealing with cases of abuse which have been denounced to them the bishops are to follow as thoroughly as possible the discipline of canon and civil law, with respect for the rights of all parties;

3. The accused cleric is presumed innocent until the contrary is proven. Nonetheless the bishop is always able to limit the exercise of the cleric’s ministry until the accusations are clarified. If the case so warrants, whatever measures can be taken to rehabilitate the good name of a cleric wrongly accused should be done.

e) Cooperation with Civil Authority

Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict but also a crime prosecuted by civil law. Although relations with civil authority will differ in various countries, nevertheless it is important to cooperate with such authority within their responsibilities. Specifically, without prejudice to the sacramental internal forum, the prescriptions of civil law regarding the reporting of such crimes to the designated authority should always be followed. This collaboration, moreover, not only concerns cases of abuse committed by clerics, but also those cases which involve religious or lay persons who function in ecclesiastical structures.

II. A brief summary of the applicable canonical legislation concerning the delict of sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by a cleric:

On 30 April 2001, Pope John Paul II promulgated the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela [SST], by which sexual abuse of a minor under 18 years of age committed by a cleric was included in the list of more grave crimes (delicta graviora) reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Prescription for this delict was fixed at 10 years beginning at the completion of the 18th year of the victim. The norm of the motu proprio applied both to Latin and Eastern clerics, as well as for diocesan and religious clergy.

In 2003, Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the CDF, obtained from Pope John Paul II the concession of some special faculties in order to provide greater flexibility in conducting penal processes for these more grave delicts. These measures included the use of the administrative penal process, and, in more serious cases, a request for dismissal from the clerical state ex officio. These faculties have now been incorporated in the revision of the motu proprio approved by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, on 21 May 2010. In the new norms prescription, in the case of abuse of minors, is set for 20 years calculated from the completion of the 18th year of age of the victim. In individual cases, the CDF is able to derogate from prescription when indicated. The canonical delict of acquisition, possession or distribution of pedopornography is also specified in this revised motu proprio.

The responsibility for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors belongs, in the first place, to Bishops or Major Superiors. If an accusation seems true the Bishop or Major Superior, or a delegate, ought to carry out the preliminary investigation in accord with CIC can. 1717, CCEO can. 1468, and SST art. 16.

If the accusation is considered credible, it is required that the case be referred to the CDF. Once the case is studied the CDF will indicate the further steps to be taken. At the same time, the CDF will offer direction to assure that appropriate measures are taken which both guarantee a just process for the accused priest, respecting his fundamental right of defense, and care for the good of the Church, including the good of victims. In this regard, it should be noted that normally the imposition of a permanent penalty, such as dismissal from the clerical state, requires a penal judicial process. In accord with canon law (cf. CIC can. 1342) the Ordinary is not able to decree permanent penalties by extrajudicial decree. The matter must be referred to the CDF which will make the definitive judgement on the guilt of the cleric and his unsuitability for ministry, as well as the consequent imposition of a perpetual penalty (SST art. 21, §2).

The canonical measures applied in dealing with a cleric found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor are generally of two kinds: 1) measures which completely restrict public ministry or at least exclude the cleric from any contact with minors. These measures can be reinforced with a penal precept; 2) ecclesiastical penalties, among which the most grave is the dismissal from the clerical state.

In some cases, at the request of the cleric himself, a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state, including celibacy, can be given pro bono Ecclesiae.

The preliminary investigation, as well as the entire process, ought to be carried out with due respect for the privacy of the persons involved and due attention to their reputations.

Unless there are serious contrary indications, before a case is referred to the CDF, the accused cleric should be informed of the accusation which has been made, and given the opportunity to respond to it. The prudence of the bishop will determine what information will be communicated to the accused in the course of the preliminary investigation.

It remains the duty of the Bishop or the Major Superior to provide for the common good by determining what precautionary measures of CIC can. 1722 and CCEO can. 1473 should be imposed. In accord with SST art. 19, this can be done once the preliminary investigation has been initiated.

Finally, it should be noted that, saving the approval of the Holy See, when a Conference of Bishops intends to give specific norms, such provisions must be understood as a complement to universal law and not replacing it. The particular provisions must therefore be in harmony with the CIC / CCEO as well as with the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (30 April 2001) as updated on 21 May 2010. In the event that a Conference would decide to establish binding norms it will be necessary to request the recognitio from the competent Dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

III. Suggestions for Ordinaries on Procedures:

The Guidelines prepared by the Episcopal Conference ought to provide guidance to Diocesan Bishops and Major Superiors in case they are informed of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics present in the territory of their jurisdiction. Such Guidelines, moreover, should take account of the following observations:

a.) the notion of "sexual abuse of minors" should concur with the definition of article 6 of the motu proprio SST ("the delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years"), as well as with the interpretation and jurisprudence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while taking into account the civil law of the respective country;

b.) the person who reports the delict ought to be treated with respect. In the cases where sexual abuse is connected with another delict against the dignity of the sacrament of Penance (SST art. 4), the one reporting has the right to request that his or her name not be made known to the priest denounced (SST art. 24).;

c.) ecclesiastical authority should commit itself to offering spiritual and psychological assistance to the victims;

d.) investigation of accusations is to be done with due respect for the principle of privacy and the good name of the persons involved;

e.) unless there are serious contrary indications, even in the course of the preliminary investigation, the accused cleric should be informed of the accusation, and given the opportunity to respond to it.

f.) consultative bodies of review and discernment concerning individual cases, foreseen in some places, cannot substitute for the discernment and potestas regiminis of individual bishops;

g.) the Guidelines are to make allowance for the legislation of the country where the Conference is located, in particular regarding what pertains to the obligation of notifying civil authorities;

h.) during the course of the disciplinary or penal process the accused cleric should always be afforded a just and fit sustenance;

i.) the return of a cleric to public ministry is excluded if such ministry is a danger for minors or a cause of scandal for the community.


The Guidelines developed by Episcopal Conferences seek to protect minors and to help victims in finding assistance and reconciliation. They will also indicate that the responsibility for dealing with the delicts of sexual abuse of minors by clerics belongs in the first place to the Diocesan Bishop. Finally, the Guidelines will lead to a common orientation within each Episcopal Conference helping to better harmonize the resources of single Bishops in safeguarding minors.

Rome, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 3 May 2011

William Cardinal Levada

+ Luis F. Ladaria, S.J.

Tit. Archbishop of Thibica


Sunday, May 15, 2011

"And He Shall Gather the Lambs...."

With the weekend schedules now behind, and hopefully everyone getting a chance to relax, keeping with house custom for this "Good Shepherd Sunday" -- as ever, the annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations -- two last reflections on the day's main Word: for all of us, sure, but especially for the many shepherds in our midst.

First, from Handel, a sung word of comfort...

...and with Ordination and Anniversary Season already upon us, from K-Far, a preached word of challenge, regardless of one's order, or even lack thereof:

In a word, to those heroic, oft-burdened souls of every stripe who've been called to gather the lot us together in every way under the sun, as ever -- but especially today -- no words could say enough thanks for who you are, what you do and how much you give.

God knows your days are rarely easy, so never forget to take care of yourselves, please, and above all, keep on keepin' on -- you're doing great.


"Let Us Be Good With Everyone": In Germany, A Blessed Martyr

Sixty-eight years after he died of starvation and disease at Dachau, early on this "Good Shepherd Sunday" brought the beatification of the German priest Georg Haefner, whose death at the hands of the Nazis was judged to be "in odium fidei" -- out of "hatred for the faith" -- and, thus, has seen his designation as a martyr.

One of nearly 500 German and Austrian clerics to be jailed, Hafner's reported offense was to preach against the rise of the Third Reich.

With this morning's rites, the new Blessed (1900-42) becomes the fourth member of the fold who perished in the concentration camps to be raised to the honors of the altar, following Saints Maximilian Kolbe and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), and Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, the Austrian farmer who was executed for refusing to be conscripted into Hitler's army. (Another lasting light of the era was now-Blessed Cardinal Clemens August von Galen (1878-1946), the "Lion of Munster" whose preaching against the Nazis during the war exposed the regime's manifest evils.)

While the Vatican's lead saintmaker, Cardinal Angelo Amato SDB, was dispatched to preside at the ceremonies in the cathedral of Haefner's native Wurzburg, Der Deutschpapst -- that is, B16 -- commemorated the occasion at his noontime Regina Caeli with these words:
Amid the tumult of Nazism, Georg Hafner was present as a faithful pastor, sacrificing his life to feed his flock, leading many people to the waters of life in the proclamation of the truth and the administration of the sacraments.

He forgive his tormentors from his heart, for as he wrote to his parents from prison: "Let us seek to be good with everyone." Let us entrust ourselves to his intercession, so that we too may hear the voice of Christ, the good shepherd, and so be led to life and joy in abundance.
In Germany, Bl Georg's feast will be observed on the date of his death, 20 August.


At "Holy Office," A Fire Sale -- All Texts Must Go

With the long-awaited clarification on Summorum Pontificum now in the books, Friday's release of Universae Ecclesiae signaled the start of the Vatican's traditional six-week sprint toward 29 June's feast of Saints Peter and Paul -- and, with it, the end of the Roman Curia's yearly work-cycle.

The home stretch of the Holy See's calendar before the summer exodus from Rome is traditionally a time of deck-clearing of appointments and texts of all sorts. This year, though, the final lap's spotlight has fallen chiefly on the Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio (above) -- the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- which produced Friday's text, with another high-profile item set to drop tomorrow... and indeed, a third, as yet unannounced, significant move likewise expected from its halls in short order.

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Moving forward from the bolt-tightening of the 2007 motu proprio on the "Old Missal," Roman Noon tomorrow brings the CDF's publication of a "guidance" letter to the world's bishops on their response to clergy sex-abuse -- and, more particularly, "to aid episcopal conferences in their preparation of guidelines" for the handling of cases, both in the juridic and pastoral senses.

Four months after the Holy See released a new set of norms to reinforce the status of clerical abuse of the vulnerable among the "grave delicts" by clergy whose ultimate oversight is reserved to the "Holy Office," the congregation's LA-born chief, Cardinal William Levada, gave a presentation on the topic to the college of cardinals at their traditional daylong consultation with the Pope before last November's consistory.

At the time, a summary of Levada's relatio to the red-hats revealed that the Congregation was working on the additional guidance in order to ensure what was termed "a coordinated and effective program" for an optimal response both on reports of abuse, and likewise to bolster four key elements of "the increased responsibility of bishops for the care of the faithful entrusted to them":
  • "the listening to and welcoming of victims";
  • "collaboration with civil authorities";
  • "the need for effective efforts for the protection of children and young people";
  • and "an attentive selection and formation of future priests and religious"
Likewise of salient context here are the oft-repeated "four points" on healing the crisis, which Benedict XVI first shared with the Irish bishops on their ad limina visit in October 2006 (emphases added):
In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important [1.] to establish the truth of what happened in the past, [2.] to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, [3.] to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, [4.] to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes.
Though many episcopal conferences in the global north have either crafted their own national guidelines on handling allegations or are in the process of doing so, most of the world's episcopates remain without their own across-the-board protocols. The last-decade advent of Rome's enhanced role in processing cases, however, has taken at least some of the burden off the local churches which previously, at best, were largely left to manage on their own and, at worst, found Vatican officials either of little help or even an obstruction to their attempts to remove predator priests.

At the same time, however, the new instruction on abuse norms curiously comes as the two episcopates hardest-hit by the scandals find their well-established local norms intended to restore trust both hit with serious doubts in the wake of recent developments.

Just last week, the Irish press spoke of "fury" and its hierarchy's own lead hand for child protection admitted his "frustration" as the annual report of the Isle church's internal agency on abuse revealed that of the 272 allegations received by the country's 26 dioceses in 2010, less than a fifth were forwarded (53, to be precise) to the national office.

In keeping with the protocols adopted by the Irish bishops, all 272 were shared with the civil authorities. Yet in light of concerns over "data protection," all the Irish dioceses likewise withdrew from an audit being conducted by the internal monitor -- the National Board for Safeguarding Children -- after the group's 2009 finding that the treatment of allegations in the diocese of Cloyne remained "inadequate and in some respects dangerous."

In response to that report, the Irish government extended the mandate of the judge-led body which conducted a state inquest into abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin for a probe of the Cloyne church. Following the panel's damning conclusions on the capital see released in November 2009, the second Murphy Report -- this time on Cloyne -- is expected to be published within weeks.

The rattled Cork diocese is currently vacant -- once a private secretary to three Popes, its longtime ordinary, Bishop John Magee, resigned in early 2010, nearly a year after Rome imposed an apostolic administrator on the diocese, publicly stripping the ordinary of everything but his title.

Following the National Board's update, no less than the editor of the Isle's lead church outlet, Garry O'Sullivan of the Irish Catholic, couldn't help but note that "'One in four' is supposed to be the name of an abuse victims advocacy and support group and not a statistic in 2011 for the number of abuse cases reported to the church abuse watchdog."

In the US, meanwhile, similar questions have arisen in the tumultuous fallout of February's second grand-jury report into the administration of the archdiocese of Philadelphia, which alleged that as many as 37 priests remained in ministry despite what it termed "credible" claims of misconduct, 21 of them suspended within weeks of the report's release.

With the "cases of concern" to the grand-jury having been reported even over recent years, the disclosures have made for the most egregious mishandling of cases to come to light since 2002's revelations from Boston that drew the Stateside church into a decade-long nightmare, its costs-to-date still being paid and inching ever closer to the $3 billion mark. Accordingly, beyond plunging American Catholicism's "last empire" into the most significant crisis it's known in nearly two centuries, the Philadelphia findings have shaken the foundations of the Charter and Norms passed by the nation's bishops at Dallas in the heart of the furore, with the understanding that what the history of clerical abuse and chancery cover-up that birthed Boston would never be repeated again.

As a result, what was planned long ago as a slight tweaking of the Dallas texts at next month's USCCB Spring Plenary in Seattle has escalated into what the conference's lead overseer of the Norms recently dubbed a full-out return "to [the bishops'] principal motivations in crafting the charter.

"We are going to be judged by the worst handling [of Dallas], not the best," Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane admitted to Catholic News Service, adding that the bench would look at "whether there was some sort of the breakdown of the system" in Philadelphia that could be possible elsewhere. (Over the weekend, an extensive recounting of the Philadelphia chancery's approach to cases was unleashed by the chair of the archdiocese's Dallas-mandated lay review board in an explosive piece for Commonweal magazine.)

Either way, the enforcement mechanisms of the Charter and Norms are likely to fall into the debate's cross-hairs; despite the grand-jury's laundry list critique of matters encompassing the treatment of cases and survivors alike, the Philadelphia curia passed every USCCB audit intended to ensure compliance with the Dallas protocols, including a check conducted in 2010, the result of which was announced following the release of the prosecutors' report.

And lastly, in a purely coincidental, but almost eerie turn of events, the bishops' Seattle discussion on abuse will take place in the presence of the prelate who's arguably garnered the strongest public goodwill, both at home and beyond, for his standout response to the crisis.

Long hailed in Ireland (well, most of it) as its hierarchy's lone trusted healer of the scandals, and fresh off a powerful recounting of his experiences at a Milwaukee conference on justice and renewal amid the storm last month, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin will be in attendance at the Stateside bench's upcoming plenary -- not to intervene on its key agenda-item, but to bring his US confreres up to speed on the Irish capital's preparations to host the 50th International Eucharistic Congress next summer.

Still, the confluence is enough to have raised at least some eyebrows... if not, given the state of things, rather more.

Yet even for the current challenges in the field, as the broad sweep of things goes, that the Vatican is taking the step of a supplement to prod local churches worldwide toward crafting their own abuse norms is further proof of the astonishing attitude adjustment the Curia's upper rungs have undergone on the crisis in a relatively short time-span (...at least, that is, by Roman standards).

It was only nine years ago, after all, that when asked about the scandals at the press conference releasing Blessed John Paul II's annual Holy Thursday Letter to Priests in 2002, the then-chief of Clergy, Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, memorably rebuked the reporters on-hand, saying that the queries' provenance from English-speaking media provided "an X-ray of the problem" -- in other words, that the crisis was an Anglo-Saxon one and was effectively irrelevant in the universal church.

At the time, the thought was still an "acceptable" one in no shortage of Roman circles. But just to show how fully things have changed in the Palaces since, following last year's emergence of a 2001 letter in which Castrillón congratulated a French bishop for not reporting an abusive priest to the authorities -- for which the negligent prelate was subsequently convicted (and, within days of his 75th birthday, hastily yanked from office) -- the Colombian cardinal once considered Latin America's strongest papabile was, in essence, thrown under the Vatican bus.

On a related note, 2001 was likewise the year that the Clergy don's views on abuse cases saw then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrest their oversight from Castrillón's office to the jurisdiction of the CDF.

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So, that's another CDF nugget soon to drop. The last of the trio, meanwhile, is no sleeper when it comes to making waves both in ecclesial and news circles, especially on these shores: the decree establishing an ordinariate for Catholics from the Anglican tradition in the United States.

Of course, the unique structure was provided for in Anglicanorum coetibus, B16's groundbreaking 2009 initiative to ease the path to Rome for groups of Anglicans who sought to enter the Catholic fold in their existing units. Though no release-date for the text has officially emerged, the USCCB delegate for the ordinariate's establishment, Washington's ever-meticulous Cardinal Donald Wuerl, is understood to have conducted the heavy lifting of the needed discussions with the CDF -- the global project's coordinating dicastery -- during his lengthy stay in Rome earlier this month (which culminated with the DC prelate's taking possession of his titular church, the Basilica of St Peter in Chains, last Sunday).

After a recent round of chatter suggested that the decree could emerge within days, a thoroughly-briefed figure on the project's path demurred, saying he didn't wish to preempt the formal announcement. With Wuerl set to brief the Seattle meeting on the ordinariate plans, however, the document is predominantly expected to drop before the start of the Curia's summer recess, with the new jurisdiction envisioned to be "up and running" by the fall.

With the first ordinariate already established in England, and the groundwork well in progress for similar jurisdictions in Canada and Australia (but not without innuendo in the former), the venture's Stateside edition promises to be a unique and especially intense enterprise given both the country's (and, indeed, the communities') geographic spread, a fairly think "alphabet soup" of the various Continuing Anglican groups involved, and a facet particular to American Catholicism: the long-standing presence of Anglican Use priests and faithful, who crossed the Tiber long ago, but have been able to maintain an adapted version of the Book of Common Prayer for their worship, which was approved by the US bench and confirmed by the Holy See in 1983 for rites on these shores alone.

(By contrast, Anglican clergy and laity received elsewhere have been limited to celebrating the standard Roman liturgy and, all around, not been able to keep their traditions or communities intact. That'll soon change, however -- a key feature of the Anglicanorum provisions, work on a global liturgy for the ordinariates rooted in the Anglican patrimony is already underway, with some estimates tipping its release for as early as next year.)

As things stand, while several hundred Episcopalians and others coast-to-coast have indicated their desire to make the move, the presence of the Anglican Use parishes provides the impending national structure with a well-established set of "hubs" from the outset to help ease the transition. At the same time, the veteran communities' presence creates a scenario that won't be experienced with any of the other national jurisdictions: a divergence of experience between long-standing and freshly-arrived Anglo-Catholic groups, and the parts each will play in the wider picture of the new dynamic.

On a related note, while the lone ordinary already appointed, Msgr Keith Newton -- the former Church of England "flying bishop" ordained a Catholic priest in January on the same day he was named leader of the English and Welsh structure named for Our Lady of Walsingham -- every indication to date has been that his soon-to-be US equivalent is already a Catholic priest of some years' standing. And elsewhere, another consideration unique to the States has been rumored about -- namely, given the Episcopal Church's 2001 covenant with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which joined the two denominations in full communion, that American Lutherans wishing to be received as Catholics could be grandfathered into the set-up's Stateside incarnation.

Likewise an issue will be where a home-turf ordinariate will be headquartered. Though practically every nationwide ecclesial organ has its base in Washington or New York essentially by default, the most widespread presence of Catholic Anglicans and Continuing Anglicans alike has long been in Texas. With Episcopalian communities numbering in the high hundreds there already in meetings and preparations for the starting gun, the Lone Star State is likewise expected to bring the largest number of newcomers to the venture, and while a handful of communities set to move dot the Northeastern landscape, the scheme's take-up in the nation's historic Catholic "hub" has been fairly slim by contrast.

And lastly, the timetable on which the Stateside ordinariate's first paces will be accomplished bears watching, even if -- simply for logistical reasons born of geography and the diversity of the groups involved -- it likely won't equal the warp-speed with which the Walsingham group has entered the fold.

Following the reception of the English venture's founding three ex-bishops on New Year's Day and their ordination to the priesthood a fortnight later, the remainder of the 950-some members of the UK branch's "first wave" came into full communion during Holy Week, with their clerics being ordained to the diaconate during these Easter days, and most set to receive priesthood at Pentecost. (On a side-note in a unique scenario reflecting the Catholic ban on priests holding public office, a non-stipendiary CofE priest who serves as a judge became Walsingham's lone permanent deacon last weekend.)

While, on its own, the founding batch of English travelers made for the largest Easter class of receptions the British church has seen in decades, an even larger group is expected to undertake the journey when the first Ordinariate's second intake begins toward year's end.