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April 30, 2005

More Goods on the Pope

One of our readers and commentors runs this webstore - called Papal Images, on which you can find really high quality prints of...photos of John Paul II and Benedict XVI - not just portraits, but interesting and telling photos taken over the years. Go check it out.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (7)

The Case of Gordon MacRae

Dorothy Rabinowitz published a two-part series on this case in the WSJ this week. Bishop Accountability has posted their MacRae documents in html (it was a pdf file).

Rabinowitz's story - either part one, or both parts published together, I'm not sure, is now up for all on the WJ site.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (22)

Terri's Final Hours

From Fr. Frank Pavone

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Curial Matters

Sodano named Dean of College of Cardinals

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray of France will serve as Sodano's deputy, the Vatican said. Sodano had been Ratzinger's deputy as vice-dean of the college

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (6)

The Pope without a country

Interesting, sort of scattered piece by a German in the NYTimes

Pope Benedict XVI may be convinced that democratic institutions have as little right to interfere in the structure of the church as all the many emperors and kings who tried to do as much in past centuries. This stance has made him unpopular among his fellow German clergymen, who are intimidated by contemporary culture, but it also fascinates intellectuals who are far removed from the church, and who aren't swayed by any superficial rhetoric of reconciliation. In Benedict, they see the authentic representative of a religion that they don't know whether to view as still dangerous or possibly as the only remaining counter to a secular society.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (9)

April 29, 2005

Guilty Pleasures

(Inspired by the last few comments in the What It Means thread below.)

In which we share the titles of liturgical music we're not supposed to like....but do.

(And if Mark Shea comes on here and admits his fondness for Ashes....I'll be looking for the Second Coming, because it probably will be happening soon.)

(And it doesn't have to be contemporary, either. If some sappy sentimental Mary our Dear, Sweet, Flower-Draped Mama makes your heart beat faster...spill)

(Oh, and you're not allowed to condescendingly critique others' guilty pleasures. Unless yours is worse)

Me first:

My name is Amy and I like...Blest Be the Lord.

I think it's not a great song, and the peppiness is definitely forced, but I'll always associate it with my freshman year in college, the year I got involved in campus ministry, made great friends and got psyched about faith. (And kind of psycho, too, probably, but that's another story). I still dig the descant, and when I hear the song, I still hear the bass fiddle in our folk group, with fondness, too.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (213)

The Pope's Car

on Ebay

Via Zadok

Oh, and Boycott Ebay homepage. Not about this, but about that other matter. Which people are still working on and talking about - simply getting Ebay to put "Consecrated Hosts" on their "prohibited items" list. Which they are apparently not willing to do. I've been looking into alternatives to PayPal, with little luck, just because I can't make sense of what they offer. All I need is what PayPal offers - a way of taking credit cards over the internet that involves minimal effort from me, and which can help me in setting up a store as well, which PayPal does. Any suggestions? (The reason being that PayPal is owned by Ebay)

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (12)

A brief statement

Before I go out and do some stuff. And then come back and spend the rest of the afternoon trying really, really hard not to blog.

This is related to the link to the Weigel column below which has exploded into some weird (although not unexpected) battle about progressivism, orthodoxy, etc.

Some statements from me, just so no one thinks anyone else is speaking for me in those comboxes:

Religious faith is a mysterious, rich and multilayered thing. We respond to the tug of God on our hearts as we are, where we are. Sometimes we want to throw ourselves into it full force, leaving everything behind. And sometimes, we look to the world, to our temptations, to our pleasure centers, and we think, "Uh...how far can I go?"

All of us do this. All  of us struggle with that essential temptation, which is to shut God out of certain, precious parts of our life, to hold back, to do the minimal. We do it in human relationships, we do it with God.

In a way, pre-V2 Catholicism was both realistic about this, but also seemed to sell out on the matter, at least as popularly received. It seemed to be this mix (coming from one who wasn't there, and only knows what she does From Books) of holding up heroic holiness and sacrifice as the ideal, but understanding that most of us aren't going to make it, and evolving structures of life and worship that took this into account, lest we all fall into despair at our failures, simply give up, and walk away. Hence the legalism, hence the very specific understanding of exactly how much of Mass you could attend and still have it "count."

Given human nature, it was a strength, I think, but it was also a weakness, as the rapid flux after the Council shows - we've often discussed this mystery - how everything went crazy so fast, in really just a matter of five years. There must have been something wrong and rotting and inadequate in the mix before - we can't blame it all on external forces of culture. I tend to think it was this minimalism. But that's a guess.

"How far can you go?" is the cry of the minimalist - all of us - when we want to hold something back from God. (It's also the original title of David Lodge's novel, known in the US as Souls and Bodies, which examines the period from the late 50's to the early 70's, with incision and wit). It doesn't matter what we call ourselves - progressive, liberal, conservative or orthodox. We would all do well to admit the tendencies of our own "side" in the debate to this qualification, this hedging, this idol-making.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (121)


A few days ago, someone sent me the link to Anna Quidlen's latest Newsweek column in which she opines on Women in the Church, etc. She, as many others, observes the predominance of women in church ministries, both paid and volunteered, and wonders about ordination. The usual script.

What popped into my head was something else, this time, at least. When we speak of the predominance of women in church ministries, might we think about something else besides getting women ordained? Might we think about getting men more involved in the life of the Church on the parish and school level?

(Yes, it's an old problem. As old as Christianity in Europe.Been discussed here before, and it's one of my fields of interest, at least in terms of 19th century American religion - muscular Christianity, YMCA, and all that. )

The reality is: women aren't going to be ordained in the RC Church any time soon, to say the least. The reality is also that the religiosity of fathers is quite an important factor in predicting the religiosity of sons. You don't need studies to show that. Work with teens and young adults, and you'll see. The reality is that young men need to be engaged with their faith.  Perhaps that's something on which we can all agree...

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (80)

Down's Syndrome and Abortion

From the WaPo, focusing on a recent study indicating that many physicians emphasize the negative in giving the news about a prenatally-diagnosed Downs' baby, as well as current legislation to encourage more information being given to parents.

Unfortunately, the conversation is hedged in by participants' fears about being seen as too closely aligned with pro-lifers, from the national Downs' advocacy groups, to individual parents:

The Allards attended the Kennedy-Brownback news conference in Washington last month and said they were surprised to see a large number of antiabortion activists.

Beth Allard said she is slightly uncomfortable with some of the conclusions drawn by abortion opponents from stories such as hers.

"I want this to be about these kids and what they can accomplish," she said. "I don't really have an opinion on what decision someone else should make."

God bless parents who choose life for their kids, no matter what their views. But I'm still praying for a greater understanding that "potential" isn't the issue (the critical point often being: "Doctors are underestimating the potential of these kids." The implication: Your right to live = your "potential"), as well as compassion for all kids...not just our own.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (48)

You know...

I pretty down with relics and stuff, but I do think that even I would freak out a bit at seeing St. Catherine of Siena's head in person... Who's been to Siena? Who's seen it?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (35)

Feast Day

On my daughter, St. Catherine, and second thoughts

(Also on Catholic Exchange - that interview with Michael, posted last week, but here in a new place)

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (5)

The First Shall Be Last

Mark Galli on the NFL draft, in CT.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

Ripping the seamless garment

A reader sends along this NYTimes article on Mitt Romney's death-penalty efforts and remarks on "its passing comment that paints Roman Catholic legislators as unanimously anti-death penalty. Who paints Catholic legislators as unanimously pro-life when it comes to abortion? Certainly not the NY Times."

The governor, a Republican, faces an uphill fight in a largely Democratic Legislature, whose members, many of them committed Roman Catholics, have defeated efforts by three other Republican governors to reinstate capital punishment. In light of that, Mr. Romney, who is widely believed to have national political ambitions, may intend his death penalty bill for a different audience as well: conservatives outside his state who are pivotal in Republican Party politics

Meanwhile, one of those Roman Catholics is leading the push for embryonic-stem cell research funding by the Commonwealth.

Dom comments on a priest who's been protesting at the fellow's house, and what the Archdiocese said about it all

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (12)

More on SSA

Reader and writer Ron Belgau shares some of his own writing on the issue many of you were discussing yesterday:

My Alternative Lifestyle, from the ND magazine

Sodom and the City of God

Soulforce and the Catholic Church

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

What It Means

I like the way Weigel puts it:

Yet it was expected that the Catholic Church would, indeed must, take the path of accommodation: that has been the central assumption of what's typically called "progressive" Catholicism. That assumption has now been decisively and definitively refuted. The "progressive" project is over --- not because its intentions were malign, but because it posed an ultimately boring question: how little can I believe, and how little can I do, and still remain a Catholic?

In choosing a pope with an unparalleled command of ancient, medieval and modern theology, the College of Cardinals has sent a clear signal to the entire Catholic Church: The really interesting question is, how much of this rich, vast, subtle tradition have I made my own? At the same time, the College of Cardinals, by electing Pope Benedict XVI, has told both the church and the world that the evangelical adventure of dynamic orthodoxy launched by John Paul II will not only continue, but be deepened.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (110)

Jesus was no GOP lobbyist

From the LATimes a couple of days ago

Curious. Jesus updated the Ten Commandments in his most famous speech, the Sermon on the Mount. In it, one finds the Eight Beatitudes. Why don't we ever hear about nailing those somewhere? Here's why: It's not simply the law in the Ten Commandments that attracts fundamentalists. Rather, it's the syntax. The authoritarianism of so many "Thou Shalt Nots."

The syntax of Jesus' Eight Beatitudes is not so easy (Blessed are the poor in spirit…. Blessed are the peacemakers). These words invite the kind of hard questions that Jesus loved to tweak his followers with. How are they blessed? And why? It's just like Jesus to leave us with questions instead of answers.

The Jesus who speaks in the Gospels is nothing like the fuming Republican Jesus I see on TV now. Jesus was a leader who understood that ambiguity and doubt are not to be feared but are, simply, facts of life that a great teacher exploits to guide his followers on their own paths toward conviction and belief.

I actually agree with much of what this fellow says - although I yearn from the day when someone can take on the "Jesus and politics" critique and swing equally at right and left. However, I do disagree with this take on Jesus' mode of teaching - Hitt says it's all about this:

Chances are that few will agree in their interpretations, an outcome that is rhetorically so sly. Jesus makes you work through your own doubt and hesitation to arrive at an answer that becomes the very foundation of your own certainty.

He's referring mostly to parables - the stories which so often puzzle, which can be rather ambiguous and odd the more you actually think about them and take them beyond the obvious "moral lesson" stage. Hitt says Jesus wants us to come to our own conclusions and stand on them. My understanding of parables is slightly different - that Jesus' startling parables jolt us out of the complacency of thinking that God can be described, defined or most importantly, predicted. In other words, we listen to parables and we learn to stand in awe before God, resisting our temptations to put him in a box we've designed. Parables are about God, not us.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (19)

April 28, 2005

Pour Vous

The French edition is available...with the best cover of all the translations!

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (12)

Good man

One of the guys who bought up a B-16 domain name has donated it to charity

After mulling his options, Cadenhead decided to give the domain to New York-based Modest Needs, an online charity that helps low-income families cover unplanned expenses. Cadenhead said he signed the domain over to the charity's founder, Keith Taylor, with the understanding that the group would transfer it to the Vatican if officials from the Holy See ever asked for the address.

Bill Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, declined to comment for this story. The Vatican Embassy in Washington directed all calls to the main Vatican media office, which was not immediately available for comment. The Vatican already maintains a rich Web site within .va, its own top-level Internet domain.

Visitors to BenedictXVI.com are greeted with a page explaining the mission of Modest Needs, along with a link to the official Vatican Web site for any users who may actually be looking for the official church site. Taylor said hits to his Web site have more than quintupled and donations have more than doubled since linking the site to BenedictXVI.com.

Others aren't so altruistic...

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (38)

Reform of the Reform

Has it begun? Sandro Magister:

Benedict XVI’s first trip within Italy will be to the National Eucharistic Congress in Bari at the end of May. He has announced that he will give “particular prominence” to the feast of Corpus Domini in June. At World Youth Day in August, he will put “the eucharist at the center.” In October, he will preside over a synod of bishops completely dedicated to “The eucharist, source and summit of the Church’s life and mission.” The first speaker at the synod will be Angelo Scola, patriarch of Venice, one of Ratzinger’s disciples.

But more than anything else, the papal liturgies themselves will be for the whole world a prototype of the “reform of the reform.”

The inaugural mass on Sunday, April 24 was an impressive first example of this.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (197)

On the Harper's Cover

The Christian Right's War on America

Stanley Kurtz comments

as does Jeremy Lott

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (40)

Then and Now

In which we post our disparate experiences from parenting our first children to parenting the second and beyond.

I'll start:

Christopher and David, 20+ years ago: cloth diapers, all the way. Eco-mom.

Joseph and Michael j: Are you kidding?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (56)

Back to Business

In which we resume our occasional series on...a series.

As most of you know, I'm general editor of Loyola Classics, a reprint series of great Catholic (mostly) fiction of the 20th century - stuff that's currently out of print. I've previously highlighted Mr. Blue and Helena, and now it's time for In This House of Brede:

Some of you might remember the TV movie based on this, starring Diana Rigg. It was one of the earliest made-for-television movies - along with Catholics, starring Martin Sheen, based on a Brian Moore novel. Interesting how television has changed, isn't it?

Anyway - Brede is another wonderful book. Quite different from the first two in our series - more conventionally written, set in modern times. But really such a rich read - it's the story of Philippa Talbot, a successful middle-aged Englishwoman who leaves her life in London for a Benedictine cloister. It's not only a closely observed novel of religious life in this particular context, but a broader reflection on what it means to commit, to sacrifice, and to love - for all of us, inside the cloister or out.

Now, there is a major, important plot revelation that I would really ask commentators not to reveal in the comments. If you've read it, you know what I mean. There was a reference to it in the fine intro that Phyllis Tickle wrote, which I took out, because I wanted the reader to encounter that moment as Rumer Godden intended - as a surprise, as an answer to a question that nags at the reader from the beginning of her book.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (18)

Pass it on

Reader Eileen sends on this link to a very, very detailed debunking of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and, by extension...You Know What. Useful if you have Annoying Devotees in your life.

And you might also check out this interesting article on American Kersey Graves, whose work Dan Brown also cites.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)

Taking a point

Back in 2003, when Andrew Sullivan went through his public agony about being Catholic or not, we discussed it a lot here. (Well, not here - in the old blog, which is linked over to the left. In fact, I think the Sullivan posts were some of the last ones before I moved to Typepad). I got some questions at the time: "Why do we care? Sullivan's only one man - why are his difficulties worth such space?"

My response at the time was that as with any discussion, the particulars are interesting insofar as they illuminate a more general point, or a broader struggle that many, if not all of us, go through at times. Sullivan's basic question then and now was, "This is the experience of my life. It is not consistent with what the Church tells me it should be. Who's right? My experience or the Church's abstractions?"

As I pointed out at the time, and as those of you who were around discussed, that's not such a rare question, and it's not's limited to the experience of homosexuality. There are, believe it or not, Catholic couples who have used contraception, and are happily married, and have a hard time meshing their experience with the contention that their actions are sinful. People who build up wealth and are content in that life rationalize the words of Jesus in the Gospel about the limits of that kind of happiness. And so on. Many people experience this kind of apparent dissonance between their own lives and the teaching of the Church as it's presented to them.

This is what Sullivan's giving voice to  - not just for himself and his own cause, but for others as well. And a true teaching Church needs to listen, if it wants any real teaching to even start to be heard.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (151)

Sorry Jen!

I'll try not to do it again.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

Priests arrested

7 in China

Chinese police have detained seven Roman Catholic priests who attended an unlawful retreat following the election of the new pope, a rights group said Thursday.

The priests were arrested early Wednesday at the retreat led by Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo in the northern Chinese city of Jinzhou, a statement by the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation said

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)

A priest's story

The second part of Dorothy Rabinowitz's series  on Gordon MacRae is up today at the WSJ. I've not yet had time to read it, but as I do, I'll be comparing it to the MacRae files at Bishop Accountability, with reference to this article in the Union-Leader today. Anyone else who's already done that thinking, feel free to post...

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (12)

How it works...

My daughter attends a Catholic school with which I am occasionally pleased. Her science teacher seems to be really excellent - a woman who is passionate for science and clearly communicates that passion to her young charges. Beyond that, I will take a temporary vow of silence.

Sometimes it bothers me - that she's not attending some really hard core prep school - and sometimes it doesn't, although the high school decision, a year away, is already giving me hives. Get me into the study to work on the novel. Get me a decent contract for it, and get us out of here, where the choices are better.

But I digress. As I was saying, it does and doesn't bother me. What contributes most to it not bothering me is that I come from teaching stock. On my father's side, both my grandparents were educators. My grandmother was an elementary school teacher. My grandfather, I think, started in the same way, but moved on, eventually teaching in junior college, all the while ever-so-slowly working on his Ph.D, which I think he finally got when he was in his 50's. Here's his dissertation. (all of this happened in Texas). My dad is a retired university professor. (This is one of his books. This is what he's been doing since retirement) My mother was an English teacher and librarian.

In short, we've been to school.

And growing up in such an environment teaches you one thing: You can't depend on school for your education.

So that's why I don't get too bent out of shape about my children's schools. I wish they were better and I will certainly not pay good money for wasted time or worse, but I also know that school is only the beginning. Every moment is a teachable moment.

This all crosses my mind as I ponder the little conversations Katie and I have had over the past 24 hours. Last night, I realized her feastday is on Friday, and we talked about that a little. She joked, "Do I get a cake?" I said sure - if you read something different about St. Catherine of Siena, and tell me several new things about her that you didn't know before. So she pulled the Classics of Western Spirituality edition of the Dialogues off the shelf and took it upstairs.

This afternoon in the car, she asked me a rather complicated question about if someone had sex before they were married and had a baby, and were glad they had the baby, would they have still have committed a sin? Ah, teasing out issues of conscience, responsibility and redemption there on South Calhoun. Which later, by happenstance, fit well, as she came downstairs with her religion book,  asking a question about the Joseph story. I answered it, and then opened the Bible to Genesis 50:20, which we read, then reflected back to that earlier question.

Then we continued what we started last night - reading over the Pope's homily from Sunday together - I just thought it was such a rich, relatively easy-to-understand catechesis, with such wonderful passages - she's plenty old enough to understand it. We got through the pallium part. She mentioned she had to study for social studies. Central Africa. Well, I recalled one of Jonah Goldberg's time wasters today, and that came in very handy.

Not every day is like that. Not at all. But teachable moments are everywhere, if I just look, and listen - to her. Sometimes I feel bad for not homeschooling her, but then I remember the realities about our temperments - separately and together, and I doubt that any such experiment would end well. And I think of the science teacher - I couldn't do what she's done. All I can do - is what I can do.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink

April 27, 2005

Blind Obedience - Not

Michael Novak at NRO

Should have posted this earlier, because it's quite good. A discussion of what faith -as in assent - is, and is not, with the complaints of Andrew Sullivan as a starting point. Novak appropriately gives props to Sullivan before he corrects him:

Andrew Sullivan is a brave witness to both love for the Church and brave questioning. He has taught a lot of us more about homosexuality and its inner life than we would otherwise know. To the best of my knowledge, he has not been chastised by the Congregation of the Faith, or any bishop, or any priest for his probing and his quarreling and his often quite strident and grievously pained cries of disapproval. His questioning is a service to the church, as to all persons of good will who come in contact with it. I do think some of his allegations over the top, such as those cited above. Even so, he is entitled to cry out as he sees fit.

One point on which he is way over the top is his allegation that there have been an unparalleled number of excommunications and other forms of disciplining of dissenters in the Catholic Church during the 27 years of John Paul II's pontificate. What is his evidence? He should name names.

He continues, examining those very names, and then finishes up with the responsibilities of the theologian and the Magesterium:

So it is true enough that the Church thrives only through the unlimited drive to ask questions. It is the duty of theologians, or at least of some among them, to be explorers, and to go into new terrain, to test whether their path is safe for the whole body of the faithful. Theologians have a special responsibility to the whole Church, in addition to their merely private responsibility to their personal intellectual interests. It is by such venturesome theological explorations that the horizons of the faith grow. Just the same, as theologian-explorers are not, the Pope as shepherd is responsible for the integrity of the whole flock. Theologians propose, but they do not dispose. Often their work bears better fruit after a generation or two rather than in their own lifetimes. The long view is necessary.

I would be interested in Sullivan's response, especially if it did not contain the words "fundamentalist" "regressive" or, yes, "Ratzingerian." I hope he offers one.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (77)

Nice, eh?

Teens in Quebec can get BCpills from the school nurse. Without parental permission or knowledge.

"This is a strategy to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. It's a practical solution to a real problem," Dr. Yves Lamontagne, president of the Quebec Order of Physicians, said in an interview yesterday.

He seemed bemused by the suggestion that some parents might object to teens having access to the pill without parental knowledge, saying public health must take precedent over morality. "Maybe we're more progressive here in Quebec, but we have to use our heads and acknowledge that teenagers are having sex," Dr. Lamontagne said.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (68)


From Spoof. com, news of a new Doubleday series. Titles include:

• The Prussian Polio Plot – A story of World War II historian Stone Dirkpitt and 19-year-old genius medical protégé Alexandra Sleepwell who risk mortal danger as they try to solve an antique jigsaw puzzle that shows Nazi scientists and presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey scheming to inject FDR with polio

...Doubleday spokesman Patrick Bateman says the publishers have little reason to tinker with a proven formula for literary and sales success.

“When it comes to modern fiction, readers enjoy five basic elements: conspiracy, sex, fighting, mystery and chase scenes,” Bateman said. “Logic and historical truth don’t test well, so we’re not too concerned with either. Modern readers have really moved away from elements like plot, character and subtext, so we’ve responded by giving them what they want – more action, less reality.”

In addition to the slate of recent offerings, Bateman pointed out two entirely new lines of adult-oriented titles, including picture-only versions of the aforementioned books and a choose-your-own-adventure series.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

Papal Arms

Zadok has the goods

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (20)


If anyone out there subscribes to the WSJ and has access to the online text of today's article on Gordon McRae (not the star of Oklahoma...a priest imprisoned on sex abuse charges in NH) could you send it to me? Or post the gist in the comments?

Got it - thanks.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (22)

Word Up

John Allen's got some good stuff this week -

On his skepticism about Ratzinger being a likely pick:

Every journalist covering the Vatican to some extent reflects the limitations of his or her own nationality and cultural experience, and on this point, in hindsight, I see how much of an American I was. In Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, Ratzinger has no such profile, except in very restricted theological circles. Cardinals from those parts of the world did not bring such concerns. It's really only in pockets of Western Europe and North America that the broader Catholic public had any sense of the man prior to his election, explaining why some of the initial reservations about Ratzinger's candidacy came from American and German cardinals. In the end, they too seemed persuaded that the man the world would know as Benedict XVI would not match the public profile sometimes associated with Ratzinger, whom I once dubbed "the Vatican's enforcer."

On this score, it may be that the cardinals had better instincts than I did.

On his 1999 bio of Ratzinger:

If I were to write the book again today, I'm sure it would be more balanced, better informed, and less prone to veer off into judgment ahead of sober analysis.

He would have like to write a new preface, he says, but the US publisher rushed it back into print without giving him an opportunity.

Moreover, it was fascinating listening to seasoned media professionals, including some of the biggest names in the business, wrestle with why these events -- especially those infinite lines to pay last respects to John Paul II, and the overwhelming outpouring of emotion at his funeral Mass -- had an impact on them. As if for the first time, some journalists found themselves wrestling with profound questions about God, themselves, and the meaning and purpose of human existence. What will come out of any of that is of course unknowable, but at least it had network executives in the last couple of weeks pondering whether they had under-valued the importance of religion stories.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (50)

With Charlie Rose

Lots of people had mentioned Charlie Rose's interview last week with Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete. Here's the transcript, courtesy of Godspy

LORENZO ALBACETE: You bet. This is what the cardinals looked at. They really realized that we are living in a moment in which once again what is at stake is what does it mean to be a human being?

CHARLIE ROSE: A human being or a Christian?

LORENZO ALBACETE: A human being, a human being. No, not a Christian.

CHARLIE ROSE: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be human today?

LORENZO ALBACETE: What does it mean to be human today. And then what is—what is the exact nature of our unity to transcendence and the mystery? All these things are up for grabs today. And so, somebody who has studied this and can begin to formulate a proposal for this, I think they saw in this man the most competent of the whole bunch.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (12)


Tom at Disputations takes a close, eminently sensible look at what Cdnl. Ratzinger has actually said in relation to that "smaller church" business, and emerges with a very logical conclusion.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (19)


The blogger at Benedict (no relation) closely examines the accusation that Cdl Ratzinger's notes regarding reception of Communion by Catholic politicians supporting abortion were purposeful meddling:

Issue 1: Was the Worthiness letter an "intervention" in the 2004 Presidential election?

The answer here is clearly NO, for at least two reasons: First, as explained by the Italian newspaper L'Espresso's Vatican correspondent Sandro Magister in this article, Worthiness was "sent as a confidential letter, during the first half of June, to cardinal McCarrick and to the president of the bishops´ conference, Wilton Gregory." Cardinal Ratzinger could have released Worthiness to the general public, but chose not to. Indeed, he did not even send it to the entirety of the seven man Task Force. Ratzinger sent his letter only to the two men to whom he had an administrative and pastoral obligation, in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to guide. That is a mighty odd way to influence an election.

Second, as also discussed by Magister and by Barbara Kralis in this post, Worthiness didn't work!

An interesting secondary conclusion - isn't the real issue whether Cardinal McCarrick was trying to influence the election?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (7)

Trying to clear things up:

In which we begin a few posts offering links that might clarifysome issues that have risen over the past week.

First: the CDF letter regarding Church jurisdiction over clerical crimes: Canonist Ed Peters explains much of it. Most of the note concerned acts that are not civil crimes (abusing the confessional, for example), but the issue of sexual acts with a minor is, of course a crime, and Ed admits that the letter leaves something to be desired in this area:

Of course, a few ecclesiastical crimes are also crimes under civil law. Where two great powers overlap in a very serious matter, as happens when Church and state are confronted with evidence of child sexual abuse by priests, genuine legal and procedural questions can arise. Again, there is nothing new here. Working out the best manner of accommodating the rights and duties of both systems might require some discussion, but there are no insurmountable obstacles to doing just that. In the meantime, the process is not helped by plaintiffs’ attorneys hurling accusations of medieval secrecy at Church leaders.

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From 0 to 1 in 4 Days

Amazing. One day, you're sitting there, wondering when this little floppy lump of flesh isn't going to be so dependent on you, and the next...he's scooting across the floor.

Seriously, the rapidity of infant development is astonishing, isn't it? For a couple of week, Michael (the baby) has been lying on his stomach, his legs churning and flailing, giving him the appearance of a grounded frog. He's also been rolling over for quite a while.But through it all, he's been fairly stationary.

But now, within about four days, he's brought all of those skills together...and he's off. He can get up on all fours and rock back and forth, as if he's aiming for a target before he flops forward. He can creep a little on his stomach. He's figured out that rolling is not only good for applause, but for getting places, too. So, last night, within a spaqce of 2 minutes, he made his way across the living room floor without any help from any of us.

Time to take out the baby cage...again.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (13)

Why Benedict

Wednesday General Audience:

"Resuming the Wednesday general audiences," he went on, "I wish to speak of the name I chose on becoming bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal Church. I chose to call myself Benedict XVI ideally as a link to the venerated Pontiff, Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War. He was a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avoid the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences. In his footsteps I place my ministry, in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples, profoundly convinced that the great good of peace is above all a gift of God, a fragile and precious gift to be invoked, safeguarded and constructed, day after day and with everyone's contribution.

  "The name Benedict also evokes the extraordinary figure of the great 'patriarch of western monasticism,' St. Benedict of Norcia, co-patron of Europe with Cyril and Methodius. The progressive expansion of the Benedictine Order which he founded exercised an enormous influence on the spread of Christianity throughout the European continent. For this reason, St. Benedict is much venerated in Germany, and especially in Bavaria, my own land of origin; he constitutes a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a powerful call to the irrefutable Christian roots of European culture and civilization."
  The Pope appealed to St. Benedict for help "to hold firm Christ's central position in our lives. May he always be first in our thoughts and in all our activities!"
  Before concluding, Benedict XVI announced that, just as at the beginning of his pontificate John Paul II had continued the reflections on Christian virtues begun by Pope John Paul I, in coming weekly audiences he would resume "the comments prepared by John Paul II on the second part of the Psalms and Canticles, which are part of Vespers. From next Wednesday, I will begin precisely from where his catechesis was interrupted after the general audience of January 26."
  The Holy Father read out brief summaries of his catechesis, which he had delivered in Italian, in various other languages: English, French, Spanish and German. He then gave brief greetings to various groups in Croatian, Slovenian and Polish and concluded by addressing the 1,000 faithful from the archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, Italy, who were accompanied by Archbishop Riccardo Fontana.

Raw Video Feed here (scroll down; click) with some snippets of riding in the Popemobile, speaking in Italian, English, German and Spanish.

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An Anglican Rite?

Christopher Johnson takes note of some things people are noticing and remembering and refers us to this post at TitusOneNine where the comments, particularly those of William Tighe, are quite interesting

Short version (I think): Cardinal Ratzinger supposedly was sympathetic to traditional Anglicans (I know -that covers a lot. Go read the posts.) , and was one of the few in the Curia, most of whom didn't want to damage relations with Canterbury.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (44)

Good neighbors

Medpundit remebers her recently-deceased grandmother and another era:

She belonged to the last generation for whom nursing others was just a part of a woman's life. When she had her babies, the neighbor women would come and help. And when they had theirs, she returned the favor. They would do the same with illnesses. Those were the days before antibiotics, before intravenous therapy, even before hospitals in our small town. The doctor would come to the house, give his instructions to the neighbor women, and go on to his next patient in some other neighborhood. They didn't have visiting nurse services in those days, they just had good neighbors.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (5)

A nice Catholic doctor

...may not care much about Catholic teaching

The reader who sent in the link (an MD) comments:

This is very important because of the high esteem (higher than the
clergy) in which physicians are generally held.  I believe that the
problem starts with poor formation, is compounded by inadequate college and university education (often in "Catholic" schools), and is topped off with intensive indoctrination in medical school.  Some physicians would, no doubt, be a little surprised that their Church really still teaches such quaint ideas (especially because church teaching is so rarely addressed in homilies).  There is a growing movement of NFP-Only physicians, but right now, there is almost no help from the clergy in prodding physicians to learn more about (ostensible) church teaching.  This situation results from, and importantly contributes to the culture of dissent.

Related: Check out One More Soul

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NYorker Praise for Pope


Jane Kramer does a MoDo, without the wordplay

If the Vatican’s project in the eighties was to purge its clergy, its nineties project was to purge its teachings of ambiguity. The dogma of papal infallibility, which dates only from 1870, has been invoked just once since then, in 1950, when Pius XII proclaimed the “truth” of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But in the years of John Paul II’s papacy there was a conflation of the notion of infallibility and what the Church calls “definitive teachings.” The result was that John Paul II’s teachings often carried the imperative of infallibility, and Cardinal Ratzinger’s theological imprimatur on those teachings, together with his power to enforce them, effectively ended the discussion.

...In the past few days, Benedict XVI has promised the world dialogue and reconciliation, but at the same time he has reappointed the Vatican team that, with him, brought us the spectacle of suffering and death that ended with the funeral of John Paul and secured the veneration, if not the speedy sanctification, of that faithful and controlling Pontiff.

The reader who sent this comments:

You can't actually say he stage managed JPII's death because, well,
because he didn't. So instead you just sorta suggest it.

Otherwise the article is the same old tune.  List all of the things
Ratzinger did to correct or control error and don't anywhere have the
intellectual honesty to explain why these are bad things if your job
description is to preserve the faith.

Exactly my response. In addition,

This is a world in the tightening grip of orthodoxy, of literal “truths” and crusading certainties, and early last week it was the hope of many Catholics that the Church would begin to break that grip and return to them the right to exercise their own consciences on matters that do not concern faith so much as the realities of their intimate lives: sexuality, celibacy, choice, the use of condoms in aids-ridden Africa, the use of birth control in the favelas and shantytowns of Central and South America, the acknowledgment that stem-cell research might conceivably be a gift from God.

Let's see. A Catholic Christian who didn't apply faith to certain realities of her intimate life of say, relating to a person of another race would be accused of "hypocrisy" or of being a Sunday-only Catholic. But a Catholic Christian who doesn't want to apply faith to certain other  realities of her intimate life is somehow a martyr of conscience?

Huh. I guess it depends on what reality you live in.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (31)

April 26, 2005

From an atheist

Even he got swept up

And just as JP II was laid to rest, the whole thing kicked into overdrive with the mystery surrounding the election of the next pope, as the pageantry of the memorial service gave way to the secrecy of conclave, colored smoke and sacred oaths. This had now become an honest to goodness mystery in a world sorely lacking in authentic surprises. Not since the premiere season of “Survivor” have I been so engrossed in the process of choosing an ultimate winner.

Watching the College of Cardinals swear an oath of secrecy before locking themselves away in the Sistine Chapel was all it took to get me hooked on the final act of this global television mini-series. It is so rare to come across any form of entertainment that has an actual surprise ending these days and yet here were these 115 clerics entering into a room to make the most important decision of their lifetimes—and they were just as clueless to the outcome going in as the rest of us. Now that’s drama.

My heart raced every time the smoke began to pour out of the fabled stack tucked into the upper right hand corner of my TV screen. Was that white smoke on the first day? My heart sank. I didn’t want it to be over so soon. Then the tell-tale black smoke began to billow and I relaxed in the knowledge that I was guaranteed a bit more of my new favorite show.

He actually captures some of my feelings quite well, simply on the level of sheer drama, as well as the fact that the process was one as pure as we can get these days - not in terms of complete transcendence of the human level, but in terms of external influence. And, if you read the whole piece (which you should)...he gets the Paschal connection as well.

Who knows how many others experienced the same thing as they watched...and wondered, and let the experience open them to mystery?

hat tip reader Nancy

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You know you're in the South

When your minor-league baseball team has "John The Baptist Bobblehead Night"

Seriously. July 30. Hunk Hondo, mark your calendar!

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Pastor of Jazz

Nat Henthoff on an unusual ministry:

For one hundred years, St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church--founded in New York in 1862--has been at Lexington Avenue and 54th Street. Forty years ago, to the surprise and some concern of its congregants, St. Peter's created a full-time Pastor to the Jazz Community, the first post of its kind in the world.

The church's choice of the first jazz minister, John Gensel, immediately assured the trust of jazz musicians, who already knew him from his frequent attendance at jazz clubs. And once he could fully combine his love of the music with his religious calling, as I wrote in Jazz Times: "Pastor Gensel was seemingly everywhere in the jazz community. He conducted wedding services, and when some of the marriages hit clinkers, he was a patient, extraordinarily attentive family counselor and sometimes he paid a musician's rent."

Duke Ellington wrote a tone poem dedicated to John Gensel, "The Shepherd Who Watches Over the Night Flock," for his "Special Reverend." I've been to the church over the years for some of the jazz sessions there, but especially for a number of the memorial services. By now, nearly 500 of those memorials have been conducted for, among others, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins and Thelonious Monk. At the service for Count Basie's longtime resident drummer, Jo Jones (known as "the man who plays like the wind"), in the front rows was a galaxy of most of the leading jazz drummers.

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In the raw

Michael is always finding interesting stuff at the Reuters raw feed site, but I always forget. I don't know why, because it's well worth a daily visit - I can't directly link, but if you go here and look down a bit, you can click on the Vatican channel

We found the feed of the Pope meeting religious leaders Monday morning and the video of heads of state greeting him to be particularly fascinating. What is the Buddhist monk so excited about? What is Jeb Bush saying to the Pope with such intensity?

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Secret Agent Man...oh.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink

Ask me a question

Yesterday was Interview Day. A reporter from Variety rang up in the morning, and in the afternoon, a reporter from the morning daily (yes, we still have 2 here) stopped by for a lengthy, enjoyable interview.

(The latter event had other implications as well: the living room was cleaned. When I lived in Florida, it was the monthly visit from the Bug Man who inspired me. This is what it's come to)

The Variety guy was all about DVC- the movie, of course. All the usual questions  - I did say I really hoped there would be no organized boycott, but that I also hoped that those in the media who suddenly got so interested in historicity and original texts when The Passion of the Christ came out could re-enter that space when this one is released, and hold its claims up to the same scrutiny. As if.

But he also asked, off the record, a question I hear a lot, mostly on talk radio: Since, the question goes, the Church holds all the evidence in this discussion - since it controlled the texts for centuries, how could we even think we could ever get at objective truth? Why even bother having the discussion since you know, (the implication is) the Church hid/destroyed any contrary evidence?

Perhaps you've heard this one too. Well, here's the simplest way to answer it:

If there were competing stories about Jesus, why did the Church privilege the one that was going to get its members arrested and executed?

How dumb were they anyway?

After all, if the alternative was "Jesus was a mortal wisdom teacher," or "Jesus wanted Mary Magdalene to be the leader of his movement," or "Jesus taught about Original Adrogyny" - why not privilege that one? And and all would be perfectly acceptable in the Ancient Near East, and would not, in general, have landed its adherents in dungeons or salt mines.

I'm just sayin'

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink

Benedict on Music

The The St. Cecilia Schola Cantorum has put together a helpful collection of quotes

Update: The following, on liturgy in general, are pulled from the comments at Fr. Sibley's Blog

Links collected by Confessions of a Recovering Choir Director

Writings published in Adoremus

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (7)

The persistent question

Of whether pro-lifers should be grateful to the President, expect more, or...both.

Hadley Arkes in First Things:

That such an action should occur at all must be credited to young, pro-life lawyers put in their positions by the Bush administration. Yet one might well ask: In a pro-life administration, why was it necessary for the impetus to come from outside—from members of the Senate or from private entities? Why did it not come from within the executive branch itself, and from the man charged with the “faithful execution of the laws”?  And why has it been taken as a given that a pro-life White House is the chief source of drag, the main barrier that must be overcome before pro-life lawyers are free to enforce pro-life laws.

Ramesh Ponnuru responds

Arkes's argument, then, is first that Bush refuses to speak about abortion and make the case against it, and second that he has not taken a number of "modest measures" that Arkes thinks wise — such as enforcing the Born-Alive Act or urging Congress to deny federal funding to any institution that performs partial-birth abortions.

I yield to no one in my admiration for Arkes's intellect and commitment to the pro-life cause. On this occasion, though, I think he has been tougher on President Bush than we pro-lifers have a right to be, and I fear that his proposal to cut off funds to hospitals in which partial-birth abortions are performed could backfire and damage the pro-life cause.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (28)

Questions in Belleville

There's a bit of controversy in the diocese of Belleville, where Bishop Edward Braxton was appointed late last year (installation scheduled for 6/22. He has been bishop of Lake Charles, LA. He replaces now-Archbishop of Atlanta Gregory, of course).

The local paper reports on a priests' meeting yesterday that raised questions about the process of appointment, and there are questions about funds being used to renovate the bishops' residence, as well:

When the priests emerged in the afternoon, Monsignor James Margason released a statement.

"We discussed today the process that was used and we have chosen to keep our conclusions about that process to ourselves for the time being," he said.

Margason declined to discuss the specifics of the meeting or any action the priests may have decided to take.

Members of the Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity, the group that picketed outside the bishop's official residence earlier this month to protest Braxton's request for diocesan funds to renovate the home, have questioned the appointment process, saying the Chicago Archdiocese and local church leadership were circumvented.

Margason said neither Gregory nor Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, had been consulted during the selection process, a situation he has described as unusual.

Okay, I'm going to close off the comments on this one. We don't know anything, and "it must be because he's too conservative" or "it must because he's too liberal" etc...don't illuminate the matter. The comments are there, just not seen. Might reopen at some pont in the future, if we get more information.

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Benedictine XVI

Over at Lofted Nest, our once-RCIA blogger from Eutycus Fell reflects on an emailing from his old Methodist bishop, on the occasion of the election of the Pope. Also worth your while is the wonderful poetry and art our fellow Fort-Catholic-blogger brings to your attention.

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Cuomo, (Jeb) Bush, and Conscience

An interesting exchange at Mirror of Justice

First, Rob Vischer quotes Bush's recent words on conscience and capital punishment, and comments:

Is Bush conceding that his policies are actually in conflict with Church teaching? If so, does he excuse his failure to seek to change those policies on the ground that he has "a duty to uphold the law?" If so, is there a meaningful difference between Jeb Bush and Mario Cuomo when it comes to their conception of a Catholic politician?

A response from philosophy prof John O'Callaghan

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Good Words

Two people have sent me this, and it's been mentioned in the comments - this past Sunday's homily by Msgr. Peter Magee at St. Matthew's Cathedral in DC. By the way, a collection of Msgr.'s homilies is being published soon.

“Habemus Papam!” We have a Pope!

Through the humble means of voting Cardinals, the Lord has confirmed for us the ministry of Peter in his Church. As Simon Bar-Jona became Peter, so Joseph Ratzinger has become Peter.

Simon dies, but Peter remains. For it is not the man as man on whom we depend, nor is it the man as man on whom Christ builds his Church: it is the perennial faith of Peter, a faith given by God the Father, focused on God the Son and sustained by God the Holy Spirit. The history of the men who have held the petrine office shows only too clearly that it is not those men as men upon whom Christ builds his Church.

Nor then should we indulge in human respect by paying attention first and foremost to the man who happens to be Pope. Rather, by faith we must first and foremost renew and revitalize our loyalty to, and our love for, the Pope who happens to be this man, Joseph Ratzinger. We thank God for this man, but we thank him above all for this Pope.

I say this because, human as we are, we are inclined to “root” for this or that man. In doing so, however, we risk many things. We risk above all looking at the Papacy as if it were a mere human institution with a merely human purpose. In recent weeks, we have seen the conclave viewed as an object of gambling and as a political election campaign. The press coverage has been unprecedented, and often very good, but the accompanying commentaries often viewed the election through the looking glass of polarized politics: left versus right, liberal versus conservative, progressive versus traditional. 

An objective look at how a conclave is prepared and executed would show how far removed it is from such polarizing constructs. We have allowed our thinking in almost everything to be dictated to by power and party politics, including our faith and the Church. To the ears of Christ, talk of a liberal or a conservative wing in the Church, talk of a progressive or regressive Pope is meaningless. He would be exasperated and exclaim: “Do you still not understand?”

We need to be liberated from looking at everything in terms of right and left. It does not just polarize the house and the senate: it polarizes and therefore seeks to destroy the Church. If we think in terms of polarizing politics within the Church we have handed the Devil a golden opportunity to do what he does best: divide, conquer and destroy.

Our concerns for ourselves and for the Pope should not be on what end of the political spectrum we and he stand. It should be: how near or how far are we from oneness with Christ, from his kingship and his kingdom? It is not the politics of the horizontal, but the loving obedience of the vertical which should preoccupy us.

It would be as wrong for those who consider themselves politically right-wing to look to Pope Benedict XVI to promote their agenda as it would be for those on the left to dislike him because they consider he won’t do what they want. Such thinking is alien to authentic Catholicism; indeed it is reprehensible and irresponsible. The Pope cannot be manipulated either to be the promoter or the spoiler of special interest groups: he is the center of the unity of the whole Church.

St. Paul had to discipline with strong words the early Christian community at Corinth for its factions, when some were saying, “I am for Apollos”, others, “I am for Paul”, others still, “I am for Cephas.” He asked them: “has Christ been parceled out that you cry out such slogans?” Today he might well have asked the same, “has Peter been parceled out, that some of you are saying, ‘I am for Martini’, ‘I am for Daneels’, ‘I am for Ratzinger’?” We should all be for Peter, this Peter, because this Peter is for Christ and Christ is for the Father!

If we play politics with the Papacy we are failing miserably as Catholics. Politics has its role to play, but not in the Church. We would be allowing a matter which belongs to the fleeting reality of the world to trump our membership of the living and everlasting, mystical Body of Christ. We would have lost our senses, our Catholic senses, and replaced them with unadulterated mundanity.

You may object that there have been progressive and traditionalist Popes. I would respond that you are still thinking in terms of politics. Our concern as Catholics should be two-fold: whether or not the Pope and the College of Bishops, with and under him, are preserving intact the deposit of faith given by Christ to the Apostles and handed on to us by their successors; and whether or not, while preserving it intact, they are being open to the ways in which the Holy Spirit is leading them to develop the riches pregnant within it.

The Pope and the College of Bishops, with and under him, must by definition conserve in fullness the deposit of faith; likewise, by definition they must let that deposit develop according to the Holy Spirit. In other words, they are by definition, that is, by the divine will, simultaneously conservative and progressive, and they are both, not by their own judgment or preference, not by the judgment or preference of the world, but by the judgment and the timing of the Holy Spirit, who blows where he wills.

In terms of real-life politics, a Catholic can be whatever he chooses to be, provided he does so in a way that is coherent with the demands of Catholic doctrine and morals. But in terms of religion, it does not make sense for a Catholic to be either conservative or progressive. He must be both! He must have the maturity to live with the tension of both, and the faith and trust that the Lord will be faithful to his promises.

The truth of the faith cannot be parceled out. It must be welcomed and lived in its integrity. Someone who is open only to the past is only half a Catholic. Someone open only to the future is, likewise, only half a Catholic. But Catholic means “whole”: it does not make sense to be half a Catholic! It has as much sense as a square circle! So those who, by their own judgment, pick and choose from the past or from the future must ask themselves if in reality they are, in the present, truly Catholics.

The Pope is the rock on which Christ builds his Church. The Church is still being built, and those who say it’s all over are simply wrong. The Church is still being built by Christ, not by factions or fractions of the Church herself! Whoever heard of a building building itself? But unless what is built is built on Peter, it will be built on sand. It may look good, it may feel good, but it is not the Church. Some may wish to build their own church, or add to it extensions of their pleasing. But unless Christ builds, the builders labor in vain. And Christ will build only on Peter. Unless, therefore, Peter is at the foundation of whatever is new, by definition that newness is not of Christ.

The Catholic must embrace the genuine, living tradition of the Church and, because it is living, also the truth which will gradually unfold from that same tradition. A Catholic must be both conservative and progressive because Christ is ever ancient and ever new.

The election of our new Holy Father is an opportunity for us all to see beyond, to reach beyond, to live, love, labor, believe and hope beyond the petty factions which do such damage to the Church and cause such bitterness and disappointment in our hearts. How will the young find the Church attractive if we are fighting over special interests?

The Church must engage with the world and must therefore understand what is happening in the world. However, she must engage the world, not in the world’s terms, but in the terms of Jesus Christ. What a poor image of the Church it is to think of her as one political force among others! What an insult it is to the crucified and risen Lord to empty the Gospel of salvation of its power to transform the world, if we would have the Church transformed by the world and play the games of the world!

The Holy Father comes, not to play party politics, but, like Christ, to show us the way to the Eternal Father. Personal opinions are all very well, but, in the end, as long as we are shown the way to the Father, none of them matters. The way to the Father is for everyone, but everyone must leave behind whatever there is in their lives which does not obey the will of the Father. The sinner cannot keep sinning and come to the Father; the rigid legalists must melt and soften if they are to know the Father’s compassion and tenderness; the lax and those always itching for novelties must find discipline and order if they are to know the truth of the Father.

“Habemus Papam!” Through him we must listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. With the freedom and joy of the true Catholic heart, let us cry out “Deo gratias!” and pledge him our loyalty, our obedience and our love!

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (16)

From the mouths of babes

Via a reader and poster:

At my nephew's school, the children were watching the announcement of the new pope.  Upon learning the new pope's identity, a child excitedly shouted, "We have a pope!  We have a pope!  He's a rap singer!"

No, no...not him!

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Cardenal Looks Back

From the LATimes: "The Soul of a Lost Cause"

In "The Lost Revolution," Ernesto Cardenal maintains that John Paul's condemnation of the Sandinistas showed a basic lack of understanding of Nicaragua's long-suffering citizens. "The people lacked respect for the pope, it's true," he writes, "but it's because first the pope had lacked respect for the people."

Asked about the new pope in an interview last week with a Nicaraguan publication, Cardenal described Benedict as an "inquisitor" and called his election a "fatal" decision by the church.

Now the Sandinistas, who lost Nicaragua's presidency in 1990, are struggling for political relevancy and John Paul lies entombed in St. Peter's. As for the revolution, Cardenal believes, it lost its moorings years ago. He is especially incensed at Daniel Ortega, the Sandinistas' former military leader and president, whom Cardenal has accused of acting like a dictator by quashing dissent within the Sandinista party and cutting cynical deals with the party's former opponents.

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April 25, 2005

Life Matters

Emily has an eye-opening post on pre-abortion "counseling"

NRLC has info on an upcoming House vote on the "Child Interstate Abortion Act"

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (0)


Long article from the Toledo Blade about "seeker-sensitive" churches in that area, with much of interest, including this nugget:

Although attendance averages 7,000 per weekend, CedarCreek has just 679 members. To join, a person must go through an extensive program that explains the church's core values. Those include a biblical world view, pursuit of Christ-like virtue, evangelization, and sharing God's resources. The latter tenet includes tithing, or donating 10 percent of one's income.

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Lino at Large

Check out the website of this guy - who's done TV and now radio at Relevant Radio - who was in Rome over the past weeks. Good pix and amusing commentary.

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Shortest Pope Post Ever

From Stuart Buck

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Faith-Based Virginia

An article in the Spectator looks at the race for governor

The uninitiated would guess this race is a Republican primary. In his kickoff public relations barrage last month, Lieutenant Governor Kaine highlighted his Catholicism and Jesuit missionary work. His stump speech quoted from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. And Kaine has criticized John Kerry in an interview with the American Prospect. "I think that John Kerry demonstrated much more comfort talking about windsurfing and hockey than he did talking about his beliefs," he said.

To appeal to a state in which Kerry lost some counties by 3 to 1, Kaine has to present all his views in a religious light. Hence he claims his record against the death penalty is grounded in his Catholicism. He touts a personal opposition to abortion, though spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said he would enforce the law. One Kaine radio commercial invokes a "faith-based opposition" to abortion and the death penalty.

When Kilgore told the Washington Examiner that this is a fresh cover for liberal activism, Kaine accused him of "a personal attack on the authenticity of my religion." Kilgore pushed harder with an ad labeling Kaine as "a liberal who's trying to hide it," citing his support for the death penalty, a gay-rights agenda, and taxes.

In an interview with TAS this month in his Richmond law office, Kilgore depicted Kaine as a liberal activist with a "lifetime of activism on liberal issues and for liberal causes, from public policy positions to legal positions he has taken." Kilgore cited his opponent's previous calls for a death penalty moratorium and briefs filed against the death penalty. He also pointed to Kaine's use of public funds to bus activists to the Million Mom March when he served as mayor of Richmond.

"I'm a conservative running as a conservative. He's a liberal masquerading as a conservative," said Kilgore.

I know nothing about this race, except for what I read here. Perhaps Kilgore's right. But I have to say, it really is perfectly possible for the positions that this article indicates Kaine is explicitly associating with his faith to actually be derived from his faith. Perhaps Kaine is "masquerading as a conservative" in other ways. But on its face, it is not "masquerading as a conservative" to say that one's opposition to the death penalty, for example,  is faith based.

But whatever the case, it's interesting to see a Dem candidate tout his religion, instead of run from it, cynical though it may be. But isn't it always?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (35)

Too funny

...I know that sometimes people don't read the comments after a certain point - it gets to be rather a work-out, especially when they hit 50 or so. But there are a couple of threads down below that are pretty rich - richly funny, I mean. There's the thread in which people are discussing the proper translation of "The Cafeteria is Now Closed" in both ecclesiastical and classical Pig Latin, and there's the other thread in which maura has very helpfully come up with a Papal Alert System related to the color of the Pope's shoes...

With plenty of cat puns for all.

Catholics: Never a Dull Moment.

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The view on the shoes

Over the past three weeks, we've been immersed in papal ceremony and protocol of one sort or another, and in a sense, it's all come down to...the shoes.

What to make of the Great Shoe Discussion?

Here's my perspective, put very concisely:

2000 years of history impacts everything. Including the shoes. It shouldn't surprise anyone that 20 centuries of the Church's existence in the world has produced protocol and tradition. These carefully-tended objects and moments have symbolic value. Sometimes, as we've seen, the accretions become too much, and stand in the way, rather than reveal. Sometimes, they become outdated, because, for example, the papacy is not the temporal power it once was.

So a critical stance isn't inappropriate at all, as long as it's coupled with an acceptance of the antiquity of the institution and what that means in human terms, and an openness to the symbolic value that's being communicated. Human beings do this, and frankly, all of this has the power to speak more forcefully of Christ than a guy in a suit. Because, you know, even if he were wearing a suit, we'd still be studying his shoes. Not to speak of his tie. And wondering what it all meant.

However, I can't get too into it, myself, however, because the objects only take me too far, and then I get overinvolved in them, and must hasten to return to the Gospel as it confronts me directly.

Which is why, in the olden days, part of the papal installation involved the burning of flax - which burns very quickly - and the proclamation, "Sic transit gloria mundi" - they were aware of the tension. And so should we be - not just for the pope, but for all of us. After all, we're disciples, too. Our exterior appearance, behavior and daily habits speak to the world about our values.

What do they say?

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Benedict and the Germans

Met with them today, as well as reps of other faiths.

The 78-year-old Bavarian seemed almost overcome by joy and stagefright as he strode down the aisle of the Paul VI audience hall waving to the crowds amid flashing cameras and pilgrims straining to shake his hand or kiss his ring.

A shy man thrust into the limelight by his election last Tuesday, he drew laughter and applause when he apologised for arriving late from an inter-religious meeting.

"Germans are known for being punctual -- it seems I've become a bit of an Italian," he joked.

He also recounted with a sly smile that he had begged God not to make him Pope as successive ballots in the secret conclave showed it was likely that "the guillotine would fall" on him.

"God clearly didn't listen to me," he remarked with a sigh.

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A plan?

Pro-life dems unveil plan to reduce abortions

Democrats for Life of America joined Reps. Tim Ryan (Ohio), Bart Stupak (Michigan) and Lincoln Davis (Tennessee) at a press conference Friday to announce the "95-10 Initiative" -- a plan to reduce abortions 95 percent in the next 10 years.

Kristen Day, director of DFLA, said the plan was "a legitimate policy initiative that will actually reduce the number of abortions." She said it "has been met favorably by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates and elected officials."

The initiative outlines 17 different policy programs designed to empower and promote women as well as protect unborn children.

Some of those include a national toll-free number for pregnancy support, studying why women have abortions, funding daycare on college campuses, increasing funding for domestic violence programs, and making adoption tax credits permanent.

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Compare and contrast

UK Times' columnist Ruth Gedhill's words on 4/20

Cardinal Ratzinger has been hard on theologians, and the traditional bond between theologians and bishops has been seriously damaged. He is so closely associated with the papacy of John Paul II and its centralising tendencies that it is hard to see how he can lead the healing process now required — but perhaps he was simply following the Pope’s lead.

It is also conceivable, seeing the way that the white smoke was blowing, that Cardinal Ratzinger simply adopted the persona of a ruthless conservative in order to rise to the top, and will now use his new power and freedom to usher in an era of enlightenment.

Then again, maybe not. After all, is the Pope a Catholic?


TO THOSE not personally acquainted with the new Pope, it is becoming possible to see why an overwhelming majority of the 115 cardinals in the conclave elected him.

Those close to Benedict XVI have insisted that they do not recognise the warm, spiritual man that they know in the media’s portrait of a ruthless reactionary all too ready in his previous role as doctrinal enforcer to stamp out dissent.


If his command of language is any guide, this Pope has the power to transcend nationalities, faiths and conflicts to give a spiritual lead to a world desperately in need of one.

The gift of tongues is, after all, one of the most significant listed by St Paul.

hat tip reader Paul

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What did you hear?

I posted that thread pretty early yesterday - in which you're invited to talk about your experiences at Mass yesterday, particularly in regard to the homily and the music (and this week, any Benedict XVI mentions)

It's here, in case you are looking for it.

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The twelve

An interesting point of the liturgy

Instead of having all cardinals kneel before him to show their allegiance, Benedict received 12 people who gestured their obedience by kissing his ring. They included two recently confirmed youths, a girl from Sri Lanka and a boy from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a married South Korean couple. The number 12 symbolized the number of Jesus' disciples.

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April 24, 2005

Welcome to Pope-Mart

IN WHICH we collect links to various pope-related products:

First, scads o stuff via Cafe Press:

Got your Fan Club Steins here

Messenger Bags and aprons

Someone worked a little harder on this "Papa Ratzi" image available on bunches of stuff

For the Latinist. I am so tempted to get the infant creeper.

Playing off the Vitamin Motif although I like this one more

Dog motif: The German Shepherd (not very imaginative design) God's Rottweiler. Meh.

In silhouette

Moving from Cafe Press:

Ty is going to issue a memorial Beanie Baby. Yeah. (via Loose Cannon)

Another t-shirt: Pope Benedict: Catalyst for Peace

If you've found more, please post. I've got to go get my purse.

(How many spaghetti-strap tanks with these designs do think anyone actually sells?)

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Justice Sunday

I freely admit that I have not followed this matter as closely as I should, but I'm sure you all can educate me.

Today was "Justice Sunday," so named by the Family Research Council, a broadcast emanating from a Louisville Baptist Church, designed to energize evangelical Christians to work against the fillibuster against judician nominations.


I don't know what I think of this. I've been following the non-progress of various judicial nominees through the Bush administration, and sympathize with the frustration. But this tactic is strange. Isn't it?

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At the Mass

Zadok the Roman records his experiences this morning in Rome.

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The Pallium

Some theological import of the strip of wool. The Pope's homily gets us started:

The symbolism of the Pallium is even more concrete: the lamb’s wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life.

On the design:

In another shift that dates back to the first millennium, Benedict's pallium will be unusually long -- almost 2.6 yards long, as opposed to the short, stole-like pieces that are given to bishops. Benedict's pallium will be embroidered with five red silk crosses as opposed to the six black ones that bishops wear.

Valenziano said the crosses were red "because they are the wounds of the shepherd who allowed himself to be crucified for the sheep." A pin pierces three of the crosses, to symbolize the nails driven into Christ on the cross, he said.

The tips of the pallium are embroidered in black silk -- like the feet of lambs, he said.

The wool used to make the pallium come from sheep and lambs raised by Trappist monks outside Rome.

And Fr. Jim wonders:

It is much larger than the sort in common usage and hearkens back to the original, fuller form of the vestment, as used by the Popes in the first millennium. He even has it draped over the left side instead of down the front. I wonder if he intended for it as a gesture to the Eastern Churches?

Good illustrations from Bill Cork

Also, via Bill, The Vatican's Latin expert

A demanding teacher and translator, he doesn't fit the typical image of an academic steeped in a dead language. A plumber's son raised in Milwaukee, Foster governs his realm from a throne-like chair, its faux-leather cushion worn down to a thin veneer. He sits in it wearing his favored attire: a faded blue janitor-style outfit. His glasses are held to his bald head by a green rubber band wrapped around one ear piece. Between lecture points, he has been known to swig wine directly from the bottle.

But as unlikely as it sounds, Foster is the Vatican's leading expert on Latin — expert enough to be charged with the official translation of papal documents into what was until 40 years ago the official language of the church.

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Don't Step on my Red Pope Shoes

Lots of discussion about the red shoes today.

Steppin' Out

The blogger at Cnytr really digs them, and has a few posts

Romanitas wonders if Benedict is undoing a change

Curt Jester just hopes he doesn't click them three times

Here's a thread at the CA forum on the previous Pope and red shoes.

Gee. That was important!

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Must Read

Floyd and Roberta Ferguson were planning a trip to Rome. They arrived April 1.

They've put the story of their trip - the week of John Paul II's death and funeral - up on the web. Go read and browse through their great photos.

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Meet the Press

Some usual, some unusual suspects, on Pope Benedict. Transcript is here.

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So far today...

The Springsteen post is beating out any and all of the Pope posts in terms of comments...hmmmm....

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From the "What Did You Hear" thread below:

The coolest thing though: just before the concluding blessing, he stopped briefly to counsel the congregation to take everything they had been hearing about Pope Benedict with a substantial grain of salt. And he recommended that people visit the Ratzinger Fan Club as an antidote to the "calumny" being put forth by the NY Times. A blogging shout-out! I had the biggest, dumbest grin on my face through the entire recessional.

By the way....new URL: Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club

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In the House

The Internet Monk likes the FOX show, House:

House is the kind of art Christians ought to be producing. It's been frequently pointed out that Christian publishers, who claim to represent the church's interest in good art, are so straight-jacketed in their presentation of the human story that anyone knowing how people REALLY talked and REALLY act could never be published by a major evangelical publisher. This doesn't just extend to saying "golly gee darn, Bob," but to the portrayal of realistic characters. House is a show where, as best I can tell, the world operates very much as the Bible says it will in the aftermath of the fall. Instead of making grand conspiratorial villains or tales of spiritual warfare, House presents unhappy, fallen, wrecked people fighting to do something that matters in a world that is dying. Most evangelical Christians would be out of place in this world.

God is in this story, but I wonder where? Why can't Christians create the story where we see the whole truth: bad, worse, good and true?

Yet this is, of all the things I've watched on television, the most like the world in which I live, and the most like what I have come to know about myself. It is the most like the world Jesus lived in and died for. Gregory House could easily be the cynical tax collector or the unseeing Nicodemus. He would recognize the people Jesus was drawn toward. He would certainly understand those times when Jesus wept and raised the dead. To speak of God in this world isn't easy. The mere "Godlessness' of the world is profound. We get along without God, but our empty lives bear the mark of something deeply necessary that is absent.

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The goods

At Drudge, a summary of the TIME package on the conclave, which will be published later today, I guess

Again, WHAT SuperTopSecret Conclave?? (You'll get what I mean after you read it)

TIME’s package includes a profile of Ratzinger by New York-based Religion writer David Van Biema. He spoke with Hans Küng who first recruited Ratzinger to the theology department at the University of Tübingen in 1966 and who no longer agrees with Ratzinger’s view of the papacy. Editor-at-Large Nancy Gibbs writes the introduction to the package and TIME contributor Andrew Sullivan writes a viewpoint essay on the new Pope. In a TIME forum, American Catholics suggest priorities the new pontiff should address in the days ahead. Among the American Catholics featured in TIME’s forum: Anti-death penalty crusader Sister Helen Prejean, founder of Ave Maria Univerisity in Naples, FL and founder of Domino’s Pizza Chain Tom Monaghan, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. TIME’s package includes a detailed graphic explaining the sphere’s of influence surrounding Pope Benedict XVI.

Okay, it's up

The Newsweek package

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A World of PR

I'm going to start keeping track of how the headline writers are shoving Pope Benedict into the cast of an American politician, apparently advised by Karl Rove:

"Pope Softens Image as Austere Theologian" - AP

"New Pope Courts Groups at Installation" - AP, again

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Bound for Rome!

No....not me. Sigh.

But sort of the next best thing - my dad and Hilary are leaving for almost a month in Rome on Tuesday. They 've got scads of things planned (including some Italian Open tickets), but if you fellow world travelers have any final words or suggestions for them, do post them here. They're reading!

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One of my regular readers just forwarded an email he sent to Maureen Dowd (liberties@nytimes.com), which included the text of today's homily and this note:

Please read this homily.  Really read it.  Slowly, thoughtfully, reflectively.  Is this the "gloomy world outlook" you referred to yesterday?  Is this an example of an "old hand operating in secrecy and using the levers of power for ideological advantage"?  I must be missing something.

Good idea. I'll do something similar.And I'll be nice. Promise.

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All the news that's fit to spin

Laurie Goodstein's report on the Mass

But in the two Masses he has publicly celebrated since becoming pope, he has cast himself as a unifier. "Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd!" he said today in his homily. "Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!"

His homily itself dwelled on the church's most obvious source of unity, which is its liturgy. In his previous role, he had often insisted on preserving traditional liturgical practices and not permitting experimentation. At the Mass today, the pope instructed the crowd at length on the meaning of the two liturgical symbols used in the inauguration Mass - the pallium and the fisherman's ring.

The lambs wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep, which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life, he said.

He used a pastoral tone, and some in the crowd responded positively.

Would you say that the liturgy was the focus of his homily? I wouldn't. He used the symbols of the pallium and the ring as a means to reflect on our true source of unity - Christ,  and the freedom and salvation faith in Christ brings.

It's nice that some in the crowd responded positively, isn't it?

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What the pallium indicates first and foremost is that we are all carried by Christ. But at the same time it invites us to carry one another. Hence the pallium becomes a symbol of the shepherd's mission, of which the second reading and the Gospel speak. The pastor must be inspired by Christ's holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God's darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth's treasures no longer serve to build God's garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.

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What did you hear?

This will be the last of this series until Pentecost - a feast which always brings out..uh...creativity in a parish.

So...what was Mass like in your corner of the Church this weekend? Prayers for Benedict XVI? I think there's a particular Mass that's supposed to be prayed, but I'm not sure.

We had to go to the German parish  - I mean, we had to. Last week, we went, and, as you might remember, the bishop was there, so Michael made his prediction: German parish called St. Peter's, with big old statue of St. Peter receiving the keys, bishop presiding...gonna be the German, he said.

Surprisingly, no big deal about the Pope - mentions in the prayers, but no mention in the homily. Very crowded Mass, as we figured out during the Prayers of the Faithful, because it was part of a gathering of the old school's Class of 1955.

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Inaugural Mass

Below is the text of Pope Benedict's homily. I invite you to use this space to share your thoughts about that, the Mass, the coverage...if you got up and watched it!

(What a wonderful homily - such a catechesis, and deeply connected to the realities of the present moment. Connecting his experiences and that of the entire Church to the truth of the Good News. )

"Your Eminences, my dear brother bishops and priests, distinguished authorities and members of the diplomatic corps, dear brothers and sisters.

  During these days of great intensity, we have chanted the litany of the saints on three different occasions: at the funeral of our Holy Father John Paul II; as the cardinals entered the conclave; and again today, when we sang it with the response: 'Tu illum adiuva' - sustain the new Successor of Saint Peter. On each occasion, in a particular way, I found great consolation in listening to this prayerful chant. How alone we all felt after the passing of John Paul II - the Pope who for over twenty-six years had been our shepherd and guide on our journey through life! He crossed the threshold of the next life, entering into the mystery of God. But he did not take this step alone. Those who believe are never alone - neither in life nor in death. At that moment, we could call upon the Saints from every age - his friends, his brothers and sisters in the faith - knowing that they would form a living procession to accompany him into the next world, into the glory of God. We knew that his arrival was awaited. Now we know that he is among his own and is truly at home.

  "We were also consoled as we made our solemn entrance into conclave, to elect the one whom the Lord had chosen. How would we be able to discern his name? How could 115 bishops, from every culture and every country, discover the one on whom the Lord wished to confer the mission of binding and loosing? Once again, we knew that we were not alone, we knew that we were surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God. And now, at this moment, weak servant of God that I am, I must assume this enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity. How can I do this? How will I be able to do it? All of you, my dear friends, have just invoked the entire host of saints, represented by some of the great names in the history of God's dealings with mankind. In this way, I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone. I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone. All the Saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me. And your prayers, my dear friends, your indulgence, your love, your faith and your hope accompany me. Indeed, the communion of saints consists not only of the great men and women who went before us and whose names we know. All of us belong to the communion of saints, we who have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we who draw life from the gift of Christ's Body and Blood, through which He transforms us and makes us like Himself.
  "Yes, the Church is alive - this is the wonderful experience of these days. During those sad days of the Pope's illness and death, it became wonderfully evident to us that the Church is alive. And the Church is young. She holds within herself the future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way towards the future. The Church is alive and we are seeing it: we are experiencing the joy that the Risen Lord promised His followers. The Church is alive - she is alive because Christ is alive, because He is truly risen. In the suffering that we saw on the Holy Father's face in those days of Easter, we contemplated the mystery of Christ's Passion and we touched His wounds. But throughout these days we have also been able, in a profound sense, to touch the Risen One. We have been able to experience the joy that He promised, after a brief period of darkness, as the fruit of His resurrection.
  "The Church is alive - with these words, I greet with great joy and gratitude all of you gathered here, my venerable brother cardinals and bishops, my dear priests, deacons, Church workers, catechists. I greet you, men and women religious, witnesses of the transfiguring presence of God. I greet you, members of the lay faithful, immersed in the great task of building up the Kingdom of God which spreads throughout the world, in every area of life. With great affection I also greet all those who have been reborn in the Sacrament of Baptism but are not yet in full communion with us; and you, my brothers and sisters of the Jewish people, to whom we are joined by a great shared spiritual heritage, one rooted in God's irrevocable promises. Finally, like a wave gathering force, my thoughts go out to all men and women of today, to believers and non-believers alike.
  "Dear friends! At this moment there is no need for me to present a program of governance. I was able to give an indication of what I see as my task in my Message of Wednesday April 20, and there will be other opportunities to do so. My real program of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He Himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history. Instead of putting forward a program, I should simply like to comment on the two liturgical symbols which represent the inauguration of the Petrine Ministry; both these symbols, moreover, reflect clearly what we heard proclaimed in today's readings.
  "The first symbol is the pallium, woven in pure wool, which will be placed on my shoulders. This ancient sign, which the bishops of Rome have worn since the fourth century, may be considered an image of the yoke of Christ, which the bishop of this city, the Servant of the Servants of God, takes upon his shoulders. God's yoke is God's will, which we accept. And this will does not weigh down on us, oppressing us and taking away our freedom. To know what God wants, to know where the path of life is found - this was Israel's joy, this was her great privilege. It is also our joy: God's will does not alienate us, it purifies us - even if this can be painful - and so it leads us to ourselves. In this way, we serve not only Him, but the salvation of the whole world, of all history.
  "The symbolism of the pallium is even more concrete: the lamb's wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life. For the Fathers of the Church, the parable of the lost sheep, which the shepherd seeks in the desert, was an image of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The human race - every one of us - is the sheep lost in the desert which no longer knows the way. The Son of God will not let this happen; He cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition. He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the Cross. He takes it upon His shoulders and carries our humanity; He carries us all - He is the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. What the pallium indicates first and foremost is that we are all carried by Christ. But at the same time it invites us to carry one another. Hence the pallium becomes a symbol of the shepherd's mission, of which the second reading and the Gospel speak. The pastor must be inspired by Christ's holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God's darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth's treasures no longer serve to build God's garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.
  "The symbol of the lamb also has a deeper meaning. In the ancient Near East, it was customary for kings to style themselves shepherds of their people. This was an image of their power, a cynical image: to them their subjects were like sheep, which the shepherd could dispose of as he wished. When the shepherd of all humanity, the living God, Himself became a lamb, He stood on the side of the lambs, with those who are downtrodden and killed. This is how He reveals Himself to be the true shepherd: 'I am the Good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for the sheep,' Jesus says of Himself (Jn 10:14ff). It is not power, but love that redeems us! This is God's sign: He Himself is love. How often we wish that God would make show Himself stronger, that He would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way, they justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity. We suffer on account of God's patience. And yet, we need His patience. God, Who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified Him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man.
  "One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. 'Feed my sheep.' says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, He says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God's truth, of God's word, the nourishment of His presence, which He gives us in the blessed Sacrament. My dear friends - at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love His flock more and more - in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.
  "The second symbol used in today's liturgy to express the inauguration of the Petrine ministry is the presentation of the fisherman's ring. Peter's call to be a shepherd, which we heard in the Gospel, comes after the account of a miraculous catch of fish: after a night in which the disciples had let down their nets without success, they see the Risen Lord on the shore. He tells them to let down their nets once more, and the nets become so full that they can hardly pull them in; 153 large fish: 'and although there were so many, the net was not torn' (Jn 21:11). This account, coming at the end of Jesus' earthly journey with His disciples, corresponds to an account found at the beginning: there too, the disciples had caught nothing the entire night; there too, Jesus had invited Simon once more to put out into the deep. And Simon, who was not yet called Peter, gave the wonderful reply: 'Master, at your word I will let down the nets.' And then came the conferral of his mission: 'Do not be afraid. Henceforth you will be catching men' (Lk 5:1-11). Today too the Church and the successors of the Apostles are told to put out into the deep sea of history and to let down the nets, so as to win men and women over to the Gospel - to God, to Christ, to true life. The Fathers made a very significant commentary on this singular task. This is what they say: for a fish, created for water, it is fatal to be taken out of the sea, to be removed from its vital element to serve as human food. But in the mission of a fisher of men, the reverse is true. We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death; in a sea of darkness without light. The net of the Gospel pulls us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendor of God's light, into true life. It is really true: as we follow Christ in this mission to be fishers of men, we must bring men and women out of the sea that is salted with so many forms of alienation and onto the land of life, into the light of God.
  "It is really so: the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God's joy which longs to break into the world.
  "Here I want to add something: both the image of the shepherd and that of the fisherman issue an explicit call to unity. 'I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must lead them too, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd' (Jn 10:16); these are the words of Jesus at the end of His discourse on the Good Shepherd. And the account of the 153 large fish ends with the joyful statement: 'although there were so many, the net was not torn' (Jn 21:11). Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn! But no - we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of Your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity You have promised. Let us remember it in our prayer to the Lord, as we plead with Him: yes, Lord, remember Your promise. Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow Your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!
  "At this point, my mind goes back to October 22 1978, when Pope John Paul II began his ministry here in Saint Peter's Square. His words on that occasion constantly echo in my ears: 'Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!' The Pope was addressing the mighty, the powerful of this world, who feared that Christ might take away something of their power if they were to let Him in, if they were to allow the faith to be free. Yes, He would certainly have taken something away from them: the dominion of corruption, the manipulation of law and the freedom to do as they pleased. But He would not have taken away anything that pertains to human freedom or dignity, or to the building of a just society. The Pope was also speaking to everyone, especially the young. Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything. When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundred-fold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ - and you will find true life. Amen."

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (28)

April 23, 2005

Will it ever end?

Not any time soon, says Groenig, who claims he's only halfway done with the Simpsons. Article also says that later this season (but isn't the season almost over?) the Simpsons will have a "dalliance" with Catholicism.

In other Catholic-tinged pop-culture news from the NYTimes, Bruce Springsteen's new album.

Thoughts of redemption, moral choices and invocations of God have been part of Springsteen songs throughout his career, but they have grown stronger and more explicitly Christian on his 21st-century albums. "It was something I pushed off for a long time," he said, "but I've been thinking about it a lot lately." He has a trinity of reasons for his connection to Christian imagery and concepts: "Catholic school, Catholic school, Catholic school," he said. "You're indoctrinated. It's a none-too subtle form of brainwashing, and of course, it works very well."

Mr. Springsteen grew up half a block away from his Catholic church, convent and rectory. "I'm not a churchgoer," he said, "but I realized, as time passed, that my music is filled with Catholic imagery. It's not a negative thing. There was a powerful world of potent imagery that became alive and vital and vibrant, and was both very frightening and held out the promise of ecstasies and paradise. There was this incredible internal landscape that they created in you."

One more, from Peter Chattaway's FilmChat Blog:

Actor-comedian-musician Jack Black and actor-writer Mike White, after collaborating on the so-so Orange County and the much-better-than-it-had-a-right-to-be School of Rock, are at it again -- this time in a Nickelodeon movie about "a Mexican priest who secretly moonlights as a masked wrestler in order to save an orphanage from closure." And it's "inspired by a true-life story"!

Here's the story.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (61)

Blogs of Note

Brought to my attention:

Against a Dictatorship of Relativism, from commenter Dev Thakur

Vita Mea, from a Diocese of Memphis seminary student, where I found a link to this blog, on which are collected various editorial cartoons penned in honor of John Paul II

Oh, and you might want to read Dreadnought - gay, conservative Australian Catholic - and quite a good writer (graphic material warning.)

And...Against the Grain, for all of your Benedict XVI-roundup needs. (where I found the link for Dreadnought)

One more "oh..." this is funny.

Trey Jackson has put up my 30 seconds of fame. Thanks, Trey!

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (10)

Mass Coverage

Some people have asked whether the nets - not the cable news networks - are going to cover the Inaugural Mass. My DirectTV guide shows that ABC and CBS are, but NBC doesn't have it listed.


Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (6)

Worth reading...

From a comments thread below:

There's a 5 p.m. Sunday Mass in my parish which I have jokingly referred to over the years as "the hangover Mass." I go to it every so often when I'm too lazy to get up in the morning or when I've had a little too much bubbly with the boys on Saturday night.

No one would sing at this rather listless Mass. So our new pastor, after a respectable number of pleas to exercise our vocal chords, said, OK, you don't want to sing? I won't force you. So now this Mass is sans music.

In an interesting way, the lack of music seems to have focused the congregation. Since we have been spared the umpteenth rendition of "Be Not Afraid" or "On Eagle's Wings," we (or at least me) seem to *hear* more of the Mass. And last week, quite by surprise, the associate pastor sang this:

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

About 12 or 15 of us joined in. The parishioners who jump-started us were a 30-year-old woman, daughter of a former nun and a social-justice warrior, and a 78-year-old woman who runs the Altar Society and thinks the church has gone to hell for 40 years. These two women have nothing in common except that they're both Catholic and they both know the "Agnus Dei." Otherwise they probably couldn't agree that the sky is blue.

They embraced for several moments when it came time for the sign of peace. When I saw this, I thanked God for the gift of the Mass.

Thanks, Whitcomb

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (8)

Family Ties

I've received a lot of interesting mail this week, as I always do, but the most interesting had nothing to do with the Pope. It was from the proprietor of this online bookstore who wrote of this place: "..a great, great aunt of mine was scalped in front of that church."


Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (8)

Hey! Lutheran-Anglican-RC dialogue! Up here!

Mark Thompson -Kolar has suggested we move that thread up here, with the last few comments to get you going. He says:

I'm very interested in hearing some of the thoughts about liturgy and music, especially Lutheran and Anglican contributions (in an outrageously unlikely way I suppose) that people who have already contributed and exited the threat might have. The thought of a reunified Catholic/Lutheran/Anglican church drawing faithful music and liturgy from all three traditions is so exciting to me and would be an interesting "God-style" move, to use his Children in unexpected ways to His glory. I'm dreaming, of course.

Done! look in the extended post for those comments, then continue the conversation.

I appreciate the various Lutheran posters here, and think that we Catholics should attend closely to what they have written. For myself, I think that a "Luhteran Rite" is far less likely than an "Anglican Rite" and that for several reasons. First, "Evangelical Catholics" have tended to view their differences with Rome in far more seriously (and, if I may say so, coherently) doctrinal terms than have Anglicans (who since the 17th Century have been "all over the place" in their reasons for being opposed to the "Roman claims), and many of them (like Chris Jones) have insisted that if these serious issues of doctrinal truth shoud ever be resolved, then the Luhterans will rejoin the historic Western Catholic Church (of which they have claimed to be a "purified" part). Secondly, however "Catholic" Lutheran liturgical practice may seem (by comparison with that of other Protestants, or even non-Anglo-Catholic Anglicans), the changes that Lutherans made to the Mass in the 16th century were predicated on a fundamental rejection of the sacrificial (and propitiatory) character of the Mass (a rejection far more absolute in the realm of theory than even that of [traditionalist] Calvinists, let alone Anglicans), a rejection maintained to this day by most Confessionalist Lutherans, whether of the Missouri Synod or more conservative bodies like the Wisconsin Synod. The "Book of Worship" of the ELCA looks more Catholic in style (with full-bodied "Eucharistic Prayers" rather than the simple recital of the "Words of Institution" after the Sanctus and before the Lord's Prayer which was the customary Lutheran practice), but if one reads it carefully, it avoids all "sacrificial" language in these prayers -- and in any event provides as an optional alternative the simple recital of the Words of Institution. Frankly, I think that the common availability of a formal, sacral version of the Western Catholic "Novus Ordo" Mass, in majestic English and with a return to liturgical orientation (and perhaps with common use of some of the glorious products of the Lutheran hymnodic tradition) would satisfy all the wishes of convert Lutherans as well as Lutherans who would be "reconciled" in the light of a hypothetical agreement on doctrinal matters.

As to deaconesses, hoy vey! I tried to put a post on the source which Amy linked for this posting of hers but it didn't take. Folks, those of you who are interested in this subject should beware of the "the Church has ruled out women priests but not woman deacons and history shows that the Church once had woman deacons so let's have them again" arguments put forward by propagandists like Phyllis Zagrano, who ought to know better. These folks seldom or never cite (and certainly have never attempted to rebut) the premier work on this subject, written by then premier French litiurgical historian and scholar of his generation: *Deaconnesses: An Historical Essay* bt Aime-Georges Martimort (Rome, 1982: Edizioni Liturgiche; San Francisco, 1986, 1996: Ignatius Press). Read it, and then let's talk about "women deacons."

Posted by: William Tighe at April 23, 2005 09:44 AM

I want an Anglican Rite. The Anglican translations were the way ICEL *should* have gone. Plus, the Book of Common Prayer is beautiful.

Posted by: Eileen R at April 23, 2005 10:45 AM

William, wonderful post. Let me add that the introduction of Lutheran hymnody into Catholic worship quite likely (from what I read here and hear from Catholic friends) would be like an enormous shot of adrenaline. When I entered the Lutheran church, the hymns blew me backward. I couldn't believe there was such power in the music; and after years of standing around half mouthing the words in Catholic services, hearing 400 people singing praises to our King loudly around me gave me goosebumps week after week. Obviously there are a few Lutheran hymns that wouldn't fit Catholic theology, but I suspect the vast majority would fit fine because they are praise to Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, or reflecting his majesty, with no Catholic vs. Lutheran doctrinal distinctions drawn. Here are a few web links to some Lutheran hymns for anyone who is interested (unfortunately, they lose an awful lot outside the church/live setting...)
(top one is by far the best link)

http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/online/aTLH_Hymns1.htm http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/brass/brass_hymns.htm

Posted by: Mark Thompson-Kolar at April 23, 2005 10:52 AM

it avoids all "sacrificial" language in these prayers Just out of curiosity, does that include "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us," or just the stuff that doesn't come from the Bible? (I could see "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" as compatible with a Lutheran theology where the sacrifice already happened once-and-for-all and the Mass isn't itself a repetition of it.)

I want an Anglican Rite. I thought there already was an Anglican rite, for those parishes that had crossed the Tiber in protest. Am I completely out of it here?

Posted by: Lynn Gazis-Sax at April 23, 2005 11:00 AM

There is a "kind of" Anglican rite, technically called the "Anglican Use." It is an "adaptation" of the Episcopalian 1979 Prayer Book (PB), and was finally published a couple of years ago as the "Book of Divine Worship" (BDW). That 1979 PB has a "traditional English" Rite I, and a "modern English" Rite II. (In terms of style and cadence, the "modern English" Rite II is infinitely better than the Catholic "ICEL English" of the Novus Ordo). The BDW follows the pattern of the 1979 PB, but its Rite I substitutes a fine 16th-Century translation of the Roman Canon (by of all people, the Reformer Matthew Coverdale, a translation which was preserved by being included in Foxe's "Book of Martyrs" -- the porpose of the translation was to attack the "popish errors" of the Canon) for the two "Prayers of Consecration" of the PB (the traditional Episcopalian one, derived from a very "high-church" Scottish Prayer of 1764, and a new "condensed" one); and Rite II substitutes the four Eucharistic Prayers of ther Novus Ordo (the Roman Canon in a modern English translation, if you can call it a "translation," and the three new prayers) for the four new Prayers of Consecration of the 1979 PB. The really weird feature is the replacement of the Offertory of the 1979 PB with the Novus Ordo's "Offertory Prayers:" since there is no "traditional English" version of these prayers, in Rite I of the BDW we suddenly shift to "modern English" for the Offertory, before reverting to "traditional English" for the Consecration.

One of the big questions to be resolved for an "Anglican Rite" (apart from the "smoothing out" of the language of the Offertory Prayers) is whether there is any traditional Anglican "Prayer of Consecration" that could be used in a Catholic Anglican Rite, since even the 1549 PB's "Prayer of Consecration" was produced as a correction of the "errors" of the Roman Canon. Speaking only for myself, I think that they only acceptable candidate would be the 1764 Scottish Episcopalian Prayer of Consectation -- one that uses traditional Anglican phrases, but which was modelled on Fourth-Century Eastern Patristic Eucharistic Anaphoras (Canons). It was too "Catholic" for the Episcopal Church, which, when it adopted it in 1789, toned down and "protestantized" it at key points. It is a actually a very fine prayer, but very long and, IMHO, verbose. Perhaps it might be "pruned" for use in an "Anglican Rite" Catholic Church.

Posted by: William Tighe at April 23, 2005 11:22 AM

by William: "Frankly, I think that the common availability of a formal, sacral version of the Western Catholic "Novus Ordo" Mass, in majestic English and with a return to liturgical orientation (and perhaps with common use of some of the glorious products of the Lutheran hymnodic tradition) would satisfy all the wishes of convert Lutherans ,,,"

Oh, amen! I would be overjoyed!

Posted by: Kathie at April 23, 2005 12:10 PM

Regarding "Anglican Use" Catholic churches, here's a link to one of them :


A few weeks ago when I researched the topic a bit, I found that most (all ?) were in Texas. Am very uncertain why that is; my guess is that a number of these Episcopal/Anglican churches were in a dispute with their Episcopal diocese.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (36)

Dare we hope?

Cross our fingers and say our prayers:

Benedict's "Friday Penance"

For the past four years, the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI had more responsibility than any other cardinal for deciding whether and how to discipline Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse.

On Friday mornings, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sat in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith poring over dossiers detailing allegations of abuse sent in by bishops from around the world, according to two top officials in his office. He found the cases so disturbing that he called the work "our Friday penance."

Another about the re-opening of the Maciel investigation

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (60)

Pulled from the comments:

A journalist who was at the meeting with the Pope:

I went to the Pope's meeting with journalists this morning. He didn't say anything earthshattering, but it was a very cordial meeting.

A rough paraphrase: the Pope said he knew how hard they had all been working in the last few weeks, working long hours, away from their homes and families. He told them they had done a wonderful job helping people all around the world participate in the events that have happened here in Rome, and he wanted to thank all of them. And then he finished with a few reflections on the value and importance of the media's work.

Afterwards, the journalists started clapping, and then broke into cheers and chants of "Ben-e-detto." Well, the Italian journalists did. The CNN helmet-hair near me and the other Anglo types stuck to clapping.

The Pope was really quite extraordinarily warm. I'm interested in seeing whether his evident kindness and sympathy will win over some of the journalists who have been giving harsh coverage of him.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (13)

An Open Letter to Maureen Dowd:

Shut. Up.

Oh, I forgot.

Dear Ms. Dowd:

Shut. Up.

It's not often that I say that, especially to a fellow writer, for I'm a firm and unyielding believer in free speech, not just on the legal level, but on the moral level as well. Writers may write what they want, publishers may publish what they want, vendors may sell what they want, readers may read what they want.

But this is the point to which your ignorant snipes have driven me: I want you to just shut up and stop writing about anything related to the Catholic Church.

It's not that I'm reacting against your views, simply as your views. There are plenty of folks out there writing about Catholicism from perspectives that aren't mine. Oh well.

But none of them are in your unique, rather privileged position: the op-ed page of the New York Times twice a week, your columns usually high on the "most e-mailed sidebar," one of the more well-known, if not respected pundits in the United States, and a self-identified Catholic, to boot.

And along with that, none of them are writng quite as much ignorant tripe as you are. E.J. Dionne may have set my teeth grinding on three separate occasions this week, but at least he sort of knows what he's talking about, and one can see, through his ideology, a basic, if flawed understanding of what the Catholic faith is, and a small openness to seeing Benedict XVI as he is, not as he would have him to be.

But you? Can I ask you just what the hell is the matter with you?

I mean - do you want people to think you're stupid? Because if you do - congratulations. You're doing a fantastic job.

The two, from rural, conservative parts of their countries, want to turn back the clock and exorcise New Age silliness. Mr. Cheney wants to dismantle the New Deal and go back to 1937. Pope Benedict XVI wants to dismantle Vatican II and go back to 1397. As a scholar, his specialty was "patristics," the study of the key thinkers in the first eight centuries of the church.

They are both old hands at operating in secrecy and using the levers of power for ideological advantage. They want to enlist Catholics in the conservative cause, turning confession boxes into ballot boxes with the threat that a vote for a liberal Democrat could lead to eternal damnation.

Pope Benedict XVI wants to dismantle Vatican II and go back to 1397.

Earth to Maureen: No, he doesn't.

It's that simple. No, he doesn't. I mean, what does that mean, anyway? Do you have a clue, or is that just a suitably medieval date you pulled out of your - hat?

I too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the Church. Precisely this year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly (December 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society.

Do you know what Vatican II was all about? Do you? Do you know what Pope Benedict has said about it over the past forty years? Do you know what he said about it last week?

Didn't think so.

As a scholar, his specialty was "patristics," the study of the key thinkers in the first eight centuries of the church.

Ooooooh. Scary! Would it be better if his specialty was "pundistics," the study of half-baked scribblings of the 21st century that will be forgotten next week?

Thank God his specialty wasn't a first-century guy who hung out with fishermen and lepers.


I could spend all morning with this, but I won't because frankly, while you need it, you don't deserve it. This morning's column is an abuse of the space, an abuse of the position that you're privileged to hold. It evinces absolutely no awareness of real news, only of soundbites, stereotypes, and protest signs waved outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's absolutely inexcusable for you to presume to educate the country on the background, priorities and intentions of this pope when you obviously don't know anything about him and, most crucially, don't seem to have read a single word he's spoken over the past five days. I know you're busy but it seems to me it's like - your freakin' job - to be informed.

But maybe I just don't get it. I've got a Master's degree in religion, I've taught school, and I've written a slew of books. I value understanding, knowledge, research and the truth. I am loathe to open my mouth and opine about anything unless I really have looked into it. There's a couple of reasons for that: first, I like to be based in reality. Secondly: I don't like looking stupid.

Is that not a Blue State value?


So do us all - and the truth - a favor. Take a vow of silence regarding this Pope and most Catholic stuff until you've read up on it. There's this thing: it's called the internet. You can find almost anything on it, including stuff the Pope said, like, today. It's cool.

Call me. I'll give you some tips. It's okay. We can work on this.

But until then, do yourself a favor. And write about something else.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (149)

Good press

Nice profile of Christopher Blosser, proprietor of the Ratzinger Fan Club, at the Boston Globe.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (0)

From the Vatican

Their Benedict XVI page, where you can find his statements up to this point - they usually appear in English last of all, but be patient, because they do, eventually come.

The liturgy for Sunday's Mass is linked on the page, as well.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Last European Pope?

Joseph Bottum in the Weekly Standard

Perhaps the most curious thing about the attacks on Cardinal Ratzinger, as they now carry over to Pope Benedict XVI, is that he actually seems to stand somewhere to the left of his predecessor on the worldly issues that some might think would matter most to his non-Catholic critics in the media. John Paul II's 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus might be described as "Three Cheers for Democracy, Two Cheers for Capitalism." Ratzinger's rare comments on economics over the years suggest he'd give only, perhaps, one tepid cheer for modern capitalism. He's a Social Democrat, after all, from Germany, where they always thought they were going to find a way to split the difference between communism and capitalism.

It's unlikely that he will issue many papal statements on the topic; he has already signaled that the liturgy and internal Church matters will be the focus of his papacy. Still, in all the raging from liberal commentators since his election, his mild and sentimental socialism has somehow escaped notice.

In itself, that's a revealing sign that he might be right about the condition of the world in which he finds himself pope. The economic issues that once defined the division between left and right are now invisible, at least to the liberal European and American elite who have decided to despise the new pope. In the narrowing of liberal thought, there's nothing left to rail about but sex: abortion, contraception, divorce, homosexuality, and all the rest of the tired, old "Spirit of Vatican II" issues.

After the four years of pontifical discourses in which John Paul II laid out his theology of the body, it's hard to see how anyone can imagine change in the Church's teaching on sexual morality. But the fact that these are the only issues about which the new pope's opponents can bring themselves to care--surely that's a sign that Benedict may be right about a culture "which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

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April 22, 2005

Vale, Maria!

Boring pianist Jim Brickman has a new album. Regular version sold in secular stores has Ave Maria on it. Version sold in evangelical Christian bookstores - doesn't.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (15)


Just the fruit of some wanderings:

The Ratzinger Fan Club is back up, and Christopher promises lotsa posting on his blog this weekend

This blogpost links a lot of Benedict XVI-centered blogs

Zadok the Roman was there, and takes you along with him (and when you get done reading that post, go to the main blog and read follow-up posts)

(In my mind, I keep returning to one moment - when the bells just-started-moving. Hearing the secular broadcasters leap on that, breathless, hearing the cheering crowd -  remembering it still makes me smile.)

A lovely story about Cdnl Ratzinger and a couple who asked him to witness their marriage. (hope the link still works by the time you read this. Should be archives, I suppose). Via Cyntr.

John McG has a invented a word for a certain feeling...

(And please read the first comment to this post. A great story)

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (7)

No bones about it

John Allen sums up the week:

It is for that reason, perhaps, that amid all the speculation about where Benedict XVI might take the church, one thing seems certain: This is most definitely not a “transitional” papacy. To put it bluntly, there isn’t a transitional bone in Joseph Ratzinger’s body.

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"outrageous predictions"

Here are one blogger's "outrageous predictions" for this pontificate

MIne ? Hmmmm...a sudden influx of American bishops into Carthusian monasteries in the Pyrenees?

You may call me a dreamer...

(The blogger's "predictions" are seriously offered, although I am not sure how interested anyone is in a "lutheran rite" in the Church. I may be wrong)

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (74)

An interesting weekend

I'm looking forward to the events this weekend: what Pope Benedict has to say to us at the Mass on Sunday, and what he'll say to journalists tomorrow. In fact, I'm probably more interested in the latter. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he had several (perhaps even many), lengthy, free-flowing interviews with journalists, some of which, of course, were transformed into books. Will he be able to do the same as the Pope? I hope so.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (12)

Going' to Mass

The official US delegation to Benedict's installation Mass:

Twenty-one House members left Friday to attend Pope Benedict XVI’s inaugural mass, the second House delegation this month to travel to Rome to witness the transition of leadership in the Catholic Church.

The House also dispatched 27 lawmakers to attend the April 8 funeral of Pope John Paul II. Separately, 14 senators attended the funeral as did an official delegation led by President Bush, his father and former President Clinton.

The White House said Friday that the president’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, would lead a five-member delegation representing the president.

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Domain Claims

On a Benedict URL:

A self-described "domain hoarder" says he'll be cautious with a pope-related Web address he registered this month....

But Cadenhead is Catholic and apparently isn't asking for money. In exchange for the domain name, Cadenhead wants "one of those hats," a free stay at the Vatican hotel and "complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987."

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (28)

Strict Construction

At TNR Ross Douhat answers, in a way, Amy Sullivan's dour assessment

Even in Europe, where Catholicism virtually collapsed during John Paul's pontificate, liberal Protestantism is weaker still. Perhaps if the European Church were to heed its critics and drop its ban on, say, married priests and birth control, it would be rewarded by a surge in mass attendance or vocations. But it's more likely that it would quickly come to resemble the Lutherans in Scandinavia, or the Anglicans in England, both of which have seen their congregations dwindle even as their teachings have become increasingly in tune with the continental zeitgeist.

Catholicism in England, for instance, has seen mass attendance plummet since the '60s--but on any given English Sunday, roughly 23 percent of Catholics are in church, compared to just 4 percent of Anglicans. Or again, in Catholic Spain, only a quarter of the population are churchgoers--but in Lutheran Sweden, the figure is just seven percent. And as in the United States, Europe's fastest-growing faiths are Evangelical and Pentecostal (and Muslim), which is hardly the image of the religious future that so many liberal Catholics cherish.

I'd go to church more often if only the Church would do X, or Y, or Z, disaffected Catholics often insist. But 50 years' experience with a liberalized Christianity suggests that they probably wouldn't--that if anything, a progressive Catholic Church would see its pews and altars empty faster than ever before. It's not that many devout gays or pious divorcees or deeply religious feminists wouldn't eagerly rush back to Rome should the Church take a more liberal turn. But there aren't enough of them, if the Protestant experience is any guide, to make up for the fact that liberal Christianity is for most people just a rest stop on the highway to Christmas-and-Easter Christianity, or a vague and self-satisfied spirituality, or finally secularism itself.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (103)

2 Cute Not 2 Share

Please go read Disputations for the wit (papal spam) and the wisdom (next post down)

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How the votes went in the TopSuperSecret Conclave

From the WaTimes

(I thought I ran across a longer article on the same subject earlier today, but can't remember where. If you know where I saw it - tell me.)

In the first conclave vote Monday, Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini -- the Jesuit former archbishop of Milan and a candidate for cardinals opposed to Cardinal Ratzinger -- had at least the same number of votes, about 40 each, La Repubblica said.
    On Tuesday morning, however, many undecided cardinals decided to support Cardinal Ratzinger.

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Is the Pope Catholic?

Phil Lawler in the WSJ

Yes, the pope is a Catholic. Yet that unsurprising result has clearly shaken many secular liberals--and more than a few liberal Catholics--who feel that they have been somehow cheated of an opportunity. Their vindictive snarls have been prominently featured in the coverage of the new pope's election. Benedict XVI has been characterized not merely as a "conservative" but as an "ultraconservative." Words such as "rigid" and "stern" are ubiquitous. Profiles of the new pontiff rarely fail to mention that as a teenager he was briefly a member of a Hitler Youth group (in which he was enrolled against his will) and the German army (which he deserted). When a London tabloid identified the new pope in a banner headline as "God's Rottweiler," dozens of more respectable journalists gleefully seized on the nickname.

The portrait thus being painted--of a cold, remote, autocrat--is completely at odds with the actual personality of Benedict XVI. In fact, he is a genial, diffident man. Those who meet him for the first time are invariably struck by the humility that camouflages his powerful intellect. My colleague Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, a former theology student of the new pope's, recalls how his mentor would "listen to absolutely everybody" before making his own comments. My own lasting impression is of the kindly man who, upon a family visit to the Vatican five years ago, took the time to introduce himself to each of my children, leaning down to the eye level of a shy three-year-old to make her more comfortable.

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April 21, 2005

Now that you have email, Your Holiness

Rick Lugari imagines some papal spam - I mean to, not from.

Jeff Miller remembers that a lot of spam comes from Nigeria (and also has another, better way to visualize "B16" than an airbomber)

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Interview with an author

Take a look at this interview Lisa at CatholicMom did with Michael about his new book, How to Get the Most Out of th Eucharist

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Some good stuff:

Daniel Maloney in NRO on Benedict XVI:

There’s a difference, to be sure, but hardly anyone would contest the observation that in elite Western society, as in totalitarian Germany, the moral vocabulary has been purged of the idea of sin. And if there’s no sense of sin, then there’s no need for a Redeemer, or for the Church.

I think that, for the new pope, the 1968 protests in Europe and the sharp decline in those partaking of the sacrament of confession in the Church after Vatican II made it clear that the sense of sin was breaking down among Western liberal Christians just as it had for Western liberal Germans between the wars. If there’s going to be a theological key to this papacy, I would locate it here.

Mitchell Hadley, inspired by Moloney's piece, muses on what the theme of this pontificate might be:

This, then, whould seem to be Benedict's message to the West; indeed, to everyone. See the Church? We are not giving up on you. As disciples of Christ, this message includes us in a special way, for just as Christ assures us miserable sinners that He will not give up on us, it is part of our calling that we not give up on our mission of spreading His gospel to our brothers and sisters. We look around and perhaps see degradation all around us; sin and despair, poverty and indifference. We see the eyes of the dying Terri Schiavo, the dumpster with the fetuses of aborted babies. No matter how it is expressed, it can be discouraging. Why bother? we think. What difference does it make? What difference do we make?

Nice words from Eric Swensson, who then leads to a welcome to Pope Benedict from Johann Christoph Arnold of the Bruderhof

On another encounter I was told that he was not well and would have only a few minutes for me; that he was tired and might seem inattentive due to his physical condition. We had come to Rome with a delegation from the United States and Germany to talk about the role of the Catholic Church in the persecution of Anabaptists four hundred years earlier. Much of this persecution had occurred right in the area of Munich, where Ratzinger comes from, and our delegation included people whose forefathers had been burned at the stake.

At first he did seem tired, but as our conversation progressed, he became more and more attentive, and I will never forget how by the end of the meeting, he had tears in his eyes, and how he encouraged us with words of love and reconciliation: “When hatred can be overcome and forgiveness be given, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Then we know that we are in Christ.”

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Scarborough Country on MSNBC tonight. Look for me, talking about DVC. Gotta go. To SOUTH BEND. Sheesh.



Well, that was lame!

I'll tell you first, that I had no idea Pat Buchanan was going to be on. Not that this would have made a difference, but I think that I could have mentally prepared a bit better if I'd known.

See, I'm not nervous about this things at all, nor am I hesitant to interrupt. I was taken aback when Scarborough started with Buchanan, asking him to go over the negative points of the book, and plus, I felt I hadn't been properly introduced, so I thought...well give me a second, then I'll interrupt, but Buchanan just kept going and going and going...

But I thought, in the end...well, maybe this actually helps. Maybe presenting a more moderate tone that Pat Buchanan will entice people who might otherwise brush it off to try out my book....


My oldest son: "Mom! You regulated on Pat Buchanan!"

(Whatever that means...)

(Not that such would be my intention. But I was irritated that he was taking my lines...)

Just a bit more for the curious, on how it happened.

Why South Bend? Because the (ahem) Second Largest City in Indiana doesn't have a television station (even though it has five television stations) with national satellite uplink capability. (I think that's how it's said. My son, who works with tv down in K-town, is incredulous. ) So I go to WNDU - yes, NBC station in South Bend, obviously flush with cash, and we can guess why! - throwing the kids in the car here, cursing the place on Brooklyn Avenue where not one, but two extremely slow-moving trains stopped me for (I'm not kidding) twelve minutes, meeting Michael west of Columbia City, leaving my car at a gas station there, racing to South Bend, where I was supposed to be at 5:15 (the show is taped.)

The one site worth seeing on the way was a Catholic Church in Bremen  with a sign in front that said "Long Live Benedict XVI!" I told Michael it felt like 1898 (the name...can't get used to it!) or something, especially with the Amish guys on bikes in the same town.

Oh, there was also a sign in front of a farm advertising Buffalo heads and hides. I looked for the buffalo in the fields. Couldn't see any. Wondered where they were. Michael said, "I guess they're all beheaded and skinned."

So I got there, got miked, and then...sat. The whole thing was taped out of order - I heard them doing the last segment of the show before they did mine, which was first. In between, they were doing all sorts of bumpers and promos, multiple times until they could get it right.

And then my piece. In the honorary Richard McBrien chair. (Last time I was there, McBrien had been in the studio that morning, doing a thing for Good Morning America)

So. My husband says, "I don't know if it's really worth it..."

Sure it was! Buffalo heads, Amish on bikes, long live Benedict XVI and a tax-deductible dinner at Carrabba's? Maybe not everyday, I'll grant you.

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New Blog!

Laudem Gloriae

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You're as young as...

From a reader:

I am appalled with myself that at the age of 47, I find this

"We'll see what he feels like. I mean he's not a 56-year-old, you
know," said British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

Not because of any reflection on the Pope, but merely because SOME
people regard 56 as young.

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More Remants in Tents

This, from a reader:

The discussion of this post seems to have turned away from the original topic,
but some thoughts occurred to me last night in bed after catching up on my
daily Mass readings.  In particular, last weeks trip through John 6 made me
think that the idea of God's people shrinking in number before a flourishing
would seem to have Biblical support.

The most dramatic example would be Noah.  The result was certainly a "small
creative community."

The remnant returning from Babylonian exile also came to mind.  One could
say that this example mirrors our situation in terms of the need to re-catechize
the faithful.

Finally there are the Gospels.   In the section cited above, John 6, the people
fall away, unable to accept what Jesus is telling them.  He does not run after
them or change his message to win their approval, but ups the ante,  "Does
this offend you?"  More amazing things are to follow. (vv. 61ff.)  He then
acknowledges that, "there are some of you who do not believe" (v. 64).  There is
certainly no indication that he says this with the glee with which some among
us entertain this idea.  Rather, it is stated matter-of-factly--which is how I read
then-Cdl. Ratzinger's statement--followed by his challenge to the Apostles,
"Do you also want to leave?" (v. 67)  That strikes me as a challenge of, "You've
heard the Truth.  Now choose your side."

In a broader perspective, Christ goes from the 5000 following him without
regard to their next meal to John and a handful of women who dared accompany
him to Calvary.  This "small creative community," with the re-incorporation of
the wayward Apostles, brought about the first Springtime (or, rather, the Spirit
working through them brought about ...).

As I said, that is the context in which I read Pope Benedict's statements.  It is
a matter of forcing people out, but setting forth the Truth, accepting the effect
this may have, and preparing for the work that follows.

Does that seem reasonable?

Yes, it does. The John 6 passage is a favorite of ours around here - especially of Michael's.

The tension I'm always struggling to resolve is between that and the Church's historical willingness to haul everyone in and baptize them (after some instruction, yes...but historically, again..usually minimal.).

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Making Stuff Up

So, what is fiction for, but to be read, right?

I've started a blog for my fiction - on a blog, because that way, html-ing is kept to a minimum.

Go read a story, if you like.

The bare outline based on something that happened to me, long ago..but everything else is made up, I think.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink

Attacks on Christians

By Druze, in northern Israel

Maher Abboud, priest of Mughar's St. George's Greek Catholic Church, said only three police officers were on hand the first day of the attack. The second day there were 30 police. "But what can 30 police do when more than 1,000 people are attacking?" Abboud asked. "We hoped on Friday the police forces would be increased. But police didn't interfere." A few Christians say the local Druze police themselves joined the violence.

Abboud said 53 businesses and 74 homes were damaged or destroyed and 151 cars set on fire. Police report that 11 people, including 3 officers, were injured during the rioting. At least one Druze marauder was shot in the leg and at least one Christian suffered broken legs. About three-quarters of Christian children have stopped attending school since the attacks ended for fear of more violence. Mughar's Christians say authorities confiscated weapons found on Druze students in Mughar's junior high and high schools.

Abboud, who has served Mughar for 27 years, said that "angry is the smallest word that you can say" for how he feels about what happened.

Druze unleashed attacks on Mughar's Christians in 1981, though the town's priest and other Christians say the recent attacks were far more damaging than those 24 years ago. Other Galilean towns have suffered attacks in recent decades, though Christians here say the February raid on Mughar has been among the most serious.

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Aborting the disabled

Taking a look at the pressure.

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Ebay - we haven't forgotten you

Some progress

eBay confirmed to LifeSiteNews.com today that the company voluntarily cancelled a listing for a consecrated Host.

It was not clear at the time of this publishing that the company policy had changed to ban all similar sales. A customer representative named Joshua, when asked why he thought eBay pulled the listing, told LifeSiteNews.com that “it could have been the eight or nine thousand complaints we received.”

The cancellation is no doubt the result of backlash from faithful Catholics – outraged at the offence this had caused – but is likely also in part due to a letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, as reported by the Catholic News Agency Tuesday.

As the article says, the question is still up - will they add "consecrated host" to the extensive list of prohibited items? I've written twice to various addresses, and received no response. Early next week, I'll get back on this - I'm not going to let it go, for if they can't find it in themselves to do this simple thing, I'm pulling my memberships.

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Light in a Dark Age

Weigel on Benedict

As with the program, so with the man: He is a Benedict in the depths of his interior life and in his intellectual accomplishment. Benedict XVI has an encyclopedic knowledge of two millennia of theology, and indeed of the cultural history of the West. He is more the shy, monastic scholar than the ebullient public personality of his predecessor; yet he has shown an impressive capacity for a different type of public "presence" in his brilliantly simple homily at John Paul II's funeral and in his first appearance as pope. He has known hardship: He knows the modern temptations of totalitarianism (paganism wedded to technology) from inside the Third Reich; he has been betrayed by former students (like the splenetic Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff) and former colleagues (like Hans Kung, a man of far less scholarly accomplishment and infinitely less charity). His critics say he is dour and pessimistic. Yet I take it as an iron law of human personality that a man is known by his musical preferences; and Benedict XVI is a Mozart man, who knows that Mozart is what the angels play when they perform for the sheer joy of it. Indeed, and notwithstanding the cartoon Joseph Ratzinger, the new pope is a man of Christian happiness who has long asked why, in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, summoned to be a "new Pentecost" for the Catholic Church, so much of the joy has gone out of Catholicism. Over some 17 years of conversation with him, I have come to know him as a man who likes to laugh, and who can laugh because he is convinced that the human drama is, in the final analysis, a divine comedy.

He once called himself a "donkey," a "draft animal" who had been called to a work not of his choosing. Yet when Joseph Ratzinger stepped out onto the loggia of St. Peter's to begin a work he never sought, I couldn't help think of the conclusion of Alasdair MacIntyre's penetrating study of the moral confusions of the West, "After Virtue." In a time when willfulness and relativism had led to a frigid and joyless cultural climate, MacIntyre wrote, the world was not waiting for Godot, "but for another -- doubtless very different -- St. Benedict." The world now has a new Benedict. We can be sure that he will challenge us all to the noble human adventure that has no better name than sanctity.

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An on Capital Punishment

From Catholics against Capital Punishment...Ratzinger played a vital role in the CCC rewrite

From 1986 to 1992, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger served as president of the papally-appointed commission that drafted the Catechism. At a December 9, 1992 Vatican press conference heralding publication of the book, he said it clearly showed that the Church was moving away from its traditional acceptance of the state’s right to employ the death penalty.

He described that trend as a “clear, positive evolution” and said it showed a “certain dynamism” in Church teachings, according to a Catholic News Service report on the conference.

He acknowledged that past Church tradition accepted capital punishment as a means of maintaining public order. But he added that in evaluating the issue currently, society must determine whether the “moral scope” of maintaining security and order can be achieved without the death penalty.

The Catechism, he said, “does not simply detach itself from 2,000 years of tradition. But it develops a road, an evolution,” and “underlines with force” that capital punishment should be used only in extreme situations.

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Pope's Email

Michael's got it, in case you want to drop him a line.

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The Pope and War

From the Catholic Peace Fellowship

Yet perhaps the most important insight of Ratzinger came during a press conference on May 2, 2003. After suggesting that perhaps it would be necessary to revise the Catechism section on just war (perhaps because it had been used by George Weigel and others to endorse a war the Church opposed), Ratzinger offered a deep insight that included but went beyond the issue of war Iraq:

"There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war'."

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Pope focused on scandal

According to Cardinal George

"I went up to him after he was elected, we kiss his hand, and I started speaking in my kind of halting German about promising obedience and love and asking for his prayers in return," George said Wednesday. "And he immediately responded in English -- much better English than I speak German -- that he remembered our conversation and that he would attend to that. So immediately he zeroed in on our last conversation, which was about the sexual abuse scandal."

Not long before the 115 cardinals entered the conclave to elect a new pope on Monday, George said he had had a conversation with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger about the sexual abuse scandal, the new laws that were instated several years ago governing the handling of such cases by the church in the United States, and, as he put it, "the need to maintain the canonical structures that we have used to address the scandal."

The new church laws, which require, among other things, that any Catholic clergyman with even one legitimate accusation of sexual abuse against him be removed from ministry, have to be renewed on a yearly basis.

"I wanted to be sure that I could respond to any questions he might have," George said. "We had a good conversation about that and he understood the need to do that, and he understood where we were coming from. He had followed the discussions by reading the minutes, not by being present, and had a good grasp of the situation. It was a very reassuring conversation."

Chicago's cardinal said he hoped news of the new pope's apparent keen awareness of the significance of the clergy sex abuse scandal to the life of the American church would be reassuring to victims of abuse and their supporters.

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No changes for now

Benedict keeping curial heads the same for now - of course he needs to appoint a CDF head...

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The bear

On Pope Benedict's episcopal seal, as Archbishop Ratzinger:

Apparently, the crest of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger contains the odd if not striking image of a bear carrying a pack upon its back. Pope Benedict XVI was inspired to choose this iconograpy because it represents, as the story goes, a saint who was on his way to Rome on horseback to deliver important documents. Along the dangerous path, the saint was attacked by a bear, who mauled and slayed the saint's horse. The saint whereupon chastised the bear for killing his horse, and then commanded the bear to carry the documents to Rome in the horse's stead.

Via Paragraph Farmer

Okay, I'm trying not get goofy about this pope , but it's getting harder every day. This, along with the last pages of Principles of Catholic Theology that I read last night that use Don Quixote as a way of explaining rethinking some reactions to the Second Vatican Council, is just getting me more intrigued, in a positive way.  I'm sure something's bound to come along that will tick me off or puzzle me, but this is just so...unique.

More on the bear, in this piece by Erica Walter

There's more too - the Saint in question is St. Corbinian, who was a missionary to Bavaria. He was reluctantly brought out from the life of a hermit by Gregory II to preach, and ended up as bishop of Freising.

Joseph Ratzinger, appointed Archbishop of Freising in 1977.

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April 20, 2005

Central Command

Maurice Timothy Reidy in TNR

Now, this one is worth discussing, IMHO:

In his years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger made a series of statements that would seem to provide a theological rationale for Vatican intervention in local diocese affairs. In a letter to Catholic bishops in 1992, he argued that "the universal church ... takes precedence, ontologically and temporally, over the individual local churches." The problem with this position, as the German Cardinal Walter Kasper noted at one point, was that Ratzinger's definition of the universal church seemed to be synonymous with the Roman church. Kasper worried that Ratzinger's arguments were simply an "attempt to restore Roman centralism."

There are several problems with the drive toward "Roman centralism." The first is theological. If the Catholic Church is truly to be catholic, then it must allow for some diversity at the local level. This is not a radical position, but one that has deep roots in the Catholic tradition. The Catholic notion of subsidiarity holds that no action should be done by a higher authority if a lower authority has the expertise to handle it. As Cardinal Kasper noted in a 2001 article in America magazine: "To grant freedom to local bishops to implement universal laws responsibly is within our tradition, not contrary to it."

The second problem with centralization is that it is impractical. It is impossible for the Pope and the curia to make informed decisions about matters around the globe. As Peter Steinfels, a former The New York Times religion reporter, argued recently in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, "With all the different cultures [in the church], it is very hard for everything to come from Rome." What's more, Steinfels said, Roman intervention has "inhibit[ed] creativity" among the bishops. In the early 1980s, the U.S. bishops were known for their politically astute statements on economics and the nuclear build-up. No such noteworthy statements have come from the bishops lately, in large part because the national conference is made up of bishops who are constantly looking over their shoulder, worrying what Rome might say. This seems unlikely to change under Benedict XVI.

John Paul II's failure to appoint and cultivate strong, independent bishops has seriously weakened the church worldwide. Here in the United States, it is one of the key reasons for the colossal mismanagement of the sexual-abuse scandal. In the future, the Church needs to return some power to local bishops and national bishop groups. This is not simply a matter of fairness. If the Church does not draw upon the expertise of local leaders, it risks scandal.

In many ways, Ratzinger's election is itself proof of the diminishing quality of the episcopate. When Pope John Paul II died, there were few proven leaders the cardinals could turn to, just so many loyal lieutenants. So they turned to Ratzinger, the closest thing to John Paul himself. The job of any leader is to create a new generation of leaders to take over for him when he leaves. John Paul failed in this regard. Let's hope Joseph Ratzinger has learned from his predecessor's mistakes--and his own.

I have arguments with some specifics. The American John Paul II bishops are an odd and uneven lot, but Desperately Seeking Papa's approval...they don't seem to be doing. And I don't know a soul who grieves the days of "listening sessions" leading up to the writing of those pastoral letters, the boring, tedious, instantly dated pastoral letters themselves, and then the stunningly dull, sparsely-attended workshops where we contemplated the reflection questions on section 2, paragraph b of that letter.

But the relationship of Rome to bishops, and bishops' councils is of import, and worth discussing, for things have not always been as they are.

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Breaking Faith

Another Amy writes at TNR

With their selection of Joseph Ratzinger to be the two-hundred-and-sixty-fifth pope, the men who lead the Catholic Church have signaled in no uncertain terms that they don't intend to go down without a fight. What they don't seem to have realized is that they don't have to go down at all. The papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, however, with his insistence on strict orthodoxy at all costs, may make the decline of the Church inevitable.

It didn't have to be this way. Ratzinger's election was never likely to be greeted with joy in some Catholic corners, but it could have merely indicated an uninspired choice. This could have been viewed as a vote in favor of stability (Ratzinger has been second-in-command at the Vatican for decades now) or a vote for a short papacy (he turned 78 on Saturday) or a vote to honor John Paul II (many have portrayed Ratzinger as his chosen successor). But coming on the heels of Ratzinger's throwing-down-of-the-gauntlet sermon, setting the Church in opposition to a "dictatorship of relativism," the implications of this choice suddenly became more profound. It will--and perhaps should--be read as an endorsement by the Conclave of Ratzinger's views and priorities. Popes don't need mandates; they are, after all, popes. But it won't be a surprise if this one claims a mandate nonetheless.

The problem is that the choice Ratzinger has posed--between the tyranny of relativism or the triumph of orthodoxy--is false. Ridding the Church of all insufficiently pure Catholics and taking an embattled stance against modernity may be one way to preserve the faith, but it is not the only (and surely not the most desirable) option. What's more, this strategy, while not new, was tempered in the recent past by John Paul II's optimism and tireless message of hope. Ratzinger, on the other hand, conjures up not hope but the image of a Church back on its heels, with fists raised. It's possible that Ratzinger will use his position to broaden an attack on relativism to include concerns shared by progressive Catholics--taking on, as he has in the past, the idea that killing is wrong except when it comes to the death penalty, or the dangers of a capitalistic system that casts people as commodities and judges them by their relative worth. If Ratzinger's opening salvo is any indication, however, he will more likely stick to a very narrow definition of moral absolutism while only occasionally throwing in other issues as seasoning.

Liberal Catholics do not want to see their Church led by cultural or social trends. Far from it, they understand that one of the powerful roles of the Church is to be steadfast throughout the ages. But it is one thing to be steadfast and another to be stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. The last time there was a widespread loss of confidence in the leadership of the Catholic Church, it resulted in the Reformation. For frustrated Catholics today, no such dramatic break is necessary. They don't have to start their own church. They already have the options of Protestantism and secularism. Now they have Pope Benedict XVI pushing them to take the plunge.

What Sullivan misses, totally and thoroughly, is the reason for the "moral absolutism" or whatever. In fact, "moral absolutism" doesn't even get it - it's about fidelity to Christ, and I'm wondering how much of Ratzinger's work Sullivan has read that leads her to characterize his thinking as a rule-obsessed quest to make stronger trouser zippers with any other concern tossed in as "seasoning."

I'm thinking - none.

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Varia from here and there

Romanitas, a blog dedicated to BXVI, by the mysterious proprietor of the Papabile Blog

A good post on the new Pope and courage from a blog that just happens to be named...Benedict

Great post by Presbyterian Mark Roberts on drawing lines

Lengthy, comprehensive post by Don Hawthorne at Anchor Rising

Add a linke to your "Best for Benedict" in the comments, if you like, and we'll all come visit.

(No matter what your views, mind you. Links from all over welcome)

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Five months old!

Habemus Fubu?

(Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for mentioning and linking to this!)

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First day on the job

Some tidbits:

From Zenit:

In the morning, "the Holy Father Benedict XVI visited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" -- over which he presided until John Paul II's death -- "where in a very cordial meeting, he greeted his men and women aides of the dicastery," confirmed a statement by the director of the Vatican press office, Joaquín Navarro Valls.

He was received by the secretary, Archbishop Angelo Amato, and members of the dicastery.

In a festive atmosphere, the Holy Father spoke briefly, greeted all the staff and explained the meaning of the choice of his name as Roman Pontiff, which is inspired by Benedict XV's pontificate, a man of peace, and in the role carried out by the co-patron of Europe, Benedict of Nursia.

Benedict XVI joked, recalling the words that Jesus said to his predecessor, the Apostle Peter, "when you are old, someone else will fasten your belt and lead you where you do not wish to go," causing laughter among those present.

I'm so interested that Benedict XV is apparently as important in the name choice as St. Benedict of Nursia. What a great history lesson the world (those who are listening) are getting, if they choose.

Takes a walk

The newly elected Pope, clothed completely in the distinctive white vestments of the papacy, caught onlookers by surprise when he chose to travel on foot, walking the few hundred yards to the apartment in the Citta Leonina where he had lived for years. When the news spread that the Pontiff was walking through the city, hundreds of people quickly gathered, and he spent some time in front of the apartment building, greeting the people and blessing young children. Italian police and Vatican security officials did their best to control the crowd, preserving some breathing room for the Pontiff.

After a short stay in his old apartment, the Pontiff reappeared, entering a black car that was waiting for him at the entrance of the building. He paused again to wave to the crowd, turning slowly from one direction to another so that he could greet as many as possible. The crowd burst into cheers of "Long live the Pope!" and the chant that has already become familiar: "Benedetto!" Pope Benedict later commented that he was "very moved" as he resumed direct contact with the faithful.

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"Birth Control is for Sissies"


Via Rachel at HMS

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Do you have pro-life checks?

Might want to check on them...

hat tip, Matt Abbott

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Worst caption of the day

...or week. Or month.

To a photo here, Don't know if Reuters or AP is responsible

The choice of conservative German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope divides Latin America, a region where he battled leftist priests and whose poor and hungry often cannot afford to follow Roman Catholic doctrine

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Big Tent v. Remnant

I'm going to make this short, and it will probably be inadequate. I closed a thread below because I didn't like it. No offense against anyone who posted, but I found some of the "You mean people are accusing everyone of being heretics" posts ill-founded and unfair, and some of the responses were less than helpful, in that they didn't quite match up to what the Church teaches and is all about.

This was basically prompted by Cardinal Ratzinger's past statements suggesting that the Church of the future might be smaller, even as it is more faithful to the Gospel.

Notice what the now-Pope does not say. He doesn't say this is fantastic. He doesn't say that this will be accomplished by kicking people out. He makes an observation that this well might be the case.

What struck me today, frankly, as I was scrubbing potatoes - was that the "orthodox" sometimes want to have it both ways. They tout the power and beauty of orthodoxy as a force that is attractive - orthodox dioceses have more vocations, orthodox religious orders are growing, mainline churches are in decline, etc.

But then they hop on Ratzinger's remnant allusions with vigor, as well.

I suppose it could be both ways, but I can't work that out right now.

But somehow this came to be an excuse for folks to state their displeasure with an exclusionary tone they detected in some posts - which was, in some cases, an accurate observation. I tried to address the exclusionary/inclusive issue below. Just a bit more:

The Catholic Church has been all over the place in this regard. In the Early Church, Christianity was, indeed, rather "exclusive," the process for entry was rigorous, and the consequences for serious sin quite harsh.

But then, things changed. Christianity was established, understanding of sin, reconciliation and baptism developed, and masses of Germanic tribes were incorporated into the Church.  The Mass, once the exclusive domain of the initiated who were also in communion in the broadest sense, was open to all - receiving Communion eventually became the point of self-judgment, but as far as being Christian and participating in worship...anyone could sit in the back of the cathedral or the parish, and it was generally fine.

(I've written of this at other times, as I've mulled over the disappearance of the Bad Catholic. We are all Good Catholics now.)

And do you know what? It's still fine. The Church, as we live it, is made up of saints and sinners, and everyone in between. It's big and messy. Most people sitting in the pews live with points of dissonance between their lives and the call of the Gospel. Most people sitting in the pews wonder, doubt, have difficulties with certain teachings, and question.

That's not what anyone - I think it's safe to say - is talking about in that thread below.

Because if each of us were totally honest, we would be able to bring out our own points of dissonance, the teachings which we believe, but find so hard to live, the teachings that don't make sense to us. Therese of Lisieux lived with doubt. Mother Teresa was tormented by it.

None of us - not one - has any right or place to judge the interior faith of another, and I don't think anyone here is trying to.

But public statements and assertions by public Catholics and Church leaders who speak ignorantly or misleadingly, who mischaracterize the teaching of the Church - that's another. Again, the call is not ours, although public statements certainly can legitimately bring on public responses. But still, wishes for anyone to separate themself from Christ and his Church are wrong.

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Sandro Magister

on Benedict XVI:

I don't have time to even excerpt but it's a must-read. So you must go read it.

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Go read...

this interesting post at Alicia's

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No Panzer Pope

In CT, from the invaluable Uwe Siemon-Netto of UPI, who's a Lutheran btw

The tenure of this 78-year old Bavarian on St. Peter's throne may be a relatively short one but it is bound to bring surprises. Coming from the land of the Protestant Reformation, this allegedly doctrinaire Catholic has already made it clear by his very actions the journey out of the "tyranny of relativism," whose properties are suspended ethical principles, must be an all-Christian enterprise.

Almost unnoticed by the world's media looking for sensations at the memorial service for John Paul II, Ratzinger quietly communed Brother Roger Schutz, the Swiss Protestant pastor and founder of the vibrant ecumenical community in Taizé, France.

Benedict XVI, arguably the foremost Catholic theologian of our time, has always been an ecumenist, though never a fuzzy one. If he gives the Sacrament to a member of another Christian church—and Schutz was not the only one—he makes it abundantly clear he consider this person a fellow member of the mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church.

This is not the way narrow-minded blockheads behave.

There is nothing stiff, hard or dogmatic about Benedict XVI. He is, as those close to him have always insisted, simply a "coherent thinker," and coherence is precisely what the confused secularized world appears to be longing for.

It is well worth listening to the ecumenical tenor of his vision for faith to leave its ghetto by going public with a property that is intrinsically its own—the suffering God (a favorite expression by Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer) who is also judge.

"This God," Ratzinger wrote in a frontal attack on postmodern relativism, "is the God setting standards for us; the God whence we originate and where we shall return."

Now, there's been discussion about Brother Roger...for example on this board at Ship of Fools. A member of the board just up and emailed Taize and asked - is Brother Roger RC or what now? The answer is somewhat enigmatic:

Thank you for your email asking about Brother Roger receiving communion at the recent funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II.

Perhaps the simplest answer to your question is to share with you a quotation from one of Brother Roger's most recent books:

“Can I recall here that my maternal grandmother discovered intuitively what was like a key to the ecumenical vocation and that she opened up a way of working it out for me? Marked by the witness of her life and following her example, and while still quite young, I found my own Christian identity by reconciling in myself the faith of my origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without rupture of communion with anyone.”

With warmest good wishes,

Brother Thomas

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On inclusion, exclusion and identity

Some things are so true: Christ invites each human being to answer his call. God desires the salvation of all. All are welcome to be a part of the Body of Christ, not because we need to fill up the room, but because that's God's will for humanity. If you don't get that, think back to the lessons of Genesis, jump forward to Revelation, and, in that context, try to understand what the Church is. It's the means by which God re-creates Creation, and it points to what that final restoration will look like, in the end.


It's inclusive, but - and this is what trips people up - not indifferent. For love is not indifferent, is it?

The Church isn't a club. It's an organic entity, joined by love of Christ, first, and then, flowing out of that, of others. And further, not just love of anyone - but love of God. When we love, we listen, we don't just do anything we please, we don't put ourselves at the center. Even more so when we love God.

So loving God, and answering his call to be His (the call of baptism) means a lifetime of molding ourselves to his image, to what he wants of us, for what he knows will be best for us and for the whole of creation.

Who is excluded from that?

Not a soul. Literally.

It is interesting to me that those who argue for a different definition of inclusivity also like to say that the Church isn't a collection of saints, but of sinners. They don't believe it though. They actually believe that the Church is a collection of saints, already canonized on earth, their behavior and choices beyond reproach, beyond judgment.

An authentic understanding of what this inclusive, sinner-filled Body is sees the whole dynamic rooted in love and mercy. I'm part of the Church, but that doesn't mean I'm perfect. It doesn't mean that I labor under the delusion that all of my choices are perfectly consistent with the Gospel. It means that I'm trying to live with the love of Christ in the center of my life, trying to figure out what that means day by day, trying to change, getting closer and closer to the point where I am more wholly defined by Christ rather than continually seeking to define Him.

So no matter what the specifics are, this is the core issue: are we shaping our lives according to the Gospel, or trying to re-shape the Gospel according to our own desires? For many of us, that's the source of the relief and joy at this new pontificate. This is what he's all about, and he understands what's at stake.

So yes, the Church is inclusive - inclusive of all who want to love Christ with the whole hearts, and are willing - with God's grace through prayer, the Word and the Sacraments - to let Him give them strength to do so. No matter how many times we fall on the way. Because we will.

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Watching the list

We like watching the Amazon lists. We're authors, so that's what we do.

Here's the list of religion top sellers. Ratzinger all day...except for Rick Warren cuddled in there at #6 between The Ratzinger Report and The Spirit of the Liturgy.

One of the things we've been puzzling about for weeks is how The How-To-Book of the Mass has gotten swept up in all of this - it's sold very well, regularly breaking 1000 on Amazon, and has often been one of only two or three non-Pope books. At this moment it's #71 on the general religion bestsellers.

Best to not wonder why - but if you pick it up, do get the new one, too. Michael says, "It's better than the first one." It's got a Joseph story in every chapter, too. A couple of his female co-workers (I think) said that they initially skipped through the book reading each "lesson from a three-year old" in every chapter. Well, I told him....I did, too!

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All I can say is that I'm dejected that I didn't think of "habemus pap:"


One story, linked by Blair, had this remark:

The election of Ratzinger to the papacy has disappointed the Ordination of Catholic Women who were hoping to begin a modern era with a new pope.

Habeum pap. Note: every era is the modern era to the people who inhabit it; a “modern” pope in 1937 would have announced that godless collectivism was the wave of the future, and ridden the trains to Auschwitz standing on top, holding gilded reins, whooping like Slim Pickens. The defining quality of 20th century modernity is impatience, I think – the nervous, irritated, aggravated impulse to get on with the new now, and be done with those old tiresome constraints. We’re still in that 20th century dynamic, I think, and we will be held to it until something shocks us to our core. Say what you will about Benedict v.16, but he wants there to be a core to which we can be shocked. And I prefer that to a tepid slurry of happy-clappy relativism that leads to animists consecrating geodes beneath the dome of St. Peter's. That will probably happen eventually, but if we can push it off for a century or two, good.

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"The Spirit of Vatican II"

Oh, there's fear in the land that Pope Benedict XVI has a sheaf of papers hidden in a drawer somewhere, ready to roll back - nay - rescind! - the decisions and guiding spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

Well, no. People who say that generally either don't understand what Vatican II was or are deliberately misrepresenting it.

If you're interested in this - in Benedict XVI's reputation as standing in opposition to the Council, please take a breath...and do some research, both on what V2 was all about and what the new Pope has said about it.

You might want to take a look at this interview, in which then-Cardinal Ratzinger says that one purpose of the Council was to rescue the Church from subjectivism and give it a public voice - 

"In the 19th century, in fact, the opinion had spread that religion belonged to the subjective and private sphere, and that it should limit its influence to these realms," he writes. "Precisely because religion was relegated to the subjective sphere, it could not be presented as the determinant force for the great course of history."

"Once the working sessions of the Council ended, it had to be made clear again that the Christian faith encompasses the whole of existence, it is the central pivot of history and time, and is not destined to limit its realm of influence" to the subjective, the cardinal adds.

He continues: "Christianity tried -- at least from the point of view of the Catholic Church -- to come out of the ghetto in which it was enclosed since the 19th century, and to be fully involved again in the world.

This is something I've said time and time again in relation to V2. When you study the life of J23, you see so clearly that his reasoning behind convening a council was just what B16 says - to bring down the barriers between Church and World not so that the Church could be "updated" because modernity is so cool, but so the Church could more powerfully preach the Gospel to a world which it understood, listened to, and whose language it spoke. Sometimes this involved making the externals of the Church - the language, the ritual - more accessible - but, most importantly, it was about entering the life of the world, so the Gospel could be preached. The central imagery of V2 is opening windows and doors. A popular misconception is that this imagery is supposed to evoke an "updating" so the Church is more "relevant" (implying that the teachings need to change). But no - it's an answer to Mt 28. Go out and preach.

Here's a well-done introduction to Vatican II

So as I said, part of that process involves looking at "how" the Church is, and discerning which aspects - of language, ritual, or even intellectual assumptions - are elements which were useful in another time, but today perhaps are obstacles to a modern person's hearing of the Gospel. It involves looking at new situations, challenges and ways of thinking that require a vigorous re-framing of the answers so that they make sense.

(Simply put: to hear the Good News as a 20-something web designer in San Francisco in 2005 might require the Church to go at it a bit differently than it did in preaching to a midwife in 15th century Paris. And so on.)

But do you see? The Gospel endures. What's being preached in every age, what the Church has been charged with, is the Good News: God created, God loves, God desires our heart, Jesus bridges the gap, Jesus saves, Jesus forgives, so are we called, and all else is straw, so why waste your time on anything else.

Somehow, in the last few decades, the impression has been left that this latter point is up for grabs, and that being a disciple means something else other than following Jesus. Really. Talk about re-defining. The impression has been left by preachers, teachers, and by the way in which too many Catholics have experienced liturgy.  The selective use of the Documents of the Council is breathtaking. That's not a Second Vatican Council problem, properly understood. That's a problem of misapplication, to put it mildly. What Cardinal Ratzinger has been determined to protect is that central core, and to make sure that it's very clear that this is what Catholic Christianity is about.

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The Conservative, Hardline, Author-i-tar-ian Blues


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From the newsroom

From someone who works at a secular newspaper:

When it was annouced Cardinal Ratzinger would become the next Popethere was an audible groan from our newsroom.  I did a little dance,and just barely refrained from pointing at people in a "you just got owned" manner.

On a tangent, is Triumphantism a mortal or venial sin? 

One of the editors then said, "I can't believe they picked such a

I then mentioned there are a few Cardinals who may be even more
traditional than Ratzinger.  She said, "So it could have been worse?"

To whit I replied, "Of course.  I'm just saying it could have been
better."  Within five minutes the first refrain of "wasn't he a Nazi?"
could be heard in the room.

Thank God I do something clean, like work in IT.

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Video links

A reader wants a link to video of yesterday's balcony scene. Any leads?

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Dems reach out

In NRO, on a Carville-authored memo on reclaiming the RC vote

The most insightful part of the Democracy Corps memo was its emphasis on the deep fault lines, among Catholics, on the overall direction of the Church. The authors note that "The debate is over whether the Catholic Church needs to become more modernized and adapt to an evolving society or whether the Church needs to return to its roots and become more tied to traditional Church teachings. White Catholics come down evenly on each side with 46 percent favoring a more modernized approach and 47 percent preferring a return to more traditional practices." The struggle between orthodoxy and heterodoxy spills over from the religious to the political and cultural realms. The divide can be traced directly to widely differing views on abortion and gay marriage. Greenberg and Hogan gamely assert that roughly a third of the traditionalists "align" with the Democrats, presumably, because of party affiliation and significant pluralities sharing discontent over the war in Iraq and current foreign policies, interest in social justice, and responsiveness to "middle-class advocacy," which means, for instance, populist resentment over big corporate salaries.

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B16's First Address

To the College of Cardinals this AM:

(Note the closed-minded refusal to dialogue. Note the arrogance.Note the smackdown of Vatican II. Oh? Really?)

"Grace and peace in abundance to all of you! In my soul there are two contrasting sentiments in these hours. On the one hand, a sense of inadequacy and human turmoil for the responsibility entrusted to me yesterday as the Successor of the Apostle Peter in this See of Rome, with regard to the Universal Church. On the other hand I sense  within me profound gratitude to God Who - as the liturgy makes us sing - does not abandon His flock, but leads it throughout time, under the guidance of those whom He has chosen as vicars of His Son, and made pastors.

  "Dear Ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II. It seems I can feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed to me especially at this moment: 'Do not be afraid!'
  "The death of the Holy Father John Paul II, and the days which followed, were for the Church and for the entire world an extraordinary time of grace. The great pain for his death and the void that it left in all of us were tempered by the action of the Risen Christ, which showed itself during long days in the choral wave of faith, love and spiritual solidarity, culminating in his solemn funeral.
  "We can say it: the funeral of John Paul II was a truly extraordinary experience in which was perceived in some way the power of God Who, through His Church, wishes to form a great family of all peoples, through the unifying force of Truth and Love. In the hour of death, conformed to his Master and Lord, John Paul II crowned his long and fruitful pontificate, confirming the Christian people in faith, gathering them around him and making the entire human family feel more united.
  "How can one not feel sustained by this witness? How can one not feel the encouragement that comes from this event of grace?
  "Surprising every prevision I had, Divine Providence, through the will of the venerable Cardinal Fathers, called me to succeed this great Pope. I have been thinking in these hours about what happened in the region of Cesarea of Phillippi two thousand years ago: I seem to hear the words of Peter: 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God,' and the solemn affirmation of the Lord: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church ... I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven'.
  "You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am reliving this very Gospel scene; I, the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the divine Master. If the weight of the responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous, the divine power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church'. Electing me as the Bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his Vicar, he wished me to be the 'rock' upon which everyone may rest with confidence. I ask him to make up for the poverty of my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of His flock, always docile to the inspirations of His Spirit.
  "I undertake this special ministry, the 'Petrine' ministry at the service of the Universal Church, with humble abandon to the hands of the Providence of God. And it is to Christ in the first place that I renew my total and trustworthy adhesion: 'In Te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum!'
  "To you, Lord Cardinals, with a grateful soul for the trust shown me, I ask you to sustain me with prayer and with constant, active and wise collaboration. I also ask my brothers in the episcopacy to be close to me in prayer and counsel so that I may truly be the 'Servus servorum Dei' (Servant of the servants of God). As Peter and the other Apostles were, through the will of the Lord, one apostolic college, in the same way the Successor of Peter and the Bishops, successors of the Apostles - and the Council forcefully repeated this - must be closely united among themselves. This collegial communion, even in the diversity of roles and functions of the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops, is at the service of the Church and the unity of faith, from which depend in a notable measure the effectiveness of the evangelizing action of the contemporary world. Thus, this path, upon which my venerated predecessors went forward, I too intend to follow, concerned solely with proclaiming to the world the living presence of Christ.
  "Before my eyes is, in particular, the witness of Pope John Paul II. He leaves us a Church that is more courageous, freer, younger. A Church that, according to his teaching and example, looks with serenity to the past and is not afraid of the future.  With the Great Jubilee the Church was introduced into the new millennium carrying in her hands the Gospel, applied to the world through the authoritative re-reading of Vatican Council II. Pope John Paul II justly indicated the Council as a 'compass' with which to orient ourselves in the vast ocean of the third millennium. Also in his spiritual testament he noted: ' I am convinced that for a very long time the new generations will draw upon the riches that this council of the 20th century gave us'.
  "I too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the Church. Precisely this year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly (December 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society.
  "In a very significant way, my pontificate starts as the Church is living the special year dedicated to the Eucharist. How can I not see in this providential coincidence an element that must mark the ministry to which I have been called? The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source of the evangelizing mission of the Church, cannot  but be the permanent center and the source of the petrine service entrusted to me.
  "The Eucharist makes the Risen Christ constantly present, Christ Who continues to give Himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of His Body and His Blood. From this full communion with Him comes every other element of the life of the Church, in the first place the communion among the faithful, the commitment to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel, the ardor of charity towards all, especially towards the poor and the smallest.
  "In this year, therefore, the Solemnity of Corpus Christ must be celebrated in a particularly special way. The Eucharist will be at the center, in August, of World Youth Day in Cologne and, in October, of the ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place on the theme "The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.' I ask everyone to intensify in coming months love and devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus and to express in a courageous and clear way the real presence of the Lord, above all through the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations.
  "I ask this in a special way of priests, about whom I am thinking in this moment with great affection. The priestly ministry was born in the Cenacle, together with the Eucharist, as my venerated predecessor John Paul II underlined so many times. 'The priestly life must have in a special way a 'Eucharistic form', he wrote in his last Letter for Holy Thursday. The devout daily celebration of Holy Mass, the center of the life and mission of every priest, contributes to this end.
  "Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel stimulated to tend towards that full unity for which Christ hoped in the Cenacle. Peter's Successor knows that he must take on this supreme desire of the Divine Master in a particularly special way. To him, indeed, has been entrusted the duty of strengthening his brethren.
  "Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.
  "Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that 'purification of memory,' which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.
  "The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all.
  "In this moment, I go back in my memory to the unforgettable experience we all underwent with the death and the funeral of the lamented John Paul II. Around his mortal remains, lying on the bare earth, leaders of nations gathered, with people from all social classes and especially the young, in an unforgettable embrace of affection and admiration. The entire world looked to him with trust. To many it seemed as if that intense participation, amplified to the confines of the planet by the social communications media, was like a choral request for help addressed to the Pope by modern humanity which, wracked by fear and uncertainty, questions itself about the future.
  "The Church today must revive within herself an awareness of the task to present the world again with the voice of the One Who said: 'I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.' In undertaking his ministry, the new Pope knows that his task is to bring the light of Christ to shine before the men and women of today: not his own light but that of Christ.
  "With this awareness, I address myself to everyone, even to those who follow other religions or who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address everyone with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to continue to build an open and sincere dialogue with them, in a search for the true good of mankind and of society.
  "From God I invoke unity and peace for the human family and declare the willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for true social development, one that respects the dignity of all human beings.
  "I will make every effort and dedicate myself to pursuing the promising dialogue that my predecessors began with various civilizations, because it is mutual understanding that gives rise to conditions for a better future for everyone.
  "I am particularly thinking of young people. To them, the privileged interlocutors of John Paul II, I send an affectionate embrace in the hope, God willing, of meeting them at Cologne on the occasion of the next World Youth Day. With you, dear young people, I will continue to maintain a dialogue, listening to your expectations in an attempt to help you meet ever more profoundly the living, ever young, Christ.
  "'Mane nobiscum, Domine!' Stay with us Lord! This invocation, which forms the dominant theme of John Paul II's Apostolic Letter for the Year of the Eucharist, is the prayer that comes spontaneously from my heart as I turn to begin the ministry to which Christ has called me. Like Peter, I too renew to Him my unconditional promise of faithfulness. He alone I intend to serve as I dedicate myself totally to the service of His Church.
  "In support of this promise, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, in whose hands I place the present and the future of my person and of the Church. May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, also intercede.
  "With these sentiments I impart to you venerated brother cardinals, to those participating in this ritual, and to all those following to us by television and radio, a special and affectionate blessing."

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Cardinal Mahony:

After Ratzinger was elected, Mahony said the new pope was asked what name he had chosen.

"He said, 'I'm going to take Benedict XVI,' but then went on to explain why, which is very interesting," Mahony said.

His first reason was that his namesake, Pope Benedict XV, reigned from 1914 to 1922 during World War I. "It was the worst scourge of war ever known on the face of the earth" at the time, Mahony said.

"So he said we still need to be working at peacemaking, reconciliation and harmony around the world," Mahony said.

The second reason offered by Ratzinger was that St. Benedict, who founded the Benedictine Order, said that "Jesus Christ is first and foremost. Everything else is secondary. [Ratzinger] said those are the reasons [he] chose the name."

At breakfast Tuesday, Mahony said Ratzinger inquired about the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as well as those of the other prelates present.

"He's someone that you could walk into a Starbucks [with] and sit down and have a coffee with and be totally at ease," Mahony said. "He's just delightful."

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Good point

From Kenneth Woodward in the WSJ

In this third and most important stage in his career, Benedict XVI might well recall the more optimistic days of Vatican Council II when the word "resourcement" was much in the Roman air. The idea was that the church could be renewed by a collective return to the sources of tradition--chiefly the Bible and patristic writings (of the early Church fathers). The hope was that in this way the church would find in its beginnings the inspiration to make itself anew. Having spent the last 26 years guarding the sources of church tradition, it is entirely possible that Benedict XVI will find in the papacy an opportunity to take the church in new and more fruitful directions. Popes are called to build on the past, not repeat it.

But the Catholic Church, it is worth recalling, is not a one-man show. All the media focus on Rome when a new pope is elected distorts the nature of the church itself. The problems and opportunities facing Catholics around the world cannot be solved by papal fiat or pontifical programs. Bishops and priests can help. But what the church needs most are Catholics who want to be Catholics, who know what that means, and who seek the grace to become true disciples of Christ. That they must do themselves.

And what the hysterics just don't get is that this is all linked: the "hard line" is to protect the integrity of the Gospel, of the faith, so that we indeed, know what it means, objectively, to be a Catholic, to be a disciple.

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George Neumayr

...has some priceless observations on an encounter with the then-Cardinal...and others.

..I went to the press conference as a suddenly respectable journalist, and found myself in a near-empty room with Ratzinger and some glaring bishops. Maybe two or three other reporters were also there. What I mainly recall was the stark contrast between a serene Cardinal Ratzinger and the dismal, shifty-eyed bishops surrounding him (Ratzinger was using San Francisco's seminary as a meeting spot to hold talks with bishops from North America and the Pacific region).

He projected an aura of self-possession, peacefulness and a quality bordering on good-humored bemusement, made more noticeable by the aspect of humorless desperation on the faces of American bishops who were soon to be exposed by the abuse scandal. I was permitted to ask a question of Cardinal Ratzinger, which I used to complain about the bishops' accommodation of pro-abortion Catholic public figures. Was supporting abortion a grave, communion-denying sin or not? I asked. Daniel Pilarczyk, the bishop of Cincinnati, sitting near Ratzinger, looked ready to beat me up. Ratzinger responded that if the Catholic public figure acts with knowledge and consent his "collaboration with abortion is a grave sin."

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Notes from the gatekeepers

From a reader:

Anyway, I know someone who works for one of the more prominent sees in the country.  The announcement of the new pope happened during work hours, and diocesan staff gathered around a TV to watch.  A large majority of them were VERY upset--cursing, storming out, that sort of thing.  Influential people in the chancery office, not just office clerks or whatever.

Something to think about as we wonder "what to expect."  I guess my
point is that if diocesan employees, big-shots included, are very
resistant, it's going to be tough for Pope Benedict to change things!

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Reader Bleg

From a reader who's part of a Reformed Christian denomination.

But, I have a question about a footnote Pope Benedict XVI or his
translator wrote in 2003 and I'm not sure who to turn to get the
answer.Maybe if you don't know you can forward it on...

In Communio 30 (Spring 2003, p 152, note 10--available on the Communio website) in an article entitled "Thoughts on the Place of Marian Doctrine and Piety in Faith and Theology as a Whole", the translator writes:

"In what follows, Ratzinger uses the word "Kirche," Church, without the definite article.  The reader should bear in mind that he is talking
about "Church" in its personal, Marian reality"

What does he mean when he speaks of ""Church" in its personal, Marian reality"?

Any ideas?

I'm thinkin'....Neil? Richard? Kevin?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (12)

What a good mother

My oldest son wants to know how they brought Dick Schapp back to life and made him pope.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (8)

April 19, 2005

Talking Heads

Congrats to Mark Shea and Kathy Shaidle for their MSNBC appearances. You guys did great!

Post here about any other great moments in punditry you've seen today. I saw a very tedious discussion on Scarborough with Buchanan, Bernstein, etc, that was all about ordaining women and contraception. Like that's what the Pope is mulling over tonight.

Here's the video link to my (and others') mention on CNN - thanks, Trey!!

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (30)

And now...the name.

You know, of course, that "Benedict" was #1 in the Irish betting pool, and had been, I think, the whole time. I wonder where it came from.

Now we explore the name. Perhaps at some point Benedict XVI will explain his choice himself, but until then, we can speculate.

The two most notable Benedicts frequently cited today are St. Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-550 - another brief bio here)  and Pope Benedict XV, who served from 1914-1922.

The ties to the first? St. Benedict developed his Rule during a time in which life in Europe was in shambles, in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire. His accomplishment, widely acknoweldged by secular and religious historians alike, was to formulate a way of life that somehow, miraculously, created oases of stability and learning during the period.

It's starting to be mentioned. As Cheeky Lawyer pointed out in a comment Cdl. Ratzinger gave an address at Subiaco, a location very important to Benedictine history (where Benedict retired as a hermit before he formed his community):

On April 1, when receiving the St. Benedict Award for the Promotion of Life and the Family in Europe, conferred by the Subiaco Foundation for Life and the Family, the dean of the College of Cardinals delivered an address on the present crisis of culture and identity, especially in the Old World.

After stating that "moral force has not grown apace with the development of science but, on the contrary, has diminished," Cardinal Ratzinger explained that "the most serious danger at this time is precisely the imbalance between technical possibilities and moral energy."

He gave two examples: the threat of terrorism and the possibility to manipulate the origin of human life.

The then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- almost all heads of Vatican dicasteries lost their posts when John Paul II died -- pointed out that "Europe has developed a culture that, in a way previously unknown to humanity, excludes God from the public consciousness, either by denying him altogether or by judging that his existence cannot be demonstrated, is uncertain and, therefore, somewhat irrelevant to public life."

An attempt is being made "to build the human community absolutely without God," the cardinal stressed.

"The rejection of reference to God is not an expression of tolerance which wishes to protect non-theist religions and the dignity of atheists and agnostics, but rather an expression of the desire to see God banished definitively from humanity's public life, and driven into the subjective realm of residual cultures of the past," he warned.

During his media appearances today, Fr. Fessio, a friend of Pope Benedict's, has been making this point as well. It's scattered through our comments, and then via Mere Comments we can read:

Culture of Life Foundation board member Father Joseph Fessio told CNN that the key to the name was not his predecessor, Pope Benedict XIV, but St. Benedict, the co-patron of Europe and the founder of western monasticism.

Interpreting the name as a nod to St. Benedict would indicate that the new pope would make defending the embattled faith in Europe central to his mission just as St. Benedict and the monastic movement he led was essential to the spread of Christianity on the Continent in the sixth century. Some time around 500 AD, St. Benedict left his studies in Rome because of the widespread corruption there and eventually formed a monastic community at Subiaco, 40 miles from the city. Benedictine monastic communities became centers of intense scholarship in Europe and are responsible for preserving and developing much of the Western tradition on the Continent, a point the Pope will likely want to emphasize to the new European Community which refuses to acknowledge Europe’s Christian roots.

I think this is the likeliest reason (because you know, I'm so in the loop on this), but the Benedict XV connections are interesting, as well:

The name could also be taken as a tribute to Pope Benedict XV who led the Church from 1914 to 1922 and oversaw the promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger helped produce the second edition of the Code of Canon Law. Following World War I, Turkish Muslims erected a statue of Pope Benedict XV in their homeland for his work with refugees during the war, a sign perhaps that Pope Benedict XVI will pursue peaceful relations with Muslim countries.

There's more to Benedict XV, of course - as pointed out before, at Catholic Ragemonkey (under the heading "home run!"

Of course, there are fourteen other Pope Benedicts.

The first, from the 6th century is mostly a mystery.

Go down the list of Popes and click on all of the Benedicts, if you're so inclined.

Me...I'm sticking with the St. Bendict explanation, with a dash of the Benedict XV presiding over human folly angle - myself.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (4)


The Benedictines pray

Fr. Shane Tharp with links to Benedict XV info (get that - XV - not XVI)

(via Alicia)

Great stuff from Dale Price

Comments from US priests who worked with him (via HMS)

"He is deeply concerned for the re-evangelization of Europe," Father Di Noia said. "He will want to reach young people in those countries very much in the way that Pope John Paul did."

The new pope's choice of a name also reflects that concern.

"Benedictine monasticism was one of the main roots by which the faith was transmitted all over Europe for 1,000 years," Father Di Noia said.

Nevertheless, Cardinal Ratzinger's colleagues do not expect him to be a strictly European pope.

"My idea of him is not of a German pope," Msgr. Scicluna said. "He is a pope for the universal church, and he has lived that in his ministry in the Roman Curia for 23 years."

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One of many

John Allen's 1999 profile of Ratzinger


Go to the Vatican site. Short and sweet

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What to expect?

That, of course, is the next question.

Somewhere today - I don't remember where - maybe it was on this comment board! - someone doubted that Pope Benedict's (so strange. I feel like it's 1916 or something. Or earlier.) emphasis will be on doctrinal issues, "enforcement." He's been head of the CDF for ages...been there, done that. Obviously, from his homily yesterday, we can see that clarify and preserving faithful Gospel teaching is a priority. But there are other problems, other issues - it will be interesting to see how the Pope will address those issues and who he will put in place to help him do so.

My prediction is that liturgy will take a front seat and that even more heads will explode the first time he celebrates ad orientem.


...who knows? I'm still hoping and willing to be surprised. There are enormous problems facing our church and world, and I am looking forward to seeing how Pope Benedict confronts them.

It's not a time for Hey! Smackdown coming! It's not a time for despair - I would hope. Don't start with what you think you know about Joseph Ratzinger. Start with what he's said, himself, over the past two weeks. Then go from there. I think when we do that, we all end up a lot closer together than we thought.

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Welcome new readers...

If you've come here fresh today, from mentions of this blog on cable news..welcome!

All are welcome to comment. All are welcome to (ahem) take a look at some of my and my husband's books (linked on the right. Click on covers).

Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts about Pope Benedict XVI, the Church and the world!

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What does it mean?

I'm sitting here, still trying to absorb all of this.

I'm not even talking about the bare fact of Cardinal Ratzinger being elected Pope.

I'm talking about the intense interest, the breathless suspense, the reaction - the vast majority of it celebratory and grateful.

All channeled to us via the press, which seemed to be celebrating along with us.


If you can remember such things, put yourself back in time - say about 10 or 12 years - and imagine learning that one day, Joseph Ratzinger would be elected Pope and a lot of American Catholics would celebrate that fact, and that the media would give us fantastic images of the event, sometimes standing back in quiet respect, sometimes getting caught up itself, and only occasionally sniping.

Would you have believed it?

I just keep thinking...why? To what are we all (aside from the Ratzinger Fan Club!) reacting and responding to? Why is this so interesting and yes, exciting, even for people far less intensely hooked to Catholicism or even Christianity, than I? Why was Chris Wallace getting chills? Why were the other anchors like kids on Christmas?

Part of it was, indeed, the drama. You can't do any better than this - in magnificent buildings, on historic, sacred ground, all eyes on what looked like a rather rickety chimney, looking for, of all things - smoke.

Like incense rising to heaven. Like a sacrifice being offered to God.


But of an indeterminate color. More suspense, so our eyes turned to the bells. Looking for the slightest movement, a beginning of a peal, just a hint.

And it came...and the crowd erupted, and from the streets of Rome, they streamed, pouring out of buildings. Curious, excited, grateful, some just along for the ride, some to be a part of history, some in prayer and hope.

Called to gather, to hear news. Called by smoke from a chimney and called by the intonation of a bell.

Come. Come now - together.

Habemus Papam...such joy I saw on the faces. Again the question - why? Of course we would have a pope. It wasn't as if one wouldn't get elected. But we didn't even know who he was? Why were we happy? Would we meet him personally? Probably not - our lives would still be centered around our parishes, our prayer corners in our own homes, the quiet chapels or places in the wild where we like to pray.

But...we were still overjoyed. Even the skeptics were caught up in it.


I think it might because of this.

What else has lasted? What else that we daily touch, see, hear and discuss has lasted for 2000 years? We cannot trace our biological families back so far. Most of us don't live in countries that old - although a few do! Even those who do don't dwell under governments and social structures, reading and living out of the same texts their ancestral countrymen did millenia ago.

We gripe about change. We wonder how all of this fits with our modern world.

But in our hearts, we are looking for what lasts. We are looking for what endures. What was planted firmly in the words and deeds and promises of One who walked and loved centuries ago, that has tried to preserve those words and deeds faithfully and to continue ministering in His name, and what speaks to us..through ancient ceremony, art and those very words echoes by the One - promising us that the solidity, the beauty, the faithfulness we see are but faint hints of what is to come, what waits for us.

I'm not sure, but I think this is part of it. What I saw today thrilled me, not because I was a partisan of one candidate or another - as I said last week, I was ready to be surprised - and I was. Pleasantly, the more I think about it.

But what thrilled me the most was the living presence of Jesus - not in one individual, not in a hope for any particular "direction" of the future, but just in the whole event, which was more than event, which reached back, looked forward and drew us all in, eyes focused on what Benedict XVI spoke of - God deigning to use his humble servants to see His will accomplished - to treasure each human life, to care for the poor, to share mercy and forgiveness, a call  sent out and answered for millenia...

To hear the bell...and to come.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (18)

God doesn't want me on TV

That's all I can conclude.

I go all the way to New York City....my segment doesn't get on.

While in AZ, I get called to be on MSNBC, but you know...I was in Arizona, and it didn't work out.

Today, two calls. But here in the Second Largest City in Indiana, apparently no one has the means to do an uplink for national broadcast.


(But I understand the blog was mentioned on MSNBC. Ah well, that's what matters. The Work.)

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From the Vatican Information Service:

VATICAN CITY, APR 19, 2005 (VIS) - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Supreme Pontiff, the 264th successor of Peter, and has chosen the name Benedict XVI.
  The cardinal proto-deacon made the solemn announcement to the people at 6:43 p.m. from the external loggia of the Hall of Blessings of the Vatican Basilica following the white smoke which occurred at 5:50 p.m.
  Following are the words of Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez:
   Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
habemus Papam;
Eminentissium ac Reverendissium Dominum,
Dominum Josephum
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger
Qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI
(I announce to you with great joy;
We have a Pope;
The most eminent and most reverend Lord
Lord Joseph
Cardinal of Holy Roman Church Ratzinger
Who has taken the name Benedict XVI

The conclave that led to the election of Benedict XVI began on Monday, April 18, 2005 in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, with the "extra omnes" pronounced at 5:25 p.m. by Archbishop Piero Marini, master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, following the taking of the oath by the 115 cardinal electors.

  The first black smoke took place at 8:04 p.m. the same day.
  On Tuesday, April 19, there was black smoke at 11:52 a.m..
  On Tuesday, April 19, there was white smoke at 5:50 p.m.
  At 6:48 p.m., the Holy Father Benedict XVI, preceded by the Cross, appeared on the external loggia to greet the people and to impart the Apostolic Blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and to the world).
  Prior to the blessing, the new Pontiff addressed the faithful with the following words:
  "Dear Brothers and Sisters,
  "After the great Pope John Paul II, the Lord Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to act, even with inadequate instruments and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the Risen Lord, trusting in His permanent help, as we go forward the Lord will help us, and His Mother, Mary Most Holy, is on our side Thank you."
OP/ELECTION BENEDICT XVI/...     VIS 050419 (380)
VATICAN CITY, APR 19, 2005 (VIS) - Following is the official biography of the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:
  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission, Dean of the College of Cardinals, was born on April 16, 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Germany. He was ordained a priest on June 29, 1951.
  His father, a police officer, came from a traditional family of farmers from Lower Bavaria. He spent his adolescent years in Traunstein, and was called into the auxiliary anti-aircraft service in the last months of World War II. From 1946 to 1951, the year in which he was ordained a priest and began to teach, he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Munich and at the higher school in Freising. In 1953 he obtained a doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled: "The People and House of God in St. Augustine's doctrine of the Church." Four years later, he qualified as a university teacher. He then taught dogma and fundamental theology at the higher school of philosophy and theology of Freising, in Bonn from 1959 to 1969, in Munster from 1963 to 1966, and in Tubinga from 1966 to 1969. From 1969, he was professor of dogmatic theology and of the history of dogma at the University of Regensburg and vice president of the same university.
  He was already well known in 1962 when, at Vatican Council II at the age of 35, he became a consultor to Cardinal Joseph Frings, archbishop of Cologne. Among his numerous publications, a particular post belongs to the "Introduction to Christianity," a collection of university lessons on the profession of apostolic faith, published in 1968; and to "Dogma and Revelation" an anthology of essays, sermons and reflections dedicated to the pastoral ministry, published in 1973.
  In March 1977, Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Munich and Freising and on May 28, 1977 he was consecrated - the first diocesan priest after 80 years to take over the pastoral ministry of this large Bavarian diocese.
  Created and proclaimed cardinal by Paul VI in the consistory of June 27, 1977, he assumed the titles of the suburbicarian Church of Velletri-Segni (April 5, 1993) and of the suburbicarian Church of Ostia (November 30, 2002).
  On November 25, 1981 he was nominated by John Paul II as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and as president of the Biblical Commission and of the Pontifical International Theological Commission.
  He was relator of the 5th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1980).
  He was president delegate to the 6th Synodal Assembly (1983).
  Elected vice dean of the College of Cardinals November 6, 1998, the Holy Father approved his election, by the order of cardinal bishops, as dean of the College of Cardinals on November 30, 2002.
  As President of the Commission for the Preparation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, after 6 years of work (1986-92) he presented the New Catechism to the Holy Father.
  He received an honoris causa degree in jurisprudence from the Free University of Maria Santissima Assunta on November 10. 1999.
  He became an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, November 13, 2000.
  Curial Membership:
- Secretariat of State (second section).
- Oriental Churches, Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Bishops, Evangelization of Peoples, Catholic Education (congregations).
- Christian Unity (council).
- Latin America, Ecclesia Dei (commissions).
OP/BIO:BENEDICT XVI/...      VIS 050419 (590)
VATICAN CITY, APR 19, 2005 (VIS) - This evening, immediately after the election of the new Pontiff, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name of Benedict XVI, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls made the following statement to journalists:
  "The conclave having ended, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has decided to eat this evening with all the other cardinals in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he will also spend the night.
  "Tomorrow morning at 9, the Pope will preside the Eucharistic Celebration with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel and will deliver the homily in Latin.
  "The Mass for the solemn inauguration of the pontificate will be celebrated at St. Peter's on Sunday, April 24 at 10 a.m."

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Who's happy today?

Ignatius Press is happy today. Yup.

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Talking Points

Help your fellow Catholics: Post links, points to make when answering peoples' questions and fears about the new pope. Debunk some myths, get specific.

(By the way - Chris Matthews is at this moment singing his praises...)

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The case for Ratzinger

From Andrew Greeley

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Believe it or not..

I gotta go. Swimming lessons wait for no Pope. Use this thread to...talk.

Cover the coverage, too.

I will say that after he picked himself up off the floor, Fr. McBrien gave some mad props to Ratzinger's humble and self-effacing demeanor.

The weird thing about a Pope not coming out of nowhere is that you're so familiar with him as something else...Cardinal, head of the CDF..that it's hard to think of him as...Pope. Which is another good fruit of taking a new name, I suppose...Pope Benedict XVI!

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (47)




(Chris Blosser....Get a new server, friend!)

O'Brien: I'm surprised by the choice, ande surprised by the name..Bendict the 15th was a Pope who was a moderate and tried to bring the Church together. There is going to be a lot of shocked reaction to this election..but I think in fairness to the new Pope, he needs to have time to establish himself. The office itself can transform the holder. Cites Romero.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (171)

You know..

Some of us spend time grousing about these modern days and all of their problems. But...isn't this a blessing?

To be able to watch this as it happens from across the world, to be able to see our communion - real, joined together through Christ - in living color, to share our joy via this medium, to see right before us what the Body of Christ is, what it looks like, what it sounds like, and the promise of what it can be..

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Chris Wallace..."I have shivers up my spine"

So do I...

(Two net commentators, including Weigel, have predicted Ratzinger.)

For me, the most thrilling sight are the people streaming into the Square, to hear good news, responding to the call of the bells...as Catholics used to do...as Catholics have done for centuries..

Commentors pointing out how international the crowd is..how universal the Church is. An MSNBC person commenting on the number of young people.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (54)


Good stuff. Wonderful shots of all the crowds in St. Peter's. Flocks of religious, ordinary folk, excited young people. John Allen says, "They're standing in for all of us who are watching."

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Black smoke.

Another day.

Or is it? They're arguing...no bell, though.

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Open Thread

Enter today's fevered speculation here!

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EJ Dionne takes up the charge, and I'm torqued and irritated.

The modern world, Ratzinger insisted, has jumped "from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, up to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and on and on."

Those are fighting words. They guaranteed that Ratzinger, who was Pope John Paul II's enforcer of orthodoxy, will either set the church's course -- or offer his fellow cardinals the ideas they choose to react against. Decades from now many conservative Catholics will see the war against the "dictatorship of relativism" as their central mission. It's not a line you forget.

What makes this papal election so unusual is not the normal disagreement over specific issues. The odd part is that the cardinals disagree fundamentally over what the election is really about because they differ in their judgments of what are the most important issues confronting the church.

Ratzinger, who is German, spoke for the conservative side of a culture-war argument that is of primary interest to Europe and North America. When Ratzinger said on Monday that "to have a clear faith according to the church's creed is today often labeled fundamentalism," his words were undoubtedly welcomed by religious conservatives far outside the ranks of the Catholic Church. One can also imagine that liberals of various stripes shuddered.

But for the many cardinals here from the Third World -- 20 of the 115 voting are from Latin America, 11 from Africa, 10 from Asia -- the battle over relativism is far less important than the poverty that afflicts so many of their flock. Some of these cardinals -- Claudio Hummes of Brazil is a representative figure -- may share points in common with Ratzinger on doctrine. But for them the struggle against suffering and social injustice is part of their lives every single day.

Do you think that Dionne could even come close to grasping that relativism isn't good for the poor either? That, truth be told, those who seek to assist the poor do so because they believe that it's an obligation to do so, born of love, or even that we are commanded to do so, with no, "well, it's right for you to help the suffering, but it's cool for me not to..." about it?

If you care to, go back and read what Cardinal Ratzinger actually said in his homily, and then return to Dionne's slapdash, template-pleasing treatment of it.

And before you read on here, note that Dionne has already decided that the papal election is a mandate on Ratzinger's theology and "policies." If he's not elected Pope, then that means that the Church, in the person of the Cardinals, has rejected his perspective:

Ratzinger, in other words, is now central to two very different dynamics inside the conclave. Cardinals will be asked to decide -- by voting for or against him or someone he favors -- whether Ratzinger's theological approach is right. And they will decide whether Ratzinger's priorities involve the things that matter.

As if Ratzinger's priorities are some Teutonic quirk. I'm not denying divisions and differences of opinion and yes...priorities for the Church, but Dionne's analysis ignores the fact that there might be other reasons for rejecting Ratzinger...his age. His health. He doesn't want it and makes it known.

Further, it doesn't follow that the election, say, of a Pope from a developing nation automatically means that Ratzinger's concern that the teachings of the Church be clearly taught and carefully preserved are  being..."rejected."  Could it be possible that Cardinals might be both/and rather than either/or guys?

(Oh, and before you go on - heh.)

The first part  of the homily is about mercy. About the incredible love of God who

... in the person of the Son, suffers for us. The more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we draw closer in solidarity with his suffering – and become willing to bear in our flesh “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1, 24).

That's the root of what follows. We love then, because God loved us first. Faith is borne of love - our loving response to God's love in creating and redeeming us.

Then Ratzinger moves to what faith means, and in particular adult faith, drawing on Paul:

We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today!

Then follows the offending paragraph:

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

Here's what I want to know from Dionne and others (like Bob Shrum on Hardball. Bob Shrum? Why? Somebody enlighten me). What's specifically and particularly incorrect about what Ratzinger says here? What's he wrong about, in regard to the environment in which Catholicism has lived over the past century? What's incorrect in his words about relativism?

And what's the alternative view to Ratzinger's, as expressed here? And what's better about it?

Oh...that "one's own ego and one's own desires" part. Yeah. Sorry.

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Interesting perspective...

Eugene Robinson in the WaPo, reflecting on some time spent with an isolated Amazon tribe, some missionaries...all in relation to the conclave

At dusk Damioli would celebrate Mass. Amid the screech and chatter of unseen monkeys, as far from the modern world as you could get, the nuns would raise their sweet voices in song. It was one of the most poignant sounds I have ever heard.

That was what I thought of as the crimson-clad cardinals began their deliberations. The Roman Catholic Church is unique in its size, complexity and reach. It is able to deploy people with enough stamina and self-denial -- and, yes, enough faith -- to spend years in the middle of the jungle, bringing worldly succor to people who otherwise would perish. That's one big, undeniable reason why it matters whom the cardinals choose.

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A Shepherd

Bishop Wenski with an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel

Many, of course, will try to read much into their deliberations in these next few days. And too many will unfortunately interpret much of what they see or what they imagine they see through the prism of their own experiences with the world of power politics. But the College of Cardinals is more than just some party caucus. These men are not the power brokers the media sometimes depict them to be. They, of course, are men -- which is to say, they are sinners to one degree or another like the rest of us; but they are men of prayer and men of communion, that is to say, men of the church. The dealings of the conclave -- as they vote to select a new pope to lead the universal church at the beginning of a new millennium -- have little to do with the love of power but much to do with the power of love. They are not a board of directors looking to hire a new CEO of Vatican Inc. They are not looking for a hired man but for a shepherd, a shepherd who has the heart and mind of the Good Shepherd, himself. They are looking for a good shepherd who will lay down his life for the sheep.

His task will be like that of John Paul II and those who preceded him: to tend to and to feed the sheep. He will be entrusted to hand on the gospel in its entirety.

That is the pope's job -- and that is the task of each one of us, really -- the message of the gospel is entrusted to us to share with the world. It is not for us, or for any future pope, to alter it to suit to the changing fashions of the world. And those who speculate that the election of a new pope will bring changes to core church teachings are sure to be disappointed. For, the challenge before the next pope and each one of us who wish to follow Christ faithfully is not to change our faith but to live it and to allow it to change us.

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Jay was right..

Jay Anderson made a comment predicting that a first ballot in which Ratzinger didn't win would be spun as a smackdown.

He was right. I don't remember the exact words, but it was something like, "Cardinal Ratzinger, a strong supporter of John Paul II's hardline policies, and a favorite going into the conclave, failed to win on today's first ballot."

Of course, 114 other cardinals "failed to win," but it's not implied that their failures are expressive of their fellow cardinals' rejection of their stances.

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April 18, 2005

Yanks need not apply

Brendan Minter on why US Cardinals aren't in the running

Nonetheless, it has come to pass then that in the U.S., once-mighty and still-grand churches go through the motions of celebrating Mass, but too often priests can only look out helplessly on nearly empty pews and wonder what they can do to bring the people back. There are 60 million Catholics in this country--many with deep pockets--yet many Catholic schools are closing. These schools were once institutions that gave parents a reason to come back to the parish and made them active in running the church, but no more. Amazingly some of these schools will soon close in New York City, even as the public schools in the city continue to offer a pathetic imitation of an educational system.

Where has the leadership of the church been? There are plenty of decent men in the American clergy. Boston's Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley, who wears sandals and more traditional robes, appears to understand how far his church has fallen. Upon taking over for Cardinal Law in 2003, he promptly announced he was taking up residence in a small apartment across town from the grand chancery that had housed his predecessor. "We no longer need all the symbols of the past, especially when those symbols now seem ambiguous at best and a contradiction of some of our Gospel values at worst," he said in making the announcement. That's a sentiment that needs to be repeated throughout the country, but that it needs saying at all shows that such leaders are too often the exception rather than the rule in America.

Washington's Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick is over in Rome now and reportedly was a hit among his fellow cardinals before they all sequestered themselves into the secretive Conclave. He has always struck me as a prayerful and fundamentally good man. But like every other American cardinal, he's not likely to emerge as pope while the American Catholic church remains in disarray. That this is the case, is a disgrace. The United States is now the leading moral force in the world. Why can't the same be true for the American Catholic Church?

And so on. With all due respect, this piece is whack.

If numerical strength and growth is a critereon, as Minter says, then why in the world would any European cardinal be considered? With a couple of exceptions, the European Catholic Church is is far worse shape than the US church.

And as for the sexual abuse scandal, and the episcopacy's problems in regard to that? As a disqualification? I wish, and I hope, but the truth is there are problems all over the world in this regard, and not just with sexual abuse of children, but with priests not living celibate lives, and I've not seen any evidence of any cardinal being terribly interested in fixing it. Further, SNAP points out five "leading candiates" with less than ideal records, in both word and deed, on the clerical sexual abuse issue, and none of them are North Americans.

Finally, let's be really honest here. Think of the most frequently-mentioned papabile. One speaks a dozen languages. Another has an impressive theological resume. Yet another is a scholar of this discipline or that.

Do you see a theme? And...do you see many American Cardinals with that sort of intellectual pedigree? (One, I'm thinking of.)

Well, if it's not brains at issue, perhaps it's a committment to the poor, to effectively engaging the powers that be, and so on.


No, it's just a different pedigree of churchman, with an exception here or there. Not saying it's good or bad. Perhaps it's the particular situation here, that calls for different gifts and skills. Perhaps the experience of the European church tells us that the scholar-bishop is of limited utility.

But I am saying that Minter's piece doesn't even begin to understand the differences between the American cardinals (read: episcopate) and that of the rest of the world.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (30)

TNR Conclave

I missed this until today. The New Republic Virtual Conclave, featuring a collection of pieces advocating various cardinals.

Today, a writer named Erica Walter makes the case- "humility" - for Ratzinger

All of which explains why Ratzinger has emerged as the front-runner. But these attributes, while important, are not necessarily the reasons I favor him. Rather, it's his humility, indeed his lack of desire for the job, that I find most compelling. Anyone who has seen him up close (as I have) knows the reality of the man confounds his image as an enforcer. Shy and soft-spoken, he possesses a scholar's temperament and in his youth was considered a theological innovator. He often wins over the wary after personal meetings. Many Protestant theologians in Germany and America, for example, speak warmly of him after engaging in scholarly give and take. Far from being power mad, he has for years pleaded to be allowed to resign from his office and return to teaching, but John Paul wouldn't consent.

...and extends it to his theological method:

Ratzinger's theology possesses a somewhat biblical character and also bears the stamp of the early Church Fathers, particularly St. Augustine, who lived during the fifth century. This is an interesting divergence from John Paul II, whose theology was deeply indebted to St. Thomas and more philosophical in its point of origin. Ratzinger typically starts with the Word or with the Church, whereas the Pope often started with man's experience. As a result, Ratzinger and the John Paul can be viewed in contrast--the former more of a theologian, the latter more of a philosopher.

Another writer for Schonborn

This straight talk served Schonborn well when a sex scandal erupted at a Franciscan seminary in Austria last year. Early in 2004, a stash of child pornography was discovered at St. Polten, a training school for priests led by the rigidly conservative Bishop Kurt Krenn. It wasn't long before the police got involved and not much longer before a local magazine found photographs of the rector and deputy rector of the seminary fondling students. Krenn dismissed the actions as "boyish pranks," but Schonborn was in no mood for excuses. "In a Roman Catholic seminary there is no room for pornography," he told The New York Times, just before forcing Krenn to resign and overseeing a series of tough reforms. Since then, Schonborn has quietly urged the Church to drop its cloak-and-daggers approach to abuse allegations and deal with them openly.

Ross Douhat for Arinze

So while raising Arinze to the Papacy would be a risky move, a leap of faith, such a leap might be exactly what the Church needs to take. What could be more quintessentially Christian, after all, than a pontiff from the world's poorest continent? Not only would Arinze be a natural spokesman for the downtrodden and oppressed, but his elevation would be a pointed reminder that as Saint Paul put it, in Christ "there is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female." And no longer black or white, as well.

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A different sort of Rome story

Charges filed, indictments handed down in the decades-old case of "God's Banker"

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Off topic

But a comment brought this to mind. He said that the Desert Nuns' website will freeze Firefox browsers.

Michael's been using Firefox on his computer(s), and I'm still IE. When using his on the road, I notice weird things. My Here.Now. page is centered, while on IE - it's not. The banner on top of this page sort of floats under text. Other stuff, too.

So: compare and contrast the two. And how can the idiot amateur web designer make sure her web pages are equally pretty in all browsers?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (16)

Cardinal Ratzinger's Homily

From today's Mass

The other element of the Gospel to which I would like to refer is the teaching of Jesus on bearing fruit: “I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15, 16). It is here that is expressed the dynamic existence of the Christian, the apostle: I chose you to go and bear fruit….” We must be inspired by a holy restlessness: restlessness to bring to everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. In truth, the love and friendship of God was given to us so that it would also be shared with others. We have received the faith to give it to others – we are priests meant to serve others. And we must bring a fruit that will remain. All people want to leave a mark which lasts. But what remains? Money does not. Buildings do not, nor books. After a certain amount of time, whether long or short, all these things disappear. The only thing which remains forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity. The fruit which remains then is that which we have sowed in human souls – love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching the heart, words which open the soul to joy in the Lord. Let us then go to the Lord and pray to him, so that he may help us bear fruit which remains. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.

In conclusion, returning again to the letter to the Ephesians, which says with words from Psalm 68 that Christ, ascending into heaven, “gave gifts to men” (Eph 4,8). The victor offers gifts. And these gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Our ministry is a gift of Christ to humankind, to build up his body – the new world. We live out our ministry in this way, as a gift of Christ to humanity! But at this time, above all, we pray with insistence to the Lord, so that after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, he again gives us a pastor according to his own heart, a pastor who guides us to knowledge in Christ, to his love and to true joy. Amen.

Yeah, that rat Ratzinger. So intent on oppression, repression and legalism.

Yeah, that Catholic Church. So distant from the Gospel. So tenuously connected to Jesus.

Listen. And respond. We can't cast votes in the conclave, but we can do something else, every day, every moment. We can answer the call, we can accept the friendship and join our hearts to His.

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Notes from the Mall..

I have something to buy at JC Penney's. I hunt down the nearest cashier. There's one elderly lady in line, so that looks promising, but it turns out she's getting a credit card. It takes a long time. Have to take squirming baby out of the stroller. Joseph's getting antsy. Elderly lady starts talking to Joseph, takes out her cel phone (he has grabbed mine from my purse) and starts having a conversation with him, keeping him occupied 'til her business is done.

Little things, folks. Little things that make others' lives easier. Be mindful. And be grateful when others do those little things for you.

Moment two: walking to the elevator, which is the Home Decor section. An Amish couple stops at the consulting desk.

"We're looking for venetian blinds."

"Oh," the consultant says, "Will you be wanting an interior designer to come to your home?"

Couple glance at each other.


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Let the fevered, hysterical speculation begin!!!

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I'm thinking a lot about the great coverage of and interest in the election of a new Pope. Trying to figure out why the world cares, and what that expresses. Working on it. It's hard when a 5-month old is under attack form a dinosaur. But I'll get there later today.

In the meantime, you all must read Neil's comment in this thread.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink

Another deliberative body..

Too funny. The Idaho legislature considers a bill commending the makers of Napoleon Dynamite. More amusing than the film, actually.


WHEREAS, tater tots figure prominently in this film thus promoting Idaho's
most famous export;

Via Reel News


Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (6)

Desert Nuns

Mother Angelica's order...branching out.

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I'm just going to say..

That the most useful commentary on all of the nets and cable is Weigel, and I'm not just saying that because I've worked with him.  He's informative, not pietistic, respectful, knowledgeable, and without an evident ax to grind. A relief.

And Fr. McBrien on ABC....sigh.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (25)

Let Michelangelo Teach You

As the Cardinals process, the Pope's wishes for them are useful to consider:

The pontiff wrote, "During the conclave, Michelangelo must teach them - Do not forget: All things are naked and open before His (God's) eyes. You who see all, point to him! He will point him out."

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)

You decide

Cardinals in Conclave:

A)Impressive expression of the continuity of historic, apostolic Christianity, a process evolved in a direction to allow those charged with the voting to focus on the promptings on the Spirit, apart from inappropriate influences from the outside


B)Out-of-touch old men in outdated clothes engaged in a closed process evolved in a direction in a way designed to keep the real concerns of the real world - especially those of women and the poor - out.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (16)

Covering the Coverage

Part ...what?

I'm watching FoxNews right now. Good, nonintrusive. Some priest - I don't know who - offering commentary.  Lots of talk of how unprecendented this is, which is sort of impressive.

CNN - Christiana Amanapour (bleh - although she's restraining herself), with John Allen  and Delia Gallagher on color commentary.

EWTN - Raymond Arroyo w/the woman from the Vatican press office, and Fr. Neuhaus.

What's interesting is that at this moment - during the procession, the chanting of the Litany of the Saints - everyone's quiet and letting us listen. It requires no explanation. It stands on its own - the effect of the names, calling on the prayers of the saints - and we join our prayers to theirs.

It is a powerful witness to what the Church is, and the continuity which is such a vital part of our identity.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (7)

This Pope Stuff

What's the deal?

What does it - the process, the attention - say about Catholicism and Christianity?

Why does it matter to anyone butr Catholics?

I'll add my thoughts in a bit - as distractions permit - but you can get going, if you like, remembering that many, many people who aren't Catholic are reading this.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (15)

Conclave Poem

Michael quotes a poem on a Conclave - written by John Paul II

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About the stove:

From the Vatican Information Service:

This afternoon, 115 cardinals from all over the world will come together in the Sistine Chapel to begin the process of electing a new pope.

  The interior of the Sistine Chapel has been prepared with 12 tables, six on each side; the lectern with the Gospels upon which the cardinals will take their oath; the table holding the urns in which the ballots will be collected, and the stove used to burn them with the chimney from which the smoke signals will appear.
  The stove in which the ballots will be burned and from which the white or black smoke signals will appear, was first used in the conclave of 1939, when Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was elected as Pope Pius XII. Made of iron, it is one meter high and has a diameter of 45 centimeters. It has two doors, a lower one behind which the fire is lit, and an upper one to introduce the documents to be burnt.
  The dates (year and month) of the conclaves at which the stove has been used are stamped into the top cover: 1939/III election of Pius XII, 1958/X election of John XXIII, 1963/VI election of Paul VI, 1978/VIII election of John Paul I, 1978/X election of John Paul II.
  The black smoke signals, meaning that no Pope has yet been elected, are obtained simply by burning the ballots; the white smoke, meaning a Pope has been elected, results from burning the ballots and damp straw. For the first time, an electronically-controlled auxiliary stove will be used to create extra smoke and increase the visibility of the signals.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)

Double-Secret Super Conclave

From reader Jeff, who also runs a blog:

as a writer quondam reporter who also happens (?) to be a Protestant
pastor, i am going nuts over the meme "Secret Conclave," aka "super
secret," "most secrecy ever seen," "incredibly secret
gathering," "shrouded with secrecy," "bwah mwah blah secretive
tralala."  This is sloppy, lazy, hack journalism at its nadir, and
everybody from the pinata of the "Today" show to even the normally calm and reasonable titusonenine.classicalanglican.net is repeating the SuperSecretConclave crud.

To wit:  we know who's voting, how they vote, where they vote, what happens as they vote, and exactly what will transpire after they vote.  We know every last blinkin' thing except who votes for who.  Y'know, like your ballot for US President last time, no?

C'mon, scribes and scriveners!  Supreme Court deliberations -- almost
nothing other than rumor.  House and Senate rules committees and party caucuses -- a blank.  Local party deliberations on anointing
candidates -- a smirking "no comment."  Jury deliberations --
unless "Dateline" talks a few into sitting in front of camera (which
they don't have to do, and few choose to), they are unknown.

How many leadership decisions in my town or yours are made in broad daylight, with everyone knowing exactly how each voter chose even if they don't want to make it known?  Correct answer: almost none,
anywhere.  Even details like who votes/selects/chooses, where and when the meeting is, or the procedures followed in the process are usually shrouded in local myth and general lack of info out on the street.

So what makes the Conclave to elect a Pope this snarkfest of "Most
Secret Gathering Anywhere!"?

Oh, right, Christians.  You can say anything you want about them, and
they probably won't even complain, let alone get even.

But it is lazy, herd mentality journalism, even if no one does complain about the basic inaccuracy of that kind of coverage.  Thus endeth the rant of the day.  Thanks be to God.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (16)

That's the Spirit

Michael Novak tries to explain:

And so, when Catholics speak of the "Holy Spirit" playing a role in the conclave, don't try to imagine a puppeteer pulling strings. The better image is that of the novelist, creating free, living, breathing, conflicted characters who make choices, and in doing so tell with these choices a magnificent story of liberty. The novelist who plays puppeteer convinces few readers that his characters are real. Real artistry lies in creating characters who are free, and who act from within the depths of their own liberty. So it is with the Artistry of the Holy Spirit in the theater of the conclaves down the centuries — a free God, Who chooses to be honored by the flawed efforts of free humans to respond to Him in their own liberty.

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Mahony Speaks

From the LATImes:

Mahony said cardinals from the Southern Hemisphere had offered "some very good insights" about challenges facing the church in their countries. He also singled out cardinals from India, saying that despite periodic persecution of Christians in the predominately Hindu nation, Indian bishops had offered "positive" reports about the church's growth.

"I learned a lot from these people," Mahony said.

He was not the only one to break silence Sunday. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, told seminarians at the English College here that he had been moved by comments from an unnamed African cardinal about the challenges of "aggressive Islam, AIDS, poverty and wars" on that continent.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (9)

At a crossroads:

British Catholics

The Church in Ireland

Father James Noonan, 43, prior of St. Teresa of Avila Church, just off trendy Grafton Street in central Dublin, says his church draws large crowds on Sundays. Even on weekdays, dozens of people, young and old, could be seen wandering in from shopping or before or after work to attend Mass, prayers or penance services.

"When priests are available and willing to sit and listen, people will come," said Noonan, who has a community of nine Carmelite-order priests in residence. The funeral of the pope in particular touched many people in Ireland, he said.

"A lot of people out there felt it very deeply," Noonan said. "The Christianity is there, but it needs something to tap into that. People are in search of something deeper, and the church is always challenged to respond to that."

Young people on the streets of Dublin tended to agree. Although most acknowledged that they didn't attend Mass regularly, most attributed it to being too busy with their studies, or their parents being occupied with shopping or other activities on Sundays. The church, too, was not as strict and did not exert the pressure it used to, some said.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

Getting to Know You

From John Allen:

The reality, according to these sources, is that there appears to be an inner core of cardinals, comprised of Italians, veterans of the Roman Curia, and other cardinals well-connected in Rome, who have been meeting over lunches, dinners, and informal get-togethers, presumably groping towards a sense of who they might be able to support as the next pope.

Another group of cardinals, however, including non-Italian speakers and pastoral figures from distant regions who do not know Rome or their brother cardinals very well, have not been much engaged in these conversations. Hence one “x factor” heading into the balloting is whether these “second-tier” cardinals will simply join whatever consensus seems to be emerging, or whether they will steer the voting in unexpected directions. Since many of these more disengaged cardinals seem to be from the global South, it’s possible that their swing votes could bring an interest geographic dimension to the election of the next pope.

“People who know each other have been getting together,” one cardinal said. “But larger groups have only had maybe one or two chances to talk with each other, to get a sense of what they need to know.”

A cardinal, speaking to NCR on background April 17, said that the situation remained unclear in terms of who might emerge as the next pope. He said the cardinals were still struggling with to get to know each other, beyond the brief biographical material that was distributed at the beginning of the General Congregation meetings.

He compared the situation to the situation described in the Acts of the Apostles, when the 11 apostles drew lots to replace Judas, relying on chance and divine inspiration rather than informed deliberations.

“The Holy Spirit is going to have to work overtime,” he joked.

My husband was watching one of those EWTN/Arroyo/Neuhaus sessions tonight, in which they were speaking with an African Cardinal (pre-taped, I suppose) who spoke to this, saying quite honestly that he didn't know very many of his fellow cardinals at all, and he was not sure how he was going to make a decision. Which Fr. Neuhaus followed with the point regarding the expansion of the College so far beyond what it was in 1978, and how this did, indeed, make knowing each other difficult.

And then Michael pointed out that if Ratzinger is elected, and is widely described as the one who will carry forth John Paul II's legacy, this would be rather ironic, since Ratzinger is actually one of the few (three?) voting cardinals not appointed by John Paul II.

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The Schedule:

What's happening today. From the Vatican Press Office, via Zenit:

As previously announced, the Mass "for the election of the Supreme Pontiff" will be celebrated in the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m. on Monday morning. At 4:30 p.m. on Monday, the procession of cardinal electors will leave the Hall of Blessings for the Sistine Chapel. This ritual will be transmitted live on television.

Once in the Sistine Chapel, all the cardinal electors will swear the oath. The cardinal dean will read the formula of the oath, after which each cardinal, stating his name and placing his hand on the Gospel, will pronounce the words: "I promise, pledge and swear."

Over these days, there has been frequent talk of the bond of secrecy concerning the election of the Pope. However, I would like to reiterate that this is just part of the oath. First of all, an oath is made to observe the prescriptions of the Apostolic Constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis"; then another oath is made that -- and I quote -- 'whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the 'munus Petrinum' of Pastor of the Universal Church.'

After the oath, the master of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff pronounces the "extra omnes," and all those who do not participate in the conclave leave the Sistine Chapel. Only the master of Liturgical Celebrations and Cardinal Tomas Spidlik remain for the meditation, once that has finished they too leave the Sistine Chapel.

During the conclave, the cardinals will have the following timetable: at 7:30 a.m., the celebration or concelebration of Mass will take place in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. By 9 a.m., they will be in the Sistine Chapel. There they will recite the Lauds of the Liturgy of the Hours and, immediately afterward, voting will take place according to the prescribed ritual -- two votes in the morning, and two votes in the afternoon.

In the afternoon, voting will begin at 4 p.m. At the end of the second vote will be vespers.

After the two votes of the morning and the two of the afternoon, respectively, the ballots and any notes the cardinals have made will be burnt in a stove located inside the Sistine Chapel. Purely as an indication then, the smoke signals could appear at around 12 noon and at about 7 p.m. -- unless the new Pope is elected either in the first vote of the morning or the first vote of the afternoon, in which case the smoke signal will be earlier.

In any case it is expected that, along with the white smoke, the bells of St. Peter's will sound to mark a successful election.

...As far as the first vote on Monday, the cardinals will decide whether or not to vote after they have entered into conclave on Monday afternoon, April 18. The location for the conclave is the Domus Sanctae Marthae and the Sistine Chapel.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (4)

Novak on Ratzinger

At The Corner

If it happens that Josef Ratzinger becomes the 265th pope, journalists will have a field day reading all his voluminous writings, but especially his three books composed by answering face-to-face the questions of journalists. Two of these were great best sellers.
I cannot think of any cardinal who has been so fearless and open with the press, speaking for a dictation tape and allowing the journalist to frame the questions and supervise the editing (the cardinal was allowed to simplify and clarify the transcript where useful, but for the most part let the spoken words stand as spoken). The last two of these books were guided by the well-established German journalist, Peter Seewald--The Salt of the Earth and God and the World.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (4)

And the floodgates open...

Dawn, the author of the petition, just sent this along with that header:

Another purported Host "blessed by" John Paul II up on Ebay.

Frankly, I don't believe this one is "authentic" (and who knows about the last one), but even the sale of a purportedly consecrated Host is offensive. It just gives us more reason to convince Ebay that these items should be banned just as "Southwestern Native American masks" are.

Of course direct complaints to Ebay are necessary, as well. This link might work for you, but it might also work only if you're an Ebay member.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (7)

Never Let Me Go

This is the name of Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel (he wrote The Remains of the Day, among others). My father called me earlier today and spoke about Jonathan Yardley's review of the novel in the WaPo, which he found, frankly, shocking.

I'm going to put the rest of this in the extended post because it will unashamedly contain spoilers. So if you don't want to be spoiled, don't read.

The novel, which interests me enough that I think I'll go pick it up today and read it (I desperately need a break from mid-20th century Catholic fiction), is about a group of young adults who have been cloned, in order for the harvesting of their organs.

The Washington Times review didn't mince words - it revealed this plot point and dealt with it as a central aspect of the review:

The relentless march toward this ghastly end would make for unbearable reading were it not that these lives -- not so different from our own -- are humanized by friendships, rivalries and love. The triangle of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy and the heartbreak that comes with each learning and then knowing that they will die gives the book its depth and resonance.

So I'm gathering, from this and other reviews, that Ishiguro does not see this situation as a good thing.

Yardley, however, is coy about this, does a lot of scene-description, and then closes his review with a paragraph that includes this:

It is almost literally a novel about humanity: what constitutes it, what it means, how it can be honored or denied. These little children, and the adults they eventually become, are brought up to serve humanity in the most astonishing and selfless ways, and the humanity they achieve in so doing makes us realize that in a new world the word must be redefined.

Am I reading you correctly, Mr. Yardley? That you read this novel as, not a cautionary tale, but one of hope?

If so...I'm speechless.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 17, 2005

"Ego Cardinal Arinze..

...et ego probatus is nuntius."

My son went to Mass at the Cathedral in Knoxville today, and said the homilist spoke of the mischaracterizations of Catholicism that are out there (he didn't get specific), and also at length about the conclave.

However, my son had to fight an alternative reality in his head during the homily: a memory of the Daily Show, which ran this sporadically amusing segment with their leading "Popologist" last week. The funny part is really the "attack ad" against Cardinal Ratzinger.

And here's a critique of the Latin!

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (8)

Ebay and the Consecrated Host

As most of you know, the particular conflict has been resolved.

Details at Dom's, including this chronology provided by Dom:

Here’s the chronology:
1. Guy puts the Eucharist up on eBay
2. Good samaritan places “Buy it now” order
3. eBay considers that a done deal, but buyer must still send check and seller must ship Eucharist.
4. Diocese gets involved and convinces guy it’s a bad idea.
5. I presume the buyer is happy to cancel the deal and doesn’t send money.
6. Somebody pays eBay their fee, but the Eucharist goes to the diocese and the other transaction doesn’t take place.

But all is not done. The remaining issue is...will Ebay put "hosts consecrated in Catholic Masses" on its "banned items list?"

(One could, of course, expand that to include things like "holy water," any eucharistic material from any denomination, chrism, and so on. The contentious issue of relics has, to my knowledge never been resolved. First-class relics may not be sold on Ebay, since they are human remains, but in recent years, the angle has been to sell a reliquary, and include the relic "as a gift." I am not sure if that is still permitted.)

Here is the list of items banned on Ebay. The list is continually expanded. Recent additions include WTC and Pentagon-related items (artifacts from the destruction, I assume), hate (Nazi, KKK)- related items, and, as this Catholic League release indicates, a book critical of the pharmaceutical industry.

There's been some discussion online on trying to get Ebay to put consecrated Hosts under one of the already established categories of banned items. It seems to me to be more practical to simply convince Ebay to create a category that would include consecrated Hosts. Some of the banned item categories are very specific - the category related to Native American artificacts, for example, is not about items used in Native American ceremonies in general, but specifically:

Native American human remains, gravesite-related items, and burial items may not be listed on eBay. Native American masks and "prayer sticks" from all Southwestern tribes are also prohibited. This prohibition includes Native Hawaiian human remains, gravesite-related items and burial items.

Here's an online petition requesting Ebay do just that.

I'd encourage us all to sign it, and, if y ou are a member of Ebay or PayPal, to write Ebay with an additional request. If we get blown off, it's time to cancel those Ebay and Paypal memberships, en masse. I'll do it, and I'll let you know if it comes to that.


Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (14)


I was so zonked out from yesterday and from the usual nightly vigil with the baby that at 9am, I was still dozing, baby attached and unattached to me as he saw fit. Then Michael calls out from his study, "We're going to 9:15 at St. Peter's, right?"

Umm...why? Can't we go to 10:30 at our own parish?

Well, because yesterday at the Gospa event, we attended a 90-minute liturgy with two little ones, the 10:30 Mass at our parish is usually the High Mass At Which Everything Happens, and he didn't really feel like going that again.

Fine, but he could have waked me 15 minutes earlier, eh?

So off we went, and yes, we made it - they were singing the Gloria when we got there, so you can guess how good we looked and how fast we drove.

But you know....when we got there..it seemed really crowded. Lots of people, more than usual. And then I got to the front of this lovely old German parish church, and saw - ah...the bishop.

"Good choice," I smirked. Because, you know, Masses with bishops are not exactly known for brevity or simplicity that parents of restless toddlers yearn for.

What we couldn't figure out was why he was there. Finally, during his homily (which was a nice remembrance of the history of the parish, and praise for how many vocations it had produced) we got it - the new little parish center/office was being dedicated after Mass.

Ah well...God makes his point, doesn't he?

(Oh yes...the bishop referred frequently to John Paul II during his homily, and the prayers of the faithful were for 1)the Church during this period of interregnum 2) the Conclave and 3) I think the repose of the soul of John Paul II...and then some others)

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (4)

Paging Fr. Stravinskas

This post has been removed so that interested readers may go to the blog Cui Bono, dedicated to the defense of Fr. Stravinskas. The entire blog post and comment thread is reproduced there.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink

Prophetic Words

In the DMN, Sandra Miesel on prophecies and the pope

The time is short for fans of private revelation, if the prophecies of St. Malachy are to be believed. According to predictions attributed to the 12th-century Irish bishop, there are only two popes to come before the end of the world. This series of cryptic phrases is almost certainly a Renaissance hoax, but people still scramble for interpretations that make modern popes fit them. John Paul II's successor is supposed to be "the glory of the olive," followed by the final pope, "Peter the Roman."

John Paul II was also supposed to be the "spark" from Poland to prepare the world for the Second Coming, as predicted in 1937 by St. Faustina Kowalska, whom he canonized. Prophecies had the pope dying in 1994 or being violently removed from office by 1995. Although the pope survived, an assassination attempt in 1981 has been read as fulfilling the Third Secret of Fatima. That prophecy, released in 2000, foresees a "bishop in white" shot to death by enemies of the church.

But the late pope's ultra-conservative critics reject this claim. They say the "true" Third Secret has been hidden because it predicts mass apostasy and the election of a diabolical Freemason as the next pope, followed by the imposition of a false one-world religion and ruthless persecution of "real" Catholics. Trusting a spurious earlier prophecy called the Secret of LaSalette, they are certain that "Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist."

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (66)

What did you hear...

...at Mass?

Any prayers for the conclave?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (51)

A word about that thread

I tossed that thread asking what people do in their parishes on Friday, at the last minute, before we left. A reader had suggested it, and I agreed. But I want to clarify something.

Longtime readers know that I am quite adament about not equating one's faith in God with how "active" one is in a parish. At all. I've written about such issues at length, and pretty frequently snipe at homilists I hear who do just that - who preach "come be active in the parish" rather than "get to know Christ" and who make that the be all and end all of faith. I'm not sure , but there might be something in one of the articles on spirituality linked over there on the left on just that issues. The angriest I ever got during Mass (well one of the angriest moments) occurred when this priest, trying to get people to go to the "Ministry Fair" occurring on the  south side of the church informed the congregation before dismissal that anyone who exited the north door  (thereby avoiding the Ministry Fair) "should not consider yourself a Catholic Christian." I am not making that up. Michael was there. Ask him.

I've written about how sad it was, really, to sit in some gathering and hear a woman complain that she'd done all of these parish activities, been on all of these committees, but she couldn't figure out why she was still feeling spiritually empty.

As a former church employee, I've seen how "being active in church" can become an excuse, a distraction, and even a way to escape from reality.

I've seen how the lay apostolate has been so completely misunderstood, and I lived through the 1970's and 80's when we defined laity's role in the church by how much time we spent in the sanctuary and how much power we had in the parish. Wrong, wrong, wrong

So no, that wasn't the point.

The point was really to offer some hope during a time of self-scrutiny, in which we often are tempted to focus on what's wrong with the Church. Let's focus not only what's right, this reader suggested, but on what other readers are doing that's right.

But, as I commented myself on the thread, inspired by others, it came to serve another function.

Very often on this blog, we've struggled with the negativity issue. I get regular stern emails and comments scolding me for the "negative" tone, and so on, which, if you want to know, I don't pay much attention to. My blog, reflecting my somewhat cynical worldview. Don't like it? No one's forcing you to read it.

The accusation is leveled: Gripers. Sitting on the internet all day, absorbing bad news and spewing out negative, self-referential commentary, and doing nothing positive to correct problems or spread the Gospel.

The thread below told the truth: not so. Our commentors are deeply engaged in ministry - through their families, most importantly, through their parishes, and in their workplaces. They come here to gripe sometimes, sure...but nothing they (hey - we!) complain about is minor or irrelevant. We're not picking at fleas. We're looking at a Church which we believe, passionately, carries the life-changing truth of the Gospel, and is charged with sharing it with the world. It breaks our hearts when for whatever reason - clerical malfeasance, bureaucratic idiocy, igorance, or even our own sinfulness - obstacles are thrown up to that task, and a world in need of Christ can't see Him in the Church, or refuses to even look, so convinced is it of the Church's irrelevancy or corruption.

So we gripe.

But then we go teach catechism, say our prayers with our kids, pray for a friend, celebrate Mass, visit the sick or do what we can to help someone - perhaps even someone on the other side of the world - who needs us.

We're trying. And if at times, frustration leads us to some venting - well, that's just the way it is. Most of my commentors know, too, that if it gets too much - it's time to step back. A surprising number have done so - taken a "blog break" now and again. I've done it myself.

So keep venting. I think it's okay. As long as we keep praying and doing our bit - no matter what it is - as well.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink

April 16, 2005

The Spirit and the Conclave

Frequently asked, answered by Cdl Ratzinger, via John Allen, here

Perhaps the final word on the subject should belong to the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger. He was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected pope, and this was his response:

“I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”

Then the clincher: “There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked.”

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (27)

What's Going to Happen:

What to look for come Monday:

On Monday, they will celebrate a Mass in the morning and begin processing into the Sistine Chapel at 4:30 p.m. (1430 GMT). They will then take their oath of secrecy, hear a meditation from a senior cardinal, and be shuttered behind the doors of the Sistine Chapel.

During the conclave, the cardinals will celebrate Mass at 7:30 a.m. in the chapel of their hotel and be in the Sistine Chapel by 9 a.m. for an initial two rounds of balloting, he said. They will return for the two rounds of afternoon balloting at 4 p.m.

Based on that schedule, Navarro-Valls said smoke signals from burned ballot papers could likely be seen at around noon or at around 7 p.m. -- unless a winner has been elected following the first ballot of the session.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

Well, that was quick.

You know, Ohio is wider than it looks.

Oh, we've made the trip across the state before, but somehow this trip - at least on the way over Friday night (last night?????) seemed to be longer. Like we were driving across Montana.

The problem was, of course, the genius of not having Daylight Savings Time. Which works to our advantage coming back , but going east is trouble, especially if you, like Michael, have to put in an absolutely full day at work -Catholic publishers are working pretty hard these days, you might imagine - and by the time we got off, it was 5:30 our time, which meant it was 6:30 Eastern.


Yeah, that was a pleasant journey. Joseph had, indeed napped during the day, but apparently that wasn't enough to calm his system, and he spent a lot of time going mildly beserk. We ate at some nasty KFC/A&W in some little town in the middle of Ohio, which pleased him for a bit, but not long enough. We were staying in Youngstown (about 30 min from our speaking place), but apparently those who constructed that part of the turnpike didn't believe in signs to tell us where 680 was, so we ended up having to go to Pennsylvania, pay our toll, then turn right around and go back through the same toll booth declaring that we couldn't bear to leave Ohio.

Got to the hotel at midnight. Sheesh. So much for plan to get there, take Joseph to the pool and make him do the stuff (like lie down flat on top of the water) that he is refusing to do for his swimming teacher. Instead I nursed the baby watching Conan O'Brien interview a very weird Jeff Goldblum.

Up, get ready, leave, and try to find the campground, which was a challenge in itself. Again with the dearth of road signs.

But we did arrive, and over the course of the day, give our talks - Michael on How to Get the Most out of the Eucharist, and me on DVC, spiced with a little Here.Now., one part leading into the other: Does the truth about Jesus matter? Yup. Let me tell you why.

The day went well, except for Joseph, who will presently be enrolled in the cross-country team at preschool. You say they don't such a thing? Well they darn well should, if you ask me.

Then back - thankfully, the two boys (Katie was parked with a friend back here in the Fort. Big middle school dance, you know) conked out and slept for almost two hours. Ate in Mansfield - not at an A&W - and got home at a decent hour.

A word on the cause:

This was a day of reflection sponsored by Gospa Missions. The group's charitable work is focused on an orphanage in Nigeria that you can read about here. They're doing great work, and you can support them in many ways - through direct donation, sponsoring a child or purchasing religious goods and books through them or even using their "chocolate rosary" in your group's fundraising. (not the rosary's not chocolate.)

Really wonderful, dedicated folks, an interest and interesting audience. Worth the drive. At least we think so. But you might not want to ask Joseph.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 15, 2005

Think positive...

...and act.

A reader suggests that we take some time to share what positive things we are doing in our parishes - and not "we" in general, but "we" as in specifically - you - are doing in your parish, and what you think you might do - to contribute to making your parish a place where people really do know that they have encountered Christ.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (84)

Heading East

Tomorrow, Michael and I will be speaking at an event sponsored by Gospa Missions, a very worthy group that supports orphanages and other ministries overseas.  There's a link to a pdf file on the event on the page I cited.

Come see us and give some support to this ministry! It's north of Pittsburgh. Fombell, PA.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (0)

Neuhaus update


And then a word about those millions of people, mainly young people, who came to the funeral last Friday. I have seen several accounts, and heard worldly wise reporters, describing the "rock star" attraction of John Paul. In fact, the crowds, stretching more than three miles beyond St. Peter's, were wondrously solemn and prayerful. The Legionaries of Christ and other religious orders posted priests all along the way and there was a brisk business in confessions around the clock. One Legionary priest tells of his non-stop hearing of confessions--from five o'clock in the afternoon until six o'clock the next morning. The mayor of Rome said that not one serious crime was reported in the city during the days when millions were waiting up to 26 hours to view the body. That is hard to believe, but that is what he said.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (17)

From Notre Dame:

If you're in the area, join the Eucharistic Procession

Revising a tradition from earlier times, a Eucharistic Procession will be held at the University of Notre Dame at 4pm Saturday (April 16) immediately outside the Crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The procession will follow a special Mass celebrated in the Crypt at 3 p.m.

All students and local residents are invited to attend this unique celebration of the Catholic faith.

More at Shrine of the Holy Whapping, as well as a post from Andrew who notes:

I was interviewed by Newsweek last week (!). You won't read anything about it, though.

Newsweek wanted me to be an angry conservative (I'm neither) or an angry liberal (I'm neither). My careful explanation that these terms really can't be applied to Catholicism which is rooted in the fullness of the Christian tradition was not what the reporter was looking for -- and I could tell it at the time, because by the end of the interview (after I'd refused to be attributed to a dumbed-down or simplistic stand on stem cells, the role of women, the next pope, etc.) she was audibly irritated. I think she quit when I mentioned "Eucharistic procession" and "Debt relief" in the same sentence...

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (16)

The Pope's Final Amen

Bernadine Healy in USNews:

Though his last will and testament released by the Vatican cites no medical directive, the pontiff made his views crystal clear through his many teachings that were as much religious as they were common sense and humane: Doctors are not "lords of life" but "skilled and generous servants" caring for the sick and dying, offering treatments to cure their patients if possible but always enabling them to bear their sufferings with ease and dignity. He preached that doctors not embark on futile treatment or extraordinary measures when death is imminent and inevitable. But at the same time they should not hasten death. And to him a good death was one in the comfort of family, doctors and nurses, and loving friends

He lived his words. The 84-year-old holy father made his choices as his health rapidly declined. He accepted antibiotics, a tracheotomy, a feeding tube, and two hospitalizations over his last five weeks, but as things grew bleaker, he rejected an intensive care unit, kidney dialysis, or organ resuscitation. Without this, his life faded softly to a final amen. And, perhaps with a wink, he lasted for a time well beyond what Vatican doctors had been predicting.

Heaven only knows the moment of birthing and dying, the eternal bookends of all our lives. But we do know they are neither pain free nor predictable. And control of the final moments are unlikely to be in our hands, however high-tech or directive we mortals become.


Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

Great point

From Kevin in the comments:

I'd like to see an analysis of cardinals that examines their favorite saints, prayers, devotionals, churches, artists, and theologians. That, I think, would give a better sense of who they are than reading a couple translations of their essays.

I heartily agree!

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (6)

Springtime and the gatekeepers

Interesting how a death brings out hope.

Something about the death of John Paul II - perhaps the millions at, around and watching his funeral, as well as the largely positive coverage - has brought hope in some hearts that springtime is a'borning in the Roman Catholic Church. That a corner has been turned, and what John Paul II gave his life to - each person understanding his or her inestimable worth as a child of God, redeemed by Christ - is finally beginning to make sense to the world.

Perhaps. We can hope. We can pray.

But looking within our own Catholic Church...we've got a ways to go.

I'm not really talking about structures and bishops and accountability here, although what I'm thinking about touches on that, of course. (So I'd appreciate it if the comment thread didn't go in that direction. Thanx). But I'm talking about the way in which the Catholic faith is communicated to ordinary parishioners by what I call the gatekeepers - pastors, diocesan and parish employees.

Naturally this is a diocese-by-diocese proposition. Which, then leads us to question the weird meme of the deeply "centralizing" tendencies of this last pontificate (I wrote about this over at the Virtual Conclave- of course, there are centralizing tendencies - in episcopal appointment, communication, etc. I don't deny that.) - when Lincoln and LA, when St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis and St. John Cantius in Chicago, when Fr. Richard McBrien and Scott Hahn are all part of the institution in official ways - where's the centralization?

But I've been moved to think about this by communications I've received from someone who attended a convention of lay ministers. 

The word is: they're not on message. Or at least, they're still on their own message.

Here's what this person entered on her evaluation form for the conference. In preceding communications, she's told me that there was a startling emphasis on the adult ed track, of being "very careful" about who you let on your team. Anyone (I'm not kidding) under 60 was suspect. Anyway:

I'm tired of talks and keynotes that assume we are all 50+ cradle, Vat
II Catholics who remember the bad old days, grew up with grandma's
sacred heart shrine in the dining room,who are in love with God-as-nature crap -- as are those you minister to.  Get a grip. 

My ministry, by comparison, is one holy mess.  The 40 somethings in my parish are products of divorce, many divorced themselves, never heard a prayer before meals, much less had a holy water font in their house, never went to Catholic schools, barely went to RE, if ever. 

Many are not confirmed, some not baptized -- by their Catholic parents who were still finding themselves when they should have been raising their kids.

Yet. These folks come.  Their presence should be lauded but yet they
are looked down upon. They shouldn't be derided, the butt of DRE jokes from folks who've forgotten who Jesus is.

When I see these folks, I am humbled.  They come. In spite of a culture that says sports, academics, ballet lessons, etc. are more important, they come. They come bowed, often ashamed and embarrassed that they have waited so long.  But yet, in some fashion, as they talk to me, I see sitting in front of me the person of the woman who wept at the feet of Jesus and dried the tears with her hair. 

When they speak, I hear, "I hunger.  I thirst."  They don't need
God-in-the-trees.  They need to know he's with them, a prayer away.
And what do we give them -- meaningless hoops to jump through, inane lessons for them and their children, lukewarm liturgies to suffer

In a roundabout way, I guess I am tryng to say that, before we forget
the old guy and look forward to the new, why don't we reflect on the evangelist JP II was? He took people where they were -- and did not sell them snake oil.  Oh no, he proclaimed that all roads lead to the table of sacrifice.  And showed the way.

Breathtaking. Wouldn't you want her doing evangelization and adult ed in your parish? I would.

But my point is, many of these gatekeepers have been, frankly, waiting for John Paul II to die for a long time. I heard it myself in diocesan gatherings 15 years ago. "When this pope dies, things will be better." Same diocesan gatherings in which we were warned, in serious tones, not to let lay people get their hands on the Catechism.

And for the life of me, I don't understand. I look out at the world - from my own neighborhood to the globe - and I see the hurt and pain that's the human lot, the fruit of our sin. I see, what my correspondent sees - people who need healing and hope and a sense of what a good, fruitful life is. Why not help them?

The gatekeepers have spent decades reacting against their own upbringing and sharing their own neuroses with the rest of us, disguised as catechesis and spirituality. Their knee-jerk reaction to the pontificate of JPII and those who thought well of it was "They just want to go back to pre-Vatican II days, when it was all about rules, and safety and security. It's nostalgia. It's control."


What I saw in John Paul II, what I responded to, was the centrality of Jesus Christ, and his valiant work to re-establish, ironically, Jesus as the focus of Catholic eyes, not to mention the eyes of the world. Not as a model, not as an inspiration, but as the One, the Shepherd, the Living Bread, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

But that's not what the gatekeepers have seen, so they've tried, as long as they could, to ignore John Paul II.

Isn't it interesting that with his death...it becomes harder than ever.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (57)

My Conclave

...consists of me at the laptop, and a four-year old "playing cars" with the five-month old.

Let's hope no one's head ends up dented by the end of this gathering.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (7)

Where your treasure is...

You know about procrastination. I do it. You do it, perhaps. When I was in college - especially this time of the semester - it was the name of the game and the reason for much anxiety. (Next semester I won't do this...promise...)

My second oldest son is almost 20 and majoring in English. He's got loads of classes this semester,  - Twain, Chaucer, Modern Drama, and a few others. So he has papers. But not always. Some of his classes assign "projects" and even in others where he's had a paper, in at least one case, he's managed to swing a deal with the prof (walking in the footsteps of his older brother, who is a master of academic deal-making) to make a film (his hoped-for career) instead of writing a paper - in this case, something about the motivation of the Knight in The Canterbury Tales.

Paper/film due next Thursday. Talked to him last night. "I spent 6 hours editing, but it's done." A week early.

Guess we can tell what he likes doing...

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)


Annie Banno at After Abortion on a talk she gave to 80 pro-life Yale students

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)

Withdrawing the Tube

Gilbert Meilaender in CT

By calling nutrition a "treatment" instead of basic care, are we opening the door to calling it a "useless treatment"?
Not if we're careful. We only open that door if we say, "The treatment is useful in the sense that it will keep her alive indefinitely, but it's just not much of a life to have. It's a useless life."

Although we understand why some people might say that, it amounts to rejecting not simply a useless treatment but a useless life—and that we should not do. We can understand psychologically how any of us might feel that way, but it's a feeling that ought to be resisted.

Theologically, we don't consider ourselves the authors of life or death, as those who have authority over it. Our obligation is to care for the lives of others and acknowledge their death when the time comes, but our authority is limited to that.

When did a feeding tube go from being considered basic care to a medical treatment?
There's been an increasing tendency over the last 20 years to bring a feeding tube under the rubric of treatment. The reason for that has obviously been that nobody would say you shouldn't give a person certain kinds of basic care, whereas treatments are sometimes dispensable. So if you bring feeding tubes under the category of treatment, it's easier to dispense with them.

I'm not persuaded that it's more accurate to classify a feeding tube as treatment. Nourishment is something we all need to stay alive, and the fact that for certain people it has to be provided in different ways doesn't alter the fact that nourishment is fundamental to human life in a way that various treatments are not.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (23)

Welcome to Blog Heaven

I'm honored to be a part of Beliefnet's new feature: Blog Heaven: Where faith blogs go when they're good.

It's a live feed of links to selected religion-centered blogs. Click on the page, you'll see the list, the first 100 words from that blog at the moment, the most recently updated blogs and so on. Good stuff, and handy, too!

Go here to visit.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink

Cut out the fat

Tom Monaghan was on Neil Cavuto a couple of days ago, and among other things, made this comment:

CAVUTO: Absolutely.

We`re looking here with you with the pope not too long ago.

But let me get your thoughts on -- I know we don`t want to get into budgetary matters, per se, Tom, but there is a great deal of concern about diocese that are seeing churches and parishes close, that, unless we get more priests or we find another way to deal with what has been a steady decline into those who have the calling in the church, that, bottom line, we`re going to see fewer churches. Do you agree with that?

MONAGHAN: Well, I think that when -- Domino`s has been in trouble before. When you get in trouble, you prioritize. You cut out a lot of fat.

It seems to me, the first place I`d look, being a layman, would be the schools. There`s probably 10,000 Catholic schools in the United States alone. And I think that`s a business that pastors and even diocese shouldn`t be in. I think they should franchise it.

I have no idea what that means..I guess that Catholic schools should be private and independent, rather than associated with diocesan or parish structures?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (45)

Rethinking Islam

From the WaPo:

After two decades of contact and dialogue with the Islamic world under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican is rethinking an outreach program that critics say is diluting Catholicism and has brought almost no benefits to beleaguered Catholic minorities in Muslim countries.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (27)

More notes on Orthodoxy

From NRO, on the differences between Russian Orthodoxy and other national churcheds:

In his controversial book The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington identified a fundamental divide between the areas represented by Catholicism and Protestantism in the West, and the Orthodox Church in the East. As recent events have shown, however, a more correct line can be drawn, with the Russian Orthodox Church representing the authoritarian status quo on one side, and the rest of Europe — including the other Orthodox traditions — representing freedom and democracy on the other.

During the recent democratic revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, the local branches of the Orthodox Church acted in full concordance with liberal democratic values, supporting the desire of people in these countries for political freedoms. However, they were resisted at every turn by the nationalistic Russian Orthodox Church, which is tightly tied to a Russian state that is still trying to reassert control over its former dominions.

From the WaPo, the reaction to John Paul II's death and Catholicism in general from Russian Orthodoxy

Catholics are acting as though there were no other church here," said Father Igor Vyzhanov, acting secretary of the Moscow Patriarchy's Department for External Church Relations. The Russian church has a 1,000-year tradition, he said, "which they don't pay heed to with their missionary activity."

The Catholic Church has about 500,000 followers in Russia and denies it is proselytizing there. A spokesman for the Moscow Archdiocese suggested that the real issue lay in divisions within the Orthodox Church over what kind of relationship it wants with the Vatican and its local representatives.

"Our only goal is to do our pastoral work among our believers," said the Rev. Igor Kovalevsky of the Catholic parish of St. Louis in Moscow. According to Kovalevsky, only about 40 or 50 people convert to Roman Catholicism each year in Moscow and all of them have come to the church of their own volition.

"If we are seeking more Catholics in Moscow involved in this so-called proselytizing, then we are doing a very bad job," he said. "But that's not the real motivation behind the hostility of the Orthodox Church. It's theology and nationalism."

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (32)

The perfect entitlement?

George Will on eugenics and abortion

Michael Howard, leader of Britain's Conservative Party, promises that if his party wins the May 5 general election, he will have Parliament debate lowering to 20 weeks the legal time limit for abortion. According to a Sunday Telegraph poll, that change is favored by 53 percent of all voters and by a large majority of female and younger voters.

Such temperate adjustments of law are possible in a constitutional monarchy governed by a parliament. In our constitutional republic governed by judges, lawmakers have less latitude for making law. Brownback's bill is surely an unobjectionable exercise of that latitude. If it is not unobjectionable, let's identify the objectors, who probably favor the pernicious quest -- today's "respectable" eugenics -- for a disability-free society.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)

No Catholics Need Apply?

From the Spectator, on a recent Bush nomination:

Washington special interest groups -- notorious for their anti-religious hostility toward conservatives -- are conducting a coordinated smear campaign against Scott Bloch, George Bush's appointee to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which reviews and refers whistleblower disclosures to agency heads. In an interview with TAS, Pete Leon, legislative director for Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who has called for Bloch's resignation, revealed the fundamental anti-religious bigotry at the heart of the campaign. Articulating his objections to Bloch, Leon said, "He is a devout Catholic," then quickly added, after he realized his gaffe, the famously insincere line from Seinfeld, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (13)

Death of a patriarch

From the WSJ, on the death earlier this week of His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos:

The other key episode in the archbishop's life led to his forced retirement, or so it is widely believed. For three days in late 1994, 29 bishops from the various Orthodox "jurisdictions"--a convenient Latin term that describes the scandalous ethnic fragmentation of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Orthodox church in this country--met in Ligonier, Pa., at the invitation of the archbishop. Their purpose was to contemplate the formation of a united Orthodox community in America.

In a final statement, the bishops spoke glowingly of their commitment to "a common vision of mission," of their conviction that all the Orthodox of North America are "called to plan together and work together" in reaching beyond the ethnic boundaries of the churches. The bishops--with Greek, Russian, Syrian, Lebanese, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian and American roots--pledged to avoid "the creation of parallel and competitive Orthodox parishes."

While many of the Orthodox faithful have long prayed for such an outcome, the meeting apparently triggered alarms in Istanbul, historic seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, "first among equals" in the 300-million-strong Orthodox world. Within 20 months, Archbishop Iakovos retired at the behest of Patriarch Bartholomeos, who reportedly saw in the archbishop's efforts an attempt to detach the Greek Orthodox flock in North America from their mother church.

Such a breaking away was certainly on the minds of some of the assembled bishops. One later suggested that the group should have staged a "Ligonier Tea Party" and severed formal ties with the churches overseas. But it is unlikely that Archbishop Iakovos was thinking of anything so dramatic or severe. Still, he paid a dear price for his vision of a unified American Orthodoxy.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

Mapping it out

A nice graphic of Vatican City, labeled for all of your conclave needs. (pdf file)

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)

Another Roman Diarist

Robert Moyhnihan at Inside the Vatican

This, then, is the situation.

Ratzinger is very strong right now. He is a bit old at 78. Some Italians and the more "progressive" faction oppose him, with Tettamanzi or Antonelli as an alternative.

Ratzinger could hand off to his pupil, Scola. Scola could hand off to Bergoglio. Tettamanzi and Antonelli could hand off to Sodano, as an alternative to Ratzinger-Ruini-Scola, then, deadlocked, perhaps to Hummes, as they oscillate between Italy and Latin America.

If Hummes vs. Bergoglio (for example) deadlocked, the Ratzinger group could again try Europe with Schoenborn, while the more "progressive" Italian/Latin American group could try Maradiaga of Honduras.

Some in Rome would still like to look toward Dias of India, but this might be a feint in order to rally support against Ratzinger and, having cut him off, putting Tettamanzi forward.

But there is still another alternative: a man who is very gentle and holy, who comes from a very poor family and yet is doctrinally conservative. He would be socially in profound solidarity with all the world's poor, but still very theologically sound, in this sense, reconciling the "factions" Sandro describes above.

He is Rosario's choice.

Who is Rosario? Read the whole thing.

Via Relapsed Catholic

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April 14, 2005

Were you wondering..

..about what the Eastern Rite hierarchs were doing at John Paul II's funeral?

here's your answer. (scroll down a bit)

Via Dappled Things

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Internet Monk

I've belatedly added The Internet Monk to my blogroll (the one on the left). Michael Spencer is a Christian of the Reformed tradition, and a fearless thinker and writer. He's constantly ticking people off, and doesn't really care. I mentioned him most recently in regard to his determined crusade to get to the bottom of the Joel Osteen phenomenon. Today I point you to his wonderful post: "How I made peace with the Roman Catholic Church" in which he explains what this pope business is all about:

As a young man, I had been taught that Catholics prayed to saints and cowered before popes. I still understand that certain kinds of lay Catholicism can go to bizarre excesses in their adoration of human beings. What I didn't understand then, and do understand now, is that Catholicism really believes in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church, just as Protestants do. But the Catholic Church will point to those whose lives have given evidence of the presence of the Spirit, and direct the church to note those lives as windows and teachers of Christ. I am sure there are Catholics who don't understand this and go to excess, like there are Baptists that don't understand that walking the aisle isn't salvation. Still, the whole of Catholic teaching says that the Christian can look at the lives of all those diverse saints and shepherds, and see the Holy Spirit at work in our world. The saints are "little Christs," and I know few Protestants who do not, in some way, recognize this reality in some way.

In other words, the church isn't designating people to be worshiped. It is telling the world that these lives proclaim the truth of the Gospel and show the love of God. Imitate them. Learn from them. Be inspired by them. Protestants don't do this, of course. And as a result, we have our own "saints": Christian celebrities, CCM artists, megachurch pastors, TV preachers and best-selling authors. Who would you rather be the examples for your church? The current CCM Top 40, or the saints whose days populate the Christian calendar?

The search for a Pope is a way of seeking God's spiritual guidance and presence in his church now. It may seem to Protestants to be an insult to scripture, but I can recall pastor search committees whose rhetoric often sounded as serious as Cardinals seeking a pontiff. The Cardinals and all Catholics know that the Pope may not be a saint now or ever, but they are willing to gamble on God's commitment to His church on earth. I think with John Paul II they did extremely well. God was with him. Errors and all- and yes, his Marian devotion was offensive- John Paul carried high the cross of Christ to more than 120 countries and before millions of people. I know that many evangelicals feel he was our Pope, too, because he stood for so many of the truths of the whole church and the true Gospel.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (10)

Rage for Ratzinger

Well, here on the outside of the Conclave, views seem to be coalescing.

First, in the totally meaningless betting pool, Cardinal Ratzinger has jumped to #1, and Cardinal Arinze has fallen to #5 (all a function of speculation in the media. Benedict is still the #1 name, though)

In The Corner, Michael Novak writes:

And, actually, my own sources in Rome now suggest that the number of cardinals supporting Ratzinger is closer to 55, leaving him at this early point some 22 short. Some caution should be exercised here, since in Rome counting of this sort is in most cases not actually by head, as is done in Washington by a Senate or House whip. In Rome, estimates are usually made by inference from known connections of cardinals and their close associates. However, some people in Rome (not necessarily with experience in American mayoralty elections) do know how to count votes. Those I know of in this camp are keeping their cards close to their chest. But they do not dispute the published numbers, except to hint that the true number is higher.

What no one disputes is that the numbers of the "progressives," once gathered around Cardinals Donneels of Belgium and Martini of Milan (now retired), have collapsed. There are not even enough of them to block the majority seeking a "Continuator" of John Paul II's legacy. The loyalty expressed by millions all around the world to John Paul II became so visible at the funeral that "Continuator" is now the motif. Whether that mantle falls on Ratzinger--or, perhaps, on someone younger and more vigorous--such as Angelo Scola of Venice, a truly brilliant and creative student of the much-beloved theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, will soon enough become clear. There are four or five who could fill this place in the batting order, or take their turn next time around.

John Allen: push for Ratzinger is real

First, the push for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the pope’s doctrinal czar for 24 years and the dean of the College of Cardinals, is for real. There is a strong basis of support for Ratzinger in the college, and his performance in the period following the death of the pope, especially his eloquent homily at the funeral Mass, seems to have further cemented that support. One Vatican official who has worked with Ratzinger over the years said on April 13, “I am absolutely sure that Ratzinger will be the next pope.”

On the other hand, several cardinals have said privately that they’re uncomfortable with the prospect of a Ratzinger papacy. It’s not just that some don’t believe his strong emphasis on the protection of Christian identity in a secular world ought to be the guiding light of the next papacy, but there’s also a real-world concern about the election of a figure with his “baggage.” Fairly or unfairly, Ratzinger is to some extent a lightning rod for Catholic opinion, and in a church that’s already divided, some cardinals worry about exacerbating those divisions. One said April 12: “I’m not sure how I would explain this back home.”

Sandro Magister on the "3 parties" involved

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Enquiring Rich

Our own Rich Leonardi in the Cincinnati Enquirer (and you can see what he looks like, too!)

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Prince William

From the Catholic League:

On April 8, and again on April 12, the HBO show, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” featured a verbal assault on Pope John Paul II.  Led by Maher, the pope was also attacked by Arianna Huffington.  Here is a sample of what happened:

Maher: “People waited in line for 24 hours to see the pope’s body and when they got to see the pope they smelled worse than he did.”

Maher: “For those who could not make the funeral, the Vatican has asked that in lieu of flowers, just stop touching your d---.”

Maher: “American Catholics say we love the pope, he should be a saint but he is kind of full of s--- on everything we believe.”

Maher also said that the whole story of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the resurrection was “grafted from paganism.”  He ended by mocking the death of the pope and the upcoming conclave.

Huffington egged Maher on, saying “this guy” [the pope] should be blamed for the sexual abuse scandal, as well as AIDS in Africa. 

Catholic League president William Donohue remarked as follows;

“HBO bears the ultimate responsibility for this exercise in incivility.  They must know that Maher is a man infused with hatred towards the Catholic Church, and that Huffington has long demonstrated that she has no ethical standards whatsoever.  So what did they expect?  Because Maher and Huffington have a total IQ in double digits, it is not worth our while to try to correct their ignorance.  But that doesn’t mean we won’t try to persuade HBO to stop with the bigotry.  Timing, as well as content, matters, and on these two counts, HBO failed miserably.”

What is Bill Maher's secret of success? What?

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Swimming with Scapulars

An interview graciously given to us by  Matthew Lickona, the author of the fine Swimming with Scapulars, about which I had written some nice stuff, but which got lost, somehow. I'll write more when I return from Joseph's swimming lesson, but for now, enjoy.

And check out Matthew's blog

Who are you?  What's your religious background?  Why didn't you reject
the faith?

I'm the spiritual offspring of Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor - or,
more accurately, I'd like to be.  For now, I'm just a young(ish) guy
who has had a gradually deepening appreciation of his Catholic faith,
and of the profound difference that faith makes.  It began, as I
imagine it begins for many cradle Catholics, as a set of rules and
requirements and teachings, handed down by Mom and Dad, to be accepted
on their authority.  "We go to Mass on Sunday," "Jesus is God," etc. 
Happily, it didn't stay that way.  My father is a developmental
psychologist; he specializes in the moral development of children.  A
big part of that involves developing a child's powers of moral
reasoning, making the child a conscious participant in his own moral
life.  That element of my formation probably accounts, at least in
part, for my failure to rebel outright during adolescence.  (That I was
absolutely convinced of my parents' love for me also played a part, as
did the guidance of my older brother Mark.)

Religion received much the same treatment.  Dad took my questions about
the faith seriously, even when I was very young and terrified of
eternity.  When my faith in Christ wavered shortly before my
confirmation, he took that seriously as well, and joined me in an
investigation of the matter.  He helped me make the faith my own, and
not simply what was passed down to me.

My Jesuit confessor in college once said, "Most converts are won
through the heart, but Christianity is essentially an intellectual
religion."  I go back and forth on that, but it's certainly true that
the intellectual aspect of the faith has been an anchor for me.  I
place a high value on obedience - what we owe to our Creator and our
Redeemer.  But even if obedience without understanding has its own
perfection - casting ourselves upon the Lord - I am grateful for the
Church's interest in engaging the intellect as well as the will. 
There's a human perfection in understanding, and experience has led me
to believe that the Church in on the side  of what is truly human.  (I
get frustrated at some reports I read about the late John Paul II's
"convictions" with regard to certain issues - as if they were simply a
set of inherited dictums that he held onto like some papal pit bull. 
"Wow - a death grip on contraception, even as the whole world pulled
against him.  What a fighter!"  The man made arguments.  His
encyclicals were not simply proclamations.  Go ahead and examine them,
even disagree with them, but don't ignore them.)

I attended Thomas Aquinas College, more for the intellectual challenge
of it than the religious atmosphere.  (Students at other colleges I
visited had referred to it as "too hard," or "too brainy.")  But the
religious atmosphere was astonishing to a public-school kid raised in a
post-Vatican II climate.  So much old stuff, and so much of it so
appealing, even beautiful.  Icons.  Latin in the liturgy - though we
used the Novus Ordo.  Chant and sacred polyphony.  The bells rung three
times each day for the Angelus.  Devotions such as the veneration of
relics, First Friday observances, scapulars.  And most importantly for
me, Eucharistic Adoration.  (Over time, the Eucharist has become the
center of my faith.)  I had never encountered any of this, and I found
it wonderful in the true sense.  I wondered where it had been all my

It wasn't all aesthetics and devotions.  I read Aquinas at Thomas
Aquinas College - and the Bible, Augustine, Anselm, and Athanasius. 
And I started thinking more about sin, sin as the reason for the
Incarnation and the Resurrection.  Sin had not been a big part of my
religious education.  I had never heard of mortal sin, had never
considered the possibility of hell, and had not been to confession in
six years.  The discovery of my sin - or the naming of it, anyway - was
refreshing.  Here was a clear obstacle on the path to sanctity,
something I could name and engage.  And here was a sacrament -
confession -  to aid me in the struggle.

I graduated from TAC ten years ago, got married a year later, and now
live just outside San Diego with my wife Deirdre and our four children.
  The years since college have served to further my appreciation of the
faith, the way it can shape both understanding and imagination and
provide a unique (I would say uniquely accurate) understanding of the
world and my place in it.

Why did you write SWIMMING WITH SCAPULARS?  What was the process?

I wrote a fair chunk of it because I was asked to.  Jim Holman, my
editor at the weekly newspaper The San Diego Reader, also publishes
several Catholic newspapers, one of them here in San Diego.  Six years
ago, he asked me to write a monthly column about my spiritual life.  I
tried not to laugh at the thought  (January:  I sinned.  I repented.  I
confessed.  February:  I sinned.  I repented.  I confessed...) and got
to work.  Every month, I went digging around in my messy interior for
something worth writing about.  Sometimes, it was my interior life. 
Sometimes, it was the life of the Church.  Sometimes, it was popular
culture.  I wrote under a pseudonym, so I was comfortable laying out my
failings.  But when it turned into the story of my (young) life, I had
to drop the pseudonym.  "My sin is ever before me" - now, it's before
everyone else as well.

I made it into a memoir after several people I respected told me I
should try to make a book out of the columns.  I had fought the idea -
I wanted to be a novelist, and didn't want to give too much away.  (In
his memoir Experience, Martin Amis writes, "I am a novelist, trained to
use experience for other ends" besides the telling of a life story.) 
But eventually, this seemed to be the work in front of me that could be
done, and I decided to do it.  An agent expressed some interest, but
ultimately declined to take it on.  So I sent the columns here and
there myself, garnering some very kind rejections from some fine
editors in the secular publishing world.  (I didn't try Catholic
publishers for a number of reasons, most of them foolish.  An example: 
I was bent on selling myself as a member of a bizarro subculture even
among Catholics:  young, halfway literate, and willing to obey Church
teaching while engaging secular culture.)  One of those editors, Paul
Elie at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, was kind enough to mention me to Jim
Manney and Joe Durepos, two editors from Loyola Press who came to him
looking for writers.  They liked the manuscript, but told me that it
had to be memoirized - made into one story, my story.  I sat down with
the columns, tore them apart, and used them as the foundation for the

Do you think it will annoy anyone?

I imagine any book is capable of annoying *somebody*, particularly when
it involves matters of how people live and what they believe about God.
  I admit to a contrarian streak in my soul, but I didn't write the
to attack anybody, or even to defend myself.  I wrote it to give an
account of my life as a Catholic.  Naturally, that account will involve
claims about the nature of things, and those claims will invite
disagreement.  But the book is meant to paint a picture, not make an
argument.  I admit to hoping that the picture will have some compelling
elements, but it's not making the case for my Catholicism.

Who do you want to read it, and why?

At first, I wanted it to go to a secular audience.  "Well looky here;
here's a Catholic who doesn't strap on the condom!  And get this - he
mortifies his flesh!"  Sort of show that people like me didn't go out
with the Dodo, and that we're not simply superstitious peasants.  "Good
gravy - this one reads Roth, Amis, and Camus!  And he gets all thoughty
about his nutball religion!"

Now, my hope is more modest.  I want the book to go wherever it will
bring pleasure or do good.  The people I hope will read it?  People who
think you can't live in the modern world and still follow Church
teaching.  People who imagine the faithful as monolithic, unthinking
followers who suppress every doubt and question in their need to be
right.  People who can't bring themselves to believe the fantastic
promises of the faith - being united to Jesus by eating Him, the
communion of saints, and all the rest of it.  Oh heck, I want everybody
to read it - I'm hoping that it's an interesting presentation of a
decently examined life.

What do you write about in your day job?

My weekly column is about wine.  It's interview-driven - my editor
doesn't think much of winespeak - and it covers the entire industry,
from vineyard management to production to sales to stemware.  I also
write features in which I go to people's homes for dinner and document
their domestic order - I've done slackers, rastafarians, widows, single
dads, lesbians, authors, military families, young marrieds, mixed
families, and a bunch of others.  I've written cover stories on natural
childbirth, architecture, Porsche owners... I've done all sorts of
stuff.  The Reader is a great place to work; if you can keep a story
interesting, you can really stretch out and go into detail.  I wrote a
14,000 word profile of a guy who had developed an elaborate code of
restaurant etiquette between waiter and diner. My wife wrote 17,000
words about our family's involvement with a homeless couple.

Who's your patron saint?  Or saints?

I took John the Baptist for my confirmation saint.  I admired his zeal
and the purity of his life, two things I could use more of.  I am a
great admirer of St. Therese of Lisieux - the Little Way seems to me
the only way I'll get to heaven, and she seems a saint with whom it's
easy to be on intimate terms.  I named my second son Isaac after the
Jesuit missionary St. Isaac Jogues, who  was to me a model of Christian
courage.  He escaped his torturers and made it back to Rome, then got a
dispensation to say Mass with his mangled hands and returned to the
very place where he had suffered so terribly.  For his trouble, he got
a hatchet in the head.  But as a husband and father, I'd probably say
my patron was Saint Joseph, before whom I "place all my worldly cares"
each Sunday after Mass.

What are your thoughts on the pope's death?

I find myself tempted to take on his critics.  "He didn't follow John
XXIII's example of bringing the Church into contact with the twentieth
century."  What about his willingness to engage the media?  His
emphasis on human fulfillment?  "He micromanaged diocesan life from
Rome."  How often did you hear him - or anything he had written -
mentioned from the pulpit?  How many actual changes in diocesan life
over the past thirty years did you see that you could attribute to him?
  "He appointed ultra-conservative bishops."  Mahony?  Bernardin? 
Ultra-conservative?  "He sought to undo Vatican II."  That one's a
little more involved, but I would argue he sought to fulfill Vatican II
- to throw open the doors of the Church so that the Church could go out
and teach the world.

But I can't take them all on.  I'm not informed enough to answer all
the charges, even if all the charges could be answered. And I don't
know how much the critics would listen.  I would only like to say here
that to me, he was not a strange mix of contradictions - defender of
political freedom on one hand, oppressor of sexual freedom on the
other.  To me, he was a supremely integrated man - all his policies,
popular and unpopular, proceeded from a single vision of human dignity
and a love for Jesus Christ.  He did some things that I didn't
understand, and that sometimes left me frustrated.  But I loved and
admired him.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (17)

Speaking of Names..

If 21st century football coaches can be named Urban, why not 21st century Popes?

Sharp writing in a piece about last week's intra-squad game via the Catholic blogger with the highest interest in Florida football:

So, the flocks made the pilgrimage to see the unveiling of a young Catholic coach who is named after eight popes. The only thing missing from this coronation was the white papal smoke rising out of Century Tower to announce the new leader of Gator Nation. . . .

"There was such giddiness over Urban Meyer that the university had a chef cooking up made-to-order omelets for the media in the press box. For Ron Zook, I believe, we were served stale cornflakes and cold Pop-Tarts."

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (6)

Last Word on Law

Not just because other matters loom, because I think, love him or hate him, Diogenes at CWN gets it right, putting Cardinal Law's presiding at this liturgy in its proper context - the words and stated intentions of the American bishops themselves:

Are we obliged, as faithful Catholics, to set Law's culpability at a minimum? Read Bishop Skylstad's official statement on the day of the resignation (December 13, 2002):

"This resignation represents a significant step forward in the healing process, for abuse victims not only in the Boston diocese, but in dioceses across the country," said Bishop William S. Skylstad, vice president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. "To restore trust and faith in our church, we must be held accountable. Today's action sends a strong message that all priests and bishops will be held accountable."

Nota bene: Diogenes didn't write this. Rod Dreher didn't write this. VOTF or SNAP didn't write it. This is the U.S. bishops' line, and they obviously cashed-in the "strong message - healing process" coupon in order to buy themselves some good ink and positive PR. Pay special attention to the accountability language.

They're not going to tell us what specific misdeeds Law was held accountable for, but clearly the accountability has to do with Law's being out of work, not simply out of this particular job. Otherwise, the line about restoring "trust and faith in our church" would be meaningless -- and cynical as well, given the fact that shifting abusers from one responsible post to another responsible post was a principal factor in the loss of trust that Law's resignation was seen to remedy. They go out their way to insist that this is not a significant step sideways.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (104)

Legacy of Pope John Paul II

Commonweal's symposium

Of particular interest (to me): Stanley Hauerwas

John Paul II’s travels, moreover, suggest that he had to go where the poor live. It is clear he understood that Rome could be a prison. He had to travel so that Catholics in the West might understand that they are not the church. Catholicism is a material faith and Christians rightly desire to see the pope in the flesh. John Paul’s willingness to be present anywhere in the world was the attempt to resist any suggestion that the church is an invisible reality. If Christianity is connections, this was a pope who connected. He was able to make connections because people sensed he was a man of deep faith who resisted letting the responsibilities of his office compromise what truthfully needed to be said.

Terrence Tilley

Both Pius X and John Paul II worked for the goal of preserving the faith, ad tuendam fidem, in analogous ways. Pius’s legacy was theologically debilitating, but, devotionally a profound achievement. John Paul’s pontificate was theologically stimulating and controversial, but given the profound level of defection from the practice of Catholicism-especially participation in the Eucharist-in Europe (and to a lesser extent in the United States) over the last century, the devotional center of this pontificate seems unlikely to endure.

Jim Forest:

Then the pope had gifts for us-we each received a silver rosary. We had a gift for him as well, a copy of my recent biography of Thomas Merton. Merton’s writings had been an important influence on Perez Equival’s life, and he thought the book would be the perfect gift for the pope. This was the one moment in the audience when I had a brief exchange with John Paul. Switching from Spanish to English, the pope asked if I had known Merton. Yes, I responded, he had been my spiritual father the last seven years of his life. John Paul said he too was a great admirer of Merton’s writings. A close friend, the publisher of his own writings in Poland, was also the publisher of many of Merton’s books in Polish. He had read them all, he said, and still had them in his library. He looked through the book, pausing over various photos.

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Truth to Power

Bishop has words for IL governor

Few may have heard the local Illinois news about Governor Blagojevich issuing an executive order demanding that pharmacists must fill prescriptions for contraceptives, even if it goes contrary to their conscience. Fewer probably heard what one of the Catholic auxillary bishops of Chicago said to Gov. Blagojevich at a Mass for John Paul II just a mile or two from our office on April 3. We take this directly from the Sunday bulletin of St. John Cantius Church, Chicago:


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Whither Nuns

A thoroughly inadequate treatment of the decline in vocations for religious life among women. Doesn't, for example, look at any orders that aren't in decline.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (34)

Another virtual conclave

Just computer graphics via the Chicago Sun-Times.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 13, 2005

Empty Churches in Europe

A WSJ piece explores why, via a review of George Weigel's new book:

At Mass last Sunday, Amiens's gothic cathedral, the largest in France, was virtually empty. Not just sparsely filled--it was, except for a handful of tourists, vacant. Mass was being conducted in a side chapel fit for the couple dozen worshipers who showed up for it (I among them).

Amiens is hardly the exception. Europe's largest churches are often unused these days, reduced to monuments for tourists to admire. And there is a reason for this neglect. In "The Cube and the Cathedral," George Weigel describes a European culture that has become not only increasingly secular but in many cases downright hostile to Christianity. The cathedral in his title is Notre Dame, now overshadowed in cultural importance by the Arc de la Defense, the ultramodernist "cube" that dominates an office complex outside Paris. "European man has convinced himself that in order to be modern and free, he must be radically secular," Mr. Weigel writes. "That conviction and its public consequences are at the root of Europe's contemporary crisis of civilizational morale."

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Keep up

John Allen on the conclave preachers:

For whatever it’s worth, therefore, the two “outsiders” who will have the most direct access to the cardinals in this pre-conclave period are men who can be expected to present a simple, evangelical and ecumenical vision. While these will by no means be campaign speeches, the tone and vision may nevertheless have some impact on the imaginations of the cardinals heading into the conclave – with, at least potentially, very surprising results.

On Vatican II

Earlier Wednesday, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and dean of the College of Cardinals, characterized John Paul’s efforts to expand Roman Catholicism’s global presence as a compliment to the directives laid out in Lumen Gentium, a document known as the Second Vatican Council’s constitution. 

“John Paul II has led the church for more than 26 years, making clear that (the church) is like--as the Second Vatican Council recalled--both ‘the sign and the instrument of the intimate union with God and of the unity of all of mankind,’” Ratzinger said, citing Lumen Gentium.

Ratzinger, who was speaking before the Holy See diplomatic corps, added that John Paul “led (the church) into the third millennium, inviting Christians to bring Christ to the world and calling all men of good will to react with generosity, peace, solidarity and sharing.”

Father Neuhaus' Rome Diary has, in the course of the day, become the must-read, full of spicy tidbits and sharp observations

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Save our Sisters

Rally at Rockville Center chancery to protest firing of campus ministers

As protesters lined up with "Save Our Sisters" signs outside the Diocese of Rockville Centre headquarters, Bishop William Murphy yesterday tried to quell the outrage over the firing of three older nuns as campus ministers.

Murphy met with Sister Jean Amore, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, and Sister Virginia McGuire, prioress of the Sisters of St. Dominic in Amityville, in the morning in what the diocese said was an effort to bring about "healing and reconciliation."

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We hate trend pieces

But here's one for you anyway - from the NYTimes on young Catholics' receptivity to the Theology of the Body

Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Georgetown center, said young Catholics seemed to be "more receptive to the church, they participate more than their Generation X brothers and sisters, and are a little less cynical about institutions in general, the church included."

They are theologically conservative, but not conservative across the board when it comes to political issues, she said.

"They are more involved in traditional conservative religious practices, but they're very receptive to social justice messages about serving the poor," she said.

I pray for the day when no one ever inserts a "but" between those two clauses again.

Maybe I'll ask Dorothy Day to pray for it, too.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (6)

Good News!

John Edwards has a book on the rosary!

No, not the trial lawyer/candidate...the guy who talks to the dead.

Both are equally strange candidates to write books on the rosary. But what do you bet that Edwards' book outsells any book on the rosary published by a Catholic publisher this year?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)

Coming Fall '05

And...do you know what's scary? That's it. Nothing on tap, nothing in the works - after five years of two books a year (at least)...all I've got is a novel, with probably no hope of publication, staring me in the face. It's a weird feeling...

(In case you can't make out the title, it's called A Catholic Woman's Book of Days - a 365 devotional for women.. Or anyone else who'd like to use it. Loyola Press, fall '06)

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)


Okay, not as bad as I expected.

Very good debunking of the Priory of Sion, except for the fact that this segment ended with "...unless you think this is all a smokescreen for the truth.." Basically dissed everything Brown claims, but not as strongly as I would like.

No context for gnostic writings...at all.

Good for Bart Ehrman, Ben Witherington and Darrell Bock, and the priest from Rome, who made it in. Bad for me and Jenny Driver (Member of Opus Dei and author of this Beliefnet piece) who didn't...funny how the female critics of the book didn't...make...the..cut.


(HEY! I MADE IT IN!...Uh, I mean copies of the Croatian and Thai translations made it in for .035 seconds, unidentified. I guess that was worth the trip)


MJ's glad he got to see Times Square, anyway.

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there are tons of papabile stories out there, and I'm not linking to many of them, because the Papabile Blog is doing a great job...

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No thanks

I usually try to avoid posting items that involve Traditionalist Catholics, because it really does tend to get too hot around here as a result. But...

Some wonder and grate at the reluctance of bishops to let Traditionalist Catholics full freedom in their diocese. The point, a valid one, is made.."they" let (for examples) gays and lesbians have their liturgies, why not Traditionalists?  "They" countenance all kinds of liturgical abuses, so why not give full and open approval to a rite approved by the Vatican, that they're supposed to offer to the faithful who wish for it? (and so on...depending on the diocese). But I think the following story illustrates why even the most open-minded bishops see it as important to be cautious and watchful. It's minor but telling.

My husband was speaking to a priest who celebrates the diocesan-approved Tridentine liturgy in his diocese, in a regular parish. He says the liturgies are crowded, and sometimes he runs out of Hosts that he had consecrated at that Mass, and has to go to the reserved Hosts in the tabernacle.

When he does this...quite a few people already in line cover their lips with a finger and decline to receive. Because, of course, the dreaded "Novus Ordo" Mass is invalid...

Hence, the caution.

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Before you get too excited...

about all the Pope books selling so well, you might want to note that there are, at this writing, two Pope books in the top 60 general bestsellers on Amazon..and right up there, holding strong at #53, is this book, which, in the email blast I received yesterday, is festooned with blurbs from both Bill O'Reilly and Matthew Fox! What a combo. BTW, I think Spong is going to be on O'Reilly tonight.

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More Catholic than the Pope?

Over the past ten days, I have been thinking, fairly frequently, about the predominant template for reporting on the popular impact of John Paul II's papacy:

Loved...but ignored.

Which, of course, has been a constant theme of reporting on his papacy, period, and, by extension on the practice of Catholicism in the US.

I've been reading all sorts of stories - well, not reading closely, exactly, but skimming, because the template is so easy to spot and so predictable - and pondering all the quotes and sincere assurances that so many Catholics are looking to the next papacy to open things up a bit, to get more with it, to catch up to the modern world.

And I just don't know what to make of it.

(Post continued below. I'm going to keep coming back to this throughout my day..which includes a trip to the dentist this afternoon [and MJ's first stint with a babysitter! Too bad it's for the dentist and not for dinner at Biaggi's, but such is life. My life, at least. I'm not going to open comments on this post until I'm satisfied with what I've written)

For you see, when I look at this just-completed papacy, I absolutely don't see what these people evidently see. I don't see a closed-in, fearful, ghetto-building, judgmental scene. In fact, it's the opposite. I see a Pope who traveled endlessly, bringing not any quirky agenda, but simply the Gospel, which includes mercy and judgment both. I see just unending, tireless efforts to tell people about Christ, the joy He brings, in contrast to the dehumanizing emptiness of so much of modernity. I see such determined outreach to other faiths that many Catholics were confused and even offended.

So what is this all about? Sexual morality, okay...I guess it's mostly about that. But who in their right mind really believes that the Church's primary teachers are tomorrow, going to come out with documents suggesting, "All clear. Sexual activity is for everyone, with anyone, at any time, as long as everyone consents and no one's being exploited. Sexual activity has no tie to procreation or commitment, so go for it."

Because, you know, that's the alternative. You may react against that as being a bit hyperbolic, but it's not. Once you lose marriage from the equation, any attempts to draw lines or discern a meaningful Judeo-Christian, spiritually-rooted ethics in sexuality is pointless.  Can't be done, I'm convinced of it.

I think I just can't get into the mind of one who makes  "Update the Church" his or her focus and primary concern. Not because I'm any kind of adherant to tradition for its own sake or anything like that, but because it just seems to me to be totally the wrong question. I think the Church needs to be utterly conversant with the cultures in which it operates, deeply involved in conversations about new intellectual and social paradigms, and responsive to them. This is, I think, what JPII's "New Evangelization" was partly about. But that's the point - the point is for the Church to enter the World more deeply so it knows and understands the world, and can speak its language. Not so that the Church will wise up and take the world's lead on matters fundamental, but so that the Gospel can be more powerfully spread and....more easily heard. My study of John XXIII and his hopes for the Council lead me to believe this is was he hoped, and it's what John Paul II was following up on and expanding. John XXIII ministered, for most of his life, in areas where the Roman Catholic Church was an extreme minority. Unlike predecessors in those positions, he didn't isolate himself - he got out and interacted with the community and its leaders. Not so he could amend the content of what he was obliged to say to them, but so that he could say it in a way that could be better understood.

So what does this mean for today, and the concerns raised in all of these articles? That the Church needs to get with the times so it can tell us all we're okay in our lives, no matter what we're doing, as some seem to rather thoughtlessly imply? No...I can't even begin to imagine walking that road. But the Church does need to always listen. To listen to those who are not confining sexual activity to marriage, to those who are contracepting, to those who are putting the pursuit of material goods, power and their careers before the Gospel, so that we can answer their questions with the love and truth of the Gospel, rather than simply preaching abstract platitudes at them.

It's also worth noting that somehow it always works out that the more educated and erudite voices calling for a Church that's more reflective of the reality of the cultures and societies in which it lives, are usually only talking about sexual matters, abortion and euthanasia. They're still out there, calling for the Church to be "countercultural" in terms of its response to Western material values, the death penalty, and war.

And of course, too many on the other side - holding up the Church's moral teaching as beautiful in its counter-cultural tone - often want the same Church to get a grip and get real on economic and political matters.

We're all guilty. We all have our inconsistencies. For my part, I don't want the Church to give into any of them - mine included.

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Uses and Misuses of Religion

Spammers using JPII's image

That allegedly consecrated Host sold on Ebay - Sioux City diocesan officials are looking into it (seller was located in that diocese)

Dusty Baker and the holy water

That Baker had any in his possession came to light last week, when a columnist at another suburban paper wrote of team media relations director Sharon Pannozzo bringing him two vials that she had blessed four months ago, during an audience with Pope John Paul II.

In subsequent questioning both during a radio interview and during his regular pregame news conference Tuesday morning, Baker said he has applied the liquid "to certain people that are hurting," including Prior. Clearly, he considered it an act of faith, and that's hard to knock in a world that could use all the faith it can get — still, Baker might want to consider a few other things, as well.

One, he is a non-Catholic, and as such his use of holy water might offend some in that faith who don't want to see a liquid and a blessing from a man they hold sacred used as little more than a lucky rabbit's foot.

Two, Baker went on to say, "There's something to it. It's not like it's voodoo or something ... " It's not for us to say if there's anything to voodoo, or Catholicism, Buddhism or any other faith — and it's certainly not for Baker to potentially put his subordinates in the uncomfortable position of either sanctioning a belief system that may not be their own or risking their boss' scorn.

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I hear a bid

Tucson diocese auctioning off 85 properties..

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Check it out

Patrick Madrid...looking sharp.

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He should have known better

Melinda Henneberger at Newsweek:

Inside the basilica, the ornate surroundings did not exactly work to Law’s advantage, either. High above the center aisle, a sculpture I’d never noticed before shows St. John Bosco-protector of children and young people-whispering a warning to two urchins hiding behind his skirts, and pointing accusingly towards the altar where Law said mass yesterday.

Another view on Cardinal Law from Bill Cork.

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Vote for the Pope

Newsweek poll

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April 12, 2005

Another Rome Journal

Father Neuhaus is there...

In Rome and in circles closely connected to Rome, the chatter about the next pope begins the day a new pope is installed. It has understandably been more intense in the last several years of John Paul's undeniable decline. Most of it is idle speculation, as idle as it is inevitable. For the record, this is the state of the chatter shortly after the funeral of John Paul:


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A Mass for Terri

Jeff Miller reports on a Mass for Terri Schindler Schiavo held at Immaculate Conception Church in Jacksonville (Diocese of St. Augustine) - several priests participated, and the Schindlers were in attendance.

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Who needs state funding?

Corporations quietly pursuing embryonic stem cell research

A survey by The Wall Street Journal of 12 of the world's largest drug firms by sales, as well as leading U.S. biotechnology concerns and medical-device makers, found several previously undisclosed research programs involving human embryonic stem cells. But many companies said they weren't using stem cells, and several had policies forbidding the research.

In no case is a major U.S. company working directly with human embryos. Instead they are turning to small companies and universities to obtain supplies of the cells. Johnson & Johnson, for instance, is backing cutting-edge research on the cells at a biotechnology company in California. Becton Dickinson received supplies from the University of Wisconsin. Other companies declined to say where they obtained cells or where they planned to get them.

Human embryonic stem cells were discovered and patented in 1998 at the University of Wisconsin. Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, says the nonprofit, which handles the school's patent estate and grants licenses to users, has issued eight commercial licenses so far. It doesn't publicly reveal the names of licensees. Among major corporations, only Becton Dickinson confirms it has obtained one.

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Welcome, new readers

I'm sensing we've welcomed many new readers over the past ten days, what with links on CNN, MSNBC and AOL - and perhaps others I don't know about.

If you're new to this blog, let me explain what it is:

It's a spot for me to post thoughts of my own and lots of links to articles I think are interesting and helpful. My main interests are religion, literature and other areas of culture, and pro-life issues. Sometimes I do more "thinking" and other times more "linking" - it just depends on what else is going on in my life. Right now, I'm taking care of an almost 5-month old baby, trying to keep up with another part-time job I have, editing books in the "Loyola Classics" series (Examples: here and here) and also trying to work on a novel. So these days, there's perhaps more linking than thinking.

If you want more thinking, please check out my books - some of which are linked over there on the right. Click on the covers. Some are my husband's books. Between the two of us, we have an active, positive ministry of writing and speaking, trying to help Catholics deepen their relationship with Christ. To that end, we write about the Church's richness of tradition and spirituality, prayer, saints and the Mass (that's my husband's department). I hope you do take a look at our books. They're available at any online bookseller, and should be in your Catholic bookstore. If they're not, complain. Some of the books (De-Coding and Words We Pray, and perhaps the saints' books) are available in secular chains, as well.

Some bloggers with large audiences don't have comments on their blog. I do (on most threads!) - I find it adds a great deal to the blog, and cuts down on my email. I simply ask that commentors be civil - which means...act your age. And don't abuse my hospitality by hijacking threads to accomodate your own agenda.

Or other things of that ilk.

If you sometimes detect negativity among commentors, don't be surprised or disturbed. As I recently wrote in a comments thread myself, it's simply a factor of human nature. Most people aren't moved to write about things unless they're annoyed - like letters to the editor. It's that same dynamic in operation here.


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History Test

Really good, rich piece by Michael Sean Winter at TNR

You might not agree with every sentence, but it's worth a read:

It is difficult to overstate the theological importance of the grace-versus-nature debate--an argument akin to that between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists on the creation of a powerful central government. That is to say, depending on how you resolve this one issue, every other theological issue is affected, altered, colored, changed. Precisely because of the radical challenge de Lubac's thought represents, implementing it has been slow going, even for a man as forceful as John Paul. Patterns of interreligious dialogue, moral reasoning, and even core notions of what it means to be a Christian priest or a spouse are affected. This theological experiment is still in a very early stage, and conservative opposition to it has been effective. Much work remains to be done in applying de Lubac to moral theology. Because "natural law" theory has been the basis of Catholic moral teaching for several centuries, and because de Lubac's thought throws the whole idea of a "natural law" distinct from notions of grace into question, it is obvious just how experimental this theological experiment is. The previous legalism may have been dry and not specifically Christian, but it had this advantage: You can dispense from a law, but not from a truth.

What is clear about the de Lubacian agenda, carried forward by Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, is that it issues in a radicalized sense of Catholicism. This theological radicalism was at the heart of the "new evangelization" John Paul called for, an evangelization aimed at the secularized religion of the West but even more at the Third World. This was not a call to a "culture war" in the vulgar manner of contemporary right-wing U.S. politics, but it was clearly a call to a Catholic cultural renaissance. The de Lubacians see modernity's paradigms collapsing, and they seek to provide the theological soil from which a different, more mystical, and more Christocentric culture may be born. John Paul's embrace of a more Christ-centered theology is exciting and accounts for some of the dynamism of Catholicism in the Third World. But there have been costs. For example, the parameters of interreligious dialogue are more constricted when you posit that creation itself is ordered to Christ.


That humanism, which once underpinned and shaped the Enlightenment values of Western societies, seems so utterly absent from the spread-eagle capitalism of the West today, in which the market is the sole vehicle for assigning worth and resources. If the good of concrete human persons is not the criterion for social, political, and economic life; if the value of subjective freedom is so predominant as to trump all other values; if the moral life of the human person is consistently evaluated in utilitarian terms, is humanism still even possible? John Paul's consistent solidarity with the poor could not stand in sharper contrast to the predominant cultural ethos of the West.

Nowhere was the Pope's disappointment on socialjustice issues more obvious than in his native Poland after the collapse of Communism. There, the very same people who had flocked to see the Pope on his pilgrimages, who had sustained Mass attendance records unparalleled in Europe, who had produced the greatest share of Europe's priests--those same people ignored the Church's teachings on birth control, divorced in record numbers, and, given the chance, flocked to purchase CDs and BMWs and cell phones. The disheartened pontiff turned his gaze from Eastern Europe to the impoverished southern part of the globe, trying to stem the tide of Western materialism and utilitarianism. John Paul's numerous visits to the Third World were attempts to demonstrate the Church's solidarity with and presence among the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It is on these continents that the Church is now looking for its springtime.

Indeed, Catholicism is becoming a Third World religion, and the structures and priorities of the Church will have to change even more than they did under Pope John Paul to accommodate this basic shift. In Africa and Asia and Latin America, the Gospel--with its call for solidarity with the poor and the suffering and for understanding the Church as a community of solidarity between God and man--has a different ring from Western Catholics' call for sexual liberation: It is the ring of authenticity. For all of its traditionalism, there is a whiff of newness in the Church today, a newness that was emphasized again and again in the writings and policies of Pope John Paul II. He was fascinated by the approach of the Third Millennium and wanted desperately to live long enough to usher it in, believing that it would herald a new day for the Church, a Church he tried to reawaken to its radical vision of God and the dignity of the human person.

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Blogging the Conclave

Bill Howard (for whom my reader strongly vouches) for the Texas Catholic from Rome

And today, from Father Thomas Reese at America, a word about his many media appearances over the past week, here:

Careful observers will have noticed that I appear to gain and lose years from one program to the next and even during programs. In fact, the networks have been pretaping these interviews for the last 10 years. I am not sure, but I think the first obit I did on pope was the day Mother Teresa died. The network decided to do it since I was in the studio to talk about her. So during the past week you could have seen me with varying lengths of hair, varying amounts of grey and different pairs of glasses. The only consistent item was my black suit and white collar. For me the most poignant moment was seeing my old friend Tad Szulc, the biographer of John Paul, commenting on one station. The program did not note that Tad has been dead for a number of years. Perhaps they did not know.

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Did Church Renewal Happen?

Fr. Joseph Wilson, also in the DMN

This situation poses an urgent challenge for the next pope. Even those on fire for the Catholic faith often have to contend with lackluster parishes, poor liturgy and little support for authentic Catholic renewal within their local dioceses. John Paul's bold vision of a re-energized Catholicism often found no response from entrenched church bureaucrats.

The clerical sexual abuse scandal has not helped the credibility of the church, and the revelation of the hierarchy's insensitive and ineffective response to these crimes simply highlighted the leadership crisis in much of the church – a leadership lackluster, uninspired and anything but visionary.

The episcopal appointments under John Paul are a curious subject. The popular notion that he reshaped the episcopate by naming conservative bishops cannot be sustained. He appointed most current bishops, a group I would not characterize as conservative or as effective or even having many convictions. They have shown little interest in addressing the many areas of crisis in the church.

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Media Notes

First, if you haven't caught my Dallas Morning News piece, here 'tis

Secondly, I'll be on Al Kresta's show this afternoon at 5:30 Eastern, talking about this book.

Third, Beliefnet is doing a "Virtual Conclave" into next week, featuring discussions between various characters, including moi. Check it out.

Finally, and sadly, I don't think my segment made it into the Dateline show. I won't know for sure until I see it, but the communication I received from one of the producers indicates a slight shift in emphasis. I'm not proclaiming anything certain, but given the change in title, from "Fact and Fiction in The da Vinci Code" to "Secrets of the Code.." I think I can guess. We'll see!

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From a reader

Writer Marjorie Murphy Campbell went to Rome:

I  have just returned to the comfort and security of my home.  On Monday past, I made a quick decision and cashed in our frequent flyer miles for a ticket to Rome ... to say Thank You to a man who has served human history in stunning fashion.  Bill called me on my cell phone, not knowing that I was in route to Rome, with pending events for the evening.  I had to interrupt him and say, "Honey, there's something I need to tell you."  For his unhesitating support of my journey, I shall always be grateful.

I arrived Rome Monday evening, rested long and well and then, at 2:00 pm Wednesday, I joined The Line to pass by John Paul's body.  It was a bright clear beautiful Rome afternoon, which lifted my spirit.  This was good, for little did I understand that I had joined a vigil line that would end 15 hours later with my seconds passing by the body of the Pope in St. Peter's.  Once again proving Murphy's law, I managed to get within the next entering group at 2:00 a.m., just as officials closed the doors for the 2-5 am. cleaning.  I knew about this closure, but it never occurred to me that somehow a 2:00 a.m. event would affect me.  The good news was this:  officials reopened St. Peter's at 4:15 am., so that, by 5:00 a.m., the purpose of my trip was complete.
It is hard for me to describe the hours in line - pressed in a mass of bodies in totally uninsurable European style.  You come to know details of your elbow to elbow, butt to stomach neighbors, details that you might not really want to know.  You hear them, smell them, suffer them, smile with them, share a piece of moldy cheese with them.  You ask them to move an arm aside, so you can reach a cramp in your lower back.  You breath cigarette smoke that drifts up from a squatting smoker somewhere around your knees. 
Mostly, you move by very slow, painfully slow, increments with them, rejoicing, even shouting, when the line advances 8 feet instead of two.  Below, you will see the bridge that I came to know so well, for it took 5 hours to cross.  I have photos of the first statue in the bright of the afternoon - to capture the second statue, I used flash.
I was overwhelmed with this fact:  the line was dominated by the youth.  I was much farther on the "old" end than I like to admit.  Over the 15 hours, these young people laughed and sang and adjusted their backpacks and sleeping bags and shouted "Papa", and in their enthusiasm for the life of this man, I found the reason for having come.  Pope John Paul II was about life, everyone's life, however small, however frail, however impoverished, however corrupt.  He conveyed, in a miraculous way, the utterly unmodern concept that we all matter, equally and soundly, in the eternal sight of a loving Creator. 
That's not easy to see in today's world.  It wasn't all that easy to see in The Line, to be honest.  People can be so rude.  So annoying.  So filthy.  As The Line inched off the bridge, still a block away from the live broadcast video screens in route to St. Peter, I stepped on water bottles and debris and unknowable soft spots.  I prayed there was no body underfoot.  Somehow, I got chewing gum on my pants.  One teenager roared, irate that someone had pinched her rear ...  a scowling man denied it and moved away.  Once, I squeezed and apologized my way from the center of the line to it's edge.  Then, I experienced my first truly "full" PortaPotty, and copied the Italian women, rolling up my pant legs and holding a clean white tissue over my nose.  No, it's really not easy to love all these people. 
You can catch humanity at its worst moments, and at its best.  Somehow, Pope John Paul II stayed focused on the best, on what we can be if we admit Our Savior - or, at least, a bit of what he had to say - into our hearts.  How did the Pope do that?  How did he convey to so many millions that "You, too, have worth and dignity."?  How did he do that in his vibrant youth, clear through to his drooling, infirmed old age?  In this age, the age of Peter Singer, abortion, Terry Schiavo, terrorism and torture and death penalty, in this secular age led by an educated elite who functions happily as its own personal deity,  how did this man remain so stubbornly humble, so stubbornly in love with Jesus Christ, so undoubting of God's design for his people?
In the Church, after I passed by his body, with my own love and grief and awe pounding my head, after I tried to take a photo that now, I see, is only a bright yellow spot with red around the edges, after I realized "it is finished", I saw again the young people.  Throughout St. Peters, backpacks off to the side, young people kneeled, wept and hung their heads with their own personal loss of this man.  It hurts to see young people so sad.
In the calm, cold dawn, I wandered, limping, back to my hotel, passing through parks filled with slumbering campers.  I listened to CNN, with my feet propped up on pillows, resting my beaten body, propound the prevailing media view that this Pope was a great "actor".  Hmmmm.  An actor?  Well, he certainly had camera appeal, even in sickness and death, and he kissed the babies and walked into the humblest homes in all corners of the Earth, and fought his security to touch adoring followers, and, quietly, visited with his want-to-be assassin.  No doubt, he fully deployed his talents, and then some.   The best actors have never sustained such a long, unbroken perfect performance.  The man had something big going for him.
Whether you are Catholic, or not, whether you are a believer in God, or not, whether you think about mortality, or not, you have to be impressed.  Along with friends Brother Joseph and Brother Michael, I participated by video in the funeral ceremonies at St. Paul Outside the Wall (shrinking from another mosh pit at the Vatican) where I watched, awe struck, by the array of gathering dignitaries ... braving the masses with protection from the dubious Italian security forces (who seemed better at handing out water bottles than scanning for danger).  They gathered around the simple wooden box, so small, there in the middle of St. Peter's square.  Many had traveled through the mobbed streets of Rome in caravans of police motorcycles and armored cars, sirens wailing at the crowds to open and let them pass.  Many of these dignitaries must have felt a bit frightened, stuck, vulnerable as they inched along, an easy target hemmed in by the masses.  Why did all these very important people come here, I wondered?  What obligation, what voice called them to this risky duty?
But it's not so puzzling, I decided.  It's the same voice that called The Line, the young people, the proud Poles, the cranky Croatians, the Parisian youth groups, a young Indian family I met, the odd Irish, British and American ... a voice that spoke to millions so eloquently, so surely, so uniquely of the value of life.
It's silent now.  Pope John Paul II is, as one Brother reminded me when I was crying, "a dead man".  I know what he meant by that.  The man is dead.  We will not hear him again.
But we wait in hopeful, and for me, prayerful, anticipation that the Cardinals will find another, another Holy Father, to raise up his voice in the world market of conflict, ideas and struggle, in favor of all life.  Whether you agree with the details or not, it's a voice the world needs, cries for - it's a voice that comes from afar, from outside the Earthly bounds.  In these days, it's a lonely, hard voice to sound, subject to great ridicule and hostility.  I watched one CNN reporter attack Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore with a lengthy nasty rhetorical question demanding the Cardinal explain the Pope's alleged "compassion" for AIDS victims and his "vehement" opposition to condoms.   To his credit Cardinal Keeler smiled warmly and suggested that the media occasionally takes Catholic positions "out of context". 
Maybe, it's just that way.  Advocating life, defining the contours of the culture of death, will not be popular work in a busy, bustling world keen to define good and bad, right and wrong, upon a criteria of personal pleasure and individual decision.  Maybe it's just that way.  You won't know how many fans you have, until you are dead.
But I ask you, where would this world be without the voice of Pope John Paul II, where would this world be without a booming voice for life?

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Prayer for the Conclave

From Steve Sojec:

We beseech Thee, O Lord, in humble supplication, to bestow in Thy great mercy upon the Holy Roman Church a Pontiff whose piety and zeal for our welfare will be pleasing to Thee, and who will merit constant veneration, to the glory of Thy name, by his sound governance of Thy people. We ask this through Thy Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Next Pope and Adam Smith

Times UK writer says next Pope should catch a clue

IN THE next couple of weeks, the cardinals will elect a new pope. He will be a holy man because the cardinals understand the nature of prayer; he will have been a capable bishop, because the cardinals understand the nature of Church administration; he will have a powerful personality, if not as charismatic as that of Pope John Paul II. It is unlikely that the same lightning will strike the papacy twice running.

What more can one say about his likely views? The next pope will be a socialist; no doubt a democratic socialist, but a socialist all the same. Almost every cardinal and bishop in the Roman Catholic Church, and probably every bishop in the Anglican Church, is a socialist. They are socialists in the same sense as Tony Blair, or Gerhard Schröder, or Jacques Chirac, or Bill Clinton. They are all socialists because they have never studied the liberal argument. That is a pity; liberalism may not be enough, but it is the basis of our culture.

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Farewell to a Great

Michael Novak in NRO

It will be nigh impossible for the cardinals, even if some would, to turn now in another direction. I think they must keep faith with the millions in the streets and weeping before their television sets worldwide. At all times, the Catholic Church (now 1.1 billion strong, and the fastest growing religious body in the world) turns like a great aircraft carrier — very slowly. It now owes it to its greatest leader ever to sail straight ahead, directly into prevailing winds. The very winds into which our admiral joyfully sailed: "Be Not Afraid!"

It is not so much the doctrinal teachings that are here in question, but rather the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for all human beings through him, that Pope Wojtyla taught us. Fidelity to doctrine, yes, but first things first: It is the distinctive love that God himself brought into the world, the sun's flame of caritas, which Dante writes is "the Love that moves the sun and all the stars." It is this that fired our John Paul. He was a vessel of the love of Jesus Christ for the entire world.

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April 11, 2005

Rule of Law

John Allen on the clash of cultures respresented by Cardinal Law's presiding at Mass

Many in the Vatican, on the other hand, put the debate surrounding Law in an entirely different content. While no one in Rome defends Law’s mishandling of accusations of sexual abuse by priests under his jurisdiction, many tend to say that these failures have to be balanced against a lifetime of faithful service to the Catholic Church. He paid his penalty, they say, when he resigned as Boston’s archbishop, and he has apologized for the harm he caused. To shun or ostracize him, they believe, would be to capitulate to an exaggerated lynch-mob mentality driven more by rage and hurt than by sober judgment.

If Christianity believes in redemption, they argue, then there must be redemption also for Bernard Law.

Finally, another illustration of the cultural gap: If the Vatican were at all sensitive to public relations in the conventional sense, they certainly would not have issued what was, in effect, an engraved invitation to the American press to resurrect the sex abuse story after a week of uninterruptedly positive coverage tied to the life and legacy of John Paul II. If the Vatican were a Fortune 500 corporation, someone in the public relations office would be out of work. Obviously, however, the Vatican simply does not think in these terms.

On the other hand, from a PR point of view, the Vatican probably gets a free pass on this story, because by tomorrow speculation about the next pope will no doubt once again supplant the Law story, which will be no more than a tiny footnote to the week’s events. The larger issues it illustrates, on the other hand, are certainly not going away.

A report on the Mass itself

At the Spectator Online, George Neumayr helpfully points out the press's different approaches to two Cardinals:

What's the difference between the fate of Cardinal Law and Cardinal Mahony? The Boston Globe. Mahony has Los Angeles Times religion reporter Larry Stammer in his pocket, as was revealed in 2002 by a leaked e-mail from the Los Angeles chancery in which Mahony promised a colleague that "Larry Stammer" would whip up a positive story for them ("he stands ready to help if we have a story we want to get out," the e-mail said). Unlike Law who had serious reporters on his heels, Mahony has long benefited from the somnolent coverage of West Coast media liberals willing to excuse his protection of pedophiles in gratitude for his political and doctrinal liberalism.

On Monday TAS asked David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests, if he has noticed the media's coddling of Mahony. "You are right," he said. "The word that comes to mind for me about Mahony is disingenuousness. He postures so shamelessly as a reformer." Clohessy's explanation for the media's abetting of Mahony's snow job: "He works harder at PR than most bishops. He'll use any opportunity to look better." And, says Clohessy, he's more "liberal," and the "press likes him for that reason."

Well, yeah, the press is hypocritical and two-faced. But the real problem is that the Cardinals' colleagues are not. They're perfectly consistent: Nothing to see here...keep moving.

This discussion has been going on around here for a while, heightened in recent weeks by considerations of John Paul II's legacy and Law's presence at this Mass.

In the wake of this most recent (2003 and beyond) version of the clerical sexual abuse scandal, the cry has gone up countless times for more "transparency," a word with varied meanings - here, it might mean a greater lay role in the selection of bishops, there it might mean  more openness about priests' backgrounds, and so on.

But I think, at the bottom of all of these particular issues lies a broader and deeper one which we most of us can agree: Catholics need and justice demands greater transparency on the rationale behind bishops' treatment of each other, and the Curia's treatment of bishops.

I cannot tell you, because there is no way to, how much time has been spent on blogs, asking the question, "Why?" Why didn't the Pope or the Curia act more strongly in regard to bishops who covered up these crimes? Why don't bishops speak up to each other? Why don't they act?

Do you realize that no one, anywhere with any power or responsibility or say in these things has ever given an honest answer...or perhaps an answer of any kind, to these questions?

That not one single bishop or Curial official, to my knowledge has been confronted with and forced to answer the question: "If it weren't for the press and for the threat of lawsuits, would anything have been done? Why or why not? And what would have been done?"

This is a grave issue, and one that we can't allow to be brushed off by "It's just an American problem" - because it's not. God bless the Southern hemisphere for its growth and demographic dominence of the Church, but the North is still important, and its troubles shouldn't be trivialized (and I doubt clerical sexual abuse is just a Northern or Western problem, anyway).

What bugs me, aside from the fundamental outrageousness of the situation, is the blasted mystery of the episcopal and Curial attitude, and why these gentlemen can't be sat down and forced to answer the question, "Do you believe in the values you preach...or not?"

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On the road again

My husband is in Portland, Oregon. He says it is full of pale, bohemian-looking people and that I would fit right in. He also says there is at least one coffee shop every block, which I said must be because the pale bohemian people are always wanting to get out of the rain and warm up. Finally, he said that the roads downtown are made of bricks, and since it's always damp there, they're always wet and slick, and he almost fell and broke something about ten times in one hour.

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Discussing the Choice

Here's a transcript of a discussion held earlier today with the couple profiled in that WaPo story yesterday

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Power Failure?

From the New Republic, on John Paul II and the Middle East

Muslim leaders are widely reported to be mourning the death of the Pope. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the ranking cleric at Egypt's preeminent Al Azhar Islamic seminary, said his death was "a great loss not only to the Catholic church but to the Islamic world." Senior Muslim Brotherhood preacher Yusuf al Qardawi wrote, "He was a man of peace who stood firmly against the Iraq war and the Israeli separation wall." The leadership of Hamas conveyed its condolences to the press and urged the Vatican "to maintain its position in support of our people and our cause, and focus its efforts on steering its followers to defend the rights of our Palestinian people to confront the continuous Zionist aggression, which targets Muslims and Christians..." Sympathies poured in from Syrian president Bashar Assad, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, and Arab League chief Amr Moussa, among others. Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Muhammad recalled that Pope John Paul II had "supported the Palestinians and condemned their victimization. He also ... opposed the occupation of Iraq." Arabic-language satellite networks, according to the Associated Press, "have launched a media blitz for the death of Pope John Paul II, giving Mideast viewers hours of live broadcasts from the Vatican and programs on the pontiff's life--coverage rarely given even to the region's leaders."

In the midst of all these tributes, however, one thing has been lost: When it came to the Middle East, Pope John Paul II largely failed to promote social justice and religious freedom. His political strategy in the region was in many ways the very opposite of his political strategy in Eastern Europe. The Pope took a hard line against communist governments, but in the Middle East, his strategy was too often one of appeasement--not only toward authoritarian regimes but also toward powerful religious-political movements that preach intolerance toward minorities. Partly as a result, the percentage of Christians in the population of many Middle Eastern countries continued its precipitous decline over the past three decades. Ironically, the Muslim Middle East grew more religiously homogenous and less tolerant at the same time as the Christian West was growing more religiously diverse.

It's impossible to know for sure why so many Islamist leaders and Arab heads of state were so generous in their praise of John Paul this week. But here's one theory: They liked him because he didn't hold them to the same standards to which he held Poland's Wojciech Jaruzelski and the USSR's Mikhail Gorbachev. They liked him because whereas he successfully fought for religious freedom, equality, and social justice in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East he did not.

Article requires registration, but...you know.

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Smoke-filled back rooms

A rather detailed paper on Conclave voting

Via Professor Bainbridge, who also, in a recent post cites an older comment he made on another favorite subject of mine, The Conservative Case Against Wal-Mart

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More on China

From Catholic World News

Since the death of Pope John Paul II (bio - news), rumors have circulated around Italy that the Vatican is prepared to break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan, in order to advance ties with Beijing. But in his Sunday Examiner article, Bishop Zen notes that this is not a new development; the Holy See-- through Cardinal Angelo Sodano (bio - news), the Secretary of State-- announced a willingness to move the apostolic nuncio from Taipei to Beijing more than 5 years ago.

Bishop Zen recalls:

Cardinal Sodano, to make the following statement on 11 February 1999. “Our nunciature in Taipei is the nunciature in China and if Beijing agrees, we can move it to Beijing. I don’t say tomorrow, or even tonight.”….This is public information. I am amazed that the media is treating it as if I had revealed any secret.

The Hong Kong prelate goes on to say, however, that the Vatican could not unilaterally break off relations with Taiwan, without some clear sign from Beijing of a willingness to accept the Vatican appointment of bishops.

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Take a deep breath

And hang up your hat at the Christianity Today weblog...let us know when you resurface

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Notes from the next generation

In one of our hotel nights, my daughter sat, transfixed, watching a Discovery Channel presentation on John Paul II - I was interested in her interest, because the focus of the program was on matters that I didn't think would interest her - the fall of Communism, mostly. But I realized at one point what was fascinating her, and so I asked,

"This is new to you, isn't it? You have no memory of the Pope before he became old and frail do you?"

She looked up at me and nodded. It was a John Paul II she'd never known about.

My second son, David,(who, incidentally, was in Rome over Christmas and saw John Paul at the Christmas day audience, I believe) remarked to me that he had been thinking, as the week went on and the conclave approached, that this was momentous...a once in a lifetime experience. But then he thought...well, no. It won't be a once in a lifetime experience because he's only 19 years old, and yes, there will be more popes...but I think his initial thought expresses the impact of a 26-year pontificate. It's hard to think beyond one Pope when he's all you've ever known.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (17)

Watch it again

In the comments, Dale Price points us to C-Span's sale of a DVD of the Pope's funeral, with commentary by Archbishop Foley Many commentors who saw it say that his was the best, least intrusive, and most helpful of all of the funeral color commentors. Not cheap, but there you are.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (10)

As far as names...

The Papal Betting link over there on the right also includes odds on the new Pope's name. At this moment, Benedict is in the lead - John Paul is second. No way it will be John Paul, don't you agree? Personally, I can't see another John, Paul or Pius, either. Benedict seems a good bet - although for ages, my husband has been claiming that Andrew will be the choice - it's 5th right now.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (85)

Did the Pope Spread AIDS in Africa?

Brendan O'Neil, not a JPII fan, says get a grip

Apparently, we are told, therein lies the rub - Africans are not as clued up as the rest of us and therefore are more likely to believe the lies that the rest of us can see through. Independent columnist Johann Hari writes of lies about condoms being 'proclaimed from pulpits in rural African churches where illiterate villagers often had no other source of information'; Michela Wrong says Africans believe what the men in dresses tell them because 'the continent is still overwhelmingly patriarchal'; Polly Toynbee writes of the 'helpless third world poor who die for their misplaced faith' (9).

Whisper it: Africans are gullible, fickle, easily led astray by wicked men and incapable of working out for themselves what a condom does and doesn't do. Indeed, the only reason you could believe the fantastically simplistic idea that Vatican edict = AIDS in Africa is if you consider Africans to be little more than automatons (or God's little children) who do as they are told. Yet Africans do many things (such as sleeping with prostitutes, as Michela Wrong salaciously reminds us) that Vatican officials frown upon. It turns out that some of the Vatican's critics have prejudices as objectionable as those of Vatican cronies.

Via Relapsed Catholic

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Conclave Journal

Via Papabile Blog, a link to Fr. Thomas Reese's notes from Rome

It has become commonplace for commentators to say that John Paul II will be a hard act to follow. This is certainly true, but we older folks know that this has often been true. When I was growing up in the 1950’s, we thought Pius XII walked on air and was the ideal pope. What a hard act to follow! Yet, along came John XXIII who won everyone’s affection and revolutionized the church by calling the Second Vatican Council. When he died, he was followed by the less charismatic Paul VI who did what John was having difficulty doing: brought the council to a successful conclusion. And who can forget how John Paul I captured everyone’s affection with his simplicity and smile during the one month he reigned. And we all said, “What a hard act to follow”--such a hard act in fact that his successor instinctively knew that he had to take the same name. John Paul II obviously rose to the occasion, to put it mildly. I think we can trust the Spirit again to find the right man for the times.

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Cardinal News

From Vatican Information Service:

Today, at the end of the Seventh General Congregation of Cardinals in the period of the vacant see, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls released the following statement to journalists:

  "The 134 cardinals present, after the opening prayer and after the three newly arrived cardinals swore their oath, proceeded to the designation, through choosing lots, of the three new cardinal assistants who, together with the camerlengo, compose the Particular Congregation (cf. Universi Dominici gregis, no 7). They are: Cardinals Angelo Sodano for the Order of Bishops, Polycarp Pengo for the Order of Priests and Walter Kasper for the Order of Deacons.
  "The cardinals recommend to the bishops and priests of the Church to use the formula of the Mass 'pro eligendo Summo Pontifice' which is found in the edizione tipica (Latin edition) of the Roman Missal. In this sense the cardinals renewed with insistence their exhortation to all the People of God to accompany with intense prayers these days of preparation for the Conclave so that the Holy Spirit may assist the cardinal electors.
  "Several cardinals will lead special prayers and Eucharistic celebrations in their titular churches in Rome.
  "The General Congregation began to examine the expenses that must be incurred during the period of the vacant see and also examined the time of the General Congregations that, from now on, will begin at 9 a.m.
  "I can add that the Vatican Grottoes will be open to the faithful starting on Wednesday April 13, at 7 a.m.
  "Journalists interested in visiting the grave of the deceased Supreme Pontiff John Paul II must be at the Arch of the Bells entrance tomorrow, Tuesday, April 12, at 3 p.m.
  "The cardinals, after the celebration of the Cappella Papale tomorrow, will go down to the Vatican Grottoes for a moment of prayer before the grave of John Paul II."

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 10, 2005

Surprise me

If I had to condense my attitude about the conclave, that would be it, I finally decided.

It's okay that we'll all be speculating and expressing our hopes over the next week, and giving voice to our senses of what the Church needs, and how the next pontificate could and should build on this one is interesting and helpful for all of us. I have my views - expressed here - on a couple of issues I think are quite important, and there are many more. But these issues and discussions on the state of the Church are only useful insofar as they prompt us to action. Are we concerned about the state of catechesis? Then get out there and catechize. Are we concerned about the challenges of spirituality in a materialistic culture? Then get out there and live it.

I'll be reading the same articles as everyone else - and linking some of them, but I'll let the Papabile Blog do the heavy lifting there - and I'm fascinated by the process, too. I also may have my hopes and fears regarding the next pontificate, true.  But I'm not a cardinal, I'm not voting, and I'm not knowledgeable enough to predict, so I won't be doing that. There's no sense in it.

Besides, I want to be surprised. The prospect and possibilities and questions raised and answered by a new Pope simply fascinate and intrigue me. To be honest and kind of silly, probably, I can hardly wait until that moment when the new Pope appears - not because I'm any sort of Popolator (definitely not, not here) or that I want a papal bull with breakfast like William Ward. But - there's not been a Pope in the 20th century who wasn't an interesting figure, who didn't have important insights into the intersection of the Gospel and the world...I'm interested and willing to be surprised.

Just hoping...it's a good surprise. Right?

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (26)

Well, now

Knowledgeable commentary and critique from Robert Bianco in USA Today on coverage of the Pope's funeral Mass

Grating at all times, the constant chatter was particularly unwelcome here because it was so markedly unnecessary. Though parts of the Catholic Mass can be confusing to the uninitiated, the Mass as a whole is designed to be an easily interpreted visual metaphor, an unintentionally made-for-TV experience. It's a sacrifice, not a sermon — which is why for centuries Mass took place in Latin, a language most of the faithful didn't speak.

The Vatican returned to Latin for John Paul's funeral, which sent the networks scurrying for translators. No doubt some viewers appreciated the help. But others may have preferred the times when the newscasts let us just soak in the rhythmic rise and fall of the Latin chants. Literal meaning is not always everything: In its detachment from present reality, the untranslated Latin conveys the message that all that is happening has happened before and will happen again.

Though no network or reporter was guilt-free, the worst and most continually annoying gabfest offenders were ABC Charles Gibson and Cokie Roberts, who appeared to think the Mass was held merely to provide a visual backdrop for their conversation. They interrupted The Lord's Prayer — if you're willing to break into a petition from penitents to their God, you'll break into anything.

For those seeking silence, the best stop was MSNBC. The cable network kept translation and interruption to a minimum, even letting the unfamiliar Eastern Rite prayers at the coffin swirl around us like incense.

We'll probably never know exactly how many people saw the coverage of John Paul's funeral, though newscasters are already speculating that it could be the most-watched television event worldwide in history. My guess is that most of those viewers will long recall the event itself, the mix of Western and Eastern traditions, the crowd's emotional cries of "the Great" that brought the funeral to a temporary halt.

They're unlikely to remember anything specific a newscaster had to say, but they will remember their conviction that too much was said. Maybe someday, TV's continually talking heads will keep that in mind.

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The death of Terri Schiavo

An epilogue

Please understand that the issue is not autonomy (which is an independent and important issue), but the definition of life. Is the cerebral cortex what makes us human and is it true that "if the cortex is dead, then the human individual is dead"?

Of course not. My physician critic clearly has stepped beyond the bounds of medicine into the realm of philosophy, and that is the problem. As any physician knows, there is neither a state in America nor any sane physician in the world who would declare that someone who is in a persistent vegetative state is dead. If PVS really equals death then why bother pulling the feeding tube? Just bury the patient with the feeding tube still in place! The doctor's comments are clearly hyperbole, and represent a very insidious type of bias that leads people to equate PVS with death.

Why do people do it? Because it allows them to feel comfortable that they are not murdering someone if the person that they "kill" is already dead. Terry Schiavo was not dead until two weeks after her feeding tube was removed. She did not die of PVS; she died of starvation and dehydration.

As hard as it may be for physicians to accept, the definition of death is not a medical one; it is a philosophical and societal one. While physicians certainly may participate in the debate, the value of their opinions should be weighed based on merit, not medical training. There are no medical criteria that can answer the fundamental question of what is life and what is death. Once society decides how it wants to determine death, then the physician is called upon to use his or her expert knowledge to confirm that the criteria have been met. While physicians may use their expertise to offer information to society's decision-makers so that the definition of death is grounded in accurate information, they have no more proficiency in the areas of ethics or philosophy than anyone else.

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Just call him Neo

Eutychus Fell has shut down his RCIA blog because, he's like, Catholic now.

But he has a new blog!

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The logic of the law in these United States

Abortion protester being tried because he displayed a preserved fetus.

Breaks a law that prohibits displaying a dead body of a human being!

But did he hold enough to be "displaying" it?

And how can we assume that it is, in fact, the body of a human being?

So, he was acquitted.

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Hard Labor

Take the time to read this quite moving story from the WaPo about a mother's fight for her baby's life - even against her husband's wishes

When I read stories like this, I am so moved to close my eyes and pray - pray for this family, and for all of the other families struggling with hard news during a pregnancy, and all families caring for disabled children.

The couple's website for their new organization

Note, too, how in the story, the physicians who, according to the couple, suggested or even assumed abortion, either denied or couldn't remember doing so.

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Like a drug

These internet people just keep coming up with new ways to reel us in, despite our best intentions.

There's Google's "I can see my house!" uitility (click on "satellite" on the upper right hand)

(And I can!)

..and now weird things from Amazon, found on some books, that gives interesting book stats and various trivia - for example here, you can see that the most frequently appearing words in The Words We Pray (by moi) are "God," "Jesus," and "prayer."


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First miracle?

So joked a reader about this piece, from a journalist describing JPII's impact on him:

In these days between popes, we in our small corner of the culture can emulate the last pope in searching for truth, but we probably ought to emulate him in another way as well. We should remember what is perhaps the greatest irony of perhaps the greatest figure of our age: the sheer humility of the man. He never underestimated the size of his mission, but he never made himself greater than that mission.

That's where we in the media have failed. We think we know the truth when we do not. We have been so sure of the truths that we think we know that we have sometimes forgotten to be fair. We are often not humble.

A lot of this was easier to remember when -- and it is part of my memory if not of yours -- we were but scribblers on a page that soon would turn to dust. The technological revolution has changed all that. But it hasn't changed the potency of the pope's words from 1979, the text of which was recorded by a typewriter. Being servants of the truth is worthy of our best years, our finest talents, our most dedicated efforts.

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Let the speculation begin...

As Catholic as the Pope: a short piece on Cardinal Arinze and the African church in general

Rules of Thumb, from Richard Ostling

* Not too old. The cardinals don't want to hold another election too soon. It's assumed that cardinals 80 and above, who can't vote and are kept out of the conclave, won't be considered. That reduces the number of candidates to 117. Germany's Joseph Ratzinger, who turns 78 on Saturday, is at the upper limit of prospects.

In all, 17 of the electors are over 77.

* __

* Not too ill. John Paul I wasn't obviously infirm but because he lived only 33 days after his 1978 election, robust health is deemed essential. The cardinals will certainly bypass their most prominent Asian colleague, the ailing Jaime Sin of the Philippines. Neither Sin nor Cardinal Alfonso Antonio Suarez Rivera of Mexico, who also is ill, will attend the conclave.

* __

* Not too young. On the other hand, following history's third-longest pontificate under John Paul II, the cardinals might well shun someone who would have another long tenure. This could work against, say, the 16 members of the college under age 65, though they include several prominent prospects. Many felt the second-longest reign under Pius IX (1846-1878) was unfortunate.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (14)

Florida Babies...

...need help.

First, this from a reader:

Nick Silverio of Safe Haven for Newborns in Florida has asked that we spread the word of a disabled newborn in need of adoption.
he child, born today, has no arms, only one legT, and is missing a good portion of his jaw - but his prognosis is good.  The baby was abandoned by his mother under the Florida Safe Haven law and, unless potential adoptive parents can be found, quickly, the child will become a ward of the state (and, it is feared, the target of euthanasia).  The Florida Department of Children and Families will not become involved unless information is obtained that may suggest some type of abuse or neglect (which is not evident at this time).  Catholic Charities in Florida is not currently able to assist with adoption services.
Please forward this information on to any agency, organization or individual that may be able to assist in locating interested potential adoptive parents.
Nick's cell phone number is 786-246-1304 and the his web site is A Safe Haven for Newborns
It has been my experience in the very recent past that adoptive parents for disabled infants have been found through the efforts of pro-life people who simply made the need known via e-mail.
Please pray for this baby and his biological mother as well.
Secondly, questions about babies born to mothers working in fields in Palm Beach County
More here.

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

Speaking of Novendiali

Abuse survivors to protest Law's Mass

SNAP members plan to hand out pamphlets outside the basilica and meet with U.S. cardinals getting ready to choose a new pope.

The sex abuse issue "has to be confronted, and it hasn't been from our perspective. It's been swept under the rug," Blaine said. "Far too many perpetrators remain in ministry."

"The church needs the voice of the victims to sanctify itself," she said.

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Why nine?

Folks around the world are being introduced to yet another Catholic spiritual practice - the novena, here, specifically, in the form of the Novendiali, or nine days of mourning for the Pope.

Here is the schedule

Now...what is this novena/nine thing? Where does it come from? As with many religious practices: a lot of places.

This article is a good introduction. A nine-day period of mourning has its roots in Roman practices. Nine days of prayerful preparation - which, of course, this novendiali also functions as - find a precedent in the Acts of the Apostles in which the disciples prayed for nine days in preparation for the descent of the Holy Spirit.

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Date on Dateline

I'm not 100% sure, but I think the NBC Dateline for which I taped an interview is going to be aired Wednesday at 8, before their big premiere of Revelations. I'll let you know when I know for absolute certain. My son David says they've been promoting a Da Vinci Code thing to air before Revelations, so I'm thinking...that must be it. I guess.

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Echoes of Horror

Christine Rosen on eugenics then and now

During the height of the eugenics movement, similar charges were leveled at opponents. It was Catholics and conservative Protestants, often at the local level, who fought state legislative initiatives for sterilization and who opposed eugenic restrictions on marriage licenses and immigration law. In New Orleans, Catholics formed a coalition with fundamentalist Protestants to thwart legislators' attempts to pass a compulsory sterilization law. Ridiculed as backward and anti-scientific in their own day, they seem prescient in ours.

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Harvard University, which is embarking on its own private stem-cell initiative this year, has its own connection to the history of eugenics. Charles Davenport, the head of the Eugenics Record Office and one of the country's leading eugenicists, received his training as a biologist at Harvard. The school offered courses in eugenics to undergraduates in the 1910s and '20s, as did Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Northwestern and Clark universities.

Dr. E.A. Hooton, a Harvard anthropologist, was an avid eugenicist, supporting compulsory sterilization and other eugenic proposals until the mid-1940s. Many Harvard geneticists, including Edward M. East, also publicly supported eugenics in the 1910s and '20s. Ironically, at the height of the eugenics craze, Harvard refused a large donation earmarked for the promotion of eugenic research: In 1927, it turned down a $60,000 bequest to establish a program to study eugenics because it didn't want to be seen as supporting compulsory sterilization, despite the fact that many Harvard faculty members were arguing vigorously for just that in the pages of Eugenical News and Journal of Heredity. Today, Harvard plans to spend $100 million on stem-cell research.

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Bring back the bust

Buca di Beppo, a purposefully kitschy restaurant chain in the style of the stereotypical Southern Italian eatery, has in each of its stores a "Pope Room" festooned with pope memorabilia, including a bust of John Paul II. After his death, they took them out...controversy, of a sort, ensues:


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The Case of Fr. Casey

An article on the road to canonization for Fr. Solanus Casey

Website for Solanus Casey

(Our Joseph's middle name is Bernard, partly because that was Solanus Casey's baptismal name, and my husband has a great devotion to Solanus Casey, in part because he credits his intercession with saving his life on a rainy, windy road around Louisville)

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pope Memories

A site to read and add your own

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Conclave links

I've started a set over there on the right...I'll be adding more as the day goes on.

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Abandoning Taiwan?

Vatican makes a choice

Just hours after the Pope died last week, the outcome of the delicate negotiations was revealed by Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun from Hong Kong, who is considered the Vatican's leading adviser on Chinese issues.

Bishop Zen said: "The Holy See has been thinking of giving up Taiwan. This is a difficult [decision], but it has decided to do it. If the Holy See does not establish [diplomatic] ties with China, Catholics there will not have real freedom."

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (50)

A Sunday without MoDo...

But we still have Frank Rich, thank goodness

All you need to read:

We don't know the identity of the corpse that will follow the pope in riveting the nation's attention. What we do know is that the reality show we've made of death has jumped the shark, turning from a soporific television diversion into the cultural embodiment of the apocalyptic right's growing theocratic crusade.

And in case you're wondering...yes, he does work Mel Gibson into it.

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April 09, 2005

What I did on my Spring Vacation

Wrote this for the DMN

Michael adds a bit more about the Mass I describe in the piece, highlighting the very good homily

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (4)

Another great roundup

...of commentary from Christopher at Against the Grain

Posted by Amy Welborn | Permalink | Comments (2)

Our Near-Death Experience

From Thomas Lynch

(hat tip Dave P)

For many Americans, however, that wheel is not just broken but off track or in need of reinvention. The loosened ties of faith and family, of religious and ethnic identity, have left them ritually adrift, bereft of custom, symbol, metaphor and meaningful liturgy or language. Times formerly spent in worship or communion are now spent shopping or Web-browsing or otherwise passing time. Many Americans are now spiritual tourists without home places or core beliefs to return to.

INSTEAD of dead Methodists or Muslims, we are now dead golfers or gardeners, bikers or bowlers. The bereaved are not so much family and friends or fellow believers as like-minded hobbyists or enthusiasts. And I have become less the funeral director and more the memorial caddy of sorts, getting the dead out of the way and the living assembled for a memorial "event" that is neither sacred nor secular but increasingly absurd - a triumph of accessories over essentials, stuff over substance, theme over theology. The genuine dead are downsized or disappeared or turned into knickknacks in a kind of funereal karaoke - bodiless obsequies where the finger food is good, the music transcendent, the talk determinedly "life affirming," the accouterments all purposefully cheering and inclusive and where someone can be counted on to declare "closure" just before the merlot runs out. We leave these events with the increasing sense that something is missing.

Something is.

Just as he showed us something about suffering and sickness and dying in his last days alive, in death Pope John Paul II showed us something about grieving and taking our leave. The good death, good grief, good funerals come from keeping the vigils, from bearing our burdens honorably, from honest witness and remembrance. They come from going the distance with the ones we love.

A short review I wrote of one of Lynch's previous books

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Dispatches from Rome

Paul Wilkes at Beliefnet

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Across the pond

For an international view, check out the articles at The Tablet.

Including one on the conclave

So what will the cardinal electors be looking for? Only three of them have ever elected a pope before – Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, William Wakefield Baum of the United States, and Jaime Sin of the Philippines (whose attendance is questionable this time because of his failing health). For all the others this election will be a new experience because of the simple fact that John Paul II created them all cardinals.


The absolute prerequisite is that the new Pope be a man of unquestionable moral integrity and deep faith. The “ideal” candidate would also have experience as a diocesan bishop and – preferably – as a parish priest. He must have stature or some manner of gravitas, but also be seen as affable. Given that the last pontificate was so long and made such a profound impact on the world, a number of cardinals hint at a transitional pontificate, which would favour the election of an older man, someone, say, in his seventies.

The first, of course, of many articles we'll be posting and discussing during the next week. There's a lot of thought that the cardinals will see the wisdom of trying to avoid a lengthy pontificate to follow the last one, one that gives us all a chance to settle and ponder and try to assess where we need to go, but the problem with that theory is that ..some were thinking the same thing back in 1958, too.

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All of Slate's articles on the Pope of late

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David Crumm in the Detroit Free Press

That's the reflection of Michigan's most famous funeral director, Thomas Lynch, who is living at his cottage in western Ireland this spring, working on his other vocation: poetry and essays.

"This funeral is playing in the heaviest religious leagues people can envision," Lynch said Wednesday. "John Paul wasn't a man who merely had a vague hope that his dust will float in eternal ether. No, this is a man who went the distance in life because he believed in a heaven full of saints and angels, cherubim and seraphim. This is powerful stuff. A lot of people watching this will say, 'I want to sign up for that journey.' "

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Travelogue, finis

After reluctantly leaving this view:

(Sigh. More photos if you click on this picture, and more coming...I only took a few with the digital, and more need to be developed)

...we headed to town. First to the Arizona Museum for Youth, our bow to the needs of the under-5 crowd. I know, the Phoenix Science Museum is hot stuff, but going to one of those places was just not something I wanted to do this trip. This was calmer, quieter, with lots of interactive activities, focused on art, with a very spiffy special exhibit on bugs - educational and artful both.

To the hotel and then to lunch, at the recommended Joe's Real Barbecue down in Gilbert - really great food, I thought, although we made the mistake of eating outside (I thought it wouldn't be a mistake, trying to give Joseph room to run around) and were afflicted by flies. That was okay. I still liked it.

An afternoon by the pool, then some contemplation of me and Katie going just down the block to this production of Henry V, but eventually deciding against it - if it had been one of the comedies or some other work that might have held her interest more, we would have gone, but that night, unfortunately, I wasn't in the mood (and neither was she) for one of the historical plays that needed some explaining.

Instead, we did the tourist thing and went to do the Scottsdale Art Walk. Miraculously found a parking place, and spent about an hour there, looking at art, gaping at the prices for santos and such here, and hustling Joseph out the door the minute we saw those prices.

Thursday night, Michael set the alarm for 1 am so he could watch the funeral. Which he did...I heard bits and pieces of it as I dozed, but wasn't convinced that watching it live was indisensible at that point. Friday, went to the Heard before we headed to the airport, was aggravated to see that their major exhibit was closed for refurbishing or something, but still enjoyed what we saw. Joseph - and even Katie - got into grinding corn in the courtyard with great enthusiasm, despite Joseph's insistence that he was making "flour" not cornmeal...There was an exhibit on the Indian Boarding School Experience, very well done and fair, pointing out the tragedy of children being taken from their families for the cause of assimilation, but also some of the benefits some of those children felt they enjoyed. (Resonated a bit with me, because, my faint memory tells me that when we lived in Lawrence, one of my babysitters was a student at Haskell)

So...to the airport, and (everyone sing!) Back home again....to Indiaaaaana!

Well, at least there are buds on the trees now.

It feels as if I haven't been here in a hundred years - a factor of how much I've done over the past 8 days more than anything else.

Did I mention that we go to Pittsburgh next Friday?

Just for a quick trip - click on the speaking link on the right, and do come to support the ministry of this group, and to meet us if you like!

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The Columbia Journalism Review invited readers to cite  the Most Inane Pope Story Yet:

Finally, the moment you've been waiting for. Our big winner, the MIPSY champion: Diane Sawyer! Congratulations, Diane (and you too, Frank Fuller, for passing the story along). On Monday, Sawyer's "Good Morning America" did a story on what heaven is like. And, not unlike heaven itself, it really has to be seen to be believed. In the background of footage of people talking about how the pope now is in heaven, GMA superimposed images of streaming white clouds for dramatic effect. Solemn religious music swells up as Sawyer tells us that "19 percent of us think [heaven] is a garden. 13 percent think the pope has gone to a kind of city." There are shots of stained glass windows, religious paintings, majestic sunsets, and, most disturbingly, the deceased pope, resting below GMA's superimposed cloud graphic. And to top it off, GMA kept the crawl moving along the bottom of the screen the entire time. So as we learn about heaven, we're also lucky enough to discover that the New York Thruway Authority is beginning a series of public hearings on raising fees on a toll road. Also, the AccuWeather forecast!

And, of course keep up with your covering the coverage at Get Religion

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Grazie Padre Santo

The theme of a Photo essay from Rome at NCR(eporter)

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From a reader:

When word came that the Holy Father had passed away, we were returning to Atlanta from South Carolina.

Atlanta.  The city I first attended Catholic mass.  In the spring of
1978. Another coast from where I live now.

Elyse and I went to the Cathedral for some quiet time of prayer and reflection.  And there was much to reflect on.  For my 26 years as a
Catholic pretty much paralleled JP II's pontificate.

By the time he was elected to the papacy, I was in communication with a priest, testing the waters to see if I could swim the Tiber.  By the spring of 1979, I was ready and was received into the church in May, 1979.

I thank God for his service, his presence, his guidance.  It made a
difference in my life as a Catholic and sustained me through some
difficult times when maybe, singable music and the warm and welcoming community of my Baptist roots, could have tempted me away.  He was always on message, drawing us closer to Christ.  I always came away from anytime I heard him, anything I read, with the sense that, no matter how inane the homily, how
contrived the liturgy, bread is blessed, bread is broken, Jesus comes.

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John Paul the Great

Joseph Bottum, in the Weekly Standard:

For the past decade and a half, John Paul II was a good leader. He had his failures: losing the fight for recognition of Christianity in the European constitution, watching the democratic energy he generated during his 1998 visit to Cuba dissipate without much apparent damage to Castro's dictatorship, seeing his efforts to influence China's anti-religious regime peter out. But he had his successes as well: convincing even his bitterest opponents in the Church to join in at least the verbal rejection of abortion, regularizing Vatican relations with Israel to allow his millennial visit to the Holy Land, inspiring the defeat of the Mafia in Sicily.

With the drama of his final illness and death, he offered a lesson about the fullness, the arc, of human life. With the prophetic voice he used in his later writings, he pointed to spiritual possibilities that were being closed by what he once called the "disease of superficiality." Always he was present, one of the world's conspicuous figures, pushing on history where he could, guiding the Church as much as it would be guided, choosing the best among the available options--doing all that a good leader should.

But before that--for over a decade at the beginning of his pontificate, from his installation as pope in 1978 through the final collapse of Soviet communism in 1991--John Paul II was something more, something different, something beyond mere possibility. He wasn't simply a good leader. He was inspired, and he seemed to walk through walls.

...He spent his life refusing the poverty of the possible, the worldly notion that our choices and explanations are limited to contemporary political categories--and all the apparent contradictions in his thought melt away when we realize he was perceiving options that no one else could see.

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No press interviews for Cardinals:

(from the Vatican News Service)

"The cardinals examined certain questions concerning their entry into the 'Domus Sanctae Marthae' and the formal start of the Conclave, due to begin on Monday, April 18 at 4.30 p.m.

  "The cardinals, after the funeral Mass of the Holy Father, began a more intense period of silence and prayer, in view of the conclave. They unanimously decided to avoid interviews and encounters with the media. Journalists are therefore courteously invited to abstain from asking the cardinals for interviews or any other comments. This invitation should not be seen as an attitude of discourtesy or disinterest with regards to the media - in fact the cardinals wish to thank them for the enormous interest with which they are following events in this period - but rather as a gesture of great responsibility.
  "Chapters 1 and 2 of the Apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici gregis' were read in the hall.
  "Two cardinals have communicated that they will be unable to attend for reasons of health: Jaime L. Sin, archbishop emeritus of Manila, the Philippines, and Adolfo Antonio Suarez Rivera, archbishop emeritus of Monterrey, Mexico."
  Navarro-Valls added that the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See will be invited to the Mass "pro eligendo  Summo Pontifice" on Monday morning, April 18. He also said that anyone who wished to attend any of the remaining eight Masses of the novendiali, starting today at 5 p.m., may do so. There will be no tickets for these celebrations.
  He also said that he had received countless questions about the beatification process for John Paul II and noted that this is entirely up to the new Supreme Pontiff.

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Missing: One head on, straight

We're back. Got back to the Fort at about 1 am this morning - no mishaps, for some reason that's the way it was planned - I think that 4pm flight from Phoenix was the only one we could get on Friday. A good flight back - Joseph slept about 2/3 of the way, which is how one defines "good flight" with a 4-year old.

Now, to the email....

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April 08, 2005

Godspy, again

Just a reminder that on the left-hand side of the Godspy page, you'll see linked some of the best commentary of John Paul II.

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Cdl Ratzinger's Homily

"Follow me. " The Risen Lord says these words to Peter. They are his last words to this disciple, chosen to shepherd his flock. "Follow me" – this lapidary saying of Christ can be taken as the key to understanding the message which comes to us from the life of our late beloved Pope John Paul II. Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality – our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude.


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Presidents and the Pope

From Newsweek:

In fact, both former presidents spoke to reporters about their memories of the pope. And their own accounts spoke volumes about their different, and often awkward, relationships with the Vatican. Bush 41 told how the pope opposed Operation Desert Storm in 1991, citing what the former president called the pope’s “standard position on the use of force” and his concerns about “the long length of the war.” The former president lamented the fact that he never engaged in a discussion about the concept of a “just war”—which was widely debated before his son’s war in Iraq. The pope, and his envoys, made it abundantly clear to the current president that the Vatican did not think the recent war in Iraq was a just war.

Clinton, in contrast, claimed the pope’s support for his intervention in the former Yugoslavia. “I think he favored what we were doing in Bosnia and Kosovo because it was in response to an immediate killing policy by [former Serbian president Slobodan] Milosevic,” he told reporters. “I think he favored defensive wars, if you will, or wars in defense of innocent people being slaughtered. I think he thought that you shouldn't initiate war, even against oppressive people, unless there was some immediate human tragedy pending. That was the feeling I had in dealing with him.”

President George W. Bush, for his part, acknowledged that the pope opposed the war in Iraq. “He spoke to the poor; he spoke to morality. And of course, he was a man of peace,” he told reporters earlier this week at the White House. “And he didn't like war, and I fully understood that and I appreciated the conversations I had with the Holy Father on the subject.”

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There is much to talk about...

...the legacy, as far as we can discern, of John Paul II, the positives and negatives of his pontificate...

...the various critiques that have appeared over the past week

...the question of the massive outpouring of interest in John Paul, especially on the part (naturally) of Catholics. Do they actually buy into what the Pope taught?

I'll be reflecting on those after tomorrow. Hasn't happened yet, partly because we're on the road, and partly because I think it's just more respectful to wait until after his funeral.

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Last Will and Testament

Text here

Really, the only essential reading of the week. What jumps out at me so strongly is (not surprisingly) the sense of being an instrument of God's will - as each of us is. But how many of us think of our own lives this way? How many of us truly live each day, beginning and ending with "Thy will be done?"

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Why are they there?

Michael told me that he heard Tom Brokaw opine that millions have thronged to Rome "because of the media," the implication being either

1) all those people want to be on TV


2) the media frenzy has been the lamp that drew all the gnats into Katie's room at the ranch when she was trying to read her book last night.

No one really cares about the Pope, you see.

Of course, there are probably countless motivations but my guess would be that two predominate: one, the desire to be a part of history and an historical moment, and two - general appreciation of John Paul II.

It could happen, Tom.

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Where were you then?

Daniel  Henninger asks the media....

If in the 26 years of his pontificate, John Paul had received half the emotional or intellectual support for his message that issued from TV's screens the past seven days, the crude troops of new culture in the West might well have faced a counter-force. John Paul's politics may have won in the East, but they lost in the West.

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Let the Battles Begin...

Honeymoon officially over:

Cardinal Law given prominent role in novena of funeral Masses

But to Vatican officials, Cardinal Law is a powerful kingmaker who traveled internationally for the church and whose favorite priests were regularly appointed bishops by John Paul. After he stepped down in Boston in 2003, he was given a spacious apartment and a prestigious although honorary post in Rome as archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

It is by virtue of this position that he was given the high-profile role of celebrating Monday's funeral ritual, the third in the nine-day mourning period that follows a pope's death. It is expected that most of the cardinals will attend the Mass, which will be open to the public. Cardinal Law will deliver a homily that many Vatican watchers will parse for clues about the cardinals' thinking on who should be the next pope.

By permitting Cardinal Law to take the limelight in Rome just when the church is mourning the death of John Paul, the cardinals have reminded American Catholics that their most painful recent chapter barely registered in the Vatican.


However, one Vatican expert said that by tradition, the cardinals had no choice but to select Cardinal Law to preside at one of the nine funeral Masses. Dr. John-Peter Pham, author of "Heirs of the Fisherman," a book about papal succession, said it was customary for the archpriest of one of three patriarchal basilicas in Rome, St. Peter's, St. Paul's and St. Mary Major, to celebrate a novemdiales Mass.

Two of the archpriests are already celebrating Masses in different ceremonial roles; having them celebrate two Masses would violate protocol, Dr. Pham said.

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Arizona isn't like Indiana

But I guess you probably knew that.

I continue to be fascinated by everything about this place...I guess this is what happens what a Southeasterner/Midwesterner comes West for the first time.

Back to...what...Tuesday?

Tuesday was such an eclectic day. Before we left Tucson, we did, indeed, drive around (and around) the U of A campus, where we located the dorm where my mother was a resident and an RA . (For the record, my mother was a native New Englander, and like so many in the post-War years, moved to the Southwest because of respiratory problems).

Then it was off to the utterly charming and whimsical Gallery of the Sun , the creation of artist Ted de Grazia, famous for images like these,  kitschy now, but the gallery and chapel are actually quite interesting as the completely sure vision of one artist who was actually quite interested in religious themes. The chapel he built and decorated is dedicated to Father Kino, and there was a set of Stations in the gallery that I liked very much, made even more moving by a tape of de Grazia himself describing each station. The most striking station was the non-traditional 15th depicting the Risen Christ, in which the luminous figure of Jesus still bears a visage dark with sorrow and pain.

Farewell, Tucson, and off to some ruins - the Casa Grande National Monument , inhabited by the Hohokam probaby up to about the 14th century, already abandoned when Father Kino (of course!) came by in the 17th.  Good little museum, haunting ruins, big cacti.

Finally, up to Phoenix and beyond, to the Saguaro Lake Ranch , which I really can't say enough about.

When planning this trip, I determined that at some point, for at least a day or two, we would experience some nature and get away from hotels and cities. Guest ranches are, for the most part, all-incusive and expensive. I stumbled upon this one, checked it out, and it seemed just right - you don't have to do the all-inclusive thing, and it's pretty reasonable.

Good choice!

It was absolutely stunning - the view on the web page is pretty exactly what you get - I have my own photos that I'll post when I get home. The ranch was originally housing for those constructing a nearby dam, back in the 1930's. The current proprietor's parents ran it as a guest ranch for 25 years, and he's been doing the same now for about the same number of years. We were, as it happens, the only guests the two days we were there, missing a couple of other families by a day - the season is winding down, of course, and the place shuts down completely from May to Labor Day.

To get up each morning, look out at those gorgeous rock vistas...what a gift. Unfortunately, we were too early in the season to kayak on the Salt River (they had just opened the dam the day before and the proprietors hadn't yet tested it themselves), and we could never get the horseback thing together, but I'm telling you, I didn't mind. It was really a tonic, to let the kids run wild (those who can walk), have a marvelous breakfast served to us - really great spread - go on a paddleboat ride on Saguaro Lake, and just keep studying and meditating on those mountains.

And then there were the old people.

The grounds are rented out to groups for parties and such, and the second night we were there, we were told, somewhat apologetically, that 150 old people were coming from Phoenix for a party from 3 to 5 or so - until it started getting dark. They would set up some kind of county fair thing, be in costume, and eat. They offered to move our room a little ways off from the festivities, but we said no - it would only be for a bit, and we wanted to stay close to the pool.

No regrets, either. For your  vacation is really not complete until a large 75-year old man in full drag offers you a soft drink. No, it's not.

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April 07, 2005

Your thoughts...

Use this thread to share thoughts that came to you as you watched the funeral of John Paul II.

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Covering the Coverage, Part IV

Use this post to comment on the coverage of John Paul II's funeral...

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AntiChrist No More

Ted Olsen gathers the links over at CT

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Stem Cell Deal

Some are not happy...

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XM Radio

Go here for info on helping Ave Maria Radio get on XM Satellite Radio

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It is with great trepidation...

...that I return to my blog.

I have been without internet since Tuesday morning, and I have no idea what you all have been saying. It is with greater trepidation that I go to my email, which I must do before I blog anything.

And this is where we were, and yes, it really did look like that -  amazing, beautiful, and very reasonably priced. More on that later.

After the email....

Which may take me til Saturday...

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April 05, 2005

Just a couple of links...

Fr. Andrew Greeley is going daily, I guess:

Here and here.

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From the Vatican

News regarding the next few days:

VATICAN CITY, APR 5, 2005 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press       Office today, Archbishop Piero Marini, master of the Liturgical       Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, and Holy See Press Office Director       Joaquin Navarro-Valls, held a press conference to provide some information       on today's meeting of cardinals and on the period of the vacant see.
  Navarro-Valls explained that "the third general       congregation held today was attended by 88 of the 91 cardinals present in       Rome," and that those who participated considered themes "concerning the       Pope's funeral and the upcoming conclave, the date of which has yet to be       established."
  Later, replying to journalists' questions, he       specified that "the name of the cardinal 'in pectore' had not been made       public. We must wait and see if it is given in the will, which has not yet       been read."
  The director of the Holy See Press Office       confirmed that John Paul II would be buried in the earth, as he himself       wanted, and that the burial site would be the same as that in which       Blessed John XXIII had previously been interred."
  According to tradition, the body of the Pope is       placed in a triple casket: one of cypress wood, the second of zinc and the       outer one of fir wood. Another ritual involves covering the Pontiff's face       with a silken veil, prior to closing the first casket of cypress wood.       Various bronze and silver medals from the pontificate are also placed in       the coffin, as is a parchment summarizing the life of the Pope which is       sealed in a lead tube.
  Answering another question, Navarro-Valls       emphasized that "John Paul's body has not been embalmed."
  Archbishop Marini suggested that journalists       refer to the two volumes mentioned in no. 27 of Pope John Paul's 1996       Apostolic Constitution "Universi Dominici gregis" for a better       understanding of the specific rites for the death and burial of a pope and       the conclave to elect a new one, specifically "Ordo Exsequiarum Romani       Pontificis" and "Ordo Rituum Conclavis." He explained several of those       rites in great detail, adding that three persons in particular have       prominent roles during the period of "sede vacante" or vacant See: the       camerlengo, the dean of the College of Cardinals, and the master of papal       liturgical ceremonies.
  He noted that there were three "statio" or       places of gathering where specific rites would be performed for the       deceased pontiff: the "house" of the deceased, in this case the Clementine       Hall where the Pope laid in state for nearly a day for visits by members       of the Roman Curia, the Vatican Basilica where the faithful will have the       chance to pay their respects for three days, and the Holy Father's final       resting place in the grotto area of St. Peter's Basilica.
  He also underscored one of the innovations made       by John Paul regarding the period of the conclave, namely, that the       cardinal electors - who now number 117 -  be lodged in the Domus       Sancta Marthae residence in the Vatican, separately from where they will       vote in the Sistine Chapel. They will have at their disposal for liturgies       the chapel of the residence and other chapels in the Vatican. Thus, he       said, Vatican City, not just the Sistine Chapel, is considered the site of       the next conclave.
  Cardinal electors must stay in the Vatican the       entire time of the conclave, no one may approach them as they transfer       between the Sistine Chapel and the residence and all forms of       communication with the outside world are banned.

        He said that, as has been done in the past, the       stove in the Sistine Chapel will be used to burn the ballots each time       they are cast. The public will know the result of the balloting via the       smoke coming out of the Sistine Chapel chimney: black for no election,       white for election .


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Preach It

A nice homily from the diocese of Corpus Christi

If you have links to other good homilies of recent days, please post.

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Spreading the Word

As noted here before, a look at the Catholic best-sellers on Amazons yields rather surprising results - Pope-related books dominate the top 50, and have since Saturday.

One book worth your viewing is Michael's How to Get The Most out of the Eucharist , which is directly based on John Paul II's encyclical on the Eucharist.

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Culture, religion and stuff

I completely forgot to tell you about my visit to MOMA . In fact, I think I didn't tell you about the Dateline taping at all..

(New readers...I am normally not a world traveler,but this past week has seen me traverse from Indiana to New York to Arizona. Usually, a trip to Kroger's makes a day special.)

I was reminded of it by today's Pulitzer Prize announcements , which include, we should note, two arguments against  the notion (or hope?) that "American culture has dispensed with religion:" - the awards to Gilead and Doubt for fiction and drama, respectively, both of which deal with religious themes in one form or another.

Also on the list is a biography of William de Kooning, and that is what reminded me of MOMA.

So anyway...

The car came to the Hilton to take me to St. Mary the Virgin near Times Square . A distance easily walked, of course, but perhaps not such a good idea when you've got to keep yourself looking okay for the camera and you've got a baby to haul. By this time I'd been joined by Agnes, a simply wonderful, generous woman who'd responded to my call for baby help via some acquaintances. She stuck with us almost all day, and I don't know what I would have done without her.

Got to the church, which is Anglican. Met the producer and his assistant, who'd set this whole thing up. The interview itself was conducted in a side chapel of sorts, and what puzzles me is that I was in front of a drape, so as far as I could tell, it won't be obvious that I'm in a church at all. They did have me walk up and down the street in front of the church, looking thoughtful, though. It was strange.

The interview was very easy, with questions about The Da Vinci Code I'd answered many times before. I do believe the program - whenever it airs, which is an open question, given recent turn of events - will be honestly critical of the book and its historical claims. Everyone was very nice.

My plan had been to go back to the hotel after the interview, change, check out, put my luggage with the concierge, slip MJ in his carrier and spend the next few hours wandering. Well...Opus Dei, it seems, had other plans for me!

(Ominous laughter....)

Just kidding. My acquaintances at Opus Dei invited me over to HQ, where I met in person the folks I've communicated with often over the past year, and they shared a lovely lunch with me. Can I add that to my speaking resume? Perhaps the only anti-DVC writer who's actually been to "34th and Lex" and can report on the view from the roof?

By the time we were done, it was 3, I was still in my interview clothes and those stinkin' shoes, with the car coming back at 5 to take me to the airport. So, with just a couple of hours, no room to retire to, and a desire to do something, I headed to the Museum of Modern Art, just a block down from the hotel.

Had never been - the Met is more my cup of tea, but it was too far away. There's a lot in MOMA worth seeing anyway, but I admit to being puzzled at the famed rebuilding. Was never there before, so I can't compare, but what's so great about the new situation?

The place was a mob scene - I hadn't expected that for some reason. I'm usually not a fan of most contemporary art, but I went that day, sort of inspired to be completely open minded - to really try to respond to the art, and to consider what these artists were trying to communicate, no matter how difficult the medium in my eyes. As a result, even though I was encumbered by a sleeping baby in my arms (never could get back to the hotel to get that carrier) and was surrounded by tons of people, it was actually a rather contemplative experience.

The reason I mention de Kooning is that above all, his art struck me as repulsive and vile, expressive of an even more negative view of his fellow human beings than Picasso at his most negative.

Unfortunately, gotta go now. More later....

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A Tonic

..Everyone, at regular intervals, should go visit a mission site or two. By "mission," I mean the literal missions of New France or the Southwest or where ever...or even sites, which you can find almost anywhere in this country, where religious women established a school, a hospital, an orphanage, or perhaps all three.

Yes, go ponder the sacrifice, work and deep love of these people, who crossed oceans, trekked across continents, learned new languages, built their own facilities, stood up to enemies, protected the weak and braved disease.

It's Father Kino on my mind these days, a man I'd never heard of (not being from around these parts - go to the post below for a link to a site on his accomplishments) before planning this trip. But not only Father Kino. Pope John Paul II, as well, not to speak of the untold number of men and women who've done the same, giving their lives over to "Yes." And not only in the past, but in the present as well, and not just religious, but lay, some more obviously living the "yes" than others.

Visit a mission, if you can. Yes, do...and maybe you'll think, as many do when they enter into that space, echoing with the sounds of sacrifice, harsh but ultimately joyful ...what's my answer? Why do I complain so much? Just what is my problem anyway? And is the life resulting from my hesitation, from my holding back, from my arms folded tightly against my body, refusing the embrace or to embrace in turn...is it really so great? Would the "yes" really be so bad? Could it possibly be...better?

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Is what it takes to pull together all that Christopher Blosser has done here...links to articles from all sources, as well as lots of St. Blog's commentary . Go visit.

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From Rome

NCR(eporter's) ongoing coverage, led by John Allen

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Covering the Coverage,Part III

A new thread for you to talk about the coverage of this week's events.

Is there a Catholic in the US who hasn't been on television yet? Has Chris Matthews calmed down yet?

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Creepy and Ghoulish?

We didn't listen for long, but some radio commentator this morning was remarking that the focus on the Pope's corpse, both in ritual and coverage, kind of creeped him out.

That's his prerogative. Can't blame him. The only thing that creeps me out about it is people taking pictures. That, I can't see. Personally, I was far more disturbed by hauling out John XXIII's body a few years ago for public display. Somehow, even though I've seen plenty of saints' relics and even full corpses in my day, that struck me as odd, perhaps because he was a modern figure, and not safely relegated to the distant past - for the same reason, I find it quite difficult to look at the photographs I've seen of the disinterred Solanus Casey,but was rather interested to kneel before St. Francis Cabrini in New York City.

But here again, we've got some education happening, if we do it right. Why do we honor the body? Because God deigns to work through it. It's that simple. In the early Church, Christians gathered at the tombs of martyrs to pray, feast and even celebrate the liturgy. Of all the accusations leveled at Catholics over the years, the one that we hate the body, that we are anti-corporeal, is among the most ridiculous. Catholics love body, because God created it, God uses it, and God even took one on Himself. It is our way of recognizing, rather awe-struck and amazed, that this mud into which God breathes, can bring us, through love, into the Eternal.

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One thing I won't waste my time on...

...is speculating on the future. Oh, I'll talk about what I think is needed, what problems the next Pope will face, but I just can't see the sense in talking "who?" or handicapping. It seems disrespectful of the process, and fairly pointless.  I agree with Mark Shea on this, and  also absolutely concur with his concise and brilliant take on honoring John Paul II:

Or, if you can, honor the Pope who gave us the theology of the body by making a baby and/or going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist. As he did not tire of pointing out: those are the two most incarnational things a human being can possibly do.

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I don't have time to link all of the articles being written, published and posted about John Paul II...but Godspy has lots of good links - look over on the left

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For you...special price

So was the theme of my daughter's introduction to haggling, Nogales-style.

It was a quick trip down there, mostly to just say that we'd gone, to give Katie the exposure, and to let Joseph celebrate his birthday in Mexico. It's quite a difference from crossing the border into Canada, starting with the enormous, high metal wall between the two countries. Not one of those up north. Another difference: Mexico cares nothing about those who are coming in, at least on foot. Canadians look a little closer, even threatening to impound an innocent writer's books, if they damn well feel like it.

Many of you know the drill: crowded, touristy,border town. As I said, if you're 60 miles from Mexico, you might as well go, even if there are much better parts of the country to see that you can't get to this trip. So we parked our car, walked over, and shopped for a bit - not for(legal) pharmaceuticals, one of the main stocks-in-trade right now, but for trinkets and such. I was mostly interested in letting my daughter observe and learn, which she did. She was looking at a bracelet - how much, she asked. "Ten dollars" She shrugged and walked away - the price was halved before she took two steps. She should have kept walking, and she might have paid even less, I suppose.

Painted Mexican pottery is so gorgeous. Too bad we're flying, although I did pick up a cross. We went into a church not far from the border - small, simple. Huge picture of the Pope propped up in the front, and there were probably about twenty people inside praying - although I wouldn't be surprised if that was just par for the course for a normal weekday and had nothing to do with the Pope.

And...that was that. Then it was back up 19, for a stop  at the Tumacacori National Historical Park , site of one of Father Kino's missions

The site was, like San Xavier del Bac, founded by the Jesuit Father Kino, then picked up by Franciscans when the Jesuits were expelled, and eventually abandoned in the mid-19th century. But the church still stands, in a largely ruined state, which is fine, actually. A well-preserved ruin can sometimes speak more loudly than a restoration. The interpretation in the guidebook and signs were really fine - inviting the observer to place herself in the past, to see the grounds as people two hundred years ago might have seen and experienced it, laying out the relationship between the padres and the native peoples sensitively and fairly. The church itself was long and narrow - not cruciform. A baptistry was a separate room to the right, and cool steps from the sacristy up front led to the pulpit. A bit of paint still can be seen in the sanctuary - delicate designs, curlicues and frames.

After that, up just a little bit to Tubac , an artists' colony of sorts, in which we didn't see too much original art, given Joseph's state by that time, thinking it wiser to just eat some ice cream and wander. Much more interesting than a gallery was a bridge over a wash which was crossed, with great joy, many times at full speed.

Went to the Titan Missile Museum,  but the next tour was thirty minutes away, and we didn't feel like waiting. Went to the store, bought Joseph a cake, promised, for the hundredth time, and each time more guilt-ridden than before, that yes there would be presents at home on Saturday. Came back, ate some stuff, then went up the Sentinel Mountain to look down on the city glittering in the night.

Tomorrow? Hmmm...my mother's old residence hall? This spot? This? All and more? Probably...then on to Phoenix...

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April 04, 2005

You on CNN

Thanks for Trey Jackson to alerting me to the mention of this blog on CNN today, and posting the link to the video.

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Some links to coverage

At the Religion Writers' Association

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Today, Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation - moved to this date because this year, Good Friday fell on March 25. The intense coincidence of events is dizzying - the passing of John Paul II, Divine Mercy Sunday, the continuing Easter season, and the Feast of the Annunciation.

This is one of the many reasons some of us revel in being part of this Church - the faith in which we live, breath and grow is so much more than just the experience of the present moment. It's an ancient jewel, a well-polished glass through which the events of the present moment are so much more than they may seem on the surface, as light from the centuries, from Scripture, from tradition, shines on these events, these moments, illuminating them, bringing out meaning that, on our own, we're too limited to see. We're not just individual believers, sitting in a room with our Bibles, or even in our church down the street  with its decade-old history in a single, culturally-constrained corner of the world.

We consider the death of a Pope, but because of who we are and the deep waters in which we swim, we also consider so much more:

-Our own stance on suffering and mortality. Yesterday during Mass, the words in the Eucharistic Prayer, "...a death he freely accepted" struck me like thunder. The meaning of Jesus' acceptance of death - the sentence for sin, accepted by the sinless one - is slightly different than the acceptance of death by the rest of us, but still, it stands as a most challenging question: Do we freely accept the fact of our mortality - the urgency and importance mortality bestows on our time on earth, as well as the promise beyond what seems, to our doubting eyes, like darkness?

-What we have said to God, as he invites us to do his will. We think of the life of the Pope as a script, partly because it is, indeed, so dramatic. But it wasn't a script. Karol Wotyla had choices every step of the way, just as we do. What did he respond? What is mine?

-John Paul II forgave the man who tried to kill him. He begged forgiveness, on behalf of us all, from the Jewish people. Mercy, the gift of God's love and forgiveness, was central to his ministry, a truth that those who would like to characterize him as a simplistic "authoritarian" fail to see. Divine Mercy is simply that love of God, a love that allows us to live in freedom - true freedom - no longer enslaved to the past, to our sins, or to our sinful inclinations. The refusal to forgive enslaves us. The refusal to be forgiven enslaves us as well. Do you want to be free? Mercy.

-He is Risen...this is the Gospel. The Gospel is not, as some of us seem to think, "be nice." Or even "help other people." No...even the pagans know they are to be nice and help others. It is natural law, built into the human heart. The Gospel is something even more: Jesus life with us now, nourishing us in grace - God's life - bringing us into intimacy with God and giving us the strength - and the responsiblity - to share that Good News with the world. This is the Way - the way beyond mourning for all that binds and saddens us in this life. The way beyond cold darkness. As we view the body of John Paul II, already on its way to dust, we remember, as we hear the Scriptures and pray the prayers, that this is Easter, and in Christ, death has no power, no sting, no victory.

And we do all of this - we ponder all of this and more, we try to deepen our understanding and the way we live it all - not alone, but with billions of others, past and present, disciples and pilgrims, grateful for what the life of John Paul II taught us, and looking to the future for where God will lead us next.

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The Power of Faith

Charles Krauthammer

Under the benign and deeply humane vision of this pope, the power of faith led to the liberation of half a continent. Under the barbaric and nihilistic vision of Islam's jihadists, the power of faith has produced terror and chaos. That contrast alone, which has dawned upon us unmistakably ever since Sept. 11, should be reason enough to be grateful for John Paul II. But we mourn him for more than that. We mourn him for restoring strength to the Western idea of the free human spirit at a moment of deepest doubt and despair. And for seeing us through to today's great moment of possibility for both faith and freedom.

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If you're new to this blog, welcome. The proprietor is traveling today, so posting will be light until tonight. In the meantime, if you would like to write about your memories of John Paul II, go here.

If you would like to get an understanding of what will happen next, in terms of the pope's funeral and the papal transition, go here.

If you'd like to comment on media coverage, go here.

If you'd like to read about what Catholics and others around the world experienced in church the day after the Pope's death - and contribute your own - go here.

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Panoramas of the Square

Can be found here.

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In the WaTimes

Victor Morton's obituary of John Paul II

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Go, Mark...

Y'all look for Mark Shea on MSNBC tomorrow morning . Startled to see this blog linked on that page, as well. Was invited to be on in the afternoon, but was committed to go to Mexico instead...God bless, Mark!

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Monday's articles

In the Spectator:

Everyone's Pope

The Pope and young people

From the WSJ:

From George Weigel

That is why John Paul relentlessly preached genuine tolerance: not the tolerance of indifference, as if differences over the good didn't matter, but the real tolerance of differences engaged, explored, and debated within the bond of a profound respect for the humanity of the other. Many were puzzled that this Pope, so vigorous in defending the truths of Catholic faith, could become, over a quarter-century, the world's premier icon of religious freedom and inter-religious civility. But here, too, John Paul II was teaching a crucial lesson about the future of freedom: Universal empathy comes through, not around, particular convictions. There is no Rawlsian veil of ignorance behind which the world can withdraw, to subsequently emerge with decency in its pocket.

There is only history. But that history, the Pope believed, is the story of God's quest for man, and man then taking the same path as God. "History" is His-story. Believing that, Karol Józef Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, changed history. The power of his belief empowered millions of others to do the same.

And from TNR, several articles, every one available only to subscribers:

 Ross Douhat on why John Paul II will be missed by his critics

So Christianity's center of gravity will shift, inexorably, away from the West, and with it the concerns of the Church and of the papacy. The next pope may well be a European, but the realities of demography and devotion will force him to be far more engaged with developments in Africa or Latin America, India or China, than with the controversies that have so exercised the Pope's Western critics. It's not so much that the influence of the developing world will push the Vatican to continue emphasizing doctrinal orthodoxy and traditional teachings on sexual matters--though it almost certainly will. It's that the shape of global Christendom will require future popes to spend far less time arguing with the declining population of the secular West, and more time dealing with the concerns of a world in which, by 2050, only a fifth of all believers will be non-Hispanic whites.

Thus, debates over Catholic relations with other Western faiths will take a back seat to combating syncretism in South Asia and promoting religious liberty in China. The rise of Pentecostalism in Latin America will pose more of a challenge than the question of homosexuality or women's ordination. And above all, the conflict with Islam in sub-Saharan Africa will likely come to dominate the Church's agenda--and the numbers and the stakes involved will make disputes over divorce and contraception feel like a sideshow.

Not that these debates won't continue, particularly in the United States, where the Church remains balanced and bitterly divided between liberal and conservative wings. But future popes will probably be far less active participants in the West's culture wars than was John Paul II. And while the Pope's socially conservative allies in the West will miss him too, they aren't the ones advocating for change, for a new, perfectedly progressive Church--a Church of an imaginary Vatican III, cleansed of this Pope's alarming traditionalism.

To those who urged a more "enlightened" direction for Catholicism, John Paul II was a great disappointment, because he listened to them but then argued, often fiercely, against their vision of the Church. But as a new pope steps into the shoes of the fisherman and Catholicism's center of gravity drifts away from Europe and the United States, Western liberals are likely to realize that there's something worse than having the world's most famous religious figure debate and disagree with you. There's having him ignore you.

Gregg Easterbrook on successes and failures

(Successes: fall of communism, reviving intellectual life,ecumenism)

The great failing of John Paul II's papacy was lack of progress in attitudes regarding women and women's issues. John Paul II strongly upheld the doctrine that only men can be priests, and priests cannot marry. This is doctrine, remember--neither concept comes from scripture. The apostle Peter, progenitor of popes according to Catholic thinking and "the rock on whom my church is built" according to Jesus, was married, and some of the apostolic letters imply that Peter was an advocate of what we would now call women's rights. Only the inertia of the centuries prevents the Vatican from changing its stand on a male-only celibate priesthood. And even if you accept that many Catholics must oppose abortion for reasons of conscience, John Paul II did nothing to improve Church positions on birth control and women's reproductive health. These, too, are matters of doctrine, not of scripture--there is no reason based on scripture that the Vatican could not adopt more enlightened views on women's health and freedom. Doctrine is the work of men, not God, and hence flawed; John Paul II leaves with his Church's doctrine on women just as fouled up as when he arrived.

Regardless, John Paul II leaves this life and ascends to the next one of the greatest of popes. Few human beings have ever lived so fully or accomplished so much. It was our joy to know him, and now that joy will be forever God's.

Damon Linker on the limits of absolutism:

It also tends to poison and polarize political debate, as we recently observed in the rancorous conflict over the fate of Terri Schiavo. It is an eerie coincidence that John Paul's death followed so swiftly on the heels of this saga, since it stands as a further, and even more troubling, example of the Pope's influence on moral argument in the United States. Those who sided with Schiavo's parents in their efforts to have her feeding tube reinserted (including President Bush and leading members of the Republican Party) explicitly described themselves as defenders of a "culture of life" against its enemies. It didn't matter to them that nineteen judges had ruled that removing Schiavo's feeding tube was permitted under Florida law. It didn't matter that established legal procedures precluded appeals to the federal courts. It didn't matter that the U.S. Constitution left open no role for Congress or the president. Such procedural and pragmatic considerations were irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was that they turn back the "culture of death" by any means possible.

Their efforts failed, of course. And things could certainly have been much worse. (Bill Bennett, as usual, distinguished himself by advocating the least responsible course of action, advising Governor Jeb Bush to reject the principle of judicial review, disregard the Florida and appellate courts, and send in the National Guard to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube by force.) But then, the nearly two-week national spectacle was quite disturbing enough: We witnessed significant numbers of American citizens and their representatives in Washington refusing to settle for the imperfect justice of the rule of law and demanding an extra-legal means of bringing the nation into conformity with morality understood in the absolute, unambiguous terms defined by John Paul II. For these moral perfectionists, the lawful course of action--the slow, difficult, and possibly futile task of persuading Florida voters and their representatives to change the laws of their state so that a similar situation would not arise in the future--was simply unacceptable.

Self-government is hard on perfectionists. How will John Paul's admirers respond to future disappointments as they go about advocating their "culture of life" in the United States? Only when it has become possible to answer that question will we be able to form a settled judgment about the political and moral legacy of Pope John Paul II.

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I forgot to relate how our presider this morning dealt with the Pope's death.

First, there were posted around the grounds in various spots, papers with John Paul II's photograph on them, with his name and dates. The name of the Pope was mentioned frequently during Mass, in every prayer, however, not in the homily, which was focused on the Gospel - how Jesus was recognized in his wounds, and what that means.

I was struck by the music which was quite simple and simply done - a single guitar and a wobbly, yet strong choir singing mostly Spanish-language music and Mass parts (except for the Agnus Dei - in Latin). What I just can't get my head around is why this music, "popular" in the best sense (and I can't tell you what they were, since I'd never heard most of the songs before) sounds so organic, right and prayerful, but why the minute the gears are switched, and, as was done today, "On Eagles' Wings" starts up, the effect (at least on me) is completely different - it seems strained, not a part of the liturgy but rather an intrusion. I don't know if it's all just a matter of personal taste, or if there is something, indeed, intrinsic in the music that results in this.

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April 03, 2005

White Dove in the Desert

We're currently in Tucson, enjoying the amazing weather and scenery. Some background:

Last September, very greatly with child, I came down here to Phoenix to speak. I had never been in this state before, and really, not within memory, in this part of the country (I think I went to Albequerque (sp?) when I was 3, to visit my aunt and uncle.) As a lifelong East-of-the-Mississippi person, I was blown away by the landscape,and determined to come back. So here we are.

Today, we started off with Mass at San Xavier del Bac, an amazing mission church just south of Tucson.

It's the oldest church in the US still in use by the community for which it was established - the Tohono O'Odham people. It rises in the middle of the desert, in this basin surrounded by cactus-studded mountains. The church and school stand in back of a plaza of sorts - not very elaborate, but upon which many of the Tohono O'Odham set up business, on Sundays, at least, under ramadas (which I learned are temporary shelters, of a sort), seeling frybread. Yes, we had some!

It's dusty, dry, old and beautiful, all the more beautiful because it's not a museum. The mission was established by a Jesuit, but by the time the church was constructed, the Franciscans had taken over.The Church is dense with baroque decoration and imagery, charming angels dancing on the ceiling, dressed in 18th century clothing, a rope from Franciscan garb forming a decorative motif,lots of saints, of course, wonderful multi-colored cubes on the lower walls, and an encased statue of St. Francis Xavier. The church was restored only ten years ago, and it must have been a wreck before that point. There was a film about the restoration running in a room adjacent to the museum, and one of the commentors said that if the builders had had neon - they would have used it. That the building was riotously decorated in order to attract the native peoples, to get them in the door...an interesting point to consider. The Franciscans as Emergent Church leaders?

The recumbant statue of St. Francis Xavier was not closed in, and before and after Mass, a line forms for people to reverence it, which they do by not only touching it, but also by slipping a hand under the head, and lifting the head a bit. Anyone know what the origins of this might be?

A little bit of gift shopping in the plaza afterwards, and a brief stop at the booth of a fellow who was a silversmith, and also an actor, and had a notebook full of photographs of his acting jobs in movies filmed around the area. His running joke was that one movie production had sent him to an instructor to teach him out to walk and talk properly as an Indian, he being one himself.

Then it was up to the Arizona - Sonoran Desert Museum , part zoo, part botanical garden. It's really excellent - saw everything from hummingbirds to black bears.

Then back to town, where we ate at a place called El Taco Tote , a Mexican chain currently in the process of expanding in the states. It was recommended by someone at the hotel desk, and it was a good recommendation, especially for a family with children - homemade tortillas - incredibly light and good - fantastic variety of salsas, family style eating if you like. This is the second restaurant we've been to down here with a salsa bar - 6-8 different types of salsas, along with chips and other stuff, for you to fill up and take back to your table. Such a great concept, and a welcome change from dull little pots of taco sauce they give you in Mexican restaurants in our part of the country where apparently they haven't yet heard of cilantro, among other things.


Oh...and tomorrow is Joseph's birthday as well!

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The List

Take a look at the Catholic bestsellers on Amazon. 

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Various articles:

Thomas Hibbs at NRO

Kenneth Woodward in Newsweek

(Add other links to editorials/articles you found particularly good or maddening)

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How these things work...

I'm quoted in this article... and I'm fairly sure I gave that quote over a year ago.

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What did you hear?

Please use this thread to report, if you like, on how the death of Pope John Paul II was dealt with in the church you attended today. In the coming weeks, there will be more and more attention paid to Catholic blogs in regard to these events, and your reporting will be an interesting addition to the story, for those who care to look.

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Our day...

Going here for Mass. During the rest of the day, I hope to get here and here.  Good luck to us on that.

For those interested, here's a webpage on the missions of Father Kino, the towering missionary force in this part of the country

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From Cardinal Egan just now...

"You are going to hear a great many tributes to the Pope as a towering figure over the next few days. Enjoy them. But in your heart, remember the most, these last days, when he was Christ to us Thomases...humbly...humbly..humbly."

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Outside looking in:

What do you hope that non-Catholics, non-Christians, the vaguely interested, will see about the life and spirituality of Catholics through watching the events of the next few days? What do you hope will be communicated to the world?

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Divine Mercy

From the Vatican:

At the end of the       Mass this morning in St. Peter's Square for the repose of the soul of Pope       John Paul II, presided over by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the substitute of       the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, before reciting the       Easter time prayer, the Regina Coeli, read a text that the Holy Father had       previously prepared for the occasion of the solemnity of Divine Mercy       which is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter.

  In that text, John Paul II highlighted today's       celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, underlining the Gospel story where the       Risen Christ appeared to the Apostles "'and showed them His hands and His       side', that is, the signs of the painful passion impressed in an indelible       way on His body even after the Resurrection. Those glorious wounds, that       He made an incredulous Thomas touch eight days later, reveal God's mercy       Who 'so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son'."
  "To all of mankind," continued the text, "who so       often seems lost and dominated by the power of evil, egoism and fear, the       Risen Lord offers as a gift His love which pardons, reconciles and opens       the soul again to hope. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace.       How the world  needs to understand and welcome Divine Mercy!
  "Lord, Who with Your death and Resurrection       revealed the Father's love, we believe in You and with trust we repeat       today: Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy on us and on the entire       world."

        "May the liturgical solemnity of the       Annunciation, which we will celebrate tomorrow," the Holy Father's       reflections concluded, "encourage us to contemplate with the eyes of Mary       the immense mystery of this merciful love that bursts forth from the heart       of Christ."


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New Covering the Coverage thread

The other thread is sort of sinking down there, so use this thread to comment more on the media coverage of events...commentors, color, mistakes, positives...and remember, if you see something i the media that you especially appreciate, or that struck you as particularly good...let them know. So often, all we do is complain, so it's worth letting them know when they get something right. It's also charitable.

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Vatican Webcam

Link here.

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"Mourning the Pope"

I'm hearing a lot of that, naturally enough, in the coverage, for which I can't really blame anyone, since that is the way we talk about death. But I don't like it, because I don't think it's an accurate description of what is going on, as I posted below - unless, of course, it is Christian mourning you are speaking of, a definition that perhaps the secular media and the secular world does not grasp.

Perhaps this is a time to do so, and a British priest I saw on Fox just did so. He was Laurence Jones, of a parish somewhere in England, and he was in St. Peter's Square when the death of the Pope was announced. I'll just paraphrase, but I was so glad to hear this described so beautifully, as a witness, as a way of evangelization, right there on a secular television network.

He said that when the death was announced,everyone dropped to their knees in prayer (a moment that follows, in my mind, the power of the moment I heard of that occurred the night before - when the crowd was asked to be quiet so the Holy Father could rest - and they did - thousands of them.). The feeling he described was sadness, but even more so, a great feeling of joy that the Pope had passed to Lord,supported by the prayers of the thousands there and millions around the world. There was relief that his suffering had ended, and, most of all, gratitude that God had taken him into His presence in such a profoundly loving embrace of prayer.

"Mourning" as an act of grief and sadness, with no other context, is what the pagans do, because they have no hope. Do not be as the pagans, in this or any other part of life, Jesus lets us know. The Christian mourning is simply just like Christian life: tinged with sadness at our limitations, at the broken ties of our earthly existence, but lived in hope and trust that what Jesus promised is true and real.

This is how we should live, and this is how we should die, as disciples of Jesus. Let's hope the world is listening. Let's hope we, too are taking it to heart, and remembering...

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Papal Transition

Here is  a link that will tell you much of what you might want to know

And another

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April 02, 2005

Time flies

It is quite startling - shocking, even, to see those videos of John Paul II in those early days. What a difference 26 years made, and either we barely noticed, or we simply forgot. The vigor, the energy, a middle-aged man with almost a bounce in his step at times...in the intensity of recent years, those images have almost been forgotten, as our eyes have been drawn to the difficulties, the dramatically changed visage, the faltering step.

At every point, though, we've understood our response to the changing face and aging body as rooted in the same place that our reaction to the younger, energetic Pope was: what hath the Spirit wrought here? What are we being taught? What does God confront us with here?

In the beginning it was, more than anything else, the fact that he was not Italian. It's a part of the meme now, but truly, we've forgotten how surprising that was. Now many of us look to the election of a non-European Pope in the future, but it's good to remember how radical it seemed to even have a Pole in the chair. I was only 18 at the time, but even so, the election of this non-Italian Pope was, we felt, reason for hope - it was, in its small way, a sign of the catholicity of the Catholic Church. Somehow,the fact that a Pole was Pope made American college students feel more deeply connected to the Church universal.

Which was only underlined by the travels, of course. At the same time, during those same years, the Pope was producing an astonishing body of theological and spiritual work, not just in the encyclicals, but in other documents and in weekly audiences, as well. It will, as many have noted, take decades to unpack it all, but for this rather theologically obtuse observer,it seems that what the Pope was doing was authentically bringing the Church around, full circle, to the real intentions of the Second Vatican Council

We know that the purpose of the Council was to open the Church to the world, but that is quite often misunderstood and has, even more unfortunately, been misapplied. We tend to think (or we wish!) that it means that the Church has to simply get with it, to "update" - a frequently used word in this context. But no - that wasn't John XXIII's reasoning, something I think the work of John Paul II clarified - it was about opening the windows of the Church, as the expression goes, not to let the world in, but to let the Church out. John XXIII's experience was in diplomacy and in ministry in countries where the Church was either a tiny minority or was in dire straits. He saw the importance of the Church understanding the context in which it existed so that it might more powerfully preach the Gospel - not to adapt to the times, but to understand the times, so that the times might more powerfully brought to Christ. A subtle difference, perhaps, but real.

As I said, when I consider John Paul's intellectual, theological and spiritual legacy, it seems to me this is what was going on - a vigorous, thorough determination to bring the wisdom of Christ's Church into the world - and into every corner of human experience - so that the love and invitation of Jesus might be perfectly clear and, indeed, inviting.

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Oh, please..

Professor Bainbridge ably takes on Jack Miles' nonsense

A lot of MSM and blogosphere commentary uses words like "clung to life" to describe John Paul II's last days. (E.g., Bloomberg) Frequently, those words are deployed in an effort to discredit the late Pope's teachings on the gospel of life. Or, for that matter, to suggest the Pope did not really believe in eternal life.

What the critics ignore - willfully? - is that this Pope had a firm theology of suffering. In the LA Times, for example, Jack Miles excoriates the Pope for not dying faster:

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Reader Bleg

Not really a space for comment, but if you have helpful links, please post..

What are the standards (or where can I find it) for the Catholic sponsored hospitals and end of life issues, and emergency contraception?  Are they subjective?
What can we do if we think our "Catholic" hospital isn't living up to the standards of the Church's teaching? Do I call my bishop, would they even care?   Do I bite my tongue and keep praying that someday it will change? I doubt it will, I live in a very liberal city.  My hospital is the primary hospital in the area, and I'm sure they feel like they ought to continue to provide these services for the very reasons mentioned in the Denver article- that they are providing medical, no religious, treatments and it all must be available to the people. 
I work in a Catholic institution because it was my understanding that as such there are procedures we cannot perform, and medications we cannot provide, but it seems this isn't the case all the time.

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John Paul Memorial

Being created online here.

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Get Religion

Go there for really comprehensive coverage of the coverage , including Jeremy Lott's good slam on what Slate managed to throw up there today.

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Check out...

...a blog I noticed from the comments section: Flights of Lunacy... by one of my former high school students!

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Cardinal George

A reader sends along word that there's a link to audio from a nice homily from Cardinal George here.

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The Legacy of Terri Schiavo

From Wesley Smith

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John Paul II, Divine Mercy, Easter and the Annunciation..

Pull it all together. Michael does a bit of it here.

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Your memories of John Paul II

What are they? Did you ever see him in person or meet him? What are most grateful to him for?

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Cover the Coverage

Use this thread to comment on or critique the media coverage you're seeing and hearing about John Paul II's death and recent events.

(thread closed Sunday am...another one has opened up above)

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From Times Square to Tucson. Blogging to you from Arizona. Interview went fine, and was supposed to air on April 13, on NBC Dateline. Recent events might certainly impact that schedule. I'll let you know, and I'll blog more on the adventure that was Friday in a couple of days, when it seems more appropriate.

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John Paul II

John Allen was asked by Aaron Brown what his reaction was when he heard that the Pope had passed. Allen responded that even though he had known it was coming, there was still, at the moment he heard the news, a feeling of sadness, a void, an unmistakable knowledge that something - someone important was gone from his life.

That is probably the way many of us feel, and what I want to try to put into words is what that means, and what Catholics are saying through their actions during these days.

Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time with some women associated with Opus Dei. They had me to lunch,and then, as we retired to a sitting room so I could nurse the baby, and we watched CNN, just then recovering from a false rumor over the Pope's demise. The responses of these very faithful women intrigued me. The atmosphere in the room  was calm, accepting, and hopeful. There was sadness, but I think I would say that appreciation - for the John Paul II's ministry - , prayer for him in his suffering, hope for the future of the Church, and trust in God's providence, that He would sustain this Church as He had for 2000 years... were the overwhelming feelings in that room.

It's a feeling I have when I look at the amazing crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square, as well, seeing people of every age, from every corner of the globe,families and vowed religious. Reporters focus on the tears,but I wonder if they understand what the tears are about.

A few weeks ago, Gregg Easterbrook rather ignorantly asked, "Hey, why mourn the Pope? Aren't Catholics Christians? Shouldn't we celebrate His - or anyone else's entrance into eternal life?" Well, yes Gregg, and it seems to me as I listened to the Scripture passages being proclaimed afterthe Pope's death this afternoon, they were all, every one, about the hope and promise of eternal life.

But we are still on earth, and they call it a valley of tears for a reason. Because we weep, naturally, even through our hope, and there is not a thing wrong with that.

John Paul II was a powerful presence, a great Pope, who we remember, not just for what God accomplished through him, but for the witness his life, as a whole, gave us. Of a human being who took his considerable gifts - and handed them over to God, saying, "Do with me according to your will." Like Mary to the angel, in an event we remember this coming week, as a matter of fact, John Paul lived open to God's will and fearless in sharing the Good News with the world - and every facet of it, living what we say we believe - that there is no part of life that does not need the light of Christ shone on it, brightly and tirelessly.

The tears, I think, are tears of gratitude for this life of witness, that has showed us how to live and die as disciples, as well as for the fact that this witness lies, physically, if not spiritually, in the past now. There is, as John Allen suggested, a void. Who can imagine anyone else but Karol Wotyla as Pope, especially those of us under, say 45?

What's important for those unfamiliar with Catholicism to remember, though, is this. Even though there was a great deal of devotion to Pope John Paul II as an individual, most Catholics - especially, I would imagine, those gathered right now at St. Peter's - are very aware that John Paul represented more than himself - as any Pope does. When we watch John Paul minister, suffer, and die, we're watching, not just an individual, but the entire Body of Christ do just that. It's not that the Pope is the Church, but that in the Pope, we have this most powerful symbol of Church as Body of Christ, as Jesus alive in the world, a role each of us shares through our baptism. There's a feeling of awe when we consider that John Paul was one of many popes all engaged in the same ministry over two thousand years, which means that the Body he led has been doing this same ministry for over two thousand years. What people should see as they watch television over the next few days, as they see millions of Catholics react to the Pope's death, mourn, celebrate and pray, is that what we are doing is not fixating on an individual, or engaging in idol worship, but rather meditating on who we are as a Church...thanking God for where He has led us, praying that John Paul will be rewarded for his witness and ministry, and praying, once again, in hope - and, as the honest among us will admit, with a bit of curiosity - where God will lead us next.

Which, I would suspect, is exactly what John Paul would want us to do.

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April 01, 2005


7:30 Mass at St. Patrick's, Cardinal Egan presiding. Bank of television cameras. Preached on the fittingingess of the readings, which are about Peter and his difficulties. Related some of the difficulties the Pope has endured and how he, like the first Peter, preached the Gospel, undaunted. Prayers for the Pope, for God to be with him, for us to join our own suffering to his..

Just wondering - Is my baby the only baby in midtown Manhattan?


Next, the rounds of the morning shows - First, Today at NBC - unapproachable. Big mobs. Fox and Friends - got there just as they were finished a segment and were getting up and walking around. Saw the bigger, beefier guy with always looks to me like dyed hair come outside and have his photo taken with someone. About 10 people outside that window. Then, CNN. No one outside window, watching.

Okay, that's it. Got to tape at 10 - maybe a brief post after that, but then I'm off until tonight.

Go visit MIchael and read his reflections on the Pope

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Sort of Open Thread

..I will be out of pocket most of the day...post any news, paticularly new related to the Pope, here. Opinions, too.

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