Archive for the ‘Cardinals’ Category

Consistory 2016:titles and deaconaries

19/11/2016

Today, Pope Francis held his third extraordinary consistory to create 17 new cardinals of whom 13 are electors under 80. The College of Cardinals now stands at 228 with 121 electors. This will fall to 120 with the aging out of Cardinal Sarr on 28 November. The full list of cardinals and their titular churches are:

  • Mario Cardinal Zenari: Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria delle Grazie alle Fornaci fuori Porta Cavalleggeri
  • Dieudinne Cardinal Nzapalainga CSSp: Cardinal-Priest of Sant’ Andrea delle Valle
  • Carlos Cardinal Osoro Sierra: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere
  • Sergio Cardinal da Rocha: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in via Flaminia
  • Blasé Joseph Cardinal Cupich: Cardinal-Priest of San Bartolomeo all’Isola
  • Patrick Cardinal D’Rozario CSC: Cardinal-Priest of Nostra Signora del SS. Sacramento e Santi Martiri Canadesi
  • Baltazar Enrique Cardinal Porras Cardozo: Cardinal-Priest of Santi Giovanni Evangelista e Petronio
  • Josef Cardinal de Kesel: Cardinal-Priest of Santi Giovanni e Paolo
  • Maurice Cardinal Piat CSSp: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Teresa al Corso d’Italia
  • Kevin Joseph Cardinal Farrell: Cardinal-Deacon of San Giuliano Matire
  • Carlos Cardinal Aguiar Retes: Cardinal-Priest of Santi Fabiano e Venanzio a Villa Fiorelli
  • John Cardinal Ribat MSC: Cardinal-Priest of San Giovanni Battista de’ Rossi
  • Joseph Willaim Cardinal Tobin: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Grazie a Via Trionfale
  • Anthony Soter Cardinal Fernandez: Cardinal-Priest of Sant’ Alberto Magno
  • Renato Cardinal Corti: Cardinal-Priest of San Giovanni a Porta Latina
  • Sebastian Koto Cardinal Khoarai: Cardinal-Priest of San Leonardo da Porto Maurizio ad Acilia
  • Ernest Cardinal Simoni: Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria della Scala

With this consistory, Cardinal Nzapalainga of Bangui becomes the youngest member of the College, just before his 50th birthday, he overtakes Cardinal Mafi of Tonga who held that title since he was created a cardinal. Cardinal Nzapalainga will in all probably vote in two or possibly three conclaves given his age. During this consistory Pope Francis added two new titular churches, San Alberto Magno and San Leonardo da Porto Maurizio ad Acilia. With Cardinal Tobin having since the announcement of the consistory been transferred to Newark, has seemed to try to stress that most of his choices of prelates are personal, rather than attached to a particular diocese.

Rocco writes “Beyond the widely-noted presence of Papa Bergoglio’s first three red hats from the US – the country’s largest crop of new electors since 1969 – among other distinctions of the new intake is the College’s youngest member by far (49 year-old Dieudonne Nzapalainga from the war-torn Central African Republic, the first cardinal born after Vatican II); in Italian Cardinal Mario Zenari, the first scarlet-clad figure in memory to be serving as a Nuncio, in his case to a roiled Syria; and while nearly half of the electoral class are religious – an unusually high five of the 13 – in Bangladesh’s Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, the 73 year-old prelate is the first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross elevated into the Roman clergy since 1958. (On top for the return to red for one of the Golden Dome’s community, it bears noting that Notre Dame went a full 3-for-3 with this class’ Stateside delegation: Cardinal Kevin Farrell earned his MBA there, and even before today, Cardinals Blase Cupich and Joe Tobin were already among the most prominent hierarchs in the Fighting Irish cheering section.) While Francis continued the long-standing custom of elevating distinguished clerics older than 80 – four, in today’s case – having completed three rounds of topping off the College, one significant tweak to the practice has now clearly established itself as a pattern: in keeping with St Ignatius’ exhortation against his spiritual followers receiving earthly honours, the first-ever Jesuit Pope hasn’t given the red hat to a single one of his confreres, whose eminent contributions in theology were routinely honored by prior pontiffs”.

Rocco adds that “In another change, for the first time since his resignation, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI didn’t attend today’s rites. Instead, Francis and the new “princes of the church” boarded mini-buses immediately after the Consistory to visit Papa Ratzinger in the chapel of his residence at the old Mater Ecclesiae convent”.

John Allen argues in an article “pretty much everything a pope does exercises leadership and shapes culture in the Church, whether or not it comes wrapped in a binding magisterial declaration. Today is an excellent illustration of the point, as Pope Francis created 17 new cardinals in an event called a “consistory,” 13 of whom will be eligible to elect his successor. Francis delivered a talk this morning, which was notable for its plea to avoid in-fighting at a time when public crossfires involving bishops seem increasingly common. In reality, however, the most important statement of the day was made well in advance, in the form of his picks for new Princes of the Church”.

Allen says there are three main points to bear in mind, the first being something of a trope, the consistory as a “global village”, “Francis is famously a pope of the peripheries, and nowhere is that drive to lift up previously ignored or marginalized places more clear than in how this pontiff awards red hats. This time around, there are new cardinals from Papua New Guinea, the Central African Republic, Bangladesh and Mauritius. The last two, Bangladesh and Mauritius, have a combined Catholic population that doesn’t quite get to 700,000, making them essentially large parishes by the standards of many other places. Today’s consistory builds on the previous two held by Pope Francis, in 2014 and 2015, in which he created cardinals from Nicaragua, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Capo Verde, and the Pacific island of Tonga. (By the time Francis is done, it seems plausible there won’t be an island nation left on earth without its own cardinal.) While the internationalization of the College of Cardinals dates back at least to the era of Pope Paul VI in the late 1960s and 1970s, eroding the traditional Italian stranglehold on the institution, what’s striking under Francis is that his cardinals don’t just come from the other usual centers of global Catholic power, but literally from all over the map”.

Allen argues that “All this is calculated, of course, to ensure that the College of Cardinals is better reflective of the entire 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church around the world, especially places long accustomed to not really having a voice. Seen through a political lens, there’s another implication worth considering: These appointments also make the next conclave, meaning the next time cardinals gather to elect a pope, far more difficult to handicap. Many of these cardinals represent cultures where the usual taxonomy of left v. right simply don’t apply, and they’re not part of the traditional networks of ecclesiastical influence and patronage. As a result, they’re likely to bring fresh perspectives to the task of picking a pope, one more difficult to anticipate and, therefore, even more fascinating to watch unfold”.

Secondly, Allen points out that the balance of power is shifting in the US, “For the first time, Francis is creating new American cardinals: Blase Cupich in Chicago, Joseph Tobin in Newark (formerly of Indianapolis), and Kevin Farrell, head of his new department for family, laity and life (formerly of Dallas.) All three would be seen as center-left figures in some ways reflecting the spirit of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, an approach to church life that appeared to recede in influence during the years of St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Just in the days around today’s consistory, Tobin was issuing warnings about the church facing difficult years ahead fighting the Trump administration over immigration and refugees, and Farrell was chastising Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia over the restrictive guidelines Chaput issued to implement Francis’s document on the family, Amoris Laetitia. Granted, the mere fact these three figures are now cardinals – two residential, one based in the Vatican – doesn’t automatically alter the landscape within the U.S. bishops’ conference. In fact, a face-value reading of the recent elections within the conference, in which Cardinal Daniel DiNardo was chosen president and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles vice-president, would be that the center-right camp is still the governing majority”.

Interestingly however, Allen writes that “Inevitably, however, Cupich, Tobin and Farrell will now have greater influence in American church affairs, including grooming other bishops who could, over time, recalibrate the outlook and priorities of the conference. In any event, it’s clear that Francis was making a definite ideological and pastoral statement with his American picks, which are destined to reverberate for some time to come”.

Lastly Allen points out that the number of cardinals in the Curia has shrunk, “As of today, Pope Francis has created 44 of the cardinals who will elect his successor, of whom only six are Vatican officials. In this most recent crop, Farrell is the only one with a Vatican post, assuming one doesn’t include the pope’s ambassador in Syria, Mario Zenari, who’s part of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. For those keeping score, that means that only 13 percent of Francis’s picks so far have gone to Vatican officials, whereas traditionally Vatican prelates have counted for over a quarter of the College of Cardinals, a share that was boosted under emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Obviously, the net effect of these selections over time will be to reduce the influence of Vatican officials, not merely in the governance of the Church but also in the selection of the next pope. The argument for such a transition, of course, is that the Vatican is supposed to be of service to the Church, not the other way around, and ensuring that the whole Church is better reflected in making decisions is a healthy thing. On the other hand, Vatican officials often represent the institutional memory of the Church and provide a firebreak against the Church being swept away by the shifting tides of a given era’s fashions. As a generalization, they often represent a sort of “continuity vote” that can balance impulses for quick change. A somewhat diminished “continuity vote” is thus another factor making the future more uncertain, more difficult to forecast, and thus a more compelling drama to watch”.

Francis shapes the College

17/11/2016

John Allen writes about the meaning of the new consistory, “It may be election season in America, but that’s definitely not the vibe one gets in ecclesiastical Rome these days. Pope Francis is in good health, he remains fully in charge and operating at a breakneck pace, and there’s no sense that a transition is imminent. As a result, no one’s spending a great deal of time thinking about papabili, meaning potential candidates for the papacy, because most people don’t believe the job is going to be available anytime soon. On the other hand, there’s a consistory, meaning the event in which a pope creates new cardinals, so at least in theory the candidate pool is getting fresh blood. Moreover, virtually all the cardinals of the world will be in Rome for the event, which makes a consistory the closest thing in the Catholic Church to the Iowa Caucus – an early campaign milestone, when all the candidates are on display and anything seems possible Granted, from a faith point of view there’s something far more important than a political cattle call that will be happening on Nov. 19″.

He writes “Seen through the eyes of belief, it’s about men donning garments whose very colour symbolizes their willingness to shed their blood to protect the papacy and the Church, it’s about the continuity of the Church through time, and about the role of the papacy as the symbol and instrument of unity of the universal family of faith. However, all of that doesn’t mean there isn’t a political subtext too – grace builds on nature, after all, it doesn’t replace it – and so here are three things to look for on the political level as we prepare for Iowa on the Tiber”.

The first of these Allen says is the new pababili, “Generally the first thing Vatican-watchers will ask is whether a given consistory injects an obvious new candidate to be pope into the mix, and in this case, the early consensus would seem to be, “probably not.” Scanning the list, it seems clear that Francis chose many of these cardinals to lift up neglected corners of the world such as Papua New Guinea, Mauritius, and Bangladesh, which is a great boon for the local church, but it also means those prelates are relatively unknown. In other cases, Francis appeared to choose men in sync with his pastoral vision of the Church, which is clearly the case, for instance, with his picks in the United States – Archbishops Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, Blase Cupich of Chicago and Kevin Farrell, formerly of Dallas and now heading the Vatican’s department for Family, Laity and Life. For now there still seem to be other cardinals with the same profile who are more plausible contenders. Among the Americans, for instance, that’s likely Sean O’Malley of Boston, who has the spirituality, balance and languages voters often want, and, as a bonus, as a member of the pope’s C-9 council, now has a deep knowledge of the inner workings of the Vatican and what it takes to lead. If you were to put guns to the heads of most Vatican-watchers today and demand they cough up a pick for the next pope, the names you would most likely hear are already cardinals”.

Crucially he writes “On the “keep it up” side of debates over Pope Francis, beyond O’Malley, you’d probably hear Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, or perhaps Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines; on the “time for a change” side, you’d probably get Robert Sarah of Guinea, or Marc Ouellet of Canada, or Péter Erdő of Hungary, who’s also the president of the council of European bishops’ conferences. In terms of a compromise satisfying some of what each camp might be looking for, and who has the added attraction of being the smartest kid in class, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria is still a popular pick. If you were forced to select a possible pope just from this new crop on Nov. 19, however, two names seem the most likely bets: Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Spain, and Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, Mexico. Both are Francis-style pastors in the sense of personal simplicity and closeness to ordinary people, but both also have reputations for being a bit more doctrinally firm, which may be a quality many cardinals see as desirable the next time”.

Allen writes about a continuity vote with Francis aving not appointed 44 electors, Benedict having appointed 56 and John Paul, 21 electors, “In other words, Francis will have more then twice as many of his own picks in the College of Cardinals as those he inherited from John Paul II, and is approaching numerical parity with Benedict XVI. Let’s assume the next consistory takes place in the fall of 2018, by which time 15 more cardinals will have turned 80, thereby creating another 15 vacancies, and let’s assume Pope Francis is still going strong and fills them. Four of the cardinals who will age out by then are John Paul II appointees and 9 by Benedict, while two are actually men Francis elevated in 2015. At that point, the new breakdown would be: John Paul II: 17, Benedict: 47, Francis: 57 To put the point differently, by next time Francis likely will have appointed roughly half the men who will choose his successor. More and more, this is becoming “his” College of Cardinals. That, of course, is no guarantee that the cardinals will elect a clone of Pope Francis. Benedict had named a majority of the College of Cardinals by March 2013, and clearly they opted for something different by turning to Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. However, as in most conclaves, the pivotal issue next time is likely to be continuity or change vis-à-vis the papacy that just ended, and the more Francis has the chance to name men who share his own broad outlook, the more the odds of a basic “continuity” vote go up”.

The other point he raises is about demographics, “Americans know that the shifting demographics of this country, especially the burgeoning Latino/a constituency, are a major reason why the electoral math has shifted in favour of the Democrats. In the College of Cardinals too, Pope Francis is promoting something of a demographic inversion, naming progressively fewer Vatican officials and “Westerners,” especially Europeans, and more Princes of the Church from the developing world. One key take-away is this: When Francis was elected, 35 percent of the college was made up of officials of the Roman Curia. If a conclave were to happen right after Nov. 19, the curia’s share would be only 28 percent. Even within the developing world, Francis often prefers to lift up new cardinals from out-of-the-way places, reflected this time in his choice of another cardinal from an island nation – last time it was Tonga, this time Mauritius”.

Crucially Allen writes that “Unlike the United States, however, it’s far from clear that simply by virtue of overhauling the demography of the college, Francis is ipso facto promoting his own reform-oriented, mildly progressive agenda, at least on some fronts. If anything – and this is, naturally a broad generalization to which there are many exceptions, since we’re talking about a pool of roughly 800 million people – Catholics across the developing world tend to be more traditional, both in terms of faith and practice, than their Western peers. (A political scientist might inject an observation here about a longstanding paradox for the Catholic left. It’s a core principle for most Catholic progressives to celebrate diversity, and yet in terms of policy, that diversity may not always quite take the Church where its most ardent advocates would like it to go.) Perhaps the most immediate effect of the pope’s demographic shift is simply to foster a greater degree of uncertainty about how things might shake out in a future conclave. He’s creating a cohort of cardinals who have never been part of the usual theological and political controversies in the West, who may look at them with either boredom or frustration, and who may bring a wildly different set of priorities and “voting issues”. In other words, what Francis is doing by shaking up the usual suspects is to make the next papal election far more difficult to handicap – and therefore, of course, far more fascinating to watch”.

Mexico’s newest cardinal

15/11/2016

A piece on Mexico’s newest cardinal notes that “Pope Francis’s choice of Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico as a cardinal is yet more proof that Latin America is shaping up to go in the same direction as the rest of the Catholic Church, but it is equally a sign of continuity with his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Made archbishop of Tlalnepantla, just north of Mexico City, by Benedict in 2009, and ordained a bishop by St. John Paul II back in 1997, Aguiar Retes has long been a key figure in the Episcopal Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean, known as CELAM”.

The profile adds “As vice-president of CELAM from 2003 to 2007, Aguiar Retes worked closely with Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires in the run-up to the fifth CELAM assembly in May 2007, which was held at the famed shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. The concluding Aparecida document was written by a drafting team headed by Bergoglio. The Mexican prelate not only managed to impress Francis but also his peers: he was elected president of CELAM in 2011, a position he held until last year. Back home in Mexico, he has served both as secretary general and president of the Mexican Bishop’s Conference. Ever since Benedict picked Aguiar Retes for Tlalnepantla, he’s been seen as the natural successor of Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, who will be obliged to present his resignation to Francis next year, when he turns 75”.

The piece adds “According to Jorge Trasloheros, professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University and a long-time church observer, Aguiar Retes is a “worthy disciple of Benedict XVI, with a great ability to subtly penetrate the labyrinths of reality, a deep grasp of the changing times we’re living in, and the invitation to make the dialogue between faith and reason the distinctive ethos of Catholic thinking.” Yet, he added, with the cardinal-to be’s pastoral sense, his commitment to the faithful, and his strategic mind, Aguiar Retes is also very much a Pope Francis man. Like Francis, he understands the importance of a shepherd capable of being at the front, among, and at the rear of his flock. Those who have worked with him point to his great serenity, analytic ability and capacity for dialogue. They say he is demanding but also patient and clear in his directives. Marilú Esponda, a lay communications expert who served as Aguiar Retes’s spokesperson when he was secretary-general of the Mexican bishops’ conference, describes her former boss as a “great human being, affable, serious, but close to the people, smart, and with great empathy to understand society’s problems.” “He gets along very well with conservatives and has been criticized as progressive for being friends with many people on the left,” Esponda told Crux, adding that he often speaks of discernment, the fruit of his formation with Jesuit spiritual directors. Esponda recalls Aguiar Retes reaching out to convince her to become the first director of the Mexican Bishop’s press office which he instituted”.

Interestingly it notes “Nor is he afraid of shaking things up in order to increase efficiency, something Aguiar Retes did both in the diocese and in the bishop’s conference, seeking out the advice of professionals when they were needed to plan out the strategies. The archbishop is currently driving a “Continental Mission” in his diocese, to put into practice the conclusions reached in Aparecida, back in 2007. The document remains a key template for Francis, who hands it out to political leaders from the region when they first visit him in the Vatican. The Aparecida meeting was headed by Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, with Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga as a member of the drafting committee. Both are now part of the group of nine cardinals that advises the pope. The “continental mission” was the challenge issued by Aparecida to the Church of Latin America to be in a permanent state of mission, awakening Catholics to their vocation to evangelize. Aparecida is the blueprint for Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), the November 2013 exhortation widely described as the Magna Carta of Francis’s papacy. The document says the “missionary option” implies that the Church’s structures and ways of acting should be geared towards the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her own self-preservation”.

For background it adds that “The diocese of Tlalnepantla, part of Mexico City’s greater urban area, is an area of great contrasts, with industrial development and extreme poverty sharing the streets with organized crime. Aguiar Retes’s fostering of a permanent mission has led to a small yet dedicated army of lay missionaries. He was born in 1950 and ordained in 1973 after concluding priestly studies in Mexico and the U.S. Montezuma seminary. Soon after he went to Rome to study at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and when he went back to Tepic, his home city, in 1977, he was appointed rector of the local seminary. In the 1990s he went back to Rome to study for his doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Beyond his native Spanish, Aguiar Retes is fluent in Italian, English, French and German. The archbishop is the second Mexican red hat Francis will have awarded: Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia was also made a cardinal during the 2014 consistory. With these two, Mexico now has six cardinals, four of them under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote for the next pope”.

Francis reshapes the CDW

13/11/2016

An article in the Catholic Herald discusses recent appointments, and dismissals, in the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, “While the more eye-catching curial reforms of the Francis era have, thus far, centred on the combining of smaller department into new “super-dicasteries” and other obvious structural changes, yesterday saw a fairly broad reshaping of a curial department in the form of its personnel. The new members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments were announced in the Vatican Press Office’s daily bulletin, and the names and sheer numbers of the new members have raised a few eyebrows. In total, 27 new members were appointed, and there was a distinctly global complexion to the announcement, with many of the new members coming from sub-saharan Africa and further afield. While the African bishops as a group tend to be known for their doctrinal orthodoxy, liturgically they are much more diverse, with the continent producing some of the most stridently traditional liturgists in recent years, as well as the current and former heads of the Congregation itself in Cardinals Arinze and Sarah, while also being home to some of the most “enculturated” liturgies in the Church”.

The piece notes that “While the global membership of this, or any congregation, is a fairly rough indication of how this, or any Pope, sees the Catholic world, it is worth noting that in Rome, as everywhere else, the decisions tend to be made by those who show up. Consequently, more attention is often paid to the appointment of bishops or cardinals who actually live in or near Rome who can attend the ordinary business meetings of the congregation, and consequently are expected to wield a more immediate influence in the working of the department. There are a number of names included on the list of 27 new members which fit into this category. Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has been made a member; as he has grown more and more into the traditional role of Papal Prime Minister, his inclusion is hardly surprising and seems to indicate Pope Francis’ confidence in him serving as the curial centre of gravity”.

Correctly it reports that “generating much more public reaction, has been the inclusion of Archbishop Piero Marini. Marini is a controversial liturgical figure, having served as secretary to Annibale Bugnini, the Archbishop responsible for the liturgical reforms which followed Vatican II, and is also the former master of papal liturgical ceremonies. His preferences for liturgical dance, and other deeply “enculturated” forms of expression in the liturgy, have proven somewhat controversial in the past. In addition, he is notoriously and publicly impatient with those favouring the Extraordinary Form and other traditionalist liturgical practices, like the celebration of Mass ad orientem. According to a long-circulating Vatican rumour, he was originally intended to become the Prefect of the Congregation when Pope Francis first took office, but such was the resistance of the Congregation’s members that he was passed over for Cardinal Sarah. Also of note is the appointment of Cardinal Beniamino Stella as a new member of the CDW. Cardinal Stella currently serves as Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy and has privately earned a reputation for being fiercely opposed to the rise of seminaries and priestly societies which promote or lean upon particular forms of liturgy in their formation and ministry; his personal campaign for “one priesthood, one formation, one seminary” would seem at odds with the liturgical diversity which has been favoured in recent years. While the appointment of 27 new members to a single congregation is bound to have an impact on its character, it must be noted that the Vatican announcement failed to mention which of the current members of the congregation would be staying on. This has not stopped instant and vociferous internet speculation from taking off, with some websites insisting that Cardinals Burke, Pell, Ouellet, and Scola were all leaving the congregation. This speculation, for that is all that it is at the moment, is being framed as a removal of the “Ratzingerians” and a purge of the traditionalists from the congregation. Meanwhile the new Rome-based members are being pitched as arch-modernists who will leave Cardinal Sarah effectively isolated at the top of his own congregation. Wild interpretations of this sort should be taken with a large measure of salt”.

Interestingly the piece mentions that “In the first place, none of the supposedly departing “Ratzingerians” has actually been confirmed as yet. Even if these so far unconfirmed reports are true, they fail to account for the considerable depth of experienced members of whom nothing has yet been said, and who can be assumed to be carrying on until we hear otherwise. These include formidable minds and characters like Cardinal Peter Erdö, the Relator General of the Synod of Bishops’ General Assembly; Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Columbo and former Secretary of the CDW; Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, former Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy and current head of the Apostolic Penitentiary; and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. While the simultaneous appointment of 27 new members to any congregation represents a real changing of guard, as with so many of the acts of this pontificate there has been an instinctive rush to interpret events through the most ecclesiastically partisan lens to be found”.

Crucially it adds “While it is true that some of the new members have distinct and forceful thoughts on liturgy, few can contend that they are unqualified for membership. Similarly, while it may come out that some of the more seasoned traditionalists in the CDW have not had their membership renewed, it would be a gross overstatement to insist that there has been some kind of philosophical coup, or that there are not still several loud and authoritative voices to be heard on both sides of the liturgical discussion. Surely the whole point of a global and diverse membership is to have the best of all sides in the conversation”.

 

Tobin moved to Newark

07/11/2016

Rocco writes, just weeks before the consistory to create new cardinals of moves afoot, “Fifteen years ago this autumn, at the installation of his successor in Newark, the newly-created Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington memorably tipped his red hat to the North Jersey crowd – a gesture intended to say that he owed the scarlet to them. And now, it appears Uncle Ted has fully returned the favour, landing a cardinal to lead the 1.3 million-member fold in its own right. In a watershed decision signaling a new era after the controversial reign of Archbishop John Myers, on Monday the Pope is prepared to name Cardinal-designate Joseph William Tobin CSSR – the 64 year-old archbishop of Indianapolis whose impending elevation at this month’s consistory stoked widespread shock – as head of New Jersey’s marquee diocese, which has been roiled by years of tumult and low morale following assertions of the Newark church’s lax handling of cases of clerical misconduct, coupled with broad distaste over Myers’ austere, distant management style”.

Rocco notes that “To be sure, the reported nod isn’t merely a blockbuster, but even more historic than the Cubs winning the World Series – never before has an American cardinal been transferred from one diocese to another… and with New York just across the Hudson River, the move portends an ecclesiastical scenario heretofore unseen on these shores nor anywhere else in the Catholic world: two cardinals leading their own local churches not just side-by-side, but within the same media market. While the move was reported late Friday night by the online affiliate of the local Star-Ledger, after credible yet unconfirmed word of the nod was received by Whispers early Thursday, two ranking ops ducked comment on the pick in deference to the pontifical seal, and – as the notoriously leak-prone Newark crowd went into overdrive on Friday – a document from the archdiocese’s Chancery was obtained by these pages bearing Tobin’s name. (Complain all you want, but this house has its due diligence to carry out.) On a separate front, late Friday the archdiocese alerted reporters to a press conference scheduled for 10.30am Monday in the Cathedral-Basilica of the Sacred Heart – keeping with standard practice on a yet-unannounced appointment, the event’s topic was not disclosed. Having reached the retirement age of 75 in July, a quick succession for Myers has long been anticipated, even in the wake of Archbishop Bernard Hebda’s transfer to the Twin Cities earlier this year after 28 months in waiting as a coadjutor who had been kept as looped-out of the governance of the wildly complex archdiocese as he was beloved among its priests and people. Since the younger prelate’s move to an even more beleaguered posting was only made possible due to Myers’ drive to remain in office until the canonical age-limit kicked in, Hebda’s departure brought the frustration and “depression” among wide swaths of Newark’s clergy and laity to a near breaking-point”.

Rocco goes on to point out that “In Bernie’s stead, Joe Tobin – who takes the chair of the US bishops’ arm for clergy, religious and vocations later this month – is likewise being sent in with no less of a mandate for healing. If anything, that task has now become all the more high-profile given the appointee’s newfound prominence. Still, considering the former Redemptorist chief’s experience as an inner-city pastor in Detroit and Chicago, a deep history with Hispanics (who comprise almost half the Newark fold) and a more gregarious personality than Francis’ first intended choice for the post, the new cardinal might just make for an even happier and more comfortable fit than Hebda had already well proven to be. On another front, Tobin’s reputation as a champion of women religious over his two-year stint as #2 of the Vatican’s “Congregation for Religious” makes the significant presence of female orders and motherhouses in the archdiocese the proverbial “icing on the cake”… and, indeed, that Newark’s vast roster of institutions includes one of the few diocesan-owned universities (Seton Hall) as well as two major seminaries and a college-level one serves to underscore the outsize impact its archbishop has not merely on the life of his charge, but with the reach of its entities, even beyond”.

He mentions how “As reported at the top, multiple signs point to Newark’s fourth archbishop as the lead architect behind the choice of his second successor. Having maintained an enduring devotion for and among the Jersey church since his transfer to the capital in 2000, McCarrick – who Francis is said to revere as “a hero” of his – made a direct appeal over recent weeks for Tobin to be named to Newark, according to two sources familiar with the cardinal’s thinking. Beyond the Ted-push, with the Pope ostensibly alerted to the archdiocese’s troubled state, Francis reportedly took the rare step of soliciting impressions on the Newark church from outside the normal bounds of the appointment process at its final stages. In the US, a similar degree of wider consultation is known to have been sought from the Domus in just one other instance – the 2014 selection of Blase Cupich, now likewise a cardinal-designate, for Chicago. Given the more than decade-old bond between the now-pontiff and Tobin, however, this choice can be seen as Papa Bergoglio’s most personal move in the American hierarchy’s top rank to date – as one well-traveled cleric who knows the Redemptorist summed it up, for all intents and purposes, “Tobin is ‘Francis.'” Beyond the confines of the North Jersey church – an almost unparalleled concentration of diverse, often poor and violent urban areas but a mile or two from some of the country’s wealthiest suburbs, yet all a “periphery” in the shadow of New York – the move sets the stage for an extraordinary power dynamic without precedent anywhere: two cardinals overseeing dioceses separated only by a river, and sharing the US’ largest and most influential media market, to boot”.

Rocco goes on to point out that “While Tobin and the Big Apple Cardinal Timothy Dolan would remain ecclesially independent of each other as heads of their own provinces, the public interplay between the two garrulous, larger-than-life Irishmen – whose shared lack of shyness is punctuated by a more than occasional difference of approach to church life – is likely to prove more fascinating than not. Put another way, given memories of the famously bitter rivalry across the Hudson between McCarrick and the late John Cardinal O’Connor in the 1980s and ’90s, the prospect of tensions between their modern heirs would easily give the earlier feud a run for its money. As contrasts go between the cardinal-designate and his ostensible predecessor in Jersey, meanwhile, where Tobin remarked about getting “sweaty hugs” from fellow patrons of the Indy gym he goes to after word of his elevation spread, one could more easily envision Myers building a workout space for himself…. Then again, that might’ve already happened given the “wellness room” component of a reported $500,000 expansion of the countryside home the archbishop plans to use in his retirement – a disclosure which served to further fuel local discontent”.

The report adds “Along the same lines, as the tipped pick has happily tooled around the Indianapolis church – which, beyond its metro-area core, stretches across Indiana’s heavily-rural and mostly-Protestant southern tier – on his own in a pickup truck, how Tobin will take to the police driver and escort long accorded to Newark’s chief shepherd is, at best, an open question. (Amid some of the nation’s most intense traffic at any given hour, archdiocesan officials have long maintained that the perk is a necessity to keep the ordinary running on time to fulfill a normal schedule of events.) All that said, another contrast might just be the most poetic. While Myers has long embraced the style of “His Grace” (the traditional English honorific for archbishops and dukes) in reference to himself, Tobin told Indy’s diocesan Criterion that when his venerable mother, Marie-Terese, mused upon word of his elevation about how. Beyond a concerted soothing of nerves in one of US Catholicism’s ten largest outposts, among other challenges awaiting Newark’s Sixth Archbishop include the future sustainability and shape of the North Jersey church’s ample school system, the ongoing flow of new migrants into diocesan life (with their according need for all sorts of services), and on the state level, leading the church’s fight against two significant, ongoing legislative efforts before the General Assembly in Trenton: the respective pushes to legalize assisted suicide and retroactively reopen the Garden State’s statute of limitations on the filing of sex-abuse lawsuits”.

He ends “Though Newark has been the most feverishly anticipated move of the current Stateside docket, it bears recalling that the Pope’s picks for two other critical million-plus sees remain pending: Long Island’s 1.5 million-member fold based in Rockville Centre, and what’s arguably the most important of the entire bunch – the succession to Rome’s new Laity Czar, Cardinal-designate Kevin Farrell, at the helm of the 1.3 million-member Dallas diocese, a role that doubles as the church’s principal voice in the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area”.

CAR’s first cardinal

05/11/2016

An article on the new cardinal from the Central African Republic, “Whether it’s because he wants to highlight the place a prelate comes from, or simply guarantee universality when the time comes to pick a successor, Pope Francis routinely chooses at least one new cardinal from a country that’s never had a member in the Church’s most exclusive club. In the class of 2016, that title of “never before done” goes to Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui,the  capital of war-torn Central African Republic (CAR), though it’s difficult to establish which reason for picking Nazapalainga motivated Francis most”.

The article notes “The pope met the cardinal-designate in 2015, when he visited CAR against the advice of both American and French intelligence. For the past three years the country has been immersed in a sectarian conflict between a Muslim Seleka rebel coalition and a mostly Christian militia known as anti-Balaka, in which some 6,000 people have been killed. During the worst periods of the conflict, militias were slitting children’s throats, razing villages and throwing young men to crocodiles. Over a million people have been internally displaced as a result of the conflict in what was already the world’s third poorest country. “Both sides have committed terrible crimes, have murdered, raped, destroyed churches and mosques, and entire villages,” Nzapalainga lamented in a 2015 interview with Aid to the Church in Need. In an attempt to protect his people and to raise international awareness over the conflict, Nzapalainga has become one of the “three saints of Bangui,” together with Rev. Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, president of the country’s Evangelical Alliance, and Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, president of the Islamic Council”.

It mentions that “Since the violence begun, the three men have organized prayer sessions, rotating the encounters to include the Catholic cathedral, the great mosque in Bangui and Protestant churches. They’re also promoting “peace schools,” where children of all different religions can study, as well as mixed healthcare centers open to everyone, irrespective of religious or ethnic background. In 2014, they toured Western capitals to plead for intervention to stop the bloodshed, meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York and Pope Francis in Rome. Their groundwork led to the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force that September. For their efforts, in 2014 Time magazine named them among the 100 Most Influential People in the World and the United Nations awarded them the 2015 Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize for Peace. Their core message is that the conflict is not religious or sectarian, but driven by economic and political self-interest. CAR’s chronic poverty comes despite the fact that the country is the world’s 12th largest diamond exporter, and its open-pit mines are renowned for the quality of their gems. Control of the country’s mines is a major objective of all sides”.

Interestingly it notes “Observers have pointed out that if peace comes to the former French colony, the three saints of Bangui, as the French daily Le Monde dubbed them, will deserve a strong share of the credit. Although there’s rarely only one reason for selecting a new cardinal, Francis’s decision to elevate Nzapalainga was probably influenced by the powerful counter-example the three give in an era in which religion is often seen as a source of conflict. AFP reports that Layama applauded Francis’s decision to make Nzapalainga a cardinal, saying the move honoured the country as well as bolstered efforts by leaders of all religious denominations to set aside their differences in the interests of peace. Francis met with the three leaders during his trip to CAR, when he visited a mosque at a battle-scarred neighbourhood of Bangui, considered a no-go zone even by international observers because the area was under the control of jihadist forces. According to the French press agency, on the Sunday of the announcement, thousands flocked the streets to celebrate Nzapalainga’s nomination. The inhabitants of the Muslim-majority PK5 neighbourhood also wanted to join but were too afraid to leave their homes, since it was already night. In his evening sermon, Nzapalainga thanked the pope for his nomination, stressing that it comes as the country sees a new outbreak of violence”.

Importantly it notes “The 49-year old from CAR will become the youngest member of the College of Cardinals, taking the slot previously held by Cardinal Soane Patita Paini, of Tonga, in the Pacific Ocean. Patita, created a cardinal by Francis last year, will turn 55 next December. Nzapalainga was ordained a priest in 1998, and began his priestly ministry in Marseilles, France. He returned home in 2005, and was ordained archbishop in July 2012, after three years as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Bangui. Pope Francis’s 17 new cardinals come from 11 different countries, with every continent but Antarctica getting at least one. Nzapalainga is one of three from Africa, the other two being Bishop Emeritus Sebastian Koto Khoarai of Mohale’s Hoek in Lesotho, and Bishop Maurice Piat of Port-Louis on the island of Mauritius. Pope Francis will elevate the new Cardinals on Nov. 19, during a vigil marking the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy the next day”.

Consistory 2016: the names

10/10/2016

Rocco writes about the announcment of the new cardinals yesterday by Pope Francis, “Suffice it to say, it’s become Pope Francis’ unique habit that, in announcing new cardinals, no one is told in advance – above all the designates… let alone anyone else. Accordingly, at the end of today’s Angelus, 17 names were suddenly dropped for a Consistory to be held on Saturday, 19 November, to coincide with the close of the Jubilee Year – 13 of them electors, and four others to be elevated over the retirement age of 80″.

Rocco goes onto add how “Among other notables in the group: three voting Americans (making up for back-to-back shutouts in Francis’ first two intakes), and a fresh dose of the pontiff’s cherished “peripheries,” including the first-ever red hats from Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea.

Here, the designates, in the order by which they will be created:

–Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria
–Dieudonné Nzapalainga, CSSp, archbishop of Bangui
–Carlos Osoro Sierra, archbishop of Madrid
–Sérgio da Rocha, archbishop of Brasilia
–Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago
–Patrick D’Rozario, CSC, archbishop of Dhaka
–Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, archbishop of Mérida
–Jozef De Kesel, archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels
–Maurice Piat, bishop of Port-Louis
–Kevin Joseph Farrell,  prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life
–Carlos Aguiar Retes, archbishop of Tlalnepantla
–John Ribat, M.S.C. archbishop of Port Moresby
–Joseph William Tobin CSSR, archbishop of Indianapolis

And the “honorary” hats for retirees:

–Anthony Soter Fernandez, archbishop emeritus of Kuala Lumpur
–Renato Corti, bishop emeritus of Novara

–Sebastian Koto Khoarai, OMI, bishop emeritus of Mohale’s Hoek (Lesotho)
–Fr Ernest Simoni, priest the of Archdiocese of Shkodrë-Pult (Albania)

Rocco goes on to note how “Given what many will take as the day’s big surprise – the elevation of Joe Tobin, 64, the Detroit-born Redemptorist who’s led the 250,000-member Indy church since 2012 – well, for starters, the nickname he’s long had among his confreres bears recalling: “Big Red.” To be sure, that’s more a reference to both the former hockey enforcer‘s onetime ginger hair and the worldwide religious family he would lead for 12 years… still, given the latest curveball in a ministry full of them, the moniker fits its newest turn no less. After two terms as superior-general of the Redemptorists, in 2010 Benedict XVI named Tobin as archbishop-secretary of the “Congregation for Religious,” armed with a mandate to bring a smooth landing to the Holy See’s visitation of the US’ apostolic communities of sisters, which had become mired in untold levels of controversy and misunderstandings in domestic church-circles and media alike. That he entered the job by publicly cross-checking the excesses of the Roman Curia – in words that, while controversial at the time, would prove to be prophetic – is something that shouldn’t be forgotten today. With the task essentially finished in two years – thanks in large part to the now cardinal-designate’s fierce commitment to dialogue with the orders, and an equally formidable integration of their concerns into the process – Tobin’s appointment to Indianapolis didn’t just fulfill his wish to get home to the Midwest (above all to his indomitable mother, Marie-Terese, who raised 13 children alone as a young widow), the move likewise brought someone who had been a veteran pastor among the first Hispanic waves in Detroit and Chicago to a diocese which was just beginning to experience a sizable Latino influx, making the newcomers a priority in the venerable, largely-rural church for the first time”.

He adds “Barely six months after Tobin’s arrival by the Brickyard, his southern fluency would come into the ultimate reason behind this historic red hat: with the election of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, while most US bishops were furiously brushing up on the new pontiff, the Indy prelate suddenly found himself as one of the closest Stateside friends of the new Bishop of Rome – indeed, one of precious few North Americans who had any firsthand experience with him, let alone at length. That serendipity owed itself to the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, which Tobin, as head of the Redemptorists, attended as the delegate of the Union of Superiors General (the umbrella-group of the global leaders of mens’ orders). As the Synod’s circuli minores – the small discussion-groups – were split up by language, bishops had already taken all the English-speaking slots by seniority, so Tobin found a seat in a Spanish group… and spent the next month sitting alongside the cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires. Accordingly, eight years later, within an hour of the Argentine’s election to Peter’s Chair – as most US hierarchs furiously sought to cram up on the Conclave’s choice – the Indianapolis media was treated to the most fully steeped of briefings while sitting around their archbishop’s desk. Sure enough, nobody in the States came anywhere close to “nailing” the man and the story so precisely in the moment – and, again, today’s news merely evinces the result. Within a year, Francis already showed that he hadn’t forgotten his old friend, naming Tobin a member of the Curial Congregation he had helped oversee (a rare nod for a far-flung bishop), as well as quietly sending him on a few delicate missions”.

Rocco goes on to write that “Over those same months in 2014, meanwhile, as someone the Pope knew – and who, in many ways, bore his scent – the Redemptorist’s name was duly floated at high levels for Chicago, only to be deemed too much a “wild card” by some key players, given his lack of experience in the national rungs of leadership. Amid that backdrop, this most “personal” seat in the College a Pope has given an American since 1958 (when John XXIII elevated Bishop Aloysius Muench of Fargo, who Papa Roncalli knew and admired as the postwar Nuncio to Germany) – and one given alongside the eventual Windy City pick – shows anew, and for the first time in the US, that even as Francis can be freewheeling in consulting  on major diocesan appointments, when it comes to the “Senate” that will elect his successor (and from which the next Pope will come), his choices are his own. Period. While no shortage of early focus on Tobin’s elevation has honed in on Tobin’s public clash with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence – now the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee – over the archdiocese’s decision last year to take in Syrian refugees, a far quieter, less politically charged angle carries even more weight”.

Rocco continues, “Each November during the USCCB meeting in Baltimore, the local Catholic Worker House goes to the trouble to invite all of the 300-odd prelates for dinner and conversation one night during Plenary Week. And for years, all of one consistently turned up: Bishop John Michael Botean, the Ohio-based eparch of North America’s 8,000 Romanian Catholics, who famously declared on the eve of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq that “any direct participation and support of this war… is objectively grave evil [and] a matter of mortal sin.” Normally as low-profile as he was outspoken on the war, as Botean slipped out to keep his usual commitment at the 2012 meeting, he was stunned to find company looking to head to the Peace Dinner: Tobin, who was just joining the Stateside bench upon his appointment to Indianapolis, and – having long and openly witnessed to four decades in recovery – was bound to find little taste for the oft-boozy scene of dinners and receptions that fill the hotel after the daily Floor sessions. Long story short, the Catholic Worker night is a commitment he’s kept ever since. And even as Francis’ push toward the “peripheries” has raised the event’s annual crowd to around a dozen bishops, as never before, now there’ll be a cardinal in the room for it”.

A profile discusses the next cardinal-archbishop of Madrid, “When Pope Francis announced the name of new cardinals on Sunday, some were shockers, others basically unknown. But one of them, at least in many corners of Spain, was an entirely expected choice: Juan Carlos Osoro, Archbishop of Madrid. Osoro was moved from Valencia to the Spanish capital by Francis in 2014, to replace Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela. Only months before the transfer, the local bishops voted him vice-president of their conference. The pontiff has joked with him on occasions, calling him “don Carlos, the pilgrim,” because he’s constantly walking around his diocese. In Madrid, however, many have dubbed Osoro the “Spanish Francis”: Pastorally oriented, carrying “the smell of the sheep,” highly concerned with religious vocations, the youth and the family, but also a man who “wastes” time being spiritual director of many young people while he’s busy leading one of Europe’s key dioceses. Rodrigo Pinedo, Osoro’s spokesperson and a 28-year old layman, defined his boss as someone very close to the people, “who likes being with the faithful and leading a church that goes after those who are cut off and critical of the Church that only tends to those who are ‘ours,’ with closed doors.” Among the many things the soon-to-be-created cardinal did when he arrived in Madrid, Pinedo told Crux, was to launch a diocesan plan for evangelization, trying to capture a realistic image of how Catholics in the city live their faith and what are the most concrete ways to reach those who are cut off. Father Gabriel Benedicto, the parish priest of La Paloma, also underlined Osoro’s particular attention to ministering to youth. The cardinal has invited young Catholics in Madrid to join him every first Friday of the month for a prayer vigil, where he takes the time to dialogue with them and to greet as many as he can”.

The profile goes on to add that “Dialogue, the priest said, is another key issue of the archbishop, who like Francis often preaches about a Church that “goes out,” trying to approach the world through common concerns and avoiding conflicts. The prelate is also very focused on religious vocations, especially those to the priesthood. “He knows the Church needs shepherds that take care of the flock,” Benedicto said on Sunday. When Osoro left the dioceses of Valencia, the seminary kept growing, with 51 seminarians in 2012 and 61 in 2013. “Talking to us, he’s also very keen on calling us to be faithful to our vocation, and to propose it to young men as a possibility,” Benedicto said. The priest has welcomed his boss several times. Most notably, during the feast day of Our Lady of La Paloma, marked every August 15, during Spain’s summer break time. Despite the date, the celebration attracts thousands, many more than that of Our Lady of Almudena, the city’s actual patroness. Our Lady of la Paloma has been, since the late XVIII century, the mother of the people, especially those who are on the outskirts, the poor, the elderly and the youth. That attention also includes those who live “on the spiritual outskirts,” as Benedicto said”.

The piece notes that “Another thing Osoro did when he arrived in Madrid was to visit the cloistered convents to ask the nuns and novitiates to pray for his ministry, something which, technically, they would have done even without the visit. Beyond his pastoral approach, those close to him regard him as very orthodox in the faith, yet he refuses to be labeled as liberal or conservative. Once asked about it, he said he was neither, but instead “a man of the Church.” “The truth is that a man of the Church can only be a man of dialogue. If there’s something the Church needs to do, it’s to incarnate herself where she lives and this implies dialogue,” he said”.

Unusually the piece adds how the cardinal-designate found out, “Although Francis’s decision to make the Spaniard a cardinal was expected, the man in question wasn’t privy to the pope’s decision until Sunday at noon, when the archbishop emeritus of Oviedo, whom he succeeded, gave him a call as Osoro was boarding a plane. “I didn’t believe him because I thought he was one of those friends you have who want it to happen, but nothing else,” Osoro told Cope, the radio station of the Spanish bishops on Sunday. The appointment, he continued, calls for sincere gratitude towards Francis, “for the trust the appointment implies. Personal merits, as you know, I don’t have many, but it is true that throughout my life I’ve tried to not to keep anything for myself but to give it all to the Church and the Christians I’ve served,” wherever the popes have sent him. With Osoro’s nomination, Spain will now have four voting cardinals in case there’s a conclave to succeed Pope Francis in the near future. In order of age, they are: Lluís Martínez Sistach, emeritus of Barcelona; Ricardo Blázquez, of Valladolid; Antonio Cañizares, of Valencia, and Osoro. Spain also has four cardinals over the age of 80, including Antonio María Rouco Varela, emeritus of Madrid”.

While a related piece discusses Archbishop Cupich, “Pope Francis on Sunday engineered what may prove to be a seismic shift in the Catholic hierarchy in the United States, elevating not one or two, but a full three new American cardinals seen as belonging to the centrist, non-cultural warrior wing of the country’s hierarchy”.

The article adds “The three Americans are Archbishops Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, as well as Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, recently chosen by Francis to head his new “dicastery,” meaning a Vatican department, on Family, Laity and Life. While none of these three figures would be seen as “liberal” by secular standards, they are perceived as belonging to the more progressive camp in the Catholic hierarchy. Of the three, Cupich and Farrell were quasi-expected, although one never knows  with the unpredictable Francis. Chicago is an archdiocese that’s long been held by a cardinal, and Farrell’s new Vatican post seemed to beckon a cardinal at the top. Tobin, however, is more of a surprise. Indianapolis is not a traditional “red-hat” see, meaning a diocese typically led by a cardinal, and his name had not featured prominently in much of the speculation leading up to the consistory announcement. While the choice of a relatively small American city to have a cardinal could be seen as consistent with Francis’s passion for outreach to the peripheries, taken in tandem with both Cupich and Farrell, it seems more plausible that Francis was making a statement about the direction in which he wants the American church to go”.

Interestingly it mentions how “Had Francis held more to convention in his American picks, the logical candidates beyond Cupich would have been Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, both American cities historically led by cardinals. There also would have been logic in each case, as the Mexican-born Gomez would have been the first Hispanic cardinal in U.S. Catholic history, and Chaput was Francis’s host when the pontiff visited Philadelphia last September for the World Meeting of Families. Both Gomez and Chaput, however, are broadly perceived as more “conservative,” and thus would have reinforced what’s already seen as a strong conservative majority among the American cardinals, who tend to have an outsize influence on setting the tone for the Church both in terms of media perceptions and also internal leadership. For some time now, retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been perceived as a fairly isolated figure among the U.S. cardinals in terms of his basic center-left, social justice-oriented outlook, able to talk to Democrats as comfortably as Republicans. He was joined in that stance by retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, but Mahony’s involvement in the clerical abuse scandals in the Los Angeles archdiocese has to some extent limited his effectiveness”.

Crucially the author notes “With Cupich and Tobin, however, what one might call the “McCarrick caucus” among the American cardinals has been swelled significantly. Cupich was well known at Francis’s two Synods of Bishops on the family for parting company to some extent with the more traditionalist bloc, signaling openness on issues such as finding new pastoral approaches for LGBT believers and also opening the door to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to potentially receive Communion. Tobin is a former superior general of the worldwide Redemptorist religious order, who served from 2010 to 2012 as the number two official at the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, better known as the “Congregation for Religious,” during the time when the Vatican was conducting two separate investigations of American nuns. Tobin was publicly critical of those probes, suggesting they had been launched without dialogue or consultation with the women religious, and behind the scenes that didn’t always sit well with some of the prelates who had pushed for them in the first place. Many observers believed at the time his 2012 transfer to Indianapolis, before the usual five-year term in a Vatican office was up, reflected some unhappiness with his more conciliatory line”.

The piece mentions “As for Farrell, over his years in Dallas he’s tried to steer the University of Dallas into a more centrist, mainstream position, at times running afoul of the sentiments of more conservative forces at the university. He’s also emerged as a leader in favour of gun control, something of a bold stance in the context of Texas, and also on immigration issues. In one fell swoop, therefore, Francis has reshaped the character of the most senior level of the American hierarchy, steering it away from what some see as the partisan stance of the last two decades and back towards what might be described as the “consistent ethic of life” ethos associated with the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, also of Chicago. Bernardin also used the phrase “seamless garment” to capture that view. The outlook, while certainly defending Church teaching on matters such as abortion and euthanasia, is more inclined to see them as part of a spectrum that also includes immigration, the death penalty, the environment, concern for the poor, and so on. In 2011, the widely respected American Catholic writer George Weigel penned an influential essay in First Things declaring “the Bernardin Era is over and the Bernardin Machine is no more,” after Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York defeated Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson in the race for president of the US bishops conference, and at the time Weigel’s diagnosis was hard to dispute. What neither Weigel nor anyone else could have anticipated, however, was the rise of a Latin American pontiff who would revive that legacy in his neighbour to the north”.

It ends “While the realignment probably won’t have any immediate impact on the way the American Church approaches the election on Nov. 8 since the consistory isn’t until ten days later, it likely will reshape how the Church engages the aftermath – both in terms of the kinds of issues it prioritizes, and whom the Catholic leadership of the country is able to talk to about them”.

Pell’s difficult task

29/09/2016

An article from the Wall Street Journal discusses Church finances, “Late last year, Cardinal George Pell, the pope’s finance chief, hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to undertake a comprehensive audit of the Vatican’s finances. On a mandate from Pope Francis to clarify the city-state’s muddled accounts, the newly powerful cardinal had been assessing and tweaking the system; already he had found a total of €1.4 billion “tucked away” off the books. Cardinal Pell wanted PwC to check that the 136 Vatican departments—each of which used its own, often loose accounting standards—were following guidelines aimed at imposing budgetary discipline. His task was like pushing against the ancient stone walls of a basilica. Other officials, led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State, known as the pope’s prime minister, let him know the audit wouldn’t fly. In June, the Vatican announced it had been scrapped, and soon many of Cardinal Pell’s wide-ranging powers were handed to others”.

The article adds that “It was a setback for the financial overhaul, a central part of a broader revamp of the Catholic Church’s central bureaucracy, the Roman Curia, which Francis made a centerpiece of his pontificate. It was also a sign that the Vatican’s established interests have gained the pope’s support, just three years after his election as a historic, New World outsider. Cardinal Pell, a blunt speaker, had used a vaguely worded papal mandate to reach for broad powers. He has no plans to back down. “My job is to keep pushing,” Cardinal Pell, 75 years old, said in an interview in June. “The goal is that the Vatican will be recognized inside and outside the church around the world as somebody who handles their finances properly and appropriately.” Accounting at the Vatican has never followed unified policies. Annual reports aren’t released, different departments use different accounting principles, data are inconsistent and not comparable. Before Cardinal Pell’s appointment, a panel of cardinals charged with economic oversight met just twice a year. Budgets didn’t exist, and expenditures weren’t itemized”.

The piece goes on to mention “When cardinals elected Pope Francis in March 2013, they gave him a mandate to revamp the Curia. The resignation of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI , had occurred under a cloud of allegations at the Vatican relating to cronyism, inefficiency and corruption. Complaints surfaced about €550,000 spent for a manger scene in St. Peter’s Square. Later, concern rose about the lack of oversight of hundreds of thousands of euros collected by advocates for potential saints from donors. Pope Francis moved quickly. In early 2014, he established a new Secretariat for the Economy and named Cardinal Pell to run it. In a two-page document he seemed to hand over sweeping powers, saying the cardinal had authority over “administrative and financial structures” and his reach extended “to all that in whatsoever manner” concerned economic activity, including procurement and hiring. The cardinal would report directly to the pope. In the cardinal, the pontiff found a rare example of a high-ranking prelate with media savvy, financial experience and a bold personality”.

It adds “With his 6’3” frame, the Oxford-educated cardinal cuts an imposing figure. In his youth, he played Australian rules football in the position of ruckman, a role akin to that of a center in basketball. Cardinal Pell is “a no-nonsense, realistic, straight-talking Australian,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York told CBS This Morning soon after the appointment. “He’ll get things done.” In Australia, he oversaw the merger of eight far-flung colleges into a national Catholic university. As archbishop of Sydney, he streamlined procurement procedures in the archdiocese, which had assets of about US$770 million in 2013 and a staff of 11,000. He raised the return on investments in the church’s real-estate holdings by charging market rents, helping triple the archdiocese’s budget, according to Danny Casey, the archdiocese’s business manager under Cardinal Pell and now a close aide at the Vatican. The cardinal was also a member of a panel of cardinals advising Pope Benedict on economic affairs”.

Naturally attacks come against Pell, “Critics point to what they call an autocratic streak. During his tenure in Australia, the entire staff charged with spiritual instruction at an archdiocesan seminary resigned to protest his plans to impose a regular schedule of prayers and Mass attendance on students. Australian police are investigating Cardinal Pell over accusations that he sexually abused minors several decades ago, and Australian victims’ advocates have claimed that he failed to report suspected abuse by clerics during the 1970s and 1980s. In July he said he “emphatically and unequivocally rejects any allegations of sexual abuse about him.” He has also said that the church has made “enormous mistakes” in handling sex abuse and that he regrets not having done more to pursue certain allegations about others as a young priest, but denies any wrongdoing. With the new assignment Cardinal Pell got off the mark quickly. At a July 2014 press conference, he presented himself as the financial counterpart to the Secretary of State, who had previously been unchallenged as the pope’s No. 2 official. Press accounts hailed the Australian as the Vatican’s financial “czar.” “Our ambition is to become something of a model of financial management rather than a cause for occasional scandal,” he said at the time. The “Vatican” refers to both the Holy See—which includes the central administration of the world-wide Catholic Church and related institutions serving the pope—and Vatican City State, the sovereign territory owned by the church inside Italy, where the pope resides”.

It goes on to mention that “Revenues come largely from proceeds from the Vatican Museums, its real-estate holdings, an investment portfolio and shops selling valuable tax-free products such as gasoline to Vatican employees. Dioceses around the world also send millions of dollars annually to the Vatican’s coffers. And the Vatican Bank, an independent body that is designed to provide financial services to the Catholic Church world-wide, also adds a varying amount of funds; it provided €50 million in 2014. Despite such assets, the Holy See has long run a deficit: €26 million in 2014, the Vatican said, and an estimated €35 million or more for last year, according to Cardinal Pell. Attempts in recent years to generate more revenue—the Vatican Museums raised visitor flow by 20% over the past three years—haven’t stanched red ink. Cutting costs, including layoffs, is difficult, because of the traditional Italian resistance to job cuts and the pope’s concern over the “social ill” of unemployment. Cardinal Pell and his team set out to close the deficit “so that an increasing amount of money can be used to help the strugglers and the poor,” he said in The Wall Street Journal interview. The cardinal hired consultants from firms such as McKinsey & Co. to do a review of assets. That exercise turned up €1.4 billion that was “not on the balance sheet,” recalled the cardinal. The cardinal attributed the discrepancies to haphazard accounting and ad hoc policies. “I’m not saying it was being mismanaged or anything. It just was there for a rainy day,” Cardinal Pell said. His team once received a call from the head of one Vatican office who had tens of millions in charitable funds and wasn’t sure how to account for them, he said”.

The writer goes on to note how Pell, “spotted a rich new source of revenue that could help close the deficit. The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, known as APSA, managed most of the Vatican’s huge real-estate portfolio, valued at €1 billion or more, including thousands of commercial spaces and apartments in Rome. Cardinal Pell said the management wasn’t satisfactory. Among the criticisms, APSA hadn’t kept up the properties or collected back rent on the real estate held by the administration of St. Peter’s Basilica, according to a person familiar with the situation. As a result, the Basilica suffered a deficit of several hundred thousand euros last year. That shortfall meant it couldn’t pay the stipends for new canons—the retired prelates who celebrate Mass there—for the next two years. A Vatican official said many properties can’t be rented out at market rates because they would be prohibitively expensive to restore. The pope gave Cardinal Pell control of the properties managed by APSA in July 2014, along with its administrative responsibilities for procurement, payment of bills and payroll”.

He points out that “APSA also controlled much of the Vatican’s financial portfolio, a power it retained. Cardinal Pell started exploring ways to reorganize the Vatican’s financial investments. One idea he pursued was to outsource them to professional money managers in a new Luxembourg-based entity. The real-estate move and plans for the investments raised hackles at APSA and other offices. APSA’s president, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, has developed a strong relationship with Francis, who over time has become more connected to insiders at the Vatican. The two frequently eat together in the dining hall at the Vatican guesthouse, where the pope lives. Cardinal Calcagno declined to comment on Cardinal Pell’s remarks about APSA, saying only that he was “disconcerted” by the statements. The Secretary of State also controlled extensive investments, and the powers of Cardinal Parolin over hiring and spending were under threat”.

It notes worryingly that “Then the pope started paring Cardinal Pell’s powers. In a series of moves over about 18 months, Francis stripped Cardinal Pell of control over APSA’s real-estate holdings. He declined to approve his recommendations to reorganize the management of the financial portfolio. He wrote and made public a pointed letter making clear that all hiring and transfer of personnel required the approval of the office of Cardinal Parolin. The audit was scrapped, and in July, he took away most of the management functions—for payroll, payment and procurement services—and restored them to APSA. “When a new administrative body is created, it always takes a while until it fits into the broader organization,” said Vatican spokesman Greg Burke. “We shouldn’t be distracted by the noise.” Some Vatican officials said they believe Cardinal Pell’s free-market ethos has been unwelcome in the Curia, particularly under a pope who has excoriated the free-market system and warned that some financial practices can lead to corruption”.

The journalist writes that “Cardinal Pell attributed some of his setbacks to “people wanting to retain their turf, their traditional role” particularly at APSA and the Secretariat of State. “Some people don’t like change, some people don’t like a diminished authority,” he said. “And there’s always a hypothetical possibility that you’ve got some people who have something to hide.” Officials at APSA and the Secretariat of State declined to comment on the cardinal’s comments. So far, the Secretariat of the Economy has accomplished little of what it set out to do. “A lot of people in the Vatican are wondering why we needed to spend two years and a lot of money on high-powered consultants just to come back to square one, with Cardinal Pell’s office basically a beefed-up comptroller’s office,” said Robert Mickens, editor in chief of Global Pulse, a magazine that covers the Vatican. Cardinal Pell cited success in identifying the off-the-book assets, and said that the Vatican is now committed to international public sector accounting standards, even if they haven’t been implemented everywhere, saying “the gains are irreversible.” “Once you let the light in, it’s impossible to return to a situation where you’ve had large elements of the truth buried,” he said”.

 

Turkson’s new job

01/09/2016

Rocco writes about the appointments of Pope Francis yesterday, “Even before the usual “starting gun” to the Vatican’s working year, the Pope has again moved to end August with a bang: at Roman Noon today, the Holy See announced the consolidation of the four Pontifical Councils focused on social teaching and outreach into a new “Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development,” with the longtime Justice and Peace Czar, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson (above), tapped as the combined entity’s founding head”.

The article notes “Essentially placing all the Holy See’s silos dealing with the Social Magisterium – among them, the business, political and military worlds – under one umbrella, the merged office will absorb the functions of the respective Councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum (“One Heart,” which oversees the global church’s charitable and humanitarian works, plus relief efforts), Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and the Pastoral Care of Health Workers. Yet in a remarkable act meant to underscore Francis’ well-burnished concern and advocacy for migrants and refugees, the Pope wrote into the new body’s statutes that – at least temporarily – that lone section of the office “is placed [directly] under the leadership of the Supreme Pontiff,” to be personally overseen by him. Though the handful of pontifical commissions Papa Bergoglio has established on various topics – e.g. protection of minors, reform of annulments, most recently the diaconate – all report directly to Francis, no Curial entity to date has explicitly been headed by the Pope himself: not merely in this pontificate, but any in recent times”.

Rocco adds “With the move – set to take effect on January 1st (which, for the last half-century, the church has observed as the World Day of Peace) – only five councils will remain from what had been 12 second-tier Curial offices before Francis’ slow-burn, piecemeal reform began in early 2014; a complete overhaul of Pastor Bonus – St John Paul II’s 1988 constitution organizing the church’s central government – remains in the works. Yet as the merger of the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and the Family takes effect tomorrow with the formal launch of the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life – its founding announced almost a year ago – it bears noting that today’s consolidation has come on a far more rapid timeframe, ostensibly as the pontiff had his choice to lead the social organ already on-site. Given the red hat by John Paul at his last Consistory, Turkson was brought to Rome by B16 in 2009 to serve as the church’s lead spokesman on social justice issues. The lone Scripture scholar among the cardinal-electors until the tail-end of Benedict’s pontificate – and long touted as the most sensible and astute African papabile – the 67 year-old prelate possesses a rare mix of charisma and intellect: as a student at the Franciscan-run (now closed) St Anthony’s Seminary in upstate New York, the future cardinal famously painted a wall of his dorm-room black, using it as a chalkboard to study Hebrew. Named an archbishop at home at age 44 – while still working on his doctoral dissertation – Turkson made it his practice to live with his transitional deacons over their year of preparation to examine their fitness for priesthood up close”.

Rocco mentions that “Said to be fluent in eight languages, Turkson’s profile has only risen further amid Francis’ enhanced emphasis on peace, the poor and development issues, crossing the globe to deliver loaded reflections on Catholic social teaching and its implications on a host of fronts. Above all, however, the cardinal was the lead player behind the preparation and rollout of Laudato Si’ – last year’s landmark encyclical on the environment – whose publication saw such mammoth interest that the release day media briefing had to be moved from the Vatican Press Office to a larger venue. (For purposes of context, that didn’t even happen for Amoris.) All that said, with today’s merger the evolving structure of Francis’ rebooted Curia is becoming clearer: “Secretariats” at the top, which govern internal matters – Economy, Communication, State and the Synod – then “Dicasteries” (formerly the generic title of Curial offices) to handle more broad-based topics. At the same time, while any reforms to the top-level congregations – the nine offices which exercise the pontiff’s delegated authority over distinct elements of the church’s life – is still in the offing (amid an ongoing review by the “Gang of 9” cardinal-advisers), it’s nonetheless significant that, as with the new Laity/Family arm, the Pope’s regulations for the Development office explicitly provide that the prefect’s team of lead deputies need not be clerics but “may also be laypeople.” As Turkson recruited the lone laywoman to hold “superior” rank in the Curia – the Italian academic Dr Flaminia Giovanelli, his longtime #3 at Justice and Peace – an even heavier non-ordained presence in the new arrangement’s top ranks stands to be expected… and to be sure, as he looks to assemble his own leadership squad at Laity, Family, Life, the new prefect there, Bishop Kevin Farrell, is likewise understood to be heading in the same direction”.

Rocco makes the point that “Initially fashioned by Blessed Paul VI in the post-Conciliar years as an element of Vatican governance that primarily would engage various fields instead of exercising jurisdiction, the range of pontifical councils was further expanded under both St John Paul II and Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, the latter adding the final of the dozen in 2010 with the establishment of an office for Promoting the New Evangelization. On the flip-side, however, today’s move actually brings to completion a plan initially mooted by Papa Ratzinger, who attempted to consolidate Justice and Peace with Cor Unum early in his pontificate, but was warded off it by the Curia’s traditional penchant for protecting bureaucratic turfs. Beyond the respective deputies of the two catch-all  dicasteries, another major question remains in the air: the slates of prelates and lay experts who will form the memberships of each office. As each of the merging councils have had sizable groups of members and consultants on their own until now, whether all those seats will be folded into the new offices or reconstituted from scratch is still decidedly unclear, and will have a sizable impact on the scope and focus the new bodies will carve out for themselves!.

He ends “Notably, the announcement of the Development Dicastery comes on the eve of tomorrow’s second observance in the Catholic church of theWorld Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation, which the Pope joined last year following the initiative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. As coordinating the church’s activities for the day falls to the new office, Francis will mark the occasion with an evening prayer rite in St Peter’s – his first major message of the new “Vatican year.”

Farrell’s new job

26/08/2016

Rocco Palmo notes the new appointment of Bishop Kevin Farrell a the new prefect of the Dicastary for Laity, Family and Life. He opens, “Now the ranking US prelate in the Roman Curia – where his brother, Brian, has long served as bishop-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity – even as the move short-circuits the long-held wish for the nation’s sixth-largest city to be elevated as seat of a third metropolitan province in Texas, the Vatican statement announcing the move conspicuously did not include Farrell’s elevation to the rank of archbishop, which has always been customary practice for appointments of this kind. While the pick of the Dublin-born ex-Legionary of Christ might come as a surprise in some quarters, the threads explaining it can be gleaned on several fronts”.

Rocco points out that “First, and most crucially, while no one would see the low-key yet driven (and, quietly, quite funny) Irishman as some kind of wild-haired progressive, he has been notably unstinting in his affection for and loyalty to the reigning Pope; among other examples, Farrell used his homily at February’s ordination of his latest auxiliary, Greg Kelly, to lay out Francis’ vision of being a bishop in depth. Secondly, by every account Farrell has succeeded at the high-wire challenge that marked the first stage of his tenure in the Metroplex – unifying a roiled Dallas church after the divisive tenure of his predecessor, Bishop Charles Grahmann, when the diocese’s staggering growth (a more than sixfold increase of Catholics since 1990) was coupled with an eruption of abuse scandals. In addition, with Hispanic fluency steeped in Mexico from his days in the Legion, the bishop has has successfully navigated the Latin and Anglo realities of the mammoth diocese, whose 67 parishes are effectively teeming at the seams, and the replacement of parish churches with significantly larger new buildings has been a common occurrence. (He would open new parishes, he’s often said, if only he had the priests – or, as one pastor memorably put the crunch, “We’re forbidden to die.”)”

Perhaps most importantly Rocco makes the point that Farrell “enjoys close ties and clear goodwill among four prominent figures in Francis’ orbit: having served as vicar-general and auxiliary of Washington under Cardinals Theodore McCarrick and Donald Wuerl until his southern transfer, the sister of the ever-influential head of Francis’ “Gang of 9,” Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, lives in Dallas, while the work that brought him to DC to begin with saw him succeed then-Bishop Sean O’Malley as director of the capital’s Centro Catolico Hispano, which the Capuchin founded a decade earlier as Latinos began to arrive in the city en masse, only leaving the role on his appointment to the Virgin Islands. Lastly, having been a key figure in the USCCB boiler room over his 14 years on the bench – leading various elements of the conference’s temporalities and serving as its executive-level treasurer – while Farrell is an administrative whiz and knows the church’s tendency to be obsessed with process, he doesn’t exactly revel in it and understands its place as an element of the greater good. Beyond the sheer challenge of setting up a new ministry that will combine two pontifical councils – and likely bring its share of tough decisions – the organizational element is critical as the combined dicastery will oversee the preparations for the global church’s two largest regular events: World Youth Day and the World Meeting of Families, the latter’s next edition to be held in 2018 in the new prefect’s native Dublin”.

Rocco goes on to mention “On top of all this, having become adept at social media with his own blog and Twitter feed, even if the Pope’s pick isn’t the type who’d be knocking over people to get to a camera, Farrell’s always played well in the spotlight. That public role will likewise be of high import given his new post’s natural role of serving as the church’s lead spokesman on family issues, and in particular at the helm of the dicastery most pointedly tasked with the ongoing implementation of Amoris Laetitia, as a palpable amount of head-banging over the Pope’s Post-Synodal Exhortation continues four months since its release. In tandem with today’s appointment, Francis published a motu proprio formally establishing the new Dicastery and suppressing the respective Pontifical Councils for Laity and the Family, merging the duo alongside the Pontifical Academy for Life into Farrell’s office. In the text, the Pope writes of his desire that the church “offer sustenance and help” to laity and families, “that they might be active witnesses of the Gospel in our time” and might “make manifest the love of the merciful Lord toward all humanity.” On a related note, given the vivid debate among canonists over which rank the consolidated office should hold as it exercises some jurisdiction – which, in the strict sense, is the mark of a Curial congregation – only today has the generic, unusual designation of “Dicastery” emerged for the new organ, which presages a further breakdown of the traditional ranking of the offices as Francis’ overhaul of the Holy See’s governing structures continues apace”.

Rocco ends, “for now, as some fireworks are bound to ensue in the top rank with the appointment for a now-vacant Dallas church – where Farrell was already laying the groundwork to receive another auxiliary – it bears recalling that, with the new Prefect to be aided by three Secretaries for each of the new office’s areas of competence, the legislation establishing the Dicastery provides that (in a first for a top Curial organ) the lead deputies need not be clergy, but may likewise be named from among religious or the laity”.

John Allen discusses the appointment also, “By naming Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas on Wednesday as the first head of the Vatican’s newly created mega-department for Laity, Family, and Life, Pope Francis has accomplished two things at once: He’s handed another major victory to pastoral moderates, and he’s also further disabused notions that he’s cool to Americans. (Farrell, 68, isn’t American by birth since he was born in Dublin and came of age in Ireland, but by now he’s spent almost half his life in the States, including the last 14 years as an American bishop.) Farrell joined the Legion of Christ but left fairly early on, before sexual abuse controversies broke out around the order’s controversial founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. He moved into the Archdiocese of Washington in 1984, where he served as a pastor and also took over a center for Hispanic ministry from then-Capuchin Father Sean P. O’Malley, who’s now the Cardinal of Boston”.

Allen goes on to mention, “Bishops who come to the Vatican from the outside often face a steep learning curve, but that’s not likely to be the case with Farrell, since his brother, Brian, is also a bishop and has been serving for the past 14 years in Rome as the number two official in the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. I’ve known both Farrells for a good stretch, Kevin a bit better than Brian since I generally see him every year when I speak at Dallas’s annual ministry conference, and this past year Farrell presided over awarding me an honorary doctorate when I delivered the commencement address at the University of Dallas in May. By most measures Farrell profiles as a moderate, with a pastoral touch and a social justice orientation very much in keeping with the Pope Francis style”.

He writes that “when Farrell was named to Dallas in 2007, he took over an uneasy relationship with more conservative elements at the University of Dallas, which was on its way to earning a reputation as one of the bastions of a fairly agressive “new orthodoxy,” and did his best to steer it back to the center. In 2009, Farrell delivered a memorable commencement address in which he warned against “dogmatism, closed mindedness, judgmentalism, [and] suspicion of another’s motives.” He returned to the subject in 2011, when critics objected to a new ministry degree program they saw as insufficiently orthodox. On that occasion, Farrell took the unusual step of releasing a video in response. “Let me remind the Catholic people of the diocese that this is my responsibility,” he said. “And I’m the one who has to stand before God and say whether or not this is truly Catholic. That is my responsibility, and I do not take it lightly.” In not-so-subtle fashion, part of what he was saying boiled down to, “I’m the bishop and you’re not, so relax.” At various other points, Farrell has come under similar fire. When he recently supported Father Thomas Rosica, who operates the Salt and Light media platform and also assists the Vatican with English-language press relations, when Rosica denounced a “cesspool of hatred” in the Catholic blogosphere, some of the same blogs angry at Rosica went after Farrell”.

The piece adds “Others howled when Farrell publicly objected to a new Texas carry law on guns, and praised President Barack Obama for pursuing stronger gun control. Yet liberals too have also lodged complaints. In 2008, for instance, Farrell and Bishop Kevin Vann, then of Fort Worth, issued a joint pastoral letter on Catholics and politics, calling abortion “the defining moral issue not just of today but of the last 35 years.” It was widely seen as a warning to Catholics about supporting Barack Obama (or, at least, doing so uncritically), and led to protests outside the Dallas chancery. Farrell’s reputation for balance, therefore, isn’t about any hesitance to speak his mind, or timidity about drawing lines in the sand. It’s more about an instinctive aversion to ideological extremes, a sense that busting people’s chops generally isn’t the right immediate response to any new problem. On the issues that will loom largest in his new gig – abortion, contraception, gay marriage, and so on – the bottom line is that Farrell is robustly pro-life, but nobody’s idea of a cultural warrior”.

In his new position, Farrell will also be responsible for overseeing implementation of Francis’ recent treatise on the family, Amoris Laetitiae, which among other things seemed to open a cautious door for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to return to Communion after a process of discernment.

Although Farrell hasn’t directly addressed the Communion issue, when the document appeared he was broadly supportive.

“Some feel Pope Francis does not go far enough in addressing the hopes of those in irregular marriages, others who feel it compromises traditional teaching,” he said. “In my opinion, it reflects the call of Jesus to his church to continue his healing and saving mission.”

Farrell also warmly praised comments on Amoris made by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria, who was among the proponents of opening Communion to the divorced and remarried at the pope’s two Synods of Bishops on the family.

On the pastoral level, Farrell won high marks in July for his response to the sniper attacks on police that left five law enforcement officers dead, in retaliation for police shootings of African-Americans.

Farrell gets good reviews as an administrator and manager (he has an MBA from Notre Dame), and is seen as a strong leader. That’s a quality that will come in handy in the Vatican, where outsiders, especially those who aren’t part of the Italian clerical world, can easily get steamrolled if they aren’t careful.

Personally, Farrell is relaxed and accessible, with a sharp wit and a keen sense of humor, without any of the pretense one sometimes associates with senior Vatican mandarins.

As for the American angle, Francis had already gone a long way to assuaging doubts about a perceived coolness to Americans by naming Greg Burke, a veteran Time and Fox News correspondent, as his new chief spokesman effective Aug. 1.

Yet there was still no American prelate heading a major Vatican department, something of an anomaly in recent decades when the informal rule was there should be at least one.

By tapping Farrell, therefore, Francis has again shown his respect for the Church in the United States in arguably the most consequential way any pope can, since, in the small world of the Vatican, personnel is always policy.

Here’s the bottom line on the Farrell appointment: Moderates can claim another big win, and Americans (as well as the Irish, of course) can feel like they’ve got a powerful new friend in Rome.

Francis humiliates Sarah

27/07/2016

A report notes how Rome rowed back from comments from cardinal Sarah, “In the wake of recent comments by its chief liturgist recommending that priests celebrate Mass ad orientem, meaning facing east with their backs to the people, beginning in Advent, the Vatican released a statement on Monday saying no new rules along those lines are in the works. A Vatican spokesman also rejected the vocabulary of a “reform of the reform” in liturgical practice, saying that phrase is “at times the source of misunderstandings.” Father Federico Lombardi said the decision to release a statement clarifying comments made by Cardinal Robert Sarah, of Guinea, came after the prelate met with Pope Francis on Saturday. “Cardinal Sarah has always been rightly concerned about the dignity of the celebration of the Mass, in order to adequately express an attitude of respect and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery,” Lombardi said”.

The piece notes “The papal spokesman added that some of Sarah’s expressions had been misinterpreted by the press, as a signal that changes in liturgical norms were imminent. “It is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction – eastwards, or at least towards the apse – to the Lord who comes,” Sarah had said July 5, opening a conference in London called Sacra Liturgia. Although his comments were phrased as suggestions and not an edict, Sarah’s desire for a return to the ad orientem posture nevertheless generated wide reaction and debate, in large part because the posture is widely associated with the older Latin Mass in use prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). In truth, the rules for the post-Vatican II Mass also allow for the use of the ad orientem posture, and some priests celebrate it that way. In the public imagination, however, it’s generally seen as a more traditional way of doing it. In the aftermath of Sarah’s comments, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster in the UK sent a letter to priests in his diocese saying that the Mass was not the time for priests to “exercise personal preference or taste.” According to the Catholic Herald, Nichols also noted the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which lays out the rules for celebrating Mass, states in paragraph 299 that “the altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.” In his statement, Lombardi quoted the same paragraph both in Latin and in Italian”.

The report goes on to mention “Sarah was appointed to the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Francis in November 2014. Lombardi said that when he visited Sarah’s dicastery, Francis expressly told the Guinea cardinal that the “ordinary” form of celebrating the Mass is the one promulgated in the missal by Pope Paul VI, meaning, after the Second Vatican Council. The pope also said that the “extraordinary” form while accepted under the means expressed by Benedict XVI in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, shouldn’t become the norm. “There are therefore no new liturgical directives for next Advent, as some have wrongly inferred from some of Cardinal Sarah’s words,” Lombardi said. Lombardi’s rejection of the phrase “reform of the reform” is also noteworthy in light of Sarah’s comments in early July”.

The piece ends “In his remarks, Sarah had said that during a private audience with the pope last April, Francis had asked him to study “the question of a reform of a reform” to see how to enrich the twofold use of the Roman rite – the “ordinary form,” meaning the post-Vatican II liturgy in the vernacular languages, and the “extraordinary form,” or the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass”.

The Italians pyrrhic victory

25/07/2016

John Allen writes about the own goal by the Italians managing the Church’s finances, “There are many ways of analyzing the fault lines in the Vatican, but perhaps the most time-honoured (if also often exaggerated) is the tension between an Italian old guard and pretty much everybody else. By conventional political logic, anyway, Saturday saw the Italians notch a fairly big win”.

Allen perceptively goes on to make the point that “It could turn out, however, to be a Pyrrhic victory – because by taking back control over a range of financial powers, the old guard has also reclaimed the blame the next time something goes wrong. On Saturday, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio, meaning a legal edict, delineating the division of responsibility between the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) and the Secretariat of the Economy (SPE). The former is headed by Italian Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, the latter by Australian Cardinal George Pell. In effect, the motu proprio restores several important functions to APSA that had been given to Pell’s department in 2014. One local news agency bottom-lined the result this way in its headline: “The Italians win!” To understand what’s going on, we need to take a step back. Although public fascination with Vatican finances usually focuses on the Institute for the Works of Religion, the so-called “Vatican bank,” in truth most of the bank’s $6.5 billion in assets is not Vatican money – it belongs to depositors, with almost half resting in the accounts of religious orders from around the world”.

Crucially Allen points out that “The real financial heavyweight in the Vatican has long been APSA, controlling both real estate as well as investments, and also running a wide range of other functions such as purchasing and payroll. The total value of the real estate holdings alone under APSA’s control is officially estimated at around $1 billion, though many observers suspect that because of a lack of up-to-date market valuations, the actual figure may be several times higher. As part of the first round of financial reform in 2014, many of APSA’s functions were stripped away and handed over to SPE under Pell, including real estate, purchasing and contracts, support services, and so on. The vision was that APSA would be transformed from a financial administrator into the Vatican’s “Central Bank.” That move was suggested by a papal study commission on finances, and was seen in part as a reaction to scandals that had plagued APSA, including a cause célèbre involving a former APSA accountant known as “Monsignor 500 Euro” who was arrested by Italian authorities in a cash-smuggling scheme”.

Naturally enough Allen notes that “From the beginning, however, there was resistance. Many in the Vatican saw Pell’s takeover of APSA’s functions as a power grab, and there was a natural temptation to style what was happening as pushy Anglo-Saxons trying to dislodge the Italians. Politics aside, there was also a question of substance about the right way to promote a division of powers. From the point of view of Pell’s critics, you can’t have SPE responsible both for oversight of financial management and direct administration – it’s a clear case of “who will guard the guardians?” Those favourably inclined to the pope’s decision on Saturday describe it as an option in favour of building interlocking systems of administration and control, which aren’t dependent upon any one personality to function properly. Pell’s supporters, on the other hand, argued that allowing APSA to be in charge of purchasing for itself as well as others is also a conflict of interest, which is why responsibility should be lodged somewhere else. As that internal debate unfolded, management of Vatican real estate was returned to APSA in early 2015, but most other functions remained with SPE”.

He goes on to mention “Last fall Francis set up a working group led by Italian Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, former head of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs, to study the situation further, and Saturday’s motu proprio is the result of its work. The motu proprio stipulates that effectively immediately, most of the remaining responsibilities previously held by SPE for direct financial administration, including asset management and purchasing, are going back to APSA. The only significant area of administration in which SPE will now have a direct role is human resources. The underlying principle is what the motu proprio calls a “clear and unequivocal distinction between control and vigilance.” The net result is a back to the future scenario – after all the upheaval of the last three years, the APSA of 2016 won’t look terribly different from the APSA of early 2013″.

He goes on to mention “However, the motu proprio also specifies that Pell’s department will still be responsible for “oversight and vigilance,” including approving APSA’s budget and balance sheets. In other words, APSA may have many of its traditional powers back, but SPE has the authority to oversee how those powers can be deployed. The next battle to determine how much SPE’s influence still counts may come over draft procedures Pell’s office has issued for matters such as disbursements of petty cash, tracking expenditures, and payments, which are designed to apply to all Vatican departments. The procedures have been criticized by some other players, especially Libero Milone, who was appointed as the Vatican’s first Auditor General in June 2015. Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, has suggested bringing together the various officials responsible for financial oversight and administration to reach consensus. In the meantime, Saturday’s motu proprio will be seen as a setback for Pell. Veteran Italian commentator Andrea Tornielli, for instance, wrote on Saturday that SPE is now no longer a “super-ministry,” and the new system will force Pell and his team to become more “collegial.”  The Associated Press reported that Francis had “clipped Pell’s wings.” Under the heading of the law of unintended consequences, however, there’s an ironic dimension to this “reform of the reform” worth noting”.

Pointedly Allen argues that “Prior to Saturday, if a new financial scandal had erupted at the Vatican, there would have been no debate over who’s responsible – Pell had the power, and with the power comes the blame when things break down. Now, however, the political calculus is different. If some new mess takes shape at APSA, it would no longer be Pell’s fault, at least in any direct sense. It would be on Calcagno and his team – and, more broadly, on the forces that pushed to put them back in charge. And, let’s face it – the possibility of a fresh scandal blowing up is not exactly the world’s longest shot. The Vatican has been a magnet for such meltdowns over the years, and while new controls are now in place, you don’t just upend a culture overnight. In other words, for the Vatican’s old guard, the motu proprio right now probably appears a satisfying result. Depending on how things break, however, it could be a classic case of the old wisdom, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”

Benedict the Great Reformer

08/05/2016

John Allen has written a piece arguing that Benedict XVI was a great teacher and reformer, he opens “By consensus, while emeritus Pope Benedict XVI was a great teaching pontiff, ecclesiastical governance on his watch often left something to be desired. Space does not permit a full listing of meltdowns and crises, but here are a few highlights:

  • The appointment in 2007, followed by the swift fall from grace, of a new Archbishop of Warsaw who had an ambiguous relationship with the Soviet-era secret police.
  • The eerily similar appointment in 2009 of an Austrian bishop who had suggested Hurricane Katrina was a punishment for the wickedness of New Orleans, and who was likewise gone within days.
  • Lifting the excommunications of four traditionalist Catholic bishops in 2009, including one who denied that the Nazis used gas chambers, with little apparent regard for how that move would be perceived.
  • The surreal “Boffo case” from 2010, pivoting on the former editor of the official newspaper of the Italian bishops. (If you don’t know the story, it would take too long to explain, but trust me … Hollywood screenwriters couldn’t make this stuff up.)
  • The Vatileaks scandal of 2011-12, which featured revelations of financial corruption and cronyism, and which ended with the conviction and pardon of the pope’s own former butler for stealing confidential documents.

Less spectacularly, there was a chronic sense during the Benedict years that the pope’s administrative team, led by Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was occasionally out of its depth. Decisions were delayed, and when they came, the logic for how things shook out was sometimes opaque”.

Allen goes on to note that “Frustration over a perceived “management deficit” helped pave the way for election of a new pope in March 2013, with a reputation as someone who could clean out the stables and get the Vatican under control. (Whether or not that’s actually happening today is an utterly different conversation.) Australia’s George Pell, today Pope Francis’ finance chief, was among those calling for a house-cleaning three years ago. “I think the governance is done by most of the people around the pope, and that wasn’t always done brilliantly,” he said after Benedict’s resignation. “I’m not breaking any ground there — this is said very commonly.” Today, however, marks the 11th anniversary of Benedict’s election to the papacy on April 19, 2005, and to mark the occasion, I want to suggest that over the long run, Benedict will be judged not by his failures but rather the historic reform processes he set in motion”.

Allen argues that Benedict will be remembered as a reformer, for three reasons, the first being financial reforms, “Although Pope Francis has launched an ambitious program of financial reform, it’s important to remember that the long-delayed work of bringing the Vatican into the 21st century vis-à-vis financial administration actually began under Benedict. Perhaps the single most important move Benedict made was to choose, for the first time, to subject the Vatican to independent secular review in the form of the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency, Moneyval. Never before had the Vatican opened its financial and legal systems to this sort of external, independent review, with the results made public, and to say the least, the decision encountered some internal Vatican blowback”.

Allen adds “In centuries past, had secular authorities shown up to conduct such a review, they would have been fought off tooth and nail in the name of defending the autonomy and sovereignty of the papacy. For Moneyval, the red carpet was rolled out instead. Benedict was also the pope who created a new financial watchdog unit inside the Vatican, the Financial Information Authority, and hired a serious professional to lead it: A Swiss lawyer named René Brülhart, who for the previous 10 years had led anti-money-laundering efforts in the tiny European principality of Liechtenstein”.

The second element that Allen praises is Benedict’s anti abuse efforts, “When the abuse scandals in the United States broke in 2002, reaction in the Vatican was divided between what one might loosely call the “reformers” and the “deniers.” The fault lines broke down in terms of these debates:

  • Is the crisis largely a media- and lawyer-driven frenzy, or is it a real cancer?
  • Should the church cooperate with civil authorities, or is that surrendering the autonomy the church has fought titanic battles over the centuries to defend?
  • Should the church embrace the use of psychology in screening candidates for the priesthood, or is that smuggling in a secular mentality in place of traditional spiritual principles of formation?
  • Should the church support aggressive programs of abuse prevention and detection, or does that risk “sexualizing” children along the lines of secular sex education?
  • Is the crisis truly a global phenomenon, or is it the fruit of a “moral panic” largely restricted to the West?
  • Should the Vatican sign off on “zero-tolerance” policies, or does that rupture the paternal relationship that’s supposed to exist between a bishop and his priests?

When the American scandals erupted under St. John Paul II, the deniers had control in the Vatican and the reformers were an embattled minority. By the end of Benedict’s papacy, the situation was the exact reverse: The deniers hadn’t gone away, but they’d been driven underground”.

The piece goes on to mention “While he was still at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who pushed for new rules to weed out abuser priests in the Pope John Paul II years and who wrote those rules into law as pope. It was also Ratzinger who unleashed his top prosectuor, then-Msgr. Charles Scicluna, on Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado despite the cleric’s powerful network of Vatican allies, and who sentenced Maciel to a life of “prayer and penance” in 2006. Later, Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims of sex abuse, the first pope to apologize for the crisis in his own name, and the first pope to dedicate an entire document to the abuse crisis in his 2010 letter to the Catholics of Ireland. Benedict laicized almost 400 priests in 2011 and 2012 alone for reasons related to sex abuse, which is almost 1 in every 1,000 Catholic priests in the world flushed out of the system in just two years”.

Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, “Although Pope Francis is rightly celebrated for his humility and simplicity, the truth is that Benedict XVI contributed significantly to the “demystification” of the papal office well before Francis stepped onto the scene. Here’s an example. Shortly after his election, Francis returned to the Casa del Clero in Rome where he’d been staying prior to the conclave in order to pack his own bag and pay his own bill, an episode that became part of his “man of the people” image. Yet Benedict did much the same thing 11 years ago, returning to his apartment to pack up and then going around to thank the nuns who lived in the building for being good neighbours. In other words, Benedict was every bit as humble as his successor – arguably, in some ways, more so – even if that wasn’t always clear from his public image. Benedict also humanized the papacy with his capacity to admit fault and to ask for help”.

Allen writes that “His 2009 letter to the bishops of the world after the Holocaust-denying traditionalist debacle is one of the most heart-felt, plaintive documents written by a papal hand you’ll ever see, and in it Benedict candidly acknowledged that he and his Vatican team had dropped the ball – not on the substance of the decision, which he defended, but on the way it was handled and communicated. Finally, of course, there’s the fact that Benedict delivered the single most stunning act of papal humility in at least the last 500 years: His Feb. 11, 2013, decision to resign. Pope Francis has said that in the wake of that act, resignation has now become an “institution” rather than a historical anomaly. That doesn’t even mean every future papacy will end in resignation, because some no doubt will still die in office, either as a conscious choice or simply by dint of circumstance”.

The piece ends “Nevertheless, Benedict clearly answered the question of whether a pope even could resign in relatively normal historical circumstances – in other words, when not facing schism or invading armies – with a resounding “yes,” thereby, in ecclesiological terms, moving the papacy a huge step closer to being reinserted within the College of Bishops. No doubt, Francis and whoever follows him will continue to build on these precedents. The fact always will remain, however, that the precedents were set by the “Great Reformer.””

“Francis’s ruthlessness is no secret”

13/04/2016

An article in Foreign Policy argues that Pope Francis is the “dictator of the Vatican” following the publication of Amoris laetitia. It opens “There is hardly anyone in the world by now who is unfamiliar with the affable, down-to-earth, conspicuously humble persona projected by Pope Francis. His style of governance, however, is a far cry from this carefully cultivated public image. Influenced by the Peronist ideology of his native Argentina, he rules the Catholic Church with the idiosyncratic passions, and disciplined commitment to an agenda, of a true ideologue. And Amoris Laetitia, Francis’s 260-page, nearly 60,000-word, post-synodal apostolic exhortation on marriage and family, which was at long last released on Friday, is the clearest example yet”.

The report goes on “Francis’s “People’s Pope” persona has always belied an autocratic temperament that is coldly efficient at achieving his aims, if not winning allies to his cause. In his National Geographic profile of the pontiff, formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Robert Draper relates that:

[Francis has] an awareness that his every act and syllable will be parsed for symbolic portent. Such prudence is thoroughly in keeping with the Jorge Bergoglio known by his Argentine friends, who scoff at the idea that he is guileless. They describe him as a “chess player,” one whose every day is “perfectly organized,” in which “each and every step has been thought out.” Bergoglio himself told the journalists Francesca Ambrogetti and Sergio Rubin several years ago that he seldom heeded his impulses, since “the first answer that comes to me is usually wrong.”

Robert Mickens, editor in chief of Global Pulse, an online Catholic magazine, described Francis as a “master tactician” who was able to “make a move to outflank various groups and people that continue to oppose many of his initiatives.” Such cold and calculating determination has been in evidence throughout the process leading up to Friday’s publication of Amoris Laetitia”.

The piece adds “Never in my lifetime as a Catholic has a papal document been more anticipated — or feared — than this follow-up to the two-part Synod of Bishops that originally convened in October 2014. Institutionally, the document’s roots can be traced back even further, at least to the consistory, or meeting of cardinals, in February 2014, at which the octogenarian Cardinal Walter Kasper, bishop emeritus of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, was personally asked by Francis to give the keynote address. It was here that Kasper — once a lightning rod of theological controversy who had already begun to fade into the obscurity of retirement — had new life suddenly breathed into his ecclesiastical career as he was lavished with praise by the unconventional new pope for his “serene theology.” At the core of this theology was a novel conception of mercy that appeared to preclude repentance. While paying lip service to the church’s long-established doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, Kasper proposed the exploration of new paths to respond to the alleged deep needs of divorced people who have remarried, offering the idea of a period of penance after which they might be re-admitted to the sacraments”.

The writer correctly argues that “This “Kasper Proposal,” as it came to be known, was nothing new in his native Germany, where he had advocated it (and implemented it in practice) for years, but thrust into the spotlight of Rome it became an immediate point of contention for orthodox Catholics. It represented the possibility of an institutional embrace of adultery, as well as permission for those living in grave sin to be re-admitted to Holy Communion — a practice that had been understood previously as sacrilege. Nevertheless, it formed the locus around which both the extraordinary and ordinary synods on marriage and family would trace their orbits in October 2014 and 2015, respectively”.

The writer goes on to argue, perhaps pushing the boundaries between truth and falsehood, “Kasper — with a strong papal endorsement in hand — continued to pitch the idea as he went on a world tour to promote his bookMercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life. Francis, who described Kasper early in his papacy as a “superb theologian,” said that his book “has done me so much good, so much good.” As pressure mounted against the Kasper Proposal from more conservative quarters within the church, the cardinal responded with an appeal to authority: “I agreed with the pope. I spoke twice with him. He showed himself content [with the proposal]. Now, they create this controversy. A cardinal must be close to the pope, by his side. The cardinals are the pope’s cooperators.” With no correction from the Vatican, Kasper’s testimony stood, in the eyes of many of the faithful, as proof that Francis was an advocate of his position. And as the list of unorthodox prelates invited personally by Francis to the synod grew, so too did the suspicion that the pope was, in fact, entertaining the unthinkable: a blessing for changes in Catholic practice that would fatally erode the very doctrine they purported not to change”.

The piece goes on to mention “Examples abound that the apparently simple, jovial Francis — who is so keen to refer to himself only as the “bishop of Rome,” and who gives the appearance of a strong sense of collegiality with his brother bishops — has always preferred to wield his authority like a hammer in pursuit of his own agenda. His scathing and wide-ranging rebuke of the Roman Curia, the central government of the church, in his 2014 Christmas address left feathers ruffled among the “princes of the church.” His removal of the staunchly orthodox Cardinal Raymond Burke from his position as the head of the Apostolic Signatura (and his other curial positions) was seen by many as retribution for Burke’s public criticisms of the themes — like Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried — that were informing the synod process. His unilateral promulgation of two motu proprio letters reforming the marriage annulment process caused consternation among canonists and members of diocesan marriage tribunals and generated uncomfortable whispers from members of the appropriate Roman dicasteries who were not consulted in the creation of these important juridical documents. Last year, rumours of a conspiracy to force Pope Benedict XVI out of office and elect then-Cardinal Bergoglio were started by none other than Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the beleaguered archbishop emeritus of Brussels who remains a close associate of Francis, despite his track record as a promoter of heterodox ideas and protector of clerical sex abusers”.

The writer adds “For close observers of the church, if not the wider public, Francis’s ruthlessness is no secret. This aspect of the Argentinian pope’s personality has already earned him his share of enemies. In an open letter to Francis from a former high-ranking member of the Roman Curia published last December, the official — who chose to remain anonymous for fear of retribution — admonished the pope for “an authoritarianism of which even the founder of your Order of Jesuits, St. Ignatius himself, would not approve.” He went on to describe the result of this authoritarianism: a “climate of fear” within the Vatican. Rumours have been circulating Rome for months that the Holy Father threatened the 13 Cardinals who sent him a letter expressing their own concerns over the synod — rumours that no source able to talk about it has been willing to confirm on the record”.

The piece ends “With the promulgation Friday of his new, extensive apostolic exhortation, Francis has shown once again that he is a man clever enough to get what he wants against all odds. The document’s length will prohibit a comprehensive analysis for some time yet, but already Catholic progressives are celebrating its innovations, and theologians are lamenting the damage it will undoubtedly do to the already crumbling edifice of Christian marriage and the church’s teaching on sexual ethics. As has been the Vatican playbook since the 1960s, the document is packed with careful language, layers of nuance, and ambiguity offering a buffer against cries of “heresy.” At the same time, these openly semantic doors offer opportunities for exploitation by means of subjective “discernment” by those who have most longed to see the church change its teachings to “get with the times.” In his own words from the text of the exhortation, Francis advises that we “recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.” Like much else about this papacy, it’s a statement that could mean whatever one wants it to mean. The real agenda lies hidden beneath”.

“Whether Pell’s past will trump his present”

12/03/2016

John Allen writes about the problems of Cardinal Pell, “After a bruising week of testimony by Cardinal George Pell before an Australian Royal Commission examining his record on child sexual abuse cases, the 74-year-old prelate may have given Pope Francis enough reason to justify keeping him around in the Vatican, both because of the lack of any new “smoking gun” revelation and also by pledging his support for anti-abuse efforts. If so, the urgent question will be whether Pell’s past will trump his present — meaning whether he’ll still have the papal backing he needs to finish the work of bringing transparency, accountability, and integrity to Vatican finances, which is the central reason Francis brought him to Rome two years ago”.

Allen goes on to write “Pell, the Vatican’s top financial officer, was giving testimony about his response to abuse cases in the city of Ballarat, where his priestly career began and which has been an epicenter of Australia’s abuse scandals, and also about his time as archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001. He appeared via a video link from Rome, after a heart condition made the long flight home inadvisable”.

Fairly he describes the “The four-day hearing was not a walk in the park, and Pell undeniably took some hits. Over and over, he insisted he was not aware of what he conceded was a “world of crimes and cover-ups” regarding pedophile priests, that he, too, had been deceived, and that at most he was guilty of being insufficiently curious. Those claims strained credibility for many Australian observers, including his chief interrogator, who described them as “implausible.” A columnist in the Sydney Morning Herald wrote Friday that “two George Pells” fought for control of the history books during the testimony”.

The adds “Yet against all odds, there are five ways in which Pell actually may emerge in a stronger position from this experience. First, the lengthy examination failed to produce any new “smoking gun” proving that Pell had direct knowledge of abuse and covered it up. He did admit to one instance in 1974 of being told by a student that a priest at a local school was “misbehaving with boys,” but said the student did not request action. If there was such a bombshell, this surely would have been the moment in which it emerged”.

The report continues “there was no suggestion of any act that would rise to the standard of a crime, and the same questions could be asked of virtually anyone else who was in Ballarat at the time. Second, Pell went through the strenuous process without complaint, agreeing to testify from 10 p.m. every night in Rome until 2 or 3 a.m. He was under no legal obligation to do so, which makes his cooperation meaningful. Third, at the end Pell met with several of the 15-20 abuse survivors, relatives, and supporters who flew over from Australia for the hearing, with at least some coming away striking positive notes”.

The other two ways Allen says that Cardinal Pell may emerge stronger is that “Pell pledged his support for the survivors and for recovery efforts from the abuse scandals, including offering to help create an Australian research center for abuse prevention and detection. Fifth, at the end of the hearing, Pell did not use comments to journalists to issue laments about the unfairness of it all or to suggest that he’s some kind of martyr. Instead, he said the limelight he’s attracted might be of some use in Europe, in terms of raising awareness of the abuse issue and cajoling the Church into abandoning its traditional culture ofomertà regarding clerical crimes. (That’s probably an especially pointed comment with respect to Italy, where the abuse scandals in most respects are still to arrive.) It remains to be seen what the future holds for Pell, who turns 75 on June 8. There are calls in Australia and elsewhere for Pope Francis to set an example by firing him”.

Interestingly Allen writes that “In Italy’s L’Espresso magazine on Thursday, journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, who’s currently facing a Vatican trial for publishing leaked financial documents, insisted the pope must get rid of Pell now, because otherwise it would “gravely put at risk the image of a revolutionary and inflexible pope, the sworn enemy of the maniacs who infest the Church.” It’s not clear whether Francis will act on that advice, although in the past he’s shown himself deeply reluctant to make personnel moves under pressure. Assuming Pell does stay on the job, it will be important for the pontiff to find a way to make clear that Pell’s Australian difficulties have not damaged his capacity to implement the financial house-cleaning that was a key component of the pope’s electoral mandate three years ago”.

The piece ends “The worst of all worlds for a reforming pope probably would be to frustrate those who want to see Pell held accountable as a symbol of “zero tolerance” for child abuse, and simultaneously to hand a win to the Vatican’s old guard terrified of Pell’s clean-up efforts on money. The pope’s challenge boils down to this: If Pell stays, then he needs to stay for real, with the tools he needs to do the job. Otherwise, the actual “grave risk” to Francis’ image would be to allow criticism on one front to impede real change on another”.

America’s new nuncio?

10/03/2016

Rocco writes about the new, though yet to be announced nuncio to the United States, “Less than two months since Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano reached the retirement age of 75 – and, indeed, all of two days after that came up here – the choice of his successor as Nuncio to the US is reportedly at hand: in a piece published earlier today on his Settimo Cielo blog, the conservative Italian vaticanista Sandro Magister said that Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the 70 year-old French-born legate to Mexico, is the Pope’s selection for the DC posting, with an announcement said to be “imminent.” A mission-chief for 20 years – and the Vatican’s man in Mexico since 2007 – the reported choice would mark another move by Francis to highlight the “peripheries” toward which the pontiff has ceaselessly prodded the church; Pierre’s first assignment as a Nuncio was over four years (1995-99) in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere”.

Rocco goes on to make the point that “two weeks after the Pope’s long-desired stop at the US border and subsequent doubling-down on it, what would be a provocative transfer north given the US’ political climate would bring a figure intimately familiar with matters of immigration as the Holy See’s representative to the US government, to say nothing of the Nuncio’s role as the Pope’s eyes, ears and voice to an American Catholic fold which has been transformed by an influx of Hispanic migration. On yet another key front, unlike the prior lead occupants of 3339 Massachusetts Av NW, Pierre would arrive in the States with an unusually well-steeped understanding of the church in the Southern and Western US, which have jointly surpassed the old bastions of the Northeast and upper Midwest over recent years in becoming the majority bloc of the nation’s 70 million faithful. All at once, the prospect of Pierre’s appointment would both come as a surprise and not as one. While the name of the Frenchman has circulated in authoritative quarters only over the last six weeks or so, from the outset of the succession talks the most widely cited name for the DC post has been Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the bubbly Italian who won great acclaim and affection in New York’s church and diplomatic circles over his eight years as the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations headquarters there”.

Rocco adds however that “Now 63 and transferred to Poland since 2010, the onetime “deputy foreign minister” in the Secretariat of State notably became the first quarterback for the Vatican’s amplified environmental push under Benedict XVI, which Migliore championed on the Holy See’s behalf in the UN’s deliberations. That said, a current of opposition to Migliore’s appointment to the US began circulating early this year, and given the word of Pierre’s selection, the Mexico rep.’s experience with migration issues – and the Pope’s ostensible desire to send another message on their import – would appear to have tipped the balance in his favour”.

Interestingly, he goes on to make the point “As Francis marks the third anniversary of his election on Sunday, it bears recalling that Papa Bergoglio has not followed the tradition of his predecessors in his choice to stick with the US representative he inherited for a lengthy period of time. Over the last half-century and more, each new Pope has traditionally placed a diplomat of his own choosing in Washington within the first year of his pontificate, reflecting the assignment’s immense import both on civil and ecclesial fronts, above all in the Nuncio’s most consuming function: compiling the massive amounts of consultation, research and reports which set the stage for every appointment of a bishop”.

He then gives the requiste background “Named to Washington in October 2011, Viganò’s assignment to the post was widely perceived as an “exile” from Rome in the wake of his unsuccessful campaign to combat mismanagement and graft in Vatican City’s finances and contracts as the city-state’s deputy mayor. Following his arrival, the archbishop’s pleas to Benedict for support in the cause became a centerpiece of the incendiary “Vatileaks” document drops, which destabilized the Curia for the bulk of 2012 while winning Viganò a significant amount of praise for his forceful efforts. In the wake of Francis’ election, the new Pope’s push for Curial reform and a financial cleanup led to well-placed expectations that Viganò would see his triumphant return to Rome in a leading post. The speculation turned to naught, however, after a smear campaign by the archbishop’s enemies and circulated in the Italian press is believed to have short-circuited the move”.

Crucially he writes that “Having laid the groundwork for the Pope’s markedly successful East Coast trip last September, the career diplomat landed in the center of another ferocious storm in the visit’s wake when it emerged that Kim Davis – the Kentucky clerk who was briefly jailed for refusing to perform same-sex marriages on religious freedom grounds – was quietly greeted by Francis at the DC Nunciature between public engagements. In a remarkable clarification issued in response to the furore caused by word of the meeting, a Vatican statement said that, with Davis among “several dozen” people present, “such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. While the release emphasized that “the Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.” it likewise revealed that “the only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.” The former student was later found to be openly gay and had brought his partner to the encounter”.

Rocco ends the piece “Having won wide esteem among the US bishops with his gracious style, quiet assists and commitment to a heavy travel schedule to take part in local church events, Viganò was feted by the bench at last November’s plenary in Baltimore with the traditional champagne reception which the USCCB accords to a Vatican representative attending his final meeting. That said, as the archbishop’s success at ultimately obtaining the appointments of those he’s recommended has largely been stymied by the influence of the Stateside cardinals on the Congregation for Bishops – who vote on the ultimate endorsement of a candidate before the file reaches the Pope – Viganò’s “swan song” pick on these shores is understood to have been the July elevation of one of his favorites, Fr Robert Barron, as auxiliary of Los Angeles, a move that stoked widespread shock among the American hierarchy”.

Interestingly, Rocco does not mention the fate of Vigano. There are, as ever, a number of posts available should Francis wish to reward Vigano. Notably these are the archpriest’s job at Santa Maria Maggiore. However, in light of the chaos seemingly favoured by Francis he may wish to not reward/punish Vigano for his Davis stunt and his preference for favouring ecclestical no-bodies.

Iranian reformists blocked

29/02/2016

An important article discusses the elections in Iran noting that reformists might be blocked “In a Jan. 9 speech to commemorate a 1978 uprising in Qom, Iran’s religious center, in which the country’s then-royal regime killed protesters opposed to its rule, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei extolled the event as an example of Islamic exceptionalism. The deadly incident, known as the 19th of Dey, its date in the Persian calendar, is widely considered a prelude to the revolution that one year later established the clerical theocracy that rules Iran today. Khamenei boasted that the flame of Iran’s revolution, unlike its French and Russian forebears, has never been extinguished. And he pledged to keep it that way. “It is very important that a revolution manages to survive, keep itself alive, and confront its enemies and defeat them,” he said. “Our revolution is the only revolution that has managed to achieve these things, and these achievements will continue.” The tribute served as a warning that, regardless of the outcome of the elections this Friday, Iran’s path is unlikely to change”.

Pointedly the writer notes that “This mocking of Iran’s reformists and the tragic fate they met in 2009 presaged what took place a few weeks later, when Khamenei’s allies excluded thousands of reformist candidates from this week’s elections. The only reformist candidates who survived the cull were those whom most voters had never heard of. Paradoxically, the reformist list’s best-known candidate is Ali Motahari, parliament’s most outspoken member. A lifetime conservative scion of a famous cleric, his recent realignment with the reformists is testament to the country’s changing political landscape. While the regime wants 2009 to be forgotten, Motahari has criticized the detention of Green Movement leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, simultaneously winning respect from centrists and moderates as well as reformists”.

Interestingly he mentions that “The reformists have also toned down their ideological aims markedly in this election — a step backward from President Mohammad Khatami’s administration of the early 2000s, when they openly aimed to alter the Islamic Republic’s rigid ideology and pass new laws to tackle gender inequality and promote personal freedoms. This was due to the crackdown that followed the 2009 vote: The judiciary locked up so many activists and shut down so many newspapers that, right now, their goals are far more modest, including avoiding being outlawed as a political force entirely. In the present election, they have formed an ad hoc coalition with political factions supporting the country’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who has tended to seek more gradual change”.

The writer notes that two elections take place, one for the parliament the other for the Assembly of Experts, “Its biggest potential task has long lay dormant: In a manner similar to how the Roman Catholic Church’s College of Cardinals selects a new pope, the 88 clerics who will comprise the next Assembly of Experts will pick the 76-year-old Khamenei’s successor should he die during its eight-year term. While Khamenei and other officials have urged a high turnout in the run-up to election day, they have also taken steps to show that Iran’s elections will happen on the regime’s terms. The Guardian Council, a 12-member constitutional watchdog, in addition to excluding parliamentary candidates deemed insufficiently loyal to the clergy, has sought to neuter Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khamenei’s revolutionary brother turned foe”.

The report adds “For the country’s reformists, the contradictions of the orchestrated selection process and the predominantly octogenarian makeup of Iran’s highest clerical body make a mockery of claims that the polls are democratic. This dissonance is increasingly hard for a young population to stomach. (Iran’s median age is 30, and around 60 percent of its population of roughly 80 million is younger than that.) It is, according to Khamenei, the duty of all citizens to vote. But the underlying meaning of his pronouncements is that the purpose of doing so is to enshrine the system’s legitimacy, rather than allow people to register disapproval”.

Worryingly for the future of Iran the piece notes that “The wounds that were opened by the suppression of the 2009 protests show no sign of healing. At the first rally of the pro-Rouhani Alliance of Reformists and Government Supporters, which aims to topple hard-line conservatives on Friday, thousands chanted “no more house arrest” and “free the prisoners.” The chants were a reference to Mousavi, Karroubi and the countless others deprived of liberty. The thousands who convened in the sports hall rally also held up a modified version of a poster of the reform movement’s éminence grise, Khatami, from the presidential campaign that saw him elected in 1997. The original shows his face in studied concentration, chin resting on hands. But the 2016version shows only the hands, due to censorship under a media ban on Khatami’s face being published or his words used. The moderate alliance’s logo fills the blank space”.

 

The piece ends “Despite such hopes, it is hard to see past the biggest influence over the elections so far: Khamenei and who will be his successor. While members of parliament come and go, the office of the supreme leader is, for all intents and purposes, for life. In his 19th of Dey speech, the supreme leader not only took potshots at his Green Movement enemies — he raised the subject of his own death, highlighting the overarching significance of the Assembly of Experts election. “When the current leader is not in this world, the day we do not have a leader, it is the responsibility of the Assembly of Experts to choose a leader … who holds the key to this revolution,” he said, urging even those who do not approve of him to cast a ballot. But to many, the overt action of his officials to influence the vote and counter Rouhani’s momentum and popularity after the nuclear deal has grossly undermined the prospect of a huge turnout”.

 

Francis, Benedict and the ordinariates

29/11/2015

Amid talk of a civil war in the Church, John Allen notes the similarities between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, “At the level of style, Pope Francis is obviously a somewhat jarring contrast with his predecessor, emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Francis generally comes off as a warm Latin populist, Benedict more a cool German intellectual. Leaders, however, promote either continuity or rupture not primarily at the level of style but rather policy, and on that front, one can make a case that Francis has a surprising amount in common with Benedict. His reforms on both Vatican finances and the clerical sexual abuse scandals, to take one example, are clearly extensions of Benedict’s legacy”.

Allen goes onto notes “A new chapter in this largely untold story of continuity came on Tuesday, when the pontiff tapped 40-year-old American Monsignor Steven Lopes as the first-ever bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, one of three jurisdictions created under Pope Benedict in 2012 to welcome former Anglicans into the Catholic Church. The Ordinariate of St. Peter, based in Houston, serves ex-Anglican communities in the United States and Canada. Our Lady of Walsingham is based in the United Kingdom, while Our Lady of the Southern Cross is in Australia. The Lopes appointment represents continuity with Benedict on multiple levels”.

He then mentions that “Lopes was for many years the personal aide of American Cardinal William Levada, who served from 2005 to 2012 as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Benedict. Levada was, and remains, a close friend and ally of the emeritus pontiff. Lopes himself worked in the CDF from 2005 until his appointment this week”.

Allen fairly writes that “the creation of new structures for former Anglicans was a signature Benedict move that drew criticism on at least two fronts. First, critics saw it as an “un-ecumenical,” a violation of the gentleman’s agreement between Catholics and Anglicans not to go fishing in one another’s ponds. Second, given that most Anglican defectors these days tend to be theological conservatives, critics styled it as example of Benedict trying to drive the Catholic Church to the right”.

Pointedly Allen argues that “Some may have expected that opening to be played down under Francis, but clearly that’s not the case. As a press release announcing Lopes’ appointment put it, Francis’ move “affirms and amplifies Pope Benedict’s vision for Christian unity” and makes the ordinariate “a permanent, enduring part of the Catholic Church.” Francis also recently approved a new set of texts for the celebration of Mass by the ordinariates, incorporating distinctive features of Anglican worship. Those texts will go into use on the first Sunday of Advent on Nov. 29, and Lopes played a key role in producing them. In a Crux interview Wednesday, Lopes said he sees his new job as all about continuity between the two popes. “I worked very closely with Pope Benedict in creating the ordinariates, and I know his vision was of allowing diversity in communion,” he said. “Pope Francis embraces that model and is pushing it through to its logical conclusion.” Francis, Lopes said, is conscious of carrying forward his predecessor’s approach”.

Interestingly he adds “Lopes argued that the experience of the last three and a half years has undercut much of the alarm voiced at the beginning about Benedict’s move. For example, he said he hasn’t witnessed the “tension and blowback” observers expected from the Anglican side. “On the contrary, the Anglican/Roman Catholic dialogue is continuing,” he said, adding that there have been several examples of the Episcopal Church in the United States “being very, very gracious when whole communities have come over.” He also denied that the former Anglicans he now serves are entirely made up of disgruntled conservatives. “Anglicanism itself is diverse, so the people coming in are diverse,” he said. “To paint the ordinariates with a brush of just one color may be a handy narrative, but it’s false.” At the moment, Lopes said, the ordinariate for the United States and Canada has 42 parishes, 64 priests, four deacons, and roughly 20,000 faithful. It’s in an expansion phase, he said, both because other Anglican communities are still requesting entrance, and because his parishes tend to be keenly missionary and are attracting new members”.

The report adds “Looking forward, he said it’s plausible new ordinariates could be created in other parts of the world, perhaps to serve Latin America and the Pacific islands. Although Africa contains the majority of the world’s Anglicans, Lopes said he would be “surprised” if an ordinariate emerges there. Most African Anglicans, he said, are evangelicals, with different understandings of church authority, the sacraments, and so on, from Catholicism. Taking the long view, Lopes predicted that the basic idea behind these communities – that “unity of faith allows for vibrant diversity in expression … which Benedict believed, and to which Francis is now giving contours” – will stand the test of time”.

Becciu to Saints?

27/11/2015

Robert Mickens writes about upcoming curial appointments.

He opens “Francis will not be coming back to anything remotely considered “peace and quiet” in Rome. Among other things, in the coming days and weeks he is set to announce some major personnel and structural changes in the Roman Curia and other Vatican-related departments”.

He notes that “The extensive overhaul of the media sector, which the Pope signaled last June when he established the Secretariat for Communications, is expected to finally get underway. First of all, it appears that Fr. Federico Lombardi, who has headed the Holy See Press Office since 2006, is going to retire by the end of December. The 73-year-old Jesuit has also been running Vatican Radio since 1991 as its program director and since 2005 as its general director”.

Mickens writes that “It’s still not clear if Francis has decided to replace him at the press office with another member of their order, 49-year-old Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, or if he’s opted to name Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, 56, to the post. Spadaro is the editor of Civiltà Cattolica and is the man who conducted the blockbuster interview with Pope Francis that was published simultaneously in September 2013 by Jesuit publications around the world. The pope has given Spadaro freedom to help shape his message and clearly values his younger confrere’s advice. “Spadaro has the pope’s ear,” it is often said in Vatican circles. On the other hand, Rosica has used his fluency in several languages, an impressive theological education (he has a doctorate in Scripture) and extensive experience in developing and running a top-flight communications network (Salt + Light in Toronto) to be a highly effective Church representative in the media. A native of Rochester, N.Y., with dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship, he is already an at-large English attaché for the Vatican press office. And the pope has known him for several years”.

Importantly he adds that “it is structural changes in the Vatican’s media operations that will be turned up a few more notches next month when the newly created Secretariat for Communications leaves its temporary home at the Vatican Radio building and takes over the offices of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication. It’s not clear if Mgr. Dario Viganò, the secretariat’s prefect, will be named a bishop. The 53-year-old Milan priest, who is not related to the apostolic nuncio to the United States with the same name, is a specialist in film and television”.

However it would seem odd to have the prefect of the new secretariat not even a bishop. Of course this may be part of the Francis mindset of anti-careerism but not having Dario Vigano as a bishop may signal a weakness in Francis not willing to put the necessary papal support behind the nascent organisation.

The writer goes on to report that “It seems this change of offices is confirmation that the pontifical council will be suppressed and its president, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, given a new post — likely with the promise of a red hat. The career papal diplomat (he served in the Vatican nunciature in Argentina, among other places) will not be 75 until next July, but it’s possible that he could be named Archpriest of St. Mary Major. The current titleholder is Cardinal Santo Abril y Costelló, a former nuncio who turned 80 last September”.

Giving Celli the job of archpriest leaves several others out in the cold, especially the current nuncio to Italy and nuncio to the United States. Archbishop Vigano has served in the United States since October 2011 and is in many ways a Francis man, especially on the subject of money and transparency. It remains to be seen where, or if Vigano will get his reward. He may replace Cardinal O’Brien but this is by no means certain.

Mickens then notes that “Then there’s the question surrounding the future of Mgsr. Paul Tighe, the secretary at the soon-to-be-defunct Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The 57-year-old Dublin priest could end up being named head of one the larger dioceses in Ireland — such as Meath or Cork and Ross — where the current bishops are already retirement age”.

Indeed Tighe, 57, could be sent to Meath. This would place him in good position, if not pole position, to take the place of his archbishop, Diarmuid Martin who has served in Dublin since 2004 to clear up the mess after decades of hidden child abuse. Tighe could have four or so years in Meath and then be named coadjutor to Archbishop Martin or may just take over after Martin turns 75 in 2020.

Mickens goes on to mention “In the coming days Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who has been the Sostituto or Deputy Secretary of State for internal affairs since 2011, will be appointed prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The red-hat post is a done deal for the 67-year-old Sardinian and former nuncio to Cuba. He will replace Cardinal Angelo Amato, 77, an Italian Salesian who was the No. 2 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2002-2008″.

Yet again this leaves more questions unanswered, what is to become of Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer SJ a confrere of the pope and secretary of the CDF. Is he to remain in his post until retirement or will be be given a red hat as custom dictates? With Catholic Education, and now it seems Saints, all sown up what is to become of the Spanish archbishop. Perhaps Francis does not what the row it would cause if he moved Ladaria Ferrer to Saints and instead seeks to bide his time. However if Ladaria Ferrer was moved it would give Francis a chance name someone more to his liking at CDF.

Mickens goes on to mention “And who will get Becciù’s job? There is strong speculation that Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, who turns 57 in March and is currently papal nuncio to Lebanon, is the leading candidate to become the next Sostituto. He was the Assessore (or deputy to the Sostituto) from 2002 up until 2009 when he and his counterpart in the foreign section (does the name Pietro Parolin ring a bell?) were both sent away from Rome and into exile. Pope Francis wisely brought Parolin back to be his Secretary of State. By appointing Caccia he would be reuniting a duo that — for at least their time — successfully prevented the numerous disasters that would later plague the previous pontificate”.

Mckens ends “the current Assessore, Msgr. Peter Wells of Oklahoma, is frequently mentioned as the next papal nuncio to the United Nations organizations based in Geneva, Switzerland. The witty and highly competent diplomat is 52 years old and due to be promoted to the episcopacy. He would replace Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, 75, who has held the extremely important U.N. post since 2003″.

He concludes “Pope Francis finally announced last month what everyone had known for more than a year — that three existing structures would be combined to make one big office to deal with issues concerning the laity, family and human life. But up to now he has not said what exactly the new body will be (such as a congregation or a secretariat) or who will head it. Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, currently president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, would seem to be the leading candidate to oversee the new office, even if lay people have been mentioned as possible heads of various sections. But the pope may think it is time for the cardinal, who was ordained both priest and bishop by Karol Wojtyla-Pope John Paul II, to return to his native Archdiocese of Krakow after spending the last three decades in Rome. He would be a natural replacement for the current archbishop there, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. The longtime secretary of the late Polish pope turns 77 next April”.

He goes on to speculate “Pope Francis could turn to Rylko’s deputy (and former personal secretary to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), German Bishop Josef Clemens, 68. Or he could look to the current president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, 70. On the other hand, both men are still young enough to head up a diocese in their native countries. But the pope will have to discern whether that would really be such a good idea — and for whom. There’s yet another possibility. Francis could name the trusted coordinator of his C9 body of cardinal-advisors, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, to be the first head of the new office for laity, family and life. The affable Salesian will be 73 next month and shortly afterwards will mark 23 years as head of the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Now might be the right time for him to take up a new post. Rodriguez is, without a doubt, one of Francis’ most important allies. But he looks suspiciously like the epitome of the so-called “airport bishop” that the pope so strongly criticizes — one who is constantly travelling abroad for speaking engagements and meetings and is rarely at home”.

He concludes “Bringing Cardinal Oscar to Rome would make perfect sense. After all, the man who’s come as close as anyone to being the “vice-pope” is also the one who initially suggested the idea for new super-office for the laity. He actually said it should be a top shelf department at the level of a Vatican congregation, like those for bishops, clergy and religious. These are just some of the personnel changes Pope Francis will be making. There will be more, included with the official announcement that several current departments will be dissolved and folded into one big office for charity, justice and peace”.

Francis risks civil war

21/11/2015

Damian Thompson writes in the Spectator that Pope Francis is risking a Catholic civil war, “Last Sunday, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica carried an article by Eugenio Scalfari, one of the country’s most celebrated journalists, in which he claimed that Pope Francis had just told him that ‘at the end of faster or slower paths, all the divorced who ask [to receive Holy Communion] will be admitted’. Catholic opinion was stunned. The Pope had just presided over a three-week synod of bishops at the Vatican that was sharply divided over whether to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacrament. In the end, it voted to say nothing much”.

Thompson goes on to write “On Monday, the Pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said Scalfari’s report was ‘in no way reliable’ and ‘cannot be considered the Pope’s thinking’. Fair enough, you may think. Scalfari is 91 years old. Also, he doesn’t take notes during his interviews or use a tape recorder. Of course he’s not ‘reliable’. But that didn’t satisfy the media. They pointed out that the Pope knew exactly what he was letting himself in for. This is the fourth time he has chosen to give an interview to a man who relies on his nonagenarian memory. In their last encounter, Scalfari quoted the Pope as saying that two per cent of Catholic priests were paedophiles, including bishops and cardinals. Poor Lombardi had to clean up after that one, too. Last time round, Catholics gave Francis the benefit of the doubt. This time many of them are saying: never mind Scalfari, how can you trust what the Pope says? We’re two and a half years into this pontificate. But it’s only in the past month that ordinary conservative Catholics, as opposed to hardline traditionalists, have started saying that Pope Francis is out of control”.

Correctly Thompson makes the crucial distinction, “Out of control, note. Not ‘losing control’, which isn’t such a big deal. No pontiff in living memory has awakened the specific fear now spreading around the church: that the magisterium, the teaching authority vested in Peter by Jesus, is not safe in his hands. The non-Catholic media have yet to grasp the deadly nature of the crisis facing the Argentinian Pope. They can see that his public style is relaxed and adventurous; they conclude from his off-the-cuff remarks that he is liberal (by papal standards) on sensitive issues of sexual morality, and regards hard-hearted conservative bishops as hypocrites”.

Thompson goes on to argue that “All of which is true. But journalists — and the Pope’s millions of secular fans — get one thing badly wrong. They assume, from his approachable manner and preference for the modest title ‘Bishop of Rome’, that Jorge Bergoglio wears the office of Supreme Pontiff lightly. As anyone who works in the Vatican will tell you, this is not the case. Francis exercises power with a self-confidence worthy of St John Paul II, the Polish pope whose holy war against communism ended in the collapse of the Soviet bloc. But that’s where the similarities end. John Paul never hid the nature of his mission. He was determined to clarify and consolidate the teachings of the church. Francis, by contrast, wants to move towards a more compassionate, less rule-bound church. But he refuses to say how far he is prepared to go. At times he resembles a motorist driving at full speed without a map or a rear-view mirror. And when the car stalls, as it did at the October synod on the family, he does a Basil Fawlty and thrashes the bonnet with a stick”.

He goes on to write “The Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’ gave a temporary boost to climate activists. It was the conference on the family that was historic, but not in a good way. During the synod, ordinary devout Catholics began to wonder if Francis’s judgment had deserted him — or whether he’d always been a far stranger man than his carefree public image suggested. In church circles the worries began in October last year, when the Pope staged an ‘extraordinary’ preparatory synod that fell apart in front of his eyes. Halfway through the gathering, the organisers — hand-picked by Francis — announced that it favoured lifting the communion ban and wanted to recognise the positive aspects of gay relationships. Cue media rejoicing, until it emerged that the organisers were talking rubbish. The synod bishops, who included senior cardinals, didn’t favour either course. Cardinal George Pell, the Australian conservative who serves as the Pope’s chancellor of the exchequer, hit the roof — and when Pell is angry you really know about it. The final vote ditched both proposals. Francis, however, demanded that this year’s synod should revisit the question of communion for the divorced”.

Thompson goes on to note “This first synod wasn’t just humiliating for the Pope; it was also weird. Why did Francis let his lieutenants, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and Archbishop Bruno Forte, arrange a briefing that basically told lies? Any other pontiff would have sent Baldisseri and Forte to parishes in Antarctica after screwing up so badly. Instead, to general amazement, the Pope invited them to take charge of the main synod last month. Also invited back was Cardinal Walter Kasper, an 82-year-old ultra-liberal German theologian who wants to sweep away all obstacles to remarried divorcees receiving communion. To cut a long story short, Francis made it clear that he agreed with Kasper. Yet he also knew that most bishops at this year’s synod wanted to uphold the communion ban”.

The report goes on to mention “The synod ended messily, with a document that may or may not allow the lifting of the communion ban in special circumstances. Both sides thought they’d won — and then the Pope, in the words of one observer, ‘basically threw a strop’. In his final address, Francis raged against ‘closed hearts that hide behind the church’s teachings’ and ‘blinkered viewpoints’, adding that ‘the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter but its spirit’. The implication was clear. Clergy who wholeheartedly supported the communion ban were Pharisees to Francis’s Jesus. The Pope was sending coded insults to at least half the world’s bishops — and also, it seemed, giving priests permission to question teaching on communion and divorce. One priest close to the Vatican was appalled but not surprised. ‘You’re seeing the real Francis,’ he said. ‘He’s a scold. He can’t hide his contempt for his own Curia. Also, unlike Benedict, this guy rewards his mates and punishes his enemies.’ Clergy don’t normally refer to the Holy Father as ‘this guy’, even if they dislike his theology. But right now that’s one of the milder conservative descriptions of Francis; others aren’t printable in a family magazine”.

Worryingly Thompson writes “Never before has the Catholic church looked so much like the Anglican Communion — which broke up because orthodox believers, especially in Africa, believed that their bishops had abandoned the teachings of Jesus. In the case of Catholicism, the looming crisis is on a vastly bigger scale. For millions of Catholics, the great strength of the church is its certainty, coherence and immutability. They look to the Vicar of Christ on earth to preserve that stability. If successive popes come across as lofty and distant figures, that’s because they need to, in order to ward off schism in a global church that has roots in so many different cultures. Now, suddenly, the successor of Peter is acting like a politician, picking fights with opponents, tantalising the public with soundbites and ringing up journalists with startling quotes that his press officer can safely retract. He is even hinting that he disagrees with the teachings of his own church. A pope cannot behave like this without changing the very nature of that church. Perhaps that is what Francis intended; we can only guess, because he has yet to articulate a coherent programme of change and it’s not clear that he is intellectually equipped to do so”.

He ends “Loyal Catholics believe that the office of Peter will survive irrespective of who holds it; Jesus promised as much. But after the chaos of the last month, their faith is being tested to breaking point. It’s beginning to look as if Jorge Bergoglio is the man who inherited the papacy and then broke it”.

Francis chooses Brussels and Barcelona

15/11/2015

Rocco Palmo writes about the new appointments in Brussels and Barcelona made by Pope Francis. These come on the heels of new archbishops in Bologna and Palermo.

Rocco opens, “While Rome’s chattering circuit is consumed with the latest round of leak theatrics surrounding Vatican finances and the excesses of some prelates, the Pope has instead taken to doubling down on work and complete a “lightning round” of appointments to several major European posts”.

Rocco adds “Francis named Bishop Josef De Kesel of Bruges, 68, as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and head of a Belgian church that might just be the most bitterly polarised in the Catholic world. In the capital post of the linguistically-split, heavily secularised nation of Dutch and French-speakers, the incoming primate succeeds Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, who only reached the retirement age of 75 in May, after a five-year tenure which has been dogged by controversy from the outset on fronts ranging from the prelate’s comments on the moral culpability of AIDS patients to clergy sex-abuse, which saw Leonard civilly ordered to pay €10,000 earlier this year after being found to have failed to act on an allegation in his prior post in the 1990s. Highlighting the tensions on the wider scene, in two incidents that went viral the archbishop once was hit in the face with a pie during a liturgy and subsequently had water bottles dumped on him by topless feminists who stormed the stage at one of his speaking engagements”.

Rocco adds vitally that “A protege of Leonard’s predecessor, the famously liberal Cardinal Godfried Danneels – whose auxiliary De Kesel had been from 2002-10 – the archbishop-elect (a Gregorian-trained theologian) was the first choice on the terna for the last Brussels succession, but the then-Nuncio, Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber, was overruled by Benedict XVI, who personally chose the more traditional Leonard. Shortly after the appointment and his retirement shortly thereafter, a clearly displeased Rauber himself disclosed the face-off in an Italian magazine interview, going on to criticize both Papa Ratzinger and his eventual pick. Now 81, as a coda it bears noting that the former Nuncio was given a non-voting red hat by Francis at last February’s Consistory”.

The report goes on to note “In today’s other major move, Francis has reportedly spurred shock in the Spanish church’s Establishment by tapping 69 year-old Bishop Jose Omella of Calahorra as archbishop of Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest diocese, ground zero in the ongoing fight over independence for Catalonia, the region based in Gaudí’s city, where the 2010 dedication of the architect’s Basilica of the Sagrada Familia provided one of the monumental moments of the last pontificate. Named to succeed the native son Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, now 78, according to local reports Omella was raised on the peripheries of the region and grew up speaking its distinctive Catalan tongue, but isn’t said to be given to his new fold’s widespread nationalist tendencies. In keeping with Francis’ usual identikit for his picks, the Barcelona nominee has a long history in the church’s social action work, including a stint as a missionary in Zaire. The Pope’s move on the 2 million-member archdiocese is Papa Bergoglio’s third major shift in Spain – whose hierarchy he knows well, having preached one of its retreats before his election – following last year’s bombshell appointments on the same day to Madrid and Valencia, the latter going to Rome’s then-Liturgy Czar, Cardinal Antonio Canizares”.

Rocco reminds the reader that the appointments “close out a cycle of top-level nods which began last week as – in his first turn at Italy’s traditional “cardinalatial sees” – Francis yet again stunned the natives by naming an auxiliary of Rome, Bishop Matteo Zuppi, 59, as archbishop of Bologna and a 53 year-old Sicilian parish priest, Msgr Corrado Lorefice, to the archbishopric of Palermo, the island’s premier post. As with today’s appointees, both have significant records of pastoring the church on the margins, with Zuppi – a lead figure in the progressive Sant’Egidio movement – having led one of Rome’s largest outskirt parishes, while Lorefice has frequently cited his inspiration in the figure of Fr Pino Puglisi, a searing critic of Sicily’s Mafia bosses who was gunned down outside his church in 1993. Beatified in 2013, “Don Pino” is buried in the cathedral where Lorefice will soon have his seat. When the assassinated cleric’s name was raised following his appointment, the archbishop-elect interjected to reporters that his selection was Puglisi’s “fault.”

Interestingly Rocco adds that “In both appointments, meanwhile, it is understood that the Pope tossed aside the shortlists compiled during the formal consultation process, choosing instead to find his choices after taking his own soundings among the clergy of each place”.

Pointedly he concludes “Given his determination to not be “chained” to the custom of certain dioceses nearly guaranteed a spot in his Senate, as Francis has chosen to send his Italian red hats to places which have never had a cardinal or not seen one in generations, whether the duo will follow their respective predecessors into the College is an open question. In any case, while a February Consistory is again said to be on-deck, the mid-month timeframe when Francis has gathered the cardinals both in 2014 and 2015 is off the table next year due to the Pope’s now-confirmed trip to Mexico, during which the first American pontiff is widely expected to make his long-desired stop somewhere along the US border… and possibly cross over it”.

Vatileaks II

05/11/2015

A report from Crux notes Vatileaks 2 has come out to the public domain, “The Vatican’s new leaks scandal intensified Tuesday as a book exposed the mismanagement and internal resistance that has been thwarting Pope Francis’ financial reform efforts. Citing confidential documents, it detailed millions of euros in potential lost rental revenue, the scandal of the Vatican’s saint-making machine, greedy monsignors, and a professional-style break-in at the Vatican”.

Allen goes on to note that ““Merchants in the Temple,” by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, is due out Thursday, but an advance copy was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Its publication, and that of a second book, come days after the Vatican arrested two members of Francis’ financial reform commission in an investigation into stolen documents. The Vatican on Monday described the books as “fruit of a grave betrayal of the trust given by the pope, and, as far as the authors go, of an operation to take advantage of a gravely illicit act of handing over confidential documentation.” “Publications of this nature do not help in any way to establish clarity and truth, but rather generate confusion and partial and tendentious conclusions,” the Vatican said”.

He adds that “The arrests and books mark a new phase in the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal. The saga began in 2012 with an earlier Nuzzi expose, peaked with the conviction of Pope Benedict XVI’s butler on charges he supplied Nuzzi with stolen documents, and ended a year later when a clearly exhausted Benedict resigned, unable to carry on. With the scandal still fresh, Francis was elected in 2013 on a mandate from his fellow cardinals to reform the Vatican bureaucracy and clean up its opaque finances. He set out promptly by creating a commission of eight experts to gather information from all Vatican offices on the Holy See’s overall financial situation, which by that time was dire. Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, a high-ranking Vatican official affiliated with the Opus Dei movement, and Francesca Chaouqui, an Italian public relations executive, were both members — and now are accused in the leaks probe”.

He goes on to mention “Nuzzi’s book focuses on the work of the commission and the resistance it encountered in getting information out of Vatican departments that have long enjoyed near-complete autonomy in budgeting, hiring, and spending. “Holy Father … There is a complete absence of transparency in the bookkeeping both of the Holy See and the Governorate,” five international auditors wrote Francis in June 2013, according to Nuzzi’s book. “Costs are out of control.” Citing emails, minutes of meetings, recorded private conversations, and memos, the book paints a picture of a Vatican bureaucracy entrenched in a culture of mismanagement, waste, and secrecy”.

Giving crucial context he writes “It might not be far off the mark, given that Francis has repeatedly and publicly warned the Roman Curia against engaging in “intrigue, gossip, cliques, favoritism, and partiality” and acting more like a royal court than an institution of service. Last Christmas, he delivered an infamous dressing down of his closest collaborators, citing the “15 ailments of the Curia” that included living “hypocritical” double lives and suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” That said, the book is clearly written from the point of view of the commission members, sympathetic to their plight and setting up an “us against them” narrative of the new reformers battling the Vatican’s entrenched Old Guard, without addressing why the Old Guard might have had reason to distrust them”.

Allen mentions that “The book cites a memo listing six priorities when the commission began work, starting with the need to get a handle on the Vatican’s vast real estate holdings. Nuzzi cites a commission report that found that the value of the real estate was some 2.7 billion euros (dollars), seven times higher than the amount entered onto the balance sheets. (A euro is worth about $1.10 US today.) Rents were sometimes 30 to 100 percent below market, the commission found, including some apartments that were given free to cardinals and bureaucrats as part of their overall compensation or retirement packages. The book says that if market rates were applied, homes given to employees would generate income of 19.4 million euros rather than the 6.2 million euros currently recorded, while other “institutional” buildings which today generate no income would generate income of 30.4 million euros”.

 

Allen ends, “Nuzzi recounts the tale of Monsignor Giuseppe Sciacca, the No. 2 in the Vatican City State administration, who wanted a fancier apartment. Top-ranking Vatican cardinals often enjoy enormous apartments, with some commanding upward of 400 square meters (a little more than 1,312 square feet) apiece. When Sciacca’s neighbour, an elderly priest, was hospitalized for a long period, Sciacca took advantage of the absence to break through a wall separating their residences and incorporated an extra room into his apartment, furniture and all, Nuzzi recounts. The elderly prelate eventually came home to find his possessions in boxes, and died a short time later, the book says. Francis, who lives in a hotel room, summarily demoted Sciacca, forcing him to move out”.

 

Synod winners and losers

05/11/2015

John Allen writes about the winners and losers of the recently concluded Synod on the Family.

He opens “The most significant and contested gathering of Roman Catholic bishops in the past 50 years formally ended on Sunday after three weeks of debate and dispute, but the arguments over who “won” and who “lost” are only beginning. The synod of 270 cardinals and bishops from around the world was the second in a year called by Pope Francis to address how and whether Catholicism could adapt its teachings to the changing realities of modern family life. Traditionalists had taken a hard line against any openings, especially after last October’s meetingseemed to point toward possible reforms. While the delegates made hundreds of suggestions on a host of issues, two took center stage, in part because they represented a barometer for the whole question of change: Could the Church be more welcoming to gays, and was there a way divorced and remarried Catholics could receive Communion without an annulment? The synod was never going to provide definitive answers; it is only an advisory body to the pope and cannot legislate or bar changes in Church policies”.

He goes on to mention “Yet some on the right saw the lack of an explicit recommendation to allow divorced and remarried Catholics a pathway to Communion as evidence that “conservatives basically ‘won’ this synod,” as Damian Thompson wrote in The Spectator. “…divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can’t receive the sacrament and that’s that,” Thompson wrote. Similarly, The Wall Street Journal’s report called the document passed Saturday evening “an embarrassing defeat” because it did not specifically authorize the pope to approve Communion for the remarried and for his “liberalizing agenda.”

The lack of almost any opening to gays and lesbians was certainly a setback for progressives who had been cheered last fall that so many top churchmen had used unprecedented language in speaking in positive terms about gays and same-sex couples.

But the broader reality is that conservatives, as many of them acknowledged, did not get what they wanted or needed at this synod, and their prospects going forward look even dimmer.

Here’s why:

1. Divorced and remarried Catholics made some gains.

The final report from the synod contained key phrases about individual Catholics in “irregular” situations — such as being remarried without an annulment — using the “internal forum” of their conscience, in consultation with a pastor, to consider their status in the Church.

For decades, the Vatican had effectively barred priests and penitents from using the “internal forum” in the remarriage context for fear it would be abused.

Also, the final document doesn’t mention Communion explicitly, but it was clear — and numerous Church officials confirmed privately — that the language refers to the sacraments and, most important, it gives Francis an opening to take further action, which Church officials expect him to do.

Moreover, if the three paragraphs (out of 94) in the final document dealing with the remarried were not problematic, why did so many bishops speak out so strongly against them in the final closed-door session before the vote? And why did those paragraphs get the fewest “yes” votes of all — in one case, just one vote above the necessary two-thirds threshold for official passage?

2. Silence on gays is preferable to harsh words.

The absence of any breakthrough language on gays was a tactical retreat by progressives who saw that they did not have the support in the synod to get close to a two-thirds threshold.

Even getting close to half would have been hard if not impossible, and would have revealed the deep divisions in the synod on the issue and left the pontiff with an unpalatable option of choosing one side or the other — those who spoke warmly about gay couples and others, such as African Cardinal Robert Sarah, who used harsh and almost apocalyptic language about gays and lesbians.

“It was better to leave the question open for further study and reflection than blocking it with bad paragraph or bad text,” Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny, a point man for those favoring change, told reporters. “That is a point for next time.”

Bonny was in the same small language group as Sarah, for example, and Bonny and others in that group said sentiment against homosexuals was so strong that “there was no way of discussing it in a peaceful way.”

Time may be on the side of those seeking a Church that is more welcoming to gays, even if it will never endorse gay marriage.

While many Africans stood out for their blasts at homosexuality, other African churchmen said that their views were developing on this issue and were catching up with the more accepting attitudes in the West.

Conservatives, on the other hand, painted themselves into a corner at the synod by arguing that the only satisfactory outcome was for the synod to reiterate current Church teachings and practices and bar any future flexibility. That didn’t happen, and they are left trying to explain.

3. The synod showed that the Church can, and has, changed.

That change can seem obvious when viewed from the perspective of history, but it’s been a neuralgic point for those who fear that admitting to any evolution can lead to a slippery slope. Francis hammered home the need to change in his forceful closing address to the synod Saturday, in which he declared that “the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit,” and he called on the Church to adapt to different cultures and conditions.

“A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts,” as he said in his closing homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

Many cardinals and bishops welcomed what they said was an end to a judgmental Church and the start of a more pastoral Church that considers people first and rules second.

But change is never easy for the Catholic hierarchy.

“We are discombobulated. Some defend the past, others dream of a different future,” Cardinal Francesco Montenegro of Sicily, a strong supporter of the pope, said in explaining the reactions of some of his brother bishops. “The fact that there have been so many reactions is a sign that what he is proposing is something new and powerful.”

4. The synod is dead. Long live the synod.

This synod ended, but synodality — the ongoing process of dialogue, discernment, collaboration, and collegiality that leads to new approaches and possibly even doctrinal shifts — isn’t over.

Francis made that clear in what was viewed as a landmark talk during the synod to mark 50 years since these meetings were begun after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). But synods had become routine, almost “rubber-stamp” affairs. No longer.

The pope said that the “Church and synod are synonymous,” and that the journey of discernment is ongoing. Church leaders were free to speak their mind, whereas in past years they would have been silenced. Once the flock hears pastors disagreeing and speaking openly about, for example, the value of families led by gay couples or single parents, it’s hard to “unring” the bell.

“The real takeaway from this synod is that Pope Francis has changed the way the Church goes about reflecting on her pastoral ministry. That’s no small thing,” Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl said on Sunday. “You had all this open discussion about issues that the Church is struggling with. You’re not going to be able to close that door in the future.”

That’s not to say that the future won’t be messy at times, and anxiety-producing, especially for traditionalists and for those who prefer a neat and tidy Church.

5. It’s Francis’ turn now.

As long as Francis is the pope, he makes the final call, and he is expected to take the suggestions he has heard in this synod, and in last year’s synod, and the various consultations he has held since he was elected in March 2013, and use them as a launchpad for further, more concrete reforms.

Perhaps the biggest question is how long Francis has and how many like-minded cardinals and bishops he can appoint before he dies or retires. He turns 79 in December and openly acknowledges that his may not be a long papacy.

Vatican expert and author John Thavis last week crunched the numbers and found that Francis has appointed 13 percent of the world’s active bishops in his 31 months in office and 26 percent of the voting members of the College of Cardinals who would elect his successor.

At this pace, the pontiff would probably need six or seven more years to reach a tipping-point majority of cardinals and bishops.

“I’m sure the pope realizes that, for quite some time, he will have to work with an episcopate that may at times act as a check on his innovative pastoral proposals,” Thavis wrote.

Francis likes to say that “time is greater than space.” The synod gave him space, but he may need much more time to do with it what he wants.

“Francis tapped ideologically centre-left clerics”

28/10/2015

Yesterday Pope Francis appointed new archbishops in Palermo and Bologna.

John Allen writes “Many Catholics have a gut instinct that something revolutionary is afoot in the Church under Pope Francis, but for many, its precise contours remain a bit unclear. Perhaps one way to phrase it is that Francis is leading a “Pastoral Revolution.” The pontiff has insisted that he has no intention of altering traditional Catholic doctrine, but he wants a more compassionate and merciful application of that teaching at the pastoral level, meaning in parishes and other local venues in the Church”.

Allen goes on to mention “That was the spirit, for instance, in which a recently concluded Synod of Bishops treated the contentious issue of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics – upholding traditional doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, but also appearing to leave a cautious opening for discernment about handling Communion privately on a case-by-case basis known as the “internal forum.” Tuesday brought two more major steps in Italy for this “Pastoral Revolution,” as Francis tapped ideologically centre-left clerics known for their social activism to head two of the country’s most important archdioceses in Bologna and Palermo”.

Crucially Allen argues that “Around the Catholic world, bishops’ appointments in Italy often are read as tone-setting moves for the entire Church, since pontiffs generally take a greater-than-average interest in their own backyard. From a political point of view, the transition in Bologna is especially striking”.

He continues, “There, Francis replaced Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, 77, a longtime champion of the Church’s conservative wing and a leading opponent of an opening for the divorced and remarried, with 60-year-old Matteo Maria Zuppi, well-known in the city of Rome as a fixture in the center-left Community of Sant’Egidio, known for its work in ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, and conflict resolution. Zuppi sometimes has been dubbed the “Bergoglio of Italy,” a reference to the given name of Pope Francis.  For observers of Italian Catholic affairs, the move may be seen as tantamount to what happened in Chicago in September 2014, when Francis replaced the late Cardinal Francis George, who led the US bishops in their standoff with the Obama administration over contraception mandates, with the moderate Archbishop Blase Cupich”.

Interestingly he adds “Over the years, Zuppi has also been involved in some of Sant’Egidio’s best-known efforts at diplomatic troubleshooting, including playing a key role in negotiations that led to the end of a bloody civil war in Mozambique in 1992. For his part in the peace talks, Zuppi was made an honorary citizen of Mozambique. Zuppi also has organised a series of efforts in the city of Rome to provide care for the elderly, the poor, gypsies, and drug addicts, much of it centered in the Trastevere neighbourhood where Sant’Egidio has its headquarters”.

Moving on to Sicily Allen notes that “In Palermo, Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Paolo Romeo, also 77, and tapped 53-year-old Corrado Lorefice, another figure well known in Italian ecclesiastical circles for his anti-Mafia activism, his efforts on behalf of the victims of prostitution and human trafficking, and his writings on the Church’s “option for the poor.” Lorefice is known as a great admirer of the late Sicilian priest the Rev. Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi, who worked in a tough Palermo neighbourhood called Brancaccio trying to keep young people out of organized crime and was shot to death by Mafia hitmen in 1993. Puglisi was beatified, the final step toward sainthood, just two months after the election of Pope Francis in March 2013”.

The choices are of particular import as “Both Bologna and Palermo have traditionally been dioceses whose leaders automatically become cardinals. Pope Francis, however, appears to prefer to lift up new cardinals from traditionally neglected areas, so there’s no guarantee that either Zuppi or Lorefice will necessarily be inducted into the College of Cardinals. However, given their relatively young age for senior churchmen (60 and 53, respectively), Zuppi and Lorefice are positioned to be points of reference on the Italian Catholic scene for some time to come, regardless of whether they receive the “red hat” designating them as cardinals”.

The Synod’s closing document?

22/10/2015

John Allen examines the closing document of the Synod of Bishops, “As the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops on the family nears its end, two features of the process seem especially striking. One is how much the bishops have left to do; the other is how much uncertainty still surrounds exactly what they’re doing”.

Allen goes on to make the point that “The final result is to be a document to be presented to Pope Francis. It’s designed to be based on a working document distributed before the synod, but there’s been enough dissatisfaction with that earlier text that it’s possible the 10-member drafting committee could essentially start from scratch.

That drafting committee includes:

  • Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and the synod’s relator general
  • Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary of the synod
  • Archbishop Bruno Forte, archishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy
  • Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India
  • Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, DC
  • Cardinal John Dew, archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina
  • Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan, bishop of Mouila, Gabon
  • Bishop Marcello Semeraro, bishop of Albano, Italy
  • The Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, head of the Jesuit order

Whether the group overhauls the original working document, called the Instrumentum Laboris, or goes back to the drawing board, it’s supposed to incorporate the hundreds of suggestions made by the synod’s 13 small working groups”.

He goes on to write that “On Tuesday morning, those groups were supposed to finish putting together their proposals, with a 1 p.m. deadline in Rome. Tuesday afternoon, the entire synod was to hear a report from each of the small groups, and in the evening, reporters for each group were to meet to assess the proposals to pass along to the drafting committee. Synod officials vowed to bring food to the group so it could work through dinner, with a deadline of noon Wednesday in Rome. In the meantime, their final set of individual reports are scheduled for release to the media Wednesday morning”.

He writes that “The drafting committee has already been meeting to get organized. Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge wrote in a blog postTuesday morning that one member told him Pope Francis had popped in unannounced on Monday, mostly to urge the committee to produce a “good document.” The synod will have a free day on Wednesday to allow the drafting committee to work. Reflecting the fluidity of the situation, the schedule has been adjusted on the fly to make Thursday morning free as well, followed by a general session in the afternoon to discuss an initial draft of the final document. That discussion will continue Friday morning, followed by a free period in the afternoon for final adjustments”.

Allen correctly writes that three questions have yet to be answered, In past synods, two documents were produced at the end: a set of specific propositions, sometimes as many as a hundred, intended for the pope, and a concluding message addressed to the wider world. This time there are no propositions and no message, only the one final document. As of Tuesday morning, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who’s taking part in the synod, told Crux it’s still not clear to him whether that document is supposed to be addressed only to the pope or also crafted for public consumption. Presumably that’s a decision the drafting committee will have to make, perhaps based on suggestions from the working groups”.

Allen continues, “In an interview with Crux last week, Wuerl, a member of the drafting committee, said his understanding was that its function is to report on areas where there was “general support” among the bishops, which he defined in terms of something like 80 or 85 percent agreement. The way to know that something did not enjoy such a consensus, he said, would be if it doesn’t appear in the document. In his own Crux interview, however, Australian Cardinal George Pell said that he feels the document needs to report not only on agreement but also division, saying that if the synod is split 50/50 on something, “the Catholic world has to know that.” Presumably, another decision the drafting committee will have to make is whether the document will simply be a report on the synod’s discussions, or a more ambitious attempt to present a Catholic vision of the family based on those discussions”.

On the question of when the document will be released to the public Allen contends that “Vatican briefers repeatedly have said that it’s up to the pope when, and if, the synod’s final document will be released to the public. That could happen Saturday night after the final ballot, they’ve said, along with the paragraph-by-paragraph vote totals. It could be a few days later, after the text has been reviewed and translations prepared. Or Pope Francis could decide he wants to keep the document to himself to use as the basis for his own eventual reflections. Most observers in Rome believe the smart money is on the document and the results of the voting being released right away Saturday night, for two reasons. First, there have already been widely voiced charges of manipulation and stacking the deck during the synod, and if there’s a delay in releasing the document, it’s likely someone would cry foul. Second, as Pell noted in his Crux interview, it’s a near-certainty the document would leak anyway, making efforts to keep it under wraps futile”.

The Synod’s ostriches

18/10/2015

A piece from Crux notes the progress of the Synod, “Given the blindingly obvious fact that there are deep divisions at the 2015 Synod of Bishops, various ways of analyzing those fault lines have been proposed. Some see them in terms of the difference between a deductive and inductive approach, some between meeting the world halfway versus not being swallowed up by it, and so on. As the synod rolls into its second week, yet another way of understanding the fundamental divide is coming into focus: The gap between those who believe the demands of classic Catholic teaching on sex, marriage, and the family may be unrealistic or inappropriate for some share of the contemporary population, and those convinced that it’s widely attainable in the here-and-now”.

In his classic style Allen writes, “Perhaps one could call the latter position the “Yes We Can!’ brigade at the 2015 synod. (Presumably, the irony of applying Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan to a bloc of folks who would generally be seen as cultural conservatives isn’t lost on anyone.) Many in this camp suspect that advocates of a more “pastoral” approach on matters such as homosexuality and divorce have quietly thrown in the towel on the idea that it’s reasonable to expect lifelong faithful marriage to be the norm, or that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics shouldn’t be sexually intimate, and so on. The “Yes We Can!” faction wouldn’t deny that many people don’t actually live those teachings, but they insist that it can be done, and fear that by not encouraging people to do so, the Church clearly risks selling them short”.

Allen goes on to add “We caught an early glimpse of this position in the first cycle of reports from the synod’s small working groups, which were released last Friday. The base text for the synod, known as the Instrumentum Laboris, came in for fairly withering criticism in those reports — as a colleague in the press corps put it, had this been a college term paper, the kid who wrote it would have flunked. A key point was the assertion by several groups that the document portrays an overly negative assessment of the situation facing the contemporary family, seemingly more focused on where families break down than where they flourish”.

However, this group of single men, whom Allen calls the “Yes we can group” know nothing about the real lives of the people that they are supposed to be leading. To pretend that all is well in the Church’s teaching in this regard is simply to bury their heads in the sand.

Allen gives an example, “The group led by Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto arrived at a similar conclusion. “Most of our group felt the Instrumentum Laboris should begin with hope rather than failures, because a great many people already do successfully live the Gospel’s good news about marriage,” it said. On Monday night, I attended an event organized by one of the participants in the synod featuring a couple of well-known Roman experts on issues pertaining to marriage and sexual ethics, where the refrain was much the same. One of the evening’s most powerful moments came when a speaker complained that in its debate over the issue of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried — known in shorthand fashion as the “Kasper proposal,” since its leading advocate is German Cardinal Walter Kasper — the synod risks treating such believers as “second-class” Catholics, incapable of living out what the Church asks”.

 

Correctly he mentions that “No one in the synod would deny that there are Catholics out there, perhaps more than one might imagine, who do accept the full version of Church teaching. Virtually everyone could probably agree that such folks deserve whatever pastoral backup the Church can muster. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who’s also at the synod, posted a blog item on Monday suggesting that these people form a “new minority” in the contemporary world, writing that “they are looking to the Church, and to us, for support and encouragement.” The question is, how should the Church treat people who can’t, or don’t want to, make those choices? For one side of the synod’s debates, it might be time for the Church to honestly acknowledge that such folks are likely to be the majority, and often for understandable and morally defensible reasons”.

Allen concludes “Without giving up on the ideal, this group would say the Church needs to make better accommodations for those who fall short. The “Yes We Can!” camp, however, believes Church teaching isn’t just an ideal, but a practical way of life, though without minimizing the sacrifices it may entail. As they see it, the synod’s message ought to be, “You’re called to this, and we’re going to have your back in pulling it off.” How those two instincts might be reconciled, and whether that’s even possible, will help shape the drama of the synod during the two weeks left on its calendar”.

Francis meets America

23/09/2015

As Pope Francis begins his first full day in the United States a report from the New York Times notes why how the pope has avoided the United States until now, “During his first private meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican two years ago, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said, the pope took out an atlas with a map of the United States and asked Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, to point out the various regions and cities and talk about how they differed. Francis seemed to recognise that he had some homework to do: When he travels this month to Washington, New York and Philadelphia, the visit will be his first to the United States. Both of his most recent predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, traveled to the United States before rising to the papacy. Other Catholic prelates from around the world have come for fund-raisers, speaking engagements or global Catholic events, like World Youth Day in Denver in 1993″.

The report goes on to mention “Francis, a former archbishop of Buenos Aires, had steered clear of the United States, which has the world’s fourth-largest Roman Catholic population. Something of a homebody, preferring to hang out with the poor than the rich and powerful, he has waited until 78 to visit the economic giant that likes to think of itself as the center of everything. “He’s a little nervous about coming,” Cardinal Dolan said at an interfaith event in New York in May. “Not that he lacks any confidence in the reception of friendship that he knows he’ll get, but he readily admits he has never been to the United States.” Those who have known Francis, both before and after he became pope, say the reasons for his absence have everything to do with his distinctive identity. He is a Latin American critical of the United States’ economic and political hegemony, a Jesuit of Italian ancestry who looks more to Europe than to North America, a Spanish speaker who is not all that comfortable speaking English, and a pastor who disdains “airport bishops” — his term for prelates who spend more time jetting around the globe than serving in their dioceses”.

The article adds that “He is not opposed to all America represents. But he is troubled by privileged people and nations that consume more than their share and turn their backs on the vulnerable. The message he will probably deliver when he comes, they say, is that the United States has been blessed with great gifts, but that from those to whom much is given, much is expected. “I think what he criticizes in the U.S. is the absolute freedom and autonomy of the market,” said the Rev. Juan Carlos Scannone, a professor emeritus of philosophy at Colegio Máximo, a prominent Jesuit college near Buenos Aires. He taught the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who would become Francis, as a seminarian and became a friend. “We should admire the U.S.’s democracy and the well-being of its people, but what Bergoglio would criticise is the consumerism: that everything is geared toward consumerism.” Francis has long been troubled by what some Argentines of his generation call “savage capitalism.” They see the United States as the home of mining companies and agribusinesses that chew up natural resources, as the military power that propped up dictators during the Cold War and as the neighbour that tries to close its border to migrants fleeing hunger and violence”.

Not surprisingly the piece adds that “The Rev. Richard Ryscavage, a Jesuit who is the director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University and has met Francis twice, said Francis’ views should be seen “in the context of many Latin Americans who see the United States as really a problem, not actually a positive force in the world.” “I’ve seen this among Latin American Jesuits who have similar approaches,” Father Ryscavage said. “And it’s often rather difficult for the North American Jesuits to completely accept their perspective on things, because we come from such a different angle.” The United States will be the 15th country Francis has visited in his more than two years as pope. His travel priorities have been a demonstration of his motto: “Go to the peripheries” to encounter those who are marginalised. His first official trip outside Rome was to Lampedusa, a Sicilian island where he greeted migrants who had survived their exodus from Africa”.

The report rightly mentions that “He has also frequently denounced a global economic system that values “profit at any price,” and a colonialist structure that “reduces poor countries to mere providers of raw material and cheap labour” — a critique widely interpreted to include the United States. And yet, those who have studied him and know him say Francis has also expressed an appreciation for the United States — for its lively democracy, its religious diversity and its identity as a nation formed by absorbing successive waves of immigrants. Francis himself is a son of immigrants: His father moved from Italy to Buenos Aires in 1929. Austen Ivereigh, the author of a biography of Francis, said last weekend at a conference of the Religion Newswriters Association, “He could easily have ended up in Philadelphia or Chicago, as well as Buenos Aires, and he can easily relate” to the American experience”.

Pointedly the piece goes on to note that “And many Americans relate to Francis. In a poll conducted last month by the Public Religion Research Institute, two-thirds had a favourable view of him. Polls also reveal, however, that he has work to do to persuade Catholics to adopt his views on combating climate change, ending abortion and welcoming immigrants. At the Vatican, he has welcomed many prominent American visitors, including President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. But for a pope who speaks through his gestures, his itinerary in the United States conveys his message. After Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress in Washington on Sept. 24, he will be driven directly to a lunch with homeless, mentally ill and immigrant clients of Catholic Charities, which will be held under tents set up on a street. Instead of lunching with legislators in the halls of power, he will break bread with the poor”.

Francis muddies the Communion waters

12/08/2015

John Allen writes about the recent words of Pope Francis, “Parsing the words of Pope Francis is a notoriously hazardous undertaking, as he tends sometimes to say things that seem almost deliberately open to multiple interpretations — remember “Who am I to judge?” — and then play his cards close to the vest in terms of what policy implications, if any, may ensue. That’s a caution worth reiterating as his words at Wednesday’s general audience on divorced and remarried Catholics make the rounds. The bottom line is that while what the pope said was interesting, it didn’t signal any specific policy choice”.

Allen goes on to make the point that “the Catholic Church is gripped by a debate over whether Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church ought to be allowed to receive Communion. That was the hot-button issue at last October’s Synod of Bishops on the family, and it will be front and center again at a follow-up synod this October”.

However, it has only gotten attention since Pope Francis, was elected and gave his approval to some of Walter Cardinal Kasper’s theological writings. It would be unwise to assume that Francis agrees with all of what Kasper writes but there has been little effort made by Francis to distance himself from Kasper.

Allen adds “Church rules bar the divorced and remarried from Communion. One wing of Catholicism, up to and including several cardinals, supports flexibility in inviting such people to the sacrament on a case-by-case basis. That view was summed up by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich last October as, “Not for everyone, and not for no one.” Another wing, also including several cardinals, believes such a move would be a betrayal of traditional teaching on the permanence of marriage. Although there are no hard figures for the number of such Catholics worldwide, they form a pool estimated at 4.5 million people in the United States alone. As a result, this is an issue that isn’t merely symbolic, but packs real-world pastoral significance”.

Allen reports that Francis “took it up in a brief 660-word reflection, the gist of which was to call the Church to greater compassion for people in this situation. Francis said from the outset that marrying outside the Church after a divorce “contradicts the Christian sacrament.” At the same time, he insisted that such people remain part of the Church — they are not “excommunicated,” he said — and need to be cared for, in part for the sake of their children. “If we look at these new unions through the eyes of small children … we see even more the urgency of developing in our communities a real welcome towards people who live in these situations,” the pope said. The welfare of the children seemed the pope’s paramount concern”.

Allen makes the point that “Francis also insisted on the need for “discernment” in individual cases, citing the difference between someone who “suffered” the break-up of a marriage versus someone who “provoked” it. He pointed to the need “to demonstrate openly and coherently the disposition of the community to welcome and encourage” the divorced and remarried, “so they can live and develop ever more their belonging to Christ and to the Church with prayer, listening to the Word of God, attendance at the liturgy, the Christian education of their children, charity and service to the poor, [and] a commitment to justice and peace.” So what does that mean for the Communion debate? One could read the pope’s call for welcome and encouragement as an indirect boost for the reform position, a way of preparing Catholic opinion for an eventual change. That’s an especially tempting conclusion in light of his emphasis on discernment in different situations”.

Pointedly Allen notes that “Just as easily, however, one could read his language as a way of preparing people hoping for such a change for disappointment. Francis could be saying, “Even if we don’t budge on the Communion ban, that doesn’t mean we’re abandoning you.” It’s notable that Francis explicitly said that remarriage after divorce “contradicts” the sacrament. Moreover, in ticking off ways in which divorced and remarried believers can still be part of the Church — through prayer, attending liturgies, etc. — Francis didn’t say anything about Communion”.

He ends “Both sides could read what Francis said Wednesday and feel encouraged, but neither can claim a papal endorsement. In the end, perhaps that was the point. Perhaps what Francis really wanted to say is that whatever he does about the Communion question after October, no one should pretend that the hard work of outreach and reconciliation with divorced and remarried Catholics will be finished”.

Yet this is the worst position to be in. At the same time Francis is rising the hopes of people and almost in the same sentence he is taking them away. He is muddying the waters on this issue, whether it is what he wants to do or not remains to be seen but he will only anger and upset people in these situations if he continues. With his predecessors he there was clarity on this issue. It may not have been what people want but there was at least clarity. With Francis, even this is now no longer the case.

The rise of Radcliffe?

08/06/2015

Reports note that “Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, a Dominican priest who led his order for ten years and has stirred controversy in the past for his stance on certain ecclesial issues, was appointed May 16 as a consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Consultors to the pontifical councils are officially appointed by the Pope, and while it is not formally acknowledged, such appointments are typically made at the suggestion of the heads of the councils. With Fr. Radcliffe, the number of consultors of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace comes to 14”.

The report goes on to note “The pontifical council’s goal is to “promote justice and peace in the world in accordance with the Gospel and the social teaching of the Church,” and its consultors “can be called upon to participate in working groups on specific topics.” The appointment of Fr. Radcliffe as a new consultor is an impromptu one, as Benedict XVI appointed nine consultors to the body  on Sept. 29, 2012, almost completely renewing the list of consultors in doing so. Consultors are appointed to five-year terms, and since the nine appointed by Benedict XVI in 2012 will conclude their service in only two years, Fr. Radcliffe’s appointment sounded strange to some”.

It would be wrong to assume this appointment to be more than it is. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is an effective think tank within the Roman Curia. While it has taken on new prominence during the pontificate of Pope Francis, it is still merely a pontifical council, if and when, it becomes something else. Therefore to be a consultor to Justice and Peace is a sign of esteem but should not be read as a whole sale endorsement of the ideas of Fr Radcliffe as the usual “balanced” websites have done.

The piece adds “A source in the top ranks of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace stressed to CNA May 20 that “the Pontifical Council is always seeking new collaborators,” and that “when you find a good one, you don’t want to lose him.” The source added that “Fr. Radcliffe has already collaborated with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.” According to another source in the same Vatican office, Cardinal Peter Turkson – its president – had intended Fr. Radcliffe as the successor to Bishop Mario Toso. Bishop Toso was the pontifical council’s secretary: its number two position. Bishop Toso had served from 2009-2014, and was appointed Bishop of Faenza-Modigliana on Jan. 19. According to a Vatican source, Bishop Toso had been offered the chance to continue on in the Vatican after curial reform, but he himself preferred to become a bishop of a diocese”.

Pointedly the report notes that “the appointment of a new secretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is stalled, as the curia reform underway is almost certain to touch upon its structure and functions. The pontifical council is expected to merge with the Pontifical Councils Cor Unum, for Migrants, and for Health Care Workers, to form a Congregation for Charity, Justice and Peace, which would be composed of five secretariats: Justice and Peace, Charity, Migrants, Pastoral Healthcare and Human Ecology. Waiting for any decision to come, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace asked the Pope to enroll Fr. Radcliffe among its consultors, as a first step toward a more important commitment within the anticipated congregation”.

The piece goes on to mention “According to a third source in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Fr. Radcliffe is intended to take over the department of human ecology, as he was “entrusted last summer by Cardinal Turkson’s office to draft a first draft of Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on ecology.” The source added that “ever since then, Fr. Radcliffe has been consulted more and more by Cardinal Turkson’s office, and at one point it had become clear that Cardinal Turkson thought of him as the ideal candidate to take over the post of ‘number 2’ in the dicastery.” Ordained a priest of the Dominican order in 1971, Fr. Radcliffe has authored several books, including “What is the Point of Being a Christian?” From 1992 to 2001 he was head of the the Dominican Order, and has been a long-time contributor to Vatican Radio. His statements, particularly those on homosexuality, have invited controversy in the Church, often challenging traditional teachings or attitudes. His prominent social justice work has been overshadowed at times by his comments on homosexual relationships”.

It mentions “He has also spoken up in support of the German bishops’ desire admit the divorced and remarried to Communion, a contentious suggestion which has been recently opposed by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, as it was by Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II”.

 

Parolin’s historic mistake

02/06/2015

After the historic referendum on gay marriage Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, has “attacked the legalisation of gay marriage in Ireland. The referendum that overwhelmingly backed marriage equality last weekend was a “defeat for humanity”, he claimed. “I was deeply saddened by the result,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, said at a conference in Rome on Tuesday night. “The church must take account of this reality, but in the sense that it must strengthen its commitment to evangelisation. I think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles, but of a defeat for humanity.” The remarks by the Vatican’s top diplomat, who is seen as second only to the pope in the church’s hierarchy, represent the most damning assessment of the Irish vote by a senior church official to date”.

The report notes that “It was a far more critical response than the circumspect reaction offered by archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who said: “It is very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people … [then the church needs] a reality check.” Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by popular vote after a referendum found that 62% of voters were in favour of changing the constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. While the results were celebrated by advocates of gay rights in Ireland and around the world, it was also seen as a stark symbol of how wide the chasm has grown between young people in what has traditionally been a staunchly Catholic country and the church itself, which says that homosexual acts are a sin and vehemently opposes gay marriage”.

The piece goes on to state incorrectly, “Parolin’s comments are sure to revive the debate about the church’s attitude to gay rights and equality under the papacy of Pope Francis, who once famously said “who am I to judge?” when asked about the existence of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican. That remark spurred hope among progressive Catholics that the church was entering a new era of tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality. For some, that hope has been dashed by an ongoing controversy involving a French diplomat and practising Catholic named Laurent Stefanini, who is gay. The Vatican has refused to accept Stefanini’s nomination as France’s ambassador to the Holy See because of his sexual orientation, according to media reports in France and Italy”.

The report continues “The Vatican has declined to comment on the matter, but there has been speculation in recent weeks that the pope could make an abrupt change and accept the nomination, after all. The Vatican recently told the Guardian that any news on the appointment would be made available on the Vatican’s bulletin, where such appointments are usually publicised. On Tuesday night, Parolin said the dialogue between the Vatican and France was continuing in regard to the controversial nomination, and that he hoped it would come to a conclusion in a “positive manner”. Parolin’s remarks on the Irish vote are significant given the broader role Parolin plays in crafting the church’s message on major diplomatic and social issues”.

It ends “Among other issues, the Italian cardinal has been an outspoken advocate for action to combat global warming. In recent remarks, he denounced the “globalisation of indifference and the economy of exclusion” that has put the planet in peril. He has also been the public face of Francis’s diplomatic efforts, including the church’s role in helping Cuba and the US restore diplomatic ties. But on Tuesday, with his choice of words, Parolin differed from the pope in one respect: the Argentinian pontiff has also used the phrase “defeat for humanity”, but he was talking about war, not the legalisation of gay marriage”.

 

Pre-Synod games

31/05/2015

Edward Pentin writes that there are pre-Synod games already taking place, he opens “A one-day study meeting — open only to a select group of individuals — took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Monday with the aim of urging “pastoral innovations” at the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family in October. Around 50 participants, including bishops, theologians and media representatives, took part in the gathering, at the invitation of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, Switzerland and France — Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Bishop Markus Büchel and Archbishop Georges Pontier”.

He reports that “One of the key topics discussed at the closed-door meeting was how the Church could better welcome those in stable same-sex unions, and reportedly “no one” opposed such unions being recognised as valid by the Church. Participants also spoke of the need to “develop” the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and called not for a theology of the body, as famously taught by St. John Paul II, but the development of a “theology of love.” One Swiss priest discussed the “importance of the human sex drive,” while another participant, talking about holy Communion for remarried divorcees”.

Pentin’s idea of these talks is clear but many have merit. If all believers are equal before God why are gay unions considered second class? Equally the danger of the teachings of John Paul II is they turn the Church into a fertility cult with the entire focus on the procreation of children with little thought given to their quality of life and other attendant issues.

Pentin goes on to report that “Marco Ansaldo, a reporter for the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, who was present at the meeting, said the words seemed “revolutionary, uttered by clergymen.” French Biblicist and Ratzinger Prize-winner Anne-Marie Pelletier praised the dialogue that took place between theologians and bishops as a “real sign of the times.” According to La Stampa, another Italian daily newspaper, Pelletier said the Church needs to enter into “a dynamic of mutual listening,” in which the magisterium continues to guide consciences, but she believes it can only effectively do so if it “echoes the words of the baptised.” The meeting took the “risk of the new, in fidelity with Christ,” she claimed. The article also quoted a participant as saying the synod would be a “failure” if it simply continued to affirm what the Church has always taught”.

Interestingly he writes that “The closed-door meeting, masterminded by the German bishops’ conference under the leadership of Cardinal Marx, was first proposed at the annual meeting of the heads of the three bishops’ conferences, held in January in Marseille, France. The study day took place just days after the people of Ireland voted in a referendum in support of same-sex “marriage” and on the same day as the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops met in Rome. Some observers did not see the timing as a coincidence. The synod council has been drawing up the instrumentum laboris (working document) for the October synod on the family. Integrated into the document will be the responses of a questionnaire sent to laity around the world. Those responses, particularly from Switzerland and Germany, appeared to be overwhelmingly in favour of the Church adapting her teachings to the secular world”.

Some perspective is needed in this final statement. The Church is not jettisoning the death and resurrection of Christ or the foundations for the papacy, transubstantion, women’s ordination, the episcopacy or the Creed. It should simply be seen as refining Church teaching in light of scientific advances.

Pentin goes on to question why the meeting was held before closed doors, ” No one would say why the study day was held in confidence. So secret was the meeting that even prominent Jesuits at the Gregorian were completely unaware of it. The Register learned about it when Jean-Marie Guénois leaked the information in a story in Le Figaro. Speaking to the Register as he left the meeting, Cardinal Marx insisted the study day wasn’t secret. But he became irritated when pressed about why it wasn’t advertised, saying he had simply come to Rome in a “private capacity” and that he had every right to do so. Close to Pope Francis and part of his nine-member council of cardinals, the cardinal is known to be especially eager to reform the Church’s approach to homosexuals. During his Pentecost homily last Sunday, Cardinal Marx called for a “welcoming culture” in the Church for homosexuals, saying it’s “not the differences that count, but what unites us.” Cardinal Marx is also not alone, among those attending the meeting, in pushing for radical changes to the Church’s life. The head of the Swiss bishops, Bishop Büchel of St. Gallen, has spoken openly in favour of women’s ordination, saying in 2011 that the Church should “pray that the Holy Spirit enables us to read the signs of the times.” Archbishop Pontier, head of the French bishops, is also known to have heterodox leanings”.

If there is a problem it is with Pope Francis. He seems to favour smaller families but then reverse his statement and back large ones. His mixed messages do little to inspire clarity. Perhaps this is the purpose? Alternatively, Francis is so naïve as to think the Synod will not air any differing views other than Church thinking on these issues.

Pentin continues, “Among the specialists present was Father Eberhard Schockenhoff, a moral theologian. Some are particularly disturbed about the rise to prominence of Father Schockenhoff, who is understood to be the “mastermind” behind much of the challenge to settled Church teachings among the German episcopate and, by implication, at the synod on the family itself. A prominent critic of Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth), as well as a strong supporter of homosexual clergy and those pushing for reform in the area of sexual ethics, Father Schockenhoff is known to be the leading adviser of German bishops in the run-up to the synod. In 2010, he gave an interview in which he praised the permanence and solidarity shown in some same-sex relationships as “ethically valuable.” He urged that any assessment of homosexual acts “must take a back seat” on the grounds that the faithful are becoming “increasingly distant from the Church’s sexual morality,” which appears “unrealistic and hostile to them.” The Pope and the bishops should “take this seriously and not dismiss it as laxity,” he said”.

The final section of the report, Pentin addresses the participation of the media, “Also noted were the large number of media representatives. Journalists from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German broadcasters ZDF and ARD, the Italian daily La Repubblica and French-Catholic media La Croix and I-Media were also present. Their presence was “striking,” said one observer, who predicted they will be used to promote the agenda of the  subject matter under discussion in the weeks leading up to the synod. Monday’s meeting is just the latest attempt to subtly steer the upcoming synod in a direction opposed by many faithful Catholics. A statement on the study day released by the German bishops’ conference May 26 said there was a “reflection on biblical hermeneutics” — widely seen as code words for understanding the Bible differently from Tradition — and the need for a “reflection on a theology of love.” This, too, is seen as undermining Church teaching. By replacing the theology of the body with a “theology of love,” it creates an abstract interpretation that separates sex from procreation, thereby allowing forms of extramarital unions and same-sex attractions based simply on emotions rather than biological reality. Gone, say critics, is the Catholic view of marriage, which should be open to procreation”.

 

The inevitable rise of Tagle?

19/05/2015

After the recent election of Luis Cardinal Tagle as president of Caritas Internationalis, John Allen writes that he will dominate Catholic politics for decades, “Right now, the Irish betting firm Paddy Power has Cardinal Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle of the Philippines as the favuorite to be the next pope, giving him 11/2 odds. Already dubbed the “Asian Francis,” Tagle got another boost this week with his election to lead a global federation of Catholic charities. (For the record, Paddy Power has Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston as the American with the best odds, at 10-1.) Granted, such forecasts don’t have a particularly good track record. Papal elections occur only when the incumbent either dies or resigns, and at the moment Francis seems perfectly healthy with no sign of slowing down. Between today and whenever a conclave might occur, any number of things can happen to change the landscape. That dose of caution, however, rarely stops “next pope” rumours from being the Church’s favorite parlor game. So if we’re going to go down that route, there’s a great deal to be said for Tagle, who would make a strong runner if the key issue next time is continuity with Francis”.

Allen goes on to make the point “Seen as the Catholic rock star of Asia because of his high media profile and wildly successful TV and internet broadcasts, Tagle on Thursday was elected president of Caritas Internationalis, a network 165 Catholic charitable organizations around the world based in Rome. Building a “poor church for the poor” is the motto of the Francis era, and from his perch at Caritas, Tagle is now poised to become one of the most influential architects of that push after the pontiff himself. Serving as president of Caritas doesn’t mean Tagle will move to Rome, or abandon his position in Manila. It does mean, however, that he’ll often be asked to visit disaster zones or conflict areas, articulating a Catholic response. He’ll be more in demand on the lecture circuit, more sought after by the media, and generally will enjoy an ever higher degree of visibility”.

Allen notes the point that “Inside the Vatican, it means that Tagle will be more involved at the big-picture level in terms of fleshing out the pope’s broad social, political, and humanitarian agenda. Tagle won the May 14 ballot at the Caritas General Assembly by a wide margin, a reflection of two points: First, that he enjoys great respect and affection among the Church’s charity leaders; and second, those leaders are smart enough to know that Tagle has the pope’s ear and can move the ball. The Filipino cardinal wasn’t in Rome on the day of his election, because he was in Chicago to receive an honorary doctorate from the Catholic Theological Union. He knows the United States well, among other things having earned a doctorate in theology at the Catholic University of America in 1991”.

He adds that “Having hosted a triumphant papal visit to the Philippines in January that drew an eye-popping six to seven million people to the final Mass – in the teeth of a typhoon, no less – Tagle is a lock as the pope’s most important ally in Asia. The parallels with Francis are indeed eerie. Before taking over in Manila in 2011, Tagle served as bishop of the smaller Philippine diocese of Imus, where he was famous for not owning a car, preferring to either walk or to hop on one of the cheap minibuses known as a “jeepneys” working-class Filipinos use. He was also renowned for inviting beggars in the square outside his cathedral to eat with him. Theologically and politically, Tagle is a moderate. He’s open to allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to return to communion on a case-by-case basis, and he also resisted calls to take a more pugnacious line during a recent national debate in the Philippines over a controversial “Reproductive Health” law featuring public support for contraception”.

Yet, caution should be drawn about the equating Francis with Cardinal Tagle. Firstly, there is a saying, “after a fat pope, a lean pope”. This means that the new pope is nothing like the old pope. As Benedict XVI was a shy academic and curialist who chose his words carefully, Francis is the opposite of all of this. Therefore, in order to look for the next pope starting with what Pope Francis is not is a good place to start. Secondly, the issues of the next conclave will not be known. In 2013 it was governance and the Curia. Next time it could be relations with Africa or Islam which would lead to a dramatically different outcome. This is not to say that Tagle could not become pope but it is less likely.

Allen ends “Nobody at Tagle’s level is without critics, and he’s drawn fire on multiple fronts. Some question Tagle’s theological pedigree, noting that he was a member of the editorial board for a controversial progressive history of the Second Vatican Council criticized by Pope Benedict XVI. Last month Tagle blasted what he called the “harsh words” the Church sometimes has used for gays, unwed mothers and divorced and remarried Catholics. That remark drew blowback from pro-life Catholic groups. Whatever one makes of Tagle, because of his young age, 57, as well as the multiple leadership posts he holds, he will be a force in Catholicism for a long time”.

When Raul met Francis

17/05/2015

A report from Foreign Policy notes the recent meeting of Raul Castro and Pope Francis.

It begins “In 1962, in the depth of the Cold War, the Vatican excommunicated communist-revolutionary-turned-Cuban-president Fidel Castro after he banned religious celebrations and the building of new churches in Cuba, which would later declare itself an officially atheist state. But half a century later — two decades after the Cold War’s end — Fidel’s brother Raúl, Cuba’s current president, says he’s so impressed by Pope Francis that he’s considering going back to church. After a very friendly visit with Francis at the Vatican, Castro told reporters on Sunday, “I read all the speeches of the pope, his commentaries, and if the pope continues this way, I will go back to praying and go back to the church, and I’m not joking.” Castro visited Francis on his way back from Moscow, where he was reportedly the only Western Hemisphere leader to attend celebrations marking the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazism”.

The report adds “Warming relations between Havana and the Vatican demonstrate a broader trend of reconciliation between the once-hostile ideologies, which has accelerated under social welfare-minded Francis. The basic principles behind Communism and Catholicism have been fundamentally at odds ever since Karl Marx famously wrote that religion is “the opiate of the masses.” Antipathy arguably reached its height with the Vatican’s 1949 “Decree against Communism,” which excommunicated all Catholics involved with communist groups. It continued with Pope John XXIII’s endorsement of democracy over other forms of government in 1963″.

The report goes on to mention that “More recently, and particularly with Francis’s emphasis on egalitarianism and fighting poverty, the two ideologies’ goals, at least as preached by Francis and the Castros, have started to sound more similar. After the Cold War ended, Cuba  lifted restrictions on Catholic practice, allowed Catholics to join the Communist Party, and removed its constitution’s declaration of atheism. Catholics – nominally about 60 percent of Cuba’s population — no longer have to practice in secret, although many who’ve been baptized don’t practice regularly”.

Communism and Catholicism are not the same. The authors’ assertion that they are “starting to sound more similar” is a misreading of Catholic Social Teaching. The Church, following the teachings of Christ seeks an “option for the poor” but it does not seek to overthrow capitalism or abolish property. Instead it seeks a via media between the two on the one hand respecting property and the general goals of the free market but at the same time it seeks to avoid the idolisation of wealth and the accumulation of profit at any cost, irrespective of the social or moral cost.

The writer continues, “Fidel Castro visited the Vatican in 1996, paving the way for Pope John Paul to become the first pope to visit Cuba in 1998. Pope Benedict met Fidel and Raúl, both of whom were baptized and have showed some religious tendencies in the past, in Havana in 2012. Last year, the BBC reported that building was underway on the first new church since a freeze on construction after the Cuban Revolution. Now, as a 2013 Atlantic article titled “The Vatican’s Journey from Anti-Communism to Anti-Capitalism” points out, Francis has declared “a new enemy for the Catholic Church: modern capitalism.” According to Francis, “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” But “this opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” With the Cold War long over and communism soundly defeated as an ideology in all but a handful of countries – Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea, Laos, and (nominally) China — Francis argues that for the welfare of mankind, states need to exercise more, not less, control over financial markets”.

Here this reflects the believe of the Church that man goes first and the profit of the market must come second.

The piece ends “Still, Communism and Catholicism now have more to talk about than they have for the past several decades. As the Atlantic’s Emma Green pointed out, Argentina-born Francis’s message seems to be crafted less for North America and Europe — the epicenters both of recent church scandals and of what Francis sees as individualistic capitalism’s corrupting influence — and more for Latin America and Africa, where economic development has left many behind. On Sunday, Castro and Francis spoke in their native Spanish, building on a dialoge that Castro has credited with helping thaw relations with the United States under President Barack Obama and move toward a lifting of sanctions that – along with communist rule itself — have helped impoverish the country”.

2015 Curial assignments

14/04/2015

The Press Office of the Holy See has released the curial assignments for the newly appointed cardinals.

What is most interesting is that bodies like the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Migrants and Itinerants and Justice and Peace all received new members. These bodies are under review and are thought to be abolished. Cardinal Sarah was moved to CDW and no replacement named. Interestingly, bodies like the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and the Pontifical Council for the Family got no new members appointed. This may indicated that Pope Francis is seriously considering abolishing these discastaries as well. The fact that the newest Pontifical Council, got one new member means that Francis probably has a role for the body in the revised Roman Curia.

Francis’ economic reforms continue

01/04/2015

Yesterday, Pope Francis appointed Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. He replaced Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski. Cardinal Versadi served as president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. Unsurprisingly no replacement was announced for Cardinal Versaldi.

 

“Losing his privileges as a member of the College of Cardinals”

25/03/2015

John Allen elaborates on the new that Cardinal O’Brien resigned as a cardinal.

He opens “A Scottish cardinal who stepped down as an archbishop in 2013 amid revelations of sexual misconduct now has renounced his rights and privileges as a cardinal, although he will retain the title, the Vatican announced Friday. Though not quite unprecedented, the specter of a Catholic prelate all but losing his privileges as a member of the College of Cardinals is exceedingly rare, with the last such case coming in 1927”.

Allen mentions that “Cardinal Keith O’Brien, 77, originally quit his post as archbishop in February 2013 following accusations published in Scotland’s The Observer that he had engaged in sexual relations with four men, three priests at the time and one former priest, dating back to the 1980s. One of the men, who was not identified in the newspaper reports, alleged that the degree of control a superior has over subordinate priests made it hard for him to refuse O’Brien’s demands”.

Needless to say “After initially contesting the charges, O’Brien eventually acknowledged that at times his sexual behavior had “fallen beneath the standards expected of [him]” and announced his resignation as well as his withdrawal from the conclave in March 2013 that elected Pope Francis. O’Brien said at the time that he would be undertaking a period of prayer and reflection, and has not taken part in public activity since. Friday’s Vatican statement indicated that O’Brien is now making his withdrawal complete, in effect stepping down as a cardinal”.

Allen gives crucial background noting the last time it happened, “The last time a member of the College of Cardinals renounced that status came in 1927, with a French Jesuit named Louis Billot. He had been made a cardinal in 1911 and locked horns with Pope Pius XI during the 1920s over Action Français, a far right French monarchist movement. Billot would not back down from his support for the group and submitted his resignation as a cardinal after a stormy meeting with the pope in September 1927. He remained a priest and theologian and died in 1931″.

Allen writes that “It’s not yet clear if Francis compelled O’Brien to renounce his status in quite the same way. Nonetheless, the move could be seen as another step toward reform on the broader issue of sexual misconduct and abuse. Although he has pledged support for zero tolerance and created a special papal commission to promote reform, Pope Francis has faced criticism for not holding bishops accountable for dropping the ball and for creating new bishops who have a mixed record on misconduct and abuse”.

Coccopalmerio loses to Pell

15/03/2015

John Allen writes that Pope Francis has not let vested interests halt his reforms. Allen opens “By now, one thing ought to be abundantly clear about Pope Francis: Faced with attempts to hobble his reform efforts through character assassination of his reformers, this pope just doesn’t blink. The latest case in point is Australian Cardinal George Pell, put in charge of leading an historic clean-up of Vatican finances one year ago. The hard-charging former Australian Rules Football brawler has more than his fair share of critics, but on Tuesday Pope Francis issued a set of statutes for his operation which, to some extent at least, amount to a vindication. (The statutes were released Tuesday, but were signed by the pope on Feb. 22 and actually took effect March 1.) Early reaction to the decision has been mixed, with some Italian commentators seeing it as a defeat for Pell’s ambition to create a “super-dicastery,” meaning a Vatican department with virtually unlimited powers over both administration and vigilance of all Vatican assets”.

Allen goes on to note “Measured against what was realistically on the table, however, when the dust settles, most observers are likely to see the result as a basic win for Pell and his team”.

The new statutes cover the Council and Secretariat for the Economy as well as an auditor general.

Pointedly Allen argues that “What’s most notable about the statutes isn’t so much what’s in them, but what isn’t. In the run-up to the pope’s decision, a number of veteran Vatican insiders had suggested imposing new limits on Pell and his Secretariat for the Economy, fueled by perceptions that he had amassed excessive control. Italian Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, formalized that discontent in a series of suggested amendments to the statutes that he first presented to the Council for the Economy, which largely rejected them, and then passed onto the pope. Among other things, Coccopalmerio proposed creating a new group of four of five cardinals who would ride herd on Pell; limiting the role and influence of the lay financial experts who serve on the Council for the Economy, and who are widely perceived as Pell allies; and slicing off some of the Vatican’s biggest financial players, such as the Government of the Vatican City State, from Pell’s purview”.

He adds that “All would have been seen as significant new limits, but none of them happened. The most important substantive change came in a decision to take back administration of the Vatican’s real estate holdings from Pell’s department, which it assumed last July when the “ordinary” section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) was transferred to the Secretariat for the Economy. Even there, however, the secretariat will still be responsible for procurement and personnel, which are actually the more labour- and time-intensive aspects of the ordinary section’s work”.

Allen notes the one concession accepted by Francis, “from Coccopalmerio was to add two assistant auditors to work with the new auditor general, presumably providing greater professional capacity for that office. In a small but telling show of backing for the Australian prelate, Francis also spurned a suggestion from Coccopalmerio that English be eliminated as a working language in the new offices, in favour of the Vatican’s typical insistence on Italian. The qualified thumbs-up is striking, given the ferocity of recent efforts to bring Pell down”.

Allen ends hinting the scale of the opposition facing Cardinal Pell, “In September, steamy exposés in the Italian press focused on Pell’s record in handling sexual abuse complaints while he served as the archbishop of Sydney in Australia, suggesting that criticism from an Australian Royal Commission might weaken Pell to such an extent that Francis would be compelled to get rid of him. Last week, the anti-Pell campaign scored another hit, this time with leaked receipts from his department showing it had managed to spend more than a half million dollars in its first few months of operation, despite its mandate to impose discipline and sobriety. Virtually every time Pell has tried to notch a success, somebody inside the system has fired back. When he claimed in December to have uncovered hundreds of millions of euros in hidden assets, for instance, officials in the Secretariat of State prepared a memorandum insisting those funds were perfectly legitimate and had been set aside for unforeseen expenses. The memo was leaked to the press, forcing Pell to scramble to defend his alleged discovery”.

He ends “One could cite other examples, including grumbling in some quarters about the volume of media interviews and public speeches given over the past couple of years by Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, named by Francis as coordinator of his “G9” council of cardinal advisors. Critics sometimes grouse that Rodriguez seems to regard himself as a vice-pope, often revealing details of the council’s work or floating ideas before anyone else has vetted them. Despite that, there’s zero indication that Francis has any intention of asking the Honduran prelate to step aside. The moral of the story would seem to be that if one of the pope’s chosen reformers is a burr under your saddle, probably the last thing you want to do is leak damaging information or engage in a whispering campaign”.

 

“Reforming the Vatican Curia is moving too slowly”

13/03/2015

Thomas Reese writes that the reforms of Pope Francis are not moving fast enough. He begins, “As Pope Francis approaches the second anniversary of his election as pope, progress on reforming the Vatican Curia is moving too slowly. It should be moving faster. The College of Cardinals met in consistory on Feb. 12-13 to review the progress made so far and to discuss future reforms. The cardinals heard from the nine-member Council of Cardinals, which has been spearheading the reforms for Pope Francis”.

Reese goes on to write “The greatest progress has been made in reforming the finances of the Vatican, which has mainly focused on where the money is — the Vatican bank, the Vatican City State, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples. A new Secretariat for the Economy was also created to supervise Vatican finances. Reforming Vatican finances is a priority for Pope Francis, who listened to the complaints about financial scandals from the cardinals at the time of his election”.

He makes the point that “In theory, this is the easiest part of Vatican reform. Financial reform is neither rocket science nor theology; it is simply good management practices developed by businesses, governments, and nonprofits to provide transparency and accountability. It requires clear procedures, training of employees, and proper supervision. Applying all of this to the Vatican is a challenge, but everyone knows what is required. There may be resistance, but strong, steady leadership can prevail. This does not mean that scandals will end. In the short run, there should be more scandals as the bad actors are caught by the new system”.

Reese continues. “Reforming the Roman Curia requires a theological vision for the Petrine ministry, a sense of what the church needs today, and a practical understanding of how to organize people to implement it. First, what is the theological vision of the Petrine ministry? Is the pope an infallible, absolute monarch in whom all wisdom resides, or is he first among equals who acts collegially with the college of bishops? If it is the former, then all important decisions will be referred to the pope or to those to whom he has delegated decision-making power in the Curia. Any issue that is in doubt must go up the chain of command. If it is the latter vision, then the church needs a system for encouraging discussion and consensus building in the college of bishops. Here, the Curia is in service to the pope and the college of bishops; curial officials are not decision-makers”.

He goes on to mention that “Reform of the Roman Curia is difficult because there is no consensus on the Petrine ministry, the needs of the church today, or the practical issues of management. Perhaps the first place to start is by asking Vatican officials and local bishops what issues are being decided in Rome that should be decided at the local, national, or regional level. For example, if a priest and his bishop agree that the priest should be laicized, why does his case have to go to Rome? Do liturgical translations have to be micromanaged in Rome?”

This ends the myth that Rome is all powerful. It may, in theory be, but in reality there are probably bigger issues in Diocese X or Vicariate Y that demand more attention.

Reese adds “This was one of the issues raised by the cardinals as they met in consistory on Feb. 12, according to Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi. He reports that they discussed the notion of subsidiarity, or how the Roman Curia might share and divide responsibilities between local dioceses and bishops’ conferences. But no details were given. If this ever gets beyond the discussion stage, it will have a profound impact on the Vatican congregations, which have much of the decision-making authority in the Vatican. But instead of discussing the congregations, the focus of attention during the February consistory was shifted to the councils, which have little decision-making authority”.

Correctly Reese writes that “most of the pontifical councils act like think tanks rather than bureaucracies. They have little decision-making authority. The Council for the Laity has the canonical authority to approve the statutes of international Catholic lay organizations, and that is about it. For the most part, councils only have the power to exhort and persuade, not to order. So what do these councils do? For the most part, they talk, write, and publish on the topics of their competencies. They receive visitors interested in these topics, and they attend international meetings on the topics”.

Reese restates the long held rumour that “There is a proposal to merge some of these councils into two congregations, one dealing with laity and one dealing with justice, peace and the environment. It is hoped that this will reduce staff and make the offices more efficient. The first congregation will be created by merging the current councils for laity and family. The second congregation will be created from merging the old councils for justice and peace, health care, migrants and refugees, and include a new office for safeguarding creation”.

Interestingly Reese goes on to make the point that “The most likely result of these mergers is that less will be done. Fewer documents will be written, fewer conferences will be attended, fewer initiatives will be taken because there will be fewer employees, and their initiatives will have to go through another layer of review before seeing the light of day. In my opinion, the best result of these mergers is that there will be three fewer positions that must be filled by archbishops and might be filled by cardinals in the Curia. Anything that reduces the number of archbishops and cardinals in the Curia is good. On the other hand, there will be two more positions that must be held by cardinals. That is bad”.

He harshly writes “That it took the Council of Cardinals two years to come up with this reshuffling of boxes on the organizational chart simply shows they really don’t know what they are doing. It should have taken two months to develop this plan, not two years. At this pace, Pope Francis will be dead before real reform hits the Curia”.

Intervention of Cardinal Nichols

09/03/2015

A report from the Telegraph details the intervention of Vincent Cardinal Nichols in British politics, urging justice. It opens “The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has condemned the Government for presiding over “shocking” levels of poverty and deprivation. Cardinal Vincent Nichols called on Tuesday for Catholics to judge candidates in this year’s General Election by what they intend to do to improve the lives of the poor. He said: “I’ve commented before on what I believe to be some of the unintended consequences of social welfare reform we see. I repeat; it’s shocking that in a society that is as rich as our there are people, even people in employment, dependant on food banks and hand-outs.” The Cardinal was speaking at the launch of a leaflet being sent to all Catholic parishes in England and Wales, urging members of the church to become actively involved in the political debate in the run up to May’s election”.

The report mentions that “He emphasised that it was the duty of Catholics, and other citizens to engage in discussion, cast their votes and ignore commentators such as Russell Brand, who claim there is no point voting because ‘all politicians are the same’. Cardinal Nichols said: “I’d ask them to pay more attention to me than to him [Brand]. We are citizens and we are called on to take part in society. Stir yourself”.

The piece goes on to state “The Cardinal’s call for more to be done to help the worse off follows a letter issued by the Church of England’s bishops last week, attacking the effect of the coalition’s policies on the poor. In their letter Anglican bishops condemned the legacy of Thatcherism and its emphasis on consumerism and individualism. The 52-page letter was attacked by Conservative politicians as being a ‘shopping list’ of left-wing demands.  Although the Catholic bishops’ letter to parishioners neither attacks nor endorses any party by name, it urges voters to decide on the basis of where candidate stand on the issue of poverty”.

The article adds “In its letter the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales urges Catholics to ask “where does your candidate stand on directly helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK and also helping to transform their lives”. Addressing education policy it says politicians should be trying to “ensure the best outcomes for the poorest children.” The four-page letter, 700,000 copies of which are being sent to parishes up and down the country, bemoans the fact that “rising inequality, increased loneliness for older people, job insecurity and over stretched community services” has made life more difficult for many and calls for business and the private sector to do more to meet people’s needs. “The market economy exists to serve humanity. People are not merely economic units to be exploited,” it states”.

The report rightly ends “The Cardinal repeated the Catholic church’s strong support for the living wage, saying that party candidates should be quizzed on their attitude to fair pay. He said that all Catholic organisations and charities tried to ensure not only that they paid their employees the Living Wage, and – in the case of those working in the capital – the London Living Wage, but that the church’s suppliers and contractors did so too.”

 

 

Same enemies as Benedict?

03/03/2015

An article questions if the same people that were against Pope Benedict are against Pope Francis.

He begins “One can govern without worrying what his enemies are doing. And one can govern by trying to use his enemies, or at least by putting them in a situation where they can’t do any damage. Pope Francis’ strategy seems to be the latter. This is the dominant picture that emerges from the series of appointments and choices he has made during the almost two-year period of his pontificate. While it seems that those who opposed Benedict XVI have risen again, it also seems that Pope Francis is seeking to neutralize his enemies by assigning them new posts. The latest appointments which give the impression that this is Pope Francis’ approach are the seven members of the new ‘College’ established to deal with ‘delicta graviora’ that Pope Francis has created within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. ‘Delicta graviora’ concern ‘most serious crimes’, and include sexual abuse of minors and certain serious abuses associated with the Sacrament of Penance”.

The article adds “The monthly meeting of the 25 cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation – the so called ‘feria quarta’ – examine an average of 4-5 appeals of priests who believe themselves to have been unjustly condemned. The newly established office is charged with lightening the workload of the Congregation. All of its members are well versed in canon law. However, most of them fell from the limelight as a consequence of Benedict XVI’s curial reforms. Some of them slammed the door behind them. Others made a more subtle retreat. The president of the new College is Charles J. Scicluna, currently Auxiliary Bishop of Malta, who previously served for ten years as Promoter of Justice (i.e. public prosecutor) within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Scicluna was one of the main players during the height of the clerical sexual abuse scandal, and he promoted and enforced the Vatican’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. Now back in the service of the Congregation, he draws again from his earlier experience. But it is rumored his appointment as auxiliary bishop was also due to some backbiting”.

He goes through the other members, “Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, has turned 75, the age of retirement. A recent rescript made even more stringent the requirement for people who reach the age limit to leave their posts. Coccopalmerio has become one of the most active supporters of Pope Francis’ line, and he also authored a debatet proposal for curial reform, with no results. His appointment in the College will give him an excuse to remain in Rome. Some people are even talking about the possible abolition of the Pontifical Council he currently heads: it was needed to respond to juridical questions that arose after the Second Vatican Council, but in Pope Francis’ era it is said it is no longer considered necessary. Another member of the College is Bishop Juan Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, number two at Legislative Texts. At the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate, he seemed to be a rising star, and sources maintain that he was entrusted with drafting the Chirograph through which the Pope established the Pontifical Commission for Reference concerning the IOR (the so-called Vatican Bank), where he has served as secretary. Arrieta seemed to be up for an important post in the Curia, and perhaps he will make the cut. At the moment, however, it is unlikely that that he will do so. Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski is currently Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. He turned 75 and is going to retire. He did not invite the sympathy of “Francis’ world” when he strongly opposed Kasper’s line at the recent synod of bishops. According to rumours, he will be soon be replaced by Victor Fernandez, Rector of the Catholic University of Argentina and Pope Francis’ ghostwriter”.

He ends the section “Cardinal Julian Herranz, appointed supplementary member, is a skilled juridical and canon law expert and former president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. But he is also the cardinal who led the commission of cardinals to investigate Vatileaks, and this might have a certain weight to Pope Francis’ eyes. Finally, Archbishop José Mollaghan is also a member of the College. He was Archbishop of Rosario, Argentina, but Pope Francis did not want him there. He was appointed a member of the College even before the rescript that outlines its functions was published. He moved to Buenos Aires, having obtained from the Pope permission to remain in Argentina, but no longer in Rosario”.

He makes the point that “The way the College was established provides an example of Pope Francis’ modus operandi. The College almost seems to be a remedial refuge for marginalised prelates Pope Francis wants to keep close at hand. The modus operandi may be described this way: first you create a refuge, then you invent some project for it to do. So Pope Francis’ pontificate may be described as the ‘remedial pontificate’. In the next consistory, Karl Josef Rauber, former Nuncio to Belgium, will be created cardinal. He strongly opposed the appointment of André Joseph Léonard as archbishop of Brussels, and while doing so even resorted to granting an interview that read like anti-Benedict XVI propaganda. It is rumoured that he was one of those who leaked to the media a series of innuendos concerning Benedict’s pontificate”.

The result of this is he writes “with Francis as pope, a gang of diplomats is once again front and center on stage. Under Benedict XVI, diplomats felt marginalised. Benedict read every dossier they sent to him and returned them with questions and modifications written in his tiny handwriting. But the Pope Emeritus preferred personal meetings with residential bishops during their ad limina visits”.

He underlines this point, “Pope Francis has entrusted many diplomats with key positions. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, comes from the old school of diplomacy. Recently he initiated a personal campaign to subject to official procedures every decision that had not yet been so treated: last week, a rescript was published that formalised the previously announced, de facto enlargement of the number of members of the Council for Superintendency of the IOR. Cardinal Beniamino Stella is the head of the Congregation for the Clergy: he is a diplomat, who previously served as Papal Nuncio to Cuba and later as President of the Ecclesiastical Academy, the school for Vatican diplomats. Edoardo Menichelli, archbishop of Ancona, will be created cardinal: he was raised by another guru of Vatican diplomacy, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, of whom  he had been number two at the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, during the ’90s”.

The writer goes on to mention “This is the split that Jorge Mario Bergoglio observed during the General Congregations – the pre-conclave meetings of cardinals. He got his first whiff of it when, during one of his speeches – according to a source – he spoke of the significance of the older members of the Curia and of the diplomats. Later, once elected pope, he indicated that he grasped what he had earlier only sensed when he explained that he did not come into the papacy with a ready-made plan for the Church, but was merely implementing what the cardinals had said needed to be done during the General Congregations. But Pope Francis also listens to Benedict XVI and has made him a sort of hidden adviser. During their first meeting at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict gave Francis a box containing the Vatileaks documents. He carefully explained the situation in the Vatican in such detail that Pope Francis was struck hard. If Pope Benedict decided to proceed with his reform project without caring too much about what others thought, Pope Francis has determined for the most part to give a certain weight to each individual’s opinion in an attempt to avoid internal power struggles. Nevertheless, he doesn’t hesitate to lash out at the Curia – as when he listed the 15 curial diseases during their Christmas exchange of greetings – while at the same time he is careful to hold them all close to himself without letting any of them know what his true intentions are”.

Crucially he writes “But this, too, is a defensive mechanism because the enemies of Benedict are the same enemies of Francis. Some of these still wish that the Church would think along the lines of secular criteria, while others are just looking for positions of power for themselves so they can exercise power. There are but a few who search for the Truth. It remains to be seen whether Francis will be able to govern while surrounded by enemies, or whether the latter will out-connive him and win him over to their side. For now all of his decisions show a certain inclination in favor of his enemies. But Francis’ primary objective – above all others – is to refashion a positive image of the Church. He wants to adjust its structures to fit the expectations of ordinary people in order to renew the Church’s credibility. He attempts this through gestures aimed at swaying the popular imagination, while at the same time he holds in-check everyone in the Curia who could possibly damage this new, positive image. Francis’ plan seems to be  short-term in scope; he hopes to repair offenses in order to avoid being attacked. When all the offenses are repaired, what will the state of Church  be? Will it still be able to shape the world?”

Coccopalmerio vs Pell

26/02/2015

John Allen writes about the impending financial reforms of Pope Francis. He starts “Any day now, Pope Francis is expected to issue a new legal framework for three financial oversight bodies in the Vatican he created last year”.

Allen says that these are the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy. He goes on to note that “Strictly from a political point of view, the decision will be taken by many observers in Rome as a thumbs up or thumbs down for Australian Cardinal George Pell, who took the Vatican by storm a year ago as the pope’s chosen financial reformer and who has played to mixed reviews ever since. For fans, including a wide cross-section of fellow cardinals who recently gathered in Rome to receive a progress report, the 73-year-old Pell is just what the doctor ordered: a tough, no-nonsense administrator capable of bulldozing through established patterns of doing business and ushering in a new era of transparency and accountability”.

To his great credit, Allen goes on to balance this noting that Cardinal Pell, “For critics, including some long-time Vatican insiders, Pell seems more interested in accumulating power than in achieving reform. They see him as blithely indifferent to legal limits on his freedom of action, and sometimes replicating the very cronyism and secretiveness he was intended to dislodge. The fact that much of this criticism is unfolding in Italian has led some to suspect a clash of cultures, pitting the Vatican’s Italian-speaking old guard against a new English and German-speaking financial regime”.

Pointedly he gives a concrete example of this, “That impression was reinforced recently when Italian Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, suggested amendments to the looming statutes that would impose significant new limits on Pell and his staff. (Here’s one indication of cultural issues at work: When the Secretariat for the Economy was established, both Italian and English were designated as working languages in order to expand the international talent pool. Coccopalmerio proposed eliminating English, arguing that if non-Italians need translation they can get it.) At the big-picture level, there are four major decisions Pope Francis has to make. Observers will read how they’re resolved as a referendum on Pell’s future as the point man for the pope’s reform project”.

This row gives us a glimpse of the power struggles in the Curia over the reforms being made by Pope Francis. It will come down to force of wills rather than argument or any kind of negotiation.

Allen goes on to mention that “In his recommendations, Coccopalmerio suggested creating a four- or five-member council of cardinals to supervise the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, meaning the job held by Pell. The idea would be to create a body of cardinals to exercise oversight similar to the one responsible for the Vatican bank. Such a move, however, would be at odds with the original vision for the structures launched by Francis a year ago, in which the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy reports directly to the Council for the Economy, a 15-member body composed of cardinals and lay financial experts”.

Pointedly he makes the argument that “One observer suggested that the actual motive for Coccopalmerio’s recommendation was to empanel “a group of Italian cardinals who can control this Australian,” thereby, perhaps, preserving at least some aspects of past practice. If the idea of a new supervisory council is adopted by Francis, it would be seen by most insiders as a significant defeat for Pell; if it’s rejected, it would be seen as a vindication”.

On the APSA Allen notes that “Last July, Francis approved transferring the “ordinary section” of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, known by its acronym APSA, to Pell’s secretariat. The “ordinary section” is responsible for personnel, procurement, and real estate, as opposed to the “extraordinary section” that manages the Vatican’s investment portfolio. In practice, that means Pell’s office is both responsible for managing a chunk of the Vatican’s financial activity and also supervising that management, which critics see as a conflict of interest. As a result, some have proposed returning the ordinary section to APSA.There’s another problem: Much of the Vatican’s real estate is legally titled to APSA, and its status is governed by treaties between the Vatican and Italy. It’s not clear ownership can be unilaterally transferred. If the pope were to recognize APSA as responsible for real estate, therefore, it wouldn’t necessarily signal a lack of confidence in Pell”.

Allen goes on to end that “From the beginning, there’s never been any real pushback against the idea that Pell’s Secretariat for the Economy should oversee budgets and accounting for, say, the Vatican Observatory or the Pontifical Academy for Sacred Music. Those are small operations with a limited financial footprint, and most are probably glad for the help”.

He makes the crucial point that “The issue is the relationship between the new Secretariat for the Economy and the Vatican’s big fish, meaning its major financial centers: the Secretariat for State, the Government of the Vatican City-State, APSA, and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (the Vatican’s powerful and wealthy missionary department, better known as Propaganda Fide.) The original idea was that the Secretariat for the Economy would not “take over” those entities, but would be responsible for collecting information from them for purposes of budgeting and consolidated financial statements, and also organizing regular audits”.

If Cardinal Pell were to bring these big beasts under his control then much of the work will have been done. Of course it will take time for the system to become ingrained but if Pell is allowed “free reign” by Francis he will have put the Church in a good long term position.

 

Tonga’s first cardinal

14/02/2015

John Allen writes in Crux about Tonga’s first cardinal. At the same time Cardinal Mafi becomes the youngest member in the College of Cardinals.

Allen begins “Picking new cardinals is one way for popes to make statements, and this time Francis clearly seems to be saying something about the global realities of Catholicism. On Saturday he’ll induct 20 cardinals who literally come from all over the map — Myanmar, for instance, and Cape Verde, and Vietnam. Even on that roster, however, pride of place for most improbable setting for a new Prince of the Church has to go to the Pacific nation of Tonga, composed of 176 islands and just 100,000 people, only 15,000 of them Catholic”.

Allen mentions that “To get a sense of how far off the beaten path it lies, consider that Soane Patita Paini Mafi, the country’s fourth-ever Catholic bishop and now its first cardinal, had to travel almost 11,000 miles via four airplane connections to arrive in Rome for his big day”.

Pointedly Allen underlines his age, “Set at age 53 to become the world’s youngest cardinal, Mafi seems a Pope Francis sort of cleric: unpretentious, non-political, and refreshingly ordinary. He’s the kind of guy, for instance, who freely admits his one regret at being named to high Church honors is that it might mean less time to clean out his family’s small pig sty back home. Yet Mafi also knows why the recognition matters. ‘This means the world to us,’ Mafi said of the way Tongans reacted to the pope’s Jan. 5 announcement. When he gets back, he said, the country plans to let the good times roll Tonga-style”.

Allen goes on to mention that “He said he learned he’d been named a cardinal from his brother Peter, who lives in San Francisco where he works as a choirmaster at a Catholic parish. The brother called at 4 a.m. Tonga time, Mafi said, getting him out of bed with the news. Because Mafi had no previous indication the move was in the works, he broke out his laptop and went on the Vatican website to make sure it was for real. ‘Even to become a bishop was hard for me to believe, but I never thought I’d be a cardinal, never,’ Mafi said. He said tens of thousands of Tongans from all walks of life have sent notes of congratulations and best wishes, including the country’s king, Tupou VI, and his wife Queen Nanasipauʻu, who’s planning to be at Saturday’s consistory ceremony”.

Allen goes on to note that “Mafi said he knows he’s not being chosen based on any personal rapport with the pope. In truth, he said, he’s met Francis only once in his life, for a fleeting moment during last fall’s Synod of Bishops, and then only to explain to the pontiff where Tonga is located. ‘That’s far, far away!’ was the only thing the pope said, Mafi recalled. Despite coming from a small place, Mafi is no naïf. He’s actually taken part in two Vatican Synods of Bishops: a 2012 summit on the New Evangelization and last year’s session on issues related to the family. He’ll likely take part again when the Synod of Bishops meets in October”.

Interestingly Allen notes that “On the vexing issue of whether divorced and remarried Catholics ought to be able to receive Communion, Mafi said he doesn’t come into the debate with a fixed position. ‘As pastors, we meet people who ask, ‘When will the Church relax this? We need to receive Communion.’ We see that often,’ he said. ‘I believe in the need for discerning, for the Church to listen and to be open,’ he said. “It’s not for one person to decide. It’s not an individual opinion. I believe in that, [and] I remain open.’ Mafi, who studied at Loyola University in Maryland during the late 1990s, acknowledged that at age 53, he’s likely to be a cardinal for at least a quarter-century. Potentially, he could play a part in the election of two or three popes”.

Yet in reality Cardinal Mafi is being diplomatic. It would be hard for any other interpretation than Cardinal Mafi being in favour of a change of the “rules” around Communion.

Allen ends “In any event, he said, becoming a cardinal hasn’t yet been quite as traumatic as being named a bishop back in 2007, when he was sworn to strict secrecy for a month, having to withhold the news even from his mother. During that time, he said, his mom could sense something was weighing on him, but didn’t pry. Finally the day came for the announcement, Mafi said, and he went by his mother’s house to break the news. He was dressed in his formal priestly attire in order to make the customary courtesy call on the king later in the day. Mafi said he was so overcome with emotion he couldn’t speak, so he just stood there crying. His mom assumed the worst”.

“Because of his advanced age”

14/02/2015

“It was confirmed today that Cardinal-designate José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez, archbishop emeritus of Manizales, Colombia, will not go to Rome to participate in the the Ordinary Public Consistory of February 14 because of his advanced age. He will receive the red biretta and the cardinalitial ring in his country in the coming days”.

Consistory 2015:titles and deaconries

14/02/2015

At the consistory to create new cardinals Pope Francis held today, he assigned each new cardinal a titular church to link them to the diocese of Rome. Therefore, they are the successor to the clergy of Rome that used to elect the pope. There are now 125 cardinal-electors however this will return to the canonical limit of 120 on 27 February 2016 when Roger Cardinal Mahony turns 80. This would leave 11 electoral slots to be filled by the end of 2016 which could mean another small consistory at the end of next year. The new cardinals and their churches are as follows:

  • Dominique Cardinal Mamberti: Cardinal-Deacon of Santo Spirito in Sassia
  • Manuel José Cardinal Macário do Nascimento Clemente: Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Antonio in Campo Marzio
  • Berhaneyesus Demerew Cardinal Souraphiel C.M.: Cardinal-Priest of San Romano Martire
  • John Atcherley Cardinal Dew: Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Ippolito
  • Edoardo Cardinal Menichelli: Cardinal-Priest of Sacri Cuori di Gesù e Maria a Tor Fiorenza
  • Pierre Cardinal Nguyên Văn Nhon: Cardinal-Priest of San Tommaso Apostolo
  • Alberto Cardinal Suárez Inda: Cardinal-Priest of San Policarpo
  • Charles Maung Cardinal Bo, S.D.B: Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Ireneo a Centocelle
  • Francis Xavier Kriengsak Cardinal Kovithavanij: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Addolorata
  • Francesco Cardinal Montenegro: Cardinal-Priest of Santi Andrea e Gregorio al Monte Celio
  • Daniel Fernando Cardinal Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Galla
  • Ricardo Cardinal Blázquez Pérez: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Vallicella
  • José Luis Cardinal Lacunza Maestrojuán, O.A.R: Cardinal-Priest of San Giuseppe da Copertino
  • Arlindo Cardinal Gomes Furtado: Cardinal-Priest of San Timoteo
  • Soane Patita Paini Cardinal Mafi: Cardinal-Priest of Santa Paola Romana
  • José de Jesús Cardinal Pimiento Rodríguez: Cardinal-Priest of San Giovanni Crisostomo a Monte Sacro Alto
  • Luigi Cardinal De Magistris: Cardinal-Deacon of Santissimi Nomi di Gesù e Maria in Via Lata
  • Karl-Josef Cardinal Rauber: Cardinal-Deacon of Sant’Antonio di Padova a Circonvallazione Appia
  • Luis Héctor Cardinal Villalba: Cardinal-Priest of San Girolamo a Corviale
  • Júlio Cardinal Duarte Langa: Cardinal-Priest of San Gabriele dell’Addolorata

Given the lack of available titular churches available Pope Francis has created a slew of new titles for cardinals. Only the churches held by Cardinals Rauber, de Magistris, Pimiento Rodríguez, Blázquez Pérez, Montenegro, Macário do Nascimento Clemente and Mamberti are old. All others have been created firstly for this consistory. Interestingly all the new churches are outside of central Rome and lack the Baroque archetiture that cardinals favour when lobbying for their titular church.

An article asks when America will get its next cardinal. Pope Francis has again left out a number of American bishops, the piece opens “Americans were reminded that for the second time, Francis skipped over the United States. With three major archdioceses in the United States — Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia — led by archbishops who are not cardinals, some wonder if the pope is sending a message: The days of a guaranteed red hat for certain key bishoprics are over, perhaps especially in such traditional centers of power as major American dioceses. Not necessarily. Cardinals are eligible to vote in papal elections until they turn 80, which means Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia would all be represented by their retired cardinals if a conclave were held today. Church custom normally bars the current bishop of a diocese from being elevated to a cardinal if his predecessor is eligible to vote in a conclave. Even though Cardinals Francis George of Chicago, Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, and Justin Rigali of Philadelphia no longer serve as archbishops, they still, in theory, represent the faithful of their cities at the Holy See”.

The piece ends “Philadelphia’s Rigali turns 80 in April, so his successor, Archbishop Charles Chaput, could be handed a red hat as early as June, should the pope hold another consistory then. Then again, even though Philadelphia is hosting Pope Francis in September at the World Meeting of Families, it’s no longer the Catholic powerhouse of decades past. The same applies to Baltimore, once a center of American Catholicism whose prestige has dwindled recently. That city’s archbishop, William Lori, has yet to receive a papal nod since taking over in March 2012. (Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Lori’s predecessor, is only 75, but he has a post in Rome, meaning Lori is theoretically freed up for a red hat.) With the pope’s focus on the periphery, could Philadelphia and Baltimore, and maybe someday even Boston, go the way of Venice and Turin, whose archbishops at one time would have been all but guaranteed a red hat, but have been skipped over repeatedly in recent years? Maybe. But two other major American sees, Los Angeles and Chicago, are probably safe for now. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez is the highest-ranking Hispanic in the American Church, and Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich was handpicked by Pope Francis for his post. Although both archdioceses face demographic and financial challenges, they rank among the largest in the nation — first and third respectively. With Mahony and George both 78, and George recently announcing he has stopped treatment for cancer, odds are both their successors will be given red hats in the next couple of years”.

“The Pope’s favourite peripheries”

12/02/2015

An article notes that Pope Francis has chosen the new cardinals from the peripheries. He opens “Since becoming pope, Francis has asked the Church repeatedly to reach outward toward the peripheries, and he immediately began to show his preference for them. His first papal trip was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, a periphery of the Mediterranean and an asylum for refugees. His first European trip outside Italy was to Albania, a country that is still not a member of the European Union. And the big reform of the Church seems to be oriented to giving more weight and power to the peripheries of the Church. But which are the peripheries that Pope Francis prefers? To which peripheries does the Pope want to give the keys of the Church? This question occurs as Pope Francis is leaving on his trip to Asia (another periphery), because his plan for the Church may be better understood by understanding which are his preferred peripheries”.

He goes on to make the point “Pope Francis’ choices of new Cardinals for the next Consistory have surprised many. In general, he respected some non-written rules for the creation of new Cardinals; yet he interpreted these rules his own way, mixing up the cards as he usually does. In the end, his picks not only tilted the balance of influence in the College toward the Church’s peripheries, more importantly, they showed that some peripheries are more significant than others”.

He adds “Among the new picks, there are only two African bishops who will be able to vote in a conclave, from Ethiopia and Cape Verde. No new Cardinals hail from North America. Just four come from Europe. In general, all the new Cardinals come from peripheral countries. They are characterized by a strong pastoral commitment, especially on social issues. And most of them do not get along well with the Church’s central governing institution, or at least they do not know it very well. Some of them are anti-Roman, or at least they see Rome as an impediment for their pastoral activity. An exception is number two on the papal list, Manuel Macario do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon. He is not a progressive, but a scholar, a pretty conservative one. Nevertheless, Patriarch Clemente was able to set the bar for his church in tune with Pope Francis, for example, by organizing a missionary synod for 2016 and by positioning himself in the mainstream during the last synod of bishops. Even if deemed a traditionalist, he knows which way the wind is blowing. An 18th-century agreement between Pope Clement XI and King John V of Portugal requires that the Patriarch of Lisbon be created Cardinal at the first consistory that occurs after his appointment. Patriarch Clemente had to wait an additional consistory before making the cut. This may not have been just by chance”.

He goes on to make the point that “Among the most anti-Roman peripheries is New Zealand. At a first sight, the choice of Archbishop John Atcherley Dew seemed to be a tribute to Cardinal George Pell, in an effort to give the College of Cardinals a new residential representative from Oceania, since Pell’s successor in Sydney was not going to receive a red hat. This interpretation was tempting, but it proved wrong. New Zealand is one of the most secularized countries in the world, and the Catholic Church there has drifted toward desacralisation. New Zealand is the ‘Holland of Oceania’. The last liturgical reform there dropped the requirement that the faithful should kneel during the consecration”.

Interestingly he notes “No wonder that the Archbishop of Wellington joined Cardinal Walter Kasper’s side at the synod of bishops. In the end he even admitted that New Zealand had already adopted the direction proposed by Kasper. Dew did not state this out of opportunism; he insisted out of personal conviction that Kasper’s proposals were right”.

He continues “On the other side of the ocean, beyond the surprise of a Cardinal hailing from Paranà, Pope Francis will create the Archbishop of Montevideo (Uruguay), Daniel Fernando Sturla, a Cardinal. He comes from the most atheistic country in South America, and he probably thinks that the antidote to the hemorrhage of the faithful is for the Church to move closer toward their positions: some of his declaration have been read as a real change of pace, especially for what concern doctrinal stances. What a pity, then, that a Pew Forum survey suggests instead that this approach may not be helpful. In a survey on reasons why Catholics leave to join Protestant sects, the Pew Forum established as the first three reasons the search for a personal connection with God, participation in a particular style of worship and, finally, a felt need for a greater emphasis on morality”.

Pointedly the writer makes the point that “While Leonardo Boff continues to celebrate para-religious rites although he quit the priesthood and lives with female partner, his brother, Clodovis, has come around to understand that putting the poor, and not Christ, at the center of the Church’s preaching has turned the Church in Brazil into a sort of merciful NGO. This is exactly what Pope Francis says he does not want. Yet the Pope seemingly prefers bishops with this kind of orientation, bishops who perhaps possess a very strong pastoral sensitivity, but one that is little supported by Catholic teachings. Pope Francis’ choices concretise the bias found in some ecclesial peripheries that view Rome as an obstacle and an impedment to their development”.

He goes on to make the valid point that “it seems that the Pope’s favourite peripheries are those that perceive any central institution with suspicion and that seek a pastoral autonomy unbound from the doctrine of the Church. Step by step, the final outcome may involve the dismantling of the Roman Curia’s structures, and even the dismantling of the weight of some bishops’ posts. The Pope does not respect traditional balances, he simply de-legitimizes and undermines existing church institutions this way. Pope Francis’ plan does not seem to be long term. Reasoning in the short term he sees the need for Cardinals from peripheries who are able to carry forward his reforms and even quietly drive the Synod of Bishops toward his wished-for change in direction. The secret battle for the next Synod has already begun, as has the battle for advancing curial reforms“.

Worryingly for the Church he writes that “if the Pope does not have a long term plan in mind, is there anyone out there who does? According the Austen Ivereigh’s book “The Great Reformer,” the team of Cardinals who backed Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s election convinced skeptical Cardinals to support him by arguing that Benedict XVI’s resignation established the principle that from now on a pope could leave office at the right time. These Cardinals certainly had in mind a plan for the Church. All of the Cardinals in the alleged ‘team Bergoglio’ are promoters of a progressivist agenda, one that favors a less doctrinal and more pastoral Church, an agenda of mercy that could not care less about justice. All of these Cardinals knew that Bergoglio, filled with the Latin American periphery’s anti-Roman sentiment, would back the reforms they hoped to see enacted. Nevertheless, they probably already have someone in mind for the next conclave. A very strong pretender to the throne may be Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Filipino, young, esteemed in progressivist circles for his contribution to the “History of the Second Vatican Council”, an account of the Council drafted by the group of scholars belonging to the so-called ‘Bologna School’ who interpret it as a rupture, and not as a continuity, in the Church’s tradition”.

The author goes on to note the other theory “The other future contender for the papacy is Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State. He worked hard demonstrating the full weight of the Secretariat of State, which was originally supposed to be dismantled or at least divided into two large secretariats. With diplomatic finesse, Cardinal Parolin has earned a prominent position, and he is now moving the Vatican’s diplomatic apparatus toward a limited global interventionism (he recently stressed that “there are so many conflicts that we cannot stay silent”), while still maintaining a certain realpolitik. If he wins the battle over curial reform, he may have a chance”.

However, it has been said before that “after a fat pope, a lean pope”. Therefore as Francis was from a diocese and is progressive, the successor may come from the Curia and have a more orthodox streak. However this seems slightly less likely the way Francis continues to choose his cardinals. Yet, any suggestion that Cardinal Tagle is the crown prince should not be taken seriously.

He ends “For his part, Pope Francis does not seem to be a part of this war; he is mostly a pawn in it. But his unpredictability together with his impulsivity and improvisation constitute real contributions to the war effort. In the end, everybody knew which were the peripheries the Pope loved the most. And everybody knew about his resentment toward Rome and central church structures. Many of his latest choices prove it”.

Francis writes to the cardinals

10/02/2015

The cardinalate is indeed a vocation, precisely ordered to the exercise of this dimension of service. The Lord, through the Church, calls you yet again to serve; and it will do you good to repeat in prayer the expression that Jesus himself suggested to his disciples in order to maintain humility: “Say, ‘We are unworthy servants’”, and this not as a formula of good upbringing but as truth after work, “when you have done all that is commanded you” (Lk 17:10). Keeping oneself humble in service is not easy when one sees the cardinalate as an award, like the culmination of a career, a dignity of power or of superior distinction”.

140 electors?

11/01/2015

Pope Francis is considering the feasibility of expanding the number of cardinal electors who will chose the next pontiff to 140 from the current 120. The proposal is contained in a document recently presented to Francis by Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera. The issue is to be discussed in the consistory, or meeting of college of cardinals, next month”.

Consistory 2015:the names

05/01/2015

Yesterday, Pope Francis announced the names of the 20 new cardinals that will be created next month, 15 of these will be electors and the remaining five are over 80 and thus cannot vote in a conclave. Interestingly, Francis seemed to justify is unusual choices. A press release notes that only Archbishop Mamberti comes from the Curia but it adds “ the Pope is not bound to the traditions of the “Cardinalatial Sees” – which were motivated by historical reasons in different countries – in which the Cardinalate was considered almost “automatically” connected to such sees. Instead, we have several nominations of Archbishops and Bishops of sees that in the past have not had a Cardinal”.

The names of the cardinals-designate are:

The five non electors are:

It is striking that a host of dioceses have not been named such as Sergio da Rocha of Brasília, Jose Palma of Cebu, Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Oscar Vian Morales of Guatemala City. Equally suprising is the fact that Francis overlooked his own appointment of Carlos Osero Sierra of Madrid and instead chose to appoint the archbishop of. Equally puzzelling is the fact that Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala was not named for a pope of the peripheries.

It is however thankful that Francis has not totally ignored important dioceses like Wellington and Bangkok. Equally important is the inclusion of the head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, an Eastern Rite Catholic Church in communion with Rome.

Rocco makes the point that America again been excluded, “Francis’ second biglietto (ticket) into his Senate represents a shock to the system – again, no Americans (a second consecutive shut-out unseen in almost four decades)”. He goes on to make the point that “the ongoing shake-up of the College reiterates Francis’ desire to bring the church’s “peripheries” to its center in the forum which will determine the church’s direction after his pontificate ends – and, of course, the talent pool from which a new Pope has invariably been drawn for the last eight centuries”.

Rocco adds importantly that “Along these lines, beyond the red hat’s first-time country destinations, three of the global church’s most powerful hierarchies were rocked by the choices from their ranks as Papa Bergoglio again bypassed Italy’s traditional cardinalatial sees with his two residential picks in the country (the archbishops of Ancona and Agrigento), doing the same for Spain with the elevation of the archbishop of Valladolid (the president of its episcopal conference) and in Mexico by sending the red to Morelia in Michoacan – an area marked by drug violence far from the historic scarlet seats of Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. On another front, as he did in his first slate last year with Haiti’s first-ever cardinal, Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, Francis likewise elevated three diocesan bishops not of metropolitan rank”.

Yet at the same time as consistently ignoring places like Venice and Turin, Francis still gives the red to more Italians who are still by far the largest voting bloc in the College of Cardinals. Either Francis should give the red to places that have had it before in Italy or should not give it at all. It would be far better that the situation were the Italian bloc remains more or less steady or with perhaps a slight decline but the decline is so minor that it is almost not worth mentioning.

Rocco continues, “Keeping the practice begun last time, the designates were again not given advance notice of their elevation – a choice that, given the routing of the heads-up through the Nunciatures, ensures no leaks of the list. Beyond the new intake, as even existing cardinals were left guessing over the shape of the incoming class over recent days”.

John Allen notes that “With his picks for new cardinals announced on Sunday, Pope Francis continued his campaign to reach out to the peripheries. The pontiff bypassed traditional centers of power and awarded red hats to such typically overlooked locales as Panama, Thailand, Cape Verde, New Zealand, and the Pacific island of Tonga. For the second time, there were no new cardinals from the United States on the list announced by Francis. There were also no Americans in the first crop of cardinals named by Francis in February 2014. While geography seemed the determining factor in these picks for Pope Francis, who at times struggled even pronouncing the names of his new cardinals, it’s noteworthy that the list includes a couple of high-profile moderates but no one with a clear reputation as a doctrinal or political conservative”.

Allen goes on to make the point that “Archbishop John Atcherley Dew from New Zealand, for instance, argued for allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion at a 2005 Vatican synod of bishops. Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez is president of the Spanish bishops’ conference and generally seen as a moderate opposed to the harder line of former Madrid Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela”.

Another annoyance is the continuing practice of Francis to appoint people at, or over, the retirement age of 75. Francis did this in his first consistory when he named Archbishop Orlando Beltran Quevedo of Cotabato a cardinal at the age of 75.  Francis continued this trend this year with Archbishops Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo, Pierre Nguyên Văn Nhon of Hà Nôi and Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia, all over 75. It would surely be better to wait for the successors to be appointed and then create their successors as cardinals. Pope Francis should wait to appoint those who he wants to important sees like Turin.

Obama, Castro and Francis

20/12/2014

In what is a long overdue and truly historic move, it has been reported by the BBC that “President Barack Obama has hailed a ‘new chapter’ in US relations with Cuba, announcing moves to normalise diplomatic and economic ties. Mr Obama said Washington’s current approach was ‘outdated’ and the changes were the “most significant” in US policy towards Cuba in 50 years. Cuban President Raul Castro said he welcomed the shift in a TV address. The move includes the release of US contractor Alan Gross and three Cubans held in the US. Wednesday’s announcements follow more than a year of secret talks in Canada and at the Vatican, directly involving Pope Francis. US-Cuba relations have remained frozen since the early 1960s, when the US broke off diplomatic relations and imposed a trade embargo after Cuba’s revolution led to communism”.

An article in Crux reveals the extent to which the Holy See was involved. It opens “The restoration of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, as well as a prisoner exchange that secured the release of American Alan Gross, was brokered, in part, by the Holy See. A high-ranking Vatican official confirmed today that the Obama administration and the Vatican have been working together for more than a year to end decades of hostility and restore relations between the US and the Caribbean nation. After 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, the pontiff hosted the final meeting at the Vatican in October between US and Cuban officials, according to the Vatican. The final agreement was reached during a telephone call between Obama and Castro Tuesday”.

The authors continue, “Pope Francis sent private letters to both President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro last year, the Vatican confirmed, and Obama said that he and the pope discussed Cuba during the president’s visit to the Vatican in March.  The pope’s involvement had its roots in Boston, according to the co-founder of a Cambridge-based conflict resolution group that asked Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley to talk about Cuba with the pope. O’Malley has visited Cuba seven times since his first trip in the 1980s, meeting with religious and government officials, including in 2012 as part of a delegation traveling with Pope Benedict XVI”.

Interestingly they write that “Timothy Phillips, whose group Beyond Conflict has participated in conflict resolution initiatives in Northern Ireland, South Africa, and several countries in Latin America, said his group decided to approach O’Malley about a year ago, to see if O’Malley would be willing to ask the pope to become directly involved in efforts to normalize relations with Cuba”.

The article mentions “In his announcement of the new diplomatic relations today, President Obama thanked Pope Francis for his role in the process, ‘whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.’ US Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican whose parents immigrated from Cuba in 1956, blasted Obama for not securing more concessions from Cuba in exchange for restoring diplomatic relations, and also took a swipe at Pope Francis’ role. ‘I would … ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy, which is critical for a free people — for a people to truly be free,’ Rubio, a Catholic”.

After the official announcement took place the Secretariat of State issued a formal evening statement welcoming the move.  Others, notably the Guardian, praised the involvement of the Holy See.

John Allen writes that the success is a vindication of the police of “détente” persued by the Holy See. In effect this is a long term view with short term trade offs. Allen writes “The normalisation of relations between the United States and Cuba may be primarily a turning point for those two nations, but it also represents a victory for a Vatican policy of détente that reaches back at least to the papacy of John Paul II”.

He writes that “Lay faithful have faced discrimination in the workplace based on overt expressions of religious identity, for instance, and Church officials are still awaiting a breakthrough on the return of Church properties expropriated by the regime 40 years ago. Facing those realities, the Vatican’s line over the past 40 years has favoured engagement and the gradual reinsertion of Cuba into the community of nations, on the theory that a Cuba moving toward the center would also be friendlier to religion”.

Allen says that the basic point of this policy was effectively realism, “John Paul did call on the Cuban authorities to provide greater freedom of expression and association, but in general treated Castro as a legitimate head of state rather than a pariah. In return, Castro made a point of wearing a suit rather than combat fatigues for his encounters with the pope, and shortly after John Paul II left, Castro restored Christmas as a national holiday. The pope sent Castro a note of thanks, irritating many anti-Communist hawks on Cuba. Five years later, the Vatican’s top missionary official at the time, Italian Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, traveled to Cuba to celebrate the reopening of a convent for the Brigittine order of Catholic nuns. Sepe came in for criticism from Catholic conservatives who denounced the gesture as nothing more than a photo-op for the Castro regime, but Vatican officials insisted the trip was part of a long-range strategy for steering Cuba down a more moderate path. That policy of détente extended into the Benedict XVI years. When Benedict visited Cuba in 2012, he pointedly declined to meet a delegation from the “Ladies in White,” one of the most prominent anti-Castro opposition groups in the country. He also denounced the US trade embargo on Cuba, saying it “unfairly burdened” the Cuban people”.

Cardinal Chaput, Gomez or Cupich?

16/12/2014

John Allen writes about the recently announced consistory that will take place in February.

He opens the piece “The Catholic Church’s most exclusive club will have new members come February, as the Vatican announced Thursday Pope Francis will hold a consistory to create new cardinals Feb. 14-15. Almost nothing a pope does is as critical to the direction of Catholicism, in part because cardinals are the most influential leaders in the Church after the pontiff himself. In part, too, a pope shapes the future by selecting cardinals, because they will eventually elect his successor. Although dates for the consistory have been announced, we don’t yet know the names”.

This echoes the trend that Francis began last year. At the same time the fact that the consistory takes place over two days suggests a reversal of the reforms introduced by Pope Benedict who shortened the ceremony to take place over one day.  The events of the 15th however could simply be a collective Mass with the new cardinals but it is obviously too soon to tell.

Allen says this consistory will be smaller than 2014. Francis should have 10 electoral slots to fill which would bring the College of Cardinals back to its 120 limit. However there is a strong possibility that Francis could go over this with only four other cardinals losing their voting rights next year. Thus Francis could easily have a consistory that would make the electors 124 and simply wait until Cardinal Naguib, Cardinal Rigali, Cardinal de Paolis and Cardinal Abril y Castello all age out by September. Of course Cardinal Lajolo will have already turned 80 in January by the time the consistory will take place.

Naturally Francis will have a small group of those over 80, so the class of new cardinals for 2015 could be 16 or 17 with 14 of these being electors.

Allen adds that “A pope isn’t obliged, however, to follow the rules. In 2001, John Paul II blew past the 120 limit by raising the total of voting-age cardinals to 135 in one of the largest consistories ever, with a total of 38 new under-80 cardinals, plus two more announced to the world who had previously been named in pectore, meaning secretly. Last February, the take-away from Francis’ first round of new cardinals is that it was the ‘Consistory of the Peripheries.’ The global south had nine cardinals out of the 16, while only three red hats went to members of the Roman Curia, meaning the Vatican’s administrative bureaucracy. The pope also made a point of giving cardinals to places that never had them before, such as Haiti, and even within countries he tended to select smaller and often overlooked dioceses, such as Cotabato in the Philippines and Perugia in Italy”.

By way of context Allen makes the point that Europe has 54 cardianls, Latin America has 16, North America has 15, Africa has 12, Asia has 11, Mid East with 2, Caribbean 1, and Oceania has 1.

Allen continues that “almost two-thirds of the voting cardinals (69) still come from the global north, while two-thirds of the world’s Catholic population today lives in the global south. Benedict XVI began to address this imbalance in his last consistory in November 2012, in which he named seven new cardinals without a single European. Francis continued to move towards realignment in his first consistory, and will presumably do so again next February. In terms of candidates from the United States, there are three prelates from archdioceses traditionally led by a cardinal who are currently in line. In order of how long they’ve been waiting, they are: Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who took over in March 2011; Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who was appointed three months later in July 2011; and Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, tapped by Francis in September 2014 and installed in November”.

He mentions that “In Los Angeles, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony is 78; in Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali is 79; and in Chicago, Cardinal Francis George is 77. However, Francis has already demonstrated a willingness to break with protocol. So the question would still be asked of why he chose not to in this case. Moreover, Rigali turns 80 in February and George is in ill health, so there would be a clear logic for setting tradition aside in at least those two cases. No matter what Francis does, many Americans will be tempted to read it as a statement. If a red hat goes to Gomez, it will be seen as history’s first pope from Latin America creating the first Hispanic cardinal in the United States, thereby giving a shout-out to the country’s burgeoning Latino Catholic population. If it’s Chaput, it will be styled as a sign of confidence ahead of the pope’s trip to Philadelphia next September for a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families”.

He ends the piece, “If it’s Cupich, the perception may be that Francis is moving quickly to ensure that his hand-picked allies occupy the Church’s most senior posts. Critics may resurrect charges familiar from the John Paul era, albeit in a different ideological direction, that the pope is ‘stacking the deck’ in the College of Cardinals. If the pope bypasses the United States, it may be seen as a snub ahead of his American trip, since this will almost certainly be the only consistory between now and then. On the other hand, it could also be spun as an education for Americans in the realities of living in a global Church”.