Archive for the ‘Roman Curia’ Category

24/12/2016

A piece from Crux discusses the recent talk of Pope Francis to the Roman Curia, “In his annual speech to the Roman Curia on Thursday, Pope Francis presented a sweeping vision of reform for the Vatican’s central administration, outlining the values he wants that reform to embody and insisting that old bureaucratic patterns such as “promoting to remove” must come to an end. Pulling no punches, Francis also conceded his efforts at reform have attracted opposition  – both “open resistance,” offered in a spirit of constructive dialogue, and “hidden” and “malicious” resistance, which he said “sprouts in distorted minds and shows itself when the devil inspires bad intentions, often wrapped in sheep’s clothing.”

Yet even resistance for bad motives, he said, “is necessary and merits being heard, listened to and encouraged to express itself.”

Francis denounced an attitude toward reform in the model of Gattopardismo, a reference to a classic Italian novel, the most famous line from which is, “Everything must change so that everything can stay the same.”

The pontiff called for more lay people and more women to be included in the Vatican’s workforce, and also said he wants to see Vatican departments become increasingly “multi-cultural.”

Francis hinted that more Vatican departments will be either consolidated or eliminated before the reform is over, and suggested that additional personnel changes are also in the cards.

The pope spoke Thursday in the Vatican’s Sala Clementina to the cardinals and other senior church official who make up the Vatican’s power structure, reminding them of reform moves that have been taken so far, such as the creation of two new super-departments for Family, Laity and Life and for Service of Integral Human Development, which bring several previously independent offices under the same roof.

Francis insisted that the reform process he’s been leading since his election in March 2013 isn’t merely cosmetic, or a simple “facelift” intended to smooth out a few wrinkles on the Roman Curia’s face, but rather a work of both administrative and spiritual purification.

“Dear brothers, it isn’t the wrinkles in the Church we have to be afraid of, but the stains!” he said.

The pontiff told the cardinals and other movers and shakers that no reform will succeed without an element of personal conversion, while bluntly saying that personnel changes in senior positions “without doubt happen, and will happen.”

The pontiff then outlined twelve values he believes should guide Vatican reform.

  1. Individuality: “I again reemphasize that without individual conversion, all the changes in structures will be useless,” he said. “A healthy body is one which knows how to recuperate, welcome, strengthen, take care of and make holy its members.”
  2. Being Pastoral: Francis insisted that members of the Roman Curia must have a strong pastoral instinct, beginning with the people they encounter every day, and that no one should feel “overlooked or mistreated.” The work of the Roman Curia, he said, must be driven by a spirit of “service and communion.”
  3. A Sense of Mission: The ultimate end of every work of the Church, Francis said, must be to carry the Gospel “to the ends of the earth.”
  4. Rationality: Francis insisted that there must be a rational division of labor within the Curia, that every department must have clearly defined responsibilities, and that “no discastery can attribute to itself the competence of another.”
  5. Functionality: Combining several smaller offices into one, the pope said, strengthens their ability to perform their functions and also gives them a “greater relevance,” including in terms of external perceptions.
  6. Modernization: Offices of the Roman Curia, the pope said, must be able to “read the signs of the times,” in the language of the Second Vatican Council, and update their operations and personnel accordingly.
  7. Sobriety: The pontiff said a “simplification and streamlining” of the Curia is necessary, putting some offices together and eliminating redundant functions within offices. He suggested that some “commissions, academies, committees” and the like may yet be suppressed altogether.
  8. Subsidiarity: Francis suggested that the specific responsibilities of various offices may be retooled to make their competence clear, in order to promote “autonomy, coordination and subsidiarity.” Within that horizon, he confirmed the traditional role of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State as “the most direct and immediate help to the pope.”
  9. Synodality: The pope called for a more collaborative spirit among the various Vatican offices, including regular meetings of department heads, presided over by the pope. He also said that as the number of offices is reduced, it will make regular meetings for the heads of those offices with the pope more possible. Francis insisted that Vatican offices not become “fragmented” and “self-referential.”
  10. Catholicity: The pope called for Vatican departments to seek personnel from all over the world, including permanent deacons and laity, especially women, and that the Vatican’s workforce must be “multicultural.”
  11. Professionalism: Francis urged ongoing formation for Vatican personnel in their areas of professional responsibility, and also demanded a complete end to the time-honored practice of “promoting to remove.” (The Latin phrase is promoveatur ut amoveatur.)
  12. Gradualism: Francis said reform involves discernment, including a period of “steps, testing, corrections, experiments, and temporary approvals” of changes. “It’s not a matter of indecisiveness but the necessary flexibility to reach a real reform.”

The pontiff then ticked off a series of reform steps that have already been taken, including an overhaul of the Vatican’s financial structures, the creation of a new Secretariat for Communications, the two other new dicasteries recently formed, an overhaul of the Church’s annulment process, and more.

In 2014, Pope Francis denounced 15 “spiritual ailments” Vatican bureaucrats suffered in his address to the Roman Curia. Last year he listed the “catalog of virtues” they should show.

The speech to the Roman Curia is traditionally regarded as the informal beginning of the holiday season for the pontiff, which is generally regarded as closing on Jan. 6 with the feast of the Epiphany. On Saturday Francis will preside over Christmas eve celebrations in the Vatican, followed by his noontime “Urbi et Orbe” blessing on Christmas day at noon Rome time.

Advertisements

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 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”.

 

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.

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.”

“Negligence can cost a bishop his job”

17/06/2016

A report notes news from Rome, “Never one to slow down on the weekend, Pope Francis on Saturday signed two documents designed to reflect progress on two battle fronts: The Catholic Church’s response to clerical sexual abuse, particularly bishops’ accountability, and reform of the Roman Curia, the global Church’s governing body. The first document is a motu proprio, meaning a legal text, titled “As a loving mother,” which talks specifically about the causes that could merit removing a bishop or an eparch from his post”.

The report adds “In the document, Francis acknowledged that the church’s canon law already contemplates removing a bishop for “grave reasons,” but said he wanted to be more specific on the fact that negligence can cost a bishop his job. One of the specifications added by the document is the fact that negligence of the bishop “in particular in relation to cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults” is now one of the “grave reasons” that would legitimise the removal of a bishop from his position. For decades, survivors of clerical sexual abuse and their advocates have been demanding that the Church hold bishops accountable for failing to act in cases of child sexual abuse, either by ignoring accusations or for moving sexually abusive priests from one parish to another instead of reporting them”.

The piece goes on to mention “The law also says that a bishop can be removed if his actions or omissions cause “grave harm,” either physical, moral, spiritual or financial, to individuals or communities. “As a loving mother the Church loves all her children, but treats and protects with a very particular affection the smallest and helpless” says the text released on Saturday by the Vatican, available only in Italian. “Aware of this, the Church is particularly vigilant in protecting children and vulnerable adults. Such role of protection and care involves the whole Church, but particularly its shepherds,” the text continues, naming the bishops and eparchs. A motu proprio is an edict by the pope that can either be addressed to a part of the Church, for instance the bishops, or to the institution as a whole. “As a loving mother” has no addressee, so it’s assumed that it’s meant for the global Church. As any law, the document then goes to list the procedure for removing a bishop from his post, saying that he can only be removed if he has “objectively failed in a very serious manner to the diligence that is required by his pastoral office, even if not by a serious moral fault of his own.” In the cases of child abuse or vulnerable adults, “the lack of action” has to be “serious” to merit removal. According to the document, the new set of rules applies also for leaders of religious orders, not only bishops”.

The writer continues, “The second article of the motu proprio says that the corresponding Vatican office can start the investigation when there’s sufficient proof of negligence or wrong doing, giving the suspected bishop the possibility to defend himself. Since these are cases of negligence but not crimes, the corresponding offices are the Congregations for Bishops (for most Latin rite prelates), Evangelization of Peoples (for bishops in mission territories), Oriental Churches (for the Eastern churches in communion with Rome) and Consecrated Life (for religious orders). If found guilty, the bishop will have 15 days to voluntarily hand in his resignation, before being forcefully removed, and it’d be possible to temporarily replace a him while the investigation is ongoing. Lastly, the document also says that each decision to remove a bishop from his post will have to be personally approved by the pope, who will be assisted by a group of legal advisers”.

It elobrates that “the new regulations will become effective on Sept. 5, 2016. A Vatican spokesman on Saturday said there’s no question of a “retroactive” norm, since older cases were covered by the previous law, whereas from now on the process will follow what Francis has set out. The motu proprio follows a 2015 institution of a tribunal within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith specifically to judge bishops “with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors.” However, that tribunal is currently at a standstill, with no personnel having been appointed to it yet”.

On the other front the writer notes that “The second document signed by Francis on Saturday and also released only in Italian, are the statutes for a new “mega-dicastery” in the Vatican, a direct result of the work being done by the pope’s group of 9 cardinal advisors who guide the pontiff in the reform of the Roman Curia. In a nutshell, two current Vatican offices, the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family will become one: a Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. The new body should begin its work on Sept. 1, and it´s still unknown who will head it. Currently, the Council for the Laity is headed by Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, while family is under Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia”.

It ends “Although early in the reform Francis had voiced the possibility of a married couple heading this new dicastery, the document released on Saturday says it´ll be headed by a prefect, always a cardinal or an archbishop “unless specified” by “some special law.” It will also have a secretary, “who could be a lay person,” and three sub-secretaries, one for laity, one for family and one for life, that “will have to be laity.” Francis’ reform of the curia will conclude with a revised, or completely new, version ofPastor Bonus, currently the curia´s internal constitution, issued by Pope John Paul II and which the Argentine pontiff decided to revise”.

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.””

The Franciscan curia

06/05/2016

John Allen writes that oldtime Curialists are back under Pope Francis, “Contrary to popular mythology, the Vatican is hardly a sprawling bureaucracy comparable to, say, the roughly three million people who work for the federal government in the United States. All in, we’re talking about a work force of under 5,000, which means it’s more akin to a village than an empire. In such a small world, personnel is always policy: Choices about who gets the most important jobs inevitably drive how decisions are made”.

He adds “Pope Francis has been running the show for three years now, and at first blush, it’s tempting to say that almost nothing has changed on the personnel front. As of today, almost three-quarters of the officials who lead important departments are still hold-overs from the reign of emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. If one considers “the Vatican” to include both the Roman Curia, meaning the government of the universal Church, plus the Vatican City State, meaning the 108-acre physical space over which the pope presides, there are perhaps 33 departments that truly matter – either in terms of real influence, public profile, or both”.

Allen writes, “If we eliminate the new outfits Francis himself has created (two secretariats and a commission for minors), that leaves 30 significant department heads Francis could have replaced by now. Of those, 22 are still led by the same officials who did so under Benedict XVI, which works out to 73 percent, while one (Cor Unum) is presently vacant. Here are the only seven cases so far in which Francis has appointed someone to take over from an official named by Benedict XVI:

  • Secretariat of State (Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin replaced Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone).
  • Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea replaced Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera).
  • Congregation for Clergy (Italian Cardinal Beniamino Stella replaced Italian Cardinal Mauro Piacenza).
  • Congregation for Catholic Education (Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi replaced Polish Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski).
  • Apostolic Signatura (French Cardinal Dominique Mamberti replaced American Cardinal Raymond Burke).
  • Apostolic Penitentiary (Italian Cardinal Mauro Piacenza replaced Portuguese Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro).
  • Synod of Bishops (Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri replaced Croatian Archbishop Nikola Eterović).

Of these seven appointments, five went to Italians, increasing by three the number of top Vatican jobs held by Italians. Notably, all seven positions went to veteran Vatican officials, not outsiders, including four (Parolin, Stella, Mamberti and Baldisseri) who are products of the Vatican’s diplomatic service”.

Allen mentions that “By way of explanation for the lack of turnover, probably the most important point is that the pope’s “C-9” council of cardinal advisors is still pondering an overhaul of the Vatican’s structures. Several departments will be consolidated or eliminated, while in other cases missions will be revised. Francis may feel that until the process is complete, it doesn’t make sense to appoint new leadership. Yet despite the surface impression of business as usual, it’s hard to escape the impression that something important nonetheless has shifted. Arguably, what’s critical is not how thoroughly Francis has shuffled the deck, but rather who has the pope’s ear and who’s been emboldened on his watch”.

Allen makes the point that “In four cases, Francis clearly has opted for a moderate over a conservative: Stella in favour of Piacenza at the Congregation for Clergy; Versaldi in favour of Grocholewski at Catholic Education; Mamberti in favour of Burke at the Signatura; and Baldisseri in favour of Eterović at the synod. In addition, while it isn’t strictly accurate to describe Bertone as a “conservative,” he’s nonetheless close to Pope Benedict, while Parolin is a pastoral moderate in the style of Francis. Those moves sent a clear signal to other moderates inside the system that this is their kind of pope. Certainly there are officials who before probably felt the need to be a bit cautious, who today are sensing the wind at their backs – Cardinal Peter Turkson at Justice and Peace, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz at the Congregation for Religious, and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia at the Council for the Family would be examples”.

Allen then writes that “Perhaps one key to understanding how Francis thinks about his Vatican team came in his first Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia, on Dec. 21, 2013. On that occasion, the pontiff expressed his admiration for “old-time curialists,” describing them as “exemplary persons” who “work with competence, with precision, self-sacrifice, carrying out their daily work with care.” “We need them today!” the pope said. In effect, one could read his preference for proven figures, mostly Italians, with a long background of Vatican service, as an attempt to empower individuals in the system who remind Francis of those “old-time curialists.” Aside from the qualities Francis himself mentioned, the profile of the “old-time curialist” is well documented, dating from the Pope Paul VI era in the 1960s and 70s, when Jorge Mario Bergoglio came of age in the Church”.

Allen argues that “They tended to be fairly non-ideological, coming off as middle of the road both politically and theologically. Culturally, they tended to be Latins or southern Europeans skeptical of the “ruthless efficiency” they associated with Anglo-Saxon and German ways of doing things, and leery about Americans in particular over what they saw as our Calvinist-inspired penchant for seeing the world in terms of black and white”.

Yet if Allen is right then where does this leave the reforms and transparency he was elected to put in place? As ever it seems little will change in Rome.

He ends “These were the kinds of officials generally in charge under Paul VI, and it’s hard to escape the sense that many of the senior leaders closest to Pope Francis today would have been at home then too. The fact that Francis has not reached far outside the circle of usual suspects, in other words, doesn’t mean nothing has changed – because what matters, as always, is which kind of usual suspect has the upper hand”.

“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.

Francis dismantles Social Communications

20/12/2015

Yesterday Pope Francis appointed Msgr Paul Tighe as adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture. He had previously been serving as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications since 2007.

Rocco reports While this week before Christmas has seen two Stateside nods slip under the door, the Pope’s saved the best present for last: at Roman Noon this Saturday, word came that Francis had appointed Msgr Paul Tighe, 57  – the Dublin-bred #2 at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications since 2007 – to the new post of adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, elevating him to the episcopacy in the process as titular bishop of Drivasto”.

He goes on to add “For starters, the move comes as a surprise, arriving in the face of widely-held expectations (his own included) that – with the Vatican’s communications entities now being consolidated into a single Secretariat led by three Italians and, for “balance,” an Argentine – Tighe would be heading back to Ireland. Most of all, however, given the bishop-elect’s longstanding role as the relentless architect behind the Holy See’s sometimes turbulent embrace of and adaptation to a “new media” world, that he’s sticking around instead (and with a hat, to boot) has the feeling of a watershed moment”.

He makes the interesting point that “if you’re trying to reform a culture – or advance a new one – the quietly warm, wiry and energetic nominee is the kind of guy you’d want to have around: after all, as Francis’ designated coordinator of the blue-ribbon Patten Commission tasked with charting the reform of the Vatican’s media operation, Tighe did the very un-Curial work of presiding over his own obsolescence”.

Importantly Rocco gives background “To briefly recap a long, eventful decade, it bears recalling how the first throes of digital media were mostly greeted in Vatican circles with ignorance at best, paranoia at worst – and even today, in at least few quarters, some things never change. In the main of the Curia, however, the premium on a fortress mentality carried the day until the chaotic fallout of the 2009 Williamson case, when the lessons learned from the debacle of B16’s de-excommunication of a Holocaust-denying traditionalist prelate (whose residency in Argentina is instructive to more recent developments) included a fresh approach to the cyber-world. As a result, after years of being sidelined in its pleas for a more digital-friendly Vatican, the PCCS suddenly found a new openness to a shift of strategy – to no shortage of displeasure from the Old Guard – with Tighe landing in the driver’s seat. By 2011, the council scored a torrent of global attention with its move to hold the Vatican’s first ever conference on social media during the beatification of Pope John Paul II – a Tighe idea whose widespread response stunned the organizers’ very modest expectations – and by late 2012, five years after the attempt at a first platform (called Pope2You) was epically botched due to a lack of top-level interest and support, the Communications council was the conduit behind the smooth, very successful launches of the share-based News.va portal and the Pope’s own @Pontifex Twitter presence, both of them tapped into being by Benedict himself in moments that went viral and then some”.

He mentions that “Alongside Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and two other bishops already on-hand at Culture, “adjunct secretary” is a freshly created post for the council, which isn’t being collapsed into the new, sprawling Secretariat for Communications. Ergo, while the shape of the nominee’s new duties remains to emerge, it stands to be expected or at least hoped that, as a bishop – and one with less of an administrative workload, to boot – Tighe’s role as voice and presence for the church’s digital reality will only increase”.

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”.

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”.

 

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”.

 

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.

 

A short reign?

19/03/2015

John Allen writes that Pope Francis has again hinted at a short papacy. He begins “Pope Francis marked the second anniversary of his election on Friday with yet another blockbuster media interview, this one with the Mexican network Televisa. One headline from the conversation with veteran Vatican reporter Valentina Alazraki focused on his expectations for a short papacy. As he has on other occasions, Francis hinted that he doesn’t expect to be around very long. “I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief … four or five years. I don’t know, even two or three,” he said”.

In classic Francis style however he straight away muddied the water, “The pontiff called this nothing more than a “vague sensation.” “Maybe it’s like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won’t be disappointed, and if he wins, he’s happy,” Francis said. “But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more … But I always leave the possibility open.” This isn’t the first time the pontiff has augured a short reign. Last August, he predicted he’d be around no more than two or three years in comments to reporters aboard the papal plane returning from a trip to South Korea, though again in the same breath leaving the door open to the chance that things may play out differently”.

Allen makes the fair point that “In the first instance, it’s important to observe that he’s done so because he’s been asked. He’s never brought the subject up himself, but instead has spoken in reply to queries from journalists. It’s hard to fault him for giving a straight answer to a straight question. Moreover, it’s hardly the most earth-shattering hunch for a pope elected at the age of 76, who had part of one lung removed during a health crisis as a young man, to suspect that his time might be limited. Francis also knows he has an exit option not really open to most of his predecessors, since Benedict XVI already set the precedent by resigning”.

Allen correctly writes that “Beneath his humble, simple exterior lies the mind of a brilliant politician. He’s a media- and politics-savvy figure, and so the question has to be asked: What political advantage does Francis derive from publicly suggesting he’ll have a short shelf life?”

One of the reasons is that it will help Francis strengthen his support, especially in the Curia, “Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant’Egidio movement that’s committed to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue — precisely the kind of force in Catholicism most emboldened by Francis — has written that the chief obstacle the pontiff faces isn’t overt resistance, but rather sloth among people inclined to back his agenda. In effect, Francis is sending a signal that this isn’t likely to be the St. John Paul II era, in which those Catholics most enchanted with the Polish pope’s vision would have more than a quarter-century to chip away at a sometimes recalcitrant institution. Instead, he seems to be saying, if you want to get something done, now is the time”.

The second reason Allen gives is that it disrupts the “opposition”, “Logically speaking, forecasts of a short papacy might have the same impact on his opposition, but in fact, they may actually have the effect of encouraging it to bide its time”.

Allen elobrates that “a longtime Italian observer of the Vatican scene, noted some time ago that its old guard is composed of masters at the time-honored Roman art of riding out the storm and then going back to business as usual. Hearing Francis drop hints that he won’t be around very long may well encourage those folks to revert to their default setting. Rather than actively trying to sabotage the new regime, they may be more inclined to go underground and wait things out”.
The final point he makes is that “Francis may derive from talking about a short papacy is making the job more manageable for himself. As it’s come to be understood in our time, the papacy is really an impossible post. People expect popes to be intellectual giants, political titans, cultural and spiritual gurus, adept managers of a complex institution, media rock stars, and of course, living saints. Any one of those is difficult to do well, but rolled together they’re a prescription for chronic heartburn”.

In truth the one abiding thing that can be said is that Francis will keep people who like him, and those who don’t guessing. This will give him more flexibility where he needs it and at the same time more leverage with people who oppose his “agenda”.

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”.

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.

 

“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 vs the Curia

30/12/2014

John Allen writes about the stinging address given by Pope Francis to the Roman Curia.

He opens the article, “Pope Francis delivered a blistering criticism of the headquarters over which he presides on Monday, ticking off a catalogue of ‘spiritual diseases’ to which he believes Vatican officials are susceptible, such as careerism, arrogance, and gossip, calling it all the ‘pathology of power.’ His annual Christmas speech to the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s central administrative bureaucracy, played around the world as a scathing indictment. To insiders, it threw a key question into sharp focus: Is Francis in danger of alienating the very people he will need, sooner or later, to actually get anything done? ‘I have to say, I didn’t feel great walking out of that room today,’ one senior Vatican official said, who had been in the Vatican’s Sala Clementina for the speech and who spoke on the condition he not be identified”.

Not suprsingly Allen goes on to write that “The body language on Monday among the cardinals and archbishops who make up the Vatican’s power structure suggest that reaction wasn’t isolated. There were few smiles as the pope spoke and only mild applause; since Francis delivered the address in Italian, it wasn’t because his audience didn’t understand. By tradition, the Christmastime speech to the Curia is the Vatican’s ‘State of the Union’ address, when the pope looks back over the previous year and lays out a vision for the one to come. Last year, however, Francis upended that custom, delivering a warning that without a spirit of service, the Vatican risked turning into a ‘heavy bureaucratic customs house.’ As it turns out, that was simply an entrée ahead of the main course”.

Allen continues “Francis listed 15 ‘spiritual illnesses’ to which he suggested senior Church officials may be especially prone, including ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s,’ ‘excessive planning’ that seeks to ‘domesticate the Holy Spirit’ rather than leaving room for spontaneity and surprise, and “divinizing” one’s bosses and superiors. The pope blasted a psychology focused exclusively on ‘what one can obtain’ rather than ‘what one can give.’ Some of his sharpest language came in denouncing gossip and division, saying it’s ‘reprehensible’ that people try to ‘kill someone’s reputation in cold blood.’ The pope also warned against becoming part of “closed circles,” more focused on loyalty to a party rather than the whole Church”.

Allen writes that “the rhetoric about division and partisanship seems only natural in the wake of the October Synod of Bishops on the family, which surfaced deep divisions in the Church’s senior leadership over issues such as the role of gays and lesbians in the Church and Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Also, Francis did begin on Monday by thanking Vatican officials for their hard work during the past year and also paid a tribute to priests in general, saying they ‘only make news when they fall’ but that ‘so many priests are still flying.’ Still, a key challenge for outsiders elected on a reform mandate, as Francis was, is how to avoid being assimilated to the system they were chosen to shake up, while also not breeding resentment among the insiders needed to implement whatever reform they want to achieve”.

Crucially he makes the point that “Question marks about the pope’s relationship with his Vatican team aren’t new. Immediately after his election, Francis disappointed many in the Vatican by announcing they would not be receiving the traditional bonuses paid out for overtime worked during a papal transition. Since then, he’s repeatedly signaled skepticism about many aspects of the Vatican’s internal culture. In 2013, for instance, he pointedly called careerism a kind of “leprosy” in the priesthood during a speech to future Vatican diplomats”.

He ends “Next October’s Synod of Bishops on the family is also expected to bring some tough decisions on matters such as allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive communion, and Francis will need key Vatican officials to help him manage whatever tumult those decisions may generate. In the end, in other words, this maverick pope will still need help from the system. The question is whether his sharp critiques have served to clarify his expectations and get his aides on the same page, or if they risk demoralizing the very people he most needs to motivate”.

Consistory in February

12/12/2014

Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., announced the Holy Father’s wish to convene a Consistory for the creation of new cardinals on 14 and 15 February 2015. He also announced two other important appointments: a meeting of the Council of Cardinals for the reform of the Roman Curia (9 to 11 February) and a meeting of the College of Cardinals (12 to 13 February) to discuss matters relating to the reorganisation of the Holy See”.

“The establishment of two new congregations”

02/12/2014

A piece in Monday Vatican notes the impending changes in the Roman Curia.

He begins that in “the presence of Pope Francis, following a schedule that has much of definitive and little to discuss, the chief of dicasteries have been convoked at the eve of the sixth meeting of the Council, which will take place Dec. 9-11. There will be no discussion, just a communication of decisions. This according to many sources, that mostly collect rumors. In fact, some appointments had not come according to the time they had been rumored, which let think to a change of mind or a change of scenario. Time for reform has come, but it is very difficult to outline how this will be shaped”.

Crucially he writes “According to rumours, the establishment of two new congregations will be the most important novelty of the Francis’ Curia. First possible news: the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace will be elevated to the rank of Congregation. Under it, five secretariats: for Life and Human Ecology; for Justice and Peace in the World; for Migrants; for Health Care; and for Charity. This implies the downgrading to mere secretariat within a congregation of (respectively) the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Pontifical Council for Migrants, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Health Care, and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum”.

He theorises that Cardinal Sarah “is being made to pay the fact that he had been in charge of Cor Unum during a difficult transition for Caritas Internationalis under the guidance of  Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga. It may seem odd, but it is not, since Cardinal Maradiaga is the person that should take over the post of prefect of the other new Congregation the Council of Cardinals may announce today: the Congregation for the Laity and the Family, which will embody the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Family. If Cardinal Maradiaga is indeed appointed to lead the Congregation, he would arrive in Rome with a new opportunity for a fresh start. In 2012, Caritas Internationalis was amid a storm: the Holy See did not give the ‘nihil obstat’ to the re-candidacy of Lesley Ann Knight as Secretary General. Knight, who was at the time holding the post, had been severely criticized because the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace had been put under the Caritas Umbrella”.

He goes on to assume, quite logically that “Cardinal Peter Turkson should become the prefect of the Congregation for Justice and Peace – as his term as president of the Pontifical Council is expiring. The reform will also lead to the retirement of Cardinals Vegliò and Rylko, respectively presidents of the pontifical councils for Migrants and for the Laity, who should be given the posts of Member of the Congregation. The archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, could be given the post of Canonical in Saint Mary the Major Basilica. That is, a second class post, almost a punishment for leading the diocese of Terni to bankruptcy. However, that of Canonical is a role where Paglia can hopefully apply some lessons learned from his earlier management experiences”.

He makes no mention of Cardinal Rylko who could be sent back to Poland. The archbishop of Krakow will be 75 next year and Cardinal Rylko would be the obvious choice.

He writes that “The dismantling of the old Secretary of State started when the ‘Foreign Minister’ Mamberti was appointed prefect of the Signatura. Now, it should be the turn of the deputy, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, who is rumoured may be appointed archbishop of Palermo, thus eventually also becoming a cardinal, or be appointed nuncio to Italy. The Pope, however, does not want that any given post be associated with a red hat – he prefers to give the birretta rossa to bishops he feels closer in tought to him and to bishops of peripheries. On the other hand, it is true that the next consistory could be full of surprises”.

Interestingly he predicts that “It is also rumoured that one of the new cardinals will be Father Enzo Bianchi, superior of the Monastery of Bose and famous for his ecumenical work – also criticized since he tends to put the truth aside on the name of fostering dialogue. Father Bianchi is a thinker the secular world much appreciates. As is Archbishop Bruno Forte, the drafter of the controversial paragraph on homosexuals in the Synod’s mid term relation. Archbishop Forte could be transferred, perhaps to the diocese of Bologna, where by custom a cardinal presides. Also Archbishop Victor Fernandez is in good terms with secular media: the rector of the Catholic University of Buenos Aires and Pope Francis’ ghostwriter, Archibshop Fernandez is expected in Rome to take over a post as head of a congregation”.

It had been previously noted that Cardinal Muller could be leaving the CDF, most likely for Berlin.

He ends “Curia Reform should give them a higher profile. Recently, the Council of Cardinals sent a letter to all the Vatican dicasteries, asking which of their functions could local bishops’ conferences take over. The problem does not involve pontifical councils, since the bishops’ conferences have already established commissions on their subject matters. The real goal was that of delegating even more of the Congregations’ functions. For example, to give more power of decision to bishops when a doctrinal dispute arises, without going through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; to give more power to bishops to recognize universities and activities of Charity as Catholic, without undergoing a procedure in the Congregation for Catholic Education and Cor Unum; and finally to give more power to bishops to choose those who may have enter the seminary. Perhaps the most intense criticism received by Benedict XVI was because of this last issue – a hotspot”.

Cardinal Sarah at CDW

25/11/2014

Yesterday Pope Francis ended the vacancy at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and appointed  Robert Cardinal Sarah as the new prefect. This ends the vacancy that began when Cardinal Canizares Llovera was appointed archbishop of Valencia in August.

Rocco writes that “the most-awaited of the expected moves has been released with today’s appointment of Cardinal Robert Sarah, the 69 year-old Guinean until now in charge of the Vatican’s humanitarian efforts, as the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments”.

Rocco goes on to mention that Sarah was “Ordained a bishop at 34, in the post overseeing the global church’s formal life of prayer, Sarah succeeds Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, who was returned to his native Spain – by some accounts, at his own request – in late August as archbishop of his native Valencia. Having served as head of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum – in the coming shuffle, likely to be merged with the body for Justice and Peace – since 2010 and before that as #2 at the Propaganda Fide, not much is known about Sarah’s background or expertise in matters of worship; lacking a doctorate, the cardinal’s final degree was a licentiate in the Scriptures. Then again, the CDW under Francis is not expected to continue along the office’s path of recent decades, which saw the congregation preside over revolutionary shifts (e.g. the sweeping re-translation of the English Missal) alongside maintaining an intense disciplinary oversight of liturgical abuses – whether real or perceived – at the local level. (As a friend once mused – perhaps only half-jokingly – during Cardinal Roger Mahony’s quarter-century as archbishop of Los Angeles, CDW “had a whole wing” dedicated to handling complaints from the US’ largest diocese.)

Interestingly he writes that “the office’s new mission is likely to hew closer to Francis’ own liturgical approach – as one op summarized its principles: ‘Go by the book. Don’t make a fuss about it. And remember that liturgy’s always a means to an end – not an end in itself.’ Along those lines, the choice of a prefect whose ministry has been immersed in the work of charity and the perils of the missions – far removed from the boutique ‘liturgy wars’ so beloved by polarised Anglo-European elites (whose churches aren’t necessarily thriving) – serves above all as a fresh pointer to the risks, rewards and messiness of the ‘peripheries,’ the concept which remains the key to everything in this pontificate. Returning to the wider frame of Curia reform, while Italian and Spanish media accounts have been rife with suppositions and projections of the coming state of things over recent days, the reminder’s apparently in order of the degree to which Francis keeps his cards close until he’s ready to break out”.

Yet it would be a mistake to downplay the importance of the liturgy in the spiritual life of ordinary Catholics. Thus the reason for Benedict’s insistence of a liturgical life that was pointed, and turned to, God.

Some have argued that the appointment of Cardinal Sarah means that “he has appointed Cardinal Sarah as prefect to the Congregation for Divine Worship in order to foster a traditionalist liturgical revival. Pope Francis is a man of broad sympathies. He is steeped in the reformed liturgy, but has no particular liturgical ax to grind. He is not a liturgist. Everything he has done so far suggests that he is interested in pastors and regaining a sense of mission in the Church, and not at all in taking sides in liturgical disputes which can absorb much energy without obvious gains for the body corporate. Cardinal Sarah is clearly an unexpected and unusual choice to lead the CDW. He does not come to his new position as an authority on liturgy or even particularly as a student of the liturgy, much less an advocate for a “reform of the reform.” What he does have in his resume however is 22 years pastoring a diocese in Africa, the most rapidly growing area of the Catholic world”.

The writer goes on to note that “His appointment “works” internally (in the Curia) by removing him from Cor Unum, which is about to be absorbed into a larger agency in the coming reorganization, and giving him a new job. At the same time, it suggests there will be no crusading for liturgical agendas—of any ideological stripe—flowing from this Congregation in the months to come”.

John Allen writes that “despite the removal of Burke, he doesn’t seem to be conducting an ideological purge in senior Vatican positions, nor does he appear to be doling out punishment to those who opposed the progressive line at the recent synod. Second, Francis knows that many African prelates felt compelled to assert themselves during the synod, and wanted to send a signal of respect for the continent by making sure there’s an African prefect of a major Vatican department”.

Allen continues, “the Sarah appointment may also be part of a political balancing act by Francis. The pontiff may be trying to “reach across the aisle,” to use the American argot, and assure conservatives that he’s not the enemy. Doing so in the realm of liturgy may be especially deft, since the Church’s liturgical purists have felt some of the deepest ambivalence about Francis. They tend to believe he’s not nearly as passionate about the Church’s liturgical traditions as Benedict, and his crackdown on a small religious order called the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate that celebrates the old Latin Mass has exacerbated those impressions. In that light, handing responsibility for liturgy over to someone traditionalists generally perceive as a friend may shift the terms of debate”.

Exile for Burke

09/11/2014

Yesterday, Pope Francis delivered what had been expected for months, Raymond Cardinal Burke was formally appointed as patron of the Order of Malta. He replaces Paolo Cardinal Sardi, 80, who had been in the role since 2009.

Rocco makes the point “Arguably the most polarizing figure on the global Catholic stage due to his outspoken, unstinting conservatism in matters of liturgy and church teaching, the move caps a yearlong dismantling of Burke’s clout, which began last December with the 66 year-old’s sudden yanking from the membership of the Congregation for Bishops, where he helped facilitate the most controversial US appointments of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. While the cardinal rejected the description in one of his many recent interviews, even his champions have termed the former archbishop of St Louis as the leading face of “opposition to the new orthodoxies” in the age of Pope Francis”.

At the same time that Burke was removed from the Apostolic Signatura his replacement was named at the same time, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti. Archbishop Mamberti was from 2006 until yesterday secretary for Relations with States. The transfer of Mamberti had been foreseen for some time but there has some uncertainty as to where he would end up with speculation that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints would be the primary place for him.  At the same time Francis filled the vacancy created at State with the first ever native English speaker, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, 60, taking over as secretary for Relations with States. It had been thought that the currently idle Archbishop Francis Chullikatt would take.

Rocco notes that “In a surprise choice for Burke’s replacement at the Signatura, Francis tapped his “foreign minister,” the Corsican Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, 62, who’s served as Secretary for Relations with States since 2006. As the diplomatic role has become ever more crucial given the Argentine Pope’s concerted forays into geopolitical matters, today’s most significant move is neither of the above, but the even more astonishing choice of Mamberti’s successor at the helm of the Holy See’s foreign service: Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, 60, the Liverpool-born Nuncio to Australia, who becomes the first native English-speaker ever to hold the post.

Rocco adds that “Since arriving in Canberra in late 2012, Gallagher has proven an immensely popular figure on the Aussie scene, and one whose ecclesiology is said to line up squarely with Francis’ emphasis that ecclesiastical desk-holders work to keep their rootedness in pastoral life and ministry”.

Importantly Rocco argues that “having gone into overdrive during the recent Synod on the Family to protest any prospect of change to the church’s existing pastoral practice toward couples in irregular situations – as well as stoutly defending the existing annulment process amid Francis’ recent moves to probe its effectiveness – whether intentional or not, the timing of the cardinal’s “exile” to the Rome-based Malta post is almost certain to be taken as an added provocation by his allies among the US bishops, as the announcement coincides with the prelates’ arrival in Baltimore this weekend for Monday’s start of their November plenary.  Then again, following the cardinal’s recent comments that the church under Francis “is like a ship without a rudder” and affirming “the risk” of a schism over the Pope’s decisions following next year’s Ordinary Synod, one senior US prelate termed the steady stream of polemics a form of ‘public suicide.'”

This last point is especially relevant. If Burke had even toned down his message, if not the content, he may have been able to keep his job at the Signatura. However, his own inflexibility and rigidity led Francis to no other path but the one he has taken.

Indeed, Rocco notes the other scenario that could have happened, “In any case, the wheels of the cardinal’s transfer from the church’s lead tribunal have been in motion for over a year. From the first months after Francis’ election, as Burke went unconfirmed by the new Pope at the Signatura, Whispers ops indicated the top canonist as a top choice to become Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre once Cardinal Edwin O’Brien reached the retirement age of 75 last April. Much as that match would’ve killed two birds with one stone as the US boasts the lion’s share of the millennium-old order’s membership and Burke’s well-known homesickness for the States, the prospect would’ve inevitably been shot down by Francis’ domestic brain-trust, for whom even a Rome-based foothold on these shores for Burke was still too close for comfort. In the end, Burke now becomes the first non-European to serve as chief chaplain of the thousand-year-old Order of Malta, which is always headed not by a cleric, but a celibate layman elected in a Conclave who holds the title Sovereign Prince”.

It is clear that Burke’s own attitude has made him few friends among the USCCB, beyond a few devoted followers. Short of sending him back to America as Archbishop of Santa Fe or Anchorage, Francis had few choices. Burke’s downfall is therefore primarily the fault of Burke.

Rocco closes, “With Burke’s effective demotion, for the first time in three decades, no US prelate leads an office of the Roman Curia as traditionally understood. As Francis’ reform of the governing apparatus is expected to roll out in early 2015, it nonetheless bears reminding that – alongside his seat on the Pope’s supreme council of nine cardinal-advisors – Boston’s Cardinal Seán O’Malley OFM Cap. now heads up the newly-created Pontifical Commission which reports directly to Francis on the church’s response to clergy sex-abuse and the care of survivors”.

Overview of the Synod

30/10/2014

Now the the Synod of Bishops has concluded the key events are noted. Rocco writes that “After an unusual 12-day wait, yesterday finally brought the Holy See’s translations of the Final Relatio (report) from this month’s assembly. As the Pope himself stipulated in his closing remarks, it bears particular reminding that the 62-paragraph text doesn’t merely represent the closing snapshot of the first gathering, but now becomes the Lineamenta – the initial “baseline” of next year’s Ordinary Synod – presented to the episcopal conferences and the wider church for its discernment in setting the agenda of the climactic showdown, scheduled for 4-25 October 2015 in Rome. (To put the text’s significance in context, the extensive survey released last year under Francis’ close watch served as the Lineamenta for the Synod just past.) With every paragraph of the document voted on by the 183 Synod Fathers – a process previously known as the “Propositiones” all forwarded to the Pope – all of the sections attained an absolute majority of support from the floor. However, three grafs (52, 53, 55) narrowly failed to reach the required two-thirds’ margin (122 votes) for approval, yet were published regardless. While the release of the full list of propositions likewise happened at the close of the last Synod in 2012, the disclosure of the vote-counts on each portion was an innovation at this assembly”.

He goes on to write “Among the sections which garnered the supermajority but registered significant opposition nonetheless, the slimmest margin of full passage belonged to paragraph 41, which called for an improved “pastoral discernment” toward couples living outside the state of Christian marriage. The proposal passed by three votes, 125-54″.

Meanwhile, John Allen writes in Crux that the just ended dramatic Synod of Bishops was just a warm up with an Ordinary General Synod taking place in October 2015.

Allen begins, “Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the tumultuous Synod of Bishops on the family, conclusions are up in the air as to what it all meant. Given the clear divisions that ran through the summit, it should be no surprise that after-the-fact interpretations are also all over the map. For some, the outcome was a defeat for Pope Francis and the more open line they perceive him to represent on issues such as gays and divorce and remarriage. For others, the fact that even watered-down language on those points survived in the synod’s final document represents a watershed, even if, like Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster in the United Kingdom said, they feel it “didn’t go far enough.” Those in favour of allowing Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church to receive Communion can claim a breakthrough in a call for further study on the issue, since previous Vatican documents have closed the door entirely. Some believe the soap opera quality of the two-week gathering, with conservatives complaining of a plot to stifle their voices and liberals grousing about a lack of nerve, suggest Francis has let loose forces he can’t control”.

Allen posits three conclusions “about the 2014 Synod of Bishops that seem reasonably objective. This is not the end, only the beginning. All along, the 2014 synod was designed to do no more than prepare an agenda for the larger Synod of Bishops on the family called by Pope Francis for October 2015. Among other things, that’s why the fissure Saturday night over whether the bishops had “rejected” two paragraphs in the final document by failing to get a two-thirds vote, one on gays and the other on divorce and remarriage, was a category mistake. In reality, the purpose of this meeting wasn’t to “accept” or “reject” anything”.

Allen goes on to write that “Between now and next year, Francis will likely make some important personnel moves that may alter the character of the next group he brings together. For one thing, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who emerged as a leader of the conservative forces during the synod, likely won’t be at the next one because he’s about to be replaced as the head of the Vatican’s highest court. It’s also possible that German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who was another strong conservative voice in the synod, will no longer be running the Vatican’s top doctrinal office by October 2015. Depending on who takes over, that, too, could alter the chemistry. In general, if the pope’s plan to streamline the Vatican by eliminating or consolidating some its departments is in place, there may be fewer Roman officials in the next synod”.

Burke’s removal has long been known, all that is needed is the official announcement of his appointment. Allen’s point about Cardinal Muller is strange. He has confirmed Muller in his post at the CDF. To then transfer him seems odd. This is not to say that Francis could not change his mind. He could send Muller back to Germany as bishop of Mainz, or perhaps archbishop of Berlin. This would leave a vacancy at CDF. While by no means certain, Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer SJ could take the role as prefect.

Interestingly Allen goes on to note “By the same token, retired German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the chief protagonist of the permissive line on Communion for the divorced and remarried, was at this synod only by special papal invitation, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back, especially after a sideline controversy over remarks about Africans “not telling us what to do.” For their part, the African bishops were surprised when none of them were named to the drafting committee of the final document, and it’s likely they won’t wait to get to Rome next time before making it clear that they expect a place at the table from the very beginning”.

The second point Allen makes is that “The 2014 synod marked a big win for transparency. For that, those on the conservative side of its arguments can claim most of the credit. At the beginning, Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general of the synod, announced that the texts of bishops’ talks would not be released, and that Vatican spokesmen would provide only generic overviews to the press without citing speakers by name. That led to mounting protests from conservatives, who suspected an effort to mute criticism of the more liberal line held by some of the synod’s key figures. The discontent burst into full public view last Monday, when an interim report contained remarkably positive language on gays, living together outside marriage, and divorce and remarriage. Conservatives objected, and rightly, that the report was taken as the conclusions of the whole synod when not everyone agreed with it”.

The result of this is that “From that point forward, things became steadily more open. Baldisseri was compelled to go along with releasing all the internal reports from the 10 small groups at the synod, and at the end, Francis decided to release not only the synod’s final document, but also the vote totals for each paragraph — and in record time. It seems probable the next synod will be far more transparent from the beginning, because no one will want to go through this again”.

Interestingly Allen writes that “it’s also a safe bet that a few prelates may quietly suggest to Francis that he consider finding other work for Baldisseri, who left a number of people underwhelmed by his performance”.

Where he could go and whether he would be moved is difficult to say. Technically Cardinal Baldisseri would be 75 just before the start of the next Synod and could be retired on age grounds. Yet, Francis may not want to do this and may decide it is better to have Baldisseri see out the 2015 Synod before retiring him. Francis may also be concerned that if he gave ground and replaced Baldisseri then it would look like the project that he may, or may not have in mind, would be under question from Francis himself.

The final point Allen notes is that “Francis doesn’t choke in big moments. He delivered a speech at the end of the synod that virtually everyone agreed was among the best of his papacy. It offered the vision statement of a moderate pontiff, urging the Church to shun both a “hostile rigidity” and a “false mercy.” He drew thunderous applause, including from prelates who shortly before, at least metaphorically, had been at one another’s throats. In effect, it was the kind of speech that both a Raymond Burke and a Walter Kasper could walk away from feeling as if the pope understands them, and it seemed to allow what had been a sometimes nasty two-week stretch to end on a high note. However neat a trick that was, however, it may pale in comparison to the challenge of holding the Church together as things go forward”.

Indeed the speech given by Pope Francis at the close of the Synod was remarkable for a number of reasons. During his speech Francis said “One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals”.

This approach, as Allen said, eased the still substantial tensions Francis said “The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.””

Francis went on to mention “Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions”.

Interestingly, Francis, not given to quoting Canon law said that the Synod was cum Petro et sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), he went on to say, “the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334)”.

This was a very clear word to Cardinal Burke. By quoting Canon Law,  Francis effectively reminded Burke, on Burke’s “turf”, that the pope is in charge.

 

Burke to Malta?

21/09/2014

Following on from the rumours of the departure of Archbishop Mamberti, Sandro Magister writes that the exile of Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke is all but assured.

He opens “The “revolution” of Pope Francis in ecclesiastical governance is not losing its driving thrust. And so, as happens in every self-respecting revolution, the heads continue to roll for churchmen seen as deserving this metaphorical guillotine. In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most “Ratzingerian” of the Roman curia”.

Magister writes that “an even more eminent decapitation seems to be on the way. The next victim would in fact be the United States cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who from being prefect of the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura would not be promoted – as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere – to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous – but ecclesiastically very modest – title of “cardinal patron” of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80”.

He notes “If confirmed, Burke’s exile would be even more drastic than the one inflicted on Cardinal Piacenza, who, transferred from the important congregation for the clergy to the marginal apostolic penitentiary, nevertheless remained in the leadership of a curial dicastery. With the shakeup on the way, Burke would instead be completely removed from the curia and employed in a purely honorary position without any influence on the governance of the universal Church. This would be a move that seems to have no precedent. This is what was done with cardinals Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro (appointed Grand Prior in 1896 while remaining secretary of state), Gaetano Bisleti (at the same time prefect of the congregation for Catholic education), Gennaro Granito Pignatelli (cardinal dean and bishop of Albano), Nicola Canali (governor of Vatican City), Paolo Giobbe (leader of the apostolic dataria), Paul-Pierre Philippe (until the age of 75 also prefect of the congregation for the Oriental Churches), Sebastiano Baggio (removed from the congregation for bishops but kept on as governor of Vatican City and camerlengo), Pio Laghi (until the age of 77 also prefect of the congregation for Catholic education)”.

Perhaps this is no bad thing. Francis knows his time is limited and unlike Benedict sees no reason not to push people who do not share he view, out of the way. This will mean that Francis will get more done as opposed to the gentlemen that was Benedict who waited until those in the Curia reaching retirement before placing his own people in their place.

Magister adds “Above all, Sardi’s retirement would not be a compulsory act, since the age limit of 80 does not apply to positions outside of the curia. And in fact, with the exception of Paulo Giobbe, all of the aforementioned cardinal patrons went on to a better life “durante munere.” Burke is 66 years old, and therefore still in his ecclesiastical prime. Ordained a priest by Paul VI in 1975, he worked at the apostolic signatura as an ordinary priest with John Paul II, who made him bishop of his native diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1993. It was again pope Karol Wojtyla who in 2003 promoted him as archbishop of the prestigious see, once cardinalate, of St. Louis, Missouri. Benedict XVI called him back to Rome in 2008, and made him a cardinal in 2010. With a very devout personality, he is also recognized as having the rare virtue of never having struck any deals to obtain ecclesiastical promotions or benefices. In the liturgical and theological camp, he is very close to the sensibilities of Joseph Ratzinger. He has celebrated a number of times according to the ancient rite, even donning the “cappa magna,” as do cardinals George Pell and Antonio Cañizares Llovera, without being punished for this by Pope Francis”.

It should be noted of course that Cardinal Cañizares Llovera asked to be transferred to Valencia and seems not to have been pushed. This shows that Francis does not oppose those who have different views but Buke has made so many statements that directly undermine Francis, Burke’s exile.

Magister adds “A great expert in canon law, and appointed to the apostolic signatura for this reason, he is not afraid to follow it to the most uncomfortable consequences. Like when, to the tune of articles of the Code – number 915 to be precise – he upheld the impossibility of giving communion to those politicians who stubbornly and publicly uphold the right to abortion, bringing the rebukes of two colleagues in the United States valued by Pope Francis, Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston and Donald Wuerl of Washington. Free in his judgments, he has been among the very few to make critical remarks on “Evangelii Gaudium,” pointing out that in his view it is orientational but not truly magisterial. And in view of the upcoming synod of bishops, he has repeatedly taken a stand against the ideas of Cardinal Walter Kasper – well known to be in the good graces of Pope Francis – in favor of communion for the divorced and remarried. The dicastery headed by Burke, eminently technical, recently accepted an appeal from the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate against a provision issued for them by the congregation for religious. A courageous move on the part of Burke, situated within the context of the punitive action undertaken by the Vatican congregation against one of the most substantial realities of Catholic traditionalism, an action that Pope Francis endorsed by approving in specific form the congregation’s decision to prevent the Friars of the Immaculate from celebrating the Mass according to the “Tridentine” rite. It is only with this kind of pontifical approval, in fact, that a decree of the curia can overturn standing law, in this case the motu proprio of Benedict XVI “Summorum Pontificum.” It is difficult to identify among these episodes the ones that may have have had the greatest influence on the fate of Cardinal Burke. But it is easy to predict that his definitive downgrading will provoke both a tumultuous reaction within the traditionalist world, where Burke is seen as a hero, and a corresponding wave of jubilation in the opposite camp, where he is instead considered a bogeyman. On the latter side it can be recalled that the “liberal” Catholic commentator Michael Sean Winters, in the “National Catholic Reporter” of November 26, 2013, had called for the head of Cardinal Burke as a member of the congregation for bishops, because of the nefarious influence, according to him, that he was exercising over episcopal appointments in the United States”.

He ends “now he seems right at the point of giving the go-ahead for the second and more grave demotion of one of the most untarnished personalities the Vatican curia knows”.

An Indian at State?

07/09/2014

Sandro Magister writes that Francis is preparing to move yet more curialists around after the voluntary departure of Cardinal Canizares Llovera to Valencia. He claims that Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States could be moved out of the Secretariat of State.

He begins “In the middle of September the council of cardinals instituted by Francis to help him in the reform of the Roman curia and the governance of the universal Church will meet again at the Vatican. It will be the sixth meeting of the body now made up of nine cardinals, after to the eight appointed at the time of its creation by the pontiff he added – but without any other formal public act so far – cardinal secretary of state Pietro Parolin”.

Interestingly he posits the theory that “The move on August 28 was not, however, accompanied by the announcement of Cañizares’ successor in the curia. It seems unlikely in any case that Pope Francis will choose as the successor to the so-called (not always rightly) “little Ratzinger” at the congregation for divine worship a figure of rupture with respect to Benedict XVI. It rather remains to be seen if and how some of the powers attributed to the dicastery, like for example that of supervising and revising the translations of liturgical books, will be maintained or left to the episcopal conferences”.

He goes on to write “As anticipated by the Spanish media, also imminent is the return to Spain of another churchman currently in a role at the curia. This is Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta, of the clergy of Opus Dei, who will go from being the secretary of the congregation for the clergy to coadjutor of the archdiocese of Merida-Badajoz, which numbers about 600,000 faithful. This move will continue the “housecleaning” being carried out by Francis in one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman curia, which among other things deals with disputes between priests and bishops, with dispensations from priestly obligations outside of cases connected to the “delicta graviora,” with the transfer of ecclesiastical assets beyond a certain value and – at the behest of Benedict XVI – also with seminaries”.

Francis has already gutted the congregation with the removal of Cardinal Piacenza  from his role as prefect and the gutting of a good deal of the members of the congregation. At the same time Francis, as Magister notes, has appointed a secretary for Seminaries, Archbishop Jorge Carlos Patron Wong, 55. He mentions that “Without counting that in the span of a year there has also been a substantial shakeup among the officials of the dicastery that seems to have no precedent”.

Perhaps more interestingly he mentions that “there is also another important pawn in the organizational chart of the curia that Pope Francis is preparing to replace. This is the secretary for relations with states at the secretariat of state, a position currently held by the Corsican archbishop Dominique Mamberti. In this regard it will be interesting to see if in this case the pontiff will obey the unwritten practice that sees the Vatican “foreign minister” end his service awarded with the cardinal’s scarlet (this was done, working backwards, with Giovanni Lajolo, Jean-Louis Tauran, Angelo Sodano, Achille Silvestrini, Agostino Casaroli, Antonio Samorè, and so on). Or if he will not do this, just as he did not bestow the scarlet ordinarily connected with the position of Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church on the French Dominican Jean-Louis Bruguès”.

Mamberti could be sent to an important nunciature in Europe but he is only 62 and his tenure would be long if he were not to be moved around like the rest of the nuncios. Or instead of going to a cushy job in Europe he could be sent to Haiti or Honduras, both of which are currently vacant. If Francis were to decide to maintain the tradition he could give Mamberti the Saints job and retire Cardinal Amato but this might clash with his possible plans for a united Congregation for Rites that has been mentioned before. Of course Francis could decide to keep CDW and Saints separate in which can Mamberti could easily go to Saints or possibly even Catholic Education. He could be saving this job for his Jesuit confere, Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer who is currently at the CDF and historically should get a red hat as well……..

Alternativley instead giving Mamberti a real job he could be given a non-job and take over from Cardinal Abril y Castello at Santa Maria Maggoire. Francis could be saving this role for Archbishop Vigano however and his appointment to this post is unlikely.

On the successor to Mamberti, Magister writes that “It appears to be a given that Mamberti’s successor will come from the diplomatic service and in all probability will be a nuncio esteemed by secretary of state Parolin. In the past all of the occupants of this position – with the sole exceptions of Mamberti, Tauran, and the Pole Wlodzimierz Czacki at the end of the nineteenth century – have been from Italy. Seeing however that currently both the secretary of state and the substitute (Sardinian archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu) are Italian, it seems improbable that the third leading figure of the secretary of state will also be”.

Given this criteria there is still a host of candidates but the most obvious choice to take over as secretary for Relations with States, would be Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, 61 who left the UN in July but has not been given another job.  Chullikatt meets many of the criteria, non-Italian, from a poor country given Francis emphasis on this theme and with obvious experience. By sheer stoke of “luck”, Chullikatt has also served in Iraq and Jordan prior to his posting to the UN so would know the current problems in those countries well. In addition, if Francis were to give Mamberti the red, the appointment of Chullikatt would delay and cement the red for the Indian.

CDW vacancy

28/08/2014

Today the Press Office of the Holy See has announced that Pope Fancis retired Antonio María Cardinal Rouco Varela, 78, as archbishop of Madrid and at the same time appointed Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Valencia. It had been thought that Antonio Cardinal Canizares Llovera would be named to the Madrid post. Instead he was appointed to replace Archbishop Osoro Sierra in Valencia. Cardinal Canizares Llovera had been serving as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments since December 2008. Pope Francis did not name a replacement at the congregation.

Rocco reports that “the Pope defied most projections in appointing Carlos Osoro Sierra (right), the 69 year-old archbishop of Valencia, to the all-important archbishopric of Madrid – both Spain’s capital and, with 3.4 million Catholics, the country’s largest diocese”.

He goes on to writes “His name only surfaced for the post in recent days, the succession to the retiring Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 78, had been long and widely thought to be destined for the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera. Instead, the 68 year-old theologian – known as El Ratzingerino (the “Little Ratzinger”) for his close ties to Benedict XVI – has been dispatched to succeed Osoro in Valencia, Spain’s second-largest local church, which likewise happens to be his hometown”.

Francis has not named a new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The highly important congregation has seen an array of secretaries over the last years with four secretaries in the last 11 years.

Rocco goes on to mention “Notably, the year of buzz over the cardinal’s future at CDW was able to continue as Cañizares had been the lone head of a Roman congregation who Francis did not reconfirm in office following his election. As the Pope reaches the year-and-a-half mark since his election on 13 September, it bears recalling that several other dicastery chiefs remain in a similar limbo, among them the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Wisconsin-born Cardinal Raymond Burke”.

He continues, “the relative surprise of today’s double move serves to further underscore Francis’ determination to be his own man where he’s sufficiently appraised on a given situation. What’s more, however, given Osoro’s lengthy background in pastoral work and adult education before going on to lead three dioceses, the Madrid pick – an ecclesial moderate said to have an “unequaled capacity for work,” and reportedly dubbed “The Pilgrim” by Francis thanks to his zest for the trenches of ecclesial life – was apparently deemed a more optimal fit for the role of this Pope’s de facto “face” of Spanish Catholicism in the wake of Rouco’s oft-combative two-decade tenure. As archbishop of Madrid, Osoro is all but certain to become a cardinal at the next consistory, all the more as no Spanish elector was elevated by Papa Bergoglio at last February’s intake. Despite having merely 350,000 fewer Catholics than Madrid, meanwhile, the five-century old Valencia seat only received its first red hat in 2007, when Osoro’s predecessor Agustín García-Gasco was given the scarlet by B16; García retired 15 months later. At the now Pope-emeritus’ first consistory in 2006, Cañizares was elevated to the College as archbishop of Toledo – as Spain’s eldest diocese, the country’s primatial see – which has a Catholic population of just 650,000. While Toledo has routinely been the seat of a Spanish cardinal alongside Madrid and Barcelona, at least to date, his successor there, 70 year-old Braulio Rodriguez, has not been called to follow suit”.

 

Francis decides Madrid?

24/08/2014

Today marks the 78th birthday of Antonio María Cardinal Rouco Varela who has been archbishop of Madrid since 1994. As per the norms of Canon Law, Cardinal Rouco Varela submitted his resignation at age 75. It was long thought thought that Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments since December 2008.

Appointing Cardinal Cañizares Llovera would serve several purposes. Firstly it would please Cardinal Cañizares Llovera  is it is long thought wishes to return to Spain. The see of Madrid would be a fitting return to his homeland. It would also give Pope Francis a chance to appoint someone of his own liturgical tastes. The name most cited has been Archbishop Piero Marini, 72, who served as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations under John Paul II.

Now there are reports that “the Archbishop of Valencia, Carlos Osoro Sierra, 69, has been chosen by Pope Francis as new Archbishop of the Spanish capital — this was supposedly informed by the Holy See to the Spanish government yesterday. Why is this important for the universal Church? First, of course, because Madrid is the key bishopric in a key nation in the Catholic world. But, much more importantly in the present, this choice is related to a Spanish vacancy that is available to the current Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW), Cardinal Cañizares”.

The same report notes that Cardinal Cañizares Llovera will be appointed as archbishop of Valencia. The key question is who will take CDW? Marini has been the most prominent name but also the one that has attracted the most attention but as ever there are several candidates.
One course of action, as was mentioned before would be to dissolve CDW and join it with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints which would recreate the old Congregation for Rites. Equally however, Francis may want to wait until accepting the resignation of Cardinal Amato, 76 before making such a move.
The other course of action is that he could appoint his Jesuit confere, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer. This would allow Francis to reshape the CDF of Muller by putting in a new secretary. It was previously speculated that Ladaria Ferrer would go to Catholic Education given his own background in that area. However, Francis could also place the nuncio to Paris, Archbishop Luigi Ventura , 69, at CDW. Or of course he could recall the infamous Carlo Maria Vigano for the role.
It may be more suited for Vigano to take over the role of archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore where Cardinal Abril y Castelló is 78. Then again Francis may feel not ready to return Vigano and could leave Abril y Castello in his non job for another year before bringing Vigano back. This would give Francis time to come up with a replacement for Vigano in the US. It should be remembered that Archbishop Chullikatt was removed from his job at the UN and has not been given another job, yet. Francis may seek to return him to Rome and ensure the tradition of a red hat for holders of the UN mission chief continues but this tradition has also not been continued for others who had been expecting it.
There are other possibilities however. both the Substitute for General Affairs, Archbishop Becciu, 66, and the secretary for Relations with States, Mamberti, 62, are both holdovers from Benedict XVI. Mamberti could well be left in office but Becciu could be moved to either CDW or as nuncio to Washington, as Vigano comes back to Rome, in order for Francis to have one less curialist blocking him. The latter move to Washington is an outside possibility however.
The possibility of Cardinal Burke, who has not been confirmed in his job as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, getting CDW is unlikely. Burke is too divergent from Francis to get the job but Francis may just as well decide that Burke can do less damage in Rome at the Signatura than either back in the US or in a more high profile job at CDW.

Francis, Nicora and the IOR

27/07/2014
The Council of Cardinals has finished another session with next meetings set for mid September and early December and early February. The report notes that “With regard to the themes considered, as well as those indicated in recent days (the Governorate, the Secretariat of State and the Institute for the Works of Religion), the Council resumed its reflections on the dicasteries of the Curia. The Laity and Family were studied in particular depth, especially in terms of the contributions and roles that should be assumed by laypeople, married couples and women. Decisions were not made, but more detailed proposals were offered that will subsequently be inserted into the overall framework of the new configuration of the Curia”.
The press release goes on to mention that the Council focused on “the dicasteries that have so far been studied less thoroughly. Other themes on which there has been an exchange of opinions during the meetings include the nunciatures and their work, and the procedures for the appointment of bishops. Aside from the contribution of the Commission of Cardinals for the Supervision of the IOR, heard on Tuesday and Wednesday, there was no further participation from entities external to the Council”.

In a related piece the restructing of the so called Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works,  and the internal struggles behind it are revealed, “the amount of gossips, rumors, even the leaks anticipating the data of the balance sheet of the Institute for Religious Works (the so called “Vatican bank”) show that there had been a war behind these decisions. The roots of this war are in old stories. The same old stories that brought the Vatileaks scandal. That initially supported Pope Francis’ election. Those in these old stories, now that Pope Francis is carrying forward the work started by Benedict XVI, are playing their last hand. Perhaps, this is the gang war that Pope Francis has been trying to prevent when he had warned repeatedly about the perils of gossiping, asking all to repudiate it.

He goes on to note that Cardinal Parolin is now a member of the Council of Cardinals but “no document has been issued yet to certify the Secretary of State’s membership in the group. In the meantime, Cardinal Parolin is trying to keep his position via his being present. Parolin’s activism is a reaction to the push to have reform engulf, it seems, the very Secretariat of State, that could be destined to be divided into two Secretariats: the Secretariat of State proper, i.e. for diplomacy, and the Secretariat for the Life of the Church, i.e. the general affairs. There would also be a General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops; and there is already the Secretariat for the Economy, led by its proactive prefect, George Pell”.

The writer adds that “This ‘four secretariats’ structure is just a hypothesis, since the fifth meeting of cardinals have not produced a draft for Curia reform. Widely discussed is the streamlining of the Curia (bringing the Pontifical Council for Laity and Family together; Justice and Peace with Cor Unum and Migrants; and the Congregation for the Divine Worship with that for the Cause of Saints). Also in this case, we are dealing with hypotheses”.

The vision for the new Curia has been speculated before and the writer’s comment about amalgating Divine Worship and Saints is somewhat ironic as the old Congregation for Rites did exactly this job. On a side note the prefect of these two offices, Cardinal Amato is 76 and set to retire and at the same time Cardinal Canizares Llovera is expected to be appointed to Madrid. If both of these moves, Amato’s retirement and the transfer of Canizares Llovera,  were to occur at the same time Francis could begin the consolidations at the very heart of the Curia.

Interestingly he goes on to metion that “Pope Francis went back in part to the old draft for a Curia reform written by Cardinal Attilio Nicora shortly before John Paul II’s death. The draft proposed the establishment of a Council of Cardinals, and a brutal amalgamation of dicasteries. The Council of Cardinals was intended to consolidate positions that had crystallised under the administration of the Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who had his (mostly Italian) interests to maintain. Nicora’s draft was in fact a way to protect this power. Pope Francis went beyond Nicora’s draft. Angelo Sodano had managed the pre-conclave meetings in a way that led cardinals to speak of management, more than of the substantial issues. The search for a missionary Pope, able to speak to the people, seemed to be a natural consequence. The Pope acts as a front man, while the Roman Curia manages its re-organization, dismantling piece by piece the reform of collegiality carried on by Benedict XVI. Pope Francis noted there was a wish for discussion, the same kind of discussion he was accustomed to, from the Jesuits’ General Congregations. In the end, the Superior General there makes the decision. But during the Congregations, everybody can voice concerns”.

He rightly points out the Francis is carrying on the work of Pope Benedict, “For what concerns the economy, Pope Francis has continued, with no rush, Benedict  XVI’s work. The Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority strengthened its internationalprofile and issued new statutes. The Vatican first amanded its first anti-money laundering law, and then – under Pope Francis – changed it with a brand new one, which positioned the Holy See among the most advanced countries in the world in this regard. This could not have happened without the enormous effort carried out by Vatican officials“.

He writes about the too close relationship between Italy and the Church,”The Curia of the old days is tied hand in glove to Italy. And Italy more than once has used the IOR as a scapegoat.  Italy views the Vatican as a subdivision that should manage every international relationship on the basis of its trusted relations with Italy. This vision contrasts with the international vision, people aiming for the Holy See to be present in the world and able to send money to missions through her own international sovereign channels provided by the IOR. Among those who support this second vision, there are some who are supporting a more speculative IOR, in order to generate more profits, and to have the IOR fully join the international banking system. On the other hand, there are people who wish the IOR to keep its characteristics of a sovereign institute, with funds at the Pope’s disposal. Hence, the story of the territorial factions. They are referred to as “The Americans,” “The Germans,” “The Maltese,” and a power struggle ensues. Reality is far more nuanced. The Council of Superintendency of the Institute backed and supported the international turnaround and upholding sovereignty. It also favoured the process of reform within the Institute, and making the IOR in some small ways a bank, even (perhaps) giving it the possibility of lending money. An approach that, it seems, was taken at the request of the Pontifical Commission for the IOR, chaired by Cardinal Raffaele Farina. The process of reform has almost come to an end. The members of the board will probably tender their resignations, in order to support and facilitate a generational change. The Secretariat for Economy should take the lead of the management of the assets, to be entrusted to another body, the Vatican Asset Management. Surely, the president will change: Ernst von Freyberg has accomplished his tasks.  He operated as a full-time president although he was not one under the statutes.  Now that the statutes foresee having one, the job will not go to him”.

He concludes discussing the new leadership of the IOR, “Who might be von Freyberg’s successor? Two names are often mentioned: that of Jean Baptiste de Franssu, and that of Francis X. Zahra. They are both members of the Council for the Economy, they were both part of the (now dissolved) Pontifical Commission of Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, and they both were – according to unconfirmed rumors – in the set of three names that the Spencer&Stuart head-hunting agency had given to the Secretariat of State when the latter was searching for someone to replace Gotti Tedeschi as president of the council of the IOR, who got a no confidence vote by his own council. These names would represent a line of renewal within continuity, but at the same time they would not act as the hawks, the latter aiming of making the IOR a speculative reality, as they would like to do with many other realities. For example, the widely gossiped commission for communications  would also be tasked with reviewing the Vatican Television Centre statutes, to make it a more commercial and profitable activity”.

 

Francis tackles the finances

19/07/2014

A story by John Allen notes the recent reform of Pope Francis in the sphere of Vatican finances, “Unveiling the most radical financial reforms to date under Pope Francis, the Vatican announced new leadership Wednesday and a sharply limited role for the troubled Vatican bank, a new office to administer its several billion dollars in investments, studies of its pension fund and media operations, and enhanced powers for a new secretariat for the economy. Officials say the aims of the overhaul include compliance with global best practices and legal standards, internationalization of leadership, and shared authority between clergy and laity. The changes strive to overcome a history in which perceptions of intrigue and shady practices vis-à-vis money management have repeatedly given the Vatican a black eye. ‘The ambition is to become a model of financial management, rather than an occasional source for scandals,’ said Cardinal George Pell of Australia, tapped by Francis in February as his new finance czar. ‘The pope has said clearly that he wants rapid movement,’ Pell said”.

In a related piece Allen writes that “As anyone who paid attention in history class knows, when Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés landed in what’s now Mexico in 1519, he promptly scuttled his ships, thereby leaving his men no choice but to press on in conquest of the Aztec empire. For centuries, that rash act has loomed as an object lesson in total commitment. This week Pope Francis scuttled some ships of his own, on two fronts which have been sources of scandal and heartache for the Catholic Church: sex and money. On Monday, Francis held his first meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse [Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors]. Two days later, the Vatican announced a sweeping financial overhaul, including new leadership and a sharply limited role for the troubled Vatican bank. There’s such hunger in the world to believe Francis is the real deal that it’s tempting to confuse announcing a plan for reform with actually implementing it. To be clear, what happened this week was not reform itself — it was more like a prelude to action, an attempt to create the conditions for something good to happen. In both cases, the key effect was to commit Pope Francis definitively to a particular course of action.

Allen adds that “On finances, the Vatican unveiled changes on Wednesday that include tapping French businessman Jean-Baptiste de Franssu as the new president of the Vatican bank, creating an “Asset Management” office to coordinate several billion dollars in investments currently spread across several departments, launching study panels for pensions and media operations, and assigning the new Secretariat for the Economy control over purchasing and human resources. Several aspects of the strategy seem clear, including breaking the Italian monopoly on money management by bringing in international experts, and injecting a healthy dose of laity into what has heretofore been a mostly clerical governance structure. In political terms, however, the clear take-away is that the Secretariat for the Economy under Australian Cardinal George Pell is the Vatican’s new 800-pound gorilla. It absorbed a key chunk of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, or APSA, the new asset management office answers to Pell, and de Franssu at the Vatican bank is a Pell ally. Yes, there are checks and balances. Yes, as Pell insists, the financial experts who now sit on boards aren’t milquetoasts likely to just rubber-stamp whatever’s put in front of them. The Vatican’s anti-money-laundering watchdog unit under Swiss lawyer Renè Bruelhart also remains independent. Its new board includes a former Bush administration official named Juan Zarate who literally wrote the book on combatting financial crime, a 2013 volume titled “Treasury’s War,” and such figures probably won’t be inclined to gamble with their reputations”.

He goes on to make the point that “That said, there’s also no doubt about who’s in command, and his name is George Pell. As one proof of the point, there’s no role in the new structures for the Secretariat of State, which traditionally has wielded almost unchallenged authority over internal management. On the power of the purse, the pope has sidelined it in favour of Pell’s team. That’s the other ship down: Francis now has fully committed himself to the Secretariat for the Economy as his chosen engine of reform. If things go south, there will be no way to disassociate him from the outcome. In an interview with the Globe, Pell said the aim of the cleanup operation is to get the Vatican “off the gossip pages” due to financial scandals, making it “boringly successful.” Time will tell if that happens, as it will as to whether the pope cracks episcopal heads over the abuse scandals. What’s no longer up for grabs is whether those are the correct standards for evaluating success, because the pope has set the bar himself.

 

 

The Curia of Francis

12/06/2014

An article by well know vaticanista, Sandro Magister, writes about the plans for the Curia under Francis. He begins “Combine the dicasteries, for example, to streamline the organization a bit.’ This is what Pope Francis said he wanted to do in the Roman curia, responding to journalists on the return flight from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The fact that the merger of dicasteries was one of the changes studied by the council of eight cardinals – the “C8,” selected by the pontiff to assist him in the reform of the curia and in the governance of the universal Church – was not a secret”.

He writes “for the first time Francis himself has expressly indicated this objective. The pope added that the C8 will discuss it not only at the scheduled four-day meeting at the beginning of July, but also at a subsequent meeting on the calendar for September. Jorge Mario Bergoglio made no reference to what the projected mergers may entail. But by connecting the dots it is already possible to figure out which dicasteries are most at risk”.

He adds that “The immediate predecessors of Pope Francis, once they were elected, over the span of a few weeks had confirmed in their positions the heads of all the curial dicasteries who had lost their mandates during the sede vacante. Francis did not follow this practice”.

It should be said that to a certain extent, he did. He confirmed all the major officials within two or three days of his election. What was unusual was that he also included the secretaries in this decree. These officials are not included as they do not lose their positions during a sede vacante but the message was clear.

Magister is referring to the confirmation of whole departments rather than the entire Curia as a whole. He notes that “almost fifteen months after his election there are still a good number of dicasteries that have not had the confirmation of their leadership or their member cardinals and bishops. As of now the pontiff has confirmed the leaders of the secretariat of state, the prefecture of the pontifical household, the office for liturgical ceremonies, and of eight of the nine existing congregations: doctrine of the faith, Oriental Churches, causes of saints, bishops, evangelization of peoples, clergy, religious, Catholic education”.

He notes that Francis has not confirmed “the leaders of the congregation for divine worship”. The prefect of the congregation, Antonio Cardinal Canazaries Llovera, has been in office since December 2008 and has long sought to return home to Spain. The most touted see is Madrid where the incumbent is well past the retirement age. The other less likely possibility is the archdiocese of Barcelona where the cardinal-archbishop is also well past the age limit.

Magister adds “Pope Francis has also confirmed the leaders of five pontifical councils (laity, Christian unity, justice and peace, interreligious dialogue, culture) but not those of the other six: family, Cor Unum, migrants, legislative texts – where, however, a new undersecretary has been appointed – social communications, new evangelization. Nor has there been any confirmation of the leaders of the apostolic signatura – although an adjunct secretary has been sent – nor of those of the administration of the patrimony of the apostolic see, APSA, and of the prefecture for economic affairs”.

It is high likely that Family, Laity and perhaps Migrants will all be amalgamated into an already touted Congregation for the Laity. Possible senarios include the president of the Family being sent to a diocese in Italy as Paglia is not a cardinal. Cardinal Ryklo could be sent to replace Stanisław Cardinal Dziwisz of Krakow who will turn 75 next April. Cardinal Veglio at Migrants in 76 and could be retired before his pontifical council is dissolved, or merged.

Given the emphasis of Francis on the poor, Cor Unum is probably safe  though it may be altered slightly. Legislative Texts is probably safe enough while Social Communications will be dissolved and a new secretariat covering its remit and that of other related aspects will probably be created. The pet project of Pope Benedict, the new evangelisation, and his powerful pontifical council will also likely be dissolved after only four or five years in existence.

With regards to the APSA it will likely be saved while the fate of Cardinal Versaldi and Economic Affairs has already been sealed. The biggest “problem” for Francis is Burke, someone who has directly contradicted him recently by insisting that the Church can never talk enough about abortion and gay marriage.

Magister goes on to write “While among the pontifical commissions only the one for Latin America, connected to the congregation for bishops, has been confirmed, but not yet the three connected to doctrine of the faith (Ecclesia Dei, biblical commission, and international theological commission), nor that of sacred archaeology, connected to the council for culture.  Having said that, it is interesting to note what happened last May 22, when the new cardinals created last February by Pope Francis were assigned their membership in the curial dicasteries. Appointments that had an appendix on May 28 with the inclusion of the new cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, in the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. On the whole what has happened is that the new cardinals have been distributed only and exclusively in the dicasteries already confirmed by Pope Francis, including the pontifical commission for Latin America, but not in the others still on hold”.

He goes on to note that “Just as no newly created cardinal has been assigned to the pontifical councils for the family, migrants, legislative texts, social communications, new evangelization and Cor Unum. Nor has there been any assignment to the apostolic signatura and to APSA. A simple coincidence? Or are these precisely the curial dicasteries on the verge of being ‘streamlined'”

He ends noting “Still, it must be taken into account that almost all of the dicastery heads confirmed by Pope Francis are the same as before his election as pope, in spite of the universally negative judgments that have fallen upon the curia they lead and the general requests for a change of personnel before structures”.

Investigating Bertone

04/06/2014

The infamous Cardinal Bertone, SDB, who until 2013 served as secretary of State is under investigation.

The Huffington Post reports that Bertone “has rejected allegations that he mishandled 15 million euros ($20 million) from Vatican bank accounts. The German daily Bild Zeitung reported Tuesday (May 20) that Vatican regulators had opened an investigation into the allegations against former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, citing unofficial church sources. The newspaper said the money went to a TV production company, later identified as Lux Vide, that is owned by Bertone’s friend Ettore Bernabei, a former director general of Italian state broadcaster Rai”.

The article goes on to mention “Bertone told the Italian news agency ANSA that there was “no problem linked to this operation” and that everything had been conducted according to “all the regulations” at the Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for Religious Works. The head of the Vatican press office, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Tuesday that there was “no criminal investigation” underway. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t other probes underway”.

Francis has decided to keep the IOR as its primary purpose of the bank for religious orders and dioceses but at the same time he has carried on the work of Pope Benedict in clearing it up and bringing transpereny to the otherwise shadowy insitutution.

The report goes on to note “Bertone, 79, who once headed a group of cardinals that oversaw the bank, told the Adnkronos news agency that the deal with Lux Vide had been approved on Dec. 4. Rene Bruelhart, who heads the financial watchdog agency, has refused to confirm or deny the report. A spokesman for the Vatican bank also declined to comment on the report. “Bertone was appointed secretary of state by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 and served until last year, when Pope Francis replaced him with Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

It concludes, “Francis shook up the administration of the scandal-plagued bank, replacing four members of the five-cardinal oversight committee. Bertone was among those ousted, after less than a year of his five-year term”.

2014 Curial assignments

29/05/2014

The Press Office of the Holy See informed that Pope Francis appointed as members of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia the following cardinals created during in February:

“The fourth meeting”

28/04/2014

The fourth meeting of the Council of Cardinals with the Holy Father began this morning, and will continue during the 29 and 30 April. The Council of Cardinals was instituted by Pope Francis to help him in the governance of the universal Church and to draw up a project for the revision of the apostolic constitution “Pastor Bonus” on the Roman Curia”.

Francis keeps the Bank

14/04/2014

A notice from the Press Office of the Holy See has said that Pope Francis has decided to keep the Vatican Bank, formally called the Institute for the Works of Religion. It had been reported earlier that a special commission was formed to address the issue of what to do with the scandal plauged organisation.

The statement opens, “The Holy Father has approved a proposal on the future of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), reaffirming the importance of the IOR’s mission for the good of the Catholic Church, the Holy See and the Vatican City State. The proposal has been jointly developed by representatives of the Pontifical Referring Commission to the IOR (CRIOR), the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic- Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA), the IOR’s Commission of Cardinals and the IOR Board of Superintendence and presented to the Holy Father by the Cardinal-Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy with the consent of Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, President of the IOR’s Commission of Cardinals. It is drawn from information on the legal status of the IOR and its operations gathered by and presented to the Holy Father and his Council of Cardinals by CRIOR in February 2014. The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialised financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide. The valuable services that can be offered by the Institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor and also aid those institutions and individuals who collaborate with him in his ministry”.

The statement ends, “the confirmation of the IOR’s mission and at the request of Cardinal-Prefect Pell, the President of the Board of Superintendence, Ernst von Freyberg, and the management of the IOR, will finalize their plan to ensure that the IOR can fulfil its mission as part of the new financial structures of the Holy See/Vatican City State. The plan will be presented to the Holy Father’s Council of Cardinals and the Council for the Economy. The activities of the IOR will continue to fall under the regulatory supervision of AIF (Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria), the competent authority within the Holy See and Vatican City State. In compliance with Motu Proprios of August 8th, 2013 and November 15th, 2013, as well as Law No XVIII on transparency, supervision and financial information which came into force on October 8th, 2013, a comprehensive legal and institutional framework has been introduced to regulate financial activities within the Holy See and Vatican City State. In that respect, the Cardinal-Prefect Pell has confirmed the importance of a sustainable systematic alignment of the legal and regulatory framework of the Holy See/Vatican City State with regulatory international best practice. Strict regulatory supervision and improvements in compliance, transparency and operations initiated in 2012 and substantially accelerated in 2013 are critical for the Institute’s future”.

An article in NCR mentions the troubled past, “During a news conference in July on his flight back from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis said some people had suggested the institute should be transformed into a “charitable fund, others say it should be closed. I don’t know. I have confidence in the work of the people at IOR, who are working a lot, and in the commission” studying the bank. ‘Whatever it ends up being — whether a bank or a charitable fund — transparency and honesty are essential,’ he said.

The pope spoke only a few weeks after the bank’s director and deputy director both resigned, following the previous month’s arrest of an account holder, Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, on charges of fraud, corruption and slander. In 2010, Italian treasury police seized 23 million euros that the Vatican bank had deposited in a Rome bank account, but later released the funds when new financial laws, promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI, went into effect. While not providing details on proposed changes for the bank, the Vatican’s statement Monday seemed intended to reassure the bank’s employees and clients that the institute would have a future”.

It will be interesting to see if Francis can truly change the culture of the Vatican in this regard or whether it will be simply better window dressing.

Confirming Religious, IRD and Culture

14/04/2014

On 29 March Pope Francis confirmed the officials of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and Pontifical Council for Culture.

 

Extending Guido’s term

12/04/2014

The Pope has confirmed Monsignor Guido Marini as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies. Born 49 years ago in Genoa, Monsignor Guido Marini had been called to this position by Benedict XVI in October 2007″.

Collins in the Vatican

23/03/2014

Pope Francis has appointed Msgr Brian Ferme as the secretary of the newly established Council for the Economy. At the same time he has established a group of experts, including abuse survivor, Marie Collins to “prepare the Statutes of the Commission, which will define its tasks and competencies. Other members will be added to the Commission in the future, chosen from various geographical areas of the world”.

Council for the Economy

09/03/2014

A note from the Press Office of the Holy See notes the establishment of the Council for the Economy as was expected with the establishment of the Secretariat for the Economy with George Cardinal Pell as the first prefect.

It begins, “Cardinals Cipriani Thorne, Napier,  Ricard, Rivera Carrera, Tong Hon and Vallini,  along with Cardinal Pell, new Prefect of the Secretariat for the  Economy, were previously all members of the Council for the Study of  Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See (Council of 15), which has  ceased to exist”.

What is again apparent is the fact that the geographical spread of the cardinals that have been chosen. This is most obviously a repeated with the members of the Council of Cardinals. This is an obvious choice of Pope Francis who needs to move away from the Italian dominated curia that has landed the Church in such problems on so many occassions before.

The press release adds that “Cardinal Marx and Cardinal Pell, as is known, are both members  of the Council of Cardinals for the reform of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, and for assisting the Holy Father in the governance of the universal  Church”.

Interestingly it goes on to mention that “The relations between the Council and the Secretariat for the  Economy will be defined by the statutes, and in any case the Council is to be  understood as a body with its own authority for policy decisions, not merely an advisory organ of the Secretariat for the Economy.The members appointed to the Council are from various  geographical areas, reflecting, as requested by the Motu proprio Fidelis  dispensator et prudens, the universality of the Church. The constitution of  the Council for the Economy is a key step towards the consolidation of the  current management structures of the Holy See, with the aim of improving  coordination and oversight of economic and administrative matters”.

It ends “The Council will begin work immediately, and its first  meeting is scheduled for May”. Francis seems to be in something of a rush to set up new structures and not wait for the replacement for Pastor Bonus before setting up new strutures. Thankfully, he also seems capable of abolishing offices and departments with the Council for the Study of  Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See that has been abolished. The excpetion to this, for now is the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See which still exists under Cardinal Versaldi. Though it is not expected that this state of affairs will last long.

More secretariats coming

09/03/2014

A long article from Monday Vatican reports that Pope Francis has a style that watches, examines and then swiftly acts. It argues that more Secretariats are to be established which will report directly to the pope and not through the Secretariat of State as is the current pratice. He also discloses the long known idea that a moderator of the curia, along the lines of the diocesan role, will be established with Cardinal Bertello the prime candidate for the appointment.

The piece begins, “Watch, judge, act. These are the three steps put into action by Pope Francis. After almost one year of pontificate, Pope Francis has decided on a way forward on how to reform the Curia. Those who were thinking of a wide reform, built on a solid legal framework, will be perhaps disappointed. Pope Francis seems to have taken the decision of changing everything without waiting any longer. And of starting the Curia reform without reforming the Pastor Bonus, i.e. the constitution that regulates the functions of the offices of the Curia. Rather, Pope Francis is going to directly establish a parallel Curia. When this parallel Curia is complete, he will probably let all the other structures wither away”. By this logic the presidents of the Pontifical Councils are in for a major culling. The most obvious candidate is Cardinal Veglio, 76, and after him the others by age.

He goes on to argue that “This development is informed by two decisions Pope Francis has taken and is reportedly going to take. The first, that of establishing an Secretariat for the Economy. The second, that of appointing Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello as ‘Moderator Curiae’, i.e. a general coordinator of the Roman Curia”.

The writer goes on to make the point that “There had been clues of an imminent change on the afternoon of the 22nd of February, during the “visite di cortesia” (courtesy call) to the new cardinals. By tradition, after a consistory for the creation of new cardinals, the doors of the Apostolic Palace are opened for anyone who wants to come and greet the new cardinals. Generally, many cardinals take part to the “visite di cortesia” to greet the new members of their college, as well as the top officials of the Secretariat of State. But none of the cardinals of the Council of Eight Cardinals was at the “visite di cortesia”, and nor were any from the Council of Fifteen, i.e. the council of cardinals that deals with the economic issues of the Holy See. Only late in the day did Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi arrive in the Apostolic Palace.  Versaldi is President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. He was seen wandering, wearing his coat, and carrying a suitcase, and with the semblance of a troubled man”.

Perhaps most interestingly he mentions that “The establishment of the Secretariat of the Economy also signals how Pope Francis wishes to carry out the reform of the Curia. While the Council of Eight cardinals discusses a reform of the “Pastor Bonus” and lays proposals on the Pope’s desk, Francis is taking action. Reforming the Pastoral Constitution would take a lot of time: experts in canon law would be required, who would need to study in detail how to carry out the reform. Pope Francis is in a hurry. He wants to streamline the Curia and make it work, thus creating a new model for the Church”.

He goes on to reveal that the plan for the reform of the Curia comes from, not just the conclave, but the most extreme voices. He writes “The complaints of cardinals were focused on the Secretariat of State. The Pastor Bonus already underscores that the Secretariat of State is at the Pope’s service. Pope Francis wants it to be a dicastery like any other. At one point, it was thought best that the diplomatic functions of the Secretariat of State (the “Second Section”) be kept separate from the management functions of the general affairs section (residing in the “First Section”). However, the reform proposal of Cardinal Attilio Nicora at the beginning of 2005, shortly before John Paul II’s death, became alive again. Nicora’s draft was considered ferocious: the project was to incorporate all Pontifical Councils within the Congregations, and to entrust the Secretariat of State only with diplomatic tasks, while the general affairs of the Church were to be handled by a Council of Cardinals. Pope Francis actually went beyond this reform concept. He made up his mind following his many daily meetings (many more than those officially scheduled), and in the end he decided to make of the Secretariat of State a Curia office like any other. The establishment of a Secretariat for the Economy, which name denotes that it is on par with the Secretariat of State, is just the first step. Attentive observers believe that Pope Francis will establish several secretariats, at least eight, and the prefects will be the cardinals of the Council of Cardinals”.

He goes on to speculate that “An immediate secretariat could be that for Communications, which would consolidate the Vatican media and external relations functions. According to Vatican rumors, Pope Francis wanted to know the details of the Vatican communications in a recent close-door, two-hour meeting, and this has led to the speculation that the communications functions will be the next to be reformed”. This is certainly needed with the arrary of communications offices and networks, often with little intra communication between them all representing the Holy See.

He closes the piece noting “of the new secretariats will be directly under Pope Francis, as the Secretariat for the Economy is. The Secretariat of State will not be a linking and coordination office anymore.  This is why a “Moderator Curiae” is needed. Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, was first to raise the notion a Moderator Curiae. A very skilled law expert, Cardinal Coccopalmerio introduced this concept to the General Congregations together with his own ideas for reform. It was a precise program”.

He concludes “The reform is evolving without a new pastoral constitution, nor the amending of the Pastor Bonus. Even the motu proprio regarding the Secretariat for the Economy underscores that this Secretariat  is established as a «dicastery of the Roman Curia according to the Pastor Bonus,» but fails to specify – as it should– where is it that the Pastor Bonus is to be amended to make room to this new dicastery. In the end, Pastor Bonus has already been overtaken. Pope Francis does not want to waste time. He was elected with a clear mandate, and he wants to carry it out.”

Reinforcements for Pell

05/03/2014

Pope Francis has appointed the secretary-general of the Secretariat for the Economy, his private secretary Msgr Alfred Xuereb who is already the delegate for Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See and Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Institute for Works of Religion.

Pell’s revenge

24/02/2014

Following the consistory that has just taken place, today, Pope Francis has made public his decision to create a new Secretariat for the Economy. Francis has, with the creation of the new office has at the same time named the prefect, George Cardinal Pell.

In the press release from the Press Office of the Holy See it notes, “Today’s announcement comes after the recommendations of the rigorous review  conducted by the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the  Economic- Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA) were considered and  endorsed by both the Council of 8 Cardinals established to advise the Holy  Father on governance and the Committee of 15 Cardinals which oversees the  financial affairs of the Holy See”.

It adds, “COSEA recommended changes to simplify and consolidate existing management  structures and improve coordination and oversight across the Holy See and  Vatican City State. COSEA also recommended more formal commitment to adopting  accounting standards and generally accepted financial management and reporting  practices as well as enhanced internal controls, transparency and governance”.

Several things are worth noting. Firstly, the head of the office is not called president but prefect, a title akin to that of the head of a congregation. Both other economic/finanacial offices use president.

Secondly, Cardinal Pell is already on the Council of Cardinals but more importantly his appointment as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops was nixed at the last moment due to intense curial opposition.

Thirdly, this new office raises questions. Where does the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See stand in relation to it, and what of its current president, Cardinal Versaldi. As has been noted here before both Palermo and Bologna both have archbishops serving past the canonical retirement age.

An article by the famous Thomas Reese notes that “The prefecture had little impact until Pope John Paul II appointed Cardinal Edmund Szoka of Detroit as its head in 1990. Szoka imposed the first unified chart of accounts for the Vatican and published detailed financial statements. He computerized the books so that the statements came out within a year rather than five years late. Szoka had to fight hard for every victory. He was hated by many people in the Curia because he was changing the way things had always been done. John Paul not only brought in Szoka; he also put other non-Italians as heads of every important financial office, including Vatican City, APSA (the Vatican finance office), and the Vatican bank. This did not last. By the end of his papacy, the Italians were again in control of all these entities. Once Szoka left in 1997, things quickly deteriorated. Subsequent prefects were Italians who were less competent and less aggressive than Szoka. They preferred to get along rather than upset other Vatican officials by pushing reform. Most only wanted the job because it came with a red hat”.

Reese goes on to make the point that “the new prefect will have great authority in Rome because he reports directly to the pope. In the papal court, this matters. He will have greater access to the pope and therefore greater authority than the heads of the Vatican City State and APSA, whom he will supervise. Szoka never had this type of access and authority. Second, Pell, like Szoka, is no shrinking violet. He is a tough cookie who is not afraid to throw his weight around. He will be a formidable opponent to anyone who tries to oppose him. As a member of the eight-member Council of Cardinals, he is well placed to influence future reforms. Third, the authority of the new secretariat is more extensive than that of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs. No longer is there talk of “inspecting the books, if need be.” The new secretariat “will undertake economic audit and supervision” of Vatican offices. Audits are now mandated. The new secretariat also has the authority to establish “policies and procedures regarding procurement and the allocation of human resources,” which was never under the purview of the prefecture. This authority would have been held by APSA. Finally, the new secretariat is totally independent of the Secretariat of State. This means that the new office does not have to explain financial accounting to a bunch of diplomats and convince them before getting approval for doing anything. In addition, the new secretariat will have the authority to impose financial rules on the Secretariat of State and audit its books. No one would have dared do that in the past. But questions still remain. What kind of staff and budget will Pell have? The new secretariat cannot be run by priests and nuns with no accounting training. Experienced lay accountants do not come cheap”.

He ends noting that the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, “should be dissolved and its functions should be given to the new secretariat”.

The document states that the APSA currently headed by Domenico Cardinal Calcagno will become a central bank with all the functions of those institutions

Confirming more dicasteries

22/02/2014

Pope Francis has confirmed the officials and members of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.