Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pope Benedict's first message

Note this in light of my last entry: "I too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the Church." (emphasis mine)

VATICAN CITY, APR 20, 2005 (VIS) - Following is the complete text of the first message of Pope Benedict XVI which he delivered in Latin at the end of this morning's Mass with the members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the 264th successor to St. Peter in early evening yesterday.
"Grace and peace in abundance to all of you! In my soul there are two contrasting sentiments in these hours. On the one hand, a sense of inadequacy and human turmoil for the responsibility entrusted to me yesterday as the Successor of the Apostle Peter in this See of Rome, with regard to the Universal Church. On the other hand I sense within me profound gratitude to God Who - as the liturgy makes us sing - does not abandon His flock, but leads it throughout time, under the guidance of those whom He has chosen as vicars of His Son, and made pastors.
"Dear Ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II. It seems I can feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed to me especially at this moment: 'Do not be afraid!'
"The death of the Holy Father John Paul II, and the days which followed, were for the Church and for the entire world an extraordinary time of grace. The great pain for his death and the void that it left in all of us were tempered by the action of the Risen Christ, which showed itself during long days in the choral wave of faith, love and spiritual solidarity, culminating in his solemn funeral.
"We can say it: the funeral of John Paul II was a truly extraordinary experience in which was perceived in some way the power of God Who, through His Church, wishes to form a great family of all peoples, through the unifying force of Truth and Love. In the hour of death, conformed to his Master and Lord, John Paul II crowned his long and fruitful pontificate, confirming the Christian people in faith, gathering them around him and making the entire human family feel more united.
"How can one not feel sustained by this witness? How can one not feel the encouragement that comes from this event of grace?
"Surprising every prevision I had, Divine Providence, through the will of the venerable Cardinal Fathers, called me to succeed this great Pope. I have been thinking in these hours about what happened in the region of Cesarea of Phillippi two thousand years ago: I seem to hear the words of Peter: 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God,' and the solemn affirmation of the Lord: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church ... I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven'.
"You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am reliving this very Gospel scene; I, the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the divine Master. If the weight of the responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous, the divine power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church'. Electing me as the Bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his Vicar, he wished me to be the 'rock' upon which everyone may rest with confidence. I ask him to make up for the poverty of my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of His flock, always docile to the inspirations of His Spirit.
"I undertake this special ministry, the 'Petrine' ministry at the service of the Universal Church, with humble abandon to the hands of the Providence of God. And it is to Christ in the first place that I renew my total and trustworthy adhesion: 'In Te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum!'
"To you, Lord Cardinals, with a grateful soul for the trust shown me, I ask you to sustain me with prayer and with constant, active and wise collaboration. I also ask my brothers in the episcopacy to be close to me in prayer and counsel so that I may truly be the 'Servus servorum Dei' (Servant of the servants of God). As Peter and the other Apostles were, through the will of the Lord, one apostolic college, in the same way the Successor of Peter and the Bishops, successors of the Apostles - and the Council forcefully repeated this - must be closely united among themselves. This collegial communion, even in the diversity of roles and functions of the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops, is at the service of the Church and the unity of faith, from which depend in a notable measure the effectiveness of the evangelizing action of the contemporary world. Thus, this path, upon which my venerated predecessors went forward, I too intend to follow, concerned solely with proclaiming to the world the living presence of Christ.
"Before my eyes is, in particular, the witness of Pope John Paul II. He leaves us a Church that is more courageous, freer, younger. A Church that, according to his teaching and example, looks with serenity to the past and is not afraid of the future. With the Great Jubilee the Church was introduced into the new millennium carrying in her hands the Gospel, applied to the world through the authoritative re-reading of Vatican Council II. Pope John Paul II justly indicated the Council as a 'compass' with which to orient ourselves in the vast ocean of the third millennium. Also in his spiritual testament he noted: ' I am convinced that for a very long time the new generations will draw upon the riches that this council of the 20th century gave us'.
"I too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the Church. Precisely this year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly (December 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society.
"In a very significant way, my pontificate starts as the Church is living the special year dedicated to the Eucharist. How can I not see in this providential coincidence an element that must mark the ministry to which I have been called? The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source of the evangelizing mission of the Church, cannot but be the permanent center and the source of the petrine service entrusted to me.
"The Eucharist makes the Risen Christ constantly present, Christ Who continues to give Himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of His Body and His Blood. From this full communion with Him comes every other element of the life of the Church, in the first place the communion among the faithful, the commitment to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel, the ardor of charity towards all, especially towards the poor and the smallest.
"In this year, therefore, the Solemnity of Corpus Christ must be celebrated in a particularly special way. The Eucharist will be at the center, in August, of World Youth Day in Cologne and, in October, of the ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place on the theme "The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.' I ask everyone to intensify in coming months love and devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus and to express in a courageous and clear way the real presence of the Lord, above all through the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations.
"I ask this in a special way of priests, about whom I am thinking in this moment with great affection. The priestly ministry was born in the Cenacle, together with the Eucharist, as my venerated predecessor John Paul II underlined so many times. 'The priestly life must have in a special way a 'Eucharistic form', he wrote in his last Letter for Holy Thursday. The devout daily celebration of Holy Mass, the center of the life and mission of every priest, contributes to this end.
"Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel stimulated to tend towards that full unity for which Christ hoped in the Cenacle. Peter's Successor knows that he must take on this supreme desire of the Divine Master in a particularly special way. To him, indeed, has been entrusted the duty of strengthening his brethren.
"Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.
"Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that 'purification of memory,' which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.
"The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all.
"In this moment, I go back in my memory to the unforgettable experience we all underwent with the death and the funeral of the lamented John Paul II. Around his mortal remains, lying on the bare earth, leaders of nations gathered, with people from all social classes and especially the young, in an unforgettable embrace of affection and admiration. The entire world looked to him with trust. To many it seemed as if that intense participation, amplified to the confines of the planet by the social communications media, was like a choral request for help addressed to the Pope by modern humanity which, wracked by fear and uncertainty, questions itself about the future.
"The Church today must revive within herself an awareness of the task to present the world again with the voice of the One Who said: 'I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.' In undertaking his ministry, the new Pope knows that his task is to bring the light of Christ to shine before the men and women of today: not his own light but that of Christ.
"With this awareness, I address myself to everyone, even to those who follow other religions or who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address everyone with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to continue to build an open and sincere dialogue with them, in a search for the true good of mankind and of society.
"From God I invoke unity and peace for the human family and declare the willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for true social development, one that respects the dignity of all human beings.
"I will make every effort and dedicate myself to pursuing the promising dialogue that my predecessors began with various civilizations, because it is mutual understanding that gives rise to conditions for a better future for everyone.
"I am particularly thinking of young people. To them, the privileged interlocutors of John Paul II, I send an affectionate embrace in the hope, God willing, of meeting them at Cologne on the occasion of the next World Youth Day. With you, dear young people, I will continue to maintain a dialogue, listening to your expectations in an attempt to help you meet ever more profoundly the living, ever young, Christ.
"'Mane nobiscum, Domine!' Stay with us Lord! This invocation, which forms the dominant theme of John Paul II's Apostolic Letter for the Year of the Eucharist, is the prayer that comes spontaneously from my heart as I turn to begin the ministry to which Christ has called me. Like Peter, I too renew to Him my unconditional promise of faithfulness. He alone I intend to serve as I dedicate myself totally to the service of His Church.
"In support of this promise, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, in whose hands I place the present and the future of my person and of the Church. May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, also intercede.
"With these sentiments I impart to you venerated brother cardinals, to those participating in this ritual, and to all those following to us by television and radio, a special and affectionate blessing."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The brilliant Benedict

After 26 years of saying "John Paul," it will take some getting used to saying "Benedict."

In some ways, it seems to me, Benedict XVI's name is a refreshing slap in the face -- and a brilliant choice for a name.

When John Paul I took the double name, a true departure from all prior custom, he did it to honor his two predecessors. It was also an acknowledgment of the great work they had accomplished in the Second Vatican Council.

The post-conciliar atmosphere was one of "newness," hence a new pope with a new custom was all part of that. John Paul the Great, who had participated in the Council as a bishop, carried that forward. And with the election of a Polish pope for the first time ever in Church history, that mark of newness continued in an even more marked way.

However, there was a problem with this "newness." As we are all too well aware, there is a sense in many people that anything pre-conciliar (i.e. prior to 1965) is out of date, old, antiquated. You know how many Protestants and other sects believe there was some great apostacy that occurred after the Apostolic Age. It seems to me that many Catholics have the same kind of belief -- everything was fine up until Constantine, and after him, it was all downhill. Until, of course, John XXIII threw open the windows to let in the fresh air. So anything prior to 330 A.D. is great along with anything after 1965. Whatever happened in between is one long nightmare.

Many people were hoping that whoever was elected would choose the name John Paul III. Fortunately, Cardinal Ratzinger didn't do so. The refreshment of him taking the name of Benedict is that he is hearkening back to the rest of the history of the Church. As he is the sixteenth of that name, he is taking on a long view of the depths of the Church's life; after all, the first Pope Benedict was back in the 6th century.

This does not mean, of course, that he will throw out Vatican II. That would be impossible, not only because it has happened and definitively changed the course of the Church and the world, but also because of his own personal experience -- young Father Joseph Ratzinger was there as a peritas, an expert for his own bishop. No, in Benedict XVI (it's hard to get used to typing that Roman numeral after the simplicity of II) we have fused in his person a man who knows intimately the history of the Church by the service he has rendered the Church over the last 24 years at the CDF, and a man who lived Vatican II and so knows how the latter fits into the former.

May God grant him wisdom, insight, boldness and whatever other gifts are necessary for him to bring the Church closer to the Lord. God bless Pope Benedict XVI!

Monday, April 18, 2005

The brilliant Ratzinger

This is the beautiful and awe-inspiring homily he gave today at the Mass for the election of the Supreme Pontiff. The media, interested only in digging up what they consider to be dirt, only quoted one small section in which he rightly talked about the waves of ideology tossing the world to and fro. They contrasted it with his deeply personal homily at John Paul's funeral. However, when he says, "Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship," I'm not sure how much more personal one can get.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

But how 'bout Pope Scola?

This is conclave humor.

Two boys were born in the same month, one in Ireland, one in Italy. The Irishman was Michael McConnell, the Italian, Angelo Secola. Both of them were destined for the priesthood and beyond.

They both went to seminary in Rome and both were brilliant in their studies. But everyone knew that Angelo had the edge over Michael. They both got plum assignments when they returned to their home dioceses, not only having parishes, but also working in their chanceries. Everyone knew they were episcopal material, and everyone was right. But those who knew them both always said Angelo had the edge.

When the time came, they were both moved to cardinatial sees and were created cardinals at the same time.

So the Pope died and they went to Rome for the funeral, the congregations and the conclave. Everyone knew it would be a contest between Angelo and Michael, and that Angelo had the edge. As it happened, it only took three votes and when the carmelengo announced, "Habemus papem!", out came....Michael McConnell.

Angelo was devestated. "How did this happen?" he wondered. He went to a senior cardinal, who rebuffed him because of the vow of secrecy. But Angelo insisted and pleaded with him to know why Michael was chosen over him. "After all, everyone knew I had the edge over him."

Finally, the senior cardinal yielded to Angelo's entreaties. "Well, Angelo, it was like this," he said. "When it came down to it, we just could not bring ourselves to vote for someone who would be named Pope Secola."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Blasphemy of the worst order on eBay

Going to this link, you will find that a man from Sloane, Iowa (Diocese of Sioux City), placed for auction a consecrated host he took while he was at Mass with John Paul the Great at Piazza San Pietro in 1998. This opportunist and non-believer partook of Communion and then went back to get another host and kept the second in order to put it up for auction when the Pope died.

While this man was very wrong to do this and will have to pay for his crime before God, eBay has an even greater responsibility because they allowed the offense to occur. I put calls into the Diocese of Sioux City (to inform them it was happening), William Donohue at the Catholic League, and William Cobb, the president of eBay North America.

To call Mr. Cobb, dial 1-408-376-7400, punch in "0" to get the company directory, then punch in 2622#, then 2, and you should get his voicemail. I respectfully, but firmly, told him that the selling of this item is extremely offensive to Catholics and it is wrong for them to allow this.

The Host and its accompanying items were sold and my understanding is that it was a devout Catholic who paid the "Buy It Now" price of $2,000 in order to properly dispose of It.

What I hope is that enough people will call eBay to let them know the offense they have made and that they will rule the sale illegal or invalid or whatever they do so that it does not go forward.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A wee bit paranoid, Hans? Or are we now believing in Dan?

Maybe Hans read a little too much of Dan Brown and has joined Brown's followers in believing there's some sort of consipiracy in the upcoming conclave.

I mean, really, Hans. Cardinal Ratzinger got the crowds going on wanting John Paul the Great canonized right away? So how many of those Italians with the "Santo Subito" signs met in his office before the funeral Mass? Who were the plants in the crowd to get the "santo, santo" chants going?

Of course, what Küng and company fail to understand is that the consipiracy, as understood in the pejorative sense of that word, would be to overthrow the teaching of the Church, not to keep the teaching of the Church over the last 2,000 years. (To "conspire" means literally to breathe together, so there can be a consipiracy for good as well as for evil, but it is obviously used in common parlance for the latter, not the former.) So if anyone is looking for a consipiracy, look for something coming from Küng, Thomas Cahill or Brown and their ilk.

Friday, April 08, 2005

From the mouths of children

I got up at 3 CDT to watch and record the Pope's funeral. We were watching it just now and my wife and children were wondering about the protocol for seating the heads of state seeing that President Bush was seated next to President Jacques Chirac of France. I explained to them that they were seated in alphabetical order by the names of their respective countries in French.

"Why French?" I was asked.

"Because French is the language of diplomacy," I explained.

"Diplomacy?" asked my son Peter. "Who's he?"

Who will be at Dan Brown's funeral?

Last night, Carl Olson, author of Will Catholics Be Left Behind? and co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax, spoke at Resurrection Church in Rochester, MN. He told the audience that many of the 23 million people who bought Dan Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code, had their eyes unveiled about the "truth" of the Catholic Church -- her long-time oppression of women, her suppression of the "truth" about the marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and all the other conspiracies in which she is supposedly involved.

During the Q&A session, I asked the following:

Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has died. Millions have descended on Rome with 5 million expected to be there for the funeral, 2 million from Poland alone. Billions are expected to watch the event on television.

When Dan Brown dies.....

Two sidebars to St. Stan's story

Here are two sidebars to the previous story.

Lay boards are mostly a thing of the past
A collision in the in the late 18th and early 19th centuries between old Europe and American Protestantism helped bring about the issue of trusteeism, said Dr. Patrick Carey, a theology professor at Marquette University and the foremost expert on the phenomenon.

Immigrants, Carey said, had brought in the concept of “jus patronatus” or right of patronage that was given when royalty or nobles set up churches or dioceses in their countries. The person who set it up and paid for it had the right to name the priest or bishop. When Catholics came to the U.S., they bought into the idea that the people were kings and “therefore they should have the same rights,” Carey said. So laity set up corporations under various state laws and got the deeds to the church properties.

This set up a confrontation with the bishops who, in 1829, decreed at a provincial council in Baltimore that all Church property would belong to the diocese.

It took some time for this to take effect, with cases of trusteeism arising all the way into the 1980's. St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in St. Louis is a remnant of that set up.

St. Stanislaus is a Polish parish, and at the time of its civil incorporation in 1891, there were a number of Polish parishes around the country arguing with their bishops and taking control of parish property.

Much of the conflict was ethnic in origin, Carey said, with Poles feeling they weren’t getting their needs met by their non-Polish bishops, and some leaving the Church. Eventually, some of these Polish churches formed the Polish National Catholic Church in the early 1900's.

This is what Archbishop Kenrick was facing with St. Stanislaus, according to experts who have studied the situation, and the concession was made in order to keep them in the Church.

A timeline
1880 – St. Stanislaus Parish founded
1891 – Lay board formally incorporates as civil corporation
Sept. 2003 – Archbishop Justin Rigali meets with the board to ask them to hand over the assets and property to archdiocese.
Oct. 2003 – Archbishop Rigali transferred to Philadelphia
Jan. 26, 2004 – Archbishop Burke installed in St. Louis
Feb. 2004 – Board meets with Archbishop Burke
March 2004 – Parish meets with Archbishop Burke, who is booed, with participation of his detractors from La Crosse
August 2004 – Parish administrator and another priest are moved by Archbishop Burke from St. Stan’s to nearby St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. The ministry to Polish community is moved there, too.
Nov. 11, 2004 – Congregation for the Clergy denies appeal from Board over priests’ move.
Christmas – Board spirits in priest from another diocese to celebrate Christmas Midnight Mass. Board claims he had permission from his bishop and did not need it from the archbishop.
Jan. 2005 – Board votes on question of whether or not to hand over assets and property to archdiocese. Voted down 299-5. Archdiocese states, though, that is not the question. Archbishop warns of possible interdict against board members.
Feb. 10, 2005 – Archbishop issues interdicts against six board members
Feb. 22, 2005 – Board decides not to appeal interdicts
Feb. 25, 2005 – Archbishop announces Polish ministry will be moved to St. Agatha Parish on city’s south side effective July 1.

St. Stan's in St. Louis

I wrote an article for Our Sunday Visitor on the dispute between St. Stanislaus Church in St. Louis and Archbishop Raymond Burke. It was not posted to the OSV site and interest has been expressed in seeing it placed on the web, so here it is. It was published under the title of "Polish parish control at center of canonical dispute."

When Archbishop Peter Kenrick allowed a lay board of directors to run the property of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in St. Louis in 1891, he most likely did not envision an attempt many years later to overthrow the authority of one of his successors.

But that, according to the archdiocese, is what has happened. In the late summer of 2003, then-Archbishop Justin Rigali met with the current board asking them to come into full compliance with Church law. They refused. The archbishop was then transferred to Philadelphia, leaving the issue with his successor.

That happened to be Archbishop Raymond Burke, “one of the most formidable canon lawyers in America,” according to Ed Peters, a canon and civil lawyer.

The archbishop met with the board of the Polish parish in February of 2004 to discuss the situation and was resisted. But he agreed to meet with the parish members.

That meeting, which included detractors of the archbishop from when he was bishop of La Crosse, Wis., went badly with parishioners shouting insults at him.

Richard Bach, a spokesman for the lay board, accused Archbishop Burke of being on a “control” trip.

Bach claims the archbishop would close the parish and sell the property in order to get at the $1.25 million the parish has in capital reserves and the $8 million he said the church and property are valued at. The reason? Because, he claimed, the archdiocese wants the money to settle future sexual abuse claims.

Archdiocesan spokesman Jamie Allman disputed that, saying the property is not that valuable and the archdiocese has been able to keep up on its settlements. But above all, said Allman, the archbishop has promised on several occasions that he has no intention of closing the church or parish as long as there is a viable ministry there.

In August, Archbishop Burke moved the administrator, associate and the apostolate to Poles from St. Stanislaus to St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Parish. The archbishop expressed his grave displeasure with how the board was treating Father Philip Bene.

One of the conflicts had to do with a bar the board was running in the old school after the 10:00 a.m. Sunday Mass. The board applied for a liquor license from the city, and when Father Bene objected, the city said they could not listen to him because the board owns and runs the buildings.

His removal prompted an appeal to the Congregation for the Clergy by Roger Krasnicki, a board member, asking to have their priest back. The Congregation rejected the request and gave the board a sharp rebuke. “Through careful and premeditated revisions of the By-Laws of the civil corporation,” wrote the Congregation’s secretary, Archbishop Csaba Ternyak, “you have attempted to make the role of the pastor impotent, attempted to wrest control from the local Ordinary, and attempted to transform St. Stanislaus Parish into an entity which has no resemblance to a parish as envisioned by either the tradition or current law of the Roman Catholic Church.”

According to those revised bylaws, the board makes all the decisions on what happens with the parish, including all of the finances, with the exception of appointing the pastor. Additionally, the archbishop no longer has the ability to appoint or remove directors from office.

But those revisions were illegal, according to the archdiocese and a group of Polish immigrants who formerly belonged to the parish. The original bylaws stated no changes could be made to them without approval from the archbishop, approval which has never been obtained.

In January, the parish voted on the question of whether or not to hand over the assets and property to the archdiocese. It was voted down 299-5, but was boycotted by the immigrant group. The archdiocese stated, though, that they asked the wrong question. That same month, the archbishop warned the board members that they faced a possible interdict for their refusal to comply.

On Feb. 10, Archbishop Burke made good on that threat and issued interdicts against the board members, a decision the board decided not to appeal.

An interdict is not a minor form of excommunication, according to Peters.“An interdict does not imply that the offender has broken communion with the Church [which excommunication does]. Archbishop Burke has been careful to say that the actions of these people threaten their bond of communion, but at this point so far, it is not broken.”

An interdict, according to canon law, is supposed to be medicinal. That happens, according to Peters, “by driving home the seriousness of what they are doing, and showing how their actions have consequences far beyond the immediate conflict as they see it. Because this is precisely a medicinal penalty, it can be lifted as soon as they repent of their actions.”

Peters called the board’s decision not to appeal the interdicts “odd.”

“If they had appealed, the penalty would have to be suspended,” he said. “It’s an easy and obvious means to lessen tensions, and the parish leadership refuses to use it.”

This dispute displays in a clear way the hierarchical nature of the Church, said Franciscan Father John Coughlin, a civil and canon lawyer at Notre Dame Law School. A “juridic person” in canon law is always subject to someone higher up in the hierarchy. So a parish, which is a juridic person, always operates in reference to the bishop and cannot operate by itself, he said.

Of course, bishops have always had this kind of authority dating back to the Church’s very beginning, when people would lay money at the feet of apostles (Acts 4:32-5:11).

Bach said several bishops and cardinals in the U.S. and Europe believe Archbishop Burke is overstepping his bounds, but he declined to name them. He also said they have received support against the archbishop from Justice Anne Burke, the former head of the Lay Review Board for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. But Burke denied she ever made such a statement to them.

Right now, Allman acknowledged, there is a stalemate. Bach said they received a letter from retired Archbishop Szczepan Wesoly, a former Vatican official, offering to mediate the dispute. But that, observers say, is a long shot.

For more information, see

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The popes and synagogues

Many may be wondering about my relative silence on JP II's death. The reason: I really don't have a whole lot to say that can add anything of significance to what has already been said or is being said.

But I will say this: Media reports that he was the first pope to step inside a synagogue are wrong. Yes, you read that correctly -- they're wrong. Even though you may have read that in the NY Times, the Post (Denver, Washington or any other city paper with that name), Globe, a Catholic News Service report, heard it on Fox, NPR, NBC, CBS, ABC or even EWTN, John Paul II was NOT the first pope to step inside a synagogue.

There was once a man named Peter, who lived at the same time as Jesus Christ....

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

China, the Vatican, Taiwan, Bishop Zen - and me

All of the wires are picking up now that Bishop Joseph Zen of Hong Kong is saying the Vatican may drop diplomatic ties with Taiwan in order to gain concessions with Beijing.

I hate to blow my own horn, but I reported this two years ago in the National Catholic Register. I did a lengthy interview with the bishop talking about Article 23 of the Hong Kong Constitution that would have restricted religious freedom, the pastoral difficulties he faces with only 250,000 Catholics in a city of 7 million, his rocky relationship with Chinese authorities and Taiwan. Here's the relevant section on Taiwan:

I’m not sure if you want to answer this question or not, but there have been some rumblings in the Vatican about bringing closer ties between the Vatican and Beijing and one of the thoughts is that Rome would have drop its recognition of Taiwan. Does that concern you?
You see it was peaceful for many years already. The Vatican already for several years said that there’s no problem to drop Taiwan. And the Chinese know that very well. So they know that this is not the problem.
Now, if you ask my personal opinion, I find it still to be a problem because that will be to abandon a friend unilaterally and it’s never happened before.
But Beijing understands and also the hierarchy in Taiwan understands that to give some more freedom to so many people, so many Catholics in mainland China, the Holy See may have to do such a thing. So they understand, I mean the bishops, they have accepted already in their hearts.
So Beijing must know that this is not the problem. So the problem is that the Vatican would accept also something in return. But the Beijing government is not ready for that. They are not willing to make any concessions. That is what we have seen from their internal documents – they are not going to grant anything to the Church. I think the Vatican knows that, so nothing is going on at this moment.

What would Rome want? Would it be basically authority over naming its own bishops?
Yes, the appointment of bishop, yes.
Even on that, the Vatican is surely ready for some compromise. But it seems that Beijing wants full surrender – that’s impossible. It’s very frustrating.
If anyone wants to see the full interview, let me know.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Review = violence?

Tom DeLay is asking the House Judiciary Committee to review the judicial process surrounding Terri Schiavo. The Post quotes him thus: "DeLay issued a statement asserting that 'the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.' He later said in front of television cameras that he wants to 'look at an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president.'"

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? If you want to read politics into it, you can do that since DeLay is under fire for ethics violations. You can also read it that there are a lot of people who are very unhappy that the judiciary has become the lawmaking body of the U.S. and he is responding to what they are saying. Or perhaps he himself is fed up.

But then came this comment from none other than Ted Kennedy: "[A]t a time when emotions are running high, Mr. DeLay needs to make clear that he is not advocating violence against anyone."

Hello? Is anyone home? Why is all that wind going between your ears, Ted?

Unpredicatble consequences?

This is from the Washington Post:
Because he has ruled for so long and with such an iron will, the death of John Paul is certain to have unpredictable consequences, unleashing forces and momentum that have been pent up for years and shaking an established order that faces a wide range of challenges to its authority and certitude.
OK, everyone -- find your fallout suits and head for the nearest church basement or shelter marked with the heretical-free-zone sign. The next pope is going to be a weak-kneed idiot who is going to let everything out of control, so head for the hills.

How little these blathering Post writers and others understand that the Church ain't simply about politics. Sure, politics are there and I cover those politics regularly. But, of course, that's not all she's about. She is, in the words of (would you believe it?) Archbishop John Vlazney of Portland, Ore. (never thought I'd be quoting him favorably), "God’s plan for continuing the mystery of the Incarnation, the divine presence of our loving God in human flesh, throughout the ages and across this globe."

Until they understand that in faith, they aren't going to get it right at all.

What the Church is for

The Pope's obits have already been written. And they are nauseatingly disgusting. From the Financial Times:
For others, on the liberal side of the Church, he embodied a fortress under siege, reversing the freedoms won as a result of the Second Vatican Council when a new generation of Catholics around the world warmed to the ideal of a truly people's Church in touch with the political and social demands of the modern age.
From the (Minneapolis) StarTribune:
But a man raised under the tyranny of Nazi and Soviet invaders did not liberalize the church. Indeed, he insisted on bishops who were theological clones of himself. Orthodoxy was compelled, and the generous spirit of John XXIII snuffed out...

Yet he was deeply suspicious of the liberation theology preached by Latin American Catholics. He was unpredictable in reconciliation dialogues with the church's Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox cousins.
What idiocy! As I wrote in a letter to the Star Tribune, if they want the Pope to allow abortion, homosexuality, contraception, divorce, women priests and all the other sexually related things, then we will look like the world and the Church's existence goes out the window.

Of course, that's probably what they're thinking they're hoping for. However, if the Church were to acquiese and stop being the world's conscience, I think there would be grave disappointment on the part of the world's peoples.

Imagine if Thomas More had yielded to Henry and shown up at his wedding to Anne Boleyn. Henry would have been thrilled -- for a while. But that thrill would have worn off because his respect for Thomas would have gone to nothing as Thomas would have abandoned the truth for the convenience of peace and Henry would have known it in his conscience.

The same is true for the world. If the Church were to suddenly allow for anything or in any way relax the moral standards which she holds out as true and natural for all humanity, there would literally be no one left to guide the world.