Thought I'd do my small part to help organizers defray the cost of Benedict's visit by advertising some sample souvenirs. For a thoughtful review of these and others, try this link
Seriously, there are times I don't know whether to laugh or cry--because there are times when Church leaders, in giving the appearance of adhering to Church doctrine, appear very manipulative, more like con artists than spiritual leaders. This tendency has been amply demonstrated by our clerical higher ups in the abuse crisis, but now Archbishop Vincent Nichols has given us another demonstration of double speak. His task was to prove that setting an admission price for papal events in Britain did not violate simony statutes, especially setting a flat fee for admittance to Papal Masses. From RTE Ireland:
Those wanting to see Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Britain this week have been asked to make a 'financial contribution' to attend masses to help make up a shortfall in funding.
When they go to the events, they will also be urged to buy t-shirts, baseball caps and tea cups commemorating the visit, as the Catholic Church's marketing arm swings into action.
The Church is asking for £25 (€30) per head to attend the open-air mass in Birmingham on September 19, the final day of the visit. (This is about $39 US.)
The contribution is slightly lower for the mass in Glasgow on Thursday, at £20, and entry to the prayer vigil in London on Saturday is £5.
All the prices include transport to the venues and a 'pilgrim pack' -- a bag containing a CD and a booklet about the visit.
While asking for payment to attend a papal mass is believed to be unprecedented, the Catholic Church has denied it amounts to an entrance fee.
'Those contributions only cover the costs of the transport and the security provisions,' said Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England.
'It includes their travel so it's not as if it is a payment to go to mass.' (I suppose that technically one could pay for a ticket whose end destination is a papal mass, and not go to the mass. There for selling 'travel packages' explicitly to papal masses is not technically simony, even though it gives a very definite appearance of violating the spirit of the doctrine.)
The funding of the first ever state visit by a pope to Britain is expected to cost around £20m and has attracted controversy as taxpayers are footing £10 to £12m of the bill.
That leaves a £10m shortfall for the Catholic Churches in England, Scotland and Wales to pick up, of which £6m has already been raised through a public appeal for funds.
The 'financial contributions' to attend the masses will make up the rest.
More than three quarters of Britons are against meeting even half the cost of the visit, according to a poll by public theology think tank Theos this month.
Irish laity are not snapping up their allotment of travel packages. Of 2500 'financial contributions' slated for the Irish for Pope Benedict's mass in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, 2000 remain. Where as 300,000 attended JPII"s mass at this venue in 1982, organizers estimate 80,000 for Benedict. Perhaps Benedict will see this upturn in apathy as proof that his desire for a leaner church is well on it's way. That would probably be easier for him to accept than the alternatives, that he is not JPII, that the abuse crisis really has had a profound effect on Catholic participation, and that Benedict's Catholic world view is rapidly losing ground in the advancement of secular notions of individual human rights--especially in the democratic anglo world, but also in Latin American countries.
One could wonder if thirty plus years of the restorationist agenda has been particularly good for the People of God. It doesn't seem to have been to good for the People of God as defined by Vatican II theology. With the beatification of Cardinal Newman as the centerpiece of this trip, there has been a great deal of writing about Newman and his influence on the Church. To be honest, I don't actually recognize much of the Cardinal Newman of Vatican II in the analysis of Cardinal Newman coming from Benedict and the Vatican. I would have to agree with John Cornwell's take, that the theologian whose writing was so much a part of Vatican II thinking would have to be 'restored' as much as Vatican II itself.
One of the more interesting things I learned in reading Cornwell's article is the reason for the extensive decomposition of Newman's body:
"On a wet October day in 2008, an assortment of priests and grave-diggers arrived at the cemetery in Rednal, armed with shovels and a mechanical digger. They planned to transfer Newman’s remains to a tomb back at his church in Birmingham. Nothing was found except the brass name-plate and a few bits of rotten wood. A solution to the mystery was discovered in the archives of the Birmingham Post. A journalist at the burial reported that, on Newman’s orders, the grave was filled with compost to hasten decomposition."
It does seem that Newman was not interested in the Church finding and restoring his physical remains. Perhaps on some level he knew that there was nothing he could do about his ideas, so he asserted his only control about those ideas through his burial--side by side with his beloved companion with no relics left to be manipulated for the 'sainthood industry'. Newman's final message seems to be about the supremacy of the love in his life, and this was not to be overshadowed by the veneration or manipulation of his ideas or his physical body. Truly a message from the grave, but probably not one we will hear from Pope Benedict.
In the meantime Vatican organizers are most likely concerned with other messages. After all there are all those 'financial contributions' and 'travel arrangements' yet to be sold.