Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
But as a new church scandal exploded last week, hard on the heels of the paedophilia storm, this one involving allegations of massive corruption at the heart of the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict's papal career risks being eclipsed by the dark shadow of John Paul's legacy.
Take the man at the centre of the latest storm, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe. Aged 67, he was born on the outskirts of Naples and was raised speaking the gritty local dialect, incomprehensible to outsiders. Referred to by Italian newspapers as "l'impresario di Dio", "God's wheeler-dealer", today he is the much-beloved archbishop of the same city: an impressively fat, prosperous looking prelate, who likes nothing better than immersing himself in his crowds of Neapolitan fans, slapping backs and kissing babies. Neapolitans affectionately call their archbishop "O'guapo", local slang for "the boss" – the kindly mafia capo whom people go to with their problems instead of phoning the police. But although no one is accusing him of complicity with the city's fearsome Camorra mafia (Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah, a book about the Camorra, leapt to his defence), the crimes of which he is accused are of a type which any mafioso would understand.
Now prosecutors claim that he sold property from that portfolio to a top politician at half its market value in return for his agency receiving special favours from the government. In classic clientelismo style: you scratch the politician's back, and he scratches yours. Except that in this case the alleged perpetrator was one of the most illustrious figures in the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict, Vatican watchers say, spotted Cardinal Sepe's frailties early on, which is why, in 2006, he unceremoniously removed him from Propaganda Fide – a job that an incumbent would normally expect to hold indefinitely – and packed him off home to Naples.
It is hard to think of two men of God more different than Sepe and Ratzinger: the meaty, glad-handing Mediterranean man of the people, and the ascetic, book-loving Bavarian introvert. In a church regulated according to the Pope's wishes, it's also hard to imagine a man like Sepe obtaining much preferment. But the uncomfortable fact for Benedict is that the two men have one vital thing in common: both of them were chosen and promoted by John Paul II. And it is over his ambiguous legacy that an epic battle is now being fought behind the closed doors of the Vatican.
The Pope is a sort of monarch, but his power is severely constrained by the men who were his colleagues when he was still a cardinal. Within the Curia, the church's governing body, Benedict is surrounded by old men like himself who have been together for many decades. All of them, we can assume, have plenty of dirt on all the others.
But on the question of priestly paedophilia, several are very vulnerable. One of them, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, has been one of the most powerful men in the church for decades. From 1990 to 2006, this fleshy son of a Piedmontese politician was Pope John Paul II's secretary of state, the most important post in the Vatican below the pontiff. Relieved of that job by Benedict he is now, aged 82, dean of the College of Cardinals and still has great power. But he has been tainted by the current scandal. Particularly problematic are his relations with a veritable monster of the modern church, the late Mexican prelate, Marcial Maciel.
Yet Maciel was greatly favoured by John Paul II, remaining persona grata at the Vatican until nearly the end of his life, and Sodano, like other senior members of the Curia (though not Ratzinger) received large cash gifts from him. Sodano repaid Maciel generously by killing a Vatican investigation into his misdeeds in 1998.
Instead the chickens of John Paul's papacy are coming home to roost – the poisonous legacy of Maciel, one of whose brutalised sons spoke about his bizarre and hideous childhood for the first time last week, and all the other paedophile cases that festered during his long reign. And now the alleged venality of Cardinal Sepe has added more pollution to the air.
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: June 28, 2010 Filed at 12:02 p.m. ET
Such a public and formal reprimand of a cardinal is extremely rare -- particularly for one like Schoenborn, who has long been close to Benedict, his onetime professor, and is seen as a possible papal contender himself.
However, he said, others in the Vatican -- described by Schoenborn as the ''diplomatic track,'' meaning the secretariat of state, a clear reference to Sodano -- did not let this happen.
His comments were intended to defend the pope at a time when Benedict himself was coming under fire for his handling of abuse cases both during his time as archbishop of Munich and as the head of the Vatican's doctrine office.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.
The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God—it is not "produced" by the parents—and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.
Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people "wholly," with "spirit and soul and body" kept sound and blameless at the Lord's coming. The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. "Spirit" signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
“Therefore,” he continued, “priests are the primary builders of the civilization of love.”
The feast of the Sacred Heart is traditionally a “day of priestly holiness,” but this time it was especially so, Benedict XVI remarked. (This statement ignores the fact the original vision of the Sacred Heart was given to a nun.)
Two priests especially come to mind who represented priestly polar opposites but shared the a kind of mysticism--and liked each other a great deal. Father Kirchen was an academic, classic languages specifically, who spent his retirement working with the homeless and elderly, virtually ignoring the middle class college students he had spent the vast majority of his life teaching. I was privileged to spend time with him while I was a student strictly because I had a car. It was a sort of utilitarian relationship. He gave me the opportunity to do a charitable thing and I saved him hours of walking. It also gave him the opportunity to tell me which recent movies had been condemned by the Church and remind me it was a mortal sin to see such movies since I now knew they were condemned. I didn't have the heart to tell him I usually got his information too late to do me any good--or that I had seen some of these movies with the second priest I'll write about. I would have a hard time keeping a straight face, fully understanding that in Fr. Kirchen's scheme of things, getting the information late was a good thing. Ignorance is bliss and mitigates mortal sin.
He once told me he was a much better priest working in retirement than he had been as a professor. He said something to the effect that those who had nothing or little time left had a much deeper understanding of what Christ was about than those who thought they would have everything and the time to get it. Wink wink nudge nudge. I subsequently turned a blind eye to the fact I knew he was more or less stealing food from the food service to give to the homeless and the bed bound--an activity he could never have conceived of doing when he was head of the seminary program. Fr. Kirchen said an incredible Mass, but so many students were so intimidated by him it was sparsely attended. That was truly unfortunate. His was a case of his Vatican I personality killing the truth of his Vatican II priesthood.
Fr. Kirchen's accomplice in his redistribution of food service wealth scheme was the other priest in this story. Fr Dan Hillen was not just a truly accomplished artist, he was also the kind of priest Fr. Kirchen was sure was subverting his Church. He once said had he known Fr. Dan would turn out the way he seemingly had, he would never have given him a passing grade in Latin. The two of them laughed and laughed, both knowing that Fr. Dan was the kind of son Fr. Kirchen might have had. He called him Danny, a name Dan did not tolerate coming from anyone else. These two priests were the equivalent of ecclesiastical night and day. And yet.....at their core they did share the energy of the Sacred Heart and they knew it. Fr. Dan could execute in his art the vision of Fr. Kirchen's view of Christ because they shared that same view. Just as that same energy led them to share the same food redistribution scheme.
Like most priests the Mass was central for them. Neither could understand how it was that I found both their Masses an equal spiritual experience. The truth was they both saw my attitude as somewhat insulting or at best naive. Almost everything about their Masses was quite different, to say the least. One was all Latin magic and mysticism and one was all about community and at times intimate sharing. The differences were enough to make me wonder about me.
One day I'm in Fr. Dan's studio and he's playing around with a crystal roundel and it catches the light and refracts a rainbow on the table. It suddenly was 'crystal' clear. It was the same Light just refracted in different colors. There truly is, at it's core, a mystical unity in Catholic diversity. One color is not superior to another color in God's rainbow. One color doesn't hold more truth. They all hold the same truth, and that truth is constant and inexplicable. It is capable of taking two very different priests and overcoming their theological differences, uniting them in the same schemes concocted for God's needy.
Fr. Kirchen was a slightly older German contemporary of Pope Benedict. Lately I've wondered what Fr. Kirchen would make of the Year of the Priest. I strongly suspect Fr. Kirchen's retirement years might have seriously mitigated his appreciation of the Fr. Vianey concept of the priesthood. Fr. Kirchen was pious and at times naive, but never blind. When he took his priesthood out into the real world he found a different color priesthood.
Fr. Dan always lived his priesthood more in the real world and was ultimately blindsided by JPII's Catholicism. It's this version of Catholicism which now serves as the real world for the Roman Catholic priesthood. I don't think for one minute Fr. Kirchen would approve of furthering his version of priesthood at the expense of Dan's version. Fr. Kirchen would walk into the chapel pictured above and instantly recognize the vision of a kindred soul, just as he did in life. I really wonder if Pope Benedict could do the same and that to me is very very sad.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
by John L Allen Jr - National Catholic Reporter - Jun. 11, 2010
“It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the ‘enemy,’” Benedict XVI said. “He would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world.” (I hate to be a party pooper, but one could also see this just the exact opposite. What if it was the work of the Holy Spirit exposing the hidden clerical abuses of the 'enemy'?)
“In admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation, we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life’s dangers,” he said. (Yes, this has worked so well in the past, this notion of trust the system to fix the system. Kind of like BP.)
That remark likewise drew applause, the only other time the crowd this morning interrupted the pope's homily to affirm a particular line. (Projection, projection, projection.)
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The Holy Father recalled the importance of each priest having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ before he can go out and fulfill his calling.
The Pontiff pointed to Mother Teresa as an example of “a love that abandons itself” in order to reach out to the forsaken. He recalled how she would always place a tabernacle at the center of each new community, thus keeping the Eucharist as the center of community life.
Drawing on a distinction made by St. Bonaventure, he warned against a “theology of arrogance” that makes God a mere object rather than a subject speaking to us. Instead, the Pope said, priests must engage in a “theology stimulated by love” that seeks to dialogue with Love and come to a better knowledge of the Beloved.
One question directed to the Pontiff asked about “the true meaning and depth of ecclesiastical celibacy.”
Asked what priests can do to help “generate new vocations,” the Pope warned against the temptation to transform the priestly vocation into a mere job in order to attract larger numbers to the priesthood.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
When Olmsted learned that this procedure had taken place, all hell broke loose. Without a scintilla of empathy or sympathy for the dying woman and her family, Olmsted said: "The direct killing of an unborn child is always immoral, no matter the circumstances." Since the abortion was not "indirect" (i.e., the byproduct of another procedure necessary to save the mother's life, such as removing a cancerous uterus), the correct moral action, according to Olmsted and the Phoenix diocese, was this: Let the mother and the fetus die.