15 March 2013
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15 March 2013
The various news reports surrounding the new pope are entertaining. Does he have one lung or two? Was he soft on South American fascism? I like this one: Cardinal Law ejected from Santa Maria Maggiore.
So hearing that the new Pope was offering prayers at the very same church, it seems (Cardinal Law) couldn’t resist a discreet peak.
But when Pope Francis recognised him, he immediately ordered that Law be removed, according to Italian media reports. He went on to command: ‘He is not to come to this church any more.’
One of the new Pope’s first acts will be to arrange new ‘cloistered’ accommodation for the disgraced cardinal, the Italian daily, Il Fatto Quotidiano, reported.
I have to admit that fifty-some hours into this pontificate, they’re laying the legend on a little thick. Pope Francis is no superhero. But after a long hierarchical winter, I have to ask what’s up with the paying hotel bills, breaking out of the six-candlestick-prison, and now the banishment of Cardinal Law. Do I want to wake up under the rule of Pope Pius XIII?
Mark Silk is upping the ante a bit. He wants to see my former bishop ejected from Kansas City.
If Francis wants to make as much of a mark by his handling of the abuse scandal as he has by his simple lifestyle, he’s got a ready-made opportunity. Last September, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City was convicted of a criminal misdemeanor for failing to report one of his priests for possible sexual abuse of children. Thus far, neither the Vatican nor the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has so much as issued a statement on the matter.
It’s one thing to move a disgraced eighty-something into new lodgings. It’s another to reach past a national conference and do what should be done on the local level: American bishops taking their colleague aside and suggesting they will not stand in his way if he wants early retirement. Then the man steps down.
With respect to Professor Silk, I am not in favor of the pope removing bishops. I wasn’t in favor of it with the arrogant and juvenile handling of Bill Morris. I wouldn’t approve of it with Robert Finn. If Bishop Finn doesn’t resign, I’m okay with an Opus Dei bishop to continue serving for fifteen years as an example of conservative ideology run amok. I doubt he will transgress and endanger children again–that would mean prison time, and not the Cardinal George version of unjust incarceration. A lot of people will be watching.
When I read this criticism of careerism and vanity, I feel hopeful:
The cardinalate is a service is, it is not an award to be bragged about. Vanity, showing off, is an attitude that reduces spirituality to a worldly thing, which is the worst sin that could be committed in the Church. This is affirmed in the final pages of the book entitled Méditation sur l’Église, by Henri De Lubac. Spiritual worldliness is a form of religious anthropocentrism that has Gnostic elements. Careerism and the search for a promotion come under the category of spiritual worldliness. An example I often use to illustrate the reality of vanity, is this: look at the peacock; it’s beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if you look at it from behind, you discover the truth… Whoever gives in to such self-absorbed vanity has huge misery hiding inside them.
Good message from the red hat meet-up. Pope Francis and Cardinal Tagle and the Jovial One all having a good laugh. Hopefully they talked about how the Church is going to reinvigorate its spiritual life. That would be something with which I’m on board.
15 March 2013
As years pass, various interests wax and wane in astronomy. Some might says fads come and go. Early in the 20th century, there’s big interest for finding that second Earth–a blue and green planet somewhere in the universe where maybe aliens like us live. Our probes poke at Mars and try to tease out hints that life once existed there. Or maybe still does. And with a few recent hits and near misses, we look to stadium-sized rocks in our orbital neighborhood and wonder if our crash helmet will be enough next time.
John Percy’s book Understanding Variable Stars addresses none of today’s popular topics, really. He’s focused not on microbes, fossils, or skyfall, but on big game. Stars. And more, stars that change in brightness.
Why do stars change in brightness? It can happen when they are very young or very old. As it happens, stars pulse, blast, flare, flatten, sputter, spin, spill stuff onto other stars, eclipse, erupt, hide, reappear, degenerate, explode, and do all sorts of interesting things. Indeed, after I finished this book, I began to reflect that maybe our sun is the oddball. It just rises every morning and sets every evening and always comes up the same every day.
This is an advanced book for amateur astronomers. To get the most out of it, one will need a strong science background. Indeed, it reads like a textbook for an undergrad course in stellar astronomy. Lots of graphs. Lots of physics and some stellar chemistry. But an amateur with this book under her belt will be a force to be reckoned with in the world of AAVSO, the American Association of Variable Star Observers. And that means something because diligent amateurs, equipped with a good telescope, good viewing conditions, and a basic array of modern equipment, can make substantial contributions to stellar astronomy.
Let’s get back to that textbook thought. If this book is any indication of what it’s like to sit in one of Professor Percy’s classes, I would love to take Astro 261 Stellar Astronomy from the guy. He infuses just the right amount of history and personal interest. He communicates exuberance for his topic through text and data. Dr Percy loves astronomy, pure and simple.
Personally, I gravitate to the planetary regions of astronomy, but I borrowed this book from the university library just to broaden my horizons a bit. It’s good, especially for amateurs, to have a broad base of knowledge. I’m not sure why I needed to learn why the element lithium churns in the atmospheres of young stars and is barely found at all in the sun. But it was interesting to learn the up-to-date speculations about Eta Carinae. The first two chapters are as good an introduction to stars as I’ve seen anywhere. Chapter three sets the table for the topic in 32 pages. More than 200 pages breaks down most all types of variable stars as we know them–and this is the part where you really have to pay attention. I read this book in three weeks, and I certainly wouldn’t get top marks for the little I could recall.
I can’t imagine a better in-depth introduction to variable stars. If this branch of astronomy is your passion, this book needs a spot on your shelf. If you prefer galaxies, cosmology, or planets, it’s still a recommended read. How stars function and especially change will impact planets. What stars quadrillions of miles away from the Earth do is amazing. First, for how much information we can tease out of the universe just by watching it. Second, an appreciation that the sun is not a variable star. Third, for the implications of planet formation and eventually, I suppose, where the human race will settle after we leave the solar system. And then there’s just the wonder of it all. That last one’s enough for me.
The image is an infrared “movie” of Algol, a double star in which the components orbit almost edge on as seen from Earth. The dimmer of the two eclipses the brighter and even without a telescope, an observer can tell.
14 March 2013
Let’s talk about the celebration of the Eucharist. I found this interview with Cardinal Bergoglio from 2007. He covers other things, but I was struck by what he said about the celebration of Mass as the Latin American bishops met for their conference that year. He told the interviewer that for the first time the prelates gathered at a Marian shrine, and that, unusually for a bishops’ meeting …
Every morning we recited lauds, we celebrated mass together with the pilgrims, the believers. On Saturday or Sunday there were two thousand, five thousand. Celebrating the Eucharist together with the people is different from celebrating it amongst us bishops separately. That gave us a live sense of belonging to our people, of the Church that goes forward as People of God, of us bishops as its servants.
Bishops as servants. It is certainly an insight many of us in lay ministry can appreciate and embrace also: that art and music is something we offer, but we bring it to the liturgy from a sense of service to others.
14 March 2013
What strikes me most about this image posted at PrayTell is the predominance of women, perhaps as many as four generations represented. Contrast that with the images of popes at liturgy–nearly all surrounded by men. Fawning men. Here, the focus is on the liturgical act. On Christ, if you will. Not on the celebrity. Even Peter got that right, fussing about the act.
From a Palm Sunday homily in 2008 (also via PrayTell):
Jesus goes out to meet people, instead of waiting for people to come looking for Him. He goes out to be encountered. Today is the day Jesus goes to be met and He enters the city. Many Christians today have also gone out, in the name of Jesus, to meet the sick in the hospitals[, etc.]…the Church spills into the street because today Jesus is the king of the street, as He was that Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. The place to worship Jesus on this day, more than a temple, is the street. There he was acclaimed, there He was blessed, there He was recognized as the Lord. Out in the street. Later, on Friday, in the corridors of power, among the groups of influence, He was bought and sold [i.e.,
His fate was debated and decided] But where the people are faithful, where the people are believing, out in the street, He was acclaimed.
I think we have a pope who is far from Benedict XVI’s vision, and that of my traditionalist sisters and brothers, that the liturgy itself serves as a seed for the world. And I mean the institutional face of that liturgy in its correctness, propriety, and sobriety. Note the disdain for the “corridors of power … the groups of influence.” This is not where Christ is to be acclaimed.
Instead, it seems the man wearing the fisherman’s ring will use the liturgy as a means to a greater end: the proclamation of the Gospel to the widest possible audience. Even in the US, consider the impact of an evangelical Palm Sunday–what that might be if the Church spilled out to make an impact on our worship spaces larger than that one Easter swelling? And we went out on Easter, too, and were not aimless and dishearted like those on the road to Emmaus. But we had a singular message to spread.
13 March 2013
13 March 2013
NCR’s John Allen profiled him the other week. This spot didn’t give me cause for alarm:
These were the years of the military junta in Argentina, when many priests, including leading Jesuits, were gravitating towards the progressive liberation theology movement. As the Jesuit provincial, Bergoglio insisted on a more traditional reading of Ignatian spirituality, mandating that Jesuits continue to staff parishes and act as chaplains rather than moving into “base communities” and political activism.
This is right. Base communities and political activism is for lay people. Clergy have no business in it, and except for basic duties as citizens should leave it to the laity, one-hundred percent.
Some of my liberal sisters and brothers might disagree with me on this, but I think this is essentially a progressive position for modern Catholics. Exceptions might be made, but these would be vanishingly rare. I certainly think the clergy can throw their support behind lay activists. And they should, regardless of ideology. Activism needs to be formed by a deep interior reflection and contemplation. Not by assuming we’re getting contemplatives and reflectors in our midst.
13 March 2013
From another interview, when discussing the missionary spirit of the faith:
Staying, remaining faithful implies an outgoing. Precisely if one remains in the Lord one goes out of oneself. Paradoxically precisely because one remains, precisely if one is faithful one changes. One does not remain faithful, like the traditionalists or the fundamentalists, to the letter. Fidelity is always a change, a blossoming, a growth. The Lord brings about a change in those who are faithful to Him. That is Catholic doctrine. Saint Vincent of Lerins makes the comparison between the biologic development of the person, between the person who grows, and the Tradition which, in handing on the depositum fidei from one age to another, grows and consolidates with the passage of time: «Ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate»
Aside from the Latin quote, I think a few self-styled traditional Catholics might bristle. But I think we have a pope who will be taking up the cause of evangelization. Or rather, he won’t be laying it aside.
I’m finding these old interviews to be full of fascinating details. With a mod to my brother Charles, maybe a Jesuit pope is just what
I we needed.
13 March 2013
Let’s talk baptism …
To us here that would be like closing the doors of the Church. The child has no responsibility for the marital state of its parents. And then, the baptism of children often becomes a new beginning for parents. Usually there is a little catechesis before baptism, about an hour, then a mystagogic catechesis during liturgy. Then, the priests and laity go to visit these families to continue with their post-baptismal pastoral. And it often happens that parents, who were not married in church, maybe ask to come before the altar to celebrate the sacrament of marriage.
I like this sense of hope and optimism.
My parish had a recent small controversy with the baptism at Sunday Mass of children of two couples, one unmarried and one in a same-sex union. It’s nice to know the Holy Father would support the view that “the supreme law is the salvation of souls.”
13 March 2013
Well, this is a surprise. First Jesuit with the fisherman’s ring. Dan Horan says:
The Jesuits will be insufferable now.
First from the Western or Southern hemisphere.
I remember a Pope Francis in Walter Murphy’s novel The Vicar of Christ.
This Jesuit pope, I suspect, has something of Saint Francis Xavier in mind.
I like the man’s voice.
13 March 2013
My friend Charles took exception to my observation:
I think most Catholics and all non-believers will care once the pope demonstrate what kind of person and believer he is.
Todd, brother, would like to retract and reiterate the last clause of your sentence? (Judge not, lest ye be judged.)
Well, no I wouldn’t. First, I’m stating my analysis of the state of the Church, and what I think Catholics are thinking about the pope. I may be wrong. But I’m hearing from people who wish for a Holy Father who is a hardliner, more pastoral, who will clean house with the curia, who will clamp down on predator-easy bishops, etc.. Sometimes these wishes are well-founded in morality, spirituality or such, at least as they assess it. And some of it might be coming from people who have totally uninformed opinions about Catholicism. In many cases, they might give the new pope the benefit of the doubt–until the first disagreement pops up. Or they may, given recent discouragement, wait and see. I’m leaning to more “wait-and-see” Catholics. Non-believers definitely.
So when my brother suggests …
It seems to me that that tho’ we may, indeed, have been created in the likeness of God, we weren’t bestowed Pantocrator status as part of the deal. At best, your mistatement is naive, at worst, very Dan Brown. Not sufficient either way.
… I’m pretty much discounting it. At best, I’m right. And large segments of the Church are going to wait and see because it’s not likely we know how the man will serve as pope until we have him under our belts for a few years. And at worst, if I’m wrong, the Church is in a much better spiritual place than I thought: that we will receive the next Bishop of Rome with joy and he will make his ministry emphasis quite clear early on. And I’m on board with that, too.
Either way, it doesn’t matter. I hope for the best. I’m not thinking the Holy Spirit will stick us with the worst. I’m also not invested with being right or wrong. The day moves on.
But it’s good to be clear about what constitutes the difference between being the cause of bad news and being only the bearer of it.
12 March 2013
Liam sent me an e-mail noting that the Conclave opening Mass sang the Gloria. I wasn’t terribly surprised. With MR3, it’s not so much about elevating the cardinals to the level of Saint Joseph (19 March) or the Blessed Mother (Annunciation, 25 March–but not this year). The Gloria may also be sung at wedding Masses during Lent, for example.
12 March 2013
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Someone should cover the mothers (and other family members) of the papabile more carefully. Quote of the day from Eleonore Schönborn:
Christoph would not be up to the bitchiness in the Vatican. The intrigues in Vienna are enough for him.
11 March 2013
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Today’s Reconciliation Scripture is featured in the Easter Lectionary on the fifth Sunday, cycle B. My pastor selected and preached it last week at the parish’s reconciliation service. He’ll repeat it for this Wednesday. Here’s the text:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
I find the vine and branches metaphor works much better than the current Catholic fad, groom and bride. It’s blatantly obvious that not only our faith, but our very existence is dependent on Christ. Our pastor noted that a branch could tell the vine, “I don’t need you.” It would be foolhardy to cut oneself off from the main plant. And the effects would be subtle. A cut branch doesn’t die at first. But over a number of days will wither. The failure will come so gradually that one can’t perceive it minute to minute. But eventually, death will come.
One thing that strikes me in this passage is the very last line. We bear fruit and become disciples. It’s not a matter of conscious choice or action on our part. God tends us and enables us to bear the fruit. And that is the path to discipleship. It’s less a matter of declaring ourselves disciples and controlling our own fruit production from there. We do not, cannot operate independently of God in the realm of faith.
11 March 2013
I admire Rocco Palmo’s enthusiasm and optimism about the Church that infuses most all of his writing. Even when he reports bad or difficult news, he wants to draw the reader into his own sadness or disappointment.
I have to take exception to his headline, “The Curia vs. The World.”
The world is very close to not caring about the curia at all. The pope still matters. The real headline should be: The Curia vs The Church. There is a long list of people who dislike or distrust the curia. Or some dis in between.
So powerful is the urge to “take the Vatican back” that, even if should a besieged Curial-Italian superbloc hold together – a development that would turn a cornerstone element of the prior “internationalized” Conclaves on its head – it wouldn’t seem able to withstand the drumbeat coming from those outside.
Again, though, a number unable to win can still thwart an otherwise strong push, forcing it to become more amenable to get over the top. In that scenario, other possibilities able to break the resistance down or peel it away will need to be sought.
In another shift of the scene, the elections of 1978 and 2005 saw ideology – of course, as determined by the legacy of the Council – as a key factor. That’s not the case this time – as ecclesial issues go, “reform” of governance usually belongs to the progressive camp, but many who wouldn’t be considered “liberal” by any stretch appear to be on-board.
In this election, the fault line can duly be termed “The Curia vs. The World.” And as a corollary to it, even if the scene remains immensely uncertain, yet another great upending of what’s long been taken for granted is thought to be taking place.
The curia isn’t a monolith. Cracks have appeared there. And the anti-curia bloc may well be able to pry enough cardinals away to achieve a reform of government with the next papacy.
That reform is essential. For better or worse, the pope has a certain teflon character. But we don’t pray for the curia every day at Mass. The curia isn’t much different from a diocesan chancery. Except that it’s largely less competent and more filled with clergy.
Twenty-four hours before “extra omnes,” I’m feeling rather hopeful about all this. Lent is here and a penitential attitude may be afoot in some cardinals. One, I heard, delayed his arrival in Rome because he was on retreat. It might not be a bad idea for future red-hat meetings before a conclave to include a retreat instead of a conference. A retreat would be a far better way to be open ot the Holy Spirit. Far less secular.