Monday, 17 March 2014

Concordat Watch: an epistle to

I came across a particularly virulent anti-Catholic Blog this morning called Concordat Watch. They begin their invective against the Church by averring, or havering: “A concordat is a legal agreement between a country and the Vatican. It can set up a theological fiefdom where certain human rights do not apply — and where they can never again be reintroduced without the consent of the Catholic Church. This is why concordats represent a fundamental threat to both democracy and human rights.”

I have sought to communicate with them in electronic epistolatory manner as follows:


"I refer to the section “Germany”, see: http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showsite.php?org_id=858

You begin by stating: “Just one of the “Fascist concordats” is still substantially in place. Italy has got rid of the Mussolini concordat, Spain has replaced the Franco concordat, Austria has eroded through amendments the Dollfuss concordat and Portugal has scrapped the concordat made with Salazar. Only Germany still retains its concordat with Hitler.”

I presume that the final sentence quoted above has been garbled in translation: “Only Germany still retains its concordat with Hitler.” This is meaningless. Germany made no treaties with Hitler. In points (1) and (2) above (should be below”;  I had changed the running order of what I had written, went and made a cup of tea, came back and sent it forgetting to make consequent edits and then was unable to edit it after sending) I have presumed hat what was intended to be stated was: “Germany alone retains in force the concordat negotiated between the Holy See (and NOT the Vatican) and Germany under the Nazis.”

On that basis two points require to be made, firstly (point (1)), Italy, Spain, Austria and Portugal have freely decided how to deal with their various treaty obligations and entered into negotiation with the appropriate representatives of the Holy See to adjust things to their satisfaction. That was their right. Many of the German Lander have done exactly the same but have chosen, in some though not all cases, to keep things as they were, more or less. That was also their right. It is called the democratic process.

Secondly (point (2)), although some of the matters retained under the concordats between the various Lander and the Holy See are mirrored in the Reichskonkordat signed in Rome on July 20, 1933, it is not that which they have chosen to continue but the concordats made between the Holy See and some of the various German States during the Weimar Republic 1919-33): Bavaria (March 29, 1924); Prussia (June 14, 1929), and; Baden (October 12, 1932). I need only refer you to “Religion and Law in Germany” by Professor Gerhard Robbers of the University of Trier (and a judge of the Constitutional Court of Rhineland-Palatinate).

You conclude this section by stating: “… no one got excommunicated, as is generally the case when churchmen violate Church doctrine.” That is a blatant falsehood. There is absolutely no “generally” about it. Members of the Church find it very difficult to get themselves excommunicated. And not just in Germany where currently a few Bishops and, indeed, one Cardinal in the opinion of orthodox Catholics like myself well merit such interdiction. It is also the case almost else- and everywhere. And most particularly in the USA. Think John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Mario and Andrew Cuomo.


I realise from the entirely biased, indeed bigoted, tenor of the content of your Blog that objective truth will hold little attraction for you and so I hold out no prospect of the preceding being of any interest or consequence to you. But where there’s life… I suppose."

Funnily enough, leaving aside the tenor and intent of their commentary, this site was extremely helpful to me in enabling me to get access to translations of concordats I was interested in for a piece of research I am doing for an article (hopefully) on the election of bishops. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Harriet Harman: The Herald fails again

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On Tuesday, February 25, in response to an article in the Herald (same date) I sent in the Letter to the Editor copied below.

Dear Sir

In 1997, Peter Tatchell wrote, in part, to the editor of another newspaper: “While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.” (Guardian, June 26, 1997)

This echoed what Dr Edward Brongersma, a Dutch politician and academic wrote in the The Magpie, the Mag(azine) of the P(aedophile) I(nformation) E(xchange) in the late 1970s: “A sexual relationship between a child and an adult does not harm the child and may be even beneficial providing that the adult partner is considerate, loving and affectionate.”

The Paedophile Information Exchange had been affiliated to the National Council for Civil Liberty from 1975. That affiliation was not terminated until eight years later when it had become an embarrassment.

In 1976, the NCCL filed a submission to a parliamentary committee considering a proposed Protection of Children Bill — proposed over  concerns related to child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children  — claiming that the Bill would lead to ‘damaging and absurd prosecutions’. Then echoing their good Dr Brongersma and presaging their good friend — then as now — Tatchell, it stated: “Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage. The real need is a change in the attitude which assumes that all cases of paedophilia result in lasting damage.’

Harriet Harman, who had been employed as a solicitor by Brent Law Centre since 1974, and therefore must have been fully aware of all that the NCCL was up to, was appointed the NCCL Legal Officer in 1978. Her husband, Jack Dromey, Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, sat on its executive 1970-79.

Can either point to anything they did, said or wrote at that time that distanced themselves from these disgusting positions? A letter of resignation for example?

Yours etc

Today (Wednesday, February 26) they found it fitting to find room for letters on: food banks (one); litter (two); Coronation Street (one); phoning BT (one); Giraltar football (one), and; Mauchline and curling (one). I cannot and do not complain about the five published all much longer than mine relating to Scottish politics and flying visits by UK and Scottish cabinets to Aberdeen. But a topic which this morning has seen several other newspapers take up or continue the story, and The Times of London devote an editorial to it, is not deemed worthy of (less expensive) comment by The Herald? Surpassing strange. Bearing in mind that on the last occasion I submitted a Letter to the Editor which they saw fit to publish, they also saw fit to delete a very telling point against the homosexualist lobby  homosexuals fell outwith the ambit of the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, and thus had no part in the Final Solution and their attendance at Holocaust Memorials was an affront to common decency; they were not marked out for extermination and were sentenced to hard labour and NOT the gas chambers; and, yes, many did die of starvation, untreated illness, other neglect and by murder at the hands of their gaolers, and quite possibly other prisoners but the numbers involved were more likely to be in the hundreds and not the thousands, let alone many thousands (I did not go into it to this length)  I am left to wonder whether The Herald is in hock to that lobby?


First Franciscan Consistory

Some interesting assignments of churches

Two assignments have a Scottish connection.

Cardinal Nichols is not expected to visit the Barras any time soon despite having been assigned as his titular church Santissimo Redentore e Sant’ Alfonso in via Merulana, the Redemptorist church in Rome dedicated to their founder. Neo-Gothic in design, that design was authored in the early 1850s by a Scot, George Wigley, the building being erected between 1855 and 1860. Wigley is often mistakenly identified as English because he was one of the thirteen founders of the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul in London in or about 1844 after he had written, at his friend Frederick Ozanam’s suggestion, some letters to The Tablet, then still a Catholic publication, about the organisation newly formed at Paris. (For non-Scottish readers, the Barras,a major mixed street/indoor market in the East End of Glasgow, is located in the parish of St Alphonsus. Many Catholic visitors to one of a Sunday take the opportunity to visit the other.)

The Korean Cardinal, Andrew Yeom Soo-jung (70, South Korea), was assigned the church of San Crisogono (the martyr Chrysogonus). This was the titular church of Gioacchino Pecci, Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). This Pope Leo’s first formal act on the first working day following his coronation (Monday, March 4, 1878) was to sign Ex supremo Apostolatus apice, the Apostolic Letter by which the Episcopal Hierarchy in Scotland was restored. A further Scottish interest derives from the fact that Archbishop Leo Cushley’s first boss when he was missioned to Burundi was Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig (67, Swiss). He was later Apostolic Nuncio to South Korea, and Mongolia, 2004-08.

San Crisogono had earlier been the titular church of Camillo Borghese, Pope Paul V (1605-21). This particular Borghese Pope is admired in some quarters for purportedly having put out a contract on the life of a canon lawyer who had seriously discomfited him, Fr Paolo Sarpi, and, in others, for having founded “il Banco di Santo Spiritu” (The Bank of the Holy Sprit). This was the first national bank in Europe (being the bank of the Papal States) and the first bank in Rome in which the general public could lodge funds (and receive loans from). (The Vatican only lost control of the bank when it was nationalised by Mussolini’s Fascist government in 1935).

The photograph below of the Korean Bishops and His Excellency Archbishop Tscherrig was taken in St Peter’s Basilica on the morning of Monday, November 26, 2007. The second consistory of Pope Benedict’s pontificate had been held on the Saturday before. The Korean bishops were on their ad limina pilgrimage. I believe Cardinal Yeom Soo-yung is third from the right (the second prelate on the right).



Before the consistory, there were 157 titular churches in Rome and 13 of them had no cardinal protector. However, 16 of the new cardinals were being assigned to the order of Cardinals Priest (the presbyteral order of cardinals). In consequence, three of the new cardinals were assigned new titular churches established on the day (February 22, 2014) especially for this consistory: Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin (59), Santi Simone e Giuda Taddeo a Torre Angela (Saints Simon and Jude Thaddeus); Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti, San Giacomo in Augusta, and; Fernando Sebastián Aguilar (84, Spain), Sant’ Angela Merici.

One of Pope Francis’s first acts as Pope was to appoint his former Auxiliary Bishop (2002-08) Mario Aurelio Poli (66) to succeed himself as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. He has now also assigned him his own former titular church, San Roberto Bellarmino.

Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo (69, Burkino Faso) was assigned Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino, which had been Pope Benedict XVI’s titular church.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Cardinal Eijk: Dominus Iesus revisited

Mark de Vries is a 34-year-old lay Catholic from the Netherlands who converted at the start of Easter of 2007. He has a most interesting Blog “In Caelo et in Terra”, see: http://incaelo.wordpress.com/

Recently Mark has been recording and commenting on a brouhaha which has erupted over recent comments of Cardinal Eijk on the Council of Trent. Dutc Protestants, seemingy, are incensed at a Catholic Church prelate, a Cardinal no less, speaking the truth AS CATHOLICS SEE IT; well, at least faithful Catholics. This has reminded me of our own little local difficulty when the CDF released Dominus Iesus in 2000. And so I copy below an unpublished article I wrote at that time regarding misinterpretations and misrepresentations (lies, you might say and you might not be so very wrong) published in both The Times and The (Glasgow) Herald.

Dominus Iesus
by Hugh McLoughlin

Magnus Linklater in The Times (7 September, 2000) stated that in his opinion Dominus Iesus might well have been intended as “the first stirrings of a papal campaign”, that it “sets out the official position on church unity” and “will dismay many ordinary Catholics.”

In short: it wasn’t, it didn’t, and it shouldn’t have.

And Linklater would have known this had he even bothered to read as far as paragraph 2 of the document wherein it is written: “In considering the values which these religions witness to and offer humanity, with an open and positive approach, the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions states: ‘The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and teachings, which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men’.”

Linklater also went on to state that: “Superficially Dominus Jesus (sic) adds little new to Catholic doctrine.”

Nonsense! It added absolutely NOTHING new to Catholic doctrine.

As Archbishop, now Cardinal, Tarcisio Bertone, the then Secretary of the Supreme Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made clear at the press conference held to launch Dominus Iesus, it was simply a “Declaration” and as such it was “not teaching new doctrine, but rather reaffirming and summarising the doctrine of the Catholic faith defined or taught in previous documents of the Church’s magisterium, indicating its correct interpretation, in face of doctrinal errors or ambiguities diffused in today's theological and ecclesial ambience.”

In the Scottish press, The (Glasgow) Herald columnist Ron Ferguson (sometime Church of Scotland minister) noted that in a recent radio interview Fr Danny McLoughlin (no relation), then of the Scottish Catholic Press Office, had stated that he regretted if “members of non-Christian churches” had been offended. Ferguson then went on to snidely remark that he presumed that this was “a simple mistake, and not a Freudian slip” on Fr Danny’s part.

It was neither.

Another gem from the Linklater pen: “It goes on to examine other Churches including the Church of England.” Oh no it didn’t! And barely mentioned them, except in passing.

Tarcisio Bertone’s boss, His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, stated quite clearly at the press conference that it was written not with the ongoing discussions between the Catholic Church and the Protestant and Anglican churches in mind, but rather the affairs of the Catholic Church in relation to the non-Christian (and, indeed, non-Jewish) churches. As the Document puts it the concern was with and in: “the practice of dialogue between the Christian faith and other religious traditions” (Introduction, paragraph 3).

Neither the Church of England, nor the Church of Scotland (nor, indeed, any other Protestant church) is anywhere mentioned in the Document, but section IV on Unicity and Unity of the Church does, indeed, apply to them. However, if the document is read carefully there is nothing therein that will surprise anyone, Catholic, or Protestant, or Anglican.

(The Vatican always distinguishes between Protestant and Anglican. In part this goes back to Pio nono, Pope Pius IX, and his anxious desire that Blessed Dominic Barberi’s crusade to convert England should go well. There was great rejoicing in the Papal household when word reached Rome that this saintly Passionist had received John Henry Newman into Holy Mother Church.)

Paragraphs 16 and 17 in that section are simply a re-statement of Catholic Church teaching from Vatican II onwards: absolutely nothing new, controversial, frightening or offensive for anyone already involved in ecumenical dialogue. And that is a lot more than can be said for the uninformed offerings of the various pundits supposedly in the know which were inflicted on us at the time of the document’s publication.

Essentially the text here simply restates what we Catholics have held, hold now, and always will hold to be the case: that the Church of Rome is the one, true, Catholic and Apostolic Church and that the Orthodox Churches can claim ─ despite the Schism, which arguably in any case might not really have been a true Schism since neither side at the time authoritatively excommunicated or anathematised the other (at least as far as I am aware) ─ direct apostolic succession and are, therefore, most close to our Catholic hearts.

So how then could Linklater talk of the “ecumenical movement” being “saddened” or even “horrified”? (Whatever the “ecumenical movement” actually is or was meant by him to be.) Presumably he thought that it consisted entirely of people like him who had not taken the time to read the Document, never mind attempted to understand it within its proper context.

Ah, context!

Although formally addressed to the “bishops, theologians, and all the Catholic faithful”, Dominus Iesus was primarily aimed at Catholic theologians working as either missionaries or as “native” priests, or in some other way involved with both of these categories. Most especially, Dominus Iesus was meant as a cautionary restatement of authentic Church teaching for the benefit of those working in the Indian sub-continent, parts of Africa, and South East Asia.

The late Archbishop Marcello Zago, then Secretary of the Congregation for Evangelization, and himself a former missionary priest in Laos, tried to put the document into its proper context in an interview with the Vatican News Agency, FIDES.


He said in part: “Too many theologians question the need for evangelization, and refrain from suggesting conversion from another religion.” (ie from a non-Christian religion!) He went onto say: “… the Church’s claim to offer the unique and complete means to salvation has prompted sharp opposition from some Asian religions ― particularly Hindus in India and Muslims in Indonesia and elsewhere. Some Christian missionaries respond by watering down the content of the Catholic faith and this is a mistake.”

Monday, 16 December 2013

Cardinal Burke

In light of the storm in a Roman coffee cup stirred up by Pope Francis not renewing Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke's membership of the Congregation for Bishops, I thought it might be opportune to publish here a piece I wrote on him five-and-a--half years ago (May 2008). But first, some common sense.

When, shortly after Pope Francis was elected, it was announced that all superiors of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia were to continue in post donec aliter provideatur”, that is pending any future possible arrangements being made, in effect until further notice, one important point was not highlighted and only became clear when Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, sostituto (Secretary of State Substitute for General Affairs, effectively the Papal Chief of Staff) was interviewed by L’Osservatore Romano on May 1 (published May 2). The operation of the “quinquennium” had also been suspended.

Normally, appointments to positions within the Roman Curia are for a five year term (the quinquennium). This is stipulated by Article 5 §1 of Pastor Bonus: “The prefect or president, the members of the body mentioned in art. 3, § 1 (that is the dicasteries, the various departments of the Roman Curia), the secretary, and the other senior administrators, as well as the consultors, are appointed by the Supreme Pontiff for a five-year term.”

When Cardinal Burke was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Clergy it was doubtless felt that he was up to speed with who was who and what was what at home in the USA. After more than five years in Rome that quite clearly can no longer be the case. So why NOT get someone else in who DOES know what side is up?

I cannot for the life of me see any reason to regard this as some sort of purgation.

Anyway, back to what I wrote over five years ago (slightly edited).


Burke’s Law

Raymond Leo Burke did not exactly rise without trace to succeed His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali as Archbishop of St Louis.

His academic record alone makes him stand out from the clerical and, indeed, prelatial crowd. Majoring in Philosophy, he graduated BA and MA from the Catholic University of America (1970 and ’71 respectively); STB (Bachelor of Sacred Theology), Pontifical Gregorian University (1974); MA (Theology), Gregorian (1975); Licentiate in Canon Law (LCJ), Gregorian (1982); Diploma in Latin Letters, Gregorian (1983); Doctor of Canon Law (JCD, specialising in Jurisprudence), Gregorian (1984).

It is hardly surprising that Archbishop Burke’s only known hobby is reading!

Ordained priest in St Peter’s Basilica by one Pope ― Paul VI, on June 29, 1975 ― and bishop at the same venue by another ― John Paul II, on January 6, 1995 ― he had between times been appointed as both a visiting Professor of Canonical Jurisprudence at the Pontifical Gregorian University (1985-94) and (in 1989) the first American Defender of the Bond for the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (he succeeded Fr William O'Connell OFM; when Cardinal Winning returned to Scotland in 1966 and became my PP at St Luke's, North Forgewood, Motherwell, it was wrongly asserted that he was the only British priest who was an Advocate of the Sacred Roman Rota; obviously Fr Willie and he made two) (Pope Benedict would later appoint the by then Archbishop Burke a Member of the College of Judges of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, in July 2006). Pope John Paul II named him a Prelate of Honour (Rt Rev Mgr) on 12 August 1993.

On November 23, 2003, the Solemnity of Christ the King, while still Bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Mgr Burke issued a Notification to the clergy of his diocese in which he pointed out that he was bound to be “solicitous for all the faithful entrusted to my care” (Code of Canon Law, canon 383 §1).

His went on to explain that in conformity with the teaching contained in Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, the document promulgated by the United States Conference of Bishops, he had “a fundamental responsibility of safeguarding and promoting the respect for human life” and, therefore, it was his duty “to explain, persuade, correct and admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the gospel of life through their actions and policies.

He reminded the clergy that His Holiness Pope John Paul II had frequently reminded us that “those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.” (Doctrinal Notes on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life [November 24,  2002, n4 §1])

The Notification then spells out the obvious: “A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion or euthanasia, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin which is a cause of most serious scandal to others. Universal Church law provides that such persons are not to be admitted to Holy Communion” (CCL, canon 915).

Within his then diocese, three Catholics active in politics ― two state representatives and a congressman ― had supported anti-life legislation and had ignored their bishop’s request for them to call on him and discuss the matter. Renewing his call for these Catholic legislators to “uphold the natural and divine law regarding the inviolable dignity of all human life”, Archbishop Burke reminded them again that to fail to do so “is a grave public sin and gives scandal to all the faithful” and he formally cautioned them that if they continued to support procured abortion or euthanasia then they “may not present themselves to receive Holy Communion.”

He then went further than any other member of the American hierarchy had previously done and instructed his clergy that if these legislators did present themselves for Holy Communion “they are not to be admitted…until such time as they publicly renounce their support of these most unjust practices.”

This created a sensation not merely in Wisconsin, and not solely within the Catholic Church, but throughout North America and, indeed, around the world. That sensation as well as spreading among the believers of other Christian communities, also stirred adherents of different religions and of none. And it didn't solely generate opposition.

The way of La Crosse

The American Life League, which with over 370,000 members is one of the biggest pro-life groups in the States, launched a campaign to mark the 31st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Wade-v-Roe which legalised abortion. It featured Mgr Burke’s clear and concise statement and, naturally, they called their campaign “The way of La Crosse”.

From scarcely being a household name in his own back yard, Mgr Burke soon rocketed not only onto the national, but also onto the international stage. For, no sooner had he been translated to the Archdiocese of St Louis, Missouri, than a supposedly Catholic Democratic candidate for the Presidency rolled into town. When asked by a local journalist what would happen if Senator John Kerry approached his altar rail at Communion, the newly installed archbishop could only give but one reply: “I would have to admonish him not to present himself for Communion. I might give him a blessing or something. If his archbishop has told him he should not present himself for Communion, he shouldn’t. I agree with Archbishop O’Malley.”

(Archbishop, now Cardinal, O’Malley, who had then but recently replaced Cardinal Law in Boston, had called on legislators who do not support the Gospel of Life to refrain of their own volition from presenting themselves for the Blessed Sacrament. But, of course, Archbishop Burke was going further.)

This, then, was one American Roman Catholic bishop prepared to refuse Holy Communion to a potential President of the United States of America. Inside the Vatican named him one of the top-ten People of the Year along with the likes of Mel Gibson and Dolores Hart. (“Dolores who?” You might well ask. Well, Dolores was in her younger days only the first ever actress to kiss Elvis Presley on screen. Now living the contented life of a Benedictine nun, many years later asked: “What is it like kissing Elvis?” She chuckled a bit at the memory and then said: “I think the limit for a screen kiss back then was something like 15 seconds. That one has lasted 40 years.” HT Wikipedia. )

But critics were not hard to find, especially among the ranks of the “liberal” Catholics.

William Bablitch, a former Justice of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, was quoted as having said: “Certainly the bishop has every right to express his own views to an elected official. But to invoke the moral authority of the Church in a threatening way (!) to a legislator seems to cross over a line that has been very carefully drawn and is very well respected in this country.”

Strange might it seem to us on this older side of the Atlantic that a Catholic judge would regard as being “threatening” a Bishop advising members of his flock of the mortal danger to their souls of their own actions. Thankfully, however, two Catholic American Professors of Law also found that odd.

Robert George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Programme in American Ideals at Princeton University, and Gerard Bradley is Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame and President of the American Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. In National Review Online they defended Archbishop Burke. 

They argued that since the Democratic leaders of both houses of Congress are professed Catholics who support the so-called “woman’s right to choose”, it was about time that a member of the American hierarchy spoke out. Noting that he has been called a “fanatic” ― surprise, surprise by a Professor of Theology at a Jesuit run University ― and of having “crossed the line” (see Bablitch above), they dismissed both ideas as being absurd. They pointed out that Archbishop Burke had merely exercised his constitutional right to the free expression of his religion and that in doing so he was “not denying others of their rights. No one is compelled by law to accept his authority. But Bishop Burke has every right to exercise his spiritual authority over anyone who chooses to accept it. There is a name for such people. They are called Catholics.”

Pope Francis's First Consistory: Archbishop Baldisserri

When he returned to the Sistine Chapel from the Room of Tears and received the homage of the cardinal electors, the newly elected Pope Francis then received the homage of the four prelates summoned after the canonical election had been accepted: the Secretary of the Conclave, the Master of the Papal Liturgical Ceremonies and the two Assistant Masters of Ceremonies. As the Secretary, Archbishop Lorenzzo Baldisseri, knelt Pope Francis placed on his head the scarlet cardinal’s zucchetto of which, naturally, he had no further use. Thus he indicated his intention, according to an ancient tradition not always followed in modern times, to reward the Secretary with the Sacred Roman Purple at the first opportunity. (As far as I can determine the last Pope to do this was Good Pope John in 1958. The recipient of papal benefaction was Mgr Alberto di Jorio who had been Secretary of the Sacred College of Cardinals since 1947.)

It must be remembered, of course, that Mgr Baldisseri was not a stranger to His Holiness. His Excellency was Nuncio in Haiti and Paraguay 1992-99 and in Brazil 2002-12 and they would have often met at CELAM (Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano, the Latin American Episcopal Council). (In between times he had been Nuncio to India and Nepal.)

Moreover, Mgr Baldisseri was a classmate and friend at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (Class of ’71) of one of the few men in the Roman Curia whom the Pope knew extremely well, Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (the 22 Eastern Rite Churches in full communion with Rome). Cardinal Sandri, like Pope Francis, is the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina; and, he is a priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires.

On the day our own Mgr Cushley was being honoured with episcopal ordination and installation as Archbishop and Metropolitan of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, September 21, back in Rome Pope Francis was making a few announcements involving some of his former colleagues in the Secretariat of State.

Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro (Portugal), a former Nuncio, resigned as Major Penitentiary a mere 6 months after his 75th birthday. Moreover, he had only been in office for about a year and a half. But this allowed the Pope to transfer Mauro Cardinal Piacenza out of the Congregation for the Clergy to the Apostolic Penitentiary and install Archbishop Beniamino Stella as Prefect. Mgr Stella had been President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (where Cardinal Monteiro de Castro had been a classmate of our very own Mgr Basil Loftus, Academia Class of 1965).

Archbishop Nikola Eterovic was removed from his post as Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Naturally, His Excellency was given an important assignment, Apostolic Nuncio to Germany. Aged 62 years, His Excellency will in all likelihood be made cardinal when in due course this present mission is concluded since, now reunited, Germany is again one of the most important delegations. (And all three predecessors of Archbishop Eterovic as General Secretary were created cardinal.)

But why remove him? His Excellency certainly had done nothing wrong, either personally or professionally. Pope Francis had early decided that the Synod of Bishops was to be central to his Pontificate. After due deliberation, he has further decided that in consequence it has to be headed by a cardinal, or by a prelate who can be created cardinal at the first opportunity. Elevation in Archbishop Eterovic’s case would have been premature at this time. Not unmerited, simply premature.

And so Pope Francis decided that the man for the job was the man he honoured mere moments after his election: Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, aged 73 years.

“Pope Leaves Vatican” ceased to be front page headline news after Pope Paul VI left the Vatican and Rome for the Holy Land on January 4, 1964 (he would leave it on another ten occasions, eight of them to venture furth of Italy). If anyone doubted the importance Pope Francis attaches to the work of the Synod, then what happened on Monday, October 7, was instructive. Pope Francis again astounded the Vaticanisti when he left the Vatican and made his way the short distance along Via della Conciliazione — the magnificent street created by Mussolini which leads directly onto St Peter’s Square from Castel Sant’Angelo — and headed to the Palazzo del Bramante for a meeting in the office of the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

He went there to discuss both changes needed within the secretariat and the agenda for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops called for October 5-18 next year on the theme “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of the Evangelization.” This was a case of Mohamet come to the mountain not because it would not come to him, but because he did not presume that it ought. (See Francis Bacon “Essays” published in 1625, Chapter 12.)

It is no surprise that comment on the Extraordinary Synod has focused on the vexed question of the pastoral care of the divorced and remarried, and not least their being denied Holy Communion, but another most important aspect of all this has been ignored, or, and this is more likely, missed. Pope Francis,  like his three immediate predecessors — ignoring Pope John Paul I as he died before anything concrete could be deduced of his intentions in the matter — sees reconciliation with the separated brethren of the Orthodox East as the most important, and achievable, goal of ecumenical activity.

On Saturday, September 18, 2008, at early Vespers in the Sistine Chapel to celebrate the participation of Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, at the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, His All Holiness said at the beginning of his remarks: “It is well known that the Orthodox Church attaches to the Synodical system fundamental ecclesiological importance. Together with primacy, synodality constitutes the backbone of the Church’s government and organisation.

“As our (the Pope and his) Joint International Commission on the Theological Dialogue between our Churches expressed it in the Ravenna document, this interdependence between synodality and primacy runs through all the levels of the Church’s life: local, regional and universal. Therefore, in having today the privilege to address Your Synod our hopes are raised that the day will come when our two Churches will fully converge on the role of primacy and synodality in the Church’s life, to which our common Theological Commission is devoting its study at the present time.”

Pope John Paul II’s dream of the Church breathing with both lungs, East and West, has just come a lot closer to being realised. Pope Francis, by appointing Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, whom he has already as the first act of his pontificate, even before it had formerly begun — he hadn’t signed the document, so he could still have changed his mind! — publicly indicated is to be made a cardinal at his first consistory has sent a clear message: the Synod is of such importance that its secretariat must become one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia of the first rank, requiring to be headed by a cardinal, or an archbishop who will be made a cardinal at the first opportunity. Whether he formally erects it as a tenth Congregation of the Roman Rota awaits to be seen.


Friday, 13 December 2013

Pope Francis's Watchword: Festina Lente!

My Latin teacher in First Year at Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell, despaired, but something obviously stuck. Festina lente! Hasten slowly!

Juglio Iglesias, the Spanish tenor, and Shay Brennan, the Manchester-born Irish footballer of happy memory, were on a TV show hosted by Anne Diamond. When Iglesias used the word “mañana”, Diamond asked him what that word actually meant. Iglesias replied: “A job, or whatever, that might be done tomorrow, maybe the next day, or the day after that. Perhaps next week, next month, or even next year. Who cares?”

Turning to Brennan, Diamond asked him if there was an Irish equivalent to “mañana”. “No,” he replied “in Ireland we don’t have a word to describe that degree of urgency.”  

In his La Civiltà Cattolica interview, Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ asked Pope Francis: “What does it mean for a Jesuit to be Bishop of Rome?” Strictly speaking, that should in fact be “ex-Jesuit” as, under canon law, His Holiness ceased to be a Jesuit the moment he accepted election. But to take the time to simply point that out and leave it there is to hasten slowly for a wrong reason: See how clever I am!

However, we have hastened slowly for a right reason if, after having made that observation, I then go on to assure that this notwithstanding this is in essence a conversation between two senior, vastly experienced and greatly respected members of the Society of Jesus known by name to all throughout the Society. Moreover, it is a conversation recorded in interview form specifically for the attention of the readership of 16 Jesuit journals published across the world (the editors of which journals all contributed questions for Fr Spadaro to consider including in his interrogation of their man).

In other words, now before proceeding to consider what the Pope actually said in reply, we are fully aware of the context in which he said it. Pope Francis is speaking to an essentially Jesuit and Jesuit affiliate audience. These weren’t words of wisdom directed as per an encyclical to “the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious, the Lay Faithful and All People of Good Will” (to whom Pope Benedict XVI addressed his three encyclicals; Blessed Pope John Paul II had a slightly different formulation). It is not a contribution to the Magisterium. This is a message directed to a specific audience Pope Francis knows well; an audience which speaks the same language, whichever language they happen variously to read it in.

Now back to the question at hand. Although later in the interview he would admit that in his early days in a position of leadership he had been overhasty and too autocratic, the new Bishop of Rome here indicates he has realised the importance and the consequence of the application of the notion of discernment as taught by St Ignatius. Importantly, he notes: “This discernment takes time. For example, many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment.”

There is, of course, the apparently contradicting lesson of experience. For he then adds: “Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later.” The garbled grammar is the responsibility of the translators commissioned by the American Jesuit Magazine “America”. It obscures, but does not completely hide, the point being made. Pope Francis is all too well aware that the time taken for discernment might appear to have been wasted — if we end up doing what we immediately thought of doing when the matter first surfaced — but it hasn’t been. For, instinct and intuition have been reinforced with dialogue based on sound reason and hence, with a degree of consensus, we can proceed with confidence.

Festina lente does not mean failing to procrastinate today because we can just as easily put it off until tomorrow.

In anticipation of the conclave in March, I noted: “There are many problems urgently clamouring for the new Pope’s immediate attention. The problem is that no Pope can do everything that is required of him all by himself.” Obviously, both the cardinals and Pope Francis agreed with me. One month to the day after his election, on April 13, VISNews, the official Vatican news agency, reported: “The Holy Father Francis, taking up a suggestion that emerged during the General Congregations preceding the Conclave, has established a group of cardinals to advise him in the government of the universal Church and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, ‘Pastor Bonus’.”

Pope Francis met with this Council of Cardinal Consultors (the Papal G8) for the first time at the beginning of this month, October 1–3. His Holiness took a month to identify who he wanted to advise him and he then asked them to take about six months to rehearse, research and consult on, within their respective geographical areas, the compound problem identified by him as most urgently requiring attention.

In that same anticipation of the conclave alluded to above, it was suggested that the conclavists “must take a long view” and that the feeling was irresistible that “that long view must demand that close attention be given to one long neglected problem before all others: the central governance of the Church, the Roman Curia… if we are finally to see the proper implementation of the rightly interpreted fruits of the Second Vatican Council.”

But the priority had to be the appointment of “an effective Secretary of State” and the announcement of that came about five-and-a-half months after the election of Pope Francis, on August 31. Archbishop Pietro Parolin was due to take up his post on Tuesday, October 15, but on a visit to his family in Veneto he suffered appendicitis and had to undergo surgery. Happily, the good Archbishop was allowed home on Friday, October 25,  and will spend some time recuperating by being fussed over at home by his family before taking up the reins of power in the Secretariat.

Almost immediately after his election, on March 16, Pope Francis had announced, again according to VISNews: “Heads and members of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as well as their Secretaries, and also the President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, continue ‘donec aliter provideatur’, that is, provisionally, in their respective positions.” And it also explained why. The Holy Father wished “to reserve time for reflection, prayer, and dialogue before any final appointment or confirmation is made.”

In Rome, nothing is being rushed. Festina lente reigns supreme. But that doesn’t mean nothing is being done.

Pope Francis, who in reality knew little or nothing about the actual workings, or the workers, of the Roman Curia, was going to take the time and go to the trouble of getting to know enough about both before he made any decisions about who would stay and who would go. Or, who would be transferred, and, to where.

Festina lente: both efficiency and justice demands it. But Pope Francis has not been idle.

And, funnily enough, one of the very first things he did, mere moments after his election and before he had even signed the official document of acceptance, something which, encouraged by one of his fellow Latin American cardinals, he did instinctively, or intuitively, or whatever but most assuredly without having thought the consequences through, that is without discernment, has, in the sober light of day, proved to be crucially important.