Sunday, March 30, 2008

Archbishop Timothy Broglio on Benedict XVI

Remarks of Archbishop Timothy Broglio (USCCB Papal Visit Blog March 27, 2008):

... There is no question that the Holy Father perceives clearly his role as teacher and evangelizer. His devotion to diligent personal study, his responsibilities, and a very simple lifestyle characterized his manner during the years that I witnessed his direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. He was known for his deference and courtesy to visiting bishops, even to the point of escorting them to the door of the office. He was seldom seen at diplomatic receptions, but was known as a man who dedicated himself to office and home.

He was easily recognized as he walked in his simple black cassock from the renaissance building which housed his office to the plain oblong block of apartments on the other side of St. Peter’s Square which housed his residence. He lived alone there after his sister passed away.Even today his lifestyle is still very simple. Despite the beauty of the Apostolic Palace, the papal living quarters are very plain. Until St. Pius X (elected in 1903), the popes lived on the piano nobile or second floor of the palace. The present offices of the Secretary of State were the papal apartments until that time. So the present Holy Father has surrounded himself with his books and continues his reserved life style. He generally does not have guests at meals or at his private Mass. In that sense, he has changed the practice of his beloved predecessor, the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II.

Photo: Benodette @ The Benedict Forum
He is a kind man who looks intently at his interlocutor and gives him his undivided attention. His public schedule is indeed less ambitious than that of his predecessor, but he has established his priorities and there must be time for study, writing, and rest. At almost 81 years of age he maintains a very heavy schedule. One other innovation in his schedule is the afternoon walk in the Vatican Gardens. At precisely 4 p.m. every afternoon, he is driven up into the gardens for a walk. That is actually a return to the tradition of Blessed Pope John XXIII, abandoned so as not to clear the gardens of everyone.

Anyone who has listened to his statements since the election of “a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord” (Pope Benedict XVI, April 19, 2005) knows that he is a capable speaker who draws from his vast theological preparation and experience. He has a clear message and asks difficult questions. The center of his encyclical on love, which insists on the importance of its practice or his question in Spe Salvi — does the contemporary Christian believer still hope? — manifest his willingness to tackle contemporary problems.

Obviously, he is kept abreast of the world situation by the pontifical representatives, apostolic nuncios and delegates, and the bishops and religious throughout the world. His interventions to the diplomatic community have made clear the depth of his understanding and analysis of world situation and his ardent desire for world peace. He expects the United States to play a role in the realization of that goal:

“I cannot fail to note with gratitude the importance which the United States has attributed to interreligious and intercultural dialogue as a positive force for peacemaking. The Holy See is convinced of the great spiritual potential represented by such dialogue, particularly with regard to the promotion of nonviolence and the rejection of ideologies which manipulate and disfigure religion for political purposes, and justify violence in the name of God. The American people’s historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse and in shedding light on the inherent moral dimension of social issues…” [Benedict XVI, February 29, 2008]

I - like all of you – am very much looking forward to his messages to all of us during his visit. It is certain that they will be useful both for the faithful and for the community of nations. I do not doubt that he will seek to promote the cause of peace and respect for the human rights of all from conception to natural death. ...

Former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Timothy Broglio currently heads the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, to which he was appointed by Pope Benedict in November 2007.

John Allen Jr. - "Papal Travel Trivial Pursuit"

John Allen Jr. offers a wealth of historical information in his posting of Trivial Pursuit about Papal Travel in America ( March 29, 2008). Did you know that Benedict XVI will become the third pope to visit the United States, but he will actually be the fourth to set foot on American territory?

... In 1849, Pope Pius IX was received aboard the USS Constitution, which happened to be anchored in Gaeta, Italy, where the pope had taken refuge after a popular uprising chased him out of Rome. Allowing the pope to come aboard was a diplomatic gaffe, since the United States was officially neutral in the struggle over the Papal States between Pius IX and Italian nationalists. Nevertheless, the captain of the Constitution, John Gwinn, invited the pontiff aboard when he arrived with King Ferdinand of Sicily for a tour.

Pius IX distributed rosaries to the Catholic sailors and gave blessings. He became seasick and took a brief rest in the captain’s chambers, then disembarked to a 21-cannon salute. Gwinn was later threatened with court-martial for the breach of protocol, but died before a trial could be held. (I owe this nugget to the book The United States and the Holy See: The Long Road, by former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See James Nicholson.)

Find out more.

Benedict to catch Ballgame in DC?

Catholic News Service' Jim Lackey spots a significant typo in the reporting of Folio magazine / Huffington Post.

Carl Olson on David Gibson's "Preconceived Notions"

Archbishop Pietro Sambi - "The Pope's U.S. Tour Guide"

The International Herald-Tribune interviews Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and designated "tour guide" for the Pope's visit to the United States.

Sambi has some good advice for the press, and anybody wishing to get a grasp on the Holy Father:

Benedict, a former professor, is a pope who cultivates words more than dramatic gestures - in contrast to his predecessor, John Paul II. The key in this trip, the archbishop said, will be to listen to Benedict's speeches, in their entirety.

"He is not a man of blah, blah, blah," Archbishop Sambi said. "He's a thinker, and before speaking, he thinks. And he prays a lot."

The Archbishop assures the Tribune that Benedict "will not at all interfere with the electoral process. He will not meet with any of the candidates"; yet, he will likely address "issues germane to the election: poverty, the war in Iraq, abortion and euthanasia, gay marriage, environmental degradation and immigrants" -- in addition to the priestly abuse scandal that has plagued the Church since 2002:
The subject could come up at a meeting and prayer service with American bishops in Washington. It was initially billed as private, but is now open to the media. The archbishop said, "If it would have been closed-door, can you imagine the fantasy of the journalists to invent what they don't know? Better to be open."

Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston who resigned over his role in reassigning priests with a record of sexual abuse and is now assigned to a basilica in Rome, will not join the delegation traveling with the pope, said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Celebrating the Bicentennial

April 8, 2008 marks a very special year for the Catholic Church in America, as the Dioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown, KY celebrate their bicentennial.

The ecclesial terrorities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia were initially part of what was called the "Apostolic Prefecture of the United States", established on November 26, 1784.

The apostolic prefecture was elevated to become the Diocese of Baltimore on November 6, 1789, and later promoted to an archdiocese on April 8, 1808 by Pope Pius VII -- at which time the dioceses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Bardstown were established.

Bardstown, KY was the first see in inland America, covering all the land from the Great Lakes to the Deep South and from the Allegheny Mountains to the Mississippi River. The see was transferred to Louisville in 1841.

As the Catholic population grew in the United States, smaller dioceses were later carved out:

  • The diocese of Boston originally consisted of the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
  • The Diocese of New York covered all of the state of New York, as well as the New Jersey counties of Sussex, Bergen, Morris, Essex, Somerset, Middlesex, and Monmouth.
  • The diocese of Philadelphia included all of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and 7 counties of New Jersey.
  • From Bardstown, KY came more than forty new dioceses, including Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Detroit.

When we consider the hardships and sacrifices Catholics had to face in those years we can only look back with wonder and gratitude at how far we have come. In a December 2007 homily, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston describes the challenges that faced those at the founding of the Catholic Church in America:

In the good ol’ days, here in Boston, there were laws that were very anti-Catholic. Priests were not allowed into this colony. If a priest were to be found, he was to be banished. If he returned, he would be executed. And each year, as people sang, “Remember, remember, the 5th of November,” the pope was burned in effigy on the Boston Common. I am sure that those early residents of the Bay State would be horrified if they had known that Pope John Paul II would one day come to the Boston Common and celebrate the Eucharist there for about 400,000 people.

Yes, 200 years ago, it was not easy to be a Catholic in America. The Jesuit order had been dissolved because of political pressures. The former Jesuit, Father John Carroll was appointed the first bishop of Baltimore in 1787 by Pope Pius VI. The pope was a prisoner of Napoleon at the time and died in captivity. The conclave to elect his successor was held at a Benedictine Monastery in Venice, since the cardinals were not safe in Rome. On March 21, 1800, Pius VII was elected pope. Pius VII was the pope who established the dioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Barnestown in 1808. That same year, Napoleon conquered the Papal States and kidnapped the pope, who was prisoner for six years. In those days, the entire Catholic population of the diocese [of Boston] would not have filled this church. There were about 1,000 Catholics and two priests. ...

Following are some resources that may be of interest to Catholic history buffs, as we anticipate Pope Benedict's papal visit to the United States, during which time he will recognize and celebrate the bicentennial of the Catholic Church in America.
Baltimore, MD

New York


Bardstown, KY

Benedict's Birthday Party and other "Unofficial" Meetings

The Washington Times reports that the Holy Father "has two schedules for his upcoming U.S. visit: A jampacked list of official events and an unofficial schedule of evening meetings" -- including a birthday party at the Italian Embassy featuring world-famous tenor Placido Domingo.

The splashy April 16 party — in celebration of the pope turning 81 — is sponsored by all eight former and current U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican. Several hundred people are invited.

The pope — who will meet that afternoon with U.S. Catholic bishops at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast, is not expected to make the party's 6:30 p.m. kickoff time.

In fact, he's not even been officially invited . . .

Say what? -- Not even a formal invitation?
"It's really not in his tradition to attend parties," explained Mr. Melady, now senior diplomat in residence at the World Institute of Politics. "His happiest days were when he was a young priest and teaching at the seminary."
According to the article a number of notable guests will be in attendance, including Vice President Dick Cheney, former ambassador to the Vatican Raymond Flynn, Austin Ruse (president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) and American Enterprise scholar Michael Novak.

According to Flynn, there are several "off the record" meetings involving the Pope:

"There are private conversations and discussions with people here. I think they want to keep those meetings as private as they possibly can. They [the Vatican] will release an official schedule, but they'll leave a lot out." ... Robert George, a leading Catholic scholar at Princeton University, implied he'd be meeting privately with the pope in Washington but refused to divulge details.
Given the Princeton scholar's role on the President's Council of Bioethics (a topic of concern for the Pope), one can only speculate.

Washington DC Metro issues commemorative "Mass Pass"

Taking Metro is best bet in getting to papal Mass, by Richard Szczepanowski. Catholic Standard March 26, 2008:

To celebrate Pope Benedict XVI's historic visit here, Metro is offering a commemorative one-day "Mass Pass" that will give riders unlimited access to Metro all day on April 17.

"It will feature the event logo so it will be a great keepsake of this special day," Susan Gibbs, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Washington, said.

Metro will sell the one-day commemorative pass for $9.

[The diocese recommends that] Mass-goers purchase the "Mass Pass" in advance to avoid the long lines expected at farecard machines that day. To purchase passes, log on to Individuals and groups up to 22 persons can purchase on-line using a credit card. For groups larger than 22 people, call 202-962-5700 to place a bulk order.

Meet Ravi Gupta - representing the Hindu faith

The Louisville-Kentucky Courier Journal profiles Ravi Gupta, selected to present a gift to the Pope on behalf of Hindus at the interfaith meeting:

Ravi Gupta thought someone was playing a joke on him when the Centre College religion professor received a phone call inviting him to greet Pope Benedict XVI next month during the pontiff's visit to the United States. ...

"At first I couldn't believe it," said Gupta, 25. "I thought it was a prank call, ... but when I realized what was happening, I was deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity. It's very important in today's world especially for religious leaders to get together and show the world their intention of living together peacefully and trying to understand each other."

He added: "When religious leaders do that, especially people of the caliber of the pope, it really sends a strong message to those of us in the lay community that this is something we need to attempt at the grassroots level."

Gupta will be part of a small delegation bringing gifts to the pope. He'll be presenting an incense burner in the shape of the symbol of the Hindu sacred syllable, om, which Hindus believe is represents the unifying principle from which creation springs. ...

At first, Gupta said he couldn't figure out why organizers of the papal trip had invited him. He later learned he had made a strong impression on Catholics who had attended an interfaith conference where he gave a Hindu perspective on the problem of suffering. (read more)

According to the article, Gupta wasn't phased by the Roman Catholic Church's insistence on being the means to salvation (a point frequently articulated by Pope Benedict when speaking on interreligious matters). In fact, he responded in what one might call a "typically Hindu" fashion:
"The Catholic Church is no means unique in this," he said. "Religious organizations have repeatedly made these types of claims. ... It's important that whatever theology we might have provides room to give hope to our neighbors. No one is without hope, even if they choose to follow another path."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Newsweek to offer live 'Popecast" of Benedict's visit

Newsweek is planning a live Webcast of Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to the United States:

Dubbed Newsweek's "Popecast" by video producer and contributing editor Tammy Haddad, the magazine will offer live streaming coverage of the Washington, D.C. portion of Benedict's trip, slated for April 15-20. The Webcast will be anchored by Newsweek editor Jon Meacham.

"It's all about the pageantry," says Haddad, a former top producer MSNBC who was retained by Newsweek last fall to map out its video coverage online.

(Hat tip: Huffington Post)

Quick Ganswein, to the PopeMobile!

New Yorkers Get to See Popemobile During Papal Visit Gothamist March 29, 2008:

Interested observers who want to see Pope Benedict during his April visit to New York, but couldn't score tickets to his appearance at Yankee Stadium, will be able to glimpse the head of the Roman Catholic church's hierarchy as he cruises the city in the Popemobile. Pope Benedict will be taking the bullet proof bubble car from St. Patrick's Cathedral to a residence where he's staying on the Upper East Side April 19th. He'll also be taking the specially outfitted vehicle to the Bronx, where he'll lap the field at Yankee Stadium before he performs mass for ticket holders.

Wikipedia actually has a rather substantial entry on the Pope's famous means of transportation; for further details on this particular model, see Thomas Peters (American Papist).

Associated Press: Public "less likely" to see Pope due to security concerns

The Associated Press reports today that the public will be "less likely" to see the Pope in Washington DC:

On Oct. 6, 1979, Pope John Paul II emerged from a car's sunroof, waving and smiling to thousands of cheering onlookers who lined Washington streets and even climbed trees for a glimpse of the Roman Catholic leader.

Things will be different when Pope Benedict XVI arrives next month.

The public will have fewer opportunities to see Benedict because of security concerns and a tighter schedule. Benedict has just one public event in the nation's capital — a Mass at the Nationals stadium on April 17 — and will travel through the city in a closed car or in the popemobile, a specially designed and secure vehicle used by the pontiff during public appearances.

"His visit reflects the times we live in," said Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington. "There has to be a little higher level of security, unfortunately."


Organizers of Benedict's Mass in Washington are going out of their way to ensure that only legitimate attendees will enter the stadium. The tickets are nontransferable and each is bar-coded to a specific seat, Gibbs said. That way, if the archdiocese learns of a ticket being scalped on the Internet, the ticket can be canceled. To enter the stadium, adults will have to show a government-issued ID and pass through metal detectors.

New Yorkers don't get off so easily either. According to the New York Archdiocese, "there have been more than 200,000 requests for the 57,000 or so seats for the Mass."

Richmond Catholic schools prepare for Benedict

Catholic schools prepare students for pope's visit March 29, 2008:

Many educators at the 29 Catholic schools serving about 10,000 students in the Diocese of Richmond are connecting classroom discussion with the six-day papal trip scheduled for next month.

"Schools are allowed to prepare students for the visit in any way appropriate," said Annette Parsons, chief school administrator for the diocese.

Eighth-graders peppered religion teacher Jim Eliasek for 35 minutes with questions equally profound and humorous one recent morning at St. Benedict's Catholic School in the Fan District.

Why does the pope ride in a limo when he's taken a vow of poverty?

Can he wear jeans?

How will he be received by non-Catholics?


Next week, the students will illustrate the facts they have memorized and make collages, bulletin boards and banners. Every student also will sign a birthday card for Benedict, who turns 81 on April 16, the second day of his trip.

On April 15, Diocesan Bishop Emeritus Walter F. Sullivan will visit All Saints to "pray with us and tell us why the pope is coming to America," Cash said. "We hope to persuade him to take our birthday card" to the pope.

Washington Mass a Liturgical Disappointment?

"Brace yourself for the Pope's mass in DC", says Jeffrey Tucker (The New Liturgical Movement), responding to the Washingtion Diocese' announcement regarding its selection of music. Tucker pronounces the list -- "it includes mostly Gospel numbers, some rock/blues thrown in ("Jesus is Here Right Now"), together with the "Mass of Creation" Sanctus and Amen" -- "as skimpy as it is troubling."

At issue: the question of cultural diversity, personal creativity and Catholic universality as it is manifested in the musical selection:

The director Tom Stehle says that the music announced so far "represents our long Catholic and Christian tradition and the current diversity of our church."

I can't understand the implication that our diversity as Catholics is somehow "current" and not part of our past. This usually comes with the claim that the music of our past is bound up with Eurocentric sensibilities and unsuitable for a diverse age. Actually, a defining mark of true liturgical music is its universality over time and space, and chant and its elaborations certainly have that mark of universality about them. Its universality is one of the most remarkable discoveries made by musicologists who have looked at chant in the first millennium. And this feature is not only part of the history of chant; it is also an embedded melodic feature of Gregorian plainsong that it strives to transcend time and place.

All of this I learned from reading the Pope's own writings on liturgy and music.

Moreover--and this pains me to think of it--our current "multicultural" obsessions are more than a little insulting to racial minorities and especially African American Catholics. It is a caricature of the worst sort to assume that only Gospel spirituals somehow "represent" their culture and people, and to further imply that chant is somehow incomprehensible to them. I can only speak from my own experience in this regard: the African Americans in parishes I've worked in are among the most passionate supporters of authentic sacred music, precisely because it is an aid to prayer, which, after all, is the core of liturgical art.

From what we have seen so far, the music at the D.C. Papal Mass is not a progressive program. It is a pre-Benedict program with a utility-oriented lineup focussed on making some kind of cultural/political/sociological statement to someone (American Catholics? The Vatican? The Pope?) through the liturgy. There is no evidence of change, growth,and development toward ideals.

Let's hear it from the Pope himself -- an excerpt from The Spirit of the Liturgy (SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000), pp. 146-47:

In the West, in the form of Gregorian chant, the inherited tradition of psalm-singing was developed to a new sublimity and purity, which set a permanent standard for sacred music, music for the liturgy of the Church. Polyphony developed in the late Middle Ages, and then instruments came back into divine worship--quite rightly, too, because, as we have seen, the Church not only continues the synagogue, but also takes up, in the light of Christ's Pasch, the reality represented by the Temple. Two new factors are thus at work in Church music. Artistic freedom increasingly asserts its rights, even in the liturgy. Church music and secular music are now each influenced by the other. This is particularly clear in the case of the so-called "parody Masses", in which the text of the Mass was set to a theme or melody that came from secular music, with the result that anyone hearing it might think he was listening to the latest "hit". It is clear that these opportunities for artistic creativity and the adoption of secular tunes brought danger with them. Music was no longer developing out of prayer, but, with the new demand for artistic autonomy, was now heading away from the liturgy; it was becoming an end in itself, opening the door to new, very different ways of feeling and of experiencing the world. Music was alienating the liturgy from its true nature.

At this point the Council of Trent intervened in the culture war that had broken out. It was made a norm that liturgical music should be at the service of the Word; the use of instruments was substantially reduced; and the difference between secular and sacred music was clearly affirmed.

Homework: "Pope Benedict XVI on Sacred Music", compiled by St. Michael's Catholic Church in Auburn, Alabama


Washington Mass tickets printed, awaiting distribution

(Via PopeWatch), an update regarding tickets to the Washington Nationals Mass:

If you have been informed that you've gotten tickets to the papal Mass at Nationals Park on April 17, you should receive the actual ticket fairly shortly.

The papal Mass tickets have arrived at the offices of the archdiocese of Washington and will be shipped to parishes and diocese next week, according to archdiocese spokesperson Susan Gibbs. From there, they will be distributed to individuals.

The archdiocese has set up a wait list site. Gibbs said that so far they have received 1,000 requests at the site for 3,000 tickets.


Peter Steinfels on "Clichéd Coverage" of Benedict XVI

Pope Is Coming, as Is Clichéd Coverage in the Media, by Peter Steinfels. New York Times March 29, 2008:

This will now be the eighth or ninth papal trip to the United States, depending on whether one counts John Paul II’s several hours of layover in Anchorage in 1981. What is surprising about every papal visit, at least after 1965, when Paul VI addressed the United Nations, is what so many people find surprising. Each time they are surprised, for example, that the pope hasn’t abandoned the notion that all human lives, even in their earliest, embryonic phases, deserve protection and that therefore abortion is wrong.

They are similarly surprised that many American Roman Catholics honor the pope yet disagree with papal positions, whether about using contraception, restricting legal access to abortion, ordaining married men or women to the priesthood, or recognizing same-sex relationships.

This kind of disagreement may signal, as some argue, a severe crisis in church authority. Or it may be more of a norm throughout Catholic history than is widely realized. But whatever it is, it is not new.

The most surefire satirical segments on “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” consist of quick clips of newscasters or politicians beating the same phrase into the ground. It is easy to imagine clips from 1987 until now with one talking head after another intoning about the pope coming to visit “a divided flock ... divided flock ... divided flock.” What rings false is not the fact. It is the breathlessness.

Breathlessness is always a problem with papal visits. The trouble with melodrama is that it displaces genuine drama. Caricature replaces character.

How do you tell a good article on the Pope/Church from a bad one?

Observe the extent to which the author focuses on the grievances of "progressives" against the orthodox ("traditional") Church, with precious little attempt to understand and explain exactly WHY the Church takes the positions that it does.

Today's "pope article" from U.S. News -- Pope Reaches Out to American Catholics, by Jay Tolson. March 28, 2008 -- contains a few choice examples of this bias in action:

". . . Some council supporters even wish that the modernizing spirit had gone further, permitting married clergy or allowing women to enter the priestly ranks. And the nearly two thirds of American Catholics who oppose the ban on condoms tend to view the church's inflexible stand on birth control as a betrayal of the council's spirit. . . . "

[...] "Progressives tend to see the problem in terms of a fundamental lack of realism on the part of the hierarchy, particularly the continued insistence on a celibate clergy. Many also think greater lay participation in church governance would help. One recent poll shows that some 44 percent of American Catholics approve of the idea of parishes choosing their own priests. And some Catholics want to have a say in the selection of bishops. . . ."

[...] "As the U.S. Catholic population has risen from about 46 million in 1965 to about 64 million in 2007, the total number of priests has declined during the same time by some 17,000, leaving 3,238 parishes without resident priests. Again, the progressive remedies, in addition to ordination of women and married men, focus on greater lay involvement in the ministry—solutions for which Benedict appears to have little or no regard. Rowden says that it is clearly symbolic that Benedict's mass communion at Yankee Stadium will involve no lay Eucharistic ministers, a decision that suggests a further disconnect with the church in America. . . ."

Subtext: Hierarchy is SO old and unrealistic, man. Democracy is the American way. Rome should follow the lead of "modern" American Catholics and get with the times. If the Church REALLY wanted to adhere to "Spirit of Vatican II," it would immediately renounce its sexist prohibition against women and its puritan demand for celibacy, and it's draconian strictures against contraception.

The Catholic Church, like its founder, is destined to be a sign of contradiction in this life. Those who think it should bend in conformity to the whims of the modern age will continue to protest, to mock, to ridicule. We can expect the press to emphasize those elements at which the Church is at variance with the status quo.

In preparation for Benedict's arrival, the discerning reader (or reporter) might want to understand WHY the Church teaches what it does. Consider the followng for starters:

Why celibacy in the priesthood?

  • Cardinal O'Connor: Celibacy Isn't the Problem:
    It's remarkable how determined some media and other people are that we priests should be married. How they sympathize with us over the supposed cruelties of celibacy being imposed upon us by a Pope who purportedly has no understanding whatsoever of the compassion of Jesus. ...
  • The Logic of Priestly Celibacy, by Fr. Anthony Zimmerman, S.T.D. (Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 1995).
Why no female priests?
  • Why Can’t Women Be Priests?, by Jason Evert. This Rock Volume 13, No. 1 (January 2002)
  • Why women can't be priests (
    "No way will I ever tell my daughter she can't ever be a priest, a deacon, a altar server or whatever... This is the one thing that really bugs me about being Catholic."

    How do we answer this kind of comment? -- [C]alm reasoned words, logical historical based argument and patience will win out in the end.

Understanding Catholic sexuality

Friday, March 28, 2008

Limited Opportunity for Dialogue at JPII Cultural Center "Interfaith Service" with the Pope

According to the Washington Post's PopeWatch, the interreligious meeting during Benedict's US visit will be a strictly "one way" affair:

Benedict will hold a meeting with interfaith leaders at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. on April 17. And he will hold a prayer service with 300 leaders from other Christian denominations at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, in Manhattan the next day.

But in a briefing today at the U.S. Conference of Bishops' headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Rev. Ronald Roberson, associate director of ecumenical and interrreligious affairs and the Rev. Dennis McManus, the conference's liaison to the Jewish faith, made clear that it will be Benedict who will do the talking.

According to the Washington Times, the April 17 interfaith gathering at the John Paul II Cultural Center will consist of a 20-minute papal address "on the use of religion as an instrument of peace", a brief presentation of gifts and the exchange of a few words:

Ravi Gupta, 25, a Hindu professor at Centre College in Danville, Ky., hopes to do more than present the pope with a brass incense holder in the shape of the Sanskrit word "Om."

"I'd like to encourage him to open up a full dialogue with Hinduism and bring Hindus to the table," he said. "That is important considering India's growing presence in the world. Religious issues in India are taking on a lot more significance than they used to."

As is expected, the Jewish people have some concerns to express as well: the matter of the recent revival of the Good Friday prayer calling for the conversion of the Jewish people:
"We as Jews would normally be the last ones to be weigh in on our [ecumenical] partner's internal theological beliefs and liturgical practices, but we were perplexed by the pope's steps to revive the use of a prayer that recommends the conversion of Jews," [said David J. Michaels, director of intercommunal affairs at B'nai B'rith International].

"I don't know if I will have the opportunity to say anything to him about it, but if I do, I'd ask the pope in a spirit of friendship and honesty to take into account the needs and feelings of his Jewish partners."

Jewish reactions to the re-institution of the prayer are mixed. The Times interviewed Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, who begs to differ:
"My position is each religion has to respect the other religion," he said. "It is not for a Jewish person to meddle in the texts of Catholic rituals nor is it right for Christians to meddle in Jewish texts. It'd be brazen for me to criticize what this pope and any other Catholic leader would say in their liturgy."
The pope's visit will overlap with Passover this year. According to , "Benedict wanted to extend — through him and several other Jewish leaders present — Passover greetings to American Jews."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sikhs continue to press issue of Kirpan prohibition, appeal to memory of John Paul II

Earlier this month we blogged on the Sikhs' recusal from the interreligious meeting with the Pope, on account that the US Secret Service prohibited the wearing of kirpans (ceremonial daggers). The Sikhs are continuing the protest, appealing to an earlier visitation with Benedict's predecessor, daggers intact. World Sikh News reports:

Tarunjit Singh Butalia of Columbus, one of the nation's leading spokesmen for the Sikh faith, said he was among those invited to the April 17 gathering with Pope Benedict but the U.S. Secret Service has forbidden him to wear a kirpan. Butalia has declined the offer of a meeting saying wearing a kirpaan was a requirement of his faith, not an option.

The Secret Service representatives, while seeming to understand the issue, are sticking to the line that the kirpan is by definition a weapon, and thus cannot be allowed. The World Sikh Council- American Region has said it is often that the Sikhs have been barred from high-level meetings because of kirpans.

There has been precedent of Pope John Paul II meeting Sikh leaders who wore their kirpans, and these were not just ceremonial 6 inches traditional length swords often worn underneath or above the shirt but rather three-foot blades. The photos appeared in the Chicago Tribune and a lot of other papers.

Sikhs often compare wearing of a kirpan to Christians wearing a cross or crucifix and take great pride in the fact that there is not one single incident in the world in which a kirpan was used for torturing somebody or killing somebody.

Clearly a case of religious obligation (Sikhs are duty-bound to wear the Kirpan -- you can't simply "opt-out") butting heads with security concerns. The US Secret Service are obviously of the "not on my watch!" mindset, not wishing to take any chances in this post-9/11 world.

What do our readers think?


  • "No Dagger, No Deal!" Sikhs tell Pope, by by FabbiGabby. Chat & Chai March 9, 2008.

  • Understanding the Kirpan for non-Sikhs, by Sandeep Singh Brar:
    The Kirpan (ceremonial sword) worn by followers of the Sikh religion sometimes raises questions or concerns among people who are unfamiliar with the religion or it's tenants. The Kirpan is an ingrained part of the Sikh religion and is in many ways it’s religious symbolism is similar to the Cross in Christianity. Just as a Cross is worn be devout Christians, baptized Sikhs are required to wear the Kirpan. The Kirpan is no more symbolic a weapons than the Christian Cross is symbolic of a torture instrument.

American Papist Roundup on 'Pope Benedict & the 2008 Elections'

Thomas Peters (American Papist) blogs a roundup on Pope Benedict and the 2008 Election :

As we approach the "Ides of April", when Pope Benedict will begin his five day visit of the United States, we can expect political commentators to closely scrutinize what the pope has to say in an attempt to determine which candidate or party the pope supports. This is a fool's quest, in many ways, because Pope Benedict has more important things to talk about than - yes, even politics. . . . More

Crossroads: Upcoming Discussion on the Teachings of Benedict XVI & relevance to American Culture

The Crossroads New York Cultural Center is sponsoring an event of interest to our readers:

“Only Something Infinite Will Suffice”

A Discussion on the Teachings of Pope Benedict XVI and their Relevance to American Culture (on the occasion of the visit of the Holy Father to the United States)

Opening Remarks:
H.E. Celestino MIGLIORE
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer
of the Holy See to the United Nations

Msgr. Lorenzo ALBACETE
Theologian, Author, Columnist

Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

Fr. Richard John NEUHAUS
Editor-in-Chief of First Things

Dean of John Paul II Institute
Editor-in-Chief of Communio

Wednesday, April 9, 2008, 7:00PM
Columbia University, Earl Hall, Auditorium
117th Street & Broadway, New York

Crossroads New York Cultural Center was born in Fall 2004 as the initiative of four friends who are members of Communion and Liberation, the international movement in the Roman Catholic Church that was founded 50 years ago by Monsignor Luigi Giussani and was defined by Pope John Paul II, as "one of the beautiful fruits of the Holy Sprit for the Entire Church."

What characterizes Crossroads New York Cultural Center as a Catholic cultural center is that particular ability, that can come from the event of Christ present here and now in His Church, to encounter people and to look for, and give value to, everything that is true, good and worthy of praise in all the expressions of human life. Therefore, the suggestion of Saint Paul - "Test everything, retain what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21) - sums up the ideal of Crossroads much more than any pre-determined subset of issues or people who fall under the ‘Catholic’ label. For more information see:

Vatican Radio interviews Mary Ann Glendon on Pope's Visit

Pope's U.S. Visit Approaching Vatican Radio. March 27, 2008:

(27 Mar 08 - RV) There is now less than three weeks to go to Pope Benedict XVI’s papal journey to the United States. The six-day trip will begin in Washington, D.C., and continue to New York City.

The Holy Father will address the United Nations General Assembly, meet with President George Bush and visit Ground Zero.

The United States Ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon, spoke to Vatican Radio about Pope Benedict’s upcoming trip and his White House meeting with President George W. Bush.

(RealAudio player required).

How the media can help understand Pope Benedict XVI

From Good advice, courtesy of reporter Sheila Liaugminas:

Recently, I was on a teleconference with the bishops tasked with informing the media of the particulars of the pope’s visit to America in April, and Bishop Donald Wuerl started it off well with a commentary on “the thought of Benedict XVI”, to help journalists get to know him better. During the Q&A afterward, one reporter said Pope Benedict is arriving in an election year between a pro-life candidate and two “pro-choice” candidates, “and he’s arriving in the world capital of soundbites”. So, she asked the bishops, “what can be done that he won’t be taken out of context?”

“A soundbite answer,” said Wuerl, goodnaturedly, to much laughter.

It’s the media’s responsibility to practice sound and truthful journalism, to do their homework and when that requires some extra reading and study and background research, then do that and be prepared to not put Pope Benedict into soundbites. Like they did with his Regensburg address.

Amen to that.

Gary Stern on "Why we called the pope an ‘enigma’" (and a response)

Via Tim Drake ( and Get Religion ("Pondering the Pope" March 25, 2008), Gary Stern responds to the criticism of his original post and the question of whether it's appropriate to describe Pope Benedict XVI as a "mystery man" and an "engima" (Blogging Religiously March 24, 2008):

The main point: When talking to Catholics over the last few months, it became clear to me that many people don’t know what to make of Pope Benedict. It’s not that they’re critical of him. Or overly supportive.

Most people don’t have the time or interest to following papal happenings closely in the Catholic press—what the pope is writing or saying. And this pope is not nearly as prone to the grand gesture as was John Paul II. You have to pay attention to get a sense of what he is about.

So I set out to write an introduction to Benedict’s first three years as pope for Catholics—and others—who haven’t really paid attention since his election in April 2005. I talked to a lot of really smart people who observe the pope closely and asked them to explain Benedict’s pontificate, so far, in as basic terms as possible.

I asked them: What would you tell someone who now wants to figure out what this pope is about?

I don’t think that the clear consensus—that Benedict remains a mystery to most—is in any way derogatory or critical of the pope. It may take years (or longer) for his teachings to seep down. Or his visit to the U.S. may inspire many people to sit up and pay attention sooner. We’ll see.

I do think there is some truth in Stern's observation that "people don’t have the time or interest to following papal happenings closely in the Catholic press [or] what the pope is writing or saying." How many Catholics make a point to read the Pope's encyclicals and homilies, or strive to understand and take to heart what he has to say?

By the same token, how many frequent the sacraments (confession as well as commmunion) and attend Mass on a regular basis?

Of course I think the answer is relative -- depending on the orthodoxy of one's particular parish / diocese, the strength of its catechical programs and schools, the public actions of its bishop(s) in affirming the teachings of the Church, the Catholic identity of one's own self and family.

Sadly, there is no denying that the temptations and pitfalls of our secular, superfluous and material culture run deep -- I'd suspect you wouldn't have to search long to find Catholics who would sooner quote the headlines of the daily tabloid and gossip rag, sports stats, which contestant got voted off American Idol, or the latest gaff from this or that presidential candidate -- than recall what the Pope had to say in his latest encyclical.

If there really is "a consensus that Benedict remains a mystery to most," this speaks more of the kind of people we are (not to mention our average attention span) than any particular deficiency on the part of the Holy Father.

* * *

To elaborate a little more on why I think Stern's original piece ( ) sparked the reaction it did -- as Colleen Campbell observed with regard to coverage of Benedict's papal youth rally in Brazil ("Papal youth appeal is about the message as well as the man " St. Louis Dispatch May 17, 2007), American and European newspaper journalists would "regularly quote only disgruntled teenagers in their reports," "include the "obligatory quote from a teenage critic who disagrees with Benedict about condom distribution or pre-marital sex," dismiss the popularity of the Pope with the claim that it was "merely his charisma, not not his message, that was the draw." (We are likely to hear this refrain in the coverage of the papal youth rally at Yonkers -- watch for it).

As Tim Drake noted recently as well, there are those among the press who appeal to the "WOCHA Mantra" (Women's Ordination, Contraception, Homosexuality, Abortion). Witness "Pope, ahead of U.S. trip, speaks of abortion, gays" Reuters, February 29, 2008; Cleveland Plain Dealer March 13, 2008. As we draw nearer to the arrival date, we can surely expect more and more articles emphasizing the distance between American Catholics and the stringent doctrinal stances of the Vatican.

And, as was amply demonstrated by the coverage of Benedict's Regensburg address in September 2006, there is a remarkable tendency of the press -- in its failure (laziness?) to grasp the substance of what Benedict is saying in any given text to simply "cherry pick" for that choice phrase or reference which is most inflammatory (i.e., will make the greatest headline).

Consequently, it comes as no suprise that an article proclaiming Benedict "still a mystery after three years", "a white-robed enigma to most Americans," together with the tired old comparison (that really, after 3 years into his pontificate, should be duly retired) between the "shy, scholarly" Benedict and the "charismatic rock star pope" that was John Paul II, are sure to cause a few Catholic bloggers to bristle.

* * *
But I also think there are also many signs that readily challenge the suggestion that Benedict's so-called "mysteriousness" constitutes a barrier between him and the laiety, that it may "take years (or longer) for his teachings to seep down," that Catholics have been unable to arrive at an appreciation and understanding of Benedict -- that they are in fact responding enthusiastically to his person and his pontificate:
  • According to a January 2008 Zenit News Service report, In the course of 2007, there have been almost 3 million faithful and pilgrims that have participated at public gatherings with Benedict XVI at the Vatican and at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. In addition:
    For the recitation of the Sunday Angelus, in the course of 2007, there were 1,450,000 persons who came to St. Peter’s Square -- 155,000 more than last year. There were 442,000 faithful who participated in the liturgical celebrations.

    Last April, a record-breaking 130,000 attended the Wednesday audiences, and 250,000 attended liturgical celebrations.

  • Last summer, Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, head of economic affairs at the Holy See, said that the “remarkable increase” in both donations and numbers of pilgrims showed that there was “a symbiosis, a mutual sympathy between this Pope and Christian people everywhere" -- citing a “huge jump” in “Peter’s Pence”, the annual church collections given directly to the Pope to use for charity, from $60 million (£30 million) in 2005 to $102 million.

    The article went on to note record numbers attending Benedict's weekly audiences, a 20% rise in attendance in visits to St. Peter's, and similar increases to Catholic shrines in Assisi, Lourdes, Fatima in Portugal and Madonna di Guadalupe in Mexico. ("The Ratzinger Effect: more money, more pilgrims – and lots more Latin" Times July 7, 2007).

  • In October 2007, the Catholic News Service reported that Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth had sold 2 million copies worldwide According to the Catholic Book Publishers Association, it currently occupies third place in April 2008, supplanted by Our Sunday Visitor's Pope Benedict: Questions and Answers in first place (a collection of the Holy Father's spontaneous 'Q&A' sessions with children, clergy and young adults).

  • As Amy Welborn reminds us, when questioning Benedict's popularity, consider the facts:
    Talk to book publishers - start with the Vatican publishing house. Move on to the European publishers that are publishing him. Talk to Ignatius and Doubleday. What are their sales showing? (remember how I reported that the Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist sold over 200,000 copies its first week in an Italian edition? An Apostolic Exhortation for pete's sake?) ...

    What happens to the message after it's sent and received is another matter,and more difficult to evaluate. But if you want to report on the interest of Catholics (and others) in what their Pope is saying, you turn to the hard data you do have - which is audience numbers, website traffic and book sales.

All in all, not too shabby for a "white-robed enigma" and papal "mystery." ;-)

But permit me to close this post on a positive note, in commending Gary Stern again for helpign put together an amazing website -- The Journal-News /'s Benedict in America (the relation between their title and this blog purely coincidental).

Which is doing much in its own way to remove the shroud of "mystery" and bring its viewers closer to Benedict XVI.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Washington choir members audition for "performance of a lifetime"

While Americans have their television sets tuned to American Idol, choir members from Washington Catholic parishes are auditioning for the performance of their lives - Meghan Tierney reports from the Maryland Gazette:

The 250-member Archdiocesan Papal Mass Choir set to perform at Pope Benedict XVI’s April 17 Mass includes two members from Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, according to Kathy Dempsey, assistant director of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington. With the exception of 13 singers from the Arlington Archdiocesan Choir, the members all hail from 83 parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties. . . .

Two members of Mother Seton Parish will represent Germantown. Gaithersburg churches are also well represented, with 10 members from St. Rose of Lima, six from St. John Neumann and one from St. Martin of Tours.

About 560 people attended last month’s auditions, which were only open to singers involved with music ministry in the church, Dempsey said.


‘‘I’ve never auditioned for anything in my life, so I was scared to death,” said Linda May, 60, of Laytonsville. ‘‘...It’s beyond excitement. It’s awesome, it’s such a thrill. I’m a convert to Catholicism, so to be able to sing for the pope, it’s a shock.”

May, a legal secretary at a Gaithersburg law firm, converted in 1987, three years after she joined St. John Neumann’s choir.

She auditioned for the Papal Mass Choir at urging of her music director in Gaithersburg, Mary Lu Hartsell, who also won a spot.

According to the article, about 45,000 people are expected to attend the Washington Nationals stadium mass.

St. Joseph's, Yorkville rich in German Catholic history

The New York Sun has details on the Pope's acceptance to lead an ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Yorkville. Jay Akasie reports (March 25, 2008):

"The pope will pray with Christian leaders at the church and take time afterwards to meet with a few of them," the spokesman for the archdiocese, Joseph Zwilling, said.

The vestiges of Manhattan's once-bustling Germantown include a Bavarian restaurant and the annual Steuben Day Parade. Of the German Roman Catholic and Lutheran parishes that remain in Yorkville, only a handful still hold services in German.

"One of the reasons Cardinal Egan invited the Holy Father, who was born in Germany, to St. Joseph's is that we offer a German mass," the church's pastor, Monsignor John Sullivan, said. [...]

St. Joseph's has the historical distinction of being a German national parish; in the early 20th century, instead of delineating its parish neighborhood with traditional geographical boundaries, it did so culturally: It was open to any Roman Catholic of German descent, no matter where he or she lived in New York City.

Until the 20th century, most of the city's German immigrants lived in Little Germany, or Kleindeutschland, in what is now the area around Tompkins Square Park. But a German church outing on the steamship General Slocum in 1904 ended in disaster when the ship caught fire and more than 1,000 German-Americans drowned in the East River.

The fire claimed more lives than any other disaster in New York City history until September 11, 2001. The 1904 event so traumatized the German population of the East Village that most families moved uptown to Yorkville, establishing German-speaking parishes like St. Joseph's.


Vatican sanctions "Papal Teddy Bear" outfit

"Build a Bear" for the Pope March 25, 2008:

The Build-A-Bear Workshop chain has pumped out a new bear complete with a special edition T-shirt honoring the Pope's visit to the United States.

The Vatican has sanctioned the T-shirt for the adorable, stuffed animals but only for stores in Washington, DC and on

The shirts cost $6 online.

For the entire Build-A-Bear "Pope" experience you'll have to visit Washington. A company representative says they're trying to work with the Vatican to allow the bears to be sold in stores in New York and other areas.

Details on the Washington Nationals Papal Mass Music Program

The official list of musical selections has not been released, but an ABC News report provides some inkling of the kind of music and liturgy the the Archdiocesan committee has selected for the Washington Nationals public mass:

When Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass at Nationals Park on April 17, he will be accompanied by four choirs totaling 570 members, singing in ten languages from across the Archdiocese of Washington.

He will hear a 65-voice Intercultural Choir with members from 35 countries singing in French, Zulu and Spanish, among others. A 250-voice Papal Mass Choir and a 175-voice Children's Choir will sing in Latin. The uplifting sound of an 80-voice Gospel Choir will ring out across the stadium. . . .

Musical highlights during the processions and prelude the program includes:

  • All choirs performing the opening Spiritual "Plenty Good Room," newly arranged by Washington Symphonic Brass founder, Phil Snedecor
  • The Children's Choir singing "Send Forth Your Spirit" by Andrew Wright and "Ave Verum" by Mozart
  • The Gospel Choir singing "I Call upon You God" by Leon Roberts and "Lord Make Me an Instrument" by Roger Holland
  • The Papal Mass Choir singing "Sing Aloud Unto God Our Strength" by Daniel Nelson and "Spirit of God Within Me" by Robert LeBlanc.
  • The Intercultural Choir singing "Let'Isikia" arranged by Tracy McDonnell and "Source d'eau Vive" by C.E. Haugel

Overwhelmingly Positive View of Pope on Eve of His U.S. Visit

Americans have an overwhelmingly positive view of Pope Benedict XVI on the eve of his visit to the United States, according to a new poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. The results were announced by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson:

By a ratio of four and a half to one (58% to 13%), respondents said that they had a favorable or very favorable view of Pope Benedict. The poll also found that an even higher percentage -- 65% -- have a favorable view of the Catholic Church, although a higher portion, 28% have a negative view.

Forty-two percent of Americans said that they would like to attend one of the Pope's public appearances while he is in the United States, and 66% of Catholics said they'd like to attend one of the events. Pope Benedict will be celebrating large open-air Masses in Washington, D.C. (at Nationals Stadium) and New York City (Yankee Stadium), and will host several smaller gatherings with Catholic educators, seminarians and leaders of other religious faiths. ...

Seventy percent or more want to hear Pope Benedict talk about: allowing God to be a part of their daily lives (73%), finding spiritual fulfillment by sharing their time and talent (71%) and how they can make a positive difference in the world, their state, and communities (70%). Nearly two-thirds (64%) expressed an interest in hearing Pope Benedict talk about how they can have a society where spiritual values play an important role.

"The bottom line," Anderson said, "is that, despite years of very negative stories about the Catholic Church scandals, and dissenting view of the Pope as some sort of 'panzercardinal' determined to pursue the unorthodox to the ends of the earth, the American people have a very sensible and balanced view of Benedict and the Church. And they are very open to hearing his views on matters of how they might live their faith and put it into action in their daily lives."

The Knights of Columbus also unveiled a new website -- -- that offers detailed information about the Pope's trip, as well as historical material about previous popes and their dealings with the Catholic Church in the United States.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"On-demand" video of the Pope's visit via CatholicTV

Pope in America live and on-demand at CatholicTV web site:

WATERTOWN, MA (MARCH 24, 2008) - The Pope is coming to America on CatholicTV® live and on-demand via The station now has a dedicated page for the historic pastoral visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States. See videos on demand from 2008 and visits past, including Pope John Paul II’s travels to the United States.

Enjoy the trip on CatholicTV and at as Pope Benedict XVI visits the United States for the first time. Beginning April 15, from the moment Shepherd One touches down at Andrews Air Force, CatholicTV will be following the Pope’s six-day visit. Viewers will see Pope Benedict XVI meeting President George Bush, Masses in Washington and New York, a visit to Ground Zero, his address to the United Nations General Assembly and all the events through April 20.

Confounded Media grapples with the "mystery" of Pope Benedict XVI

Benedict still a mystery after 3 years as pope, says Gary Stern (USA Today March 23, 2008)

As Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to the United States nears, the most common perception of him could be boiled down to this:

He was pretty conservative before he became pope, wasn't he? He was old when he got the job. Since then, he's been kind of quiet. Doesn't seem real outgoing. He made a speech that angered Muslims. He brought back the Latin Mass, or something. And doesn't he wear Prada shoes?

On this Easter, as Benedict nears the end of his third year as pope, it's safe to say that he remains something of a white-robed enigma to most Americans — including Catholics.

"I don't think most people have figured him out, that's for sure," said the Rev. Thomas Berg, executive director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, a Catholic think tank in Thornwood, N.Y. "People may be scared away, since he is kind of an intellectual. A lot of people may not know how to get their hands around him."

As expected, we get the typical comparison of the "shy, bookish, academic" pope to his media-savvy predecessor:
Benedict is destined to be compared to the actor/poet/philosopher who preceded him as bishop of Rome. Pope John Paul II seemed to be conducting an orchestra wherever he went, with people of all faiths and no faith following his every move.

Benedict is more bookish. He tends to write and speak for those who follow Catholic life closely. And he's kind of shy.

"He's not the charismatic rock star pope that John Paul II was," said David Gibson, author of The Rule of Benedict. "Part of it is age — he was 78 when elected. But he also wants to lower the profile of the person of the pope. He doesn't want the pope to be the object of people's faith or veneration. He wants that to be Jesus. John Paul tried to draw people to the faith through his own faith, his own personality. Benedict wants to get out of the way, to present the faith and step aside."

as well as the pitting of his old persona as "Vatican enforcer" against the "kinder, friendlier" Pope:
As overseer of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger was Catholicism's warden on doctrine — nicknamed the German Shepherd, God's Rottweiler, a potential panzer pope (for a German tank), and on and on.

But that image has largely dissipated, giving way to something far less stark and, for many, less clear.

"All of that was something of a caricature to start with," said the Rev. Joseph Komonchak, a senior theologian at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. "But he has been far more collegial and accommodating than condemnatory. Temperamentally, he is a quiet person, shy, an intellectual. His main emphasis has been to draw Catholics back to what is central, what we have to offer the world, what we believe about Jesus Christ."

In the end, Benedict is made to fit the preconceived framework of "liberal" vs. "conservative":
If you want to see him as conservative, there's his Regensburg speech, his loosening of restrictions on the Latin Mass, a Vatican document restating the Catholic position that Protestant churches are not full churches, his approval of a policy that men with gay "tendencies" should not be priests, and his statement in Brazil last year that missionaries did not impose their beliefs on native cultures.

If you want to see him as surprisingly moderate, you can look to his many statements about protecting the environment, his meeting with dissident theologian and longtime nemesis Hans Kung, his desire to meet with Muslim leaders, and his overall desire to be a teaching pastor to all Catholics who want to listen.

Ignatius Press' Carl Olson responds (Benedict XVI, International Man of Mystery! Insight Scoop March 23, 2008):
There seems to be the notion, on the part of some folks, that a somewhat shy academic cannot also be a vigorous defender of the Faith as well as a personable and eloquent pastor of souls. Why are these so incompatible? Likewise, why is loosening the restrictions on the Latin Mass considered to a "conservative" act when it is actually a liberating/liberal act (in the best sense of those oft-abused words)? And isn't the desire to be a proper steward of creation who properly conserves natural resources and acts responsibly re: the material world a conservative action? Not, of course, if you use the typical American Political Lexicon for such things. And therein, I think, lies much of the problem: trying to force what is Catholic and oriented toward the permanent things into the cramped, narrow confines of sectarian ideology.
The "transition of Benedict from Vatican enforcer to 'Kinder, Gentler' Pope" meme does have some credibility, but like Olson I fear this approach adopted by the media is often employed to conceal their basic inability to grasp the fundamental points of Benedict's pontificate.

That said, I think that Gary Stern is certainly to be commended for putting together Westchester Journal-News' excellent website on the papal visit -- which is by leaps and bounds better than any other newspaper thus far.

  • National Catholic Reporter's John Allen Jr., a long-time commentator on Pope Benedict and Vatican affairs, provides A "one-stop-shopping" guide to Pope Benedict's U.S. visit, which gives some background and context to the papal trip. He provides links to Benedict XVI's itinerary and to other resources. Mr. Allen will be accompanying Benedict XVI on the papal plane and throughout the trip, and will be filing regular news postings under his "Daily Updates" section of

  • Scholar, pastor, enigma: German pope defies easy caricature - According to John Thavis, Catholic News Service (February 18, 2008):
    For many non-Christians, Pope Benedict is an enigma, a man who has visited a mosque and prayed toward Mecca with his Muslim host, yet who repeatedly speaks about the need to proclaim Christ as the unique savior for all people.

    He is hailed as a liturgical hero by traditionalist Catholics for having widened possible use of the Tridentine Mass and introduced touches of antiquity in his own liturgies.

    At a more basic level, the millions of Americans who do not follow church news very closely may know Pope Benedict simply as a soft-spoken bookworm who like cats and plays classical piano.

    The "real Benedict" no doubt has some elements of all these partial portraits, but in a combination that defies easy caricature. This is a pope who brings depth of thought to every word or action, in ways that are not entirely predictable.

    To his credit, Thavis brings in U.S. scholar and papal biographer George Weigel (author of God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church ), and Jesuit Father Christian W. Troll, a German professor of Islamic studies and a long-time friend of the Holy Father to help clear the air of intrigue. He closes the article with a decent biography and overview of Benedict's pontificate and highlights his many accomplishments. Worth reading.


  • Man of Mystery! - Amy Welborn responds as well:
    The point is, claiming that “Benedict is still a mystery” doesn’t seem to me to be an assertion that belongs in a news article. It’s in the same category (or even worse) as claiming that “many believe” something without any evidence that, in fact, “many believe” that thing at all. (Just as the phrase “critics say” can function as a way of framing a story around a writer’s own opnion or agenda). I mean, how is “Benedict is still a mystery” a news story? Are there big questions being raised on Catholic blogs or in Catholic parishes or chanceries in which people are sitting around scratching their heads wondering, “Who is Benedict? I just don’t get him?” Are they publishing articles and holding meetings to address the mystery?

    To begin a news article with the assertion that “Benedict is still a mystery” is not, in fact, news reporting. It’s the creation of a thesis and then finding voices to support the thesis. It would be fantastic if, over the next month, journalists could get back to basics, stop trying to create stories and simply report: This is who Benedict is. This is what he writes about. This is what he talks about. These are the ideas that have formed his intellectual life and spirituality.

    Mystery solved.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lidia Bastianich chosen to be "The Papal Chef" in New York

Frank Bruni interviews Lidia Bastianich, who will have the honor of cooking for the Pope during his stay in New York (New York Times Diner's Journal, March 21, 2008):

“I’m so elated,” she said of the honor she’s been given. “I mean — yeah, yeah — it’s just tremendous.”

Ms. Bastianich, 62, an owner of the restaurants Felidia and Del Posto, said she considers herself a devout Catholic, and she’s interacted with Vatican officials based in New York. She’s been active as well in the local Italian community. These associations, she said, seemed to be among the reasons organizers of the Pope’s visit chose her.

She said that she would write the menu and help prepare the food for a dinner for 52 on April 18 and a dinner for 24 on April 19. Both will be private. Neither will be in a restaurant. [...]

Ms. Bastianich said she’d been asked not to talk much about the menus she’s putting together yet, and that her instructions from the Pope’s representatives haven’t been too detailed.

“We discussed some of the things, what he likes and dislikes, what he can and cannot eat,” she said. “What was stressed really was simplicity, seasonality, a light, balanced meal.”

Bruni mentions that:

While in New York, he is expected to address the United Nations, visit Ground Zero, celebrate Mass in Yankee Stadium and eat a Shake Shack burger.

That last part is mere speculation.

Speculate away, but if the Pope decides to forego one of New York City's best hamburgers, it's his loss. ;-)


Bishop Thomas J. Tobin on Pope Benedict's Papal Visit

The Rhode Island Catholic interviews Bishop Thomas Tobin, on the Papal Visit (March 20, 2008):

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin will travel to Washington to attend a private prayer service and meeting with the 350 bishops of the United States on April 16 in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The bishop will concelebrate Mass offered by the Holy Father at the new Nationals Park in the Washington, D.C. This will be the first non-baseball event held in the park, and will be attended by Catholics from across the country.

“I am truly looking forward to it,” said Bishop Tobin. “An opportunity to be with the Holy Father is always a blessing and especially since he’s making the pilgrimage here, I’m sure that his message will have great relevance for the bishops who are there and for the church in the United States in particular.

“I think that it is important for us to see this visit as an opportunity for spiritual renewal for the church throughout the United States — for our dioceses, for parishes, for schools,” he added.

“While the Holy Father is visiting just two cities — and there are many public events in those two cities — he’s making a pastoral visit to the church in the whole of the United States so I would hope that all of our people would see this as a gift to them, as a visit to them, and this would be an occasion for us to renew our faith and to renew our Catholic practice.”

Bishop Tobin will be accompanied by 200 pilgrims from the diocese to attend the Yankee Stadium Papal Mass, including "50 Knights of Columbus, representatives of youth ministry, diocesan employees, and faculty and students" from local schools.

During the mass, special recognition will be given to "the 200th anniversary of the Baltimore Archdiocese’s designation as an archdiocese, as well as the founding of four other dioceses — Boston, New York, Louisville and Philadelphia."

Times' Richard Owen on the Vatican's "Papal Makeover"

Vatican PR ensures rebranded Pope Benedict XVI will triumph in US -- at least that's the story according to Richard Owen for the Sunday Times. Owen's account paints the various personnel-changes and decisions of the Roman curia as simply a big exercise in public relations (as if that constitutes their sole motivation):

The papal makeover owes much to his team of aides. His backroom staff includes Giovanni Maria Vian, the first new editor of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, for 23 years. Vian was brought in last October to make the paper livelier, up to date, more “global” — and available online. He has opened it up to Protestant and Jewish writers, and has hired its first Muslim journalist.

Vian is part of a new team of progressive papal aides that also includes Mgr Gianfranco Ravasi, the new head of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The key hidden hand, however, is that of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, since last June head of the Vatican's Department of Social Communications, which oversees its television and media operations.

Mgr Celli, whose amiable face hides one of the sharpest minds in the Vatican, seized at once on the dangers of the Church being seen as “fundamentalist”. He has at his side an equally sharp-minded Irish priest, Mgr Paul Tighe, brought in as No 2 from Dublin, where he handled PR for the archdiocese.

Their aim, Mgr Tighe says, is to “harness the potential of the media as a means of evangelisation”. Archbishop Celli says that many people in the world have a “deep nostalgia for God” that the Church can meet by being more open and embracing the internet and satellite television.

Mind you, this is the same newspaper (and reporter) that brought us the ridiculous claim that the Pope would "rehabilitate Martin Luther" at the next Ratzinger Schülerkreis at Castelgandolfo -- a claim dismissed as "groundless" by the Vatican shortly thereafter.

Sadly, shoddy journalism is increasingly to be expected when the subject matter is the Vatican, and the commentator is the the Times.

Take with a big grain of salt.

South Jersey's contributions to the Papal Visit

"Pope's D.C. Mass to have S.J. touch", says the South Jersey Courier-Post. The paper profiles A. Blayne Candy, co-founder of the firm that will be producing the ceremony in Washington, along with fellow South Jersey Bishop Joseph Galante, spiritual leader of the Camden Diocese, who is expected to share the alter with Benedict:

. . . Candy says his 7-year-old firm has produced shows as varied as rock concerts and White House conferences.

"The scale of it is something we're used to," the Washington, D.C., resident says of the Papal Mass. Still, he added, "A visit of a pope is a big deal. And it's probably a bigger deal to a guy who was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools."

Candy's education led to his occupation.

After attending Christ the King elementary school in Haddonfield and St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia, the producer studied psychology at Loyola University in Baltimore. A work-study job put him in Loyola's special events department, and Candy had found his calling.

"It's been an absolutely terrific ride," says the producer, whose job has taken him to China and Spain and on the campaign trail with President Bush.

At the Papal Mass, he says, "We'll be taking care of the overall production, all of the lighting, the sound, the stage, the design."


Seeking the Pope's blessing on a golf cart

According to the Florida Villages' Daily Sun, the father of a 9/11 firefighter hopes to have his golf cart blessed by the Holy Father:

When Pope Benedict XVI visits the World Trade Center site April 20, Villager Bob Ogren hopes to be there with a golf cart he has made honoring the 343 firefighters who died Sept. 11, 2001, including his son, Jay.

“The idea is to bring the cart up there and maybe have it blessed,” Ogren said.

The golf cart, designed to look like a firetruck, has a picture of each firefighter killed on Sept. 11, many of whom Ogren knew, as he is a retired New York firefighter himself.

However, the number of family members of victims being invited for the pope’s visit is very limited and will be chosen by lottery.

So Ogren is reaching out to everybody he knows, asking them to submit his name for the lottery, but he also thinks he has a little extra help on his side.

“I said that even though it was dismal, I said that I’ve got 343 guys that are talking to the boss up there,” said the Village of Liberty Park resident.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Richard Kidd on "arranging for the Pope - and 58,000 others"

Arranging for the Pope - and 58,000 Others - The Telegraph-Journal profiles Richard Kidd of Darling's Island, selected by Dr. Jennifer Pascual of St. Patrick's Cathedral to arrange his hymn, "Feast of Victory" for the Yankee Stadium public mass:

A seasoned composer and consummate arranger, Kidd is a member of the Richard Kidd Quartet jazz band. He teaches music at Rothesay Netherwood School, plays the organ at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Saint John and has played trombone with Symphony New Brunswick for nearly 20 years. In December he assembled a 55-member choir to sing Handel's Messiah with the symphony.

Over the past couple of weeks Kidd has set himself to the task of arranging The Feast of Victory for a 58-member orchestra and choir of 200. In most churches, the four-verse Easter hymn would be accompanied by a lone piano or organ.

In an interview earlier this week, Kidd described the hymn as "uplifting."

"It's a very happy sort of tune," he said.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

NY1 on Ratzinger's Return to St. Joseph's Seminary

Pope Benedict Returns To Yonkers Seminary After 20 Years - Shazia Khan. March 20, 2008:

Twenty years ago, Father Michael Morris was still a student at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, when a special guest from Vatican City paid a visit – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the German man who will return to New York City in April as Pope Benedict XVI.

“The enthusiasm was incredible because we read his books," said Morris. "He's a scholar - that's his work. He's a teacher and he's a studier, he's a reader, he's a great student. And we were just thrilled to be able to meet him.”

Back in 1988, Ratzinger was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responsible for defending the church orthodoxy. He came to be known as “Cardinal No,” even “God's Rottweiler” for his strict adherence to the doctrine.

This April, Ratzinger will go back to St. Joseph’s Seminary as part of his papal visit.

“The pope's job is to proclaim the message of our faith in Jesus Christ and proclaim what that means and how people must live their lives and how to develop it,” said Father Gerard Rafferty, a professor at St. Joseph’s Seminary.

“In his last job, he was given the task of looking at what other people were doing and proclaiming and then trying to evaluate and help them evaluate whether in fact they were remaining consistent to the church,” said Rafferty. [...]

Bishop Gerald Walsh, the seminary’s rector, will join Edward Cardinal Egan to welcome the pope who will first greet seminarians before meeting a small group of children with disabilities in the chapel. He will then step outside and on to a stage to address more than 20,000 young Catholics, some of whom might be interested in religious vocations.

Michael Martine - "The Dunwoodie Disciple"

The Dunwoodie disciple Westchester County Business Journal March 20, 2008. Bill Fallon interviews Father Michael Martine, professor of canon law and seminary procurator (overseer) who is heading "an army of 40 or 50" in readying Yonkers' St. Joseph's Seminary for the papal visit and youth rally:

Martine – pronounced martini – is 37. He cited confidentiality regarding the visit’s budget, but noted it possesses planning elements unique to the pope’s world: 500 chalices are needed and confessionals for the repentant must be built. Without noting we are all sinners, Martine pointed out the broad plaza area that will be filled with confessionals. It seemed a lot were planned. “We’re hoping people will want the sacrament,” Martine said.

The super-modern stage is something to make Aerosmith pea green with arena envy. There will be “name entertainment” – Martine’s phrase – during the five-plus hours the youths fill the campus. And there will be at least something of the atmosphere of a festival, with, as Martine said, “hamburgers, hot dogs, T-shirts and religious articles for sale.”

Benedict will be celebrating his 81st birthday on April 16th at St. Joseph's, with "a girl’s choral group singing “Happy Birthday” in the pope’s native German."

The article mentions some interesting historical details about the seminary:

  • A chair handmade in Yonkers for Pope John Paul II’s St. Joseph’s visit in 1995. It still retained John Paul II’s seal as of March 7. But it is now to be refitted with the seal of Benedict XVI. Martine is a born raconteur and he offered an anecdote surely little-known outside the world of Vatican insiders: Pope John Paul I, who served only 33 days as pope in 1978, changed the etiquette of the papal seal as one of his few acts. It would no longer feature a crown. John Paul II’s papal coat of arms – prominently supporting the Virgin Mary – will be replaced by Benedict’s, which features a bear, a nod to the forests of his native Germany, Martine said. “And there will be no crown.”

  • An Irish penal chalice: The mass’ sacred cup harks to Christ’s last supper; this Elizabethan version was made to be quickly disassembled and hidden because priests caught celebrating mass could be hanged in 17th-century Ireland. The campus is also rich in statuary, with St Patrick and cornerstone-layer Archbishop Corrigan in line for a pre-pope power-washing and the flagpole slated for a fresh coat of paint.