Monday, April 21, 2008

Reflecting on the Pope's Visit to the United States (Roundup)

  • Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley recalls his emotional meeting with the Holy Father, discussing the clergy sexual abuse scandal:
    Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley became emotional yesterday as he recounted to reporters the dramatic and unprecedented meeting earlier this week between Pope Benedict XVI and five people from Boston who had been sexually abused by priests.

    Asked how difficult the meeting was for him personally, O'Malley paused for a long moment and appeared to tear up.

    "Just seeing the book makes a great impact," he said, referring to a handmade document he gave the pontiff listing the names of nearly 1,500 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston. As the pope slowly turned the pages, the cardinal mentioned that some of the victims died from suicide or drug abuse.

    "I know the Holy Father was touched by it as well," he said at a news conference at Boston College's Silvio O. Conte Forum where the Boston Catholic Men's Conference was held yesterday. ...

    "I was very, very moved by the whole experience," O'Malley said. "The Holy Father spoke about the pain he felt and the shame. He said that for so long he's been praying by those who have been damaged, touched, and hurt by the whole experience. . . . It was a very moving and a very reassuring experience. The Holy Father feels very deeply what these survivors have gone through."

  • Reflecting on what has gone on liturgically, Shawn Tribe (The New Liturgical Movement): considers a few different aspects in comparison between Washington and New York -- Washington comes out on top in a few departments (sanctuary setups, papal vestments, altar arrangements); New York appears to best the capital in terms of their musical selection. The verdict:
    The breakdown that we see here is that Washington comparatively excelled on the scale of those elements which are more visual in relation to the liturgy (altar arrangement, stadium sanctuary design, vestments) while New York excelled in the area of sacred music.

    If the two liturgical aspects had come together (and technically they did at the Washington Vespers service) at all the liturgies, it would have been very characteristic of Benedict and Marini as they are able to operate within Rome. (And let us recall that both elements are very important.)

    And among the significant gains made in terms of the "reform of the reform":
    Three of the four liturgies were characterized by traditional forms of sacred music. Beyond that, we also saw the sung Gospel, the use of the Graduale and more polyphony and chant than has likely been heard at most any papal Mass outside of Rome in recent memory. This is significant.
  • John Thavis (Catholic News Service) - Pope Benedict XVI achieved three objectives that could be considered critical to the pastoral future of the American church:
    First, the pope brought a certain closure to the priestly sex abuse scandal that has shaken the church for more than six years, expressing his personal shame at what happened and praying with the victims.

    Second, he set forth a moral challenge to the wider U.S. culture on issues ranging from economic justice to abortion, but without coming across as doctrinaire or bullying.

    Third, to a church that often seems divided into conservative and liberal camps, he issued a firm appeal to "set aside all anger" and unite in order to effectively evangelize society.

    In the process of his April 15-20 visit, the 81-year-old pope established his own identity in a country that did not know him well and in a sense came out of the shadow of the late Pope John Paul II.

  • Veritas, by J. Peter Nixon (Commonweal April 20, 2008):
    To suggest that there is a single common theme that unites all of [Benedict's addresses] would be hubris. They are too rich to be reduced in that way. Nevertheless, I am struck by the frequency with which Benedict consistently returns to a particular theme: truth.

    For Benedict, the quest for truth lies at the heart of what it means to be human. We are able to pose questions about the meaning of our existence, some of which Benedict offered when he spoke to the interfaith gathering at the John Paul II Cultural Center: “What is the origin and destiny of mankind? What are good and evil? What awaits us at the end of our earthly existence?”

    Benedict’s conviction—and it is also the Catholic conviction—is that these questions can be answered. Human beings have a nature and a destiny and that nature and destiny give fundamental shape to authentic human happiness and flourishing. What is good and evil for human beings is grounded in reality, in truth. It is not merely the reflection of the will of a legislator. Freedom, properly understood, is the freedom to fully live this nature and arrive at this destiny.

  • Rich Leonardi (Ten Reasons) posts some Notes from New York including his experience of the Yankee Stadium Mass:
    The contrast between New York and Washington speaks for itself. Somehow Cardinal Egan's staff was able to integrate the various languages and sub-cultures of New York into a cohesive, dignified, and sacred liturgy. Generous doses of Latin and superb choral singing were key ingredients. In Washington, diversity was a contrived distraction; here it seemed far more natural -- perhaps even a source of unity. The cardinal has my heartfelt admiration.
    and Benedict's visit in general:
    Pope Benedict made a connection with the Church in America. It's difficult to describe, but the Holy Father's visit strikes me a defining moment for us. American Catholics, if we're smart about it, will spend the next several years internalizing and acting upon the message of hopeful renewal behind the many addresses, homilies, and exchanges that took place over the past five days.
  • Gary Stern realizes "it's about the office -- not the man":
    ... the main thing I take away from the papal extravaganza is this: it’s about the office, not the man.

    When I covered JPII a few times, I saw tens of thousands reaching for him, crying for him, and assumed that they were drawn to the man in white, the Polish fellow with the round face and undeniable charisma. And they were, to a degree.

    But here comes Benedict. Very different personality. Very different style. German. Shy. Bookish. And the people reach out in the same way, cry for him in the same way.

    The only conclusion that I can draw is that it’s about the papacy, not the pope. For Catholics, it’s about the man they believe to be the vicar of Christ, the successor to Peter—no matter who he is. (And for everyone else, it’s about the man who represents, spiritually, 1 out of every 6 people in the world.)

    If someone else had been elected in 2005, the same crowds would have been out there. People still would have lined up for hours for a glimpse of the popemobile. People still would have called out “Papa! Papa!” but for a different Papa. There still would have been 25,000 kids at Dunwoodie, talking about how it was a “once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity-to-see-the-pope.”

    I’m not knocking Benedict, mind you. He got the job done and deserves a nice rest. But I’m sure that he would be the first one to say that it’s all about the papacy and not Joseph Ratzinger.

  • "The Papal Week That Was", by Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus (First Things' "On The Square"):
    ... A moment of historic importance was the magnificent reception at the White House the morning after the pope’s arrival. The administration pulled out all the stops in a symbolic act of closure in the country’s tangled history of anti-Catholicism—or at least of suspicion about the place of Catholicism in our common life. Beyond that, it was a striking response to the larger question of what someone has called the naked public square—public life devoid of religion and religiously grounded moral discernment. In the concluding Mass in Yankee Stadium, Benedict spoke of the “false dichotomy” between Christian faith and the public square, as he did also in his address at the United Nations in New York. His several statements underscored the powerful symbolism of the White House reception. The image of the president and the pope on the South Lawn, along with what each said, deserves a prominent place in any honest history of the Republic.


    The Holy See’s traditionally friendly disposition toward international organizations, and toward the U.N. in particular, was joined with a lucid and forceful argument that the foundation of such organizations, and, more particularly, of the U.N.’s claim to be the protector of human rights, was without credibility unless there is a firm acknowledgment of the dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God. Faith, reason, and natural law were highlighted in the contention that the U.N.’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” signed sixty years ago, is not believable unless grounded in transcendent truths about the human person and historical destiny.

    The extended standing ovation from the delegates, and the even more extended ovation following the shorter address to the U.N. staff, was remarkable. It was as though they sensed that the moral charter of the organization—an organization that has been so dismally disappointing on so many scores—had been renewed. The response is the more remarkable in view of the recent history of the U.N. in promoting abortion, population control, and other measures in violation of the dignity of the human person.

  • The Face of Pope Benedict XVI, by Deal Hudson. April 21, 2008:
    ... Benedict XVI bestowed his peace while confronting every problem awaiting him in the youngest and wealthiest of the countries under his universal pastoral oversight. He addressed the priest sexual abuse scandal on the plane to Washington, D.C. and will be remembered for his willingness to meet with victims. Both his humility and transparency caught the nation off guard.

    His transparency was apparent in everything he did and said. He praised the American Revolution for its foundations in divinely-endowed human rights while reminding us of the necessity of exercising freedom "for the cause of good." He congratulated our bishops on the vitality of the Church but asked them to offer "a clear and united witness" on proposed legislation that contradicts sound morality. He recognized the sacrifice made by American Catholics to educate their children, but he admonished presidents of Catholic colleges and universities never to use academic freedom as justification for contradicting "the faith and the teaching of the Church." His admiration for the work of the United Nations was made clear in his speech, but he cautioned, "It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one's rights."

    Benedict XVI gave us peace in spite of his admonishments, in spite of his constant reminders that our freedom should never be used as license, and our affluence should not tempt us toward the isolation of self-consumed individualism.

    How did he do it? ...

    He did it by relying on something that is rarely discussed in our culture: Benedict XVI spoke the truth. Truth, the Pope knows, is the most disputed idea in our post-modern culture. By proclaiming truth, he defied the accepted opinion of the academy that there is no such thing, only politicized opinions based upon self-interest.