Papa Francesco: Two Years On

popefrancis4Today marks the second anniversary of the election of Pope Francis as bishop of Rome. They have been, without question, the two most hope-filled years in a lifetime of study and service of the Church. Most people, including most Catholics, have rejoiced in Pope Francis’ style, simplicity, and dedication to reforming the Roman Curia.

It made for a great 35th birthday present, very slightly anticipated!

Sadly, this is not a consensus feeling among the faithful, perhaps particularly among Anglophones in Rome and those in positions of authority in the Roman Curia. A couple weeks ago, on the anniversary of the first papal resignation in six centuries, this pithy post showed up in my newsfeed:

..Two year’s ago today, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.

Thus beginning the craziest two years of our lives.

Papa Bennie, we miss you. …

I respect Pope Benedict, perhaps even more so because of his strength of character, as witnessed by the resignation itself. His ecclesiology and personality were both strong enough not to buy into the false mythology of a papacy that is more monarchy than episcopacy, or that requires clinging to power rather than absenting oneself from service when no longer able to serve well.

We all find resonance with different leaders, whether bosses or politicians, bishops or popes. It is natural that some people will like one more than the other, but I have a hard time understanding those who claim to be “confused” by Pope Francis, or who think that the last two years have been difficult for the Church.

A recent conversation with friends revealed, of course, those not satisfied with Pope Francis: On one side, the traditionalists who were given the keys to the kingdom under Benedict are now back to being treated as a minority in the Church – which is only fair, as they are, but I can commiserate with the feeling. On the other, genuinely liberal Catholics tend to be unhappy with the Holy Father’s language on women, not sure whether referring to (lay and religious) women theologians as “strawberries on the cake” is meant to indicate that they are mere decoration, or something more appreciative.

Neither side is confused: they know clearly what they do not like. Whether I agree with either side, they know where they stand and I respect that. It is the commentators claiming “confusion” who are not to be trusted. There is nothing confusing at all about a gospel message of mercy and humble service.

Nevertheless, for the broad swath in between liberals and traditionalists, the last two years have been like fresh air after decades of sitting on a Roman bus, stifling because the old-school Italians refuse to let the windows open lest we get hit by moving air and therefore damage our livers. Somehow. (What is the ecclesiological equivalent of a colpo d’aria?)

If the Good Pope opened the windows of the Church at Vatican II to let it air out a bit, it seems much of the trajectory of the last decades has been, if not to outright close them again, to pile up so many screens and curtains that the effect is nearly the same. Francis has opened it again to let the light and fresh air in. Sure, the dust gets blown about that way, but blame it on those who let the dust gather, rather than the one who starts the spring cleaning!

To be fair, if not concise, the analogy would extend to Benedict having attempted the same, only to discover that he did not have the strength. (Though, after years of investing in multiple layers of curtain lace, you ought not be surprised at the surfeit of suffocating material you then have to remove to get at the ‘filth’ hiding in the darkness provided thereby. But I digress.)

I have little doubt that Pope Benedict will be a Doctor of the Church someday, and in addition to his massive corpus of theological writings, his act of spiritual humility and demonstration of truly sound ecclesiology by resigning as bishop of Rome will be the reason it happens.

I have lived through two of the greatest papacies in recent centuries, but if there has been a truly good pope in my lifetime, it is Francis. Two years is nowhere near enough, may he live for twenty more, sound of mind and body, and bring to closure the reforms started fifty years ago. It is perhaps our best hope for unity in the Church, which in turn is the best hope for an effective witness to the Good News.

Milestone 100,000

On Sunday, 1 March, somebody in Hungary became the 100,000th visitor to my humble little blog, which I started in October 2009 as I moved to Rome, to communicate with friends and family about travel and visits to the sites of the Eternal City, and to offer musings and commentary on Christian Unity and reform in the Catholic Church.

The more I try to write for my dissertation, though, the less frequently I write for the blog. When I started I averaged three posts a week. Now if I get three a month I am being productive. I noticed I have over 16,000 words of notes and half-written posts in my draft file. Like my dissertation, there is a lot of starter material that just needs time and focus to complete. Also like my dissertation, much of it will never see the light of day.

My first post spoke of the surprises in technology, liturgy, community life, and diet and exercise found upon arriving in Bella Italia.

By far the most read post was about Pope Francis lifting restrictions on married Eastern Catholic priests in the ‘diaspora’ – including the U.S., Australia, Canada, et al. That post alone was viewed 8,000 times. I would like to think the popularity is because of my brilliant prose and that it was an English-language scoop, but I know that the title “Married Catholic Priests coming to a Parish Near You” played a bit on hopes that this would include Latin, or Roman Catholic, priests as well as those serving our Eastern brothers and sisters.

Recent rumors try to suggest that Pope Francis might actually extend it in some way to the Latin Church, but i suspect there are so many people who do not understand the hierarchy of truths well enough that they would think this was an act worth breaking communion over, and as wrong as they are, there is no doubt that a good leader would tread carefully even to do the right thing before allowing the weak of faith to fall further into sin.

The most surprising moments included being introduced to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his ecumenical officer, who greeted me with “Oh, so you’re the one with the blog…!” (I got to see Bishop Jonathan again very briefly during the 50th anniversary celebrations of Unitatis Redintegratio, one of the great ecumenists I have been privileged to meet in these years).

Even after 5 1/2 years, there are still surprises to be found, new adventures in Rome. Just recently with a class walking over the Ponte Fabrico to Isola Tiberna, someone pointed out the marble faces adorning the bridge, which I have crossed dozens of times at least, and never noticed.

Or take the Station Churches, an ancient tradition like so many revived with the Second Vatican Council after being lost for some time before hand. While I have always managed to attend a few of the morning liturgies with the North American College, this is the first year I have been able to attend most of the official Italian liturgies in the afternoons. Photos here.

Now, some personal updating for friends and family:

Officially, the pontifical graduate degrees of License and Doctorate take two and three years respectively. My License took three, including almost a year’s worth of additional classes between the Berrie Fellowship and the extra requirements specific to the ecumenical section at the time (Most people doing an STL are required to take 24 classes  in addition to comps and thesis; I took 36, and had credit for 9 more from previous graduate studies and experience). During the doctorate, I have worked two part time jobs and taught 2-3 classes a semester, so while I am still aiming for the three-year mark, I will accept if that just gets me to a good draft.

As I get ever closer to 40, the idea of settling into a permanent position gets more and more appealing. These five years in Rome mark the longest I have lived in one city since I was 16, and even then entails moving at least for every summer, and often not knowing where I will be more than a few months ahead. Recent job searches have revealed potential positions in Edinburgh, Basel, Geneva, Jerusalem, all over the US, and Antarctica. (Admittedly, the last one had nothing to do with theology, but who would not want to spend a few months dodging penguins in -15C weather after the Baroque excess and summer heat of Rome?)

Dear friends and colleagues, faithful readers and strangers who happened by while looking for images, thank you for your visit and your interest. I hope we will be seeing more of each other over the year to come! Happy Lent!

Mapping the College of Cardinals

With a class this week explaining the college of cardinals and other aspects of the Catholic hierarchy to some undergrads, in honor of the weekend’s consistory creating 20 new princes of the Church, I found a few helpful resources worth sharing.

The Vatican’s website has upped its game, in offering some new statistics on the College of Cardinals. You can find lists by name, age, or nationality. Graphs indicating the distribution of cardinals according to the pope that appointed them, the percentage of electors vs. emeriti, or how many serve in the curia. The graph below breaks down membership according to geographical region.

cardinalgraph

The independent Catholic-hierarchy.com has already updated its lists, which can be sorted by various values.

The incomparable CGP Grey offers some illumination in his clip “How to become pope”, meant for popular consumption.

There are of course more academic articles, historical sources, and ecclesiological treatises, plus reform suggestions that range from adding women cardinals to eliminating the sacred college altogether. There are interviews with the new cardinals (one reporter shared that Italian colleagues were getting bent out of shape upon realizing that some of the new wearers of scarlet did not speak a word of Italian beyond “ciao”.)

One thing I could not find was a map indicating where the cardinals were from. Something to give visual aid to the question of a more globalized Church reflected in a more globalized college. So I created one.

Click on the (scarlet) pins to see basic information about each cardinal.

Residential cardinals – that is, those cardinal-presbyters who are bishops or archbishops of dioceses around the world – are located according to their See.

Curial cardinals – mostly cardinal-deacons serving in the Roman Curia – are located according to their place of birth (and they represent 28% of the total electorate).

There are options to see retired/over-80 cardinals, too, also organized by curia or diocese. Their pins are a lighter shade of scarlet (cough… pink… cough).

A couple of immediate observations, beyond the overcrowding of Italy, were some of the wide open areas without any: No Scandinavian cardinals, none from easternmost Europe or central Asia. For China, only Hong Kong.

In the US, all but one of the diocesan cardinals are from the eastern half of the country, and that even counts the retirees. There is a small corridor from the great lakes to the north Atlantic coast that accounts for the overwhelming majority of North American cardinals, leaving one thinking it might be time to move some of those pins to the likes of Vancouver, Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis or Atlanta. Or, if we want to go peripheral, maybe Tucson, Honolulu, and Juneau.

Would love to hear thoughts,take corrections, or hear it has been used by other teachers.

Facebook’s no “Father” fascism (and other woes of our age)

FRThere is a new kind of fortnight for freedom on Facebook campaign. For the last couple of weeks one of the most pressing issues facing the church has not been, according to my newsfeed: the martyrs created by ISIS, the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the plight of immigrants and refugees, or the staggering disparity between multibillionaires and the billions in poverty. Rather, we must raise up arms about a new (or newly enforced) policy on Facebook that people ought to be using their real names. Petitions are being signed, editorials written, and, naturally, Facebook pages have been created.

Shocking, I know.

The thing is, though, there are already two solutions in place. Here is a radical idea: Before starting a virtual religious freedom riot, why not see if you can get what you want by using the tools already at hand?

The first options is the Public Figure Page. This is intended for people with a following. Celebrities and theologians and whatnot. Here I use the well-known Father Robert Barron as an example. He has two facebook pages:

  • His personal page is Robert Barron. He has 84 friends. (Somehow, I still know he’s a priest).
  • His public figure page is Father Robert Barron, with over 411,000 likes.

You can use titles for public figures, no problem.

Screenshot (6)The second option is the “Name with Title” option.
(screenshot included)

  • Go to your profile’s “About” tab,
  • click on “Details about you”
  • under “Other Names” click on “add nickname, birthname,…”
  • on the drop down menu for name type select “Name with Title”
  • Type in whatever you want: Deacon Tom, Father Dick, Bishop Harry, Pope Sixtus VI….
  • Click “Save Changes”.

Now, as a Catholic Christian, I have no problem with this “real names” rule. Online integrity is part of “though shalt not lie” as far as we are concerned. No need for aliases, pseudonyms, or the “anonymous” setting behind which we can sling mud. No, all trolling must be done in our own name, as our online presence is an extension of ourselves. Recent remarks by both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI, usually on World Communications Day, have underscored this idea.

However, some in the flock are not satisfied that they cannot present their title or style of address as if it is part of their name. This has primarily been a concern of priests and seminarians, some deacons and sisters. It is apparently some kind of anti-Catholic conspiracy, despite the fact that the policy applies to rabbis and imams and wiccan priestesses and pretty much everybody else as well.

Some clergy have taken to creating neologisms for their names, as Father Ralph becomes FrRalph and Deacon Bob becomes DeaconBob. Others have changes their profile pictures in protest (samples inserted).

DCNAs a child of the digital age, a postmodern son of the Church (at least by generation), I am not inclined to agree. (And, as far as I can tell, Catholic doctors, judges, and professors have not expressed similar outrage.)

If I see your occupation is physician, I know it is polite to address you as “Doctor”; if you teach at university, I know your style is “Professor”; if I see you are a priest or deacon, I know that “Father” is a customary style of address, and will likely choose to address you that way.

It is not your name, however. Your name is your name, and that should be sufficient. Your name was good enough for your Christian Initiation, it is certainly good enough for your ordination, to say nothing of your Facebook page.

It would be similarly pretentious, and inaccurate, to introduce yourself by saying “Hello, my name is Father Smith” or “My name is Doctor Jones”. NO: your name is Bob Smith or Tom Jones. Father, or Doctor, is not part of your name.

You could say, “Call me Father Smith” or “Call me Ishmael” if you want me to call you something other than just your name, but your name is your name. Be proud of it, and do not confuse it with your title.

Reason #5,354 to love Rome – Pope Joan

A.J. Boyd:

When i lived in Celio, at the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas, this was one of my favorite quirky little places. Marian shrines cover the city at nearly every corner, often small and easy to miss. This one is said to mark the spot of the legendary Pope Joan’s labor. I came across this other bloggers pictures and account of the story, and it seemed worth sharing, just for a little something fun!

There is also one of the best pizzerias of Rome just across the street, if you happen to come by…

Originally posted on kimberlysullivan:

I live close to this little shrine and I love that people always leave flowers here. In summer, winter, rain or shine… and a couple of times, even in snow! … people come to this little portico to leave their floral offerings.

My children like to pass by and count how many flowers have been left on that particular day for Papessa Giovanna – or Pope Joan.

For that’s the over-one-thousand-year-old legend that keeps the offerings coming to this little spot in Rome’s Celio neighbourhood. And how can you not love a city that keeps its medieval legends alive and well in our modern world?

According to the legend, in the 9th century a young English woman disguised herself as a man, taking the name Johannes Anglicus, and became a monk. In July 853 A.D, this female monk succeeded Pope Leone IV, becoming Pope Giovanni VII (Johannes Septimus

View original 258 more words

Reforming the Roman Curia: Next Steps

This weekend, word started getting around that the much anticipated reforms of the Roman Curia were finally ready for delivery – at least a number of them.

Pope Francis met with the dicastery heads this morning to give them a preview of changes, though no official word yet on what they all will be.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, new Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship

Cardinal Robert Sarah, new Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship

What has been announced is that there is a new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, which has been vacant since Cardinal Canizares Llovera was appointed as Archbishop of Valencia at the end of August. The new top liturgist of the Roman curia is Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea. Cardinal Sarah has been working in the Curia since 2001, first as Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and since 2010 as President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”. The new prefect, like most of his predecessors, has no formal education in Liturgy.

The rest is a bit of informed speculation, and nothing is ever official until it is announced:

Among the long awaited and predicted reforms to the curia will likely be the establishment of a Congregation for the Laity – raising the dicastery dealing with 99.9% of the Church’s population to the same level as the two (Bishops and Clergy) that deal with the other 0.1%. The new Congregation would have, it seems, five sections: Marriage and Families; Women; Youth; Associations and Movements; and one other. Too much to hope it would be for Lay Ecclesial Ministry? The current Council has a section on sport, so perhaps that would be maintained, but I suspect not.

No one would be terribly surprised to see the new prefect of such a congregation turn out to be Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, since he suggested the move publicly last year. What would be a true sign of reform would be to appoint a lay person or couple with degrees and work experience in lay spirituality, lay ministry, or something related. Then make the first lay cardinal we have seen in a century and a half.[1]

The new congregation would certainly combine and replace the Councils for Laity and for Family, but could possibly also incorporate New Evangelization or Culture, which are directly related to the apostolate of the laity in the secular world.

If you read Evangelii Gaudium, though, it is clear that Pope Francis sees the “new Evangelization” as an aspect simply of Evangelization proper, and I would be less surprised to see this Council incorporated into the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Culture would be appropriately aggregated to Laity.

The other big combination long anticipated would be a Congregation for Peace and Justice – or something similarly named. It would combine the Councils of Peace and Justice, Cor Unum, Health Care Workers, and the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, and possibly the Academy for Life. It would have sections corresponding to these priorities: Life; Migrants; Health Care; Charity; and Peace and Justice in the World. Presumably, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana would continue from the current homonymous council as the prefect of the new Congregation.

Finally, a revamp of the Vatican Communications apparatus has been underway for a couple of years, and we could expect to see something formal announced much like the Secretariat for the Economy. Perhaps a Congregation for Communications, or at least a stronger Council, with direct responsibility all communications in the Vatican: L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio, CTV, the websites, various social media, the publishing house, etc.

Now, a couple of ideas that would be welcome, but are not expected:

laycardinals

Not exactly how i envision lay cardinals…

The combination of the Congregations for Bishops and Clergy – have a single congregation with three or four sections: Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, and Other Ministers/Lay Ecclesial Ministy. This would be especially possible if the responsibility for electing bishops – only in the modern era reserved to the pope – could be carefully restored to the local churches in most cases.

The creation of a Congregation for Dialogue, replacing the Councils for Promoting Christian Unity, Interreligious Dialogue, and the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. It would accordingly have several sections: Western Christians; Eastern Christians; Jews; Other Religions. Perhaps the whole Courtyard of the Gentiles effort could be folded into this as well.

Alternatively, leaving Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue in separate dicasteries but with more influence, like requiring every document coming out of the CDF and other congregations to be vetted before publication, to make sure they incorporate ecumenical agreements and principles as a sign of reception.

Formalization of the separation out from the Secretariat of State for responsibilities relating to moderating the curia. The Secretariat should be dealing with diplomatic issues. The rest could be reorganized in a number of different ways.

Streamlining of the judicial dicasteries, including removing the judicial aspects out from CDF and into a stand-alone tribunal. Granted, it is thanks to then-Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF that any movement on abuser priests happened, but it is still anomalous to have. (Still need to work out what this would look like though).

A consistory which creates no new Italian cardinals – lets get the numbers down to a reasonable amount. Like five. If there are any (North) Americans, they would be the likes of Bishop Gerald Kicanas from Tucson, Archbishop Joe Tobin of Indianapolis, or Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle – but nobody else from east of the Mississippi. Maybe a bishop from Wyoming or Alaska, the real “peripheries” of American Catholicism. At least five Brazilians and another Filippino. Maybe an Iranian.

Above all, nobody would be appointed to serve in a dicastery without a doctorate in the relevant field, and experience in that area of ministry.

——

[1] The last being Teodolfo Martello, who was created cardinal while still a lay man, though he was ordained deacon two months later. At his death in 1899, he was last cardinal not to be either a presbyter or bishop. Since 1917 all cardinals were required to be ordained presbyters; since 1968 all were normally required to be ordained bishops.

50th Anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio celebrated in Rome

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