Month: November 2005

Pope Benedict XVI Roundup!

  • Pope Benedict has “issued a rare decree curbing the autonomy of [Franciscan] monks,” guarding the tomb of St. Francis in the central Umbria region, according to the New York Times (Nov. 22, 2005):

    The decree . . . put the monks under control of three people — the local bishop, a Vatican cardinal, and the head of the Italian bishops conference.

    The move marked the first attempt by Benedict to discipline a religious order and revoked another decree issued by Pope Paul VI in 1969 which gave the Assisi monks wide-ranging autonomy. . . .

    In the past decades, the monks of Assisi, which is one of the holiest and most visited sites in all Christendom, have been associated with leftist political parties and leftist causes.

    The annual Easter season peace march organised by the Assisi monks is frequented by leftist leaders and often boycotted by centre-right politicians.

    They have also hosted highly controversial figures such as former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, Italian communist party leaders and Oscar-winning actor-director Roberto Benigni, a life-long leftist.

    (Writing from Rome, LifeSiteNews’ John Jalsevac provides a detailed report on Benedict’s latest decision:

    Almost simultaneous with the announcement that the basilicas were to again answer to the bishop, Benedict announced the appointment of Archbishop Dominico Sorrentino as bishop of the diocese of Assisi. Although slipping by general notice amidst the furor over the controversy surrounding the Franciscan shrines, some commentators are speculating that the appointment of Sorrentino may be the most important development yet in Benedict’s papacy. . . .

    Pope Benedict Enforcing Traditional Rules and Orthodoxy Nov. 24, 2005. See also John Allen, Jr. on the transfer of Sorrentino.

  • “The bishops have come to realize that every time they meet Benedict XVI, alone or as a group, they must be ready for anything: accolades, rebukes, surprises,” says Sandro Magister (“The Italians Pass, the Austrians Flunk, the Brazilians… The Bishops under Examination” http://www.Chiesa Nov. 18, 2005). Among those on the receiving end of criticism from the Pope were the Austrian bishops who were read “the riot act”:

    “As you well know, the confession of the faith is one of the bishop’s primary duties. ‘I did not draw back’, St. Paul says in Miletus to the pastors of the Church of Ephesus, ‘from the task of proclaiming to you the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27). It is true that we bishops must act with discretion. Nevertheless, this prudence must not prevent us from presenting the Word of God in all its clarity, including those things that are heard less willingly or that consistently provoke reactions of protest and derision. You, dear brothers in the episcopacy, know this well: there are some topics relating to the truth of the faith, and above all to moral doctrine, which are not present in the catechesis and preaching of your dioceses to a sufficient extent, and which sometimes, for example in pastoral outreach to youth in the parishes or groups, are either not confronted at all or are not addressed in the clear sense understood by the Church. Thanks be to God, it is not like this everywhere. Perhaps those who are responsible for the proclamation [of the Gospel] are afraid that people may draw back if they speak too clearly. However, experience in general demonstrates that it is precisely the opposite that happens. Don’t deceive yourselves! Catholic teaching offered in an incomplete manner is a contradiction of itself and cannot be fruitful in the long term. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God goes hand in hand with the demand for conversion and with the love that encourages, that knows the way, that teaches that with the grace of God even that which seemed impossible becomes possible. Think of how, little by little, religious instruction, catechesis on various levels, and preaching can be improved, deepened, and, so to speak, completed! Please, make zealous use of the ‘Compendium’ and the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’! Have the priests and catechists adopt these tools, have them explained in the parishes, have them used in families as important reading material! Amid the uncertainty of this period of history and this society, offer to men the certainty of the fullness of the Church‘s faith! The clarity and the beauty of the Catholic faith are what make man’s life shine, even today! This is especially the case when it is presented by enthusiastic and exciting witnesses.”

    Any thoughts on the report card for the American bishops?

  • On October 25, 2005 Cardinal Dulles lectured on “Pope Benedict XVI [as] Interpreter of Vatican II”. The full text of the lecture is not yet available online, but we’ll let you know as soon as we locate it.
  • Back in September my father blogged the first part of a discussion on Michael S. Rose’ series “The Man Who Was Ratzinger” in New Oxford Review (September 2005) — see “Pope Benedict & Church Bureaucracy”, Musings of a Pertinacious Papist Sept. 16, 2005. This past week he discusses part two, on Pope Benedict’s view of bishops, generating a lively discussion.
  • Michael Rose himself has recently penned Benedict XVI: The Man Who Was Ratzinger (Spence Publishing, Oct. 2005), which adheres more closely to the “Vatican Enforcer” motif of John Allen’s earlier biography:

    Perhaps the most imposing intellectual ever to assume the papacy, Ratzinger has been recognized as a world-class theologian since the time of Vatican II. In two decades as the chief guardian of Catholic doctrine, he addressed every controversy facing the Church: clerical sex abuse, feminism, religious pluralism, sexual revolution and the culture of death, secularism, and militant Islam. This uncommonly rich record, Rose argues, promises a new Counterreformation, purifying and reorienting the Catholic Church.

    Rose reveals that Cardinal Ratzinger, unquestionably John Paul II’s closest collaborator, was privately critical of certain ecumenical, liturgical, and administrative policies of the late pope. While Benedict will undoubtedly follow John Paul’s fundamental path, Rose predicts some critical departures that could enable this supposedly “polarizing” figure to become a powerful unifying force, reviving the Church and reawakening the West’s Christian identity in its moment of crisis.

  • Remember Pope Benedict’s meeting with Hans Kung? — Apparently he is not the only dissident theologian to have made friendly overtures to former Prefect of the CDF. Professor Richard McBrien — presently serving as “consultant” to the cinematized version of The Da Vinci Code — gave a positive assessment of the pontiff’s first months:

    “I have observed little or nothing from my vantage point that would trouble me or other reform-minded Catholics,” McBrien said. . . .

    “Benedict is open and secure,” McBrien said in assessment of the 78-year-old pontiff. “He’s not afraid of discussion. The initial signs are encouraging.”

    Although McBrien said no drastic changes in Catholic doctrine were imminent, the new pope was already doing his best to maintain the legacy of goodwill and interdenominationalism that his predecessor had begun.

    (Source: “ND prof says new pope more open to discussion”, by Catherine LaFrance. LaPorte Herald- Argus Nov. 14, 2005. (Of course, as Stephen wonders: Why does anyone give two cents what McBrien thinks of the pope?”

  • On October 28, 2005, Pope Benedict commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate by expressing his [Commitment] to Advancing Catholic-Jewish Dialogue Zenit. October 28, 2005:

    “The Jewish-Christian dialogue must continue to enrich and deepen the bonds of friendship which have developed, while preaching and catechesis must be committed to ensuring that our mutual relations are presented in the light of the principles set forth by the council,” wrote the Pope.

    “As we look to the future, I express my hope that both in theological dialogue and in everyday contacts and collaboration, Christians and Jews will offer an ever more compelling shared witness to the one God and his commandments, the sanctity of life, the promotion of human dignity, the rights of the family and the need to build a world of justice, reconciliation and peace for future generations,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Father Franz Schmidberger, apparently the “right hand man” of Bernard Fellay and member of the traditionalist schismatic organization Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), chastised the Holy Father for his dialogue and fraternization with other religions, urging him to abstain from “false systems” and convert them instead (Ultra-traditionalist says pope should convert Jews Reuters, Nov. 19, 2005).

  • Catholic Exchange published the Catechetical Dialogue that took place October 15, 2005, between some children who were preparing to celebrate their First Holy Communion and Pope Benedict XVI.
  • L’Osservatore Romano has published its very own gallery of “The most beautiful photos of the Pope”:

    The gallery includes a picture of the Holy Father looking out on the lake of Castel Gandolfo from the balcony of the papal summer residence. Another shows him imparting an apostolic blessing during his first appearance as Pope on April 19. And still another shows him, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, embracing Pope John Paul II.

    There are photos of particular events, including one taken Nov. 2 while the Holy Father was praying in the Vatican Grottoes for the deceased Popes; another on Oct. 23 while presiding over the closure of the Synod of Bishops and of the Year of the Eucharist; and one taken Oct. 5 during a celebration with children who made their first Communion.

    According to the website, prints are available from the “L’Osservatore Romano” Photographic Service.

  • Back in June, Jacqueline Bassell discussed the wave of “instant-books” that appeared on the shelves soon after the whisp of white smoke from the Sistine Chapel. Michael Walsh reviews the latest wave of the “Benedict biography” cottage industry (“Only One Wry Eye on Benedict XVI” The Tablet October 29, 2005). The books in question:
    In the Vineyard of the Lord: The Life, Faith and Teachings of Joseph Ratzinger, by Marco Bardazzi. Rizzoli (May 31, 2005)
    We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, by Matthew E Bunson. (Our Sunday Visitor, May 19, 2005)
    Pope Benedict XVI : His Life and Mission, by Stephen Mansfield. Tarcher (July 21, 2005)
    Benedict XVI: Commander of the Faith, by Rupert Shortt. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (October 24, 2005).
    Labourer in the Vineyard: a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI, by Greg Watts. Lion Publishing Plc (October 15, 2005).

    Judging by the reviews I’m reading, the various and sundry introductions to the Holy Father that spontaneously appeared in the weeks following the conclave pale in comparison to George Weigel’s God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (the rival being John Allen Jr.’s The Rise of Benedict XVI).

    Justin Nickelsen (Ressourcement – Restoration in Catholic Theology) posts his reflections on Weigel’s book, and in keeping with his blog directs our attention to Ratzinger’s early years as a ressourcement theologian, his participation in the Second Vatican Council and the co-founding of Communio.

    As Justin noted, Weigel’s book follows the same scheme as the rest (“1. the last days of John Paul II with some commentary on his pontificate and coverage of the funeral; 2. the election of a new pope; 3. a short biography of Joseph Ratzinger with predictions for the future”), and with the exception of John Allen Jr’s factually-educational but ultimately-flawed-due-to-liberal-prejudice attempt The Vatican Enforcer, we have yet to see a full-fledged papal biography on the scale of JPII’s Witness to Hope. Someday . . .

  • Say it isn’t so! — Deutsche-Welle reports that the Prada Pope Causes “Cassock War”:

    The stylish Benedict has angered many in the holy city by allegedly switching allegiances from the company which has made papal robes for over 200 years to a tailor who has only been in business for a tenth of that time.

    In what is being called the “cassock wars,” both tailors are said to be squaring up for a dispute over the papal contract in a bid to win the pope’s favor. Annibale Gammarelli, of the eponymous firm of outfitters who have been making papal cassocks since 1792, is locked in a struggle with Mancinelli, a small shop that has been operating for a mere 20 years.

    This is what passes for news?

Previous Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI Roundups:
4/23/05; 5/01/05;
9/27/05, and 10/26/05


It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. Yet now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ.

– Dorothy Day (Source: Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.)

Remembering Gerard Serafin

When you have the time, take a moment (or three) to peruse the wonderful website of Gerard Serafin, A Catholic Page for Lovers — founded in 1996, it remains (thanks to whoever maintains it?) a powerful testament to Catholic faith and spirituality on the internet. A source of much comfort and reflection.

Gerard Serafin passed away last year, around this time. He was one of the first Catholic bloggers and a personal inspiration. (He was also the first, as I recall, to maintain a directory of “St. Blog’s Parish”).

His love for our Savior, his pleasure in the beauty of life (despite its hardships), the laughter, joy and hope in his words were an example to many. I know I am not alone in missing him.

Pope John Paul II – Jewish ancestry?

Manchester historian Yaakov Wise claims that Pope John Paul II had Jewish ancestry:

Although he believes the Pope’s father was an ethnic Pole, he thinks that John Paul’s mother Emilia Kaczorowski – Emily Katz in English – was Jewish and that she was the daughter of Feliks Kaczowski, a businessman from Biala-Bielsko in Poland. Katz is a common surname amongst East European Jewish families.

Emilia’s mother, the Pope’s grandmother, was Maria Anna Scholz. Scholz, or Schulze, is also a common surname among Jews, as is Rybicka, or Ryback, which is the surname of the Pope’s great-grandmother Zuzanna.

All the names or their variations appear on gravestones in the old Biala Jewish cemetery, as does the surname of Felik’s mother Urszula Maklinowska. Mr Wise said: “The Pope’s ancestry has been researched by an American historian.

“But nobody has traced the family name through the Jewish community and, as Jewish historian, I have access to information that a non-Jewish historian wouldn’t know about.

“I’m not making any firm conclusions, but what I’m saying is that there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to say that he was Jewish.

Source: Manchester Metronews Nov. 28, 2005.

Jewish ancestry! Horrors! — Somebody alert Thomas Herron and Culture Wars.

Who knows if it’s true, but I’d consider it a privilege to be related to our Savior in such a manner. Link via Patrick Sweeney.

"A Place of Promise and Hope"

. . . The United States has been a refuge for millions — and no nation has been more generous in helping to rebuild the lands of its former enemies, including this great nation of Italy after the Second World War. No nation has been more generous in helping the victims of natural disasters not only within our own orders but around the world.

The cardinal of Los Angeles and the bishop of Brooklyn, the two major ports of arrival for those entering the United States, have told me that Mass is celebrated in their communities in more than 40 languages every Sunday.

The United States has been called the great “melting pot” — and, to a certain extent it is, but it is even more a mosaic, many colors and many cultures in one beautiful expression of unity with diversity — “e pluribus, unum” [out of many, one].

I am extremely grateful to be not only a Catholic, but a Catholic from and of the United States of America. God has been so good to us, and most of our people have recognized God’s goodness to us and have responded with gratitude to him and with generosity to others. We recognize ourselves to be stewards and not masters of the abundance and of the freedom with which we have been blessed.

I have had the privilege of visiting most of the world in the service of the Holy See. I have seen and experienced much, and I have known many wonderful people from almost every nation.

But on this day above all, I thank God for my faith and for my freedom, and for the fact that I am an American, a citizen of a nation which, with all its faults, is still justly viewed as a land of opportunity, a beacon of hope in an often despairing world.

On this Thanksgiving Day, we thank our Heavenly Father, and we pray fervently, “God bless America!”

Thanksgiving Day Homily, Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, delivered at Santa Susanna Church, in Rome.

Discussions on Catholicism, Liberalism and the American Experiment – A Roundup

As I’ve mentioned before, if you notice a dip in postings on “Against The Grain”, do check ‘Religion & Liberty’ blog, where I’ve been pretty busy in connection with the website ‘The Church and the Liberal Tradition’ and a discussion of various topics loosely centered around the ‘Whig-Thomist / Augustinian-Thomist’ debate.

This past week, Chris Burgwald (Veritas) picks up on the conversation begun at David Jones’ La Nouvelle Theologie with the first in a series of posts elaborating on the reasons for disagreement with Michael Novak (together with Fr. Neuhaus, George Weigel, and Fr. Sirico).

The first of Chris’ posts is on the proposition: “The death of God for our times, for our culture, for us, is Liberalism”, which I followed with:

  1. “On Liberalism”: Discussion w. Chris Burgwald
  2. Religious Convictions and Public Discourse (Discussion w. Chris Burgwald)
  3. Making Sense of Schindler: Good Diagnosis: What about the Prescription?

Additional Posts in Recent Weeks

Last but not least, I wanted to convey a hearty welcome to “Democracy of the Dead”, another collective who has been — unbeknownst to us — blogging for some time now on similar issues.

* * *

I’ll likely be doing some updates and new posts to Against The Grain in the future — just didn’t want y’all to be mystified by my absence or the infrequency of posts.


Veterans Day – 2005

Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee as Though deservest; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward; save that of knowing that we do Thy will through Jesus Christ our Lord.

— St. Ignatius

* * *

The great French preacher Lacordaire once said the vocation of a soldier is next in dignity to the priesthood, not only because it commissioned him to defend justice on the field of battle and order on the field of peace, but also because it called him to the spirit and intention of sacrifice.

From Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s Wartime Prayerbook
(Sophia Institute Press, 2003)

* * *

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, let thy protection be upon all those who are in the service of our country; guard them from all harm and danger of body and soul; sustain and comfort those as home, especially in their hours of loneliness, anxiety, and sorrow; prepare the dying for death and the living for your service; give success to our arms on land and sea and in the air; and grant unto us and all nations a speedy, just and lasting peace. Amen.
— Prayer in Time of War