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In an exclusive interview for Belgian weekly Tertio, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, says it’s time for the Church to change her attitude to marriage and divorce. Or so several media say. Tertio’s website offers two short excerpts from the interview, with the first expressly dealing with the question of remarried divorcees. While it is clear that the answer presented is not the full answer given by Cardinal Baldisseri, it also does not support in any way that he desires a change in Church teaching. Of course, once the full interview is out, this conclusion may prove incorrect, but, as ever, things are likely not as explosive as some would want them to be.
In the West many expect more openness on sexual morality, including the attitude towards remarried divorcees. Do you expect there to be any changes?
“The questionnaire covered many topics. Among them the topic of sexual morality, but also the situation of divorcees and people who have remarried civilly. [...] Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio from 1981 was the last major document in the past thirty years about this topic. The Church is not timeless; she exists amid the vicissitudes of history and the Gospel must be known and experienced by the people of today. The message must be delivered in the present, with all respect for the integrity of whoever receives it. We now face two Synods to discuss this complex topic of the family, and I believe that this dynamic in two movements will allow us to give a more appropriate response to the expectations of the people.”
How can a greater balance be reached in the management of the Church, between the Curia and the world Church, between centralisation and local autonomy?
“That is the great question that Pope Francis knows himself to be confronted with, in the face of renewal and reform. According to him the bishops at the Conclave gave him that task. Synodality would have to guarantee decentralisation and more attention for the local churches, and also greater involvement of all bishops in the world with evangelisation. As head of the college of bishops the Pope must lead that process. The Council of eight cardinals is working towards a reform of the Curia and the central services of the Church.”
As an aside, the above answers are generally what Cardinal Baldisseri said in an interview for Vatican Radio in March. There he also said that what the Synod wants to do is get to know the problems, so solutions may be found. Pastoral care can and must be flexible, if always rooted in the faith of the Church. But pastoral care can only work if those who want to exercise it get to know the people and their situations. Getting to know and understand the questions and problems of people who are divorced and remarried is not the same as condoning their situation, but a first step towards a solution. I expect that is exactly what Cardinal Baldisseri and the Synod of Bishops is trying to do before the Synod starts in autumn.
Three weeks before the first Francis-style consistory, a look at exactly what titles the new cardinals may be receiving. As always, it’s a guessing game, but an interesting one, which sheds a light on how the cardinals of the world Church are a part of the local Church of Rome, symbolising their unity with the See of Peter.
There will be 19 new cardinals, and only four of these will be Cardinal-Deacons, as they work in the Roman Curia. They are Cardinals-designate Pietro Parolin, Lorenzo Baldisseri, Gerhard Müller and Beniamino Stella. These four can be granted one of nine available Cardinal Deaconries (that is assuming Pope Francis won’t elevate any new ones, as he is free to do, even when there are existing deaconries vacant). They are:
Sant’Agnese in Agone
- Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino
- Sant’Antonio di Padova a Circonvallazione Appia
- San Giovanni Battista Decollato
- Santa Maria della Scalia
- Santa Maria in Cosmedin
- San Teodoro
- Santi Cosma e Damiano
- Santissimi Nomi di Gesù e Maria in Via Lata
Most of these deaconries fell vacant only recently, with the exception of San Teodoro (since 2000), San Giovanni Battista Decollato (since 1988) and Santa Maria in Cosmedin (since 1967) (pictured). Assigning these three would be high time, then. San Teodoro, however, is used by the Greek Orthodox community in Rome, after Pope John Paul II granted them its use in 2000. Keeping this deaconry vacant would be a sign of good will that Pope Francis may well want to to extend.
The 15 other cardinals-designate will be Cardinal-Priests as they are ordinaries of dioceses, although three of them are retired. There are, however, only 13 Cardinal Titles available, so Pope Francis will either create some new ones, or (temporarily) elevate a few Cardinal-Deaconries to Titles. Below is the list:
- Santa Cecilia
- San Crisogono
- Sant’Emerenziana a Tor Fiorenza
- San Gioacchino ai Prati di Castello
- San Giuseppe all’Aurelio
- Sante Maria della Salute a Primavalle
- Santa Maria in Trastevere
- Santa Maria Madre della Provvidenza a Monte Verde
- Santa Maria “Regina Mundi” a Torre Spaccata
- Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino
- San Roberto Bellarmino
- Santissimo Redentore a Valmelaina
- Santissimo Redentore e Sant’Alfonso in Via Merulana
First of all, this list contains Pope Francis’ own Cardinal Title of San Roberto Bellarmino (pictured), which he held until his election to the papacy. Maybe he’ll choose to keep to the pattern of that title being held by South American prelates, and he could even grant it to his own successor in Buenos Aires, Mario Poli. All these titles fell vacant in the past four years, so none is really in need of being filled immediately (if titles can ever be, of course). San Crisogono and Santa Maria in Trastevere are two of the oldest titles, dating back to the second century.
Originally the churches of the priests of Rome, and later those of the priests and deacons of Rome, and the bishops of the surrounding dioceses, who could elect the Pope, Cardinal Titles and Cardinal Deaconries today are largely ceremonial. The cardinals play no role in the daily affairs of their churches, although their coats of arms and names are usually present in the church somewhere. Some cardinals may even support their church financially or offer Mass in them when in Rome. Symbolically, the cardinals are a part of the Church’s foundation around Saint Peter in Rome, working with his successor in leading the Church.
Former Dutch parliamentarian Boris Dittrich (pictured) has been treating several media outlets to the story of his visit to the Vatican and his conversation with Archbishop Müller. There are some serious problems with his comments, which I will try to address by fisking this article, which was written by Frans Wijnands and was published today on “meeting place for Christians” Het Goede Leven (all bold text in between square brackets are my comments):
The Pope does not decide the doctrine of the Church, says Archbishop Müller
Under the current Pope Francis there is no relaxation imaginable in the Church’s strictly dismissive opinion on homosexuality. So states the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
It is not the Pope who decides the doctrine, the dogmas of the Church [well, in the case of dogmas, it is]. Concerning doctrine, that is a matter for the Curia. That is the response that Dutch former (Liberal Democrat] politician Boris Dittrich received from Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when Dittrich suggested out loud that the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards homosexuals could change in a positive way under Pope Francis.
Dittrich was in Rome and the Vatican these past days on behalf of Human Rights Watch, a worldwide human rights organisation which, among others, strives for equal rights for homosexuals [including the right to change truth, it would seem]. Dittrich is its director for ‘rights of sexual minorities’.
Earlier he had explained the position of Human Rights Watch in a more or less open letter of twelve pages [talk about losing the point in words, perhaps?] With the letter, Human Rights Watch encouraged Pope Francis last month to denounce violence towards and discrimination against homosexuals and transsexuals, and to stand up to priests and other workers in the Church who support violence against and discrimination of sexual minorities [Because no Pope has done that before. I’ll just share this link again; in it I quote some sources which state exactly what Dittrich wants].
Dittrich travelled to Rome to personally explain the letter, but did not get to speak with the Pope [Did he think of making an appointment, or did he just assume the Holy Father would make time for him on the spot?]. The former D66 member of parliament was at the weekly audience with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday and was able to hand the letter to an assistant when Francis’ car stopped near him.
He did get to speak with Msgr. Müller (pictured), the head of the most important Vatican Congregation, that of the Doctrine of the Faith. Dittrich told Müller that he attended an opening of a campaign for more rights for homosexuals in Rio de Janeiro in 2008 and there spoke extensively with the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires: Msgr. Bergoglio, the current Pope. He told Dittrich that he was or is [odd and suggestive use of words] opposed to gay marriage, but could imagine that an alternative was possible, for example the legal recognition of homosexual relations. [Where did we hear that before? Oh, right: here.] A sort of cohabitation contract [as it exists in the Netherlands for both same-sex and separate-sex couples].
Cold and Stiff
To Dittrich’s suggestion that under the current Pope a relaxation of the Church’s strictly dismissive position was imaginable, Müller’s reply was that the Pope does not make policy, but that that was a task for the Curia.
“The entire conversation was cold and stiff. Very detached. Not a single sign of thinking along or sympathy, “says Dittrich. “I senses a tension, a sort of self defense.” [Probably because some research will show that the teaching of the Church is not subject to the personal opinions of whoever, and that Pope Francis is indeed a son of the Church, as he said himself].
In Rome and among Vatican watchers it is known that the public actions of Francis are not received well be everyone in the highest governing body. The Pope has repeatedly shown that he makes his own decisions and does not rely too much on the Curia. [On the other hand, Archbishop Müller and other Curial prelates have been confirmed in their jobs after careful consideration, a sure sign that Pope Francis supports them in their work].
He recently appointed Msgr. Pietro Parolin as new Secretary of State, as successor of Cardinal Bertone. Dittrich assumes that this new Secretary of State will loyally execute the Pope’s policies [Of course he will]. “That obviously creates tensions with the Curia [really?] Because it could lead to the influence and power of that Curia decreasing”, Dittrich assumes. [Dittrich should do a little less assuming and some more researching. Pope Francis was given a specific mandate to reform the Curia by the cardinals who elected him. Among them many Curial cardinals. Pope Francis’ intentions to reform the Curia are hardly secret].
Shortly before resigning, Pope Benedict XVI appointed his former student, friend and confidant, Msgr. Müller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, [well, shortly… nine months, and it was a decision most likely far longer in the making], an office that Pope Benedict held himself for years before being elected Pope.
In the conversation [which took place where and how, I wonder? Did Dittrich meet the archbishop by chance or did he have an appointment?] with Boris Dittrich, Msgr. Müller also strongly attacked the role of the media. According to him, these are, in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal, continuously out to hit the Vatican. [Well, many media outlets are, that’s a fact. Whether it’s wise to accuse all media of that, if the archbishop did, is the question]
I can’t help but consider Dittrich’s comments somewhat untrustworthy. He displays a lack of understanding about how the Church works and what she teaches, and a lack of preparation for his attempts to share a letter with the Pope. Add to that his clear liberal agenda, and we get an artificial image of a Curia opposed to their Pope, and image which simply is not supported by reality. It’s like what Archbishop Gänswein said when it was assumed that he and Pope Francis did not get along because he was Benedict’s man: “All nonsense”.
Pope Francis has been encouraging a more pastoral approach to and treatment of homosexuals (and anyone else on the margins of our lives, for that matter) in the Church, but that is not the same thing as changing the teachings of the Church. Pope Francis has never indicated any willingness to change those. Those teachings are also not the product of policy makers, but have been given to us and continuously explained by the Church. To say that Pope and Curia are, or even can be, opposed to each other as if they were two politicians in parliament is a gross misrepresentation of reality.
Photo credit:  Sebastiaan ter Burg,  Catholic.org
Back in April, so several sources claim, Pope Francis put at least a temporary stop to the granting of the honorary title of Monsignor or, more accurately, the titles of Honorary Prelate of His Holiness and Chaplain of His Holiness. Both titles grant the use of the title ‘monsignor’ to whom it is bestowed. It is a honorific, granted upon the request of a priest’s bishop or by papal initiative to priests who have done some extraordinary service that would merit this recognition. In practice, and in some areas, the titles have also een given almost automatically to priests who reached a certain age or number of years in one position or function.
Bishops also use the title of monsignor, but this comes with their consecration as bishops and is therefore not an honorary title.
It is said that Pope Francis wants to await the first meeting of the college of eight cardinals that he has appointed to advise him in reforming the Curia, before possibly restoring the practice. Or not, as the case may be. The cardinals Bertello, Errázuriz Ossa, Monsengwo Pasinya, Gracias, O’Malley, Marx, Pell and Rodríguez Maradiaga will meet next month.
Six months into this pontificate, it should come as no surprise that Pope Francis’ priorities do not lie with the granting of honours and titles. Of course, he has appointed bishops and archbishops, but that is quite different, flowing from the need of a diocese for a shepherd. What this means for Francis’ first consistory seems clear: don’t hold your breath. While there are a number of clear candidates to be created cardinal – among them the new Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, to name but one – they will be kept waiting a while longer, I would think.
And why not, after all? With 111 electors there is no shortage of cardinals who can participate in a conclave, and we have no reason to assume one is forthcoming (then again, this time last year we thought much the same…). Metropolitan archbishops can do their jobs just as well without being cardinals, and the same would go for prefects and presidents of the offices of the Curia. However, the College of Cardinals can be a valuable aid in running the Church, and Pope Francis will very likely be using it as such. In fact, with the title of cardinals comes the responsibility to function as such. The Pope can call consistories to assemble the entire college to deliberate, advise and decide about any given topic. And before long, I would think, Pope Francis may want to have the Secretary of State, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to name three Curial officials who are not yet cardinals, in that College.
There has been little change in the composition of the College of Cardinals lately, but then suddenly one change follows another. One day after the 80th birthday of Belgian Cardinal Danneels (more on that later), the Church mourns the passing of Stanisław Kazimierz Cardinal Nagy.
The half-Polish half-Hungarian theologian was born in 1921 in the southern Polish town of Bieruń Stary, which had been German until earlier that year.
In 1937, young Stanisław answered his religious calling and joined the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, better known as the Dehonians, named after their 19th-century founder, Fr. Léon Dehon. As a member, he was sent to study Catholic theology and philosophy at the renowned universities of Kraków and Lublin.
In 1945, Nagy was ordained as a priest of the Dehonian Congregation, and was appointed as seminary rector in Kraków and Tarnów. He continued his studies at Lublin and in 1952, Fr. Nagy received a promotion in moral theology. He remained at the university as a professor in the same subject.
Over the course of the years, Fr. Nagy’s theological career saw him as a member of the International Theological Commission, the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commission and the editorial staff of the Catholic Encyclopedia, all in the early 1970s.
He also authored several books on topics such as ecumenism and his countryman, Blessed Pope John Paul II. In recognition of his contributions to the field of theology, John Paul II chose to include Fr. Nagy in the College of Cardinals. He did so in the consistory of October 2003. Prior to this, Fr. Nagy was consecrated as Titular Archbishop of Hólar.
Cardinal Nagy, already 82 at the time of his creation, became cardinal-deacon of Santa Maria della Scala. He never participated in a conclave, due to his age.
With the passing of Cardinal Nagy, and the 80th birthday of Cardinal Danneels, there are now 203 cardinals in the Church, of whom 112 are electors.
What a month it has been. Beginning with the farewell of Pope Benedict XVI, we rode the waves of the sede vacante, the conclave and the election of Pope Francis, and various other events that added some lines to this blog. All in all, it took quite some work to keep these pages filled as things developed, so I hope that a few days of less communication is forgiven. But all the effort brought its own reward, as there was interest from across the globe in my writings. In total, I could chalk up 15,933 visits to these pages. That’s triple the number of a regular quiet month. Thank you!
On to the top 10 of most popular blog posts of March:
1: Countdown to papal Twitter launch 745
2: Meeting of the Popes 431
3: Enter the electors 329
4: The fall of Cardinal Piacenza 318
5: Continuity – Pope Francis’ coat of arms 214
6: Church teachings – the clash between authority and respect 147
7: ‘Bel Giorgio’ takes over the household 82
8: First Sunday – the Dutch cardinals in Rome 80
9: Holy Week 2013, an overview of cathedral celebrations 79
10: The seagull vigil 77
March has been crazy as far as the blog was concerned. I write these words in my free time, which is not always available in abundance. If you like what you read here, and appreciate the information I try to provide and keep as up to date as possible, think of making a donation to this blog’s upkeep. You will find a PayPal donation button in the left sidebar, and also below. Any donor can count on prayers and much appreciation from my part, and will contribute to a continued Catholic voice in new media.
Saint Joseph, you are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you. I have special confidence in you. You are powerful with God and will never abandon your faithful servants. I humbly invoke you and commend myself, with all who are dear to me, to your intercession. By the love you have for Jesus and Mary, do not abandon me during life, and assist me at the hour of my death.
Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the immaculate Virgin, Foster-father of Jesus Christ, obtain for me a pure, humble, and charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the Divine Will. Be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.
Loving Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, I raise my heart to you to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the special grace I now implore: In gratitude for the election of Pope Francis, that he may receive love and charity from both above and below.
Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I am confident that your prayers on my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God.