Stats for June 2010

A few days late, but here they are nonetheless (mostly for myself, I’ll admit)

June was a slightly better month than May, although the news and the topics I wrote about diminished a bit in the second half of the month. 3,652 page views were registered, bringing the total since the beginning of January to 22,582. As I thought, it did indeed cross the 20,000 somewhere around mid-June.

The ten most popular posts were the following:

1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution (167)
2: St. Boniface Day 2010 (130)
3: Ouellet to the Congregation for Bishops (81)
4: The curious case of Bishop Walter Mixa (68)
5: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced (62)
6: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie – onofficiële vertaling (60)
7: Msgr. De Kesel to Bruges? Wow (54)
8: Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Amsterdam (52)
9: A difficult choice in the voting booth (48)
10: Father Cor Mennen had better look out… perhaps (44)

The high ranking of my post about the St. Boniface Day is mainly due to a link from my favourite Dutch blogger (for a giving value of ‘favourite’), who saw fit to use it as one more tool to attack my bishop, albeit not very convincingly (seriously, I’m suddenly an authority on  how many people attend an event?). Anyway, spike in stats – always nice.

Speaking of bishops, they and other curia members were the trend in the search terms. Msgr. Gänswein (yes, still), Bishop Mixa and the Venerable Cardinal Newman were all popular.

And lastly, can I say how very happy I am to see my translation of Msgr. Marini’s address on the liturgy still lingering in the top 10? Oh, I just did.


A host of new appointments in the curia

Archbishop Salvatore 'Rino' Fisichella

Pope Benedict appoint a number of people in significant positions in the Roman curia today. Some were expected and predicted correctly in the media, and some are relatively unknown outside the Vatican. Such a significant change, with more appointments rumoured to be coming later this week, is indicative of the future of this pontificate. The people in the curia have worldwide influence in their respective fields of work, so the appointments are not made casually. Pope Benedict XVI does nothing casually, anyway, so the appointments are just as much a seal of approval for the people involved as it is a way sign for the future.

Bishop Kurt Koch

As predicted, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Archbishop if Québec, will become the new head of the Congregation for the Bishops, succeeding Giovanni Cardinal Re, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella will head the new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation. His position as head of the Pontifical Academy for Life will be taken by Msgr. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula. The Lateran University has also gotten a new rector, and a new member has been added to the team of pontifical Masters of Ceremonies, headed by Msgr. Guido Marini. Swiss newspapers, in the meantime, are confirming that Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel will go to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, succeeding Walter Cardinal Kasper.

Men to keep an eye on, especially Cardinal Ouellet, Archbishop Fisichella and Bishop Koch.

Pope announces a new pontifical council

Pope Benedict XVI at the end of Vespers

For the first time in 25 years or so, a new dicastery of the Roman Curia will be created, the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation. Pope Benedict XVI did so yesterday at the Vespers for the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, which is today. In his homily, the pope said:

“I have decided to create a new organism, in the form of pontifical council, with the specific task of promoting a renewed evangelisation in countries where the first proclamation of the faith already resounded, and where Churches are present of ancient foundation, but which are going through a progressive secularization of society and a sort of “eclipse of the sense of God,” which constitutes a challenge to find the appropriate means to propose again the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ.”

The new council would then primarily work in Europe and North America, where secularisation runs most rampant. It is yet unknown who will be the head of the dicastery, although most sources seem to agree that Archbishop Rino Fisichella will come from the Pontifical Academy for Life to take on the job. It’ll be one in a number of changes within the curia that will take place in the coming months.

Cardinal Kasper passes on the torch

A well-known mainstay of the Roman curia is getting ready to enjoy a well-earned retirement. At 77 years, Walter Cardinal Kasper is already past the age at which bishops and cardinals have to offer to resignation, which is 75. Most of the time, unless health issues demand otherwise, the pope will wait a while before accepting that resignation, as he has in the case of Cardinal Kasper.

Cardinal Kasper was especially visible for the past 11 years because he headed the Vatican office which is in charge of ecumenism with other Christian church communities and other faiths, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In that capacity, I’ve seen him once, during an ecumenical service in Utrecht

Yesterday the famously gap-toothed cardinal gave a press conference in which he looked back on the past years. “I leave my office with hope, which is not human optimism, but Christian hope,” he said. Ecumenism is “a constituent of the Church,” he also said. It is part of her very being, which makes sense. The Church has been tasked to spread the news of Jesus Christ, so isolation from others is simply not an option. And much of the truth of the faith is visible in other Christian churches and church communities, and to a lesser extent also in Judaism and Islam. Good relations with these are a first necessary step towards further unity in friendship.

While the cardinal has not officially stepped down yet, and no successor has officially been named,the general consensus is that a change is imminent. The name of Bishop Kurt Koch, currently the bishop of Basel in Switzerland, is being bandied about, though.

Ouellet to the Congregation for Bishops

Against the background of ongoing rumours why George Cardinal Pell did not accept an appointment as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops – health issues or opposition from certain bishops? – Andrea Tornielli (usually a very reliable source for such things) brings the news that Marc Cardinal Ouellet has been appointed in his stead. Currently the archbishop of Québec, Cardinal Ouellet has been attacked in Canadian media recently for explaining the Catholic teachings on abortion and other issues. If anything, that shows that the cardinal is a steadfast man who knows his business.

As prefect he will be the head of the office which oversees the selection of new bishops. While it is the pope who appoints bishops, the Congregation does the preparatory work: enquiring at the dioceses in question, investigation the background and behaviour of the proposed candidates and advising the pope as to the men best suited to the job. The prefect of the Congregation for Bishops has therefore a fairly important role: his work will affect many Catholics across the world. It is he who decides who will be the local shepherd of many thousands of people.

Cardinal Ouellet, who has been secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (ecumenical experience!) before taking the see of Québec, was elevated to the cardinalate in 2003. The 66-year-old native of Canada will be the sixth prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, which has existed in its current form since 1965. He will succeed Giovanni Cardinal Re.

Traditionally the nine congregations of the Catholic Church, which are comparable to government ministries, have mostly been headed by Italians. With the appointment of Cardinal Ouellet, only the Congregation for the Causes of Saints still has an Italian prefect (Archbishop Angelo Amato). Pope Benedict XVI, and before him Pope John Paul II too, have been gradually working to prioritise certain parts of the world, not least the English-speaking part, in the upper echelons of the Church. With the vast majority of Catholics living in areas outside Europe, this seems not only logical, but also necessary. Whoever is appointed to a post in the Vatican, takes his background with him, as well as knowledge about the Church in the place where he is from. Although the Catholic Church is a world church, it is not a uniform behemoth. The variety and differences within her need to be known and taken into account in the day-to-day running of the various congregations and departments.

With Cardinal Ouellet at the helm, the current new harvest of bishops in North America, the American midwest especially, may turn out to be a herald of things to come in the wider world.

Chipping away…

In a time when the Catholic Church should be acting and speaking as one, there are countless people and institutions who do the opposite. Earlier this week Cardinal Bertone was an example of that. The Vatican today issued a statement distancing themselves from the cardinal statements that homosexuality and pedophilia are related. They said:

“Church authorities do not consider it their responsibility to make general statements of a specifically physiological or medical character, which is why they naturally refer back to experts study and ongoing research on the subject” . (Source)

In other words, Cardinal Bertone spoke about things that should have been left to the experts. But I’m afraid the damage is already done…

Other damage comes from a Dutch bishop, a retired one, but a bishop nonetheless.

Msgr. Philippe Bär is the former bishop of Rotterdam, and in an interview he gave recently he blamed the taboo culture in the Roman Curia for the problems of the Church.

“The Curia placed a taboo on everything, always arguing that the Holy Father would otherwise be disturbed. We now pay the high price of all those scandals for that.”

An overly simplistic thing to say. A slightly thorough reading of, for example, the Code of Canon Law will show that taboos are quite rare and they are never created to protect the wellbeing of the pope (knowing Pope Benedict XVI, he’d be the first to tell the Curia to act normally around him).

“Oh, my dear Church! There is so much joy in your message, so much positivity too. I shed hot tears as that is hidden by this reaction.”

Well, the bishop has a point there. The bad news does tend to overshadow the good. In part the Church is to blame for that; she has much to learn about communication. But the responsibility is also shared by the media and society as a whole. The good news is not hidden for the attentive reader.

“Pride is disappearing. That beautiful Church, with that beautiful past, with that marvellous tradition, with everything she has done for western culture. We may be proud of that. That is threatening to be lost. I suffer because of that.”

We should be careful with pride. Yes, the Church has done much for the good of society and culture, and we must be aware of that. But is that the core of the Church? No, that is the Good News of Jesus Christ. First and foremost, always, that is what the Church must be concerned about. Everything else, even the great tradition and all contributions to western culture, take a back seat to that.

“I try to be a child of these times, so I wish to be as open as befit these times. To not immediately say: “The Church does not want that.” The ease, the joy of discussion is something of these times. And, in my opinion, something belonging to Catholic culture, with her joy of life. But sadly the Church did not use the options that are part of that wonderful way of living, on the contrary. Nothing was allowed. I disagree about this with the Holy Father. It is high time that people speak about mandatory celibacy for priests. That must be discussed.”

Always celibacy… It is not the problem! Formation and preparation is, but not the fact itself. Bishop Bär wants to be a child of these times. But as  Catholics we are not part of the whims of the day, just like the Church herself is not. Certainly we live in our time, and must do so fully. But we can’t be subject to it. Discussion is good, but without well-established values it is pointless. Every party in a discussion must have a foundation. The Church has that. By diminishing this foundation as ‘the things the Church does not want’, the bishop betrays a serious lack of sensibility about his own priesthood, and a lack of knowledge of exactly what the Church teaches and why she does so.

“The Church must […] break down the walls, open herself for dialogue, enter into debate about celibacy, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia. Throw it open!”

Around the time of Vatican II, someone (it might have been Pope John XXIII) warned that the faith must not be blown out of the newly opened windows. Dialogue and debate, as I have said, are good and deserve to be encouraged. But it does not mean that anything and everything is up for debate. Not if we want to maintain a semblance of identity and, most importantly, maintain that identity in Jesus Christ.

I recognise Bishop Bär’s concerns. They are well-merited. His solution to subject the Church to the ‘there are no certainties’ attitude of our times is not.