Cardinal Burke on the way out? Not really

Cardinal-BurkeA cardinal who is the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, a member of the College of Cardinals, a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, a member of the Congregation for Clergy, a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and President of the Commission for Advocates, is clearly one on the way out. Or so certain media would have us believe.

The cardinal in question is Raymond Leo Burke, and the reason is his removal from the Congregation for Bishops. That congregation is undoubtedly an important one, and Cardinal Burke no longer being a member will certainly have its reasons. But are those reasons the cardinal’s disagreement with Pope Francis on how much emphasis to place on certain pro-life topics? Or is it the Pope’s widely known intention to slim down the Curia?

Cardinal Burke’s recent interview, in which he voiced his careful disagreement with Pope Francis’ statements, was rather unfortunate, in my opinion. I can’t agree with the cardinal’s assessments of what the Pope said or meant. But, that said, a cardinal’s removal or reassignment does not happen in a day’s notice. It will have been planned beforehand, most likely in consultation with Cardinal Ouellet, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Burke himself. The interview, which was published a mere day before the removal can’t be the reason for it.

In short, unlike too many media would have us think, this is really not a demotion for Cardinal Burke, certainly not when he retains the positions I listed above (thanks to Thomas Peters).  John L. Allen, Jr. best describes the changes at the Congregation for Bishops and what they mean here.

Good shepherds – standing for the faith

As Thomas Peters put it: “The Holy Spirit has guts”. A look at some of the most recent appointments in the Church (and rumours of future ones) shows as much. Although the decisions are of course made by prelates in the Curia and the Holy Father himself, as Catholics we firmly believe that the Holy Spirit guides and inspires them in their choices. And the choice these days seems to be for a firm stand for the faith and against the shamelessly promiscuous culture of today.

Just looking back over this past month, we have the appointment, albeit controversial in some circles) of Archbishop Gerhard Müller as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Despite certain doubts about his suitability for such an important position, Archbishop Müller is close to the Pope Benedict in outlook and priorities, and will therefore prove a very close collaborator to the Holy Father.

There have also been a number of appointments to dioceses across the world that support the impression outlined above.

In Britain, “thoroughly sound chap” (per Fr. Tim Finigan, who doesn’t say things without good cause) Bishop Philip Egan was appointed to Portsmouth.

Further north, Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley came to the see of Glasgow as the most populous Scottish diocese’s new archbishop, and mere days later he was taken to account for words that criticised a late politician’s homosexual lifestyle.

And today, staunch defender of marriage, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone (pictured at left) was appointed to the Archdiocese of San Francisco, in many ways the American liberal capital. Dubbed a “bombshell” by Rocco Palmo, the appointment of Cordileone can be considered the latest in a string of appointments that are part of what Father  often calls Pope Benedict’s ‘Marshall plan’ for the Church: an effort that must re-acquaint the Church with her own heritage and then live that out. For that, we faithful need bishops who are unafraid to clearly teach and defend what the Church has taught throughout the ages.

Additionally, and as an aside, there have also been bishops who have been taken to account for their mismanagement or failure to stand for the Catholic faith. Most recently, Slovakian Archbishop Róbert Bezák was removed as ordinary of Trnava.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Short

The Vatican Blogmeet: impressions from the outside

Yesterday’s Vatican blogmeet – the second major event (from a blogger’s point of view) in as many days – seems to have been a success. I was unable to follow the live feed provided by SQPN’s Fr. Roderick, but my Twitter timeline was swamped with tweets hashtagged #vbm11 (for Vatican Blogmeet 2011).

From that flood of information (evidence, with the coverage of Sunday’s beatification and the death of Osama bin Laden that Twitter is a serious contender for providing rapid news as it happens) I gather that there have been several important elements to the whole bloggers’ meeting.

One of them is the very welcome positive attitude from Church officials towards the blogging community. Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican press chief, spoke about the importance of service over ego when blogging, but also indicated that the Vatican is listening. He himself spends some time every morning readings several blogs, to prepare for what the day may bring. He also expressed gratefulness to Catholic bloggers who sprung into action when the regular media distorts Church developments. An example is the hubbub around Pope Benedict’s perceived permittance of the use of condoms. Before the Vatican could come with clarifications, Catholic bloggers made sure to correct the media reports and explain what the Holy Father had really said.

Related to that, Thomas Peters (the American Papist) asked why blogs could not be included among the Vatican’s accredited media, so that certain selected bloggers could receive advance copies of important documents and publications, just like newspapers and other media do now. A very valid question, I would think.

The Vatican itself also seems to be moving forward in social media. An advance view of a new news site (www. news.va) triggered much positive comments. I don’t know when that is supposed to be up and running, but a new Vatican news website would be very welcome.

The results of this first blogmeet (I say ‘first’, because I get the impression that several participants would like to see this become an annual event) will become more clear over the course of the coming weeks and months. It will be interesting to see the developments on both sides; will the sense of community in the blogosphere increase in a spirit of service, and will the Vatican, through the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications make more and more effective use of this enormous resource? And how will the latter take shape? The measure of involvement of local bishops’ conferences and Church communities is still up in the air.

Fr. Roderick Vonhögen participated in the first panel and spoke of how he, as a simple parish priest from the Netherlands, reaches an audience of thousands through social media.
Rocco Palmo moderated the first panel
Father Federico Lombardi spoke about the attitudes of Catholic bloggers during the second panel: service should prevail over ego.

Photo credits: intermirifica.net

Rome’s crazy weekend

The prayer card of Blessed John Paul II released by the Diocese of Roermond

Rome is facing a rather busy weekend, with some 1 million visitors expected (of whom a fair number are arriving today and tomorrow) for an event that has been unmatched since the funeral of Pope John Paul II. It is therefore quite fitting that this same venerable pope is the focus of this weekend’s happenings as well.

For the first time in more than 1,000 years, a pope is being beatified by his immediate successor. And it could have happened even sooner, had Pope Benedict XVI not decided to have the regular process followed. Cardinal Ruini, vicar general of Rome and president of the Italian bishops’ conference during the conclave that elected the current pope, has recently said that he received a petition at the time signed by a significant number of cardinals, that called for the immediate canonisation of Pope John Paul II. Rather a gesture made in the heat of the moment, I would say. Still, six years since the death of the future Blessed is a very short time to reach beatification. But it is happening nonetheless.

The Belgian king and queen (kneeling) amid other heads of state during the funeral of Pope John Paul II

The Vatican has published the calendar of the beatification, which will take place on Sunday 1 May. As during his funeral, the beatification of John Paul II will be attended by numerous dignitaries from across the globe. King Albert II and Queen, as well as the prime minister will represent Belgium, a similar representation as during the funeral of the late pope. The Netherlands are also repeating their attendance at the funeral, with the smallest possible delegation. Did the prime minister attend the funeral, now only the Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Piet Hein Donner, will be present. I guess that, when it comes to relations with religions, especially the Catholic Church, the state of the Netherlands still does not really understand how things work.

Sadly, this minimal representation is also copied by the Church in the Netherlands. Cardinal Simonis is the only Dutch bishop in Rome this weekend. Simonis, the former archbishop of Utrecht and host to Pope John Paul II during his visit to the Netherlands in 1985, was created a cardinal in that same year, by the same pope. The other Dutch bishops will be in The Hague to celebrate a solemn High Mass to mark the sixth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. A lofty purpose, certainly, but it leaves the Dutch presence, and thus the sign of importance attached not only to the beatification, but also to the person of Pope John Paul II, absolutely tiny.

Luckily, with the Vatican blogmeet happening a day after the canonisation, the beatification will be well-covered by the social media. Catholic bloggers and social media entrepeneurs such as Father Roderick, Rocco Palmo and Thomas Peters are in Rome to cover the events. Follow them and some of the other bloggers in my blogroll. I’m sure they will all have much to say about the events of the weekend.

Photo credit: [1] Diocese of Roermond, [2] White House/Eric Draper

The list is out

The Pontifical Council for Social Communications released the list of 150 bloggers selected for the first official Vatican blogmeet today. It is, as desired from the onset, an international selection of people writing from various perspectives and with various blogging goals. There are lay bloggers like me, clergy and proper journalists as well. Many are unknown to me, but it’s nice to see a fair number of familiar names.

So, congratulations to Anna Arco, Eric van den Berg, Lisa Hendey, Paolo Rodari, Rocco Palmo, Father Roderick Vonhögen, Sandro Magister, Thomas Peters and the 142 other bloggers invited. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of this first heart-to-heart of the Church with denizens of the blogosphere.

Time to stop supporting PETA

The reason? This:

While I actually agree with PETA when they say we should treat our animals well (even when we proceed to kill and eat them), and that we shouldn’t keep any creature for cosmetics and fur, they have crossed the line of fairness, honesty and good taste here. In the first place, they perpetuate the myth that Pope Benedict XVI has allowed the use of condoms, and, secondly, they ridicule the sensitivities of Catholics everywhere. I wonder what the outcry would be if an image of an imam or rabbi were used in the ad?

BUT (yes, it’s an important one), the response from Catholic bloggers has hardly been any more laudable. Thomas Peters and Father Z both suggest that the response of choice should be to go out and eat more meat… As if it’s the animals’ fault that PETA is a bunch of loonies without a proper sense of respect for others.

Out with the PETA-loonies, in with good sense and common decency.