So the vatican redesigned its website. Reshuffled it, more likely.
Still, at least they got rid of the unnecessary “choose your language” page which would then lead you to the homepage in your language of choice.
But, contrary to appearance, I am not bothered by how the website looks. It has a certain charm, and while intuition is not enough to find what you are looking for, it is there (and if it isn’t, there are countless websites which do – among them the Vatican’s own News.va, the website of Vatican Radio, Zenit, and so on).
My only wish would be proper websites for the Curial departments, with easy access to what they publish.
It’s been quite the year for the Church in the world, in the Netherlands and here on the blog. In this post, I want to look back briefly on what has transpired. What happened before will, in many cases, have its effect on what will happen in the coming year.
The variety of events has been great, but if we had to characterise 2012, we can of course list the major stories: the two consistories for the creation of new cardinals, the ongoing abuse crisis and the efforts in the Netherlands and Rome to deal with it, the Synod of Bishops, the start of the Year of Faith, the retirements, appointments and deaths, the local stories in my neck of the woods and the (mis)representation of the Church in the wider world. These can all characterise the year for the Catholic Church. But since there are as many interpretations as there are readers, I’ll limit myself to presenting the major stories on my blog per month.
For this blog, it has been a good year. With 87,017 views it has been the best year yet, and I am happy to note that I have been able to provide stories, opinions and translations that have been picked up well by other bloggers and media. The pope’s letter to the German bishops on the new translation of the Roman missal, for which I was able to create an English working translation; the Dutch translation of the Christmas address to the Curia; a German interview with Archbishop Müller and my list of surviving Vatican II Council Fathers are examples of this. Both local and international media picked these up, resulting in increased interest for my blog. For that, thank you.
But now, let’s once more go over 2012 and look back on what happened in that year:
On the Italian Zenit today, an interview with Ad Cardinal Simonis, emeritus Archbishop of Utrecht, on the post-conciliar period in the Netherlands. The title, In Olanda c’è stata una sbagliata interpretazione del Concilio (‘In Holland there was a wrong interpretation of the Council’) leaves little doubt about the gist of the interview.
Once the voice of orthodoxy at the pastoral council of Noordwijkerhout, the cardinal now looks back and summarises what went wrong:
“Yes, it’s true: there has been a wrong interpretation of the Council. Not reading the documents, but merely arguing, based on the so-called “spirit of the Council”, that is: anything goes, everything can change.”
Cardinal Simonis, who studied in Rome during the years of the Second Vatican Council, offers a misleadingly simple solution: “Catechesis, catechesis, catechesis,” especially for the youth. That is a sentiment that the bishops today share, but which has yet to reach anything approaching its full potential.
It is a bleak but accurate picture the cardinal paints: the Dutch, Catholics included, generally do not know the concept of sin, hence the virtual disappearance of the sacrament of Confession over the course of the recent decades. The cardinal’s message to Dutch seminarians is an urgent one:
“I tell them that they should first learn to think and reflect. And then to pray, pray, pray. Prayer is important, and it must be the foundation of human life, but in Holland we do not pray because we do not believe in a personal God but only in a vague entity.”
The cardinal concludes the interview with a reflection on his 27 years as cardinal, in which he tried to maintain “the spirit of service to the Church and the Lord”.
“I tried to live in this spirit as a cardinal for 27 years. Now I’m an old cardinal, I turned 80 and I can not elect the Pope, but I can still be elected! (Bursts into laughter) But do not worry, that will not happen!”
I think the cardinal is pretty realistic, but that does not mean there are no signs of hope. There are, but these must be cared for and cultivated. A first step towards that is indicated by the following quote from the interview:
“The truth is that in the Netherlands we need a total conversion.”
Zenit today features an interview with Cardinal-designate Wim Eijk, the archbishop of Utrecht set to become the Netherlands’ eighth cardinal in history. The interview touches upon such topics as the archbishop’s reaction to being on the list for next Saturday’s consistory, his preparation for his new responsibilities, the new evangelisation, his medical education and specialisation in medical ethics, but also the sexual abuse crisis in the Netherlands. About that, he says:
“I see the scandal of sexual abuses disconnected from my creation as cardinal. As the Church in the Netherlands, we must do in-depth research on the scandal of abuses and then take a great number of steps. The fact that, as archbishop of Utrecht, I am being created cardinal is encouraging for the Dutch Church, but it has no connection with the scandal of sexual abuses.”
Go read the rest of the interview with my former bishop (and also the bishop who baptised and confirmed me almost five years ago) at the link above.
Father Mauro Gagliardi, professor of theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum of Rome, and consultor of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff and of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments – in other words, a man who knows a thing or two about liturgy – has written a short article about a seemingly minor detail: the place of the crucifix on the altar. But, like all elements of the liturgy, this too is not without meaning and function. Fr. Gagliardi not only expounds on this, but also offers a brief background on prayer in the context of the Mass, and the role of depictions of the crucified Christ for the assembled faithful. His remarks – as well as his quotations from Pope Benedict XVI – about the direction of prayer and the differences between the liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic prayer should also prove very interesting for Catholics in the Netherlands.
Zenit has an interview with Archbishop Kurt Koch, the new head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In it the archbishop (he was given that personal title upon his appointment – a cardinal’s hat is virtually assured at some later date) talks about why he was appointed and how he sees the future of ecumenism by the Church.
One answer from the interview sums up the differences in ecumenism with the Orthodox and ‘western’ Protestants. Here in western Europe, we’re used to only think of the churches of the Reformation when we consider ecumenism, but on a worldwide scale, the Orthodox churches are far closer partners.
Archbishop Koch: “The churches and ecclesial communities born of the Reformation in Switzerland are a special case in the world of the reformed churches. With the Orthodox, we have a common foundation of faith, but great cultural diversity. Instead, with the churches of the Reformation, the foundation of faith is not so common, but we have the same culture. Because of this, with them, it is a different way of engaging in ecumenism that is not always easy.”
Those two elements – faith and culture – can be tricky. It often seems as if it should not be a such a problem for Protestants and Catholics to grow closer, and that is true when looked at from the cultural point of view. But of course, ecumenism is about faith, first and foremost. It is the less visible but more important element of the two.
Apparently there are some lyrical changes to be made to the beautiful hymn Adoro te devote. That is what Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university explains in Zenit.
The Adoro te devote is a Eucharistic hymn which directly refers to the Eucharistic lord. It is usually prayed or sung in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament or in thanksgiving to having received Him.
The changes are limited to the first two verses:
The first verse goes as follows: “Adóro te devóte, latens Déitas, quae sub his figúris vere látitas: tibi se cor meum totum súbicit, quia te contémplans totum déficit.” The alternative version would be: “Adóro devóte latens véritas / Te quae sub his formis vere látitas …”
And in the second verse: “Visus, tactus, gustus in te fállitur, sed audítu solo tuto créditur. Credo quidquid dixit Dei Fílius; nil hoc verbo veritátis vérius” becomes “Visus, tactus, gustus in te fállitur, sed solus audítus tute créditur. Credo quidquid dixit Dei Fílius; nihil Veritátis verbo vérius.”
Fr. McNamara goes on the explain the differences and their theological meaning, but concludes that both versions are equally valid for use. Check the piece in Zenit for his further comments.
Perhaps even more interesting to me, as a former student of English literature, is the reference to an English translation of the Adoro te devote by none other than Gerard Manley Hopkins, perhaps the most interesting Victorian poet (and a Jesuit priest). Titled Lost, All Lost In Wonder, it can be sung to the same melody as St. Thomas Aquinas’ original.
Lost, All Lost In Wonder
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.
On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.
I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.
O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.
Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran—
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.
Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight. Amen.
Via Eric Masseus I find yet another interesting article. Author Massimo Introvigne writes about moral panic in the light of the abuse crisis, focussing especially on the occurence of pedophilia among priests. It’s an interesting piece in itself, so go read it.
What drew my attention, also in light of the comments by Fr. Federico Lombardi about Cardinal Bertone’s statements linking pedophilia and homosexuality, is the following passage:
While it may hardly be politically correct to say so, there is a fact that is much more important: over 80 percent of paedophiles are homosexuals, that is, males who abuse other males. And – again citing Jenkins – over 90 percent of Catholic priests convicted for sexually abusing minors have been homosexual. If a problem has sprung up in the Catholic Church, it is not due to celibacy but to a certain tolerance of homosexuality in seminaries, particularly in the 1970s, when most of the priests later convicted for the abuses were ordained.
The Jenkins that Introvigne refers to is historian and sociologist Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, who has done a study about the influence and value of moral panic and how it contributes or blocks resolving a problem. He concludes that they usually don’t help at all. It reminds me of my opinion, mentioned here before, that modern society often remains stuck in the emotional response, indeed the moral panic of Jenkins’ study.
In considering the above statements, I would also like to include a few words from Fr. Lombardi. About Cardinal Bertone’s comments he said: “[R]eferred to here obviously is the problem of abuse by priests, and not in the population in general.”
If we then take the priestly population as our subject, rather than the wider population of all people (men and women, hetero- and homosexual), we do see a different picture. The Zenit article I linked to above also mentions:
These statements are backed by the report published in 2004 by John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, regarded as the most complete report on the sexual abuse crisis.
On studying the charges of sexual abuse presented against clerics between 1950 and 2002 in the United States, the report stated that an overwhelming majority of the victims — 81% — were males.
Considering these facts and studies, we can draw some conclusions: in the priestly population, for various reasons, sexual abuse is chiefly of a homosexual nature (a possible reason could be the fact that most children and young people who had regular dealings with priests were male). In that sense Cardinal Bertone was correct. It was a clumsy thing to say, but it now seems he did have the data to back it up. If only he’d made that clearer.
Of course, such conclusions do nothing to resolve the problem. They don’t help the victims or the offenders. What they do allow, is a renewed consideration of the formation of priests (here I go again). Introvigne also writes:
If a problem has sprung up in the Catholic Church, it is not due to celibacy but to a certain tolerance of homosexuality in seminaries, particularly in the 1970s, when most of the priests later convicted for the abuses were ordained.
And isn’t that directly related to the political and social climate? As far as the sexual revolution goes, it ran absolutely rampant in the 1970s. In the Netherlands, for example, political parties and members of parliament actively advocated legalising pedophilia (the same parties and individuals which now viciously attack the Church, as a poignant aside. PvdA, I’m looking at you).
This is no excuse for the crimes committed by priests, but they point at the main problem. That is not homosexuality, celibacy or pedophilia, but the formation and education of priests. A priest is a man of God who, if he works in a parish, is also a man of the world. There is a careful balance to be achieved there, which is not always easy, especially for seminarians and young priests who are only just getting started. In order to maintain that balance you need clear demarcations and a good development and awareness of yourself. From my own limited knowledge of seminaries, that formation is part of the tripod of their education program, at least in the first few years: philosophy, theology and spiritual formation.
Saying “the homosexuals did it” is pointless for finding a solution. But the facts above must be taken into account: we need them to figure out the problem and resolve it. The moral panic as described by Introvigne and Jenkins blurs those facts, and so does more damage for the sake of political correctness. Reality hurts. A lot sometimes. But sometimes pain makes us stronger. I am convinced that we, society as a whole, must relearn that.
I am seeing tweets and media reports which claim that Pope Benedict XVI or his spokesperson (there seems to be disagreement) compared the current biased media reporting against the Church and the pope to the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. Said media are tumbling over one another to be the first to spout their indignation at this comparison.
But what really happened? Zenit has the answer. The person making the comparison was Father Raneiro Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, and he made them during his Good Friday homily. Here is the passage in question:
“By a rare coincidence, this year our Easter falls on the same week of the Jewish Passover which is the ancestor and matrix within which it was formed. This pushes us to direct a thought to our Jewish brothers. They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms. I received in this week the letter of a Jewish friend and, with his permission, I share here a part of it.
“He said: “I am following with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful by the whole world. The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism. Therefore I desire to express to you personally, to the Pope and to the whole Church my solidarity as Jew of dialogue and of all those that in the Jewish world (and there are many) share these sentiments of brotherhood. Our Passover and yours undoubtedly have different elements, but we both live with Messianic hope that surely will reunite us in the love of our common Father. I wish you and all Catholics a Good Easter.””
Can you say ‘whoops’, media and twitter users? It was not the pope, nor Fr. Cantalamessa, but a Jewish friend of the latter who recognised the similarities. I can’t help but consider this yet another example of the failure of certain modern media outlets and its consumers to be objective and to think before they write.
I also see criticism from Catholic circles against Father Cantalamessa for using the passage from the letter in his homily. I am not entirely sure why that is so. Is it because it focusses the attention on a painful situation? Well, the media bias deserves to be called out. Is it because it sounds like the Church assuming the role of the victim? Perhaps, but that is not entirely unwarranted and does not say anything about the culpability of the Church or her officials in other cases. Or is it perhaps because Fr. Cantalamessa should have known that this passage would be picked up and distorted? Well, he obviously should have known (and who’s to say he didn’t?), but that in itself is not enough reason to keep quiet about it.
In the current climate of accusation and defence it is so very important to read carefully. It is us, the readers, who must make the distinction between fact and fiction, between objectivity and hype. Because we can no longer rely on the media to do it for us.
On 28 March, the 25th annual World Youth Day will be held on the diocesan level. Unlike the more visible week-long World Youth days held every two or three years on an international level, the celebration of the annual event is fully a responsibility of the various dioceses. But, like every year, the pope makes sure to release a message to the youth of the world.
The message for this year is available at Zenit, and I have used that English translation of the Italian original for my Dutch text. My translation is partly an adaptation, so any inconsistencies or errors are solely my own.
Unsurprisingly, Pope Benedict XVI manages to engage his audience on a very personal level, speaking to them as if in a personal conversation.
The themes for every edition are always taken from scripture and this year it’s a line from the Gospel of Mark: Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mk 10, 17).