Saturday, November 18, 2017

Live From "Friar Field": A Blessed for Detroit

It's like deja vu – this time, just bigger.

Much bigger.

Less than two months since the first-ever beatification of a priest on US soil, today in Detroit brings an even more massive moment, as the Church takes over the city's NFL stadium and a crowd of 75,000 witnesses the rites elevating the beloved local Capuchin Fr Solanus Casey to the step before sainthood.

While early reactions saw the choice of Ford Field for today's Mass as something akin to "crazy," as happened at September's Oklahoma City raising of Blessed Stanley Rother – when 5,000 more pilgrims converged on the convention center than could fit in the 15,000-seat venue – the Motor City crowd actually showed uncanny judgment. Tickets for today's event were gone within hours of their public availability last month, and the last-minute logistical hurdles required the coordination of drop-off and pickup spots across downtown for some 400 buses coming in from across the Midwest. And as weather's always the going concern for November in Michigan, even that ended up cooperating, staying above freezing with a touch of rain.

One of sixteen kids raised on a Wisconsin farm, Barney Casey entered the Capuchins after being deemed academically insufficient for Milwaukee's diocesan seminary. Eventually ordained in 1904, the future Blessed was prohibited by his superiors from preaching or hearing confessions, finding his niche instead as the compassionate doorkeeper of his community's houses over a half-century – a ministry from which miracles would come to be claimed during his life, credited to his prayers.

His cause for sainthood opened within a decade of his death at 86 in 1957, the miracle which secured today's beatification involved the inexplicable cure of a pilgrim to Solanus' Detroit shrine, who was instantaneously healed of a genetic skin disorder after praying for herself at his tomb. As Rother's elevation was made possible due to his martyrdom, the healing was the first miracle ever confirmed through the intercession of an American-born priest. (Above, Archbishop Allen Vigneron is seen at Solanus' burial site on the miracle's confirmation earlier this year.)

With the Vatican's Saintmaker-in-Chief Cardinal Angelo Amato again acting as papal legate and celebrant of today's Mass, here's your worship aid...

...and – with the Mass now completed – on-demand fullvid to come.

Per custom for the newly-beatified, the Pope will mention today's event and offer a brief word on Casey's example at tomorrow morning's Angelus.

According to the Michigan Catholic, Blessed Solanus' feast is slated to be declared for July 30th, the day before the anniversary of his death.

As beatification only affirms local devotion to a Blessed, Solanus' liturgical celebration in this case is restricted solely to the 1.4 million-member archdiocese of Detroit and the wider Capuchin order, unless and until the US bishops vote to petition the Vatican for its wider observance.

SVILUPPO: As the well-produced livefeed ostensibly hiccuped under the weight of some 20,000 viewers, until on-demand video of the full Mass emerges, here's the Rite of Beatification itself, with the customary unveiling of the image on Casey's formal declaration as Blessed Solanus...


Friday, November 17, 2017

"Nothing Will Be As It Was!" – In The Council and Francis, The Church's "New Consciousness"

As one of the bench put it, the week just past always makes for a "full immersion" experience... and to be sure, that the lounge of the USCCB hotel was dead by 10 on Wednesday night goes to show how knocked out everyone tends to be by Plenary's end.

Along those lines, while this scribe has five days of catch-ups and notes to unwind and assemble for print, let's start with something apparently lost in the wider mix (even if this crowd was duly forewarned).

Building upon his historic message to open the 100th Plenary, as the bench's elections unfolded on Tuesday morning, the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin delivered an even more extensive – and, quite possibly, even more significant – word, appearing at the Catholic University of America in Washington to propose Pope Francis as the ultimate figure of continuity with Vatican II, citing how he's "taken up anew" the Council's teaching and rebooted model of church.

Especially given two of the examples cited by Papa Bergoglio's top deputy – episcopal collegiality and what Francis has termed the "poor Church for the poor" (with global Catholicism's first-ever Day of the Poor accordingly being marked this weekend) – the hourlong talk is as salient to the moment as the interest in it has been sparse.

While publication of Parolin's text has been prohibited – Lord only knows why – gratefully a fullvid of his Italian address is around, with a captioned translation in English....

And here it is:


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Naumann Wins – In Bench Shocker, Cardinal's Pro-Life Bid Combusts

BALTIMORE – Just as it did on another Tuesday seven years ago this week, the Floor shook a bit first thing this morning.

Upending the last ironclad tradition of the Stateside bench, the USCCB denied its most prominent chairmanship to a cardinal, choosing Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas as its next Pro-Life Czar in a 96-82 vote over Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

The result represents the most surprising major conference vote since this week in 2010, when the Kansas prelate's fellow St Louis native, then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, bested the sitting vice-president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, to take the body's helm. Now, Naumann will succeed Dolan as chair of Pro-Life Activities in late 2018 after the usual yearlong transition. Having served as auxiliaries together in the "Rome of the West," in what was viewed as a stealth sign of support, Dolan tapped Naumann to fill in for him as the life committee's representative at yesterday's lunchtime press conference.

Aside from the conference president and his deputy, the Pro-Life chair is essentially the only prelate whose national duties require daily contact and coordination with the bench's Washington headquarters, reflecting the church's marquee public square concern in the era since abortion was legalized nationwide in 1973. While scores of advocacy letters, pastoral materials and action alerts are issued through the year in the chairman's name, the post's visibility reaches its annual peak on the eve of the January March for Life, when the chair leads hundreds of the US hierarchy in celebrating Vigil Mass in Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for tens of thousands of pilgrims on-site and a global TV audience.

Giving Naumann his first chairmanship after nearly two decades as a bishop, today's result flips that of 2008, when the archbishop lost the Pro-Life post to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo by a 165-59 vote. Long devoted to a robust defense of the unborn – to the point of publicly calling on Kansas' then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius (later an Obama administration Cabinet Secretary) to refrain from receiving the Eucharist due to her support for legal abortion – the incoming chair is the US church's first Pro-Life Czar to have pursued that degree of open friction with a pro-choice public official. As with the choice of a non-cardinal for the seat, this thread defies a long-standing history of relevant conference votes; in the most evocative example, after becoming the bench's most prominent advocate for sanctions, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke lost the chair of Canonical Affairs and Church Governance by a 60-40 margin in 2007. (Just over six months after that vote, the Wisconsin-born canonist was brought to Rome by Benedict XVI as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the church's "chief justice," then given the red hat.)

While rhetoric surrounding today's ballot portrayed the faceoff as a kind of Armageddon on the nature of the church's pro-life witness – which, by longstanding tradition, has placed the unborn at the center – with abortion policy currently at a de facto stalemate, the prime challenge arguably facing the national life-desk is a burgeoning push at the state level for the legalization of assisted suicide for the terminally ill, the practice now permitted in six US jurisdictions (led by California and the District of Columbia) and under consideration in several others. Backed by a well-funded lobbying effort with a formidable messaging component, the way the issue has begun to track has been compared to the gradual advance of same-sex marriage in the early to mid-2000s.

All that said, as the run-up to today's election saw no shortage of invective and sensationalism hurled by activists and commentators across the ecclesial spectrum, finding one dominant thread in reading the result doesn't hold water. To recall the conference's time-honored moniker, a "flock of shepherds" might come to a shared conclusion, but in this case, 96 voters likely had just as many reasons for bucking a decades-old custom. In other words, with the ink still dry, parse the result at your own risk – at least, for now.

In that light, the pro-life vote was the most-watched of seven ballots for conference slots from which no overarching interpretations can be drawn – indeed, looking at each, the traditional key factors of seniority, prominence or geography went heeded in some races and dispensed in others, with little to no ideological pointers likewise to be found.

Even more than the respective national portfolios today's winners will take up in the leadership of the nation's largest religious body, with their selections, the incoming committee chairs will each have seats on the 30-man Administrative Committee – the USCCB's steering body, which meets four times a year to guide the conference's agenda and oversee its work outside of the June and November plenaries.

As previously reported, this meeting's major snapshot of the body's mind will come in Wednesday's closed-door executive session, when the bishops elect the four-man US delegation to next October's global Synod on Young People.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Our Egos, Our Worldliness, Our Desire For Respect Must Be Crushed" – On Bench's 100th, The Vice-Pope's Prayer For "Wisdom"

BALTIMORE – We've been building up to this for a good while... and now, you'll understand why.

Well, we can always hope.

Bringing the expected mix of affirmation and challenge to global Catholicism's oldest episcopal conference on its 100th anniversary – and in only the second appearance of its kind from the Pope's lead deputy over said century – Cardinal Pietro Parolin delivered a pointed, resonant homily at tonight's USCCB Centennial Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption, one of two major talks during his first solo trip to the country. (Above right, Parolin is seen before Mass in prayer at the tomb of John Carroll, the founding shepherd of the Stateside Church, in the crypt of the cathedral he envisioned.)

A rare turn in English by the Cardinal-Secretary of State, the 13-minute message delivered on Pope Francis' behalf effectively serves as a papal charter on the qualities that should mark the bench's "second century" of collegial governance... and those that shouldn't.

Here, fullvideo:

After an hour of regional meetings, the business piece of this 100th Plenary begins at 10am Eastern Monday with the usual formalities, headlined by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo's first annual address as conference president, and the customary speech from the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

SVILUPPO: After a couple hours' delay due to the institutional convergences at hand, a text copy of the homily – which couldn't be heard in the Basilica due to acoustic hiccups – is now available as a pdf.


On Plenary Eve, Lockdowns and Ballots

BALTIMORE – In the life of a 1.2 billion-member church, there's no event quite like this.

Among global Catholicism's major outposts, the Italian bishops meet at the Vatican or their Roman headquarters, the Brazilians at the country's patronal shrine, the Mexicans in a hall that resembles a parliamentary chamber, all of them more or less behind closed doors.

For the US, however, the annual convening of some 450 prelates, staffers, press, observers and interest groups – and all of it in the glare of TV cameras – can only be compared to one thing: The Circus. And, this time, that's already more the case than usual.

A century since its inception in what's now called the "Gibbons Room" at the Archbishop's Residence here (above), while this 100th Plenary of the Stateside Bench had a quiet first lap in yesterday's opening round of committee meetings, last night brought a bit of panic to the harborside hotel which has now hosted a dozen of these mid-November weeks.

Amid the impending arrival of the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin – as the Pope's principal deputy, the Holy See's head of government – last-minute word spread quickly that the Secret Service would be swooping in for today's events commemorating the USCCB's centennial. And considering this crowd's experiences of hours-long sweeps during papal visits to these shores – not to mention the Federal squad's customary lack of specifics – the news didn't so much produce a sense of security as a siege mentality.

(SVILUPPO: Now on-site, the shot below of Parolin with the American cardinals and the conference's Administrative Committee was released this afternoon by the USCCB general secretary, Msgr Brian Bransfield, via his Twitter account; flanking the Cardinal-Secretary are the bench's president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and the Nuncio to Washington Archbishop Christophe Pierre.)

While Parolin's visit to mark the conference's milestone has been in the works for over a year, plans for an overarching protection effort have only transpired over the last 48 hours. Even so, the cardinal's diplomatic status as the #2 official of a sovereign state has made a Secret Service detail for him on American soil a given from the get-go.

As senior officials were still grappling with the shape of the Feds' security demands for the plenary's hotel-base and the Basilica of the Assumption – where Parolin will lead the bench in a 5pm Eastern Mass tonight – the full protection protocols remain unclear, but access to both an afternoon symposium on the conference's history and an evening dinner has been restricted to the bishops and closed to staff and press. Though the liturgy in the nation's first cathedral has been slated to be open to the public, lest anyone was planning on it, actually getting in will take a bit of jumping through hoops.

In any case, the Mass will be broadcast by the usual suspects, and live-streamed here at the hour. As for the rest, just pray that it won't be too tough for this scribe to make the rounds... gratefully, this ain't one's first rodeo.

Given the scenario here, it's apparently the case that a similar flurry will be descending Tuesday morning on the campus of the Catholic University of America, where Parolin will deliver a major lecture on Vatican II as "a prophecy that continues" under Francis.

As if the Floor needed another distraction – and just when the votes are being taken, no less.

Even before embarking on his first solo US trip, the Cardinal-Secretary previewed his message for the occasion in a significant written interview to Catholic News Service, the conference's official outlet.

*   *   *
Speaking of Tuesday's climactic round of elections and ballots, while no shortage of ink's been spilled to foment a showdown in the body's vote on the chairmanship of its most prominent and intensive portfolio – the formidable arm for Pro-Life Activities – a brief lesson on Episcopal Calculus 101 is in order.

To be sure, the matchup between Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas is like catnip for a chattering class divided along partisan lines – depending on how one views it, the choice between unusually contrasting figures is being portrayed as a "plebiscite" on either the definition and scope of the church's pro-life witness amid the current challenges to it, or on the soundness of calling public officials who support abortion laws to refrain from Communion. Yet between the dueling perceptions lie just as many simple facts: first, that since the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, the bishops' pro-life efforts have always been led by a cardinal to underscore their significance... and second, that long before he took the reins of the nation's third-largest diocese three years ago this week, no living prelate has so needled – and infuriated – this conference's rightward flank as the one who suddenly emerged as cardinal-archbishop of Chicago.

All that said, though, any sense that these votes take place in some sort of vacuum where ideology is the sole, or even prime criterion simply has no foundation in practice.

In reality, conference elections function more according to an algorithm of factors: a shifting mix of qualifications, geography, relationships and seniority, with just a pinch of ecclesiology – or, for lack of a better word, "political" leanings – thrown in. (As a corollary to this, strange as it may sound, you could take the same two people, run them against each other for two different posts, and end up with diverging results.)

As a case in point, for those who buy the narrative of a "conservative" Stateside bench, then logic would dictate that this scribe's archbishop would've been the top vote-getter among the committee chairs chosen here two years ago. The thing is, he wasn't – by three votes, 2015's most decisive pick was the then-archbishop of Indianapolis, his decade-plus bond with the Pope now in full light on his ascent as that most unprecedented of things: a Cardinal in Jersey.

That Joe Tobin took the post overseeing clergy, consecrated life and vocations by besting Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver – a favorite of the "orthodox" set and, indeed, the founding rector who built his hometown's seminary into one of the nation's largest formation houses – merely reinforces the principle.

Back to this week's voting, a factor which has gotten little attention is the ever-changing makeup of the electorate, which has been set into overdrive of late.

To be specific, at last year's annual Roman course for new bishops – widely known as "Baby Bishop School" – there were 15 new US prelates.

This past September (above), that figure was closer to 25.

Change forty slots within two years in a 230-member body – let alone one in which a 60-40 margin is akin to a "landslide" – and a wave is bound to be felt, especially considering the tweaked identikit Francis has sought for the candidates presented to him: one in which "pastoral" isn't a politicized euphemism for a progressive, but a descriptor of a life and ministry lived with a heart for people, albeit one in which its different exemplars won't always reach the same conclusions.

How that mass infusion of new blood will impact the shape of things – not just votes, but the tenor of the debates – is a key focus of the week ahead. Along the way, though, what's arguably this coming week's most significant ballot isn't the Pro-Life chair, but one being reported here for the first time.

In its executive session on Wednesday, the bench will select the US' usual complement of four delegates (and alternates) to next year's Synod on Young People. Yet at least in a few cases, the voters didn't get the memo – literally: while requests for nominations were sent to each bishop by mail early in the fall, several told Whispers over the last week that they had never seen the letter.

Per custom, the 12 most-cited names submitted from that consultation form the first round of a Synod ballot. On a related note, meanwhile, as the Synod Secretariat has made an unprecedented effort to seek direct consultation from young people on the Vatican summit's topics via an online survey, the deadline for responses to it comes at the end of this month.

Long story short, given Francis' super-emphasis on an increased synodality – and with it, the monthlong meeting's evolution from rubber-stamp Roman junket to an intensely collaborative, even contentious process – once it emerges, the makeup of the US delegation to next October's gathering won't just serve as a snapshot of the bench's state of mind on its 100th anniversary, but where a new generation is taking the project for the road ahead.

And to think, this is just the start of what's always a long, full week.

As ever, more to come... yet since pulling off this kind of coverage has its (boatload of) costs, it bears recalling that all this comes your way solely by means of your support.


Friday, November 03, 2017

For USCCB's 100th, "Peter" Takes the Wheel

Ten days from now, it's showtime again in Baltimore, as the nation's bishops return to American Catholicism's birthplace for another edition of the Fall Classic – and, this time, a week with history at the forefront even more than usual.

As this plenary marks the centenary of what's now known as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in just the second such instance through the years, the gathering will be presided over by the Pope's top deputy – the Cardinal-Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who'll lead the bench in an Opening Eve Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption (above), the nation's mother-church.

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (who represented John Paul II in the same place to mark the American hierarchy's bicentennial in 1989), the presence of the Vatican's "prime minister" in the chair of John Carroll highlights the moment's extraordinary significance, all the more as the trip represents Parolin's first US visit that isn't at Francis' side or to lead the Holy See's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

At the same time, however, there's more to it than just the keen symbolism: as the milestone commemorates the global church's first modern effort of collegial governance by a national body of bishops – and with it, the inception of the church's return toward a spirit of synodality which the pontiff has aimed to turbo-charge – between Parolin's current role and his personal history as a doctoral student of the Synod of Bishops, the message the Cardinal-Secretary delivers with his master's voice is likely to have a resonance far beyond these States. (Adding to the context, while the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, was initially slated to preach the Centennial Mass, the Canadian hatmaker-in-chief suddenly evaporated from the plans over the last year, with Parolin taking the homily for himself.)

Indeed, the scene is bigger than the moment: after decades of Curial attempts to crack down on the purview of the conferences, Francis' new norms on liturgical translations (and the pontiff's subsequent doubling-down on them) are just the latest proof of how dramatically the pendulum has shifted back in the benches' direction. And considering the historic tension in which the oldest conference has been perhaps the ultimate pawn – namely, in the age-old battle between Rome and America for the soul of the Stateside Church – amid its 100th anniversary, the state of affairs today almost couldn't be more poetic.

Accorded abroad with the rank of a head of government – that is, of the Holy See (the church's central authority), not the Vatican City-State – Parolin's only known public event apart from the centenary will be a visit to the Catholic University of America in Washington, the specifics of which remain to emerge.

*   *   *
As a well-timed primer for the moment ahead, yesterday Francis' designated hand in the States – the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre – traded his usual easy humor for the role of a professor, giving one of the year's key lectures for the canon law faculty at CUA, and choosing Francis' synodality push as his focus.

Much as the topic has become increasingly worthy of attention, in the wake of Magnum Principium, that the lecture serves as the university's annual memorial to Msgr Fred McManus – the legendary Catholic dean in the canons, who played an instrumental role in the founding of ICEL – became all the more fitting over recent weeks.

While the hourlong talk makes for a sound primer on the Pope's concept of shifting the church's balance of deliberation back to the local churches, what might be its most brow-raising line was one of Pierre's trademark unscripted asides.

"We are still far away in this church from receiving Evangelii Gaudium – maybe in a few years," the Nuncio mused on Francis' "blueprint" for his papacy. "But we could accelerate the process."

And as the principal architect of the US bench's next generation, he's aiming to do just that.

That said, here's video of the complete lecture....


Wednesday, November 01, 2017

"The Pain Is Very Real" – In Major Pastoral, Wuerl Tackles Racism

In the Stateside Church's first major text of its kind in nearly two decades, the cardinal-archbishop of the nation's capital has called the church to "be alert to addressing racism wherever we meet it," rapping a current context in which "the persistent evil" of discrimination has been treated with either "selective outrage" or "silent support... by some political forces, some faith-based and church entities, and some media."

Ostensibly galvanized by the August events in Charlottesville, at which a white supremacist demonstration saw a counter-protestor killed as a car tore through the crowd, Cardinal Donald Wuerl's 3,000-word pastoral letter on "The Challenge of Racism Today" is being released this All Saints' Day to the 700,000-member archdiocese of Washington, but is bound to echo far afield in light of the charged state of the discourse, not to mention the DC prelate's double profile of the capital post and as a top American adviser to Pope Francis through his seats on the Congregations for Bishops and the Doctrine of the Faith.

The first racism pastoral from a top US prelate since the late Cardinal Francis George's "Dwell In My Love" was penned for the Chicago archdiocese in 2001, Wuerl's letter comes amid a fresh push on the issue from the US bishops, an effort headlined by a new ad hoc committee chartered in Charlottesville's wake and chaired by Bishop George Murry SJ, the African-American head of Ohio's Youngstown diocese, an academic by trade with a specialization in American society and culture.

Recently bolstered by the unveiling of an A-list membership, while the ad hoc's three-year mandate was launched two years into the planning for the bench's first major document on race relations since 1979's Brothers and Sisters to Us, over recent weeks two Whispers ops have relayed that, amid significant criticism of the new national document's current draft, that product – previously slated for a final vote and publication in November 2018 – has been nixed, with the document to be restarted from scratch. The new committee will deliver its first report at the bishops' mid-month plenary in Baltimore.

Though the racial history of the Washington church has been dominated by the capital's segregationist past and the city's massive African-American community – including one of the nation's largest populations of Black Catholics – it bears noting that the archdiocese's extraordinary growth over the last two decades has come in tandem with a rapidly diversifying population in its pews, a shift signified by major increases of both Hispanics and Asians within the archdiocese, which comprises the District and its five suburban Maryland counties. Yet even as the DC church has doubled in size from the days of Cardinal James Hickey, both Cardinals Theodore McCarrick and Wuerl have maintained the practice begun by their 1980s-era predecessor, who divided Washington's traditional complement of three auxiliary bishops between an African-American, a Latino and an Anglo.

An unusually controversial topic for the famously-guarded cardinal to address at length, Wuerl's racism letter arrives amid what are widely expected to be the cardinal's final months as archbishop of Washington. Soon to turn 77 – and having met with Francis in another private audience last week – Wuerl's December 8th dedication of the gargantuan Trinity Dome, marking the symbolic completion of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, has come to be perceived as a valedictory celebration of sorts, coming on the heels of the Pittsburgh native's 32nd anniversary of his appointment as a bishop. Underscoring the reach of the cardinal's 11 years in the capital, Cardinal Kevin Farrell – the vicar-general Wuerl inherited on his arrival, now his peer in the Pope's "Senate" as head of the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life – has been tapped as papal legate for next month's event.

With all that as the context, here below is the fulltext of today's pastoral.

* * *


His Eminence
Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington

To the Clergy, Religious and Laity
of the
Church of Washington

Grace and peace to all in Christ.

The sight from the sanctuary of many a church in our archdiocese offers a glimpse of the face of the world. On almost any Sunday, we can join neighbors and newcomers from varied backgrounds. We take great pride in the coming together for Mass of women and men, young and old, from so many lands, ethnic heritages and cultural traditions. Often we can point to this unity as a sign of the power of grace to bring people together.

But we also know that we still have a long way to go to realize the harmony to which we are called as a human family. One wound to that unity is the persistent evil of racism. Tragically, the divisive force of this sin continues to be felt across our land and in our society. It is our faith that calls us to see each other as members of God’s family. It is our faith that calls us to confront and overcome racism.

This challenge is rooted in our Christian identity as sisters and brothers, redeemed by the blood of Christ. Because God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, we have received the ministry of reconciliation. Saint Paul tells us, “God has reconciled the world to himself in Christ… entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

The mission of reconciliation takes on fresh emphasis today as racism continues to manifest itself in our country, requiring us to strengthen our efforts. We are all aware of incidents both national and closer to home that call attention to the continuing racial tensions in our society. In spite of numerous positive advances and the goodwill of many, many people, too many of our brothers and sisters continue to experience racism. So much is this true that our United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has established an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism made up of clergy, laywomen and laymen to speak out on this divisive evil that leaves great harm in its wake.

This is not the first time that we bishops have spoken out against racism. We raised our collective voice in the pastoral reflection, Brothers and Sisters to Us (1979). Here in our own archdiocese, we have the edifying example of Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle and his actions to desegregate our Catholic schools years before the Supreme Court moved on this issue. We have also his letter to all of the Catholic faithful reminding them that his actions and his teaching were rooted in the Gospel and “the teachings of the Church on what Catholics must believe and do.” It is in continuity with that same teaching, shared and expressed by every Archbishop of Washington, that I ask us to reflect on and emphasize anew the importance of dialogue on how we can confront racism today.

To address racism, we need to recognize two things: that it exists in a variety of forms, some more subtle and others more obvious; and that there is something we can do about it even if we realize that what we say and the steps we take will not result in an immediate solution to a problem that spans generations. We must, however, confront this issue with the conviction that in some personal ways we can help to resolve it.

Where do we start? Before we turn our attention to some forms of action, we need to reaffirm that what we are doing is not only good but necessary because it is willed by God.

The divisions we face today that are based on the color of one’s skin or ethnic background are obviously not a part of God’s plan. In the first chapter of the book of Genesis we read at the beginning of the story of humanity, "God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1.27).

This teaching is applied to our day with clarity in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone… called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead” (357).

This is the starting point for our reflection. The human race is rooted in the loving, creative act of God, who made us and called us to be a family – all God’s children – made in God’s image and likeness. There is no basis to sustain that some are made more in the image of God than others.

In whatever form, intolerance of other people because of their race, religion or national origin is ultimately a denial of human dignity. No one is better than another person because of the color of their skin or the place of their birth. What makes us equal before God and what should make us equal in dignity before each other is that we are all sisters and brothers of one another, because we are all children of the same loving God who brought us into being.

Racism denies the basic equality and dignity of all people before God and one another. It is for this reason that the United States bishops in the November 1979 pastoral letter on racism, Brothers and Sisters to Us, clearly state: “Racism is a sin.” It is a sin because “it divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.” The letter goes on to remind us that “Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of race.”

Racism is defined as a sin because it offends God by a denial of the goodness of creation. It is a sin against our neighbor, particularly when it is manifested in support of systemic social, economic and political structures of sin. It is also a sin against the unity of the Body of Christ by undermining that solidarity by personal sins of prejudice, discrimination and violence.

Tragically, the stain of racism has revealed itself through the course of human history, touching seemingly every continent as migration and trade, exploration and colonial expansion created environments for prejudice, denigration, marginalization, discrimination and oppression, whether to indigenous peoples or newcomers.

Our own country’s history has seen exploitation and oppression of indigenous peoples, Asians, Latinos, Japanese-Americans and others, including people from various parts of Europe. But in our homeland, the most profound and extensive evidence of racism lies in the sin of centuries of human trafficking, enslavement, segregation and the lingering effects experienced by African-American men, women and children.

We are called to recognize today that racism continues to manifest itself in many ways. It can be personal, institutional, or social. Often racism is both learned from others and born of ignorance from not interacting with people who are from a different culture and ethnic heritage. This historic experience has been aggravated by the selective outrage at some forms of discrimination and the silent support of other expressions of discrimination by some political forces, some faith-based and church entities, and some media. What should be a blessing – the diversity of our backgrounds, experiences and cultures – is turned into a hindrance to unity and a heavy burden for some to bear. The pain it causes in people’s lives is very real.

As we struggle to remove the attitudes that nurture racism and the actions that express it, we must show how the differences we find in skin color, national origin or cultural diversity are enriching. Differences mean diversity, not being better or worse. Equality among all men and women does not mean that they must all look, talk, think alike and act in an identical manner. Equality does not mean uniformity. Rather each person should be seen in his or her uniqueness as a reflection of the glory of God and a full, complete member of the human family.

Among Christians the call to unity is greater because it is rooted in grace and, therefore, racism merits even stronger condemnation. Everyone who is baptized into Christ Jesus is called to new life in the Lord. Baptism unites us with the Risen Lord and through him with every person who sacramentally has died and risen to new life in Christ. This unity, sacramental and real, brings us together on a level above and beyond the purely physical. It carries that oneness we all share through the natural reality of creation to a higher level -- the realm of grace.

In Christ we live in the same Spirit, we share the same new life and are members of one spiritual body. As members of the Church we are called to be witnesses to the unity of God’s family and, therefore, to be a living testimony to the inclusiveness that is a graced sign of our oneness.

The call to a unity that transcends ethnic ties and racial differences is a hard one for some people to accept. We can become comfortable in the enclave of our own familiar world and even view others who are different from us, ethnically or because of the color of their skin, with suspicion. Nonetheless, to be truly faithful to Christ we must respond to his teaching that we are one in him and, therefore, one with each other. “Through Christ we are one family” (Lumen Gentium 51).

Intolerance and racism will not go away without a concerted awareness and effort on everyone’s part. Regularly we must renew the commitment to drive it out of our hearts, our lives and our community. While we may devise all types of politically correct statements to proclaim racial equality, without a change in the basic attitude of the human heart we will never move to that level of oneness that accepts each other for who we are and the likeness we share as images of God.

Saint John Paul II in the Great Jubilee Year asked for the recognition of sins committed by members of the Church during its history. He called for reconciliation through recalling the faults of the past in a spirit of prayerful repentance that leads to healing of the wounds of sin.

Today we need to acknowledge past sins of racism and, in a spirit of reconciliation, move towards a Church and society where the wounds of racism are healed. In this process, we need to go forward in the light of faith, embracing all of those around us, realizing that those wounded by the sin of racism should never be forgotten.

At the same time, we acknowledge the witness of African-American Catholics who through eras of enslavement, segregation and societal racism have remained steadfastly faithful. We also recognize the enduring faith of immigrants who have not always felt welcome in the communities they now call home.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to work together for a present and future rooted in the commitment that Pope Francis described in his October 2013 address to the delegation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center: “Let us combine our efforts in promoting a culture of encounter, respect, understanding and mutual forgiveness.”

Responding to Christ’s love calls us to action. We need to move to the level of Christian solidarity. The term, often spoken of by a succession of popes as a virtue, touches the practical implications of what it means to recognize our unity with others. There is a sense in which solidarity is our commitment to oneness at work in the practical order.

Within the archdiocese, we have sought to make our commitment to oneness concrete, and the fight against racism a priority. Recognizing that we are a Church that is universal and composed of people from all lands, races, ethnicities, languages, and socio-economic backgrounds, each of our parishes and schools in this archdiocese accepts the challenge to provide a welcoming and inclusive home for all. We must all seek to affirm and rejoice in the gift of our diversity. Such a task is underscored in our archdiocesan-wide trainings in intercultural competency for parishes, schools, programs for our seminarians, and newly ordained priests to be better able to serve culturally and ethnically diverse communities.

In a particular way, the Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach provides resources and serves a significant role in our efforts to draw together all of the faithful of this Church in order that we might rejoice in the ethnic and cultural heritage of each of our sisters and brothers. To name just a few, these initiatives involve our celebration of Black Catholic History Month including a Mass featuring the Archdiocese of Washington’s Gospel Choir, and in January at the annual Mass honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we gather as an archdiocesan family to prayerfully celebrate Dr. King’s march for freedom and to resolve to continue that march together.

Our Walk with Mary annually commemorates Our Lady of Guadalupe and we invite local Catholics from all backgrounds to walk and pray together at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in recognition of Mary’s role as our spiritual mother and as patroness of the Americas. Our Church of Washington also joins the Church in the United States in celebrating National Migration Week and encourages Catholics at our local parishes to reflect on the challenges faced by immigrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking.

Our efforts also extend beyond our parishes. Through our Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and the Spanish Catholic Center, we extend a helping and welcoming hand to all who need it, particularly those newcomers regardless of race or creed. Housing and family assistance, medical and dental care, legal services and job training are all available to men, women, and children from all communities across the archdiocese.

In the area of education, our archdiocesan schools strive to provide students from African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native Indian American families with an accessible, affordable education that is academically excellent and marked by a strong Catholic identity centered on the life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. Catholic schools in this archdiocese continue to be places where students learn to grow in the Gospel virtues of respect for the dignity of the “other,” justice, solidarity and unity.

The archdiocese also expands educational opportunities and a brighter future for all children through archdiocesan and parish tuition assistance so students from more families across our community can benefit from the gift of a Catholic education. We also recognize the importance of promoting federal efforts, such as the Opportunity Scholarship Program for the District of Columbia, and Maryland’s state effort, the BOOST scholarship program.

Through these and many other programs in this archdiocese, I invite all of us to a more profound awareness of our obligations to embrace one another truly as sisters and brothers in Christ, in one human family created by a loving God.

Our parishes can take positive steps to promote unity and understanding among all members of our family of faith. The Sunday Eucharist offers a wealth of opportunities to reflect on this issue. The prayers of the faithful can promote social justice and urge the elimination of racism. Homilies can deal with the implications of the Christian faith for prejudice and racist behavior. Parishes can provide opportunities and catechetical material for adults to begin a dialogue about how to address the issues raised here. Parish efforts at evangelization ought to welcome and reach out to people of every race, culture and nationality. In these ways, we can follow Pope Francis’s example in promoting a spirit of dialogue and encounter with others.

We also must be alert to addressing racism wherever we meet it in our communities. In housing, citizens need to insist that the government enforce fair- housing statutes. In the workplace, recruitment, hiring, and promotion policies need to reflect true opportunity. In public education, we can support the teaching of tolerance and appreciation for each culture as we try to do in our own Catholic schools.

In our criminal justice system, we need to insist on fair treatment of all those accused of wrongdoing, and also promote opportunities for rehabilitation for those suffering from substance abuse, and to rebuild the lives for those being released from correctional facilities. In the public debate on the challenges of our age, we need to stand for the dignity of all human life and we ought also to insist on the place of religious faith. Without God and the sense of right and wrong that religious convictions engender, we will never adequately confront racism.

The elimination of racism may seem too great a task for any one of us or even for the whole Church. Yet we place our confidence in the Lord. In Christ, we are brothers and sisters to one another. With Christ, we stand in the Spirit of justice, love and peace. Through Christ, we envision the new city of God, not built by human hands, but by the love of God poured out in Jesus Christ. On the journey to that "new heaven and new earth," we make our way with faith in God’s grace, with hope in our own determination, and above all with love for each other as children of God.

Faithfully in Christ,

Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington

November 1, 2017
All Saints Day


Sunday, October 22, 2017

News at dawn on a Sunday? Sure, why not?

For everything else flitting across your screens these days, folks, it helps to be discerning about what's genuinely important...

...and when you look at the trio of shots across the bow reported below, well, there you have it. (Just to be clear, did you think a speech referencing the death penalty was actually about the death penalty?)

Much as it's already made for quite the fortnight, there'll be more to drop over the next several weeks. Along the way, though – with the intensity of news matched as ever by the costs that come with keeping on top of it – the reminder's again in order that these pages are only made possible thanks to your support.

Yet again and always, all thanks – not just for keeping the lights on, but all the encouragement and kindness that makes the ride a joy and gift.

Still, dear Lord, what on earth could be next?


In Magnum's Wake, Pope "Clarifies" Sarah. Again.

In an extraordinary rebuke to one of his own Curial cardinals, the Pope has aimed to "explain simply, and hopefully clearly... some errors" in his Worship chief's understanding of Magnum Principium, his recent motu proprio on liturgical translations, indicating the new norms granting enhanced oversight to bishops' conferences as a fresh development – and, most pointedly, declaring several key pieces of the operative rules in 2001's Liturgiam authenticam "abrogated."

A year since Francis' last open clash with his top liturgical aide, a personal letter from the pontiff to the CDW prefect Cardinal Robert Sarah (above, ad orientem), dated 15 October, was published this morning by the Italian outlet La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and subsequently confirmed by the Holy See Press Office, then placed on the Italian homepage of Vatican Radio. (SVILUPPO: A full English translation of the letter has been posted.)

Ironically enough, even as this Ordinary Sunday takes precedence, today marks the feast of St John Paul II, under whose authority LA was promulgated.

Noting that a lengthy, widely-circulated commentary published under Sarah's signature earlier this month stated that LA remains "the authoritative text concerning liturgical translations," the Pope responded by relating that paragraphs 79-84 of the 2001 norms – those which deal precisely with the requirement for a vernacular rendering's recognitio by Rome – were now abolished, going on to note that Magnum "no longer upholds that translations must conform on all points with the norms of Liturgiam authenticam, as was the case in the past."

In the new balance of responsibility, Francis said, Sarah's contention that "the words recognitio and confirmatio, without being strictly synonymous [to indicate the Vatican's role], are nevertheless interchangeable" – in essence, that little had changed from LA – was not the case. As the pontiff explained, "the faculty" now belongs to the respective bishops' conferences "to judge the goodness and coherence of terms in the translation of the original, albeit in dialogue with the Holy See"; in other words, not a unilateral call on Rome's part, even at the process' final stage.

Given considerable focus in the new norms' wake on the use of the word "fideliter" – that is, a conference's charge of weighing a translation's fidelity to the original – in Magnum's revision of the Code of Canon Law, the pontiff writes that the term, as judged by an episcopal conference, implies a "triple" meaning: "first, to the original text; to the particular language in which it is translated, and finally to the understanding of the text by its audience."

In light of LA's revision of the prior translation principles – i.e. prioritizing accuracy to the original Latin text over the immediate post-Vatican II "dynamic equivalence" approach that allowed a looser standard to ensure widespread comprehension – as Catholicism's supreme legislator, the Pope's reverted standard articulated here is of particular significance.

While Francis began his letter by thanking the Guinean cardinal for his "contribution," it bears recalling that, on Magnum's release in early September, Sarah – who Papa Bergoglio himself named to CDW in late 2014 – was conspicuous by his absence: an explanatory note on the new norms was instead issued by his deputy, the English Archbishop Arthur Roche. A former bishop of Leeds and chairman of ICEL – the global coordinating body for English-language translations – Roche was likewise received by Francis in a private audience earlier this month by himself.

Given the broad, multi-lingual spread of Sarah's commentary on the new norms – in particular, among circles routinely critical, or even hostile, toward the pontiff – Francis closed the letter by asking the cardinal to transmit his response to the outlets which previously ran Sarah's piece, as well as to the episcopal conferences and CDW's staff and membership.

The letter published today marks the third instance of Sarah's responses to Francis meeting a very public retort from the Pope. In early 2016, as CDW formally moved to allow women to take part in the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday, a papal letter accompanying the congregation's decree revealed that Papa Bergoglio's directive for the change had been held up for over a year.

Six months later, Francis (through the Press Office) issued a "clarification" that Sarah had been "incorrectly interpreted" in calling for priests to adopt the ad orientem stance in celebrating Mass, which the cardinal urged days earlier at a conference for traditionalists in London.

On a separate, but no less charged front, meanwhile, last month Sarah made a high-profile intervention in the US church's ongoing wars over homosexuality with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, advocating the testimony of an author who renounced an actively gay lifestyle to live in accord with the church's call to chastity.

Back to the matter at hand, in a major speech to Italian liturgists late last summer, Francis declared, "with certainty and magisterial authority," that the Vatican II reforms are "irreversible" – and adding that, for the church, "the liturgy is life, not an idea to be understood."