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Nativity of the Lord: Christmas Mass at Midnight

Preparing for Jill's Feast: AJ, Greg, Karina, Jill, Natalie

Nancy and I, and a small group from the Lay Centre started Christmas Eve with a traditional Italian dinner hosted by Jill, another Domer I discovered at the Angelicum. It was incredible! Antipasti and prosecco to start the night off, followed by soup, pasta, fish… and each prepared and served in proper order, it was almost a pity we had to leave for the mass! Seriously, aside from theology, ministry, and guiding tours of Rome she could open her own trattoria. Not only was it all delicious, it was presented so beautifully, it really made a special evening even more delightful.

Standing on the confessionals at St. Peter's, Midnight Mass 1944

It is from Jill that I learned that Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s is actually a relatively new phenomenon. Until 1944, the last time the bishop of Rome had celebrated Christmas midnight mass at St. Peter’s is believed to be for the coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD. Otherwise, the traditional location in Rome had been Santa Maria Maggiore – which makes a lot more sense given the indispensible role Mary played in the Nativity, and the location there of the relics of the Nativity including what was believed to be the manger in which the Christ child was laid. Since Pius XII’s celebration just after the liberation of Italy during WWII, the popes have celebrated midnight mass at St. Peter’s; but the Romans still go to Mary Major while the Americans and other pilgrims go pray with the pope – though we were not standing on the confessionals this time.

The line begins outside the Basilica of St. Peter

Jill’s place being mere minutes from Piazza San Pietro, we took some liberty with our arrival time. For the first time, what has traditionally been a Midnight Mass was moved up to 10:00pm so we were advised to arrive three hours early – we got there at 7:30 and got into a line that already wrapped around the entire Piazza and had started doubling up on itself. Waiting just ahead of us in line was an American, a theatre professor from Miami, who was hoping against hope to find a ticket to get into the papal mass. (His name is James Brown. No, really – you can look him up.) As it happens, I had had a friend arrange to get four tickets for us before we knew we would be getting enough through the Lay Centre, so Natalie had borrowed three for friends, and there was just one left over – the Spirit works in small ways too! Unfortunately, we lost Jim in the mass crush when our part of the line finally got inside the Basilica, but in a couple hours of waiting in line at least got to make a new friend.

View from our seats, taken after the liturgy

Once inside, we found the massive line had filled the seats in the nave and it looked as if we might have to stand – until they opened the transepts. We got the leftover seats from the “reserved” section in the south transept, directly to the side of the altar. We couldn’t see the pope as he sat in the presiders chair, but had a great view of the liturgy of the Eucharist.

We were placed directly between two of the massive pillars supporting Michelangelo’s Dome, looked over by Sts. John of God and Mary Euphrasia Pellettier on one side and Sts. Juliana Falconieri and Angela Merici on the other. Because of this we could not see very far down the nave toward the main doors. About the time we thought the music was changing from prelude to procession, we heard something like screams, a pause long enough to ask each other what that was about, then cheering. “Ah, they were cheering for the pope like a rock star!” We did not realize that Benedict had been knocked down until after the liturgy and we met up with some students who had been in that part of the Basilica. We did see Cardinal Etchegaray being wheeled out on a gurney behind us, and thought perhaps he had fallen or something. His Holiness did not mention it, and did not even seem fazed by the time we saw him.

Presepe at Piazza San Pietro

The liturgy was beautiful. Last time I was in Rome, for the close of the Jubilee, midnight mass had been held outside, in the Piazza. This was my second papal Eucharist inside St. Peter’s this year, and both times there has really been a sense of reverence and participation in the liturgy, even despite the size of the church and the numbers of people celebrating. The mass parts were in Latin, the readings in Spanish and English, the gospel sung in Latin and the pope’s homily delivered in Italian, the prayers of the faithful in Russian, French, Tagalog, Portugese, and German. The music is increadible, of course: the only places outside Rome I have seen compare for quality liturgy and liturgical music is the Basilica of Sacred Heart at Notre Dame and St. James Cathedral in Seattle. (The National Shrine in D.C. sometimes makes the cut, too…) Nancy was tempted to record the entire liturgy, but we settled for trying to get some of the music.

Afterwards we stood in front of the presepe (crèche, Nativity scene) at the foot of the obelisk in the middle of Bernini’s piazza, listening to a group of sisters singing carols. After an hour of trying to hail a taxi, we got a couple to take us back to the Lay Centre without trying to rip us off (Thank you, Karina!!)

On returning to the Lay Centre, Donna had prepared for us an “American breakfast” – pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, eggs, bacon, and orange juice – the most proper way to celebrate the birth of Jesus at 2:00am! And, to be honest, I do not think I have ever appreciated American fare so much!


Quote of the Day

In politics and religion in the Unites States, journalists are always trying to divide the world into two camps: liberals and conservatives. Conservatives believe that people are basically immoral – that is why we need police, prisons, and a big military so that conservatives can scare everyone into acting like conservatives. Liberals, on the one hand, believe that people are basically stupid- that is why we need better schools, more education, and dialogue, so that liberals can persuade everyone to think like liberals. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has always taught that people are both immoral and stupid – we call that original sin, the only doctrine for which we have empirical evidence.

Thomas J.Reese, “Organizational Factors Inhibiting Receptive Catholic Learning” in Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning: Exploring a Way for Contemporary Ecumenism ed. Paul D Murray (Oxford University Press, 2008), 346.

Basilica Santa Maria in Domnica

Besides the Lay Centre’s own chapel, the closest church is actually the Basilica of Saints John and Paul of the Cross, attached to the Passionist Monastery that is our landlord. However, given the geography and the means of getting around the property, it is actually closer to go to the local parish church, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Domnica, also known as Santa Maria della Navicella.

Basilica Santa Maria della Navicella

First, a little perspective is in order. Growing up in rural North Bend, WA about 30 miles east of Seattle, the nearest parish was a 15 minute drive away, in neighboring Snoqualmie.

Within a 15 minute walk from the Lay Centre, there are about a dozen churches, including the Cathedral Archbasilica of San Giovanni Laterano, the ancient San Clemente, one of Rome’s three circular churches, San Stefano Rotondo, and a chapel for the Missionaries of Charity. I am still making my rounds!

The parish church derives its dual names from different features of and around the basilica. In front of the church is a marble statue of a small ship (navicella), turned into a fountain by Leo X in the early 16th century as a replica of the original, which had been there ‘since time immemorial’. The official name of Domnica is variously attributed, either in reference to the church as a “house of the Lord” or to the name of a wealthy patroness who lived in the area whose name translated also meant “of the Lord”.

Mosaic at St. Maria in Domnica

Originally built somewhere between the 4th and  7th century on the ruins of a military barracks, it was renovated by Pope Pascal I in the early 9th century, and it was again refurbished by Pope Leo X in the 16th century. Pope Pascal was also connected to the Basilica Santa Prassede, which I mentioned a few weeks ago, also known for its beautiful mosaics, including that of Pascal’s mother, Episcopa Theodora. In Santa Maria Domnica, the mosaic represents an icon of the Theotokos and Christ child, correctly situated in the center rather than at his mother’s side, flanked by saints and angels. Pope Pascal is seen at Mary’s feet, with the square halo indicating he was still alive when the mosaic was completed.

The cardinal-titular of the church is William Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and former Archbishop of Portland and of San Francisco (and before than an auxiliary under Cardinal Mahony in LA). The basilica also serves as a parish center for the lay movement, Comunione e Liberazione (Communion and Liberation).

Communion and Liberation is one of the many lay ecclesial movements that have been popular in the Italian church and elsewhere in the last 40-50 years. While lay ecclesial ministry developed along the same timeline in northern Europe and North America, these lay ecclesial movements took precedence in Italy and in many of the Latin countries. CL traces its origins to the thought and ministry of an Italian priest Luigi Giussani dating back to the mid-50s, but the movement itself has its identifiable beginning with to a small group of Giussani’s students in 1969. The model is less of definite membership than in attendance in weekly catechetical meetings known as the “School of Community”. Estimates are of about 100,000 attending regularly in Italy, and there is a presence in almost 80 other countries, though nowhere as strong as here in Italy.

For both the feast of the Immaculate Conception, today, and the celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent I joined a group of my housemates from the Lay Centre in participating in the liturgy here. I just did not feel like braving the rain and the Roman crowds (and pickpockets) to make it to the Piazza Spagna for the Papal event there. Maybe next year!

Saint Andrew the Protoclete

Andrew was the first Apostle of Our Lord, first having been a disciple of John the Baptizer. Sometimes, for some reason, my fellow western Christians forget this and refer to Peter as the first. Peter would have died an anonymous Galilean fisherman if not for his brother, Andrew, who brought him to the Christ.

One of the early successors to Peter and Paul decided to settle the question of when the church year should begin by determining that the first Sunday of Advent, and therefore the first Sunday of the ecclesiastical year, should be that Sunday nearest the feast of the first Apostle. Before that, advent was celebrated in local churches as anywhere from three days to six weeks.

My patron and namesake is also patron of Greece, Russia, Scotland, and Romania, as well as the apostolic founder and patron of the Holy See of Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Icon of the Holy Brother Apostles, Peter and Andrew

One of my favorite icons is of the brothers Andrew and Peter embracing. This Icon of the Holy Brother Apostles was written for the 1964 meeting of Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI, a gift from the Successor of Andrew to the Successor of Peter, as a sign of the fraternal relationship of the two churches (also called “sister churches”). A copy of this icon was given to me for my service on the National Planning Committee of the NWCU by then-chairman Allen Johnson.

While much of the western ecumenical world was caught up in the announcement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the Anglican-Catholic personal Ordinariates in October, Cardinal Kasper joined Metropolitan Zizioulas and other representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches on Cyprus for the 11th plenary round of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue. The topic of this round of conversation is “The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium”.

His All Holiness Bartholomew I greets His Eminence Walter Kasper

In honor of the feast of Andrew, the Holy Father sends a personal message and a high-ranking delegation to the Patriarch of Constantinople; a return delegation is sent to the See of Rome to honor the patronal feast of Sts. Peter and Paul every June 29. This year’s address indicated signs of hope for the ongoing dialogue and the central questions to our restored unity – the role and relationship of the universal primacy of Rome and the other major Patriarchates, and the local churches.

The Holy Father’s message to Patriarch Bartholomew for the feast of St. Andrew today highlighted this work as a sign of the growing unity of the churches, and acknowledged the many areas for cooperation even as we are still on the journey to full unity.

Patriarch Bartholomew’s message of welcome to the Roman delegation likewise highlighted the work of the Commission, now tackling some of the most fundamental ecclesiological issues which remain to divide us, namely, primacy in general and that of Rome in particular.

“We are, therefore, convinced that the study of Church history during the first millennium, at least with regard to this matter, will also provide the touchstone for the further evaluation of later developments during the second millennium, which unfortunately led our Churches to greater estrangement and intensified our division.”

He also called attention to the slow progress being made toward the calling of a Great Council of the entire Orthodox world, an event which has not happened in centuries, and which would be akin to an Orthodox Vatican II.

The Challenge of Priesthood

This should not be the topic of my first blog touching on the Year of the Priest. Maybe it should a story of vocation, or a theological reflection on the priesthood of Christ and his church. Perhaps an ecclesiological exposition of the ministerial priesthood of the bishop, presbyter, and deacon, with ecumenical emphasis. That is the price of procrastination, however. Those will come in time.

I came across both of these articles yesterday evening, and it was too powerful to avoid.  

Very Rev. K. Scott Connolly

The first is from my diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Northwest Progress, in part of a series highlighting the presbyterate of the archdiocese in honor of the Year of the Priest; they provide brief profiles of five pastors each issue. This week’s issue includes five whom I know personally. Two were in seminary formation with me; two have worked with me as collaborators for the pastoral leadership of a parish; I have had several conversations with each, and have known most of them since I was 17 or 18.

Given that familiarity, I was mostly skimming the profiles. What priest does not think the greatest joy of being a priest is celebrating the sacraments, anyway? (Well, OK, there was one). I almost missed “the greatest challenge as a priest” on my first read, but that is the most telling part. Most of us who are or have been in pastoral ministry find that time-management and administration is an omnipresent challenge, and legitimately so. Yet, one response truly stands out, and calls us to remember what ministry, and the presbyterate, is really about.

Achbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin

To then turn to the next article only confirmed that read. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin addressed this week’s release of the national investigation of the sexual abuse of children and its systematic cover-up by the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland. The report itself reads much like the reports in the States over the last ten years. What reads differently is the response of the archbishop himself, which should be read in full and is available here:

Three times, the archbishop repeats that “No words of apology will ever be sufficient.”

He acknowledges not only the profoundly sinful nature of the acts of abuse by priests, but also the abject failure of the bishops and religious superiors to act for good:

“One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Report is that while Church leaders – Bishops and religious superiors – failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what has involved.  Almost exclusively their primary motivation was to try to ensure that what happened to their child, or in some case to themselves, did not happen to other children.”

He does not equivocate, blame the media, secular society or anti-Catholic bias; he does not claim that they ‘did not understand’ the nature of the pedophile and the ephebophile thirty years ago, or that they needed a ‘learning curve’ to adequetely deal with these problems. He makes no excuse for the culture of clericalism and institutionalism that allowed and encouraged the perpetuation of grave sin:

“Efforts made to “protect the Church” and to “avoid scandal” have had the ironic result of bringing this horrendous scandal on the Church today.”

In his interview he refers to the people making these excuses as a ‘caste’, a group who thought they could do anything and get away with it – which makes the crimes all the more horrendous because they were perpetuated by those who serve in the name of Jesus Christ.

There may be a long way to go before all remnants of that caste-mentality are eradicated from the Church, but our prayers and dedicated efforts to that end must never cease. Structures of sin have no place in the Body of Christ.

It reminds me of a parishioner whose daily intercession at Mass was for the “holiness of our priests” – simultaneously a prayer of gratitude for the many holy men who serve the Church, and a plea for the conversion of the rest.

Amen, indeed.

Flocks of Anglicans

It has been almost a month since the CDF press announcement of the apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, which was released a couple weeks later. As with all Vatican documents, the title comes from the first two words in the official Latin edition, in this case, “groups of Anglicans” – though I prefer the translation “flocks of Anglicans”, probably inspired by the starlings and their Tiber-crossing aerial acrobatics, or the wishful thinking of certain (Catholic and secular) media outlets.

Along with the constitution itself, a set of complimentary norms and an official explanatory note was issued. The later is written by the rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University here in Rome, Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, a native Roman who is trained as a civil and canon lawyer – which is an important lens to keep in mind when reading his commentary.

In the last three weeks, I have heard this issue addressed, in person, by Archbishop Rowan Williams, Cardinal Walter Kasper and about a dozen other curial officials, Catholic ecumenists, and Anglicans. My comments and conclusions remain my own, so do not blame any of them for my errors, but each conversation has provided some insight to various aspects of this issue, for which I am grateful.

Communication and timing

Much has been said of the Holy See’s lack of a modern communications strategy this last year, starting especially with the lifting of the excommunications of the (still) schismatic bishops of the Society of St. Pius X. In this case, the timing issue has been remarked on a great deal.

But let us be realistic: This is the Vatican. In Rome. Do you have any idea how long it takes to get anything done here? How many good people in the Church have been frustrated by an organization that prides itself in “thinking in centuries”? Should we really believe that this was an ambitious gambit at Ecclesial Imperialism incited only by recent developments? A rushed effort to ‘fish in the Anglican pond’?

I honestly think the more likely answer is that this is, at least partially, the long, slow, overdue response to requests that came way back in 1997 from some groups that left communion with the Anglicans at that time, just as the 1980 Pastoral Provision was a response to a smaller-scale situation in the 70’s. These former Anglicans are likely the ‘target demographic’ rather than current members of the Anglican Communion. I would not be surprised if some draft of something like this had been floating around in a dusty file cabinet in the CDF for the last decade or more.

It is probably, genuinely intended as a pastoral response by some in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and possibly the Secretariat of State. However, these impulses have not benefited from the full reception of, or formation in, ecumenical dialogues and relationships.

The internal, inter-dicasteral communications and collaboration is also clearly a problem, and it has not improved much in the eight years since Dominus Iesus. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was not properly consulted in the development of the document, only verbally informed of it after it was in process. Cardinal Kasper did say on Thursday after the Colloquium that he had seen a draft of the Apostolic Constitution before the official promulgation, and was invited to make recommended changes, but he did not mention the accompanying documents, and this may have happened after the initial press conference with Cardinal Levada and Archbishop DiNoia.

Externally and ecumenically, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his staff, as well as even the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was likewise not consulted or involved in the process, but only informed shortly before the press conference. Seemingly it was informing them that motivated the conference, for fear of leaks before the Constitution was finalized.

Anglican Responses

The official responses are out there to read on the internet. Bishop Chris Epting, National Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church, has recently blogged about the issue; and the press has been following Archbishop Rowan Williams everywhere in Rome, so there is no shortage of coverage.

Personal responses among those I have spoken with have included some common themes, including brief temptation and excited interest: “Enough talk, let’s just do it! We can have unity now!”

This was usually followed by disappointment in some key aspects once the constitution, complimentary norms and explanatory note came out. After a little time, there has been a sense of betrayal of the ecumenical bonds of unity that already exist and anger at what seems to be promotion of an “ecumenism of return”, which the Catholic Church disavowed 50 years ago. One local Anglican’s comment of “not being angry about this… but then being surprised at how angry I was” is echoed in several remarks, also among dedicated Catholics sensitive to the challenges currently facing the Anglican Communion.

Personally, I was initially excited too, “What if they all came? What if we could just have unity now?”… for a few minutes. Then a mea culpa for my momentary indulgence in ecclesiastical imperialism, and my thoughts turned to friends yearning for full communion, and the personal discernment of one friend in particular between coming into communion personally or continuing the long slow work of full ecclesial union.

Chris, Nigel, Andrea, John, Stian, Ann, Chris, Liz, Terry, Peter, and Tom: You are regularly in my prayers, you know, but have been especially so in recent weeks. Nothing would make me happier than being able to break bread together, in the fullest sense, but I suppose we can wait a little longer! (In the short term, I should at least practice better communicatio in communication and start answering email…)

Personal Ordinariates: Neither Personal Prelature, Church sui iuris, nor pastoral provision

The Personal Ordinariate structure was not foreseen in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, so Pope John Paul II created it specifically for the military ordinariates in 1986. The point missed in most of the media is that this is specifically a structure for the People of God – unlike a Personal Prelature (eg, Opus Dei) or the pastoral provision, which are specifically about clergy. The personal ordinariate is a personal diocese, not just a provision to “get married priests” in through the back door and “fill the dwindling ranks”. Were that primarily the motive, I think we would have just had a personal prelature.

Neither is it a full, autonomous Church sui iuris (or Particular Ritual Church) like the 23 Churches that make up the one Catholic Church. (That is, the Roman Catholic Church, Maronite Catholic Church, Ukranian Greek Catholic Church, etc.) This is a model proposed at various times in the ecumenical conversation as a juridical/ecclesial structure for eventual full communion, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Patriarch (or Major Archbishop).

Fr. Ghirlanda’s commentary acknowledges that the creation of such a structure could create “ecumenical difficulties”, without elaboration. Not knowing which difficulties he was thinking of, two immediately come to mind: 1) the idea that such a structure should be reserved until such time as we do attain full communion between Rome and Canterbury, and to do so now would be really insulting to the Anglican Communion and its leadership, and 2) a concern for our relations with the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, who might object to the unilateral establishment of a new patriarchate by Rome that did not exist as such during the first millennium.

However, the reason given in the commentary is that “the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church.” This has been one of the moments of pause for some Anglicans and former Anglicans who might otherwise consider the move.

I think this can be read positively, as acknowledging a genuine tradition that goes beyond local custom and has a proper place in the Catholic Church today at a level similarly given to, say, the “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite, rather than seeing it as a ‘non-Catholic creation of the English Reformation’. However, it seems safe to say that the English church has long recognized in itself an ecclesial tradition distinct from the Roman church, even for the many centuries of full communion, which goes beyond just liturgy and spirituality to a full ecclesial sense, including juridical, pastoral, and theological practices. This limited recognition is not as generous as would have been hoped.

Theology of Bishops, ordination

When is a bishop not a bishop? Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet? If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, isn’t it a duck?

[First, a brief note: “Ordinary” is a canonical term used to designate a person whose authority is by virtue of law itself in relation to his office. We refer to the diocesan bishop as the ordinary, in distinction from any auxiliary or retired bishops in the diocese. So, in itself, the “ordinary” is not a new term or office.]

One of the first discordant notes from the press announcement three weeks ago was around the identity and role of bishops and the ordinary in the personal ordinariates. Anglicanorum Coetibus basically sets up the ordinariate and outlines the responsibilities of the ordinary and the consultative structures. It gets interesting in the complementary norms (particular law).

First, in article four of the norms, it is noted that the ordinary may be a bishop or a presbyter. While allowing a presbyter exercise ordinary power is not unusual in itself, it is odd for the role equivalent to a diocesan bishop. In fact, the canons specifically mentioned in this article are describing the roles and responsibility of a diocesan bishop.

The section on “Former Anglican Bishops” (Article 11) has four points:

  • A former Anglican bishop may be appointed as the ordinary, but he would be only ordained as a presbyter.
  • A former Anglican bishop who is not ordinary could be asked to assist the ordinary in administration of the ordinariate.
  • Any former Anglican bishop would be a part of the bishop’s conference in their territory (such as the USCCB), with a status equivalent to retired bishop.
  • Finally, any former Anglican bishop who is not ordained as a Catholic bishop may request permission to continue using episcopal insignia (mitre, crozier, pectoral cross, ring, and presumably the amaranth red zucchetto, fascia, and simar).

While the first point seems to say that a former Anglican bishop could not be ordained as a bishop, even if he is the ordinary, the last point seems to indicate that at least some former Anglican bishops could be so ordained, and the rest could continue to wear bishop’s regalia even if they are not ordained as bishops.

 Turning to Fr. Ghirlanda’s commentary for clarification, one finds the following:

“The ordination of ministers coming from Anglicanism will be absolute, on the basis of the Bull Apostolicae curae of Leo XIII of September 13, 1896. Given the entire Catholic Latin tradition and the tradition of the Oriental Catholic Churches, including the Orthodox tradition, the admission of married men to the episcopate is absolutely excluded”

This is where any interest in ‘coming over’ grinds to a halt for many Anglo-catholics, especially the clergy. Among Catholic ecclesiologists, ecumenists, church historians and sacramental theologians, this is probably where there was a collective raising of eyebrows. The three issues here are the use of Episcopal insignia by non-bishops, the nature of Anglican orders and of ordination in the personal ordinariate, and the whole of the final sentence regarding ordination of married men to the episcopate.

Episcopal Insignia

Originally, of course, bishops did not wear anything different than the rest of the people of God. After Christianity became the official religion of the empire, Emperors began appointing Christian bishops to civil magistrate posts. These secular offices included the insignia of a ring and what have become the crozier and mitre. As the empire dissolved and the Church took on the role of the state more completely, they became identifiable with the episcopal office, but continued to have a secular connection.

The whole (unfortunately named) lay investiture controversy of the 12th century had nothing to do with the role of the laity in electing their bishops (which was traditional), but with the role of the secular rulers appointing bishops themselves and/or retaining the right to invest them with the ‘secular’ signs of office: ring, mitre, and crozier.

Significant to that argument and church practice since is that these are insignia of the episcopal office, and are neither appropriate for non-bishops to use nor for non-ecclesiastical authorities to confer. The exception to this concerns some of those who are equivalent to a bishop in office, such as an abbot (and in some places in the past, an abbess). Given that exception, it would be consistent to allow the ordinary of the personal ordinariate to retain episcopal insignia even if he was only a presbyter.

The underlying concern is twofold, one ecumenical and the other ecclesiological. First, having just reiterated the judgment of Apostolicae Curae of Anglican orders as “absolutely null and utterly void” and declaring that any former Anglican bishop, presbyter or deacon would have to be absolutely ordained, the allowance for former Anglican bishops to adopt episcopal insignia without episcopal ordination basically says, “Because you are used to pretending to be bishops, we will allow you to continue pretending to be bishops, even though you will not actually be bishops.”

Secondly, the practice of having non-bishops dress or act as bishops seems to imply the Tridentine theology of the episcopate as a merely juridical office, rather than as an order in itself. If a presbyter has the fullness of orders, and being bishop is just a “job”, then a presbyter can dress as a bishop or fulfill a bishop’s office (eg, ordinary) without actually being a bishop. Catholic ecclesiologists and sacramental theologians are not too happy about that possibility.

Apostolicae Curae and Anglican Orders

Many catholic-leaning Anglicans are that way because of a Catholic understanding of the sacraments, including holy orders and the Eucharist. They may have been interested in the personal ordinariate if offered a “conditional” ordination, which would at least acknowledge the possibility of, or partiality of, sacramental validity of their current ordained ministry. But absolute ordination means a betrayal of their (very Catholic) sacramental sense of their current ministry, which is not appealing.

In the 113 years since Apostolicae Curae, Catholic historians, theologians, and ecumenists have developed a more nuanced understanding of Anglican orders. The bull is considered definitive church teaching on precisely the issue with which it deals – Anglican ordinations conducted according to the Edwardian Ordinal from 1552 until 1662.

Church historians have discovered at least some places where this ordinal was not used, and so would not be subject to the declaration of nullity. More recently, there have been more and more Anglican ordinations including bishops of the Old Catholic churches, which are generally recognized as valid in the classic Catholic understanding, and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, which also maintain an historic episcopate with a claim of apostolicity. Even the Catholic understanding of ordination vis a vis Apostolic Succession and Tradition has enjoyed development, at least in ecclesiological circles, in moving from a “spiritual heredity” model to a more collegial understanding of succession and ordination as incorporation into the episcopal college.

Given all of these, it was disappointing for many that the ordinations of former Anglican clergy were not classified as conditional. This could be understood either as “just in case” their former ordinations were either absolutely invalid or merely defective, or, even better, as a sign of their incorporation into the episcopate, presbyterate, or diaconate in communion with the ordinary and the bishop of Rome, without judgment on the state of their current orders or past ministry.

Married Bishops

Finally, there is the sentence about married bishops. The best way to read this  is to recall that Fr. Ghirlanda is primarily a canonist, and is a native Roman.

In the current canonical situation, it is true that married men are absolutely excluded from the episcopate in the entirety of the Catholic Latin and Eastern traditions, as well as in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

Historically, of course, married men have been bishops (and before that, apostles). This was common in the Latin tradition, and not unheard of in the east, until celibacy became a universal norm in the Latin Church during the 12th-16th centuries. Early on, the practice of selecting monastic (and therefore celibate) presbyters to be bishop became the norm in the East, while the West continued to select bishops from the diocesan (and therefore married or celibate) diaconate and presbyterate. Ecumenically, the Orthodox Church recognizes this historic difference in praxis, and does not generally object to married bishops in the Latin Church. Theologically, there is no impediment to a married man being a bishop in either the Catholic or Orthodox traditions, and in fact scripture commends it – though, admittedly, limiting bishops to only one wife.

Being a Roman, Fr. Ghirlanda has no doubt been to the Basilica of Santa Praessade, and has seen the 9th century mosaic of Episcopa Theodora. If he had meant that in the entire Latin Catholic tradition, historically and theologically, the admission of married men to the episcopate was absolutely excluded, then he would be confirming the interpretation that Theodora was not the wife of a bishop, but was in fact a bishop herself. This seems unlikely.

The Synodal Tradition of Anglicanism

As “the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition is a particular reality within the Latin Church” according to the official commentary, their pastoral tradition of synodality (collegiality and collaboration) is also worthy of emulation in the entire Latin church, and perhaps some of the norms in this section will be applied throughout the church. Even if not, they are interesting in themselves.

A “governing council” combines the basically redundant structures of presbyteral council and college of consultors currently mandated in the Code of Canon Law. It is given deliberative voting powers on a number of issues, and interestingly, prepares the terna (list of three names) from which the Holy Father would appoint the ordinary. For most Latin dioceses, this terna is currently prepared by the Apostolic Nuncio, with consultation of the region’s bishops, some other clergy, and virtually no input by laity.

Further, the pastoral and finance councils are mandated not just for the ordinariate, as is the case for all dioceses, but also for all parishes in the ordinariate. For most Latin dioceses, the parish pastoral council is merely recommended. However, the language for pastoral councils in the norms is that they are “advisory” rather than the stronger “consultative” which is in the Code, though this is a common misreading of consultation, so perhaps it was not meant as a change.

What Happens Now?

Some former Anglicans may accept the offer, but I do not think it will be a large number. Even fewer current Anglicans will, I think. The most interested will thankfully continue to work on full ecumenical unity, distant as that always seems. I am interested to see how this develops, or if it develops.

One curial official described the personal ordinariates thus: The Holy See has set aside an empty room, but without furniture, electricity, or provisions. Now we are asking Anglicans to fill the room, without being able to bring anything with them other than themselves. It may remain empty for a long time.

In the mean time, the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) III preparatory commission is meeting in Rome this week, including my own bishop, Archbishop Alex Brunett as co-chair. This, after a hiatus since 2005, prompted by the developments in the Anglican Communion – a hiatus which some predicted would never end. If Anglicanorum Coetibus were really the Holy See’s ecumenical answer the Canterbury’s internal struggles, ARCIC III would be dead in the water. Yet, they seem energized and ready to go, so it will be interesting to see whether ecumenical dialogue or corporate conversion takes center stage over the next few months.

The Apostolic Constitution, Complementary Norms, and commentary can be read together here.

Extraordinary Form: The Tridentine Rite in Rome

 With something like 900 churches, chapels, and oratories in Rome, I could visit one a day and still have a long way to go by the time I graduated. However, since we have our community Eucharist weekly in the Lay Centre, I am trying to spend Sunday worship somewhere different each week to continue getting a sense of the Church, both Roman and catholic.

Santissia Trinita' dei Pellegrini, personal parish for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite

This Sunday I joined some friends who are regulars at the parish church of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini (Most Holy Trinity of Pilgrims). Trinità is the personal parish in Rome for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, more commonly called the Tridentine Rite. It is staffed by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

Just as the liturgy was renewed in 1970 by Paul VI in accordance with the Vatican II Council, so it was after the Council of Trent when Pius V promulgated the Roman Missal of 1570. “Tridentine” simply means “of Trent”. The latest of several revisions to this liturgy of Trent was made by John XXIII in 1962, and it is that version which was approved by Benedict XVI on 7.7.07 for use as the extraordinary form of the liturgy.

At one level, I was not sure what to expect. I am too young not only to have missed being formed by this liturgy and the concomitant devotions and ‘Catholic ghetto’ identity, but I also missed the most tumultuous years of peri- and post-Conciliar development, changes, and even occasional abuses. I simply do not have a neuralgic response to either the Tridentine liturgy or to the phrase “Spirit of Vatican II” as do so many of my older colleagues of different generations. Some experiences I have had did lead to some expectations, some of which were confirmed and some of which were totally blown away.

While this was my first experience with a “high mass” according to the extraordinary form, it was neither my first Tridentine nor Latin liturgy. While I have participated in some beautiful liturgies in Latin before, they were all according to the normative Roman Rite – in other words, the same mass we celebrate every Sunday in English, Spanish, Italian, etc.

My (admittedly few) previous experiences of the Tridentine form could not be described, by any stretch of the imagination, as beautiful. In fact, they could hardly be described as liturgy: terrible music, if any, nothing resembling “full, conscious, and active participation” by the assembly, and a vapidity so pervasive that the sacramentality, spirituality, and genuine reverence for the Eucharistic liturgy was almost totally lost. In at least one case the priest’s Latin was so bad the actual validity of the consecration was called into question. Each time it seemed more about making a ‘political’ statement in the culture wars than in actual worship or an act of communion.

Given the people who invited me, however, I was confident that this would not be a repeat of those experiences, whatever it turned out to be. As it turned out, that involved both beauty and illumination.

Gregorian and other chant done well – the music was beautiful. My rusty Latin was enough to know what part of the mass I was in, and to sing along with some of the mass parts, but mostly it was enough to just listen.

Solemn Mass at the high altar

About one hundred twenty people were there, the median age seeming to be in their early 50’s, with a pretty good mix from two or three small children to people old enough to have been formed in this rite.  We had a crowd of about fifteen students from the pontifical universities, most of whom are regulars. I only saw a couple of mantillas in the whole assembly. A small pamphlet had the readings and some prayers in Latin and Italian. The major parts of the mass were recognizable from the current form of the Rite, and from what I remember studying in my Liturgical history courses. Announcements and collections are not much different, though the former came in the middle of mass rather than at the beginning or the end.

Having an inaudible Eucharistic canon and to be so far removed from the altar did distract a little from prayer and participation, as did not always knowing when to kneel, stand, or sit or precisely why. Not that I could kneel anyway, there was not room enough! One thing that was consistent with more than a few regular parishes, though, was that everybody seemed to have their own expectations about this anyway, and most of the time about half were kneeling while half were standing. It was not very uniform, but neither did that seem to matter to anyone.

Cognitively, I know that the idea of the long nave with a high altar at one end, the presider and other ministers facing ad orientem along with the people is supposed to represent the presbyter leading the people in the sacrifice and their pilgrim journey. I also know that most people experienced this more as a sense of removal and non-participation, of the mass as a private devotion of the priest “over there” while we did our thing “over here”. Personally, it felt neither like I was being led in worship, nor that I was completely removed from the action. As something both deeply familiar and existentially unfamiliar, I guess I was in more of an observer-participant role, a student in prayer.

The need for the renewal and reform of Vatican II was made evident to me, on one hand. This is a liturgy pretty far removed from those described in the early church, and not easily accessible for a lot of people, especially if not done as well as it was at Trinità. On the other hand, I could see how it would be a difficult adjustment for people formed by this liturgy to adapt to the current Rite, especially if their experience of the transition was handled badly and without proper catechesis, as seemed to be the case in too many places.

What is most striking to me is the people and their attitude regarding the liturgy, at least those I spoke with, which includes friends from the Angelicum, the Lay Centre, and others. A German friend describes the participants as “traditionalists, but not necessarily conservatives.”

In the States, generally, it seems that the Tridentine mass has become little more than a weapon of the culture war, as I mentioned above. “More Catholic than Benedict XVI, more conservative than Pius IX, and holier than Mother Teresa” would be the motto. Probably they are here too, just as the opposite extreme can be found in some other parishes, if one looks hard enough.

Here, instead, are people of prayer, less interested in proving that they have the “true mass”, than in worshiping as fully as they are able, in a Rite and a spirituality that speaks most clearly to them. Motivated by genine reverence rather than triumphalism, tradition rather than traditionalism, i felt as welcome here as i have my first time in any parish (well, except Blessed Teresa, but that was a truly exceptional experience!)

Remembering Salvadoran Martyrs

Twenty years ago today, in the morning hours, U.S.-trained military personnel of the El Salvadoran government assaulted the Jesuit residence at the University of Central America, in San Salvador, killing eight people – six Jesuit faculty and leadership of the university, the housekeeper, and her 16-year old daughter.

President Mauricio Fuñes announced earlier this month that the priests would receive the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado – the nation’s highest honor – in a national service of atonement today. It was not clear if Celina and Julia Elba would likewise be honored, though I certainly hope so. The U.S. Congress also passed a resolution honoring “these eight spiritual, courageous and generous priests, educators and laywomen” and encouraging commemorations of the anniversary.

We remember today:

Julia Elba Ramos, 42,
cook and housekeeper for the Jesuit seminarians at the university

Celina Mariset, 16,
Ramos’ daughter

Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, 59,
Rector of University of Central America

Ignacio Martin-Maro, SJ, 44,
Vice-Rector and Director of the UCA Public Opinion Institute

Segundo Montes, SJ, 56,
Dean of the department of social sciences

Amando Lopez, SJ, 53,
professor of theology and philosophy

Juan Ramon Moreno, SJ, 56,
professor of theology

Joaquin Lopez y Lopez, SJ, 71,
founder and director of Fe y Alegria (Faith and Joy),
which opened thirty educational centers in communities throughout El Salvador

Martyred November 16, 1989
El Salvador

The developed world is not at all the desired utopia,
even as a way to overcome poverty, much less to overcome injustice.
Indeed, it is a sign of what should not be and of what should not be done.

We must turn this sinful history upside down, and out of poverty
we must build a civilization in which all can have life and dignity.

– Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ

(Thanks to Catholic Anarchy  for the icon and prayer!)

Grand(father) Inquisitor at the Lay Centre

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Dr. Donna Orsuto, Most Rev. Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ

When meeting with the second-ranking official of the dicastery known for most of its history as the Holy Office of the Inquisition (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, CDF), one might not expect a relaxed and cheerful pastor.

One certainly does not expect to hear such pearls as, “We are not here to judge who is ‘really’ Catholic and who is not. We are all striving for holiness, but none of us has reached it. We offer people formation in the Catholic ideal, but everyone struggles with the real application of this in their life” or “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone!”

Yet, this is exactly what we got in the “grandfatherly” Jesuit Spaniard, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, Secretary of the CDF at Tuesday night’s inaugural Oasis in the City at the new location of the Lay Centre.

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Oasis in the City event at the Lay Centre

Equally reassuring of the man’s Christian heart was his reaction to the fact that the car service that had been arranged to get him to the Lay Centre was 45 minutes late, having left the Archbishop waiting for his ride, without any notice. Any normal person could reasonably expect to be irritated or upset. A typical “VIP” might have just given up and given up on us. More than a couple U.S. hierarchs I have encountered might have thrown a royal fit at such inconvenience. But when the archbishop finally arrived, he got out of the car laughing and waving away Donna’s profuse apologies as if they were not even needed: “These things happen all the time”, he says.

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Archbishop Ladaria, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The bulk of his lecture was on the unsurprising CDF 2008 instruction Dignitas Personae, dealing with a range of bioethical issues including IVF, stem cells, and cloning. It was the questions afterword that brought some of the most interesting comments, including the two quotes above, the first being in response to a question about where to draw the line when someone (such as a politician) does not act or profess a view entirely commensurate with Catholic moral teaching on these complicated issues. Others challenged the Church’s insistence that “human life/personhood begins at conception” from a Thomistic framework which allows for a later development.

My Italian is not good enough to have followed the lecture in its entirety, but the conversation afterword was just as lively. Now if only all of our American hierarchy were as pastoral as this CDF honcho! (Yes, you read that correctly!!)

UPDATE: Didn’t realize the press was here too:

The Roman Classroom, or, Reflections on Methodology and Pedagogy in the Pontifical Roman Universities from an American Catholic Paradigm Typified by L’Universite de Notre Dame du Lac

What is it like studying in Rome? Are the courses challenging? Are the students on par with peers in the U.S.? Is the university academically rigorous? Are the faculty orthodox? How does it compare to [Notre Dame/Seattle University/Catholic University]?

These are the kinds of questions I have had from a number of friends and colleagues, and I thought I would address them together once I had had some time to get a sense of the pedagogy here.

Sts. Dominic & Sixtus

Church of Dominic and Sixtus at the Angelicum University

It is a different system, no question. The first thing to note is the nature of the university. The Universities are really just buildings with classrooms, and very minimal administrative staff. The entirety of the Angelicum – classrooms, offices, chapel, faculty residences, library and bookstore – is about the same size as Hunthausen Hall at SU, Caldwell at CUA, or O’Shaughnessy at ND. This is because the university really only offers the classes, mostly lectures and a small number of seminars. It is assumed that the bulk of your formation actually happens elsewhere, specifically, independent research, formation in community, and the experience of being in Rome.

My specialization does not even use the university library, for example. Instead, we have access to the Centro Pro Unione, run by the Society of the Atonement; that is our library. Sure, it is about a 25 minute walk from the Angelicum, but it’s a walk that passes by the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and some of the most famous gellateria in the city, so one cannot complain. Moreover, there is a lot of time for research, so once I settle on an idea, I will not be bogged down by unwanted topics in order to pursue it.

The presumption of the university is that its students live in a house of formation, one of the “colleges” around Rome – and these are operated entirely separately from the universities. The problem is, of course, that only about 70% of students have access to one of these colleges as they are usually established either by national bishops’ conferences exclusively for priests and seminarians, or by religious communities for their own members. That leaves a significant number of students – deacons, lay ecclesial ministers, non-ecclesial lay students and non-Catholics – without an essential part of their education in Rome. The Lay Centre is the only such college trying to meet this need, and it is a private venture. It is also limited in space, with only room for about 20 residents out of the hundreds needing such a place. (Though get the impression the quality of life and of formation here exceeds what can be found in many of the national colleges for seminarians and priests!)

Further, I think the course load is intentionally light, though it does not appear this way at first. It is normal to be registered for about 8 or 9 courses a semester, one of which is a seminar. Whereas the typical 3-credit course in the States meets for 3 hours in two or three classes a week, here we get 90 minutes, once a week – about half as much time. The reading load is considerably less, too, if you just look at the syllabi. Two of my courses have only one required text of about 200 pages each, for the entire semester. The rest rely entirely on lecture notes. I have a total of 30 pages of writing due this semester, and most final exams are oral rather than written.  (I am remembering my first semester sophomore year at ND, over 100 pages on 60 different topics, not counting finals!)


Sacred Heart Basilica and Main Building, University of Notre Dame

The difference between being located in South Bend, IN and in Roma cannot be overstated, though. It is easy to take on a thousand pages of reading a week at ND when there is nothing to do otherwise anyway. Here, if you want to learn about early Christianity or the history of the papacy, go for a walk. San Giovanni in Laterano is ten minutes from here. San Clemente is even closer. The Vatican is a few metro stops away. Just in the last week, we have had dinner with two of the three Catholic representatives on the reconciliation talks with the Lefebvrite schismatics (Archbishop Ladaria and Charles Morerod, OP). The week after the press release about the Anglican personal Ordinariates, we got to talk with two different members of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. Then, of course, the discussions had over dinner and caffé more than make up for the pedantic lecture style in some of the classrooms.

It is important to note the international character here too. Granted, ND and CUA were both pretty international, but I think this is the most mixed place I have ever been. I am frequently the only native English speaker in a class, or one of two. It seems to be a good representation of the Church in general: lots of representation from Africa, southeast Asia, India, and Eastern Europe. (Some from Latin and South America, but most of them seem to go to the Gregorianum rather than the Angelicum). This probably makes lecture rather than group discussion in class more feasible, and accounts for what seems like a slow pace.

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