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Merry Christmas – and checking in
Merry Christmas to all, wherever you are in the world, and whether you are celebrating today, or waiting until the Julian calendar comes around.
I am in a reflective mood, and it has been a very long time since I wrote anything on the blog.
In recent years, a lot of my free writing energy has been spent over on Quora, which was introduced to me by a physicist friend as a place where experts could answer questions directly, but has devolved somewhat to a more popular site. Nevertheless, a lot of quality writing can be found there, and I have done my best over the years to provide quality answers to questions on ecumenism, theology, church history and canon law, as well as occasionally weigh in on cultural, geographic, or personality perspectives.
You can peruse some of that here:
Since June 2017, I have answered about 5000 questions, and my contributions have been read by over 6 million people, at a rate of between 50,000 and 90,000 per week – so the impact is significantly higher than any academic writing I have done, or even this blog, which, when active (October 2009 to June 2016), had about 3000 subscribers and never more than 8,000 views in a month.
As I write, I am sitting in my childhood home in the foothills of the Cascades, outside of Seattle, and it has finally started snowing for the first time (for more than a few minutes) this winter. It is a quiet Christmas afternoon, my mother and one brother in the house, at opposite ends.
I have been home from Rome, rather unexpectedly, since August. The pandemic wiped out much of international higher education and study abroad programs in Rome, summer programs, and basically all the work that kept me busy teaching the City, and teaching in the City. I have muddled through with translations and editing, and have turned into more of a couch potato than I should be comfortable with, having gained back all the weight I lost when I moved to Rome all those years ago.
Rome has been home for a dozen years (2009-2021), and nearly tied with my childhood in North Bend (1981-1994) as the longest anywhere. It is not clear at the moment how or when I’ll be back, or where my next place will be, but I was reflecting on some of the numbers of my Roman experience.
Despite the long time calling Rome home, it has hardly been easy or settled. I have had to pack up and move no fewer than 23 times in that period, and considering I was blessed with the stability of one apartment from April 2018 to July 2021, most of that was condensed into even less time. (And each of those moves were for at least a month somewhere, not counting vacations and visits and the like, of course). Moving is exhausting, even when it is only across town or to pack up everything for a summer and have to find lodging outside the academic year.
I have taught 61 university classes since 2013, and helped with two others, for six different universities and higher education institutions. More than most professors by the time they get tenure. But, as with nearly everyone in Rome, remain perpetually adjunct and frequently forgotten about by the main campus, or, as a non-ordained person, not even eligible for permanent positions in some institutions. I have also worked in administrative roles for three different institutions, completed two degrees/diplomas, tackled the doctorate with two different universities and advisors, and studied, researched, or had fellowships at a total of eight different institutions in six different countries.
My average income has been about 21,200 Euro per year (about $24,000), since moving to Rome – including in-kind provisions for room and board at times – which is less than I made as an interim parish youth minster in my first year of ministry almost 20 years ago, not even considering inflation.
I, and my colleagues, received one raise from one university since 2013, and it was not even enough to account for the inflation since I started teaching there – though it was more generous than anyone else has offered. Teaching a class for a university or seminary in Rome can, and has, paid between about 800 euro and 4500 euro per class. The average has been 3000 Euro (gross) per class, meaning about 1900 Euro after taxes, typically. (Which is a rather complicated other subject…)
I have also, because of the lack of funding, support, and stability, had to start and stop and start again a doctorate at two different universities with two different advisors, all of which being done in between the average working more than full time for multiple employers part time and temporarily, often without stability. That looks to be finally finishing up in this coming year, as, in the words of my current advisor, I’ve been “trying to write the entire Oxford Encyclopedia on the Diaconate, rather than a modest 180 page book. Stop trying to change the world and just get your degree.”
I have delivered 43 academic presentations or conference papers, planned and/or staffed 27 academic conferences, participated in 25 additional conferences or symposia, edited one anthology, translated two books and more than 150 articles for six different institutions, and done a terrible job of turning most of that into peer-reviewed publications except for a few book reviews.
I have consulted with Hollywood over a Netflix show (cancelled, unfortunately) and with a couple novelists about their books. I have met two popes, two archbishops of Canterbury, the ecumenical patriarch, and more cardinals than I can shake a stick at. I participated in most of the major papal liturgies of a decade, including the canonizations of some of my heros of the faith: Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, John XXIII and Paul VI, Kateri Tekakwitha, Andre Bessette, and others.
I have travelled to about 30 countries, spent a semester in Jerusalem, a month or more in Cyprus, Wales, and Greece, met friends from all over the world, and am deeply indebted to the kindness, generosity, and care of a few special people, (C and E, especially, who know who they are, I hope!). Despite challenges, I have had many blessings and many opportunities, and met people I never could have otherwise – and I deeply appreciate the international, intercultural, and interreligious perspective I have benefited from.
Depression and poverty have been the most persistent and overwhelming challenges, though Italian bureaucracy and clericalism both make good showing – I may have to write on those another time. The last year was really one of my hardest, and even those closest and kindest to me were burdened with too much, so I’ve landed home for a spell, and an opportunity to look for new directions or come to terms with the way things are. Keep me in prayer, and especially any of those who I have hurt, failed, or disappointed on the way.
After having consecrated my life to the Church more than 25 years ago and rather naively believing I would therefore have the Church’s support for my vocation, at least enough to not be constantly scrambling for scraps or relying overmuch on friends, family, and relationships just to survive, I am also at a vocational turning point. When I would have been ordained, my bishop then told me I had to choose between presbyterate – and therefore being only a parish pastor – or ecumenism and academic theology, there therefore not being ordained. Ironically, in Rome, I have been told my not being ordained is the main reason I have no position in the Pontifical Councils for Christian Unity or Interreligious Dialogue, or stability in my work, or even that lay people should not study theology, as if we had any brains we would do medicine or law or tech instead to make money.
A friend asked if I was still doing ecumenism anymore. It has literally been a lifetime pursuit and vocation, but after a lifetime of being shunted aside for being lay, or for dedicating first and foremost to this and not something else, and often not even able to receive a basic living from this dedication to the Church, even as much as a simple priest would have, I have begun to question what my direction should be. It is unsettling, and your prayers and ideas and support are welcome.
I welcomed the Francis pontificate with joy, and the hope for reform and forward momentum was rekindled, but the hatred and bile, the dissent and schism that his light has aroused among those who loved the darkness, and seeing something of a parallel in response to the pandemic and the rise of Trump’s cult in the US has also been dismaying. It is hard to hold on to hope, faith, or feel love, in such a climate, even when those closest to me have tried, far above and beyond what is expected.
And yet, all these changes and challenges have brought me home, unexpectedly, with only a little work online, to spend more time with my family, especially my niece and nephews than I have ever had in their young lives. The first time I was ever home for my nieces birthday, or my youngest nephew’s and the first for my oldest nephew (now 14) since he turned one. The first Halloween, Thanksgiving, or St. Nicholas Day with family, in their lives. And while it came at a cost, it was apparently needed, and therefore I thank God.
I ask your prayers as I learn what this all means, as I rediscover graciousness and gratitude and perspective, and for forgiving others even as others work to forgive me. And, in the midst of that, a meaningful way to fulfil my vocation!
Perhaps appropriate then, that we celebrate the Nativity, the Incarnation, the humble birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus called Christ, as the snow falls here amidst the evergreen trees, and we are reminded that death and sin are conquered, that even the darkest hours merely precede the coming of the Light of the World.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018
For years, I collected and collated the calendar for the celebrations during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity here in Rome. Thankfully, Churches Together in Rome has taken up the task this year! Here are the events we know of; probably, there are others. Please let me know and I can add them.
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY : 18 to 25 JANUARY 2018
16.30 An afternoon of prayer and reflection,
with an address by Mgr. Paul Mc Partlan, on
“Chieti and the Trajectory of Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue”,
followed by an Ecumenical Celebration of the Word:
Presider: Rev. Tony Currer (PCPCU); Preacher: Rev. Ruth Frampton (Salcombe England).
At Centro Pro Unione, via Santa Maria dell’Anima, 30, 1st Floor (Piazza Navona)
18.00 Evensong (Evening Prayer) with the Anglican community of All Saints
at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.
Presider: Rev. Jonathan Boardman
18.00 Evening Prayer with the Evangelical Lutheran community of Rome.
At St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. Presider: Rev Jens-Martin Kruse
17.00 First Vespers at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls
18.00 Vigil mass at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls
10.30 Morning service at Ponte Sant` Angelo Methodist Church
Preacher: the Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi, the new
Director of the Anglican Centre
11.00 Eucharist at Caravita (Oratory of St Francis Xavier).
Preacher: Rev. Dr. Tim Macquiban,
Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome
17.00 Churches Together in Rome service at St. Patrick’s
(American Catholic Parish, Via Boncompagni, 31),
Rev. Tony Currer, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
18.00 Mass (Basilica Polyphonic Choir) at St Paul’s Without the Walls
18.00 Evening service at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls
led by the Methodist Community in Rome.
Presider: Rev. Dr. Tim Macquiban
18.30 Christian Unity Service, Diocese of Rome/Vicariate for the City
With Walk of Witness from Piazza di Spagna to S. Andrea della Fratte.
16.00 to 18.30 Communion in growth: Declaration on the Church, Eucharist, and Ministry – A report from the Lutheran- Catholic Dialogue Commission for Finland,
Presentations by: Bishops Teemu Sippo and Simo Peura
Rev. Dr. Raimo Goyarrola and Rev. Dr. Tomi Karttunen
Rev. Dr. James F. Puglisi; Thanksgiving for the Dialogue: Kurt Cardinal KOCH
At Centro Pro Unione
17.45 Evening Liturgy St. Paul’s Outside the Walls led by the Romanian
Orthodox community. President: Bishop Siluan
17.00 Papal Vespers at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls
(ticket only – apply through your local churches)
Calls to revoke the “Doctrine of Discovery”
What is the “Doctrine of Discovery”?
First of all, it is not a Christian doctrine – this term is used in its legal sense. This is already confusing for some people. There is no Christian teaching by this name, and anyone familiar with Catholic Social Teaching of the last 125 years knows the value of universal human dignity, religious freedom, opposition to slavery, etc. It comes as no surprise then that most Catholics, most Christians, and even those in positions of authority in the Church, might have no idea what you were talking about if you raised the question.
In full disclosure, I do not recall ever hearing the term “Doctrine of Discovery” before this year. It probably came across my radar in the last couple years but did not catch my attention since I am neither a legal scholar nor an historian of European imperialism per se.
In primary school history classes I remember learning about the Age of Discovery; the European maltreatment, enslavement, and even genocide of indigenous peoples; the Papal Line of Demarcation that assigned points west to Spain and points East to Portugal; and so on. So, the idea is not entirely new, but it did come as some surprise when a Canadian friend asked if Pope Francis was planning to rescind the doctrine.
From the beginning it struck me as a bit fishy – certainly there is, nor was there ever, any Catholic doctrine known by such title. It is rather a reference to U.S. legal doctrine, an 1823 codification of international law and European mores that
…gave to the nation making the discovery, as its inevitable consequence, the sole right of acquiring the soil and of making settlements on it. It was an exclusive principle which shut out the right of competition among those who had agreed to it, not one which could annul the previous rights of those who had not agreed to it. It regulated the right given by discovery among the European discoverers, but could not affect the rights of those already in possession, either as aboriginal occupants or as occupants by virtue of a discovery made before the memory of man. It gave the exclusive right to purchase, but did not found that right on a denial of the right of the possessor to sell. (US Supreme Court, Worcester v. State of Georgia, pg 31, US 544)
What has that to do with the Catholic Church?
More broadly, it has come to be understood to mean, basically, “finders keepers” – and only if the finders were European. Though the term, and the concept, of a “doctrine of discovery” was coined by John Marshall during the legal preceding quoted above, protests today focus on the “Judeo-Christian” and papal origins of the body of decisions and laws that came to be associated with the idea. For example, the opening paragraph of the site www.doctrineofdiscovery.com:
Papal Bulls of the 15th century gave Christian explorers the right to claim lands they “discovered” and lay claim to those lands for their Christian monarchs. Any land that was not inhabited by Christians was available to be “discovered”, claimed, and exploited. If the “pagan” inhabitants could be converted, they might be spared. If not, they could be enslaved or killed.
The papal bulls that contributed to this line of thinking – and its consequence of unjust and inhumane treatment of indigenous peoples by European explorers – are generally cited to be the following:
Nicholas V, Dum Diversas (1452) – Issued in an effort to gain Portuguese support in defense of Constantinople against the Ottoman Empire, it offered Portugal exclusive land and trading rights in newly-discovered parts of West Africa, granting him permission to seize lands of and enslave any local “Saracens, pagans, and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ”.
Nicholas V, Romanus Pontifex (1455) – Confirmed the Portuguese rule over the African coast, and forbade other nations from engaging in trade with the Saracens (Generally, Muslims. Specifically, it seems, the Seljuk [Turkish] empire, as distinct from “Moors”, Berbers of North Africa and the Fatimid Caliphate).
Alexander VI Borgia, Inter Caetera (1493) – Issued immediately after Christopher Columbus returned from the West Indies, established the Line of Demarcation between Spanish and Portuguese exploration 100 leagues (about 320 miles) west of the Azores. The purpose of the bull was to spread Christianity to the natives there, who were thought to be positively disposed based on reports from Columbus, and its intent seems to be to regulate missionary activity in the Americas, rather than land rights.
The Spanish-Portuguese Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), conducted without any participation from the papacy, moved the line of demarcation west a few hundred miles and was clearly more focused on land claims. This was eventually ratified by Julius II in 1506.
There is no question that Spanish, Portuguese, English, and other explorers invented justifications for the enslavement of indigenous peoples and the conquering of their lands (inasmuch as the land would be said to ‘belong’ to anyone), for example, by claiming that non-Christians could not own land, or could be enslaved, using as justification portions of the above bulls.
Over the next three centuries, European powers expand and develop these conjured excuses to lay claim to the New World and its resources. The American republic takes the ball and runs with it, yelling “Manifest Destiny!” Over these centuries, the loss of human life, of property, and the degradation of humanity is long, it is horrific, and it is utterly unchristian.
Modern interest in the “Doctrine of Discovery”
LexisNexis turns up under 1000 references to the ‘doctrine of discovery’ going back to 1949, and almost all of these are legal cases, law reviews, or legal news outlets. It is only recently that it seems to have become an item for attention in religious circles, and is of particular interest in Canada, who often takes the lead in addressing past or present injustices against First Nations.
Since 1984, there have been petitions to the popes to “rescind the Doctrine of Discovery”. As we will soon see, when there is a cause du jour, memories are short – but first the current context of the cause.
It seems recent interest has been sparked by the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, originating in a 1998 Statement of Reconciliation between ‘Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians’, which sought to “put the events of the past behind us so that we can work towards a stronger and healthier future.”
In December 2015, the Commission published its Final Report, and a set of Calls to Action. Articles §48 and §49 call on all religious denominations and faith groups to formally adopt and comply with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to formally “repudiate concepts such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.”
Pre-emptive responses came from a number of groups, such as the Society of Friends (2013), the World Council of Churches (2012), the Unitarian Universalist Association (2012), and the Anglican Church of Canada (2010).
In 2013, several Catholic organizations petitioned the pope to formally revoke the bulls mentioned above, which are claimed to provide the basis for the “doctrine of discovery”. This included Pax Christi International and representatives of more than 40 religious congregations. In May of 2016 there was called a Long March on Rome to ask Pope Francis to revoke the “Papal Bulls of Discovery” [sic].
It was already two months too late, however. The Catholic Church in Canada also complied with the Commission’s request, and issued a formal rejection of the so-called “Doctrine of Discovery” and a number of related ideas condemned as “errors and falsehoods perpetuated, often by Christians, during and following the so-called ‘Age of Discovery’”. (CCCB, The Doctrine of Discovery, Terra Nullius, and the Catholic Church: A Catholic Response. 19 March 2016)
But what about the calls on the pope to revoke the papal bulls of 1452 and 1493?
Well, it seems he already has.
Or rather, his predecessors have, several times, over the last 500 years. At least, the ideas have been repudiated, rejected, and expunged from Church teaching.
Already there were objections to and retractions of these claims within the Church at the time they were being made by “Christian” monarchies and their explorers, for example:
Francisco de Vitoria, On the Indians (1532) – who used ‘the law of the nations’ (international law) and Inter Caetera to argue that “the barbarians [sic] possessed true public and private dominion. The law of nations expressly states that goods which belong to no owner pass on to the occupier/discoverer, but since the goods in question here had an owner, they do not fall under this title ‘by right of discovery.’”
In fact, the first petitions to the pope to repeal the teachings of these papal bulls were not in 1984, but 450 years earlier. They received a powerful response.
Paul III, Sublimis Deus (1537) – Begins by declaring unequivocally that God so loved the whole human race that he gave all people the ability to know God and come to faith in God. It then responds directly to the claims – not present in previous papal teaching – that the native peoples were subhuman and that they could be enslaved or their property stolen. In fact, he refers to this idea as a lie perpetuated by Satan! In a clear and authoritative revocation of anything to the contrary previously promulgated:
We define and declare . . . that . . . the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession [dominio] of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.
That is about as clear as it gets, and those key words “we define and declare” put this at a rather higher level of authority than the so-called ‘bulls of discovery’. The Church had already rejected the core ideas of the doctrine of discovery three hundred years before anyone would even call them that.
Moreover, there are multiple papal and conciliar documents that reject the ideas, in whole or part, of the so-called ‘doctrine’. These include, but are not limited to:
1537 – Paul III, Sublimus Dei
1591 – Gregory XIV, Bulla Cum Sicuti
1639 – Ruling of the Inquisition against slavery
1741 – Benedict XIV, Immensa Pastorum
1839 – Gregory XVI, In Supremo Apostolatus
1890 – Leo XIII, Catholicae Ecclesiae
1963 – John XXIII, Pacem in Terris
1965 – Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes; Dignitatis Humanae
Finally, just in case those were not clear enough, popes have explicitly asked forgiveness of indigenous peoples for the Church’s role in supporting imperialism during the age of discovery, most notably:
1992 – John Paul II in Santo Domingo – on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ landing there, confessed and begged forgiveness for the sins of the Church and the Spanish conquistadors.
2000 – John Paul II during the Great Jubilee, in Rome – during a mass of reconciliation, asked forgiveness for any Catholics in history who “had violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and for showing contempt for their cultures and religious traditions”.
2015 – Francis in Bolivia – “I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against Native peoples during the so-called conquest of the Americas”
To be sure, it never hurts to repeat oneself. Just in case you were not heard the first time. Or the last time. God knows that if the people you agree with do not know they agree with you, the people who disagree might also be in the dark.
From Long March to Rome
Honoring the Council Fathers: A Modest Proposal
We are in the midst of an extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, called at the end of the celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, capping commemorations that started with the Year of Faith. For the last four years, the Church has marked this anniversary in a number of ways.
In October 2012, Pope Benedict presided over a solemn liturgy commemorating the opening of the Council, with Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Rowan Williams in places of honor at his side. Also honored during the event 16 Council Fathers, any of the approximately 3000 bishops who participated in at least one of the four sessions of the Council. (At the time, there were several dozen still living).
They were joined by eight Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, 80 Cardinals, 191 Archbishops and Bishops participating in the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, together with 104 Presidents of Episcopal Conferences from throughout the world.
Today, a few months after celebrating the anniversary of the close of the Council, there are about 35 living Council Fathers; 19 of whom lived through all four sessions.
In this Jubilee of Mercy, i repeat a proposal i first made during the Year of Faith:
Make the remaining Council Fathers members of the College of Cardinals.
At the least, those who were Council Fathers for all four sessions.
The senior-most, Bishop Jan van Cauwelaert, CICM, of Inongo, Congo has been a bishop for more than 62 years. The junior of those present throughout the Council is Seattle’s Archbishop emeritus Raymond Hunthausen, ordained bishop mere weeks before the opening of the first session. (Full disclosure: Hunthausen confirmed me)
Of the 35, four are already cardinals, Francis Arinze, Jose de Jesus Pimiento Rodriguez, Serafim Fernandes de Arujo, and Sfeir (of those, only Arinze was not at all four sessions of the Council).
So, that means 15 new cardinals, if only those from all four sessions, or 31 if all of them.
All are over 80, so none would be voting. This is not about who selects the next pope or appointing people whose work lies in the future.
This would be an honorary step, something to mark a half-century of episcopal ministry and leadership in the rarest and most solemn exercise of their ministry of governance over the universal church. This is about honoring the Council, and the entire church. A small, but symbolic gesture.
Most likely, most would not be able to attend a consistory to receive the red hat and ring, but simpler may be better.
I think it would be a nice way to close out the Year of Mercy, a final way to mark the 50 years of blessing brought by the Holy Spirit through the universal and extraordinary magisterium of the Church, expressly in a spirit of synodality.
Granted: any credibly accused of sexual abuse of children, covering up the same, or other similarly grave matters should be excluded.
Theology Jokes 2016
Q: What do you call a sleepwalking nun?
A: A Roamin’ Catholic!
A father and a son are seated at dinner having a steak on a Lenten Friday, when the boy makes a realization and says, “Some people don’t eat meat on Fridays because there is a separation of Church & Steak!”
Q: How does Moses make his coffee?
A: Hebrews it.
A man walks up to God ands says: “God, how long is a million years for you?”
God answers, “Oh… about a minute.”
Man: “And how about a million dollars?”
God: “About a penny.”
Man: “In that case, Lord, may I borrow a penny?”
God: “Give me a minute.”
A Franciscan, a Dominican, and a Jesuit discover the real tomb of Jesus, only to find his mortal remains still inside. Horrified, they each react differently.
The Franciscan says, “This changes our whole ministry, we cannot tell anyone!”
The Dominican says, “This changes all of our doctrine, we should not tell anyone!”
The Jesuit says, “Well, I’ll be damned, He did exist!”
“Jesus, get your butt out of bed! Morning mass starts in 5 minutes!”
If Eve sacrificed the future of the whole human race for an apple… what would she do for a Klondike bar?
A new monk arrives at an ancient monastery and sees all the monks copying texts. He goes to the abbot, slightly confused and asked him why the copy the copies rather than the original, because they could be copying the same mistakes.
The abbot , recognizing he has a point, goes to the storage room to find the originals. A few hours later, he is still gone, and the new monk sets out to look for him. He finds the abbot in the basement, holding one of the most ancient manuscripts in his hands, sobbing.
“What’s wrong? What happened?” the young monk asks, worried.
The abbot replies, tearfully, “The word is celebrate. Celebrate!”
A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, “What is this, a joke?!” (Insert laughter here)
Q: What made the priest giggle?
A: Mass Hysteria!
There are three things that even God does not know about the Church:
1) How many congregations of religious women are there?
2) How much money do the Franciscans have stashed away?
3) What do the Jesuits really think and what are they going to do next?
Three famous theologians have just arrived in Heaven, and they are all waiting outside of a room for a debriefing interview with St. Peter.
The first to go in is Walter Kasper, and he is called into the room. He is in there for about an hour, and when he comes out he has tears of joy and relief streaming down his face.
He is overheard saying to himself: “I was afraid I was wrong about so many things!”
The second is Hans Küng. After he is called into the room, he is in there for a few hours. When he comes out, he is shaking his head in disbelief, and he looks troubled.
He says to himself as he leaves: “I cannot believe I was wrong about so many things!”
The third is Joseph Ratzinger. He goes in with a portfolio of lecture notes penned while in retirement. He is in there for days. Finally, the doors open and St. Peter comes out, saying “I cannot believe I was wrong about everything!”
Holy Week in Rome 2016
Holy Week in Rome: There are so many opportunities in Rome during Holy Week, I have highlighted just a few in Italian and English, including the normal Roman Rite, and a few exemplars from the “Extraordinary Form”, Byzantine Rite, and Anglican rites. All of the Station Churches and Papal Liturgies are noted.
I would welcome input from anyone who is aware of others of particular interest, especially where good liturgy can be found – including good music, good preaching, good aesthetic, etc.
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
- Station Church: San Giovanni in Laterano – 0700 (English); 1730 (Italian)
- Papal Liturgy: Piazza San Pietro – 0930
- Station Church: Santa Prassede all’Esquilino – 0700 (English); 1800 (Italian)
- Byzantine Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800
- Station Church: Santa Prisca all Aventino – 0700 (English); 1800 (Italian)
- Anglican Centre 50th Anniversary Eucharist/Chrism Mass – 1245 (English)
- Byzantine Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800
- Evening Prayer with Sant’Egidio Community – Santa Maria in Trastevere 20:30
- Station Church: Santa Maria Maggiore – 0700 (English); 1730 (Italian)
- Seven Churches Pilgrimage of St. Filippo Neri (a devotional tradition since 1559)
- Join the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College in a tour of the Seven Churches, starting with the morning station mass at Santa Maria Maggiore. It is about 22km walking total and will take all day. Pack a lunch or plan to stop along the route:
- Santa Maria Maggiore
- San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura
- Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
- San Giovanni in Laterano
- San Sebastiano
- San Paolo fuori le Mura
- San Pietro al Vaticano
- Join the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College in a tour of the Seven Churches, starting with the morning station mass at Santa Maria Maggiore. It is about 22km walking total and will take all day. Pack a lunch or plan to stop along the route:
- Byzantine Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800
- Office of Tenebrae
- Paul’s Within the Walls (Episcopalian) – 1830 (English)
- Santissima Trinita’ dei Pellegrini (extraordinary form) – 2030 (Latin)
- Papal Liturgy: Chrism Mass – Basilica San Pietro – 0930
- Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Beginning of the Paschal Triduum Liturgy)
- San Giovanni in Laterano – 1730 (Italian) – Station Church
- Santa Maria in Trastevere – 1730 (Italian)
- Oratory of San Francesco Saverio al Caravita – 1800 (English)
- Altars of Repose pilgrimage – Roman devotional tradition is to walk around the city after the liturgy ends for the evening, visiting the beautifully decorated altars of repose in (at least seven) different churches.
Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion with Veneration of the Cross:
- Station Church: Basilica Santa Croce in Gerusaleme – 1500 (Italian)
- Oratory of San Francesco Saverio al Caravita – 1500 (English)
- Papal Liturgy: Basilica San Pietro – 1700 (Italian)
- Santissima Trinita’ dei Monti – 1800 (French)
Stations of the Cross devotion, with Pope Francis at the Colosseum, 2115
The Great Vigil of Easter
- Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita – 2000 (English)
- Papal Liturgy: Basilica San Pietro – 2030 (Italian)
- Station Church: San Giovanni in Laterano – 2100 (Italian)
- Venerable English College – 2130 (English)
Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection
- Byzantine Divine Liturgy – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – Midnight
- Papal Liturgy: Piazza San Pietro – 1000 (Italian)
- Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita – 1100 (English)
- Station Church: Santa Maria Maggiore – 1800 (Italian)
Pope Francis Urbi et Orbi Blessing – Piazza San Pietro – 1200 (Multilingual)
Solemn Vespers (concluding the Paschal Triduum)
- Chiesa di Sant’Anselmo al Aventino – 1700 (Italian)
- Byzantine – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800
Easter Week Station Churches (Italian):
- Monday – San Pietro – 1700
- Tuesday – San Paolo fuori le Mura – 1730
- Wednesday – San Lorenzo fuori le Mura – 1800
- Thursday – XII Apostoli al Foro Traiano – 1830
- Friday – Santa Maria ad Martyres (Pantheon) – 1700
- Saturday – San Giovanni in Laterano – 1630
- Divine Mercy Sunday – San Pancrazio – 1600
- Conclusion of the Station Churches pilgrimage
Networking Meeting on Catholic Higher Education in Rome
Also of interest in Rome:
Church reform and papal retirement, a year on
John Allen’s article commemorating the first anniversary of Pope Benedict’s resignation this week points out that for all the attention Pope Francis has received this year as a ‘revolutionary’ or ‘reformer’, the single most revolutionary act by the bishop of Rome in the last year was Benedict’s humble and courageous decision to retire.
Even here in Rome, studying at the heart of the Church, I found out first through Facebook.
It is a great example of something that should not have been surprising, or all that revolutionary. Certainly, it was, given the climate and context of the Church in recent decades. Following on the heels of the soon-to-be saint John Paul II, who lingered in office several years longer than was probably good for himself or for the Church, one might have thought it was blasphemous to suggest something of the sort. In a sense, Benedict, being the excellent ecclesiologist that he is, had to resign, to disabuse the papacy from the personality cult, and remind us that every office in the Church is one of service and ministry; not power, prestige, or persona.
The impact on the conclave was obvious, as many commentators have already noted. Rather than an overwhelming outpouring of grief at the death of the towering figure of John Paul II that got his right-hand man elected, the cardinals were able to take better stock of the real situation in the Church and especially in the curia, and set about doing something about it.
It never ceases to amaze me how strong the current is that was in favor of the retreat from reform (sometimes called a ‘reform of the reform’) in a Church that has declared, a the highest level of authority, ecclesia semper purificanda. The truth is that there is no purification without reform; there is no reform without action. We must act to change the Church, so that the Church can change the world.
For the last generation, we have been told repeatedly that ‘tinkering with Church structures’ is not what is needed; instead, greater personal holiness is the all-encompassing solution. There is both wisdom and naivety in such statements. The wisdom is that prayer is paramount, and holiness is indeed a necessary virtue in all Christians; the naivety is that tinkering is not what is needed not because it is ineffective, but because some structures have been so badly neglected for so long that any ‘tinkering’ is just putting lipstick on a pig. Anything short of a radical and all-encompassing overhaul is complicity, or at least complacency.
But in a sacramental reality, we cannot underappreciate the real value of a change in tone; we cannot dismiss it as superficial. Which is not at all to buy into the oversimplified dichotomies we see, both in secular media (e.g.Rolling Stone) and in the reactionary wing of the fold that contrast Benedict and Francis, putting one or the other in a completely unfavorable light.
It has always seemed to me that Benedict’s biggest liability was not (just) a hostile secular media who never let go of the image of God’s Rottweiler – because in truth, his biggest fans never did either, still hoping for the hammer of heresy to drop. It was about image, though: His apparent penchant for baroque bling distracted from his genuine reform efforts.
For too many in the church, these trappings of power and privilege – whether imperial, renaissance, or baroque in origin – go hand in hand with clericalism and the sex abuse scandal. Who can forget that it was the church of lace surplices, brocaded maniples and mumbled latin anaphorae – with its concomitant failure at human formation in seminaries and warped ecclesiology – that brought us the greatest wave of scandal the Church has faced in the modern age? It does not matter that there is little or no direct causal relationship, but the correlation is too widely fixed: “traditionalism” = clericalism = abuse of power = a climate of permission for child sex abuse.
Joseph Ratzinger had long been trying to redeem that, to separate out the legitimate traditions from their accrued associations. He may have a point that the transition from the Missal of Pius V to that of Paul VI was too abrupt, but his solution came forty years too late. Add that to his well-established reputation and the series of administrative and communications fiascos, and there was only so much he could do.
So he did what he could: he set the stage for someone without the same baggage to come along and continue the good work he had started. I can imagine that he realized the cost of trying to restore some place in the mainstream for the older form of the liturgy came at too high a cost, or that the cause of reunion with the SSPX was lost. Or perhaps he saw his work done already: he brought the tridentine liturgy out from the periphery and into the center of the Church, in whatever small way. He left no more excuses for “traditionalism” to be a code word for dissent, and planted the seeds that may redeem that part of our liturgical patrimony from its oft-associated failures in ecclesiology, pastoral formation, and leadership.
Thanks to Pope Benedict, contemplation and action could again meet in the endless effort of Church reform. There is much to be done, since, in some respects, the Church stopped being interested in self-purification and reform sometime around the time I entered adolescence, as if the whole idea had been a failed experiment of the 70s and 80s rather than a movement of the Holy Spirit.
Enter Pope Francis, who genuinely seems to be setting about to reform the Church, perhaps (we can hope) on as grand a scale as Gregory I or VII, Pius V, or John XXIII. Some will call anything he accomplishes too little, too late; others will denounce it as too much, too fast. I would instinctively err on the side of the former, considering how many centuries it often takes to resolve problems in this institution, but in the last year it has been hard even to keep up with the constant flow of good news. I continue to pray for deep, genuine, and theological reform of the Church, and I have hope that it is coming. The Church is, after all, called to be holy, too, not just the people in it!
Notre Dame comes to Rome
My alma mater officially opened its new Rome Centre, one of a growing number of global gateways, in January, with some of the students moving their classes into the building for the spring semester and a weeklong meeting of the University Board of Trustees here in the Eternal City.
The first Catholic University from the States (perhaps the first at all) to enjoy a full private audience with Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome praised Notre Dame’s “outstanding contribution” to the U.S. Church, religious education, and serious scholarship “inspired by confidence in the harmony of faith and reason in the pursuit of truth and virtue.”
He later added something which has been spun, in some quarters, as a critique of the Catholic identity of Our Lady’s university. If you actually read what he said though, it becomes clear that this is not really the case:
It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness. [emphasis mine]
Regardless, it was the highlight of a busy week: there was the granting of honorary doctorates to Cardinal Tauran of the PCID and Maria Voce of Focolare; mass with Cardinal Wuerl in his titular church of San Pietro in Vincoli; receptions at Villa Taverna and Villa Richardson with the Ambassadors to Italy and the Holy See, respectively (both part of the ND family); and a closing dinner that included ND alumni working in the Holy See and leadership of the local Alumni Club. All this on top of the usual schedule of meetings and tours of the city.
It was great to bring two of the great parts of my life together, and to even see some old friends. Notre Dame, long the pre-eminent Catholic university in North America, has made surprisingly little inroads into the European scene beyond study abroad programs. That is changing, and this visit is a sign of the things to come. I have to say I am looking forward to being a part of it in some small way!