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Church Reform Wishlist: Liturgy


  • Actually, i do not have too much to say. So much has been said, and liturgy is probably the best case of successful, ongoing reform, despite the bumps. So just a couple small things: put into law that which theology and history holds to be evident. Or, where we have two practices that go back centuries, the older one should be the norm,  for example:
    • The most ancient form of receiving communion is in the hand. Make this the norm, and receiving in the tongue, a later practice, an accepted alternative.
    • Communion under both species as the norm, with exceptions as appropriate
    • Translate the universal version of the GIRM into each language on the Vatican website – currently the English is actually the adaptations for the USCCB and does not reflect the original, universal, Latin version. It leads to some confusion.
    • The Eucharist is the Sunday Liturgy, it should be more or less limited to Sundays. The rest of the week should have the liturgy of the hours publicly celebrated in parishes.
    • The Creed should be recited without the Filioque, as a norm, in all liturgies.
    • The portions of Liturgicam Autenticam which violate previous ecumenical agreements  should be abrogated.


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Vatican Bank’s first-ever Annual Report

As if there was not enough in the Church reform circuit today, with the Roman pontiff’s second big interview and the first meeting of the Council of Cardinals responsible for reforming the apparati of universal governance, the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (Institute for the Works of Religion), better known as the Vatican Bank, issued its first-ever annual report in its 125 year history.

The groundwork was laid by Pope Benedict in 2010, whose most successful reform efforts, arguably, revolved around Vatican finances. The efforts were accelerated after Pope Francis was elected.

In 2012, the IOR commemorated 125 years of history since the creation of its predecessor, the “Commissione ad Pias Causas”, by Pope Leo XIII in 1887.

According to the president’s letter,

The Annual Report seeks to contribute to the transparency which the Catholic Church, our customers, our correspondent banks, our authorities and the public rightfully expect.

The IOR posted earnings of EUR 86.6 million, which allowed us to contribute EUR 54.7 million towards the budget of the Holy See, while transferring EUR 31.9 m to our general operating risk reserves.

And we are conservative: in 2012 we had a balance sheet total of EUR 5 billion in assets, with equity of EUR 769 million. On an operating level, we stand on very solid foundations.

The IOR has about 18,900 customers, half of which are religious orders. The dicasteries and nunciatures of the Holy See account for another 15%. Bishops and other clergy are about 13%, dioceses 9%, and the rest split between employees, educational institutes, and of course, the Holy See itself and the Vatican City-State.

The IOR launched its first website in July of this year:

The full 100-page report is available for download or review here.

Tower of Nicholas V - HQ of the IOR

Tower of Nicholas V – HQ of the IOR

Francis the Reformer: Some Reflections


In his latest bombshell interview – this time with the left-leaning, secular La Repubblica – Pope Francis shows again that he really is a pope who gets it: Most of the Church – indeed, most of the world – is not much interested in the crimson and lace of renaissance papal pageantry, or the single-issue heterodoxy of even the most well-meaning culture warriors.

Instead, we are yearning, thirsting, starving for the Gospel, and for the reforms necessary to move the Light of the Nations out from under the bushel basket and back onto the lamp-stand. Let the world see, and the world will believe. The only way to focus on the Big Thing is to clear out the little things that, by justice, need changing. Tinkering is not enough, and prayer without action is merely piety.

In the last six months, I have seen and heard the bishop of Rome take on clericalism, careerism, triumphalism, and narcissism in ecclesial leadership – the root causes of the sexual abuse crisis, the financial crisis, and the vocations crisis, to name a few. He has touted a hermeneutic of mercy, and condemned the selfish materialism of the world. He desires a poor church for the poor, and is willing to actually do something about it.  He has promised discussion on the role of women in the Church (though, to be fair, so did Popes John Paul II and Benedict), and there is reason to believe it might actually happen. He proposes reforming the curia, the synod of bishops, and the attitude of princely prelates.

In his first interview, with La Civiltà Cattolica, he talked about the importance of dialogue, discernment, and the frontier. When asked about reforming the Roman Curia, he talked about ecumenism and the need for ecumenical reception, especially from the Christian East, in the areas of synodality and collegiality. He talked about the Jesuit gift for being centered on Christ and the Church while reaching out to the borders, to the people on the fringe, most in need of Mother Church’s warm embrace and, sadly, mostly likely to have experienced a clerical cold shoulder. Previously, when asked for advice for leadership in any field, his said his advice is always the same: “Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue!”

Today he referred twice to the late Cardinal Carlo Martini, archbishop of Milan and perennial papabile for the moderates in the college of cardinals. In his first angelus, he cited Cardinal Walter Kasper, the brilliant theologian and chief ecumenist under Pope Benedict. He also made a few remarks that seem to have been lost in translation, so we shall see!

The bishop of Rome is called, in canon law, the Roman Pontiff. Sometimes he is given the imperial title of pontifex maximus. These are, truly, ecumenical titles that literally mean “bridge-builder”. The bishop of Rome, as successor of Peter, has as his unique vocation to build up unity between divided Christians and churches. Like his predecessors in the last fifty years, Pope Francis is clearly dedicated to this. Nearly twenty years after Pope John Paul II asked for input on how to reform the Petrine Ministry for the sake of Christian Unity, Pope Francis seems ready to start implementing some of the recommended changes.


His critics are tired of hearing about his humility, and want to insist that it was fun to be Catholic before, too. Suddenly the neo-cons and radical traditionalists are vying to prove which are really, truly “more Catholic than the pope” and have discovered to their mutual horror that ultramontanism is not actually all it was cracked up to be the last twenty or thirty years. Some of the same voices shouting “santo subito” at JPII’s funeral or printing John Paul II the Great buttons before he was even dead, are suddenly warning against a papal cult of personality.

On the other hand, my students want to know why no one has ever spoken about the Church like this, and why there has never been such a popular pope before (granted, they are too young to remember John Paul II’s early years, and even I am too young to remember the excitement in the wake of Vatican II).

After I posted a link to today’s interview, a friend wrote me this message:

It has been a struggle for me, at times, to feel comfortable going to church. This is not because of the individual people at our parish, but because the structure of the church has been so dominating and exclusionary. The article you posted this morning brought tears to my eyes. If Pope Francis truly guides the Church in the direction he says he is, I am more at peace with raising my children Catholic than I ever have been.

A couple weeks ago, I naively ventured out to St. Peter’s early on a Wednesday morning, thinking I would sneak in the basilica before the crowds began to show up for the 10.30 audience. I should have known better. Already at 08.00 the piazza was full, and I overheard one tour guide complain, “What can I do? I have a group coming at 10:15! This never used to be a problem!”

This is a pope who knows how to pope. He is the bishop of Rome, the servant of the servants of God. Pray for him, because we need him. We need the vision of Vatican II to be unfettered and its reforms fully implemented, and need them to be done now, after years of discussion and debate, it is time for reception. We need the scandal of a broken, divided Body of Christ to be overcome, and we need the conversion of hearts and minds that are the first step to both reform and reconciliation. The world needs the Church, and the Church needs to be in the world…. not passively, but actively.

This is our mission and our vocation, and my bishop is asking you to embrace it. Please do.


Quote of the Day: Pope Francis on clericalism, ecclesial narcissism


“You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy…. when I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical.”

Pope Francis, in his interview with La Repubblica, published today.

A caveat though: there are a couple places where there seems to be either less than technical translating, or some dubious editing. It was not as carefully done as the Jesuit interview, and not as in depth.

For example, in the quote above, the english “Heads of the Church” seems to imply the Head of the Church, which is Christ. Obviously not what the pope meant. In italian capi delle chiesa refers to “leaders in the church” – popes, bishops, pastors, even DREs or pastoral associates could be implicated. At one point there is reference to “religious ecumenism” (ecumenismo religioso) which makes little sense: does it mean interreligious dialogue or Christian ecumenism? Is there supposed to be some kind of ecumenism that is not religious?

Pope Francis Interview with La Repubblica – Top Seven “Quotes”


“The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present.”

“Leaders of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”

“Narcissism …indicates an excessive love for oneself and this is not good, it can produce serious damage not only to the soul of those affected but also in relationship with others, with the society in which one lives. The real trouble is that those most affected by this – which is actually a kind of mental disorder – are people who have a lot of power. Often bosses are narcissists”

“This Vatican-centric view [of the Roman Curia] neglects the world around us. I do not share this view and I’ll do everything I can to change it. The Church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God.”

“It also happens to me that when I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical. Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity. St. Paul, who was the first to speak to the Gentiles, the pagans, to believers in other religions, was the first to teach us that.”

“A religion without mystics is a philosophy.”

“We will also discuss the role of women in the Church. Remember that the Church (la chiesa) is feminine.”

Original Here

English Translation Here

Commentary explaining problems with the interview here. Turns out the interview was not recorded or notes taken, but the result of the recollection of the 89-year old Scalfari. The tone of the text, the spirit of the interview if you will, is confirmed as accurate by the Vatican, though the details and vocabulary – and the translation- need to be taken with a grain of salt. As is to be expected with Italian journalism. The contrast in the quality of the interview with the one given to the Jesuits last week is striking.  The readiness of some supposedly Catholic commentators to throw the bishop of Rome under the bus because of mistranslations or misremembered timelines – even without trying to find the original first it seems – is the most shocking aspect of all, however.

Just another Saturday night in Rome

What does one do on a saturday evening in Rome if you are not tied to your desk writing for a blog, a dissertation, or grading papers? You might join us for a tour of the Palazzo Farnese, home of the French Embassy to Italy, because it was open to the public in honor of the International European Day of Culture, and see something like this:


And the, you might head over the the cathedral of Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano, to listen to the choir of the Church of Rome present the Divine Comedy of Dante, in concert. I wish there were a video to share. Maybe YouTube will get something soon…

Divina Comedia Concerto

And then end it with a late-night Tirolese dinner.

And if you missed it, at least there is a Church of Rome blog now, where you can find out about goings on here:

“Simple is the new chic”

So says an octogenarian cardinal usually known in Rome for his sartorial splendor, when asked upon his recent appearance in a Trastevere trattoria in simple black clerical suit.

The tale is relayed by John Allen, the well-known vaticanist at dinner, from his own experience earlier this year, at the end of one of those typical Roman days where you get nothing done that you planned, but which turns out so much more interesting for it.

During the course of the day, which started with the Divine Liturgy at the Russicum (the Russian Catholic collegio), I have broken bread with a Byzantine-rite Jesuit, the organizer of an international Vatican conference, two archbishops, the aforementioned vaticanist, a papal dame, a worker-priest, journalists and students from  five continents. Before yesterday I had not expected any of it.

LayCentre Dinner Sept2013

Discussion ranged to include, (somewhat predictably):

  • Pope Francis’ big interview;
  • Cardinal Piacenza’s perceived demotion (officially a lateral move) from Congregation for Clergy to Major Penitentiary;
  • Archbishop Gus DiNoia’s unclear mandate as adjunct secretary at CDF (he had been the last ditch effort to save the talks with SSPX, after even our most traditionalist-friendly prelates assigned to the dialogue team found the task untenable);
  • the situation in Egypt, including an assessment that the military coup has popular support and will let democracy happen, if a party can be found that wont prove nepotistic or despotic;
  • expectation that the canonization of popes John XXIII and John Paul II will indeed be on Divine Mercy Sunday (27 April);
  • another impending financial scandal that will make the Vatican bank issues look like small potatoes;
  • the fears that Francis, who reminds many of John Paul I, will be the target of an assassination plot;
  • one world-traveled cleric claiming that his experience of worship at Caravita last week was one of the best he’s experienced, ever, anywhere (and that Fr. Gerry’s preaching was phenomenal);
  • the removal of two bishops this week for sex abuse of children (in Dominican Republic and Peru);
  • the positive effects of diocesan-wide petitions against their bishops (in both Germany and Brazil);
  • rumors that Pope Francis is considering strict , non-renewable, 5-year term limits for all curial posts;
  • German elections, Angela Merkel, and the evening’s Roma-Lazio game;
  • and whether men appreciate women who are willing to ask men out, or if they find it unappealing (2:1 in favor of women taking the initiative, for the record).

OK, the last one may not have come up with the clerical company, but it did come up during the day!

One overarching theme was that everyone I talked to, in every different setting, was positive about Pope Francis, but unsure, still, about how much hope to have.

Part of that relates to the concern exemplified by the “simple is chic” cardinal. If that’s all it is – knowing which way the wind is blowing – I think I would rather trust a priest who sticks to his French cuffs or a prelate preening in his watered silk, if that is what they really think is appropriate, rather than those who are simply dressing up or down according to the boss’ style. Because then none of the change is permanent, and it will shift with the sands. I might disagree with the capa magnas and the little fiefdoms, but I have much greater respect for the prelate princeling or the lord of the rectory manor who admits what he is than the one who plays the game just to look the part, whichever way it goes.

Now, if the bishop of Rome really wants to curtail clericalism, he might just announce that anyone working at any level in the curia or the diplomatic corps will be ordained only to the diaconate, in accordance with their original vocation, and neither to the presbyterate nor to titular dioceses long-since buried under the Sahara. Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Recall "the smiling pope"

Recall “the smiling pope”

Quote of the Day: Pope Francis on Leadership


My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. …I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.

But now I hear some people tell me: ‘Do not consult too much, and decide by yourself.’ Instead, I believe that consultation is very important.

Pope Francis in his interview with Antonio Spadaro of La Civiltà Cattolica, and published in Jesuit magazines around the world on 19 September.

How Will You Pray for Peace on Saturday?

Resources from a friend…

Simone Brosig

Rome Vigil and Prayer Booklet

Prayer adapted from Catholics Confront Global Poverty by USCCB

Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,
the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.

O God of hope and Father of mercy,
your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for…

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Prayer Vigil schedule & liturgical booklet

From Rome…

Praying for Peace in Syria

VATICAN CITY — Whether you plan on following tomorrow’s Prayer for Peace vigil on TV, online or in person in St. Peter’s Square, a schedule of Saturday’s events will come in handy. As well as the official liturgical booklet.

Here is a breakdown of what will be happening and when:

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