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The last month has confirmed that there is a greater presence of the pacific northwest in Rome (Churchy Rome, that is) than there has been for a very long time.
Earlier this month, Archbishop Sartain of Seattle passed through Rome, mostly on business with the LCWR, it seems. Though there was no time on his busy schedule to meet with us all, it gave an opportunity to reflect on the presence of people from the Emerald City and environs here in the Eternal City. An almost overlapping visit from the Laughlin sisters of St. James Cathedral fame made for a more enjoyable Northwest night out.
We have a record number of students from the Archdiocese, two seminarians and two graduate students. Then, there are a couple of professionals at work around the Vatican.
Michael Dion is a second-year seminarian and from Sacred Heart Parish, Enumclaw. He is studying for a bachelor of sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Kyle Mangloña is another second-year seminarian from Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, Tacoma. He is likewise studying for a bachelor of sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Derek Farmer is a US Navy veteran and former Seattle city hall employee who just finished his MA in Pastoral Studies at Seattle University and was accepted for the Russell Berrie Fellowship in Interreligious Studies. His Certificate program is equivalent to the first year of the license in sacred theology, at the Angelicum. He is from Christ our Hope Parish in Belltown, Seattle, and married to his wife Katy for just over a year.
Cindy Wooden is the senior correspondent of the Catholic News Service Rome Bureau, and she has been here about 20 years. Her previous employer? The Catholic Northwest Progress, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Seattle. And she’s a Seattle U. grad whose roommate was a parishioner of mine at St. Brendan.
Fr. Steve Bossi, CSP, is the new vice-rector of Santa Susanna, the American parish in Rome, and a Seattle native and still has family in the area. He too is a Seattle U. alumnus.
Msgr. John Cihak from Portland, OR, is a Notre Dame grad, working for the Congregation for Bishops, and the only diocesan priest from the northwest anywhere in the curia, as far as we can tell.
Finally, A.J. Boyd (your humble scribe), a doctoral student in ecumenism at the Angelicum, adjunct theology professor, and graduate assistant at the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue. A native of North Bend, WA, and former lay ecclesial minister for the Archdiocese of Seattle, I also spent a year in a post-grad program at Seattle U, after studies at Notre Dame and CUA.
On 17 October, the Vatican celebrated the 50th anniversary of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) with a mass at the altar of the chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Given recent discussion that the Council of Cardinals may be suggesting reform of the liturgical apparatus of the Vatican first (after the Synod) in its recommendations for the reform of the Curia, it is an event worth reviewing. Especially since one well-established vaticanist referred to it as “farce”.
Why the harsh language? Apparently, none of the members of ICEL prior to its “refounding” a decade ago were even present, and it is not very surprising. Few things epitomize the depths to which the curia had sunk than the bungled handling of ICEL a decade ago and the resulting mess. Though many of the conferences did the best they could given the situation (one can look to the US or England and Wales as examples), bad process always spoils even the best of products.
The advantage of our age is the great access to social media and broad communications, so we can get information quickly, and provide formation broadly. The USCCB and others showed this to great success in 2011 when implementing the new translation of the Roman Missal.
The disadvantage of this same gift is an even shorter memory. The first official translation came in 1972, after about six years of work. It was understood to be rather temporary, and by the end of the decade, work began on a much more serious translation. Everyone agreed the 1972 version was not perfect, but for forty years, the local bishops’ conferences had trusted the work to ICEL in accord with the principle of Sacrosanctum Concilium. After long years of work, the new and improved English translation was finally ready… not in 2011, but in 1998. The English-speaking bishops of the world had approved it, it should have been signed, sealed, and delivered, but something unbecoming of church leaders was afoot.
Over the next five years, all the hard working bishops, liturgists, experts and consultants who had given so much to the Church they loved felt a “cold wind” blowing from Rome, as none-too-subtle (and none-too-kind) change was imposed by a relatively small number of power brokers and their allies.
By 2003, ICEL had been effectively disbanded and replaced by an entirely new commission, Vox Clara, quite different from the mission and composition of the first. It would have been more honest to just say so, and not act as though ICEL had continued as the same entity it was before Vox Clara came on the scene. To quote the late Msgr. Fred McManus, the American peritus at Vatican II who helped the bishops establish ICEL and suffered greatly as he saw it dismantled: “They could at least have the decency to change its name.”
From an impetus to the encounter of the liturgy with culture and cultures, and the reception of those into the liturgy, the focus had moved to a fixation on the Latin language and the culture of Rome. Translation is no longer about bringing the liturgy into new cultures, but about bringing diverse experiences of liturgy into the closest approximation of the Latin as possible.
Sound like a made-for-TV drama or a Dan Brown novel? It can certainly be dramatized… but truth is so often stranger (and sadder) than fiction. Even in the Church.
Whatever you think of the translations, the 1998 or the 2011 versions, the process by which the current version was introduced was inappropriate and embarrassing for the Church, and for the loyal sons and daughters of the church who put so much effort in, as directed, and then were so harshly dismissed.
To read the documents, the history, and the full story of ICEL and what happened to the long-sought after New and Improved English Translation – and why it was replaced by a relative rush-job that was rolled out with great fanfare as the best thing since sliced bread – I recommend some serious reading here, compiled by one of the experts involved in the more recent iteration, appointed to ICEL in 2005.
Some of the disgruntled ask if Pope Francis would completely overturn the translations. I doubt it, and do not think that is the way to go.
What is needed is an honest accounting and a healing of memories. Apologies offered and credit given where it is due. Only then can the repair and reform of the liturgy move forward, which i suspect should include a serious reconsideration of Liturgicam Authenticam (which is deficient not least for its ecumenical shortcomings) and a move to bring the best of both the 1998 and 2011 translations into a single, common Missal. Let the “old mass” inform and enrich the “new”.
I was privileged to spend yesterday, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, in Assisi with Pope Francis. With him came the Council of Cardinals, or group of eight, which held their first meeting this week. It was an overcast, pleasant day, the predicted thunderstorms holding off until last night.
The last papal event I attended in Assisi was the 25th anniversary of the first interreligious day of prayer for peace with Pope Benedict XVI, which was dubbed ”Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace.” Two cornerstone pieces of the original event were missing however – prayer, and the Sant’Egidio community who organize the annual prayers for peace in the spirit of Assisi. Subsequently, perhaps, attendance was surprisingly low.
Yesterday was a different story. The Eucharistic celebration in the lower piazza of San Francesco was witnessed not only by a full piazza there, but also in the upper piazza, all the side streets, and in the other major piazzas of Assisi (Santa Chiara, San Rufino, Piazza del Commune) where jumbotron screens were set up. It was an almost all-Italian gathering, and there is no question of the broad appeal of this reforming pontiff.
It came at the end of an amazing week in terms of Church news – especially with regard to Church reform. I commented already on some of them, but there has been so much, it has been hard to keep up. Thankfully, there are professionals to do that for us: John Allen summarizes this week in Vatican and Church news, in what he contends to be the biggest week outside of a conclave in his nearly 20 years of Vatican reporting.
The biggest news is probably the meeting this week of the Council of Cardinals, dubbed in some circles the G-8. They have discussed the ecclesiology of Vatican II, the reform of the Synod of Bishops into a more permanent exercise of synodality and collegiality, the reform of the Roman curia to such an extent as to require a new constitution emphasizing decentralization and service to the local churches, changes to the Secretariat of State that might remove it from its current role as über-dicastery, and serious questions on the role of the laity in the church, including the role of the laity inside the curia itself. Their second meeting is set for just two months from now. They seem to really be addressing the half-finished business of Vatican II, or at least getting started on it.
When my students asked me last week why no pope or bishop has ever talked about the Church in the way that Francis has, and why there’s never been so much energy in the church, I was reminded of my own experience as a university sophomore, in my own 200-level theology class (on Vatican II) asking a similar question, “why are we still waiting for the changes promised by the Council? How can 35 years have passed and we are still waiting [on things like decentralization, synodality and collegiality, the role of the laity, the full restoration of the diaconate, overcoming clericalism, etc]?” – I had no idea 15 years later I would be the one trying to answer these questions, and under what different circumstances!
Two highlights of John Allen’s highlights, aside from the meeting of the Council of Cardinals, worth particular notice:
Allen reports that
“Von Freyberg told me recently it’s his ambition to put gossipy newspaper reports out of business by making it so easy to get information directly from him that journalists don’t have to rely on whispers in Roman bars.”
If that is not argument enough for getting more lay people in positions of responsibility of the Roman Curia, i do not know what is. When was the last time you heard any cleric tackle communication and transparency issues so directly? Well, before this one…
The second point is less about this week in particular, but about Allen’s comments about his own book on religious persecution around the world, after talking about the killing of about 500 Christians in India during 2008 riots:
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s what a real “war on religion” looks like. One aim of the book is to reframe the conversation over religious freedom among Western Christians so we don’t allow our metaphorical battles at home to obscure the literal, and often lethal, war on Christians being waged in other parts of the world.
In the view from Rome, there was a bit of discomfiture last year with the whole tone and tenor of the ‘fortnight for freedom’ in the U.S., because it seemed to ignore the real problems of religious freedom. Officially, of course, the Vatican backs its bishops, but, unofficially (and remember this was still under Pope Benedict) there seemed to be a current of thought around the Vatican and in Rome that there was a little too much partisan politicking, and not enough focus on the fact that there are more Christian martyrs around the world today than at any point in history. It is hard to be quite so concerned about contraceptive funding when there are Christians dying at the hands of radical elements in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and secular Atheism – especially when it is part of a universal health care plan that the Church supports in principle, if not in every detail.
This is, of course, not to say to ignore the small problems before they become big ones, but to keep everything in perspective. That is something we Americans have a hard enough time doing when it comes to global events, but for which membership in a Church so universally oriented that it is called Catholic ought to be a corrective.
For the full run-down of the week, read Allen’s article here.
In brief, what happened this week:
- Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II set for April 27
- Discussion of regional tribunals to adjudicate clerical sex abuse cases
- G-8 formal established as a permanent Council of Cardinals
- A “stunning Q&A with the pope” published in La Repubblica
- The Vatican Bank (IOR) released its first-ever annual report and its lay president demonstrates the kind of transparency attitude needed all over the Church
- The Vatican Bank announced the closure of 900 accounts for dubious activity
- The Council of Cardinals began its first meeting, as mentioned above
- Feast of Francis of Assisi . Francis took aim at the ‘right’ by calling on the Church to “strip itself of the cancer of worldliness”, and took aim at the ‘left’ by asserting that the peace of Francis is not a ‘kind of pantheistic harmony with the forces of the cosmos’, but a Christ-centered peace.
“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?
Resources from a friend…
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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A recent conversation highlights the challenge of talking about “hope” and “change” in the Church.
A few weeks ago I had a quick lunch with an old friend and a new colleague. Eventually my friend (a Notre Dame alumna, “new evangelist” and educator) and I got into a lively discussion about “change” in the Church, given all the hope that has been expressed lately about what changes Pope Francis might bring.
My position is basically this: it is naïve to think that the Church does not change, and it is unhelpful at best and dangerous at worst to suggest that the Church cannot change. The Batman meme above vividly demonstrates a misguided and wrong-headed understanding of the Church.
“The Church should change” does not mean “the truth must/can change”. It is Church discipline – and often really just Church culture – not dogma, which should change in the minds of most. Though there are always exceptions, I suspect most Catholics are not agitating for moral relativism, an end to Trinitarian theology, a return to Arianism, denial of the Resurrection or the Real Presence, promoting abortion or war, that we do away with ordained ministry or that we change the Sunday Eucharist into an hour long drum circle featuring Kumbaya in a dozen different languages.
What most Catholics mean when they say that they hope for change in the Church is ecclesiological, ecumenical, pastoral, and practical. They want a positive gospel message (“God is love” or “Love God and thy neighbor”, and all that radical wishy-washy stuff, you know); they want better preaching, better music, better liturgy; they want transparency and accountability in church decisions, participation in governance, and maybe even more married clergy and less clericalism. They want bishops (and pastors, deacons, DRE’s et al.) to be servant-leaders, not lords of their own fiefdoms. They want ecumenism and interreligious dialogue to work, and to have real effect. They want more effort spent on social justice than on ecclesiastical protocol, more money spent on education and pastoral care than on neo-Baroque bling.
But my experience of most Catholics, admittedly, is based on my experience in parish pastoral ministry and Catholic higher education. My friend has spent several years on the front lines of pre-evangelization, new evangelization, and even good old-fashioned evangelization and catechesis, often in the context of guiding groups of pilgrims and students around Rome’s most sacred sites.
Her position was that “the church should change” is basically code for “the church’s teaching about morals should change to match the social norms of the western world.” When people say change, they mean that the church should get out of its old-fashioned rut, and embrace a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, equal rights (and rites) for women in the ecclesiastical workforce, and so forth.
That it may be, in some cases, just as in others, “the church should change” means “the church should eliminate the novus ordo, go back to the Tridentine rite, and embrace traditional Catholic culture (circa 1940).”
The problem, though, in assuming that “the church can/must change” is code for a particular agenda is that it stymies the possibility of real conversation and dialogue. The Church is in fact always changing. All we have to do is look at the papacy of Benedict XVI to see a number of examples of change in the church. And no one can accuse Ratzinger of being radical, wishy-washy, or unorthodox.
He changed the liturgy, both in terms of the translations and in terms of the mark his own personal preferences have had. Even just during my four years in Rome, you could see lots of changes to the liturgy at St. Peter’s – longer, less participatory music; rosaries before mass begins; communion no longer offered in the hand; a crucifix and candles dominating the altar; cardinal-deacons vesting in mitre and dalmatic; etc., etc. He changed canon law to exclude deacons from acting “in persona Christi capitis,” making this phrase more about Eucharistic presidency and less about holy orders or leadership in the Church. He innovated in creating ordinariates for disenchanted Anglicans. He pushed forward reforms relating to the sex abuse crisis (at least for priests, if not bishops). He created a personnel office for the Vatican. He called in an outside audit of Vatican finances.
In short, the Church changed a lot under Pope Benedict; why would we not expect it to change with Pope Francis? The Church changes, and survives. Change simply means that things are different than they were before. It is a sign of life, and of fidelity to the principle ecclesia semper purificanda (the church must always be purified). Rather than dismissing the idea of the church changing, embrace it – critically, intelligently, and faithfully.
Remember Dante’s Divine Comedy – God is pure dynamism. The only creature which cannot change is Satan, eternally frozen in the deepest pit of hell.