More from Pentin on the Pope’s appointments

Edward Pentin has the second part of his series about the Holy Father’s appointments up today at the National Catholic Register. We were, we confess, a little disappointed with this installment. Here’s a selection:

Within the Roman Curia, the Pope has been lauded for a number of appointments. These include making the accomplished diplomat Cardinal Pietro Parolin secretary of state and choosing Archbishop Paul Gallagher, a respected Holy See diplomat with experience in Burundi and Australia, as his secretary for relations with states. Many of Francis’ most prominent successes have been in diplomacy, helped in no small part by the quality of papal diplomats he has chosen.

But he has also courted controversy, most notably in his decision in 2014 to remove Cardinal Raymond Burke, first from membership of the Congregation for Bishops (where other members were opposed to the cardinal’s insistence that orthodox bishops be appointed) and then as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. The latter action reportedly was largely due to the U.S. cardinal’s opposition to streamlining the annulment process. 

Prior to Cardinal Burke’s removal, the Pope had already dismissed Cardinal Mauro Piacenza as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, as well as the congregation’s secretary (deputy), Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta, a well-respected prelate who had served 27 years in the Roman Curia. Cardinal Piacenza was appointed prefect of the Apostolic Penitentiary; Archbishop Morga became coadjutor archbishop of Mérida-Badajoz, Spain.

Sources say both of their departures were to avoid the congregation hindering bishops from acting in accordance with Francis’ vision.

(Hyperlink removed and emphasis supplied.)

We are a little disappointed because this reporting tells us, essentially, what we already knew. A bunch of Curial cardinals—including Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, who is not mentioned in Pentin’s piece—were reassigned, often into less prominent positions, ostensibly because they did not fit the tone of the Holy Father’s pontificate. Cardinal Burke is, of course, the most notable example of this process, being dismissed as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and given essentially a sinecure position. (Of course, Cardinal Burke’s schedule has been freed up considerably to speak and write about issues affecting the Church, which he has done with great regularity.) And other officials of the Curia have found themselves sidelined; for example, Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca—a brilliant intellect, a fine administrator, and a friend of tradition—was transferred from post of secretary of the Governorate (where he succeeded Archbishop Viganò) to under-secretary of the Apostolic Signatura. Not quite a promotion, by any stretch of the imagination.

But this has been discussed at length for some time now.

What has been less well discussed, we think, is how the successors have been administering their dicasteries. For example, Cardinal Mamberti, the new prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, was a Vatican diplomat under John Paul II and Benedict XVI before being elevated to the Church’s sort-of supreme court. It would be interesting to get some analysis of how Cardinal Mamberti has transitioned into his new role at the Signatura and whether he has marked out any significant changes from the course Cardinal Burke set. Likewise, the new prefect for the Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, is another career diplomat who has found himself swept up by the wind. (One could write an interesting article—we think—about how influential Sodano-era diplomats have wound up being in this pontificate.) You take our point.

Certainly, the general narrative has been that Francis has sacked conservatives and replaced them with moderates or liberals more sympathetic to his overarching program. But it seems to us that that narrative makes some assumptions about the appointments the Pope has made. And in some cases, those assumptions are easily justified. But in other cases, it seems to us that we are lacking enough information to say one way or the other what has happened. It will be interesting, then, to see if Pentin—or anyone else—follows up on this inquiry, examining the administrations of the “new men” in greater detail.

Exhortation “Amoris laetitia” to be released April 8

Today, the Vatican issued the following press release:

Accredited journalists are informed that on Friday 8 April 2016 at 11.30 a.m., in the Aula Giovanni Paolo II of the Holy See Press Office, a Press Conference will be held for the presentation of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father Francis, “Amoris Laetitia”, on love in the family.

The panel will be composed of:

– Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops;

– Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, O.P., archbishop of Vienna;

– The married couple Professor Francesco Miano, lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, and Professor Giuseppina De Simone in Miano, lecturer in philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples.

A simultaneous translation service will be available in ItalianEnglish and Spanish.

* * *

The Press Conference can be seen via live streaming (audio-video) on the site: (Vatican Player, Vatican Radio) where it will subsequently remain available on demand.

* * *

The Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris laetitia” is to be considered under embargo until 12.00 p.m. on Friday, 8 April 2016.

The text of the Apostolic Exhortation in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese (in paper and/or digital format) will be available to accredited journalists from 8.00 a.m. on Friday 8 April 2016.


(Emphases in original.)

Veni, Sponsa Christi

Mother Angelica, who founded, in addition to several religious orders, EWTN, died on Easter, March 27, after suffering the aftereffects of a stroke for nearly fifteen years. Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., has a remembrance at America. He concludes:

The history of Catholicism in the United States will need to include a section, if not a chapter, on Mother Angelica. Hardly any other woman has had so much influence, except Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. St. John Paul II once said, “Mother Angelica—she is very strong woman.” No physical pain, opposition from inside or outside the church, no overwhelming odds or threats stopped that strong woman in love with Jesus. Following her troubles with cardinals and bishops, St. John Paul personally sent her a monstrance to mark the end of the threats of interdict and other conflicts with the Roman Curia. He knew her strength came from her love of Jesus and he gave a gift to encourage the Eucharistic adoration that nourished and strengthened her. May she rest in peace.

(Emphasis supplied.) Her obituary at the National Catholic Register, itself an offshoot of EWTN, tells her life story in great detail. Remembrances have poured in from around the world.

It is far too soon to encapsulate Mother Angelica’s legacy, other than to say that she influenced almost every aspect of the American Church. Indeed, there are aspects of the modern American Church that would be almost unthinkable without Mother Angelica’s enormous, indefatigable labors.

Hunwicke on Tissier’s biography of Lefebvre

Fr. John Hunwicke has a very lengthy, very interesting post, ostensibly recommending Bishop Tissier’s definitive life of Marcel Lefebvre, and arriving at some broader reflections. (It is worth noting that the Holy Father is reputed to be a fan of Tissier’s book, having read it twice, according to reports. One wonders whether the Holy Father’s evident sympathy for the SSPX is rooted in sympathy for its founder.) A selection:

But is it true that Marcel Lefebvre was faced with a situation of grave disorder? I think we can avoid just loudly shouting at each other about our own individual subjective judgements; instead we can simply consider objective, Magisterial  decisions. Summorum Pontificum confirmed juridically that the Latin Church had lived for some four decades under the dominion of … yes … a lie. The Vetus Ordo had not been lawfully prohibited. Much persecution of devout priests and layfolk that took place during those decades is therefore now … officially … seen to have been vis sine lege. For this so long to have been so true with regard to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which lies at the heart of the Church’s life, argues a profound illness deep within the Latin Church. And that Big Lie was reinforced by multitudes of Little Lies … that the Council mandated reordered Sanctuaries … that the Council mandated exclusive use of the vernacular …

So, I suggest, we can read Bishop Tissier’s book as a narrative of how a good, but very often puzzled, man coped with the incomprehensible. And we can do this to our own benefit. Many Catholics find our present situation incomprehensible. As in the situations which Lefebvre faced, some Catholics may naturally feel inclined to act as though the rule-book does still apply (and so to treat the Church’s current office-holders with the same obsequium as if we were still in the pontificate of S Pius X); on the other hand, others may discern the dysfunctions and ask their consciences what God expects of them by way of resistance, as many did during the Arian crisis and the Great Western Schism.

(Formatting in original.) Read the whole thing there.

Link Roundup: Easter 2016

There’s a distinctly clerical cast to Link Roundup this week, but, of course, given the work that our priests have done over the last week, it’s probably appropriate to give clergy pride of place today: 

At the National Catholic Register, there is a translation of the Holy Father’s Urbi et Orbi message for 2016. A selection: “The Lord, who suffered abandonment by his disciples, the burden of an unjust condemnation and shame of an ignominious death, now makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.”

Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., has a wonderful Easter sermon at Sancrucensis, which he preached to Carmelite nuns. A selection: “The Church is Mary Magdalene in the garden; the sinner who has repented and who now weeps with love for her Lord. And who then sees Him alive beyond hope. This is the life of the Church, the vocation of Christians; to weep for the Lord, and then to meet Him, to look at Him, to take his heart with that glance of the eyes, and to receive His love.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Pater Edmund also has a brief, thought-provoking connection between sacrifice, sin, and the common good, which we encourage you to read and ponder.

Fr. Joseph Koczera, S.J., has a very fine sermon, too, from the Easter Vigil last night, explaining to our new brothers and sisters, received into the Church last night, some of the deep symbolism of the Easter Vigil itself.

At New Liturgical Movement, Gregory DiPippo posts a lengthy excerpt from St. Melito of Sardis‘s Paschal Homily from the second century A.D. A particularly moving selection: “‘Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your Savior, I am your resurrection, I am your king. I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by My right hand.'” (Emphasis supplied.)

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has a lengthy post about the Exsultet. Fr. John Hunwicke has a shorter piece, focusing on the translation of the Exsultet by Msgr. Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, happily restored to the Roman rite by Pope Francis through the new Ordinariate Missal.

At the Paraphasic, Elliot Milco has some plot notes toward a novel. One can hope that Milco takes up the notes and starts working toward a draft.


Surrexit Christus spes mea!

Happy Easter to You and Yours from Semiduplex.

Victimæ paschali laudes
immolent Christiani.

Agnus redemit oves.
Christus innocens Patri

Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando.
dux vitæ mortuus
regnat vivus.

“Dic nobis, Maria,
quid vidisti in via?”
“Sepulchrum Christi viventis,
et gloriam vidi resurgentis,

“Angelicos testes,
sudarium et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea;
praecedet suos in Galilaea.”


Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere;
tu nobis, victor rex, miserere!

(Wipo of Burgundy’s Easter sequence “Victimæ paschali laudes,” 11th c., has survived nine hundred years of liturgical reforms, beginning with Pius V’s Tridentine reforms and concluding most recently with the retranslation of the Roman Missal under Benedict XVI.)

Good Friday and the Annunciation

Today, March 25, is Good Friday. It is also the Annunciation. This concurrence has long been held to be deeply significant, for obvious reasons. It last occurred in 2005, as St. John Paul was suffering tremendously in full view of the world, and the calendars show the next such concurrence in 2157. This connection between the Passion and Death of Our Lord and the Annunciation has deep, deep roots. Father Raymond De Souza explains,

“Astonishingly, the starting point for dating the birth of Christ was March 25th,” wrote Cardinal Ratzinger. “The decisive factor was the connection of creation and cross, of creation and Christ’s conception. These dates brought the cosmos into the picture.”

What is the connection between creation, cross and Christ’s conception?

“Jewish tradition gave the date of March 25 to Abraham’s sacrifice,” explained Cardinal Ratzinger. “This day was also regarded as the day of creation, the day when God’s word decreed: ‘Let there be light.’ It was also considered, very early on, as the day of Christ’s death and eventually as the day of his conception. The mysterious words in Revelation 13:8 about the ‘Lamb slain from the beginning of the world’ could also perhaps be interpreted in the same way. … These cosmic images enabled Christians to see, in an unprecedented way, the world-embracing meaning of Christ.”

So drawing upon March 25 as the traditional Jewish date of creation and Abraham’s sacrifice, the first Good Friday — which varies by date, according to the lunar cycle — was believed by early Christians to be March 25. From that intuition, the same date was assigned to the Incarnation — the Solemnity of the Annunciation. That is why, in the Roman Martyrology, both the Annunciation and the feast of the Good Thief are assigned to March 25. Feast days for saints are usually assigned on the day of death, the day of the Good Thief’s crucifixion. Because that is the solemn feast of the Annunciation, the Good Thief’s feast day is never observed — one might say that it is “stolen” from him every year. But it expresses liturgically that March 25 is the date of both the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, thereby bringing together in a unique way the merciful redemption and its Marian dimension.

(Emphasis supplied.)

At A Clerk of Oxford, the author explains in interesting detail the fascination the concurrence of Good Friday with the Annunciation held for medieval and Elizabethan authors. He also explains some of the deep roots of this connection:

This year Good Friday falls on Lady Day, the feast of the Annunciation. This is a rare occurrence and a special one, because it means that for once the day falls on its ‘true’ date: in patristic and medieval tradition, March 25 was considered to be the historical date of the Crucifixion. It happens only a handful of times in a century, and won’t occur again until 2157.

These days the church deals with such occasions by transferring the feast of the Annunciation to another day, but traditionally the conjunction of the two dates was considered to be both deliberate and profoundly meaningful. The date of the feast of the Annunciation was chosen to match the supposed historical date of the Crucifixion, as deduced from the Gospels, in order to underline the idea that Christ came into the world on the same day that he left it: his life formed a perfect circle. March 25 was both the first and the last day of his earthly life, the beginning and the completion of his work on earth. The idea goes back at least to the third century, and Augustine explained it in this way:

He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since.

This day was not only a conjunction of man-made calendars but also a meeting-place of solar, lunar, and natural cycles: both events were understood to have happened in the spring, when life returns to the earth, and at the vernal equinox, once the days begin to grow longer than the nights and light triumphs over the power of darkness.

(Emphasis supplied and hyperlink omitted.) Read the whole thing there.

This concurrence is a wonderful event, to say the least, and it provides a very concrete opportunity to meditate, even if briefly, upon the entire mystery of the Incarnation itself.

“The document’s key word is ‘integration.'”

At Rorate Caeli, there is a translation of a new article by Roberto de Mattei. It begins:

In this Holy Week of 2016, the sentiments and pain of Christ’s Passion being renewed is mingled with deep apprehension about the distressing situation the Church is in. The greatest worries regard the impending Apostolic Post-Synod Exhortation Pope Francis signed on March 19th and which will be published just after Easter. According to the Vatican journalist Luigi Accattoli “rumors foresee a text of no striking doctrinal or juridical affirmations, but rather will include many innovative practical choices regarding marriage preparation and couples in irregular situations: not only for the divorced and remarried but also for cohabiters, marriages with a believer and non-believer and for those only civilly-married.” (Corriere della Sera, March 20th 2016)

What will these “innovative practices” be? The document’s key word is “integration”. Those who are in an irregular situation will be “integrated” into the community: they could become catechists, liturgical animators, godparents for Baptism and Confirmation, best men/bridesmaids at weddings and so on; all activities the traditional praxis of the Church to this day has forbidden them owing to their state of public sin. Yet, Alberto Melloni writes in “La Repubblica”, March 19th “on Communion for the divorced and remarried no novelties are expected. Seeing as the problem is to legitimize a praxis (…), not establish it theologically”. The document does not anticipate a “general rule” of access to the Eucharist, but would allow confessors and individual bishops to permit admission to the Sacraments “case by case”. The novelty, Melloni explains, is based on facts not on words, “by giving responsibility and restoring effective powers to bishops, marking, as Cardinal Kasper said, a real “revolution”.

(Emphasis supplied.) Read the whole thing there.

Pentin assesses papal appointments three years in

We note, briefly, that Edward Pentin has, at the National Catholic Register, kicked off a three-part examination of the Holy Father’s various appointments. The first installment deals primarily with Francis’s diocesan appointments throughout the world. A brief selection:

Father Goyret thinks these choices are a consequence of placing at the center what the Pope considers overriding pastoral concerns, rather than safeguarding doctrine. The Pope, he believes, is “neither conservative nor progressive,” stressing he doesn’t like to use such labels for a pope. Nor is he “against traditional theology or doctrine,” he said. “He just skips these categories and wants pastoral and missionary bishops.”

After Benedict XVI paid close attention to sound doctrine, Francis is trying, at some risk, to “find a different way because he believes that evangelization has to change,” Father Goyret said. “He says we’ve been worried too much about sound doctrine, but that does not mean he goes against sound doctrine.”

But even if the Pope’s appointments may be doctrinally solid, the change of emphasis is having other consequences. A senior Church source in Italy told the Register on condition of anonymity that although recent appointments in the country have been “good parish priests,” they don’t have the “personal gravity to be bishop.”

He said many of the new Italian bishops are “great at the fatherly gestures, hugging, kissing babies, but they are not teachers of the faith, they’re not prepared for that.” He added that the bishop has to be “a strong and courageous pastor and be able to govern the Church,” and that failing to appoint those “willing to make hard decisions makes the flock ill provided for.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Read the whole thing there.

We will be following this series with interest, especially when Pentin turns his eye toward the Curial appointments.



The triumph of the Cross

Fr. John Hunwicke has a fascinating post about certain philological aspects of Venantius’s hymn, Pange lingua gloriosi, not to be confused with Aquinas’s hymn, Pange lingua gloriosi. (There is, as you might imagine, a fascinating article in the old Catholic Encyclopedia about both hymns.) Pange lingua is in trochaic tetrameter catalectic meter. And it is about that meter that Fr. Hunwicke makes this point, after explaining some of the low, low origins of the meter, which is especially important during Holy Week:

So how did this frivolous, indeed indecent, metre come to be used for what we might think of as the stateliest and most dogma-laden hymns of our Latin tradition? One possibility: Think Roman Squaddies. Think Roman Squaddies in a happy mood, particularly after a great victory; they have returned to Rome; the Senate has voted a Triumph; and so the troops, heavy with gold and alcohol, are singing in the Triumph Procession as they process behind their general. You may be surprised by this; but they are singing obscene songs insulting the general, probably to avert from him divine jealousy. And Suetonius preserves for us three lines in just this metre which were sung during C Iulius Caesar’s Gallic triumph (interesting that, just as with the Christian hymnographers, three lines seem to make up a stanza):
Gallias Caesar subegit, Nicomedes Caesarem:
Ecce Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias;
Nicomedes non triumphat qui subegit Caesarem.

Which is best left untranslated; well, anyway, I am going to leave it untranslated.

(Emphasis supplied.)

In other words, Venantius’s meter is the exact same meter that Caesar’s troops used at his Gallic triumph. This fact cannot have been lost on Venantius when he composed Pange lingua, just as it could not have been lost on Prudentius when he composed the hymn upon which Pange lingua was based. This is, of course, one of those fantastic bits of Romanitas that have been preserved in the Church.

Read the whole thing there.