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6/27/2008 6:52 PM
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Archbishop Burke to head
Vatican's supreme court


June 27, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI has named an American archbishop known as a legal conservative, particularly on the hot-button issue of giving communion to pro-choice politicians, as the new head of the Vatican’s highest court.

The Vatican announced today that Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis has been named the new Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. The appointment puts Burke, who turns 60 on June 30, in line to become a cardinal.

Burke is expected to relocate to Rome in August to take up his new duties.

The nomination comes as little surprise to church-watchers, who have long speculated that Burke might return to Rome at some point. Burke received a doctorate in canon law from Rome’s Gregorian University in 1984, and from 1989 to 1994 he served as the Defender of the Bond in the Apostolic Signatura, a position equivalent to the top defense attorney in the Vatican’s legal system.

In July 2006, Benedict XVI named Burke a member of the Apostolic Signatura, a move that some observers at the time interpreted as grooming him to eventually take over the top spot on the court.

In the Vatican, there are three courts: the Roman Rota, which is an appeals court that deals largely with cases involving requests for annulment of a marriage; the Apostolic Signatura, more or less the “Supreme Court” of the church; and the Apostolic Penitentiary, which handles cases involving the “internal forum,” meaning especially delicate matters that can’t be resolved through the normal legal process.

In Catholic circles, Burke has long been considered one of the most precise legal minds at the senior levels of the church, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Code of Canon Law, the legal system of the Catholic church, as well as the tradition of case law stemming from that code.

Among other things, Burke’s appointment is another sign of Benedict XVI’s affection for American Catholicism. Three important Vatican offices are now led by Americans: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal William Levada; the Apostolic Penitentiary, led by Cardinal Francis Stafford; and the Signatura, with Burke now in the top position.

Since taking over in St. Louis in 2003, Burke earned a reputation as a strong conservative and prelate willing to draw lines in the sand in order to defend church teaching. In 2004, for example, Burke argued publicly that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry should not receive the Eucharist because of his pro-choice voting record. Catholic who voted for Kerry, Burke likewise argued, should also not receive communion until they had received the Sacrament of Confession.

Burke's hard-line position on the communion issue has long been controversial, even among his fellow bishops. One year ago, Burke lost a race within the U.S. bishops' conference to become head of the Committee on Canonical Affairs, drawing just over 40 percent of the vote.

While few bishops question the need to defend church teaching, many draw the line at publicly refusing someone communion, seeing it as a form of "politicizing" what is supposed to be the church's supreme moment of unity.

The communion issue has not been the only flashpoint during Burke's tenure in St. Louis.

In 2007, Burke resigned from the board of directors of a children’s hospital to protest a benefit concert featuring singer Sheryl Crow, who holds a pro-choice position; in 2008, Burke urged St. Louis University to take action against basketball coach Rick Majerus, who had announced his support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research at a campaign event for U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton.

Church-watchers note that in his new position, Burke will no longer play quite so public a role. As prefect of the Signatura, Burke’s job will be to apply church law to questions which are put to the court.

Generally speaking, the following sorts of cases are heard by the Signatura:

• Conflicts between two Vatican offices;
• Appeals against decisions by diocesan bishops and Vatican offices;
• Appeals against decisions by the Roman Rota.

Two other Americans are members of the Apostolic Signatura: Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, and Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, Illinois.


First American named
to head Vatican high court


ST. LOUIS, Missouri, June 27 (AP) - An archbishop who tussled with singer Sheryl Crow, college basketball coach Rick Majerus, and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry over their support for abortion rights has been named as the first American to lead the Vatican supreme court.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, an expert in church law and perhaps the most outspoken of conservative U.S. bishops, will likely be made a cardinal after his appointment Friday. The supreme court is traditionally headed by a cardinal.

Burke's disputes with public figures drew attention to the archdiocese in his 4 1/2 years here, which seemed to surprise the affable church man who grew up in rural Wisconsin.

"I've been frustrated, and bothered that the impression of me has been quite negative ... as unpleasant, arrogant," Burke said Friday, reflecting on his time here. "I've tried to be a good shepherd for the flock."

Burke's new appointment shows that Pope Benedict XVI has a great amount of respect for U.S. bishops, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

It comes on the heels of Benedict's naming William Joseph Cardinal Levada, former archbishop of San Francisco and Portland, Ore., as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"This is more power than Americans have ever had in Rome," Reese said.

Roman Catholics in St. Louis clearly are split between those who are glad and those who are sorry he's going.

Some see him as a champion of orthodoxy who represents a refreshing return to church values. Others view him as sorely lacking as a pastor, an unbending stickler for the letter of the law. His targets said he fought them using arcane, medieval church codes they could barely decipher.

"I've been getting phone calls since 6 o'clock this morning from parishioners singing 'Ding, dong, the archbishop is gone,'" said the Rev. Marek Bozek, who, along with his parish board, were excommunicated by Burke after a long-simmering dispute over control of St. Stanislaus Kostka's assets.

Burke also excommunicated three women for participating in a women's ordination that is forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church.

"Catholics in St. Louis are exhausted after 4-1/2 years of constant scandal and control by Archbishop Burke," Bozek added.

Yet other Catholics defended Burke, who turns 60 on Monday.

"We're sad about it," said the Rev. Karl Lenhardt, who was invited here by Burke to establish a place where the Latin Mass could be celebrated. "But we are convinced that work in his new capacity will be good for the universal church. We can't be surprised that the Holy Father has called him."

Burke said he would move to Rome in late August to head the supreme court, which resolves jurisdictional disputes among various Vatican tribunals and hears procedural appeals on marriage annulments.

Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have complained for years that local tribunals grant an excessive number of annulments.

Reese said the court has a very narrow focus on procedural issues and rarely tackles substantive issues.

In 2004, Burke caused a stir by saying he would deny Communion to Kerry because of the Massachusetts senator's stance supporting abortion rights.

Last year, Burke indicated he would so the same for then-Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani. He also protested Crow's appearance at a benefit for a Catholic children's hospital over her support for embryonic stem cell research.

In January, Burke called on Saint Louis University, a Jesuit school, to discipline Majerus for publicly supporting abortion rights.

"Every pro-choice Catholic Democrat politician should be very nervous," Reese said. "He made his name in the U.S. by denying Communion to pro-choice politicians.

"If he gets that view articulated strongly in Rome, he could become the voice for having that position for the universal church."

Bozek, the Polish priest, said Burke could well be on his way to a future papacy.

"With this office, he will be named cardinal in the very near future, and as cardinal he will have the chance to run for pope two or three times in his lifetime," he said.

"He may well become the first American pope."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/28/2008 3:32 PM]
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7/3/2008 8:37 PM
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The shy professor bringing
Benedict to the masses


Issue of July 4, 2008

Admirers of Tracey Rowland say that the Australian professor of political philosophy and continental theology is "on the side of the angels" and even her detractors who do not like the substance of her arguments begrudgingly admit her academic ability.

Her most recent book, Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, geared at educated but non-academic readers, was an enthusiastic exploration of Pope Benedict's thought through the prism of the Second Vatican Council and 20th-century strands of Thomist thought. With Sydney's Cardinal George Pell, who wrote a glowing introduction to the book, she is one of the strongest Catholic voices coming from Down Under.

The dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, Dr Rowland is also on the editorial board of the north American edition of Communio, the academic journal founded by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac and Joseph Ratzinger, and a member of the Centre of Philosophy and Theology at the University of Nottingham.

Her academic credentials, which include a doctorate from the Faculty of Divinity of Cambridge University, form a long string of letters after her name. Impressive too, though she plays it down, is her success in an academic world still dominated by men.

Carefully dressed in a pea-green cardigan and summery skirt, a strand of hair from her auburn bob clipped to the side with a pretty flowery pin, Dr Rowland gives the impression of a shy but friendly neighbour coming over to introduce herself.

In person, during a 24-hour stopover in London on her way to Rome, she is very different from the picture of the impressive-looking begowned academic on the John Paul II Institute website. Through the din of the Waterstone's cafe in Piccadilly she first comes across as quietly spoken, but as the interview progresses it becomes clear she doesn't need to raise her voice to be heard. She is eloquent, firm and speaks with the conviction that years of study have lent her.

Dr Rowland did not begin her academic career as a theologian, but came to it through her study of political science. She enrolled in a joint Arts and Law Bachelors degree at the University of Queensland although she knew that she did not want to be a lawyer. At the time it was considered the "done" course for promising young undergraduates, and although it wasn't Dr Rowland's chosen subject, the law, she says, helped sharpen her analytical skills.

At Queensland she came under the tutelage of Dr Vendulka Kubalkova, a Czechoslovakian émigré in exile after the Prague Spring. Dr Kubalkova, despite her strong opposition to the Communist regimes, taught Marxist political philosophy, a course which Dr Rowland describes as "Marxist catechism class". It was here that Dr Rowland developed an interest in central European political philosophy and in 1989 she found herself in Poland.

She was gathering material for her Masters dissertation on the political and philosophical ideas of the anti-Communist intelligentsia in Poland and Czechoslovakia, and soon found that she needed an extensive knowledge of Catholic theology and social teaching in order to understand many of the anti-Communist movements in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

"The people who most interested me were those people who said that after they got rid of the Communist state, they didn't want western-style liberalism, they wanted some kind of Christian democratic system. So they wanted Christian democracy rather than liberal democracy. In that context I also studied the thoughts of Pope John Paul II as someone who was representative of the central European Catholic intellectual," she says.

After receiving her Masters from the University of Melbourne in 1992 she went to Cambridge to begin a doctorate in Political Philosophy, focusing on Alasdair Macintyre's critique of modernity and his concept of tradition-dependent rationality, but found little sympathy for her academic interests in the intensely secularist ethos of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences.

"They were really stuck in the 18th century," says Dr Rowland, relating how Professor John Dunn took her aside and told her that he didn't believe in God and he didn't know anyone in Cambridge who believed in God, although he had heard that this phenomenon was common in certain parts of the United States.

A day later Dr Dunn suffered a massive, though non-fatal, stroke and Dr Rowland transferred to the Divinity School. Here she studied under John Milbank among others. He, with Catherine Pickstock, is one of the main minds behind the Radical Orthodoxy movement, which developed Anglo-Catholic constructive theology. She also encountered the leading English Dominican scholars Fr Allan White and Fr Aidan Nichols.

Both Marxism and Anglicanism have been recurring themes in Dr Rowland's life. She is technically a convert to Catholicism. Her father was a Marxist atheist, her mother a practising high-church Anglican. When her father wanted to send his daughter to a state school for ideological reasons her mother settled on a compromise and the young Tracey Rowland was sent to a Catholic convent school which was deemed acceptable to her father as he did not consider it part of the establishment.

Taught mainly by nuns, Dr Rowland converted to Catholicism in primary school, where she discovered her love of liturgy, something which is not an academic field she has pursued, but the mainstay of her spiritual life.

Although she tends to take a "pluralistic view of liturgy" - she prefers the Missal of Paul VI done well over the 1962 Missal but defends those who prefer the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite - nothing upsets her more than "appalling 1970s liturgy".

It was her profound sense of the importance of liturgy that first attracted her to Joseph Ratzinger. Dr Rowland says that she thinks that last year's Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, which liberalised the use of the 1962 Missal, served as a jolt to many priests "who had to confront the fact that they had been presuming for a couple of decades that what lay people want is a kind of populist liturgy - a kind of pop culture liturgy".

"I think they've had to confront the sociological reality that this is not actually the case," she says. "There are some people who will still want it but there is a huge number of Catholics who do not, and for a couple of decades they were completely marginalised. The main criticism levelled against them was that they hadn't accepted the teaching of the Council."

Pope Benedict, she says, has made it clear that being critical of bad liturgy does not signal opposition to the Second Vatican Council. Dr Rowland is herself a defender of the Council even if she is wary of the some of the ways in which it has been interpreted and has played out in the life of the Church in the last 40 years.

"I think we are at a stage in the life of the Church when my generation and your generation need to do a great deal of synthetic work, picking up the pieces of the puzzle and putting them back together again but in a way that was better than was the case before the Council," she says.

"I envy your generation because I think you are coming of age at a time when things are really healing in the Church and the trauma of the Council is starting to bear fruit whereas I belong to the generation of intermission."

After completing her doctorate in 2002 she was recruited by Cardinal Pell to help with the newly established John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne. The school is one of 11 worldwide which were founded by Pope John Paul II to focus on the importance of marriage and family.

Dr Rowland was awarded her Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 2007, for which she did a correspondence course in 2007 and is currently working on a doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD).

What has it been like being a woman in a world that is still predominately male? She smiles and says that she has had an overwhelmingly positive experience. In Rome she is treated with the greatest respect and addressed as Professoressa, she says.

"Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II were highly intellectual men who had mixed with highly educated women and there was an understanding that there were absolutely no barriers to women engaging in the administrative and intellectual life of the Church," she says before she launches into a defense of the male priesthood.

"It is only when it comes to priesthood that there are barriers and that's because they don't see priesthood as something that requires certain skills, but is an anthropological issue about the nature of the priest who stands in the place of Christ. Pope Benedict also says of all the tribes of the Middle East in the biblical era, most had priestesses, but not the Jews, and he thinks there is a theological significance in this as well."

Before the interview we had been talking about Hans Küng's recent visit to London. The controversial Swiss theologian is seen in certain circles as the "leader of the opposition" to the Pope. What does she make, I ask, of the criticism that Pope Benedict's pontificate is making the Church smaller?

"I think that people who leave the Church are not leaving the Church because they are rejecting the teachings of John Paul II or Pope Benedict," she answers. "Most of them who leave do so because they go to Catholic schools and they think that the kind of warm secular humanism with Christian gloss that they get in Catholic schools is in fact the Catholic faith and it hasn't captured their imagination, their love or their intellect so they are walking away from something that they do not know. It's not like a love affair where you reject a person you have learnt to love and know. They've never been in love with the Church. They've never known it."


Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI is published by Oxford University Press priced £12.99.

7/4/2008 2:35 PM
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More on Burke’s move to Vatican court
All Things Catholic
by John L. Allen, Jr.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I wish Allen had simply written this piece for what it is - a rationale for Archbishop Burke's selection, and without the wholly inappropriate, unworthy and totally unnecessary premise of being a reply to conjecture that Mons. Burke was being 'kicked upstairs' - because that is pandering to the general MSM tendency to treat Vatican nominations, especially Curial ones, as entirely analogous to secular political appointments. It is a nomination that had no need to be defended, and to do so is demeaning to both the Pope as the nominating authority and to the nominee for whom the nomination ought to be an unsullied honor.

Since news of St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke’s appointment as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura was announced June 27, I’ve received numerous telephone calls and e-mails, from both sides of the Atlantic, posing some version of the following question: Was this a case of what the Italians call promuovere per rimuovere … promoting someone in order to get rid of him?

It’s a reasonable question, given Burke’s profile as a lightning rod in St. Louis. Not only is he the American bishop most identified with the push to deny Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians, but he also engaged in very public spats involving rock star Sheryl Crow and basketball coach Rick Majerus.

Basically his last act as archbishop was to issue canonical penalties for Sister of Charity Louise Lears for her support of women’s ordination. While most of Burke’s fellow bishops, and certainly the Vatican, would share the substance of his positions, not everyone applauds his pugnacious way of advancing them.

So, was this a face-saving way of easing Burke out?

To be completely frank, my wife and I are in the middle of a move to Denver, so over the last few days my time has been more occupied with programming our garage door opener and selecting patio furniture rather than the machinations of ecclesiastical appointments. (Someday I’ll try to sort out which I find more puzzling.)

The following, therefore, is not based on any insider insight. Nonetheless, my hunch [Come on, Mr. Allen - this cannot be reduced to merely your 'hunch' - the appointment is too important, the Pope too much 'beyond and above suspicion' to have less-than-straightforward motives for the appointment, and the reasons for Mons. Burke's choice too solid!] is that this is not a case of promuovere per rimuovere, but what one might call “promotion for multiple motives.” In no particular order, I suspect that at least the following four considerations were at work:

Fond memories of Burke in Rome: Burke spent three periods in Rome: from 1971 to 1975, studying at the Gregorian University; from 1981 to 1984, again at the Gregorian, completing his licentiate and doctorate in canon law; and then from 1989 to 1994, as the first American to serve as Defender of the Bond in the Apostolic Signatura. By all accounts, Burke was well known and highly regarded.

When I arrived in Rome in 1999, perhaps the most common question I got from Italians was whether I knew Burke. At the time he was still the bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, so the curiosity wasn’t driven by his prominence in the United States.

Instead, the Italians had come to know Burke in Rome, especially through his work at the Signatura, and almost to a person they had fond memories of him. They told me they found Burke hard-working and competent, but those are things they’d say about most Americans in the Curia.

Beyond that, Burke struck them as gregarious, kind on a personal level, and comfortable with the rhythms of Italian culture. While that alone would not justify placing Burke in charge of the Signatura, the fact that he’s seen as someone who can work well in the small world of the Vatican, in which personal relationships are crucially important, certainly doesn’t hurt.

Burke’s reputation as a canonist: Burke has long been considered perhaps the sharpest canon lawyer among the American bishops. By a near-universal consensus, Burke knows the canons and the case law that has grown up around them exceedingly well.

To be sure, that’s not to say everyone shares the particular conclusions he draws. In October 2007, for example, I interviewed Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and asked him about an article Burke had recently published in the canon law journal De Re Canonica, arguing that with regard to communion for pro-choice politicians, the church has sometimes emphasized canon 916, about the duty of the individual communicant, at the expense of canon 915, about the duty of the minister of the sacrament. The clear thrust was to suggest that if a pro-choice politician comes forward for communion, he or she should be turned away.

Here was George’s answer: “I think it’s a good canonical argument. But pastorally, you still have to decide what this means in the concrete cases we’re talking about… The question is, do you risk politicizing the sacrament? That’s my biggest concern. The very sacrament that speaks about our unity becomes the occasion for this kind of fracas and disunity. I think we should think long and hard before we allow the Eucharist to become that.”

A sign that Burke’s position on the communion issue does not command a majority among American bishops came at the fall 2007 meeting of the USCCB, where Burke was defeated in a race to become chair of the Committee on Canonical Affairs by Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Chicago. Burke drew just 40 percent of the vote.

One doesn’t have to share the legal philosophy of Antonin Scalia or Anthony Kennedy to recognize their judicial chops, however, and the same goes for Burke.

Moreover, Burke also knows the inner workings of the Rome tribunal system. In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Burke as a bishop-member of the Signatura, a move widely seen in Rome as grooming him to eventually take over the court’s top job.

A strong Catholic identity appointment: Benedict XVI is notoriously immune to the normal sort of political calculus that goes into making appointments[There you are!] -- whose back is being scratched, which lines of patronage are being reinforced, and so on.

At a big picture level, however, any Pope has to be sensitive to ensuring that the various points of view and sensibilities in the Church are represented at the level of senior management, and Burke’s nomination certainly represents a strong voice for traditional Catholic identity. [In other words, he represents oen of the most fundamental elements in the Pope's own personal and 'official' philosophy!]

In a sense, Burke may fill the void left by the death of Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, former president of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Lopez Trujillo was widely seen as the most ardent “cultural warrior” in the Vatican, while his successor, Italian Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, is perceived as a much more “soft” and pastoral figure.

Appreciation for the United States: With Burke’s appointment, three important Vatican offices are now led by Americans: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal William Levada; the Apostolic Penitentiary, led by Cardinal Francis Stafford; and the Signatura, with Burke as the new prefect.

That’s a clear sign of appreciation for the American Church, a sentiment especially strong in Rome these days in the wake of what was considered a remarkably successful visit to America by Benedict XVI in April.

Broadly speaking, many senior Vatican officials are deeply pessimistic about the direction of the European Union, which they see as in the grip of a radical form of secularism. In that context, Vatican officials increasingly see the United States as their most natural conversation partner in global affairs -- a major world power shaped by the Christian heritage, home to the fourth largest Catholic community in the world, with a civil society in which churches are taken seriously and faith is afforded a vibrant public voice. The appointment of another American is confirmation of a tendency to look across the Atlantic for leadership.

More narrowly, Burke’s appointment is also an expression of respect for the canonical expertise of the American church. Traditionally, American canonists have been a bit suspect in Rome, seen as overly lax in granting annulments. (Notoriously, the United States has 6 percent of the world’s Catholics but generates 80 percent of the annulments granted each year, usually around 60,000.)

That perception still endures in some quarters, but there’s also recognition that the Americans have made greater investments in training canonists and developing tribunals than any other local church in the world.

Further, the sexual abuse crisis has forced Americans to develop greater familiarity with the penal sections of the Code of Canon Law. It’s no accident that two of the three Vatican courts are now led by Americans.

Does all this mean that Burke’s reputation as a divisive figure in St. Louis played no role in the decision to send him to Rome?

Not necessarily. When Lopez Trujillo was appointed to the Council for the Family in 1990, it was widely understood that the move was motivated, in part, by controversies surrounding his role as the archbishop of Medellin. There is a bit of old Roman wisdom that you want sticklers for the rules, and for the teachings of the church, setting policy at a level beyond the limits of time and place, while more pastoral figures will decide how to apply those positions to the concrete situations posed by various cultures and historical moments.

The real test of whether there is a desire to place such a pastoral figure in St. Louis, of course, will come with the nomination of his replacement. For that reason, the selection will be keenly anticipated -- not only because of the historical importance of St. Louis as a center of Catholic culture, but also because of broader indications it may offer about the tone Benedict XVI and his nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, want to set for the American church.

[What are the chances really that Archbishop's Burke replacement in St. Louis won't be another one in the mold of the bishops (doctrinal conservatives but pastoral innovators) Benedict XVI has appointed so far in North America?]

7/6/2008 6:34 PM
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Mons. Cañizares to leave Toledo
for the Vatican

Translated from

July 6, 2008

This has been speculated for months in the Spanish press,
and today, Libertad Digital, Spain's premier online news
round-up, is reporting it as definite.

Madrid, July 6 (Europa Press) - The cardinal Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain, Mons. Antonio Cañizares Llovera, will be leaving Toledo to head the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments at the Vatican, according to Church sources.

He would succeed Cardinal Francis Arinze who will be retiring for having reached canonical retirement age.

Cañizares was born in Utiel (Valencia) on October 15, 1945, ordained a priest in 1970, named Bishop of Aila in 19992, and then Archbishop of Granada in 1997. He was named Archbishop of Toledo by John Paul II in October 2002.

He was created a cardinal, titular archbishop of St. Pancratius in Rome, at Pope Benedict XVI's first consistory in March 2006. As such, he has been a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

He has carried out various responsibilities in the Spanish bishops' conference, having been vice-president at one time. He is currently a member of its Permanent Commission, its Executive Committee and its Presidential Council.

The Congregation for Divine Worship was created in 1908 and owes its present name to John Paul II who, in 1988, entrusted it with supervising everything that has to do with liturgy and the sacraments.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/6/2008 6:34 PM]
7/7/2008 1:49 PM
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McCain visits Guadalupe Shrine
in Mexico City

By Juliet Eilperin

McCain, his wife Cindy, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman before the miraculous image of the Virgin at Guadalupe.

MEXICO CITY, July 3 -- Paying homage to one of the holiest sites for Mexican Roman Catholics, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) visited the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe this morning along with his wife and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The President's younger brother, who has been friendly with McCain for several years and is often mentioned as a possible future presidential candidate, was in town on business.

"I think he's going to win," Bush said of McCain. "He just needs to be himself and not let Senator Obama redefine him."

McCain zipped over to the Basilica, which lies north of Mexico City, in a 16-minute motorcade ride that traversed closed roads as angry drivers nearby expressed their discontent by honking. A monsignor met the presumptive nominee and took him to the altar, where the senator laid a wreath of white roses.

The wreath harkens back to a tradition in the legend of the Virgin of Guadalupe, in which an Indian peasant in the 1400s saw the Virgin Mary but his fellow villagers did not believe him. During his second religious vision, according to the legend, the Virgin Mary provided him with a bed of roses that were out of season to prove her existence, but it was only after his third vision, when he obtained a special garment, that he was able to convince others he had seen her.

After describing an altar painting to McCain the monsignor gave him a blessing, with one hand on the senator's forehead and another on his shoulder. During the blessing, Cindy McCain stood next to her husband with her head bowed and her eyes closed.

The Basilica was built in the 1970s after the original -- which took more than a century to construct and was completed in the early 1700s -- experienced foundation problems. The original still stands, and is now open to the public.

Bush and McCain did not speak to reporters during their tour, but at one point, when McCain was looking at the older section of the basilica, the former governor expressed confidence that the White House would stay in GOP hands.

7/27/2008 2:53 PM
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How 'Humanae Vitae' was initially
received by dissenting priests
in the United States:
The orchestrated campaign against it
was ready from the very start

I was going to translate a very lengthy but compelling account by Cardinal Stafford in the 7/24/08 L'Osservatore Romano for its historical value, but CNA has done this summary report about it.

Rome, Jul 25, 2008 (CNA).- Today marks the 40th anniversary of the often debated papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, in which Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception.

Looking back at the events as he experienced them, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Apostolic Penitentiary, writes that the reaction by dissenters to the papal document involved a level of infidelity which divided the ranks of the clergy to such an extent that they have still not recovered.

The recounting of the events of 1968 by Cardinal Stafford - who was a priest in Baltimore at the time of the encyclical’s release - is eloquent, laced with scriptural allusions and the insights of a scholar. He set out to peer into the summer of 1968, “a record of God’s hottest hour,” as he dubs it, at the request of L’Osservatore Romano and has made his submission available to CNA.

This “is not an easy or welcome task. But since it may help some followers of Jesus to live what Pope Paul VI called a more ‘disciplined’ life (HV 21), I will explore that event,” the cardinal writes.

Before launching into the retelling of the storm of priestly that preceded even the lay reaction to Humanae Vitae, Cardinal Stafford offers his readers some of his scholarly wisdom.

“'Lead us not into temptation' is the sixth petition of the Our Father. Πειρασμός (Peirasmòs), the Greek word used in this passage for ‘temptation’, means a trial or test. Disciples petition God to be protected against the supreme test of ungodly powers. The trial is related to Jesus’s cup in Gethsemane, the same cup which his disciples would also taste (Mk 10: 35-45). The dark side of the interior of the cup is an abyss. It reveals the awful consequences of God’s judgment upon sinful humanity. In August, 1968, the weight of the evangelical Πειρασμός fell on many priests, including myself,” the cardinal began.

“The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour. The memories are not forgotten; they are painful. They remain vivid like a tornado in the plains of Colorado. They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968 something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church. It was a Πειρασμός for many.”

The American cardinal then goes into some of the inner workings of the Vatican in the years leading up to the release of Humanae Vitae. In particular, he recalled that Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan, the sixth Archbishop of Baltimore, who was his ecclesiastical superior at the time, was a member of the Papal Commission for the Study of Problems of the Family, Population, and Birth Rates, first established by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council.

As the commission, which Pope Paul inherited, prepared to deliberate about the Church’s teaching on contraception, Cardinal Shehan “sent confidential letters to various persons of the Church of Baltimore seeking their advice. I received such a letter,” Stafford writes.

“My response drew upon experience, both personal and pastoral. Family and education had given me a Christian understanding of sex. Yet, in many ways, Cardinal Stafford explains that, “Not one of my professional acquaintances anticipated the crisis of trust which was just around the corner in the relations between men and women.”

It wasn’t until a 1961 encounter with a 16 year-old parishioner who was a drug user that he came to the realization of what he had to tell Cardinal Shehan about contraception.

“A sixteen-year old had been jailed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. At the time of my late afternoon visit to him, he was experiencing drug withdrawal unattended and alone in a tiny cell. His screams filled the corridors and adjoining cells. Through the iron bars dividing us, I was horror-stricken watching him in his torment. The abyss he was looking into was unimaginably terrifying. In this drugged youth writhing in agony on the floor next to an open toilet I saw the bitter fruits of the estrangement of men and women. His mother, separated from her husband, lived with her younger children in a sweltering third floor flat on Light St. in old South Baltimore. The father was non-existent for them. The failure of men in their paternal and spousal roles was unfolding before my eyes and ears. Since then more and more American men have refused to accept responsibility for their sexuality.”

This experience, Stafford explained in a confidential letter to Cardinal Shehan, resulted in an insight “which was elliptical: the gift of love should be allowed to be fruitful. These two fixed points are constant. This simple idea lit up everything like lightning in a storm. I wrote about it more formally to the Cardinal: the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage cannot be separated. Consequently, to deprive a conjugal act deliberately of its fertility is intrinsically wrong. To encourage or approve such an abuse would lead to the eclipse of fatherhood and to disrespect for women.”

For reasons unknown, this idea failed to sway Cardinal Shehan who sided with the majority of the papal commission, which advised that the Church’s teaching on contraception be changed in light of new circumstances.

“This sets the scene for the tragic drama following the actual date of the publication of the encyclical letter on July 29, 1968,” Cardinal Stafford writes.

Following the publication of Humanae Vitae, Stafford recalls the way the rejection of the Pope’s encyclical unfolded.

“Rev. Charles E. Curran, instructor of moral theology of The Catholic University of America … and nine other professors of theology of the Catholic University met, by evident prearrangement, in Caldwell Hall to receive, again by prearrangement with the Washington Post, the encyclical, part by part, as it came off the press. By nine o’clock that night, they had received the whole encyclical, had read it, had analyzed it, criticized it, and had composed their six-hundred word ‘Statement of Dissent.’

"Then they began a long series of telephone calls to ‘theologians’ throughout the East, which went on, according to the Post, until 3:30 A.M., seeking authorization, to attach their names as endorsers (signers was the term used) of the statement, although those to whom they had telephoned could not have had an opportunity to see either the encyclical or their statement. Meanwhile, they had arranged through one of the local television stations to have the statement broadcast that night.”

Cardinal Shehan was “scornful” of the reaction. “In 1982 he wrote, ‘The first thing that we have to note about the whole performance is this: so far as I have been able to discern, never in the recorded history of the Church has a solemn proclamation of a Pope been received by any group of Catholic people with so much disrespect and contempt’.”

“The personal Πειρασμός, the test, began,” writes Stafford, who was a priest of the Diocese of Baltimore at the time.

He remembers a phone call inviting him to St. William of York parish in southwest Baltimore to discuss the encyclical. “The meeting was set for Sunday evening, August 4. I agreed to come. Eventually a large number of priests were gathered in the rectory’s basement. I knew them all,” Stafford relates.

Although he expected a chance to read the papal document and discuss it, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, one pastor/leader, assisted by some priests from the local seminary read the Washington statement aloud. Then the leader asked each of us to agree to have our names attached to it. No time was allowed for discussion, reflection, or prayer. Each priest was required individually to give a verbal ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

“I could not sign it,” states Cardinal Stafford. "My earlier letter to Cardinal Shehan came to mind. I remained convinced of the truth of my judgement and conclusions.”

However, Stafford says that no one else there held his convictions; “Everyone agreed to sign. There were no abstentions. As the last called upon, I felt isolated. The basement became suffocating.”

What happened next was unprecedented in the history of the Baltimore presbyterate, according to Stafford. “They had planned carefully how to exert what amounted to emotional and intellectual coercion. … The priest/leader, drawing upon some scatological language from his Marine Corp past in World War II, responded contemptuously to my decision. He tried to force me to change. He became visibly angry and verbally abusive. The underlying, ‘fraternal’ violence became more evident. He questioned and then derided my integrity. He taunted me to risk my ecclesiastical ‘future,’ although his reference was more anatomically specific. The abuse went on.”

“We all had been subjected to a new thing in the Church, something unexpected. A pastor and several seminary professors had abused rhetoric to undermine the truth within the evangelical community. When opposed, they assumed the role of Job’s friends. Their contempt became a nightmare,” Stafford observes.

This type of abuse was paralleled in the secular history of the time as well, says the cardinal, citing an encounter from April 1968 with the same priest who would a few months later lead the dissent meeting at St. William of York.

As the riots in Baltimore raged following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Father Stafford called the pastor to see if he might need food, medical assistance, or other help from the city. When the pastor answered the phone, Stafford could hear “disillusionment and fear” in the priest’s voice as he described how, “Everything has been set ablaze.”

The memory of this incident prompted Stafford to realize that, “Ecclesial dissent can become a kind of spiritual violence in its form and content. …Violence and truth don’t mix. … The violence of the priests’ August gathering gave rise to its own ferocious acrimony. Conversations among the clergy, where they existed, became contaminated with fear. Suspicions among priests were chronic. …The Archdiocesan priesthood lost something of the fraternal whole which Baltimore priests had known for generations.”

“Something else happened among priests on that violent August night,” explains Cardinal Stafford, “Friendship in the Church sustained a direct hit.”

In spite of all the damage done by the dissent, Stafford stresses that, “the night was not a total loss.”

“Paradoxically, in the hot, August night a new sign shown unexpectedly on the path to future life. It read, ‘Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered’."

“I did not become ‘ashamed of the Gospel’ that night and found ‘sweet delight in what is right.’ It was not a bad lesson. Ecclesial obedience ran the distance,” the American cardinal writes.

The lesson to be learned from this is that, “Contemporary obedience of disciples to the Successor of Peter cannot be separated from the poverty of spirit and purity of heart modeled and won by the Word on the Cross,” writes Stafford.

Cardinal Stafford closes his reflections by giving his honest assessment of where the Church stands after the decades of dissent.

“Diocesan presbyterates have not recovered from the July/August nights in 1968. Many in consecrated life also failed the evangelical test. Since January 2002, the abyss has opened up elsewhere. The whole people of God, including children and adolescents, now must look into the abyss and see what dread beasts are at its bottom. Each of us shudders before the wrath of God, each weeps in sorrow for our sins and each begs for the Father’s merciful remembrance of Christ’s obedience.”

The full-length version of Cardinal Stafford's reflection can be read at

7/29/2008 3:42 PM
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Brazil theologian Boff says
Vatican facing 'internal crisis'

I'm constrained to take note of this only because the wire services do. Boff, like Hans Kueng, is one of the most annoying gadflies buzzing around the Church - and like gadflies, their buzz is monotonous. Boff has been speaking about this 'great internal crisis' for some two decades now yet today, he says 'it is headed for a crisis'. So who does he think represents the Catholics of America? Someone like himself who could not even stay in the priesthood?

ASUNCION, Uruguay, July 28 (AFP) - Brazilian liberation theology advocate Leonardo Boff said the Vatican was facing a "great internal crisis" because it fails to represent the people it serves.

Boff, a former priest the late Pope John Paul II sanctioned in 1985 for his leftist views, met here with Paraguayan president-elect Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop who was also suspended by the Vatican for entering politics.

"The Catholic Church is heading toward a crisis because the Vatican has no place for all the world's real Catholic representatives," Boff told reporters after the meeting.

He said Latin America held the largest population of practicing Catholics in the world, and "those Catholics are not well represented" in the Vatican.

Boff said another reason fanning the Vatican's internal crisis is "the zero growth of the Catholic Church in our planet." [He wishes! Where do his statistics come from?]

Boff was condemned to silence by Pope John Paul II in 1985 after he was sanctioned by then-cardinal and Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger, who now presides as Pope Benedict XVI. [WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! The sanction was for him not to speak or write about controversial aspects of his theology for one year, not forever - but he chose to leave the prieshood instead, and I believe he married shortly thereafter. No one in modern times has been 'condemned to silence' by the Church, but dissident theologians are not allowed to teach Catholic theology in Catholic schools, which is only fair, as they cannot and should not teach a counter-Magisterium in a Catholic school!]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/29/2008 3:43 PM]
7/29/2008 4:26 PM
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Al-Qaida Calls for
Saudi king's assassination
for inter-faith initiatives

MADRID, July 28 (RTTNews) - Libyan-born Al-Qaida commander, Abu Yahya al-Libi has called for the assassination of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah for heading an inter-faith conference organized by the Muslim World League in the Spanish capital, Madrid.

In the video issued by the Islamic terrorist organization, the group strongly criticizes the inter-faith dialogue conference dialogue, which encourages all faiths to turn away from extremism.

It saw the participation of representatives from the three main monotheistic faiths, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, as well as Hinduism and Buddhism.

"They want to spawn a new religion on the Arabian Peninsula and that is bringing religions closer together," the al-Qaida Number 3 warns in the video message posted to Islamist websites Monday.

A photograph of King Abdullah and Pope Benedict XVI taken during Saudi King's historic visit to the Vatican last November has been posted with the video. A caption beneath the photo read: "He (Abdullah) has made religion a joke and has done so in public with Jews, Christians and Muslims."

"He has thrown those fighting for Islamism into jail...and has fraternized with those who have offended the Prophet, notably the adulator of the Cross, the Vatican's Pope," the Libyan-born militant said.

Al-Libi, who escaped from Afghanistan's Bagram prison in 2005, also slammed Muslim religious leaders for colluding in inter-religious dialogue by sitting alongside exponents of other faiths.

"The Prophet ordered us to drive unbelievers from the Arabian Peninsula. Today, the Saudi royal family is destroying our Islamic tenets by showing Muslims it is possible to spread Christian principles," he said.

"By sitting side by side in public, they are taking part in the Crusader campaign. They are helping them, giving information to their secret services, all in order to spread their culture and religion."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/29/2008 4:27 PM]
7/31/2008 2:07 AM
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Interview with an Ex-Vampire Novelist

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker
First Things
Wednesday, July 30, 2008, 6:37 AM

Anne Rice, famous for such erotic novels as The Vampire Chronicles, has in recent years returned to the Catholicism of her childhood and begun work on a series of novels about the life of Jesus Christ. The first volume, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, received a less-than-positive review in the pages of First Things. But the second volume, Christ the Lord: On the Road to Cana, was better received. Here is an interview she gave to Fr. Dwight Longenecker exclusively for First Things.

Fr. Longenecker: How did writing your vampire books prepare you to write Christ the Lord?

Anne Rice: Writing all my earlier books prepared me for the task of the Christ the Lord books. I experienced an apprenticeship in creating stories, in forming characters, in finding convincing voices, in writing dialogue, in learning how to pace.

I wrote twenty-seven books learning these things, learning with each book to do it just a little better than before. By the time I reached 2002, I was accomplished in ways I didn’t fully understand myself until I sought to structure and create a probable fictional world for Christ.

I studied the intimate first-person voice, and how to use it without revealing everything in the mind of the storyteller, the narrator of the tale. I put this to use in my Christ the Lord books. Also all my historical research, my methods of research, my study for history—all of this went into the Christ the Lord books.

Your earlier body of work is pretty, well, wicked. Did you include the erotic elements to sell books?

I recently posted an essay on my website on my earlier work. I think this essay has answered quite a few questions from my Christian readers who are unacquainted with the books. Basically I see the entire Vampire Chronicles as a search for God, a search for the light. The vampire was a metaphor for me, in the atheistic world, grieving for a lost faith, for the lost possibility of grace. I think that vampires are powerfully metaphorical for people, especially young people because the vampires (in my work, at any rate) are always in rebellion, refusing to be shut out of life, trying desperately to see deliverance through love of one another, through painting, through music. All my earlier work is united by these themes. The erotic element in the books was never there to sell books; it was something that came naturally to me, especially in my younger years.

How have the fans of your vampire books responded to your reversion and Christ the Lord? You have been very public in your consecration of yourself and your work to Christ. How has this been met in the secular forum?

Fans fall into three categories: those who love all the work; those who read only the new Christian work; a few who don’t want the new Christian work and feel betrayed. My public statements about consecration to Christ have been met with terrific receptivity because many interviewers and journalists, and TV personalities are on a Christian journey themselves. I am surprised at the level of interest.

Before you began Christ the Lord, were you already familiar with the world of the first century?

Yes, before I wrote Christ the Lord, I had done extensive research on the first century for the novels, Pandora, and Blood and Gold. I was powerfully intrigued with Christianity and how it had managed to “conquer” the Roman Empire. All this I did before I returned to the Church in 1998.

Did you simply research the history and archeology of the period, or did you also have theological and biblical interests?

My biblical interest had been growing since the mid 90s. I read the Bible constantly, and read books on the Bible. I was powerfully intrigued by the survival of the Jews. As I came closer and closer to conversion, the story drew me in very much. My novels required extensive archaeological research and I loved it. I’d been doing this for years.

As you did your research, what was your impression of modern biblical scholarship?

As I plunged into modern Bible scholarship, I assumed the skeptics would be right, but I soon discovered that their “late date” theories of gospel creation were flimsy, full of assumptions, and that a dislike of Jesus ran through many of their arrogant and pompous books. The field came across to me as a huge scandal. There were believers and non-believers claiming to be Jesus scholars, and the skeptics, the famous Jesus Seminar, had been throwing out some outrageous nonsense to get the attention of the public. I have never seen sloppier scholarship in any field of study than what I saw in so-called biblical scholarship.

I soon realized that the skeptical scholars had very little evidence at all of their extravagant theories and they were anti-supernaturalists.

But let me mention my discovery of solid scholarship by believers, especially N.T. Wright and John A.T. Robinson. These men worked a miracle on my thinking as they offered brilliant response to the non-believers, and, perhaps because of the attacks of the skeptics, these men wrote very solid and convincing books.

How did your scholarly research affect your personal quest for Jesus the Lord?

My own biblical scholarship has drawn me closer to the Lord. I have found the gospels to be utterly convincing first-person witness to Jesus, and my studies have led me to conclude that the tradition regarding the writing of the gospels is in fact the truth.

John bar Zebedee wrote the books attributed to him; Matthew the tax collector did write Matthew; Luke is the physician who traveled with Paul; and Mark did transcribe Peter’s sermons. My evaluation of this involved intense study of the Scripture itself for the “voice” of the person writing the document, and studies of the work of Bauchkham and Hengel and John A.T.Robinson as mentioned above.

The time I have spent reading Scripture has deepened my sense of obligation to our blessed Savior and my intense desire to write books for Him. He is alive for me in the pages of the Bible, far more than I ever dreamed he would be when I began my own quest in 2002.

I feel that my meditation on the gospels and my reading of ancient historians have all deepened my sense of the world in which Jesus likely moved from day to day. I feel myself drawing closer and closer to our Lord as I work, which is both a good thing and also a frightening and sometimes intimidating thing.

Ever since the gospels, those who write or produce versions of the Life of Christ are blamed for simply producing a self-portrait or a tract to further their own agenda. How have you avoided this pitfall? How do we know that the Jesus we are getting is not just Anne Rice’s Jesus?

It has indeed been said that every fictional portrait of the Lord reflects more the person who is writing about him than anything about him. I try desperately to work against this tendency, to reach back, as best I can, into an informed view of the first century and portray a Jesus who is the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Some projection is bound to happen. I am after all a person of the twenty-first century with certain specific concerns. But I think I have a better chance of producing a credible portrait of Jesus than some in that so much research backs my project and so much conscious restraint.

I work diligently not to cheat, not to make him something that the gospels don’t say he is. For example, I cannot dream of having him approve of things we approve of today. But I can emphasize his mercy and compassion as revealed in the Sermon on the Mount. I also have tools earlier novelists did not have. They didn’t know a lot about first-century life. Hence portraits in ink, oil, and words of the Holy Family often show them isolated in a dreamy rural setting. We now know people in the first century lived in big clans, prized cousins and other relatives, that life was communal even for the very rich (people just didn’t get time to be alone unless they went into the wilderness to do so), we know that travel was common, and that news traveled fast. Even biblical scholars are often uninformed about this.

Some conservative Catholics are worried that you are a dissenter in the area of abortion, homosexuality and women’s ordination. How do you answer them?

Some very conservative Christians have voiced concerns about me personally because I am a prolife Democrat. But there are many other prolife Democrats. I am an old-guard Social Justice Roman Catholic and must vote for the party that I believe will do the most good on earth. And we have only two parties—just two. I was prolife when I was an atheist. My recent youtube videos make clear my stance as a believing and loyal Catholic.

Do you feel that your life is being completed somehow in your Christ the Lord series?

I feel I can somehow perhaps redeem my life by putting any and all skills that I acquired to use in these books on the Lord. This is keenly important to me, but I have to remain humble in the face of this, and never stop being afraid. “Fear Not.” Yes, I have to hear that when I write, but I have to be afraid too. I pray to follow in the footprints of the Lord in the desert and up the grassy hills of Galilee.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is Chaplain to St Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, South Carolina. He is author of many books, and editor of The Path to Rome– Modern Journeys to the Catholic Faith.

7/31/2008 2:55 AM
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Thank you for posting the article on Humane Vitae. It is really disturbing to read about the treatment that Card. Stafford endured. I will have to read the entire reflection.
8/1/2008 6:18 AM
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Paul VI, the first modern Pope
by Anthony Symondson SJ

August 1 2008

No pope of the 20th century has been more eclipsed by his predecessors and successors than Pope Paul VI.

Blessed Pope John XXIII is remembered for his goodness, large heart and radiant humanity. His predecessor, Pius XII, is seen by those who remember him as the last Counter-Reformation Pope and was thought by many in his lifetime to be a living saint. John Paul I's memory is effaced by the brevity of his reign. John Paul II holds a monolithic place in people's memories that only time will decrease.

Between these longer serving pontiffs, Paul occupies an almost spectral presence entirely divorced from the fame of the rest. He never became victim to a personality cult, yet no Pope of the second half of the 20th century had a more decisive influence on the modern Church. During Paul's reign of 15 years (1963-78) more changes were introduced in the Church than in all previous centuries combined.

Giovanni Battista Montini was born in Concesio, near Brescia in Lombardy, on September 29 1897. He came from a privileged, intellectual family.

His father Giorgio was a prosperous lawyer and landowner, editor of a local Catholic newspaper and a parliamentary deputy with a strong desire for social reform. His mother Guiditta Alghisi came from a family of local nobles and was a leader of the Catholic women of Brescia. Montini had two brothers, Lodovico, who followed a political career and became a senator, and Francesco, who became a doctor.

Educated by the Jesuits, Montini began studies for the priesthood in Brescia in 1916 and was ordained in 1920. His bishop sent him to Rome for further studies at the Sapienza University but a combination of parental, political and ecclesiastical influence saw him admitted to the Vatican as a student at the College for Noble Ecclesiastics in the Piazza Minerva, the school for Vatican diplomats.

In 1923 he embarked upon his Roman apprenticeship in the Secretariat of State, at the age of 26, as the chaplain to the Catholic students of Rome, to be followed six years later by his appointment as national chaplain.

In 1922 Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy. Montini's appointment to the Federazione degli Universitaria Catolica Italiano (FUCI), part of Catholic Action, quickly made him the covert leader of the intellectual opposition to Fascism.

He had to meet the needs of Catholics who for the first time in their lives found themselves invited to choose between an anti-Christian ideology and a personally appropriated Christian faith.

Montini was an intellectual. He believed that intellectual activity was in itself deeply spiritual and was inspired by the French Dominican periodical, La vie intellectuelle, which developed a spirituality of intellectual work.

In addition to exercising profound spiritual influence on the students, in 1927 he and Igino Righetti, the national president of FUCI, founded a small publishing house, and Montini became the editor and main contributor to the monthly intellectual review Studium. They developed the programme and organisation of FUCI through study groups, retreats, regional conventions and national congresses.

Fascist attacks on FUCI and Catholic Action intensified in 1931 and on May 29 all Catholic youth movements in Italy were dissolved and their property confiscated. FUCI premises were violently attacked throughout Italy, public gatherings were suspended and members were physically beaten.

In 1930 Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was appointed as Secretary of State. In 1933 Montini was relieved of his post as national chaplain to FUCI and thereafter he not only became Pacelli's closest colleague but a skilled diplomatic technician whose work became indispensable.

In 1937 Montini was appointed Pacelli's substitute and on his election to the papacy in 1939 Pius XII quickly became dependent on him and he discharged his duties without any intervening Secretary of State.

He organised and directed the Holy See's extensive relief work; he helped to hide political refugees, especially Jews, and help them with means of escape. He was in charge of the Vatican Information Office which brought news of vanished prisoners of war and relayed to them messages from their families.

After the war he took a leading part in founding Caritas Internationalis and the Catholic Migration Commission. He was largely responsible for organising the Holy Year in 1950 and the Marian Year four years later. In 1953 he was appointed pro-Secretary of State.

His intellectual gifts inspired envy and distrust among his curial colleagues. In 1952 Pius put Montini at the top of a list of new cardinals, yet when the list was published he was not included. The reason was that Montini declined the honour because he knew that he would have lost whatever influence he had in the Secretariat of State. There is no truth in the surmise that Pius excluded him because he did not want him as his successor.

In 1954 Montini was appointed Archbishop of Milan, after Rome the most prestigious see of Italy. His work there was outstanding. He embarked on a massive programme of post-war reconstruction, culminating in 1957 in the Mission to Milan, the greatest experiment of its kind in the history of the Church. He built many new churches but also schools, community centres and dispensaries for the poor.

His energy was consistently on the side of the workers and the underprivileged. He preached the social message of the Gospel and strove unceasingly in the Communist stronghold of Milan to win the labouring classes back to the Church.

In 1958 Pius XII died and was succeeded by Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII. Though not a cardinal, Montini was wanted by many as Pius's successor. If that had happened there would have been no Second Vatican Council. The Church appeared so well-structured and secure that it seemed better to let well alone. But he loyally supported the Pope's decision and played a major part in the preparations.

On John's death in 1963 Montini was elected his successor and took the name Paul because it was indicative of an outward-looking approach. He gave the Council direction by clarifying its goals: the renewal of the Church, the promotion of Christian unity, and dialogue with the modern world. He declared that his entire pontificate would be devoted to the Council and its consequences.

The aftermath of the Council took place at a time when an age of political dissent unforeseen by the Council Fathers marked the life of entire generations; no climate could have been more difficult for the implementation of the decrees.

Two consequences need identification. The promulgation of Paul's most radical encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and the revised Roman Missal of 1970 should be seen against this background when all authority figures were called into question.

Humanae Vitae is the most prophetic encyclical of Paul's reign and led to permanently divisive consequences in the Church. The availability of the contraceptive pill led to one of the profoundest social changes in the evolution of human society and Paul's prediction of the consequences lie all around in the unbalance of nature created by a contraceptive mentality.

Catholic opposition to the encyclical appealed to a responsible approach to birth control but that fades into insignificance in the light of subsequent developments in secular society, developments that have also profoundly affected later generations of Catholics.

Not least, Humanae Vitae led to the expansion of dissent to the authentic voice of the Church's Magisterium and the emergence of polarised doctrinal positions which remain with us still.

The revised Roman Missal was the fruit of the 20th-century liturgical movement and was promulgated by Paul in the name of tradition. Paul explained to Jean Guitton: "Not only have we maintained everything of the past but we have rediscovered the most ancient and primitive tradition, the one closest to the origins."

After the Council the historic appeal was soon obscured in the desire for liturgical creativity and the distortion of the traditional canons and liturgy of the Eucharistic ceremony. These were defended by some on pastoral grounds.

Benedict XVI's present liturgical reforms should be seen in the context of celebrating the Roman Rite in the way that the original reformers intended, a style of celebration quickly subsumed in the general tumult that swept society from 1968 onwards. This disruptive interval postponed the authentic implementation of the Council for many years and explains recent papal initiatives.

There is infinitely more to Paul's reign than these two overshadowing developments and their consequences but both influenced the lives of Catholics at the profoundest level.

Paul's great achievement, secured as much by travel as teaching, was to put the Catholic Church and the papacy itself into the centre of the world stage. His pontificate defined the papacy's new role. He suffered acutely during his reign and the consequent confusion and his humanity was as great as John XXIII's.

His other signal achievement was that he kept the Church together at one of the most disruptive periods of world history and he safeguarded the substance of the Catholic faith intact. Later popes have built on his legacy.

Paul's reforms bemused and antagonised many and led to false hopes in others but even the most cursory study of his life points to the likelihood that history will be kinder to Paul VI than his critics would like.

Paul VI, a short biography by Anthony Symondson SJ, is to be published by the Catholic Truth Society on September 1, priced £1.95

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/1/2008 6:35 AM]
8/1/2008 11:51 PM
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On the death, and aging, of princes

July 16, 2008

This is a beautiful and informative - even if belated - tribute to the late Cardinal Gantin whose decision to retire in 2002 as Dean of the College of Cardinals was no doubt part of God's grand design for the Church.

The death of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin of Benin this past May 13 marked the passing of one of world Catholicism's noblemen.

Born in what was then the French colony of Dahomey in 1922, a mere 40 years after the first Catholic missionaries had arrived in that West African land, Bernardin Gantin was ordained a priest in 1951, consecrated auxiliary bishop of Cotonou in 1956, and named archbishop of Cotonou in 1960.

After participating in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Gantin was brought to Rome by Pope Paul VI to work at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (known to all Roman hands by its former name, "Propaganda Fidei," or "Prop" for short). He then became president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and was created cardinal in June 1977 (at the same time as Joseph Ratzinger, one of only 5 named by Paul VI in his last consistory).

In the run-up to the conclaves of 1978, some imagined Gantin as the first pope from sub-Saharan Africa; he never thought of himself in those terms, and likely played a not unimportant role in Karol Wojtyla's election as John Paul II. Some of the Great Electors of 1978 thought of Wojtyla as a bridge to the communist world, a kind of "political pope." Cardinal Gantin and his fellow-Africans thought in rather different terms: they admired the lucidity of Wojtyla's faith, the clarity of his defense of Catholic doctrine, and his humility.

The African cardinals -- all new Christians -- got the saint they wanted. The rest of us got a very different kind of "political pope," who dramatically reshaped the history of our times by being a pastor and a moral witness.

John Paul, for his part, reposed enormous trust in Bernardin Gantin, appointing him prefect of the crucial Congregation for Bishops and, in 1993, Dean of the College of Cardinals. It was in the latter roles that I first knew Gantin and was deeply impressed by his faith, his good humor and his transparent integrity. Here, one thought, was a prince, long before he acquired the title; and he was a prince because he was a Christian, a man unafraid of the future because the future was assured by Christ.

One also sensed a deep spiritual bond between the Polish pope, saturated in a millennium of Christian history, and this child of the first modern African evangelization. The son of a retired soldier and the son of a railway worker, both from what some regard as the borderlands of the faith, came to the center of the Church and found in each other a devotion to Christ that transcended race, culture and language.

Cardinal Gantin was also, in an oblique way, one of those most responsible for the election of Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI. On turning 80 in 2002, Gantin lost his vote in any future conclave. Neither canon law nor the apostolic constitution governing papal elections requires that a cardinal who reaches the age of 80 must thereby relinquish his post as dean of the College of Cardinals.

But Bernardin Gantin was a man of great humility as well as integrity, and he seemed to think his brother cardinals, and the whole Church, would benefit from his stepping aside to allow the vice-dean, Cardinal Ratzinger, to succeed him. So Cardinal Gantin resigned as Dean, returned home to Benin, and took up pastoral work.

Cardinal Gantin's self-effacing humility paved the way for Cardinal Ratzinger, as dean, to preside over the general congregations of cardinals that followed the death of John Paul II and to be the principal concelebrant and the homilist at John Paul's funeral Mass. No one should doubt that Ratzinger's performance in those roles had a lot to do with the swift resolution of the conclave of 2005 in his favor. Thus did Gantin, a man who did not lack a sense of self but whose sense of self was not ego-driven, do a last great service for the universal Church.

Will his example inspire other princes of the Church who, in the future, find themselves in parallel situations?

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/2/2008 12:08 AM]
8/2/2008 2:58 PM
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Bush to attend church in China,
will urge religious freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 30 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush plans to attend church while in China for the opening of the Olympic Games next month, and will speak about freedom of religion, a top aide said Wednesday.

"When he goes to church on Sunday (August 10) he will make a statement afterwards in which he discusses his view on religious freedom in China," said National Security Council director of Asian Affairs Dennis Wilder.

"You can deliver the message of freedom without politicizing the events of the game," Wilder said.

"The President will have diplomatic meetings with the Chinese leadership that are separate from the games. And in those meetings with the Chinese leaders he will of course bring up these issues."

Bush, a devout Christian, has walked a diplomatic tightrope over the Olympics, repeatedly insisting the Games are not a political venue while recently stepping up his public criticism of Beijing's rights record.

Bush will attend the August 8 opening ceremonies of the Games, having rejected human rights activists' appeals for him to boycott the gala in protest of China's overall rights record, including a crackdown in Tibet in March.

Wilder said the United States was "disappointed that they have cracked down on the Internet," and expressed hope that protests planned around the event would be open to non-Chinese.

"The Chinese have announced that there will be protesters. We very much hope that those protest areas will be open not only to Chinese citizens but to foreigners," Wilder said.

"We hope that the rules for operating within those protesters' areas are opening up, that those who want to protest can. We hope that these protest areas are truly like those areas that have been allowed at other Olympics.

"That is yet to be demonstrated, I think, that the Chinese are truly moving in that direction."

On the whole, the United States looked to Beijing to use the attention of the Olympics to show progress in granting various rights, such as free speech and free press, Wilder said.

"What we are looking for in China is not gestures, we are looking for structural change, we are looking for long term change," Wilder said.

"We are looking for the Chinese at these games to show that they are making progress, to demonstrate to the world, the spotlight is on Beijing, this is an opportunity for Beijing to show that it is widening ... freedom of press, freedom of expression," he said.

"The ultimate goal here is to get the Chinese government to see that it is in their interest to free up their society."

Asked about China's failure to release political prisoners as a goodwill gesture ahead of the Games, Wilder said: "Obviously I would like to see all these political prisoners that we have on our lists released.

"We have handed the Chinese lists of people that we think are unfairly in prison."

8/2/2008 3:03 PM
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Son of top Hamas leader
converts to Christianity

By Aaron Klein

July 31, 2008

JERUSALEM – The son of one of the most popular leaders in the Hamas terrorist organization has moved to the U.S. and converted to Christianity, it has emerged.

In an exclusive interview with Israel's Haaretz newspaper, Masab Yousuf, son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheik Hassan Yousef, slammed Hamas, praised Israel and said he hoped his terrorist father will open his eyes to Jesus and to Christianity.

"I know that I'm endangering my life and am even liable to lose my father, but I hope that he'll understand this and that God will give him and my family patience and willingness to open their eyes to Jesus and to Christianity. Maybe one day I'll be able to return to Palestine and to Ramallah with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God," Masab said.

Masab said he previously aided his father with Hamas activities, but he now has affection for Israel and laments Hamas.

"Send regards to Israel, I miss it. I respect Israel and admire it as a country," he says.

"You Jews should be aware: You will never - but never - have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Muhammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death."

Masab slammed Palestinian society as "an entire society [that] sanctifies death and the suicide terrorists. In Palestinian culture a suicide terrorist becomes a hero, a martyr. Sheiks tell their students about the 'heroism of the shaheeds.'"

Masab's father is considered the most popular Hamas figure in the West Bank. He is serving a sentence in Israel for planning or involvement in multiple terror attacks, including an infamous 2002 suicide bombing in the school cafeteria of Jerusalem's Hebrew University in which nine students and staff members were killed.

In a statement to the Palestinian Maan news agency, Masab's brother, Suhaib, strongly denied that Masab converted to Christianity.

But Haaretz stood by its story. The newspaper said it sent a correspondent to the U.S., who met with Masab for a detailed, in-person interview.

8/7/2008 11:14 AM
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Advice to a would-be POTUS
(or is it would-be Jesus?)

The material here is dated - but all the better because the elapsed months give us a better perspective on the events/episodes commented on. Spengler's advice column may be a spoof, but as I noted in CULTURE & POLITICS, where I posted his advice to 'Bothered in Beijing' about the Tibetan problem, the spoof offers kernels of truth and/or Spengler's honest opinion about things.

Speak truth to paranoia

April 1, 2008

Dear Spengler,
Just when I thought I had locked up the Democratic nomination for President of the United States [POTUS], the media made a scandal out of the pastor of my church. They played video clips in which he blamed the government for inventing the AIDS virus and for giving drugs to young black men order to get them into jail. It sounded pretty crazy, and made me look bad.

Now, I denied ever having heard his craziest sermons and gave a speech arguing that my white grandmother was just as big a racist as my pastor, but the problem lingers on. What should I do?

Shivering in Chicago

Dear Shivering,
You may have to take a big risk. Your white grandmother doesn't frighten voters, but your pastor does, not only because he sounds racist and anti-American, but also because he sounds like a raving loonie in the video clips.

Some voters may fear that you are one person in front of a black audience, and another person altogether on the campaign trail. The voters want to hear you speak truth to paranoia. You should ask for the pulpit of your church and tell your congregation (and the television cameras) something like this:

Our pastor was wrong to appeal to your rage. Rage only hurts you. Rage is what puts a third of young black men in the criminal justice system.

The government doesn't give them drugs to sell. Criminals do. And the drugs they sell hurt you more than anyone else. The government helps you by locking up criminals, because black people are the main victims of crime perpetrated by other black people.

And don't blame the government for AIDS. If you don't want to get AIDS, don't shoot dope with dirty needles, and you fellows, get off the "down low". Stop blaming other people for your troubles and take responsibility for your own lives.

If you get out of the room alive, you will be a shoo-in for the White House.


Hit the road and vamoose!

April 15, 2008

Dear Spengler,
I'm in big trouble over something I said to a private group that some busybody posted on the Internet.

Just when I was about to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination, everyone is on my case because I said that small-town voters in Pennsylvania were bitter about losing their jobs, and cling to their guns and to God by way of compensation.

I've qualified, temporized, reorganized and sanitized my remarks, but the story just won't go away. What should I do about it?

Shivering in Chicago

Dear Shivering,
Last time you wrote to me (Ask Spengler April 1, 2008) the best course of action seemed clear. This is a tougher one. Some gaffes don't go away. You might consider emulating the legendary Abu Hussan, whose story is told in the Arabian Nights (as translated by Sir Richard Burton):

They recount that in the city of Kaukaban in Yemen there was a man named Abu Hasan of the Fadhli tribe who left the Bedouin life and became a townsman and the wealthiest of merchants. His wife died while both were young, and his friends pressed him to marry again.

Weary of their pressure, Abu Hasan entered into negotiations with the old women who procure matches, and married a woman as beautiful as the moon shining over the sea. To the wedding banquet he invited kith and kin, ulema and fakirs, friends and foes, and all of his acquaintances.

The whole house was thrown open to feasting: There were five different colors of rice, and sherbets of as many more; kid goats stuffed with walnuts, almonds, and pistachios; and a young camel roasted whole. So they ate and drank and made merry.

The bride was displayed in her seven dresses - and one more - to the women, who could not take their eyes off her. At last the bridegroom was summoned to the chamber where she sat enthroned. He rose slowly and with dignity from his divan; but in do doing, for he was over full of meat and drink, he let fly a great and terrible fart.

In fear for their lives, all the guests immediately turned to their neighbors and talked aloud, pretending to have heard nothing.

Mortified, Abu Hasan turned away from the bridal chamber and as if to answer a call of nature. He went down to the courtyard, saddled his mare, and rode off, weeping bitterly through the night.

In time he reached Lahej, where he found a ship ready to sail for India; so he boarded, arriving ultimately at Calicut on the Malabar coast. Here he met with many Arabs, especially from Hadramaut, who recommended him to the king. This king (who was a kafir) trusted him and advanced him to the captaincy of his bodyguard. He remained there 10 years, in peace and happiness, but finally was overcome with homesickness. His longing to behold his native land was like that of a lover pining for his beloved; and it nearly cost him his life.

Finally he sneaked away without taking leave and made his way to Makalla in Hadramaut. Here he donned the rags of a dervish. Keeping his name and circumstances a secret, he set forth on foot for Kaukaban. He endured a thousand hardships of hunger, thirst and fatigue; and braved a thousand dangers from lions, snakes and ghouls.

Drawing near to his old home, he looked down upon it from the hills with brimming eyes, and said to himself, "They might recognize me, so I will wander about the outskirts and listen to what people are saying. May Allah grant that they do not remember what happened."

He listened carefully for seven nights and seven days, until it happened that, as he was sitting at the door of a hut, he heard the voice of a young girl saying, "Mother, tell me what day was I born on, for one of my companions wants to tell my fortune."

The mother answered, "My daughter, you were born on the very night when Abu Hasan farted."

No sooner had the listener heard these words than he rose up from the bench and fled, saying to himself, "Verily my fart has become a date! It will be remembered for ever and ever.

He continued on his way, returning finally to India, where he remained in self exile until he died. May the mercy of Allah be upon him!

I suggest you change your name, move to a place where no one knows you, and stay out of sight.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I wonder if - I hope he does - Spengler will do a piece on Mr. Obama's recent Berlin 'hot air' lift....

But kidding aside, here is a thought-provoking (and in many ways, informative) commentary Spengler wrote earlier on Mr. Obama, the women in his life, and their impact on who he is - or is not.

It's the sort of thing one hardly ever gets to read in the American media which is, like, 99.9% liberal - and therefore calling the cues for the liberals' collective swoon/obsession/fixation/monomania on an inexplicably over-rated, overly ambitious, and oh-so-breastbeatingly-presumptuous politician [called 'eloquent and inspiring' for demagogic speeches that push all the 'left' buttons yet who, in his unscripted remarks, says 'Ah...' too often and hesitates infinitely much more than the speech-challenged George W. Bush ever did, even during his first campaign]. He is certainly not the best the Democratic Party has to offer - but the Democrats don't care, they just want to win back the White House, and they are so sure they will with BAM-BAM-BARACK-BAM-BARACK-BAM-BOOM!

It's just as remarkable that Spengler wrote this, back during the highwater tidemark of Obama frenzy. If he were writing in the US media, he'd have been chased out, tarred, lynched and quartered, for treason to his tribe!

Obama's women reveal his secret

"Cherchez la femme," advised Alexander Dumas in: "When you want to uncover an unspecified secret, look for the woman."

In the case of Barack Obama, we have two: his late mother, the went-native anthropologist Ann Dunham, and his rancorous wife Michelle. Obama's women reveal his secret: he hates America.

We know less about Senator Obama than about any prospective president in American history. His uplifting rhetoric is empty, as Hillary Clinton helplessly protests. His career bears no trace of his own character, not an article for the Harvard Law Review he edited, or a single piece of legislation. He appears to be an empty vessel filled with the wishful thinking of those around him. [The perfect one-line description!]

But there is a real Barack Obama. No man - least of all one abandoned in infancy by his father - can conceal the imprint of an impassioned mother, or the influence of a brilliant[???] wife.

America is not the embodiment of hope, but the abandonment of one kind of hope in return for another. America is the spirit of creative destruction, selecting immigrants willing to turn their back on the tragedy of their own failing culture in return for a new start. Its creative success is so enormous that its global influence hastens the decline of other cultures.

For those on the destruction side of the trade, America is a monster. Between half and nine-tenths of the world's 6,700 spoken languages will become extinct in the next century, and the anguish of dying peoples rises up in a global cry of despair.

Some of those who listen to this cry become anthropologists, the curators of soon-to-be extinct cultures; anthropologists who really identify with their subjects marry them. Obama's mother, the University of Hawaii anthropologist Ann Dunham, did so twice.

Obama profiles Americans the way anthropologists interact with primitive peoples. He holds his own view in reserve and emphatically draws out the feelings of others; that is how friends and colleagues describe his modus operandi since his days at the Harvard Law Review, through his years as a community activist in Chicago, and in national politics.

Anthropologists, though, proceed from resentment against the devouring culture of America and sympathy with the endangered cultures of the primitive world. Obama inverts the anthropological model: he applies the tools of cultural manipulation out of resentment against America. The probable next president of the United States is a mother's revenge against the America she despised.

Ann Dunham died in 1995, and her character emerges piecemeal from the historical record, to which I will return below. But Michelle Obama is a living witness.

Her February 18 comment that she felt proud of her country for the first time caused a minor scandal, and was hastily qualified. But she meant it, and more. The video footage of her remarks shows eyes hooded with rage as she declares:

For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment.

The desperation, frustration and disappointment visible on Michelle Obama's face are not new to the candidate's wife; as Steve Sailer, Rod Dreher and other commentators have noted, they were the theme of her undergraduate thesis, on the subject of "blackness" at Princeton University.

No matter what the good intentions of Princeton, which founded her fortunes as a well-paid corporate lawyer, she wrote, "My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my 'Blackness' than ever before. I have found that at Princeton no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong."

Never underestimate the influence of a wife who bitch-slaps her husband in public. Early in Obama's campaign, Michelle Obama could not restrain herself from belittling the senator.

"I have some difficulty reconciling the two images I have of Barack Obama. There's Barack Obama the phenomenon. He's an amazing orator, Harvard Law Review, or whatever it was, law professor, best-selling author, Grammy winner. Pretty amazing, right? And then there's the Barack Obama that lives with me in my house, and that guy's a little less impressive," she told a fundraiser in February 2007.

"For some reason this guy still can't manage to put the butter up when he makes toast, secure the bread so that it doesn't get stale, and his five-year-old is still better at making the bed than he is."

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported at the time, "She added that the TV version of Barack Obama sounded really interesting and that she'd like to meet him sometime." Her handlers have convinced her to be more tactful since then.

"Frustration" and "disappointment" have dogged Michelle Obama these past 20 years, despite her US$300,000 a year salary and corporate board memberships.

It is hard for the descendants of slaves not to resent America. They were not voluntary immigrants but kidnap victims, subjected to a century of second-class citizenship even after the Civil War ended slavery.

Blackness is not the issue; General Colin Powell, whose parents chose to immigrate to America from the West Indies, saw America just as other immigrants do, as a land of opportunity.

Obama's choice of wife is a failsafe indicator of his own sentiments. Spouses do not necessarily share their likes, but they must have their hatreds in common. Obama imbibed this hatred with his mother's milk.

Michelle Obama speaks with greater warmth of her mother-in-law than of her husband.

"She was kind of a dreamer, his mother," Michelle Obama was quoted in the January 25 Boston Globe. "She wanted the world to be open to her and her children. And as a result of her naivete, sometimes they lived on food stamps, because sometimes dreams don't pay the rent. But as a result of her naivete, Barack got to see the world like most of us don't in this country." How strong the ideological motivation must be of a mother to raise her children on the thin fair in pursuit of a political agenda.

"Naivete" is a euphemism for Ann Dunham's motivation. Friends describe her as a "fellow traveler", that is, a communist sympathizer, from her youth, according to a March 27, 2007, Chicago Tribune report.

Many Americans harbor leftist views, but not many marry into them, twice. Ann Dunham met and married the Kenyan economics student Barack Obama, Sr, at the University of Hawaii in 1960, and in 1967 married the Indonesian student Lolo Soetero.

It is unclear why Soetero's student visa was revoked in 1967 - the fact but not the cause are noted in press accounts. But it is probable that the change in government in Indonesia in 1967, in which the leftist leader Sukarno was deposed, was the motivation.

Soetero had been sponsored as a graduate student by one of the most radical of all Third World governments. Sukarno had founded the so-called Non-Aligned Movement as an anti-colonialist turn at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Before deposing him in 1967, Indonesia's military slaughtered 500,000 communists (or unfortunates who were mistaken for communists).

When Ann Dunham chose to follow Lolo Soetero to Indonesia in 1967, she brought the six-year-old Barack into the kitchen of anti-colonialist outrage, immediate following one of the worst episodes of civil violence in post-war history.

Dunham's experience in Indonesia provided the material for a doctoral dissertation celebrating the hardiness of local cultures against the encroaching metropolis. It was entitled, "Peasant blacksmithing in Indonesia: surviving against all odds".

In this respect Dunham remained within the mainstream of her discipline. Anthropology broke into popular awareness with Margaret Mead's long-discredited Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), which offered a falsified ideal of sexual liberation in the South Pacific as an alternative to the supposedly repressive West.

Mead's work was one of the founding documents of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and anthropology faculties stood at the left-wing fringe of American universities.

In the Global South, anthropologists went into the field and took matters a step further. Peru's brutal Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerilla movement was the brainchild of the anthropologist Efrain Morote Best, who headed the University of San Cristobal of Huamanga in Ayacucho, Peru, between 1962 and 1968. Dunham's radicalism was more vicarious; she ended her career as an employee of international organizations.

Barack Obama received at least some instruction in the Islamic faith of his father and went with him to the mosque, but the importance of this experience is vastly overstated by conservative commentators who seek to portray Obama as a Muslim of sorts.

Radical anti-Americanism, rather than Islam, was the reigning faith in the Dunham household. In the Muslim world of the 1960s, nationalism rather than radical Islam was the ideology of choice among the enraged. Radical Islam did not emerge as a major political force until the nationalism of a Gamal Abdel Nasser or a Sukarno failed.

Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother's milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career.

He shares the resentment of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance.

That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States.

There is nothing mysterious about Obama's methods.

"A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is," wrote Karl Krauss. Americans are the world's biggest suckers, and laugh at this weakness in their popular culture.

Listening to Obama speak, Sinclair Lewis' cynical tent-revivalist Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or, even better, Tyrone Power's portrayal of a carnival mentalist in the 1947 film noire Nightmare Alley. The latter is available for instant viewing at Netflix, and highly recommended as an antidote to having felt uplifted by an Obama speech.

America has the great misfortune to have encountered Obama at the peak of his powers at its worst moment of vulnerability in a generation. With malice aforethought, he has sought out their sore point.

Since the Ronald Reagan boom began in 1984, the year the American stock market doubled, Americans have enjoyed a quarter-century of rising wealth. Even the collapse of the Internet bubble in 2000 did not interrupt the upward trajectory of household assets, as the housing price boom eclipsed the effect of equity market weakness. America's success made it a magnet for the world's savings, and Americans came to believe that they were riding a boom that would last forever, as I wrote recently [1].

Americans regard upward mobility as a God-given right. America had a double founding, as David Hackett Fischer showed in his 1989 study, Albion's Seed.

Two kinds of immigrants founded America: religious dissidents seeking a new Promised Land, and economic opportunists looking to get rich quick. Both elements still are present, but the course of the past quarter-century has made wealth-creation the sine qua non of American life.

Now for the first time in a generation Americans have become poorer, and many of them have become much poorer due to the collapse of home prices. Unlike the Reagan years, when cutting the top tax rate from a punitive 70% to a more tolerable 40% was sufficient to start an economic boom, no lever of economic policy is available to fix the problem. Americans have no choice but to work harder, retire later, save more and retrench.

This reversal has provoked a national mood of existential crisis. In Europe, economic downturns do not inspire this kind of soul-searching, for richer are poorer, remain what they always have been.

But Americans are what they make of themselves, and the slim makings of 2008 shake their sense of identity. Americans have no institutionalized culture to fall back on. Their national religion has consisted of waves of enthusiasm - "Great Awakenings" – every second generation or so, followed by an interim of apathy. In times of stress they have a baleful susceptibility to hucksters and conmen.

Be afraid - be very afraid. America is at a low point in its fortunes, and feeling sorry for itself. When Barack utters the word "hope", they instead hear, "handout". A cynic might translate the national motto, E pluribus unum, as "something for nothing".

Now that the stock market and the housing market have failed to give Americans something for nothing, they want something for nothing from the government. The trouble is that he who gets something for nothing will earn every penny of it, twice over.

The George W Bush administration has squandered a great strategic advantage in a sorry lampoon of nation-building in the Muslim world, and has made enemies out of countries that might have been friendly rivals, notably Russia.

Americans question the premise of America's standing as a global superpower, and of the promise of upward mobility and wealth-creation. If elected, Barack Obama will do his utmost to destroy the dual premises of America's standing. It might take the country another generation to recover.

"Evil will oft evil mars", J R R Tolkien wrote. It is conceivable that Barack Obama, if elected, will destroy himself before he destroys the country.

Hatred is a toxic diet even for someone with as strong a stomach as Obama. As he recalled in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama idealized the Kenyan economist who had married and dumped his mother, and was saddened to learn that Barack Hussein Obama, Sr, was a sullen, drunken polygamist. The elder Obama became a senior official of the government of Kenya after earning a PhD at Harvard. He was an abusive drunk and philanderer whose temper soured his career.

The senior Obama died in a 1982 car crash. Kenyan government officials in those days normally spent their nights drinking themselves stupid at the Pan-Afrique Hotel. Two or three of them would be found with their Mercedes wrapped around a palm tree every morning. During the 1970s I came to know a number of them, mostly British-educated hollow men dying inside of their own hypocrisy and corruption.

Both Obama and the American public should be very careful of what they wish for. As the horrible example of Obama's father shows, there is nothing worse for an embittered outsider manipulating the system from within than to achieve his goals - and nothing can be more terrible for the system.

Even those who despise America for its blunders of the past few years should ask themselves whether the world will be a safer place if America retreats into a self-pitying shell.

1. Obama bin lottery Asia Times Online, January 29, 2008.

And there's more. He had a follow-up article one week later::

Sing, o muse, the wrath of Michelle

March 3, 2008

The wrath of swift-footed Achilles, of which Homer called his muse to sing, nearly lost the Trojan War for the Greeks. The wrath of swift-tongued Michelle Obama well might lose the White House for her husband.

We had a peek into her diary last week when the Obama campaign finally made public her undergraduate thesis, titled "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community". The contents of this remarkable document sharpen the profile of Obama's women that I offered last week ('Obama's women reveal his secret', Asia Times Online, February 26.)

Barack Obama, I argued, evinces a preternatural sangfroid, for he is in America but not of it, a Third World anthropologist profiling Americans. But his wife's anger at America will out, for it is a profound rage amplified by guilt.

Mrs Obama averred that she could not recall the contents of the thesis she composed in 1985, but that cannot be quite true, for it is a poignant cry from the heart. It explains her controversial outburst during the campaign to the effect that she felt proud of her country for the first time in her adult life in 2008, after "feeling so alone" in her "frustration" and "disappointment" at America.

Princeton both humiliated her and corrupted her, Michelle Vaughn Robinson complains in an undergraduate prose that is all the more touching for its clumsiness.

By condescending to the young black woman from a Chicago working-class family, the liberal university made Michelle feel like an outsider. Worse, by giving her a ticket to financial success, Princeton caused her to feel that she was selling out to the institutions she most despised.

Michelle's ambivalence towards Princeton, and by extension towards America, has the makings of a tragedy of the sort found in the novels of Theodore Dreiser or F Scott Fitzgerald, a fatal compromise in pursuit of status.

Young Michelle felt she was betraying "lower class Blacks" by assimilating:

... the path I have chosen to follow by attending Princeton will likely lead to my further integration and/or assimilation into a White cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society, never becoming a full participant. This realization has presently made my goals to actively utilize my resources to benefit the Black community more desirable.

Nonetheless, she was drawn moth-like to the flame of success:

At the same time, however, it is conceivable that my four years of exposure to a predominantly White, Ivy League University has instilled within me certain conservative values. For example, as I enter my final year at Princeton, I find myself striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates - acceptance to a prestigious graduate or professional school or a high paying position in a successful corporation. Thus, my goals after Princeton are not as clear as before.

Hopelessness, young Michelle sought to demonstrate, afflicts black Princeton students who are torn between loyalties to the black community and the pursuit of success.

Her thesis tabulated the results of a questionnaire sent to black students at Princeton on their attitudes towards the black community and themselves. She drew a bright line between "separatist-pluralist" attitudes, that is, rejecting assimilation into white America, and an "integrationist-assimilationist" stance. Clearly her sympathies lay with black separatism.

The idea of separationism and pluralism (both cultural structural and social structural) is also discussed by Billingsley (1968) who believes there is a need for Blacks to build up their own communities, define themselves by new "Black" standards different from the old White standards and exercise power and control over their own institutions and services within the Black community.

Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton's [sic] (1967) developed definitions of separationism in their discussion of Black Power which guided me in the formulation and use of this concept in the study: "The concept of Black Power rests on the fundamental premise: Before a group can enter the open society, it must close ranks."

It was black separatists, she concluded, who cared about the black community, whereas integrated blacks turned their backs on it:

... the more respondents became sep[aratist]/plur[alist], during the Pre-to-Prin period [prior to attending Princeton], the more respondents became motivated to benefit the Black community; and the more int[egrated]/assim[imilated] they became, the more unmotivated they became to benefit the Black community.

Universities such as Princeton, moreover, rig the system for the benefit of whites, as she favorably quoted Dr Carolyn Dejoie:

Institutional policies of predominantly White Universities have established practices which favor the preferred groups and have ranked priorities which are meant to facilitate the tasks and improve the conditions of White students while ignoring the needs of the Black students ... Fraternities, sororities, homecoming activities and student government maintain the White status-quo [sic]. As in academic areas, the social aspects of university life systemically follow the interests of White students - the majority group.

Although the black separatists are the ones who care about the black community, she continues, their sense of loyalty and concern also inspires a sense of hopelessness. That is an unexpected and highly personal conclusion. Her prose chokes up and her spelling breaks down as she writes of this hopelessness:

[The data] demontate [sic] a strong relationship for [sic] the change in ideologies during the Pre-to-Prin period and the feeling that the situation of the Black lower class is hopeless, such that the more responds became sep[aratist]/plur[alist], the more respondents; and the more respondents became int[egrated]/assim[imilated], the less hopeless they felt.

My speculation for this finding is based on the possibility that a separationist is more likely to have a realistic impression of the plight of the Black lower class because of the likelihood that a separationist is more closely associated with the Black lower class than are integrationist [sic]. By actually working with the Black lower class or within their communities as a result of their ideologies, a separationist [sic] may better understand the desparation [sic] of their [sic] situation and feel more hopeless about a resolution as opposed to an integrationist who is ignorant to [sic] their plight.

Michelle did not imagine the contempt with which the white liberal professors of Princeton regarded black students, for the above passage was preserved in the final version of the thesis stored by the university, errors and all.

Black students who reject white society, she concluded, understand the desperation of the black lower class, and therefore feel hopeless, whereas assimilated blacks ignore this desperation and therefore are more cheerful.

It is hard not to admire the young black woman whose indignation over the predicament of the black lower class bursts out of the bland style of academic sociology, and who throws the condescension of her white liberal professors back in their faces. But that is not what afflicted the future Michelle Obama.

To the young Michelle's sense of hopelessness about the prospects for the black lower class, Princeton added something even worse, namely guilt over "striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates - acceptance to a prestigious graduate or professional school or a high paying position in a successful corporation".

Despite her black separatist sympathies, Michelle Vaughn Robinson succumbed to the temptations of which she wrote in her thesis and got a law degree from Harvard, earning around $400,000 a year in salary and corporate director fees by 2005.

Her "hopelessness", "frustration" and "disappointment" remain, exacerbated by guilt over her own success. That is not speculation, but a precis of her own account. One might speculate that the guilt became all the more poignant to the extent her success was unearned.

Michelle Obama's employer, The University of Chicago Hospitals, paid her $121,910, a reasonable sum for the skill level evident in her thesis, but raised this to $316,952 shortly after her husband was elected US senator.

Unlike her husband, whose focus on his audience is unwavering, Michelle Obama remains at the mercy of the same internal conflict that she reported in her senior thesis. She is too bitter at the hopelessness of lower-class blacks to assimilate, but too attracted to money and privilege to reject white society.

She hates the white institutions that made her prosperous, not only because they cannot solve the problems of the black lower class, but even more so because they made her feel guilty about her own success.

These internal conflicts help explain Michelle Obama's erratic behavior. Despite her own financial success, Michelle Obama continues to preach austerity and self-sacrifice to others. Speaking before a working-class audience in Ohio on February 29, she urged her listeners to eschew corporate law or hedge-fund management, which was odd, because most of them did not have a high-school diploma, let alone a university degree:

We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we're asking young people to do. Don't go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we're encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond ... many of our bright stars are going into corporate law or hedge-fund management [quoted by Byron York in The National Review Online].

But she did not leave corporate America. She did leave the corporate law firm that hired her out of Harvard Law School, but there is no reason to believe that idealism drove that decision.

The major law firms make partners out of a fifth of their new hires, who slave for years for the opportunity. Michelle Obama was not partner material for a top firm. She took more than a year to pass the Illinois Bar Examination, a substandard result, and - as her thesis makes clear - lacked the command of written English required for legal success. Her skills were better suited to the hospital position she eventually filled. Not only did she sell out, but she sold out for mediocre results.

Bitterness over the meager price that the white power structure offered for her soul nags at Michelle Obama. At the Ohio speech cited by NRO's York, she complained, "The salaries don't keep up with the cost of paying off [student loans], so you're in your 40s, still paying off your debt at a time when you have to save for your kids ... Barack and I were in that position. The only reason we're not in that position is that Barack wrote two best-selling books ... It was like Jack and his magic beans. But up until a few years ago, we were struggling to figure out how we would save for our kids."

But it was not only Senator Obama's writing income, it was Michelle's $200,000 salary increase and corporate directorships following his election to the US Senate that made the family prosperous. And it wasn't just piano lessons and summer camp, but a mansion in the Chicago suburb that represented an adequate price for Michelle's soul.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In addition to being very put off by Mrs. Obama's smoldering and sinister (as in leftist) resentment - which is always there even when she is trying her best to 'make nice' - I also take strong exception to a comment she made on that horrible daytime henhouse called "The View' that imagines it is an intelligent discussion forum on current events, when she said that "The problem with America is that it is afraid of strong women" (meaning herself).

HELLO! Our Princeton-Harvard Ebony poster girl never heard of Dolly Madison, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Coretta King, Condoleeza Rice, and yes, Hillary Clinton - to name just a few, off the top of my head? My, my! What is there in the Chicago neighborhoods that bred in both Obamas this delusion-complex of being 'the first' in all things?

Back in 1996, I prayed all I could that Colin Powell would decide to seek the Presidency. There is a man I believe eminently qualified to be POTUS, and that I had hoped could become America's first black President. Now, here I am again with a more ambitious dream: that Condoleeza Rice could become the first black President as well as the first woman President. Please, Lord! Anyone but Obama

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/7/2008 11:30 AM]
8/8/2008 4:28 AM
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Archbishop of Canterbury sees
gay unions comparable to marriage

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones and Martin Beckford

07 Aug 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed that active homosexual relationships are "comparable to marriage" in the eyes of God.

In private correspondence, seen by the Daily Telegraph, Dr Rowan Williams, refutes the Anglican Communion's traditional teaching that homosexuality is sinful.

Furthermore, he expresses his hope that the Church will change its position to be more accepting of gay partnerships.

His comments – made in a letter written shortly before he became Archbishop of Canterbury – will infuriate the conservatives who boycotted the recent Lambeth Conference in protest at the presence of liberals who elected Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop.

Leading evangelicals have claimed that he is in an "untenable position".

"The Bible does not address the matter of appropriate behaviour for those who are, for whatever reason, homosexual by instinct or nature," Dr Williams writes.

"By the end of the 80s I had definitely come to the conclusion that scripture was not dealing with the predicament of persons whom we should recognise as homosexual by nature.

"I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had the about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness."

Although Dr Williams was known to have liberal views on the issue of homosexuality when he was appointed as archbishop in 2002, since moving to Canterbury he has tried to hold a traditional line for the sake of unity in the Church.

However, he makes clear in the letter that he believes that the Church could relax its strict teaching with time.

"The Church has shifted its stance on several matters – notably the rightness of lending money at interest and the moral admissibility of contraception so I am bound to ask if this is another such issue," he says.

"If I am really seriously wrong on this, I can only pray to be shown the truth."

Dr Williams is critical of those who have politicised the issue, "treating it as the sole or primary marker of Christian orthodoxy".

This will be perceived as an attack at conservative Anglican leaders who have since claimed that the Church is split following the consecration of Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire.

Conservative Anglican leaders said that the disclosure of the letter revealed the true mind of Dr Williams and significantly weakens his position as he battles to save the Church from schism.

The Rev Canon Chris Sugden, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream – an orthodox group, said: "Clearly he is in a conflicted situation, while holding these personal convictions with the job description of the Archbishop of Canterbury to uphold the teaching of the church.

"It puts him in an untenable position that he has neither fulfilled the expectations of those who share his beliefs on this matter, to their considerable disquiet, and that his understanding of the concerns of the orthodox has not been met by the appropriate action. It's an impossible situation."

The Most Rev Gregory Venables, a leading Anglican archbishop, said: "It's no secret and no small matter that a significant part of the tension in the Anglican Communion is being played out in the heart of its leader."

Rod Thomas, chairman of the conservative evangelical group Reform, added: "Even if he formally holds to the church's teaching that he personally disagrees with, one cannot but wonder whether his personal views affect the ways in which he tries to resolve difficulties.

"Instead of leading the church out of this crisis, we feel the Archbishop of Canterbury is prolonging it because of his personal unhappiness about disciplining a section of the church with which he personally agrees."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Is anyone really surprised about this? I always half suspected that Williams's inability to put his foot down in terms of affirming Anglican doctrine clearly on contentious points was not that he is a weak and indecisive leader, but because he shares progressive views yet cannot say so openly.

I think this will cause much pain and sorrow to Benedict XVI [it has been written that the Pope finds Williams congenial], not only because Williams's personal convictions appear to defy traditional Christian doctrine but because it makes the rift within the Anglican Communion so much more critical.

Can the traditional Anglican bishops abide staying within a communion whose head is clearly anti-Tradition on some fundamental issues that matter to any traditional Christian? Or will this force the schism that the Anglican Communion appears to have just recently averted?

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/8/2008 4:30 AM]
8/8/2008 6:00 PM
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Remembering Paul VI, the superhuman pope

All Things Catholic by John L. Allen, Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
Friday, August 8, 2008 - Vol. 7, No. 46

A two-part dramatic miniseries on Pope Paul VI is slated for Italian national TV this fall, marking the 30th anniversary of his death in August 1978. Corriere della Sera, Italy's main daily, reports that eight million Euro are being pumped into the project, which is hardly surprising given the mammoth ratings success of earlier miniseries about the popes between whom Paul VI was sandwiched: John XXIII and John Paul II.

Still, the production company is worried, conceding that Paul VI was not a "popular personality" like the other two pontiffs. As a result, unlike the previous bio-epics, which were simply named "John XXIII" and "John Paul II," this time around the producers plan to append an adjective to the pope's name in the title -- otherwise, they fret, the program might not seem "intriguing" enough for the mass market. The problem is that they have yet to settle on the right modifier to capture the essence of Pope Paul, as well as the interest of couch potatoes everywhere.

As fate would have it, Pope Benedict XVI may have inadvertently come to the rescue during his Angelus address last Sunday. Reflecting on the anniversary of Paul VI's death, which fell on Wednesday, Benedict wielded a striking adjective indeed in characterizing his predecessor, who led the church through the storms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and its aftermath: "Superhuman."

"Bit by bit," Benedict said, "as our view of the past expands and our understanding deepens, the merit of Paul VI in presiding over the council, leading it happily to its conclusion, and then governing the turbulent post-conciliar phase, appears ever greater -- indeed, I would say, almost superhuman."

Thus RAI, the Italian national TV network, may have its title: Paolo VI: Il papa sovrumano ("Paul VI, The Superhuman Pope.")

The term seems a fitting act of justice on behalf of Paul VI, who began to be enveloped in neglect almost from the moment of his death. Consider that when John Paul II died, The New York Times devoted a special section to the pope, including an obituary of some 13,500 words; when Paul VI died, his passing merited a lone obit of scarcely more than 1,000 words, which began by characterizing Paul as "not naturally gregarious and innovative" and a "consummate bureaucrat."

The past two weeks have provided fresh confirmation of the point. Last week's 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Paul's encyclical reiterating the church's ban on contraception, triggered a predictable flood of commentary (in which I participated, penning an Aug. 3 op/ed for the Times at the editors' request); the 30th anniversary of Paul's death this week has been met with a fairly deafening silence. In the popular mind, Paul's pontificate has essentially been reduced to its most controversial moment.

Such summary dismissals are terribly unfair to a pope who was among the most consequential, and, in many ways, most admirable Catholic personalities of the 20th century.

Giovanni Battista Montini, who became Paul VI upon his election to the papacy in 1963, was a deeply refined soul. A diplomat by training, Paul VI was fascinated by the church's relationship with culture, including modern science, philosophy, and the arts; in his programmatic encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, released on Aug. 6, 1964, exactly 14 years before his death on the very same date, Paul said he felt a "vocation" to dialogue between the church and the world.

If the key word of the papacy of John XXIII was aggiornamento, bringing the church up to date, and that of John Paul II evangelization, boldly urging Catholicism to "set out into the deep," Paul VI's leitmotif was very much dialogue -- gentle, respectful conversation, never vacillating about the truth of the Christian message, but always open to what he called "the elements of truth in the opinions of others."

Ecclesiam Suam, where the word "dialogue" appears 67 times, ranks among the neglected treasures of recent papal teaching. (One wishes it would draw even a fraction of the scrutiny devoted to Humanae Vitae.) In it, Paul VI laid out his vision of the church's engagement with humanity.

"Theoretically speaking, the church could set its mind on reducing its relationships to a minimum, endeavoring to isolate itself from dealings with secular society; just as it could set itself the task of pointing out the evils that can be found in secular society, condemning them and declaring crusades against them," Paul wrote. "So also it could approach so close to secular society as to strive to exert a preponderant influence on it, or even to exercise a theocratic power over it, and so on."

"But it seems to us," Paul said, using the customary royal plural of the era, "that the relationship of the church to the world, without precluding other legitimate forms of expression, can be represented better in a dialogue."

Paul described this dialogue in terms of four qualities:

Clarity: "Every angle" of one's language should be reviewed to ensure that it's "understandable, acceptable, and well-chosen";
Meekness: "Dialogue is not proud, it is not bitter, it is not offensive. Its authority is intrinsic to the truth it explains, to the charity it communicates, to the example it proposes; it is not a command, it is not an imposition. It is peaceful; it avoids violent methods; it is patient; it is generous."
Trust: One should have confidence "not only in the power of one's words, but also in an attitude of welcoming the trust of the interlocutor. Trust promotes confidence and friendship. It binds hearts in mutual adherence to the good which excludes all self-seeking."
Pedagogical prudence: "Prudence strives to learn the sensitivities of the hearer and requires that we adapt ourselves and the manner of our presentation in a reasonable way, lest we be displeasing and incomprehensible."
The spirit of dialogue, Paul wrote, is friendship and service.

"Before speaking, it is necessary to listen, not only to a man's voice, but to his heart," the pope said. "A man must first be understood; and, where he merits it, agreed with. In the very act of trying to make ourselves pastors, fathers and teachers of men, we must make ourselves their brothers."

Alas, little of this largeness of spirit seems to be remembered today, either in internal Catholic discussion or in those secular realms Paul VI so longed to engage.

Among Catholics, Paul VI looms as the great exception to the normal tendency to put a positive spin on anything a pope says or does. In Paul's case, everybody seems to lead with their favorite beef. Liberals can't forgive Paul for not being John XXIII, forever lamenting his rulings on birth control and women's ordination. Conservatives won't forgive Paul for not being John Paul II, deriding his handling of liturgical reform and his Ostpolitik, a policy of dialogue with Socialist states. Self-styled experts often characterize Paul as a tragic or sad figure, which usually functions as an indirect way of minimizing his accomplishments.

(At the far edge of traditionalist Catholic sentiment, the negative assessment of Paul VI shades off into the truly hysterical. I recently came across a group of Fatima devotees, for example, convinced that Paul VI was secretly deposed in 1972 and replaced by an impostor, because otherwise there's no way to explain the abominations committed in his name. The group operates a Web site displaying side-by-side photos of the pontiff and his alleged doppelganger, along with voice prints, in an effort to document what they call "the deception of the century.")

In secular circles, Paul VI simply never caught on. Here's an anecdote that makes the point. During a CNN production meeting last April to plan our coverage of Benedict XVI's Mass at Yankee Stadium, I suggested that we roll footage of the first papal visit to the home of the Bronx Bombers -- Paul VI in 1965. Can't be done, I was told, because the run-down for the show was already full. Anyway, a young production assistant chimed in, probably fresh from a half-hour of research on Google, "Wasn't he that boring pope between the two interesting ones?"

That may be the judgment of the last forty years, but one doubts it will stand. The French Dominican theologian Yves Congar once predicted as much: "With time, Paul VI will be appreciated," Congar said.

In the meantime, it's an interesting question why Paul has been so often overlooked. There are many possible answers, but here I'll offer just one hypothesis.

In an era in which ideological tribalism has become the dominant mode of social organization, even within the church, it seems to me that Paul VI suffered the fate of anyone not clearly identified with a particular tribe. Because he tried to see the wisdom in all points of view, he had no natural constituency, no "base," to use today's political jargon, and thus no lobby to ride to his rescue when times got tough.

Paul's willingness to resist quick judgment earned him the moniker of the "Hamlet pope," but those who knew Paul insist it wasn't spinelessness or angst, but rather a keen sense of the insufficiency of simple answers.

Paul VI, in other words, was animated by the deeply Catholic instinct to seek both/and solutions to what others saw as either/or problems. The price he paid is that he was never a hero, either in his own time or now, to those who think in either/or terms; he was, instead, a prophet of that "not too numerous center" famously described by the late Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan.

In many ways it was a thankless role, and Paul's fidelity to it over fifteen turbulent years can only seem … well, in a word, superhuman. Let's hope someone at RAI is paying attention.

* * *

Here's the full text of what Pope Benedict XVI had to say about Paul VI during his Aug. 3 Angelus addressed, delivered in Bressanone, in northern Italy, where Benedict is passing a couple of weeks of vacation. Benedict spoke in Italian; the following is my translation.

"Now, dear friends, I invite you to foster together with me a devoted and filial memory of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, since, three days from now, we will recall the 30th anniversary of his death. It was in fact the evening of August 6, 1978, when he rendered his spirit to God; that evening was the feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, the mystery of divine light that always exercised a singular fascination upon his soul. Such a supreme Pastor of the Church, Paul VI guided the People of God toward the contemplation of the face of Christ, Redeemer of humanity and Lord of history. It was precisely the loving orientation of the mind and heart towards Christ which was one of the cardinal points of the Second Vatican Council, a fundamental attitude which my venerated predecessor John Paul II inherited and re-launched in the Great Jubilee of 2000. Christ is always at the center of everything; at the center of Sacred Scripture and tradition, at the heart of the church, of the world and of the entire universe."

"Divine Providence called Giovanni Battista Montini from the Chair of Milan to that of Rome in the most delicate moment of the Council -- when the intuition of Blessed John XXIII was at risk of not taking form. How can we not give thanks to the Lord for his fertile and courageous pastoral activity? Bit by bit, as our view of the past expands and our understanding deepens, the merit of Paul VI in presiding over the Council, leading it happily to its conclusion, and then governing the turbulent post-conciliar phase, appears ever greater -- indeed, I would say, almost super-human. We can truly say, with the apostle Paul, that in him the grace of God 'was not in vain' (1 Cor 15:10); it made the most of his obvious gifts of intelligence and his passionate love for the church and for humanity. As we give thanks to God for the gift of this great pope, let us commit ourselves to treasuring his teachings."

8/9/2008 11:29 AM
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Thirty years after his death,
a look at the 'true personality'
of Paul VI

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2008 (CNA) - In order to mark the 30th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s death on August 6, L’Osservatore Romano published an article describing the true personality of the Pontiff, debunking myths about his supposed sadness and uncertainty portrayed in some media.

Written by Maurizio Fontana, the article cites statements by the president of the Paul VI Institute, Giuseppe Camadini, who explained that it is “true that it was not easy to read and accurately portray the personality of Montini (Paul VI )— which was characterized by an intense, strong and elevated spirituality jealously guarded by him and managed by his unmistakable style of gentleness.”

Camadini went on to note that “perhaps the press at that time did not take into account that Paul VI took the Second Vatican Council ‘by the hand’ after its first session, bringing it to a positive conclusion and promulgating all of the approved documents, dedicating personal attention and precise interventions to the final approval.”

He also pointed out that Paul IV was the first Pontiff “who desired to follow the steps of Christ in the Holy Land and who visited all of the continents for the first time. He is also the Pope of Ecclesiam Suam, Populorum Progressio, Octogesima Adveniens, Evangelii Nuntiandi, just to name a few of his documents.”

In debunking the myth about his supposed sadness, Camadini underscored that Paul VI is “the only Pope to promulgate an apostolic exhortation on joy: Gaudete in Domino, 1975.”

Regarding the Pope’s “uncertainty,” he pointed to the Pontiff’s determination to publish the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was published forty years ago, and which showed his humble and constant submission to the will of the Lord” and his “uninterrupted witness of faith and love for the Church,” Flores said.

The director of the L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, also dedicated his latest editorial to Paul VI, noting that on the night of the Feast of the Transfiguration 30 years ago, “August 6, 1978, in Castel Gandolfo, the 81 years of Paul VI quietly ended.”

“Despite tenacious opposition and grave dissent in the Church, despite the merciless attacks and criticisms (multiplied above all after the Credo of the People of God and after Humanae Vitae), Paul VI never renounced the authentic magisterium, and in reflecting on his pontificate, he declared he had put everything ‘at the service and defense of the truth,’ and therefore he was always willing to defend human life,” Vian underscored.

Vian also noted that Pope Montini acted “out of love of God and love of man, because, as he himself wrote: ‘perhaps our life has no clearer characteristic than the definition of love for our times, for our world, for so many souls we have been able to draw close and will draw close: but in the loyalty and conviction that Christ is necessary and true.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As usual, this news agency reduction of the OR articles does not do justice to the full articles, so I hope that I will have the time this weekend to translate the interview with Camadini in full. I did translate Vian's editorial the day it was posted by the OR in the NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT pages. But there are a couple more other excellent articles on Paul VI from the OR 'mini-specials', particularly a lengthy appreciation written by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

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HongKong bishop explains
his attendance in Beijing

Rome, Aug 8, 2008 (CNA).- Coadjutor Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong explained this week why he decided to accept “with ambivalent sentiments” the invitation of the Chinese government to participate in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

From the bishop’s perspective, the persecution of Catholics by the government is mixed with the joy of having the country host the event.

In an article published in L’Osservatore Romano, Bishop Tong Hon said that as soon as he received the invitation from the government, “I understood I should consult with my superiors. The Holy See did not voice any objections, and Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong encouraged me to go. Therefore I decided to accept.”

He recalled that Pope Benedict XVI expressed his own desire that the Olympic Games in China “would be a great success.”

“However, while the leaders of the six largest religions in Hong Kong were invited to Beijing, only in the case of the Catholic Church was an invitation not sent to the highest authority. I am embarrassed because our government ignored Cardinal Zen and invited me instead,” Bishop Tong Hon said.

He expressed his concern as well that “a number of Catholic leaders are still in jail or under house arrest,” and he mentioned the case of six bishops and many priests and faithful, who “suffer for our Catholic faith and for their fidelity to the Holy Father.”

The bishop said that he hopes someday the Chinese government will give “the same importance to greater religious and social freedom” that they have to cleaning up the pollution in Beijing in anticipation of the Games.

Chinese officials still seem to have a distrust of Chinese Catholics and “feel threatened when we practice our faith,” according to Bishop Tong Hon.

One example he cited was the May 24 Day of Prayer for China, at which police prevented the faithful from entering the Shrine of Sheshan on the outskirts of Shangai.

But not everything is negative, he said, pointing to some signs of openness on the part of the government after the recent earthquake that struck the country. The entire country “was mobilized like one big family to help the victims,” he said.

“The five Olympic rings are known throughout the world,” Bishop Tong Hon said. “I wish China would give the same importance to the five interconnected aspects of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, justice and peace.”

“The Olympic Games show the progress of China,” he continued. “We Christians underscore the spiritual development more. With St. Paul, we like to compare our spiritual journey with a race towards the goal ‘in order to reach the prize that God has prepared for us in Christ Jesus’.”

8/11/2008 11:39 PM
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Anglican bishops back Rowan Williams
on his right to his personal views on gay sex -
even though some don’t agree with him

by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

August 9, 2008

Nineteen bishops in the Church of England came to the defence of the Archbishop of Canterbury last night and his views on gay sex.

The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, who is the Church’s fourth most senior cleric, headed the list of bishops who signed a letter to The Times protesting at the “gross misrepresentation” of Dr Rowan Williams.

The bishops admit that many among them do not agree with Dr Williams’s contention that a same-sex relationship “might . . . reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage”.

But they defend his right to differentiate between his role as theologian and church leader and to uphold “what has been received in faith from scripture and tradition”.

They also defend him against accusations of pragmatism in putting church unity first. The bishops say that his prioritising of church unity over his own beliefs “expresses what Jesus himself taught: the fundamental and deeply biblical teaching on the vital importance of church unity and of working for that unity by humility and mutual submission”.

In an interview with The Times, Dr Wright said last night that bishops were concerned that statements made eight years ago by Dr Williams in private correspondence should not be regarded as news.

He said: “To put it out as news just two days after the Lambeth Conference appears to be trying to scupper the whole Lambeth process. We are insisting that the Lambeth process was a good process and we do not want it to be damaged.”

At the 2½-week Lambeth Conference at Kent University in Canterbury, which ended earlier this week, Dr Williams avoided schism by organising an event with no votes or resolutions. The conference was regarded widely as a success, even though just 617 of the Anglican Communion’s 880 bishops were registered to attend.

African-style indaba conflict resolution meetings helped Dr Williams to move forward in the process of drawing up a central Anglican Covenant, a doctrinal statement of beliefs to which it is hoped that all 38 provinces will be able to sign up.

The conference also agreed a new Pastoral Forum to act as a clearing house for dissident bishops and dioceses and prevent fragmentation over the consecration of gay bishops and the authorisation of same-sex blessings.

Dr Wright said: “At this stage it is very important that we focus on what Lambeth did and not what what happened eight years ago.”

He said Lambeth had been successful in taking forward the Covenant process and the conference had achieved its objectives.

He said: “People can make political capital out of anything. Lambeth was a great achievement and we must build on that.”

However, conservatives continued to criticise the Archbishop. A spokesman for the evangelical lobby Anglican Mainstream said that Dr Williams had failed in his final address to the Lambeth Conference to affirm adequately the uniqueness of Christ.

The spokesman said: “He did not refer to the uniqueness of Jesus’s universal salvific significance. This is the key issue in a religiously plural world. If Jesus is uniquely the son of God, how does this relate to the salvation of those who believe in Him and those who do not?”

The Archbishop also continued to be criticised by liberals who had hoped that his appointment would herald a new inclusivity in Anglican doctrine.

One commenter on the Thinking Anglicans website said that the tone and content of Dr Williams’s letters, published in The Times this week, reminded him of the Archbishop as he was before his translation to Canterbury.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/11/2008 11:46 PM]
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