Monday, June 3

Interesting story in Slate about the Vatican press corps:

But all Vatican reporters have developed strategies for covering one of the world's most secretive institutions. First and foremost, they stick together.

Unlike their Washington counterparts, the pope's press pack seems downright competitive about who can be the most helpful to colleagues: Did you get that full quote? Want to hear it again? Anybody interested in my phoner with Monsignor Such-and-Such?

This is probably not due to the pastoral influence of the Holy Father; the Italian journalistic culture that naturally dominates here encourages a uniformity of thought that goes beyond even the who-we-hate/who-is-great lock step of the Washington press corps. And with so few hard facts available, sharing is a matter of self-preservation. At the Vatican, press pools are set up by a committee of journalists, so if you don't work and play well, you may find yourself in a lonely post outside the pope's early morning mass.

Just this week, one well-known writer was denied entree to the president's meeting with Pope John Paul II. This was his penalty for having tried to turn an interview with a cardinal, poached during pool duty in Armenia a year ago, into an exclusive story. "We have a long memory, and for people who stray, this is the punishment," said one long-time Vatican reporter, who wasn't in on the decision but enthusiastically concurred with it.

Still, traveling with the Vatican press corps is quite a pleasant culture shock after Washington. For one thing, the papal charter is a regular party plane compared to Air Force One. Flight attendants pass out cartons of cigarettes at the beginning of papal trips, rosaries blessed by John Paul at the end—and drinks pretty much throughout.

A number of reporters have been on the beat since the beginning, or near the beginning, of this papacy 24 years ago, and they have been through a lot together. So, for many, watching the pope's decline is much more than just another story.

You know what I'm for?

I'm for a crawl running under EWTN's coverage of the Bishop's meeting in Dallas offering pertinent details about each bishop who's speaking:

Put Archdiocesan policies in place....when forced to do so by an abuse settlement

Shuffled predators in Boston.

Shuffled predators in Boston

Shuffled predators in Boston

(okay, one more)

Shuffled predators in Boston

Intimidated victims in Bridgeport

Appreciates triathletes...

And so on. It would be helpful, yes?

Pete Hamill profiles Shoutin' Bill Donohue in the NY Daily News

In Dallas, he hopes, the bishops will surrender their "almost paranoid" suspicion of the media. "If the media think you're trying to hide something," he says, "they'll keep scratching till they get it. I would, too, if that was my job."

Donohue believes that the behind-closed-doors church secrecy that allowed the problem to fester is actually part of a larger problem.

"The clerical culture that now exists has got to end," he says. "I've long felt that one of the biggest mistakes the bishops have made is to think that their first duty is to their priests. They're absolutely, inherently wrong. Their first duty is to the Catholic Church."

To Catholics like Donohue, the church includes the 63 million Catholics who are served by roughly 47,000 priests.

"The priests are an integral part of it," he says, "but they're not the whole of it." He pauses and gazes into the hazy New York afternoon. "Instead of having the attitude that 'I can't afford to lose a priest,' they should take the attitude, 'I can't afford to keep some of them.'"

That's exactly right. I have to keep asking of these predator-shuffling bishops - Why was it so important to keep these priests in ministry? What were they gaining? What was the point?

Remember how our canon lawyer and I have been talking a bit about annullments? And how I mentioned that when people board the Wedding Train (as in the money-chomping string of cars labeled Reception, Dress, Photographer, Travel Expenses and so on) they find it very difficult to get off if the journey starts to get uncomfortable. Well, Nancy Nall sent me this article, which sort of relates: The Curse of the InStyle Wedding (NYTimes: LRR)

year ago this month, Kelly Rutherford, an actress who starred on "Melrose Place," married Carlos Tarajano, a Venezuelan banker, at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills.

Mr. Tarajano had proposed to Ms. Rutherford with a three-carat emerald-cut diamond ring flanked by tapered baguettes. On her wedding day, the bride wore a Carolina Herrera gown, and 140 wedding guests danced to salsa music in the Sunset Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel until the small hours of the morning.

InStyle magazine featured the wedding in its February 2002 issue. But by the time it arrived on newsstands, complete with gauzy photographs of the couple grinning as they cut the cake, Ms. Rutherford had filed for divorce.

There's a good idea being floated by Georgetown professor Father James N. Gelson. It's described in an article by Tom Tracy in this week's Our Sunday Visitor (I'm linking to the paper, but the article isn't linked.). Gelson suggests that the Church publish banns for bishops. A bann is a public notice of an upcoming event - most commonly associated with weddings. Gelson thinks it would be a nifty idea for the Church to vet some names in public before the actual appointments are made. Oh, I guess I'll just have to type out the pertinent info for you:

"We get bishops appointed out of nowhere, and they themselves don't often know it's coming until the last minute -- when it is too late to turn it down..."

Just as engaged couples announce their wedding banns in newspaper prior to getting married, Father Gelson's idea is that every edition of a Catholic newspaper in the country could have a little box reading, "The apostolic delegate is considering nominating the following men for the rank of bishop. If anyone knows any reason why any of these men should not be elevated to the episcopacy, let him or her speak up now."

See, now this is a good idea. I hope you know that the methods for selecting bishops have varied through history, with everyone from crowds milling about Milan shouting for "Ambrose, bishop!" (when the guy was still only a catechumen) to kings, minor nobility and yes, even the pope taking their turn at making the choices. I don't know many people who would think that straight-out popular election of bishops would be a good idea today, but this strikes me as a very good way to bring more lay involvement in the process and go some distance to prevent problems such as those that have afflicted the diocese of Palm Beach - with two sexual abusers in a row sporting the mitre and crozier down there amid the sun and sand.

Update:Some people (see comments) just don't seem to get this. It's not about voting for bishops. It's about vetting names just in case men with sexual abuse or other serious hidden sins in their past are being considered. Do you people know what happened in Palm Beach? One bishop (Symons) resigned for reasons of sexual abuse, replaced by another (O'Connell) who also had sexual abuse cases in his past, as rector of a minor seminary? Remember?

'Welcome, Instapundit readers!

In this spot, you'll find ruminations theological, cultural, political and a little bit of maternal fretting. For the past five months, I've been using this space to publicly seethe about dishonest and cowardly Catholic clerics, willfully blind laity, and, at the same time, pray for and encourage hope that the dreadful scandal we're enduring will awaken all of us - me included - of our need for Christ.

Oh - and I went to the University of Tennessee, too.

This will really get you going.

There's some discussion down there in the comments on my innocent link to Johansen's review of GBGM, which is all worth reading, especially since the estimable and brilliant Fr. Wilson has honored my blog with his cyberpresence there. But the question I have, raised by ahem...others, is this.

Isn't there a logical flaw in Rose's argument? Let's see how it goes:

If seminaries are full of actively gay guys...

But the only dioceses that have seminarians are those led by "orthodox" bishops...

Wouldn't that mean that the seminarians sponsored by the orthodox bishops have most of the gay guys?

I mean, if the liberal bishops don't have seminarians, that means only the orthodox bishops have them. The seminarians. Who are all supposed to be gay.

Discuss amongst yourselves. Be nice. I'm going to the library.

What a creep.

My least favorite children's author, Philip Pullman, takes aim at C.S. Lewis. Not for the first time, mind you.

The Whitbread prize-winning children's writer Philip Pullman has dismissed his best-selling predecessor CS Lewis as "blatantly racist" and "monumentally disparaging of women".

His wholesale attack on the author of the Narnia books, which have been among the most beloved stories in children's literature for 50 years, came at the Guardian Hay festival which reaches the third of its nine days today.

Pullman, attacked by a rightwing columnist as "the most dangerous author in Britain" and "semi-satanic", is celebrated for a trilogy which deliberately takes an opposite line to CS Lewis's Christian tales. In Pullman's world, the universe is ruled by a senile, viciously sadistic deity who has to be deposed in battle so that its inhabitants can join with angels in creating a "republic of heaven".

His impassioned discussion of imagination, spirituality and the poverty of modern secularism chimed with the themes of a 65-minute lecture given to one of the festival's biggest audiences by the archbishop.

In reply to a question, Pull man told an audience made up largely of children and young people that he had first read the Narnia books when he was a teacher. He added: "I realised that what he was up to was propaganda in the cause of the religion he believed in.

"It is monumentally disparaging of girls and women. It is blatantly racist. One girl was sent to hell because she was getting interested in clothes and boys."

Unfortunately, the article doesn't detail what the archbishop said. I'd have like to have heard that.

Pullman has a hell of a lot of nerve slamming Lewis for writing propaganda, when his books are deeply marred by his atheistic propaganda...portraying God as a sadistic, senile and dying creature isn't propoganda? Doesn't bespeak of an agenda?

For more of me on Pullman, go here.

We'll see....

Bishops will release their proposed policy tomorrow.

Take cover. The Blogs, they'll be a'jumpin.

Thanks to Josh Claybourn down in Bloomington for the kind words!
George Neumayer on the Weakland Apology

Does a burglar who runs his car into a wall deserve a round of applause for stopping? Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland received a long standing ovation last Friday night at a Milwaukee prayer service after he apologized for the "inappropriate nature" of his "relationship with Mr. Paul Marcoux" -- the Marquette graduate student with whom Weakland had sex and then paid off with $450,000 of the faithful's money.

It didn't seem to faze the crowd that Weakland had played them for saps, using their resources as his personal piggy bank, all so that he could retain his power and prestige. Weakland's earlier claim about having paid the money back turns out to be bogus -- an admission he casually inserted into the middle of his mea culpa.

Better late than never: Robert Johansen's review of Goodbye Good Men
Years later, some charge sexual abuse by nuns.
McCormack ignored repeated pleas to let parishes know about abusing priests:

Despite pleas from an alarmed nun who served as his key deputy, Bishop John B. McCormack, now of Manchester, N.H., actively hid from Bay State churchgoers the fact that priests were yanked from parishes amid abuse cases, church files to be released this week indicate.

Among those noted were Revs. Bernard J. Lane, Paul J. Mahan, Paul R. Shanley, Ronald H. Paquin and Ernest E. Tourigney.

McCormack is scheduled to be deposed under oath today. He was Law's secretary for ministerial personnel from 1984 to 1995.

``I know I sound like a broken record,'' the nun, Sister Catherine E. Mulkerrin, said to McCormack in one memo, sources say, ``but we need to put in church bulletins `it has come to our attention a priest stationed here between 19XX and 19XX may have molested children - please contact . . .''

In the case of the priests noted above, and many other accused clerics, such announcements were never made.


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