By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tFor the second time in fourteen months, Benedict XVI has paid homage to a predecessor who quit the papacy after only five months, spurning the power struggles and regal trappings which surrounded it: St. Celestine V, whose pontificate ran from July 5 to December 3 in 1294.
Improbably, Celestine V has emerged as a key point of reference and role model for Benedict XVI – not in the sense of resigning his office, but rather the personal humility, lack of lust for power and glory, and efforts at reconciliation which Benedict associates with his 13th century predecessor.
Those qualities, according to Vatican observers, are at the heart of an “interior reform” Benedict is trying to promote in the church, and perhaps especially in its clerical culture. To the extent that Benedict has an “exit strategy” from the various crises currently plaguing the church and his papacy, this interior reform would appear to be it – and Celestine V, at least informally, is arguably its patron saint.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tIn my “All Things Catholic” column on Friday, I offered a rundown of stories over the last week which shook the Vatican. One item I left off that list, but which deserves to be recorded, was Pope Benedict XVI’s July 1 meeting with German Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg, whose resignation was accepted on May 8.
tMixa resigned amid allegations of physical abuse against children and financial improprieties.
tSenior Vatican sources told me this week that the statement issued after the meeting was almost unique in that, even though it was released by the Vatican Press Office, it was more or less directly written by the pope himself. In effect, the Mixa affair offers a glimpse of Benedict struggling to keep his bishops on the same page in a time of crisis, rather than playing the blame game by pointing fingers at one another.
The wide-lens view of today's New York Times' dig into the dense and logic-defying maze of church law and bureaucracy is the latest needed bit of light shed on a culture that struggles today to find its way clear of the sex abuse crisis.
The interviews with archbishops and bishops and their recollections of the tone of a secret Vatican meeting in 2000 are telling indicators of how aware the Vatican was of the scope of the scandal, of what it could do about it, of its unwillingness to confront the problem and of the ridiculous nature of analyses offered by some at the highest echelons of church governance.
Anyone mildly familiar with church culture – with rectories and seminaries and the workings of the local diocese – was aware that bad actors were being shielded and that victims of sometimes horrific abuse were being marginalized and re-victimized with countersuits and public disparagement.
Stunning article in Friday's New York Times, detailing decades of confusion and delay within the church hierarchy regarding how to deal with the incipient pedophilia problem.
The report focuses on then-Cardinal Ratzinger and his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Throughout the article, local bishops (especially Americans) come across as the central force for facing the crisis head on. They, the Times said, could see the damage at street level, and knew it had to confronted in a far more definitive manner.
"It can wait." That's Iowa Governor Chet Culver's message to drivers, texting behind the wheel. And starting Thursday, it'll have to wait, under Iowa law.
Whether it's weaving, or jerky movements, police say there's no argument: texting while driving is a major danger."
"According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, adults are more likely than teenagers to text while driving, with 47 percent of respondents saying they either send or read messages while at the wheel of a vehicle.
That shockingly high number compares with 34 percent of teens doing the same thing. Pew considers teens as minors aged 16 and 17."
Meanwhile, a recent national study offers the following advice to parents of teens:
tFriday heading into the July 4 weekend seems a good time for a “reporter’s notebook” round-up of footnotes and nuggets from a dramatic week on the Vatican news beat.
For the record, Pope Benedict XVI will spend July 4 on a one-day pastoral visit to the central Italian town of Sulmona, the home of Pope Celestine V, who reigned briefly in 1294 and was canonized in 1313. Sulmona is currently celebrating a “jubilee year” dedicated to Celestine’s 800th birthday, and while Benedict is in town, he will pray before the relics of Celestine in the crypt of the local cathedral. One wonders what will be going through Benedict’s head at that moment; Celestine never wanted to be elected pope, he resigned just five months after his election (without ever entering Rome), and was later tossed into jail where, some believe, he was killed by his successor.
The Crucifix Controversy
This Newsweek headline is shocking and seems to reflect a deeper, psychological component to childhood obesity: Parents are in denial and suffering from what's called the "skewed weight perception" phenomenon.
"The obesity alarm bells are ringing again. A new report out this week finds that more than two thirds of states (38 total) have adult obesity rates above 25 percent—a striking increase since 1991, when no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. Hardest hit: Mississippi, which weighed in at 33.8 percent, followed by Alabama and Tennessee (tied at 31.6 percent), West Virginia (31.3 percent), and Louisiana (31.2 percent).
From June 14-18, 2010, more than 1,000 delegates from seventy countries gathered at Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden, to celebrate media literacy education at the World Summit on Media for Children and Youth. “Celebrate” is my word, and the best way to describe the 180 sessions and enthusiastic networking that happened over the course of five days.
I was part of the SIGNIS, delegation; SIGNIS is the world Catholic organization for communication. SIGNIS has been a part of the World Summit movement since 2004 in Rio, and had a significant presence at the Johannesburg World Summit in 2007 during which Cardinal John P. Foley, then president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, presented a message from Pope Benedict XVI. Alas, there was no message for this year but there was a strong Catholic presence and SIGNIS was one of the sponsoring organizations for the summit meeting.