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.
In a massive downsizing, the Cleveland diocese is shuttering 50 parishes due to financial problems, lack of priests and a lack of practicing Catholics. What a mess. And what a trauma to all Clevelanders, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
Ross Douthat, the designated conservative New York Times columnist, is a refreshing presence, often reminding me of my more traditional roots.
In the latest Atlantic he states flatly that the "Catholic Church is Finished," positing its collapse on the immensity of the Watergate-like sex abuse scandal. Douthat infers that the damage is so immense that the church's "big story" has become a tough sell.
The trouble he cites takes place, of course, within a culture increasingly influenced by a scientific mentality that relies on a kind of skepticism that makes Christian claims less marketable.
Douthat's succinct verdict generally sounds right to me and can be debated by others. My concern is that the concept of "sex scandal" needs to be expanded to include the church's treatment of women.
The two scandals, one involving clergy abusing children, and the other, Catholicism's relegation of women to subservience, are rarely linked by those who comment on the current crisis. But I think there's good reason to do so.
The New York Times columnist and Atlantic writer Ross Douthat gives the necessary nod to historical perspective(for those inclined to think the sex abuse crisis might sink the church) in a blog entry before coming to the following dire conclusion about the Catholic Church in Europe:
"But if the Church isn’t finished, period, it can still be finished for certain people, in certain contexts, in certain times. And so it is in this case: for millions in Europe and America, Catholicism is probably permanently associated with sexual scandal, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as in many previous dark chapters in the Church’s history, the leaders entrusted with that gospel have nobody to blame but themselves."
I have the same point of view when it comes to the crisis and what it might portend for the future. Consequently I find it curious that Pope Benedict would seek redemption for the institution in part through a new liturgical movement, as explained here by John Allen .
As John Allen reported yesterday (Triumph of theologians over diplomats in Vatican) Pope Benedict XVI today appointed Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel, Switzerland, as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Koch succeeds Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has reached retirement age.
Here is the first reaction I have seen to Kasper's resignation: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said:
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tSometime soon, the Vatican is expected to release a motu proprio, meaning a legal document under the pope’s authority, which will transfer responsibility for an aspect of marriage law from one Vatican office to another. Though it will probably fly below the public radar, the document provides a glimpse into Pope Benedict XVI’s approach to liturgy, meaning how the church celebrates the Mass and its other rituals.
tSpecifically, Benedict is expected to encourage the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Vatican's office for liturgical policy, to focus on promoting what he describes as a “new liturgical movement." The obvious question, of course, is what exactly he means by that.
Bishop Walter Mixa, the German bishop who resigned amid accusations of physical abuse, sexual harassment and alcoholism met with Pope Benedict XVI this morning.
The Associated Press reported that Benedict laid out the terms for Mixa's rehabilitation and that Mixa, 69, again apologized for his mistakes.