A few days ago I went on to Huffington Post to find that the lead story was about the effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on baby sea turtles. I never got to the article. Instead I stared at a sea turtle that had been doused in oil and was now fighting for its life. Then I did what I have worked hard to avoid as I've followed the coverage of the spill: I wept. The grief was unbearable as I gazed at the tiny creature, a wondrous manifestation of God's creation.
The common wisdom holds that Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna was roundly reubuked when he went to see Pope Benedict XVI in Rome last week for a meeting that ultimately included Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom he had strongly criticized in earlier comments.
But as long time church observer Christa Pongratz-Lippit tells it in a commentary in The Guardian, communiques from the Vatican often reveal more in what isn't said than what is stated. She writes from Vienna that Schoenborn, who has come out in some surprisingly frank and pointed comments urging ecclesial reform and highly critical of the church's handling of the sex abuse crisis, remains unapologetic about his remarks.
"All over Houston, in an unusual display of ecumenical solidarity on an explosive issue, scores of pastors, priests, rabbis and ministers used their sermons on Independence Day to promote the cause of fixing a broken immigration system.
The coordinated effort was part of a broad-based campaign begun in January by an interfaith group, the Metropolitan Organization, to lobby Congress to pass an immigration overhaul package this year. The group has collected 12,000 signatures to be sent to lawmakers and has organized workshops to persuade churchgoers to support their effort.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tIn the latest chapter of the Vatican’s attempt to come to grips with the sexual abuse crisis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is expected to release a set of changes to the church’s rules for meting out ecclesiastical discipline against abuser priests sometime in the next few days.
tVatican sources caution, however, that the revisions are largely a matter of consolidating existing practice, rather than a dramatic new approach to how sex abuse cases are handled.
There has been one update to this story: Vatican to heighten women's ordination sin level
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.