LETTER FROM ROME: ITALIAN POWER STRUGGLES DAMAGE THE VATICAN’S CREDIBILITY

Today’s must-read story is an incisive piece by Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Acton Institute’s Rome office. Formerly, he worked for the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as an analyst for environmental and disarmament issues and desk officer for English-speaking countries.

LETTER FROM ROME: ITALIAN POWER STRUGGLES DAMAGE THE VATICAN’S CREDIBILITY

“New Year, New Adventures” tweeted my old friend Greg Burke, the now-former director of the Holy See Press Office and papal spokesman, and so it is for the Letter from Rome. I’m pleased to announce that my Acton colleague Fr. Ben Johnson will regularly post my monthly screed on the Religion and Liberty Transatlantic blog. Thank you Fr. Ben!

Since my readership has now expanded beyond our Rome email list, it makes no sense to greet only “friends of Istituto Acton” or close these letters with my signature. In this age of hot takes, I’ll dispense with the formalities and get right to the point.

Even with the boom of social media, what’s new in Rome is an old story. Sandro Magister reports on the “winter campaign” of Pope Francis’s allies against the Secretariat of State that led to Burke’s resignation and other changes in Vatican communications. Sadly, it all rings true to me. Friends at Vatican Radio, L’Osservatore Romano and the Dicastery for Communication have been complaining about a lack of direction and coherence for some time now.

The same goes for changes in other offices of the Roman Curia, including my former place of employment, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which has now been subsumed into a larger structure known as the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. A well-informed cardinal recently told me that these consolidations have resulted in nothing but chaos. Morale among Vatican employees is very low and hopes for any kind of “great reform” are practically nil.

If the problems were limited to the internal workings of the Curia, they would be relatively minor for the universal Church. But with the continuing clerical sexual abuse crisis and high expectations for the February gathering of the leaders of national episcopal conference to do something about it, the dysfunction of the Vatican will likely have serious negative consequences, a heavy cross for all the faithful to bear.

Defenders of Pope Francis’s reforms tend to spread the blame for such dysfunction to the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, which is certainly fair to do, especially since it may well have prematurely ended the reign of one of the Church’s greatest theologians. Add to that charge the fact that the last three popes have all been non-Italians trying to govern an ancient Italian institution. Given the disorder affecting Rome outside the Vatican, is it fair to ask if Italian ways are the source of the problems?

It is an unwelcome, harsh question, asked not only by us foreigners who love Italy but also by Italians themselves. How else to explain the massive numbers of young Italians leaving the country for better opportunities elsewhere? The left-wing and right-wing populists currently trying to govern Italy like to blame things such as the euro zone or the European Central Bank, but the issue may be much deeper and therefore resistant to an Italian Brexit (“Uscitalia”) or policy fix.

The difficulty facing the Vatican today is that the power struggles among Italians are impairing the Church’s ability to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Many of the pope’s allies attack those of us who have been occasionally questioned something he has said or done, failing to realize we have been trying to help not hinder his mission. His recent letter to the US bishops, accusing them of disunity and gossip, is particularly ironic when such vices are common within the Vatican. Is it that difficult for leaders of the Catholic Church to realize that honest disagreements are not masks for the desire to exploit others?

The aforementioned cardinal also told me that only an Italian can properly understand and therefore govern Italians. If that is true, efforts to internationalize the Curia have been doomed from the beginning, and the only solution is to move the Holy See to Geneva or some other truly international but characterless place. Yet part of me still believes what Pope Benedict XVI told a group of German pilgrims just after his election about being an Italianized German, not merely because he has been here a long time but because of what Rome represents.

Italians still look to a “wise man” to solve their problems. They have not learned the truth of Lord Acton’s famous dictum: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute powers corrupts absolutely.” Acton was not a reformer who wanted to destroy and eliminate papal power as such, and neither are those of us who want to see the Vatican change for the better. Like all executives, popes need to know when to limit their authority and let others speak freely. We trust that God knew what He was doing in bringing Saints Peter and Paul, who happened to disagree with each other, to Rome. Their blood became the seed of the Church we love and need today more than ever.

https://acton.org/global/article/2019/01/07/letter-rome-italian-power-struggles-damage-vaticans-credibility?utm_source=ROME+NEWSLETTER&utm_campaign=61d5f1dd36-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_01_07_02_29&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5efb14567a-61d5f1dd36-215171593

ON THAT STRANGE, DISTURBING, AND ANTI-AMERICAN “CIVILTÀ CATTOLICA” ARTICLE

The following article is yet another refutation of the recent article in the Jesuit magazine, Civilta Cattolica, that has led many to write critically about it, often coming to the same conclusion as the title of Samuel Gregg’s piece suggests. I found this riveting on the first reading. A second reading is on my agenda.

Dr. Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has written and spoken extensively on questions of political economy, economic history, ethics in finance, and natural law theory. He is the author of many books, including Becoming Europe (2013) and For God and Profit: How Banking and Finance Can Serve the Common Good (2016).

ON THAT STRANGE, DISTURBING, AND ANTI-AMERICAN “CIVILTÀ CATTOLICA” ARTICLE

It’s curious that whoever signed off on this article (assuming it was properly vetted) at the Secretariat of State didn’t pick up on the authors’ conflation of tangentially related matters, or raise questions about the article’s emotivist tone, or alert Father Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa to their distinctly amateur grasp of American religious history and the finer points of American politics.

Anti-Americanism is as old (if not older) as the American Revolution itself. Like all nations, America has its flaws. But these defects attract disproportionate attention from the rest of the world. This is partly because of the size and worldwide reach of America’s media as well as the United States’ superpower status. On a global scale, the choices made by, say, Argentina and Italy just aren’t as important for international affairs as decisions made by the United States.

Civilta Cattolica – No. 4000

Some of the most insightful analyses of America have been written by non-Americans. The exemplar is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835/1840). Yet despite the scale and intensity of the attention given to the United States, it’s not hard to find articles written by intelligent non-Americans which reflect serious misunderstandings and occasional outright ignorance of the political, economic and cultural currents shaping America.

This brings me to a very odd article that recently appeared in La Civiltà Cattolica: the Italian Jesuit periodical published twice a month and which enjoys a quasi-official status inasmuch as the Vatican’s Secretariat of State exercises oversight over the articles it publishes. Entitled “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism,” its authors Father Antonio Spadaro SJ (Civiltà Cattolica’s Editor-in-chief) and Rev. Marcelo Figueroa (a Presbyterian pastor who is Editor-in-chief of L’Osservatore Romano’s Argentinean edition), make various assertions about specific political and religious trends in the United States: claims which are, at best, tenuous and certainly badly informed.

Consider, for instance, the authors’ analogy between the theological outlook of particular strands of American Evangelicalism and ISIS. As far as I am aware, American self-described fundamentalists are not destroying 2000 year-old architectural treasures, decapitating Muslims, crucifying Middle Eastern Christians, promoting vile anti-Semitic literature, or slaughtering octogenarian French priests. Another questionable contention made in the article is that the Holy Roman Empire was constituted as an effort to realize the Kingdom of God on earth. This particular analysis will come as news to serious historians of that complicated political entity which became, as the saying goes, neither Holy nor Roman nor an Empire.

To read the entire analysis by Samuel Gregg, click here: http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/07/14/on-that-strange-disturbing-and-anti-american-civilta-cattolica-article/

 

PEOPLE MUST BE AT THE CENTER OF ALL ACTIVITY, POPE TELLS G20

It has been a very different, and at many moments difficult, week for me, given the continuing problems with my right ankle, problems that almost pale by comparison to the loss of my very dear friend of 33 years, Joaquin Navarro-Valls. As you know by now – and some of you may well remember – this charismatic and talented Spaniard led the Holy See Press Office for 22 years in an historic and remarkable fashion.

I will pray tribute to him as soon as I can. I have a thousand stories to tell, and have already shared some of them on radio.

Family and friends were able to pay tribute to Joaquin as of 4 pm yesterday in the basilica of Sant’Eugenio in Rome. This is also where his funeral took place this morning at 11. A pain almost larger than learning of his death was what I felt at being unable to go to eiether event to say my final arrivederci and grazie.

I’ve spent most mornings and part of one afternoon this week (and many of the preceding weeks) at the Vatican’s health care center, seeing doctors and having additional tests to determine the specific nature (we have no idea of the cause) of the infection in my right ankle. The final test and final visit to a specialist in infections determined that the best option is several days in a hospital with antibiotics administered under medical supervision, given that I normally have very severe allergic reactions to antibiotics.

I’ve been working with my insurance company but do not know, as I write, when I will be admitted. Hopefully I will have to post a note here when that day comes.

The hardest part of my ankle problem has been having to cancel a one week Danube River cruise with my sister! We have never gone on a vacation together! We’ve had family vacations, etc, but never just the two of us! We consider it just postponed, not cancelled. (My advice to travellers, by the way, never say ‘no’ to travel insurance!)

Work has been beneficial for me and I’ve enjoyed doing “Catholic Connection” with Teresa Tomeo, preparing my twice weekly contributions to “At Home with Jim and Joy,” and posting some items on this page. Sitting on my sofa with my laptop (on my lap) has been workable.

VATICAN INSIDER this weekend, however, has been prepared by my radio colleagues given that I simply did not have the time this week to dedicate to the three segments – News, the Q&A and the weekly interview. You will hear “The best of” with Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Action Institute’s Rome office. We talk about the mission and work of the Institute but our focus was principally on one of our favorite people and friends, the late, great Michael Novak, and his impact on the world, on Acton and on our personal lives.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

PEOPLE MUST BE AT THE CENTER OF ALL ACTIVITY, POPE TELLS G20

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Message to the participants in the G20 meeting taking place in Germany July 7-8. The Message is addressed to the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and details what the Holy Father recognizes as four principles of action for the building of fraternal, just and peaceful societies: time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas; and the whole is greater than the part.

To Her Excellency Mrs Angela Merkel Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Following our recent meeting in the Vatican, and in response to your thoughtful request, I would like to offer some considerations that, together with all the Pastors of the Catholic Church, I consider important in view of the forthcoming meeting of the G20, which will gather Heads of State and of Government of the Group of major world economies and the highest authorities of the European Union.  In doing so, I follow a tradition begun by Pope Benedict XVI in April 2009 on the occasion of the London G20.  My Predecessor likewise wrote to Your Excellency in 2006, when Germany held the presidency of the European Union and the G8.

In the first place, I wish to express to you, and to the leaders assembled in Hamburg, my appreciation for the efforts being made to ensure the governability and stability of the world economy, especially with regard to financial markets, trade, fiscal problems and, more generally, a more inclusive and sustainable global economic growth (cf. G20 Leaders Communiqué, Hangzhou Summit, 5 September 2016).  As is evident from the Summit’s programme, such efforts are inseparable from the need to address ongoing conflicts and the worldwide problem of migrations.

In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the programmatic document of my Pontificate addressed to the Catholic faithful, I proposed four principles of action for the building of fraternal, just and peaceful societies: time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas; and the whole is greater than the part.  These lines of action are evidently part of the age-old wisdom of all humanity; I believe that they can also serve as an aid to reflection for the Hamburg meeting and for the assessment of its outcome.

Here is full text of Pope Francis’ Message, in its official English translation; http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/07/07/pope_francis_message_to_g20/1323678

VATICAN INSIDER: THE ACTON INSTITUTE AND MICHAEL NOVAK – POPE FRANCIS MAKES HISTORIC CHANGE IN CORPUS CHRISTI FEAST

VATICAN INSIDER: THE ACTON INSTITUTE AND MICHAEL NOVAK

Join me this weekend on Vatican Insider for Part II of my conversation with Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Acton Institute’s Rome Office. We talk briefly about the mission and work of the Institute but this week’s focus is principally on one of our favorite people and friends, the late, great Michael Novak, and his impact on the world, on Acton and on our personal lives. Part I aired last weekend.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

POPE FRANCIS MAKES HISTORIC CHANGE IN CORPUS CHRISTI FEAST

It is subtle and has come without an official explanation – so far.

Pope Francis has moved the traditional celebration in Rome of the feast of Corpus Christi, known as Corpus Domini here, from Thursday to the following Sunday this year. The traditional Mass and procession from St. John Lateran to St. Mary Major along Via Merulana will now take place on Sunday, June 18.

An article in the online Italian language journal, FarodiRoma (Rome’s Lighthouse), cited by Aleteia, calls the news “an unprecedented move” by Pope Francis.

The editors explain in their article on Corpus Christi that one of the reasons seems to be Pope Francesco’s desire to attract more people to this annual Mass and procession.

I follow the papal calendar month by month by going to the Prefecture of the Papal Household (where people get tickets for papal events: http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/en/biglietti_en.html) and, for liturgical ceremonies, to Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff (http://w2.vatican.va/content/liturgy/en.html

I wanted to verify the new date for this feast but could not find a calendar beyond April. I was advised to go to the prefecture site, to the upper right corner where, in very small letters, a hard to see white on gray, appears the word ‘Audiences’. It’s actually a misnomer because when you click on it you see audiences, the Angelus, liturgies, etc. – it probably should be named Agenda 2017.

There it is: JUNE 2017 – Sunday 18, Corpus Domini Mass and Procession at 19:00 in St John Lateran Square (no tickets required)

It does not mention Via Merulana or St. Mary Major but I suppose that’s a given – at least to Romans who know this tradition well.

Let’s see if and when the change is explained. Will Pope Francis issue a bull to change that of Pope Urban IV? Urban wished to honor the Eucharist and, in August 1264, wrote the Bull Transitus, ordering Corpus Christi to be celebrated annually on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Urban died on October 2, 1264.

Urban IV with Saints Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas –

Following is a piece I wrote a few years back and publish every year on the feast of Corpus Christi:

One of the most evocative liturgical celebrations of the year in Rome is the feast of Corpus Christi. Dating back to 1246, this solemnity is marked by an evening papal Mass on the esplanade at St. John Lateran Basilica and a Eucharistic procession along Via Merulana to St. Mary Major Basilica where the Pope imparts his blessing. This feast is celebrated in many beautiful, similar ways in dioceses throughout the world.

Via Merulana, originally called Via Gregoriana, was laid out by Pope Gregory XIII during the Holy Year 1575. Among Pope Gregory’s achievements: He reformed the calendar, founded the papal observatory, as well as several colleges and seminaries, including the Gregorian university, and built the quirinale palace, for years the summer residence of Popes and now home to the president of Italy.

The procession between the two basilicas began in the 1400’s. Its current itinerary began in 1575 when Gregory XIII built Via Merulana, and this route was followed for more than 300 years until the procession fell into disuse. John Paul II revived this custom in 1979. The feast of Corpus Christi is due in part to the visions of a 13th century Augustinian nun, Julianna of Lièges, known for her devotion to the Eucharist.

In one vision, Our Lord appeared to Julianna, reminding her that there was no solemnity honoring the Blessed Sacrament, and she began to promote such a feast.

Pope Urban IV, who also wished to honor the Eucharist, wrote a Bull in 1264 ordering Corpus Christi to be celebrated annually on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday

(JFL: The “lighthouse” in the journal’s name (which also publishes pieces in Spanish) refers to the lighthouse on the Janiculum hill that rose where the battles took place for the defense of the Roman Republic of 1849, and dominates Italy’s capital with its 20-meter height. The monument’s construction was financed by the Italian community in Argentina to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Italy’s unification in 1911, just over a century before the arrival of an Argentinian to the papacy, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis.)