SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) —
The former archbishop of San Francisco, who was once the highest-ranking American in the Catholic Church, is speaking this morning about the upcoming papal election. Cardinal William J. Levada will be taking part in the process.
Cardinal Levada has known Pope Benedict XVI since the early 1980s, when the pope was known as Cardinal Ratzinger. Levada said he will meet with the pope Thursday morning for a farewell and he expects it to be very emotional for him.
When the pope was known Cardinal Ratzinger he chose Levada to replace him as the Prefect of the Congregation. Then when he was Pope Benedict XVI he elevated Levada to cardinal in 2006.
Cardinal Levada retired last year and said he never thought he would be part of a conclave. Levada said the pope’s resignation surprised him. The cardinal plans to leave for Rome tomorrow and said even if you are not Catholic he asks that you keep him in your thoughts.
“I will be the first former archbishop of San Francisco to have the privilege and solemn duty. To exercise it well I rely on the prayers of all the faithful of the church. I also ask the prayers of my brothers and sisters in other Christian communities. Jesus has assured us that the prayers we pray to god will receive a response. I ask as well the good will and prayers of the whole community with this important moment in the history of the Catholic Church,” said Levada.
The conclave is not without controversy; Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien will not participate in the papal election. There are reports that he made unwanted sexual advances towards priests in the 1980s. O’Brien denies the allegations, but said he does not want to be a distraction. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is under pressure to skip the conclave because of accusations he covered up for a pedophile priest. A source from the Catholic Church said Mahony is already on his way to Rome and won’t excuse himself.
Also the new pope will get to see the results of a potentially explosive report about leaks from the Vatican. Italian newspapers say the report detailed evidence of corruption, blackmail and a gay sex ring — all factors they point to as one reason for Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.
The Vatican denied the reports and said only two people, Benedict and his successor will be able to view the actual findings. The pope met today with the three cardinals who did the top secret investigation to say he was satisfied with it.
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My seminary classmate finally realized that our theological debate was over and she was defeated. In her frustration she sputtered, “You … you … Ratzinger!”
It was the nicest thing anyone ever said to me during my seminary training. I told her so. She laughed. I think of that incident almost every time Benedict XVI comes to mind.
The attempted insult was to associate my religious conservatism with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Cardinal Ratzinger had been the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for about nine years and was an anethema to religious progressives far and wide. It’s useful to recall that office of the Curia headed by Ratzinger was formerly known as the Inquisition. In fact, before the Catholic agency was renamed, Fr. Ratzinger would have been known as the inquisitor general rather than Prefect.
Joseph Ratzinger was a perfect choice to monitor the orthodoxy of the Catholic faith. He was a well-established scholar and theologian. As of this year he has written 66 books, about a book every year since he was ordained to the priesthood. I have several in my library. His recent trilogy, Jesus of Nazareth, is required reading for a fully functional Christian, regardless of denomination.
Now known to history as Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger is a product of the world’s greatest institutional meritocracy. The modern Roman Catholic Church only puts the best and brightest on the Throne of Peter. Benedict XVI, like his predecessor, the blessed John Paul II, were some of the most dazzling lights in the Christian world of our time.
When John Paul II appointed Ratzinger to head the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was a clear signal to Roman Catholics, and the world, that the historic orthodoxy of Catholic belief was what had worked for two millennia, and was going to continue.
In 2005 the College of Cardinals apparently agreed and elected Ratzinger as John Paul II’s successor to the papacy. In two terms of the papacy the course of Roman Catholicism has been set for at least 50 years, perhaps a century. Chances are the College of Cardinals will repeat this affirmation with their choice of the next Pope.
Ah, the next pope.
Well, the old saying to affirm the obvious, “Is the Pope Italian?” has pretty much disappeared from use because a Pole and German have guided the Roman Catholic Church for the past generation. And chances are another non-Italian will succeed Benedict XVI.
The array of candidates for the next pope, called “papabile,” is impressive. There are a couple of Italians and a couple of Americans on the short list. The typical commentator will presume that a Yankee pope is improbable because it would just create another venue for American dominance. Fortunately, the College of Cardinals will be listening to the Holy Spirit rather than pundits, so we’ll see.
What is likely to happen is a continuation of the geographical transition. The first step was moving from Italian popes to leaders from other European countries (Poland and Germany). The geographical transition could be more striking this time with a pope from Africa or Asia.
The Asian papabile is Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines. At 55 he’s three years younger than John Paul II when he ascended the throne of Peter. Tagle is young-looking, too. So much so that when he was nominated to be a cardinal, John Paul II had to be reassured by the then-Cardinal Ratzinger that Tagle had received his first communion.
The most mentioned African papabile is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. In fact, British bookies are offering four to one odds in favor of his election. Unlike pundits who are merely paid to have an opinion, a bookmaker makes a living having the right opinion most of the time. So, the oddsmakers predictions about the future leadership of the Roman Catholic Church would have to be taken seriously.
Day after tomorrow Benedict XVI will clock in his last day as pope. There are at least a dozen wise and holy men who can succeed him.
They have been prepared by a lifetime of ministry for this moment. No country in the world has the population of the membership of the Roman Catholic Church. The office of the papacy is the largest leadership challenge on the planet.
Contrary to what the secular media and pop culture say, a competition or even a conflict between modern science and the Catholic faith doesn’t exist.
“In our culture, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the relationship between faith and science,” said Chris Baglow, professor at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. “The Church has excellent guidance to give us on how to appreciate the harmony between them. She doesn’t replace one with the other. Instead, she brings them into dialogue.”
To demonstrate the harmony of the two disciplines to Catholic high-school science and religion faculty, Baglow developed the Steno Learning Program in Faith and Science.
Sponsored by the Pope Benedict XVI Institute for Faith, Ethics and Science of McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, Ala., and funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the program’s mission statement states that the program seeks to “educate science and religion teachers from Catholic high schools throughout the U.S. regarding the relationship that exists between the Catholic faith and scientific inquiry/discovery from historical, philosophical and theological perspectives.”
The seminar has been offered the past few summers. The program takes place this year June 16-22 at St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, La. (Interested teachers can apply online; the deadline is March 1. For more information, visit the website.)
The program is named for Blessed Nicholas Steno (also known as Niels Stensen), who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988 (his feast day is Dec. 5).
Modern science is indebted to Blessed Steno, who lived in the 1600s, for his significant contribution to four branches of science: anatomy, paleontology, geology and crystallography. He is known for his work on heart and muscle structure, brain anatomy and embryology. Four parts of the body are named after him, including Stensen’s duct, Stensen’s gland, Stensen’s vein and Stensen’s foramina. In addition, he was the first person to hypothesize seriously that the history of the world could be recovered from the layers of the earth, making him the founder of the science called stratigraphy.
Blessed Steno converted from Lutheranism to Catholicism after witnessing a Corpus Christi procession in Italy. He became a priest, and then, shortly afterwards, he was elevated to bishop.
In his life and career, he embodied the relationship between faith and science.
“He ended his last public lecture as a scientist with the following aphorism: ‘Beautiful is what we see; more beautiful is what we comprehend; most beautiful of all is what we do not comprehend’ — namely, the absolute mystery of God,” said Baglow.
The chaplain for this year’s program is Father Peter Stravinskas, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation and the editor of The Catholic Response Magazine.
“As a lifelong teacher, I have always been concerned that our students realize that there is no conflict between science and theology,” said Father Stravinskas. “As a matter of fact, one serves the other. For example, the Church’s position on abortion is bolstered on the findings of modern science. If practitioners of both disciplines are seeking the truth, then they’re going to come to the same conclusions.”
What About Galileo?
One of the main goals of the program is to set the record straight on the Galileo affair. Included in the reading requirements is the book The Essential Galileo, which includes original writing from Galileo as well as the notes from his trials before the Inquisition.
“There is an amazing moment when I have one of the science teachers read Galileo’s condemnation out loud and then ask the group to respond to what they’ve heard,” said Baglow. “Then the same teacher reads out loud the words of John Paul II, who said, ‘Galileo, a sincere believer, showed himself to be more perceptive in this regard than the theologians who opposed him.’ It becomes clear that Galileo is the exception and not the rule in the relationship between faith and science.”
Seminar participants also read and discuss Modern Physics and Ancient Faith by Stephen Barr, Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved by Matt Rossano and the writings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, among other works.
Now in its third year, the program has gained enthusiastic praise.
Jeremy Reuther, director of campus ministry at Jesuit High School in New Orleans, attended the program in 2011. He said the program helped him to better address the nuances in the relationship between faith and science, particularly in regards to creation, biological evolution and interpreting Scripture.
“It made me more competent at putting together a lesson plan that speaks to the questions students have,” Reuther explained.
Brother John Bayer, a theology teacher at Cistercian Preparatory School in Irving, Texas, attended the seminar last year, which he found to be “a stimulating, inspirational and informative seminar about one of the most important catechetical issues of our time … to help … colleagues and students tap into the rich and fruitful ‘dialogue’ between science and theology that is taking place right now in the Catholic Church.”
He added, “Personally, I profited immensely both as a teacher and as a Catholic, and I know from the conversations taking place amongst my colleagues that my school has profited as well.”
Benedict XVI’s Perspective
Pope Benedict XVI has discussed faith and science during his pontificate. In his Nov. 21, 2012, general audience, he noted: “Faith and reason are meant to work together in opening the human mind to God’s truth. By its nature, faith seeks understanding, while the mind’s search for truth finds inspiration, guidance and fulfillment in the encounter with God’s revealed word.
“Far from being in conflict, faith and science go hand in hand in the service of man’s moral advancement and his wise stewardship of creation. The Gospel message of our salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, offers us a true humanism, a ‘grammar’ by which we come to understand the mystery of man and the universe. In this Year of Faith, may we open our minds more fully to the light of God’s truth, which reveals the grandeur of our human dignity and vocation.”
Said Baglow, “This kind of harmony and the ability of science to stimulate theological reflection, as well as the ability of faith to keep science from becoming closed in upon itself and to avoid trying to answer all of the great questions about life and the universe — this is what the SLP is all about.”
Lori Chaplin writes from Idaho.
Hours before Cardinal Roger Mahony was scheduled to fly to Rome for the papal conclave, a Catholic organization delivered a petition Saturday to the church where he lives, urging the former archbishop to relinquish his role in selecting the next pope due to his role in helping conceal priest abuse. Mahony, who was also delivering a deposition Saturday, left for Rome to vote for the next pope later that day.
Catholics United presented the petition with nearly 10,000 signatures to a staff member at St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood.
“Cardinal Mahony, please stay home from the papal conclave and help bring healing to your people,” said Catholics United communications director Chris Pumpelly, adding that Mahony’s presence would “only bring clouds of shame in a time that should bring springs of hope.”
The Los Angeles archdiocese stripped Mahony of his public duties last month after internal church records indicated that he had conspired to hide evidence of clergy child molestation from authorities. Despite his rebuke, Mahony remains a priest in good standing and is one the 117 cardinals eligible to elect Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.
Before his departure for Rome, Mahony gave a closed-door deposition Saturday regarding his handling of clergy sex abuse. It was focused chiefly on the case of Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, a priest suspected of molesting as many as 26 children before fleeing to Mexico in 1988. This was Mahony’s first time discussing the scandal in court since the L.A. Archdiocese was forced by a court to release the documents that linked him to the scandal.
Catholics United was joined by representatives from the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in calling on Mahony to sit out the papal election.
“He’s sending the wrong message, that everything is fine and he can do whatever he wants,” said Virginia Zamora, clutching an old first communion photo of her son Dominic on the lap of his abuser, Father Michael Baker.
In 1986, Baker confessed to Mahony that he had molested two boys. Mahony worked to conceal Baker’s crimes and keep him in ministry. Authorities say Baker abused 23 children during his career.
SNAP’s regional director Joelle Castiex said that victims of clergy abuse and all Catholics should be appalled by Mahony’s participation in the upcoming conclave.
“Seeing him being able to go to the conclave is a slap in the face to every victim who was sexually abused here,” said Castiex, who was abused by a priest as a child. “It’s a slap in the face to every Catholic who wants a pope who will do their best to protect the most innocent and vulnerable around us.”
There have been concerned whispers over Mahony’s involvement from within the church hierarchy as well. Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, a Vatican official, described Mahony’s involvement in the conclave as a “troubling situation.”
Mahony showed no signs before leaving that he would heed the mounting pleas to stay home. On Friday, he tweeted, “Just a few short hours from my departure for Rome,” soliciting prayers. In a series of blog posts, he wrote about “the acceptance of being scapegoated” and the “humiliation” endured by Jesus Christ.
“It’s stomach-turning,” said Manny Vega, a victim of childhood abuse by a Catholic priest. “In his blogs, never do you see anything written about the victims. It’s all about poor me, poor me.”
Catholics United’s Pumpelly said Mahony isn’t the only Catholic leader facing scandal. He urged other cardinals “with a scandal on their conscience” to recuse themselves from the conclave as well. Philadelphia’s Justin Rigali and Ireland’s Sean Brady were involved in similar scandals, heading to Rome after allegedly helping cover up abuse.
“We have made our voice very clear, that there are Catholics in the pews who are hurting — and they would prefer that he stay home,” said Pumpelly. “At this point, it’s on his conscience.”
This story is one in an occasional series of reports by students taking part in a class of the USC Annenberg Knight Program on Media and Religion, headed by Diane Winston. Thanks to a grant from the Luce Foundation, Annenberg students have covered global religion, culture and politics for the past four years. This year’s journalism class is headed to Ireland and Northern Ireland for 10 days in March and, in preparation, its students are covering Los Angeles’ Catholic communities. The nine students are a mix of undergraduates, second year grad students and mid-career professionals. View more stories.
(Vatican City, VAT) – Pope Benedict XVI delivered an emotional final Sunday prayer in St Peter’s Square, saying God had told him to devote himself to quiet contemplation but pledging not to “abandon” the Church.
Tens of thousands of supporters turned out for Benedict’s weekly Angelus prayer, his last ahead of his formal resignation on Thursday, often interrupting him with clapping, cheering and chanting.
“The Lord is calling me to climb the mountain, to dedicate myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church,” the pope said from the window of his residence in the Vatican, his voice breaking with emotion.
“If God is asking me to do this it is precisely so I can continue to serve with the same dedication and love as before but in a way that is more appropriate for my age and for my strength.”
The pope thanked the crowd with a final unscripted call, telling them: “We will always be close!”
The 85-year-old leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics said earlier this month he will be stepping down because he lacks the strength to carry on in an announcement that shocked the world.
He is the first pope since the Middle Ages to resign.
The final days of his pontificate however are being overshadowed by scandal over two cardinals — one accused of covering up paedophile abusers and the other accused of “inappropriate acts” — who are set to take part in the conclave to elect his successor.
That did not deter an estimated 100,000 people from coming out to bid the pope a final farewell on Sunday — many times more than usually attend the traditional event in St Peter’s Square.
“Holy Father, We Love You” read one banner, while others said: “Thank You, Your Holiness” and “Dear Father, We’ll Miss You”.
“I have come to support the pope and to ask for his blessing,” said Joao-Paulo, a 26-year-old seminarian from Brazil.
Birgit Marschall, 37, a teacher from Germany, said: “He is an intellectual who speaks in simple language, who writes what we have in our hearts.”
Claire Therese Heyne, a 34-year-old theology student from the United States, said the pope “must have had a very strong reason” to leave.
“It is an act of courage and humility,” she said.
Benedict will be only the second pope to resign of his own free will in the Church’s 2,000-year history.
But Gianpaolo, 33, said Benedict had been “less courageous” than his predecessors, and stressed the need for major reforms.
“The Church has to have a major reflection after this resignation. Something has changed inside the Church and this decision reflects this,” said Gianpaolo, who came with his two sons.
— ‘Completely false news stories’ –
Forty-five-year-old Linda from Wales said: “He was not so open as the last popes before him. A new pope should be more open to people, to new ideas.”
There was tight security in and around the Vatican, with more than 100 police officers and snipers on surrounding rooftops, as well as two field clinics and hundreds of volunteers to help pilgrims.
The event was being seen as preparation for the pope’s final general audience in St Peter’s on Wednesday where around 200,000 people are expected.
Following his resignation announcement, some Italian media have said that Benedict’s health may be worse than has been revealed, and others have said an explosive report on intrigue, corruption and blackmail in the Vatican was to blame.
The Vatican’s Secretariat of State — the government of the Catholic Church — took the unusual step on Saturday of issuing a statement condemning “completely false news stories” as an attempt to influence the vote of cardinals.
The upcoming conclave is also under a cloud over allegations that one of the 117 “cardinal electors” — US clergyman Roger Mahony — had covered up for paedophile priests for years in Los Angeles.
Another cardinal, Britain’s Keith O’Brien, has been reported to the Vatican over claims of inappropriate behaviour by four people, the Observer newspaper reported on Sunday.
The Vatican said the pope was considering the case.
John Allen, a Vatican expert at the National Catholic Reporter, said current discussions on sexual abuse by priests showed “how enormously damning this scandal has been for the Church.”
“Even at the most awesome moment in the life of the Church, even then, this scandal rears its ugly head,” he said, referring to the papal conclave.
The Vatican has said Benedict will retire to the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo near Rome for the next two or three months while a former monastery inside the Vatican is renovated for his use.
Vatican sources said he is likely to retain the title of “His Holiness” — an unprecedented move — and will also be known under the previously unheard-of title of “Bishop Emeritus of Rome”.
In Catholic theology the pope, as the successor of Saint Peter, is the bishop of Rome.
Louisville, Ky. (WDRB) — Pope Benedict XVI gave his final Sunday blessing from his studio window to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s square.
That final Sunday Angelus comes with a new controversy that is rocking the Vatican. Italian media reports the reason the Pope is stepping down is because he learned about a network of gay priests at the Vatican and the church is being blackmailed. The same reports also suggest the Vatican is involved in stealing money.
According to one Italian newspaper, these are the findings of a secret investigation by three cardinals assigned to look into wrongdoing at the Vatican. They were submitted to Pope Benedict in December.
The Vatican is blasting the media for what it says are false and defamatory news reports ahead of the conclave to elect Pope Benedict’s successor.
Amid all the controversy, Catholic parishioners in Louisville are reacting to the pope’s exit. Some explained the direction they think the church should take. Many called it a bittersweet holy day as Pope Benedict delivers his final Sunday prayer this morning.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics says he no longer has strength of mind and body to carry on, so his last day will be Feb. 28. At least a hundred thousand people came to hear Pope XVI’s final Sunday Prayer at the Vatican. His exit comes after eight years of dominating the priest’s abuse scandals and his efforts to counteract rising secularism in the West. Local Catholic parishioners seemed saddened to hear about recent reports and rumors circulating, but had nothing but good things to say about Pope Benedict’s leadership. Members commend him for his services and say they realize the time has come.
“I am pleased with his service as a pope,” said parishioner Fran Welsh.
“I am obviously a little sad and dismayed with all that’s gone but nonetheless I think he has made enormous contributions to the church and to the world in total.”
Other members of the parish echoed the same sentiment toward the resignation.
“I think he has done a good job,” said parishioner Dennis Wiggins.
“He is not feeling well and it is time to step down.”
The process of electing a new pope belongs to the Cardinals. Around 120 under the age of 80 are eligible to enter the secretive conclave to elect Pope Benedict’s successor.
Church rules say the conclave has to start between 15-20 days after the papacy becomes vacant in just four days.
Benedict is the second pope to resign of his own free will in the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church. He is the first to do so since the Middle Ages.
Copyright 2013 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
Some troubling news about the possible reasons behind Pope Benedict’s resignation is breaking in Italy. Look for my report in a special edition of this newsletter this weekend.
I wasn’t trying to string readers along; I was still trying to make sense of the story published in the major Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica on Thursday, February 21. Too many things didn’t add up—and, frankly, I didn’t want them to add up.
By now, you have probably read a version of the story: In April 2012, Pope Benedict XVI had commissioned three cardinals, all over the age of 80 (an important detail, because it means that none would be able to vote in a future papal conclave), to prepare a report on the state of the Holy See. The cardinals presented the report to the Holy Father on December 17, 2012. There is only one copy, and it is in the possession of Pope Benedict.
Those are the facts that have been verified by the Press Office of the Holy See. But the La Repubblica story goes much further, making claims about the way in which the investigation was conducted, the contents of the report, and—most explosively—the role that the report may have had in convincing Pope Benedict to resign the papacy.
I first became aware of the report on Thursday morning, when I received the daily bulletin from the Vatican Information Service. Under the headline “Pope’s Final Activities, Possibility of a Motu Proprio, Relationship With the Society of St. Pius X,” the final paragraph read:
In conclusion, [Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office] confirmed that the Commission of Cardinals (Julian Herranz, Jozef Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi) set up by the Holy Father to prepare a report on the Holy See has made its results known exclusively to the Pope. The cardinals will not grant interviews or otherwise comment on the results.
The paragraph seemed to have nothing to do with the rest of the story, and I immediately suspected that Father Lombardi was responding to a story in the Italian press. Later that day, my suspicion was confirmed with I received the February 21, 2013, installment of “The Moynihan Letters,” an occasional newsletter sent out by Robert Moynihan, the founder and editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican.
The title of this newsletter was “Blackmail,” and the introduction was nothing short of horrifying:
Today a veil of secrecy was shredded in this eternal city.
Today therefore marked the beginning of a difficult, important struggle for the purification of the government of the Church desired for so many years by Joseph Ratzinger.
We were given a glimpse today into some of the reasons, previously unknown, that prompted Pope Benedict XVI to announce his resignation on February 11, to take effect February 28, in seven days, reasons that apparently “overwhelmed his spirit within him” and “made his heart desolate.”
It is a story that in many ways seems the plot of a novel.
It is a story of blackmail and betrayal at the highest levels of the Church, and, allegedly, of a homosexual lobby organized within the Vatican to influence and obtain important decisions.
Rob Moynihan is a sensible fellow who has spent much of his life as a reporter and editor for Catholic publications in Rome. For him to write such lines, with very few qualifications (just one “apparently” and one “allegedly”) indicated that the story was serious and, just as importantly, one that he apparently believed.
What was that story? According to La Repubblica, in the wake of the “Vatileaks” affair, the commission of the three cardinals was given unprecedented authority to conduct an investigation of the papal court, the Curia. They were even allowed to interview fellow cardinals.
In the course of the investigation, La Repubblica claims, the cardinals discovered certain patterns that indicated the existence of a homosexual lobby within the Curia, whose members “are being subjected to ‘external influence’—we would say blackmail—from laypeople to whom they are linked by ties of a ‘worldly nature.’” These allegations of homosexual activity, as well as claims of financial impropriety, La Repubblica claims, are documented in the report, which ran to 300 pages. Pope Benedict, the newspaper says, had been considering resigning the papacy; upon receiving the report, he made up his mind to do just that.
Horrifying revelations, if true; and Rob Moynihan seemed to believe them to be. Still, something bothered me. Why wasn’t this story being picked up by the left-wing newspapers in the United States? Moynihan’s newsletter had come out Thursday night (I received it at 5:46 P.M. CST), which meant that the La Repubblica story had been out for 20 hours or more. Yet the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times—all were silent. Surely none of them had decided to give the Catholic Church a break for a change.
On the other hand, how would they cover the story? Obviously, for Catholics who are faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church, allegations of a significant homosexual lobby within the Curia are devastating. But for the New York Times, significant homosexual influence within the Church would most likely be a cause for celebration.
And that got me thinking: Among Italian dailies, La Repubblica is closer in substance to the New York Times and the Washington Post. (Moynihan describes it as “center-left” and “secular humanist.”) How, exactly, was it that someone who had seen the commission’s report to Pope Benedict chose to leak its contents to the New York Times of Italy? Presumably, the purpose of the leak would be to influence in some way the coming papal conclave; but anyone who was on the side of the alleged homosexual lobby would want to keep this information out of the public eye. Those who would stand to gain by its release would be more “conservative” elements in the Church. But surely, then, going to La Repubblica wouldn’t make much sense. Why not, for instance, leak the information to a respected conservative Vaticanist such as Sandro Magister?
And so, on Friday morning, as I was putting the finishing touches on my newsletter, I didn’t know what to do. The story was out there, and it was now making its way into English-language publications (primarily in the United Kingdom); but something smelled fishy. I decided to wait a little longer before covering it; thus my note in the newsletter.
I’m glad I did. Late Friday night CST (early Saturday morning, Rome time), Rob Moynihan sent out another newsletter, this time entitled “Stop.” He had come at it from a different direction than I had—he has more contacts in Rome, after all—but in the first part of the new newsletter, it seemed that he had come to similar conclusions. There was little reason, he decided, to believe that anything in the article was better than “second-hand information,” and he pointed to one assertion—the claim of one final public audience for Pope Benedict on February 28—that simply cannot be true.
And yet, at the end of the newsletter, Moynihan offers four reasons why, despite all of this, he had given any credibility to the La Repubblica article. I won’t go over them here; you can read them for yourself in the newsletter, which is online.
I’d like to offer another reason, though, why he might have been willing to believe the worst, because (I suspect) it’s the reason why I was willing to believe the worst: We don’t want to see Pope Benedict go.
It’s as simple as that. We’re fearful for the future. After the death of Pope John Paul II, we didn’t know what to expect. The Church has been under siege by the modern world not just for decades now, but for centuries. And, at times, too many high-ranking prelates have seemed willing to follow the winds of change, rather than to hold tight to the Cross.
On April 19, 2005, when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected the 265th pope, I felt relieved, as if the Church had dodged a bullet. It wouldn’t surprise me if Rob Moynihan felt the same way, too. And now, in the wake of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign, it feels as if we didn’t necessarily dodge the bullet; it’s just taken its sweet time in coming.
But that is the wrong way to look at the upcoming papal conclave, and at the history of the Church in general. Either the Catholic Church is what we profess it to be—a divine institution, founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, even as it is made up of all-too-fallible human beings—or it isn’t. There’s no in-between.
If the Church is what Rob Moynihan and I—and every faithful Catholic out there—profess it to be, then we don’t need to worry about dodging a bullet. Indeed, such worries are a sign that our faith is not as strong as it should be. The Holy Spirit is in charge, and Christ Himself promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church that He founded on the rock of Peter’s faith.
I strongly suspect now that the La Repubblica article is, as the Vatican Secretariat of State declared on Saturday, one in a series of “unverified, unverifiable, or even completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions” designed “to influence the election of the Pope . . . through public opinion, which is often based on judgements that do not capture the typically spiritual aspect of this moment that the Church is living.”
Even if, however, there is some truth in the La Repubblica article, we do not need to worry, because the fate of the Church rests not in the reports of an Italian newspaper or in the weight of public opinion but in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So, for anyone whom I may have upset with my words at the beginning of Friday’s newsletter, let me offer my sincere apology. Mea culpa; mea culpa; mea maxima culpa.
And let me end with the final paragraph of the Saturday communique from the Vatican Secretariat of State, which sums up the situation better than I ever could:
Never before as at this moment are Catholics focusing on what is essential: praying for Pope Benedict, praying that the Holy Spirit might enlighten the College of Cardinals, and praying for the future Pope, confident that the future of the barque of Peter is in God’s hands.
More on Pope Benedict’s Resignation:
Pope Benedict XVI has been the leader of the Catholic Church for eight years and is the first pope to retire since 1415.
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
When Pope Benedict XVI said he was stepping down, he broke a tradition that had been in place since 1415. The pope, who gave his final blessing Sunday, leaves the Catholic Church in the midst of changing social views and demographic shifts among its followers.
American Catholics’ social views tend to diverge from the Vatican’s, and the once-Europe-focused church now has its largest support in Latin America. Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing rapid growth in its Catholic population.
Change In The U.S.
Today, about 1 in 10 American Catholics born into the religion has left it, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center poll. Pew reports that more than half of them say they are unhappy with the church’s stance on abortion and homosexuality. About 70 percent say they simply drifted away.
When it comes to the next pope, American Catholics generally want to see more modernity, says Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute.
“About 4 in 10 say the church should preserve its traditional beliefs and practice,” Jones tells NPR’s Jacki Lyden. “But a majority — 53 percent — says the church should either adjust its traditional beliefs and practices in light of new circumstances or adopt modern beliefs and practices.”
Mary Elizabeth Williams, a writer for Salon.com and a self-described liberal feminist, says she won’t be leaving her Catholic faith, despite differing with the church’s leadership. Williams wrote about her conviction in a Salon article this month titled “No Matter What I’m Still Catholic.”
“There’s this idea that Catholics have to toe the line. But the great example I get from Christ is to make trouble and ask questions,” she says. “That to me is the ultimate manifestation of Catholicism.”
Although other American-born Catholics are leaving the faith, immigrants are keeping the numbers up.
“Catholics have lost the most adherents of any religious group, but they’re been buoyed on the other hand by immigration because a great number of immigrants to the country are Hispanic and are Catholic,” says Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute. “So the net of that dynamic is effectively zero, but it hides, I think, a lot of volatility underneath the surface.”
A New Focus?
North America is home to about 8 percent of the world’s Catholics. So when the College of Cardinals meets to elect the next pope, its members will grapple with a church that increasingly resonates in the Southern Hemisphere.
“Back in 1910, nearly two-thirds of all Catholics resided in Europe, now today, that number has dropped to only 24 percent,” Jones says. “The largest single block of Catholics is in Latin America and the Caribbean, so we have a very different center of gravity just geographically speaking and ethnically speaking than we’ve ever had.”
But of the 100-plus Cardinal electors meeting in Rome, more than half are from Europe. The average age is 72, but they cannot be older than 80, by Vatican decree.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 82, was one of the cardinals who elected the current pope, but he won’t be a part of selecting the next one because of his age.
“We cannot be unaware of the changing face of the church,” he says.
McCarrick says the next pope will have to be aware of the church’s needs in South America.
“We constantly have to bring ourselves up to date. Not changing our doctrine, because that comes to us from the Lord,” he says. “But changing in a certain sense the emphasis that we must put on some things rather than others.”
Catholicism In Africa
Jacques Bahati hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a long line of Catholics. He’s also a policy analyst with the Africa Faith and Justice Network, a Catholic advocacy group.
Bahati says Catholicism has taken firm root in his home country because Rome let parishes adapt the traditional Mass to their own cultural preferences.
“Over there at home, we like to drum, we like to sing, we like the people to be engaged in many ways during mass,” he says.
Nigerian Aniedi Okure, executive director of Africa Faith and Justice Network, says religion and life “dovetail into each other” in Africa.
“So religion punctuates most of the things people do,” he says, adding, “It becomes something that is a central part of their life, something that informs what they do — morning, noon and evening.”
23 February 2013
Last updated at 21:13 ET
As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to step down next week, speculation is intensifying as to who will lead the reported 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. But how did the Vatican arrive at that figure?
The figure of 1.2 billion, in theory, represents the number of people who have been baptised into the Catholic faith.
This might seem like an easy figure to calculate. Many people assume that when someone is baptised this is recorded and passed on to the Vatican.
But religious organisations vary in how much importance they attach to keeping good statistics, according to David Voas, professor of population studies at the University of Essex’s institute of social and economic research.
“The Catholic Church tends to be a little more on the relaxed end of the scale and along with that you have got to remember it’s an absolutely huge organisation. There are more than a quarter of a million Catholic parishes.”
So the reporting process can be a bit hit and miss.
“In practice, parish priests are asked to estimate the size of their flock. That’s partly a function of how many people turn up to mass, but they also make some sort of guesstimate of the number who might come along for rites of passage like baptism, first communion, weddings, funerals and so on.”
As you can imagine, with such a vague notion of who to count, the methods used to estimate the number of Catholics are not consistent from parish to parish. The Vatican Statistical Yearbook itself points out this variation:
“It must be remembered that a worldwide survey of this kind is bound to be influenced by some extent by the often considerable differences in the circumstances of the ecclesiastical jurisdictions in various countries.”
Of course, it is all very well counting baptisms, but this means that anyone who has lapsed or left the Church altogether or has even died may still be counted – a problem which faces every religion.
“It would be one thing to count baptisms but another to count when people have left, either spiritually or physically,” says Voas.
“The Mormon Church tackles this problem in an interesting way. They basically assume that everyone stays on the books unless they hear otherwise or they turn 110. Up to that point, in principle, you could be part of statistics.
“The Catholic system doesn’t try to track people in such detail but there is a problem with counting in and not having such a good system for counting out.”
So is there another way to count Catholics?
The Pew Research Center in the US makes its own estimates by counting people who self-identify as Catholics. It collates census and survey data and its latest estimate stands at 1.1 billion, 100 million lower than the figure put out by the Vatican.
Conrad Hackett, a demographer from The Pew Center’s forum on religion and public life, does not think their figure is in conflict with the Vatican’s. He says it is just measuring something different.
He gives the example of Brazil. According to the Vatican, 163 million people are identified as Catholic, but the 2010 Brazilian census shows that just under 127 million people identify themselves as Catholic.
“There is widespread acknowledgment that many Brazilians who grew up Catholic are now worshiping in Protestant churches,” says Hackett.
Continue reading the main story
Although the Pew Center’s numbers for Brazil are lower than the Vatican’s, this isn’t true for all countries, particularly the US. According to Hackett, this is mainly due to the migration of Catholics.
“Of a population of 75.4 million self-identified Catholics in the US, 22.2 million (30%) were born outside the United States,” he says.
But even the Pew Center research comes with caveats.
“These counts include people who seldom pray or go to worship services. In the United States, for example, 17% of self-identified Catholic adults report that they seldom or never attend worship services,” says Hackett.
And if you do the maths behind the figures, this is hardly surprising.
“If you think even with a quarter of a million parishes that still means you’ve got four or five thousand self-identified Catholics on average per parish, and that’s far more than you could fit in church over the course of a week,” says Voas.
So there may be more than a billion people who call themselves Catholic, but if they all turned up to Mass this Sunday, there would probably be a bit of a squeeze to fit them all in the pews.
If you’re wondering how gift shops and purveyors of Catholic kitsch are handling the coming papal transition, here’s one answer:
Nelson Fine Art Gifts, a manufacturer of Roman Catholic accouterments in Steubenville, Ohio, has consulted theologians to come up with its own short list ofpapabili, or wannabe popes, to speed the manufacturing process. It also has slashed prices on T-shirts, totes, coffee mugs and magnets that feature the outgoing pontiff.
But it’s more evangelism than marketing, said Kevin Nelles, the company’s sales and marketing manager and a Catholic convert.
“It is fitting and proper for Catholics to love the pope, whoever it is,” Nelles said. “In all likelihood, the next pope will be fairly unknown to Americans. They need to look upon him as a father figure. It’s important for our company to move people toward that. When the new pope is elected, we’ll be ready.”
Nelson provides merchandise to a network of more than 600 Catholic gift shops nationwide. Their Catholic to the Max website is geared toward young hip Catholics; mothers comprise a majority of their clientele. In addition to Catholic posters, plaques, calendars and crosses, they manufactured pallets of keepsakes for Benedict’s 2008 U.S. tour, much of which is now on clearance.
The resignation announcement prompted Nelson to print a new novelty: Holy cards with pictures of the pontiff and prayers for the next chapter of his life. Customers have purchased the cards individually and in packs of 50.
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