Breaking the Vow of Secrecy in the Conclave

2013 Conclave cardinals walking into St. Peter's

America Magazine in its latest issue has an extended excerpt from a new book by their Vatican correspondent that reveals what happened inside the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis. While this may be interesting for many reasons, it’s also unfortunate since it means one or more people broke a sacred vow.

Everyone who participates in the conclave, whether a cardinal or one of the many Vatican support workers on site, take a vow to maintain the inviolate and secret nature of the process to avoid the sorts of pressures that the selection of the Pontiff has undergone in history. If they are able to deliberate and choose in private, the cardinals are freed from worry that others will now how they voted or that the college was divided or that the new pontiff did not have certain amounts of support or support from particular people in his election. To that end, the Vatican goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure the privacy, from the prosaic like blacking out windows to the sophisticated like using advanced technology to sweep for bugs and block any kind of signals.

So the obvious question is whether this extraordinary breach of trust revealed anything worth mentioning. Read More and Comment

Reporting Systems are Fine; What We Need is Strong Leadership

Cardinal Seán O'Malley

Cardinal Seán O’Malley is instituting a new system for reporting misconduct by bishops of the Archdiocese of Boston. Of course, it’s mainly symbolic, but it sends a challenge to his brother bishops in the US and beyond to take similar action.

The new phone number and web site is similar to one that was set up in 2011 to report financial misconduct in the archdiocese from a company that specializes in setting up whistleblower systems for corporations and organizations.

At the moment, the only people it covers are the cardinal himself and his auxiliaries and his authority to institute it comes from his sovereign authority as bishop.

And therein lies a problem. The system exists at the will of the man who sits in the chair. Any successor of his could turn it off at a whim. The same is true for every other diocese.

The cure for these situations, like that of Ted McCarrick, the former cardinal and laicized cleric, is not that we need a reporting system. The solution can only come from having leaders willing to take action against those who undermine the Church, steep themselves in sin, and drive the nails through Christ into the cross by their abuse of the innocent or protecting those who do.

Cardinal Seán’s action is a good first step, but there are no easy solutions. What we need is for the Holy Spirit to bring us new strong and Christ-like bishops and for that we can only pray.

We warned them back in 2002, but no one listened

I’m perplexed, too, but not for the same reason. The Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday published a joint expose on all the US bishops who have failed to respond adequately to sexual misconduct in their dioceses and they say they’re perplexed. Meanwhile, Cardinal Seán is also perplexed too.

More than 130 bishops – almost one-third of all living bishops – have been accused during their careers of failing to adequately respond to sexual misconduct in their dioceses, according to an examination of thousands of court records, media reports, and interviews with church officials, victims, and attorneys.

“I’m shocked by that number,’’ O’Malley said in an interview at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, responding to the two organizations’ report. “It raises a lot of questions in my mind.’’

As I said, I’m perplexed, but not that 130 of the living bishops (note: that includes retired bishops) have themselves failed to respond adequately. It’s that this is news to anyone.

Because back in 2002 when the Dallas charter was first advanced in the midst of the explosion of the Scandal, both Phil Lawler and I were pointing out that while the charter focused on the tiny percentage of all priests who ever abused a child, the bishops at the time (and ever since) failed to act against the bishops who shuffled them about and ignored the complaints of victims and hushed up lawsuits and paid off families under secrecy shields and all the rest.

In fact, if anything the problem is much less worse because at the time it wasn’t one-third of living bishops who were culpable, but two-thirds of bishops. But time and the Holy Spirit have winnowed that number down through the ultimate means of having them die off.
Read More and Comment

Desperately Seeking Bishops

It’s no surprise we have a crisis in leadership in the Catholic Church. Apart from the Scandal that took off in the public consciousness in 2002, the past few months have re-emphasized for us that we lack effective leadership at all levels of the Church, from top to bottom. Wherever you look are men who are often, at best, personally faithful but lacking in other necessary skills.

If we were to start fresh today, what would we need in a Catholic bishop? If we were to look at our seminaries, what should we cultivate in the our future priests and bishops?

First and foremost, they should be faith-filled and holy with a zeal for Christ. That should be a given and really ought to be the minimum we expect from our priests. And in their holiness and zeal, they would strive to follow Christ in the Church’s laws, doctrines, and disciplines.

Second, our bishops need to be leaders, not managers. We need men who will have the ability to lead their priests and laity, to energize them, to marshal them, to impassion them. We don’t need managers, fundraisers, or bureaucrats. We don’t need glad-handers or movers and shakers. We need men who are charismatic and impassioned, who have backbone, and who have clear vision and focus on a singular mission and priority: the salvation of souls. Everything else must serve that goal.

Read More and Comment

A Time for Prayer and Fasting

“Prayer and fasting is all well and good, but what can I do that is really effective?” I’ve been seeing variations on that sentiment in recent days, accelerated by the revelations in Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s testimony as released last week. His earth-shaking accusations against many top Vatican and US bishops, including Pope Francis, who he called to resign, because of their alleged complicity in covering up immorality and abuse, has left many Catholics reeling.

Social media has been awash in hand-wringing and people asking, “What can we do?” Because we don’t want this all to be swept under the rug to disappear in the next news cycle. We want our Church to be cleansed and the rot to be cleared out. We want the truth to come out and allegations examined. If the Pope is innocent of these accusations, we want to know it. If he’s guilty, we want him to make reparation.

Some have called for the withholding of donations to dioceses or parishes, which has some consequences. The assumption is that it will cut down on bishops’ lavish lifestyles. For one thing, by and large, most bishops don’t live lavishly. And for those who seem to have cushy perqs, they often get those from specific donations from large donors and foundations. The people who get hurt in that scenario are people like the director of religious formation or the diocesan accountant or the receptionist at the chancery or the person who goes around teaching confirmation kids about the Church’s message of chastity because they’re the low hanging fruit in the budget. “Fine,” they say, “I will direct my donations to my parish.” Well, the bishop will just demand a tithe from your parish to support his ministry. “Then I will put restrictions on my parish donation, so that it can only be used for local things.” The person you’re hurting in that scenario is your pastor who still has to pay the bills and satisfy the parish’s obligations while juggling all these restrictions and the bishop’s demands.

What’s really behind this desire to withhold money is a desire to be effective. As regular laypeople in the pew we don’t feel like there’s anything we can do to fix the Church or hold misbehaving bishops accountable. Read More and Comment

New Bishops for Boston

Pope Francis today appointed two new auxiliary bishops for Boston, priests I have worked closely with in my years with the Archdiocese. Bishop-elect Robert Reed will be most well known as he is the director of CatholicTV, which is seen in many dioceses across the country. He is also head of the Catholic media secretariat for the archdiocese, which includes the newspaper and bulletins and radio. (It once include new media, but no longer.) I’ve known Fr. Reed for many years, though, as he was assigned to St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood, when I was attending Mass there in the early 90s, and is a friend of my brother. In fact, he’s my nephew’s godfather.

I’ve also worked with Bishop-elect Mark O’Connell, not in his role s judicial vicar for the archdiocese, but when he was a co-host on our radio program The Good Catholic Life. Fr. Mark was always fun to work with because he’s a very funny guy and was so laid back. One of the funniest moments on the show was when his best friend, Fr. Paul Soper, outed him on air as a World of Warcraft player whose character was an anthropomorphic panda.

During the press conference this morning, Bishop-elect Reed said he’s talked with Cardinal Seán about retaining some role in CatholicTV after his ordination in addition to his duties as an auxiliary bishop, so I’ll be interested if a new priest is assigned there as director or if the day-to-day responsibilities shift to the general manager.

It’s very interesting that with Bishop Christopher Coyne in Vermont, Bishop Robert Barron in Los Angeles, and now Bishop-elect Reed in Boston, we have more and more bishops who are experts in communications and media being elevated to the episcopacy in the US.

And this busy day for bishops in Boston isn’t over because there’s an episcopal ordination at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross this afternoon for Archbishop Paul Russell. He has been appointed by Pope Francis to apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Sacred Heart Church, Newton

We attended a baptism of some friends’ daughter at Sacred Heart Church in Newton on Saturday. It is a beautiful church built in an Italianate style. I’m no architect expert, but it had the feel of architecture around Assisi.

The church has a fascinating history. At the front, to the left of the sanctuary is a portrait and a bronze plaque with text of a letter from Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican Secretary of State, in the 1930s, thanking the parish for its hospitality in hosting him for a brief stay. Beside the plaque is a very large, very old paschal candle from the Vatican, which was obviously a thank-you gift. Cardinal Pacelli would go on to become Pope Paul VI Pius XII.

Speaking of bishops, the parish has a history of pastors who became bishops. Cardinal Spellman of New York was its pastor at the time he received his episcopal appointment and then Cardinal Cushing was pastor before becoming archbishop of Boston. He was followed by another pastor who became an auxiliary. How you’d like to be the guy who followed him and didn’t become bishop?

In persona Christi

(Photo credit: George Martell/The Pilot Media Group) May not be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved.
(Photo credit: George Martell/The Pilot Media Group) May not be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved.

My colleague, George Martell, took this photo of me and Cardinal Seán after an adoration and prayer service with him and other Pastoral Center employees to pray with and for him as heads to Rome for the conclave.

I asked Anthony who he saw in the picture.

“Daddy,” he said.

“And who else?”

“Jesus!”

Job #1 accomplished, Your Eminence.

Bishop speaks the truth in love to NADLGM conference

Coadjutor Bishop Jaime Soto, who will become the ordinary of Sacramento, California, at the end of November, was invited to speak to the conference of the National Association of Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries. These are people who work directly for bishops.

Bishop Soto simply repeated the Church’s teachings.

“Sexual relations between people of the same sex can be alluring for homosexuals, but it deviates from the true meaning of the act and distracts them from the true nature of love to which God has called us all,” Bishop Soto said. “For this reason, it is sinful. Married love is a beautiful, heroic expression of faithful, life-giving, life-creating love. It should not be accommodated and manipulated for those who would believe that they can and have a right to mimic its unique expression.”

At least five audience members walked out during his remarks and afterward he endured a group of audience members who berated him for what he said. A board member of the organization was overheard telling one of the tables in the room: “On behalf of the board, I apologize. We had no idea Bishop Soto was going to say what he said.”

 

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