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?”


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.”


Follieri revisted again


The FBI has arrested Raffaello Follieri and accused him of fraud for claiming Vatican connections in a scheme allegedly to buy mothballed properties from US Catholic dioceses and re-develop them. (Follieri was allegedly making false claims of close ties to then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, right.)

According to the FBI, Follieri claimed the Vatican had formally appointed him to manage its financial affairs and that he had met with the pope in person in Rome.

He is accused of keeping various ceremonial robes, including the robes of senior clergymen, in his Manhattan office, and of hiring two monsignors to accompany him during his business dealings.

Once, according to the complaint, he even asked a monsignor to change out of his robes and put on the robe of a more senior clergyman to create the false impression that Follieri had close ties to the Vatican.

Follieri, Follieri, why does that sound so familiar? Oh yeah! Because I wrote this back in January 2005:

This has at least the appearance of improriety. If [they’re] smart, they’ll keep the Follieri Group at arm’s length, and other dioceses should too.


And this in 2006:

Interesting. I just got an email this morning from a high-end private investigation firm looking for more information on the Follieri Group for a client. I wonder who’s doing the asking and why.

I wonder if it was really a private eye or if it was the FBI. If it was really a private eye, maybe they were representing “supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos.” who sued Follieri after accusing him of misappropriating more than $1 million.

Wow, it’s funny to be caught up in the middle of all this, especially since I really don’t know anything about it.

Photo of Cardinal Angelo Sodano is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

New bishop for Baltimore

The Holy Father appointed Archbishop Edwin Frederick O’Brien, military ordinary for the U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of Baltimore (area 12,430, population 3,055,477, Catholics 517,679, priests 545, permanent deacons 178, religious 1,380), U.S.A. He succeeds Cardinal William Henry Keeler, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

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Chicago archdiocese speaks out on Pfleger

The Archdiocese of Chicago has responded to the outrageous comments by Fr. Michael Plfeger in which he said a gun shop owner and some legislators should be “snuffed”. Now, we all know that the jargon of the street says that “snuffed” means killed, but the context of how he used is clear that he meant something like “removed from public influence” or “had their livelihood stripped away.” That doesn’t mitigate the senselessness and irresponsibility of the words, especially since they could be misconstrued by an unbalanced individual, nor does it mitigate Plfeger’s consorting with hatemongers and racists like Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan.

In any case here is the archdiocese’s relatively mild statement:

On Saturday, May 26, 2007, during an anti-gun rally at a Riverdale gun shop, Fr. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina parish, reportedly made aggressive and inappropriate statements threatening the store’s owner.

If the comments reported are accurate, and a threat was made, it is up to the civil authorities to investigate the matter and determine what if any action should be taken against Fr. Pfleger.

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, stated, “publicly delivering a threat against anyone’s life betrays the civil order and is morally outrageous, especially if this threat came from a priest. It is first of all up to the civil authorities to determine what threat might have been contained in the remarks attributed to Fr. Michael Pfleger. With that determination, the sponsors of the anti-gun rally and the Archdiocese can better decide how to respond.”

I’m not sure why the archdiocese needs to wait for the civil authorities to investigate before it can take action. Pfleger is a Catholic priest. His words are clearly documented. His previous heterodox and syncretist and publicly disobedient actions give clear cause for the cardinal to act. But as someone pointed out in an email to me, given the state the Church in Chicago is in—with the amount of heterodoxy among the clergy—that any kind of public statement from the archdiocese that is willing to acknowledge that a priest has crossed the line is a big step.

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Cardinal Pell’s mandate for Catholic school principals

How’s this for a bizarre headline: “Sydney principals forced to uphold Catholic values.” In other news, lawyers have been forced to uphold the law, doctors have been forced to treat disease, and baseball players have been forced to win games.

This is the headline on the transcript of a news report from the Australian ABC TV network. Here’s how the story begins:

TONY JONES: Back to Australia, and Catholic school principals in the Archdiocese of Sydney will soon have to swear on the Bible to uphold Catholic principles.

Cardinal George Pell is imposing the oaths to ensure senior teachers toe the church line on contentious issues like women’s ordination, birth control and homosexuality.

Philippa McDonald reports.

PHILIPPA MCDONALD: As Cardinal, George Pell is the chief teacher of the Catholic faith in Sydney, and now he says it’s not enough for those who run his schools to say they believe, they’ll have to swear two oaths as well.

The oaths are merely a Profession of Faith and the Oath of Fidelity. If you’re going to teach in a Catholic school, should you have any problem assuring the parents of these students that you will indeed provide the Catholic education they expect you’re giving. If my physician refused to take the Hippocratic Oath, but asked me to take his word that he would act ethically anyway, I’d be looking for a new doctor.

But these principals are calling the decision “heavy-handed” and complain that it came with no consultation. Why should there be consultation? They’re Catholic teachers in Catholic schools. Do we need to negotiate with them on how much of God’s revealed truth they should abide by?

I applaud Cardinal Pell for taking seriously his duty and obligation to safeguard the faith and the methods by which it is passed on.

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