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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Fordham events

Received in an email this morning this notice of two upcoming events at Fordham University in New York:

This Saturday will be the conference on “Leadership in the U.S. Catholic Church”:

The Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University will bring together scholars and clergy, including three bishops from dioceses throughout the country, to take part in a conference on “Leadership in the U.S. Catholic Church” on Saturday, June 9.

The daylong conference will feature a plenary address by R. Scott Appleby, Ph.D., professor of history and director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at University of Notre Dame, on new directions in U.S. Catholic Church leadership. There are also six panel sessions scheduled that will address issues ranging from women’s leadership to new movements in the Church.

In addition to the panel sessions, Bishop Blase J. Cupich, S.T.D., of the diocese of Rapid City, S.D.; Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, Ph.D., of the diocese of Tucson, Ariz.; and Bishop Ricardo Ramírez, C.S.B., of the diocese of Las Cruces, N.M., will take part in a discussion about the “perceived and real crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church,” moderated by Mark Massa, S.J., Karl Rahner Distinguished Professor of Theology and co-director of the Curran Center.

The second event is June 14-16 and will bring together Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox academics for “Orthodox Readings of Augustine”.

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The anti-traditional tendency

I want to be clear that in my previous blog entry when I spoke of the a need not to become mired in the past but to embrace a growing, but rooted vision of the Church and tradition, I don’t think I meant what Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, did in his ordination homily a couple of weeks ago.

There are some in the Church today who do not look forward in hope with the eyes of faith but tend to be preoccupied with looking back in some kind of nostalgia for a Church they never experienced prior to the Second Vatican Council. I encourage you to study the history of the Church as a living and developing tradition and not to look back as Lot’s wife did or you might end up being a pillar of salt rather then the “salt of the earth.”

He then derided the triumphalist, juridical, and clericalist strains of those who are in danger of becoming “pillars of salt.” He says that rather than “aggressive condemnation and excommunication,” we can’t “impose the Gospel on the world.” He’s opposed to the juridicist who focuses on “creating unnecessary hoops for people to jump through,” especially with regard to liturgical practice, but then what constitutes “unnecessary” here? Aren’t some hoops necessary or do we allow a liturgical free-for-all?

The bishop also says the new clericalism creates an “authoritarianism” that “gives little merit to collaboration with the laity.” But is this really a problem? What I see most often is an anti-clericalism that turns most priests into “sacrament machines”. In fact, the clericalism you’re most likely to see these days is the kind when a “progressivist” priest pulls out the authority card to put down those who yearn for a more conservative or traditional piety.

There are two lamentable tendencies in the Church that are like mirror images of one another: the tendency I mentioned before for some people to get stuck in the past as if 1955 was the high point of Church culture and no legitimate development could occur past that point and the similar tendency to regard anything that happened prior to 1962 as ancient history unworthy of progressive, modern folk who are too smart to require the coddling that the old ways provided their parents and grandparents.

Both paths should be avoided. Sadly many travel one or the other, including some bishops, priests, and laity.


Interesting Canadian appointments

Bishop_Michael_Miller.jpgPope Benedict made some interesting episcopal appointments in Canada today:

– Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the diocese of Hamilton, Canada, presented by Bishop Matthew Francis Ustrzycki, upon having reached the age limit.

– Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the diocese of San Diego, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Gilbert E. Chavez, upon having reached the age limit.

– Appointed Fr. Kenneth Nowakowski of the clergy of the eparchy of Saskatoon of the Ukrainians, Canada, eparchial chancellor, as bishop of New Westminster of the Ukrainians (Catholics 7,835, priests 13, permanent deacons 2, religious 4), Canada. The bishop-elect was born in North Battleford, Canada in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1989. He succeeds Bishop Severian Stefan Yakymyshyn O.S.B.M., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same eparchy, the Holy Father accepted, in accordance with canon 210, para. 1, of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

– Appointed Metropolitan Archbishop Brendan Michael O’Brien of Saint John’s Newfoundland, Canada as metropolitan archbishop of Kingston (area 16,500, population 321,000, Catholics 117,800, priests 84, permanent deacons 18, religious 170), Canada.

– Appointed Archbishop J. Michael Miller C.S.B., secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, as coadjutor archbishop of Vancouver (area 119,439, population 2,453,658, Catholics 429,390, priests 189, permanent deacons 1, religious 259), Canada.

It’s the last one that’s the most interesting to me as Archbishop Miller has been widely regarded as a big success at the Education Congregation, regularly touring the world’s Catholic universities and speaking on the importance of maintaining the Catholic culture and identity of Catholic educational institutions. Here is an address he gave in 2005 at the University of Notre Dame on “Catholic Universities and their Catholic Identity.” Here’s another speech, given at Catholic University of America in September 2005 on “The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools,” including some strong reiteration of parents’ rights to educate their children.

The archbishop was formerly president at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and taught theology there for more than 10 years. He was born in Ottawa and will turn 61 on July 9. He was raised to the dignity of archbishop in January 2004 after being appointed secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education a few months earlier in November 2003.

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Biased media attack on Abp Burke

Very often, it seems that courageous bishops stand alone against the onslaught of a culture that doesn’t appreciate their “meddling” influence. Of course, they don’t stand alone because—even if sometimes it seems there aren’t enough of them—there are bishops who will stand up and do what’s right.

Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis is one of those bishops who has been a courageous witness to the Gospel and the obligations of Catholics in the public square. For that he has earned a biased attack in the Washington Post that has now spread through syndication.

NewsBusters blogger Michael Chapman points out that reporter Peter Slevin’s report offers ignorance right from the lede when he says: “When it comes to expressing his views of church values, Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke has a habit of making headlines, not always to the satisfaction of his flock.” Of course, they are not just the archbishop’s views, but the Church’s teachings. That his stance might be unpopular with the flock is of little consequence because his job is not to be popular, but to offer the truth. As a father, I’m not worried about being popular with my daughter if what I’m saying or doing is meant to protect and guide her. Chapman writes:

Abp. Burke has spoken out against abortion; against politicians who support abortion; against entertainers who support anti-Catholic teachings but also want to perform at Catholic functions; against using embryonic stem cells for research; and so on. And this is what apparently ticks Slevin and his editors off: A Catholic Bishop who actually tells his flock the Truth about Catholic teaching and how Catholics must strive to seek holiness and save their souls.

Critics and “some supporter”

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USCCB comments on Catholic Dems, but no one noticed

The USCCB has responded to the 18 Catholic Democrats who told the Pope last week to mind his own business and not tell them how to go about being Catholics. This was in response to (erroneous) media reports that the Pope said Catholic lawmakers who are pro-abortion should be excommunicated. (What he really said was a bit more nuanced.)

But as Phil Lawler points out in his commentary accompanying today’s Catholic World News headlines, you’d be hard-pressed to find any other media outlet reporting the official US bishops’ response, as tepid and wishy-washy as it is.

It’s not that CWN jumped on the story quickly, I’m sorry to say. The statement from the bishops’ conference is dated last Friday, May 18. When I discovered it this morning I was embarrassed that it had escaped my notice for so long. But even now it seems that nobody else— and I mean nobody else— has noticed it.

Other statements from the US bishops can certainly draw media attention. Why did this one pass without notice? I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

I have some theories, but one of them is that no one at the USCCB made any effort to push it out there. After all, the USCCB often goes to these very same Catholic Democrats whenever they’re lobbying to push the legislative efforts on immigration or welfare or the like.

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