A Busy Week in Review: Vatican Edition

This past week has been incredibly busy for Church news. There is a definitive sense that the Francis agenda has shifted, once again, into a higher gear. We didn’t have the time to cover all the stories of relevance over the past week, so here’s a top-level recap of what’s been happening, sorted by day.

Monday, June 26:

Re-imagining Humanae Vitae 

In a report by Phil Lawler entitled, Pope may not have ordered re-examination of contraception, but it’s happening under his watch, Lawler echoes the denial (not at all believable, in my book) issued by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and grand chancellor of the John Paul II Institute (as well as star of his own homoerotic mural and promoter of pornographic sex ed materials) that any re-examination of Humanae Vitae in light of Amoris Laetitia exists. You may recall we reported on this based on Roberto de Mattei’s confirmation of the existence of just such a commission. “The bad news,” writes Lawler, “is that the commission exists. Call it a ‘study group’ if you prefer, but there is a scholarly panel, working under the auspices of a pontifical institute, preparing a reappraisal of Humanae Vitae.”

Lawler continues:

Archbishop Paglia assured Gagliarducci that “there is no pontifical commission called to re-read or to re-interpret Humanae Vitae. OK, Pope Francis didn’t appoint the commission. He didn’t need to. By appointing Archbishop Paglia, and appointing the new members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, he ensured that these institutions would take a new direction.

Or put it this way: Pope Francis didn’t appoint the commission that is now studyingHumanae Vitae. But that commission wouldn’t exist within the Vatican if it didn’t have the Pope’s implicit approval.

Summorum Pontificum Under Fire

While we were sharing a new drink recipe from Dr. Michael Foley to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum and the liberation of the Traditional Latin Mass, progressive Italian Catholic theologian and historian Massimo Faggioli — whose name, interestingly, translates into English as “Maximum Beans” — was showing what he’s full of. You see, Faggioli thinks Pope Francis is the living embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of Vatican II “reformers”, so it may come as no surprise that he’s not a fan of Pope Benedict’s work in restoring the Latin Mass paradigm:

Paul VI and John Paul II had already sought to accommodate liturgical traditionalists by issuing special indults for celebrating the pre-Vatican II liturgy, most particularly in 1984 and 1988. But they never cast any doubt on the legitimacy and the good fruits of the Vatican II liturgical reform, the theological and ecclesiological framework of which is found in the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Those earlier popes saw a fundamental coherence between the tradition of the Church, the theology of Vatican II and the council’s liturgical reform.

But this picture changed significantly under Benedict XVI, whose pontificate needs to be analyzed in its complexity; that is, through his speeches, policy decisions, and personnel appointments. It makes no sense to interpret the theology of his entire pontificate solely on the basis of his address on the “two hermeneutics” of Vatican II or on his encyclicals.

There is little doubt that Benedict expressed and embodied a clear shift from a magisterium that saw Vatican II as part of the tradition of the Church to a magisterium that saw the tradition and Vatican II in much more complicated terms. Certain issues, such as the liturgical reform, were seen in tension and opposition.

While it is certainly too early to assess the long-term effects of Summorum Pontificum, it is necessary to begin the effort. For example, ten years on it is striking to re-read Benedict’s hasty, and failed, attempt to stop the tendency to interpret the “motu proprio” as a denunciation of Vatican II, which – in fact – is widespread in Catholic traditionalist circles.

Further on, Faggioli complains:

[T]here are two phenomena that are part of the post-Summorum Pontificum ecclesial and theological landscape of Roman Catholicism, which are difficult to separate from the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

The first phenomenon is that Summorum Pontificum boosted the pre-existing, sociologically limited world of liturgical traditionalism and projected it onto the wider world of the Catholic Church, especially among English-speakers. It is has given theological legitimacy to traditionalist views of the Vatican II liturgical reforms. And it has raised the visibility of traditionalist liturgy in the virtual spaces of the Catholic Church.

Over the past decade, social media has increasingly become a forum where the people of God can make their voices heard. Images of elaborate vestments used for pre-Vatican II liturgical celebrations have become part of the daily diet of those who follow the life of local churches and even prominent Church leaders.

This has had a significant impact on important parts of contemporary Roman Catholicism and its future – especially on committed Catholic youth and recent converts, as well as on seminarians and young priests.

The second phenomenon has been the reduction of Joseph Ratzinger’s theology to that of traditionalism. In fact, Summorum Pontificum has helped to greatly distort the overall theological legacy of one of the most important theologians in the 20th century.

If Joseph Ratzinger’s emphasis was on the tradition of the Church (“continuity and reform”), Benedict XVI’s pontificate has been reduced, especially in these last few years, to an icon of traditionalism (against any kind of theological development, seen as “discontinuity”).

This liturgical traditionalism has contributed to an overall traditionalist understanding of Catholicism to the point that it has become a problem and challenge for Pope Francis. Last year (July 11, 2016) the pope finally felt the need to intervene. In a statement released by the Holy See Press Office, he disavowed the so-called “reform of the liturgical reform”, which Cardinal Robert Sarah – prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship – had promoted a few days earlier during a public lecture to priests in London.

Let’s pause for a brief interlude in honor of Professor Faggioli.

There. Now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, his conclusion:

…Liturgical traditionalism among Catholics has had a negative effect on the acceptance of other documents from Vatican II, such as those on ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and missionary activity of the Church.

Cry me a river.

Tuesday, June 27:

Walfordism and the Four Cardinals

My battle with Stephen Walford over Amoris Laetitia last week spilled over to Twitter, where I’m less known for diplomacy and more for my skills in heckling. After recognizing that I should be a better evangelist than pugilist, at one point I apologized to Walford for being so abrasive.

And then the next day, this piece of fetid garbage was published. In it, Walford, with his overinflated sense of his own theological knowledge, suits up in his characteristic hubris and tells the Four Cardinals to go pound sand. He tells them that their dubia have already been answered, and then proceeds to tell them about his favorite magisterial documents, which he’s fond of quoting every chance he gets if he feels it can prove his point (but never when it doesn’t.) He then asks them a series of condescending questions (as one Catholic commentator said to me privately, “I hope Walford is a better pianist than he is theologian and papal apologist, because his two pieces are, at times, embarrassing. Even farcical.”), accuses them of not living in the “real world,” and then delivers this load of manure to their doorstep:

I will end by humbly [sic!] asking you to reconsider your position on this issue. You may or may not be aware that there is a growing section of traditionalists and even some conservative Catholics who see you as the standard bearers for the rejection of this papacy. I know from experience that some of it is deeply troubling. The abuse from many, including those who run websites and Traditionalist blogs aimed at the Holy Father and those who are loyal to him, is nothing short of satanic. You are their role models and that is an intolerable situation. In reality, there is no confusion but only outright rejection and defiance towards the legitimate Pope and his magisterial teachings. If all the Cardinals had accepted and defended Pope Francis’ clear teaching, there would have been no fuel for the dissenting fire. In the desire for the Unity of the Church around Peter, it is essential to affirm the Pope has the authority— ratified in heaven—to make disciplinary changes for the good of some divorced and remarried souls, and so I ask you to bring to an end this situation by accepting the constant Tradition of the Church that Popes are free from error in matters of faith and morals and that derives from the specific prayer of Jesus himself: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Lk. 22: 32).  [emphasis added]

It’s a good thing this Walford fellow is so much smarter than these eminent and esteemed cardinals, most of whom are experts in their respective fields. What would they do without him? La Stampa needs to fire its editorial staff.

For Walford’s attack to be rolled out like this (it was immediately boosted by a Crux article with no byline) — an attack I’m afraid I gave oxygen to by bothering to respond to his five month old failed essay about AL’s place in Catholic magisterial teaching — makes me wonder if he’s being used as a surrogate to begin a new round of attacks on anyone questioning AL. I fully expect to see more thought pieces soon using Walfordian logic to demean and rebuke the Four Cardinals.

For what it’s worth, Latin Mass Society of England and Wales Chairman and Oxford Fellow Dr. Joseph Shaw took Walford behind the woodshed. I won’t excerpt it here, but suffice to say he uses the phrases “suppose for a mad moment that in Walford-land” and “Walford appears to inhabit an parallel universe in which the only problems being caused by Amoris are being caused by theological conservatives” and “This suggestion is so insane that I do not believe that Walford can have this in mind”. It’s gleeful.

Wednesday, June 28:

Pope Benedict, Are You Trying to Tell Us Something?

On Wednesday, Pope Francis made five new cardinals at the Public Ordinary Consistory. (One of the five, believe it or not, is a wanted man for corruption in his home country of Mali. But I digress…) In his homily to the five new cardinals, Francis touched on a theme that sounds positively Walfordian:

[T]he disciples themselves are distracted by concerns that have nothing to do with the “direction” taken by Jesus, with his will, which is completely one with that of the Father”. So it is that, as we heard, the two brothers James and John think of how great it would be to take their seats at the right and at the left of the King of Israel (cf. v. 37). They are not facing reality! They think they see, but they don’t. They think they know, but they don’t. They think they understand better than the others, but they don’t…

Later, the new cardinals were taken, as has become the custom in this age of two living men called “pope”, to stand before the Pope Emeritus and receive his blessing. Although I have not seen a full text of Pope Benedict’s comments to the cardinals, he did end with this:

Sort of an ominous thing to say, don’t you think? Makes you wonder if it appears to the Pope Emeritus that the Lord isn’t winning now…

Bishop Poprocki has to defend himself for being a Catholic Bishop 

For this one, I’ll let the article at Catholic World Report tell the story:

On June 12, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois issued a decree regarding same-sex “marriage” (SSM) and “related pastoral issues”.  In it, he reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching that marriage can only be “a covenant between one man and one woman …” and promulgated diocesan norms relating to SSM.  Norms included that no member of the diocesan clergy or staff is allowed to participate in a SSM service in any way, nor is church property to be used for SSM services or receptions.  Persons in SSM relationships may not receive Holy Communion, and when in danger of death, persons in SSM relationships may not receive Holy Communion in the form of Viaticum unless they express repentance for their lifestyle.

Additionally, persons in SSM relationships may not receive a Catholic funeral unless they offered some signs of repentance before their death, nor may they serve as lectors or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass.  Children of parents in SSM relationships may receive the sacraments and attend Catholic schools; however, such parents should be aware that their children will be instructed in the fullness of Catholic teaching.
In a follow-up statement released June 23rd, Bishop Paprocki added that “the Church has not only the authority, but the serious obligation to affirm its authentic teaching on marriage and to preserve and foster the sacred value of the married state.”

Unsurprisingly, this caused an unholy hellstorm. And bishop Paprocki — facing calls for his resignation, among other things — answered like a real Catholic shepherd:

The Catholic Church has been very clear for two thousand years that we do not accept same-sex “marriage,” yet many people seem to think that the Church must simply cave in to the popular culture now that same-sex “marriage” has been declared legal in civil law.  From a pastor’s perspective, it is quite troubling to see that so many Catholics have apparently accepted the politically correct view of same-sex “marriage.”  This just shows how much work needs to be done to provide solid formation about the Catholic understanding of marriage.

I think my favorite answers in the Paprocki interview, however, came at the end:

CWR: Has the negative press on this issue been difficult for you personally, or have you come to see that it goes with the office you hold?

Bishop Paprocki: I’ll take my cue on that question from my patron saint, Sir Thomas More, who said, “I do not care very much what men say of me, provided that God approves of me.”

CWR: Any other thoughts?

Bishop Paprocki: Gay activists have harassed my staff and me with obscene telephone calls, e-mail messages and letters using foul language and profanity, supposedly in the name of love and tolerance.  I am sorry that people around me have been subjected to such hateful and malicious language.

CWR: Is there anything you’d like to see Catholics who support the decision do to help?

Bishop Paprocki: Please pray for the conversion of sinners.


Concelebration: Not Just a Good Idea, It’s the Law

At Rorate Caeli, it was revealed on Wednesday that there is a

“working paper” of the Congregation for the Clergy “On Concelebration in the Colleges and Seminaries of Rome”, which is circulating in an unofficial way in the Roman colleges and seminaries.  What emerges clearly from this text is that Pope Francis wants to impose Eucharistic Concelebration in the colleges and seminaries of Rome, de facto, if not in principle, affirming that: “the celebration in community must always be preferred to individual celebration”.
At his blog, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (“Fr. Z”) says of the news:

This of course is a direct contradiction to the Code of Canon Lawcan. 902, which guarantees that priests can celebrate Mass individually and privately.  I think that concelebration should be safe, legal and rare.


I am not opposed in principle to concelebration (which is a Novus Ordo thing, of course).  I will concelebrate occasionally, for example, at ordinations to the priesthood and on Holy Thursday, especially with the bishop.  Otherwise, I want to say my own Masses.  Concelebration is too prone to wandering minds, inattentiveness, sloppiness, abuses. I’ve seen horrid examples of this, including priests not saying anything at all during the consecration and bizzare handling of the Eucharist.  Can there be poorly celebrated private Masses?  Sure.  However, a man who is dedicated to saying Mass privately – because of devotion and because saying Mass is a good thing for him and for those for whom he offers it – is less likely to celebrate in a sloppy manner.

Moreover, it seems to me that a concelebrated Mass is one Mass, not many.  Why is that a good thing?  People can talk about priestly brotherhood and unity blah blah blah.  Why are fewer Masses good for anyone?   It seems to me that many Masses, properly and reverently celebrated, are good for the Church and for the world.

In addition, the imposition of concelebration for all priests in clerical residences in Rome will also undercut the right of priests to use the 1962 Roman Missal in accord with Summorum Pontificum.  The use of the older, traditional Missale Romanum is on the rise among younger priests.  Many seminarians want it.  I’ll bet that scares the daylights out of some who are in power.

As one of my Roman correspondents put it:

This is scorched earth tactics.  They’re going Carthage on everything distinctively Catholic to make sure we don’t turn back the Hegelian flow of history again.

Fr. Z also dishes on a bizarre proposal to only allow transitional deacons to be ordained if the laity of the parish where they’re serving approves. You can’t make this stuff up.

Thursday, June 29:

Cardinal Pell Accused

Cardinal Pell, who has fought an uphill battle to bring reforms to the Vatican bank, was formally charged with sexual abuse this week after an investigation that lasted years. There are concerns that the media in his home country of Australia are pursuing the case so recklessly and unethically that he may never get a fair trial. As the campaign against Cardinal Pell swings into high gear, we are left to wonder: is this the case of yet another high-ranking cleric guilty of unspeakable deeds, or is the man who was charged with the task of staring into the Pandora’s box of Vatican finances being destroyed because he found out things he was never meant to see? There is so much to consider concerning this situation that I spun it off into a separate article.

Charlie Gard and the Pontifical Academy for Life

I am not well-informed about the situation with little Charlie Gard, the terminally-ill 10 month old in the UK whose parents wanted to bring him to the United States for experimental treatment, only to face denial from the European Court of Human Rights. What I can tell you is that Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia issued a statement regarding the case, and it amounts to a politely-worded version of: “Sorry parents, it’s sad, but you need to just suck it up and let him die”. There are those who argue that the child’s condition is irreversible, and perhaps it is. But there is no reason why the parents should not be able to seek alternative treatment, or hope for a miracle. Science doesn’t always get things right. Nevertheless, champions of the new direction of the Vatican as regards pro-life issues seem to see nothing wrong with the  approach:

The papal Twitter account unleashed its own tone deaf (and possibly unintentional) commentary on the situation this morning:

Friday, June 30:

Gaying it up at the Hotel Vaticana

A report that came out earlier in the week indicated that something rather indecent had transpired in the apartment of a Vatican official:

Il Fatto Quotidiano writes, that the Holy See’s Gendarmerie disrupted a homosexual drug-party in an apartment of the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio in Rome, where also the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is located. The apartment belongs to a monsignor, who was caught red-handed. According to Il Fatto Quotidiano, he is the secretary of a cardinal who heads a dicastery of the Roman Curia and who had proposed the monsignor to become a bishop.

The monsignor was brought to the Roman clinic Pio XI in order to be detoxified. He is now in a monastery in Italy. His apartment was not destined for simple monsignors. He also drove an exclusive car with Vatican license plates, which are reserved for higher Vatican dignitaries.

Il Fatto Quotidiano writes that the cardinal, for whom the monsignor was working, is well over 75. This is only true for two cardinals at the Roman Curia, Cardinal Angelo Amato (79) of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and pro-gay Cardinal Francesco Cocopalmerio (79) of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

As Hilary White noted, Cardinal Amato is known for his denunciation of same-sex “marriage” and abortion, going so far as to call homosexual “marriage” an evil.

“Now” wrote Hilary, “let’s see what Cardinal Coccopalmerio is famous for…”

He’s recently become one of Francis’ leading Nothing-to-See-Here apologists on Chapter VIII of AL.

But I think his “side” in the larger church-war can be determined less by what he says than what he does, and who is friends are. Specifically this friend. Mauro Inzoli is known to have appealed his suspension a divinis, imposed by Benedict, to his two buddies in the Curia; Monsignore Pio Vito Pinto and Cardinal Coccopalmerio.

Inzoli was recently convicted of child molestation – acts he occasionally enjoyed committing in the confessional and sentenced to nine years, four months four years, nine months in prison [Oops. My bad. HJW] But he was walking around free for quite a while. His suspension by Benedict was overturned by Francis on the advice of his two close collaborators, Pinto and Coccopalmerio. The suspension was lifted and Inzoli was allowed to celebrate private Masses, ordered to stay away from the kids and to get five years of “counselling.” This lenient treatment, however, backfired a bit because it aroused howls of protest from … well… normal people in Italy who had had rather enough of Don Mercedes.

(Inzoli, by the way, was finally laicized.)

Two days later, Hilary’s math was checked, and it was not found wanting:

Mexico City, June 29 (SinEmbargo / RT) .- Italian police broke into the apartment of the former secretary of Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, housed in the palace of the former Holy Office in the Vatican, where a gay orgy with drugs, reports Italian media.

Upon locating the prelate himself, the police arrested him and sent him to the Pío XI clinic for detoxification. He is currently in retreat in a convent in Italy.

The intervention of the security forces came as a result of complaints about the constant arrival of guests to the apartment. Likewise, suspicions appeared regarding the luxury car with the license plate of the Holy Seat that had said prelate.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio is the President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

We’ve written about Coccopalmerio here and here. If you don’t remember him, he’s the one who was chosen to write the book about Amoris Laetitia, published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana and promoted by the Vatican itself, that said this:

“The divorced and remarried, de facto couples, those cohabitating, are certainly not models of unions in sync with Catholic Doctrine, but the Church cannot look the other way. Therefore, the sacraments of Reconciliation and Communion should be given even to those so-called wounded families and to however many who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment.” [Emphasis added]

Lovely man. And this is my favorite photo of him:

Yeah. Nothing off there. Whatsoever.

The End of the Line for Cardinal Müller

Of course, the most noteworthy story of the week was the unceremonious departure of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. With his five-year mandate expiring tomorrow, July 2nd, Müller was told he wouldn’t be coming back to the job. I wrote about this yesterday, so I won’t comment much on it here, except for two things:

There were some indications from our sources in Rome that thus freed from the constraints of his position, Müller would be much more likely to fight for a change. A new report from Rorate Caeli this morning demonstrate that those expectations appear to have been just a tad optimistic:

 “The five year term was over,” Cardinal Müller said. Although it is customary to renew the term, in his case Francis decided not to do so. Francis told him that it was his plan from now in general not to extend such terms, “and I was the first one for whom the plan was implemented,” said Müller. The pope did not give any further reason. And Müller himself says that he does not know of any further reason why the pope would not want him to continue. “There were no differences between me and Pope Francis,” said Cardinal Müller… He insisted that there was no quarrel about Amoris Laetitia, the Apostolic Exhortation in which Pope Francis allowed more flexibility in the pastoral care of the divorced and remarried, and which in some points he did not find complete agreement with Cardinal Müller. It was regrettable, however, Müller said, that the pope fired three of his officials a few weeks previously. “There were competent people,” he said. At 12 o’clock on Friday, he learned from Pope Francis himself that he wanted a new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “It doesn’t bother me,” said the 69 year old, smiling. “Everyone has to retire at some point.” He will stay in the Vatican, that much he has decided. “I will do scholarly work, continue to exercise my function as cardinal, and do what I can in the care of souls. I have enough to do in Rome.”

Secondly, Müller has already been replaced. His name is Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer. He is a Spanish Jesuit. (I’ll just wait here for your eyes to stop rolling). I don’t know much about him. I’ve already seen some people saying “we dodged a bullet.” My friend and colleague Oakes Spalding says he’s a universalist. I think we need to take our time before we get excited and remember who appointed him and that mistakes are rarely made in the irreversible program of Church reform. Whatever the case, he’s very, very unlikely to make trouble for The Dictatorship of Mercy.

That’s the wrapup for this week. Let’s hope next week isn’t quite as…fruitful.

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