Answers to your burning cardinalatial questions

So what exactly happens at a Consistory? Can we start calling Sean "His Eminence" yet? And when did they stop receiving the galero (oh tragic day!)?
Answers to these questions and more at Whispers.
I promise to start linking to other places soon.
BTW, not on Whispers, but well known protocol: next time you write to a Cardinal, the proper ending, now fallen into desuetude, is "Kissing the Sacred Purple, Mr. Lay Trash".
As my friend Joe has said so well in the past, "If the church isn't performance, then who is the man up there in the white dress?"


My newest blogcrush again...

So kudos to Whispers in the Loggia, who entered into the world of the "old media" by giving some commentary in the New York Times this past Sunday on some of B16's sartorial choices. If you can still get the Sunday Times, though, there are great photos of all his choices...but you should also look at WITL's extended sartorial summaries on his blog...

[BTW: I thought that I was all clever, coming up with "blogcrush" and all, then a quick google search showed me how unoriginal I truly am....sigh...]


Guest blogging, starting tomorrow...

ustSo I may be blogging on here a little less often for the next six weeks; I'll be "guest-blogging" over at BustedHalo.com, which is a great website run by the Paulists, described as "an online magazine for spiritual seekers." I've used their "Bible Boot Camp" with my students, and they've recently started a pretty good weekly Podcast.

I'll be one of two bloggers on "Spiritual Smackdown", where the idea is to have two Catholics with differing opinions discuss various issues charitably yet honestly. It's a great way of showing how big of a tent the Catholic church can still be, and how a healthy awareness of the difference between dogma and theological opinion might go a long way towards a general calming of the polarization which threatens our church, just as it threatens most of our communities these days...

EDIT: On BustedHalo, I'm "Golden Eagle"...not my choice for name, but there you go.


World Council of Churches Meeting

Just a heads-up for you Christians who are interested in ecumenism (oh, and btw, that means anybody who identifies as Christian, IMHO...).

The World Council of Churches is meeting right now in Porto Alegre, Brasil. You can follow the news and join with them in prayer online, and make their theme, "God, in Your Grace, Transform the Earth", a part of your prayer this week. Of particular interest to me is the working document "Called to be the one church", which will seek to invite the churches, including the Roman Catholic church which collaborates with the WCC without holding official membership, to renew their commitment to ecumenical unity.

Jean Tillard talked about the "ecumenical winter" in a length interview just before his death, published as I Believe, Despite Everything: An Interview in Winter. "Now the winter has swiftly come," he said, "before summer and the harvests. What a harsh winter!" (3) And, as a child of St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, a collection of French rocks in the middle of the ocean off Newfoundland, Tillard knew from winter. But he also hoped in a greater springtime for the church and for ecumenism, a springtime which will require a renewal of the commitments which the churches made with such joy and such naivete in the 1960s. For this to happen, however, it needs to be the work not just of a group of professionals meeting near the sunny beaches of Brasil, crucial as they are (you go, Laura!); it also needs to be our work here in our local churches, the starting point of which is that we sit up and notice again the division of the churches. The relative normality to us of a divided Christianity is the normality of ignoring the poor in our midst, the normality of a patient so medicated that she no longer notices her pain. Isn't it time you noticed again that the Body of Christ is broken, and began to make that part of your prayer and work again?

Lord, our God Almighty
Transformer and Creator
God of fatherly peace and motherly love
We gather before you with our pleas of despair
From our hearts filled with hope.

Gracious God, your church has experienced
the pangs of birth and its infancy
on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Be with your church as it continues its growth
across the world into adulthood and full unity.

With the church still in its adolescence
We pray for your gift of transformation.
Revive in us a spirit of community
Mould our thoughts into ones of love.
Instill in us a sense of your peace.

Give us the courage and resilience to accept transformation
For ourselves and for others
For the ones who suffer and the ones who inflict it
For the victims and the perpetrators
And for all your people.

In a world filled with violence and hatred
Give us the courage to sow love and harmony.
In a world rampant with discrimination and inequity,
Nurture in us the seeds of unity and grant us the foresight to see and resolve our divisions.
Prepare our hearts, minds and hands to reap your harvest. Amen.

Prayer prepared for WCC
Assembly Sunday by the group
of youth interns in the World
Council of Churches.

Poor Bryan Hehir...

Two items about the role of Catholics in public life:

1) The R.C. bishops of Massachusetts may attempt to obtain an exemption for Catholic Charities from accepting adoption applications from gay or lesbian applicants. It looks as though some members of the board, upon hearing their president, the eminent theologian and ethicist J. Bryan Hehir, report the bishops' plans last week, decided to go public, both on and off the record. After the recent flack here in November when Catholic Charities honored Boston mayor Thomas Menino and Sean O'Malley refused to attend, this is one more instance where we see a very public disagreement between the bishops of Massachusetts and their flock. But, despite angry voices to the contrary, this is not a question of a few wild-eyed, anti-Catholic liberals finding an excuse to stand up to their bishops; the Catholics who run and support Catholic Charities are some of the most dedicated and responsible members of the church in Boston. In the firestorm of the last five years, they have been the backbone for an ailing community. Poor Fr. Hehir is caught in the middle again; he obviously can't publicly disagree with the bishops, for both theological reasons (in his position, he is representing their authority), and for more practical reasons (they are also, mundanely, his bosses). But it must pain him deeply to see an institution to which he has devoted so much of his energy in the past few years, which is back on track financially in large part due to his efforts, keep getting kicked in the shins by the very men whose task it is to hold the local church in unity. The only silver lining that might come of a very public disagreement is the existence of a very public disagreement among Catholics; but here in Boston, I think that we've already had a strong lesson in the fact that faithful Catholics can faithfully disagree; we're more in need of some lessons in how that disagreement can be carried out in love, rather than suspicion.

2) Another story about Catholics and public life comes to us from my new favorite blog in the universe, Whispers in the Loggia. The author is a very bright, and very well-connected, Vaticanista; picture John Allen, but then make him a bit more snarky (in other words, combine a deep respect for the importance of ecclesial authority with the chutzpah to start referring to Benedict XVI as "His Fluffiness"). The Pope Whisperer wrote yesterday about a lecture at SLU by Andres Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Your humble blogger had his money on Rodriguez Maradiaga, figuratively and literally, via http://paddypower.com, and still has hopes that, if it pleases the Holy Spirit, this man could be the first American pope. But in talking about the question of distributing communion to politicians whose votes might come into conflict with church teaching, he shows a real respect for the sanctity of conscience, and for the agency of individuals to discern those judgments in private, with God, their pastors, and their fellow Christians, rather than in front of a bank of news cameras. This is not an issue that's going to go away in American Catholic politics...


Welcome to God's Waiting Room

Your faithful correspondent is here in Martin County, Florida, for the opening of BaptizedPagan's Trends Among Old People desk. As far as I can tell from my parents' retirement park, some of the major trends include a penchant for nautically-themed housewares, a strong dislike of uppityness, and a 1995-like relationship to the internet. I'm writing these posts on (shudder) dial-up, so there won't be many fun links to other places.

In all seriousness, it's a really nice place, the weather, despite some rain, is fabulous compared to Boston, it's great to see my parents (though I am slightly unused to being around them so much of the time...), and I saw my first alligator yesterday -- so I really can't complain.

I'm having a slightly difficult time taking off my amateur anthropologist hat; the retirement community resembles Golden Girls, Survivor, and a healthy dose of Machiavelli's Prince all rolled into one. This is a place where every move one makes is watched, not by some Leviathan, but by the constant presence of The Park. How big your shed is, how new your car is, how successful your children are -- these all form the ingredients for one's social standing. My parents are, luckily, young enough and smart enough to be more amused by the phenomenon, and yet aware enough to not do anything foolish like point out that the emperor has no clothes. One of the most interesting things down here is how sharply the various social and service organizations in the park are organized along gender lines. There's a men's club and a women's club, with rather sharply defined jobs and tasks, and ne'er the two shall meet. Since much of the park is older, this may be the dying gasps of the 1950s, played out in Floridian mobile homes...one becomes quite grateful to have grown up slightly removed from then, and anyone who is trying to study why the reaction in the 1960s was so strong should spend three months in southern Florida...

One other highlight: before leaving the area around the airport in West Palm Beach on Thursday, we visited the Norton Museum of Art. Great collection, especially for such a small museum. And, here in the middle of relatively nowhere, there's a great temporary exhibition of four paintings by Damien Hirst commissioned by Carlo Bilotti, themed around the four evangelists. They're great, crazy, Hirst-like structures, over 10 feet high and covered in dirt; each painting has a page or two from the Gospel at the center of the painting, with dirt and paint forming a cross-like (sometimes) mark around the center of the painting. His trademark butterflies and some razor blades and drugs round out the whole. (My theory: the razor blades and drugs, placed at the very lower corner of each painting, are Hirst's equivalent of an artist painting himself in at the foot of the cross; Hirst has shown himself, relatively insignificant but definitely there, in some sort of relationship, however tenuous, with the Gospel event.) But the dirt-mark in the middle is luminous; it's as though the pages of the Bible are ground zero of a small bomb, leaving the scorch-mark of God's presence on the otherwise stable solid background. Almost like the marks left on walls after the nuclear flash of Hiroshima, indicating that, minutes before, a person had existed there, these paintings convey some of the intensity of God's entry into the world in a thoroughly non-traditional idiom. For those of us allergic to fire and brimstone language, and accustomed to view God more through the lens of felt banners, it's a great way of showing how non-customary something like the incarnation, the entry of God into God's creation, really is -- and how dangerous.