Christendom no longer exists!




Clementine Hall
Saturday, 21 December 2019

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14)

Dear brothers and sisters,

I offer all of you a cordial welcome.  I express my gratitude to Cardinal Angelo Sodano for his kind words and in a particular way I thank him, also in the name of the members of the College of Cardinals, for the valued service he has long provided as Dean, in a spirit of helpfulness, dedication and efficiency, and with great skill in organization and coordination.  In the manner of “la rassa nostrana”, as the Piedmontese writer Nino Costa would say.  Now the Cardinal Bishops have to elect a new dean.  I am hoping they will elect someone who can carry this important responsibility full time.  Thank you.

To each of you here, to your co-workers and all those who serve in the Curia, but also to the Papal Representatives and their staff, I extend my best wishes for a holy and joyful Christmas.  And I add my appreciation for the dedication that you bring daily to your service of the Church.  Thank you very much.

Once again this year, the Lord gives us the opportunity to gather for this moment of fellowship which strengthens our fraternity and is grounded in our contemplation of God’s love revealed at Christmas.  A contemporary mystic has written that “the birth of Christ is the greatest and most eloquent witness of how much God loved man.  He loved him with a personal love.  That is why he took a human body, united it to himself and made it his own forever.  The birth of Christ is itself a ‘covenant of love’, sealed for all time between God and man”.[1]  As Saint Clement of Alexandria writes, “Christ came down and assumed our humanity, willingly sharing in our human sufferings, for this reason: so that, having experienced the frailty of those whom he loves, he could then make us experience his great power”.[2]

In the light of this boundless benevolence and love, our exchange of Christmas greetings is yet another chance to respond to Christ’s new commandment: “Even as I have loved you, you must also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).  Jesus does not ask us to love him in response to his love for us; rather, he asks us to love one another as he does.  In other words, he asks us to become like him, since he became like us.  As Saint John Henry Newman prayed: “May each Christmas, as it comes, find us more and more like Him, who at this time became a little child for our sake, more simple-minded, more humble, more holy, more affectionate, more resigned, more happy, more full of God”.[3]  And he went on to say: “[Christmas] is a time for innocence, and purity, and gentleness, and mildness, and contentment, and peace”[4].

This mention of Newman brings to mind his well-known words in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, a book that coincided chronologically and spiritually with his entry into the Catholic Church:  “Here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”.[5]  Naturally, he is not speaking about changing for change’s sake, or following every new fashion, but rather about the conviction that development and growth are a normal part of human life, even as believers we know that God remains the unchanging centre of all things.[6]

For Newman change was conversion, in other words, interior transformation.[7]  Christian life is a journey, a pilgrimage.  The history of the Bible is a journey, marked by constantly new beginnings.  So it was with Abraham.  So it was too with those Galileans who two thousand years ago set out to follow Jesus: “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him” (Lk 5:11).  From that time forward, the history of God’s people – the history of the Church – has always been marked by new beginnings, displacements and changes.  This journey, of course, is not just geographical, but above all symbolic: it is a summons to discover the movement of the heart, which, paradoxically, has to set out in order to remain, to change in order to be faithful.[8]

All of this has particular importance for our time, because what we are experiencing is not simply an epoch of changes, but an epochal change.   We find ourselves living at a time when change is no longer linear, but epochal.  It entails decisions that rapidly transform our ways of living, of relating to one another, of communicating and thinking, of how different generations relate to one another and how we understand and experience faith and science.  Often we approach change as if were a matter of simply putting on new clothes, but remaining exactly as we were before.  I think of the enigmatic expression found in a famous Italian novel: “If we want everything to stay the same, then everything has to change” (The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa).

The more healthy approach is to let oneself be challenged by the questions of the day and to approach them with the virtues of discernment, parrhesía and hypomoné.  Seen in this light, change takes on a very different aspect: from something marginal, incidental or merely external, it would become something more human and more Christian.  Change would still take place, but beginning with man as its centre: an anthropological conversion.[9]

We need to initiate processes and not just occupy spaces: “God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history.  Time initiates processes and space crystalizes them.  God is in history, in the processes.  We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes.  We must initiate processes rather than occupy spaces.  God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history.  This gives priority to actions that give birth to new historical dynamics.  And it requires patience, waiting”.[10]  In this sense, we are urged to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith, so that the direction of this change should “raise new and old questions which it is right that we should face”.[11]

In discussing a change that is grounded mainly in fidelity to the depositum fidei and the Tradition, today I would like to speak once more of the implementation of the reform of the Roman Curia and to reaffirm that this reform has never presumed to act as if nothing had preceded it.  On the contrary, an effort was made to enhance the good elements deriving from the complex history of the Curia.  There is a need to respect history in order to build a future that has solid roots and can thus prove fruitful.  Appealing to memory is not the same as being anchored in self-preservation, but instead to evoke the life and vitality of an ongoing process.  Memory is not static, but dynamic.  By its very nature, it implies movement.  Nor is tradition static; it too is dynamic, as that great man [Gustav Mahler] used to say: tradition is the guarantee of the future and not a container of ashes.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In our previous Christmas meetings, I spoke of the criteria that inspired this work of reform.  I also explained some changes already implemented, whether definitively or ad experimentum.[12]  In 2017, I highlighted some new elements in the organization of the Curia.  I gave as examples: the Third Section of the Secretariat of State, which is working very well; the relationship between the Roman Curia and particular Churches, with reference also to the ancient practice of the Visits ad limina Apostolorum; and the structure of some Dicasteries, especially that for the Oriental Churches and those for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, particularly with Judaism.

In today’s meeting, I would like to reflect on some other Dicasteries, beginning with the heart of the reform, that is, with the first and most important task of the Church, which is evangelization.  As Saint Paul VI stated: “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.  She exists in order to evangelize”.[13]  Today too, Evangelii Nuntiandicontinues to be the most important pastoral document of the post-conciliar period.  Indeed, the aim of the current reform is that “the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.  The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented” (Evangelii Gaudium, 27).  Consequently, inspired by the magisterium of the Successors of Peter from the time of the Second Vatican Council until the present, it was decided to give the title Praedicate Evangelium to the new Apostolic Constitution being prepared on the reform of the Roman Curia.  A missionary outlook.

For this reason, I would like to discuss today some of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia whose names explicitly refer to this: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.  I think, too, of the Dicastery for Communication and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The first two Congregations mentioned were established in an age when it was easier to distinguish between two rather well-defined realities: a Christian world and a world yet to be evangelized.  That situation no longer exists today.  People who have not yet received the Gospel message do not live only in non-Western continents; they live everywhere, particularly in vast urban concentrations that call for a specific pastoral outreach.  In big cities, we need other “maps”, other paradigms, which can help us reposition our ways of thinking and our attitudes.  Brothers and sisters, Christendom no longer exists!   Today we are no longer the only ones who create culture, nor are we in the forefront or those most listened to.[14]  We need a change in our pastoral mindset, which does not mean moving towards a relativistic pastoral care.  We are no longer living in a Christian world, because faith – especially in Europe, but also in a large part of the West – is no longer an evident presupposition of social life; indeed, faith is often rejected, derided, marginalized and ridiculed.

This point was clearly made by Benedict XVI when he proclaimed the 2012 Year of Faith: “Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people”.[15]  This also led to the establishment in 2010 of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization for the sake of fostering “a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of the faith has already resonated and where Churches with an ancient foundation exist but are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God’, which pose a challenge to finding appropriate means to propose anew the perennial truth of Christ’s Gospel”.[16]  At times I have spoken about this with some of you…  I think of five countries that filled the world with missionaries – I told you which ones they are – and today lack the vocational resources to go forward.  That is today’s world.

The realization that epochal change raises serious questions about the identity of our faith did not burst suddenly on the scene.[17]  It gave rise to the term “new evangelization”, then taken up by Saint John Paul II, who wrote in his Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio: “Today the Church must face other challenges and push forward to new frontiers, both in the initial mission ad gentes and in the new evangelization of those peoples who have already heard Christ proclaimed” (No. 30).  What is needed is a new evangelization or a re-evangelization (cf. No. 33).

All of this necessarily entails changes and shifts in focus, both within the above-mentioned Dicasteries and within the Curia as a whole.[18]

I would also add a word about the recently established Dicastery for Communication.  Here too we are speaking of epochal change, inasmuch as “broad swathes of humanity are immersed in [the digital world] in an ordinary and continuous manner.  It is no longer merely a question of ‘using’ instruments of communication, but of living in a highly digitalized culture that has had a profound impact on ideas of time and space, on our self-understanding, our understanding of others and the world, and our ability to communicate, learn, be informed and enter into relationship with others.  An approach to reality that privileges images over listening and reading has influenced the way people learn and the development of their critical sense” (Christus Vivit, 86).

The Dicastery for Communication has been entrusted with the responsibility of unifying in a new institution the nine bodies that, in various ways and with different tasks, had previously dealt with communications.  These were the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Holy See Press Office, the Vatican Press, the Vatican Publishing House, L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio, the Vatican Television Centre, the Vatican Internet Service and the Photographic Service.  This consolidation, as I have said, was meant not simply for better coordination, but also for a reconfiguration of the different components in view of offering a better product and keeping to a consistent editorial line.

The new media culture, in its variety and complexity, calls for an appropriate presence of the Holy See in the communications sector.  Today, we are living in a multimedia world and this affects our way of conceiving, designing and providing media services.  All this entails not only a change of culture but also an institutional and personal conversion, in order to pass from operating in self-contained units – which in the best cases had a certain degree of coordination – to working in synergy, in an intrinsically interconnected way.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Much of what I have been saying is also applicable to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.  It too was recently established in response to the changes that have taken place on the global level, and amalgamates four previous Pontifical Councils: those of Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, and the pastoral care of Migrants and of Healthcare Workers. The overall unity of the tasks entrusted to this Dicastery is summed up in the first words of the Motu Proprio Humanam Progressionem that instituted it: “In all her being and actions, the Church is called to promote the integral development of the human person in the light of the Gospel.  This development takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace and the care of creation”.  It takes place by serving those who are most vulnerable and marginalized, particularly those forced to emigrate, who at the present time represent a voice crying in the wilderness of our humanity.  The Church is thus called to remind everyone that it is not simply a matter of social or migration questions but of human persons, of our brothers and sisters who today are a symbol of all those discarded by the globalized society.  She is called to testify that for God no one is a “stranger” or an “outcast”.  She is called to awaken consciences slumbering in indifference to the reality of the Mediterranean Sea, which has become for many, all too many, a cemetery.

I would like to recall how important it is that development be integral.  Saint Paul VI observed that “to be authentic, development must be integral; it must foster the development of every man and of the whole man” (Populorum Progressio, 14).  In a word, grounded in her tradition of faith and appealing in recent decades to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the Church consistently affirms the grandeur of the vocation of all human beings, whom God has created in his image and likeness in order to form a single family.  At the same time, she strives to embrace humanity in all its dimensions.

It is precisely this integral aspect that nowadays makes us recognize that our common humanity unites us as children of one Father.  “In all her being and actions, the Church is called to promote the integral development of the human person in the light of the Gospel (Humanam Progressionem).  The Gospel always brings the Church back to the mysterious logic of the incarnation, to Christ who took upon himself our history, the history of each of us.  That is the message of Christmas.  Humanity, then, is the key for interpreting the reform.  Humanity calls and challenges us; in a word, it summons us to go forth and not fear change.

Let us not forget that the Child lying in the manger has the face of our brothers and sisters most in need, of the poor who “are a privileged part of this mystery; often they are the first to recognize God’s presence in our midst” (Admirabile Signum, 6).

Dear brothers and sisters,

We are speaking, then, about great challenges and necessary balances that are often hard to achieve, for the simple fact that, poised between a glorious past and a changing, creative future, we are living in the present.  Here there are persons who necessarily need time to grow; there are historical situations to be dealt with on a daily basis, since in the process of the reformthe world and history do not stop; there are juridical and institutional questions that need to be resolved gradually, without magic formulas or shortcuts.

There is, finally, the dimension of time and there is human error, which must rightly be taken into consideration.  These are part of the history of each one of us.  Not to take account of them is to go about doing things in abstraction from human history.  Linked to this difficult historical process there is always the temptation to fall back on the past (also by employing new formulations), because it is more reassuring, familiar, and, to be sure, less conflictual.  This too is part of the process and risk of setting in motion significant changes.[19]

Here, there is a need to be wary of the temptation to rigidity.  A rigidity born of the fear of change, which ends up erecting fences and obstacles on the terrain of the common good, turning it into a minefield of incomprehension and hatred.  Let us always remember that behind every form of rigidity lies some kind of imbalance.  Rigidity and imbalance feed one another in a vicious circle.  And today this temptation to rigidity has become very real.

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Roman Curia is not a body detached from reality, even though this risk is always present.  Rather, it should be thought of and experienced in the context of the journey of today’s men and women, and against the backdrop of this epochal change.  The Roman Curia is not a palace or a wardrobe full of clothes to be changed.  The Roman Curia is a living body, and all the more so to the extent that it lives the Gospel in its integrity.

Cardinal Martini, in his last interview, a few days before his death, said something that should make us think: “The Church is two hundred years behind the times.  Why is she not shaken up?  Are we afraid?  Fear, instead of courage?  Yet faith is the Church’s foundation.  Faith, confidence, courage…  Only love conquers weariness”.[20]

Christmas is the feast of God’s love for us.  The divine love that inspires, guides and corrects change, and overcomes the human fear of leaving behind “security” in order once more to embrace the “mystery”.

A happy Christmas to all!

* * * * *

In preparation for Christmas, we have listened to sermons on the Holy Mother of God.  Let us turn to her before the blessing.  [Hail Mary and blessing].

Now I would like to give you a little gift of two books.  The first is the “document” that I wanted to issue for the Extraordinary Missionary Month [October 2019], and did do in the form of an interview; Senza di Lui non possiamo fare nulla – Without Him We Can Do Nothing.  I was inspired by a saying, I don’t know by whom, that when missionaries arrive in a place, the Holy Spirit is already there waiting for them.  That was the inspiration for this document.  The second gift is a retreat given to priests recently by Father Luigi Maria Epicoco, Qualcuno a cui guardare – Someone To Whom We Can Look.  I give you these from the heart so that they can be of use to the whole community.  Thank you!


[1]MATTA EL MESKEEN, L’Umanità di Dio, Qiqajon-Bose, Magnano 2015, 170-171.

[2] Quis dives salvetur 37, 1-6.

[3] Sermon 7, “The Mystery of Godliness”, Parochial and Plain Sermons, V.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Chapter 1, Section 1, Part 7.

[6] In one of his prayers, Newman writes: “There is nothing stable but Thou, O my God!  And Thou art the centre and life of all who change, who trust Thee as their Father, who look to Thee, and who are content to put themselves into Thy hands.  I know, O my God, I must change, if I am to see Thy face!” (Meditations and Devotions, XI, “God Alone Unchangeable”).

[7] Newman describes it like this: “I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind… it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption” (Apologia Pro Vita Sua, 1865, Chapter 5, 238.  Cf. J. HONORÉ, Gli aforismi di Newman, LEV, 2010, 167).

[8] Cf. J. M. BERGOGLIO, “Lenten Message to Priests and Religious”, 21 February 2007, in In Your Eyes I See my Words: Homilies and Speeches from Buenos Aires, Volume 2: 2005-2008, Fordham University Press, 2020.

[9] Cf. Apostolic Constitution Veritatis Gaudium (27 December 2017), 3: “In a word, this calls for changing the models of global development and redefining our notion of progress.  Yet the problem is that we still lack the culture necessary to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths”.

[10] Interview given to Father Antonio Spadaro, Civiltà Cattolica, 19 September 2013, p. 468.

[11] Schreiben an das Pilgernde Volk Gottes in Deutschland, 29 June 2019.

[12] Cf. Address to the Curia, 22 December 2016.

[13] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (8 December 1975), 14.  Saint John Paul II wrote that missionary evangelization “is the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity in the modern world, a world which has experienced marvellous achievements but which seems to have lost its sense of ultimate realities and of existence itself” (Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 7 December 1990, 2).

[14] Cf. Address to Participants at the International Pastoral Congress on the World’s Big Cities, Consistory Hall, 27 November 2014.

[15] Motu Proprio Porta Fidei, 2.

[16] Benedict XVI, Homily, 28 June 2010; cf. Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper, 17 October 2010.

[17] An epochal change was noted in France by Cardinal Suhard (we can think of his pastoral letter Essor ou déclin de l’Église, 1947) and by the then-Archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini.  The latter also questioned whether Italy was still a Catholic country (cf. Opening Address at the VIII National Week of Pastoral Updating, 22 September 1958, in Discorsi e Scritti milanesi 1954-1963, vol. II, Brescia-Roma 1997, 2328).

[18] Saint Paul VI, some fifty years ago, when presenting the new Roman Missal to the faithful, recalled the correspondence between the law of prayer (lex orandi) and the law of faith (lex credendi), and described the Missal as “a demonstration of fidelity and vitality”.  He concluded by saying: “So let us not speak of a ‘new Mass’, but rather of ‘a new age in the life of the Church’” (General Audience, 19 November 1969).  Analogously, we might also say in this case: not a new Roman Curia, but rather a new age.

[19] Evangelii Gaudium states the rule: “to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events.  Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity” (No. 223).

[20] Interview with Georg Sporschill, S.J. and Federica Radice Fossati Confalonieri: Corriere della Sera, 1 September 2012.




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  1. Eddie Finnegan says:

    This address is full of meat and quotes or potential quotes. Francis grilled his Curial audiences over the past six Christmas addresses, so now that he has them where he wants them, well done, he can stop turning the spit. Any who don’t like it know where the doors are. If they didn’t remember ‘The Leopard’ quote, they could at least have recalled Newman or listened to Martini before they buried him in Milan. The present and immediate future will be with the likes of Peter Turkson and Chito Tagle and the generation after them. These are the lads from what were once the peripheries to which we used send ‘missiones ad gentes’, on condition that the missionaries didn’t disturb us on their return home in old age – or worse still, produce uppity Papal Nuncios or even Popes to shake us up as Martini suggested.

    And, in case we didn’t get it in our wee corner, he rubs it in casually: “I think of five countries that filled the world with missionaries – I told you which ones they are – and today lack the vocational resources to go forward. That is today’s world.”
    No prizes for guessing whom he meant.

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    Does anyone else suspect that Turkson and Tagle would create a church far to the right of anything we had from John Paul II or Ratzinger?

  3. Eddie Finnegan says:

    “What to do about Sodano?” asked John L Allen Jr in the NCReporter, May 2011 when Marcial Maciel’s staunch defender was already 84. Suppose Benedict were to die suddenly, Allen pointed out, Sodano would be running the Conclave and having great influence (short of voting) on who would be next pope. Well, Benedict didn’t die but Sodano at 86 had much to do with the 2013 Conclave. Nearly seven years later they finally get rid of Sodano at 92 – the man who should have been ordered to ‘conduct a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry’ from 19 May 2006, as with Maciel. Well, Sodano has 13 years’ catching up to do on the prayer & penitence. A bit of added fasting would clearly do him no harm at all. At least future Deans will be on a tighter 5-year rein.

  4. Frances Burke says:

    John Paul II was a big fan of Marciel Maciel because he gave huge contributions to the Vatican during his papacy and he “admired the Legionaries’ orthodoxy and ability to produce vocations”.

    “Cardinal Angelo Sodano (92) who was secretary of state under John Paul, was for years one of the Legionaries’ biggest protectors in the Vatican”

    The rot was right at the top.

  5. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Joe@2 asks a good question. But as I am conscious that from among the 1000+ nominal members of this association and site there must be several hundred better equipped to answer that question than I am, I shall leave it to them. I may occasionally raise or rouse the odd hare, fox or even sleeping dog on the wide acres of this demesne, but I don’t necessarily have the least ambition or turn of speed to chase after them or imagine that I’ll ever catch them.

  6. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe@2, I completely agree with you. Sorry Eddie, I definitely would not want either of those fellas.
    My preferred choice for Francis II would still be Christoph Schonborn. In fact, he was my big hope at the last conclave before we had the miracle of Francis I.
    I was reminded recently of what a honest, decent man Christoph is when I read what he had said at one of the recent lectures at the University of Vienna on “The Sexual Abuse of Minors: Crime and Responsibility ” . If only all those with responsibility in our institutional church had had Christoph’s honesty and wisdom.
    Frances@4, you are absolutely spot on. But I thought we had all known about the crimes Marciel years ago. Jason Berry in the NCR gave us a most detailed account of his corruption–if you pardon the euphemism– about 10 years ago, I think. He also explained something of Sodano’s role in Marciel protection. Sodano’s nephew was a building contractor in Rome and got large contracts from the Legion. Absolute corruption! As an elderly friend back home in Donegal once said to me during one of the clerical sex abuse scandals “Its no wonder the young people don’t go to Mass anymore”.
    Christoph Schonborn also mentioned Sodano in that lecture I referred to above.
    He once mentioned “victims” of clerical sex abuse in Sodano’s presence and Sodano said ” my face, that what you call them….” He later was called to Rome to apologise in the presence of Pope Benedict and Sodano for offending Sodano !! ” Its no wonder the young people don’t go to Mass anymore”!

  7. Sean O'Conaill says:

    #2 Unpack this for us, Joe. In what way or ways might the men mentioned try to take the church’To the right’?

    Opposition to the ‘Christendom is over’ message? Restoration in full force of the ‘fixation with sexuality’ and/or CDF authoritarianism? Abandonment of the synodality principle and the attempt to reform the curia? An end to criticism of ‘clericalism’ and ‘careerism’ and to the environmental emphasis of Laudato Si?

    Your question may well echo the apparent indecision of the Irish hierarchy over the permanence of the ‘Franciscan trend’, but for many who still call themselves ‘Catholic’ in Ireland, ‘the church’ is no longer something determined in Rome. Too many eyes have been opened to the huge danger of allowing any hierarch to determine the conscience and behaviour of anyone else. I don’t believe it could be now in the power of anyone to restore the appeal of RC ultramontanism here for the huge majority.

  8. Paddy Ferry says:

    Frances@4, two paragraphs in particular in that excellent NCR editorial that I shared jumped off the screen at me. The first being:

    “Finally, be careful about those priests, particularly the cohort of younger ones who idolize John Paul and his idea of “heroic priesthood,” which he viewed as best exemplified by Maciel, the cleric he once described as an “efficacious guide to youth.” Indeed. It is a model of priesthood built on sand and grand delusions about ontological differences and other hierarchical nonsense.”

    What excellent advice!! Of course, John Paul II is now a saint “!!

    The 2nd paragraph is the one in which the editorial mentions some of the cabal who defended Maciel robustly to the end:

    “One of the principals of that cabal, which included such Catholic right luminaries as George Weigel and Mary Ann Glendon, was the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. He vilified the reporters and publications, NCR at the top of his list, who persisted in digging into the story of Maciel’s corruption.”

    I am especially interested in Mary Ann Glendon. She was the token woman in the Vatican for years and, famously, she chastised our then President Mary McAleese for supporting the ordination of women when Mary visited the soon to be disgraced Cardinal Law. Of course, they picked on the wrong woman when they picked on our Mary. I am sure many will remember her account of all this in that interview with the late Gay, God rest his noble soul.

    George Weigel’s continued defence of the Wojtyla pontificate is so outrageous that I can barely read the man anymore. I remember a month or two ago, Margaret Hickey was having a real go at Mary McAleese and, at the same time, robustly defending JP II. I remember thinking to myself how such a defence would have done Weigel proud !

    Maciel even features in the film, “The Two Popes” which I have just watched tonight and in which Ratzinger confesses his negligence in dealing with Maciel to Cardinal Bergoglio. I had decided not to read the reviews until I had seen the film. So, now, I am really intrigued to find out how much of it is actually authentic. Did the two men really spend those days together and was Bergoglio really Ratzinger’s choice of successor.? If so, I will have to readjust my opinion of Ratzinger who was never one of my favourites and that must be the understatement of the year so far.

  9. Joe O'Leary says:
  10. Sean O'Conaill says:

    #10. Thanks, Joe – most useful.

    Those Tagle links help to qualify the positive spin of NCR here:

    And I cannot find that Tagle has echoed the ‘Christendom is over’ line either. Could any Asian or African prelate truly ‘get’ the significance of that conclusion for e.g. Ireland?

    Perhaps the most important lesson of our lifetime is on the limitations of the papacy, and therefore on the unwisdom of all papal personality cults?

    That may well also apply to the role of ‘bishop’. How on earth can the pre-1980s prestige and symbolism of the bishop’s staff be restored, with the CDF apparently now overwhelmed by new waves of clerical abuse allegations?

  11. Eddie Finnegan says:

    A notable shortcoming of this forum, as with most so-called social websites, is the ease with which worthwhile statements, documents and even great papal thrusts and challenges of epochal change can be sidetracked, ignored, forgotten by our need to pursue our own single-issue agendas within our own bubble, or bury the main point of an argument or news item with countless repetitions of links, or even cut-and-paste dumping of stuff which most of us have read, or taken as read, weeks or even months before. Some of this dumped stuff may have relevance, but not at the expense of pursuing the thought or logic of the Original Post (OP).

    Pope Francis, to an extent, introduced his own distraction on this occasion. The criminal Sodano should have been sacked decades ago, or at the latest in December 2013 – but, as Jason Berry suggests, Francis was just the latest pope caught in his net and owing him.

    Francis’s main purpose last Saturday, besides meeting & greeting the Curia members, was to spell out his latest progress in reforming them since they have failed to reform themselves, since JPII had no interest in such reform, and since that once truly progressive theologian, Benedict, tried his best before finding he wasn’t up to the job.

    That two of the main ‘super-dicasteries’ Francis has been addressing in recent years and months have been the oldest and largest but still growing, and the newest, comprising four existing ‘Pontifical councils’, means paying attention to who heads them for the foreseeable future. It is unfortunate that both Cardinals Tagle and Turkson have been cursed with the ‘papabile’ albatross around their necks. Reforming the Curia is NOT about electing the next pope (a FrancisII, as Paddy puts it) but about building effective and well balanced departments to serve a universal church of many cultures – not just to humour an old white European establishment or soothe our latest hang-ups or hangovers on ‘rights’ most of us didn’t know we had half-a-century ago.

    By all means, Paddy, let’s both continue to vote in the next Conclave, as we both did in March 2013, for that scion of the Old Austrian Church of Christendom and of the Holy Roman Empire, Cardinal Christoph Maria Michael Hugo Damian Peter Adalbert Schonborn. He’s still not quite 75. Meanwhile, however, let young Chito Tagle (62) backed by Ab Protase Rugambwa of Tanzania, and relatively young Peter Turkson (71) backed by Human Rights expert Bruno-Marie Duffé from Lyons, get on with running their mega- or super-departments – with the emphasis, perhaps, on what used to be the Church’s peripheries (no, Paddy, not Donegal or even South Armagh!).

    And, Joe@2&10, as for Googling repetitive pages on Peter Turkson’s views on homosexuality or same-sex marriage, or on Chito Tagle’s stance on contraception or abortion, substitute for Turkson or Tagle the name of any Irish, English & Welsh, Scottish, Italian Bishop (including any Bishop of Rome going back centuries/millennia) and ask yourself if there is any great difference, or whether words such as ‘right wing’ or extreme are really very relevant.

  12. Paddy Ferry says:

    You know, Eddie, I welcomed Joe’s links to the articles on Tagle and Tuckson. I had actually forgotten why I wasn’t keen on Tuckson though I knew why I had gone off Chito –I hadn’t known his first name, Eddie –despite his support for a Vat II model of church, and that was because I had read how he was a staunch defender –still –of Humanae Vitae, surely sufficient reason to disqualify anyone from the papacy in todays church.

    You obviously have done much more research on Christoph than I have done.
    Interesting how he has all those middle names. Anyway, that does not disqualify him and he remains my big hope for Francis II.

    I do always admire your knowledge and learning Eddie, erudition, I think, is the word I am looking for and you were missed when you were silent for a while. And, likewise Joe. Joe has been such a great contributor to the discourse on this site with his erudition. Though Joe and I have had the odd wee disagreement on one particular subject it certainly does not affect my respect and admiration for him.

    I agree the debate on Maciel has rather taken over this particular thread of discussion. Jason Berry has had another piece, “The last bull: Sodano goes out” in the NCR a couple of days ago in the light of the recent report on Maciel’s “activities”. Jason’s original pieces were in 2010. This latest one is mostly about Sodano, one of John Paul II’s right hand men, Secretary of State for years, and whom you rightly call a criminal, Eddie. But ,in this piece, Jason once again highlights the corruption of Dziwisz too who was Wojtyla’s ultimate right hand man who came with him to Rome for that second conclave in 1978 and never left. Someone once called him the Pope’s ecclesial son. Some Polish priests of my acquaintance have not now got a good word to say about Dziwisz and that says something as they are normally so differential to their superiors.

    I share below the paragraphs where Dziwisz is mentioned. Patsy McGarry and Mary McAleese also get a mention.

    “On Sodano, the Irish Times was harsher: “Cardinal (92) who ‘sought deal’ to bury sex abuse documents resigns.” According to the veteran religion reporter Patsy McGarry, when the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, traveled to Rome in 2003, she met with Sodano who tried “to secure, through her, agreement that Ireland would not attempt to access church documents in Commissions of Inquiry surrounding the handling of allegations of clerical sex abuse.” McAleese, who spurned the request, called it “one of the most devastating moments in my presidency.”

    “At the time of McAleese’s trip, Cardinal Sodano was also working hand-in-glove with Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul’s closest aide, to block the canonical process against Maciel, while neurological disease took its toll on the pope.2

    As reported in NCR in 2010, Legion priests gave lavish financial gifts to Sodano and Dziwisz, the gatekeeper for attendance at private Masses in the apostolic palace. (After John Paul died, Benedict made Dziwisz a cardinal; he has since retired in Poland.) The funds channeled to those and other curial officials were, as one priest said, “an elegant way of giving a brib
    “The Legion gave Dziwisz $50,000 to secure a Mexican benefactor and his family seats at a private papal Mass. Dziwisz, who rarely speaks with reporters, refused my interview requests at the time; so did Sodano. The cardinal received separate gifts of $10,000 and $5,000 from the Legion, according to two of its former priests, who likened those gifts to the tip of an iceberg. In late 2004, five months before John Paul died, Ratzinger bolted from Sodano’s control and ordered the investigation of Maciel that would culminate in his dismissal after the cardinal became pope. Even then, Sodano made sure the language of the papal decree singled out the Legion of Christ for praise without a word of consolation to victims.”

    The corruption in the Vatican of John Paul II was quite breathtaking. When Margaret Hickey was giving us a George Wiegel type defence of John Paul II she called for reasoned argument and not for the demonising of those “on the other side”. Well, you know, nobody on this side needs to demonise those on the other side as they are quite brilliant at doing that themselves.

    Eddie, I finally want to wish you and all our fellow correspondents on this site every good wish for 2020.
    If I have been too “challenging” to another’s point of view on occasions and have caused hurt, I sincerely apologise for that. It was never my intention to do that and I have the greatest respect for all our regular contributors. However, I do think those comments of affirmation and praise are rendered much more valid by the occasional more negative critique.

    Finally, I want to thank Mattie for his continued great work as our moderator. Not just as moderator, but on those few occasions when he feels the need to intervene and contribute himself, he always does so with great wisdom and to great affect.

    My very best wishes to all my friends in the ACP and the ACI.

    Paddy Ferry.

  13. Eddie Finnegan says:

    No, Paddy, I wasn’t silent for a while – I was busy. The ACP site is not the centre of my universe – which is why I’ve been encouraging folk to switch to the new @ACPinIreland Twitter account and say what they have to say in 280 characters or less/fewer. I have reluctantly reached the conclusion that if I were a diocesan parish priest I’d probably find more and better things to do than tune in for regular dollops of the NCR (whether Reporter or Register), America, The Tablet, or even Patsy McGarry. I referred to Jason Berry’s latest NCR article in a dozen words above, hoping that readers could look him up for themselves.

    May I repeat? I was lauding Cardinals Turkson and Tagle as well chosen heads of major dicasteries or departments to serve the wider world and the wider church. Not necessarily as the next two popes. Though why not? I haven’t heard that ‘Humanae Vitae’ has been placed on The Index (abolished by Paul VI four years earlier) despite it’s not having been “received” by us enlightened ones.

    You return to Margaret Hickey’s “George Wiegel type defence of JPII.” I don’t think Margaret Hickey was doing any more back in November than ‘calling out’ Mary McAleese over her wild misinterpretation of a passage in Karol Wojtyla’s book. Whether or not the original misreading was McAleese’s or the late Fr Sean Fagan’s, the new Trinity Chancellor should have had the good grace and common good manners to apologise for her howler rather than trying to distract her critics by saying she was using it as an analogy to suit her own purposes. Margaret Hickey was not the only close reader to correct her, all to no avail. Alas! Mary McAleese has developed the knack of using everyone else’s share of the oxygen in a room or even in a Roman Jesuit Aula – and clearly she has soared far above correction by mere mortals. I gave my own opinion at the time on the ACI site and the WeAreChurchIreland Fb page – but the ACP forum had avoided that particular hot potato.

    But, Paddy, a very Happy New Year to you and yours. If indeed Old men see visions while young men dream dreams, may we all be granted the gift of 20:20 Vision from midnight.

  14. Paddy Ferry says:

    Eddie, perhaps silent was not the best word. I simply meant that I was aware that, for a while, you had not contributed very much on this site and you are always missed. Well, I certainly do. But, I apologise for my clumsy, inappropriate mode of expression.

    I have great admiration for Mary McAleese. She is one of the few people outwith the institutional church who has the ability and the credibility to speak and be listened to on the needs of the church, especially the need for reform. Her phrase “codology masquerading as theology” is very apt and not just in relation to the ordination of women. If we are to keep the Christian faith relevant going forward into the future, and also, indeed, in the present time, I think the whole Christian church has a major challenge on its hands. A basic requirement is that all our so-called fundamental teachings are based on sound, authentic foundations and not on “codology masquerading as theology.” I have been inspired by the writings of Tony Flannery to have a think about what I have believed as part of my faith life , without any serious questioning on my part, for all of my thinking life. I have found it to be an interesting exercise.

    When Margaret Hickey initialled challenged Mary McAleese and also the late Sean Fagan, I found it hard to believe, given the calibre of them both, that they could have got it so wrong. However, once you confirmed that Margaret was correct I had to accept they had erred. John Paul II had, of course, some bizarre views on sex. He was strong advocate of the rhythm method, the so called natural method of contraception which when you actually study what is involved you realise it one of the most unnatural methods imaginable. Thee American couple, the Crowleys, who were part of the commission set up to advice the Pope on birth control during Vat. II did research in American which found that the rhythm lead to “unnatural frustration” in those couples using it.

    Wojtyla was greatly influenced by his friend, Dr. Wanda Poltawska who had researched the whole area of contraception and claimed to have established empirical evidence that contraception causes mental illness, neuroses, guilt, impotence and frigidity. Really !! I had also read where John Paul wrote, perhaps in Familiaris Consortio, I’m not sure, that the only authentic expression of sexual between and a man and a woman is that which occurs when the man, first of all, purifies himself by undergoing a period of abstinence and self control. I mean, what utter nonsense! I wonder what clinical psychologists specialising in the field of sexuality would make of that. So, being aware of some of John Paul II’s other outrageous views, I was quite prepared to believe what Mary McAleese had said.

    You have to wonder why someone like Wojtyla, a lifelong celibate with no experience of sexual love, felt he was qualified to pontificate with such certainty on what Basil Hume famously referred to as the “most precious area of the human experience”. And, we are still only talking about heterosexual love here.!

    I have been trying to find the discourse on this site where Margaret Hickey challenged Mary McAleese before I replied to you, Eddie and I cannot find it. But I am pretty sure she was doing more that just calling Mary McAleese to account. She was also defending John Paul II vigorously. She was also less than respectful to the late Sean Fagan and, as someone who was reading Angela Hanley’s book, “What happened to Fr. Sean Fagan”, I did not like it.

    Eddie, I always want to be at one with you. Every good wish to you and yours for the new year and the new decade.

  15. William Herlihy says:

    I agree with the sentiments regarding Pope John Paul II, expressed by Paddy Ferry @ 9.
    In my humble opinion this man, endeavoured to remake the Catholic Church in the image of a Communist State. After all, we are products of our Environment.
    His Politburo was the Curia.
    The Bishops were his Shock Troops.
    Pope John Paul 11 went to great pains, in preparing a template for the selection of Bishop,essentially, it required obedient yes men.
    The above, has been born out for me in Brian Darcy´s brilliant book, “It has to be said”, where he describes a conversation he had with one of the late Cardinal Daly´s Bishops at a social function.
    In the conversation, the Bishop described the meetings in Maynooth as follows “He treated us as school boys”.
    This is the legacy we have to day, the “laity” are reduced to grey old people like myself,more and more the young people are organising their weddings and funerals outside the Church.
    Thanks, to Pope John Paul II, the young people no longer see the Church as relevant to their lives.

  16. Paddy Ferry says:

    This is a wonderful film, “The Two Popes”. I can absolutely recommend it.

    I had decided to read a review only after I had watched the film and, in my naiveté, I had thought –hoped — that there was at least some basis in fact in the story; that they had spent those days together and that Bergoglio was actually Ratzinger’s choice to succeed him.

    However, in Anthony Quinn’s review in the Tablet of Nov.30th. he tells us that ” It is built around a series of imagined duologues, beginning in 2012 when two eminences of the Church were each in spiritual despond”.

    I am disappointed but I still can recommend the film. It is excellent even if fictitious.

    And, I don’t have to reassess my opinion of Ratzinger!!

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