Postage for Pakistan and other parts of the planet

Friday, February 22, 2013

Prognostications of the Papabili

Because, of course, simply everyone cares what I think (wink), here are those I see as most papabile:

1) Timothy Cardinal Dolan
2) Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
3) Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi
4) Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
5) Seán Cardinal O'Malley
6) George Cardinal Pell
7) Angelo Cardinal Scola
8) Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio
9) Raymond Cardinal Burke
10) Antonio Cañizares y Llovera
11) Kurt Cardinal Koch
12) Oscar Cardinal Rodríguez y Maradiaga
13) Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Here is a list of all the electors.

My own two cents:

Dolan speaks several languages, the most important being today's lingua franca. However, his greatest gift is as a modern day Fulton Sheen. To the extent the electors see that as a need, he stands a good chance. But he's American.

DiNardo has the temperment and Vatican chops. Does he speak enough languages? Plus, he's American.

Ravasi, this article is a quasi-profile of him and gives the pros and cons.

Ranjith is the favorite of many Traditionalists and many "conservatives", along with Burke. Both are probably too conservative for the electors, but they can help anchor the choice in a more traditionalist setting, and I suspect they see that as their job.

O'Malley, some are saying he has a chance. I can't see it at all, but maybe someone know something we don't.

Pell is sorta like Ranjith and Burke, but with possibly fewer perceived drawbacks than either man. He's an interesting intellectual force along the lines of Ouellet.

Scola is the one I think most likely of all the Italians to bring the papacy back to Italy, if you will. Intellectual heft, interreligious dialogue, and former primate of two sees that have produced more than their share of popes and papabili.

Bergoglio was the all the buzz for those on the "Vatican II as a rupture" crowd last time, it seemed. Is that still the case?

They don't call Cañizares "Little Ratzinger" for nothing. If the electors want to keep things going on the same theological track, I imagine he's as good a choice as any.

Koch could be a choice if the electors think that the response to secular humanism will require someone who is perceived as more orthodox than Kasper and yet still adept at dialoguing with our separated brethren so that Christianity may put forward its most compelling foot.

Rodríguez y Maradiaga is, I'm guessing, the odds on hope for the National Catholic Reporter's core readership, but given that most cardinal electors are not likely big fans of that theological worldview, I'm guessing that's more a detriment to him than help.

Ouellet is the most like Ratzinger/Benedict in so many ways. But I agree that the next Pope needs an ability to clean house and knock heads, and I don't see Ouellet, as much as I really like him, having that ability. Pell, yes. Ouellet, not so much.

Finally, why not Peter Cardinal Turkson, the prelate from Ghana? An article quoted him not long ago as saying, "I stand ready to serve" or something to that effect. That amounts in many people's eyes to campaigning, which is a drop dead no-no. He shot himself in the foot. Ergo, no pope from Africa yet. Some day, but not this year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

OK, so he's retiring. There's still garbage like this.

I've a friend from high school who has become a Ron Paul fanatic, and absolutely convinced the IMF and World Bank are, as he says, "evil."

He wrote asking me how I could "follow" someone so "creepy" who supports these "evil" organizations. Are the IMF and WB really evil? I don't know enough to say one way or the other. I know for sure, they're not perfect and they often require those to whom they lend money to do things that work against the Natural Law and thus the common good.

But there's a reason the Church works with such organizations, which I outline here.

Dear X:

The simple answer and one I've been meaning to get back to you with is that ... Well, first, let me start by saying I'm at a disadvantage. You can pop off a one-liner ad hominem attack, which is impossible to answer in like fashion.

The simple answer is that I do not follow Benedict. I follow a Person, Jesus Christ, and through baptism, both you and I were indelibly marked as members of His Body, the Church. I believe He (Jesus) is not some mere mortal, some nice rabbi whose disciples went overboard, not some great social teacher who never wanted to be seen as divine, but, rather, is Who He said He was, the Son of God, i.e., God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, inseperable from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (which I can prove through pure deductive reasoning, i.e., without any recourse to the typical theological arguments). 

Because I believe in Him, and because I have studied the Bible, the history of Scripture and the Church and what its earliest members believed, I also believe what Scripture says about the office of Peter (if you have a Bible lying around, check out Matthew 16:16-20). Benedict is only the latest successor in that office (which is unbroken). And if Jesus says the teaching authority of that office will be protected by the Holy Spirit from error in matters of faith and morals, then I take Jesus at His word. He is, after all, God and thus omniscient, while I can only see what is right in front of my nose, relatively speaking. 

From all of this flows two considerations: 

1) The IMF or a proposed CWB or whatever do not fall within the realm of faith and morals. He can use these insitutions to further a world that is more faithful and moral, but they don't fall under faith and morals, as such. Therefore, he can err/make a mistake in this, and I can still trust in the promises Jesus made vis-a-vis the Petrine office. 

2) Since its very inception, the Church has taken the imperfect instruments and institutions of this world, sacralized them, and used them to more perfectly bring about the kingdom of God here on earth. Bringing about God's kingdom on earth ultimately is an impossible task. However, that doesn't give the Catholic Church an excuse for not trying to accomplish what it can of it.

As some examples, while there are good intellectual arguments for placing Christ's birth on December 25, it is generally accepted that the early Christians took over this date since it coincided the Feast of Saturnalia, an often hedonistic festival. The Church coopted this festival, scrubbed out the bad bits, and used it to draw its members to greater holiness. 

Rome and Assisi each has a church that bears the same name and the same origin. Both are called Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which literally translates as the Church St. Mary over Minerva. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, and the church took over two temples to this deity, consecrated them, and sacralized them. Just around the corner from the one in Rome is the Pantheon, whose official name is Santa Maria ad Martires (St. Mary of the Martyrs). Near the turn of the first millenium, it was consecrated as a Catholic church. That is why it is the only remaining fully intact building from ancient Roman times left in the city. Otherwise, it would have been torn down so its stones could be used as building materials. 

Is paganism good? No, not at all. It's false religion. Whatever good points this or that pagan cultus may have, the fact is that in the end, each is diabolically influenced to lead people away from true faith, which is in Jesus Christ. 

But should the Church have totally jetissoned everything of old pagan institutions simply because paganism leads people away from Christianity? No. She took from them what is good and true (for even the worst heresies or beliefs have some truth to them), and built off of those to make something better. 

Similarly, the Church does the same thing today. It takes the world as it is, not as it wishes to be. You mentioned previously that you found the Church's permanent observer status at the UN reprehensible. Had it not possessed that status, it could not have worked with other nations and various NGOs to defeat the anti-person elements at conferences such as those in Cairo and Beijing during the Clinton administrations. Timothy Wirth and Hilary Clinton, the administration's representatives to those conferences, were hell-bent on fostering abortion as an inalienable human right.  

Given that abortion is murder, the Church could never stand for this. It worked with the aforementioned entities and won great victories, despite tremendous reviling in the media and every force of every industrialized nation arrayed against it and its coalition. 

Similarly, when some conflict is ready to break upon us or has already done so, the weight of the Church's moral voice and authority often keeps or restores the peace. At least her work on behalf of peace and justice makes it much more difficult for combatants to wage war or start conflicts with impugnity. 

What institution possesses a greater voice that the Holy See against the arms trade today, which impoverishes developing nations and causes so much injustice in myriad ways amongst their inhabitants? 

We can make the same point about the IMF, etc. Go back to 2000, the last Jubilee Year. (Wikipedia "Jubilee Year" to see what is the big deal about that.) No one worked harder than the Holy See to get debt forgiveness for countries whom the IMF was holding hostage with its confiscatory interest rates (or with those of lendor nations, etc.). Bono of U2 worked right alongside the Holy See to accomplish this great work of justice and he lauded the Church's efforts.  

Today, the Church continues working with such financial institutions. Why? Because it recognizes that never has the world had more wealth and abundance. And yet there are still those who go to bed starving to death, who suffer from curable disease, who lack access to clean water, basic sanitation, or simple medicine, who can't access capital to start businesses without paying egregious interest rates (Bing "brick kiln children" and Pakistan if you want your heart to break and to see what I mean), who are discriminated against and have no options simply because of their caste or gender. The list goes on.  

The Church's Caritas organization -- an umbrella group for all its charitable outreaches, etc. -- does so much to right these wrongs without involvement from any financial institution. However, it and other offices within the Holy See work with existing, imperfect institutions -- some so imperfect that people take to calling them "evil" -- in order to accomplish what good they can with them.  

Furthermore, by having a seat at the table, they have the opportunity to express concerns that are not unlike yours. That doesn't mean they agree with every one of your concerns. People of good will can and do disagree on matters of how to accomplish the greater good (or even what the greater good is, for that matter). 

Therefore, to wrap up, I think you're totally wrong, X. By taking the road you propose, the Catholic Church would have a greatly reduced ability to bring about peace, justice, and stability in our world. It's the same thing with the various diplomatic relations the Holy See (as opposed to the Vatican) maintains around the world. It does so with some pretty nasty countries because this gives them entree and a certain level of authority that would not otherwise exist.  

That isn't to say it gives a hearty thumbs up to these institutions or those nations with whom it maintains relations. It is to say that it is working for a greater good, and it has decided -- after centuries of working the issue from both sides, btw; keep in mind that the Holy See has the oldest diplomatic corps in existence -- that this is the most prudent way to move people, nations, and institutions towards conditions which would more perfectly reflect heaven. 

As I noted above, we can never attain heaven on earth. Anyone who says we can is either delusional, lying, or manipulative beyond belief. But we can bring the world closer to the ideal that is the kingdom of heaven on earth. That is not a bad thing. 

Finally, here's what I know about Benedict. He is a brilliant man. No one makes the sort of scholarly impact he has made by possessing a mediocre mind. He could have put that mind at service to himself, to science, to any number of things. Instead, he chose to put his talents at the service of Christ and his fellow man. He has opposed all sorts of things that are truly "evil," often at the cost of great criticism and vilification. Imagine if you got the sort of abuse you've heaped on him or that others have. How would that feel for you, Steve (and Kent)? Personally, I can imagine a lot of other ways to feel good than that, putting it mildly. He did this even when people in the highest reaches of the Catholic Church's hierarchy opposed him. He has always called a spade a spade, and it's often greatly angered a lot of people. This is not a man who turns a blind eye to evil. This is not a man who keeps quiet about injustice or evil or the like. 

Therefore, given that he's been studying these issues for the last 65+ years or so, and has been on the right side of so many issues so often, might you not want to give the man, this good man the benefit of the doubt? Or are you, who has been on the earth almost 40 fewer years and has far less education, really so arrogant as to think you alone have it all figured out and can thus stand in judgment of this man and his heart (which you can't possibly know ... ever). Are you really so capable of judging him "creepy"? As I said in my last missive to you, I agree his dark circles give him a weird look when he smiles, but he's almost 87 years old. Wrinkles and dark circles under one's eyes will do that to you. 

I've not written this to give offense, so if anything I have written has done that, please forgive me. But I would also ask that you take a less glib, facile take on things. 

And hopefully this will have been some use to you. 

I love you, X, and I hope all is well with you and yours in [your hometown]. 

Kind regards.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Saints News for January 2013

Another month, another potential Pilipino saint

On January 11, 2013, at the Cathedral in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur Province, of the Philippines, His Excellency Ernesto Antolin Salgado, archbishop of Nueva Segovia, opened the beatification process of Bishop Alfredo Verzosa (1877-1954), former ordinary for the then-Diocese of Lipa.

According to the Manila Standard Today, “Bishop Verzosa was the first Filipino bishop of Lipa and the founder of the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart and his name is forever associated with the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lipa in the late 1940s.”

More than this, he helped keep the Ilocos Sur Province Catholic. Around the time of Philippine independence from Spain, many Pilipino priests rebelled against the Church because while there were some very good Spanish clerics, there were more bad ones and native clergy found themselves blocked from ecclesial advancement simply because they were not from Spain. Not only did Bishop Verzosa combat this, but he had to work to fill the void when the Spaniards departed en masse, only to be replaced by Americans who looked upon Catholicism as a superstitious, foreign dominated religion to be opposed whenever possible. All of this he accomplished even though his own life was often threatened.

And yet accomplish it he did through promoting vocations, improving seminary training, founding more seminaries, better catechesis for the laity, and making local Church administration more efficient and thus effective.

When the Japanese captured the Philippines, they destroyed villages and massacred thousands of locals, including many priests and nuns. Bishop Verzosa led the reconstruction efforts and was somehow able to keep the sudden absence of clergy and religious from hindering the people’s spiritual development.

Despite his faithfulness, it is said he suffered “rejection and the denigration of his life’s work.”

What makes him such an outstanding figure in the Year of Faith is that he was doing the New Evangelization before there was such a thing. He had enormous faith, a “zeal for service, and a sense of community in pursuing this kind of mission: a steadfast faith in God in the face of constant challenges and adversity, zeal in evangelizing and promoting the faith, and [he worked] to zealously proclaim” so that people would “live the faith together” as Catholics.

“May we therefore take courage and strength from the example given to us by the Servant of God, Bishop Alfredo Verzosa, in pursuit of this mission to re-awaken the Catholic faith even within our social and business communities, which we can accomplish through Jesus Christ and with the help of Mary, our Mother ...”

Salesian saints, those that are here, those in the making

At the beginning of 2013, the Salesian order put out a listing of its Servants of God, Venerables, Blesseds, and Saints. It reported that it has 30 Servants of God, 10 Venerables, 116 blesseds, and nine canonized saints.

The order had two causes introduced, two positios forwarded to Rome, one female religious beatified by virtue of an approved miracle, a male religious beatified by virtue of his being recognized as a martyr, and the moving of Venerable Fr. Giuseppe Quadrio’s body from its original burial place in Turin into the order’s International Institute’s chapel in order to make him more widely known and thus advance his beatification cause.

Perhaps most importantly, yesterday was the 125th anniversary of the death of the Salesian order’s founder, St. John Bosco, beloved by many even today.

Cause of forbidden author accepted by Vatican?

Rumors have circulated since early last month that the Vatican has accepted the opening of the beatification cause of Maria Valtorta, author of the controversial Poem of the Man-God. Actually, these rumors have circulated for years. But what has given them added cachet is that renowned exorcist Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea says he was recently in Rome where he was assured that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had given its approval for the opening of Valtorta’s beatification process.

For those unaware of Valtorta or why this would be in any way news, she was the a 20th century Italian mystic who published a 5,000 page book called “Poem of the Man-God.” It was an instant sensation, as it purported to give personal revelations from Our Lord about His life that were recorded nowhere else. Because of this, some editions gave it the title, The Gospel As It Was Revealed to Me.

As you might imagine, this caused no small amount of controversy, and in 1949, the Holy Office confiscated the typed manuscript. Then, following the death of Pius XII, the book, which had subsequently been published despite official Church opposition, was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.

When Paul VI abolished the Index, Valtorta’s supporters said this made the book acceptable. However, the Church has never said any of the titles on the Index automatically became dogmatically orthodox somehow just because the Index was suppressed. For instance, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in 1985 that “the Index retains its moral force despite its dissolution.”

The last time any Church official made any official pronouncement on The Poem of the Man-God was in 1992, when Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi wrote that the he viewed the visions and dictations of Maria Valtorta as “simply the literary forms used by the author to narrate in her own way the life of Jesus” and that they “cannot be considered supernatural in origin.”