Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter, from the Peanuts Gang

God bless you all abundantly, with life and hope beyond all darkness. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pope Francis' Holy Saturday Reflection

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I join all of you gathered before the Holy Shroud, and I thank the Lord who, through modern technology, offers us this possibility.”

Even if it takes place in this way, our gaze is not a mere 'observing', but rather a veneration. It is a prayerful gaze. I would go further: It is a letting ourselves be looked upon. This Face has eyes that are closed. It is the face of one who is dead and yet, mysteriously, He is watching us and in silence He speaks to us. How is this possible? How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this Icon of a man who has been scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our hearts and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.”

“Let us therefore allow ourselves to be reached by this gaze, which is directed not to our eyes but to our hearts. In silence, let us listen to what He has to say to us from beyond death itself. By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us: Love made man, incarnate in our history; the merciful Love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil of the world in order to free us from its power. This disfigured Face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life that does not respect their dignity, by war and the violence that afflict the weakest… And yet, the Face of the Shroud conveys a great peace. This tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty. It is as if it let a restrained but powerful energy within it shine through, as if to tell us: have faith; do not lose hope; the power of God's love, the power of the Risen One, conquers all.”

“So, looking upon the Man of the Shroud, I make Saint Francis of Assisi's prayer before the Crucifix my own: 'Most High and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart, and grant me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may carry out your holy and true command. Amen.'”

Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Good Friday

Happy Good Friday, everybody.

It's a good day to love people -- family, friends, strangers -- with all you got.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pope Francis on the Good Priest

This morning in his Chrism Mass with his priests Pope Francis described being a servant for others like the image from Psalm 133: “...the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe” (Ps 133:2).  Like the oils he blessed, the good service overflow all bonds, blessing everything. 

He went on with this description of "the good priest":
A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me”, “Pray for me” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into prayer. The prayers of the people of God. 
That sense of the oil that runs down over everything -- pretty wonderful.  

Any Australians in the House?

Eureka Street, the Australian Jesuits' online magazine, invited me to write a funny little piece about Game of Thrones and Australia politics.  If you're interested, here it is. 

I love the graphic they used, too -- it's the current PM with a sword, overcoming the PM she deposed.

Holy Thursday: That Stubborn Love

This Holy Week I'm reading some homilies from a great Australian Jesuit, Peter Steele, whose poetry I've posted here a number of times.  Peter died last June; he had a great love of language and a wonderfully restless mind.

In a homily for the fifth Sunday of Lent in 2010, Peter wrote this:
I call Paul 'a romantic', which means here, 'an incurable yearner, a dreamer-for-action, a hankerer driven by hope.'....
Paul says [in the letter to the Philippians], 'All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death.' 'The pattern of his death' touches on the one hand on the vilenesses which Christ endured and many of which are produced, every day, even in our city. But 'the pattern of his death' also refers to that stubborn love with which he carried on his living until it became his dying.  Jesus was a yearner, a yearner for that authority and vindication of love without which his life would be totally unmemorable.

The best things we do in life all testify both to a sense of the world as wounded, and to a sense that we all hunger to do good, as well as to be good.  Paul at his best was a yearner: we at our best are yearners: and if that is no the final story about Christ the Lord, we have nothing to say about him, at all.  
During Holy Week the "vilenesses which Christ endured" can easily overwhelm my sense of anything else, even the Resurrection. Peter's words are a good reminder of the other side of things, the grace of Holy Thursday, that restless spirit of affection and welcome that Jesus has for us.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Week: Let the Suffering Find a Home in You

Every year I find Holy Week a very different experience.  For some reason at this point in my life I generally find Lent pretty frustrating; the sackcloth and ashes, 'give something up' approach just has felt heavy-handed and unnecessary.  Perhaps it's because there has been so much conflict (and horror) in the Church; we've been living in penance of various kinds.

I'm not sure what my plan is this week. I'm just trying to be open to where God might lead.

But I was thinking about Good Friday on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where I used to work.  Holy Week was difficult out there; because of the distances and the small Catholic population, you wouldn't have many people come to anything but Easter Sunday.  There was a sense of loss and abandonment, which was of course quite fitting for the season, but at times hard to endure.

And what got me through it was the awareness of the people I knew out there who were sick or angry or sad, who are like Jesus was but among us, suffering. And to let their plight into my life, to let it affect me and change me. Again, that idea of mercy as entering into the chaos of another.

There are so many out there in the world and so many around us who are suffering, whether physically or mentally, emotionally or spiritually. And to be open to that; not to go hunting it down or sentimentalizing it, but just to be open to whoever might be placed in our lives this week. To let their pain and grief and rage a seat our table.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Pope Francis, the New Ashton Kutcher?

So I'm keeping up with news of Francis. And I'm trying not to get swept away by the whole "new pope" thing, let the man be a man rather than make him into some kind of saint.

But the thing is, I keep finding stories that are blowing my mind.

For instance, did you know the Pope has yet to move into the papal palace, or headquarters, or Wayne Manor, or whatever they call it. 

The reason -- it's being redecorated.  

Which sounds like your normal high class popin', until you find out, Pope Francis wasn't waiting for  new wallpaper (Benedict, so dirty) or his new, sweet Louis XVI dresser (did Louis XVI do dressers?). No, he's finding the apartment way too big for one person, and so he's having them simplified. 

Ka-Boom. Mind blown. 

When he was given a tour of the 10 room apartment, he apparently said, "300 people could live here."   How do you not love that? 

Here's another: a week from yesterday is Holy Thursday. The Pope of course presides at Masses during Holy Week in some of the basilicas of Rome.  But this guy, is he doing Mass on Thursday night at a basilica? No. He's going to a juvenile detention facility in Rome to wash the feet of some of the kids who are in prison there. 

 I know! My head is spinning, too!

(And also, I may need a kleenex, because the more I think about it, the more I am moved by that.  And really, where else should the Pope be on such an occasion?)

There's been so many of these sorts of gestures with Pope Francis, all great stuff and all so radically different not just from Benedict but from the way any one has tried to do that job for hundreds of years (maybe thousands), that I can't help but think we're being punk'd. At any moment, I expect the Pope to rip off his face, Mission Impossible-style (which based on this would actually be really freaky and probably scare children and old ladies and God I hope he doesn't do it) to reveal that we are dealing with none other than Ashton Kutcher:

Most people, when they get excited, they talk with their hands.  
But for Ashton, it was always about the legs. 

In fact, based on this shared, punk'd-like "wow" we're all having right now, I'm going to recommend a new term for the cultural zeitgeist: Any time the new pope does something that makes you or someone else have that sense of wonderment and blessed relief, you say: "My friend, you just got Pop'd!" 

(You know you love it.)

Bottom line, these are interesting days not just for Catholics but for anyone.  And personally, I can't wait to get Pop'd again. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pope Look-a-Like Update

By the way, after I posted this piece on Francis last week, someone wrote me to say, I think you've got the wrong actor in mind.  You should be thinking Jeffrey Tambor (aka Oscar Bluth on Arrested Development).  And oh boy, are they right or what? 

But I gotta say, I'm still favoring your favorite Italian grampa.  

How can you not love that face? 

The Pope's Focus on Mercy Got Me Thinking...

On Sunday, Pope Francis' homily was about mercy:
"I think even we are sometimes like these people, who on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, sometimes we like to stone others and condemn others. The message of Jesus is this: mercy...I say in all humility that this is the strongest message of the Lord: mercy." 
It's a big theme for him.  And it put me in mind of two great quotes:

The first is from one of my favorite theology professors, a Jesuit named Jim Keenan.  If you don't know Jim's stuff, he's a moral theologian at Boston College and he's really great at taking abstract theological ideas like "faith," "humility" or "grace" and giving them succinct, provocative definitions.

Here's his definition of mercy: "Mercy is entering into the chaos of another." 

The other quote comes from the great American poet Mary Oliver.  "Mercy", she writes, "is when people take you seriously." 

Just two little quotes.  But a lot there to think about.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Light of Hope -- Pope Francis' Installation

Pope Francis' installation Mass was this morning, Italian time.  Here's a transcript of his homily.   He talked about St. Joseph the protector, and our own vocation as Christians to be hope-filled protectors of our world. Being a protector, he said,
...means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God's gifts!
Probably  my favorite section, at the end, is on hope:
In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, "hoping against hope, believed" (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope!  
May the light of hope bless us all.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Pope Francis was Doing While You Were Drinking

At the end of last week, after meeting with the Cardinals, rather than ride in the Popemobile, Pope Francis rode in a bus with the Cardinals.

Best line I Read: "I'm sorry, your Holiness, but I think you're in my seat."

On Saturday, the Pope had his first audience with the press. Much as he had at his introduction, his talk was a mixture of kindness and humor.  You can find the whole talk here, courtesy of the Catholic world. 

Two moments in the talk worth drawing your attention to:  
First, the Pope explained why he chose the name Francis. It's pretty remarkable. 
Some people didn't know why the Bishop of Rome wanted to call himself “Francis.” Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis de Sales, even Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story. At the election I had the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo next to me. He is also prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes [O.F.M.]: a dear, dear friend. When things were getting a little 'dangerous', he comforted me. And then, when the votes reached the two-thirds, there was the usual applause because the Pope had been elected. He hugged me and said: 'Do not forget the poor.' And that word stuck here [tapping his forehead]; the poor, the poor. Then, immediately in relation to the poor I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of war, while the voting continued, until all the votes [were counted]. And so the name came to my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who love and safeguards Creation. In this moment when our relationship with Creation is not so good—right?—He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor! 
Even more remarkable, at the end of the talk he didn't give an explicit papal blessing, out of respect for journalists who are not Catholics or not believers.
I told you I wholeheartedly imparted my blessing. Many of you don't belong to the Catholic Church, others are not believers. From my heart I impart this blessing, in silence, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each one, but knowing that each of you is a child of God: May God bless you.
The man really looks like he's having a good time, doesn't he?
(Maybe we did get Pope Hilarius II after all!)

Yesterday the Pope delivered his first Angelus -- it's the custom every Sunday that the Pope come out and give a short talk and blessing to all those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

He used the opportunity to talk about God's mercy. "Have you thought about God's patience, the patience that He has with each of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, is always patient with us, understanding us, awaiting us, never tiring of forgiving us if we know how to return to him with a contrite heart. 'Great is the Lord's mercy', says the Psalm.

And he told a great story at the end. 
I remember when, just after I was made bishop, in 1992, the Madonna of Fatima came to Buenos Aires and a large Mass for the sick was celebrated. I went to hear confessions at that Mass. Near the end of the Mass I got up because I had to administer a confirmation. An over 80-year-old woman came up to me, humbly, very humbly. I asked her: “Nonna,” [grandmother]—because that's how we address our elderly—“Nonna, you want to confess?” “Yes,” she told me. “But if you haven't sinned...” And she said to me: “We have all sinned...” “But perhaps the Lord will forgive you...” “The Lord forgives everyone,” she told me, with certainly. “But how do you know that, ma'am?” “If the Lord didn't forgive everyone, the world would not exist.” I wanted to ask her: “Tell me, have you studied at the Gregorian [Pontifical University]?
I'm not sure the last time I heard of a Pope actually telling a story from his own pastoral experience.  Again, dazzling stuff. (He also quoted a book on mercy by Cardinal Walter Kasper, which was intriguing, as Kasper had a number of public conflicts over matters of theology with Pope Benedict.)

Here's the full text (blissfully short). 

And if I haven't blown your mind yet, check this out:

That's correct. After presiding at Mass yesterday, the Pope went outside and greeted parishioners for over 15 minutes.  You know, like parish priests do.

So, in summary: Respect, mercy, humor, welcome.

So far, so good. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why did the Cardinals Elect Bergoglio?

Can you believe they elected me Pope?

If you had asked a million people yesterday who was going to get the nod as Pope, I think you'd be lucky if you found 100 that said, it's Bergoglio.  (And I'd bet 75 of them were Argentinian.)

What were we hearing that the Cardinals wanted before the Conclave? Reform in the Curia, where there's a myriad of administrative major hornets' nests.  An inspirational figure to embody and promote the supposedly-new-but-it's-been-going-on-for-like-20-years-now-and-no-one-really-seems-to-know-what-it-means evangelization.

Also, someone with the moral authority/lack of skeletons in the closet to deal with the ever-ongoing sexual abuse crisis. And, in some quarters, someone who can rise above some of the divisions in the Church and point us in a better direction.

So, they were looking for Jesus on a good day. Or as Tom Reese pithily put it, "Jesus with an MBA." Someone with a lot of energy, dynamism, the administrative ability to clean house and at the same time inspire.

So who did they choose? A 76 year old man who has never worked inside the Vatican, has spent his ministry working with the poor and needy. Oh, and until being chosen as bishop, he was a Jesuit.  A right-leaning one, so not at all your stereotypical son of Ignatius. But still.

The pundits will spend the next few days and the next few months trying to unwind what was behind that choice. Here are four obvious possibilities:

1) They Punted. 
Some will argue that Francis' lack of experience with the Curia is a huge advantage in trying to reform its workings. And if he were younger, that would make sense.  But he's 76. He's not going to be in this job for very long -- 6-8 years, tops, if all goes well. And he's not going to be able to maintain the sort of pace that would allow him to take care of all of that and everything else.

No, what's more likely is that the Cardinals could not agree on a slightly younger candidate who could actually take on the Curia. And so they elected a sort of interim. Like Benedict, someone who could move the ball down the field some, but without the expectation that he would make serious changes.

"Just pick somebody, already."

2) They Got Shut Down.
Another way of putting #1 would be this: the 40+ Cardinals connected to the Curia prevented the election of a real reformer. NCR reported following Cardinal Sodano's pre-Conclave homily that they thought his final words were meant to indicate Curial support for a South American peace and justice candidate (aka someone who would continue to focus on the Church's mission to the world, and leave the Curia alone).

Less than 24 hours later, that's what we got. Not too hard to connect the dots, especially after so many Cardinals seemed outspoken about the need for serious reform of the Curia.

Of course, it's always fun to be underestimated. John XXIII did a lot of things that no one expected. Many popes do. After 8 years of sort of quiet steps out of the long shadow of John Paul II (and not much else), it might have been foolish to expect another pope to do the same.

I've taught literature, psychology and theology. 
I have advanced degrees in chemistry, philosophy and theology. 
I've been the major superior of a religious order, the rector of a seminary, 
a bishop, and a member of five Vatican congregations. 
Please, Underestimate me.

3) They're Trying to Change the Terms of the Conversation. 
The thing we're all talking about is Bergoglio's connection to the poor. This is a man who lives in an apartment rather than a palace, takes the bus rather than owns a car, who has been very critical of homosexuality but then also has ministered to people with AIDS.  He's spoken out about economic inequalities, saying "the unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers." He has talked about mercy as the fundamental experience of our relationship with God.

For those of us on the left, all of this is the spiritual equivalent of catnip. People are going to go crazy for this guy. And as they do so, maybe they'll let go a bit of some of their fixation on these other problems.

In other words, Bergoglio's story and way is so strong that it'll cause us all to change the way we're thinking about other things, too.  Some of the us vs. them cannot help but get broken up and/or changed by these other ideas and peoples he represents.

A nun in St. Peter's Square reacts to the announcement of Bergoglio's new name. 

So, concretely: it gets hard to complain about the translation of the liturgy when you've got a pope reminding us that people are starving all over the world, and that we have a call to make the world a better place for all its people.

At its most cynical, this is a shell game. I get you to look over here, and you miss the ball over there.

At its best, it's inspired. A real opportunity for a new breath in the Church.  And one that puts the needs of the poor at the front and center -- not exactly the forte of any number of our Church leaders, which makes it all the more laudable.

I think it's safe to say that this man is not wearing red shoes. 

4) They Think He Can Change the Curia. 
This is the hardest to believe. There's just not much evidence to suggest Bergoglio has the sort of administrative experience or vision to reform an ancient, massive bureaucracy. And again, he's 76.

Now, his undeniable charm and authenticity might be a disarming secret weapon. And again, it's always fun to be underestimated. And to win people over without them even knowing you're doing it.

If I had to bet, I'd say the truth of the matter lies in They Got Shut Down and They're Trying to Change the Terms of the Conversation. Ideally, they'd have found a candidate who's in his late 60s and combines the talents of Bergoglio with the administrative skill they want. But there was no such person, or no such person that they could get enough Cardinals to overcome the Curia block to back.

So they went with the next best thing -- a man whose story and way could possibly really move people and change the way we're all thinking about things.

From my point of view, that might be better that having gone the other way and getting a guy who can manage but does not inspire.

But time will tell.  By all reports the Curia is a handful, chess grandmaster-adept at playing the popes to get what they want. And after 8 years of Benedict not being able to do much on the Curial level, and at least 5 years before that of a very sick John Paul II, it could be a ticking time bomb.  


Last but not least:

I did not profile Cardinal Bergoglio in my papabile. But a number of people have asked me, who would play him in the movie?

Since he's pope now, this seems an important question.

The Younger Bergoglio: Actor/Director Peter Bodganovich

Get rid of the dye job and the bandana neck scarf (?), and I think we're pretty close. 

The Older Bergoglio: Every Old Italian Grandfather Everywhere

Come on. You know you want to say it: Habemus Papas.

More A Gut Feeling: Actor John Mahoney

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Another Jesuit Writes About Francis

Anyone who has read my blog knows I am a huge fan of Andy Hamilton and all the writers at Eureka Street, the Jesuit magazine of Australia.

Andy just published a very nice piece about what it's like for he as a Jesuit to hear about a former Jesuit being made Pope.  Here it is; enjoy!

Also, one of my friends was inspired by the Pope's choice of name to remind us all of this great rendition of the prayer of St. Francis by Sarah McLachlan. If you haven't heard it, you're in for a treat.  A great way to start your day.

Did the Jesuits Just Take Over the Vatican?: Thoughts On Francis I

That's right. Your favorite grandfather just got elected Pope.

If you're paying attention to the news, you've already heard a lot about our new Pope Francis.  He's a man of great simplicity, eschewing things like a flashy residence and a driver for a simple apartment and riding the bus.

He's clearly a humble man. Making his first act to ask for the blessing of the people in St. Peter's Square was a real statement of how he sees himself. And at the same time, clearly not a statement at all in the political sense, but just the way he is.  (And, for me, one of the most moving things I've seen a Pope do in my lifetime.)

He also came off like he was enjoying himself.  He made a little joke that the Cardinals went all the way to the end of the earth to find a bishop for Rome.  He was very warm with the crowd, friendly.

I was struck in his opening statement by how often he referred to himself not as Pope, but as bishop of Rome. Some of that might have been because he was speaking to a largely Roman audience, but to me it seemed like a way of saying he saw the job as Pope not as one-standing-above-all, exalted, but as one of many.  The coming months and years will see if that's a correct interpretation.

If you didn't see his opening statement, here it is.  It's incredibly moving.

Many people are asking me, as a Jesuit what do you think of all this? I must say, when I first heard I found it very troubling.  Jesuits actually take a vow not to be made bishops.  We don't see ourselves as the authorities in the church, but as supporting that mission, at times working more on the outskirts.  And -- and this may sound funny if you know many Jesuits, but it's true! -- it is at the heart of our charism not to aspire to positions of authority in the Church.

Recent popes, especially John Paul II, dismissed that vow pretty much at will, and put many religious in positions where they had no choice but to accept. Coming out of the Communist Soviet Union, John Paul did not have a lot of experience with religious orders, and tended to ignore their particular charisms. That's how Cardinal Bergoglio and others were made bishops, then cardinals.

Someone asked me this morning why Bergoglio hadn't chosen the name Ignatius. I would suspect it's because he knows that Ignatius did not want his men in leadership, that in fact like Bergoglio Ignatius was a very humble man when it came to his sense of his role in the church -- his companions had to vote multiple times to get him to be in charge of the Jesuits!  And so for there to ever be a Pope Ignatius -- it could happen, I guess, but it would actually horrify our founder.

I would suspect, even though he was elected by the Cardinals, Pope Francis will have to reassure people that the Jebs have not just taken over the Church. And my brother Jesuits had better not act like we just won the lottery, or face my wrath (!) and the wrath of a lot of others.

Because none of what just happened is about us. It's about a simple man taking on a massive job to try and be a source of light and goodness for all the people of this world.  And it's a huge task, and the best we can all do is just try and be a part of it.

God bless him and God bless our good and holy world.

Pope Benedict Watches Conclave Coverage

"I told you, nothing's happening. Now give me the damn remote."

What Other People are Saying Today About the Conclave

Matt Malone at America reports that he doesn't think it likely we'll see white smoke today.  Little does he know after each ballot they turn up the temperature in the Sistine Chapel. Should be about 95 degrees by the last vote today.

In NCR, Tom Reese has written an interesting piece about the way John Paul II's changes to the voting after 10 or 12 ballots has radically altered the landscape of the election.  (Basically, if the majority can wait long enough, the balloting requirements drop from 2/3rds to a majority. So, once a majority has been achieved, they can just wait it out.) Meanwhile John Allen is calling today the "Super Tuesday" of the Conclave.

And at the Tablet, they're running a fantastic live blog talking about everything going on, from topless protestors to the chemical make up of the black smoke.  

Here's What Happened in the Conclave This Morning

They've had 3 ballots.  Still no Pope. The LA Times is reporting there's division among the Cardinals, but there's really no way for them to know that. 

From the things I've read, the lunch they're now having is actually the key moment in the Conclave.  After the first ballot, they had some sense of the range of candidates people were thinking about.  After this ballot, that range should have narrowed quite a bit, maybe even down to 2 or 3. So, now it's down to the real horse-trading, asking themselves and one another which one do they want. 

If the different groups are able to come to some agreement, they'll go back and resolve things probably by tomorrow.  

And if there's still no Pope by the end of tomorrow, it likely means none of the major candidates are going to be able to get that 77 votes they need. In which case they go back to the drawing board. 

If I had to bet, I'd say the main contenders right now are Scola, one of the South Americans and either Schonborn or someone very much outside the obvious -- O'Malley from Boston, Dolan from New York,  Ouellet from Quebec. 

We shall see.

Also, this is happening:

Which Jim Martin is calling a great advertisement for the Holy Spirit.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cardinal Dolan Makes His Way to the Conclave

The Conclave: What's Happening Right Now

Matt Malone at America Magazine is posting some great stuff as the Conclave gets underway.  I understand he'll be posting throughout the Conclave process.  (Also, he just tweeted that apparently lightning struck literally as the Conclave was beginning. If the Cardinals needed any more encouragement to make some good choices...)  He notes the Cardinals don't seem to have any consensus yet.  Cardinal George has apparently said the Conclave could easily go to the end of the week, which would be highly unusual.

At Commonweal, Grant Gallicho is also posting.   Both he and Matt report that there seems to be movement among the Cardinals to consider Sean O'Malley from Boston.  O'Malley has certainly had a lot of experience with managing the sexual abuse crisis.  He's also not your typical pushy American.  I'll try to post a bio of him later today, along with at least one other papabile.

Grant also mentions that there's a lot of chatter in Rome about why Benedict really resigned.  Frankly, I find the whole thing a bit much. Yes the Church has many problems right now, but when an 84 year old man exits, the idea that somehow he's on the run or been run on just seems preposterous.

Here's a report from the Mass, where Dean of the College of Cardinals Angelo Sodano preached. You'll remember it was at a Mass like this that Benedict really captured the hearts and minds of the Cardinals.  Many think it was the moment that made him the Pope.

Sodano is not eligible to vote. And NCR seems to think his homily is telling the voting Cardinals who the Curia want as Pope. I wonder if the Curia are getting nervous, what with all the buzz this week about the Cardinals wanting reform there.

More later!

The Conclave Begins: Here's What's Happening

I could care less about the cape, God. Just gimme the crown. 

So it's under way.  The bishops had Mass this morning Italy time and are now locked away, preparing to cast their first ballot.

Here's what's happening, in a nutshell:

First, the Cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel and take an oath of secrecy, and the Cardinals 80 years and older leave. (To vote, you must be 80 or under.) An electronic shield blankets the Conclave so that no communication can get in or out.

Each Cardinal is given a rectangular ballot with the words "Eligo in Summum Pontificem" -- aka "I select for the Supreme Pontiff" -- and a blank below which they fill out.

The ballots are collected in an urn. When the vote is over, they're transferred to a second urn where they're counted.

To win, a candidate needs two-thirds of the votes; that's 77 in the current Conclave (115 Cardinals voting).

If no one gets 77, they burn the ballots and let off a trail of grey smoke to reveal that a vote has happened, but no one has been elected.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. 

Then they're adjourned until the next time they are to vote. Today they'll vote only once. Every subsequent day they'll vote twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon.

If someone gets 77, they are asked whether they are willing to be Pope. It's an interesting twist -- a person can say no.  Supposedly, when Benedict was elected he wept -- and those weren't tears of joy.

If they say yes, they let off a plume of white smoke to reveal a Pope has been selected.  And then we wait for them to come out. Their presentation is preceded by a senior Cardinal announcing "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam" -- "I announce to you great joy. We have a Pope" -- followed by his given name (in Latin), then his new Papal name.

Then the new Pope steps forward to make his first address and issue his first public blessing.

A couple factoids about this Conclave: 
The electors come from 48 countries.  
Italy has the biggest bloc with 28 Cardinals. 
The next biggest is the US with 11.
60 Cardinals come from Europe, 
19 from Latin America
14 from North America,
11 from Africa, 
10 from Asia
and 1 from Australia.

So, here we go... May the best man win. 

(Really. Please! May the best man win.) 

(Oh please God, let it be me. Let it be me. Let it be.

 I know I will totally be good at this. I've been reading up and everything.

Get to Know Your Papabile: Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan (American, 63) Currently the Archbishop of New York, Tim Dolan is originally the eldest of five born to an aircraft engineer and a house wife in St. Louis, Missouri. He wanted to be a priest from an early age -- "I can never remember a time I didn't want to be a priest," he once said in an interview.

Before coming to New York Dolan served as Archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002-2009. Dolan was known for his passion for vocation promotion and his great sense of humor. (Wikipedia reports that in Sept 2002 he wore a cheesehead hat in honor of the Green Bay Packers during a homily.) During his tenure over 100 archdiocesan employees were accused of past sexual abuse. In 2012 it was revealed that Dolan offered sexually abusive priests payoffs of up to $20000 to get them to leave the priesthood so that the Church could remove them from their payroll.

As Archbishop of New York Dolan was elected president of the Catholic Bishops Conference, a position from which he represented the Church's interests strongly in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, even offering prayers at both the Democratic and Republican Conventions.

Hasn't spent much time outside the United States anywhere other than Italy for 7 years at the North American College. Not an administrator first and foremost, but a pastor, which means the Curia could pose a problem.

The long-time word on the street has been that an American will never be Pope, or at least not as long as the United States functions as a 'super power' on the world stage.

There's wisdom in that point of view. The last thing the Church needs is any sort of conflation of its own ways and purpose with the United States. And Dolan embodies many of the American traits behind this point of view, most specifically the fact that when he walks in he fills the room. As Allen writes, "If they elect Dolan the other 5,000 bishops of the world might as well take the next 15 years off, because they'll never be seen or heard from again." John Paul did this to them for 25+ years. Would they want to go that way again?

And yet, the Church being in the state it is, a betting person would be a fool to rule Dolan out. He's energetic, incredibly likable, the kind of easy going guy people can see sitting down with for a beer, a hot dog or anything else. He's got a great sense of humor, doesn't seem to get too ruffled by conflicts. Definitely conservative, but doesn't wear it on his sleeve. Allen calls him "evangelization on steroids." Pope Benedict praised his February 2012 talk before the College of Cardinals as "enthusiastic, joyful and profound." And John Allen reported yesterday that Dolan had strong support going into the Conclave. So stay tuned...

Quotes from Cardinal Dolan:
"Maybe the greatest threat to the church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails no battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms."

"This is the time we priests need to be renewing our pledge to celibacy, not questioning it. The problems in the church today are not caused by the teachings of Jesus and of his church, but by lack of fidelity to them." 

"Yes, the Church is a loving mother who has a zest for life and serves life everywhere, but she can become a protective 'mamma bear' when the life of her innocent, helpless cubs is threatened. Everyone in this mega-community is a somebody with an extraordinary destiny. Everyone is a somebody in whom God has invested an infinite love. That is why the Church reaches out to the unborn, the suffering, the poor, our elders, the physically and emotionally challenged, those caught in the web of addictions."

If he's Elected He Might Choose the Name: John Paul III. I'd say it's a sure bet, except that he has such great reverence for John Paul II he might think himself unworthy.

If He's Not Elected Pope, He Could: Play Spanky in the Adult Reunion of Our Gang.

In the Movie he'd be played by: John Goodman

It's the Smile. 

Why The Cardinals Might Choose Him: Enormous charisma. Theologically conservative. A fresh take on things.

Why They Might Not: Whiff of Problems in the way he handled sexual abuse problems in Milwaukee. Not an administrator. Could be another 20 year pontificate.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Filipino Cardinal "Not as Young as He Looks"

Meanwhile, the other guy's cribbing off his notes. 
He's a method actor.  

Choose Your Own Papal Name

Popes by and large take the name of a past pope as their own.  And the name they choose generally signifies their vision for their papacy, the qualities and policies they wish to emulate.  So in 1978 John Paul I took the names of the last two popes, John and Paul, both responsible for Vatican II. Benedict looked back to Benedict XV, pope during World War I who fought against the push of secularism and relativism and was invested in finding peace. As Benedict XVI said upon his selection:
Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples.
So, the big question is, what name will the new pope take?

Because I am a fantastic time waster, I decided to go through the list of all the previous popes and generate a list of the possible names, along with things that they are known for (according to Wikipedia -- so take it with a heaping mound of salt). After each, I offer a little evaluation of the name as a possibility. All of that is below, and is filled with snark and silliness. The history of the papacy -- it's something, sister. It's really something.

Here's what I discovered -- most of the former popes probably have no shot at getting chosen, either because they promulgated policies that horrify us today (like the guys who said slavery was wrong, but only if the slaves were Christians; or the many popes whose main claim to fame were crusades/wars), or because they did nothing. Tons of popes lived less than a year after taking the job. One guy was Pope for 22 days -- and his term was only the sixth shortest.

So, much as I might like to discover an awesome name that is totes going to get chosen from the 6th century, really, most of the strong candidates emanate from the 19th and 20th centuries.

But see for yourself.  For your entertainment, ladies and germs, may I present: The Papal Names.

(PS I really went to town on this, going through almost all the possible names out there, and adding a little history and humor here and there.  If you're just looking for the likely possibilities, skip to the end.)


Peter (33-67) -- You'd think this would be the most obvious choice of all, to emulate Peter.  But in fact no pope has ever taken the name Peter. There's only the one Rock.

Okay, that is actually not Peter. Peter was much older. 
And his tatt was of a fish. 

After Peter, we've got 3-6 centuries of bishops of Rome who were not in charge of the whole church, just Rome. In some cases and over time they had special status because they were bishop of Rome, but they weren't the heads of the Church in the way that we understand this concept today.  (The term "pope" in fact was a term used for any bishop in the Western Church as of around 300. It becomes reserved for the bishop of Rome around 600.)

And using all that as an excuse I will jump to 600.  But if you're interested, here's a couple of the best ones in between:

Linus (64/67-76/79) -- Immediately follows Peter. Issued decree that women should cover heads in Church. Martyred. I can't stop thinking of him dancing like the Peanuts.

Hyginus (136/138-140/142) -- The Pope of Hygiene.

Anticetus (154-166) -- First bishop of Rome to condemn anything as heresy. So, fun at parties, then?

Soter (166-174) -- Declared that marriage was only a sacrament if blessed by a priest.

Pontian (230-235) -- First Pope to quit the job, when the Roman Emperor had him arrested and exiled to a labor camp.

Eutychian (275-283) -- Said to have buried the remains of 324 martyrs with his own hands.

Siricius (384-399) -- Had the title Pontifex Maximus. Which is a freaking awesome name for a wrestler.

I'm Gonna Maximus Your Pontifex!

Hilarius (461-468) -- Tied for the name I most want a new pope to take.  

Silverius (536-537) -- Greedy, treacherous, ousted and nearly murdered his predecessor. Banished. Died of starvation on a desert island. I don't want to talk ill of the dead, but dang.

Pelagius II (579-590) -- Copied everything, even his name. (Get it? Sounds like plagiarism? It's funny, right?)

But enough tomfoolery. Let's get to some contenders:


Sabinian (604-606) -- Sold grain to Romans for high prices. Supposedly responsible for the ringing of bells during the Eucharist and canonical hours. Yawn.

Severinus (640) -- Pope for 2 months. Described as friend to the poor. Also considered a real jerk as a teacher, and was responsible for the death of Dumbledore, but then turned out to be totally a good guy double agent who had sacrificed his whole life for this girl that married somebody else. But still pretty much irritating. 

Vitalian (657-672) - Tried to restore relationships with Constantinople, England. Supposedly allowed the introduction of organ music to liturgy. So now you know who to blame.

Adeodatus II (672-676) -- Known anecdotally for his generosity. Improved monastic discipline. And spent his whole pontificate trying to explain why he had chosen such a horrible name.

Donus (678) -- Had the forecourt of St. Peter's Basilica paved. Also amazing with wainscoting!

Agatho (678-681) -- Convened a meeting that decreed once and for all that Christ is of two wills, divine and human. Which was important, but also makes me sleepy.

Conon (686-87) -- Lasted as pope about the same length as Conan O'Brien on the Tonight Show. Bud-dum-bump.

Sissinius (708) -- Pope for 20 days. Probably because his name was Pope Sissinius.

Constantine (708-715) -- Strongly identified with the Eastern Church. Refused to accept coins with Emperor on it.  Which is the 8th century version of edgy. 

Zachary (741-752) -- Great diplomat, had major influence on affairs in Europe. Not bad; not exactly connected to anything going on in the Church today, but the first real possibility.

Valentine (Aug-Sept 827):

Dude: that's Cupid, not Pope Valentine.

Valentine (Aug-Sept 827) -- Consecrated Pope before he had been ordained a priest.  Chosen by the priests, nobility people of Rome. Great story.  The name to use if you get called next week to come and be the Pope. Otherwise...

Formosus (891-896) -- Almost excommunicated by predecessor for aspiring to the job. As Pope, forced to crown someone Roman Emperor, had problems between dioceses. Persuaded someone to invade and control Italy. Basically, a hot mess. Fail.

Lando (913-914) -- Last pope to choose an original name. Also, the first to choose the most  awesome name ever. New Pope, you need to choose this name. And he needs to have a Cardinal named Chewie.  

The man comes with his own cape, for God's sake.

Help me, Cardinals of the Conclave. You're my only hope.  

Romanus (Aug-Nov 897) -- Deposed a few months after elected. Lived rest of his life as a monk.  Blah blah blah blah.

Theodore II (Dec 897) -- Tried to fix some fractures within the church, then died.  I'm sure it was just a coincidence.

Marinus II (939-942) -- Focused on administrating the Church, sought to reform clergy. Showed special support for monasteries. The Cardinals certainly want a pope that is on top of both administration and reform...

Agapetus II (946-955) -- Focused on settling internal Church squabbles.  Known for his caution and holiness. Caution, yeah, that sound fantastic.

Sergius IV (1009-1012) -- Helped with the urban development of Rome (nice!), but largely by way of simony -- aka paying for sacraments and offices (naughty!). Rome also pillaged during his reign. Pope Serge? I don't think so.

Sylvester III (1045) -- Pope for 3 months after Benedict IX was driven out, then thrown out of the job when he came back. Wah wah.

Damascus II (1048) -- Reign of 22 days. Thought to have been poisoned by an ally of Benedict IX, a former pope who wanted the job. His real name was also Poppo. As in "Here come the Poppo."

Stephen IX/X (long story) (1089-90) -- A major political player before he became pope. After, not so much. NEXT.

Paschal II (1099-1118) -- Tried to work withthe  Orthodox Church.  And by "work" we mean had a crusade but was willing to get along if the Orthodox would accept the Pope's primacy over "all the churches of God throughout the world." A real reconciler, that one.

Gelasius II (1118-1119) -- Reformed the papal administration, setting up secretaries for the Pope (aka early Curia). Exiled from Rome twice in his 9 months of office.  PASS.

Anastasius IV (1153-1154) -- Girl's name. Fuggedaboutit. (Also, didn't do much.)

Lucius III (1181-1185) -- Fought a lot with Holy Roman Emperor. (Who didn't. Those ones, such divas.) Condemned a whole bunch of heretics. Was preparing to start a crusade when he died. FAIL. 

Honorius IV (1285-1287) - Had been a diplomat. Consolidated power of the Vatican States.  Meh. 

Celestine V (1294) -- A Benedictine hermit, got the job by writing a letter to the Cardinals, after they had spend 2 1/2 years in Rome unable to decide on a pope, telling them God would punish them if they didn't pick someone soon. Had no clue how to run the show; appointed the king's favorites to church jobs. But when he saw he wasn't doing well, he resigned, after 161 days.  Made a saint.  Great story, great guy. Doesn't seem like the right name for the next pope. 

Boniface IX (1389-1404) -- Pope during a schism.  Let's not go there.

Martin V (1417-1431) -- Gave Jews back many of the rights they had lost under other popes. Traveled a lot. Opposed slavery if the slaves were Christians.  Said the rest of Africa, thanks for nothing. 

Eugene IV (1431-1447) -- Kind to the poor, enemy of heretics. Similar positions to Martin on slavery.  UGH. 

Nicholas V (1447-1455) -- Issued a bull that gave the King of Portugal the right to attack, conquer and subjugate his non-Christian foes. This really was not a good time in the church.  

Callixtus III (1455-1458) -- Excommunicated Halley's Comet. I am not making that up. 

Adrian VI (1522-1523) -- Pushed for reform in the Church; resisted by the Cardinals. Over his head in international relations. Last non-Italian elected until John Paul II, and heckled by the Romans for being a foreigner. So clueless about the job that when he was elected Pope he wrote to see whether there might be some suitable lodging for him from which to do his job. For which we love him. 

Julius III (1550-1555) -- Wanted to reform the church, but in the end had lots of scandals, people advancing in station because of sexual relationships or family. Had his brother adopt a 14 year old homeless boy, then showered him with benefices.  Moving on...

Marcellus II (1555) -- Found the Conclave and ascension so exhausting he up and died. Which just goes to show, Popin' ain't easy.

Sixtus V (1585-1590) -- Lots of reform/renewal of the Vatican States. Lots of public works. Decisive. Speedy. Excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I. Decided abortions and contraception merited excommunication.  Not a fan of the Jesuits. He sounded great at first, didn't he? 

Urban VIII (1623-1644) -- Handsome. Well spoken. Doled out jobs to relatives like life savers. Great patron of the arts. Called the trial against Galileo. Made smoking in church punishable by excommunication.  Yikes.

Alexander VIII (1689-1681) - Giving money to charity and his family, wiped out the papal treasury in 16 months.  You know, like you do. 

Innocent XIII (1721-1724) - Prevented the Jesuits from accepting any more novices.
Clement XIV (1769-1774)  - Suppressed the Jesuits.  Please no one choose these names.

Gregory XVI (1831-1846) -- Last non-bishop to be elected. Condemned the slave trade. Also opposed gas lights and railways, lest they give the bourgeoisie more power and lead to pressure on the power of the Pope. Called railways "ways of hell." Imagine what he would have called Greyhound.

I love the smell of recirculated air in the morning.

19th and 20th CENTURIES: 

Leo XIII (1878-1903) -- Third longest pontificate. Tried to encourage understanding between Church and modern world. Opened Vatican Secret Archives to researchers. Refounded the Vatican Observatory. First pope to be recorded audially and visually. Brought stability to the Church, and brought the Church back into the mainstream in Europe.  Promulgated the rosary, wrote about the importance of Scripture study and Aquinas, and issued encyclical Rerum Novarum on social inequalities and the rights/duties of labour.  Do I even need to go on? This guy has the goods. 

Pius XII (1939-1958) -- Reintroduced ancient liturgical traditions like the Easter Vigil. Expanded the use of liturgies in languages other than Latin. Added social sciences like sociology and psychology to training of priests. Emphasizes the role of the Bible.  Defined the dogma that Mary was assumed into Heaven. Wrote about evolution as possibly describing the biological origins of humanity, wrote about the family. Also publicly neutral during World War II; famous Christmas address interpreted to attack the Nazi's treatment of Jews. Hid Jews in Italy from deportation, but never publicly condemned the Holocaust. A lot of good traits, but his actions during World War II negatively color most people's opinion of him. Many people would probably be upset if this name were chosen.  

John XXIII (1958-1963) --  Removed the description of Jews as "perfidious" from liturgy. Confessed the Church's anti-semitism over the centuries. Called for Vatican II. Called the Church to a more open relationship with the world. Great diplomat. Funny, pastoral, witty, canny. Called "Good Pope John." Drank gin martinis. Such an icon for liberal Catholics that it's hard to believe anyone would consider using name. It would be quite a statement if they did - and perhaps a divisive one. 

All I can think of is that line from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer:
"Eat Papa, eat. Nobody likes a thin Santa."

Paul VI (1963-1978) -- Identified with neither the left nor the right. Did away with much of the regality of the Papacy. Continued Vatican II and pressed for its reforms after it was over. Interested in dialogue with modern world, ecumenism. Established synod of bishops as ongoing part of Church, advisory body for the Papacy. Defended priestly celibacy. Ignored advice of his hand-picked committee to denounce contraception, and thought reaction against that position would fade. On this guess, he was quite wrong.  But he clearly got lots of other things right.  

John Paul II (1978-3005) -- Uber-charismatic evangelist; helped bring down the Soviet Union; stood strong in his beliefs despite the divisions they caused; fought for the dignity of human life in all its forms and stages; deep in his respect of other religions. Disallowed any public talk about women's ordination; at the same time, allowed a number of married Christian clergy to convert to Catholicism. Stayed in office despite years long debilitation. Like John XXIII, would likely be a polarizing choice for a papal name. But in the current climate it's a lot more likely to happen. 

Benedict XVI (2005-2013) -- Once the Pope's gladiator on matters of doctrine, as pope a much more kind, pastoral figure. Fought against interpretations of Vatican II that considered it a radical break in church practice. had great respect for the local authority of the bishops. Stepped aside when he felt it was time, at a time both the world Church and the Vatican remains mired in scandals. Ideologically, any number of the candidates would line up with Benedict.  But given the trouble the Church is in, many might choose to go with a different name so to suggest a fresh approach.


Leo XIV -- For a reformer who's invested in social issues and middle of the road or conservative theologically.
Paul VII -- Someone aiming at simplicity, conservatism, reform.
John Paul III -- An evangelist. A warrior for a certain take on Vatican II.
Benedict XVII -- A pastoral figure interested in maintaining the status quo theologically.
Marinus III -- Someone invested in the administration of the church and dealing with sexual abuse issues.

Outside choices:
Zachary II -- An international affairs guy.
John XXIV -- Someone trying to embrace Vatican II or the Church's relationship with the world. Or just an optimist.
Pius XIII -- Probably a theological conservative, with special concern about sexual issues. Would have to be someone who works extra hard on relationships with Judaism.
And finally:
Lando II -- Someone who is JUST PLAIN AWESOME. 

They could also choose a combination -- John Paul Benedict, anyone? John John Paul? Peter Paul  Lando?