|John L. Allen Jr.
"There's a sense in which, if we didn't crackdown, somebody should crackdown on us for not doing our duty."
Cardinal Francis Arinze,
head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments speaking about Redemptionis sacramentum, a long-awaited document on liturgical abuses.
"It's a predictable document. It's obviously a further attempt at tightening the reins, but it's much less offensive or restrictive than had been rumored."
Jesuit Fr. Keith Pecklers,
professor of liturgy at Rome's Gregorian University
Kerry and communion; Liturgical abuse document released; The Vatican and terrorism; A talk by Passionist Fr. Donald Senior; 'New movements' congress in Stuttgart; North American College honors
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Since John Kerry emerged as the presumptive Democratic
nominee for president of the United States, American Catholics have been locked
in debate over whether a Catholic politician with a pro-choice voting record
like Kerry’s should be admitted to communion.
U.S. bishops are currently studying the question, and Cardinal Theodore
McCarrick of Washington, D.C., met privately with Kerry last week for 45
minutes. Kerry, a Catholic whose first marriage was annulled, recently received
communion during Sunday Mass at the Paulist Center in Boston, Mass.
Americans have been holding their breath to see if Rome would wade into the
debate. On April 23, we got something of an answer.
at a Vatican news conference whether a politician who supports abortion should
be denied communion, Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who heads the
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said
“Objectively, the answer is clear,” Arinze said. “The person is not fit. If he
shouldn’t receive it, then it shouldn’t be given.”
Arinze said that if the priest is “surprised,” meaning that he was unaware of
the politician’s record or his presence at Mass, he might be excused for being
flustered and administering communion in a given situation. In general, however,
the discipline of the church should be upheld, Arinze said.
the same time, Arinze declined to take sides specifically on the Kerry debate.
norm of the church is clear,” he said. “The Catholic church exists in the United
States. There are bishops there. Let them interpret it.”
Hence, the bottom line on the Vatican stance, as expressed by Arinze: This is a
question for the U.S. bishops, but the answer is fairly clear.
* * *
Arinze’s appearance at the Vatican news conference was in conjunction with the
publication of a long-awaited document on liturgical abuses. The document was
rumored to bring a Roman hammer down on a number of practices that have become
common in various parts of the world: inter-communion with Protestants, for
example, or liturgical dance, or altar girls.
the end, the hammer was something of a rubber mallet.
Titled Redemptionis sacramentum, the document’s tone is juridical and
frequently critical of abuses “which obviously cannot be allowed and must
cease.” At the same time, many liturgists around Rome breathed a sigh of relief
April 23 because the document creates no new restrictions and/or bans, and even
where it is obviously lukewarm about a given practice – altar girls, for
example, or communion in the hand – the document tolerates it.
according to the experts, adds nothing to existing liturgical law.
a predictable document,” said Jesuit Fr. Keith Pecklers, who teaches liturgy at
Rome’s Gregorian University. “It’s obviously a further attempt at tightening the
reins, but it’s much less offensive or restrictive than had been rumored.”
Arinze denied that the document amounts to a Roman crackdown.
didn’t crackdown on anybody,” he told NCR. “Look, it’s like soccer – you
have to have some rules. If you could just score from anywhere, fighting and
tossing bottles would be the result. This is much more serious, because it’s not
just a game, it’s our faith.”
the same time, Arinze did not deny the disciplinary thrust.
“There’s a sense in which, if we didn’t crackdown, somebody should crackdown on
us for not doing our duty,” he said.
key points in the document include:
ban on the use of unapproved texts and rites
• The absolute necessity of an ordained priest for the celebration of the
• Use of appropriate vessels and vestments
• A ban on using non-Biblical texts for the readings and responsorial psalms
• A ban on lay people giving homilies
• An insistence on using lay ministers of the Eucharist only when there is an
insufficient number of priests to distribute communion
• Laity may not hand one another consecrated hosts or the chalice
• The Mass may not be divided, with different parts celebrated at different
• Priests always have the right to celebrate the Mass in Latin, but according
to the post-Vatican II rite
• The obligation of Sunday Mass cannot be satisfied with ecumenical services
• Insistence that communion must not be given to non-Catholics and
non-Christians in violation of church rules.
Despite the clear emphasis on distinguishing priests and lay persons, Arinze
insisted that the spirit of the document was upholding a correct understanding
of the nature of the Mass. It is not, he said, a matter of “prejudices against
Cardinal Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for the
Interpretation of Legislative Texts, told reporters that the document originated
in complaints about abuses that had arrived at the Vatican over the years from
various parts of the world.
“At the origin of this
document, as with the encyclical, was an action of the people of God in relation
with the Holy See, who requested clarifications and made protests. There is a
sensibility and a love of God, and people often suffer from the way in which the
Lord is sometimes treated.”
Pecklers told NCR there are some clarifications that liturgists will
welcome. He cited the clarification that the Eucharistic bread should not be
broken in the moment of consecration, for example, or that priests should not
improvise the Eucharistic prayers.
* * *
Phil Mickelson won the Master’s golf tournament in April, marking his first
victory in a major event after more than 10 years of trying, it was a triumph of
persistence. The chief difference between Mickelson and others who might have
given up after a decade of frustration is that he kept coming.
a lesson that U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See James Nicholson also seems to have
April 22, Nicholson once again pressed the Bush administration’s case for
a new approach to terrorism, trying to move opinion within the Vatican,
which to date has not warmed to the idea. Nicholson sponsored a one-day
conference at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University on “Revitalizing
International Law to Meet the Challenge of Terrorism.”
bottom line, according to Nicholson’s line-up of speakers: Terrorism represents
a new threat, for which new tools are available, and both moral reflection and
international law need to reflect these changes.
number of mid-level Vatican officials were in attendance, though key policy
maker such as Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the pope’s foreign minister, did not
Legionaries of Christ Fr. Thomas Williams, an American who is dean of the
theology faculty at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum, tried to place the anti-war bias
of recent magisterial teaching in historical context. Much of the prejudice
against war from modern popes, he said, took shape against the backdrop of the
threat of a nuclear holocaust. Given the overwhelmingly destructive nature of
the weapons that the Cuban missle crisis might have unleashed, it was eminently
rational for John XXIII to write in Pacem in Terris that war is an
“irrational means of vindicating violated rights.”
Things look different today, Williams argued, since in a post-Cold War world the
use of military force no longer automatically risks a global nuclear
contemporary reflection on just war theory,” Williams said, “the development of
ever more precise weaponry must be added to the equation. Recent experience has
shown that such advances have made possible more limited warfare and
discriminate strikes on strategic military targets with fewer civilian
casualties and less destruction of property. Such military development can in no
way lessen our unflagging commitment to peace, but should nonetheless be
included in objectively evaluating specific military action.”
developments, Williams said in response to a question from Nicholson,
“necessarily call for a revision of the way just war theory is laid out.”
“Things don’t just get worse,” Williams said. “Sometimes they also get better.”
Joseph McMillan, a senior research fellow at National Defense University in
Washington, D.C., argued that international law already contains concepts that
could be applied to the terrorist threat.
prominently, McMillan said, international law in the 19th century
defined pirates as “enemies of all mankind,” which implied a responsibility of
all states to declare war on piracy. Further, McMillan suggested, if a state
failed to effectively combat piracy on the territory under its jurisdiction, it
risked forfeiting its sovereignty. The same approach might be extended to
terrorists, who McMillan said are even more obviously common enemies of
asked McMillan about the Holy See’s insistence that it ought to be up to the
United Nations, not the White House, to decide when these conditions have been
replied that the United Nations charter should not be read in a way that would
limit the rights of states to combat these threats. He quoted former U.S.
Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson to the effect that the American Bill of
Rights “is not a suicide pact.” The same point, he said, could be made about the
Rivkin, an American expert on terrorism and international law, agreed.
“Legitimacy in the United Nations is derived from powers ceded by sovereign
states. So how could an agent of sovereign states, which is what the United
Nations is, have greater legitimacy than the states themselves?”
the basis of classic political theory, popular legitimacy emphatically does not
reside at the UN. This is a statement of fact,” Rivkin said.
McMillan said political reality is that despite the obvious need to address the
causes of terrorism, there will be times when preferred options are not
available, and states will act to defend themselves. If international law does
not reflect that reality, he said, it risks losing credibility.
the end, it was unclear how much of a dent the conference might make in the
evolution of Vatican thinking. At least on the role of the United Nations, the
differences between the Holy See and the White House seem unlikely to narrow in
the short term. (It’s not just the Vatican. The two French speakers invited to
be part of the panel at the Gregorian, including Ambassador to the Holy See
Pierre Morel, seemed more optimistic about the U.N.’s capacity to take a lead
Nicholson’s determination, however, it’s also unlikely this is the last time the
Holy See will find itself pressed on the point.
* * *
synagogue celebrates the 100th anniversary of its foundation this
spring, and the local Jewish community had been hoping that John Paul II would
repeat his historic 1986 visit, the first time a pope had set foot in a
synagogue since the era of St. Peter. John Paul on that occasion
called the covenant with
April 20, however, the Vatican announced that John Paul would not make the brief
cross-town trip. Two possible explanations suggest themselves: 1) John Paul’s
declining health makes such a visit inadvisable, or 2) Christian/Jewish
relations are simply not the front-burner concern for the pope as they were in
the 1980s … in the pre-9/11 era. Vatican officials, however, insisted that
senior Vatican official spoke to NCR April 21.
the health issue, the senior official said that it’s ludicrous to believe the
pope is so weak that he couldn’t handle a 10-minute car ride. In fact, he said,
the Vatican is presently preparing three trips for John Paul in 2004: to Bern in
Switzerland, to France, and to Loretto in Italy. In addition, this official
said, it’s still not completely out of the question that John Paul may opt to
attend a Eucharistic congress in Mexico in the Fall. Bottom line, according to
this senior official: the pope is easily well enough to have gone to the
for a papal loss of interest, the senior official said it’s exactly the
opposite. John Paul wanted his 1986 visit to remain singular, the official said.
He didn’t want it to become yet another stop on his standard itinerary and hence
lose its significance. He wants the texts and gestures of that day to be studied
for the next generation, and hence doesn’t want to compromise their uniqueness.
official said John Paul fully expects that synagogue visits will become standard
practice for future popes.
reality, another factor explains the pope’s absence. Speaking on background,
Vatican officials told NCR that a papal visit to the synagogue would be
read in terms of the politics of the Middle East. At present, the Holy See has
serious differences with the Israeli government — on the construction of a
security wall, on the policy of targeted killings, and on the legal and economic
status of the Catholic church in Israel. In such a context, a papal visit to the
synagogue seemed, in the eyes of many Vatican strategists, inadvisable.
* * *
late Sulpician Fr. Raymond Brown was one of the greatest Catholic Biblical
scholars of the 20th century. Through no ambition of his own, he was
also a lightning rod for controversy. A moderate who placed his scholarship at
the service of the church, Brown nevertheless became a symbol of the
historical-critical approach to scripture, and Catholic traditionalists who
associated this method with what they saw as the decline of the post-conciliar
church attacked him viciously.
Brown has a successor today — in terms of both scholarship and his spirit of
ecclesial service — it may well be Passionist Fr. Donald Senior, president of
the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Like Brown, Senior is a member of the
Pontifical Biblical Commission, and also like Brown, he is a friend of Rome’s
Lay Centre, where he delivered the “Raymond Brown Lecture” on April 21.
Senior was in Rome for a session of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which is
currently working on a new document on the Bible and morality. The topic of his
lecture, however, was “The Gospels and the Call to Mission.”
Senior began with a sober assessment of the “pain and loss” in today’s world.
Terrorism, along with ethnic and religious divisions, generates violence that
seems to have no end. Economic insecurity raises collective anxieties.
church is suffering as well.
the United States, at least,” Senior said, “the scandal of sexual misconduct on
the part of priests and religious and the failure of some bishops and religious
superiors to adequately respond to this crisis has scarred the church and raised
profound and fundamental questions about its moral leadership.”
Against this backdrop, Senior suggested, Christians need to recover the “depth
and beauty” of its mission.
is not a time for hesitation or retreat,” Senior said. “We need to keep the
educator, Senior said he is conscious of the large numbers of young men and
women who are seeking something vast, something transcendent, to which to commit
themselves. A Chicagoan, Senior quoted the famous advice of architect Daniel
Burnham to Chicago’s city planners a century ago: “Make no small plans. They
have no magic to stir men’s blood.”
this context, Senior suggested the recovery of the deep sense of mission implied
in the New Testament, and especially the life of Christ. This is more than the
mission ad gentes, meaning the conversion of non-Christian peoples,
though this remains valid. “Mission” in the Biblical sense means nothing less
than the salvation and reconciliation of humanity.
spirit is not imperialistic or dominating,” Senior said. “Even as the gospel is
proclaimed with confidence and with gratitude for its proven beauty,
evangelization is done in a spirit of respect for others and their sacred
traditions and the integrity of their cultures.”
Senior characterized Jesus’ sense of mission in terms of “reaching out and
drawing in,” which constituted one fluid movement analogous to breathing. Even
though Christ did not pursue a mission to the gentiles, since his direct concern
was for the lost sheep of the House of Israel, his outreach shattered religious
and cultural boundaries. Jesus was, in the words of Matthew 11:18, “a lover of
tax collectors and those outside the law.” Hence it was natural for Paul and the
other leaders of the early church to extend this saving mission to non-Jews.
Having reached out, Christ then gathered in — drawing people into a loving
community, both a sign and an anticipation of communion with God. That, Senior
suggested, is the “inner meaning” of the numerous meals that punctuate the New
Testament — “meals with Levi and his friends, meals with Simon the Pharisee,
meals with crowds on the hillsides, meals with disciples, the ideal meals
described in his parables.” (Senior laughingly quoted another New Testament
expert to the effect that “you can eat your way through the gospels.”)
enterprise to which we are called,” Senior said, “is far more fundamental than
any of our concerns and far more crucial than we can imagine.”
* * *
“new movements” to most Catholics in the Anglo-Saxon world, and they’re likely
to think “conservative.” This is in part because the movements are not
especially well-established in English-speaking zones, so most Catholics know
them only indirectly, either by reputation or from media images. Those groups
with the highest public profile — Opus Dei, the Legionaries of Christ, or the
Neocatechumenate — tend to seem “conservative” to outside observers.
be accurate, Opus Dei is a personal prelature, the Legionaries are a religious
community, and the Neocatechumenate is a catechetical path, so none considers
itself a “movement.” But in public parlance, all three are seen as part of the
broader phenomena of new groups within the Catholic church in the 20th
danger with this perception is that the movements will be ideologized, as if
being sympathetic to the movements means siding with one faction or another in
the church’s post-Vatican II cultural wars.
is not how things seem from Rome, in part because some of the most active and
visible movements here are not “conservative,” at least in the narrow, political
sense. The Community of Sant’Egidio, for example, was born on the Catholic left
amid the student protests of 1968, and the Focolare movement has always
prioritized ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue as expressions of its guiding
idea of the unity of the human family. Watching Sant’Egidio and Focolare work,
it is impossible to regard the new movements as inhabiting a particular
proof of the point will come May 8, when Sant’Egidio and Focolare will be among
the main sponsors of a congress in Stuttgart, Germany, of Christian movements,
communities and groups born in European countries before and after World War II.
than 10,000 people are expected to take part, making it the largest gathering of
church movements in history. These predominantly lay movements come out of the
Evangelical, Lutheran, Orthodox and Catholic churches and the Anglican
Communion. All are committed to dialogue, and to “generate an authentic life of
the Gospel.” More than 200 movements will participate, some 50 Catholic groups
addition to the physical gathering in Stuttgart, the May 8 event will also be
beamed live to 41 locations all over Europe, allowing thousands of other people
to take part via satellite.
Thursday, the Italian founders of Sant’Egidio, Andrea Riccardi, and of Focolare,
Chiara Lubich, met with reporters in Rome to present the Stuttgart initiative.
Three weeks earlier, a few of us in Rome had a briefing session with
representatives of both movements to talk about the Stuttgart project. In
keeping with the ecumenical thrust, we met at the Anglican Center in Rome and
were welcomed by Bishop John Flack, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy to the
Holy See, as well as a long-time friend of the Focolare.
would be logical to see the Stuttgart gathering against the backdrop of debate
over a new European constitution, and the oft-voiced demand of Christian
leaders, above all John Paul II, that this document contain an explicit
reference to the Christian roots of Europe. Organizers, however, insist that
Stuttgart is not a political rally in this sense, intended to lobby for a
particular platform or set of issues.
are not a political party seeking to influence certain decisions,” said Paolo
Ciani from Sant’Egidio. “Even on the constitution, there are diverse positions
inside the movements that will participate.”
Cotignoli, a spokesperson for Focolare, said the guiding idea of the Stuttgart
gathering is to “give a gift of hope to Europe, without asking anything.”
want to manifest fraternity and an openness of 365 degrees to all, without new
ghettoes,” Cotignoli said.
Another way to read the Stuttgart event would be as an attempt at a Christian
“reconquest” of Europe in the context of growing religious diversity, especially
fueled by Islamic immigration. That interpretation too was rejected by
will speak about openness and welcome for the Muslim world,” Cotignoli said.
“This is a first step, and we want to see what point we’re at as Christians.”
is not a violent affirmation of Christian identity,” Ciani said. “We are
probably the part of Europe most open, most sensitive to other religious,
especially to the Jewish tradition and to dialogue with the Muslim world.”
Information on the Stuttgart congress can be found at
* * *
year the North American College, the American seminary in Rome, honors one or
more American Catholics for outstanding contributions to the church during a
special black-tie “rector’s dinner.” The event is primarily a fundraiser for the
college, but it is also an opportunity for Americans and English-speakers in
Rome to gather. This year’s event took place on a gorgeous Roman evening on
Thursday, April 22.
Honorees in 2004 were Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council
for Social Communications, and Tom and Margaret Melady. Tom was ambassador to
the Holy See under the first President George Bush; Margaret was president of
American University of Rome.
join in honoring Foley and the Meladys, the National Catholic Reporter
bought a table. Shannon and I had the joy of inviting nine friends to join us:
Msgr. Felix Machado of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Fr.
Donald Bolen of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Jesuit Fr.
Keith Pecklers of the Gregorian University; Amy Roth-Turnley of the U.S. Embassy
to the Holy See; Legionaries of Christ Fr. Thomas Williams, dean of theology at
the Regina Apostolorum; Hada Messiah of CNN; Marc Carroggio of the prelature of
Opus Dei; Delia Gallagher, who writes for Zenit and Inside the Vatican
and contributes to CNN; and Fr. Frans Thoolen of the Pontifical Council for
Migrants and Refugees.
crowd was dotted with ecclesiastical dignitaries. Cardinals present included
Jean-Louis Tauran, Renato Martino, Gianbattista Re, Francesco Marchisano, Edmund
Szoka, Achille Silvestrini, Francis Arinze and James Francis Stafford. The
leadership team of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Bishops Wilton Gregory and
William Skylstad and Msgr. William Fay, also turned out. (Gregory, Skylstad and
Fay had been in an audience with John Paul that morning, and Gregory told me he
was impressed with the sharpness of the pope’s questioning. Compared with last
October, he said, John Paul seemed improved. Gregory also said he feels that
“every day things are a little better” with the church in the United States.)
Archbishop Michael Miller, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education,
delivered the evening’s opening prayer. Miller, a Basilian, previously served as
president of the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The closing prayer came
from Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of the military archdiocese.
accepting his award, Foley addressed himself to the seminarians. He expressed
the hope they find the joy that has been his since his ordination on May 19,
1962. Foley said he is “happy every day” that God gave him the gift of the
seminarians rounded off the evening with a rousing musical program featuring
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “O Danny Boy” and “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In,”
then turned more somber for a concluding “Regina Coeli.”
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is
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