|John L. Allen Jr.
“The underlying causes
are many and complex: political, social, cultural, religious; for this
reason, what is still more important is long-term action, directed, with
foresight and patience, at its roots, designed to stop it spreading further
and to extinguish its deadly contagious effects.”
Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican foreign minister,
insisting that terrorism cannot be resisted through military means alone
John Paul opens the Eucharistic
Year; Procedural justice under the code; Vatican lecture season opens; Answering
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Last Friday, I was sitting in front of the
Vatican press office reading Pope John Paul IIs new apostolic letter,
Mane Nobiscum Domine, when a friend of mine who works in the Holy See
spotted me and stopped by.
You know, someday that letter will be on
the Index, he said. The reference, for those too young to remember
such things, was to the index of forbidden books once maintained by
the Holy Office (todays Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith),
until it was abolished by Paul VI.
I was taken aback, since the letter, presenting
the Eucharistic Year John Paul has declared to run through next
Octobers synod on the Eucharist, didnt strike me as particularly
What do you mean? I asked.
Im a Wojtyliano, and I will
continue to say so even after this pope is gone, he said. But those
guys, gesturing towards the offices of the Roman Curia, are exactly
like they were before.
The comment reveals one of the fundamental
complexities in trying to assess the pontificate of John Paul II. Measured
against the expectations unleashed in some quarters by the reforming thrust of
the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), John Paul could perhaps be considered a
restorationist. He said a definitive no to womens ordination,
he has reasserted a wide range of traditional devotions and practices that not
so long ago seemed superannuated, and he has refused to reconsider the
traditional disciplines of the priestly life, to take just three examples.
Measured against previous papacies, on the other
hand, John Paul can only be styled an innovator. His vision is unabashedly
evangelical rather than institutional (including the admission of gross
historical errors on the part of the church), he employs concepts of human
rights and personalism that previous popes once excoriated, hes
unembarrassed to preach the gospel using rock-star-style trips and media
events, and he is remarkably lay in his embrace of the legitimate
autonomy of the secular sphere.
Hence while its John Paul who rolled
the clock back on Vatican II who arouses the indignation of the
churchs liberal wing and most secular critics, its John Paul
of the avante garde who trips wires among traditionalists.
Moreover, because John Paul II has never taken a direct personal interest in
ecclesiastical governance, hes not bothered in 26 years to ensure that
everyone in the Vatican shares his outlook. The result is that some of his
fiercest critics work just down the hall.
A senior Vatican official recently put it to me
this way: When I look at John Pual, I very much see a man of Vatican II.
From my point of view, thats not entirely a good thing.
Mane Nobiscum Domine, as my friend
intimated, contains a couple of these vintage Wojtyla touches. Under the
heading of fostering a eucharistic culture, for example, the pope seems to
rebuff anyone who would use spiritual authority to try to impose political or
The culture of the Eucharist
promotes a culture of dialogue, which finds in it strength and sustenance. It
would be a mistake to believe that public reference to the faith could undercut
the just autonomy of the state or civil institutions, or that it could
encourage attitudes of intolerance. If historically errors in this regard have
not been lacking even among believers, as I had occasion to acknowledge during
the Jubilee, this is to be attributed not to the Christian roots,
but to the inconsistency of Christians with respect to those roots. Whoever
learns to say thanks in the manner of the crucified Christ can be a
martyr, but never a petty dictator.
Again, while asking that Catholics make a special
point of reaching out to the poor of the developing world during this
eucharistic year, John Paul writes:
We mustnt deceive ourselves:
its from our reciprocal love and, in particular, from the concern we have
for those in need that we will be recognized as true disciples of Christ (Jn
13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This is the criterion on the basis of which the
authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations will be confirmed.
In terms of papal speech, this is fairly
explosive stuff. John Paul is suggesting that the authenticity of
the Eucharist, a word historically reserved to proper execution of the rubrics,
actually refers to how worship translates into social concern. (By the way,
its not that the pope is a sloppy celebrant; he calls on priests to
perform the rites with fidelity in his letter. The point, however, is that
following rules is not enough to make the Eucharistic celebration
authentic in the deepest sense).
Whether such thoughts will one day end up on the
index - indeed, whether there will ever again be an index - is anyones
guess. But the persistence of reservations about the Wojtyla approach at senior
levels of church government creates some very interesting questions about the
* * *
Much of the content of Mane Nobiscum
Domine reflects the popes April 2003 encyclical on the Eucharist,
Ecclesia da Eucaristia. In the apostolic letter, however, the pope adds
some specific suggestions for observance of the eucharistic year, always
cautioning that it is not his intention to disrupt pastoral programs already in
John Paul said the year will accomplish its
purposes if two things happen: a revitalization of the Sunday liturgy, and a
recovery of eucharistic adoration outside the Mass.
At an Oct. 8 press conference, Archbishop Piero
Marini, the popes chief liturgist, summed up the various ways the pope
calls the church to an examination of conscience about how the Eucharist is
Is the Sunday Mass a celebration of the
entire parochial community (including all movements and sub-groups)?
Is the proclamation of the Word of God,
and especially the homily, truly effective in opening up the Scriptures? (The
pope makes a special point of calling for care in the preparation and delivery
Are the reformed liturgical texts, and
especially the Roman Missal, being applied in their integrity?
Are the tone of voice, the gestures, the
movements, the sense of respect, the moments of silence, the whole
constellation of modes of acting consistent with the dignity of the
Are people being educated in prayer,
especially in the Liturgy of the Hours?
Are communities engaging in genuine
Christian witness outside the liturgy, acting upon the commission at the end of
Not a bad check-up list, perhaps, for a parish
* * *
On Thursday, Oct. 14, the Congregation for Divine
Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments released a document titled
Year of the Eucharist: Suggestions and Proposals. It is intended to
offer guidelines for reflection, along with concrete suggestions for pastoral
In building a spirituality of the Eucharist, the
document treats the following themes:
Hearing the Word
Presence of Christ
Communion and charity
Its striking that the document avoids
reductionist tendencies of both the traditionalist and avante garde
sort, insisting on uniting the communal and sacrificial elements of the
Under the heading of pastoral suggestions, the
document calls upon bishops conferences to put out their own documents
presenting the Eucharistic Year, addressing specific local problems (examples
given: lack of priests, weariness among priests regarding the importance
of daily Mass, disaffection with Sunday Mass, abandonment of eucharistic
adoration). It also asks bishops to review the Masses broadcast on
television or radio in their countries, ensuring that questionable
practices arent being transmitted and that there isnt an
excessive emphasis on show business. It also suggests that bishops
promote national Eucharistic congresses.
Parishes are encouraged to give particular
attention to places where the Eucharist is reserved, meaning tabernacles and
Blessed Sacrament chapels. Liturgy committees should be revived or expanded,
with special attention to music. Special catechesis should be offered on what
it means to be in church, including basics like genuflecting before the Blessed
Sacrament (rather than generically in the direction of the altar). Communities
should also educate their people about their own parish, reflecting on the art
in the parish, the design of the ambo and tabernacle and sanctuary, the look of
liturgical books, and other visible signs that lead to the
invisible. Finally, parishes are asked to promote eucharistic
* * *
Tis the season for the opening of the
academic year in Rome, with the annual round of lectures at the pontifical
universities. One of the most interesting this year took place at the Opus
Dei-run University of the Holy Cross Oct. 11, where Msgr. Joaquín
Llobell of the Faculty of Canon Law delivered the lecture The Judicial
Defense of Rights in the Church: Can the Process be Christian?
Llobell is known as one of the premier canonists
in Rome, with a particular interest in questions of procedural justice under
the Code of Canon Law. The topic of due process for accused parties
under the penal sections of the code, long a rather obscure topic for
canonists, has burst into prominence under the weight of the sex abuse
scandals, especially in the United States.
Given that the American sex abuse norms, which
some canonists have criticized precisely on due process grounds, come up for
re-approval by Rome in March 2005, Llobells presentation opens a window
onto how the issues look from here.
The heart of Llobells argument is that
while some find the idea of a judiciary, and the assertion of rights, to be
contrary to the Christian spirit of turning the other cheek, in
fact the protection of due process under the law is an intrinsic part of the
churchs pastoral mission.
Llobell traces the evolution of reflection in the
church on due process, noting that it was once customary to distinguish between
two classes of Christians, the perfect, meaning those in Holy
Orders and religious life, and the weak, meaning the laity. Legal
rights and the procedures of criminal justice were considered a concession to
fallen human nature, and hence appropriate only for those who were, literally,
second-class citizens. Over time, a different conception arose, which
emphasized the unity of the Christian vocation and hence the universality of
the instruments of justice.
Llobell cites a 13th century canonist
named Guglielmo Durante, who is buried in the Church of Santa Maria Sopra
Minerva: If Satan himself were accused in a judicial process, the judge should
respect his right to mount a defense.
In a special way, Llobell argues that the
requirements of due process serve to place limits on the exercise of power in
the church. He notes that the sixth and seventh principles for the reform of
the Code of Canon Law adopted by the Synod of Bishops in 1967 speak to this
6. The use of power in the Church must
not be arbitrary, because that is prohibited by the natural law, by divine
positive law, and by ecclesiastical law. The rights of each one of Christ's
faithful must be acknowledged and protected, both those which are contained in
the natural and divine positive law and those derived from those laws because
of the social condition which the faithful acquire and possess in the
7. The principle must be proclaimed
in canon law that juridical protection applies equally to superiors and to
subjects so that any suspicion of arbitrariness in ecclesiastical
administration will entirely disappear.
The importance of not forgetting the
precise content of these principles derives, Llobell said, among
other things from the subtle, but penetrating, temptation to mortify the rights
of the individual in order to protect those of the community.
In this sense, Llobell issues a rather blunt
challenge to the powers that be.
The teaching of Christ about meekness
cannot be interpreted by authority as a sort of right to commit
injustice, nor as a right to blackmail their subjects to accept those
injustices, with the pretext of contributing to communion, he said.
Llobell cites certain key elements of due process
in penal matters:
The presumption of innocence;
The independence of the tribunal with
regard to the authority that created it;
The public character of the evidence
supporting an accusation;
The right of the accused to produce
evidence in his defense on a basis of equality with the accuser;
The right to have all judicial measures
The right to a double level of
jurisdiction as a means of appeal.
Its worth noting that critics of the
American norms have at one point or another questioned whether each one of
these elements is adequately protected under the American system.
Llobell argues that neglect of due process risks
grave consequences for the Church.
Proof of the point lies in the fact that
the process for the nullity of matrimony has been, in certain ecclesiastical
environments, a means of denying the indissolubility of marriage and of
introducing divorce into the church, as John Paul II has affirmed; and that
negligence in the application of the penal process has created the sad
situations in which not a few American and European dioceses find
themselves, he said.
Keen observers will note that both of
Llobells examples of a failure in due process refer primarily to the
No doubt the situation in the States, whether on
annulments or sexual abuse, is singular, and its perhaps difficult for
anyone outside that context to truly grasp it. Over the next few months,
however, Vatican officials will once again be asked to pass judgment on the
American norms, and its a good bet that concerns such as those
articulated by Llobell will be on their minds.
* * *
My e-mail inbox has been more cluttered than
normal with responses to last weeks column, in which I wrote that if a
secret ballot were to be held in the Vatican, John Kerry would beat George Bush
by roughly a 60-40 margin. Many messages were along the lines of this one from
The question is...what Catholic faith
did you come from? You are a disgrace, and perhaps the greatest outcome
to this article is that it so desperately shows how lost you are and how much
prayer is needed for you...trust me, many will begin now after your sorrowful
The implied assumption seems to be that because
of what I wrote, I must be pro-Kerry, especially on those issues where Kerry
differs from the Catholic church.
I suppose I shouldnt be surprised that in
an election season, people assume that every public utterance is driven by a
partisan political agenda. Im also under no illusion that anything I say
here will dispel such perceptions. Nevertheless, since an important
journalistic principle is at stake, I feel compelled to repeat something that
in my version of a perfect world would be obvious to all - to wit, that
reporting a reality is not the same thing as approving it.
There was no endorsement, implied or otherwise,
in what I wrote. I observed what anyone with even a passing knowledge of the
Vatican already knows, which is that the strong European anti-Bush prejudice
has echoes in the Holy See. Whether thats a good or bad thing is for
others to judge.
I suspect the anger and mistrust that partisan
politics tends to generate, amply confirmed by my mail this week, is one reason
that many Catholic pastors are opposed to anything that smacks of politicizing
the Eucharist. Once again, whether that instinct is ultimately correct is not
my bailiwick, but I certainly understand it.
* * *
John Paul is publishing another book. Vatican
spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls was in Frankfurt last week presenting the
news to the book fair. He described the book as a 200-page reflection on the
ideological struggles of the 20th century and their significance to
Titled Memory and Identity: Conversations
Between Millenniums, the book is the result of more than a decade of
reflection, which John Paul recently brought to a conclusion with the help of a
Polish-speaking secretary to whom he dictated revisions.
Sources said the idea for the book came together
in 1993, when the late Fr. Jozef Tischner, a fellow Pole and a philosopher from
Krakow, proposed a series of conversations on the tumultuous events of the
closing century - including the rise and fall of Nazism, fascism and
Communism. The two were joined by another philosopher friend, Krzysztof
Michalski. Their conversations were tape-recorded and remained in storage for
One interesting reflection concerns what Poles
living in the Nazi era knew about the extent of Nazi atrocities.
What we could see in those years was
terrible enough. Yet many aspects of Nazism were still hidden at that
stage, the pope writes. The full extent of the evil that was raging
through Europe was not seen by everyone, not even by those of us who were
living at the epicenter.
For a long time, the West did not want to
believe in the extermination of the Jews. ... Not even in Poland did we know
all that the Nazis had done, the pope writes.
The book is expected to be published in May by
the Italian publishing company Rizzoli.
Industry sources say that interest in an English
translation may not be as high as for previous papal titles, given the
performance of his current book, Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way. To date
its sold only about 10,000 copies in the U.S. market, despite being one
of Warners lead fall titles. Sales may pick up over the Christmas
holidays, but so far the book is, from a commercial point of view, a bit of a
* * *
Anyone looking for rising stars in the European
episcopate would be well advised to keep an eye on Bishop Rino Fisichella,
rector of the Lateran University and chaplain to the Italian
parliament. Its not just that the Lateran is often a point of departure
for higher ecclesiastical office (its last rector, Angelo Scola, is now the
cardinal of Venice). Fisichella is also a thoughtful, articulate spokesperson
for Catholic views, especially on matters of public policy.
Its well-known around Rome that Fisichella
was a primary contributor to John Paul IIs 1998 encyclical Fides et
Ratio (so much so that some wags dubbed it Fisichella et
Fisichella spoke Oct. 1 at a conference on
Le radici cristiane della società libera: Economia di mercato e
dottrina sociale della Chiesa (The Christian roots of the free
society: Economics and the market in the social doctrine of the church),
sponsored by an Italian think tank called the Istituto Bruno Leoni. The
objective of the conference was to argue that the modern concept of the free
state, based on individual liberty and the rule of law, is actually rooted in
Christian anthropology and social teaching, even if historically free societies
in the West originated in a spirit of rebellion against the church. Fisichella
argued that the concept of liberty in modernity is distorted, shorn of a
reference to truth.
Either truth and liberty go together,
Fisichella warned, or they vanish separately.
Fisichella reflected at some length on chapter
five of Pauls letter to the Galatians, in which Paul urges Christians to
not submit again to the yoke of slavery. He called this the
most dramatic and decisive choice in Christian history, arguing that had
Christianity remained under the Mosaic law it would have become a sect of
Judaism. Instead, Fisichella said, Paul understood that Christians are called
to embrace the truth in freedom.
* * *
Alejandro A. Rismondo Chafuen of the Atlas
Economic Research Foundation spoke on the same panel with Fisichella, and made
the fascinating, if unfortunately quite schematic, argument that
16th century Catholic intellectuals such as St. Robert Bellarmine,
Francisco de Suarez and Juan de Mariana, working out of the Roman College,
essentially invented the Republican form of government and the
modern understanding of the rule of law. Chafuen noted that secular
Enlightenment writers such as John Locke are often styled as the primary
sources of modern legal and political theory.
In fact, Chafuen argued, Locke himself owed a
tremendous debt to the late scholastic authors. Locke wrote a book
on the epistles of Saint Paul that few economic theorists bother to read,
Chafuen said, but it indicates the extent to which his anthropological
convictions were influenced by the Medieval scholastic tradition.
Locke had different views on theological
questions, Chafuen said, but his view of the human person is
basically the same as the scholastics. Property is destined for all, and so the
reason you have private property is because it will be used for socially more
useful ends in this way.
Also on the panel at the Bruno Leoni conference
were two Americans, Robert Royal of the Faith and Reason Institute and Philip
Lawler of Catholic World Report.
* * *
The Vaticans foreign minister, Archbishop
Giovanni Lajolo, delivered a major speech at the United Nations on Sept. 29.
Lajolo reviewed the world situation, with special attention to Iraq, the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and terrorism.
Lajolo reminded the General Assembly that the
Vatican thought the war in Iraq was a bad idea.
The position of the Holy See concerning the
military action of 2002-2003 is well known, he said. Everyone can
see that it did not lead to a safer world either inside or outside
On terrorism, Lajolo seemed to issue an indirect
criticism of what is sometimes seen as the Bush go-it-alone
Without prejudice to the right and duty of
each state to implement just measures to protect its citizens and its
institutions, Lajolo said, it seems obvious that terrorism can only
be effectively challenged through a concerted multilateral approach, respecting
the ius gentium, and not through the politics of
Lajolo insisted that terrorism cannot be resisted
through military means alone.
The underlying causes are many and complex:
political, social, cultural, religious; for this reason, what is still more
important is long-term action, directed, with foresight and patience, at its
roots, designed to stop it spreading further and to extinguish its deadly
contagious effects, he said.
On the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Lajolo
reiterated the Holy Sees support for the roadmap approach. He
called for gestures not only of justice, but forgiveness, something he said
will require more moral courage than the use of arms.
Lajolo ended by vowing that the Holy See will
remain a traveling companion of the United Nations, since they are
both universal global institutions with a mission of peace. He called for a
more effective ordering of the U.N., towards the aim of making it truly a
family of nations.
* * *
Recently I wrote about use of the term
sect to refer to new Protestant movements in the developing world,
often with an evangelical and/or Pentecostal orientation. I noted that several
correspondents had objected to the term, and tried to defend a more neutral use
on the grounds that at least people have a rough idea of what it means.
I do not appear to have been terribly successful.
This response from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus is typical:
There is no use of this term that does not
This has been a continuing concern over the last
more than 10 years in connection with Evangelicals and Catholics Together.
Despite all the nuances, evangelical and Pentecostal Protestants see it as a
slur. There are many other good words that are variously applicable
community, movement, group, association, league, society, organization, etc.
Twenty or fifty years from now well be in formal ecumenical
dialogue with some of these groups, which we will then call communions or
ecclesial communities. That will not be helped by our once having dismissed
them as sects.
As I said to Neuhaus, Im willing to drop
the offending vocabulary. Now all he has to do is convince the Catholic
episcopacies in Latin America and Africa.
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is
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