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June 23, 2006
Vol. 5, No. 41

John L. Allen Jr.


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Bertone named secretary of state; Reflection on liturgy changes: Bishop Trautman and Msgr. Moroney; The man who rehabilitated Galileo; Italy's radical left and Catholics


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To the surprise of no one, Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, who worked alongside then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1995 to 2003 as the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to be his new Secretary of State.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
The move makes Bertone, 71, the most powerful figure in the Vatican after Benedict XVI himself. Since the era of Paul VI, the Secretariat of State has played the role of a "super-dicastery," to some extent coordinating the work of all the other departments of the Vatican. It is also responsible for the Vatican's relations with states, hence its "foreign policy."

Bertone will officially assume his duties Sept. 15. He replaces Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has held the post for 15 years.

Bertone is not a product of the Vatican's diplomatic corps, and thus reflects the priority of doctrinal concerns over diplomatic exigencies in the pontificate of Benedict XVI. (French Cardinal Jean Villot, Secretary of State under Pope Paul VI, was the last man to hold the post who did not have a diplomatic background, but the context was different, since Paul VI himself had served most of his career in the Secretariat of State).

Benedict has also accepted the resignation of American Cardinal Edmund Szoka as head of the Vatican City-State, appointing Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo as his successor. Lajolo is currently Secretary for Relations with States, effectively the Vatican's Foreign Minister.

Since Bertone may be expected to occupy himself more with the internal governance of the church, the choice of Lajolo's successor could be especially important for determining the diplomatic profile of the Holy See under Benedict XVI. Candidates are rumored to include Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, currently the papal ambassador in France; Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer at the United Nations; and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

While at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bertone was at the heart of some of its best-known recent documents: the declaration Dominus Iesus on religious pluralism; new rules of procedure for investigations of theologians; a new profession of faith; and a document on the role of Catholic politicians. Bertone was also involved in the early stages of the congregation's response to the sexual abuse crisis, after Pope John Paul II assigned it juridical responsibility for cases of accused priests in 2001.

Bertone earned a reputation as a "fix-it" man under Ratzinger. He took the lead in publishing the infamous "third secret" of Fatima, and also was the point man for the Vatican during the soap opera in the summer of 2001 surrounding the on-again, off-again marriage of Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo to a follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

A Salesian, Bertone did his license in theology on "tolerance and religious liberty," destined to be critically important issues in relationships with both Islam and China, and then completed a doctorate at the Salesianum in Rome -- ironically, on the governance of the church under another Pope Benedict, this one Benedict XIV. Bertone eventually became the head of the canon law department at the Salesianum, and participated in the revision of the Code of Canon Law in 1983. In 1988, Ratzinger named Bertone as part of the commission that handled negotiations with the breakaway Society of St. Pius X, known popularly as the "Lefebvrites."

His academic ascent was rapid, and from 1989 to 1991 he served as the rettore magnifico, roughly the chancellor, of the Salesianum. In the early 1990s, Bertone was also tapped by the Secretariat of State as part of a European commission designed to aid the newly emancipated countries of Eastern Europe to prepare constitutional and legislative documents.

In 1991, Bertone became Archbishop of Vercelli, a post he held until his assignment in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Last year, Bertone earned international headlines by calling The Da Vinci Code a "sack full of lies," and calling on Catholic booksellers not to sell the book.

Bertone is a staunch conservative on doctrinal issues, and a man with a very positive and optimistic spirit. In true Salesian fashion, he is good at youth ministry, and has made outreach to the young a priority in Genoa. One of his first outings as archbishop was to a local disco, where Bertone was photographed on the dance floor. He has also taken a few turns at providing color commentary during broadcasts of Italian soccer matches.

Bertone's appointment was widely expected, given his ties to the pope. Benedict's emerging approach to top appointments seems to be to tap men with whom he has a close relationship of trust, regardless of whether they fit the traditional profile for the post. (This was the case, for example, in his appointment of Cardinal William Levada as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).

Many in the Secretariat of State are nonplussed by the appointment, since they regard a background in Vatican diplomacy, including a few tours in postings around the world, as a sine qua non; one told me last week that being Secretary of State is "no place for on-the-job training."

Currently, rumors in Rome suggest that Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, may replace Bertone in Genoa. If so, combined with the recent transfer of Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to Naples, it would mean the exit from the Vatican of the most senior officials associated with the diplomatic corps, and would be widely read as "clipping of the wings" of the church's diplomats in favor of officials with a stronger doctrinal background. Sepe's replacement, Cardinal Ivan Dias of India, although a longtime diplomat himself, is also known for a strong set of theological convictions close to those of Benedict XVI.

The logic for Bertone's appointment, aside from his personal connection to the pope, is no doubt that he can ensure that concerns of Catholic identity trump the logic of compromise that is often the stuff of diplomacy. Further, he's an Italian who knows the world of the Vatican well.

It will be interesting to see, especially in the early stages, if Bertone's relative unfamiliarity with the inner workings of the Secretariat of State renders him dependent upon the very diplomats he was named to oversee. Such is sometimes the case with "outsider" appointments, and hence observers will be paying careful attention for early assertions of independence from the man who is now, in effect, the Vatican's Prime Minister.

One sign to watch for may be Bertone's line on China. As a Salesian, he will have considerable sympathy for Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, also a Salesian. Under John Paul, the diplomatic corps was frequently leery of Zen because of his outspoken challenges to Chinese authorities on religious liberty, at a time when improved relations with China is a top Vatican priority. Benedict's appointment of Zen as a cardinal suggested a break with this atmosphere of caution, and Bertone's appointment may well embolden Zen and the other critics of the Chinese authorities even further.

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After a lengthy and, at times, contentious debate over recent years about a new English translation of the Order of Mass, which relies more heavily on a sacred vocabulary closer to the Latin originals, some observers were surprised by the relatively anti-climatic nature of the vote of the American bishops last week in Los Angeles. Following a fairly brief discussion, the bishops approved the translation by an overwhelming vote of 173 to 29.

Several factors no doubt help explain the result, including a recent letter from Cardinal Francis Arinze of the Congregation for Divine Worship to Bishop William Skylstad, president of the American conference, which made adoption of the text seem inevitable, and the general fatigue many bishops feel with the "liturgy wars" which have rocked English-speaking Catholicism since the mid-1990s.

One key element, however, was the support of Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., chair of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy, widely seen as the leading critic of the translation principles underlying the new text. In the end, however, Trautman supported the translation in amended form. (The American bishops approved several changes, such as retaining the phrase "one in being" in the Creed rather than the more technical term "consubstantial.")

This week, I spoke to Trautman about the result.

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NCR: Many observers were struck by your position in Los Angeles.
Bishop Trautman:
I tried to steer a middle course. I didn't want any consternation, and in the end we had a peaceful resolution to these important liturgical matters. I wanted to take a balanced approach. It's important to remember that this is an amended text. What we have to do is to highlight the 'full, conscious and active participation' of the faithful in the liturgy, and the texts we received were not always good at this. The amended text brings us closer to that hope of the council fathers. The texts should be easily understood, with a new theological precision. I would have liked to see more amendments, but I think we did well.

What needs to happen for successful implementation of the new Mass?
What's required in the first place is a great motivation for priests to take on a major catechetical effort. I would say that we're at least two years away from [the translation] becoming reality, but we have to gear up for that.

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I'm not in favor of any catechetical effort, however, until the whole Roman Missal is ready. Only then will be we able to see the big picture. Then we can talk about the catechetical effort. There's still a lot of material to be prepared, such as the collects, prefaces, and other texts. We've sent a strong message to ICEL [the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, responsible for the translations] that the collects in their present form are not worthy. They're too long, they use a sometimes incomprehensible vocabulary, and they follow the Latin word order too closely. There's a lot of work to be done.

What we don't want to do is to repeat the mistakes of the immediate post-Vatican II period, when we came out with the Mass in segments with an overall approach.

What's most important is the motivation to implement this translation. We have to convince priests and lay people that this is a superior text, giving them a deeper spirituality. I don't think we'll convince them that 'consubstantial,' for example, is better than 'one in being,' which has been used for 35 years. People say that England has been using it for all these years, but I think our priests are stretched too thin already.

We have to make the argument that these are better texts, more accurate texts. Liturgists need to coordinate efforts to explain that these are superior texts to those issued immediately after Vatican II, that they bring a new richness. For example, the linking of the liturgy to scripture, and the more exact details they offer. We have to communicate the theological principles. This is a whole new missal that comes from the Vatican, and calls for our response.

I don't just want the Committee on Liturgy to be involved with this, but also the doctrine committee and the catechetical committee. We need a full court press to bring this new missal to our people.

We also need to work closely with the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, the Catholic Academy of Liturgy, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, and other bodies. It has to be a total effort, and a collegial approach.

Won't that 'team approach' be difficult, since many members of the bodies you just mentioned were opposed to this translation?
We have to dialogue with them, to engage them in conversation. We have to explain that the text has been amended. The collects and prefaces can still be amended. We are trying to reflect the concerns of the liturgical establishment. But the reality is, it's here.

When the vote was taken on 'consubstantial' at the bishops' meeting, we won, but it was close. That said to me, we have to use a different approach. We have to stress balance and reason. Liturgiam Authenticam is a reality, even if I prefer to come back to Sacrosanctum Concilium [the document of Vatican II on liturgy], which is the ultimate foundation. In the end, I think this text is in accord with Sacrosanctum Concilium.

For the sake of our people, we have to band together to make this work.

Are you saying this text is the best you could do?
Given all the realities that we know, I think that's a fair statement. I hope that when Rome reviews the text, the American amendments will be respected. Liturgy should unite us, not divide us.

Any other observations on the implementation process?
To date, what has been missing in all of this is the lay voice. It's just not in the process. Some bishops on their own have sought it out, but at least formally it's missing. In the United States, we have outstanding scholars in liturgical theology, and we should be using these experts. That needs to be done for the next steps.

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I also spoke to Msgr. James Moroney, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Liturgy, about the outcome in Los Angeles and where things go from here. Over the next couple of years, Moroney will be the key figure in the bishops' conference spearheading implementation efforts.

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NCR: What happens from here?
Msgr. Moroney:
Within the next couple of days, the president of the conference, Bishop William Skylstad, will write a letter to Cardinal Arinze with the final text, with all the adaptations and emendations, requesting the recognitio [meaning formal Vatican approval of the text].The Congregation for Divine Worship will carry out whatever consultations it wants, including consulting with the Vox Clara Commission, and then will make its decision.

Could the congregation make changes to the American text?
Without question, the Holy See will follow the same procedure as in every liturgical book of the last 35 years, sending the text back indicating which amendments it finds acceptable and which not. I suspect there will be perfect clarity from the congregation. The Holy See may want to issue one English text for all the episcopal conferences, which could mean accepting some American changes, and then making that text standard for all the conferences.

Does that mean the Vatican could say to the Americans, 'You have to stick with consubstantial?'
It certainly could. In a ruling some 10 years ago, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts dealt with the scope of changes that may be made in a text awaiting confirmation from the Holy See. It found that the original document may be changed, even substantially, in the confirmation process.

Assuming the Order of Mass is approved, will it be put into effect right away, ahead of the other elements of the Mass?
That decision has not yet been made. The bishops have not begun to examine it.

How will you approach the formation of priests?
I've spoken in 93 dioceses to over 18,000 priests and deacons, bringing the message of the theological and spiritual depth of the new General Instruction on the Roman Missal. It's critically important to go to the "front-line troops" who will be most instrumental in implementing the reform. To paraphrase Sacrosanctum Concilium, all will be in vain unless the pastors of souls are on board. So the first constituency is the priests, then other liturgical ministers, and then the whole assembly.

We have to address these three constituencies more or less simultaneously, and do it by the most effective means. For example, there are Web-based resources, which are extraordinarily effective, in some ways more so than print can ever dream of being. The Roman Missal page is among the most popular on the bishops' conference web site. [Note: Over the last three years, according to conference sources, more than 150,000 people have viewed the Roman Missal page]. We will also produce Power Point presentations, bulletin inserts, and so on, as we did for the General Instruction.

People have to see and hear the words proclaimed and pronounced. We've looked at streaming video, even pod-casting. We're also considering producing a DVD that would have Power Point resources, documents, audio/video resources everything in one package. This would include a video of celebrations using the new texts, what we used to call a "dry Mass." We've found that in the United States, there are five to eight basic ways of pronouncing the texts, depending on region and so on. We're already a long way down the line in developing much of this. We'll work closely with the FDLC [Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions], which is the "implementation arm" of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy in many ways. We'll also work with the Society for Catholic Liturgy, the Catholic Academy of Liturgy, and liturgical publishers.

Are you worried that many of the groups you just mentioned are composed of people who were, in the main, opposed to the new translation?
Something important happened in Los Angeles. We moved from the stage of consultation and giving feedback to decision. To use the language of the liturgical world, we moved to the "white book" phase. There hasn't been a single liturgical issue in the 40 years of the reform in which we haven't followed the same process. There were two major consultations of the bishops. Over the last two years, people were consulted, and they expressed their opinions strongly, vocally, and vitally, in an exemplary way. But now we have a decision, and I've never experienced people in these constituencies failing to understand that what the church requires at this point is a careful understanding and implementation of the decisions the bishops have made.

The Second Vatican Council gave this responsibility to the bishops, working with the Holy See. Now by a margin of 83 percent, they've adopted a particular translation, and I anticipate the Holy See will confirm that in a timely fashion.

In the United States, we have more untapped resources to do this work than we can dream of. The liturgical renewal has worked better in this country than anywhere else on the face of the earth, and this transition gives us the chance for a real rebirth of the conciliar vision.

What will be the most important factor in implementation?
It's not just a question of imparting knowledge to the clergy about what words were changed and the linguistic rationale for those changes. It's a matter of discovering the rich liturgical theology beneath these translations. In some cases, priests will be exposed for the very first time to theological insights into the celebration of the sacred liturgy, and that's very exciting. It's not just a matter of adapting to linguistic changes, but of discovering the wonders of what the renewal of the liturgy is all about. It's a spiritual and theological journey, not a political process.

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Arguably, no one was more instrumental than Dominican Fr. Enrico di Rovasenda in the Vatican's decision to reevaluate the case of Galileo Galilei, which over the centuries had become the leading symbol of a supposed clash between religion and science, between rigid dogmatism and the free spirit of scientific inquiry.

Still going strong, di Rovasenda celebrated his 100th birthday in Genoa on June 17. Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, the next Secretary of State, and George Cottier, the Dominican who served John Paul II as theologian of the papal household, were present for the festivities.

In summary form, in 1616 the Vatican's Congregation of the Index declared the Copernican theory of heliocentrism to be "false and altogether contrary to Scripture." In 1633, Galileo was found guilty by a Roman tribunal of failing to observe the 1616 decree, and was forced to publicly abjure his position. (Legend has it that afterwards he muttered eppur si mouve, "and yet it moves.")

When the Vatican acknowledged in 1992 that many in the church had been "incapable of disassociating the faith from an age-old cosmology," it was greeted as a revolution in Catholicism's attitude towards science.

Rare for a cleric of his generation, di Rovasenda entered the Dominicans as a late vocation at the age of 23, after having graduated university with a secular degree in engineering. He moved in circles connected to Fuci, an association for Catholic university students, whose ecclesiastical patron was then-Fr. Giovanni Battista Montini, who would later become Pope Paul VI. In that era, di Rovasenda took part in struggles for freedom of speech against youth movements linked to the Italian fascists.

Later, Paul VI asked di Rovasenda to help draft his memorable speech to the United Nations in 1965, intended as a statement of universal human values. Paul VI, according to di Rovasenda, once said with pride that in the U.N. speech he had quoted St. Paul, but placed him on the same level with Socrates.

Paul VI appointed di Rovasenda as chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1974, a position he held until 1986.

In 1979, shortly after his election as pope, John Paul expressed his wish for a re-examination of the Galileo case. In February 1981, he asked di Rovasenda for a proposal as to how to go about it. On March 11, 1981, di Rovasenda responded, suggesting the creation of a commission with French Cardinal Gabriel-Marie Garrone as chair. John Paul took up the suggestion, and in October 1981 the commission met for the first time. The commission worked off and on until mid-1983, meeting seven times until Garrone fell ill. The body's activity was effectively suspended until 1990. In May of that year, French Cardinal Paul Poupard was asked to bring the commission's work to a close.

In summing up that work, Popupard said on Oct. 31, 1992:

Certain theologians failed to grasp the profound, non-literal meaning of the Scriptures when they described the physical structure of the created universe. This led them unduly to transpose a question of factual observation into the realm of faith.

It is in that historical and cultural framework, far removed from our own times, that Galileo's judges, unable to dissociate faith from an age-old cosmology, believed quite wrongly that the adoption of the Copernican revolution, in fact not yet definitively proven, was such as to undermine Catholic tradition, and that it was their duty to forbid its being taught. This subjective error of judgment, so clear to us today, led them to a disciplinary measure from which Galileo had much to suffer.

Looking back, di Rovasenda insists that what John Paul did was not a "rehabilitation" of Galileo or a "revision" of the church's original judgment, so much as a vindication for a more open point of view that has existed within Catholicism since the 17th century.

"There has always been within the church an opinion and a judgment that can be reconciled with Galileo's discoveries," di Rovasenda wrote. "Those who dissented from it were bound to ancient traditions and beliefs. It's only a matter of analyzing and rewriting something that was written in different times."

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Anyone who has followed American politics in recent years knows the revolution that has taken place in the "religious vote." Once the Democrats were the party of immigrant Catholics, and the Republicans the party of the Protestant establishment; today the Democrats tend to be the party of secularism, and Republicans the party of voters for whom religion is a major concern.

Now a provocative article by Italian political scientist Ernesto Galli della Loggia suggests there is a parallel phenomenon in Italy, which he calls the "death of cattocommunismo," the term for the Catholic version of leftist radicalism which was long a potent force in Italian politics.

First, Galli della Loggia argues that the great political debate which created the ground for cattocommunismo in the first place, the struggle between capital and labor, is no longer the defining issue. Look, he says, at the actual problems we face: competition with new global actors such as China and India, migratory flows, the demographic crisis of Europe, the impossibility of sustaining current levels of social spending, and the decline in the stability of work. Which of these problems, he asks, is born of a conflict between capital and labor?

His answer is "none."

Further, he argues, in Europe these days economic policy is largely set in Brussels by the European Union, and even the most radical "reformed communists" in Italy and elsewhere have to accept it.

Second, Galli della Loggia says that the traditional social base of the radical left -- industrial workers, farmers, and rural craftsmen -- are today on the verge of disappearing, and have been replaced by civil servants, teachers, employees of large corporations, university professors, and other members of the middle and upper-middle classes. These groups are economically interested in the protection of a strong public sector, but no longer conserve anything of the antique leftist hostility to individualism, hedonism, materialism, and in general for the middle class. Today, the ethic of the left tends to be "to each his or her own," requiring the state to remain neutral in the face of various lifestyle choices.

All this means, according to Galli della Loggia, that the magnetic appeal of cattocommunismo in the early 20th century, that of a meeting between "two peoples" in defense of social solidarity and the "humble Italy," against the Italy of the signori and the bourgeoisie, is largely finished. Instead, the radical left and Catholics find themselves on opposite sides of the culture wars. The left supports a "subjectivist" ethics, while Catholics defend the values of human life and traditional visions of the family.

Of course, some of his language is a bit loaded, and things are inevitably more complicated than Galli della Loggia's brief sketch may suggest.

Yet Galli della Loggia is nevertheless on to something. The rise of debates over sexuality and the family, rather than economics and international policy, has indeed tended to drive religiously serious voters to the right. Whether this is an inevitable long-term trend, or a process capable of being reversed, may have a lot to say about the future of Western politics.

The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is

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