Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows

Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary in the Church of the Holy Cross,
Salamanca, Spain

On September 15th, the Roman Catholic Church commemorates the Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows. The feast grew in popularity during the 12th Century, but was not formally introduced until it was a regional feast in Cologne in 1423.  In 1482, the feast was put on the Church calendar as "Our Lady of Compassion".  In 1723, Pope Benedict XIII extended the feast to the entire Latin Church under the title: "Septem dolorum B.M.V.".  The Code of Rubrics issued by Pope St. John XXIII reduced Our Lady of Sorrows to a Commemoration.

The Friar Servants of Mary (a.k.a. The Servites) have been praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows since the 13th Century and thereby reflecting on the suffering of Mary in union with her Divine Son, Jesus Christ.

The Seven Dolores devotion was approved by Pope Pius VII in 1815.

1. The Dark Prophecy of Simeon at Jesus' presentation at the Temple  (LK 2:33-35)
2. The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt (Mt 2: 13-15)
3. The Child Jesus Is Lost in the Temple (Lt 2: 41-52)
4. Jesus Encounters Mary on the Via Dolorosa (Jn: 19: 17)
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (Jn 19: 25-30)
6. Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross (Ps 25:15, Jn 19: 31-37)
7. Jesus Is Buried in the Tomb (Is 53:8, Jn 38:42)

The Friar Servants of Mary (a.k.a. The Servites) have been praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows since the 13th Century and thereby reflecting on the suffering of Mary in union with her Divine Son, Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Sound the Strepitus

An Obituary and Eulogistic Meditation of Yeshua bar Yahosef bar Yaqub

The Strepitus is the sudden loud clatter that symbolizes how the Earth convulsed at the physical death of the only begotten Son of our Lord.   In Matthew 27:46-53, when Christ gave up His spirit on the Crucifix, there was a tumultuous earthquake.   It is the jarring closing of a Tenebae Service, which is done in preparation for the Paschal Triduum.

Some churches have the Tenebrae on Spy Wednesday.  Others choose to extinguish the lights after celebrating the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday or even Great and Holy Friday.  Regardless of the time, it is a ritual that reminds us of how the Light of the World was briefly extinguished to fulfill scripture as an expiation for mankind’s sinfulness.

While it is difficult to watch Mel Gibson’s cinematic masterpiece The Passion of the Christ (2004) for its depiction of the savage brutality inflicted by the Roman overlords on a political prisoner who challenged the religious practices and expectations of the Jewish hierachy.   The teardrop from heaven is incredibly moving.

When Salvador Dali painted Christ of Saint John of the Cross (1951), Jesus was depicted without wounds on a Cross that floated above the Earth. Dali listened to the color of his dream that indicated that depicting the nails, blood and crown of thorns would mar the image.  Dali wanted the emphasize the Trinity with the positioning of Jesus hanging on the Cross to represent the nucleus of the atom.  Clearly, the cross hovering over the Earth shows the cosmic significance of the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In a modern manner, Dali celebrates Eastern Christian Church's emphasis mystagogy of Jesus' Divine Sacrifice by death on the cross.

But during a Tenebrae service, the faithful were reminded that unlike even in classical depictions of Golgatha (the place of the skull) where Jesus was crucified, the crosses of Calvary were not necessarily hung that high in the air.  Since those being executed had their feet nailed bound to prevent them from moving as they slowly suffocated on their crosses, they may have been only a couple of feet above the ground.

Such crosses would serve the Roman overlords as tangible examples of what happens to brigands, rabble rousers and revolutionaries. The low positioning would allow most passers-by to look into the eyes of the executed. This makes the taunts from the crowd and Jesus’ words of forgiveness all the more remarkable.

It is easy to gloss over how the expiation of mans’ sins required a blood sacrifice to seal the New Covenant. By cognitively sounding the Strepitus over Christ's crucifixion, we may "Ecce homo".

While some ears may find it as painful as the Stepitus, the Christ’s Passion has been told by Glenn Beck using a motif of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon  (1973).  Whether we use pop parables, cinematic accounts, scriptural studies, communal worship or prayerful personal reflections, it is worthy to reflect on how God's only begotten Son chose to be the suffering servant to right the relationship between God and mankind.

[This piece originally ran at DCBarroco.blogspot.com]

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Handicapping Episcopal Bracketology for the ADW

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has been rocked with scandals involving two Cardinals which touched upon the sexual molestation of minors.  Disgraced former Cardinal Archbishop now Mr. Theodore McCarrick was defrocked in February 2019 for a credible allegation of abuse four decades before. But "Uncle Ted" had quite the reputation for having special relations with promising seminarians.  

 His successor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, was the Archbishop of Pittsburgh when he seemingly let a couple of clerical bad apples get off easy for credible abuse of minors in the 1990s.  Wuerl resigned his role as Archbishop under pressure in October  2018 but has remained as the Apostolic Administrator.

For nearly eight months, the Archdiocese of Washington has been praying for a new shepherd  for to the flock. To whimsically work off the anticipation of Pope Francis' momentous choice to fill the See of DC, longtime Vatican reporter Rocco Palmo likened the selection to the NCAA March Madness Sweet Sixteen.

Such piquant playfullness in ecclesial politics is welcomed at DC-LausDeo.  After all, the supposed contenders for the 2013 Conclave were presented in a Survivor style motif.

Brussels Cardinal Gotfried Danneels 
During Conclave 2013, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Buenos Aires) did not even make the brackets because the arbitrary age cut off was 72 and he was 75 when elected as Pope.  While proceedings of any Conclave are supposed to be kept secret, there have been some chatty Cathy Cardinals (particularly Cardinal Archbishop Gotfried Daneels of Mechelen-Brussels)   who have leaked about the left-leaning St. Gallen Group which was said to be instrumental in electing Pope Francis.

The handicapping of a choice for a new episcopal leader of the Archdiocese of Washington is considerably more challenging because of the wider selection pool.  While Papal Conclaves almost exclusively select within their own ranks, so that means only 125 conceivable "candidates", our Holy Father has plenty of bishops from which to choose.  And it is not out of the question that a cleric might ascend the ranks if he is the right choice for the ADW.

Having not been discouraged by the Sweet Sistine shutout of 2013, it is amusing to muse on Episcopal Bracketology.

It is instructive to consider the Washington See.   The Archdiocese of Washington is the home to nearly three million Catholics (about 22% of the area's population).  It is located in the Nation's Capitol and thus has increased prominence.  

Almost since its separation from the Archdiocese of Baltimore was complete in 1947, the ADW it has been graced with a Cardinal at the helm.  That being said, the past two Cardinals have left under scandal, which involves the hot button issues of clerical chastity and sexual abuse of minors.   The Archdiocese of Washington is one of four American  diocese under scrutiny by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for reports of sexual abuse.  No wonder Rocco Palmo sees this choice to be the singular move which will define Pope Francis' stewardship in America.

So the stakes concern a large and very prominent Archdiocese which has been plagued with sexual scandal surrounding two preceding shepherds. 

Our Holy Father ought to discern (a fine Ignatian term) if his choice is deliberately free from ties  which plagued predecessors , if a choice with local ties would help, charism which suit the See, and if he wants to make a statement with the selection.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin with Pope Francis (circa 2016)
Initially, I anticipated that  Cardinal Joseph Tobin to be shifted from Newark down to DC.  After all, shortly after the small Diocese of Indianapolis was elevated to a Cardinalate See in 2016, with Tobin at the helm, he was transferred  to the Archdiocese off Newark, which has a significant Catholic population, thought previously overshadowed by the Archdiocese of New York and Philadelphia.  Tobin made headlines in 2014, warning American Catholics not to be balkanized as right wing  or left wing, progressive or traditional.

 One might conclude that Tobin had favor under Pope Francis' pontificate and  a supra political leader would be well suited for the leadership of a prominent archdiocese.  However, when news arose that  McCarrick may have orchestrated the appointment of Tobin and Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, it tied him to the disgraced prelate.  Furthermore, there were reports that Tobin dismissed "rumors" that McCarrick slept with seminarians as it was incredulous.  Thus, it is unlikely that Tobin will ascend to the helm of the Nation's Capital.  Tobin did not even make Rocco's bracket.

Bishop Kevin Vann (Orange, CA) and Christ Cathedral 
As there is an increasing need for outreach to prominent and vibrant ethnic minorities in the American Catholic Church, multi-lingual proficiency may be an influential factor.  Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange (California) speaks Vietnamese and Spanish, two important sub cultures in the ADW.  However, linguist acumen may not be the deciding factor in getting the episcopal nod in Washington. The fact that Bishop Vann is overseeing the major transformation of the historic  Protestant Crystal Cathedral into a Catholic Christ Cathedral may show more crucial leadership and managerial skills.

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori
If local ties and a distance from still raw scandals then Baltimore Archbishop William Lori would be a natural selection.  Lori became an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Washington.  Lori has no connections to McCarrick or Cardinal Wuerl.  In fact, Lori has been tasked to clean up sexual scandal in the suffragan diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. Lori also headed the Fortnight for Freedom campaigns for religious liberty.  But a couple of those advantages also work against serious consideration of Lori for the ADW.  Baltimore is the mother Archdiocese in America so moving to Washington would at best be a lateral move. Lori's strong oversight of Wheeling began in the fall of 2018, so shifting diocese would create complications in two other dioceses.  Even though Lori's experience with the Fortnight for Freedom demonstrates experience in navigating religion in political waters, this may not be the sort of political experience which would be valued by the Vatican today. In addition, Lori has been leader of a major American See for seven years, yet has not been named a Cardinal, which might be a signal about his favor within the Holy See.

Some of the names in this ecclesial bracketology are familiar, such as former USSB chair Archbishop Kurtz (Louisville) and Archbishop (Wilton) Gregory (Atlanta).  But both of those prelates are over 70, which effecitively would be a short term appointment (as Bishops are asked to turn in their resignations by age 75, but as 78 year old Cardinal Wuerl has demonstrated, retirement is not automatic--even after one has "resigned" the post).

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy at Social Justice conference 
One name did jump out for its notoriety,  Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego. McElroy is widely regarded to be a supporter of progressive policies of Pope Francis. Moreover, McElroy has been in the forefront of opposing the Trump Administration on immigration issues. McElroy argues against denying public officials the Eucharist for public officials because of their political positions, arguing that a traditional "theology of scandal" should be invoked.  McElroy sports a Jesuit education, writes for America Magazine and focuses on social justice issues.  

All of those attributes would seem to suit the opening in the ADW under this pontificate.  But McElroy received a letter from a clerical sex abuse expert in 2016 warning about now Mr. McCarrick, but McElroy did nothing about it as he could not determine the credibility of the source. There is also a recent San Diego diocese scandal in which the bishop sided with a diocesen employee who was openly homosexual and shut out traditional Catholic dissenters during some of his listening sessions on clerical abuse in the fall of 2018.

Some of the bishops who made the bracketology cut hail from some unlikely places, which fits in with Francis' pontificate. Like Archbishop Paul Etienne, who currently leads Anchorage, Alaska.  Or Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Diocese of Burlington (Vermont).  My favorite of underdog picks from far flung places is Archbishop Peter Bryan Wells, an American who serves as apostolic nuncio to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. 

Who will vault to top and receive "the call"?  Learning from the past, only the Holy Spirit and the Pope knows for sure.  But this ecclesial bracketology  exercise illuminates choices in leadership. 

 Although it would be imprudent to lock in a name, as such prognostication will likely be wrong, it is hoped that the Archdiocese of Washington will be blessed with a shepherd after God's own heart.  Being more specific, it would seem prudent to have a header who can not be facilely tied to connections of the clerical sexual abuse scandal, considering how it has rocked the ADW. It would be a blessing if the leader was not effectively an  interim candidate due to age.  And it be wonderful if the man chosen can diplomatically navigate delicate political issues while standing up for longstanding Catholic values. 

Nevertheless, it is time to end the period of the Apostolic Administrator, particularly as it is occupied by the same man who resigned the Achbishoric under pressure in October 2018.  It is unlikely that Pope Francis will choose a candidate during Lent.  But the longer this interim administration lasts, the less confidence that faithful Catholics will have that Wuerl's resignation mattered other than to take public relations pressure off the Washington hot seat. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

USCCB President Cardinal Di Nardo on Episcopal Accountability

USCCB President Cardinal Di Nardo on Episcopal Accountability

At the last minute request of the Holy See, the Fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was shifted away from taking concrete action about Episcopal Accountability crisis, which was sparked by revelations of former Washington Archbishop Theodore (call me "Uncle Ted") Mc Carrick. Pope Francis may do something more in the planned February gathering.

Veteran Vatican watcher Rocco Palmo quoted an unnamed bishop who sardonically quipped that the Holy Father's intervention wall well unite the USCCB.

USCCB President Cardinal Daniel Di Nardo urged the assembly to be vigilant about sexual misconduct in their dioceses. However, it was surprising that the USCCB voted not to press the Vatican to release all information pertaining the les affairs McCarrick

While a bishops' conference may not canonically have the jurisdiction to reprimand a malfeasor brother bishop, the request from the Vatican to eschew action on the sexual accountability crisis was horrible optics.