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May 13 17 7:06 AM
How George Pell gazumped other bishops to claim credit for tackling child abuse in the churchBroadly speaking, my aim in introducing the Melbourne Response was to make it easier for victims to achieve justice, and to seek financial compensation and counselling, without needing to establish legal liability. I believe that it was the first scheme of its kind implemented anywhere in the world to respond to victims of child sexual abuse. I was, and remain, proud of its establishment and the assistance it has provided to victims since 1996. - Statement of Cardinal George Pell, August 2014It was 1996 and the media was going after the issue percolating child abuse crisis in a big way. The victims were becoming emboldened. It was becoming a dominant narrative: terrible PR for a Church whose mass attendance numbers were already in freefall. It was also potentially costly in terms of compensation payouts. And it was unclear just how many priests Pell as archbishop might lose to criminal prosecutions, but suffice to say they were falling over like dominoes.Melbourne had more paedophile priests than any other place in the country. And most of them operated during George Pell's time in Victoria as priest or bishop. The Cardinal is proud of his record in being the first Australian bishop to respond to the child abuse crisis. He consistently cites it when he is being scrutinised in the media and points out that he was probably the first in the world, let alone here in Australia, to boldly go where no other bishop had dared to tread.In 2016, he said: "When I became Archbishop, I turned the situation right around so that the Melbourne Response procedures were light years ahead of all this obfuscation and prevarication and deception."You have to wonder, then, what this religious leader who was so zealously committed to rooting out child abuse was doing in March 1996—just four months before his appointment as archbishop— at the funeral of one Nazareno Fasciale.Fasciale was parish priest at Yarraville in Melbourne's inner west. In the preceding December, Fasciale had been charged by Newport detectives with multiple counts of indecent assault and gross indecency against four victims who had been assisted by the newly formed victims' advocacy group Broken Rites.The priest had been remanded to appear in court the following February. As the new year arrived, the Newport detectives discovered that there was another file on Fasciale with three further victims in the nearby town of Geelong, and police had planned to apply to the Office of Public Prosecutions to combine the cases.When the matter came to court in February, a Church solicitor applied for an extension of time, alleging poor health on the part of Fasciale. The date was set for six weeks later. Fasciale was dead within a month. Fasciale's skirmishes in the criminal justice system right before his death did not deter his priestly colleagues from giving him a glorious requiem mass send-off at St Mary's in West Melbourne. (One can only imagine what Fasciale's victims felt.)[Pell joined] four bishops, along with an extraordinary sixty priests, attending the funeral. The Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne Peter Connors led the ceremony, referring only obliquely to Fasciale's crimes."The life of our brother Nazareno Fasciale was not without its own fair measure of pain and suffering," Connors conceded. "He would be the first to confess that he too was a sinner."Maybe Pell just didn't know that Fasciale had been charged with indictable offences against little kids. Priests, he would often later chide, don't gossip. This was not, I might say, my experience, in writing my bookTwo years before the funeral, in 1993, when Fasciale resigned for euphemistically titled "ill health and stress" after, handwritten archdiocesan notes attested, being "shocked and repentant" about what he had done to children, Pell was on the Personal Advisory Board which accepted the resignation letter. Pell agreed that of the five members of the board that day, three—Archbishop Little, Monsignor Gerry Cudmore and Monsignor Hilton Deakin—were aware of child abuse complaints against Fasciale.So, was Pell? Did they tell him? "I can't remember whether they did or they didn't. It is possible that they did," Pell much later said. The funeral of Fasciale occurred about three years after the fateful day when Pell accompanied serial paedophile Gerald Ridsdale to court in Warrnambool.The photograph will haunt Pell to his grave — it is used by the media every time there is a discussion of him and child abuse. On a kind interpretation, Pell was just doing what real Catholics do, walking with a sinner at his darkest hourBut from the Ridsdale victims' point of view, this "priestly act of solidarity", as Pell much later called it, is nothing more than a slap in the face to them and their enormous suffering.The Fasciale business suggests that perhaps Warrnambool didn't represent a one-off, well-meaning, priestly brain snap, that it represented an attitude.Whatever he thought in March 1996, by Pell's account in July, his resolve had hardened against this dreadful paedophile scourge. Launching the Melbourne Response at a press conference Pell apologised unreservedly to victims. It seemed like this was a turning point. The scheme included, a Special Commissioner, a compensation panel which could award the victims up to $50,000, and an independent counselling service known as Carelink.Victoria Police released a statement welcoming the Melbourne Response, saying it was "a positive step in tackling this very sensitive community issue". In his much later statement to the Victorian parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Institutions in 2014, Pell wrote that as archbishop, he knew he had to act immediately."This was an issue that needed urgent attention and … we needed to do much better in our response," the Pell statement says. "At that stage no decision had then been taken by the Australian bishops to set up the Towards Healing procedures. This was decided at the November 1996 meeting of the Australian Bishops' conference. The Towards Healing Protocol was published in December 1997."While this is all strictly true, it's a pretty selective analysis of the facts. In 1996, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference was working on a scheme called Towards Healing and had been developing it and consulting with stakeholders for three years. The man charged with running it was the Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Geoffrey Robinson.The history of how this took place is significant, because Pell's immediate refrain whenever he is questioned about his handling of child abuse matters, is that he was, through his Melbourne Response, the first Catholic bishop in Australia, and anywhere in the world, to come up with a comprehensive program to tackle the child abuse question.Pell was most certainly not the first person in the Catholic Church to decide to address the issues, he just got in at the last minute, before the national response was about to be released.In the 1980s, the Church's euphemistically titled "Special Issues Committee" was headed by, of all people, Bishop Ronald Mulkearns from Ballarat, who had covered up the offending of priests in his diocese for decades. However, the committee began to acknowledge the scale of the problem as the realisation dawned on the Church internationally that something must be done.Robinson said that at first psychiatrists told them they could cure paedophile priests, but that changed as the profession came to terms with the incurable nature of paedophilia. Robinson was appointed to develop a new protocol, which was to become Towards Healing.One of the questions often asked of the Church is why develop a protocol at all? This was, after all, a criminal justice issue — why not direct the complainants to the police? But Robinson says the majority of complainants he met at that time were not interested in going to the police. So, Robinson set his mind to developing an alternative forum for victims to get some sort of restorative justice, not to mention making sure that none of the accused priests remained in service with access to children.But turning around the attitudes of his colleagues was a massive effort. He bore the brunt of some of the bishops' ire."One bishop called me a fanatic, another an avenging angel, and yet another accused me of 'acting like Adolf Hitler in the way you harangued and bullied the bishops'," Robinson said.Having said that, of the forty-one bishops present at a vote in April 1996, only five voted against the protocol. As one of the senior people involved with the developmental stages of Towards Healing remembers, getting the protocol drawn up was a tricky business: "It had been going on for three years. Every time we drew up a protocol, Geoff Robinson would rightly insist on taking it to the victims' groups and understandably, it was never good enough [for them] and we had draft after draft after draft."Robinson also had to get diverse dioceses and religious orders, each with their own leaders who had differing views, to come together as one. It was a massive task. "So instead of having this thing in 1994 as we expected, it had dragged on to November 1996."George came in as archbishop and because he thought we were taking too long, he decided he would introduce his own protocol," the person told me."Geoff [Robinson] sent out about ten things trying to achieve consensus before we were all due to meet in the November," recalls Bishop Emeritus of Canberra-Goulburn, Pat Power."Then out of the blue, George Pell comes up with his own thing. When he claims that he was the one that gave the lead, he really just broke ranks with everyone. Certainly, the thing of him coming out early was something everyone felt very critical about.""The Melbourne bombshell," Robinson later called it, confirming that Pell had been there for all of the discussions on Towards Healing, all of the motions, but hadn't said a word against it.Robinson knew nothing of the Melbourne Response until Pell made it public without telling any of the other bishops. "He later would claim that he was the first person in Australia to have such a protocol, he was ahead of everybody, in other words. I mean, that's only a very partial truth."Bishop Bill Morris, who had joined the Bishops Conference in 1993 as Bishop of Toowoomba, says the other bishops were very disappointed."Well, this is George, George will go his own way because George wants to reform the Church according to George Pell," Morris says."It would have been much better for the Church in Australia to act as one to bring in a national approach and I am sure those who were close to George would have said that to him."The November 1996 meeting, which included bishops from every diocese in the country, as well as the leaders of all the religious orders such as the Jesuits and the Christian Brothers, was the day that the bishops approved the Towards Healing protocol — a united Church front to make an attempt to address this scourge.Some who were present were particularly furious at Pell's lack of consultation with others — especially his failure, as they put it, to hear the opinions of the religious leaders who would be operating in the Melbourne Archdiocese.One of those was Bill Uren, Provincial of the Jesuit order. The big meeting was at Kensington in Sydney on 22 November 1996. On the conference floor, Uren's blood began to boil because when Robinson would mention "the protocol" (Towards Healing), Pell would interrupt and say, "there are two protocols".After it happened several times, Uren saw red. He jumped to his feet and confronted Pell across the conference floor for not consulting the religious leaders of Victoria before going ahead with the Melbourne Response.Pell replied that he did consult them, but Uren said to Pell he believed the only one Pell had spoken to was Brother Paul Noonan — who was then the head of the Christian Brothers.Uren had received the information in one of those typical Catholic coincidences — his personal assistant was the wife of the Christian Brothers' lawyer.Uren went on to correct Pell about the "consultation", saying it was simply a statement informing Noonan that it would be happening. It was said that you could have heard a pin drop.Uren really got going then, saying that the rest of them had been working on Towards Healing for three years and had been gazumped by Pell without any consultation with the religious leaders.After the meeting, sources told me the two went toe-to-toe in the doorway, where Pell is said to have told Uren he objected to being called a liar in front of his fellow bishops.Uren finished up as Provincial of the Jesuits the following month, in December 1996. Ironically, and much to Uren's dismay, his successor, Daven Day, was the only religious leader (or bishop) in Australia to opt to go with Pell's Melbourne Response, rather than Towards Healing.Morris and many others I have spoken to in the Church believe that Towards Healing, while certainly not perfect and in many ways wanting, had a more pastoral outlook than the Melbourne Response, which was set up under the auspices of a Queen's Counsel and had a more legalistic framework.Pell's argument is that the situation was so dramatic that he had to act swiftly. To be fair to Pell, things in the Catholic Church move in a byzantine and sluggish way. He knew the job needed to be done. But many of his colleagues believe that in going about it the way he did, he undermined the national process with an inferior scheme, and that unity was vital when addressing such a vexed issue. In covering the later Royal Commission and speaking to survivors, solicitors and advocacy groups, I found that the response to the Response, from the people it was meant to help, was overwhelmingly underwhelmed. This was a position later reflected in the Victorian parliament's Betrayal of Trust Report by the Parliamentary Inquiry in the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Institutions of November 2013.One of the issues some survivors had was that the counselling service Carelink was run by a psychiatrist, Professor Richard Ball, who had provided treatment not just to victims, but to priests of the archdiocese and had also provided expert witness statements on the priests' behalf. (Hmmm ... one wonders if Pell and his associates in the Melbourne Response team recall the concept of "conflict of interests".)The Royal Commission later agreed that while it did not question Ball's integrity, "where there is a power imbalance, perceptions matter a great deal".Then there is the fact that Pell's solicitor was given medical and psychological reports and assessments of the victims (albeit "on a confidential and without prejudice basis"), and was involved with each component of the process, at the same time as he was acting on behalf of the archdiocese.The Royal Commission later found the fact that the solicitors were performing these dual roles raised "clear potential for conflict. It also raises difficulties with confidentiality."
May 15 17 3:59 AM
President Donald Trump has yet to appoint his ambassador to the Holy See, a decision which is likely to be made soon, particularly given Trump is expected to visit Pope Francis in May. Any foreign leader looking for advice on who to appoint as their envoy to the Vatican should look no further than Carla Powell, one of the best connected figures in Rome who frequently hosts cardinals and diplomats in her villa just outside the Eternal City. Lady Powell counts George W Bush, Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice among her friends and instinctively knows the job of both an ambassador and how the Holy See works. She is married to Margaret Thatcher’s former foreign policy adviser Lord (Charles) Powell and, speaking from her home in Palombara Sabina, 25 miles outside of the city, she offered some advice to the president. Her five points of guidance include how the President should approach appointing his Ambassador to Italy which she included given some of the close cultural ties between the Vatican and Italy. All countries, however, are required to have separate embassies to Italy and the Holy See. Here are Lady Powell’s five points for the President to consider: “Respect, Mr President, the history and traditions, and the political and cultural values of a country a lot older than yours. Remember that Rome laid the foundations for much of the modern world including the US - your ambassador must think of himself as someone connected to an ancient civilisation on which our own is built.” “Choose someone who will recognise the extraordinary skills and intellectual power of Italy’s foreign policy establishment, not least its knowledge of developments in the Third World and particularly the Middle East and Africa . Remember that Italy has built global links over centuries, whether the Roman legions or Marco Polo’s opening of trade routes to Cathay.” “Avoid sending an Ambassador who is easily bewitched by charming courtiers with fictitious aristocratic titles. Choose someone who by his or her background will focus on those who represent the best of modern Italy: it’s engineers, its designers , it’s creative movers and shakers, it’s respected scholars . Someone who will break out out of the cloying and protocol obsessed circles of Rome and embrace the real Italy.” “Appoint someone who understands the value of using the Ambassador’s dinner table for informed and sophisticated discussion under so-called Chatham House Rules where no-one is quoted , rather than for purely social purposes . Italians more than others conceive and express their ideas though intense and lively discussion of substantive issues . Your Ambassador should focus on the intelligentsia and those who exercise power and ignore social butterflies.” “Make sure your Ambassador understands the global influence of the Vatican and its extraordinary network, particularly under this remarkable Pope . Even though there is a separate Embassy to the Vatican, the Church plays such a substantive role in Italy knowing its leaders is a must for the Ambassador to the state of Italy as well. Not for nothing do the British talk of ’Roman’ Catholicism! You will find the leading figures of the Church among the wisest, most stimulating company and most informative interlocutors your Ambassador will meet.” For many years Lady Powell has observed how the wheels of diplomacy turn and insider her villa there are photographs from some of the 20th century best known figures including Colin Powell, Tony Blair, Lady Thatcher, and Dick Cheney. Lady Powell also has close ties with the Vatican, helping to arrange a meeting between Lady Thatcher and Benedict XVI in 2009 (She did not manage this very well. By that time Lady Thatcher was very frail yet she was not given a private audience - all in the gift of Cerberus. She was greeted in the first line after a GA held outside and had to sit in the baking sun for well over an hour. Disgraceful!) while a delegation of top figures from the Holy See went to check in on her after she was rubbed at gun point at home in 2014. Whoever becomes the new American ambassador to the Holy See will need to do exercise some careful diplomacy given the differing global agendas of Pope Francis and President Trump. While Francis is upholding the compassionate, liberal world order Trump has struck a more nationalistic “America First” tone. Lady Powell’s advice should help the new incumbent navigate some of the minefields.
May 15 17 4:12 AM
For the last six years, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has been one of the most visible, not to mention controversial, members of the American Catholic hierarchy. That’s because he leads the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, seen by fans as one of the most important initiatives the bishops have launched in a long time, but by critics as the tip of the spear for their involvement in America’s wars of culture.The committee sponsors the “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign, an annual two-week period from June 21 to July 4 intended to spotlight issues of religious freedom. In recent years, for instance, it’s highlighted the tug-of-war between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration over the contraception mandate imposed as part of health care reform.This year, the Fortnight for Freedom campaign has commissioned Crux to produce a series of video interviews with experts and commentators on various aspects of religious freedom. On Friday, Crux spoke to Lori about this year’s edition and what he hopes to achieve.Among other things, Lori said:Originally the ad hoc committee was a response to a perceived “erosion” of religious freedom on the local and state level, such as a bill in Connecticut that would have stripped pastors of their authority to make decisions in a parish in favor of an elected parish committee.President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on religious freedom is a welcome development, but “the devil is in the details” and Lori cautioned that we need to see how it plays out.There’s still “work ahead of us” on the contraception to ensure that what the administration is offering is a real exemption, not “another ‘accommodation we have to fool around with.” That includes, he said, defining preventive services “so they really do pertain to preventing diseases and not to inducing abortions or preventing birth.”Repeal of the Johnson Amendment barring churches from endorsing political candidates is not a priority for the bishops, because, Lori said, “that’s really not our job.”This year’s Fortnight for Freedom will include a focus on persecuted Christians and other religious minorities abroad, an issue, he said, that everybody needs to be worried about.”The following are excerpts from Crux’s interview with Lori, which can be seen in video format here.Crux: Can you explain what the genesis of the Fortnight for Freedom was, and what you hope it’s achieving?Lori: The Fortnight for Freedom was created, like many other efforts in the conference, to raise awareness of the issues that pertain to religious freedom at home and abroad, to be a vehicle for prayer, and for education and action. It was one of the first things that the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom came up with. We decided on this period, because within this 14-day stretch, this fortnight, there are the feast days of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher and also a number of other martyrs, people who died for their faith, and it culminates on July 4. It seemed to us a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness.Now, when it began some six years ago, it was a brand-new thing and it included a lot of big rallies and a lot of big-ticket events. I think as time has gone on, it’s become less an occasion for a lot of big events and more an occasion for people to gather in smaller groups and study groups, to raise awareness in parishes through the Prayers of the Faithful, through preaching aids. Of course, there are a couple of signature events, most notably the opening Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption, the nation’s oldest cathedral right here in Baltimore, and the closing Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on July 4.This year is a little different, because of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando. That’s where the final Mass will be this year.Let’s take a further step back. When the bishops created the Ad Hoc Committee, there was a perception that religious freedom was being eroded. Can you explain where that concern came from?Years ago, when the Ad Hoc Committee was created, I believe it was the result of reports coming into the conference from bishops all around the country, not of outright persecution, not the kinds of blatant things we see overseas, tragically enough, but more a sense that there were assaults on religious freedom often at the state and local levels. It came in the form of unfriendly legislation, in the form of non-discrimination bills that were actually discriminating against religious people and religious institutions, and in the form of policies and court decisions.The word ‘erosion’ is a pretty good word. When there’s only minor erosion, no one gets alarmed. But after a while you begin to see bigger chunks of the shore washing out to sea, and you begin to say, you know, it might be time for us to shore this up. I think that was the perception.For example, in Connecticut, when I was serving there, there was a bill actually introduced that would have changed the way in which parishes are managed. We didn’t ask for this, God’s holy people didn’t ask for this, but a couple of legislators got the idea that instead of having the pastor, with his consultative groups and under the direction of the bishop, basically manage the parish, they would mandate that an elected committee would run parishes. Pastors and bishops and folks like us would basically be sidelined from any part in parish and diocesan administration.There’s a word, for that, isn’t there, which is ‘congregationalism’? That model was floated and rejected for the Catholic Church here 200 years ago.That was exactly our reaction. We said this is a perfectly good model for running a church if you are a congregationalist, and that was the established religion in Connecticut until 1819. We reacted rather strongly to that - we had a great big rally, and we kind of closed the capital down.I had the bad sense to sit down and write a letter on religious freedom. I thought the time had come, not only to react to what was quite clearly an assault on the freedom of the Church to organize itself as it sees fit according to its own teachings, but to get down to the basics of what Dignitatis Humanae, the declaration of the Second Vatican Council on religious freedom, taught. I wrote this letter with the very unoriginal title of ‘Let Freedom Ring.’Then I’m sitting in a bishops’ meeting, and suddenly we’re talking about religious freedom at the national level. To my surprise, flashed up on the screen is a copy of my pastoral letter. I said, ‘Oh my gosh, this looks serious!’ Sure enough, the bishops really engaged, and many of them were reporting things happening, not nationally so much but more locally and at the state level. I thought it was great that I was not alone, that everybody else was having similar perceptions.Then a couple of months later, when Tropical Storm Irene was about to hit Connecticut, I was down in my basement exercising when the phone rang. It was Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan [of New York], who was the president of the conference at the time. He said he was thinking of creating this Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom, and wanted to know if I’d like to chair it. That’s not a question you should answer when you’re on an elliptical! It’s a question you should answer when you’ve prayed for an hour in your chapel. But, I foolishly answered on the spot, and said that if it helps the cause, sure, sign me up for the duration. That’s turned out now to be six years, God help me, and God help the conference!It’s been a tremendous education. The committee was created the following September, and my job was to pull together a group of bishops who would have an interest in this and some expertise in it. There are bishops who have studied law, studied other disciplines, that seemed very helpful. We also wanted to get some first-class consultants. The idea was to be the vehicle by which the United States bishops could sort of shine a light on these religious freedom challenges. Our mandate was mostly domestic, thinking of this more in local terms and being a clearing house for what was happening locally around the country. It was only a little bit later that we realized we would have a lot of challenges at the federal level.The battles over the contraception mandates as part of health care reform weren’t yet on the horizon at the time the committee was formed, correct?That’s correct. That was not on our radar screen at all when we started this work.One thing we really wanted to do, and that I was charged to do, was to provide teaching vehicles. We did do a resource letter on “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” kind of a summary of the Church’s teaching on religious freedom. We got that done rather quickly. The Fortnight for Freedom, these 14 days in June and July, was also created as an opportunity for us to teach about religious freedom. Some people say the term ‘fortnight’ is a little old-fashioned, and it is …Well, it’s a British word, and if you want to talk about freedom, reminding us of the American Revolution probably isn’t a bad way to go, right?I think it’s a word Charles Carroll would have used, and Archbishop John Hughes would have used, so I’m sticking with it.Plus, the alliteration works …You know, it does!You and I are speaking shortly after President Donald Trump released an executive order on religious freedom. What do you make of it?I’m certainly glad the president is interested in religious freedom, and I’m glad for the general statements that have been made about it. I’d react to the executive order much as Cardinal [Daniel] DiNardo [the current president of the USCCB] did in his public statement, which is to say this looks like a good development, we’re glad to see it, especially those parts that promise us some relief from the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, but we also realize two other things.First, the devil is in the details, so let’s see how it works out. Secondly, while this is welcome, there are still a lot of other challenges, even at the federal level, that lay before us.Regarding the contraceptive mandate, this is a very hopeful sign. I think Mother Loraine [Marie Maguire] of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who in many ways have been the public face of this struggle, was heartened by this, and we along with them.One aspect of the executive order is the repeal, or at least the softening, of the Johnson Amendment making it difficult for churches to endorse political candidates. That’s never really been part of the bishops’ agenda on religious freedom, but how do you assess it?The repeal, or even adjustments, to the Johnson Amendment has never been a focus for us. It’s not a priority, and in fact it’s not something we’re really seeking at all. If you look at ‘Faithful Citizenship,’ which is kind of the moral guide the bishops put out every four years in advance of a presidential election, you’ll see that we discourage pastors and other representatives of the Church from endorsing or opposing candidates.That’s really not our job. Our job is to raise up the moral dimensions of the issues that face us as a country, to do so in light of the Church’s social teaching, and to help people form their consciences. To get into partisan politics is a huge distraction from our basic mission, which is to evangelize, to spread the Gospel, to teach the faith, and to apply the faith by serving others. That’s our job.We’ve got all these other challenges to religious freedom, and we’ve got all this work ahead of us with HHS and Secretary Price to make sure that the fix for the contraceptive mandate is really a fix, not another ‘accommodation’ that we have to fool around with but a real exemption. Maybe we can get ‘preventive services’ redefined, so they really do pertain to preventing diseases and not to inducing abortions or preventing birth. We have a lot of work ahead of us, so the Johnson Amendment repeal is really not front and center for us at all. We want to stay the course, and really not get into partisan politics.As you know, President Trump will meet Pope Francis in the Vatican on May 24. What do you think the odds are that religious freedom comes up in that conversation?Of course I wouldn’t know, but I do remember that when President Obama and Pope Francis met, religious freedom was part of the conversation. It was certainly very much on Pope Francis’s mind when he visited the United States in 2015 …That trip included a surprise meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor.Yes, it was one of those ‘Pope Francis surprises’ that in many ways make him so endearing. He has the knack of moving beyond all the words that the rest of us use, because he’s the master of the gesture. That was a gesture that said, ‘We really love you, Sisters, we know this is not an easy struggle, we know this isn’t something you looked for.’ He just went over to see them, and it spoke volumes. Also, what he said at the White House, what he said in front of Constitutional Hall, was pretty great too. I think he’ll bring it up, though I’m sure there will be other things on his mind as well.Over time, the Fortnight for Freedom and your religious freedom push have taken on a more international focus, concerned for the persecution of Christians around the world. What do you hope the campaign does to bring awareness and relief to those people?The theme of this year’s fortnight is ‘Freedom for Mission.’ I think one thing we want to keep saying is that when we defend religious freedom, we are not, and I want to underline this, we are not being self-referential, to use a good Pope Francis phrase. In fact, our defense of freedom is outward-looking. It’s all about human dignity and it’s all about the freedom to serve, whether it’s at home, in schools, hospitals, clinics, Catholic charities, adoption services, all of those areas where we are not just serving our own but serving the common good. It’s freedom to take the love of Christ and spread it around in really practical ways.If that’s our focus, it also has to be our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, in Africa and other places, where Christians and other minorities are being persecuted and killed for their faith, and where we also have people from Catholic Relief Services, located right here in Baltimore, plus Aid to the Church in Need, the Knights of Columbus are involved - places where we’re there, and where we really want to serve and protect people, give them the necessities of life, help bring them to a place of safety, serve all of the refugees that this religious persecution has created, and to protect some of the most ancient Christian communities in the world.That’s not the mandate of the committee, but we shouldn’t be imprisoned by a flow chart. This is something that everybody needs to be worried about. When we do the fortnight, we definitely want to throw light on what’s happening internationally.We’re going to be doing this great big convocation down in Orlando, so while I may normally get 1,000 for the fortnight’s opening Mass in the basilica, I think this is going to be a very large Mass and a very wonderful opportunity to talk about what religious freedom really means, why it is really important for the good of every society and every person, why it’s crucial for the Church’s mission, and also to shine a spotlight for those most in need of our love and concern.
May 15 17 6:45 AM
Knights of Columbus' financial forms show wealth, influenceWASHINGTON - The Irish Catholics who poured into the United States by the hundreds of thousands in the mid-19th century, hoping to escape famine and professing a faith that was despised by many, strained to gain a toehold in a hostile culture.The Knights of Columbus was born out of that struggle, one of a spate of fraternal and beneficial organizations to emerge in Catholic circles in an effort to provide protection and a path to assimilation into a new country. Founded in 1882, the Knights' original mission was to save women and children from poverty through an insurance program.But today, one wonders what Fr. Michael McGivney, the charismatic young priest who founded the Knights of Columbus in a church basement in New Haven, Connecticut, would make of his organization. Almost 2 million men call themselves Knights of Columbus, and the organization reported revenues of more than $2.2 billion in 2015, the latest year such information is available. Moreover, in the past decade, the organization has donated $1.55 billion to charity, according to the Knights.Much of the Knights' influence occurs behind the scenes, but it's not hidden. Most of it is contained on tax forms that are public and that nonprofits are required to file annually. The data in this report is largely contained in Knights of Columbus' 990 tax forms filed for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as from news releases and other statements contained on the organization's website. While no simple means exists to measure the effect of the Knights' spending, there is hardly a corner of the Catholic world where the resources of this international force have not left an impression.The organization's money has restored Roman antiquities; rescued, to the tune of tens of millions, an abandoned facility in Washington D.C., built to honor the organization's favorite pope, St. John Paul II; and provided communications hardware over decades to the Vatican's public relations and news apparatus. In keeping with its original mission, it also has helped countless local and church charities through funds and through millions of volunteer hours a year.There is, however, another side to that wealth, and if McGivney were to look in on the Knights tax filings today, he would understand that his organization and its leaders have become powerful and influential in ways unimaginable in 1882. For more than a decade and a half, under the leadership of a former political operative, the Knights of Columbus has increasingly used its enormous wealth to influence the direction of the church, underwriting think tanks and news outlets while gaining entrée to some of the highest levels of decision-making in the church.Its capacity for funding has given the Knights of Columbus an inordinately loud voice, potentially drowning out that of others, and no other lay group can match the Knights' ability to leave its mark on the church. Some worry that such influence can actually distort the church's ecclesiology, its structure and its governance."This is a new phenomenon in the Catholic Church," Massimo Faggioli, historian and theologian at Villanova University, said in an interview. A well-funded group such as the Knights "create pressure and they create influence through money, especially in important places like Rome or Washington, D.C."'Champions of ethical investing'According to Christopher J. Kauffman's Faith and Fraternalism: A History of the Knights of Columbus 1882-1982, McGivney, while viewing a fraternal order "as a pastoral necessity in protecting the faith," also wrote to another priest: "Our primary object is to prevent our people from entering Secret Societies by offering the same if not better advantages to our members [italics in original]." The big fear was that the young men, seeking a place in the culture, might join forbidden societies such as the Masons, engaging in secret rituals while making connections to better their lot in society.Catholics are no longer outsiders in the United States. They constitute the largest single denomination represented in Congress. They have led agencies of government and run some of the country's largest corporations. Catholics are a majority on the Supreme Court. The country has elected a Catholic president and a Catholic vice president. The current president's inner circle includes several high-profile Catholics. The current leader of the Knights was, himself, involved in politics at the congressional and later White House level for years. The Knights no longer need take a defensive stance.Kauffman documents that the Knights helped Catholics prove their loyalty to the United States by mobilizing church members behind World War I. As a result, he writes, "the Order was infused with the self-confidence that it could respond with organizational skill and with social and political power to any need of Church and society. In this sense, the K. of C. reflected the passage of American Catholicism from an immigrant Church to a well-established and respected religious denomination which had proven its patriotic loyalty in the acid test of the Great War."The raw numbers of the organization's activities today are breathtaking and reflect that confidence. In a biography on the Knights' website that recounts some of the accomplishments of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who has led the organization since 2000, the Knights report that membership has grown to nearly 2 million, "who together in 2015 alone donated over $175 million to charity and provided more than 73.5 million volunteer hours of charitable service worldwide."In 2015, the Knights spent millions in "Christian refugee relief" in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Russia and neighboring states. Hundreds of thousands of dollars also went to typhoon and hurricane disaster relief around the globe.Those who run the organization are no longer low-paid part-timers. According to recent public financial documents, Anderson, chairman of the board and CEO, received total compensation of $2,289,806 in 2014. That amount was up from $2,063,818 in 2013. In 2015, the total amount of his compensation dropped to $1,277,232. The total compensation for Anderson is broken into a number of categories (all figures are for 2015): base compensation ($882,200); bonus and incentive compensation ($342,150); retirement and other deferred compensation ($7,797); and non-taxable benefits ($33,246).The large drop in his income between 2014 and 2015 appears to have occurred in a fifth category labeled "other reportable compensation." In 2013, that amount was $935,087, and in 2014, it was $1,047,924. It fell to $11,839 in 2015.In an email response to an NCR query, Joseph Cullen, Knights spokesman, wrote that analysis of Anderson's compensation "by a well-respected [and unnamed] external consulting firm — shows that 75 percent of CEOs within a market comparative group are compensated overall at a higher rate than he is. Our CEO is responsible not only for overseeing the operations of a charitable organization but the operations of a Fortune 1000 life insurance company as well."The Knights, he wrote, "have been champions of ethical investing" and awarded for their ethics.Anderson declined to be interviewed for this article.The 2014 and 2015 990 forms for Knights of Columbus list officers with titles and compensation. Some of the representative officers and their compensation (figures are for 2014 and 2015, in that order): Thomas Smith Jr., director, executive VP, INS (listed elsewhere as chief insurance officer), ($765,795, $972,213); Anthony Minopoli, senior VP, investments ($580,183, $661,809); Dennis Savoie, a former director and deputy supreme knight, collected a total of $600,311 in 2014, but was not on the list in 2015; Logan Ludwig, director, deputy supreme knight ($421,905, $517,115); Patrick Kelly, director, VP, public policy ($250,626, $275,640); John Marrella, director, supreme advocate ($511,391, $555,401); Charles Maurer Jr., director, supreme secretary ($381,251, $442,144); Michael O'Connor, director, supreme treasurer ($311,152, $342,545); Michael Conforti, medical director ($363,424, $381,449); Richard Plush, senior VP, product development ($469,313, $481,879).That list is only a portion of the paid staff and it is confined to the names listed on the 2014 and 2015 Form 990 for Knights of Columbus on a page titled "Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees." The compensation for all of those listed on the page for 2015 totaled $8,954,874.Expansive donationsThe concept of charity has certainly expanded over the years. The 990 forms filed for 2013-2015, documents required of all nonprofits, contain pages of small donations — most less than $30,000 and many under $20,000. Those donations go mainly to state Knights chapters, individual dioceses, and smaller Catholic institutions and are listed as "general support." The majority of other four- and five-figure donations go to facilities that would generally be categorized as women's health or pregnancy centers and are tagged as "donation to promote the culture of life program."The largest disbursement in 2014 was $12.9 million, and it went to the Knights' John Paul II Shrine and Institute in Washington, a museum dedicated to the pope and an educational institute advancing John Paul's teaching about love and marriage, especially his writings on the theology of the body. The Knights' purchase of the building in 2011 bailed out a failed project spearheaded by former Detroit archbishop Cardinal Adam Maida, who had committed more than $50 million in archdiocesan funds to the construction and ongoing maintenance of the center. The Knights bought the property for $22.7 million, allowing the archdiocese to recover about $20 million.The shrine is on property at the edge of the Catholic University of America; the institute itself is in buildings on the campus. The Knights were instrumental in the founding of the institute, which is under the auspices of the archbishop of Washington. Anderson, who previously taught at the institute, is currently a vice president, according to the institute website.The Knights spent a total of about $14.25 million on the shrine in 2015 for "support" with about an additional $2.59 million listed as "support for accredited educational institution." An additional $188,854 in "non-cash assistance" in "exhibit purchases and other support" went to "support program services."While Knights of Columbus generosity is spread around dioceses and individual bishops for a variety of causes, the organization is also a major contributor to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 2014, it gave the conference $1,173,637 in two amounts, $228,244 to "support programs for education campaign," and $945,393 to "support various programs," not least of which is the persistent claim by the bishops' conference that religious liberty is under attack in the United States, and its annual Fortnight for Freedom, an attempt to rally Catholics and others around that theme. In 2015, that amount for the bishops' conference, in a single donation, was increased to $1,338,455.According to financial reports on the bishops' conference website, the conference receives the bulk of its funding from diocesan assessments ($10.96 million in 2015) and government contracts and grants ($80.73 million in 2015). Grants, bequests and other income amounted to about $6.76 million in 2015.The Philadelphia Archdiocese received $1.5 million from the Knights in 2015 for "general support." The same year, the Baltimore Archdiocese received $435,000. Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore is supreme chaplain to the Knights and a major force behind the bishops' religious freedom campaign. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is a leading voice for the conservative wing of the U.S. bishops' conference and has held positions on boards of a number of conservative Catholic organizations.If funding is any indication, however, the Knights are deeply engaged in the culture wars with some of the largest grants going to the loudest and most influential participants in the church and the public square.In 2014, a total of $1 million, in three separate amounts, went to the Susan B. Anthony Foundation, an aggressive anti-abortion organization most recently campaigning to defund Planned Parenthood. The foundation can be as highly partisan as it is anti-abortion, even opposing pro-life Democrats. It targeted Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pennsylvania, for instance, for her vote for the Affordable Care Act, which the foundation labeled a "pro-abortion health-care bill." Dahlkemper had previously publicly defended federal restrictions on the use of taxpayer funds for abortion.The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal group that has carried the fight for the U.S. bishops and the Little Sisters of the Poor against the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, received $300,000 in one 2014 donation and an additional $25,000 from the Knights of Columbus as "a sponsor of the Canterbury Medal." Supreme Knight Anderson received the award in 2007, and Chaput in 2009.The Little Sisters of the Poor had received $100,000 in 2013 and another $20,000 in 2015 to "support facility improvements." The Becket Fund received another $25,000 in 2015.A total of $525,000 was spent in two amounts in 2014 to support the March for Life and the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. The March for Life is held each January in Washington to protest the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that liberalized the nation's abortion law. The Knights of Columbus also made a $255,000 gift to the March for Life Education and Defense Fund in 2015, according to the Form 990 for Knights of Columbus for that year.The Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank that is home for neoconservative scholar George Weigel, received $330,000 in 2014. Weigel, one of the more prominent voices of the Catholic right, also is a member of the board of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, which publishes First Things, a journal to which he regularly contributes, that has influentially shaped the narrative of the Catholic right during the John Paul II and Benedict XVI papacies. The center received $98,000 in 2015.In 2015, the Knights donated $75,000 to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast to "gather people to renew our dedication to faith and this great republic," according to one of the 990 forms.The Knights gave $50,000 each year, in 2014 and 2015, to the Federalist Society, described in a recent New Yorker article as "a nationwide organization of conservative lawyers" whose executive vice president, Leonard Leo, "served, in effect, as Trump's subcontractor on the selection of [Neil] Gorsuch" as nominee, eventually confirmed, for justice to the Supreme Court. Aside from Leo's reputation as a devout Catholic, the society is thoroughly secular and largely an operation benefiting the Republican Party.Funding mass communicationCommunications projects also receive substantial support from the Knights.One of the Knights' largest expenditures in 2014, $1,250,000, went to the Eternal Word Television Network, also known as EWTN, a conservative outlet, to sponsor a news show five nights a week. The donation to the news program in 2015 was $250,000. Another $250,000 to EWTN was listed on a different 990 in 2015 and was described as "general support."The Association for Catholic Information of Englewood, Colorado, received $245,000 in 2014 to "support operations of Catholic News Agency," an online outlet distributed free of charge. According to its website, it was founded in 2004 in response to John Paul II's call for a new evangelization. In the United States, it pays particular attention to "news related to the creation of a culture of life." In June 2014, Catholic News Agency and its sister organization, ACI Prensa, a Spanish-language Catholic news organization, joined the EWTN Global Catholic Network. ACI Prensa's headquarters are in Lima, Peru, and it also operates the Brazil-based ACI Digital, a Portuguese-language service.The Knights also fund Crux, an online Catholic news outlet run by former NCR Vatican correspondent John Allen Jr. The site was initiated by The Boston Globe in 2014 but lasted less than two years for lack of advertising revenue. The site has not been in business long enough in its current form to show up on a Knights 990 filing, but in an email answer to an NCR query, Allen said that the Knights of Columbus contributes $350,000 a year "against a total budget of around" $850,000. Advertising earns Crux about $125,000 a year, he said, and other support comes from the DeSales Media Group in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, and from the Archdioceses of Washington, New York and Los Angeles.Allen has previously made the case in interviews for his publication's independence, saying the Knights have no control over content. He did so again, writing, "Our agreement with all our sponsors is that editorial control remains with us, and they've all respected that."In other areas, including more communication projects, in 2013 through 2015, the Knights spent:$20,201 to "support publication of a journal," that was unnamed.$147,000 to "support HD broadcast of canonizations"; $50,000 in "support of various programs and communications" in East Asia and the Pacific; and, also in East Asia and the Pacific, $50,000 in 2014 to support a papal visit (Pope Francis visited Korea in 2014) and $33,000 to support satellite uplinks during the papal visit.$53,496 in North America to "support programs and communications," without specifics.$48,425 in North America to "support development of website," without specifying.$60,000 to the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., an outlet run by two priests who are members of Opus Dei, a conservative order for which John Paul II created a "personal prelature," which amounts, essentially, to a global diocese.$207,456 in Europe to "support broadcast expenses for papal ceremonies."$100,000 to support the "Holy See's strategic communications office."The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments (whose prefect, the very conservative Robert Sarah, didn't think twice about waiting more than a year to release a written directive from the Pope) received $100,000 as support for the Vox Clara Committee and its translations of liturgical texts. Vox Clara is a committee of bishops established by the congregation in 2001 to take over the work of the previous International Commission on English in the Liturgy and provide a more traditional, literal translation from a Latin text.The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, a conservative alternative to the much larger Leadership Conference of Women Religious, received $365,000 in 2014 for its National Assembly and eucharistic council.$158,400 went to the Catholic University of America to establish a "Pope Benedict XVI Chair in theology." Catholic University received $328,600 in 2015 for support of educational conferences and the Benedict XVI "chair in theology fund."Two amounts, $344,277 and $226,351, were listed on the 2014 document as made in North America with no other identification than "support various programs."The Knights refused to answer any questions regarding the figures listed on the tax forms. NCR had sought explanations for some of the unspecified amounts and for the different forms filed. In each of the years examined, 2013, 2014 and 2015, three forms were filed. One of the forms is for Knights of Columbus Charities Inc. [PDF links: 2013, 2014 and 2015] and contains donations primarily but not exclusively to women's health and pregnancy centers across the country, as well as international donations. A second form, for Knights of Columbus Charities USA Inc. [PDF links: 2013, 2014 and 2015], contains amounts given to Catholic institutions such as parishes, dioceses and a few colleges and universities. The third, for simply Knights of Columbus [PDF links: 2013, 2014 and 2015], contains most of the donations to think tanks, news outlets and agencies involved in hot-button cultural issues.The response from Cullen, Knights spokesman, was curt. In an email, responding to the questions, he wrote: "The Knights of Columbus fulfills all legal requirements concerning reporting related to Form 990. We do not generally comment on tax filings."NCR also sought a response from Anderson to characterizations of the organizations advanced in this article. Cullen responded in a lengthy email.Between 2010 and 2014, according to earlier NCR reporting, the Knights spent more than $1.4 million to sponsor Catholic bishops attending medical ethics workshops that included speakers opposing homosexuality, same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting. Presentations included psychologically discredited claims that people who identify as gay or transgender can be "cured" through counseling and can become heterosexual.The anti-gay training for bishops is coordinated by the National Catholic Bioethics Center, according to a 2014 report in NCR by Nicole Sotelo. The center is another organization that receives Knights of Columbus support. In 2014, it received $250,000; in 2015, $300,617.Much of the political activity in recent years appears to align with Anderson's earlier political life. His official biography on the Knights website notes his "distinguished career as a public servant," but provides none of the particulars. He began his public career working for Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, known throughout his five-term career as one of the most conservative members of Congress. Helms was an ardent supporter of the death penalty and military spending and opposed civil rights legislation and arms control.Anderson later worked in the Reagan White House as a special assistant to the president in the office of public liaison, dealing with domestic policy, Catholics and family issues.Notably, when the issue of AIDS first surfaced, Anderson differed with then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on how to speak of the disease. Anderson wanted the government to use language that contained moral judgments about those afflicted. According to Koop's autobiography, Anderson also wanted the surgeon general to say that "all Americans [not most Americans, as Koop maintained] are opposed to homosexuality, promiscuity of any kind and prostitution." Koop wrote that Anderson "did not seem to understand that I could not say it because it was not true."Knights in contextFaggioli, a contributing editor to Commonweal and author of The Rising Laity: Ecclesial Movements Since Vatican II, sees the Knights of Columbus "as an extreme version" of a post-Vatican II phenomenon, the rise of discrete lay groups that have become centers of power themselves, apart from any identification with the local church or diocese or a ritual community.He said the resulting influence leads to a politicization of Catholicism, a kind of lobbying that actually alters the church's ecclesiology. Underwriting conservative outlets and think tanks, he said, means "you can shape the narrative so a rather limited number of conservative Catholic voices from the West can have their voices heard much louder than the whole African Catholic community on some issues."The Knights are rarely mentioned as comparable to such overtly evangelical groups as the Focolare Movement, Communion and Liberation, the Neocatechumenal Way or like organizations that rose to international prominence in the post-Vatican II era. But the Knights' influence may be as profound or greater than any of those in its funding of church entities and of groups that influence thought and ideology in the public sphere.The Knights of Columbus has, throughout its history, been quite political, often taking a very conservative and at times ultra-patriotic stance. On the other hand, during the 1920s, it boldly repudiated the views of such hate groups as the Ku Klux Klan, even publishing a book by noted black writer W.E.B. Du Bois, one in a series of books published as correctives to the Klan's revisionist history.But Kauffman, in Faith and Fraternalism, also makes the point that in the years after Vatican II, as the "Catholic anti-defamation character" of the order began to fade, the leadership "attempted to stimulate the membership to a greater awareness of the religious and moral issues confronting the Church." That led, post-1960s, to the formation of a "variety of new programs reflecting the proliferation of the new social ministries of the church."Simultaneously, new initiatives resulted in leaps in membership numbers and revenue. And with the increase in funds came a flurry of activity, a substantial amount of it aimed at funding Vatican projects and initiatives of the U.S. bishops. (And as donors of significant amount, the Knights would -whether they acknowledge it or not - ultimately have a voice in the decision-making process of these "projects" and "initiatives".)One area in which the Knights recognized a need was in Vatican communications. As early as 1965, according to the organization's website, the Knights donated a shortwave transmitter to Vatican Radio, and has helped upgrade the communications systems ever since. In 1974, for instance, the Knights were approached "to seek support for a significant expansion of televised Masses."The following year, the Knights began sponsorship of annual telecasts of Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, the Stations of the Cross from the Coliseum on Good Friday, Easter Sunday Mass, "and a special ceremony that would be determined each year," according to the Knights website.In the years since and through 2010, the order has upgraded transmission systems to provide broadcasts to larger areas of the globe, as well as "the outfitting of a mobile unit with recording and transmitting equipment to enable Vatican television to broadcast in high definition." That has enabled broadcasts of major events like installations and elections of popes, World Youth Day, and ecumenical gatherings in Assisi.The Knights, in turn, are well-represented in the upper echelons of the Vatican. In 2006, Anderson was appointed a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, a position he still held in 2015. He is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Pontifical Council for Family, and the Pontifical Academy for Life. He previously served on the board of the Vatican bank.Is such access the result of wielding influence — a consequence of unparalleled wealth — or simply reward for doing good work? Or a bit of both?"From an ecclesiological point of view," said Faggioli, "it is a distortion because the Catholic Church is based on an idea of leadership where the sensus fidelium, the voice of the faithful, should be equal for all the faithful." No equivalent organization exists to represent those who may hold differing theological views or to represent the interests of Catholics in the developing world. Undoubtedly, those affected by natural and human-caused disasters are grateful for aid. But how do laypeople in those circumstances gain similar access as Knights' leadership to Vatican agencies and officials?"There should be a fundamental equality," Faggioli said, "so the sense of the faith in Africa or Latin America or Asia, with no money, should carry the same weight, currency, relevance, authority, as a wealthy Catholic in the Northern Hemisphere."Catholic historian David O'Brien has a somewhat softer view, acknowledging the "incredible amount of good work" done by ordinary members of the Knights of Columbus at the parish and diocesan levels. He wonders, however, if there is a kind of split in worldview between those levels and the higher echelons of the organization.He said Anderson seems to have tapped into "this broader kind of need for identity that conservative people within the church" have felt since the reforms of Vatican II. It is an element in the U.S. church, he said, that feels the denomination has "lost its edge, its identity and maybe even its integrity" over the past half century.The Knights of Columbus is among groups that have "come up with issues that create the difference between you and other religious groups and with the culture. These guys have figured out a way to build a popular following by combining their politics with the faith."The religious liberty campaign, he said, "was a brilliant, if misguided, effort to combine these two things."If religion and politics can be flashpoints for conflict, combining them doesn't seem to have damaged the Knights' bottom line or their ability to remain close to the ecclesial centers of power. In his 2015 report, according to the Knights of Columbus website, "Supreme Knight Anderson said that insurance in force is at $99 billion, an amount that has more than doubled in the last 12 years." In the 2015 Form 990 for Knights of Columbus, the organization reports total revenue of $2.234 billion, down about $50 million from the total of $2.285 billion in 2014. In 2015, it showed expenses of $2.165 billion, leaving a net gain of $68,859,419, down from a net gain of $115,076,047 with expenses of $2.170 billion in 2014. Net assets are listed as about $1.847 billion, down from about $1.905 billion the year before.Anderson, who earned a degree in philosophy from Seattle University, a Jesuit institution, and a law degree from the University of Denver, has published several books and has been amply awarded with honorary degrees from Catholic institutions and honors from various other organizations. His status has provided him rare face time with popes and, in addition to his Vatican positions, appointments as the only layperson from North America to serve as an auditor at the world Synod of Bishops in 2001, 2005 and 2008. He has served on a number of committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. His papal honors include Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Sylvester, a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
May 16 17 12:28 AM
A survivor of clerical sexual abuse and a former member of a panel created by Pope Francis to lead the reform effort said Monday that while she’s grateful for positive things the pope said about her over the weekend, she also wants the commission to push back against perceived Vatican resistance to reform that she insists led her to resign.
Marie Collins, an Irish lay woman, told “The Crux of the Matter” on the Catholic Channel, carried by Sirius XM, “If resistance continues, then the commission itself should speak. It shouldn’t be up to one member having to resign to make it public.“If there is resistance, it’s got to be overcome, because there’s no place for resistance to change when it comes to child protection,” Collins said.During his return flight from a trip to Fatima on Saturday, Pope Francis was asked about Collins’s resignation from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, a body he created to advise him on reform efforts regarding clerical sexual abuse.“Marie Collins explained things to me well,” he said. “I’ve spoken with her: She’s a great woman. She continues to work on the formation of priests on this point. She’s a great woman, who wants to work.“She’s right on some things,” Francis acknowledged.Although Francis said that he had spoken to Collins, she told Crux they’ve never actually had a conversation beyond shaking hands, although she did send him a detailed letter explaining the reasons for her resignation.Collins admitted to being a little stunned by what the pope had to say.“I suppose I was knocked over by it a little bit at first, because it’s not every day of the week that the pope actually speaks about you!”She also said his words meant the world to her.“When I resigned, and made the criticisms I did about the resistance I felt was there and the lack of cooperation with the pontifical commission, there were some in the Vatican who would have thought I was just being negative or trying to damage the Church in some way,” Collins said.“The fact that the pope himself spoke about me as he did, and obviously doesn’t see me as an enemy, or somebody trying to do damage, meant a great deal to me,” she said.Going forward, Collins flagged two areas in which she believes work remains to be done in terms of promoting child protection: First, achieving reasonably uniform global standards for abuse prevention and response; and second, implementing meaningful measures for holding bishops accountable when they drop the ball.“We’re told the powers are there, but they don’t appear to be being used,” she said, regarding bishops’ accountability. “I haven’t seen any bishop being removed or disciplined in any way transparently for negligence in this area.”The following is a transcript of Collins’s interview with Crux staff members John Allen, Inés San Martín and Claire Giangravè, which aired Monday.How did you react to what the pope had to say about you on the papal plane?I suppose I was knocked over by it a little bit at first, because it’s not every day of the week that the pope actually speaks about you! I appreciate, very much, the positive words he said about me, it really meant a lot to me.When I resigned, and made the criticisms I did about the resistance I felt was there and the lack of cooperation with the pontifical commission, there were some in the Vatican who would have thought I was just being negative or trying to damage the Church in some way. I’ve never, ever done that. Whenever I’ve spoken, it’s always been intended to be constructive criticism and hopefully to bring things forward. The fact that the pope himself spoke about me as he did, and obviously doesn’t see me as an enemy, or somebody trying to do damage, meant a great deal to me.The pope said he’s spoken to you about your resignation, which was news to many of us. Did you intentionally keep that to yourself?I think there was some misunderstanding there in what he said. I haven’t actually sat down and spoken to him. I wrote him a very detailed letter when I resigned, and I had a translation into Spanish. I think when he said I had explained to him, in detail and clearly, what my worries were, he may have been referring to that letter, which I wrote in March at the time of my resignation. I have met him and shaken hands with him, but I haven’t had a meeting.The pope spoke on the plane about steps the Church has taken to try to respond to abuse cases. Do you think things are moving in the right direction?I know he spoke about improvements in dealing with cases at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where there’s a great backlog. Cases there were taking a long time to go through, maybe two years to go through, and it meant that people who were accused and victims were left in limbo for a very long time. That has been improved greatly, particularly in recent times.I was a little disappointed he didn’t speak about the area that really concerned me most, which is the problems about getting child protection policy guidelines disseminated globally, and having something consistent in the different countries. There was a problem between the pontifical commission and the CDF about developing those, working on them, and I was hoping that might move forward. He didn’t say anything about that, so I don’t know if there has been any movement.It is important that each bishops’ conference will have a similar ‘gold standard’ practice as far as their child protection guidelines are concerned. Obviously, there will be cultural differences in different countries, but the basic policies should be very similar.That was the hope of the pontifical commission. That’s why the commission drew up a template, which would be a best practice template, and then wanted to work with the CDF on developing that further, as they had been working on it in the past. There was a difficulty there, and I was hoping that difficulty might have been overcome by now.Another thing the pope didn’t address is the question of the accountability of bishops for the abuse scandals. Would you agree that’s also something that still needs attention?That’s another issue I really feel very strongly about. We had the recommendation from the commission, going to the pope, for a tribunal for episcopal negligence. That was approved and announced in June 2015, and went nowhere. We’ve been told since by Cardinal [Gerhard] Müller [Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith], who spoke in an interview after my resignation, that the tribunal never went ahead because there were already the powers in the Congregation for Bishops and the CDF to take care of all these cases. My worry is that we haven’t seen anything of this. We’re told the powers are there, but they don’t appear to be being used. I haven’t seen any bishop being removed or disciplined in any way transparently for negligence in this area. The tribunal that the pontifical commission wanted to see put in place, and that the pope approved, didn’t happen because the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided not to move forward.On September 5, 2016, the motu proprio “Like a Loving Mother” was supposed to come into effect. Pope Francis put it out in place of that original tribunal. It was supposed to cover religious superiors as well as the bishops. But again, we haven’t seen it in action, we don’t know if it’s being implemented. I would really like to know, is it being implemented, or is it just sitting on a shelf?The commission had a three-year mandate, which is up in December. What do you think should be the next step forward?I think if the resistance that was there, which caused me to resign, the resistance on the part of those in the Vatican who are tasked with implementing decisions, continues, then it should be made public. The recommendations, such as wishing to work on the guidelines, went from the commission to the pope and then to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They were approved by the Holy Father.The reason I resigned was because on Dec. 16, there was a letter sent back from the congregation to the commission, basically saying we won’t cooperate on these matters. They also said they won’t acknowledge survivors’ letters, which was another point.I’m no longer on the commission, so I’m no longer privy to what’s being said or done, but I would believe that if that sort of resistance continues, then the commission itself should speak. It shouldn’t be up to one member having to resign to make it public. The commission itself would have an obligation to make it known that they’re still being resisted in the work they’re trying to do. After all, the commission was appointed by the pope to advise on all these issues and to try to improve the way things are done in child protection. If there is resistance, even from a small core of people in the administration of the Church, that really has to be made known.I don’t know what the situation is. The commission’s term ends in December, but I think what will happen then is that maybe new members will be brought on board. Some members will continue for another term. I imagine the commission will continue with its work. But at this point I think that if there is any resistance, it has to be out in the open.When I came out and said what I did, there were some people in the Vatican who characterized me as somebody who just doesn’t understand how things work in the Vatican, and maybe I was confused. I think I’ve been validated somewhat by what the Holy Father said. He did say I’m a capable person, and that some of the things I said were right. I don’t think things can be left as they are. If there is resistance, it’s got to be overcome, because there’s no place for resistance to change when it comes to child protection.You said you haven’t spoken to Pope Francis since your resignation. Now that you’ve heard what he said on the plane, if you had the chance, what would you say to him?I’d very much like to meet with him, I’d very much like to have the chance to discuss these problems. I’d like to have a clear dialogue, to give him the view of somebody who is a survivor but who has also now worked closely with the Church. I’d like to help him in any way I could with anything I’ve seen, anything I believe needs to be changed.As a survivor, I’d just like to meet the man. I’ve shaken his hand, but I’ve never had the opportunity to speak with him.You’ve said in the past you believe Pope Francis’s heart is in the right place on this issue. Is that still your impression?It is. I think he definitely has the right attitude, I think he definitely grasps the horror of abuse and the need to have it cleared out of the Church as much as possible, to prevent it as much as possible. It’s very difficult for him, because he has so many issues he has to deal with.I think something else he said on the plane was very important, and that was he’s never pardoned anyone found guilty of abuse. He has, apparently, eased some of the disciplinary sanctions, but he has never actually pardoned anyone. I think that’s a very good point that should be made known.I believe the pope is doing his best, I believe he’s trying very hard. He set up the commission with outside experts to come in and advise him. It’s not surprising that there might be resistance within the curia. He’s spoken himself about the evil of clericalism, and I think the resistance is a symptom of that. It’s almost as if the people on the commission are coming in from the outside. They’re not part of that clerical group, and therefore they’re seen as interfering rather than trying to help.I think that’s a pity, because I know everyone on that commission has been working hard to help as much as possible those within the administration trying to deal with this matter, not in any way to interfere or take over from them. I think that’s where there’s misunderstanding, and that’s where some problems have arisen: ‘We’ve been doing it this way for so long, we don’t need anyone to come in to tell us how to do it differently.’ I think that’s where the mistake is.
Abuse survivor wants papal panel to push back on Vatican resistance
May 16 17 2:50 AM
Cardinal George Pell's Rome office says he will not seek to respond to allegations against him in a new biography released on Monday, "other than to restate that any allegations of child abuse made against him are completely false".Fairfax Media reported on 13 May that 'Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell', by Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist Louise Milligan, contains allegations of abuse involving two choirboys at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in the late 1990s while then Archbishop Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne.Fairfax, publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne's The Age newspapers, said the book records the testimony of one alleged victim, a man now aged in his 30s, and the family of a second alleged victim, who died from a drug overdose in 2014. Soon after the alleged abuse took place, both boys asked to leave the choir, the book says.The newspaper group also reported that the book contains new information about the child abuse cover-up within the Catholic Church in Australia, including allegations that Cardinal Pell - Prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy since 2014 and before that Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996-2001 and Archbishop of Sydney from 2001-14 - knew about paedophile priests earlier than he claimed.The Cardinal's lawyers said at the weekend that publication of the book's allegations were a "deliberate attempt to influence the public opinion in a manner that would make it impossible for our client to receive a fair hearing in court should he be charged".They said the allegations were false, "unjustifiable, scandalous, deliberate and calculated to cause the most shocking damage imaginable to Cardinal Pell".Fairfax reported that a separate statement from Cardinal Pell's Rome office on Saturday night, in response to a request for comment on the allegations, accused the book's publisher, Melbourne University Press, and media organisations including Fairfax Media of "interfering with the course of justice"."Cardinal Pell has not been notified by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions or Victoria Police of the status of their investigations, which have been under way since at least February 2016," the statement said."Cardinal Pell will not seek to interfere in the course of justice by responding to the allegations made by MUP and media outlets today, other than to restate that any allegations of child abuse made against him are completely false. He repeats his vehement and consistent denials of any and all such accusations, and stands by all the evidence he has given to the Royal Commission."In October 2016, three members of Victoria Police flew to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell, who took part voluntarily.Last year, Ms Milligan revealed historic sex abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell in a report for ABC TV's 7.30 program.The Cardinal has appeared three times, twice by video from Rome, at Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in public hearings on abuse in his home town of Ballarat, Melbourne and Sydney. He also appeared in person at a Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations in 2013.
May 16 17 2:58 AM
The Vatican’s financial watchdog registered a three-fold decrease in suspicious transactions undertaken in the city-state’s financial institutions in 2016, stating in a yearly report the downtick indicates more effective implementation of Pope Francis’ reforms.The Financial Information Authority, or AIF, says in the report that it marked 207 activities as questionable last year and suspended four suspicious transactions worth a total of 2.1 million Euro. In 2015 the agency had marked 544 activities and halted 12 transactions worth 15.3 million Euro and $2.4 million. (That is 207 too many!)The AIF says in the report, released Thursday, that the decrease indicates “an ever-increasing and effective implementation of reporting requirements.”The agency also reveals it made 22 reports to the Vatican’s Office of the Promoter of Justice, the city-state’s prosecutorial division, for possible review of crimes including fraud and “serious tax evasion, misappropriation and corruption.”The watchdog agency gave the statistics in its fifth annual report. The agency, which was started by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 but continued and strengthened under Francis, has been working to bring the Vatican’s diverse set of financial organizations into compliance with international standards.The AIF report did not explain if or how the Promoter of Justice is following up on the agency’s requests for reviews of possible crimes. While the watchdog agency has made 56 such requests since 2012, the promoter, Gian Piero Milano, has only announced two prosecutions in that time. In a February report, Milano said two cases went to trial for the first time in 2016.René Brülhart, the agency’s president, said at a press conference Thursday that he could not speak on Milano’s behalf but that there had been “relevant developments” regarding possible prosecutions “in the last period of time.”“I think it’s important to note here from where we are coming,” said Brülhart. “The system which has been built and established … is still relatively young.”The agency president also said that some of the cases his agency referred to the promoter have international connections, meaning that gathering evidence about them from foreign authorities can take more time.“There is a certain process that has to be respected,” he said. “I’m sure that also from the side of the Promoter of Justice that relevant messages are going to be brought forward in the not too far future.”Brülhart also said the downtick in activities marked as suspicious in 2016 was not a surprise to his agency.“For us here it was never about quantity,” said the agency president. “It was always about quality.”“This decrease we have faced in 2016 is not a surprise at all,” he said. “I think it’s a logical follow-up on the path we were on in the last years.”“I would call it an ordinary consolidation of the reporting system as such,” Brülhart added.The AIF report also reported a large uptick in the Vatican’s communication with international communication exchanges, stating that there had been a 220 percent increase in such activity, with the Vatican agency making 721 requests for information in 2016.The report said the uptick was due to the “preventive and proactive approach” taken by the agency and “the sophisticated feature of cases under strategic and operational analysis.”The Financial Information Authority is one of the Vatican’s several financial agencies.Francis created the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014 to place the agencies under one centralized office, putting Pell in charge of the new operation. The Secretariat is overseen by the Council for the Economy, a group of eight cardinals or bishops and seven lay people.In its 2015 report, the financial watchdog said it had completed a review of all of the accounts held at the so-called Vatican bank, known formally as the Institute for the Works of Religion, and that 4,800 accounts at the institution were closed.
May 16 17 6:56 AM
Knights of Columbus needs to show restraint in the political sphereMy colleague Tom Roberts' look at the finances of the Knights of Columbus sent shockwaves around Catholic circles yesterday. Like Roberts, I commend the Knights for all the wonderful work they have done since their founding in 1882. The questions raised by Roberts' reporting do not detract an iota from that work, yet they are important and they all come back to one larger question: Is it time for new leadership at the Knights of Columbus?The first question is whether it is healthy for a Catholic organization to have so much money, and therefore so much influence, combined with an evident willingness to use that influence entirely in one direction. Most charitable organizations stay away from politics, but not the Knights. As Roberts' article demonstrates, they fund a variety of conservative political causes and organizations, especially those like the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which shape the public conversation about the role of religion in American culture. If the Knights are to maintain the common perception of them as a charitable organization, they need to demonstrate restraint in using their influence in the political sphere, or at least seek to strike a balance.And the problem is not simply politics. The Knights deploy their influence within the church as well. Would Anderson serve on so many Vatican commissions if he did not have such a large checkbook? Will bishops challenge the direction the Knights are taking within the church, funding conservative media outlets like Crux and EWTN, when they know that the Knights have such large influence? Will staffers at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops more easily embark upon a conservative project, knowing they can get Knights money for it, but decline to initiate a more progressive project, mindful that they will have to raise the money elsewhere? The Knights jumped in to rescue the white elephant John Paul II Shrine founded and funded by the Archdiocese of Detroit. Other bishops noticed and made a mental note: If I am ever in trouble, I may need to turn to them too. That creates enormous influence.As professors Massimo Faggioli and David O'Brien indicate in the article, the Knights represent that brand of Catholicism that believes Catholicism has "lost its edge, its identity and maybe even its integrity" over the past half century, as O'Brien said. And they have "come up with issues that create the difference between you and other religious groups and with the culture. These guys have figured out a way to build a popular following by combining their politics with the faith." The Knights are the bank for the culture wars if you will.But, like other culture-warrior Catholic conservatives, the Knights do not challenge every aspect of the dominant culture. Take a look at their salaries. It appears that the Supreme Knight took a pay cut in 2015, so that year he only made $1,277,232. He made more than $2 million the year before. To be clear: If Anderson were paid $400,000 it would still be too much, but more than a million?The comment by the Knights' spokesman, Joseph Cullen, makes my point better than I can. He said that an analysis of Anderson's compensation "by a well-respected [and unnamed] external consulting firm — shows that 75 percent of CEOs within a market comparative group are compensated overall at a higher rate than he is. Our CEO is responsible not only for overseeing the operations of a charitable organization but the operations of a Fortune 1000 life insurance company as well." How many times has Pope Francis reminded the Church that we are not an NGO, let alone an LLC! Who cares what the leaders of Fortune 500 companies make.The Knights are a Christian organization and pay stubs in seven figures are simply not consistent with the Gospel call to poverty. If Anderson wants to be paid like a CEO of a major, secular corporation, let him go work for one. It is ironic that Anderson, like so many conservative Catholics, is a frequent critic of secularization, and urges Catholics to stand apart from the ambient culture when that culture challenges our faith, to make our "Catholic identity" clear, but that desire to be countercultural apparently vanishes when it comes time to calculate his compensation.It is ironic, too, that the Knights have earned a reputation for their spirit of volunteerism. The members not only donate money and pay dues, but they give their time and do so at no cost. I wonder what they think about the organization feathering so many beds, and with such feathers, while the charism of the order is so obviously different. Cullen reminds us that Anderson is also a CEO of the Knights' large insurance company, which is true, but if you are going to invoke a corporate model, shouldn't you follow it? Anderson did not rise through the ranks of an insurance company, developing the kind of expertise that might warrant such a large salary.Anderson is not alone. You look at the salaries of football coaches at Catholic schools and CEOs at Catholic hospitals. And you wonder why we sometimes lose track of our sense of mission. I do not begrudge anyone a living. I understand, too, that in certain occupations, there are expenses that a lowly writer who works from home does not have. I suppose CEOs need several suits, and I only need one. They may have to fly around more than I do, although I suspect the company pays that tab. But, when so much of what is wrong with the West is rooted in the idolatry of money, wouldn't it be great to see our Catholic organizations look a little harder for leadership that grasps how morally obscene it is to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year no matter what you do? Couldn't we see a little more Christian witness in this area?I also want to highlight a specific concern about the political spending by the organization, and draw what I think is an important distinction. I applaud the Knights for their efforts to promote a culture of life, and to defend the unborn, but the Susan B. Anthony List, which received $1 million in 2014, is more of a Republican operation than a pro-life one. In 2010, they did not target pro-choice Democrats in the midterm elections, they targeted pro-life Democrats. The group argued that voting for the Affordable Care Act invalidated the pro-life credentials of these Democrats because the law permitted federal funding for elective abortion. In fact, it did no such thing.I would not give two cents to the Ethics and Public Policy Center, not least because it provides a handsome position and salary to George Weigel, a man who can no longer even pretend to be anything but a critic of the Holy Father. Still, at least the organization deals with religion in the public square and while it leans heavily to the right, it is not explicitly partisan. Same for the donations to the Becket Fund. They lean heavily to the right, but at least they are involved in the defense of religious liberty, an obvious concern of the church too.But why do the Knights, which profess fidelity to the pope and the bishops, give money to the Federalist Society? The organization has precisely no religious mission. What is more, the Federalist Society website states, "The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order." Pope Francis just denounced libertarianism in the clearest of terms, a denunciation that was hardly novel, echoing papal teaching at least as far back as Pope Pius XI.The Knights underwrite about a third of the budget of Crux, edited by former NCR Vatican correspondent John Allen. Allen told Roberts, "Our agreement with all our sponsors is that editorial control remains with us, and they've all respected that." Yet, the online magazine tilts hard to the right and features a host of papal critics such as Fr. Raymond de Souza and former priest Thomas Williams, who also works for Breitbart.One other area of funding is remarkable. Giving $1.5 million to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and $435,000 to the Archdiocese of Baltimore makes me want to ask the Knights at our local parish: You pay dues, how come our diocese is not getting such handsome checks from Mr. Anderson? I would not object if they were giving such large sums to desperately poor dioceses in the Global South, but Philadelphia?It is time for new leadership at the Knights. It was a mistake to hire a political operative as supreme knight, and not just any political operative, but one who got his start working for Sen. Jesse Helms, a racist bigot who did as much to poison race relations as any politician of his era. It would be one thing if Mr. Anderson were a native of North Carolina: Everyone is allowed to get a start with their home senator. Anderson is not from North Carolina. I know from mutual friends that he loves the church, but lots of people love the church and they are not able to wield such great influence because they do not control the purse strings of the Knights.The Knights will continue to do good work, to be sure, no matter who is in the leadership. But, they can do that work without also funding a bunch of right-wing causes in both church and state. They tarnish their own efforts by engaging in partisanship and near-partisanshipas their 990s reveal. The bishops who provide cover for the Knights, and show up in such great number at the annual convention, they need to start asking questions about this funding, or stay away entirely until the organization charts a new, less politicized course. And, they should insist that Anderson retire and that his replacement be someone committed to having the Knights justified reputation for charity no longer be sullied by the role it has acquired under Anderson of being the banker to the culture wars.
Knights of Columbus, cash cow of the Catholic rightThe must-read religion story-of-the-week is Tom Roberts’ report on the Knights of Columbus over at National Catholic Reporter. Focusing on its IRS filings from the last three years, Roberts shows how the Church’s preeminent fraternal organization has become a cash cow of the Catholic right.Founded by a New Haven priest 135 years ago to help the widows and orphans of Catholic immigrants with direct aid and insurance, KofC is now a multi-billion-dollar philanthropy-cum-insurance company. In 2015, the last available reporting year, it had revenues of $2.2 billion, of which it gave away $175 million, or 3.4 percent.The organization has not turned its back on good works. In 2015, it donated nearly $1 million to the Special Olympics, $300,00 to Wheelchairs for the Needy, $75,000 to Habitat for Humanity. It spread modest “general support” grants to a dozen or so KofC charities around the country. Its two million members volunteer, on average, a workweek of hours a year.But KofC’s policy agenda cannot to be missed. Opposition to abortion is the overriding concern, followed by religious liberty — which, pursued largely as resistance to the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act, is intimately related to the former. The Knights give millions to conservative outfits like the Susan B. Anthony List and the Becket Fund. Its preferred media outlet — to the tune of $500,000 in 2015, is EWTN.It hardly comes as a surprise to learn that KofC is no pillar of progressive Catholicism. And during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, a case could be made that it was just going with the Church’s conservative flow. But that’s no longer the case.To say that the organization has not adjusted to the new agenda of Pope Francis would be an understatement. Under the 17-year leadership of Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, a former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms and leading social conservative inside the Reagan Administration, KofC could care less about climate change. Immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are not its concern.But the Knights do take care of their friends in high places. In 2015, the archdiocese of Philadelphia got $1.5 million in “general support” and the archdiocese of Baltimore got $435,000 for “various programs.” The archbishops in question, Charles Chaput and William Lori, are leading recusants from the Franciscan program in the American hierarchy.The Franciscan program, by the way, takes a dim view of overpaid Catholic leaders. In 2014, Carl Anderson pulled down $2.29 million — a figure that dropped by nearly $1 million in 2015, but still a pretty cool sum for the Supreme Knight. Meanwhile, five other KofC officials have been earning well north of half a million a year.Responding to the NCR by email, Knights’ spokesman Joseph Cullen said that outside consultants had determined that “75 percent of CEOs within a market comparative group are compensated overall at a higher rate than [Anderson] is. Our CEO is responsible not only for overseeing the operations of a charitable organization but the operations of a Fortune 1000 life insurance company as well.”Well, sure, the old political operative isn’t making what the CEO of Aetna is. But what about a, uh, non-market comparative group?Catholic Charities USA is also a multibillion dollar operation, and the salaries of its top two executives, as of 2013, were between $300,000 and $400,000. That strikes me as the appropriate comparable.Catholic Charities, by the way, is all about helping needy immigrants. And across the country, its local organizations are involved in environmental programs. Catholic Charities has always smelled of the sheep.The fact of the matter is that supporting KofC these days means supporting the (more or less) loyal opposition to Pope Francis.You wonder how many of the two million members understand that. You wonder how many bishops do.
May 17 17 6:04 AM
Cardinal George Pell's lawyers demanded reporter destroy emails over bookAn ABC journalist has claimed Cardinal George Pell's lawyers demanded she destroy all correspondence between them or return it after refusing their "most onerous" terms in exchange for an interview with Australia's most senior Catholic for her book on his role with the church.Louise Milligan, an award winning reporter with 7.30, endeavoured to contact the Victorian-born Cardinal – who is now based in The Vatican - a number of times about the allegations of child sexual abuse against the Catholic Church and his role as one of its leaders for her book, 'Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell'."I made several attempts to try and engage with him, through his office and his lawyers and he declined to take up that invitation except on the most onerous grounds, which included giving him the entire manuscript of the book. I've never heard that happen in two decades of journalism," Milligan told nine.com.au."When we refused to do that his lawyers asked us to destroy the correspondence and if we didn't destroy the correspondence they wanted us to give it back to them.”Milligan said she wouldn't "make a value judgement" on Pell's lawyer's demands, adding simply that she's "not in the business of destroying documents".Asked why she believes Pell declined her interview requests, she said: "That's something you'd have to ask him. I don't speculate. I only report on what I know."Milligan spent more than two years covering Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse and during that time gained the trust of a number of men who allege Pell abused them as boys in 1970s Ballarat.During an interview with 7.30 last year, two men claimed Pell used a "seemingly innocent game" of throwing boys from his shoulders at a local pool as a way to abuse them."He'd throw us off his shoulders, they'd be three of four on him at a time, crawling all over him. The front, the back. He would grab you, have his hands on your backside and he'd push you off. He just seemed to be there all day," one man told the program.Another man said: "His hands touching your genitals and stuff on the outside of your bathers or shorts and that slowly became hand down in front of your pants … under the water. I just tried not to think about it."In a statement on Monday, Cardinal Pell labelled Milligan's book "an exercise in character assassination". He also accused Milligan and her publisher Melbourne University Press of "perverting the course of justice" by releasing the book ahead of the Royal Commission releasing any findings."I reject absolutely emphatically that this is either perverting the course of justice or a character assassination," she said."I have never colluded with Victoria Police. All of my material has come from the complainant and their statements to Victoria Police. I had no assistance from Vic police whatsoever."Milligan describes her tome as being far from a biography of Pell but rather a book which "looks at him through the lens" of the abuse saga that has dogged the church.She said the book is "nuanced", "heavily researched", thoroughly investigated and has been "99 percent" positively received."It doesn't just talk about the allegations against Cardinal Pell himself but it also goes into a lot of historical material," she said."There are many positive things said about Pell in this book and people praise him for many things."She said Pell's comments do not come as a surprise, particularly given he is the subject of wide ranging police investigations.Despite initially refusing to return to Australia to front the Royal Commission, Pell appeared on three separate occasions via video link to give evidence and says he was willingly interviewed by police in Rome last year and continued to cooperate with their investigations.On Tuesday, Victoria's Director of Public Prosecutions handed advice to police over historical sex abuse allegations involving the Cardinal.Victoria Police confirmed in a statement it had received advice from the DPP "relating to a current investigation into historical sexual assault allegations"."Detectives from Taskforce Sano will now take time to consider that advice," the statement read."As with any investigation it will be a decision for Victoria Police as to whether charges are laid. As this remains an ongoing investigation, we will not be commenting further at this time."Milligan says the DPP's decision has left her and the complaints in her book "shocked"."I had absolutely no idea," she said."I have spoken to a number of them and a number of family members of one over the past few days and certainly none of them have any inkling that something like this was coming. No one had heard any updates from Victoria Police."
May 17 17 11:06 PM
AP - Australian police said Wednesday they were a step closer to deciding whether to charge a top Vatican cardinal over allegations of sexual assault dating back decades.Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial adviser and Australia’s most senior Catholic, has long been dogged by allegations he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney. More recently, Pell has faced accusations of child abuse himself when he was a young priest in the 1970s. Pell, who runs the Vatican’s economy ministry, has repeatedly denied all the allegations.Last year, detectives from Australia’s Victoria state flew to the Vatican, where 75-year-old Pell agreed to be interviewed over allegations of sexual assault, police said.A police statement on Wednesday said investigators have since received advice from Director of Public Prosecutions John Champion, the state’s top prosecutor, on the sexual assault investigation.Police have not made that advice public.“Detectives from Taskforce Sano will now take time to consider that advice,” the police statement said. “As with any investigation, it will be a decision for Victoria Police as to whether charges are laid.”The allegations involve two men, now in their 40s, who say Pell touched them inappropriately at a swimming pool in the late 1970s. At the time, Pell was a senior priest in Melbourne.The Catholic Archdiocese in Sydney, which issues statements on Pell’s behalf in Australia, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Pell has previously said he never abused anyone.Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher defended Pell, saying the cardinal had cooperated with multiple police and parliamentary investigations.“Everyone supports just investigation of complaints but the relentless character attacks on Cardinal Pell, by some, stand the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty on its head,” Fisher said in a statement. “Australians have a right to expect better from their legal systems and the media. Even churchmen have a right to ‘a fair go.’”Pope Francis has declined to address the accusations against Pell, saying he wanted to wait until the investigation was complete before commenting. “We must wait for justice and not
May 18 17 5:38 AM
No One Expects the Inquisition: My Adventures with Cardinal Burke & the ICKSPA little-publicized event with not-so-little significance took place recently in St. Louis. At a Catholic church near downtown, Cardinal Raymond Burke said the traditional Latin Mass on a Saturday morning for a youthful contingent rallying around him. Many of these youth are closely tied to a traditional religious order whose older members Burke also travels to St. Louis to shepherd. Burke is one of four cardinals openly contesting the wisdom of new church policies under Pope Francis.For those who haven’t been following the debate, Burke (along with Walter Brandmüller, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner) has made public a question first posed privately to the pope in response to his recent revision of church practices regarding Communion and divorced couples. The changes allow more latitude to local bishops in setting policies that take greater account of individual circumstances. If, say, an abandoned spouse without an annulment wants to return to full participation in the church after having remarried, there may now be new pastoral options. Previously, such a person was banished from Communion unless she resolved to live as a celibate. In his apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis seemed to invite his fellow bishops to allow more wiggle room.Burke and the other three cardinals asked whether or not this change, besides contradicting past church teaching, would make the faith too subjective and open to the vagaries of conscience. The pope refrained from answering directly, although other cardinals have criticized the questioners for undermining Francis. Pundits on the other side criticize the pope for his silence and for failing to rein in what they view as attempts to stifle discussion among church prelates.But the real question goes beyond these ecclesial skirmishes: What is the nature of the institution we call the Catholic Church? And what is the proper relationship between the hierarchy and the laity? Are uniformity and top-down authority all-or-nothing propositions? Should the pope and bishops consider themselves engineers of a kind of machine built of interchangeable human parts? Or might it be better to think of the church as a living organism, whose human members exercise a certain latitude befitting their free will and personal circumstance? Which model does the clergy follow: Henry Ford or Jesus? Until the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960s, the church tilted decidedly in the former direction, functioning much like a spiritual vending machine that dispensed everything from vouchers to heaven in return for reciting a specified number of Hail Marys, to writs of excommunication for overdue books at the Vatican library. Since that time, the church has sometimes lurched to the other extreme. In the era of Pope Francis, the question is all about balance. I do believe the post–Vatican II lurch went too far—many in the church would identify me as a “conservative”—but at this moment, I side with Francis and against Burke. In fact, as a parishioner of the church where Burke recently came to say Mass, I recently walked out in protest over his appearance. I know, alas too well, how he operates. I have an inkling of the sort of church he envisions, and it is even more depressing than the old spiritual vending machine.To understand Burke’s world, one must understand the religious order whose youthful sympathizers attended his recent Mass in St. Louis: the Institute for Christ the King, Sovereign Priest (ICKSP). Their ties could not be closer. While bishop of St. Louis, Burke invited this same organization to take over the second-largest church sanctuary in the diocese. Burke not only returns to say Masses for the institute and perform its ordinations, but also accompanies members on pilgrimages in Europe. ICKSP boasts that its Masses in St. Louis draw more attendants than any other traditional Latin rituals in North America. As its name suggests, ICKSP, like Burke, tilts toward the top-down vision of Catholicism. Only the model it emulates isn’t a Ford factory. It is the French aristocracy. The apex of Catholic culture, in the eyes of Monsignor Gilles Wach, ICKSP’s founder, was pre-Revolutionary France, when clergy ranked above the nobility in the social echelons. A priest belonged to the First Estate; and you’d bow in his presence as with the highborn. Among ICKSP priests, French is the official language, even in Missouri.Before we had any inkling of what ICKSP was all about, my family and I ventured into its St. Louis citadel—the massive edifice of St. Francis de Sales. It was only a few blocks from our house. Enthralled by the beauty of the music and the setting, and willing to overlook almost anything to avoid tacky Masses, we got more involved. True, we never quite felt part of the group. Was it the exaggerated servility of many of the lay people? The high-handedness of the priests? The frilly frocks and regalia? (Burke, among high prelates, is also known for his luxuriant ermine cape). Outwardly, ICKSP (unlike the Society of Pius X) maintains unity with the larger, postconciliar Church. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been granted space in a building that used to serve as the cathedral of an archdiocese. It wouldn’t be able to gain entry in parishes across America’s major metropolitan areas, like Chicago, greater New York, and the Bay Area. It wouldn’t now be growing by leaps and bounds and inspiring dynamic para-organizations for young people. But when I privately asked one of the resident priests, Canon Karl Lenhardt, what he thought of the Second Vatican Council, he was dismissive. Privately and unofficially, ICKSP stalwarts scorn the postconciliar church, deny that the Vatican II carries doctrinal authority, and are, in essence, following through on these convictions by setting down the infrastructure for a sort of parallel or shadow church within the church. Uneasy about such intimations, I murmured my misgivings to a couple of other parishioners after one of them had first shared misgivings of her own. But having joined the choir, I still attended Mass at St. Francis de Sales twice a month to take part in the music. I also helped put together a homeschooling cooperative that met on Fridays in an adjoining building. It was not overseen by ICKSP but by parents who went to Mass at St. Francis de Sales, and it was the only option available to my home-schooled children for an organized social outlet anywhere near us in greater St. Louis. Although I wasn’t on board with the larger ICKSP agenda, I reasoned that we are all part of the same church, the same Christian family. I’d never been in perfect agreement with the policies of any parish I’d belonged to. Life is a trade-off. Aren’t Christians, in particular, called to bear with one another? What I still didn’t know was that ICKSP had (and may still have) an interesting way of handing out rewards and punishments. You rise in the organization by reporting on the disloyal. And if you are accused of disloyalty, well… (Great balls of fire ... I thought this sort of behaviour existed only in the Communist societies behind the old Iron Curtain!)On a beautiful September evening, my wife and I were led into a lavishly adorned courtly chamber where a panel of accusers, a stenographer, and the presiding judge, Canon Lenhardt, sat in wait. The list of charges against us was long, bizarre, and highly debatable. But the deeper, unstated accusation was no doubt true: I was not one of them. The main two informants were the two people with whom I’d privately shared my misgivings. They’d done some embellishing.I will admit to a few lapses on my part. When a bishop attends an ICKSP Mass, there is an additional preparatory rite, a kind of ritual dressing in which the altar boys lovingly drape His Excellency with lacy vestments. The first time it happened, I couldn’t contain myself. It went on for so long, it looked so fetishistic, that at last I choked back a guffaw. I sensed a ripple of disapproval spreading around me.Another time I made a lame attempt at humor when conversing with the choir director. I forget now just how it came up, but I said that once I became elevated to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, I would redefine driving a car as a mortal sin. It was supposed to be a joke. The choir director knew I’m a bicycling fanatic. But somehow in that jokey moment, I had failed to factor in the obvious: the vast majority of ICKSP participants drive to church from great distances, typically in large vans. So does the choir director. She was not amused.Under the home-schooling arrangements I had helped set up, every parent had a voice in policies and a role to play in its weekly sessions. Nothing could have been less consonant with the openly authoritarian governing policies of ICKSP, but somehow the plan had been allowed to go through. Yet all too predictably, after a semester of smoothly running classes and activities, Canon Lenhardt began simply telling us what to do, sometimes by direct fiat, sometimes in league with a parent who became his maidservant-in-waiting.A family acquaintance who was a fixture of the surroundings when we arrived at St. Francis de Sales, broke down and bemoaned his intervention (the moment of murmured misgiving already mentioned). This acquaintance—let’s call her “Doris”—gave notice that, if Canon Lenhardt kept meddling, she would withdraw her family from the co-op. I admitted that I, too, was struggling with what to make of him. Then came a final, fateful lapse. Having learned from a well-placed source that Canon Lenhardt was about to be transferred, I tried to put Doris’s mind to rest. “The matter is already being handled,” I told her.“What?” she cried. “Is Father Lenhardt being transferred?” She had read my mind just like that. I was mortified. I wasn’t supposed to say anything about the transfer. It was possible that Lenhardt himself did not yet know about it. I didn’t confirm anything, and Doris became angry. I asked her why she was upset. “You won’t tell me if Father Lenhardt is going to be transferred!” she wailed, and hung up the phone. I had dangled juicy information in front without letting her in on the secret. The offense would not go unpunished. At the hearing, Doris put her own complaint about Lenhardt in my mouth. She accused me of leaking news of the transfer. (Lenhardt didn’t find out for sure until weeks later, and since Doris shared her guess with others in the meantime, the wait was most awkward for him.) And the weekly co-op I’d helped organize and in which Doris had taken part was now described as an attempt on my part to subvert ICKSP. The commiseration I’d shared privately was transmuted into calumny. Some other charges were patently untrue or distorted the truth beyond recognition. As my accusers summarized their case, I was guilty of “undermining a priest in his own domain.”When the recital of villainies was finished, I could barely breathe. I felt the wheels of doom inexorably turning. I tried to wheeze out a sentence or two in my defense but the words seemed strangely inane and, in any event, were overridden or shouted down. Whatever I said was a “lie.” My parting memory, as Doris’s husband lunged to evict us from the room, is of Canon Lenhardt, in the midst of the uproar, smirking as he solemnly declared, “I think this is just.”We had been expelled from the home-schooling cooperative and, in effect, from the community. Soon thereafter, my accusers became the co-op’s co-leaders. If ICKSP borrows its manners and language from France, it takes its judicial cues from old Spain. But at least the Inquisition allowed time for the accused to prepare a defense and an adequate opportunity to answer the charges. We weren’t even allowed to have a copy of the accusations when we asked for one shortly after the event. It was as if they had been written in disappearing ink.In view of these procedural irregularities and Burke’s special relationship to this group, I made an attempt to bring the “trial” to his attention. It seemed an appropriate step. By then he was head of the church’s highest court in Rome, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. (He would later be transferred by Pope Francis to the purely ceremonial position of head of the Knights of Malta). I knew Burke a little. When Pope Benedict assigned him to St. Louis, I heard he was interested in promoting the family farm. As a fan of the Amish myself—I’ve lived with and written extensively about them—I arranged to meet with Burke and present him with a book I’d written about their way of life and work. He seemed impressed. From time to time, while he was still bishop here, we kept up contact.After an exchange of letters, Burke first assured me he hoped to achieve reconciliation. But later he let it be known through the new priest at ICKSP, Canon Michael Wiener, that he would let the ruling stand. Our heads could indeed roll. Curiously, Burke made a side note that he thought our accusers had “exaggerated” and that our punishment had been “disproportionate.” But in response to a second appeal on my part, he sent a message through the papal nuncio in Washington commanding us to “forgive” and move on. I needed to get the whole thing out of my mind. And Burke had probably wanted to get it out of his. It was he who had told me about Lenhardt’s transfer. I had made the mistake of meeting with him about the difficulties I was having with ICKSP. Sympathetic though he had been to my plight at the time, he couldn’t very well let it get out that he had shared sensitive information with a lay person about a priest’s transfer before the priest himself knew about it. Burke had his own reputation to think about.And so a prince of the church, a man willing to face off publicly with the pope, was not willing to confer privately with his own followers to undo a misfortune that arose, in part, as the consequences of his own indiscretion. He cited technical reasons in canon law for not intervening. I now can state my inkling of Burke’s vision of ecclesial governance: the clergy are right even when they’re wrong. The machinery of the church must go on, and if its gears chew up a few unfortunates, too bad.I’m afraid to report that what happened to me was hardly unique. I learned that shortly before my ordeal another active volunteer, who had donated even more of his time and talent to ICKSP, was removed from his position by means of a similar ambush with similarly questionable motives (those who angled for his demotion stood to gain from it). Of course, any community of any size will in time be beset by personality conflicts, misunderstandings, gossip, and estrangement. But ICKSP’s ad hoc inquisitions underscore my reservations about its agenda for the church and raise a few new ones. Authoritarian organizations are not known for their attention to procedural niceties—the right to defend oneself, the presumption of innocence, etc.—much less the willingness of a good shepherd to risk his and his flock’s comfort for the sake of a single lost lamb. Rather, it seems as though a lamb must be abandoned from time to time in order to shore up the community’s sense of identity.Given the rapidly expanding, surprisingly youthful entourage under the mantel of ICKSP, I fear that the machinery has taken on a life of its own, that a past we all thought had been laid to rest is now mindlessly replicating itself. Worse, as this shadow church grows, the unity implied in the very word “catholic” is jeopardized. It is even now giving way to an open breach that faintly corresponds to the present stand-off in American politics, each side staring down the other, unable even to speak to the other, constantly studying to thwart the other’s every move. The Catholic charism is being replaced by a chasm. On ICKSP’s side, I know, the gears will be hard to stop. Many like myself will continue to wander in, drawn by the desire for beauty and solemnity. It’s easy enough to take a step in the door. But not necessarily as pleasant to leave.
At first blush, it’s tempting to think that when Pope Francis and President Donald Trump meet in the Vatican next Wednesday, areas of both disagreement and possible consensus between “the Donald” and the “People’s Pope” should be reasonably clear.When you start drilling down to the details, however, things get more complicated.On Francis’s side, like all popes, he tends to speak in lofty moral exhortations rather than the nitty-gritty details of policy, leaving room for divergent interpretations. On immigration, for instance, Francis has urged building bridges not walls, but has also said countries have the right to defend their borders - creating a degree of wiggle room about how to square those two statements.On Trump’s side, he’s praised himself for his flexibility, which critics say often really means his inconsistency. The administration’s stands on many fronts seem a work in progress, making the transition between the president’s rhetoric and his actual policies sometimes challenging to navigate.The result is that when you put them under a microscope, seeming disagreements can turn out to be not quite so absolute, and likewise, apparent meetings of minds can start to unravel.Another twist is that the Francis/Trump summit comes at a moment when, for various reasons, Trump’s administration has found itself unable to implement swiftly several aspects of its agenda that presumably would be most troubling for the pope.It’s delayed a decision on backing out of the Paris climate change agreement, it’s been forced to go back to the drawing board on federal spending after being largely rebuffed in a bipartisan Congressional deal, and, so far at least, there’s no funding for Trump’s border wall.In that light, Francis and his Vatican team may have a window of opportunity to nudge the administration, as opposed to being presented with a series of faits accomplis.Here, then, a brief scorecard of Francis and Trump on issues that could surface during their brief sit-down. This is a mere sampling, because there are many other issues that could also surface - from the U.S.’s recent use of the “mother of all bombs,” which angered Francis in part because he said the word “mother” should never be used for a weapon, to the engagement of Russia, which for vastly different reasons is a keen priority for both men. Immigration Net/Net: DisagreeAt the iconic level, Francis and Trump represent polar opposites in the immigration debate. The pontiff is seen as the world’s most immigrant-friendly leader, while Trump is perceived as arguably the most hostile. (A couple heads of state in central and eastern Europe could give him a run for his money, but they don’t have the same media profile.)In terms of detail, however, there are developments on both sides suggesting that some of the edge, at least, could be taken off the clash.On Francis’s side, he couched his broad pro-migrant and refugee stance with some doses of realism during a press conference at the end of his trip to Sweden last October.“Those who govern must also exercise prudence,” he said. “They should be very open to receiving [migrants and refugees], but they should also calculate how they will be able to settle them, because a refugee must not only be welcomed, but also integrated.“If a country is only able to integrate 20, let’s say, then it should only accept that many. If another is able to do more, let it do more,” he said.On Trump’s side, he continues to insist on his plan for a wall along the U.S./Mexico border, but right now there’s no money for it in the 2017 spending bill. Democrats have vowed to block it, and even some Republicans seem ambivalent. Trump has floated the idea that Mexico would pay for the wall, but the country’s president has rejected that idea.The president who will come calling on Francis next Wednesday, therefore, isn’t currently building a wall, albeit against his own druthers, while the pontiff who will receive him has adopted a more nuanced line on what individual countries can be expected to do.That said, there’s little doubt Francis would err on the side of welcome vis-à-vis prudential judgments on immigration policy, while Trump would go with caution. Climate Change Net/Net: DisagreePope Francis is the moral leader of the global push for action against climate change, having become the first-ever pope to devote an entire encyclical letter to the care of creation in 2015’s Laudato Si’.Francis was a major source of inspiration for the Paris climate change agreement that Trump has said he may abandon, although the administration recently delayed that decision until after the G7 summit later this month that’s bringing Trump to Italy.Trump has repeatedly voiced skepticism about global warming and climate change, famously calling it a “very expensive hoax,” but his policies on the subject seem in flux. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for instance, recently signed a document called the “Fairbanks Declaration” terming climate change a “serious threat” to the Arctic, and calling for action to reduce its harmful effects.During his confirmation hearings, Tillerson said he had concluded as a scientist and engineer that “the risk of climate change does exist” and that “action should be taken,” though he expressed caution about the policy implications of that belief.It remains to be seen what the next steps in the administration’s approach may be, but the fact that no hard-and-fast decisions have yet been taken may at least create the opportunity for Francis to practice some moral suasion with his guest on Wednesday. Anti-Poverty Efforts Net/Net: DisagreeWhen Francis began his papacy, he described his dream as leading a “poor church for the poor.” Around the world, he’s known as a champion of the downtrodden and impoverished. As a result, it’s hard to imagine he’d find much to like when he looks at early moves by the Trump administration with regard to anti-poverty efforts.In the first budget proposal Trump submitted to Congress, he envisioned eliminating health care subsidies for low-income Americans, wiping out Community Development Block Grants, eliminating funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program, and slashing funding for college readiness programs for poor Americans such as TRIO and GEAR UP.Granted, most of those proposals were rejected in the bipartisan budget deal adopted to avoid a government shutdown, which was widely seen as a loss for the administration. Nevertheless, House Republicans are reportedly considering new cuts to safety-net programs such as food stamps, welfare, income assistance for the disabled and perhaps even veterans’ benefits, as part of a drive to reduce the federal deficit.That’s on top of $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid as part of the House-approved repeal of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the burden of which, according to critics, would fall disproportionately upon the poor.To be sure, Francis is not going to sit across the table from Trump and ask what his intentions are for food stamps - that’s a level of specificity to which popes do not descend. However, he may well urge generosity for the poor, and even at that generic level, such language would likely not be construed as an endorsement of Trump’s spending priorities. Religious Freedom Net/Net: AgreePope Francis is an advocate of religious freedom, including a right of conscientious objection based on religious conviction, which he’s described as a “basic human right.” When he came to the United States in September 2015, Francis called religious freedom “one of America’s most precious possessions.“And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it,” the pontiff said.Given that, Francis and his Vatican aides no doubt will have broadly appreciative things to say about the recent executive order on religious freedom issues by Trump, especially his pledge that the contraceptive mandate imposed by the Obama administration as part of health care reform will be lifted.During that same U.S. trip, Francis made a surprise visit to a community of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in a clear show of support for their struggle against that mandate.Here, too, however, the administration’s actual policies don’t always seem to track with the president’s rhetoric. Not long before Trump pledged to eliminate the mandate, lawyers for the Justice Department requested more time to file briefs to defend it, sowing confusion about what Trump’s actual intentions are.Moreover, there are also aspects of the executive order with which Francis probably won’t be so delighted, prominently including the repeal of the Johnson Amendment barring churches from endorsing political candidates.Francis has repeatedly said he won’t be dragged into partisan politics, and has urged clergy to avoid it too, so a measure that seemingly opens the door to blurring that line presumably wouldn’t be a papal favorite. Pro-Life Issues Net/Net: AgreeAs compared to the Obama administration, Trump so far has been seen in far more favorable terms by most pro-life leaders, even if some privately continue to harbor a degree of skepticism about the sincerity of his commitment.Back in January, for instance, just days after taking office, Trump reinstated the “Mexico City Policy” prohibiting U.S. funding of non-government organizations that perform or promote abortions through family-planning funds.Recently the administration expanded that policy, extending it to other forms of foreign aid such as global health assistance.In April, Trump appointed Charmaine Yoest, who served as president and CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL), as assistant secretary of public affairs, as well as Teresa Manning, a former lobbyist with the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs. Both moves were widely hailed by pro-life leaders.Similarly, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court was seen as a win for the pro-life position, in part based on his statement in a 2006 book that “no constitutional basis exists for preferring the mother’s liberty interests over the child’s life.”Pope Francis, obviously, is deeply committed to the pro-life cause, having defined abortion as a “horrific” crime, and routinely listing the unborn among the victims of what he calls a “throw-away culture.”If there is a difference between the two men on the pro-life front, it may come more in tone than substance. Trump’s advocacy often seems to come in a culture warrior mode, while Francis tends to be more a man of dialogue. That contrast, however, may not prevent the pontiff from expressing basic appreciation for the administration’s position. Persecuted Christians Net/Net: AgreeCandidate Trump vowed to make the protection of persecuted Christians in the Middle East a foreign policy priority for the United States, while Pope Francis repeatedly has expressed anxiety over the fate of Christians in the region. In principle, therefore, this ought to be an area where the two leaders can find common ground.However, there are two wrinkles that could complicate the picture.The first is that, once again, the administration’s policies are a moving picture, influenced in part by political reality.The original version of Trump’s controversial executive order on refugees, for instance, would have given preferential treatment to victims of religious persecution in the Middle East, perhaps the only aspect of that order Francis might have been inclined to support (albeit likely with provisions for also helping Christians to stay in place if that’s their preference.)Facing strong opposition, however, this element of the order was dropped.The second problem is that Trump and Francis may have differing visions of what protecting persecuted Christians means.To take one example, Trump in April executed a course reversal on Syria, authorizing the firing of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on an airbase controlled by the Syrian government after reports that President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons. In general, Trump now seems inclined to use U.S. leverage to try to force Assad out.Christian leaders in the country, however, are extremely dubious of such efforts, fearing that whatever follows Assad would be much worse for the country’s religious minorities.Francis might argue that protecting Christians includes taking their concerns into account when crafting foreign policy and military decisions. It’s not entirely clear, at least for the moment, how receptive Trump and his team may be to that message.
Archbishop Charles Brown, a New Yorker blessed by appearing considerably younger than his 57 years as well as being approachable and friendly, left Ireland last month after five years as Papal Nuncio.It was announced in March that Pope Francis was appointing him as his ambassador to Albania and though he is excited by the challenges ahead, he says he has a "very profound sense of gratitude" about his time in Ireland.He arrived in Ireland fresh from a post in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and was appointed as Nuncio by Pope Benedict XVI his former boss at the Vatican's doctrine watchdog.Archbishop Brown's appointment was announced in November 2011 and its timing, in the wake of a series of damning reports critical of the handling of clerical sexual abuse, and the fact that he was regarded as being closely associated with Pope Benedict, suggested to some that the Vatican was serious about attempting to change the culture of the Irish Church.Groups like the Association of Catholic Priests have been critical of his tenure as Nuncio - a role which not only involves diplomatic relations with the host nation but also the appointment of bishops - and regarded his appointment as a sign that the Irish Church was being disciplined by Rome.But however his time as Nuncio in Ireland is assessed, there is little doubt that he has been a hugely influential figure in determining the future of the Church, not least through his involvement in the appointment of 16 bishops, or more than half of those now leading the Church.I have edited a book on the Catholic Chaplaincy at Queen's University in Belfast, and Archbishop Brown agreed to speak with me at the Apostolic Nunciature on Navan Road in Dublin primarily about university and how young adults can engage with their faith.Like many senior figures in the Church, Archbishop Brown has a long list of degrees and qualifications, but he mentions that his undergraduate degree was in history."I have always enjoyed and been fascinated by history," he explains."For me it is a way of understanding the present by trying to understand how we got to where we are. The question of the past, the question of tradition, was always something that was interesting for me."When he attended the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, he says his intention was to study history before going to law school."I was interested in the question of culture, the question of why do we think the way we do, what are the forces that shape our world outlook and my approach has always been historical; by understanding the past, by understanding where we have come from, by understanding our tradition we can better understand ourselves," he says.It has been said that to be a practising Catholic on a university campus today is counter-cultural. I wonder if Archbishop Brown feels this is the case."Yes, absolutely it is counter-cultural, and it has been counter-cultural for a while. To be a practising Catholic at Oxford University in the 1980s, as I was, was certainly not to be like everyone else - and that was 30 years ago," he says."We've been in that situation for a while. Even in Ireland today, if you are a practising Catholic in a university you are going to be in a minority."This idea of being in a minority can, he argues, actually be "very liberating and fruitful"."There is a fecundity that comes from being in a minority that you don't have when the faith becomes institutionalised, stale and practised by everybody," he says."The current situation is a moment that can lead to some really beautiful results. I am absolutely convinced of that."Being an active Christian - or an "intentional disciple", as Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin likes to put it - is undoubtedly "counter-cultural - but I think that can be a very positive thing".We have this idea that the missionaries who go to far off lands are the real heroic Christians, and that people who get married are somehow not living their Christianity to the same level - that is wrong"Pluralism can be a good thing for us," he says."It's amazing how many young people are coming to the faith, especially on university campuses - a lot more than people realise."Universities are essential places for Christian witness, not least because, says Archbishop Brown, "the human heart is made for God"."We have a capacity for God. For all kinds of reasons, people try to fill that that natural thirst for God with all kinds of other things but there are plenty of young adults who realise that the thirst for absolute love and truth can only truly be answered if one embarks on a path towards the divine, towards God," he says."I have been very edified by the university students that I have met here in Ireland in my years."He regards it as a failing that not enough Catholics, of all ages, appreciate the importance of the 'ordinary' vocation. Perhaps this is an outworking of the unhealthy clericalism that has so characterised the Irish Church?"One of the things we need to do, and we haven't done this successfully, is to show people - particularly our young adults - the greatness and the heroism of the ordinary," says Archbishop Brown."We have this idea that, particularly in respect to the faith, that the missionaries go to far off lands and that they are the real heroic Christians, and that people who get married are somehow not living their Christianity to the same level."That is wrong. To be a Catholic parent - to raise a Catholic family and to pass the faith on to your children, to bring new souls into this universe and to prepare them for eternal life... - there is really nothing more important than that."We have to show people the heroism of what appears to be ordinary and not make people think that Christianity means doing something in a professional religious way that is extraordinary."The Archbishop believes that large families are "an incredible witness"."To have a large family - there are a lot of large families in Ireland, larger than most in Europe - and to have many children is an incredible witness to the truth of our faith," he says."We need to help people realise that every vocation and every path in the Church is of equal dignity."We have all kinds of problems when we start to look at the Church as some kind of multinational organisation where the bishops are the board of directors and are the important ones, and everyone else is the consumer."To hold that sort of view is "completely false and mistaken": "We are all equally part of the body of Christ; equal in our dignity, equal in the call to holiness. We are not identical. We need to distinguish between equality and identity - equal doesn't mean we have to be the same."There is much food for thought in what Archbishop Brown says. It is inspiring to be reminded that each of us is capable of achieving great things, if we are given the space and encouragement to achieve them.It is also deeply reassuring to hear someone like the Archbishop ( What does that mean? Elevated by his clerical estate?) speak so warmly about the heroism of the ordinary.He was brought up in an 'ordinary' home himself, with parents he describes as faithful Catholics and a family practise of attending Mass each Sunday."When I was a teenager my father would take me on weekend retreats with the Trappist monks in Spencer, Massachusetts, which is a really beautiful monastery," (That really is not "ordinary") he recalls."I remember it was a really great experience just to spend a weekend with my father on retreat with the monks. It left a deep impression on me."I remember looking at the monks as a young boy and for me they were a living witness that God really existed. For me, only God could explain their manner of life; my youthful logic was they lived as if God really existed, therefore God must really exist."When he went to Notre Dame, he admits to continuing to practise the faith but says, "I wouldn't have described myself as extraordinarily devout"."I lived a totally normal undergraduate life - dances, parties etc, just like everyone else," (Relationships?) he says."However, there was always a certain kind of restlessness in my heart. I was trying to discover my place in the world, my place in the universe: 'Why am I here, what am I supposed to do on this earth?'"For the young Charles Brown, those kind of 'why am I here?' questions "probably weren't explicit but they certainly were implicit"."They would have come to the surface every once in a while," he remembers.He made his way to Oxford University to study theology (already a change - law to theology) which, in 1983, in turn led to a visit to the Himalayas in 1983 and an experience which put his future into focus."Out of a desire to fit in with the Buddhist monks' repetitive prayers I prayed my rosary more," says the Archbishop."My faith was really rekindled and when I got back to Oxford I began to practise my faith more seriously."Almost simultaneously with that reversion experience came the realisation that that my vocation - my job, my destiny, my purpose - was not just to study theology in the abstract and intellectually analyse the ideas - which is what I had been doing - but rather to give myself to Christ and his Church."He resolved that his vocation was "to be a disciple and lay down my life for the Church - to surrender to the Church, to the wisdom of the Church and to the beauty of Christ, and to become a priest".Archbishop Brown says that in hindsight, at that time his theological interest was "at a human level"."It was a way of keeping the Lord's call at a distance until that became inescapable," he explains."I decided to become a priest while I was at Oxford but I didn't know how to become a priest or what kind of priest I was going to become."It took me some time to work that out."There is something very refreshing about hearing a Catholic archbishop speak so candidly about his own experience of trying to keep the Lord at a distance.But how would he encourage those who may be experiencing this in their own lives?"The Lord never tricks us," counsels Archbishop Brown."He never asks us to get out of the boat and leave us sinking in the water. If we trust Him and take a step He will support us every step of the way."In the Catholic life, Christ is always asking for our five loaves and two fish. Our cooperation, which in itself is totally inadequate and totally insufficient, is at the same time totally necessary."Jesus says, 'Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened'."In other words, says the Archbishop, "take a step out of your boat and he will support you"."Our problem is paralysis or quietism, where we don't knock at the door," he explains."We sit by the door thinking that maybe someone will open it."He wants us to knock, to step out of the boat. He waits for the little boy with his five loaves and two fish, which is totally inadequate but necessary."Following his particular vocation as a priest has, says Archbishop Brown, "brought total fulfilment and total satisfaction in my life"."It is kind of paradoxical in the sense that it is really by serving and surrendering that one finds joy," he says."By abandoning one's own will to the will of Christ, one receives a joy and contentment that the world, and even following one's own will, can't really give."It is in this context that he is thrilled at the chance to leave Ireland and go to Albania."The Pope wants me to go to Albania - never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be going to Albania," he explains."But it gives me such joy and such freedom to go be a missionary there."If you can be open to that then you really realise, wherever you are, in some very mystical or unclear way, you are there because the Lord has sent you and you are there because He wants you to be there."Archbishop Brown says he feels "immensely privileged to go to Albania"."I will be walking in the footsteps of martyrs - and fresh footsteps at that," he says."They were severely persecuted for their faith right up until the early 1990s. When I was ordained in 1989 there was a very virulent form of communism there and so for me it is a privilege to go to a place where, in my own lifetime there have been Catholic martyrs."Reflecting on his time in Ireland, the Archbishop says he has "a very profound sense of gratitude"."From the day I arrived I was received with open arms by everybody, north and south; by the government, by the laity, the bishops and the priests especially."My memory will be one of immense gratitude for that extraordinary and continual welcome."As Archbishop Brown starts his new role in Albania, I cannot help but reflect on whether his mission to Ireland has been a successful one; perhaps only time will answer that question.This much is clear however: the Irish Church is alive. Those practising their faith do so out of conviction and not simply through inheritance.The Archbishop's love of this Church and her truth is palpable and inviting.
Crux - Two prominent and sometimes controversial cardinals, both seen as conservatives, recently have drawn stinging criticism in one case and a stirring defense (hardly - 9 words at the end of the essay) in another, and both have come from extremely high-ranking sources.American Cardinal Raymond Burke was recently dismissed as a “disappointed man” upset over the loss of his power by fellow Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, coordinator of Pope Francis’s “C9” council of cardinal advisers.Meanwhile, Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, head of the Vatican’s liturgy department, was praised by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI as someone with whom the liturgy is in “good hands.” (Except it is not in his hands. He is an isolated figurehead).Maradiaga’s comments on Burke came in a new interview book with his fellow Salesian, Father Antonio Carriero, titled Solo il Vangelo è rivoluzionario (“Only the Gospel is Revolutionary”), published in Italy by Piemme.Burke, who was removed by Pope Francis in November 2014 as head of the Vatican’s supreme court, is widely seen as the leader of the conservative opposition to the pontiff’s document on the family Amoris Laetita ( He has his backers. He is foolish enough to go over the top as front man and take the fire) and its cautious opening to Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.He was among four cardinals who submitted a set of questions, called dubia, to Francis, seeking to dispel what they described as “grave disorientation and great confusion” created by the document.In the new interview, Maradiaga comes out swinging.“That cardinal who sustains this,” Maradiaga said, referring to the criticism of Amoris, “is a disappointed man, in that he wanted power and lost it. He thought he was the maximum authority in the United States.”“He’s not the magisterium,” Maradiaga said, referring to the authority to issue official teaching. “The Holy Father is the magisterium, and he’s the one who teaches the whole Church. This other [person] speaks only his own thoughts, which don’t merit further comment.”“They are the words,” Maradiaga said, “of a poor man.”Maradiaga also criticized conservative schools of thought in Catholicism, of which Burke is often seen as a symbol.“These currents of the Catholic right are persons who seek power and not the truth, and the truth is one,” he said. “If they claim to find some ‘heresy’ in the words of Francis, they’re making a big mistake, because they’re thinking only like men and not as the Lord wants.” (Bravo Cardinal Maradiaga!)“What sense does it have to publish writings against the pope, which don’t damage him but ordinary people? What does a right-wing closed on certain points accomplish? Nothing!”“Ordinary people are with the pope, this is completely clear,” Maradiaga said. “I see that everywhere.”“Those who are proud, arrogant, who believe they have a superior intellect … poor people! Pride is also a form of poverty,” he said.“The greatest problem, however, is the disorientation that’s created among people when they read affirmations of bishops and cardinals against the Holy Father,” he said.Maradiaga called his fellow cardinals to loyalty.“I think that one of the qualities we cardinals [should have] is loyalty,” he said. “Even if we don’t all think the same way, we still have to be loyal to Peter.”Whoever doesn’t offer that loyalty, he said, “is just seeking attention.”While such public clashes between cardinals are rare, they’re not unprecedented.During the Benedict years, for instance, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna publicly suggested that Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who served as Secretary of State under St. John Paul II, had blocked an investigation of sex abuse charges against Schönborn’s predecessor, Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer. ( He was correct!)In that instance, Benedict called in both cardinals for a fence-mending session, among other things reminding them that “when accusations are made against a cardinal, competency falls exclusively to the pope.” (Benedict needs to remember that now)Maradiaga also appeared to suggest that Burke may have been disappointed in the outcome of the conclave of March 2013 that elected Francis. ( May have been!)“The papal candidates others wanted remained in place, while the one the Lord wanted is the one who was elected,” he said, “so the dissent is logical and understandable, [because] we can’t all think the same way.”“However,” Maradiaga said, “it’s Peter who leads the Church, and therefore, if we have faith, we must respect the choices and the style of the pope who came from the end of the earth.”This is not the first time Maradiaga has attacked a fellow cardinal seen as being a conservative.In 2014, he called on the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, to be “bit a bit more flexible” during an interview with Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, a German newspaper.Maradiaga said Müller “sees things in black-and-white terms,” adding that “the world isn’t like that, my brother.” Maradiaga also accused the German cardinal of only listening to his group of advisors, not not hearing “other voices.”Sarah, meanwhile, who was appointed by Francis as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in November 2014, has drawn fire in more progressive quarters for his fairly traditional views on the Church’s worship.In April, for instance, Sarah gave a talk on the 10th anniversary of Benedict’s document Summorum Pontificum, authorizing regular celebration of the older Latin Mass, in which Sarah spoke of a “serious, profound crisis” in the Church caused in part by liturgical changes after the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s.“Even today, a significant number of Church leaders underestimate the serious crisis that the Church is going through,” Sarah said,” including “relativism in doctrinal, moral and disciplinary teaching, grave abuses, the desacralization and trivialization of the Sacred Liturgy, [and] a merely social and horizontal view of the Church’s mission.”One liberal commentator derided Sarah for nostalgia for a bypassed “golden age.”Yet in a new afterword to a book by Sarah, Benedict XVI says the liturgy is in “good hands” with the Guinean cardinal, and praises Sarah for his prayer life.Sarah, Benedict writes, speaks “out of the depths of silence with the Lord, out of his interior union with him, and thus really has something to say to each one of us.”“We should be grateful to Pope Francis for appointing such a spiritual teacher as head of the congregation that is responsible for the celebration of the liturgy in the Church,” Benedict writes. (Appointed with an arm twisted behind his back. Francis ought never to have agreed to that appointment. Who suggested that name?)The afterword’s last line is, “With Cardinal Sarah, a master of silence and of interior prayer, the liturgy is in good hands.”Benedict’s vote of confidence is all the more striking given that when he resigned the papacy in February 2013, Benedict vowed to remain “hidden from the world,” and has rarely broken his silence since. The fact that he chose to do so (Chose to do so - that is questionable - like his title) now, many observers believe, reflects both his passion for the liturgy and also his support for Sarah. (It is not Benedict's business to "support" Sarah. So much for the cloistered monastic life!)
Gingrich's appointment as Vatican ambassador gets mixed reviewsVATICAN CITY The White House late Friday announced President Donald Trump's intent to nominate Callista Gingrich, wife of former House speaker Newt Gingrich, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. The announcement came in a brief statement just days before Trump is due to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican May 24.Gingrich is a former congressional staffer who worked in the 1990s for the House Committee on Agriculture. She is Newt Gingrich’s third wife and has served as the president of Gingrich productions, a multimedia company founded by the pair.If confirmed by the Senate, Gingrich would succeed Ken Hackett as ambassador.Hackett served in the role from August 2013 through Jan. 20, when Trump took office. He had previously been the president of Catholic Relief Services for 19 years and was also a recipient of the University of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, considered one of the most prestigious honors given by a U.S. Catholic institution.Prominent Catholic scholars gave Gingrich’s appointment mixed reviews. One noted expert on U.S.-Vatican relations said Gingrich would be "the most extraordinarily unqualified" ambassador to the Holy See in U.S. history."I don't think she has any experience in this,” said Jesuit Fr. Gerald Fogarty, a professor of religious studies and history at the University of Virginia.Fogarty noted that there was already tension between Trump and Francis in 2016, when the future president called the pope “a political person” for celebrating Mass on the U.S.-Mexico border and Francis questioned Trump's Christianity over his support for a wall on that border. “I'm just shocked that they didn't find somebody that could maybe pave the way a little bit more, to smooth things over,” said the Jesuit.Stephen Schneck, a Catholic political philosopher who has been involved in the Democratic Party, said that while Gingrich might not bring international or Vatican expertise to the role her personal relationship may help her ensure that important issues in Vatican-U.S. relations receive attention from the White House.“Through her husband Newt she's going to have the kind of juice to be able to get attention from the White House on important policy decisions that need top-level U.S. action,” said Schneck, who recently retired as director of the Catholic University of America's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.Hackett’s tenure in Rome was marked by a number of major events, including former President Barack Obama visiting the Vatican in March 2014, Francis visiting the U.S. in September 2015, and the U.S. embassy complex moving into new, more modern facilities near Rome’s prestigious Via Veneto.Should Gingrich receive Senate approval, she would become the eleventh U.S. ambassador to the Holy See since the two entities established formal relations under President Ronald Reagan in 1984. She would be the third woman to serve in the role, following Lindy Boggs, a former Congresswoman, and Mary Ann Glendon, a lawyer.Schneck said he sees similarities between Gingrich’s appointment and President Bill Clinton’s decision in 1997 to appoint Boggs to the role.The retired professor said Boggs originally came to prominence as being the wife of House Majority Leader Hale Boggs and as the mother of Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., a well-known Washington lobbyist."She didn't have a great deal of personal experience on the international stage or a great deal of personal knowledge of the way that the Vatican worked,” said Schneck, who was also national co-chair for Catholics for Obama in 2012. “There's a kind of a similarity.""By all accounts, Lindy ... did a good job as Vatican ambassador,” he said. “I think we can have a little bit of hope that it works out that way with Mrs. Gingrich."Fogarty, however, disagreed. He said there was “absolutely not” a similarity between the appointments of the two women.Noting that Boggs represented Louisiana in the House of Representatives from 1973-91, the Jesuit historian said: "She had served in Congress, so she at least had some standing on her own, whereas Callista really doesn't.""[Boggs] knew how to handle the office over there while she was ambassador,” said Fogarty. “I don't see where Callista has any experience that would qualify her, other than being married to Newt."It took the Senate two months in the summer of 2013 to confirm Obama’s naming of Hackett. Once Gingrich receives Senate approval, she will need to present her credentials to Francis in a formal ceremony that normally occurs within the first months of an ambassador’s official appointment.Schneck noted there may be substantial differences of opinion between the Vatican and Trump's administration that Gingrich will have to handle."It's a huge dis-juncture [between] the vision that this pope has for the church and Catholics for our role in the world and the vision and the campaign promises of this president,” said the professor."There are some really hot-button issues where there are going to be some difficulties,” he continued. "I would imagine that the Vatican ambassador will on many occasions find herself right in the middle of that controversy."
Gingrich Vatican move is a slap to CatholicsSo let me put my cards on the table at the beginning:I definitely believe in judging. Pope Francis would be very disappointed in me, since he has made a habit of saying "Who Am I To Judge?" usually on airplanes and usually talking about gays, lesbians and Republicans.But while the pope is a good Catholic (I have it on good authority that's he's one of the best in the profession), I am not. So, I can judge to my heart's content, and still apply for the sinner's discount on Judgment Day (pun intended).All of this is to say I have no problem whatsoever judging Callista Gingrich who, coincidentally, will likely be going to the Vatican and NOT be judged by Pope Francis. You see how I can bring these things full circle?A little background for you. Callista Gingrich is married to Pennsylvania's Newt Gingrich, who used to be a very celebrated Speaker of the House and now just speaks a lot about how Donald Trump is being maligned by liberals. He says these things to Sean Hannity, and they have delightful conversations on network news. In fact, every time I turn on Hannity, I see Newt, so I feel safe in saying that Sean only talks to Newt, and Newt only talks to Sean, except when he is talking to Callista.Actually, that's not correct. Sean, Newt and Callista also talk to Donald, and the reason I know this is because Mrs. Gingrich was just tapped to be the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. The only person that can appoint you U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican is the President of the United States, and so I'm fairly certain that, at some point, Callista got a phone call or a tweet from Donald telling her that he was sending her to fill the crucial role of liaison with the pope.Normally, I would say that with tongue in cheek, because we all know the Vatican is not exactly our most valuable military ally. As none other than Trump's grandfather's best friend Joseph Stalin once said, "How many divisions does the pope in Rome have?"Still, the U.S. is filled with all sorts of Catholics, including lapsed, cafeteria, former, anti-, recovering, devout, repentant and Martin Sheen, and we are very loud, and we vote, so the U.S. government has always made sure that the relationship with the Mother Ship is a good one.Most presidents have succeeded admirably in finding good people to represent us in Rome, and of course they have generally been Catholics. One of John F. Kennedy's sisters was the Ambassador to the Vatican (ATTV). Cokey Roberts' mother, Sen. Lindy Boggs, was an ATTV. A professor at Harvard law, the president of Catholic Relief Services and Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston, have also been ATTVs. They had long and impressive resumes, and you can be sure that the respective popes they served did not have to raise any eyebrows about their qualifications or character.This pope won't be raising anything either, but with Callista, he would definitely be entitled to. Since he won't, I will.First, the good things. Callista Gingrich is a lifelong, devout and practicing Catholic. She runs a production company called, creatively, "Gingrich Productions," and has produced a documentary about Pope John Paul II. She has written children's books about a patriotic elephant, and in the 1990s served as a Congressional aide. Which is where she met her current husband, who at that time was the current husband of his wife of 18 years, Marianne Gingrich.In 1999, Gingrich told Marianne that he was having an affair with Callista and wanted a divorce. I don't feel all that bad for Marianne because she, too, was having an affair with randy Newt while he was married to his first wife, who was battling cancer. But still, this shows a pattern that the former Speaker of the House seems to have perfected: Find a woman, marry her, find another woman, date her while still married to your wife, divorce that wife, hang on for a while, find another woman to date, divorce the intermediate wife, get married to the next one. Rinse, repeat.But Newt isn't being nominated to hang out with the pope, even the kind that doesn't like to judge. His wife is, the one who had an affair even while she was supposedly being devout and going to church and thinking about her future as children's book author.You might think that I am being very mean and "judgey" here, and you would be absolutely correct. I mean, I warned you in the first sentence, but just like Elizabeth Warren, God bless her, you persisted.But the point is Trump has chosen as the U.S. representative to the Vatican a woman who committed adultery when I'm fairly certain he could have found at least one happily married Catholic somewhere who hadn't double-dipped.The fact that he selected Callista Gingrich for the job is going to be excused by the sort of people who think Trump can do no wrong, and condemned by the sort of people who hate him.I neither hate, nor love the man. I do, however, love my faith, and this ambassadorial choice is a slap in the face to all Catholics.Sue me for judging.
Francis names five new cardinals, including associate of Oscar RomeroROME Pope Francis named five new cardinals Sunday, again diversifying representation in the most select body of Roman Catholic prelates by elevating bishops from places as far apart as Laos, Mali, Sweden, Spain and El Salvador.The pontiff made the surprise announcement at the end of his traditional Regina Coeli prayer with crowds in St. Peter's Square, saying he would install the new cardinals during a consistory at the Vatican June 28.In an unusual move, only two of the prelates named by Francis Sunday as new cardinals are currently archbishops. Two others are bishops. The last, Jose Gregorio Rosa Chavez, is the long-time auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, known to have worked closely with slain Archbishop Oscar Romero.The others named Sunday are: Bamako, Mali Archbishop Jean Zerbo; Barcelona Archbishop Juan Omella; Stockholm Bishop Anders Arborelius; and Paksé, Laos apostolic vicar and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun.Cardinals, sometimes known as the "princes of the church" and for their red vestments, have in the past been senior Catholic prelates who serve either as archbishops in the world's largest dioceses or in the Vatican's central bureaucracy. Their principal role is to gather in secret conclave after the death or resignation of a pope to elect his successor.While historically cardinals have come from certain larger cities known for their Catholic populations or global importance, Francis has sought to diversify representation in the group -- choosing men from places long underrepresented or even not represented in the College of Cardinals.Francis timed the June consistory so that he can celebrate Mass with the new cardinals in Rome June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.All five of the new cardinals are under the age of 80, at which point cardinals can no longer vote in conclave. The youngest is Arborelius, who is 67. The oldest is Rosa Chavez, who is 74 and has served in his role in San Salvador since 1982.The Salvadoran prelate is known to have had a strong bond with Romero, who was shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980. Rosa Chavez frequently travels to Salvadoran communities in other countries, including in the U.S., to celebrate Romero's legacy.Romero was archbishop of San Salvador during the bloody and tension-filled time leading up to his country's 1979-1992 civil war. A right-wing death squad killed him one day after he gave a sermon calling on soldiers to stop enforcing his government's policies of oppression.While the cause for Romero's sainthood lingered under the pontificates of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Francis has sought to bring it forward. The slain archbishop was beatified, the last step before sainthood, in May 2015.June's consistory will be Francis' fourth. His most recent consistory was held last November, when he created 17 cardinals, including three U.S. bishops: Chicago's Blase Cupich, Newark's Joseph Tobin, and Vatican official Kevin Farrell.After the upcoming consistory, Francis will have named 49 of 121 cardinals able to vote in a papal conclave. Five more cardinals will reach the age of 80 in 2018.
Pope names new cardinals from Laos, Mali, Sweden, Spain and El SalvadorIn what has become a trademark of this pontificate, Francis blindsided long-time Vatican watchers and even most of his closest collaborators when he announced the names of five new cardinals today. He did so at the end of his Sunday Regina Coeli prayer, which during the Easter season replaces the traditional Angelus.ROME—Never one to shun surprises, Pope Francis today announced the creation of five new cardinals. The ceremony to induct the new Princes of the Church will take place on June 28, and the new cardinals will say Mass with him on the following day, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.The fact that the five cardinals come from “diverse parts from the world,” expresses the “Catholicity of the church, diffused throughout the earth,” Pope Francis said.The five new cardinals are:Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador in El Salvador;Archbishop Jean Zerbo, of Bamako, Mali;Bishop Anders Arborelius, of Stockholm, Sweden;Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, Spain;Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun Apostolic Administrator of Vientiane, Laos.In keeping with his passion for the peripheries, three of the five men Francis named on Sunday represent countries that have never before had a cardinal: Mali, Sweden and Laos.In what has become a trademark of this pontificate, Francis blindsided long-time Vatican watchers and even most of his closest collaborators alike when he announced the names of his new cardinals today. He did so at the end of his Sunday Regina Coeli prayer, which during the Easter season replaces the traditional Angelus.“We entrust the new cardinals to the protection of St. Peter and Paul,” Francis said, “so that with the intercession of the prince of the apostles they are authentic servers of the ecclesial communion, and so that with that of the apostle of the peoples they are joyful announcers of the Gospel, and that with their witness and council the sustain me more intensely in my service as bishops of Rome, shepherd of the Universal Church.”All of the new cardinals are under 80 and therefore eligible to vote for the next pope.Of the five cardinal-elects, two were appointed to their dioceses by Francis: Omella, who has been in Barcelona since 2015, and Mangkhanekhoun, who took over in Vientiane im Feb. 2017. The rest were appointed by John Paul II.On choosing Rosa Chávez from El Salvador, the pope bypassed the titular archbishop of the diocese, José Luis Escobar y Alas, once again making the point that when he gives red hats, he’s more than willing to go beyond the traditional “cardinal sees,” something he’s done in the previous three consistories he’s celebrated.This pick in particular says a lot about Francis, because Rosa Chávez was close collaborator of slain Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered in 1980 while he was saying Mass.Talking to Vatican Radio in the days previous to the beatification of Romero, the archbishop said that the murdered archbishop is “the icon of [the kind of] pastor Francis wants, the icon of the Church Francis wants … a poor Church for the poor.”When a pope creates new cardinals, he’s not only choosing the person who might be his eventual successor. By matter of hierarchy, the “red hats,” as they’re often called because of the color of their zucchetto, or skullcap, also serve as papal advisers.Though it hardly means a move to Rome, those under 80 are quickly appointed to Vatican offices and councils, which often lead to at least annual pilgrimages to the eternal city.The selection also says a lot about the path a pontiff wants the church to take.In the “Francis era,” many of the new red hats hail from far-flung, often overlooked dioceses where Catholics are a distinct minority. This is a reflection of the pope’s insistence that the church needs to look to the peripheries and bring them to the center.In 2014, Francis created 19 news cardinals, 16 of them under the age of 80.The list included Chibly Langlois, from Haiti’s Les Cayes, meaning he overlooked Port au Prince, the capital and major diocese. Francis also overlooked more traditional Caribbean power-houses, such as Cuba, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.That same year, the pontiff also appointed Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo, of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Jean-Pierre Kutwa, of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.The first pope from the global south is also known for overlooking what are known as historic red hat sees, meaning dioceses that have had a cardinal for quite some time. In the United States, for instance, these would be cities such as Los Angeles or Philadelphia. In Italy, this means Florence and Venice.Of the new batch of red hats, three of them come from the peripheries.Mangkhanekhoun, of Laos, hails from a country under communist rule, and where Catholics represent a minority: The 46,000 faithful amount to less than one percent of the total population. There are no dioceses in the country, only apostolic vicariates, and around the country there are 67 Catholic parishes, tended by 17 priests. According to the Catholic Almanac, there are 20 seminarians in the country and 93 religious sisters.With Buddhism as state religion, the bishops of two of the four apostolic vicariates have denounced that religious practice is controlled and sometimes difficult.Including these five, Francis has created 60 new cardinals, 49 with voting rights, in a four-year pontificate.
Victorian state prosecutor lobbied by Cardinal’s lawyersLawyers acting for George Pell lobbied the Victorian state prosecutor over a new book about the senior Catholic figure in an apparent bid to thwart its planned release in the midst of an active police investigation.Law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth also wrote repeatedly to publisher Melbourne University Press to warn of potential legal consequences if the book made it to print.The publisher’s chief executive, Louise Adler, confirmed she had received three letters from lawyers representing Cardinal Pell in the lead-up to the release of journalist Louise Milligan’s book Cardinal: The rise and fall of George Pell on Monday.By Wednesday, Victoria Police confirmed the Office of Public Prosecutions, which had been considering a brief of evidence relating to historic sex-abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell since February, had provided official advice on whether charges should be laid.The allegations have been vehemently denied by Cardinal Pell, a senior church official based at the Vatican.“They were robust, but not threatening,” Ms Adler said of the letters. “None of the letters requested any particular action but they wanted us to know what might ensue if we were to tarnish His Eminence’s reputation.“They did say they had advised the (OPP) of the fact there was a book that was to be published.”Asked about the tone of the letters, lawyer Nicholas Pullen, who provided legal advice on the book, said: “They certainly weren’t friendly.”Corrs Chambers Westgarth has declined to comment on the correspondence or whether it is considering legal action over the book, which raises allegations about Cardinal Pell’s conduct at Ballarat’s Eureka Pool when he was a young priest in the late 1970s.A spokeswoman said the law firm would not comment on “client matters”. The OPP also declined to comment.The allegations have been hanging over Cardinal Pell for more than a year. A decision on whether charges are laid is expected within weeks.
While President Trump prepares for his first meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican May 24, policy makers and journalists have been scratching their heads trying to predict the topics and results of their short yet historic encounter.Trump is making three important stops to major religious sites during his nine-day trip: Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam; Jerusalem, including a stop at the Western Wall; and the Vatican, in order to meet Francis. The choice of countries underscores an effort by the Trump administration to show its commitment to the importance of religion, and to religious liberty.The trip also has an ulterior purpose of offering a distraction from rising concerns back home, where Trump has been under media scrutiny for firing the FBI director and allegedly sharing confidential information with Russian officials.A lot is at stake during this Trumpian tour, so many have tried to gauge how he might be preparing.Media outlets related that Trump had numerous meetings with his staff and aides. Reuters reported that state officials struggled in an effort to prep the president on foreign policies and concerns. Unnamed National Security Council officials claim to have put Trump’s name in as many paragraphs as possible in order to get the easily-distracted president to read them, and even resorted to using pictures and maps to get his attention.The White House Chief of Staff told reporters on the plane to the first destination in Saudi Arabia that Trump spent the flight preparing for his speech, meeting with staff and catching up on a little shut-eye.To figure out what could be going on in Trump’s mind, it might be more useful to take a look at who will be joining the president during his trip. The answer is… pretty much everyone. Trump seemed to want the full team deployed for this crucial moment for the presidency.Not only is he taking his wife Melania along with him, but also his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner. Among others, Chief strategist Steve Bannon, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, press secretary Sean Spicer, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, and director of strategic communications Hope Hicks all will be hitching a ride on Air Force one.Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be present for the final stop in Sicily for the G7 meeting.The impressive cast is made up of very diverse personalities who don’t always “play well” with one another. Many of them have a different background and agenda that they might bring forward on this important stage.The people who have the president’s ear most likely will influence the pope’s meeting with Trump.Ivanka Trump and Jared KushnerIt’s common knowledge that Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism in order to marry Jared Kushner in 2009. Their religion will obviously play an important role during the visit to Israel, especially after the unseemly gaffes committed by the Trump administration regarding the Holocaust and the Jewish community.But in Rome Ivanka will take up her other role of advocate for women in a meeting with the Community of Sant’ Egidio, a lay humanitarian organization, where they will discuss human trafficking.It has been confirmed that Ivanka will be present at the meeting with the pope, and though it is unlikely that they will speak beyond cordial presentations, her commitment to this issue that is dear to the pontiff will definitely send a message.Since it’s crucial that the papal visit be a success, the ‘presidential’ couple might have a vested interest in pushing forward the more liberal voice of the Trump administration and could be advising the president to put forward a less stern stance on issues such as immigration and the environment where he and the pope don’t see eye to eye.Steve BannonChief strategist Steve Bannon, a Catholic, has been having a bit of a downslide in recent months, after his rise from far-right media mogul to manager of one of the most controversial presidential campaigns in U.S. history.His rift with the more liberal pockets of the Trump administration has left him weakened, though still an important player for the upcoming meeting between the president and Francis.Bannon’s affiliation with the conservative bastion of the Catholic Church has often spiraled into the realm of speculation, though still supported by a strong base of truth.The chief strategist has met with Cardinal Raymond Burke, a frequent critic of Pope Francis and one of the authors of the dubia, letters containing questions on the pope’s controversial encyclical on marriage, Amoris Laetitia.Bannon has also publicly called for a “Church militant” against the threat of Islam and secularization, and criticized the pope’s advocacy for refugees and his condemnation of capitalism and the free market economy.Though Bannon might be out of favor for the moment, he has often expressed a willingness to meet with Pope Francis and could view the encounter as an opportunity to press forward his agenda.Bannon will probably be pushing Trump not to avoid the issue of migration with Pope Francis, which many believe should be set-aside during the encounter. It is also likely that he will encourage the president to take a more hostile approach toward Islam in an effort to engage Francis in the “culture war.”The pope has recently returned from an important trip to Egypt, where he called on Muslims to denounce the use of violence in the name of religion. Still, Francis has always tried to maintain a stance of dialogue and encounter with Islam in an effort to obtain peace.Gary CohnA newcomer to the Trump administration, Gary Cohn has become an outspoken promoter of a more liberal approach in the White House. The former president of Goldman Sachs shares a moderate and Wall Street-friendly mentality with Ivanka and Jared, and was quick to join their ranks.The three of them represent the main moderate front that could see the Trump and Francis summit as the push left that the administration needs in this time of turmoil and who might be hoping that some of the pope’s views rub off on the president.He has taken over Bannon’s role in Trump’s court and gained favor with the president. A registered Democrat, Cohn has pushed forward policies that oppose Bannon’s anti-establishment agenda and has butted heads with the former Trump favorite on a plethora of issues including immigration and even the proposal of a carbon tax.The presidency has so far shown no interest in environment-friendly policies, a major difference between Trump and Pope Francis, who wrote the encyclical on the care of creation Laudato Si.Cohn has also been in charge of the president’s controversial tax reform, which many believe will only benefit the highest-earning Americans at the expense of the poor. This probably does not sit well with Pope Francis who every other day has called states and individuals to cater to the poor and the marginalized.The economic advisor could council Trump to set aside his profit-based and capitalistic persona in favor of the “Deal Maker” who is willing to find compromises on the environment and free trade deals.Dina PowellDina Powell is probably among the most experienced politicians of the bunch, having served in several offices during the George W. Bush administration. Now the deputy national security adviser under Trump, she has a wide array of tools in her utility belt.She is no stranger to Vatican dynamics. In fact, it was she who personally spoke to Francis Rooney about becoming U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, according to Rooney’s book The Global Vatican.Fluent in Arabic, Powell is a Coptic Christian who emigrated from Egypt to Texas at the age of four. She insists that her faith is not relevant when talking about Islam, and was quoted saying “I hate when people bring religion into it.”Yet her actions tell a different story: Powell was the key architect for the release of Muslim aid worker Aya Hijazi of Egyptian-American descent, one of the few wins of the Trump administration.Powell has also expressed a strong stance against religious persecution and will probably advise Trump on how to frame that conversation with Pope Francis. Another former Goldman Sachs employee, Powell was brought into the circle by Ivanka and is rumored to be in the more liberal spectrum of the Trump administration.Stephen MillerThe former speechwriter will join a chorus, led by Bannon, advising Trump to promote his “America first” campaign during the meeting with Pope Francis, both on the issue of migrants and trade.Pope Francis’s remarks on welcoming refugees and frequent criticism of countries that close their borders irked the far-right conservatives in the White House, and Miller might view the meeting as an opportunity to tell Pope Francis, who garners enormous popularity in the U.S., to keep his nose out of American affairs.A self-described “practicing Jew,” he has also written the speech that Trump will give to Muslim leaders during his trip to Saudi Arabia affirming the U.S. position in the fight against radical Islam.Sean SpicerSean Spicer has taken the brunt of the media retaliation against the Trump presidency and emerged as a stout and loyal defender of the president.He is also a devout Catholic and as vehement a champion of religious freedom as he is of Trump, an interesting quality for the president’s religiously charged trip.“The president and the vice president both understand that one of the things that makes our country and this democracy so great is our ability to express our religion, to believe in faith, to express it, and to live by it,” he said during a February presser. “Whether it is a small business owner or an employee who wants to have some degree of expression of faith at the company.”In light of this, Spicer will probably favor a focus on common issues such as religious freedom during the president’s meeting with Pope Francis, though he will surely be there to take the punches in the unlikely event that the summit results in a catastrophe.National Security Adviser H.R. McMasterTrump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster is not starting out this trip on precisely the right foot. During a White House briefing McMaster fumbled around the question on whether the Western Wall, an important Jewish religious site, was a part of Israel.McMaster also said that Trump “will be honored” to have an audience with the pope and set the topics of their discussion around the issues of religious freedom, religious persecution, human trafficking, and the possibility of a partnership for humanitarian missions.But McMaster might also advocate for putting Russia’s influence in the Middle East on the table for discussion between Pope Francis and Trump. The general was pivotal in planning the decision to bomb a Syrian airbase in early April, following the use of chemical weapons by the country’s dictator Assad.The adviser, who has a vast experience being stationed in the Middle East, has often pointed to the problems raised by Russia’s policy of supporting the Syrian dictator. Putin, on the other hand, credited Francis in late 2013 with helping to head off a Western offensive in Syria and the Vatican has been open to accepting Assad as a lesser evil.As Trump faces ‘Russiagate’ back home, McMaster might advise the president to present the pope with a more hostile stance toward Russia, packaging it as an opportunity for peace.Hope HicksThe young director of strategic communications was in charge of handling trump’s response after Pope Francis’s famous statement that whomever is more concerned in building walls instead of bridges is not a Christian, after he was asked a question about Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Her personal views remain uncertain though sources define her as a loyal fighter and a first row spectator to Trump’s ever-changing moods. However Trump might be feeling ahead of his meeting with the pope, Hicks will definitely be among the first to know.Sarah Huckabee SandersThe daughter of Governor and previous presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has scored a position as deputy press secretary in the Trump administration. Since then she seems to have been following the tide and leaving her Christian beliefs outside of the temporal realm.But if some of the religious zeal of her minister father rubbed off, Sanders could be a help for Trump, translating his often-blurry Christian lingo into something that Pope Francis and the Vatican can understand.Michael AntonMichael Anton recently joined the Trump administration as a staffer on the National Security Council. A former speechwriter for George W. Bush, Anton has fallen under scrutiny for writing several essays that expressed far-right views against Islam and immigration.“Diversity” is not ‘our strength,’ it’s a source of weakness, tension and disunion,” Anton wrote in a 2016 essay published on the Unz Review website.“Immigration today is not ‘good for the economy’,” he wrote. “It undercuts American wages, costs Americans jobs, and reduces Americans’ standard of living. Islam is not a “religion of peace”; it’s a militant faith that exalts conversion by the sword and inspires thousands to acts of terror - and millions more to support and sympathize with terror.”Needless to say, he and Pope Francis might struggle to find common values, yet Anton will probably join Bannon and company in urging Trump to remain faithful to the initial spirit of his campaign.
What will happen at the Vatican when Trump meets Pope Francis?ANALYSIS VATICAN CITY - Papal visits with heads of state are carefully arranged bits of political and religious theater. They follow a specific and routine schedule, with little room for deviation or unwanted surprises.While the royalty, president or prime minister making the trip to the Vatican may fret the details, sending teams months in advance to plan out each moment, the city-state's objectives are clear: protect the pope's image and influence, and then fade into the background to let the pope handle the meeting as he wants.As Ken Hackett, the most recent U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, said in a recent interview: "From the Vatican's point of view, it's pretty normal fare for them to deal with heads of state. They've been doing it for centuries. They know exactly what they will do and can do."When U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to meet Pope Francis on the morning of May 24, he will be escorted through a series of rooms in the apostolic palace meant to impress upon him the Vatican's historic power and majesty. As he walks, he will pass Swiss Guards in full regalia, standing at attention holding long pole weapons known as halberds.One of the last rooms the president will enter before meeting the pope is the Sala Ambrogio, named for the third century saint and bishop, and distinctive for its decorate Renaissance-era triptych of Christ's death and resurrection and for containing a large rug decorated with the coat of arms of Pope Leo XIII.Francis and Trump will meet first briefly in the antechamber of the papal library, where the pope hosts all his formal encounters with heads of state. The two will shake hands there, where a small pool of about five photographers and two print journalists may be able to hear their first words to each other.Francis will then escort Trump into the library itself, where the two will sit at a large wooden desk across from each other. The journalists are allowed to remain present for the very beginning of the encounter, able to note the details: Is the pope leaning forward in his chair, engaged in the conversation? Are his hands folded, or is gesturing with them? Is he smiling?After about 30 seconds, everyone but the president, the pope and a translator will be escorted out of the room. No one else will be present for the conversation to follow, meaning no one else can say what happened in the room.Waiting in another small antechamber, the journalists will begin marking minutes in order to be able to note the exact time, down to the second, that the two leaders spend in private conversation.A normal meeting is between 20-30 minutes. President Barack Obama, known to have worked well with Francis, spent more than 50 minutes with the pontiff in their March 2014 meeting. Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, not known to have enjoyed such a relationship, had less than 10 minutes in June 2015.Once the private encounter is over, the journalists will be ushered back into the library to witness the formal exchange of gifts between Francis and Trump.At that point, Trump's entourage — likely to include First Lady Melania, daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law/aide-de-camp Jared Kushner — will also be allowed in and presented one-by-one to greet the pope, each having a short moment with the pontiff to shake his hand and receive a rosary blessed by him.The pope and president will then walk towards a small table together, where the gifts will be laid out for presentation. Francis normally gives heads of state copies of his three major writings: Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si', and Amoris Laetitia.The pope also normally gives political leaders a medallion of some-sort, which is usually imbued with a specific message. In his March meeting with Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, for example, Francis gave her a 7.5-inch-wide bronze medallion showing a desert turning to bloom in a depiction of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah's words: "The wilderness will become a fruitful field.""The dry, thorny branch that blossoms and bears fruit symbolizes the passage from selfishness to sharing, from war to peace," the Vatican said in an explanation of that piece, interpreted as a message from the pope about Myanmar's continuing process of democratic reform following a half-century of military rule.It's up to Trump and his administration to determine ahead of time what to give Francis. The pope normally appears to appreciate gifts that are simple, or creative.Obama, for example, gave the pontiff seeds from the White House Garden, later planted at the historic papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo. Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi elicited a big smile from Francis in December 2015 when he presented a set of fishing hooks traditionally used by his people.After the exchange of gifts — which will be another chance for journalists to note the pope's and president's demeanor towards each other as they briefly explain what they are giving — the meeting comes to an end. Francis will briefly greet each member of Trump's entourage again as they walk out of the library, leaving the president for last.As Trump leaves Francis, he will be escorted again through the apostolic palace into a separate room for meetings with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the secretary for relations with states.Hackett said that is normally the meeting where the most serious business takes place."There's a difference between the meeting with the Holy Father and the meeting with Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Gallagher," said the former ambassador, adding that he would advise Trump: "On the geopolitical side of things, keep it with Cardinal Parolin and Gallagher."After witnessing Trump and Parolin greet each other, the journalists will be escorted out of the apostolic palace and will rush back across St. Peter's Square to the press office to brief their colleagues on what has happened, providing any juicy details of what they could hear the pope and president say.All will then wait for the Vatican to put out an official statement summarizing the discussions between Trump, Francis, and Parolin. Normally, such statements are brief and bland; no more than a paragraph or two and nothing more specific than describing "cordial conversations" that addressed "various themes of common interest."Many surely will also be carefully monitoring Trump's Twitter feed, watching for his version of events.
Callista Crosses the TiberTrump offers Mrs. Gingrich as Vatican ambassador.During the 2016 presidential race, Donald Trump suggested that Hillary Rodham Clinton had not been faithful to her husband, who, famously, was not faithful to her. It was an ugly and stupid moment in a campaign full of ugliness and stupidity. But out came Rudy Giuliani to praise Trump for taking the fight to Mrs. Clinton, while Newt Gingrich alternated between criticizing Trump and praising him for his approach to the issue. It was really something to hear that kind of moralistic tut-tutting from Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich — the cats with nine wives.And now, President Trump apparently intends to send Newt Gingrich’s third wife, with whom the former speaker had a six-year affair while married to another woman, to the Vatican, as the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. I can’t help but think of Hedley Lamarr interviewing Wild West felons, asking one what crimes he had committed.“Stampeding cattle.”“That’s not much of a crime.”“Through the Vatican.”“Kinky. Sign here.”The third Mrs. Gingrich seems like a pleasant enough person. She does not have any particular qualification for an ambassadorship, much less an ambassadorship to the Holy See, where she would be responsible for a very specialized kind of diplomacy. She is presumably a sincere Catholic (Gingrich credits her with his own conversion), and she sings in the choirs at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She majored in music at Luther College in Iowa. And she worked in government, for a time, eventually becoming the chief clerk for the House Agriculture Committee. This is a time of non-obvious career processions (say, from a reality-show performer with two porn-film appearances to president of the United States of America) but going from clerk on the ag committee — a decade ago — to the Vatican? One would want to see a good reason for that.Newt, for all his big-thinking virtues, is not that good reason.Newt Gingrich was an important figure in U.S. politics and will go down in the history books as one of the most consequential speakers of the House, up there with Sam Rayburn. He was also a man whose personal and political indiscipline undermined the Republicans’ ability to get very much done following the landslide election of 1994, which gave the GOP the chance to confront a diminished Bill Clinton with augmented forces. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Gingrich led the effort to impeach the president while having an affair with the woman who would become the third Mrs. Gingrich. The second Mrs. Gingrich had become that after Gingrich had an affair with her while married to the first Mrs. Gingrich. Dick Armey, who was the No. 2 in the House GOP behind Gingrich, later told Marvin Olasky that President Clinton knew about the affair and essentially blackmailed Gingrich with it. Even setting aside the private questions of family, these things are not without consequences — not where the men entrusted with the government of the United States are concerned. Meditate upon the fact that a man who once invented an imaginary friend to lie to the New York press about his sex life — and who later named his youngest child after that imaginary friend — now controls a navy and a nuclear arsenal. It is easy to imagine how it is that President Trump has a blind spot when it comes to the propriety of dispatching Mrs. Gingrich to the Holy See.Gingrich has done a great deal to incorporate his wife into his wide-ranging punditry empire. She is identified as an author of books and a producer of films. None of this, even given the most generous interpretation, adds up to a Vatican ambassadorship. And some of it is more than a little embarrassing. During the campaign, some of my conservative friends who should have known better added their names to a list of “Scholars and Writers for Trump,” where they appeared alongside no less an intellectual luminary than Callista Gingrich, identified as co-author of Rediscovering God in America. The book cover identifies Newt Gingrich as the author of the book, “featuring the photography of Callista Gingrich.”So, there’s that.But what about the adultery?We ought to forgive, of course. God’s infinite grace, being infinite, certainly covers adultery, and any mortal man who ever has experienced a moment’s introspection must pray that he comes to know His mercy rather than His justice. Mea most maxima culpa and all that. Forgive, yes.Forget?For private citizens, surely. There remains within the Catholic tradition the issue of scandal, which means something different in the theology texts than it does in the New York Post. “Scandal” in the Catholic sense means setting a bad example, something that might lead to the spiritual ruin of another — “normalizing,” to take a word of the moment. King Henry II walked barefoot through the snow to pray at the tomb of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury as an act of public penance. I have a hard time imagining the Gingriches flying coach.In the service of realpolitik, exceptions are made. But Callista Gingrich is not Henry Kissinger. She is not an irreplaceable diplomat with unique gifts specially suited to her moment in history. She’s a former ag-committee clerk married to a retired politician turned Fox News pundit. We do not need to fit her for a scarlet letter, but there is no particular reason to dispatch her to the Holy See, either.
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