Intense scrutiny is being devoted these days to Pope Benedict XVI's history on the sex abuse crisis. Revelations from Germany have put his five years as a diocesan bishop under a spotlight, and a piece on Thursday in The New York Times, on the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy of Milwaukee, also called into question his Vatican years as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
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Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland, currently under fire for his role in an investigation of sex abuse claims against a priest in the 1970s, delivered a homily on St. Patrick's Day calling for a "sincere, wholehearted and truthful acknowledgement of our sinfulness," insisting that the Irish bishops must "own up to, and take responsibility for, any mismanagement or cover-up of child abuse."
While Sean Penn may be splashed across American TV for his relief efforts in Haiti, on the ground easily the most substantial private humanitarian operation belongs to Catholic Relief Services. With a history in Haiti dating back fifty-five years and a staff of 300 even before the most recent crisis, CRS was delivering food, water and shelter to victims by the next day after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.
Bill Veeck, the P.T. Barnum of sports franchise owners, once said there are only two seasons -- winter and baseball. I’m a convinced Veeckian on that score, so I tend to seek diversions to occupy the long emptiness until Opening Day. One thought exercise I’ve come up with is this: Sit down and try to compile a list of the ten most consequential Catholic bishops in America. By that, I don’t mean the bishops you like most or agree with, but those who seem to have the most impact.
Generally speaking, Hill City, Kansas, population 1,500, where my 95-year-old grandmother is still going strong, isn’t the best place to spot cutting-edge trends -- we’re not talking about “Milan of the Great Plains.” In Catholic terms, however, there’s one sign of the times that’s clearly penetrated here, in the form of the pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Fr. Henry Saw Lone.
A little over a year ago, Mother Mary Clare Millea became the most talked-about nun in America almost overnight. In December 2008, the Vatican tapped Millea, a Connecticut native and superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to run arguably the most controversial "apostolic visitation" ever carried out in this country: A sweeping review of women's congregations, capping decades of tension about the state of the soul of religious life in America.
On Tuesday, Millea sat down for an interview at the U.S. headquarters of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hamden, Connecticut, where she's set up an office for the Apostolic Visitation.
Read the interview here: Mother Mary Clare Millea speaks about the visitation
Editor's Note: We are posting Allen's Friday column early this week because of the huge interest in this topic. All Things Catholic will be posted on Friday as usual next week.
Lessons from a Vatican soap opera, Irish sex abuse summit looms, and a conversation with the pope's liturgist
Married couples who are at one another's throats sometimes try to explain to a friend or a counselor what they're fighting about, only to discover they don't really understand it themselves. That's a bit what it's like trying to narrate the Vatican scandal that erupted this week for anyone outside Italy, because it's an exquisitely local story that even insiders struggle to grasp.
In Georges Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest, the elderly Curé de Torcy gives his young priest friend a bit of advice about proclaiming the Gospel: "The Word of God is a red-hot iron," he says. "Truth is meant to save you first, and the comfort comes later."
Cardinal William Baum is sort of the Brett Favre or Cal Ripken, Jr., of the American Catholic church, touted not just for what he's done but for how long he's done it. Having logged seven years as Archbishop of Washington (1973-80) and three decades of Vatican service, Baum is now the second longest serving cardinal in American history, behind only the legendary Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore.
If it's true that only a soldier can fully grasp the horrors of war, perhaps it likewise takes a theologian to appreciate the limits of theology. That may help explain a striking paradox about the papacy of Benedict XVI: He's a true theologian-pope, yet a core element of his legacy will be to sideline theology as the focus of Catholicism's engagement with other religions.