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Bulletins from the Human Side

Watershed moment for clerical culture: more bishops than monsignors in Chicago

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The news that, including retired prelates, Chicago is now home to more bishops than monsignors means that the tipping point has been reached for clerical culture. Imagine the hierarchical church as a crumbling amusement park on whose lonely and littered midway one battered attraction survives -- a huge teeter-totter, one end dug into the ground like a dagger under the weight of its once easy rider bishops while the other sways like a construction crane clutching a cargo of lighter-than-air monsignors.

The church in 2010 and France in 1940

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Eric Sevareid began his career as a reporter for CBS Radio just as France buckled and fell to the lightning strike onslaught of the German armies in the fair spring of 1940. The country of so many remembered glories seemed in denial to the journalist who described the "unreality in it all." The professional classes displayed "a determined effort to retain ... a way and habit of life which the closing in of history was grinding away."

What are we to assume about the Assumption?

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The current issue of Our Sunday Visitor, that still point at the whirling universe of church publications, reminds its readers that the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is rising like a midsummer moon over the calendar pages. They urge them to celebrate this commemoration of the direct assumption of Mary, body and soul, into Heaven. This really happened, the church is said to teach, as a fulfillment of Mary’s remaining both sinless all her life and a virgin after giving birth to the Savior.

Frock coats and fiddle back vestments

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John Allen reports that in a forthcoming papal equivalent of an executive order, Pope Benedict XVI will initiate a "liturgical movement" that, with unintentional irony, he terms "new" even though it is old enough to be appraised on "Antiques Road Show." Allen concludes that the pontiff, invoking the mantra of "continuity," wants to "restore what (he)… and like-minded observers believe was lost in the post-Vatican II period." In short, this is the latest move to "reform the Reform" of Vatican II.

The devil is back

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Not since the early 1970s, and the novel and movie "The Exorcsist," in which the main signal of satanic possession of a pubescent girl was her accuracy at picking off ministering priests with projectile vomiting, has the devil enjoyed so much attention. This time, however, the wily one's card is placed on our tray not by moviemakers admittedly out to make a buck but by church officials apparently out to make us pay attention to them.

If celibacy is such a jewel why won't the pope let us look at it?

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Determined to put down any threat to his already tottering autocracy, Tsar Nicholas allowed his troops to shoot into the crowds who were gathering before his palace seeking to tell him of his people’s widespread grievances. Is this the precedent for deploying Vatican sharpshooters on the roof of St. Peter’s to pick off anybody, from low level Catholics to high ranking Cardinals, who tells the Pope that celibacy may not be the “brilliant jewel” he thinks it is.

The Sacrament in the Gulf

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The rig rests in the depths of the Gulf bleeding oil from its ruins, bleeding symbolically for the fishermen and workers it has visited with loss. A Tower of media Babel has risen above it, from which pundits analyze the wreck as an economic problem to be calculated, a political crisis not to be wasted, or an engineering puzzle to be solved. But even religious leaders have not yet spoken of this event as a spiritual Mystery that tracks our daily pilgrimage as a biblical pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night did that of the Israelites in Exodus.

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In This Issue

July 18-31, 2014

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