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Is church's future tied to bishops?

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I understand the headline: Three archbishops and the American Catholic future. I probably would have written the same. But one has to wonder, especially given the constant erosion of authority and the erosion of protections that once shielded the hierarchical layer of the church, whether the future of the church is so tightly wrapped up with bishops as it might once have been.

Interview with Archbishop Jerome Listecki

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tAsk any random sample of five people who know Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee to describe him, and the odds are good that the phrase “down to earth” will come up more than once. Affable and approachable, Listecki may be one of the few prelates who could have followed the legendarily gregarious Archbishop Timothy Dolan in Milwaukee and not seem, at least a little bit, like a stuffed shirt in comparison.

tThat affability doesn’t mean Listecki shirks from taking strong stands – a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, Listecki has publicly chastised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her interpretation of church teaching on abortion, criticized Notre Dame for awarding an honorary doctorate to President Barack Obama, and once even warned parents not to take their kids to see “The Golden Compass” because, he said, the movie “tries to lead them away from God.”

tYet whether people agree with Listecki on content or not, most give him high marks for style, especially his “regular guy” demeanor. Whatever else one might say, Listecki clearly doesn’t have a Renaissance prince model of the bishops’ office.

The Kagan Kabuki Hearings

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The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan got off on a bad foot yesterday. Inexplicably, the nominee spoke a lot about deference and modesty, when I worry that anyone who was genuinely modest would be eaten alive by Justice Scalia during conference. I suspect Kagan, who navigated the shark-infested ideological waters of Harvard Law School, arguably the only place in America with egos greater than the nine found on the Court, is not as modest as she claimed to be yesterday. Just so, the display was as unhelpful as it was disingenuous.

Much has been made about something Kagan wrote fifteen years ago about the vapidity of confirmation hearings. Of course, now that she is in the hot seat, it is doubtful that she will be as forthcoming as she urged others to be. No doubt Republicans will hammer her for being hypocritical. If questioned about this, she should follow the example of President George W. Bush and say, “When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.”

Three archbishops and the American Catholic future

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tIn the abstract, one might not think of Archbishops Thomas Wenski of Miami, Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, and Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee as a natural threesome. Yet fate thrust these prelates together today, as the three Americans among 38 newly appointed archbishops from around the Catholic world who are in Rome to receive the pallium.

tThe pallium is a narrow band of woolen cloth which serves as a symbol of the archbishop’s office, and is bestowed by the pope each year on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. I’m in Rome this week, so I attended the pallium ceremony this morning and then headed up to the North American College for the traditional reception honoring the new archbishops.

Rolling Stone and our digital era

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Guessing this was not much on his mind last week, but General McChrystal may've actually helped save print journalism -- the kind that requires focus and attention from both reporter and reader.

The digital kind of journalism doesn't demand much of either -- its strength is the here-and-now, delivered instantly. Internet reporting lives in the moment; web commentary stretches that moment out just a little bit longer. The web encourages grazing and skipping and shifting. It does not ask you sit and stay a while, pour an extra cup of coffee, maybe ask to see what donuts are still available.

You can't curl up with a computer (or even an iPad -- at least not yet), and so you don't -- and, to be honest, the machine doesn't even want you to try. Just keep moving your fingers across the keyboard.

Into this brave new world, like some episode of "Star trek" when creatures from another time and dimension crash into the current, Rolling Stone's article comes to remind us what we have nearly lost -- journalism that takes time to create and time to consume. It is expensive journalism, at a moment when most publications don't have a nickel to spare, but it is essential.

Pope launches council to fight secular 'Eclipse of God'

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

One classic way for bureaucracies to express their priorities is by which topics merit their own departments. By that logic, Pope Benedict XVI sent a clear signal tonight that the Vatican cares about the threat posed by secularization, announcing the creation of a brand new Pontifical Council devoted to the re-evangelization of the Christian West.

Benedict did not give a formal name for the new office, but reports indicate it will be called "Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization." Its job, according to the pope, will be to resist an "eclipse of the sense of God" in secular cultures.

tThough Benedict did not reveal his choice to lead the enterprise, it’s widely expected that the new Vatican department, known as a “dicastery,” will be entrusted to Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, currently President of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a former chaplain to the Italian parliament.

Vatican's US attorney responds to Supreme Court action

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Jeffrey Lena, the California-based attorney who represents the Vatican in American litigation, issued this statement following the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court would not hear an appeal from the Holy See.

The Vatican was asking the federal court to stop a law suit filed in Oregon that accuses the Vatican of transferring a priest from city to city despite repeated accusations of sexual abuse.

Lena's statement:

"Today the Supreme Court decided not to grant the Holy See's petition for certiorari. These decisions are made based upon the Supreme Court's docket and what cases it wishes to hear each term. The decision not to hear the case is not a comment on the merits of our case (importantly, the United States does agree that we are correct on the merits). The effect of the Supreme Court's decision is to cause the case to return to the district court in Oregon, where the additional remaining defenses will be heard. Plaintiff currently has one jurisdictional theory left. That theory is that the priest who committed the abuse was an "employee" of the Holy See.

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August 15-28, 2014

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