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April 13, St. Hermenegild, Martyr

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Today is the feast of St. Hermenegild, eldest son of Levigild, the Visigothic king of Spain, and his first wife, Theodosia. Levigild shared his kingdom with his sons, placing Hermenegild on the throne at Seville.

Hermenegild and his brother Recared were Arians like their parents and like their stepmother, Gosvint, but when Hermenegild married Ingondes, a Catholic, her example and the "instructions and exhortations of St. Leander, bishop of Seville" caused the Arian Hermenegild to be "received into the church by the imposition of hands, and the unction of chrism on the forehead".

Commissioner seen as likely outcome of Legionary investigation

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tAs a Vatican-sponsored investigation of the Legionaries of Christ reaches its end-game, the leading hypothesis in Rome appears to be that Pope Benedict XVI may appoint a special “commissioner” to lead the order through a period a reform.

tThe appointment would, in effect, amount to a compromise between total suppression of the Legionaries, as some of the order’s fiercest critics have suggested, and a papal “certificate of good conduct,” as some of its Vatican backers had initially hoped.

tWhile it’s not clear what might happen with the order’s current leadership team under this scenario, an April 13 piece in Corriere della Sera suggested that a commissioner would have “full powers” to make decisions in the name of the pope. Though it’s considered likely that Benedict XVI would tap someone from outside the Legionaries, others have suggested that a commissioner could be named from among those Legionaries not tainted by the scandals surrounding the founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Ordination observations

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On Saturday I attended the latest ordinations by the Womenpriests group in Chicago, which I also wrote about in the most recent issue of NCR. Bishop Joan Clark Houk of Pittsburgh ordained Janine Denomme of Chicago and Marty Meyer-Gad of Minnesota as Roman Catholic priests.

Some observations:

* It was a beautiful spring day; Ebenezer Lutheran Church was packed; and the choir and music was spectacular.

* Attending were friends and family of the newly ordained, but also other supporters of women's ordination. Not everyone was comfortable being seen there. After I shook the hand of a familiar-looking woman at the Sign of Peace, I asked her if I knew her. She shook her head and said, "No, not going there." (Perhaps she recognized me as an NCR columnist/reporter?)

* Sadly, Denomme, who is being treated for Stage 4 colon and liver cancer, had to leave the ceremony during the Liturgy of the Word. But women bishops are flexible! Houk left the sanctuary to lay hands on and anoint Denomme, who was resting in an upstairs room. The entire congregation lifted their hands to pray for her.

FDR's Anniversary

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Today is the anniversary of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. My mother, who was born in 1929, remembered the day vividly her whole life. “He was the only President I knew,” she recalled. “When someone said ‘The President,’ it meant him. It has only meant him.” In his war memoirs, Churchill wrote: “When I received these tidings early in the morning of Friday, the 13th, I felt as if I had been struck a physical blow.” Churchill had equally recalled their first meeting: “Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it.”

Historians are frequently called upon to list our nation’s greatest chief executives, and Roosevelt always shares top honors with Lincoln. Both redefined the social contract between the government and the governed in ways that continue to shape our nation for the better. Lincoln rescued it from the scourge of slavery and armed insurrection. Roosevelt saved it from the hopelessness of the Great Depression and the threat of fascism.

Bankruptcy threatens lay workers' pensions

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Delaware's The News Journal reports that the bankruptcy of the Wilmington, Del., diocese -- brought on by a law suit over sex abuse by clergy -- is threatening the pensions of some 2,000 lay employees of the diocese, including teachers, cafeteria workers, housekeepers and maintenance workers.

The article says:

The lay employees are fearful that the official committee representing the unsecured creditors has interests that are in conflict with the workers'. Currently, the committee consists of seven people who are all survivors of sexual abuse.

Read the full account: Diocese's lay workers fear for their pensions

How many church leaders think this way?

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I was appalled this weekend when I heard National Public Radio report that an Italian bishop had called the media coverage of the sex abuse scandal a "Zionist attack" on Catholicism. As if this were not bad enough, the bishop reportedly continued, saying that both the "freemasons and the Jews" are "natural enemies" of the church, and that "…deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God killers."

Yikes!

L'Osservatore Romano editor defends church, pope

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Rome -- On the same day the Vatican published a "layman's guide" to procedures when a priest is accused of sexual abuse -- which, for the first time in a Vatican document, explicitly includes a directive to comply with civil laws requiring bishops to report abuse to the police -- the editor of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, dropped by Rome's Foreign Press Club to talk about the crisis that has engulfed Pope Benedict XVI in recent weeks.

Gian Maria Vian, a lay professor of history tapped to take over L'Osservatore Romano in October 2007, offered a robust defense of both the church and the pope. Vian generally kept his cool, though at one point he became testy in complaining that the media reads the crisis into everything said or done at the Vatican these days – a reflection, perhaps, of the intense pressure of the last few weeks.

Vian conceded that there were "great failures in governance" that made the crisis possible, but also insisted that the church now has an "exemplary" approach to the problem of sexual abuse of children, and blamed what he called a "media campaign" for tarnishing the pope's image.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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