Donations have steadily been coming in allowing the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison to reopen. It was closed last month, the victime of diocesan belt tightening.
Here are the top 20 stories visited on the NCR Web site during the month of June:
The Associated Press has reported that a judge has put liens on four church-owned rest homes and part of the Vermont Roman Catholic diocese's investments in order to cover jury awards in two priest sex abuse cases.
The Burlington Free Press reports liens have been placed on the St. Joseph's Home for the Aged in Burlington, rest homes in Derby in Rutland, the now-closed Camp Holy Cross site in Colchester and $1.8 million of the diocese's $8.5 million financial portfolio.
The diocese is appealing both verdicts.
Ken Briggs, who pens here occasionally, has written an insightful review of Archbishop Rembert Weakland's autobiography. Briggs was religion writer for The New York Times during the period Weakland was Milwaukee's archbishop.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tDespite the intense anticipation surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s July 10 meeting with President Barack Obama, the reality is that encounters between popes and politicians are generally all pictures and no sound, meaning that they’re often photo ops without much substance.
tObama will probably sit down with Benedict for 10-15 minutes, and maybe twice that with the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and other Vatican diplomats.
Those sessions will all take place off-camera, so aside from body language and vague impressions about the mood in the room before doors are closed, the key to shaping public impressions is whatever both sides say afterwards. Since the White House can be counted upon to apply the best possible spin no matter what, the only real “x factor” is whatever the Vatican will say.
The drama comes down to this: Will the Vatican accent the differences between the church and the White House over abortion and other life issues, creating the impression of a tense encounter? Will it play down those differences, suggesting the two men hit it off? Or, will the Vatican try to strike a delicate balance?
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tA controversial new immigration law in Italy, which criminalizes living in a “clandestine” state and authorizes citizens to mount their own anti-immigrant patrols, has spawned both a major backlash from the Catholic church as well as a fascinating bit of insider Catholic drama.
The dymamics in Italy seem to have obvious implications for the United States, as the Catholic church gears up to make a major push in favor of immigration reform.
tAdopted last Thursday by the Italian senate, the law was put forward by the far-right Northern League, an important coalition partner in the center-right government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Catholic leaders have been in the forefront of opposition to the measure, charging among other things that it could deter illegal immigrants from seeking hospital treatment or enrolling their children in school.
tProbably the most barbed critique has come from Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, a veteran Vatican diplomat who has served since 2001 as the secretary, or number two official, in the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
It’s become customary for popes to write letters on the occasion of a G8 summit, which are formally addressed to the head of whichever government is hosting the event. This time around, Benedict XVI has all the more reason to write the G8 given that the upcoming July 8-10 G8 summit is taking place in the Abruzzo region of Italy, about 75 miles northeast of Rome, which was devastated by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in April.
In the letter released yesterday by the Vatican, Benedict XVI makes a strong appeal to G8 nations not to abandon, or scale back, their commitments to development assistance for poor nations because of the current economic crisis. In fact, the pope argues, that aid is the best remedy for the crisis. Benedict opposes any backtracking on the pledge established in the UN Millennium Goals of eliminating extreme poverty by 2015. The pope also calls for stronger coordination of national economic policies at the global level, and supports greater multilateralism in foreign policy.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tIf the White House strategy behind arranging a session for President Barack Obama with religious journalists on the eve of his visit to Pope Benedict XVI was to set a positive tone for that meeting, early returns in Rome suggest it’s working to perfection.
tThat session last Thursday, in which Joe Feuerherd of the National Catholic Reporter took part, has received extensive and largely positive coverage in the Italian press, including the official outlets of both the Italian bishops and the Vatican – both of which generally reflect important currents in official Vatican thinking.
tObama is set to meet Pope Benedict XVI in the afternoon of Friday, July 10, just after the conclusion of a G8 summit in Italy and just head of the president's visit to Ghana.
tIn Saturday’s Corriere della Sera, Dino Boff, editor of L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops, praised Obama’s “great honesty” and “great intelligence,” saying it was clear that Obama “is not playing the game of trying to divide the Holy See from the American bishops.”
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tIronically, one can learn a great deal from Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise announcement last Sunday that carbon-14 tests appear to confirm that St. Paul's remains lie under the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls – except, perhaps, who is actually buried in Paul’s tomb.
tDuring a Vatican news conference this morning, the scientist in charge of those tests, carried out in May 2007, said they prove that tiny micro-fragments of bone extracted from a sarcophagus under the basilica’s main altar date to the first or second century. In scientific terms, the result “doesn’t make certain, but also doesn’t exclude,” that the remains are those of St. Paul, said Professor Ulderico Santamaria, director of a diagnostic laboratory for the Vatican Museums.
Though that obviously doesn't amount to absolute certainty, it's nonetheless suggestive. Meanwhile, there are three other conclusions from the “Bones of St. Paul” affair which rest on firm ground.
Conclusion one: When he wants to, Benedict can be a showman