Aug. 15 marked the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which set out his vision for the renewal of Catholic universities and colleges. The anniversary passed quietly, with little of the controversy that greeted the release of the document in 1990.
SEOUL -- Tomorrow, Sept. 1, the Korean Catholic church holds a big event, the "Congress of Catholic Laity in Asia." Some 200 clergy, religious and laity from various countries in Asia will take part in the week-long event, along with some 200 local Catholics. As a layperson in the local church, I am delighted and welcome the congress with my whole heart.
Friends and foes alike of Pope Benedict XVI concur that he's got an image problem. Where they place the blame for it may differ, but the fact itself seems clear: From a PR point of view, this is a pontificate defined by its train wrecks.
Cataloguing those train wrecks is the burden of a valuable new book by two of the best Italian vaticanisti going: Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale and Paolo Rodari of Il Foglio, both of whom also operate widely read blogs -- "Palazzo apostolico" for Rodari and "Sacri palazzi" for Tornielli. Their work is titled Attacco a Ratzinger: Accuse e scandali, profezie e complotti ("Attack on Ratzinger: Accusations and Scandals, Prophecies and Plots"), published in Italian by Piemme.
The book came out in Italy on Tuesday, and one hopes an enterprising publisher in the States will bring out an English translation quickly. (Let me volunteer here and now: I'd be happy to put together a preface introducing the book, and its authors, to an English-speaking audience.)
Literature about the Vatican already contains a number of popular subgenres, such as papal biographies and potboiler novels (think Shoes of the Fisherman). Now an additional category probably should be added to the list, based both on the number of examples and their proven capacity to titillate: the “gay priest exposé.”
Saying he hopes to offer the Vatican a "different picture" of women religious in the United States, Rome's new number two official for religious life says he suspects the choice of an American for that job, and one known to be sympathetic to women religious, may reflect awareness of "just how badly" a controversial Vatican investigation of women's orders has been received.
Church officials, especially those with Vatican offices, have faced stiff criticism since announcing last month revisions to the church laws that govern the handling of clerical sexual abuse cases and updates to its list of the “grave crimes,” which includes for the first time the “attempted sacred ordination of a woman.”
The Vatican announcement that the attempted ordination of women is a “grave crime” to be dealt with according to the same procedures as the sexual abuse of minors exposes the way those running our church actually think. In attempting to explain revised norms to church canons, they reveal the legalistic inner workings of their minds, and affirm unsettling psychological patterns of thought.
The latest attempt by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to stem the continuous onslaught of revelations of sex abuse and cover-up in Europe and elsewhere has some good and some bad aspects.
The first revision is relatively radical: the CDF now has the right to judge members of the ruling class (cardinals, bishops, and papal legates). Previously the Code reserved all cases involving accusations of violation of the church's criminal laws by bishops and above to the Pope. This change is a response to the constant criticism of the practice of giving bishops accused of sex abuse a free pass. The fact is that the popes could have disciplined errant bishops all along but instead chose to hide behind the myth that they are some sort of sacred nobility.
The announcement from Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of the new norms for “more serious crimes” (de gravioribus delictis) was certainly a step forward in the church’s law regarding the sexual abuse of children.
The three helpful changes in the church’s law are
- Now the victim of sexual abuse by a priest has up to the age of 38 to report the crime and have it canonically prosecuted.
- The sexual abuse by clergy of mentally incompetent victims, beyond the years of childhood, is now considered the same crime as abusing a minor.
- And the acquisition, possession or distribution of child pornography is a canonical crime in and of itself.
WASHINGTON -- Pope Benedict XVI has established an apostolic exarchate for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the United States and appointed Father Thomas Naickamparampil as its first bishop.
The pope also named the priest apostolic visitator for Syro-Malankara Catholics in Canada and Europe.
Creation of the exarchate and the priest's appointments were publicized in Washington July 14 by Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume, charge d'affaires at the apostolic nunciature in Washington.
Bishop-designate Naickamparampil is a priest of the Archeparchy of Trivandrum, India.
An apostolic exarchate in the Eastern Catholic Church -- the equivalent of an apostolic vicariate in the Latin church -- is created by the Vatican for the pastoral care of Catholics in an area outside the territory of the Eastern Catholic Church to which they belong.
An apostolic visitator is a papal representative who is charged with familiarizing himself with the situation of a given community and reporting on its status to the Vatican.