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The Pope Needs an Archdeacon

When the Council of Cardinals met with Pope Francis at the beginning of the month to discuss reform of the Roman Curia and the governance of the Church, one of the topics that came up was the role of the Secretariat of State.

Since the initial reforms of Paul VI in Regimi Ecclesiae Universae, the Secretariat has enjoyed prominence in the Curia, and a dual role: it not only exercised the ministry appropriate to the office, that of foreign relations with states, but also in fact as the lead congregation in the curia, coordinating (theoretically at least) the work of the other dicasteries, and managing the relationship of the bishop of Rome to his brother bishops around the world.

For example, when a new officer in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is needed, they get vetted not only by that Council, but also by the Secretariat of State. Or consider the elaborate and secretive process for the nomination of bishops, managed by each nation’s apostolic nuncio – a diplomatic post.

As I suggested in my wish list, these responsibilities should probably be separated from the foreign relations dicastery. In canon law there is a title for the ecclesiastical officer responsible for managing the bishop’s staff, which is “moderator of the curia”. This person is is often a priest or auxiliary bishop, and is frequently also the vicar general. There is some concern about creating a kind of “vice-pope”, though this is a term sometimes used of the Secretary of State already, unofficially of course.

What the bishop of Rome needs is an archdeacon. This ancient ecclesiastical office has fallen into disuse in the Latin Church, and fallen into confused use in other churches (such as the Anglican Communion).

The archdeacon is normally the senior cleric of a diocese after a bishop. Originally, the archdeacon was in fact a deacon, not a presbyter, the reason being that deacons are called to serve as assistants to the bishop with responsibility for administration and governance, representation of the bishop to the rural clergy (ie, the pastors) and to other bishops, managing the financial and human resources of the diocese for the sake of the mission, etc. This kind of vicarious authority was not originally granted to the presbyterate, whose primary functions were advisory, sacramental, and pastoral.

The offices of vicar general and moderator of the curia derive from the office of archdeacon. You can still find this usage in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, where a “Grand” Archdeacon fulfills part of this function.

Archdeacon Maximos Patriarch Bartholomew

Archdeacon Maximos with Patriarchal Bartholomew of Constantinople

In the Anglican Communion, the title archdeacon has been attached to the vicars forane, responsible for a subdivision of the diocesan territory. In the Catholic Church these are generally called deans, in English, and is originally a diaconal role, but not that of the archdeacon. The Anglicans have also kept the late medieval practice of having ordained presbyters fill this role, but this should be avoided (do we have deacons serving as archpriests?)

The offices of vicar forane and episcopal vicar (deans and heads of dicasteries/diocesan offices, respectively) derive from the other early diaconal roles. Perhaps revivifying these ancient offices, restoring the diaconate to its full calling, will help in the reform of the curia.

If Pope Francis were to make use of this ancient and venerable office for contemporary needs, one could see it as something of a Chief of Staff for the Roman Curia, rather than as a kind of vice-pope. (Though, realistically, it would be better having an official ‘vice pope’ than having a personal secretary, master of ceremonies, or Secretary of State assume the role in the vacuum!) The role of the Archdeacon and his office would be to manage the internal organization of the curia, increase coordination and communication among the various dicasteries, and leave the diplomatic foreign relations work to the Secretariat of State.

Maybe the Archdeacon’s office could work to coordinate areas of joint concern, so we never have another Anglicanorum Coetibus or Dominus Iesus faux pas, wherein we find ecumenical or interreligious issues  being announced without involvement of the offices responsible for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.

They could also have a central office for ecclesiastical human resources in the curia, working to ensure that the most qualified candidates in the world – lay, religious, or clerical – get into the offices here, rather than some cardinal’s nephew (figuratively speaking, of course). He could work on keeping the curia on mission, and at service to the universal church – especially as the relationship to the Synod of Bishops and the episcopal conferences is expected to change.

But most of all it would seem as something new – not getting confused with the ideas that have arisen around the moderator of the curia title – which in itself should be fine, but because it is often attached to the vicar general or vicar for clergy, could be confused with other offices already in place (such as the two vicars general, one each for the Vatican and the Diocese of Rome; or the prefect of the congregation for clergy which is the Roman curial equivalent of a diocesan vicar for clergy).

Plus, it would be encouragement to dioceses around the world to start looking further back into our tradition for ideas of how to meet the ministry and governance needs of the Church today. If the successor of Peter the Rock can restore the office of Archdeacon, so can the diocese of Little Rock, or anywhere else. This would not only free up a presbyter to get out into the parishes where they are most in need, but restore to the diaconate a stronger sense of its original mission – to extend the ministry of the bishop in matters of governance, administration, and service-leadership.

ICEL 50th Anniversary

On 17 October, the Vatican celebrated the 50th anniversary of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) with a mass at the altar of the chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Eucharistic celebration on the 50th anniversary of ICEL

Eucharistic celebration on the 50th anniversary of ICEL

Given recent discussion that the Council of Cardinals may be suggesting reform of the liturgical apparatus of the Vatican first (after the Synod) in its recommendations for the reform of the Curia, it is an event worth reviewing. Especially since one well-established vaticanist referred to it as “farce”.

Why the harsh language? Apparently, none of the members of ICEL prior to its “refounding” a decade ago were even present, and it is not very surprising. Few things epitomize the depths to which the curia had sunk than the bungled handling of ICEL a decade ago and the resulting mess. Though many of the conferences did the best they could given the situation (one can look to the US or England and Wales as examples), bad process always spoils even the best of products.

The advantage of our age is the great access to social media and broad communications, so we can get information quickly, and provide formation broadly. The USCCB and others showed this to great success in 2011 when implementing the new translation of the Roman Missal.

The disadvantage of this same gift is an even shorter memory. The first official translation came in 1972, after about six years of work. It was understood to be rather temporary, and by the end of the decade, work began on a much more serious translation. Everyone agreed the 1972 version was not perfect, but for forty years, the local bishops’ conferences had trusted the work to ICEL in accord with the principle of Sacrosanctum Concilium. After long years of work, the new and improved English translation was finally ready… not in 2011, but in 1998. The English-speaking bishops of the world had approved it, it should have been signed, sealed, and delivered, but something unbecoming of church leaders was afoot.

Over the next five years, all the hard working bishops, liturgists, experts and consultants who had given so much to the Church they loved felt a “cold wind” blowing from Rome, as none-too-subtle (and none-too-kind) change was imposed by a relatively small number of power brokers and their allies.

By 2003, ICEL had been effectively disbanded and replaced by an entirely new commission, Vox Clara, quite different from the mission and composition of the first. It would have been more honest to just say so, and not act as though ICEL had continued as the same entity it was before Vox Clara came on the scene. To quote the late Msgr. Fred McManus, the American peritus at Vatican II who helped the bishops establish ICEL and suffered greatly as he saw it dismantled: “They could at least have the decency to change its name.”

From an impetus to the encounter of the liturgy with culture and cultures, and the reception of those into the liturgy, the focus had moved to a fixation on the Latin language and the culture of Rome. Translation is no longer about bringing the liturgy into new cultures,  but about bringing diverse experiences of liturgy into the closest approximation of the Latin as possible.

Sound like a made-for-TV drama or a Dan Brown novel? It can certainly be dramatized… but truth is so often stranger (and sadder) than fiction. Even in the Church.

Whatever you think of the translations, the 1998 or the 2011 versions, the process by which the current version was introduced was inappropriate and embarrassing for the Church, and for the loyal sons and daughters of the church who put so much effort in, as directed, and then were so harshly dismissed.

To read the documents, the history, and the full story of ICEL and what happened to the long-sought after New and Improved English Translation – and why it was replaced by a relative rush-job that was rolled out with great fanfare as the best thing since sliced bread – I recommend some serious reading here, compiled by one of the experts involved in the more recent iteration, appointed to ICEL in 2005.  

Some of the disgruntled ask if Pope Francis would completely overturn the translations. I doubt it, and do not think that is the way to go.

What is needed is an honest accounting and a healing of memories. Apologies offered and credit given where it is due. Only then can the repair and reform of the liturgy move forward, which i suspect should include a serious reconsideration of Liturgicam Authenticam (which is deficient not least for its ecumenical shortcomings) and a move to bring the best of both the 1998 and 2011 translations into a single, common Missal. Let the “old mass” inform and enrich the “new”.

What a week! From Francis to Francis with Francis…

I was privileged to spend yesterday, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, in Assisi with Pope Francis. With him came the Council of Cardinals, or group of eight, which held their first meeting this week. It was an overcast, pleasant day, the predicted thunderstorms holding off until last night.

His entire itinerary is here, and text of speeches and addresses. There is also a good commentary by a friar i met last year in Assisi at a conference, Daniel Horan, at America Magazine.

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The last papal event I attended in Assisi was the 25th anniversary of the first interreligious day of prayer for peace with Pope Benedict XVI, which was dubbed ”Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace.” Two cornerstone pieces of the original event were missing however – prayer, and the Sant’Egidio community who organize the annual prayers for peace in the spirit of Assisi. Subsequently, perhaps, attendance was surprisingly low.

Yesterday was a different story. The Eucharistic celebration in the lower piazza of San Francesco was witnessed not only by a full piazza there, but also in the upper piazza, all the side streets, and in the other major piazzas of Assisi (Santa Chiara, San Rufino, Piazza del Commune) where jumbotron screens were set up. It was an almost all-Italian gathering, and there is no question of the broad appeal of this reforming pontiff.

It came at the end of an amazing week in terms of Church news – especially with regard to Church reform. I commented already on some of them, but there has been so much, it has been hard to keep up. Thankfully, there are professionals to do that for us: John Allen summarizes this week in Vatican and Church news, in what he contends to be the biggest week outside of a conclave in his nearly 20 years of Vatican reporting.

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The biggest news is probably the meeting this week of the Council of Cardinals, dubbed in some circles the G-8. They have discussed the ecclesiology of Vatican II, the reform of the Synod of Bishops into a more permanent exercise of synodality and collegiality, the reform of the Roman curia to such an extent as to require a new constitution emphasizing decentralization and service to the local churches, changes to the Secretariat of State that might remove it from its current role as über-dicastery, and serious questions on the role of the laity in the church, including the role of the laity inside the curia itself. Their second meeting is set for just two months from now. They seem to really be addressing the half-finished business of Vatican II, or at least getting started on it.

When my students asked me last week why no pope or bishop has ever talked about the Church in the way that Francis has, and why there’s never been so much energy in the church, I was reminded of my own experience as a university sophomore, in my own 200-level theology class (on Vatican II) asking a similar question, “why are we still waiting for the changes promised by the Council? How can 35 years have passed and we are still waiting [on things like decentralization, synodality and collegiality, the role of the laity, the full restoration of the diaconate, overcoming clericalism, etc]?” – I had no idea 15 years later I would be the one trying to answer these questions, and under what different circumstances!

Two  highlights of John Allen’s highlights, aside from the meeting of the Council of Cardinals, worth particular notice:

Allen reports that

“Von Freyberg told me recently it’s his ambition to put gossipy newspaper reports out of business by making it so easy to get information directly from him that journalists don’t have to rely on whispers in Roman bars.”

If that is not argument enough for getting more lay people in positions of responsibility of the Roman Curia, i do not know what is. When was the last time you heard any cleric tackle communication and transparency issues so directly? Well, before this one

He really should be a deacon!

Ernst Von Fryberg, cleaning up the Vatican Bank. He really should be a deacon!

The second point is less about this week in particular, but about Allen’s comments about his own book on religious persecution around the world, after talking about the killing of about 500 Christians in India during 2008 riots:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s what a real “war on religion” looks like. One aim of the book is to reframe the conversation over religious freedom among Western Christians so we don’t allow our metaphorical battles at home to obscure the literal, and often lethal, war on Christians being waged in other parts of the world.

In the view from Rome, there was a bit of discomfiture last year with the whole tone and tenor of the ‘fortnight for freedom’ in the U.S., because it seemed to ignore the real problems of religious freedom. Officially, of course, the Vatican backs its bishops, but, unofficially (and remember this was still under Pope Benedict) there seemed to be a current of thought around the Vatican and in Rome that there was a little too much partisan politicking, and not enough focus on the fact that there are more Christian martyrs around the world today than at any point in history. It is hard to be quite so concerned about contraceptive funding when there are Christians dying at the hands of radical elements in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and secular Atheism – especially when it is part of a universal health care plan that the Church supports in principle, if not in every detail.

This is, of course, not to say to ignore the small problems before they become big ones, but to keep everything in perspective. That is something we Americans have a hard enough time doing when it comes to global events, but for which membership in a Church so universally oriented that it is called Catholic ought to be a corrective.

Religious-Freedoms-Graphic

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For the full run-down of the week, read Allen’s article here.

In brief, what happened this week:

  • Monday:
    • Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II set for April 27
    • Discussion of regional tribunals to adjudicate clerical sex abuse cases
    • G-8 formal established as a permanent Council of Cardinals
  • Tuesday:
    • A “stunning Q&A with the pope” published in La Repubblica
    • The Vatican Bank (IOR) released its first-ever annual report and its lay president demonstrates the kind of transparency attitude needed all over the Church
    • The Vatican Bank announced the closure of 900 accounts for dubious activity
    • The Council of Cardinals began its first meeting, as mentioned above
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Feast of Francis of Assisi . Francis took aim at the ‘right’ by calling on the Church to “strip itself of the cancer of worldliness”, and took aim at the ‘left’ by asserting that the peace of Francis is not a ‘kind of pantheistic harmony with the forces of the cosmos’, but a Christ-centered peace.

Church Reform Wishlist: Open Letter of Introduction

Oscar Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa;
Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, governor of Vatican City;
Francisco Javier Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa of Santiago;
Oswald Cardinal Gracias of Mumbai;
Reinhard Cardinal Marx of Munich;
Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa;
Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston;
George Cardinal Pell of Sydney.G8Cardinals

Your Eminences,

Know that the Church is with you in prayer during these first days of dialogue, discussion and deliberation on how the people of God can be best served by the college of Bishops and its structures of universal governance, including those particular to the bishop of Rome.

[Know also that the Beards for Bishops Campaign applauds Pope Francis for including two of our most beloved members, Cardinals Marx and O’Malley, in your number. Clearly, His Holiness knows bearded men are wise men!]

It seems that you have consulted broadly among your episcopal peers in your respective regions. It is not clear to what extent, if any, consultation was extended to deacons, presbyters, lay ecclesial ministers, theologians, religious and the lay faithful. Perhaps you devoted a day to reading Catholic blogs from around the world – and if you did, you simultaneously have my gratitude and my pity.

It seems as if everyone is working on their reform wishlist! Some that I found interesting including John Allen, and the interview with Cardinal Maradiaga on Salt and Light was encouraging. I found Tom Reese to be a little skeptical when he warns that

if the press release says that [you] had a wonderful discussion with the pope and [you] agreed that collegiality and subsidiarity should be the guiding principles for curial reform, you can be assured no one has a plan and they wasted six months.

Personally, I expect your work to take some time. However, after a generation of waiting on some questions, it would be reassuring to see some indication of movement. I trust in the Holy Spirit and in your good will, but as a theologian, a minister, and a member of Christ’s church, have the duty to share my hopes and concerns (cf. CIC 212).

I admit, it does seem a little like sending a Christmas wish list to Santa Claus. I would need a book to spell out the rationale behind each of these suggestions. In many cases there are incompatible alternatives, but either choice would be an improvement. Most of these are small things, tinkering with structures even, that need only to reflect the more important principles and ought to serve the conversion of heart and change of mind. Some are obvious to me based on my study, that i forget they are not so obvious to the public, or even to theologians not studied in ecclesiology or ecumenism. These are, in fact, some of the effects of change, the signs that reform in the more important areas is trickling down to the practical, nitty-gritty. It is also just a list! But before i get to it, I can assert that this list intends to adhere to the following ideals and principles, and is not exhaustive:

Each change is rooted in the tradition of the church – historically, and/or ecumenically (or, apostolic and catholic tradition). We do not really need brand new structures, so much as looking to our past and to the current practice of other apostolic and catholic churches, and adapting those practices for our current needs.

Neither I nor most people I know are much interested in reforms of dogma and doctrine, though the development of doctrine, of the articulation and understanding of unchangeable truth, is always welcome; the focus is on discipline, custom, culture, and administrative practice.

Ecumenically, we should formally commit to the Lund Principle: “churches should act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately.” In other words, that which can be done together should be done together. Too often we only seem to do the minimum, not all that is allowed or encouraged, but only what is required.

Let him be anathema who says, “Tinkering with structures is not sufficient, all we need is prayer, or holier priests.” Whatever virtue there may have once been present in such pietism is usually overshadowed by this being used as a cop out by people afraid of change, transparency, and the light of day. I agree it is not enough to merely tinker with some structures; they must be overhauled from the ground up. However, prayer without action is merely words, like the letter without the spirit, or the dead kind of faith James warns us about. Pray and Act, rather than Pray not Act, should be your watchword.

Any changes which have been approved in principle, or recommended by various authorities in the church, including official ecumenical dialogues, should be enacted – most have been delayed too long already (e.g., Paul VI and married Eastern presbyters in the US; or the Synod of Bishops on women as instituted readers).

Likewise, some policies already on the books should be more clearly enforced (e.g., only clerics should wear clerical clothing – not seminarians; or the requirement that everyone engaged in formation for pastoral work take a required course in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue).

A healing of memories should take place, perhaps the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission at various levels. There have been many wrongs, some lesser and some greater, committed because of the wrong attitudes of clericalism, careerism, triumphalism. this has happened at the parish level and at the highest levels of the curia. I know pastoral associates and former presidents of pontifical councils treated poorly or fired just for being ‘too pastoral’ and not buying in to the system of clericalism.

Finally, take to heart Pope Francis’ admonishment that all of these are secondary to the need for a conversion of heart, a change of attitude – always the first step in both ecclesial reform and ecumenical reconciliation, two goals which are inseparable from the Gospel.

His Holiness is right, of course, “the people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.” Presbyters especially have a vocation to parish ministry and to advising the bishop in the care of the diocese; it is deacons who have a particular vocation to assisting the bishop in his ministry of governance and administration at the deanery, diocesan, and supra-diocesan levels.

Thank you for your prayer, your humility, your leadership, and your dedication to the Church. Accept these suggestions from a loyal son of the Church in the spirit in which they are given, out of love for the Church and frustration in its failings and imperfections. And of course, out of humility: this is a work in progress, and the work of many is better than that of one, so I hope friends and colleagues will add their voices to mine, even in disagreement.

I am, as ever, your servant…

FrancisCards

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Church Reform Wishlist: The Eastern Catholic Churches

The Eastern Catholic Churches

  • The notion of national or proper ritual territory is archaic. Most churches have a diaspora larger than members living in their original countries. Eliminate any discrepancies between the authority of the synod and heads of the churches for their members worldwide (e.g., in the selection of bishops).
  • Eastern Catholic presbyters have not been allowed to be married in the U.S. since the late 19th century because of certain overanxious (celibate) Latin bishops at the time. This caused schism and scandal, and has lead to the current situation where there are now more married Roman Catholic priests than Eastern Catholic priests in the U.S. That ought to be corrected. [Done!: 14 November 2014]
  • All other rights of the Eastern Churches that have been impinged upon by the Latin Church should be fully restored.
  • A clarifying directive and definition from the competent ecclesial authority that the name of our communion is The Catholic Church and not the Roman Catholic Church should help in a number of confusing venues. It is already in fact the practice[1], but needs to be clearly articulated.

Vatican Pope Middle East


[1] Search the Vatican website: “Roman Catholic Church” gets 125 hits, “Catholic Church” gets over 4400. And most of the uses of “Roman Catholic” are concessions to ecumenical partners, which could be done away with now after years of growth in understanding.

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Church Reform Wishlist: The College of Bishops

The College of Bishops:

  • Zero tolerance for bishops who covered up sex abuse. Remove them.
  • Bishops are diocesan ordinaries. No more titular bishops for dicasteries. Even the practice of auxiliary bishops should be reconsidered. Ordaining a personal secretary or a bureaucrat as a bishop diminishes the office of bishop, even if the individual is worthy of the office.
  • Smaller dioceses: Dioceses in Italy are about the same geography and population of a deanery/vicariate in the US. The ratio of Eastern (Catholic and Orthodox) bishops to faithful seems to hover at around 1:10,000. In the Latin church it is about 1:250,000.
  • Restore the ancient practice of elected bishops. “Election” need not mean simple democracy, but a clear participation of the clergy (both diaconate and presbyterate), the lay ecclesial ministry, any resident theologians, and the leadership of the laity.
  • Only after the above reform, restore the ancient practice of bishops being ‘wed’ to a  single diocese – no more moving on up and out. This makes no sense if a bishop is appointed, but an election makes it possible.
  • We need to make better use of the archbishops/metropolitans, including an increased role in the election of bishops from their province. If there were smaller dioceses, and more bishops, the metropolitan would take on some of the load currently at the diocesan level.
  • Titular patriarchates (Venice, Lisbon, East Indies) should be eliminated. Despite their historical origin, they only serve to confuse.
  • The synod of bishops and the conferences of bishops need to be strengthened. There needs to be a regular standing structure in place to balance the primacy of the papacy. Primacy and synodality belong together, neither one without the other, at every level of the church.

nave-vaticanii

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Church Reform Wishlist: The College of Cardinals

The College of Cardinals

[Alternative to many of these ideas, of course, is that the college could be disbanded entirely, and certain offices designated electors ex officio. There is a certain appeal in this, but perhaps it is not prudent at this time.]

  • Zero tolerance for cardinals found to be implicated in the cover up of sex abuse cases. They should be removed from the college of cardinals, not just from ministry.
  • Patriarchs and major archbishops should not be created cardinal, which is proper to the Latin Church (indeed, to the Roman clergy!), though they should be included in conclave, ex officio.
  • The heads of a number of the largest religious orders, male and female, as well as the largest ecclesial lay movements should be either made cardinals, or at least included in the conclave, ex officio.
  • The presidents of the bishops’ conferences could be made cardinals, ex officio.
  • Cardinals should not be ordained bishops unless they are going to serve as bishops (diocesan ordinaries).
  • Cardinal-deacons should not be “promoted” to cardinal-presbyters after 10 years, but retain the dignity of their diaconal office – which ought to be considered equal to that of the cardinal-presbyters.
  • Cardinal-deacons should  be deacons, chosen from the ranks of deacons, who serve in diaconal posts such as the dicasteries of the Roman curia, the diplomatic corps, etc.
  • As a sign of gratitude for their leadership in the last half-century, all the surviving Council Fathers (about 19 in number*) should be named cardinal. The only exception being if they have been found complicit in the sex abuse crisis, or left communion with the church. [*63 at the time of original publication]
  • Lay men or women, whether theologians, religious, or lay ecclesial ministers, who are appointed to top offices in the curia could be made cardinals. Preferably after being ordained to the diaconate.
  • Women cardinals? If women deacons, or deaconesses, then yes. Maybe better not to make it about being cardinal, but by virtue of the office being given the same rights and responsibilities, same access, and same dignity – and taken as seriously.
  • Lay cardinals? The pope could do it, though with the historical connection of the cardinals to the clergy of Rome, perhaps that would take a more monumental shift – like eliminating the college, or eliminating the canonical distinction between cleric and lay states (NOT eliminating the ministries, holy orders, priesthood, etc!)

Cardinals

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