Saturday, April 30, 2005
Friday, April 29, 2005
Many people expect that the Sacred Liturgy will receive a good deal of attention under the pontificate of Benedict XVI. And according to Sandro Magister, it already began last Sunday at the Installation Mass.
HT: David Jones.
That's the title of this post from Ramesh Ponnuru earlier this week.
It's such a good post (with links to even better posts from Prof. Bainbridge) that I'm going to reproduce it in full here, placing what I see as the key point in bold:
- Professor Bainbridge has been debating various libertarians (and the occasional liberal) about this topic. Everyone involved seems to share the premise that Senate Democrats are applying an abortion litmus test that excludes nominees who either think that Roe was a mistake, think that abortion is immoral, or think that it should be illegal--and are applying this test even to nominees who swear that as appeals-court judges they would adhere to Roe as a precedent. Everyone seems to agree that this test has the effect of ruling out traditionalist Christians--as Bainbridge puts it, it has a "disparate impact" on Catholics.
Bainbridge, as I read him, is not saying that the Senate Democrats are motivated by any special hostility or "bigotry" toward Catholics. As long as Republicans avoid saying that--or, worse, saying that Democrats are against "people of faith" generally--I don't see what the problem is. The fact that the Democrats' litmus test excludes faithful Catholics and evangelicals is a reason to reconsider the wisdom of the test. And to say that the Democrats have a litmus test that excludes faithful Catholics and evangelicals strikes me as fair game, not least because it is true.
This won't come as a surprise to many, but for me, the difficulty making it is indicative of the vestiges of the old man which remain...
The transcendentals -- truth, beauty, goodness, and unity -- and The Transcendental (the Triune God) are found & encountered far, far more in an hour of classical music than in three hours of political talk radio or tv, of whatever ideology.
Getting that out of my way, here's my evaluation of conservative talk show hosts:
Hannity: far too superficial.
Limbaugh: the most cogent of the three of these.
Laura Ingraham: the best of them; she knows that there's more to life than politics.
But like I said, time is almost always better spent exploring Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc. And before you roll your eyes, remember that classical music is not just for snobs et al... it's for everyone who appreciates that which is truly beautiful (and hence, true, good, and one).
Finally, remember the first word in the title of this post.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Stanley Kurtz points us to the May issue of Harper's Magazine, which is devoted to “The Christian Right’s War On America,” wherein traditional Christians are compared to -- wait for it -- fascists, and wherein "we better wake up because these people are ready to impose their fascist theocracy at the soonest possible moment!"
With Kurtz, I wonder what the response would be if the same magazine devoted a cover story to "A War On America" by blacks, gays, or Jews; somehow, I think it would be a bit different.
As Kurtz also notes, this is pretty much par for the course for liberal secularists of late... traditional Christians are one of the few groups they love to group together, stereotype, and apparently even hate:
- the Left’s rhetorical attacks on conservative Christians have long been more extreme, more widely disseminated, and more politically effective than whatever the Christians have been hurling back. And now that their long ostracism by the media has finally forced conservative Christians to demand redress, the Left has abandoned all rhetorical restraint.
Yet traditional Christians are playing defense, not offense. Harper’s speaks of a “new militant Christianity.” But if Christians are increasingly bold and political, they’ve been forced into that mode by 40 years of revolutionary social reforms. David Brooks has already explained how Roe v. Wade unnecessarily polarized the country, making it impossible for religious conservatives to have a voice in ordinary political give and take. We’re still paying the price for that liberal judicial arrogance.
Now judicial imposition of same-sex marriage has poured fuel on the fire. When Frank Rich compares conservative Christians to segregationist bigots, when Chris Hedges compares conservative Christians to evil fascist supporters of Hitler, its the Christian understanding of homosexuality that’s driving the wild rhetoric. None of the American Founders would have approved of same-sex marriage, yet suddenly we’re expected to equate opposition to gay marriage with Hitler’s genocidal persecutions.
In an LATimes op-ed, author Jack Miles suggests that the Vatican might intervene in the filibuster controversy, by somehow turning Catholics against the tactic. Here's the closing paragraph:
- What [Ratzinger's letter on Abortion and Catholic Politicians] seemed to suggest was that if Bush gave Rome what it wanted on the abortion issue and the (now strategically inflamed) euthanasia issue, Rome would do its best to give Bush what he wanted regarding the death penalty and, above all, war. The question that now arises is whether Rome is offering a similar deal with the U.S. Constitution at stake: If Bush backs Rome on abortion and euthanasia, Rome will do what it can to turn U.S. Catholics against the filibuster. The fact that the mass mailing will swing only a minority of the country's Catholics against the filibuster is irrelevant. The minority, as it did in the last election, may make the difference.
(HT: KJ Lopez.)
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
- Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples. Additionally, I recall Saint Benedict of Norcia, co-patron of Europe, whose life evokes the Christian roots of Europe. I ask him to help us all to hold firm to the centrality of Christ in our Christian life: May Christ always take first place in our thoughts and actions!
A commenter recently pointed me to a newsstory which indicated that Cardinal Ratzinger may have obstructed justice with a letter he sent out to the bishops in 2001.
Canonist Ed Peters recently commented on the issue, and his post is well-worth a read for those interested in this.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
It's up at Jeff Miller's place, here.
I'm guessing that anyone who reads Veritas has come across Jeff's post on the new vitamin, B16. It's been getting a ton of "airplay" lately... people have been bringing copies of the post to me on the street (literally!), and forwarding it via email.
I hope they read the rest of Jeff's blog and discover was a gem he is for St. Blog's.
John Allen is the only thing making the National Catholic Reporter worth reading; his reports from Rome are generally very clean of biases, one way or the other, and he is probably one of the top American vaticanisti out there.
Allen is also well-known for his 2000 biography of Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. It is good in many ways, but Allen's liberal biases do make greater appearances there than in his dispatches from Rome (as Allen himself acknowledged when it was pointed out; HT: David Jones).
But the biography also includes some outright errors (which are presumably innocent mistakes). The most notable is Allen's claim that Ratzinger was a student of Rahner's (he got this from Ralph Wiltgen's The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber). I first encountered this claim a year or two ago on a liberal Catholic's blog, and refuted it then (although Rahner was older than Ratzinger, he was never the latter's teacher). I found that the immediate source was Allen's bio, and I continue to see the claim made now and then.
Carl Olson links an '01 review of the book which points out some other factual errors Allen made, each with some theological implications.
Monday, April 25, 2005
A number of Catholic bloggers are commenting on Maureen Dowd's (latest) wacked-out column on B16, cleverly entitled, "Uncle Dick & Papa". It ran in Saturday's edition of the Times.
Here's the letter I sent off to the editor; I'm still awaiting word of its publication...
- Dear Editor,
It appears that Ms. Dowd needs to do some more background research before she writes again about Pope Benedict XVI; in her column, "Uncle Dick and Papa," she states that the pope "wants to dismantle Vatican II." She apparently does not know that he was a leading theologian at that Council for the progressive element, that his fundamental perspectives are unchanged, and that as recently as Wednesday he reiterated his belief that the Council must still be implemented. Ms. Dowd's assertion, then, has absolutely no bearing in reality.
But -- hey! -- if it makes her a buck, go for it, right?
there are still those on the extreme right who match (and even exceed) those on the extreme left in terms of wacked-out, overheated theological polemic.
The latest example? This webpage: "Benedict XVI -- Heresies of this Anti-Pope".
Slightly less wacky but more sadly -- due to his previous zealous commitment to orthodox Catholicism -- is the opinion of Mario Derksen, who says of our new pope,
- The Modernist Vatican II Church has elected a new Antipope. Invalid Cardinals invalidly elected another Non-Catholic, a man who is not even a bishop--Fr. Joseph Ratzinger of Germany. The Catholic Church is still in a period of sede vacante or sede impedita.
This is the opening of a letter printed in a Malaysian newspaper:
- The late pope, John Paul II, was not in touch with today’s reality. His unwavering stand on traditionalist Catholic dogmas may render his 26-year papacy a complete failure with regards to the following rights issues:
- Gender equality – specifically women’s ordination.
- Priestly celibacy – the choice of priests to marry or for married laity to attain priesthood.
- Single adults sexual rights – an adult’s choice to engage in sexual intimacy regardless of marital status.
- Homosexuality – the right to be accepted regardless of sexual orientation.
- Family planning – the use of contraceptives to maintain ‘economically manageable’ families.
- Safe sex – the right to protect oneself and prevent the spread of HIV/Aids.
John Paul’s uncompromising and sometimes discriminatory stands on the above issues have at worst alienated Catholics and at least have caused many Catholics to simply ignore his pronouncements as that of a man out of touch with today’s reality.
Those are the words of Toronto cardinal-archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic addressing the question of how the cardinals decided to vote for Ratzinger, knowing the media controversy it would create.
They come from this Globe and Mail article which is actually really, really good. It offers an explanation offered by many about how Benedict's election came to be.
Friday, April 22, 2005
The election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy has truly been a cause for joy for me this week. And yet...
I went to the Vatican website tonight, to see what updates are present. They have some pictures of Benedict nicely laid out on the index page. I then went to the "Holy Father" webpage to see if he'd been added yet; he had not -- still at the top of the list was John Paul II. I clicked on him, and browsed his speeches, audiences, appearances, etc. from 2005, and I have to say... I miss him!!! I do rejoice in Benedict's election, as I've already noted and as my previous posts this week make clear.
But I still miss JPII. Deeply.
The final official text we have from this Magnus pope is the Regina Caeli for Divine Mercy Sunday, which he penned and which was read at the end of that Mass:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today the glorious Alleluia of Easter resounds. Today's Gospel from John emphasizes that on the evening of that day he appeared to the Apostles and "showed them his hands and his side" (Jn 20: 20), that is, the signs of the painful passion with which his Body was indelibly stamped, even after the Resurrection. Those glorious wounds, which he allowed doubting Thomas to touch eight days later, reveal the mercy of God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3: 16).
This mystery of love is at the heart of the liturgy today, the Second Sunday of Easter, dedicated to the devotion of Divine Mercy.
2. As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the Risen Lord offers his love that pardons, reconciles and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!
Lord, who reveal the Father's love by your death and Resurrection, we believe in you and confidently repeat to you today: Jesus, I trust in you, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world.
3. The liturgical solemnity of the Annunciation that we will be celebrating tomorrow urges us to contemplate with Mary's eyes the immense mystery of this merciful love that flows from the Heart of Christ. With her help, we will be able to understand the true meaning of Easter joy that is based on this certainty: the One whom the Virgin bore in her womb, who suffered and died for us, is truly risen. Alleluia!
The following is from a 2002 press conference with Cardinal Ratzinger in Spain, answering the question, "What must a Catholic university do, bearer of the truth of Christ, to make the evangelizing mission of Christianity present?"
- It is important that at a Catholic University one not learn just what prepares one for a certain profession. A university is something more than a professional school, in which I learn physics, sociology, chemistry. A good professional formation is very important, but if it was only this, it would be no more than a roof over different professional schools.
A university must have as foundation the construction of a valid interpretation of human existence. In the light of this principle we can see the place occupied by each one of the sciences, as well as our Christian faith, which must be present at a high intellectual level.
For this reason, a Catholic school must give fundamental formation in the questions of faith and especially of an interdisciplinary dialogue between professors and students so that together they can understand the mission of a Catholic intellectual in our world.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
The other night, I was reflecting on our new pope, and what an outstanding theologian he is. Thinking about that, I began to think about him with regard to his predecessor, JPII, and the other popes he has followed. That reflection led me to the following conclusion: we haven't seen a pope with the theological acumen of Benedict XVI in centuries, perhaps prior to the Reformation... perhaps even longer ago than that.
I know how bold of a claim that is, considering B16's immediate predecessor: John Paul the Great. But it's pretty clear to me that JPII was a greater philosopher than he was a theologian. That's not to downplay or deny his own theological talents; like many others, I think much of his papal theology will serve the Church for centuries. And it may very well be that that corpus will outshine whatever Benedict is able to do as pope. But that's not my point.
My point is simply that if you consider the raw theological power of those who have been elected to the papacy, I can't think of one greater than Benedict XVI in the last few centuries, if not longer.
Of course, that's not to say that his papacy will outshine his predecessors in like manner; in fact, I definitely think that's not the case with regard to JPII. So don't take my claim for more than it is.
Still, though, in and of itself, it's still very impressive, no?
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
This article contains quotes from a number of cardinals about the conclave that elected Benedict XVI. A number of them indicate the warm humanity of the new pope, (once again) in contradiction to agenda-driven, detached-from-reality polemics. For instance, Benedict wished Cardinal Rigali (of Philadelphia) a happy birthday. Does that sound like a power-hungry, cold authoritarian?
HT: David Jones.
In the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage, those supporting traditional marriage have made the "slippery-slope" argument: if same-sex marriage is allowed, virtually every other conceivable form of sexual relationship could be deemed marriage. Senator Rick Santorum is somewhat (in)famous for making just this argument two years ago. While slippery-slope arguments are not the strongest -- what if there is no objection to whatever is found at the bottom of the slope? -- but they do make a point.
In this case, the point is that advocates of same-sex marriage have not only failed to articulate a reasoned position which would allow same-sex marriage but prohibit, for example, polygamy... they have (for the most part) not even attempted to find such a position. That is, they don't even attempt to make an argument along these lines.
Last month, Stanley Kurtz penned an article for NRO entitled, "Rick Santorum Was Right: Meet the Future of Marriage in America." The article begins with this paragraph:
- I have seen the future of American family law, and her name is Elizabeth F. Emens. A whiz kid with a Ph.D. in English from Cambridge University and a J.D. from Yale Law School, Emens, who teaches the University of Chicago Law School, has published a major legal and cultural defense of polyamory (group marriage). In "Beyond Gay Marriage," I showed that state-sanctioned polyamory was rapidly becoming the favorite cause of scholars of family law. Yet not until now has anyone offered so bold, informed, intelligent, and comprehensive a brief for polyamory. Emens's breakthrough article is a sign that the case for mainstreaming polyamory is finally being...well, mainstreamed.
what will the response of same-sex marriage proponents be?
Peter Sean Bradley has an excellent post on why it isn't such a good idea for the Church to change its teaching (as if it could) on the more controversial issues in the US.
If you don't mind, Peter, I'm going to quote virtually the whole thing:
- Several times tonight, as I was at various social gatherings, I heard lapsed Catholics and non-catholics say that the election of Ratzinger was essentially a mistake because the Catholic Church had to fix the problems with (1) celibacy of clergy, (2) birth control and (3) ordination of women.
Each and every time, the confident proponents of these notions was absolutely dumbfounded when I pointed out from my definite knowledge as an attorney for dissident Methodist and Presbyterian churches that while the Methodists, the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians have seen membership collapses, the RCC in America has grown faster than the overall population growth. They were speechless at that idea that the formula for moving to irrevelance was to (1) have married clergy, (2) accept birth control, and (3) ordain women.
Let's accept for the sake of argument that there is absolutely no theological reason for the Catholic Church's conservative positions on these issues, but isn't it ironic that the road to decline seems to involve adopting those very position?
Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete was on Charlie Rose tonight, talking about Pope Benedict XVI, and he did his usual, impressive, hillarious job. There are a few things that I'll probably comment on, but this will do for starters:
Rose asked Albacete about the desire of many for a third-world pope, and Msgr (himself a Hispanic) acknowledged it. But then he offered this analogy:
Imagine that you are a member of a large family, with a large family's bickerings, etc. At some point you or someone you are especially close to in the family develops a brain tumor; who are you going to call, the family counselor or the expert surgeon who knows brain tumors inside and out? The latter, of course.
And that is Pope Benedict. We'll have to wait and see if he has a song & dance (we know he can play the piano!), but that's irrelevant right now: he is the man most capable of diagnosing and prescribing what is necessary for humanity at this time in history.
Thus sayeth Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, and I wholeheartedly agree with him.
Jonah Goldberg notes: "If a committee made up of Andrew Sullivan, Gary Wills, Andrew Greeley, Paul Begala and Nancy Pelosi were given the power to select a pope from the current College of Cardinals, we would still have a pope opposed to abortion and gay marriage."
Yep. But some people just. don't. get it.
I read the uninformed comments of this post on Benedict XVI, and drafted a response. In the end, I decided not to post it, as I don't think it would do any good. But I offer it for your own reading here:
- Listen, many people here might vehemently disagree with the teachings of the Catholic Church which Benedict XVI also holds to, but some of these comments are really off-base.
For instance, Ratzinger was one of the most important theologians at Vatican II. *For the progressives*. And his theological principles have changed very little since then (i.e. he didn't sell-out for "power").
About two dozen theologians were disciplined, in one way or another, during Ratzinger's tenure as prefect of the CDF. Two dozen out of thousands over the course of 20+ years. That's not very authoritarian.
He is about as far from being a rigid authoritarian, dogmatic, ruthless, cold and utterly intolerant of new ideas coming into the church as one can be: those who have engaged in discussion with Ratzinger -- e.g. Protestant theologians, atheist philosophers, etc. -- have nearly unanimously stated that his is a warm, kind, charming person, even though they disagree on whatever issue they are debating.
I do agree that looking to his past is helpful: he is a member of the Communio school of theology, which has included scholars like Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, neither of whom were regarded as conservatives.
Yes, he went after liberation theology: because it uncritically assimilated problematic aspects of Marxism, which (among other things) was leading to class warfare, something decidedly unChristian. (See the Catholic Worker Movement for a more authentic approach to poverty.)
Nor is he a Bush man: like JPII, he was opposed the war in Iraq.
Just some food for thought.
Maureen Dowd mentioned B16 in her column today.
Just in case you are prone to heart attacks, I'm placing the quote in white, meaning that you'll have to highlight it if you have the stomach for it. Here it is:
- The white smoke yesterday signaled that the Vatican thinks what it needs to bring it into modernity is the oldest pope since the 18th century: Joseph Ratzinger, a 78-year-old hidebound archconservative who ran the office that used to be called the Inquisition and who once belonged to Hitler Youth. For American Catholics - especially women and Democratic pro-choice Catholic pols - the cafeteria is officially closed. After all, Cardinal Ratzinger, nicknamed "God's Rottweiler" and "the Enforcer," helped deny Communion rights to John Kerry and other Catholic politicians in the 2004 election.
The NYTimes official editorial on Benedict wasn't nearly as bad. Which isn't saying much, of course. But really... it could have been much, much worse.
Closer to home, the Minneapolis (Red)Star-Tribune managed to quote Fr. Richard McBrien in it's op-ed, and concluded with this line: "Whether Benedict XVI adopts those kinds of pastoral values or remains a Vatican enforcer is the question of the hour."
The Boston Globe's editorial is here. All things considered, it's not too bad. But there are a couple doozies, like, "But the election of Pope Benedict XVI raises concerns among Protestants who felt slighted by Ratzinger during their attempts at ecumenical dialogue." Really? Is that why he was credited with almost single-handedly saving the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed with the Lutheran World Federation in 1999? Surely what is between the lines is Dominus Iesus, the 2000 document from Ratzinger's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which said that the Catholic Church has the fullness of faith, and that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. On the former... what church or Christian community doesn't believe that about itself? On the latter, does the verse "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12) ring any bells? When DI came out, I discussed it in my ecclesiology classes at Steubenville, and pointed out that the vast majority of the footnotes refer to Vatican II documents, making it virtually impossible to see how the document could actually be read as a retreat to the pre-conciliar era.
The other line worth commenting on is this: "It is unclear how the new pope will rebuild church attendance in Europe and the United States." I don't think Benedict is planning to spike church attendance in Europe or the US anytime soon. In fact, I wouldn't that he expects to see a decline in attendance during his own pontificate. Rather, I think his goal is to reposition the Church and to make it ready to respond when Western culture and society is ready to look at Christianity anew.
The Church can only be truly understood from the inside; I can only hope and pray that our nation's commentariat one day looks at the Catholic Church anew and boldly risks to take just such a view.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
I saw Cardinal Kasper on CNN this afternoon, and he had nothing but good things to say about B16. He spoke of him not just as a great intellect, but as a man who will be a very pastoral pope (take that, Hans!).
He also noted that the cardinals wanted to chose a man who was not only firm in the faith, but who could explain it as well, i.e. a man who could articulate the reasonable nature of Catholic doctrine not only to fellow Catholics but to the world. And that's Benedict XVI, to a tee. (Memo to those who can't stand him: read him before you condemn him.)
(You can find Kasper's quote in this AP story.)
It's Pope Benedict XVI, f/k/a Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger!
I couldn't be happier! This man is a towering intellect, one of the greatest theologians of our time... and I've got a book of his he signed for me!
This was definitely one of the most exciting events of my life... a coworker & friend had the webcam up (I couldn't pull it up for some reason), and called me to tell me that it looked white, but there were no bells. We went to another friend's office, who has a small tv with a cable hookup. The smoke kept coming, and it was definitely white, but the lack of bells confused things. Then, Brian Williams (I had them keep in on NBC because of Weigel) pointed out that it was a couple minutes to the top of the hour, at which point the bells normally toll. That passed, though, with nothing, until the bells at four after, at which point things got very excited, not just in St. Peter's square (did you see the people streaming in?), but in our office too, as more folks joined us.
That it was only the fourth ballot indicated to me that it had to be Ratzinger, something beyond my wildest expectations, whatever the media was saying in the last week. I told that to my coworkers (it's a good thing it was him!), and I told a couple to make sure that they knew the first names, in light of the formula for announcing the new pope (see below). Then Cardinal Estevez came out and greeted us in multiple languages and began the latin formula...
Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum... [I announce to you a great joy...]
Habemus Papam! [We have a pope!]
Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum Dominum Josephum...
Yes! It's Ratzinger!
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger...
qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI.
No surprise... a number of people have said that if Ratzinger was elected, he might take Benedict as his papal name, alluding perhaps (as Weigel said) to Ratzinger's esteem for Benedictine monasticism and its role in Western civilization, and then more importantly, the relationship between Benedictines and the liturgy... as others have said, we'll almost definitely see the continued flourishing of the liturgical movement as it has developed in the last decade or so.
Of course, we are already hearing the requisit references to Benedict as "God's rottweiler," etc. I'm sure we'll hear "Panzerpope" too. But those who actually know Benedict's thought know much better. Last Friday, UPI religion reporter Uwe Siemon-Netto quoted a Protestant theologian, who said regarding Ratzinger, "He is arguably the Catholic Church's finest theologian, in addition to being a very humble and deeply religious man." And again, those who have read his theological works know that.
Benedict was one of the chief theologians who worked on Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, which itself is providential... Karol Wojtyla -- as bishop of Krakow -- was instrumental with Gaudium et spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), and his successor was crucial to the other constitution on the Church.
Also in contradiction to the ideologues, Benedict is a warm, humble person, not a doctrinaire, harsh figure as some would make him out to be. And you saw this in his brief remarks to the crowd:
- Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me - a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.
The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.
In the joy of the risen Lord, trusting in his permanent help, we go forward. The Lord will help us and Mary his very holy mother stands by us.
Incidently, the Ratzinger Fan Club's website is down, due to traffic.
Most people who have ever been to Rome are acquainted with Stazione Termini, the main bus, train, and metro station in Rome.
Apparently (per one of the letters of Fr. Peter Mitchell mentioned below) the mayor of Rome announced last week that Termini is going to be renamed Stazione Giovanni Paolo II.
Dr. Liz Mitchell and I graduated from Steubenville the same year and both went to Rome for our graduate work (sadly, she chose Santa Croce and not the Angelicum, but no one's perfect). Her big brother has made the news lately, at least in some parts of the blogosphere.
He, Fr. Peter Mitchell, is a priest from the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska who is now in Rome for his graduate work as well. During the days before and after John Paul II's death, he sent emails detailing the events and his experiences to friends and family in the US. One of them, in which he tells of the day of the procession of John Paul's body from the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's, ended up being posted by talk-show host Hugh Hewitt on his blog.
Now, Godspy has posted all of Fr. Mitchell's letters. They are well worth a read.
You know who said that? Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, answering a question on Bavarian television in 1997 about if the Holy Spirit picks the pope.
Here's what he said prior to the above statement:
- “I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”
Monday, April 18, 2005
Brought to you by your friendly Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, whose ideology is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, whose vanguard is the Revolutionary Communist Party, and whose leader is Chairman Avakian.
Ah yes, Chairman Avakain... who doesn't recall his stirring oratory of July 16th, 2002? Is it not etched -- nay, burned -- into the very fabric of our being? Do not our hearts beat with zeal at the recollection of his memorable words?
That's the title of this post by Thomas of Endlessly Rocking, in which he offers his thoughts on the first episode of NBC's miniseries Revelations. His opening paragraph concludes with the following:
- Bill Pullman did the Dour Regretful Skeptic. [Oh how I longed for the charisma and range that made his Independence Day performance one for the ages.]
Friday, April 15, 2005
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
As many of those more familiar with the philosophy of Karol Wojtyla/JPII know, his definitive philosophical work is Osoba y czyn, translated literally in english as Person and Act. As is also known, the title of the published english translation of the work is The Acting Person, a title which subtly but nonetheless really changes the sense of the goal of the work. This is indicative of other problems with the translation, problems which George Weigel details in a footnote on pp. 174-175 of the first edition of Witness to Hope.
In short, the translator -- Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka -- apparently deemphasized the Thomistic dimension of the work and overemphasized the phenomenological dimension; that is, she crossed that (admittedly gray) line between translator and editor to such an extent that, as Weigel puts it, "the reader is, on occasion, not really in contact with Wojtyla's own thought."
As he goes on to detail, an revised english translation which corrects these deficiencies was made years ago, but it has yet to be published. One can only hope that the death of the Holy Father gives some impetus to moving that publishing process along.
Parenthetically, what's with the translation problems with JPII's work? Beside Person and Act, a number of people have pointed out that the single-volume version of The Theology of the Body has a number of edits not found in the original (and official) english translations of the Wednesday audiences. What's the deal?
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
An interesting article at Redstate, in which Jay Cost argues that Hillary is not a political genius, but in fact is a political dunce. In short, his argument is that great politicians maneuver without it being noticed; in Hillary's case, there's not a maneuver that goes unnoticed.
Check it out.
Monday, April 11, 2005
It's pretty common to hear fundamentalist Christians prove [sic] from Scripture that priestly is a doctrine of demons, referring to 1 Tim 4:1-3. But when you hear it from the stature of Pastor Paul McCain, LCMS... well, it's just disappointing.
First, the Catholic Church does not forbid marriage. I'm Catholic. I'm married. Whoops.
"Oh" -- you object -- "but that's obviously not what Pastor Paul is saying; everyone knows that the Catholic Church forbids marriage for priests."
True, priestly celibacy is the discipline for Latin-rite Catholics. But that's beside the point, because St. Paul says that the doctrine of demons is to forbid marriage, period, no qualifiers. And the Catholic Church doesn't do that.
Second -- and more importantly -- St. Paul is referring to the already-present gnostic tendency among early Christians, a tendency (which became a full-blown heresy in the 2nd century) to see all matter as bad and only spirit as good. (And the sacramental nature of the Church pretty well indicates that it ain't gnostic.) I don't know of any Pauline scholar who doesn't argue that Paul is thinking of gnostics here, but that doesn't matter -- it's good enough for Pastor Paul to misapply for his own purposes.
I could care less whether or not Pastor McCain is being nice or not... I'm more disappointed that he reads Scripture with such a strong anti-papist bias, and as a result misunderstands the real meaning of the text.
Worse yet, the broader context is that he thinks celibacy is what accounts for priestly sex abuse of children. How he explains sex abuse by married clergy among Protestant communities is indeed a puzzle.
A while back I mentioned the blog of a cielino, Stephen Sanchez, Being! or Nothingness. He's got a few things I want to highlight...
First, he links a new blog, la nouvelle théologie, by David Jones. For those of you who, like me, are interested in ressourcement theology, this looks like a promising blog.
Second, Stephen recalls one of his favorite JPII quotes and it is a doozy; I'd like to quote it as well:
- "It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal."
Finally, last week Stephen posted the transcript of one of Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete's appearances on CNN, talking about JPII. Here's my favorite part:
- ALBACETE: Let me tell you, the last time that I saw him, we talked after this -- about this. I told him that I had agreed to come on CNN, that I said you know, they're all preparing for your death and almost everything is ready. And they have invited me to come and say things and so I have accepted because I'll say nice things about you. But I feel a bit guilty. He said, "No." He said, "What I am surprised is, how do they know that I will die first."
ZAHN: The pope said that to you?
ALBACETE: Yes. And I said, "Do you know something that I don't know?" He said, "No, I was just wondering." And I said, "Well, let's put it this way, if I die first, you go on CNN and say nice things about me."
ZAHN: So what you're saying tonight...
ALBACETE: That was our last conversation.
ZAHN: Really? And so you feel you have the pope...
ALBACETE: I am now fulfilling what I promised him.
Really... read B!oN.
Here's a terrific post on the positions of the Church which the Holy Father proposed to powerfully over his 26 year pontificate:
- RE the Corner: The [Not] Paradoxical Pope
I agree with Ramesh and Jonah on the Corner regarding the Pope's positions that defy simple right/left categorization. I think that it is a mistake to dub the Pope paradoxical, however. It is the parties that have the paradoxes. The Pope's positions are all in sympathy with one another. Why oppose totally unregulated free markets? Because they degrade human beings. Why oppose communist domination? Because it degrades human beings. The Pope's positions moderate the worst passions of both parties. The current challenges for modern civilization (and the church) which are so well described in the Derbyshire piece mentioned below, may be all the more challenging in that left and right are both more aligned against the church teaching than in these previous battles (where perhaps one party would adopt the church's position). Consider stem cell research on human embryos. If the principle of human dignity is to be upheld (and applied to embryos as the church would have it) then embryonic stem cell research should not only be unfunded--it should be illegal. Neither party has the political stomach for that, which suggests that the political center of the brave new world debates is much further away from the church's teaching than on say, social safety nets or abortion. On biotech--and many related issues--it appears that neither party genuinely wants to stand with the church. None of that changes the fundamentally un-paradoxical nature of the Pope's teaching.
Bill Cork links to the advice of the Nat'l Catholic Reporter's suggestion to the next pope: listen to your fellow bishops more. Bill aptly replies, so I'm just going to quote his post in full:
- Tom Roberts has advice for the pope: have a year of "listening sessions." He wants him to travel wearing a black suit, celebrate no masses, do nothing but listen to bishops. I guess Mr. Roberts doesn't know about something called "ad limina visits."
In Mr. Roberts' model, the pope should be a facilitator and a manager, not a teacher or a pastor or a priest.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
In light my recent calls urging those who disagreed with JPII's teachings to recognize that these are the Church's teachings and try to prayfully consider them, I thought it would be good to briefly ennumerate those issues upon with JPII and the Church have impacted my views.
As those who either know me personally or read this blog know, I'm politically pretty conservative (yes, really!), and despite the hopes of one of my aunt's, I have been so since, well, elementary school (she thought I'd 'grow up' in college). However, my reversion and the reading it prompted forced me to reexamine some of my strongly-held views. For instance....
I used to be a strong advocate of the death penalty, but no more. Of course, I continue to believe that the death penalty is not wrong per se, but I see no reason why it needs to be used as much as it is in our country. With our prisons, there is little danger of criminals posing a threat to others, and hence there is no need to execute them. I think that my previous belief was dependent on a sense of justice which was inadequate in two ways: first, mistaking justice for vengence; and second, thinking that the punishment had to fit the crime in an overly-literal sense (we don't kidnap the children of kidnappers, do we?).
Another example: I used to be an advocate of completely doing away with a government-funded welfare system, but now I recognize that we have a duty not just as individuals but as a society to take care of the less-fortunate, and while this should happen at as local a level as possible (the principle of subsidiarity), and with as much private organization involvement as possible (churches, civic groups, etc.), there will always be people who fall through the cracks, and we need need to care for them. Hence, I do believe that there needs to be a social safety net of at least a minimal level.
Relatedly, I'm much less of an individualist; understanding the Church's teaching on human nature has led me to realize that I am intrinsically ordered to relationships with other people, and that these relationships are not merely "add-ons". I think that "rugged individualism" can have a proper understanding, but more often than not it has an improper understanding, which leads us to focus too much on ourselves ("my rights!") and not enough on others (my duties).
Another example: I'm not the laissez-faire capitalist I used to be. I've come to recognize that the free market system requires some government controls to ensure that human dignity is always respected. While I still hold many of the concrete policy views I used to, they have a new intellectual foundation which is more adequate to human dignity.
So, for those of you who wonder, JPII and the Church he led in Jesus' name have impacted my views on controverted issues of our time.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
I've been banned from a blog, and my previous comments have been deleted.
The blog in question is Lutheran Pastor Paul McCain's cyberbrethren.
As far as I know, I've never been rude or disrespectful in commenting there, but I guess my disagreements with him wore out my welcome.
Update: a depressing number of LCMSers don't know how to talk with Catholics without reminding us of how heretical and/or asinine we are. Fortunately, there are still some who can do so (like Daniel). Now, I'm well aware that there are plenty of Catholics out there who return the favor. But you know what? I ain't one of 'em.
Better update: Good news!
Pastor Paul replied to an email, and said that it wasn't personal, he's just going to a no-comment blog, b/c he didn't have time to reply to the many serious comments being made.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Of late the old, tired canards about how it's too bad JPII wasn't more like John XXIII and how he reversed or suppressed parts of the Council have been flying. Saturday, for instance, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said the following in its editorial on the passing of the holy father:But a man raised under the tyranny of Nazi and Soviet invaders did not liberalize the church. Indeed, he insisted on bishops who were theological clones of himself. Orthodoxy was compelled, and the generous spirit of John XXIII snuffed out.I replied with a letter to the editor, which was published as follows on Tuesday:
- Contrary to the opinion of the April 2 editorial on Pope John Paul II, he was certainly just as generous as Pope John XXIII. Those with their own agendas have developed views of both popes which simply do not accord with reality, and this is certainly exemplified in this instance.
Like his later successor, John believed strongly in the traditional teachings of the church; I challenge anyone to offer an example of him disagreeing with the views John Paul would hold on any of the contentious moral issues of our day.
- I'm surprised that hard data on the damage the late Pope did to the Catholic church has not been readily available in the mainstream media. But here are some interesting statistics. Since 1975, the number of priestly ordinations in the U.S. declined from 771 a year to 533 last year. (In 2000, the number hit a low of 442.) When you adjust for population growth, in 1975, 771 newly ordained priests faced a Catholic population of 49 million; today, 533 emerge for a total of 64 million Catholics. Essentially, per Catholic, we saw a 50 percent drop in vocations under this Pope. No wonder that in 1975, 702 parishes had no priest; and today, over 3,000 are without a pastor. That's quite an indictment. Globally, the picture is a little brighter, but still not encouraging. The number of parishes without priests went from 23 percent of all parishes in 1975 to 25 percent in 2000. In the U.S., weekly church attendance has slowly but innexorably declined to well below 50 percent of all Catholics. The decline in religious orders has been particularly steep: down by over 30 percent. And all this understates the crisis facing the American church, because almost half the current priesthood is over 60 - and their replacements are in shorter and shorter supply. This is the legacy of John Paul II: a church that may soon have no-one to run it. John Paul the Great? Puhlease.
We get more of the same in this The New Republic article by Sullivan (free registration required).
Wojtyla leveraged this new stardom to reassert a far older idea of the papacy--as the central, unaccountable force in the Church. The Second Vatican Council had opened authority up, placing the hierarchy on a more equal footing with the lay faithful in understanding the tenets of faith. It had also led to all sorts of chaotic improvisation and confusion. Wojtyla shut this process down--the good alongside the bad. He didn't reverse the Council (it was beyond his will or power). But he ignored and suppressed it in critical areas. National churches were given little leeway. Dissent within the Church was forbidden. The Pope silenced even debate of issues that were not of fundamental doctrinal importance, such as the prudential, managerial questions of whether priests could marry or whether women could become priests. These, he asserted, were eternal arrangements that were beyond discussion, even if maintaining them had led to a crisis in the Church's very existence in some countries.Where to begin? First, the papacy is the highest authority in the Church, as it always has been. Is the pope accountable? Absolutely: to the Church's Founder, Jesus Christ. But that's not what Sullivan means, of course. And we see that in his reference to how Vatican II placed "the hierarchy on a more equal footing with the lay faithful in understanding the tenets of faith." Umm.... citation, Andrew? Which of the Council's sixteen documents indicate this, Mr. Sullivan? Once more, we have unproven, undocumented, vague references to the Council, which those who have actually studied the Council and its texts know do not exist. And of course, we get reference to JPII's ignoring and suppressing of the Council. Come on. Anyone who knows anything about Karol Wojtyla knows that he was a thorough supporter of the Council, knows that he initiated a series of diocesan synods in Krakow to implement the Council, and knows that he wrote a book (Sources of Renewal) explaining the Council for those who were studying the documents. But Sullivan seeks to document this alleged suppression:
1. National churches were given little leeway.
Interesting... as this piece and his blog entries indicate, Sullivan's (professed) major beef with JPII is the clergy sex abuse scandals; he complains that the Pope failed to intervene in the Church in the U.S. Hmm... so is it too little leeway, or too much, Andrew?
2. Dissent in the Church was forbidden.
Yes -- horror of horrors -- JPII required that members of the Catholic Church accept the teachings of the Catholic Church. Unbelieveable, isn't it?
3. The Pope silenced even debate of issues that were not of fundamental doctrinal importance, such as the prudential, managerial questions of whether priests could marry or whether women could become priests.
First, debate on the issue of clerical celibacy has not been quashed... plenty of people discuss it, without threat of retribution. Second, Mr. Sullivan should know that celibacy and priestesses are apples and oranges: the former is a practice (and a venerable one which serves an excellent purpose), while the latter is a doctrine. Now, the Church has long taught that it cannot ordain women, but the persistence of some has shaken the faith of many Catholics. So it was only right that JPII in his role has chief shepherd and pastor bring an end to a discussion which was metaphysically-certain to be fruitless.
Then we get this:
This man so hostile to intellectual debate was, paradoxically, an intellectual, although an idiosyncratic one. His faith was a strange mixture of esoteric phenomenological reflections and medieval attachments to various saints, miracles, and practices.Can someone explain the meaning of "esoteric phenomenological reflections" to me? I have no idea what that means. I know what phenomenology is, and I know how JPII employed it, but did his faith consist of "esoteric phenomenological reflections"? Unless Sullivan has redefined these terms, the answer is "no".
Later, we read,
On matters of human sexuality and the "culture of life," he moved Catholic teaching away from prudential balance to eternal absolutes--that life is equally sacred, whether it is a nanosecond after conception or decades into a persistent vegetative state. The distinctions made by Catholics in the past--between, say, a naturally aborted embryo and a third-trimester baby, or between "ordinary" and "extraordinary" means for maintaining life--were downplayed.First off, JPII's teaching on sexuality and life issues is nothing but an elaboration of previous magisterial teaching; there has been no less prudential balance with him. And what exactly is wrong with actually believing in the dignity of every human life, regardless of age or condition? Although he doesn't intend it, the implication of Mr. Sullivan's criticism is that some human beings don't have dignity, and that's a very, very dangerous road to go down.
Second, the Church has never said that a miscarried embryonic human and a third-trimester embryonic human are essentially different; Andrew's reference is to a phantom.
Finally, JPII continued to affirm the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means of life-support; Mr. Sullivan simply does not understand that food and water are not life-support.
There are certainly grounds for criticizing JPII on certain matters, but those matters do not pertain to phantoms from the past, conceived in the fertile imaginations of those who somehow cannot accept that the teachings of John Paul II are not his private misguided opinions but are the teachings of the Church founded by Jesus Christ: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
- "The city center cannot take the arrival of any more faithful," said Guido Bertolaso, head of crowd control for the funeral. "Anyone arriving tonight or tomorrow will have no possibility of following the funeral at St. Peter's."
New arrivals, coming in on planes, trains and buses from around the world, were urged to make their way to a special reception area in the suburbs of Rome.
The city normally has a population of 3 million but around 4 million visitors have flowed in since John Paul's death on Saturday, according to Rome police chief Achille Serra.
"The number of people is staggering and is growing constantly," he told Reuters. "This is unprecedented."
I made the mistake of reading other JPII-related posts a "Just a Bump in the Beltway". In the comments of this one, a number of issues were brought up, which elicited this response from yours truly:
- Actually, Rodger, the two days of prayer for peace in Assisi were well-publicized, as were Catholic-Jewish relations and Catholic-Muslim dialogues. Interfaith dialogue was probably more active than during any other papacy in history.
Liberation theology was problematic because it rather uncritically assimilated problematic dimensions of Marxism.
A formal Notification was issued pertaining to one of Jacques Dupuis' books. It reads in part, "The present Notification is not meant as a judgment on the author’s subjective thought, but rather as a statement of the Church’s teaching on certain aspects of the above-mentioned doctrinal truths, and as a refutation of erroneous or harmful opinions, which, prescinding from the author’s intentions, could be derived from reading the ambiguous statements and insufficient explanations found in certain sections of the text." I don't see that as blacklisting, for what it's worth.
Melanie is also right that married men were allowed to become priests until the 11th century (you could never marry after ordination). However, these men were expected to *be forever continent*, i.e. never have sex with their wives again. This expectation remained (even though it was not always followed) until the Church finally decided that it was too difficult to ask it of a man, and henceforth celibacy was required. (Cf. the New Catholic Encyclopedia entry, "Celibacy, History of" as well as Cochini, "The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy," a text encouraged by Cardinals Danielou and de Lubac, themselves never regarded as arch-conservatives.)
Women have never been priests in Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. I expect to seem women ordained in the Catholic Church around the same time that actual remarriage is allowed and when it is affirmed by the Church that Mary had other children besides Jesus.
In this post, Melanie does have some nice things to say about JPII, but then opines,
- As a theologian (and he was that) his theology of the human body took the Church back to the 12th century, overturned most of what science has learned about the human person, in biology and psychology, and returned it to a "natural law" tradition that never met the Enlightenment or modernity.
Melanie of Just a Bump in the Beltway is a fairly new Catholic (converting a few years ago) who tends towards the liberal side of the faith in general; when it comes to politics, she's all the way to the left. While I strongly disagree with her on political matters, I generally find her religious views to be plausible, even if I might disagree.
Sadly, even that is changing. In this post, she writes about JPII that
- he has been guilty of driving the progressives out and encouraging a neo-orthodox, simplistic faith that appeals to the third world where the other choices are militant, infantilized Islam or Christian pentacostalism.
One of the things that ought to be appealing about Catholicism to first world professionals is its tradition of intellectual inquiry. Sadly, that side of the Church has been in eclipse since the pontificate of Paul VI.
"guilty of driving the progressives out"
Exactly how did he do this? By boldly proclaiming the timeless truths of our faith? By refusing to correspond the Catholic faith to liberal orthodoxy? I suspect that most of the progressives who left the church had done so in mind & heart long before.
"encouraging a neo-orthodox, simplistic faith that appeals to the third world"
One can only chuckle at something like this. First, it seems that liberals today are compelled to attach "neo-" to anything which they dislike or dispise. Second, exactly how is "neo-orthodoxy" different from "orthodoxy," and why is either anything but a good, true, and beautiful thing? Third, anyone who thinks that Catholic theology today is simplistic is woefully unaware of modern orthodox scholarship. Pick up Communio, The Thomist, or the new english-language edition of Nova et Vetera and try to tell me that theology encouraged by JPII is simplistic. This is probably the most disappointing of Melanie's statements.
Finally and relatedly, we have reference to a phantom eclipse of intellectual inquiry.
Again, I'd point to those journals, or the work of Alasdair Macintyre (in philosophy), Avery Dulles, David Schindler, Matthew Levering, and (yes) Joseph Ratzinger. Or the writings of JPII himself. (Dr. Philip Blosser -- himself a convert -- has amassed an impressive list of notable converts to Catholicism, including those who have converted since the papacy of Paul VI, [of which there are more than a few]).
Melanie seems to be echoing the sentiments of those Catholics who are complaining because the Church hasn't "modified" (i.e. radically altered) her teachings so as to accord with the magisterium of secular liberalism's orthodoxy.
Their disappointment will continue.
Stop judging the Church by your standards and spend a few months in prayer to see if maybe its your thinking that needs to change.
Monday, April 04, 2005
I reverted to Catholicism in the fall of 1994, and Pope John Paul II had an immediate effect on my newly-kindled faith. His writings and more importantly his witness were and remained an inspiration and source of wisdom to me... like so many others, I think his canonization will not be far off, nor will the attachment of "the Great" to his name be far away.
The first time I got to see him in person was in November of 1996, when I journeyed from Gaming, Austria to Rome with the rest of that semester's FUS Gaming students. We were present at the Wednesday audience (held inside the Paul VI audience hall because of the weather), and John Paul's appearance was electrifying. Our group (about 100 students) immediately began chanting "John Paul II, we love you, John Paul II, we love you!" over and over. When the time came for the Holy Father to greet the pilgrims in each of the major languages, the monsignor for the english-speaking pilgrims welcomed "the students and staff from Franciscan University of Steubenville." We immediately stood up and began the chant again; at one point, the monsignor tried to continue on to the next group, but we didn't let him... we continued to chant/yell, until the Holy Father gestured to us.
Then, the Holy Father himself welcomed the pilgrims in each of the major languages. In english, he said, "I would like to welcome the english-speaking pilgrims who have come to the city of Peter and Paul" (or something to that effect), and then -- in what was an obvious ad-lib -- he looked up from the text and added, "especially the students from Steubenville." I still get chills thinking about it! Of course, we immediately stood up and just cheered (we were to overcome to yell something intelligible). That was one of the most exciting moments in my life.
Fast-forward one year to the late fall of 1997. I'm now living and studying in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum). I've had the chance to see the Holy Father on numerous occasions of course (Wednesday audiences and Sunday Angeluses). But then...
Early in December each year, the pope has a mass for all the university students in Rome. So I got a ticket from the Ange's office, and got to St. Peter's early enough to get an aisle seat. At the beginning of mass, the Holy Father processed in from the back, and passed within about four feet of me! I was very excited. However...
After the Mass, John Paul came down the aisle, zig-zagging from side to side, shaking people's hands. And when he zigged, I was there! I got to shake his hand, and look into his warm-yet-steely blue eyes! I think I was on a high for about four hours! I made a bunch of (expensive) phone calls back to the States to tell people about it.
December of 1999, though, was the pinnacle. My wife and I were married that summer, and we knew about the papal blessing for newly-weds (first year of marriage). So on December 15th, 1999, at the end of the Wednesday audience, my wife and I got to meet John Paul II personally, and shake his hand. I told him that we were graduates of Steubenville (he nodded approvingly), and asked for his blessing, which he gave us by the sign of the cross and a hearty "God bless you!" That moment is, of course, immortalized on what we call our "Pope Wall" in our living room, due to the number of pictures we have of JPII (and will of future popes as well).
I truly believe that I and we have been blessed to have this man as our pontiff for 26 wonderful years, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunities -- no matter how quick -- I had to meet him personally.
John Paul II has returned to the house of the Father... rest in peace.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
His last moments were described early today by Father Jarek Cielecki, director of Vatican Service News, a Catholic TV channel. "The Holy Father died looking towards the window as he prayed, and that shows that in some way he was conscious," Cielecki said.
"A short while before dying, the Pope raised his right hand in a clear, although simply hinted at, gesture of blessing, as if he became aware of the crowd of faithful present in St Peter's Square, who in those moments were following the reciting of the Rosary," he added.
"Just after the prayer ended, the Pope made a huge effort and pronounced the word 'Amen'. A moment later, he died."
(A bit more on his final word here.)