April 4th, 2005


Theological Notebook--Conclave Business

They're starting to publish articles and such looking ahead to the conclave now. Here are a few off of the Associated Press that I'll reprint for the curious. I see the first one is talking to Michael Fahey, SJ, who I think is America's best ecclesiologist (theologian who studies the Church) which is why I've gotten him as my dissertation director. In the second one, which in particular looks to speculate on likely candidates, I'll only note that it seems to me that the writer is making a mistake in not even considering or seemingly being aware of those Cardinals who are retired. I've even grabbed this little AP graphic that's supposedly insightful for letting us see the "continental" weight of the Cardinals. I don't know whether the Oceania ones are here called Asian or Australian, so that's not terribly helpful even on its intended level, is it? This is a much more helpful link, which will take you directly to a list of the 117 eligible Cardinals.

Conclave Choosing Pope to Face New Issues

Apr 3, 9:37 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - The last time the College of Cardinals gathered to select a pope, the Cold War dominated the globe, non-European voices in the church were weak and unfocused and dialogue with other faiths was left to second-tier envoys. None of that is true today.

When the cardinals assemble in the Sistine Chapel this month, the questions and priorities considered in selecting the successor of Pope John Paul II will reflect 26 years of profound shifts: the rising influence of African and Latin America clergy, greater pressure to allow married priests after damaging sex scandals and hopes for Vatican leadership in critical outreach between the West and the Muslim world.

These factors - and other internal pressures more difficult to predict - must eventually translate into a name written on the paper ballots used by the cardinals. How quickly a new pontiff emerges will likely be a sign of which issues take prominence in the secret selection process.
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Theological Notebook--Why John Paul II Was Important To Us

A body is such an empty thing, isn't it? Even in his utter frailty, ravaged as his body was by disease and abuse, he was still so vital. All people are, I know, but John Paul is the one we've all been watching and thinking about.

I've heard a number of people say and write over the last few days about how much they find that the man meant to them, even if they were not Catholic or felt very distant from any remnant of Catholicism in their lives. People have wondered why and how that should be. I have been thinking a lot about it, myself, sitting with my own feeling of loss since we began our vigil.

The man, you see, was a sacrament. Catholic spirituality is all about this idea of "sacrament," and even though we wouldn't call this one of the "official" seven sacraments, that's still what he was. A sacrament is "a visible sign of an invisible reality." Water becomes a sign of grace. Bread and wine become a sign of Christ. And a "sign" here is something deep and real, and far beyond a mere symbol or metaphor. To be Pope is to be the Bishop of Rome. But to be the Bishop of Rome is to be not just an administrator and a teacher and all the other things that the Pope has to be. To be Pope is to be the living center of the Church: the "hub" to which all other local churches, and every individual in them, are "spokes," stretching out across the world. When we lost that hub, we lost that living connection we had to every other person in the Church, and even beyond the Church.

Now again, the Pope is a sacrament: he is the visible sign of the invisible reality of this communion we have with one another. So we didn't really lose this communion, because that invisible reality is really given to us by God, in the Holy Spirit. But we did lose the visible sign of that reality--Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II--and we have lived with that man providing this connection for each of us--wherever we are--for far too long for that loss to feel like anything but a shock.

When we lost John Paul, we lost something of our sense of each other, if only for a little bit. For there will be a new Bishop of Rome. There always is, whether elected like Karol by the Cardinals from among their own number, or whether like Fabian long ago, by the people of Rome who saw a dove land on the head of that weekend visitor, and who then decided that this was the man for them. But the reality is in the Spirit, who is with all of us, whether we acknowledge that or not. When we listen to the Spirit speaking to us, we'll find that the loss of John Paul takes on a different character, for we will see the true center of the Church resting in God, and we will hear John Paul's voice, still with us, but once again having returned to the chorus of our communion, the communion of the saints.
Loyola Faculty Portrait

Theological Notebook--John Allen's Obituary of John Paul II

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has written a fairly masterful obituary of John Paul that deserves reading. It is certainly critical in points, but unlike a certain amount of what appears in NCR, not irrationally so. John Allen has been providing an insightful column for some years on the week-to-week doings in Rome and few are as qualified to try to speak on how things function in the center of the Church's hierarchy. He's providing commentary on CNN and is worth perking up to listen to when those more ill-educated talking heads chose to ask questions.
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Random--An Important Poll

I love the geniuses in the American press who put things like this together in the firm belief that this is actually telling us something. I note four categories, however, that are strangely missing:

1) Percentage of respondents who could articulate the theological or ecclesiological rationale for the position with which they disagree.

2) Percentage of respondents who could offer a coherent theological or ecclesiological rationale for their own position.

3) Percentage of respondents who feel that neither inability mentioned above has a bearing on the legitimacy of their opinion.

4) Percentage of respondents who believe that God is really an American.

*Note: None of the eye-rolling commentary offered above should be understood to imply anything about the author's own responses to the questions asked on the poll.
Loyola Faculty Portrait

Theological Notebook--Vatican Ties to Taiwan

My brother and I were just talking the other night about the implications if a Chinese got elected Pope. Of course, until reading this article, I thought Cardinal Wu Cheng-chung of Hong Kong was still alive. My bad. Sometimes I really wish someone would just spill the beans and tell the People's Republic that Taiwan actually is an independent country and has been for the last 50 years. I suppose if it actually somehow resulted in religious freedom in the People's Republic then it might not be entirely evil to humour their delusion regarding Taiwan for a few years. But if the Vatican broke relations first, I'd be pissed. I wish George "We must stand for democracy and freedom everywhere" Bush would have America lead the way on this, despite it going against all conventional Washington thinking....

Vatican Mulls Cutting Ties with Taiwan: HK Bishop

Apr 4, 11:43 PM (ET)

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Vatican would be reluctantly willing to cut ties with Taiwan and set up relations with China if Beijing could guarantee religious freedom, the head of the Hong Kong Roman Catholic diocese said on Tuesday.

"If the Chinese government is willing to grant real freedom to the church in mainland China, then the Vatican would reluctantly be willing to give up its diplomatic relations with Taiwan," Bishop Joseph Zen told Reuters.

"The unfair thing is, Beijing wants the Vatican to stop its relations with Taiwan first before it will talk with the Vatican."

China severed relations with the Holy See in the 1950s after expelling foreign clergy. Believers must attend state-sanctioned churches which pledge loyalty to Beijing instead of the Vatican, though many worship the Pope in secret.

The South China Morning Post on Tuesday quoted Zen as saying the Holy See had been "thinking of giving up" Taiwan. "This is a difficult (decision), but it has decided to do it," he was quoted as saying.