“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

October 31, 2009

Halloween at the White House

No wonder the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano warned against this holiday.

(Courtesy of Elizabeth Scalia)

Do You Ever Have Days Like This? I Do.

October 30, 2009

And Don't Let the Door Hit You In the Apse on the Way Out

The Episcopal Bishop of Maryland, Eugene Taylor Sutton, has announced that "the door swings both ways." He's rolling out the welcome mat for Catholics who, dissenting from Catholic teaching and yearning for a church home that will accept each of them "just as I am," may want to go out through the in door that Pope Benedict XVI is holding open for Anglicans who want to become Catholic.

Predictably, the pope's startling ecumenical gesture does not sit well with some folks. There is, in fact, a great deal of inflamed emotion among some Catholics and Anglicans over Benedict's recent masterstroke of ecumenical diplomacy by allowing a special new door for Anglicans to formally enter the Catholic Church.

The biblical phrase "wailing and gnashing of teeth" comes to mind. Naysayers perched on the banks of both the Tiber and the Thames have been fuming and frothing and fulminating in their periodicals and on their blogs, inveighing against Pope Benedict for acting like a "pirate" and a "poacher" and a . . . a . . . a papist!

And yet, this chapter in Catholic/Anglican relations appears to be the wave of the near future.

My personal reaction to Benedict's bold strategery toward the Church of England is simply to say, "Glory to God! Bravo, Pope Benedict! and, welcome home!" to our brethren who who are coming in out of the Anglican storm.

I know that some who read this will strongly disagree with me. To them I simply say, as the late Jim Croce once trenchantly observed, "You don't tug on Superman's cape, and you don't spit into the wind." Lately, the wind sure has been blowing where it will.

October 29, 2009

"Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic"

The hugely talented singer-songwriter Sting recently extolled the new American President in messianically reverential tones, declaring that,
"In many ways, he's sent from God."

Perhaps so, but let's not forget that God has also been known to send swarms of locusts, frogs, hail, pestilence and other plagues (c.f., Exodus chapters 5-11). I'm just saying.

Sting affirms that Dear Leader is "very genuine, very present, clearly super-smart, and exactly what we need in the world. . . . I can't think of any be better qualified because of his background, his education, particularly in regard to Islam."


Anyway, I'm not much persuaded by Sting's views on this subject. I LOVE his music, but I just don't think he's seeing things clearly here. Even so, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for at least being sincere, if naive. After all, he's the one who also also said, "When the world is running down, you make the best of what's still around."

Walk Like a Man (Robot Style)

I'll tell you what. I don't ever want to see one of these things walking (or running) in my direction. [Strains of David Bowie: "Put on your red shoes and dance the blues . . ."

Switzerland Trying to Squelch "Suicide Tourism"

The Times Online reports:

Switzerland announced plans yesterday to crack down on “suicide tourism”, signalling that it might close the Dignitas clinic that has helped hundreds of terminally ill people to take their lives.

The plans — in the form of two draft Bills that will be offered for public debate — are likely to set off a rush of patients from Britain and elsewhere in Europe since Switzerland has become the main destination for those seeking assisted suicide.

Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the Justice Minister, said that two options would be presented to parliament. Either clinics such as Dignitas and Exit, which deals chiefly with Swiss patients, will have to accept much stricter regulation or they will be closed down.

The tightening of the rules would require patients to present two medical opinions declaring their disease incurable, that death is expected within months and that they have made their decision of sound mind and fully aware of their options.

These guidelines, said the minister, appeal to common sense. And even in the most controversial clinic, Dignitas, these rules are already broadly adhered to. But critics have accused Dignitas of widening its criteria. Some patients are not terminally ill and at least a few would-be suicides are suffering from clinical depression.

The plan is thus to slow down the process and make it a more considered, and carefully policed, decision. . . . (continue reading)

I Just Saw This Crazy Thing. How'd They Do That?

October 28, 2009

Cardinal Avery Dulles on the Morality of the Death Penalty

Catholicism & Capital Punishment

Among the major nations of the Western world, the United States is singular in still having the death penalty. After a five-year moratorium, from 1972 to 1977, capital punishment was reinstated in the United States courts. Objections to the practice have come from many quarters, including the American Catholic bishops, who have rather consistently opposed the death penalty. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1980 published a predominantly negative statement on capital punishment, approved by a majority vote of those present though not by the required two-thirds majority of the entire conference.1 Pope John Paul II has at various times expressed his opposition to the practice, as have other Catholic leaders in Europe.

By Avery Cardinal Dulles, First Things —

Some Catholics, going beyond the bishops and the Pope, maintain that the death penalty, like abortion and euthanasia, is a violation of the right to life and an unauthorized usurpation by human beings of God's sole lordship over life and death. Did not the Declaration of Independence, they ask, describe the right to life as “unalienable”?

While sociological and legal questions inevitably impinge upon any such reflection, I am here addressing the subject as a theologian. At this level the question has to be answered primarily in terms of revelation, as it comes to us through Scripture and tradition, interpreted with the guidance of the ecclesiastical magisterium.

In the Old Testament the Mosaic Law specifies no less than thirty-six capital offenses calling for execution by stoning, burning, decapitation, or strangulation. Included in the list are idolatry, magic, blasphemy, violation of the sabbath, murder, adultery, bestiality, pederasty, and incest. The death penalty was considered especially fitting as a punishment for murder since in his covenant with Noah God had laid down the principle, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image” (Genesis 9:6). In many cases God is portrayed as deservedly punishing culprits with death, as happened to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16). In other cases individuals such as Daniel and Mordecai are God's agents in bringing a just death upon guilty persons.

In the New Testament the right of the State to put criminals to death seems to be taken for granted. Jesus himself refrains from using violence. He rebukes his disciples for wishing to call down fire from heaven to punish the Samaritans for their lack of hospitality (Luke 9:55). Later he admonishes Peter to put his sword in the scabbard rather than resist arrest (Matthew 26:52). At no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment. In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die” (Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10, referring to Exodus 2l:17; cf. Leviticus 20:9). When Pilate calls attention to his authority to crucify him, Jesus points out that Pilate's power comes to him from above-that is to say, from God (John 19:11). Jesus commends the good thief on the cross next to him, who has admitted that he and his fellow thief are receiving the due reward of their deeds (Luke 23:41).

The early Christians evidently had nothing against the death penalty. They approve of the divine punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira when they are rebuked by Peter for their fraudulent action (Acts 5:1-11). The Letter to the Hebrews makes an argument from the fact that “a man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses” (10:28). Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death. He writes to the Romans, with an apparent reference to the death penalty, that the magistrate who holds authority “does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty.

Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to . . . (
continue reading)

Hans Kung Accuses Pope Benedict of Being (Gasp!) a Fisher of Men

Who even knew Hans Kung was still around? Like a rickety old submarine that surfaces now and then to vent the noxious fumes that have built up inside, this disgruntled Vatican II
peritus pops up every so often with a querulous screech about how the pope (JPII & BXVI) hasn't been driving the big ol' Churchbus in the leftward direction he so badly wants it to go.

Oops, he's done it again, taking another potshot at his former colleague, Pope Benedict XVI.

Father Kung's aggressive ambivalence toward the Catholic Church is almost cute now, like the part where he maunders on about how Pope Benedict engaged in "piracy" (piracy!) in his recent ecumenical gesture toward Anglicans.

Dissident theologian Father Hans Kung criticized Pope Benedict XVI for his recent opening to discontented Anglicans, charging the pope was “fishing” for the most conservative Christians to the detriment of the larger church.

Father Kung said the invitation to traditionalist Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church went against years of ecumenical work on the part of both churches, calling it instead “a nonecumenical piracy of priests.”

The pope’s basic message is: “Traditionalists of all churches, unite under the dome of St. Peter’s!” Father Kung wrote in an editorial Oct. 28 in the Rome daily La Repubblica.

“Look: The fisherman is fishing above all on the ‘right’ side of the lake. But the water is muddy,” he said.

The Vatican announced Oct. 20 that the pope was establishing a new structure to welcome Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining some of their spiritual and liturgical traditions. Many of the Anglicans who have asked the Vatican for such a provision are dismayed by the ordination of women and by the blessing of homosexual unions and the ordination of openly gay bishops in some provinces of the Anglican Communion.

While emphasizing the importance of celibacy for priests, the Vatican said a dispensation would be made for former Anglican priests who are married to be ordained Catholic priests. However, they will not be able to become bishops.

Father Kung, a Swiss theologian who has taught in Germany for decades, warned that married newcomers will cause resentment on the part of celibate Catholic clergy.

In 1979 the Vatican withdrew permission for him to teach as a Catholic theologian, although it did not restrict his ministry as a Catholic priest.

In the editorial, Father Kung also lambasted Pope Benedict’s recent efforts to bring back into the fold members of the Society of St. Pius X, a group of breakaway Catholics opposed to the changes in the church following the Second Vatican Council.

“After reintegrating the anti-reformist Society of St. Pius X, now Benedict XVI wants to flesh out the thinning ranks of Roman Catholics with like-minded Anglicans,” Father Kung wrote in the editorial.

He also criticized Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion, who “in his desire to ingratiate himself with the Vatican apparently didn’t understand the consequences of the papal fishing trip in Anglican waters.” (source)

Is Everything Up For Grabs? A Catholic Critique of Moral Relativism

the audio of the talk on moral relativism I gave last a few weeks ago in Madison, Wisconsin, before a Catholic audience of approximately 450. It was held at the diocesan center in their super-plush auditorium. (Thanks for having me up to speak!)

Do You Know the Way to San Jose? (And Oakland and San Francisco?)

I'm delighted to be reprising my earlier role as guest speaker for several Immaculate Heart Radio "Listener Appreciation" events in
San Francisco (Nov. 3), Oakland (Nov. 4), and San Jose (Nov. 5), as well as Salt Lake City (Nov. 10) and Albuquerque (Nov. 12). Click here for details.

I hope you can be there for one or more of these events. These are fun events, and I know you'll enjoy learning more about the excellent apostolate of Catholic radio that the Immaculate Heart Radio Network has been building out West.

Real Mormons Don't Want Fake Mormons to Be Called "Mormons"

The following message (though not this picture) was posted yesterday on the Mormon Church's public affairs blog. It explains the group's unhappiness with recent news reports that refer to "splinter groups" which hive off from the Salt Lake City-based "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" (AKA "the Mormon Church") as "Mormons."

These splinter groups (AKA "Mormon Fundamentalists") assiduously devote themselves to the practice of the doctrine of polygamy (which was renounced by THE Mormon Church in 1890) and around whichever Viagra-addled alpha male has set himself up as the prophet, seer, and revelator for that particular harem.

Yes, it's kind of weird, especially since the real Mormon Church used to officially teach (and practice with gusto) the doctrine of "plural marriage" (c.f., D&C 132:51-52, 61-64). But when you consider this issue from the standpoint of the LDS Church, their concern makes sense. And in any case, I personally find the whole wild and wonderful world of Mormonism rather fascinating anyway.

During the past few years most journalists in the U.S. have done an excellent job in clarifying the differences between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and small, polygamist, splinter groups that often call themselves "Mormons" but have no connection with the Church. Since these groups are covered in the press frequently, we appreciate journalists' efforts to make this distinction.

However, today The Times in London ran a story about a polygamist group, not at all associated with the Church, with the headline "Mormon polygamist Raymond Jessop on trial after raid on sect's compound." Journalists who use the word "Mormon" in relation to polygamist groups unassociated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cause enormous amounts of confusion in the minds of their readers. Particularly internationally, readers do not distinguish between these groups and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which there are over 13.5 million members worldwide.

A few weeks ago I was in Korea and spoke with some of the Church's Public Affairs media representatives there. They expressed frustration with international wire services that inappropriately use the term "Mormon" in their stories in association with fringe polygamists groups. The Korean press often reruns these stories with the wire service inaccuracies. The effect of such misinformation in Korea, and other countries where the Church has fewer members and is less well known, is much greater. . . . (continue reading)

Cardinal George Pell: You Have to Fight and You Have to Fight to Win

A few years ago, the redoubtable Cardinal archbishop of Sydney wrote a letter to his flock called "The Eucharist: Heart of Our Faith." In it he touched once again on a recurring theme present in many of his articles and letters, that of the urgent need for Christians to be willing to fight against evil in all its forms. Not to fight with weapons of war and violence, of course, but with the weapons of truth, virtue and, most importantly, the Holy Eucharist.

Because the Mass is such an important event we need to work to participate properly. Mass is not an opportunity to relax and daydream, to let our minds wander wherever they might. We are called to participate, with our hearts, minds and bodies. Such participation must be internal and spiritual; it requires periods of silence and listening, but above all it requires prayer.

A Mass is only a "good Mass" when it is prayerful.

From Old Testament times marriage imagery has been used to describe the relationship between God and His chosen people. So too theologians speak of Christ as the bridegroom and the whole Catholic community as His bride.

We can accurately speak of Jesus facing death to save his bride, the Church, just as we speak of Christ as a warrior dedicated to defeating the power of evil. The Eucharist is a kind of celebration of this marriage and of this total giving unto death.

The Eucharist in particular should give us the strength and energy to take God’s love into the world. But for this to be effective every lover must be a fighter.

We cannot follow Christ without a struggle, without fighting and battling to control and purify our selfish instincts.

We are called to fight and battle against evil in its many forms. We know that evil will triumph if enough people do nothing. Good parents will battle to protect their children. People will even give their lives for great causes, to defend their country.

I don’t think a Christian can say “I’m a lover, not a fighter”. The Eucharist gives us energy for this essential struggle. . . .

October 27, 2009

New Updates About My Grandson, Killian Patrick Madrid

As those of you who follow my blog know, the little man (our seventh precious grandchild ) was born three months premature, but he's progressing well (better than the doctors expected) and fighting hard, thanks be to God and to all of you who have been praying for the lad.

Please kindly keep your prayers ascending to heaven for him, as he's not out of the woods yet. And please keep his mom and dad, Nina and Tim, in your prayers, too. They've been coursing through some pretty rough waters with all this.

Carl Sagan Like You've Never Seen Him Before

Okay. This video is flat out cool. I know, I know, it's Carl Sagan with his "we are all made of stars" stuff, but forget about that and just enjoy this very clever music video based on, of all things, television science documentaries.

Oh, and fair warning. This line might stick in your head: "The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together."

It's Best Not to Procrastinate

HBO's New Low: Urinating on Jesus

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on last night’s episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the HBO show where Larry David plays himself:

Mention Larry David in a word association game and “Seinfeld” rolls off the lips. That show, which David created, wrote and produced, was brilliant. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is not. Indeed, last night’s episode demonstrates that David’s best years are behind him. He ought to quit while he’s ahead.

At one point in the show, David goes to the bathroom in a Catholic home and splatters urine on a picture of Jesus; he doesn’t clean it off. Then a Catholic woman goes to the bathroom, sees the picture and concludes that Jesus is crying. She then summons her equally stupid mother and the two of them fall to their knees in prayer. When David and Jerry Seinfeld (playing himself) are asked if they ever experienced a miracle, David answers, “every erection is a miracle.” That’s what passes for creativity these days.

Was Larry David always this crude? Would he think it comedic if someone urinated on a picture of his mother? This might be fun to watch, but since HBO only likes to dump on Catholics (it was just a couple of weeks ago that Sarah Silverman insulted Catholics on “Real Time with Bill Maher”), and David is Jewish, we’ll never know.

Contact HBO Chairman and CEO, Bill Nelson: Bill.nelson@hbo.com

October 26, 2009

A Protestant Minister's Unusual Sermon on Reformation Sunday

A few years ago, I slipped into the back of a large Methodist church in my area to hear a sermon delivered by the pastor. It had been advertised for several days on the marquee on the lawn in front of the handsome neo-Gothic stone edifice. I really wanted to hear what he had to say that particular Sunday.

Why that particular Sunday? Well, the occasion of his sermon was what Protestants celebrate as "Reformation Sunday," in remembrance of the sad, tragic rebellion against the Catholic Church. Of course, that's
my take on what Reformation Sunday symbolizes. The pastor, whose sermon I heard that day, had a view much different from mine. For him, it was the celebration of a glorious "triumph" of "the gospel" over "Rome."

As you might imagine, those 30 minutes I spent standing in the back of that church packed with sincere, devout Protestants, were not enjoyable, but they certainly were instructive. That sermon recalled to my mind so many things that so many Protestants badly misunderstand when assessing what really happened in the early 16th century as Martin Luther and crew launched their rebellion against the Ancient Faith, historic Christianity, the Catholic Church; the three being one and the same thing.
When the pastor's fiery sermon concluded and the service continued, I slipped back outside, glum at the thought that so many sincere — though sincerely misguided — Protestants were "celebrating" such a catastrophic event in the history of the Church, but I was also grateful for that minister's powerful reminder of why the problem of the Reformation is such a problem. Why it should never have played out as it did. Why it was (and remains), in fact, a profound tragedy to be mourned and lamented, not a "victory" to be jubilated.
All of that was brought to my mind today as I read a different sermon delivered years ago by another Protestant minister: Duke Divinity School professor, Stanley Hauerwas, who preached a startling message on the same subject — Reformation Sunday — but he came at it from a very different perspective:
I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do not understand why it is part of the church year. Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.
Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.
For example, note what the Reformation has done for our reading texts like that which we hear from Luke this morning. We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. They are the self-righteous people who have made Christianity a form of legalistic religion, thereby destroying the free grace of the Gospel. We Protestants are the tax collectors, knowing that we are sinners and that our lives depend upon God’s free grace. And therefore we are better than the Catholics because we know they are sinners. What an odd irony that the Reformation made such readings possible. As Protestants we now take pride in the acknowledgment of our sinfulness in order to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness.
Unfortunately, the Catholics are right. Christian salvation consists in works. To be saved is to be made holy. To be saved requires our being made part of a people separated from the world so that we can be united in spite of — or perhaps better, because of — the world’s fragmentation and divisions. Unity, after all, is what God has given us through Christ’s death and resurrection. For in that death and resurrection we have been made part of God’s salvation for the world so that the world may know it has been freed from the powers that would compel us to kill one another in the name of false loyalties. All that is about the works necessary to save us.
For example, I often point out that at least Catholics have the magisterial office of the Bishop of Rome to remind them that disunity is a sin. You should not overlook the significance that in several important documents of late, John Paul II has confessed the Catholic sin for the Reformation. Where are the Protestants capable of doing likewise? We Protestants feel no sin for the disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to confess our sin for the continuing disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to do that because we have no experience of unity.
The magisterial office — we Protestants often forget — is not a matter of constraining or limiting diversity in the name of unity. The office of the Bishop of Rome is to ensure that when Christians move . . . (continue reading)

2 Timothy 3:14-17 and the Protestant Slogan of "Sola Scriptura"

I was honored to appear awhile back on the “Deep in Scripture” radio show, hosted by my good friend Marcus Grodi, a former Presbyterian minister and convert to the Catholic Church. We spent the hour discussing aspects of one of my favorite Scripture passages: 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

This biblical text is routinely misunderstood and woefully misused by today's Protestant pop apologists in their attempt to vindicate the notion of sola scriptura, so it's especially worth studying in context and with regard for its powerful role in refuting typical Protestant confusions regarding the authority of Scripture.

Obviously, there is far more that can and must be said about this passage — far more than Marcus and I had time to get to during our discussion in the space of just one hour — but, hopefully, this will give you a general outline of the issues at stake.

You can listen to the entire show here.

In Case You're in Need of Some Snappy New Comeback Lines

This seems to be making the rounds of the Internet again, so I'll do my part:

1. Obviously you're unable to assimilate my stimulating concepts into your
blighted and simplistic world-view.
2. I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.
3. Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
4. I can see your point, but I still think you're full of it.
5. I like you. You remind me of me when I was young and stupid.
6. What am I? Flypaper for freaks?
7. I'm not being rude. You're just insignificant.
8. I'll give you a nice, shiny quarter if you'll go away.
9. I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
10. I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
11. It's a thankless job, but I've got a lot of Karma to burn off.
12. Yes, I am an agent of change, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
13. How about never? Is never good for you?
14. I'm really easy to get along with once you people learn to worship me.
15. You're starting to sound reasonable. It must be time to up my medication.
16. You're just jealous because the little voices talk to ME.
17. I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.
18. I'm out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message.
19. I don't work here. I'm a consultant.
20. Who me? I just wander from room to room.

P.S. I very likely will have opportunities to use one or more of the above sometime tomorrow.

If You Like Puppies, You'll Like This Video

John Henry Newman on "What Is a Gentleman?"

After pondering Cardinal Newman's insightful sketch of the hallmarks of a true gentleman, I can only say, "we need more gentlemen!" Gentlemen of this caliber are in very short supply these days. Newman says:

“He makes light of favors while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out.

“From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny.

“If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, misconceive their adversary, and leave the question more involved than they find it. He may be right or wrong in his opinion, but he is too clearheaded to be unjust; he is as simple as he is forcible, and as brief as he is decisive.

“Nowhere shall we find greater candor, consideration, indulgence: he throws himself into the minds of his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes. He knows the weakness of human reason as well as its strength, its province and its limits. If he be an unbeliever, he will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion or to act against it; he is too wise to be a dogmatist or fanatic in his infidelity. He respects piety and devotion; he even supports institutions as venerable, beautiful, or useful, to which he does not assent; he honors the ministers of religion, and it contents him to decline its mysteries without assailing or denouncing them. . . .” (continue reading)

Some Will Ask: "Will Cardinal Peter Turkson Someday Become 'Peter the Roman'?"

Most everyone has heard of the controversial
Prophecies of Saint Malachy, which, it is said, were given by the 12th century Irish bishop. The prophecies are a series of brief and enigmatic statements in Latin pertaining to each of the future popes after Malachy's day, concluding with the final entry:

"In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and thedreadful Judge will judge the people. The End."
It's not my intention here to enter into the debate over whether these prophecies are authentic or not — there are arguments for and against their authenticity — but rather, I mention this issue in conjunction with the recent announcement that Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana (who is clearly not a Roman by birth) has been called to Rome to join the Vatican Curia. I am sure that this move will fuel discussion and speculation among those who will see in Cardinal Turkson's appointment something which may be connected with the Prophecies of Saint Malachy.

[Catholic journalist Robert Moynihan reports that] Cardinal Peter Turkson, 61, the Archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, the eloquent “relator” or general secretary of this month’s Synod for Africa, will succeed Cardinal Renato Martino, 77, as the head of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, it was announced today.

This will make Turkson the highest-ranking African cardinal in the Church, and give him important experience in a curial position, at the heart of the Church.

(Here is a good article from Ghana Business News on the appointment and its significance: [1] http://ghanabusinessnews.com/2009/10/24/ghana’s-cardinal-turkson-gets-closer-to-becoming-first-black-pope)

The appointment was announced at 1 pm in the Vatican Press Office, in Turkson’s presence, at a Vatican Press Conference held to “wrap up” the Synod on Africa, by FatherFederico Lombardi, S.J., the Pope’s press spokesman… and Turkson looked surprised.

As I wrote the day before yesterday, in an article entitled “The Next Pope?”, I sat next to Turkson at a special dinner for journalists Thursday evening.

Turkson knew that this appointment might be in the offing, as all the journalists asked him about it. It had been rumored for many months.

But when the decision was finally taken and communicated to Turkson, it was evidently communicated without any prior warning.

Turkson, when Lombardi announced the appointment, seemed almost overcome with emotion: a legitimate pride, but also a bit of shock.

For a moment, he was speechless. Then he smiled, expressed his gratitude to the Pope for the appointment, and fell silent again, at a loss for words. (continue reading)

Following the death of Pope John Paul II (of blessed memory) in 2005, many voices were raised in support for an African Pope, with Cardinal Francis Arinze's name being the most frequently mentioned. That obviously didn't happen in that conclave, but it's not a stretch to theorize that, given Africa's increasing importance in the Church and her growing prominence within the Roman Curia, the clamor for an African pope in the next conclave might well produce that desired result. Time will tell.

If nothing else, given that Cardinal Peter Turkson increasing prominence in the Catholic Church, coupled with his name being raised with increasing frequency by those who prognosticate about who will succeed Pope Benedict on the Chair of Peter, this announcement is at the very least an interesting development. Given the increasingly prevalent apocalyptic anxiety among many Catholics and Protestants, The fact that Cardinal Turkson's first name is Peter and he is being called to minister in Rome will very likely become a subject of intense interest in some quarters of the Church.