Consistory Chronicles

By  at The Catholic Thing

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2016

I’ve been in Rome less than a day and my head is already swimming with rumours – and several indisputable facts – surrounding what might otherwise have been an ordinary weekend consistory to welcome new cardinals.

Because the pope has decided not to do that. The sequence of events is not yet clear. No one seems to know whether he decided this after he received the bombshell letter in September from the four cardinals with questions about Amoris Laetitia. Or whether the decision was more recent. But incredibly, to this observer anyway, there was no meeting with the pope scheduled for the incoming cardinals yesterday or today. The first that some of them see of him this week may be at the ceremony Saturday.

This series of columns on the consistory was planned long ago and was not intended as a commentary on the cardinals’ letter or Amoris Laetitia. But it could easily turn into one, even in an effort to understand the consistory. A local journalist told me today the pope is furious over the letter. An Italian professor adds that a high Vatican official reported the same – using a vulgar Italian equivalent for “furious,” probably best not set down in writing.

More about all this when there is more. But let’s get back to our main task.

European newspapers are making much of the fact that the august Oxford English Dictionary has just declared “post-truth” the 2016 Word of the Year. The term refers to things “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The Church, of course, has been struggling with what Joseph Ratzinger once called “the dictatorship of relativism” – to which we might add “the dictatorship of non-relativism” on matters like gay marriage and the transgendered.

Pope Francis has battled gay and gender issues – there are strong statements about them even in Amoris Laetitia. But if you were to judge solely on the basis of the list of new cardinals, it almost seems like he’s given up the fight, at least in Europe.

We mentioned yesterday how nearly half of the thirteen new voting cardinals come from small or minority Catholic nations. If you take away the three Americans – Cupich of Chicago, Tobin of Indianapolis, and Farrell (soon to be of Rome) – there are five more or less obvious choices: Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Sérgio da Rocha of Brasilia, Josef de Kesel of Mechelen-Brussels, Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Merida (Venezuela), and Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalneplanta (Mexico). In other words, three cardinals from national capitals and two from modest dioceses in Latin America.

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De Kesel is a controversial choice because he botched the handling of several cases of priestly sexual abuse – he once had to testify because of that before the Belgian Parliament. He’s also is widely reported to be sympathetic to gay causes. A news item just released yesterday indicated that he’s been trying various means of eliminating priests and seminarians who are “too orthodox” from the archdiocese that serves the capital of the European Union.

Europeans I talked with in Rome have different readings of the large number of non-Europeans among the pope’s new cardinals. Some emphasize that Catholicism is in trouble in its ancient homeland (as if we Americans didn’t know), and even in Latin America, where Protestants of various stripes have made large inroads. Guatemala, for example, is about half Catholic, half Protestant now; massive Brazil has both the largest Catholic population in the world – and yet one-quarter of its people, and growing, are Protestants; Argentina is heavily Catholic but only 20 percent are practicing.

It’s difficult to say what is being done to counteract these trends. One way of reading the new appointments is that the Holy Father believes that the future of the Church, if present trends continue, lies with Africa and Asia. Even if that is true, however, there are places like China, India, etc. with large Catholic populations: China with at least 9 million and India with 20 million. They seem relatively neglected.

Sub-Saharan Africa, it is said, will have over a billion Catholics by 2100. But there are only two new cardinals from that region, and it’s difficult to say why the others from small countries are important to nominate now. In terms of influence, they are likely to keep the Church more traditional on social questions, but bring non-Western perspectives to questions of global politics and economics.

Ironically, while many in the United States are focused this week on the new cardinals and what they may mean for the future of the Church, in Rome, there’s been considerable interest in what’s been happening the past few days in Baltimore. The U.S. bishops have been holding their annual conference and selected a new president to replace Louisville’s Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, who just finished his three-year term.

As expected, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo – the USCCB vice-president – was chosen president, and Archbishop José Gomez, an Opus dei priest, the new vice-president. The Italians were wondering if a “Francis Effect” would emerge in America (whatever they say, Europeans believe that what happens here today will happen there before long).

Yesterday I gave an interview to Il Foglio, the most important conservative daily in Italy, urging them not to read too much into the choices – but not too little either. For now, hard as it may be for many American Catholics to believe, who feel our bishops should speak more boldly, our episcopate remains largely committed to the visions laid out by St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, with a measured overlay of “mercy.” Even the support for immigrants and refugees is not a reaction to the pope or a coming Trump presidency, but a longstanding advocacy.

So no Francis Effect yet in America, and globally it may take a long time yet to tell what, if any, that effect might be.

Follow Robert Royal’s Consistory Chronicles on The Catholic Thing

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10 Responses to Consistory Chronicles

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    Thanks for this — and to be perhaps a little impertinent, that’s a far better blog than some others that have been quoted here recently

  2. Toad says:

    “The Church, of course, has been struggling with what Joseph Ratzinger once called “the dictatorship of relativism” – to which we might add “the dictatorship of non-relativism” on matters like gay marriage and the transgendered.”

    Quite why matters like gays, transgender, etc, are regarded as “non-relativism,” is unclear. But trying to struggle with both “dictatorships “simultaneously – might explain some of the paranoia.

  3. Toad says:

    Does anyone else on CP&S look at photos like the one above – and wonder what Christ and his penniless, homeless, young disciples would make of it all?
    If they’d wonder where, and when, had Christianity gone wrong?
    No? OK.
    ….But it’s what a lot of reasonable people do think these days.
    How many of these Princes of the Church would be considered wealthy by most of us?

  4. The Raven says:

    ….But it’s what a lot of reasonable people do think these days.

    By which you mean “it’s what I and my like-minded friends think”, Toad.

  5. kathleen says:

    Hmmm – when I hear comments like Toad’s (@ 07:26) I am reminded of the words of Our Blessed Lord to the moralising disciples who were complaining about the woman pouring expensive perfume over His Sacred Feet; (Mark 14:5-7).

    Besides, the Holy Catholic Church, in obedience to the words of Christ, is (and always has been) the ‘organisation’ that gives most to the needy all over the planet.

    I have also heard poignant stories of some faithful members of the clergy who wear fine robes for the greater glory of God, but live as humbly and simply as the holy Cure d’Ars. Even those among the laity who possess material wealth, must remain “poor in spirit” and share their possessions with those who have less. (Saints like Francis of Assisi and Katherine Drexel are fine examples of this generosity and detachment from possessions.)

    Beautiful churches, precious vessels, vestments the colour of red (symbolising the blood of the martyrs), etc., are all for the greater honour and glory of God. Poor is the mind of those who cannot understand that.

  6. Toad says:

    “By which you mean “it’s what I and my like-minded friends think”, Toad.”
    It has crossed my mind, Raven, to be sure. But I don’t personally care if Cardinals and bishops live in palaces, with fortunes at their disposal. Not my problem. Good luck to them.
    But how can anything be “…for the greater honour and glory of God?” How much more honour and glory does He need? None, is how much. Still, I’m aware of all these sort of justifications.
    Have been all my life.
    It’s the impression given to “outsiders” that interests me. I suspect the lavish pomp and display either amuses them, or makes them rather annoyed. But I don;t know.
    And, anyway – who cares what other people think?
    However, didn’t Christ order, “Sell up everything you have, and follow me”? Have the man (all men, of course) in the photo obviously done that?

  7. kathleen says:

    Sell up everything you have, and follow me”? Have the man (all men, of course) in the photo obviously done that?

    The clergy and religious leave everything behind to follow their vocation to belong solely to Christ. They are living witnesses that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
    But all men are urged “to sell all that they possess” (i.e., to get rid of everything that has a hold on them) so that their hearts will be free of material encumbrances, or addictions, to have their eyes fixed on Christ above all worldly goods.

  8. Toad says:

    “But all men are urged “to sell all that they possess” (i.e., everything that has a hold on them) so that their hearts will be free of material encumbrances, or addictions, “

    Well, I suppose the Princes of the Church actually posses nothing – their palaces (Summer and Winter – in some cases!) don’t actually belong to them, their nun servants who toil endlessly to keep the palaces squeaky clean -aren’t paid by them, and the Prince’s dinners aren’t either. Nor are the very nice wines. I know, I’ve been a guest more than once, in different places.
    And, by the look of most of them, dinner is one thing Bishops don’t go short on.
    People notice these things. Including priests. One or two of out local ones are frequently somewhat wry about the magnificent lifestyle of the local Bishop while they have to grub along, helped by handouts from the charitable.
    Enough said
    Anyone on here sold all they possess to give to the poor?
    I haven’t. But then, I’m not obliged to.

  9. JabbaPapa says:

    Anyone on here sold all they possess to give to the poor?
    I haven’t. But then, I’m not obliged to.

    Nor are most priests.

  10. Toad says:

    “Nor are most priests.”
    Then who is?
    Nobody on CP&S, it seems.

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