Milingo in Rome

Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo is seen at a press conference in Washington in 2006 following the Vatican's announcement of his automatic excommunication after he ordained four bishops without papal approval. (CNS/Paul Haring)Excommunicated Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo is coming to Rome this week for an unspecified period of time.

The married Zambian archbishop has continued to illicitly ordain married men as part of his Married Priests Now! campaign. The group was formed by the archbishop to promote a change in the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests in the Latin church.

Father Giuseppe Serrone, head of the Italian association of married priests — “Associazione Sacerdoti Sposati” — told the Italian news agency ANSA last Saturday that Archbishop Milingo was due to arrive in Rome this week.

He told CNS today that the archbishop would be part of some sort of media gathering or public event, but not until after Jan. 12. Keep tuned.

Though Pope Benedict XVI met with top Vatican officials in November 2006 to discuss the status of married priests and the case of the excommunicated archbishop, the pope and curial officials reaffirmed the value of priestly celibacy. 

PHOTO: Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo is seen at a press conference in Washington in 2006 following the Vatican’s announcement of his automatic excommunication after he ordained four bishops without papal approval. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Dispassionate debate at the Supreme Court

Police officers stand in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington Jan. 7 as justices inside took a look at whether lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. (CNS/Bob Roller)“Just the facts, ma’am,” Detective Jack Webb used to say on “Dragnet.”

That’s the safest approach to reporting on oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Leave the analysis to the pundits.

So it was with a fair amount of thought that I used the word “dispassionate” in a headline and news story from yesterday’s oral argument in Baze v. Rees, a case about the constitutionality of the lethal injection method used in 36 states.

Another observer might contend that the oral argument was full of passion, with repeated references to the “excruciating pain” experienced when the lethal injection procedure goes wrong at an execution.

Justice Antonin Scalia, always blunt, wondered where it’s written in the Constitution that an execution must be painless.

After all, he said, “it’s not surgery,” where the goal is for the patient to live. What difference does it make if an inmate dies painfully, as long as that wasn’t the intention of the executioners, he wondered.

That’s when the word “dispassionate” first occurred to me. Then there was the general disconnect in the courtroom.

What seemed obvious to me — it’s a human being’s life the justices were debating how to end — never seemed to be the point. Actually, the case could affect most of the 3,350 people currently on death row and others who will follow them there.

Granted, the legal issue before the court was about the procedures, not the morality of capital punishment. And the Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that they prefer to be concerned with only the narrowest interpretations of the Constitution necessary.

It’s a “just the facts, ma’am,” world they inhabit.

Even the attorney for Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling, the two Kentucky inmates who are appealing the method of their planned executions, never said a word to connect those living, breathing, feeling men to the clinical system of killing being evaluated Indeed, the only mention of their names was in calling the title of the case.

It was a case argued on policies and process, statistical chances of error and how quickly the state can get back to the business of killing people without all the fuss over whether the procedure might be too cruel.

Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling have accepted their convictions for their crimes. They’re prepared to spend their lives in prison, if their executions are set aside. Based upon the way the justices were talking, this case may not even answer the question they hoped would save them from execution.

It was striking that amid the legal debate about how to kill them, nobody thought it important to mention them.

PHOTO: Police officers stand in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington Jan. 7 as justices inside took a look at whether lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Natural family planning gets an ‘extreme makeover’

Sometimes my work on the CNS News Hub is made easier when a headline on a client’s story says it all. That’s the case here with the above headline on this story in The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn. No need to elaborate; just read it.

A colleague’s big move; a story about the new nastiness

Our good friend and colleague John Norton, who until 2003 helped us patrol the halls of the Vatican as a member of our Rome bureau, is the new editor of Our Sunday Visitor, the national Catholic weekly newspaper based in Indiana. And therein lies a story because John is a Southern Californian who was welcomed to Indiana by a snowstorm. He writes about the experience but more importantly about his commitment to the best in Catholic journalism in this week’s edition.

Also this week in OSV, who can resist the cover art (left) for a story on nastiness in our society today? Much of the rudeness, the article says, is because of the Internet, where anonymity, blogs and instant messaging have changed how people interact with one another.

Not just the usual death-row conversion story

An amazing story about a death-row inmate in Oregon who “evangelizes across the world” is in the current edition of the Catholic Sentinel in Portland, Ore. The inmate, Jeff Tiner, was once a white supremacist who now is devoted to St. Josephine Bakhita, the 19th-century African slave who was cited at the beginning of Pope Benedict’s recent encyclical on hope as an example of liberation and redemption.

And if you remember the huge national controversy a decade ago over a sacramental confession between an accused Oregon triple-murder suspect and a priest that was secretly taped by the authorities, you should read all the way to the end of the story to see how Tiner later became that man’s confirmation sponsor.

Jesuit General Congregation facts and figures

Logo for Jesuit meetingThirty U.S. Jesuits will be among the 225 delegates to the order’s General Congregation, which begins Monday in Rome. According to the Jesuit press office: 31 percent of the delegates are from Europe, 28 percent are from Asia and Australia, 18 percent are from Latin America, 15 percent are from North America and 8 percent are from Africa.

When Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach was elected superior general of the Society of Jesus at the 1983 General Congregation, the average age of the delegates was 51.6 years old. Father Kolvenbach was just a few months shy of his 54th birthday at the time.

The average age of the delegates who will elect Father Kolvenbach’s successor is 56.19 years. Of the 225 delegates, 10 are between 70 and 79 years old; 67 delegates are in their 60s; 90 delegates are in their 50s; 58 of them are in their 40s; and only one is still in his 30s. (The published information does not name him, however.)

The Jesuits’ April 2007 statistical report said there were 19,216 Jesuits around the world and their average age was 57.34 years.

Father Jose DeVera, director of the Jesuits’ press office, said they expect the new general to be elected sometime around Jan. 19. First, though, the delegates must vote to accept Father Kolvenbach’s resignation. After formal presentations on the state of the order, there are four days of prayer and quiet conversation, formally called “murmuratio” or murmuring, when delegates discuss the qualities of confreres who might make a good general.

Immediately prior to voting, the delegates gather for a special Mass to invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

UPDATE: Father Kolvenbach, in an interview with Vatican Radio and the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the choice of his successor will indicate what Jesuits expect from the society for the future.

Words can be loaded

Pope Benedict XVI blesses pilgrims from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 25 during his Christmas Day blessing 'urbi et orbi' (to the city of Rome and the world). (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)Who knew being a polyglot could get you in trouble even when you’re the pope? When Pope Benedict XVI gave Christmas greetings Dec. 25 to Rome and the world in 63 languages, one of those idioms turned out to be a mini-minefield.

A former government minister and now head of Greece’s small Democratic Revival party reportedly sent a critical missive to the pope for giving Christmas well-wishes in Macedonian. The Italian news agency ANSA reported yesterday it had obtained a copy of the two-and-a-half-page typed letter the Greek politician sent to the German pontiff.

Apparently the letter admonished the pope for using Macedonian which, the author asserted, is not a language but a Slavic dialect. The letter, according to ANSA, reportedly gives numerous reasons this Cyrillic-lettered lingo does not exist.

But a quick search on the Vatican Web site shows papal season’s greetings were given in Macedonian every year going back at least until 1997.

ANSA attributes the critique as just the latest sparring resulting from this Balkan nation’s use of the name Macedonia since it gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece objects to this landlocked state north of Greece taking the name Macedonia for a variety of reasons, including the fear Skopje might have territorial claims on Greek Macedonia. You can read about the complex name controversy here.

But interestingly, few noticed that right between his greetings in Esperanto and Latin, Pope Benedict added a new language to the “Merry Christmas” roster: Guarani. Never heard of this South American tongue? Of course you have: the words “tapioca,” “pirhana,” “toucan,” and “jaguar” have their roots in Guarani.

Why would the pope include Guarani in 2007? Don’t know, but there is a close link between the Guarani Indians and the Jesuits who begin their 35th General Congregation this month.

PHOTO: Pope Benedict XVI blesses pilgrims from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 25 during his Christmas Day blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city of Rome and the world). (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Jesuits blog, podcast and prepare for General Congregation

Logo for Jesuit meetingOver the next four days, Rome’s Jesuit population will increase by about 50 percent. The Society of Jesus’ 35th General Congregation, convoked to elect a new superior general, begins Monday morning with Mass in Rome’s Gesu Church, the site of the tomb of St. Ignatius, the Jesuit founder. The 225 delegates to the General Congregation will be joined by many of the 446 Jesuits  who live and work or study in Rome full time.

About 20 of the delegates live in Rome, working at the Jesuit headquarters, the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University or at the Vatican, like Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center. The remaining 200 are being housed in remodeled or modified rooms in Jesuit institutions all over the city.

While reporters are not allowed into the General Congregation sessions, several Jesuits are preparing to share the inside story with cybernauts: U.S. Jesuit Father Don Doll, an award-winning photographer, already is in Rome and posting photos on his site; U.S. Father Thomas Rochford, the head of communications for the Jesuits, has a blog and a relatively new podcast going; and, of course, the Jesuit press office has prepared a Web site to keep Jesuits and other readers informed.

‘What would you do with $100?’

With an early Lent looming on the horizon (Ash Wednesday is just a month away), The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., has announced a “Pay It Forward for Lent” contest to encourage good stewardship, just like the New Testament parable of the nobleman who entrusts gold coins to his servants while he is away. Details are here.

Speaking of “pay it forward,” the paper this week also has an example of “play it forward” — an alumnus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul who, spurred on by the aid he received after Hurricane Katrina, paid it forward by helping a New Orleans Catholic high school basketball team participate in the paper’s Christmas basketball tournament.

Odyssey Catholics: Young and restless, tenuously connected to their faith

You can call them “odyssey Catholics” or “Millennials,” but whatever you call today’s twentysomethings, the National Catholic Reporter takes a close look in its current edition at the spiritual journeys some of these Catholics are taking in their post-college years. The main article and two sidebars (here and here), written, interestingly enough, by 26-year-old “odyssey Catholic” Greg Ruehlmann, together make up an in-depth exploration of, as one of the articles notes, “who they are, what they believe, and what on earth they are doing with their lives.”

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