“Golden Compass,” Part 2

(CNS photo/New Line)Or maybe this is Part 3, if you count both the brief post here from last month and our comprehensive look two days ago of Catholic press coverage on both sides of the issue.

More items found since Wednesday:

— Bishop Jerome E. Listecki of La Crosse, Wis., asked in a letter to pastors in his diocese that they avoid “The Golden Compass” and caution parishioners “against this pernicious attack on the foundations of our Christian faith and on the innocence of our children.”

— Joe Towalski, in an editorial in this week’s edition of The Catholic Bulletin in St. Paul, Minn., says he got a “sneak peak” screening of the movie last weekend,  defends the controversial review by the U.S. bishops’ film office, but also says the problem is “the agenda that may lurk behind it” and credits the Catholic League with providing a valuable service to parents in its booklet on the movie.

— Catholic Digest magazine offers an analysis of the controversy surrounding the books and the movie in a Q-and-A format titled “Should our family watch ‘The Golden Compass?'” It’s conclusion? Families should make “a prayerful, informed decision whether or not to see the movie or read the books” and, if they do so, have a serious discussion “to engage children in a better understanding of why we as Catholics believe what we believe.”

— The National Catholic Reporter examines the controversy as well, focusing primarily on the books that are behind the film.

There is no way this is everything. We’ll probably have more links to more viewpoints next week.

Ring around the Advent wreath

VATICAN CITY — Exactly 24 hours after I laid eyes on Pope Benedict’s Advent wreath (pictured left) and noticed its four red candles, our friends at Catholic Press Photo here in Rome were in the papal library on another pool assignment. They knew from my phone calls yesterday that I was disappointed they didn’t have a picture of it. In fact, they hadn’t even noticed it.

I had told them it’s just inside the library, on the right, against the wall.

Well, CPP photographer Giancarlo Giuliani informed me — and about 60 seconds later sent the photo as proof — the wreath has been given a more prominent display. It now sits almost in the center of the room.

PHOTOS: Pope Benedict XVI’s Advent wreath is pictured above and at left during the pope’s meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the Vatican Dec. 7. The wreath follows the German tradition of using red candles. Pope Benedict was born in the Bavarian region of Germany. (CNS photos/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

This week in Origins

Here’s the rundown for the latest edition of Origins: CNS Documentary Service dated Dec. 13:

  • To come to know God — the true God — means to receive hope, says Pope Benedict XVI in “Spe Salvi,” his second encyclical. Today many people seek redemption through science and politics rather than through religion, he notes. But technology and political programs ultimately disappoint and can sometimes harm, he says. “Man needs God,” he says, for that trustworthy hope that allows us to face our present. “The present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads toward a goal, if we can be sure of this goal and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.” (Subscribers: Click here)

Big lineup next Friday at the Vatican

It’s not often that the heads of three Vatican congregations assemble for a press conference. It’s happening next Friday, when the Vatican releases a “Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization.”

On the dais will be U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which prepared the new text; Cardinal Francis Arinze of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; and Cardinal Ivan Dias of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. They’ll be joined by Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the doctrinal congregation.

A few things are worth mentioning here. First, the topic of evangelization — broad as it is — touches on issues that have been simmering at the Vatican for several years, including the relationship between mission, dialogue and inculturation. More specifically, the doctrinal congregation has long been concerned that in some areas where Christians are a small minority, evangelization has been watered down or “relativized,” with not enough focus on Jesus Christ.

The three cardinals at the press conference will each speak to their area of expertise, sources said. It’s obvious why Cardinals Levada and Dias would be present. It’s a little less clear what Cardinal Arinze will address, although questions about liturgical inculturation — adaptations to local cultures — fall into his domain. All three are members of the doctrinal congregation.

Perhaps most interesting is that they’re having a press conference at all. When the doctrinal congregation issued two documents earlier this year — one on the Catholic Church as the one true church, the other on nutrition and hydration issues — no one was there to answer reporters’ questions. Church officials later complained that media reports on the documents were not always accurate. This time around, the Vatican is being more proactive.

The new document is said to be about 18 pages long, and will be released in six languages, including English. All three cardinals at the press conference are English-speaking, but if the usual Vatican format is followed, they’ll be giving their speeches and answering most questions in Italian. When in Rome…

Former diocesan journalist studying for the priesthood

This story came as a pleasant surprise to me. Christopher Gray, who I’ve known for a couple years as a staff writer and the techno-expert for the Intermountain Catholic in Salt Lake City, is completing his first semester studying for the priesthood.

But the story by Intermountain Catholic editor Barbara Stinson Lee will be of interest to more than just Christopher’s friends. It also gives a glimpse of what life is like in today’s seminaries (in this case, Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon).

But since I know Christopher, I had to smile when I read this:

For a 26-year-old man who never had any trouble multi-tasking, Gray said he is grateful the seminary has allowed him to focus. “I can actually direct my thoughts to just one thing at a time.”

All of us in the Catholic press are multi-taskers, but Christopher might have been the king — writing for the paper, editing the paper’s monthly Spanish publication, and managing the paper’s award-winning Web site, including its streaming video segments and podcasts with Salt Lake City Bishop John C. Wester. So I’m jealous that he direct his focus these days to single topics.

But I’m guessing that will end soon enough, since we all know how many directions priests are pulled in today. And Christopher, with his technology skills and interests, will undoubtedly be using those skills to advance the church’s ministry in new and exciting ways.