Friday, February 22, 2013

Luther's Sacristy Prayer

Regular readers know how troubled we at the Egg are by "true stories" that are only half-true, and by misattributed "quotations."  Passed around by preachers and other motivational speakers, they often encapsulate clever and even wise ideas, well worth hearing.  Our concern is that, when something false is passed off as true, or something said by Bernard Shaw is attributed to Billy Graham, the shadow of dubious veracity falls over everything else that the speaker has to offer.

It was in this spirit that we wrote about Martin Luther's supposed "apple tree" remark, which it is almost certain he did not say.  Luther, like Mark Twain and St Augustine, is one of those figures -- historically important, well-spoken and prolific -- to whom false attributions cling like burrs.

Another "Lutherism," which floats around the Internet in various forms, is his sacristy prayer.  It is an exceptionally beautiful prayer, expressing the humility worthy of a priest heading to the altar.  We included it in Odd Hours, with the caveat that we could not vouch for its attribution.  Ever cynical, we presumed it to be by somebody else

Good news!  It's echt Luther.  For those who care, the passage (WA 43, 513) comes into  a commentary on Genesis 27:11-14, in which Luther has ben talking about faith and prayer, then about leadership before God.  Here is the Latin original:
In primis vero oret gubernator Ecclesiasticus:
Domini Deus, tu constituisti me in Ecclesia Episcoporum, Pastorem, vides, quam sim ad tantum et tam difficile munus obeundum ineptus, et si absque tuo auxilio fuissem, iamdudum evertissem omnia.  Ideo te invoco.  Ego quidem os et cor applicare volo, docebo populum, discam ipse et meditabor diligenter in verbo tuo, Tu me instrumento tuo utere: tantum ne dereliquas me: So enim solis fuero, facile perdidero omnia.  
Here is F.C. Longaker's somewhat wordy English translation, still in widespread use:
Lord God, Thou hast ordained me to the office of pastor and bishop in Thy Church. Thou seest how utterly unfit I am rightly to fulfil this exceedingly responsible calling. If it had not been for Thy wisdom and help, I should long ago have brought everything to nought. Unto Thee, therefore, I lift up my voice. I desire to lend my heart and lips to this service; I desire to teach the people; and I desire myself ever to be a disciple, meditating on Thy word. Use me, O Lord, as Thy workman; leave me not, neither forsake me; for if Thou forsake me, I shall bring everything to ruin. Amen.
(Wilhelm Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations, 3rd ed., Newport, KY: 1902.  Incidentally, we couldn't find the prayer in the copy of Loehe's German Agende that we consulted.)

A few points are worth mentioning.  First, "in primis vero" notwithstanding, it isn't clear that Luther is offering this prayer for use just before worship, although it seems perfect for that purpose.  Second, we are amused by how alien to the popular "Lutheran" piety is is to call the pastor, as Luther does, an "ecclesiastical governor."  Especially these days, we seem altogether ready to cede that role to our council presidents.  And third, Luther does not conclude with an "Amen."  His text continues:
Diversum faciunt Sectae et Rottenses.  Illi enim sumunt sibi sapientiam et facultatem gubernandi et docendi.  Ideo timere prorumpunt in Ecclesiam, non orant, nec credunt, Dei donum esse administrationem, sive Ecclesiasticum, sive Politicam, sed seipsos magistros et duces rerum ingerunt.  Ideo fit tandem, ut turbent et impediant, quae ab aliis utiliter aedificata sunt.
Very crudely translated (and send us a note if we have erred grievously):
The Sectarians and Fanatics create conflict.  The latter assume for themselves the wisdom and capacity to govern and teach. Therefore they break out rashly in the church, neither praying nor believing that administration of the ecclesiastical or political systems are the gift of God, but rather they inflict themselves as teachers and leaders.  They do this, finally, to disturb and hinder what others have usefully constructed.
This is probably not meant to be part of the prayer, but it is an important idea nonetheless, and typical of Luther.  The person praying in the sacristy, a properly appointed gubernator, pastor and episcopus, is contrasted with those disruptive and undisciplined souls who have no churchly office except what they claim for themselves.  The one is called to humility and service, but the others are not called at all.

True Story #2: Pax Vobiscum, Suckaz

For several weeks, during the height of New York's influenza epidemic, Father Anonymous proposed to the congregation where he was preaching that, rather than sharing Christ's peace by shaking hands, they offer each other a reverent bow, hands pressed prayerfully together on their chests.

This didn't work.  Nor did those vaccines we got at Rite-Aid.  Although the congregation seems healthy enough, our family all got miserably sick.  The child was the first to fall, then Daddy, then Mommy -- who is only now starting to feel up to snuff.

For the first victim, a pediatrician prescribed Tamilu.  Apparently, this stuff tastes like chalk, or sewage, or some other thing that reasonable people prefer not to ingest.  Twice each day, young Kindergartener Anonymous put up a royal fight, kicking and howling and doing everything else in his (still-limited) power to avoid medication.

At the height of such a fit, and before his parents had taken ill, the boy was struck by a demonic inspiration.

"No, no, no," he shouted.  "I won't take it, I won't! I'll stop you, I'll -- I'll -- I'LL GIVE YOU THE FLU!"

At which point, he reached out, grasped his mother's hand firmly, and said, "Peace be with you!"

True Story #1: Gone With the Wind

So there was Fr. A., in the supermarket parking lot, taking a cart and pushing it toward the store.  "Huh," he said, noticing a tag bolted to the cart.  "An electronic anti-theft device.  I wonder how that works?  Good idea, though."

As often happens, there was a newspaper flyer lying in the cart, advertising today's great price on beef or Snak-Paks or some damn thing.  Father A. customarily ignores flyers.  But when a savage gust of wind snatched the flyer, your humble blogger leapt into action.  He hates litter.

So off he went, chasing the flapping scrap of newsprint.  At first, out of reflex, he pushed the cart, too.  But then the wind reached into his pocket and snatched away his shopping list -- which had been drafted by the lovely Mother Anonymous, and as to the contents of which Fr. A. was utterly ignorant.  He could not afford to lose that list, so he dropped the cart and sprinted, literally diving off the edge of the pavement, catching the list in his hand, and rolling down a grassy embankment toward Sunrise Highway.

The flyer was lost forever, but the shopping list was saved.

Father Anonymous felt, let's admit it, pretty studly.  This was the most athletic thing he had done in weeks.  Sure, he was panting and bruised; sure, he had not retrieved the flyer; but he had saved the shopping list.  His wife would not be disappointed, his son would not go hungry, and his credentials as a hunter-gatherer would not be called into question.

He puffed his way back to the shopping cart and pushed.  At which moment he learned how shopping cart containment systems work.  It's really very interesting; a cover snaps down over one wheel, and prevents the cart cart from moving, just the way the DOT might do with an illegally parked car.  You can't move the thing.  You can't push it, and you can barely drag it.

This is great if the store is trying to avoid losing their carts to bag ladies.  It is less great if a minister, sprinting after his wind-blown shopping list, abandoned the thing in the middle of a traffic lane.  And the same sort of scruples that make him chase an unwanted newsprint flyer mean he can't just leave the cart for somebody else to deal with.

So Fr. A., sighing mightily at the inconvenience of modern life, grasped the wire cart by its front end and hauled it, slowly and awkwardly, across the asphalt to the little pavilion in the center where the shopping carts are stowed.  Then he took another cart and went shopping.


Thirty minutes later, as Fr. A. was loading the truck with newly-purchased groceries, another statistically improbable gust of wind snatched the shopping list from his pocket.  Did the poor dumb schmuck say, "Ah, well, I don't need it anymore, anyway"?  Oh, no.  He sprang into action, sprinted across the parking lot and onto the embankment.  This time he slipped on some huge spiked seedpods -- horse chestnut?  Who knows? -- and fell, rolling down to the margin of the highway.  Again.

The list, still in the grip of a mighty wind, flew straight to the windshield of a passing truck.  Astonishingly, nobody was killed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Old Pope's New House

Built in the early 1990s, the convent Mater Ecclesiae is surely one of the newest buildings in the Vatican City.  It is also, from the few reports we have had, among the plainest.  But renovations are already under way, and at 4300 square feet, it will no doubt make a spacious retirement villa for Benedict XVI when he begins life as the Bishop Emeritus of Rome.

John Paul II had the convent built so that there would be a team of nuns supporting him with prayer.  It was not the fixed home of a single community, however.  Instead, specific orders were asked to send a team to live there in rotating five-year shifts.  (The most recent group, the Order of the Visitation, was only invited for three years, which raises some questions about just far ahead long Benedict may have planned his renunciation.)

We don't suppose that nuns will continue to live there, apart from any who may wind up part of the personal household of the Emeritus.  (Including, no doubt, Gorgeous Georg Ganswein. UPDATE:  Yeah, he's moving too.)  We wonder if the house will be given a new name -- the Ratzinger Residence or something classier, like Domus Coelestini.

There's been quite a bit of speculation in the press, much of it absurd, about the effect that the presence of a former pope may have upon a new one.  (Daily Mail:  "Now There Will be TWO Popes?"  Somebody smack them.)  While we generally believe that old pastors ought to retire outside their former parish, this may be a notable exception.  Inside the Vatican, access to the Emeritus can be pretty effectively controlled -- this protects him from curiosity-seekers, and protects his successor from the possibility of a loose cannon, prattling on to any reporter or graduate student who drops by the house.

We gather it's a bit of a fixer-upper.  Some water in the basement, drafty windows, and a little snow damage to the terrace.  But there's a fruit and vegetable garden next door, so he won't get hungry.  And, along with its own chapel, the place is a few yards from St. Peter's, so he can walk to church.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Yesterday's Saint

What with our raging case of conclave fever (we're under medical treatment), we forgot to mention somebody yesterday -- somebody important, and too easily overlooked.  Her name is Gertrud Reichardt, and she was the first modern deaconess.

In 1836, a young Lutheran pastor named Theodor Fliedner, with his wife Friederike, opened the first "deaconess-house" in Kaiserswerth, thus beginning a movement that would sweep through the Protestant world.  Deaconesses, women consecrated to a life of Christian service, would quickly become a significant part of the Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist churches.  They cared for orphans and the poor, they nursed the sick and dying.  When Florence Nightingale was preparing to leave for the Crimea, she stopped in Kaiserswerth for actual training.  We have long argued that these deaconesses helped to create the modern professions of medical nursing and social work.

Gertrud Reichardt, then 48 years old, was the first woman to answer Fliedner's appeal.  Lavinia Dock and M. Adelaide Nutting tell the story in their 1907 History of Nursing:
Gertrude Reichardt, the first Kaiserswerth deaconess, was the daughter and the sister of a physician. She was born in Ruhrort in 1788 and was already a woman of mature years and of much practical experience as a nurse. In her father's home she had been accustomed to assist him with dressings and operations, and during the War of Freedom [i.e., the 1812-14 battle against French occupation] she had been his constant helper. When her brother became a physician she had gained further large experience in the care of the sick among his patients.  
She was admirably fitted for the work of the new hospital, and the Fliedners had long known of her and for a time had tried in vain to persuade her to take up the new and experimental post of deaconess. Finally, in the early autumn they had induced her to come and see the new hospital. It looked very bare and poor and she could not decide to remain; was, in fact, about to return home when a large bundle was brought in by post, which contained a quantity of new bed-linen, clothing, and ward fittings. This simple occurrence was regarded by her as a providential sign, and she promised to come in October. Two young women promised to come and assist, though not willing to become deaconesses. Gertrude remained in the service until 1855 when she withdrew to the House of Evening Rest (Feierabend Haus) for the old Sisters at the age of sixty-eight years.

On 13 February 1869, she entered the Church Triumphant.  (You can read other brief bios in English here and in German here.)

Let's be frank:  Without her combination of medical experience and devotion to God, Kaiserswerth would never have gotten off the ground.  Not only would the deaconess movement have been yet another forgotten Romantic-era flop, but it is quite possible that much of what it inspired -- nursing, social work, and public health -- would have developed very differently.  Many people owe a debt to Sister Reichardt who have never even heard her name.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Yes, It's a "Resignation"

In the days since Benedict XVI announced the intention to give up his office, a curious urban myth has sprung up on the internet.  And no, we aren't talking about any of the wacky conspiracy theories.  We mean the assertion that Benedict didn't say he was going to resign, because he can't resign, but only abdicate.

Please don't fall for this foolishness.

The claim is that, as matter of language, resignation requires a superior, to whom one can hand a letter, the way you might at your office (if you didn't scream profanities and storm out the door, you impulsive creature).  Since Benedict has no mortal superior, the argument goes, he can only do what, say, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands recently did -- abdicate.

That argument hinges on an understanding of the word "resign" which is ... idiosyncratic.  By which we mean "wrong."  Terry Mattingly recently headlined a column with this contention.  His better-informed readers took him to task at once, saving us the effort.

Our proper dictionaries (OED and American Heritage) are still in crates, but here is what the Online Etymological Dictionary site says:

resign (v.): late 14c., from Old French resigner, from Latin resignare "to check off, cancel, give up," from re- "opposite" (see re-) + signare "to make an entry in an account book," literally "to mark" (see sign). The sense is of making an entry (signum) "opposite" -- on the credit side -- balancing the former mark and thus canceling the claim it represents. The meaning of "give up a position" is first recorded late 14c. Sense of "to give (oneself) up to some emotion or situation" is from 1718.

This sounds quite convincing.  "Give up a position" is certainly the most common sense of the word.  Although there is a remote sense of signing something, that thing certainly need not be a letter to one's boss, and is in any case metaphorical at this point anyway.  Other sources provide synonyms which include -- wait for it -- "abdicate."

Mind you, they do have a point.  "To abdicate" originally meant "to disown or disinherit," but from the late 17th century has also been used to mean "renounce sovereignty."  In that sense, it is a very useful and specific word to describe what Benedict has chosen to do.

But "resign" is more common, and is simply not incorrect.

In any case, it is worth remembering that Benedict didn't use either of these words.  Speaking in Latin, he used the verb renuntio, congnate with "to renounce."  (Lewis & Short gloss it as "To retract, revoke, recall, refuse, give up, break off, disclaim, renounce, repudiate"). This is, as you might expect, the same verb used in Canon 332, with which Benedict took care to comply:
Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex muneri suo renuntiet, ad validitatem requiritur ut renuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur, non vero ut a quopiam acceptetur.
And what is the official translation, as published at the Vatican website?  Here:
If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.
Oh, yes.  Resign.

So, in other words:  abdicate is a great word, and we should all use it freely in this case.  Renounce is an excellent word, and seems quite literal here.  But resign is also perfectly good English, and describes what the Pope has said he will do at the end of the month.

Electing the Pope

First off, let's just say it:  the idea that popes are elected may seem unremarkable in this age of widespread democracy, but we should in fact be at least a little surprised by it.  After all, the Pope is a monarch, in many ways -- even most -- a Renaissance prince.  But of course, even in those bad old undemocratic Middle Ages, the Church was one place where leaders, including some of the most powerful ones, were chosen by a vote of their peers.  Long after the days when a bishop might be chosen by popular acclamation, abbots, abbesses and popes were elected, and of course they still are.  In other words, democracy -- of a limited sort -- has always had an important place in Christian churches.

As to how it is done, the modern rules are provided in Universi Dominici Gregis.  The Fisheaters website provides a  useful one-page summary, particularly including the prayers.  Here is our own quick guide; please let us know if we have omitted anything essential.

1.  Make sure the Pope is dead.  Or at least that he has resigned.  How do you make sure a pope is dead?  Traditionally, you hit him on the head with a silver hammer and ask, "Are you dead?"  Then you steal his jewelry.  (Well, the Fisherman's Ring, anyway.  They break it, along with his official seal, and put them both in the coffin.  There are lots of other funeral customs, which -- God willing -- will not be necessary this time around.)  

2.  Assemble the cardinals.  You have twenty days to do this.  All cardinals are eligible to participate in the discussions leading to the conclave proper, but only the 117 under the age of 80 have a vote.  (This number may drop to 114, depending on the precise date that the conclave begins.)  The number of electors is capped at 120 in any case.  The Court Chamberlain, usually called by his Italian title of Camerlengo, has already been running things since the Pope died or abdicated

3.  Lock them into a big room.  Seriously.  It's the Sistine Chapel, so at least they have something to look at if they get bored.  They come in together, singing Veni Creator Spiritus. They take an oath, both of secrecy and of independence from external control.  Then the order is given -- Extra omnes! -- and all non-essential personnel vacate the premises.  The place has already been swept for bugs; telephones and radios are forbidden; electors may not watch television, even back in their rooms.

4.  Pray, and then start voting.  
A. The first phase of voting is the Pre-Scrutiny.  They elect  9 officers, of three types -- Scrutineers, who count the votes; Infirmarii, who collect votes from sick electors; and Revisers, who double-check the work of the Scrutineers.
B. The second phase is the Scrutiny proper.  Each elector is given a few sheets of paper, printed with the words "Eligo in Summum Pontificem."  Under that, there is space to write a name; the idea is to disguise your handwriting, fold the paper twice, then carry it to the altar and place it into a covered urn, swearing before God that the name written is the person he believes should be elected. (Infirmarrii go to the rooms of electors who are medically unable to be present in the chapel.)  
C.  The third phase is the Post-Scrutiny.  Scrutineers open the ballots and read them aloud, recording the votes.  Revisers double-check, and the ballots (along with any other written notes taken by electors) are burned. 
D.  This process continues, two ballots at a time, until one person has received 2/3 of the votes
5.  After three days, take a break.  (Even Jesus was only good for three days in Hell).  They can take up to one day for "prayer, informal discussion and an exhortation."  Voting resumes, and if there is still no election after seven more ballots, they can take another break, and cast another seven ballots.

6.  Change the rules.  If, after something like 21 ballots (are we counting correctly?), there is still no election, the rules change.  An absolute majority, but not 2/3, is now required.  It is possible, if the majority agrees, to limit the voting to the two names that received the greatest number of votes on the preceding ballot.   [UPDATE:  In 2007, Benedict amended Universi Dominici Gregis, so that a valid election requires 2/3 at all time.  A simple majority will not do it.  Sorry for any confusion!]

7.  Elect the guy.  Get his consent.  (He can refuse, but this is rare.)  Then find out what he wants to be called.  Then, if he is not a bishop, ordain him bishop.  Then, and only then, announce his name to the crowd.  Habemus papem!  Technically, btw, we -- or at any rate they -- had a pope the moment he said yes, if he was a bishop, and the moment he was ordained, if not.

The rules are designed to emphasize fair play, honesty and, above all, the secrecy of the process.  But there is one curious exception.  The Camerlengo is instructed to write a report of each ballot, all of which are collected and sealed in an envelope which can only be opened by the permission of the Pope himself.

Casa di Santa Marta

A room at St. Martha's House.   From L'Osservatore Romano
At one point, during the evacuation from Storm Sandy, we spent a couple of nights at the Howard Johnson's motor lodge in Saugerties, New York.  It was pretty typical of an older, low-end chain motel:  comfortable enough without being pleasant.  The bedding was clean, but the carpets had their share of cigarette burns.  There were a pool and a sauna, but neither was warm enough to use.  The halls had an antiseptic aroma.

We arrived just a few hours after a much larger group of evacuees, the elderly and infirm residents of a nursing home, along with their caregivers.  Empty wheelchairs blocked the entrance to the restaurant, and the whole building came to smell a little less antiseptic.  The old people, when we passed them, all appeared to be a little lost, and a little unhappy.  We felt sorry for them.

This rural HoJo's would have been paradise itself next to the traditional conclave of cardinals.  For centuries, the most powerful men in the Roman Catholic world, many of them very old, were housed in surprisingly uncomfortable circumstances as they gathered to elect one of their number to a position of still greater power.

The idea of a conclave -- meaning, obviously, to be locked in "with a key" -- goes back to 1271, when a secular authorities, annoyed that the politicking of the cardinals had delayed the choice of a new pope for two years and nine months, literally locked them into a room and told them not to come out until their work was finished.  They were done in a day.  The pope they elected, Gregory XI, was sufficiently impressed by this system that he made it a law, and so it has endured, with significant changes and one brief abrogation, ever since.

This "locked in" business is pretty literal, too.  The old Catholic Encyclopedia describes the original rules:
When a pope died, the cardinals with him were to wait ten days for their absent brethren. Then, each with a single servant, lay or cleric, they were to assemble in the palace where the pope was at his death, or, if that were impossible, the nearest city not under interdict, in the bishop's house or some other suitable place. 
All were to assemble in one room (conclave), without partition or hanging, and live in common. This room and another retired chamber, to which they might go freely, were to be so closed in that no one could go in or out unobserved, nor anyone from without speak secretly with any cardinal. 
And if anyone from without had aught to say, it must be on the business of the election and with the knowledge of all the cardinals present. No cardinal might send out any message, whether verbal or written, under pain of excommunication. There was to be a window through which food could be admitted. 
If after three days the cardinals did not arrive at a decision, they were to receive for the next five days only one dish at their noon and evening meals. If these five days elapsed without an election, only bread, wine, and water should be their fare. .... Those who disregarded the laws of the conclave or tampered with its liberty, besides incurring other punishments, were ipso facto excommunicated.
Imagine another crowd of comparably old and powerful people -- let's say, the Senate and the Supreme Court -- setting up camp in a single unpartitioned room for days or even weeks on end.  You can't, can you?  Neither can we. And yet this seems to have been how it was done for a long time, although by the modern era it was no longer a single undivided room, but several floors of the Vatican Palace, the offices and corridors of which were crowed with cots borrowed from seminaries, separated (sometimes) by no more than a sheet hung from a rope.  Primitive enough, and then remember the limited bathroom facilities.

The most recent legislation on the subject is John Paul II's Universis Dominici Gregis (1996).  For lodging, he caused to be built the Domus Sanctae Marthae, or St. Martha's House, a residence within walking distance of the Sistine Chapel.  Given the age and infirmity of so many cardinals, this was an act of human decency.  Rooms at St. Martha's House are described as small and comfortable; best of all, each has its own toilet.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mood Music

What's that?  You're trying to get excited, but you just ... can't?  Don't feel bad; it happens to everybody, once in a while.  Maybe you just need to relax and put on some music to get you in the mood.

May we suggest Palestrina?  Because, really, what would sound better, echoing through the Sistine Chapel?  And obviously, that's what we're talking about here:  getting in the mood to enjoy the greatest unseen spectacle in the world, the gathering of Rome's cardinal-priests in conclave, as they elect a new bishop for their fair city.

It can be hard to build up much enthusiasm, and not just for Protestants.  These gatherings are, by their nature, intensely secretive.  This means that, although people all over the world are eager to know who is selected, virtually none have any idea how he is selected.  The whole world is involved, and the whole world is shut out.  It's a little disorienting.

So we suggest a little background reading, to provide a little information on how these things are done -- and, more important, on what they feel like to the participants.

You could read some nonfiction.  John Allen's Conclave  is, unquestionably, the place to start:  a seasoned journalist's look at the what is coming this year, taking into account the current rules and the current players (at least as of a few years ago).. We're ordering a copy tonight.  Or maybe The Conclave, by Michael Walsh, a look at the history of papal elections.  (As you've noticed, writers on this subject don't place much value on original titles).

But non-fiction is so ... non-fictional.  We much prefer novels, and there are some famous ones to choose from.  Here are a few:

The Cardinal, by Henry Morton Robinson (1950).  An oldie but a goodie, about a young American priest who makes good.  It has some great set-pieces:  on a swing through the South, the priest is beaten up for wearing his collar; in Boston, he risks his own life to give last rites to a man trapped by a construction accident.  The Vatican scenes feel very lifelike, as they combine politics and culture; we especially remember two archbishops quoting Horace from memory.  It's a solid read, plus the author lived in our hometown.

The Shoes of the Fisherman, by Morris West (1963).  A Russian bishop is released from the Gulag and, through an unlikely chain of events, becomes Pope Kiril.  He ends the Cold War, gives away the Church's fortunes, and drives Teilhard de Chardin to suicide.

The Vicar of Christ, by Walter F. Murphy (1980).  An American monk is released from the Supreme Court (seriously, he was Chief Justice, as a well as a Medal of Honor winner) and through an unlikely chain of events becomes pope.  He then solves all the world's problems and is assassinated.  Notable for the least likely premise of any novel ever written including those featuring starships and time machines, as well as for the striking contention that, despite what you've heard,  the Roman Catholic Church has an endowment roughly equal to Harvard's.

The Final Conclave, by Malachi Martin (1978).  We haven't read it, but Martin was a former Jesuit and an able scholar, so this one probably has some inside dope.  It certainly seems to have some actual theology. Maybe we'll read this instead of the the non-fiction one.

USA Today's Future Pope List

Well, don't we all get our Vatican dope from USA Today?

For what it's worth, though, here is the McPaper's list of contenders.  The article gives some useful background on each:

1.  Angelo Cardinal Scola (see our last post)
2.  Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, 69, Italy
3.  Marc Cardinal Ouellet, 68, Canada
4. Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, 69, Italy
5. Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, 70, Argentina

Who Is Angelo Scola?

Among the names most frequently mentioned as a possible new pope, one stands out:  Angelo Cardinal Scola, the Archbishop of Milan.

Born in 1941, Scola holds two doctorates, both in philosophy (the second, earned after his ordination, on Aquinas).  He has taught philosophy and moral theology, with an emphasis upon theological anthropology, and served as rector of the Lateran University in Rome.  He has published many books and over 120 journal articles.  His academic influences include Hans Urs von Balthazar, Henri de Lubac and (inevitably, we suppose) Joseph Ratzinger.  Liberals may want to take note that much of his writing has been devoted to questions of "the family," which in Roman Catholicism is an important but sharply limited concept.   His farewell address at the Lateran University, on "the nuptial mystery," is an extremely impressive theological essay, but also contains a nuance-free condemnation of birth control.  Of course.

Scola is not a deeply experienced pastor, but an expert administrator.  Although his parish tenure does not appear to have been long at all -- a few years in the early 1970s -- he served as Bishop of Grosseto from 1991-95,  and Patriarch of Venice from 2002-11, before the promotion to Milan.

He has also written on the subject of Islam, and in 2004 initiated the Oasis Foundation, "to encourage mutual understanding and opportunities for encounter between the Western world and the majority Muslim world."  On one hand, knowledge of the world's other dominant religion is a good thing.  On the other hand, we would like to know more about his thoughts on the subject.

Not to engage in guilt by association, but we are worried about Scola's friends.  According to his Wikipedia entry (sorry!), Scola was championed as a potential pope in 2005, by Srda Trifkovic, in the pages of the palaeo-con journal Chronicles.  We can't find the article, so we don't know just what Trifkovic said, but we are still concerned by this.  Trifkovic is deeply engaged in anti-Muslim rhetoric, and has also been accused of anti-semitism.

Those who would like to explore Scola's public statements may do so easily at

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sound Familiar?

From the Times:
Faced with profound and seemingly irreversible shifts, the legal profession is contemplating radical changes to its educational system, including cutting the curriculum, requiring far more on-the-ground training and licensing technicians who are not full lawyers.
Well.  At least we're not the only ones.

The problem in law is a bit more complex than the one facing mainline churches.  They actually have a shortage of law school applicants, for example.  But there are certainly some eerie parallels.  The stunning indebtedness of recent graduates is one.  Another, somewhat counterintuitively, is that many institutions aren't able to hire those graduates.  Law firms still make truckloads of money, but they don't quite make the truckloads required to provide on-the-job training for an annual legion of book-smart kids with no real practical knowledge.  Churches don't mind hiring the kids (who come cheaper, and generally have more field experience than lawyers built into their curriculum); churches are just tanking left and right.

Anyway, it's worth a read.

One More Thing

You know what the Pope had for breakfast this morning?

Ex Benedict.

(Thanks to a seminary classmate who would never in a million years read this blog.)

Another Clever Tweet

  1. Breaking: Pope Benedict to resign, citing boss's "holier-than-thou" attitude.

John Allen's Short List

Here's an NCR piece from May, 2012, by the usually well-informed John Allen.  After talking to people in Rome, he lists the following names to watch in and around the conclave:

Angelo Scola, 70, Italy
Marc Ouellet, 68, Canada
Leonardo Sandri, 68, Argentina

Péter Erdő, 59, Hungary
Angelo Bagnasco, Italy
Odilo Pedro Scherer, 62, Brazil

Long Shots:
Gianfranco Ravasi, 69, Italy
Peter Turkson, 63, Ghana
Robert Sarah, 66, Guinea
Timothy Dolan, 62, USA
Luis Antonio Tagle, 54, Philippines

It is noteworthy that only four of these eleven names are Europeans.  Christoph Cardinal Shoenborn is also frequently mentioned in this context, making him a very reasonable fifth name.  On the other hand, Arinze is not named, suggesting that our first instinct -- he is simply to old -- is correct.

The long shots, it should be said, are very long indeed.  We have often heard it said that an American will not be elected pope for a very, very long time, and although Dolan is highly regarded -- "a superstar" -- among his colleagues, he is also a relative outsider in Rome. 

Chips on the Table

It seems that the Irish bookmakers like Marc Cardinal Ouellet, at 5:2, in the March conclave.  Place your bets now.  The next in line are Peter Cardinal Turkson and Francis Cardinal Arinze, both at 7:2.

We all know that the man who enters a conclave papabile comes out a cardinal.  (Except Ratzinger, of course.)  Still, it seems behovely to start keeping notes on some of the players.  Over the next month, we at the Egg will do our best to keep you informed, using the search label "conclave."  Maybe we'll get trading cards printed up.

Marc Ouellet, 68, is Quebecois.  (Here's a profile.)  He's a Sulpician priest, and taught theology for twelve years in Montreal.  He has studied abroad, and served in Colombia.  As head of the Congregation for Bishops, he has played an important role in choosing new bishops -- a tricky thing during these years of scandal.  Theologically, he described as being much like Benedict.  Perhaps more important, he also shares Benedict's personal affect:  scholarly, cerebral, reserved.

Peter Turkson, 64, is from Ghana.  He is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace, and serves on many other Curial organizations, notably including Doctrine of the Faith.  He thinks that married couples might uses condoms to prevent HIV transmission, if olnly condoms were made well.  In response to the UN's criticism of African policies that discriminate against gay people, he has said that these may be an exaggeration, but one that is consonant with African culture, and that “So, if it’s being stigmatized, in fairness, it’s probably right to find out why it is being stigmatized.”  Which, to our ears, sounds like telling rape victims not to wear such short skirts.

Francis Arinze, 80, is a Nigerian citizen of the Igbo tribe.  He is a convert from traditional religion, and was baptized at the age of 9.  In 1965, he became the youngest Roman Catholic bishop in the world.  He is a former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.  Although often mentioned as a potential pope, he seems awfully old for the job. Still, he has one very strong thing going for him, per the Guardian:

John Paul was so impressed when he visited in 1982 that he summoned him to Rome to manage the Vatican's relations with other faiths.
Shuttling to synagogues, mosques and temples, he forged ties with other religions while maintaining the Pope's strict line on doctrine.
"The beautiful thing about the cardinal is that he can say the hardest thing with a smile on his face and not offend people," said one colleague.
If "handling" communism was the Vatican's 20th-century challenge, Islam is widely thought to be this century's, and one which Cardinal Arinze is equipped to face.

If you are wondering, there has never been a pope from the New World, but there have been a handful of Africans -- Victor I, Melchiades, and Gelasius -- all before the sixth century.   Nobody really knows what color their skins were.

Benedict Opts Out

Tweet of the Day, from Patton Oswalt via The Hollywood Reporter:

  1. Wait...ex-Pope? X-POPE! Oh shit, I gotta pitch this to Marvel.#eyelasers
As you've no doubt heard, Pope Benedict XVI has exercised his rights under Canon 332 and announced his resignation, effective on February 28.  He says that, at 85 years old, he does not feel strong enough, in mind or body, to continue his work.  He will retire to Castelgondolfo and, after that, to a monastery in Rome.  (Announcement here, via Time.)

Already 78 when he was elected, Joseph Ratzinger was widely expected to be a short-term pope, essentially a caretaker of John Paul II's legacy.  Frankly, he has been much more than that.  Where John Paul was a conservative, who shared (for example) Ratzinger's dislike of the then-trendy liberation theology and disciplined its advocates, Benedict has proven to be a traditionalist, concerned to restore traditions, particularly liturgical ones, which had been falling into abeyance since Vatican II.  It's not just the red shoes; it is his strong support for the return of the Latin Mass and his indirect supervision of a revised English translation.  We ourselves are particularly moved by his defense of the east-facing Eucharistic celebration.

Critics have been fierce.  Long ago, Ratzinger was part of the Hitler Youth, and drafted into the German Army.  At Regensburg, he famously spoke of Islam in a way which might have been appropriate for a professor goading complacent pupils, but which was shocking and almost disastrous for the world's most prominent Christian leader.  His treatment of sexual predators among the clergy will probably be debated for generations to come, like the role of Pius XII in handling the Nazis.  On one hand, as a cardinal he had urged John Paul to take a stronger lead in disciplining these monsters; on the other hand, he is part of a generation that thought of pedophilia as a series of discrete acts, to be confessed and forgiven (and, shamefully, hidden from public scrutiny), rather than as an essentially incurable condition.  In this regard, we hope there will be no more like him.

The Ordinariates, those international clubs for erstwhile Anglicans, are a reflection of Benedict's peculiar understanding of the Vatican II ecumenical agenda.  They are essentially an occidental version of the old "uniate" churches, a means of offering unity to Orthodoxy by bringing it under submission to Roman authority.  This has been a failure in the East, and we don't expect it will bear any better fruit in the West.  (But we may be wrong.)

Despite our own criticisms, we have greatly preferred Benedict to John Paul.  This is precisely because of John Paul's widely-hailed charisma and theatricality.  They made him beloved the world over, particularly by young people, but our life's experience has led us to dread charismatic leadership, most of all in the Church.  We much prefer Benedict's awkward, professorial, even antiquarian approach.

In case you wondered, it is very rare for a pope to resign.  Previous instances have included Pontian in 235, who was arrested and sent to the salt mines, and Celestine V in 1294, a hermit who found himself unable to deal with the Curia. (Background here.) The last example was Gregory XII, whose resignation helped to end the three-way "Avignonese" schism.  (Noteworthy tidbit:  anti-pope John XXIII also resigned in 1415, but anti-pope Benedict XIII did not, and was excommunicated.  It would not surprise us to learn that Benedict XVI has spent a long time thinking about these men and their legacies.)

New York Times 
Guardian on the conclave

Friday, February 08, 2013

Officers Versus Leaders

Come Sunday, we are installing members of what is technically known as our Congregation Council.  (In practice, everybody says Church Council -- a name which the ELCA arrogated, logically but confusingly, for its national board of trustees).

Not having done this in a while, what with serving a mission church and all, Father A. had to give himself a quick refresher course on the relevant liturgical forms.  And he finds some subtle but noteworthy contrasts.

The LBW and ELW forms are extremely similar:  an introduction, a reading from 1 Corinthians, a description of the duties, the extraction of some promises from the councillors, and a promise by the assembly to support their new leaders.

The most interesting difference, honestly, is in the name given to the service.  Where the LBW called it "Installation of Elected Parish Officers," ELW calls it "Installation of Leaders."  This is a salutary change, since churches do not need office-holdership half so much as they need leadership.

More provocative is the contrast between these modern forms and their predecessor rite, specifically, the description of a council member's duties.  Here is the ELW language:

You are to see that the words and deeds of this household of faith bear witness to God, who gathers us into one together with the whole church. 
You are to seek to involve all members of this congregation in worship, learning, witness, service, and support, so that the mission of Christ is carried out in this congregation, in the wider church, in this community, and in the whole world. 
You are to be faithful in your specific area of serving, that the Spirit who empowers you may be glorified. 
You are to be examples of faith active in love, fostering peace, harmony, and mutual understanding in this congregation.

Here is the language from the Occasional Services of the 1918 Common Service Book:
It will be your duty to see: That the services of God's House* be held at the proper times, and conducted in accordance with the Order of the Church; 
that the pure Word of God be preached, as the Church confesses it, and only by those duly authorized according to the Constitution of this Congregation; 
that provision be made for the Christian instruction of the young; 
that strict discipline be maintained, the erring admonished and impenitent offenders excluded from the communion of the Church; 
that the property of the Congregation be cared for, and all that relates to its worldly affairs properly administered. 
It will furthermore be your duty: To assist the Pastor in the care of the sick and needy, in the cultivation of harmony among the members, in the promotion of the general welfare of the Congregation, and in the furtherance of Christ's Kingdom, at home and abroad. 
Nor should you be unmindful that, while holiness of life and conversation is required of all who name the Name of Christ; it is especially incumbent upon those who have been called to be office-bearers in His Church to show themselves in all things, by word and example, a pattern of good works.
The differences are interesting.  The CSB installation is a lot windier, as was the unfortunate custom of those times. The language of pure preaching "as the Church confesses it" is a reminder of the fierce confessional strife of the 19th century.  It also includes specific themes -- discipline, in its different forms -- which have largely gone underground in the modern Church.  That is, they still exist, but we are reluctant to talk about them very much, for fear of frightening people away.

In general, we find the modern brevity very attractive, and we don't miss the business about excluding people from Communion.  We'll leave that to the LC-MS.  But we do think that the penultimate paragraph, about assisting the pastor, is a serious loss.

The idea that lay leaders "assist" the pastor may sound, to some ears, like the dreaded and much-maligned clericalism.  But it is not clericalism to acknowledge that, in most congregations, the pastor is the person chiefly entrusted with care for the sick and the welfare of the congregation.  Not to mention extending the Kingdom; far too many council members have a hard time thinking beyond their own property line.  And arguably, it is clericalism to omit the duty of lay leaders to engage in such things as well.  (This duty is spelled out in most constitutions, and the rubric does permit us to just read the constitution in the rite.  That would make for a far longer-winded service, but may still be worthwhile.)

We are not, in this case, calling for a return to the old rite.  It wasn't particularly great.  But it did have its beauties, and they are worth thinking about hen we talk about leadership in a fast-changing church.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Name That Feast

The Egg's Department of Kalendrical Anomalies -- the "K" is for our Anglican readers -- has been giving more thought to the strange modern custom of saying that the Transfiguration of Our Lord falls properly on August 6 and yet is routinely and almost universally transferred to the Sunday before Ash Wednesday.  Our conclusion is that since, whether one likes it or not, the custom is here to stay, the logical next step is to distinguish the two by giving them different names.

We propose that this coming Sunday be called the Trans-faux-guration.

The italics are optional.

To be honest, we don't especially hanker for the old "pre-Lent," variously called Septuagesima or Shrovetide.  The idea, we gather, was to focus on penitence before the start of the fast proper.  But frankly, both fasting and penitence are so far out of fashion that we worrry about beating a dead horse.  In any case, Lent stands or falls on its own, and we don't think that its cause is served by a "Lent Lite."  

We suspect that both ideas -- the Transferredguration and Mini-Lent --  evolved as efforts to deal with the the curious intrusion of some Ordinary Time (or Time of the Church, tempus per annum, or whatever you like, into the so-called Festival Season, those six months of the year in which green is not the usual color.  

But why? There is some teaching value to that little intrusion, which reminds us that the Christian year is not merely a series of feasts and fasts linked by ... something forgettable.  On the contrary -- and this was, paradoxically, one of the chief points of the 20th-century "Liturgical Movement" -- all time is God's time, and all the Church's days are consecrated equally to God.  

The reformers of the calendar knew well how easy it is to over-emphasize the seemingly special occasions at the expense of the seemingly plain ones, which makes their decision to move a feast from summer to winter all the more mysterious and all the more wrong-headed.  In our most cynical moments, we suspect that they may actually have thought something on the lines of "People should celebrate the Transfiguration more often; but people don't come to worship in summer; so let's move the Transfiguration to a time when attendance is higher."  It is hard to imagine how this does favors for anybody, but there you go.

Ah, well.  Come sunday, we will do what the publishing-house bulletin inserts tell us to do.  We will wear white and preach on the strangely changed appearance of Our Lord.  We will not ramble on about the calendar, or make up new names for the day.  Not out loud.  But in our heart of hearts, we will be ignoring the snow and cold, pretending that it is a warm summer day.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Fides Quae Creditur

Trust is a funny thing.  Nobody much trusts the clergy these days, and it's not hard to see why; smart people never trusted Congress, and rightly not.

But do you know who people do trust?  The TV news channels.  For reasons that frankly escape us, people watch 'em and talk about 'em and act on what they see and hear.  We suppose this is some sort of atavism, a vestigial reflex from the old days when Walter Cronkite and the New York Times were accorded a cultural standing second only to, well, to your government and your minister.

Those, of course, were the days when the news media made a great show of parading their even-handed probity, their -- in a word that seems positively quaint -- "objectivity."  Cue the nostalgic violins.  We live in different times now.

And so even America's brief for talking heads is in decline, according to a recent poll by something called the Public Policy Polling Center.  The most fascinating result of the poll, though, is how the trust breaks down along partisan lines:
We find once again this year that Democrats trust everything except Fox, and Republicans don't trust anything other than Fox. Democrats put the most faith in PBS (+61 at 72/11), followed by NBC (+45 at 61/16), MSNBC (+39 at 58/19), CBS (+38 at 54/16), CNN (+36 at 57/21), ABC (+35 at 51/16), and Comedy Central (+10 at 38/28). Out of the non-Fox channels Republicans have the most faith in PBS at -21 (27/48),  followed by NBC (-48 at 18/66), CNN (-49 at 17/66), ABC (-56 at 14/70), MSNBC (-56 at 12/68), CBS (-57 at 15/72), and Comedy Central (-58 at 8/66).
It is hardly surprising that Republicans place so much trust in Fox, nor that others decline to do likewise.  But -- and this is important to note -- among Americans overall, as well as Democrats, it is PBS that is most trusted. (And Fox, by far, is the least trusted overall.)  Please do remember this the next time some GOP congressman (or presidential candidate) starts to make noise about defunding public broadcasting, and ask yourself why.

We regret that this poll restricts itself to television news, as we would very much like to see where National Public Radio falls on the scale of trust.

But, parenthetically, do you know how old Father Anonymous is?  Forget the grey hair, potbelly, and reading glasses; there's a better marker of superannuation these days.  He is old enough to be genuinely shocked that the poll treats  Comedy Central as a source on par with, say, ABC News.