Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Cloyne Report 2

I have read The Cloyne Report about the situation that pertained in the Diocese of Cloyne

Why the Irish Prime Minister launched the attack on the Vatican in the way he did has always been mystifying.

More heat than light especially the unjustified attack on Pope Benedict XVI

The Thirsty Gargoyle has provided a coherent and impressive analysis of Cloyne and its aftermath

It is a refreshingly well written article, calm and dispassionate and free of the hysterical emotion that seems to pervade most of the reporting about the Cloyne Report, The amount of work involved in producing it must have been considerable.

It is well worth reading if you want an objective view about the Report.

H/T to Father Ray

Friday, July 29, 2011

The tomb of St. Philip the Apostle

The tomb of St Philip the Apostle ?

Turkey is a fascinating country: filled with sites which are of immense historical importance to Christians.

Now Vatican Insider and other newspapers have highlighted the possible discovery of the tomb of St Philip the Apostle in or around the ancient town of Pamukkale (known in ancient times as Hierapolis)

I was lucky to visit Pamukkale some years ago and spent an overnight there.

According to ancient tradition, Philip the Apostle converted the ancient town and was crucified there by Domitian around the year 87.

The team of archaeologists who have uncovered the tomb were led by Italian Francesco d’Andria

The tomb has apparently been discovered in the area of St. Philippe Martyrion which was built at the end of the 4th or at beginning of the 5th century on an area measuring 20 by 20 metres (66 by 66 ft). It was erected in honour of Saint Philip who was killed in Hierapolis. See the images of the Martyrion below

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Sacred Heart and St Gertrude of Helfta

Design drawing for large stained glass window over entrance depicting scenes from the Life of St. Gertrude for St. Gertrude Roman Catholic Church in Wilson, (Windsor) Connecticut
c. 1959 - 60
Drawing : watercolour, graphite, ink;
15.5 x 16 in
Part of:the Lamb Design CollectionLibrary of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Lamb Studios is an ecclesiastical art firm, the oldest continuously operating stained glass studios in the United States.

Originally named the J & R Lamb Studios, it was established in New York City in 1857 by the English brothers Joseph (1833-1898) and Richard (1832-1909) Lamb.

The Lambs had for their credo “the beautifying of churches”

As can be seen from above it is a beautiful composition and there are various annotations on the drawing including Father [Joseph?] P. Flannigan, Pastor. He was the first resident pastor of the Church and was responsible for the construction of the beatiful Church around 1960

The archives of this great firm are in the Library of Congress from where the above image was taken.

The scene depicts Saint Gertrude the Great (or Saint Gertrude of Helfta) (January 6, 1256 – ca. 1302) the German Benedictine, mystic, and theologian who was one of the great sources of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Also the patron saint of the Church in Windsor above.

I have already written before about St Gertrude - see the links below

Her great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be seen from her biography The Revelations of St Gertrude. Of particular relevance is the importance to St Gertrude of St John the Apostle in her devotion. Here are some extracts:

"[On Good Friday] while they sang the Antiphon at Vespers, Vidi aquam egredientem - "I saw water springing forth" - the Lord said to Gertrude:

"Behold My Heart - let it be your temple; then go through the other parts of My Body, and arrange for the other parts of a monastery wherever it seems best for you; for I desire that My sacred Humanity should henceforth be your cloister."

"Lord" replied the Saint:

"I know not how to seek or choose, because I have found such sweetness in Thy Heart, which Thou hast deigned to give me for a temple, that I can find neither repose nor rest out of it - two things which are absolutely necessary in the cloister".

If you desire it, said the Saviour, you can still find these two things in My Heart; for have you not heard that there are persons that never leave My house even for food and rest, like St. Dominic? "

"This Apostle [St John] also appeared to the Saint as she assisted at Matins, on His Feast, when she applied with special fervour to her usual exercises.

Gertrude then recommended some of the religious of whom she had charge very fervently to him; he received her prayer very lovingly, and said.

"I am like my Master in this - that I love those who love me"

The Saint inquired: "What grace, then and what benefit can I hope for, who am so unworthy on your dear Feast?"

"Come" he replied:

"come with me, thou elect one of my Lord. and let us repose together on the sweetest bosom of the Lord, in which all the treasures of beatitude lie hidden".

Then taking her up in spirit, he presented her to our living Saviour; and having placed her on His right, he placed himself on the left, and reposed there.

Then he exclaimed, pointing reverently to the bosom of Jesus:

"Behold, this the Saints of saints, who draws to Himself all that is good in Heaven and on earth!"

Then she inquired of St.John why he had placed himself on the left hand, and had given the right to her.

He replied:

"It is because I have become one spirit with God and am able to penetrate where flesh cannot enter; but you are not yet able to penetrate into such high things, because you are still in the flesh. I have therefore placed you at the opening of the Divine Heart, from whence you may drink in all the sweet consolations which flow from it with such impetuous abundance, that is capable of satisfying all who desire to taste thereof. "

Then, as she felt the constant pulsations of the Divine Heart, and rejoiced exceedingly thereat, she said to St. John:

"Beloved of God, didst thou feel those pulsations when you wert lying on the Lord's breast at the Last Super?"

"Yes" he replied;

"and this with such plenitude, that liquid does not enter so rapidly into bread than the sweetness of those pleasures penetrated my soul, so that my spirit became more ardent than water under the action of a glowing fire."

"And why" she inquired: "have you neither said nor written anything of this for our edification?"

He replied:

"Because I was charged with instructing the newly formed Church concerning the mysteries of the uncreated Word, that those truths might be transmitted to future ages, as far as they would be capable of comprehending them, for no one can comprehend them entirely; and I deferred speaking of these Divine pulsations until later ages, that the world might be aroused from its torpor, and animated when it had grown cold, by hearing of these things".

Then as she contemplated St. John reposing on the bosom of Our Lord, he said to her:

"I now appear to you in the same form as when I lay on the bosom of My beloved Lord and only Friend at the Last Supper; but if you wish it, I will obtain for you the favour of beholding me in the form in which I now enjoy the delights of Heaven".

And as she desired this favour very ardently, she beheld an immense ocean within the Heart of Jesus, in which St John appeared to float with ineffable joy and perfect freedom; and she learned that the Saint became so filled and inebriated with the torrent of pleasure which he tasted in God that a vein came from his heart, whereby he poured forth the sweet waters of the Divinity - that is to say, his instructions, and above all, his Gospel - over the face of the earth."

"[St Gertrude] heard a most melodious sound, as of a sweet harper harping upon his harp and these words were sung to her.

"Come O Mine own, to Me: enter, O Mine own, into Me: abide O Mine own, with Me."

And the Lord Himself explained the meaning of this canticle to her, saying:

"Come to Me, because I love you, and desire that you should be always present before Me, as My beloved spouse, and therefore I call you; and because My delights are in you, I desire that you should enter into Me. Furthermore, because I am the God of love, I desire that you should remain indissolubly united to Me, even as the body is united to the spirit, without which it cannot live for a moment."

This rapture continued for an hour, and the Saint was drawn in a miraculous manner into the Heart of Jesus, through this sacred channel of which we have spoken, so that she found herself happily reposing in the bosom of her Lord and Spouse.

What she felt, what she saw, what she heard, what she tasted, what she learned of the words of life, she alone can know, and they who, like her, are worthy to be admitted to this sublime union with their Spouse Jesus, their soul's true love, Who is God, blessed forever. Amen.

These are the thoughts and sentiments which inspired and suffuse these traditional Catholic hymns:

For further links on St Gertrude see:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Irish PM and the Cloyne Report

Cardinal Bertone celebrating Mass with Ireland`s bishops

In Britain this is the "Silly Season". We have had non=stop coverage of Rupert Murdoch and his family. In Ireland the talk is of The Cloyne Report.

The Irish Prime Minister is riding the reaction to the publication of the Cloyne Report for all that he can.

His approval ratings are at an all time high

Yesterday, during a debate before the lower chamber of the Irish Parliament, he launched an unprecedented, full fledged attack on the Holy See,

Why is the Vatican in the firing line ?

In the Cloyne Report mention is made of the fact that in 1996 the Irish bishops approved Guidelines for dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse. It would seem however that in 1997 the Vatican papal nuncio at the time Archbishop Luciano Storero, sent a letter to the Irish bishops, conveying the decision of the Congregation for Clergy that a major plank of the policies should not be carried out.

That is as far as the Cloyne Report goes.

However it would appear that in January 2011 the Irish TV station RTE broadcast a documentary entitled "Unspeakable Crimes".  Is it this programme and not The Cloyne Report which is the source and fuel of the Prime Minister`s attack on the Vatican ?

The programme alleged that

"Archbishop Storero— a veteran Vatican diplomat who was nuncio in Ireland from 1995 until his death in 2000—said that the policy of mandatory reporting “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.”

The letter from Archbishop Storero, which had previously been kept confidential, was apparently furnished to the RTE investigation by an Irish bishop.

Archbishop Storero indicated that if the Irish bishops followed their policies, and took disciplinary action against abusive priests, those priests might appeal their cases to Rome and find a sympathetic response from the Congregation for Clergy.

The papal nuncio said that Congregation would, “at the appropriate time,” provide more complete directions on handling sex-abuse complaints.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who at the time was the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, met with the Irish bishops a year later. The discussion of sex-abuse policy at that meeting was highly contentious, the RTE program reported, with then-Archbishop (later Cardinal) Desmond Connell of Dublin pounding the table in frustration at the Vatican prelate’s stance.

The RTE programme implied that the decisions of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos represented the official policies of the Vatican."

In other words RTE blamed the then nuncio (conveniently dead) and Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos (then prefect of the Congregation for Clergy in 1996 - 8) of over-ruling the Irish bishops. In 1996 until the new 2001 Rules by the Vatican on child abuse, cases of child abuse were dealt with by the Congregation of the Clergy/

After 2001, when the new rules were promulgated by the Vatican, responsibility passed to the "new broom", the then Cardinal Ratzinger and his Department, the CDF. The programme`s attack on Pope Benedict is completely without foundation.

Cardinal Desmond Connell, the retired Archbishop of Dublin, came out quite well in the RTE investigation as well as some other Irish bishops who protested against the alleged "Storero- Castrillon Hoyos" line

Catholic Culture did an article at the time pointing out the inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the programme.

It is referred to for its terms

Now, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin , in an exclusive interview with the Vatican Insider avers that “There are some small circles that are defying the rules of the Irish bishops. A change in mentality is needed and this cannot happen over night”

He was asked why the Irish Prime Minister had attacked the Vatican.

He replied:

"“I believe the Prime Minister was referring above all to interactions – which I was unaware of – which took place with the Vatican while the Cloyne Report was being prepared and to a now “historical” speech made by the Congregation for the Clergy. The Prime Minister did not name the Pope directly or criticise the laws of the current Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They have undoubtedly been a great support in encouraging the Church in Ireland and elsewhere, in an attempt to follow a clear cut and consistent course of action against paedophilia.”

Later on in the interview he was asked two questions and made the following replies:

"The Cloyne Report has shown that in Ireland, there have been bishops who even after the guidelines put in place by the Holy See in 2001, have continued to underestimate the seriousness of the abuse problem, and have acted without giving timely or adequate answers. Why is this?

“There are still some small circles that are defying the rules in place for Irish bishops. Around the diocese of Cloyne there was a group that, following its own interpretation of “canon law”, actually chose not to apply the rules laid down by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger’s rules that is.”

In a television interview you said there is a group that is also showing defiance to Benedict XVI’s line of thought within the Vatican. To whom were you referring?

“I was referring to these circles, present in Ireland and perhaps in the Vatican, who are still not fully adhering to the rules in place, both the rules of the Irish Church and those of the Holy See. There needs to be a change in mentality and mentalities cannot be changed from one day to the next.”

The Irish episcopate would appear to be hopelessly split and at the moment floundering. One might suspect that relations between the Irish bishops are none too cordial. If they do not get their act together they will all hang together, But one would like to know who it was from the Irish episcopate disclosed the letter from Archbishop Storero which had previously been kept confidential. And why

Presumably who ever disclosed the letter thought that the letter would exculpate some or most of the Irish bishops at the expense of the Vatican. Presumably the same person never ever thought that it would be used as a weapon to attack the Church and the Pope so viciously and for serious calls and attempts to break the Seal of the Confessional ?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Funeral of Otto von Habsburg

The BBC has a "slideshow" of remarkable pictures of the funeral of Otto van Habsburg held in St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn presided

Habsburg was an opponent of the Nazis and spoke out against Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938.

In 1989 he helped organise the Pan-European Picnic demonstration on the border of Austria and Hungary.

The border was briefly opened, an event credited with helping usher in the fall of the Berlin Wall months later.

The Cloyne Report

Maso di Banco (d. 1348)
The Sacrament of Penance
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

Giuseppe Maria Crespi, (1665 – July 16, 1747)
Oil on canvas
155 x 120 cm
Galleria Sabauda, Turin

The reaction to the Cloyne Report was been one of justified anger at what has been revealed to have happened in the Diocese of Cloyne.

But as David Quinn points out in The Irish Independent:

"How many people in Ireland know that the clerical abuse scandals peaked in the 1970s and 1980s? How many know that of the several hundred allegations received by the church in the last two years, almost none relate to incidents that happened in the last 10 years?

How many know that a large section of public opinion grossly overestimates the number of child abusers in the priesthood, as a Royal College of Surgeons survey some years ago ascertained?

How many know that Catholic priests are no more likely to abuse children than comparable groups, which is what 'Newsweek' magazine discovered when it contacted US insurance companies to determine whether they charged a higher risk premium for Catholic priests than for other clergy?

How many know that the Cloyne Report itself acknowledges that the church's child-protection guidelines are better than the State's guidelines? It says that compared with the church's guidelines, the State's are "less precise and more difficult to implement".

It would be safe to bet that only a small proportion of the public could correctly answer the above questions.

The reason for this is that our media have no interest in making the answers known so instead we have a public that believes the phenomenon of child abuse is a particularly and peculiarly Catholic one."

The political reaction in Ireland has been fierce. There have been calls for the Papal nuncio to be expelled the closure of the Irish Embassy to the Vatican and the cancellation of a visit of Pope Benedict to Ireland next year.

The Irish Government has decided to make it a criminal offence to withhold information relating to the sexual abuse of children or vulnerable adults from the civil authorities punishable by up to five years` imprisonment

But the most worrying proposal has been the Irish Government`s refusal to exempt priests from reporting evidence of child abuse obtained in the confessional

The attempt to breach the Seal of the Confessional is quite extraordinary and represents an attempt to undermine religous freedom in the Republic of Ireland. No Western Government has ever attempted such a breach of religious freedom even during the French Revolution

Apart from a few isolated examples in some Court cases, non-Catholics have always respected and generally upheld the seal of the confessional

What is at stake was summed up by a non-Catholic DeWitt Clinton (1769 – February 11, 1828)

"It is essential to the free exercise of a religion, that its ordinances should be administered-that its ceremonies as well as its essentials should be protected. The sacraments of a religion are its most important elements.

We have but two in the Protestant Church-Baptism and the Lord's Supper-and they are considered the seals of the covenant of grace. Suppose that a decision of this court, or a law of the state should prevent the administration of one or both of these sacraments, would not the constitution be violated, and the freedom of religion be infringed? Every man who hears me will answer in the affirmative.

Will not the same result follow, if we deprive the Roman catholic of one of his ordinances?

Secrecy is of the essence of penance. The sinner will not confess, nor will the priest receive his confession, if the veil of secrecy is removed: ?To decide that the minister shall promulgate what he receives in confession, is to declare that there shall be no penance; and this important branch of the Roman catholic religion would be thus annihilated"

DeWitt Clinton (1769 – February 11, 1828), quoted with approval in Mockaitis and Archbishop Francis George v Harcleroad : US Court of Appeals, U.S. Ninth Circuit. (No. 96-35901) 104 F.3d 1522 (27th January 1997)

In Mockaitis a detective tape recorded a murder suspect's confession to a Catholic priest. It was held that the tape recording violated the priest's religious free exercise rights under federal law and could not be used in a murder trial

The clergy-communicant privilege is not limited to Roman Catholics where there is compulsory confession. It also applies to non Roman Catholic denominations.

In the United States the privilege protects more than just confessions but also religious counsel, advice, solace, absolution, and ministration

So, why the unreasonable response by the Irish Government ?

Well this week was not a good one for the Irish Government.

First out of the blue, this week saw Ireland`s credit rating downgraded to junk status and that there were warnings that the country would be likely to require a second bailout.

There was also a case of a mother in Galway which highlighted the fact that the Irish civil protection agencies had performed appallingly. The authorities had contact with the family since 2000 but apparently did nothing to protect the children. The woman was jailed for eight years.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Modern religious art

Giuseppe Ducrot (b. 1966) is one of the artists invited to the recent exhibition at the Vatican to honour the Pope`s sixty years in the priesthood

Here is a photograph of the Pope before Ducrot`s head of St Jerome The Pope looks pleased, Not surprisingly.

Here are more images of this great sculptural work by Ducrot:

Religious images and works form an important part of Ducros` corpus of work. Here are some of his Saint Veronicas with Faces of Christ

And here is a baroque representation of a Baroque Pope

And here is his magnificent monument to St Benedict in Cassino

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Twisting of History

Antonio Canova (1757-1822)
Pope Pius VII
1804 - 7
Marble sculpture
71cm height
Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles

Yesterday I was surprised to read a favourable book review in The New York Times by Bill Keller, executive editor of the newspaper. It seemed to provoke a venemous meditation on the history of the papacy and its Popes, and therefore on the Catholic Church.

The book was Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, by John Julius Norwich, a British "popular" historian who describes himself as "no scholar" and an "agnostic Protestant"

The book was published earlier this year in Britain under the title The Popes: A History to damning reviews from all points of view. It lacked scholarship. It was shallow and superficial.  The book was risible. It proceeded at a great gallop no doubt so that the reader would not notice the many errors. It is essentially a series of anecdotes and does not do full justice to the great and massive theme which it set itself to cover.

It is a work from the Da Vinci Code  school of history.

The NY Times review was surprising as it appeared to accept Norwich`s argument and use the book as a platform to attack the Catholic Church

The NY Times reviewer stated that:

"If you were raised Catholic, you may find it disconcerting to see an institution you were taught to think of as the repository of the faith so thoroughly deconsecrated."

Father Z and The Catholic League have attacked the review - quite rightly

First there is the lack of research done by John Julius Norwich and his anecdotal approach to the subject. This was noted by the reviewer in The Daily Telegraph. He wrote:

"The inevitable contrast here is between this account and Saints & Sinners, the history of the popes by Eamon Duffy. That book is also a work of synthesis for the general reader; Norwich cites it repeatedly and seems to have made much use of it.

But whereas Norwich structures his book entirely around the individual life-stories of the popes (including, by the way, an entire chapter on the mythical female Pope Joan, whom Duffy does not deign to mention), Duffy’s history is constantly aware of, and shaped by, the institutional and doctrinal development of the Church.

If I had to recommend only one book on this topic, it would have to be Duffy’s. But there’s certainly room for two books on an institution which, continuously and quite amazingly, spans almost 2,000 years of European history."

Second, in narrating the history, religion is left out and theological concerns are marginalised.

Professor Duffy in The Times Literary Supplement reviewed the book and gently savaged the work as one might of a callow undergraduate

Rather humbly, Professor Duffy comments that the author is "heavily dependent on other papal histories". What he does not say is that one of the main book relied upon for research is Professor Duffy`s own book Saints and Sinners.

Professor Duffy wrote a classic review article which is educational about the subject itself. However he delicately points out the problems with Norwich`s book:

"He {Norwich] is not, by his own account, greatly interested in religion, and defines his book as “essentially political, cultural and, up to a point, social”. Occasionally, he warns us, “basic matters of doctrine cannot be avoided”, but as far as possible “I have tried to steer well clear of theology”.

This is probably just as well, to judge by the declaration in his opening paragraph that “Roman Catholicism began with Christianity itself; all other Christian religions – and there are more than 22,000 of them – are offshoots or deviations from it”, a claim liable to trigger apoplexy in Constantinople and Cairo, Geneva and Canterbury, and which might elicit a raised eyebrow even in the Vatican.

And on theological matters at any rate, errors abound: St Luke was not the author of the earliest gospel, St Peter did not write the epistles which go under his name,

Athanasius was never an archbishop, Greek was not the dominant language of the Roman liturgy in the fourth century, St Peter’s Basilica was a cemetery church and never a cathedral, St Jerome was not an Italian, Constantine was not baptized by Eusebius of Caesarea, we do not know the purpose of Gregory VII’s Dictatus papae, and they were certainly never “published”.

A history of the popes with most of the religion left out is a matter of some wonder, and the marginalization of theological concerns distorts the book. ...

There are some odd omissions.

The first century of the Church in Rome is shrouded in obscurity, but there is a scholarly consensus that rule by a single bishop was established there later than almost anywhere else in the Mediterranean.

So the first individuals recognizable as popes, with authority over the multicultural and polyglot congregations scattered through the city, emerge only in the midsecond century. For a dynasty which claims an unbroken pedigree back to St Peter, this is obviously a difficulty, but Norwich barely alludes to the issue in a footnote, and says nothing whatever about its implications.

Again, in the late seventh century and for much of the eighth, the clerical culture of Rome was dominated by an influx of Greek refugees from the theological battles of the East, and most of the popes of that period were Greeks. The effects of this invasion on the worship, theology and personnel of the Roman Church were profound, and at times unwelcome ...

In the skimpy treatment of the twentieth century, disproportionate space is allocated to the month-long papacy of John Paul I, and Norwich wastes time discussing whether or not Papa Luciani was murdered, only to concede that he wasn’t. The present Pope is predictably admonished for his incorrect opinions on gay marriage, contraception and the ordination of women. But the chief caning is reserved for the “odiously anti-Semitic”, “icily autocratic” Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, above all for his wartime failure to condemn explicitly the Nazi extermination of the Jews. ...

The Popes is an entertaining book which tells some good stories and embraces a large historical sweep.

But its overall effect is curiously trivializing. The papacy depicted here is in the end unintelligible, its power to inspire and its centrality over two millennia of Christian development reduced to a handful of vivid personalities and the to and fro of power politics.

Anyone seeking to understand more of the inwardness of the world’s most enduring religious institution will have to look elsewhere."

Michael Pye in The Scotsman attacked the scholarship of the book. He wrote:

Of the book`s treatment of the Templars:

"The parade is endlessly interesting, but sometimes worrying. John Julius Norwich does libraries, but he doesn't do archives; and as the Vatican archives are organised and opened, a laborious process, the story very often changes.

Here are the Templars, riding through to their doom: accused of Satanism, cat worship, and riding pillion on another knight's horse. Norwich seems to think the French king wanted their money, which is true, and the Pope might have saved them, which is more doubtful.

Deep in the papal archives, Barbara Frale found papers which suggest what was actually happening: a French king threatening to do a Henry VIII but 200 years early, to create a French church that did not answer to the Pope. To stop that, the Pope had to do what the king wanted.

And as for all those dubious accusations, the Pope had already absolved the Templars; he knew their more bizarre rites were a kind of hazing, to make sure the knights would obey instantly in the field. Or so the archives suggest. The trouble started when newcomer knights went to confess to priests outside the order. Templars told Templars they had not done mortal sin, even spitting on the cross, if they were properly repentant. Franciscans, however, were judgmental.

On this roller-coaster ride there's hardly time to stop for that kind of detail, but the details sometimes do change the whole story"

Of the Galileo affair which was seized on by the NY Times reviewer Pye writes:

"Here's Galileo, going to trial because he offends the dignity of Urban VIII by giving all the official papal arguments about the sun revolving round the earth to a bona fide idiot, and in print. A furious Pope gets him banned under a kind of theological control order. The church resists science, and the Pope, once Galileo's friend and protector, turns against him.

The trouble is, since Pietro Redondi started shuffling through the Vatican archives, the story doesn't seem quite so simple. It now seems the real issue was between Pope on one side and the Black Pope, the Jesuit leader, on the other. They'd been scrapping for a long time over assorted issues, including the castrati that Urban loved to hear in the Sistine Chapel choir and which the Jesuits said, moralistically, made Rome "just like Constantinople".

The Jesuits had a grievance against Galileo which was, in some ways, even more fundamental than discussing the place of the Earth in the universe: they disapproved of his tendency to atomic theory. Start doubting the nature of matter, and you never know where the arguments will lead; but probably not to transubstantiation. So the Jesuits wanted Galileo tried and Urban, far from being insulted by his friend, tried to protect him by insisting on the minor charges which wouldn't take him to the stake."

Even John Cornwell in his review in The Financial Times found major faults with the book:

"Norwich tells us that because he is an “agnostic Protestant” he brings “objectivity” to his subject. That’s like Tony Benn penning an “objective” history of the Tory party. And he has steered, he goes on, “well clear of theology”, which sounds like military history with no mention of a war. His interest is political and cultural, he maintains. Hence he fails to address the overarching significance of ecclesiology – the theological study of the spiritual role of “Vicar of Christ” as the ultimate foundation of Catholic unity and authority.

Norwich’s objectivity seriously fails his account of the 20th-century papacy, the era preeminently susceptible to fresh and original thinking.

It won’t do to describe Pius XI (1922-39) merely as an “autocrat” who thought “the Roman Catholic Church was right, and everyone else was wrong”. Pius XI played a crucial part in a process of papal social teaching during a period of political and social upheaval. "

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI: 60 years of Priesthood - The Homage by Artists

As a tribute to the 60th anniversary of the Pope`s ordination, the Vatican has put on an exhibition entitled "Lo splendore della verità, la bellezza della carità – Omaggio degli Artisti a Benedetto XVI per il 60° di Sacerdozio" (The Splendour of the Truth, the Beauty of Charity - Homage of Artists to Benedict XVI for his 60 Years of Priesthood)

Elizabeth Lev in Zenit gives a report on the exhibition

Some of the "presents" were perhaps better than others. However, as she says, it is the thought that counts.

One of the artists was Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, SJ

Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, SJ, (born 28 November 1954) is a Slovenian Jesuit, based in Rome, whose mosaics adorn churches at Fatima and Lourdes as well as the Pope’s private chapel.

He is director of the Centro Aletti,  a Rome meeting place for artists and intellectuals from Western and Eastern Europe. In addition, he teaches at the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Pontifical Gregorian University,

In February of 2000 he received the “France Prešeren” Award, the Slovenian Republic’s highest recognition for contributions to the cultural patrimony.

In 2002 he was decorated with the honour “Sign of honour of the freedom of the Slovenian Republic,” conferred on him by the president of the republic. In 2003 he received the international “Beato Angelico” prize for Europe.

His latest work is the mosaics in the chapel of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. (August 2008)

The website for the Centro Aletti displays his and his workshop`s works in abundance

Here are some pictures of the Chapel at Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT

The altar and ambo, solid blocks of limestone with the integrated mosaics of eucharistic symbols, are the central focus of this new university chapel.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

"A high point in our relations"

The only Catholic Church in Azerbaijan

Part of the consecration ceremony in the only Catholic Church in Azerbaijan

Another high point in Vatican diplomacy was achieved this week which did not attract too much attention: the ratification of the agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan only has about 450 Catholics. The population is 99% Muslim.

Here is the link to the website of the only Catholic Church in Azerbaijan: Catholic Church in Azerbaijan

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states said:

"The Agreement recognizes and registers the juridical personality of the Catholic Church, as well as that of its institutions established on the basis of its legislation. Furthermore, the new registration ensures that the local Catholic Church can live in peace and confidence, so as better to contribute to the common good of the Country.

This event is very meaningful, also because it provides evidence of the respect for a minority religious community shown by a country with a conspicuous Muslim population. This is an indication of how Christians and Muslims can live together and respect one another.

The Agreement does not affect the existence and activities of the many religious communities, Christian and non-Christian, who have been welcome in Azerbaijan, and does not place the Catholic Church in a privileged position. Rather, the Church seeks to carry out its mission within the ambit of its religious competence and with due regard for the laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan."

The history of Christianity in Azerbaijan goes back to the first centruy AD

Stalinist persecution virtually wiped out the Catholic presence in the area. However when the Apostolic Nuncio visited the republic in 2005 he found a a group of elderly believers who had kept the faith alive for more than 70 years without the sacraments. They had waited over 70 years to receive the sacrament of Confirmation which they received on Pentecost that year

Blessed Pope John Paul II visited Azerbaijan at the request of the President in 2002

In an article in Osservatore Romano on 18th June 2011 Giuseppe Petrone put the event in historical and political perspective:

"No peace in the Caucasus

The fall of communism and the insurgence of ethnic hostilities have sown havoc in the southern fringe of the ex-Soviet Union, especially in the Caucasus, which today is a crossroads of global and regional interests.

With a geographical extension equal to that of Europe, it increasingly represents the geopolitical hinge and fragile element of the connection between Russia, Europe and the Middle East.

Armed conflicts and attacks have become the order of the day; a senior representative of the fight against terrorism in Russia was killed last Sunday during an operation against rebels in Kabardino-Balkaria. Some police were injured by anonymous gunfire in Ingushetia. An imam was killed in the village of Mikheevka in Daghestan.

The conflict in Chechnya represents only the tip of the iceberg in an area where enormous economic interests dangerously intersect, together with historical, religious, cultural and political interests, making the region a powder keg on the level of the Balkans.

After the first war, (1994-1996) between federal forces and independent Chechens, the rebellion has become progressively islamicized; it has crossed borders and transformed into a movement fighting in all of north Caucasus.

After the dissolution of the USSR in the Caucasus region, an area of particularly complex ethnicities, three new independent states were born: Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, while the other seven ex-Republics (Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia-Alania, Territory of Stavropol, and Karachay-Cherkessia) remained within the Russian Federation, but with autonomous status.

The new states immediately were forced to confront grave economic problems and territorial disputes: Armenia and Azerbaijan are still contending for the Nagorno Karabakh, politically tied to Baku but with an Armenian majority.

Giuseppe M. Petrone June 18, 2011"

The World Welcomes South Sudan

Today saw the birth of a new state: South Sudan

It has been a long gestation.

Hopefully now the war in Darfur is at an end and the persecution of Christians will forever cease.

The Pope has sent a delegation to the independence celebrations to underline the importance of the event. Many of the citizens of South Sudan are Catholic.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said that the international community should support both Sudan and South Sudan, "so that, through frank, peaceful and constructive dialogue, they may find just and equitable solutions to outstanding questions."

"At the same time," he said, "[the Holy See] expresses the hope that those peoples will enjoy a journey of peace, freedom and development."

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Feast of St Bonaventure

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Saint Bonaventure
c. 1620
Oil on wood
1.480 m. x : 0.830 m.
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille

Giovanni di Fidanza known better as Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (ca. 1217 to 15 July 1274) is generally called the second founder of the Franciscan Order.

In his time he was one of the most influential figures in Latin Christianity. This influence has lasted since his death. The present Pope in particular has studied the Life and writings of St Bonaventure and has been greatly influenced by him.

Franciscan friar, Master of Theology at the University of Paris, Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Cardinal of the Catholic Church, mystic, theologian, philosopher and Doctor of the Universal Church are among some of his accomplishments and roles.

His Master and teacher at Paris, the English Franciscan Alexander of Hales, ("Doctor irrefragabilis") said of his pupil`s spotless character that Bonaventure seemed to have escaped the curse of Adam's sin.

But of the modern Popes, it has not only been the present Pope who has expressed his admiration for St Bonaventure. Pope Leo XIII was another "fan". In Aeterni Patris (Restoration of Christian Philosophy) he quoted with approval the words of Pope Sixtus V:

"And with regard, venerable brethren, to the origin, drift, and excellence of this scholastic learning, it may be well here to speak more fully in the words of one of the wisest of Our predecessors, Sixtus V:

"By the divine favour of Him who alone gives the spirit of science wisdom, and understanding, and who thou ages, as there may be need, enriches His Church with new blessings and strengthens it with safeguards, there was founded by Our fathers, men of eminent wisdom, the scholastic theology, which two glorious doctors in particular angelic St. Thomas and the seraphic St. Bonaventure, illustrious teachers of this faculty, . . .with surpassing genius, by unwearied diligence, and at the cost of long labours and vigils, set in order and beautified, and when skilfuly arranged and clearly explained in a variety of ways, handed down to posterity" "

See also the following links for more about one of the greatest Doctors of the Church:

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Altarpieces and Relics

At the moment there are two major exhibitions in London with religious themes.

The blurb states:

"Treasures such as these have not been seen in significant numbers in the UK since the Reformation in the 16th century, which saw the wholesale destruction of saints’ shrines. The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to glimpse the heritage of beautiful medieval craftsmanship that was lost to this country for centuries."

It goes on:

"The earliest items date from the late Roman period and trace the evolution of the cult of the saints from the 4th century to the peak of relic veneration in late medieval Europe"

Here is a BBC video on a BBC programme about the exhibition:

About the portable altar and the relics therein see

Not to be outdone The National Gallery in London has Devotion by Design: Italian Altarpieces before 1500

There is a marvellous video presenting the exhibition here

The video shows the Church of San Salvatore in Florence and is worth watching for that alone.

Here is a detail of the San Sepolcro Altarpiece by Sassetta which is part of the exhibition

Stefano di Giovanni (Sassetta) (active by 1427; died 1450)
Saint Francis before Pope Honorius III (detail)
Part of The San Sepolcro Altarpiece
Egg tempera on poplar
Full measurement: 88.4 x 52 cm
The National Gallery, London

Monday, July 04, 2011

Rembrandt and the Face of Christ

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669) had a prodigious output: portraiture, landscape, etching and narrative painting.

One of his main themes was in the field of religious painting. The Louvre presently has an exhibition entitled Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus (Rembrandt et la figure du Christ)

It will soon be in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Jewish community in Amsterdam was a source of models for Rembrandt in his religious works. One of the themes of the exhibition is how Rembrandt`s faces of Christ reflect the Semitic origins of Jesus.

Depictions of Christ has always been controversial because of the Second Commandment. The Iconoclasts and the Protestant Reformers objected in principle to the depiction of the Divinity notwithstanding the Incarnation

Even if there was no objection based on the Second Commandment, the depiction of Jesus is always difficult because of the divine nature of Christ and the reverence due him.

But here we see in Rembrandt`s works, fully human and lifelike Jewish of first century Palestine. His Christ has emotions and is fully human. HIs Christ is no stylised icon.

In Rembrandt`s time the artistic depiction of Jesus provoked much debate

The exhibition has 85 different images of Christ by Rembrandt and his workshop. The exhibition catalogue says:

"With the creation of the dramatic Supper at Emmaus (Louvre) and a series of intimate oil sketches of Christ on oak panels, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) overturned the entire history of Christian art. Traditionally, when depicting Christ, artists had relied on rigidly copied prototypes and icons. Among Rembrandt's innovations was his use of a Jewish model to portray a Christ imbued with empathy, gentleness, grace, and faithfulness to nature"
(Rembrandt et la figure du Christ – Edited by Lloyd DeWitt (PMA), Blaise Ducos (Louvre) and George S. Keyes (DIA) )

The central work of the exhibition is the Les pèlerins d'Emmaüs (Pilgrims at Emmaus)

Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn) (1606 – 1669)
Les pèlerins d'Emmaüs/ Pilgrims at Emmaus (or The Supper at Emmaus) 1648
Oil on mahogany – H. 68 cm; W. 65 cm
Signed and dated bottom left: Rembrandt. f. 1648
Department of Paintings, Louvre, Paris, Inv. 1739

The face of Christ in the work in the Louvre can also be seen in a painting in the Detroit Institute of Arts, thus:

Attributed to Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn) (1606 – 1669)
Head of Christ
circa 1648-54
Oil on oak – H. 58.4 cm; W. 53.5 cm – Signed top left: Rembrandt
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit

Here we see the emotion and fatigue in the face of Christ in this sketch in The Philadelphia Museum of Art,:

Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn) (1606 – 1669)
Head of Christ
circa 1648-56
Oil on oak, inserted into a larger oak panel
H. 33.7 cm; W. 28.9 cm – Signed bottom right: Rembran. / f. 1656
John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Again we see a similar Christ in this depiction now at Harvard:

Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn) (1606 – 1669)
Head of Christ
circa 1648-56
Oil on oak – H. 25 cm; W. 20 cm
Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Cambridge

To see the great faces of history is a natural desire.

Shortly after the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra, Suetonius narrates that in Egypt Augustus "had the sarcophagus and body of Alexander the Great brought forth from its shrine, and after gazing on it, showed his respect by placing upon it a golden crown and strewing it with flowers; and being then asked whether he wished to see the tomb of the Ptolemies as well, he replied, "My wish was to see a king, not corpses." "

For Augustus Alexander was a god and his great role model.

This desire to see our God is also a natural one. Rembrandt`s depiction of the face of Christ enthused the people of his age. It inspired many imitators and subsequent works by other artists. Eventually it gave way to other styles and depictions.

Blessed Pope John Paul II said this:

" "We wish to see Jesus" (Jn 12:21). This request, addressed to the Apostle Philip by some Greeks who had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, echoes spiritually in our ears too during this Jubilee Year. Like those pilgrims of two thousand years ago, the men and women of our own day — often perhaps unconsciously — ask believers not only to "speak" of Christ, but in a certain sense to "show" him to them.

And is it not the Church's task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his face shine also before the generations of the new millennium?

Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face. The Great Jubilee has certainly helped us to do this more deeply. At the end of the Jubilee, as we go back to our ordinary routine, storing in our hearts the treasures of this very special time, our gaze is more than ever firmly set on the face of the Lord. "

(Blessed Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte Para 16, 6th January 2001)