‘A crucifix is now just a fashion statement

‘A crucifix is now just a fashion statement and has lost religious meaning’: Justin Welby says the purpose of wearing a cross has been lost

The Most Rev Justin Welby claimed the cross has been trivialised and is now a sign of beauty as well as faith

The Most Rev Justin Welby claimed the cross has been trivialised and is now a sign of beauty as well as faith

Wearing the Crucifix is now a fashion statement with no religious meaning, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said the Cross has been trivialised and ceases to shock or challenge people.

Archbishop Welby wrote that the symbol should represent the ‘deepest encounter and radical change’ for Christians.

He added: ‘For those early Christians it was a badge of shame. 

‘Today it is more commonly seen as a symbol of beauty to hang around your neck. 

‘As a friend of mine used to say, you might as well hang a tiny golden gallows or an electric chair around your neck.’

In a foreword to a book which will be published in the run-up to Lent next year, Archbishop Welby continued: ‘Are we now living with a symbol emptied of power by time and fashion? 

‘Christianity with a powerless cross is Christianity without a throne for Christ or an aspiration for Christians. 

‘A cross that has no weight is not worth carrying. To look through the cross is to seek its weight.’ 

Archbishop Welby wrote in his foreword that the fact that the early church stuck to the story of the crucifixion – despite attacks on it – proves that it is true. 

He added: ‘For God to be fully human, and then to die an ignominious death reserved for a criminal, seems so extraordinary and pointless as to be inexplicable. 

‘Indeed in the early centuries of Christianity many of the accusations against the church started with the assumption that you could not seriously believe in a God who undertook such a terrible and dishonourable death.’

 He made the comments in his first Lent book. Archbishops have published such books for decades. 

They look at theological or devotional Christian themes relevant to Lent, in preparation for the celebration of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in Holy Week and Easter.

The book, Looking Through The Cross, was written by Dr Graham Tomlin, the Dean of St Mellitus, a theological college in London. 

The Archbishop made the statement in the foreword to a book, written by Dr Graham Tomlin, the Dean of St Mellitus

The Archbishop made the statement in the foreword to a book, written by Dr Graham Tomlin, the Dean of St Mellitus

It will be published just before Lent next year, which begins on March 5. Dr Tomlin said of his book: ‘First, it looks at the Cross, trying to make sense of this strange idea, that God the Father allowed his son to die a gruesome and painful death.

‘The rest of the book is an exercise, not so much of looking at, but looking through. 

‘It proceeds to view the Cross not only as an object to be studied or examined, but also as a lens through which we might look at the world.’

Crucifixion was used by the Romans to execute robbers and other common criminals. 

 Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, abolished the practice in the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD.

The Cross became the symbol of Christianity early in the history of the Church, but it had also been used also as a symbol by other religions and cultures.

Despite Archbishop Welby’s concerns, the Crucifix remains a powerful symbol for many Christians. 

After a legal battle, the European Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruling earlier this year saying that Christians may wear a cross at work.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2515389/Archbishop-Canterbury-Justin-Welby-says-crucifix-lost-religious-meaning.html#ixzz2m5iO9f00 





Bp. Ricken: “Bishops of the United States happily receive this exhortation with faith and look forward to sharing it in our dioceses.”

Pope Francis is leading the world to deeper faith, and the U.S. bishops look forward to sharing his words in their dioceses, said the chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, welcomed the release of Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), the pope’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation to 2012’s Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day,” Pope Francis wrote in the opening of the document. The pope presented the exhortation over the weekend in Rome, at events commemorating the end of the Year of Faith, which began October 11, 2012.

It is the pope’s official response to the discussions held as part of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, which occurred October 7-28, 2012, in the Vatican. Bishops from around the world gathered to discuss how the Catholic Church can renew the energy of Catholics, strengthen their faith and better share the Gospel with the rest of the world.

“Pope Francis is a living model of the New Evangelization,” said Bishop Ricken. “He is showing us how to live the Gospels and reach out to the world with what every person needs, a relationship with God. He is leading the world to deeper faith, and the bishops of the United States happily receive this exhortation with faith and look forward to sharing it in our dioceses.”

The Vatican has posted the exhortation online:http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html. . . 

USCCB has also made the exhortation available for order online:www.usccbpublishing.org/

The Synod of Bishops is an international gathering of Catholic bishops, convened every few years for discussion and to advise the pope on specific concerns related to the Church and the world. It was first convened by Pope Paul VI in 1967 and has subsequently met to discuss Scripture, the Eucharist, priesthood, the laity, pastoral circumstances in different regions of the world and other topics. Pope Francis has announced an Extraordinary Synod on Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization, to be held in October 2014, followed by an Ordinary Synod on the same topic in 2015.







We notice in particular the persistent references to Saint Thomas Aquinas throughout the text – a much more Thomist text than anything ever authored by Benedict XVI, and the most Scholastic-oriented document since Fides et Ratio. Paul VI in particular, but also John Paul II and Benedict XVI also widely quoted.

A remarkable quote: “Since this Exhortation is addressed to members of the Catholic Church, I want to say, with regret, that the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care.” (EG, 200)

On the other hand: “Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization. Pope John Paul II asked for help in finding ‘a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation’. We have made little progress in this regard. The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion. The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position ‘to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit’. Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.” (EG, 32)  And once again the Council is widely quoted, as is Pope John XXIII’s criticism of the “prophets of doom”, without the expression of deep sorrow for all post-conciliar failures caused directly by the implementation of Vatican II.


Why are so many Catholic priests remaining silent?

BIlly Graham is calling on America to repent……why are so many Catholic priests remaining silent?

 As America continues to embrace a Culture of Death, which includes sodomite “marriage,” various chastisements (such as this one) are befalling this once-Christian nation and serve both as a warning and as a call to repentance. Rev. Billy Graham has been calling on Americans to repent (see here).  Why are so many Catholic priests remaining silent?

Excellent article from TFP on natural disasters and chastisement

By Luis Sérgio Solimeo
The string of natural calamities and man-made tragedies afflicting the world and the United States, particularly Hurricane Katrina in late August, have stimulated many people to reflection. Some see these tragic events as God’s chastisement of a sinful mankind; others see them as yet one more merciful warning from Providence; others yet deny both options and give various reasons.

Modern society’s staggering apostasy from the truth of the Gospel prompts many to ask themselves if God is not trying to send a message to the world through these calamities. Could He be saying: “Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore and do penance. Behold, I stand at the gate and knock”?1

Could God be showing His supreme displeasure with the reigning amorality and libertinism, loss of faith and dissemination of sins that “cry out to heaven for vengeance” such as abortion and homosexuality?2

If we consider just abortion, for example, could these calamities be a Divine chastisement for the blood of millions of innocent victims that rises to heaven clamoring for justice? “They have poured out the blood of the Saints as water, round about Jerusalem. And there was none to bury them. Avenge, O Lord, the blood of Thy Saints, which has been shed upon the earth.”3

An Archbishop’s WordsCommenting on 2005’s Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the retired Archbishop of New Orleans, Most Reverend Philip M. Hannan was very much of the opinion that these tragedies were Divine chastisements for sin:

“I’ve been speaking at local parishes, and here’s what I kept telling the people I say, look, we are responsible not only for our individual actions to God, but in addition to that, we are also citizens of a nation and in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, it says that a nation has a destiny and we are responsible whether we cause it or not for the course of morality in that nation. We are responsible as citizens for the sexual attitude, disregard of family rights, drug addiction, the killing of 45 million unborn babies, the scandalous behavior of some priests – so we have to understand that certainly the Lord has a right to chastisement.… We have reached a depth of immorality that we have never reached before. And the chastisement was Katrina as well as Rita.”4

That people who deny the existence of God would summarily write off Archbishop Hannan’s courageous assessment is understandable. However, we see some Catholics rush to join the opinion of such atheists – perhaps unwittingly – emphatically denying any spiritual significance to these disasters. How can these Catholics be so sure that these calamities are not “signs of the times?”5

That they are not chastisements? Or warnings from God?

A First Objection: If It Can Be Explained Scientifically It Cannot Be Divine Intervention Among these Catholics are some who suggest that natural catastrophes can be explained scientifically and that there is no need, therefore, to bring Divine intervention into the picture to understand what happened. This argument is only partly correct.

God Uses the Natural Causes He Created to Intervene in History Science can explain the mechanics of natural disasters, but not their transcendent meaning. For this, we must look to philosophy and theology.

Indeed, to suggest that the forces of nature act wholly on their own, to the exclusion of any Divine plan, is to deny that they are God’s creatures. It is to affirm either that the Creator made things without an end and purpose, or that He is unable to intervene in His own creation.

However, if God were to have made things without a purpose, He would not be wise; and if He were unable to control events and direct them toward the end He had in mind when He created them, He would not be almighty. This would be tantamount to denying His existence, for the sheer possibility of an imperfect God contradicts the very idea of God. Either He is an absolutely perfect being, or the very idea of God makes no sense.

Nothing in Creation Escapes God’s GovernmentIndeed, not only did God create all beings through a sovereign act of His Divine Will, but He sustains them in existence and directs them toward the end for which He created them: His extrinsic glory. In other words, all of Creation is under Divine government and is subject to God’s wise designs. As Saint Thomas teaches:

“God [is] the ruler of things as He is their cause, because the same gives existence as gives perfection; and this belongs to government. Now God is the cause not indeed only of some particular kind of being, but of the whole universal being. Wherefore, as there can be nothing which is not created by God, so there can be nothing which is not subject to His government.… Now the end of the Divine government is the Divine goodness. Wherefore, as there can be nothing that is not ordered to the Divine goodness as its end, so it is impossible for anything to escape from the Divine government.”6

Saint Thomas further explains that while this Divine government is direct and immediate from the standpoint of design, this does not mean that God cannot use secondary means for the ultimate execution of His plans. Consequently, He can use the angels or even men to intervene in History. He can use natural forces and the physical laws that are derived from the nature of beings as He created them and their relationships with each other.7  However, just because God usually uses these secondary causes to execute His plans, this does not mean that He is not directing, in a superior fashion, all things to their true purpose, which is His glory.8 Therefore, just because God does not suspend the laws of nature, as He did when opening the Red Sea for the Chosen People, that does not mean events are not obeying His designs.9

In fact, God’s absolute perfection demands that He act continuously in history. This is abundantly confirmed by Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Church Fathers.10 Therefore, when analyzing the present catastrophes, God’s government in the world must be taken into consideration.

A Second Objection: God is Goodness Itself, So He Never Chastises MenOther Catholics disagreeing with Archbishop Hannan’s assessment raise a second objection: “God is supremely good, in fact He is Goodness itself, therefore He never chastises men.”

Actually, since God is the absolute perfect being, and the cause of all perfection, He must have in Himself all possible perfections.11 Thus, He is not only infinitely good and merciful, but also infinitely just. As the Psalmist so aptly says: “Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed.”12

Therefore, while God reserves definitive reward or punishment for the next life, as seen in the parable of the wheat and the chaff,13 He also chastises on this earth. This truth is formally found in Revelation. Some examples are: the plagues of Egypt, 14 the Flood,15 the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah16 and the destruction of Jerusalem.17

God Does Judge and Chastise Men, and Each Man IndividuallyAlso, Saint Paul says that earthly authority “is God’s minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.”18Clearly, human authority could not be a “minister” or agent of Divine justice if God Himself did not meet out earthly punishment.

According to the Apostle, man cannot escape Divine justice, be it in this life or the next: “And thinkest thou this, O man … that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? … But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God: Who will render to every man according to his works.”19

Finally, Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, teaches that God’s mercy is manifested “to them that fear him.”20 It is because God judges and chastises that we should fear offending Him.

A Third Objection: Since the Calamity Affected Both Good and Bad It Cannot Be Divine Chastisement – God Would Never Chastise the GoodOther Catholics bring up a third reason why they would disagree with Archbishop Hannan: “These natural disasters, did not only affect evil men, they also brought untold suffering to good people. Thus, they cannot be a chastisement from God. Were God to punish the good, He would not be infinitely just.”

To properly address this objection we must first recall some basic teachings of our Catholic faith:

a) God is the Lord of life: We owe our existence to God and just as He freely gave us life, He is free to take it from us. There is no injustice when He does so, regardless of the stage of life, be it that of an infant, a child, an adult in the full vigor of manhood, or one who has reached venerable old age.

b) Eternal, not earthly, life and happiness are our ultimate goal: Moreover, our earthly life and happiness are not ends in themselves. They are not the supreme reason for our existence. They are the road, the means, for us to attain eternal life, our true goal. Thus, Saint Paul reminds us, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”21 God’s way of acting becomes incomprehensible when we lose sight of eternal life and heavenly happiness.

c) God punishes collective sin, collectively: When sin becomes generalized, is greatly tolerated, or is committed by particularly representative individuals, it involves the whole family, city, region, nation, or even historical eras. This collective dimension makes sin particularly grave and offensive to God and the result is that Divine chastisement is also collective. Both good and bad suffer. The first suffer to become more perfect; the second as a chastisement for their faults.

Saint Augustine Explains Collective Chastisement The great Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in Northern Africa, and Doctor of the Church, lived during the barbarian invasions that brought about the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Indeed, the Vandals were storming at the city gates as he died. 


During this troubled period, pagans blamed the Church for the collapse of Empire and civilization. If the Empire had not become Christian, they argued, Jove and the other gods of Rome would have saved it from destruction. Moreover, they added, the God of the Christians was no god at all since He had not spared the Christians from the barbarians.
Saint Augustine wrote The City of God to defend the Church and shore up the faith in hearts. In his masterwork, he explains the reason for collective chastisements. His reasoning can be summed up as follows:

1. Since nations as such do not pass to eternal life, they are rewarded or chastised in this life for the good or evil they practice; good and bad alike feel the effects of both reward and chastisement.

2. As for the good, the chastisement purifies their love of God, and may even take them from the tribulations of this life to the eternally happy life of Heaven; “Job’s case exemplifies that the human spirit may be proved, and that it may be manifested with what fortitude of pious trust, and with how unmercenary a love, it cleaves to God.”

3. On the other hand, very often the good are justly chastised for a certain selfishness, a lack of courage and apostolic fervor, that prevents them from pointing out to the bad, the evil of their ways: “Because they weakly relish the flattery and respect of men, and fear the judgments of the people, and the pain or death of the body; that is to say, their non-intervention is the result of selfishness, and not of love.”

4. As for the bad, they are chastised by “Divine Providence, which is wont to reform the depraved manners of men by chastisement.”22

Such is also the teaching of Saint Thomas who says: “Justice and mercy appear in the punishment of the just in this world, since by afflictions lesser faults are cleansed in them, and they are the more raised up from earthly affections to God. Likewise, Saint Gregory says: ‘The evils that press on us in this world force us to go to God.’”23

Our Lady at Fatima: A Prophetic and Maternal WarningProphets in the Old Testament continually warned the Chosen People of chastisements that would come on account of their apostasies. Hence, we read of the prophet Jeremias warning of the Babylonian captivity. In the New Testament, Our Lord warned that Jerusalem would be destroyed because it had rejected Him.24

In 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima to warn that if the world did not convert and do penance it would be chastised: “When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.… [Russia] will spread her errors throughout the world.

… The good will be martyred… various nations will be annihilated.”25  At her last apparition in Fatima on October 13, 1917, Our Lady performed the famous miracle of the sun, perhaps to give us an idea of the natural or man-made cataclysms that could strike mankind, if we do not convert. The miracle was witnessed by 70,000 people and was reported extensively in the Portuguese anti-clerical secular press of the time.26
Has the world converted and done penance during these 88 years since Our Lady made her request? Archbishop Hannan’s words suggest that it has not. He mentions a few of the evils that plague us, but many more can be added to the list. The world has fallen into an almost universal apostasy. Its immorality is unparalleled since the advent of Christianity. More than just an aggressive libertinism, this sad state of things represents a sin of the spirit whereby moral aberrations are esteemed and even protected by law. Massive public parades that glorify homosexual vice have become frequent in nearly all of the world’s major cities. In 2000, a world “homosexual pride” festival took place in Rome. And in August 2005, another 10-day one was to have taken place in Jerusalem, but the vigorous reaction from residents forced the organizers to postpone it for a year.

New Orleans: Tears of Maternal Sorrow and Warning In this regard, it is certainly significant that the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, one of the four statues carved under the direction of Sister Lúcia, the main Fatima seer, shed tears in New Orleans in July 1972.27

One month after that miraculous weeping, the beautiful port city saw the beginning of Southern Decadence – days filled with the public display of naked flesh and homosexual lewdness28 – and with every passing year, New Orleans became increasingly a symbol for those who ignore Our Lady of Fatima’s message of conversion.

Could Our Lady have chosen New Orleans for this miraculous weeping because, in weeping over New Orleans, She was weeping over everything it would come to symbolize?

A Call to Conversion and PenanceThis brings us back to the original question. How should we look at Hurricane Katrina and the string of tragedies that have befallen our nation and the world? As a chastisement? As a new warning from Divine Providence?
The answer is that regardless if the causes of tragedy are natural or man-made, we cannot exclude Divine Providence’s wise and unfathomable designs. Rather, for all the reasons laid out above, and particularly Our Lady’s message at Fatima, it seems to us that prudence demands we give serious consideration to the possibility that God is warning us of our faults and calling us to repentance.

God does not want the death of the sinner, but his conversion. However, if the world does not heed Our Lady’s call to conversion, we cannot be surprised if even worse tragedies afflict the world – the annihilation of whole nations, for example, as mentioned by the Blessed Mother at Fatima.Whatever the future may have in store for us, however, we should always remember that Our Lady also foretold at Fatima both mankind’s ultimate conversion and her final victory, “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph!”May the series of catastrophes that have befallen America and the world help us to take to heart Our Lady’s maternal call to conversion.

1. Apoc. 3:19-20.
2. “The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: the blood of Abel, (Gen. 4:10) the sin of the Sodomites, (Gen. 18:20; 19:13) the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, (Ex. 3:7-10) the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, (Ex. 20:20-22) injustice to the wage earner (Deut. 24:14-15).” Catechism of The Catholic Church (Second Edition, n. 1867.
3. Adaptation of Psalm 78:3, 9-10, Tract of the Mass of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, (Feast day December 28) old Latin Roman Missal.
4. http://www.tfp.org
5. When the Pharisees and Sadducees asked the Divine Master for “a sign from heaven,” He answered: “When it is evening, you say, it will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning: Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times?” – Matt. 16:1-3. (Our emphasis).
6. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I.q. 103, a.5.
7. “In government there are two things to be considered; the design of government, which is providence itself; and the execution of the design. As to the design of government, God governs all things immediately; whereas in its execution, He governs some things by means of others.” (Ibid., a. 6).
8. Of course, God respects men’s free will and, in case of sin, reestablishes his offended glory by exercising His justice.
9. God commonly acts in history without suspending the laws of nature but by steering them to obtain certain results. For example, when the Prophet Elias prayed for rain in Israel, which was suffering from a terrible drought, God caused many clouds to come together and rain heavily (1 Kings 18:41-45). At other times He suspends the laws of nature, as when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea (Ex. 14:16).
10. Summarizing the central thesis of St. Augustine’s famous work, The City of God, Fr. A. Rascol says that it is Divine Providence that orders favorable events and allows adversities, regulating the joys and afflictions of the just, and punishing some faults while saving others for the day of definitive judgment (Cf. A. Rascol, s.v. “Providence, S. Augustin,” in Vacant-Magenot-Amann, Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1936), Vol. 13, col. 963. On the role of Providence in Scripture, see Leslie J. Walker, s.v. “Divine Providence,” at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12510a.htm.
11. Thus, St. Thomas says: “Since therefore God is the first effective cause of things, the perfections of all things must pre-exist in God in a more eminent way.” (Summa Theologica, I, q.4, a2.
12. Psalm 84:11. (Douay-Rheims.)
13. Cf. Matt. 13:24-30.
14. Cf. Exodus, Chapters 7-8.
15. Cf. Genesis, Chapters 6-8.
16. Cf. Genesis, Chapter 19.
17. Cf. Matt. 24:1-2.
18. Rom. 13:4.
19. Rom. 3:6.
20. Lk. 1:50.
21. Phil. 3:20.
22. Cf. St. Augustine, The City of God, Book I, Chapters 1 and 9. The thesis that nations are rewarded or chastised in this earthly life is an underlying thesis found throughout The City of God, but particularly in Books IV and V.
23. Summa Theologica, I, q.21, a.4.
24. Cf. Lk., 19:41-44; Matt. 23:37.
25. Cf. http://www.tfp.org
26. Cf. John M. Haffert, Meet the Witnesses, (Washington, N.J.: Ave Maria Institute, 1961). Mr. Haffert provides his interviews with numerous eyewitnesses of this awesome miracle.
27. We read on the web site of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima: “New Orleans, LA, July, 1972: During Her tour of the New Orleans diocese, the statue shed tears on numerous occasions.… That was the first time it was discovered that the moisture was human tears and also the first time photos began to circulate.” http://www.tfp.org Cf. also Plinio Correa de Oliveira, “Tears, a Miraculous Warning,” Folha de S. Paulo, Aug. 6, 1972.
28. This August, the homosexual event was officially cancelled because of hurricane Katrina although two unofficial parades were held in New Orleans and Lafayette. The festival’s immorality is evident from this description found on a New Orleans’ tourist web site:“Leave your prudish friends and family at home“Parades and non-stop parties aside, Southern Decadence may be most famous (or infamous) for the displays of naked flesh which characterize the event …. the atmosphere of Southern Decadence has stayed true to its name and public displays of sexuality are pretty much everywhere you look. Like I said, you might want to leave your more prudish friends and family at home…. August 31-September 5, 2005.” http://www.tfp.org
29. “Is it my will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways, and live?” Ezek. 18:23



U.S. Pulls Embassy Out of the Vatican

America has long had two embassies in Italy: One for the country, the other for the Holy See. Barbie Latza Nadeau on why soon there will be only one.

Citing security concerns without naming a specific threat, the U.S. State Department is planning to shutter its embassy to the Holy See inside the lush Villa Domiziana overlooking the Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill in central Rome.

The embassy, which has been in operation since 1984 when Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II signed an accord, will essentially be swallowed up by the larger, more influential U.S. embassy to Italy. Italy is unique in that many countries have two embassies in the capital city – one to the country of Italy and the other to the Holy See, a sovereign nation within the city of Rome. Some, like the United States, even have a third embassy to the United Nations Organizations headquartered in the city.  The embassies create a diplomatic subculture that has spawned a slew of international schools and services from health care facilities to commissary-style international food stores, all catering to the large foreign community.

After the move to the American embassy to Italy, scheduled for January 2015 when remodeling work is expected to be completed, the embassy to the Holy See will inhabit a small annex with a separate entrance, but it will be far less independent than it is in its current position across town. Not unlike having two popes in Vatican City with both Pope Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, having two ambassadors in one embassy compound will undoubtedly lessen the power prestige of one.

The move is not sitting well with conservative Catholics who prefer to maintain diplomatic distance from United States policy on issues in direct defiance with Catholic teachings, including same-sex marriage and abortion. Vatican expert John Allen, who first broke the news of the downsize this week in his column in the National Catholic Reporter, quotes a former American ambassador to the Holy See calling the move “a massive downgrade.” James Nicholson, who held the post from 2001 to 2005, told Allen that the move is essentially “turning this embassy into the stepchild of the embassy to Italy.” He told Allen, “The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the Untied States, and to shoehorn it into an office annex inside another embassy is an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”

Not unlike having two popes in Vatican City, having two ambassadors in one embassy compound will undoubtedly lessen the power prestige of one.

It has long been the Vatican’s insistence that countries with diplomatic missions to both Italy and the Holy See maintain autonomous embassies. Often the Holy See embassies are far more aligned with the Vatican than they are with their own countries’ policies. According to sources inside the American embassy in Rome, the embassies will maintain separate functions, and the move in no way means the embassy to Italy will overstep its boundaries when it comes to diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The U.S. embassy to Italy has a strategic role in American activities in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It is not uncommon to meet embassy diplomats in Rome who have little knowledge of what’s going on in Italy, a subtle implication that perhaps their work extends far beyond Italian borders. 


The U.S. embassy to the Holy See, on the other hand, has a distinct role in church affairs. Since there are no military or trade issues on the agenda, the role is focused on Catholic church policy. Ambassadors are generally well-known Catholic diplomats. The current ambassador, Ken Hackett, was the former head of Catholic Relief Services. His predecessor, Miguel H. Diaz, was a theologian.  Activities at the embassy to the Holy See often involve legions of cardinals and high-ranking Catholics milling about the embassy grounds. It is not uncommon to see groups of clerics enjoying the gorgeous views of ancient Roman ruins from the villa terrace. The scene in the annex at the U.S. embassy will be far different. The U.S. embassy to Italy’s grounds are quite austere, with most open space dedicated to parking for the staff.  The U.S. ambassador generally does diplomatic entertaining at his official residence, which will not be open to the ambassador to the Holy See. Though unconfirmed, the Holy See ambassador is reportedly being shunted to an apartment not far from the embassy. 

The anticipated move of the U.S. embassy to the Holy See follows a similar move by the U.S. embassy to the United Nations Organizations, which were shuttled to the embassy grounds in 2012.  Their staff was cut and they use the embassy to Italy infrastructure that is already in place. Creating a larger American diplomatic compound on Rome’s swishy Via Veneto will follow the lead of other major countries that have also consolidated their diplomatic properties. Israel has always had consolidated embassies, even sharing staff and services. In 2006, the United Kingdom moved its embassy to the Holy See to its embassy to Italy grounds, creating a similar uproar among British Catholics who wanted to maintain diplomatic distance. A few years later the Netherlands followed suit. In 2011, Ireland closed their embassy to the Holy See entirely, and rely on visiting envoys to keep up diplomatic ties. 

The Vatican has not publicly commented on the reports of the American diplomatic consolidation, but given Pope Francis’s own reform-minded approach to running the Catholic Church, it is unlikely he will object to the shake-up. And while the embassy to the Holy See diplomats understandably see the move as a threat, no doubt the Vatican could see it as an opportunity to have even closer ties to more influential diplomats in the United States.  

How Catholic was John F. Kennedy?

How Catholic was John F. Kennedy?

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN)  When John F. Kennedy was a boy, his mother counseled her children on Good Fridays to pray for a peaceful death.

Young Jack joked that he’d rather pray for two pet dogs instead.

If you’re looking for the CliffsNotes version of Kennedy’s Catholicism, that anecdote touches on the key themes: the pious Irish mother, the casual irreverence, the ever-present prospect of death.

But there’s much more to the story.

In the words of one biographer, Kennedy was Mr. Saturday Night but also Mr. Sunday Morning, rarely missing a Mass.

He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church, even when it threatened his quest for the presidency.

One scholar suggests that Kennedy was becoming more religious as the Cold War wore on, and a prominent Catholic monk privately predicted his assassination. Another says that Kennedy’s public displays of piety were little more than political lip service.

As the country marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death  and it was far from peaceful, as we all know  almost every aspect of his life is again under the media microscope. But for all the ballyhoo about Kennedy being the first and only Catholic president, the topic of his faith remains largely untouched.

We’ve been told that he was venerated by many who shared his religion and vilified by many who didn’t. We know that his family shared sacraments with popes and confidences with cardinals. And we’ve heard about Kennedy breaking more than a few Commandments.

We also know that Catholics, particularly Irish Catholics, revere Kennedy, hanging his portrait in their parlors next to images of the Sacred Heart, naming their schools and children after him.

But the halo around Kennedy’s head has dimmed in recent decades as revelations about his marital infidelities and carefully concealed health problems have come to light.

“Being the first of any group to get to the White House is worth taking seriously and showing respect for,” said the Rev. John Langan, a Jesuit priest and ethicist at Georgetown University. “But there is bound to be a very ambivalent reaction to Kennedy at this point in our history.”

That still doesn’t tell us much about what kind of Catholic Kennedy was, to the extent that we can ever know.

“It’s hard to look into the soul of a person, especially a person who’s been dead for 50 years, and judge their religion and belief in God,” said Thomas Maier, author of “The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings.”

No doubt Maier is right. But Kennedy’s Catholic faith remains central to questions about his character and his legacy. And even if we reserve final judgment for the Almighty, we can still probe history for clues about how religion inspired and guided his short and star-crossed life.

The Irish Catholic ideal

When Kennedy was 13 and attending a Catholic school for the only time in his life, a visiting missionary spoke to the students about his work in India.

Afterward, Kennedy eagerly informed his parents that “it was one of the most interesting talks I’ve ever heard,” according to the Robert Dallek biography “An Unfinished Life.

The Catholic missionary inspired two aims that day that would drive Kennedy for the rest of his life, according to Ted Sorensen, one of his closest advisers: the desire to enjoy the world, and the desire to improve it.

Few historians argue that Kennedy’s reputation as a womanizer isn’t well-warranted. But even tough-minded idealists such as Eleanor Roosevelt, who once regarded Kennedy as cocky and callow, eventually saw him in another light.

“My final judgment is that here is a man who wants to leave a record (perhaps for ambitious personal reasons, as people say), but I rather think because he is really interested in helping the people of his own country and mankind in general,” Roosevelt said after meeting Kennedy in 1960.

Kennedy put his personal mission another way: “Those to whom much is given, much is required.” That phrase echoes Luke’s Gospel, which, like many parts of the Bible, he learned from his mother, Rose.

Joseph Kennedy, the family patriarch, was often away making his millions and insisted that his children attend top private (and secular) schools such as Harvard. That left the nine Kennedy children’s religious education to Rose, a devout Catholic.

“At the time, it was the Irish Catholic ideal,” Langan said, “a big and active family where the father was successful in business and politics and the mother was the spiritual center, the person who held it all together.”

In other ways, the Kennedys were anything but typical Irish Catholics, said historian Terry Golway. They were lucratively rich. They mingled with Boston Brahmins. They went to Harvard, not Holy Cross.

“Some people saw him as a faux Catholic,” Golway said, “too big for their britches.”

But few historians doubt Rose Kennedy’s devout attachment to Catholicism.

She attended the country’s top Catholic schools, and she supervised her family like the nuns who ran those schools, according to biographer Barbara A. Perry.

Rose neither spared the rod nor tolerated emotional outbursts. Any bumps and bruises were to be “offered up to God,” the matriarch insisted, no complaining allowed.

“She was terribly religious,” John Kennedy said as an adult. “She was a little removed.”

Still, many say the stoicism Rose Kennedy instilled helped her son deal with the debilitating health issues that plagued his short life. Other historians theorize that Kennedy’s poor health  he was twice given last rites before recovering  played a role in his wanton womanizing.

“His continual, almost heroic sexual performance,” wrote Catholic scholar Garry Wills, was a “cackling at the gods of disability that plagued him.”

Well before her son’s playboy days, Rose neatly noted her children’s medical histories and church milestones such as baptism, confirmation and first Holy Communion on small index cards.

She left rosaries on their beds, tested their knowledge of the Catholic Catechism and oversaw their prayers for hints of apostasy.

Rose regularly took the children on walks to the local parish or the zoo, where she would show them the lions and explain how they once devoured faithful Christians. It was an effective, if morbid, method to hold the children’s interest, Perry notes in her book “Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch.

As the Kennedy kids grew up, Rose pinned questions about priests’ sermons and Holy Days on the family blackboard, expecting the children to discuss them at dinner, according to Perry.

The matriarch continued preaching the faith well into her children’s adulthood, advising them that praying the rosary was as good a way to relieve stress as any drink or pill, and a good bit better for their figure.

And Rose wrote to Jacqueline Kennedy to “remind Jack about his Easter duty” to attend the sacrament of confession. “I’m sure that the church is quite near” to their Georgetown home, she nagged.

Teasing and testing

Surrounded by his mother’s intense piety, Jack Kennedy couldn’t help but tease and test her.

He interrupted her Bible stories to ask odd questions such as what happened to the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? Who took care of the ass after the crucifixion?

Later, Kennedy’s questions grew more probing.

Traveling through the Middle East as an adolescent, he visited Jerusalem, where Christians believe Christ ascended into heaven and Muslims believe the same about Mohammed.

Upon his return to the United States, Kennedy promptly asked a priest, “Mohammed has a big following and Christ has a big following, and why do you think we should believe in Christ any more than Mohammed?”

Get this boy some religious instruction, before he becomes an atheist, the priest told Kennedy’s parents, according to Dallek’s biography.

Later, Kennedy teasingly threatened to teach a Bible class  then a strictly Protestant practice  when his parents pressured him to dump his married girlfriend, Inga Arvad.

“Don’t good works come under our obligations to the Catholic Church?” he needled his mother and father.

“We’re not a completely ritualistic, formalistic, hierarchical structure in which the Word, the truth, must only come down from the very top – a structure that allows for no individual interpretation  or are we?”

Kennedy even ribbed Rose and Joe while fighting in the Solomon Islands during World War II. He told them he had dutifully attended Easter Mass at a native hut, even as enemy aircraft circled overhead. And his parents would be pleased to know a priest had devoted all his energies to Kennedy’s salvation.

“I’m stringing along with him,” Kennedy wrote, “but I’m not giving over too easy as I want him to work a bit  so he’ll appreciate it more when he finally has me in the front row every morning screaming hallelujah.”

The lion’s den

Joking aside, Kennedy took his faith seriously, according to several biographers, especially when it became a political issue.

In 1947, when Kennedy was a representative from Massachusetts, Congress held a hearing on public funding for parochial schools. He exploded when a Freemason testified that Catholics owe their loyalties to their church, not their country.

“I am not a legal subject of the Pope,” Kennedy countered. “There is an old saying in Boston that we get our religion from Rome and our politics from home.”

The congressional contretemps was just a prelude to the prejudice Kennedy endured during his 1960 presidential run.

Protestant leaders  from backwoods evangelists and radio preachers to prominent pastors such as Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale  warned the country would go to hell with a Catholic in the Oval Office.

“I’m getting tired of these people who think I want to replace the gold at Fort Knox with a supply of holy water,” Kennedy complained.

Against some advisers’ counsel, the candidate decided to directly confront the anti-Catholic bias with a televised speech to a group of Protestant ministers in Houston in 1960. It was like Daniel walking into the lion’s den, a journalist said at the time.

In the now famous speech, Kennedy said he believed that America’s separation of church and state is “absolute” and that a presidential candidate’s religious beliefs are “his own private affair.”

“I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me,” Kennedy said.

The Protestant ministers pressed Kennedy on those pledges in a question and answer session that followed, according to Dallek, but the candidate’s calm reassurances seemed to win many of them over.

“He responded with such poise and restraint that the ministers stood and applauded at the close of the meeting, and some came forward to shake his hand and wish him well in the campaign.”

A ‘little less convinced’

As president, Kennedy continued to say his daily prayers, morning and night, his sister Eunice told historians. But “that doesn’t mean he was terribly religious,” she said.

“He was always a little less convinced” than the rest of the Kennedy clan, Eunice continued, especially his brother Robert Kennedy, who took after Rose.

Still, Eunice said John always hustled off to Mass on Sundays, even while traveling. Maier, the Kennedy biographer who called him Mr. Saturday Night and Mr. Sunday Morning, said The New York Times’ index of the president’s travels show him faithfully attending Mass once a week, wherever he happened to be.

“The popular perception is that he wasn’t all that religious,” Maier said, “but by today’s standards he would be called a traditional Catholic.”

Dallek said he believes Kennedy attended religious rituals more out of duty than desire. “This is the faith he was reared in, and something his parents expected him to do,” the historian said.

“As president it was kind of mandatory to go to church, to show that he was a man of good Christian faith. But was it something that informed his daily life and decisions as president? I don’t think so.”

Others, however, see echoes of Kennedy’s Catholic upbringing in his most famous speech, the 1961 inaugural address. In it, the new president urged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

“The words chosen seem to spring from a sacramental background,” the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, first Catholic chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote in a recent blog post.

“In fact, the whole speech was framed by his belief in a living and ever-present God both at its beginning and in the end,” Coughlin wrote.

Two months later, in a move that may have harkened back to meeting the Catholic missionary, Kennedy founded the Peace Corps.

A monk predicts the assassination 

Regardless of how faithful Kennedy was, Irish Catholicism is as much a culture as a set of religious rules and rituals, said Peter Quinn, author of “Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America.

Kennedy’s gift for gab and love of language; his fierce loyalty and clannishness; his temper and his wit; his concern for the poor and sense of the tragedy of life  he lost a beloved brother and sister at a young age  all are hallmarks of Irish Catholicism, Quinn said.

“The church was the building block of Irish identity, and Kennedy was imbued in that culture.”

Golway agrees. “There was a chip on his shoulder, a sense of being embattled and having to fight for everything. That’s a very Irish-Catholic thing.”

Other historians believe Kennedy was becoming more religious, in the traditional sense, as the threat of nuclear war loomed over his presidency.

“He never talked about his religion, never,” said James W. Douglass, author of “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters.” “But at great personal risk, he was turning from war toward peacemaking.”

Kennedy would not have been the first president to “get religion” in the Oval Office.

Lincoln, an unorthodox believer, once said that “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go.”

Historians say Kennedy kept a note on his desk quoting another phrase from Lincoln, “I know that there is a God and … I see a storm coming. … If he has a place for me … I am ready.”

If Lincoln’s storm was the Civil War, Kennedy’s was the Cold War.

As Douglass notes, some Catholics had little confidence that Kennedy, the youngest elected president in American history, had the wisdom and humanity to carry the country through the existential threat.

“Maybe Kennedy will break through into that some day by miracle,” Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk and author, wrote to a friend.

“But such people are before long marked out for assassination.”



Vatican envoy to UN climate change conference, Abp. Migliore: This crisis facing humanity is fundamentally moral

WARSAW, Poland — Climate change represents an “ethical challenge to civilization,” said the Vatican’s lead representative to an  international conference discussing the worldwide impact of climate change.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore told attendees at a church-run conference that the Vatican would help “form consciences and ethical perspectives” on climate change in line with Catholic social teaching and encourage “fairness, impartiality and mutual responsibility” when it came to action to address the environmental threat.

The church-run conference met Nov. 18-19, coinciding with the intergovernmental Conference of Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change that also convened in the Polish capital.

The conference, hosted by Caritas Poland and Warsaw’s Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, brought together Catholic leaders, politicians, climate scientists and civil society groups, who called on governments to reduce their reliance on coal, oil and other fossil resources.

The Warsaw Conference of Parties, meeting Nov. 11-22, was called to  review progress since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was the 19th such gathering to review the Kyoto accord, which was extended in December 2012 in Doha, Qatar, with a new commitment to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 18 percent by 2020.

“The crisis situation humanity currently faces has an economic, consumerist, environmental and social character, but is also fundamentally moral,” Archbishop Migliore told the ecumenical conference, which included representatives of Misereor, the German bishops’ organisation for development; CAFOD, the British bishops’ agency for international development; and the Washington-based Center of Concern.

“If we accept that every person and community has the same right to use the atmosphere, then they also have the same duty to protect them. The scale of emissions must be proportionate to the size of population, emissions per capita and the level of (gross domestic product),” the archbishop said.

At the conference’s conclusion, Catholic aid organizations urged church leaders to help publicize the hardships and sufferings caused by climate change.

“Governments are listening — they’re open to their constituencies and  ready to hear a spiritual message about faith and morality,” said Markus Drake, spokesman for CIDSE, a Brussels-based alliance of 17 Catholic aid groups. “All faith-based organizations should be stepping in to provide this message and give stronger arguments to those ready to act, as well as connections with people around the world who are personally witnessing the effects of global warming.”

Drake told Catholic News Service Nov. 20 that he hoped Catholics “still unconvinced about climate change” would be persuaded by recent findings, including a September assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that human activity was its “dominant cause.”

He added that many Catholic parishes worldwide were taking initiatives to help those affected and said he hoped aid agency warnings would now also be “picked up by church structures and institutions.”

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice chairman of the IPCC, said the panel’s evidence had been accepted by all governments and 97 percent of world scientists, adding that “clear evidence” suggested Super Typhoon Haiyan, which wrecked the central Philippines Nov. 8, was linked to climate change. Van Ypersele is professor of climatology and environmental sciences at the Catholic University of Louvain and advises bishops in Europe and Asia.

Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes of Dhaka, Bangladesh, said he believed awareness was growing of the “justice and charity aspects” of climate change, and he urged churches to join “a new type of revolution of increasing spiritual and humanistic awareness.”

“Far from being an abstract, scientific issue, climate change is affecting real people in huge numbers,” said Bishop Gomes.

Connie Hedegaard, European commissioner for climate action, said she believed churches had a role to play in recalling the “forgotten spiritual dimension” underlying economic development and applying pressure “without waiting for political decisions.”

With participation by more than 190 governments, COP was seeking to lay the groundwork for a new deal on global emissions in 2015, while pressing developed countries to deliver on $100 billion already pledged annually under a Green Climate Fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Among submissions to the summit, the World Health Organization estimated that climate change was already causing an additional 140,000 deaths annually. The World Bank said Nov. 18 the costs of “more extreme weather related to a warming planet” were set to grow, with developing countries “bearing the brunt” from floods, storms and droughts.

The report said annual economic losses had risen from $50 billion in the 1980s to almost $200 billion in the last decade, while the world had lost 2.5 million people because of climate-related natural disasters.

Drake told CNS that CIDSE members would bring a “southern voice” from Asia, Africa and Latin America to meetings with government and  parliamentary delegations at COP. The organization planned to carry an “honest, clear message from people affected by climate change” to a Nov. 21 side event with the World Council of Churches, which said in an early November statement that faith communities had “reached consensus in addressing the climate change crisis.”