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Pitchers, catchers, and cardinals report

It's a big week of meetings for Francis -- his first big chance to follow through on expectations that he will be collaborative and consultative in his exercise of power, and that he will effect some much-needed reforms in Rome. Catholic News Service was tweeting updates bright and early: "Next Monday and Tuesday, meetings of the secretariat of the synod of bishops and the 15-member cardinals’ council on economic affairs.... 15-member council of cardinals on Holy See economic affairs will meet 8-member council of cardinals THIS Wednesday 19 February.... 'Extraordinary consistory' with all cardinals starts Thursday at 9:30 am."

[Update: Read Joshua McElwee's comprehensive report on the agenda for the coming week at the National Catholic Reporter.]

Cardinal Kasper will be giving the opening presentation at the Council of Cardinals: Francis X. Rocca reports on that for CNS here. With preparations for this fall's synod on the family underway, there is much speculation about what Kasper might say regarding divorced Catholics and communion, given that he has favored some changes to church regulations in the past. When it comes to "pastoral challenges in the context of evangelization," that's certainly a big one.

That "8-member council" mentioned above, the eight cardinals appointed by Pope Francis to advise him on reform, are meeting for the third time. That includes the one American member of the gang, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston. Make no mistake, all these councils serve only in an advisory role, as Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi made clear at this morning's press briefing this morning. The pope is still the pope, after all. And it's up to the individual cardinals to keep the press informed, or not. Stay tuned.

This seems like a good time to mention that I'll be appearing on a panel next month at the American Bible Society (in NYC), responding to a presentation by the aforementioned Cardinal O'Malley. Since he'll be just back from all that meeting and advising, I'm looking forward to whatever updates he has to give. The event is free and open to the public: 6:30 p.m. on March 19. Ken Woodward, R.R. Reno of First Things and Matt Malone of America will be there too. Mark your calendars, and I'll remind you as it gets closer. And tell me, what would you ask Cardinal O'Malley if you had a chance?

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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I would ask him whether we'll be seeing women deacons here any time soon. And what he thinks about appointing some women as papal nuncios.

Regfarding annulments: Deacon Greg Kandra at the Deacon's Bench links to and quotes from a John Allen article in the Boston Globe that prognosticates on a possible compromise and takes a look at some of the politics involved.



At the risk of sounding like a broken record (as many of us have for the last umpteen years) I would ask when we might see ecclesiastical leaders -- such as bishops  -- starting to be held accountable for their roles in the child abuse scandals -- and I am by no means only thinking of the US or North America. Child safety programs, apologies, and the like are all very well, but as long as bishops see themselves as accountable only upwards, and not down to the people of the dioceses, not much has really changed.

I would ask something similar to Ms. Baldwin -- the Pope has spoken repeatedly about using the gifts of women as leaders in the Church -- how is the Pope going to put some real flesh on that committment?  If not making women Cardinals and adding them to the C8 -- should he not just appoint some women to be part of this group?

I would also ask the Cardinal, given the recent violence in Nigeria against gay people

See here:

And given the fact that the Nigerian church supported these extremely punitive (I would say hate-filled) laws which help to spawn this repressive violence, is it not time for the Church to state clearly that this violence is in direct conflict with Church teaching and the Church must find a way to stand with the oppressed, marginalized gay community of Nigeria?

I would ask when guys who are known to have covered up sex abuse - Law, Brady, Mahony, etc - will be removed from office.  About the roles for women in the church, Muller recently spoke about that ...  ...

"Müller said they could be given some high-ranking positions in the Vatican: not in the Congregations but in the Pontifical Councils, for example the Pontifical Council on the Family (which is led by Bishop Vincenzo Paglia) or for Health Care Workers. The Prefect clarified, however, that as it is ordained ministers that hold jurisdictional power, neither lay people nor women can become heads of Congregations, that is, the dicasteries that have the jurisdictional power to act on the Pope’s behalf. Other areas in which women could play a greater role are theological research and Caritas, although Müller is against the introduction of set quotas of women."

I'd ask how the hierarchy can believe that these kinds of opportunities can in any way make up for not allowing women to be priests. 

Cardinal O'Malley, are you folks really planning to hold a Synod on the Family this fall with no participation by anyone who has actually started one, and no representation of one of the two sexes you say are essential for forming a family? Oh yes, we know you are reaching out to people with a questionnaire, but that is not at all the same as confronting them in person and listening to their insights and doubts and hopes on a matter where they have vastly more practical experience and authority than you have. And it is certainly not the same as giving them a role in decision-making.

Any good that might come of this synod is likely to be overwhelmed by caricature and ridicule of the way it is constituted. Believe me, sir, you and your brother hierarchs do not need to give skeptics, especially the many still within the fold, further reason to think you clueless and irrelevant.

Ask him if the Red Sox will win again this year... or if he'll be visiting Bishop Myers in his $500,000 addition to his $700,000 home...or when IS the Pope going to announce his America visit and meet with some victims of clergy sex abuse?

We could also ask why he didn't let Helmut Schuller speaak at any church building in Boston ...

Thanks, all. I mistakenly left a couple of things out of this post - I meant to link to Catholic News Service's Twitter account, and I also wanted to recommend Joshua McElwee's report on all of this at NCR. I've added the links above.

I would ask how they are preparing for the time when there are too few priests left for lay people to be able to receive the Eucharist weekly. Case in point: older people in rural France.

Do they have a plan?


Cardinal Maradiaga, coordinator of the Council of 8 Cardinals, says he thinks there should be a Congregation for the Laity headed by a married couple.

Sorry, I haven't seen an English-language article on this yet. 

I would like to ask:  Will Francis' reform include an admission that not all of the Church's magisterium has be inerrant?  

Catholics sniff at the Protestant teaching about the so-called inerrancy of the Bibe, but the official Catholic magisterium about the Catholic magisterium being inerrant is an even more fundamental problem.  Talk about self-reference!  At least Pope Francis seems to know that self-reference problems can be huge ones.

Now that I've read that more carefully, it appears that his proposal is to create a Congregation for the Laity which would have within it a Pontifical Council for the Laity headed by a married couple.

Since he had just explained that the reason a Congregation is needed is that the existing Pontifical Commission for the Laity has no legal power, I'm not sure that is quite as bold a proposition as I had imagined. 

Now that I've read that more carefully, it appears that his proposal is to create a Congregation for the Laity which would have within it a Pontifical Council for the Laity headed by a married couple.

Since he had just explained that the reason a Congregation is needed is that the existing Pontifical Commission for the Laity has no legal power, I'm not sure that is quite as bold a proposition as I had imagined. 

which would have within it a Pontifical Council for the Laity headed by a married couple

Should have been:

which would have within it a Pontifical Council for Families headed by a married couple. A

I have a feeling Francis is not going to disappoint. As I see it he has started a paradigm change. We have had over forty years to absorb it. Time for the implementation of the real Vatican II.

John Hayes - hope that what you project happens via the council of 8.

Here is an excellent analysis of Francis' recent reconfirmations (not exactly positive):

Pope Francis is committed to the por and to making this more ofa servant-Church... but would he have been elected if he had not been clearly conservative on some other hot-button issues? I'm happy with him, but I'll be surprised to institutionaled change right away.

I think that the analysis on the page linked by Bill de Haas, while interesting, is slanted towards pessimism. I was surprised to see Fabrice Hadjadj on that list. I have read a couple of his thought-provoking books. He's an original thinker. (I don't know what his expertise is on family). The web page's main complaint seems to me that run-of-the-mill lay Catholics are missing, but I am not sure what kind of person he has in mind. Shouldn't the council consist of committed Catholics, and is it really surprising that committed Catholics often already have an official role of some kind? The only glaring omission is that of Commonweal editors.

It seems to me that Pope Francis is taking care to bring the church along with him as he institutes reform.  Probably that is wise, but it does breed a certain amount of impatience.

Reforming the Vatican Bank probably isn't on many lists of top issues to be addressed here at dotCom, but it seems to have been one of the primary reasons he was elected.  It's good to see him following through with it.

Bill deH. --

The members of the new Counsel for the Laity certainly look like a dreary lot  -- except possibly for two members.  

Said Azar is a Jewish convert to Catholicism, a philosopher, is married to an actress, and apparently is very interested in the arts.  Judging by my own stereotypes of such folks, I wouldn't expect him to be very conservative.  (See Wikipedia about him.)

Jarol Zyczkowski is, of all things, a mathematician and quantum physicist.  So I asked myself:  why would such a person be named to a Vatican group?  I found one intriguing fact about the man:  he is the inventor of the method of voting used by the European Union which attempts to give proportionate weight to the votes of the highly varied members. More research reveals he has edited a book on "Institutional Design and Voting",

Maybe Prof. Z. was asked to help Francis with his problems in restructuring the Curia.   Maybe, just maybe, Francis is looking for some world-class advice on how to re-structure the Vatican and how to structure the anticipated world-wide  collegial group.  (Francis has already hired some management experts in re the bank and the communications center.)


A review of Prof. K Z.'s  book gives the names of the articles in the book, e.g.,  "The double majority voting rule of the EU Reform Treaty as a democratic ideal for an enlarging Union: an appraisal using voting power analysis, Dennis Leech and Haris Aziz; The blocking power in voting systems, Tadeusz Sozanski; The distribution of power in the Council of Ministers of the European Union, Werner Kirsch."  


Sounds like Francis could use this guy.  Francis has the reputation of being all heart, highly intuitive, but remember that he was a chemist before he was a priest, so he must have some appreciation for technical stuff, and so far he has impressed me as being very systematic about his reforms.


Here's the review:


OOPS  -  As Claire tells us it's FabriceHadjadj who is the philosopher, not Said Azar.  

Ann, Hadjadj is an original thinker but I do not think that he is progressive in any way except in freedom of thought. On the contrary, he presents a conservative perspective in such a fresh way as to make it almost convincing.

Also, he has six children, which raises the possibility that he is among the 2% who do not use contraception because they disapprove of it. But maybe he simply likes children.


IMO, what Paul Collins is highlighting with these reconfirmations is the current involvement of the new religious movements in places of importance, impact, and influence.  You could also pessimistically say - follow the money with some of the NRMs.  What was striking, IMO, is that these groups are not mainstream; do not reflect the middle ground of most catholics, etc.

Bill: what would be a "mainstream" group? Isn't "mainstream" synonym with "uninvolved", "indifferent", and "irregular participant in the sacraments"? It seems to me that every lay Catholic who cares about the church enough to get involved find themselves automatically in a marginal position.


Well, let me contrast that with some other proposed examples that could be on a lay council:

representatives from national conferences of catholic universities (especially those with degrees,works, publications, etc. in the field of family development, etc.)

representatives from national episcopal conferences that head up departments on family life (most of these folks have more experience, skills, and background than any of those *special* group reps that he reconfirmed

representatives from international catholic associations and NGOs that are committed to family life  (why isn't anyone from any of the noted and respected religious orders that sponsor Relief Services, Family Support in the Third World, etc.)

How about reps of the church who are active at the United Nations or other international bodies that meet in Brussels, Switzerland, etc.

How about reps that better represent the geographical regions of the catholic church - those who support Family Life in the Asian region, South America, Africa, Middle East?

Not only are the *special groups* over-represented on this committee but they are almost all Euro-centric?

These are all good suggestions!

How about some married moral theologians and philosophers who are expert in the moral issues, and I don't mean just those who agree with the CDF.

That fact that Carl Anderson is included in this group makes me even more suspicious of what will actually happen than I was before.

I wonder how the members of the Council of the Laity were chosen?  I suspect that the usual Vatican suspects made recommendations that support their agendae, as opposed to nominations being made from throughout the various episcopal conferences and other non-European based lay groups.

The obvious way to get the results you want is to ensure that the people who support your point(s) of view are making the recommendations.

But we know that, don't we?

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