Friday, March 8, 2013

Electing a Pope, Protecting Everybody's Freedom

Some coverage of preparations for electing the next pope is well-informed. I think some does a better job of reflecting editorial assumptions, than reporting what's actually going on in Rome.

Instead of posting a sort of blooper reel, I've picked examples written by folks who know something about the Catholic Church; and an item about freedom that should probably be getting more attention.
  1. 'Somebody Talked'
  2. "Not Ready"
  3. Anti-Semetism and 'My End of the Boat'
There's more in this week's news, but I'm saving that for another post: which should be ready in about an hour.

Remembering What Freedom Means

Freedom is highly valued here in America. Remembering what freedom means isn't always easy.

I remember when folks with apparently-sincere concerns about 'freedom' wanted everyone else to help them hunt commies. A little later, another lot showed equal enthusiasm for suppressing discussion that didn't support their preferences.

McCarthyism and political correctness have different slogans, the same individual probably wouldn't hold both views, but I see quite a few similarities between 'the establishment' of my youth, and what we have today, including:
  • Then
    • Looking for commies
    • Pursuing 'the American dream'
    • Maintaining conformity
  • Now
    • Looking for racists
    • Being afraid of
      • Global warming
      • Climate change
    • Maintaining conformity
    (January 2010)

Seeking Truth, Respecting Freedom

The Catholic Church expects folks to "seek the truth," and act as if truth matters:
"All persons are bound to seek the truth in those things which regard God and his Church and by virtue of divine law are bound by the obligation and possess the right of embracing and observing the truth which they have come to know."
(Can. 748 §1, Book III. The Teaching Function of the Church, Code of Canon Law)
Even if I hadn't had my fill of hard-sell 'evangelism' efforts, and had the power to force others to say they believe as I do, I wouldn't. As a Catholic, I'm not allowed to force my beliefs on others:
"No one is ever permitted to coerce persons to embrace the Catholic faith against their conscience."
(Can. 748 §2, Book III. The Teaching Function of the Church, Code of Canon Law)
Maybe you've run into a pushy Catholic, who dragged you to Mass, or forced you to say you agree with some belief.

Some of the billion-plus living Catholics don't know our faith, or don't understand how we should act. Some of us are simply jerks: or worse. (June 18, 2011; March 31, 2011)

1. 'Somebody Talked'

"College of Cardinals imposes media silence after breach"
Estefania Aguirre, David Uebbing, CNA/EWTN News (March 6, 2013)

"The College of Cardinals has decided that its members will no longer speak to journalists after several cardinals gave too much information to Italian press.

" 'Concern was expressed in the general congregation about leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers,' said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' media director...."
I'm an American, and share many of my native culture's attitudes about communication: in this case, the sort that's sometimes called 'openness' or 'transparency.' I like to know what's going on, and generally want leaders in business and government to share information with 'the public.'

On the other hand, I realize that there are times when sharing information is a really bad idea.

Here's a sampling of my reactions to folks who didn't know when to talk, when not to talk; why I don't follow the 'party line:'
Moving on.

Cardinals and Media

"...The American cardinals have been the only ones to organize press conferences during the general congregation phase of the Sede Vacante period.

"Before the decision was made to maintain media silence, three press briefings were held at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, attracting outlets from all over the world.

"But the Italian media was also interviewing cardinals of other nationalities.

"A source familiar with the cardinals general meetings told CNA on background that the primary reason for the cancelation [!] was that some Italian cardinals were divulging too much information to the Italian press.

"He added that at this morning's general meeting, the names of those cardinals who revealed too much were read off in front of the assembly...."
(College of Cardinals imposes media silence after breach"
Estefania Aguirre, David Uebbing, CNA/EWTN News)
I think it's interesting that the overly-chatty cardinals weren't from the American set. I suspect it's because our cardinals get a lot of practice, dealing with media. 'Practice makes perfect' is more hopeful than accurate: but I think practice does make 'better.'

A little later, the article quotes Farther Lombardi again:
"...Father Federico Lombardi, said he was not surprised that the American cardinals were offering the press briefings.

" 'The Americans are well organized, they have a good relationship with the media and so much American media with many people has come here (to Rome),' he said March 6 at the Vatican press office...."
(College of Cardinals imposes media silence after breach"
Estefania Aguirre, David Uebbing, CNA/EWTN News)

"...Discernment ... More Reflection and More Silence...."

"...Fr. Lombardi stands by the decision of the College, saying, 'it's natural that their discernment progresses into more reflection and more silence,' and during the conclave 'there will be absolute silence.'

" 'The congregations are not a synod or a congress in which we try to report as much information as possible,'” he noted.

" 'They are on a path towards arriving at the decision of electing the Roman pontiff.'..."
Estefania Aguirre, David Uebbing, CNA/EWTN News)
I think there's something to be said for folks, cardinals and otherwise, who appreciate the value of occasionally not talking, and I'll leave it at that.

2. "Not Ready"

"Cardinals contemplate insider, outsider papal candidates"
Andrea Gagliarducci, op ed, CNA/EWTN News (March 6, 2013)

" 'We are not ready to enter the conclave,' Cardinal Francis George of Chicago plainly told the Italian newspaper La Stampa today, adding, 'I never felt that we would begin the conclave on March 11th.'

"The American cardinals are first in line among those who do not want to hurry the conclave, and they are not alone...."
I expect quite a bit of commentary on the conclave, some of it well informed, some anything but. I think this falls in the 'well informed' category.

About what the Chicago cardinal said, I think he's probably right. Many folks at the conclave aren't ready. My guess is that quite a few wouldn't be 'ready,' no matter how long the process got delayed. Can't say that I blame the cardinals: selecting the next Pope is a huge responsibility.

That's one reason that I'm very glad that the Catholic Church isn't a democracy. I have a hard enough time getting enough information for sensible decisions during America's election cycles, and that's another topic.

"...A Subtle Battle...."

"...In the general congregations, the schedule of meetings and all other matters are decided by a majority vote, and the dean of the cardinals is just a 'primus inter pares,' i.e. the first among equals.

"Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the man who fulfills that role, initially sketched out a tight schedule for the cardinals pre-conclave meetings. On Monday, two pre-conclave meetings were scheduled in the New Synod Hall: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

"But that schedule was not kept for the following days, since the majority of the cardinals asked to hold only morning meetings, leaving the afternoon free for informal meetings and chats.

"It is a subtle battle, as all Vatican battles are.

"Gianfranco Svidercoschi, one of the most prominent Vatican observers, asserted in a March 4 discussion that there is 'a certain risk that the conclave will be split between two contenders.' ..."
"subtle battle?!" Aren't I supposed to believe that cardinals are perfect people, so 'spiritual' that they never show any human flaws? Hardly.

All clergy have a very special job, a great responsibility, and authority that traces back to my Lord. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 874-896, 934)

But that doesn't make them superhuman. I knew about the Catholic Church's history before I became a Catholic. The Church had good leaders, bad leaders, and woefully inadequate leaders. Five hundred and a thousand years back were two particularly rough spots.

But the Church kept going. Its wildly improbable survival puzzled me, and that's almost another topic. (January 13, 2011)

Politics? Sort of

I think any decision making process that involves human beings will be 'political' in the sense of being "of or relating to ... views about social relationships involving authority or power." (Princeton's WordNet) We relate to each other in a social way, and to date no effort to make an 'authority-free' society work has endured. We tried some imaginative approaches, about a half-century back, and that is another topic.

But I think it's a mistake to try interpreting what's going on at the Vatican as a political convention, or corporate board meeting.

CNA has a pretty good backgrounder about the group that's meeting:
I also recommend the CNS/Tim Meko infographic, Inside the Conclave.

I can't read the teeny tiny type on this reduced-size copy of the infographic, but at least the pictures look good:

(CNS/Tim Meko, via USCCB, used w/o permission)

3. Anti-Semetism and 'My End of the Boat'

"Congressional hearing highlights growing threat of anti-Semitism"
Adelaide Darling, CNA (March 2, 2013)

"Witnesses at a recent hearing in Washington, D.C., warned that a resurrected anti-Semitism is sweeping the globe and could lead to dire consequences for democratic societies and members of all religions.

" 'When we fight anti-Semitism it is not only a matter of justice for Jewish fellow-citizens, but also of standing up for Christianity, and for Islam, and for the possibility of decent living itself,' said U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who hosted the Feb. 27 hearing...."
I think it's worth noting who was speaking:
  • Katrina Lantos Swett
    • Chairwoman of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
  • Dr. M. Zuhudi Jasser
    • President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy
  • Rabbi David Myer
    • Professor of rabbinic literature at the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome
  • John Garvey
    • President of Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Intellectual Freedom and 'Those People'

Anti-Semitism is everybody's problem, in the sense that folks who target Jews seem quite willing to attack anyone else who doesn't fit their preferences.
"...Dr. M. Zuhudi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, explained that the radical nature of militant Islamist extremism has fueled an exodus of not only Jews but also Christians and moderate Muslims from many areas of the Middle East, creating a 'vacuum of religious diversity' and a stifling of intellectual freedom...."
(Adelaide Darling, CNA)
As I've said before, "my end of the boat isn't sinking" isn't a sensible attitude.

"...And There was Nobody Left to be Concerned"

Americans still enjoy a remarkable degree of freedom: including the freedom to follow whichever faith we like, or no faith at all. We may even keep the right to act as if what we believe matters.

But these freedoms could change.
"...A German pastor, Martin Niemöller, made the point I'm trying to make. Quite a few times, it seems.

"He's credited with writing a poem. Several, actually, all with the same general message. Here are a few:
"When Hitler attacked the Jews
I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the Catholics,
I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists,
I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned.
Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church --
and there was nobody left to be concerned."
(Niemoller's address to the U.S. Congress (Congressional Record,
October 14, 1968, page 31636), Martin Niemoller poem and address on Hitler and the Nazis)
"Or maybe it was
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me."
(MARTIN NIEMÖLLER: "FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS...", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me."
(Martin Niemöller's famous quotation: "First they came for the Communists"..., a page by Harold Marcuse, UC Santa Barbara)
"The version you ran into probably isn't there. Some are rather politically correct, some were edited from a more conservative point of view. Although I don't quite agree with the UC Santa Barbara professor's assumption that the guy from the Small Business Administration was subverting the pastor's message ('everybody knows' what those capitalists are like?), the professor's page is one of the best resources I've found online, for studying Niemöller's remarks.

"Between Islamic crazies and white supremacists, there's a whole lot of hate - concentrated in, I trust, 'a very few bad apples,' but dangerous nonetheless. 'My end of the boat isn't sinking' is not a prudent attitude...."
I've used that text before, in this blog (April 7, 2011; September 8, 2010), and in Another War-on-Terror Blog (December 11, 2009).

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