Has CDF decided?

Vatican-watcher Gianluca Barile says that CDF has held a meeting and reached conclusions about the Medjugorje case, to be presented to Pope Francis. How reliable this is: we don’t know yet. (The translation is mine.)

Medjugorje: the Vatican rejects the apparitions and isolates the seers
by Gianluca Barile

The only concession, for Medjugorje, recognized as a place of prayer, is because God knows how to reap where he does not sow, explained the Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, during the Plenary of the Congregation which met yesterday to express itself on the alleged apparitions of our Lady to the six “seers” of this little locality in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who say they have received messages periodically from the “Gospa” for 34 years in a row. As for the remainder, the judgment of the former Holy Office, which expressed itself on the basis of the final report of the “Ruini Commission”, established by Benedict XVI to shed light precisely on this phenomenon, was absolutely negative. For the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, indeed the “apparitions” do not consist of anything supernatural, so the faithful have been forbidden to take part in the “ecstasies” of the six “seers” and the latter have been prohibited to disclose the texts of the messages which they might receive from our Lady. Another NO regards the parish of Medjugorje, under the title of St. James, which will not become a Marian shrine, as the six “seers” themselves apparently had wished. But that’s not all: Bishops may not welcome the “seers” into their dioceses for public meetings and testimonies, as has happened up to today, but are limited to providing accompaniment, by a priest, for pilgrims who travel to Medjugorje. Pilgrims themselves who go to Medjugorje, will not be permitted to recognize, by their presence, the authenticity of the apparitions and are to avoid any contact with the “seers”, concentrating only on prayer and approaching the Sacraments. But why so much severity on the Vatican’s part? First of all, due to the theological inconsistency of the messages, then because of the economic interest of the “seers” who have invested in inns and travel agencies, and hence due to the rivalry which has divided some of them, and for the disobedience shown both toward the bishop of Mostar, their Diocese, and toward the Pope who, by means of the “Ruini Commission”, ordered them in vain to present the ten secrets which they allegedly received from the “Gospa”. One of the key aspects which impelled the Vatican to use the iron fist, is precisely that of money: true seers have never been seen making money from their own apparitions. On this point, it’s only right to ask: do the six “seers” of Medjugorje maintain that they see and speak with our Lady because the alleged apparitions are real, or only to attract a greater number of pilgrims to travel with their agencies and make reservations in their inns? The last word is waiting for Pope Francis, who will shortly issue an appropriate decree, but it is hard to think that the Pontiff could change the conclusions of CDF, especially because he himself, several times, has shown, more or less evidently, his own scepticism about the goodness of what is happening at Medjugorje. So things are headed toward a noisy signal of black smoke.

No, Pope Francis didn’t say that

There’s a lot of fuss on the net and in the press about Pope Francis’ recent remarks on whether there is an eternal destiny for animals. The good folks at Rorate uncritically quoted a story from USA Today.

The key quote is: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” USA Today claims that Pope Francis said these words to a bereaved little boy, while a couple of stories in the British press attributed the words to a supposed quotation of the Apostle Paul.   The Daily Mail got their version of the story from Time, which got it from the NYTimes.

And they all got it wrong. The reporting on this story, the November 26, 2014 general audience, started with a piece from the Corriere della Sera by Gian Guido Vecchi.

Here’s a quick translation, from Google, with some adjustments by me:

The Pope and the animals: “Paradise is open to all the creatures”

Words about the beyond:

* Not a place, a state of soul.
* It’s beautiful to think about Heaven
* One day we’ll all meet there, and that plan cannot fail to involve everything around us
* We will be before a new creation
* It will not be an end but will carry everything to the fullness of being, truth, and beauty.


The pilgrim Church in history “going to the Kingdom of Heaven,” the Heaven that, “more than a place”, is “a state of soul where our deepest longings will be carried out in superabundance.”

Francis, in his catechesis in St. Peter’s Square, speaks of the “heavenly Jerusalem” and smiles: “It’s nice to think of Heaven. All of us we will be up there, everyone.”

And then widens his view, with a phrase that widens the hope of salvation and eschatological bliss to animals, as to the whole of creation: “Sacred Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design cannot fail to involve everything around us, that came out of the thought and the heart of God,” he explains.

First he quotes chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans: “The Apostle Paul says it explicitly, when he says that ‘Also the creation itself will be liberated from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God”. Also other texts, from the Second Letter of Peter to the Apocalypse, show the “image of the ‘new heaven’ and the ‘new earth'”, recalls Francis, “in the sense that the whole Universe will be renewed and will be released once and for all from all traces of evil and death itself.

As “fulfillment of a transformation that is actually already in place from the death and resurrection of Christ,” there lies ahead, in short, a “new creation”, “not, therefore, an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us, but bringing everything to its fullness of being, truth, beauty”. Francis is preparing an “ecological” encyclical on the protection of Creation. Certainly the issue is recurring and sometimes controversial in the Church.

It is said that Paul VI had comforted a child in tears for the death of his dog and said: “One day we will see our animals in the eternity of Christ.” Moreover, the word “animal” comes from “soul”, the vital principle, and also John Paul II said in an audience in 1990: “Some sacred texts allow that animals have a breath of life, and that they received it from God.” A perspective that Benedict XVI, who, while known for his love for cats, seems to rule out during a homily six years ago: “In the other creatures who are not called to eternity, death means only the end of existence on Earth ….”

The topic, explains a great theologian like Archbishop Bruno Forte, has to do with the Greek word anakephalaiosis, or “the ‘recapitulation’ of all things in Christ and thus in the glory of God, all in all.” It’s no coincidence Francis quoted St. Paul: “According to Pauline theology, as we read in the letter to the Colossians, all things were created through Christ and in view of Him, and then everything will participate in the final glory of God.” Certainly, “in a form and degree given to every creature,” adds Forte: “The conscious and free creature is one thing, the inanimate is another. But the idea is that the whole universe is not going to be destroyed.”

So Pope Francis didn’t say the line about animals in Paradise; he spoke generally about the whole creation, which will be renewed as part of the coming of Christ at the end of the world.  This is standard Catholic belief.   Vecchi chose to bring up animals in particular and recounted an unsourced anecdote about Pope Paul VI.

Then the Times and Time and the Mail and the Express and USA Today, and a whole cavalcade of publications that don’t check facts gave a garbled story, assigning the maybe-words of Paul VI to Francis.

Whether the confusion started in the Italian press and was merely imitated by the Times, or whether the Times reporter garbled the story all on his own remains to be seen.  And who brought the animals into this: was it Vecchi’s thought, or was it something Abp. Forte suggested to him?

What’s that smell?

It’s… an Apostolic Visitation!
U.S. nuns join seminaries in the U.S. as well as the Legionaries of Christ for the full on review of if they are living up to the rules of their orders, their mission and their commitments to the Church.
In other words, the shepherd is watching out for the sheep.
Here’s the laugh outloud line of the day:

But the investigation of American nuns surprised many because there was no obvious precipitating cause.

The Legion and Charism – another response to Ed Peters

Ed Peters has put together another response to the Legionaries of Christ / Regnum Christi (LC/RC) crisis, which is well worth reading. You can check it out here. Since I’m likely to be asked for a response, here’s a line-by-line:

I think that Fr. Alvaro Corcuera’s apparent claim that he knows nothing about Maciel’s behavior, except that Maciel sired a daughter, is utterly unbelievable. I have nothing else to say about this kind of stone-walling. I will simply re-endorse Dr. Germain Grisez’s and Mr. George Weigel’s proposals for direct intervention by the Holy See.

Out of Christian charity I will assume Fr. Alvaro is telling the truth. The Holy See should intervene anyway. Directly.
The situation is so muddled that I cannot see how the LC/RC can fix it without outside help and expertise. Of course I’m just one canonist out of thousands in the Church. But given how the LC/RC have maintained Fr. Maciel’s innocence for years, the severity of the allegations against him – both proven and unproven, and other structural problems within the movement, how the initial response has been bungled, it will be difficult for the LC/RC to regain the trust of orthodox Catholics without assurances that Rome has performed a thorough housecleaning of the movement.
Apologists for the LC/RC are already stating that Fr. Alvaro and the LC/RC are following Rome’s instructions. And Rome has stated it has no immediate plans to step in, but would do so if requested by the Legion. So it might be best is the Legion simply go through the official step of asking Rome to step in directly.
Moving on Peters’s rebuttal of the “reform-from-within” assertion and the “carry-on-the-charism” assertion:

Assertion 1. Because the Legion and Regnum Christi have within their ranks many obviously good and faithful Catholics, they should be allowed to try a reform from within. Response: the presence of good and faithful Catholics within an organization, particularly when the organization (in terms of Church history, if nothing else) is so young, says almost nothing about whether the organization itself is sound and/or salvageable.

Here is where I think Peters needs to make a distinction. Those making the “reform from within” suggestion (like myself) are not a unified camp. Some maintain the LC/RC should be permitted to reform from within, without any direct outside intervention. Very unlikely to work, as proven by the fact Fr. Maciel got away with his misdeeds for so long. And even if it were possible, there’s still the problem of restoring the RC/LC’s credibility.
Like Peters, I believe the LC/RC’s current structure is deeply flawed, and have for some time, according to criteria developed with Fr. Frank Morrisey – one of the Church’s foremost canonical experts on religious law and structures of institutes of consecrated life – and cult expert Michael Langone. You can read a summary of the criteria here. (Please note: I am not claiming that all of these criteria apply to the LC/RC, but those that do need to be rooted out if the LC/RC is to reform.)
Having said that, given that the majority of LC/RC members are orthodox Catholics faithful to Rome, I believe a “reform from within” is possible if the Holy See intervenes directly and appoints someone credible from outside the LC/RC to do a thorough investigation of LC/RC practices, and oversee their reform. It needs to be someone known for prayer and orthodoxy, experienced in religious life, and highly respected within the Church. For example, Cardinal Francis George from Chicago or Archbishop Seán O’Malley from Boston. Of course this assumes LC/RC members cooperate – not only in letter, but in spirit – with the reform.
Such a reform must begin with a sincere apology to Fr. Maciel’s victims, followed by restitution. Also, no more excuses suggesting Fr. Maciel’s innocence, or trying to dampen the severity of his sins. Of course the structural weaknesses that allowed Fr. Maciel to get away with his double-life for so long must also be fixed. Good faith only gets one so far. Peters identifies the question many canonists are asking, namely whether there are structural problems to the Legion, expressing them as only he can, when he states in response to the second assertion:

There is, I think, at least as much reason to wonder whether Maciel set up an institute in order to assure himself of ample access to sexual targets and unaccountable funds, or whether he suffered from some warped psycho-emotional condition that enabled him to compartmentalize pious devotional practices and sexual predation for decades on end…

Here is where I take a somewhat harder line than Peters. I don’t wonder. In fact, I’m pretty sure Fr. Maciel set up the LC/RC to, as I put it in the following interview, acquire, maintain and protect his access to victims.
I won’t comment on funds, except to say well-placed sources within and outside the LC/RC told me that Fr. Maciel was frequently given thousands of dollars in cash without any questions being asked. I haven’t looked into the issue deeply enough to give it much thought; it’s entirely possible the financial irregularities came after, as a by-product of the sexual irregularities. Of course, none of the above excludes the possibility Fr. Maciel also had a serious psychological condition.
But I’ve skipped ahead a bit. Here’s how Peters begins his response to the second assertion:

Assertion 2. Maciel’s canonical crime spree was a grave personal failing, but it does not negate the L/RC ‘charism’, and they should be allowed to continue their work. Response: This argument misses the key question, namely, whether in fact Maciel ever bequeathed an authentic charism to the L/RC…

This, then, is what separates our positions at the moment. If one believes the LC/RC lack a true charism, then Peters is right in suggesting Rome may have to shut down the movement completely and reconstitute it. (Without a true charism, there is nothing to reform.)
On the other hand, if one believes the LC/RC possess a true charism from Christ, but that it has become seriously clouded by Fr. Maciel’s sexual vice, then it may still be possible to rescue the charism. Of course it will still require delicate surgery on Rome’s part. It’s possible the movement is so far gone that the necessary reform is no longer possible. The LC/RC will have to show they are capable of true reform.
Peters then says (skipping over the part I had quoted earlier, out-of-sequence):

I do not know whether the L/RC can (following a complete leadership replacement!) reform itself from within, although I am almost certain that they cannot;

A complete leadership change may be the only thing that can save the LC/RC at this point. Certainly this is how I feel, humanly speaking, although the Holy Spirit could intervene in a way that canonists haven’t imagined. But, assuming most of the current leadership was honestly in dark about Fr. Maciel’s double-life, this speaks to a weakness in LC/RC formation that so many clergy suspected so little for so long. This is not to say they were bad people or terrible priests – only that they appear to lack a certain skill-set needed to exercise prudent governance over a large religious institute.
This is not uncommon among young institutes of consecrated life where one is dealing with leadership known for its holiness (let alone living a double-life). I’ve experienced this at least twice in my career as a canon lawyer. A young institute and its young superior come up with some grandiose ideas, or overlook the obvious. An older priest, with several years of priestly experience before joining the institute, jumps in points out what’s being overlooked, or otherwise brings some common sense to the discussion. Older priests can help guide a young superior of a young institute through sensitive pastoral issues, temper and focus the zeal of younger newly-ordained priests, and put bishops as ease knowing there is someone with experience keeping an eye on the new institute.
The problem with the current LC/RC superiors is that none of them kept an eye on Fr. Maciel. This is not surprising. Abusers cannot bear close scrutiny, which would threaten their access to victims. Fr. Maciel reportedly handpicked his superiors. Not surprisingly, he often named young priests who lacked practical pastoral experience. Which is why most Catholics would feel more confident about a reform of the LC/RC if Rome stepped in directly.

and I do not know whether Maciel developed an authentic charism for clerical, religious, and lay life, but I have serious doubts that he did.

And now the question of charism. The reason orthodox Catholics have struggled so deeply with the crisis, in fact the reason there are such strong feelings of anger and betrayal, is that the LC/RC’s good works have been visible to us for so long. But looking back in retrospect, so too have the institutional signs of Fr. Maciel’s double-life. How does one reconcile such a stark contrast?
Normally, an institute’s charism is tied to its founder and its good works. However, the two don’t match in this case. Some argue that the LC/RC’s founding charism was fraudulent from the start. Others argue that God used Fr. Maciel as His imperfect human instrument. In reflecting upon this dilemma, attempting to reconcile these questions in my own mind, I stumbled across the biography of Saint Rafael Guízar Valencia.
Saint Rafael was Fr. Maciel’s uncle and the bishop who oversaw most of Fr. Maciel’s seminary formation prior to dismissing his nephew from the seminary. Saint Rafael exemplified many of the Christian virtues LC/RC attempt to emulate as members of their movement. In fact, his life story reads like a blueprint for the LC/RC’s good works, and LC/RC members in past have recognized his influence in the founding of their movement.
Perhaps – and this is highly speculative on my part – Saint Rafael is the true spiritual founder of the LC/RC movement, and the instrument used by God to transmit its charism. It’s something for LC/RC members to pray about.