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Holy Beans of history, racial healing, and liturgy stuff

Hey everybody,

Today is the feast of St. Bean, and this is The Tuesday Pillar Post.

St. Bean? Who the —St. Bean?!

Actually, it turns out there are two saints Bean. Our friend of the day was the founding bishop of Mortlach in Banff, which is an ancient diocese of Scotland. You could find it somewhere in the Highlands, near where salmon run from the North Sea into the cold, fast waters of the River Spey.

We don’t know much about good St. Bean. He seems to have been a monk known for holiness, appointed in 1012 as Mortlach’s first bishop by Pope Benedict VIII, at the request of King Malcolm II, King of the Scots.

The other St. Bean was an Irishman, a hermit, from the ancient days of Christianity in Ireland. He either lived on Ireland’s east coast, or in the west. Unless he lived in the country’s interior — people aren’t sure. We know almost nothing about him. But I suspect he’ll pray for us today, along with the sainted Bean of Scotland.

St. Bean of Mortlach

All ye holy Beans of history, pray for us!

In the news

We’ve got some liturgical stuff for you this week:

First, we talked with the creators of a new missal about what Vatican II says about music in the liturgy, and why it matters what we sing at Mass.

Also, this new missal, from Source and Summit, has a beautiful etching of the archangel Gabriel on the cover.

Why does it have the archangel Gabriel on its cover? Well, that’s a pretty funny story, actually.

Read it here.

Next: If you’re a liturgy nerd, you already know that the Holy See published Postquam summus Pontifex on Friday, which outlines a revised process for the approval of translated liturgical texts, including the change from a recognitio to a confirmatio.

If — like me — you are NOT a liturgy nerd, well, you might have no idea what that last sentence was all about.

Here’s the deal — back in 2017, Pope Francis said he wanted to change the process by which the Vatican approves translations of texts for liturgies, which are actually translated by bishops’ conferences in countries around the world.

A decree last week spelled out those changes, essentially requiring less Vatican involvement in the actual translation process before a text can be approved.

We break down all the nuts and bolts, and, even if you’re not a liturgy nerd, this is pretty interesting — The Vatican’s guide to how a text becomes an official translation.

Here’s some stuff that isn’t about liturgy:

The founders of a new Catholic apostolate say they aim to help the Church take a lead on conversations about race and racism, while inviting people to pray and fast for healing and unity.

The Before Gethsemane Initiative aims to promote prayer and fasting, education and difficult conversations as the road to repentance for those who inflict racism on others, and forgiveness for those who have experienced it.

Addressing racism “is really, ultimately, about a change of heart in all of us. And that’s not going to come apart from God,” one board member told us.

Read about the project here.

And finally, the Holy See announced on Friday that it is brokering a plan to help a debt-ridden Catholic hospital in Rome retain its Catholic identity, even after it was purchased by a for-profit healthcare group.

If you follow the Vatican financial scandal closely, you’ve heard of the Fatebenefratelli Hospital already.


Because Gianluigi Torzi, who is now standing trial in the Vatican City State for fraud, is also under investigation in Italy, for allegedly defrauding the Fatebenefratelli Hospital out of millions. Torzi has actually been embroiled in a number of Italian hospital/fraud cases, and the Holy See has helped to bail out a couple of Catholic hospitals in Italy, so it was probably inevitable that their paths would eventually cross on that front!

Read all about it.

Quick notes

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick will be back in the court room on Thursday, facing three counts of indecent assault and battery. The former cardinal and notorious abuser is alleged to have sexually assaulted a teenager during a 1974 wedding in Massachusetts, and pled not guilty last month.

His hearing this week is called a pre-trial conference. It will probably take 10 minutes. Lawyers for both sides will talk with the judge about whether they’re prepared for trial, whether the other side has been forthcoming with evidence, and whether any motions will be filed. We might hear some discussion of potential witnesses to be called.

And at a pre-trial hearing like this one, some cases resolve in plea bargains. But don’t expect any plea bargain in this case: McCarrick’s attorneys say they’re eager for their day in court, and prosecutors seem keen to have a trial.

A date for the next phase in the process will also be set.

The Supreme Court is gearing up to hear arguments Nov. 1 in a challenge to the Texas law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The court’s decision on the Texas case is expected to deal with issues specific to the Texas law, especially its delegation of enforcement to private individuals, and with the question of whether the federal Justice Department can sue the state of Texas over its law — something the Biden administration is very keen to do.

It is extremely unusual for a case to make its way to the Supreme Court as quickly as the Texas law has. Part of the reason the court is already hearing the Texas case is probably that another case the court is planning to hear, this time on Dec. 1, could dramatically impact how it decides on Texas. In December, the court will hear arguments over a Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

That law is a direct challenge to the “viability standard” established in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, which prohibits states from significantly restricting abortion ahead of the point of fetal viability, which is generally considered to be in week 23 or 24. But the state of Mississippi is arguing that the Supreme Court should overturn both Casey and Roe vs. Wade.

If that happens, the court’s ruling in the Texas case would become a point of interest for legal scholars, but probably seem far less important, because some states, including Texas, would be expected to pass more robust abortion prohibitions.

Will the court overturn Casey? Or Roe? Those are the million dollar questions. I’ve long been skeptical about that possibility — I’ve suspected that even those justices who might be juridically inclined to do so would fear the extraordinary social backlash overturning Roe would unleash. But the court has allowed the Texas law to remain in force — which would have once seemed unthinkable —  and thus far the sky hasn’t fallen, and civil war hasn’t broken out in the Lone Star State, so perhaps my cynicism will be proven wrong.

If Roe were to be overturned, the fierce battles over abortion already taking place at the state level would become even more pronounced. A number of states would be settled one way or another — for or against — but places with divided state legislatures would become the focus of national attention. There is a lot of money in the politics of abortion, and, unfortunately, there is a lot of political gamesmanship on both sides of the issue — ways in which opposition to abortion is exploited for partisan purposes, for example, even by those with little intent to act on the issue. Those things won’t go away if Roe or Casey is overturned — but states will have the opportunity to put a stop to abortion in their territory, as Texas, effectively, has already done.

That would be a step I never expected to see in America, which is part of the reason I remain skeptical that it will happen.

It is not, by the way, entirely insignificant that the court will hear arguments in the Texas case on All Saints’ Day — when many Catholics will be at Mass, in prayer, and when tens of thousands of Catholic school kids will be donning their saint costumes for the day. (If you’re curious, my son Daniel is torn between going as “the kid saint” - Carlo Acutis, or dressing as “probably a knight saint” - by which I presume he means St. Michael the Archangel.)

Just a few days before the Supreme Court hears arguments in the Texas case, President Biden will meet with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace of the Holy See. Because of the court’s docket, and because the U.S. bishops will debate “Eucharistic coherence” next month, the visit will be the occasion of much ink-spillage, and much take-having, from the scribbling and chattering classes.

The pope might speak to Biden about the points on which they disagree — including abortion — or he might not speak much in depth with him at all. Papal meetings with a head of state are customary, and fairly regulated, even when they are not formal state visits, the highest kind of diplomatic meeting between state leaders. This is not a state visit, it is a photo op, an exchange of gifts, and a few minutes’ conversation in the pope’s office.

After the meeting, the Holy See and the White House will say the leaders discussed climate change, poverty, and areas of mutual collaboration, and the Biden team will say repeatedly that they can’t, or won’t, get into the details of the conversation. But whether there will actually be much conversation at all is anyone’s guess.

New York City’s Rikers Island is one of the largest jail complexes in the world. It is also, by many accounts, in chaos — its ordinary levels of bad conditions exacerbated in recent months by staffing shortages and pandemic protocols.

Reports have emerged in recent weeks of areas in near-control of inmates, of overcrowding that sees men and women crammed into cells and sleeping in filth on the floor, of violence and sexual assault against corrections officers, and of insufficient food and medical supplies in the island’s jails.

The city says it’s getting things under control, and lawmakers in Albany have held some hearings. But a guard hospitalized on Friday —after an inmate attacked him, stole his keys, and released other inmates from their cells — suggests that Rikers is not under control, and therefore not safe for the people who live and work there.

In 2019, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn called for Rikers to be closed — and indeed, the city plans to close the place by 2026. But, by many accounts, the place is in crisis now.

It is worth watching whether Brooklyn’s incoming Bishop Robert Brennan, who will be installed next month, will weigh in on the issue.

While the jail is technically just outside the border of Brennan’s diocese, it houses many members of his flock, and many of the people who work at Rikers live in his diocese. And in Ohio, where Brennan lives now, the bishop has been known to offer Mass in prisons, and accompany prison chaplains and volunteers with some regularity. Rikers could become an issue of importance to him.

The Pillar’s cofounder and editor Ed Condon had an excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago, on the mystery of fatherhood:

“My wife and I got used to what we didn’t have, or who we didn’t have, and built the architecture of our life together around the hole, emotionally and logistically. We learned to get on with things, and to settle into what the future we weren’t planning for looked like. We got comfortable. Until the day everything changed.”

“When my wife got pregnant there was a lot of denial along with the joy. It was like an inverted sense of grief. We didn’t tell anyone initially. A lot can go wrong in the first three months. Part of me didn’t want to tell, because everything about my life was about to change. I had barely begun to understand what that meant.”

Read it here.

This is the best story about Texans hunting with falcons that you’ll ever read.

“Of  all the red-tailed hawks that have ever soared on a Texas breeze, only one gets to live in Charlie Alvis’s house, at least during the winter hunting season. ‘My bird has its own bedroom,’ said Alvis, a falconer who’s based in the unincorporated community of Porter, just beyond the northern outskirts of Houston. ‘When I come home at night, that bird comes in the living room with me. We socialize for hours at a time.’”

Finally, one other thing.

Remember St. Bean? The Scottish guy, not the Irish? Well, you might remember that it was King Malcolm II who asked the pope to make the Bean a bishop. Malcolm was succeeded as king by his grandson, Duncan, who was King of Scots from 1034 until 1040.

In 1040, Duncan was killed on the field of battle, in combat with a lord named Macbeth. Little is known about the historical Macbeth, save, of course, for his ambition.

By the way, Kenneth Branagh is one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of all time, but if you prefer Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard), you can watch him as Macbeth here. And if you’re a fan of Magneto, here’s Ian McKellen.

Coming up this week and next from The Pillar: Follow-up on our reporting from the Diocese of Cleveland, some Halloween treats, something on the Knights of Malta, and more previews of the U.S. bishops’ conference meeting next month.

If you think that reporting is important, and you enjoy the work that we do, become a part of the team — we need you with us. Become a paying subscriber to The Pillar, and share us with your friends.

Be assured of our prayers, and continue to pray for us. We need it.

Through the intercession of Saints Bean,
Yours in Christ,

JD Flynn
The Pillar