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Bishop bowl bets, the news, and your prayers

Hey everybody,

JD Flynn here, and you’re reading The Tuesday Pillar Post.

If you’re like many Americans, you learned this weekend that Super Bowl LVIII will feature next month the Kansas City Chiefs of Missouri, and the San Francisco 49ers of Santa Clara, California.

Of course, if you don’t follow football that closely, you might have thought the 49ers were actually still from San Francisco. You might have even imagined they still played at the cold, windy, foggy, dank Candlestick Park, named for the long-billed curlew, the “candlestick bird,” which once was common on Candlestick Point. 

A long-billed curlew. Credit: Frank Schulenberg/wikimedia. CC BY SA 4.0

But I’m afraid you’d be wrong. For 10 years now, the San Francisco 49ers have been plying their trade in sunny Santa Clara, some 40 miles south of San Francisco.

Now, here’s where things get interesting, from a Pillar perspective. Santa Clara, California, is not a part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Its parishes are instead located in the Diocese of San Jose. For their part, the Chiefs play in Kansas City, Missouri, part of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, not the neighboring Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas.

So when you see bishops betting on the game, as they do customarily do (in a ritual I happen to regard as very corny) expect that it will be Bishop Oscar Cantú making bets for the 49ers, and not Archbishop S. Cordileone of San Francisco. Or at least it should be, if episcopal jurisdiction has anything to do with it.

By my count, by the way, there have been only 11 previous Super Bowls in which neither team played its home games in a metropolitan see — an archdiocese — including the 2020 matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs of Missouri and the San Francisco 49ers of Santa Clara. 

In that year, +Cordileone did place a bet — he wagered Dungeness crabs on the San Jose diocesan football club, and he lost. 

Of course, metropolitan archbishops do enjoy a kind of ceremonial precedence in their suffragan sees, and maybe that includes the right to bet publicly against Kansas City’s Taylor Swift, if anyone would dare such a thing.

Kansas City Chief Taylor Swift, left.

And it’s possible that, like the rest of us, His Excellency assumes that a team named for his city has retained a domicile there.

But now that he knows, if bishops insist on continuing this made-for-TV-news betting custom, will +Cordileone leave the wagering this year to the actual gridiron ordinary to his south? Might he even insist that +Cantú make the wager, putting up whatever kind of food Santa Clara is known for? 

Or is it possible that Bishop Vann Johnston will leave both California clerics in the lurch, and swear off episcopal sports betting press releases altogether?

Enjoy that kind of thing or not, I expect we’ll probably find out. 

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The news

The Holy See announced Monday the creation of a new diocese in China, and the episcopal consecration of its first bishop.

But for the Church in China, nothing is simple. The Vatican says that the decision to create the diocese was made by Pope Francis in April 2023, but the announcement was delayed until Monday, the day of Sun’s consecration. 

Church sources in China confirmed to The Pillar Monday that the redrawn territory was proposed by state authorities and accepted by Rome.

So what’s going on? And what does it have to do with the October expiration date of the Vatican’s agreement with the Beijing government?

Read all about it.

The Oblates of the Virgin Mary have not responded to questions about the status of Fr. David Nicgorski, a priest accused of misconduct in spiritual direction, and of sexually assaulting a religious sister. And Nicgorski has now been accused of hearing confessions in a diocese where he was prohibited from priestly ministry. 

Read the latest.

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The new head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has had a bumpy start after clergy snubbed his appeal to adopt a new uniform liturgy, and as controversial remarks he made two years ago surfaced online.

The video, a 2022 speech, upset some Latin Catholics in India, who felt that the bishop’s summary of Catholic history in India denigrated Latin Catholic missionaries. 

So will the challenges in the Syro-Malabar Church increase, or are they close to abating?

Catholics on social media were abuzz this weekend, after Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby celebrated an Anglican liturgy at a Roman basilica.

But what actually happened? Who can separate fact from fiction, information from misinformation? 

The Pillar can. Check it out.

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The U.S. bishops’ conference told bishops last month that if parishes want to reprint Scripture in bulletins or worship aids, they need to pay USCCB licensing fees for the privilege.

The policy is nothing new — instead, it was a reminder that a loosening of licensing requirements during Covidtide was over, and the conference’s intellectual property policies were back to “business as usual.”

But why does the bishops’ conference charge parishes fees to reprint Sacred Scripture?

It’s not for the money, the USCCB says.

Instead, according to conference staffer Mary Sperry, the licensing fees are meant to discourage parishes from creating worship aids, or “popular participation aids,” in conference parlance. 

“This is not an option that the conference wishes to encourage,” Sperry explained to The Pillar.

Why not? And are the fees a good deterrent? 

Well, to find out, you need to read this. And you should read it, because the bishops’ conference offers some candor on an interesting and somewhat controversial subject which touches every parish in the U.S.

Read up. 

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And while we’re on the subject, let me tell you about another part of my conversation with Mary Sperry, who is involved in the USCCB’s effort to revise again the New American Bible (NAB), the Scripture translation used in liturgies in the U.S.

The project is extensive, involving a large group of scholars, and has been underway for a number of years. Because the translation project impacts the publication of new Liturgy of the Hours translations, there has been considerable interest among Pillar readers in when things will be completed.

Sperry reminded me that Bishop Steven Lopes, chair of the conference’s liturgy committee, told bishops last year that “the goal is to present it to bishops in November.”

“My job is to help them make that date,” Sperry said, with the confidence of a person who sounded like it’s a strong possibility that will happen. “The scholars have done their work,” she added, which suggests to me, at least, that the translation revisions are now being evaluated by committees in the bishops’ conference.

“But of course, we also don’t know how long it will take [the Liturgy of the Hours or the NAB revision project] to come back from the Holy See” with the required Vatican confirmation of the bishops’ work,” Sperry explained.

So, if you were wondering, that’s where that project stands.

And again, read up on the USCCB’s approach to Scripture licensing fees. It’s an interesting view into how the conference thinks through policies and procedures.

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In memoriam

For the last two decades, I’ve told Catholics often that if I ever got into the kind of trouble that required me to get a canon lawyer, I’d call Fr. Paul Golden, CM, JCD.

Well, today, instead, I’m calling on you readers on behalf of Fr. Paul. I’d like you to pray for his soul: Fr. Paul Golden died last week, at 85 years old. 

Fr. Paul Golden, CM. Credit: Denver Catholic/James Baca.

His name is probably not familiar to most of you. Fr. Golden, or “Paul” as he insisted I call him, was a canon lawyer, a religious, and — ordained in 1965 — a priest of his time. 

Theologically,  we agreed on very little, at best. Paul was the kind of priest who spoke often of the “Spirit of Vatican II,” who told me once that Ordinatio sacerdotalis would eventually be rescinded (it can’t, of course), and who had a liturgical bent that tended toward felt banners and earthen vessels. 

As I say, a priest of his time.

I first met Fr. Paul in 2005 or 2006, when I was a canon law student. I got to know him better when I moved to Denver, where he lived. He never shied from debate. 

Still, Fr. Paul didn’t let debate stand in the way of friendship. When I was a young canon lawyer, starting out in Denver, we’d often have lunch, he came to our home for dinner, he blessed my children. He was generous with his time — and to me, generous with his decades of canonical experience, helping me to understand his approach to the law.

He was a believer. Theological disagreements aside, he seemed to rejoice in the love of God. He told me often that he trusted in God’s Providence, and he had an obvious love for Jesus Christ.

What impressed me most about Fr. Paul Golden was his work, for years, as a canonical advocate for priests. In any credible legal system, having good “defense lawyers” is a key part of ensuring integrity and the protection of rights. Fr. Paul was a good one. 

In several cases — often in which I was on the other side — I saw Fr. Paul stand up for his client, but also stand with his client, in solidarity, in a way that quietly affirmed the human dignity of the men he represented, and urged the Church’s canonical system to do the same. I deeply appreciated that. Everyone should want an advocate like that, should they ever need one.  

I never saw Fr. Paul try to beat around the bush. He worked to make sure his clients were treated justly. He didn’t resort to procedural tricks or legal maneuvering — and if his client was plainly guilty, he didn’t try to pretend otherwise. Instead, he set the expectation that, guilty or not, his clients would be treated in accord with the law. You can’t ask for more than that. 

In your charity, pray for the soul of Fr. Paul Golden, and pray on his behalf that justice will prevail in our Church, and in the world. 

Meanwhile, I need to figure out which canon lawyer should become my go-to advocate. Please God, I’ll never need one. 

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Man vs. beast

Before you go, let me give you another bit of Super Bowl trivia.

From my perspective, the best way to break down the Super Bowl is to reduce it to a kind of battle of the team names — they’re almost completely arbitrary, they probably have no impact on the outcome, and no one knows that much trivia about them. 

Still, with a little bit of preparation, you can lay down some ill-informed and ridiculous wagers, and then insist that history backs you up on them.

One way to divide things is between teams with animal names, like the Bengals or the Broncos, and teams with non-animal names, like the Steelers or the Packers.

For clarity, I include the Buffalo Bills among the non-animal named teams, since they’re named for Buffalo Bill Cody, a person. For reasons that confound me, Ed thinks this is wrong, but it isn’t.

I’ve been counting this morning, and here’s what I’ve learned: 

Of 58 Super Bowls, including this month’s, this will be the 22nd in which two non-animal-named teams square off on the gridiron — neither the 49ers nor the Chiefs are animal-named teams, of course.

There have been only five animal-team vs. animal-team Super Bowls in NFL history. That is no surprise, considering that there are only 13 animal-named teams in the National Football League, out of 32 teams altogether.

It is most common to see animal-named teams vs. non-animal-named teams in the Super Bowl. In fact, if you want to make the safest bet on a Super Bowl, bet on a non-animal-named team beating an animal-named team. To date, non-animal teams are 22-9 in those Super Bowl contests. 


Please be assured of our prayers, and please pray for us.

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Yours in Christ,

JD Flynn
The Pillar

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