Cardinal Marx offers to resign, the other 4th, and it's Pride Month - again

The Friday Pillar Post

Happy Friday friends,

Cardinal Marx offers his resignation

Today, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, announced that he has offered Pope Francis his resignation in response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis in Germany.

The cardinal, who is 67, said he offered the pope his resignation two weeks ago as a means of taking personal responsibility for the “for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades.”

Marx did not offer to resign as a cardinal, nor as a member of Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinal Advisors, which is responsible for the reform of the Vatican constitution. Nor did he offer to resign as head of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.

Pope Francis has not yet accepted the resignation, the cardinal told the press on Friday. Read the whole story here.

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It’s June, which means the USCCB spring meeting (virtual) is upon us. While all the talk has been of Eucharistic coherence and the debate and vote on drafting a possible document on the subject for a future meeting, there is a lot more to be discussed.

Yesterday, JD did a look across the whole agenda and highlighted the other issues up for discussion by the bishops.

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A bit of a row has broken out north of the border, where some Catholic schools in Ottawa and Toronto are flying the rainbow flag for Pride Month.

The bishops are not too happy about the situation, but it turns out there is little they can do because of the unusual situation of Catholics schools in Canada. You can read the whole story here.

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With Congress set to receive a report this month from national intelligence agencies about the government’s knowledge of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” expect UFOs to be in the news a fair bit. 

We got a jump on the subject, and asked a Biblical scholar about a book arguing that some passages of the Old Testament could be read as “close encounters.” His answer: “Uh, no.”

But there was a lot of other interesting stuff, too. Read the whole thing.

On Tuesday morning, JD led his newsletter with a real-time update on the new Book VI of the Code of Canon Law. 

The promulgation of a revised penal code for the Latin Church was basically our Super Bowl, so we followed up on the event with our overview of the whole affair.

If you’re looking for probably the most comprehensive summary and assessment of the changes made by Pope Francis this week, JD and I put together a run down of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” of the Church’s new laws.

One change which caught my eye is a rewording of the crime of simulation of a sacrament. In the new version of penal law, an ipso facto excommunication is applied to “both a person who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive the sacred order.” 

Some have argued that, while the Church teaches definitively that priestly ordination is reserved to men alone, it might be theologically possible to separate the unified sacrament of holy orders and allow for the valid ordination of women as deacons. The new wording of the canon seems to close that loophole for argument. 

My suspicion is this was done to slam the door on any German bishops who might be feeling bold enough to try forcing through an “ordination” of lady deacons — something Germany’s synodal path has already called for —  after last month’s blessings of same-sex unions went unanswered by Rome. 

Also this week, we reported on a move by the Australian state of New South Wales to centralize the management of cemeteries, and shut out the Church from the care of Catholic graves.

Certainly from the outside looking in, it seems like an outrageous land grab by local authorities designed to put up the price of burials and kill off the Catholic charitable trust which was, frankly, shaming the other providers by doing too well.

Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher was clear in his assessment, warning that some government officials would prefer to stop burials altogether in favor of universal cremation and dig up existing cemeteries to free up the land for development.

“The brazen disregard for people of faith and their works does not bode well for the manner in which the government may deal with Catholic funerals and graves in the future.”

Old News

Some of you might recall that, on Monday, we reported that some of Pope Francis’ recent financial reform laws are being treated with very little urgency by the Secretariat of State and APSA. 

Officials at the Vatican state department have, apparently, taken to referring dismissively to the prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy, Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, SJ, as a “half-Pell,” and the level of cooperation is said to be worse than ever.

We waited in vain for a direct comment or response from the Holy See press office on that story. But there was a release this week from the Holy See’s own news service which may have been meant as an answer in kind.

On Wednesday, Vatican News reported on a change to the IRS website, which now lists the Holy See and the Vatican City State among “equivalent jurisdictions for financial security and customer due diligence.”

“The Vatican is now listed among the jurisdictions that have financial security verification rules that comply with the best international standards,” Vatican News rather breathlessly reported. 

The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking this was important news, which conveyed the probity of the Holy See’s financial institutions following recent scandals and reforms. But if you poke under the hood, something rather different shakes out.

The substance of the reported change, that the IRS’ Qualified Intermediary System now includes the relevant financial institutions of the Vatican, was actually published by the IRS in 2019 - prior to the current round of financial scandals. The new “news” is that the IRS changed its website around.

Moreover, the QI designation only applies to the relevant Vatican institutions, which in this case would seem to be the IOR, probably the most (if not only) credible financial body the Vatican has. It does not apply to APSA, and certainly not to the Secretariat of State.

That the Vatican’s own news service is pushing out reports on years’ old stories, which even when new weren’t a big deal, as evidence of progress amid a rolling financial scandal is something like the PR equivalent of clutching at straws. But let the reader decide. 

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The Other 4th

Today is, as you may have noticed, June 4. It is not a date that means much to people in the West, but it is the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. 

Traditionally, the only part of Chinese territory where memorial demonstrations have been permitted is Hong Kong. Last year the local HK government tried to suppress the public gatherings, usually held in the city’s Victoria Park, citing concerns over the coronavirus. Many of them took place anyway.

This year, authorities have indicated they will be much less tolerant of anyone publicly marking the state’s killing of hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989. 

The National Security Law, imposed on Hong Kong by the mainland government last year, which heavily restricts the rights of free speech and assembly, has been invoked, and local police have said they will deploy upwards of 7,000 officers to prevent people gathering for annual events like a candlelit vigil. 

Authorities have warned that anyone dressed in black, caught chanting a slogan, or found carrying a candle will face arrest for participation in an unlawful assembly.

We can expect the Church to come under sustained pressure during all this. In past years, demonstrators, and those simply looking to mark the solemnity of the day, have gone to Mass, and later sought refuge in churches to escape tear gas and police aggression. 

Already, local media are reporting signs appearing outside Catholic churches. 

This one, photographed by Stand News, carries a picture of bishop-emeritus of Hong Kong Cardinal Zen and reads: “An evil sect is invading the faith, the antichrist of the ages. False prophets spring up in numbers, idolatry is the name, unrest is the fruit — divide the Church, hands filled with blood. The faithful should guard themselves or suffer from the national security laws.”

In this context, we should acknowledge how remarkable it is that the Diocese of Hong Kong not only has a new bishop, but one who acknowledged in his first press conference that he had attended last year’s memorial events, despite the crackdown. 

Pray for him and pray for Hong Kong.

It’s Pride Month, again

As I mentioned last week, I spent some time out of the city in a bid to avoid the plague of locusts currently infesting the Washington area. Arriving back last night, I found the cicadas very much still in situ. 

I also found, thanks to the ubiquity of rainbow flags above every hotel, liquor store, restaurant, and artisanal organic bespoke cupcake boutique, that it is pride month, again. It can often feel as though the annual event now occupies more space in our public consciousness than Christmas. Certainly the season seems to drag on longer and longer each year.

Checking the website for “Capital Pride,” I found that youth pride, trans pride, Black pride, and sundry other bespoke celebrations were actually marked on their own days in May, so the sense that every month is now pride month is not totally in one’s head.

As in previous years, entire sections of major cities will be turned over to open air celebrations of a rainbow of sexual preferences, complete with corporate sponsorship and municipal blessing. 

While the theme of the events is meant to be one of self-assured celebration, I’m always struck by the tone of bitterness and confrontation ever lurking just below the surface.

Survey any pride parade and you will likely see, sprinkled among the leather daddies and drag queens, attendees wearing miters, carrying croziers, and wearing rosaries like Mardi Gras beads. As the last institutional holdout against the LGBTQIA+ celebration’s ever expanding acronym and agenda, a special place is always reserved during pride month celebrations to mock and denounce the Church.

The U.S. State Department got in on the act this year, hanging a banner-sized rainbow flag from its embassy to the Holy See. A petulant act of snide social media performance art by the administration of President Biden. 

What always strikes me is that celebrations around the larger pride parades appear, at times, more wanton than joyous, and the discourse more defiant than proud. It’s worth noting this, especially within the context of the accompanying attacks on the Church. 

What the Church does, and is called to do, is never to condemn a person for who or what they are. Instead, she announces God’s love for all, and she announces the truth that sexual love is meant to be a reflection of the Divine creative image — one which speaks of humanity’s true freedom and happiness, not a mere moralistic norm. 

It is a Gospel which must be announced, in season and out, with all possible care, friendship, and solidarity for those clearly wounded, left behind, and offered little by our society except the appetites of the flesh. 

It is not an easy mission, one ever in need of renewal, and certainly one which the world will not thank us for accepting. But it is something to be proud of.

See you next week, and spread the Good News.

Ed. Condon

Editor

The Pillar