Welcome, readers and friends, to the first edition of The Pillar in your inbox.
Here’s a reminder of how this works:
At The Pillar, we’ll publish news and analyses on our website throughout the week. On Tuesdays and Fridays, we’ll email you a newsletter with links to what we’ve published, along with a look ahead at what else we’ll be covering, bits of commentary, and links to some of the things we’re reading.
This means you can look at our site every day, or, if you prefer, you can wait for the newsletter to come to you and then choose what you want to read.
Some newsletters will be written by me, and some will be written by my colleague, Ed Condon.
If you’re new to newsletters, trust me, you’ll get used to ours. I think you might even like it. It might seem hard to believe now, but someday soon you’ll look forward to hearing from me in your inbox. It’s plausible that some of you will look forward to hearing from Ed, too. Time will tell.
Let’s get started.
A word of gratitude
First, thank you for signing up for The Pillar, and thanks for telling your friends. Our launch day sign-ups were more than double what we expected, and we’re very grateful. Your support means we can spend time on the kind of investigative journalism the Church needs.
Investigative work takes time: We won’t publish investigative stories every day, but we’ll always be working on them, and we’ll publish analysis, explainers, and interviews at the same time. Thanks for your support.
What we’re writing
On Monday, I wrote about who Joe Biden might appoint as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. Because Biden has campaigned on his Catholic identity, the president-elect’s relationship to Pope Francis is of real importance to him, especially as he faces criticism from bishops in the U.S. Here’s who might be the front-runner for Vatican ambassador, and why Biden and the U.S. bishops will want different things from Pope Francis in the next four years.
Also on Monday, Ed took a look at what an administrative move by Pope Francis means for Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, whose role at the Vatican has changed dramatically over the last 18 months:
Parolin’s department has been stripped of its most jealously guarded portfolio, and the cardinal has seen his power and influence hobbled, and publicly.
To understand the sea change which Una migliore organizzazione represents, it is worth recalling that it was the Secretariat of State, under Cardinal Parolin and then-Archbishop Angelo Becciu, who fought Pell’s early push for centralized accounting and auditing procedures to a standstill, successfully cancelling a planned external audit of all curial departments and pointedly resisting, under claims of the department’s sovereign prerogatives, efforts to account for the very assets of which it has now lost control.
The Roman curia is often compared, not always unreasonably, to a renaissance court in how it functions. And in any court, the power of the purse carries real weight; weight Cardinal Parolin - long touted as a leading contender in a future conclave - clearly no longer has.
The head of the German bishops’ conference has called for the Church to bless same-sex couples, ordain women, and sanction inter-Communion with Protestants — all while calling himself a conservative. This morning, Ed and I took a look at what the heck is going in Germany, and why 2021 could be the year it all comes to a head.
Later today, we’ll publish an analysis of the war on covid vaccines being waged by a certain subset of Catholic pro-life advocates, in defiance of guidance from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the USCCB, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and numerous diocesan bishops. Don’t miss it.
On the pod
The Pillar Podcast is our weekly discussion of the news, especially the news of the Church, from a Catholic perspective.
On our inaugural episode, Ed and I talk about how and why the defunding of the Vatican Secretariat of State could impact the Vatican-China deal, an agreement between Rome and Beijing on the nomination of Chinese bishops. We also discuss the controversy brewing over the coronavirus vaccine, and the problem with dissenting Catholic voices, whether from the left or the right.
Nb., podcast listeners: I am given to understand from your voluminous feedback that during this week’s show, I referred to actress Patricia Richardson as Patricia Arquette, and that Ed was incorrect: Neither Patricia Richardson nor Patricia Arquette appear in the movie “Christmas with the Kranks.” I’d like to pretend that such a mistake won’t happen again, but it probably will - celebrity trivia is the part of the crossword puzzle I need to use Google for every week. Get used to it.
We want to hear from you
As we begin The Pillar, we want to hear from you - tell us what you like and what you don’t like. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Ed at email@example.com.
Also, in case you don’t know much about the late Jared Lorenzen - the Hefty Lefty - here’s a nice tribute to him I read the other night. I’m not sure why I was thinking of him, but, man, for a 375 lb quarterback, the man could run.
And here’s an essay you might enjoy from Tony Woodlief, on why we should ban school recitals.
Finally, today is the memorial of St. John Neumann, the only male U.S. citizen to date to be canonized a saint. Here is a short reflection Pope St. John Paul II gave in 1979 at the tomb of St. John Neumann.
Be assured of our prayers for you, and please pray for us.
Yours in Christ,