28 April 2014

Now Uecker Is Always Charitably in the Last Row

The last row of Section 422 in the upper deck at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are under the pivot of the retractable roof.  These nosebleed seats which are obstructed by the support girder  which sell for $1 on game days have long been referred to as "Uecker Seats", referencing a funny Miller Lite ad in which Uecker thinks that he "must be in the front row."

Now there is a good reason aside from fanatical frugality for fans to choose to sit in the Uecker Seats.  Brian Maughan, a sculptor who has created four bronzes for the Brewers (including a "Mr. Baseball" statue of Bob Uecker) outside of the park created another bronze for the last row of Section 422 with Uecker.

The artwork depicts a smiling Uecker sitting down wearing a blue shirt and tan pants.  The unique aspect of Maughan's sculpture is that it includes an extra seat so that fans can donate to the Brewers Community Foundation and the Make a Wish Foundation and take a photo next to the bronze of the Hall of Fame Brewers announcer.

When the Brewers first thought about having another statue to Uecker in the ballpark, the legendary 81 year old announcer rejected it as he jocularly claimed "I thought that they wanted me to work up there." But it was a project championed by local media movie critic Gino Salomone, who prepared a tribute video for the event. 

Uecker quipped about the Terrace Level spot for the statue: "They had to make sure it was the worst seat."  But Uecker warmed up to the statue by intimating that when he shakes his mortal coils that he might come to rest "up right and above ground."

It is remarkable that a player who played only two of six seasons in Milwaukee (for the Braves before they moved down the Atlanta highway) and left the majors with a .200 batting average merits two statues at Miller Park.  That shows the esteem which Wisconsinites hold for Mr. Baseball.  His honest, happy-go-lucky, jocular personality serves as a great icon for the land of Cheeseheads, brats and brewskies for 43 seasons.

The wisecracking Uecker was one upped by one of his guests at the "Last Row" statue unveiling.  The ceremony included Brewer Hall of Famers Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers, current Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke, several current Brew Crew players, family, friends  et ali.

Bob Uecker [third from R] at the "Last Row" Statue unveiling ceremony April 25, 2014

The statue was unveiled at the top of Miller Park but the ceremony took place on the field.  This allowed Yount  to observe: "God, this is unbelievable. Fifty thousand empty seats. What a ceremony."

Despite the friendly ribbing, the Last Row statue is so popular that the Brewers organization limits access to the "Uecker Seats" statue during the game, so the obstructed view fan can enjoy the ballgame.  The statue is even covered late in the game and afterwards so that fans will egress from Miller Park. For now, pictures are only permitted in the pre-game.

Well, how about that. 

24 April 2014

Celebrating the Heroic Virtues of Pope St. John Paul II

At his funeral in St. Peter's Square in 2005, there were prolonged chants from the multitude gathered for “Santo Subito” (Sainthood Now!).  On April 27, 2014, the Catholic Church  celebrated the canonization of the 264th pontiff Pope St. John Paul II (born Karol Józef Wojtyła) along with the 262nd Vicar of Christ Pope St. John XXIII (ne Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli) in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.

Three American Presidents paying respects to Pope John Paul II, April 2005

Some Protestants bristle at the notion that the Church “makes” saints, as nobody (but Christ) is perfect and that we are all supposed to be called to sainthood in our Christian identity.  Certainly our baptism marks us as part of the Lord’s people and calls us to holiness.  The Catholic Church can recognize, based on investigation and guidance from the Holy Spirit,  that a person is already a saint, definitely in heaven and having led a life of great holiness that is worthy of veneration by the faithful.  Canonized saints are important examples to the faithful of how to live a heroic (not perfect) Christian life.

Pope John Paul II was a remarkable man who wore many hats in his life. He was a Laborer, Thespian, Playwright, Patriot, Priest,  Philologist, Philosopher, Pilgrim, Bishop, Theologian, Sportsman, Scholar, Statesman and Vicar of Christ.  The cause for John Paul II's canonization however  is not premised on doctrinal dissertations, academic accolades or even geopolitical accomplishments.  It is about how John Paul II lived his life to reflect the Christian virtue which still touches the faithful today.

After several years of investigation led by postulator Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints recommended Servant of God John Paul II’s heroic virtue to the Pope. On December 19, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed John Paul II as “Venerable”.  The Church normally requires that one miracle is attributable to intercessions of a Venerable, but the Vatican only investigates possible miracles after a candidate is declared Venerable. These miracles are almost always miraculous medical cures as these are the easiest to verify.

Sr. Marie Simon Pierre
Sister Marie Simon Pierre, a nun from the order of Little Sisters of the Catholic Motherhood in Aix au Province, France, had suffered with Parkinson’s Disease, like John Paul II, for four years. She intensely prayed along with her community for healing through the intercession of John Paul II only two months after John Paul II’s death.  Doctors determined that Sr. Simon Pierre’s neurological symptoms had disappeared inexplicably.  

After the Congregation for the Causes of Saints scrutinized the medical evidence that the healing was rapid, lasting and inexplicable and that is was the result of praying for the Venerable’s intercessions to God, they made their recommendations to the Pope.  On January 14, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI determined that the criteria were met to refer to John Paul II as “Blessed”. Such a beatification is a formal statement from the church that it is “worthy of belief” that a person has some to salvation but is not to be taken as a sign that canonization is certain.  Pope John Paul II was declared venerable on May 1st, 2011.

Floribeth Mora Diaz
In April 2011, Floribeth Mora, a 50 year old  Costa Rican grandmother, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain aneurysm  and was sent home to die.  But on the day of John Paul II's beatification, Mora saw a photograph of John Paul II and the photograph spoke to her saying "Get up" and "Be not afraid".  Remarkably, her aneurysm disappeared that same day. Neuro-surgeons in Rome could not medically explain the disappearance.  This miracle satisfied the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican.

It should be noted, however, that the Pontiff can give a dispensation for the requirement of a second miracle for sainthood, as Pope Francis did for the cause of Pope St. John XXIII, who will share the spotlight with Pope St. John Paul II in the canonization ceremony.  In the case of Pope St. John XXIII, there were calls to make him "Santo Subito" too in 1962 , as well as at the end of the end of Vatican II in 1965, but the Church has waited until today to accord canonization.

The date of the canonization may well have been chosen because it was the 2nd Sunday of Easter, which Pope John Paul II instituted during his Papacy as “Divine Mercy Sunday”, due to his Devotion to St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938).  The vigil mass of the feast of Divine Mercy had just been celebrated at John Paul II’s bedside when he fell into a coma and soon after died.

Pope John Paul II at Auschwitz (1979)
The date of John Paul II’s canonization also occurs on National Holocaust Rememberance Day in Israel and during the March of the Living where people  gather in in  Krakow,  Wojtyła’s home for 40 years, to march between the Nazi death camps of  Auschwitz to Birkenau to remember the Holocaust.  John Paul II had strong connections with the Jewish community in his childhood home off Wadowice, where ¼  of the town’s 8,000 residents were eradicated for anti-Semitic aspirations of Nazi racial purity.  These events strongly influenced John Paul II’s weltanschauung, since during his pontificate, John Paul II made great strives to acknowledge the sin of anti-semitism, especially in the Holocaust, and to strengthen the Church’s relations with the Jewish Community. In May 1998, Pope St. John Paul II gave a formal apology about Catholic shortcomings in the Holocaust in the proclamation "We Remember: A Reflection of the Shoah".   

As a Pole, Karol Wojtyła was shaped by victimization by totalitarian domination, first by the Nazi’s then by the Communists.  We rightly remember the suffering of several million Jews being interned and murdered as part of the Holocaust of World War II, but Nazi Germany intended to eradicate any ‘deviant” culture, which also included non-Aryan intellectuals, Slavs, Catholics, gypsies and homosexuals.  The Nazi closing of Polish Universities came as Polish intellectuals were being slaughtered.  During the Nazi occupation, Polish culture was systematically being eradicated and the Slavs being treated as slaves for the Reich.  

After the Nazi’s invaded Poland, Jagiellonian University was closed and all able bodied males were conscribed to labor to avoid deportation to Germany.  So the young  Karol Wojtyła worked as a limestone quarryman and in a chemical plant.    But the way that Karol Wojtyła reacted to these events was answering the call to the priesthood clandestinely and by participating in Rhapsodic Theater, a clandestine company dedicated to preserve some measure of Polish culture. The group’s concentration on the interplay of personal relationships and the power of the human word had a profound impact on how Karol Wojtyła lived his faith under the domination of the communists and as Pope. John Paul II  fought against his ideological adversaries with the power of the word, sublime yet suggestive symbolism and fostering a sense of connection and community.

After the Second World War, Poland suffered under the domination of Stalinist inspired Communism, which sought to reshape humanity into a Godless existence where the average worker was no more than a cog in the machine.  The communists built Nowa Huta (“New Steel Mill”) on the eastern outskirts of Krakow in 1947 as a Socialist Realist worker’s paradise with everything but a church. The faithful kept erecting crosses which communist officials would tear down.  Eventually the piety of Poles caused the people to want a church to be built, but the atheistic state first refused, then reluctantly agreed to quell unrest only to renege on the understanding  and then crush any dissent.  

Arka Pana in Nowa Huta, Poland
Crucifix at Arka Pana, Nowa Huta Poland
Karol Wojtyła was then Auxilliary Bishop of Krakow who defended the faithfuls’ spiritual cri-de-coeur but who shepherded a compromise with unwilling authorities.  When the Arka Pana (“Ark of God”) Church was eventually built in 1977, prominent features include a 70 meter mast shaped cross and triumphant pose of the crucified Jesus Christ, made from 10 kilos of shrapnel taken from the wounds from Polish soldiers. These elements show the influence of Karol Wojtyła by fusing symbolism with Christian faithfulness, the prominence of the Cross, converting suffering into constructiveness and fidelity to Polish patriotism. 

Then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected Pontiff in October 1977 during the Year of Three Popes.  While Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 454 years and was from a nation behind the Iron Curtain, he was chosen because of his theology.  John Paul II chose as his papal motto “Totus Tuus”, which reflected his Reflected his personal consecration to Mary which was based on the spiritual approach of St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716)—“Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt" ("I am all yours, and all that I have is yours").  In Crossing the Threshold of Hope,  he explained that the “Totus Tuus” motto expressed the understanding that he “[c]ould not exclude the Lord's Mother from my life without neglecting the will of God-Trinity”.  Polish born composer Henryk Gorecki (1933-2010) wrote the choral piece “TotusTuus” in honor of Pope John Paul II’s 3rd visit to Poland in 1987.

From the start of his Petrine ministry until his eventual death from Parkinson’s Disease 26 ½ years later, John Paul II’s message to the faithful was the Lucan exhortation “Be not afraid”.   In fact, John Paul II uttered the phrase three times during his homily at the Papal Inauguration.  This message “Be not afraid… open the door wide to Christ” was chosen as the slogan for his beatification.  

It was the same message that he brought when he first visited his homeland of Poland in June 1979.  The documentary Nine Days That Changed theWorld showed the power that John Paul II message of “Be not afraid” had with the Polish people to instill the dignity of the individual to live out their faith and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, renew the face of the Earth and their land.

The  millions of Poles who flocked to their favorite son's first pilgrimage back to his homeland showed that the faithful were not alone in that officially atheistic state and served as a real retort to Stalin’s taunt of “The Pope! How man divisions does he got?"  Both Lech Walesa, the piously Catholic worker who lead the Solidarity movement (and eventually became Poland’s President), and Vaclav Havel, the less spiritual leader of a free Czechoslovakia, credit the fall of the Iron Curtain to the message “Be not afraid” embodied in John Paul II’s 1st visit to Poland. 

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot  four times at close range and critically wounded in St. Peter’s Square by Mehmet Ali Ağca, a trained Turkish gunman. Many belief that this assassination attempt was a hit job coordinated by the Bulgarian Secret Police with the complicity of the Kremlin.  Yet less than two and a half years later, John Paul II met with Mehmet Ali Ağca and forgave the gunman on Christmas, 1983.

[L] Pope John Paul II shot May 13, 1981, [R] Pope forgives Agca December 25, 1983

Pope St . John Paul II was convinced that Our Lady of Fatima kept him alive during the ordeal where he lost 3/4ths of his blood.  TheThird Secret of our Lady of Fatima can be seen as predicting the assassination attempt on the Pope. The John Paul II’s faith filled connection between his assassination attempt and the visions of Fatima that a bullet from his wounds now tops the golden finery of the Our Lady of Fatima processional statue. 
One of the hallmarks of Pope St. John Paul II’s reign was being a Pilgrim as Vicar of Christ to proclaim Jesus as the Redeemer of Humanity to all the Earth. Frankly, he came pretty close to covering it all.  It is speculated that the curia spent about a fourth of their time planning for and executing his 104 foreign trips to 125 countries which totaled 725,000 miles.  While John Paul certainly visited countries with large Catholic populations many times, he also visited places which had no discernible Christian populations.  John Paul II not only sought to evangelize for Christ, he wanted to foster interfaith dialog. For example, in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on America, John Paul II kept his planned itinerary to Kazahkstan, which is mostly Muslim nation.

At the behest of Pope St. John Paul II, World Youth Days were held every couple of years at rotating international locations. Skeptics certainly questioned in disengaged youth would care about such events, but the youth loved to rally around the Pope and open themselves to the new evangelization.  The vitality of  World Youth Day tradition has not subsided in the loss of John Paul II.  These large conclaves of young people meeting to renew their faithful inclinations echoes how John Paul II loved to channel the energy of crowds in a positive manner to allow people to feel connected in a vibrant and visceral way.

The message of “Be not afraid” was epitomized by Pope John Paul II’s reaction to a musical gift when he visited Los Angeles in 1987.  To demonstrate courage,Tony Melendez, a musician without hands played a guitar song with his feet.  John Paul II was so moved by the performance that he leaped off the main stage to embrace Melendez on the satellite stage.  John Paul II’s spontaneous and evocative human gesture along with his message of how courage gives hope to all continues to touch the faithful..

While Pope Benedict XVI did not formally recognize John Paul II as a martyr in his beatification mass, many feel that the manner in which John Paul II lived with his debilitating disease and how he died with dignity in the Vatican was exemplary.  His final words were uttered in Polish "Allow me to depart to the house of the Father".  John Paul II had run the good race and was not afraid to go home to the Father by extending his life through extraordinary medical procedures for terminal illness.

In addition, Pope St. John Paul II left a large body of theology during his long pontificate, which will have a long lasting influence upon the Church.  These writings centered on phenomology and personalism.  His encyclicals considered Christ the Redeemer, morality in the Splendor of Truth, Mariology in Mother of the Redeemer, the Gospel of Life, and Faith and Reason.  Many feel that Pope St. John Paul II will be best remembered for his "Theology of the Body", which was based on 129 lectures from his Wednesday audiences, which focused on Christian marriage, celibacy and virginity, contraception and the sacrament of marriage. 

The liturgical feast day for Blessed John Paul II will be October 22nd. In the Liturgy of the Hours for that day is part of the Papal Inauguration "Do not be afraid" homily.  The prayer for that day in the Office of Readings is:

O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind. Who lives and reigns.

In Washington DC, the new seminary has dedicated to the now Pope St. John Paul II.  The John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington DC has been converted into a Church and Shrine and will be rechristened the "St. John Paul II National Shrine".

Pope St. John Paul II's example of the new evangelization, his example of forgiveness and fearlessness for standing up for the faith certainly gives the model to “Be Not Afraid” in our own paths toward being part of the Community of Saints.

23 April 2014

Gosnell: The Movie--Trying to Tell the Story of an American Serial Killer Which Strikes Too Close to Home

[L] Ann McElhinney and [R] Phelim McAleer
Last spring, husband and wife veteran filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Anne McElhinney were publicizing their feature documentary Fracknation as the murder trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell was occurring in Philadelphia.  McAleer was amazed at the lack of coverage of a prolific serial killer that murdered two women in botched late term abortions in unsanitary conditions, used a brutal snipping technique to kill a thousand children beyond the legal limit for abortion and also dealt prescription drugs.

Yet the national mainstream media ignored the Gosnell case, dismissing it like a local murder case while lavishing attention on the concurrent Jodi Arias murder trial. McAleer did man on the street interviews in California to learn about what the public knew about sensational murder trials.

As Katherine Graham, the former publisher of the Washington Post, proclaimed: "What we cover and what we don't matter a lot...The power is to set the agenda."  Fox News commentator Greg Gutfeld recently speculated about the reasons why most of the mainstream media (including Fox) did not cover the Gosnell trial closely:

"The reason why they don't do this one is not because the evil is so grotesque.  It's that it's too close to a moral choice they've made.  That's what it's about.  It's not that like, ah it's so hard to do something on this man who butchered babies.  It's because it's too close to the pro-choice mindset."

However, McAleer and McElhinney were so haunted by the Gosnell trial that they backed away from other crowd-source funded projects so as to make a movie about Gosnell.  Yet Anne & Phelim Media encountered more velvet gloved censorship by Kickstarter, which claims to not curate projects but would not allow them to describe their dramatized movie idea as being about a mass murderer who killed a thousand children as it allegedly violated community standards which Kickstart "encourages and (selectively) enforces".  McAleer believes that it is within Kickstarter's right to not facilitate funding but that it should be forthright that it is due to the project matter not a transparent lie about community standards which it does not enforce for sundry other offensive projects.

So they moved their crowd-source funding efforts to Indiegogo, where they have raised $1.2 million  of a fixed target $2.1 million.  If they do not make their designated funding mark by May 12th, the money reverts  back to the prospective investors.

There is already an excellent documentary film 3801 Lancaster, which interviews victims of Gosnell's House of Horrors.  So McAleer and McElhinney want to make dramatized version of the Gosnell story which would run on the Lifetime  Movie Network rather than a feature documentary to reach a wider audience.

 It is easy for seaboard elitists to dismiss a film about Gosnell as just being by religious zealots with pro-life propaganda, which is a touch charge to apply to McAleer and McElhinney. In addition, this dismissive instinct ignores how Dr. Gosnell was a racist as he gave his white patients much better and cleaner abortion services than his clients of color.

A film about Gosnell must also include a political angle.  Former Governor Tom Ridge (R-PA) was elected as chief executive of the Keystone State as a moderate Republican.  The governor's office made it clear that the Commonwealth should do nothing to impede abortion services, so Gosnell's clinic was not properly inspected for 17 years, despite gruesome reports and several deaths. 

Gosnell's clinic was raided because Gosnell was writing prescriptions like a pell mell pill mill for Oxycotin and the ilk.  That raid permitted police to stumble upon an unsanitary abortion butchery, where Gosnell kept severed limbs as trophies.

Hearing the filmmakers promote their project, it is clear that they yearn to tell a compelling true story about a prolific American serial killer and pull back the curtain on details which a progressive public would rather ignore.

If one wishes to help actuate the Gosnell movie project, one can contribute at www.gosnellmovie.com.  Those who contribute $25 will get a DVD of the film.  But the filmmakers also implore people to contribute anything to show that people care.

15 April 2014

Giving The Devil's Advocate His Due-- On the Siri Thesis, Conspiracies, Sede Impeditists and the Canonization of Pope John XXIII

In anticipation of the dual canonizations of Pope Saint John XXIII and Pope Saint John Paul II, I wanted to examine the merits of the men whose heroic virtues the Catholic Church recognizes must be in heaven.

Contemporary memory of Pope John XXIII was that he was a portly septuagenarian  Patriarch of Venice who was elected in 1958 to be a caretaker seat warmer on the Chair of Saint Peter.  Yet “Papa Roncalli” audaciously called for  what became the Second Vatican Council which brought the liturgy into the vernacular. “The Good Pope John” died after a pontificate of just over four years and one third of the way into Vatican II.

That thumbnail sketch of Pope John XXIII’s papacy is simplified but accurate.  Yet it does not explain the apoplectic opposition from some traditional Catholics, who consider “Roncalli” an anti-pope.

To better understand objections by radical traditionalist “Catholics”, I braved the fever swamps of internet intrigue, old school insider catholic baseball as well as historical peculiarities.  I wanted to discern if their counter arguments were persuasive or held merit.

Those who are Sirianists strongly cling to an anomaly associated with the 1958 Conclave.  The College of Cardinals were reduced to 51 electors as Pope Pius XII only held two Consistories (in 1945 and 1953) during his 19 year reign, and many of the participating Cardinals  were quite elderly.  In fact two Cardinal electors died in the Interregnum prior to the Consistory so only 49 Cardinals participated.

On the first evening of the Conclave, white smoke was reported coming from the Sistine Chapel indicating “Habemus Papem”.   Even Vatican Radio announced:  "The smoke is white... There is absolutely no doubt. A Pope has been elected." However, no Pope appeared and after perhaps twenty minutes, the smoke changed to black.

Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, Archibishop of Genoa 
Radical traditionalist postulate that Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, the Archbishop of Genoa and leading conservative papabili allegedly had been unanimously elected  Pope and chosen the name Gregory XVII.  However, they claim that while still in Conclave, Siri’s election was suppressed under duress by grey eminence Dean Cardinal Eugene Tisserant to prevent the assassinations of Iron Curtain Bishops. Some even believe that the Kremlin had imitated a nuclear threat on the Holy See. So  Cardinal Siri supposedly said: "If you do not want me, then elect someone else".   This Siri election was supposedly corroborated by a CIA report, but the pages concerning the event have been lost. Curious that there is confirmation without credible corroboration.

After votes are tallied in a Conclave, an elected is asked if he accepts the election.  If so, he is asked for his desired regnal name.  At that point, he is Pope.  So if the Siri Thesis has merit, the Archbishop of Genoa had accepted and given the name “Gregory XVII”.  Afterwards, the vote was suppressed with threats.

Yet according to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 187: "Resignation made out of grave fear that is inflicted unjustly or out of malice, substantial error, or simony is invalid by the law itself." Hence, Siri was the legitimate pope who was prevented from taking his place– Sede Impeditists– and the succeeding popes were anti-popes,.

The 1958 Conclave remained deadlocked for two more days. Since Conclave proceedings are secret, conspiracy theorists string together conjecture with fragments of “facts”.  According to the intrigue, Cardinal Federico Tedeschini, an 85 year old curial cardinal, was elected as a “transitional pope” but his acceptance was immediately quashed with threats.

Eventually, another transitional pope was sought, but bitter radical traditionalists bemoan that another compromise candidate the Patriarch of Venice Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, an alleged free mason, was elected Pope John XXIII on the eleventh ballot, facilitated by B'nai B'rith (Jewsish Masonic) alleged collaborator  Cardinal Tisserant. Some Sede Impeditists allege that a cabal of free mason cardinals which planned a “satanic coup d’etat” to install Roncalli as the 262nd Supreme Pontiff.

So radical traditionalist Catholics question Pope John XXIII’s election due to the Siri Thesis. Moreover they allege that  Archbishop Roncalli was initiated as a 33rd degree free mason at the Grand Orient Lodge while as nuncio in Paris in 1935 in Paris and participated in the Istanbul Workshops.  This charge hinges on a Mason’s confession 44 years after Pope John XXIII’s election. Of course, any Catholic who knowingly becomes a free mason incurs latae sententiae excommunication.

These supposed free mason allegations are bolstered by charges that the “Good Pope John’s” pectoral cross had symbols similar to masonic signs.  Moreover, Pope John XXIII’s policies of seeking closer relations with the Orthodox and other Christians were deemed  heretical by catholic dissenters as being masonic and may have also been an accommodation to Soviet Communists.  Some Pope John XXIII detractors also question his early associations with Modernist priests and comfort associating with known free masons and socialists.  So if nothing can be proven, this technique smears on a guilt by association.  Such critics will claim that heretics can not be considered legitimate popes.

As a historian, the 1958 Conclave had some interesting elements which makes one wonder.  The 49 electors, with many being curial lends credence to some “palace intrigue”.  Furthermore,  the initial puffs of white smoke combined with confusion in the Sede Vacante Vatican on the first day of the 1958 Conclave was  interesting, but inconclusive.  Allegations of a fifth column or satanic coup d’etat seem like fantastic filaments in a rad/trad yarn.

If one were to believe some sources, Cardinal Siri was elected several times before he finally accepted after an unanimous vote, which was supposedly vitiated by Cardinal Tisserant, who was orchestrating Cardinal Roncalli’s election.  However, if this were the case, why would the election of Pope John XXIII take seven more votes,  including an election of Cardinal Tedeschini, which is then quashed with more threats?  Cardinal Roncalli must have been a simple man kept out of the loop, as he had only packed a small suitcase for the Conclave and expected to quickly return to Venice.

Also, catholic dissenters quote from a Cardinal Tisserant letter in 1977 which claims that the election of John XXIII was illegitimate as it was willed and planned by forces alien to the Holy Spirit.  This is coming from Tisserant, who other sources peg as the eminence gris against Cardinal Siri’s election AND who negotiated the Vatican Kremlin secret concordat in 1962 (negotiated by Vatican envoy Cardinal Tisserant).  These contradictory claims call into credence either the coup claim or later laments of illegitimacy.

Most of the radical traditional condemnations of Pope John XXIII’s reign attribute elements of change in practice (but not in doctrine) which they can not reconcile.  The outreach to the Jews and the Orthodox seem anathematic to people who believe in Catholic supremacy.  These radical traditionals would bristle at altering a jot or tittle of Pope St. Pius V’s one true Tridentine Missal from 1570 and would scoff at the People of God worshiping in the vernacular as they should be saying Mass in the Lord’s language of Latin (sic).

Delving deeper into research to find sources that did not seem shaky, I found other interesting angles on the Siri Thesis.  As for the 1963 Conclave, there were charges that Cardinal Tisserant left the Conclave after Cardinal Siri was elected (again) to speak with members of B’nai B’rith (characterized elsewhere as a Jewish Lodge).  The B’nai B’rith representative announced that persecutions of the Church would begin at once if Siri became Pope.  "Jewish" Cardinal Augustine Bea, SJ is alleged to have dug up dirt on other Cardinals to blackmail them to support Cardinal Montoni . As the story goes, this news caused the Conclave to then elect Archbishop of Milan as Pope Paul VI.  This source does not slander Pope Paul VI as a free mason or a socialist as do other detractors.  

This source cites conversations in 1985 with Cardinal Siri in which Siri denied knowing of anyone leaving the Conclave in 1963.  Yet Siri intimates that he was twice elected Pope, in 1963 which he refused and for the second 1978 Conclave, which Siri supposedly was obliged to refuse to prevent a schism.  Thus the source claims that Pope Paul VI and Pope St. John Paul II were anti-popes. If we choose to believe former Jesuit novelist and biblical scholar Malachi Martin, Cardinal Siri was also elected in the first 1978 Conclave.  Conservative Catholics claim that Siri was elected at four conclaves but never actually assumed the Chair of St. Peter.

This sort of claim is curious.  Pro arguendo, taking Cardinal Siri’s alleged claims at face value, then what happened to his  1958 election?  Cardinal Siri supposedly did not care for Pope John XXIII and despised Pope Paul VI, yet he referred to them as pontiffs.  Surely a conservative Cardinal could have applied Canon Law and either disputed their elections or he could have resigned so as not to be obliged to serve under anti-popes. Yet Cardinal Siri remained as Archbishop of Genoa until 1987.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrecina 
One qualm about Pope John XXIII which does not fit into the convenient correlation category concerns the suppression of the Third Secret of Fatima.  St. Padre Pio was perturbed that Pope John XIII did not release the Third Secret of Fatima as the Madonna requested in 1960.  So in 1963, Padre Pio proclaimed that the Secret was a chastisement that compromise with Communists would allow the devil to infiltrate the Church.

So Padre Pio essentially charged Pope John XXIII with disobedience to the Madonna.  Had the Secret of Fatima been revealed, it is thought that the Catholic Faithful would not have countenanced a concordat between the Vatican and the Kremlin which kept Vatican II documents from expressly condemning communism in return.

There may have been some tension between the two Saints.  Pope John XXIII expressed his private disdain for St. Padre Pio as a straw man. Yet Pope Paul VI, another supposed fellow traveler like Pope John XXIII on the Modernist/Free Mason highway to Hell, brought Padre Pio back into good graces with the Vatican.  It would seem that these anti-popes do not coordinate well.

Reading plethora of scant sources of radical traditionalists on the matter, it seems that they will seize upon anything to confirm their suspicions against Modernism, Free Masonry, Internationalism (the New World Order) and even more sinister conspiracies.  The sketchy sourcing calls into question their conclusions, but their contention is that Free Masons also control messaging in the Church and secular sources would not contradict their corrupted Church conspirators.

I found several striking leitmotifs in the radical traditionalist critique of   “The Good Pope John”.  That very moniker originates from the world-wide affection for the portly pontiff, who was able to be companions to those on the margins.  No where in their literature was any good perceived from (anti) Pope John XXIII’s reign.  Perhaps this should not be a great surprise as most of them condemn all Popes from 1958 onward to be anti-popes.

It is hard to miss the strands of antisemitism mixed into these Sede Vacante and Sede Impeditist conspiracy theories.  The 1963 Conclave smear against B’nai B’rith is classic. Pope John XXIII wanted to improve relations with our Jewish brethren.  Pope John XXIII sought a relationship of mutual respect and mutual understanding with "the relatives of Jesus". Thus, Pope John XXIII referred to himself as “A son of Joseph” which leads some radical traditionalists to speculate if Pope John XXIII was a Jewish infiltrator who ascended to the pinnacle of the hierarchy. So not only do radical traditionalist claim that Pope John XXIII was a free mason, a socialist but also a Jewish infiltrator. It seems that such critics will smear at any cost.

 Another interesting aspect was the reliance that these radical traditional sources had on prophecies and how little focus on scripture.  Their interpretations of events were influenced by the Prophecies of Malachy (a twelfth century saint, but whose prophecies gained circulation four hundred years later), the secret of Our Lady of La Salette (1846) and linkage with the secret from Our Lady of Fatima (1917).  These prophecies of apostasy seem to contradict scripture from the Petrine primacy (Mt 16:18), the promise that Christ will remain with us from age to age (Mt. 28:20) and long held understandings of the Magisterium.  So radical traditionalists would seek prophetic voices over scriptural assurances that the Vicar of Christ will not lead his flock astray or abandon us.

After reading many radical traditional assessments of the Siri Thesis and conspiracies about (anti) Pope John XXIII sound like the fare common on Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM, which Malachi Martin was a frequent guest.  These  challenges to Pope John XXIII parallel conservative critiques and rejection of Vatican II longing for the days of glory epitomized in the Tridentine Mass.  So questioning the authenticity of Pope John XXIII’s election by the College of Cardinals conveniently vitiate any innovations of the Council and their successors without thinking themselves as schismatic.

The shifting narratives of the Siri Thesis (if one believes various sources, being elected but impeded in 1958, 1963 and twice in 1978) along with the ad hominem attacks on Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II sound more like sour grapes than serious charges.

In the end, the Sede Impeditists arguments underwhelm me and do not shake my faith about the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  Ion Mikail Papeca, the Romanian Intelligence chief who defected to the west, makes a compelling case in Disinformation that the Soviets had engaged in prolonged media campaigns to discredit the Vatican, such as the smear that Pope Pius XII was “Hitler’s Pope” despite scores of contemporary evidence to the contrary.  Moreover, there are several instances where Soviet directed agents tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II, almost succeeding in May of 1981.  So Spies in the Vatican is not implausible.  But these Soviet double agents are melded with a cabal of free masons and modernists, which sounds paranoid and merits skepticism unless substantive corroboration is proffered.

Understand that radical traditionalists object to the “aggornamento” (updating) which the Second Vatican Council brought to the Catholic Church which shifted control of the Vatican from a clubby curia and failed to treat the Church like a museum. Hence, attacking the Shepherd to takes them to that place discredits him while driving home their traditionalist message.

The period of time during Pope John XXIII's reign was a time when conspiracies thrived.  Fifty years after the assassination, there have been scores of books about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. So it should be no surprise that during such turbulent times of change and the Cold War that people want to explain the unclear, like the false puffs of white smoke in the 1958 Conclave and fill in the blanks with prejudices and conspiracy theories.

It would behoove believers to examine the heroic virtues of Pope St. John XXIII rather than delve into Sede Impeditist and Sede Vacante fever swamps.  Or as Pope St. John XXIII put it: "The habit of thinking ill of everything and everyone is tiresome to our selves and to all around us."

09 April 2014

Pope Francis' Cri-de-Coeur on Syrian Slaying

Dutch Jesuit Fr. Francis van der Lugt was brutally murdered in Homs, Syria by masked gunman. The septigenarian cleric was beaten by a masked man on the street in front of the Jesuit monastery in Bustan al-Diwan, a Christian portion of the Old City,  and then he was shot twice in the head.

Fr. van der Lugt who was a trained psychotherapist, had spent fifty years living in Syria ministering to disabled people at the Al Ard Center near Homs.  The Center also took in refugees from the Syrian Civil War, but that mission curtailed as the staff fled since they could not ensure the safety of their guests.  Fr. van der Lugt tried to be a companion to those in mental distress and give them as much food as possible.

Fr. Frans refused to be part of the February 2014 UN supervised evacuation of 1,400 people from the city, which had been besieged for a year and a half.  In the Old City of Homs, the Christian population had shrunk from tens of thousands to just 66.  Christians used to make up 10% of the Syrian population before the Civil War, but Christians have been brutalized for their faith during the conflict Fr. van der Lugt reasoned that he was the only priest remaining to minister to his people so how could he leave.

In January, Fr. van der Lugt made pleas through the media that gained world-wide attention to have humanitarian aid sent to the city to feed the starving Muslim and Christian population.

This led to meeting with UN officials to receive aid and hear first hand accounts of the humanitarian trials in Homs. Fr. van der Lugt procured four kilos of kilos of flour a week from a Muslim charity so that he could make bread and distribute half a loaf to the enclaves neediest 30 people.

Besides, Fr. van der Lugt considered Syria to be his home. The Jesuit proclaimed:  "The Syrian people have given me so much, so much kindness, inspiration and everything they have. If the Syrian people are suffering now, I want to share their pain and their difficulties."  Per the priests instructions, his earthly remains will be buried in Syria.

Syrian opposition forces were quick to blame the Bashar al-Assad government for the slaying, claiming that government would be the only ones to benefit from the killing.  Yet Fr. van der Lugt believed that even after eighteen months of being under siege that the opposition was not popular among Syrians.  The amnesty which was offered in January only applied to Syrians.  Thus the foreign fighters who remained in the Old City may have looked askance at one who was not a co-religionist.

Regardless of who was responsible, Fr. Francis van der Lugt was a martyr for the faith. Aside from Pope Francis' cri-de-coeur at his fellow Jesuit's brutal slaying, the Vatican voiced outrage over the killing of Fr. van der Lugt.  Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See declared: "This is the death of a man of peace, who showed great courage in remaining loyal to the Syrian people despite an extremely risky and difficult situation."  Lombardi added that the Dutch priest had offered "the testimony of Jesus to the end." 

Fr. van der Lugt's selfless dedication to his fellow man and openness to serve the Lord even unto death echos the ultimate sacrifice that our Lord Jesus Christ which we will celebrate next week in the Triduum.

07 April 2014

R.I.P. Mickey Rooney -- A Hollywood Childhood Star Who Epitomizes the Boys Town Credo

Mickey Rooney (ne Joseph Yule, Jr), who had been in show business for virtually his entire life, died at the age of 93 in North Hollywood, California. Rooney was a childhood star who starred in over 300 films and television shows. Rooney was honored with two Academy Awards, one for his role in Boystown (1938) and an honorary Oscar in 1983 for fifty years in the movie industry. Rooney also earned an Emmy in 1981 for his portrayal of "Bill" about a mentally disturbed man struggling with deinstitionalization.

Despite his enormous acting talent, Rooney led an erratic off-screen life.   Film historian Jeanine Basinger opined: "Mr. Rooney had talent to burn, and he burned it...He has done everything there is to do in show business, all with equal success, and it might be said, equal failure.” He was married eight times, struggled with substance abuse, womanizing  and gambling.

While some may turn askance at Rooney's messy personal life, it is remarkable how Rooney became an evangelical Christian late in life and continued to share his faith until his passing. In the 1970s, Rooney shared how his Christian conversion occurred in the coffee shop of a Lake Tahoe casino when an angel, disguised as a busboy, whispered "Mr. Rooney, Jesus Christ loves you very much."  After that encounter, Rooney became an active member of the Center for Spiritual Living (a.k.a. Church of Religious Science), founded by Ernest Holmes.

Rooney also relished his relationship with Boys Town, the orphanage in Omaha, Nebraska founded by Servant of God Monsignor "Father" Edward Flanagan in 1917, who is now being investigated by the Vatican for sainthood. The film Boystown was a fictionalized retelling of the "City of Little Men", with Rooney in his first dramatic role portraying troubled youth Whitey Marsh and Spencer Tracy in the role of Father Flanagan.  Father Flanagan dedicated his life to the belief that there is no such thing as a bad boy and the film dramatized the mission.

[L] Fr. Flanagan and [2nd from R] Mickey Rooney reading first draft of Boys Town script (1938)

After Boys Town finished filming in ten days and was quickly turned around for release, MGM movie mogul Louis  B. Mayer wanted to scrap the film because the grim tale of crime and poverty was too different from MGM's typical fair.  Mayer reportedly exclaimed: "It will never sell.  There's no sex. There's no songs."  To persuade the MGM studio head, Rooney retorted: "It's a song of freedom. It's a song of rehabilitation. It's a song of youth, no matter what color or faith you are. It's about praying. It's about living a good life."

Mickey Rooney took great pride in his association with Boys Town as exhibited in 2003 when he was named Mayor For Life at a ceremony in Girls and Boys Town in Omaha.

[L] Mickey Rooney and wife of 35 years Jan Chamberlain at Boys Town in 2003

As Rooney was promoting the Treasure Train (2011), he testified about his Christian faith and spoke with great affection about being the Mayor of Boys Town.

So as we mark Mickey Rooney's passing, it is worth considering the values from Boys Town that there is no such thing as a bad boy and how dedication to Christ can clarify one's life.

Mickey Rooney had his own ideas about his last wish.  In his 1991 autobiography "Life Is Too Short", Rooney ruminated about his short stature.  Rooney wrote: “I've been short all my life. And if anyone wonders what my dying wish will be, they can stop wondering. That will be easy. I'll just tell them, ‘I’ll have a short bier.’ ”

A short bier with a long legacy.