Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Who Will Rescue the Fair Damsels in the Vatican Tower?

Cardinal Burke squeezing the
toothpaste back into the tube  
I had planned to switch away from our history of Anglicanism and do a few more entries on Pope Francis and in particular on his appointing the commission of eight cardinals to study the problem of Curial bureaucracy and then, wham, yesterday the issue of the nuns of LCWR opened up again. 
Well, I am not really sure that it opened up again or that it is a carryover in business from the previous regime to the current.  And while I sympathize with the sisters’ concerns—I had dinner with one last evening and heard the frustration—I think I have a somewhat different read on it—and for the following reasons.
First, we don’t know what Pope Francis said or is concerned about—we only know what Archbishop Mueller reported.  We have no statement from the Pope.  Of course we never had a statement from Pope Benedict either, only Cardinal Levada’s estimation of the Pope’s read of the situation, but I think this is even less significant.  Archbishop Mueller met with Pope Francis as has each dicastery head over the past few weeks to bring the new pope up to speed on the issues on his (the dicastery head’s) desk.  I am sure that the Pope had been given ample reports to prepare for this meeting, but still when Archbishop Mueller sits down with several dozen folders the Pope says—“carry on.”  Pope Francis may have had some opportunity to familiarize himself with the particular issues surrounding the LCWR but it is hardly the only item—or the lead item—on the papal radar screen.  Archbishop Mueller, like the other dicastery heads—Secretary of State, Congregation for the Consecrated Life, Congregation for Bishops, Congregation for the Clergy, Congregation for Education, Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Administration of the Vatican State. etc., etc.—is being told to keep on moving on what they have been moving on until further notice.  It would have been surprising for Pope Francis to suddenly say: “kill that project…”  The Pope, so far, only knows what he is being told and has not had time to look into this matter in any detail.  Wait and see.  If you want to be proactive, make sure that the relevant details do get to the papal reading list. 
Secondly, with the projected reforms of the Curia, Archbishop Mueller doesn’t know if he will have a job twelve months from now.  Yes, somebody is going to be sitting in that chair.  But we are expecting a thorough reform of the Curia and that is going to mean replacement of many key personnel with people more akin to the goals and style Francis is setting for the papacy.  How Archbishop Mueller fits into that plan is an open question, especially as he is somewhat of an unknown entity being new in the job himself.  And since he doesn’t yet have a red hat, his job security is less than it might otherwise be.
Thirdly, what if this reform commission looks at the issue of the nuns and decides that there is no genuine problem?  With an American, and an American religious, The Capuchin Cardinal Sean O’Malley, on the panel it is far from out of the question that the LCWR issue won’t get a look at.  How did this complaint in the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith come about when the Vatican visitation of the nuns under the Congregation for the Consecrated Life  gave them a clean bill of health?  Was there some, uh “influence pedaling” there?  Are the complaints legitimate or are the nuns the victims of Vatican Politik? 
And then, not only is Archbishop Mueller’s job under review, but what if—far from it I am sure—the nuns are the victims of some unidentified prelates’ wrath, let’s say someone like Cardinal Law or Cardinal Burke—will their eminences survive the reform commission?  Frankly it is no secret that Law, Burke, and Lori of Baltimore are the evil geniuses behind this campaign.  The word on the strada in Rome is that Law is already in bad odour with Francis.  Supposedly Francis was visibly cold to the Cardinal during the Papal Visit to Saint Mary Major Basilica where Law is archpriest emeritus.  Moreover sources claim that the Pope has made it clear that he wants Law out of the palatial residence he constructed for himself while archpriest.  As for Burke, who knows what his status will be in the reform of the Curia?   All one can say is that Burke in his love for baroque ceremony and pomp is somewhat out of step with the Franciscan papacy.  Time will tell if he has much influence over Pope Francis.  If the sisters have friends with red hats, and they do, this would be a good time to ask for discrete behind-the-scenes help.  
And then, in the end, what is Rome going to do that makes so much difference anyway?  Are the nuns going to have to close down their abortion clinics, turn away from their lesbian ways, give up their worship of Gaia?  C’mon we all know that the charges against them are a bunch of hooey.  Francis commands a deeper love by the American Catholics than Pope Benedict, but while we love him, we love the nuns more. Hopefully Pope Francis is smart enough to have learned the lesson taught me by my first grade nun, Sister Hildegarde: you don’t win a pissing contest with a nun. 

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