Monday, April 28, 2014

The Other Half of the Humpty Dumpty Equation

In my last posting I mentioned my reservations about the timeliness of the double canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.  I fear that the canonization is not on the respective merits of the two popes, but is a “too little, to late” attempt to heal the growing potential schism in the Catholic Church between the extreme left and extreme right wings.  John XXIII and John Paul II have each been mythologized to represent one or the other polar end of the Catholic spectrum, but whether declaring them each to be saints is a way to bring those two ends back into harmony and mutual respect—well, I appreciate the effort but I don’t expect it to be successful.  To illustrate my point, one of my friends mentioned that in his Baltimore Parish yesterday, a parish that represents a far more liberal perspective than most, there was great to do about John XXIII and no mention of John Paul.   On the other hand, the New York Times today mentioned a Brooklyn parish where all the attention was given to John Paul with almost no note of the Pope who called Vatican II.   I know in my parish, there were pictures of the two popes on Sunday bulletin and holy cards with their pictures together distributed at the doors as people left, but no mention in the homily or prayers of the canonization. And while people took the holy cards, they just tended to put them in their pocket or their purse without comment.  For a lot of us middle-of-the-roaders it was a non-event.  We take Vatican II for granted and, with all due respect, John XXIII and John Paul II are, first and foremost, dead.  While their memory may still inspire us to some extent, their influence is over for the 80% of the Church.   
I wrote in the previous posting that the John of history differs significantly from the John of liberal mythology.  Almost all of the changes we associate with Vatican II were actually the work of John’s successor, Paul VI—a far less appealing figure than the jovial John, but a man who had a very clear vision of where and how to bring the Church into the Modern World.  This is not to denigrate John—far from it.  He called the Council and he, much like the current Pope, was an attitude-changer.  He was a good man and a devout man.  I don’t see the “heroic sanctity” in him that sainthood supposedly requires, but then I hardly have—or had—access into the depths of his soul.  And perhaps I set the bar of sainthood too high—it is just that when one is used to Thérèse of Lisieux, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius Loyola, John of the Cross, Rose Duchesne, Bernard of Clairvaux etc, your expectations get rather high.  But who knows?
If John XXIII was a complex character about whom to write, John Paul is an extremely thorny character to assess.  I was living in Rome when he died and when asked by a BBC commentator to give my opinion of his reign, I quoted Dickens: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
It was the best of times.  John Paul was a rock star whose ability to hold tens of thousands enthralled was a powerful tool for evangelization.  You had to admire the man—especially in his prime—not for what he did or said, but for his sheer ability to capture your attention and compel you to give him a hearing.  And then there was the role he played in the collapse of international Marxism.  Stalin once asked “how many divisions does the pope have?” and the irony is that it was this Pope who—according to Mikhail Gorbachev—was the principle player in the collapse of the Soviet empire. 
It was the worst of times.  When it came to the internal administration of the Church, John Paul was both as rigid as the most authoritarian autocrat and as unable to control his own bureaucracy as the most clownish dictator.  He never got his Curia under control and the Curia took on a life of its own with petty monsignors in Rome dictating their preferences in liturgy, catechetics, religious life, ecumenics, and other aspects of Church practice and doctrine to Archbishops and Bishops throughout the world as if it were coming directly from the Chair of Peter.  It led to a lot of confusion as one monsignor would issue a directive contradicting the edict of prelate in another Vatican dicastry.  More seriously, the economic scandals and the gross mishandling of the sexual abuse crisis seriously damaged the Church. John Paul’s  inability to control the Curia was a serious set back to the progress of the Second Vatican Council as the Roman Curia had always seen the Council’s plan for the Pope to share power more laterally with his fellow bishops was a threat to their own power, but the break down in collegiality can not be blamed on the Curia alone.  John Paul himself was determined to keep Church authority centralized in Rome.  Moreover his paranoia about challenges to central authority made blind loyalty to the papacy the sine qua non qualification for new bishops.  The Vatican II Bishops who were not afraid to question everything were replaced throughout the Church by mitered automatons who saw themselves not as heads of the local Churches but as sycophantic lieutenants of the Roman bureaucracy.  This was extremely demoralizing to those in the Church who had bought into the vision of the Council.
Finally it must be said that while John Paul was a man of unparalleled piety, piety must not be confused with holiness.  This does not mean he was not a good pope—he was, in many ways, a great pope.  But sainthood implies holiness and holiness to a “heroic degree.”  Few people possess such holiness: which is somewhat the point of canonizing saints.  The saints show the rest of us to what we should aspire.  They are the “Christian Disciples Hall of Fame.”  Just plain every day virtue is not enough here.  And while John Paul was perhaps the most pious of recent popes, piety is not the same as spirituality, much less holiness.  A good man; a great man—but not an unreservedly great pope nor—in my opinion—a particularly imitable saint.  Nonetheless, they are canonized and hopefully their words and deeds while alive will have much to say to future generations of Christians. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Humpty Dumpty's Challenge--cont.

I have heard it attributed to Rousseau, Diderot, Voltaire and even Mark Twain, but whoever said it, it is one of my favorite axioms: “God created man in his own image and man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment.”  I am constantly amazed at how many people’s “God” is nothing more than a projection of their biases, hopes, dreams, fears, and ambitions.  I am not speaking here of atheists or agnostics or Muslims or Hindus—I am speaking of every-Sunday-in-Church Catholics—sometimes even daily communicants.  They can tell you with great assurance for whom “God” (their deity) wants you to vote, what God wants you to think about Muslims, what his solution is to illegal immigration, and a host of other ideas.  And it is just amazing how God always agrees with them.  There was a day when people were absolutely convinced that God wanted them to take the land that belonged to the Native Americans, keep the black folk enslaved (hear that Cliven Bundy?), and let only White Protestants from Britain, Scandinavia, and Germany come to our shores and become Americans.   For a lot of people, the issues have changed but a God who favors the haves over the have nots is still alive and well—at least in their pious imagination. 
Today the Church canonized Pope John XXIII.  I am not so sure, as I posted yesterday, that that is a great idea.  Don’t get me wrong—I like Pope John.  I remember when he was elected.  I remember when he announced that he was convoking a Council.   I remember when his Council opened.  I remember when he died.  And I have spent hours sitting in Saint Peter’s Basilica in front of the glass casket that holds his remains—an island of peaceful prayer in the midst of the combination Grand Concourse and Tourist Destination otherwise known as St. Peter’s Basilica.  But the Pope John of popular imagination is not the Pope John of historical fact.
John XXIII was a warm and outgoing man.  He was remarkably personable and he stood in stark contrast to the introverted and austere personality of his predecessor, Pius XII.  But he was no liberal and had he been younger and lived through his Council, things most likely would have been remarkably different. 
For one thing, John—unlike the current Pope—loved the baroque trappings of the papacy.  He liked wearing the triple-tiara that his successor, Paul VI, would retire.  He liked the Cardinals decked out in their long (9 yards) trains of scarlet silk and ermine.  His Vatican apartment was over-decorated with red damask walls and heavy gilt furniture that can only be described as “Italian exuberant.”  He liked being carried shoulder high on his portable throne, the sedia gestoria, and he liked the accompanying fans and canopy.  He loved the elaborate ritual of the Solemn Pontifical Mass.  It is highly unlikely that he would have approved of the remarkable changes to the Catholic liturgy enacted under his successor, Paul VI.  He probably would have gone for allowing the readings to be read in the language of the congregation but it is unlikely that he would have permitted the entire Mass to be in the vernacular, much less the dramatic changes in the structure of the liturgy that also marked a major theological shift in the way that Catholics understand the Mass.  Nor would he have favored the dramatic changes in clerical and religious life with priests and nuns wearing ordinary clothes and the dropping of many monastic customs that had crept into the apostolic life over the centuries in favor of a more secular lifestyle.  When it comes to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, John had always been cordial, even warm, to people of other faiths and religions, but how far would inter-faith dialogue have proceeded in pontificate?   I doubt that the Assisi meetings of 1986, 2002, and 2011 that brought a Pope into prayerful dialogue with non-Christian religious leaders would have taken place.  John was always very conscious of his being Pope. One did not meet John on a peer level and while he was very welcoming, he met other religious leaders as his brothers but not as his peers.  Many of the Decrees of Vatican II would have passed his muster—especially Gaudium et Spes, Nostra Aetate, and Reintegratio Unitatis—but others such as Christus Dominus and Lumen Gentium  (with its teaching on Collegiality)  may well not have.  Dei Verbum, on Divine Revelation, may have been significantly different as well as well as Ad Gentes, on the Missionary Activity of the Church.  Dignitatis Humanae with its declaration on the sovereignty of conscience may also have gone further than John would have permitted.  I think the decree Optatum Totius on the formation of clergy might have been implemented very differently under John had he lived than it was under his successor.  The fact is that most of the “liberal” accomplishments of Vatican II were not the work of John XXIII but of Paul VI.  None of this is meant to be a criticism of John—simply the observation that he, like all of us, was a person of his  times and for his times he was forward looking—but he was born in 1881 and he was just short of 78 when elected to the papacy.  It is remarkable that he was as progressive as he was, especially given the intellectual paranoia that pervaded the Vatican in the final years of his predecessor, Pius XII.   
I am not saying that John XXIII was not a good pope—his calling the Council won him a seat as one of the most important popes in history—but I am saying that the John XXIII of popular imagination is not exactly the same man as the John XXIII of history.  What has elevated him to sainthood, I am afraid, is the Pope John of the popular imagination, the Pope of Vatican II and Catholic aggiornamento to balance the ticket with John Paul II, a even more complex (and much more complex) figure to analyze but much beloved by the Catholic-Right-of-Center. 
There was a lot in the newspapers and on the internet about the fact that Pope Francis waived the need for a miracle for the canonization of JohnXXIII—unlike John Paul who had several to spare.  I am surprised that there were miracles lacking for “Good Pope John.”  Back in the ‘80’s—almost twenty years before John was beatified, a friend of mine, the late Father Alcuin Coyle OFM, told me an interesting story.  Father Alcuin had worked for many years at the Franciscan Generalate in Rome and one of his fellow Franciscans was the postulator for Pope John’s “cause.”  The postulator is the person responsible for “pushing” the cause through the various congregations and committees that have to review the evidence and propose the candidate first for beatification and then for canonization.  According to Father Alcuin there were almost two dozen miracles attributed to Pope John but the cause was being held up for “political” reasons—namely that the more conservative pontificate of then Pope John Paul II, was not anxious to advance John XXIII to sainthood as he was identified with the liberal wing of the Church at the very time that John Paul II wanted to correct the Council’s course and steer it in a more conservative direction.  I will be doing an entry on John Paul next and while I don’t have the evidence—other than Father Alcuin’s opinion—that John Paul was not anxious to advance the cause of John XXIII (I won’t go so far as to say he was blocking it, but draw what conclusions you may), I must say that I think John Paul’s canonization is no more opportune than Pope John’s.  However, Pope Francis is Pope—I am not—and so I defer to his judgment.   At the end of the day, we have two new saints. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Can All the Pope's Men Put Humpty Dumpty Together Again?

I must admit that I don't

think this canonization is 

Pope Francis is canonizing two popes this weekend and in all likelihood he will be joined by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for the ceremony.  Two popes honoring two popes.  It is historic moment.  It is also, I believe, a mistake of historic proportions.  I am not saying that the two honorees were not good men—though I do wonder if they possessed sanctity to the heroic degree that sainthood requires—but the canonization is at best the right thing for the wrong reason.  I say at best, because I am not convinced that it is even the right thing. 
I am not the only one who has reservations about this canonization.  The wing-nuts on the left have raised objections to John Paul’s being declared a saint because of how the sex-abuse crisis was handled during his reign, including his own support for the late Marcial Maciel, the disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ.  The wing-nuts on the right object to John XXIII because he called the Second Vatican Council which is responsible for the dramatic changes in Catholicism over the last fifty years.  Personally, neither of those arguments hold much water for me; my objection is that this canonization has nothing to do with the heroic holiness of either man but is a political ploy to try to put together again the Humpty-Dumpty of First-World Catholicism.  I say “First-World Catholicism” as the Church in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is still intact while in Western Europe and North America there are two Churches, both claiming to be Catholic.  John Paul is the mythic hero of the one; John XXIII the mythic hero of the second.  The irony of this canonization is that neither myth is well-founded in history and the tragedy of this canonization is that it is too late for such a symbolic act to effectively restore the unity of the Church. 
In future entries we will look more closely at these two to-be-sainted pontiffs, but first: what do I mean by saying that in the developed world there are two distinct Churches, each claiming to be Catholic?  We can sometimes see this by looking at two adjacent parishes that each manifest a different face of Catholicism.  I will give you an example, though I am blocking the name and town of the parishes other than to say that they are in Fairfax County, Virginia.  A friend of mine is preparing an article for a major journal and while she has given me access to some of her research, I cannot use it until the article is published.  She has cleared this draft, however, and has agreed to let me give some of her conclusions as long as I don’t identify the places. 
Parish A is a parish of 2500 families and comprises two communities: one English speaking and the other Hispanic.  While there are a variety of joint activities—including Holy Week Liturgies—and while there are a number of families that participate in both communities, there are for all practical purposes two parishes meeting under the same roof.  The Hispanic community is exceptionally active with two vibrant weekend liturgies in Spanish, one Saturday evening and the other Sunday afternoon with an average attendance of about a thousand between the two masses. The English speaking community has six liturgies: one on Saturday, four on Sunday morning, and one Sunday evening with an average attendance of about two thousand between the six masses.  The music at the English liturgies is all contemporary music with piano, guitars, sometimes flute, violin, or bass.  The Sunday evening liturgy has a contemporary music ensemble that is particularly good.   There is no Catholic school but an extensive CCD program for about 1500 kids.  There were 35 catechumens or candidates in the RCIA this past year, disproportionately from the Hispanic Community.  There is only one priest assigned to the parish but he has an extensive staff of over a dozen qualified laypersons for religious education, adult faith formation, social justice, youth ministry, liturgy and music. There is also a full-time priest for the Hispanic community.  There is a lay administrator for finances, facilities, etc.  The parish has a particular emphasis on social ministry with outreach to the large immigrant population in the area and to senior citizens.  Cursillo, Just Faith, Little Rock Bible Study and other activities are building blocks of a strong parish community as well as are “work camps” both for older teens and for adults that take parishioners to Appalachia to build homes for the poor.  A ministry to the bereaved includes funeral planners, a “Resurrection Choir” and a team of parishioners who will prepare the luncheon after the funeral if the family wishes.  There is an extensive Adult Faith Formation program with nationally known speakers as well as speakers from Catholic U and Georgetown.  The parish rolls show that parishioners come from 72 different zip-codes, some coming over thirty miles on Sunday and even crossing state lines. 
The parish directly north of parish A, we will call it parish B, has three priests and four lay staff, including the principal of the Catholic School.  The school is noted for a good education and is a draw to the parish.  The pastor handles administration and leaves the bulk of pastoral work to his two associates.  Parishioners participate in a local Catholic food pantry but other than that activities tend to be the more traditional: Legion of Mary, Catholic Daughters, Secular Franciscans, and the Nocturnal Adoration Society.  There is an RCIA program but I was unable to find out how many catechumens or candidates they had this Easter.  About 1500 people attend Mass there each weekend.  There are seven Masses each weekend and three each day.   There is a weekly Sunday Latin Mass but all the liturgies tend to more traditional music and worship style.  There is no Spanish Mass despite a significant Hispanic population in the area.  Funerals are celebrated in purple or black vestments with the traditional Requiem Mass format, though (mostly) in English.  While 80+% of Sunday Mass goers tend to live within a five mile radius of the Church, the Latin Mass does draw some from Washington DC and other nearby towns.   
Parish A respondents said that they see the parish as a community that supports each other in a life of discipleship: service, faith formation, and community all of which came together in Sunday Eucharist.  Parish B respondents said that the primary role of the Church is the Worship of God and that their focus is Sunday Mass attendance (or, for some, daily Mass).  They saw outreach, social ministry, adult education, participation beyond Sunday Mass, etc. as “elective.”  When asked what they expected from a homily, parish B respondents wanted clear teaching on issues of faith and morals; parish A wanted something that was “spiritually uplifting” or “awareness of the presence of the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters.” 
When my colleague polled people at each parish she asked—among other things—had they ever attended Mass at the opposite parish, that is had parishioners of parish A ever attended Mass at parish B and had people from parish B ever attended Mass at Parish A.   About twenty respondents at parish A said that they had once been parishioners at parish B, but had drifted over to parish A because it offered a more stimulating Catholicism.  An additional five respondents at parish A said that they were actually parishioners at parish B to have their children in the Catholic school, but preferred to come to Mass at parish A.  Most of the respondents at parish A said that they would not go to Mass at parish B as it was too “pre-Vatican II.” 
At parish B, a common response was “Parish A is not a Catholic Church.”  when pressed for what they meant, many said that the liturgies at parish A were “too wild,” or that the priests who came in to weekend Masses or the speakers for the adult ed programs were “heretical.”  Six respondents said that they lived in the boundaries of parish A but preferred parish B as it was “more faithful to the magisterium” or because parish A was “too political.”  Despite these two churches being only about seven miles distant from one another, and each having regular parishioners living in the territorial bounds of the other, there is very little flow back and forth between the two parishes.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Another Prelate For Whom Being An Apostle Is An Ill Fit

Cardinal Bertone--just because

Pope Francis wants to rough it, 
why should the rest of us suffer.
Pope Francis decision to live in a two-room suite in the Santa Marta Guesthouse rather than occupy the nine-room papal suite in the Vatican Palace has chided many bishops—not, however, Archbishop Myers of Newark or Bishop Tebartz-van Elst (formerly of Limburg)—into looking at their own living arrangements.  Ironically the papal suite in the Apostolic palace is not as opulent as one might think, and Francis’ rationale for continuing at the Domus Sanctae Marthae (as it is officially known) was not to avoid luxury but to avoid isolation.  Francis compared the papal apartments to an inverted funnel—spacious but with narrow entry—meaning that while the apartments were large they narrowed the pope’s world because living there kept access of people to him highly limited.   Pope Francis wants to have people around him and prefers the more open atmosphere of the guesthouse.
While other prelates have begun—often for some with embarrassment and for others with reluctance—to scale down their princely residences, one brave soul among the College of Cardinals has decided to raise the banner of resistance and flaunt his ecclesiastical princedom right in the face of the Holy Father.  Cardinal Tarcisio Pietro Bertone, SDB, former papal Secretary of State, has taken over two apartments—each somewhat spacious in its own right—in the Vatican San Carlo Palace to create a supreme Vatican bachelor pad for himself.  Bertone was brought in by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 to replace Cardinal Angelo Sodano as Vatican Secretary of State.  Sodano’s administration had been tarnished by allegations of corruption on various levels, most notably failures to deal effectively with issues of clerical sexual abuse and  financial issues concerning the Vatican Bank, and Bertone was seen as a “reform” candidate.  Benedict sincerely wanted to clean up the Vatican mess but was unable to do so as was demonstrated by the episode last year of the papal butler stealing incriminating documents from the pope’s desk to leak them to journalists.  Bertone turned out to have no cleaner hands than his predecessor, however, and had strong ties to Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the former head of the Vatican Bank, who was ousted in 2012.  The bank’s integrity was called into question under Tedeschi’s administration for money laundering and lack of transparency.  Bertone was also anxious to restore Italian control over the Curia and his appointments to key posts tended to advance disproportionately his fellow Italians.   In a similar vein, he also has been accused of a sort of nepotism for having advanced a remarkable  number of Salesians of Don Bosco—the religious congregation to which he himself belongs—to posts in the hierarchy. 
Bertone was considered a quite possible successor to Benedict in the Conclave of 2013 and when Cardinal Bergoglio was elected as Francis I, Bertone “took an early retirement.”  In fact he was pushed out in Francis’ determination to clean out the “old-boys” network in the Roman Curia, a network built in part by Bertone as Secretary of State.  This fall from power delighted Cardinal Sodano whose own forced retirement from the Secretariat of State had made room for Bertone and who never forgave Bertone for his own loss of place.  In fact, as a sort of ecclesiastical Cheech and Chong, both these men tarnished the office once held by such notable Secretaries of State as Eugenio Pacelli (Pius XII), Mariano Rampolla, Dominico Tardini, Amleto Cicognani, and Pietro Gasparri.  But they had all belonged to an age of diplomats and statesmen and a Church had had not only the trappings of royalty but ministers that could equal a Metternich or a Talleyrand or a Pitt.  Of course, what Jesus would think of that is another question, but the above named were all great Secretaries of State.
Having lost his post, Bertone is no admirer of Pope Francis and once his new home is renovated—and will be ten times the size of Francis’ suite—he will be able to look down—literally—from his roof-top terrace on the humble papal hotel room where the Successor of the Apostles sleeps at night.   Now most Cardinals, Bishops, and priests—including Archbishop Myers and Bishop Tebartz-van Elst—do not have a vow of poverty.  Only members of religious orders take a vow of poverty.  The Holy Father is a religious—a Jesuit—and has a vow of poverty.  Cardinal Bertone also is a member of a religious congregation—the Salesians of Don Bosco—and as such has a vow of poverty.  This new 6500 square foot “apartment” is not a shabby home for this son of Don Bosco with a “vow of poverty.”  I wonder what Don Bosco would think of it?  I wonder if that even every crossed the good Cardinal’s mind.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Red Sky in the Morning--More on Francis and Waves for the Barque of Peter

Change is in the Wind
Pope Francis allegedly telephoned an Argentine woman who had written him of her pain at not being able to receive Holy Communion because she is divorced and remarried.  According to the woman’s husband, the Pope told the woman, Jacqui Lisbona, (also known as Jacquilina Sabetta) that she should consider herself free to receive Holy Communion.  This has made the blogosphere light up like the Christmas tree in Saint Peter’s Square—though it is nothing different than what many priests do, and do legitimately. 
One of the less known aspects of Catholicism is what is called the “internal forum” solution.  A priest friend of mine jokes that when they were taught this in Canon Law class, the classroom door was locked and the shades drawn.  This solution is not usually talked about publicly.  Normally it works this way.  A person who would ordinarily be ineligible for Holy Communion presents her or his case to a priest—in most cases one’s confessor.  In the case of a person who is divorced and remarried the confessor would ask:  did you seek an annulment?  If  not, why not?  If you did and it was refused, why was it refused?  Sometimes a person does not seek the annulment for a good reason—they have a reasonable fear of retaliation from their estranged spouse, they have been abandoned and cannot find their former spouse, the parish priest has refused to help them with the annulment process, a family member has intimidated them.  There are all sorts of reasons.  More often they have sought an annulment but were denied it.  Sometimes, unfortunately, their ecclesiastical lawyer has not given the case the attention it needs and the argument, though real, did not stand up in the tribunal; sometimes the reasons for the annulment are legitimate but could not be proved.  Sometimes the ecclesiastical judge is just opposed to the idea of annulments and does not give fair hearings.  I know a case where the wife’s pastor—the priest who had done the wedding—stepped in an interfered simply because he didn’t want it to spoil his record of marriages that last.  When the confessor—or other priest who acts as a spiritual advisor—determines that the marriage could have and should have been annulled had the law worked justly, he will advise the person that they are free in conscience to receive the sacraments.  The point is that justice must be permitted to trump the law.
This solution is not employed lightly.  I must admit that I am surprised the Holy Father called a person from whom he only had a letter and had not spoken with at length.  Of course the letter could have been “quite a letter.”  Nevertheless, it strikes me as unusual—to say the least—that “Father Bergoglio” as the Pope identified himself would take on the responsibility of giving this advice without extensive research into the case.  But he did.  And he is the Pope.  And it is not the first signal that Pope Francis has sent that he wants to see a different approach to the pastoral situation of the divorced and remarried.  Maybe it is time that we give this some serious thought.   After all Pope Francis told us in his Easter homily—as I pointed out the other day—that the Resurrection demands we re-think a lot of things and not be afraid to change.  And history is in the making with this papacy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

More on When Bishops Forgot They Were Apostles

Cardinal Mundelein 

We looked at Cardinal George Mundelein’s grandiose projects in the building of the Seminary at Saint Mary of the Lake in Area, IL—a town that would exchange its name for that of the Cardinal in tribute for the prominence to which Mundelein brought the town by locating his new seminary there.  Mundelein would thank the town for the honor by buying its first fire-engine.
But since we are focusing on episcopal lifestyles and residences in this series, let’s look for a moment at Mundelein’s living arrangements.  I had once heard that the residence of the Archbishops of Chicago had been given to the Archdiocese by a wealthy family but with the stipulation that should it cease to be the archiepiscopal residence, it would revert to the family’s ownership.  In other words, it was sort of on loan to the Archdiocese for an official residence but not actually owned by them.  However, a look at the Archdiocesan webpage about the residence unmasks that legend.  (cf.
The truth is that when Chicago was raised to an Archdiocese in 1880, its new Archbishop, Patrick Feehan, decided to commission a residence suitable for a prelate of such stature.  The residence was built in 1885 and was designed by Major James H. Willet and is three stories of red brick banded by white stone.  The building can be said to be in “Victorian eclectic” style that tries to integrate (somewhat unsuccessfully) architectural features from a variety of earlier periods—in this case Italianate villa and French chateau along with English Tudor.  There are 19 chimneys to suit the many interior rooms and a porte-cochère to allow the Archbishop or his guests to alight from their carriages without the inconvenience of snow, rain, or other inclement weather.  The Archbishop’s suite occupies sections of the mansion’s second and third floor. 
The Fire Truck the Cardinal 

donated to Mundelein IL 
While this house suited Mundelein’s grandiose scale, he—like Archbishop Myers—wanted a country retreat.  And so he built a second mansion on the grounds of his seminary at Saint Mary of the Lake.  Across the lake from the seminary complex, Cardinal Mundelein’s “villa” in red brick was modeled on Washington’s Mount Vernon.  It was a favorite residence of the Cardinal and it was there he died suddenly on October 2, 1939. 
Monsignor John Tracy Ellis (died 1992), the dean of American Church historians, would tell a story of how the Cardinal died under rather shameful circumstances and that how, to avoid an embarrassing inquest in the predominately Protestant Lake County, the body was rolled up in a carpet and driven to Chicago where a friendly coroner could be counted on to mask the circumstances of his death.  I had always taken this story—which admittedly I heard years back second hand from a priest friend who had just returned from having lunch with Monsignor Ellis—at face value. 
The Residence of the Archbishops

of Chicago 

But in checking the newspaper accounts of Mundelein’s death, it was always openly stated that he had died in his villa at the seminary.  The story is often repeated, however, among historians (and gossipy clergy) and I suspect that only an exhumation and examination of the Cardinal’s remains could determine its truth.  I have always subscribed to the dictum that one should “never let the truth spoil a good story,” but alas—as a historian I have to try to get the facts straight even if my interpretation at times is biased.  Too bad—because it is a great story.