Archives for March 2013

Elsewhere: who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?


Pope Francis is a faithful Catholic. Duh. That is his most important characteristic, it says a lot and the faithful are overjoyed! This seems to surprise and disappoint the New York Times who published with the headline: “Argentine Pope Will Make History, but Backs Vatican Line.” They apparently hoped for a non-Catholic who would not “back” the “Vatican line.” So clueless and biased are they.

Being 2 years younger than Pope Benedict when he was elected 8 years ago, many had excluded Archbishop Bergoglio never-the-less as too old. He was below the radar. Except for the Cardinal Electors, at least 2/3 of who voted for him on only their 5th vote.

Jorge Bergoglio had been considered a front-runner as a future pope long ago (2002), well before Pope Benedict’s election. An Italian weekly (L’Espresso) even published a good article about him entitled Bergoglio in Pole Position:

Midway through November, his colleagues wanted to elect him president of the Argentine bishops’ conference. He refused. But if there had been a conclave, it would have been difficult for him to refuse the election to the papacy, because he’s the one the cardinals would vote for resoundingly, if they were called together to choose immediately the successor to John Paul II.

He’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires. Born in Argentina (with an Italian surname), he has leapt to the top of the list of the papabili, given the ever-increasing likelihood that the next pope could be Latin-American. Reserved, timid, and laconic, he won’t lift a finger to advance his own campaign – but even this is counted among his strong suits.

John Paul II made him a cardinal together with the last group of bishops named to the honor, in February of 2001. On that occasion, Bergoglio distinguished himself by his reserve among his many more festive colleagues. Hundreds of Argentinians had begun fundraising efforts to fly to Rome to pay homage to the new man with the red hat. But Bergoglio stopped them. He ordered them to remain in Argentina and distribute the money they had raised to the poor. In Rome, he celebrated his new honor nearly alone – and with Lenten austerity.

He has always lived this way. Since he was made archbishop of the Argentinian capital, the luxurious residence next to the cathedral has remained empty. He lives in a nearby apartment, together with another bishop, old and sickly. In the evening, he himself cooks for both of them. He rarely drives, getting around most of the time by bus, wearing the cassock of an ordinary priest.

Of course, it’s more difficult now for him to move about unnoticed, his face becoming always more familiar in his country. Since Argentina has spun into a tremendous crisis and everyone else’s reputation – politicians, business leaders, officials, intellectuals – has fallen through the floor, the star of Cardinal Bergoglio has risen to its zenith. He has become one of the few guiding lights of the people.

Yet he’s not the type to compromise himself for the public. Every time he speaks, instead, he tries to shake people up and surprise them. In the middle of November, he did not give a learned homily on social justice to the people of Argentina reduced by hunger – he told them to return to the humble teachings of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. “This,” he explained, “is the way of Jesus.” And as soon as one follows this way seriously, he understands that “to trample upon the dignity of a woman, a man, a child, an elderly person, is a grave sin that cries out to heaven,” and he decides not to do it any more.

Reed the entire piece at Brother Bruno Bonnet-Eymard built on that story in his own 2003 piece Gentle and humble anticipation: is a new Saint Pius X coming?.

Review: Jesus of Nazareth – The Infancy Narratives

The Infancy Narratives

Pope Benedict’s latest and final book as pope has been out since Advent. Those of you with a better sense of timing than mine may have already read Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives. Yet it is also fitting to reflect on the story, in light of Lent.

The period is one we know well, of course. Here it is looked at through the lens of the Gospel writers – the historicity, their audience, probable intentions and so on. Pope Benedict guides the reader gently, not too technically, but his deep theological knowledge shines through. This scholarly work remains quite accessible.

For me, it was like a guided tour through the Joyful Mysteries. It has increased my understanding of this period in salvation history and given me new insights on which to reflect. For example, this excerpt from The Annunciation to Mary:

Now, though, it is time to look more closely at the story of the annunciation to Mary of the birth of Jesus. First let us consider the angel’s message, then Mary’s answer.

A striking feature of the angel’s greeting is that he does not address Mary with the usual Hebrew salutation shalom — peace be with you — but with the Greek greeting formula chaĩre, which we might well translate with the word “Hail,” as in the Church’s Marian prayer, pieced together from the words of the annunciation narrative (cf. Lk 1:28, 42). Yet at this point it is only right to draw out the true meaning of the word chaĩre: rejoice! This exclamation from the angel — we could say — marks the true beginning of the New Testament.

The word reappears during the Holy Night on the lips of the angel who says to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy” (Lk 2:10). It appears again — in John’s Gospel — at the encounter with the risen Lord: “The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (20:20). Jesus’ farewell discourses in Saint John’s Gospel present a theology of joy, which as it were illuminates the depth of this word. “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22).

Joy appears in these texts as the particular gift of the Holy Spirit, the true gift of the Redeemer. So a chord is sounded with the angel’s salutation which then resounds throughout the life of the Church. Its content is also present in the fundamental word that serves to designate the entire Christian message: Gospel — good news.

The book is small, closer to a paperback in dimensions and only 132 pages in length. It is nominally broken into 4 chapters with sub-chapters for individual topics:

  • Abbreviations, Publisher’s Note and Forward
  • Chapter I – “Where are You From?”
  • Chapter II – The Annunciation of the Birth of John the Baptist and the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus
    • On the particular literary character of the texts
    • The annunciation of the birth of John
    • the annunciation to Mary
    • The conception and birth of Jesus according to Matthew
    • The birth — myth or historical truth?
  • Chapter III – The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
    • The historical and theological framework of the nativity story in Luke’s Gospel
    • The birth of Jesus
    • The presentation of Jesus in the Temple
  • Chapter IV – The Wise Men from the East and the Flight into Egypt
    • The historical and geographical framework of the narrative
    • Who were the “Magi”?
    • The Star
    • Jerusalem — stopping point on the journey
    • The worship of the Wise Men before Jesus
    • Flight into Egypt and return to the Land of Israel
  • Epilogue – The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple
  • Bibliography

I enjoyed this book and recommend it to everyone with at least a basic knowledge of the events of this period. It is a good book to dust-off and re-read from time to time, in Advent, Lent, or any other liturgical season.

Full Disclosure:  This book was provided to me at no charge by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review. They seek only my honest, real opinion and that is what I give!

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #92)

7 Quick Takes Friday

This week: The latest issue of New Evangelists Monthly is now out. Getting the Sistine Chapel ready. Hopes for the next pope. Struggling with forgiveness. Piers Morgan (professed Catholic) discusses the Church with atheist Penn Jillette. Battling winter (and losing). News from the Convert Journal tech desk.

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New Evangelists Monthly

Issue #3, March 2013, of New Evangelists Monthly is now out! Over 60 faithful Catholic bloggers have contributed their very best pieces from February. Read about a lifetime’s lesson on lying and love, authenticity, baby spacing / longing, Benedict and Bilbo Baggins, Catholic otherness, coexist and temptation, conversion snippets, convicted again, cursing, embracing vocations, envy, families and sacrificial giving, fasting, haunting voices of the past, how to pray, is TARDIS Eucharistic?, it worked, John R. Cash, joyful motherhood, 20 Lenten penances, 40 Lenten activities for kids, libidinistic or religious, marching for marriage, my body isn’t broken, no Vatican III coming, not missed via sobriety, penance primer, “poor me” complex, remembering Papa, silence, singles myth #5, Sister Cecilia Maria, soul improvement, successful blogging, syllabus of errors, the small Church, tilapia and vocation of motherhood!

This monthly “meta-magazine” showcases Catholicism from theology to family life and “everything in between.” Enjoy it now at

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In the Sistine Chapel, much work is underway in preparation for the conclave. This is not a matter of just bringing in some chairs!

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Young adults offer their hopes for the next pope:

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I have noticed more questions lately about forgiveness. It is a very good topic for Lenten reflection since Our Lord and Savior died so that our sins may be forgiven. I wrote about this almost 3 years ago (wow, has it been that long?) in The burden of hate. Father John Bartunek addresses this question well in this interview with Dan Burke:

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CNN brings in a dedicated atheist to discuss the Church with a professed Catholic. The Catholic takes a beating at the hands of the atheist.

On the Catholic side is uber-liberal, Catholic dissident Piers Morgan, so you can probably guess the apparent strength of his (1) faith, (2) obedience and (3) catechesis. On the atheist side there is Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller). Morgan should know when to stop calling himself Catholic when a decidedly non-Catholic does a darn good job explaining the faith to him:

Spotted by Marcel

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How is your winter going? Here in the Atlanta area we have had our cold days, but nothing like that which some people face:

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From the Convert Journal tech desk: Nvidia has released a new graphics card that is essentially a small supercomputer. Specs: 2,688 single precision cores, 896 double precision cores, managed by 14 streaming multiprocessors, 224 texture units, 48 ROP units, all built out of 7.1 billion transistors. This thing delivers 4.5 teraflops (single precision; 1.3 double) all by itself.

While out of my league, it is considered cheap at $1,000 for what it delivers. When I started in the computer world working for Data General in the mid-70’s, our mini-computers had 4k (16-bit “words”) of core memory. You could SEE each memory bit.

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen for hosting this project!

New Evangelists Monthly – March 2013, Issue #3

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7 Quick Takes Friday (set #91)

7 Quick Takes Friday

This week: A tribute to Pope Benedict and his final moments at the Vatican. More on how the papal election, including how some non-Catholic / anti-Catholic folks see it. The security of the papal election. The fundamental option BS, addressed bluntly by Cardinal Arinze. An excellent homily at a funeral Mass. The Dome of Home reopens. We are all certain to perish as we fall off the fiscal cliff, right?

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The See of Peter is sede vacante. Life Teen produced this video tribute to Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI:

As our Holy Father left the Vatican for the final time as Pope:

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Recently I featured aspect several videos on the papal election process (here and here). Father Z has come across 2 more. First (with some minor errors) is this one – more-or-less serious:

Second, this one reflecting on the media / anti-Catholic view (produced by Lutherans, no less – they actually “get it”):

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How secure is the papal election? CNN asked Bruce Schneier to review the process. Bruce is a security expert whom I have followed for years. His conclusion: very secure. He concludes “when an election process is left to develop over the course of a couple of thousand years, you end up with something surprisingly good.” When we learn of the new pope, we can be confident that at least 2/3 of the cardinals voted for him without any “irregularities” effecting the outcome.

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My BS antenna goes up whenever I hear the Universalist “everyone is saved” (or nearly everyone) line. I think that it is false and very harmful (see: Is Hell empty?).

Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was asked to comment on the fundamental option view of mortal sin. In essence, it suggests that it is very difficult (almost impossible) to commit a mortal sin. This hogwash was condemned in 1975 in Persona Humana. Cardinal Arinze does not mince words when asked about it:

Spotted by Father Finigan

Update: Father Z also comments on this video here.

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Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington gave this excellent homily at a funeral Mass a few years ago.

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Near Liverpool, England is the Shrine Church of Ss. Peter, Paul & Philomena (a/k/a The Dome of Home). It was closed in 2008 citing its large size and operating cost. Last March it was reopened in the care of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. This video shows this beautiful church built in 1935:

Spotted by Fr. Z

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Question: if someone offered to pay $1 each and every second toward the national debt ($16,500,000,000,000), how long would it take until it is paid-off? Answer: 505 THOUSAND YEARS.

OK, that is a really long time and we must cut back our out-of-control spending. But the congress is driving us over a fiscal cliff by allowing the radical, deep cuts across the board. Necessary services will be crippled by reducing them to a shadow of their current sizes. This is an emergency of the largest proportions. Drastic action is called for. Right??? Right???

That is all you have heard from one party and their public relations apparatus (the media). Yes, you should be outraged but not because there are significant cuts but because there ARE NOT and what little is happening is making them go berserk. This does not give much hope for any actual spending control. The so-called cuts are in the rate of growth only and are small at that. George Mason University produced this graph showing the actual “impact” of the sequester (again, on spending growth):

Impact Of Sequester

Catholic Lane provides the explanation in Meet Mr. and Mrs. Sequester. Read it and learn the truth.

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen for hosting this project!