WHO SPEAKS FOR THE CHURCH?
That was the question I have posed in posts on this Blog in June, July, and August of this year. The question keeps arising because we have been ‘treated’ this year to a series of controversies which seem to flow from increasing moves by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, to assert his power in ways which end up putting him in apparent opposition to Pope Benedict.
First, there was the adulation which the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, heaped on Barack Hussein Obama following his inauguration as President of the United States. While L’Osservatore Romano is the Vatican’s means of announcing important writings and decision by the Pope, and thus is assumed by most people to be “the Pope’s newspaper’, actually it is controlled by the Secretary of State. After a lot of Americans complained about the adulation of Obama, the Popes Press Secretary was a pains to minimize the importance of what L’Osservatore Romano had written.
Cardinal Bertone obviously has enjoyed the support of Pope Benedict. He was the Secretary to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was its Prefect. When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope, he appointed Cardinal Bertone his Secretary of State.
Then, we witnessed the Brazilian scandal in which the excommunications leveled in an abortion case by the Archbishop of Recife were denounced at the direction of Cardinal Bertone by a Vatican official only to have the Pope cause to be published in L’Osservatore Romano a denunciation of the denunciation.
Now, the latest scandal revolves around denunciations by the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) of the scandalous sexual affairs of the Prime Minister of Italy, Berlusconi. The problem is that Berlusconi is a friend of the Cardinal Secretary of State, Bertone. As you will read in the article below by Sandro Magister, Pope Benedict has been drawn into the controversy. The Pope has had great admiration for the recent head of the CEI, Cardinal Ruini, whose resignation from office the Pope reluctantly had to accept because or the advanced age off Ruini.
Here is what I wrote on July 11 about this problem:
In my recent post entitled Who Speaks for the Church, I explained that in matters of faith and morals for the Universal Church and the world there is only one voice: the Vicar of Christ, speaking alone or in conjunction with the Episcopal College constituted in a General Council of the Church or united with him in the ordinary magisterium of the Church. I further explained that the Pope views the world “through the prism that is Peter.” In contrast, I explained that the Secretary of State of the Vatican, since he concerned with the relations of the Vatican State with all the other governments of the world views the world “through the prism that is Caesar.”
A perfect example of what can happen when persons, other than the Pope, attempt to speak for the Church in matters of faith and morals. One such person, it would seem from recent incidents, is the Popes’s personal Spokesman: Father Lombardi, S.J. When the Pope made his comment to reporters on his flight to Africa about condoms and AIDS, Father Lombardi the next day gave a different version of what the Pope had said. The result: confusion!
I also pointed out that L’Osservatore Romano is the ‘official’ newspaper of the Holy See and that it is used by the Pope to announce his papal letters, allocutions, etc. But, I pointed out, the paper is under the direct control of the Secretary of State. The Editor reports to the Secretary of State, not to the Pope. So, when the paper recently printed a series of articles laudatory of Barack Hussein Obama and the Obama administration it would have been wrong to interpret those articles as representing the thinking of the Pope; they represented the thinking of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is Cardinal Bertone.
The key to understanding the heart of the problem is, as I said, “The Pope views the world through the ‘prism’ that is Peter, whereas the Secretary of State views the world through the ‘prism’ that is Caesar. In other words, the Pope will always be primarily concerned with faith and morals whereas the Secretary of State will almost always be concerned with geopolitics.
Here is Sandro Magister’s article:
“Avvenire” Has Two Readers Who Don’t Get Along: The Bishops and the Vatican
The newspaper of the Italian bishops is under attack, and its director has resigned. But Church leaders appear to be divided. “Avvenire” is even getting hit by friendly fire. From the secretariat of state
by Sandro Magister
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ROME, September 10, 2009 – In his September 3 letter of resignation as director of “Avvenire,” the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, Dino Boffo denounced the formation of “ecclesiastical factions” at war with each other, stirred up by the controversy surrounding him.
In a letter to the bishops a few months ago, Benedict XVI was even more straightforward: “If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another.”
The fact that there are divisions and conflicts among the Church’s upper hierarchy, sometimes exploding disastrously, is beyond question. The main disagreement over Italian politics today is between the two shores of the Tiber: between the secretariat of state on the one side, and the Italian bishops’ conference on the other.
“Avvenire” is the newspaper of the bishops. But the attack conducted against the private life of its director, Boffo, by the newspaper “il Giornale,” owned by the brother of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been viewed and experienced in opposite ways on the two sides of the Tiber.
For the secretariat of state, the real and proper attack was and is another, conducted by others, by an anti-Catholic force that, in its judgment, is spearheaded by “la Repubblica,” the leading newspaper of the secularist left, and is ultimately aimed at the pope and, after him, his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
On the morning of August 28, Bertone was much more infuriated over an article by the theologian Vito Mancuso in “la Repubblica” than over the simultaneous eruption of the campaign by “il Giornale” against Boffo and his criticisms of the prime minister. Mancuso accused Bertone of sitting obediently at Herod’s table, by meeting with Berlusconi as was scheduled for that day instead of denouncing his lustful lifestyle with the courage of a Saint John the Baptist.
A few hours later, in fact, early in the afternoon of that August 28, “L’Osservatore Romano” came out with a prominent front-page commentary against the article in “la Repubblica,” by its leading commentator, Lucetta Scaraffia, and with only a couple of lines on the whole page dedicated to the offensive by “il Giornale” against the director of “Avvenire,” taken from a statement by the CEI, despite the fact that it was because of this antagonism and not for any other reasons that the meeting between Bertone and Berlusconi had been canceled in the meantime.
Even in the following days, in the thick of the firestorm against Boffo, Cardinal Bertone held firm to this interpretation of events.
For him, the real climax of the aggression against the Church was when “la Repubblica,” on September 1, ran a headline saying that Benedict XVI had intervened personally in support of Boffo, and therefore also of his criticisms of Berlusconi.
In fact, the first and only official Vatican statement on the Boffo controversy was released a few hours later, precisely in order to deny the pope’s involvement in the row. The statement confirmed that only Bertone had expressed solidarity with Boffo, while the pope – according to a parallel statement from the CEI – had limited himself to telephoning the president of the episcopal conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, in order to ask him for “news and perspectives on the current situation,” and to express “esteem, gratitude, and appreciation” for him and for the Italian bishops.
In leafing through “L’Osservatore Romano,” the newspaper directed by professor Giovanni Maria Vian and overseen by Cardinal Bertone, one saw almost no trace of Boffo’s Passion Week. The news of his resignation was given on September 3, in a little column of 22 lines on page 7, under the aseptic title “National office for social communications of the CEI,” reporting nothing more than the statement from the bishops’ conference.
But director Vian was much more talkative in an interview with “Corriere della Sera” on August 31. His words clearly expressed the dissatisfaction of the Vatican secretariat of state with “Avvenire,” because of its “imprudence and exaggeration” in criticizing the government and in lambasting the private vices of the prime minister: “L’Osservatore Romano” had not written a single word on this latter subject, by deliberate choice.
This desire for a relationship of “institutional serenity” with the government in power, whatever it may be, of the right or of the left, is one of the constants of Vatican diplomacy with all countries of the world, dictated by political realism.
But the central administration of the Catholic Church is one thing, and the effervescent national Churches are another, with their bishops, their clergy, their faithful.
Under the presidency of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Italian bishops’ conference had taken control of guiding relations with the political sphere, in full agreement with John Paul II and with his successor Benedict XVI, achieving unquestionable successes. “Avvenire,” directed by Boffo, was the flagship publication of Ruini’s leadership.
But when Ruini left the stage, Cardinal Bertone decided to grasp the helm of Church policy in Italy himself, and said so in black and white in a letter dated March 25, 2007, addressed to the new president of the CEI, Cardinal Bagnasco. The bishops did not at all accept this loss of authority, and since then there has been constant friction between the Vatican and the CEI, which sometimes degenerates into open conflict.
But in the meantime, the CEI has changed. It is no longer the well-oiled machine that it was in its heyday with Ruini.
Cardinal Bagnasco has been faithful in continuing Ruini’s legacy, but he does not have the same authority. The new secretary of the CEI, Bishop Mariano Crociata, quickly showed that he is not up to the role. Currently the CEI has many heads and many voices, which are often discordant with one another. Yet another reason why, from the Vatican, Bertone would be ratcheting up his leadership ambitions, encouraged in this by the politicians, who see him as a more reliable counterpart compared to a CEI that seems uncertain and confused.
It has also been confused in reacting to the offensive against “Avvenire” and its director. Already for months, since the controversy had begun in Italy over the private life of prime minister Berlusconi, the newspaper directed by Boffo had found itself navigating stormy waters. Pressure from the readers, and even more than this from part of the collective editorial board that is the Italian episcopate, had forced Boffo to do what he never would have done with a Ruini in command: preach against the private immorality of the prime minister. The preaching was moderate, respectful, measured out carefully. But this meant it was bound to displease many, because of its excess or lack of vigor, depending on one’s point of view. In the secretariat of state, naturally, the “moralistic” imprudence of the newspaper of the CEI seemed like nothing but a presage of ruin, as the devastating retaliation by “il Giornale” would later confirm.
Experienced at the CEI as an attack on Ruini’s approach, the offensive against Boffo has therefore brought to his defense, on the front lines, Cardinal Ruini himself and his successor, Bagnasco, with the army of that “Church of the people” which Boffo has been extraordinarily effective in expressing and interpreting in the fourteen years of his direction.
But among the cardinals, the bishops, and the clergy, there are also those who kept their distance or immediately called for Boffo’s resignation, despite the fact that the initial accusations against him were quickly revealed to be largely unfounded. Boffo himself raised suspicions by waiting for several days before writing a detailed defense of himself, prior to making an exclusively personal decision to resign, against the wishes of the president of the CEI and apart from any request by the pope, which he never made.
By the end of September the leadership board of the CEI will appoint his successor, who will probably be Domenico Delle Foglie, a Ruini man through and through. In part because, paradoxically, neither the anti-Ruini camp nor Cardinal Bertone have an alternative candidate of their own.
The article from http://www.chiesa with the background and preliminaries to Dino Boffo’s resignation:
The letter with which, on September 3, 2009, Boffo announced and explained his resignation:
The newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference:
And the newspaper of the Holy See:
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.