Catholics for Renewal

Subtitle

Book Reviews
5. The Passion of the Bureaucrats: Two book reviews by Tim Parks, 29 March 2016

Two related book reviews by Tim Parks,  London Review of Books, 18 February 2016

Avarizia: Le Carte che Svelano. Ricchezza, Scandali e Segreti della Chiesa di Francesco by Emiliano Fittipaldi  Feltrinelli, 224 pp, €14.00, December 2015, ISBN 978 88 07 17298 4


Merchants in the Temple: Inside Pope Francis’s Secret Battle against Corruption in the Vatican by Gianluigi Nuzzi, translated by Michael Moore Holt, 224 pp, £24.99, December 2015, ISBN 978 1 62779 865 5

Full Review, London Review of Books, Here

Edited Extract: The Passion of the Bureaucrats

‘Most blessed Father,’ five international auditors wrote to Pope Francis on 27 June 2013, three months into his papacy, ‘there is an almost total lack of clarity in the accounts of both the Holy See and the Governorate.’ The letter goes on:

    This lack of clarity makes it impossible to establish a proper estimate of the real financial position of the Vatican, whether as a whole or with regard to the single elements of which it is made up. It also means that no one can really consider themselves responsible for its financial management. All we know is that the data we examined indicates a seriously negative trend and we deeply suspect that the Vatican as a whole has a serious structural deficit.

Six days later the letter, which continues with some scathing criticism of the Curia’s administrators, was part of the documentation for an emergency meeting addressed by Pope Francis himself. In a move some complain is typical of his style of management, he used the occasion not to solicit advice, but to announce a decision he had already taken: the formation of an ad hoc committee to study the economic and administrative structure of the Vatican. Dubbed ‘Cosea’, the committee would have eight members, one of whom, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu (52, French), is now president of IOR, the Vatican bank, while another, Monsignor Lucio Balda (55, Spanish), is in a prison cell charged with leaking the documents that form the basis for the two books under review.

Cosea lasted ten months, fighting an increasingly poisonous battle with the various elements of the Curia as it struggled to obtain the information that might afford a clearer picture of what goes on in the Vatican. Since the Curia was overwhelmingly Italian and clerical while seven of the eight-member Cosea were foreigners and five of them laypersons, misunderstandings were inevitable. To make matters worse, the one Italian on the commission was also the only woman (it’s surprising there was a woman at all), and probably the least likely to get on with the elderly cardinals and monsignors. Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, born in Calabria to an Italian mother and a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, was just thirty at the time of her appointment, a PR expert with a degree in law and a remarkable ability for making influential friends. Pope Francis said recently that he isn’t quite sure how she came to be on the commission, but believes she was recommended by Monsignor Balda. Chaouqui is now charged along with Balda of leaking information to journalists, while the Vatican magistrates accusing her of this have made public some embarrassingly compromising text messages that the two exchanged while serving on the commission. ‘You need to fuck,’ Chaouqui writes in one message. And in another: ‘You should try my cousin. She’s squishy.’ It would be hard to imagine a better set-up for a soap opera..........(full review Here)

4. Joy and Hope - Pilgrim, Priest and Bishop, by Pat Power

David Lovell Publishing, 234 x 153 mm 240 pp pb, ISBN 9781 86355 158 8 rrp 24.95                   
PO Box 44, Kew East VIC 3102, tel +61 3 9859 0000,   [email protected]

Reviewed February 2016 by Rose Marie Crowe

Bishop Pat Power is the de facto voice of the Catholic Church in Australia. For over thirty years as bishop, he has articulated the position of the church from a profound commitment to the principles of Vatican II, applied to every sector of society. The media recognise in him a credible source and readily appeal to him to speak to social justice issues as they arise. His viewpoint, offered in simple but direct language, is often received with relief as a beacon of commonsense and hope.

Joy and Hope: Pilgrim, Priest and Bishop, a compilation of Pat Power’s speeches, articles, letters and autobiographical reminiscences, is published on his retirement at the age of 70.  It is difficult to believe that Pat has reached this venerable age, because he projects a youthful exuberance, a love of life, of all people, and of his church. It is this inherent joy that impels him to speak out in defence of marginalised people in every conceivable form of deprivation. A lifetime of outreach is chronicled in these pages.

Here is Pat’s own list of concerns: the mentally ill, the homeless, prisoners, AIDS victims, drug addicts, the unemployed, victims of sex abuse, the young and their families, people with disabilities, refugees, single parents, victims of domestic violence, the poor, homosexual people, divorced and remarried people, women, Aboriginal people, Palestinians, Muslims, Tamils, cleaners, care for the planet, inter-faith relations and church reform.

The list, though surely exhausting, is not exhaustive: there is always room for one more needful person or just cause. Bishop Bill Morris, in his foreword to the book, tells us that Pat “feels deeply the ills of the world, and equally deeply its intrinsic goodness.” What is clear is that Pat speaks, not of issues, but of people - more precisely, with the persons on his list - face-to-face in “a conversation over a meat pie”, as he describes it, as well as with local, national and international groups and associations representing them.
   
Pat knows a lot of people; he has been in the same patch from childhood, growing up in Queanbeyan and serving in the Canberra area throughout his public life. He is still in touch with his “humble roots” among the migrant communities that his parents welcomed and assisted. His father’s Irish ancestors were transported to Australia in the early 1800s and his mother’s migrated from Lebanon a few decades later—“for a better life”, he quotes her as saying. Pat credits this grounding in compassion, learned in so-called “Struggletown”, as one of his motivations for becoming a priest.

Ordained in 1965, Pat was imbued with the newly-minted spirit of Vatican II, a life-long influence that has fuelled his sustained and intrepid advocacy for church reform. Pat cites authoritarianism, clericalism, compulsory celibacy, its teachings on sexuality and the lack of women in leadership as obstacles to the true mission of the church—“a more human church, humbler, reflecting  the person and teaching of Jesus;  a universal, all-embracing church engaging with the modern world… So often I have lamented that it is the opposite, deciding who is in and who is out, or who is worthy.”  

To this end, Pat has written impassioned letters to three Popes addressing the of plight of priests—their decreasing numbers, the overload of work, the vast distances they are meant to traverse; the impact this has on the people who are being deprived of the sacraments.  He does not speak in abstract terms; he gives instances of real cases, real anguish.  “I cannot remain silent or passive in the face of their predicament.”  Similarly, Pat wrote to the Nuncio decrying the lack of consultation in the selection of bishops. He does not tell us if he ever received replies.

Gentle in manner, Pat can be hard-hitting when ‘speaking truth to power’, as exemplified in his letter to George Bush when the US President visited Australia in 2003. “I appeal to you today to demonstrate to the Australian people and to the world that you are a man of peace. Up to now, you have shown yourself to be more intent on issuing threats, on wreaking revenge and on waging war.” Pat has also faced the wrath of John Howard over immigration policy. These are some of the advantages of living in the nation’s capital.

On the subject of women, Pat asserts that “the church will continue to be impoverished and only half-graced and half-alive while women are deprived of their significant voice.”  He sees the subject of the ordination of women in the context of a re-examination of the whole structure of priesthood.  Pat has a rich association with women, beginning with his mother and sisters, the various groups of religious sisters and other women’s groups with whom he has worked, and his long-time friend, Geraldine. He acknowledges their influence on his character and on his career.

Pat feels in himself the crisis in the church and in the world. His courageous interventions have not been without cost. He admits to “having exhausted myself in opposition to the war”, and to being “in trouble with the Vatican at various levels.”  One of his chapters is entitled, “Caught in the crossfire.”    Yet he maintains optimism in the changes he sees developing and the ways in which the people themselves are driving reform.  It is incontestable proof of the Spirit of God at work.

Pat calls himself a ‘pilgrim’ as one not standing still but constantly called to move forward; a ‘priest’ as one bringing the Good News to his people; and a ‘bishop’ as one entrusted to be a leader and defender of his flock. We could add ‘prophet’ to his title, as one who sees reality and where it is leading, and who fearlessly and relentlessly urges us to look and see and speak out. In the process, Pat has given us a voice
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3. A History of Loneliness, John Boyne

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26, 325 pp. Review by Timothy P Schilling, 2 December 2015. Commonweal. Extract and link to  Review

A quarter of the way through John Boyne’s novel A History of Loneliness, we find the book’s narrator and main character looking for a seat on the train. Fr. Odran Yates is a young Irish priest on his way to visit a friend. The packed train confronts him with the dismaying possibility of having to stand for the next two and a half hours, but he quickly sees the advantage and disadvantage of being a priest in Ireland in 1980. The advantage is the deference his collar summons: several passengers, including a pregnant woman, offer him their seats, and one man insists on buying him lunch. The disadvantage is unwelcome attention: he’s not hungry, and watching eyes keep him from speaking freely with the woman across from him.                How times change! Later in the novel, we find the same Fr. Yates being interrogated in a police station in 2011—his reward for having tried to help a lost child in a department store. Thirty years on, in the era of the sexual-abuse crisis, his collar calls up doubt and hostility as quickly as reverence. In this changing environment, Fr. Yates struggles to make sense of his own calling.......(more)  Photo:Comonweal

2. 'A Question of Conscience', Fr Tony Flannery CSsR

Published by Londubh Books, Dublin, 2013. Extended Review by Peter Johnstone, 10 April 2015

Fr Tony Flannery shares the story of his unjust removal from ministry as a Catholic priest, involving unjust and unchristian decision-making by the leaders of the Church established by Christ. Fr Flannery has clearly questioned his conscience in his behaviour, at all times informed by the teachings of Christ. Those very teachings were not reflected in the Curia’s dealings with him and indeed condemn the Church practices of injustice, secrecy and lack of accountability that permeate the treatment of Fr Flannery........See full review

1. Pope John XXIV, John Cogley 

Self-published through CreateSpace Publishing (South Carolina), 2012 (Paperback, also available as Kindle e-book), Reviewed by Peter Johnstone, 10 January 2015

A novel by John Cogley, Pope John XXIV, has recently come to our attention. Written somewhat prophetically before the election of Pope Francis, Pope John XXIV is the story of the unexpected election of a panic stricken but ultimately revolutionary pope who rekindles the expectations of the Second Vatican Council, doing so at the expense of antagonising powerful interests. The novel provides an informed but entertaining discussion of the grave issues facing the Church................. See full review.