Friday, March 29, 2013

Who is in charge when there is no pope? Part 5

So the last time I wrote, the pope was hiding in an old tomb overlooking the Tiber, the German Lutheran soldiers of the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor were looting St. Peters Basilica burning Rome and doing things I would rather not discuss in a parish bulletin.

Pope Clement remained a prisoner in the tomb of the emperor Hadrian, also called the Castel Sant’Angelo,  for six months. He bribed some jailers and  escaped disguised as a peddler. When he could finally return to Rome in 1528, it was a depopulated ruin. He did his best to restore it and finally died after eating bad mushrooms in 1534.  The next 250 years the popes were not bad fellows all in all but one gets the impression that the great powers of Europe mostly ignored them. Some were better some were worse, but the bad old days of the secularized papacy seemed pretty much over.  

Around 1600, just when the nation state was really getting popular, the crowned heads of Europe claimed what they called the right of exclusion (jus exclusivae),  a veto by which a crown-cardinal, a personal representative of a Catholic European monarch could block the election of any candidate they did not approve! The royal cretins who ran Europe and most of the world didn’t get to pick the pope, but they could say who they would not accept. I suppose if they didn’t get their way, they would leave the Catholic Church like Henry VIII had done in 1530, taking England with him. 

By 1600, the English, French and the Spanish pretty much owned the world and had the popes over a barrel. Louis XIV was devoutly Catholic. He never missed Mass, nor an evening with his many mistresses, nor an opportunity to wage a pointless war of expansion to ally himself with the Muslim Turks, nor to ignore the pope. Louis had a point when he said “Apres moi, le deluge.”  (Or for the less pretentious “After me, the flood!”) Louis ruled France and the Church in France as an absolute monarch for sixty-four years during which he managed to put his grandson on the throne of Spain, so Louis and his family controlled almost all of north and south America and about half of Europe and a lot of other places. When he died in 1715, he had outlived seven popes. Nobody was afraid of the pope anymore. They were very afraid of Louis. 

The deluge he predicted came in 1788, one long life later. The French revolution and its offspring swept away the monarchies of Europe over the course of the next century, but they didn’t manage to sweep away the papacy, no matter how hard they tried. The years since the American/French Revolution have been an unremitting catalogue of wars. You already know that and the French Revolution and Napoleon tried to abolish the Church in all Europe. I have already explained how they failed. England tried to destroy Catholicism in Ireland in 1650 by means of Oliver Cromwell and war and again in 1842 by the use of mass starvation. They failed.

Germany tried to limit Catholicism after the Prussian takeover of German speaking Catholic countries in 1866 by means of Bismarck’s Kulturkampf,  then went to wars with a re- Catholicized France in 1870. Germany tried again in 1914, initiating the First World War which swept all the monarchies of Europe before it. Those crowned heads that had tried to control the papacy and the Church had by then all separated from their royal shoulders one way or another.  The monarchs were gone, but the tyrants were not. 

The “isms” and dictators of the twentieth century waged unremitting war on the successors of Peter. The only major voice to persistently resist Hitler and the Nazis was that of the papacy, no matter what you’ve heard. Eugenio Pacelli, later Pius XII despised national socialism and worked tirelessly against it. He was credited, in the 1967 book, “Three Popes and the Jews,” by the Israeli historian and diplomat Pinchas Lapide, “...with saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.”  Hitler so hated Pius that he tried to have him kidnapped and deported to Germany where he could dispose of the pope as he pleased. 

“Wait a minute,” I hear you saying, “everybody knows Pius XII was an anti-Semite!” 

Everybody knows that because Stalin, the Marxist dictator of Russia who starved millions of Ukrainians, both Catholic and Orthodox to death, and who tried to erase religion from Russian life as a prelude to erasing it from the world, realized that after the Second World war, the only force capable of resisting the Marxist takeover of Eastern Europe was the Catholic Church. He started a disinformation campaign to discredit the Church, particularly Pope Pius, and infiltrated seminaries and religious institutions, especially in places like Poland. That didn’t work either. Poland  clung to its faith and the Polish pope brought European Marxism and its slave empire to the ground by simply saying, “Do not be afraid” when he returned to Poland in 1979. When Churchill reminded Stalin to consider the Catholicism of Poland, Stalin quipped “Why? How many divisions does the pope of Rome have?” It turns out he didn’t need divisions of soldiers. 

Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro, and all the petty tyrants of the 20th century have tried and failed to control or to eliminate the Church and the papacy. We have a new kind of government in the modern world. We are ruled by the arbiters of fashion in the entertainment and news media who tell us what to think, how to act, whom to marry and whom to elect. Government by Media. I call it the Mediacracy (pronounced mee-dee-AH-kruh-see). They decided that it is time for the Catholic Church to change its ancient beliefs about the sanctity of human life and the nature of marriage. One hundred fifteen cardinals went into a locked room and two days later came out having elected a complete surprise. A man hated by -- guess who -- his leftist government which is trying to turn Argentina into the next Venezuela.

When one looks at the long list of 266 popes,  you can only come up with around ten who were scoundrels, but there are ten times as many popes who are revered for exceptional holiness, 94 certifiable saints among them (78 canonized, 16 beatified, 33 martyrs) and we Catholics are pretty picky about canonized saints.  The so called bad popes were those few who were the result of the desire of the ruling class to control the papacy whether it was Italian duke or German emperor or powerful Roman family. 

Now we have the Mediacracy trying to elect a pope pleasing to it.  Do you for one minute imagine that the mediacracy will give us a holy pope?  From Nero until now, the powers of this world have tried to control the church of Christ and the papacy that Christ established to govern it. Thus far they have failed. I doubt that the rich and fashionable, the sybarites and the media chic who think themselves above the law of Christ and His church will succeed either. 

“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) Christ’s promise has held true 265 times so far. I am confident for the 266th

Viva el Papa Pancho! Viva Cristo Rey!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Who is in charge when there is no pope? Part 4

When last I wrote, I mentioned that much of Europe had managed to throw off the shackles of the papacy with the help of Fr. Martin Luther. They had tried to take over the papacy by means of councils, but that having failed, they just decided to dump the whole notion of the papacy resulting in 128 years of war. It started with the German peasants rising up to slaughter the aristocracy, to which Luther responded by telling the aristocracy to “smite the peasants hip and thigh,” which they happily did,  slaughtering perhaps 100,000 of them. Eventually about a third of the population of Northern Europe died. What pushed them over the cliff?

A fellow named Alfons de Borja from Torreta, near Valencia Spain, did. He had been a professor of law at the University of Lleida and then a diplomat for the king of Aragon.  He was very useful in clearing up the mess at the Council of Basel (1431–1439) in which once again the crowned heads of Europe were trying to make the Catholic Church more “democratic.” For his service to king and church he was made a cardinal.

He was old and feeble and so was elected as a compromise candidate for pope in 1455. This happens when the cardinals can’t figure out whom to elect, so they elect some sick old fellow and start praying the novena to St. Joseph patron of a happy death. Pope John XXIII who convened the Second Vatican Council was such a compromise candidate, who like Alfons de Borja, who took the name Callistus III, would set events in motion that would change the world. I hope the cardinals have learned that old and dying compromise candidates aren’t always the best choice.   

Alfons de Borja changed the world by inviting boatloads of friends and relatives to Rome and giving them high church office. In 1456 Pope Callistus III elevated two of his nephews to the position of cardinal. One was Rodrigo Borgia who later became Pope Alexander VI in 1492. He was so straightforward about his corruption and immorality that it is almost refreshing. He was the father of at least four illegitimate children and possibly ten or eleven. He managed to worm his way into the powerful families of Italy by marrying his children off to the powerful.  Once again the papacy had become the plaything or the powerful families of Rome and all Italy. 

The next pope died after 26 days. Italy and the papacy was squabbled over by the French, the Spanish, the Holy Roman emperor  and all the while the Muslim Turks who had conquered the Eastern Empire and taken its capital Constantinople in 1453 were planning to invade Italy in the chaos and take all of Europe. In the midst of the mess, a most remarkable man was elected to the papacy: Giuliano della Rovere, Pope Julius II, the fearsome (Il Terribile). He reconciled the powerful families of Rome to each other, took to the battlefield personally and drove the French across the Alps, began the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica, hired Michelangelo to paint the Sistine chapel where the cardinals just met to elect the next pope and all in all he saved Rome and the papacy from the vultures who were trying to devour them. He created the monuments that still draw people to Rome and was marvelously played by Rex Harrison in the movie about Michelangelo, (Charlton Heston) The Agony and the Ecstasy a fun film to watch with the children. The next pope however was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, elected Leo X, in 1513 wasn’t even a priest when he was elected pope, but he was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, ruler of Florence and his mother was an Orsini.  The Venetian Ambassador, who didn’t like him said that when he became pope, Leo X said to his brother Giuliano de Medici, “Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it.” He inadvertently sparked the Protestant revolution by his questionable fund-raising practices for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s. Everybody liked Leo. He had no children that anyone knew about, which caused people to wonder why, but he was a great fellow a real generous type, who spent money lavishly, funded the arts, and promoted the Renaissance. Here’s a fun fact: the King of Portugal gave him a white elephant named Hanno, which was a great favorite of Leo’s. Poor Hanno died when the pope tried to feed him gold to cure poor Hanno’s stomach ache. The papacy was once again the plaything of the powerful.

The next pope came from Holland. The Spanish and the French cardinals were deadlocked, so they thought why not elect a non Italian. So they elected Adrian Florenszoon Boeyens as pope Adrian VI the last non Italian pope until Karol Wotyla in 1978. Adrian had been the Holy Roman Emperor’s tutor. This irritated the French and would have made things even more complicated, but Adrian only lasted about a year. He was succeeded, in 1523, by another Medici, (Pope Clement VII ) Giuliano de' Medici, cousin of the late, fun loving Pope Leo X. 

Pope Clement realized what his cousin Leo had not. This German fellow, Luther, was going to be a lot more trouble than cousin Leo had thought. He figured it out the hard way when the troops of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of everywhere from Mexico City to Vienna invaded Italy and his Lutheran army sacked the Vatican and raped and pillaged their way through Rome in the name of religious reform. Clement had to flee for his life down a secret passage to hide out in the Castel Sant’Angelo, a re-configured tomb of a Roman emperor, while the German Lutherans killed most of the Swiss guards. Meanwhile the very Catholic King of England, Henry VIII wanted an annulment in order to dump his Spanish wife Catherine, the aunt of the Holy Roman emperor whose army was occupying Rome. He wanted to marry Ann Boleyn, a bit of a hotsy totsy, who had been raised in the French court. The next time Henry wanted a divorce, he left the Catholic Church and simply cut off Ann’s head. No red tape. This was an era in which religion was a lot more exciting than it is now.

So, in 1527, you have the German Lutherans trashing Rome, the French invading Milan, the Spanish owning Naples, the English joining the anti-Catholic camp and the pope hiding out in a re-habbed tomb.  Could things get any worse? 

Yes. Much worse.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Who's in charge when there is no pope? Part 3

Letter to Sue Quetta continued)

When last I wrote, I had come to the thrilling point in my narrative in which I mentioned Conrad of Wittelsbach, the first foreign bishop to be appointed a cardinal at the same time as he was bishop. As I  mentioned, he was appointed cardinal-priest of S. Marcello in 1165 while retaining his position as Archbishop of Mainz.  The Wittlesbachs were a big deal. They were movers and shakers who soon were to become the royal house of Bavaria which gave them the right to vote for the Holy Roman emperor. Conrad of Wittelsbach was both Archbishop of Mainz and Arch-chancellor of Germany. And what pray tell was the Arch-chancellor of Germany? He was the highest official of the Holy Roman Empire, after the Emperor.   

Now it gets complicated. A family called the Hohenstaufen, whose members had names such as “Henry the Quarrelsome”, had become the most powerful family in the German empire, which was pretty much most of Europe  north of the Alps and east of the Rhine, the other really powerful family was the Welf family. In 1122 along came Frederick  Barbarossa, or as we afficionados of history like to call him, “Red Beard Fred.” His father was a Hohenstaufen and his mother was Welf and that made him pretty much king of everywhere. He was Holy Roman Emperor, King of Germany,  King of Burgundy and King of Italy. It was this last title that caused the trouble. He took it seriously and tried to rule the cities of northern Italy. For the popes this was a little too close for comfort.

The papacy had been dominated by the Byzantine emperors, then the leading families of Rome and for a century the Germans had decided to run the papacy. In 1073, not long before the Hohenstaufen-Welf-Wittelsbach mess, a monk named Hildebrand was elected Pope Gregory VII in 1073. He was determined to keep kings and emperors from running the Church. His fight with Emperor Henry IV, whom he forced to do penance standing in the snow at Canossa, established papal authority in the appointment of bishops and strengthened new canon law making the election of the pope the job of the College of Cardinals, not of any secular authority. 

Somewhere in this mess it seemed like a good idea to involve the Wittelsbachs. I imagine as a counterbalance to the Welf and the Hohenstaufen. Perhaps a better historian can fill me in on this. I would appreciate it. But that’s the atmosphere that resulted in making a distant non-Italian serving archbishop an honorary pastor of the city of Rome and an elector of the pope.

It certainly doesn’t end there, with popes deposing emperors and emperors deposing popes for the next couple of centuries. It all looked like such good fun that the French eventually decided to jump into the fight.

In 1285, a lad of seventeen named Philip inherited the French crown, and he didn’t like the fact that Edward III of England also claimed to be the rightful king of France. War seemed like a good idea at the time. It went on for 100 years, give or take, and wars are expensive. Philip, decided to tax the clergy. This was the last straw for Pope Boniface who was already unhappy with Philip’s anti-clerical policies. Philip responded by deciding to get rid of Boniface. His armies invaded papal territory and when they caught up with Boniface in Anagni, a town about 35 miles southeast of Rome, they beat him up and arrested him. After three days, the local towns people  rescued Boniface, but he was pretty shaken up and died a few weeks later. 

The cardinals then elected someone who managed to live for less than a year, and finally, in fear and trepidation, they elected a Frenchman. Half the Cardinals were French at the time, and the others apparently thought it made good sense not to upset King Philip of France. They elected Raymond Bertrand de Got, who though a cardinal was not at the conclave. He was still in France. He was installed as Pope Clement V in a ceremony held at Lyon in France who started to make his way to Rome very slowly. So slowly, in fact that he never got there. He got as far as Avignon, France which was technically part of the papal territory. The popes stayed in that lovely French town for the next 70 years, appointing French cardinals and doing pretty much what the kings of France told them to do. Finally in 1376, through the influence of St. Catherine of Siena, a great mystic, prophetess and not a lady to be toyed with, Pope Gregory XI decided to return to Rome, where he promptly died.

The cardinals, itching to get back to the safety of France, held a conclave which was surrounded by an Italian mob demanding an Italian pope. They elected the kindly and scholarly Archbishop of Bari, who turned out to be nothing of the kind. The cardinals thought he had lost his mind. He insisted that church business be carried on without the usual fees. Still worse he demanded that cardinals not be on the payroll of secular rulers and he criticized the luxury in which the cardinals lived. Worst of all, he was not going back to Avignon! The cardinals were horrified!  The French cardinals met at Anagni, and declared that they had been forced by the Roman mob into electing Urban VI and declared the election invalid. They then elected Robert of Geneva as pope and skedaddled back to Avignon. Robert of Geneva was the commander of the papal army.  In 1377, he had put down a rebellion in Cesena, Italy where he massacred 4,000 civilians earning himself  the nickname “butcher  of Cesena.” He was the French cardinals idea of a good man for the situation.

There were now two popes, one French and one Italian. This was a pickle. The pope guaranteed the political stability and relative peace of Europe by excommunicating people who wouldn’t play by the rules. Who could excommunicate whom? It was a mess. This situation continued for the next 39 years. In 1409, a bunch of bishops got together in Pisa in an unauthorized Council (only a pope can call a council) and elected a pope, Alexander by name. Now there were three popes. In 1415, Pope Gregory XII (the Roman pope) called the Council of Constance, Switzerland to elect a new pope. He excommunicated the French Pope who refused to step down. Pope Gregory then resigned, thus ensuring the legitimacy of the election, and the Council of Constance then elected Pope Martin V. Some of the participants in the unapproved the council of Pisa and some leftovers from the Council of Constance continued to insist that they were superior to an individual bishop. The monarchs of Europe thought this might be a good thing because the delegates tended to vote in national blocks representing their individual kings. The church narrowly dodged becoming the property of the crowned head of Europe. The authority of the papacy was so weakened by all this nonsense that within 100 years, the monarchs of much of Europe figured how to dump the papacy altogether with the help of a German monk: Martin Luther.

An independent papacy was not such a bad thing, in my estimation. In the middle ages, the popes guaranteed that no one could make war during lent, advent, Christmas, holy week, Easter week, or any feast day of which there were many. They could not kill non-combatants, they couldn’t do all the nasty things that soldiers usually do. They were just allowed to kill one another, and then only at certain times of the year. Holy days of Obligation were also non-war days, and better than that, the peasants got a day off on a holy day. They had Sundays, Holy days, Holy Week Easter week, and the twelve days of Christmas off. Sweet. 

The aristocracy of Northern Europe was happy to dump the mean old pope in Rome who would threaten them with excommunication which meant they couldn’t collect taxes, go to war or work the peasants to death. All that changed with the help of Luther. After the reformation, the aristocracy was able to establish national churches which would allow them to do with their peasants what they chose. They were guaranteed heaven’s blessing and the clergy’s permission, because invariably they paid the clergy’s salary. They could afford to, because they had taken all the church property. The Catholic Church cleaned up its act by electing reformist popes and holding the Council of Trent and eventually struggled back to being the majority religion.

And they all lived happily ever after. 

Not quite. 

You guessed it. I’m nowhere near done. Next week I’ll explain the Defenestration of Prague. Oh boy!

PS. That’s pronounced “dee-fen-eh-STRAY-shun” and I’m not making it up.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Who's in charge when there is no pope? Part 2

(Letter to Sue Quetta continued)

“What,” you may well ask, “is a cardinal, if not a brightly colored bird?”  

A cardinal is the pastor of one of the Cardinal churches of the diocese of Rome, Italy. 

“But,” I can hear you say, “ I thought that cardinals were bishops from all around the world who outranked other bishops.” 

This, dear Sue, is not the case.  The structure of the Catholic Church is actually very simple in its basic design. All the bells and whistles, the cool hats and the great art are human tradition. Nice. Very useful. But very human. St. Peter did not wear a little white beanie. St. Bartholomew, one of the “Twelve,” was probably never called "Your Eminence," and it is improbable that St. Paul, an apostle, though not one of the “Twelve” was never addressed as “Your Excellency,” though he certainly seems to have fulfilled the role of bishop. 

When people hear this they become indignant. “Why should we have cardinals and cassocks and all these things if they aren’t in the Bible?” My answer would be “Why not?” Over two thousand years these structures have developed and proven useful as vehicles for the Holy Spirit. They are changeable traditions with a small “t.” They may be human, but is human so bad when it serves the divine? I rather think that’s the way the Lord has designed things. There are traditions that can change, such the color of zucchettas. There are Traditions which cannot change such as the reality of the Papacy.

It is very clear that Jesus established a government for His Church. It is unfortunate that he had only sinners like the disciples to choose from, sinners like John and Andrew who had tempers so bad that Jesus nicknamed them “the Thundersons.”  (Mark 3:17) Simon Bar Jonah was made “the Rock” (Cepha in Aramaic.)  He more resembled a bowl of caramel flan when he betrayed Christ three times.  And what was Jesus thinking when he made a thief, Judas Iscariot, the treasurer of the group? (John 12:6) Jesus really showed poor judgment in some of his personnel choices.  Let’s not be too hasty. Poor Jesus had only sinners to choose from then as now. Jesus thought that things human were not all that bad. In this He disagrees sharply with the devil, who thinks that the very creation of humanity was a bad decision on the part of the Almighty. 

The art and beauty of the human traditions of the faith draw people to its central message. All of the administrative traditions of the Church have not shaken the Sacred Tradition handed down to us from the apostles even one little bit. God had only weak and sinful people to choose from then and he has only weak and sinful people to choose from now, and he has done a remarkable job with the material he has to work with. 

The world defines hierarchy as a chain of command. They look at the Church through their own foggy lenses. Journalists, who are only as deep as the teleprompters they read, are pretty much clueless about the nature of the faith, but we still make the mistake of paying attention to them. They will tell you that the Church is like an army, you’ve got your pope, your cardinals then your archbishops, bishops, monsignors priests, deacons, and at the bottom of the heap, doing all the work are the nuns. No one can quite figure our what a monk, a brother and a friar are. The people of God are just supposed to pray, pay and obey. The pope gives an order and it filters down to the mass of the faithful and 1.2 billion people are expected to obey without thought or hesitation. One morning, the pope gets up in a bad mood and says, “From now on, no jelly beans on Thursday!!!” And bang! Jelly bean sales plummet and there are riots in the jelly bean manufacturing centers of the world. 

If only this were so! I remember a few years back when a bishop who will remain nameless removed the tabernacle from the main body of his old and much loved cathedral and replaced it with an organ and choir stand. The bishop was an organist. The people of the unmentioned city begged him not to do it and the Vatican repeatedly asked him not to do it. His response to the Holy Father’s pleas on behalf of the people was, “With all due respect, your Holiness, go take a flying leap!” People think the pope has all this power. It jut isn’t true. I have previously pointed out that the Vatican budget is smaller than that of Notre Dame University. The glory that was Rome pales when compared to the splendor of the Indiana cornfield in which Notre Dame placidly sits.

The structure of the Church is not a military chain of command. It is meant to be a family and is a very simple structure. Bishops don’t gain their authority from the pope. They received it from Christ by the laying on of hands of other bishops who in their turn were ordained by bishops before them in an unbroken chain that goes back to Christ himself. Francis Cardinal George is a bishop, the archbishop of Chicago because he was ordained by Agostino Cacciavillan, who in turn was ordained by  Jean-Marie Villot who in turn was ordained by Maurice Feltin who in turn was ordained by Henri-Charles-Joseph Binet, who in turn was ordained by Louis-Henri-Joseph Luçon who in turn was ordained by Charles-Émile Freppel. This gets us back to the middle 1800's and it got tedious about three bishops ago. You get my point. This sort of thing takes us all the way back to Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth. 

If you think this kind or record keeping rather pointless you will be disappointed to know that the first Christians thought it quite important. I quote St Irenaeus of Lyon:

"We must obey the priests of the Church who have succession from the Apostles,... who, together with succession in the episcopate, have received the certain mark of truth according to the will of the Father; all others, however, are to be suspected, who separated themselves from the principal succession." Adversus Haereses (Book IV, Chapter 26).       


 "Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we  put to confusion all those who... assemble in unauthorized meetings by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul... which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. It is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority (because) the apostolic tradition has been preserved." Adversus Haereses (Book III, Chapter 3)

Allow me to point out that St. Irenaeus was born around 130AD in Izmir, Turkey, formerly called Smyrna to which one of the letters of the Apocalypse is addressed. He was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who in his turn had been a disciple of St. John, who had been the Beloved Disciple of Christ. That means this idea of apostolic succession goes back to the very first days of Christianity. 

You may not like it and you are free to invent your own Church, but the idea of a continuous Church government is not just an arbitrary decision of a bunch of power hungry fourth century politicians. It is an integral part of what Jesus established.  The bishops of the modern Church have an unbroken connection to Christ, and thus their authority is derived from Christ, and not from the pope! St Irenaeus points out that the Bishop of Rome is the great guarantor of truth, but that he is not the sole source of authority. The first Christians believed this and we believe it. The pope may depose any bishop in order to insure the orthodox teaching of the Gospel, and he is centrally involved in the appointment of these bishops, but these things are done in cooperation with others. A bishop is almost never removed nor appointed without canonical procedures, though ultimately the pope, the Bishop of Rome, is the one who makes the decision. Remember that Papa, (pope in Latin, Italian and a whole lot of other languages) ultimately has to make a decision in the life of the family, at least the traditional family, but if papa is smart, he doesn’t make it without discussing it with Mama, in this case the Church, the Bride of Christ.

I can hear a distant roar even as I write these words. It is shouting, “Who are you kidding? The people making these decisions are all men!”   

Au contraire, mon cher! The real power houses in the Church have always been women, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Faustina of Krakow, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and countless more. In times past, religious women have represented motherhood in the church, and still do in many places. They were the primary formators of children. Who do you think taught all those cardinals their Catechism? In Europe and America, the masculinist movement has convinced us that we should dump spiritual as well as physical motherhood, but until recently the women of the Church were its very heart. The Church is a family. Can I help it if the women of the developed world have decided to redefine family? Where was I?

So you see, the Church is as simple and as complicated as a family. The essential structure that comes down from the times of the apostles is as follows: a bishop who is the servant and father of the Church in his diocese. He ordains priests to help him in his paternal role and deacons to help him in his role of service. He is the head elder (presbyter in Greek, priest in common English,) and he is the head deacon, (a Greek word for servant, translated minister in Latin.)  

In the army any general can order privates around at any army base. This isn’t the way it works in the Church. A bishop from another city, can’t come and order me around, unless he is asked to by Francis George, the bishop to whom I am pledged. I cannot go to another parish and order the deacon around unless I am told to do so by the bishop to whom that deacon is pledged. Each diocese is a self-subsistent manifestation of the whole Church and each parish is a mini-diocese, though not a self-subsistent Church, with the pastor representing the bishop as his vicar in that parish. 

The Bishop of Rome, as St. Irenaeus has pointed out, is the universal bishop, but he exercises that ministry according to the traditions that have been handed down. This Tradition of bishop, priest and deacon in its simplicity has come to us from the apostles, and is not negotiable. If the bishops of Wisconsin decide to wear orange zucchettas in deer hunting season, that is negotiable, and perhaps advisable.

I can hear you mumbling, “He promised to tell us what a cardinal is. I still don’t know the difference between a cardinal, a bird and a bishop!”  

Be patient. I had to tell you what a bishop is and where he gets his authority in order to tell you what a bishop is not, and that is a cardinal, at least not necessarily. Have I thoroughly confused you? I will continue to ‘splain it all in my next letter.