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Behind the Headlines

What name might the new pope take?

UPDATED March 19

We learned six days ago that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been elected by his fellow cardinals as the 266th pope, and took the name Francis I.

Though no pope had ever taken that name before, it was in my list as a possibility.

It could signal, as I noted, that Pope Francis may, like Francis of Assisi, "rebuild my church." It could also be a reflection of Cardinal Bergoglio's humble manner. He is reported to ride the bus, live in a simple apartment and cook his own meals, He is known by many in his archdiocese of Buenos Aires as "Father Jorge.

It would seem obvious that his days of riding the bus are over. Many are not safe from pickpockets and other dangers on Rome's #62 bus that passes by St. Peter's. 

Click here to read about Pope Francis' reasoning behind choosing St. Francis of Assisi's name. We will certainly learn more about the new pope in the coming days and weeks.

Welcome, Pope Francis.


At a Vatican news conference this morning, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the director of Toronto-based Salt + Light TV who is assisting the Vatican press office with English- and French-speaking journalists, noted that there is no way to know the new papal name until he is elected and makes his choice. The new pope does not have to explain why he chose the name, though Benedict XVI did so.

The first pope to change his name appears to be John II, whose birth name was Mercurius. He apparently decided that having the name of a pagan god was not good form for a pope. Most popes since then have taken a new name – either of a saint or a previous pope (sometimes both).

The most common papal name is John, with 23 iterations of that already (and the “September Pope,” John Paul I, honored his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI, and John Paul II honored all three of his predecessors by taking the same name). Benedict and Gregory come in tied for second with 16 each.

Without taking into account every papal name that has been used, here is a list compiled in the last couple of weeks of the possible names for the new pope. Along with the name are some comments on the likelihood of that choice.

·       Benedict XVII: Possible, if the new pontiff wants to honor both his immediate predecessor and St. Benedict. Unlikely, though, because we would have two living Pope Benedicts (one retired, one active) and both the new pope and emeritus pope will want to eliminate any confusion.

·       John Paul III: Perhaps not likely, while we await a second miracle for the canonization of Blessed John Paul; he may wish for his name to not interfere with people’s memory of John Paul II’s long and prolific pontificate, which some people contend will one day result in Blessed John Paul being known as “St. John Paul the Great.”

·       Paul VII: High possibility, as it would pay tribute to the pontiff who concluded the Second Vatican Council and implemented changes in the liturgy, and honor the Apostle Paul.

·       John XXIV: Pays tribute to Blessed John XXIII, who convened Vatican II, and as noted, is the most common papal name.

·       Pius XIII: Less likely while the debate continues to rage over Pius XII’s role during World War II. If Pius XII is eventually canonized, that might clear the way for the name to be used again, but now might be untimely. By the way, the Irish betting site Paddy Power currently has Leo at 6/5 odds of being selected. (However, it’s not worth putting a lot of stock in that, necessarily, since the site also lists Peter at 9/2 odds; by tradition, out of respect for their historic role, no other pope has taken the name Peter or Linus, the first two popes.)

·       Leo XIV: A good chance for this one. Author and Vaticanista George Weigel notes that the reforms we are currently experiencing in the church did not begin with Vatican II, but with the papacy of Leo XIII in the late 19th century. If the new pope wants to allude to Leo’s charism of change and Catholic social teaching, he could choose to honor him by taking his name.

·       Gregory XVII: Second most common papal name, and lots of reasons to choose it.

·       Clement XV: (see also, O’Malley note, below)

·       Innocent XIV: (unlikely; in these days with the sexual abuse crisis, etc., the name Innocent might be mocked by many in the media and in the streets)

·       Alexander VIII: Low likelihood. Alexander VII commission St. Peter’s Square (a plus), but Alexander VI had a great-great-great grandson who became pope (Innocent X) and that could call attention to past concerns about the papal families in the Middle Ages.

·       Urban IX: Not likely, as this would recall the pope who began the trial of Galileo Galilei, whose persecution by the church was later renounced.

·       Marcellus III: Low possibility. The popes named Marcellinus and Marcellus reigned a long time ago; Marcellus II was the last to use his birth name (Marcello) as his papal name.

·       Julius IV: This line includes a saint (Julius I) but last Julius was in the 1500s. A long shot.

·       Adrian/Hadrian VII: Boosting the odds, Adrian VI was the last non-Italian to be named pope before John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla of Poland), so a non-Italian pope might choose this. Deflating the odds: There is a stage play called “Hadrian VII,” which is about a man who converts to Catholicism, ordained a priest and by a fluke is elected pope. A new pope might not want to encourage comparisons to the fictional Hadrian.

·       Martin VI: The last Pope Martin was in the 15th century, but a pope from Latin America might choose this name, partly to honor St. Marin de Porres, who was born and ministered in Peru.

·       Boniface X: Low likelihood, but Bonifance IV was a Benedictine and was canonized.

·       Celestine VI: this choice could honor Celestine V, who resigned the papacy, and so in some way honor Benedict XVI, who may have telegraphed his intention to resign if he determined it wise by leaving his pallium at Celestine’s tomb on a visit to L’Aquila in 2009.

·       Joseph I: Unusual, because it hasn’t been done before, but it has a good chance for a few reasons. If the new pope wants to pay tribute to Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger, but doesn’t want to take the name Benedict, he could be the first Pope Joseph. This could also honor St. Joseph, Universal patron of the church, and it is possible the new pope could be installed on his feast, March 19.

·       Francis I: If the new pope wants to send a message that he plans to “rebuild my church,” as Christ said when the crucifix spoke to St. Francis of Assisi, this could be a possibility. It, too, would be unusual since there has been no Pope Francis before now, although four Franciscans have become pope. If the conclave confirms the buzz in Rome in the last few weeks about Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston and elects him, he might choose Francis to honor the founder of his religious order.

·       Three more names come to mind if it’s Cardinal O’Malley or another who wants to honor Francis and the Franciscans: Clement XV, Sixtus VI (there have been two Franciscan popes named Sixtus) and Nicholas VI.

My bet: Leo XIV. Second choice: Joseph I.

Related article

March 13, 2013 05:49
By Christopher Gunty

Reading and getting ready for the conclave

Like most Catholic journalists, I’ve been doing as much reading as possible about the church and the papal transition since Pope Benedict XVI announced Feb. 11 he would renounce the papacy at the end of February. I’ve been through four papal transitions in my life (but only one while working for the Catholic press), so I was eager and curious to know as much as possible.

Having been to Rome about a dozen times over the years, I know where things are and how they work (or don’t work) at the Vatican. I was in Poland when Pope John Paul II was buried and watched his funeral broadcast live for tens of thousands of people in Warsaw’s Pilsudski Square, but I’ve never been in Rome during a papal funeral or conclave.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been soaking up all I can about the conclave and the cardinals who might be elected pope. In addition to everything Catholic News Service and our own staff has reported about the reaction to the pope’s resignation, sources of info on the process abound.

A great, quick resource, has been “Conclave: Step by Step through the Papal Interregnum,” a basic outline prepared by Monsignor Charles Burns, O.B.E., Residential Canon of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and Ecclesiastical Adviser at the British Embassy to the Holy See. The 37-page PDF file is available on the internet.

“Selecting the Pope: Uncovering the Mysteries of Papal Elections,” by Greg Tobin has much the same information as Msgr. Burns’ pamphlet, but in book form. The copy I have is from 2003, while John Paul was still pope, in advance of the transition from his papacy to the next. Tobin updated it in 2009, during Benedict’s papacy.

It’s been fun, too, re-reading through “If I Were Pope,” a collection of 40-plus essays compiled and edited in 1987 by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Candida Lund. One of the contributors was my journalism professor in college, and several are Catholic journalists with whom I have worked over the years, including two who were at one time or another editor of the Catholic Review. My favorite line comes from the first essay, by Walter F. Murphy: “My first action after becoming pope would be to immerse myself in a lengthy retreat, complete with much prayer and some fasting, in an effort to regain faith in the Holy Spirit for making such an unwise choice or in the church for misreading the Spirit’s message.”

John Thavis’ “Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church” had a great story about the bell-ringer who was supposed to set the large bell at St. Peter’s Square in motion in 2005 when Pope Benedict was elected. The word to ring the bell finally came about 10 minutes after the white smoke came from the Sistine Chapel chimney.

Thavis’ book, written from 30 years’ experience covering the Vatican, mostly as Rome bureau chief with CNS, has gotten quite a boost from the timing of the conclave. When the pope resigned, his publisher pushed up the release date for “Vatican Diaries” and Thavis has been in Rome, blogging and being interviewed on TV news all over.

Another book that got a boost from the timing of the papal transition is that of Marylander and Catholic Review columnist George Weigel. “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep reform in the 21st-Century Church,” makes the case that the next pope needs to engender radical change in the church, in order to set people on fire for the faith and gather more souls to Christ. The book is ranked in the top 250 on Amazon.

Weigel is a commentator during the transition for NBC and MSNBC and has been interviewed by dozens of news organizations.

I’ve read bloggers and pundits and tons of news sources, secular and Catholic. I’m watching the cardinals take the oath of secrecy in the Sistine Chapel live via Centro Vaticano Television as I write this.

Predictions abound about who the front-runner is as the cardinals enter the conclave. Names are bandied about and favorites change daily.

And none of it amounts to a hill of beans. What matters is what is in the minds and hearts of the 115 cardinal electors as they listen to the breath of the Holy Spirit and elect the next pope.

In a few moments, the doors to the chapel will be closed and the conclave (from the Latin “cum clave” – with a key) will begin. I expect that we will see white smoke in a day or two.

And then, more research will begin: Who is this man who will be our Holy Father? Where did he come from? What will be his priorities? How will he energize and evangelize the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world and all who seek the Lord?
It’s a fun time to be working behind the headlines.

March 12, 2013 12:26
By Christopher Gunty

'I lied, I stole, I pulled the cat's tail': Grandma's lessons on confession

During this penitential season of Lent, it was refreshing to receive this vignette from my oldest brother, about our maternal grandmother and her experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, known in her day simply as “Penance” or “Confession.”

Granny Kohs told my brother this story once she found out he was studying German. Our ancesters had all come from Germany, at some point or another. Granny Kohs was second-generation American, but she still spoke German. As my brother notes, “Imagine it told with a twinkle in her eye and a small chuckle in her voice.” That’s the way I remember a lot of my conversations with Granny, who in her later years lived close enough to our home for me to ride my bike to her apartment.

“When we were little and we told my father that we had gone to confession at school today, he would ask ‘What did you tell the priest? I bet you told him:

“ ‘Ich habe geliegen,
“ ‘Ich habe gestohlen,
“ ‘Ich habe die Katz beim Schwanz gezogen.’
[Which has a sort of rhyme to it, in German, and essentially translates to “I lied, I stole, and I pulled the cat’s tail.”]
“ ‘No, we didn’t tell him that,’ I would say. But we would never tell my dad what we really told the priest because that was a secret, you know.”

And of course, Granny was right, what you tell the priest in confession is a secret.

This Lent, as in past years, parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore are offering many opportunities to take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation during Lent. In addition to special penance services, the sacrament is available in every parish in the archdiocese Wednesday evenings, 7-8:30 p.m., Feb. 20-March 20.

As a special Web page for “The Light is On” campaign notes, “By participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whether our first time in days, weeks, months or years, we are experiencing God’s individual and unwavering love for us and one of the true graces made available to us by our Catholic faith. God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way.”

The site features plenty of resources for making a good confession, no matter how long it has been, and the site has maps and other searchable lists to find the parish nearest you.

Participating in the sacrament is confidential, and can provide great grace. Take some time today, or any other Wednesday in Lent, to participate in this sacrament and lay down your burdens before the Lord – even if you didn’t lie, steal, or pull the cat’s tail.

March 01, 2013 03:55
By Christopher Gunty

Pope Benedict leaves legacy of faith and hope – and also love

In 1988, a group of about two dozen young Catholic journalists joined the first of what would become nearly annual “summer universities” sponsored by the International Network of Young Journalists, which was part of the International Catholic Union of the Press (known by its French initials UCIP). Bringing people from all parts of the world, except Western Europe, the journalists studied faith, history, culture, media and society in the context of Western Europe. Subsequent summer universities were held in other parts of the world. “Young journalists,” by church standards, were under age 35.
Yes, that was quite a few years ago, and I have outgrown the “young” tag. But as one of two members of the class from the United States, it gave me a chance to better understand how the church and its history are woven into everyday life.
Various guest professors from all different areas of expertise taught a day at a time for four weeks, at venues in Switzerland, France and Rome. In France, the head of the largest Catholic publishing house talked about the impact of Catholic publications in a “majority Catholic” country where fewer and fewer people practiced the faith. In Rome, the UCIP group got a private tour of the Vatican Museums, arriving in the Sistine Chapel during the ceiling’s restoration, arriving after hours, with no other museum visitors present.
One of the professors while the group was in session at the Gregorian University in Rome was a certain Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who at the time was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was also working on a little project: as president of the Preparatory Commission for the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he coordinated the six years of work (1986-1992) that culminated in presentation of the new Catechism to the Pope John Paul II. Little did our group know that we had spent a day with the future pope. He was knowledgeable and seemed friendly, and open to our questions. It was an academic setting, and he was comfortable there, as he is first and foremost a theologian and teacher.
At the time of his election as pope, a bishop who had visited the Vatican many times in roles at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and as a diocesan bishop, wrote that of all the people he had encountered, Cardinal Ratzinger was the smartest man in the church, and possibly the smartest man he had ever met.
Over time, Cardinal Ratzinger had gotten the reputation as “the pope’s Doberman,” known for stern discipline of faith and practice. And when he was elected pope, many expected the same kind of continuation of his ministry. It was not the case.
As John Thavis writes in a just-released book, “The Vatican Diaries,” the pope immediately shed the image as the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog. “Benedict had made it clear that he had a different agenda as pope, telling one aide, ‘It was easy to teach the doctrine. Helping a billion people live it is quite another thing.’”
Joseph Ratzinger, academic, became Benedict XVI, pastor. He never stopped preaching the Good News.
In a 2009 letter to the world’s bishops, he reflected on his main mission as the successor of Peter: “In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God.”
But he did not always light the crowds on fire. Perhaps it was his in his genes.
On a visit to Bavaria, in his homeland of Germany in 2006, one of the first public events of the week was an open-air Mass in Munich, at an airfield converted to a major gathering venue. As Benedict arrived by limousine and popemobile, the crowds cheered a bit when they saw him on-screen or when the popemobile passed their seating area. But this was not the sustained applause and adulation that often accompanied the arrival of John Paul II on his visits abroad.
Pope Benedict XVI is welcomed by children wearing traditional Bavarian outfits as Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Bavarian Minister-President Edmund Stoiber look on at Munich's Franz Joseph Strauss International Airport Sept. 9, 2006. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, Pool via Reuters) 
Encountering a nun carrying a sign proclaiming, “Benedict, We Love You,” two reporters from the US asked her about the phenomenon. Why was his reception so different from his predecessor? The Irish sister, who had served in more than 250 countries in mission work, said simply, “They’re Germans, dear. What did you expect?”
The German disposition aside, he did inspire. I had the opportunity to see this pope at several venues in Germany, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and several times in Rome. He always brought things back to faith in Jesus Christ, whether it was his writings, or in the beatification ceremony for Blessed John Paul II, or at Christmas Mass.
On Christmas Day 2011, speaking in Italian to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Urbi et Orbi message “to the church and to the world,” Benedict noted that Jesus Christ is the proof that God has heard his people’s cry to “come and save us. … Let us turn our gaze anew to the grotto of Bethlehem. The Child whom we contemplate is our salvation! He has brought to the world a universal message of reconciliation and peace. Let us open our hearts to Him; let us receive Him into our lives.”
As Archbishop William E. Lori noted a few hours after the resignation was announced, “What shines through everything he writes about is the person of Christ. … He plucks Christ out of history and brings him to the present.”
On a personal note, I have this pope to thank for my marriage. While covering the papal visit to Germany in 2006, Ann Augherton, managing editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald in northern Virginia, and I began dating. We were married in 2008, and in 2012, while we were in Rome with Archbishop Lori for the reception of his pallium, she got a chance to personally thank the pope for his role in bringing us together. So while others talk about the pope’s legacy in terms of faith and hope, we will always look on his legacy with love.
For more articles relating to Pope Benedict XVI, click here.  

February 11, 2013 05:30
By Christopher Gunty

Behind the headlines - 50 years ago


Fifty years ago, when the Second Vatican Council was getting under way in Rome, the Rome office of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (predecessor of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference, now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) set up briefings for American reporters covering the conference.

Among the priest-experts on the daily panel to brief the journalists was none other than a future cardinal-archbishop of Baltimore, Father William H. Keeler, who at the time was working in the tribunal in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa. Father Keeler, in his early 30s during the period of the council (1962-1965) was already an expert in theology and canon law. He had studied in Rome, receiving a doctorate in canon law in 1961. As secretary to Harrisburg Bishop George L. Leech, Father Keeler was appointed by Pope John XXIII as a “peritus,” or expert special adviser, during the council.

He also served on the staff of the Council Digest, a daily communication service sponsored by the United States bishops.

According to an “NC Daybook” report from Burke Walsh, assistant director of National Catholic News Service (predecessor to today’s Catholic News Service), the briefing panel included:

Fathers Francis J. Connell, C.Ss.R., of The Catholic University of America, whose field is theology; Francis J. McCool, S.J., of New York, professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome, sacred Scripture; John B. Sheerin, C.S.P., of New York, editor of the Catholic World, ecumenical activity; Edward L. Heston, C.S.C., procurator general of the Holy Cross Fathers, canon law; William H. Keeler of the Harrisburg diocesan tribunal, theology and canon law; Frederick R. McManus of Boston and CUA, liturgy; Eugene H. Maly of Mount St. Mary Seminary of West Norwood, Ohio, sacred Scripture; Robert F. Trisco of Chicago and Catholic University, church history; and John P. McCormick, S.S., rector of the Sulpician seminary in Washington, dogmatic theology and liturgy.

The nine priests providing background to the reporters each day the council was in session answered questions and helped explain points about church terminology and practices, especially after the daily press bulletins were issued.

Canon law was not an immediate concern at the beginning of the council, then-Father Keeler may not have had as many questions to answer at the early briefings. According to the “NC Daybook” report from Rome about the institution of the daily briefings, “Since the first topic being considered by the council is the liturgy, newsmen centered on this subject at the meeting. Questions were directed chiefly at Fathers McManus, Connell, Heston and Sheerin.”

Among those priests, one other became a bishop, as Cardinal Keeler did. Father Heston eventually became an archbishop and president of the Pontifical Council of Social Communications.

Nowadays, Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B, of Salt and Light Television in Canada, is coordinating news briefings for the English-speaking media covering the World Synod of Bishops meeting now in Rome to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II and to discuss the New Evangelism. Often, those providing the briefing are cardinals and bishops who are attending the synod. Additionally, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., is writing a blog about the daily activities of the synod, providing immediate background information.

It’s good to know that while information from the synod in Rome comes much more immediately now, even 50 years ago, there were ways to find out what was happening behind the headlines.


October 22, 2012 02:43
By Christopher Gunty

Archbishop Lori visits, tours CR Media offices


Archbishop William E. Lori greets members of the staff on a visit Aug. 28 to the offices of CR Media, of which he is chairman and publisher. (Tom McCarthy | CR staff) The new boss stopped by the office yesterday.

As archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori is automatically chairman of the board of Catholic Review Media and publisher of the newspaper.

Getting this visit on the calendar was no easy task. His days are all very full, with commitments in and around the archdiocese and across the country. In June, he went to Rome to receive a special stole called a pallium from Pope Benedict XVI. And he took some vacation time in July. In the meantime, he also took part in the Knights of Columbus annual convention in California and gave a homily at the Red Mass for lawyers and legislators in Dallas.

In the diocesan publishing world, the most typical organization is for the bishop to be publisher of the newspaper, delegating day-to-day responsibility for content and business to an associate publisher or editor and professional publishing staff.

The staff of Catholic Review Media – news, advertising, graphics, business and printing – was grateful for the time the archbishop spent with us Tuesday, congratulating the staff on honors received from regional and national press associations, talking about his vision for the newspaper, how he hopes to use his column to teach and how the Catholic Review can play a role in promoting the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization.
Quite a few of our staff members have already met the archbishop while covering events he has attended, interviewing him and taking pictures of events at which he has been present. This visit gave the whole staff the opportunity to hear from him.
We talked with Archbishop Lori about the results of our strategic plan, unveiled in January with the launch of the redesign of our flagship newspaper and our completely revamped website at We also discussed Review in the Pew, a new biweekly newsletter that was part of our outreach plan. The newsletter debuted in April in about a dozen pilot parishes, and will roll out to the whole archdiocese next month.
Combined with our expanded e-newsletters, these diverse products give us the opportunity to reach Catholics and others who are interested in the news we offer at various times and in various situations. The Catholic Review newspaper goes right to the homes of subscribers, Review in the Pew gets in touch with people at weekend Masses, and the digital products reach people “wherever your faith takes you.”
The archbishop got a tour of the website, including the "Archbishop Lori" page under "Faith" that includes all of the stories in which Archbishop Lori is a part, and a tour of the building. He acknowledged the fine reputation the Catholic Review has among peers and across the country. The archbishop added with a smile that among the most important judges are his parents in Clarksville, Ind., especially his mother who reads the newspaper cover to cover (not just news about her son), and she thinks it’s great.
He said that upon his arrival at CR Media, he thought he was coming to a car dealership, and that was a good perception, since our historic building on Park Avenue has lived many lives over the years, including once being a car dealership. Within the stairwell, you can still see the large pulleys and gears that at one time helped transport the car elevator to bring vehicles to the second and third floors.
He marveled at the busy newsroom and was impressed by the shop of Catholic Printing Services, where presses were busy turning out brochures. A book reprint sat ready to be bound, and the next issue of Review in the Pew was on deck.
Archbishop Lori will be back in the coming months to chair CR Media board meetings. And our reporters and photographer will see him around. But in the meantime, we enjoyed the chance to welcome our new chairman and publisher, and to show him a bit of what’s going on at our place “behind the headlines.”


August 29, 2012 05:06
By Christopher Gunty

Good news on Maryland infant mortality still leaves questions

The State of Maryland released a new report indicating that infant mortality is on the decline. That’s good news, isn’t it?
According to reports in the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post, Governor Martin J. O’Malley and State Health Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein released some new, encouraging numbers that note that while there are still disparities, especially between the city and other areas, and between African-American communities and other communities, the overall rate of infant death is coming down, which is a good sign for public health.
According to the state’s “Babies Born Healthy” website, “Infant mortality is one of the most critical indicators of the overall health of a population. An infant death or pregnancy loss is a signal that there may be problems within a community. Many factors such as family history, personal health history, diet, environment, lifestyle, and poor access to quality health and social services are known to contribute to infant mortality.”
One of the governor’s priorities, as noted on the Maryland government website in more than one place, is to continue to bring down the infant mortality rate.  Among the methods for that are three points:
·            Before Pregnancy – Expanded Access to Women’s Comprehensive Health and Wellness Services;
·            During Pregnancy – Earlier Entry into Prenatal Care;
·            After Pregnancy – More Comprehensive Follow-Up Care.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all in favor of healthy babies. Some of the most important work that the Catholic Church and people in the pro-life community do is to support the health of mothers and babies during pregnancy and after birth.
My parents spent many years volunteering for a program in the Chicago area that did just that. The Courage Program paired young women in unexpected pregancies with mentors who were available for advice, support and love throughout their pregnancy and beyond. If the baby was to be given up for adoption, Courage connected the mother with agencies to assist with that. If she planned to keep the child, the program presented the mother with a huge layette of clothing, bottles, diapers and all sorts of other baby needs. Take a large plastic bag, of the size normally used in your yard for leaves and grass, clippings, and fill one of those with everything a new mom needs. My parents had shelves in the spare bedroom stacked to the rafters with boxes labeled: “bottles,” “onesies,” “diapers" (newborn and bigger sizes), clothes in various sizes from "preemie" and "newborn" to "18 months." The garage was full, too, of clothes, cribs and blankets, all donated and all waited to be cleaned and sorted. It wore out my parents’ washing machine. While Mom talked to “her girls,” as she referred to the mothers in the program assigned to her, Dad often would be out on antoher run picking up more goodies from another parish “Courage baby shower.”
The program also offered parenting classes , as well as sacramental prep classes for baptism.
So I know firsthand how well the pro-life movement supports mothers before and after the birth. This is the nuts-and-bolts, boots-on-the-ground pro-life work that is seldom seen, but is so prevalent throughout the country.
And that’s why I don’t understand why a state program that purports to be concerned about “infant death or pregnancy loss” does not give a damn about abortion. Isn’t that a form of pregnancy loss? If these are indicators of the public health of a community, then certainly abortion has to be a part of the equation.
But Maryland is one of the few states in the country that doesn’t even bother to track the number of abortions. If tracking the ups and downs of infant mortality matters to the government, why doesn’t the number of child deaths from abortion matter?
I just find that a little curious. Or disingenuous. Either way, it’s sad.

August 08, 2012 07:47
By Christopher Gunty

Chick-fil-A CEO gets caught in free-speech double standard

Melinda Gates can say all she wants about how wonderful contraception is for helping people in developing countries limit the size of their families and the mainstream media doesn’t bat an eye. I don’t hear the mayors of Chicago, or Boston or Washington, D.C., accusing the wife of Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation of eugenics and saying that Microsoft doesn’t share their cities values, so Microsoft’s products are not welcome within the city.
Melinda Gates is entitled to her opinions. She admits that she is a practicing Catholic who disagrees with the church on the issue of contraception, according to an interview in the Guardian, a newspaper in Great Britain. She says that contraception prevents women and children in countries in Africa and other parts of the world alive – not because it protects them from AIDS or other STDs, but simply because it allows them to space the births of their children.
In an article in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Giulia Galeotti, a frequent LOR contributor on life issues, wrote, “The American philanthropist is off the mark,” the victim of “bad information and persistent stereotypes on this theme. To still believe that by opposing the use of condoms, the Catholic Church leaves women and children to die because of misogynist intransigence is a baseless and shoddy reading” of reality, she wrote, according to Catholic News Service.
So how come people such as Melinda Gates or George Soros or Warren Buffet can say whatever they want to, and most of the media and many politicians across America are OK with that, but when Dan Cathy, CEO of the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, makes some comments about the traditional definition of marriage, he is blasted? It can’t be because they don’t agree with free speech, can it? If that were the case, then Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, would have to say of the man convicted of insider trading, that “George Soros’ values aren’t our values.” But instead, as a principal adviser and chief of staff to Barrack Obama, Emanuel certainly welcomed all the help he could get from, which got loads and loads of support from Soros.
But Emanuel did say, “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members.” And the mayors of Boston and D.C. also say the restaurant is not welcome in their town. How ridiculous.
It’s a little crazy to say, however, that you’re surprised by the viewpoint of the leader of a privately-held restaurant that is so unabashed about its Christian underpinnings that it is closed on Sundays. And if those are the kind of values that are unwelcome in our major cities, then God save us all.
Agree with Dan Cathy or don’t. Agree with Melinda and Bill Gates or don’t. Support their companies based on what their leaders say, or boycott them. Many folks across the country have chosen today, Aug. 1, as the day to show their support for Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A by making a point of eating at the chain, some multiple times throughout the day. The friendly cows urging, “Eat mor chikin” may have a lot of company today.
Either way, let’s give free speech a fair shake. Everyone is entitled to free speech, not just the media darlings.

August 01, 2012 12:07
By Christopher Gunty

Roman holiday makes for unusual celebration day for pallium group

ROME – Archbishop William E. Lori capped off an eventful day after receiving the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI with celebrations large and more intimate.
The Baltimore archbishop, along with other archbishops from the Unites States – Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver – were joined by hundreds of well-wishers at the Pontifical North American College for a reception.
Each archbishop greeted relatives, friends and members of their old and new dioceses under a canopy in the NAC’s courtyard. Despite Rome’s 90-degree heat, a nice breeze and the shade of the courtyard actually felt fairly comfortable.
In the evening, Archbishop Lori and about 50 guests enjoyed a celebration dinner at a large restaurant outside the city of Rome.
Due to the fact that June 29, the fest of Sts. Peter and Paul is a city holiday in honor of the city’s patron saints, the streets and the restaurant were nearly empty, making for an unusual experience in Rome – an easy transport and a non-crowded banquet hall.
Archbishop Lori said the evening would be short on speeches, and just an expression of his gratitude for those who celebrated his big day, including cousins, and pilgrims from the Diocese of Bridgeport and the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
He quickly doffed his suit coat, and made his way around the room, thanking all the guests for coming to Rome for the pallium ceremony. Consensus was that the Mass was extraordinary.
In the Roman tradition, dinner was a six-course affair, featuring a roast pig that was paraded around the dining room, sparklers and all.
After dinner, the archbishop indeed kept his remarks very brief, noting that he was “honored by your prayers with me and for me,” before thanking those who had organized and coordinated the pilgrimage details.
“And what about that pig!” he added, to much laughter.
The celebrations continue with Mass June 30 at the Altar of the Tomb of St. Peter, near where the palliums were stored the evening before the pallium ceremony. After that, the new archbishops and their pilgrim groups will join Pope Benedict in the Paul VI Hall for a special audience.
For the pilgrimage group, a tour of the other major basilicas in Rome – St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major – will complete the touring July 1, ending with Mass at St. Mary Major.
And then, for most, they say goodbye to Rome and head home to the States in tiem for the Fourth of July.

June 29, 2012 06:24
By Christopher Gunty

Baltimore archbishop prepares for pallium in Rome


ROME – Pilgrims joining Archbishop William E. Lori in the Eternal City to witness the ceremony in which he will receive the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI had a busy first couple of days. The group includes some folks from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as well as some of the archbishop’s former flock in Bridgeport, Conn.

Several priests from the archdiocese and other lay leaders joined the group for some Masses and a couple of other events.

The archbishop began the pilgrimage by welcoming the pilgrims at the Pontifical North American College, the seminary in Rome for students from the U.S. (and Australia).

The next day was packed with a tour and Mass at the Basilica of San Clemente, a tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, and then a reception at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

The archbishop used the Mass at the NAC to pray especially for vocations to the priesthood. Praying “in the shadow of the dome which rises above the tomb of St. Peter,” Archbishop Lori said that Peter, the first pope, responded to Jesus’ call to “feed my sheep,” and he noted that Christ has extended that call “down through the centuries, so that the Gospel can be preached to us, and the sacraments of salvation can be celebrated for us.

“After all,” he continued, “without priests, there’s no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist, there’s no hope.”

Before the Mass at San Clemente, Dominican Father Terrence Crotty, rector of the basilica, provided a tour of the basilica, which is unique in that it is a functioning church for the faithful of today of today within a 12th-century church, built upon a 4th-century Christian church, which itself was built upon the remains of a 1st-century Roman building. With the 90-degree heat sweltering Rome, the pilgrims appreciated the cool respite on the tour of the foundations of the church and Roman building below ground.

During his homily, Archbishop Lori made reference to the special connection San Clemente has to the Archdiocese of Baltimore and his own ministry, as it was the titular church of his predecessor in Baltimore and Bridgeport, Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan. He also made reference in his homily to the spectacular 12th-century frescoe above the altar of the Cross as the Tree of Life, gesturing frequently to the artwork that shows Jesus standing with his arms outstretched in the manner of a priest celebrating Mass.

Archbishop William E. Lori delivers his homily from the pulpit of the Basilica of San Clemente, the titular church of the late Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan. (Christopher Gunty | CR Staff)

In the afternoon, pilgrims got a whirlwind tour of the Vatican Museums with one of the finest museum guides available, art historian Dr. Elizabeth Lev. Pointing out that the Vatican museums are considered in the class with the Louvre and other great museums in the world based on the strength of their collections and the number of visitors, she said the reason for the Vatican’s collection is what sets it apart – its proximity to the dome of St. Peter’s, above the tomb of the saint.

Referring to Peter’s death at the hands of the Romans, she said they dumped him in a hole and filled it with dirt, and covered it with bricks to make sure another Christian’s body didn’t walk away.

“They thought they were throwing away the trash; instead they planted a seed,” Lev said.

In a tour that brought to life the scultures, tapestries and paintings of the museum, the Sistine Chapel – not the Sixteenth Chapel, Justin Bieber – and St. Peter’s Basilica itself, Lev reminded the pilgrims continuously that the art within constantly expressed a deeper message about humanity’s relationship to God.

Completing the tour in St. Peter’s Square, she pointed out the sculptures of saints lining the top of Bernini’s colonnade, whose “arms” reach out to embrace the piazza and all who visit. All kinds of holy men and women are represented there, she noted, each one providing us “someone you can look up to, someone you can emulate, some you can relate to.”

Taking away a message like this is essential to such a visit; it’s what a pilgrimage is about, Lev insisted. “It revitalizes you – sends you back into the world.”

As evening drew on, the pilgrims had a chance to join all four of the U.S. archbishops receiving the pallium at Vila Richardson, the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, currently Miguel H. Diaz.

Archbishop William E. Lori chats with Miguel H. Diaz, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and his wife, Marian, who hosted pilgrims at their residence, Vila Richardson. (Christopher Gunty | CR Staff)


The other archbishops are Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, and Archbishop William C. Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh (Ruthenian).

Ambassador Diaz and his wife, Marian, hosted the outdoor reception for the archbishops and their guests. Chatting informally with the guests later on, the Diazes discussed the role of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, not as one who makes trade deals or other typical roles of an ambassador, but as one who seeks a convergence between the Holy See and U.S. foreign policy. Issues such as human trafficking, global health, peace-building and support of religious minorities carry over from administration to administration, Diaz said.

Having been a theology professor and dean at a Catholic seminary in Florida before entering the diplomatic corps, he told Archbishop Lori that it’s unusual for a diplomat to have the background in philosophy and theology that he brings to his post.

He told the archbishop that academic life still beckons, but that he considers his diplomatic service “a break (from academia) out of service to his country.”

Speaking of the theology and philosophy he encounters at the Vatican, he later told guests, “I was teaching this stuff, and now I’m part of it.”

Archbishop William E. Lori chats with U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, who serves as prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith in Rome. (Christopher Gunty | CR Staff)


June 28, 2012 08:20
By Christopher Gunty

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