Protesting war (in churches)

I had an article yesterday — unrelated to the appointment of an archbishop — that I would like to recommend for your perusal.

Here’s the deal (if you missed it): A few months ago, I heard about a group of people opposed to the war in Iraq who were stopping by Westchester churches to demonstrate. Their method struck me as, well, odd. I heard that they simply show up, sit in a pew for a while, and then get up, move to the side of the church and silently unroll banners that protest the war.

I found a reference to the group on the Web, contacted one of them and met with the group, which opposes both the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I wrote about who they are, what their motivations are, and how some clergy feel about the unannounced visits.

Yes, that’s them.

Although I’ve been pretty swamped with archbishop-related stuff, I’ve received some interesting calls and emails about the article and have heard some meaty conversations about the group and their method of protest.

One reader pointed out an oversight on my part: The demonstration may be illegal.

New York Penal Law includes:

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Section 240.21 Disruption, or disturbance of religious service

A person is guilty of aggravated disorderly conduct, who makes unreasonable noise or disturbance while at a lawfully assembled religious service or within one hundred feet thereof, with intent to cause annoyance or alarm or recklessly creating a risk thereof.

Aggravated disorderly conduct is a class A misdemeanor.

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Are these demonstrators making “unreasonable noise or disturbance?” Noise? No. Disturbance? Quite possibly.

Is their intent to cause “annoyance or alarm or recklessly creating a risk?” Their whole point is to cause annoyance.

Hear him for yourself

I neglected to mention yesterday that you can hear an interview with Archbishop Dolan and Cardinal Egan that was on the Catholic Channel on SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio yesterday morning (between Mass and the press conference).

You can hear it HERE.

Dolan and Egan are interviewed by Mount Pleasant’s own Rob Astorino, station manager and program director for the Catholic Channel.

Yes, he is the same Rob Astorino who is expected to run against Andy Spano for county exec.

The new guy…in Yonkers

Observations from evening prayers at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers:

1. Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Cardinal Egan, upon pulling up in front of the seminary, were greeted by Bishop Gerald Walsh — the rector (center) — and Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone.

Also on hand was the Rev. Luke Sweeney (left), an Irvington native and vocations director for the Archdiocese of New York. Sweeney was a seminarian at the North American College in Rome when Dolan was rector there.

3. When Dolan entered the main lobby and received a long ovation from seminarians, faculty and guests, he looked like he had just walked into a surprise party — grinning ear to ear. I mean, this was after a full day of meetings and congratulatory phone calls.

4. Speaking of which, Dolan said that he got a phone call from President Obama just before leaving NYC for Yonkers. “I said ‘Thank you, Mr. President. I need those prayers.’ He said, ‘I need your prayers, too.’ ” He also got calls from Mike Bloomberg, Gov. Paterson and others.

5. This was Dolan’s first visit to Dunwoodie. During the vespers service, he talked about the seminary’s worldwide reputation.

6. Dolan said he’s never spent more than a couple of days in New York.

7. During vespers, Egan expanded on his role in Dolan’s rise. Egan explained that when he was chairman of the North American College, he sought out the best possible rector. He heard about Dolan and went to St. Louis to recruit him.

8. In the lobby, Egan and Dolan talked about the pressing need for more seminarians. Egan suggested that each current seminarian recruit four more. Dolan responded: “If you get more than four, I’ll ordain you early.” More applause…

9. Dolan said he will be spending most of the next month in Milwaukee, where he is still in charge. Ash Wednesday is, after all, Wednesday, and there is much for an archbishop to do.

10. The choir loft at the seminary was filled with more than two dozen reporters and cameramen. Several reporters were doing live reports for their 5 p.m. broadcasts while the service was going on. Not too much interruption, though.

11. Addressing the seminarians, Dolan said that after a long, packed day of excitement, the one thing that stood out from the rest was…Mass. “That is the most important thing that I ever do,” he said.

12. Tomorrow, Dolan may take part in a Milwaukee tradition for “Fat Tuesday:” eating jelly rolls made of fat and grease. He hopes his doctor won’t object.

13. Although it’s been announced that he will be installed on April 15, Dolan will actually take “canonical possession” of the archdiocese at a special service at St. Patrick’s on April 14. On the 15th, he will be installed and celebrate Mass.

14. One more: Dolan was off to the cafeteria for dinner with the seminarians. Penne vodka and chicken marsala.

And there you go.

The new guy on stage

Initial thoughts from the press conference with Archbishop Dolan:

1. On the way out, someone said to me “He can own this town.” I have to agree. Dolan is so engaging that people will eat him up. He said the best year of his life was 1964, when he was 11 and Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were chasing the home run record.

He wasn’t a Yankee fan, but hey, that’s great stuff.

2. Surrounded by dozens of TV cameras, Dolan looked as at home as one can possibly be. But he doesn’t try to present himself as, well, regal. He laughs loud and easy and doesn’t mind looking a bit flustered when there are people buzzing around him.

3. Asked about taking on Obama, Pelosi, etc. over abortion and other life issues, Dolan wasn’t exactly evasive. But he wasn’t specific. He didn’t want to linger on it. He said he would look to the examples set by Cardinal George in Chicago and Pope B16 and talked about “engagement” and being “conciliatory.”

4. He was very direct about assuring the priests of New York that he will be there for them. Clearly, Dolan must know that morale among the priests of NY is not great. (I got an email from a priest this morning saying: “To quote Etta James…AT LAST!”

5. He described the growth of Hispanic Catholics as a gift. He said that he has heard others refer to the “Hispanic problem,” but he doesn’t see a problem.

6. Dolan said that he already talked this morning to some Jewish, Protestant and Orthodox leaders by telephone, indicating that ecumenical and interfaith stuff will be important to him. He mentioned this, in fact, during his brief comments before taking questions.

7. He went out of his way to make Cardinal Egan feel at home. After Egan said something about maintaining a public presence in NY if invited, Dolan jumped in: “You’re hired.”

8. He is 59 and could be here for a long time — and he knows it. He said that he relishes the blessing of “spending the rest of my life — whatever years God grants me — as your pastor, neighbor and, please God, as your friend.

9. I got in the last question and asked him about his forthrightness in Milwaukee about the Big Problems that the church faces: cradle Catholics leaving the church, people becoming more secular. He answered that the church has to be “realistic” and must face some difficult challenges that are confronting all faiths.

10. His cheeks get kind of rosy when he’s worked up.

Dolan the rector (circa 1997)

In 1997, an AP reporter named Brian Murphy wrote a book called “The New Men,” about life at the Pontifical North American College — the elite seminary in Rome for Americans.

The rector of the seminary was Monsignor Timothy Dolan.

Here is one of several interesting snippets from the book:

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Dolan disdains abortion as well — just as he derides most deviations from Catholic teaching. But become militant or malicious — or just focused on one issue no matter how personally distressing — can be just as distasteful, he says.

He’s seen those kinds of attitudes trickle into the seminary: guys whose identity as priests and Catholics are staked so closely to pushing one point of view or objective. That’s their right. “But if it starts to overwhelm them — if it makes them unable to see whether or not they should be priests in the first place — then it becomes my business,” Dolan said.

“Part of our job here is to challenge guys to make sure they are not floating into the priesthood, to make sure they are asking the tough questions. So sometimes we say — as much as we hate to see a guy leave — when a guy leaves the seminary thoughtfully and prayerfully, you rejoice. If the seminarian has decided it’s right to leave, we say, ‘Bravo. Thanks for letting us help you make the right choice.’

“That’s not happening now and that could be because the New Men are indeed called and thinking about it and probing and are at peace with their vocations. But I’m always thinking, ‘I hope there is no malaise here. I hope there are no zealots disguising themselves as prayerful and compassionate seminarians.’

“If anyone said to me, ‘Yes, I’ve heard the voice of Christ directly telling me to be a priest,’ well, he might as well not even unpack. I’d put him on the next plane home.”

It’s Dolan

It’s official. Another Irishman.

As we’ve been waiting to hear for weeks, Archbishop Timothy Dolan is coming to New York.

The Vatican just announced it.

He’s only 59 — so he could be here for a long time.

Here’s the storyline for the next 24-48 hours: Dolan is an outgoing, affable fellow whom everyone will get to see and hear in the public square after the low-key tenure of Cardinal Egan.

You’re going to hear it and read it over and over and over (including from me). So get used to it.

Details:

Dolan will be at St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 8 a.m.

He’s be at a press conference at 11 a.m. at the Catholic Center.

And he’ll be coming to YONKERS — St. Joseph’s Seminary — at 5 p.m. Solemn vespers with the seminarians.

Dolan will be installed on April 15.

Catholic University loves Dolan. CU President the Rev. David M. O’Connell says:

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“His personal warmth, hearty laugh and great sense of humor enrich his own pastoral gifts and enable him to love and be loved by those he serves as priest and bishop. It would be rare that a person would not immediately feel at ease in his presence. In the great Archdiocese of New York, Archbishop Dolan is perfectly suited to respond to the marvelous opportunities it provides for a renewed evangelization as well as to its unique challenges as one of the nation’s largest and most diverse archdioceses. He has a profound understanding of the role and responsibilities that define the Catholic priesthood and episcopacy and he will respond to his priests with the concern and care of both a brother and a father.

If the appointment of the archbishop of New York could ever be scripted, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan would truly be cast in the role. Obviously, the Holy Father feels the same way.”

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Here’s the first statement from the New Boss, from the archdiocese:

“My brother bishops, priests, religious women and men, seminarians, committed Catholics of this wonderful Church, I pledge to you my love, my life, my heart, and I can tell you already that I love you, I need so much your prayers and support, I am so honored, humbled, and happy to serve as your pastor.”

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More love from Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services (Dolan has been chairman since December 2007):

“I could not be happier for the people of New York.

Archbishop Dolan will be in his element in New York – he’s fast-paced, energetic, quick-witted and passionate about his ministry. He made a strong positive impression on the staff at Catholic Relief Services from day one; he’ll do the same in New York.

Although he leads a busy Archdiocese in Milwaukee, Archbishop Dolan devoted considerable attention to his work with CRS. In just the last year he traveled to the field twice. In May he went to Ethiopia, where he met with people suffering from the twin blows of the global food crisis and devastating drought. And last month, he traveled to India to see CRS programs and to witness our longstanding collaboration with the Missionaries of Charity.

As Archbishop Dolan moves to New York, he goes to a city with a long CRS connection. Our headquarters was in New York for 46 years, from our founding in 1943 until we moved to Baltimore in 1989. We were first located in the Empire State Building and in the early 1970s, we moved to the Catholic Center, where Archbishop Dolan will have his offices. So as he moves to New York, Archbishop will remain linked to us in history.

I’m confident Archbishop Dolan will bring to New York what he has brought to CRS as our Chairman: dedication to the Church, tremendous energy, a warm sense of humor, and deep compassion for the poor and vulnerable.”

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Bishop Williamson’s views were no secret

So many have wondered how the Vatican could not have known about the Holocaust-denying views of Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X.

All the curia had to do was talk to some of the former seminarians who studied under Williamson at the society’s Ridgefield, Conn., seminary during the 1980s, when Williamson was rector.

The Boston Globe’s Michael Paulson reports today that some former seminarians vividly remember their rector making some…odd remarks.

“I have a sizable nose, and he would say to me, ‘Rizzo, are you baptized, or are you a Jew?’ ” the Rev. John Rizzo, a priest based in New Zealand, who left the Society, told Paulson.

Rizzo’s twin brother, Joseph, who left the seminary and was never ordained, said: “He called the Holocaust the biggest theatrics known to mankind – I remember sitting in a conference one time when he said those words, and I couldn’t believe it – he looked around the room and saw the jaws dropping.”

Do Manhattanites need confession more?

With Lent fast approaching, 21 Catholic churches in Manhattan are promoting “24 Hours of Confession.”

From 7 a.m. on Friday, March 6 until — you guessed it — 7 a.m. on Saturday, March 7, priests will on hand round-the-clock.

The Cathedral of St. Patrick’s Young Adults is sponsoring the effort. The group’s website acknowledges that it is a “unique opportunity bring people back to confession.”

What about parishes in the Lower Hudson Valley, not to mention the rest of the Archdiocese of New York? It seems a bit odd to offer a Reconciliation Marathon at 21 spots in Manhattan but no where else.

What’s confessed in Manhattan, stays in Manhattan.

ELCA task force calls for ‘structured flexibility’ on gay questions

An ELCA task force studying sexuality has determined that…there is no consensus on homosexuality within the 4.7-million-member denomination.

An executive summary states:

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It is only within the last decades that this church has begun to understand in new ways the need of same-gender oriented individuals to seek relationships of lifelong companionship and commitment as well as public accountability and legal support for those commitments. This has led to differing understandings about the place of such relationships within the Christian community. Disagreements exist in this church and in the larger Christian community about whether marriage is also the appropriate term to use to describe similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong, monogamous relationships.

Although at this time this church lacks consensus on this matter, it encourages all people to live out their faith in the local and global community of the baptized with profound respect for the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor. This church calls for mutual respect and for guidance that seeks the good of all. As we live together with disagreement, the people in this church will continue to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment, pastoral care, and mutual respect.

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The ELCA’s Metro NY Synod has over 200 churches from NYC up through the Lower Hudson Valley.

Where does the ELCA go from here?

The task force recommends that the denomination consider allowing individual congregations to decide whether to call gays and lesbians in committed relationships as clergy.

It also says that the denomination should consider some basic questions when its biannual conference is held in August in Minneapolis: Does it want to find an alternative to marriage for same-sex couples? Does it want to allow local congregations to call gay clergy?

The process could end with what the task force calls “structured flexibility,” which it describes like this:

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  1. Add a new element of structured flexibility to existing candidacy and call policies;
  2. Move from a policy that says a person in such a relationship can never be considered for rostering to a policy that trusts those to whom this church already has given responsibility for these decisions to;
  3. Allow them to act, should they so chose, within their arenas of responsibility;
  4. Using consistent churchwide policies that respect bound consciences; and
  5. Discern whether or not the ministry of Christ may be served best by approving or calling a specific gay or lesbian person who is living in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship.

Guideposts may stay put

Guideposts — the publishing company founded by Norman Vincent Peale — has been headquartered here in Carmel since 1953.

So many considered it a blow to the community when Guideposts sold its 50-acre property last year to a development group. Among other things, Guideposts needs an updated headquarters.

It’s potentially good news, then, that the owner of the property would like to keep Guideposts there and has proposed building a 50,000-square-foot glass and steel headquarters, as my colleague Barbara Livingston Nackman reports.

Guideposts magazine, which has been featuring inspirational stories for more than half a century, has a worldwide circulation of something like 8 million copies.

And, if you missed it, my colleague Julie Moran Alterio had a real good piece recently about Chappaqua-based Reader’s Digest publishing Rick Warren’s new magazine, Purpose Driven Connection.

Her story included this:

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Alyce Alston, president of Reader’s Digest’s Health & Wellness and Home & Garden segments, said there are 90 million evangelical Christians in the United States who are the core group of likely subscribers.

“When you talk about getting 1 percent of that 90 million, you’re talking huge potential,” Alston said.

About 100,000 copies of the magazine were sent to pastors in Warren’s network. Church groups that order in bulk for their congregations will get $10 off each subscription fee.

The magazine will also likely be of interest to readers of “The Purpose Driven Life,” which has sold more than 25 million copies.

The magazine is an update on traditional Christian magazine titles with a glossier look and lavish photographic layouts, Alston said.

“This is more contemporary. It has a buzz factor. It’s oversized. Today people really want wonderful packaging. The photography, the writing and quality far surpass the competition,” she said.