Got Vatican II questions?

Not long after becoming pope, Benedict XVI openly wondered why the implementation of Vatican II has been so darned…complicated.

He said that many mistakenly believe that the post-Vatican II church has not lived up to the great Council, while others are wrong in believing that VII was supposed to represent a break from the pre-Council church.

B16 said: “Forty years after the Council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today, we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the Council is likewise growing.”

Bellitto_2009For the many Catholics who still have unanswered questions about Vatican II — okay, everybody — St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers would be a good place to visit next Wednesday (Feb 3). At 7:30 p.m., church historian Christopher Bellitto will speak on  “Vatican II: The State of the Questions.”

I’ve known Bellitto since he was professor of church history at St. Joseph’s Seminary and associate dean of the seminary’s Institute of Religious Studies.

He is not only a real smart guy who loves church history, but he knows how to talk and write about it. He won’t be dull. He will know what people want to hear about and he will get to it with insight and humor.

I must say, he is a master of the sound bite — an important skill if you’re going to be interviewed by media people these days. Bellitto knows how to get to the heart of a matter directly and colorfully.

And at Dunwoodie, he won’t have to rush.

Does he know Vatican II? As an editor for Paulist Press, he created and edited “Rediscovering Vatican II,” only an 8-volume series by a team of international scholars.

He is currently Assistant Professor of History at Kean University in Union, N.J.,  and the Academic Editor-at-Large for Paulist Press.

He got his doctorate at Fordham, so he’s still a local guy.

This is his first return engagement at Dunwoodie for a while. So check him out if you’re, you know, interested in Vatican II.

For more info: (914) 968-6200, ext. 8292.

Preparing future priests for dinner conversation, email usage and dealing with the media

I had the privilege yesterday of addressing about 35 Catholic seminarians at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.

The topic: How to “interact” with the media.

I was on a panel with John Woods, editor of Catholic New York, and Beth Griffin, a writer for Catholic News Service. They’re both real pros whose work I respect.

We each chatted for a few minutes and then took an interesting assortment of questions from the group.

As you might expect, I argued in favor of “openness” with the media. I tried to make the case that it’s in everyone’s best interest for priests to take calls from reporters, arrange interviews and try to explain their beliefs and actions (in a clear, concise and careful way). The opposite approach — not returning calls, offering a “no comment,” turning your back on a reporter — never makes reporters go away and ultimately contributes to less accurate and meaningful news reports.

Does interaction with the media ensure accurate and thorough news reports? Of course not.

The panel was asked about reporters with an “agenda,” the questionable accuracy of bloggers, the messy fall-out from the high-pressure, 24-hour news cycle and other factors that can make the media quite scary for clergy.

All good points. No question about it. But the Media Machine is not going away and many priests will have to face it at some point.

Beth, John and I all had the same message: Be truthful. Be helpful. Be clear. Be careful.

Father Gerard Rafferty (that’s him), who teaches Scripture at the seminary and introduced us, may have said it best: “We can’t be afraid of proclaiming what we believe.”

Our presentation actually came at the end of a two-day seminar called “The Priest in the Public Eye.” The idea was to help future priests fully realize that they will live much of their lives in the public eye and to understand what it really means.

They started on Monday morning with a presentation on — get this — social etiquette. How should you look, introduce yourself, greet others, even offer handshakes. How to interact with staff and parishioners. What it means to be a good host and a good guest. Even how to offer a toast and work a receiving line.

This is the life of a priest, right?

Bishop Gerald Walsh, rector of the seminary, covered basic communication, from the parish bulletin and the parish website to answering invitations and writing thank-you notes.

Father Stephen Norton covered the advantages — and potential dangers — of Internet networking and email use. For example: Choose an appropriate email name, even for personal accounts.

Yesterday morning — and I wish I could have seen this — the seminarians learned about dinner etiquette. We’re talking how to deal with forks and spoons, how to make appropriate conversation (avoid politics and religion, anyone?) and knowing when it’s time to leave. Also: Silence the cell phone.

Then came our program about dealing with the media.

Griffin had one of my favorite bits of advice for the day: Don’t refer to your archbishop as an “ordinary” or an unknowing reporter may report that you referred to Archbishop Dolan as, well, an ordinary joe.

NY Giants owner to help honor Archbishop Dolan at seminary dinner

Guess who will be the special honoree at St. Joseph’s Seminary’s annual dinner in Yonkers on Sept. 22.

The new boss, Archbishop Dolan.

Dolan has been out of town for much of the summer, working on his Spanish. I understand that he is going to start making his mark on the Archdiocese of NY this fall.

The chairs of the event will be philanthropist Florence B. D’Urso, who splits her time between Manhattan and Pelham and is one of the most influential laypeople in the archdiocese, and none other than John K. Mara, of Harrison, president and chief executive officer of the New York Giants.

Mara (that’s him) is the oldest son of the late Giants owner Wellington Mara. He serves on the Board of Directors of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Harrison and of the School of the Holy Child in Rye. His mother, Ann Mara, was chair of the 2004 seminary dinner.

The dinner is a big fundraiser for “Dunwoodie,” the training ground for NY priests. Tickets are $500 or $5,000 for a table.

For info, call 914-968-6200, ext. 8292.

“In our 113th year of preparing men to serve God’s people as priests, we are grateful for the many blessings and graces the Lord continues to shower upon us here at Dunwoodie,” says Bishop Gerald Walsh, rector of the seminary.