BY STEFAN GIGACZ
After launching his social media presence on Twitter in late 2012 - in eight languages no less - Pope Benedict has decided to go one better this year by tweeting in Latin.
"Twitter is a tool which requires rapid communication," Roberto Spataro, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Latin Studies, told the Guardian U.K., according to the Huffington Post. "In English you say 'the corruption of the best one is horrible.’ In Latin, three words suffice: 'corrupt optima pessima.’’’
Indeed, the Pope posted his first Latin tweet yesterday after Mass at St Peter's, saying:
Unitati christifidelium integre studentes quid iubet Dominus? Orare semper, iustitiam factitare, amare probitatem, humiles Secum ambulare.
Fortunately, he also posted the English version, namely:
What does the Lord ask of us as we work for Christian unity? To pray constantly, do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with Him.
Which is more words than the Latin, but fewer letters. So, who's counting?
Perhaps, Carmelite Fr Reginald Foster, who was moved to describe Benedict as "Pontifex breviloquens".
Not to be outdone, the Pope's secretary, Bishop Georges Ganswein this week managed to make the cover of the Italian edition of Vanity Fair.
It's no sin to be beautiful, Bishop Ganswein, also known as "Gorgeous George", told the magazine here. If like me, you haven't yet mastered Italian, try opening it in Google Chrome which will offer to translate it into English for you.
Why all this pontifical interest in social media? Perhaps, it's because the Vatican has always strived to be in the avant garde of communications and launched its own radio station in 1931.
Or because Benedict wants to encourage the sacramental use of technology encountered by Peggy Noonan in New York:
And then suddenly in the silence, through the screen, I saw a light. It grew and glowed in the darkness, it moved. A miracle? I cleared my throat.
“Father, did you just open up an iPad?”
Yes, he said, and we started to laugh. He keeps particular readings there that might be helpful with certain specific questions. He’d like me to read some verses when I get home.
Or perhaps it's because this year marks the 50th anniversary of Inter Mirifica, the Vatican II decree on social communications, which was also one of the first batch documents adopted by the Council on 4 October 1963.
Speaking of Vatican II, the blogosphere in Asia is currently full of tributes to controversial Sri Lankan theologian and social activist, Fr Tissa Balasuriya o.m.i., who died last week.
Describing him as a "disciple and promoter" of the Council, Asian Human Rights Commission noted:
Fr. Tissa Balasuriya OMI, a Sri Lankan Catholic priest who once came to the attention of the world due to his excommunication by Rome which was later lifted, passed away yesterday in Colombo. He had been unwell for some time and was 89 years of age at the time of his death.
Human rights worker Ruki Fernando remembered him as "a radical and rebel within the Catholic Church and society":
This is perhaps because like Jesus, he never flinched from challenging the rulers and powerful – be they be those in government, multinational corporations or church. Unjust socio-economic-political structures were subjected to harsh criticism by him. He never sought or accepted any privileges from the rulers. But what I remember most about Fr. Tissa is his love and his gentleness.
Meanwhile, Australia's Holy Irritant recalled Fr Tissa's visit down under 30 years ago:
I still cherish the experience of meeting this extraordinary man in the 1980s when he came to Australia as the guest of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission. After a lifetime of formation in the European Theological tradition it was liberating to be exposed to an Asian perspective. Tissa's insights and commitment to inter-religious relationships challenge us to move beyond mere dialogue and cups of tea.
Elsewhere, John Jalsevac points to another more sombre commemoration, namely the 40th anniversary of the US Supreme Court decisions Roe v Wade and Roe v Bolton that had the effect of legalising abortion:
News media is already filling up with retrospectives from leaders on both sides of the issue about the past 40 years and the state of the abortion debate.
Jalsevac also highlights the astounding fact that neither of the original plaintiffs, Sandra Cano (Mary Doe) and Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe), had an abortion and both are now ardently pro-life:
To many it will come as a shock that neither of the two women whose names are practically synonymous with legal abortion in America actually had an abortion, and that both are now both passionately pro-life and have dedicated their lives to trying to overturn the cases that bear their names.
Meanwhile, on another life issue, Robert P. Jones notes that religious groups do not speak with one voice on the issue of gun control.
On one hand, the religiously unaffiliated (60 percent), minority Protestants such as African Americans (69 percent), and Catholics (62 percent) all favor stricter gun control laws. On the other hand, a majority of white mainline Protestants (53 percent) and more than 6-in-10 (61 percent) white evangelical Protestants oppose stricter gun control laws.
Still in the USA, there is more controversy at the University of Notre Dame focusing on the teaching of gender issues. Feminist theologian Elizabeth describes her experience developing on 'Women, Gender, & Theology'.
I had been given many warnings about attempting to teach such material to the Notre Dame undergraduates. Various people in the theology department were concerned that the ND undergraduates would not be able to accommodate the rough edges of such controversial material.
Anyway, this concern about my class was fortunately proven invalid by the end of the semester: the students generally learned how to think better about theology and about gendered aspects of that enterprise. At least four of them have told me that my class has given them a way to remain Catholic — to remain faithful while allowing themselves to sit with real questions about gender and the voices of women — instead of leaving the Church. That’s one way to know I did my job.
And with a Royal Commission on institutional sexual abuse of children about to begin in Australia, it's interesting to read that the Paulist Center in Boston is hosting a one man play tackling the issue. Michael O'Loughlin notes:
“Conversations With My Molester: A Journey of Faith,” chronicles the abuse of Michael Mack, the play’s writer, at the hands of a priest when he was 11. He covers the shame he felt, the feelings of powerlessness, his near-brush with inflicting abuse himself, and the healing that the play has brought him. Fr. Rick Walsh, CSP, a priest at the Paulist Center, stood on stage with Mack and said the play was a kind of ministry in itself.
On a lighter note, A Country Priest has some new year advice for seminarians buying soutanes:
The best soutanes are from Barbiconi and Gamirelli in Rome. The only catch is, they’re expensive. $800 or more. Guys don’t normally buy a Roman soutane until they’re preparing for their diaconate ordination. Cheaper soutanes are available in Vietnam and the Philippines. I have two replicas of my Barbiconi soutane (one black and one white) which cost only $50 each.
It might also make an interesting case study for a moral theology class!
And finally, anti-gun activist and Bowling for Columbine director, Michael Moore, once a seminarian himself, recounts his encounter with President Nixon:
We were students at St. Paul’s Seminary in Saginaw, Michigan, and we were certainly in the minority when it came to supporting the scoundrel Richard Milhous Nixon. We lived in a haven of Democrats (obviously, they were all Catholics, and Nixon was the evil one who’d been defeated by our only Catholic president). The entire seminary was blindly supporting Humphrey—but not Salt and not me, and not a few brave others. We weren’t supporting warmongers, period, regardless of what their party affiliation was.
It's a great piece of Catholic social history capturing the mood of the post-Vatican II church in the US.
Updated to correct the error signaled by Bridget in comments below.
Stefan Gigacz is preparing a Ph.D. at MCD University of Divinity, Melbourne, on the role of Joseph Cardijn at Vatican II.
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