Is This a First? Bishop of Bling is Suspended.

Deacon Greg has the story.

The Vatican has suspended Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the so-called “Bishop of Bling.” This action is less than the calls from at least some quarters in the German public to dismiss the bishop, and it is more than the nothing which many people expected.

Rather than make a public statement about the bishop’s guilt or innocence, the Vatican confined itself to saying simply that “A situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties.”

From what I’ve read, that is an accurate assessment of the situation.

To read more, check out The Deacon’s Bench.

The Bishop of Bling and the Pope

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Government money is not free.

It is a hammer than can beat people and institutions into the government mold. It is also a great corruptor.

The Church in Germany has been dealing with one particular manifestation of this corruption in the person of the bishop the press and people have dubbed “The Bishop of Bling.”

Germany levies a church tax on those who register as members of a recognized church. The government then cuts a big check to the church where these people are registered.

What that means is that the Catholic Church (among others) does not have to deal with the messiness of the people in the pews in order to get their do-re-mi. The government sends them a check to the tune (in the Catholic example) of billions of dollars. Not only does this lead inexorably to a Church that is out of contact with its people and content to be fat and indifferent, but it can and does lead to the personal corruption of individual bishops.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, bishop of Limburg, Germany, has been called to Rome to explain his actions regarding the finances of his diocese. The reason is that he has used the vast government monies that are dumped in his coffers for himself. He’s spent tens of millions renovating his house, flies first class, drives an expensive car and otherwise lives large.

There is also a question as to whether or not the bishop lied under oath about these expenditures. That is something I want to let the courts — rather than public outrage — decide.

All this runs counter to the kind of Church that Pope Francis is calling for. It harkens back to the embarrassing excesses of half a millennia ago.

It is also entirely different from the behavior of the bishops I have known. My own archbishop lives in an unpretentious ranch-style house and flies in the we-hate-our-passengers class at the back of the plane. I know. I’ve coincidentally ended up on several flights with him. He’s patient and kind to the people — including me — who come up to him in airports, and he stands in line with his roller bag along with the rest of us.

Behavior like that of Bishop Tebartz-van Elst denies the people in their diocese the rightful use of their monies, harms the trust that people should have in their Church and smears good bishops like mine whose behavior is the antithesis of these abuses.

The Holy Father has requested a report concerning Bishop Tebartz-van Elst’s activities. In the meantime, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has been called to Rome to explain himself.

This is one time I would not want to be a fly on the proverbial wall while a conversation is going on. I’m happy to leave the bishop in the hands of our pope. I believe that the Holy Father will sort this out in a way that only a follower of Christ could.

From ABC News:

After being kept waiting nearly one week for an appointment, German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was able to meet with Pope Francis today at Vatican to explain his lavish use of church funds.

The Bishop of Limburg – now known as the Bishop of Bling — has spent some $42 million to renovate his official residence and is accused of falsifying expense reports.

The pope, who has used the Throne of St. Peter to preach for a “poor” church and has set the example by rejecting the opulence available to his position, released no statement following the meeting.

Pope Francis had been briefed last week by the head of the German Bishop’s conference. German press reports say the Vatican has asked Archbishop Robert Zollitsch to file an official report on the affair, speculating that the fate of Bishop Tebartz van Elst may only be decided after it is filed.

The bishop of Limburg admits using church funds to restore his residence but has defended his actions, saying the renovations of the church property involved 10 different buildings that had to be upgraded according to historical preservation laws. But the scandal has caused a great uproar in Germany, where a mandatory church tax for members brings in billions of dollars the German Catholic Church each year.

Christian Weisner, of the lay organization We Are the Church, said the bishop’s actions seriously damaged the reputation of the church.

Pope Francis: There is No Way to Avoid Growing Old

This one is for my precious Mama.

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What Would You Say to Pope Francis?

I can’t imagine me being able to choke out any words at all if the pope shook my hand. But if I could manage to speak, I think what I would like to say is just “thank you for your life of service to our Lord,” and “God bless you.”

What would you say?

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Book Review: How to Lead Like Francis

To join the discussion of Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads, or to order a copy, go here

PopeFrancisWhyHeLeads 1

Pope Francis has set the world spinning around the Catholic Church in a way that hasn’t happened for a long time. Like all great leaders, he has also inspired criticism from some quarters, most of it, ironically, from devout Catholics who fear change.

I understand these discomfited change-fearers. When it comes to the Church, I’m a bit of a change-fearer myself. I draw comfort from the liturgy and the teachings. What some people see as intransigence on the part of the Church, I see as stability and strength; something I can count on in this crazy world.

However, the Church is a living organism, the great Body of Christ in the world. As a living organism, change, however slowly it happens, is part of its essential nature. The key to successful change is the guidance of the Holy Spirit, primarily, but not entirely, through the leadership of the Pope.

Everywhere I look, everyone I read, is chattering about the Catholic Church these days. The reason? Pope Francis’ straightforward leadership style of going to people and meeting them where they are.

It is a simple fact that you can’t be a leader if nobody follows you. In our power-hungry world where so-called leaders insulate themselves from everyone except other leaders of their same rank and place, true leadership, as opposed to simply holding a position with a leadership title, is rare.

Witness our latest Congressional debacle. Was there any leadership in it? None that I saw, not from either side. It was a pie-throwing contest in which the pie throwers absolutely did not care if anybody followed their so-called leadership.

In truth, no one can be more alienated from their “followers” that those who occupy positions of “leadership” in commerce, industry, politics, and yes, religion, in America today.

That, more than anything else, is why the whole world is responding to Pope Francis. He is reaching out to them, and they are responding by reaching back.

Pope Francis: Why He Leads The Way He Leads, analyzes Pope Francis’ leadership through the author’s knowledge of Jesuit formation and the Holy Father’s own biography. As such, it is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to learn more about our pope. It is also just plain good advice for those who want to lead other human beings.

I have a master’s degree in management, and I’ve spend 18 years of my life holding a leadership position in the public sphere. I have never seen a better book on how a true leader gets people to follow him or her.

It’s simple actually. Leadership is service. Leadership is about the people you want to lead, not you. True leadership begins with a foundation of personal character and segues into a focus on serving others.

What that means is building products, providing services, writing books, making movies, enacting laws, preaching sermons, repairing plumbing and planting crops that enrich and elevate the people who use your wares. In commerce, it means that if you build a better mousetrap, it will sell. In child-rearing, it means that if you spend time with your kids, they will flourish. In politics, it means that if you put the people first, the country will thrive. In faith, it means that if you reach out to people in love, as Pope Francis is doing, they will reach back.

The author makes a strong case that Pope Francis’ leadership style is heavily influenced by his Jesuit training. But I believe it is even more heavily influenced by that other hands-on leader — Jesus of Nazareth.

He, like the Pope, did not refuse to dine with sinners, to speak complex truths simply, to reach out to sinful people in ways that the more persnickety of the religious of His day found scandalizing.

Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads is an excellent analysis of our Holy Father’s leadership style. It provides insight into the origins of this pope’s thinking in a format that connects all this to our own leadership challenges in our workaday lives.

Pope Francis is more than just a rule-meister who issues guidelines like thunderbolts. He is a leader who gets down in the pits with the rest of us and leads by example and by inclusion.

This book makes that explicable. I highly recommend it.

Pope Consecrates the World to Our Lord’s Mother

Blessed Virgin Mary Regina Angelorum

Pope Francis consecrated the world to the care of our Lord’s mother today.

I remember that Pope John Paul II consecrated Russia to Our Lady, and the impossible happened. Russia quit the Communist fight without firing a shot.

No one in the secular world has ever acknowledged the miraculous nature of what happened. Instead, they try to explain it in terms of economics and such. In truth, it was unprecedented, and economics do not explain it. Nothing, except the miraculous intervention of Our Lady could have ended the Cold War so suddenly and peacefully.

So, my reaction to Pope Francis’ action today is that I hope Our Lady leads this world out of its self-made hells in the same way. This world needs a miracle.

You can read the Holy Father’s homily here.

This is the full text of Pope Francis’ prayer by which he consecrated the world to Our Lady today. I pray my personal prayer of consecration to Our Lady almost every morning. If you have made a similar consecration, today would be a good day to renew it.

From Zenit:

Holy Mary Virgin of Fatima,

with renewed gratitude for your maternal presence

we join our voice to that of all the generations

who call you blessed.

We celebrate in you the works of God,

who never tires of looking down with mercy

upon humanity, afflicted with the wound of sin,

to heal it and save it.

Accept with the benevolence of a Mother

the act of consecration that we perform today with confidence,

before this image of you that is so dear to us.

We are certain that each of us is precious in your eyes

and that nothing of all that lives in our hearts is unknown to you.

We let ourselves be touched by your most sweet regard

and we welcome the consoling caress of your smile.

Hold our life in your arms:

bless and strengthen every desire for good;

revive and nourish faith;

sustain and enlighten hope;

awaken and animate charity;

guide all of us along the path of holiness.

Teach us your own preferential love

for the little and the poor,

for the excluded and the suffering,

for sinners and the downhearted:

bring everyone under your protection

and entrust everyone to your beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus.

Amen.

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]

Pope Francis Plans Major Reforms of the Curia

Pope Francis is planning to do more than tweak the way the Vatican is organized. He’s going to make  a major overhaul.

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Papal G8 Meets for the First Time

Pope Francis appointed a select committee of eight cardinals from around the world shortly after his election last spring. These eight cardinals, all of them Vatican outsiders, were charged with making suggestions for the reform of the Roman Curia.

Their first meeting is today.

From The Guardian:

The eight cardinals picked by Pope Francis to advise him on reform of the Roman curia and the governance of the Catholic church are preparing to meet the pontiff for the first time on Tuesday, in an unprecedented three-day meeting likened to a “papal G8″.

In a move already billed as a potentially critical moment for Francis’s six-month-old papacy, the multinational group of “outsider” cardinals is flying in to Rome from all corners of the globe to present him with ideas for how to reform the Vatican and the church worldwide.

The panel – officially named the Council of Cardinals – was hailed as a revolutionary move when it was formed in April shortly after Francis’s election. One observer said that, in its apparent embrace of a more collegial style of church governance, it was the “most important step in the history of the church for the past 10 centuries”.

Pope Francis: You Cannot Know Jesus Without Betting Your Life on Him

Do you know Jesus?

Do you really know Him?

Pope Francis tells you how to really know Jesus.

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Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear

Everything you want

I read Father Dwight Longnecker’s fine post, Bergoglio’s List, and it sort of pushed me over the edge I’ve been standing on for a while. Be forewarned: There’s a rant coming.

Pope Francis is like Blessed John Paul II in that he has lived through times when the devil was ascendant and incarnate in his country. He has, in the same way that Blessed John Paul II did in World War II and then under Communism, witnessed and lived through times of great evil. Like Blessed John Paul, he responded to these terrors with Christian courage, fealty and love.

As the article Father Dwight quotes says,

In his Argentina, between 1976 and 1983, Jorge Mario Bergoglio lived through the ‘years of lead’ of the military dictatorship. Kidnappings, torture, massacres, 30,000 disappeared, 500 mothers killed after giving birth in prison to children who were taken away from them.

… In front of three judges, Bergoglio was hammered for three hours and forty-five minutes with insidious questions, above all by the attorney Luis Zamora, the lawyer for the victims. A key passage of the questioning comes when Bergoglio is asked to justify his meetings with the generals Jorge Videla and Emilio Massera, in 1977.

… The “list” of Bergoglio is a collection of highly diverse personal stories, which make for exhilarating reading, whose common characteristic is that the people in them were saved by him.

… There is Alicia Oliveira, the first woman to become a judge in the criminal courts in Argentina and also the first to be dismissed after the military coup, non-Catholic and not even baptized, who went underground and was taken by Bergoglio, in the trunk of his car, to the college of San Miguel, to see her three children.

There are the three seminarians of the bishop of La Rioja, Enrique Angelelli, who was killed in 1976 by members of the military in a staged auto accident, after he had discovered who was truly responsible for numerous assassinations.

There is Alfredo Somoza, the scholar saved without his knowledge.

There are Sergio and Ana Gobulin, who worked in the slums and were married by Father Bergoglio, he arrested and she wanted, both saved and expatriated with the help of the Italian vice-consul in Argentina at the time, Enrico Calamai, another hero of the story.

I posted a pro life homily Cardinal Bergoglio gave in which he spoke of the children in his country who live in the dumps and search these dumps for their subsistence.

Our Holy Father has seen the devil looking at him through the eyes of another person. He has lived through times when the devil had absolute control of the government and military of his country. He has been forced to help people without letting his left hand know what his right hand was doing because secrecy of this degree was the only key to survival.

Children dump

He has seen small children cast out to fend for themselves in dumps.

I am sick to the marrow of my bones of hearing the carping about the way he does the liturgy or how he dresses. I know that the liturgy and the way it is presented is important to some people, but I think we should all remember that the liturgy is not a show. It is prayer. The mass is an hour-long prayer (half hour on weekdays) in which the sacrifice at Calvary is brought home to us and then presented to us in the body and blood of Our Lord for our strength as we go forward in the faith.

Jesus Christ, the living Son of God, is wholly present in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.

I respect the hunger of those who love the liturgy for its beauty and draw sustenance from that beauty. But some of the people I’m reading are dangerously close to making an idol of it. The point is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, risen again and ever present to us on all the altars of all the Catholic Churches of the world.

I think Pope Francis “gets” this. I think he also knows that the mass is prayer and that prayer comes from the heart. There is a whole world out there beyond the borders of the United States, and that world is a butcher shop. The mass, as prayer and re-enactment of the sacrifice of Our Lord, has to speak to people whose reality is far different from ours.

Who knows better what those children in the dumps need; us in our American self-absorption, or the Pope who has walked with them for decades? Who can best address the Church to the people who are suffering and dying for the faith; us, or the pope who has lived with the terror of a killer government himself?

I believe the Holy Spirit gave us this pope for these times because he is the pope we need. He is the pope for those people who are suffering and dying in this butcher shop world of ours.

I think that God gave us this pope at this time because He loves those children in the dumps, those who are unjustly imprisoned, beaten, tortured, raped and murdered. He loves them.

Our problems here in America are — every one of them — things we could solve ourselves if we’d just stop being such cowards. The reason our faith is being successfully attacked from every direction in this country is because Christians are colluding with the attackers by their silence, their tacit support in what they watch and say, and by their actions in how they live their lives.

We don’t need the pope to excoriate those who attack Christ in this country one more time. How many times do the popes have to reiterate Church teachings on the sanctity of human life, gay marriage and all the other evils our debauched society loves more than Christ? Does each pope have to say it five times? Or is it 20?

Maybe the problem isn’t that the popes haven’t told us, but that we aren’t doing our part. We don’t need more excoriation, and we don’t need more obsession over the details of the liturgy.

We need Christians who will follow Christ and stand up for Him, come what may.

The people who need the Holy Father’s active help are those who can’t do for themselves: The ones who are at the mercy of the evils of this butcher shop world.

Here in America, our problem is our own lack of faith in God, which makes us cowards. Christians all over the world are suffering and dying for Jesus. We need to get on our knees and pray for faith like that. It is the answer to all our problems.


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