Feb 15, 2000


Online Edition – Vol. V, No. 10: February 2000


"She Who Is" author lectures on Mary in St. Louis | Speculation on early papal retirement | Sacrament safe in seminary fire | Intercommunion in Austria | June 2000: conference on Aquinas and natural law | Cathedral renovation triggers concern | Wicca, sí, "Old Mass", no

"She Who Is" author lectures on Mary in St. Louis
The 18th Annual Aquinas Lecture sponsored by the Dominican Aquinas Institute on January 27, was given by Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, author of the prize-winning 1993 book, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse.

The lecture followed "Sung Vespers in honor of Saint Thomas Aquinas" held at Saint Francis Xavier (College) Church on the campus of Saint Louis University, where the Aquinas Institute is located. In 1997 the Aquinas Institute published a Dominican "Liturgy of the Hours" incorporating the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) Psalter. (Father Frank C. Quinn, OP, professor of liturgical theology at Aquinas, has served on the Music Subcommittee of ICEL.)

Sister Johnson is a theology professor at Fordham University and former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

In common with other feminist theologians, Sister Johnson argues that the image of God as "Father" arose from an oppressive "patriarchal culture". To overcome "male-domination", all masculine images (King, Lord, etc.) and pronouns for God should be eliminated and replaced by feminine ones (hence, "She Who Is").

In a 1994 article, "Don’t make Mary the feminine face of God" (US Catholic, April 1994, p 30-32), Sister Johnson warns that making Mary a "feminine dimension" of God "does not resolve the basic problem of male-dominated imagery", rather it makes things even "more dangerous to women’s equality" because it would take "the hard edges off" the "obviously patriarchal" image of God.

Speculation on early papal retirement
German Bishop Karl Lehmann’s response to a reporter’s question in early January led to international speculations about whether Pope John Paul II might retire "for reasons of health".

Bishop Lehmann later "clarified" his remark, and Vatican spokesmen were quick to affirm the Holy Father’s outstanding mental vigor.

But a book by retired San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn, The Reform of the Papacy, (Crossroad, 2000) fueled further speculations about the possibility of pressure being put on the pope by some members of the episcopacy to retire early.

Archbishop Quinn’s book was reviewed by Robert Blair Kaiser in the National Catholic Reporter (January 14). In his review, Kaiser agrees with Quinn that John Paul II is lacking in "collegiality". Kaiser continues, "When the cardinal-electors meet, I suspect collegiality will be a top item on their agenda. They will have to ask themselves which one of their number will not only say the right things about collegiality, but actually come up with ways of being collegial."

Sacrament safe in seminary fire
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, December 15, 1999, a fire was detected on the fourth floor of the Theology Wing dormitory of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. A seminarian detected the fire and alerted his fellow seminarians and teachers. Not one of the 80 men in the dormitory was hurt; but the fire became a three-alarm fire, requiring 80 firefighters to extinguish it.

Witnesses remarked that the fire tried to spread to the chapel wing, but it was not able to do so. "I know it was the fire wall, but it seemed like the hand of God pushing the flames back," said Dr. C. Scott, chair of the English department. None of the stained glass windows or statuary in the chapel was broken by the fire or the firefighters.

Father William Fitzgerald, O. Praem., director of liturgy, wanted to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from the fire, but he was not allowed to enter the chapel because of excessive smoke. The next morning, he entered the chapel to retrieve the Blessed Sacrament and found the chapel drenched with water. But, upon opening the tabernacle, he reports: "I found the interior was entirely dry and the Blessed Sacrament in the lunette (large host) and a ciborium (host fragments) was perfectly dry. Not a miracle, but an argument in favor of a solid metal tabernacle, which was virtually watertight. I wrapped the Blessed Sacrament in the humeral veil and walked down the stairs and along the first floor corridor toward Saint Turibius Chapel. As Father Moore saw me approaching with the Blessed Sacrament, he called for quiet and the men fell silent as the Lord went by — some knelt in the corridor. All were relieved that the Sacred Species was entirely intact."

Happily, life at the seminary has returned to normal. Seminarians displaced by the fire have been moved into clean and refurbished rooms on the lower three floors of the Theology Wing dormitory, and classes have resumed.

(Source: Pontifical College Josephinum website: www.pcj.edu)

Intercommunion in Austria
In the September issue of Theme Kirche, the archdiocesan newspaper of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna and an editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published a response to a Protestant concerned about intercommunion. The letter stated that "Everyone who can in good conscience say ‘Amen’ to the Eucharistic Prayer of the Catholic Mass may take Communion in a Catholic church." The October 16th Tablet, a liberal British Catholic newspaper, called the Cardinal’s statement "radical".

According to the Tablet, the Cardinal’s statement was welcomed by Bishop Herwig Sturm, head of the Lutheran Church in Austria, who said in a radio interview that "I am glad that non-Catholics need no longer have a bad conscience when they go to Communion in a Catholic church". Archdeacon Jeremy Peake, the senior Anglican clergyman in Austria, interpreted it to mean that "those who had been wary of receiving Communion in a Catholic church to date could now do so with a good conscience".

The Tablet commented that "Cardinal Schönborn’s approach appears to be in a different spirit from that of the restrictive norms set out by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales in One Bread One Body, when they said communion could only be given to non-Catholics when ‘there is danger of death, or if there is some other grave and pressing need’, as there might be at a one-off occasion like a first communion or marriage".

However, the leader of the Orthodox Church in Austria, Metropolitan Michael Staikos, criticized Protestant leaders at an ecumenical summit in November for inviting Christians of other traditions to share Communion, and called on them to stop putting pressure on other denominations on the subject of inter-communion.

Cardinal Schönborn issued a clarifying statement saying that wanting to go to Communion without believing in a tradition’s basic teaching showed a "lack of respect".

(Information from the Tablet was used in this story.)

June 2000: conference on Aquinas and natural law
A conference on Saint Thomas Aquinas and the natural law tradition will be held June 2-4 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. Featured speakers include Ralph McInerny, Russell Hittinger, Robert George, Janet Smith, the Reverend Benedict Ashley, the Reverend Robert Sirico, and Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop of Detroit. Detroit auxiliary bishops Leonard Blair and Allen Vigneron will also participate.

Panelists and speakers will debate such topics as Aquinas’s relations to political philsophy, anthropology, the legal tradition, and sacred theology.

For further information, contact Dr. Peter A. Pagan-Aguiar, Department of Philosophy, Wheeling Jesuit University, 316 Washington Ave., Wheeling, WV 26003. Phone: (304) 243-4428; FAX: (304) 243-2243; E-mail.

Cathedral renovation triggers concern
The Kentucky Post reported in its December 14 and 15, 1999 issues on a simmering controversy over a proposed renovation of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Modeled after Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, it is one of the jewels of Covington, attracting thousands of worshippers, photographers and tourists from around the country.

Parishioners don’t object to the cleaning of the stained glass windows or reinstalling kneelers, but are concerned about plans to move the altar and to remove the marble communion rail and an ornate wooden baldacchino over the present altar.

According to the Post, Covington Bishop Robert Muench has had three public meetings since August to convince parishioners that the diocese is proceeding honestly with the renovations. The people were invited to submit written comments on eleven design proposals.

Bill Brown, the liturgical architect in charge of the project, has made replacing the marble altar a priority: "We are obligated, as Catholics, to have the altar located (in such a way) so that the priest can face the people", the Post quoted him as saying. The marble altar is in its original place, with a moveable table altar in front of it.

The Reverend John Cahill, rector of the Basilica, said that "The cathedral is supposed to model the current liturgical practice of the church…. I think we need to restore the altar to dignity and prominence — that’s the main improvement."

The Covington diocese has already met its capital campaign fund-raising goal of ten million dollars, of which $4.7 million is to be devoted to the renovations.

Wicca, sí, "Old Mass", no
Catholic troops and their families stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, recently requested permission for a Tridentine Mass from the Archbishop for the Military Services, Edwin F. O’Brien. Archbishop O’Brien said he had no objections, but that this must be approved by the Catholic chaplain in charge at Fort Bragg. The chaplain denied their request.

The same Catholic chaplain fought for the right for a Wiccan "priestess" to hold a service at the base. Because of his advocacy, she was granted permission to hold ceremonies.

Wicca is a self-consciously pagan, "New Age" religion, whose name means "witchcraft". Wiccans are predominantly women, and many are reportedly former Catholics.



The Editors