Summary of today’s show: Our usual Thursday panel of Scot Landry, Susan Abbott, and Fr. Roger Landry consider the news headlines of the week, including Pope Benedict joining Twitter as @Pontifex; the Holy Father’s new instructions for Catholic charities to remain authentically Catholic; a new smartphone app dedicated to the Pope’s words and appearances; CatholicTV moving to basic cable; a parish producing radio ads for the Year of Faith; and a new book that highlights how six saints helped one woman in the most difficult moments of her life.
Listen to the show:
Watch the show via live video streaming or a recording later: BostonCatholicLive.com
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott
Today’s guest(s): Gregory Tracy, managing editor of the Pilot, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, and Fr. Roger Landry, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River
Links from today’s show:
- The Anchor
- The Pilot
- Some of the stories discussed on this show will be available on The Pilot’s and The Anchor’s websites on Friday morning. Please check those sites for the latest links.
Today’s topics: Catholic identity for Catholic charities; Pope on Twitter; Parish radio ads for Year of Faith; New book: My Sisters the Saints
1st segment: Scot welcomed everyone to the show and asked Susan Abbott how things were going for her. She said she was on retreat earlier this week at the 2nd annual Collaborators in the New Evangelization retreat. It brings together people from Boston, Providence, Washington, New Jersey, Maine. She said Monday’s topic was communications and speakers included our own Domenico Bettinelli and Bonnie Rodgers of CatholicTV. On Wednesday, she had an enrichment day with catechetical leaders of the Archdiocese. Bishop Arthur Kennedy spoke to the group and hit it out of the park. Michael Lavigne also spoke to the group about resources available for the Year of Faith.
Scot said one of the big stories that broke this past Saturday was a motu proprio from Pope Benedict on the Catholic identity of Catholic social service agencies. He said this document came out of the blue.
- “Pope makes new rules to strengthen charities’ Catholic identity”, CNS/The Pilot, 12/3/12
- “Catholic charity groups welcome Pope’s call for fidelity”, CNA/EWTN News, 12/5/12
- “Pope calls on bishops to run charities better”, CNA/EWTN News, 12/2/12
- Apostolic Letter issued “Motu Proprio” Intima Ecclesiae natura on the Service of Charity
Gregory Tracy said the Holy Father’s letter set up new rules for Catholic charitable organizations and how they must conform to the faith. It’s part of a larger effort to re-instill Catholic identity to Catholic institutions. As Catholic institutions have grown they have sometimes lost their unique identity, making them indistinguishable from secular organizations. Scot said he didn’t find anything surprising in the document except that the Holy Father felt he needed to say it.
Fr. Roger explained what a motu proprio is. He said they can be confusing because the words literally means “by the Pope’s own action.” It can be something like this that gives new legislation. It’s more than an executive order, but more like new legislation from one ruler. The Pope noted that in canon law that there’s a lot in canon law for the bishop’s role as governor of Catholic institutions, but not for governing charitable organizations that call themselves Catholic. This document lays out the bishop’s role in ensuring the Catholicity of those groups. He wrote that the Church’s charity is not just social work; we’re supposed to be doing explicit work of Christian love. We hope the recipients will see that love and investigate the source of love further. The Pope also noted that parishes also are supposed to be involved in charitable work. He said St. Vincent de Paul Societies isn’t the same thing. The Holy Father is calling for something with a greater dependence on the actual leadership of the parish. Many St. Vincent de Paul conferences defer to the pastor, but technically they don’t have to. He said the largest point is that Pope Benedict wants to ensure that any Catholic institution is serving others, that they’re doing so in Christ’s name, and the bishop is making sure everyone involved in the work is respecting Catholic teaching.
Fr. Roger said there’s two ways the Pope could have done this, the motu proprio or apostolic constitution, which sets down new law. The latter is much more formal and would involve a lot more consultation. An example was Ordinatio Sacerdotalis from 1994 when Pope John Paul wanted to remove doubt about the Church ordaining only men to the priesthood.
Susan said she sees it as good news/bad news. It’s sad that things that seem so perfectly obvious and sensible need to be put down in writing. She also noted the number of times the Pope referred to the faithful. These works of charity weren’t referred to as the “Church’s” responsibility in the abstract, but as the responsibility of the faithful.
Scot asked Greg how strongly the Church should be defining the line for Catholic practice. Greg said Americans seem to be obsessed with the ability to self-define themselves and to define what it means to be Catholic. He thinks it’s important for the Church to give clear instructions. Greg said there are some people who seem to want the Church to be like the Salvation Army, whose Christian identity can be obscured for those who see their work. He said many people want to do good to be nice, but Catholics do this work to be Christ to others, to project Christ into the world.
Fr. Roger said the story wasn’t picked up by the mainstream media because the way it was written the significance would be lost on many and because the news of the document wasn’t leaked ahead of time. Fr. Roger said the definition of the organizations addressed here go beyond Catholic Charities, but includes hospitals and schools and others.
2nd segment: Scot said earlier this week, the Holy Father announced that he was launching eight new Twitter handles, the English one being @Pontifex. This was announced on December 3. Already this week, without the benefit of one Tweet, he has 525,000 followers. He will begin tweeting on December 12. His Spanish account has another 100,000. By next Wednesday, he will have more than 1 million followers. Greg said it’s a great testimony of the hunger in the world to hear what the Pope has to say. He added that this is not going to be an interactive account in general, although it’s been promised the Holy Father will answer a few questions.
- Pope Benedict’s Twitter page
- “With @Pontifex, pope reaches out to new kind of followers”, CNS/The Pilot, 12/3/12
- “Papal events, Vatican webcam feeds streamed live with new ‘Pope App’”, CNS/The Pilot, 12/4/12
Scot said it seems the Pope is trying to embrace this mechanism to evangelize and share our faith. By his presence he’s authenticating the Twitterverse as a place for Catholic to share and embrace their faith among others. Fr. Roger said the Pope has emphasized in his recent World Day of Communications message that the Internet is a the new Aeropagus, where we share our faith. The vast majority of people who have signed up in great numbers to follow may never have listened to the Holy Father closely in the past. When the Pope launches next Wednesday, he will respond to a few questions that have been submitted via the hashtag #AskPontifex and this will be a regular opportunity.
Scot wondered if @pontifex will be on t-shirts at the next World Youth Day. Susan said it will be a teachable moment as people learn that the word means “bridge-builder”. Scot said he’s not a big fan of the use of Latin when the Church could use English because he wants the Church to seem more accessible. On the other hand, in this case, it could cause people to go and find out what it means. Greg said one of the considerations in choosing the handle was that a lot of the handles were taken. He said that by choosing Latin, the Pope didn’t show favor to any particular language group because Latin is the common denominator of our faith.
Fr. Roger said Pontifex is the technical title of the Holy Father. He is the Bridgebuilder between God and Man. To call the Pope Pontifex Maximus means we walk all over him to get to Jesus.
Greg pointed out that the Holy Father said he would personally review everything that goes out and this is why the tweets will not be as frequent. Scot said Cardinal Sean is @CardinalSean, Scot Landry is @scotlandry, the Good Catholic Life is @GoodCathLife, and the Pilot is @BostonPilot.
Scot said the Vatican is also releasing a new smartphone app that will include the Pope’s speeches and a webcam of his public appearances. It will be available on iPhones and iPads on December 10 and later on Android. It’s called The Pope App. Greg said he was particularly interested in this story, especially because of the live video feeds. He thinks virtually every public address of the Pope is recorded by someone, but not all of them can be viewed by everyone. But there are certain moments when you want to patch in. This app will even give you a reminder when a preferred event is starting. Everything will be archived as well. Scot said he’s become a big fan of web streams, including those from CatholicTV. Susan said she was able to watch the press conference of Bishop-elect Deeley on her iPhone that day.
Susan noted that the company behind the app is also publishing an ebook for the Year of Faith, pulling information from dioceses around the world. Fr. Roger said it seems the Vatican is partnering with private companies. He noted that the Vatican’s aphorism is “We’ll use yesterday’s technology tomorrow.” He said people are often champing at the bit to use their technical gifts at the service of the Church. For a lot of these companies you can’t get a better promo than getting the Pope to tweet. Twitter has received an incredible amount of free publicity from the Pope. At every level, this is a win-win for the Church in the world.
Scot also noted the good news that Comcast has moved CatholicTV to their basic package from the premium package it was on previously. They hope the other TV providers would also make CatholicTV part of their basic packages so more people can see their programming. The folks at CatholicTV have been pushing this several years. Greg said in his own home they finally have CatholicTV available on their TVs that have analog-to-digital converters. He noted that the digital TV conversion had pushed the channel to a place that many people couldn’t get it.
Greg said that by adding it to the basic service, Comcast has made CatholicTV available to every customer in New England. Scot said it shows the importance of going to CatholicTVeverywhere.com to sign a petition for other cable providers to follow suit.
Scot said that a parish in the Diocese of Fall River has decided to air 12 30-second radio commercials on stations on Cape Cod for the Year of Faith. It’s a version of the Catholics Come Home campaign but it was done just by the parish. It’s the brainchild of the pastor, Fr. George Harrison.
Fr. Roger said Corpus Christi has a track record of using advertising to promote coming back to the practice of the faith in their parish. Fr. Harrison wanted to expand beyond the narrow message of Christmas to the whole year of faith. He also likes the method of getting 12 parishioners of all kinds in a studio and asking them questions without scripts about why they love their faith. The Cape lends itself to this type of radio evangelization. He hopes that other Catholic parishes will follow suit. To listen to the ads, go to the website above and click on the Year of Faith logo.
Also in the Anchor, Fr. Roger’s column gives a testimonial/book review of a new book by Colleen Carroll Campbell. Fr. Roger said he’d read the book the same afternoon he’d read Pope Benedict’s book. Ten minutes in he came to the conclusion that Campbell’s book, “My Sisters, the Saints” was the better of the two books. She profiles four different crises in her life and how six different saints helped her through those difficulties.