Why St. Thomas?

January 28, 2023 Joseph G. Trabbic 41

The Church has given the title “doctor” to some of her saints. In Latin doctor means “teacher” and the doctors of the Church are teachers of a very special sort. Pius X calls them “our […]

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Benedict XVI to be buried in first tomb of Pope John Paul II

January 2, 2023 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Benedict XVI visits the tomb of the late Pope John Paul II in the grotto beneath St. Peter’s Basilica after a meeting with young Catholics, in preparation of the XXI World Youth Day at the Vatican April 6, 2006. / Photo by ARTURO MARI/AFP via Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Jan 2, 2023 / 06:35 am (CNA).

Benedict XVI will be interred in the Vatican crypt in the same spot where Pope John Paul II was buried before his beatification.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed the site of Benedict’s tomb to journalists on Jan. 2, the first day the pope emeritus’ body was laid in state in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Benedict’s death at age 95 was announced in Rome on Dec. 31. 

Benedict XVI’s coffin will be carried to the crypt under the central part of St. Peter’s Basilica for interment after his funeral Mass on Jan. 5.

St. John Paul II’s tomb was in the crypt from the date of his funeral April 8, 2005, until April 29, 2011, when his casket was moved to the upper part of St. Peter’s Basilica a few days before his beatification ceremony.

St. John XXIII was also previously buried in the same place, which is fewer than 100 feet from the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle, the Catholic Church’s first pope.

The area is on the north side of the central part of the Vatican crypt. On the wall above the spot, there is an image of the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus flanked by angels. 

Queen Christina of Sweden, who died on April 19, 1689, is buried in a sarcophagus immediately to the right of the spot.


The Dispatch

Journalists contradict allegations of ‘cover up’ against John Paul II before he was pope

December 7, 2022 Catholic News Agency 3
St. John Paul II, circa 1992. / L’Osservatore Romano.

CNA Newsroom, Dec 7, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Journalists investigating secular and Catholic Church sources in Poland have called into question allegations by a Dutch writer that St. John Paul II “covered up” sexual abuse while still a bishop in Poland.

On Dec. 2, Ekke Overbeek, a journalist from the Netherlands living in Poland, said he had found “concrete cases of priests abusing children in the Archdiocese of Krakow, where the future pope was archbishop. The future pope knew about it and transferred them anyway, which led to new victims.”

Overbeek referred to the case of the priest Eugeniusz Surgent and “many others” whom Karol Wojtyla allegedly “covered up.”

The Dutch publication NOS, in which Overbeek’s statements appeared, reported the journalist spent three years combing “Polish archives.”

“Almost all documents collected directly about Wojtyla have been destroyed. However, in other surviving documents, he is mentioned very often. And if you put them all together, they are pieces of a puzzle that give a picture of how he dealt with it,” the writer stated, without saying which archives he was referring to.

Polish journalists Tomasz Krzyżak and Piotr Litka of Rzeczpospolita published an investigation that countered Overbeek’s accusations, stating St. John Paul II did not cover up any abuse and consistently acted against such cases during his time as archbishop of Krakow from 1964 to 1978.

The reporters point out that the priest in question, Surgent, was not from the Archdiocese of Krakow but from the Diocese of Lubaczów.

As archbishop of Krakow, the then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla made several decisions concerning Surgent, they explained, “within his competencies, leaving the final word on possible sanctioning of the priest to his ordinary, the bishop of Lubaczów.”

The journalists added that “the then archbishop of Krakow could not do anything about the fact that Surgent was working in two other dioceses.”

The Polish reporters also referred to another incident that illustrated how Cardinal Wojtyla at the time dealt with abuse, namely the case of priest Józef Loranc, who was accused of sexually abusing young girls.

“The absence of punitive measures by the ecclesiastical court does not cancel the crime and does not undo the guilt,” Cardinal Wojtyla wrote in a 1971 letter to Loranc after he was released from prison.

For Krzyżak and Litka, “this behavior” of the later Pope John Paul II “differs considerably from the practice of leniency toward those who had committed such crimes, which was common at the time.”

In the case of Loranc, a priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow until his death in 1992, “Cardinal Wojtyla made immediate decisions in accordance with canon law. And while he gradually lifted canonical penalties and showed great mercy, he remained ever vigilant,” the journalists wrote.

When Cardinal Wojtyla learned of the case in 1970, his decision came just days after learning of the accusations against Loranc.

In a letter, the future Pope John Paul II stated that the accused priest was “suspended” and “could not exercise any priestly function” and would have to “live in the monastery for a certain period of time and make a retreat and receive help.”

The journalists said that Wojtyla “made all the necessary decisions at that moment: the quick removal of the priest from the parish, the suspension until the matter was resolved, and the obligation to live in a monastery,” where civil authorities then arrested him.

The case did not reach the Vatican, they said, because the provision directing what is now the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith — then the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — to deal with abuse cases was not issued until 2001. 

Although he was eventually allowed to celebrate Mass again, Loran could not return to the “canonical mission of catechesis of children and youth” or to the ministry of the confessional.

The Polish Bishops’ Conference, in a statement published Nov. 14, spoke of “increasingly hearing questions about John Paul II’s attitude toward the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people by the clergy and about his response to such crimes during his pontificate.” 

“It has been increasingly alleged that the pope did not deal adequately with such acts and did little to address the problem, or even covered it up,” the statement continued.

The bishops decried these as a “media assault” on St. John Paul II and his pontificate. The target of such criticisms was “his teaching expressed, for example, in encyclicals such as Redemptor hominis or Veritatis splendor, as well as in his theology of the body, which does not correspond to contemporary ideologies promoting hedonism, relativism, and moral nihilism.”

The statement was not the first time Polish Catholic leaders responded to allegations against St. John Paul II.

In December 2020, following criticism of the Polish pope in the wake of the McCarrick report, 1,700 professors at Polish universities and research institutes signed an appeal defending St. John Paul II.

The signatories included Hanna Suchocka, Poland’s first female prime minister; former foreign minister Adam Daniel Rotfeld; physicists Andrzej Staruszkiewicz and Krzysztof Meissner; and film director Krzysztof Zanussi.

The professors’ appeal followed an intervention by Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. In a Dec. 7, 2020, statement, Gądecki deplored what he called “unprecedented attacks” on St. John Paul II. He insisted that the pope’s “highest priority” was combating clerical abuse and protecting young people.


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What Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel teaches us about God’s creation, woman and man

November 15, 2022 Catholic News Agency 0
Michelangelo’s The Creation of Eve, from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, c. 1510. / null

Denver, Colo., Nov 15, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Michelangelo’s artistic masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel broke new ground in portraying the dynamic creative acts of God, but his work also depicts the combined importance of men and women through all of sacred history, art historian Elizabeth Lev has said.

“The spirit of artistic adventure led the artist to experiment with a completely new vision of creation,” Lev said Nov. 12. “He took a book that had been painted, sculpted, mosaiced, and illuminated over and over again in the history of art and created something completely new.”

She spoke at the closing keynote Saturday evening at the fall conference of the University of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture. Lev teaches at the Rome campus of Duquesne University and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. Her speech, “Creation, Complementarity, & St. John Paul II in Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling,” focused on one of the key artistic treasures of Vatican City.

The 16th-century Florentine artist Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling and the upper section of its walls. This was the artist’s focus from 1508 to 1512. He later finished the Last Judgment above the chapel altar from 1535 to 1541.

The ceiling frescoes show the creation of the heavens and the earth, the creation of Adam and Eve, their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the great flood, and the rebirth of humankind through Noah.

Lev cited St. John Paul II’s description of Michelangelo’s work in his poem “Meditations on the Book of Genesis at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel.”

“It is the book of the origins — Genesis,” the pope said. “Here, in this chapel, Michelangelo penned it, not with words, but with the richness of piled-up colors. We enter in order to read it again, going from wonder to wonder.”

Lev reflected on the first three panels depicting the creation of the world. These show “the mighty dynamic figure of God the Father at work.”

“It’s not what God creates, it’s that God creates,” she said. Michelangelo broke ground in portraying God as “physically engaged in creation.” For Lev, this offers “a preview of the Incarnation.”

Turning to Michelangelo’s famous depiction of the Creation of Adam, Lev noted that the artist depicts “just God and the creature formed in his likeness.” Adam is shown as “somewhat listless” in contrast with God’s energy. Adam is “sentient and awake but he has no will or strength or purpose to rise,” she said. “He looks completely passive and dependent despite that incredibly beautiful form.”

“It’s God who reaches towards man,” she continued. For Lev, the outstretched finger of God makes the viewer “almost lean forward in his seat waiting for that final Act of Creation, the divine spark, the Breath of Life that will release that latent energy and allow Adam to take his place as the greatest of creations.”

“This is the joy in humanity that permeates the Renaissance,” Lev said.

Michelangelo's The Fall and Expulsion from Paradise from the Vatican's Sistine Chapel (1508-12).
Michelangelo’s The Fall and Expulsion from Paradise from the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel (1508-12).

There is academic debate over a female figure shown in the Creation of Adam. As God the Father stretches out one arm to Adam, his other arm curls around a female figure. Some have identified this figure as Wisdom, some as Mary.

Lev suggested it is best to identify this figure as Eve, both because the figure provides visual balance to Adam and because her gaze “connects her more intimately with Adam.”

The creation of Eve from Adam, depicted next on the chapel ceiling, shows Eve emerging from Adam’s side with her hands clasped in prayer, an image of the Church and the personification of Mary, the “Second Eve.”

Lev cited St. John Paul II’s 1999 homily inaugurating the newly restored Sistine Chapel, after centuries of grime and soot were removed. The pope called the chapel the “sanctuary of the theology of the human body,” alluding to his catecheses offered from 1979 to 1984. The pope suggested that Michelangelo allowed himself to be guided by the Book of Genesis’ depiction of mankind in Eden: “the man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”

Before the fall, Lev commented, Michelangelo depicted Adam and Eve in the state of grace as “two of his most beautiful figures.”

“They are filled with dynamism. They’re buoyant. They’re luminous,” Lev said, adding that their bodies “suggest immortality.” After the fall, however, both of their bodies “lose their luminosity” and appear heavier, like a burden. Adam’s shoulder seems to force Eve into the background, “subjugating her.”

For Lev, the artistic depiction of the genealogy of Jesus Christ also deserves attention. The portrayal of the ancestors of Jesus Christ shows “a genealogy of men and women struggling from generation to generation.” These figures seem “more approachable” and “much more similar to candid family photographs.” Even though 22 women in Jesus’ genealogy are not named, Michelangelo pairs them with their husbands.

Lev noted that Michelangelo broke with artistic convention both by including mothers and by showing them as busy, everyday women “tending to toddlers, toilettes, and tasks.” His style of painting them with “incredible immediacy” adds observations of human nature: Eleazar’s wife holds the purse strings and the key to the house, and her husband looks “startled” as she surveys their son. Other depictions are “tender and intimate,” like the portrayal of the wife of Manasseh, who cradles a swaddled son while rocking an infant’s cradle.

Here, Lev drew on John Paul II’s 1995 “Letter to Women.” He wrote that womanhood and manhood are complementary at the physical, psychological, and even ontological level.

“It is only through the duality of the masculine and the feminine that the human finds full recognition,” the pope said. “To this unity of the two, God has entrusted not only the work of procreation and family life but the creation of history itself.”

Lev noted that the passing of generations “necessarily emphasizes the begetting of children.” This means that the complementarity of the sexes is essential for a population to form and for creation to continue.

In Michelangelo’s portrayal of the Last Judgment, the artist still looks back to creation but also breaks new ground. He placed Mary next to Christ, as “a foil to Christ’s sternness.”

“She is the picture of mercy gazing down towards the elect, placed by the wound in Christ’s side whence the Church sprang,” Lev said. “Mary is transfigured into the Bride of Christ, for whom he gave his life and to whom he cannot say no. She is the conduit to Christ, as Eve was the link between God and man in the creation of woman.”

For Lev, the Sistine Chapel shows the “incredible gift of creation” from the beginning of the world down through the generations, “through which all of us today are a part of that continuation of creation.”