Musings about Curial appointments

I have been asking around a little about the new Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Peter, S.E. Angelo Comastri, whom I knew very little about. Here is what I am getting from people.

First, it seems that His Excellency, while perhaps not having a strongly conservative pedigree, during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II made Loretto into a major center of Marian spirituality according to the Pope’s design and played a good role in the Pope’s Marian program for the Church. There are some Italian bishops who over time made real shifts in their points of view and Comastri seems to be one of them. This is a world-wide phenomenon. Also, Mons. Comastri is said to be an extremely kind gentleman and very loyal to the Holy See. I have not met him yet.

Second, as one friend put it, "if Mons. Comastri’s liturgy is half as good as his loyalty to the Pope, St. Peter’s Basilica will be seeing better days."

His Eminence Claudio Card. Hummes, OFM, will be the new prefect of Clergy. I have met him on several occasions and had the chance to talk with him one on one and pick his brains. He is very kind and answers questions frankly. In describing the situation in his diocese of São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world with all its attendant problems, H.E. was deeply concerned that many in Rome didn’t understand the severity of how over 1% of Catholics per year are bleeding off into sects and falling away. He spoke about this with great passion. This fellow has been Archbishop of one of the world’s toughest dioceses. He has great experience.

Pope Benedict knows what Card. Hummes is all about. By bringing Card. Hummes to Rome, Benedict has not brought in a yes-man or someone who will sit on his hands. Furthermore, His Holiness can now put someone of his choosing into the critical see of São Paulo who will fit his strategy. In his new role, he will be more conservative than he has been perceived to be, maybe not because he is, but because he has to be. Moreover, Card. Castrillon Hoyos now may focus on the work of the Pont. Comm. "Ecclesia Dei" which is going to have more to do pretty soon.

Very often conservatives think that just because you are conservative you are automatically going to be good at everything. That is pure fantasy. Benedict needs to find people who are capable of implementing the things he wants done. This or that conservative might not actually be able to get the job done. There is wisdom in putting someone who has a chance of succeeding in a job even if he has not in the past been 100% in harmony with what you stand for or don’t automatically agree with what you say just because you say it. It is more important to get things done than simply have good plans and then fail because you didn’t find the right people.

Benedict takes his own advice. He thinks before acting.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jeff says:

    What a fine post! I agree entirely.

    Pope Ratzinger is a Catholic, but he is not a man of party. He is a “respecter of individuals” like his predecessor, and thus he is wise.

    We “conservatives” often tend to shave off here and shave off there and get tangled up in infighting and we end up with a tiny little group of crabapples who pass the purity test. How different and how much wiser are the recent popes, especially Benedict. He is serenly confident in his Catholicism.

    That the “modernists” can’t simply be weeded out was demonstrated by Pius XII. They simply go underground and keep their mouths shut. And ambitious priests and bishops toe the party line and get appointed to high positions for their unquestioning loyalty, but turn out to have the same questions and problems and flaws that so many others do when the lid is lifted for a minute. And their opposite numbers can sometimes be short-sighted and alienate lots and lots of people that don’t need to be alienated.

    The Truth is the Truth and the Holy Spirit can handle the job of keeping the Church straight if we only have confidence and let him do it.

  2. Yu-Yu says:

    It’s São PaUlo. Pa-U-lo. It’s not Italian, it’s Portuguese.

  3. Okay… I guess that really changes the substance of my entry. I take it all back. o{]:¬)

  4. Sidney says:

    Are you brazilian, Yu-Yu?

  5. Ben D. says:

    Father Z., a few clicks from either this or another of your very recent entries led me to a different blog where I read some less interesting “musings” on curial appointments in the combox. This reminded me of something that has occured to me before in my occasional perusal of blogs: that there is an apparently widespread ignorance of the basic facts about Church governance: e.g., what does it mean to be a bishop? What is the juridical relationship of diocesan bishops to the Holy See? What exactly is the Roman Curia and how is it structured? What’s the difference between a “dicastery” and a “Congregation”? And so forth.

    Often these things are discussed as if the Pope is the president of a huge corporation, the prefects of the curial Congregations are his senior management, and the diocesan bishops are middle managers. Is this even remotely close to the mark? I suppose there’s a difference between the way things are formally structured and the way they play out in practice, but at least the formal structure is a matter of fact. I for one would love some basic lessons in Church Civics. Can you point to any good sources for this topic, online or in print?

  6. I agree entirely about the Pope choosing individuals and not partisans: “Pope Benedict knows what Card. Hummes is all about. By bringing Card. Hummes to Rome, Benedict has not brought in a yes-man or someone who will sit on his hands…” etc. Noticed on another site that Card. H. did do this and didn’t do that etc and… what you wrote: “Very often conservatives think that just because you are conservative you are automatically going to be good at everything. That is pure fantasy”–and its correlate, too, that even the best-intentioned of people are fallible and not omniscient etc.

  7. Ken says:

    What responsibility does Card. Hummes have with respect to 1%
    “bleeding off” every year? I mean that was under his watch was
    it not?

  8. Ken: And how long was he bishop there? This is a statistic for all of of the area, not just his diocese. Cheap shot, Ken.

  9. Great work Pater! I think you are right on. B16 is the Pope after all, if things get bad, he can make a
    change and/or tell them what they are going to do. Not to mention the good Cardinal will need all his focus
    for Latin Mass matters…

  10. Ken says:

    It was an honest question, I don’t know how long Cdl. Hummes was
    overseeing the Church there (1, 2, 5, 10 years?). Maybe his diocese
    has a stellar growth rate compared to the rest of Brazil.

  11. Ken says:

    Ok, I found out that H.E. was Bishop of Sao Paulo since 1998 and served
    as a bishop among Brazilians since 1975. Again, honest question, what
    actions did he take during his period of authority to stem the flow from
    the Church?

  12. Ken: How long was St. Francis de Sales bishop of Geneva?

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