MUST READ: Ed Peters on Bp. Galantino about “expressionless persons praying rosaries outside abortion clinics”

I wanted everyone to see this.

You remember the remarks made about those “expressionless” people reciting Rosaries outside abortion clinics by the Secretary of the Italian Bishops conference, His Excellency Most Rev. Nunzio Galantino.  I wrote about that HERE.

Ed Peters, who has no combox, weighed in, at his blog, which you should visit:

About those embarrassing pro-lifers

Even though, as a general rule, the leadership of national episcopal conferences is elected by member bishops (c. 452), in Italy (long story made short) the pope personally appoints conference leaders. Pope Francis appointed Bp. Nunzio Galantino as Secretary General of Italian bishop’s conference a couple months ago.

Galantino is calling for a “taboo-free discussion” of priestly celibacy, administration of holy Communion to divorced-and-remarried Catholics, and homosexuality (sic: homosexual acts?). His call for a ‘taboo-free discussion’ of these topics suggests, of course, that, till now, their discussion has been hindered by taboos, or at least, that Galantino thinks they have been discussed only amid taboos. I suggest the first implication is false; the second, necessarily, mistaken. Passing familiarity with the Catholic literature that each of these topics has generated over the centuries should be enough to dispel allegations of “taboos” in their regard except perhaps in the minds of some who dislike the Church’s position on one or more of these topics.

But it is Galantino’s gratuitous remark about “expressionless persons praying rosaries outside abortion clinics” that attracts my attention. I worry when ranking prelates disparage the simple and prayerful piety that some lay faithful show even before the Gates of Death.

I prayed my first rosary outside an abortuary in 1978. I don’t recall what my expression was, but I doubt I was smiling. I have prayed many rosaries outside of many abortion mills since then, have picketed them, side-walk witnessed at them, passed out literature around them, and even drove two women (who had showed up for abortions) to pro-life agencies where they sought assistance toward sparing their babies from abortion. I probably smiled on those two days.

At the same time—even though usually things are quiet (deathly quiet) outside an abortion chamber—I have nevertheless also been screamed at by clinic personnel, cursed at by passers-by, drenched in the rain, had a brick tossed over a wall at me, and once watched a driver gesture the ‘trigger finger’ at me. But even if I had the presence of mind to rejoice at these insults borne for the sake of the least of His children, I’m pretty sure I did not show it on my face. I wonder, does every feeling need to be shown? And what exactly should one feel outside a death chamber?

In any case, if my expressionless demeanor at prayer outside an abortuary has ever embarrassed anyone, I apologize. It’s just that I am still fazed at the very thought that, hardly 20 paces from where I stand, a baby is being sliced to ribbons. + + +

Update: Well put, John Smeaton.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Emanations from Penumbras, HONORED GUESTS, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Iacobus M says:

    I’ve been there too – it’s not really a laugh riot. I wonder what expression the good cardinal thinks we ought to sport when praying outside a death factory?

  2. Magpie says:

    I always wonder, quietly, about the sexual proclivities or preferences of those clerics who go on about homosexuality. I do not identify with them at all.

  3. Magpie says:

    When I say ‘go on’, I of course mean those who talk about the need to ‘re-evaluate the Church teachings on homosexuality for the modern world’ etc…

  4. Priam1184 says:

    With respect to Dr. Peters and to Father Z they are not abortion clinics, but merely “clinics that practice the interruption of pregnancy.” See, everything’s fine now.

    I confess that I have never prayed a Rosary outside of an abortion clinic, but I just might do it now in honor of Bishop Galantino’s comments.

  5. JustaSinner says:

    Well that does it…time to break out the marching bands, dancing bears, jugglers, guys on stilts, balloon animal makers, cotton candy vendors, ponies, unicorn ponies trained by leprechauns, plate spinners, hot dog vendors, shaved ice vendors, organ grinders, cute widdle monkeys, apple bobbing, and carnival rides! It must be a laugh RIOT in front of the death chambers, then, and only then, with Bishop Galantino be pleased!!!

  6. Mike Morrow says:

    “His Excellency” has a Weltanschauung that would be much more at home in the United Church of Christ. Or…perhaps he’s a Jesuit.

    (NB: The United Church of Christ must not be confused with the many other denominations with Church(es) of Christ in their name.)

  7. Pingback: St. John Paul II on 'the greatest deception,' and Bishop Galantino | Catholic Bandita

  8. Pingback: | St. John Paul II on ‘the greatest deception,’ and Bishop Galantino

  9. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Yes, well-said both Ed Peters and John Smeaton.
    I see that Catholic Italy has not lost its collective sanity yet. Bishop Galantino has been heaped with articulate criticism (and angry abuse). Italians are not known for holding things back. And on this occasion, they certainly haven’t.

  10. Dr. Peters: Thanks both for your observations, but even more for your efforts for the unborn.

    I found Bishop Galantino’s quoted remarks (in fairness, perhaps misquoted) astounding.

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    I checked the the instruction manual for the rosary and it does not suggest any particular facial expression. If it did, it would be interesting to see if different expressions were suggested for each group of mysteries.

  12. JKnott says:

    Could that expression be called RECOLLECTION?
    After all, they are speaking to Mary and the Father and meditating on the life of Christ.

  13. Lutgardis says:

    It’s interesting that in his remarks, Bishop Galantino assumes that one can’t be both someone reciting the rosary (expressionlessly or not) outside a clinic AND one who “struggle[s] for the quality of persons, for their right to health, to work.” Why the need to set these two actions in opposition? It’s just like the members of the pro-choice lobby who assume that because one is advocating for the rights of the baby, one must obviously be doing nothing to support struggling young mothers/families who have chosen life and does not care at all what happens to all the saved babies once they are born.

  14. bbmoe says:

    I pray in front of abortion clinics, one in particular. So the good bishop can’t identify with me, a slight, middle-aged woman praying the Rosary (or the Divine Office, or whatever) for the sake of the babies, the mothers, the families, the workers, and all who enter the House of Death. He can’t identify with the young Mexican mother who brings her whole family on occasion to pray with me, or the woman who gave up her son for adoption 30 years ago, or the man, in his 60’s now, who said he still dreams of the baby crying that he and his girlfriend aborted 40 years ago. Or the woman who prayed with me even as she wept for the baby she was forced to abort because, as she said, “There was no on out here when I came. I thought I had no choice.”

    We are all members of the body of Christ, and I’m sorry to say that I’m thinking Bp Galantino is a member that is normally covered by the seat of a pair of pants. I’ll pray for him the next time I’m out getting cursed, abused, and ignored, and sometimes, thanked.

  15. Nancy D. says:

    Is it possible our Holy Father Benedict has already done the consecration in secret with those Bishops who are in communion with Christ, and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and the veil is now being lifted exposing those responsible for The Great Falling Away?

  16. Bea says:

    “Expressionless faces” what an insult to those who pray and to the realm of God and His Kingdom.

    Has the bishop ever considered that these faces express that they have left the natural world in their prayers and entered into the dimension of the Kingdom of God. where every mystery of the Rosary deals with a Spiritual Dimension of the Life of Christ and His Salvific Message?

    Right on, “Magpie”
    “I do not identify with them at all.”
    Neither do I, Magpie.
    John 10:27 “”My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;”
    The Good Shepherd’s voice, that’s what I listen to.
    Fortunately there are a few voices here and there that we recognize, I guess that’s why we’re here at this blog.

  17. robtbrown says:

    If I might, with apologies to the Historical Critical method crowd, mention the sitz im leben.

    The Church in Italy is a court Church, with bishops often trying to endear themselves to the pope by repeating what he has said–often an effective path to promotion

    A few things to keep in mind: 1) The Southern half of Italy has very little to say about what happens in the Church in Italy. 2) It is the Northern half that is influential , and the Sec of the Italian Conference, usually from the North, is a step on the Episcopal cursus honorum, leading to a red hat. Galantino was probably chosen not because he has a big future, but rather because he doesn’t.

    IMHO, the selection of Galantino is an example of the pope working to break the Italian hold on the Curia, which among other things, frustrated Benedict’s plan for governance of the Church.

  18. Mike says:

    They want smiling idiots. So sorry to disappoint them.

  19. Netmilsmom says:

    I wonder what Bp. Galantino thinks of “Crusaders for Life”?
    My kids cheer and sing with bright yellow balloons that say Life. They wave and dance in front of Planned Parenthood conferences and put on quite a show at March for Life in DC.

    But when we pray the Rosary in front of abortion mills, they are as stone faced as one can get.

  20. benedetta says:

    I wonder what would be his purpose in mocking and attacking those who pray on behalf of real human beings who are about to be tortured and killed senselessly and for no good purpose. I am sorry if those who pray do not meet his expectations in the facial expression department. Perhaps we could see a photo of him recently praying for the unborn whose only crime was to be caught alive in the wrong century, so that we might muster the appropriate expression the next time?

    Would he prefer that there be no witnesses? At least a few stood by at the cross…

  21. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Fr Martin: Bishop Galantino has not made any denial of his directly quoted remarks in the interview with ‘Formiche’. And what was quoted in Italian was accurately translated into English. Many Catholic Italian commentators have noted with amazement his insulting use of the term ‘i visi inespressivi di chi recita il Rosario’ and his bizarre euphemism ‘cliniche che praticano l’interruzione di gravidanza’ for ‘abortion clinics’.
    His equally bizarre view that “[the Church] has in the past concentrated exclusively on abortion and euthanasia” and “it can’t be that way” is an obvious (and obviously deliberate) echo of Pope Francis’s September 2013 interview: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.”

    Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so runs the proverb.

  22. Ben Kenobi says:

    “I confess that I have never prayed a Rosary outside of an abortion clinic, but I just might do it now in honor of Bishop Galantino’s comments.”

    Sir, we would be glad to have you. I wasn’t Catholic but by the effort of *faithful* Catholics and their bold witness in protecting the weakest of us, spoke volumes to me. Or as Christ puts it. “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

  23. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf (and, perhaps, Dr. Peters):

    I’m not an Italian linguist, but is it possible that what the bishop said is being rendered clumsily into English as “expressionless”? Could he have said something more akin to “unfeeling”, by which he intends “heartless”?

    “blank-faced” makes no sense: what does the contortion of the face have to do with anything?

    On another note, perhaps one of you has on hand a copy of the Rite for the Unmaking of a Cardinal?

  24. tcreek says:

    My expressionless archbishop who happens to be the president of the USCCB.

  25. Pingback: PopeWatch: Blank Faced People-Part II | The American Catholic

  26. iPadre says:

    Bravo Dr. Peters!

  27. Kathleen10 says:

    I’m glad he is getting negative feedback from the Italians. Good! It was a foolish thing to say, and hurtful. People are demoralized enough right now. He also said he DOES identify with the young people who protest in the street, or something like that. How nice that the faithful middle-aged person trying to serve Christ by defending the least of these can’t even count on high ranking clergy to approve of their actions. Well, “Rejoice when men persecute you, or revile you, for my sake, for the prophets were so treated”. I’m paraphrasing.
    Walking a line outside a clinic is sobering. It is no time for giggles. He seems to have forgotten the reality of dismembered children yards away. Perhaps he should study some images of the reality which may help in comprehending the satanic evil that is abortion. And yes, you do get flipped off, and people do yell insulting things from time to time. There are often little elderly folks walking the line by themselves. It worries me. One is on one’s guard.
    But I guess it’s to be expected, a cleric who prefers the sunshine and giggles of teenagers over more serious and sober middle aged or elderly people, trying to do their part to defend life. God bless those people. God bless them a million times.

  28. benedetta says:

    The reality is that none of those topics he names are taboo, far from it. However, the topic of advocacy for the unborn really is taboo in some places still…i.e. “Prolifers are not welcome in this state”…etc etc etc. At any rate he seems far from the mindset of Pope Francis who supports advocay for prolife by Catholic laity.

  29. lmgilbert says:

    “Degradato subito!”

  30. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Chris, he did actually, literally say ‘inexpressive’ (‘visi inespressivi’).
    Which means ‘blank-faced’.
    The NuChurch happy-clappy crowd that is suddenly back in vogue wants everyone to be in a permanently extrovert state of smiles and laughter, lots of back-slapping and enthusiastic merriment. As if Cheeriness were close to Godliness :-)

    St Benedict (in his monastic Rule: the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth degrees of humility) chides a readiness to laughter and emotional expression, and exhorts to gravity, silence and stillness of expression.
    “The tenth degree of humility is, when a monk is not easily moved and quick for laughter, for it is written: ‘The fool exalteth his voice in laughter’ (Sir [=Ecclus.] 21:23).
    …The twelfth degree of humility is, when a monk is not only humble of heart, but always letteth it appear also in his whole exterior to all that see him; namely, at the Work of God, in the garden, on a journey, in the field, or wherever he may be, sitting, walking, or standing, let him always have his head bowed down, his eyes fixed on the ground, ever holding himself guilty of his sins…”

    Not a popular viewpoint among bishops who want to ‘go places’, I think.

  31. James Joseph says:

    You know I was a sergeant in the US Marine Corps and if I heard about this sort of dissension in the my ranks, which leads me to this…

    Reason #1236o1 Why I think the Pope needs an actual woodshed behind his barracks.

    I would take this guy to the woodshed in about 10-seconds flat.

  32. Juergensen says:

    I have often wondered whether the doctrine of apostolic succession necessitates successors of Judas?

  33. RJHighland says:

    Pope Francis appointed this Bishop to lead the Italian Conference of Bishops a few months ago, facinating, very scary and WOW?!? Are these the type of men Pope Francis is going to elevate? It will take another century to cleanse the Church. Hopefully the Italians keep up the strong objections to this Bishop’s views and influences future elevations by the Pope and the synod on the family this fall.

  34. MouseTemplar says:

    I’m on the sidewalk concentrating on my prayer.

    I have to, because the five men dressed in black leathers and dark glasses who surround us and curse us and throw mock punches at us will push their faces into ours and scream and I lose my place in my rosary. They are a regular “patrol group” known for quick 10 minute raids, then they take off again. There is something devilish about them that makes me need to keep my head down and bear it until they go. I’m probably expressionless throughout.

  35. donato2 says:

    There is a taboo against speaking honestly about things related to homosexuality but it is the opposite of what Bishop Galantino would claim it to be. The new taboo forbids condemning sodomy.

  36. pfreddys says:

    Thank you RJHighland for speaking about the 800 pound gorilla in the room!

  37. sw85 says:

    I seem to recall Jesus had a few things to say about clerics judging the spiritual states of strangers on the basis of outward appearances to the exclusion of interior realities.

  38. incredulous says:


    Thank you for linking that picture of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz. I’ve been getting too demotivated by poor leadership. That picture is humbling and helps redirect attention towards Jesus’ suffering for our salvation. And how our obedience to Him and his works are the core of who we are.

  39. Imrahil says:

    Dear Vecchio di Londra,

    that is for monks, though.

  40. Vecchio di Londra says:

    No, the Rule is not just for monks any more than Thomas a Kempis’s ‘The Imitation of Christ’ is just for monks.
    Of course, St Benedict originally wrote his Rule for his own monks to observe. But the Church’s view has always been that this brief, surprisingly gentle and brilliantly insightful text is a model for the Christian life.
    Humility, modesty, fidelity, obedience, firmness of character, the rooting out of vices and the encouragement of virtues, the disciplining of the body through moderate fasting, and a dedication to a life of prayer – these are for all, not just for cenobites. (Even if Cardinal Kasper has announced that ‘Heroism is not for the average Catholic’:-)
    The Third Order of St Benedict (a lay organization anyone can join, married or unmarried) applies the Rule to themselves.
    I’d encourage everyone who does not know it to read through the Rule.
    Even those parts that seem ‘irrelevant’ today, such as the chapters on manual labour, are actually extremely sensible and well thought-out, and deserve greater attention.

  41. CrimsonCatholic says:


    Keep in mind that the Pope Emeritus elevated Cardinal Wuerl to several ranking positions, and he took the stance that the Eucharist should not be denied to pro-choice politicians. Not every appointment by the Popes have been good.

  42. LarryW2LJ says:

    I must admit that I also, have never said a rosary in front of an abortion clinic. However, one day while I was driving from one work location to another, I drove past a man who WAS saying a rosary in front of an abortion clinic – all by himself.

    I stopped, got out of the car, and thanked him. Then, as I got back into the car to drive to the other branch that I was going to, I pulled my rosary out of my pocket and joined mine to his.

  43. frahobbit says:


    How well I remember the criticism of bishops in New York, when we were with R. Terry trying to bring an end to abortion. How well I remember Bishop Vaughn “Speaking at an Operation Rescue rally, the bishop explained that his episcopal ring had the images of Jesus, St. Peter and St. Paul on it and that all three were arrested, put in jail and killed for their witness to the truth. “He said the least he could do is try to follow in their footsteps in saving the precious babies,” “

  44. Imrahil says:

    Dear Vecchio di Londra,

    I was not saying the virtue of humility was for monks only (obviously), nor that St. Benedict’s rule is not a good spiritual read (it is). I do think, though, that for those not bound by obedience to it, not every sentence of it should be given the weight of a moral commandment, and that, for instance, it is not the only Christian thing to reject cheerfulness.

  45. Uxixu says:

    I am with Priam1184. I haven’t yet prayed outside of an abortion clinic, I am shamed to say, but Bishop Galantino has inspired me to.

  46. trespinos says:

    It seems sufficient time has elapsed for Bp. Galantino to correct his remarks, if he was misquoted, and he has not, so I am going to assume he was quoted correctly. His use of the euphemism “interruption of pregnancy” disgusts me. I am happy to hear that Italian voices are not silent in countering him. May the Holy Father indeed take him to the woodshed. The precipitous decline in intelligent, moral discourse from Cdl. Bagnasco’s words to Bp. Galantino’s is enough to make a person weep for the CEI.

  47. robtbrown says:


    As I wrote above, maybe he thinks it will get home promoted

  48. Vecchio di Londra says:

    “for instance, it is not the only Christian thing to reject cheerfulness.”
    Imrahil, that is a strawman argument. There is not a word in the Rule of St Benedict that rejects cheerfulness. It is ‘cheeriness’ and its intemperate expression that can come across as callow, egoistic and intrusive – very offputting, like those rather forced grins you see on the covers of certain kinds of modern ‘spiritual’ bestseller. If you read the whole chapter on Humility you can more easily see what St Benedict is driving at. It’s a tough message – but not too tough to be gladly adopted by the lay men and women of the Benedictine third order.
    Praying before an abortion clinic, whether feeling cheerful or not, one’s own feeling (as in so many situations) is irrelevant: as others have suggested already here, a generally rather immobile facial expression and silent demeanour seems to come naturally during contemplative activity of any kind – work, prayer, or reading.

  49. Vecchio di Londra says:

    robtbrown – Yes, you have to feel almost sorry for the Bishop. He comes from nowhere, works his way slowly up the ladder in the South of Italy (where nobody gets noticed, not even a bishop). Then suddenly he’s in the limelight as the Pope’s favourite Italian bishop (or rather, the one who’s picked to lead the CEI in order to cut the conservative northern episcopal tall poppies down to size.) The journalist of a National Review rings him up and offers him a whole interview feature. Never happened to him before. He gets really excited and thinks – ‘this is my big chance. I’ll echo a few things the Pope has said, show how closely I follow his line of thought – it’ll go down a storm!..I’ll be a shoe-in for Cardinal, maybe the next Pope, maybe even…OK, Pope will do for now!’
    The day the storm breaks (I’m just imagining this) maybe the Bishop rings the editor of ‘Formiche’ and says: ‘Look, I never used that terrible phrase “visi inespressivi”, you’ll have to correct that.’ And the editor says ‘Sorry, Eccellenza, I mean Don Nunzio: to use your own words: “Non può essere così!” – We have it on tape. Just one of those things I’m afraid – “perche in mezzo c’è l’esistenza che si sviluppa…” allora…Don Nunzio…è sviluppata!’

  50. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    John Smeaton quotes a tranaslation, ““My wish for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favour of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality”. If this is accurate, the choice of the word “taboo” seems offensive, even insolently so.

    While ‘interrupting a pregnancy’ would be a risky thing to do, usually irresponsibly so, it could in fact be done to save the baby where the baby was old enough to breathe air, if someone was determined to kill her, otherwise. It is usually part of a very mendacious vocabulary, however: when I was active in SPUC as a student, I remember learning of methods of ‘interrupting’ which were indeed that – in fact a premature delivery of a baby by one means or other, in combination with which, however, the baby was first deliberately poisoned in utero, to make sure she was not born alive. When a non-murderous ‘interruption’ or ‘ending of a pregnancy’ which did precisely that, rather than killing the baby, was possible, killing was – and is – very deliberately chosen, instead.

  51. Imrahil says:

    Dear Vecchio di Londra,

    forgive me that I did not know that the English language makes a distinction between the words “cheerfulness” and “cheeriness”. (Seriously. I did not.)

    That said, while I am instinctly uncomfortable with a put-on smile (note: this is not a moral evaluation), I don’t see anything harm- or sinful in being quick to laugh for a morally acceptable joke or rejoice in hearing nice music, dancing, drinking the allowed amount of alcohol (i.e. not your mind away), and the like. Though perhaps something unbecoming to the clerical or religious estate – which is the difference I was about.

    And I also do not think that a Christian should of necessity always have his head bowed down, though I have indeed heard Thomas a Kempis – whom other than St. Benedict I have not yet read – says the same thing. (Note that St. Benedict means that literally, so he should be taken literally as well.)

    I have also heard that Origen said that laughter is foreign to the Christian. Here, too, I am of a different opinion and so was Chesterton.

    If I remember that correctly, St. Francis wrote his Philothea (tough enough – nor of Gospel-like bindingness either, of course) in part for the purpose that lay Christians have something other to rely on than spiritual instructions primarily addressed to the religious estate.

    As for the Third Order, honor to them, but being in a third order (which is called Order for a reason) is still something voluntary. As is being in a first or second order. Being a Christian is not voluntary; we have to. But we only have to do what Christ commanded us to do.

  52. Unwilling says:

    I am offering a context, not a defence of the Bishop. No doubt there is a disappointing touch of impatience, if not contempt, for traditional pro-life demonstrators.

    He said “I …identify…with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work.”

    Recall E.G. 215 “…the life developing within them is the result of …a situation of extreme poverty”. The pregnancy is a result remotely of poverty, even if proximately of sexual intercourse. I guess the idea is that the poor woman sold her services to save her (family’s) life — removing poverty is removing at least one remote cause of abortion. Those who are working for social justice should not be expected to say rosaries in public. Their efforts are noisy and “violent” — lio! Francis did say “¿Qué es lo que espero como consecuencia de la Jornada de la Juventud? ¡Espero lío!”

    Of course, this is very like the old social-engineering idea that we should get rid of police forces and hand out free food. People commit crimes because of the crimes of society.

  53. Imrahil says:

    Note: Philothea is the only way the book officially titled “Introduction to the Devout Life” is referred to in Germany. I’m not sure if that name is known elsewhere, so, for clarification, I mean “Introduction to the Devout Life”.

Comments are closed.