April 12, 2005

Law’s activities, positions illustrate “clash of cultures”between U.S. and Rome


By John L. Allen Jr.

If ever one needed a classic illustration of the “clash of cultures” between the United States and the Vatican, the fact that Cardinal Bernard Law celebrated a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 11 in honor of the deceased pope, one of the nine Masses prescribed for the novemdiales, or nine days of mourning, makes the case.

Law’s appearance generated considerable controversy in the American press, though in the event it seemed almost anti-climactic. Only a handful of protestors materialized, and Law’s homily was deliberately spiritual and meditative, without so much as a trace of reference to the scandals that plagued his tenure in Boston.

He did have one fine moment during the Mass, recognizing that April 11 is the liturgical observance of the Polish St. Stanislaw, using that as an occasion to thank Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the pope’s private secretary and close collaborator, for his four decades of loyal service. The reference drew strong applause from the assembly in St. Peter’s Basilica.

So what was Law doing there in the first place?

Straight away, the point should be made that no one in the Vatican chose to give Law this platform. Instead, the Mass for the deceased pope on Monday is celebrated on behalf of the patriarchal basilicas in Rome, and custom dictates that it is the archpriest of St. Mary Major who celebrates that particular Mass. Since John Paul II appointed Law to that position on May 27, 2004, it was custom and precedent, rather than a specific Vatican decision, that put Law in this position.

Posted by kshaw at April 12, 2005 11:41 AM