Thursday, April 11, 2013

John Cooney/Irish Journalist Writes about Coverage of Conclave/ Meeting with Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP in Rome and Activists from WOC-Witness for Justice

Doctrine and Life
 Vol 63 No. 4 April 2013

 A Veteran Journalist’s
 First Conclave

" IN ALL my 43 years as a journalist, I never had the occasion to report
a papal conclave. Thankfully, this omission has been rectified with
the arrival of the 266th papacy. In spite of a harsh wet Roman evening
on Wednesday March 13, it was an unforgettable moment to witness
the election of the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario
Bergoglio, and to hear him take the name of Pope Francis. Although a
bit uncomfortable with the unbridled ultramontane enthusiasm of the
vast crowd in St Peter’s Square, I too came under Francis’s trinitarian
spell of humility, simplicity and spontaneity.
 On his awaited appearance on the loggia, my first impression was
that he looked like Pope Paul VI, then I felt he looked like Pius XI.
Certainly not a Pius XII, and not a showman like John Paul II or in the
diffident manner of Benedict XVI. The more permanent resemblance
was that of John Paul I, the smiling Pope.
 Growing up in the west of Scotland back in the 1950s as part of
 the Catholic Irish diaspora in which the Pope was our unquestioned
 spiritual leader, I remember watching the election on our recently
 acquired television set of Pope John XXIII in 1958, and that of Paul
 VI in 1963 with my late aunt Mary who was on holiday in her native
 Blantyre, having gone to Philadelphia in the depressed 1920s to earn
her way in life across the Atlantic as there was no prospect of employ
 ment in Scotland.
When John Paul I was elected in 1978, the year of the three popes,
I was in America on a travelling scholarship, and later that year when
Pope John Paul II took the Vatican by storm, I watched his bravura
balcony speech on a television set in the press room of the EU Council
of Ministers in Luxembourg.
 In 2005 when the white smoke ascended for Joseph Ratzinger, I
was involved journalistically; but my reporting was from Dublin for
 The Evening Herald and as a studio commentator with presenter Claire
 Byrne on TV3. At least I was getting closer to being a Vaticanologist, so
much so that last October I represented Doctrine & Life at the fiftieth
anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, which coincided with the
Synod of Bishops on New Evangelisation and the launch of the Year
of Faith.  1.


On my return to Dublin last autumn I was speaking to the art critic,
Kevin Ruttledge, and told him of my feeling that Pope Benedict XVI
had aged and would resign rather than die slowly and publicly as did
John Paul II. Little did I imagine, however, that five months later I
would return to St Peter’s Square following Benedict’s freely offered
resignation on February 11 to see the welcome given to the first Jesuit
Pope, the first Pope from Latin America – and, hopefully, potentially
the first truly collegial Bishop of Rome, instead of the Supreme Pontiff
 on the authoritarian model of my boyhood.
 Francis is a big name in the Cooney family. My late father was Francis
and my elder son was baptized Francis by the late Fr Austin Flannery,
O.P., and Monsignor John Greehy, the late parish priest of Terenure.
My aunt Mary was the housekeeper of the pastor of St Francis of Assisi
Church in Springfield, Pennsylvania.


On a tight budget which was Franciscan in its economy I booked to
fly to Rome with Aer Lingus on Sunday March 10, returning Saturday
March 16. By Friday March 8, I was in a panic about accommodation
as hotels I knew were full.
 Then a touch of inspiration produced the solution. Bridget Mary
Meehan, who had spoken at the Humbert Summer School in County
1. John Cooney, ‘A Pilgrimage, a Council and a Synod’, Doctrine & Life, November  2012.
 Mayo in 2010,
emailed with the address in Rome of Janice Sevré-Duszynska, a minister of the
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, which counts approximately 150
 women priests in Europe, the U.S., Canada and Latin America. Indeed, thanks to the
Italian police, I was able to identify Janice from the publicity she got on RTÉ television
and major world networks on Thursday March 7 when she was filmed being temporarily
detained by the Italian constabulary for demonstrating in St Peter’s Square vested
in her alb and green stole. For her trouble, Janice was released but the
police confiscated her banner proclaiming ‘Women Priests are here’.
I ascertained that Janice was staying at a Carmelite convent guest-
 house on the Via Paolo III, half an hour’s walk from the Vatican. My
email seeking accommodation for six nights was dispatched to Sister
Angela that Friday evening and to my relief by Saturday lunchtime I
had secured a room en-suite with a shower and breakfast for the bar
 gain price of 55 euro a night plus a 2 euro City of Rome tax. The downside
was that all guests had to be in the convent by 11 p.m. This convent
curfew would mean no late-night bar-stooling with other journalists
in the Piazza Navona.
Thus, on my arrival in Rome at mid-day on Sunday March 10, I was
taken straight by taxi to my humble quarters. I paid the frivolous fee
for six nights accommodation and was given the key to apartment 229.
Spartan it might be, but from my balcony when I opened the shutter,
I had a splendid view of the basilica dome, the magnificent, silver cupola
of St Peter’s. Suddenly, I was close to the action in the Apostolic
Palace, where history would unfold.

As the sun was shining, I walked to the Vatican without my coat
and umbrella, forgetting that rain was forecast from late afternoon. I
headed to the Borgo Pio, where I was ushered to an outdoor table for
those wishing to eat al fresco. This was the same restaurant, Marcello,
where in 1971 during the Synod of Bishops which I was covering for
The Glasgow Herald, I was initiated into Vatican reportage by the Irish
press corps. I toasted my glass to the memories of Seán MacRéamoinn,
Joe Power, Kevin O’Kelly and Gary MacEoin, ecstatically in communion
with their eternal spirits in the kingdom of the saints, national union
of journalists branch.
By now, the temperature had fallen dramatically and rain was brood
 ing in the air. So I scampered to the nearby Piazza Risorgimento in
pulsating rain to meet Patsy McGarry of The Irish Times. Patsy had wisely
kept his coat on and was carrying an umbrella as his shield from the
torrential downfall. An easing of the rain led us to bolt to our separate
 destinations. To my dismay, it proved impossible to flag-down a taxi.
So I stated walking up the steep winding road bordering the walls of
 the Vatican in a merciless thunderstorm, taking a wrong turn and
 doubling the time it took to get to my casa.
After changing into dry clothing I wandered into a common room
to watch television which was already switched on by an absorbed
woman whom I recognized as Janice Sevré-Duszynska. We talked for
several hours and I took note of her planned activities. Next morning
at breakfast, I joined Janice who was in company with fellow guests
who included women canon lawyers, nuns and Catholic activists. A
yardstick for measuring the conclave proceedings was that the Church’s
foremost need was to elect a pope who was an administrator to clean
up the Curia; otherwise it was dead in the water.

> Monday March 11 was the last day of the pre-conclave discussions.
> Scholars and scribes flooded the Tiber with their prescriptions. I
> joined in the punditry on an RTÉ radio interview with Fergal Keane
> for Mary Wilson’s Drivetime. We did it on a street beside a restaurant
> on the Piazza Risorgimento. Asked what I wished from the conclave, I called
> for the next pope to confer an intellectual amnesty which would end the clamp
> -down on theologians and would invite all the cardinals to express their true
> thoughts rather than mouth the curial line on issues deemed to be
> closed including contraception, married male priests, women priests,
> gay marriage and same sex unions. This should be a prelude to a
> reopening of these issues in tandem with a curial reform that would
> send the old guard to Coventry. All cardinal electors should take as
> their bedtime reading Mary McAleese’s book, Quo Vadis? Collegiality in the
> Code of Canon Law.
> On the morning of Tuesday, March 12, after an early rise I was
> interviewed for the BBC World Ser vice by Nuala McGovern, an
> Irishwoman, at the Beeb’s stand on the Piazza Pio XII. Initially, I was
> booked to do one slot on the reaction of public opinion in Ireland to
> Pope Benedict’s resignation, my answer being that he had reduced
> the papacy to a job and that Ireland was on the left of the Vatican and
> wanted real change towards democratic decision-making. My stint
> expanded into three slots, the second of which was to identify three
> papal front-runners.
> I picked Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, whom I had met at a con
> ference of Christian Democrats in September 2010 in Cracow, Poland,
> where he spoke on ‘The Christians’ Contribution to the European
> Integration Process’. While he was affable and approachable, I said
> his speech was too philosophical and I predicted he would bore for
> the papacy.
> Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec was well placed as Prefect of the
> Congregation of Bishops, with an impressive presence at ceremonies
> as he demonstrated last June when he was papal legate at the World
> Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. I also contended that he took clerical
> paedophilia seriously, having held meetings in Ireland with victims
> of clerical sexual abuse which included spending an hour with Mark
> Vincent Healy, a victim of a Spiritan cleric and now a victims’ crusader.
> Thirdly, I named Cardinal Louis Antonio Taglé of Manila who impressed
> Fr Seán McDonagh recently in Dublin. But I felt he might be considered
> too young at 53. I ruled out an American pope.
> The third slot was to say when we would see white smoke. ‘On
> Wednesday or Thursday’, I forecast. That lunchtime the first ballot
> elicited black smoke and as I headed with the disappointed crowd
> towards the Borgo Santa Anna, I bumped into Mary McAleese and her
> husband Martin. This was fortuitous, as for some time I had been trying
> to track Mary down in Rome to arrange an interview for a biography
> of Cardinal Desmond Connell.
> That afternoon ahead of the cardinal electors entering the conclave, I taxied
> to the mountain ridge of the Piazza Garabaldi, close to the statue of the leader
> who in 1870 captured Rome and effectively ended centuries of the papacy’s
> temporal power. There Janice and women activists from the U.S., Canada, Australia
> and Europe raised pink smoke flares to promote their case for the ordination of women
> to the priesthood. This event highlighted the lack of women’s voices
> among the pope-makers and decision-makers in the Church. ‘We must
> as a matter of justice claim for women our equal rights to be ordained,’
> said Janice Sevré-Duszynska. ‘We do this by contra legem [against the
> law]. We are breaking an unjust law. Yet we remain within the Roman
> Catholic Church. The sacrament of Orders comes from our Baptism,
> not from our gender.’
> In pelting rain interspersed with thunder and lightning, Erin Salz
> Hanna, executive director of Women’s Ordination Conference, called
> for an official reopening of the discussion on women’s ordination. The
> people of the Church, she said, are desperate for a leader who will be
> open to dialogue and embrace the gifts of women’s wisdom in every
> level off church governance.
> Miriam Duignan, communications coordinator of Women Can Be
> Priests, said that the election of a new pope was a rare opportunity
> for the Church to reconsider its systems of governance, to introduce a
> more democratic system of electing leaders and to reassess the leaders’
> accountability to the faithful.
> Just five hours before Cardinal Bergolio was elected pontiff in the
> Sistine Chapel on Wednesday March 13, I was present in a downtown
> schoolroom for immigrants in the Via Ostiense where Janice Sevré-
> Duszynska intoned: ‘The Vatican gives flowers to women, but what
> women really want is full equality. Women priests are here!’ Janice’s
> ordination in 2008 was attended by Fr Roy Bourgeois who gave her a
> blessing, which led to his excommunication by the Congregation for
> the Doctrine of the Faith and his removal from the Mayknoll Order. 2
> In a statement of support for Fr Bourgeois issued in December
> 2012, the Association of Catholic Priests (Ireland) condemned this
> type of action as ‘unjust, and ultimately counter-productive’ and it
> 2. Roy Bourgeois, M.M., My Journey from Silence to Solidarity, Edited by Margaret
> Knape, fxBear, Yellow Springs, Ohio, 2012.
> called on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ‘to restore
> Fr Bourgeois to the full exercise of his ministry and to allow for open
> and honest discussion on issues that are of crucial importance for the
> future of the Church.’
> It was on Tuesday evening that Cardinal Bergoglio emerged as Pope
> Francis. Among his many homely gestures and bons mots my favourite
> is: ‘The Church is not just another human organisation. We can walk
> as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess
> Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but
> not the Church, the Bride of the Lord’.
> On a sunny Thursday morning I participated at Cardinal Seán
> Brady’s press conference at the Pontifical Irish College, where it
> emerged that the Primate of All Ireland had made a prophetic intervention
> during the pre-conclave meetings by suggesting that the new pope should be
> marked by a love of the poor. Speaking, too, about his conversation with Pope
> Francis after his election, he said he will be inviting him to Ireland when an
> appropriate occasion arises.
> At his first press conference, the Pope said he was inspired to take
> the name because Francis was ‘a man of the poor’, a ‘man of peace’
> and a man who ‘loved and cared for creation.’
> Afterwards I went to lunch with Cardinal Brady’s spokesman, Martin Long, and
> Michael Kelly, the editor of the Irish Catholic, at which we discussed what kind of pope
> Francis would be, with me stressing he be collegial and bring an end to the People of God’s
> trek in the wilderness. While we shared a mood of optimism, Martin quipped that
> he had heard my interview with Fergal Keane but did not agree with
> one word I had said!
> On a sunny Saturday March 16 at the end of my six days amongst
> women, to borrow from the title of a John McGahern novel, as the Aer
> Lingus plane crossed the Alps, I thought of Lord Acton’s dictum that
> ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ and hoped that under Francis that
> kind of absolutism will be corrected. It was clear to me from Cardinal
> Brady’s enthusiasm that Bergoglio’s election gave him a landslide
> mandate to reform the Curia. It remains to be seen if he will translate
> his charisma into effective action and pick a team who will implement
> changes, a team which might find places for the respective talents of
> Cardinal Brady and the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.
> However, on account of the Argentine Pope’s theological conservatism, I expect
> that there will be many disappointments for advocates of sweeping change. To avoid
> this, I would hope that Pope Francis summons a Third Vatican Council whose composition
> would extend to representatives of the clergy and laity as well as the world’s bishops. Its
> aim would be to complete the unfinished business of Vatican II. Indeed,
> perhaps the next time I travel to Rome those awesome ultramontane
> peaks will look less imperial and more collegial."
> (John Cooney, a historian, is also a journalist specialising in religious
> affairs.)

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