Writing a regular column like “Viewpoint” requires me to collect oodles of news and feature items from a variety of sources. Here are five to which I cannot devote whole columns, but which deserve mention nevertheless.
Most enlightened liturgical policy by a U.S. archbishop:
Nine U.S. dioceses have over the years moved the sacrament of Confirmation for youth back to the age of reason (around seven)--just before First Communion. Recently, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver established that, in his Archdiocese, youth will celebrate Confirmation and First Communion together, in the third grade. Since this was the practice in the Church for 1900 years, the policy needs no justification. The practice for most of the 20th century of having Confirmation well after First Communion is an anomaly—like postponing the engagement until well after the wedding.
Most unambiguous assessment of the recently translated Roman Missal:
To the question, “What do you think of our new 2011 missal translation? What are its strengths and weaknesses?” Archbishop John Quinn, former ordinary of San Francisco, replied, “It is not English as we use it. It’s too complicated. It’s very difficult to speak. People can’t understand what is being said. . . . I don’t know that it has any strengths.” (Hey, he said it, I didn’t!)
Most courageous stance by an American bishop:
Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R. I., took up an issue that most clergy (including myself) are too chicken to address: sloppy, over-casual, sporty dress at Mass. Bishop Tobin wrote critically in his diocesan newspaper of people “spreading [themselves] out in the pew, wearing wrinkled, very-short shorts and garish, unbuttoned shirts; mature women with skimpy clothes that reveal too much, slogging up the aisle accompanied by the flap-flap-flap of their flop-flops; hyperactive gum-chewing kids with messy hair and dirty hands, checking their iPhones and annoying everyone within earshot or eyesight.” Says the Bishop, “C’mon—even in the summer a church is a church, not a beach or a pool deck.”
Most under-reported recent ecumenical gestures:
In June, Pope Francis apologized to the Waldensians for persecution by the Catholic Church. The Waldensians derive their name from Peter Waldo, a rich merchant from 12th-century Lyons, who, as a young man experienced a radical conversion, very similar to that of Francis of Assisi. Waldo began preaching and teaching about the virtues of poverty and simplicity. In a few years, he acquired followers who called themselves “the poor of Lyons.” Waldo and his followers were condemned for heresy and for operating without much reference to the official Church. Pope Francis suggested that Catholics and Waldensians should cooperate in the future, especially in works of charity.
Likewise, in July, the Pope sent Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop emeritus of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, as his special envoy to the commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the death of John Hus, burned at the stake for heresy by Catholic authorities on July 6, 1415.
Silliest thing I have ever heard:
An Italian perfume manufacturer has created a “distinctive, refreshing aftershave” called “Francis” after—guess who?—Pope Francis. (They also have aftershaves named after Pope Pius IX and Pope Benedict XVI). I wonder what an aftershave inspired by Pope Francis would smell like. Sheep? After all Pope Francis has said on a number of occasions that clergy should smell like their sheep. And I really wonder if Pope Francis uses aftershave at all. (Perhaps the makers of these perfumes should be burned at the stake for sheer nonsense!)
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.