Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Papal Transition: Preparing For The Conclave

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

Some journalists, mostly television people, have bailed and the ones left are looking for stories and B-roll, an old term that now usually means secondary video. The Chicago media came this morning to cover Cardinal Francis George of Chicago at the North American College, where he concelebrated Mass for the installation of 62 seminarians as acolytes, one of the rites in their movement toward ordination. CNN joined them and the cameraman hit pay dirt for his B-roll when nine cardinals were in the procession. Joining Cardinal George were Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston; Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, head of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre; Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston; Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington; Cardinal Edward Egan, retired archbishop of New York; Cardinal Roger Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick , retired archbishop of Washington; and Cardinal Justin Rigali, retired archbishop of Philadelphia.

Mass was two hours because of the large number of new acolytes. Archbishop Augustin DiNoia, once the head of the U.S. bishops' doctrine secretariat, presided. He currently is president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia, and charged with bringing the Society of St. Pius X back into full communion with Rome.

Don Clemmer is now staffing Cardinal DiNardo, who didn't bring a communications director. Today Don is helping him with interviews with John Allen of National Catholic Reporter and with a Houston television affiliate.

The cardinals eat together in the dining room off the Red Room, which usually is the faculty lounge. NAC faculty, meanwhile, have moved to the student dining room. Alas, the greatest cappuccino machine in the world is in the now off-limits Red Room, but faculty and visitors will survive.

I'm preparing for a women in the church interview tomorrow with CNN. You hear rumblings about that being an issue in this conclave. No way to know if it will come up. I always point out that our national U.S. Catholic organizations for international relief, education and health care are headed by very competent women: Carolyn Woo of Catholic Relief Services, Karen Risteau of National Catholic Educational Association and Sister Carol Keehan, the Daughter of Charity who heads the Catholic Health Association. Each of these associations is responsible for a major ministry in the church.

One reporter also asked me why a woman couldn't be the secretary of a Vatican congregation, an interesting thought. Certainly women have shown their administrative ability many times. (The question of women cardinals is being made, though the church has determined that a cardinal has to be someone who could be ordained a priest.)

Sexual abuse by clergy is another important issue people are discussing. The U.S. church has an impressive record on addressing the problem through extensive prevention programs and has seen new cases of abuse plummet. Over two million volunteers and employees, 52,000 clerics and 6,205 candidates for ordination have had their background evaluated. Sexual abuse is a horrific problem but the church addresses it responsibly. Sadly we're stuck with the reality that never have so few people done so much harm.

We hope to have daily briefings at NAC to follow Vatican press briefings, where U.S. cardinals can speak on the U.S. experience of issues at play.


Sister Mary Ann Walsh is media relations director for the USCCB.

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