The "bull in a china shop" is elevated


It's been several weeks since Pope Benedict XVI named Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl, former archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke and 22 other Catholic leaders from around the world to join the elite College of Cardinals. There had been rumors that Burke -- and New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan -- would be named cardinals, but it reminded me of something written a year ago by Time senior editor Amy Sullivan.

The piece was headlined "Priests Spar Over What It Means to Be Catholic" and purported to compare Rome-based Burke with Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley. But it was really all about how Burke is an extremely unimportant "bull in a china shop" who is embarrassing to the Vatican. Sullivan's story was that Burke's transfer to Rome from St. Louis wasn't a sign of how highly he's valued by the Vatican. She wrote that the move was "widely interpreted" as a way to put distance between Burke and politics in the United States and quoted Trinity College's Mark Silk saying as much. Burke had been actively engaged in abortion politics in St. Louis, as St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Tim Townsend could well explain and he hasn't exactly backed off on the pro-life activism while at the Vatican.

Sullivan wrote that Burke's then-new assignment "Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura" -- that would be the chief justice of the Vatican's Supreme Court -- may sound impressive but that it wasn't, really. And she even included one of her trademark anonymous quotes from an American priest saying he's seen Italian bishops "roll their eyes" at him. There were other problems, which I wrote about at the time.

It's been over a year since National Catholic Reporter John L. Allen wrote that Burke being named to the powerful Congregation for Bishops (something not noted in Time's piece) was major news and put Burke "in a position to put his stamp on the next generation of Catholic bishops all over the world."

Sometimes we get caught up in the 24-hour news cycle here. And I think it's worth reflecting, a year later, on who got this story right and who flubbed it big time.

Now because Burke did leave the country, most of the coverage we've seen has been of Wuerl. Not all.

The elevation ceremony -- called a consistory -- takes place this Saturday and that means that tons of people are going over to watch and take part in the festivities. Ann Rodgers from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Michelle Boorstein from the Washington Post both have reports.

They include fun anecdotes about Guido Adelfio, the Bethesda travel agent who was chosen by the archdiocese to organize the trip:

The logistics were daunting. Trying to accommodate the short notice, Thanksgiving week and different budgets, Adelfio crafted a complex matrix that involves 20 flights, nine hotels and five different itineraries. His plan also calls for tour leaders to wear baseball hats in Italy with an identifiable "W" - technically the logo for the Washington Nationals but for a few Roman afternoons representing Washington's newest cardinal.

Wuerl, 70, will join his well-wishers for some events, but he is staying elsewhere and will spend much of his time in meetings with the pope and other cardinals.

As the departure date grew closer, Adelfio fielded questions from 80 excited, anxious pilgrims one evening in the gym of Little Flower Church in Bethesda.

Will there be bathroom access at the Vatican? (Yes.) Is a little black cocktail dress appropriate for a reception attended by a bunch of cardinals? (Absolutely not.) Does the five-star-hotel group use the red lanyards or the blue ones? (Red.) ...

For those who signed up for the trip, encounters with Pope Benedict are a big part of the draw. In addition to at least three guaranteed chances to see him, the pilgrims will celebrate Mass at different basilicas, visit the Sistine Chapel and tour the Pontifical North American College, where American clergy and seminarians study. Confession is scheduled, as are dinners, shopping excursions and parties.

And Rodger's update today was great, too. Here's how she began her article about Wuerl celebrating a mass for pilgrims:

ROME -- Standing a short distance from the rough-hewn tomb that holds the bones of the Apostle Paul, Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl celebrated Mass on Thursday for the pilgrims who have come from Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., to see him elevated to the College of Cardinals on Saturday.

He told them how important it was that the message of Jesus' life, death and resurrection could be connected to a real man, whose traditional resting place was uncovered by archaeologists in 2006. The gospel isn't mere myth, he said.

"The remains of St. Paul ... are a reminder of just how real the faith is, how historical it is," he told about 50 pilgrims. They were the early arrivals of a contingent of well-wishers that is expected to swell to at least 400 today for the former Pittsburgh bishop who became archbishop of Washington in 2006.

The article includes the news that President Obama is sending a delegation to the consistory as well. Let us know if you see any particularly good or bad coverage of this weekend's events.

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