Denver, Colo., Apr 21, 2004 (CNA) - Conscience is never just a matter of personal opinion or “a pious alibi for doing what we want, or what might get us elected,” says Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.
In a recent column in the Denver Catholic Register, the archbishop tries to clarify the teaching on conscience in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and what it actually means.
Often, laments the archbishop, Catholics do not understand the teaching and interpret it to justify their personal opinions and preferences.
“Catholics, who appeal to the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ and claim to be following their consciences when they ignore Catholic teaching on issues of vital public importance, would be wise to revisit what the council actually said,” wrote the archbishop.
“We're always obligated to follow our consciences. But, if we're serious in our Catholic faith, we also need to acknowledge that conscience does not "invent" truth,” said the archbishop.
“Rather, conscience must seek truth out, and conform itself to the truth once discovered — no matter how inconvenient,” he said.
Vatican II states that, in forming their consciences “the faithful must pay careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church. For the Catholic Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of truth,” the bishop pointed out.
“Vatican II can never be invoked as an alibi for Catholics ignoring grave public evil or failing to act on their faith in the political sphere. That's a distortion of the council's message. It also misreads the U.S. Constitution,” he said.
“America's Founding Fathers did not say, and never intended, that religious faith should be excluded from civic debate,” said Archbishop Chaput. “They intended one thing only: to prevent the establishment of an official state church.
“A purely secular interpretation of the ‘separation of church and state’ would actually result in the ‘separation of state and morality.’ And that would be a catastrophe for real pluralism and the democratic process.
“If we're sincere about our faith, ‘conscience’ can never be used as an excuse for dismissing what the Church teaches by pointing to her theological critics, voter surveys or public opinion polls, and then doing what we find more convenient,” the bishop concluded. “That's dishonest. And God made us for something better than that.”
Vatican City, Apr 21, 2004 (CNA) - Explaining Psalm 26 during his regular Wednesday General Audience, Pope John Paul II said that the true way to achieve inner peace and serenity is prayer.
The Pontiff said that the key theme of the psalm entitled “Faith in God in the face of danger,” is “faith in God, in good times and in bad.”
The first part, he said, “is marked by great serenity, based on faith in God on the dark day of the assault of the wicked.”
“The life of the believer,” he continued, “is often filled with tensions and trials, sometimes even to the point of rejection and persecution. The behavior of the just causes annoyance because it serves as a reminder to the pompous and perverse.”
The Holy Father indicated that “the faithful are conscious that following God’s law isolates them and even provokes scorn and hostility in a society that often chooses personal advantage, outward success, wealth, wanton enjoyment as a reference point.”
“Nevertheless –he continued,- they are not alone and their heart possesses a surprising inner peace because, as the splendid opening antiphon of the psalm says, ‘the Lord is light and salvation, He defends the life of the just.”
The Pope said that “inner peace, fortitude of the soul and peace are gifts that are obtained while finding refuge in the temple, while resorting to personal and community prayer.”
“The Lord,” he ended, “creates a horizon of peace around the faithful, a horizon which protects them from evil. Communion with God is a source of serenity, joy, peace; it is like entering into an oasis of light and love.”
Vatican City, Apr 21, 2004 (CNA) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced on Wednesday that Pope John Paul will not be attending the ceremony on May 23 celebrating the centenary of the synagogue in Rome, but will send two personal representatives.
The Italian press was speculating that this could be the second occasion in which the Pontiff would visit the Synagogue of Rome; however, the Pope took the unusual decision of appointing two representatives instead of one.
The ceremony will be attended by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for the diocese of Rome and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, accompanied by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2004 (CNA) - The Catholic vote is very important and often the deciding factor in national elections, say two political experts interviewed by Peter Roff, senior political analyst for UPI.
In a report, published Monday, Roff comments that if former Catholic presidential candidates, like Al Smith and John F. Kennedy, “suffered for being ‘too Catholic,’ Sen. John F. Kerry may have the opposite problem.” In certain circles, Roff points out, Kerry may not be Catholic enough.
Roff underlines an annulment Kerry sought of his first 18-year marriage and his insistence on receiving Communion – even though some Catholic bishops say he should not because of his pro-abortion stance – as issues of concern for Catholics casting the vote.
Johnny Morgan of Applied Research Consultants told Roff that the U.S. Catholic vote could determine the outcome of the fall presidential election. In places where the vote is up for grabs, “Kerry's doctrinal vulnerabilities could tip the balance in Bush's direction,” Roff reported.
Catholics “are often a deciding factor in national elections,” Morgan told Roff.
In fact, it was the French Catholic vote in New Hampshire in 2000 that helped Bush carry that state by a margin of less than two percent, said Morgan.
According to Morgan, the 2004 election will be won or lost in the Midwest and Northeast states, like Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa and Missouri, where there are considerable number of orthodox Catholic voters.
The former campaign manager for Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign affirmed Morgan in saying that Catholics “are a very important vote,” reported Roff. Donna Brazile, a Catholic, said Gore’s campaign tried to reach out to Catholic bishops, parishioners and lay groups.
Brazile said that Kerry’s strategy should focus on " compassionate issues", such as economic justice; he should ignore the two contentious issues of abortion and same-sex marriage, she suggests.
Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2004 (CNA) - The Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC) wants to make certain that the Good News is part of the media experience for families in the United States. That is why the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops launched its annual campaign yesterday to raise funds for local and national communications efforts.
The theme of the 2004 campaign is “How the Good News Gets Around.”
"By supporting the Catholic Communication Campaign members of the faithful
assist the Church in its mission to sustain the faith of viewers and listeners across our nation," said Bishop Gerald Kicanas chairman of the USCCB Communications Committee. "The CCC offers many useful tools to help parents enrich their children's lives.”
The campaign coincides with World Communications Day, May 16, which has as its theme "The Media in the Family: A Risk and a Richness."
In his statement for World Communications Day, Pope John Paul II urged parents to educate their children about media by teaching critical viewing skills and regulating use of media in the home.
"The Holy Father reminds parents that they are the primary and most important educators of their children and the first to teach them about the media," said Bishop Kicanas.
Created by the U. S. Bishops in 1978, the CCC supports efforts in radio, print, video, television and the Internet. Fifty percent of the funds collected remain in each diocese, enabling it to broadcast masses for the homebound, to support the diocesan newspaper and to produce TV and radio programming. The campaign also supports national TV programming, such as the documentaries “Church without Borders” and “Never Far From God: Portraits in Ministry” and “The Face: Jesus in Art.”
A collection will be held May 16 in many dioceses.
Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 21, 2004 (CNA) - After visiting with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, Archbishop Baltasar Porras, President of the Venezuelan Bishops Conference, said the Holy Father wishes to send a message of peace, hope and reconciliation to all Venezuelans.
Archbishop Porras said that during the private meeting the Holy Father, “the Pope recalled his two visits to Venezuela and what his pastoral experience in region meant, and he mentioned the need for the Church to continue forward with an integral evangelization despite difficulties.”
The Archbishop also pointed out that the Holy Father sent the message of hope and courage because of the need to find reconciliation in Venezuela, “so that the merciful Father can heal the wounds and divisions in our society.”
According to Archbishop Porras, John Paul II focused on the importance of defending the poor and working for human rights, “which are both part of the preaching of the word of God.”
He added that during his visit to the Vatican, the crisis in Venezuela was a recurring subject of conversation. “Everyone asked me about the situation in our country, about human rights, the status of the recall referendum, and about the possibility of finding a peaceful solution to the conflict,” he told Venezuelan reporters.
Rome, Italy, Apr 21, 2004 (CNA) - In an interview with the Italian daily, “Corriere de la Sera,” just days after Spanish President Jose Luis Zapatero announced the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said to abandon Iraq now would be imprudent.
“It is imprudent to leave Iraq because it would mean abandoning the country to civil war,” said the Cardinal. He said that now “everybody supports multilateralism and the role of the United Nations, which is what the Pope had said but which everybody ignored.” The cardinal said he does not agree with the decision of the Spanish government to immediately withdraw its forces from Iraq. “The new Spanish government has to keep its campaign promises, but there is a time to keep promises,” he said. “Troops could be withdrawn now and brought back later under the UN flag, but it is obvious that continuity is needed,” he added.
Cardinal Martino underscored that it is not convenient “to hurry the UN, since it could not take responsibility for the Iraqi situation before June 30.” “The UN needs time to draft a new resolution. Patient and continuous negotiations are needed,” the Cardinal concluded.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Apr 21, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of the Dominican Republic is warning the countries political parties against voting fraud and dirty politics in the coming elections, calling on authorities to carry out elections with transparency.
In an official message regarding the presidential elections on May 16, the bishops called on candidates to avoid political mud slinging and the buying or falsifying of votes, and to leave aside violent confrontations. In addition, the bishops asked the country’s electoral commission to address concerns that have been raised about its work.
“In the current economic climate, campaigns should be austere, avoiding excessive expenditures,” said the bishops, recalling as well that the country expects the electoral commission to carry out its job with impartiality, fidelity to the truth, firmness and speed in the counting of votes.
The bishops also called on citizens to exercise their vote responsibly and soberly, and they insisted that the presidential candidates accept the election results with humility.
“In every race one must be read to win and to lose. Those who lose are just as much deserving of respect and admiration as those who win,” they said.