Vatican City, Jun 17, 2004 (CNA) - U.S. press has revealed today that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent a letter to U.S. Bishops providing “guidance” to their deliberations in Denver concerning the question of denying Communion to pro-abortion public figures.
The “letter of guidance,” whose existence was first revealed by the New York Times on June 16, and then by the Italian media, would reaffirm the usual doctrine of the Catholic Church as expressed in Canon 915, according to which a person who publicly holds views which are discrepant with Catholic teaching may not receive Communion.
The Catholic doctrine also says that ministers of Communion must warn the persons in question that they may not go up to receive Communion unless they change their stand, and if, in spite of the warning, the person insists on receiving Communion, the minister of Communion has the duty to deny them.
According to the sources, letter would also say that denial of Communion is not a “punishment,” but in fact an act of charity in accordance to the doctrine that “whoever eats indignantly of this bread eats his own condemnation.”
Neither is it a judgment on the person’s conscience, but rather an action based on the objective sin and scandal involved.
It is likely that the bishops gathered in Denver until June 19 will release a statement on the issue of Communion.
Boston, Mass., Jun 17, 2004 (CNA) - The Massachusetts Catholic Conference sent letters to the state’s 710 parishes, urging Catholics to “share their profound disappointment” with lawmakers who did not vote to ban same-sex marriage earlier this year and to offer praise to those who did, reported the Boston Globe June 15.
The mailings by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference included a scorecard, assessing lawmakers based on the votes they cast during the Constitutional Convention in February and March. However, the mailings did not endorse particular lawmakers.
The Massachusetts Legislature voted in March to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2006, which would ban same-sex marriage and establish civil unions for same-sex couples. However, homosexuals began marrying legally in the state May 17, after efforts to overturn a November ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court were not successful.
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference has been criticized for issuing the letters only months before the November election. But Daniel Avila, the organization’s associate director for policy and research, says the mailing has nothing to do with the elections. Rather, it was sent at the end of the debate in Massachusetts, he said.
For the Massachusetts Catholic Conference's list of legislative votes on the Marriage Amendment, go to: http://www.macathconf.org/04%20Marriage%20Vote%20Final%20Analysis.pdf
Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2004 (CNA) - A review of a new documentary on chastity states that the film is “unbalanced,” “full of unsubstantiated, anecdotal assertions” and falsely links abstinence to the Church’s sexual abuse scandal.
"Celibacy," a new documentary by Antony Thomas, will be aired on HBO June 28. The Office of Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reviewed the documentary in advance.
The review states that the documentary starts “on a seemingly unbiased note” with a comparative study of the practice of celibacy in Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.
However, it “quickly becomes a polemic against the Catholic Church's entire sexual ethos, which attempts to claim that a repeat of the recent sex scandal could be avoided if the Vatican lifted its ban on a married clergy," the review says.
"Of course, no mention is made of the fact that married and single men of all faiths and no faith can be pedophiles, without having the excuse of religious celibacy as an explanation," it continues.
The documentary does not “take seriously that following the example of the celibate Christ is a motive for priestly celibacy,” states the review. “Primacy is always given to motives other than spiritual.”
The review also faults the film for singling out Christianity and for not considering the positive aspects of the Church’s teachings on celibacy.
It criticizes the film for citing the departure of thousands from the priesthood in past decades and fewer religious vocations today in its case against celibacy, never situating these two facts within a social context, which has seen an “overall decline in all lifelong commitments,” including marriage.
The film also ignores the healthy number of vocations outside the Western world, as well as secular polls indicating that most priests are happy with their lives.
The review states: “The show's oversimplified prognosis, which recommends ending celibacy as a panacea to the ills facing the Church, is hardly convincing.”
Vatican City, Jun 17, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father laid out the priorities for the Church in Colombia at the first of this year’s “ad limina” visits of the Colombian ecclesiastical provinces which took place this morning: peace and reconciliation, ardent evangelization, defense of family life, and continual fostering of the encouraging number of religious vocations.
The Pope pointed to the “fruits of holiness” in the Colombian Church with the recent beatifications of Fr. Mariano Euse and Mother Laura Montoya, “venerated as a mother of the indigenous,” as he addressed the bishops from the Colombian ecclesiastical provinces of Medellin, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, Manizales, Popayan and Santa Fe de Antioquia.
The Holy Father encouraged them to keep up their hope for the future, “while working for the service of the kingdom of God, spurred on by Christ's words, 'Duc in altum.'”
“With these words of Christ which I have proposed as a motto for the third Christian millennium, I want to encourage you to continue, without disappointments and with total confidence in the Lord in the task of evangelization, the primordial mission of the Church.”
He noted the suffering of Colombia, “where for years there has been an internal conflict that causes so many innocent victims, so much pain for families and society; a conflict which generates poverty, insecurity and stifles the possibilities for integral development.”
“You are conscious,” he said, “that in pastoral care you must give priority to peace and reconciliation, contributing in this way to building up society on the solid Christian
principles of hope, justice, love and freedom, and also fomenting the forgiveness that is born from a sincere desire for reconciliation with God and our brothers and sisters.”
John Paul II urged the prelates never to hesitate “to put all their zeal and pastoral commitment into promoting reconciliation which comes from evangelization, with the intimate conviction that it will illuminate the activity of Christian lay people.”
This evangelical reconciliation will also be “an effective and permanent remedy for the difficult and serious evils that afflict many citizens of your nation, due to the internal civil conflict which has caused so many deaths, claiming as its victims even servants of the Gospel,” he continued.
He then recalled Msgr. Isaias Duarte, archbishop of Cali, as well as other priests and religious who have been assassinated in recent years.
“Another area of pastoral activity that requires special attention,” said the Pope, “includes promoting and defending the institution of the family, which is so attacked today from diverse fronts with multiple and subtle arguments.”
The Pope highlighted the bishops' efforts “to defend and promote the institution of family” and he emphasized the “need to continue to proclaim firmly the truth about marriage and family, established by God, as an authentic service to society.”
“Not doing so,” he added, “would be a grave pastoral omission that would induce believers to error, as well as those have the serious responsibility to make decisions for the common good of the nation."
The Pope pointed out that "a sign of hope for the Church in Colombia is the flourishing of vocations," and he encouraged the bishops not to "neglect an assiduous pastoral care for the future" in this field.
He reminded them to remain "conscious of the irreplaceable role of each ecclesial community in this duty," founded on prayer for vocations and preparation of young people in order to hear the divine call to follow Christ.
The ecclesiastical provinces of Medellin and Sante Fe de Antioquia in Colombia have the highest rate of religious vocations of any ecclesiastical province in the world.
The Pope asked the Colombian prelates to convey his greetings to young people and in particular "to those who are preparing for the priesthood or religious life, to families, ... and especially to those families that are suffering due to members who have been kidnapped, to the poor and needy, ... and the sick and elderly."
Tucson, Ariz., Jun 17, 2004 (CNA) - The Diocese of Tucson is considering plans to file for bankruptcy protection as a way to resolve pending lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy, reported the Arizona Daily Star.
Diocesan attorney Barry MacBan told a Tucson judge Monday that a federal Chapter 11 plan is already in process.
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas did not confirm whether the diocese would seek bankruptcy protection. However, he did tell the Arizona Daily Star Tuesday that a Chapter 11 filing is "absolutely realistic."
Chapter 11 bankruptcy would allow the diocese to continue operating its 74 parishes and carry on with its ministry as usual. The court would monitor the diocese’s finances while the diocese tries to pay costs related to sexual abuse claims.
There are 19 cases pending against the diocese. All were filed after a 2002 out-of-court settlement with 10 men, who said they had repressed memories of sexual molestation by four local clergy.
The amount of the settlement was not disclosed but it was estimated to be $16 million. According to the diocese's financial report for 2002-03, the diocese has long-term debt of $4.7 million and a deficit of $7 million, reported the Arizona Daily Star. It could be 10 years before the diocese of out of debt, said the budget director.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 17, 2004 (CNA) - In an interview with the Spanish daily ABC, historian and editor of a new study containing the results of an international conference on the Inquisition which took place at the Vatican in 1998, Agostino Borromeo, rejected falsehoods promoted by the “black legend” about the subject.
During the interview, the Italian history professor spoke about the 800-page volume which pulls together the conclusions of 60 historians and experts from around the world.
Borromeo told the Spanish newspaper the book “dispels the idea that those accused almost always ended up burned at the stake.” “The punishment of heretics began in 1231 and ended with the abolition of the last Inquisition, that of Rome, in 1870, and it had different characteristics according to time and place. The Spanish Inquisition, which was very active until it was abolished in 1834, judged 130,000 people in its entire history, of which less than 2% were condemned to death.”
“For a long time, judgments were confused with death sentences, and it was said that 100,000 were executed—a figure completely unreal. Although some were sentenced to prison or to the galleys, most were given spiritual sentences: pilgrimages, penances, prayers, etc,” said Borromeo.
Asked about the punishment used by Inquisitions in other countries, Borromeo said that “between 1551 and 1647, it Italian court of Aquileia condemned only 0.5% of accused to death. On the other hand, the Portuguese Inquisition between 1450 and 1629 condemned to death 5.7% of its 13,255 cases”
Borromeo added that the total number of cases in the entire history of the Inquisition which resulted in death sentences is around 2%.
Regarding torture, Borromeo said the study reveals surprisingly that “it was used in less than 10% of the cases and always in much more benign conditions than in the civil trials of the day. Torture shocks us a lot today—unfortunately less so after what we saw in Iraq—but for a long time it was part of the normal process.”
The Italian professor explained later that “the Medieval Inquisition was not the same as the Inquisition of the 18th and 19th centuries, when people were much more sensitive to injustice. In the Middle Ages, the Inquisition was very popular because heretics were seen as enemies and as dangers. And the death penalty was very normal then.”
Lastly, Borromeo pointed to changes in the historical understanding of the Inquisition. “Since the 16th century until the end of the fist half of the 20th, the Inquisition was a controversial subject. Some used it to attack the Church, others responded with apologetics that went to ridiculous extremes, like saying that the trials were actually State trials and Church trials, which is false.”
“During her first 1000 years, the Church was opposed to the death penalty. Then she accepted it for almost a 1000 more years. John Paul II has asked for forgiveness for anti-Semitism and for the use of violence. As historians, it is not for us to judge, but to clarify,” he concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 17, 2004 (CNA) - With a vote of 293 to 18, the Spanish House of Representatives rejected a proposal by left wing lawmakers to modify the Penal Code and health laws and decriminalize euthanasia in Spain.
Leftist lawmakers sought to make “exempt from punishment” anyone who “permits, provides or facilitates another person’s death with dignity or without pain.”
Although the proposal did not pass, it could be taken up again with the Spanish government initiates a review of the Penal Code, which has been overdue since 1995.
London, England, Jun 17, 2004 (CNA) - The Irish Presidency of the European Union has issued a statement of the heads of State and government of the 25 member countries in which no mention of Christianity is made in the preamble of the future EU Constitution.
The text says that despite the important help from the various delegations regarding the inclusion of a specific reference to the Christian or Judeo Christian heritage of Europe, “there is no sign of a consensus in this area.”
The draft of the preamble of the EU Constitution simply underscores—without mentioning Christianity—the “cultural, religions and humanistic heritage of Europe,” from which the universal values of inalienable and inviolable human rights, democracy, equality, freedom and the law-abiding State have developed.
The text says the countries of the EU show their conviction that the peoples of Europe, while they are proud of their own national identities and histories, are resolved to overcome the old divisions and are increasingly more united in forging a common destiny.
The final decision on the text will be made by the heads of State in the next EU meeting which will take place in Brussels June 17-18. The Czech Republic, Portugal, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Poland all supported a reference to the Christian heritage of Europe.