Vatican City, Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received bishops from Colombia ending their “ad limina” visit this morning and encouraged them to continue to proclaim the Gospel of justice, peace and reconciliation with their words and witness, in their fight against the “moral deterioration” and violent “attacks on life, freedom, and the dignity of persons,” affecting their country.
The Pope spoke about the “depth of the Christian faith in the country and the dynamism of the apostolic commitment,” highlighting “the growing number of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, the widespread presence of religious institutions, and the existence of many centers of study and formation.”
However, the Pope said that "the increase in moral deterioration [is] present in many different forms and affects the most varied areas of personal, family and social life, thereby undermining the intrinsic importance of moral conduct and putting the authenticity of faith in serious danger.”
He said that the phenomenon was “a result, in part, of ideologies that deny human beings the capacity to clearly know what is right and to put it into practice.”
The Holy Father said that responding to the challenge requires "Proclaiming justice, truth, fidelity and love of one's neighbor, in all their specific implications” which "is inherent to announcing the Gospel in its entirety. ... This teaching, complete and in full agreement with the moral doctrine of the Church, will be much more fruitful if it is united with personal example, constant unity with the faithful, and tireless courage."
"Assuming one's own obligations,” said the Pope, “is a necessary requirement for affirming the true dignity of the person, which generates interior peace and then extends to one's surroundings, especially to institutions, when they are founded on an authentic spirit of service for the common good, and when they are administered with the criteria of equality, justice, honesty and truth.”
He affirmed that "The need for organized Christian initiation, tailored to the cultural conditions of our times and to each place, ... is a priority, especially where the social climate does not promote the faith or where the channels of transmission or development - such as the family, school and the Christian community itself - break down."
The Holy Father encouraged the bishops in the face of violence and kidnappings – evils which originated in drug-trafficking and affect “all spheres of society” and "show, once again, the perversion which human baseness can reach when the moral perspective is lost in the interests of evil and when the most fundamental rights of man are not respected.
"In light of these facts," he concluded, "I share your pain and I appreciate all your efforts to stop violence, eliminate the causes and minimize its effects, while paying attention to the victims and tirelessly encouraging those who want to abandon the language of arms in order to take up the path of peaceful dialogue."
Vatican City, Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, this morning, and encouraged him and his countrymen to “foster a spirit of dialogue and tolerance” for the sake of “authentic justice and peace.”
"In these times of turmoil and violence," said the Holy Father, "I encourage you and your fellow citizens to continue to foster a spirit of dialogue and tolerance in your region. It is only by acknowledging the need for mutual understanding among peoples, through a frank and open exchange of ideas, that the world can obtain authentic justice and peace. Upon you and all the people of Pakistan I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God."
Vatican City, Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for the Holy See's Relations with States, laid out the Holy See’s policy on global themes on the agenda of the 59th United Nations General Assembly in New York, inlcuding poverty and development, peace, regional armed conflicts, terrorism, and the right to life and freedom of religion.
The theme of poverty and development "affects the right to subsistence of hundreds of millions of human beings, surviving - as best they can - below the threshold of what is necessary, as well as tens of millions of undernourished children unjustly deprived of the right to live."
He said that the world "must find a lasting solution to these inhumane conditions, ... progressing, under the aegis of the U.N. towards a more flexible and more just international trade system."
Total and general disarmament must take place for the achievement of peace in the world, said the Archbishop. "The problem of weapons of mass destruction is clearly to be distinguished from that of conventional weapons,” he said, “but the latter have a terrible and unending contemporary relevance in the numerous armed conflicts that stain the world with blood, and also in terrorism."
On the theme of regional armed conflicts around the world, the Archbishop spoke on the Middle East and said that "The Catholic Church, present in Palestine for 2,000 years, invites everyone to turn their backs on any action likely to destroy confidence, and to utter generous words of peace and make bold gestures of peace.”
“And if peace is the fruit of justice,” he said, “let it not be forgotten ... that there can be no justice without forgiveness. Indeed, without mutual forgiveness. This clearly requires greater moral courage than the use of arms."
He also affirmed that "the Holy See believes it is now imperative to support the present [Iraqi] Government in its efforts to bring the country to normality and to a political system that is substantially democratic and in harmony with the values of its historic traditions."
He said that African countries of Sudan, Somalia, those in the Great Lakes region and the Ivory coast are “scarred by bloodshed arising from mutual conflicts and even more from internal strife. They need active international solidarity, ... and the African Union needs to intervene authoritatively so as to bring all legitimate interested parties around a negotiating table.”
He said that “today no State can presume to be safe” from terrorism “an aberrant phenomenon, utterly unworthy of man, which has already assumed global dimensions.”
“Hence,” he stated, “without prejudice to the right and duty of each State to implement just measures to protect its citizens and its institutions, it seems obvious that terrorism can only be effectively challenged through a concerted multilateral approach, respecting the 'ius gentium', and not through the politics of unilateralism.”
Archbishop Lajolo concluded by speaking on human rights, most fundamentally the right to life and freedom of religion. Archbishop Lajolo said that "in reality, such fundamental human rights stand or fall together. And man stands or falls with them. For this reason - in the view of the Holy See - every effort has to be made to defend them in all fields.”
“For this to happen, one particular danger must be avoided, which is found today in various countries and social settings. It is the idea that these fundamental human rights, as sanctioned by the (1948) Universal Declaration (of Human Rights), are expressions of a particular culture and are therefore highly relative,” he said.
Dublin, Ireland, Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - Darmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, said this week during a priestly retreat, that “pervasive individualism” is undermining the nation’s Catholic faith, and called for a the creation of strong faith communities as a “new clerical culture,” to revert the process of secularization.
The Archbishop spoke of the need for priests, bishops, lay Catholics and the Church’s ministries to reflect a sense of community, centered on the Eucharist, “the center of any spirituality of the ordained priest” and the “pinnacle of all the activities of the Church.”
He said that “people are happy to support a Church which witnesses to its faith through service and caring,” and will judge communities on whether they are “caring and compassionate communities.” However, because of individualism many who “want to keep a space for God in their lives” do not feel the need to participate in a worshipping community.”
“There is also a specific religious individualism,” he says “a tendency to interpret a mission which springs from baptism in an individualistic way, as if it were “my baptism” which empowers me as an individual, rather than seeing baptism, and this ministry which derives from baptism, as linked to the Eucharistic community.”
“Baptism commits all to mission,” the Archbishop emphasized, “But that mission takes place within a Eucharistic community. There are no private ministries in the Church. All ministries draw their origin from and are exercised within the Eucharistic community of the Church.”
With regard to the ministry of the priest he said that “the priest who presides is called in the first place to be the exemplar of the community which receives the gift of the Eucharist. This means that the presider is in an exemplary way the listener, the person of prayer, the one who allows the gifts of the spirit to be welcomed by the entire community so that the community “becomes one body, one spirit in Christ”.
“We need a new model of Bishop, who does not appear as simply the CEO of the diocese, but who day-in and day-out preaches the Gospel and works shoulder to shoulder with priest and others in the front line of evangelization,” he said.
In order to respond to alternative visions of life which are increasingly drawing young people away from the Church and into secular or new age forms of religious affiliations Archbishop Martin says that “the transmission of the faith in the years to come will have to be more and more linked with the creation of faith communities, like the basic ecclesial communities that we speak about in the context of Africa or Latin America.”
“These communities will help people, young and old, to be formed in their faith and to live out their faith concretely in a cultural context which is less and less supportive of faith.”
“So many of our Church structures are no longer adequate to contemporary mission. So many of our structures are not geared towards evangelization. Our structures must be adapted or if necessary replaced.”
He said that the Church in Dublin was hoping to launch a pastoral project called: “Parishes working together for mission”. “The structures which will evolve will depend above all on our own ability to live the Gospel, which is always the same, in a new way, and to allow that Gospel to lead us on.”
Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a letter, urging the House of Representatives “to preserve and protect” the “vital institution” of marriage and support the Marriage Protection Amendment.
The proposed legislation, H.J. Res. 106, would amend the United States Constitution to define marriage as consisting only of the union of a man and a woman. It is expected to be taken up in the House later this week.
In the letter Sept. 28, USCCB president Bishop Wilton D. Gregory said the bishops’ concern for marriage is not just “a Catholic concern.”
“We share it with believers and non-believers, Christians and non-Christians alike, simply because this understanding is part of the common moral heritage of humanity," said the bishop of Belleville.
"It is precisely this moral heritage that must be protected today from a small but vocal minority that would alter the definition of marriage by making same-sex unions the legal equivalent of marriage," he said.
"A same-sex union is not equivalent to marriage. It is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female; it cannot cooperate with God to create new life; it cannot be a true conjugal union," he continued.
He stated that recent court action in various states has placed marriage – “a basic human institution” – under serious attack and in grave danger.
While civil and Church laws regulate marriage, “it did not originate from either the Church or state, but from God,” Bishop Gregory said. “Accordingly, the bishops believe that neither Church nor the state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage.
"Marriage, as properly understood, is more than a lifestyle choice," he continued. "It is an interpersonal relationship with public significance. It makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society when it fulfills its natural, God-given purposes, namely, to bring children into the world and care for them and to provide a way for a man and a woman to seek each other's good in a committed, lifetime relationship."
The USCCB has been working on the marriage issue, supporting efforts at the state level to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
A year ago its Administrative Committee called for efforts at all levels of government, including support for a federal constitutional amendment. This past July Bishop Gregory wrote to the Senate in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - A pro-abortion organization, claiming to be Catholic, has filed a complaint with the IRS against the pro-life Culture of Life Foundation.
The complaint, filed by Catholics for a Free Choice, claims that the Culture of Life Foundation violates federal law when it publicly supports Catholic Church teaching on life issues and when it says that abortion is the number one issue facing Catholics in the voting booth.
If found guilty, the Culture of Life Foundation could have its tax-exempt status revoked.
"Catholics for a Free Choice seeks nothing less than to silence public debate,” said Austin Ruse, president of the Culture of Life Foundation in a written statement.
“In one fell swoop, using the Internal Revenue Service, Catholics for a Free Choice is attempting to violate our First Amendment rights to free speech and religious practice,” he said. "We will not be deterred by what is clearly the use of the federal government for the purposes of harassment.”
Calling Catholics for a Free Choice, a “rollicking band of wealthy anti-Catholic pro-abortion bigots," Ruse said it was founded many years ago “to undermine and silence the teaching of the Catholic Church on life issues.”
The U.S. bishops have denounced Catholics for a Free Choice numerous times for falsely using “Catholic” in their title, Ruse pointed out.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Guillermo Jose Garlatti of Bahia Blanca, Argentina, traveled over 400 miles to meet with Bishop Esteban Laxague of Viedma and together offer comfort to the family members of three students gunned down in a school shooting this week.
The funeral Mass for the students was held in the Athens Stadium in the city of Patagones, where the shooting took place. The bishops prayed before each of the caskets and with each of the families.
On Tuesday, a 15 year-old student identified only as Rafael, began shooting at classmates at the Islas Malvinas public school. Three students—two females and one male—were killed and five seriously wounded. The student had apparently used an automatic weapon belonging to his father, a local policeman. Authorities have not yet determined a motive for the crime.
According to sources with the Archdiocese of Bahia Blanca, which has jurisdiction over Patagones, Archbishop Garlatti was participating in a retreat with local clergy when news of the shooting broke. He traveled more than 400 miles to attend the funeral liturgies.
Yesterday afternoon hundreds of people paid their last respects to the students. The funeral procession was lead by local mayor, Ricardo Curetti. Before departing for the cemetery, the bishop of Viedma lead the final prayers.
The Argentinean government declared two days of national mourning, and family members received expressions of support and solidarity from families of the victims of the Columbine shootings, which took place in Colorado and left 14 people dead.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - A local city councilman in the town of Sestao, Spain, and leader of the movement “Christians for Socialism,” is criticizing the government’s offensive against the Church, warning that the confrontation will have “costs for both.”
“We’re heading towards a train wreck,” said Carlos García de Andoin. “If things are not brought to a calm there will be costs for both sides: the bishops will lose people in the Church and the PSOE –the Spanish socialist party—will lose voters,” said Garcia de Andoin, who has spent the last ten years trying to reconcile socialist politics with the Christian faith.
According to Garcia de Andoin, “religion as a political issue has been revived,” which “has produced an undue polarization between progressive values, identified with secularism, and conservative values, identified with religious morality.”
He argues that one the principal errors of the government is in the use of the term “secular.” “Secular and religious are not mutually opposing.” The Spanish socialist party “needs to understand secular as inclusive. Secularism is a tradition of liberty and tolerance, and some secularism is uncompromising,” he said.
Other local political leaders, such as Juan Vicente Herrera of the Castilla and Leon region, said the offensive by the Socialist government against the Church “is a ‘vendetta’, which is setting us back centuries.” The government is “reviving closed debates instead of concerning itself with bringing progress to society,” he argued.
“Look, Spain is a non-sectarian state but it is a plural society, and reopening debates that lead to rank anticlericalism sets us back centuries….To me reviving this resentment, this old ‘vendetta’ against traditional values is a mistake,” he said.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - Lawmakers from the ruling Spanish socialist party (PSOE) have decided to withdraw support for proposals to legalize abortion on demand during the first trimester of pregnancy, hoping rather to include such proposals in the Penal Code reforms slated for next year.
The announcement was made by Socialist representative Pilar Lopez, who said that although the party agreed with the proposals, “now is not the time” to propose such changes, and that instead the proposal should be included in next year’s revision of the country’s Penal Code.
Likewise, Lopez announced the Socialist party is seeking to achieve a “social contract” with feminist movements, doctors, heath care professionals, and lawyers in order to pass an “sexual health law,” which Lopez says would enable efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancy among teens.
“The Popular Party has set us back years in terms of sexual education, especially in schools, and we need to foster it in order to reduce unwanted pregnancies, which have increased in the last few years,” Lopez claimed.
Current Spanish law permits abortion for rape, the life of mother or if the fetus is at risk for mental or physical retardation.
Current proposals by leftist lawmakers would allow abortion “when, in the judgment of the woman, pregnancy would result in personal, family or social conflict.”
Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - New legislation implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission is "extremely harmful to immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees," says the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' migration committee.
Bishop Thomas Wenski, coadjutor of Orlando, wrote a letter, urging members of the U.S. House to oppose certain sections of the bill. He says a number of provisions in the bill “will have serious ill effects on immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers to this nation without necessarily making our nation safer.
"Many reach beyond the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission report,” he observes.
The bishop underlined that the bill would require aliens in the United States to use only a foreign passport or identification issued by the U.S. Department of Justice or Department of Homeland Security. Consular identification cards, issued by foreign governments, would no longer be allowed.
The provision would also increase the period an immigrant is subject to expedited removal – the process by which an immigration officer (not a judge) can deport an immigrant – from two years to five years.
The bishop says several sections of the bill would undermine standard due-process protections for immigrants.
“The bill also establishes four new evidentiary standards for asylum-seekers, severely limiting the opportunity for bona fide asylum-seekers to receive protection in the United States,” says a USCCB press communiqué.
Under one section of the bill, someone claiming to be a victim of torture would have to provide "clear and convincing" evidence, beyond the standards established under the UN Convention Against Torture.
"This would raise the likelihood that torture victims would be sent back to their torturers," Bishop Wenski says.
Westlake, Ohio, Sep 30, 2004 (CNA) - The U.S. Church is living through another scandal, and the perpetrators are not priests; the perpetrators are parents, says Mary “Bai” Macfarlane, a mother of four. Although millions of American homes are broken by divorce, the U.S. bishops tend not to speak out against it and canon lawyers seem to defend divorce instead of marriage, she says.
The issue is close to home for Macfarlane, who, after nearly 14 years of marriage, finds herself as the defendant in no-fault divorce case in Ohio. Her four children have been taken away from her because she has insisted on home-schooling them. She has recently joined with others in a grass roots movement to protect children and parents from no-fault divorce.
“Millions of Catholic parents are divorcing and stealing from their own children their God-given right to an intact home, and by example, are teaching their own children there is nothing unnatural or wrong with divorce,” says Macfarlane.
“These parents are remarrying too, and their actions are condoned by the U.S. tribunals, which totally ignore two sections of canon law, and invented a newfangled interpretation for another canon law.”
Macfarlane says U.S. tribunals, under the direction of the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA), “are teaching that almost every divorce is acceptable,” which is in clear contradiction to the teachings of the Pope and of the Church.
CLSA claims modern psychology lets them diagnose that most people were incapable of promising to be married in the first place, never had a Christian marriage, and have done nothing wrong by obtaining a no-fault divorce, says Macfarlane.
“The bishops are supposed to be our shepherds and their silence about the evil of divorce is leading many into sin, and breaking the hearts of millions of American children,” she told CNA.Canon law revisited
The current code of canon law, published in 1983, states that married couples cannot live separately without a decree from their bishop, unless there is an immediate danger (canon 1153).
It also stipulates that only after obtaining permission to separate, one can file for civil divorce after again obtaining authorization from one’s bishop. The bishop cannot give that authorization without being ensured that no civil court orders would contradict divine law (canon 1692).
However, even before that 1983 canon law was published, popular writers and editors for the CLSA were already granting annulments for unacceptable reasons, says Macfarlane.
In fact, as early as 1970, CLSA author, Fr. Wrenn, published a book in which he taught that if spouses are unhappy, they are not satisfying a requirement for marriage, Macfarlane points out.
In addition, the Pope’s official teachings on marriage state that a bride and a groom have to consent to three essential obligations of marriage: permanence, exclusivity and openness to children.
But several CLSA writers, including Fr. Wrenn, James Beal and Raymond Burk, had added a fourth essential obligation, “an interpersonal relationship.”
In other words, says Macfarlane, the fourth obligation was interpreted to mean that “if you had marriage trouble, you could find some psychological excuse, such as immaturity, or any psychological disorder to prove that you, or your spouse, were incapable of a valid marriage promise.”
Bai Macfarlane also points out that the CLSA works closely with the North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics, which teaches one can dissent and remain a faithful Catholic; premarital sex, abortion, birth control and practicing homosexuality are fine.
“Unless parents do their own research, they aren’t likely to know CLSA contradicts official church teaching,” she says.
As a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, Macfarlane conducted a survey of the theology department, which was described in a 1984 Fidelity Magazine article, "Is Notre Dame Still Catholic?" She was one of the founding members of Notre Dame's Knights of Immaculata Club and graduated in 1985 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
She married Dec. 8, 1990 and shortly thereafter began a Catholic lay apostolate with her husband; they have four sons from age 3 to 12.
More information about the subject and her current ministry is available at: http://www.marysadvocates.org/clsawho.html