Rome, Italy, Sep 27, 2008 (CNA) -
The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, explained this week that the "paths of our time" are dialogue and "positive secularity," which enables the Church to have the freedom to exercise its mission to make its contributions to the State for the common good.
The cardinal made his comments during a forum sponsored by Europa Press on the Church in society and politics. After recalling the Pope’s recent trip to France, Cardinal Rouco explained that "positive secularity" characterizes the heart of the problem in Europe at this time. Referring to the dialogue between philosopher Jurgen Habermas and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, he said the question of the pre-political foundations of the democratic constitutional state has continued to be in forefront, especially in Europe.
Cardinal Rouco went on to state that dialogue between Catholics, Christians and non-believers, in historically Christian countries, about the pre-political moral foundations of the democratic constitutional state is necessary for the religious community and for the State itself.
He also stressed the need for dialogue with other religions, such as Islam and Judaism, in order to promote the dignity of the human person and of society, and the common good.
Vatican City, Sep 27, 2008 (CNA) - In his address this morning to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Uruguay, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the prelates to teach "the faith of the Church in its entirety" and not to shy away "from an explicit proclamation of the moral values of Catholic doctrine."
The Holy Father addressed the bishops in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo during their ad limina visit. The Pontiff reminded them that often these moral values "are the subject of debate in political and cultural circles and in the communications media, such as those referring to the family, to sexuality and to life from conception to natural end."
"A visit to the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul," the Pope told them, "provides a good opportunity to delve more deeply into the significance of the ministry of the successors to the Apostles." It is "an opportunity to reinforce the bonds of effective and affective unity among the college of bishops, which must demonstrate the ideal of the ecclesial community since its origins: that of 'oneness of heart and mind', a visible example to promote a spirit of fraternity and harmony among your faithful, and in modern society so often dominated by individualism and rivalries."
Such communion also appears, the Holy Father noted, in the Uruguayan bishops' implementation of pastoral guidelines inspired in Jesus' meeting with the disciples in Emmaus, when "the Master, who accompanied and conversed with His companions, explained the Scriptures to them."
This can be done by "promoting knowledge of and meditation upon Sacred Scripture, explaining it faithfully in preaching and catechesis, or teaching it in schools, is vital in order to for people to live their Christian vocation with greater awareness, firmness and security."
"The Word of God is also the source and content of your ministry", said the Pope, "even more necessary at a time in which many voices seek to silence God in personal and social life, leading mankind along paths that undermine true hope and disregard the firm truth in which the human heart can find rest."
The Pope later explained that to accomplish its task, the bishops have the support of "the priceless collaboration of priests, who should be constantly encouraged so that, without bowing before the dominant mentality of the world, they remain true disciples and missionaries of Christ, carrying His message of salvation ... to everyone who thirsts for words learnt of the Spirit rather than purely human knowledge."
"In this way they will bear faithful witness of what they preach, and help their brothers and sisters to flee a purely superficial religiosity and ... learn from Christ to love 'in justice and sanctity of life'," he continued.
Finally, Benedict XVI encouraged the prelates not to become discouraged "in so many situations of religious indifference or apathy," and continue to be bearers of "the hope that does not disappoint" and of "Christ’s love for the poor and needy."
"In difficult situations, which also affect the people of Uruguay, the Church is called to show greatness of heart, solidarity, and the capacity for sacrifice of the family of the children of God towards brothers and sisters in difficulty," he concluded.
Vatican City, Sep 27, 2008 (CNA) - On Thursday, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, addressed the 63rd session of the U.N. General Assembly which is considering the Millennium Development Goals. The archbishop asked the assembly how the world is able to find funds to save financial systems in developed countries, but cannot find the resources necessary to invest in the "most destitute" ones.
Speaking English, Archbishop Migliore highlighted how the MDGs "will be achieved if their attainment becomes a priority for all States." To do so, he continued, "we need to foment a new culture of human relations marked by a fraternal vision of the world, a culture based upon the moral imperative of recognizing the unity of humankind and the practical imperative of giving a contribution to peace and the well-being of all."
"The money and resources that the least developed countries need in terms of direct aid, financial assistance and trade advantages are meager compared to the world-wide military expenses or the total expenses of non-primary necessities of populations in more developed countries," he added.
The Millennium Development Goals are outlined in the UN Millennium Declaration. Leaders of more than 180 nations signed the declaration, which stated specific development goals to be achieved by 2015.
The goals include halving extreme poverty and hunger; assuring that all boys and girls complete primary education; halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases; and reducing sharply maternal and child mortality.
"In these days we are witnessing a debate on an economic rescue aimed at resolving a crisis that risks disrupting the economy of the most developed countries and leaving thousands and thousands of families without work. This rescue of enormous proportions, which amounts to many times the whole of international aid, cannot but raise a pressing question. How are we able to find funds to save a broken financial system yet remain unable to find the resources necessary to invest in the development of all regions of the world, beginning with the most destitute?"
"For this reason," he concluded, "the globalization of solidarity through the prompt achievement of the MDGs established by the Millennium Declaration is a crucial moral obligation of the international community."
Madison, Wis., Sep 27, 2008 (CNA) -
The Wisconsin District 4 Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled that the wife and the daughter of a Wisconsin man who committed suicide can inherit their estate even if they assisted in the act. The ruling was criticized by Wisconsin Right to Life for giving a financial incentive for people to help their relatives kill themselves.
The ruling concerned a Wisconsin law that prevents anyone who "intentionally kills" another from inheriting from that person, the Associated Press reports.
Writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Margaret Vergeront argued "A person who assists another in voluntarily and intentionally taking his or her own life is plainly not depriving the other of life."
"We do not agree that 'killer' is commonly understood to mean the person who provides the means that enable another to kill himself or herself," she continued.
The case involved Linda and Megan Schunk, the wife and daughter of Edward Schunk, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in January 2006 while suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The two women admitted that they drove Mr. Schunk home from the hospital on a one-day pass the day he committed suicide. According to the Associated Press, Mr. Schunk’s six older children he had with different women alleged the two knew he wanted to commit suicide, drove him to a cabin on the property, helped him inside, gave him a loaded shotgun, and left.
Under his will, Mr. Schunk’s wife and teenage daughter were to inherit 80 acres of land, a $100,000 life insurance policy, equipment from his logging company and other money. The total estate, valued at $488,000 in 2006, left little or nothing for Schunk’s older children.
For the purposes of the decision, the court assumed the allegations of Schunk’s older children were true, but ruled in the wife’s and youngest daughter’s favor.
"Providing Edward with a loaded shotgun did not deprive him of his life: he deprived himself of life by shooting himself with the shotgun," Judge Vergeront wrote.
Terry Moore, an Eau Claire lawyer who represents the now-20-year-old Megan Schunk, said the case was a "one-in-a-million situation" and doubted the ruling would have broad impact, the Associated Press reports. Moore asserted that the ruling correctly reflects the fact that assisted suicide is not covered in Wisconsin inheritance law.
Under Wisconsin law, the AP says, anyone who helps another person commit suicide is guilty of a felony and can face up to six years in prison.
Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, criticized the ruling in a Thursday statement, arguing the decision "opens the door for individuals to assist a family member with suicide and then be able to collect an inheritance from the decedent’s estate."
"This decision has ominous implications for Wisconsin citizens by giving a financial motive to those who provide the means for someone to kill themselves."
Lyons said that Wisconsin Right to Life plans to seek judicial or legislative action to close the case’s "loophole."
"For the protection of our citizens, the state should not provide a financial motive to those who participate in a suicide," she said.
Sacramento, Calif., Sep 27, 2008 (CNA) -
Jaime Soto, the coadjutor bishop of Sacramento, addressed the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries conference in Long Beach, California on September 18. While noting that marriage is not the "sole domain of love," he also reiterated the Church’s teaching that homosexual acts are sinful. During his talk, several audience members walked out while Bishop Soto received hostile responses from many in the audience afterward.
The bishop’s address began by challenging the belief that Jesus "always gave people what they wanted" and was an "agreeable person." He noted the exchange between Jesus and Simon Peter in Matthew 16, where Jesus says "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
"Jesus does not give in to the expectations of Peter or the expectations of others," Bishop Soto explained. "He has firmly planted in his heart the expectations and desires of his Father in heaven. He says ‘no’ to Peter and challenges Peter to take up a greater ‘yes,’ to take up his cross and follow him."
The bishop also referenced St. Paul’s phrase "do not conform yourselves to this age," noting the human capacity to think that Jesus is "too unrealistic, too unreasonable," and to convince ourselves that "we know better than the Lord."
Such habits, the bishop said, are evident today in the area of sexuality, about which many of us have a "distorted sense."
"Sexuality has been reduced to a matter of personal preference and personal pleasure without responsibility and with little respect for others. We can lose sight of the profound dignity of the human person who shares in God’s love and creative work through the chaste expression of one’s sexuality proper to one’s calling in life. "
Bishop Soto criticized the "contraceptive culture" that reduces the procreative act to "simple recreation absolved of any responsibility." He also explained the Church’s support for the California ballot’s Proposition 8, which would overturn the California Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year instituting same-sex marriage.
"The nature of love has been distorted," the bishop continued. "Many popular notions have deviated from its true destiny. Love for many has come to mean having sex. If you cannot have sex than you cannot love. This is the message. Even more destructive is the prevailing notion that sex is not an expression of love. Sex is love."
He said this view "deprives sexuality of its true meaning" and hampers the possibility of "ever knowing real love."
Sexual intercourse, he explained, is "a beautiful expression of God’s love" when it is understood "as a unique expression intended to share in the creative, faithful love of God." Referencing Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est, he said that when sexual intercourse ceases to be an icon of God’s "creative, unifying love" it becomes "impoverished" and "demeans the human person."
Bishop Soto then lauded the virtue of chastity, calling it "the path that brings us to that harmony with God’s wisdom and love" and a thing that "moves us beyond one’s desire to what God wills for each one of us."
This is true, he said, also for men and women who are homosexual.
"Let me be clear here," the bishop stated. "Sexual intercourse, outside of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, can be alluring and intoxicating but it will not lead to that liberating journey of true self-discovery and an authentic discovery of God. For that reason, it is sinful."
While same-sex relations can be "alluring" for homosexuals, it "deviates from the true meaning of the act and distracts them from the true nature of love to which God has called us all."
Acknowledging the "beautiful, heroic expression" of married love, he added, "Marriage is also not the sole domain of love as some of the politics would seem to imply." Love includes "the deep and chaste love of committed friends" as well as the love of religious and clergy, the bonds between Christians, and the love between family members.
"Should we dismiss or demean the human and spiritual significance of these lives given in love?" He asked rhetorically.
"We hope and pray that all people, including our brothers and sisters who are homosexuals, will see the reasonableness of our position and the sincerity of our love for them," the bishop continued, closing with an exhortation to the audience "to be drawn into the ways and the manners of Jesus."
Two conference attendees told the California Catholic Daily that they witnessed Bishop Soto "courageously but gently" give a clear presentation of Catholic teaching on sexuality. They report at least five members of the audience walked out during the bishop’s address, while only a very small number applauded the bishop at the conclusion of his speech.
When the conference chairman announced the bishop would answer questions at a reception held in another room, members of the audience reportedly made widespread shows of disapproval and said they wanted to respond immediately.
Bishop Soto then interacted with respondents.
About eight audience members expressed their unhappiness with what the bishop had said. One woman reportedly commented that the audience knew what the Church teaches but wanted to hear about the value of the "lived experience" of lesbian women and gay men.
Two other speakers, one man and one woman, thanked the bishop for his address and voiced agreement with his remarks.
While the audience members responded to the bishop’s remarks, the California Catholic Daily says, one board member of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries approached one of the tables in the room and said "On behalf of the board, I apologize. We had no idea Bishop Soto was going to say what he said."
The California Catholic Daily claims that the Berkeley-based National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries has the reputation of taking "at best, an ambiguous stance" on issues concerning same-sex attraction and homosexual acts.