St. Louis, Mo., Nov 25, 2008 (CNA) -
At the recent fall assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Robert J. Hermann, the administrator for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, declared that for any bishop it would be a “privilege to die tomorrow to bring about an end to abortion.” He has further explained that Catholics' response to abortion in our country should be proportionate to the scale of the tragedy.
At the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore, Bishop Hermann had said:
"We have lost 50 times as many children in the last 35 years as we have lost soldiers in all the wars since the Revolution.
"I think any bishop here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow to bring about an end to abortion.”
“If we are willing to die tomorrow, then we should be willing to, until the end of our lives, to take all kinds of criticism for opposing this horrible infanticide."
Speaking with the archdiocesan newspaper the St. Louis Review, the bishop commented:
“I think that the way abortion has been presented over the past 35 years so often is that this is something that’s horrible, and we need to stop it. But it seems to me that people do not realize that it is 50 million children that we have killed. We have campaigned to save the baby whales, and yet we vote in pro-abortion politicians — which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.”
Bishop Hermann also described how bishops can look to the example of soldiers.
“If American youth are willing to go to war and lay their life down to defend our freedoms, then every bishop should be willing to give up his life, if it meant putting an end to abortion. And if we’re willing to do that, then we should be totally fearless of promoting this cause without being concerned about political correctness, without trying to build coalitions with pro-choice people,” the bishop said in an apparent reference to those Catholics who have recently begun to give up the fight to outlaw abortion.
He proposed an “awareness- raising campaign” to help people realize “the destruction that we’ve brought about” and “the atrocities that we’re committing.”
“There should be 50 more million Americans in our midst, and anyone under 35 can look around and say, ‘Where are they?’ And, ‘I’m very lucky to be alive.’”
Bishop Hermann reported that after he made his comments one or two bishops started clapping, but the meeting then moved on to other business. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, along with other bishops, personally thanked him afterwards.
He reported that about 95 percent of the popular responses to his remarks have been positive, with some people consulting him about how they ought to deal with past voting habits. Bishop Hermann said many people have been conditioned to act as if God does not exist.
“I have great empathy and great compassion for people who are influenced by society and are taken in by the big lie that God does not exist. My job is to raise their awareness to, yes He does (exist), and it does make a difference what you believe. It makes a big difference in what you do.
“We also have to be aware that our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and the powers and the spirits of this world of darkness, as Paul tells us in Ephesians.
“Therefore, behind Planned Parenthood, behind the abortion issue, is the evil one,” Bishop Hermann stated. “I often see human beings caught up in this as victims of the evil one who need my prayers and who need my compassion and who need my love. We don’t only want to save our children from destruction; we also want to save our adult brothers and sisters from eternal destruction.”
The bishop expressed concern about President-elect Barack Obama’s support for Planned Parenthood, which he claimed targets blacks with abortion information and facilities in their neighborhoods.
Turning to possible problems under a pro-abortion rights Obama presidency, he called the proposed Freedom of Choice Act “dangerous” because “it would be undermining all the efforts for the past 35 years of trying to limit the destructive effects of abortion.” He also noted the possibility Obama could appoint two more Supreme Court justices, which he claimed could secure the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision “for many, many years.”
Responding to a common criticism that bishops and priests place such importance on abortion, he noted that other rights and political issues “mean nothing if the fundamental right to life is not guaranteed.”
“When someone is denied life, then all the other rights don’t mean anything. That’s the reason the Church places such a high priority on that.
“For an individual to have a proportionate reason to vote for a candidate who supports abortion would be very hard to come by. The only way I could see that happening is if we had one candidate who supports abortion and another one who may mandate abortion ... as they do in China.”
Bishop Hermann closed his interview with the St. Louis Review by encouraging Catholics to study Church documents such as Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae and Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, “so they can clearly understand the nature of man and woman and the sacredness of God’s calling for man and woman.”
“The more they study that and begin to live those teachings, the more they’re going to come into freedom to promote the Gospel of Life,” he concluded.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov 25, 2008 (CNA) - The Vietnamese government’s attempt to create a “Patriotic Church” to rival the Catholic Church in the country is now considered “completely impossible,” sources familiar with the effort have told CNA.
Though state media have allegedly concealed poor attendance at the fifth congress of the Vietnam Committee for Solidarity of Catholics, one priest forced to attend the meeting reported only a few dozen attended.
The congress had “a somber atmosphere,” according to his report.
The meeting of the Vietnam Committee for Solidarity of Catholics was originally scheduled for 2005 but did not take place until November 19-20, 2008 in Hanoi. On November 12 the state-run Vietnam News Agency claimed the fifth conference would take place “with the attendance of 425 delegates, including 145 priests,” Fr. An Dang informed CNA.
“However, after the congress had concluded, the number of attendees was intentionally not reported,” he continued. Days after the meeting, the state-run media outlet VietNamNet issued an “abnormally short report” stating that the congress elected to the committee 128 members, including 74 priests, four clergymen, and 50 others.
“It intentionally left the number of attendance for its readers to guess,” J.B. An Dang said.
While the reported numbers gave the impression that at least 128 people attended the meeting, a priest who was forced to attend the conference reported on condition of anonymity that “only a few dozens attended in a somber atmosphere” and “no pictures were allowed to be taken as they could demonstrate that the plot [to create a Patriotic Church] had failed.”
Those who attended the congress discussed a revised charter because the establishment of a Church under the directives of the communist government is now considered “completely impossible.” According to state-run media, the committee will now focus on “calling upon Vietnamese Catholics at home and abroad to actively participate in a wide range of social activities in a myriad of areas, from work, study and business to production and humanitarian acts, and to continue working for national socio-economic development.”
The committee’s efforts only imitate longstanding Catholic action.
“Ironically, not waiting for the call of the committee, the Church in Vietnam has actively participated for years in social activities,” J.B. An Dang told CNA.
“Moreover, bishops have repeatedly asked the government to allow the Church to participate more in some specific areas where the Church has been proven to be capable, such as education and health care. So far all of their petitions have gone into deaf ears.”
J.B. An Dang also provided CNA with a brief overview of the Vietnamese government’s attempts to co-opt the Catholic Church into its Communist regime, following the example of Chinese communists.
Its first effort, called the Liaison Committee for Patriotic and Peace-Loving Catholics, was born in March of 1955 but failed “thanks to the fidelity to Christ and His Church of Bishops, priests, religious and the laity.”
“While other religions were divided into an official (or state-approved) one and an underground one, there was only one Catholic Church in North Vietnam completely loyal to Christ and His Church even at the price of grave sufferings. As a result, alternative policies were applied, typically – the eradication of clergy and the Church property confiscation policies,” he explained.
The Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics was founded in 1975 to revive the government’s efforts after the Communists had seized the whole country.
“At first, communists seemed to achieve their objective when a significant number of Catholics joined the committee, especially after the imprisonment of thousands of Catholic priests,” J.B. An Dang said.
The then Auxiliary Bishop of Saigon, Francis Nguyen Van Thuan, was one of the imprisoned clergy. Later elevated to cardinal, he chaired the Vatican Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The initial success of the Committee for Solidarity faded after the Mass at the conclusion of its first congress in December 1976.
“Concelebrating priests shocked attendees by intentionally leaving out completely the Prayer for the Pope, an act seen as a symbol of the tendency to break ties with the Vatican.”
A 1985 letter published by the Holy See admonished the clergy involved with the committee, after which most priests withdrew from the organization.
At present the committee is reportedly unpopular with most Catholics.
“Most bishops in Vietnam explicitly asked their priests not to join the committee,” Father Joseph Nguyen from Hanoi said. “For most Catholics in Vietnam, the involvement of priests in the committee confuses people –not to say it’s a big scandal.
“Many Catholics might join the committee with good intentions to bridge misunderstandings between Communists and Catholics. With recent open persecutions against the Church, they now realize that their presence in the committee does not help Communists to overcome their prejudices against Catholics.”
Vatican City, Nov 25, 2008 (CNA) -
Although the world is immersed in images, it can be empty of beauty, Pope Benedict said today in a message he sent to the Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts and Literature as it explores the relationship between aesthetics and ethics.
Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, is hosting a public event with the theme—"The universality of beauty: a comparison between aesthetics and ethics," and to contribute to the discussion, Pope Benedict has sent the archbishop a message.
The topic chosen by the academy reminds us of the "urgent need for a renewed dialogue between aesthetics and ethics, between beauty, truth and goodness," the Pope writes.
This need to reconnect beauty with truth and goodness is not just limited to the "contemporary cultural and artistic debate," but extends to daily reality, the Holy Father argues.
Today we can see "a dramatically-evident split" between the pursuit of external beauty and the idea of a beauty that is rooted in truth and goodness. Oftentimes, society only understands the search for beauty as an "exterior form, as an appearance to be pursued at all costs," he explains.
"Indeed," the Pope writes, "searching for a beauty that is foreign to or separate from the human search for truth and goodness would become (as unfortunately happens) mere asceticism and, especially for the very young, a path leading to ephemeral values and to banal and superficial appearances, even a flight into an artificial paradise that masks inner emptiness."
Pope Benedict also calls on contemporary reasoning to rediscover the link between beauty, truth and goodness. "And if such a commitment applies to everyone," the Pope asserts, "it applies even more to believers, to the disciples of Christ, who are called by the Lord to 'give reasons' for all the beauty and truth of their faith."
When Christians create works that "render glory unto the Father," the Pope continues, they speak of the "goodness and profound truth" that they are portraying, as well as the integrity and sanctity of the artist or author. To this end, Benedict XVI encourages believers to learn how to "communicate with the language of images and symbols ... in order effectively to reach our contemporaries."
The Holy Father also mentions how at the Synod on the Bible the bishops noted that knowing how to "read and scrutinize the beauty of works of art inspired by the faith" can lead Christians to discover a "unique path that brings us close to God and His Word."
Finally, Pope Benedict cites John Paul II's Letter to Artists, "which invites us, to reflect upon ... the fruitful dialogue between Holy Scripture and various forms of art, whence countless masterpieces have emerged." His message closes by appealing to academics and artists "to arouse wonder at and desire for beauty, to form people's sensitivity and to nourish a passion for everything that is a genuine expression of human genius and a reflection of divine beauty."
Madrid, Spain, Nov 25, 2008 (CNA/Europa Press) - Cardinal Carlos Amigo of Sevilla said this week the removal of crucifixes, which are a symbol engrained in Spanish society, “does nothing to help people live together in peace,” which is achieved through respect.
The cardinal made his comments after a court in Valladolid ordered the removal of crucifixes from a school there in response to a complaint by a parent. “The important thing is that children in Valladolid are taught to respect the religious symbols of any religion,” the cardinal said during remarks at the Spanish Bishops’ Plenary Assembly.
“Drastic measures teach nothing,” the cardinal said, adding that what should be taught is “respect” for religious symbols instead of “throwing them overboard.”
Vatican City, Nov 25, 2008 (CNA) - An official from the Vatican's Secretary of State department has reacted to the recent suggestion that Pepperdine professor Douglas Kmiec should become the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican by saying, "it will never happen."
On November 23, America Magazine published a blog entry from Michael Sean Winters describing Professor Douglas Kmiec, the former Republican pro-lifer who became Obama’s top Catholic apologist during the presidential campaign, as "the perfect candidate" to become U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
In his piece, Winters argues that Kmiec is the perfect candidate because "He is a lifelong pro-life legal scholar who served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Departments of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was Dean of the Catholic University Law School and now teaches law at Pepperdine. His published works evidence a find (sic) legal mind and thorough familiarity with the natural law tradition that has been the dominant lens for Catholic social thought. Kmiec would be well known to prominent American churchmen in the Eternal City and a jewel in the crown of the intellectual milieu that surrounds the Holy See."
Winters also argues that "Kmiec’s pro-life credentials, despite some carping from the far right political fringe, are impeccable. Indeed, given that the American bishops have chosen opposition to FOCA as their greeting to the new president, Kmiec gives the bishops some satisfaction since he testified against the measure at its inception in the 1980s."
CNA presented Winters' arguments to an official of the Secretary of State, who offered his reaction on a strict condition of anonymity. His answer at Kmiec’s chances of becoming an Ambassador: "It will never happen."
The official noted that prominent American Catholics at the Vatican -such as Cardinal James Francis Stafford or Archbishop Raymond Burke- look at Kmiec as a "traitor," and "their opinion will certainly count heavily."
But most importantly, the official said, is that the Holy See will not risk alienating vital U.S. Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus or the American branch of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, "whose role in the life of the universal Church is decisive, and who have already expressed publicly their disappointment with Kmiec's role in the recent elections."
The official also explained that the Vatican is "obviously interested in having a good relationship with the greatest power in the world," but such relationships usually flow "through different parallel channels and not only the Embassy."
"Despite the importance of a good relationship with the U.S.," the official explained to CNA, "the Secretary of State privileges the relationship with nations with which it has concordats," that is to say, international agreements that provide some recognition and support to the public presence of the Catholic Church, such as state support for religious education.
"If the office [the Vatican's Secretary of State] withholds the 'placet' –the official acceptance—from the appointees from Argentina and France, it could easily do the same [to Kmiec]" because "[we] would not risk alienating many U.S. Catholic organizations."
The Secretary of State official was referring to the recent Vatican decisions to deny the ‘placet’ to a French Ambassador to the Vatican because he was openly homosexual and to an Argentinean because he was divorced and remarried.
"Of course Mr. Kmiec is in neither of those situations, but for the Secretary of State it is far more important to maintain a good relationship with, say, Mr. Anderson (the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus,) who is an active member of several Vatican dicasteries, than to please Mr. Kmiec and his friends in the new administration."
"Those who the article refers so disrespectfully as 'extremists on the right,' or 'the far right political fringe,' are the serious, loyal Catholics [the Vatican] precisely takes into account, because they are the ones who are there when the Church needs them," the official also explained.
Finally, regarding Winters’ claim that "Kmiec could do for the Democratic administration what (Mary Ann) Glendon has done for its predecessor," the official told CNA: "to be charitable, I will just say that I seriously doubt it."
Madrid, Spain, Nov 25, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, said this week that it is necessary to cultivate a spirit of reconciliation among Spaniards to keep society from suffering a breakdown, and he urged a renewed solidarity that would allow society to confront the economic crisis.
In his speech at the opening of the bishops’ Plenary Assembly, Cardinal Rouco recalled, “The history of Spain in the last two centuries has unfortunately been marked by tensions that on more than one occasion have spilled into fratricidal confrontations,” and although “the current international and national situation is not the same,” “vigilance is necessary to stop cold attitudes, words and strategies and anything that could spark confrontations that could end up becoming violent.”
“We need to cultivate the spirit of sacrificial and generous reconciliation, which guided social and political life here during the so-called transition years to democracy,” the cardinal said.
“Sometimes we need to know how to forget. Not out of ignorance or cowardice, but out of a will for reconciliation and forgiveness that is truly responsible and firm; a will based on the high ideals of peace that are nourished by justice, freedom, and why not say it, by forgiveness and fraternal love,” he added.
“This is what could be called an authentic and healthy purification of the memory. Young people must be freed as much as a possible from the burdens of the past,” he continued, and not be bogged down by resentment and anger, but rather “strengthened in the will for complete harmony and friendship, in a manner capable of bringing peace to people, families and the communities in which they live and which make up present-day Spain,” the cardinal said.
Chicago, Ill., Nov 25, 2008 (CNA) - President-elect Barack Obama has skipped church services since his election to the presidency, using Sunday to work out at the gym.
His habits differ from his two immediate predecessors President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, who both consistently attended Sunday church services following their election victories.
An Obama aid explained to Politico.com that the Obamas did not wish to disrupt churchgoers with their large entourage.
“Because they have a great deal of respect for places of worship, they do not want to draw unwelcome or inappropriate attention to a church not used to the attention their attendance would draw," the aide reportedly said, adding the family “look[s] forward to finding a church community in Washington, D.C.”
While campaigning, Obama infrequently attended church services aside from a series of appearances in the pews and pulpits of South Carolina churches ahead of its primary.
For two decades, Obama and his family attended Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, but resigned his membership following controversies regarding its pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Miami, Fla., Nov 25, 2008 (CNA) - A Florida judge on Tuesday overturned a Florida law that prohibits homosexuals from adopting children. Attorneys for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum immediately announced the state would appeal the ruling.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said the 31-year-old law violates equal protection rights for the children and prospective homosexual parents. She ruled that “there is no rational basis to prohibit gay parents from adopting.”
The state presented experts who argued that there is a higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse among same-sex couples, that they are more unstable than heterosexual unions and that the children of homosexual couples suffer a societal stigma, the Associated Press reports.
The case involved the 47-year-old Martin Gill and his male partner who sought to adopt two brothers ages 4 and 8, whom Gill had cared for as foster children since December, 2004.
He was represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union. The attorneys said the case was the first in the nation in which experts in child psychology, social work and other fields argued there is no scientific justification for a homosexual adoption ban.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association all support permitting same-sex couples to adopt.
"It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person's ability to parent," the judge’s decision read. "A child in need of love, safety and stability does not first consider the sexual orientation of his parent. The exclusion causes some children to be deprived of a permanent placement with a family that is best suited to their needs."
The Florida Family Policy Council criticized the ruling in a Tuesday press release.
John Stemberger, an Orlando attorney who led the recent successful efforts to pass Florida same-sex marriage ban, called the ruling “classic judicial activism” and predicted it would be overturned on appeal.
"Everywhere in the law where children are affected, the standard must always be what is in the best interest of the child," said Stemberger. "What is stunning to me is that when it comes to dealing with gays, that standard goes out the window. The studies are clear that children always do better with a married mother and a father. There are an enormous number of married couples trying to adopt. Some are even going overseas to adopt and these children can easily be placed in families with a Mom and a Dad."
“This judge's ruling is in direct defiance of the rule of law and the will of the people,” he argued. “It is precisely why the people of Florida recently amended their constitution to define marriage, namely to prevent judges from becoming social change agents and radically redefining natural marriage and family structures.
Florida is the only state with an outright ban on same-sex adoption. An Arkansas ballot proposal similar to existing Utah law was approved by voters last month banning any unmarried straight or gay couples from adopting or fostering children. Mississippi bans same-sex couples, but not single homosexuals, from adopting.
Attorneys for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum immediately announced that the state would appeal the decision, which could result in a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 25, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata in Argentina said this week that plans are “advancing” in Argentina to legalize abortion and that “Herod’s shadow” is engulfing the Argentinean Congress.
The archbishop warned that efforts to loosen the country’s laws on abortion are in reality intended to ensure abortion on demand.
“While it may seem an exaggeration to talk about Herod in this case of abortion and the killing of innocents, Vatican II already pointed out that abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes,” he said.
He warned Argentineans of the danger that is on the horizon for their country and urged them to “have a clear conscience about this problem, this danger, and a true clamor in support of life needs to spring forth.”
Toledo, Spain, Nov 25, 2008 (CNA) -
During his homily on Sunday, Cardinal Antonio Canizares of Toledo said, “We are suffering a true illness in our society because of the weakening, if not the destruction, of the family, which together with the Church, are obstacles to be overcome in order to impose a new plan for mankind and for society that certainly has no future.”
“I know I’m going to get criticized. Who cares? Our society is sick, very sick and we cannot hide it. We have the abominable crime of abortion, although--why not say it?—a small light has been lit recently in our sister country of Uruguay,” the cardinal said in his homily.
The cardinal said abortion symbolized the illness that society is experiencing, together with “other attacks on life, such as euthanasia, experimentation with embryos and their use for economic reasons.”
He also pointed to a fear of the Christian faith that is manifested in the removal of crucifixes from schools and other efforts to suppress religious expression.
“These are difficult times we are going though,” the cardinal said, “and nobody can be predict what is going to happen in the future. The grave crisis in schools and businesses is part of a deeper crisis, of which the economic crisis is not the most important, and that is the crisis of the meaning of life, the human and moral crisis of universal values.”