Newark, N.J., Aug 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of New Jersey have distributed a letter explaining Church teaching on marriage and refuting the errors of same-sex “marriage” proponents. Urging the faithful to “protect and promote” marriage, they discussed the God-given natural complementarity of the union of man and woman.
“As Catholics, we must not stand by in silence in the face of the many challenges that threaten marriage and, in turn, children and the public good. We must not shirk from our responsibility,” the bishops’ message begins.
New Jersey state legislators may vote on recognizing same-sex “marriage” sometime after the November election.
Parish priests throughout the state were directed to distribute the bishops' letter, titled “The Call to Marriage is Woven Deeply into the Human Spirit,” in parish bulletins last Sunday, The Newark Star-Ledger reported.
The bishops of Metuchen, Trenton, Camden, and Paterson were signatories to the message, as were Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark and Bishop William Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic.
In their letter, the bishops noted a “broad cultural shift” away from religion and social traditions and towards “secular individualism.” They described some states’ recent recognition of same-sex “marriage” as an expression of this cultural trend.
“We must protect and promote marriage,” the bishops continued, saying Catholic teaching on marriage and the complementarity of the sexes is a truth “evident to right reason” and recognized by the world’s major cultures.
Explaining Catholic teaching on marriage, they noted that God made man male and female.
“Man and woman are different from each other but created for each other. This complementarity, including sexual difference, draws them together in a mutually loving union that always should be open to the procreation of children.”
The Catholic Church’s concern about the state’s definition of marriage involves marriage’s nature as a “foundational good.” The government has a duty to reinforce and protect marriage, and should not “attempt to redefine it arbitrarily for transitory political or social reasons,” the bishops said.
Civil authorities, the Catholic prelates noted, are charged with protecting children and the common good, and marriage is indispensable to both purposes. As citizens, Catholics have the right and the responsibility to hold civil authorities accountable for their stewardship of the institution of marriage.”
The bishops also warned of laws and policies that “unjustly target people as bigots” or charge them with unlawful discrimination “simply because they believe and teach that marriage is the union of man and a woman.”
Reiterating that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended, the bishops said it is not unjust discrimination to “treat different things differently.”
“Same-sex unions are not, in fact, the same thing as the union of one man and one woman in marriage. One type of union may ever generate children, the other may never; one type of union respects and expresses the inherent complementarity of man and woman; the other does not.”
Turning specifically to New Jersey concerns, the bishops said that the state’s Civil Union Act already provides “practical rights, benefits, and protections” for non-marital unions. Because of this act, the bishops added, the proposed recognition of same-sex “marriage” is not about benefits and rights but is an attempt to change an “historic structure” in a way that “ignores human nature.”
Noting “this time of strange teaching and conflict over the meaning of marriage,” the bishops called on Catholics to “prayerfully reflect” on the words of Jesus in Matthew 19 about a man and a woman becoming “one flesh.”
Fr. Marc Vicari, vicar for family life in the Archdiocese of Newark, told the Star-Ledger that Catholic teaching “needs to be reinforced often.”
“I don't think people understand what marriage is from a Catholic perspective -- even some Catholics who are getting married,” he said.
Christian unity on marriage is fractured in New Jersey. Mark Beckwith, the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, has vocally supported same-sex “marriage” for several years.
The New Jersey bishops’ letter referred readers to “For Your Marriage,” the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ marriage initiative, located at http://www.foryourmarriage.org.
Oakland, Calif., Aug 28, 2009 (CNA) - An acclaimed theatrical adaptation of C. S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” has been bringing the spirit of Screwtape, the sardonic fictional demon of Lewis’ invention, to theaters across the country.
Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” purports to be a collection of correspondence between the senior devil Screwtape and Wormwood, his novice understudy in the arts of temptation and damnation. Screwtape advises his trainee how to best prevent God from saving the soul of a modern man.
In the introduction to his book, Lewis criticizes two “equal and opposite errors” mankind has concerning devils. The first is to disbelieve in their existence, while the second believes, and feels “an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
“They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar,” Lewis adds. “Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true, even from his own angle. There is wishful thinking in hell as well as on earth.”
The theatrical adaptation was created by Jeffrey Fiske and Max McLean. Fiske directs the performance, while McLean plays Screwtape, referred to as “His Abysmal Sublimity.”
Karen Eleanor Wight plays Toadpipe, Screwtape’s personal secretary.
According to an announcement from the C.S. Lewis Society of California, the play was “critically acclaimed” in New York and enjoyed a standing room only audience at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.
The Chicago Tribune called it “the most successful show in the history of the Chicago Mercury Theater.”
An upcoming performance of the play is scheduled for the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California on October 2 and 3.
According to the C.S. Lewis Society of California, the October 3 performance will include a special post-show program with Fiske and McLean.
A video of a performances from Fiske and McLean’s adaptation is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdBNimP7eaw.
Washington D.C., Aug 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican has given a “recognitio” to a change in the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults which clarifies Catholic teaching about the Jews’ covenant with God, the U.S. bishops said.
The first version of the catechism, in its discussion of God’s covenant with the Jews, said “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.”
The revision reads “To the Jewish people, whom God first chose to hear his Word, ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ.’”
Romans 9 and paragraph 839 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church are cited in the revised passage.
The Vatican’s “recognitio” is a statement that a document is in keeping with Catholic teaching. The change was approved at the U.S. bishops’ 2008 June meeting in Orlando, Florida.
“The clarification is not a change in the Church’s teaching,” a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said.
“The clarification reflects the teaching of the Church that all previous covenants that God made with the Jewish people are fulfilled in Jesus Christ through the new covenant established through his sacrificial death on the cross. Catholics believe that the Jewish people continue to live within the truth of the covenant God made with Abraham, and that God continues to be faithful to them.”
The USCCB press release cited a passage from the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium, which taught that the Jewish people “remain most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts he makes nor of the calls he issues.”
In June the U.S. bishops also clarified a 2002 document “Covenant and Mission,” saying the document mistakenly downplayed the importance of sharing the Gospel.
That change led major Jewish groups and rabbis from the three largest branches of American Judaism to say that their relationship with Catholic leaders was at risk, the Associated Press reports.
On Thursday rabbis from the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements joined the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee in saying that the document was “antithetical” to the essence of the interfaith dialogue. In their view, such dialogue becomes “untenable” if the Christian participants’ goal is to persuade Jews to accept Christ.
Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut William Lori commented on the revision in June, saying:
“While the Catholic Church does not proselytize the Jewish people, neither does she fail to witness to them her faith in Christ, nor to welcome them to share in that same faith whenever appropriate.”
Vatican City, Aug 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said this week that the reports of supposed plans to roll back changes to the Church’s liturgy that began with the Second Vatican Council “are pure fabrication.”
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal was asked about the “reservations” or “fears” of some who think the Holy Father is going “against” Vatican II, when the reality is actually the opposite.
In order to understand Benedict XVI’s manner of governing the Church, Cardinal Bertone explained, one has to consider his own personal history as a protagonist in the conciliar and post-conciliar Church. Other items to note are: his inaugural speech as Pope, his speech to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005 and the changes he has personally called for, enacted and patiently explained.
Cardinal Bertone noted several key points of the Council that the Pope has constantly promoted, including fostering “a more understanding relationship with the Orthodox and Eastern Churches” and entering into dialogue with Judaism and Islam. These efforts, the cardinal said, have been met with responses unseen up to now.
After noting the positive relationship the Pope has with the bishops, Cardinal Bertone said that when it comes to the reform of the Church, “Benedict XVI has called us back to the source of the Word of God, to the evangelical law and the heart of the Church’s life: Jesus, who we know, love, adore and imitate.”
The Vatican's Secretary of State also pointed out that the Pope has given the Church a great gift with his book “Jesus of Nazareth,” in which he reminded us that his desire is “to make Christ the heart of the world.”
Cardinal Bertone noted the tendency in the secular media to ascribe to the Pope, or to the Vatican, the responsibility for everything that happens in the Church or that is said by any member of the local Churches, institutions or ecclesial groups, “and this is not right.”
It would be more accurate, he said, to attribute to each person responsibility for his or her own actions or words, “especially when they patently contradict the teachings and example of the Pope.”
The way that the media covers such cases depends on reporters and media professionals having good intentions and a love for the truth, Bertone observed.
Scranton, Pa., Aug 28, 2009 (CNA) - Most Rev. Joseph F. Martino, Bishop of Scranton, will resign as head of the Diocese of Scranton next week, sources within the diocese confirmed to the local press today.
The sources did not explain the reason for the 62-year-old bishop’s decision. The sources also did not specify if the Bishop’s resignation was going to be presented or if it had been already submitted and accepted by the Vatican.
When asked by CNA to confirm Bishop Martino's resignation, diocesan spokesman William Genello said that the diocese will hold a press conference next Monday for media members only.
According to Canon law, a Bishop can present his resignation to the Holy Father for reasons other than the age limit (75), but he remains the head of the diocese until his resignation is accepted.
Speculation about the bishop's future began earlier this week when the local press in Scranton reported that his belongings were being moved from the rectory of St. Peter's Cathedral, to a retreat house in Dalton, Pa.
Joseph Martino was installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Scranton in October, 2003, and rapidly became one of the stronger pro-life voices in the U.S. episcopate.
In a pastoral letter issued last year before the presidential election, Bishop Martino wrote, “To begin, laws that protect abortion constitute injustice of the worst kind. They rest on several false claims including that there is no certainty regarding when life begins, that there is no certainty about when a fetus becomes a person, and that some human beings may be killed to advance the interests or convenience of others.”
On February this year, he wrote to Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey concerning his vote against the Mexico City Policy, expressing his “deep concern” that the senator’s staff was misrepresenting the vote as "pro-life."
Rimini, Italy, Aug 28, 2009 (CNA) -
The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, expressed his opposition this week to the Socialist government’s proposal to change the country’s law on religious freedom. “What is this for then? Why do we need this new law? We haven’t found an answer,” the cardinal said.
After a speech at the Rimini Meeting organized by Catholic movement Communion and Liberation, Cardinal Rouco told reporters it was “interesting that the Spanish government wants to change the Law on Religious Freedom, because the current one is actually quite good.
In 1992, the Socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez established agreements with the Muslim, Jewish and Evangelical communities,” and therefore a new Socialist law would be out of place, he noted.
According the Spanish daily La Razon, Cardinal Rouco also recalled that a new law would be inferior to 1979 accords between Spain and the Holy See. In any case, he added, “nobody has sent us a draft proposal, we are only aware of the statements of the minister of Justice and nothing official.”
Asked about the pro-life march set for October, Cardinal Rouco recalled the June statement by the Spanish Bishops’ Conference. “We pointed out there that it is especially grave that abortion be converted into a right, even if only for a few months.” The march, he said, is “a living reflection of social reality, not only among Catholics. On various occasions the bishops have asked the faithful to commit themselves to great causes and in our day the defense of life is first of all.”
Vatican City, Aug 28, 2009 (CNA) - Yesterday Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone revealed the origin of the Pope's idea for a Year for Priests in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano. According to the cardinal, the idea was sparked by a proposal to mark the 150th anniversary of St. Jean Vianney's death with a year of prayer for priests and the problems they face.
Cardinal Bertone explained that the proposal, made at the end of the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word, quickly found its way to the Pope’s desk and called for a year of prayer reflecting on the Word of God.
In addition, he added, “the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Cure of Ars and the emergence of the problems involving many priests led Benedict XVI to promulgate the Year for Priests, thus demonstrating special attention for priests, priestly vocations and promoting in all the people of God a movement of growing affection and closeness to ordained ministers.”
Cardinal Bertone also underscored that the Holy Father has always shown great affection for priests, especially in his meetings with priests where he addresses the concrete aspects of their lives, giving pointed responses to their questions.
He went on to note that the Church hopes to re-establish contact and reach out to priests who have abandoned their ministry for different reasons.
Many initiatives “are directed at strengthening the awareness of the identity and mission of the priest,” who is called to teach by example in the Church and in society.
“The holy priests who have been present throughout the history of the Church will not cease to protect and sustain the path of renewal proposed by Benedict XVI,” the cardinal explained.
Managua, Nicaragua, Aug 28, 2009 (CNA) - Ipas, one of the world’s largest abortion advocacy groups, has joined critics of Nicaragua’s decision to further restrict abortion. The group characterizes the decision as a violation of women’s human rights, but the country’s lawmakers say they are simply recognizing the right to life from “the moment of conception.”
Nicaraguan lawmakers recently decided that “therapeutic” abortion violates the country’s understanding of its international obligations.
Ipas, which distributes the early-term abortion device known as a manual vacuum aspirator, claimed that the decision was unconstitutional and a “setback” for human rights.
The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), which reported on Ipas’ activities, has noted that Nicaragua is party to the American Convention on Human Rights. Article 4 of the convention says that life shall be protected by law “from the moment of conception.”
Lawmakers also justified their decision on the grounds that the new law makes the country’s penal code more consistent with its constitutional framework. After the death penalty was abolished, the framework was amended to explicitly recognize the right to life of every citizen.
According to C-FAM, Ipas defines “therapeutic abortion” in a way that justifies the lawmakers’ concerns. The former law reportedly allowed a loophole that allowed access to abortion to continually expand. Ipas categorizes cases of “therapeutic” abortion as those which save “the life and health of the mother” and also those in pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
In Ipas’ view, the abortion legislation “excludes many women who need it to save their lives,” while the Nicaraguan government insists the ban does not prohibit life-saving procedures.
The Ipas reports hold that the abortion ban violates medical professionals’ right to free exercise, arguing that the ban “forces doctors to violate ethical principles of their profession to prevent an abortion while endangering the life or health of women.”
The Association of Nicaraguan Doctors has argued against this claim, saying that there is no situation in current medical practice where human life from the moment of conception should be “intentionally destroyed by abortion in order to save the life of the mother.”
“A physician must do everything possible to save the lives of both patients – mother and child. Death should never be inflicted on any of them.”
Critics of the Ipas reports also charge that they ignore the two most successful methods of reducing maternal mortality: increasing the prevalence of skilled attendants at birth and improving the availability of optimum pre- and post-natal health care for mothers and their children.