Boston, Mass., Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) - Warning against overzealousness, Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley has responded to the controversy surrounding Sen. Edward Kennedy’s funeral Mass. He said that changing hearts, not ostracism, is vital to the spread of the Catholic faith and the success of the pro-life cause.
In a Wednesday post on his blog, Cardinal O’Malley said he wanted to address those Catholic faithful who have voiced “both support and disappointment” for his presiding at Sen. Kennedy’s funeral Mass.
He said that the controversy centered upon the late senator’s lack of public support for Catholic teaching and his failure to defend the unborn.
Noting the “profound effect” of Catholic social teaching on other policies of Sen. Kennedy, the cardinal said there is “a tragic sense of lost opportunity” in his “lack of support” for the unborn.
“To me and many Catholics it was a great disappointment because, had he placed the issue of life at the centerpiece of the Social Gospel where it belongs, he could have multiplied the immensely valuable work he accomplished,” he wrote.
He said that some have objected, sometimes “vociferously” to the Church providing a Catholic funeral for Sen. Kennedy. In response, Cardinal O’Malley said, “In the strongest terms I disagree with that position.”
According to the cardinal, Kennedy’s personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged his failure to always be a faithful Catholic and asked for prayers as he neared the end of his life.
Pope Benedict’s expression of gratitude for the senator’s pledge to pray for the Church, the Pope’s commendation of the senator and his family to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, and his granting of his Apostolic Blessing were, in the cardinal’s view, examples of Pope Benedict’s role as the Vicar of Christ and “the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind.”
“As Archbishop of Boston, I considered it appropriate to represent the Church at this liturgy out of respect for the Senator, his family, those who attended the Mass and all those who were praying for the Senator and his family at this difficult time,” the cardinal wrote on his blog. “We are people of faith and we believe in a loving and forgiving God from whom we seek mercy.”
“We must show those who do not share our belief about life that we care about them,” he continued. “We will stop the practice of abortion by changing the law, and we will be successful in changing the law if we change people’s hearts. We will not change hearts by turning away from people in their time of need and when they are experiencing grief and loss.”
He said that zeal can lead people to make “harsh judgments” and impute “the worst motives” to one another.
“These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote, noting that Jesus has told us to love one another as He loves us.
“Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end,” he explained.
Changing people’s hearts is “directly related” to Catholics’ ability to increase “love and unity” in the Church, continued O’Malley, saying that the proclamation of the Truth is hindered when Catholics are divided and “fighting with each other.”
Reflecting on the crowds of mourners who lined the roads of Sen. Kennedy’s funeral motorcade, the cardinal said that these people were paying tribute to his many accomplishments, and not endorsing his voting record on abortion.
“The crowds also were there to pay tribute to the Kennedy family as a whole,” he explained. “On the national political landscape, if Barack Obama broke the glass ceiling of the presidency for African Americans, Jack Kennedy broke it for American Catholics.”
The cardinal said that advocating on behalf of the dignity of life is “central” to his role as priest and bishop, pointing to his help in overturning the abortion laws in Honduras. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a former abortionist who had a “change of heart,” assisted him in that effort.
He also cited the words of pro-life leader Helen Alvaré, who has said the pro-life movement is “best characterized by what it is for, not against.”
At the funeral, the cardinal reported, he briefly spoke with President Barack Obama to welcome him to the Basilica and to pledge the U.S. bishops’ willingness to support a plan for universal health care if it does not include a provision for abortion or the possibility of expanded abortion support.
“The President was gracious in the short time we spoke, he listened intently to what I was saying,” the cardinal said.
At the funeral Democrats and Republicans sat side by side in prayer for Sen. Kennedy and his family.
“It is my sincere hope that all people who long to promote the cause of life will pray and work together to change hearts, to bring about an increased respect for life, and to change laws so as to make America a safe place for all, including the unborn,” Cardinal O’Malley’s blog post concluded.
London, England, Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) -
A new booklet from the London-based Catholic Truth Society encourages spouses to pray before marital relations. The spouses’ prayer asks God to purify their intentions and to open their hearts to God and to each other.
The prayer is part of a 64-page book titled “Prayer Book for Spouses,” the Daily Telegraph reports. It contains prayers for every stage of marriage and family life, including engagement, planning for parenthood, pregnancy and caring for children and elderly parents.
The Catholic Truth Society’s website said that the Prayer Book for Spouses offers a “ready, thorough and reliable support to the daily challenges and joys of married life.” It reportedly draws on Scripture, Catholic teaching and spirituality and the Marriage Rite to encourage “the loving and spiritual dimension essential to the life of Christian spouses.
According to the Telegraph, the book criticizes those who consider it “too difficult” or impossible to be “bound to one person for the whole of life.” It also criticizes those who are “caught up” in a culture that rejects the indissolubility of marriage and “openly mocks” the commitment of spouses to fidelity.
The booklet’s “Prayer Before Making Love” reads:
“Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts. Place within us love that truly gives, tenderness that truly unites, self-offering that tells the truth and does not deceive, forgiveness that truly receives, loving physical union that welcomes.
“Open our hearts to you, to each other and to the goodness of your will. Cover our poverty in the richness of your mercy and forgiveness. Clothe us in our true dignity and take to yourself our shared aspirations, for your glory, for ever and ever.
“Mary, our Mother, intercede for us. Amen.”
Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark Paul Hendricks told the Daily Mail that is important for the Church to affirm “the value of marriage and family life.”
He said he supposes that the prayer is “a particular way of doing that.”
“Perhaps it is something that has not been tried, certainly for a while – I can't remember seeing something like that before.”
Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) -
The Archdiocese of Washington has submitted a letter to the District of Columbia’s Board of Election and Ethics in support of the Marriage Initiative of 2009. The initiative would define marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
Auxiliary Bishop Barry C. Knestout, who is vicar general of the archdiocese, wrote on Tuesday to Errol R. Arthur, Chairman of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.
Speaking on behalf of the archdiocese, Bishop Knestout expressed his support for the initiative, saying it would allow voters to ensure that the District continues to define marriage “as it always has been.”
Noting that 580,000 Catholics live in the archdiocese, the bishop explained that Catholic teaching and a “long-standing commitment” to the common good compels the archdiocese to support the initiative.
“Marriage simply recognizes a relationship that is fundamental to nature: the complementarity of man and woman. That relationship is not a creation of church or civil law,” he added.
Governments and faith groups recognize marriage this way because “the exclusive, mutual and lifelong gift of a husband and wife to each other is the most stable and secure foundation to create and nurture children.”
“Marriage is more than just a union of two people who love each other,” he stated, saying the institution is reserved for man and woman because of their “complementarity” and their “unique ability” to create and nurture children with their different gifts.
In a statement from the archdiocese, Ronald Jackson, executive director of the D.C. Catholic Conference, called marriage a “critical issue” and said the ballot initiative would give a voice to voters.
“Earlier this year, the City Council pushed through legal recognition of same-sex marriages from other states without even giving their constituents an opportunity to have input.”
“It is ironic that at the same time the city is asking for voting representation in the U.S. Congress, its leaders are denying residents the opportunity to participate in the democratic process for an issue with widespread implications for children and families,” Jackson continued.
Archbishop of Washington Donald W. Wuerl also sent a letter to the 300 priests of the archdiocese on the significance of marriage and the attempts to redefine it.
In his letter he said a lack of understanding about the nature of marriage is a challenge today.
“Marriage simply recognizes a relationship that is fundamental to nature: the complementarity of man and woman. That relationship is not a creation of church or civil law. However, governments and faith groups recognize marriage as between a man and woman because the exclusive, mutual and lifelong gift of a husband and wife to each other is the most stable and secure foundation to create and nurture children.”
According to the Washington Post, Archbishop Wuerl joins a group of predominantly African American Baptist preachers who are pressuring D.C. officials to allow a public vote on same-sex “marriage.”
D.C. council member David A. Catania, an independent at-large councilman who is openly homosexual, plans to introduce a bill in the fall legalizing same-sex “marriage” in the district.
He claimed that the city’s tradition of evolving “towards equality and a better, more expansive view of human rights” in 2009 includes “marriage equality” for homosexual couples.
“I respect the bishop for his view . . . but we live in a representative democracy where there is a separation of church and state. We do not live in a theocracy," Catania argued, according to the Washington Post.
The proposed referendum on marriage must be declared valid by the District’s elections board. By law, a referendum cannot be held on a matter that violates the city’s Human Rights Act, which protects homosexuals from discrimination.
In June the two-member board blocked an effort by Protestant minister Bishop Harry Jackson to hold an initiative to reverse a council bill allowing the District to recognize same-sex “marriage” in other states, citing the Human Rights Act.
The U.S. Congress can overrule a bill approved by the D.C. council.
Bishop Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, posted a YouTube video encouraging people to talk to their congressman and tell them that “D.C. is the nation’s capital… what happens in D.C. doesn’t stay in D.C.”
The Archdiocese of Washington has launched a website to educate about Catholic teaching and marriage at http://www.MarriageMattersDC.org.
Vatican City, Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) - This coming Sunday Pope Benedict XVI will make a pastoral visit to the towns of Viterbo and Bagnoregio, which are under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Rome. The day-long trip will involve a Mass, the Angelus prayer and a visit with locals.
The Pope will begin his visit to the Italian region of Lazio with a welcome ceremony on the steps of the Palazzo dei Papi in Piazza San Lorenzo. After the ceremony, the Holy Father will make a brief private visit to the Hall of the Conclave.
At 10:15 a.m. he will preside at a Mass in Viterbo's Valle Faul. At midday he will pray the Angelus.
In the afternoon, the Holy Father will visit the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of the Oak. On his way there he will pause briefly at the Shrine of Santa Rosa.
The Holy Father will leave Viterbo via helicopter for Bagnoregio around 5 p.m. He will spend his time there visiting the Cathedral of St. Nicholas—where he will venerate relics of St. Bonaventure—and meet with local citizens in the Piazza Sant'Agostino before returning to Castel Gandolfo by helicopter.
Vatican City, Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) -
On Wednesday afternoon Pope Benedict attended a screening of a film on St. Augustine. Reacting to the movie, the Holy Father noted that at the end of his life, St. Augustine's world seemed to be crumbling around him. But because the saint's message was about the Truth, that is, Jesus, his message will remain until the end of time.
The film, called simply "St. Augustine," is an Italian, German, Polish co-production. The film was made by Lux Vide/Rai Fiction, Bayerischer Rundfunk/Tellux Film, Eos Entertainment Rai Trade and Grupa Filmova Baltmedia. It was directed by Christian Duguay.
At the end of the screening, the Holy Father expressed his thanks to everyone involved in the project and pronounced some brief remarks. "I feel this film to be a spiritual journey in a spiritual continent, far distant from us yet at the same time very near because the human drama remains the same," he said.
"We have seen how, in a context far removed from our own, the reality of human life is represented with all its problems, sadness and failures, just as we have seen how, in the end, Truth is stronger than any obstacle and seeks out man. This is the great hope that remains at the end: we alone cannot seek out Truth, but Truth, which is a Person, seeks out us.
"Seen from the outside, the life of St. Augustine seems to finish tragically as the world for which and in which he lived comes to an end. But as was made clear in this film, his message remains and, even as the world changes, it endures because it comes from Truth and guides us to Charity, which is our shared destination," the Pope explained.
The Pontiff concluded his remarks by thanking everyone and saying, "Let us hope that many people, watching this human drama, may be sought out by Truth and so discover Charity."
CNA STAFF, Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) - In a letter to Regnum Christi members and friends of the Legion of Christ, two territorial directors of the religious organization have expressed regret for the victims of their founder’s sexual misconduct and announced the recent steps taken to move forward.
The letter, dated September 1 was signed by Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, territorial director of Atlanta and Fr. Julio Martí, LC, territorial director of New York. The authenticity of the letter was confirmed to CNA by Jim Fair, U.S. spokesman for the Legion of Christ. The priests explain the purpose of their letter is to share the thoughts and recommendations of the Legion’s General Director, Father Alvaro Corcuera, for the future of the Legion and Regnum Christi.
“As priests,” Reilly and Marti write, “our hearts go out to all those who have been harmed or scandalized” by the actions of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ who passed away in 2008. It was revealed last winter that Fr. Maciel lived a double life and fathered children.
“To all we extend a special apology on behalf of the Legion and our General Director, Father Alvaro Corcuera, who has, in fact, begun to reach out personally and in private to those he knows may have suffered most, offering his heartfelt apology and consolation, and will continue to do so.”
In reaction to the announcement by the Mexican lawyer José Bonilla Sada that six more people in Mexico are claiming to be children of Fr. Maciel, the letter acknowledges “more recently, there have been allegations of other relationships and other children,” but it also says that “given the partial nature of the information available and the impossibility to evaluate immediately and in a definitive manner these complex allegations, the Legion of Christ cannot, at this time, make a statement regarding them.”
The letter also explains that the wide range of emotions, along with “the vast tangle of information, supposition, speculation and opinion, the different cultural sensitivities, and the Christian duty not to publicize the sins of others, have made it difficult to publish the sort of direct statement that many expected of us.”
“Added to this,” Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí say, “is the fact that we did not know the whole truth, we may not know it yet, and new information may well continue to come to light. What we do learn, we will address, respecting the privacy of those who request it of us.”
The Image of Fr. Maciel
“We wish to be close to anyone who has suffered in any way, and at the same time ask them to live the Christian virtue of pardon from the depth of their hearts,” the letter adds.
Revealing that many Regnum Christi members “have rightly asked if the Legion has made or will make changes in its life,” the letter responds, “Yes…we have, we are and we will,” before listing some of the policies recently implemented.
“One of the questions that come to mind refers to the ‘safe environment and child protection.’” In this regard, the Legion is currently “in the process of accreditation by Praesidium, a risk management organization now helping a great number of religious institutions in North America.”
“Praesidium is conducting a full review of our internal rules and policies, as well as our training of all those who deal with minors. They will shortly be conducting on-site visitation of several of our institutions to verify that what is on paper is being applied,” the priests explain.
Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí also reveal that in the U.S., the Legion has also “set up an external review board so that in the event of allegations of sexual abuse, we have the advantage of ‘outside eyes’ to weigh the evidence, issues and provide us with recommendations.”
On the financial side, the letter notes that in recent years, “due to the growth of our operations, we have put in place a still more professional system of business management through the services of Integer Group. Staffed by lay professionals, Integer has further improved our operating and management processes to ensure the integrity of all our operations.”
A critical area of adjustment, the letter explains, is “the way we refer to Father Maciel in the Legion and Regnum Christi.”
“While we cannot deny that Father Maciel was our founder and did much good,” the letter says, “neither can we deny the reality of what has recently come to light and his grave human failings.”
The priests then say that “progressive steps” have been taken to ensure “there is no inappropriate reference to Father Maciel,” by removing pictures of him from their center, editing the Legion and Regnum Christi websites and creating new editions of writings and brochures.
According to Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí, this is “an ongoing and difficult process given the need to discern his person from the solid Catholic doctrine that he transmitted and the legitimate institutional aspects of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christ.”
Regarding the visitation ordained by the Holy See, Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí say that “Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput of Denver has been appointed as Visitor for the Legion in the United States and Canada. Archbishop Chaput will visit our seminaries and religious houses, see our life up close and interview whomever he wants.”
“His mandate,” it continues, “will be to question, probe and assess with depth and objectivity. Legionaries are free to speak and write to him with all their comments and questions. He sets his own timetable and the points he wishes to probe, and he will present his findings and recommendations directly to the Holy See.”
Changes in Legion Formation
Two other major issues are addressed in the six-page long letter. The first change involves the “private vow of charity” which was professed in the Legion. In their letter, the priests say that the vow was created “to ensure that the grievances one could have with his superior were brought to those who could resolve them and thus avoid irresponsible criticism or internal factions that degrade unity.”
The vow had been approved by the Church and had been in place since 1957, but, the letter explains, Pope Benedict XVI asked them to remove it two years ago – a request which the religious organization followed.
The letter also addressed the practice of superiors being spiritual directors or confessors of their subjects. This policy was also abandoned upon the request of Benedict XVI. “We are seeing positive fruits from this change of practice,” the priests report.
Though some members of the Legion and Regnum Christi have opted to separate themselves from the organization, others are evaluating whether or not they will stay following the Apostolic Visitation, and yet others have decided that they will remain part of the community.
Fr. Reilly and Fr. Martí called on members and friends of the Legion and Regnum Christi to “have great Christian understanding and respect for all. Each of us must presume the best and purest intention in the other, pray for each other, and recognize that each one of us suffers and recovers in different ways and at different times.”
“As tragic as the failings of our founder are, they should not cause us to diminish our efforts to bring souls to Christ, and to serve him and the Church selflessly in all our brothers and sisters,” the letter concludes, announcing that “we enter now into a new chapter of our history which must be focused on the pursuit of holiness and love for souls.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Campos of Antequera-Oaxaca said yesterday that natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes or floods are an urgent call to Christian solidarity and test a nation’s character.
As Hurricane Jimena began its pass over Baja California, Bishop Campos said these situations should “motivate us to implement effective response mechanisms at the state level” and lead to a “culture of prevention in which all members of society participate.”
Bishop Campos recalled that disasters are not a punishment from God because He is life. “Pain and death, the inbalances of nature that cause great tragedies are nothing more than part of the material condition that is on the path towards fullness amidst the birth pangs of the New Creation,” he added.
The Mexican bishop also reaffirmed the Church’s mission of bringing spiritual consolation to those who suffer and immediate assistance and reconstruction to the affected communities. “There are many organizations in the Church that, without much fanfare, provide assistance in response to the tragedies of our people,” he reminded.
Bishop Campos criticized those who profit “from human suffering in any disaster” and stressed that the true character of people is revealed when “we unite in the face of adversity, when we overcome our political divisions, our resentments and we forget about our confrontations.”
The bishop suggested that some natural disasters may be the result of climate change, but that “the light of faith helps us see beyond the shadows of immediate evils; hope lifts our spirits amidst the difficulties; and charity encourages us to work together to overcome any evil.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) -
A study by the Spanish organization Derecho a Vivir (Right to Life) has revealed that the law on abortion proposed by the Zapatero government would make Spain the European country with the least protection for the unborn and pregnant women.
The study points out that in other European countries, the law clearly spells out the State’s duty to protect basic rights, but the proposed Spanish law would be in stark contrast, denying women information and leaving the unborn without protection.
It argues that the Socialist government’s reform would be much more permissive than the laws in other EU countries. “The government’s claim that it is making Spanish law conform to that of other countries in the area of abortion is false. If the Zapatero-Aido bill is passed, Spain would be the exception,” the study says.
“Germany, Portugal, France and Belgium establish a shorter period of 14 weeks [for allowing abortion],” while “only Sweden and Holland have a longer period, 18 weeks and 24 weeks respectively,” Right to Life notes.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) - In response to a ruling by Argentina’s Supreme Court legalizing the possession of drugs for personal use, Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosario and the Archdiocesan Commission for Social Ministry have called for a comprehensive policy to fight drug addiction and help addicts.
In his statement, the archbishop questioned how it would be possible to counsel young people away from drug use without a comprehensive anti-drug policy, especialy when they are told that the possession and use of drugs is legal.
While turning drug addicts into criminals would be counterproductive and of no benefit to fighting their disease, “We should not be adding another affliction to the afflicted,” he said. “Rather, they should be offered every means to be liberated from this evil, to overcome this disease and achieve recovery,” he added.
To legalize the possession of drugs for personal use in these conditions could be interpreted as abandoning drug addicts and neglecting their right to health, the archbishop noted.
The supposed freedom invoked in the high court’s ruling unfortunately will drive many addicts to believe that anything is legal, even the most harmful of drugs, “which ironically they don’t choose to consume freely, because often they do so out of desperation and pressure from the situations which they are experiencing,” Archbishop Mollaghan stated.
The Argentinian archbishop said that the State should respond with a “comprehensive and subsidiary policy.” “All of society should become involved in creating a real social network that provides concrete answers to this disease of our times and that keeps young people from falling into the slavery of drugs.”
Asunción, Paraguay, Sep 3, 2009 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay said this week the State has “the duty to protect life and the goods of the person" as the South American country experiences an uptick in violence and criminal activity.
In a statement, the secretary general said society is being shaken by a lack of security, violence and crime.
“Theft and assault are unfortunately a part of the daily life of our country,” he said. “Violent crimes occur frequently, and they are often unsolved and remain under a shadow of suspicion and impunity,” he added.
For this reason there needs to be a structural review of government agencies to ensure that the State fulfills its duty to provide security, the bishop continued.
While all Paraguayans have the duty to create conditions that enable all citizens to lead of life of dignity and value, those in public office have a fundamental responsibility to carry out this task, he reminded government officials.
The secretary general called all Paraguayans to “a profound conversion to the Lord” in order to foster peace and harmony in their society.