Archive of November 20, 2010

Pope Benedict advocates right sexuality, not condom use, in fight against HIV

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Excerpts of Pope Benedict XVI’s new book are already causing a stir. Though some media reports claim he offers a change in papal teaching about condom use, Pope Benedict in fact says that a humanized sexuality, not condoms, is the right response to HIV.

The Nov. 21 edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) will release excerpts of the pontiff’s book "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.”

The book contains the Pope's responses to questions from Peter Seewald, a German reporter who spoke with him over a week last summer about the most sensitive and important questions in Church life today.

The themes treated in the book are edgy and the reception of the Pope's words is likely to be varied. But his answers offer readers a unique look into his teachings and his perspective on the Church and the world.

In the excerpts offered in LOR, just two brief paragraphs provide the Pope's response to a question on sexuality in the world today. He says that concentrating on the use of the condom only serves to trivialize sexuality.

This trivialization leads many people to no longer see sex as an expression of love, but as a self-administered drug. The fight against the banalization of sexuality is part of a great effort to change this view to a more positive one.

According to one much-commented excerpt printed in L'Osservatore Romano, the Pope concedes that there can be single cases in which the use of a condom may be justified.

He uses the example of prostitutes who might use prophylactics as a first step toward moralization, that is, becoming moral. In such a case, condom use might be their first act of responsibility to redevelop their consciousness of the fact that not everything is permitted and that one cannot do everything one wants.

While secular outlets such as the Associated Press characterized this remark as “a stunning turnaround” for the Church, Pope Benedict goes on to explain that this is not the true and proper way to defeat HIV. Instead what is necessary is the humanization of sexuality.

Elsewhere in the excerpts from the forthcoming book, the pontiff speaks of the footprint of Judaism, Islam and Christianity in the modern world.

He also expresses his shock at the extent of the sexual abuse of minors in the Church and the evident wish of mass media to discredit the Church for these abuses rather than purely to investigate the truth.

He warns that true tolerance can fall victim to current misunderstandings of the concept. He also speaks of the destruction of families, young people and society due to drug consumption.

Another controversy Pope Benedict addresses is whether the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood is possible.

In brief, Pope Benedict says that it is not a question of responding to the wishes of the people, but a question of whether the Church has the power to ordain women. Repeating the words of John Paul II from a 1994 document on the priesthood, he said the Church "has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.”

He explains that following Christ's establishment of the Church's leadership on the foundation of the original 12 male apostles is a question of obedience. It is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects to obey, he explains, but this is what makes it important.

The Church is not an arbitrary regime, he comments, and the priesthood is supposed to be a form of service and not domination. Even though it might be difficult, the Church follows the Lord's will and cannot be molded to the wishes of individuals.

The function of women in the Church is too significant to speak of discrimination, says the Pope, who notes the importance of historic figures such as Mary, St. Monica and Mother Teresa.

Women are so important, he says, that in many ways they define the face of the Church more than men.

Elsewhere in the excerpts, Pope Benedict describes himself as a beggar who relies on his friendship with the Lord, Mary and the saints to live his vocation. His life without Christian joy would be unsupportable, he declares.

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Pope tells new cardinals to be ready to sacrifice their lives

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict welcomed the newest cardinals Nov. 20 with a call to service and sacrifice, even if it means spilling their blood.

Two Americans, Donald W. Wuerl and Raymond L. Burke, are among the 24 new cardinals the Pope "created" on Nov. 20. Others come from a variety of countries, from Ecuador to Zambia, while 10 are Italians.

The warm reception they received inside St. Peter's Basilica contrasted with the cool morning in Rome, which was drenched by the steady rain of a late fall thunderstorm.

As the soon-to-be members of the Cardinal's College processed to the high altar they were met with cheers, applause and even an airhorn which was quickly silenced by Vatican security.

Flags from many nations waved to greet them, including many from Sri Lanka and the Congo, to welcome their countrymen in the group.

The extremely festive initial atmosphere was punctuated by eruptions of applause at the Pope's announcement, one-by-one, of the names of each candidate.

The Congo's Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa and Germany's Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, the youngest in the group at 57 years old, received enormous ovations.

The basilica quickly took on a solemn and prayerful spirit, as the reading of the Scriptures began. The readings were laden with meaning for the guests of honor.

The first was an excerpt from the First Letter of Peter in which he called Christians to always be ready to bear witness to the reason for their hope so that "those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.

A passage from the Gospel of St. Mark recounted Jesus' teaching to his closest disciples that he who strives to be first will be last. Jesus told them, "whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

"For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The Pope picked up on the theme in his homily. He said.that Christ's teaching of service indicated a new path for Christian communites and a new way of exercising authority.

Christ thus taught that the fulfillment of the work entrusted to one by God "is the path of the humble gift of oneself up to the sacrifice of life, the path of the Passion, the path of the Cross," explained Pope Benedict XVI.

It is a valid message for the entire Church and especially for her leaders, he said.

"It is not the logic of dominion, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bowing to wash feet, the logic of service, the logic of the Cross that is at the foundation of every exercise of authority."

He then directed his words to the 24 cardinals-to-be. "(T)he mission, to which God has called you today and that qualifies you for an ecclesial service even more laden with responsibility requires an always greater will to assume the style of the Son of God, who came among us as He who serves."

Each man took on this responsibility as he swore fidelity and obedience to the Pope and his successors.

The Pope also reminded each new cardinal that the dignity of the office is symbolized by the color red, "signifying that you are ready to act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church."

At these words, the Pope received them one-by-one, placing the "biretta," the traditional three-cornered red hat, upon each of their heads. The second in line, Patriarch Antonios Naguib of Alexandria, Egypt of the Copts, was the lone man who did not receive the traditional hat. He instead received a special modification of the long black headdress traditional to the leader of the Copts.

And, as each received his new title and an embrace from the Pope, the faithful once again filled the basilica with cheers of joy for the new "princes of the Church."

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Experts argue new study shows Americans are optimistic about marriage

Denver, Colo., Nov 20, 2010 (CNA) - Marriage and family experts argued against media coverage of a recent study that claims a large numbers of Americans view marriage as obsolete. Rather than endorse a negative interpretation of the figures, the experts argued that the same study shows the majority of young people today still want to get married.

The interpretations come after the Pew Research Center and Time Magazine issued a report on Nov. 18 in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, saying that 39 percent of U.S. citizens view marriage as “obsolete.” This figure is an increase from the 28 percent of Americans who stated the same belief in 1978.

A media firestorm erupted after the release of the study, with major news outlets questioning whether or not the figures heralded the end of traditional notions on marriage and family life in America.

Opposing this idea, were  Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, president of the National Organization for Marriage's Ruth Institute, and Chuck Donovan, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. They argued that a closer look at the study reveals more promising news.

Donovan said in a Nov. 19 e-mail that because the “forces against marriage” such as casual sex and abortion have been “powerfully corrosive” in American society, “it's quite amazing that pro-marriage attitudes are so tenacious.”

Sixty-one percent “of adults think it's by no means obsolete,” he said.

Citing additional figures from the Pew study, Donovan said that in fact, most single young people who were evaluated expressed a desire to get married. “The vast majority of the rising generation expects to marry someday – 85 percent or more will do so.”

“Young people want to get married and stay married,” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse remarked in a phone interview with CNA on Nov. 19, adding that the problem in our current divorce-ridden society is that many are unsure how to effectively go about this.

“The responsible thing is to help people figure out what to do,” she said. Morse argued that “the real story is the enthusiasm of the mainstream media” in attempting to signal the demise of marriage.

Backing this idea, Donovan noted that the Pew numbers would serve as a “wake-up call” on the need for more of what he called marriage-supportive policies in the U.S.

A New Definition of Family?

Reports covering the Pew study also claimed that Americans' definition of what constitutes a family has drastically changed.

Eighty-six percent of those who participated in the study said they viewed a single parent and child as a family; 80 percent said an unmarried couple living together with a child is a family; and 63 percent say a gay or lesbian couple raising a child is a family.

“I would be exceptionally cautious about concluding that Americans have really changed their definition of family,” Donovan said in reaction to the numbers. “We have never denied 'family' status to other arrangements, but we have also been clear to use such terms as 'broken family,' or 'fragile families' in the case of unmarried, cohabiting parents.”

Morse agreed that recognition doesn't necessarily signify approval. “Everybody knows someone who's living in a non-traditional lifestyle,” she said. “But do they approve of it? Do they think it's a good thing?”

Donovan thought that the frequency of non-traditional arrangements caused people to agree they could be called a family more out of civility than anything else.

“People are expressing compassion in these matters, but the Pew study shows they also retain ideals,” he said. “This suggests to me that not appearing judgmental – but holding on to the traditional value – is important to many Americans.”

The Increase of Cohabitation

Both Donovan and Morse conceded, however, that the Pew's statistics on the drastic rise of cohabiting couples proved troubling.

In the Pew Research survey, 44 percent of all adults – and more than half of all adults ages 30 to 49 – say they have cohabited at some point in their lives. Additionally, two-thirds of those who lived with someone said they believed that doing so with their partner was a step toward marriage.

“Cohabitation has been described not as a marriage preparation class but as a school for divorce,” Donovan said. “These relationships are more common today, but, in the American context at least, not more stable.”

“In all the research that's been done on cohabitation,” Morse added, “no positive contribution of cohabitation to marriage has ever been found.”

“When people are living together because they think it's going to give them a better marriage, that's completely false,” she said. Young people choosing to move in with their boyfriends of girlfriends because they want a good marriage is “completely counter productive.”

Morse went on to say that a primary reason young couples are cohabiting “is because they're afraid.”

“Young people want to get married, stay married, they're afraid of divorce and so they think that cohabiting is a good alternative,” she said, noting that “running your life on the basis of fear is usually not a good idea.”

Donovan added that the “figures on the outcomes for children born to and raised by unmarried couples do not match up with those for children raised by their married, biological parents.”

“This is true for everything from juvenile delinquency rates, to educational outcomes, to relationship stability and marital happiness when these children become adults,” he said. “The best gift that parents can give their children is still the witness of lifelong married love, or at minimum a lifetime working at it.”

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Bishop explains how new Mass translation 'reaches up to heaven'

Wheat Ridge, Colo., Nov 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Denver's Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley addressed a group of church musicians on Nov. 20 at Colorado's Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Church, celebrating the feast of their patron St. Cecilia and discussing important changes in the forthcoming English translation of the Mass.

He expressed hopes that the new, more accurate translation of the Roman Missal would enhance the reverence and beauty of Catholic worship. The new translation will become standard next year, at the beginning of Advent in 2011.

Bishop Conley also acknowledged liturgical abuses and aesthetic misjudgments in parts of the Church, but said these problems were not due to the Second Vatican Council, or the practice of having Mass in the local language that it allowed.

Rather, he said, the problems had arisen from a misunderstanding of the council, and resulting misconceptions about Catholics worship. “The new liturgy that the Council gave us is beautiful,” the bishop affirmed. “The problem has been that even good people have misinterpreted the Council badly.”

To illustrate this misunderstanding of the Council's spirit and its liturgy, Bishop Conley recounted an occasion in the life of Dorothy Day, the respected co-foundress of the Catholic Worker movement. Known for her social activism and service to the poor, she also described herself as a Catholic “traditionalist,” and resisted attempts to use the liturgy as a political tool.

When one misguided priest offered Mass at a Catholic Worker house using a coffee cup as a chalice to consecrate the blood of Christ, Day was “scandalized by the sacrilege,” in Bishop Conley's words. She “dug a deep hole in the backyard … then she kissed the coffee cup, and buried it,” ensuring the impromptu “chalice” would never be used for mere beverages.

In this incident, Bishop Conley observed the contrast between the priest's clumsy attempt to acknowledge Christ's humanity –at the cost of dishonoring his divinity– and Day's understanding that “in the Mass, God stoops down to lift us up to his level.”

God “makes it possible for us, though we are but creatures, to sing and worship with the angels” – an awe-inspiring task for which household objects, popular music, and casual language are inappropriate. Bishop Conley indicated that many attempts to make worship feel more familiar, have instead made it less inspiring.

The new Mass translation reasserts “the continuity of the Novus Ordo (Mass) with the ancient liturgy of the Church” – where the apostles and the first Christians understood themselves to be “singing the song of angels,” participating in a heavenly ceremony while on earth.

Bishop Conley cited the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who said Catholic worship “presupposes … that the heavens have been opened,” and must reflect this reality. “This is the truth we need to recover,” the bishop taught. “Christ has rent the heavens and come down to us. Again he has been lifted up and carried into heaven to take his seat at the right hand of power.”

And although “the dividing walls between heaven and earth, the human and the divine … have been torn down,” this has occurred in order to raise up humanity –as authentic liturgy does– rather than to diminish God, he said. “In the holy Mass, heaven reaches down to earth, and earth reaches up to heaven.”

Bishop Conley specified a number of changes intended to recapture this sense of the sacred in the new translation, including the revival of the congregation's traditional response “and with your spirit,” the restored and “more faithfully translated” prayer of the priest before the Eucharistic rite, and the more exalted language in the “Gloria” hymn.

“Our new Mass translation replaces the mundane affirmation –'Happy are those who are called to (Christ's) supper'– with a confession of faith … 'Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb'.” The bishop explained that these changes “get us closer to the theological richness and the poetry of the original Latin.”

He hoped that the new translation of the Eucharistic Rite would especially help Catholics “penetrate more deeply into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” in which “we join our self-offering with the self-offering of Christ on the Cross.” While the Church has maintained its belief in a direct participation in Christ's sacrifice, many modern Catholics lack an understanding of this principle.

Near the end of this talk, Bishop Conley turned his attention to another sacrifice he hoped would not be forgotten: the massacre of more than 50 Iraqi Catholics during a Sunday Mass in Baghdad on Oct. 31.

“This tragedy,” he said, “puts our conversation today into some perspective,” particularly since the faithful were taken hostage and killed in the course of their worship. Islamic militants “broke into the Mass and destroyed icons and stained glass windows; they desecrated the tabernacle.”

While virtually all of the worshipers at Baghdad's Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation either died or received serious wounds, Bishop Conley noted that “they made their final moments an eloquent testimony” to their sense of sacrifice, gratitude and love. By using their last strength to reach out to God in prayer, the worshipers “died as the must have lived – 'eucharistically',” he said.

“We may never be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice for our faith,” the bishop reflected. “But we are called each day to live by the Eucharist we receive, and to make our lives an acceptable sacrifice that is pleasing to the Lord.”

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Tree planted by saint continues his good works

Honolulu, Hawaii, Nov 20, 2010 (CNA) - With its wood, the tree honors the foot that pushed the shovel that planted it. Like many stories in Hawaii, the story of the box holding St. Damien’s relic, fragments of the saint’s foot bone, unfolds in many wonderful directions.

Telling it last week, with enthusiasm by phone from Makawao, Maui, was Edwin Ferreira.

It starts with a troupe of trees, seven or eight monkeypods that Father Damien planted to provide shade near the church he built in the late 1800s in Kaluaaha, Molokai.

That’s how Ferreira pictured it. “Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Church is in a hot and dry area,” he said.

A hundred years later, sometime in the 1980s, lightning struck one of the trees, killing it. It had to be cut down so it would not fall and damage the church.

Ferreira, whose job as construction supervisor for the phone company sent him to Molokai from time to time, knew the man who cut down the tree. He asked him if he could have some of the wood.

Ferreira took a 100-pound slab back to his home in Makawao. The lightning had damaged some of the wood, making it dry and porous, but toward the center of the thick trunk, it was dense and beautiful.

When Ferreira told his pastor, Sacred Hearts Father Joseph Hendriks, what he had, the priest asked the part-time craftsman, whom he had nicknamed Michelangelo, if he would make a display for a relic he had of Father Damien, a small lock of his hair. Ferreira did.

Several years later, after Father Damien was beatified, Ferreira discovered by chance that the envelope that had held the priest’s hair still contained a single strand hidden in one of the envelope’s creases.

He called Father Hendriks, who was then pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, to ask what he should do with it.

“Bring honor to Blessed Damien,” Father Hendriks told Ferreira.

So the Maui man took some of the wood and made a representation of the Kalaupapa peninsula and the Molokai cliffs. He then placed in the display a foot-high cross in which he imbedded a gold reliquary holding Damien’s hair. It was a personal sacred art piece which he would share with his parish.

Three years ago, Ferreira’s wife Olivia was discovered to have what appeared to be stage three or stage four cancer in her intestine. After a grim prognosis from an Oahu specialist, she had surgery. Amazingly, after the tumor was removed, tests declared her completely free of cancer cells.

The doctor said the happy outcome was highly unusual. But Ferreira called it a “miracle” attributable to his personal link to Blessed Damien, Damien’s tree, and his daily treks from Queen’s Medical Center to pray in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

In gratitude, Ferreira gave his Kalaupapa cross reliquary to Molokai-born Sacred Hearts Father Lane Akiona, the pastor of Ferreira’s boyhood parish of St. Augustine in Waikiki, who had anointed Olivia and prayed over her when she first came to Oahu for treatment.

“This is yours,” he told Father Akiona. “You can do more with this that I can in Makawao.”

Meanwhile, Ferreira had received requests for pieces of the wood — which could be classified as secondary relics — to be used as aids in prayer for people who were sick.

Ferreira brought some pieces to the bedside of a critically ill friend at Maui Memorial Medical Center where friends and family were praying for healing. A large Hawaiian man from Molokai in the next bed over asked if they would pray over him too.

The next day, the Hawaiian’s scheduled leg amputation was canceled. He had taken an unexpected turn for the better.

And a couple weeks ago, Ferreira saw his formerly hospitalized friend healthy and in church, a place he hadn’t been in years.

The scenario seemed to repeat itself in the home of another Maui man suffering from inoperable cancer.

“We all got together and went over to his house,” Ferreira said. “He was very gray, and could barely walk.”

“We prayed the rosary, laid hands on him, and prayed for his immediate healing,” he said. As they watched, his color came back.

In the latest update, Ferreira said, “He’s feeding his horses and he’s looking very good.”

They are continuing to pray for him.

When Bishop Larry Silva asked Ferreira if he would make the reliquary for the new traveling relic, Ferreira turned to his friend Allan Marciel who, he said, had the better workshop.

Ferreira designed the box and Marciel did most of the handiwork. Another friend cut the display glass.

The box now holds pieces of bone from a larger relic of St. Damien. (See accompanying story.)

Ferreira also used some of the wood to make a pectoral cross for Bishop Silva.

Ferreira has been running leftover wood through his band saw, creating thin flat pieces about an inch or two long that he places in individual plastic zip-lock bags and gives away as St. Damien relics. Some of the pieces are blackened, burned by the lighting strike that killed the tree.

He had them blessed and has offered them to fellow parishioners at St. Joseph Church in Makawao, and to the bishop and friends and acquaintances.

Ferreira said that he feels compelled to tell the stories of St. Damien’s wood because of all the good things he has seen.

“If it sounds like I’m bragging, I am bragging in Jesus’ name,” he said.

Printed with permission from the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Honolulu.

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