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Archive of November 21, 2010

Vatican spokesman: Pope not changing Church teaching on condom use

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite media claims of a revolutionary change, Pope Benedict is not altering Catholic teaching on condom use or justifying the disordered use of sexuality, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has explained.

In a Nov. 21 statement from Vatican Radio, Fr. Lombardi discussed the Pope’s comments in Peter Seewald’s forthcoming book “Light of the World: the Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.”

In these comments “the Pope is not reforming or changing the teaching of the Church but he reaffirms it, putting it in the perspective of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility,” the spokesman said.

In Seewald’s book, Pope Benedict says that the Church “of course” does not regard condom use as “a real or moral solution” to the problem of AIDS. According to Fr. Lombardi, his treatment of the topic considers an “exceptional situation” in which a sexual act presents a true risk for another’s life.

In a short passage at the end of the tenth chapter of Seewald’s book, the Pope discusses the “banalization of sexuality,” which treats sexuality as a drug. The pontiff uses the example of a prostitute.

“In such a case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality,” the spokesman explained. Rather, the use of the condom to lessen the danger of contagion may be “a first act of responsibility” and “a first step on the path toward a more human sexuality” rather than acting to put another’s life at risk.

“In this, the reasoning of the Pope certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary turning point,” Fr. Lombardi said, following worldwide media reports of a change in Church teaching on contraception.

He added that there is some novelty in hearing this discussion from a Pope, even in “a colloquial and non-magisterial form.” According to the spokesman, this was an “original contribution” because it refuted the “illusory path” of trust in condom use. At the same time, the papal comments showed a “far-sighted vision” attentive to the small steps which an “often very poor spiritually” humanity must take towards “a more human and responsible exercise of sexuality.”

Fr. Lombardi repeated Pope Benedict’s view that concentrating solely on the condom trivializes sexuality. This obscures its meaning as an expression of love between people and makes it become like a drug.

Fighting against this banalization preserves sexuality's positive value and helps it to have a positive effect on “the whole of man’s being,” Pope Benedict says in Seewald’s book.

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Pope tells new cardinals to unite themselves with Christ on the cross

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI has asked the newest cardinals not to ask Christ to come down from the cross, but rather to unite themselves faithfully to Him for the redemption of the world.

At a St. Peter’s Basilica Mass on Nov. 21, the Pope gave each of the 24 newest cardinals a ring with the image of a crucifix emblazoned on it. The image was intended to remind them that their ministry is dependent upon their fidelity to the crucified Christ.

The Mass took place just a day after the consistory event which created the cardinals. It marked the feast of Christ the King, the day on which Catholic Christians mark the final Sunday of the liturgical year and celebrate the supreme dominion of the Lord over the universe.

The Pope and the new cardinals were joined in St. Peter's by more than 100 other cardinals in addition to bishops, priests, religious and faithful representing the farthest reaches of the globe. Swahili and Singhalese, the language of Sri Lanka, were used for prayers during the celebration.

Pope Benedict began Mass with a call to the faithful to look to the Cross on which Christ showed that he was Lord of all. It serves as a reminder, he said, that every true Christian disciple is called to share in Jesus' death on the cross for the redemption of the world.

A reading from the Gospel of St. Luke illustrated a scene from Christ's final moments on the cross.
Flanked by two crucified thieves, Jesus hears one ask him to remember him after death. Jesus tells this "good thief" that they will be together in paradise.

Because of his faith, this "good thief" is already in paradise, the Pope said during his homily "because paradise is this: being with Jesus, being with God."

He told the two dozen new cardinals that this is the fundamental message of the Gospel. "It calls us to be with Jesus, like Mary, and not to ask him to come down from the cross, but to remain there with Him.

"And this, because of our ministry, we must do not only for ourselves, but for all the Church, for the entire people of God," he told them.

Their ministry must be based on a faith passed "through the scandal of the cross, to become authentic, truly 'Christian,' to become the 'rock' on which Jesus may build his Church," he said.

Jesus' ability to build the Church on these men is contingent on their true faith in Him, said the Pope. Theirs is a faith “that does not wish to make Jesus come down from the cross, but entrusts itself to Him on the cross."

Their effectiveness in service to the Church depends on this fidelity to the crucified Christ, he said.
This is not limited to cardinals, explained the Pope. All Christians find joy and peace in sharing in the cross, because through it one is "transferred" into the Kingdom of God.

He placed a ring on the right hand of each of the two dozen with a prayer. He then told them to go out into the world to bring God and his message to the world, to edify His Church and to bless and bring peace to all people.

Pope Benedict XVI prayed that the Lord Jesus Christ, "eternal Pastor and universal King," guide and protect the cardinals together with their faithful.

During the Angelus prayer that followed Mass, the Pope revisited Jesus' words to the "good thief." He said that in offering the one man paradise "from the 'throne' of the Cross," Jesus received "every man with infinite mercy."

He remembered also the feast of the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He entrusted the new cardinals and "our earthly pilgrimage toward eternity" to her intercession.

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Nov. 25 marks memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, scholar and martyr

CNA STAFF, Nov 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - While the United States celebrates the secular holiday of Thanksgiving this Nov. 25, many Catholics and other Christians around the world will celebrate the memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, a revered martyr of the fourth century.

St. Catherine was the subject of great interest and devotion among later medieval Christians. Devotees relished tales of her rejection of marriage, her rebuke to an emperor, and her decision to cleave to Christ even under threat of torture. Pope John Paul II restored the celebration of her memorial to the Roman Catholic calendar in 2002.

Catherine's popularity as a figure of devotion, during an era of imaginative hagiography, has obscured the facts of her life. It is likely that she was of noble birth, a convert to Christianity, a virgin by choice (before the emergence of organized monasticism), and eventually a martyr for the faith.

Accounts of Catherine's life also agree on the location where she was born, educated, and bore witness to her faith. The Egyptian city of Alexandria was a center of learning in the ancient world, and tradition represents Catherine as the highly educated daughter of a noble pagan family.

It is said that a vision of the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus spurred her conversion, and the story has inspired works of art which depict her decision to live as a virginal “spouse of Christ.”

The Emperor Maxentius ruled Egypt during Catherine's brief lifetime, a period when multiple co-emperors jointly governed the Roman Empire. During this time, just before the Emperor Constantine's embrace and legalization of Christianity, the Church was growing but also attracting persecution.

Catherine, eager to defend the faith she had embraced, came before Maxentius to protest a brutal campaign against the Church. At first, the emperor decided to try and persuade her to renounce Christ. But in a debate that the emperor proceeded to arrange between Catherine and a number of pagan philosophers, Catherine prevailed– with her skillful apologetics converting them instead.

Maxentius' next stratagem involved an offer to make her his mistress. She not only rebuffed the emperor, but also reportedly convinced his wife to be baptized.

Enraged by Catherine's boldness and resolve, the Emperor resolved to break her will through torture on a spiked wheel. Tradition holds that she was miraculously freed from the wheel, either before or during torture. Finally, she was beheaded.

Maxentius later died in a historic battle against his Co-Emperor Constantine in October of 312, after which he was remembered disdainfully, if at all. St. Catherine, meanwhile, inspired generations of philosophers, consecrated women, and martyrs.

Ironically, or perhaps appropriately –given both her embrace of virginity, and her “mystic marriage” to Christ– young women in many Western European countries were once known to seek her intercession in finding their husbands. Regrettably, the torture wheel to which she herself may have been subjected was subsequently nicknamed the “Catherine wheel,” and used even among Christian kingdoms.

Today, St. Catherine of Alexandria is more appropriately known as the namesake of a monastery at Mount Sinai that claims to be the oldest in the world.

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President affirms faith-based partnerships, but new rules raise questions

Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two Catholics with extensive experience in partnerships between religious charities and the government have expressed different opinions about President Obama's Nov. 17 executive order, which provided new guidelines for faith-based groups that receive federal assistance.

In his introduction to the order, President Obama said the directive was intended to “promote compliance with constitutional and other applicable legal principles,” and to “strengthen the capacity of faith-based and other neighborhood organizations to deliver services effectively to those in need.”

Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, welcomed the presidential decree. His agency praised the Obama administration's continued commitment to faith-based partnerships, describing the executive order as “an important affirmation” of “critical programs.”

The Catholic Charities' president is also a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Last spring, the council issued a series of recommendations on how to improve government partnerships with religious charities, while clarifying boundaries between churches and state agencies.

The White House used the advisory council's recommendations to draft the new executive order. Fr. Snyder said he appreciated the administration's “responsiveness … to the recommendations of the council,” with Catholic Charities saying it “looks to President Obama to continue to embrace joint cooperation in the wake of this executive order.”

While the executive order explicitly confirmed the administration's continued desire to help believers serve the public, a past director of the White House's work on faith-based initiatives has expressed skepticism about its possible effects.

Jim Towey, a lawyer who headed the Office of Faith-Based and Communitive Initiatives under President George W. Bush before serving for five years as the president of Pennsylvania's Saint Vincent College, told CNA/EWTN News that the executive order was unnecessary, and could burden religious social workers with new rules and documentation requirements if they choose to receive federal help. 

The executive order explicitly affords a series of significant rights to groups that receive federal funding. They may display religious iconography in their facilities, maintain religious references in the names of their programs, choose board members on the basis of their faith, and make reference to faith in their mission statements and internal documents.

Nevertheless, Towey said other provisions might lead government partners into a swamp of regulations and paperwork. In particular, he pointed to a section on “referral to an alternative provider.”

Under that heading, the executive order requires federally-funded faith-based groups to refer any “beneficiary or potential beneficiary” to an “alternative provider” of the same service, if the individual objects to the group's religious affiliation. Those groups must notify the government of “any referral” that takes place for this reason.

Such groups must also ensure that “each beneficiary of a social service program receives written notice” of their right to be referred to a non-religious agency, “prior to enrolling in or receiving services” from a faith-based program.

The executive order also specifies that faith-based groups can only engage in “explicitly religious activities” if these are separate in both “time and location” from any government-funded activities.

That joint requirement, Towey commented, might cause problems if one facilities serve two purposes but only receives federal funding for one, or if the schedule of a group's privately-supported religious activities and government-supported non-religious activities happened to overlap in time despite being otherwise separate.

Towey believes that these new regulations will have a “chilling effect”– dissuading religious groups who might otherwise want to partner with the government. Many such groups, he said, would not be willing to divert time and energy away from the needy, for the task of proving their compliance with longstanding principles that they have never been accused of violating.

He noted that President George W. Bush's guidelines for partnering with religious groups had been in place for eight years, during which time “there hasn't been a single legal challenge or question” to necessitate the new guidelines.

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Pope outlines dangers of reproductive health care concept

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pope told a recent gathering that health care cannot “divorce itself from moral rules.” As an example he cited how the concept of “reproductive health” does more to work against the care of human life than for it.

The Pope's remarks on health care were sent to Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski – president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care – on the event of the council's 25th international conference. The group's theme this year focused on the Holy Father's latest encyclical and was titled, "Towards egalitarian and human health care in the light of 'Caritas in veritate.'”

Archbishop Zimowski explained that members from over 60 countries gathered in Rome on Nov. 18 to address some of the major threats to the health of individuals around the globe.

Pope Benedict began his message to the archbishop by underlining the need for what he called “true distributive justice” that guarantees health care for everyone, based on “objective need.”

The Pontiff also stressed the need to work with greater commitment “at all levels in order for the right to health care to be effective, facilitating access to primary medical assistance.”

He continued to say, however, that “the world of health care cannot divorce itself from moral rules, which must govern it in order to ensure it does not become inhuman.”

“Unfortunately, along with positive and encouraging results, opinions and schools of thought exist which harm this justice,” he wrote. “I am thinking of questions such as those associated with so-called 'reproductive health,' the use of artificial procreation techniques that involve the destruction of embryos, and legalized euthanasia.”

Pope Benedict said that the defense of life from conception until natural death “must be supported and proclaimed, even if this means going against the tide.”

“For this reason,” he added, “I would advocate the adoption of a model of development based on the centrality of the human person, on the promotion and sharing of the common good, on responsibility, on a realization of our need for a changed lifestyle, and on prudence, the virtue which tells us what needs to be done today in view of what might happen tomorrow.”

“Only by looking at the world with the gaze of the Creator, which is a gaze of love, will humanity learn to live on earth in peace and justice, equitably sharing the planet and its resources for the good of each man and woman,” he said.

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Pope Benedict prays for Christians persecuted in Iraq, calls for religious freedom

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI prayed for Christians suffering from persecution and discrimination throughout the world, especially those in Iraq, during the Angelus on Nov. 21.

The Italian bishops invited the faithful to a day of prayer for the persecuted and for their persecutors after the Oct. 31 massacre of dozens of Iraqi Christians celebrating Mass in a Baghdad cathedral. Violence continues to be directed against the country's Christian minorities.

The day of prayer was promoted as a sign of closeness and solidarity to Iraqi Christians and all those persecuted for their faith.

"I join this choral invocation to the God of life and peace, so that in every part of the world religious freedom might be assured to all," said Pope Benedict. He expressed closeness to those in Iraq "for the great testimony of faith that they render to God."

Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his concern for Iraqi Christians on other occasions, especially recently when he called the violence "absurd."

It is an important theme in the Church today. Cardinals who are in Rome for the consistory to welcome their 24 newest members discussed religious freedom during closed-door meetings on Nov. 19.

An estimated 60,000 people were present for the Angelus prayer, which closely followed a Mass to celebrate the reception of the newest cardinals. Each received a ring as a sign of the dignity of the cardinal, a reminder of his commitment to spreading the word of God and of his communion with the Successor of Peter, the Pope.

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Young adults gather to learn about faith, build friendships

Omaha, Neb., Nov 21, 2010 (CNA) - The program is the same and the venue is similar. But one thing that has changed about Theology on Tap this fall is the Archdiocese of Omaha's involvement in the young adult speaker series.

Theology on Tap, an international program geared toward Catholics in their 20s and 30s, has taken place in the Archdiocese of Omaha off and on for many years.

But this year, the archdiocese is taking a more active role in assisting the seven members of the Theology on Tap core team with planning and funding events, including speaker fees and some of the food costs.

"In this way, more energy can go toward inviting others, advertising and building up the involvement and visibility of the events," said Father Paul Hoesing, vocations director for the archdiocese who oversees Theology on Tap. "We'd like to reach as many young adults as possible."

Theology on Tap Omaha just finished its 2010 Fall series, which drew nearly 100 young adults to Old Chicago in downtown Omaha, and plans are already under way for a Lenten series next spring.

Reaching young adults

Theology on Tap, which started in Chicago in 1981 and now is run by RENEW International, features the outreach of young adults to other young adults, Father Hoesing said.

They typically gather at a restaurant or bar to listen to a speaker talk about issues of faith and morals while enjoying food, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.

"So many young adults find themselves 'in between' jobs, dating or recent moves. Constant transition and uncertainty can make the stability of the faith seem foreign or impossible," he said. "Theology on Tap speakers and events attempt to reach that crowd of young adults who may not know that the church has a mission, and her mission of evangelization meets them where they are."

The speakers know the hearts of young adults and the events are hosted in venues that allow anyone attending to feel welcomed, he said.

"Most important, the topics covered during a Theology on Tap gathering will pierce the darkness that often envelops modern hearts, especially matters of love, truth and real happiness," Father Hoesing said.

During the Fall 2010 series, which ended Nov. 4, topics touched on searching for truth with Pope John Paul II, living a life of faith, letting God into the bedroom and the separation of church and state.

Information and empowering

Beth Klein, a member of the Theology on Tap core team, said Theology on Tap works to inform and empower the young adults in attendance with information about their faith so their lives can be enriched and they can better spread the truth about the faith to others.

"Many times young adults fall away from the faith during their college years and don't come back until they are looking to get married and have kids," said the 28-year-old Klein, a member of St. Bridget Parish in Omaha.

"We hope to bring those who are intimidated by the church setting into a low-key environment where they can be around people their own age, and reach them on their level," she said. "Young adults are often overlooked in parish life until they have kids so we are trying to reach that population."

Theology on Tap is meant for initial contact among young adults and a launch into further participation in small group studies and service projects, Father Hoesing said.

"Whenever we initiate and follow through with new relationships, we build up the Body of Christ, the church," he said. "We want young adults to know that the church has Good News for them, and they are not alone. Many young adults are hearing the call of Christ and his desire for them to live the truth in love. Theology on Tap provides a great place for them to meet."

Printed with permission from the Catholic Voice, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb.

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