Archive of December 11, 2010

Vatican urges prudence in reading leaked embassy cables

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, has asked for careful evaluation and “great prudence” in the examination of confidential files leaked by WikiLeaks to media outlets.

The content of sensitive internal U.S. State Department cables concerning the Vatican, written by representatives from the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, was made public Dec. 11.

In a statement that day, Fr. Lombardi stressed that the reports "reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them.” He emphasized that the cables “cannot be considered as expressions of the Holy See itself, nor as exact quotations of the words of its officials.

"Their reliability must, then, be evaluated carefully and with great prudence, bearing this circumstance in mind," he continued.

Only one of the Vatican-related cables had been released prior to Dec. 10. However, over the course of the day, a barrage of articles on additional cables surfaced. Five newspapers, the New York Times, Britain's The Guardian, France's Le Monde, Germany's Der Spiegel and Spain's El Pais, reported on documents concerning the Vatican.

These five media outlets are thought to be in exclusive possession of the "Cablegate" briefs. They span the last decade, uncovering the U.S. Embassy's perceptions of Vatican positions on a variety of themes.


On Vatican communications

In a file from February 2009 labeled "confidential," Julieta Valls Noyes, the second-in-command at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, broke down her vision of communications within the Vatican. The cable came shortly after Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of a bishop without knowing that he diminished the extent of the Holocaust.

Valls pointed to a "communication gap" that marked "the challenge of governing a hierarchical yet decentralized organization,” as well as “leadership weaknesses at the top, and an undervaluing of (and ignorance about) 21st century communications."

She added that these problems have resulted in "muddled, reactive messaging that reduces the volume of the moral megaphone the Vatican uses to advance its objectives.”

In a separate cable from just weeks earlier, Valls commented that the Pope "sometimes bewilders politicians and journalists by pursuing what he believes is in the best interest of the Church.” She added that “Vatican outsiders lament decisions or policies that they perceive as being out-of-step with the new millennium, and call for the Church to be more modern and accommodating.

"What these observers fail to recognize is the consistency of the Holy See's decisions and behavior on key issues like the reunification of the Church or the dignity of all human beings - and the value of that consistency.

"Regardless of whether outsiders agree or disagree with the Holy See, it's hard to dispute its moral influence, geographic reach, and ability to grab headlines," she wrote.

"These qualities can make the Vatican a formidable partner for the U.S. and other nations in the pursuit of common objectives."


The Vatican and President Obama 

A 2009 cable titled, "Scenesetter for the President's July 10 visit" offered a look at the briefing U.S. President Barack Obama received before his visit to Rome. The brief painted a picture of shared and contrasting views – but also of mutual respect – as the embassy prepared the president for his meeting with the Pope.


Turkey's inclusion in European Union

An August 2004 cable addressed then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's hesitation to welcome Turkey into the European Union. In the same report was the embassy's clarification that the Vatican saw "no obstacle" to full EU membership if the nation met the requirements.

Another cable – from June 2009 - acknowledged the Pope's "uneasiness" about allowing Turkey into the EU as a cardinal. It also reported the official position of the Holy See that "as a non-EU member the Vatican has no role in promoting or vetoing Turkey's membership."

The cable continued by opining that "the Vatican might prefer to see Turkey develop a special relationship short of membership with the EU, but Vatican Secretary of State (Prime Minister-equivalent) Bertone has stated that Turkey should become a member if it meets all the EU criteria - including full protection of human rights and religious freedoms."


Foreign diplomacy

Other transmissions released by The Guardian noted the apparent objectives of Vatican diplomatic efforts. Cables from 2009 - 2010 highlighted meetings with Vatican officials about softening the American trade embargo against Cuba and the Holy See's concerns related to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

In a cable from July 2001, the embassy spoke of the Vatican as a "supra-national power," with limited territory but extensive influence in the world.


Sexual abuse

A cable titled, "Sex abuse scandal strains Irish-Vatican relations, shakes up Irish church, and poses challenges for the Holy See” written by Valls in Feb. 2010 examined Vatican-Irish government relations after an Irish government entity bypassed diplomatic channels in search of information.

Vatican officials lamented the offense as "an affront to Vatican sovereignty" and head diplomat, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, sent a letter to the government requesting that all communication be made through official channels.

While some saw the decision not to respond to the extra-official request as cold, the Irish Times reported that Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said that both the commission and the Holy See appeared to act in good faith, "even if the best outcome was not achieved."

Because it was a question between governments, all communications should have been made officially, he said.

He added that "(i)t is regrettable that the failure to acknowledge either letter has given rise to the impression the Holy See was refusing to co-operate with the commission."

More indiscretions are sure to be released, with the Vatican-related cables numbering over 800. They form just a small part of the more than alleged 250,000 secret and confidential documents due for release by WikiLeaks.

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US Catholics to celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops conference announced that the Church across the country will recognize and bring awareness to consecrated vocations during a special week in January.

The National Vocation Awareness Week will start on Jan. 9, the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, which marks the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. The bishops' conference emphasized that vocations week, initiated by the U.S. bishops in 1976,  focuses on vocations to the priesthood, diaconate or consecrated life.

The event “gives parishes across the country a chance to promote vocations through prayer and education,” said Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, chairman of the conference's Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

“It is our responsibility to encourage young people to be generous as they discern the possibility of a call to service in the Church,” he added. “Parents, families and parish communities must be involved in this work, since vocations recruitment is everyone’s responsibility. All need to foster a culture of vocations.”
Father Shawn McKnight, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations said that many people can influence a young person's vocation discernment.
“Just as Jesus needed to hear with his human ears the voice of the Father, so our young people need to hear words of encouragement from parents, other family members, friends and the parish. God’s call comes through the Church in this way.”
Associate director of the vocations secretariat, Sr. Mary Joanna Ruhland, pointed out that one reason young people “do not consider a call to the priesthood or consecrated life is the fact that they were never asked.”
During Jan. 9-16,  families and parishes should highlight these vocations to their children and encourage them in the faith, the bishops' conference urged. Prayer cards for the commemorative  vocations event can be found at

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Authentic Catholic universities help resist ‘secular dictatorship,’ Cardinal Burke says

Boston, Mass., Dec 11, 2010 (CNA) - The authentically Catholic university helps students resist “secularist dictatorship” by keeping Jesus Christ at the center of its mission and by exposing the moral bankruptcy of contemporary culture, Cardinal Raymond Burke said Dec. 4.

The cardinal’s comments came in an address at St. Thomas More College’s annual President’s Council Dinner, held Dec. 4 at the Harvard Club of Boston.

In a lengthy discussion of the nature of Catholic higher education, he said that a Catholic university faithful to its identity will help students give an account of their faith and help them resist “the secularist dictatorship which would exclude all religious discourse from the professions and from public life in general.”

He also declared Jesus Christ, the “fullness” of God’s revelation, as “the first and chief teacher at every institution of Catholic higher education.”

“A Catholic college or university at which Jesus Christ alive in His Church is not taught, encountered in the Sacred Liturgy and its extension through prayer and devotion, and followed in a life of virtue is not worthy of the name,” he told attendees.

Jesus’ presence is not something “extraneous” to the pursuit of truth because he alone inspires and guides professors and students to remain faithful in their pursuits and not “fall prey to the temptations which Satan cleverly offers to corrupt us.”

Cardinal Burke lamented the fall of many American Catholic colleges and universities that have become “Catholic in name only.”

Citing Pope John Paul II’s ad limina address to the U.S. bishops of New York, he said that the service of Catholic universities “depends on the strength of their Catholic identity.” The Catholic university was born from “the heart of the Church” and has been “critical” to meeting the challenges of the time.

The Catholic university is needed more than ever in a society “marked by a virulent secularism which threatens the integrity of every aspect of human endeavor and service,” he said.

“How tragic that the very secularism which the Catholic university should be helping its students to battle and overcome has entered into several Catholic universities, leading to the grievous compromise of their high mission,” he commented.

The American-born cardinal said that rather than exemplifying secularism, the Catholic university’s manner of study and research should “manifest the bankruptcy of the abuse of human life and human sexuality … and the bankruptcy of the violation of the inviolable dignity of human life, of the integrity of marriage, and of the right order of our relationship to one another and to the world.”

This bankruptcy is “the trademark of our culture, a culture of violence and death,” he charged. Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, he said the mission of the Catholic university is “to develop a society truly worthy of the human person’s dignity.”

Cardinal Burke also described the kind of relationship that should exist between the local bishop and a Catholic university. The “noble mission” of the university, he said, can only be accomplished within the Church, and the local bishop should be able to depend upon the Catholic university as a partner in meeting the challenges of evangelization, in teaching the faith, and in celebrating the liturgy.

He criticized as “totally anomalous” the situation in which the Catholic university views the bishop as “a suspect or outright unwelcome partner in the mission of Catholic higher education.”

On the issues of creating curricula and hiring professors, Cardinal Burke advised “special care,” noting the poor religious formation of many young Catholics.

“Given the religious illiteracy which marks our time and in fidelity to the seriousness with which university studies should be undertaken, there is really no place for engaging in speculative theology and certainly no time to waste on superficial and tendentious theological writings of the time,” the cardinal contended.

He questioned why students should be engaged in discussions about the ordination of women as priests when they already have little knowledge of the “consistent teaching” of the Holy Scriptures and Catholic Tradition on the priesthood.

He closed his remarks by praying that St. Thomas More College will form its graduates to cultivate “the divine wisdom and truth” and always to place truth and love first.

“My reflection is offered to assist us all in seeking always first the truth and love by which we serve others and our world well by serving God first,” he said.

In an e-mail to CNA, St. Thomas More College president William Fahey characterized Cardinal Burke’s speech as “a kind of authoritative gloss on Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” John Paul II's encyclical on Catholic higher education.

In his own remarks at the President’s Council Dinner, Fahey characterized the New Hampshire college as “small by design” like the U.S. Marine Corps. He stressed the college’s Catholic identity and its commitment to the New England region, asking for help and prayers to support a growing student body.

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