Washington D.C., Feb 2, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Sr. Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association (CHA), have exchanged letters affirming that the local bishop is the authoritative interpreter of religious and ethical guidelines in Catholic health facilities.
The exchange also looked ahead to further cooperation on pro-life and religious freedom issues.
Sr. Keehan’s Jan. 18 letter to Archbishop Dolan, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, noted previous discussions with the New York archbishop and Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida concerning the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) which govern Catholic hospitals in the U.S.
“I was happy to have the opportunity to assure you that publicly and privately, CHA has always said to sponsors, governing board members, manager and clinicians that an individual bishop in his diocese is the authoritative interpreter of the ERDs,” her letter continued. “We explain that a Bishop has a right to interpret the ERDs and also to develop his own ethical and religious directives if he chooses.”
The letter expressed the association’s “sincere desire” to work with the Church and individual bishops to understand clinical issues and to bring Church teaching to bear on them.
“We are absolutely convinced that the teaching of the Church, in combination with a clear understanding of the clinical situation serves the people of God very well,” Sr. Keehan continued.
She said her organization has “consistently worked” to help its members and others understand the ethical directives while also noting that the local bishop is their “authoritative interpreter.”
In his Jan. 26 reply, Archbishop Dolan said it was “so helpful” for Sr. Keehan to reiterate the Catholic Health Association’s commitment to “complete fidelity to Catholic moral teaching and practice.”
The acknowledgment of the local bishop’s place in interpreting the ethical directives is “a welcome and crucial component” in understanding authentic Catholic moral teaching.
In cases of ethical dilemmas there is a need for “appropriate consultation” with medical professionals and ethical experts, the archbishop said. However, where conflicts arise between these experts and the local bishop, the bishop provides the “authoritative resolution based on his teaching office.”
“Once such a resolution of a doubt has been given, it is no longer a question of competing moral theories or the offering of various ethical interpretations or opinions of the medical data that can still be legitimately espoused and followed,” the archbishop explained. “Thank you for making clear that the
CHA and the bishops both share this understanding of the Church’s teaching.”
Archbishop Dolan’s letter foresaw times when it will be “very important for the Church to speak with one voice” on issues like the right to life, religious liberty, and serving the poor and the needy. He specifically mentioned the Pitts-Lipinski bill that would “definitively resolve” questions about the 2010 health care legislation’s funding for abortion services.
The protection of Catholic institutions’ ability to “carry out their mission in conformity with our faith” is also important because “there are increasing political and social pressures that are trying to force the Church to compromise her principles.”
Archbishop Dolan closed his letter by thanking Sr. Keehan for her clarification and her “personal dedication” to the Church’s healing ministry
The exchange of letters comes after almost a year of conflicted relations between the bishops and the Catholic Health Association.
In December of last year, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Ariz. stripped the Catholic affiliation from a Phoenix hospital which performed a direct abortion. Sr. Keehan defended the hospital, whose parent company is a CHA member. She said the hospital had “correctly applied” the Catholic bishops’ ethical directives.
Sr. Keehan’s organization had also backed the 2010 health care legislation despite the opposition of the bishops and pro-life groups who considered its abortion funding restrictions to be severely lacking.
Rome, Italy, Feb 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The general council assisting the superior general of the Legion of Christ will be temporarily expanded with the addition of two priests recommended by members of the religious congregation.
Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, who is the papal delegate to the Legion, chose Fr. Juan José Arrieta, LC, and Fr. Jesús Villagrasa, LC, from the 15 candidates who received the most votes from all voting members.
Voting members included all priests, religious with perpetual vows and religious who have made their first renewal of vows.
The two priests will join the current four advisors assisting the Legion’s superior general Fr. Álvaro Corcuera, LC, in the governance of the congregation.
Fr. Arrieta was born on August 19, 1956 in Spain. He joined the congregation in April 1973 and was ordained to the priesthood in August 1983.
He has held responsibility in the congregation’s Center for Higher Studies and in the Legion’s apostolate in Rome.
Since 2007, he has been a pastor at the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Philip the Martyr in Rome, the Legion reports.
Fr. Villagrasa was born in Spain on April 5, 1963. He joined the Legion in September 1981 and was ordained to the priesthood in November 1994. Since 1999, he has served as a metaphysics professor in the philosophy department of the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College.
He is a confessor and spiritual director at the Center for Higher Studies in Rome.
The Legion is discerning its future after revelations that its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, led a double life which included sexual abuse and fathering children.
Cardinal De Paolis has also created an outreach commission whose members will listen to those requesting a response from the congregation because of Fr. Maciel or in relation to him. They will write a detailed report for the papal delegate, who will decide what the Legion should do in each case.
The commission will not intervene in cases awaiting decisions from civil or ecclesiastical courts.
Msgr. Mario Marchesi, one of the papal delegate’s personal advisers, will head the commission in order to ensure impartiality in its work.
Fr. Corcuera said that the commission’s purpose is to “continue facing with seriousness and responsibility” regarding Fr. Maciel’s conduct and the consequences it has had on some people.
“Insofar as it is humanly possible, we want to close this chapter in its more painful aspects, seek reconciliation, and allow justice and charity to prevail.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 2, 2011 (CNA) - The Superior General of the Salesian Order, Fr. Pascual Chavez, has announced that the six Salesian provinces in Spain will be combined in 2014 to form two large provinces. He said the change will optimize the work of the order, revitalize its charism and boost evangelization among young people.
One of the new provinces will be the Mediterranean Province, noted a statement from the order. The province will include the current Salesian regions of Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla, which oversee 79 Salesian communities and 556 religious.
The Mediterranean Province will extend to the autonomous communities of Catalonia, Baleares, Aragon, Valencia, Albacete, Murcia, Andalucia, Extremadura, Canarias and Andorra.
The other province will be the Northeastern Central Province, which will bring together the regions of Bilbao, Leon and Madrid. It will extend to the communities of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country, Navarre, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon, Madrid and Castilla La Mancha. The new province will oversee 686 religious from 64 different houses.
The restructuring will help optimize the work of the Salesians in a land “rich in Christian and Salesian expressions,” Fr. Chavez said.
He exhorted Salesians to actively participate in the process in order to “renew our consecrated life and reinvigorate the Salesian charism in Spain, especially in the area of vocations.”
There are some 16,000 Salesians worldwide with 1,200 working in Spain.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 2, 2011 (CNA) - Some 30,000 Mexican young people made a pilgrimage Jan. 29-30 to the Shrine of Christ the King located on Cubilete Hill in the Mexican State of Guanajuanto.
Organized by the association Testimonio y Esperanza, the pilgrimage is in its 28th year and is an expression of the unity of the Mexican youth in their desire to publicly express their faith.
The young people made the three-hour walk up Cubilete Hill, which reaches an altitude of 8,200 feet, to participate in Mass at the feet of the huge statue of Christ the King.
Before the pilgrimage, the president of Testimonio y Esperanza, Victor Leon, said the event is a call to continue in “the struggle for peace.” He acknowledged that this is a “constant struggle, which we young people will not cease to carry out.”
Leon said Mexicans must not fall prey to indifference or to blaming society, as “the main cause of our problems is that we have abandoned the moral and ethical foundations for our actions.”
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to Mexico said the pilgrimage is a symbolic act for young people “to reflect on their role in society and to manifest their desire to participate.”
The youth “can do much, but they need to work with dedication, as a group and as a community. Young people need to change their personal lives in order to change those around them,” he said.
Cairo, Egypt, Feb 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - As massive demonstrations moved into their second week in Cairo — with more than 250,000 protesters filling the streets demanding an end to the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — the Vatican’s top ambassador said there is a “sense of uncertainty” in the north African nation.
“There is a will for change in the country,” Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, M. Afr., the Vatican nuncio to Egypt told CNA in a phone interview from Cairo, Feb. 1.
He said the “underlying factors” in the protests are “social conditions which have made life very difficult for people” — including high rates of poverty and unemployment. In addition, he said there is a general “feeling of dissatisfaction with regard to a lack of political rights and dissatisfaction with the recent elections.”
The nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission to Egypt located in Cairo, has been quiet in recent days. There is not a lot of movement due to communications restrictions and a curfew that has left only a six-hour window for people to be legally in the streets. The nuncio is in contact with religious communities by telephone to gauge the situation.
“Some, of course, are worried,” he said, “but I haven't had any news of any real disaster in any part of the country as far as the Christians are concerned.”
Archbishop Fitzgerald said the demonstrations have been remarkably free from religious overtones and that there are many signs of Christians and Muslims working together.
“There isn't a religious distinction,” he said. “They are not dividing themselves into Christians and Muslims, they're just the Egyptian citizens.”
Archbishop Fitzgerald said that in the first days of unrest, Muslims and Christians spontaneously formed neighborhood committees to provide security when police forces abruptly fled the area.
About 90 percent of Egypt’s population is Muslim. Catholics make up a tiny minority of about 500,000. The majority of the nation’s Christians are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Catholic Coptic Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib, head of the country’s Catholic Church, also said the protests have brought out “really wonderful” displays of Christian-Muslim unity.
The country was rocked by a wave of anti-Christian persecution at the start of the year, including the killing of 21 Coptic Orthodox worshipers by a Muslim extremist suicide bomber outside a church in Alexandria, Egypt.
Many analysts have expressed fear that the militant Muslim Brotherhood sect would exploit the protests in a bid to turn Egypt into an Islamic state. But in an interview Feb. 1 with the Franciscan-run news service, Terrasanta.net, Patriarch Naguib said a new “maturity” is being demonstrated in the protests.
“The religious element hasn't appeared at all,” he said. “It is a real political movement and we really hope that this unity and solidarity that is being shown at the moment will help to change the mentality, bringing more mutual acceptance and collaboration.”
In fact, some leading Muslims have expressed hopes that the current protests will lead to a post-Mubarak era that would rid the country of Islamic extremism.
“This is a revolution guided by the middle-high class which is asking before all for political and religious freedom,” Wael Farouq, a Muslim and a professor at the American University of Cairo told the Milan based on-line daily, Il Sussidiario.net Jan. 31.
“The fundamentalists will not take control of the revolt,” Farouq said. “What is happening in these days demonstrates that the true enemy of religious liberty in Egypt is the Mubarak regime, which seeks to divide Christians and Muslims to control the country."
Farouq said that although President Mubarak has sought to blame the Muslim Brotherhood for the protests, the protests are clearly “a secular revolution.”
“The hundreds of thousands of people who have come down to the squares were asking loudly for the unity of Christians and Muslims. One of their slogans, for example, was ‘Christians and Muslims, we are all Egyptians’,” he said.
“At a certain point, one person tried to shout one of their slogans, ‘Islam is the solution,’ and was immediately chased from the area. Others … contested them … with these words: ‘We are Egyptians, not Muslims.’ A Christian carried a cross with him, and as soon as the other protesters realized it, they were happy and they raised it over their back, holding it high out of appreciation. I can tell you this because I saw it with my own eyes.”
The leader of the Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christian community, Pope Shenouda III, has expressed his continued support for the stability of the Mubarak regime and has urged believers not to join the protest movement.
Catholic leaders, thus far, have declined to comment or take sides in the political debate.
The Catholic Church, Archbishop Fitzgerald told CNA, is “leaving it to the citizens to decide what they want to do."
Catholics, he said, are Egyptians and the Church’s concerns “are the same as all the Egyptians.”
He declined to speculate on the future of the country.
“No one knows exactly what is going to happen so there is this sense of uncertainty and I think that everybody shares in that,” he said. “We don't know about the future. We have to wait and see.”
Vatican City, Feb 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The experience of the 16th-century Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila, still shows people that time in prayer opens “the way to life,” loving God and his Church, and showing genuine charity on earth, said the Pope during the general audience.
On Feb. 2, Pope Benedict XVI added another installment to his now long-running series of general audience teachings examining the spirituality of female saints and mystics. He focused his message this time on a saint with whom his predecessor had a very close spiritual connection.
Born in 1515, Teresa de Ahumada entered the Carmelite convent in her hometown of Avila at 20 years old. She learned the basis for a life of prayer and meditation in her adolescence and struggled through years of weakness due to physical ailments. At the pinnacle of her difficulties, she reached maturity in her interior life.
Despite her conditions, nearing the age of 40, she was inspired to bring about reform in the Carmelite order.
Teresa of Avila went on to establish 17 new convents with the help of the local bishop. Then, after meeting St. John of the Cross, she founded the first convent of the "Discalced Carmelites."
She died in 1582 and was canonized St. Teresa of Avila in 1622. Pope Paul VI proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church in 1970.
Despite not being an academic, she held the teachings of theologians, scholars and her spiritual advisers in great esteem, Pope Benedict recalled during the Feb. 2 audience. She penned several books, including "The Interior Castle," which examines the route to "perfection" as the ultimate goal for Christians.
Pope Benedict admitted that it is difficult to sum up her spirituality in few words, but said that, for her, Christian life was founded on the solid base of the evangelical and human virtues.
"She presents prayer as an intimate friendship with Christ leading to an ever greater union of love with the Blessed Trinity," he said.
Prayer was an ever important part of her spirituality. Through her books, he said, "she teaches readers of her works to pray, and she herself prays with them."
In addition to these things, her love for the Church was "unconditional," said the Pope.
"St. Teresa of Avila is an authentic teacher of Christian life for the faithful in all times," he added.
"In our society, often lacking in spiritual values, St. Teresa teaches us to be tireless witnesses of God, of His presence and His work. She teaches us to really feel this thirst for God that exists in the depth of our hearts, this desire to see God, to seek God, to be in conversation with Him and to be his friends."
Pope Benedict prayed that her example would "encourage us to dedicate adequate time to daily prayer, to openness to God in order to discover His friendship and so to discover true life."
"Time spent in prayer is not lost," he concluded. It is “a time in which we open the way to life, learning to love God and His Church ardently, and to show real charity towards our brothers.”
Vatican City, Feb 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper marked the annual Day of Consecrated Life Feb. 2 with an exclusive interview of Archbishop João Braz de Aviz, the new prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
He is still in transition from the Archdiocese of Brasilia, Brazil to his new post in the Vatican as successor of Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rode, who has retired.
Archbishop Braz de Aviz was appointed to the position Jan. 4, 2011, giving him the responsibility of more than one million consecrated religious men and women across the globe.
He has little experience with the broader range of religious communities but has been influenced by the spirituality of one particular community, Italy's Focolare Movement, since he was young.
He told the newspaper that he was introduced to Focolare’s "spirituality of unity" while studying in Assisi at the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions from 1958-1964. That encounter with Focolare, he added, saved his vocation.
"The Focolare Movement is my family since I was 17 years old," he said. "Through their spirituality, in all the dioceses I have been in .... I have always worked for the unity of charisms, communities and associations."
On a global level in the Church, Archbishop Braz de Aviz is optimistic that a communion-based approach can serve the wide range of religious realities today.
The Brazilian archbishop observed that following renewals of religious communities that bore "abundant fruits" after Vatican II, religious congregations around the world are struggling with a decrease in vocations, aging membership and different ideas from within on how to proceed.
Neither are religious communities immune to the individualism and relativism of today's world, he said, noting that it "decreases their vigor."
There is a need in religious communities "to penetrate deeper within the mystery of God, to be able to renew relations," he said.
In his experience, negativity within some institutions corresponds to a lack of contact with the theological and mystical qualities of the Trinity "as the source of communion."
While some religious might say "my maximum penance is the communal life," discovering that God is love and that man is created in his image could lead them to assert that their peers are "a constant opportunity to experience God, to experience love," he remarked.
A "criterion of communion," based in the mystery of the one and triune God is also necessary to resolve questions that derive from the autonomy and dependence of religious communities on dioceses.
"When autonomy and dependence become an experience of love, obedience and authority are balanced and a great interior joy arises," said the new prefect.
Communion is the key to combating the crisis of faith and the fall of vocations, not just in religious life, but across the board, he said.
"As the faithfulness of the baptized to their vocation as disciples increases and their testimony is given in communion with other charisms and realities of the Church," he said, "vitality will reappear."
Archbishop Braz de Aviz also spoke about the role consecrated men and women played in creating and developing the liberation theology movement. He said that movement had good intentions and noted that man's salvation depends on assisting the poor. Liberation theology, he explained, was the result of a "sincere and responsible look from the Church at the vast phenomenon of social exclusion."
He remembered a letter from John Paul II to the bishops of Brazil in which it was asserted that this theology of outreach the poor was "not only useful, but also necessary." However, he added, more theological work is needed to free up the the evangelization of the poor from an ideological approach tied to Marxist method.
Again, he suggested a methodology based on the Trinity to resolve the outstanding issues.
For him, it is a very personal matter. He remembered the period in which liberation theology was born as a time of "anguish" for him.
Throughout history, he concluded, as "pearls" and "'words' of the Gospel," religious communities have come up with spiritualities that have given the Church "important schools of theology."
"Fidelity to founders and profound communion with the Church," he said, "will be able to bring the consecrated life back to a brighter splendor in service of the Church itself and humanity."