Vatican City, Feb 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his 2011 message for Lent, Pope Benedict emphasized that Baptism releases men and women from the “burden” of materialism and self-centeredness and enables them to participate more deeply in the Church's reflection on the death and resurrection of Christ.
On Feb. 22, the Vatican released the Pope's 2011 Lenten message, which has the theme: “You were buried with Him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with Him.”
Those participating in the press conference on the message included Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” Msgrs. Giampietro Dal Toso and Segundo Tejado Munoz – secretary and under secretary of the same council, respectively – and Myriam Garcia Abrisqueta, president of the Spanish charity group "Manos unidas."
Pope Benedict highlighted the significance of Baptism during his remarks as a means of “immersing ourselves into the death and resurrection of Christ” during the upcoming Lenten season.
Through “the Sacrament of Baptism,” he said, “we are moved to free our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centered relationship with the 'world' that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbor.”
Rather than being a mere “rite from the past,” the Pope said, Baptism is a living “encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion.”
He also noted during his message that the traditional practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer during Lent are “an expression of our commitment to conversion,” and help teach “us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way.”
The pontiff then explained that fasting during the upcoming liturgical season “takes on a profoundly religious significance for the Christian.”
By “rendering our table poorer, we learn to overcome selfishness in order to live in the logic of gift and love; by bearing some form of deprivation – and not just what is in excess – we learn to look away from our 'ego', to discover Someone close to us and to recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters.”
“For Christians,” he said, “fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor.”
Pope Benedict also discussed the Lenten practice of almsgiving, which he said helps offset “the temptation of accumulating and love of money that undermine God's primacy in our lives.”
“The greed of possession,” he said, “leads to violence, exploitation and death; for this, the Church, especially during the Lenten period, reminds us to practice almsgiving – which is the capacity to share.”
The Pope noted that the “idolatry of goods” not only “causes us to drift away from others, but divests man, making him unhappy, deceiving him, deluding him without fulfilling its promises, since it puts materialistic goods in the place of God, the only source of life.”
He also emphasized the importance of Confession during Lent, calling the season a “favorable time to recognize our weakness and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance, and walk resolutely towards Christ.”
Pope Benedict concluded his Lenten message by saying that “through the personal encounter with our Redeemer and through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, the journey of conversion towards Easter leads us to rediscover our Baptism.”
“This Lent, let us renew our acceptance of the Grace that God bestowed upon us at that moment, so that it may illuminate and guide all of our actions.”
Davis, Calif., Feb 22, 2011 (CNA) - After protests from a student group, the University of California at Davis has withdrawn a school policy that implied Christians were the only perpetrators of “religious discrimination” in the U.S.
The university's Office of Campus Relations issued a “Principles of Community Glossary” that defined “religious/spiritual discrimination” as “(t)he loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the dominant culture’s religion. In the United States, this is institutionalized oppressions toward those who are not Christian.”
The Alliance Defense Fund – a Christian legal alliance – reported that affiliated attorney Timothy J. Swickard wrote the university on Feb. 16 on behalf of 25 students who found policy offensive. UC Davis responded the same day, stating that the student's concerns were noted and that the language was removed until further consideration.
In his letter to the school, Swickard argued that it was “patently clear” that UC Davis’s definition of religious discrimination was “blatantly unconstitutional” under both the Federal and California State Constitutions.
“The policy singles out certain faiths for official school protection from discrimination while denying the same protection to others solely on the basis of their particular religious views,” he wrote.
Citing research, Swickard called the policy “simply nonsensical” given the environment “on most University campuses where Christian students, if anything, are among the most likely to be subjected to discrimination because of their faith.”
CU Davis’ Associate Executive Vice-Chancellor Rahim Reed said that the webpage containing the glossary “has been taken down to permit further review of the terms used there and their continuing utility.”
Reed also said that because the religious discrimination definition “is not in keeping with the aspirations of the campus community or our Principles of Community,” if the glossary returns, “this definition will be appropriately revised.”
The associate vice-chancellor went on to say that the “Principles of Community are not University policy” but “an aspiration to each member of our campus to strive to build a true community of spirit and purpose based upon mutual respect and caring.”
Swickard released a statement on Feb. 17, praising the university’s “prompt and forthright response.”
“We greatly look forward to UC Davis’s newly stated community aspiration to protect all students – including Christian students – from unlawful discrimination on campus,” he said.
Green Bay, Wis., Feb 22, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay has announced the end of a moratorium on local collections for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development because of policy changes aimed at preventing grants to groups whose actions contradict Catholic teaching.
“I am confident that we have the necessary checks in place that will help us to be better informed and assist us in discerning grant requests properly,” Bishop Ricken said in his seven-page Feb. 16 pastoral statement.
The bishop noted “significant disagreement” about some of the campaign's grants. Though the campaign has done “much good,” a few organizations that received its funds acted in conflict with Catholic teaching or had direct connections to coalitions which acted in contradiction to Catholic principles of social justice.
There was also concern about the “appearance of partisan political positions” some of these organizations had taken and whether this reflected poorly upon the adherence of a parish or diocese to the U.S. bishops’ guidelines for political involvement.
Bishop Ricken had ordered a moratorium on the collection in his diocese pending further review by the U.S. bishops’ conference. Five of the campaign’s 270 grants made in 2010 were defunded once the U.S. Bishops’ Conference became aware of the grantees’ conflicts with Catholic teaching.
The new application process for grants will give “increased consideration” to Catholic social justice organizations. The applications will first be considered at the local diocesan level and will continue to require the local bishop’s permission before they advance to the national level of the bishops’ conference.
Addressing parish involvement with local non-Catholic social justice groups, Bishop Ricken also said parishes should cease their membership in the community organizing groups JOSHUA and ESTHER. ESTHER has worked for Latino rights while JOSHUA has worked to address homelessness and drug abuse.
Although he praised their “truly commendable” works, Bishop Ricken cited concerns about the “lack of oversight” of non-Catholic groups whose positions may be inconsistent with Catholic teaching.
Both groups are connected to a state-level organization called WISDOM and a national organization called the Gamaliel Foundation. ESTHER became the subject of local controversy when an announcement from a pro-abortion coalition appeared on its webpage. The local, state and national organizations immediately severed their connection to this coalition.
The bishop said he is not forbidding individual parishioners from being members of the organization and he is not barring parish groups from working with them on “specific projects consistent with Catholic Social Teaching.”
His action has prompted a review of all diocesan and parish relationships with other organizations. He advised the pursuit of project partnerships with other organizations rather than memberships.
Bishop Ricken’s letter also announced the creation of a commission to lead the diocese in the teaching and implementation of Catholic social teaching.
He stressed the “genuine need” to understand the social doctrine of the Church.
“The Catholic Church has one of the largest bodies of teaching on charity and social justice of any organization in the world,” the bishop explained. “Much of this teaching is largely unknown by many Catholics and the teaching is also often misunderstood or misconstrued and interpreted in a way that was not intended.”
Those who do acts of charity, he explained, need to consider how they can be part of the solution to injustice on a “systemic level.” Acts of justice which are not rooted in charity, he cautioned, can “easily become politicized and lose the connection to the Gospel mandate of charity.”
The new Commission on Living Justice will help the diocese and its individual parishes “live out the gospel message of justice and charity” as outlined in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Bishop Ricken hoped that the commission will be established by early fall 2011.
The Diocese of Green Bay’s next collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development will take place on April 2.
Tunis, Tunisia, Feb 22, 2011 (CNA) -
A Catholic bishop in Tunisia expressed fear of growing Islamic extremism in the area after a 34 year-old Polish missionary priest was found brutally killed on Feb. 18.
As local protests took place in the wake the murder, Archbishop Lahham Marun Elias of Tunis told Vatican Radio on Feb. 19 that he believes “an Islamic movement” directed against “all non-Muslims” is growing in influence within the country.
The body of Fr. Marek Marius Rybinski – a Polish Salesian missionary – was discovered last Friday in the parking lot of the local Salesian school, which is located in the Tunis suburb of Manouma. Although the Associated Press reported that his throat was slit, the Vatican-based Fides news agency stated that the priest was beheaded.
Over the weekend, hundreds participated in demonstrations including students from the school and their parents, who mourned the priest's untimely death and brought photographs, cards and flowers to the school in remembrance. On Feb. 18, Archbishop Lahham presided over a Mass in honor of Fr. Rybinski at the Cathedral of Tunis.
In an interview with Vatican Radio broadcast after the Mass, Archbishop Lahham recounted the incidents leading up to the murder. He reported that several weeks ago the local Salesian Fathers had received a threatening letter written in excellent French. The correspondence was addressed to “the Jews,” demanded money and threatened to kill everyone in the house if they failed to cooperate.
The archbishop said the letter was signed “with a Nazi swastika,” and explained “for the ordinary people” in the area, “if you are not a Muslim you are a Jew.” He recalled a recent demonstration in front of the local synagogue in which an Islamic group “told the Jews to leave because the army of Muhammad was on the way. ”
He went on to say that Fr. Rybinski, who served as a bursar for the community, departed from the mission house around noon on Feb. 17, leaving his car at the mission. The next day, “we found the computer in his room turned on. We therefore believe that someone called him with an excuse to get him to leave the house.”
“That person kidnapped Fr. Rybinski,” the archbishop said, “and then killed him the next day. His body was found in a warehouse at the school. The murderer, or murderers, are people who are familiar with the buildings, because the warehouse is hidden behind the school, and they also knew that Fr. Rybinski had the keys.”
“I saw his body at around 1:00 p.m. before the blood was coagulated, a fact confirmed by the coroner. So the murder took place a few hours before.”
Archbishop Lahham said that police have increased the number of guards in front of local churches in order to protect them. He added that the Tunisian government has assigned blame for the murder to a “group of extremist terrorists,” underscoring that until recently, Tunisia has traditionally been a country of peaceful co-existence between cultures and religions.
Denver, Colo., Feb 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Lila Rose, president of the pro-life activist group Live Action, has issued a new statement responding to ethical concerns from several top theologians and philosophers about her group's work.
Live Action's Catholic critics overwhelmingly agree with the group's goal of exposing and de-funding Planned Parenthood. What troubles them is the use of “sting” tactics, which employ false identities and statements – such as claiming to be a pimp or prostitute – in an attempt to show Planned Parenthood's willingness to cover up crimes.
Since Feb. 1, the group has been releasing a series of videos in which Live Action's actors claim to manage a ring of underage prostitutes. Planned Parenthood employees are shown agreeing to help them confidentially acquire abortions and other services.
On Feb. 18, Live Action President Lila Rose provided CNA with a statement responding to her critics, reproduced here in its entirety.
"Live Action is a small, pro-life grassroots organization, and one of our primary goals is to unmask the lies of the abortion industry and lobby,” she wrote. “We are not about deception; we are about the truth.”
“Some Catholic intellectuals,” she acknowledged, “have a problem with Live Action's practicing of established methods of investigative work.”
“We in no way mean to dismiss their opinions, but we are in profound disagreement with them.”
“At this time,” Rose concluded, “our team's energies and attentions must be focused on advancing the opportunities our investigative research has provided the Pro-Life movement. We invite you to join us 100 percent to work together with all our hearts to defend the lives of the millions at stake.”
Among the Catholic intellectuals who agree with Live Action's intentions, but not their tactics, is Professor Robert George of Princeton.
George, one of the drafters of the strongly pro-life Manhattan Declaration, called attention to the apparent conflict between Live Action's investigative practices, and the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church, in a Feb. 15 essay entitled “Life and Truth” on the Mirror of Justice blog.
Professor George acknowledged that the first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church appeared to justify lying to someone who did not have “the right to know the truth.” However, the passage in question was substantially revised under the direction of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in his preparation of the authoritative second edition.
“The firm teaching of the magisterium, reconfirmed in the Catechism,” Professor George recalled, “is that lying is intrinsically immoral, and is therefore impermissible even as a means of preventing grave injustices and other evils.”
Among the Catechism passages in question are paragraphs 2483 and 2485. The first teaches that “to lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error,” while the second upholds the judgment that “by its very nature, lying is to be condemned”
“I don't see how it is possible to avoid the conclusion that this teaching requires of Catholics the submission of intellect and will that is known as 'religious assent',” George stated.
“Catholics certainly, but non-Catholic pro-lifers, too, should reject lying even in the greatest of good causes,” he concluded. “We must not forfeit our standing in the debate as the tellers of truth.”
George's remarks agreed with the position of Professors Germain Grisez and William May, two U.S. moral theologians who helped Pope Benedict XVI revise the Catechism into its authoritative form prior to his election to the papacy. Both professors unequivocally told CNA on Feb. 11 that Live Action's undercover actors could not present overt falsehood as truth for the sake of a good end.
However, other highly regarded Catholic thinkers have expressed disagreement with this position.
Professor Janet Smith, who teaches moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Michigan, thinks that the question may not be as settled as Grisez and May believe.
“I think if tomorrow, the Vatican announced that it wanted theologians to debate thoroughly the question of the morality of telling falsehoods to evil doers who threatened the lives of the innocent, a large number of theologians who are now silent on the point would defend the practice,” she wrote in response to questions from CNA.
“Right now,” Smith explained, “those who wish to defend the practice hesitate to do so, because they fear appearing to question or reject Church teaching, and fear producing an atmosphere that leads to questioning or rejecting Church teaching.”
There may well be room, she indicated, for interpreting the condemnation of lying in a different manner than Grisez, May, and George. “The formulation of the first edition (of the Catechism),” she pointed out, “has not been officially repudiated, and I believe it is not necessarily incompatible with the formulation of the second.”
She indicated that the question needed to be discussed more openly. “In my discussion with theologians who practice religious assent to Church teaching,” she recalled, “I have found many – even high Churchmen – who believe it moral to tell falsehoods in some situations. They are not, however, willing to write or speak publicly on the matter.”
Dr. Christopher Kaczor, a Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, is a notable scholar of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas – who held, along with St. Augustine, that “every lie is a sin.” But Professor Kaczor, who has defended Live Action in the current controversy, pointed out that a lie was not necessarily easy to define.
“Although there are some Church Fathers who hold otherwise, I do believe it is wrong – intrinsically evil – to lie,” Professor Kaczor explained in response to questions. “But precisely what is being debated is, what constitutes a lie?”
He referred to Bl. John Henry Newman, who considered the question in his essay “Lying and Equivocation.” The piece pertains, in Kazcor's words, to the question of “how one is to understand what formally – not merely materially – constitutes lying.”
In the essay, Newman noted there were “different schools of opinion” in the history of the Church regarding “this difficult doctrine,” as to which intentional falsehoods constituted lies in the full sense.
“A given individual,” Cardinal Newman wrote, “cannot agree with all, and has a full right to follow which he will.”
According to Kaczor, Newman also held that “what the Catechism of the Council of Trent says about lying” – that Christians should “suffer any inconvenience, rather than utter a falsehood” – was “meant for general instruction of the faithful, and is not an authoritative adjudication among rival theological schools.”
Pertinently, the question answered in that catechism also had to do with the personal consequences of one's own truth-telling, rather than the more complex case in which others would be made to suffer. Like Professor Smith, Kaczor suggested that falsehoods in that instance might not formally constitute lies.
“About this matter, as far as I am aware, there is no authoritative Catholic teaching, but rather more or less probable points of view,” Kaczor said. Probability, in this sense, refers not to the statistical likelihood of an outcome, but – in the traditional language of moral theology – to the possibility of following different permitted opinions in regard to a disputed question.
Kaczor maintained that he follows Newman's analysis in considering the question of lying to be a disputed one in some cases. He also indicated that the Catechism itself, even in its second edition, was not meant to resolve this difficult question with perfect clarity.
“I believe that the Catechism's recent revision reflects a desire on the part of the revisers to have a more probable definition of lying expressed for general catechetical instruction, rather than a less probable definition,” he stated, referring to the degrees of certainty associated with varying opinions in moral theology.
Kaczor did, however, grant that there may be a more serious problem with telling the particular kind of falsehood that Live Action's actors told – namely, the kind that could involve pretending to be a willing participant in gravely immoral actions.
Although Live Action's purpose is to expose immorality, their actors directly presented themselves, if only strategically and temporarily, as committed pimps and sex traffickers.
“In normal circumstances,” Kaczor noted, “pretending that you believe something is right, which actually is wrong, may be morally impermissible.”
Lima, Peru, Feb 22, 2011 (CNA) - On Saturday, Feb. 19, hundreds of Peruvian Catholics gathered at the entrance to the Cathedral of Lima to pray a Rosary for Peace in response to a “Kiss-in Against Homophobia” organized by a small group of homosexuals and lesbians just a few yards away from the church.
This was the second time gay activists staged a “kiss-in,” after their first protest ended with police forcibly removing them from the steps of the cathedral on Feb. 12.
This time they came with the explicit blessing of Lima’s mayor, Susana Villaran, who has voiced her support for homosexual unions on numerous occasions.
Despite a heavy media campaign to promote the Feb. 19 “kiss-in,” only eight people showed up in Lima’s central square.
In response to the planned protest, some 200 Catholics showed up at 3:30 p.m. outside the cathedral and formed a human barrier for more than three hours. The group spent the time peacefully praying the Rosary and singing hymns.
Not surprisingly, a large contingent of reporters and cameramen showed up to cover the protest by three gay couples and a pair of lesbians.
Daniel Torres Cox, who came to pray the rosary, told ACI Prensa, “We are really here to protect our faith in some way.” He called the homosexual protest “an attack on what we believe in, and that’s why we are here, to simply protect that.”
Nancy Freundt of the Center for the Promotion of Natural Family Planning said that in Peru homosexuals are not persecuted, “but they do provoke and challenge us because they want to do away with every moral principle, and for them the Catholic Church represents everything they want to tear down.
“The Catholic Church isn’t a pile of bricks. The Church is all of us Catholics who live and profess our faith,” Freundt said.
The Catholics gathered outside the cathedral ended their prayers around 6:45 p.m., after successfully preventing the homosexual couples from approaching the cathedral. The group of Catholics promised they would gather again if the gay activists staged another protest.
The “Kiss-in Against Homophobia” was organized by gay activists to protest the widespread rejection of homosexual unions in Peru. A measure that would have allowed such unions was shelved by the Peruvian Congress on Feb.8 as unconstitutional. The country’s Constitution establishes that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
Recent polls show that 75 percent of Peruvians oppose homosexual “marriage.”