Denver, Colo., May 20, 2011 (CNA) - The claim being circulated that May 21 will mark the end of the world and be a day of judgment by God has no basis in Scripture or authentic Christian teaching, according to Catholic scholar Dr. Jared Staudt.
The professor of theology at the Augustine Institute, located in Denver, said that Biblical teaching and Church tradition show “it's clear that it is not scriptural to seek for a date for the day of judgment.”
“It sometimes can be easy to ridicule groups like this for coming up with such calculations, but we should remember that this is a perennial problem,” Staudt told CNA.
“In the end, I think it is a problem of faith. We have a hard time simply trusting in the Lord and waiting for Him.”
Family Radio, a religious group out of Oakland, California that has been broadcasting for several decades, recently launched a nationwide campaign claiming that May 21 at 6:00 p.m. will signal the beginning of hell on earth for non-believers, and a day when Christians around the world will be “raptured” into heaven.
The group has worked around the clock in recent weeks to push their message, using radio and TV broadcasts, billboards, t-shirts, pamphlets and even bumper stickers. Their website received over 3 million visits in April.
Family Radio president Harold Camping, 89, has been hosting the live, call-in talk show “Open Forum” for 50 years.
During a May 15 show, he speculated that “people will be dying by the millions” in the terror-laden months that will follow Judgment Day, until the final destruction of the earth on October 21.
The group uses multiple verses from the Bible to calculate the end of the world, asserting in a booklet that the “great amount of Biblical signs and proofs absolutely guarantee Judgment Day is May 21, 2011.”
In an May 19 interview, however, Dr. Staudt explained that the group uses literal interpretations of several Bible verses taken out of context.
“Family Radio’s prediction of the day of the judgment is premised on the literal interpretation of 2 Peter 3:8, which states: 'with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,'” Staudt explained.
“Building upon this interpretation, Family Radio then applies it to the surrounding context in 2 Peter, the day of judgment in relation to the flood – 2 Peter 3:6.”
Staudt explained that the group also draws its warning from the passage in the book of Genesis where God warns Noah of the flood arriving in seven days. Since “one day is as a thousand years” God, Family Radio concluded that 7,000 years from the start of the flood, or May 21, 2011, will be Judgment Day.
However, Staudt emphasized, St. Peter also clearly says that “'the day of the Lord will come like a thief,' echoing our Lord’s own words.”
“Jesus said he would come as a thief in the night and also clearly stated that it did not pertain to His mission to announce the time of His Second Coming,” he clarified. “It is clear that Jesus did not want us to know the time of His coming, but rather to remain in watchful expectation.”
“He said that He would come soon – Rev 22:20 – but this is not meant to create fear in the disciples, but rather hope, knowing that Christ is the Lord of history and will triumph in the end.”
Additionally, the rapture “is not part of Catholic teaching,” Staudt said. “We do not separate the resurrection of the just and the reprobate, nor the final tribulation and the Lord’s coming.”
“We are to have a faith filled expectation of the Lord’s coming, but without trying to have control over it,” he said.
“We also have to remember that the Lord comes to us every day in the Eucharist and He also comes to us in our own death. Our lives should be centered on watchfulness so that we have open hearts to Him in prayer and in expectation of the future glory, which He promises us.”
Staudt noted that a primary factor in cult-like groups making misguided claims about the end of the wold comes “from a lack of union with the Church established by Christ.”
“When a group is on its own, it sits down with the Bible and tries to figure things out,” he noted. But these groups do not have the context that comes from hearing the Word of God proclaimed in the liturgy or “the authority of the Magisterium to interpret the Bible in unison with Tradition.”
Rather than respond with ridicule or dismissiveness, however, Staudt reiterated the importance of engaging such groups with charity and truth.
“Throughout the Catholic tradition, the response to a contrary position is always to find the good in what is presented and to seek dialogue,” he said. “In this particular case, one could certainly affirm and even praise the desire to proclaim the biblical message of the need for conversion and forgiveness.”
“However, one could also see the sensational presentation as a trivialization of this message. Regardless of that fact, it is still an opportunity to discuss the topic, which has been brought up in a very vocal way.”
Staudt said it's important to remember that “many people, if not most, have never heard a clear and well founded presentation of the Catholic faith.”
“People are drawn towards cults because they are looking for the truth and also for a sense of belonging,” he observed. “Cults provide simple clear cut answers and usually a well defined way of life. We know that this is simply a parody of what Christ intends and actually offers.”
“We need to use opportunities like the one presented by Family Radio to engage in conversation, to listen, and to gently, yet firmly, proclaim the truth of Christ with which we have been entrusted in His Church.”
Perth, Australia, May 20, 2011 (CNA) - The dismissed Bishop William Morris effectively promoted heresy and had to choose between following his way or the way of the Catholic Church, an editorial in the Perth archdiocesan newspaper said.
The Vatican’s removal of the Bishop of Toowoomba involves “fundamental” questions about the nature of the Church and Church authority, the Archdiocese of Perth’s official newspaper The Record said in a May 18 editorial titled “a Bishop that had to go.”
“One mentality is informed by two millennia of constant belief and practice, often heroically witnessed to by martyrdom, the other by the mass media and the fashionable theories that abound in our culture,” the paper said. “On the side of the essential unity of Church belief and teaching from Christ up until the present is Pope Benedict; on the side of changing Church teaching and practice to suit some values of majority opinion, sadly, was Bishop Morris.”
On May 2 the Vatican confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI removed the bishop from the pastoral care of his diocese. Australia’s bishops backed the decision, citing “problems of doctrine and discipline.”
Bishop Morris drew attention for his actions contrary to Church teaching and practice. He had called for Protestant ministers to celebrate Mass and for the ordination of women. Lay Catholics co-celebrated Communion services with priests and the bishop’s diocese also had widespread use of “general absolution” rites as an alternative to personal confession.
“The problem for Bishop Morris, in the end, was that given the two positions he had to make a choice - his way or the Catholic Church way. The problem for the Church was how to handle a Bishop well down the road in effectively promoting what might now reasonably be called heresy in his diocese,” The Record said.
Critical to the disagreement was whether one understood the Church as continuous or discontinuous with the Church before the Second Vatican Council, the editorial continued.
The first outlook sees Church history as “an organic and constantly developing unity,” accepting that some doctrines cannot change. These unchangeable things are like constellations by which the ordinary Catholic can safely navigate.
The second outlook regards much of the pre-Vatican II Church as “somehow deficient.” It seeks to obscure, change or reverse Church teaching, including dogmatic definitions.
“It usually seeks to do so in accord with moral relativism and the values predominantly to be found in popular culture,” The Record said.
Bishop Morris was treated with “the utmost delicacy, discretion and respect” and given over 10 years to resolve issues about his governance of the diocese.
“At the end of the day, however, the issue under debate was the simple fact that in the Catholic Church every Bishop, a successor to the apostles, is obliged by sacred oath to teach what the Catholic Church teaches – period,” said the newspaper.
The Record noted that ordinary Catholics face an “unprecedented onslaught against their faith.” They do not need “bishops who will obscure the way” and are “sadly, better off without them.”
Bishop Brian Finnigan, an auxiliary bishop of Brisbane, has been appointed interim apostolic administrator of Toowoomba until a replacement is appointed.
Vatican City, May 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Many believe that slavery is an ancient problem that was banished in the 19th century. Not so, according to the Vatican and leading international officials.
“Estimates of the problem of modern slavery today run as high as 27 million people,” Luis CdeBaca, a special advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama told a Vatican conference May 18.
“In some parts of the world you’re talking about as much as 1 in 350 who are suffering due to debt bondage, involuntary servitude or forced prostitution. … Unfortunately, we’ve yet to find a country it does not touch,” he added.
The event at the Vatican’s Palazzo della Cancelleria drew religious leaders, law makers and academics to discuss the problem of “modern slavery.” It was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and Miami’s St. Thomas School of Law.
Monsignor Franklyn Casale, president of St. Thomas, said that Catholicism’s global network of female religious is proving crucial in the fight against modern-day slavery.
“They have been working with victims of human trafficking for a long, long time and they’re the ones that have been at the forefront of pushing others and getting something done legislatively in the corporate world and introducing it into the academic area as well,” he said.
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told the conference about U.S. anti-trafficking laws, which he said are rooted in Christian principles.
“We are our own brothers and sisters keepers and nationality really shouldn’t get in the way of living up to Matthew 25 and protecting ‘the least of our brethren,’” he said.
Rep. Smith’s “Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Law” first became U.S. law in 2000. It’s been renewed three times since. Amongst other things, it ranks countries according to their human rights record on trafficking and can impose non-humanitarian sanctions against offenders. Congressman Smith says it’s now time to get tough with one of the biggest offenders – China.
“China is trafficking like never before,” he said. “It’s a direct consequence of their one-child-per-couple policy and its reliance on forced abortion and sex-selection abortion. China is missing over 100 million girls who have been systemically eliminated in pursuit of this one-child-per-couple policy.”
Smith said that human traffickers are thriving on the resulting imbalance between men and women.
“So in come the traffickers, the bride-sellers and they’re bringing in women from Asian countries and they’re reaching out even further to bring these women into China. It will only get worse.”
Despite the significant obstacles, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca says the battle against modern-day slavery can and will be won.
“Frankly if you go back 150 to 200 years, if (English abolitionist) William Wilberforce had given up hope or if Abraham Lincoln had given up hope, slavery would still be legal and a third of the world would still enslaved. They didn’t give up hope and we can’t either.”
Lima, Peru, May 20, 2011 (CNA) - Dr. Jorge Cordero from Peru's Natural Family Planning Center is encouraging Peruvians to participate in a pro-life march on May 21.
The doctor told CNA that Peruvian citizens must raise their voices against “the diverse attacks on life that have been attempted, such as the legalization of abortion.”
He warned that some minority groups are trying to get abortion approved for health reasons. “They are trying to spread abortion everywhere,” he added.
Asked about the pro-life issue in Peru’s upcoming presidential runoff election, Dr. Cordero said the defense of human life “is reaching climax and the threats against life are many.
“Therefore,” he continued, “the importance of this march is that we not be indifferent, but that we part of the solution and strongly and clearly say to all the people who are going to be listening that we are defending life.”
He also noted that “Catholics cannot vote for someone who openly supports abortion.”
Dr. Cordero said this year there seems to be more awareness among Peruvians about life issues. “This time it has been the participants of last year’s march who have been e-mailing, calling friends and taking to the streets” to invite people to attend.
“Everyone is invited to take part in the march,” he concluded.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes, a Brazilian religious sister who devoted her life to the sick and the poor, will be beatified May 22 in San Salvador de Bahia in northeastern Brazil.
If a new miracle is recognized after her beatification, Sr. Dulce could become the first female Brazilian-born saint.
Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, Archbishop Emeritus of San Salvador de Bahia, will preside over the Mass. Officials expect 70,000 people to attend, including numerous civil and religious leaders.
Maria Rita Lopes Pontes was born May 26, 1914 and in San Salvador de Bahia and later joined the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God.
Sr. Dulce devoted her life to the needy, founding hospitals and a social support network she managed until her death on March 13, 1992, at the age of 77. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988 for her charitable works. Then in October 1991 she was visited on her deathbed by John Paul II during his second visit to Brazil.
Her network of hospitals and clinics for the poor in Bahia continue to serve more than five million people each year.
The beatification process of Sr. Dulce began in 1999. Four years later, 10 Brazilian and three Italian doctors certified a “case of extraordinary healing” that was unanimously recognized by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
The miracle occurred in January of 2001 when Claudia Santos de Araujo, a Brazilian woman devoted to Sr. Dulce, suffered severe hemorrhaging after childbirth and fell into a coma. Doctors gave her only hours to live.
A priest friend who knew of Claudia's devotion to Sr. Dulce prayed to her for the woman's health. In a matter of hours, Claudia was completely cured.
Doctors could find no explanation for her recovery, and two days later she was released from the hospital with her baby.
Sr. Dulce was declared venerable by the Vatican in 2009 and last year, when her remains were exhumed and transferred to the Cathedral of San Salvador, she was found to be incorrupt.
One theologian who reviewed her case said, “Her charity was tender and motherly. Her devotion to the poor had a supernatural origin and she was given the strength and means from on high to put into practice an amazing apostolate of service to the poor.”
St. Antonio de Santa Anna Galvao (1739-1822), who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the country in May of 2007, is currently Brazil’s only native saint.
Triangle, Va., May 20, 2011 (CNA) - Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno, a chaplain who was killed in action while protecting U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War, was honored with a permanent tribute at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
“The Marines who served with Chaplain Capodanno remember him as the Chaplain who went wherever his Marines needed his comfort and guidance, no matter the personal danger,” said Lt. Gen. Ron Christmas, president of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
“From the foxholes to the front lines, Chaplain Capodanno was there.”
The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation dedicated the “Sacrifice Window” in the Semper Fidelis Memorial Chapel at the National Museum of the Marine Corps on May 11 to honor the late priest. Each window in the chapel is titled with a word that describes the ethos of the Marine Corps.
The private ceremony in Triangle, Virginia remembered Chaplain Capodanno for his support of Marines in combat and his recognition as the only chaplain to receive the Medal of Honor for service in the corps.
Foundation members said they established the permanent tribute in Chaplain Capodanno's name in “recognition of his dedicated service to Marines and the ultimate sacrifice he made in Vietnam, in an effort to save a Marine's life.”
Fr. Capodanno was born on Staten Island in New York City to Italian immigrant parents. In 1957 he was ordained a Catholic priest by Cardinal Francis Spellman, then vicar of the U.S. Military Ordinariate.
He entered the Maryknoll religious order and served as a missionary in Taiwan and Hong Kong from 1958 to 1965. Having successfully petitioned his Maryknoll superiors to release him to serve as a U.S. Navy chaplain, he arrived in Vietnam during Holy Week of 1966.
Holding the rank of Lieutenant, Fr. Capodanno participated in seven combat operations. He became known for putting the well-being of Marines above his personal safety, moving among those wounded and dying on the battlefield in order to provide medical aid, comfort, and Last Rites.
During Operation Swift on September 4, 1967, Fr. Capodanno was injured by an exploding mortar round which caused multiple injuries on his arms and legs and severed part of his right hand.
Fred Smith, head of FedEx Corporation, who served with Fr. Capodanno, recalled during the May 11 ceremony how the chaplain nearly lost his hand to shrapnel as he tended to the wounded, but refused care so that medical supplies could go to his injured Marines.
The priest directed Marines to help the wounded and continued to move about the battlefield, encouraging them with his words and example.
As he sought to administer aid to one particular marine, he placed his own body between the wounded man and an enemy machine gunner and was killed.
In 2006, the Catholic Church declared Fr. Capodanno a Servant of God, which is the first step towards being officially recognized as a saint.