Washington D.C., May 21, 2011 (CNA) - U.S. bishops’ conference president Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has praised Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) attention to Catholic social teaching in the federal budget debate, but he emphasized the need for “special consideration” for the poor.
“In any transition that seeks to bring new proposals to current problems in order to build a better future, care must be taken that those currently in need not be left to suffer,” Archbishop Dolan said in a May 19 letter. While the bishops appreciate assurances that the budget will be attentive to these concerns, their duty as pastors will motivate their “close attention” to the reality of the House’s proposed budget.
Rep. Ryan had sent a four-page April 29 letter to Archbishop Dolan defending the proposal.
“Catholic Americans are blessed to have the social teaching of the Church as moral guidance as we consider legislative proposals such as the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget,” the congressman wrote. He said there was a moral obligation “implicit” in Catholic social teaching to address “difficult basic problems before they explode into social crisis.”
Ryan cited a passage from Pope John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical “Centisimus Annus” which criticized the “social assistance state” for leading to “an inordinate increase of public agencies” dominated by bureaucratic thinking and accompanied by an “enormous increase in spending” and “a loss of human energies.”
Ryan also cited the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,” claiming that the House budget was informed by the principle of subsidiarity. This principle holds that higher-level social associations should not do what lower-level associations can.
Archbishop Dolan, who is president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, responded in a May 18 letter saying he “deeply” appreciates Ryan’s assurances of his attention to Catholic social justice.
“As you allude to in your letter, the budget is not just about numbers. It reflects the very values of our nation,” Archbishop Dolan wrote.
The archbishop also cited “Centisimus Annus,” noting it stated that the poor have a claim to “special consideration” in defending the rights of individuals. He also noted that the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, the commitment to the common good of all, are “interrelated.”
The archbishop said that the Catholic faith, anchored in the Bible, Church tradition and the natural law, can help guide “solid American constitutional wisdom.” He commended the letter’s attention to the dignity of the human person, the poor and the vulnerable, and the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.
“The principles of Catholic social teaching contain truths that need to be applied,” the archbishop continued, noting the necessity of “prudential judgment” in applying these principles.
Archbishop Dolan wrote that he hoped the exchange of letters will be the beginning of an ongoing dialogue in service of the country and “the religious convictions that have always inspired sound citizenship and generous public service.”
Negotiations in Washington are underway to agree upon a budget in exchange for raising the national debt limit. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has demanded $2 trillion in budget cuts, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has said closing tax loopholes should also be considered. Reid’s suggestion aside, Democrats have yet to unveil their own federal budget proposal.
On May 19 Speaker Boehner said that he welcomed Archbishop Dolan’s letter and that he was encouraged by the dialogue between House Republicans and the bishops.
“Our nation’s current fiscal path is a threat to human dignity in America, offering empty promises to the most vulnerable among us and condemning our children to a future limited by debt,” he said.
Echoing Ryan’s letter, he said “Americans are blessed to have the teachings of the Church available to us as guidance as we confront our challenges together as a nation.”
Ryan’s letter to Archbishop Dolan said the House budget is a “path to prosperity” that outlines “overdue reforms” of the safety net programs for working and poor families. He said he wrote his letter to advance “informed debate” in light of Catholic social teaching.
The congressman said that the “explosive growth” of government debt, propelled by “uncontrolled spending,” threatens an economic crisis. He blamed both political parties for “reckless overspending” and warned that a crisis would hurt the weakest through rising costs, “drastic” cuts and the collapse of individual support for charities they rely on.
He said the House budget will reduce deficits by $4.4 trillion over the next decade compared to President Barack Obama’s proposal. Entitlement spending, he warned, will soon take up 100 percent of federal revenues and leave “literally no dollars for defense, education, infrastructure, or even administration.”
Rep. Ryan said it was incorrect for critics to say that the budget cuts taxes for the rich. In his view, it prevents tax increases on families and job creators.
He also touted specific provisions of the bill such as the consolidation of government job training programs and the protection of Medicare from insolvency. Under the budget proposal, he said, Medicare would not change for current or near retirees.
Vatican City, May 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Corrected May 23, 2011, 9:15 MST. Removes description in ninth paragraph that said Knight took the issue to the press.
Christian charity is not ordinary social work undertaken by religious people, the Pope's director of charitable activities told Caritas leaders on Saturday. Rather, it must “bear witness to God” at all times.
“Of course, charity must respond to the immediate needs of those who are suffering,” said Cardinal Robert Sarah, addressing Caritas Europa officials at a Vatican gathering on May 21. “But it cannot ignore the deepest cause of suffering of the human person, which is the very absence of God.”
“Hence, rather than first being oriented to society,” he noted, “the primary characteristic of such exercise is to bear witness to God.”
The cardinal drove home the point by quoting with what he described as a “striking” statement from Blessed Frederic Ozanam, a 19th century founder of the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul.
“Our fundamental purpose is not to go out and help the poor,” said Ozanam, whose organization is well-known for its service to the needy. “For us, this has only been a means. Our purpose is to maintain the Catholic faith within us, and to allow its diffusion to others through the instrument of charity.”
Cardinal Sarah, who heads the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, told Caritas Europa directors and vice-directors that the international Catholic charity had reached a “key moment” in its history, 60 years after it was established by Pius XII.
That Pope “wished to give a concrete and practical sign of the Church's concern for the countless situations crying out for assistance” after World War II. He organized Caritas Internationalis as a Church ministry, to “make present, through specific works of charity, the charity of God himself.”
Recently, however, Vatican officials have found the need to strengthen Caritas' Catholic identity and increase its focus on evangelization.
Disagreement over the new direction led the Vatican to seek a replacement for Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight earlier this year. The Holy See appreciated many of Knight's accomplishments, but said it needed someone else to give the international charitable organization a stronger "Catholic identity."
In his address, Cardinal Sarah described Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical “Deus Caritas Est,” on the subject of Christian love, as “the magna carta for our direction” in the coming years.
The cardinal's speech quoted extensively from the letter's reflections on what charity is, and is not, for Catholics.
“For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others,” the Pope wrote in a passage highlighted by Cardinal Sarah. In fact, charity is “inseparable” from the Church's other two fundamental tasks: “to proclaim the word of God” and “celebrate the sacraments.”
Cardinal Sarah called attention to several other papal statements to flesh out this vision of the Church's works of mercy.
The first, from a 2006 address to the World Conference on Charity, was a reminder by Pope Benedict that “in the charitable organization, God and Christ must not be strange words.” The true strength of Caritas, he said in that address, “depends on the strength of faith of all its members and collaborators.”
Cardinal Sarah said this “theocentric focus” was the reason for a series of spiritual exercises and days of reflection that the Pontifical Council Cor Unum had organized in recent years. “Caritas Europa is part of this,” he reminded its leaders, “and we count on your collaboration.”
The cardinal also invited directors of Caritas Europa to meditate on a concern he said was “surely at the heart of Benedict XVI's pontificate,” expressed during his May 2010 visit to Fatima, Portugal.
“In our time,” the Pope said on that occasion, “in which the faith in many places seems like a light in danger of being snuffed out forever, the highest priority is to make God visible in the world and to open to humanity a way to God.”
“And not to any 'god,' but to the God who had spoken on Sinai – the God whose face we recognize in the love borne to the very end in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.”
Cardinal Sarah explained that Caritas Europa should align its priorities with those of Pope Benedict, and see its activity as “the 'visiting card' that can open the door to Christ.”
“Charity is a divine gift,” he observed, “bestowed by the God who is love.”
The cardinal stated that the one who bears witness to this love “becomes an apostle.” Through the work of such apostles, “a seed of belief is sown even in the most skeptical.”
Denver, Colo., May 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - European and American experts say changing Malta's divorce ban would show weakness to radical Muslims, who could capitalize on the island's drift toward secularism to push for Islamic laws.
“Forced secularism is a gift to the radical Muslims,” said Stephen Schwartz, a U.S. author and researcher on the Islamic world. “They have the perspective that confusion and secularization is good among the Christians.”
“Everybody has reason to be worried about radical Islam, and this is an issue of radical Islam,” said Schwartz, founder of the Washington-based Center for Islamic Pluralism. “My opinion is: Malta should not change its divorce laws.”
Malta is the only European country that does not allow divorce. But this could change, depending on the outcome of a May 28 referendum in this tiny Mediterranean island nation of 408,000 people. Voters will decide the fate of proposed legislation that would permit divorce. If the referendum passes by popular vote, the legislation would then go before parliament for its approval.
Divorce supporters say Malta should “modernize” its marriage laws. Opponents warn that liberalized divorce would lead to the breakdown of marriage and the family in Malta, where 98 percent of the population is Catholic. They point to the poor state of marriage and the family throughout Europe as an indication of the likely consequences.
But Schwartz says de-Christianizing Malta's laws could have even more troubling effects – by giving Islamic extremists a foothold to agitate for the practice of Islamic law.
“The moderate would say, 'Let Malta be Malta – don't change the divorce law,'” he stated. On the other hand, “a radical would see as much confusion as possible among the non-Muslims as good for the Muslims.”
Schwartz, who belongs to the moderate Hanafi school of Islam, believes that preachers from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia may be planning to spread radical Islam in Malta — under the guise of helping Libyan and Tunisian refugees.
“If you had an influx of poor refugees from Tunisia and Libya (into Malta), the Pakistanis would be in there – swooping down like hawks,using ‘aid money’ as a pretext,” he warned.
Approximately 3000 refugees from Muslim North African counties have recently arrived on the island and received international protection, since political unrest began in the region earlier this year.Another 6000 Muslims were living in the country before the revolutions of the so-called “Arab Springtime.”
“Radical preaching of Islam is going to be a serious problem in Malta,” Schwartz stressed. “The refugee population will be vulnerable to radical preachers.”
Schwartz is not worried about the majority of Maltese Muslims, and he stressed that most European clerics are not dangerous radicals. Malta’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Association has not participated in the divorce campaign, and its members are taught to obey the law of their country.
But for a well-funded and organized Muslim minority, Malta's move toward secularism would appear in a different light.
“‘Oh, now that they've left Christianity, they're fair game for us’ – that's not the moderate position, but that is the radical position,”Schwartz explained.
Schwartz’s concerns are echoed by a leading European expert on culture and religion.
“The idea that Muslims in Malta may benefit from the divorce law is not among the main topics on the agenda,” said Massimo Introvigne, founder of the Center for Studies on New Religions in Turin, Italy. “Nonetheless, some portions of the Muslim community are quite quick in taking advantage of legal innovations which have nothing to do with Islam.”
Introvigne said radical Muslims have already taken advantage of liberalizing trends in other European countries to push for a recognition of Sharia law.
He pointed to a case several years ago in the European Court of Human Rights. Muslim organizations petitioned the court to recognize polygamy in the United Kingdom, arguing that laws against the practice violated their religious liberty.
At the time, the U.K. had not yet introduced its same-sex “civil partnerships,” and the Muslim organizations lost their case.
However, same-sex partnerships have since been legalized in the U.K., so the Muslims are once more pursuing their claim. As Introvigne summarizes it, their argument is based precisely on the breakdown of traditional definitions of marriage: “That time, we lost the case because it was said that in the U.K. there is traditionally only one form of marriage. But now that there are two, with the inclusion of same-sex marriage, why not three?”
A similar situation could follow for Malta, if it chooses to permit divorce, Introvigne said.
“Some Muslim organizations may eventually take advantage of this for recognizing the practice of ‘repudiating’ women, which prevails under Islamic law.” The practices involves automatic divorce, by a husband's decree.
“I'm personally very much against the referendum on divorce in Malta, and I feel very strongly in favor of those who resist it,” Introvigne said. “I see the merit of those who are afraid that recognizing divorce in Malta may open the way for Islamic divorce.”
Introvigne said that Europe has followed a pattern of first legalizing divorce, then abortion, then same-sex marriage. Eventually, countries have no grounds to object when radical Muslims push for the practice of Sharia law as a form of legal “diversity.” That idea has already met with approval in some places in the U.K. and Australia.
Although he stressed that not all Muslim immigrants to Europe are extremists, many do desire “the possibility for Muslims to live according to Sharia.”
Introvigne pointed out that one of the founders of modern radical Islam, Muslim Brotherhood founder Sayyid Qutb, had developed his vision of a global return to Islam's seventh-century roots by observing Western culture's loss of Christian morality.
“Qutb became a radical leader by being sent as an exchange student to the United States in the 1950s,” Introvigne said. He saw the state of Western culture as “evidence for Muslims, that they should move as far away as possible from ‘corrupted’ European civilization, and embrace Islamic radicalism.”
Divorce supporters who call for a more modern and “European” Malta should consider how contemporary European culture serves to radicalize Muslim immigrants, Introvigne said.
“Qutb already saw this ‘decadence’ in the America of the 1950s,” he pointed out. “It's much easier for radical Muslims to see this in the Europe of the 2010s.”
Anjem Choudary, an admirer of Osama Bin Laden who led the“Islam4UK” organization before it was banned, is among those Muslims who believes strict Islamic law is the answer to Europe's problems.
But Choudary, now Chief Judge at the “Sharia Court of the UK,” told CNA that he was not interested in half-measures such as the introduction of divorce. From his perspective, any government that fails to incorporate the whole of the Qur'an as the only law of the land is illegitimate.
“Even if, for example, (British Prime Minister) David Cameron decided tomorrow to cut the hands off of thieves, it would still not be Islamic law,” Choudary stated. “Because he wouldn't be doing it in response to the divine text.”
“We have no obedience to man-made law in the first place,”said Choudary, expressing a position that is gaining strength on Islam's radical fringe. “It all needs to be removed, and replaced by the Sharia.”
San Francisco, Calif., May 21, 2011 (CNA) - After nine years as vocations director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, it would be easy to bemoan obstructionist parents and a hostile culture that can make an already difficult job frustrating, but Bishop-elect Thomas Daly doesn’t want to go there.
Here’s his big picture: “My experience is that God calls what is needed at a given moment in time. That I see. And he works where people are.”
There’s more: Over those nine years, Bishop-elect Daly – he will be ordained auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of San Jose on May 25 – said he has seen prospects become more focused on being open to the call of the priesthood.
“That is the good news,” he said. “In the nine years I have been vocations director I have seen more guys of quality who are younger saying, ‘I am going to see if this call is authentic and I am going to enter the seminary.’ This has been great.”
Bishop-elect Daly, who is also president of Marin Catholic High School, is to be succeeded as vocations director by Father David Ghiorso, who continues as pastor of St. Charles Parish in San Carlos. He has largely attempted to help develop the vocations of young men of quality who are coming of age in the local church, although the roster also includes seminarians born outside the country but educated here and seminarians of the “young adult” category, embarking on a second career, although the growth area in priestly vocations in recent years is younger men from the suburbs.
Currently, there are 18 seminarians being trained at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. “God willing,” said Bishop-elect Daly, three potential seminarians in the process of applying at the seminary will be accepted, and that will create a pool of 21 men -- six of whom may be ordained in the spring of 2012.
These are relatively good numbers, said Bishop-elect Daly. The numbers move higher and lower from year to year, for a host of reasons, and it would be preferable to have a reliable ordination of four priests per year. With formation lasting seven years, that would produce 28 seminarians for the archdiocese.
“But, we have 21, and where we live, with the wealth and being a not exactly family- and vocation-friendly, to have 19 to 21 seminarians is a blessing. Are there enough? No. Should we be grateful? Yes.”
The median age for men being ordained in the U.S. is in the low- to mid-30s and has been for some 10 years, said Mary Gautier, senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, which produces an annual survey of ordinands. “They look for a role model, someone who they admire and say to themselves, ‘I could do that, too,’” said Gautier.
“If the only priest they have at their parish is 75 and he’s pastoring in three different parishes and has to run from here to there, he is probably not projecting a real healthy, happy, wholesome image of the priesthood,” she said. “It’s can’t look like much fun.”
Much of the 2011 report is predictable: Most of the members of the ordination class have been Catholics since infancy, while nearly one in 10 became Catholic later in life. Four in five say that both parents are Catholic, and a third of the members have relatives who are priests or religious.
Gautier noted that in the survey 23 percent in the 2011 class said the vocational advertising of websites influenced their discernment – compared with 14 percent in the 2008 survey. “I think that is indicative of the changing communications pattern,” she said of the Internet and social media. “It’s an emerging trend. You should not ignore it. You ignore it at your own peril.”
Based at a Catholic high school, Bishop-elect Daly understands the power of social media, as well as the mountain of distractions and “busyness” that young people create for themselves. “Is the first choice or the second choice God?” he asked. “That is the challenge we face today.”
He told the story of an excellent Catholic student who, when he asked him where he went to Mass on Easter, replied that he hadn’t gone – that he went to a San Francisco Giants game, with a 1 p.m. starting time. Bishop-elect Daly gave him an earful.
“That just shows you how, I think, insidious secularism can be,” he said.
There are, he said, other odds facing a vocations director:
-- “We live in a sexually charged society and it may be that the concept of chaste living is a harder sell than it was 50 years ago.”
-- “At one time I think the church strongly shaped the culture. Now, it’s the culture less influenced by the church that is still shaping individual lives.”
-- “Parents may see me or a vocations director interfering in their hopes and dreams for their children … Of our younger seminarians, at least half had to deal with lack of enthusiastic support by their parents. I like that. That is a tactful way of saying it.”
At the same time, Bishop-elect Daly has seen “a real, genuine passion for vocations by a group – not all – but by a group of our seminarians and that has been inspiring. We have a handful of seminarians who really want to go out and be disciples. They really want to talk about their calling and they want to encourage others to consider, to pray.”
Bishop-elect Daly’s job description for a vocations director also includes: “Pray for vocations. You can’t build a vocation culture unless you have a culture of prayer. Second, have seminarians assist you who have a passion for vocations. Third, don’t get in a numbers game (to inflate the rolls) because one crazy, weird seminary candidate will chase away five normal guys.”
At about the time Bishop-elect Daly took over vocations, he remembered when the seed was likely planted in him. He was an altar boy at Our Lady of the Visitacion Parish in San Francisco, looking for a way to escape the obligation. He asked his mother to tell the pastor the family would be on vacation all summer. That didn’t fly.
It happened the church was being painted and weekday Mass was moved to the small Daughters of Charity Convent chapel, where only one altar boy was needed. “For some reason I said yes, I would serve at the Masses,” said Bishop-elect Daly, “and from that point on the Mass took on something different.”
Printed with permission from Catholic San Francisco.
Providence, R.I., May 21, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Robert C. Evans will preside at the diaconate ordination of Francesco Francese and Christopher Murphy on Saturday, May 21.
Francesco Francese, son of Maria and Attilio Francese, was born in Westerly and attended elementary schools there before continuing his education at the University of Rhode Island. In 2007, he entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence and attended Providence College.
In 2008, Francese entered Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, to continue his theological studies. In 2009, he attended the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. While a seminarian his assignments included Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Bristol, St. Brendan, East Providence and the chaplaincy program at Kent Hospital in Warwick.
“I look forward to my diaconate ordination as a servant who rejoices to serve both his master and those whom his master loves in a deeper way. I desire to be called a friend of Christ by following his commandments and being able to serve him as a deacon in his church,” said Francese.
Francese has been assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Woonsocket where he will serve as deacon for the summer.
Christopher Murphy, son of Judy and Gerard Murphy, was born in Riverside and attended the former St. Brendan School and Our Lady of Fatima High School, Warren. In 2006, he entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence and attended Providence College.
In 2008, Murphy entered St. John’s Seminary to continue his theological studies. In 2009, he attended the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. While a seminarian his assignments included St. Margaret in East Providence, St. Philip, Greenville and the chaplaincy program at Kent Hospital in Warwick.
“Similar to the time leading up to my first day of seminary, I am filled with a renewed sense of gratitude. I am grateful for God's friendship. I am grateful for my vocation and for the graces that have supported me along this journey. I have always wanted to serve. Now, with God's help, I am prepared to lay down my life in service of Christ and his church,” said Murphy.?
Murphy has been assigned to St. Pius X Parish in Westerly where he will serve as deacon for the summer.
Printed with permission from Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.
Vatican City, May 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI’s planned satellite address to the crew of the International Space Station is a reminder of the humanity of astronauts and of the God-given curiosity that drives mankind to explore, Vatican astronomer Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., said.
“The astronauts are not just robots collecting data; they are people, people like us. And we human beings are motivated to study the universe, and to live and explore in new and exciting places, precisely because of our very human desire to know about and enjoy this creation,” Br. Consolmagno told CNA on May 20.
The Pope’s address reminds us of “the wonderful human side” of exploring astronomy and space, he added.
Pope Benedict will address the space station at 7:11 a.m. Eastern Time on May 21. He will particularly address the two Italian astronauts, Paolo Nespoli and Roberto Vittori. Vittori arrived at the station on the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour, which launched its final mission on May 16.
The event will be streamed live on the internet at the Vatican Radio-CTV website.
Br. Consolmagno said the broadcast had precedent in Pope Paul VI’s direct television linkup to the Apollo 11 astronauts who landed on the moon in 1969.
Though the Vatican astronomer was unsure whether the message was delivered directly to the astronauts, the Pope’s speech read:
“Honor, greetings, and blessings to you, conquerors of the Moon, pale lamp of our nights and our dreams! Bring to her, with your living presence, the voice of the Spirit, a hymn to God our Creator and our Father.
“We are close to you, with our good wishes and all our prayers. Together with the whole Catholic Church, Pope Paul the Sixth greets you.”
The Jesuit astronomer noted Pope Benedict has previously discussed his predecessor, Sylvester II, an astronomer and notable mathematician of the tenth century. Sylvester introduced much Arabic knowledge into the Christian world, including Arabic numerals, the abacus and the armillary sphere.
Br. Consolmagno explained that the desire to know and explore is at its base “a hunger for God.”
“Curiosity is a gift of God, and the ability to satisfy that curiosity with our ability to do science is a particularly human gift,” he said. “St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that from the beginning of time, God reveals Himself to us in the things he has created.
“Even a scientist who might think of himself as an atheist, is nonetheless driven by this desire, and is hungry to know the truth. They too worship Truth. Studying the universe, finding that Truth, is an act of worship.”
The shuttle Endeavor’s final mission will last 16 days. The shuttle brought an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and a pallet loaded with spare parts to the International Space Station. NASA says the spectrometer is “a cutting-edge physics experiment designed to look for anti-matter in the cosmos and perhaps unlock the mystery of what makes up most of the mass in the universe.”
Endeavour’s mission commander, Mark Kelley, is the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was severely wounded in an Arizona shooting in January.