Rome, Italy, Jun 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Raymond Burke spoke with CNA about the inspiration he draws from the life and work of St. Thomas More, the patron of lawyers, whose feast day falls on June 22.
“I’ve always found him a font of courage,” said Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome.
“Oftentimes as a Christian - and especially as a priest or bishop - one is tempted by pressures to conform to society’s expectations instead of modeling oneself on the expectations of Our Lord.”
“So St. Thomas More is really the example of how we need to - if we really want to do what is good and right - act according to Our Lord’s way and not simply in a way that’s pleasing to others.”
Sir Thomas More was a distinguished lawyer, philosopher and statesmen who served King Henry VIII of England as Lord Chancellor in the early 16th century. It was his opposition to the Henry’s attempt to sever England from the Catholic Church, however, that cost Sir Thomas his life. He was found guilty of treason and executed at London’s Tower Hill in 1532. In his final words he explained to those assembled how he died “the King’s good servant but God’s first.”
“To me this feast day is an occasion to return to the font of the law which in the divine law and to the example of St. Thomas More - to the integrity with which he served the administration of justice,” said Cardinal Burke whose job involves the administration of the Church’s internal system of justice.
“In those final words of his he so clearly explains how he serves his King best, and serves the law best, by serving God.”
“So that’s the mediation for me today - I pray for all those who have responsibility for the administration of justice, whether in the Church or in the state, that they will find in St. Thomas More an inspiration and an example for them.”
St. Thomas More was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935 along with his fellow English Reformation martyr, Cardinal John Fisher. St. Thomas’s life was famously re-enacted in the 1966 Oscar-winning film, ‘A Man for All Seasons.’
Cardinal Burke noted that the “primary lesson” for lawyers today is “to see the need for an absolute coherence between one’s own personal faith and life and one’s service of society as a minister of justice.”
“So that the law then shines forth in its fundamental importance for life in society by the way in which lawyers and judges serve the law.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Monsignor Robert Stern, a Church expert on the Middle East, is thoroughly “optimistic” about the possibility of a more democratic and pluralistic Middle East.
“I’m very optimistic that will emerge but, okay, God alone knows. I do feel that there’s great hope, though,” he tells CNA while on a visit to Rome.
For the past 22 years this Bronx-based priest has been head of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, making him one of the most well-informed people on the region.
In his view, the key to change in the Middle East is summed up in one word – Egypt.
“I think Egypt is critical because it’s the biggest country in the Middle East and has the biggest Christian presence. And I think the way Egypt goes will ultimately affect how everything goes in that region -- even the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”
Egypt is in a state of flux, following the popular uprising earlier this year which ended the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Now it faces the novelty of democratic elections later this year, with the possibility of Islamist groups doing well at the polls.
Despite that, Msgr. Stern says Christians should learn to trust the common sense of the ordinary Egyptian citizen.
“I don’t think the average Egyptian has animosity towards Christians.”
To make his point, Msgr. Stern recalls his recent stay with a typical Egyptian family in the city of Alexandria. The head of the household was a very devout Muslim, he recalled. But at the same time, “he was studying the New Testament, the teaching of Jesus. He is also very active with the local Christian parish as part of inter-religious activities.”
“That’s a piece of Egyptian life which is real, but you don’t hear about it - this living together in a fraternal way,” Msgr. Stern remarks.
“There are a lot of Muslim voices like that. It’s not all terrorists and extremists and fanatics. Maybe because I’ve had the privilege of encountering so many of them over the years in so many places I just have a greater confidence that ultimately the vast majority of very good people will speak up and not let the crazies run the show.”
In fact, Msgr. Stern says that the digital age of communications is making it increasingly difficult for such Middle Eastern “crazies” to incite a fear of Christianity and the West.
“I think what is happening now is that modern communications are joining these worlds and they’re beginning to intermesh.”
That dynamic, says Msgr. Stern, means that even radical Muslim groupings in Egypt now have to tone down their rhetoric, including the traditionally Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
“People change and evolve and the Muslim Brotherhood of the 1940s or the 60s or the 80s is not the Muslim Brotherhood of today.”
Interestingly, the Muslim Brotherhood’s newly recognized political party—the Freedom and Justice Party—recently selected a Christian to fill their second most important leadership slot, in a bid to appear more inclusive to the Egyptian electorate.
Msgr. Stern sums up his observation on the current turmoil in the Middle East with a metaphor.
“To plant a new crop you’ve got to plow – and plowing is very disruptive. It’s tearing apart what is left of last year’s harvest and totally disrupting the soil - but that’s how you plant new seed.”
“That’s the optimistic view. So in that sense, yes, this is an Arab springtime for both Christians and Muslims.”
Vatican City, Jun 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Book of Psalms can teach people how to pray and is the “prayer book ‘par excellence,’” Pope Benedict XVI said in his June 22 audience with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.
“These inspired songs teach us how to speak to God, expressing ourselves and the whole range of our human experience with words that God himself has given us.”
The book of psalms consists of 150 prayers traditionally ascribed to the authorship of King David.
The Pope explained that a whole range of human emotions are found in the Pslams, ranging from “joy and suffering” to the “fullness of life to fear of dying.”
“In these prayers, the Psalms are manifestations of the soul and faith, in which everyone can recognize and communicate the experience of a special closeness to God to which every man is called,” observed the Pope.
The Pope said it was significant that Jewish tradition refers to the Psalter as “Tehillim,” which means “praise” in Hebrew. This makes the Psalms “ultimately a book of praise.”
“Despite the diversity of their literary forms, the Psalms are generally marked by the two interconnected dimensions of humble petition and of praise addressed to a loving God who understands our human frailty,” he said.
But the Psalms are also quite different from the other books of the Old Testament, Pope Benedict noted. Instead of being narratives with a specific meaning or purpose, he explained, they “are given to the believer just as text for prayer.”
In fact, the Pope urged pilgrims to pray using the Psalms, suggesting that in “praying the Psalms we learn to pray. They are a school of prayer.” He explained himself by drawing an analogy with how children learn to express themselves.
A child initially “learns to express their feelings, emotions and needs with words that do not belong to him,” but instead “he learns innately from his parents and those who live around him.” Very quickly “the words become his words” and those feelings, emotions and needs of his are then duly expressed, said the Pope.
He concluded by suggesting that the Psalms ultimately point people towards Jesus.
“Many of the Psalms are attributed to David, the great King of Israel who, as the Lord’s Anointed, prefigured the Messiah. In Jesus Christ and in his paschal mystery the Psalms find their deepest meaning and prophetic fulfillment.”
“Christ himself prayed in their words. As we take up these inspired songs of praise, let us ask the Lord to teach us to pray, with him and in him, to our heavenly Father.”
This was the seventh Wednesday audience delivered by Pope Benedict on the topic of prayer. His previous theme – the lives of the saints – took two years to complete.
Rome, Italy, Jun 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Spanish bishop is reminding Catholic clergy that being actively engaged in politics is incompatible with priestly life.
The comments by Bishop Ingacio Munilla of San Sebastian follow the election of a priest to the city council in Gudina, Spain.
“The priesthood, as an aspect of parenthood, is the universal father of all,” Bishop Munilla told CNA while on a visit to Rome.
Fr. Antonio Fernandez Blanco was elected as a Spanish Socialist Party member in the Galician town of Gudina last month. After a suspension from priestly duties and a warning from his local bishop, Fr. Blanco offered his resignation as a local councilor.
“It’s specific to the laity to bring Christ into public life - political life as well. So it’s the domain of lay people to get involved in politics, but not for a priest, because he has to be a father to people with all political opinions and (this) may reduce the ability to be paternal.”
The internal law of the Catholic Church – which is called canon law – expressly forbids clerics from running for political office.
Canon law states: “They are not to play an active role in political parties or in directing trade unions unless, in the judgment of the competent ecclesiastical authority, this is required for the defense of the rights of the Church or to promote the common good.”
However, there have been some notable figures that have fallen foul of this law in recent times.
From 1979 to 1987, Fr. Ernesto Cardenal served as Culture Minister in Nicaragua’s leftist government. This led to him being publicly chastised by Pope John Paul II within the first minutes of a papal visit to the Latin American country in 1983. As Fr. Cardenal knelt before the pontiff on the runway at Managua Aiport, Pope John Paul repeatedly admonished him with the words “You must make good your dealings with the Church.”
Over the weekend, Fr. Blanco’s parishioners protested the suspension of their parish priest. Some even boycotted Mass, demanding his return. Once Fr. Blanco resigned his city post, their wish was granted.
Lima, Peru, Jun 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani was the most outspoken opponent of the forced sterilizations carried out in Peru and “was not silent” as alleged by Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, said the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Lima in Peru.
“One cannot claim that the Cardinal supported (the sterilizations) or that he remained silent, when on the contrary, as the editorials of that period demonstrate, he was the most vocal opponent of this policy, to the degree that leaders of the opposition adhered to his point of view,” said Natale Amprimo on June 20.
The government of Alberto Fujimori ordered the forced sterilizations of thousands of poor women between 1995 and 1997. The bishops of Peru, including now-Cardinal Cipriani, were unremitting in their condemnation of the policy.
Amprimo pointed to two specific editorials published on Feb. 20 and 21 of 1998 by La Republica—the same newspaper which attacked Cardinal Cipriani during this year’s presidential campaign--which both show that the former Archbishop of Ayacucho and current Archbishop of Lima was always against the policy and called for the removal of the Minister of Health, Costa Bauer.
For this reason, Amprimo criticized Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa who continues to allege the contrary “as if it were true, with impunity.”
“You cannot use lies to discredit someone who thinks differently than you, like Vargas Llosa is doing to discredit those who don’t think like he does,” he added.
Amprimo said that while a lawsuit could be filed against the author, Cardinal Cipriani does not wish to do so, “because he believes we need to set aside our triumphs and resentments.”
Denver, Colo., Jun 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver warned Catholic social workers against the danger of Church institutions losing their religious identity amidst increasing hostility from the government and society.
“The more that Catholic universities or hospitals mute their religious identity; the more that Catholic social ministries weaken their religious character ... the less useful to the Gospel they become,” he said.
Archbishop Chaput delivered a dual message to Catholic social workers this week, urging them to not let their Christian identity wane and also stressing that the government has no right to impede the work of Catholic institutions.
At a June 21 address to the Catholic Social Workers National Convention in Denver, he said that civil society consists “not just of autonomous individuals” but communities as well.
“Those communities also have rights. Catholic institutions are extensions of the Catholic community and Catholic belief,” he emphasized. “The state has no right to interfere with their legitimate work, even when it claims to act in the name of individuals unhappy with Catholic teaching.”
Archbishop Chaput's remarks were made against the backdrop of Catholic Charities in several dioceses across the U.S. shutting down adoption and foster care services after their local states enacted civil union laws.
Despite these setbacks, however, the Denver archbishop said that Catholic ministries “have the duty to faithfully embody Catholic beliefs on marriage, the family, social justice, sexuality, abortion and other important issues.”
“And if the state refuses to allow those Catholic ministries to be faithful in their services through legal or financial bullying,” he added, “then as a matter of integrity, they should end their services.”
“Catholic social ministry begins and ends with Jesus Christ,” he said. “If it doesn’t, it isn’t Catholic.”
“And if our social work isn’t deeply, confidently and explicitly Catholic in its identity, then we should stop using the word 'Catholic.' It’s that simple.”
Archbishop Chaput warned that “a new kind of America” is emerging in the 21st century, one that is likely to be “much less friendly to religious faith than anything in the nation’s past.”
The reason for this, he said, is that “America’s religious soul – its Christian subtext – has been weakening for decades.”
The archbishop observed that religious communities have historically had a great deal of power in shaping attitudes and behavior in the U.S.
“And that’s why, if you dislike religion or resent the Catholic Church, or just want to reshape American life into some new kind of experiment, you need to use the state to break the influence of the Church and her ministries.”
He said that in the years ahead, the nation's religious communities will encounter more attempts by civil authorities to interfere and will find less “unchallenged space” to carry out their work in the public square.
“It’s already happening with Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies, and even in the hiring practices of organizations like Catholic Charities,” the archbishop said.
He noted that this increasing hostility towards the Catholicism shows how “no one in Catholic social work can afford to be lukewarm about his faith.”
“Being faithful to Catholic teaching isn’t something optional for a Catholic social worker. It’s basic to his or her identity,” he said, adding that the faith “is much more than a list of dos and don’ts.”
Rather, Catholic teaching is part “of a much larger view of the human person, human dignity and our eternal destiny,” he said. “The content of this teaching comes from God through his son Jesus Christ. It’s defined by the universal Church and then preached, taught and applied by the local bishop.”
Archbishop Chaput concluded his remarks by saying he “painted a pretty stark picture of the America we may face in the next few decades.”
“But we shouldn’t lose heart, even for a minute,” he said.
“Our job is to let God change us, and then to help God, through our actions, to change the lives of others. That’s what we’ll be held accountable for, and it’s very much within our ability – if we remain faithful to who we are as believers.”
Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic University of America says its plan to house men and women separately will withstand any legal challenge from John Banzhaf, known for his lawsuits over fast food and women's bathrooms.
In a June 21 statement provided to CNA, the university said it “has not received service of any legal proceedings from Professor John Banzhaf regarding the University’s plan to phase in single-gender residence halls.”
Earlier this week, a Fox affiliate in the District reported that Prof. Banzhaf had issued the school an “intent-to-sue” notice because of the plan. The university, however, says it is still waiting to “review any legal documents if and when they are received.”
Banzhaf – whose own website notes that he has been called “the Ralph Nader of Junk Food” and the “Osama bin Laden of Torts,” as well as the “Father of Potty Parity” (for his lawsuits over restroom access) – said he would sue the university for violating the District of Columbia's Human Rights Act.
The George Washington University law professor claims to have won more than 100 legal actions under that law, which he argues “prohibits any discrimination based directly or indirectly upon sex unless it is strictly necessary for the entity to remain in business.”
Although the law in question does prohibit institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex, it does so for the stated purpose of ensuring that “every individual shall have an equal opportunity to participate fully … in places of public accommodation, resort or amusement, in educational institutions, in public service, and in housing and commercial space accommodations.”
The university said on Tuesday that it was “confident that the law does not require men and women be housed together in residence halls.”
University president John Garvey announced earlier this month that the college would be phasing out co-ed housing due to concerns about students' drinking and sexual behavior, as part of an effort to strengthen the school's Catholic identity.
Cairo, Egypt, Jun 22, 2011 (CNA) - Egypt’s burdensome regulations on church-building could be removed under new government proposals which one local bishop says would mark a “major step forward for the citizenship of Christians” and a vindication of the public protests begun on January 25.
“What we are seeing here is one of the first fruits of the demonstrations back in January. When the Christians demonstrated, they asked for their rights and the first right they demanded was the construction of churches,” said Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos Kamal William Samaan of Assiut.
“Everybody knows that this has been a big problem for the Christians. Many moderate people have recognized it,” Bishop William told Aid to the Church in Need.
He said more than half of the problems Christians face will be resolved if they make progress on this issue.
“If these proposals come into law, it could mean that building churches will be almost on the same level as constructing mosques,” the bishop added.
Egypt’s 10 million Christians face strict church construction rules which are frequently cited as one of the most serious forms of anti-Christian oppression. The laws presently require presidential permission to build churches, an approval process which causes delays of years or even decades.
If the proposed change takes place, the proposals would go before the regional governor for a decision within three months.
Bishop William said that he is “optimistic.” The Egyptian government already shows signs of easing the restrictions.
Permission for two churches in his diocese in Upper Egypt had come through before the January 25th revolution that drove President Hosni Mubarak from office. Applications for another three churches have been approved in the last few weeks. Only one application from the diocese is outstanding and a decision on that is expected soon.
However, the proposal to change the restrictions is controversial for some Muslim groups, including Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist political movement which was tightly controlled by President Mubarak’s government.
On May 7 extremists attacked three Coptic Orthodox churches in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba. Fifteen people died and more than 230 were injured.
This was the peak of their power, Bishop William said. Islamists are now losing support in the run-up to the parliamentary and presidential elections in the fall. A number of governors, including the governor of Assiut, are open to Christians and resistant to extremists’ demands to shift the nation towards an Islamic theocracy.
“Of course the Salafists continue to interfere but their campaign of slander cannot get the support of moderate Muslims who do not accept their complaints against Christians,” the bishop said.
Christians and Muslims are holding interfaith meetings to promote mutual respect and cooperation, he added.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 22, 2011 (CNA) - About 5,000 individuals involved in organized crime in Colombia have expressed a willingness to turn themselves in to police. They have asked for the assistance of the Church to do so.
“There are some 5,000 individuals, and this requires some logistics. The government needs to assure them that certain rights are going to be respected: where this will take place, who will take custody of them, where they will be going once they surrender,” Bishop Julio Cesar Vidal of Monteria, Colombia said.
Bishop Vidal noted that the persons in question are not interested in negotiations but rather that the Church finds a way for them to discuss surrendering.
According to EFE news agency, among the large group wanting to surrender to authorities are two of Colombia’s most wanted men who have been key leaders of the drug cartel, Javier Antonio Calle and Maximiliano Bonilla.
“Many of these individuals have told me they know that people won’t believe there are so many, but that their surrender would be great news and a surprise for the world, although they acknowledge that ‘this is not easy.’ They say, ‘We are at war but we are working toward our goal of surrendering’,” Bishop Vidal said.