Rome, Italy, Jul 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Although the new head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is optimistic about reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, he says that the teachings of the Church – including the dogmatic content of the Second Vatican Council – will never be up for re-negotiation.
“The purpose of dialogue is to overcome difficulties in the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council,” Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller told CNA July 20, “but we cannot negotiate on revealed faith, that is impossible. An Ecumenical Council, according to the Catholic faith, is always the supreme teaching authority of the Church.”
As prefect of the Congregation, Archbishop Muller is also the President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” the Vatican body responsible for dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X.
The commission is currently awaiting an official reply from the society to an offer of reconciliation that would give the traditionalist group Personal Prelature status within the Church. In return the society would have to accept a “Doctrinal Preamble” proposed to it by the Congregation, including full adherence to the dogmatic content of the Second Vatican Council.
In a July 19 statement, the society said it had “determined and approved the necessary conditions for an eventual canonical normalization” at its recent General Chapter, but added that it still rejected “all the novelties of the Second Vatican Council which remain tainted with errors” as well as “the reforms issued from it.”
“The assertion that the authentic teachings of Vatican II formally contradict the tradition of the Church is false,” Archbishop Muller stated.
He added, however, that between various texts of the council there are “gradations” of teaching authority. By way of an example, Archbishop Muller drew a comparison between the council’s document on social communications, “Inter Mirifica,” which carries “less weight” than “dogmatic declarations” like the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Lumen Gentium.”
“Whatever is dogmatic can never be negotiated,” he said, while still expressing hope that the members of the Society of Pius X “can overcome their difficulties, their ideological restrictions so that we can work together to proclaim Christ as the Light of the World.”
Although the 64-year-old German is new to his current post at the Vatican, Archbishop Muller has had extensive dealings with the Society of St. Pius X in the past. As Archbishop of Regensburg in the Bavaria region of Germany for the past decade, his diocesan territory included a seminary operated by the traditionalists group.
A key problem for Rome in recent discussions seems to be the perception that the Society of St. Pius X often speaks about errors in the conciliar texts themselves.
Instead, the Vatican believes a distinction should be made between what the Second Vatican Council actually said and the sometimes problematic interpretations and applications of its teaching.
“We can all come together and avoid ideological positions if we accept the Word of God present in the doctrine of the Catholic Church,” he said.
The Vatican’s willingness to continue dialogue was indicated last month with the deployment of a high-ranking American archbishop to the commission responsible for the discussions.
On June 26, Pope Benedict switched Rome-based Archbishop Augustine Di Noia from his post as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship to vice president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei.”
Archbishop Muller, who took up office in Rome earlier this month, said he is fully committed to working for the reconciliation of all separated Christians.
“Our aim and our task is clear – to promote the unity of all the disciples of Christ in the one Church under the leadership of Jesus Christ and in communion with his vicar, the successor of St. Peter.”
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Jul 24, 2012 (CNA) -
The president of the Bishops' Conference of Cuba, Archbishop Dionisio Garcia of Santiago, has mourned the sudden death of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement.
“This was really a great loss for us because he was someone very committed, a faithful Christian. He was also someone very committed to his ideals, and this is very sad,” Archbishop Garcia said during an interview on EWTN Radio’s Spanish language program “Mas que noticias” on Monday.
Oswaldo Paya, a leading voice of the dissidence in Cuba, died July 22 in an alleged traffic accident in the eastern part of the country. Members of the Christian Liberation Movement are questioning the government’s account of the accident, as Paya was constantly the target of death threats and harassment by the Castro regime.
In his remarks, Archbishop Garcia said he always knew Paya to be “a Catholic very committed to his parish at El Cerro. Later I was with him at the National Cuban Ecclesial Encounter. He was always a very committed person, him and his family, his father and his brother.”
The archbishop said that when he learned of Paya’s death, he called his family, “and this morning I offered Mass for him. I pray God will bring good to our country and fulfill the desires that he had to seek the wellbeing of all Cubans.”
Phoenix, Ariz., Jul 24, 2012 (CNA) - Despite its collaboration with a Catholic university, St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix remains a non-Catholic institution due to dissent on abortion and medical ethics, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said July 23.
“Catholics, and all people of good will, are advised that they cannot be guaranteed authentic Catholic health care at St. Joseph's Hospital,” the Bishop of Phoenix said in the statement, clarifying the hospital's status in response to its partnership with Nebraska's Creighton University.
Regardless of that collaboration, “St. Joseph's Hospital is not a Catholic institution” and “does not faithfully adhere to the (U.S. bishops') Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” Bishop Olmsted said in the announcement, meant to “ensure clarity” among the faithful.
Creighton, a Jesuit university, partnered with St. Joseph's to establish the “Creighton University School of Medicine Regional Campus at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.” The joint venture was announced in June 2009 and had its official opening in June 2012.
In November 2010, Bishop Olmsted formally stripped St. Joseph's Hospital of its Catholic status after a dispute that emerged over an abortion performed there 12 months earlier. Sister Margaret McBride, a hospital employee who approved the abortion, was declared excommunicated over the incident.
In discussions with Bishop Olmsted, hospital representatives defended the abortion as necessary to save the life of the mother, who suffered from hypertension. Advisers to the diocese said the “treatment” given was a direct abortion, which violated ethical directives and was not a treatment for hypertension.
St. Joseph's Hospital stated in December 2011 that Sister McBride had regularized her standing in the Church and was no longer excommunicated.
However, the hospital itself remains subject to Bishop Olmsted's December 2010 decision to withdraw its approval as a Church institution.
In the months leading up to that decision, Bishop Olmsted called attention to other ethical violations on the part of St. Joseph's and its parent company Catholic Healthcare West. The hospital was accused of “formally cooperating” with a government program providing abortion, contraception, and sterilization.
Unable to reach an agreement over ethical matters, the bishop declared that the hospital was no longer Catholic. The loss of status involved the removal of the Eucharist from the hospital, and the withdrawal of permission for priests to celebrate Mass in the hospital's chapels.
In Monday's statement, Bishop Olmsted said the collaboration with Creighton University has “led to some confusion since Creighton University is a Catholic institution.”
Bishop Olmsted does not have jurisdiction over the university or authority over its partnerships. But St. Joseph's Hospital, he stressed, remains disaffiliated from the diocese and the Church.
Washington D.C., Jul 24, 2012 (CNA) -
The Boy Scouts of America has drawn praise for upholding a policy of prohibiting openly homosexual leaders and members, in order to align with its founding principles and respect the role of parents in educating their own children.
“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive.
On July 17, the Boy Scouts announced that it would continue its long-standing policy of banning “open or avowed homosexuals” in order to support the group’s values, avoid distractions from its mission and respect parental rights.
The decision came after a two-year evaluation of the policy, which determined that upholding the current membership rule would allow the Boy Scouts “to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth.”
The group explained in a statement that it “does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members.”
However, it added, “we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission” of the organization.
The statement has drawn criticism from gay advocacy groups who claim that the Boy Scouts are discriminating.
However, family rights groups have been quick to applaud the move, arguing that the organization should not be forced to adopt the views of others.
Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of the Family Research Council said that he was “grateful” for the announcement.
Rather than a discriminatory move, the organization is simply “upholding the moral standards on which it was founded,” he explained.
The group’s moral foundation can be observed in the Boy Scouts’ promise to do their duty “to God” and in the fact that nearly 70 percent of Scout troops are chartered by religious institutions, he said.
Author and speaker Rebecca Hagelin, whose work deals with the role of parents and families in society, said that the Boy Scouts’ decision reflects “timeless moral values” and a “common-sense view” on parenting.
In a July 22 opinion article in the Washington Times, Hagelin explained that the policy allows parents “to address the subject of homosexuality with their own children, from their own perspective, on their own time, and in the context of their own religious beliefs and family values.”
She noted that the Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts’ policy on homosexuality in 2000, ruling that the group could not be forced to grant membership to individuals whose conduct and views directly violate its principles.
Requiring the organization to change its policy would only lead to more “in-your-face promotion of homosexual conduct to our children,” Hagelin said.
She warned that trying to force the Boy Scouts to accept members who violate its principles is an attempt by gay advocacy groups to impose their values on the Boy Scouts organization.
“And they are not entitled to use private platforms – including the Boy Scouts – to promote or rationalize away their behavior,” she said.
Vatican City, Jul 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican is urging people to respect creation when they take their summer vacation, which will allow them to more easily encounter God.
“We invite everyone to promote and use tourism in a respectful and responsible way in order to allow it to develop all of its potentialities, with the certainty that in contemplating the beauty of nature and peoples we can arrive at the encounter with God,” said the July 24 letter marking the 2012 World Tourism Day.
The letter was written by Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. This year’s World Tourism Day, which is organized by the World Tourism Organization, takes place on September 27 under the theme of “Tourism and Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development.”
Cardinal Vegliò said the Vatican had a duty to speak out on the issue because the Church “has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere.”
He cautioned, however, that it is not the job of the Church to “propose concrete technical solutions.” Instead, the Church has to make sure that the issue is not “reduced to mere technical, political or economic parameters” but is accompanied by “some appropriate ethical guidelines” which stress “that all growth must always be at the service of the human being and the common good.”
Even during the recent financial downturn, the global tourist industry has continued to expand. According to the World Tourism Organization statistics, the number of tourists will double between now by the year 2030.
In April of this year Pope Benedict XVI told the council’s annual congress, convened in the Mexican resort of Cancun, that they should use the social teaching of the Church to “promote a culture of ethical and responsible tourism, in such a way that it will respect the dignity of persons and of peoples, be open to all, be just, sustainable and ecological.”
Cardinal Vegliò echoed this point in his letter by adding that “we cannot separate our view of man and nature from the bond which unites them with the Creator,” since “God has entrusted the good stewardship of creation” to human beings.
He is now calling for a “great educational effort” to promote ethical tourism so that people remain sensitive to environmental concerns, even when they go on holiday.
“This conversion of the mind and heart allows us rapidly to become more proficient in the art of living together that respects the alliance between man and nature.”
Lima, Peru, Jul 24, 2012 (CNA) -
The Vatican has urged the bishops of Peru to not be manipulated by administrators of the former Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, in wake of the Holy See's decision to strip the school of its “Pontifical” and “Catholic” titles.
In a letter sent to the president of the Peruvian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Salvador Pineiro, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone asked that the bishops not allow the conference “to be used as an instrument by the rector’s office of the university.”
The Vatican removed the school's Catholic credentials on July 21 after months of discussions between both sides, which began after a 2011 Vatican inspection of the university carried out by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest. He traveled to Peru, where he found the Lima-based institution at odds with the Catholic Church in several significant areas of policy.
In a letter published July 22 in local newspaper El Comercio, Cardinal Bertone encouraged Archbishop Pineiro to support the Holy See’s position and the Archdiocese of Lima, and to firmly reject “any contrary intervention.”
He also said it was inappropriate that five members of the Bishops' Conference, who were unelected to do so by the Plenary Assembly of the Bishops of Peru, “participate in an organization established by statutes that have not been legitimately approved.”
Cardinal Bertone’s request came after the bishops in question issued a statement on April 17 calling for a “comprehensive solution” to the dispute and setting as a condition that the Archdiocese of Lima drop its lawsuit over the intentions of Jose Riva-Aguero, who donated land to the university in his will.
Riva Aguero stipulated that the university could use the land as long as a representative of the Church was allowed a permanent seat on its governing board.
“That statement has contributed to the misinformation, and therefore it would be appropriate for the conference to repair the misinformation,” Cardinal Bertone said in his letter.
The Vatican Secretary of State also expressed “bewilderment” over a number of initiatives promoted by the former Catholic university.
These included the school's recognitions of Gregorio Peces-Barba, an anti-Catholic Spanish ideologue and one of the authors of the controversial school course Education for the Citizenry in Spain, and Father Gaston Garatea, who was suspended from priestly ministry by the Archdiocese of Lima for holding positions contrary to Catholic teaching.
Cardinal Bertone also referred to the university’s Theology Department and its required reading of the book, “Liberation Theology: Perspectives,” by Liberation Theology proponent Father Gustavo Gutierrez.
Denver, Colo., Jul 24, 2012 (CNA) - A strong faith in God can play an important role for law enforcement officers struggling to deal with the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., said a chaplain who has experience ministering to those involved in tragic killings.
“There is a kind of spiritual journey that takes place,” said Gino Geraci, who serves as a chaplain for the Denver division of the FBI.
A Christian pastor, Geraci has had significant experience dealing with law enforcement officers and experiences of tragedy and trauma. He was a first responder in the 1999 Columbine high school shooting and to the recent movie theater shootings that left 12 dead and 58 injured.
Geraci spoke with CNA on July 20, shortly after returning from the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colo., where one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history took place.
Earlier that morning, during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” a gunman entered the theater, where he opened fire on a crowd of moviegoers.
Law enforcement officers subsequently arrested the suspect and worked to disarm his nearby apartment, which he had extensively “booby-trapped” before leaving.
In the coming days and weeks, Geraci will be offering prayer, encouragement, counseling and support to FBI officers who were involved in handling the shooting and its aftermath.
While officers “are trained to deal with tragedy and trauma,” the gravity of a situation like the recent rampage can be overwhelming, he explained.
For many officers, the events of July 20 may be “one of the most difficult experiences” they will ever face, he said, adding that the experience of trauma can also be “cumulative.”
“It’s impossible to not have it affect you,” he said, and these effects can be physical, spiritual and emotional.
In the aftermath of a tragedy such as a mass killing, officers sometimes exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as mood changes and difficulty sleeping, he explained. These symptoms may be short-lived, or they can become long-term.
“Over the next days and weeks, all of the agencies will require officers who are principally involved to talk to someone,” he noted.
This procedure is important because “police officers are first and foremost human beings,” he said, explaining that the officers are parents whose children go to the movies, and they cannot help but bring these facts with them as they deal with the senseless violence that took place on July 20.
Tragedies such as the Aurora shooting can prompt officers to ask big life questions that they may not have given much thought before, Geraci said. They may be led to consider the topics of evil, human existence and eternity for the first time or in a new way.
In the spiritual journey that follows, some people end up being strengthened in their faith, while others are left with “uncertainty and ambiguity” that can create problems in their lives, even occasionally leading them to commit suicide.
For chaplains, it is important to help the officers “understand and process” what they are experiencing, he said, stressing that “we want to be supportive.”
Faith can play an important role in helping with this process, Geraci added, noting that those with a strong faith often have an easier time getting through the difficult periods that follow a tragedy.
A belief in eternal life and a loving Creator can provide a perspective through which officers can comprehend the tragic events, he observed.
“You understand that there is a good God that you can trust,” Geraci explained.
“They have an anchor that they can go to.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Philadelphia offered prayer and a pledge to protect children July 24, as Monsignor William Lynn received a three to six year prison sentence for his handling of an abusive priest.
“From the challenges the Church has faced both nationally and locally over the past decade, we understand the full gravity of sexual abuse,” the archdiocese said in its response to the sentence handed down by Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina on Tuesday.
In a statement released after the sentencing, the archdiocese reaffirmed its commitment “to protecting children and caring for victims,” while also offering its prayers “for Msgr. Lynn and his family at this difficult time.”
Msgr. Lynn, the archdiocese's secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, was found guilty June 22 on one felony count of endangering a child. The charge stemmed from his response to the case of Edward Avery, a now-laicized priest serving a jail sentence for abusing an altar boy during the 1990s.
The prosecution presented evidence that Msgr. Lynn reassigned Avery to live near a church school, despite having substantiated a claim of abuse against the priest. After being reassigned, Avery sexually assaulted a 10-year-old boy in 1999.
Defense lawyers said the clergy secretary had worked diligently to investigate abuse cases and bring them before the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who had authority over whether or not to remove priests from ministry.
“I did the best with what I could,” Msgr. Lynn said before receiving his sentence on Tuesday. “But the fact is my best was not good enough to stop the harm, and for that, I am sorry.”
His sentence, just short of the seven year maximum, may exceed that of Avery himself – who is serving two-and-a-half to five years for conspiracy and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. A second charge against Monsignor Lynn in the Avery case, accusing him of conspiracy, was rejected by jurors.
No senior U.S. Catholic official has previously been criminally convicted on charges deriving from abuse by another member of the clergy.
Defense attorneys called the sentence unfairly harsh, saying Msgr. Lynn had received a sentence not ordinarily given even to those who are present as direct eyewitnesses of abuse.
While accepting the former official's conviction, the Philadelphia archdiocese said that “fair-minded people will question the severity” of the near-maximum sentence. The archdiocese hopes that the punishment will be “objectively reviewed” and “adjusted.”
Meanwhile, a new trial is expected for Fr. James Brennan, who is accused of attempting sexual assault in 1996. Msgr. Lynn was acquitted of a second endangerment charge stemming from Fr. Brennan's alleged actions.
In Tuesday's statement, the Philadelphia archdiocese acknowledged it had become a national “epicenter” for the issue of clerical abuse.
“We know there is legitimate anger in the broad community toward any incident or enabling of sexual abuse,” the Church said in its statement. “The trial of the past several months has been especially difficult for victims, and we profoundly regret their pain.”
“Since the events some ten years ago that were at the center of this trial, the Archdiocese has changed,” the statement stressed.
“We have taken dramatic steps to ensure that all young people in our care are safe, and these efforts will continue even more forcefully now and in the years ahead.”