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Archive of November 14, 2012

Sophia Institute Press names new president

Bedford, N.H., Nov 14, 2012 (CNA) - The New Hampshire-based Sophia Institute Press has named its current CEO, Charlie McKinney, as its new president.

McKinney, the publisher’s chief operating officer since April 2011, helped restore the press’ financial viability. He said he is “honored” to be entrusted with the task of “building and expanding one of America’s great Catholic publishing houses.”

“Through our various apostolates and programs ... we are seeking to build and inform a Catholic laity that is actively redeeming the culture amidst the aggressive modernity that confronts it,” he said Nov. 12.

The press became the publishing division of New Hampshire’s Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and of Atlanta’s Holy Spirit College in 2011. It is independent of the colleges and of the Catholic Church, with an office and warehouse in Bedford, N.H.

Sophia Institute acquired Crisis Magazine and www.CatholicExchange.com in two separate agreements this year.

McKinney said that Sophia Institute must incorporate “new ways to help Catholics integrate Church teachings into their daily lives.”

“We will continue to grow our book division as we also serve as an online source for Catholic commentary, devotions, and other spiritual and practical resources,” he said.

McKinney succeeds John Barger, who founded Sophia Institute Press in 1988 to publish and distribute Catholic classics and new works. It has published more than 200 titles and 2.5 million books.

He said Barger is “a remarkable man” who “sacrificed a lifetime in order to bring the truths of our Catholic Faith to the world.”

McKinney will become full-time president of the press.

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Priest calls study of non-physical realm the 'supreme' science

Rome, Italy, Nov 14, 2012 (CNA) - A priest who headed the fifth annual World Congress of Metaphysics in Rome said the study of that which lies beyond the physical realm puts all other sciences in the right perspective.

In his opening address, congress president Father Jesús Fernández Hernández praised metaphysics as the “supreme science” that aligns all other sciences and philosophies and “opens them to vast horizons.”

However, the modern world, he added, “is characterized precisely by a lack of metaphysical vision,” which can turn science into humanity's enemy.

Organized by the Idente Foundation for Study and Research, the Nov. 8-10 congress brought together 150 thinkers from 29 nations representing theology, philosophy, and the sciences.

Through the re-appreciation of metaphysics as grounded in the vision of God, participants hoped that a “crisis of metaphysics” will be reversed.

“Metaphysics involves the conception of the absolute, ultimate reality, whatever human beings consider to be the ultimate source or foundation of existence,” congress director Father David Murray told CNA.

Sister Rose Calabretta, a theology professor at Manila University, observed that metaphysics points to God as our creator and the source of all life, visible and invisible.

“Every good thing that we want to do, every beautiful gesture that we have, springs from our inner relationship with the absolute,” she explained to CNA, noting that “we receive all the good things from the one who created us.”

This encounter with the divine, she continued, is meant to be “a vehicle for exploring paths towards the renewal of metaphysics.”

The congress reflected that the study of the infinite as discovered through metaphysics should be considered the necessary foundation to provide all sciences with unity, direction, and meaning.

Divorcing the sciences from the metaphysical appreciation of God has caused great harm, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, remarked to CNA.

Scientific and technical discoveries have been used as instruments for evil, noted the Polish prelate, citing advances in weaponry that have made wars all the more catastrophic.

“We have to ask ourselves, what is the scope of science? What is science good for?” he said. “These are the very difficult, but necessary questions so that science might contribute to the good of humanity.”

Studying metaphysics, he emphasized, helps put science in the proper perspective because faith and reason compliment one another for the good of humanity. He also noted the importance of these discussions taking place during the Year of Faith inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI last month, which marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

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Bishops nix economy statement; approve preaching, confession documents

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Although they shelved a strongly debated statement on the economy, the U.S. bishops’ approved moving ahead with the reorganization of their communications department, and the publication of documents on preaching and confession.

The bishops voted by a margin of 202-25 to hire a director of public affairs to help improve the conference’s communications effectiveness and strategy.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, explained that while all the details of the position have not been finalized, “the potential for being a spokesperson would be part of his or her job description.”

He explained that the person who fills the new position will coordinate communications efforts and will be able to speak to the media for the bishops, directing them to relevant statements by the bishops and applicable Church teaching.

The bishops voted in favor of creating the position on Nov.13, the second day of their fall general assembly in Baltimore.

The meeting also included a lengthy and intense discussion about a proposed document entitled "The Hope of the Gospel in Difficult Economic Times."

The bishops had authorized the drafting of the document at their gathering last June, agreeing that a timely statement on poverty and the economy was necessary.

Rather than a major document, the bishops called for a brief pastoral message of about 12-15 pages, expressing concern and solidarity for those struggling under the current economy and offering them hope in Christ.

Because it was agreed that the timeliness of the message was key, the bishops authorized its drafting under an abbreviated schedule.

The proposed statement prompted a lively debate over what the scope and content of such a document should include. While several bishops voiced support for the idea behind the statement, there was also suggestion that it could be improved with more time.

Several bishops posited that this may be a good time to revisit their previous statements on the economy in the context of modern circumstances.

Others suggested that the topics of tax reform and unions should be discussed at greater length, along with the proper role of government in aiding those in poverty.

The question of how these various topics could be adequately covered while remaining in the allotted page length was repeatedly raised. Some recommended the creation of shorter pamphlets instead, allowing for better dissemination among the faithful.

With Cardinal Dolan warning that “we get burned if we rush documents,” the bishops ultimately rejected the document, while also noting that some other type of statement could still be proposed with a clear consensus on what the bishops expect.

A document entitled “Preaching the Mystery of Faith: the Sunday Homily” was accepted by the bishops in an effort to renew and revitalize preaching during the Mass. Homilies must always be a Christ-centered “summons to conversion,” presented with love an offering the truths of the faith, it said.

“The ultimate goal of proclaiming the Gospel is to lead people into a loving and intimate relationship with the Lord,” the document explained.

The bishops also approved a short document inviting all Catholics to participate regularly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, particularly during the Lenten season.

The document draws the connection between Penance and the New Evangelization and expresses the Church’s eagerness to welcome those who have been away from confession for a significant length of time, as well as those who struggle with hesitation or uncertainty about the sacrament.

During the meeting, the bishops also approved their 2013 budget and heard reports on conference work in the areas of cultural diversity, national collections and Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

A new national collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services was approved, as well as creating new staff positions in the National Religious Retirement Office and the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs.

They also passed a strategic plan for 2013-2016, which is centered on the New Evangelization and emphasizes faith, worship and witness. The plan includes detailed areas of focus for each year, covering topics such as marriage and family life, sacraments, faith in the public square, migration, cultural diversity and respect for life.

A measure to add the optional memorial of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos to the U.S. liturgical calendar also received approval from the bishops.

Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Ala., said that Fr. Seelos holds “contemporary significance” because he was “remarkable in his pastoral zeal” and “came to serve this country because of the need.”

“(T)hat can be a source of encouragement to our seminarians and our priests who come to us from other countries,” he observed.

Discussion of the HHS contraception mandate also came up during the second day of the meeting, with Cardinal Dolan explaining that the conference remains committed to its principles, even as the mandate’s Aug. 2013 implementation date for religious organizations draws closer.

“Right now I can tell you, the only thing we’re certainly prepared to do is not give in, not violate our consciences, and not obey what we consider to be something immoral,” he said at a press conference, adding that this conviction “would have an enthusiastic unity among the bishops.”

Throughout different dioceses, bishops are currently talking to people who work in charity, health care and education in order “to see what options are open to us,” he explained.

“No door is closed, except the door to capitulation,” he said.

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'Practical atheism' more destructive than disbelief, Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The practical atheism of those who say they are Christian but live as if God does not exist is a greater threat than actual atheism, Pope Benedict XVI said as he presented three ways for people to more fully discover God.

While actual atheists often think deeply about God before rejecting belief, practical atheism “is even more destructive … because it leads to indifference towards faith and the question of God,” the Pope stated.

His fourth installment in a series of lessons on faith was delivered Nov. 14 to an overflow crowd of nearly 7,000 in the Pope Paul VI Hall, near St. Peter’s Square.

Benedict XVI focused his address on the challenge of witnessing to Christ in today’s world.

Christian witness is always hard, he said, because people are prone to “being dazzled by the glitter of worldliness,” but in the Western world sharing the faith is even harder today.

As he described it, the Christian faith was the everyday reality for most people in what used to be called Christendom. The burden was on non-believers to justify their disbelief.

But today the tables have turned following a long slide into atheism, skepticism and a secular worldview that was ushered in by the Enlightenment.

This, in turn, has paved the way for moral and spiritual disaster in the Western world. People have become confused about ethics once commonly held, making room for relativism and fostering “an ambiguous conception of freedom, which instead of being liberating ends up binding man to idols,” the Pope said.

In response to the ensuing moral and spiritual chaos, Pope Benedict called on all people to discover God by following three paths.

The first path involves contemplating creation. “The world is not a shapeless magma, but the more we know, the more we discover the amazing mechanisms, the more we see a pattern, we see that there is a creative intelligence,” the pontiff remarked.

The second way of finding God is through inner contemplation. The Holy Father quoted St. Augustine’s famous saying, “Do not go outside yourself, come back into yourself: truth dwells in the heart of man.” He also observed that the modern world is full of distractions that make it hard “to stop and take a deep look within ourselves and read that thirst for the infinite that we carry within, pushing us to go further and towards that Someone who can satisfy it.”

The third path, faith, is a dimly lit path for many people who view it as a limited aspect of life, if not a form of “illusion, escapism…or sentimentality.”

But in reality, the Pope stated, faith concerns the truth about mankind and our eternal destinies.

“Faith … is an encounter with God who speaks and acts in history and which converts our daily life, transforming our mentality, system of values, choices and actions,” he said. Faith is “not illusion, escapism, a comfortable shelter, sentimentality, but involvement in every aspect of life and proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News which can liberate all of man.”

Yet, many people consider Christianity as a mere system of beliefs and morals instead of God’s self-revelation in history so that he could have a loving relationship with his creatures.

“Christianity, before being a moral or ethical value, is the experience of love, of welcoming the person of Jesus,” Pope Benedict stated, calling on all Christians to learn better the faith they profess and purify their lives in conformity with Christ.

After the Pope summarized his message in different languages and prayed the Our Father in Latin, the visiting men and boys of England’s Choir of Westminster Abbey burst into a joyful hymn.

Jim and Joyce Vieland, visiting Rome for the first time with other pilgrims from the Diocese of Cleveland, were enthralled by the experience.

“It was tranquil, yet joyous,” said Mr. Vieland of Chardon, Ohio. “What I took away was the message that if you give joy to Jesus, then others, you yourself will be happy.”

Mrs. Vieland rejoiced in the unity of Catholicism on display in the hall, with so many people from around the world professing their common faith.

“I believe that if more people came to Rome to see the unity of the Church, they’d become closer to our Lord,” she said.

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Jesus expressed the faith in small 'tweets,' cardinal says

Rome, Italy, Nov 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Vatican official urged Catholics to share the Gospel in a concise and eloquent way like Jesus, “who used only 78 Greek characters to express the faith, barely half of the amount used for a message on Twitter today.”

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who serves as president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, made his remarks Nov. 9, as he received a “Honoris Causa” Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Lateran Pontifical University of Rome for his pastoral work.

“The proclamation needs to be made with the same essence as Christ,” the cardinal said, “who in his first public intervention used a sort of essential 'tweet:' 'This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.'”

“A phrase in Greek that has a total of eight words, and that without articles and conjugations would include a total of fifteen terms in 78 characters.”

During the event, Cardinal Ravasi also delivered a speech titled, “Education and Communication: How to Grow in Faith at the University,” in which he analyzed education from the point of view of communication and content.  

“Communication should be an atmosphere, and because of it, the message of Jesus Christ has reached our days two thousand years later,” he said.

Cardinal Ravasi, who often writes posts short scripture quotes on his Twitter account, said the sharing of the faith should be eloquent, clear and concise, and ever deeper.

He also stressed the importance of silence, recalling that the Bible calls us to silence and meditation in order to hear the call of the faith through words, “Shema Israel,” which means “listen Israel.”

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Divorced should be embraced with kindness, priest underscores

Rome, Italy, Nov 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Italian priest who serves as a spiritual director for dozens of divorced Catholics in Rome said that the Church needs to lovingly embrace its members who have suffered from separation.

“Through Baptism everyone is a child of God, God liberates us all, and in a particular way, this Pope, many times, has affirmed the importance of embracing everyone,” said Father Paolo Bachelet.

At 90 years-old, Fr. Bachelet helps families in difficult situations by working as an adviser for the Association of Separated Christians of Rome as well as a spiritual director for the divorced in the Italian capital.

In an interview with CNA, the priest noted that separation “certainly entails suffering, as Benedict XVI has said various times.”

However, “this suffering is a treasure for the Church,” he said.  

“If one does not understand that each suffering is offered together with the sufferings of Jesus and offered to the Father for the salvation of the world, one cannot draw close to Jesus.”  

“And the suffering of separation, when in certain circumstances the suffering of not being able to receive Communion is offered, becomes a treasure for the good of the Church and is another source of comfort.”

The priest then reflected on Jesus' words when said he whoever wants to follow him should be willing take up his or her cross.

“So all Christians have a cross, including those who are married,” he said. “With separation this cross becomes heavier, but it is always the cross of Jesus that Jesus knows we are carrying, and he helps us to carry it, whether it is light or heavy.”

Fr. Bachelet also underscored the importance of understanding that when separation occurs, one is not a failure, but rather the marriage is what has failed.  

Given this truth, one has “to know how to move forward, move on and accept and overcome this mistake in order to remain stable, work and have faith.”

In his experience with broken families, Fr. Bachelet said providing them spiritual direction is not easy.  

“I must say that I have learned many things precisely from living among those who are separated, and I assure you that for many, separation has been an experience in which only the faith has sustained them,” he explained.

“Some have strayed from the faith for a time, but many others found the need to deepen in their faith and they were helped,” he said.

“Experience teaches us first of all that in a separation, if one has the mission to be a father, he can also take on the mission of mother, and vice versa. Consequently, God sends double the help in order to carry out this new mission.”

“Likewise,” the priest said, “when one is alone, one is forced by circumstance to confront many problems and difficulties, and therefore many qualities and gifts come out that perhaps one did not know that one had.”

By following God after the breakup of a marriage, “instead of being destroyed, one's personality can be enriched by all of the activities that one does.”  

“Afterwards, especially if the children are grown, one way of overcoming loneliness is to devote oneself to activities such as study, politics, helping others, sports…and one acquires new skills,” Fr. Bachelet said.

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Vatican congregation to emphasize liturgical music, art

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - With the Vatican's approval on Nov. 14 of its restructuring, the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will shift its focus more intensely on art and liturgical music.

The restructuring is in accord with a Sept. 2011 apostolic letter issued by Pope Benedict XVI, where he noted that the changes will help the congregation in “giving a fresh impetus to promoting the sacred liturgy in the Church.”

This will be achieved mainly through a new office dedicated to sacred music and liturgical art – including architecture – which will become operational next year.

Its charges will include issuing guidelines on liturgical music and the structure of new churches so that they reflect the mysterious encounter with the divine, as well as follow the dictates and instructions of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

In his letter, the Pope wrote that these all must be in accord with the Second Vatican Council's “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.” Overlooking that 1963 document has allowed for the post-conciliar trend of building unedifying churches and filling them pop-influenced music.

Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares, prefect of the congregation, is entrusted with overseeing that these future guidelines and existing ones on liturgical celebration are followed throughout the world.

He is a long-time ally of the Pope, back to the pontiff's days as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Cardinal Canizares is sometimes referred as “Little Ratzinger” for his similar beliefs and opinions.

Overseeing the many facets of worship in the worldwide Church is a significant task, especially in light of last December's implementation of the new Roman Missal in English, which is truer to the original Latin and more elevated in its language.

To help the congregation focus on issues related to worship, the new restructuring removes two responsibilities that proved time consuming: processes of dispensation from ratified and non-consummated marriage and cases concerning the nullity of sacred ordination.

Those duties have been shifted to the Roman Rota, the Church’s highest appellate tribunal.

“The Holy See has always sought to adapt its structures of governance to the pastoral needs that arise in the life of the Church in every period of history, thereby modifying the structure and competence of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia,” wrote the Pope in his Sept. 2011 letter.

That letter was issued motu proprio, meaning that he wrote it for reasons which he himself deemed sufficient.

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Bishops renew call for comprehensive immigration reform

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops are reiterating their appeal to President Obama and the newly elected members of Congress to enact just and humane immigration reform within the coming year.

“I am heartened by the recent public statements of the leaders of both political parties supporting the consideration of comprehensive immigration reform in the new Congress,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee.

“I urge the President and Congress to seize the moment and begin the challenging process of fashioning a bipartisan agreement,” he said in a statement released on Nov. 13, during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.

Observing the “family separation, exploitation, and the loss of life caused by the current system,” the archbishop called for work towards a system “which upholds the rule of law, preserves family unity, and protects the human rights and dignity of the person.”

“Millions of persons remain in the shadows, without legal protection and marginalized from society,” he said. “As a moral matter, this suffering must end.”

Noting “the unprecedented bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform expressed during the last week,” he also encouraged Catholics to speak out in support of addressing the issue in a timely manner.

In a press conference shortly after the statement’s release, Archbishop Gomez explained that “we are urging the President Obama administration and also the congressional leadership to act on this obvious need in our country.”

“It’s an absolute need,” he said.

Bishops at the press conference highlighted the plight of immigrant communities who are living peacefully and seeking to become full members of society.

The U.S. bishops “have been consistent and firm and very much united with many of the immigrant communities” in calling for a serious discussion on the issue, said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento.

He explained that just and humane reform is necessary “not only for the sake of the immigrant communities but also, I believe, for the sake of American society.”

Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City pointed out that the bishops have been calling for comprehensive immigration reform for decades.

He stressed that “this would be a great time for bipartisan support for something that’s really a human issue and a moral issue and transcends just simply being a political issue.”

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., said that he has witnessed a growing interest in addressing immigration among the business community, which recognizes the timeliness of the issue. This is encouraging, he explained, because “we need more voices at the table.”

“We need political leadership,” he said. “We need community leadership.”

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US bishops say homilies should invite Catholics to conversion

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Sunday homilies should promote repentance, instill a sense of mission and lead Catholics to grow in understanding their faith, the U.S. bishops said in a new document on preaching.

“The ultimate goal of proclaiming the Gospel is to lead people into a loving and intimate relationship with the Lord, a relationship that forms the character of their persons and guides them in living out their faith,” the bishops emphasized.

In “Preaching the Mystery of Faith: the Sunday Homily,” the bishops offered a reflection on preaching for priests, deacons and those who are responsible for forming them.

Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to approve the document – which will also be translated into Spanish – on Nov. 13 at their fall general assembly in Baltimore. The vote tally was 227 in favor, 11 against and four abstaining.

The bishops noted that Catholics have asked for “more powerful and inspiring preaching” in surveys, and that the laity can become discouraged by a “steady diet of tepid or poorly prepared homilies.”

Homilists should respond to this desire by preaching with a “sense of urgency and freshness,” connecting Scripture, the Eucharist and the Creed, they advised.

As an “intrinsic part of the Sunday Eucharist,” the bishops said in the document, every homily must be centered on the person of Christ, whose death and resurrection are at the heart of our salvation.

“If a homilist conveys merely some example of proverbial wisdom or good manners, or only some insight gained from his personal experience, he may have spoken accurately and even helpfully, but he has not yet spoken the Gospel,” they stated.

And while “every effective homily is a summons to conversion,” the bishops also said this does not mean that a homilist should “simply berate the people for their failures.”

Instead, the clergy should emphasize the “offer of grace” and do so with “pastoral sensitivity.”

This invitation and “promise of grace” is an important context, particularly when addressing those who do not regularly attend Mass or discussing the moral challenges presented by Church teaching on delicate issues such as sexuality and marriage, they added.

The bishops also acknowledged that many Catholics seem to lack knowledge of Church teaching and be in need of stronger catechesis.

Since “the Sunday liturgy remains the basic setting in which most adult Catholics encounter Christ and their Catholic faith,” they counseled homilists to use the opportunity to present Church doctrine.

Over time, the homilist should cover the entire scope of the Church’s rich catechetical teaching, including its stance on critical issues such as the respect for human life, the importance of religious freedom and justice for the poor and migrants.

“Homilies are inspirational when they touch the deepest levels of the human heart and address the real questions of human experience,” the bishops said, noting the importance of incorporating both ordinary experiences and the deeper hopes and longings that give meaning to them.

“Our encounter with Jesus inevitably leads to mission,” they noted, adding that homilies are incomplete if they do not inspire a sense of mission that translates love of Christ into love for others.

Building on the New Evangelization, the Year of Faith and the call for a renewal of preaching by Pope Benedict XVI at the 2008 Synod on the Word, the bishops explained that preaching is a participation in the apostolic continuation of Jesus’ ministry.

They pointed to Mary as an example of hearing and proclaiming the Word of God without hesitation. 

In their personal lives, homilists should work towards ongoing spiritual renewal, seeking to lead lives of holiness with a deep love of Scripture and respect for Tradition, they said.

The effectiveness of preaching can also be improved through an understanding of contemporary culture, including the music, movies and websites that are a part of the people’s lives.

The bishops offered several factors to consider when preparing homilies, including the growing individualism in modern culture, the need to speak respectfully about other religious traditions and the cultural diversity of Church communities.

“Once he has come to know the customs, mores, practices, history, and religiosity of a people, a homilist can draw on that richness in order to make his presentation of the faith fresh and enlivening,” they said.

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