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Archive of December 8, 2012

Pope says truth, not relativism, is source of non-violence

Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2012 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI told a group of Catholic theological leaders that commitment to objective truth is not a cause for violence but necessary for dialogue and peace in society.

“When you deny the opportunity for people to refer to an objective truth, dialogue is rendered impossible and violence, whether declared or hidden, becomes the rule of law of human relationships,” the Pope said in Dec. 7 comments to members of the International Theological Commission.

“Without openness to the transcendent, which allows us to find answers to questions on the meaning of life and how to live a moral life, mankind becomes unable to act in accordance with justice and work for peace,” he said.

His comments came in a speech at the conclusion of the theological commission’s plenary assembly at the Vatican Apostolic Palace’s Hall of the Popes. The commission is headed by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Benedict said Christian believers have “strong reactions” against the idea that religions, especially monotheistic ones, are inherent “bearers of violence” because believers claim to advance a universal truth.

Some critics of religion, however, say a “polytheism of values” is needed to preserve tolerance and civil peace in a democratic society.

The Pope countered that the revelation of God in “the life and death of Jesus Christ,” including his death on the Cross, is “a radical rejection of all forms of hatred and violence” in favor of “the absolute primacy of agape,” the Greek word for Love.

He attributed violence in the name of God to “human errors” and “the forgetfulness of God that immerses human societies in a form of relativism.”

He added that reconciliation with God through the Cross of Jesus Christ is “the fundamental source of unity and fraternity.”

The Pope also directed specific comments to the International Theological Commission, which he said illustrates “the specific way in which theologians, in loyal service to the truth, may share the Church’s evangelizing impulse.”

The Pope said the commission’s recent document on contemporary theology sets out criteria for a “truly Catholic theology” that contributes to the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel. Theologians who faithfully serve “the truth of faith” can help participate in the Church’s missionary efforts, he said, advocating a place for theology in the academy.

“In a cultural context where some are tempted to deprive theology of its academic status, because of its intrinsic link with the faith, or the confessional and faith dimension of theology ... your document rightly reminds us that theology is inextricably confessional and rational and that its presence within the academic institution provides a wide-ranging and full vision of human reason,” Pope Benedict said.

He stressed the importance of the “sensus fidelium,” the “sense of the faithful” through which Christians show universal agreement on faith and morals. This sense, with the help of the Holy Spirit, helps distinguish whether a truth is part of the apostolic tradition.

This sense must be distinguished from “counterfeits.” It is not “some kind of public opinion of the Church.”

Neither is it meant to challenge the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church, because “the ‘sensus fidei’ cannot grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium.”

The Pope closed his comments with a prayer that the theologians will have the grace always to “joyfully serve the knowledge of faith for the benefit of the whole Church.”

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Priest remembers Alfred Hitchcock's faith

New York City, N.Y., Dec 8, 2012 (CNA) - In a Dec. 6 article for the Wall Street Journal, Jesuit priest Father Mark Henninger recounted his time with famed director Alfred Hitchcock towards the end of his life.

In 1980, Fr. Henninger was invited by his friend Father Tom Sullivan to visit Hitchcock's house in Bel Air, Calif. one afternoon to say Mass there.

Recalling his introduction to the director that day, Fr. Henninger said that “Hitchcock awoke, looked up and kissed (Father) Tom's hand, thanking him.”

The priest noted that seeing scripts from Hitchcock's films, such as “North by Northwest,” created a distraction for him as he said Mass in the study.

“Hitchcock had been away from the church for some time, and he answered the responses in Latin the old way,” Fr. Henninger remembered.

“But the most remarkable sight was that after receiving communion, he silently cried, tears rolling down his huge cheeks.”

Fr. Henninger continued to visit the Hitchcocks until Alfred's death on April 29 of that year. He reflected on how remarkable it was that Hitchcock let himself be pursued by God at the end of his life.

Something “whispered in his heart,” he wrote, “and the visits answered a profound human desire, a real human need.”

Fr. Henninger's story in the Wall Street Journal comes as a biopic on the director, “Hitchcock,” is in theaters after a limited release on Nov. 23.

Hitchcock was raised Catholic in London, and attended Salesian and Jesuit primary and secondary schools. His films were largely thrillers with twist endings, and his career as a director spanned from 1925 until 1976.

A 1953 film, “I Confess,” was Hitchcock's sole film concerning a priest.

The main character in the movie is a priest who ends up being investigated for a murder which he did not commit. Moreover, he heard the confession of the murderer, and so is unable to defend himself.

“Hitchcock tries to put a cross in every scene in that film, because the cross hangs over the decision this priest has to make,” Ben Akers, director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School, told CNA Nov. 7.

“In one of the key scenes where he's making this decision whether or not to clear his name, which would mean breaking the seal of confession and leaving the priesthood, he's walking around the streets of Quebec … and you see Christ carrying his cross, and underneath the arms of the cross you see this priest walking by in the very center.”

Deacon Scott Bailey, who is studying to be a priest for the Archdiocese of Denver, is also a fan of Hitchcock and of “I Confess,” in particular.

“It's an incredible portrayal of a priest … and I think it really hammers in the meaning, the reality, of the confessional seal.”

“It ended up being a really awesome movie and a very Catholic film … the priest really puts his life on the line by not saying anything.”

The portrayal of a priest so committed to the sanctity of the sacrament of confession has helped Deacon Bailey to reflect on his coming ordination to the priesthood, and the role he will have as a confessor.

“I find it a huge responsibility, more than anything; exciting and terrifying, all at once.”

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Former Episcopal priest grateful to Pope for Catholic ordinariate

Houston, Texas, Dec 8, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Former Episcopal priest Laurence Gipson, who became Catholic in October, says his reaction to the Catholic ordinariate for former Anglicans is one of “gratitude.”

“The ordinariate, I think, is a wonderful opportunity for people like me, Anglican clergy and Anglican laity, who are seeking Catholic faith,” he said.

On Jan. 1, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI established the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter to allow Anglican and Episcopalian groups in the U.S. to become Catholic as groups, not only as individuals. It follows the Pope’s November 2009 apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which authorized the creation of the special church structures.

Gipson, a 70-year-old native of Memphis, Tenn., said he is grateful to Pope Benedict for establishing the ordinariate. He said it is “advancing the cause of unity in the Church.”

“It offers Anglicans a way to affirm the Catholic faith, that is, a way to affirm orthodox or right belief, while at the same time being able to worship God and practice the Christian life according to the Anglican tradition and patrimony,” he told CNA Dec. 7.

“The Catholic faith and Anglican use are a great combination,” Gipson continued. “Catholics have welcomed us warmly. They’ve extended the right hand of fellowship to us, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Gipson and his wife Mary Frances were received on Oct. 28 into the Catholic Church at Houston’s Our Lady of Walsingham Church through the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1971. He served as rector of the Church of the Ascension in Knoxville, Tenn. and was dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Ala.

For 14 years before his retirement in February 2008, he served as rector at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. The church’s parishioners include former President George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush.

Gipson and his wife have been married for 48 years. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.

He said he was drawn to the Catholic faith in part because of the Church’s “clarity” in teachings and the “unity of faith amongst the faithful.”

“What I yearned for and sought was a more centralized understanding of authority, the magisterium, the teaching authority, which could much more quickly and much more definitely interpret scripture and decide on the faith when it was in dispute and settle those issues.”

Gipson said Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, the head of the U.S. ordinariate, and the theology faculty of the University of St. Thomas were among those who helped him become Catholic.

“My hope is to be ordained to the priesthood of the Catholic Church,” Gipson said. “I would like to practice that priesthood in any way that’s useful to the ordinariate.”

“I’ve been a parish priest all of my life in the Episcopal Church, for 42 years,” Gipson said. “That’s where my enthusiasm is, at the level of the parish, teaching and preaching, pastoral ministry.”

There are at least 69 candidates for the Catholic priesthood undergoing formation for possible ordination in the ordinariate. The ordinariate has ordained 24 priests since its launch in January. Many of them are married men ordained under a special dispensation in place since 1983.

Gipson said he is “deeply grateful” for his 58 years in the Episcopal Church

“The clergy and the people of the Episcopal Church gave me and my family more in the way of acceptance and support and generosity and love than we could ever have imagined or have deserved,” he said. “Each day serving was a blessing. It prepared me for, and gave me a yearning, for the Catholic Church in its fullness in all aspects of Christ’s Church.

The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have faced much controversy in recent decades over the interpretation of Scripture, the ordination of women as priests, Christian sexual morality and other issues.

“I see the controversies as an outcome of the nature of authority in the Anglican Church and the Anglican Communion,” Gipson said. There are 34 provincial churches in the communion which are autonomous.

“Without a magisterium to interpret and define the faith, what Anglicanism relies on is dispersed authority rather than centralized authority,” he added.

“What I realized of course is that the Anglican tradition about authority is a part of the identity of Anglicanism, and Anglicanism does not wish to change that manner of authority,” Gipson explained. “The Anglican Communion wishes authority to be dispersed. I decided that I could not ask Anglicanism to change its identity for me, so I was the one that had to do the changing.”

He asked Catholics to show “patience” towards new members of the ordinariate and the Catholic Church.

“We’re just learning how to be good Catholics and there’s a lot to learn,” he said.

Correction: updated on Dec. 11, 2012 at 12:24 p.m., MST. Article incorrectly described St. Martin's parishioners as George W. and Laura Bush. Parishioners are in fact George H.W. and Barbara Bush.

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