Denver, Colo., Feb 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Catholic author believes that the “surprisingly positive” reception of her book on the sexual revolution shows an encouraging openness to reconsider cultural assumptions about artificial contraception.
“I don’t think that’s anything anybody would have ever predicted,” said Mary Eberstadt, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
In a Feb. 11 talk at the Archdiocese of Denver, Eberstadt discussed the findings of her recent book, “Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution,” which was released last April.
She said that the book has enjoyed a broad outreach and been well-received, which she attributes to changing attitudes and a willingness to reconsider the empirical evidence associated with the birth control pill.
“I think there’s a lot of dialogue on that street,” she noted.
Following the talk, Eberstadt told CNA that the positive reviews of her book in many Christian publications is a “really encouraging sign” that people might be starting to re-examine the perceived benefits of artificial contraception.
Years ago, while researching “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI’s encyclical reiterating the Church’s teaching against artificial contraception, Eberstadt was amazed to find that the 1968 document had accurately predicted a wave of troubling social effects that would accompany the widespread use of birth control.
These forecasts included a “lessening of respect for women by men, a tendency for coercive governments to use the new contraceptive technologies coercively, more broken homes and a generalized rise in romantic problems between the sexes.”
Eberstadt compiled non-religious evidence from medical journals, pop culture and secular society to show that while the encyclical may be the “most heavily mocked and reviled global document of the last half century,” it was correct in its predictions.
Despite the impact contraception and the sexual revolution have had on society, Eberstadt said, “I definitely think there are signs of change.”
Many young Catholics, she noted, have shown a great deal of enthusiasm towards the teachings of “Humanae Vitae.”
“I think it’s amazing how effective renewal movements within the Catholic Church are among people in their twenties,” she observed.
Admittedly, she said, some people may never read her book simply because it was released by a Catholic publisher.
However, given that the book is based on scientific facts rather than theology, she hopes “that as people come across it – whether it’s put out by a Catholic publisher or not – they respond to that marshaling of empirical evidence.”
In her talk, Eberstadt challenged the “myths” that the sexual revolution is permanent and has made women happier, pointing to evidence within the realm of social science to refute these claims.
She also rejected the idea that Catholics are the only group that has opposed contraception, noting that the majority of Christian denominations also prohibited its use for most of their history, along with many other religious and social groups.
Furthermore, she observed, the sexual revolution and widespread acceptance of contraception have had some unforeseen consequences, such as the push to redefine marriage to include gay couples.
When the Anglican Church declared at the 1930 Lamberth Conference that contraception was acceptable in certain circumstances, Eberstadt said, it opened an unprecedented door normalizing sterilized sex between heterosexual couples, later leading to the sexual revolution, which has “made it hard to draw lines of any kind” regarding sexuality.
Current efforts to recognize same-sex marriage are simply part of the “clear logical chain” that started with artificial birth control, she explained.
This logic can eventually lead to arguments in favor of polygamy and bestiality, she said, arguing that such acts are ultimately “footnotes” to the societal acceptance of contraception.
Eberstadt encouraged her audience to fight this ongoing trend by presenting the scientific evidence that is often ignored in discussions on contraception.
Catholics need to start “playing offense, not defense, in the public square,” she said.
Denver, Colo., Feb 14, 2013 (CNA) -
Best friends Jennifer Risper and Christina Wirth have given up professional basketball to become Catholic missionaries with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students' outreach to student athletes.
“It is always a wonderful consolation to see young people of such caliber decide to serve the Lord and to have a heart for reaching other athletes,” Thomas Wurtz, director of the FOCUS division Varsity Catholic, told CNA Feb. 13.
The two women became professional athletes with the WNBA and in Europe after award-winning careers playing basketball for Vanderbilt University. Now they will leave their professional basketball team in Romania to join Varsity Catholic. They will be the first professional athletes to serve as missionaries with the organization.
Wurtz said they will be “a tremendous addition” to FOCUS' campus missionaries.
“There is such a need for Catholics to serve and form athletes, and Christina and Jennifer will no doubt be a blessing for a number of women on campus,” he added.
Both Risper and Wirth said their decision was based on a desire to share their faith.
“I realized that God wanted to use me through sports. I know that I’ve been successful through God’s grace,” Risper told FOCUS. “I had to ask myself, ‘do you think you’ll be able to impact other athletes?’ and thought, ‘I really think I can, and I want to.’”
Wirth said there are many Christian organizations for athletes but Varsity Catholic is specifically Catholic.
“As much as I benefitted from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in college, I think this is really special and a great opportunity to take the Catholic faith to people, especially to athletes,” she told FOCUS.
Varsity Catholic launched in 2007 as a division of FOCUS to address the unique needs of college athletes, the Varsity Catholic website says. Twelve former college athletes and coaches presently serve as missionaries on 20 campuses through the program.
The program provides one-on-one mentoring, community service opportunities, and Bible studies that are consistent with Catholic teaching. Varsity Catholic also hosts mission camps to teach sports and the Catholic faith to impoverished youth.
WNBA teams drafted both Risper and Wirth in 2009. Wirth’s team, the Indiana Fever, played in the 2009 WNBA championship, while Risper played for the Chicago Sky. They have been roommates while playing on professional teams in Slovakia, Portugal and Romania.
Wurtz said that the two athletes’ experience in sports gives them a different perspective.
“They will definitely command a high level of respect from the athletic world which will hopefully catapult their ability to build relationships with the athletes they will be serving,” he said. “Working with athletes can be a very challenging task and having this new perspective should bring a great energy and dynamism that will add to the experiences of our dedicated staff.”
Wirth said that American culture has expectations of athletes and puts pressure on them, but this also gives athletes a platform “that can be used to spread the Gospel.”
“I think it’s important for those athletes to have an influence in their lives that can help them personally grow, but also show them what a great opportunity they have to lead other people to Christ,” she said.
Risper and Wirth became friends when the met in college in 2005. Wirth said the two have been “just trying to grow in our Catholic faith and holiness.”
“We always say, ‘let’s be saints together’ and I think that has been the coolest thing – to have God give me the grace in opening my eyes to what He has for me – and even more special, having a best friend to encourage me in that.”
Risper said Wirth helped her rediscover her Catholic faith after years in which she identified as a non-denominational Christian.
Both said they are anxious about their work as missionaries, but they are trusting in God and asking others to pray for them.
The Varsity Catholic website is www.varsitycatholic.org.
Marquette, Mich., Feb 14, 2013 (CNA) -
Sacred music is “integral” to the Catholic Church's liturgy, Bishop Alexander K. Sample said in a Feb. 13 pastoral letter to the people of the Diocese of Marquette.
“In any discussion of the...'art of celebrating' as it relates to the Holy Mass, perhaps nothing is more important or has a greater impact than the place of sacred music,” wrote the archbishop, who was recently appointed to lead the Diocese of Portland in Oregon.
“The beauty, dignity and prayerfulness of the Mass depend to a large extent on the music that accompanies the liturgical action. The Holy Mass must be truly beautiful.”
In a document titled “Rejoice in the Lord Always” dated Jan. 21, Bishop Sample reminded the priests, musicians, and faithful of Michigan's upper peninsula that sacred music is not a subjective matter of taste, but that it is defined by “objective principles.”
He assured church musicians that the diocese will provide “education and formation” to provide “all the support, encouragement and assistance it can to musicians in implementing the Church’s vision and norms for sacred music.”
The letter makes frequent reference to the documents of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent teaching, including the writings of Pope Benedict and of John Paul II.
Sacred music, the bishop explained, is meant to glorify God and to sanctify the faithful. This twofold purpose must “direct and inform” everything about the music used at Mass.
“Church teaching emphasizes that the music proper to the Sacred Liturgy possesses three qualities: sanctity, beauty, and universality,” the bishop stated.
He pointed out that these qualities are not arbitrary or subjective, but “objectively flow from the essential nature and purpose of sacred music itself.”
Bishop Sample explained that “universality” means that sacred music, while it can reflect a particular culture, must “still be easily recognized as having a sacred character” and be able to transcend cultures.
On this point, he said that “Not every form or style of music is capable of being rendered suitable for the Mass.” Not only the text makes a song sacred, but the actual style of the music matters. He gave the examples of polka and rock music as styles that cannot be sacred music, because they do not have all three qualities of sacred music.
Bishop Sample wrote that the treasury of sacred music foremost includes Gregorian chant, while also allowing room for polyphony, hymnody, psalmody, and the musical traditions of non-European cultures.
That “one rarely if ever hears Gregorian chant” in the liturgy is “a situation which must be rectified,” said the bishop.
“It will require great effort and serious catechesis for the clergy and faithful, but Gregorian chant must be introduced more widely as a normal part of the Mass.”
Bishop Sample reminded his readers that there is an “objective difference” between sacred and secular music. He re-iterated that it takes more than religious lyrics to make a song sacred. To think that “the music is exempt from any liturgical criteria and may be of any style” is an “erroneous idea,” he said.
While welcoming new compositions of sacred music for Mass, he said these must meet the criteria of sanctity, beauty, and universality.
The rest of Bishop Sample's letter laid down directives meant to “guide the development of a deeper understanding of the place of sacred music with the liturgy of the Mass and to implement the fundamental principles” in the letter.
He wrote that the directives will help to move the Marquette diocese “in the right direction...as we seek to renew the Mass in a way that respects, fosters and promotes the true nature of the Mass itself.”
“Although the implementation of these directives may take some time and catechesis, these directives are to be considered normative within the Diocese of Marquette under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, to whom is entrusted the responsibility to moderate, promote and guard the entire liturgical life of the diocesan Church.”
Bishop Sample acknowledged that his vision requires “time and patience,” though he wrote that it “must be done” in order to achieve the beauty that the Mass deserves.
The general standards expected by Bishop Sample include the fostering of active participation, which includes “prayerful silent reflection”; ongoing formation and “just compensation” for music directors; knowledge of the Church's documents on sacred music.
The bishop made an important distinction between planning and preparing for Mass. There is no need to “plan” the music for Mass, he said, because “the Church has already provided us with a plan...found in the liturgical calendar and the official liturgical books: the Ordo, the Missal, the Lectionary and the Graduale. Our celebrations should carry out the Church’s plan as far as we are able.”
He noted that rather than singing at Mass, we should sing the Mass. It is important, he said, to use the texts provided by the Church for the entrance, offertory and communion chants, instead of using hymns at these times.
“The hymns and songs commonly sung at Mass every week at the Entrance, Preparation of the Gifts and Communion are not identified in the Missal. It is important to recognize that when we sing hymns at these moments during Mass, it is because we are omitting some of the Mass chants,” he noted.
Bishop Sample concluded by noting his hope that the letter will be “well received” in Marquette “ for the sake of an authentic renewal of the Sacred Liturgy according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the mind of the Church.”
“I am especially counting on our wonderful and dedicated Church musicians to answer this call for renewal. May the renewal and reform of sacred music in the Diocese of Marquette lead us together to a beautiful and worthy celebration of the sacred mysteries of the Holy Mass, for the glory of God and the sanctification of all the faithful.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
One of the nuns that lived in the monastery where the Pope will retire says his choice shows his “great simplicity” because it “is not a work of art or comparable with other Vatican buildings.”
“His decision to retire has surprised me, but he is very brave, although he is fragile and elderly,” said the nun from the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, who requested anonymity because of her cloistered life.
“But this decision is proof that he has a very lucid mind,” she stated, adding that “our self love does not allow us to see our own limitations, contrary to what Pope Benedict has done.”
“If I loved him before,” she declared, “now I love him even more.”
The sisters led a simple life with no staff. They spent their time praying and, for their 400th anniversary, made liturgical vestments for Pope Benedict to donate to poorer churches.
“One week before we left he asked us: ‘what will the Pope do without you?’ and he asked us to keep praying for him,” said the nun.
“His decision has made us cry, but he has been very brave,” she added.
The monastery, called Mater Ecclesiae, is 4,300 square feet and lies just west of St. Peter’s Basilica.
It contains a chapel, a choir room, a library, a semi-basement, a terrace and a visiting room that was added in 1993.
When Pope Benedict XVI announced on Feb. 11 that he was going to resign from the papacy and live in the convent, speculation began to circulate about when he made his decision, since renovations began in Nov. 2012.
According to the Spanish nun, who currently resides in a convent in Madrid, the building had not been refurbished in 18 years and needed minor repairs.
“We had humidity in the basement, the windows needed changing, and the terrace on top needed fixing and painting because of past snow,” she explained.
“But the building is very small, so they had to wait for us to leave to begin working on it.”
Reflecting on her experience living in the Vatican convent, the Visitation nun said she and her fellow religious felt intensely that they “were the heart of the Church.”
“It was an experience that is very hard to put into words.”
Their mission was to pray for the Pope, for his trips, and accompany him in prayer on a daily basis.
The Spanish nun recalled how Pope Benedict would often thank them for their prayers and regularly checked up on their general well-being.
He originally wanted French nuns to live in the monastery, she explained, but due to the small number of vocations in France he decided it would be better to pick them from Spain.
The monastery was established in 1994 by Blessed John Paul II as a place dedicated solely to prayer for the Pope, his ministry and the cardinals.
The order of the Visitation of St. Mary was picked from among many other religious groups to live in the monastery from Oct. 7, 2009 until Oct. 7, 2012.
Their stay was extended for 15 days and they left the monastery on Oct. 22, just after Bl. John Paul’s feast day.
The seven sisters all came from convents in Spain, but one was from Colombia and another from Equatorial Guinea.
Vatican City, Feb 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Georg Ganswein will move with Pope Benedict XVI when he retires on Feb. 28, but he also intends to retain his role as head of the Papal Household.
“The Pope will be accompanied to Castel Gandolfo and also to the monastery by Archbishop Georg and the Memores Domini, because this is the fundamental nuclear group of the pontifical family.”
“He will also remain the head of the Papal Household. And the future, the future is in God’s hands,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the press on Feb. 14.
The Memores Domini are four consecrated women in the Communion and Liberation movement who assist in running the Papal Household.
Fr. Lombardi was asked later if Pope Benedict might be able to influence the new Pope through the archbishop and if this presented a conflict of interest.
“I think that the prefect of the Papal Household has a competence that is not so much of government, doctrine, or decisions on a governmental level.
“It’s a very practical competence about the audiences of the Pope,” the Vatican spokesman said.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference defended Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign and said that the Holy Spirit will choose a new shepherd to govern God’s people.
The Holy Father made his decision to retire “in full conscience and freedom,” which are the necessary conditions for resigning according to the Code of Canon Law, said Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino.
He stressed that Pope Benedict’s decision to step down at the end of February was not due to problems facing the Church, but because he lacks the physical strength to carry out the papal ministry.
Speaking on Spanish radio, the bishop assured the faithful that the Holy Spirit will inspire the cardinals charged with electing the next Pope, ensuring that the person chosen is the one the Lord wants to guide his Church.
Commenting on the current state of the Church, Bishop Martinez Camino said the biggest contemporary adversary is that God has been forgotten and relativism has spread throughout the culture.
These challenges, he said, demand “all the energies of a Pope.”
While the bishop was surprised by Pope Benedict’s announcement, he believes that the pontiff has given “sufficient” explanation for his decision to retire.
“As far as I know, we had no idea in Spain that the Holy Father was going to announce his resignation,” he said.
However, such an announcement is not “absolutely unthinkable” or “strange,” he continued, as the Pope had already hinted at such a possibility in his interview with Peter Seewald for the book “Light of the World.”
Bishop Martinez Camino said that when Pope Benedict made his plans for retirement public, he referenced a lack of “physical strength and adequate frame of mind” to carry out his ministry effectively.
These characteristics are particularly important, he observed, in “a world of rapid changes” with many “great problems that affect the life of the faith.”
The bishop also believes that while the Holy Father is retiring due to waning strength, he greatly respects the choice of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to remain in office until his death.
“The Pope said that considering the spiritual essence of the ministry of Peter, there is no doubt that this service is given not only in word and deed but also, and no less so, in suffering and in prayer,” he reflected.
“I believe that was an immediate allusion to the great example that John Paul II gave to the world,” he said. “In that way he was honoring him.”
Vatican City, Feb 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI said that many of the misinterpretations of the Second Vatican Council were caused by the media promoting its own version.
“The world interpreted the council through the eyes of the media instead of seeing the true council of the fathers and their key vision of faith,” said Pope Benedict at Paul VI Hall Feb. 14.
“Fifty years later, the strength of the real council has been revealed, and it is our task for the Year of Faith to bring the real Second Vatican Council to life,” he told the priests gathered to meet him.
Pope Benedict spoke with the priests of the Rome diocese in an unscripted speech on the Second Vatican Council, which he first attended as a special advisor to Cardinal Frings of Cologne and later on as a theological expert.
“The immediate impression of the council that got thorough to the people, was that of the media, not that of the Fathers,” he explained.
“The council of journalists did not, naturally, take place within the world of faith but within the categories of the media of today, that is outside of the faith, with different hermeneutics … a hermeneutic of politics,” added Pope Benedict.
The pontiff, who will give up office on Feb. 28, is one of the few remaining witnesses of the council.
“The media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the Church,” he recalled.
“But it was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world.”
In his view, there were those who sought a decentralization of the Church.
“There was this triple issue: the power of the Pope, then transferred to the power of the bishops and then the power of all ... popular sovereignty and naturally they saw this as the part to be approved, to promulgate, to help,” said the Pope.
He also said that this was the case for the liturgy with no interest in it as an act of faith, but as a something to be made understandable, “similar to a community activity, something profane.”
“We know that this council of the media was accessible to all,” he said.
“So, dominant and more efficient, this council created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery. In reality, seminaries closed, convents closed, the liturgy was trivialized ... and the true council has struggled to materialize, to be realized,” he stated.
In his analysis, Pope Benedict said that the virtual council was stronger than the real council, but the real strength of the council was present.
“It has slowly emerged and is becoming the real power which is also true reform, true renewal of the Church,” he said.
“It seems to me that 50 years after the Council, we see how this virtual council is breaking down, getting lost and the true council is emerging with all its spiritual strength,” he observed to his priests.
“And it is our task to work so that the true Council with the power of the Holy Spirit is realized and the Church is really renewed,” he emphasized.
Pope Benedict said it was a “special and providential gift” to be able to meet with Roman clergy before leaving the papacy in two weeks.
“It' s always a great joy to see how the Church lives, and how in Rome, the Church is alive because there are pastors who in the spirit of the supreme Shepherd, guide the flock of Christ,” he said.
"It is a truly Catholic and universal clergy and it is part of the essence of the Church of Rome itself, to reflect the universality, the catholicity of all nations, of all races, of all cultures,” he declared.
Baltimore, Md., Feb 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Speaking at a legislative hearing in Maryland, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore supported efforts to end the death penalty in the state, calling for punishments that respect human life.
“While those who have done terrible harm to others deserve punishment,” he acknowledged, “we urge a response that meets evil with a justice worthy of our best nature as human beings, enlightened by faith in the possibility of redemption and forgiveness.”
Archbishop Lori testified in Annapolis on Feb. 14 before the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. The hearings marked the first time that the archbishop, who chairs the Maryland Catholic Conference, has appeared before the Maryland General Assembly.
His testimony voiced support for a bill that would remove the death penalty from Maryland’s capital murder statute, leaving life without the possibility of parole as the most severe sentence convicted criminals would be able to receive.
The legislation would also provide state funds to aid the family members of homicide victims.
The bill has the support of Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, as well as Kirk Bloodsworth, a Maryland resident and Catholic convert who was the first death row inmate to be exonerated and released through the use of DNA evidence.
O’Malley has tried to repeal the death penalty twice before, citing the high incidence of false convictions among death row inmates, its cost and its ineffectiveness as a crime deterrent.
In his testimony, Archbishop Lori alluded to the practical and prudential concerns surrounding the use of the death penalty, but focused his speech on the moral questions surrounding the practice.
Catholic opposition to the death penalty is founded upon the idea that “every human life is sacred and to be protected,” the archbishop stated, stressing the protection of life and the human person “from the moment of natural conception until natural death.”
He added that Catholics hold the “reasoned belief” that “every life comes from God, and is destined to return to God as our final judge,” and that this teaching drives the protection of all life, as well as other aspects of Catholic outreach.
The archbishop quoted the bishops of the United States in expressing concern not only for “those guilty of horrible crimes,” but also for the negative effects that capital punishment has upon society.
“We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals,” Archbishop Lori quoted, “nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders.”
“The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life,” he said.
The archbishop also explained that the existence of safe prisons and punishments such as “life-without-parole sentences” render the death penalty unnecessary.
Catholic teaching tells us, he said, that “when other punishment options are available to government that sufficiently protect the public’s safety, we should not resort to the death penalty, not even in the case of one who takes the life of another human being.”
Archbishop Lori also offered “a special word of respect and compassion to the families and loved ones of murder victims, and my heartfelt prayers for their final peace.” He praised aspects of the legislation that grant support to the families of homicide victims.
“They have a special claim on our prayers, a special need for our embrace,” he said, along with “a special need for our encouragement to seek solace, understanding and ultimate judgment in a loving God.”
Managua, Nicaragua, Feb 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The bishops of Nicaragua are inviting Catholics in the country and around the world to join together in 40 hours of prayer for Pope Benedict XVI as he retires from the papacy.
The prayer campaign will ask for grace for the Holy Father as he ends his ministry, as well as “for whoever will be his successor according to the will of the Holy Spirit.”
“We are inviting the people of God, and specifically the Catholic people of Nicaragua, to unite in this network of prayer,” said Bishop Socrates Rene Sandigo, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua.
The prayer initiative will ask that the Holy Spirit will guide the cardinals, “as always,” in the process of electing the new pontiff, he explained.
On Feb. 11, the Holy Father announced that he will be retiring at the end of the month, due to his advanced age and waning strength.
During a press conference on Feb. 12, Bishop Sandigo said that Pope Benedict “steps down as head of the Church with a great sense of honesty with himself.”
“I think very few people have that courage, that capacity to look into their conscience and make such a decision,” he continued.
The bishop added that the Holy Father “will go down in history as a Pope who, out of humility and courage, acknowledged that he no longer had his physical strength” and chose to retire for the good of the Church.
Recalling his own encounter with Pope Benedict three months ago, Bishop Sandigo said that the Holy Father displayed “supernatural strength” in continuing his service to Christ despite his fatigue.
The bishops of Nicaragua have called the pontiff’s decision to resign a gesture of humility, interior freedom and courage, he said.