Archive of November 4, 2013

Women uniquely understand 'truth of man,' philosopher says

Vatican City, Nov 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In light of Pope Francis’ call for a deeper theology of women, a leading Italian philosopher spoke of the importance of Edith Stein’s writings on gender, saying that she extracts the essence of human sexuality.

“For women it is easier because they are taught through this experience of pregnancy something about man, about the truth of man that is more difficult for us males to understand and to enter,” Rocco Buttiglione told CNA during an Oct. 31 interview.

Buttiglione, who is currently a professor of political science at St. Pius V University in Rome and who has spent the majority of his career teaching various topics of philosophy, has recently returned from the Franciscan University of Stuebenville, Ohio, where he delivered the Philosophy Department’s annual “Edith Stein Lecture.”

Upon returning from his Oct. 23 talk, entitled “Beyond Descartes: Intersubjectivity as Ground of Knowledge of the Self,” the philosopher spoke with CNA, stressing that Stein’s writings are pertinent to the ongoing dialogue surrounding women in the Church.

Edith Stein – also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – “has already had a part in the inspiration of the documents of John Paul II ‘Mulieris Dignitatem’ and ‘Familiaris Consortio,’” he noted, adding that the saint gives us “very important” insights about women, specifically in the context of pregnancy, which can aid in the development of a deeper theology of women.

“What is the difference between men and women: women can become pregnant, men cannot, and pregnancy is the experience of carrying another person bodily, physically in yourself.”

However, Buttiglione highlighted how “there is an archetypical experience for what it means to be a person,” stressing that “a person is a being who can carry in himself, in his heart another human being in order to help him to reach the fullness of life, in order him to be born in eternal life.”

An important concept of Stein’s which we are able to continue learning from today, specifically in regard to gender, Buttiglione reflected, is that of the essence and true being of man.

“A large part of the discussion in the last centuries in the Church has been the Church and modernity,” he noted, stating that “classical philosophy begins with being,” while “modern philosophy begins with the subject, the ego, man.”

“Now Edith Stein teaches us to begin with man, but not with the abstract subject of a large part of modern philosophy, but with the real existing man,” he stressed.

“The abstract subject is a man who has no sex. While the real human being is either male or female.”

“The transcendental ego,” Buttiglione emphasized, has no connections, while “the real human being has parents, has children. Since the beginning, he is himself, is free, I am myself, I am free, but I am also bound, bound to others, bound to my parents, bound to my wife, bound to my children.

“The richness, the real richness of the life of human being is exactly the fact that he is member of communities, that he united himself, communities, that he is a creator of communities.”

“Edith Stein,” stressed Buttiglione, “gives us a pillar for this new vision of a Christianity in the modern age that tells also modernity not to lose her values, because modernity seems to be going to die.”

Noting how many believe “that the modern age is exhausted,” the philosopher states that “now we can revive the values of modernity…if we accept to ground them on the really existing human being, that man who is the glory of God, the image of God on earth.”

Rocco Buttiglione is also a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies as well as the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and was a close friend of Bl. John Paul II.

Having originally met John Paul II when he was still a cardinal after publishing a book on the pontiff’s personal philosophy, Buttliglione reflected that the late Holy Father “was really a friend of everybody,” and that those who were close to him “all felt deeply united.”

When asked how it feels to have a friend who will be canonized, Buttiglione jested that “I hope that when the time comes he will say a good word on my behalf.”

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Catholic principal says Quebec rule prohibits teaching faith

Quebec City, Canada, Nov 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The province of Quebec is moving towards a “closed secularism” that will harm the ability to teach Catholicism in high schools, says a principal leading a legal challenge against regulations of religion classes.

Paul Donovan, principal of Montreal’s Loyola High School, said he has no problem promoting pluralism in a province-mandated religion and ethics class, but he objects to provincial rules that bar explanations for religious belief.

“We just want to teach it from a Catholic point of view,” he told Canada’s National Post. “Quebec wants us to keep any explanation out of why people believe what they believe. You are supposed to say this is what they believe and that’s it.”

“The government requires that when you’re dealing with other religions that the teacher in the classroom completely disassociates himself from any religious perspective or religious value. So we can never say, 'As Catholics, we see this…'”

The Quebec government wants the course to be taught without regard to any religion, even in Catholic schools, a requirement Loyola High School is challenging in court.

A Quebec Superior Court sided with the school in 2010, while in 2012 an appeals court sided with the Quebecois government. The case goes to Canada’s Supreme Court next year.

Donovan said that under the present regulations, if a student asks questions about a Catholic perspective during the religion and ethics class, a Catholic school teacher is not allowed to answer.

“The government wants statements about religious belief to be absolute. They’re not to be argued. They cannot be seen as rational,” he said.

“In Catholicism … reason is the first step to faith. So we are not allowed to be who we are.”

He questioned whether a school course taught in this way could improve religious literacy, because “nothing is really being explained.”

The high school principal noted that the course has to be taught regardless of whether or not an institution receives state funds.

Donovan said the case could reflect future action under Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values, which would ban the wearing of religious symbols in public buildings and add other requirements to provincial law.

He said he favors an “open secularism,” in which the government has no preference for any religious or non-religious view. In this society, “all ideas and beliefs can develop and grow.”

However, in his view Quebec is moving toward a “closed” secularism in which government actively tries to secularize society and religion moves “out of the public square altogether.”

Donovan told the National Post that this attitude promotes the view that those with a religious outlook “can’t serve the common good.”

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Vatican study group examines human trafficking issues

Rome, Italy, Nov 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Experts from around the world gathered at the Vatican this weekend to investigate and discuss the growing practice of “modern slavery” in the form of human trafficking.

The “preparatory workshop,” entitled “Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery,” was held Nov. 2-3.

Called at the request of Pope Francis, the conference was jointly hosted by the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences and the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Association.

Speaking at a Nov. 4 press briefing, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said that Pope Francis “had recommended” that this seminar be held.

Bishop Sorondo explained that when Pope Francis was still archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had worked closely with those fighting human trafficking, and so “he knew the problem quite directly.” 

On the morning of the first day of the conference, Pope Francis told Bishop Sorondo, “What is being done is very important because this is valuable material and I would like to do something with this.”

Human trafficking is a growing global phenomenon. A 2012 report by the United Nations points to International Labor Organization estimates that 20.9 million people were victims of forced labor globally between 2002-2011, although exact numbers are unknown.

The purpose of the recent Vatican workshop was to “examine human trafficking and modern slavery in order to establish the real state of this phenomenon and an agenda to combat this heinous crime,” according to a document issued by conference organizers.

Dr. Henrietta Williams, president of the Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, was one of 18 experts invited to present at the study seminar. 

She explained that the Pope’s desire was to “get together a group of experts in different disciplines” because “it’s not a problem that one country, or the lawyers, or the doctors, or the social scientists can solve.” 

“It’s a problem that everyone has to come together (on),” Williams told CNA on November 2, “preferably from all the faiths, all the government institutions, and we want to find out exactly what it is, why it cannot be controlled, why it is getting worse, what are the factors that promote trafficking.”

Prof. Werner Arber, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, spoke at the press briefing on Nov. 4. He indicated that they had received many more requests to attend than could be filled, due to space at the academy’s facilities. However, the 60 observers who were able to come “all actively participated,” providing an “enriching” experience.

Prof. Juan Jose Llach, director of the Center for Studies on Government, Business, Society and Economy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, also spoke at the briefing. 

The professor highlighted the conference’s discussion of the many “new forms” of human trafficking which are “expanding to involve children and adolescents.” In addition, participants had looked at the many risk factors for trafficking, including poverty, lack of education, disintegrated families and weak or corrupt law enforcement.

It was not only the many problems with trafficking that were considered, however: experts and practitioners in fields such as law, medicine, and sociology offered practical solutions they had found to be successful in their own work.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland of the London Metropolitan Police, for example, spoke of a new program in place at Scotland Yard that works with victims of trafficking over a period of time, helping enable them to testify in court.

Since the program has been in place, “the number of guilty pleas is on the rise” because many criminals do not want to face such testimony by their victims.

Upon the close of the weekend, conference organizers issued a “joint statement based on the suggestions presented by the participants,” which included proposals for media, religious institutions, civil organizations and business sectors to work together in order to combat human trafficking.

Organizers hope to eventually issue a statement that includes more specific proposals. Bishop Sorondro indicated that he believes Pope Francis will act on this issue as well.

According to Williams, the first step “is to look at the problem very deeply,” in order to find solutions.

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Vatican rejects claims of Pope 'polling' Catholics on marriage

Vatican City, Nov 4, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The director of the Holy See press office has clarified that Pope Francis has not presented a questionnaire to Catholics worldwide to consult on homosexual unions and divorced persons, as some news outlets have reported.

This assertion, made by Italian daily il Fatto Quotidiano among others, is “not true” and in fact the basis is “only a document sent to bishops' conferences throughout the world by the secretary general of the synod of bishops, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, in preparation for the synod of bishops,” Fr. Federico Lombardi told CNA Nov. 2.

He added that the synod, which will be held Oct. 5-19, 2014, will be dedicated to “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” The synod will focus on pastoral responses to the problems of divorce and gay marriage, as well as other challenges to the health of families.

But on Nov. 1, the National Catholic Reporter characterized the document sent to bishops' conferences as “a Vatican survey asking (Catholics') opinions on church teachings.”

The same day, il Fatto Quotidiano, a leftist and populist publication based in Rome, wrote that “the decision of Francis to listen, on such delicate themes, to the voice of the faithful, is absolutely unprecedented.”

In fact, the process of requesting input from around the world for a synod of bishops is well precedented; the previous Synod on the New Evangelization, held in 2012, also asked bishops’ conferences to encourage discussion of topics related to evangelization and summarize their findings.

Moreover, in his Oct. 18 letter asking that dioceses share the Preparatory Document for the 2014 synod “as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes,” Archbishop Baldisseri also noted that “since the time available is short, I would appreciate if you would follow the most brief and practical institutional process.”

Fr. Lombardi responded, stressing that the questions “are not regarding the doctrinal position of the Church,” explaining that the document has solely an advisory character, forming part of the habitual “praxis” of the synod of bishops.

The questions were given to the bishops of all the world's dioceses on how to address pastoral questions and how to give assistance to persons in irregular family situations, among other things.

Fr. Lombardi added that on Tuesday, Nov. 5, there will be a press conference on the preparation for the synod's 2014 meeting, including Archbishop Baldisseri; Archbishop Péter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, general relator of the synod; and Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, special secretary of the synod.

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Video highlights seminarians, priestly vocations in Los Angeles

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 4, 2013 (CNA) - As seminary enrollments continue to rise, the Los Angeles archdiocese has released a vocational video titled “Follow Me: Journeys to Priesthood,” telling the stories of many seminarians discerning a call to priesthood.

Fr. Steve Davoren, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said the vocations office hopes that the video will move more young men to “begin an internal dialogue with God to help them discern a possible vocation to the priesthood.”

“We want to portray ordinary men being called by God to live extraordinary lives,” he said Oct. 30.

The 13-minute video interviews seminarians and priests from different backgrounds about what inspired them to follow a vocation to the priesthood.

Danny Jacobs, a seminarian from St. Victor Church in West Hollywood, is an Emmy Award-winning actor whose success prompted more questions.

“How can I help people with this? What is this doing for me?” he said of his Emmy.

“What your authentic self wants is the same thing God wants for you,” Jacobs said in the video. “And he’s trying to tell you that. But he’s a gentleman, and he speaks in a whisper. And he waits until you listen.”

There are now 92 seminarians at the archdiocesan St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, Calif., the highest number in many years. Twenty-five of the seminarians are new students, some of whom are studying for other dioceses.

There are 20 new seminarians discerning the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at St. John’s, and at the Juan Diego House of Formation in Gardena.

The increase in seminarian numbers is part of a national trend. There are about 3,700 seminarians in Catholic seminaries across the U.S., a 13 percent increase in the past decade.

Seminarians at St. John’s range in age from 22 to 45. Some have a foreign background, coming from Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, Guatemala and Uganda.

The video dedicates some time to immigrant seminarians and priests, and also introduces viewers to seminary formation.

John O’Brien, a seminarian and surfer from Santa Monica’s St. Monica Parish, spoke of the “special bond” between priests and the seminarians, who are preparing “to serve the people.” He recounts in the video the fellowship among priests and seminarians who are surfers.

“It’s really great to spend some time with my brother seminarians who surf, and priests who surf,” he said.

The video will be shown at Catholic high schools, youth rallies, religious conferences and local parishes to encourage men to discern a priestly vocation and to educate all Catholics about vocations.

The video can be seen at the archdiocese’s vocations office website

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