Archive of December 3, 2013

Cardinal Dolan: Church has been 'caricatured' as anti-gay

New York City, N.Y., Dec 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said he thinks the Catholic Church has been “out-marketed” in the public discussion of marriage, giving a misleading representation of the Church’s beliefs.

“We've been caricatured as being anti-gay,” Cardinal Dolan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Dec. 1, adding that “we’re pro-marriage, we’re pro-traditional marriage, we’re not anti-anybody.”

“When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it's a tough battle,” he explained.

The cardinal lamented the “stampede” to implement same-sex marriage, saying he wished it were not the case. Regardless of the culture, however, the Catholic Church is “not going to give up” on the issue.

He noted that change in a positive direction has proven possible on other controversial issues, such as abortion.

The 1973 Supreme Court decision that allowed for legal abortion nationwide prompted many to believe abortion was an issue that was “going to go away,” he said.

“To this day, it remains probably the most divisive issue in American politics,” he continued. However, it is now clear that there are “changing attitudes” on abortion and the pro-life message is reaching young people.

When “Meet the Press” host David Gregory asked the cardinal whether he thinks the marriage debate is over, he replied: “I don't think it's over. No.”

Cardinal Dolan also reflected on the papacy of Pope Francis.

He said that the Pope represents a change of “tone” and “strategy.” While a Pope cannot make doctrinal changes, he can change the manner in which the faith is presented.

The cardinal said he gave the Holy Father “a standing ovation” for criticizing an approach to the faith that focuses only on issues like abortion, “gay marriage” and contraception.

“I don’t know if it’s so much the Church is obsessed with that, it’s the world that’s obsessed with those things,” Cardinal Dolan noted, adding that it is “rare” for him to preach on these issues.

He emphasized that in his view, Pope Francis is saying “First things first. First let’s talk about God, about his mercy, about his love, about his forgiveness, about his invitation, about his embrace, about his promise of life eternal through his son Jesus. You talk about that, and then morals, doctrine, that will fall into place.”

The Pope has reminded Catholics of the “latitude of Catholic beliefs and Catholic principles,” he explained.

While Catholic teaching on controversial issues is “important” and “unwavering,” Pope Francis has also noted the importance of “the way we forgive, the way we help the poor, the way we help the immigrant, the way we reach out to the sick and to the refugee and to the forgotten, those at the side of the road,” Cardinal Dolan said.

“That is as strong and as cogent a moral imperative as anything else.”

The New York cardinal reflected on the popularity of Pope Francis, noting that many people now stop him to express their love for the Holy Father.

“I think Jesus is coming to us as Catholics, and again to the world through the humanity, the simplicity, the sincerity, of Pope Francis,” he said.

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Bishop counters dismissals of Pope's economic warnings

Lincoln, Neb., Dec 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Critics of Pope Francis' warnings about capitalism are reducing him to a “cartoonish socialist” to diminish the seriousness of his message, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb. has said.

“The Pope affirmed that markets must be understood and administered in justice, with due regard for the sovereignty and solidarity of families and human dignity,” Bishop Conley said in a Dec. 2 column for the Republican-leaning website National Review Online.

He added that the Pope’s Nov. 26 document “Evangelii Gaudium” did not reject capitalism, but instead rejected “idolatry of any economic system” and “called Catholics to human solidarity in the context of public policy.”

Parts of Pope Francis' 85-page apostolic exhortation criticized the idea that unregulated free markets will “inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” He also warned about the placement of “crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Bishop Conley, without naming radio show host Rush Limbaugh, noted that the conservative commentator had characterized Pope Francis' work as “pure Marxism” and called the Pope “dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong.”

The bishop suggested this criticism works to ensure that the Pope’s message “won’t be taken seriously.”

“Pope Francis is reduced to a cartoonish socialist to quiet consciences rankled by exhortation,” Bishop Conley said.

“The Holy Father is not a politician or an economist. But he is a very good pastor. He recognizes the sinfulness of Christians and the shortcomings of the Church. He recognizes our vices and our temptations. He calls us to be the best of our humanity: He calls us to discipleship in Jesus Christ and solidarity with our brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Conley added that most conservative leaders recognize the value of limited regulation “as essential for protecting the most vulnerable.”

“Thoughtful Catholics, thoughtful economists, and thoughtful policymakers know that there is no perfect economic system,” he continued. Markets cannot be totally rational or totally just and even self-correcting markets have consequences when “greed, undue excess, or irrational speculation” affects “real human beings, with real families and real dignity at stake.”

The bishop said “Evangelii Gaudium” sketches an “expansive vision” of the Catholic Church that is “joyful, missionary and charitable.” The document offers a “challenging and discomforting” invitation to “a gospel of pure joy.”

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Israeli prime minister invites Pope Francis to Israel

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - During an audience with Pope Francis, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, invited the Roman Pontiff to visit Israel, though the date of the visit has yet to be determined.

The private audience, which lasted nearly half an hour, was held during Netanyahu's two-day visit to Italy meant to improve relations between the two countries and to sign commercial agreements.

According to the Holy See press office, Pope Francis and Netanyahu's conversation was focused on “the complex political and social situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to the reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, expressing hope that a just and lasting solution respecting the rights of both parties may be reached as soon as possible.”

“Aside from indicating the Holy Father’s plans for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, various questions were considered regarding the relations between the state authorities and the local Catholic communities, as well as between the State of Israel and the Holy See, in the hope that the agreement which has been in preparation for some time may be concluded forthwith.”

The agreement deals with a tax dispute between Israel and the Vatican, clarifying fiscal and property issues related to the Church which stem from policies established under the period of the U.K.'s administration of Palestine, which lasted from 1920 until Israel's establishment in 1948.

The Church's property in Israel enjoyed privileged legal and tax status under the British Mandate, and in 2003 the two states signed a treaty meant to resolve the issues, but it has yet to be ratified by the Knesset, Israel's legislature. The treaty also established diplomatic relations between the two states.

In 2009, a bilateral working commission was established to resolve the economic issues, and will next meet in January, 2014. Zion Evrony, Israel's ambassador to the Vatican, said Nov. 5 that he is optimistic about a quick agreement between the countries.

During the audience, Netanyahu confirmed his invitation to Pope Francis to visit the Holy Land next spring, and his wife Sarah added that “we look forward to it.”

According to Israeli media, the visit should take place May 25-26, 2014. The last papal visit to Israel was Benedict XVI's in 2009; that was preceded by Bl. John Paul II in 2000, and Paul VI in 1964.

Pope Francis and Netanyahu exchanged gifts at their meeting; the prime minister gave the Pope a copy of “The origins of the inquisition in fifteenth century Spain,” a book written by his father, Benzion Netanyahu. According to a journalist embedded in the Israeli delegation, the book asserts that Catholics did not offend the Jews during the inquisition.

Netanyahu also gave Pope Francis a silver tray decorated with a menorah, as well as a pitcher with which to pour oil.

Pope Francis in turn gave Netanyahu a bronze panel representing Saint Paul.

Following his audience with the Pope, Netanyahu visited Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States.

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A Church without joy is unimaginable, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pope focused his daily homily this morning on the themes of joy and peace, emphasizing that our God “is joyful,” and that the Church’s mission of transmitting this joy to others brings authentic peace.

“You can’t imagine a Church without joy,” the pontiff explained in his Dec. 3 homily, “and the joy of the Church lies precisely in this: to proclaim the name of Jesus.”

Pope Francis directed his homily to those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, where he has chosen to reside.

He began by reflecting on the day’s first reading taken from the prophet Isaiah, which describes how in the coming of the messiah, “the lion and the sheep shall abide together.”

This passage, observed the Pope, speaks to us of the peace that we all long for and which only the Messiah can bring, while in the Gospel, when Jesus praises his Father for what he has revealed, “we are able to see a little into the soul of Jesus, the heart of Jesus,” which is “a joyful heart.”

“We always think of Jesus when He preaches, when He heals, when He travels, walks along the street, even during the Last Supper,” the Pope reflected, “but we aren’t used to thinking about Jesus smiling, joyful.”

“Jesus was full of joy, full of joy,” explained the pontiff, quoting Jesus’ words from Luke’s Gospel when, from the intimacy with his Father, the Lord proclaims “I rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and I praised the Father.”

This “is precisely the internal mystery of Jesus,” stated the Pope, “that relationship with the Father in the Spirit. It is His internal joy, the interior joy that He gives to us.”

“And this joy,” he explained, “is true peace,” which is not static, quiet or tranquil.

“Christian peace is a joyful peace, because our Lord is joyful,” the Pope continued, and because of this Christ wills that his spouse, the Church, share in this joy, which we only find when proclaiming “the name of Jesus.”

“To say: ‘He is the Lord. My spouse is the Lord. He is God. He saves us, He walks with us.’ And that is the joy of the Church; that in this joy of being a bride becomes a mother.”

Quoting his predecessor Pope Paul VI, the pontiff stated that “the joy of the Church is precisely to evangelize, to go forth and to speak about her Spouse. And also to transmit that joy to the children that she bears, that she raises.”

Returning to the first reading taken from Isaiah, Pope Francis urged those present to reflect on how the peace of which the prophet speaks of “is a peace that is so moving, it is a peace of joy, a peace of praise,” which we can also say is “noisy, in praise, a peace that bears fruit in becoming a mother of new children.”

This peace “comes precisely in the joy of praise for the Trinity, and of evangelization, of going to the people to tell them who Jesus is,” noted the Pope, drawing attention to Jesus’ “dogmatic declaration” in the Gospel when he affirms to his father that “you decided to reveal Yourself not to the wise, but to the little ones.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily by observing that “even in so many serious things, such as this, Jesus is joyful, the Church is joyful.”

“She must be joyful,” he emphasized, “even in her widowhood - because the Church has something of the widow who waits for her spouse to come back,” but “even in her widowhood, the Church is joyful in hope.”

“The Lord gives this joy to all of us,” the Pope explained, highlighting how “this joy of Jesus, praising the Father in the Spirit. This joy of our mother Church in evangelizing, in announcing her Spouse.”

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Francis and Benedict linked in call for joyful priests

Rome, Italy, Dec 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a presentation of a work by Benedict XVI on the priesthood, the head of the Vatican's doctrine office said that both Benedict and Pope Francis share a view on priestly vocation and the crisis it faces.

Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told CNA in a recent interview that the teachings of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis on priesthood are “linked.”

The archbishop, who is curator of Benedict's collected works, was presenting “Herald of the Word and servants of your joy,” a collection of the emeritus Pope's reflections on the priesthood written over the course of 50 years. The book was recently re-published by the Vatican's publishing house in Italian as the 12th book in his collected works.

Presenting the book in Gela, on the island of Sicily, Archbishop Mueller argued that “the deep sense of Ratzinger’s writings on priesthood, is to live the vocation with joy and charity,” and that this idea is made concrete in Pope Francis’ appeal to priests to be “shepherds and not officials, mediators and not intermediaries.”

In his apostolic exhortation on the new evangelization “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis similarly wrote that the “dearth of vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life” is “often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervour in communities, which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness.”

Archbishop Mueller reflected that Benedict had attributed the decline in priestly vocations to “a lack of theological and sociological motivations” for answering God's call.

Following Benedict's writings, Archbishop Mueller affirmed that “the only way out of the crisis is to keep one's gaze fixed on the resurrection of Jesus,” since “the resurrection is the foundation which overcomes every crisis.”

He then maintained that “through his resurrection Christ overcame the biggest crisis of faith ever,” that experienced by the apostles after his death.

Archbishop Mueller is convinced that this collection of Benedict's writing on the priesthood may be a great help in overcoming the crisis, and this is the reason why he hopes to disseminate the book as widely as possible.

Speaking with Pope Francis, with whom he lunched Nov. 18, he said he “would like to present the book before the seminarians and priest of the Diocese of Rome.” This presentation is expected to take place Dec. 7 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the diocesan cathedral.

The archbishop noted that “Joseph Ratzinger began writing papers and reflections on the priesthood shortly before the Second Vatican Council, which already reflected on the crisis of the priesthood that was to break out after the Second Vatican Council.”

Because of their “peculiar bond” with the apostles through ordination, Archbishop Mueller said reflecting on Benedict's book, deacons, priests and bishops are “the shepherds who represent Jesus, and through them, Jesus himself is present.”

Archbishop Mueller also stressed that “Jesus, now and ever, invites us to pasture his flock,” and Christ's gaze “urges us with hope and trust” through our crises.

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Council of cardinals begins second meeting on curial reform

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met with the group of eight cardinals advising him on the reform of the Roman Curia and the government of the Church this morning, initiating the council's second meeting.

“The meeting began this morning continuing the look at the Roman Curia with a view to its reform, as requested by the cardinals prior to the conclave,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, said at a briefing of journalists.

This second meeting, lasting Dec. 3-5 and conducted at Casa Santa Marta, follows an initial meeting held Oct. 1-3.

Between their meetings, the eight cardinals sought input from other bishops, “collecting many proposals” particularly at meetings of their national bishops' conferences. While there is a certain distribution of tasks among the eight, given their background and experience, each has a full share in the “common responsibility” of the council's decision making.

The Roman Curia is currently ordered by “Pastor bonus,” the apostolic constitution issued by Bl. John Paul II in 1988 which regulates and defines the charges, duties and composition of the offices of the curia.

Fr. Lombardi explained at the briefing that the council's work is “not to make simple changes or marginal modifications to 'Pastor bonus',” but it will instead “prepare … in short, a new Constitution.”

This month's meeting of the council “began with a reflection on the dicasteries,” he said, starting with the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Pope Francis will be attending all the council's sessions this round except for Wednesday mornings, as he willbe  holding his General Audience.

The cardinals plan to meet with Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, but will not be able to meet with contacts in the economic sphere.

That meeting with representatives of the Vatican's economic concerns is likely to take place at the council's third meeting, to be held Feb. 17-18, 2014, shortly before the next cardinals' consistory, to occur Feb. 22.

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Ukrainian Church an example of 'synodality' for Pope

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The head of the Ukrainian Church revealed that in a recent private meeting with Pope Francis, the pontiff praised the structure of Eastern Churches for their emphasis on collaboration among bishops.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said his discussion with Pope Francis mainly focused on “the synodality of our Church,” as the Pope is looking for ways to “foster the collegiality in the Catholic Church.”

“For him,” the archbishop told CNA, “the way how we live our synodality as an eastern Catholic Churches is an example.”

The private conversation between the archbishop and the Pope took place Nov. 25 after the prelate celebrated a Mass commemorating the 50th anniversary of the transfer of the relics of St. Josaphat – a Ukrainian bishop martyred in the 17th century – to St. Peter's Basilica.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk is the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and was present in Rome for the Nov. 19-21 plenary assembly of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, remaining in Rome afterwards to preside over the special Mass honoring the Ukrainian saint.

Archbishop Shevchuk explained that within the Greek Ukranian Church there are currently 48 bishops, “including an emeritus one,” and that normally “each year, world-wide, we have a synod gathering of more or less 35 bishops.”

Of these, 30 were present at last week's plenary assembly and “all active synod came to pray together, to listen to the pope and to foster that synodality in his presence.”

In wake of these discussions, noted the archbishop, he and the Pope spoke together “about the collegiality and the synodality of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.”

Archbishop Shevchuk also revealed that a key point of discussion in this year's plenary assembly was the grave concern for the Church in the Middle East.

“Today, the Eastern Catholic Churches live three different, I would say, local situations, this is in India, Middle East and Eastern Europe,” he said, adding that “we were very much concerned about the Middle East,” and that “especially the question of Syria was raised very strongly.”

During the meetings, the archbishop emphasized that “we not only prayed together the Divine Liturgy, praying for the peace in Syria but we are also trying to understand what is going on there and how we can show our solidarity and what we as a church in world-wide dimensions can do for them.”

A great concern for all of the Eastern Patriarchs, Archbishop Shevchuk noted, is how to organize their “pastoral care,” outside the areas of Syria and the Middle East “because there is a massive emigration.”

Those who are suffering due to the situation “need to feel the presence of their patriarchs,” the archbishop continued, emphasizing the challenges presented to pastoral care “in the territory where there is violence going on.”

“In the diaspora” where those who flee their home country are far from their “own structures,” it is difficult to know “how to help them to keep their own tradition even where they are going today,” the prelate explained.

“So this is world-wide question,” he stated, “it was a concern of the Chaldean Church but also the same situation we have as a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.”

“This is the main concern which was expressed and shared among us in those very particular for us days.”

Speaking of the significance of the transfer of the relics of St. Josaphat to St. Peter's Basilica fifty years ago, the prelate highlighted how it is a great symbol of unity, because the “unique” Saint worked hard for unity in his life, and is now “present in the St. Peter Basilica, so close to the tomb of St. Peter.”

“Those 50 years,” he noted, “were 50 years of studies and reflection about our today's mission as fully oriental church who rediscovers and lives its own spiritual, ascetical, theological and liturgical tradition.”

This tradition, continued the archbishop, is one that they “have in common with our Orthodox brethren, but we live that tradition with the full communion with the successor of Peter.”

“St. Josaphat is a symbol, a symbol of unity of the Church of Kyiv with the successor of Peter in the ecclesiastical memory, so he sealed in his blood that unity that was subscribed in some, I would say, agreements.”

In standing alongside Pope Francis at the altar after the celebration of the anniversary Mass, “we had a possibility to experience that personal vital communion as a synod of the bishops with new elected Pope Francis,” Archbishop Shevchuk reflected.

“So St. Josaphat gave us one more gift. That communion for which he died as a martyr, he offer us today in that very unique moment of not only communion, but the meeting of the pope…to listen to him, to see him, to express who we are.”

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Lawsuit against US bishops wrong on abortion, doctor says

Lansing, Mich., Dec 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A lawsuit charging that the U.S. bishops’ ethical standards for hospitals caused negligent care of a pregnant woman wrongly claims that abortion was medically necessary, a doctor and professor of medicine has said.

“Abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother,” said Dr. Brian C. Calhoun, a professor and vice-chair in the obstetrics and gynecology department at West Virginia University-Charleston.

Calhoun, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, rejected the deliberate killing of an unborn patient in a medical emergency.

“Abortion is not medicine. It is something else entirely,” he told CNA Dec. 2.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Nov. 29 filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of a Michigan woman named Tamesha Means.

Means was 18 weeks pregnant in 2010 when her water broke and she went to Mercy Health Muskegon, a Catholic hospital in Michigan. She made three emergency visits. On the third visit, she delivered the baby, who died less than three hours after birth.

The ACLU claims that hospital was negligent because it did not tell Means “that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition.”

The legal group said the woman was in “excruciating pain” and the pregnancy posed “significant risks to her health.” She also suffered “extreme distress” and an infection that can cause infertility, the organization said.

While babies have not been known to survive outside of the womb before 21 weeks of pregnancy, an unborn baby at 18 weeks is significantly developed, about 5.5 inches long and seven ounces in weight, with a small human profile. The baby can make sucking motions with his or her mouth and can begin to hear, the Mayo Clinic website says. The mother can often feel the baby’s motions.

Calhoun said that patients such as Means may need to be delivered prematurely. Even if the premature baby ends up dying, this different from an abortion, in which a doctor directly and deliberately “kills the baby, usually by surgical dismemberment.”

He suggested that the lawsuit is an attempt “to make abortion seem like a great idea.” He noted that surgical abortions also have “numerous” complications, including bleeding, lacerations, incompetent cervix, and infection.

The ACLU lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Michigan, claims that because the U.S. bishops’ conference approved the ethical directives governing Catholic hospitals, the conference is “ultimately responsible for the unnecessary trauma and harm” that Means and other pregnant women have experienced at these hospitals.

The legal group opposes the Catholic directives, saying they tell health care provides not to inform patients about other alternatives even when they are the “best option for the patient’s health.”

Most recently updated in 2009, Catholic ethical and religious directives seek to affirm the life of all parties involved in a medical situation. They allow operations, treatments and medications for a pregnant woman to treat a “proportionately serious pathological condition” if these procedures and treatments cannot be postponed, “even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.”

However, Catholic ethics bar the direct and intentional killing of an unborn baby through abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union has long backed legal sanctions against Catholic institutions that refuse to recognize what it considers “reproductive rights.” It has called for federal investigations of Catholic hospitals that refuse to perform abortions. In a 2002 report, the legal group’s now defunct Reproductive Freedom Project advocated restrictions on the ability of Catholic hospitals and other institutions to refuse to perform procedures they find objectionable, including sterilizations or abortions.

The ACLU is also a vigorous defender of the federal HHS mandate that requires many employers to provide sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause early abortions, in their employee health plans.

The mandate has been criticized for its narrow religious exemption, which fails to protect many religious ministries. The language for the exemption was based on a California law crafted by the ACLU specifically to counter Catholic institutions’ conscience protections, William J. Cox, president of the California-based Alliance of Catholic Health Care, told a subcommittee hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2011.


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