Rome, Italy, Mar 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During a special conference commemorating the life of deceased Opus Dei leader Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, Cardinal Julian Herranz noted the priest's model of holiness for the Church.
“The image of Fr. Alvaro del Portillo, who appears in the Second Vatican council helping as secretary to support the decree was like a man chosen by God,” the cardinal told CNA March 13, “a divine vocation, a man consecrated by God, a specific sacrament instituted by the priestly ministry of the Church, and a man sent.”
Cardinal Herranz is one of two cardinals who are members of Opus Dei as well as the organization’s highest ranking member, and has previously served as president the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.
He also chaired the commission instituted by Benedict XVI in 2012 to investigate the Vatileaks scandal in which numerous confidential Vatican documents were leaked to the Italian press, and was participating as one of the speakers for the conference, which began on March 12 and will continue through the 14.
Being held at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Sacred Cross, the conference celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Servant of God Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, who is slated to be beatified on Sept. 27, and offers talks on his role during the Second Vatican Council as well as his cause for canonization.
On the soon-to-be Blessed, Cardinal Herranz – who spoke to attendees on the priest’s position as secretary during the Second Vatican Council – recalled that “I accompanied him during all of the work sessions” of the council “because I was a collaborator for the Conciliar Commission who worked on the discipline of the clergy.”
Referencing the great spiritual life led by Msgr. Portillo, the cardinal explained that he appeared as a man both “chosen” and “sent” by God, adding that “Christ chose him, consecrated him and sent him to evangelize.”
“I would say too the configuration of holiness appeared during the second Vatican council,” he added “because it’s very beautiful to think about this.”
“John XXIII will be canonized, Pope Paul VI is moving on the path of being a Blessed, and between the protagonists of the Council was Fr. Alvaro, who is also beatified right now, so they reminds us of the holiness within the Second Vatican Council and its message of holiness for the future of the Church.”
Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo was the immediate successor of St. Josemaria Escriva, who was a Spanish priest that founded the institution Opus Dei in 1928, and served as its founder until his death in 1975.
Translating from Latin as “Works of God,” Opus Dei is formally known as “The Prelature of the Holy Cross” and centers its spirituality on the universal call to holiness in everyday life, teaching that ordinary daily activities are a path to sanctity.
In a message sent to the institution’s current prelate, Msgr. Javier Echevarria, on behalf of Pope Francis, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin expressed that the Supreme Pontiff sent his “best wishes” for the anniversary of del Portillo’s birth.
Pope Francis, he wrote, expresses his hope that “you will duly highlight the precious example of the life of the faithful follower and first successor of the holy founder of Opus Dei and promoter of this Pontifical University for the service of the Church.”
“He was a zealous priest, who combined an intense spiritual life founded on faithful adhesion to the rock who is Christ, with a generous apostolate as a pilgrim throughout the whole world.”
Exhorting the current prelate to imitate the “humble, cheerful, hidden and silent life” of del Portillo, Cardinal Parolin highlighted the Servant of God’s determination to “give testimony” to the “newness of the Gospel.”
He was able to do this, the cardinal added, “by announcing the universal call to holiness and the furthering through one’s daily work of the salvation of all mankind.”
“The Holy Father, while asking you to pray for him and for his ministry, invokes the light of the Holy Spirit for a fruitful work of reflection,” the message concluded, stating that the Pope “warmly imparts to your excellency the Rector and to the professors his apostolic blessing.”
Denver, Colo., Mar 14, 2014 (CNA) -
The Augustine Institute has released on DVD the first ten episodes of “Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained,” a formation program that comprehensively covers the Catholic faith.
Edward Sri, Augustine Institute theology professor and director of the Symbolon program, said it is intended to address “a fragmented understanding of the faith” common among many Catholics.
“We wanted to build a series that walks through the entirety of the Catholic faith in a way that would shape their lives,” he noted in a March 12 statement.
“They might know there are 12 apostles, ten commandments, seven sacraments and three persons of the Trinity, but how does it all fit together?”
The program aims to provide pastors and others with “authentic and engaging catechesis” as a resource for the New Evangelization.
The program includes video presentations with Augustine Institute professors such as Gray, as well as other speakers including Johnette Benkovic, Patrick Coffin, Teresa Tomeo, Jim Beckman, Leah Darrow, Sean Innerst, Curtis Martin and Father Leo Patalinghug.
Presentations were filmed in Rome, the Holy Land, and Calcutta and at the Denver-based Augustine Institute.
Tim Gray, the Augustine Institute’s president, said that Symbolon is gaining recognition as “one of the most powerful tools the lay faithful can use to educate others in the faith and evangelize.”
The series' first part, “Symbolon: Knowing the Faith” is now available for pre-order in a DVD box set format, ahead of a March 17 release date. Its ten episodes focus on Catholic beliefs such as the Trinity, redemption in Christ, the Church, the Bible, Mary and the Saints, creation, the fall and the Last Things.
The second part of the series, “Symbolon: Living the Faith,” will be released in fall 2014. It focuses on the encounter with God in the sacraments as well as the moral life.
The series is intended for individual use and for parish use in Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults programs, adult faith formation, men’s groups, women’s groups, family life ministry and catechist formation.
The series includes resource guides for leaders and participants.
The leader’s guide provides an outline for each session, opening and closing prayers, discussion questions, and practical application suggestions. It includes background material, additional resources and tips for leaders.
The participant’s guide provides space for note-taking and reflections on the content. It helps participants explore Catholic teachings in more detail at their own pace, the Augustine Institute said.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia has praised the Symbolon video series as “outstanding in every sense.”
“Beautifully produced, rich in content and pleasing to watch, Symbolon is not just a great adult tool for teaching and learning the Catholic faith, but a joy to experience.”
George Weigel, a Catholic commentator and scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., noted that recent Popes have called on every Catholic to be a “missionary disciple.” He said these Catholics must be “well-formed.”
“This splendid series will help prepare Catholics to enter mission territory every day, offering others friendship with Jesus Christ.”
Besides the video series, other parts of the Symbolon program include diocesan leadership training for RCIA and adult faith formation.
Sample video clips from the DVD and order information are available at the website www.SymbolonCatholic.org.
Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a hearing on Capitol Hill, human rights experts and survivors of decades of violence and civil unrest in Northern Ireland discussed the need for justice and accountability for victims and society at large.
“The passage of time will not by itself heal Northern Ireland's society or make it more normal or bring it together,” said The Honorable Richard N. Haass, chair of the Panel of Parties in the Northern Ireland Executive.
“It is up to the leaders of Northern Ireland to make politics work toward the objective of completing the peace process.”
Haass made his comments March 11 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee's subcommittees on human rights and Europe. The event dealt with steps Northern Ireland can take to address the violence that throughout Northern Ireland in a time called “The Troubles.”
This period of upheaval occurred from the 1960s through the Belfast Good Friday Agreement of 1998 between groups that wished to maintain British sovereignty over Northern Ireland and those who wished to join a united Ireland.
Eugene Devlin recounted his injuries as a victim of a shooting as an example of the experiences the Northern Irish justice system still needs to address.
While coming back from a high school dance in 1972, Devlin said that his friend and his cab was followed by a car, whose passengers proceeded to shoot at Devlin and his friend when they got out of the cab to go home. Devlin was shot in the arm by a potentially-deadly bullet, and still has “physical reminders of that wound, and every day, carry medication as a consequence.”
Devlin said that he later learned that “ these shootings were the clandestine acts of a secret terrorist force, carefully selected from the British Army” called the “Military Reaction Force.”
“It was a shock that someone who didn’t know me would try to kill me – they nearly did – but I am sure that they didn’t care if I died,” he said. “These shootings were unjustified, and remain unjustifiable.”
Devlin added that “the most disturbing thing” about the situation was that the army, which was originally brought to the country “to restore order,” “had become transformed into an army of occupation, with elements of that army operating outside even their own law and regulations.”
Julia Hall, an expert on Criminal Justice and Counter-Terrorism in Europe for Amnesty International said that while the peace agreements between the two sides of the conflict was a “turning point in the history of Norther Ireland,” the “ongoing failure to deal with Northern Ireland’s shared, but difficult past has had consequences for both individuals and society-at-large.”
Many families who lost relatives on both sides of the conflict, as well as society at large “are still searching for the truth and for justice and for accountability.”
“The failure to grapple with the legacy of the past has created fertile ground for continued division and mistrust, undermining progress towards a shared future,” she explained.
Hall suggested that Northern Ireland make steps to implement a “victim-focused” system “to address the past in a comprehensive manner,” which would look at individual cases and seek to bring those responsible for violence “to justice” and provide “full reparation for victims.”
Haass urged Irish leaders to “be prepared to take and make precisely this case to their constituents and the broader public,” especially to their own supporters.
He acknowledged that while “the society has come a long way from where it was two decades ago,” there is still much work to be done.
“The stakes are great,” he said. “Largely depending upon what they choose to do, the future of Northern Ireland will either be that of a vicious circle or a virtuous one.”
Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Contraception has been promoted by the U.S. government as a tool for the expansion of freedom, especially for women, but actually has not been shown to promote this goal, according to a legal expert.
Instead, contraception has been promoted as a way to promote an ideology about people and relationships that has hurt, rather than helped, the people it claims to assist, said Helen Alvare.
"We really have been primed for quite a bit of time to think of contraception in the context of the question about feminism, about it empowering women," Alvare, a professor of law at George Mason University, stated in a March 5 address at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C.
However, the promotion of contraception has not caused substantial improvements in the developing world or in more impoverished areas of the U.S., and has not led to better maternal policies, she said.
"No one thought that we would still be having this conversation" when the contraceptive pill was introduced, she commented, but its inability to deliver on the promises of an improved society call into question its reputation as the source of women's empowerment.
The lecture, titled "Hitched: Are Contraception and Feminism Inextricably Tied?", was sponsored by the Anscombe Society at Catholic University.
Alvare explained that originally, policies promoting contraceptives to developing nations were suggested under national security policies that centered on "reducing populations in countries that we didn't want more of." However, they were publicly discussed as development aids, under the presumption that "large populations were responsible for poverty" and that providing contraceptives was "really just an anti-poverty policy."
Research, however, by economists and development experts show that this approach does not work.
Investigation by Harvard economist Lant Pritchett, Alvare said, shows that "some of the most crowded countries in the world have perfectly fine standards of living for the vast majority of people," while "some of the most sparsely populated countries have some of the worst poverty."
She also pointed out that Pritchett's research shows that people throughout history have been capable of regulating how many children they have without the use of artificial contraceptives, because they "value other things more than they value absolute spontaneity in sexual encounters at all times."
"All of this talk about 'unmet need' has the presumption,” which has not been borne out by Pritchett's research, “that there's an extraordinarily high cost to having in any way avoid spontaneity.”
In addition, a study by Amartya Sen, a development expert at New York University, shows that prosperity in developing countries "did not have to do with trying to affect the size of the population directly." Instead, according to Sen's research, a country's development relies upon "its extending credit to women, its equality for women in all arenas, education, business, etc., and its policies that tamp down on corruption.”
Alvare also pointed to the health effects of hormonal contraceptives as shown in several large-scale experiments and class-action suits, challenging the labeling of hormonal contraceptives as "women's health." The reversible sterilization of a population of poor inner-city residents of St. Louis Missouri with long-acting reversible contraceptives resulted in a rise in HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases because of the hormones' effects on the body.
In addition, hormonal contraceptives have not led to a decrease in unintended pregnancies, she noted. The brunt of this increase in unintended pregnancies has been experienced by poor women, she explained: "the people who get it for free have the highest rates of unintended pregnancy."
“What they don't have is better school, better jobs, a means of getting to a better life -- but they do have free contraception.”
However, support of contraception is still being pushed by the government, as well as by organizations and companies with a "vested interest" in increasing contraceptive sales, she said, such as pharmaceutical companies.
The government "has gotten in on the act as a cheerleader for contraception," Alvare commented, "celebrating it as an entree into sex without relationship and sex without children" by promoting campaigns encouraging premarital sex for young adults and through government regulations such as the HHS mandate which requires employers to provide contraceptives to women at no cost -- a uniquely privileged class among medical products.
In this approach "they are really promoting sexual expression as freedom, and particularly as freedom for women," an ideology she called "sexualityism."
Alvare explained this idea holds that "sexual expression when you want it, of any kind, without consequences, is the good to be pursued."
She pointed to the 2012 elections in which the discussion over contraception "was not about poverty" but rather "it was that women are free when their sex lives are unburdened."
The message, Alvare said, was that “you're free because you're sexual: it has nothing to do with building a relationship with a man, let alone with a child.”
Pointing back to the various studies on contraception's side effects for society, Alvare said that contraception has not led to better opportunities and it has not "really given any flexibility for mothers" in society.
Instead it has "generated an opportunity cost" for women interested in becoming mothers.
Moreover, contraception changes the way people think about relationships by "reducing the seriousness of sex."
Given contraception, people "forget about the fact that sex means something" and that it's a "different kind of physical activity" than others.
"It changes the marketplace" of sexual encounters.
This change is troubling for society's needs at large, Alvare argued. Studies of people's desires and regrets show that people " want relationships that are mutual -- where they are a gift to be given," Alvare said, pointing to studies showing that respect for one's partner and "an ethic of the gift" within marriages leads to higher levels of happiness.
In "long studies on what was the stuff of life … the stuff of life was relationships," she concluded, and contraception "severs" the understanding of relationships.
Vatican City, Mar 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During Pope Francis’ spiritual exercises, Msgr. Angelo De Donatis focused his meditations on the Grace of God, warning against worldly attitudes, and emphasizing the importance of being open to God’s love.
Msgr. De Donatis oversees a parish in the center of Rome, and was in charge of preaching during the Lenten retreat for Pope Francis and members of the Curia, who have been in the hillside town of Ariccia for their March 9 – 14 spiritual exercises.
Reflecting on the theme of “the purification of the heart,” Msgr. De Donatis began his Tuesday morning meditation by stating that man is like a pomegranate, and that the many seeds inside represent the various elements of creation, into which God breathed life, L’Osservatore Romano reported on March 11.
However, if man prevents the breath of God, divine merciful love, from entering and penetrating his heart, he is destined for ruin, the priest explained.
Using an actual pomegranate as an example, Msgr. De Donatis drew attention to the tiny seeds inside, emphasizing that when man does not allow God’s love to enter, the seeds become obsessed with their own self-assertion, and seek to grow larger, entering into competition with the others until they explode and destroy all of the fruit.
Going deeper into the effects of evil on man, the priest recalled the Gospel passage where Jesus casts a demonic spirit out of a young man and into a herd of swine, explaining that the reaction of the shepherds once the swine run into the sea and drown is what is happening in the world today.
Calling to mind how Jesus freed the young man from demonic possession, Msgr. De Donatis highlighted that no one took notice of the fact that he was freed, because they were too concerned with the economic disaster resulting from the death of the pigs.
Observing how the shepherds then told Jesus to leave their village, the priest explained that they were prevented from encountering Jesus by an economic ideology, adding that this is what religion faces today.
The young man is liberated and is no longer afraid, he concluded, noting that he was not saved because he did anything special, but only so he might know God’s merciful love, which we need the Holy Spirit in order to attain.
Reporting on Wednesday morning’s discourse, L’Osservatore Romano recalled in a March 12 article that Msgr. De Donatis spoke specifically of the importance of language.
Warning of the temptation of worldly language, the priest cautioned the participants that it is a dangerous trap which we cannot fall into if we wish to bear witness to the love of God and build a community which glorifies God through charity.
Unfortunately, Msgr. De Donatis lamented that in the world today man is still searching for the language of Christ, which was not one of power or force, but rather was a language of fragility that was easily understood by all, especially those who suffered.
“Jesus,” stated the priest “was the best communicator” even though he never made a speech with the aim of convincing “at any cost,” because he was able to make himself understood by communicating God’s love for man.
His words, the priest noted, were not based on the “wisdom of the world” but on the wisdom of God, which is the only way we are able to know the greatness of the gifts he has given us and in turn offer them to others in charity, thus bearing witness to the glory of Jesus.
In their March 13 article, L’Osservatore Romano reported on Wednesday morning’s meditation, highlighting how Msgr. De Donatis spoke particularly of the love of God for man.
Returning to the topic of an economic ideology, Msgr. De Donatis observed that in this logic every gesture contains the risk of not understanding the virtue which draws man to God, God to man and man to other men, which is needed in order to create a communion of love and a welcoming Church.
Describing how a child who prepares for their first communion recognizes in their own way, both unconsciously and indirectly, the ability of God to transform a simple gesture into something which spreads inside of them and creates communion, the priest asked participants “do you know Jesus so well out of work purposes, or because you are friends?”
Recalling the Gospel story of the woman who meets Jesus in the house of a leper and breaks a marble jar in order to wash Jesus’ head and feet with the expensive oil inside, Msgr. De Donatis highlighted how Jesus went to the leper’s house, stating that he goes where there is evil.
He goes, the priest continued, because he has the security of being loved anyway, which is a feeling that every man who leaves his town for other places seeks.
The gesture of this woman, which takes place when Jesus is at table with his friends, signifies a gratuitous love, he continued, adding that it carries greater weight because of the fact that during that time it was only two days until Easter, and the scribes were already plotting to kill Jesus.
Concluding their retreat on Friday morning, March 14, Pope Francis, the Curia members and Msgr. De Donatis left Ariccia at 10:30 a.m., and returned to Rome by bus.
Front Royal, Va., Mar 14, 2014 (CNA) -
The Population Research Institute has launched a new campaign to encourage effective human rights activism among those concerned about the victims of China's coercive one-child policy.
The institute has launched a webpage in conjunction with the release of the second edition of “A Mother's Ordeal” by institute president Steven Mosher. The book is a biography of a young enforcer of China's one-child policy who performed coerced abortions. She herself was forced to have an abortion after she became pregnant with a child in violation of the law.
“When I first read 'A Mother’s Ordeal,' I frequently had to pause and take a deep breath,” Anne Morse, the Population Research Institute's media coordinator, said March 13. “The atrocities told within its pages made my stomach churn. It made me want to do something, and I knew that other readers would be motivated to take action too.”
Morse said that the institute launched its new activism web page to help others take action.
The page contains facts and educational resources about China’s population control policy, which was mandated across the nation in 1979. Chinese officials say the policy has prevented 400 million births.
The policy has some exceptions allowing some couples to have more than one child. However, violators pay heavy fines and face other penalties. In some areas, authorities resort to forced abortion.
The policy has also had significant demographic side-effects, such as a rapidly aging population. Over 33 percent of Chinese residents are 50 years or older.
A Chinese cultural preference for boys means that some parents target unborn baby girls for abortion so that their only living child will be a boy. This practice skews the country’s sex ratio, which is now 111 males for every 100 females. The imbalance has created demand for forced prostitution and sex trafficking.
The Population Research Institute has encouraged those concerned about the one-child policy and its victims to follow its work on what it says is “the myth of overpopulation.” The institute also researches the promotion of abortion, abortifacient contraception, and sterilization in population control efforts. It advocates to defund such programs by exposing what it says is “the coercion, deception and racism inherent in them.”
The institute’s activism page recommends the organizations Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and All Girls Allowed, both of which oppose the one-child policy. The activism page also recommends a petition and several short videos about coerced abortion and overpopulation.
Bhubaneswar, India, Mar 14, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a decison praised by the local Church, a judge in India sentenced three persons Friday for the 2008 rape of a nun during mob violence against Christians in the state of Odisha.
Riots in Odisha’s Kandhamal district began Aug. 24, 2008, after a Hindu religious leader, Laxmananada Saraswati, was killed. While Maoist rebels claimed responsibility for the assassination, Hindu extremists blamed the local Christian community.
During rioting the next day, a nun was beaten, raped, and paraded semi-naked in Baliguda, a town in Kandhamal. She has said she was dragged from the home of a Hindu where she had taken shelter, along with a priest, the BBC reports.
Nine persons were arrested in connection with her rape, and three of these were found guilty March 14.
“Justice is partially delivered to the nun, and the diocese welcomes the judgement delivered by the District Session Court of Cuttack,” Fr. Santosh Kumar Digal, press officer of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, where Kandhamal is located, told CNA March 14.
He added, however, that in “several cases” related to the 2008 violence, “significant delays have led people to lose hope” in the justice system.
Many accused in the Kandhamal riots have been acquitted due to laxity in prosecution, lack of evidence, or witnesses’ fear of prosecution, fear, or coercion.
Fr. Digal said the judgement in this case “would send positive signals and revive people’s faith in the judiciary and law of the land.”
The Catholic community is urging greater collaboration with the local government in providing security and in empowering human development in the area; nearly half of Odisha’s residents live below the poverty line, and the figure is three-quarters in Kandhamal.
“The fundamental rights, freedom enshrined under the constitution shall be protected and guaranteed equal justice to all its citizens, retold Fr. Santosh.
“We are thankful to all who sustained their support -- especially to the women support-group lawyers, NGOs, police, and the people who stood with us in our difficult time.”
Fr. Digal added that he has spoken to the nun several times, and she has stood strong in faith “and has forgiven the perpetrators” of the crime against her.
Cuttack District Sessions court judge Gyana Ranjan Purohit convicted Santosh Patnaik of rape, and Gajendra Digal and Saroj Bahdei of molestation.
The six other persons arrested in connection with the rape were acquitted for lack of evidence, and one more suspect is still being sought by police.
Patnaik was sentenced to 11 years in prison, and Digal and Bahdei to 26 months.
According to the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese, the two months of violence in 2008 left 93 dead; 6,500 homes burned and looted; and 350 churches and 45 health and educational centers destroyed.
The BBC reports that more than 25,000 Christians were rendered homeless by the riots; the archdiocese still continues to rebuild homes and institutions in Kandhamal.
Hindu extremists in Kandhamal accused Christians of bribing poor and low-caste Hindus to convert, while Christians have said low-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the caste system.
According to Fr. Digal, “allegations of forced conversions are baseless.”
A local catechist told CNA there has been “ignorance and insensitive hatred,” without understanding or knowledge of Christians.
There is an “identity crisis” in Odisha – also known as Orissa -- and many people there believe that all who read the Bible or attend church are indistinguishable, the catechist reported. This generalization, without going into a person’s causes for converting, leads to accusations of false conversions to Christianity.
More than 94 percent of Odisha’s population is Hindu; Christians and Muslims both account for some 2 percent, and the remaining 2 percent are Sikhs, Buddhists, or Jains. In the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Catholics account for 0.5 percent of the population.