Category: Vatican

Blog author: jmorse
posted by on Saturday, July 8, 2006

There was an impressive Australian contingent at the World Meeting of Families. I saw one group of at least 50, and there may have been others. They were all decked out in yellow and green soccer shirts that said "Australia" on the back, wore Outback hats and carried a large Australian flag. That was just at the conference. (Cardinal Pell was terrific on the panel, as expected.)

At the Parade this morning, I saw the same green and yellow jerseys. But the Austrailian highlight for me, was when I heard, in the distance, a brass band playing "The Wild Colonial Boy." I assume it was an Australian band, though I never caught sight of them! :-)

Today, my Phillipina demographer friend and I went to the center city of Valencia. We have tickets to go to the Encounter with the Holy Father tonight, and we thought we’d do some sight-seeing during the day. Well, we couldn’t get near the Cathedral, where a cup reported to be the Holy Grail is kept. The streets were already filling with pilgrims waiting for the Pope’s arrival. The streets along the official parade were lined with police barriers, but no ordinary police barriers: they were yellow and white, the colors of the Vatican flag.

Families and groups of teens were lining the streets, waving the flags of their country, or papal flags and chanting "viva papa."  We saw flags from Ireland, Angola and Australia, as well as Spanish flags of course. A few vendors were selling small flags saying, "Papa Benedetto XVI: Benevenuto Fra Noi."  (English speakers might not realize this: but most Europeans follow the Italians in calling the Pope, "Papa,"  father.

We had a spot right up at the barriers. ਊs the Holy Father approached, the crowd pressed in closer. We were surrounded by a group from Angola, whom we recognized as participants in the lectures at the Meetings earlier in the week. They were dressed in identical blue and white traditional gowns. ਊs the Holy Father approached, my Phillipina friend and I became honorary Angolans, as we joined in their song, "Viva Papa."

Earlier this week at the World Meeting of Families:

On July 4, the opening day,the program began at 4 PM and was scheduled to go until 8:00. But the opening day had a cloud hanging over it. A subway accident in Valencia claimed the lives of 41 people and injured many others. The conference was originally scheduled to have welcoming speeches by the major of Valencia, Mrs. Rita Barbera, and the Archbishop of Valencia, the Most Rev. Agustin Garcia-Gascon Vicente. But because of the accident, they were not in attendance.

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo quoted a Spanish proverb, "The true friend is like blood: which always goes to the wound, unbidden." He said that we needed to be in solidarity with the victims of the subway accident.

The first speaker was His Eminence Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, Italy. His talk was called "The Family and Secularism." Most memorable quote from this presentation: "Real education must train people to be truly free and freely true."

He decried the loss of a sense of the meaning of marriage. January 18, 2006 was a dark day: the Parliament of the European Union passed a resolution giving the sense of the Parliament in favor of same sex marital unions and condemning anything less than that as "homophobia." Cardinal pointed out that same sex relationships have always been judged differently that marriage or opposite sex unions. He asked two questions:

1. How did we get to this point?

2. What are we risking by taking the step of legalizing same sex unions?

In answer to the first question, same sex marriage is one logical outcome of the secular state. The first step is to declare that all understandings of one’s own sexuality are equally valid. This is radical autonomy. The second step is to claim that no sexual practice can be preferred by the law. To do otherwise, would violate the impartiality of the law, and the principle of equality.

These two, autonomy and equality, are the pillars of liberal society.

He outlined two assumptions of radical secularism. First, no concept of life is "true." There is no truth regarding the good of the person or society. Second, we must organize society without any reference to any particular idea of the good. These two ideas imply that all ideas about the goods of marriage have to be replaced by something neutral, or at least, something everyone would agree upon.

What are we risking by the EU declaration normalizing same sex marriage?

1. We are creating a society of strangers. No one is truly related to anyone else through permanent bonds. The law is a teacher: it forms the ideas that people share. Instead of forming the shared idea that marriage is about lifelong monogamous reproductive unions, the law will promote the idea that marriage is whatever each couple says it is. The shared idea about marriage is that there is not allowed to be a shared idea about marriage.

2. These new ideas about marriage will promote ways of looking at marriage that undermine monogamy.

3. Normalizing same sex unions will create a completely contractual model of the family and marriage. this will marginalized the weakest members of society, who need the protections of family to sustain them.

Conclusion: Man is fascinated by Beauty and Holiness, which are the Splendor of Truth and Goodness. The splendor of married love shines in many couples. This give people a glimpse of Beauty. The struggle over same sex marriage is a struggle over Truth. We have an entire generation of parents who don’t really know how to educate the young, because they are afraid of the idea of Truth. This is where he made his most memorable statement: "Real education must train people to be truly free and freely true."

Cardinal Caffarra was terrific in my opinion.

Late evening, July 6.

My session finally took place today at about 4:15 pm. Cardinal Martino presented the Compendium of the Social Doctrine. He pointed out that the family was given pride of place in the document, listed before the economy or government or international relations or the environment. Most memorable statement: “The family is not a function of society or the state. State and society are functions of the family.”

Madame Boutin made her presentation. She is an accomplished public speaker. It is easy to see why she has been reelected for twenty years from her district near Versailles. She is one of the few pro-life members of the French Parliament. Most memorable statement: “The foundation of the family is sexual differentiation. Up until now, the culture has always confirmed nature. Now, the gay rights lobby is asking that the culture not be based on the natural differences between men and women. Even heterosexuals subconsciously seek to create distance between nature and the law.”

About my own presentation: I asked the question, why do the attacks on the family so often come from the Left? I offered the answer that the idea of equality is the problem. The fact that we are sexual creatures, male and female, affronts the radical egalitarian mind-set. The Church proposes an alternative to Socialism. Instead of creating equality, the Church insists that we defend the weak. And instead of trying to make men and women equal, the Church invites us to embrace our differences, and treat them as opportunities to support each other.

I can’t forebear saying that I had two occasions of noticeable reactions from the audience. At the beginning of my talk, I defined the family with these words:

“My definition of the family is the one grounded in the teaching of the Catholic Church and based on the clear instruction of our Founder, Jesus of Nazareth. I do not accept the various attempts by the United Nations and others to redefine the family into “families.” I simply mean one man, one woman, for life.”

The audience applauded these words.

I reported that the Spanish government, which has approved same sex marriage, no longer lists “Mother” and “Father” on the birth certificates. Instead, they list, “Progenitor A,” and “Progenitor B.” I then went on:

“I suppose that when Pope Benedict XVI arrives for these meetings, we shall not be allowed to call him our Holy Father. We shall have to call him our Spiritual Progenitor.”

I heard a tittering of laughter. About thirty seconds later, I heard a roar of laughter: the translators had finished, and the non-English speakers got the joke. It was good fun for me.

I plan to post the entire talk on my website.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Friday, June 30, 2006

The clash between scientists and moralists that Jordan highlights below is displayed also in reaction to the recent comments by Cardinal Alfonso Trujillo of the Pontifical Council for the Family concerning excommunication of those involved in embryonic stem cell research.

The comments are reported here, and scientists’ reactions here.

Meanwhile, the Church wholeheartedly supports the use of adult stem cells (which has already proven effective), as indicated by this story about a Missouri priest.

In an earlier post on illicit Catholic ordinations in China, I noted that there appeared to be a rift developing between the Patriotic Association and the rest of the government. Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen confirmed that impression in remarks he made yesterday in Rome, as reported by AsiaNews:

The Patriotic Association wanted “it to be a slap in the face, but actually, they were defeated by the clear statement of the Holy See, to which the government responded very mildly”, continued Cardinal Zen.

The Chinese neo-cardinal said this low-key response meant that the government “has accepted this new evolution of the situation”. He added: “The Chinese government had clearly told Liu Bainian [PA vice-chairman] to stop these ordinations.”

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Warsaw this morning, the start of his four-day pilgrimage in intensely Catholic Poland and the home of his predecessor, John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI kneels during a prayer at St John’s Cathedral in Warsaw May 25, 2006. REUTERS/Max Rossi

After his welcoming remarks at the airport, the pope traveled to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist where he gave a splendid address on the meaning of the priesthood. The entire text is worth reading but here’s an excerpt:

The faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life. With this end in view, when a young priest takes his first steps, he needs to be able to refer to an experienced teacher who will help him not to lose his way among the many ideas put forward by the culture of the moment. In the face of the temptations of relativism or the permissive society, there is absolutely no need for the priest to know all the latest, changing currents of thought; what the faithful expect from him is that he be a witness to the eternal wisdom contained in the revealed word. Solicitude for the quality of personal prayer and for good theological formation bear fruit in life.

Exactly one week ago, the Acton Institute held a conference at the Catholic University of Lublin, where Karol Wojtyla taught for 24 years. There were many seminarians and priests present, and it was pretty clear that they weren’t there to hear about economics as such. Rather the substance of the talks was philosophical and theological, the encounter between man and God referred to by Benedict.

So what tempts priests into speaking outside of their competencies? The need to be “relevant”? The desire to be popular? To wield political power and prestige? This is an especially great temptation when priests are expected to be authorities on everything and in places such as Poland and Italy. Pope Benedict is out to make sure they stick to fundamentals and aren’t tossed about on the waves of passing fads.

If the rest of the pope’s speeches over the weekend are this solid, we are in for a real treat.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Friday, May 12, 2006

It’s been in the news for a few days already, but the charges and countercharges continue to fly. Anyone familiar with Catholicism in China knows that the Vatican and the Chinese Communist government have been more or less at loggerheads ever since Mao Zedong drove Catholicism underground. At the heart of the dispute is the Vatican’s insistence on its right to appoint bishops; the Chinese government sees this as “foreign interference” in domestic affairs. The government’s Patriotic Association (PA) is the bureau in charge of Catholicism in China. Complicating the matter is the fact that many (nearly all?) the bishops appointed by the PA have subsequently and clandestinely sought ex post facto approval from the Vatican, thereby normalizing their status as leaders of the local churches.

Of late, there had appeared some indications that relations were thawing. The Vatican expressed its willingness to establish full diplomatic relations with China—it’s one of a few countries that officially recognizes only Taiwan—if only the government would decisively concede the point about episcopal appointments. But earlier this week the PA ordained two bishops without the pope’s approval—indeed, in the face of warnings from Rome. That blew another chill wind across Vatican-China relations.

We at Acton have generally taken an optimistic stance on China, hoping that economic and political engagement would eventually bring about prosperity, openness, and political and religious freedom. Chinese authorities seem determined to call into question that optimism.

Yet glimmers of hope remain. AsiaNews has an extraordinarily thorough and informative roster of stories on the latest dispute here. Reading them provides a sense of the complexity of the Chinese religious situation. One senses that there may be a conflict between the PA and the broader Chinese government over this issue of Catholic bishops. That is, the PA, fearful of the loss of power, is trying to reassert its traditional prerogatives. But the rest of the government is more interested in fostering international goodwill by improving relations with the Vatican—especially ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. One hopes that the PA loses that fight, and that religious freedom, which is a vital correlate of political and economic freedom, takes a big step forward in China.

I would like to highlight another passage from Pope Benedict’s homily (mentioned below by Kishore) from last Sunday’s homily that has particular relevance to our work at Acton:

We have listened together to a famous and beautiful passage from the Book of Exodus, in which the sacred author tells of God’s presentation of the Decalogue to Israel. One detail makes an immediate impression: the announcement of the Ten Commandments is introduced by a significant reference to the liberation of the People of Israel. The text says: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20: 2).

Thus, the Decalogue is intended as a confirmation of the freedom gained. Indeed, at a closer look, the Commandments are the means that the Lord gives us to protect our freedom, both from the internal conditioning of passions and from the external abuse of those with evil intentions. The “nos” of the Commandments are as many “yeses” to the growth of true freedom.

The Solemnity of St. Joseph is usually celebrated on March 19, but as it fell on the third Sunday of Lent, it has been moved to today, March 20. The Solemnity is also the the former-Joseph Ratzinger’s “onomastico” or name/patron saint’s day.

In addition to being a patron of the universal Church, St. Joseph is also known as the patron saint of workers. For the occasion, Pope Benedict said the following during his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday (click here for the full English text, courtesy of Zenit):

Work activity must serve the true good of humanity, allowing “man, as individual and member of society, to cultivate and fulfill his full vocation” (“Gaudium et Spes,” No. 35). For this to occur, the necessary technical and professional qualification is not enough; neither is the creation of a just social order attentive to the good of all sufficient. A spirituality must be lived that will help believers to sanctify themselves through their work, imitating St. Joseph, who every day had to provide for the needs of the Holy Family with his hands, and who because of this the Church indicates as patron of workers.

And at the Angelus address, the pope referred to John Paul II’s 1989 apostolic exhortation “Redemptoris Custos”, Custodian of the Redeemer, which is full of remarkable observations on the simple, devout life of Christ’s earthly father. The full text can be found on the Vatican’s website by clicking here.

It’s not too much to read, but there’s a lot to reflect upon, even more to incorporate into our everyday lives, and an excellent way to start a work week!