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DOHA – The San Pedro Calungsod Filipino Community had organized a Bowling Fun Game last July 18, 2015 at the Qatar Bowling Center. The said event was started in a short prayer led by Fr. Rally Gonzaga.
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Rome, Italy, Apr 18, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a prison in the suburbs of Rome Thursday, urging the inmates to reflect on how they can treat each other with servants’ hearts.
“It is true that in life there are problems: we quarrel among ourselves,” the pope said April 18, “but this must be a thing that passes, a passing thing, because in our hearts there must always be this love of serving the other, of being at the service of the other.”
“This is the rule of Jesus and the rule of the Gospel,” he said, “the rule of service, not of dominating, of doing evil, of humiliating others. Service.”
Recalling the moment when Jesus’ apostles were arguing among themselves about who was the most important, Pope Francis said: “Jesus took a child and said, ‘The child. If your heart is not a child’s heart, you will not be my disciples.’ The heart of a child – simple, humble, but a servant.”
Pope Francis said the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Velletri men’s prison, located about one hour south of the Vatican on the outskirts of Rome.
This was the fifth time in his pontificate Pope Francis celebrated Maundy Thursday Mass at a prison. The first was in 2013, just after becoming pope, when he visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention center.
Subsequent Maundy Thursday Masses have been held at the historic Regina Coeli prison, a center for asylum seekers, Rebibbia prison, and Paliano prison.
In 2014, the pope said Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.
After his brief homily, Francis washed the feet of 12 prisoners: one Moroccan, one Ivorian, one Brazilian, and nine Italians. After washing the men’s feet, he kissed each one.
In his homily, the pope explained that Jesus’ gesture of washing the feet of his disciples was that of a servant, because at the time, streets were not paved, and people’s feet would get covered in dust.
Therefore, when they entered a house to visit or share a meal, a servant would wash the feet of the guest, he said. “And Jesus makes this gesture: he washes their feet. He makes the servant’s gesture: He, who had all the power, He, who was the Lord.”
Francis emphasized what happens next in the Gospel: that Jesus turns to his disciples and advises them to do the same to each other.
“In other words, serve one another, be brothers in service, not in ambition, as someone who dominates the other or who tramples on the other, no, be brothers in service,” he urged. “Do you need something, a service? I’ll do it for you.”
This is what real fraternity is like, he said, explaining that the Church asks the bishop to imitate Jesus in the washing of the feet every year on Holy Thursday.
This is because, he said, “the bishop is not the most important, but must be the best servant.”
Vatican City, Apr 18, 2019 / 02:57 am (CNA).- The holy oil blessed at the Chrism Mass is a reminder of the priest’s call to be close to the People of God, pouring himself out in service to them, Pope Francis said Thursday.
“I would say this: We [priests] are not distributors of bottled oil,” the pope said April 18. “We anoint by distributing ourselves, distributing our vocation and our heart.”
Priests not only anoint with sacramental oil, they “anoint by dirtying our hands in touching the wounds, the sins and the worries of the people. We anoint by perfuming our hands in touching their faith, their hopes, their fidelity and the unconditional generosity of their self-giving,” he said.
Francis spoke to priests living in Rome about the “grace of closeness” during the Chrism Mass of Holy Week, the Mass at which the pope, as the bishop of Rome, blesses the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Chrism Oil, which will be used throughout the diocese over the coming year.
“When we anoint others” with this holy oil, he said, “we ourselves are anointed anew by the faith and the affection of our people.”
Pope Francis recalled the many times the Gospel speaks of Jesus being surrounded by crowds. “The Lord never lost that direct contact with people,” he said. “Amid those crowds, he always kept the grace of closeness with the people as a whole, and with each individual.”
This is what the Lord’s priests are called to do, he said.
“By setting us with Jesus in the midst of our people, may the Father renew deep within us the Spirit of holiness,” he prayed. “May he grant that we be one in imploring his mercy for the people entrusted to our care and for all the world.”
“In this way, the multitude of the peoples, gathered in Christ, may become the one faithful people of God, which will attain its fullness in the Kingdom,” he continued.
The pope explained that priests can find in the crowds of people an “evangelical model” for their ministry.
The people of their parish “are the ones who complete and make real the anointing of the Spirit in ourselves; they are the ones whom we have been anointed to anoint,” he said, reminding priests that they themselves came from the crowd of “ordinary people.”
The Catholic people “are an image of our soul and an image of the Church,” he stated.
The people in the Gospels demonstrated their affection for Jesus by following him, but this attitude is contrasted, he said, with the attitude of the disciples, who in their “small-mindedness” suggest that Jesus send them away in order to get something to eat.
“Here, I believe, was the beginning of clericalism,” the pope explained. There is a temptation to clericalism “in this desire to be assured of a meal and personal comfort without any concern for the people. The Lord cut short that temptation: ‘You, give them something to eat!’ was Jesus’ response. ‘Take care of the people!’”
Francis urged priests to counteract this temptation by remembering that “we priests are the poor man and we would like to have the heart of the poor widow whenever we give alms.”
“We priests are [the blind man] Bartimaeus, and each morning we get up and pray: ‘Lord, that I may see.’ We priests are, in some point of our sinfulness, the man beaten by the robbers. And we want first to be in the compassionate hands of the good Samaritan, in order then to be able to show compassion to others with our own hands,” he said.
Vatican City, Apr 17, 2019 / 04:06 am (CNA).- Jesus’ glory is not found in the acclaim or applause of the world, but in the act of suffering and dying out of love – the same love demanded of everyone, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
“True glory is the glory of love, because it is the only one that gives life to the world,” the pope said at the general audience April 17.
“Certainly, this glory is the opposite of worldly glory, which comes when one is admired, praised, acclaimed,” he continued. “The glory of God, on the other hand, is paradoxical: no applause, no audience. At the center there is not the ego, but the other.”
On the eve of the Easter Triduum, Pope Francis spoke about the glory found in Jesus’ Passion and death, done out of love for the Father and asked people to reflect on the source of their own “glory.”
“What is the glory I live for? Mine or God’s?” the pope asked. “Do I just want to receive from others or also to give to others?”
The way to give God glory is to “live all that we do with love,” Francis said, “do everything with the heart, as for Him.”
He explained that Jesus is the perfect example of how to live all things with love for God the Father, pointing to his prayer at the Last Supper. As recounted in the Gospel of John, Jesus, “raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you.’”
Francis noted that “Jesus asks for glory... while the Passion is at the door,” a request that seems paradoxical. “What glory is [the Passion]?”
The glory of God “is the distinctive sign of his saving presence among men.” Jesus, through his Passion and death, “shows God’s presence and salvation in a definitive way.”
“And he does it at Easter: raised up on the cross, he is glorified. There God finally reveals his glory: he takes away the last veil and astonishes us as never before. In fact, we discover that the glory of God is all love: pure love, crazy and unthinkable, beyond all limits and measure.”
Let us pray that during these days leading to Easter, meditating on the Crucifix, “we can accept that God is love,” Francis said.
He went on to note that sometimes it is difficult to see God as a loving Father, falling into seeing him as a severe judge instead of a merciful Savior. “But God at Easter clears the distance, showing himself in the humility of a love that demands our love,” he stated.
He urged people experiencing suffering, like their own Garden of Gethsemane, to remember to pray like Jesus, saying, “Father.”
“In fatigue, prayer is relief, trust, comfort,” he said. Even in his own interior desolation in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is not alone because he is with the Father.
The pope pointed out that in periods of suffering or desolation, people often choose isolation, instead of praying, “Father,” and entrusting themselves to God and his will, “which is our true good.”
“But when we are closed in on ourselves in the test, we dig a tunnel inside, a painful introverted path that has a single direction: more and more deeply into ourselves,” he said. “The biggest problem is not pain, but how it is dealt with.”
But prayer, he said, is the way out. “Praying in these days the ‘Our Father,’ we can ask for one of these graces: to live our days for the glory of God, that is, with love.”
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2019 / 05:36 pm (CNA).- Scrutiny continues for the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, amid questions of whether some of its grant activity was motivated by a desire to secure leniency for disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
The ongoing controversy surrounds the foundation’s decision to make an unprecedented grant to a leading Italian hospital whose former leadership had faced accusations of massive embezzlement and financial misconduct.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the outgoing Archbishop of Washington, made “false and misleading” statements about the grantee to the foundation board, said Matthew B. O’Brien, a Philadelphia-based writer, in an April 12 essay for First Things. O’Brien cited several people involved with the Papal Foundation who spoke on background and provided copies of foundation meeting minutes and legal reviews.
“He painted a picture of a hospital that was experiencing momentary cash-flow problems, but was otherwise sound,” O’Brien charged. “Wuerl’s actions are especially questionable in light of what he knew at the time about then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s interest in securing the grant.”
“Wuerl was aware that McCarrick stood to win leniency in his sex abuse case if the Papal Foundation secured $25 million for the Vatican’s Secretary of State,” said O’Brien.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Papal Foundation, challenged this interpretation. His statement, quoted in O’Brien’s essay, said there were “a variety of interpretations” of the financial condition of the grantee and its sponsoring entities.
“Clearly there were different readings of available information, but it is not correct to characterize the presentation of Cardinal Wuerl or other participants at the Board meeting as false or misleading,” Corallo said.
Since 1990, the foundation has given over $100 million to support projects and proposals recommended by the Holy See. American cardinals are ex officio leaders of the foundation, though it has a significant number of lay board members. Grants are made for needs that are particularly significant to the pope, and often go to institutions and organizations in developing nations. The grants typically do not exceed $200,000 each.
The foundation’s approval of a $25 million grant to a financially and legally troubled Italian hospital became a major controversy among board members who argued the grant was approved without due diligence. This controversy drew media coverage in early 2018.
After the June 2018 exposure of sex abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a past Washington archbishop, further questions were raised about the possibility of further corruption, the use of funds for undue influence, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s knowledge of McCarrick’s abuse.
In December 2017, the foundation approved a $25 million grant to the Rome hospital Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI). According to O’Brien, this approval came in response to a request from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, made on behalf of Pope Francis.
The hospital, which had been under the direct ownership of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, remains one of the leading dermatological hospitals in Italy.
In 2013, Italian authorities arrested a priest who was its chief executive through 2011 and two others for allegations dating back as far as 2005. They were convicted on charges relating to the embezzlement of 6 million euros in public money from the hospital and diversion of another 82 million euros. The hospital allegedly evaded taxes on 450 million euros. Its debt of over 800 million euros led to bankruptcy.
Financial reorganization led to the purchase of the hospital and its affiliates through a partnership between the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception and the Vatican Secretariat of State. This partnership owns and operates the IDI hospital and its affiliates through the non-profit Fondazione Luigi Maria Monti and a limited liability subsidiary, Luigi Maria Monti, S.r.l.
At the Papal Foundation’s December 2017 meeting that approved the grant, O’Brien charged, Wuerl made two false statements recorded in the meeting minutes: he wrongly claimed that the religious congregation involved in the hospital during the time of fraud, embezzlement and insolvency was no longer involved; and he understated the debt of the hospital and its affiliates after April 2015 insolvency proceedings.
Corallo, a Papal Foundation spokesman, said there were “a variety of interpretations” of the financial condition of the IDI and its sponsoring entities. The relationship of the religious congregation and the IDI was “still unclear,” he said, and all discussion was made difficult by “conflicting interpretations.” Wuerl’s December 2017 presentation used both publicly available information and information “provided by the Holy See.”
“Other interpretations were also offered,” said Corallo.
O’Brien countered that much information, including the $60 million debt and the continued involvement of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, were available publicly. He argued that Wuerl “does not appear to have taken any steps to clarify the crucial information about the supposed beneficiary of the $25 million grant.”
Wuerl told the board that the IDI group owed $26 million in payables but did not mention a $60 million mortgage debt, O’Brien said. He added that Wuerl resisted lay board members’ requests for financial statements from the hospital.
McCarrick, Wuerl’s predecessor as Archbishop of Washington, at the time was an ex officio member of the foundation board.
O’Brien said Wuerl knew that McCarrick could win leniency in the Vatican’s treatment of his sex abuse case if he were able to secure the grant for the hospital, at the request of the Vatican Secretary of State.
Wuerl also failed to disclose that a Vatican dicastery for which he is a board member, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), is apparently a creditor of the troubled IDI, O’Brien said. The APSA lent 50 million euros to the IDI as part of its reorganization.
O’Brien said it is still unknown whether the first part of the grant, worth $13 million, was delivered to the Fondazione Luigi Maria Monti. According to O’Brien, the Papal Foundation has not said whether it has sent the final part of the grant.
Cardinal Wuerl in a Jan. 19, 2018 letter asked the Holy See to decline about half the grant. In February 2018, a Papal Foundation spokesman told the National Catholic Register it is not the foundation’s practice to comment on individual grant requests.
The Papal Foundation was launched in 1988 by Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York and then-Archbishop of Newark Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick would go on to become a cardinal and Archbishop of Washington and also president of the foundation.
The revelations that McCarrick had sexually abused minors and seminarians would lead to his resignation from the College of Cardinals and removal from the clerical state. The revelations would lead to many questions about his influence as a global diplomat and fundraiser and whether his abuse was known and covered up by prominent churchmen.
In a September 28, 2018 essay at First Things, O’Brien had criticized McCarrick’s “manifest and gross conflict of interest” because he stood to benefit personally if, by securing the grant, “he could win leniency in how [the Vatican] handled his sex abuse case.” O’Brien argued that under Pennsylvania law which governs the Papal Foundation, directors of non-profits are obliged to disclose material conflicts of interest to the organization’s directors and officers, and recuse themselves from relevant board decisions.
O’Brien said foundation board members had told him that foundation grants had been audited in 2015 or 2016, finding a lack of records for many grants and other records indicating poor oversight on the part of the grant recipients or middlemen, who were sometimes papal nuncios.
A spokesman for the papal foundation, cited in O’Brien’s September 2018 essay, said it is making “every effort” to ensure grants are acknowledged and reported. He said the foundation is audited annually and it has been confirmed that the foundation’s procedures and operations are consistent with its bylaws and mission. At the same time, O’Brien cited a December 2017 letter from the foundation’s attorneys noting an apparent failure to confirm that grant recipients operated in a way analogous to U.S. charities and an apparent failure to obtain meaningful audits or accountings of how the grants were spent.
In March 2018 the foundation said its executive committee and board made an inadequate effort to address and correct what it said was “anonymous, inaccurate and misleading information related to the grant request” as well as “unsubstantiated claims that called into question the integrity of the request by the Holy See and of members of the board.”
The foundation said it would review its mission, its grant-making approach and its relationship with the Holy See. This review comes after its “intensive, six-month review and approval of a special request by the Vatican for assistance with a three-year financial reform plan” for the IDI hospital.
In October 2018, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston was elected chairman of the Papal Foundation’s board of trustees. O’Malley had been a member of the board for 12 years previously. He succeeded Cardinal Wuerl, who had been chairman for eight years.
“The Papal Foundation remains committed to assisting our Holy Father in meeting needs that face the Church,” the Papal Foundation told CNA April 16, in a statement sent by its vice president for advancement James Coffey.
“To do this, we look to the future with an expanded Board of Trustees that will give an opportunity for greater collaboration for the laity and the clergy to work together for the benefit of the Church and many who face great needs.”
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2019 / 05:28 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday expressed his unity with the people of France following a major blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, encouraging the rebuilding of the “architectural jewel” and “witness of the faith.”
“Following the fire that devastated a large part of Notre-Dame Cathedral, I join you in your sadness, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris and all the other French,” the pope said April 16.
In a message to Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris, he wrote: “Notre-Dame is the architectural jewel of a collective memory, the gathering place for many major events, the witness of the faith and prayer of the Catholics in the city.”
“On these Holy Days when we remember the passion of Jesus, his death and his resurrection, I assure you of my spiritual closeness and my prayer,” he said, extending his apostolic blessing on the French bishops, Catholics, and all the inhabitants of Paris and France.
Pope Francis sent his condolences in the wake of a major fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral, which started shortly before 7pm local time April 15.
The fire was brought under control shortly after midnight April 16, and totally extinguished several hours later.
The roof of the French cathedral collapsed along with its spire, but the main bell towers and historic edifice of the building were saved.
Reports also indicate that the major religious and artistic treasures of the cathedral were removed as the fire began, including a relic of the crown of thorns.
Paris’ prosecutor has said it is inquiring into “accidental destruction by fire.” A French official said April 16 the fire was not intentionally started.
Pope Francis wrote that he is aware that the fire has caused serious damage not only to what is a historic site, but “a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French people in the diversity of their convictions.”
He hopes the Paris cathedral will be reconstructed to become once again “this beautiful setting in the heart of the city, a sign of the faith of those who built it, mother church of your diocese, architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, France and humanity.”
Pope Francis also praised the firefighters for their work and their courage.
Papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti wrote on Twitter early April 16 that the pope is praying for French Catholics and for the people of Paris and that “he assures his prayers for all those who strive to cope with this tragic situation.”
Vatican City, Apr 15, 2019 / 05:28 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis met with a group of high school students this weekend, encouraging them to monitor their cell phone use, so as not to create obstacles to a culture of encounter.
Students from Visconti High School visited with the pope at Paul VI Hall on April 13. The meeting comes a month after the 450th anniversary of the birth of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. The saint was known for his charitable work with the poor, which resulted in him contracting the plague and dying at the age of 23.
The school’s building in Rome houses the remains of Gonzaga, who is the patron saint of the youth. Gonzaga himself attended the school. Pope Francis praised the saint for his willingness to encounter those around him, particularly those in need.
In modern times, the pope warned, we must be cautious of anything that tears us away from encounter and authentic relationships. While cell phones can be a valuable tool for communication, they can also reduce our freedom and present an obstacle to true dialogue, he said.
“Free yourself from dependence on your mobile phone, please!” Francis said. “You have certainly heard of the drama of addiction…This one is very subtle.”
“Be careful, as there is the danger that, when the telephone is a drug, communication is reduced to simple ‘contacts’. But life is not for ‘contacting’, it is for communicating!”
The pope emphasized the importance of the school system as a place of communication, especially between cultures. The Church promotes fraternity, he said, noting that this requires a foundation of freedom, truth, solidarity, and justice.
“The dialogue between different cultures and different people enriches a country, enriches the homeland and enables us to move ahead in mutual respect, enables us to go ahead looking at one earth for all, not just for some,” he said.
Pope Francis also commented on the important role modesty and fidelity have within friendships. He stressed that love is not solely an emotional reality but a responsibility.
“The sense of modesty refers to a vigilant conscience that defends the dignity of the person and authentic love, precisely so as not to trivialize the language of the body. Faithfulness, then, along with respect for the other, is an indispensable dimension of every true relationship of love, since one cannot play with feelings.”
Pope Francis’ concerns about cell phone addictions echo those of technology experts in recent years, as computer and phone use have become more prevalent among children and teens, raising concerns about academic performance, social wellbeing and overall quality of life.
Psychologist Jean Twenge, author of “iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood,” spoke to CNA last September about trends in technology.
The average daily screen time for teenagers is high above the recommended two hours, Twenge noted. “Beyond that, the risks increase, topping out at the highest levels of use,” she said.
She pointed to a 2015 study from the research group Common Sense Media. It stated that over half of teens in the U.S. spent at least four hours in front of a screen and 25% were reported to have been in front of a screen for more than eight hours a day, with detrimental effects.
“For example, teens who use electronic devices 5 or more hours a day are 71% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide than those using devices less than an hour a day,” Twenge said. “They are also 51% more likely to not sleep enough. Teens who are online 5 or more hours a day are twice as likely to be unhappy as those online less than an hour a day.”
Pope Francis has spoken on the moderation of technology in the past. During a 2016 homily, he highlighted the damages television and cell phones can have on family encounters.
“In our families, at the dinner table, how many times while eating, do people watch the TV or write messages on their cell phones? Each one is indifferent to that encounter. Even within the heart of society, which is the family, there is no encounter.”
He said it is the responsibility of the family to seek out dialogue in which the person is truly seen and heard rather than treated as an object of indifference.
“We are accustomed to a culture of indifference and we must strive and ask for the grace to create a culture of encounter, of a fruitful encounter, of an encounter that restores to each person his or her own dignity as a child of God, the dignity of a living person,” he said.
Vatican City, Apr 14, 2019 / 04:37 am (CNA).- On Palm Sunday, Pope Francis warned against the temptation of “triumphalism,” encouraging Catholics to follow Jesus’s way of humility and obedience exemplified in His Passion.
“Joyful acclamations at Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, followed by his humiliation. Festive cries followed by brutal torture. This twofold mystery accompanies our entrance into Holy Week each year,” Pope Francis said in his homily April 14.
The pope prayed for the grace “to follow in faith our Savior’s example of humility, to heed his lesson of patient suffering, and thus to merit a share in his victory over the spirit of evil.”
“Humility does not mean denying reality: Jesus really is the Messiah, truly the King,” Pope Francis said.
Processing through the crowds with palms and olive branches in St. Peter’s Square for the first liturgy of Holy Week, Pope Francis said that Christ responded to the temptation of “triumphalism” in His entrance into Jerusalem by “holding fast to his own way, the way of humility.”
Pope Francis explained that by “triumphalism” he means engaging in “shortcuts and false compromises,” without being “forged in the crucible of the cross.”
“Brothers and sisters, there is no negotiating with the cross: one either embraces it or rejects it,” Francis said.
“True triumph involves making room for God and the only way to do that is by stripping oneself, by self-emptying. To remain silent, to pray, to accept humiliation,” he continued.
“Jesus shows us how to face moments of difficulty” with “confident abandonment to the Father and to his saving will, which bestows life and mercy,” the pope explained.
The pope emphasized the importance of “the silence of Jesus” throughout His Passion. “By our silent witness in prayer we give ourselves and others ‘an accounting for the hope that is within,’” he said.
“Our place of safety will be beneath the mantle of the holy Mother of God,” Francis explained. “In the footsteps of Mary, countless holy men and women have followed Jesus on the path of humility and obedience.”
“In this way, triumphalism, destroyed by the abasement of Jesus, was likewise destroyed in the heart of his Mother. Both kept silent,” he said.
Palm Sunday is celebrated as the local “World Youth Day” for Italians. Pope Francis invited the young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to read his recent post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Christus vivit.
“In this text each of you can find fruitful cues for your life and your journey of growth in faith and in service to your brothers,” Francis said.
At the conclusion of the liturgy, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the crowd, he then rode through St. Peter’s Square on the popemobile, greeting pilgrims.
“Dear young people, do not be ashamed to show your enthusiasm for Jesus, to shout out that he is alive and that he is your life. Yet at the same time, do not be afraid to follow him on the way of the cross,” Pope Francis said.
He continued, “when you hear that he is asking you to renounce yourselves, to let yourselves be stripped of every security, and to entrust yourselves completely to our Father in heaven, then rejoice and exult! You are on the path of the kingdom of God.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 12, 2019 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to a center for Alzhiemer’s patients Friday afternoon.
With this visit to the Emmanuel Village on the outskirts of Rome, the pope desired to turn attention to the exclusion and loneliness Alzhiemer’s disease can bring to patients and family members, who are often forgotten by society, according to a Vatican statement April 12.
“The continual increase in life expectancy also calls for greater awareness and respect for the needs and dignity of those who live this disease on themselves and those who are close to the patient,” the statement continued.
The afternoon excursion was the latest of Pope Francis’ Mercy Friday visits. The pastoral initiative was originally linked to the Church’s Jubilee of Mercy in 2016, but the pope has chosen to continue the practice as an example of the corporal works of mercy.
Mercy Friday visits have included encounters with the terminally ill, refugees, children, and women free from sex trafficking, among others.
When Pope Francis arrived at the Emmanuel Village, he was greeted with astonishment by the staff and residents. He then toured the center and spoke with patients as they engaged in their recreational activities.
The Alzhiemer’s center is known for its innovation in creating an environment for its patients that allows them to live as close to normality as possible. Each of the patient residences in the “village” is designed to closely resemble the individual’s home.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis met with a group of Belgian Alzhiemer’s patients, who perform together in a choir.
“I think your song is made more precious by your vulnerability,” Pope Francis told the fifteen-member choir who were in Rome for a five-day pilgrimage.
The pope spoke about the importance of honoring the elderly and treating them with tenderness.
“Perhaps some of them have lost their memory, but they are the symbol of the memory of a people; they are the roots of our homeland, of our humanity. They are the roots, and the young must go there to take the sap from the roots, to carry civilization onwards,” Pope Francis said.
Vatican City, Apr 12, 2019 / 10:09 am (CNA).- In the wake of massive flooding in Iran, Pope Francis has sent 100,000 euros (about $113,000) for emergency aid.
The money, sent through the Vatican’s office for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, is intended as “an immediate expression of the feeling of spiritual closeness on the part of the Holy Father towards the affected people and territories,” according to an April 12 press release.
The donation will be distributed through the local nunciature and go toward relief work and assistance.
Large parts of Iran have experienced major flash flooding over the past month. In the last two weeks of March, the country, which had been suffering from a drought, was hit by three torrential rainfalls, which caused the floods.
At least 1,070 injuries and more than 77 deaths have been recorded and more than 200,000 people evacuated from their homes and towns. Damages are estimated to total between $1 and $3.6 billion.
One of the worst-hit provinces, Golestan, experienced 70% of its usual annual rainfall in just a single day.
The regional director for the International Red Cross/Red Crescent said April 3: “Iran is under water. This is an unprecedented crisis that has now touched at least 23 of Iran’s 31 provinces. While the precise impact is still to be seen, it is already very clear that the floods have caused extensive damage and suffering in villages, cities and rural areas.”
The Vatican press release noted the aid work in progress, coordinated by the Iranian Red Crescent Society and the United Nations office in Tehran, along with Caritas Iran, which visited the affected areas and is “doing its utmost to bring aid to the people.”
The pope also sent his condolences to the country through Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin at the end of March, saying he “was saddened to learn of the loss of life, injury and damage caused by floods afflicting various regions of Iran.”
“His Holiness commends the souls of the deceased to the love of the Merciful One, and invokes divine blessings of consolation and strength on those who grieve,” the telegram said. “Praying for the emergency personnel and all the efforts to provide relief, he entrusts the people of Iran to the providence of the Almighty.”
Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2019 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- After the April 11 publication of a new essay by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, commentators are mostly discussing their perception of the politics surrounding the release, or Benedict’s assessment of the sexual revolution and its relationship to the crisis.
But lost in that discussion is the immediate practical application of the document, which articulates a theology of law that seems to support the 'zero tolerance’ approach to addressing sexual abusers in the Church, which Pope Francis has long endorsed, even while he has not yet arrived at a practical way of delivering it.
At the heart of his new argument, the former pontiff insists that the purpose of punishing the perpetrators of sexual abuse is the salvation of souls, which is the highest law of the Church.
Recalling that, in the 1980s, the crisis of abuse began to reach Rome after decades of building at the diocesan level, Benedict’s essay explained that there was in Rome a double failure of law and theology, which left both victims of abuse and the faith itself unprotected.
While the previous Code of Canon Law contained a long list of specific crimes a cleric could commit - including a litany of sexual delicts - “the deliberately loosely constructed criminal law of the new Code” of 1983 offered a much pared down set of penal norms, Benedict argued.
He added that in accord with a prevailing ecclesiology at the time there also emerged among many canonists and bishops a false dichotomy between justice and mercy, in which mercy was seen to pre-empt and exclude the former, rather than following and tempering it.
Benedict highlighted the emergence of a kind of legal “guarantorism,” in which the rights of the accused seemed to be afforded the central concern of the canonical process, often at the expense of victims, restorative justice, and the public good.
Temporary suspensions and stints in therapy for abusive clerics were treated as adequate punishment, and local bishops were left with abusive priests they were expected to rehabilitate.
Under Pope St. John Paul II, reforms to the process began, starting with Rome’s decision to raise the canonical age of majority for these cases to 18, and to extend the canonical statute of limitations. The reforms under Pope St. John Paul II culminated in 2001, when Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela established new legal norms for the handling of “major crimes” against faith and morals in canon law.
Among the most crucial of St. John Paul’s reforms was, Benedict noted, the transfer of competence of sexual abuse cases from the Congregation for Clergy to the Congregation for the Doctrine if the Faith. This change was not, the pope emeritus explained, a merely bureaucratic move, but one rooted in a proper understanding of the nature and gravity of the crime of sexual abuse.
Benedict said the decision was a recognition that sexual abuse of minors is a crime against the immediate victim, and against the faith itself.
Certainly, the experience of recent decades appears to bear out the effect of the sexual abuse scandals on the faith all of Catholics, at least some of whom have lapsed in the practice of the faith following the sexual abuse crises.
This does not suggest that Benedict’s essay ignored concern for the right of defense. Instead, Benedict argued that “a properly formed canon law must contain a double guarantee — legal protection of the accused, legal protection of the good at stake.”
The idea that there is a legal necessity to defend the “good of the faith” in sex abuse cases will likely prove the most important contribution Benedict will makes to the ongoing progress of reform.
Benedict’s essay articulated its own version of “zero tolerance” in that framework, noting that “Jesus protects the deposit of the faith with an emphatic threat of punishment to those who do it harm.”
Presenting sexual abuse as a crime against the soul, not just the body, and recognizing that it can have cascading tiers of victims, refocuses the legal process through the lens of its most quoted maxim: “salus animarum suprema lex est.”
Benedict seems to argue that if the salvation of souls is the Church’s highest law, the protection of the faith should be understood as a legal good at least as important as protecting the rights of accused abusers.
From that vantage point, Benedict observed that there is much legal reform still to be done, and that Pope Francis is rightly carrying it forward.
Much of the ongoing discussion has centered around what other kinds of sexual misconduct, in addition to the abuse of children, should be canonically criminalized.
Some prominent bishops have insisted on distinguishing between the sexual abuse of minors and sexual misconduct between adults, arguing that potentially consensual sexual misconduct by clerics should not be accorded the status of a major crime. In light of Benedict’s essay, some are now likely to see in that approach the juridic framework that Benedict described as guarantorism.
But other bishops, including Cardinal Séan O’Malley of Boston, have emphasized the importance of seeing sexual abuse of clerical power treated with the same gravity as abuse of a minor.
The pope seems to be thinking along the same lines as O’Malley, demonstrated by his recent expansion of the definition of a “vulnerable adult” in the canonical norms of the Roman Curia and the Vatican City State.
Benedict’s theology of penal law, which holds at its center the crimes against the faith of the Church — and of the victims of abuse — offers a powerful rationale for Pope Francis’ action.
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea,” Benedict quotes from the gospel.
These little ones, the Pope emeritus wrote, are not only those who physically suffer abuse but also the “common believers who can be confounded in their faith,” be they children or adults.
‘It is important to see,” Benedict says, “that such misconduct by clerics ultimately damages the Faith.”
Set against this understanding of the depth of sexual abuse as a crime both physical and spiritual, Pope Francis’ ongoing efforts to articulate legally the policy of “zero tolerance” may find a renewed impetus.
Such a policy, Benedict has now argued, is essential to the salvation of souls.
Vatican City, Apr 11, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis Thursday told the formerly warring leaders of South Sudan that peace is possible in their fledgling country through the power of Christ’s resurrection.
“Your people today are yearning for a better future, which can only come about through reconciliation and peace,” he said at the conclusion of a “spiritual retreat” for the South Sudanese leaders in Vatican City April 11.
“We Christians believe and know that peace is possible, for Christ is risen. He has overcome evil with good. He has assured his disciples of the victory of peace over everything that fans the flames of war: pride, greed, the lust for power, self-interest, lies and hypocrisy,” Francis said.
The Vatican retreat brought together the South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar following a five-year civil war that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
Kiir and Machar signed a tenuous peace agreement in September 2018, which the country’s Catholic bishops have called “fatally flawed” because it does not address the root causes of the conflict.
In February, Voice of America reported that clashes between the South Sudanese army and the National Salvation Front, a rebel group, had displaced 8,000 civilians from Yei state. The National Salvation Front had not signed the September 2018 peace accord.
Pope Francis encouraged the South Sudanese leaders to “seek what unites you, beginning with the fact that you belong to one and the same people, and to overcome all that divides you.”
He challenged the leaders to consider their responsibility before God to serve their people.
“Let us not forget that God has entrusted to us, as political and religious leaders, the task of being guides for his people. He has entrusted much to us, and for this reason will require from us much more! He will demand an account of our service and our administration, our efforts on behalf of peace and the well-being of the members of our communities, especially the marginalized and those most in need. In other words, He will ask us to render an account not only of our own lives, but the lives of others as well,” the pope said.
“In a real way, all of us can say that we were called to the life of faith and were chosen by God, but also by our people, to serve them faithfully. In this service, we may well have made mistakes, some rather small, others much greater. Yet the Lord Jesus always forgives the errors of those who repent. He always renews his trust, while demanding – of us especially – total dedication to the cause of his people,” he added.
The pope said that he is praying for the leaders for South Sudan to become peacemakers, who “build peace through dialogue, negotiation and forgiveness.”
“We have clearly heard the cry of the poor and the needy; it rises up to heaven, to the very heart of God our Father, who desires to grant them justice and peace,” he said.
The pope commented on the uniqueness of the “spiritual retreat” co-hosted by the Secretariat of State and the offfice of Justin Welby, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.
“We are all aware that this meeting is something altogether special and in some sense unique, since it is neither an ordinary bilateral or diplomatic meeting between the Pope and Heads of State, nor an ecumenical initiative involving representatives of different Christian communities,” Pope Francis said.
“The purpose of this retreat is for us to stand together before God and to discern his will,” he continued. “It is to reflect on our own lives and the common mission the Lord has entrusted to us, to recognize our enormous shared responsibility for the present and future of the people of South Sudan, and to commit ourselves, reinvigorated and reconciled, to the building up of your nation.”
Francis expressed his “spiritual closeness” with the all of the South Sudanese people, particularly refugees and the sick.
South Sudan’s civil war has left 2.1 million people internally displaced, with another 2.5 million refugees, according to the United Nations.
“May the Merciful God touch the heart of every man and every woman in South Sudan, fill them with his grace and blessings, and bring forth rich fruits of lasting peace, even as the waters of the Nile, flowing through your country, bring life and abundant growth,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis confirmed his “desire and hope” to visit South Sudan soon, adding that this future visit would be together with Welby and and the former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
A prior trip to the war torn country with Welby was cancelled in 2017 due to security concerns.
“Upon all the Christians of South Sudan who, in helping those in greatest need, bind up the wounds of Jesus’ body, I implore God’s abundant graces and assure them of a constant remembrance in my prayers,” Pope Francis said.
“Peace is the fundamental condition for ensuring the rights of each individual and the integral development of an entire people. Jesus Christ, whom God the Father sent into the world as the Prince of Peace, gave us the model to follow,” he said.
“Peace is the first gift that the Lord brought us, and the first commitment that leaders of nations must pursue.”
Denver, Colo., Apr 11, 2019 / 11:45 am (CNA).- A new website aims to make available to Catholics and researchers a collection of photographs of the Shroud of Turin by a scientific photographer who was part of a research project that spent more than one hundred hours conducting tests on the shroud.
The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth 14 feet 5 inches long by 3 feet 7 inches wide, which shows the image of a man tortured and crucified. It is held by many Catholics to be the burial cloth that wrapped the body of Jesus after his death on the cross.
From 1977 to 1981, a team of physicists, chemists, pathologists, and engineers from universities and U.S. government laboratories conducted the Shroud of Turin Research Project, which concluded that “the shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”
The project’s final report added that “no pigments, paints, dyes or stains” were found on the shroud’s fibers, adding that “it is clear that there has been a direct contact of the Shroud with a body, which explains certain features such as scourge marks, as well as the blood. However, while this type of contact might explain some of the features of the torso, it is totally incapable of explaining the image of the face with the high resolution that has been amply demonstrated by photography.”
“The scientific consensus is that the image was produced by something which resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself. Such changes can be duplicated in the laboratory by certain chemical and physical processes. A similar type of change in linen can be obtained by sulfuric acid or heat. However, there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image, nor can any combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances explain the image adequately.”
Vernon Miller was the official scientific photographer of the Shroud of Turin Research project. His photographs, and magnified micrographs of various aspects of the shroud, are now freely available to view or download at shroudphotos.com. Photographs taken under ultraviolet light are also available for download. Organizers of the site say that it was Miller's wish that his photograph's be digitized and made available to those who have never seen them. The site is the first place to publish a digitized and organized catalog of Miller's work.
Miller recognized the power of images of the shroud.
“Worldwide interest in the Shroud of Turin was stimulated by the first photographs of it in 1898 when photography was in its infancy. Up to that time, people who looked at the cloth found it faint. It took the camera, with its negative image [of the man], to appreciate it,” he said after the research project was completed.
The shroud has been in Turin, Italy since 1578, has been the subject of thousands of scientific investigations from diverse specialties, and more than 32,000 photographs have been taken of it. The Church’s official position on the shroud is one of neutrality.
Vatican City, Apr 11, 2019 / 06:40 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Thursday that human trafficking is, “without doubt,” a crime against humanity for its violation of human dignity and freedom.
Trafficking, he said April 11, “constitutes an unjustifiable violation of the freedom and dignity of the victims, constitutive dimensions of the human being wanted and created by God. This is why it is considered a crime against humanity.”
“Trafficking seriously damages humanity as a whole, tearing apart the human family and the Body of Christ,” the pope stated.
Francis said trafficking in people is the worst manifestation of the commodification of others. It not only hurts victims, but it destroys the humanity of those doing the trafficking or taking advantage of victims, because it denies them access to the abundant life of Jesus.
“The Son of God became man to indicate to all human beings the path of realization of their humanity, in conformity with the uniqueness and unrepeatability of each one,” he explained. “Unfortunately, the present world is sadly characterized by situations that hinder the fulfillment of this mission.”
Pope Francis spoke to the participants of an international conference on the implementation of a handbook published in January by the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
Called “Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking,” the handbook has 10 sections, each analyzing human trafficking from a different angle and providing recommendations ranging from targeting and prosecuting consumers of human trafficking to aiding in the full spiritual and psychological recovery of its victims.
The conference ran from April 8-11 in Rome and had the participation of over 150 people, among them representatives of Catholic charitable organizations, religious orders, and bishops’ conferences.
Meeting talks were sandwiched by prayer and Mass, and the first full day ended with a candlelit prayer vigil for victims of human trafficking.
Pope Francis told conference participants that their presence “is a tangible sign of the commitment that many local Churches have generously assumed in this pastoral field.”
He highlighted the work of religious congregations in the fight against human trafficking. They operate as a “vanguard” of the Church’s missionary action against all types of trafficking, he stated.
“I sincerely thank you for what you are already doing on behalf of so many of our brothers and sisters, innocent victims of the commodification of the human person,” he said. “Persevere in this mission, which is often risky and unknown.”
The pope went on to note that though much has been done against trafficking, there is still more to do, and urged cooperation and coordination between local Churches, religious congregations, and Catholic organizations.
He also called them to accept help from outside organizations, governments, and civil society to ensure their work is as effective as possible.
“All actions that aim to restore and promote our humanity and that of others are in line with the mission of the Church, as a continuation of the saving mission of Jesus Christ,” he stated, noting the work of those fighting against trafficking and the “missionary value” evident in that.
Vatican City, Apr 10, 2019 / 04:23 pm (CNA).- The following is a previously unpublished essay from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI:
On February 21 to 24, at the invitation of Pope Francis, the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences gathered at the Vatican to discuss the current crisis of the faith and of the Church; a crisis experienced throughout the world after shocking revelations of clerical abuse perpetrated against minors.
The extent and gravity of the reported incidents has deeply distressed priests as well as laity, and has caused more than a few to call into question the very Faith of the Church. It was necessary to send out a strong message, and seek out a new beginning, so to make the Church again truly credible as a light among peoples and as a force in service against the powers of destruction.
Since I myself had served in a position of responsibility as shepherd of the Church at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, and during the run-up to it, I had to ask myself - even though, as emeritus, I am no longer directly responsible - what I could contribute to a new beginning.
Thus, after the meeting of the presidents of the bishops' conferences was announced, I compiled some notes by which I might contribute one or two remarks to assist in this difficult hour.
Having contacted the Secretary of State, Cardinal [Pietro] Parolin and the Holy Father [Pope Francis] himself, it seemed appropriate to publish this text in the Klerusblatt [ a monthly periodical for clergy in mostly Bavarian dioceses].
My work is divided into three parts.
In the first part, I aim to present briefly the wider social context of the question, without which the problem cannot be understood. I try to show that in the 1960s an egregious event occurred, on a scale unprecedented in history. It could be said that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely, and a new normalcy arose that has by now been the subject of laborious attempts at disruption.
In the second part, I aim to point out the effects of this situation on the formation of priests and on the lives of priests.
Finally, in the third part, I would like to develop some perspectives for a proper response on the part of the Church.
(1) The matter begins with the state-prescribed and supported introduction of children and youths into the nature of sexuality. In Germany, the then-Minister of Health, Ms. (Käte) Strobel, had a film made in which everything that had previously not been allowed to be shown publicly, including sexual intercourse, was now shown for the purpose of education. What at first was only intended for the sexual education of young people consequently was widely accepted as a feasible option.
Similar effects were achieved by the "Sexkoffer" published by the Austrian government [A controversial 'suitcase' of sex education materials used in Austrian schools in the late 1980s]. Sexual and pornographic movies then became a common occurrence, to the point that they were screened at newsreel theaters [Bahnhofskinos]. I still remember seeing, as I was walking through the city of Regensburg one day, crowds of people lining up in front of a large cinema, something we had previously only seen in times of war, when some special allocation was to be hoped for. I also remember arriving in the city on Good Friday in the year 1970 and seeing all the billboards plastered up with a large poster of two completely naked people in a close embrace.
Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.
The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence. That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers. And since the clothing of that time equally provoked aggression, school principals also made attempts at introducing school uniforms with a view to facilitating a climate of learning.
Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.
For the young people in the Church, but not only for them, this was in many ways a very difficult time. I have always wondered how young people in this situation could approach the priesthood and accept it, with all its ramifications. The extensive collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicizations were a consequence of all these developments.
(2) At the same time, independently of this development, Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society. I will try to outline briefly the trajectory of this development.
Until the Second Vatican Council, Catholic moral theology was largely founded on natural law, while Sacred Scripture was only cited for background or substantiation. In the Council's struggle for a new understanding of Revelation, the natural law option was largely abandoned, and a moral theology based entirely on the Bible was demanded.
I still remember how the Jesuit faculty in Frankfurt trained a highly gifted young Father (Bruno Schüller) with the purpose of developing a morality based entirely on Scripture. Father Schüller's beautiful dissertation shows a first step towards building a morality based on Scripture. Father Schüller was then sent to America for further studies and came back with the realization that from the Bible alone morality could not be expressed systematically. He then attempted a more pragmatic moral theology, without being able to provide an answer to the crisis of morality.
In the end, it was chiefly the hypothesis that morality was to be exclusively determined by the purposes of human action that prevailed. While the old phrase "the end justifies the means" was not confirmed in this crude form, its way of thinking had become definitive. Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; (there could be) only relative value judgments. There no longer was the (absolute) good, but only the relatively better, contingent on the moment and on circumstances.
The crisis of the justification and presentation of Catholic morality reached dramatic proportions in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. On January 5, 1989, the "Cologne Declaration", signed by 15 Catholic professors of theology, was published. It focused on various crisis points in the relationship between the episcopal magisterium and the task of theology. (Reactions to) this text, which at first did not extend beyond the usual level of protests, very rapidly grew into an outcry against the Magisterium of the Church and mustered, audibly and visibly, the global protest potential against the expected doctrinal texts of John Paul II (cf. D. Mieth, Kölner Erklärung, LThK, VI3, p. 196) [LTHK is the Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, a German-language "Lexicon of Theology and the Church", whose editors included Karl Rahner and Cardinal Walter Kasper.]
Pope John Paul II, who knew very well the situation of moral theology and followed it closely, commissioned work on an encyclical that would set these things right again. It was published under the title Veritatis splendor on August 6, 1993, and it triggered vehement backlashes on the part of moral theologians. Before it, the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" already had persuasively presented, in a systematic fashion, morality as proclaimed by the Church.
I shall never forget how then-leading German moral theologian Franz Böckle, who, having returned to his native Switzerland after his retirement, announced in view of the possible decisions of the encyclical Veritatis splendor that if the encyclical should determine that there were actions which were always and under all circumstances to be classified as evil, he would challenge it with all the resources at his disposal.
It was God, the Merciful, that spared him from having to put his resolution into practice; Böckle died on July 8, 1991. The encyclical was published on August 6, 1993 and did indeed include the determination that there were actions that can never become good.
The pope was fully aware of the importance of this decision at that moment and for this part of his text, he had once again consulted leading specialists who did not take part in the editing of the encyclical. He knew that he must leave no doubt about the fact that the moral calculus involved in balancing goods must respect a final limit. There are goods that are never subject to trade-offs.
There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value and even surpass the preservation of physical life. There is martyrdom. God is (about) more than mere physical survival. A life that would be bought by the denial of God, a life that is based on a final lie, is a non-life.
Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence. The fact that martyrdom is no longer morally necessary in the theory advocated by Böckle and many others shows that the very essence of Christianity is at stake here.
In moral theology, however, another question had meanwhile become pressing: The hypothesis that the Magisterium of the Church should have final competence [infallibility] only in matters concerning the faith itself gained widespread acceptance; (in this view) questions concerning morality should not fall within the scope of infallible decisions of the Magisterium of the Church. There is probably something right about this hypothesis that warrants further discussion. But there is a minimum set of morals which is indissolubly linked to the foundational principle of faith and which must be defended if faith is not to be reduced to a theory but rather to be recognized in its claim to concrete life.
All this makes apparent just how fundamentally the authority of the Church in matters of morality is called into question. Those who deny the Church a final teaching competence in this area force her to remain silent precisely where the boundary between truth and lies is at stake.
Independently of this question, in many circles of moral theology the hypothesis was expounded that the Church does not and cannot have her own morality. The argument being that all moral hypotheses would also know parallels in other religions and therefore a Christian property of morality could not exist. But the question of the unique nature of a biblical morality is not answered by the fact that for every single sentence somewhere, a parallel can also be found in other religions. Rather, it is about the whole of biblical morality, which as such is new and different from its individual parts.
The moral doctrine of Holy Scripture has its uniqueness ultimately predicated in its cleaving to the image of God, in faith in the one God who showed himself in Jesus Christ and who lived as a human being. The Decalogue is an application of the biblical faith in God to human life. The image of God and morality belong together and thus result in the particular change of the Christian attitude towards the world and human life. Moreover, Christianity has been described from the beginning with the word hodós [Greek for a road, in the New Testament often used in the sense of a path of progress].
Faith is a journey and a way of life. In the old Church, the catechumenate was created as a habitat against an increasingly demoralized culture, in which the distinctive and fresh aspects of the Christian way of life were practiced and at the same time protected from the common way of life. I think that even today something like catechumenal communities are necessary so that Christian life can assert itself in its own way.
Initial Ecclesial Reactions
(1) The long-prepared and ongoing process of dissolution of the Christian concept of morality was, as I have tried to show, marked by an unprecedented radicalism in the 1960s. This dissolution of the moral teaching authority of the Church necessarily had to have an effect on the diverse areas of the Church. In the context of the meeting of the presidents of the episcopal conferences from all over the world with Pope Francis, the question of priestly life, as well as that of seminaries, is of particular interest. As regards the problem of preparation for priestly ministry in seminaries, there is in fact a far-reaching breakdown of the previous form of this preparation.
In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries. In one seminary in southern Germany, candidates for the priesthood and candidates for the lay ministry of the pastoral specialist [Pastoralreferent] lived together. At the common meals, seminarians and pastoral specialists ate together, the married among the laymen sometimes accompanied by their wives and children, and on occasion by their girlfriends. The climate in this seminary could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation. The Holy See knew of such problems, without being informed precisely. As a first step, an Apostolic Visitation was arranged of seminaries in the United States.
As the criteria for the selection and appointment of bishops had also been changed after the Second Vatican Council, the relationship of bishops to their seminaries was very different, too. Above all, a criterion for the appointment of new bishops was now their "conciliarity," which of course could be understood to mean rather different things.
Indeed, in many parts of the Church, conciliar attitudes were understood to mean having a critical or negative attitude towards the hitherto existing tradition, which was now to be replaced by a new, radically open relationship with the world. One bishop, who had previously been seminary rector, had arranged for the seminarians to be shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making them resistant to behavior contrary to the faith.
There were — not only in the United States of America — individual bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern "Catholicity" in their dioceses. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.
The Visitation that now took place brought no new insights, apparently because various powers had joined forces to conceal the true situation. A second Visitation was ordered and brought considerably more insights, but on the whole failed to achieve any outcomes. Nonetheless, since the 1970s the situation in seminaries has generally improved. And yet, only isolated cases of a new strengthening of priestly vocations came about as the overall situation had taken a different turn.
(2) The question of pedophilia, as I recall, did not become acute until the second half of the 1980s. In the meantime, it had already become a public issue in the U.S., such that the bishops in Rome sought help, since canon law, as it is written in the new (1983) Code, did not seem sufficient for taking the necessary measures.
Rome and the Roman canonists at first had difficulty with these concerns; in their opinion the temporary suspension from priestly office had to be sufficient to bring about purification and clarification. This could not be accepted by the American bishops, because the priests thus remained in the service of the bishop, and thereby could be taken to be [still] directly associated with him. Only slowly, a renewal and deepening of the deliberately loosely constructed criminal law of the new Code began to take shape.
In addition, however, there was a fundamental problem in the perception of criminal law. Only so-called guarantorism, [a kind of procedural protectionism], was still regarded as "conciliar." This means that above all the rights of the accused had to be guaranteed, to an extent that factually excluded any conviction at all. As a counterweight against the often-inadequate defense options available to accused theologians, their right to defense by way of guarantorism was extended to such an extent that convictions were hardly possible.
Allow me a brief excursus at this point. In light of the scale of pedophilic misconduct, a word of Jesus has again come to attention which says: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea" (Mark 9:42).
The phrase "the little ones" in the language of Jesus means the common believers who can be confounded in their faith by the intellectual arrogance of those who think they are clever. So here Jesus protects the deposit of the faith with an emphatic threat of punishment to those who do it harm.
The modern use of the sentence is not in itself wrong, but it must not obscure the original meaning. In that meaning, it becomes clear, contrary to any guarantorism, that it is not only the right of the accused that is important and requires a guarantee. Great goods such as the Faith are equally important.
A balanced canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus' message must therefore not only provide a guarantee for the accused, the respect for whom is a legal good. It must also protect the Faith, which is also an important legal asset. A properly formed canon law must therefore contain a double guarantee — legal protection of the accused, legal protection of the good at stake. If today one puts forward this inherently clear conception, one generally falls on deaf ears when it comes to the question of the protection of the Faith as a legal good. In the general awareness of the law, the Faith no longer appears to have the rank of a good requiring protection. This is an alarming situation which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the Church.
I would now like to add, to the brief notes on the situation of priestly formation at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, a few remarks regarding the development of canon law in this matter.
In principle, the Congregation of the Clergy is responsible for dealing with crimes committed by priests. But since guarantorism dominated the situation to a large extent at the time, I agreed with Pope John Paul II that it was appropriate to assign the competence for these offences to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the title Delicta maiora contra fidem.
This arrangement also made it possible to impose the maximum penalty, i.e., expulsion from the clergy, which could not have been imposed under other legal provisions. This was not a trick to be able to impose the maximum penalty, but is a consequence of the importance of the Faith for the Church. In fact, it is important to see that such misconduct by clerics ultimately damages the Faith.
Only where faith no longer determines the actions of man are such offenses possible.
The severity of the punishment, however, also presupposes a clear proof of the offense — this aspect of guarantorism remains in force.
In other words, in order to impose the maximum penalty lawfully, a genuine criminal process is required. But both the dioceses and the Holy See were overwhelmed by such a requirement. We therefore formulated a minimum level of criminal proceedings and left open the possibility that the Holy See itself would take over the trial where the diocese or the metropolitan administration is unable to do so. In each case, the trial would have to be reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in order to guarantee the rights of the accused. Finally, in the Feria IV (i.e., the assembly of the members of the Congregation), we established an appeal instance in order to provide for the possibility of an appeal.
Because all of this actually went beyond the capacities of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and because delays arose which had to be prevented owing to the nature of the matter, Pope Francis has undertaken further reforms.
(1) What must be done? Perhaps we should create another Church for things to work out? Well, that experiment has already been undertaken and has already failed. Only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way. So let us first try to understand anew and from within [ourselves] what the Lord wants, and has wanted with us.
First, I would suggest the following: If we really wanted to summarize very briefly the content of the Faith as laid down in the Bible, we might do so by saying that the Lord has initiated a narrative of love with us and wants to subsume all creation in it. The counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real counterforce against evil. The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.
Let us now try to unpack this essential content of God's revelation a little more. We might then say that the first fundamental gift that Faith offers us is the certainty that God exists.
A world without God can only be a world without meaning. For where, then, does everything that is come from? In any case, it has no spiritual purpose. It is somehow simply there and has neither any goal nor any sense. Then there are no standards of good or evil. Then only what is stronger than the other can assert itself. Power is then the only principle. Truth does not count, it actually does not exist. Only if things have a spiritual reason, are intended and conceived — only if there is a Creator God who is good and wants the good — can the life of man also have meaning.
That there is God as creator and as the measure of all things is first and foremost a primordial need.
But a God who would not express Himself at all, who would not make Himself known, would remain a presumption and could thus not determine the form [Gestalt] of our life. For God to be really God in this deliberate creation, we must look to Him to express Himself in some way. He has done so in many ways, but decisively in the call that went to Abraham and gave people in search of God the orientation that leads beyond all expectation: God Himself becomes creature, speaks as man with us human beings.
In this way the sentence "God is" ultimately turns into a truly joyous message, precisely because He is more than understanding, because He creates - and is - love. To once more make people aware of this is the first and fundamental task entrusted to us by the Lord.
A society without God — a society that does not know Him and treats Him as non-existent — is a society that loses its measure. In our day, the catchphrase of God's death was coined. When God does die in a society, it becomes free, we were assured. In reality, the death of God in a society also means the end of freedom, because what dies is the purpose that provides orientation. And because the compass disappears that points us in the right direction by teaching us to distinguish good from evil. Western society is a society in which God is absent in the public sphere and has nothing left to offer it. And that is why it is a society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost. At individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course.
That is the case with pedophilia. It was theorized only a short time ago as quite legitimate, but it has spread further and further. And now we realize with shock that things are happening to our children and young people that threaten to destroy them. The fact that this could also spread in the Church and among priests ought to disturb us in particular.
Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God. We Christians and priests also prefer not to talk about God, because this speech does not seem to be practical. After the upheaval of the Second World War, we in Germany had still expressly placed our Constitution under the responsibility to God as a guiding principle. Half a century later, it was no longer possible to include responsibility to God as a guiding principle in the European constitution. God is regarded as the party concern of a small group and can no longer stand as the guiding principle for the community as a whole. This decision reflects the situation in the West, where God has become the private affair of a minority.
A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him. Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase. I will never forget the warning that the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote to me on one of his letter cards. "Do not presuppose the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but present them!”
Indeed, in theology God is often taken for granted as a matter of course, but concretely one does not deal with Him. The theme of God seems so unreal, so far removed from the things that concern us. And yet everything becomes different if one does not presuppose but present God. Not somehow leaving Him in the background, but recognizing Him as the center of our thoughts, words and actions.
(2) God became man for us. Man as His creature is so close to His heart that He has united himself with him and has thus entered human history in a very practical way. He speaks with us, He lives with us, He suffers with us and He took death upon Himself for us. We talk about this in detail in theology, with learned words and thoughts. But it is precisely in this way that we run the risk of becoming masters of faith instead of being renewed and mastered by the Faith.
Let us consider this with regard to a central issue, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern. The Second Vatican Council was rightly focused on returning this sacrament of the Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the Presence of His Person, of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, to the center of Christian life and the very existence of the Church. In part, this really has come about, and we should be most grateful to the Lord for it.
And yet a rather different attitude is prevalent. What predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ's death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery. The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence. The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons.
The way people often simply receive the Holy Sacrament in communion as a matter of course shows that many see communion as a purely ceremonial gesture. Therefore, when thinking about what action is required first and foremost, it is rather obvious that we do not need another Church of our own design. Rather, what is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
In conversations with victims of pedophilia, I have been made acutely aware of this first and foremost requirement. A young woman who was a [former] altar server told me that the chaplain, her superior as an altar server, always introduced the sexual abuse he was committing against her with the words: "This is my body which will be given up for you."
It is obvious that this woman can no longer hear the very words of consecration without experiencing again all the horrific distress of her abuse. Yes, we must urgently implore the Lord for forgiveness, and first and foremost we must swear by Him and ask Him to teach us all anew to understand the greatness of His suffering, His sacrifice. And we must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.
(3) And finally, there is the Mystery of the Church. The sentence with which Romano Guardini, almost 100 years ago, expressed the joyful hope that was instilled in him and many others, remains unforgotten: "An event of incalculable importance has begun; the Church is awakening in souls."
He meant to say that no longer was the Church experienced and perceived as merely an external system entering our lives, as a kind of authority, but rather it began to be perceived as being present within people's hearts — as something not merely external, but internally moving us. About half a century later, in reconsidering this process and looking at what had been happening, I felt tempted to reverse the sentence: "The Church is dying in souls."
Indeed, the Church today is widely regarded as just some kind of political apparatus. One speaks of it almost exclusively in political categories, and this applies even to bishops, who formulate their conception of the church of tomorrow almost exclusively in political terms. The crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, urges us to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot constitute hope.
Jesus Himself compared the Church to a fishing net in which good and bad fish are ultimately separated by God Himself. There is also the parable of the Church as a field on which the good grain that God Himself has sown grows, but also the weeds that "an enemy" secretly sown onto it. Indeed, the weeds in God's field, the Church, are excessively visible, and the evil fish in the net also show their strength. Nevertheless, the field is still God's field and the net is God's fishing net. And at all times, there are not only the weeds and the evil fish, but also the crops of God and the good fish. To proclaim both with emphasis is not a false form of apologetics, but a necessary service to the Truth.
In this context it is necessary to refer to an important text in the Revelation of St. John. The devil is identified as the accuser who accuses our brothers before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). St. John’s Apocalypse thus takes up a thought from the center of the framing narrative in the Book of Job (Job 1 and 2, 10; 42:7-16). In that book, the devil sought to talk down the righteousness of Job before God as being merely external. And exactly this is what the Apocalypse has to say: The devil wants to prove that there are no righteous people; that all righteousness of people is only displayed on the outside. If one could hew closer to a person, then the appearance of his justice would quickly fall away.
The narrative in Job begins with a dispute between God and the devil, in which God had referred to Job as a truly righteous man. He is now to be used as an example to test who is right. Take away his possessions and you will see that nothing remains of his piety, the devil argues. God allows him this attempt, from which Job emerges positively. Now the devil pushes on and he says: "Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face." (Job 2:4f)
God grants the devil a second turn. He may also touch the skin of Job. Only killing Job is denied to him. For Christians it is clear that this Job, who stands before God as an example for all mankind, is Jesus Christ. In St. John’s Apocalypse the drama of humanity is presented to us in all its breadth.
The Creator God is confronted with the devil who speaks ill of all mankind and all creation. He says, not only to God but above all to people: Look at what this God has done. Supposedly a good creation, but in reality full of misery and disgust. That disparagement of creation is really a disparagement of God. It wants to prove that God Himself is not good, and thus to turn us away from Him.
The timeliness of what the Apocalypse is telling us here is obvious. Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped. No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us.
It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. Today God also has His witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them.
The word martyr is taken from procedural law. In the trial against the devil, Jesus Christ is the first and actual witness for God, the first martyr, who has since been followed by countless others.
Today's Church is more than ever a "Church of the Martyrs" and thus a witness to the living God. If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who stand up for God with their life and suffering. It is an inertia of the heart that leads us to not wish to recognize them. One of the great and essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them.
I live in a house, in a small community of people who discover such witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.
At the end of my reflections I would like to thank Pope Francis for everything he does to show us, again and again, the light of God, which has not disappeared, even today. Thank you, Holy Father!
Translated by Anian Christoph Wimmer.
Quotes from Scripture use Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE).
Vatican City, Apr 10, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- In an essay published Thursday at CNA, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI offered his thoughts about the sex abuse crisis facing the Church. Benedict reviewed the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and examined its effects on priestly formation and life, before suggesting the Church's proper response.
“Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped,” Benedict wrote in “The Church and the Scandal of sexual abuse,” published April 11.
“No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us.”
The emeritus pope's essay was published simultaneously in German at Klerusblatt, in Italian at Corriere della Sera, and in English at Catholic News Agency and the National Catholic Register.
The former pope said the sex abuse crisis cannot be understood apart from its wider social context, noting that “in the 1960s an egregious event occurred … the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely, and a new normalcy arose.”
“This was in many ways a very difficult time … the extensive collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicizations were a consequence of all these developments.”
Concurrently but independently, “Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society,” he wrote.
The crisis of moral theology led to an abandonment of the idea of intrinsic evil, and a rejection of the role of the Magisterium by some theologians, to which the 1993 encyclical Veritatis splendor was, in part, a response.
Benedict wrote: “There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value and even surpass the preservation of physical life,” calling martyrdom “a basic category of Christian existence.”
“There is a minimum set of morals which is indissolubly linked to the foundational principle of faith and which must be defended if faith is not to be reduced to a theory but rather to be recognized in its claim to concrete life,” the emeritus pope reflected.
He also discussed the ecclesial reaction to pedophilia, noting that the 1983 Code of Canon Law “did not seem sufficient for taking the necessary measures,” and that over time “a renewal and deepening of the deliberately loosely constructed criminal law of the new Code began to take shape.”
Benedict reflected on Christ's saying that “ Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
“The phrase 'the little ones' in the language of Jesus means the common believers who can be confounded in their faith by the intellectual arrogance of those who think they are clever. So here Jesus protects the deposit of the faith with an emphatic threat of punishment to those who do it harm,” he explained.
“The modern use of the sentence is not in itself wrong, but it must not obscure the original meaning,” in which it is clear “that it is not only the right of the accused that is important and requires a guarantee. Great goods such as the Faith are equally important.”
“A balanced canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus' message must therefore not only provide a guarantee for the accused, the respect for whom is a legal good. It must also protect the Faith … A properly formed canon law must therefore contain a double guarantee - legal protection of the accused, legal protection of the good at stake. If today one puts forward this inherently clear conception, one generally falls on deaf ears when it comes to the question of the protection of the Faith as a legal good. In the general awareness of the law, the Faith no longer appears to have the rank of a good requiring protection. This is an alarming situation which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the Church.”
He said the decision to give competence for cases of clerical pedophilia to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, rather than the Congregation for the Clergy “is a consequence of the importance of the Faith for the Church. In fact, it is important to see that such misconduct by clerics ultimately damages the Faith.”
Benedict finally turned to what ought to be done: “Only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way.”
“The Lord has initiated a narrative of love with us and wants to subsume all creation in it. The counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real counterforce against evil. The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.”
“A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him. Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside,” Benedict stated.
The emeritus pope also said there must be a profound appreciation of the astoundingness of the Incarnation, and, through it, Christ's presence in the Eucharist.
“The Second Vatican Council was rightly focused on returning this sacrament of the Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ … to the center of Christian life and the very existence of the Church. In part, this really has come about, and we should be most grateful to the Lord for it.”
But “a rather different attitude is prevalent,” he said. “What predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ's death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery,” citing declining participation in Sunday Mass and treatment of the Eucharist as “a mere ceremonial gesture.”
“We do not need another Church of our own design. Rather, what is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.”
While “there is sin in the Church and evil … even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us.”
“In the trial against the devil, Jesus Christ is the first and actual witness for God, the first martyr, who has since been followed by countless others.”
Witnesses can be found today “who stand up for God with their life and suffering. It is an inertia of the heart that leads us to not wish to recognize them. One of the great and essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them,” Benedict concluded.
Saint Pedro Calungsod (c. 1654 – April 2, 1672) is a Filipino Roman Catholic martyr who was killed while doing missionary work in Guam in 1672. He was beatified on March 5, 2000, by Pope John Paul II. As a skilled sacristan and teacher of cathecism, he was a companion of Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores to the Marianas Islands. Read More