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ABOUT THE CHURCH AND THE VATICAN

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This thread is for news and commentary about the Church and the Vatican, including relations between the Catholic Church and the other Christian churches.


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HOLY YEAR FOR ST JAMES IN 2010
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SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain, MAY 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Santiago de Compostela has officially announced the 2010 "Jacobeo" Holy Year, which is celebrated each year that the feast of the Apostle James the Greater falls on Sunday.

St. James (in Spanish, Santiago) is the patron of Spain. His feastday is July 25. The feast falls on a Sunday 14 times every century, giving rise to 14 holy years. Next year's celebration will be the second Jacobeo Holy Year of the third millennium.

Archbishop Julián Barrio in a press conference Monday invited the faithful of Spain, all of Europe and of other continents to "make a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle [James] to confess faith in the Risen Christ and to receive the abundance of divine mercy as a manifestation of the love of God for each person."

The prelate also presented a pastoral letter titled, "Pilgrims of Faith and Witnesses of the Risen Christ." The letter will serve as a type of itinerary for pilgrims to Santiago. It focuses on the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Tradition holds that the Apostle James evangelized Spain and his tomb is in Santiago de Compostela.

One of the principal events of the year will be a pilgrimage with the World Youth Day cross in August. World Youth Day will be held in Madrid, Spain, in 2011.


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Another prominent US Catholic thinker has weighed in on the errant OR:


L'Osservatore Romano:
All the confusion fit to print

By Michael Novak
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May 26, 2009


For several weeks now, L’Osservatore Romano has published glowing, star-struck, teenage praise of Pres. Barack Obama, while blithely ignoring what its praise means in the American context. It fails to grasp the full threat Obama poses for the American Catholic conscience. Several leading American bishops are distraught, and have asked for help: L’Osservatore Romano must learn of the immense scandal it is causing in America.

The most recent example was in regard to the young president’s mendacious talk at the University of Notre Dame on May 17. There are five crucial facts of which L’Osservatore Romano seems — like a blind observer of faraway events — completely ignorant. [That is, alas, the operative phrase. Either that, or 'willfully ignorant', which is worse!]

One. In 2004, the American Catholic bishops formally declared that Catholic educational and other institutions in the U.S. ought not to give honors to any public leader who speaks against (defies) our fundamental moral principles.

This was a solemn declaration, an explicit part of the bishops’ teaching magisterium. In the case of Obama, two fundamental principles were at stake: the right to life and freedom of conscience.


Two. About 40 percent of America’s 65 million Catholics attend Mass at least once weekly. Most of these Catholics stand with the natural law to oppose abortion, often passionately.

For some years, and even in part today, Catholic laymen and women have been more public and fierce in their hatred for abortion than many bishops, who at times have seemed to be afraid to take the lead and voice their consciences in public.

But in recent years, more and more American bishops have been quite brave about this issue, and embarrassed many of their brother bishops into public support for the pro-life cause. The late John Cardinal O’Connor of New York was an outstanding leader in this respect.

By contrast, those Catholics who go to Mass less than weekly (or, in about 10 percent of cases, never) have virtually the same pro-abortion views as the general secular and latitudinarian Protestant population.

Thus, when the secular press writes of “Catholics,” one must distinguish, in one’s own mind, which Catholics they mean, the most committed in practicing their faith, or the less serious and less observant.

It is crystal clear that the most committed Catholics are nearly all pro-life — if not in all circumstances, then in virtually all. The less committed tend to support abortion in one way or another.


Three. In the U.S., abortion law is extremely radical, with little leeway for compromises. The Supreme Court decided the issue in 1973, without seeking the consent of the people, and without support in the text of the Constitution.

Essentially, the Court said that every woman at any moment has the right to have an abortion, right up to the moment of birth. This is the most extreme law in any civilized nation. This is the standard that secular people and their sympathizers now take as the supreme measure of “reason.” Any opposition to it is painted as extremism.


Four. Barack Obama, the bearer of so much promise as the fulfillment of the dream of those many Americans who died to overcome slavery, segregation, and second-class status for the children of Africa, has in fact gone farther than any president in American history in supporting abortion.

He has supported what is euphemistically called “partial-birth abortion,” which is actually disguised infanticide: An abortionist induces birth, and just as the infant is beginning to emerge from the birth canal, the abortionist plunges scissors into its brain to kill it, so that, technically, it is dead before full delivery.

And Obama has opposed legislation that would have forbidden the voluntary throwing into a hospital garbage bin of any child on whom an abortion was attempted, but who nonetheless was born alive.

As an Illinois state senator and then as a U.S. senator, Obama spoke against banning this practice. He was virtually alone in U.S. politics in going to such an extreme, just to please his pro-abortion constituency (which is central to his political base).

During the 2008 campaign, he memorably noted that he would not “punish” his two young daughters by obliging them to give birth to a baby they might have conceived unintentionally. That a new child is a “punishment” is a position never before taken by a major political candidate in the United States.

L’Osservatore Romano knows not the positions it is supporting, when it supports President Obama on abortion. Neither does it understand the “code,” the doublespeak, in which pro-abortion partisans speak in the U.S.

The mainstream pro-abortion leadership now has as its first priority the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which would enshrine abortion as a woman’s natural “right.” President Obama has promised the pro-abortion leadership that he will support such a bill.

Its main thrust is to repeal any of the legislation since 1973 that puts at least some procedural limits on abortion: parental consent for abortions for children under 18, mandatory instruction of women seeking abortions to inform them of alternatives and support groups, mandatory waiting periods of a few days in order that the woman’s consent will be free and deliberate. All these would be swept away.


Five. Worse, this Freedom of Choice Act would infringe the freedom of conscience of health-care workers. Anyone who would stand in the way of abortion could be recognized as a criminal.

Thus doctors and nurses, even in Christian hospitals, who found participation in abortions abhorrent would be forced by law to practice abortion when requested, and forbidden to suggest alternatives.

The practical upshot of this would be the refusal of Catholic and some other Christian hospitals to participate in abortions, and the closing of their obstetrical facilities — and perhaps the closing of entire hospitals. (Christian — mainly Catholic — hospitals comprise almost a third of all hospitals in the U.S.)

In his Notre Dame address, President Obama seemed to retreat a step when he said that any Freedom of Choice Act he signed would have “sensible conscience clauses.” But this phrase is a term of art developed by the pro-abortion extremists.

They are willing to “grant” that a doctor or a nurse may for reasons of conscience refuse to participate in an abortion — unless in an emergency they are the only staff available. In that case, the “constitutional right” of abortion would take precedence over their consciences.

In general, L' Osservatore Romano seems not to grasp the fundamental realities of abortion politics in America. For the pro-abortion forces here, “reason” and “right” and “sensible” mean supporting abortion. Anything else is unreasonable, against women’s rights, and lacking in all sense.

One highly placed appointee of President Obama even compares the condition of a woman who wants an abortion to that of the slave woman in America prior to 1863 — caught in a kind of mandatory, unwilling servitude.

President Obama’s passionate speech at Notre Dame urged an impressionable young audience to keep “open hearts and open minds,” and to “use only fair-minded words.” This sounds liberal, and reasonable, and sweet — until, that is, one recognizes that only the pro-abortion people can speak in no other way than with open minds and open hearts and fair-minded speech.

For they know that reason, good sense, natural right, and the Supreme Court are on their side. The president is speaking code, deceiving the unwary.

The only people the president disarms with these words are those who are convinced that abortion is the deliberate taking of the life of a unique human individual (with its own unique DNA, distinct from that of its mother and its father).

It is they and only they whom the president now summons to listen to the other side, to compromise, to pull clouds of uncertainty over their previous convictions, and to begin to waver. Obama is disarming the pro-life side, and only the pro-life side.

The poor young students of Notre Dame, and their inexcusably uncritical and politically unsophisticated professors, are undone by a surface appeal to reason and civility, which is actually a call for their unconditional surrender.

Perhaps, in that audience on May 17, there was one young, unintentionally pregnant woman in attendance, determined to bring the child within her to birth, despite the pleas of her parents (and maybe even of the health professionals she consulted on campus). Perhaps she found herself suddenly swayed by the president of the United States.

She could hear him being cheered lustily on by the current and former presidents of Notre Dame, and by some 11,000 others in the stands. She took his plea to “open her mind and heart” as the siren call to have an abortion.

Perhaps there are scores of thousands of other voters around the nation who will learn the “message of Notre Dame.” How many times during the next four years will President Obama incant, “As I said at Notre Dame . . . ”? How many young women will learn of this new, “sensible” common ground, and capitulate to the new reasonableness, which is actually reason gone mad?

***

There is no doubt that Barack Obama is the fruit of the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., come probably a generation before anyone believed it would happen — the Great Black Hope of the whole nation, called to redeem our nation’s primal sin, the enslavement of Africans.

There is no doubt either that he is a politician of amazing talent, unparalleled in our history, since his main skill is with delivering words — to this point, only words. And he is a golden-tongued, a honey-tongued speaker, skillful as no one else in making everyone in his audience, even those on opposite sides of an issue, believe that he is siding with them. It takes unprecedented skills to decipher what Obama means to do. Slowly, we in America are learning.

What his actual record is based on — including the multitude of abortion proponents he has appointed to the most important and sensitive positions in national government — is an extreme reading of the abortion project.

He says abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Yet he has never restricted, only expanded, the abortion license, at every single turn so far in his young life.

You would think it might bother him that 37 percent of all those aborted in the U.S. since 1973 — some 13 million youngsters, perhaps some as talented as he — have been black.

You might think that widening the circle of those Americans whose rights “to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are protected would be his No. 1 aim in the law.

But you would not so far be able to produce a single bit of evidence that that is so, and an abundance of evidence, pressed down and running over, that it is not.

Why on earth, then, does L’Osservatore Romano side with the abortionists, and against the besieged, struggling minority of churchgoing Catholics who find abortion abhorrent, and an intrinsic and unrationalizable evil? Were the great pro-life popes of the past not fully serious when they called abortion an intrinsic evil?

We ask Rome for bread, and L'Osservatore Romano gives us stones.


Michael Novak’s latest book is No One Sees God. His website is www.michaelnovak.net.


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Catholic theologian Miguel Diaz
named US ambassador to Vatican

By Patricia Zapor

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WASHINGTON, May 28 (CNS) -- President Barack Obama has nominated prominent Catholic theologian Miguel Diaz to become ambassador to the Vatican.

In a statement issued late May 27, the White House announced Diaz's nomination, along with nominees for ambassadors to the United Kingdom, France, Japan, India and several other countries.

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Diaz, 45, is a professor of theology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University, both in Collegeville, Minn. He is a board member of the Catholic Theological Society of America and former president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States. His wife, Marian, is an adjunct instructor at St. Benedict and St. John's.

Diaz served as a member of Obama's Catholic advisory team during the campaign and was a regular campaign spokesman on Obama's behalf, particularly in the Spanish-language press.

"I am very honored, grateful, and humbled that President Obama has nominated me to serve as ambassador to the Holy See," said Diaz in a statement forwarded to Catholic News Service by the university. "If confirmed by the U.S. Senate I will continue the work of my predecessors and build upon 25 years of formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See. I wish to be a bridge between our nation and the Holy See."

A native of Havana, Diaz was praised as "a leading Hispanic theologian in the United States," by Benedictine Abbot John Klassen, chancellor of St. John's University.

In a comment e-mailed to CNS, Abbot Klassen said Diaz "is a skilled Trinitarian theologian who is passionate both as a teacher and a scholar. He is a strong proponent of the necessity of the church to become deeply and broadly multicultural, to recognize and appreciate the role that culture plays in a living faith."

Diaz would be the first Hispanic to represent the United States at the Vatican. Like several of Obama's other prominent nominees -- including Judge Sonia Sotomayor, nominated to the Supreme Court -- Diaz comes from humble beginnings. His father worked as a waiter and his mother did data entry work, and their son was the first member of the family to attend college.

In an interview with Catholic News Service during inaugural festivities in January, Diaz said he thought "the presidency of Barack Obama represents a new opportunity for all of us" for racial healing.

Diaz said Obama was "committed to working" with people who defend "life in the womb" and deeply respects people who hold positions he does not agree with.

The announcement of the nomination capped months of speculation about who Obama would select to represent him at the Vatican. In early April the Vatican press spokesman took the unusual step of shooting down persistent rumors that the Vatican had rejected several potential nominees, including Caroline Kennedy, supposedly because they support legal abortion.

"Wherever we can, we should advance life at all stages," Diaz said in January.

One White House source described Diaz as "clearly pro-life" and said the decision to select a respected theologian instead of a big fundraiser or political mover and shaker is an indication "of how seriously the administration is taking the relationship with the Vatican."

Diaz would fill the vacancy created by the departure of Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, who was named ambassador in 2007 and left the post in January.

The statement from St John's University noted that Diaz earned his bachelor's degree from St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Fla., and his master's and doctorate from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He previously taught at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla.; St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla.; the University of Dayton in Ohio; and Notre Dame. The statement said he is fluent in Italian, Spanish and French.

The St. John's statement said Diaz's academic interests -- besides his focus on the Trinity -- also include theological anthropology and Latino/Latina theologies.

His published materials include the book "On Being Human: U.S. Hispanic and Rahnerian Perspectives" (Orbis Books, 2002), for which he received the Hispanic Theological Initiative's 2002 Book of the Year award from Princeton Theological Seminary. He also is co-editor of the book, "From the Heart of Our People: Latino/a Explorations in Catholic Systematic Theology" (Orbis Books, 1999).

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Perhaps an indication of the usual liberal bias of CNS is that it very obivously omits mentioning what other news stories do.

For instance, that he is sympathetic to the theology of liberation, as well as to Karl Rahner, and Sandro Magister notes in his blog today:

"Neither one or the other (Rahner or the liberation theologians) are particularly loved by Pope Benedict XVI, but this should not complicate Diaz's role in representing the President of the United States at the Vatican. Indeed, the Pope will probably look forward to talking theology one on one with a credentialled theologian."

Other Catholic bloggers in the US have noted that he was one of 25 Catholic university professors who wrote a letter of support for Kathleen Sebelius when Obama named her Health and Human Services Secretary.

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PREPARING FOR THE YEAR OF THE PRIEST
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Poster for the opening Vespers on June 19.
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(27 May 09 - RV) Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy has issued a letter mapping out his hopes for the forthcoming year for priests which will be inaugurated by Pope Benedict on June 19th:


Dear Priests,

The Year for Priests, announced by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé of Ars, St. John Mary Vianney, is drawing near.

It will be inaugurated by the Holy Father on the 19th June, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.

The announcement of the Year for Priests has been very warmly received, especially amongst priests themselves. Everyone wants to commit themselves with determination, sincerity and fervour so that it may be a year amply celebrated in the whole world – in the Dioceses, parishes and in every local community – with the warm participation of our Catholic people who undoubtedly love their priests and want to see them happy, holy and joyous in their daily apostolic labours.

It must be a year that is both positive and forward looking in which the Church says to her priests above all, but also to all the Faithful and to wider society by means of the mass media, that she is proud of her priests, loves them, honours them, admires them and that she recognises with gratitude their pastoral work and the witness of the their life.

Truthfully priests are important not only for what they do but also for who they are. Sadly, it is true that at the present time some priest have been shown to have been involved in gravely problematic and unfortunate situations. It is necessary to investigate these matters, pursue judicial processes and impose penalties accordingly. However,

it is also important to keep in mind that these pertain to a very small portion of the clergy. The overwhelming majority of priests are people of great personal integrity, dedicated to the sacred ministry; men of prayer and of pastoral charity, who invest their entire existence in the fulfilment of their vocation and mission, often through great personal sacrifice, but always with an authentic love towards Jesus Christ, the Church and the people, in solidarity with the poor and the suffering. It is for this reason that the Church is proud of her priests wherever they may be found.

May this year be an occasion for a period of intense appreciation of the priestly identity, of the theology of the Catholic priesthood, and of the extraordinary meaning of the vocation and mission of priests within the Church and in society.

This will require opportunities for study, days of recollection, spiritual exercises reflecting on the Priesthood, conferences and theological seminars in our ecclesiastical faculties, scientific research and respective publications.

The Holy Father, in announcing the Year in his allocution on the 16th March last to the Congregation for the Clergy during its Plenary Assembly, said that with this special year it is intended “to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends”.

For this reason it must be, in a very special way, a year of prayer by priests, with priests and for priests, a year for the renewal of the spirituality of the presbyterate and of each priest.

The Eucharist is, in this perspective, at the heart of priestly spirituality. Thus Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of priests and the spiritual motherhood of religious women, consecrated and lay women towards priests, as previously proposed some time ago by the Congregation for the Clergy, could be further developed and would certainly bear the fruit of sanctification.

May it also be a year in which the concrete circumstances and the material sustenance of the clergy will be considered, since they live, at times, in situations of great poverty and hardship in many parts of the world.

May it be a year as well of religious and of public celebration which will bring the people – the local Catholic community – to pray, to reflect, to celebrate, and justly to give honour to their priests. In the ecclesial community a celebration is a very cordial event which expresses and nourishes Christian joy, a joy which springs from the certainty that God loves us and celebrates with us. May it therefore be an opportunity to develop the communion and friendship between priests and the communities entrusted to their care.

Many other aspects and initiatives could be mentioned that could enrich the Year for Priests, but here the faithful ingenuity of the local churches is called for. Thus, it would be good for every Dioceses and each parish and local community to establish, at the earliest opportunity, an effective programme for this special year.

Clearly it would be important to begin the Year with some notable event. The local Churches are invited on the 19th June next, the same day on which the Holy Father will inaugurate the Year for Priests in Rome, to participate in the opening of the Year, ideally by some particular liturgical act and festivity.

Let those who are able most surely come to Rome for the inauguration, to manifest their own participation in this happy initiative of the Pope.

God will undoubtedly bless with great love this undertaking; and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Clergy, will pray for each of you, dear priests.


Cláudio Cardinal Hummes
Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect, Congregation for the Clergy


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This is the third item I have picked up today from the current issue of the Catholic Herald. Thanks, guys! Love that initiative!


Biographer challenges Newman revisionists
who claim he was homosexual

By Simon Caldwell
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29 May 2009


Claims that Cardinal John Henry Newman was a closet homosexual have been debunked in a new version of the definitive biography of him.

Fr Ian Ker, author of John Henry Newman, used private letters and diaries to show that the Victorian convert and theologian was a heterosexual.

He said the cardinal's wish to be buried in the grave of his friend, Fr Ambrose St John, meant it was "inevitable" there would be speculation about his sexuality in an age that has "lost the concept of affectionate friendship untouched by sexual attraction".

But a diary entry of December 1816, when Newman was a 15-year-old Anglican, showed he was worried that dances and parties with girls would be a sexual temptation for him.

As an adult Newman later wrote about the deep pain of the "sacrifice" of the life of celibacy to which he felt he had been called.

"A modern reader should not need to be reminded that in 19th-century England homosexuality was illegal and generally considered to be immoral," wrote Fr Ker. "The only 'sacrifice' that Newman could possibly be referring to was that of marriage," he said.

"And he readily acknowledges that from time to time he continued to feel the natural attraction for marriage that any heterosexual man would feel."

Fr Ker wrote that in the Victorian period there was nothing unusual in friends sharing the same graves. "Newman would scarcely have left such an instruction had he even dreamed that it could ever be interpreted as having any significance beyond the significance which he attached to it - nor would the oratory or the Church authorities have ever permitted a joint burial if they had the slightest suspicion about what must have seemed to them a totally innocent, not to say praiseworthy gesture," he said.

"Newman had plenty of critics, not to say enemies, in his time; yet not one of them, not one newspaper, not one casual observer, even dreamed of reading a significance into an act of loving friendship, and indeed humility, such as was left to the 20th century to read into it."

Fr Ker said he always knew that such speculation was "baseless" but acknowledged he might have been "wrong in not specifically dealing with it" in earlier editions of his 1988 book.

Claims that Newman had homosexual inclinations first emerged in Geoffrey Faber's 1933 Freudian psychobiography Oxford Apostles. Newman's Autobiographical Writings, published in 1957, provided evidence to disprove them.

Cardinal Newman retained most of his friends throughout his life and his friendship with Fr St John lasted 30 years.

He felt partly to blame for Fr St John's death in 1875 because he had asked him to translate a book on papal infallibility by the Austrian theologian Joseph Fessler, a work which left the priest exhausted.

Newman later wrote: "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine."

He stated on three occasions his desire to be buried with his friend and shortly before his own death in 1890, aged 89, he wrote: "I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John's grave - and I give this as my last, my imperative will ... this I confirm and insist on."

Gay rights activists have argued that such words indicated that Newman was a closet homosexual.

Last year they opposed the exhumation and transfer of his body to the Birmingham Oratory ahead of his likely beatification, saying that it was wrong to separate the cardinal from "the man he loved".

The dispute petered out after the undertakers who opened the grave at a secluded cemetery in Rednal, Worcestershire, last October found the body had totally disintegrated.

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REGARDING OBAMA'S
2 NEW HOUSE CATHOLICS



Inevitably and promptly, John Allen brings his usual 'omniscience' to bear on the nomination of Miguel Diaz as President Obama's ambassador to the Vatican, and since I vehemently disagree - philosophically, temperamentally and even factually in some respects - with his major premises in this case, I won't bother to reproduce his lengthy article here.
ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/diaz-nomination-obama-passes-major-catho...

Father Z, generally an Allen cheerleader, critiques it in a May 28 entry on his blog.
wdtprs.com/blog/

The US Catholic blogosphere is all atwitter (or ablogger!) between Diaz and Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court. But I do not intend to vent the ideological debate on this Forum for practical reasons.

In the case of Diaz, it's a useless exercise. He is being named an ambassador, not to any Church position, and even if he is a theologian, his personal ideological preferences cannot really impact the universal Church nor the Church in the United States (except as he is used by his fellow liberal Catholics as a propaganda tool, which Fr. James Martin at America magazine has done a very good job of starting out to do).

And in the case of Sotomayor, it's most unlikely she is not with Obama on abortion even if she is Catholic, nominally. She is but the newest - though the most prestigious - of the dissenting Catholics Obama has decided to put up for show. And no amount of debate wil change the fact that she is pro-abortion if indeed she is. [Now, that would be real news if it turned out she is not!]

There's a lot of time between now and her eventual confirmation by the Senate to look at who she 'really' is - and until then, it's too early to draw a balance sheet on her.

Early controversy is focused on her judicial philosophy favoring activist judges who make the law instead of interpreting the law; her comment that a Hispanic woman with life experiences can be a better judge than a comparable white male; and perhaps, most troubling, upholding a lower court decision saying a Connecticut fire department was right to deny a position to a qualified white male in favor of a black man who failed to pass the requisite exam [an example of what Obama calls 'empathy' - code for ruling in favor of minorities reflexively rather than on merit and on points of law.

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Is Mary the 'Co-Redemptrix' of humanity?
by Francis X. Rocca
Religion News Service
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May 28, 2009


VATICAN CITY -- When Pope Benedict XVI told a crowd in St. Peter's Square in April that the Virgin Mary "silently followed her son Jesus to Calvary, taking part with great suffering in his sacrifice, thus cooperating in the mystery of redemption and becoming mother of all believers," most listeners probably heard nothing remarkable in the statement.

After all, devotion to Mary is a pervasive element of the Catholic faith, and one of the features that most clearly distinguishes it from Protestantism.

Yet for one group of devotees, Benedict's statement was a milestone -- a sign that he had moved one step closer to granting their wish for a new dogma on Mary's contribution to human salvation.

At least 7 million Catholics from more than 170 countries, including hundreds of bishops and cardinals, have reportedly signed petitions urging the pope to proclaim Mary "the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, the coredemptrix with Jesus the redeemer, mediatrix of all graces with Jesus the one mediator, and advocate with Jesus Christ on behalf of the human race."

In other words, the Virgin Mary -- though always subordinate to and dependent on the will of Christ -- plays an active, unique and irreplaceable role in helping her son deliver mankind from sin and death.

Proponents say that such a statement would represent the culmination of the Church's traditional teaching on Jesus's mother, and bring the world untold spiritual and material benefits.

But critics of the proposed dogma say it would exaggerate Mary's true importance and undermine efforts toward unity with other Christian denominations.

The idea of Mary as Christ's collaborator in the redemption of humanity is deeply rooted in Catholic tradition, said Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins, an American priest working at the Vatican who has written extensively on the subject.

"The Church has been meditating on this role for two millennia," Calkins said in an interview, "and so the Holy Spirit continues to draw forth what is there already in seed."

According to Mark Miravalle, a professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, the new dogma would mean the "climax of the `Age of Mary'," a period that began in 1830 with apparitions of the Virgin in France, and witnessed papal proclamations of her Immaculate Conception (1854) and bodily Assumption into heaven (1950).

Supporters of the dogma of Mary Coredemptrix began petitioning the Holy See in the 1920s, Miravalle said, but it was in the 1990s that the movement drew millions of supporters and its goal began to appear within reach.

Pope John Paul II publicly used the term "Co-redemptrix" at least six times in his pontificate, and at one point Miravalle predicted that he would proclaim the dogma before the millennial year of 2000.

The professor now believes that John Paul was persuaded not to act by advisers who feared that the new dogma would pose an obstacle to ecumenical dialogue.

At least one non-Catholic participant in that dialogue says such fears were well-founded.

"Anglicans require that any dogma be provable from Scripture," said the Rev. William Franklin, academic fellow at the Anglican Centre in Rome and a visiting professor at the Vatican's Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Anglican ecumenists are still struggling to reconcile their beliefs with the papal dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, Franklin said. "Making a new Marian dogma would complicate the journey toward full communion between our two churches," he said.

Proponents of the dogma insist that it would actually promote ecumenism by dispelling any ambiguities about Catholic doctrine.

"This would bring new clarity that Catholics do not adore Mary as a goddess," Miravalle said. "It would underscore what Catholics do believe -- that she is your spiritual mother -- but at the same time that she is not the fourth person of the Blessed Trinity."

By far the most significant criticism, if only on account of its source, has been that of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.

Ratzinger told a German interviewer in 2000 that the "formula `Co-Redemptrix' departs to too great an extent from the language of Scripture and of the (Church) Fathers and therefore gives rise to misunderstandings," threatening to "obscure" the status of Christ as the source of all redemption.

"I do not think there will be any compliance with this demand (for papal proclamation of the dogma) within the foreseeable future," he said at the time.


But Benedict has shown increasing openness to the dogma in the years since, proponents say, even though he has never used the word "Co-Redemptrix" as Pope.

"Joseph Ratzinger has never been more Marian than since he became Benedict XVI," Miravalle said. [That does not necessarily mean 'increasing openness to the dogma', since the theological objection he raised, based on historical fact, is not something that will change!]

Calkins, who carefully tracks the pope's statements on "Mary's role in the work of our redemption," said Benedict's words on the subject already fill up 25 pages.

Most of the church's academic experts on Mary continue to oppose the dogma, however, deeming it unnecessary to encourage a proper devotion to Christ's mother.

"To give Mary honor, I would institute a new feast, or a special title," said the Rev. Johann G. Roten, director of the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio, and a member of a Vatican panel that unanimously advised against the new dogma in 1996.

Yet Miravalle says papal recognition of Mary as Co-Redemptrix would be more than a formality; it would lead to an "outpouring of grace," helping to dispel a range of contemporary problems, including abortion, terrorism and natural disasters.

"To the extent that we acknowledge Our Lady's roles, to that extent God allows her to fully exercise those roles," he said. "And we can use some extra grace at this time."



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My own view, just based on what is recounted in the Bible about Mary, is that declaring her Co-Redemptrix is completely unnecessary (she works her intercessions and graces equally with or without such a title), and Mary herself would be the first to reiterate that she is but 'the handmaid of the Lord'.

Clearly, God chose her to be the means and vessel for his incarnation as a human being so that, as Jesus Christ, he may redeem mankind from sin.

As a 12-year-old, he told his parents after they 'lost' him in the Temple, "Didn't you know I had to be about my Father's business?" That does not sound like he thought his Father's business - redemption - was anybody else's 'business' on earth but his, i.e., that the divine design for salvation called for a 'co-redemptrix'!

It's not as if the redemption he made possible for mankind would be any less if his mother were not also considered 'Co-Redemptrix'!

And none of this takes away anything from the fact that Mary was chosen by God to be the most blessed among all women and men, that is, among all human beings outside Jesus who was both God and man - because she became the mother of God. If only for that reason alone, we venerate her - and it's more than reason enough!

I think the age-old title for her, Redemptoris Mater - Mother of the Redeemer - says it all.



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Thanks to Sandro Magister, who provides the following lectio magistralis on prayer by Cardinal Ruini to open a three-day Festival of Theology on May 22-24 in Piacenza, a city in the cardinal's home region of Emilia-Romagna in central Italy.

In the past four years that I have been following Magister's writings on the Church, the Vatican and the papacy, he has faithfully reported Cardinal Ruini's major public texts, both in his capacity as president of the Italian bishops' conference till 2007, and as a distinguished theologian in his own right.

Ruini has an intellectual, philosophical and historical approach to presenting his theologyical thinking to the general public that is similar to Joseph Ratzinger's, as is his ability to express these concepts in a linearly clear and unadorned manner. This lectio magistralis on prayer is an example.




The horizon of prayer:
Journeying toward God

by Cardinal Camillo Ruini



Let's begin from a classic definition by St. Thomas Aquinas: "Oratio est proprie religionis actus" - prayer is properly the act of religion ("Summa Theologiae" II-II, q. 83, a. 3). This definition is still recognized today as universally valid in the area of the history of religions, in terms that are paradoxically broader even than the recognition of the relationship of religion with a personal God [...].

Buddhism remains the most significant instance of a great religion that has no room for a personal God, but traces everything back to the undifferentiated "Nothing," in which any "I" and any "you" dissolves, including a purported divine "You."

In this instance, prayer changes its nature so to speak, and becomes a "mysticism" (in a sense rather different from Christian mysticism), meaning a journey that leads from distinction to non-distinction, and finally presents itself as the very experience of non-distinction, which is claimed to constitute the supreme and decisive reality, the only truly binding reality, in the area of religion.

But in the perspective of the history and phenomenology of religion, this does not seem to be the approach to natural, spontaneous prayer, which is instead that of addressing the divine as a "You," as radically superior, mysterious, and ineffable as this is, with which in any case we can enter into relationship – and it with us – in order to obtain its favor and be protected from the threats and snares of life, but also in order to honor it in its greatness and recognize our radical debt toward it, or to adore it.

The function of prayer consists precisely in making possible and realizing this mysterious relationship. And myth, or better the myths, especially the creation myths, can be considered as the explicative and interpretive context in which humanity has structured and justified for many millennia such a relationship with the divine.


GREEK CRITICISM OF MYTHOLOGY

Five or six centuries before Christ, however, a rational and philosophical criticism of mythology was developed in Greece, which tends to replace it with "logos," rational argument concerning knowledge of the reality of ourselves and the world, while leaving it room to guide the lives of those who are not capable of taking full advantage of "logos," and also, in part, in order to reach those higher realities which the "logos" of man cannot grasp with certainty.

In any case, Greek philosophy is not "atheistic," at least in its most prevalent and significant forms. On the contrary, it also describes itself as "theology": a theology that is no longer mythical, but "physical," natural, in the sense that it rationally grasps the true nature of the divine.

It would be too hasty to say that this philosophical theology is genuinely monotheistic, but it nonetheless conceives of the supreme reality as unitary, or as the One at the summit of reality. The problem is that this One or Absolute as such is not "accessible" to us: precisely because of its absolute transcendence, we cannot enter into relationship with it, and therefore prayer, a fundamental act and attitude of the religious man, cannot be addressed to it.

Prayer can find meaning and justification only on a different level, in relationship with our essential and social needs, in concretely addressing those gods who are in reality only images of the Absolute, constructed for us and in view of out needs.

It is interesting to note that at the same time, during the 6th century B.C., but in a very different geographical and cultural area, Buddhism emerged, which can also be understood as a criticism of the previous forms of mythological religion, and which also leaves no room for prayer as a personal relationship with a divine You.


BIBLICAL REVELATION

But also during the same period, an equally radical criticism of polytheism was developed by the prophets of Israel, in particular by Second Isaiah (Is. 40-55), in conjunction with the end of the Davidic monarchy and the Babylonian exile.

But this was a profoundly different criticism, not based on human reason like that of Greek philosophy, nor on mystical experience like that of Buddhism, but rather on the direct revelation of the one God who, through the prophet, addresses the people of Israel.

Faith in Yahweh as the one true God and the exclusive relationship with him certainly have much more ancient roots, having to do with the very origin of Israel as a people, but the extremely serious crisis constituted by the exile in Babylon and the end of national independence, which in itself tended to bring into question the power of Israel's God – defeated, according to the mentality of the time, by the gods of Babylon – was instead an opportunity to respond by further developing and deepening faith in him as Creator of the universe and the one true God of all the nations.

We can also say that it was only in Israel that we encounter monotheism in the proper and full sense, the essence of which consists not simply in the affirmation of the unicity of a supreme Being, but also in its "accessibility," in being able to relate to him and pray to him, and in the consequent exclusion of the worship of other divinities.

Thus from the outset biblical revelation overcame the separation that plagued religion in classical antiquity, putting back together the one God who reveals himself to us, the absolute Being which the philosophers had reached in some way, and those divinities which could still be worshipped, but had been reduced by philosophical criticism to a myth devoid of reality and substance.

In a historical-religious perspective, a divorce seems to have taken place in certain regards many millennia earlier: in fact, belief in a supreme Being can be found in almost all of the ancient peoples and myths, but gradually this supreme God seems to have withdrawn from the world and from men, to have lost interest in them and given up his power to inferior divinities, thus becoming a "Deus otiosus," an idle God, and as such less and less an object of prayer.

Biblical revelation thus presents itself as a tremendous, decisive shift in the history of religion and of the religions: the supreme God now takes the initiative, bursts onto the world stage and into the life of man, presenting himself as a "jealous God" who wants prayer, worship, and adoration for himself alone, because he alone is God, and everything else is his creation.

In the Old Testament, therefore, prayer originates in the initiative of God who speaks to man, who responds in turn: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening," says the young Samuel (1 Sam. 3:9).

Prayer is thus a presentation of oneself before the living God, and its fundamental motive is the covenant that God has sealed with his people and that requires consistency of life, faithful observance of the law that God has given. T

he ethical and communal dimensions are therefore in the forefront: but when, as I have mentioned, the national community enters into crisis – because of its stubborn infidelity to the covenant – the personal character of prayer takes on greater prominence, as can be seen in many of the psalms.


THE PRAYER OF JESUS

Another breakthrough in prayer – the decisive breakthrough – takes place with Jesus of Nazarath, and first of all with his personal prayer, in which his relationship with God the Father is expressed: a unique relationship that in some way ushers us into the mystery of God, because the man Jesus of Nazareth is, and knows that he is, the Son totally oriented toward the Father, the Son whose food it is to do the will of the Father (John 4:34), the Son who is truly known only by the Father and who in turn is the only one who truly knows the Father (Mt. 11:27), in the final analysis the Son who in the unity of reciprocal love is one with the Father (John 10:30).

The early Church kept in its original Aramaic form the crucial word with which Jesus addressed God in prayer, "Abbà," which means Father with a note of profound intimacy united with great respect and dedication.

Jesus himself brought his disciples into his own prayer and into his relationship with the Father, to the point of teaching them that prayer – the "Our Father" – which remains forever the fundamental and distinctive prayer of the Christian.

We will limit ourselves to observing that its first three petitions concern God himself, the recognition and adoration that, as children, we we owe to him, while the other four concern our hopes, our needs, and our difficulties.

In the New Testament as in the Old, prayer implies and therefore requires consistency of life, specifically the unity between love of God and love of neighbor, a unity that is radicalized in the New Testament: "whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did it for me" (Mt. 25:40).

As Benedict XVI wrote in his JESUS OF NAZARETH: "The more the depths of our souls are directed toward God, the better we will be able to pray. The more prayer is the foundation that upholds our entire existence, the more we will become men of peace. The more we can bear pain, the more we will be able to understand others and open ourselves to them" (pp. 129-130, Italian edition).


THE PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

In the history and life of the Church, prayer has had and continues to have a prominent place, which becomes fully visible only to those who experience it personally, or directly study the historical documents about it.

This prayer is structured above all as liturgy, the public and communal prayer of the Church which, united with Jesus Christ, addresses God the Father in the Holy Spirit.

Here emerges in all its poignancy the specifically Trinitarian character of Christian prayer, as participation and immersion in the relationship that Christ has with God the Father in the Holy Spirit's bond of love.

We are immersed, or raised up, in a life that is not ours as men, as creatures, but is the life of God, and the God to whom we turn in the liturgy is not a generic God, and not even properly the one and triune God, but God the Father of Jesus Christ, and in Christ, the Father of us all.

In Christian prayer, moreover, the public and communal dimension and the intimate personal dimension lead to one another and grow together: the "we" of the Church's prayer accompanies a listening to that God who sees in secret, and whom we are called to encounter in the isolation of our room and in the secrecy of our heart (Mt. 6:5-6).

Over the course of the centuries, this personal character of prayer has been expressed in many ways, often sublime, which remain a precious treasure, as the humble expressions of popular piety also remain precious.

Another major characteristic of Christian prayer concerns its "mystical" dimension. I am not referring only to the great mystics in whom the Church is exceptionally rich, but more radically to the specific character of Christian mysticism, as we are able to identify it already in the writings of the apostles Paul and John.

It is directly connected to what we have mentioned about the prayer of Jesus and his relationship with God the Father. The Johannine formula of the reciprocal "remaining in," according to which the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, as believers are called to remain in the Father and in the Son, while the Father and the Son remain in them (John 17:21), expresses in an unparalleled manner that union with God which is the heart of all authentic mysticism.

Here, however, union with God follows the gift of himself that Christ accomplished in history on the cross, and demands the ethical concreteness of practical love of one's brethren: "If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us . . . Whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:12,20).

It is not, therefore, a mysticism that is closed in on itself. On the contrary, it has descended upon history and demands conversion, the transformation of life.


THE MODERN OBJECTIONS

At this point, however, we must take into consideration the many difficulties that prayer has encountered beginning in the modern age, especially in traditionally Christian countries.

Some of these have to do with ideas and convictions, and for a long time were not very widespread at the popular level. They are fundamentally of three types.

The first difficulties emerge from the denial of the existence of God, or at least from an agnostic position: one could think, for example, of the materialism already present in some strands of 18th century Enlightenment thought, then in Feuerbach and Marxism. But even the forms of pantheism that were revived starting with Spinoza do not leave any real room for prayer.

The second type of difficulty does not bring into question God, meaning the "You" to whom prayer is addressed, but considers him inaccessible to a personal relationship with us. For example, Kant, although he retains the Christian concept of God to a great extent, considers prayer a "superstitious illusion" ("La religione nei limiti della sola ragione", M. M. Olivetti (ed.), 1993, p. 217), and with him many others, who believe that only a natural religion common to all men is true and authentic, not a revealed religion.

We thus arrive at the third cause of difficulty, which consists of opposition to Christianity. At first, this mainly concerned the Church as an institution and its social power, but then it gradually extended to bringing into question the central elements of the faith, like the divinity of Christ and the very possibility of an intervention by God in history.

In this regard, we spontaneously think of the Enlightenment, especially in France, but the most radical and historically effective criticism of Christianity may have been conducted in Germany during the 19th century, as demonstrated capably by the book by K. Löwith "From Hegel to Nietzsche: the revolution in nineteenth century thought‎."

In particular, this criticism involved the historical reliability of the figure of Christ presented to us by the Gospels.

It is easy to understand how much all of this could and can obstruct that trusting and filial relationship with Jesus Christ and with God the Father which is proper to Christian prayer.


THE CHALLENGE OF SECULARIZATION

The difficulties that have had the largest impact on ordinary people, however, do not depend on ideas and theories, but on the enormous changes that have taken place over the past few centuries, at an increasingly rapid pace, concerning the concrete conditions of our lives.

I am referring to the Industrial Revolution, and to the great transformations that followed it, which had their engine in the development of the modern sciences and the technologies connected to them.

The world that is derived from this and of which we have direct experience presents itself to us increasingly as the work of man, and less and less as "nature," which points back to its Creator.

The process of change is even more vast than this, because it gradually embraces social relations and institutions, the sciences, and in general, the public use of reason. These are restored exclusively to the intelligence and freedom of man, removing them from the influence of God and religion.

This macro-process, which is called "secularization," found its classic expression as early as 1625 with the formula coined by a great Dutch jurist, himself a devout believer, Hugo Grotius: "etsi Deus non daretur," even if God did not exist.

The meaning of the formula is that natural law, and the ordering of the world in general, maintain their validity even in the hypothesis – absolutely impious for Grotius – that God did not exist.

The practical consequence is the tendency to reduce the relationship with God solely to the personal and private sphere, which is theorized today through a restrictive interpretation of the concept of "secularism."

To be concrete, we must add the great and almost suffocating negative influence of the daily commotion, the idolatry of money and success, the ostentation of sexuality as an end in itself. In this way prayer is in danger of being suffocated not only at the public level, but also within our hearts.

In the dynamism of history, these different factors necessarily interact among themselves, and at times converge in the attempt to eliminate religion and prayer from the horizon of humanity. One of the major attempts of this kind belongs to the recent past, although in some areas of the world it is still very active, while the other belongs to the present day.

The first is the state atheism systematically promoted by the communist regimes. It is rightly observed that this attempt has failed, because faith and prayer have survived its attack, and in certain ways even demonstrate a new vitality in the countries that have passed through this experience.

But this is only one part of the story: the damage and destruction caused have, in fact, left profound consequences for the human and moral fabric of many persons and of entire societies, and also, specifically, for their anchoring in Christianity.

Today, in any case, our attention must be turned above all to a phenomenon that is much more complex, subtle, and impalpable than state atheism.

It is the attempt to present religion and prayer on the one hand as something without an objective foundation, because God does not exist, or anyway is not knowable to us, or at least does not have a personal character that would make him accessible to us.

On the other hand, however, religion and prayer could be explained fairly well as one of our psychological functions, based in specific areas of our brain, seeking to meet our need for protection and security, and in the past may have played a positive role in the survival and evolution of our species.

I note incidentally that this obscures a fundamental characteristic of religious and moral experience: when this is authentic, it relates to the Absolute and therefore cannot be completely explained by virtue of relative and contingent purposes without being misunderstood and denied in its true essence.

Prayer and religious experience do, in fact, propose other aims, knowingly or unknowingly, and can contribute to obtaining them, but only according to the logic of "seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Mt. 6:33).

Concretely, the influence of religion and of faith in one God in particular is often considered harmful today.

A public role for these, in fact, is believed to compromise freedom of behavior and even to create opposition among men and peoples according to the different faiths that they profess, to the point of becoming a source of violence.

Even on the personal level, religion is believed to be a cause of unhappiness, provoking feelings of guilt and repressing the joy of living.


PRAYER AS A SERIOUS MATTER OF FAITH

This is not the place to address the many problems obstructing the exercise of prayer in our day. It is right to acknowledge that these have not gone by without leaving a mark, and that many people, including those who are believers in some way, have lost the meaning and enjoyment of prayer, in addition to its practice: although they sometimes spontaneously ask others to pray for them, demonstrating that they still have at least a slight appreciation and perhaps a certain nostalgia for prayer.

However, there is also evidence of the opposite phenomenon: a growing number of people, especially among the young, are thirsty for prayer and are making courageous decisions in order to satisfy it.

One confirmation comes from the increase, including in Italy and Europe, of contemplative vocations, which is rather significant in a period in which vocations to the priestly and active religious life are instead, unfortunately, falling in these countries.

In any case, beyond the numbers of the statistics, and also beyond all the difficulties and influences that can come from the sociocultural context, prayer, like faith, is a personal choice, in which the last word belongs to our freedom.

Or better, in a Christian perspective, there are two forms of freedom at play in prayer and faith, that of God first of all, and subordinately that of man.

For this reason, although it is useful and necessary to dispel as much as possible the fog that currently makes the horizon of prayer hard to see in our culture, the more important thing, for each of us, it is the reality and quality of our personal prayer.

On this personal and almost confidential level, I would like to tell you that in my experience the very exercise of prayer increases the desire for it and makes faith stronger, more secure and joyful.

In his Introduction to the faith, a brief book published almost forty years ago, theologian and now Cardinal Walter Kasper wrote a few pages on prayer that are still highly relevant.

Their title is "Prayer as a serious matter of faith." They express the essence of the act of faith in its most concrete form, and also unite, as in a critical point, all of the contemporary causes of the crisis of faith.

In prayer, first of all, we address God as "you": but does it still make sense today to understand God as a person? This is the fundamental reason why, forty or fifty years ago, Protestant theologians and even the Anglican bishop John A.T. Robinson, in the book Honest to God, maintained that prayer understood in the proper sense must now be replaced by dedication to our neighbor.

In reality, if one thing is clear in the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, it is that God is supremely intelligent and free, and that he takes the initiative of personally approaching us. He is not, therefore, impersonal, but eminently personal, in a way that certainly surpasses infinitely the human way of being a person, just as any other category can be applied to God only by infinitely surpassing the measures of our concepts.

Even more than this, the God of Jesus Christ is interpersonal love, a communion of persons, and precisely in this way is perfect unity. But even on the rational level, to deny that God is a person means reducing him to an obscure and necessary backdrop for existence, and therefore paradoxically means denying his transcendence, which instead was intended to be safeguarded.

Moreover, if at the root of being there is not intelligence and freedom, the entire universe cannot be anything but blind necessity, and therefore there can no longer be any room for our intelligence, freedom, and personality.

We can add, again with Walter Kasper, that God's personality and his distinction from the world, which are essential to the faith, have their practical corollary in the distinction of prayer from the rest of life.

This does not at all mean that prayer is indifferent to our situations, needs, and expectations, nor that all of our life should not be oriented toward God as a form of prayer, but that prayer itself, in order to be rooted within us, needs to have its autonomy with respect to the other moments of life and all of our actions.

Precisely in the autonomy of its direct relationship with God, prayer makes us free and capable of seeing all the realities of life clearly, in order to face them not from a selfish perspective, but in the light of the merciful love of God the Father.

Prayer is therefore the lived refutation of purely immanentist thinking, which can no longer find the right way to the Creator, and also of that idolatry of action and its results, which leaves no room for the experience of the gratuitous and the discovery of the most beautiful side of life.

If from God we pass to the other pole of prayer, which is we ourselves, our time appears to be characterized by a genuine explosion of subjectivity: each of us wants to be above all himself, and to decide by himself his own path in life, although often he ends up as a prisoner of a well orchestrated conformism.

Christian prayer requires the opening of this subjectivity of ours, above all toward God, the encounter with whom infinitely expands our horizons, cleansing them from a false absolutization of ourselves.

The fact that God has revealed himself to us and, in Jesus Christ, has shown us his face – as Jesus said to the apostle Philip, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9) – also gives our subjectivity a decisive point of reference, which cannot help but represent a precise orientation for those who truly believe in God's revelation of himself.

In the liturgy in particular, we learn to unite our subjectivity and interiority with the objective character of the Church's belief and worship. In reality, this is a crucial point in the current situation of the faith: in the religious sphere, the explosion of subjectivity often becomes an eclecticism that indifferently takes from this or that religious and spiritual tradition whatever seems to fit best the needs and preferences of the individual.

In this way, however, we overlook the fundamental fact that God himself, in Israel and then fully in Christ, has revealed himself to us personally, and therefore, perhaps without realizing it, we withdraw from our faith. Praying in the Christian way is therefore essential for being and remaining Christian.


TOWARD A NEW CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

There nonetheless remains before us, or rather inside of us, that fundamental difficulty which arises not from theories or disputes, but from the change of our situation in the world, through which in the normal circumstances of life we experience the results of our action rather than the work of God the creator.

The fundamental indication for finding the meaning and path of prayer in this new situation has already been given to us by St. Thomas Aquinas.

With the rediscovery of Aristotle in the West, he found himself confronting the innovative and, we might say, "modern" contribution of Aristotelian thought, which proposed an interpretation of the world that was "scientific" in its way, seeking to explain phenomena through physical causes, and not through reference to higher and divine influences, as did the "religious" interpretation of the world that had dominated the Middle Ages until that time.

St. Thomas completely welcomed this new approach, but he did not at all see it as an alternative to what had come before: he proposed, in fact, a "middle way" ("Q. D. de Veritate", q. 6, a. 2) that identifies a specific and complementary place for each of two interpretations: the phenomena of the world have their immanent causes, to be researched using rational methods, but also have, all of them together, their origin in the creative action of God, which concerns not only the origin but also the existence and development of the universe and of man within it.

Today the picture is certainly more complex, and the implementation of the "middle way" is asked not only of the philosophers, but also of the ordinary person, since we have to deal with a much different "science" than that of Aristotle: a science that is capable of transforming the world, and to a certain extent ourselves as well.

The basic direction provided for us by St. Thomas remains valid, however, and was revived by Vatican Council II, in particular in Gaudium et Spes, 36.

It is therefore a matter of developing this and refining it conceptually, in relationship with the realities and sciences of today, and above all of internalizing and concretizing it, making it a guideline for our personal relationship with God, which in some way can be inserted harmoniously into our actual experience of life.

This is a fairly demanding task for the ecclesial community, which, as John Paul II wrote in Novo Millennio Ineunte, 33, is called to be a "school of prayer."

Vatican II (Gaudium et Spes 37), however, offered us a further indication, which to me seems particularly valuable for living our current situation in the world with authentic Christian joy.

On the one hand, that is, we must be fully aware that all human activities are threatened on a daily basis by our arrogance and disordered love of ourselves, and therefore need to be purified through the cross and resurrection of Christ.

But on the other hand, the man who has been redeemed by Christ and has become a "new creature" (Gal. 6:15) through the work of the Holy Spirit can and must love the things that God has created, looking at them and honoring them as if they were coming from his hands now.

He thanks their Author for them, and "using and enjoying" creatures in poverty and freedom of spirit, is introduced into the true possession of the world, having almost nothing but possessing everything (2 Cor. 6:10): "All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God" (1 Cor. 3:22-23).

In order to describe the Christian approach to the things of the world, the Council combines the word "use," which characterized a spirituality oriented toward fleeing and despising the world, with the word "enjoy," which opens up to a new Christian spirituality that we could call specifically modern.

In it, full legitimacy is granted to engagement in the world and affinity for the world, as a way of accepting the love of God for us and practicing love of God and neighbor: without justifying thereby any intrusion of the spirit of the world into the Church and into the soul of the Christian, but remaining always anchored to the cross and resurrection of Christ, and therefore to the renunciation of ourselves in order to make room for love of God and neighbor.

Dear friends, let us ask the Lord that we may confidently advance along this road.



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Peruvian cardinal stands up for priestly celibacy
and denounces Notre Dame U's confused identity

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ROME, MAY 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Scandals that arise when priests fail to live celibacy are not just about priestly discipline, but rather about a failed understanding of human love, says the cardinal archbishop of Lima, Peru.

ZENIT spoke with Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani about two recent scandals regarding priestly celibacy that have attracted the attention of the American continent -- Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo who admitted he fathered a child while still a bishop, and Miami Father Alberto Cutié who converted to the Episcopalian church this week after photos of him with a woman were circulated.

"I think that we shouldn't speak just of these two cases, of celibacy, but of human love in general," Cardinal Cipriani suggested, affirming that Deus Caritas Est explains it well. "The Pope explains to us with great detail how this love, which begins in this movement of 'eros' becomes 'agape.'"

Noting how God defines love clearly, not just with words, but also with the sacrifice of his Son, the cardinal added that today, "in not wanting to accept suffering, the sacrifice that life brings, love is killed and what remains? Sexual possession. The capacity of suffering has been amputated because of fear, cowardice, mediocrity, because only success and pleasure are sought.

"We have killed the plant that arises from suffering, which is love, and therefore in many human relationships, family relationships, a totally material relationship arises, in which practically, the integrity of the person is not involved. When this materialism takes over human relationships, then the man and the woman become objects of a sexual experience […], this experience loses its stability, comes and goes, doesn't produce that joy of surrender because it does not come from suffering or sacrifice, and when a sickness comes or an economic problem or a fight … marriages break in the same way as these cases, like Lugo or Father Cutié, who in the moment of feeling a sacrifice greater than their strengths, break the promise they've made."

The cardinal affirmed that priests, as well as married people, are asked to live chastity.

"There is a conjugal chastity and there is chastity in celibacy," he said. "One who knows how to love and who has the experience of a healthy and stable matrimonial love knows what I'm talking about. It is the same that the Church offers to those of us who give up everything for the love of God. It is not more or less difficult, but this product of this love today is hard to find, and therefore, in a materialistic and slightly hedonistic world, it is difficult to explain celibacy, which is a treasure of the Church."

ZENIT also asked Cardinal Cipriani what he thought of this month's turmoil over the decision by Notre Dame University to bestow an honorary doctorate on the U.S. president, despite Barack Obama's staunch support of abortion rights and other anti-life issues.

The cardinal answered that Catholic identity is not a decision of a particular university or a rector or education official, but rather is something given by the Church itself.

He explained: "What cannot be done and what is not done in any institution is to say 'this automobile is a Toyota,' if the Toyota manufacturer does not put his brand on it.

"I think there is a need for a little more clarity and authority. Clarity from those who are responsible for being able to say: 'If you don't want to be Catholic, then don't be.' But what we can't do is sell a ruined product. To think that parents and their kids go to a university that has the title of 'Catholic' and then it turns out that it teaches what is contrary to the faith. This is a confusion or an abuse. I think the Church has the duty to call things by their name."

Cardinal Cipriani said it seems a "provocation to give Catholic homage to a President who in the first 100 days has boosted abortion, gay marriage, investigations with embryonic cells, and an entire anti-life agenda. It does not seem to me that he is the most adequate person to receive recognition from the University of Notre Dame, which, by the way, has been greatly confused for some years now."

The prelate suggested that this type of controversy has been around since the beginning of the Church, with the difference that "before, those who dissented left the Church; today, they stay within, and this seems to me that it requires of us, for love of the Church, a bit more firmness."

He offered the Holy Father as an example: "We see with what clarity and love for the truth Benedict XVI has returned from the Holy Land. With what joy, with what clarity, he took up the themes that seemed difficult, from the political point of view, but he handled them from the point of view of a pilgrimage of peace, as the vicar of Christ. They love him more and more. He is more and more a leader who illuminates more this world that is in darkness."


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Cardinal Zen says Beijing still
controlling the Church in China

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HONG KONG. June 1 (AP) – China has held off on ordaining bishops without Vatican approval, but government interference in the state-backed Chinese church is still a concern, Hong Kong's cardinal — a key adviser to the Pope - said Monday.

Beijing and the Vatican don't have diplomatic relations, and the power to appoint bishops is a major sticking point between them.

China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Communist Party took power.

Worship is allowed only in state-backed churches, which recognize the Pope as a spiritual leader. They name their own priests and bishops, but the Vatican has made efforts in recent years to recognize them.

Cardinal Joseph Zen said in a speech to the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club that while China hasn't ordained a bishop without the Vatican's approval since 2006, it held a celebration in December marking the 50th anniversary of the state-backed Chinese church's first bishop appointment. Bishops made speeches in support of a Chinese church independent of the Vatican, he said.

"This surely is unacceptable," Zen said, noting that Pope Benedict XVI considered the celebration a "provocation."

Benedict has made improving relations with Beijing a priority, but there has been little evidence of progress in his four-year effort.

Millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations that are loyal to Rome. Underground priests and bishops have been harassed or arrested, and the Vatican recently denounced a new wave of arrests, accusing Beijing of creating obstacles to a dialogue.

The cardinal also expressed worries that Beijing would strong-arm or bribe bishops into attending a possible meeting later this year to choose the new chairmen of the state-backed Chinese church and the Chinese bishops' conference.

Zen said bishops had been paid as much as 700,000 Chinese yuan ($103,000) to attend ordinations of bishops not approved by Rome.

There was no immediate comment from China's Foreign Ministry or the official Chinese church, the Catholic Patriotic Association of China.

Zen said China's moves came despite the Vatican's efforts to recognize bishops named by the state-backed church. He said the Vatican has approved more than 50 of the more than 60 bishops appointed by the Chinese church.

The 77-year-old cardinal, an outspoken critic of Beijing, also renewed calls for the Chinese government to stop condemning the 1989 pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square as a "counterrevolutionary" riot.

"There is a need that justice be made, not only for the consolation of the living parents of those young men, but also to teach future generations what is right and what is wrong," he said, speaking just before the crackdown's 20th anniversary Thursday.


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About time someone authoritative addressed these age-old myths and legends about the Church....


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May 31, 2009


Father Brandmuller is president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. From 1970 to 1997, he was a professor of Church history at the University of Augsburg, Germany. He is the co-author of the German book The Fall of Galileo and Other Errors: Power, Faith and Science.



Now let us take into consideration Church history from the theological viewpoint, highlighting another important aspect.

Its essential duty, in fact, turns out to be the complex mission to investigate and clarify that process of reception and transmission, of paralépsis and of paràdosis, through which was substantiated, in the course of the ages, the Church's raison d'être.

Indeed, it is beyond a doubt that the Church can draw inspiration for her choices by drawing on her centuries-old treasury of experience and memory.
Pope Benedict XVI
Address to the members of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences
March 7, 2008.



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Preface to the Book

Occasionally the Church is compared with Noah's Ark: only his sons and daughters, only those animals that Noah took with him into the ark were saved from the great flood. In a similar way, the Church is supposed to be man's only rescue from the final catastrophe.

When discussion turns to the Last Things, to man's eternal fate, then the question assumes the utmost urgency: To whom can he entrust his eternal fate and himself? What can he rely on in life and death?

Now, since the Church makes the exclusive claim to be the saving ark, this claim must be so solidly established that it does not mean a leap into uncertainty when man puts his trust in this ark.


Questions About Questions

To many of our contemporaries, such trust in the Church appears to be nothing less than an unreasonable demand upon sound common sense. Aren't there countless facts (the objection goes) that demolish the credibility of the Church?

Many people have read the numerous books or seen the television programs that deal with the subject of the Qumran community and seem to offer proof that the beginnings of Jesus of Nazareth and of Christianity ought to be portrayed in a completely different way from what is recorded in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament.

Many have also seen the earthenware receptacle containing human remains that was found in Jerusalem, on which the names Joseph, Mary and Jesus were inscribed. Isn't this compelling evidence that Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead and that Mary was not taken body and soul into heaven? With that, however, the foundations of the Christian faith crumble into dust and ashes!

Many people today suspect that this is so.

Furthermore, the Church — as they say — through clumsy errors made by her official teaching authority on numerous occasions, has repudiated her claim to hold the truth infallibly.

Let us listen to Hans Küng, who lists the "classic errors of the Church's Magisterium, most of which have been admitted".

First he mentions the "excommunication of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Photius, and of the Greek [Byzantine] Church, which formalized the soon-to-be millennial schism with the Eastern Church".

Then Küng adduces "the prohibition against charging interest [on
loans] at the beginning of the modern era, whereby the Church's Magisterium changed its opinion much too late, after various compromises".

Then (what else could you expect?) he also cites the trial of Galileo in 1616 or else in 1633 and other things of this sort. The most recent major error of the Magisterium, in his view, is its rejection of artificial contraception.

Others before and after him have pilloried the Church on account of the Crusades, the Inquisition and the witch trials, and anyone who is still not satisfied is referred to the financial scandal of the Vatican Bank and the murder conspiracy against Pope John Paul I, who was so likeable: Mafia in the Vatican, at the heart of the Church.

From another corner the cry is that a power-hungry clique of Freemasons already replaced Paul VI with a double whom they could control and that the Lodge in general seized power in the Vatican long ago—and so on. Therefore, who can still trust such a Church?

If you are really going to ask the critical question about reliability, however, then direct it not only at the Church but also at the objections that are raised against her.


Justified Criticism?
The Qumran Theme


The most popular books about Qumran, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Baigent and Leigh, and Jesus und die Urchristen [Jesus and the Early Christians] by Eisenmann, as well as other comparable publications on this topic, have been exposed by serious researchers as clumsy concoctions.

The books are partly the result of scientific incompetence; to some extent they are based on deliberate, malicious falsification of the facts. It is precisely the archaeological findings at Qumran that, quite to the contrary. shed an extremely interesting light on the New Testament and even clear up riddles.

And as for the ossuary with the names of Joseph, Mary and Jesus [Joshua], which actually comes from Jerusalem and dates back to the time of Jesus, the names mean nothing at all, when you consider that they were as common and therefore as insignificant as the names Miller, Fields and Smith would be today.

Similarly, with regard to Hans Küng's "errors" of the Church's Magisterium, we are dealing more with the errors of Hans Küng than with those of the Church.

First of all, in page after page, he confuses Patriarch Photius with Patriarch Michael Cerullarius. Then Küng fails to mention that Photius was excommunicated because he had become Patriarch in an unlawful manner and furthermore had accused Rome of heresy and had tried to depose Pope Nicholas I by means of a manipulated synod.

Depending on how one views the particular historical circumstances of this case, one could possibly speak about a wrong decision in ecclesiastical politics or an unjust excommunication, but never about an error of the Church's Magisterium.

The same is true for the prohibition against lending at interest and its gradual abolition by the Church. This prohibition against charging interest was based on the Old Testament and had been confirmed by Popes and councils.

Why this was so becomes clear when you consider that in antiquity and in the medieval world, charging interest was most often identical to usury. Lending at interest lost this sinful character, however, with the transformation of commercial structures in the late Middle Ages.

Thus the reason for the prohibition against charging interest became moot over the course of time, and from then on the only concern was with the question of determining the just rate of interest. The general prohibition had thereby become null and void. So where in all this is there an error of the Church's Magisterium?


Galileo

The condemnation of Galileo's teaching about the fixed position of the sun and the movement of the earth, which is also so often described as an error of the Church's Magisterium, [S}proves upon closer inspection to have been justified at the time.

With the scientific methods at his disposal, Galileo could not offer a proof that would convince the specialists either of his day or of ours that that is really the case, nor could he explain, before the discovery of gravity by Isaac Newton, how the earth could possibly revolve at breakneck speed around the sun and around its own axis while at the same time nothing of the sort is perceived by us, since everything on earth stands firm and secure instead of being tossed about in a tumultuous whirl.

Most importantly, though, the whole legal proceeding against Copernicus and Galileo resulted in not one single magisterial statement that could have been described as a dogma and on that account would have been irrevocable.

In this case, too, the critics fail to take into consideration the many events and facts in intellectual, cultural and scientific history that explain this decision. Furthermore, the most recent scientific findings vindicate the Church of 1633. [????]

A comparably nuanced, careful and comprehensive approach should be taken to the problems connected with the touchy subjects of the Crusades, the Inquisition and the witch trials.

In light of recent findings and the latest research, these subjects prove to be many-layered and much more complicated than the superficial observations of those who look at them as a source of ammunition against the Church.

Moreover, anyone who has even the foggiest notion of the complexity of financial-political activities and their worldwide interconnections and knows, furthermore, what sort of possibilities they offer for manipulation, will assume that the aforementioned Vatican financial scandal resulted from excessive gullibility or perhaps incompetence or even frivolity in financial matters on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities rather than from criminal intrigues.

As for an opinion of Yallop's book, In God's Name, which maintains that John Paul I was murdered, it is enough to read the first thirty pages in order to pass judgment.

On these pages there is talk about the popes of the nineteenth century, and so much of it is false that it is hard to imagine that the author used even an encyclopedia — for that would have sufficed to prevent the numerous errors.

If Yallop does not report correctly what everyone can easily find out, how are we supposed to be able to believe him when he cites conversations and events for which, by the very nature of the matter, there can be no witnesses except those who were supposedly involved?

No doubt, nothing more should be said about the double of Paul VI and other such luxuriant outgrowths of overheated imaginations.

All these things and many others besides are alleged in order to shake confidence in the Church. As we have shown in these all-too-brief remarks, however, in all these cases that supposedly vitiate the Church, historical and theological knowledge about the subject is enough to prove that such accusations are groundless.


But What About the Moral Failings?

One can with good reason retort that the most extensive knowledge about a subject of this kind will not suffice to excuse the religious and moral failings of important members of the Church throughout the centuries and in every locality, down to the papal adulterer Alexander VI.

But then the question arises, on what do we actually base the trust that we place in the Church? The real basis for our trust can never be a splendid spiritual, moral and religious manifestation of the Church in this world.

This has existed and indeed does exist always and everywhere — but one likewise finds always and everywhere the much more conspicuous opposite. Thus all romanticism about the early Church, a romanticism that imagines it sees in the first generations of Christians nothing but holiness and greatness, necessarily runs aground on the hard facts:
- The Christian married couple Ananias and Sapphira tried to defraud the Apostle Peter;
- In Paul's congregation at Corinth, there was a case of incest and rebellion against the Apostle;
- In Philippi, Saint Paul's committed female co-workers Euodia and Symyche quarreled with each other so much that Paul had to give them a serious warning.
- Indeed, Paul himself parted with Mark and Barnabas during one of his journeys due to differences of opinion that were evidently insuperable.
- Finally, as early as the year 70, according to the latest research, there was an uprising in Corinth against the priests, such that the Bishop of Rome had to intervene forcefully.

Thus the Church has never had that spotlessly radiant appearance that she ought to have. So it is no wonder, either, that those who believed that they were especially devout were scandalized again and again by this and founded their own "church of the blameless".

In contrast, the Church has always shown herself to be a great realist who has always and everywhere reckoned with the failure of her members. Not for nothing did the Lord Jesus himself, who searches and knows the depths of the human heart, institute the sacrament for the forgiveness of sins.

It cannot be said, either, that the shepherds and members of the Church have always and everywhere reacted correctly to the chal1enges of history. On the contrary, many mistakes have been made that subsequently became notorious.

For example, was not it disastrous that Pope Clement V allowed himself to be intimidated by the demands of the French king Philip and abandoned the order of Knights Templar, who as a whole were certainly innocent, to a downfall that was in large pare bloody?

Entire episcopates — today we would say bishops' conferences — fell into heresy during the Arian crisis of the fourth and fifth centuries.

In the sixteenth century the bishops of England, with the exception of Saint John Fisher, followed King Henry Vlll into schism our of weakness and cowardice, and similarly the French episcopate, during the conflict over the freedom of the Church from the state, stood beside Louis XIV against the Pope.

For almost two centuries the French bishops promoted the heresy of Jansenism. There were not many exceptions.

And how did the German bishops conduct themselves during the eleventh- and twelfth-century Investiture Controversy? In 1080 a majority of the German bishops, under the influence of Emperor Henry IV, made an attempt at a synod in Brixen to depose Pope Gregory VII and to elect an antipope.

Those German bishops who found themselves confronted with the religious division of the sixteenth century no doubt failed in large measure, too.

Truly, all of this does not make for glorious pages in the ecclesiastical chronicles. In the end, therefore, we cannot place our trust in the wisdom and power of the shepherds, either. No promise was ever made to the Church that her shepherds and her faithful would be irreproachable or capable.

What her Founder, the God-man Jesus Christ, did guarantee, nevertheless, is that she will continue unshakably and stand fast immovably in the truth until his return at the end of time.

This means that
- The Church can never proclaim an error in matters of faith whenever she speaks in a form that is ultimately binding;
- That her sacraments always produce their characteristic effects of grace, provided that they are administered according to the Church's directions; and
- That her hierarchical-sacramental structure comprising the ministries of primacy, episcopacy and priesthood will always be maintain ed intact.

Precisely thereby it is guaranteed that the graces of redemption will continue to be available to the people of all generations, until the Lord comes again.



From the publisher's blurb for the book:
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The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Reformation, and the Renaissance popes conjure in the imagination a corrupt Roman Catholic clergy hungry for wealth and power.

In this insightful, well researched work, the Vatican’s chief historian, Fr. Walter Brandmuller, takes a thoughtful and understanding look at these and other important chapters in Church history.

Without denying, or flinching at, the human capacity for folly, failure, and evil, Brandmuller moves beyond the caricatures and legends that often substitute for real history to reveal a Church, both human and divine, fulfilling its mission in every time and place.

His goal is not to whitewash any of these past events or issues, but rather to illuminate them, and bring to them a more in-depth, comprehensive historical understanding on the basis of their causes, circumstances and effects.


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June 4, 2009


This article was rerun today with the note that it "was originally published in a slightly different form in the November/December 2000 issue of Catholic Dossier".

It continues to be very relevant even if it was written before the Pontificate of Benedict XVI - because it makes the very points that he has been constantly preaching - even using the very same words in referring to key concepts.

I am uncomfortable with the author's choice to make his points in terms of a 'liberal-conservative' juxtaposition, but I understand that he makes it for rhetorical convenience
.



Years of teaching courses on Vatican II and Ecclesiology have provided me the data of an ongoing survey that continues to produce amazingly consistent results.

The question is simple: "What is the first word that comes to mind when I say, 'Vatican II'?" Invariably the response is "renewal" and "change."

The same answer comes from countless groups of adults with whom I have reflected on the Council that Pope John Paul II described as "the gift of the Holy Spirit" to the Church of our time.

The follow-up question produces similarly consistent results, though it may be difficult to discern at first.

To the question, "What kind of change?" people point first to the liturgy: Mass said in English, priest facing the assembly, laity serving as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, communion received in the hand.

Often mentioned is the adaptation of the discipline of abstinence from meat on Friday. Others point to participation on parish or diocesan pastoral or finance councils, while some refer to institutional innovations such as the synod of bishops, the International Theological Commission, and the many new pontifical councils.

Seemingly widely diverse, these examples have something in common; they are visible and institutional changes. Observable changes such as these naturally draw our attention; they are the first things we notice.

The Council, however, did not see changes as ends in themselves, but as means to something higher. The challenge is to look beyond them, or through them, to discover that more profound reality.

Such a "looking beyond" is natural for Catholic faith, which perceives the Son of God in Jesus of Nazareth, and the bestowal of grace in the visible signs we call sacraments.

What is that more profound reality? It is holiness, as unchanging in its nature as doctrine, the essence of the sacraments, and the hierarchical constitution of the Church.

Holiness, that is, life in communion with God in faith, hope and charity lived in the ongoing conversion that is an unending task for the Church, is fundamentally the same in all ages.

The real challenge of Vatican II is the change or renewal of hearts that in the Gospels is called metanoia. [Whicb Benedict XVI constantly invokes
in his homilies and addresses as a continuing process he calls 'conversion', just as he consistently calls on bishops and priests to be xamples of 'holiness' in the community.]


It is possible to get distracted, caught up in the liturgical and institutional dimension of renewal, and lose sight of the fact that these are at the service of making the Church's mission more effective.

That mission is identical to Christ's own: the reconciliation of men with God through the forgiveness of sins and justifying grace that makes those who receive it sharers in God's own life.

All the liturgical adaptations are intended to bring about that "fully conscious and active participation" [1] in the liturgy that is fundamentally a matter of the heart.

Similarly, the new expressions of the Church's ages-old faith [2] is intended to arouse faith and to convey the salvific value of what God has revealed so that modern man may discover the "meaning for life" of what the Church teaches.

And the reorganization of institutions and the establishment of new ones have as their goal to facilitate the living out of the Christian life and a more effective realization of the Church's mission [3] in which all share and for which all are responsible.

In other words, the Council's aim is to perfect the inner man, to be the agent of the conversion of the heart that produces the fruit of those immanent activities that are the very essence of religion. "The exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God" (Dignitatis Humanae, no. 3).

This is reflected in the very first words of the first text promulgated by the Council:

This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 1).


The immanent acts, which Pope John Paul II calls "consciousness" and "attitudes" [4] are the source of the visible actions of engagement in the Church's life and mission.

Faithful to this vision, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have underscored that the call to holiness is the chief teaching of the Council.

"This strong invitation to holiness could be regarded as the most characteristic element in the whole Magisterium of the Council, and so to say, its ultimate purpose." [5]

"It is possible to say that this call to holiness is precisely the basic charge entrusted to all the sons and daughters of the Church by a Council which intended to bring a renewal of Christian life based on the Gospel." [6] Yet the message is only now beginning to resound among the faithful.

The following reflections are an attempt to identify and analyze some of factors that have contributed to muffling the message, and to point out the balance required in order to be faithful to the Council's teaching.


The need for balance
between holiness and action


The new ecclesial awareness brought by the Council produced a kind of giddiness of activity. The Council stressed that everyone participates in the Church's mission, and there was no lack of energy for translating that into a whirlwind of activity. Cardinal Ratzinger identified the problem:


There is a popular idea today, which can also be found among the hierarchy, that a person is only a Christian insofar as he is committed to ecclesiastical activities. The trend is a type of ecclesiastical therapy of getting up and doing; the idea is to assign a committee to everyone or in any case, at least some commitment within the Church. It is thought that there must always be some sort of ecclesiastical activity, the Church must be spoken about or something must be done for it or within it. But a mirror which only reflects itself is no longer a mirror . . . .

It can happen that a person is continually active in ecclesiastical associations and activities but he may not be a Christian at all. It can also happen that a person simply lives only by the Word and the Sacrament and puts the love that comes from faith into practice, without ever sitting on an ecclesiastical committee, without ever bothering about the latest in ecclesiastical politics, without ever participating in synods or voting at them. And yet, he is a true Christian. We do not need a more human Church but a more divine one; only then will it be really human. And for this reason all that is man-made within the Church must reflect its pure character of service and withdraw in the face of what counts, the essential. [7]


Activity is necessary, but it needs to be seen as the fruit of spiritual renewal. The implementation of the Council will be based on a proper understanding of the relation between being and action, captured in the principle operatio sequitur esse: action follows upon being.

Though the perception has been widely diffused that one must select one or the other, prayer or activism, sacramental worship or being really engaged, in the texts of Vatican II the two stand together and cannot be separated.

There always has been and always will be a priority of contemplation over action, of sacramental worship over mission, because contemplation and the liturgy are the sources of the grace that transforms our being into Christ, and it is from this renewed being that actions flow.

Thus, the priority of contemplation and worship poses no threat to action and mission, but rather assures their integrity. The Council itself offers us the necessary balance:

It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 2).

It can be tempting to think that all we need in order to make the Church's mission complete is better organization, more efficient institutions, more professional conduct, the latest methods.

Recognizing the validity of a concern for effectiveness, Henri de Lubac sensed a troubling spirit that can accompany it. Is it motivated by "a pure overflowing of charity," or is it based on "this illusion . . . that it is enough to make a change of method . . . to obtain results which primarily suppose a change of heart?" [8]

Without vigilance, even a justifiable concern for efficiency can lead one to regard all elements of the Church as subject to revision based on the criterion of greatest productiveness.

Doctrine and sacramental worship are then judged by their power to elicit the active participation that supposedly defines the Council's intention. This produces a new kind of hierarchy of truths that has nothing to do with the Council's understanding of the phrase. [9]

How would this affect the theology of the Eucharist, and its role in the renewal of Vatican II? A renewal in keeping with the conciliar magisterium must recognize the Eucharist as "the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 10).

The Church is not built up without our activity, but that activity is essentially a cooperation with God. For this reason the edification of the Church is not solely proportioned to our labors. The fruits of our labors exceed what we can rightfully expect because the Church is built up by the Eucharist, [10] and this reminds us that its unity and mission are a gift that must be constantly received anew.

This is where the teaching of the Council on Mary takes on great pastoral significance for the Council's implementation.

Mary is the model of how we must receive in order actively to take our place in God's plan. [Again, another constant theme in the Magisterium of Benedict XVI.]

Both the plan itself and the grace that transformed her being are God's. Her being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in order to bear fruit for salvation, and the overshadowing of the entire Church on Pentecost in order to engage in its saving mission, indicate that all of the Church's activity must be seen as presupposing an epiclesis.

"If there is to be spiritual fruit actualizing the mystery of Christ in our lives, there must be an invocation of the Holy Spirit, epiclesis." [11]

In all these actions and for all these actions, the necessary role of an intervention of the Holy Spirit, of epiclesis, is to assure that neither the 'earthly means' nor the institution produce these actions by themselves. It is a matter of a work which is absolutely supernatural, divine and divinizing. [12]

A major casualty in this enthusiasm of activity has been a genuine apostolate and spirituality of the laity. The risk is real that the model for an active lay man or woman is holding a stable and often salaried position in the Church.

The model can include the highly visible functions of sitting on the parish council and serving as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist or performing the function of lector. The greatly increased numbers of laity involved in such functions is indeed a fruit of the Council.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of the lay faithful engages in those "voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God," and thereby strives for holiness and builds up the kingdom of God, in relative obscurity, amidst the daily activities of family and job, social, political, economic and cultural life.

The implementation of the Council with respect to the renewal of the temporal order through the laity will require a spirituality for the laity that does full justice to the primacy of the immanent activities that animate the lay apostolate. The Council stresses those inner activities in texts such as the following:

For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne-all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (Lumen Gentium, no. 34).


Finally all Christ's faithful, whatever be the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives — and indeed through all these, will daily increase in holiness, if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father and if they cooperate with the divine will.

In this temporal service, they will manifest to all men the love with which God loved the world (Lumen Gentium, no. 41).

A distillation of the Council's teaching will provide the necessary balance between contemplation and action, sacraments and mission, and will look to Mary as the model of all ecclesial activity.


Balance of truth and love:
on liberal and conservative


Back to word association. Students and audiences attending talks unfailingly associate a strong emphasis on the social gospel and the preferential love for the poor with the word "liberal," and a strong concern for doctrinal integrity with "conservative."

To demonstrate the inadequacy of these categories to embrace the Christian mystery, consider how it would make Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II simultaneously arch-liberals and arch-conservatives.

In the two arguably most widely recognized Catholics of the last half of the last century, love for the poor and love for the truth coexist in harmony and simplicity. In them the social gospel and doctrinal integrity do not exist in tension, but as necessary complements, even as truth and love are one in God, and the meaning of Christ's death is captured in terms of both love (Jn 15:13) and truth (Jn 18:37).

To choose one at the expense of the other undermines the integrity of the one that is chosen.

Of course no Christian, let us hope, explicitly rejects either truth or love. This renders difficult the following consideration of other dichotomies between the liberal and conservative mindsets or tendencies. [13]

Notwithstanding that aligning various positions with liberal or conservative inclinations has its limitations, my informal surveys lead me to think that the general correlations retain a certain validity.

My main point is to show that both the liberal and conservative dispositions, when allowed to cross certain lines, present obstacles to the interpretation of Vatican II and to the renewal-through-conversion envisioned by it.


Triumphalism, criticism and renewal

Vatican II was an ecclesiological council. Because ecclesiology reflects Christology, errors about Christ recur as errors about the Church.

The most fundamental errors about Christ regard the unity of his divine and human natures. Paralleling this there are two tendencies in ecclesiology. One emphasizes the divine dimension to the point of obscuring the human dimension, while the other obscures the divine dimension by over-emphasizing the human.

Though the Church is both human and divine, the distinction between the two is absolutely necessary as a condition for renewal.

An over-emphasis on the Church's divine element produces the pre-Vatican II reality known as triumphalism, which aligns with a conservative stance. How can there be renewal if it is thought that virtually everything is of divine institution?

Further, if the four notes of the Church are to serve as signs pointing to this divine dimension, then how can account be made of the sins of its members?

Vatican II met this question head on, always distinguishing between the divine and human aspects of the Church, and between the Church as such and the individuals that she embraces.

This fundamental distinction is also the critical principle for understanding John Paul II's candid recognition, in conjunction with the Jubilee, of the sins of the sons and daughters of the Church. This has consternated some who espouse a kind of hyper-apologia of the Church's divine constitution.

The liberal tendency is to place strong accent on the human element of the Church. In the extreme, it can be difficult to see the presence of God or the fulfillment of his promises, and it can degrade into a hyper-critical attitude toward the Church.

This too makes conversion impossible, for there must be hope of a future based on God's promises and grace if conversion is to be genuinely Christian. [14]

The Council was a great examination of conscience for the Church, [15] and thus a call to conversion. Conversion presupposes the identification of sin — a judgment, self-criticism in the light of God's word.

Paul VI's great vision for the Council was that it would engage in this self-criticism in order to embrace the call to conversion. It would deepen its awareness of its own mystery by reflecting on what God has revealed about the Church.

Then it would "compare the ideal image of the Church just as Christ sees it . . . with the actual image which the Church projects today," recognizing that "the actual image of the Church is never as perfect, as lovely, as holy or as brilliant as that formative Divine Idea would wish it to be."

This would prompt conversion, prompted by "an almost impatient need for renewal, for correction of the defects which this conscience denounces and rejects." [16] And this renewal would yield the fruit of renewed missionary activity through dialogue.

As the Church deepens its being in Christ, the result will be Christ-like activity: operatio sequitur esse. Like the Lord, the Church will become more and more the one who comes to serve.

After the Council it became fashionable to criticize the Church and, for some, the process of self-criticism became an end in itself. It drifted beyond criticism of the human dimension alone, [17] and called into question elements long considered pertaining to the divine dimension.

Such criticism removes the very possibility of conversion, since it makes certitude about the truth impossible. There is no longer any measure for judgment or criticism. [18]

Rather than humbly present the Church for remolding according to the divine vision for her, this tendency resulted in remolding the Church to make her conform to the expectations of modern man, a danger about which Pope Paul VI had given sufficient warning. [19]

Criticism of the Church is a delicate matter. It might be likened to the uncomfortable position in which middle-aged adults find themselves with respect to their parents. How does one balance the respect due to one's parents with the desire to assist them in dealing with their imperfections?

On the one hand, there is the objective norm of human happiness that one desires for his parents. On the other, there is the love they deserve because life itself and much more was their gift.


Conscience, authority, and obedience

Unrestrained, the liberal stance stresses the individual and conscience to the point that authority is viewed with suspicion and seen as a threat. This removes the very possibility of conversion.

By its own inner logic it tends toward a separation between Christ and the Church, holding at least implicitly that it is possible to be faithful to Christ without being faithful to his Church.


It is even claimed that one can be a good Catholic without adhering to what the Church teaches.

Because the claim is seldom made outright, it might be helpful to see what this stance really is when analyzed. Let's give the name "ecclesial agnosticism" to the product of the analysis. It is a disincarnate ecclesiology.

If agnostics don't deny God, they deny that he can be known, certainly that he became a man and can be identified with Jesus of Nazareth. Similarly, without denying the existence of the Church, without even denying that the Church possesses apostolic authority to teach, one can deny that this Church can be concretely identified, or that the conditions for infallible teaching are ever realized.

But an unverifiable God cannot make demands on anyone, nor can a Church that possesses a charism of infallibility that can never be verified. The very condition of conversion, knowledge of absolute truth, becomes impossible to ascertain.

On the conservative side is the tendency to see in sound doctrine the answer to all problems. If the liberal spirit greeted the Catechism of the Catholic Church with reticence, reservation and resentment, the conservative spirit saw it as confirmation of its conviction and the perfect instrument for exposing erroneous teaching.

But before it is an instrument for judging others, it is a sure guide for one's own faith. Neither liberals nor conservatives outdo the other when it comes to personal attacks and presumption about motives.

Liberals see conservatives as afraid of change, clinging to old traditions and institutions, while conservatives see liberals as insufficiently grounded in tradition and too ready to compromise with the spirit of the day. Each can express exasperation and intolerance with respect to the other.

But the first form of intolerance should be intolerance of the sin within, which is just another way to describe conversion. The truth is certainly worth fighting for, but the first battle is within oneself. This is the authentic renewal, and it can be obscured or put off for later when one's energies are directed towards checking the errors of others.

Furthermore, Jesus teaches us that those who know the truth are called to suffer for those who do not. While it is true that the truth is greater than any relationship, it is also a fact that the family divided two against three and three against two is not a goal but only a predictable outcome of bringing truth into a world marked by sin.

If conservatives are to be a real force for renewal in the Church, they must reinvent Christ-like service and suffering precisely for those who are in need of it.

For the liberally minded, obedience is difficult to reconcile with human dignity and can even pose a threat to it, while for the conservatively minded obedience is one of the highest virtues and reasoning can be seen as a threat to it.

Vatican II's teaching on dignity, conscience and obedience transcends these opposing tendencies, and the realization of the Council's teaching in the life of the Church will require a discovery by both parties of its balanced synthesis of these notions.

{The Vatican-II documents that I have had occasion to review often in the past four years are very clear, however, on the supreme authority of the Pope in matters of Magisterium - a presumably self-evident principle which many dissenting bishops and priests have freely igonored - using the much-vaunted argument of 'primacy of individual conscience' to justify their disobedience to the Magisterium. In this case, there is neither recognition of authority nor the duty of obedience.]


The dialogue between faith and reason

Liberals and conservatives are mistaken about the dialogue between faith and reason. Liberals tend to side with reason because this is thought to be the province of the individual and guarantee of autonomy, while conservatives side with faith.

The contrast between the caricature of the Church before Vatican II and the actual state of affairs today is striking, if not to say lamentable. If the windows were shut because dialogue with world was a dangerous affair - running the risk of error corrupting the faith - today people are open to dialogue with every religion and philosophy, including those blatantly antithetical to Catholicism, yet they retain a suspicion of just one institution — the hierarchical Church. We have gone from believing that truth exists only in the Church to being disposed to finding it just about anywhere except in the Church.

Conservatives are suspicious of the dialogue. They have seen how it can corrupt the faith, and they tend toward fideism. Henri de Lubac has described this inclination as "an orthodoxy so complete and so easy of decision that it looks rather like indifference . . ." This produces a way of "submitting to dogma . . . in principle and in advance." [20]

But assent and obedience given in advance can only be to what one thinks the Church teaches. In this case, faith cannot be the light for their living. It can be venerated as from a distance, it can serve to distinguish one group from another, but it cannot put down roots in daily life.

This deficient adherence of faith "establishes its own lists of what is suspect — in the fashion of religious authority itself – and is ready to call the authority to order, if need be . . . it brands as 'liberalism' or 'modernism' every effort made to disentangle Christianity in its real purity and its perpetual youth, as if this were an abandonment of doctrine." [21]

People of this mindset can learn from Mary, who is the model of this dialogue. Her assent to the One who spoke through the angel Gabriel did not eliminate questions; rather, it gave rise to them. And she continued to ponder what she experienced.

In Mary, God's word "is not taken up rashly to be locked into a superficial first impression and then forgotten." Rather, it "is given a place of permanent abiding in which it can gradually unfold its depth."

Treasuring all that God said to her, "Mary held a conversation with the Word. She entered interiorly into a dialogue with the Word. She addressed the Word and allowed herself to be addressed by it in order to arrive at its basic meaning." [22]

The dialogue between faith and reason is born of the humility that asks if one has accurately understood what God has revealed. It is not an invitation to question the veracity of what God has revealed.

If there is good reason to be wary of this dialogue because it has produced questionable fruit since the Council, as too often the findings of the human sciences seem to have greater authority than the Church's teachings, [23] the dialogue is no less necessary.

Gaudium et Spes provides the fundamental principles that must guide this dialogue, without which both faith and reason are impoverished.


On truth and love, unity and holiness

For liberals the emphasis is on relationships and tolerance as the formula for unity. For conservatives it is on truth, doctrinal purity and visible unity that is correspondingly pure.

The conservative stance disposes people to sacrifice relationships for the sake of purity of truth and unity, while the liberal inclination is toward compromising on the latter for the sake of the former.

Neither measures well against the Gospel, or against Vatican II, where truth, love and unity, as well as patience, forgiveness and reconciliation are recognized as pertaining to the Church's life and mystery.

The Church is indeed one and holy, and her unity and holiness are essentially the same as God's, since they are nothing other than a participation in the unity and holiness of God through Christ.

However, while Christ is totally without sin, the Council considers the Church's holiness "real although imperfect" (Lumen Gentium, no. 48) since "the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal" (Lumen Gentium, no 8).

The Council's approach to unity is similar. On the one hand it is a gift from God that cannot fail, on the other hand there is a humble acknowledgement of the actual historical situation of division among Christians.

It is the task of theologians to wrestle with this conciliar teaching and do full justice to it. A one-sided emphasis on how the human element in the Church affects the realization of holiness and unity cannot deplete them of content. Nor should a one-sided emphasis on their reality obscure how sin affects their realization in the Church.

The Church is a sign of salvation inseparable but distinct from the sign that is Christ. If the Church's self-testimony is to be accurate and credible, she has no alternative but to speak about her unity and holiness as "real though imperfect." [24]

Full justice to the Council's teaching is also missing in ecclesiologies that place the realization of unity and holiness in the future, as if they are not real attributes and supernatural gifts that are properties of the Church. The reason is that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church already, and thus so do all her properties. [25]

The relationship between truth and unity brings out tendencies of both liberals and conservatives. For liberals unity is a given, and it can be preserved by being accepting of others. Truth can be the enemy of unity because truth divides. If we are free to hold our own opinions, then we can be one in that freedom that we grant one another, and the purpose of authority is above all to safeguard that freedom.

Liberals tend to see the apostolic teaching office as divisive, as a threat to unity, while conservatives see it as the guarantee of unity, since they see that there can be no unity without truth. For conservatives, authority serves unity by drawing firm lines that cannot be crossed and by expelling those who cross them, while for liberals silence on issues claimed to be controverted is the wisest use of authority.

Liberal unity is more the absence of hostility than it is a genuine bond based on commonly held principles. Stressing truth risks melting and dissolving unity. There is no room for conversion because the objective content of unity is so underplayed.

Conservative unity, in contrast, leaves little room for conversion by wanting a perfect unity. But if perfection comes by way of expulsion of all who are not yet perfect, there is no conversion.

These tendencies produce a set of impossible expectations for our bishops and priests. The subject requires an entirely different article, even a book. Here it suffices to observe that for both liberals and conservatives the post-Vatican II experience of pastoral leadership, and of the apostolic teaching office in particular, has been one of frustration.

For liberals, it is the frustration of interference, of close-minded and rigid adherence to and outmoded tradition that stultifies the free-blowing Holy Spirit. For conservatives, it is the frustration of perceived compromises on the truth in favor of not creating hostilities.

Liberals would remind the bishops of the compassionate, patient, forgiving Jesus, the Good Shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep, while conservatives are impressed by the fact that he boldly admonished those in error and had the courage to watch the rich young man and many followers walk away from him rather than compromise on his teaching. All would do well to remember that Christ is the source of both truth and unity, and so are our bishops.

Since Vatican II, the tendency to elevate unity above the truth is certainly one of the more serious betrayals of the Council, and of the entire Catholic Tradition. ['To elevate unity above the truth'? I find that a most questionable formulation applied to the dissenters to orthodox Catholicism. Their very interpretation of Vatican-II as a rupture which, in effect, gave birth to a new Church, is the worst argument one can give for 'unity'! What could be more literally 'divisive' than that?]

If unity is the highest good, and the function of every pastor is to keep as many sheep in the fold as possible, then truth risks being reduced to a means, and subject to manipulation for the sake of unity.

In this case, every group and every individual possesses a kind of power of veto over what they consider offensive and unacceptable. The resulting unity is no longer the unity for which Christ prayed and for which he died. Only when we see his death in terms of both truth and love do we arrive at the theological depth of the mystery of their unity.


Conclusion

The Council, it has been claimed, was an unresolved juxtaposition of liberal and conservative elements, of old and new ecclesiologies. Consequently, the claim goes, Catholics must choose between the two. But this is a false dilemma.

The Church's tradition is simultaneously conservatizing and progressive. Its law is conversion. That conversion is the underlying gift of Christ to the Church, and it is in its essence irrevocable, both on the part of God, who ceaselessly provides the graces of fidelity, and on the part of the Church, who in Mary is the faithful handmaid of the Lord.

"The same motive that induces one endowed with continuity to cling imperturbably to truth will compel him also to be open to every new truth. The ability to remain constant in the Yes once given requires an unremitting readiness to change." [26] Conversion is a mystery of continuity and growth.

Like the Church itself, the Council falls into the category of mystery, because it is an action of the Church and an expression of its mystery of being both divine and human.

The same tendency to reduce the Church to one element of its mystery has been applied to the Council, with the result of reducing it to a merely human clash between liberal and conservative forces.

The assertion that we must choose one or the other has been one of the most significant weaknesses of post-Vatican II theology, and this has presented a significant obstacle to the renewal that the Council began.

It would be more correct to see the Council in the same light in which the apostles saw their first assembly in Jerusalem after the Lord ascended. "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . ." (Acts 15:28).

At this first council, human action and divine agency combined, and new teaching arose out of the old. That new teaching, and the entire body of doctrine of which it was a part, was the fruit of Peter's conversion in understanding the mysterious ways of God.

It constituted a call to conversion on the part of those who would see the Church as a radical break with Judaism, as well as those who saw it as simply reduced to Judaism. No less a conversion is required today of those who see Vatican II as a departure from the Tradition or as a completely new beginning.


ENDNOTES:

[1] This is the well-known phrase of Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14.

[2] On the new formulae of faith, see Pope Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, nos. 41, 83, 85.

[3] This is essentially the reason given by Pope John Paul II for the revision of the Code of Canon Law in Sacrae Disciplinae Leges (January 25, 1983).

[4] See Sources of Renewal. On the Implementation of Vatican II (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980).

[5] Motu proprio, Sanctitatis Clarior, March 19, 1969; AAS 61(1969), p.149.

[6] Christifideles Laici, no. 16.

[7] "Reform from the Beginnings," article in 30 Days, November 1990, pp. 66-67. The same theme is taken up in The Ratzinger Report (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), pp. 45-53.

[8] The Splendor of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), pp. 293-294.

[9] On the hierarchy of truths, see the article, "The Hierarchy of Truths" in The Catholic Faith, Vol. 6, No. 1 (January/ February, 2000).

[10] On this see Dominicae Cenae, no. 4.

[11] Je Crois en l'Esprit Saint, III. Le Fleuve de Vie coule en Orient et en Occident (Paris: Cerf, 1980), p. 348.

[12] Je Crois en l'Esprit Saint, III, p. 350.
[13] Some of what follows agrees with and was inspired by the article of Cardinal Francis George, "How Liberalism Fails the Church," in Commonweal, November 19, 1999.

[14] Cardinal Ratzinger gives a profound analysis of this in his book, Principles of Catholic Theology. Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), pp. 372-373.

[15] Ibid., p.

[16] Ecclesiam Suam, nos. 10-11.

[17] See the judicious discussion of the limits of criticism by Pope John Paul II in Redemptor Hominis, no. 4.

[18] Cardinal Ratzinger made a similar remark in his Intervention on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Declaration, Dominus Iesus: "missing the question of truth, the essence of religion does not differ from its 'non-essence,' faith is not distinguished from superstition, experience from illusion. Finally, without a serious apprehension of the truth, the appreciation of other religions becomes absurd and contradictory, since there are no criteria for ascertaining what is positive in a religion."

[19] In Ecclesiam Suam, nos. 48-49.

[20] The Splendor of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), pp. 100-101.

[21] Ibid., p. 283. All of chapter 8 of this remarkable book could be read with great profit with respect to our subject.

[22] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "'You are Full of Grace': Elements of Biblical Devotion to Mary," in Communio, XVI (1989), N. 1, p. 61.

[23] See Pope John Paul II's remarks on the uncritical acceptance of the findings of the human sciences as an obstacle to conversion in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, no. 18.

[24] The best treatment of this subject of which I know is by Rene Latourelle in Christ and the Church, Signs of Salvation (Staten Island, New York: Alba House, 1972).

[25] This is one of the assertions of the Declaration, Mysterium Ecclesiae, of June 24, 1973.

[26] From Transformation in Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand, as quoted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in Principles of Catholic Theology. Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), pp. 63-64.

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Vatican media welcome Obama's speech
in Cairo as step toward peace

By John Thavis
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VATICAN CITY, June 5 (CNS) -- U.S. President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo, Egypt, was welcomed by Vatican media as a step toward peace and a new beginning in American relations with Muslims.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, ran a front-page story June 4 on Obama's speech earlier that day. The newspaper called it an effort to open "a new beginning in relations between the United States and the Arab world."

It said the president "went beyond political formulas, evoking concrete common interests in the name of a common humanity," including peace, security, education, work, family life and religious values.

On the question of Iraq, the newspaper said, Obama "marked a break with the past" by citing the need for the United States to use diplomacy and international consensus to solve problems.

Vatican Radio also reported on the speech, saying that it "went beyond expectations" as a reconciliation effort with Muslim countries.

"The words pronounced at the University of Cairo are much more than an extended hand, but the foundation of a real common platform for launching what (Obama) defines as a new beginning in relations between the United States and the Middle East," it said.

The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, called the speech "very important" and "very significant" not only for relations between the United States and Muslim countries but also for international peace.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Mario Scialoja, an official of the Islamic Cultural Center of Italy, said Obama's speech signaled a change from the approach of the administration of former President George W. Bush. He said it was especially important that Obama recognized Muslims as a part of American society and called Islam a religion of peace, citing verses from the Quran.

"It seems to me that Obama has touched the right chords in the hearts of Muslims and the entire world and that he has opened an era of more receptive and more frank dialogue between the United States and the Islamic world," Scialoja said.
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The OR editors have apparently just made another questionable decision that violates journalistic standards. Earlier this year, the OR published what was later seen to be a hasty ill-advised essay by Mons. Rino Fisichella, in his first few weeks as President of the Pontifical Academy for Life - in which he criticized Brazilian bishops for actions taken fin connection with the medical abortion of twins conceived by a 9-year-old girl raped by her step-uncle, without fully informing himself of the circumstances nor even bothering to check out his facts with the bishops concerned.

Worse, Fisichella's article appeared to say that in this case, the abortion was justified. Many pro-life workers felt the article, at the very least, served to sow confusion about the Church's teaching on abortion, and the bishops of Brazil expressed their protest.

Whether the OR should have published the article at all, given the circumstances, is certainly debatable, at the very least. Especially as it had not previously reported the Brazil events at all as news, which would presumably have been objective.

But this new disclosure is outright violation of journalistic fairness
.




Brazil archbishop complains
Vatican newspaper won't publish
his side of abortion controversy

By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
Latin America Correspondent
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RECIFE, BRAZIL, June 3, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, is asking that the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano publish his response to Archbishop Salvatore "Rino" Fisichella, who criticized him on its pages on March 15 for having announced the excommunication of the doctors who assisted in a now-famous abortion on a nine-year-old girl.

"It seems to me important that L’Osservatore Romano should publish my response," Cardoso told the French newspaper Present in a recent interview. "This is what we are trying to obtain, as we have been from the start."

"We sent the archdiocese’s response to Mgr Fisichella’s article to Rome. It’s a natural right to be allowed to respond if someone has been publishing false information, for who knows which motive: the readers of L'Osservatore should also be in a position to know the other point of view."

The article, entitled "On the Side of the Brazilian Girl," shocked the pro-life world by defending the doctors who killed the unborn twins of a nine-year-old child in Recife, Brazil, and criticizing Cardoso for announcing the automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church incurred under Church law for committing an abortion.

Cardoso observes that the piece by Fisichella contained raw factual errors. In particular the article implied that the world would never have known about the case if the Archbishop had not mentioned the excommunication, suggested that Cardoso had immediately announced the excommunication without prior contact with the media, and that the girl's life was in danger from the pregnancy.

In reality, the Brazilian media had already been reporting on the girl's situation for several days, and the hospital where she was initially admitted acknowledged that she was in no danger at the time of the abortion (see LifeSiteNews' extensive coverage).

Cardoso also explains that he had already spoken to the media several times even before the abortion was committed. “I expressed myself several times [to the media] because this affair of a nine year-old pregnant girl attracted widespread media attention," he said. "Above all, we did all that depended on us to save three lives: not only the life of the little girl, but the three lives. When the abortion finally did take place, I simply recalled once more the law of the Church.”

Pro-abortion activists, including the former President of "Catholics for Choice," Frances Kissling, openly applauded the article by Fisichella, which critics have said used rhetoric similar to that of the pro-abortion movement.

Although the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife has responded to the charges, L'Osservatore Romano has yet to reprint any of the material defending the decision by Cardoso.

However, two members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Judie Brown and Joseph Seifert (see coverage), have objected publicly to what they have said is an attack on Cardoso, as has Human Life International and other pro-life organizations.


Deal Hudson has this to say about the matter:



Vatican nnwspaper refuses
to correct errors - once again

Posted on June 04, 2009
by Deal W. Hudson



The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, continues to provide evidence that it needs a new editor.

The editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, has already provided the Catholic Left its messaging for Obama's reelection campaign in 2012 with its inaccurate and biased coverage of his pro-abortion stance.

Now Vian refuses to publish any mention of a statement from a South American bishop disputing the facts of an article criticizing him in the Vatican newspaper. (You may recall, it was only under pressure that Vian published any mention of the U. S. bishops who criticized Obama's Notre Dame speech which L'Osservatore Romano lauded.)

The decision of the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho to excommunicate those who provided an abortion for a pregnant 9-year old girl in his diocese was criticised in OR by none other than Archbishop Salvatore "Rino" Fisichella, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Archbishop Fisichella defended the doctors who provided the abortion because, he claimed, the girl's life was in danger. The girl's life was never in danger, according to Archbishop Cordoso, yet OR will not print a correction. When the girl was originally admitted to the hospital, the hospital spokesman stated the girl's life was not in danger.

Fisichella also implied Cardoso announced the excommunication without any prior contact with the media. Cardoso, in fact, had already been interviewed in the media about the pregnant girl over several days -- "Above all, we did all that depended on us to save three lives: not only the life of the little girl, but the three lives. When the abortion finally did take place, I simply recalled once more the law of the Church.”

The list of unanswered questions about the leadership at L'Osservatore Romano grows longer by the week. OR praises our pro-abortion president; lauds his appearance at the Notre Dame commencement; its editor declares Obama "not pro-abortion;" publishes criticism of Archbishop Cardoso's defense of life, and then ignores its crucial factual errors.

Very strange times at the Vatican newspaper, and very alarming!


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I am posting this for the record, but bear in mind it comes from a very biased source. NCR appears to think that religious congregations should simply be left to do as they please - indeed, NCR militantly advocates he liberal 'spirit of Vatican II' that pretty much says every 'Catholic' should be free to do as he pleases!


U.S. women religious study raising new concerns:
Profession of faith, loyalty oath
requested during on-site visitations

By Thomas C. Fox
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Jun. 04, 2009


The Vatican-appointed apostolic visitator charged with leading a study of U.S. women religious communities soon will have personally interviewed nearly half the superiors general included in phase one of the effort.

Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Mother Mary Clare Millea, who heads the project, has spoken with women in Rome, by telephone, and also while visiting various U.S. cities. In August she plans to send questionnaires to heads of religious institutes with an eye on beginning on-site visits shortly into 2010.

“The response has been very positive,” said Sr. Eva-Maria Ackerman, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, the American sister handling communications for the project. “Mother Millea has already interviewed 50 superiors general in Rome and will soon have completed 77 more in the U.S. She will speak with more after she returns to Rome.”

Phase one of the study, Ackerman said, calls for interviewing some 340 women religious leaders with U.S. generalates, provincialates and houses of formation.


Sr. Eva-Maria (CNS photo)In January, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life first announced that it had begun an apostolic visitation, or comprehensive study, of U.S. women religious congregations. The announcement caused considerable uncertainty and alarm among many U.S. women religious who saw it as unnecessary and potentially divisive.

The Vatican action was initiated by the congregation’s prefect, Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé in a decree issued last December. That decree indicated the visitation was being undertaken in order to examine the quality of the life of women religious with an eye to learning why their numbers had fallen in recent decades.

Ackerman, in announcing the study last January, said the visitation is not meant to impose any particular model of religious life on any religious order, but rather to help “revitalize and renew” the congregations.

As part of the project, Millea, in a letter dated May 19 and sent to the superiors general, asked each to give her up to three names of religious who might participate in the planned on-site visitations.

“To assist me in the current process of selecting religious who will be members of visitation teams,” said Millea, “I am offering each superior general the opportunity to suggest names of potential team members, principally among her own sisters, but not excluding religious of other congregations.

“Male religious may also be appointed as members of visitation teams and will be assigned to those congregations who will have indicated on the questionnaire that they would welcome a member of a men’s religious congregation.”

Millea’s letter noted that those who take part in the work “will be acting in the name of the Apostolic See” and for this reason “they must be willing to make a public profession of faith and take an oath of fidelity to the Apostolic See.”

These requests appear to have touched the nerves of some already suspicious women religious.

Canon lawyers, however, who have seen the requested profession of faith and oath say they date back two decades and are required of candidates who hold teaching positions, including roles in the diaconate as well as positions of bishop, pastor, and theology teacher in Catholic seminaries.

The profession of faith involves the recitation of the Nicene Creed followed by three paragraphs add in 1989. These read:

With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act
.

The oath of fidelity reads, in part:

With Christian obedience I shall follow what the bishops, as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith, declare, or what they, as those who govern the Church, establish.

I shall also faithfully assist the diocesan bishops, so that the apostolic activity, exercised in the name and by mandate of the Church, may be carried out in communion with the Church
.



Millea’s letter appears on the apostolic visitation Web site . While the profession and oath do not appear, NCR obtained a copy.

[These texts are found in John Paul II's Motu Proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem [To protect the faith] of May 24, 1990, which provided new norms to be inserted into the Code of Canon Law. I just happened to have looked it up yesterday because Gianni Baget Bozzo mentioned the Motu Proprio in his last article without saying what it was about. Some nuns apparently object to these professions of faith because they are not prepared to say they accept all the teachings of the Church nor tha teaching authority of their bishops (including the Pope). Isn't OBEDIENCE one of the principal vows they make?]

Most women religious interviewed for this article did not want to be quoted by name, fearing they would draw attention to their religious communities.

Nearly all remained skeptical about the Vatican-mandated study. Several questioned the need for a profession of faith and an oathin order to be part of the visitation teams.

The requirement, these women said, would narrow ranks of potential applicants, making the teams less representative of U.S. women religious today. For these women, the whole matter of fidelity oaths seemed to be adding salt into old wounds.

At issue are gender and authority questions, which have a contentious church history in recent decades.

In June 1998, Pope John Paul II re-opened these issues in an apostolic letter, Ad Tuendam Fidem, enshrining into canon law the tougher 1989 profession of faith and loyalty oath. On that occasion, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, now Pope Benedict XVI, listed examples of non-definitive church teachings that need to be upheld as part of core Catholic teachings. Ratzinger’s commentary singled out the ban on women’s ordination and the invalidity of Anglican ordinations.

“The change in the wording was troubling to many theologians at the time the profession and oath were altered in 1989,” said Fr. James A. Coriden, canon law professor at Washington Theological Union. “It required not just a personal act of faith, but also to firmly accept and hold certain non-definitive teachings. This went way beyond a profession of faith. Theologically, it seemed at the time like an effort to deal with the issue of the ordination of women.”

Reacting to the news of the requested profession of faith, Franciscan Sister of the Poor Beth Rindler said: “It seems so obvious that the men in official positions within our church are attempting to control us as women. We are their subjects and we are to do as they tell us, even to what we can think.”
Sister of Loretto Jeannine Gramick lamented the requirements.

Said Gramick: “If we truly believe that the Spirit is guiding our church, we have no need of professions of faith and loyalty oaths. I feel embarrassed for the church I love when it uses such tactics in the 21st first century — tactics that are reminiscent of the inquisition, where fear overruled truth, and of Orwellian mind control, where individuals were controlled by the Thought Police.”

Sister of Mercy Theresa Kane said it is both ironic and providential the visitation process is taking place simultaneously with the national opening of a major women’s religious exhibit in Cincinnati. That exhibit highlights the work of U.S. women religious beginning in the 18th century. She called the exhibit “deeply inspiring” and “a sacred experience.”

“Having stated this, to think women religious are being directed to sign oaths or a pledge of fidelity is scandalous,” she said. “We have made lifelong oaths; they are called vows. Before God, we have attempted to live our lives fully with gifts of a rich spiritual life, an effective ministry and in community with other women religious. Such is fidelity and a fidelity that belongs only to one’s loving God.”

In her letter, Millea listed other requirements for those to be considered for the visitation teams. Applicants, she wrote, need to be:

•At least 20 years of religious profession in an institute of pontifical or diocesan right;
•Current membership in good standing in her/his own religious institute, with active and passive voice therein;
•Clear and consistent witness to faithful religious living, in accord with congregational and ecclesial norms;
•Spiritual, human and practical wisdom drawn from extensive experience in interpersonal relationships, both within the community and in ministry;
•Ability to respect confidentiality, listen attentively and dialogue honestly;
•Capacity for working collaboratively with a team in drawing clear and fair conclusions;
•Ability to perceive, verify and clarify essential ideas and data;
•Ability to prepare a written report in a timely manner that is objective, unbiased, accurate and succinct;
•Ability to identify strengths and areas of concern based on data gathered.
There are nearly 400 apostolic religious institutes of women in the United States containing approximately 59,000 women religious. Communities of cloistered, contemplative nuns are not part of the study. At the end of the apostolic visitation process, Millea will submit a confidential report to Rodé based on her observations and findings.



As outrageous as this article is, the comments by what I suppose are typical NCR readers ar even far more outrageous!




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Vatican official explains new authority
of bishops to defrock priests

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Vatican City, Jun 5, 2009 (CNA) - During an interview today with Vatican Radio, the Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, clarified that bishops around the world have not been granted "automatic" powers to defrock priests, but only the capacity to proceed more speedily in cases that were not considered by the current Code of Canon Law.

Cardinal Hummes and Archbishop Piacenza.
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The new powers granted to bishops were announced by a letter sent to all episcopates from Cardinal Claudio Hummes on April 18 and are aimed at filling some legal voids present in the current Canon law.

The archbishop explained that they are not a "blank check" to automatically defrock priests, as some members of the Italian press have recently claimed.

The changes authorized by Pope Benedict XVI allow bishops to proceed with the laicization of priests only in some cases, such as
- When a priest leaves the ministry by his own will;
- When he asks the bishop to be dispensed from the commitment of celibacy; or
- When a priest leaves the priesthood without telling the bishop and enters into a civil marriage, has kids and "is not interested in solving his canonical situation."

"In those cases, for the good of the Church and his own good," Archbishop Piacenza explained, "the power to give a dispensation to the priest is requested as an act of charity, especially if he has children, since the children have the right to a father in good standing with the Church."

"In these cases, it is the bishop who has to take the initiative," the archbishop added.

Nevertheless, he clarified that "there is nothing 'automatic,' there is no 'automatism' in the timing of the cases, each case has to be carefully and rigorously examined."

"All the other rights and duties of the bishops in exercising their juridical authority remain unchanged," Piacenza continued.

"On a daily basis, the vast majority of priests live according to their own identity and carry on their own ministerial duties faithfully. But in few cases, the Holy See has to intervene in a subsidiary manner, to repair the scandal, reestablish justice and help the sinner amend his course." the archbishop explained.

According to the new regulations, the bishops can begin the procedure to declare the loss of the clerical state for those priests who "have attempted marriage, even if only civil," and "after the proper warning have not made changes."

Also the bishop can proceed in cases where the priest is "guilty of grave external sins against the sixth commandment," which is: "You shall not commit adultery."

"Priestly celibacy," Archbishop Piacenza concluded, "is a gift that the Church has received and wants to preserve, convinced more than ever that it is good for herself and the world


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Curia official speaks of two currents
stirring up tensions in Church:
'Pro-integration and pro-controversy'

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education contends there are two currents in the Western Church -- one seeking "integration" and one causing "controversy."

Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès affirmed this in the annual meeting of pontifical seminary rectors, L'Osservatore Romano reported Wednesday. His address was titled "Formation for the Priesthood: Between Secularism and the Ecclesial Model."

"There exists now in the European Church, and maybe also in the American Church, a line of division, maybe of fracture, which undoubtedly varies from one country to another, and proposes what I will call a 'current of integration' and a 'current of controversy," the archbishop said.

He explained that the first "observes that there are Christian values in secularization -- such as equality, liberty, solidarity and responsibility -- and [considers] that it should be possible to collaborate with this current and find areas of cooperation."

"Whereas the second current," Archbishop Bruguès continued, "invites keeping distance. It considers that the differences or conflicts, above all in the realm of ethics, will be ever more marked," and "proposes an alternative model to the dominant model."

The French prelate suggested that the first current "was predominant in the post-conciliar [era] and has provided the ideological mold for the interpretations that were promoted at the end of the 60s and the following decade."

"Things turned around beginning with the 80s, particularly -- though not exclusively -- under the influence of John Paul II," he added.

The 65-year-old archbishop commented that Catholics of the first current tend to be older, but still hold key posts in the Church, while the alternative model has been considerably strengthened but "is still not dominant."

"This explains the current tensions in many Churches on our continent," he contended.

Archbishop Bruguès proposed that these differences take shape in various contexts, such that universities and Catholic schools, and seminaries and centers for religious, for example, "are distributed today according to this dividing line."

"Some play the trick of adaptation and cooperation with a secularized society at the cost of finding themselves obliged to distance themselves with a critical sense from this or that aspect of doctrine or Catholic morals," he continued. "Others, of a more recent inspiration, highlight the confession of their faith and the active participation in evangelization."

The archbishop proposed that the majority of the Western Church has endured "a strong auto-secularization."

And to respond to this negative division, the Vatican official encouraged an authentic interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, which perhaps will mean, he said, moving "from one ecclesial model to the other."

Archbishop Bruguès urged formation for priests that offers a "synthetic, organic theological formation that indicates the essential."

He affirmed that a "generalized lack of culture" caused by secularization makes a year or more of initial formation focused on culture and catechetics something that is "indispensable."
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Since I only 'see' OR through the selection of articles that it chooses to post online everyday, I did not get to see the following
'denial' which was apparently tucked in an inside page and to which the editors obviously did not want to call attention to by posting it online - a practice very much in the manner of the New York Times and the Washington Post who will play up a false or misleading story for days on its front pages and then issue a correction or a denial using a one-paragraph item hidden deep within the newspaper where no one is likely to see it.

I might note that Rome-based John Thavis of Catholic News Service wrote a wrap-up story yesterday, 6/5, on 'Vatican media praise Obama's Cairo speech' [see post earlier on this thread] and did not refer to the OR 'denial' at all - either by (ideological) choice, or because he did not see it himself [even if the OR only has 8 pages].



OR denies 'conflict' with
US bishops and defends
its Obama coverage

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June 5, 2009


L'Osservatore Romano has denied that its favorable treatment of US President Barack Obama suggests a view different from that of the US hierarchy.

An unsigned note in the June 5 issue of the Vatican newspaper says that article on Obama "did not intend to express appreciation for his positions on ethical questions."

L'Osservatore - which has come under criticism for publishing supportive articles on Obama, at a time when American bishops are heavily critical of the President's stand on the dignity of life-- says:

Obviously the Holy See and L'Osservatore Romano have been, are, and will be standing side by side with the bishops of the United States in their commitment to the inviolability of human life in whatever stage of its existence.


While this explanatory note is found on the inside pages of the Vatican newspaper, a more prominent story [the banner story on Page 1, in fact] in the same edition praises [uncritically, despite the many deliberate errors of fact, starting with inflating the population of US Muslims from at best 3 million to 7 million!] Obama's speech in Cairo on America's relations with Islam.




The OR 'steps back'
on Obama praise

by Francis Rocca
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VATICAN CITY, June 5 (RNS -) The official Vatican newspaper emphatically denied that its friendly coverage of President Barack Obama reflects any tolerance of his support for legalized abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

"In reporting on some recent statements and initiatives of the president of the United States, L'Osservatore Romano certainly did not intend to express appreciation for his positions on ethical questions," said an unsigned article in the paper's June 5 edition.

"Obviously the Holy See and L'Osservatore Romano have been, are, and will be standing side by side with the bishops of the United States in their commitment to the inviolability of human life in whatever stage of its existence."

Known as the "Pope's newspaper," L'Osservatore is under the direct authority of the Secretariat of State, which directs the Vatican's diplomatic relations, and reportedly vets articles on sensitive topics before publication.

The paper's coverage of Obama has been consistently friendly, and at times openly enthusiastic, since his election last November.

The paper published no reference to controversy over Obama's appearance at the University of Notre Dame last month until the day after the event, when it called the president's commencement speech there part of his "search for common ground" with opponents of legalized abortion.

That article failed to mention that about one-fifth of America's 350 Catholic bishops had publicly protested the invitation because of Obama's support for legalized abortion.

Friday's article said there was "no basis" to commentary that has "sought to exploit the newspaper's articles to make the teaching of the episcopate of the United States on the inherent evil of abortion appear an exercise in partisan politics, supposedly in contrast with a different strategy of the Holy See."

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Worldwide ban for rebel priest
Australian Broadcasting Commission News
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June 5, 2009


A dismal story on the eve of the Year of the Priest, but obviously, the Church cannot tolerate any priest defying the practices of the universal Church.


The Catholic Church has suspended controversial Brisbane priest Peter Kennedy from performing church duties anywhere in the world.

Father Kennedy will no longer be allowed to officiate at weddings, preach or hear confessions.

Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby imposed the penalty after Father Kennedy began a new congregation, known as St Mary's in Exile.

In addition, the Church has "revoked the faculties" of Father Terry Fitzpatrick, who also officiates at the new church. Fr Fitzpatrick is formally attached to the Toowoomba diocese, but he can no longer say Mass in Brisbane.

This means St Mary's in Exile is without a priest who can say Mass with the blessing of the Catholic Church.

Fr Kennedy was originally sacked from St Mary's Church at South Brisbane for unorthodox practices, including allowing women to preach and for blessing gay couples.

Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Fr Adrian Farrelly, acknowledged that suspension of a priest is a very serious matter.

"However, Father Kennedy has consistently ignored a series of formal directives, following years of informal requests from the Archbishop to conform to universal Catholic practices," he said in a statement.

"Father Kennedy's beliefs and practices have separated him and those with him from the Church, local and universal, and caused confusion.

"The action of the Archbishop is a strong call to Father Kennedy to return to accepted Catholic teaching and practice."

But Fr Kennedy says he will defy the ruling - describing the ban as ruthless and vindictive.

He says he will continue working.

"I will continue to celebrate liturgies and eucharist," he said.

He also says he is expecting the Church to take further steps against him.

"The excommunication will come, they will pursue this to the bitter end," he said.

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Few surprises, but some glimmers of hope
in new US church statistics

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
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WASHINGTON, June 6 (CNS) -- Statistically, there are few surprises in the 2009 Official Catholic Directory.

The number of patients served in Catholic hospitals and the number of clients assisted by Catholic charitable agencies went up. Fewer baptisms, first Communions, confirmations and marriages were performed in Catholic churches last year. The number of Catholic parishes and elementary schools in the U.S. continues to decline.

But here and there, there are signs of hope in the statistical summary that is designed to present a snapshot of what the U.S. Catholic Church looked like on Jan. 1, 2009.

The totals for priests, permanent deacons and diocesan seminarians each experienced a small increase in the 2009 book. There were more students in Catholic colleges and universities; in private, Catholic-run high schools and elementary schools; and in high school religious education programs.

And at 68.1 million, an increase of nearly 1 million over the 2008 directory, Catholics continue to make up 22 percent of the U.S. population.

The more than 2,100-page Official Catholic Directory, also known as the Kenedy directory after its New Jersey publishers' imprint, P.J. Kenedy and Sons, is due out June 17.

Catholic News Service obtained an advance copy of the statistical summary compiled from annual reports provided by the nation's 209 dioceses and archdioceses.

The book lists all ordained U.S. Catholic priests, parishes, missions, schools, hospitals and other institutions. It also gives statistical data on the church by diocese and nationally. Its national figures include data from Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, and U.S. territories overseas such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam.

The latest edition also features special reports on Catholic higher education in the U.S., the year of St. Paul celebration, a look at the sainthood process and the year in review.

The 2009 Kenedy directory shows a total U.S. Catholic population of 68,115,001, compared to 67,117,016 the year before. But because the U.S. population rose from 305.2 million to 307.6 million during that time, the percentage of Catholics in the U.S. population was steady at 22 percent.

In a time of economic downturn, it was not surprising to see a rise of 1.2 million in the number of people assisted by Catholic charitable agencies, from just under 26 million in the 2008 directory to 27.2 million the next year.

The number of patients served in Catholic hospitals went up nearly 1.5 million, from 83.8 million last year to 85.3 million in 2009.

The 562 Catholic hospitals in the 2009 tally were five more than the 557 counted in the 2008 directory, but the number of Catholic-run health care centers -- including ancillary care systems, medical centers, sanatoriums and hospices -- declined from 417 to 373.

Another 6.7 million patients were served in those centers, according to the 2009 book, a drop of more than half a million from the 7.3 million patients served the previous year.

In key sacramental moments, according to the directory:

-- There were 191,265 church-recognized marriages in the year ending Jan. 1, 2009, more than 5,000 fewer than the year before.

-- Confirmations numbered more than 622,000, down about 8,500 from the previous year.

-- First Communions numbered nearly 822,000, a drop of about 1,300.

-- Infant baptisms totaled more than 887,000, down by almost 16,000.

-- Adult baptisms and receptions into full communion totaled more than 124,000, a decline of more than 12,000 from the previous year.

Even though 91 new parishes were opened in 2008, an increase of 34 over the year before, there was a net loss of 216 parishes because of closings or mergers, as the total decreased from 18,890 to 18,674.

The total number of priests in U.S. dioceses and religious orders was 41,489, an increase of 83 over the previous year. The increase was 89 for religious-order priests, offsetting a decrease of six for diocesan priests.

Permanent deacons went from 16,408 at the beginning of 2008 to 16,935 the next year, an increase of 527. The number of diocesan seminarians went up by 26 to 3,274, but the number studying for the religious-order priesthood decreased by 82 to 1,699.

The number of brothers dropped by 135 to 4,905 at the beginning of 2009, while the number of sisters was down more than 2,300 to 60,715.

There was a mixed picture for Catholic education in the United States.

At the college level, there were 795,823 students in Catholic-run schools, up more than 1,500 from the year before. Also showing increases were the student bodies at private Catholic high schools -- up more than 6,500 to 312,727 -- and private elementary schools, which went up more than 1,600 to 90,501.

But the student populations at diocesan- and parish-run Catholic schools continued to decline. There were 361,653 students at those high schools, a drop of nearly 13,000, while the number attending diocesan or parish elementary schools was 1,518,886, a decrease of more than 57,000.

The number of diocesan and parish elementary schools fell by nearly 500 to 5,772, while the number of private Catholic elementary schools increased by five to 361. Diocesan and parish high schools were down by 18 to 751, while private Catholic high schools increased by seven to 590.

Enrollment by public school students in high school religious education classes grew by more than 33,000 to more than 722,000, but the number of elementary school students attending such classes fell by more than 64,000 to under 3.1 million.

The faculty at Catholic schools was overwhelmingly made up of lay teachers, at nearly 168,000. There were 1,569 priests, 27 scholastics, 916 brothers and 5,169 sisters teaching in Catholic schools at the start of 2009.


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