Monday, April 30, 2007
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Twenty two young men from Italy, the Philippines, Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Slovakia were ordained today by Benedict XVI in a suggestive ceremony in St Peters Basilica.
In his homily Benedict XVI underlined first and foremost the profound unity between the priest and the Good Shepherd, “the Son of man who wanted to share the human condition in order to gift them new life and guide them to salvation”, defined as “good” (kalos), a sign of definitive beauty and goodness “since messianic times”. One’s relationship with Christ “is a deep and personal relationship; knowledge of the heart of he who loves and is loved; of he who is faithful and in turn has faith; knowledge of love because of which the Shepherd invites his to follow him”. This relationship is also “a source of constant consolation and indestructible hope”. Because “Christ never abandons us” and “no obstacle can ever impede his universal plan of salvation”.
“The Sacrament of Holy Orders which you are about to receive – continued the Pontiff as he turned to the candidates – will make you participants in Christ’s mission; you will be called to sow the seeds of his Word, the seeds which contain the Kingdom of God, to dispense divine mercy and feed the faithful at the banquet of his Body and his Blood. In order to worthy ministers you must continually feed yourselves of the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life. Stay close to the altar, your daily school of holiness, to renew the sacrifice of the Cross, renew your own discovery of the richness of the Divine Master’s love, which today has called you to an even more intimate friendship with Him. If you listen to him carefully, if you follow him faithfully, you will learn to translate your lives and your pastoral mission into his love and passion for the salvation of souls. Each one of you my dear Ordinates, with God’s help will become a good shepherd, ready to give, if necessary, even your lives for Him”.
The pope underscored is the joy of priesthood, even in the midst of difficulties. Citing a passage from the Acts of the Apostles, in today’s reading, Benedict XVI said: “ “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (13,52). In spite of the misunderstandings and contrasts, Christ’s apostle does not loose that joy, no; he is the witness of that joy which is born of being with the Lord, from love for Him and his brothers”.
Commenting then on the theme of the world day of prayer for vocations (“Vocations at the service of Church communion”), the pope underlined that a growth in vocations depends strongly on prayer, formation and the attention of the family and entire Christian community. Turning to the families and friends of the newly ordained the pope advised: “Let us surround, these our Lord’s brothers, with our spiritual solidarity. Let us pray that they remain faithful to the mission which the Lord entrusts to them today, and that they are ready to renew each and every day their ‘yes’ to God, there ‘Here I am’ without any reserves. Let us ask the Lord of the mass, on this day dedicated to vocations, that he continues to evoke many holy presbyteries, wholly dedicated to the service to the Christian people”.
The last thoughts of the homily went to the Ordinands: “Jesus says to you today – said the pope – ‘I no longer call you servants, but friends’. Welcome and nurture this divine friendship with ‘Eucharistic love’! Mary, Heavenly Mother of Priests accompanies you; She who beneath the Cross joined herself to Her Sons sacrifice, and who after His resurrection in the Cenacle welcomed His gift of the Holy Spirit together with the apostles and the other disciples, helps all of us and each one of you, my dear friends in the Priesthood, to allow ourselves be transformed interiorly through the grace of God. Only in this way is it possible to become faithful images of the Good Shepherd; only in this way can the mission to know, love and lead the flock which Christ won with the price of his blood, be carried out with joy. Amen!”.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
First there were the beer mats that asked young men enjoying a pint if they were being called to a spiritual life of a different kind. Then last year came posters with a World Cup theme which invited single Catholic men to reflect on a possible vocation with the question, “what’s your goal?”
This week the Vocations Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has unveiled its latest vocations drive: Japanese Manga-style cartoons representing characters in religious life. Manga cartoons have been chosen partly because they have an appeal for both teenagers and adults alike.
Such initiatives have not only helped to increase vocations for the fourth year in a row but have nearly doubled them from 24 to 44 in the same period.
Fr Paul Embery, the director of the vocations office, said the aim of the cartoon posters was to suggest to young people “that this could be them in years to come”.
He said: “Many of those who are priests and religious today will tell you that they first considered these vocations when they were in their teens or, in some cases, earlier.”
The poster has been distributed to some 5,000 churches, schools and chaplaincies up and down the country ahead of Vocations Sunday this weekend.
Sunday will also see the launch of www.calledtoday.com, a website dedicated to exploring the vocations depicted in the poster. Visitors to the site can take a closer look at the lives of each of the five Manga characters – who are not fictitious, but actually represent real people, with real stories to tell. Testimonies from a priest, two nuns, a monk and a lay brother can be read online.
“Cartoons, particularly Manga-style ones, are a good way of reaching young people, even up to the age of 25,” says Fr Embery. “We want more young people to consider the call to priesthood and religious life, whilst at the same time acknowledging that many more people are making commitments later in life. We have a ‘both-and’ rather than ‘either-or’ policy, as we recognise that older candidates bring different life experiences with them.”
The statistics showing the rise in vocations were due to be scrutinised by the English and Welsh bishops at their annual conference this week.
Fr Embery welcomed the rise, but acknowledged that it was too early to say for certain if it would continue.
“After several decades of decline in the number of those training for the priesthood, we have seen four consecutive years of growth, which is good news; however, we have no guarantee that this growth will continue,” he said.
“After Pope John Paul II died we saw an increase of interest not only in the priesthood but Catholic life in general. The challenge for the Church is to recognise this and build on it.”
The major cities have seen the largest rise in applicants – an increase in parallel with those joining the Church.
There are now 150 men training to be priests for the dioceses of England and Wales.
Westminster diocese is also marking Vocations Sunday with the launch of a 20-minute documentary called It Is Time, which follows the progress of two candidates to the priesthood as they study at Allen Hall, the diocesan seminary in Chelsea, and, in the case of one priest, as he works as a deacon in Our Lady of Fatima Church, Shepherd’s Bush.
DVDs of the film have been sent to all 216 parishes and 39 secondary schools in the diocese – which last year saw a leap in the numbers of trainee priests from 22 to 28 – in an attempt to stoke interest in the religious life.
The film ends with the ordination of Fr John McKenna, 41, who is now the curate at St Paul’s Church, Wood Green.
The advice he would offer anyone contemplating a vocation was to “stay close to Christ”. He said: “He’s a good shepherd and I believe he leads us both individually and as a Church community. Also, get some good advice from priests in the ministry at the moment and from friends you can trust or who know you well.”
You can read the rest of this article and news coverage in this week’s Catholic Herald
Friday, April 27, 2007
The Great Rostropovich Playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Carlo Maria Giulini and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Say a prayer for him
I this story from a friend who was also a friend of Slava's which i hope she doesn't mind if I share:
I had the honour of being Slava's neighbour and friend in Little Venice, west London, for the last 18 years. He was a delight, often phoning to ask for a special favour - and often one that would not be easy to deliver, such as a dinner party for 10 in his flat that evening. The request would always end: "If you can't help me, I suicide immediate!"
From the Daily Mail
by SIMON CALDWELL –
The BBC is to relay a 'gay Mass' from San Francisco this Sunday, the first time such a service has been broadcast.
The 50-minute Mass at the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the predominantly gay Castro district of the city will feature prayers and readings tailored for the gay community.
The church has been described as an "inspiration" to gay and lesbian Christians around the world because of its ministry to homosexuals.
Its parish priest, Father Stephen Meriweather, blesses participants in the San Francisco's annual gay pride march.
But it has also infuriated many Catholics in the U.S. who have complained about such activities as transvestite bingo nights during which sex toys and pornographic DVDs were handed out as prizes.
Last night a media watchdog said Sunday's radio broadcast was "bound to cause offence" to mainstream Christians.
John Beyer of Mediawatch UK, an organisation which campaigns for standards in the media, said he thought it was a mistake to broadcast the service.
"Religious broadcasting, apart from Songs of Praise, tends to focus on the out-of-the-ordinary and having this particular service I think will cause offence to people who feel that such practices are wrong and are taught as such in holy scripture," Mr Beyer said.
"The BBC really ought to be focusing on mainstream services which are more in keeping with the public service requirement that it has."
However, Father Donal Godfrey, the U.S. Jesuit priest celebrating the Mass, said he was delighted the BBC was "exploring how gay people fit into the perspective of the Christian narrative".
"Being gay is not special," he said. "It's simply another gift from God who created us as rainbow people."
The recording will go out at 8.10am to two million listeners on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship programme.
The preacher will be James Alison - a homosexual British Catholic theologian and author of 'Is it ethical to be Catholic? - Queer perspectives'.
Weeks after the BBC finished recording the service last October, it emerged that a transvestite group calling themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence regularly staged lewd and irreverent bingo nights on the church premises.
The San Francisco archdiocese-stopped the events when it was discovered that prizes of a sexual nature were being handed out by the group, who dress as nuns.
In the past members of the group have paraded naked through the city advertising a 'hunky Jesus' contest. Their motto is: 'Go and sin some more.'
A spokesman for BBC Radio 4 said: "The strength of Sunday Worship is its diversity. It aims to reflect a variety of Christian spiritualities, and for that reason, when editorially appropriate - on average about once a quarter - comes from outside the UK.
"Taking the theme "Finding a place in the Christian narrative" this programme comes from the largest and oldest predominantly gay area in the world, from a Catholic community which has an experienced and developed understanding of the issues of being gay and Christian.
"As far as we know this is the first time the subject of being gay and Christian has been explored by the programme."
The Roman Catholic Church holds that sex belongs in the context of heterosexual marriage and that gay sex is "objectively disordered".
However, it also teaches that homosexual orientation is not in itself sinful and that gays and lesbians must be treated with respect and be free from unjust discrimination.
I am not keen on celebrating Mass outside of my own parish, and I am not too keen on other priests coming into celebrate Mass here. I once had to tell an Asian Archbishop that I would prefer him to celebrate Mass privately if he could not follow the rubrics and use the words in the Missal at a public celebration, and a South America priest who refused to wear a chasuble and eventually wore a Roman one but put it on the wrong way round!
Well for the first time in years I have been tempted to experiment, to use the new texts, at least in part, even to the point of saying “Mystery of Faith” as an exclamation of wonder as in the Latin rather than saying, “Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith”. Or of saying,
formed by the word of God,
we have the courage to say…”
rather than one of the several options in the present Missal, or even
“Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the banquet of the Lamb.”
“This is the Lamb of God …. Happy are those who are called to his Supper”.
I must admit I do add “Behold”, and substitute “Blessed”, for "Happy"; a remnant of my more liberal days. Recently I have been encouraging my servers to genuflect a little more than the rubrics actually demand.
We had Bishop Henderson, an auxilliary in Southwark, here a few years ago and had the Mozart Coronation Mass, he said afterwards, “I would have had the Benedictus after the consecration and carried on saying Eucharistic Prayer while it was being sung and done the same with the Sanctus". This isn't of course actually allowed, as far as I can see.
My question here is what is legitimate experimentation? I would be grateful to hear from other priests.
As one commentator says,
"...the new translation is already being used in the U.S., and that with the tacit or verbal permission of not a few American bishops! At least one bishop invited his priests to explain the new texts to the people and begin using them at daily Mass."
Thursday, April 26, 2007
After each of the four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, Joseph Ratzinger published a pamphlet with reflections on the events and achievements of that session. These were then gathered together and translated into English as Theological Highlights of Vatican II (New York: Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966).
Given the discussion in several threads of the possible action of Pope Benedict XVI with regard to the Tridentine Rite, some may find it interesting to know how the young conciliar peritus saw the question of liturgy at the time. (Page numbers are given from that English edition.)
In his review of the first session, he had a number of comments:
"The decision to begin with the liturgy schema was not merely a technically correct6 move. Its significance went far deeper. This decision was a profession of faith in what is truly central to the Church–the ever-renewed marriage of the Church wi8th her Lord, actualized in the eucharistic mystery where the Church, participating in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, fulfills its innermost mission, the adoration of the triune God. Beyond all the superficially more important issues, there was here a profession of faith in the true source of the Church’s life, and the proper point of departure for all renewal. The text did not restrict itself to mere changes in individual rubrics, but was inspired from this profound perspective of faith. The text implied an entire ecclesiology and thus anticipated ... the main theme of the entire Council–its teaching on the Church. Thus the Church was freed from the 'hierarchological’ Congar) narrowness' of the last hundred years, and returned to its sacramental origins" (14).
Ratzinger pointed to five important elements in the liturgical schema. (1) "the return to Christian origins and the pruning of certain accretions that often enough concealed the original liturgical nucleus; examples: priority of Sunday over saints’ days; of mystery over devotion, of "simple structure over the rank growth of forms"; "defrosting’ of ritual rigidity; restoration of the liturgy of the Word; "the dialogical nature of the whole liturgical celebration and its essence as the common service of the People of God; "reduction in the status of private Masses in favor of emphasis on greater communal participation."
(2) a stronger emphasis on the Word as an element of equal value with the sacrament:" new arrangement of biblical readings.
(3) "a more active participation of the laity, the inclusion of the whole table-fellowship of God in the holy action".
(4) "the decentralization of liturgical legislation," which represents "a fundamental innovation." Conferences of bishops now will have responsibility for liturgical laws in their own regions and this, "not by delegation from the Holy See, but by virtue of their own independent authority." This is to introduce "a new element in the Church’s structure, ... a kind of quasi-synodal agency between individual bishops and the pope. This decision may even have "more significance fore the theology of the episcopacy and for the long desired strengthening of episcopal power than anything in the ‘Constitution on the Church.’"
In a talk delivered in October 1964, Ratzinger remarked "that the first real task of the Council was to overcome the indolent, euphoric feeling that all was well with the Church, and to bring into the open the problems smoldering within" (83). An example was the question of the liturgy, which represented a "profound crisis in the life of the Church." Its roots lay back in the late Middle Ages, when "awareness of the real essence of Christian worship increasingly vanished. Great importance was attached to externals, and these choked out the whole." Trent’s reaction to Reformation challenges was inadequate, even if it eliminated a number of abuses. It did not sufficiently deal with Reformation difficulties with the notions of adoration and sacrifice. It did cut back the medieval overgrowth and took measures to prevent it in the future. But the main measure was to centralize liturgical authority in the Congregation of Rites.
I would have thought that anyone in the Church in the USA would realise the great dangers of doing things behind closed doors and excluding the vast majority of clergy and the laity, especially after the sex abuse scandals and cover-ups that have torn the Church there apart. Mr Finn says that these translations should only be introduced with "sufficient catechetical material". Frankly, the texts themselves seem to be sufficient to teach people the superiority of the new translations of the theolgically barren, inelegant translations we use now.
The present translation of the Latin says, "he took the cup" the new translation says, "he took this precious chaliceinto his holy and venerable hands" which is exactly what the Latin says, every other linguistic group gets an accurate translation.
Anyhow Fr Tim has taken his "mirroring", as he calls it, down but someone else seems to have been blogging around those who might be interested and has put the text up, judge for yourself at http://newmasstexts.blogspot.com/ , I think I was visitor number "7".
You could email Mr Finn who supplies his email address on his letter to Fr Tim.
Subject: ICEL2006 text of the Order of Mass
From: "Peter Finn"
International Commission on English in the Liturgy
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007
CC: "Bruce Harbert"
, "Bishop Arthur Roche"
Dear Father Finigan:
It has come to our attention that the proposed translation (Gray Book) of the Order of Mass circulated in January 2006 by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy has been included on your blogspot (the-hermeneutic-of continuity.blogspot.com). This translation has been produced without the Commission's permission and in violation of the ICEL copyright. We ask therefore that the text be removed immediately from the site.
This proposed translation has been sent to the Conferences for their canonical vote and prepared after consideration of comments from Conferences of Bishops, the Vox clara Committee, and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments on the ICEL February 2005 draft translation (Green Book).
The Bishops of the Commission are concerned that these texts not be released to the general public until the requisite votes have been taken and after the preparation of any additional revisions that may follow upon their vote and the recognitio issued by the Congregation to the Conferences. The Bishops of the Commission are especially concerned that these texts be introduced with sufficient catechetical materials intended to aid the reception of the new translation.
In light of these and other concerns, we ask for your kind cooperation in this matter and look forward to your reply.
Associate Executive Director
1522 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005-1202
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Africa's Anglican bishops issued a message on Friday expressing their support for the Zimbabwean government days after the Catholic Bishops' Easter message condemning government policies and appealing for change.
According to agency reports, the Anglican pastoral letter, released ahead of this week's independence celebrations acknowledges Zimbabwe's economic crisis has "rendered the ordinary Zimbabwean unable to make ends meet."
But the 14 Anglican bishops of the central African Episcopal Synod blame the worsening plight of poor Zimbabweans largely on Western economic sanctions. Foreign investment and loans to the country have dried up after six years of political and economic turmoil following the often-violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms that began in 2000.
Western governments say they have only imposed targeted sanctions on Zimbabwean assets abroad and travel restrictions which affect rulers and policymakers.
Zimbabwe's nine Catholic bishops marked Easter with an unprecedented call on Mugabe to retire. It warned that the current situation is reaching meltdown and the country could face a mass violent revolt.
The Catholic Bishops' pastoral letter accused the ruling elite of racism and corruption and fomenting lawlessness and violence to cling to power and wealth, factors they said led to the economic meltdown. The letter decried state-orchestrated intimidation, beatings and torture
The Anglican Church has been traditionally muted in its criticism of the government, with its leaders generally toeing the ruling party line.
Harare's bishop Nolbert Kunonga, was one of the signatories of the Anglican letter. Frequently praised in the state media for his "progressive sentiment." Kunonga has denounced some black clergy as "Uncle Toms" and puppets of whites and Britain and the United States for their criticism of Mugabe.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
(for next Sunday)
"The first Christian community was built, in its original core, when some fishermen of Galilee, having met Jesus, ... accepted His pressing invitation: 'Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men!'
"In fact, God has always chosen some individuals to work with Him in a more direct way, in order to accomplish His plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, in the beginning, He called Abraham to form a 'great nation;' afterwards, He called Moses to free Israel from the slavery of Egypt. ... In the New Testament, Jesus, the promised Messiah, invited each of the Apostles to be with Him and to share His mission. ... The mission of the Church, therefore, is founded on an intimate and faithful communion with God.
"The Vatican Council II Constitution 'Lumen gentium' describes the Church as 'a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,' in which is reflected the very mystery of God. This means that the love of the Trinity is reflected in her. Moreover, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, all the members of the Church form 'one body and one spirit' in Christ. This people, organically structured under the guidance of its pastors, lives the mystery of communion with God and with the brethren, especially when it gathers for the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of that ecclesial unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of His passion."
"This intense communion favors the growth of generous vocations at the service of the Church: the heart of the believer, filled with divine love, is moved to dedicate itself wholly to the cause of the Kingdom. In order to foster vocations, therefore, it is important that pastoral activity be attentive to the mystery of the Church as communion; because whoever lives in an ecclesial community that is harmonious, co-responsible and conscientious, certainly learns more easily to discern the call of the Lord.
"The care of vocations, therefore, demands a constant 'education' for listening to the voice of God. ... Now, docile and faithful listening can only take place in a climate of intimate communion with God which is realized principally in prayer. According to the explicit command of the Lord, we must implore the gift of vocations, in the first place by praying untiringly and together to the 'Lord of the harvest.' The invitation is in the plural. ... The Good Shepherd, therefore, invites us to pray to the heavenly Father, to pray unitedly and insistently, that He may send vocations for the service of the Church as communion."
"It is indispensable that, within the Christian people, every ministry and charism be directed to full communion; and it is the duty of the bishop and priests to promote this communion in harmony with every other Church vocation and service. The consecrated life, too, of its very nature, is at the service of this communion."
"Dear brothers and sisters whom the Lord calls to particular vocations in the Church: I would like to entrust you in a special way to Mary, so that she, who more than anyone else understood the meaning of the words of Jesus: 'My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it.' ... May she help you to say with your lives: 'Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God'."
Monday, April 23, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Church sources in Hong Kong told AsiaNews that members of the Beijing Patriotic Association expressed their desire that there should be a Vatican representative at the burial, but it is “highly improbable that someone will attend. There was no Vatican representative at last year’s funeral of msgr. Li Duan [archbishop of Xian] who was in deep communion with the Pope and Vatican”. Despite this, the sources add, all of the faithful in China and abroad “should pray for his soul, which is now at the mercy of God’s justice”.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
I am not begging for gifts to our sacristy, but so many priests are a little wary of both the cost, style and quality of vestments in the UK.
I found in the a link to this German site on Roving Medievalist. There are some rather gruesome things from the 1980s, but then there is this and similar things, and all from 771 euros, now what is the German for "ombrellino".
One in 30 babies aborted for medical reasons is born alive, a study has found.
They lived for an average of 80 minutes - although in some cases foetuses survived for over six hours.
Most of the babies were born between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, but some had been in the womb for as little as 17 weeks.
The figures, based on a study of West Midlands hospitals, has reignited the abortion debate, with pro-life campaigners demanding the time limit for terminations be cut.
Researchers looked at the outcome of 3,189 abortions performed on seriously handicapped foetuses at 20 hospitals between 1995 and 2004.
It showed that 102 - or around one in 30 - aborted for reasons such as Down's Syndrome and heart defects, were born alive.
Abortions are allowed to be carried out if the pregnancy is shown to have an adverse effect on the mental health and wellbeing of the mother up until the 24th week of pregnancy.
Beyond this point, the procedure is only sanctioned if the baby has a severe disability or if the mother's life is at risk.
The latest study, carried out by experts from the West Midlands Perinatal Institute and published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, showed that three per cent of aborted disabled babies were born alive.
Most of the abortions studied were medical abortions. These involve a women being given a series of pills, taken in two doses two days apart.
The first dose, a single tablet of mifepristone, blocks the pregnancy hormones that normally ensure the womb's lining holds on to the fertilised egg. The second dose, of four tablets containing hormone-like prostaglandins, triggers contractions and a miscarriage.
The death of the baby is a result of the trauma of the early birth, rather than the tablets itself, meaning, in rare occasions, some babies may survive the process.
From 22 weeks, the tablets should be preceded by a lethal injection into the baby's heart to ensure the baby is dead before the procedure goes any further.
If these babies are born alive, it suggests they weren't given the heart-stopping injection - perhaps because the doctor thought it would have been too traumatic for the mother. The figures follow several studies which show that babies born at 23 and 24 weeks are capable of surviving.
While there is no suggestion that any of the babies documented in the West Midlands study lived for more than a few hours, doctors in Norwich are currently treating a toddler born at 24 weeks after three botched terminations.
He was born three years ago and is still alive.
Campaigners said it was likely the Midlands figures were just the tip of the iceberg as the region only accounts for around a tenth of the babies born in the country each year.
In addition, the study only looked at babies whose lives were ended because of disability.
However, most abortions are carried out on 'healthy' babies for social reasons. Julia Millington of the pro-life group Alive and Kicking said: "This can't just be happening in the West Midlands.
"It begs the question of how many healthy babies must be surviving? It would suggest the true figure must be much higher.
"With live births after abortion occurring in 18 out of the 20 maternity units in the West Midlands alone, it is difficult to comprehend the numbers of babies around the country left fighting for their lives."
Babies born alive after abortion are entitled to medical care. However, anti-abortion campaigners claim that some are so unwanted, they are simply left to die.
The Department of Health said that key medical associations agreed that the time limit for abortion did not need to be changed.
• Thirty years ago, Gianna Jessen's mother had an abortion when seven-and-a-half months pregnant.
The abortion failed and, 18 hours later, Gianna (pictured) was born alive.
She suffered cerebral palsy as a result of the botched abortion, yet has defied doctors' predictions that she would never walk.
In fact she has run a marathon, is an accomplished singer and writer and travels the world to campaign against abortion.
Her mother was 17 when she decided to have the abortion. Weighing 2lbs when she was born, she spent several months in hospital fighting for her life, before being placed in a foster home.
Her cerebral palsy, which was caused by her brain being starved of oxygen during the abortion, was diagnosed at 17 months old. Doctors said she would never be able to crawl or even sit-up unaided, much less stand or walk.
Now, after several operations and years of physiotherapy she has proved them wrong. Gianna does not know why her natural mother chose to abort her.
She said: "If abortion is about women's rights, then what were my rights?
"No decision is solely yours to make. All decisions affect another human being - whether it is for good or for ill.
"If people are going to talk about abortion, then it's important for them to know that these babies can be born alive and survive."
Friday, April 20, 2007
Today, at 7:50 p.m., Beijing time (1:50 p.m. Rome time), Monsignor Michael Fu Tieshan, Patriotic Archbishop of China's capital, died in Beijing Hospital, the medical centre for China's political élite, where he had been admitted a few days ago in serious condition. Before his death, he received the visit of President Hu Jintao.
Archbishop Fu had been sick with lung cancer for years. According to some members of the faithful, it is thanks to his political stature that he was able to live so long, as the most costly and modern treatments were profusely bestowed upon him. Some say the government had established a group of young soldiers of the People's Liberation Army to act as "reservoir" of blood for the transfusions that he needed.
A few days ago he received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and the priests and nuns of Beijing began lining up to pay their respects. According to some priests in the capital, at the moment of the anointing, unable to speak, Fu Tieshan shed a few tears.
Fu Tieshan has been described at the "most tragic" figure of the Chinese Church: disliked and shunned by the faithful of his diocese for having continuously taken sides against the Pope, the Vatican and the people of China (he had even praised the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 on state television); rewarded, praised, promoted up the government's and the Patriotic Association's bureaucratic ladder, becoming Vice-President of the People's National Assembly and President of the Patriotic Association. The faithful of his diocese had always criticized him for his weakness which brough him to total subjection to the Party and to the workings of a woman, Ms Chen Maoju, his would-be secretary who, taking advantage of the bishop's illness, squandered and pocketed for herself much of the Beijing Church's estate.
Posted by: Diogenes on Catholic World News
Once again, the legacy of Pope Pius XII has become a subject of public controversy, this time because of the display at Israel's Yad Vashem Museum that makes him out to be culpably non-committal toward Nazis and Nazism. The evidence that Eugenio Pacelli, later Pius XII, was consistently anti-Nazi is overwhelming (see the bibliography at the RFC site, for starters), but of course lots of folks have excellent personal or political reasons to want a discredited papacy -- a morally discredited papacy, capisce? -- and there are few swifter routes to moral bankruptcy than collaboration with Nazism.
Those who make a critical study of the past understand that conflicting historical evidence is like contrary testimony in a courtroom, which must be sifted not only according to its intrinsic probability, but on the basis of the intentions, especially the covert intentions, of the source. One needs to ask in each case what motives conflicting witnesses may have had to lie, or exaggerate, or make tactical omissions -- and in what direction. In brief, who stands to gain and who stands to lose by each outcome? Thus, while there's no denying that the Church is interested in the good reputation of her popes, it's equally obvious that anti-Catholics score a propaganda boon when the hierarchy is blackened. But here's the rub: not all anti-Catholics hate the Church for the same reason, and what is an abomination to the Sadducees is a boast for the Pharisees, and vice-versa. And that gives us some leverage for deciding who's telling the truth.
The cartoon above appeared in the July 22, 1937 edition of Das Schwarze Korps, the newspaper of the Nazi SS, on the occasion of the visit of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pacelli, to France. It portrays Pacelli snuggling up to a Jewess who is holding a copy of L'Humanité, the organ of the French Communist Party, whose headline reads Christenverfolgung in Deutschland, "Persecution of Christians in Germany." They are standing in a laboratory tagged as The Poison-Kitchen of the Popular Front, and the flask and retort are labeled "Atrocious Lies" and "Anti-Nazi." The cartoon is titled "The Cardinal's Excursion to France," and the caption reads, "She may not be a beauty, but she sure can cook!"
The point of the cartoon is to suggest that the Vatican was in league with the Marxists to subvert Nazism by spreading lies about it. The absurdity of the suggestion does not concern us. What is key is the fact that, not only did the Nazis despise Pacelli, but they despised him precisely as anti-Nazi, to the extent that they portrayed him as unscrupulously anti-Nazi -- as well as philo-Semitic and soft on Communists. Far from the figure of "Hitler's Pope" in embryo, the SS saw Pacelli as a demonic adversary.
But the truly dispositive clue might easily be missed by its obviousness: Pacelli is simply identified by the cartoonist as "Pacelli," not as the Vatican's Secretary of State. Consider what that means. How many lay Catholics, today, presented with a caricature of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, could identify him as the Vatican Secretary of State? How many German soldiers could do so? How likely is it, today, that a diplomatic visit made by a Vatican Secretary of State to a country not one's own would register with a soldier on active duty in peacetime?
The conclusion is inescapable: not only was Pacelli anti-Nazi, he was so recognizably vexatious to the Nazi cause that, even though he was mere churchman in the supreme age of Realpolitik, his surname itself sufficed to identify and damn him to the Nazi rank-and-file. Put in the balance of critical historical judgment, thousands of pages of essays, analysis, and diplomatic correspondence don't outweigh that single flimsy cartoon.
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The Islamic zealots who attacked a Christian publishing house in the city of Malatya on April 18 prolonged the suffering of their victims by stabbing them repeatedly with dull knives, the media report. A Sabah newspaper story notes that one victim, the German missionary Tilman Geske, suffered 156 knife wounds.
An AsiaNews correspondent notes that the Turkish media have provided gruesome details of the crime, but still shy away from mentioning the motivation of the killers, who were apparently influenced by a vitriolic anti-Christian propaganda campaign which still continues in Turkey.
The Hurriyet newspaper reports that the attackers were led by a 22-year-old, Emre Gunaydin, who threw himself from a window to his death before police could capture him. Police are reportedly still looking for several accomplices to the crime, with 10 young men already in custody.
The Sabah story says that the attacks had originally intended to kill the owner of the Zirve publishing house, Martin de Lenge. However, when they could not find him, they killed the three Christian employees who were in the offices.
The leading Islamic figure in Turkey-- who met with Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) during his visit there last November-- condemned the killings. "Murder cannot be justified by religion," said Grand Mufti Ali Bardakoglu. "Such heinous murders are a most grave sin. This is a betrayal of Islam."
Abortion is like divorce: it is never a good thing. It may arguably be the lesser of two evils, but it is never a reason for rejoicing. So when the Department of Health puts out a statement reassuring us that "the statistics show that the number of abortions performed remains stable year on year" it hardly seems cause for congratulation. Especially when that statistic is over 500 abortions a day, at a cost of over 70 million a year to the NHS.
This subject divides us passionately. And yet surely almost all of us are both pro-choice and pro-life? No civilised person wants either to force a woman to give birth to a baby she dreads, or to end the life of a healthy unborn child. We may disagree about which is worse, but we surely concur that both are pretty undesirable. Can we not agree on other things, then, which might help to reduce the statistics?
Open access to all information, for instance: Some years ago, the Pro-Life Alliance put up 50 candidates for the General Election, specifically to earn the right to make a party political broadcast. I saw that broadcast, and it was the most powerful few minutes of film I've ever seen. Apart from back-ground music, it only consisted of facts, figures and photographs, yet it was banned by every single television channel. Why? Because the images could cause offence. Indeed: but if the truth is unpalat-able, isn't it even more important to see it? It's not hard to think of upsetting television footage we tol-erate without even the need to know.
Also genuine freedom of speech: I was asked to write an article on the negative effects on the mental and physical health of some women who have abortions, and soon discovered an extreme reluctance even to discuss such matters. Of course this was selective information, and as such needed a balance: we also ought to know the negative effects of withholding abortion. Truthful education means all the evidence, all the arguments, all facts and all interpretations. If we don't like a particular bias, the an-swer is more, not less information.
And real choice: The Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative gives help to women with "crisis pregnan-cies", enabling them to keep the baby if they wish to by giving equipment, support and money. Offered entirely without pressure, it's hard to see what objection could be raised to it - though there have been those, sadly and predictably, who have accused it of "bribing" women. But in recent years there has also been more consensus, and glowing accolades from unexpected pro-choice quarters.
I was at a conference, over the weekend of the anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, where many wondered what Wilberforce's cause might be today. Some of the world's worst atrocities have been committed against people denied human status - because they are black, because they are Jewish... and now, perhaps, because they are not yet born.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Vatican city (AsiaNews) – “Man is called to become like God” and he has “the complementary wings of faith and reason” in order to reach that truth, which is Jesus Christ. Benedict XVI returned once again to a familiar and dear theme today, illustrating the figure of Clement of Alexandria, “Master of dialogue between faith and reason” in the second century, to over 45 thousand people present in St Peter’s square for the general audience.
In a sunbathed square, still dressed in flowers from birthday celebrations, on the eve of the second anniversary of his election – provoking the Pope to observe a “festive climate” - the Pontiff sustained that the one true philosophy is faith, “true knowledge of the road to take in life”.
Illustrating Clement Alexandria’s works which “accompany the baptised catechumen’s journey step by step”, Benedict XVI attributed him with having “rebuilt” the second great occasion for dialogue between Christianity and Greek philosophy, after the first occasion, conducted by Paul “failed in may ways”.
In his thoughts, reason leads to knowledge, in Greek gnosi, but only Knowledge of the truth which is Christ Jesus, is real knowledge: “authentic gnosi is a development of the faith within the soul that he has converted”. But “knowledge of Christ is not just a thought, it is also love which opens the eyes and transforms man and creates union with Logos”, which is God. This is how contemplation is reached. But in order to arrive at the contemplation of God “the practice of virtues” are also needed; intellectual knowledge is not enough: in the journey towards perfection clement “gives as muck importance to moral requirements as to intellectual ones” and as a result “good deeds must accompany one on one’s life journey, just as a shadow follows the body: they are never separate, true gnosi cannot coexist with evil deeds”.
According to Clement the heart of a “true gnostic” contains two virtues: “freedom from passions” and love which “assure an intimate union with God and with contemplation”. “Love – continued the Pope – gifts perfect peace, and enables the true gnostic to face even the greatest of sacrifices, even the supreme sacrifice, and thus helps him on step by step towards the heights of virtues. Thus the ideal of ancient philosophy, that is the freedom from ones passions, is redefined by Clement and joined together with love, in the man’s constant journey to liken himself to God, which represents the journey of knowledge of true gnosi”.
Thus, in the Pope’s words, we come to what Clement defines as man’s primary aim: “to liken himself to God” and this “is possible thanks, because we are made in the likeness of God” in the moment of creation.
At the end of the audience Pope Benedict XVI blessed the “John Paul II” torch of peace which will be carried from Bethlehem to Jerusalem in a marathon-pilgrimage on April 23to 28th. Palestinian and Israeli students will join the IV edition of the run along with 200 Italian students from across Italy.
Monday, April 16, 2007
A priest brought me a message from one of our retired priests not long ago. It simply said, "Tell the bishop I don’t like his pastoral letters." That’s a fair enough comment: I’d be surprised if everyone did, but I would insist that everyone gets the chance to make up their own minds, in other words that you either hear or get the chance to read them.
A difference of opinion like that might reflect any number of things. It might reflect a difference in literary style, but I doubt it. It’s more likely to reflect a different view of church and ways of approaching the preaching of the gospel. I think that there has been a significant shift in homily style since the Vatican Council, and this is reinforced in Pope Benedict’s latest document on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, the Sacrament of Charity or Love, following the Synod on the Eucharist in 2005. There he reminds preachers that "Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided. In particular, I ask these ministers to preach in such a way that the homily closely relates the proclamation of the word of God to the sacramental celebration and the life of the community." In other words, our life in Christ must be grounded in reality. But what reality?
The letters pages of the Catholic papers make interesting reading, not so much for what the letters say very often, but for what they speak about. I think it’s fair to say that the letters there, like many of the letters that I get, reflect strongly held views about different aspects of the life of the Church – the most common topics must be liturgy and statements on various moral questions. We seem to spend a great deal of energy discussing various theological and moral ideas.
In the film Brokeback Mountain, there are two people who enter quite a deep relationship, but one of them seems unable to sustain it. Leaving that relationship, he enters another, but that, too, fails. The woman (this time) asks him why he left her, and he says that he didn’t think he was much fun any more. "I didn’t fall in love with fun," she says.
We can’t have relationships with ideas. We can only have proper human relationships with people. The way the gospel today expresses the reality of the resurrection is not in abstract terms, but in a picture of a very physical meeting between Jesus and the apostles. It is so physical and real that Thomas is invited even to put his hand into Jesus’ wounds.
One of the post powerful experiences of Easter is this great emphasis in the person of Jesus. We accompany him in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week and then follow him through the drama of his last meal with his friends, his betrayal at the hands of one of them, his arrest and execution as a criminal, and then his glorious triumph over death in the resurrection. None of this abstract. It is all personal and real. It asks us to fix our focus again on what is important. That is the person of Jesus Christ.
In our world today we see the tragic results of a focus on political ideologies rather than people. Wars are fought over principles, and innocent people’s lives are simply wasted and discarded like rubbish. It is a tragic indictment of our modern world, that ideas can be more important than people.
And where do we meet the person of Jesus? Again I would quote Pope Benedict’s letter on the Eucharist. There he quotes Saint Augustine who writes, "The bread that you see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. The chalice, or rather what the chalice contains… is the blood of Christ. If you have received them properly, you yourselves are what you have received."
If we are to become Christ through our sharing in the Eucharist, it is important that we are aware of what we are doing, and that we prepare ourselves properly for it. The Pope reminds us that "Active participation in the Eucharist can hardly be expected if one approaches it superficially." He recommends a few moments recollection in silence before Mass, fasting, and – when necessary – the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation. You have come to church for a personal meeting with your Lord and Saviour. Or did you think you’d just come to Mass?
This time of year is a particularly grace-filled moment. It allows us to re-connect more than any other time with the person of Jesus Christ, and reminds us that this is the crucial, the fundamental relationship, the one that leads us to the Father. I hope that this is indeed a grace-filled moment for you, and a time that you can look again not only at your relationship with Christ, but at other relationships too. It’s not ideas that have changed the world. It’s the people that have had them. And Jesus most of all.
With my good wishes and prayers.
Bishop of Arundel & Brighton
For centuries the ascetical life of Catholic priests and religious brothers and sisters included a strict discipline that by today’s standards would appear as nothing less than self-abusive. Prayer at hours through the night, a severely restricted diet, sleeping in unheated cells on wooden planks covered with a thin layer of straw, donning course woolen clothing in all seasons of the year, not to mention the practice of strapping one’s self with small knotted chords, were seen by many as necessary steps for a life dedicated to the service of God. The belief in ascetical discipline endured throughout Christendom, in the East and in the West, because the Church understood that self-denial and periods of bodily deprivation were necessary to encourage a spirit of poverty and the spirit of repentance, and to check human passions, including the strong sexual appetite, all for the ultimate purpose of giving glory to God and to depend upon Him in all things. There were abuses, of course, and the reforms over the centuries in the Church give recognition to the fact that the ascetical life was not always lived well. Nevertheless, driving the development of the ascetical tradition was a religious culture of hope and love-- hope that one can genuinely train his or her spiritually destructive passions, and the expectation that the meek and merciful would achieve a love of Jesus Christ. It was the ascetical discipline that in no small measure protected the early Church from the onslaughts of pagan sexuality, and indeed, contributed mightily to the development of Christian culture.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Now to be serious...
We are gathered to reflect on the completion of a not-brief period of my existence. Obviously, the liturgy should not be used to speak of one's own self, but one's life can serve to proclaim the mercy of God. "Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me," says a Psalm (63,16).
One of the engines driving Pope Ratzinger’s book was his reading a work 15 years ago by a rabbi, Jakob Neusner, A Rabbi Talks With Jesus. Benedict returns often to his insights.
For example, His Holiness recounts his reading of Neusner’s book, wherein Neusner spends a day with Jesus, following him in an interior dialogue and then returns to his study of Torah with other rabbis. One rabbi says to the interior Neusner, “613 precepts were given by Moses, 365 negatives ones corresponding to the number of days of the year and 248 positives corresponding to the number of parts of the body. David comes along and reduces them to 11… Isaiah reduces them down to 2. Habakkuk distills them to one only, as it is written: ‘The righteous one will live by his faith (Hab 2,4)’. ‘And so’, a rabbi asks the interior Neusner, ‘is this what Jesus has to say?’, Neusner responds, ‘ Not quite, but almost.’ The other rabbi: ‘What did he leave out?’ Neusner: ‘Nothing.’ The other rabbi: ‘Then what did he add?’ Neusner: ‘Himself.’ The point being that Neusner will not follow Jesus because of the radical “I” of Jesus’ message. Neusner cites Matthew 19:21: “If you want to perfect… follow me.” For Ratzinger, this helps create a conceptual bridge: “The perfection required by the Torah, being holy as God is holy (cf. Lev 19,2; 11,44), now consists in following Jesus.”
This little episode from Pope Benedict’s book is an object lesson in his theological method. He is always concerned to keep faith and reason in the right perspective, but always in play in their proper roles. Moreover, Ratzinger
has always used interesting non-Christian or non-Catholic, or even errant doctrines as springboards for theological work. No one who has read enough Ratzinger is surprise that he does this, even though his nimbleness leaves one a bit breathless. For example, I think it can be argued that Joseph Ratzinger probably knows more about Liberation Theology than anyone. It might surprise some that he uses points of Liberation Theology in one of his own works on liturgy. Consider using the image of Christ is “Liberator” when working theologically with liturgical issues. This is what he did in A New Song for the Lord: Faith in Christ and Liturgy Today.
The Pope sets out like so many, to search for the Historical Jesus. Someone is always doing this, of course. Jesus is usually morphed into someone else every thirty years or so, and always at the expense of Jesus Himself. These these searches wind up emphasizing one dimension of Christ into order to underscore another. Understanding that there will always be more to say about Jesus, the Pope offers this work, fully expecting that it will be met with resistance and criticism from some circles.