Church News

Church: Catholics


>> = Important Articles; ** = Major Articles


>>Catholics and Evangelicals (EFC, 021000)

**Protestants and Natural Law: A Forgotten Legacy (Christian Post, 060810)

**The Pope Is Still Catholic: Gallup doesn’t sit in the chair of St. Peter. Thank Heaven! (National Review Online, 050425)

**Pope Benedict XVI (Washington Times, 050420)

**Pope choice fulfills ancient prophecy? (WorldNetDaily, 050420)

**The liberal conclave (Washington Times, 050418)

**A Great Christian (Weekly Standard, 050404)

**Vatican: No Communion for Pro-Abortion Politicians (Foxnews, 040423)

Catholic group angry at Disney for ABC drama (CNN, 970721)

Pope Seeks to Revive Religious Zeal (CNN, 970820)

Pope’s ruling bars Blair from taking Communion with family (London Times, 030417)

Mixed Eucharist is dangerous abuse, Pope tells Church (London Times, 030417)

A Bittersweet Roman Week: Watching a dear man and leader near the end (National Review Online, 031023)

Catholic bishops reject same-sex ‘marriage’ (Washington Times, 031113)

John Kerry’s Catholic Problem (Weekly Standard, 040415)

Catholic Parishioners Clash Over Gay Rights (Foxnews, 040531)

Catholic bishops face vexing issues (Washington Times, 040614)

In and Out of Communion: A sacramental moment in politics (National Review Online, 040616)

Furor Grows Over Austria Church Porn Case (Washington Times, 040714)

Holy Democrats! The Catholic presidential questionnaire is dead — thank God (National Review Online, 040915)

Irreconcilable Differences (National Review Online, 040916)

Faith and politics (Washington Times, 041007)

The Way of the Catholic: George Weigel reminds that Catholicism is more than a Sunday obligation (National Review Online, 041221)

Fides et Internetum: Pope John Paul II takes on media, Old and New (Weekly Standard, 050224)

Heresy case pressed against Kerry, others (WorldNetDaily, 050121)

Christian Unity is of Utmost Importance, says Pope (Christian Post, 050120)

Mary for Protestants? A New Look at an Old Question (Christian Post, 050318)

John Paul II—The Man and His Legacy (Christian Post, 050404)

Witness to a Man of Hope & Inspiration: The life and legacy of Pope John Paul II (National Review Online, 050404)

John Paul II, 1920-2005 (Weekly Standard, 050404)

John Paul II: Winning the Cold War (, 050404)

The Polish pope’s role in the fall of communism (, 050404)

One man can make a difference (, 050404)

Pope John Paul II (, 050403)

A great man has passed (, 050403)

What evangelicals can learn from the pope (, 050408)

An Evangelical View on the Catholic Church (Christian Post, 050411)

Cardinals Convene Papal Conclave (Foxnews, 050418)

Zen Will China Get a Pope? Chinese Catholics could use a conclave surprise (National Review Online, 050418)

Holy What?! How the papal conclave works (National Review Online, 050418)

Progressive cardinals try to block Ratzinger (WorldNetDaily, 050418)

Election of the next pope (Washington Times, 050419)

Don’t Let Them Marry (A Case for Celibacy) (American Spectator, 050419)

Pope Vows to Keep Tough Abortion Stance (Foxnews, 050507)

Clerical Losers (American Spectator, 050511)

Pope Blasts Europe for Excluding God (Foxnews, 050621)

Which church is the best? (WorldNetDaily, 050809)

Benedict prepares to forbid gay priests (Washington Times, 050923)

Jesuit Official Protests Gay Priest Ban (Foxnews, 050930)

Vatican Says Active Gays Unwelcome in Priesthood (Foxnews, 051122)

Vatican Releases Papers on Gay Clergy (Foxnews, 051129)

Pope Condemns “Crime of Abortion,” Attacks on Marriage (Catholic World News, 051205)

Roman Catholics, Lutherans Look into Purgatory, Indulgences, Prayers for the Dead (Christian Post, 051216)

Pope’s first encyclical is disquisition on love and sex (Times Online, 060125)

China’s Official Church Ordains Pope-Endorsed Bishop (Christian Post, 060507)

Crossovers, Marriages Peak Interest for Lutheran Film on Catholics (Christian Post, 060601)

China Catholic Church Ordains Bishop Over Vatican Objections (Christian Post, 060430)

Pope stresses Gospel over giving (Washington Times, 060911)

Controversial Archbishop Gets Excommunicated (Christian Post, 060926)

Catholic Bishops Form Rules for Ministry to Gays (Christian Post, 061019)

Pope to hold summit on married priests (WorldNetDaily, 061113)

The Bishop from Beijing: Rome must be wary of China’s meddlesome puppet priests. (National Review Online, 070104)

Catholic Church Exodus in Austria Slows Down (Christian Post, 070110)

Pope Rejects Hong Kong Cardinal’s Request to Give Up Bishop Post (Christian Post, 070321)

Pope Heads to Latin America Bearing Tough Messages (Foxnews, 070509)

Pope News Conference Causes Stir (Christian Post, 070510)

Married Catholic Priest Ordained via Little-Known Exception (Christian Post, 070509)

Leading Evangelical Theologian Steps Down, Returns to Catholicism (Christian Post, 070512)

Catholic Leader’s Historic Visit to Mark First for 21st-Century China (Christian Post, 071016)





>>Catholics and Evangelicals (EFC, 021000)


Events such as World Youth Day have allowed evangelicals to better understand Roman Catholics and their beliefs


Barry Farndon is proof that evangelicals and Catholics are getting along better in Canada. Farndon, a staff sergeant with the Ontario Provincial Police, was seconded to the World Youth Day security task force during the Pope’s visit to Canada in July. “God wanted me here for a reason,” says Farndon. He and his wife Cathy attend an Evangelical Missionary church in Markham, just north of Toronto.


“The World Youth Day is a positive reality. Many aspects of the program feel like an evangelical youth event,” Farndon said. “I don’t agree with all Catholic teachings, but I don’t focus on the differences.” He put in long hours to ensure the safety of John Paul II and the massive crowds at the Catholic festival. He said he would not volunteer to provide security for a cult group. He regards many Catholics as fellow Christians.


Damian MacPherson, director for ecumenical and interfaith affairs for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, remembers more suspicious times. MacPherson, born in 1943, was raised in Cape Breton, N.S. He does not remember any hate between Catholics and Protestants, but does remember a clear dividing line. “There was no ecumenicity. We were forbidden to go into Protestant churches of any kind. It was us versus them. Thankfully, things have changed.”


At 20 MacPherson became a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, an order that focuses on improving relations with other Christians. “Catholics share with evangelicals a strong moral opposition to abortion. We have the same moral objections to the practice of homosexuality. We also stand together on the Scripture’s teaching about the classic doctrines of the gospel.”


MacPherson understands evangelical concerns about certain Catholic doctrines that cause distance. “However, as Christians we have no choice but to take seriously Jesus’ call for unity among His followers. It is irresponsible if we do not seek to obey the Lord. The only way forward is through prayer, dialogue and participation together in common causes in mission and social justice.”


The softening of tensions between Protestants and Rome is a result of increased openness on both sides. Here are three examples from Canada: When Billy Graham held his evangelistic campaign in Ottawa in 1998 the percentage of Catholic churches among sponsoring congregations was the highest in Graham’s history. Catholic groups regularly join with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada in making submissions to the Supreme Court of Canada on issues related to family life, homosexuality, abortion, and bioethics. The famous Alpha outreach program, pioneered by a charismatic Anglican congregation in Britain, is used by 27 of the Catholic churches in the Vancouver Archdiocese.


On an international level, the best illustration of this new openness is the signing of a Common Statement on Justification between Vatican officials and the Lutheran World Federation. The historic ceremony took place in Augsburg, Germany on Oct. 31, 1999. The Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran groups shared this verdict: “Justification takes place by grace alone; by faith alone, the person is justified apart from works.”


George Vandervelde of Toronto is co-chair of the World Evangelical Alliance-Roman Catholic International Consultation. “As we interact,” he says, “we realize that, despite all the highly significant differences, we are family, we are brothers and sisters. We are living with the results of a painful feud; the wounds are deep, and for those living in predominantly Catholic countries, the wounds may be quite fresh. Yet, we are family. That’s why the pain is deep. And talking together doesn’t make the pain go away, doesn’t mean pretending nothing happened, doesn’t mean simply being nice to each other. But the realization that we are family, and thus belong to each other and need each other, motivates us to talk together.”


Reduced hostilities may be traced directly to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). The Catholic Church exhibited an open spirit towards Protestants. It was shown in particular when Pope John XXIII invited leading Protestant scholars and church leaders to witness the Council proceedings.


In Canada the charismatic movement has also bridged the Evangelical-Catholic divide. David Mainse and his television show 100 Huntley Street have had a singular influence by opening the program to born-again Catholics. The famous and controversial “Toronto Blessing” has brought Catholics and evangelicals together. TACF pastor John Arnott said one night that videos of the Toronto meetings have been taken to the Vatican.


J. I. Packer, a staunchly evangelical Anglican theologian at Regent College, has brought his years of evangelical orthodoxy to bear on strengthening ties with orthodox Catholics. Along with Charles Colson and Catholic thinker Richard John Neuhaus, Packer was influential in the formulation of three major statements with Catholic thinkers: “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (1994), “The Gift of Salvation” (1997), and “Your Word is Truth” (2002).


John Paul II has also helped to soften evangelical hearts by his life and thought. Many evangelicals see the Pope’s forgiving spirit in 1981 towards his would-be assassin, his battle against Communism, and his endurance in ministry as proof of his commitment to the gospel, in spite of doctrinal differences. His best-selling devotional Crossing the Threshold of Hope contains many sections that are completely biblical in tone and substance.


Evangelical openness has also occurred because of the impact of other Catholics. The most influential is Mother Teresa (1910-1997), known worldwide for her work in the slums of Calcutta. What can be said against her Missionaries of Charity who feed half a million families and treat 90,000 lepers every year? Evangelicals have also been influenced in positive ways by contemporary Catholics thinkers like Peter Kreeft, Tom Howard and Henri Nouwen, the famous spiritual writer. Before his death Nouwen developed a closeness with many evangelicals across Canada.


Many evangelicals remain very skeptical of Rome. Barry Farndon said that people in his home church are praying for the Pope but that some would be thinking of his salvation as he visits Toronto and comes to the end of his pontificate. Toronto’s famous Jarvis Street Baptist Church offered a series of lectures against Catholicism during World Youth Day and invited its delegates to attend.


Extreme views about Rome still circulate. Some fundamentalist churches in Canada circulate Rebecca Brown’s He Came to Set the Captives Free, which tells the fraudulent story of Elaine, a former witch, who married Satan in a Texas church and then flew with Satan in his private jet to meet with the Pope at the Vatican. Brown’s work is thoroughly demolished in an investigative report from Personal Freedom Outreach, a research ministry in Saint Louis.


Christ is the Answer Publishers in Canada circulate material by Alberto Rivera. Rivera claims to be a former Jesuit, who at one time was high up in the Vatican. He claims that he was ordered to infiltrate charismatic churches. Nuns were sent to seduce the pastors to blackmail them into endorsing ecumenism and being critical of the King James Version. Rivera’s work is featured on many of the 151 sites on the “Bible Challenge for Catholics” web ring.


Some evangelical scholars have written strong but measured critique of the current Catholic-evangelical openness. R.C. Sproul (a Reformed theologian) and John Warwick Montgomery (a Lutheran historian) have both expressed serious reservations about the new evangelical attitude. J. I. Packer has been accused of betraying his Anglican roots. One writer said that he was “appalled at Packer’s condescending attitude to those who don’t buy his Catholic love affair.”


At the beginning of World Youth Day in 2000 in Rome, Pope John Paul II said the following: “Whom have you come here to find? There can be only one answer to that: you have come in search of Jesus Christ! But Jesus Christ has first gone in search of you.” It is hard to miss the evangelical message there, just as it is difficult not to see the significance of the cross that was carried to Toronto from around the world for WYD 2002. For evangelicals and Catholics there is only one cross.


Myths and Facts


Myth:    Catholicism teaches that the Pope is sinless.

Fact:    Catholicism teaches that popes are sinful and are to go to confession like all Catholics. Some of the popes, such as Alexander VI, led notoriously wicked lives, as Catholic historians admit.


Myth:    Catholicism teaches that salvation is caused by human effort.

Fact:    The Council of Trent condemned any who teach that salvation is by works. Salvation by grace alone has been affirmed at the Second Vatican Council, in the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in the official declarations on justification.


Myth:    Catholics leave Christ on the cross.

Fact:     Catholic use of the crucifix is not meant to suggest that Jesus remained on the Cross any more than Protestant pictures of Jesus in the manger proves that Protestants have left Jesus in Bethlehem. Contrary to some Protestant speculation, the Catholic Church affirms the bodily resurrection of Jesus.


Myth: Priests can forgive sins even if Catholics do not repent.

Fact:    Through the gospel of Jesus the priest can proclaim the good news of forgiveness but only to those who repent of their sin.


Myth:    Catholicism is the revival of ancient Babylonian paganism.

Fact:     Catholic faith and doctrine are a result of gradual development, based on the thought of Cyprian, Athanasius, Augustine, Pope Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Aquinas, and Saint Francis, among many others. Catholicism is not linked to Babylon, contrary to the flawed theories of Alexander Hislop’s popular book The Two Babylons, published in 1858.


Common Questions


What is the best evangelical book about Roman Catholicism?


Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995).


How does one find out what is official Catholic teaching?


Read the documents from the Council of Trent, Vatican I and II, plus official documents released by John Paul II. All are available in book form at


Who are the best critics of Vatican policy and thought?


I recommend two Catholic thinkers, though I do not agree with them on every issue. First, Hans Küng, the famous Swiss scholar, has written powerful critiques of papal infallibility and Catholic dogmatism in various books. Likewise, Gary Wills, an American historian, has written Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit.


How do we know what really goes on in Rome?


The first thing to do is avoid wild anti-Catholic rhetoric that contends the Vatican is the fount of all world evil and a secret horror chamber. The Vatican is one of the most well covered spots on earth in terms of journalism. For responsible insight I recommend Thomas J. Reese, Inside the Vatican (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996).


What are the best reference works on Catholicism?


I recommend the Catholic scholar Richard McBrien’s Lives of the Popes and his edited work The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism.



-There is only one God

-God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit

-Jesus Christ is the only saviour

-Jesus is the one unique mediator between God and humanity

-Humanity is fallen and under the condemnation of sin

-Salvation is achieved by grace and not by works

-The Bible is the infallible word of God

-Laity are to read and obey the Bible

-Christians should evangelize the world

-Mary is subordinate to Jesus

-The Devil is real

-Heaven and hell are the two ultimate destinies

-Christians are to live deep moral and spiritual lives

-Secularism and materialism threaten our world

-Radical liberal theology undermines the gospel



-The Roman Catholic Church is the mother church

-The Pope is infallible when he teaches on faith and morals

-Sacred tradition and Scripture should receive equal reverence

-Scripture contains the Apocrypha

-Baptism (in fact or intent) is necessary for salvation

-Transubstantiation is the true view of the eucharist

-The priesthood is for males only

-Celibacy is the normal requirement for priests

-It is right to pray to the saints

-It is right to pray for the dead

-Purgatory awaits most Christians at death

-Mary was born without original sin

-Mary was a perpetual virgin

-Mary was assumed into heaven

-Mary is “pre-eminent, wholly unique” among Christians


James A. Beverley is professor of theology and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto.




**Protestants and Natural Law: A Forgotten Legacy (Christian Post, 060810)


By Stephen J. Grabill


So, why don’t Protestants like Natural Law?


The short answer is: There isn’t a short answer.


The recent history of natural law in the Protestant world ranges from its complete rejection by Karl Barth in the 1930s to the current hint of renewed interest among Protestant intellectuals. My view is that natural law is a forgotten legacy of the Reformation — one that contemporary Protestants desperately need to rediscover.


For much of Christian history, some type of natural-law theory has been used as a bridge to connect the Christian faith and culture, the church and the world. But in recent times, Protestant churches and theologians have rejected natural law as a way of showing their differences with the tradition of Roman Catholic moral theology.


The scope and unity of Roman Catholic social teaching is impressive, but without the recurrent appeal to natural law, it would lack a skeletal structure upon which to build its body of social teaching. Modern Protestant social ethics, by contrast, has no skeletal infrastructure of comparable strength. Unlike Roman Catholic moral theology, which is done in the context of the magisterial (or teaching) authority of the church, Protestant ethics has never had a “supreme court of appeals” to decide what’s licit and illicit. While the Bible is the principal authority in Protestant ethics, the matter of determining “authoritative” moral teaching is complex and subject to personal interpretation. To a fault, I might add.


In his opening address at the first Christian Social Congress in 1891, the Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper emphasized the catholicity of natural law in relation to Pope Leo XIII’s new encyclical Rerum Novarum. “We must admit, to our shame,” said Kuyper, “that the Roman Catholics are far ahead of us in their study of the social problem. Indeed, very far ahead. The action of the Roman Catholics should spur us to show more dynamism. The encyclical Rerum novarum of Leo XIII states the principles which are common to all Christians, and which we share with our Roman Catholic compatriots.”


At the heart of Rerum novarum and the recent encyclical Deus caritas est, by Pope Benedict XVI, is an appeal to reason and human nature, but not in a way that denigrates faith or revealed truth. “From God’s standpoint,” insists the pope, “faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly.” The Christian Church fulfills its responsibility to form consciences and to promote justice, when, as Benedict insists, social teaching is argued “on the basis of reason and natural law.”


In much of modern Protestant theology, there is skepticism about this appeal to reason. Protestants believe the bridge has been shattered and replaced with an ethic of divine command. So what churches and faith communities often say on social issues has no way of reaching the other side, and they end up in dangerous isolation from society and from the history of Christian moral reflection.


While Roman Catholics have held firmly to natural law, Protestants of all stripes from mainline to evangelical Lutherans, Calvinists, Baptists, Methodists, and so forth, have not. They swing between the extremes of blanket dismissal and hesitant acceptance of natural law, but even among the more favorably disposed, natural law is treated as an uninvited intruder.


The “nature” referred to in natural law can mean different things, but I mean by it the divinely engrafted knowledge of morality in human reason and conscience, that which all human beings share by virtue of their creation in God’s image. Theologically speaking, I think this understanding of nature points back to our original creation in God’s image, but it also anticipates the fall into sin, where the divine image was corrupted but not destroyed.


“Law,” too, can vary in meaning, but we have used it here as shorthand for the universal moral law written into the human heart by God. Law as a representation of God’s will can be known through a variety of means such as the Ten Commandments, the Torah, the Sermon on the Mount, the pangs of conscience, or the rational intuition of good and evil. When “nature” and “law” are understood in these ways, the claim that natural law is a forgotten legacy of the Reformation is certainly an understatement.


Natural law holds great promise as a bridge to connect the Christian faith to culture, although from the fuller perspective of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, natural law has limited but significant value. Natural law is not merely the quest for order on the part of the state and non-Christians as Karl Barth held, it is also a profound source of truth revealed to every person — according to their capacities — through creation, conscience, and reason. When natural law is understood properly, only so much should be expected from it as a source of revelation. God does not save the world through natural law, nor does he reconcile the world through the pursuit of justice; but he does provide a public record of his eternal power and divinity through the law written on the heart.




**The Pope Is Still Catholic: Gallup doesn’t sit in the chair of St. Peter. Thank Heaven! (National Review Online, 050425)


Last week’s announcement of a new pope — made maddeningly more difficult by the fact that St. Peter’s Basilica was declared a “smoke-free zone” last year — was greeted worldwide with groans of disapproval by the usual secularists, leftists, and other non-Catholics. Which is to say, mostly those whose lives were least likely to be affected, like Maureen Dowd. Oh, and Andrew Sullivan was “appalled” by Josef Ratzinger’s selection as the new pope. As a frequent admirer of Sullivan’s work I am appalled at Andrew’s state of appallment — and I’m not one to make up words like “appallment” lightly. I immediately assumed that Andrew’s beef with the new pope concerns his favorite issue: gay marriage. But he assures us that that’s not the case. Surprising, as a truly liberal Holy Father might have moved the Church towards the proverbial, doctrinal hat trick: allowing actively gay men to be Catholics, then ordaining them as priests, and then allowing them to marry their male partners. There’s a name for churches that condone that sort of thing, and that name is “Episcopalian.”


It’s striking how those who seem most upset that the Church hasn’t taken the opportunity of a papal change to set a more liberal course on social issues are the same people who (in the realm of politics) favor a Constitution that’s considerably more open to creative interpretation with regard to these same issues. Well, either striking or utterly, hellishly predictable.


In either case, at issue here is the notion of a fixed set of standards versus the ebb and flow of public opinion over the course of time: Which should have a greater role in determining public (or church) policy? In other words, are the Ten Commandments a living, breathing document that must constantly evolve in order to remain relevant in an ever-changing world? Or to put it another way, where is it written that we all the right to speech, religion, a free press, assembly, and gun ownership, among other things? Well, O.K., I mean besides the Constitution?


The Founding Fathers knew that mores and customs come and go like fashion, and that a new legislature was bound to enact any number of bad laws guided by nothing more than the shifting winds of public opinion. Especially with a nutcake like John Adams in Congress. So they created a standard — the Constitution — with which all new laws would have to be compatible or else they couldn’t become laws.


Among the many things the Founding Fathers wisely anticipated was that they couldn’t anticipate everything. So they also built in a mechanism for amending the Constitution so it could be fixed and rigid, yet still capable of evolving. Which came in pretty handy when we finally figured out that women and non-white people have rights, that slavery is immoral, that alcohol is evil, that no alcohol is worse, and so on. They purposefully made it much harder to amend the Constitution than to just pass a law, though, which is why the Family and Medical Leave Act is something most people either laugh at or just ignore and not a God-given right.


Likewise our Founding Father (is it O.K. to call Him that?) realized the importance of having a set of rigid standards that would supercede the trends and whims of human behavior. Which is why, as the story goes, He dictated a set of Commandments to Moses. Which, over the millennia, among other things, gave rise to today’s Roman Catholic Church. A church whose dogma (as described in its Creed) is almost impossible to change, and whose doctrine (the rules that evolved thereafter based on the Commandments and the teachings of Christ) is systematically dictated by the Vatican, through the ultimate in inspiration.


So having a “living, breathing” Constitution, whose meanings can shift as easily as, say, having an associate justice hear about some new trend in European law at brunch, obviously defeats the whole purpose of having a (relatively, not absolutely) fixed Constitution. Likewise, if you believe that your church was literally founded by the Son of God, based on principles he personally handed down to His followers (as Catholics do), why would you make your church’s doctrine conveniently open to revision by its flock? It’s like deliberately designing a bucket with holes in it, then wondering why it won’t hold any water.


And that, folks, is pretty much how it works. The Catholic Church is not a democracy, or even a representative democracy. They don’t decide things by a show of hands, other than Bingo, and even then all winners have to be verified. The Church doesn’t use focus groups. The pope doesn’t go on listening tours. There’s no website that lets the faithful interactively change church doctrine based on how many hits it receives. Catholics don’t choose new gods to worship with the help of their good friends at A. T. & T. Wireless — although if they did the process would still look and sound remarkably like American Idol. The Church is not a democracy, and part of being Catholic is being cool with that.


So if you think this or any other pope is just plain wrong on celibacy or homosexuality or anything else big, and this upsets you so much it interferes with your spiritual life, you’d be well advised to find yourself another church. Otherwise you’re like the orthodox Jew who, in light of recent developments, has taken it upon himself to decide that it’s all right for him to eat pork. You can be an orthodox Jew, and you can eat pork. You’re free to do either one. But folks, you just can’t do both. There are names for Catholics who don’t accept that they can’t do certain things and still receive the sacraments, and one of those names is Senator John Kerry.


Andrew Sullivan points out correctly that the Catholic Church has changed over the years, offering examples such as Vatican II and absolving the Jews for Christ’s death. But those changes weren’t dogmatic, as a liberalization of the Church’s views on abortion or homosexuality would be, and they certainly weren’t the result of a town-hall meeting or an online poll. They came about as a result of years of prayer and reflection from within the Vatican, not because of a particularly meaningful Oprah episode.


As opposed to the changes that came about as a result of agitators demanding that the Church become more “relevant,” such as barefoot guitar masses, bearded, “cool” priests, and the bashing of forearms combined with the muttering of “aw-ite” as the Sign of Peace. Come to think of it, wasn’t the Sign of Peace itself added to the Mass right about the time the first Billy Jack movie was released? I rest my case.


If you have misgivings about leaving a church even though it no longer represents your more socially liberal views, consider the example of the new pope’s namesake St. Benedict. Sent to Rome for his pastoral studies during the sixth century, young Benedict was so repelled by the debauchery he found there that he fled the city to pursue his studies in solitude. (How decadent was Rome back in those days? Their official slogan was “What happens in Rome, stays in Rome”). Lured out of retirement by a group of monks who wanted him as their leader, he soon wore out his welcome with them, too, by being too strict. (This guy Benedict was like the Larry Brown of guys who founded their own religious orders).


Finally, for those who would chafe under the yoke of commandments, or a catechism, or a constitution, or the mission statement every Taco Bell employee has to read, or any other articulation of first principles, consider the words of Cardinal Ratzinger shortly before he became the new pope. Warning of the “tyranny of relativism” that’s become so pervasive, Cardinal Ratzinger argued that it’s better to be guided by time-honored principles of morality than to be endlessly buffeted about by the myriad whims of conventional wisdom in the name of “freedom.” With the clear implication being, if you don’t like these principles the rest of us here have agreed to live by, maybe this isn’t the Church for you. Or as my Dad used to say during dinner, if you don’t like what we’re serving here, try next door.


— Ned Rice is a staff writer on the new and improved CBS talk show The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Rice is also an NRO contributor.




**Pope Benedict XVI (Washington Times, 050420)


Yesterday’s election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI is astonishing on both political and religious grounds. As head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office formerly known as the Inquisition, Cardinal Ratzinger was responsible for defending Catholic teaching and punishing doctrinal dissidents. Essentially he was the Vatican’s top cop. His selection signals that church leaders want a disciplinarian to clean up some messes in the Roman Catholic Church.


The most obvious of these challenges will be restoring stability to an institution rocked by clerical sex-abuse scandals. But as one of the most prominent and highly published theologians over the past 40 years, he is also likely to address broader modern threats to religious belief. In a homily to commence the conclave on Monday, Cardinal Ratzinger specifically criticized Marxism, liberalism, libertinism, collectivism and atheism. He warned that, “We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goals one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”


In his 24 years as the Vatican’s enforcer of the faith, Cardinal Ratzinger worked to restore abandoned traditions as an antidote to relativism. He wrote extensively about the need for beautiful liturgy and is an active proponent of bringing back the traditional Latin Mass that was suppressed after the revolutionary Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. One of the leading theologians at Vatican II, he is the only member of the existing hierarchy to consistently admit that its liberalizing reforms spun out of control. In 1982, he castigated reformers who “out of cowardice in face of the liberal public stood by fecklessly as faith was bit by bit traded off.”


Benedict XVI is likely not to be embraced by the mainstream media. He is more conservative than his predecessor. And unlike John Paul II, he is neither telegenic nor charismatic in public. However, he has important strengths the previous pope lacked. For example, while John Paul II had no interest in management duties of the papacy, the new pope is renowned as a skilled administrator.


One of the surprising aspects of the elevation of Benedict XVI is that the most liberal College of Cardinals in history elected the most conservative prelate among them to be their leader. This reflects an institutional self-evaluation in which cardinals decided it was necessary to scale back some 1960s reforms. It is often said that the Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy look at the passage of time in centuries rather than days or years. If the ecclesiastical pendulum had swung all the way to the left in recent decades, the Roman Catholic Church now looks to be swinging back to the right.




**Pope choice fulfills ancient prophecy? (WorldNetDaily, 050420)


Saint wrote of ‘Glory of the Olive,’ which relates to Benedictine Order


A prophecy by a 12th-century Catholic saint that predicted characteristics of the last 112 popes appears to have been strengthened by the election of the new pontiff today.


The prophecy labels the new pope “the Glory of the Olive.” The Benedictine Order known as the Olivetans has as its symbol the olive branch. The new pope, though not of that order, chose as his name Benedict XVI.


St. Malachy, an Irish Catholic bishop, was known as a gifted prophet, even predicting the date of his own death in 1148. He was canonized in 1190 by Pope Clement III.


WorldNetDaily columnist Hal Lindsey wrote on April 8 about Malachy, explaining that, according to his biographer, the bishop was visiting Rome in 1139 when he went into a trance and received a vision. Malachy wrote down this extraordinary vision in which he claims to have foreseen all of the popes from the death of Innocent II until the destruction of the church and the return of Christ. He named exactly 112 popes from that time until the end.


St. Malachy wrote a few prophetically descriptive words in Latin about each one of the popes. He then gave the manuscript to Pope Innocent II and it was deposited in the Vatican Archives where it was forgotten for several centuries. Then in 1590, it was rediscovered and published.


Scholars have matched up the descriptions with each pope since that time. “Though they are a bit obscure, they have fit the general profile of each of the popes,” wrote Lindsey.


According to St. Malachy, there will be only two more popes before the destruction of Rome, including newly elected Benedict XVI.


Wrote Lindsey: “The prophecy concerning the 111th pope says of him, ‘Gloria Olivae,’ which means ‘the Glory of the Olive.’ Could it be that he will be from the Order of Saint Benedict, also known as the Olivetans? Could he be an African, a continent symbolized by the olive tree?


“The olive tree is also frequently a symbol for the Israelites in the Bible. Could this mean that this pope will be an Israelite who will be seen as the glory of his people? It bears watching as to who will be this pope.”


Joseph Ratzinger, 78, who was elected pope today by the College of Cardinals, chose as his name Benedict XVI. The name Benedict comes from the Latin word for “blessing.”


“St. Malachy predicts, ‘In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign “Petrus Romanus” (Peter the Roman), who will feed his flock amid many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people,’” wrote Lindsey.


“If any of this is true, then I suspect that the 111th pope will not live very long. We are just too close to the final events before Christ’s return for him to reign for a long period.”


The rest of Lindsey’s column analyzes how the last pope – the one after Benedict XVI, according to the prophecy, called “Peter the Roman” – would fit in with End Times biblical prophecy.


“The Order of Saint Benedict has claimed that this pope will come from their ranks,” states an analysis on “St. Benedict himself prophesied [in the sixth century] that before the end of the world his order, known also as the Olivetans, will triumphantly lead the Catholic Church in its fight against evil.”




**The liberal conclave (Washington Times, 050418)


The College of Cardinals meets today to pick the 265th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Because John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, speculation is high that church fathers may break new ground again — perhaps by picking a non-European, an African or the first Latin American to be pope. The media constantly states that the only certainty is that this supposedly conservative college will pick a conservative pope. This prediction is unlikely because the cardinals are actually very liberal.


John Paul II appointed more than 95 percent of the cardinals. Paradoxically, however, most of the prominent cardinals hold leftist positions that depart from the traditional Catholic moral teachings he defended. In 1978, when John Paul II became pope, radicals and conservatives were fighting over what the church would become when the dust settled from the revolutionary Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. Today, there are no pre-Vatican II traditionalists left in the hierarchy.


Forty percent of Catholics worldwide come from Latin America, which has a powerful clique of 21 voting cardinals. Most of these have been decades-long backers of liberation theology, the dangerous concoction of twisted religious tenants and Marxist principles that espouses class warfare and proletariat revolution. Brazil is the largest Catholic country in the world, putting Sao Paulo Archbishop Claudio Hummes at the head of the pack of frontrunners. Cardinal Hummes is outspokenly anti-American and supports confiscation and redistribution of property belonging to the rich. Likewise, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga supports Third World debt relief and the “equalizing” redistribution of global wealth.


European ecclesiastical leaders are as liberal as their secular counterparts. Four prominent cardinals from the old world are Brussels Archbishop Godfried Danneels, Scot Keith O’Brien, and Germans Walter Kasper and Karl Lehmann. These European cardinals have opened the door for changing church law against divorce, contraception, women and married clergy and more flexible positions on abortion and homosexuality.


At 20, Italian cardinals comprise the largest national voting bloc. Many cardinals lean toward tapping an Italian because they have centuries of experience running the Rome-based church bureaucracy. Milan Archbishop Dionigi Tettamanzi backs condom distribution and has spoken supportively to anti-globalization rioters. Venice Patriarch Angelo Scola thinks the church should loosen up bioethical rules on issues such as stem-cell research. Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, the most powerful prelate behind the pope, handpicked a majority of the bishops responsible for covering up clerical sex abuse.


Two relatively conservative cardinals considered to be papal possibilities are Nigerian Francis Arinze and German Joseph Ratzinger. But as Cardinal Ratzinger has explained, this is a matter of perspective. One of the most liberal theologians at Vatican Council II, he insists he has not shifted positions over the years but that the world has moved so far to the left that even a committed progressive such as himself is considered conservative. Overall, John Paul II’s cardinals are poised to take the Catholic Church leftward.




**A Great Christian (Weekly Standard, 050404)


John Paul II was beloved by Protestants, too, because he was the world’s greatest defender of orthodox, Bible-based Christianity.


EVANGELICAL PROTESTANTS loved Pope John Paul II. Many felt more in harmony with him than with the leaders of their own denomination. I attend an Episcopal church and I certainly preferred the Pope. He was the world’s greatest defender of orthodox, Bible-based Christianity. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and possibly a majority of its bishops are among the great diluters of classical Christianity.


The truth is evangelicals could admire the Pope without wanting to convert to Catholicism. Sure, important differences remained between Protestants and Catholics, but John Paul II made them seem small. He was pro-life, pro-family, anti-totalitarian, and quite a lot more that conservative evangelicals identified with. Richard Land, a prominent Southern Baptist leader, once told a Catholic friend that Pope John Paul II was a “Pope who really knows how to pope.” I suspect what Land meant in using “pope” as a verb was that John Paul was bold and unswerving in proclaiming salvation through belief in Jesus Christ. He did this all over the world, despite declining health and personal risk.


During John Paul’s 27 years as Pope, evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics grew closer together in America’s culture wars. There was a kind of “ecumenism of the trenches,” said scholar Timothy George. They agreed on the need to protect—or in some cases, to revive—traditional values and to insist on a place for people of faith, particularly Christians, in public life.


After the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, Catholics provided most of the energy and the troops for the pro-life movement. But by the late 1970s and early 1980s, conservative Protestants were joining in large numbers. They not only were welcomed, but they felt comfortable being allied with Catholics in the era of Pope John Paul II.


Three more things about the Holy Father were especially appealing to Protestant evangelicals: his courage, his anti-communism, and his appeal to young people. He visited Poland, his native country, a year after becoming Pope and his appearances attracted roughly one-third of the population. That’s not a third of the Catholic population but a third of Poland’s entire population. His message was, “Be not afraid.”


He wasn’t. Communist agents in Bulgaria, no doubt with the approval of the KGB in the Soviet Union, recruited a Turk to assassinate the Pope. The attack failed in more ways than one. Pope John Paul II wasn’t killed, and neither was he deterred. He continued traveling the word with the vigorous message of undiluted Christianity. His message trumped communism’s and he was a bigger man than communism’s leaders as well.


Along with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, he vanquished Soviet communism. Shortly after his trip to Poland, Solidarity was founded. Chances are, without Pope John Paul II, the labor federation would not have thrived. Its members, indeed dissenters of all kinds, found sanctuary and a place to gather in Catholic churches. Solidarity took on the Communist leaders of Poland and prevailed, and its influence was felt all over eastern Europe.


In more than one sense, Pope John Paul II and Reagan were alike, though you might not have guessed it when Reagan dozed off while visiting the Pope in the Vatican. They were men who reached greatness in their later years and, oddly enough, had an amazing attraction to young people. The Pope held youth gatherings all over the world and the turnout was extraordinary. And in the political realm, Reagan instilled conservative principles in millions of young Americans.


So among the mourners for Pope John Paul II there will be many evangelicals. Catholics have lost a great and wonderful leader. And so have evangelicals.

[Kwing Hung: well said!]


Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.




**Vatican: No Communion for Pro-Abortion Politicians (Foxnews, 040423)


VATICAN CITY — A top Vatican cardinal said Friday that priests must deny communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, but he would not comment on whether it was right for John Kerry to receive communion.


Cardinal Francis Arinze spoke at a news conference to launch a new Vatican directive clamping down on liturgical abuses in Mass which bars lay people from giving sermons, non-Catholics from taking communion and rites of other religions from being introduced in the service.


The document restated church teaching that anyone who knows he is in “grave sin” must go to confession before taking communion.


Arinze was asked whether that meant that Kerry should not request or be given communion for his unapologetic support of human rights, including a woman’s right to abortion.


The Democratic presidential candidate says he personally opposes abortion, but supports the rights of others to have one. He argues that church doctrine allows Catholics the freedom of conscience to choose.


Arinze, a Nigerian whose Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued the document, said the church’s position was clear and that U.S. bishops should decide.


When pressed to speak generally about the case of “unambiguously pro-abortion” Catholic politicians, Arinze concurred that such a politician “is not fit” to receive communion.


“If they should not receive, then they should not be given,” he said.


Bishop Raymond Burke, the archbishop of St. Louis, has said he would refuse to give Kerry communion; Kerry’s own archbishop, Sean O’Malley of Boston, has endorsed that principle without naming the senator.


The Vatican directive, commissioned by Pope John Paul II, softened a stricter earlier draft that had discouraged the use of altar girls and denounced such practices as applauding and dancing during Mass.


It said, however, that “shadows are not lacking” and that the Vatican cannot remain silent about abuses that “not infrequently plague liturgical celebrations.”


And it reiterated the pope’s view that the “mystery of the Eucharist is to great for anyone to treat it according to his own whim.”


Roman Catholics believe that they receive the body and blood of Christ when they take communion.


The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s led to many liberalizing changes in the Mass, such as having priests face the congregation and celebrating the service in the local language rather than Latin.


The 71-page document, called an instruction, keyed on what the Vatican considers such abuses as lay people increasingly taking on the role of priests, even non-Christians “out of ignorance” coming forward to take communion and the introduction into the Mass of books and rites of other religions.


The document said only priests may read the Gospel to congregations, and that only priests or deacons may deliver the homily — never lay people. However, it allowed that bishops can appoint “extraordinary ministers” to give communion when there is no priest available.


It said the use of altar boys was “laudable” but repeated Church policy that girls or women may also serve at the altar.


The document made no specific mention of clapping or ritual dancing during Mass, as the pope himself has witnessed during his trips to Africa and elsewhere.




Catholic group angry at Disney for ABC drama (CNN, 970721)


NEW YORK (AP) — A group that already urged Catholics to boycott Walt Disney Co. because of the 1995 movie “Priest” is upset with another of its products, an ABC series called “Nothing Sacred.”


The Catholic League demanded Friday that the drama be pulled from the network’s fall lineup because of its “sick look” at priests.


“They’re belittling what is sacred,” said Bernadette Brady, vice president of the 350,00 member Catholic anti-defamation group.


ABC, a subsidiary of Disney, was standing by “Nothing Sacred,” which stars Kevin Anderson as a young priest in big-city parish. It is scheduled to air Thursdays starting in September.


Catholic League President William Donohue hadn’t seen the show before calling for its cancellation. He was angry about a Disney news release describing Anderson’s character as an “irreverent priest who questions the existence of God, feels lust in his heart and touches people’s souls.”


Brady said she has seen the pilot episode and was upset by its “very, very negative portrayal of the priesthood.”


Anderson’s character unwisely counsels a pregnant teen-ager to follow her own instincts, she said. The show is also riddled with factual errors about Catholicism, particularly in its depiction of a rehearsal of a baptism, she said.


ABC said that “Nothing Sacred” offers an honest portrayal of a young priest.


“It is our hope that through subsequent episodes, they’ll come to find that the series reflects positively on the issues of faith, for that is our intention,” ABC said in a statement.


ABC also circulated a review of the show from the Catholic weekly magazine America. Its author, James Martin, said “Nothing Sacred” shows the human side of priests and nuns just as “ER” does for doctors and nurses.


David Manson, the show’s executive producer, said clerics are involved in writing and producing it. The pilot’s script was reviewed by the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Diocese, he said.


Though synonymous with family fare movies, Disney’s empire embraces theme parks, sports teams, television networks and more, and has found itself the target of criticism.


In 1995, the Catholic League urged Catholics not to patronize Disney because of the movie “Priest,” about a homosexual cleric.


In recent months, Southern Baptists started a boycott of Disney, in part because it provides health benefits to homosexual partners. And the National Federation of the Blind is angry at Disney for making a “Mr. Magoo” movie.




Pope Seeks to Revive Religious Zeal (CNN, 970820)


PARIS — Pope John Paul, who arrives in France on Thursday, will seek to revive faded religious zeal in the West at a youth festival in Paris amid controversy over his plan to visit the grave of a militant anti-abortion campaigner.


French church leaders said they were encouraged by turnout of about 300,000 pilgrims in sweltering heat at a festive mass by the Eiffel Tower on Tuesday at the start of the week-long festival, attended by young people from 160 countries.


Turnout for the Pope on his four-day visit to a country once proud of its Roman Catholic fervour is likely to look feeble alongside the last World Youth Days in the Philippines in 1995, when he drew four million people.


The Pope, amid wide indifference to the visit in France, has stirred criticism from family planning groups and some leftist politicians for a plan to pray on Friday at the grave of Jerome Lejeune, a genetics professor who is a hero for anti-abortion groups since his death in 1994.


About 50 anti-abortion activists, calling themselves survivors of abortion, demonstrated on Wednesday at a hospital near where the Pontiff will say mass on Sunday.


“This is not a provocation,” said Noelia Garcia as police looked on. “We are here to show our joy for life.”


Organisers are expecting half a million people for the papal mass on Sunday at the Longchamp racetrack on the fringes of Paris, a highlight of his visit.


The Pope, a frail 77 but still crusading to rally Catholics behind his conservative moral teachings, urged young people in a rare interview with a French newspaper to shake the West out of growing religious indifference and egoism.


“I know that the Church in France as elsewhere, especially in the West, is going through a decline in religious practice and in religious and priesthood vocations,” the Pope told the Catholic daily La Croix.


The Roman Catholic church has a lot of ground to recover in a nation called the “eldest daughter of the church” by traditionalists after the conversion of pagan King Clovis to Roman Catholicism around the year 496.


About 45 million of France’s 58 million inhabitants are nominally Catholics, but the French Bishops’ Conference says only about six million attend church on Sundays.


Just 126 priests were ordained last year, a tenth of the number in the 1950s. The average French priest is aged over 55.


Jean-Michel Di Falco, spokesman for the youth festival, said he was expecting 100,000 French young people to attend the celebrations. Most pilgrims are coming from other nations including Italy, Spain and Poland.


He sought to play down controversy about the Pope’s plan to visit Lejeune’s grave. “I think we should let the Pope do what he wants — pray on the tomb of his friend,” he said.




Pope’s ruling bars Blair from taking Communion with family (London Times, 030417)


ANY hope that Tony Blair had of enjoying a happy, Catholic Easter with his family will be crushed today by the Pope.


John Paul II is issuing a new encyclical that The Times has learnt will explicitly forbid Protestants like the Prime Minister taking Communion with Catholics such as Cherie Blair and their children.


The 83-year-old Pope has chosen Holy Week to stamp on what he sees as dangerously “liberal” interpretations of the Roman Catholic doctrine that only those “in full communion with Rome” can take part in the Eucharist.


Mr Blair, who remains a committed, if ecumenical, member of the Church of England, regularly attends Catholic Mass with his family. He also used to take Communion with them at the St Joan of Arc church in Islington.


But in 1996, he received a letter from Cardinal Basil Hume asking him to desist. In his reply, Mr Blair did not conceal his dismay at such theological conservatism. Saying that he merely wished to worship with his family but had not realised his behaviour was causing offence, he promised he would not do so again. The letter added: “I wonder what Jesus would have made of it?”


Since then Mr Blair, who admits he is strongly drawn to Catholicism, has more than once explored the limits of this doctrine. Britain has never had a Catholic prime minister and in 1998 he had to deny reports he had converted after being spotted going to Westminster Cathedral for Mass unaccompanied by his family. Suggestions that he had received the Eucharist on this occasion were never confirmed.


There have also been rumours that when Mr Blair is on holiday abroad he has taken Communion with his family.


The Pope’s fourteenth encyclical slams the door on the many Catholics and Protestants who currently take Communion together and represents a setback for Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is a firm advocate of ecumenism. When Mr Blair visited the Pope at the Vatican last month, he may have got a hint of what was to come. While his family went to take Communion with the Pope, the Prime Minister only received a blessing. The Pope also made it clear that he disagreed with Mr Blair about war in Iraq.




Mixed Eucharist is dangerous abuse, Pope tells Church (London Times, 030417)


THE Pope will issue an encyclical today that explicitly forbids Roman Catholics and Protestants from taking Communion together.


According to Catholic teaching, only those in full communion with Rome can take part in the Catholic Eucharist, or Holy Communion. The Pope, who turns 83 next month, is said to be alarmed at the increasingly “liberal” interpretation of doctrine by many Catholics and is using the twilight years of his pontificate to impose a return to tradition.


The new encyclical, the fourteenth of the Pope’s 25-year reign, will revive memories of the rift caused three years ago by a Vatican declaration, Dominus Iesus, which told non-Catholics that their Churches suffered from “defects” and were not “proper Churches”.


That pronouncement was drawn up by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope’s “ideological enforcer” as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But it was approved by the Pope and reflects his opposition to what he sees as a dangerous dilution of doctrine and practice. He said later that it had been misinterpreted and was not an attempt to block dialogue by an “arrogant” Catholic Church. Corriere della Sera said that the latest document, while emphasising the Pope’s continuing “passionate commitment” to ecumenism and Christian unity, would outlaw “abuses” of the Eucharist, including its “concelebration” by Catholics and non-Catholics in a common act of worship.


Vatican-watchers said that it was no accident that the Pope had chosen Holy Week to issue his stern reminder to Catholics of the strict rules that should govern the “mystery of the sacraments”. At his weekly audience yesterday in St Peter’s Square, he said that Easter, “the very heart of the liturgical year, . . . invites us to recognise the Passion of Christ in the tragic situations facing many peoples today”.


The Pope is also said to be alarmed by the practice of lay preachers distributing the Eucharist in parishes that lack a priest. Panorama magazine said that he and Vatican conservatives, such as Cardinal Ratzinger, believed that too many “Protestant influences” had crept in to Catholic rituals in the guise of “modernisation”. These included priests placing the Communion wafer, or host, in the communicant’s hands (as in the Anglican tradition), instead of on the tongue. Last year the Pope also ordered Catholics to halt the growing practice of Anglican-style “general absolution” for sins and to return to individual confession.


At his farewell meeting with Dr George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, in the Vatican last June, the Pope emphasised progress on the “journey of reconciliation” rather than “the obstacles which keep us from full communion”. But church sources say that deep divisions remain over women priests and what Rome regards as an excessively tolerant Anglican attitude to homosexuality.


The Archbishop of Dublin, Mgr Desmond O’Connell, recently castigated the Church of Ireland for allowing Catholics to take Communion at its services. His Protestant counterpart, the Most Rev Walton Empey, said: “At times like this I feel that Jesus is weeping and the Devil is doing a dance”.


An authoritative pastoral letter


* A papal encyclical is a pastoral letter from the Pope on doctrine, church discipline or morality and addressed to the Roman Catholic Church

* It is, in effect, the most authoritative and considered statement a pontiff can issue. Encyclicals are written in Latin, with the title taken from the opening words

* Historians date the term “encyclical” to 1740 in the reign of Benedict XIV, who issued Ubi Primum, laying down episcopal duties

* Pius IX (1846-78) was a prolific writer of encyclicals, and most modern Popes have followed suit

* The present Pope issued his last encyclical, Fides et Ratio, on the relationship between faith and modern thought, five years ago. His first, Redemptor Hominis, was issued in 1979, the year after his election, and dealt with the state of the Church

* Other notable John Paul II encyclicals include Veritatis Splendor in 1993 on moral truth and salvation (seen by many as his masterpiece) and Ut Unum Sint on Christian unity in 1995




A Bittersweet Roman Week: Watching a dear man and leader near the end (National Review Online, 031023)


VATICAN CITY — Unable to pronounce the words with his lips, Pope John Paul II carried them in his heart yesterday.


“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”


Twenty-five years ago Wednesday, John Paul opened his first official homily as Pope with those words taken from Matthew’s gospel. They are the Apostle Peter’s words, answering Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?”


Jesus responds to Peter with the words that Catholics believe lay the foundation for the papal office in the Church: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”


On October 22, 1978, John Paul began his papal ministry with that confession of faith, so central to his office that the words are inscribed in giant letters inside the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. Yesterday, addressing the new cardinals he created on Tuesday, he went back to the beginning.


“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he began. “In these twenty-five years of my pontificate, how many times I have repeated those words! I have pronounced them in the principal languages of the world in many parts of the Earth. The Successor of Peter can never forget the dialogue that takes place between the Master and the Apostle: You are the Christ... You are Peter....”


Indeed, John Paul has pronounced those words to the ends of the earth. Those words express the deepest truth of what he is most profoundly is: a Christian disciple. But yesterday, the 83-year-old pope was not able to pronounce them at all.


As was the case last Sunday at Mother Teresa’s beatification, another archbishop read the full text of John Paul’s homily. Weaker than ever before, and needing to conserve his strength to get through the rest of the Mass, John Paul can no longer do what he has done for so long. The voice that resounded on that long ago October day has now been largely silenced by the ravages of age.


And so it was a bittersweet week for this young priest reporting on the historic events in Rome. A spirit of gratitude for 25 years of gifts received dominated the week here, but that spirit was tinged with sadness that the end is coming upon us.


I spent five years reporting from Rome on the Vatican (for the National Catholic Register), and for all that time it was clear that reports of the pope’s impending demise were greatly exaggerated. Defying those waiting (and hoping) for him to die, John Paul buried many of those were thought to be his possible successors.


But now sources close to the papal household indicate that while the pope is mentally alert and in command — as he demonstrated in a series of exceptionally personal addresses this past week — the body is failing rapidly. John Paul can no longer walk, is unable to stand for any length of time, has great difficulty speaking in public, and is often in great pain.


That does not mean that the end in nigh. John Paul appeared in public for several hours every day this past week, and there is a long way to go from his current situation to his death. But if the end is not nigh, all here agree that we have reached the beginning of the end. Hence the bittersweet mood in Rome, matched yesterday by the gray skies and a daylong downpour.


There is, I admit, a certain selfishness at work. I was seven years old when John Paul was elected and have really known no other pope. Like so many other young priests, I owe my vocation in large part to his courageous and joyous witness. No one wants to lose him, because we know that whoever comes after will not be the same. Not for any lack in his successor, but because God only sends men like John Paul every few centuries. Peggy Noonan, a member of the U.S. presidential delegation for the anniversary and former Reagan speechwriter, is working on a book to be called John Paul the Great. No one here questions her title.


“Courage in proclaiming the gospel must never diminish,” John Paul told the cardinals last Saturday. “Indeed, until the last breath it must be our principal duty.”


Until the last breath. The message was not lost on the cardinals. From amongst them will come the successor, and he will be expected to do as John Paul has done, proclaiming the gospel to the end, even when the breath is not sufficient to pronounce the words: You are the Christ...


John Paul may have been the only one who was not bittersweet in Rome this week. Several years ago, he wrote a letter to the elderly in which he said that he was “looking forward to the day of my death.” Christian disciple that he is, he is looking forward to going home to heaven, to be forever with the Lord he has served so ably for so long.


We should not begrudge him his reward.


— Father Raymond J. de Souza, a chaplain at Queen’s University in Ontario is covering the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II, the beatification of Mother Teresa, and associated events from Rome for the National Post and Fox News.




Catholic bishops reject same-sex ‘marriage’ (Washington Times, 031113)


The nation’s Catholic bishops overwhelmingly voted yesterday to endorse a proposed booklet outlining why same-sex unions should not be given the legal equivalent of marriage.


The vote, which was 234 yes, three no and three abstaining, was one of the last votes at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.


The basic thrust of the booklet will be to “enable [Catholics] to defend marriage” in a lucid fashion, said bishops who haggled for almost an hour on various amendments to a resolution approving the document’s creation.


A few changes, such as adding the word “genital” before the words “sexual activity” were implemented throughout the document to erase any ambiguity.


“This is a brief question-and-answer pamphlet; this is not a moral theology textbook,” said Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles. “The question is whether denying marriage to homosexual persons demonstrates unjust discrimination and a lack of respect for them as persons?”


Bishop John C. Nienstedt of New Ulm, Minn., pegged the document as “serving a great purpose.”


“In the Diocese of New Ulm, there is great confusion over this issue,” he said. “High school and college-age students have the idea it’s a human right to express their sexual feelings and desires. We need to do a full-court press on this.”


The document, which spends several pages on the nature of marriage, explains that only the “natural complementarity of male and female” makes marriage possible.


“Because homosexuals cannot enter into a true conjugal union with each other, it is wrong to equate their relationship to marriage,” it says.


In a reference aimed toward politicians, the document explained that laws “shape patterns of thought and behavior, particularly about what is socially permissible and acceptable.”


“In effect, giving same-sex unions the legal status of marriage would grant official public approval to homosexual activity and would treat it as if it were morally neutral,” it says.


Although the bishops did not refer to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that decriminalized sodomy, the document said marriage has been “devalued” and “weakened,” which has “already exacted too high a social cost.”


According to Catholic teaching, any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. Homosexual acts have been additionally labeled as “intrinsically evil” and “disordered” by the Vatican.


USCCB President Wilton Gregory at a press conference said bishops had to speak out on the issue because of increasing threats to the institution of marriage.


“In many respects, we haven’t spoken clearly enough, effectively enough, frequently enough,” he said. There have been “other voices speaking and instructing and misinforming people so if anything, the actions we are taking today are very much needed and many would say even late.”


When asked how the bishops could speak out on sexual morality while at the same time facing the biggest sexual-abuse scandal in the USCCB’s 214-year history, Bishop Gregory defended the document.


“St. Paul told us we have to proclaim the message in season and out of season,” he said. “It’s clearly out of season in the minds of some people that the Catholic Church talk about anything; that we talk about immigrants, rights of workers, human sexuality, relationships, honesty.


“One of the great sorrows of this moment is that some people say: ‘Now we have silenced her. She must be quiet.’ That can never be the position of the Catholic Church. Admitting our faults as we have admitted them and will have to admit them in the future: of errors in judgment, mistakes, difficulties, problems; yes, the church is very human. But she must run by the passion and the prophetic office given her by Christ. And that means teaching clearly, honestly, forthrightly the truth of the Gospel even when it’s not welcome.”


The document, called “Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions,” can be viewed at


In other business, bishops also expressed consternation with the Episcopal Church — a church body with whom Catholics have had close ecumenical ties through the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission — for its decision to consecrate as bishop an actively homosexual priest. Canon V. Gene Robinson was made a bishop-co-adjutor of New Hampshire on Nov. 2.


“Do we quit dialoguing with them?” asked Bishop Alexander J. Brunett of Seattle, a member of the USCCB’s committee on ecumenical and religious affairs. “The Holy Father has said we must keep dialoguing ... but sometimes it is very difficult work.


“This is an Episcopal problem because they don’t have any structure to change what they did. ... They have no [pope]. ... We do and we can resolve issues of this nature,” he added.


The rest of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion differs with the Episcopal Church, which is but one of 38 Anglican provinces, he said. The ARCIC meets in Rome next week to discuss how to react to the Episcopal consecration issue.


San Francisco Archbishop William Levada was less optimistic that American Catholic bishops will see eye to eye with their Episcopal counterparts any time soon.


“The vote on Robinson was about 55 percent majority and 45 percent minority,” he said. “It seems to me the trajectory is not greater convergence, but greater divergence, at least with [the Episcopal Church].”




John Kerry’s Catholic Problem (Weekly Standard, 040415)


Will the Catholic Church move to discipline the pro-choice senator?


AMERICAN CATHOLICS now find themselves having to think about a question that concerns their church and the Democratic party’s presumptive presidential nominee, John Kerry. The question is: Can Kerry be a good Catholic and yet take positions as a lawmaker that contradict the teachings of the church on “life issues,” especially abortion and stem-cell research?


The question didn’t arise only with Kerry, who hardly is the first Catholic politician to support abortion rights. Church leaders have been mulling for some time how to respond to politician-parishioners holding views at odds with the church’s. And John Paul II approved a “doctrinal note” two years ago advising Catholic politicians of their duty “to oppose any law that attacks human life.” A task force now is developing guidelines for use by American bishops in their dealings with Catholic lawmakers.


At least one bishop already knows how he should deal with Kerry. Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis warned the candidate when he campaigned earlier this year in Missouri “not to present himself for communion” at any church in his city. Such ostracism is reserved by canon law for “those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” Kerry, by the way, declined to cross the archbishop’s unwelcome mat and instead attended a Baptist church.


Meanwhile, the head of Kerry’s diocese, Archbishop Sean O’Malley, has said Catholic elected officials who favor abortion rights ought to abstain from communion. Archbishop O’Malley has yet to identify just who those officials might be, but the prospect of an Easter Sunday

confrontation of Kerry in Boston was such that the press felt compelled to follow the candidate to see where he attended Mass. He chose the (liberal) Paulist Center, where he received communion.


Most church leaders don’t appear ready to use the Eucharist as an instrument of sanction. Most seem of the same mind as Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, who has made vague allusions to milder sanctions. But whatever sanctions might be used, for many leaders there is the matter of fair enforcement, for if Kerry is to be disciplined, they argue, there surely are others who also should be dealt with.


If you talk to Catholics who accept the church’s teachings on the life issues, their argument with Kerry is that, while he professes the church’s view on abortion as “an article of faith,” he also says that as a lawmaker he has no right to impose that view on others. Those Catholics fairly contend that he misconstrues the church’s teaching on abortion, since it holds that abortion is universally wrong. It leaves no room for being merely “personally opposed.”


Moreover, they add, Kerry’s ostensible personal opposition has led him to vote never for, but always against, measures that would protect human life, such as the recent legislation that makes it a crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman.


If you aren’t Catholic (or if you are, for that matter), what perhaps is most interesting about The Church vs. John Kerry is how the senator has responded to the bishops’ interest in his positions. He routinely invokes “the separation of church and state” to state his position. As he recently put it to Time magazine, “I don’t tell church officials what to do, and church officials shouldn’t tell American politicians what to do in the context of our public life.” Yet the religious liberty protected by the Constitution leaves a church free to conduct its affairs as it wishes, including sanctioning politicians that it judges have departed from its teachings even as they profess to be true believers.


You can be sure that a sanction of Kerry would have political consequences, not all of them adverse to the candidate. Indeed, there are Democrats who think that a sanction would prove electorally helpful—that less observant Catholics who are loyal to neither party and hold more liberal social views might be attracted to his candidacy, as might non-Catholics upset by what they see as an intrusion into American politics.


In any case, the least likely turn in this continuing story is that Kerry will become a pro-life convert.


Terry Eastland is publisher of The Weekly Standard. This column originally appeared in the Dallas Morning News.




Catholic Parishioners Clash Over Gay Rights (Foxnews, 040531)


CHICAGO  — Parishioners who wore rainbow-colored sashes to Mass in support of gays and lesbians were denied communion in Chicago, while laymen in Minnesota tried to prevent gay Roman Catholics from getting the sacrament.


Priests at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago refused to give the Eucharist to about 10 people wearing the sashes at Sunday Mass. One priest shook each person’s hand; another made the sign of the cross on their foreheads.


“The priest told me you cannot receive communion if you’re wearing a sash, as per the Cardinal’s direction,” said James Luxton, a Chicago member of the Rainbow Sash Movement, an organization of Catholic gay-rights supporters with chapters around the country.


An internal memo from Chicago Cardinal Francis George that became public last week instructed priests not to give communion to people wearing the sashes, which the group’s members wear every year for Pentecost. The memo says the sashes are a symbol of opposition to the church’s doctrine on homosexuality and exploit the communion ritual.


“The Rainbow Sash movement wants its members to be fully accepted by the Church not on the same conditions as any Catholic but precisely as gay,” George wrote. “With this comes the requirement that the Church change her moral teaching.”


Rainbow Sash Movement spokesman Joe Murray was among those denied communion in Chicago. He said members wearing the sashes should be seen no differently than a uniformed police officer or Boy Scout seeking communion.


“What we saw today in the cathedral is discrimination at the Eucharistic table, and that shouldn’t be happening,” Murray said. Those denied communion returned to their pews, but stood while the rest of the congregation knelt.


The movement, which started about five years ago in England, also has members in Dallas, New Orleans, New York and Rochester, N.Y.


In St. Paul, Minn., people wearing the rainbow-colored sashes were given communion Sunday despite protests from some parishioners who kneeled in front of the altar blocking their way.


The Rev. Michael Skluzacek said in a written statement that both sides were “mistakenly using the Mass and the Eucharist to make their own personal statements.”


Brian McNeill, organizer of the Rainbow Sash Alliance of the Twin Cities, said the local group has worn the sashes every Pentecost at St. Paul Cathedral since 2001, but the group had never experienced such a confrontation.


A Vatican doctrinal decree last year directed at Catholic politicians said a well-formed conscience forbids support for any law that contradicts “fundamental” morality, with abortion listed first among relevant issues. A second Vatican statement said it is “gravely immoral” not to oppose legalization of same-sex unions.




Catholic bishops face vexing issues (Washington Times, 040614)


America’s Catholic bishops are gathering near Denver this week for a six-day retreat, during which they will pray over and discuss issues involving the 65-million-member U.S. church, such as eligibility for Communion and clergy sexual misconduct.


The retreat, which begins today and ends Saturday, includes a review of the 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” a document commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to address the church’s massive clergy sex-abuse crisis.


The expected 250 to 275 bishops also will get a progress report from Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, chairman of the Task Force on Catholics in Public Life, on the panel’s work on how to deal with Catholic politicians whose voting records and public pronouncements run counter to church teaching.


The meeting at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center in Englewood, 10 miles south of Denver, will be closed to the public.


The meeting has aroused particular local interest since May 1, when Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan said that not only should Catholic politicians who do not follow Church teachings not present themselves for Communion, but that the same applied to Catholic citizens who vote for such politicians.


Bishop Sheridan’s remarks could influence Colorado’s rapidly growing Hispanic populace, which is otherwise expected to back Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic who differs from his church on abortion, stem-cell research, homosexual unions and several other issues.


“People in Denver are really up in arms about the Communion ban,” said Crystal Culver, spokeswoman for Call to Action, a Chicago-based liberal Catholic group that summoned 650 local Catholic activists to participate in a string of demonstrations and vigils.


“Even a couple of priests in Denver have had the gall to say they’ll give Communion to whoever asks for it,” she said.


From the other end, the American Life League has rented out rooms at the Inverness Hotel and will give a press conference tomorrow at the hotel.


“We will tell bishops they have this opportunity to institute a definitive policy to rebuke pro-abortion Catholic politicians and make it clear to the faithful you cannot be a faithful Catholic and pro-abortion,” spokesman Joe Giganti said.


Other task force members, all of whom are expected at the meeting, include Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Fla., Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., and Bishop Bernard Harrington of Winona, Minn.


The bishops’ debate on who should receive Communion may have some influence on the Vatican Synod on the Eucharist from Oct. 2 to Oct. 29, 20 05, in Rome. On Thursday, Pope John Paul II announced a “Year of the Eucharist” starting this October and said his first papal encyclical of the new millennium would be on the Eucharist.


“There’s some concern on the part of some bishops that Catholics are losing their appreciation for what we understand the Eucharist to be about, whether it’s the real presence of Christ or merely a symbol,” said the Rev. Daniel McLellan, president of Washington Theological Union. “I’d also suspect there will be an oblique reference to the state one should be in to participate in the Eucharist.”


Bishops will also discuss the charter, which called for audits on how each of the country’s 195 dioceses have implemented reforms to prevent further sexual abuse. They must decide whether to commission a second round of audits under the oversight of a 12-member National Review Board of prominent Catholic laity.


Four members of the board are resigning this month, including Chairman Anne Burke, who has publicly complained that the bishops are dragging their feet on keeping all dioceses in line.


The bishops’ behavior also took criticism in an open letter from former USCCB spokesman Russell Shaw in the June issue of Crisis magazine.


“Catholics are asking if the bishops are serious about the Church’s doctrine on sexuality,” he wrote. “The evidence that some bishops in the past tolerated egregious misbehavior by priests has fostered a widespread suspicion that your adherence to Church teaching amounts to little more than lip service.”




In and Out of Communion: A sacramental moment in politics (National Review Online, 040616)


Beginning yesterday, the U.S. Catholic bishops are gathering in Colorado for a private early summer retreat. It is not likely to be as private as they had hoped. For years the bishops have allowed a political/moral problem to fester — that of Catholic legislators supporting abortion in law and culture.


This year, the press is hot in pursuit of bishops, and is focused on one particular dilemma: Will the bishops dare to demand that Catholic legislators who receive Communion show publicly in their actions that they are in communion with the Church’s teaching on life? Or will they punt? And will the pope soon intervene, if the U.S. bishops do not live up to their responsibilities?


Freedom of Choice

In Catholic thought, political leaders have an unusually high and noble vocation. They are stewards over the common good of the whole society. The model the Church sets before them is very high, the life and death of St. Thomas More. To maintain his fidelity to the communion of all Catholics, that good man was obliged to give up not only his chancellorship, but his head. That is a pretty sobering model, both for legislators — and for their pastors. The stakes are pretty high.


A good many of today’s legislators, including many Democrats but also a good number of prominent Republicans (Pataki and Giuliani in New York, for instance) would like matters to be a little different. They would like to go along with the prevalent opinions in their own electoral world, even when that course implicates them in support for abortion. They would like to do that, and still hold themselves free to approach the Table of the Lord to partake of the Body and Blood and Christ.


Now, of course, in Catholic teaching every person must follow the verdict of his or her own conscience, even if that means breaking communion with the teaching of the Church. The Church is for free women and men, not for slaves. But this freedom, in those few matters that are as important as the taking of innocent life in abortion, does confront the legislator with a choice: either to remain in communion or to leave.


But many legislators today have grown accustomed to a much more cuddly world than that. Even legislators who almost never vote to extend the protections of life, but almost always to defend the reign of abortion, go to church and receive Communion at the Table of the Lord. And they do so without being challenged in the least, as though that is a perfectly acceptable witness.


Sacramental Responsibilities

In other words, even though such pro-abortion Catholic legislators are OUT OF COMMUNION with the Church in the abortion project, they really do like appearing to remain IN COMMUNION with the rest of the Church at the most sacred Table of the Lord. Some have even persuaded themselves that abortion is a perfectly acceptable option for Catholics to support. The silence and indirection of the bishops during the past 20 years convinces them that this is so. Although in recent years the bishops have been tightening their focus on abortion, they have tended to list abortion with just war, capital punishment, higher welfare spending for the poor, and many other issues. Just one among many issues for prudential judgment.


It is true that Church leaders — in the particular case, their local bishop — might have a good reason to allow the self-deception of legislators to continue, lest greater harm be caused by open confrontation. But when matters snowball until it is no longer a case of the single political leader, but 20, then 30, then 60, Catholic teaching on abortion as in intrinsic evil appears vacuous. The people in the pews start to believe that the bishops are not serious about “old” Catholic teaching. Faithful Catholics who know better see that the courage of their bishops is on empty.


The reason for the existence of the Catholic Church is to be faithful to the teachings of Christ, and to administer seriously the sacraments that bring everyday union with Him, much as the Eucharist is like daily bread.


To misuse these sacraments of union — to make them signs of disunion — is to destroy that fidelity, or at a minimum to do it grave injury.


If the bishops allow those political leaders who help make abortion a major institution of American law, politics, and culture to make a show of being faithful to the teaching and sacraments of Jesus Christ, they have emptied the Catholic Church of moral seriousness.


By not confronting the powerful of this world, they will have weakened the resistance of the weak. They will have failed in all three of their essential duties as bishops — to teach, to sanctify, and to oversee. They will have made the institution of the Church seem pointless. They will have made bishops seem to be vain flatterers of public passions.


I don’t think Pope John Paul II is going to allow American bishops to continue to cave in as they have done for the last 30 years. Or to pretend that abortion belongs on the same level as other issues. The Church in the U.S. is too important to Catholicism. It is in many ways the Church’s intellectual leader and its leader in energy and drive. The American Church cannot be allowed to lose its sole reason for being. If current bishops cannot do the job, better must eventually be found.


If you doubt me about the pope, look at his recent encyclicals and discourses — including, for instance, paragraphs 82 and 90 of The Gospel of Life. The pope is a fighter, and he believes bishops ought to be, too. And Catholic legislators, too. He was the one who assigned Thomas More as their model.


Examination of Conscience

Some questions recur every time this issue comes up. (1) Can’t a Catholic legislator say, “I am opposed to abortion, but in favor of choice, even if the choice is the ‘right’ to an abortion?” Not if they hold that killing an innocent human individual is against natural rights. No individual has the right to kill another human individual, under the natural rights contract. There is nothing specifically Catholic about arguments against abortion, because abortion kills innocent life. That violates both reason and natural rights. Not Catholic “dogma” but natural law is here in play.


The great Lincoln-Douglas debates regarding slavery were mostly about the right to choose. How, Lincoln argued, can there be a right to choose to bind another man over into slavery? No one has a right to choose that. And we add today, no one has a right to choose to abort another human individual’s life.


(2) How can a Catholic legislator impose Catholic teaching on non-Catholics? As we have just seen, abortion is not a matter of Catholic teaching but of reason and natural law. And it is normal for wise leaders to lead. That is, to make arguments for views that their constituents do not now share, but might well come to.


(3) Is the communion rail the best place to draw the line? A far better tack would be for bishops to present clearer, more public, more insistent teaching on the duties the Church expects of any politician who uses the label “Catholic,” and especially if that person is publicly seen at Catholic worship. A high standard of “truth in advertising” must be met. Any man or woman is free to follow conscience as it directs, but no one is free to support the deliberate taking of innocent life in abortion and then call that “Catholic.” To be complicit in the law and culture that encourages abortion is to step out of communion with the Catholic faith.


(4) Don’t the practicalities of electoral politics sometimes make it necessary for a legislator to support the convictions of his constituents, even if he is “personally opposed” to them? Generally, the public respects legislators who explain their own conscience on a particular point and follow it, even if it goes against the public. There are other issues on which the public can count on their representative’s agreement with them.


Besides, specious rationalizations must be said publicly to be specious. No Catholic politician can honestly say “I am personally opposed to abortion, but...,” unless she shows evidence of her own public efforts on behalf of pro-life causes, and makes public arguments against abortion. Otherwise, what does “personally opposed” mean? Political leaders have an obligation to lead, to argue, to teach, even when they cannot just now gain a majority.


Governor Mario Cuomo, for instance, when the New York assembly and senate voted for capital punishment in New York State, not only argued against their position on largely moral grounds (“bad and unfair,” “debasing,” “degenerate,” “kills innocent people”), but vetoed the bill. He went against the public. He taught, he laid out arguments, he led. He deserves credit for that, even if you don’t think he led in the correct direction.


This is what bishops have a right to expect Catholic political leaders to do in opposition to abortion. Politicians cannot say that they are merely against abortion “personally,” they have an obligation to make in public the arguments that convince them personally. They must lead the people toward the eventual extinction of this dreadful and disgusting practice. Perhaps the time is not now ripe for success in this venture, but that time is certainly coming. If Catholic legislators cannot convince a majority, perhaps they can at least advance the debate a notch or two.


(5) But why do the bishops seem to differ among themselves? America is a large country, and a rural diocese in Nebraska may differ greatly from those in the New York metropolitan area. The demographics of Seattle are quite different from those of Albuquerque. So individual bishops will have to use prudence in deciding how best to teach, and give good example, and prevent scandal, in their own particular dioceses. This may allow for considerable variation in the public discipline exercised in American dioceses. Variation is normal, and as it should be. For all, however, the aim is full communion with the Church, and for each the test is: By your fruits, you will be known.


(6) Why is this question arising only now? Since about a decade after Roe v. Wade, when the Democratic party began centering its own rules of “full communion” more and more on full support for abortion, a great many Catholic bishops have been asleep on the watch. The moral tide was rising up their legs, and they did not block it, or try to redirect it, or even raise insistent warnings about its dangerous challenge to the Church. They allowed many Catholic political leaders (of both parties) to drift into accommodation with evil.


Necessity of Leadership

Of course, intelligent political leaders should have known on their own what was happening around them. They shouldn’t need bishops to tell them what was blowing in the wind. Their own faith — their own mental dissonance — should have awakened them. But self-deception is always more comfortable in the beginning than facing a hard choice. The bishops allowed them to drift undisturbed, so they did.


As a matter of principle, it would be far better if lay Catholics had the discipline to police themselves by mutual argument, by joshing each other, by barbed riposte, without needing bishops to awaken them to their own responsibilities. In a much better world than this, bishops would have little or no prodding to do, and people would be on their own toes all the time all by themselves. In that kind of world, we wouldn’t need checks and balances in government, exams in school, cops, or even soldiers. The world, alas, has never seemed to work that way. At times, we all seem to need a nudge from outside.


It is true that some Catholic Republicans in the Congress are complicit with abortion, but most are pro-life, whereas most Catholic Democrats in the Congress at this time vote pro-abortion. The current difficulty for the Catholic Church is not partisan, but it must be said that most of the rub is coming on one side. The Democratic party need not have brought this crisis upon one of its largest and most faithful constituencies. By being pushovers the bishops have for 30 years allowed them to do so.


That time has now passed. The bishops, it appears, are going to be bishops.


— Michael Novak is the winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize for progress in religion and the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Novak’s own website is




Furor Grows Over Austria Church Porn Case (Washington Times, 040714)


VIENNA, Austria (AP) — Pressure mounted Wednesday for the resignation of an embattled Roman Catholic bishop over the discovery at a seminary of a huge cache of child pornography and photos of candidates for the priesthood engaging in gay sex.


Only if Bishop Kurt Krenn steps down “will an extensive investigation be possible” into the discovery of up to 40,000 photos and many videos, said Helmut Schueller, the Archdiocese of Vienna’s ombudsman for victims of sexual abuse.


Schueller called on the Vatican to force out Krenn, 68, who oversees the diocese in St. Poelten, 50 miles west of Vienna where the seminary is located.


Krenn has been widely criticized for dismissing photos of seminarians kissing and fondling each other as a “schoolboy prank.” Officials say other photos show the students allegedly engaging in sex games with older religious instructors.


In a late-night interview Tuesday on Austrian state television, the bishop said he accepts overall responsibility for what happened at the seminary but insisted the furor was overblown.


“Although these things naturally fall into my competence, I had nothing to do with them,” he said, calling the affair “an exaggeration.”


The porn discovery, which was disclosed earlier this week, has scandalized many in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation. Church leaders are still trying to heal divisions caused by allegations that the late Cardinal Hermann Groer molested students at an all-male boarding school in the 1970s.


A defiant Krenn said published photos showing seminary students French-kissing each other were taken at the end of a Christmas celebration and were merely traditional “Christmas kisses.”


“It had absolutely nothing at all to do with homosexuality,” he said in the nationally televised interview, adding that those involved would not be punished.


Schueller rejected that notion Wednesday, telling Austrian radio “it is completely clear that the photos concerned homoerotic encounters” between older priests and young seminarians.


The seminary’s director, the Rev. Ulrich Kuechl, has resigned along with his deputy, Wolfgang Rothe.


Krenn, however, has refused to step down despite repeated calls for his resignation and for a criminal investigation to determine whether older seminary leaders used their positions of authority to get sexual favors from their young charges.


Many of the candid photos were taken by an unidentified 33-year-old Polish-born priest who used a digital camera, authorities in the province of Lower Austria said Wednesday. Officials have said most of the images involving children were downloaded from a Web site in Poland.


Krenn, whose close ties to the Vatican led to a visit by Pope John Paul II to his diocese in 1998, was criticized at the time for defending Groer and insisting the cardinal was innocent of the pedophilia charges.


The Austrian magazine News quoted Krenn on Wednesday as saying the Austrian Bishops Conference, which has pledged to push for a quick and thorough internal investigation, was overstepping its authority.


“This is a diocesan affair ... it doesn’t concern them in the least,” Krenn said.




Holy Democrats! The Catholic presidential questionnaire is dead — thank God (National Review Online, 040915)


The Presidential Questionnaire from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is dead. But do not mourn. Its death is a good thing, and is important not just for Catholics but for all who were concerned that candidate Kerry was about to get official Church cover for his pro-abortion position.


The questionnaire is presented every four years by the USCCB to the major party candidates. It is supposed to help Catholic voters determine which candidate best reflects the teachings of the Church. What has happened is that, through it, some candidates have been able to show that even though they support abortion they still merit the votes of faithful Catholics because they happen to be good — that is to say liberal — on gun control, the environment, immigration, and the minimum wage.


The problems with the questionnaire are many. First, the document is almost guaranteed to confuse the typical pew sitter as to the teachings of the Catholic Church.


One question asks whether the candidate supports or opposes child-safety locks on handguns. Well, what is the Catholic position on that? Is it the Catholic position that you want to ensure that kids do not accidentally blow away their playmates? Or it is the Catholic position that the householder should have quick access to draw down on an intruder that is threatening said youngster?


Another question asks whether the candidate supports or opposes increasing the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.00 per hour. Certainly, the Church supports workers being paid justly for their work. But why does that translate into this increase in the minimum wage to $7.00. Why not $6.99?


Another question asks if the candidates support cutting government subsidies to “corporate farms” and redirecting the money to low-income “new farmers and ranchers.” Does the Church really teach a preference for new farmers and ranchers and not old farmers and ranchers? Does the Church teach a preference for small farms over big farms? How small? How big?


Of course, we know the “correct” answers to these questions, at least according the politically liberal laymen at the USCCB. Yes to gun control, yes to a higher minimum wage, yes to government subsidies for small farms. But, really, who cares?


Before I proceed, I want to make something crystal clear. I am not criticizing the bishops. The bishops did not create this questionnaire. The bishops did not edit it. It is likely that hardly any bishops even saw it before or after the fact. Why the bishops have allowed this to happen is an open question. But the fact remains that a cabal of mostly left-wing laymen — who staff the government-relations office of the USCCB — created it.


But Catholics are free to disagree with the USCCB staff on each of these issues. Catholics may licitly favor even a lower minimum wage than the current $5.15. Catholics may support an ever-widening availability of handguns. And Catholics may heartily support federal funds going only to “corporate farms.” To suggest otherwise, as the questionnaire does, is to confuse the ordinary Catholic about official teachings of the Church. But that seems to be part of the project, somehow to equate these judgment calls with things that Catholics have to believe.


There is a difference between teachings that a Catholic must believe, called doctrinal, and those issues which are up for debate, called prudential. It is doctrinal that Catholics must serve the poor. But it is prudential and therefore debatable which policies serve them best. Tax cuts or raising the minimum wage? Catholics are free to decide. But tax cuts are not part of this questionnaire. What is reflected in this questionnaire are policy choices favored mostly by Democrats.


The lay staff says that these questions reflect the legislative priorities of the bishops and that these grow out of Catholic teaching. But if a few good conservatives ever got hired by the USCCB, these questions would be different — yet still reflect Catholic social teaching.


Besides the confusing nature of these questions vis-à-vis official Church teaching, there is also the question of how the questionnaire would be used. Not long ago, Democratic Senator Richard Durbin prepared a legislative scorecard drawn up using these same legislative priorities of the USCCB lobbyists. The list included all and sundry Democratic proposals and Durbin discovered — voila! — that John Kerry was the best Catholic in the Senate. John Kerry is openly hostile to doctrinal teachings of the Church regarding the sanctity of life. He supports abortion on demand, partial-birth abortion, destructive embryonic-stem-cell research, and human cloning. One can practically hear the Lefties at the USCCB say “even so, we must find a way to work with this otherwise good man.”


The fact is that it seems the USCCB liberals do their darnedest to undermine the life issues. They do this by consistently lumping them in with issues that are frankly not that important. Child-safety locks on hand guns? Please. Next to abortion, the comparison is laughable.


The good news is that something is going on. The dreadful questionnaire has been pulled. In the past few years more and more of the bishops have begun speaking out against the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. The bishops as a body overwhelmingly voted in June that pro-abortion politicians must not present themselves for communion.


Cracks are appearing in the Soviet-like façade of the lay bureaucracy at the bishops’ conference. Some bishops are getting uppity. Like peasants revolting against their masters, a growing number of mostly young, energetic, and orthodox bishops have begun to scale the walls.


And the Kerry candidacy has given them an unexpected toehold. The Kerry candidacy is a gift from God to the Catholic Church. A bad Catholic running for president has brought into high relief the internal contradictions of the USCCB Lefties who support pro-abortion Democrats who happen to be good on gun control.


Faithful Catholics and others may applaud that the presidential questionnaire is dead, at least for this election cycle, and may also hope that its death portends more profound changes at the USCCB, what Henry Hyde once called “the Democratic party at prayer.”


— Austin Ruse is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Culture of Life Foundation.




Irreconcilable Differences (National Review Online, 040916)


Bishops have a duty to show that abortion and Catholicism are incompatible.


Holy Mass, abortion, and John Kerry are all related under the umbrella of “Communion.” For Catholics, it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sundays because God set it up such that, as a minimum requirement, a person must come see Him once a week. Since God made us in His image, natural human relations are a clear guidepost: If all of your happiness were based on developing an intimate relationship with someone else, wouldn’t it make sense that you would need to go and have an intimate exchange with that person at least once a week? Receiving the body and blood of Christ — and standing once again at the foot of the Cross in His hour of need — is the divinely ordained method of intimacy God has put forth for us to grow closer to Him.


For the Catholic believer, the Catholic Church is the propagator of the tools for intimacy with God, and thus for salvation via the sacraments and Church teachings. And when it comes to those teachings, and those who violate them, the reasons a bishop should deny Senator Kerry Holy Eucharist are numerous — and, as with the Sunday obligation, have everything to do with advancing intimate communion with God.


The Church teaches that some actions are so wrong, and that their heinous nature is so evident, that any Catholic committing such acts has willfully chosen to remove himself from communion with Christ and has done great harm to his soul. Abortion, the murder of the most innocent, is one of those actions. Kerry, in directly forwarding abortion legislation, has aided and abetted this kind of murder. The Church deduces that such a person is clearly out of communion, a thing that is so serious that the Church requires the sinner (in this case, Kerry) to take arduous steps to reinstate himself in a relationship with God, via the Church and her sacraments, the m.o. of salvation. These steps exist, in part, to make such grave choices, well, grave. Also, because abetting abortion is so grievous a separation, Holy Communion is off limits until the sinner takes these required steps.


But the Church hardly makes reentry impossible for those who have procured abortions. All they have to do is speak with their pastor, tell him (under the seal of confession, if they like) what they’ve done, and ask for reentry into the Church, in which case a letter is sent (no names need be used if the excommunicated penitent divulged the sin under the seal of confession) to the bishop of the diocese affirming that Mr. X has come back to the Church, is sufficiently contrite, and requests reconciliation into the Church (Code of Canon Law 1357). The bishops almost always comply with the request: mercy first, questions later.


But questions don’t arise unless someone (and here is the catch phrase we’ve been hearing so much about) persists in “manifest grave sin.” The bishop cannot assume that a politician is excommunicated based upon only a few past incidences of pro-abortion votes or support. He does not know the names of the people who have requested reconciliation, because very often it is requested in the secrecy of the confessional. But the bishop has the power to deny Communion, based upon the public record, to someone who persists in active promotion and participation in abortions — in this case, via legislation and rhetoric on the part of the wayward John Kerry — on the obvious grounds that continued action implies a lack of contrition, which implies that the politician has not sought reconciliation or, if he has, has not been sufficiently contrite. Therefore, the politician is evidently still excommunicated. The same obvious and elementary logic was employed by Tom Daschle’s bishop; in order for Daschle to be contrite he would have to stop promoting abortion, letter from the pastor or no. It is true that the bishop is required by canon law to give the errant soul one warning to stop his grave wrongdoings. After that, if nothing is done, the person is denied Communion owing to his own refusal to return to the Church.


The bishop only recognizes the already established reality that the person has excommunicated himself, latae sententiae, or automatically (CCL 1398). The bishop is merely recognizing the truth, not excommunicating the already excommunicated sinner in question. American bishops often use an even gentler tool of canon law: Canon 915, which simply states that anyone who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion because, excommunication or no, grave sin renders one unfit for intimacy with God in the Host prior to repentance. When the bishop denies the sinner Communion he does it to a) protect the Host from sacrilege; b) point out the seriousness of the situation of the sinner’s soul, in the form of a rebuke, to wake the sinner from his self-destructive pattern of isolation from the flock; c) hopefully stop him from continuing his pattern of destruction of the innocent unborn; and d) propagate the truth of all this to the faithful, thereby teaching everyone the true nature of communion with Christ and His Church.


This concern for the wider audience of the Kerry-vs.-Church drama is the reason it is unfair for liberals to attack the bishops for speaking up in an election year. It is, after all, in an election year that the candidates push their values on the public; if they are in error, as Kerry and other pro-abortion politicians are, then a bishop must push back. If Kerry wants to support abortion and confuse — or now that he’s been warned, deceive — Catholics and all Americans into thinking one can be a Catholic in communion with the Church and God while still waving the pro-choice flag, then he ought to be publicly admonished. What more efficacious way to show Senator Kerry and the rest of us the true nature of the situation, and protect Christ in the Eucharist, than by denying Kerry Communion?


When people argue for Kerry’s bishop to deny him Communion, it’s not ill will at work. They want him to bring Kerry back into communion with the Church: to help him rejoin the flock, for his own good — but also to stop him from confusing the rest of us into thinking that promotion of abortion and communion with God are reconcilable differences.


— Matthew Mehan is a writer, scribbling in Maryland and living in Virginia.




Faith and politics (Washington Times, 041007)


Catholic voters have always voted in record numbers for Catholic presidential candidates. From Alfred E. Smith to John F. Kennedy, Catholics have cast their ballots according to cultural standards determined by their faith.


This year one would think that America’s third Democratic Catholic presidential nominee, John F. Kerry, would be comforted by this voting history. But conflicting statements of faith and politics coupled with President Bush’s conservative agenda have created a major bump in his quest for the White House.


And now the question has to be asked: Can a Catholic still carry the Catholic vote?


Historically, the Catholic voting bloc has been a pivotal swing vote that has determined outcomes in numerous national, state and local elections.


During the 19th century and the early decades of the twentieth, the Democratic Party endorsed the concept of subsidiarity, simultaneously appealing to Northern urban Catholic immigrants and Southern agrarian Protestant nativists. Then in 1928, Catholic Democratic presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith brought out Catholic immigrant voters in record numbers.


Smith carried America’s 12 largest cities by a plurality of 38,000, whereas the 1920 and 1924 Democratic presidential candidates lost those cities by 1.6 million and 1.2 million votes respectively. Most importantly, the inner-city Catholic voters started a new shift in the balance of political power in the United States.


In the 1960 presidential race, the nation’s second Catholic Democratic presidential nominee, John F. Kennedy, was saved by the Catholic urban vote in the rich electoral states of the Northeast and Midwest. In these regions, he carried over 80 percent of the Catholic vote.


Michael Barone reasoned that the Kennedy results “split the nation along religious lines, which is to say cultural lines, not along lines of economic class.” Put another way: Mr. Kennedy’s election was not a victory for liberalism; it was a victory for Catholicism.


In the late 1960s, however, there was a shift in the Catholic vote.


Many practicing Catholic voters felt unwanted in a changing Democratic Party whose leadership frowned upon Catholic values. As a result, these Catholic voters began to embrace politicians who portrayed themselves as antagonistic to cultural liberalism. Tired of being ridiculed by social engineers, they gave their support to candidates who promoted traditional values.


Now, in the 2004 presidential election, Mr. Kerry appears to have an uphill battle to earn the Catholic vote.


As Mr. Bush touts himself as the social conservative with a no-tolerance stance on issues important to Catholics, Mr. Kerry continues to struggle to separate his religious beliefs from his conflicting political voting record on teachings about abortion, funding of abortion, partial-birth abortion, gay rights, domestic partnerships and stem-cell research.


This has not set well with Catholic leaders throughout America, who have expressed their disapproval.


New York’s Alfred E. Smith Dinner, held annually in October, is the nation’s premier Catholic event. In past years, the dinner’s dais has showcased America’s leading politicians, including Mr. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Mr. Bush and Al Gore in 2000.


Though unnoticed by a majority of the American press, the Smith Foundation board of trustees chose not to invite Mr. Kerry as a guest speaker, shattering any illusions Mr. Kerry may have had concerning the attitudes of many of his Catholic confreres.


The message was clear: The senator is not welcome in the circles of practicing Catholics.


This November, the number of Bush Catholics is likely to increase because many Catholics are angered by the specter of one of their own, candidate Kerry. This backlash may doom Mr. Kerry’s candidacy, because unlike non-practicing “cafeteria” Catholics who are congregated in the northeastern and far western states that Mr. Kerry will easily carry, practicing Catholics are a major voting bloc in the key swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri.


According to liberal political pollster Stanley Greenberg, these practicing Catholics are “those most committed to and identified with the church and most likely to bring their Catholic identity into politics.”


Right now, most pollsters agree that these states are moving in Mr. Bush’s direction. Mr. Kerry’s poor social-issues record has lead to Catholics in certain battleground states polling significantly more in favor of Mr. Bush than the general population.


If this polling trend continues, the real story of the 2004 campaign will be that practicing Catholics emerged to defeat a man who was baptized a Catholic, served as an altar boy and claimed he is a “believing and practicing Catholic.”


George J. Marlin, author of “The American Catholic Voter: 200 Years of Political Impact,” is the former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.




The Way of the Catholic: George Weigel reminds that Catholicism is more than a Sunday obligation (National Review Online, 041221)


by Kathryn Jean Lopez


What does it mean to be Catholic? That’s a critical question at a time when Church leaders don’t always have a compelling answer.


To be Catholic, of course, is primarily tied to mysteries that can’t be touched (Thomas notwithstanding). But Catholic roots, smells and bells, and years of tradition and culture are, indeed, tangible, even if the Trinity isn’t (save for a shamrock helper).


George Weigel, in his recently released Letters to a Young Catholic takes a vivid tour of that which is Catholic. As the author puts it, “while Catholicism is a body of beliefs and a way of life, Catholicism is also an optic, a way of seeing things, a distinctive perception of reality.”


In some ways the title of the book is deceiving: At a comfortable size, and well organized, the book — while especially useful for young Catholics whose formative years may have lacked the all-encompassing richness of Catholic culture that Latin-praying/Baltimore Catechism-taught students of yesteryear (many of our parents) were seeped in — is a tour any Catholic or inquirer will enjoy journeying with.


You literally do tour, in words, some of Christianity’s historic sites, both parochial and more traditional — including (speaking of Baltimore) Weigel’s Baltimore childhood in the late 1950s and early ‘60s to St. Peter’s in Rome.


Weigel — whose 2002 the Courage to be Catholic is a must-read modern classic (there is also his mammoth and authoritative papal biography) — accomplishes in Letters to a Young Catholic the important task of reminding readers, or perhaps introducing to some the idea, that Catholicism is a way of life, and that it changes life with its “distinctive optic.” Weigel puts it this way:


Catholicism is the antidote to nihilism. And by “nihilism,” I mean, not the sour, dark, often violent nihilism of Nietzsche and Sartre, but what my friend, the late Father Ernest Fortin (who borrowed the term from his friend, [Allan] Bloom), used to call ‘debonair nihilism’: the nihilism that enjoys itself on the way to oblivion, convinced that all of this — the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history — is really just a cosmic joke. Against the nihilist claim that nothing is really of consequence, Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence, because everything has been redeemed by Christ.


And if you believe that, it changes the way you see things. It changes the way everything looks.


From providing a relatively casual guide on how to worship (anywhere) to recommending the best restaurants when pilgrimaging (on the Via Appia Antica in Rome, visit the church but “the Quo Vadis Restaurant is a tourist trap”), Weigel shows many facets of the Catholic world.


Weigel reminds Catholics in all walks of life of their obligations to freedom, justice, and beauty. In Letters, Weigel has only a limited amount of space to cover a remarkable amount of ground. But even on the toughest of topics — life and death, and suffering — he manages to quickly hit important notes, quoting Scripture and giving the reader something to work with, plus tying these deep issues into the hottest and most crucial public-policy and morality debates of our day.


George Weigel wants the reader to “see, hear, touch, feel, and taste that, in the Catholic view of things, we meet God through visible, tangible, audible things — including the Church itself and the sacraments the Church makes available to us.” The effect of Weigel’s book is to remind — a young person, or a Catholic who feels a little overwhelmed by current headlines involving the Church, or a non-Catholic considering conversion — that the Catholic Church is much more than the parish I might be attending right now. It’s a Church with a deep and rich history and culture — and, of course, teachings and gifts of faith. And it’s one you can clearly see Weigel loves, even with all of its real (sometimes grave) human flaws and quirks — as so many of us do. Knowing G. K. Chesterton’s favorite pub won’t alone engender such love (though depending on the time of day, it sure might help), for sure, but the sum total of this book is to convey a cross-section of all that is Catholic, helping anyone who reads it become a fuller Catholic — and a decent amateur tour guide. Another book might aid a richer spiritual renewal or pass along more strings of old-time Catholic stories, but this one is one-shop stopping, doing a manageable — and enjoyable — amount of both, which is no small feat or favor. I expect Letters will be a long-time Catholic-culture classic.




Fides et Internetum: Pope John Paul II takes on media, Old and New (Weekly Standard, 050224)


A REMARKABLE LETTER was issued from Pope John Paul last month. The “Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father John Paul II to Those Responsible for Communications,” is titled The Rapid Development. Since my work is communication, I think it was addressed to me, and to every other reporter, editor, blogger, and broadcaster, whether Roman Catholic or not.


It is an amazing document, and I can only urge you to read it in its entirety. But here are a few highlights:


First, the Pope is concise in reviewing the Christian view of history:


“Salvation History recounts and documents the communication of God with man, a communication which uses all forms and ways of communicating. The human being is created in the image and likeness of God in order to embrace divine revelation and to enter into loving dialogue with Him. Because of sin, this capacity for dialogue at both the personal and social level has been altered, and humanity has had to suffer, and will continue to suffer, the bitter experience of incomprehension and separation. God, however, did not abandon the human race, but sent his own Son (Cf. Mk 12:1-11). In the Word made flesh communication itself takes on its most profound saving meaning: thus, in the Holy Spirit, the human being is given the capacity to receive salvation, and to proclaim and give witness to it before the world.”


John Paul then notes that history’s greatest communicator, Jesus, used a variety of techniques:


“The Incarnate Word has left us an example of how to communicate with the Father and with humanity, whether in moments of silence and recollection, or in preaching in every place and in every way. He explains the Scriptures, expresses himself in parables, dialogues within the intimacy of the home, speaks in the squares, along the streets, on the shores of the lake and on the mountaintops. The personal encounter with him does not leave one indifferent, but stimulates imitation: ‘What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops,’ (Mt 10:27).”


The Pope then offers thanks for the emergence of mass communication and new technology:


“We give thanks to God for the presence of these powerful media which, if used by believers with the genius of faith and in docility to the light of the Holy Spirit, can facilitate the communication of the Gospel and render the bonds of communion among ecclesial communities more effective.”


Then comes the warning and the challenge:


“Many people, in fact, believe that humanity must learn to live in a climate governed by an absence of meaning, by the provisional and by the fleeting. In this context, the communications media can be used ‘to proclaim the Gospel or to reduce it to silence within men’s hearts.’ This poses a serious challenge for believers, especially for parents, families and all those responsible for the formation of children and young people. Those individuals in the Church community particularly gifted with talent to work in the media should be encouraged with pastoral prudence and wisdom, so that they may become professionals capable of dialoguing with the vast world of the mass media.”


Why does the Pontiff encourage the faithful with talent to enter media?


“New technologies, in particular, create further opportunities for communication understood as a service to the pastoral government and organization of the different tasks of the Christian community. One clear example today is how the Internet not only provides resources for more information, but habituates persons to interactive communication. Many Christians are already creatively using this instrument, exploring its potential to assist in the tasks of evangelization and education, as well as of internal communication, administration and governance. However, alongside the Internet, other new means of communication, as well as traditional ones, should be used. Daily and weekly newspapers, publications of all types, and Catholic television and radio still remain highly useful means within a complete panorama of Church communications.”


Though John Paul addresses the “Internet,” the Latin word for blogging has not yet been invented.


There is much, much more in the letter, but what is most striking is that this aging and ailing giant of the last century is looking far forward into the next. He closes with a message which, for anyone in the media business, is as old as the Gospel:


“To those working in communication, especially to believers involved in this important field of society, I extend the invitation which, from the beginning of my ministry as Pastor of the Universal Church, I have wished to express to the entire world ‘Do not be afraid!’”


Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently

of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That is Changing Your World. His daily blog can be found at




Heresy case pressed against Kerry, others (WorldNetDaily, 050121)


Catholic lawyer widens scope to Kennedy, Cuomo, Harkin


A Catholic lawyer who pressed heresy charges against Sen. John Kerry for advocating abortion plans to file similar church lawsuits against other prominent politicians, including Sen. Edward Kennedy.


Denunciations for “Heresy, Sacrilege, and Scandal” will be pressed against Kennedy, D-Mass.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Susan Collins R-Maine; and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, says Marc Balestrieri, a canon lawyer and director of the Los Angeles-based non-profit group De Fide.


“Senator Kerry is not the only pro-choice Catholic politician,” Balestrieri told WorldNetDaily. “He’s just one of a number who have diretly and incoherently, as Catholics, publicly professed the right to murder. Not only is it incoherent, it’s heretical.”


Balestrieri filed his case against Kerry with the Archdiocese of Boston last June.


He told WND that although Kerry continues to receive communion, the case is still alive.


Citing a source in the archdiocese, Balestrieri said Archbishop O’Malley has been unable to address the charges against Kerry due to being overwhelmed by abuse cases against the church and the closure of parishes.


Balestrieri plans to reveal more details of his cases against the prominent Catholic politicians in a news conference Monday at the National Press Club in Washington.


As WorldNetDaily reported, a Dominican theologian and consultor to the Vatican wrote a letter to Balestrieri stating his opinion that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights already have excommunicated themselves by their actions – a message that suggests Kerry is no longer a member of the church.


Balestrieri said the Sept. 11 letter from Rev. Basil Cole of the Dominican House of Studies in Northeast Washington provides a basis to declare that any Catholic politician who says he is “personally opposed to abortion, but supports a woman’s right to choose,” incurs automatic excommunication.


Balestrieri describes the letter as “a personal reply confirming the doctrinal merits of the case written by an expert theologian at the request of a Vatican official.”


But Cole downplayed the weight of the letter, telling the Washington Times in October that he had been asked to reply unofficially to Balestrieri because the Vatican never responds officially to requests from laymen.


“It’s a letter about an abstract question,” Cole said. “It’s not from the Vatican at all. It has no authority at all. None. Zip. Zero. It’s not the teaching of the church; it’s me implying what I think are the teachings.”


Balestrieri told WND, however, he believes Cole was under pressure to help ensure the Vatican would not appear to be interfering in the U.S. electoral process.


“Father Cole has never revoked the contents of his reply,” Balestrieri said.


After filing his action against Kerry, Balestrieri traveled to Rome in August to submit documents to the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcement arm, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


Balestrieri claims that under Roman Catholic Church law, support of abortion rights constitutes the “Right-to-Murder Heresy” condemned by Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae of 1995.


The penalty for that offense, he argues, is automatic excommunication from the church.


Balestrieri has said, however, his goal is repentance rather than excommunication.


The Catholic lawyer argues, “For 2,000 years, the Christian Church has everywhere, at all times, without waver, taught the grave immorality of every act of murder of the innocent.”




Christian Unity is of Utmost Importance, says Pope (Christian Post, 050120)


In light of celebrating the nearly 100-tradition of the week of prayer for Christian Unity, Pope John Paul II on Wednesday told pilgrims that unifying the various branches of Christianity should be the goal of every catholic.


“The pain of separation is felt with ever more intensity,” the pontiff said, adding that the world awaited a “clear and unanimous” worship by all believers in Christ — a veiled reference to the strained relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

In recent years, the Roman Catholic Church, which traditionally persecuted all Protestants and Anglicans, has opened its doors to dialogue with various branches of Christianity. Beginning with the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Lutheran World Federation five years ago, the Catholic Church seemed to shift its focus on celebrating what is similar to other denominations rather than condemning them.


Late last year, the bishops of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church agreed to join the largest ecumenical project to launch in the history of the nation, the Christian Churches Together USA (CCT). The 2005 celebration of the Week of prayer for Christian Unity also marked a new era in dialogue for the RCC; according to the World Council of Churches which is co-heading the week, this year marks the first time the WCC and the RCC drafted and published resources for the week of prayer together.


According to the National Council of Churches, one of the groups within the WCC, the jointly-published resources are being used around the world as “prayers and praises are being raised up in observances this week.”


“Each year’s theme and text are prepared by representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and World Council of Churches,” explained the NCC news service.


This year’s resources center on 1 Corinthians 3:1-23: All thins are yours…you belong to Christ and Christ, the unique foundation, belongs to God.” The theme is simply: Christ, the one foundation of the Church.




Mary for Protestants? A New Look at an Old Question (Christian Post, 050318)


Should Mary be venerated by Protestants? That question frames the March 21, 2005 cover story for TIME magazine. David Van Biema has written an expansive and insightful report on contemporary developments among Protestants—developments that may influence some evangelicals.


Van Biema begins by introducing Reverend Brian Maguire, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Xenia, Ohio. Pastor Maguire has decided to combine his church’s Good Friday observance with a Marian Festival, calling this move “a beautiful, poetic opportunity.” As Van Biema notes, this kind of attention to Mary, the mother of Jesus, would have been controversial just a few years ago.


Nevertheless, the situation has changed so much that TIME’s cover carries this explanation: “Catholics have long revered her, but now Protestants are finding their own reasons to celebrate the mother of Jesus.” What’s going on here?


The TIME cover story is part of a larger phenomenon, with many mainline Protestants turning to a reconsideration of Mary and incorporating the veneration of Mary into personal devotions and corporate worship. Some are going so far as to acknowledge Mary as an intercessor, addressing prayers to her as well as to other saints.


The background of this includes the argument put forth by feminists that a male-oriented world of biblical scholarship has ignored the roles played by Mary and other women of the Bible. Going beyond this, some feminist scholars argue that the Bible is itself warped by a “patriarchal” bias that sublimates and hides the role of women. Added to all this is the doctrinal evacuation of many mainline Protestant denominations and the influence of New Age forms of spirituality, often packaged as a “do-it-yourself” mix of whatever elements appear to be most interesting.


In the world of biblical scholarship, much of the attention to Mary can be traced to Beverly Gaventa, Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis at Princeton Theological Seminary. In Mary: Glimpses of the Mother of Jesus, Gaventa argues that Protestants have missed much of the biblical teaching concerning Mary. In other writings, she has pressed her case, proposing a recovery of Mary as a major figure in the history of the church. Furthermore, Gaventa has pressed on to argue that Protestants should join with Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians in addressing Mary as “Mother of all Believers.” Looking especially at texts in the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, Gaventa argues that Mary is so central to the gospel story that, other than Christ, “there isn’t a figure comparable to her.” Specifically, Gaventa points to several aspects of Mary’s role as revealed in the Gospels, including, “Mary’s consent to God’s intervention in her life, her exultation in God’s redemption, her pondering the meaning of Jesus, and certainly her persevering presence with other believers.” As she concludes, “By identifying Mary as our Mother, we do not so much elevate Mary as recognize in her story the fundamental Lukan claim that nothing will be impossible with God, not even our consent to God’s will.”


Of course, referring to Mary as “Mother of all Believers” is characteristic of Roman Catholic piety and devotion. The New Testament clearly presents Mary as the human mother of Jesus, and affirms her role as the submissive, obedient, and trusting virgin in whom the Christ was conceived. Without doubt, Mary is presented in the biblical text as a model of faithfulness and devotion. Furthermore, her song of praise to God, commonly known as “The Magnificat” [Luke 1:46-55], offers a masterful tapestry of prophecy mixed with some of the most elevated theological themes found anywhere in Scripture.


Nevertheless, to refer to Mary as “Mother of all Believers” is to go beyond the biblical text and to assign to the mother of Jesus a role that is, to say the least, not explicitly found in Scripture.


Though forms of Marian devotion can be traced to the earliest periods of church history, an expansion of Mary’s role became seemingly inevitable when she was declared to be “Mother of God” at the Council of Ephesus in 431. In naming Mary as “Mother of God,” the church was primarily concerned with the identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God—not with Mary as his mother. Nevertheless, when a theologian named Nestorius declared Mary to be the “Bearer of Christ” rather than “Bearer of God,” the church faced a Christological crisis.


In Catholic devotion, and in official church teaching, Mary would later be declared to have been free from original sin by the miracle of “immaculate conception” [1854] and to have been assumed into heaven without experiencing bodily corruption [1950]. Beyond official Catholic teaching, Marian devotion has become a staple of Catholic piety around the world. Most Catholics pray to Mary, asking for her intercession before Christ. The famous “Hail, Mary” prayer of Catholic devotion is based first in Luke 1:28, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” The second part of that prayer, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” claims for Mary a role that is neither revealed in Scripture nor compatible with the unique role of Christ as Mediator.


Surprisingly enough, some Protestants now argue that believers should pray to Mary, and should request her intercession.


Robert W. Jenson, a theologian affiliated with the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton, New Jersey, argues that Protestants should feel free to pray to Mary and other saints. In his words, “There seems to be no reason why I cannot ask also a departed believer to pray for me. And if I can do it, there will certainly be contexts where I should do it.” Jenson, a Lutheran, is fully aware that his proposal contradicts historic Lutheran teaching. As he told TIME, the pastor of his Lutheran youth would have been dismayed by this argument. “My pastor would have been horrified,” he reported. “The pastor was my father.”


In the final analysis, Jenson does not provide much of a theological argument in defense of his claim that believers should pray to Mary. In Mary, Mother of God, edited by Jenson along with Carl E. Braaten, several theologians offer reconsiderations of Mary’s role in both theology and piety.


Inevitably, the background to all this is the Marian saturation of Roman Catholic devotion. Martin Luther, whose love and appreciation for Mary are well documented throughout his sermons and writings, eventually ceased to address prayers to Mary, believing that the practice was neither sustained by Scripture nor profitable for believers. As he advised fellow evangelical pastors at Erfurt in Germany: “I beseech in Christ that your preachers forbear entering upon questions concerning the saints in heaven and the deceased, and I ask you to turn the attention of people away from those matters in view of the fact . . . that they are neither profitable nor necessary for salvation. There is also the reason why God decided not to let us know anything about His dealings with the deceased. Surely he is not committing sin who does not call upon any saint but only clings firmly to the one Mediator, Jesus Christ. In fact, such a person is on safe and sure ground. Why do you want to turn away from the safe and sure and bother with that which is neither necessary nor commended?”


Baptist theologian Timothy F. George of Beeson Divinity School suggests that evangelicals should take care, lest they neglect the Bible’s positive statements concerning Mary. At the same time, when it comes to asking for the prayers of Mary and other saints, George concludes that “there’s no biblical warrant for us incorporating this into piety.”


George argues, “It is regrettable that many evangelicals do not distinguish between official Catholic teaching about Mary and the popular beliefs and practices of Marian devotion.” If this is so, much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Pope John Paul II, whose demonstrations of Marian devotion include references to her as “Mediatrix,” “Co-Redemptrix,” and “Mother of all Graces.”


When interviewed by TIME, I responded that the new theological constructions proposed by some Protestants concerning Mary are evidence of “overreaching,” “wishful thinking,” and risk “flirting with Catholic devotion.”


David Van Biema’s report including coverage of persons such as Mary Burks-Price, manager of Pastoral-Care Education at a Louisville hospital, who told of discovering a role for Mary as she pondered a statue of Mary which stood next to a barn. “Her hands were outstretched, and her face was looking down on me with this great compassion,” she reported. “I realized that she knew what it was like to see her son die on the Cross, to bear that sorrow and grief. I felt like she was giving me a window into the compassion God had for me in my own experience.” TIME further reported that Burks-Price fills her office with images of Mary, including porcelain statuettes, prayer cards, and icons. Beyond this, she prays the Rosary with Catholic patients and reports that sometimes, “I know [the prayer] better than they do.”


In this case, Burks-Price is not merely flirting with Catholic devotion, but accepting it whole scale. She may claim to remain a Baptist by affiliation, but she has accepted theological assumptions and spiritual practices that are fundamentally at odds with both the Bible and Baptist tradition.


Those who argue that Mary offers us a more compassionate understanding of God than is revealed in Jesus Christ alone insult both the person and work of Christ and accept the worst excesses of Catholic piety.


As I told TIME: “Insofar as Evangelicals may have marginalized Mary’s presentation in the Bible, it needs to be recovered. But the closer I look at the New Testament, the more convinced I am that it does not single her out for the kind of attention that is being proposed. We have not missed the point about her. To construct a new role for her is simply overreaching.” Van Biema explained that “Mohler’s judgment may sound blunt, but his questions are legitimate Protestant ones. The point at which Marian respect turns into Marian veneration is more easily parsed by theoreticians than by believers trying to work out its practice.”


The TIME cover story is a prime example of a serious theological issue treated with respect and fairness. In the final analysis, evangelical Christians should gladly affirm every truth about Mary revealed in the Scripture, gladly receiving her as a model of piety, devotion, and faithfulness. Nevertheless, Mary is not presented as sinless, and her faith at times is clearly tested by the circumstances of Jesus’ life and the content of his teaching. Yet, it is Mary who was the obedient young virgin in whom Jesus Christ was conceived, and it is she who was the faithful mother who stood at the foot of the cross until the end. But, affirming all that the Scripture reveals about Mary, we must take care to go not even one step further.


In the end, perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from Mary is found in the instructions she gave to the disciples of Jesus at the wedding of Cana in Galilee, at which Jesus performed His first miracle: “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Take it from Mary.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




John Paul II—The Man and His Legacy (Christian Post, 050404)


The death of Pope John Paul II brings one of the Roman Catholic Church’s longest papal reigns to an end and closes the last chapter on one of the most significant lives of our times. By any measure, John Paul II was one of the most influential figures on the world scene, leading over a billion Roman Catholics worldwide and exercising a significant influence on world affairs during some of the most tumultuous decades of the 20th century.


Inevitably, his death raises fundamental questions about how evangelical Christians should understand the papacy itself, as well as those who hold the papal office. Given the low level of theological knowledge and the high emotionalism of the era, many evangelicals appear confused when confronted with an event like the death of a pope. Furthermore, evangelicals are more likely to have been aware of this pope in contrast with those who held the office in the past. In this age of mass communications and media, John Paul II has been one of the most publicized, televised, and celebrated public figures of our age.


For evangelicals, the crucial question comes with the institution of the papacy itself. After all, the Reformation of the 16th century required a rejection of papal power and authority, and the Reformers soon came to understand the papacy as an unbiblical office that inevitably compromised the authority and sufficiency of scripture. Over time, the heirs of the Reformers came to understand that the papacy is a fundamentally unbiblical office that posits an earthly monarch as the earthly head of the church. Furthermore, this office is then invested with claims to spiritual and temporal power that are combined with claims of apostolic succession and serve as foundational pillars for the comprehensive claims of the Roman Catholic Church.


The Protestant rejection of the papacy was no small matter, though some liberal Protestants and careless evangelicals seem to have forgotten why. Beyond this, the papacy is inextricably linked to the structure of Catholic theology and the superstructure of truth claims, practices, and doctrines that constitute Catholicism. Evangelical Christians simply cannot accept the legitimacy of the papacy and must resist and reject claims of papal authority. To do otherwise would be to compromise biblical truth and reverse the Reformation. With the death of John Paul II, evangelicals are confronted with a sensitive question: Can we recognize genuine virtues in a man who for over a quarter of a century held an office we must expressly reject?


We should be unembarrassed and unhesitant to declare our admiration for John Paul II’s courageous stand against Communism, his bold defense of human dignity and human life, and his robust and substantial defense of truth in the face of postmodernism. In many of the great battles of our day, evangelicals found John Paul II to be a key ally. This was especially true with the crucial issues of abortion and euthanasia. With bold strokes and a clear voice, this pope defended human life from the moment of conception until natural death. In his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (1995), he argued for an implacable opposition to what he called the “culture of death”—an age that would increasingly embrace death rather than life and forfeit human dignity on the altar of human autonomy and individual rights.


In Veritatis Splendor (1993), John Paul argued that the modern concept of freedom as unrestrained human liberty would lead to the destruction of Christian ethics and the undermining of all authority. In this powerful statement, the pope defended the very nature of truth against postmodern denials and a culture increasingly attracted to moral relativism.


The legacy of this pope cannot be separated from the facts of his life. Born May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, just south of Krakow in Poland, Karol Wojtyla would come to adulthood in the context of Communist oppression. Throughout his life, he would identify himself as a Pole and a Slav, and the twists and turns of his biography would become a focus of world attention.


Trained as an actor, Karol Wojtyla would later decide to enter the priesthood, following a calling that brought great respect in his native Poland. With remarkable speed, Father Wojtyla moved into the hierarchy of the church. He was consecrated a bishop in 1958—just 12 years after entering the priesthood. In 1964, he was installed as Archbishop of Krakow, and just three years later he was created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI.


Long before he became a cardinal of the church, Karol Wojtyla had attracted the attention of the Vatican. He had studied in Rome and had developed a reputation in the academic circles of the church. Theologically, he was seen as a progressive, and he took an active part in the Second Vatican Council, called into session by Pope John XXIII.


When Pope Paul VI died at Castel Gandolfo on August 6, 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla was already discussed as a potential successor. Nevertheless, when the College of Cardinals elected Albino Luciani on August 25, 1978, it looked as if Cardinal Wojtyla had lost his chance to become pope.


All this changed on September 28, 1978, when Cardinal Luciani—now Pope John Paul I—died in his sleep during the night, barely a month after his election as pope.


The election of Karol Wojtyla as pope came on October 16, 1978, and he immediately announced that he would take the name “John Paul II” as a way of honoring his immediate predecessor. Nevertheless, it was clear that this new pope would take the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church firmly in hand.


In his early years, this Polish pope was known by millions of persons around the globe, primarily as a man who opposed Communist tyranny with personal courage and the weight of his papal office. John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope since 1522, and the historical importance of his election became clear as he used the full influence of his papal office to encourage the Solidarity movement in his native Poland.


Along with President Ronald W. Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II saw Communism as an assault upon human dignity and the human spirit. Like Ronald Reagan, John Paul II grew in international stature after surviving an assassination attempt. In the case of John Paul II, the 1981 assassination attempt that nearly took his life was organized by the Bulgarian secret police, presumably under orders from the KGB in the Soviet Union.


Evangelical Christians should honor the courage of this man and his historic role in bringing Communist tyranny to an end—at least within the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe. Added to this, we should honor his defense of human dignity and his eloquent and influential witness against abortion and the Culture of Death.


Even so, we must also recognize that John Paul II also represented the most troubling aspects of Roman Catholicism. He defended and continued the theological directions set loose at the Second Vatican Council. Even as he consolidated authority in the Vatican and disciplined wayward priests and theologians, he never confronted the most pressing issues of evangelical concern.


Even in his most recent book, released in the United States just days before his death, John Paul II continued to define the work of Christ as that which is added to human effort. Like the church he served, John Paul II rejected justification by faith. Beyond this, he rejected the biblical doctrine of hell, embraced inclusivism, and promoted an extreme form of Marian devotion, referring to Mary as “Co-Redemptrix,” “Mediatrix,” and “Mother of all Graces.”


In the end, evangelicals should be thankful for the personal virtues Pope John Paul II demonstrated, and for his advocacy on behalf of life, liberty, and human dignity. Yet we cannot ignore the institution of the papacy itself, nor the complex of doctrines, truth claims, and false doctrines that John Paul II taught, defended, and promulgated. As Roman Catholics mourn the passing of the pope, we should take care to respond with both compassion and conviction, fulfilling our own responsibility to take the measure of this man and his legacy.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Witness to a Man of Hope & Inspiration: The life and legacy of Pope John Paul II (National Review Online, 050404)


Q&A by Kathryn Jean Lopez


Pope John Paul II died Saturday night, Rome time, at age 84. Official papal biographer George Weigel (author of Witness to Hope) spoke to NRO’s editor Kathryn Lopez about the man and his papacy and his place in history.


National Review Online: What’s Pope John Paul’s greatest legacy?


George Weigel: He was the great Christian witness of the last quarter of the 20th century, the man who took the Christian proposal to more of the world than anyone else. His pivotal role in the collapse of European Communism will be remembered by many; I hope they remember that he helped bring down the Wall as a pastor and teacher, not as a politician.


NRO: We know he’s played a big role in the history of the world, how about more parochially — in Catholic history?


Weigel: This was the most intellectually consequential pontificate since the Council of Trent. The Church will be digesting the teaching of John Paul II for at least a century, and possibly longer. In addition to that, and at a more personal level, John Paul inspired literally tens of millions of Catholics to live lives of radical Christian conviction. That will extend his influence far into the future.


NRO: Had Karol Wojtyla never become pope, would he have played a significant role in history regardless?


Weigel: In some respects. He would certainly have been remembered in Poland as a major figure in that country’s 20th- century history. And eventually, aspects of his thought — like his revolutionary “theology of the body” — would have gotten out to the West and would have begun to have an influence.


NRO: If there was one of his writings you’d think he’d recommend we all read (or reread; Catholics and non-Catholics alike), what do you think it would be and why?


Weigel: I think Crossing the Threshold of Hope” is a remarkable window into John Paul II’s mind and heart; it bears reading and rereading, by everyone.


NRO: What has Pope John Paul II taught us about suffering and death, through his example?


Weigel: He reminded Christians by his example that the Christian way is always the Way of the Cross. He reminded everyone that there is no such thing as a disposable human being.


NRO: Do you have a favorite PJPII story you’ll be remembering him by?


Weigel: I suppose I’ll remember for a long time the night I gave him Witness to Hope. At the end of dinner, as he was saying good-bye, he gave me a huge embrace and held me, without saying a word, for what seemed like a couple of minutes. I’ll also remember him greeting 150 of my students from the summer program in Cracow at which I teach alongside Father Richard Neuhaus and Michael Novak. We’d expected a five-minute minute meeting; the Pope insisted on meeting every student individually, for almost an hour. It was typical of the man.


— George Weigel, senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, is the author of Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II and, most recently, Letters to a Young Catholic.




John Paul II, 1920-2005 (Weekly Standard, 050404)


The first modern pope was a radical thinker who tried to anchor modernity in truth, liberty, and respect for human dignity.


WHAT A MAN! What a life! As a man, John Paul II demonstrated a remarkable combination of deep piety and intellectual curiosity, of moral courage and human kindness. But what made John Paul II an extraordinary historical figure—one of the giants of the last half of the 20th century—was his central role in three distinct realms: in politics, religion, and ideas; in the life of the world, the life of his Church, and the life of the mind. To be a major figure in any of these is rare. To be central in all three areas is unique. No political leader did more than John Paul II to bring an end to the Cold War. No religious figure had more impact in the 20th century than John Paul II had on the Roman Catholic Church. And few thinkers confronted the philosophical crisis of modern humanism more directly than Wojtyla.


On October 16, 1978, Karol Wojtyla became, at age 58, the 264th bishop of Rome, the first non-Italian pontiff in 455 years. In June 1979, he returned to Poland for the first time as pope. In his magisterial biography, Witness to Hope, George Weigel convincingly argues that this marked a decisive moment, the beginning of the end of Communist rule in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The pope helped bring down the evil empire not because of some grand strategic insight (though he was certainly capable of canny political strategy), but because he launched an authentic and deep challenge to the lies that made Communist rule possible.


Weigel reports the reaction of one 25-year-old Polish physics student, for whom the pope’s visit seemed to make the whole “artificial world” of the Communists collapse: “We might have to live and die under communism. But now what I want to do is to live without being a liar.” Even the liberal intellectual Adam Michnik was struck by the pope’s ability, in June 1979, to appeal to the consciences of both believers and non-believers. The creation of Solidarity followed a year and a half later, and the Polish regime never recovered. After just a decade more, the Iron Curtain collapsed. Since Karol Wojtyla became John Paul II, no one has repeated Stalin’s mocking question about how many divisions the pope has.


Weigel makes the case that John Paul II’s political impact came about precisely because he did not primarily seek to be political, or to think or speak politically. He merely insisted on calling “good and evil by name.” Western liberalism, with its technological might and its ability to spread a kind of skepticism that helps undermine totalitarianism, played an important part in winning the Cold War. But the liberal assault on communism could not have succeeded without the accompanying Christian assault. The insistence on the truth was needed to strengthen and deepen the natural desire for liberty. The categories of good and evil were needed to ground the contrast between freedom and oppression. The message “Be not afraid!” with which he began his papal ministry was the message he transmitted to his countrymen and millions of others throughout the world.


Faith was, of course, at the center of John Paul II’s being, and the revitalization of Christian faith was at the heart of his efforts, first as a priest, then bishop, then pope. In this respect, too, John Paul II’s papacy was surely the most consequential in centuries. John Paul II was bold in his efforts to reshape the Church as a more effective teacher and evangelizer. He was a radical who sought change based on a return to the Church’s roots. He did this by seeking above all to secure and build on the legacy of Vatican II, the council at which the Catholic Church, came to grips with modernity.


As a bishop, Karol Wojtyla played a major part in that council, and as pope, John Paul II continued to view Vatican II as fundamental. Throughout his pontificate, the pope sternly rejected “progressive” attempts to use Vatican II to water down the Church’s distinctive teachings. But at the same time he vehemently rejected “reactionary” attempts to undo Vatican II and return the Church to its nineteenth-century disdain for modernity.


The result is a man whose vision and actions confounded journalistic attempts to label him liberal or conservative. An early American magazine story, relating John Paul II’s extensive, televised travels and the huge crowds gathering in locations around the world for his visits, dubbed him the first “postmodern pope.” But he was in fact the first modern pope, and he stands as an astonishing figure: a radical thinker who used the throne of one of the oldest institutions on earth to try to anchor modernity in truth, liberty, and respect for human dignity.


A particularly striking example is John Paul II’s teaching on men and women, sex and marriage. Wojtyla’s first book was on the ethics of married life, and it celebrated human sexuality as a gift of God for the sanctification of husband and wife. Decades later, John Paul proposed what Weigel calls “one of the boldest reconfigurations of Catholic theology in centuries,” as he addressed the challenges of the sexual revolution and feminism. He argued that the distinct roles of men and women are consistent with their equal dignity, and that marriage, with “the self-giving love of sexual communion,” can be the experience “that begins to make God comprehensible to human beings.” The pope’s argument cuts through the stale debate between liberationists and traditionalists, and makes a distinctive contribution not merely to Catholic thought, but to thought simply.


And that is a sign of the third aspect of John Paul II’s achievement: his intellectual significance. Early on, Wojtyla came to the view that the crisis of the modern world was first of all a crisis of ideas. Never believing it was enough simply to lament a falling away of faith or to assume that the formulations of the past were unproblematically adequate, Wojtyla sought from the beginning to discover a metaphysical foundation for modern humanism and democracy. His early philosophical work, Person and Act, was an attempt to put an Aristotelian-Thomistic “philosophy of being” together with a “psychology of consciousness” derived from such thinkers as Max Scheler—to figure out the relation between the objective truth of things and the subjective and personal experience of that truth.


Wojtyla’s effort to tie together freedom and truth, and indeed to argue the identity of the true and the good, is a deep and difficult project. It was intended to be, as Weigel says, “accessible to everyone no matter what his or her religious disposition.” One has to stop for a moment to recognize just how significant this is. A major player on the world stage and the administrative leader of the world’s largest organized religion set himself the profound philosophical task of defending, for believers and non-believers alike, the intelligibility of the world against the radical skepticism and moral relativism of the age.


In the end, however, one returns to what was most simple and most evident about John Paul II: his courage—physical, moral, and intellectual. Aristotle claims that courage is the first of the virtues, because it makes possible all the others. John Paul II demanded that we “learn not to be afraid,” that we “rediscover a spirit of hope and a spirit of trust.” He grounded that hope and trust on his faith that man “is not alone” but lives with the abiding presence of God. His life invites us to admire human excellence—and to reflect on the question of whether or not such excellence depends on a conviction, like John Paul II’s, that man is not, in some fundamental sense, alone.


William Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard. This piece is adapted from the essay, “The Man of our Age,” a review of George Weigel’s Witness to Hope , from the October 18, 1999 issue.




John Paul II: Winning the Cold War (, 050404)


Lee Edwards


It’s been less than a year since Ronald Reagan “slipped the surly bonds of earth  to touch the face of God,” and now John Paul II has joined him. Only Margaret Thatcher remains of the remarkable triumvirate that led the West to victory in the Cold War.


President Reagan and the pope shared strong convictions about communism. As the pontiff’s official biographer, George Weigel, points out, both believed communism was a moral evil, not simply bad economics. Both remained confident that free peoples could overcome the communist challenge — that victory over communism was possible.


Throughout his long life, whether as a young layman, a priest, or a bishop, whether as Karol Wojtyla or John Paul II, the pope spoke firmly for freedom and against tyranny, taking as his text Christ’s words, “Be not afraid.”


In the late 1940s and early 1950s — when actor Ronald Reagan was fighting the communists in Hollywood — Fr. Wojtyla persistently rebutted efforts by Poland’s Stalinist rulers to reinvent the country’s history and culture. He visited student dormitories preaching the existence of God and the spiritual character of the human person.


In the 1960s — when Gov. Reagan was putting down radical-inspired violence on California’s campuses — Bishop Wojtyla reminded Poles that in their thousand-year history they often had “to break through to freedom from the underground.”


In the 1970s — when presidential candidate Reagan persisted in calling the Soviet Union “evil” and an empire — Cardinal Wojtyla reached out to Polish dissident intellectuals as part of his effort to forge, in the words of George Weigel, “a chain of cultural resistance” to the communist regime. In April 1974, he traveled to Czechoslovakia, where, surrounded by Czech secret police, he attended the funeral of Cardinal Stepn Trochta, who had spent 10 years in communist prisons.


Wherever he went and wherever he was, the Polish cardinal fearlessly challenged what Vaclav Havel called “a culture of lies.” He effectively articulated a Christian alternative to the false humanism of communism.


In June 1979, Pope John Paul II made his first pilgrimage to Poland, a nine-day-visit that produced an awe-inspiring spiritual awakening in Poland and the birth of the Solidarity trade union. Tens of millions of Poles realized that “we are the society and the country is ours.” The pope’s historic pilgrimage set in motion “a revolution of the spirit” that resulted — a mere decade later — in the collapse of communism in eastern and central Europe.


Not even an attempted murder by a professional assassin in May 1981 could stop John Paul II and his campaign for freedom. In 1987, when President Reagan called on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall — the pope spoke for the first time of a Europe united “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” reflecting his conviction that communism was finished.


When many commentators fumbled for an explanation of why communism had fallen so suddenly and unexpectedly, the pope offered this reason in January 1990 at his annual meeting with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See: “The irresistible thirst for freedom ... brought down walls and opened doors.” It was a freedom made possible, he said, because “women, young people and men have overcome their fear.”


The extraordinary leader who helped them conquer their fear, who served as an eloquent witness to hope, and who helped topple the empire of lies was John Paul II.




The Polish pope’s role in the fall of communism (, 050404)


Jack Kemp


Scholars and historians will debate for years to come the precise causes and historical forces that produced the sudden collapse of communism at the end of the 1980s. One matter not in dispute, however, will be the earth-shattering role played in the process by Pope John Paul II, the Polish pope.


From the moment of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla’s election to the papacy in October 1978, he began to shake the very foundations of communism. His first pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 helped undermine government censorship as the Polish people heard the pope talk about human dignity and pray, “Spirit, come and renew the face of the Earth.” As young Poles gathered in throngs to hear the pope preach, they saw masses and felt the press of individuals just like themselves and knew they were not alone in wanting freedom and human dignity.


It was no accident that the Polish church became a primary force behind the resistance against communism, uniting both Catholics and non-Catholic Poles in solidarity against communism. The pope was without a doubt the major source of hope and encouragement to his fellow countryman Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity workers’ union and future president of Poland post-communism.


After the fall of communism, Pope John Paul II released a papal encyclical titled “Centesimus Annus” (1991), which explained within a Christian framework why communism had failed and from that failure drew lessons about social, political and economic organization. In the process, the papal encyclical explained how people must organize themselves secularly, not to establish “heaven on Earth” but to maintain human dignity and social conditions conducive to each individual’s having an opportunity to seek and achieve salvation of his soul. In other words, the pope placed individual freedom squarely within the core of Christian theology.


Communism was a secular failure - it failed to deliver the material benefits it promised - the pope said, because it rejected the truth about the human person: “The state under socialism treats the individual, not with dignity, but as a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socioeconomic mechanism.”


The lessons “Centesimus Annus” drew from the practical failures of communism also undermined the theoretical and any possible theological justification of collectivism.


Secular opposition to capitalism - from doctrinaire socialism to the kind of soft democratic collectivism we call “liberalism” today - has always derived from one fundamentally incorrect notion, namely that private property and its productive use to earn a profit exploits other people. Karl Marx and Frederick Engles attempted, unsuccessfully, to give scientific grounding to this fallacy of capitalistic exploitation.


Historically, the Christian church had been skeptical of capitalism, not because of what the pursuit of profit did to exploit other people but rather because of how the pursuit of profit frequently corrupted individuals, making them avaricious, envious and materialistic.

The pope’s encyclical exploded both misconceptions: “The church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. When a firm makes a profit, this means that productivity factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied. But profitability is not the only indicator of a firm’s condition. It is possible for the financial accounts to be in order and yet for the people, who make up the firm’s most valuable asset, to be humiliated and their dignity offended.

Besides being morally inadmissible, this will eventually have negative repercussions on the firm’s economic efficiency. In fact, the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs and who form a particular group at the service of the whole society.”


By a process of elimination, this devastating critique of socialism and unenlightened capitalism alike left democratic individualism and free markets, informed and guided by the spiritual teachings of the church, as the only practical means of organizing human action. At the same time, “Centesimus Annus” also reconciled the church’s historical fear that capitalism and free markets breed vice among the faithful with beneficial social outcomes that only human freedom and its expression through private property and free markets can produce.


The papal encyclical expounded upon how, for example, the effort involved in building a business also builds individual virtue: “Important virtues are involved in this process, such as diligence, industriousness, prudence in undertaking reasonable risks, reliability and fidelity in interpersonal relationships as well as courage in carrying out decisions which are difficult and painful, but necessary both for the overall working of a business and in meeting possible setbacks.”


Pope John Paul II concluded that earthly poverty and human despair are not the product of private property, capitalistic exploitation of labor and the pursuit of profit through the operation of free markets but just the opposite. It is when people are excluded from ownership, lack the opportunity to develop job skills and are not free to participate in free enterprise that people suffer and are, as the pope said “if not actually exploited, they are to a great extent marginalized; economic development takes place over their heads, so to speak, when it does not actually reduce the already narrow scope of their old subsistence economies.”


The next time pessimism and despair over the future grip us, we should remember that October 1978 when the renaissance of freedom began with the election of a humble Polish pope by the name of Wojtyla.




One man can make a difference (, 050404)


Michael Barone


One man can make a difference: that is the lesson of the life of Pope John Paul II. If someone had told you, 50 years ago, that the three men who would do the most to advance human freedom in the next half century were the parish priest of St. Florian’s Church in Krakow, the military cadet who was the grandson of the last king of Spain and the star of the recent movie “Bedtime for Bonzo,” you would not have believed him. But so it has been. History takes surprising turns. And it is often individual men and women, for good and for evil, who do the steering.


They can steer in directions not widely anticipated. A half century ago, it seemed the world was moving toward ever more collectivism and centralization, toward ever greater secularism and skepticism: This was modernity, and Marx and Freud were its prophets. Experts at the top of hierarchical pyramids would determine the course of events. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes ruled most of the world’s people, and in an age of nuclear weapons, no one could hope to change that. The best that could be wished for was a convergence of systems.


Karol Wojtyla thought something different. He was 19 when Nazi Germany overran his native Poland; through World War II he worked in a quarry and acted in clandestine illegal plays. He sheltered Jews and was once arrested by the Gestapo. Then, after the Red Army swept into Poland and installed a Communist government, he attended seminary and became a priest, a bishop and an archbishop. In the pulpit and out he called for religious freedom and freedom of conscience, implicitly rebuked a regime built on lies. Today, we can read about the millions of people murdered by Hitler and Stalin. Pope John Paul II lived under their rule, but kept his own mind and conscience free.


In 1978, when he was 58, Karol Wojtyla was elected pope; he had lived most of his life under totalitarian governance. This was the same year in which Juan Carlos I, groomed to be King of Spain by the dictator Franco, presided over free elections in Spain — a transition to democracy that, as Michael Ledeen has written, inspired similar transitions in other parts of southern Europe and Latin America. And it was the same year that Ronald Reagan, past retirement age, was writing radio commentaries and preparing to run for the third time for president of the United States. This time he would win, and would put in place policies that did much to end the Soviet Union and the Communist regimes it supported.


The next year, the Pope returned to his native Poland and appeared before crowds of 1 million in Warsaw and Gniezno and Czestochowa. Thirteen million Poles — one-third of the nation’s population — saw the Polish Pope in person. He spoke words of hope and faith, and without openly advocating the overthrow of the Communist regime made it clear that it did not hold the people’s allegiance. As his biographer George Weigel wrote, “A revolution of the spirit had been unleashed.” For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries the Catholic Church had looked askance at democracies and had seen authoritarian regimes as upholders of the faith. Pope John Paul II heartily embraced representative democracy and enunciated a sophisticated appreciation of free markets and their limits. He engaged in serious moral dialogue and presented a vision of modernity different from that of the disciples of Marx and Freud.


Would the Solidarity movement that undermined the Communist regime in Poland have emerged with the courage and hope it did without Pope John Paul II? Would the Soviet Union have lost its Eastern European satellites and its very existence without the Pope and Ronald Reagan? Would Spain have made the transition to demcracy and freedom and set the example it did without King Juan Carlos I? We cannot be certain of the answers to these counterfactual questions. But it seems as certain as such things can be that different leaders would have produced different, and less happy, results. Juan Carlos lives today the routine life of a constitutional monarch; Ronald Reagan withdrew from public view as Alzheimer’s clouded his vision; John Paul II, his body wracked with Parkinson’s, struggled to do his duty until the end. This man who lived under Hitler and Stalin, like the American president and the Spanish king, steered history in a surprising and felicitous direction, a direction unforeseen a half century ago.




Pope John Paul II (, 050403)


Charles Krauthammer


WASHINGTON — It was Stalin who gave us the most famous formulation of that cynical (and today quite fashionable) philosophy known as “realism” — the idea that all that ultimately matters in the relations among nations is power: “The pope? How many divisions does he have?”


Stalin could only have said that because he never met John Paul II. We have just lost the man whose life was the ultimate refutation of “realism.” Within 10 years of his elevation to the papacy, John Paul II had given his answer to Stalin and to the ages: More than you have. More than you can imagine.


History will remember many of the achievements of John Paul II, particularly his zealous guarding of the church’s traditional belief in the sanctity of life, not permitting it to be unmoored by the fashionable currents of thought about abortion, euthanasia and “quality of life.” But above all, he will be remembered for having sparked, tended and fanned the flames of freedom in Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe, leading ultimately and astonishingly to the total collapse of the Soviet empire.


I am not much of a believer, but I find it hard not to suspect some providential hand at play when the white smoke went up at the Vatican 27 years ago and the Polish cardinal was chosen to lead the Catholic Church. Precisely at the moment the West most desperately needed it, we were sent a champion. It is hard to remember now how dark those days were. The 15 months following the pope’s elevation marked the high tide of Soviet communism and the nadir of the free world’s post-Vietnam collapse.


It was a time of one defeat after another. Vietnam invaded Cambodia, consolidating Soviet hegemony over all of Indochina. The Khomeni revolution swept away America’s strategic anchor in the Middle East. Nicaragua fell to the Sandinistas, the first Soviet-allied regime on the mainland of the Western Hemisphere. (As an unnoticed but ironic coda, Marxists came to power in Grenada too.) Then finally, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.


And yet precisely at the time of this free-world retreat and disarray, a miracle happens. The Catholic Church, breaking nearly 500 years of tradition, puts itself in the hands of an obscure non-Italian — a Pole who, deeply understanding the East European predicament, rose to become, along with Roosevelt, Churchill and Reagan, one of the great liberators of the 20th century.


John Paul II’s first great mission was to reclaim his native Eastern Europe for civilization. It began with his visit to Poland in 1979, symbolizing and embodying a spiritual humanism that was the antithesis of the soulless materialism and decay of late Marxist-Leninism. As millions gathered to hear him and worship with him, they began to feel their own power and to find the institutional structure — the vibrant Polish church — around which to mobilize.


And mobilize they did. It is no accident that Solidarity, the leading edge of the East European revolution, was born just a year after the pope’s first visit. Deploying a brilliantly subtle diplomacy that never openly challenged the Soviet system but nurtured and justified every oppositional trend, often within the bosom of the local church, John Paul II became the pivotal figure of the people power revolutions of Eastern Europe.


While the success of these popular movements demonstrated the power of ideas and proved realism wrong, let us have no idealist illusions either: People power can only succeed against oppression that has lost confidence in itself. When Soviet communism still had enough sense of its own historical inevitability to send tanks against people in the street — Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968 — people power was useless.


By the 1980s, however, the Soviet sphere was both large and decadent. And a new pope brought not only hope but political cunning to the captive nations yearning to be free. He demonstrated what Europe had forgotten and Stalin never knew: the power of faith as an instrument of political mobilization.


Under the benign and deeply humane vision of this pope, the power of faith led to the liberation of half a continent. Under the barbaric and nihilistic vision of Islam’s jihadists, the power of faith has produced terror and chaos. That contrast alone, which has dawned upon us unmistakably ever since 9/11, should be reason enough to be grateful for John Paul II. But we mourn him for more than that. We mourn him for restoring strength to the Western idea of the free human spirit at a moment of deepest doubt and despair. And for seeing us through to today’s great moment of possibility for both faith and freedom.




A great man has passed (, 050403)


George Will


WASHINGTON — In Eastern Europe, where both world wars began, the end of the Cold War began on Oct. 16, 1978, with a puff of white smoke, in Western Europe. It wafted over one of Europe’s grandest public spaces, over Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s, over statues of the saints atop Bernini’s curving colonnade that embraces visitors to Vatican City. Ten years later, when the fuse that Polish workers had lit in a Gdansk shipyard had ignited the explosion that leveled the Berlin Wall, it was clear that one of the most consequential people of the 20th century’s second half was a Pole who lived in Rome, governing a city-state of 109 acres.


Science teaches that reality is strange — solid objects are mostly space; the experience of time is a function of speed; gravity bends light. History, too, teaches strange truths: John Paul II occupied the world’s oldest office, which traces its authority to history’s most potent figure, a Palestinian who never traveled a hundred miles from his birthplace, who never wrote a book and who died at 33. And religion, once a legitimizer of political regimes, became in John Paul II’s deft hands a delegitimizer of communism’s ersatz religion.


In an amazingly fecund 27-month period, the cause of freedom was strengthened by the coming to high offices of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and John Paul II who, like the president, had been an actor and was gifted at the presentational dimension of his office. This peripatetic pope was seen by more people than anyone in history and his most important trip came early. It was a visit to Poland that began on June 2, 1979.


In nine days a quarter of that nation’s population saw him. Marx called religion the opiate of the masses, but it did not have a sedative effect on the Poles. The pope’s visit was the nation’s epiphany, a thunderous realization that the nation was of one mind, mocking the futility of communism’s 35-year attempt to conquer Poland’s consciousness. Between 1795 and 1918 Poland had been erased from the map of Europe, partitioned between Austria, Prussia and Russia. This gave Poles an acute sense of the distinction between the state and the real nation.


Igor Stravinsky, speaking with a Russian’s stoicism about Poland’s sufferings, said that if you pitch your tent in the middle of New York’s Fifth Avenue, you are going to be hit by a bus. The Poland where John Paul II grew to sturdy, athletic manhood was hit first by Nazism, then communism. Then, benignly, by John Paul II.


It was said that the fin de siecle Vienna of Freud and Wittgenstein was the little world in which the larger world had its rehearsals. In the late 1970s, the Poland of John Paul II and Lech Walesa was like that. The 20th century’s worst political invention was totalitarianism, a tenet of which is that the masses must not be allowed to mass: Totalitarianism is a mortar and pestle for grinding society into a dust of individuals. Small wonder, then, that Poland’s ruler, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, visibly trembled in the presence of the priest who brought Poland to its feet in the face of tyranny by first bringing Poland to its knees in his presence.


John Paul II almost did not live to see this glorious consummation. In 1981 three of the world’s largest figures — Ronald Reagan, Anwar Sadat and John Paul II — were shot. History would have taken an altered course if Sadat had not been the only one killed.


Our age celebrates the watery toleration preached by people for whom “judgmental” is an epithet denoting an intolerable moral confidence. John Paul II bristled with judgments, including this: The inevitability of progress is a myth, hence the certainty that mankind is wiser today than yesterday is chimeric.


Secular Europe is, however, wiser because of a man who worked at an altar. Europeans have been plied and belabored by various historicisms purporting to show that individuals are nullities governed by vast impersonal forces. Beginning in 1978, Europeans saw one man seize history by the lapels and shake it.


One of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown detective stories includes this passage: “‘I’m afraid I’m a practical man,’ said the doctor with gruff humor, ‘and I don’t bother much about religion and philosophy.’ ‘You’ll never be a practical man till you do,’ said Father Brown.”


A poet made the same point: “A flame rescued from dry wood has no weight in its luminous flight yet lifts the heavy lid of night.” The poet became John Paul II.




What evangelicals can learn from the pope (, 050408)


Janice Shaw Crouse


The non-stop television coverage of Pope John Paul II’s death and the retelling of his life as the final spark of his vibrant personality flickered and died has dramatically brought into focus the profound impact and significance of this man from Poland. From the unprecedented gathering of mourners –– kings and presidents, rich and poor –– it is clear that his influence extended far beyond the Catholic Church.


The response to the death of the pope –– more than 2 million are expected at his funeral –– proves the truth of the oft-repeated claim that there is a God-shaped vacuum inside each human being.  The millions of people who have watched the television coverage or made pilgrimages to Rome to pay their last respects to the pope lying in state at St. Peter’s Basilica are testimony to the yearning in people’s hearts for an example of someone passionately committed to loving the Lord God, undividedly, with heart, soul, and mind. Even those who disagreed with John Paul respected his spirituality and the conviction that would not bend in the face of disapproval and opposition.


What can evangelicals learn from a man who inspires such an outpouring of respect and affection?  What can we learn from a man who, despite his age and old-fashioned commitment to the ancient truths of his faith, stirred the hearts of young people and rallied them in multiple nations around the world?


The pope embodied commitment and consistency.  In an era rampant with scandals and hypocrisy, the pope was a leader whose integrity both challenged and inspired.  He was a public figure whose life was a consistent embodiment of his faith.  He was willing to put everything, including his life, on the line. His authority stemmed not just from his position at the head of the Catholic Church, but also from his inner strength and stances of moral integrity.  During his papacy, the number of Catholics worldwide doubled.


The pope was both moral and intellectual.  In an era when pseudo-sophistication reigned, John Paul developed deep intellectual roots that informed his faith and provided a strong rationale for his moral stances.  The pope was not willing to settle for what Ralph Woods’ described in First Things as “saccharine substitutes for the hard-thinking that the Christian faith requires.”  He combined spiritual depth with intellectual rigor. He published 14 tightly-reasoned encyclicals on social, theological and moral issues that became a strong voice for Judeo-Christian values and Biblical truth in an increasingly secularized and coarsening culture.


The pope related across generations.  Those who embrace the cliché that everything has to be novel in order to appeal to the next generation, could learn from this pope whose winsome ways drew youth to him and to faith.  John Paul related to young people with genuine concern coupled with an enthusiastic spirit, a sharp sense of humor and quick wit. In so doing, he embodied and interpreted faith in fresh and vital ways for a whole new generation of believers. His background in drama taught him the power of image-making but he did so without sacrificing his dignity or crossing the line to embrace the latest fads.  His piety, however, was not for show.


The pope was willing to go against the tide of popular opinion.  For over a quarter of a century, John Paul, an essentially humble priest, stood fast against the tide of secularism in uncompromising support of the fundamental tenets of the faith. He protected the vulnerable –– including the unborn, by consistently opposing abortion –– and he stood up to the powerful who sought to replace Christian dogma and traditional standards of morality with trendy ideology generated by mere human imagination.  Those who are prone to be swept along with cultural trends in their frantic efforts to be relevant could learn much from this pope who proved that conviction is more appealing than contemporary repackaging of the faith.


The pope made holiness manly. Many of today’s generation have never seen holiness manifested in manly demeanor.  They think of believers as weak wimps in contrast to the proud swaggering behavior of worldly non-religious men. This pope, even when frail and limited by Parkinson’s disease, was resolutely masculine.


In a world where so many “believers” are unwilling to “bend the knee” before the Almighty, the pope was a man who spent at least 4 hours a day in prayer.  When the world around him was demanding that religion be watered down to conform to the postmodern worldview, he challenged believers to a more rigorous faith. In a culture more responsive to a gospel of prosperity, he challenged Catholics to reject materialism and lifted up a vision of sacrifice and service. He issued a high calling and people responded. Out of the depths of rock-solid character, this was a man who, even when stooped and palsied, spoke with authority . . . and the whole world listened.


Janice Shaw Crouse is Senior Fellow at Concerned Women for America




An Evangelical View on the Catholic Church (Christian Post, 050411)


Interview with Dr. Glenn Kreider, seminarian from the Dallas Theological Seminary


On April 8, the Christian Post had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Glenn Kreider regarding the Catholic church and the passing of the late Pope John Paul II.


Kreider, an experienced theologian at world-renowned Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), explained the impact of the death on evangelical-Catholic relations.


What is the general view of the evangelicals on the Catholic Church?


There are two broad categories. Some evangelicals have viewed Catholics as a cult and other evangelicals have viewed Catholics as Christians. A significant theological and practical difference between the two has been recognized. In recent years, there have been a number of other evangelicals who have been much more sympathetic towards the Pope and the Catholic Church.


What kind of impact did the death of the pope have on the relationship between the Protestant and Catholic churches?


There are two broad impacts. The first is a sense of great sadness. The pope was a friend to the evangelicals. He was more conservative than many of the cardinals under him. He was very friendly towards the kinds of moral issues that evangelicals take seriously such as family and life issues. This sadness that is more foundational than the sadness we all feel seeing the results of sin and death. We grieve as we do when any human suffers and dies. But we grieve not as people who have no hope because we believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead


Another impact is that the evangelicals are watching and waiting to see which direction the church will go. It’s possible for the same type spirit in the Vatican to continue or it’s possible for more extremist views, views of Mary to become more prominent in the next pope. So it will be interesting to see which direction the cardinals go in the selection of the next successor.


How are the Protestants responding to the death of the pope?


Protestants are generally grieving his loss and waiting to see what happens. But Protestants - for the most part - are not overly interested and involved in what happens in Catholic Church.


Probably the vast majority of Protestants are watching as tourists from a distance.


What kind of pope will strengthen the inter-church relationship between the Protestant and Catholic churches?


A pope who is committed to Christian Orthodoxy, dialogue and understanding, committed to harmony and peaceful relationships, and interested in the dialogue in honest pursuit of truth, would help the relationship between the two.


Do you have a personal view on the pope and his death?


Personally, I’m deeply saddened by the death of a man who is without question one of the great leaders of the 20th century. Personally, I’m saddened by the death of any human being, but I’m particularly saddened by his death because he has made a positive impact in the world. He was also a man who took his faith seriously, who modeled and lived and taught forgiveness, mercy, and grace.


His forgiveness of his visiting the prison, forgiveness of his assassin is an incredible demonstration of the kind of forgiveness that Christ has called all of us to. I’ve admired him a lot and deeply saddened.


How has the seminary responded to the current situation in any way?


The seminary has been responding in an informal way. There have been prayers for family, for friends, and for the future of the church. We believe that God is in control of the affairs of his creation and God will lead the Catholics into the selection of the right successor.


We also believe that God responds to the prayers of his people. So we have been praying for God’s will to be done.


Dr. Kreider earned his B.S. at Lancaster Bible College in 1986, Th. M and Ph. D. at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1988 and 2001, respectively. He identifies as his key ministry motivations his passion for God and his desire to help others understand His word.




Cardinals Convene Papal Conclave (Foxnews, 050418)


VATICAN CITY — In a historic gathering steeped in intrigue, cardinals from six continents assembled Monday for their first conclave of the new millennium to elect a pope who will inherit John Paul II’s mantle and guide the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics into a new era.


Representing 52 countries, the 115 crimson-robed “princes” of a church stung by priest sex-abuse scandals and an exodus of the faithful celebrated a midmorning Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica before sequestering themselves in the Sistine Chapel late Monday afternoon.


There, seated atop a false floor hiding electronic jamming devices designed to thwart eavesdroppers, they were to take an oath of secrecy, hear a meditation from a senior cardinal and decide whether to take a first vote or wait until Tuesday.


“The new pope has already been chosen by the Lord. We just have to pray to understand who he is,” Florence Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, considered by some to be a dark-horse candidate, told believers who gathered for Sunday Mass at his titular church in Rome.


In his homily Monday morning, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — a powerful Vatican official from Germany often mentioned as a leading candidate to become the next pope — spoke in unusually blunt terms against “a dictatorship of relativism” — the ideology that there are no absolute truths.


“Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism,” Ratzinger said. “Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching,’ looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards.


“We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”


Thousands of pilgrims and tourists were expected to converge on St. Peter’s Square to watch the chapel chimney for the white smoke that ultimately will tell the world that the church’s 265th pontiff has been elected. The famous stove in the chapel also will bellow black smoke to signal any inconclusive round of voting.


“I feel really cool being here,” said Kathy Mullen, 49, a writer from Beverly, Mass., among the hundreds of pilgrims who lined up early on a sunny morning to pass through metal detectors on their way into the basilica.


Although the conclave could last for days, a pope could be chosen as early as Monday afternoon if the red-capped prelates opt to begin casting ballots after their solemn procession from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace to the chapel.


If they decide to hold off a day, they will hold four rounds of voting — two in the morning, two in the afternoon — on Tuesday and every day until a candidate gets two-thirds support: 77 votes. If they remain deadlocked late in the second week of voting, they can vote to change the rules so a winner can be elected with a simple majority: 58 votes.


Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said smoke from burned ballot papers enhanced by special chemicals likely could be seen at around noon and around 7 p.m. on each day of voting by the cardinal electors, all of whom are under age 80. At some point soon after the new pope is chosen, the Vatican also will ring bells.


On Sunday, the cardinals moved into the super-secure Domus Sanctae Marthae, the $20 million hotel that John Paul had constructed inside Vatican City so the cardinals could rest in comfort in private rooms between voting sessions. Swiss Guards, their brightly colored uniforms covered by dark rain gear, saluted the prelates as they were whisked to the residence in limousines.


The daily La Stampa said cardinals gearing up for a stressful stretch of days had packed CD players and headphones in their bags along with prayer books and snacks to nibble on in their rooms.


Conspicuously missing from their quarters were cell phones, newspapers, radios, TVs and Internet connections — all banned in new rules laid down by John Paul II to minimize the chances of news influencing their secret deliberations and to prevent leaks to the outside world. The Vatican’s security squad swept the chapel for listening devices, and cooks, maids, elevator operators and drivers were sworn to secrecy. Excommunication is a possible punishment for any indiscretions.


No conclave in the past century has lasted more than five days, and the election that made John Paul II pope in October 1978 took eight ballots over three days. He died April 2 at 84 after a pontificate that lasted more than 26 years, history’s third-longest papacy.


Cardinals faced a choice that boiled down to two options: an older, skilled administrator who could serve as a “transitional” pope while the church absorbs John Paul’s legacy, or a younger dynamic pastor and communicator — perhaps from Latin America or elsewhere in the developing world where the church is growing — who could build on the late pontiff’s popularity over a quarter-century of globe-trotting.


The prelates agreed after John Paul’s funeral not to talk publicly about the process, but the world’s news media have been rife with speculation centering on about two dozen candidates considered “papabile,” Italian for “pope material.”


The name with the biggest buzz was Ratzinger’s, a powerful Vatican official from Germany who was to recite an opening prayer in Latin that the voters be guided “in our hearts, in love and in patience.”


Among the issues sure to figure prominently in the conclave: containing the priest sex-abuse scandals that have cost the church millions in settlements in the United States; coping with a chronic shortage of priests and nuns in the West; halting the stream of people leaving a church whose teachings they no longer find relevant; and improving dialogue with the Islamic world.


“We are praying together with the church for everything to get better,” said Sister Annonciata, 42, a Rwandan nun from the Little Sisters of Jesus order who was in Vatican City on Monday.


Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, an Italian who at 86 is too old to vote, told Italian state radio Sunday he was confident the conclave would be guided to the right man.


“Providence sends a pope for every era,” he said.




Zen Will China Get a Pope? Chinese Catholics could use a conclave surprise (National Review Online, 050418)


If the October 1978 election of John Paul II is a portent for the future, then the next pope will be Chinese. Poland and Eastern Europe needed a Polish pope in 1978, and China needs a Chinese pope today.


But it will not come to pass. First, the Church in China is far smaller than the Church under the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Second, it is doubtful that even a Chinese pope could sweet-talk the Chinese Communist party into loosening its iron grip on organized religion. Third, no Chinese cardinal I know of is eligible.


The China Secret

The only Chinese cardinal is the 82-year old Paul Cardinal Shan of Kaohsiung in Taiwan. It is possible, though, that the cardinal whom Pope John Paul II secretly named “in pectore” (“within the breast”) in 2003 could have been Hong Kong’s own Archbishop Joseph Zen.


At the time, members of the international media speculated that Bishop Zen was indeed the secret cardinal. He possesses all the qualifications. He is a devout teacher of the faith, a pillar of the city (a 2002 poll in Hong Kong’s Apple Daily listed him as the city’s “most significant person”), he bravely confronted the political abuses of Hong Kong’s Communist overlords on the infamous “Article 23” sedition legislation and was so outspoken that Gao Siren, Beijing’s man in Hong Kong, cautioned him to “learn from [John Baptist] Cardinal Wu,” Bishop Zen’s mild-mannered predecessor.


Of course, Bishop Zen has been vehement in his blasts against Beijing for the continued persecution of the Catholic Church in China, but that’s to be expected. I can only assume that if John Paul had indeed wanted Zen to be the new cardinal from Hong Kong, and had told him so ahead of time (as is the normal practice for naming bishops) the good bishop demurred. A red-capped prince of the Church must of necessity be more circumspect in his dealings with the Chinese than an archbishop does, and the times do not permit the bishop of Hong Kong to be circumspect.


The name of the “secret cardinal” was not revealed in the papal will and the late pope’s personal papers will be burned, so it is unlikely that anyone, except the nominee himself, will ever know. But if the Washington Post and The Economist and hundreds of other newspapers were speculating on Zen in 2003, their speculation was no doubt fueled by informed opinion within the curia itself. Which is to say, if the press believed Zen was the man, then so did the College of Cardinals itself. And as every Catholic-school pupil is taught in third-grade catechism, the cardinals can elect any priest they choose to be pope.


Persecution & Reconciliation

Of course, the College of Cardinals has the weight of a global Church resting on its shoulders and cannot expected to make its choice based on the needs of China or even Asia. Today, the Holy See reckons the Catholic Church in China has as many as 14 million members and a history that goes back at least as far as 1557, when a Jesuit padre said his first Mass in Macao.


In the intervening four centuries, the Chinese Church grew and thrived until 1950 when the Communists chased most foreign clergy out of the country and imprisoned the Chinese clergy. By 1957, when the government established its own “Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association” and began appointing its own bishops, the Roman Church in China ceased to function. Loyal Catholics went underground, and the elderly, the infirm, and those who couldn’t manage the rigors of a real persecution tremblingly went over to the “above ground” CCPA. During Mao’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” even the CCPA was ruthlessly persecuted, allowed only to resurface after Mao’s death — and even then they had to be on good behavior. Meanwhile the underground Church remained persecuted. Its clergy remained in labor camps, as did many of the faithful laity.


Even “Laogai” (camps for “reeducation through labor”) were no sanctuary from persecution. When I was a consul in Beijing in 1979, I tried quietly to get another Jesuit, Fr. Francis Xavier Shude Zhu, an exit permit to visit the United States during his Laogai medical parole in Shanghai after completing over 27 years or incarceration. But the very ill Fr. Zhu was not allowed to leave China. Instead, he was sent back to the Baihu Laogai Camp near Shanghai. In 1983 he was convicted of continuing to proselytize among his Laogai comrades and sentenced to another 12 years in a proper prison cell, where he died in 1984.


Fr. Zhu’s experience has been the norm for China’s underground Catholics ever since. Before the Tiananmen demonstrations of 1989, the Chinese government relaxed its policies on Catholic worship and acquiesced if some CCPA bishops expressed loyalty to Rome. But the true loyalties of the CCPA priests and bishops remain suspect as they turned blind eyes to government policies on forced abortions and birth control, and tended to approve clearly unqualified novices for the priesthood.


To be sure, Pope John Paul II’s 1989 injunction urging China’s faithful Catholics to the “delicate task of fostering reconciliation within [China’s] ecclesial community” has had the paradoxical result of leaving the CCPA congregations with majority underground populations. Since 1989, many CCPA bishops have found it in their pastoral interests to declare secret fealty to Rome. But this does not mean that the persecution has eased. Every two months, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, the Chinese government arrests more clergy, detains more believers, or bulldozes another church. And the pace of the persecution has stepped up, ironically enough, since Hu Jintao took over command of China’s military last September.


If the Communist-party politburo has anything to say about it, there will never be a reconciliation between the Holy See and the People’s Republic. Even today, there is no such thing in China as a “private” nongovernmental organization. Every gathering of citizens, whether it is a labor union, political party, religious sect, or stamp collectors club must have an official government or Communist-party sponsor, which is responsible to the party for the organization’s behavior. As such, the sponsoring unit must control the organization’s leadership. Just as firmly, the Holy See must have full authority to appoint its bishops throughout the Church. In the past, as in the Iron Curtain countries, the Vatican seeks civil government approval for its candidates, but has never ceded appointment and selection authority to those governments. China, however, insists on the latter.


At one time, Pope John Paul II believed that the only obstruction to accord with Beijing on this issue was Taiwan. Beijing insisted that the People’s Republic would not even sit down and discuss the matter unless the Vatican removed its Apostolic Nuncio from Taipei. But the Holy See now understands that its ties with Taipei are the only remaining leverage it has in Beijing, and it cannot give it up without an agreement on the naming of Chinese bishops.


Taiwan itself means little to the Holy See in the broad spectrum of its world cares. There are only about 300,000 Catholics in the island, and local catholic missionaries bemoan the paucity of ethnic Taiwanese faithful. One priest told me last year that “the Bishops are from Mainland China, the priests from Viet Nam and the congregations are mostly Filipina,” referring to the high population of young Philippine guest workers in Taiwan’s production lines.


Hong Kong Bishop Zen understands this dynamic himself. In a much-misinterpreted comment following John Paul’s death, the bishop was quoted as admitting, “The Vatican is planning to give up Taiwan. There’s no other way.” Less attention was focused on Bishop Zen’s real point — that Vatican ties with Beijing would come only if Beijing was “willing to grant real freedom to the Church in mainland China.”


Bishop Joseph Zen would make a superb leader of the Catholic Church, but the Catholic Church faces challenges that affect vastly greater populations of Catholics than the relatively minor problems of China. There may well be a Chinese pope in the future, but not this time.


— John J. Tkacik Jr. is a research fellow in the Asian Studies Center of the Heritage Foundation.




Holy What?! How the papal conclave works (National Review Online, 050418)


On TV these days, you hear Catholic after Catholic putting “trust” in the choice of the “Holy Spirit” as to which cardinal will become the next pope. What on earth are they talking about?


Jesus Christ said that He Himself was one with the Father — that is, the Lord and Creator of all things — and asserted thereby that we ought not to think of God as a cold, solitary, lonely Nous or Mind, in the manner of the Greeks, but rather as at least a Communion of Two, Father and Son who are one, one in will, one in mind, one in substance. More than that, He said that the Father would send His Spirit, to be with the Church (the people formed by their loyalty to Christ) forever, and that Father, Son, and Spirit are one. God is the Communion of Three Persons.


This is a flat arithmetical contradiction. How can three be one? Or one, three?


Nonetheless, it is what we believe Jesus said. And meant.


For us, it is as though we ought to imagine that the most divine realities in our lives are our moments of closest communion, with our spouses (our best friends), our children, our larger families, and our friends and associates (our comrades in war, for instance, or in team sports; or our best buddies and confidants). God is more like a communion of persons, than like a pure sunburst of insight or an abstract idea. Of course, no one sees God. None of us has an adequate idea. But this, at least, is how Jesus told Christians to approach God: “Where you are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of you.” Communion of persons. Silent. Joined in one will, in mutual love, deeper than image or thought.


Men@Work, Too


This is all pretty abstract. So, as Americans, let’s get down to the practicalities as soon as possible. In Rome last week, I told one of my friends, “I will be perfectly satisfied with whichever cardinal the Holy Spirit picks out. I certainly never thought of Wojtyla in 1978,” I concluded, I thought triumphantly.


My friend brought me up short. “The Holy Spirit will do nothing except through human agency and human work. So somebody better get busy and start organizing things.” We were a little worried about the lack of any signs that this was, at that point, being done.


I later talked to several cardinals, old friends from the long-ago past (in my days in the seminary decades ago, I crossed paths with a few of them, and met others during my days as a journalist at Vatican II). One of them mentioned casually — we both avoided any politicking or even discussions of who is doing what — that he had already attended lunch that day with seven or eight cardinals, and would have dinner with seven or eight others, and it was like this every day. He hoped to continue and meet with a lot of them before the conclave.


He didn’t say, but I can imagine that all of these conversationalists are watching the others very closely at these meals, and in their general meetings; and that those 20 or so among them who sense some probability of being named themselves are allowing themselves to be as well-spoken and thoughtful as their gifts permit, putting their best and most prudent (which may mean bold and daring) foot forward, as never before. Now is the time to act like a pope; more exactly, to be like a pope. If that is what others are to see, someone must let it shine forth.


Now there is plenty of room for “chance” and contingency to operate in these casual meetings. Who did not get a good night’s sleep, has an upset stomach, finds a blood vessel rupturing just at this crucial time in their lives (as Cardinal Mahoney, poor man, did)? Who happens to meet whom, just as this or that subject (right up his alley) comes down the pipe at him like a perfect strike? Who manages to irritate key people just at the wrong moment?


General Providence


General Patton at the Battle of the Bulge called in his chaplain, a ruddy Irish Catholic monsignor, and requested a prayer for the dratted rain to stop coming down in torrents, so he could move his dratted tanks and kill some dratted Germans. Sheepishly, the monsignor explained that he didn’t have a prayer for killing. The general order him to sit down.


I won’t report the whole conversation, but it was a classic. The key moment came when Patton explained that even when an army was perfectly prepared, and even when it had won every battle in which it had engaged, so that its morale was razor-sharp, still, there were things that no army and no general could control, things which make all the difference between victory and defeat, absolutely crucial things — like two weeks of driving rain. “That’s what we call Providence, Father. And that’s your department. And I order you to produce a prayer, by tomorrow. In my hands. Right here.”


The general got his prayer, all right, and liked it so much he had hundreds of thousands of copies printed on little cards for each soldier. And he got a cessation of the rain, and open skies, and great weather for his kind of warfare. And he broke the siege.


Meanwhile, to jump back to the way God can work at a conclave: In between details like the weather, personal illness, chance encounters, and accidental perceptions thrown off by odd angles in the way people meet — not to mention unsummoned thoughts and images and intimations — there are a host of ways in which the Divine Artist of events can set the stage and arrange actions, without in the least interfering in the natural laws of human nature and history, or even in the perfect freedom of will of those who make decisions.


In fact, so much of our lives are outside of anybody’s powers of decision, or even of complete knowledge. The Holy Spirit (God Himself, thought of as Three-in-One) has more than enough room to work as the great consummate Artist of events, without calling upon a ready repertoire of miracles. Occasionally, it takes one of the latter. But every year, when a tiny seed dies in the ground, and blossoms into a full shock of corn, thrusting out six or eight full ears of comparable seeds, nature itself is abundant in “miracles” of an un-miraculous, regular sort. It does not seem too far a stretch to allow for occasional real miracles, even though one prefers not to ever count on them.


That is: I think the Holy Spirit can work miracles in a conclave. Yet I can clearly see so many utterly natural, contingent possibilities that I fail to see why He would have to.




I suspect that Cardinal Ratzinger was thinking of something like this when he told a reporter that there is plain evidence that the Holy Spirit does not always make the choice of a pontiff. The dispositive evidence? There were more than a few, he noted tartly, that he would be quite reluctant to blame on the free choice of the Holy Spirit. In fact, he couldn’t even imagine the Holy Spirit picking some historical popes he could think of.


But the good cardinal, as learned as anyone in the riches of the Catholic theological tradition, did allow as how he very much counted on the Holy Spirit to protect the Church, so that no matter what, nothing completely damaging would happen. We have the promise of that: The Holy Spirit will protect the Church, though fierce storms rage, until the end of time.


We do not have the promise that the Holy Spirit, personally, will choose each and every pontiff, in conclave after conclave. Rather, each pontiff chosen is blessed with the protection of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the people he serves, at least to put some limit on the colossal damage that a truly bad pope has sometimes caused. Yet normally, out of respect for the rules of nature and liberty He Himself set, the Holy Spirit works through the actions and contingencies of real, concrete, finite, limited human beings — those 115 cardinals this time — doing their best to think through the needs of the Church. And doing their best to pick the most likely man among them to protect the data about God (Whom we do not see), the data brought to us at so dear a price by Jesus Christ.


The love that Jesus bore for his Father, even in death, and his trust in the Spirit, are as clear an image of the divine Communion as we mortals have.


That is why it is an even more sacred task to protect the data of revelation than it is, in science, to protect from contamination the data on which science works. No one must tamper with that data. To protect the purity of data is not to be “dogmatic.” It is to be of faithful service to accurate and realistic understanding. This is as true in religion as in science.


And so, when Catholics speak of the “Holy Spirit” playing a role in the conclave, don’t try to imagine a puppeteer pulling strings. The better image is that of the novelist, creating free, living, breathing, conflicted characters who make choices, and in doing so tell with these choices a magnificent story of liberty. The novelist who plays puppeteer convinces few readers that his characters are real. Real artistry lies in creating characters who are free, and who act from within the depths of their own liberty. So it is with the Artistry of the Holy Spirit in the theater of the conclaves down the centuries — a free God, Who chooses to be honored by the flawed efforts of free humans to respond to Him in their own liberty.


The God of liberty.


“Our fathers’ God, to Thee...


To Thee we sing!”


— Michael Novak, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission and to the Bern Round of the Helsinki Talks, holds the George F. Jewett Chair in Religion and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.




Progressive cardinals try to block Ratzinger (WorldNetDaily, 050418)


The manoeuvrings have already started as the conclave to elect a new pope begins

CARDINALS with progressive views were attempting to find a single candidate to challenge Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the leading conservative contender to succeed Pope John Paul II — before the Vatican’s secret conclave gets under way today.


Galvanised by reports that Cardinal Ratzinger may already have as many as 50 of the 77 votes needed to become the next Pope, liberal cardinals held talks under the guidance of Cardinal Achille Silvestrini of Italy. They hope to thwart the appointment of Cardinal Ratzinger, the late Pope’s long-serving hardline doctrinal “enforcer”, fearing that he would be a divisive force in the Roman Catholic Church.


Cardinal Silvestrini, who is over 80 and therefore unable to vote, has vigorously promoted the progressive agenda: collegiality, or Church democracy, ecumenism, global poverty, dialogue with Islam and a more open debate on celibacy and the role of women.


The most likely liberal champion remains Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, 78, the former Archbishop of Milan. A Jesuit, he retired to Jerusalem three years ago and has incipient Parkinson’s disease, but commands huge respect.


Cardinal Ratzinger, who turned 78 on Saturday, will chair the conclave as Dean of the College of Cardinals, but his prominent role has been unable to halt a whispering campaign that has highlighted not only Cardinal Ratzinger’s reputation as an inflexible Grand Inquisitor but also his Second World War record as a member — though mandatory — of the Hitler Youth. His supporters retort that he was 18 at the time and came from an anti-Nazi family. He is held to have displayed humanity and humility when presiding over the funeral of John Paul II.


Other leading conservatives are Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice, 63, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 70, the Archbishop of Genoa, and Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, of Colombia, 75. Liberals include Cláudio Hummes, 70, Archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil, and Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, of Honduras, 62; both have vowed to tackle globalisation and the gap between rich and poor.


Yesterday Cardinal Maradiaga appeared on Italian television to insist — with a smile — that the cardinals were meeting in “a spirit of fraternity and unity”. “We will be guided by the Holy Spirit,” he said after Sunday Mass. Handwritten notices have sprung up around St Peter’s Square announcing that “the next Pope will be Maradiaga”. He is seen by some as too young and too clever. Compromise candidates include Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, Cardinal Martini’s successor at Milan, who has shown sympathy for anti-globalisation protests and African victims of Aids, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 77, the experienced former Secretary of State. They, too, however, have been victims of whisperers: Cardinal Tettamanzi was too provincial while Cardinal Sodano is said to have been closer than he should have been to the Pinochet regime when Papal Nuncio in Chile from 1977 to 1988.


Reports have circulated that Cardinal Ivan Dias, 69, Archbishop of Bombay and another leading contender, is diabetic, and that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 68, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, a Jesuit, had a record of complicity in the disappearance of opponents of the former Argentine military regime. Both claims are denied.


Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, said that he would take some “light reading” into the conclave as well as devotional works. Asked if this meant novels by Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, he replied: “Good heavens, no. Perhaps Jane Austen.”


Cardinals will hold a public Mass this morning in St Peter’s Basilica. Television will broadcast for the first time their procession at 4.30pm to the Sistine Chapel — but the cameras will not enter the chapel, where all but voting cardinals will be excluded with the cry of “exeunt omnes”. La Stampa said that some cardinals, expecting a lengthy conclave, had packed compact disc players in their bags along with prayer books.




# The word conclave is from the Latin for “with a key”. In other words, the cardinals are locked in


# Under the gaze of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, the cardinals vote four times a day — twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, until one contender gains a majority of two thirds plus one


# In the past they placed their ballots in a chalice: this time they will use newly sculpted bronze urns described as “flying saucer-shaped”. Scrutineers read the names out loud. If the necessary majority — in this case 77 votes — is not reached, the ballots are placed in a stove and burnt with an additive to produce black smoke


# If a Pope has been elected, they are burnt with a different additive to produce white smoke. The smoke emerges from a temporary chimney on the Sistine Chapel roof


# If it is white, the new Pope emerges on to the balcony of St Peter’s 40 minutes later. The bells of St Peter’s will also be rung this time, to avoid confusion: in 1978 the smoke was grey


# If no result is reached in three days, voting is suspended for a day of prayer. After 30 ballots the two-thirds majority gives way to an absolute majority of 50 per cent plus one (58 votes)




Election of the next pope (Washington Times, 050419)


The rapid emergence of the patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola, 63, as a leading figure going into the papal conclave is a fresh new illustration of Italian political marksmanship.


Venice has long been a strategic posting, and two of the last four popes held Cardinal Scola’s see (three popes since 1900). Therefore Cardinal Scola, who was only made a cardinal in 2003, quickly assumed a strong position.


What the cardinal has done in the past few months has heightened his visibility in a startling way. Cardinal Scola attracted the international media’s attention in February when he spoke of the danger of Muslim immigration in Europe. In February, he visited the United States and addressed the World Jewish Congress on Catholic-Jewish relations.


Cardinal Scola’s confident appearance on the international scene is large with implications. There is a widely acknowledged move to re-establish the papacy in Italian hands, for a very practical reason: They know how to govern the church. It has been whispered by a couple of retired cardinals to this writer that Pope John Paul II could not govern and did not try.


Were the patriarch of Venice to say absolutely nothing at all in the years leading up to a conclave, he’d still be strongly considered for the papacy. Yet Cardinal Scola’s appealingly smooth demeanor, his multi-lingual ability and his I.Q. have now been put on display in so deft a manner as to take him from obscurity two years ago to the most-noticed of the Italian cardinals. Cardinal Scola is not given to grandstanding and would never advance his own cause crassly, any more than Karol Wojtyla — John Paul I I— did his.


So why is he visible at this time? It’s overwhelmingly likely that a large segment of the College of Cardinals has signaled Cardinal Scola that they think he might be elected. So, they have asked him to “go public.” Cardinal Scola’s utterances, in a media age, are really a prelude to the first conclave in which it is “impossible to hide” (or so it is said) from the hordes of television, Web and print reporters. What used to be done in private is now — alas — conducted partly in public.


Beyond the Cardinal Scola issue, pre-conclave “discussion” among the principals, from the mid-1990s onward, was at times remarkably public:


• When in the mid-1990s the respected leader of the world’s largest Catholic archdiocese — Milan, Italy — implied that the church could still discuss the matter of women priests, he spoke for a significant minority of his colleagues.


• When the German cardinal who heads a key Vatican office declared that things have gone too far in a liberal direction at many Catholic Masses, he spoke for a diverse group of colleagues who have also had it up to here with hip liturgy.


• When at Georgetown University the church’s leading Third World cardinal criticized the trend toward acceptance of homosexuality, he echoed the views of most of his colleagues. (When he refused to back down, he showed himself too tough for some.) Still and all, the question for conclave watchers is not which sub-set of cardinals prevails, but which group is able to knit together enough allies to elect a man acceptable to the whole.


In conclaves of recent centuries, that acceptability was measured by a two-thirds majority vote. This time around, because of a rules change by Pope John Paul II, if the first 28 ballots elect no one, the church’s leaders can switch to a simple 51 percent majority vote. The rule change favors the Italians.


With no more than 17 percent of the votes in the next conclave and a marginally diluted influence in the current regime, the Italians are supposed to be finished as a force. If this were so, their influence in papal elections would have long since waned, because for many decades they have lacked anything close to a majority of votes. Talk of their diminished influence began in the 1950s. Three Italian popes were promptly elected in succession.


A papal conclave, which is an event almost, but not exactly, sacred to Catholics, is also one of the most fascinating exercises of political skill and resourcefulness in the Western world. The conclave that elects a new pope is often the final act of a protracted consideration for the job that involves, as often as not, a choice who didn’t envision the outcome. But few men have refused what Catholics regard as a call from God. Nevertheless, we are not required to suspend our belief in human nature. Man is a political creature. Most popes are not elected by accident. Italians are masterful at politics.


Basta. Time will tell.


Roger A. McCaffrey, a Catholic publisher, is currently assisting in the launch of Ave Maria University Press in Naples, Fla.




Don’t Let Them Marry (A Case for Celibacy) (American Spectator, 050419)


In the run-up to the papal conclave that convened this Monday, the cup of speculation ran over. There were the bets on the identity of the next pope, but there were also predictions about what the pontiff-to-be would do, mixed with some stern advice. Chief among the words of worldly wisdom was the notion that, really, it’s time to knock off this celibacy business for Catholic clerics. There’s a priest shortage, after all, and the idea of celibacy is just weird, inhuman, and likely an invitation to the worst sort of candidate.


I object. But first, in laying out the case against the case against priestly celibacy, I should disclose an interest: I am the son of a Baptist minister and a convert to the Church of Rome. This fact has given me certain insights to separate the wheat from the chaff — or, if you prefer, the bull from its product — in the ongoing debate over priestly nuptials.


It is popular to say that the Catholic Church has no theological objection to married priests. In a sense, that’s true. Saint Peter and many of the early church leaders were married and, even today, the Church does make exceptions. Married Episcopal priests who convert are allowed to come on as Catholic priests. Some married Eastern Rite Catholics are allowed to become priests, though their married status prevents them from attaining the office of bishop.


But there is one good, practical, and, yes, theological objection to a married priesthood: It wouldn’t work. Just because the church hasn’t raised the discipline of priestly celibacy to the level of a dogma does not mean that there isn’t good reason for keeping that discipline in force.


Start with economics. Some priests take vows of poverty. And those diocesan priests who don’t take vows of poverty might as well. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, parish priests can expect to make between $15,000 and $18,000 a year, plus housing and benefits. Most priests do not live as though they are impoverished, but try raising a family on that salary, even if the missus has a job.


The Church could cough up this money, but it would have to come from somewhere. Married priests would mean cuts in Catholic education, cuts in Catholic charities, fewer new parishes. This might be a small price to pay to convince more people to become priests, but it would probably have the opposite effect.


Why? Because a married priesthood would set the dominos crashing. Remove the vow of celibacy and there goes the vow of poverty. The vow of obedience isn’t far behind. It may be annoying to order a 35-year-old priest to travel across the country or across the world on a new assignment, but he knew what he was getting into. But a 35-year-old priest, married with four children, has obligations to his family that may at times eclipse what he owes his church — and rightly so.


Then there’s the implementation. The Church wouldn’t go from an unmarried priesthood to a married one by telling priests that they can start dating. Instead, Rome would allow married Catholics to study for the priesthood and tell current priests that they are so out of luck. Many priests would find this situation hard to bear. Some would jump ship.


The scheme that most people superimpose over the priesthood is the Protestant model. What works for the descendants of the Reformers should work for Catholics too. There are two problems with this approach.


One, the priesthood is more demanding. With daily Mass, often at multiple parishes, a rigorous regimen of prayer and contemplation, confessional duties, hospital duties, and the general demands of ministry and administration, most priests would be de facto married to the Church, even if that was not formalized in the discipline of celibacy.


Two, the Protestant model is far from perfect. Every year, Protestant seminaries mint more new pastors than their Catholic counterparts, but the mold doesn’t necessarily stick. Good figures are not easy to be had but, anecdotally, I know many more pastors who have called it quits after a few years — often for family reasons — than priests who have decided to hang up their collars.


Right now, the decision to become a priest is a transformative experience. Those who travel down that road give something up in order to live a life of service to Church and man. Would-be reformers want to lower the price — to make the tradeoff less steep. Far better, I think, would be to convince more young Catholics that this is the kind of life they should want.


Jeremy Lott is the foreign press critic for




Pope Vows to Keep Tough Abortion Stance (Foxnews, 050507)


ROME  — Pope Benedict XVI indicated Saturday he will stick to Pope John Paul II’s unwavering stands against abortion and euthanasia, saying pontiffs must resist attempts to “water down” Roman Catholic teaching.


Benedict outlined his vision of his papacy in a homily during a ceremony in which he took his place on a marble-and-mosaic throne in the ancient Roman basilica of St. John in Lateran. The ceremony is the last to formally mark Benedict’s assumption of the papacy.


The pope “must not proclaim his own ideas, but ever link himself and the church to obedience to the word of God, when faced with all attempts of adaptation or of watering down, as with all opportunism,” Benedict said.


That’s what Pope John Paul II did when he “underlined in an unequivocal way the inviolability of human beings, the inviolability of human life from conception to natural death,” Benedict said to ringing applause from the congregation.


“Freedom to kill is not a true freedom but a tyranny that reduces the human being into slavery.”


In Vatican teaching, the phrase in defense of life “from conception to natural death” refers to its bans on abortion and euthanasia.


“The pope isn’t an absolute sovereign, whose thoughts and desires are law,” Benedict said. “On the contrary, the ministry of the pope is the guarantor of the obedience toward Christ and his word.”


As German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict was in charge for nearly a quarter-century of enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy, and he earned a reputation as a strict interpreter of church teaching who silenced dissident theologians.


An hour earlier, thousands of people cheered as Benedict, standing in an open-topped black sedan, arrived at the Basilica for the ceremony.


Pontiffs must be installed as Bishop of Rome, and that ceremony traditionally takes place at the ancient basilica, which the Vatican describes as the “mother and head of all the churches of the city of Rome and of the world.”


Inside the church, cardinals, bishops and other clerics arrayed in several rows applauded vigorously as Benedict took his place on the throne and smiled.


The basilica visit was the last of several ceremonies following Benedict’s April 19 election as pope. He was installed at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square a few days later.


“Taking possession” of St. John’s symbolizes the care that the pope has for all the Roman Catholic churches. Popes lead the entire church in their role as Bishop of Rome and successor to St. Peter, the first pope.


“Dear Romans, now I am your bishop,” Benedict said. “Thanks for your generosity, thanks for your sympathy, thanks for your patience.”


The first Christian basilica to be erected in Rome, St. John’s was founded by the Emperor Constantine. Its original foundations were raised in the early 5th century.


The papal altar contains relics of Saints Peter and Paul, and the bishop’s throne is carved out of stone, decorated by mosaics.


Rome Cardinal Camillo Ruini opened the ceremony saying: “Most blessed Father, the church that is in Rome rejoices as you ascend for the first time to your throne, that his the Roman throne of Peter, on which is founded the church.”




Clerical Losers (American Spectator, 050511)


By The Prowler


If there were any “losers” in the election of Pope Benedict XVI, they certainly will not be found among the faithful, or the Latin American or African Catholic churches. No, the biggest losers are here in the United States, where influential, liberal Catholic priests who have actively and publicly defied the Vatican, along with several Cardinals selected late in the reign of Pope John Paul II, find themselves in a bit of a political pickle.


“Pope Benedict knows better than any one else who the trouble makers are in the United States, and he knows who has worked against the Church’s teachings there,” says an ordained source at the Vatican. “You will be seeing changes soon.”


Sooner than expected. Late last week it was announced that the Rev. Thomas Reese, the editor of the Jesuit weekly America, was leaving his position at the magazine to be reassigned to new duties.


Reese was one of a number of American commentators in Rome during the recent pontifical election, and while he was often restrained in his remarks about then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, he made it clear he was not a supporter of his candidacy.


America magazine, the public organ of the Jesuit order in U.S., is one of the most liberal Catholic periodicals, second only to the National Catholic Reporter, an independent publication.


That America was essentially viewed by the mass media and a number of American Catholics as an official church publication only confused matters. Under Reese it published articles with views that opposed the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexual priests, stem-cell research, whether Catholic politicians can be denied communion if they support abortion rights, and homosexual unions.


“Most of the major media sees this publication and thinks, ‘Well, if the Jesuits are writing this stuff, then American Catholics must be thinking this, or living this way,’” says the Rome insider. “It created confusion and allowed the media to portray a divided, confused American Church. It may well be, but from Rome’s perspective, there is only one truth, and America isn’t publishing it.”


In certain Catholic circles it has been known for some time that a number of American Jesuits actively opposed Pope John Paul II, particularly his attempt to bring American Catholic universities into line with Roman Catholic theological teaching. At one time it appeared that as many as 30 Jesuit theology professors at such schools as Georgetown, Creighton, San Francisco, and Santa Clara would be barred from teaching theology or philosophy due to their refusal to adhere their teachings to established Roman Catholic doctrine.


“The Vatican has been having problems with the Jesuit order in a number of areas, including doctrine and celibacy,” says an American theologian. “It isn’t just the Jesuits, but because of their higher visibility, they have garnered more attention. It is safe to say that the Jesuits have been out of favor with the Vatican for some time. This resignation may be just the beginning of a greater effort to bring the order in line.”


Reese resigned, according the Jesuit insiders in New York, after the order received word from Rome that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has received complaints from several American Catholic bishops about the magazine and its content.


America in the past had made a point of attacking the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, openly questioning its positions on a number of issues where American Catholics differ with Rome.


IT ISN’T JUST JESUIT journalists who are getting put in their place. In the coming weeks and months it is anticipated that a wave of retirements and re-assignments will occur elsewhere in the American Catholic Church.


Already, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, of Washington, D.C., has announced that he will submit retirement papers when he turns 75 later this year. Such retirement papers are pro forma for all cardinals; they serve at the pleasure of the Holy Father, and oftentimes are allowed to remain in office after they turn 75.


But McCarrick’s situation may be different. He is known to have not been a supporter of Pope Benedict before his election. “Cardinal McCarrick has to be wondering where he stands right now,” says another American priest from Rome with insight into the machinations of the Vatican. “This is a man who went out of his way to cross then-Cardinal Ratzinger and the Doctrine of the Faith.”


McCarrick is believed by many in conservative Catholic circles to have been the individual who in June 2004 leaked to the Washington Post and other newspapers a memo written by Cardinal Ratzinger instructing American bishops to detail to their congregations the Catholic Church’s longstanding doctrine on life issues and on the responsibility of Catholic politicians to live both their private and political lives in union with the Church. As Ratzinger’s letter stated, those politicians out of step with the Church should be turned away from the communion rail.


The letter, a version of which is almost always sent out to the bishops around election time in the United States (across the country, many Catholic priests take the time in homilies before election day to remind parishioners of the Church’s policies in such matters), took on greater meaning in 2004 because Sen. John Kerry made such a production of attending Catholic services and receiving communion during his campaign.


It didn’t help McCarrick that he allowed the Kerry campaign to make public meetings he had with Kerry and his advisers. When, on one occasion, McCarrick went out of his way to hide the meeting, Kerry’s aides leaked word of it anyway.


McCarrick is also known to have prevented the founding of at least one orthodox Catholic studies program that was seeking his support to open a small two-year college in Washington, D.C. Known as Campion College, it would have served as a feeder school to Catholic University, Christendom College in Virginia, and the soon-to-open Ave Maria University in Florida, and offered philosophy and theology courses to young professionals in the Washington area interested in expanding their Catholic faith. The program had the support of a number of high-ranking conservatives in the Vatican.


In Rome, after the election of Pope Benedict, rumors swirled that McCarrick, along with several other prominent American Cardinals, had initially thrown their support behind Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a political moderate, but one in line with the Church’s important teachings.


ANOTHER CARDINAL PERHAPS looking over his shoulder is Los Angeles’s Roger Mahony, who more than any other American Catholic leaders except Cardinal Bernard Law, is stained by the covering up for pedophiles in the Catholic Church.


But Mahony has other issues that have caught the eye of Rome in the past few years, not the least of which were his attempts to block Los Angeles parishioners from taking part in traditional Latin masses in his diocese. At one point, Mahony claimed that only Catholics who attended such masses back in 1965 would be allowed to participate in the Tridentine Mass.


“That hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but Mahony’s maneuvers in that case have been remembered here,” says the Vatican source. “Some of these gentlemen may have thought they would outlive the strict enforcement of doctrine. The confirmation and ascension of Pope Benedict is evidence that they will not.”


Why would the Tridentine Mass controversy stand out? Perhaps, in part, because Pope Benedict XVI has often spoken and written about the beauty and spirituality of the Latin Mass, and its focus on Christ and His sacrifice. As recently as two years ago, then Cardinal Ratzinger reaffirmed his belief that there was a place for portions of the Latin Mass in today’s liturgies.




Pope Blasts Europe for Excluding God (Foxnews, 050621)


ROME — Pope Benedict XVI rails against Europe in his first book published since becoming pope, chastising a culture that he says excludes God from life and allows innocent lives — the unborn — to be taken from God through legalized abortion.


“The Europe of Benedict: In the crisis of cultures” was written when the pope was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican’s guardian of doctrine, and serves as a strong indication of issues that will be priorities in his pontificate.


The book covers many of the themes Benedict has already focused on in his two months in office: the role of Christianity in Europe and the need to respect life from conception to its natural death. It also explores faith and what it means to be Christian.

It’s an easy, 149-page read, written in Italian in 1992, 1997 and earlier this year, according to the Cantagalli publishers, which was releasing the book along with the Vatican’s publishing office, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, at a ceremony Tuesday.


Parts of the book were made available to The Associated Press on Monday.


Ratzinger takes as a starting point the decision of European Union leaders to exclude a reference to Europe’s Christian roots from the preamble of the proposed EU constitution, whose future remains uncertain following its rejection by French and Dutch voters in recent referendums.


The Vatican had campaigned to have the reference included, part of its attempts to stem what it sees as a continent of increasingly empty churches that is often hostile to religion.


“Europe has developed a culture which, in a way never before known to humanity, excludes God from public conscience, either by being denied or by judging his existence to be uncertain and thus belonging to subjective choices, something irrelevant for public life,” Benedict writes.


He dismisses arguments that inclusion of the reference would have offended Jews and Muslims, saying they are more offended by Europe’s attempt to deny a historic fact.


“It’s not the mention of God that offends the followers of other religious, but precisely the attempt to build a human community absolutely without God,” he writes.


He says Europe needs more people like St. Benedict of Norcia, the fifth and sixth century monk who is a patron saint of Europe. The Benedictine order that followed his teachings became the main guardian of learning and literature in Western Europe during the dark centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.


The “Benedict” in the title of the book apparently refers to the saint.


Looking at current culture in Europe, Ratzinger acknowledges it would be easy to resign oneself to the fact that abortion is a legal right in much of Europe. But he concludes that there is no such thing as a “little homicide” and that when man loses the respect for life, “inevitably he ends by losing his own identity.”


He criticizes parents who think their rights to freedom trump the rights of the unborn child, saying “they become blind to the right to life of another, of the youngest and weakest who don’t have a voice.”


“Accepting that the rights of the weakest can be violated, means that you accept also that the right of force prevails over the force of rights,” he writes.


The pope, a world-renowned theologian who has written dozens of books, recently turned over his copyrights to the Vatican publishing house, an undertaking the publisher said was “mountainous.”


By comparison, Pope John Paul II’s literary output was relatively modest: He wrote five books during his 26-year pontificate.


Cantagalli officials said there were no immediate plans to translate Benedict’s book into other languages.




Which church is the best? (WorldNetDaily, 050809)


As I typed this innocent headline, I felt a million hackles rising around the world. After all, it’s politically correct to pretend that every church is equally valid even though some of them are rapidly crumbling fossils, some are ethnic clubs, some are 180 degrees off from the Bible on every major doctrine, some are studiously devoted to irrelevance, and some are 5 percent Bible with 95 percent ritual and rigamajig copied from pagan religions.


In the interest of full disclosure, I was reared in various fundamental churches, discipled through a staid college ministry, and graduated on to a series of evangelical churches, most of them pretty darned good. If there were an award for Most Churches Visited, I would at least be a finalist.


This diverse background has prepared me to be an equal-opportunity church basher. Or back patter. So with a pocketful of gold medals and a few handfuls of mud, I proceed.


My first target of opportunity is the ultimate ecclesiastical pyramid, the Roman Catholic Church. Why start here? Because it has a set of traditions that soldiers might call a “target-rich environment.”


To her credit, Holy Mother Church has remained solid on basics like the deity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the atonement and resurrection, plus social issues like the right to life. Also, there are large pockets of vibrant spirituality in such movements as Cursillo and the Catholic charismatics. Much-loved Pope John XXIII once gave the first-ever audience to a gathering of Catholic charismatics. After reading a few paragraphs of his speech, he looked up, saw the sea of beaming faces, pushed his speech aside, and said, “Oh, I don’t have to use this with you people.”


I’m also encouraged by Benedict XVI, who seems to have inherited John Paul II’s humility as well as his loyalty to foundational doctrines. On Jan. 22, 1998, when he was still a cardinal and the grand Inquisitor (yes!) of the Roman Catholic Church, he declared that their archives (4,500 large volumes) indicate a death toll of 25 million killed by the Catholic Church for being “heretics.” And likely two-thirds of the original volumes are lost. That kind of honesty will help relations (though there is no basis for uniting the RCC with Bible-believing Protestant churches).


On the downside, Catholics still persecute Protestants worldwide much more than vice versa, they don’t know their Bibles as well, and they are far more apt to have a syncretistic faith mixed with native religions. As a result, their annual growth rate (1.24 percent) barely keeps up with world growth as a whole. In fact, on any given Sunday in Latin America, you’ll now find more Protestants in church than Catholics. The typical Catholic is also less likely to be a born-again Christian. If “born-again” confuses you, it means someone who, meeting a cement truck head-on, would go to Heaven instead of Hell. Ironically, the current popularity of that phrase sprang from the title of Chuck Colson’s autobiography, and was thought up by his Catholic wife as they were sitting in a Catholic mass!


But the worst of the Catholic Church’s problems is their added-on doctrines and customs. “Megashift” lists 56 of them, ranging from quirky (kissing the pope’s foot, begun in 709) to damaging (indulgences sold for forgivene$$ of $in$, 1190) to horrendous (the current drive to declare Mary as co-redemptrix along with Christ – spearheaded by Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, whose petition to John Paul II was signed by millions of Catholics, including 40 cardinals, 480 bishops, and Mother Teresa. Mel Gibson also supports the movement, as did John Paul himself. (To be fair, they state that “co-redemptrix” does not imply deity.)


By papal decrees, Mary was already named mediatrix in 1931 and “Queen of Heaven” in 1954. Admiration for admirable people like Mary is wonderful, but this is way over the top. See Jeremiah 44, where God angrily condemns the Jews to death by famine and sword for paying homage to the “Queen of Heaven.” The tens of thousands of Catholic martyrs, apostles, missionaries and devoted religious who have given their blood, sweat and tears to their supreme Lord Jesus for centuries deserve a purer posterity than this.


In a future column, I’ll discuss how the Catholics could capitalize on their historical role as guardians of the original faith, make a clean start without their accumulated theological baggage, and save themselves from near-extinction. But for next week, I’ll gather some fresh mud for the Protestant traditions that so richly deserve it.




Benedict prepares to forbid gay priests (Washington Times, 050923)


Pope Benedict XVI will move soon against homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood by issuing a Vatican “instruction” forbidding even celibate homosexuals from entering seminary.


Seen as a response to the sexual-abuse crisis, which has cost the Catholic Church in the United States more than $1 billion in lawsuits, the instruction will be released next month.


“Both the present Holy Father and many Catholic scholars and commentators have realized the sexual-abuse crisis was a sign of something much deeper and more widespread,” said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, editor-in-chief of Ignatius Press in San Francisco, “such as the rejection of Catholic teaching, especially in the area of sexual ethics.”


The document will be issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education, which oversees 113,000 seminarians worldwide, and reports of its imminent release already has caused a furor in Catholic circles.


“No one believed they would do it, but it looks like they’re going to,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, former editor of the Jesuit magazine America and now a visiting scholar at Santa Clara University. “This policy seems to be saying celibacy is not possible for gay men, therefore we cannot ordain them.”


What’s different about the document, according a Sept. 19 Catholic World News (CWN) article, is the proviso forbidding even celibate homosexuals. It is unclear what will happen to homosexual men currently in seminary.


“The question is how will they define homosexuality,” said Domenico Bettinelli, editor of Catholic World Report, a sister publication to CWN. “Do they mean people in active homosexual relationships or a guy who’s had one nonstraight thought? Where will they draw the line? That’s the million-dollar question.”


In 1961, Pope John XXIII issued a binding directive to canon law that ruled that ordination “should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers.”


That law was either ignored in some U.S. seminaries during the sexually libertarian 1960s and 1970s or adjusted to allow a middle option of homosexual priests who promised to remain celibate, Father Fessio said.


“There emerged a justification, a whole philosophy saying same-sex attraction is one of God’s gifts,” he said. “That’s what was so insidious. Now in our present culture — which is obsessed with sex — the church must make sure its own ministers are not contaminated by this secularized worldview.”


In 2004, a church fact-finding team issued a report on the clergy sexual-abuse crisis that said 81 percent of the abuse was of boys and young men, prompting the Vatican to decide to revise and update the law.


Monsignor Steven Rohlfs, rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., said applicants to the priesthood are asked about their sexuality during mandatory psychological evaluations at the diocesan level.




Jesuit Official Protests Gay Priest Ban (Foxnews, 050930)


NEW YORK — A top Jesuit official has been contacting leaders of the Roman Catholic Church to protest a soon-to-be-released Vatican document that is expected to reinforce the teaching that gays are not welcome in the priesthood.


The Rev. Gerald Chojnacki, head of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus, said in a letter to his priests that he was asking bishops to tell Vatican officials who are drafting the policy “of the great harm this will cause many good priests and the Catholic faithful.”


Chojnacki wrote in the letter, dated Monday, that he had participated in the funerals of several gay Jesuit clergy over the last few years.


“I find it insulting to demean their memory and their years of service by even hinting that they were unfit for priesthood because of their sexual orientation,” he wrote.


Chojnacki said he would be working with the Conference of Major Superiors, which represents leaders of religious orders in the United States including the Jesuits, Franciscans and others, and with bishops to fight “for the opportunity of a gay person to say yes to God’s call in celibate service of priesthood and chaste religious life.”


A priest who supports the protest provided the letter to The Associated Press. A spokesman for the New York province did not respond to a request for comment Friday.


A Vatican official said last week that the upcoming “instruction” from the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education will reaffirm the church’s belief that homosexuals should not be ordained.


In recent decades, Vatican officials have stated several times that gays should not become priests because their sexual orientation is “intrinsically disordered” and makes them unsuitable for ministry. A Vatican-directed evaluation of all 229 U.S. seminaries is underway, and is looking for “evidence of homosexuality” in the schools among other issues, such as whether their instruction keeps with church teaching.


The evaluation was organized in response to the clergy sex abuse crisis.


Priests in religious orders throughout the country said in interviews that anger is building among their members about the prospect of a ban on gay seminarians.


Some have said clergy are considering staging a strike on a Sunday, to show how critical gay priests are to serving the church. Priests who had not disclosed their sexual orientation to parishioners are now thinking about coming out and denouncing the idea of a ban. Others have talked about signing their names to a protest letter to the Vatican.


Estimates of the numbers of gays in the priesthood vary from 25 percent to 50 percent. About one-third of the 42,500 U.S. priests are members of religious orders.




Vatican Says Active Gays Unwelcome in Priesthood (Foxnews, 051122)


VATICAN CITY — The Vatican says homosexuals who are sexually active or support “gay culture” are unwelcome in the priesthood unless they have overcome their homosexual tendencies for at least three years, according to a church document posted on the Internet by an Italian Catholic news agency.


The long-awaited document is scheduled to be released by the Vatican on Nov. 29. A church official who has read the document confirmed the authenticity of the Internet posting by the Adista news agency.


The document said that “the church, while deeply respecting the people in question, cannot admit to the seminary and the sacred orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support so-called gay culture.”


“Those people find themselves, in fact, in a situation that presents a grave obstacle to a correct relationship between men and women. One cannot ignore the negative consequences that can stem from the ordination of people with deeply rooted homosexual tendencies,” it said.


“If instead it is a case of homosexual tendencies that are merely the expression of a transitory problem, for example as in the case of an unfinished adolescence, they must however have been clearly overcome for at least three years before ordination as a deacon.”


Vatican prohibitions on active homosexuals becoming priests are not new.


A key 1961 Vatican document on selecting candidates for the priesthood made clear homosexuals should be barred.


However, the sex abuse scandal among priests in the United States and elsewhere has led some to call for new restrictions.




Vatican Releases Papers on Gay Clergy (Foxnews, 051129)


VATICAN CITY  — The Vatican published its long-awaited document on gays in the clergy Tuesday, saying men with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies should not be ordained but those with a “transitory problem” could be if they had overcome them for three years.


The official release of the “Instruction” from the Congregation for Catholic Education came a week after an Italian Catholic news agency posted a leaked copy on its Web site. As a result, the document’s contents were already known.


Reaction has been mixed, with conservatives saying it may help reverse the “gay culture” that has grown in many U.S. seminaries. Liberal critics have complained that the restrictions will create morale problems among existing priests and lead to an even greater priest shortage in the United States.


Some observers also have raised questions about just what the document means by a “deep-seated homosexual tendency,” since a definition isn’t provided.


The Rev. Timothy Radcliff, former superior of the Dominican order, wrote in the British Catholic weekly the Tablet that the phrase could be interpreted as concerning men with a “permanent homosexual orientation.”


“But this cannot be correct since, as I have said, there are many excellent priests who are gay and who clearly have a vocation from God.”


“Having worked with bishops and priests, diocesan and religious, all over the world, I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met,” he wrote.


Pope Benedict XVI approved the “Instruction” on Aug. 31 and ordered it published — one of the first major documents he has approved for release since being elected pope April 19.


The document has been years in the works, but its existence came to light in 2002 at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the United States. A study commissioned by U.S. bishops found that most abuse victims since 1950 were adolescent boys.


Experts on sex offenders say homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to molest young people, but that did not stifle questions about gay seminarians.


The document restates church teaching that deep-seated homosexual tendencies are “objectively disordered” but that gays should be treated with respect and shouldn’t be discriminated against.


“In light of such teaching ... the church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture,”‘ it says.


Such men can’t be priests because they are in a situation that “gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women,” it says.


But it distinguishes such men from others with homosexual tendencies “that were only the expression of a transitory problem — for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded.”


“Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate,” it says.


The document is short — nine pages including the title page and footnotes that make up the bulk of the text.




Pope Condemns “Crime of Abortion,” Attacks on Marriage (Catholic World News, 051205)


Pope Benedict XVI renewed his opposition to “the intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion,” and warned against false imitations of marriage, as he met on December 3 with leaders of the Latin American Episcopal Commissions for the Family and Life.


The Pope’s strong statement to the Latin American group came at a time when efforts to legalize abortion are underway in several countries across the region. The Holy Father said that the act of abortion, “attacking human life at its beginnings, is also an act of aggression against society itself.” Political leaders, he said, have a “duty to defend the fundamental right to life.”


Recalling that Pope John Paul II had made it one of the top priorities of his pontificate to promote healthy family life, Pope Benedict said that he shares his predecessor’s deep concern. He underlined the Church’s recognition of marriage as a sacrament, making the observation that in a Christian marriage “the gift of creation is raised to the grace of redemption.”


This conception of marriage, the Pope said, is now being challenged by other popular views. He insisted that “children have the right to be born and to grow up in the bosom of a family founded on marriage.” The Church, he said, needs pastors who will promote authentic family life with energy and force.


Suggesting that diocesan priests should receive strong training in the area of pastoral care for families, the Pope used the occasion to praise the organizers of a special worldwide day for families, which will be held in Valencia, Spain, in 2006; he invited the 50 Latin American clerics to attend that event. Although the Pope’s words were address principally to Latin America, they were widely reported in the Italian media. That country is engaged in a lively debate about the use of the abortion pill RU-486, and a proposal for legal recognition of same-sex unions, as legislative and presidential elections approach.


Pope Benedict had condemned abortion unequivocally during a November 16 general audience, when he saluted the work of Italian pro-life activists. He also upheld the dignity of marriage and the family when he spoke on June 6 at a conference on family life organized by the Rome diocese. In that same talk he decried research on human embryonic subjects, the breakdown in many marriages, and the widening acceptance of extra-marital and homosexual unions.




Roman Catholics, Lutherans Look into Purgatory, Indulgences, Prayers for the Dead (Christian Post, 051216)


Catholics and Lutherans entered a new round of dialogues this month, nearly 40 years after the two traditions first engaged in ecumenical talks.


Meeting in Chicago from Dec. 1-4, more than 20 Lutheran and Roman Catholic leaders and theologians addressed key topics relating to the Christian view of life beyond death. Along the way, they touched on highly contested issues of purgatory, indulgences, and masses and prayers for the dead – characteristics more reflective of the Roman Catholic tradition.


This new series of discussion takes on the title, “The Hope for Eternal Life,” and marks the sixth round for the two traditions.


“The particular round really does speak about those matters that are so close to the way people live,” said the Rev. Arthur Kennedy, executive director of ecumenical and interreligious affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C., according to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) News Service.


“One of the things that I think is most important about this particular theme is that it’s talking about being in the presence of God,” he added, saying the dialogue’s theme can give people “God’s gift of hope.”


“This is hope not just for Lutherans and Catholics. This is hope for other Christians, all working together,” he said.


After centuries of hostility, Lutherans and Catholics opened channels of discussions in 1965 through the newly established Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Since then, the two bodies agreed upon several landmark doctrines, including the question of justification – an issue that largely sparked Martin Luther’s fierce criticism of Roman Catholicism.


Through the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which was signed on Oct. 31, 1999, the Vatican and the world’s Lutherans agreed to a basic understanding of justification and declared that certain 16th century condemnations of each other no longer apply.


The new round of talks will address some of the topics identified during the development and completion of the Justification doctrine, according to ELCA news. It will also touch on some unanswered questions from round X of dialogues, which concluded with the acceptance of a 69-page document on the “Church as Koinonia of Salvation.”


Meanwhile, the theologians also looked to the possibility of holding joint events and observances leading up to the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses and the official start of the Protestant Reformation. The anniversary falls on 2017.




Pope’s first encyclical is disquisition on love and sex (Times Online, 060125)


Pope Benedict XVI today released his first encyclical, a learned disquisition on the true meaning of love.


The letter sent out to the entire Roman Catholic Church is titled Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). It says that erotic love between a man and a woman is degraded to a “commodity” of sex if it is not blended with selfless, higher, spiritual love.


The 72-page document, which is professorial and academic in tone, will be seen as Benedict’s attempt to set the keynote of his nine-month-old papacy. It discusses God’s love for man, man’s love for God and love between humans.


“Today, the term ‘love’ has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings,” the German-born pontiff writes at the start of the encyclical, traditionally the way by which the Pope delivers an important message to his Church.


“I wish in my first encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.”


He writes that while he discusses “the multiplicity of the meanings of love”, the one that most needs clarification today is the “love between a man and a woman where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness”.


Much of the first half is dedicated to the relationship between “eros”, or erotic love, and “agape”, the Ancient Greek word referring to unconditional, spiritual and selfless love, as described in Scriptures.


He speaks of “an intoxicated and undisciplined eros” which does not lead to God but to human degradation, unless it is “purified” to provide much more than “just fleeting pleasure”.


“Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved.”


The Pope acknowledges that in the past the Church, “with all her commandments and prohibitions” was seen as having been “opposed to the body”. But he gives warning that contemporary society’s way of exalting the body at all costs was deceptive and dangerous.


“Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex’, has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity,” he said.


He defines “eros” as worldly love, and “agape” as love grounded in and shaped by faith, and says they can never be completely separated. “The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realised,” he writes.


Church leaders have said that they hoped the encyclical would help clarify the Catholic stance on love.


“In our culture we presuppose that there must be a separation between eros - understood as human desire, sexually expressed - and agape,” Cardinal Francis George of Chicago told a Vatican conference this week.


“The Pope tries to overcome, and I think does so successfully, a separation between eros and agape by pointing to the inner movement of erotic love toward a generosity between a man and a woman, based on the total self-giving of one to the other for the sake of the other,” Cardinal George said.


The second part of the encyclical is dedicated to charity and charitable works as an extension of God’s love for humanity. The Pope rejects the Marxist doctrine that charity is merely an excuse by the rich to keep the poor in their place, when the rich should be working for a more just society.


“Despite the great advances made in science and technology, each day we see how much suffering there is in the world on account of different kinds of poverty, both spiritual and material,” he writes. “Our times call for a new readiness to assist our neighbours in need.”


But he adds that Catholic charity cannot be used as a tool to win converts from other religions, and must be independent of political parties and ideologies. It should be fuelled only by God’s love and people’s love for their neighbours.


“Love is free; it is not practiced as a way of achieving other ends,” he writes.


The idea that charity must be non-political and based in faith was emphasised during a news conference by Archbishop Josef Cordes, who heads the Vatican’s charity organization Cor Unum.


“Without a solid theological foundation, the big church agencies could be threatened in practice by disassociating themselves from the church and relaxing their links with bishops,” Archbishop Cordes said. “They could prefer to identify themselves as non-governmental organisations (like the Red Cross or the United Nations).”


Richard Owen, Rome Correspondent of The Times, said: “The first part of the encyclical was written by Pope Benedict himself, whereas the second half, on Christian aid efforts in the third world, was left behind by Pope John Paul II, and unfinished when he died.”


“The late Pope had thought of an encyclical on charity, but it had only got as far as the draft stage and it was being discussed by his advisers when he died. Nevertheless Benedict, who reveres his predecessor, clearly thought he had a duty to his mentor to fulfil his last wish, and to publish the encyclical that the old Pope wanted. And then he had the idea of combining it with other reflections on love.”


Some Vatican officials have expressed some surprise at the Pope’s uncontroversial choice of topic, considering that Benedict was once the Vatican’s chief doctrinal watchdog and could easily have delved into a more problematic issue such as bioethics in his first authoritative text.


This week the Vatican was accused of trying to cash in on the Pope’s words after it decided to impose strict copyright on all papal documents.


The edict on copyright is retroactive, covering not only today’s encyclical, but also the writings of Pope Benedict’s predecessors over the past 50 years. It therefore includes anything written by John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII.


A Milanese publishing house that had issued an anthology containing 30 lines from Pope Benedict’s speech to the conclave that elected him, and an extract from his enthronement speech, is reported to have been sent a bill for €15,000 (£10,000). This was made up of 15 per cent of the cover price of each copy sold plus “legal expenses” of €3,500.


The decision was denounced for treating the Pope’s words as “saleable merchandise” and endangering the Church’s mission to “spread the Christian message”.




China’s Official Church Ordains Pope-Endorsed Bishop (Christian Post, 060507)


BEIJING (AP) - China’s official Roman Catholic church named a new bishop Sunday — reportedly with papal approval — as Beijing rejected Vatican criticism of the unauthorized ordination of two other bishops.


The Rev. Paolo Pei Junmin was named assistant bishop of Shenyang, the biggest city in China’s northeast, said Liu Bainian, deputy chairman of the official church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which has no ties to Rome.


Liu told The Associated Press the Chinese church had no contact with the Vatican ahead of the ordination. But the Vatican-affiliated AsiaNews agency said Pei was endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican said Sunday it had no comment on Pei’s appointment.


China’s ordination of two bishops last week without the pope’s approval angered the Vatican, which warned that those who took part might face excommunication. The clash set back Benedict’s efforts to reach out to Beijing in hopes of forming official relations.


China’s Catholics were forced to cut ties to the Vatican after the 1949 communist revolution. But the Holy See and China’s church communicate informally and most Chinese bishops have received papal endorsement.


On Sunday, Hong Kong Cable TV showed Pei emerging from Shenyang’s Nanguan Cathedral after his ordination dressed in a gold robe and a white miter, a bishop’s distinctive pointed hat. Worshippers outside the church watched the ceremony on a large television screen and sang hymns.


Pei, speaking during the ceremony, said he would lead his diocese in “protecting the nation’s territorial integrity, social stability and unity.” The comments echoed the government’s position on the church role in promoting official policy.


The ordination was attended by clergy from the United States, Germany, South Korea and Taiwan, Hong Kong’s TVB reported.


Also Sunday, the State Administration of Religious Affairs defended the earlier ordinations, saying Beijing informed the Vatican in advance but got no response — an apparent reference to their practice of agreeing on bishops through unofficial contacts.


The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement rejecting the criticism as unfounded, while the religious agency said it “ran against” the Vatican’s desire for better relations.


Chinese church leaders recognize the pope as their spiritual leader and have sent priests to Rome to learn new religious doctrine.


But Beijing says it will not allow official contact until the Vatican breaks diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own territory, and pledges not to interfere in the selection of clergy and bishops.


The Vatican rejects most government involvement in the selection of church figures. But in Vietnam, another Asian communist nation, bishops are appointed after consultation with the government.


“Relations were improving all along. ... These two recent ordinations were a big step backward,” said Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, a Chinese territory where the Catholic church is allowed to maintain direct ties with Rome.


“Both sides are still talking with sincerity,” Zen said in comments on Hong Kong TV. “I hope they keep talking. I hope these incidents become history and don’t happen again.”


A State Department report last week ranked China among eight “countries of particular concern” that deny religious openness.


Beijing on Saturday criticized the report as irresponsible and said it could harm U.S.-Chinese ties.




Crossovers, Marriages Peak Interest for Lutheran Film on Catholics (Christian Post, 060601)


WASHINGTON – The Protestant-Catholic relationship has come a long way since the burning of Christian “heretics” at the stake and the interrogation of reformers by the Inquisition. Ecumenical meetings and dialogues involving the two branches of Christianity are now the norm, pushed forward by dozens of inter-denominational committees that promote Christian unity at all levels.


But while mistrust and hostility have tapered down, misunderstandings and indifferences still remain at the pews, with many Protestants unsure of Roman Catholic beliefs.


A new resource by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America hopes to change the situation by painting a picture of the Roman Catholic Church from the standpoint of Roman Catholic scholars and leaders.


“We want the audience to get a basic understanding of what Roman Catholics believe, about the history of the Roman Catholic Church, and about the Roman Catholic Renewal, from the perspectives of Roman Catholics themselves,” said Tim Frakes, producer of the 35-minute film, Understanding the Roman Catholic Church.


The program includes interviews with Roman Catholic theologians, scholars, pastors and lay people, many who laud ecumenical developments as a critical factor of faith.


“The most important thing is that we are brothers and sisters in Christ,” said the Rev. Robert Hoffman, St. John Neumann Catholic Church in St.Charles, Ill., who was interviewed for the program. “We need to cultivate that relationship and not be fearful of one another but to really come with open hearts and understanding.”


According to Frakes, the ELCA decided on the topic because large numbers of Roman Catholics convert to the Lutheran faith.


“We thought this would be interesting because there is an awful lot of Lutherans who used to be Roman Catholics or are married to Roman Catholics,” said Frakes. “There are tremendous amounts of crossover, and we wanted to give a primer so they won’t be left in the dark.”


Frakes and his crew traveled to Assisi, Casino, Rome, and Trent, Italy to film the piece, which took three months to produce. There, they interviewed top Catholic officials who emphasized the grace of God as a uniting power that overrides differences between the groups.


“The things that divide us, yes they divide and have their negative effect on us, but they are minimal compared with the enormous grace of God that brings us together and unites us,” said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity in Rome.


Frakes agreed that despite disagreements over such things as the papacy, number of sacraments, and the nature of Saint Mary, Protestants and Catholics can learn to share in their commonalities.


“When people learn about each other, they tend to find out that they have more in common than in opposition,” he explained. “If you take a legal pad and write about what you disagree on one side and what you agree on the other, you’ll find that the list of things all Christians share in common far exceeds those things that divide.”


Frakes estimates that the program will be viewed by 13,000 ELCA related congregations, as well as some ecumenically-minded Presbyterians and Methodists. Understanding the Roman Catholic Church is available online, beginning today, at:




China Catholic Church Ordains Bishop Over Vatican Objections (Christian Post, 060430)


BEIJING (AP) — China’s state-sanctioned Roman Catholic Church ordained a new bishop Sunday, rejecting the Vatican’s request to delay the appointment and threatening efforts to restore official ties between the sides after five decades.


China’s Foreign Ministry defended the official church’s right to ordain bishops without Vatican input and called the Holy See’s criticism of such appointments “groundless.”


The ordination could damage recent efforts to restore Sino-Vatican ties, cut in 1951 after the Communist Party took control in China. One of the stumbling blocks in improving relations has long been a dispute over who has the authority to appoint bishops.

“The recent ordination of bishops at some diocese have been unanimously well-received by church members and priests,” the Foreign Ministry said in a faxed statement. “The criticism toward the Chinese side by the Vatican is groundless.”


China’s church — the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association — held a ceremony for the new bishop, Ma Yinglin, in the city of Kunming in southwestern Yunnan province.


Hong Kong Cable TV showed Ma wearing his new bishop’s hat and carrying an ornate gold staff as he waved to the faithful.


Before the ceremony, the TV report showed a long line of clergy in white robes walking into a church with a Chinese-style sloping roof with yellow tiles. Security was tight, with police checking the invited audience at the entrance.


Outside the church, ethnic minorities from Yunnan performed, with dancing women on one side of the sidewalk twirling and clapping their hands as men on the other side played banjo-like instruments.


“We are extremely happy to participate in Father Ma Yinglin’s ordination,” an unidentified dancing woman wearing an ornate headdress decorated with silver balls told the TV station. “He’s been a big help to us. This year when we built a new church, he gave us part of the money.”


One middle-aged man in a brown blazer told the TV station he also was pleased with Ma’s ordination.


“I think he has a lot of prestige. In the hearts of the faithful here, we feel really good about the way he treats people and how he handles things for everyone,” said the man, who was not identified.


AsiaNews, a Vatican-linked news agency, has reported that the Vatican opposed Ma because he does not have enough pastoral experience and he is too close to leaders of the official Chinese church.


In Hong Kong on Sunday, Vatican-appointed Cardinal Joseph Zen told reporters the Vatican has yet to make a final assessment of Ma and wanted China to hold off on his appointment until Rome could make a decision.


“The Vatican has said that the ordination should be suspended for now but not canceled,” Zen said.


But Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, told Hong Kong’s ATV news Sunday that Ma’s ordination should not involve the Vatican.


“The Vatican and China don’t have diplomatic relations so this (appointing Ma) is China’s sovereign authority,” Liu told ATV. “The Vatican didn’t oppose this so we should keep moving forward.”


Hong Kong’s cardinal has said Sino-Vatican discussions are ongoing about restoring ties. Zen has said that if relations were re-established, the pope would be willing to allow Beijing to express an opinion about that appointments of bishops.


But he has said the Vatican should have the final say.


The Foreign Ministry, however, called on the Vatican to respect’s the state-sanctioned church’s authority.


“We hope the Vatican can respect the will of the Chinese church and the vast numbers of its priests and church members so as to create a good atmosphere for the improvement of Sino-Vatican ties,” the statement said.


Hong Kong, a former British colony now ruled by China, still enjoys religious freedom and the clergy obey the Vatican. But Catholics in the mainland are only allowed to worship at churches run by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.


However, millions of worshippers belong to underground churches loyal to the Vatican. Those who meet in such churches are frequently harassed, fined and sometimes sent to labor camps.




Pope stresses Gospel over giving (Washington Times, 060911)


MUNICH — Western societies are losing their souls to scientific rationality and frightening believers in the developing world who still fear God, Pope Benedict XVI said yesterday during an open-air Mass in Germany.


Benedict, on the second day of a visit to his native Bavaria, said that spreading the good news of Jesus Christ is more important than all the emergency and development aid that rich churches such as those in Germany give to poor countries.


“People in Africa and Asia admire our scientific and technical prowess, but at the same time, they are frightened by a form of rationality that totally excludes God from man’s vision, as if this were the highest form of reason,” he said.


The pope also stressed the role of faith in fighting AIDS “by realistically facing its deeper causes,” indirectly confirming the Roman Catholic Church’s view that premarital abstinence and marital fidelity are the way to combat sexually transmitted diseases.


About 250,000 faithful, many of them families with children, gathered at a fairground for the Mass.


“I’ve been here since 5 o’clock in the morning,” said Kerstin Gessert, 32, from Karlsruhe. “I think it’s important that he has come.”


Wearing green and white vestments, the pope addressed the crowd from a platform covered by a white canopy.


Some listeners wore traditional Bavarian clothes and sat down to picnics of sausages and bread after the service.


“Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable,” Benedict said. “When we bring people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, we bring them too little,” he added, underlining his central concern that secularization and materialism have replaced faith in Western thinking.


Benedict, 79, who has hinted that the visit to his home region could be his last, later led vespers at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Munich, where he served as archbishop from 1977 to 1982. Twin green onion domes make the cathedral one of the city’s best-known landmarks.


Inside, the pope, clad in glittering vestments of green, silver and gold, smiled broadly as he was greeted by young girls in First Communion dresses with flowers in their hair.


At Mass, Benedict said Western societies had become “hard of hearing” about God. “There are too many other frequencies in our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited for our age.”


He contrasted this to faith that Jesus Christ came to save sinners from God’s wrath that he finds in developing countries, where 70 percent of the world’s Catholics now live.


They sense a “contempt for God” in Western societies, he said, and “a cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom and holds up utility as the supreme moral criterion for the future of scientific research.”


The pope singled out the German Catholic Church as one that generously gives aid but plays down the spreading of the Gospel.


“Evangelization itself should be foremost,” he declared.




Controversial Archbishop Gets Excommunicated (Christian Post, 060926)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the Zambian prelate who already had angered the Vatican by getting married in 2001, has been excommunicated for again defying the Holy See by installing four married men as bishops, the Vatican said Tuesday.


The Vatican said Milingo, 76, was “automatically excommunicated” under church law for the ordination of the men a few days earlier. The Archdiocese of Washington said Sunday that the installations were not valid.


Milingo is in “a condition of irregularity and of progressive, open break with communion with the Church,” the Vatican said in a statement.


The four men claim affiliation with the breakaway Synod of Old Catholic Churches.


In its announcement of the excommunication, the Vatican accused Milingo of “sowing division and dismay among the faithful.”


Milingo has long had a troubled relationship with the Vatican. In 2001, he was married to a South Korean acupuncturist chosen for him by Sun Myung Moon, in a group wedding ceremony. Upon appeal from Pope John Paul II, he later renounced that union.


Some American advocates for married priests have kept their distance from Milingo, concerned about his ties with Moon’s Unification Church. He gained a strong following in a church where he had been stationed near Rome because of his reputation of being an exorcist. Before his marriage, Catholic officials accused him of promoting African indigenous beliefs by performing mass exorcisms and healing ceremonies.




Catholic Bishops Form Rules for Ministry to Gays (Christian Post, 061019)


The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops said Wednesday they are developing new guidelines for ministry to gays, reaffirming church opposition to same-gender marriage and adoption by the couples, while condemning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.


The draft document encourages parishes to make gays feel welcome and provide them pastoral support, and notes that many “are ardently striving to live their faith within the Catholic community so as not to fall into the lifestyle and values of a ‘gay subculture.’”


But the authors repeatedly state that any such ministries must be led by people who uphold church teaching on sexuality, and assert that Catholic leaders have a right to “deny roles of service” in the church to people who violate that teaching.


“It is not sufficient for those involved in this ministry to adopt a position of distant neutrality with regard to Church teaching,” according to the document. “Love and truth go together.”


The proposed guidelines, in development since 2002, will be put to a vote and possibly amended by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when they meet Nov. 13-16 in Baltimore.


Last year, the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education issued an “instruction” stating men with “deep-seated” homosexual attraction should not be ordained. This latest U.S. bishops’ proposal focuses on support for gay Catholics, not whether they should become priests.


The document explains the Catholic view of same-sex attraction as “disordered,” emphasizing that sexuality was given as a gift from God to draw men and women together to marry and have children. Gay relationships “violate the true purpose of sexuality,” as does adultery and contraception, the authors wrote.


The document also responds to criticism that the church’s position is unjust.


Catholic teaching is based on “objective moral norms,” not prejudice, the authors wrote. Western societies don’t recognize this reasoning because they generally embrace “moral relativism,” while promoting “hedonism” and “an obsession with the pursuit of pleasure,” the document states.


On the topic of therapy to change same-sex attraction, the proposed guidelines state that there is no scientific consensus on whether the counseling is effective, so there is “no moral obligation to attempt it.” However, gays should learn to live chastely and celibately, the drafters wrote.


Sam Sinnett, president of DignityUSA, which represents gay and lesbian Catholics, said it was clear the document was prepared “by none of us for whom it is intended.”


“They speak in willful ignorance about people in same-gender families. They speak in willful ignorance about homosexuality — sexuality in general,” Sinnett said. “They are continuing to discriminate against us.”




Pope to hold summit on married priests (WorldNetDaily, 061113)


Benedict called the summit to examine the implications of the “disobedience” of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the Zambian prelate excommunicated in September for installing four married American men as bishops, the Vatican said Monday.


The Vatican stressed the meeting would not open a general discussion of the celibacy requirement but would only examine requests for dispensation made by priests wishing to marry and requests for readmission made by clergy who had married in recent years.

Milingo first angered the Holy See in 2001, when he married a South Korean acupuncturist chosen for him by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. He renounced that union — at a group wedding in New York — on an appeal from Pope John Paul II a few months later.


Milingo disappeared from his residence outside Rome in June, resurfacing a month later in Washington, D.C., to announce he was back with his wife and was championing the cause of married priests through his new advocacy group “Married Priests Now.”


Milingo said the Catholic Church should embrace more than 150,000 married priests worldwide in part to ease the ongoing clergy shortage and to elevate the sanctity of marriage.


The Vatican said in September that Milingo and the four men he ordained as bishops were “automatically excommunicated” under church law. The Vatican added that it did not recognize the ordination of the four — the Rev. George Augustus Stallings Jr. of Washington; Peter Paul Brennan of New York; Patrick Trujillo of Newark, N.J.; and Joseph Gouthro of Las Vegas — and would not recognize any ordinations by those men in the future.


Under Vatican teaching, the authority to name bishops rests with the pope. The church also requires celibacy of its priests ordained under the Latin rite.


The Synod of Bishops in October 2005 rejected suggestions that the mandatory celibacy requirement for priests be dropped. But Milingo’s excommunication has brought the issue back into the spotlight.




The Bishop from Beijing: Rome must be wary of China’s meddlesome puppet priests. (National Review Online, 070104)


By Doug Bandow


Kings, queens, and parliaments struggled with the Catholic Church over control of religious affairs for a millennium. However, once clerics’ political influence was on the wane, governments gave up attempting to set ecclesiastical policy. The Church, not the state, would ever more determine theological matters.


At least, that’s the way it has worked in most countries. Totalitarian states are another affair — they coexist most uneasily with organizations that claim to possess transcendent authority.


The collapse of the Soviet Union has sharply diminished the number of governments seeking to act as the religious authority of last resort, but the People’s Republic of China still persists. In late December, Chinese police arrested nine priests in the underground (which is to say legitimate) Catholic Church after they had gathered to pray.


A few weeks before, Beijing ordained Father Wang Renlei as bishop in the China Catholic Patriotic Association, or “patriotic church.” Puppet church would do better. The Vatican, of course, has not sanctioned Father Wang’s ascension.


Nevertheless, Liu Bainian, vice president of the government’s church, argued that “this election is legal and valid.” After all, “a church cannot exist without a bishop.”


Roughly 40 of 97 dioceses in China don’t have bishops, yet the Church has not been derelict in its duties. The Chinese government has outlawed the genuine church and arrests its clerics and laymen alike.


That the Communist authorities selected Wang as bishop comes as no surprise. AsiaNews described him as a “person who is very timid toward the government.”


Beijing denounced the Holy See for being “unreasonable” in objecting to the appointment. However, the PRC’s definition of “reasonable” is a curious one. In an attempt to add legitimacy to the ordination, the communist authorities effectively abducted a couple of other bishops, holding them under guard to forcibly bring them to the ceremony. One was able to escape his captors.


Unfortunately, the latest contretemps reflects an ongoing battle between the Vatican and Beijing. In May the PRC ordained two bishops over the objections of the Catholic Church, leading Pope Benedict XVI to voice his “deep displeasure” and threaten to excommunicate the renegade clerics.


At that time, the PRC responded: “The Vatican’s criticism of the Chinese Catholic churches was unfounded and disregarded history and reality.” Even more bizarrely, Beijing argued that the Holy See’s objection “ran against the remarks of the Vatican hoping to improve its relationship with China.”


The communist government began unilaterally selecting bishops after the Catholic Church rejected a list of Party-approved nominees in 1958. Since then relations between church and state have been largely nonexistent. The PRC harasses and even jails members of the underground church: a bishop released in August had spent a decade in confinement.


In recent years the two sides have conducted an on-again/off-again dialogue to normalize relations. Even after the latest incident, Beijing’s State Administration for Religious Affairs opined: “The Chinese government has a positive attitude toward improving relations with the Vatican, and we want to have a constructive dialogue on the issue of the consecration of bishops.”


However, the question of PRC-Vatican relations involves more than the consecration of bishops. Also central is the status of Taiwan.


After the Communist revolution the Holy See shifted its relationship to Taiwan, which for many years claimed to be the legitimate government of all China. But in recent years the Catholic Church and Communist authorities seemed to be moving toward accommodation.


The patriotic church elevated bishops, but only ones who had been approved privately by the Vatican. Priests and parishioners were increasingly able to move among approved and underground Catholic churches.


After the death of Pope John Paul II there was speculation that the Catholic Church might be willing to shift its recognition to Beijing in return for normalizing the church’s status on the mainland. Earlier this year negotiations were moving forward, until the PRC elevated the two unapproved bishops. At that point a modus vivendi retreated from view.


Obviously, the Catholic Church has an interest in winning legal status in China. That would benefit both the church as an institution as well as an estimated eight million underground believers.


However, the Vatican must be wary of yielding on bedrock issues. First, it must not accede to Beijing’s main goal, which has always had been dominance.


After the Holy See criticized the latest unauthorized ordination, a government spokesman said “We hope the Vatican will stop interfering into China’s internal affairs.” That is, the Communist government believes church governance to be a political issue subject to Beijing’s control.


Thus, the Catholic Church might find it difficult to win a guarantee for genuine independence. Yet it would hardly be worth dickering over anything less.


Second, Taiwan should not be sacrificed lightly. Although the Vatican’s role is not (or, at least, should not be) primarily political, the Catholic Church’s relationship with the Republic of China has long affirmed the latter’s independent existence in the face of the PRC’s determination to swallow the small island state.


Obviously, Taiwan’s status is not a theological matter. However, since human rights, including religious liberty, are respected there but not on the mainland, the Vatican can and should seek to bolster Taiwan’s status. Given the growing cultural and economic relations between the two Chinas, over the long-term a free Taiwan is likely to make for a freer PRC.


The mainland has come far over the last couple of decades. But the PRC still lags when it comes to respect for human rights, including religious freedom. Can negotiations with the religious body change that?


After the Vatican criticized the Chinese government for its latest attempted hijacking of the Catholic Church, Beijing opined: “If the Vatican really cares about the cause of China’s Catholic churches, there should, naturally, be understanding and support” from the Vatican for the government’s actions. But if the Communist authorities actually cared for their people, they would leave the choice of bishops to the Catholic Church. Alas, there is no evidence that the communist government cares about the Chinese people, especially their right to believe and worship as they see fit.


The Holy See has good reason to continue talking to the PRC. But the former also has good reason to be cautious about the risk of sacrificing fundamental interests for superficial gains. Until the Communist authorities demonstrate their willingness to accept freedom of conscience and worship, there won’t be much for Beijing and the Vatican to discuss.


— Doug Bandow is vice president of policy for Citizen Outreach and the author of several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire (Xulon Press). He is working on a book on international religious persecution.




Catholic Church Exodus in Austria Slows Down (Christian Post, 070110)


VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Significantly fewer Austrians left the Roman Catholic Church in 2006, the Archdiocese of Vienna said Tuesday — a sign that a mass exodus of believers triggered by priest sex scandals and the nation’s unpopular church tax is slowing.


Across the overwhelmingly Catholic country, 36,645 people formally withdrew from the church last year, a nearly 18% drop from the 44,609 believers who canceled their memberships in 2005, the archdiocese said.


The exodus peaked in 2004, when 45,000 Austrians left a church bedeviled by scandal and a chronic shortage of priests.


Many cited disgust over the discovery of up to 40,000 lurid images at a seminary in St. Poelten, 50 miles west of Vienna, including child porn and photos of young candidates for the priesthood fondling each other and their older religious instructors.


Other dropouts expressed discontent with a church tax collected by the government for the church — a levy that averages more than $300 a year. Catholics wishing to avoid paying it must formally renounce their affiliation to their church.


Since 1995, when accusations surfaced that the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer molested youths at a monastery in the 1970s, the Austrian church has lost almost half a million members, officials say.


The Catholic Church — which has 1 billion members worldwide — also has gone through trials and tribulations elsewhere in Europe. In France, for instance, the newspaper Le Monde published a poll Tuesday that found only half the population considers itself Catholic — a 16-point drop since 1994 — even though the official statistics say the country is over 80% Catholic. No margin of error was provided for the poll.


In overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland, weekly Mass attendance topped 80% of the populace through the 1980s but then fell off as the church went through a string of sexual scandals that toppled two bishops and a government.


Recent surveys indicate weekly attendance is leveling off at approximately half of the population, buoyed by an influx of more than 150,000 mostly Catholic immigrants from Poland.


But Michael Kelly, deputy editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, said long-term trends looked bleak for the church. “You have massive suburban developments where churches physically aren’t being built, and communities have no priests to serve them. So the decline in Mass attendance has further to run, because our culture is becoming less and less Catholic.”


In Austria, even if the rate of withdrawals keeps slowing, parishes will conduct far more funerals than baptisms because of changing demographics, said Elizabeth Rathgeb, who works with the Diocese of Innsbruck.


“People today are more individualistic. They don’t want to be part of a big organization that tells them what to think and believe,” said Georg Plank, a Catholic lay leader in the southern city of Graz. “Perhaps some still suspect it’s like that in the church.”


But Monsignor Wilfried Kreuth, a cleric tracking the trend in the diocese of St. Poelten, where church departures slowed by more than 27% last year, called the shift “new and encouraging.”


Underscoring how believers are now bucking the trend, the Vienna archdiocese — one of Europe’s largest — said about 4,600 believers who had left the church in recent years reregistered as members in 2006, up from 4,009 in the previous year.


Vienna, the capital, recorded a 20% decline in the numbers of churchgoers who formally filed paperwork to withdraw. It was the lowest number of people to abandon the church since 1983, the archdiocese said.


Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit Austria in September with stops in Vienna and Mariazell, a popular pilgrimage site. His predecessor, John Paul II, twice visited Vienna.


Archdiocese spokesman Erich Leitenberger cited a recent survey showing that more than four in 10 of Austria’s 8.2 million people attend Mass at least once a month, and 33% pack pews for Christmas, Easter and other major religious holidays. He said this suggests “the constant harping about a church crisis” is overblown.


“Nobody can suppress the three basic long-term questions. ... Where have I come from? Where am I going? And what’s the meaning of my life?” he said.




Pope Rejects Hong Kong Cardinal’s Request to Give Up Bishop Post (Christian Post, 070321)


HONG KONG (AP) - The pope has rejected Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen’s latest request to give up his bishop duties so that he can focus more on restoring Sino-Vatican ties, his office said Wednesday.


Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to Zen saying that he should carry on as bishop, while doing whatever he can to improve relations between China and the Vatican, his office said in a statement.


“The pope has already verbally told him to stay on the job some time ago,” Dominic Yung, Zen’s spokesman, told The Associated Press. “It’s just a formal letter this time.”


Beijing severed ties with the Holy See in 1951 after the Communists took power and set up a separate Catholic church outside the pope’s authority. Local faithful are allowed to worship only with the state-sanctioned church, which recognizes the pope as a spiritual leader but appoints its own priests and bishops.


But about 12 million Catholics are estimated to belong to unofficial congregations loyal to the Vatican.




Pope Heads to Latin America Bearing Tough Messages (Foxnews, 070509)


ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) —  —  Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday he supports the excommunication of politicians who legalized abortion in Mexico City, laying down a strong message about core church teachings at the start of his first trip to Latin America as pontiff.


Church teaching calls for automatic excommunication for anyone who has an abortion. In Mexico City, where abortion was legalized during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, church officials have said that doctors and nurses who perform the procedure, as well as lawmakers who supported its legalization, also would be excommunicated.


“It’s nothing new, it’s normal, it wasn’t arbitrary. It is what is foreseen by the church’s doctrine,” Benedict told reporters aboard a plane to Brazil in his first full-fledged news conference as pope.


Benedict previously hadn’t explicitly said excommunication would be the penalty for any lawmaker voting for abortion. In fact, the Vatican has sidestepped the issue of whether Communion can be denied to a Catholic politician who has supported abortion rights legislation.


Benedict also said the exodus of Catholics for evangelical Protestant churches in Latin America was “our biggest worry.”


But he said the spread of Protestantism shows a “thirst for God” in the region, and that he intends to lay down a strategy to answer that call when he meets with bishops from throughout Latin America in a once-a-decade meeting in the shrine city of Aparecida near Sao Paulo.


“We have to become more dynamic,” he said. Evangelical churches, which the Vatican considers “sects,” have attracted millions of Latin American Catholics in recent years.


The Vatican also has promised that Benedict will deliver a tough message on poverty and crime during his five-day visit to Brazil — the world’s most populous Roman Catholic country.


Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, visited Mexico and addressed Latin American bishops just three months after assuming the papacy. Benedict has waited two years for his first trip to a region where nearly half the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics live. But he denied being “Eurocentric” or less concerned about poverty in the developing world than his predecessors.


“I love Latin America. I have traveled there a lot,” he told reporters, adding that he is happy the time had come for the trip after focusing on more urgent problems in the Middle East and Africa.


Benedict, who visited Brazil as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1990, will celebrate several open-air Masses, including a canonization ceremony for Brazil’s first native-born saint, and visit a church-run drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.


Many Brazilians are torn between the church’s traditional teachings and the pressures of the modern world, and abortion is at the forefront. The procedure is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger. These cases amount to just 2,000 abortions a year, and polls show Brazilians are overwhelmingly opposed to expanding it.


Some 5,000 people — both Catholics and Protestants — marched against abortion Tuesday in the capital of Brasilia. Similar marches were held in Mexico, where the capital’s legislature legalized abortion last month.


The Mexican politicians who supported the measure shrugged off Benedict’s comments Wednesday: “I’m Catholic and I’m going to continue being Catholic even if the church excommunicates me,” said leftist Mexico City lawmaker Leticia Quezada. “My conscience is clean.”


Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will meet with the pope in Sao Paulo, but a spokesman said the center-left leader does not plan to bring up abortion or other sensitive issues, such as a government anti-AIDS program that distributes millions of condoms each year.


The pope also faces some opposition from within the Brazilian church, where liberation theology — which links spiritual growth to human rights — is still active among thousands of groups working with poor and landless communities.


Benedict said those who follow liberation theology were “mistakenly mixing faith and politics,” but stressed that the church has not eased its commitment to social justice.


As John Paul’s close aide, Benedict led a campaign against what the Vatican considers a Marxist-inspired movement. The Vatican set the tone for this trip by censuring the Rev. Jon Sobrino, a prominent champion of liberation theology in the region, and condemning some of his works as “erroneous or dangerous.”


On another topic dear to the region, Benedict said he believed the beatification process for slain El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was moving ahead. Romero was gunned down on March 24, 1980, a day after calling on the Salvadoran military to halt its repressive tactics.


Benedict called Romero a “great witness to the Catholic faith” and praised him for standing up to dictatorship.


Despite the abortion issue and inroads by evangelical groups, Vatican officials say the church’s scorecard in Latin America is not entirely bleak.


A study released in Brazil this week indicates that the flight from the Catholic church stabilized from 2000 to 2003, even though the ranks of Protestants continued to grow.


And on abortion, the Vatican points to countries such as Nicaragua which last year banned the procedure in all cases.


The May 9-14 pilgrimage is Benedict’s first lengthy trip as pope.


Although he appears healthy and has never missed a scheduled event, he said in an interview last year that “I’ve never felt strong enough to plan many long trips.”


Except for a stop in Turkey, Benedict’s travels have been confined to Europe. The only other trip scheduled this year is to nearby Austria.




Pope News Conference Causes Stir (Christian Post, 070510)


SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - It took two years for Pope Benedict XVI to give his first full-fledged news conference. And when he finally held one on Wednesday, he caused a stir with his comments on abortion.


Benedict stood before 70 journalists on his Alitalia jetliner headed to Brazil on the first long trip of his papacy. Responding with quiet certainty, he answered 11 questions in 25 minutes.


Initially he steered clear of controversy — insisting, for example, that “I love Latin America” when asked why it took him two years to make his first papal visit to the region where half of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics live.


But when an Italian reporter pressed him on whether he agreed that Catholic legislators who voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City should rightfully be considered excommunicated, he caused a fury that led his spokesman to try to downplay his response.


“Yes,” Benedict replied. “The excommunication was not something arbitrary. It is part of the (canon law) code. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in Communion with the body of Christ. Thus, they (the bishops) didn’t do anything new or anything surprising. Or arbitrary.”


The response seemed to take one side of an active church debate on canon law, and media dispatches filed from the plane caused an uproar of sorts, with some scholars challenging the pope’s apparent position. For example, the Rev. John Coughlin, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, said there is no provision in canon law saying that Catholic politicians who vote to legalize abortion automatically excommunicate themselves.


Vatican officials later said the pope might have inferred from the question that the Mexican bishops had issued a formal declaration of excommunication for the legislators, something Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera has said he has no intention of doing.


Benedict’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope was not setting a new policy and did not intend to formally excommunicate anyone — a rare process under church law that is separate from the doctrine of self-excommunication.


“Since excommunication hasn’t been declared by the Mexican bishops, the pope has no intention himself of declaring it,” Lombardi said in a statement approved by the pope.


But Lombardi added that politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. “Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. ... Politicians exclude themselves from Communion,” he said.


It was not the first time that Benedict appeared to speak directly, only to backtrack or refine his original statement. The most controversial example occurred when the pope, speaking in Germany, raised the issue of Islam and violence. After anger spread across the Islamic world, Benedict said he did not intend to offend Muslims.


While Benedict frequently condemns violence in the name of religion, he has never again pointed the finger explicitly at Muslims.


But this pope’s apparent candor can get him in trouble, said John L. Allen Jr., a reporter with the National Catholic Reporter. “Benedict doesn’t seem to distinguish when he is speaking as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and when he is speaking as the head of the Roman Catholic Church,” Allen said.


The pope acknowledged that many neither agree with him, nor listen to his teachings.


“In all parts of the world, there are those who don’t want to hear,” Benedict said. “Naturally, even our Lord did not manage to make everyone hear.”




Married Catholic Priest Ordained via Little-Known Exception (Christian Post, 070509)


CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) - The Rev. Bill Lowe was ordained as the first married priest in the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese.


Lowe, who retired after 32 years as an Episcopal priest in Newton, Mass., was ordained Sunday by Cardinal Roger Mahony by way of a little-known pastoral provision allowing married clergy who have left the Episcopal Church to enter Catholic priesthood. The celibacy requirement is waived.


More than 70 men have used the 27-year-old provision to become Catholic priests in the United States. Church officials said Lowe was the first member of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese to be so ordained, and Mahony said the action should be viewed as an exception, not an indication the church is looking to bring in more married priests.


Lowe, 68, has been married 44 years to his wife, Linda. The couple, who have lived in Camarillo for four years, have three adult children and five grandchildren.


More than 700 people were on hand to witness the father become a father at Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo.


“We don’t know what God has in store for us, but we’re up for the adventure,” Lowe said of his calling to the priesthood.


Attention on the priest and his marriage was expected to fade as Lowe goes about the day-to-day work of being an associate pastor at Padre Serra and ministering to people’s needs.


“I think it’s a 10-day wonder we’re looking at as far as the focus being on Linda,” said the Rev. Jarlath Dolan, senior pastor at Padre Serra Parish. “And if the focus is on Linda, I can’t think of a better person to handle it.”


Dolan cautioned that the ordination was not an opened gate but an exception made possible because of the pastoral provision. But neither he nor Mahony excluded the possibility that the church may someday change its requirement and allow more married priests.


“The jury is certainly out on that one,” Dolan said. “I think one day the church will see it. It may well be after our lifetime.”




Leading Evangelical Theologian Steps Down, Returns to Catholicism (Christian Post, 070512)


DALLAS (AP) - The head of the Evangelical Theological Society has returned to the Roman Catholic Church and, as a result, has stepped down from his post with the evangelical group.


Francis J. Beckwith, associate professor of church-state studies at Baylor University, said his resignation as president and as a member of the society was effective May 5.


The Evangelical Theological Society was formed in 1949 to promote conservative Bible scholarship and now has more than 4,000 members. “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant,” its doctrinal statement says.


In a statement Tuesday, the society’s executive committee said Beckwith’s decision to leave was the right one, in light of theological differences between evangelicals and Roman Catholics. The committee cited Catholic teaching about the infallibility of some pronouncements of a pope on church dogma and the Catholic inclusion of the Apocrypha in the church’s Scriptures.


But they also noted that evangelicals and Catholics have been working to forge closer ties and they will continue to participate in those efforts.


Beckwith was accepted back into the Catholic Church on April 29, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Waco, Texas. He said he was persuaded to return to Catholicism after a friend suggested he read the Early Church Fathers and Catholic works on justification, about how sinners are transformed to a state of holiness.


A New York native who grew up in Nevada, Beckwith attended Catholic schools as a boy and earned his bachelor’s degree from Fordham University, a Jesuit school. Baylor, a Baptist school, has many Catholic faculty members, and Beckwith says he expects no change in his status there.




Catholic Leader’s Historic Visit to Mark First for 21st-Century China (Christian Post, 071016)


The most senior Roman Catholic Church leader in Scotland will become the first Catholic leader in the West to visit China this century when he begins a 12-day pastoral visit this week.


Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien will visit China by taking part in a cultural exchange that will see him visit Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an, which has been twinned with the United Kingdom’s Edinburgh since 1984.


The visit is another sign that long-term divisions between the Catholic Church and Communist China are starting to ease.


Reports have also indicated that the O’Brien intends to progress links between the Catholic and Protestant churches in the country during his visit.


“I know visiting China will be a very interesting experience,” said the cardinal, who will visit the Great Wall while in Beijing. “It is a visit I have hoped to make for many years, to be able to enjoy the centuries-old culture of the country.”


O’Brien will arrive in China on Friday following a visit to Vietnam, where he will be holding a lecture on social justice organized by the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences in Hanoi.