Paul VI, nuns and contraception: did Pope Francis get it right?

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2016 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- If Vatican watcher Sandro Magister is right, Pope Francis cited an urban legend about Blessed Paul VI’s alleged approval of contraception for nuns in exceptional wartime circumstances in the Congo. “No one has ever been able to cite a single word of his in this regard. Yet this urban legend has been kept alive for decades, and sure enough even Francis and his spokesman have fallen for it,” Magister wrote Sept. 22 at Settimo Cielo; the text appeared in English at Chiesa two days later. The story dates back to 1961, when St. John XXIII was Pope. Moral theologians considered whether it was licit for nuns facing direct threat of rape to use contraception. The question arose from situations such as a brutal war that was then underway in the Congo. Three theologians discussed the question: Pietro Palazzini, secretary of the Congregation of the Council (which would later be renamed the Congregation for the Clergy); Francesco Hürth, S.J., a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University; and Ferdinando Lambruschini, a professor at the Pontifical Lateran University. They published their views in an article for a 1961 edition of “Studi Cattolici,” an Opus Dei-run journal. The article was titled “A woman asks: how should violence be rejected? Morality exemplified. A debate.” Each held it was licit for the nuns to use contraception, though they justified this stand for different reasons. However, Bl. Paul VI never addressed this topic specifically. He was elected Bishop of Rome in June 1963. His 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae reaffirmed Catholic opposition to contraception. The encyclical discussed the Christian doctrine of marriage and human life, rejecting contraception “specifically intended to prevent procreation – whether as an end or as a means.” Yet John Allen has maintained that it is Anglo-Saxon folly to look for evidence that Bl. Paul VI permitted nuns threatened with rape to use contraceptives. Noting in a Feb. 20 post at Crux that in 1961 the future Pope was “close to the currents that shaped Studi Cattolici,” he said that “It was assumed the conclusions reflected his thinking. That appeared to be confirmed later when Paul VI made one of the authors, Pietro Palazzini, a cardinal.” “Still, the Vatican never repudiated the 1961 position, so the takeaway was that it remained a legitimate option,” Allen wrote. “To Italians – and remember, Francis’ ancestry is Italian, and he’s very wired into the country’s ecclesiastical scene – that meant Paul VI approved.” Magister’s claims follow a Feb. 18 papal press conference on Francis’ return flight from Mexico to Rome. A journalist had asked the Pope about authorities’ proposals to respond to the Zika virus infection through abortion or “avoiding pregnancy.” The mosquito-borne virus may be linked to birth defects when transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. Pope Francis responded by emphatically stating that abortion is “a crime” and an “absolute evil” that cannot be justified. He also spoke on the topic of avoiding pregnancy, citing his predecessor. “Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape,” he said. Seven sentences later, Pope Francis added another comment. Not mentioning contraception specifically, he said that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.” Holy See spokesman Father Federico Lombardi repeated a version of the story about nuns in the Congo in his own comments about Pope Francis’ interview.   Read more

What Archbishop Shevchuk saw in the meeting of the Pope and Patriarch Kirill

Rome, Italy, Feb 24, 2016 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- What’s next for ecumenism? After the recent meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has emphasized that “… Read more

Pope: wealth and power are good, but only when used to serve

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2016 / 05:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis cautioned that unless wealth and power are put at the service of society, especially the poor, they risk becoming instruments of corruption, private interests and various forms of abuse. “Wealth and power are realities which can be good and useful for the common good, if they are put at the service of the poor and of everyone, with justice and charity,” the Pope said Feb. 24. However, when they are instead lived “as a privilege with egoism and power, as too often happens, they are transformed into instruments of corruption and death.” Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience, which he dedicated to his ongoing catechesis on mercy in scripture. In his speech, the Pope noted that throughout scripture, stories are told about different prophets, kings and men who are at the top of the ladder, as well as the “arrogance and abuses” they frequently commit. Turning to the story of Naboth in the First Book of Kings, who was killed for refusing to sell his vineyard to the king Ahab, Francis used the passage as the center of his reflections. While the king’s initial offer to purchase the vineyard seemed legitimate and even generous, properties in Israel were considered inalienable, Francis noted, explaining that since Naboth’s land was considered a sacred gift from God to be guarded and preserved, he refused to sell it. Ahab reacted with “bitterness and outrage” and was offended because “he is the king, he is powerful! He feels belittled in his sovereign authority, and frustrated in his ability to satisfy his desire for possession,” the Pope said. He noted that as a result, Ahab’s wife Jezebel, who was involved with cults and had killed several prophets, writes letters in the king’s name to the nobles and elders asking them to accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king, and to stone him. “This is how the story ends: Naboth dies and the king can take possession of his vineyard,” Francis observed, explaining that this isn’t just “a story of the past, it’s a story of today.” It’s the story, he said, “of the powerful who, in order to get more money, exploit the poor, exploit people; it’s the story of the trafficking of persons, of slave labor, of poor people who work in black with the minimum, it’s the story of corrupt politicians who always want more and more and more.” This, Francis continued, where authority is exercised with no justice, mercy or respect for life. “And this is what brings the thirst for power: it becomes greed and wants to possess everything.” Pope Francis pointed to Jesus’ declaration to the apostles in the Gospel of Matthew that “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” He cautioned that when the dimension of service is lost, “power becomes arrogance, domination and abuse. This is exactly what happens in the episode of the vineyard of Naboth.” God, however, is greater than the evil and “dirty games” of humanity, he said, noting that in his mercy the Lord sends the prophet Elijah to help Ahab convert. Although God saw the king’s crime, “he knocks at the heart of Ahab. And the king, placed in front of his sin, understands, humbles himself and asks forgiveness,” the Pope said, adding that it would be nice if the “the powerful exploiters of today” imitated the king’s gesture. However, Francis cautioned that just because the Lord accepted Ahab’s penance, an innocent person was killed, which is an act that will continue to have “inevitable consequences.” “The evil done in fact leaves its painful traces, and the story of mankind bears the wounds,” he said, but noted that God’s act of mercy shows us the main path that must be pursued. Mercy can heal wounds and can change the course of history, the Pope said, and encouraged pilgrims to open their hearts to God’s mercy. He said that divine mercy “is stronger than man’s sin,” and that the power of the true king, Jesus Christ, “is completely different” than that of the world. “His throne is the Cross…His going to everyone, especially the weak, defeats the loneliness and fate of death which sin leads to.” Read more

The painful, resilient history of America’s black Catholics

Washington D.C., Feb 24, 2016 / 03:12 am (CNA).- For Fr. Stephen Thorne, Black History Month is not only a chance to remember the struggles faced by the African-American community throughout the centuries. It’s also an opportunity to learn from … Read more

Why this diocese is holding a 24 hour confess-a-thon

Bismarck, N.D., Feb 24, 2016 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Priests will be available for confession throughout a special 24-hour period in the Diocese of Bismarck to help celebrate the Year of Mercy. Bismarck’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit will host “24 Hours of Mercy” on March 4-5. There will be Eucharistic adoration, as well as two priests at the cathedral each hour to hear confessions. The event will begin at 5 p.m. Friday and end at 5 p.m. Saturday. Fr. Nick Schneider, director of the diocese’s Office of Worship, discussed the event. “Confession is a great gift from God, through which he gives us the assurance of mercy,” he said Feb. 8. “It’s a chance to receive this great gift of mercy together with many others over the course of a day.” The event will also allow pilgrims to pass through the cathedral’s Holy Door of Mercy, which provides a plenary indulgence for those who are properly disposed. The event is intended to be part of the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis. Sonia Mullally, the Bismarck diocese’s communications director, told CNA the cathedral’s rector, Monsignor Thomas Richter, was named a Missionary of Mercy. These are priests who will have the faculties to absolve sins otherwise reserved to the Holy See. Msgr. Richter was commissioned by Pope Francis in Rome on Ash Wednesday. Mullally pointed to Bishop David Kagan’s Jan. 1 letter discussing the Year of Mercy. “My daily prayer for all of us is that we truly and fully experience this year of God’s bountiful mercy and that we allow Him to transform us and our daily lives so much so that we become His apostles of mercy to others,” the bishop said. “Every day as we hear the news, it becomes so clear that without Him and His mercy darkness advances, but with Him and His mercy light destroys the darkness of war, hatred, jealousy and division.” “Please keep and observe this Jubilee of Mercy; and when this year closes, may all of us continue to beg of Him for His mercy, and show mercy to others,” Bishop Kagan added. Linked to the Year of Mercy, the Bismarck diocese will be hosting its 2016 THIRST Eucharistic Conference Oct. 28-30. The first conference, held in 2013, drew more than 7,000 people. The 2016 conference schedule has not been finalized. As of Jan. 28 speakers include Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Fr. Scott Traynor, Leah Darrow, and Dr. Ray Guarendi. Read more

Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo echoes call of US bishops

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2016 / 05:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday his intent to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, a proposal that Catholic bishops have long supported in principle.  The… Read more

Pope Francis to Curia: Your job is to be faithful

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2016 / 11:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis celebrated the feast of the Chair of St. Peter with a reflection and Mass for members of the Roman Curia, during which he told them to be faithful in their work, and to keep their eyes on Christ. “May our thought and our gaze be fixed on Jesus Christ, the beginning and end of every action of the Church. He is the foundation and no one may lay another,” the Pope told members of the Curia Feb. 22. He recalled the “expressive words” used by St. Augustine, who wrote that although the Church is agitated and disturbed by the upheavals of history, she “does not fall down, because she is built on stone, from which Peter’s name is derived.” “It is not the stone that derives its name from Peter, but Peter from the stone, just as it is not the name Christ that derives from Christian, but Christian from Christ,” he said, adding that the stone “is Christ, the foundation on which Peter too was built.” Pope Francis marked the feast of the Chair of St. Peter with a special Mass for the Jubilee of the Roman Curia, the Governorate and the Institutions of the Holy See in St. Peter’s Basilica. Before the Mass, all the participants gathered in the Paul VI Hall for a meditation on the theme “Mercy in our everyday life.” Afterward, they were led by the Pope in a procession through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s and into the basilica. In his homily, Pope Francis pointed to the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, saying his question of “who do you say that I am?” is directed not only at Peter, but at each one of them. The question, Francis said, is both clear and direct, and therefore “it is not possible to escape or remain neutral, nor is it possible to postpone the answer or delegate it to someone else.” He explained that there is “nothing inquisitional” about the question, but that instead “it is full of love! The love of our only Master, who today calls us to renew our faith in him, recognizing him as the Son of God and the Lord of our life.” And the first person called to renew the profession of their faith, the Pope said, is himself, the Successor of Peter, since it is he “who bears the responsibility of confirming his brothers.” Francis then urged members of the Curia to allow grace to form in their hearts and mouths, so that they can both believe and profess the faith, and obtain salvation. It is from the profession of one’s faith that the task of responding to God’s call derives, the Pope said,   explaining that pastors above all are required to model themselves after the Lord, who cares for his flock. “We are called upon to be God’s collaborators in a task as fundamental and unique as bearing witness by our existence the strength of the grace that transforms and the power of the Spirit that renews,” he said. He prayed that the Lord would free them from all temptations that distance them from the core of their mission, and asked that they would “rediscover the beauty of professing our faith in the Lord Jesus.” When it comes to their mission, faithfulness in their ministry goes hand in hand with the mercy they hope to experience, he said, noting that in scripture the concepts of faithfulness and mercy “are inseparable.” “Where there is one there is the other, and it is precisely in their reciprocal nature and complementarity that we can see the very presence of the Good Shepherd,” Francis continued. The faithfulness required of them “is that of acting in accordance with Christ’s heart.” The Pope then encouraged members of the Curia, as the pastors of the Church, “to let the face of God the Good Shepherd illuminate us, purify us, transform us and restore us, fully renewed in our mission.” He prayed that they would feel, cultivate and practice “a strong pastoral sense” in their workplaces, particularly toward those whom them meet every day. “May no one feel neglected or mistreated, but may everyone be able to experience, especially here, the loving care of the Good Shepherd.” Pope Francis closed his homily by stressing that the faithfulness required of them is to act in accordance with Christ’s heart. “We must tend to our flock with a generous heart and become a model for all,” he said. “In this way, ‘when the Chief Shepherd appears,’ we will be able to receive ‘the crown of glory that will never fade away.’” Read more

The dignity of work – one company’s quest for the mentally ill

Denver, Colo., Dec 27, 2016 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Bayaud Enterprises was started in 1969 in Denver, Colorado, they had one thing on their mind: employment. But not just any kind of employment. They wanted to seek out individuals with chron… Read more

Father Lombardi steps down from Vatican Radio amid media reform

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the process of reforming the Vatican’s communications is carried out, Fr. Federico Lombardi will step down as director of Vatican Radio at the end of the month, though he will continue to serve as director of the Holy See press office. A Feb. 22 communique from the Secretariat for Communications announced the decision, and that Alberto Gasbarri, director of administration at Vatican Radio, will also be leaving his post. Neither Gasbarri nor Fr. Lombardi, who has served Vatican Radio for 25 years, will be replaced. Gasbarri had coordinated papal trips for 40 years. The head of the Secretariat for Communications appointed Giacomo Ghisani, deputy director of the secretariat, as Vatican Radio’s interim legal representative and director of administration. Ghisani’s appointment is meant to ensure Vatican Radio’s “ordinary administration within the current context of review and restructuring of the Vatican’s media operations.” Gasbarri’s post as organizer of papal trips is to be taken over by Msgr. Marcelo Rueda Beltz, an official of the Secretariat of State. Vatican Radio’s director of programs, Fr. Andrzej Majewski, will continue to manage news for the service. The personnel changes are part of the reform and unification of Vatican media being undertaken by the Secretariat for Communications, which was established in June 2015 with Pope Francis’ motu proprio The current context of communications. The editorial department of the Secretariat for Communications will likely take over direction of Vatican Radio, and at the same time will manage the delivery of news and image contents for Vatican Television. At the moment, no director for the editorial department has been appointed yet, while the directors of the other departments were appointed Feb. 9. The Secretariat for Communications includes other two departments: the Theological-Pastoral department, headed by Natasha Govekar; and the Technology Department, chaired by Francesco Masci, who had previously been responsible for the technical side of the Vatican’s internet service. Govekar’s department is to take over the functions of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the technology department is to centralize on one platform all the Vatican’s media departments. According to a source who took part in the reform process, there will be a new website which will include both radio and television content. The Secretariat for Communications’ editorial department will be in charge of news content. The secretariat is meant to unify all the Vatican’s media branches, which include the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; the Holy See Press Office; the Vatican Internet Service; Vatican Radio; Vatican Television; L’Osservatore Romano; Vatican Typography; the photo service; and Vatican Publishing House. Vatican Radio and Vatican Television are to be unified this year. The communique from the Secretariat for Communications noted that the two bodies already share resources and jointly provide some services. The communique adds that “the task that awaits us offers a great opportunity to evaluate in both entities the areas of excellence and our patrimony of multilingualism and multiculturalism.” Read more

Father Lombardi steps down from Vatican Radio amid media reform

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the process of reforming the Vatican’s communications is carried out, Fr. Federico Lombardi will step down as director of Vatican Radio at the end of the month, though he will continue to serve as director of the Holy See press office. A Feb. 22 communique from the Secretariat for Communications announced the decision, and that Alberto Gasbarri, director of administration at Vatican Radio, will also be leaving his post. Neither Gasbarri nor Fr. Lombardi, who has served Vatican Radio for 25 years, will be replaced. Gasbarri had coordinated papal trips for 40 years. The head of the Secretariat for Communications appointed Giacomo Ghisani, deputy director of the secretariat, as Vatican Radio’s interim legal representative and director of administration. Ghisani’s appointment is meant to ensure Vatican Radio’s “ordinary administration within the current context of review and restructuring of the Vatican’s media operations.” Gasbarri’s post as organizer of papal trips is to be taken over by Msgr. Marcelo Rueda Beltz, an official of the Secretariat of State. Vatican Radio’s director of programs, Fr. Andrzej Majewski, will continue to manage news for the service. The personnel changes are part of the reform and unification of Vatican media being undertaken by the Secretariat for Communications, which was established in June 2015 with Pope Francis’ motu proprio The current context of communications. The editorial department of the Secretariat for Communications will likely take over direction of Vatican Radio, and at the same time will manage the delivery of news and image contents for Vatican Television. At the moment, no director for the editorial department has been appointed yet, while the directors of the other departments were appointed Feb. 9. The Secretariat for Communications includes other two departments: the Theological-Pastoral department, headed by Natasha Govekar; and the Technology Department, chaired by Francesco Masci, who had previously been responsible for the technical side of the Vatican’s internet service. Govekar’s department is to take over the functions of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the technology department is to centralize on one platform all the Vatican’s media departments. According to a source who took part in the reform process, there will be a new website which will include both radio and television content. The Secretariat for Communications’ editorial department will be in charge of news content. The secretariat is meant to unify all the Vatican’s media branches, which include the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; the Holy See Press Office; the Vatican Internet Service; Vatican Radio; Vatican Television; L’Osservatore Romano; Vatican Typography; the photo service; and Vatican Publishing House. Vatican Radio and Vatican Television are to be unified this year. The communique from the Secretariat for Communications noted that the two bodies already share resources and jointly provide some services. The communique adds that “the task that awaits us offers a great opportunity to evaluate in both entities the areas of excellence and our patrimony of multilingualism and multiculturalism.” Read more