The Year of Two Living Popes and One Unchanging Faith

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Popes Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Francis

Does anybody remember that this is the Year of Faith?

It’s certainly been a historic year so far.

Our beloved Benedict, Pope Emeritus, handed the Church forward to his successor, Pope Francis. The Year of Faith has become the Year of Two Living Popes. 

It is one faith; one holy and apostolic Catholic faith. For those who will stop to think about it, that is a miracle in itself. Benjamin Disraeli, when asked what proof he could offer of God’s existence, replied, “The Jew, sir, the Jew.”  To that I would add that if anyone doubts the divinity of Jesus Christ, I would offer them the Catholic Church and its 2,000 year history of faithful teaching.

The Catholic Church has persisted through the fall and rise of more than one empire. It has survived the venality of some of its own popes. It has come through plagues, famines and times of great wealth. And it has, through all of it, kept the teachings of the Gospels intact and unblemished.

I don’t think there has been an day or an hour in all this great swath of history that the Church has not been under concerted and powerful pressure to re-write the Gospels to suit the passing moral fashions of the time. I think the reason for this is simple: The devil is real. There is a malicious personality out there who wants to destroy us through our own predilections to immorality.

We are not so much engaged in a war as we are the objects of a war. This malicious personality wars against us by aligning itself with our own fallen natures. It attempts to subvert us in our path to our ultimate calling as sons and daughters of the living God. We are the object of war making based in a hatred that is outside time.

But this evil, which seems so powerful and omnipresent to us who are in the soup of this life, is almost nothing in the halls of eternity. It is a vanquished foe whose only hold on us was broken at the cross. All we have to do is turn our faces away from the darkness and walk into the light.

The Catholic Church is the light, shining in the darkness of this world. Despite the undeniable fallenness of the people who govern it, the Church itself does not falter when it comes to providing the sacraments and teaching the teachings that show us the way to heaven.

This Year of Faith and two living popes — one reigning and one emeritus — is historic. But it is also part of the flow of the Church through history. Pope Benedict handed the Church forward and the Cardinals chose Pope Francis to take it up.

People who unwittingly are the mouthpieces for the devil yammer about how the Church must “change” its core teachings about life, love, sexuality and the common good or be found guilty of being “out of step with the world.”

Out of step with the world haters

Let’s think for a moment what they are demanding. What does it mean to be “in step” with the world?

“In step” with the world, as they define it, means that people are only human when those who have the power to do so define them to be human. It means that vast numbers of people may be killed at any time, for no reason at all.

Being “in step” with the world means that women and children are commodities to be bought and sold, raped and worked. It means that reducing women and children to objects and then using their rape, torture and murder as entertainment is a “right” that transcends any claims to their human dignity. Being “in step” with the world means that women’s bodies can be harvested for their eggs that are then sold online. It means that women’s wombs can be rented as surrogates.

Being “in step” with the world means “designing” babies that we will find good enough for our celestial selves to raise. It means discarding tens of other babies in this process to get the one perfect one we want.

Being “in step” with the world means destroying marriage, doing away with family as a unit that creates, nurtures and supports young human beings. It means that multinational corporations can pillage and destroy without restraint.

I could go on, but the point is that being “in step” with the world is being “in step” with decay, death and destruction. Being “in step” with the world is the exact opposite of what the Church is called to do.

The Catholic Church is not called to make the world comfortable in its sins. it is called to lead the world to redemption from its sins. 

The world may and does excoriate the Church for “being out of step” with its many killing machines. It may and does excoriate Catholics for following their Church. It may and does try to force us out of public life and silence our witness.

But the world will not prevail.

White crucifixion

Jesus said, “On this rock, I will build my Church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

This is the Year of Faith. It is also the year of two living popes.

But this year is, as all years are, the year of the One and only Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

We are Catholic

This put a grin on my face. I hope it does the same for you.

Have a blessed Sunday, my friends.

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Pew Survey: Catholics Want the Next Pope to Maintain Traditional Teachings

Despite claims to the contrary by the chattering class, practicing Catholics like their pope and want the Church to stay the course on its moral teachings.

I’m glad to hear this. I was beginning to wonder if I attended mass in churches that were somehow “different” from other Catholic parishes. The foment for gay marriage, contraception, abortion on demand is nowhere to be found where I worship. I’ve attended mass in Catholic Churches all over this country and I have yet to find a parish that was any different about these things from those that I see here in Oklahoma.

They all have their “respect life” signs and programs for the unborn. There are the usual Altar Guild bake sales, announcements about raising money for this or that family in distress and I swear in each parish, the same rock-ribbed little old lady with a dangerous-looking cane who sits in “her” seat and will not budge for errant newcomers who want to slide past her.

I’ve never seen anything but respect for the Eucharist. There is nary a sign in any of them of all this dissent I keep hearing about. I was beginning to think that I must be lucky in my choices of churches when I travel or that maybe the stories I was hearing were greatly exaggerated.

According to a recent poll by the Pew Foundation, it was the latter.

Seventy-four percent of Catholics approve of Pope Benedict.Sixty-three percent of Catholics who attend mass each week said that the next Pope should maintain traditional Catholic teaching. Less than 10% called for the Church to accept same-sex marriage, women priests or contraception.

What I think that means is that the authors of these stories about “dissent” in the Church are basing their claims on surveys which include Catholics who don’t go to mass and are not practicing Catholics at all.

I have a relative who says that she is a member of the Disciples of Christ church. She does not attend church, ever. When someone dies, that’s where she has the funeral. When her son got married, that’s where they had the wedding. This is the extent of her activity in the Disciples of Christ church. But if you polled her on a survey she would tell you that she was a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination. I think those are the kind of “Catholics” who pollsters quiz to get these dodgy numbers that the pundits like to quote.

If they talk to people who actually participate in the life of the Church, the numbers become something that those of us who also attend mass and interact with practicing Catholics can validate from our own experiences.

I recognize the attitudes expressed in a poll that shows that the vast majority of Catholics support the pope and traditional Catholic teachings. Those attitudes are the ones I see at mass every weekend in whatever parish I happen to be. The other numbers that the Catholic bashers like to bandy about don’t gibe with my experience as a practicing Catholic at all.

I think that people who take such pleasure in reporting the impending demise of the Catholic Church are expressing their own wishful thinking. These people don’t like the Church precisely because of its stubborn refusal to change 2,000 years of Christian teaching to suit them and their wishes.

They defame the Church and natter on about its failings because they are trying to create a phony moral high ground for themselves from which to assail the Church and bully it into silence. These constant claims of a Church whose followers do not believe in it and who are about to abandon it are what they wish would happen.

The Catholic Church is the repository of faith. These teachings it won’t bend are its charge. It offers each of us a simple, followable roadmap to heaven. The Catholic Church is not made up of perfect people. All of us, both those who wear collars and those who sit in the pews, are fallible, fallen human beings living out our lives in a fallen world. We can and we do sin.

The teachings of our Church — the ones that cause such anger and wrath on the part of the Church’s critics — are how we know the finer points of right and wrong. The Church guides us in how to discern right and wrong, and then, when we are ready to turn things around and try again, it gives us the remedy of forgiveness and reorientation through the sacrament of confession.

I am gratified to see this Pew survey. But I’m not surprised. It simply verifies what I’ve been seeing at mass every weekend for years.

The CNA article describing this Pew Foundation survey says in part:

Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2013 / 02:05 am (CNA).- As the Feb. 28 resignation of Pope Benedict XVI approaches, the vast majority of U.S. Catholics have a favorable view of the pontiff, and the majority support traditional Catholic teaching as well.

According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, 74 percent of U.S. Catholics “express a favorable view of the pope.”

Pope Benedict has been regarded favorably throughout his entire papacy, with approval ratings among U.S. Catholics ranging from 67-83 percent.

Pope Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, also enjoyed a high favorability rating over the course of his papacy. The Pew Forum’s polling in the 1980s and 1990s found that more than 90 percent of Americans had a positive opinion of Pope John Paul II.

Weekly Mass attendees were most likely to favor tradition, with 63 percent saying the next Pope should maintain traditional teaching.

Those Catholics who favored taking the Church in a new direction could give pollsters an open-ended response as to where they would like to see change. Nineteen percent said the Church should “become more modern,” while 15 percent wanted a tougher stance on sex abuse.

Fewer than 10 percent called for the Church to accept same-sex “marriage,” women priests or contraception. (Read the rest here.)

Pope Benedict’s Legacy is His Faithfulness to the Truth of Christian Teaching

What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ, whose care and guidance will never be lacking.

The Catholic Church doesn’t bend on essential matters of faith.

In 2,000 years, through bad popes and good ones, through corruption, wars, plagues and persecution, the Church has held true to the core teachings which define Christianity. This makes the Catholic Church itself one of the most compelling witnesses to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit available to us.

Pope Benedict has faced direct challenges to the faith that many of his predecessors never experienced. This has not been a “Reformation,” but an attempted obliteration of Christian teaching altogether. We live in a world where the world itself proclaims that evil is good and good is evil. Those who stand for the truth of Christian teaching are attacked, reviled and accused of everything from bigotry to stupidity.

There is no middle ground in the culture wars, no island of neutrality where the combatants can join hands and say “at least on this we agree.” This fight is for our children, our families and our survival as a culture.

Pope Benedict XVI did not falter in the leadership he gave the Christian world concerning core issues of the sanctity of human life and the unique sacramental value of marriage between one man and one woman as the cradle of humanity. He has paid a price for his fidelity. But his leadership in this was critical.

As more and more of the various Christian denominations begin to parse the Gospels to create a false teaching which makes peace with the world at the cost of their discipleship, the Catholic Church is forced to stand alone in its absolute fidelity to the Truth.

It does this despite bishops and priests who fail, popes who age and a laity that wants to go along to get along. There are no perfect people in the Church, only pilgrim people, each of us on our way to our own personal Zion. When that day comes and we stand before God, the media, our friends and the people we’ve compromised for won’t be standing there alongside us. We will stand alone.

That is why leaders who follow Christ and teach us to do the same are so important. Everything depends on them. Those who mislead the children of God by twisting the Scriptures to tell them that evil is good and good is evil do so at their own great peril.

The whole wide world owes the Holy Father a thank you for staying the course and not telling us the easy lies that excuse our sins.

The following CNA/EWTN article discusses what we owe Pope Benedict for his faithful teaching on marriage. It says in part:

 Catholic leaders say Pope will be remembered for marriage defense 

ROME, ITALY, February 20 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Two leaders from one of the world’s largest pro-life groups think Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered for defending traditional marriage and his contributions to bioethics.

“He defended marriage as between a man and a woman and made statements, which later he was attacked for, because we really are in a very concerning situation where same-sex ‘marriage’ is being legalized worldwide,” said Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, director of Human Life International’s Rome office.

“People are going to realize how the pressure to give legal status to same-sex ‘marriage’ grew in this decade, they’ll will see it as a problem, and they’ll see Pope Benedict as prophetic after having been very clear that this goes against nature,” Msgr. Barreiro told CNA Feb. 15.

Joseph Meaney, the institution’s director of international coordination, pointed out that people raised by same-sex parents are already coming forward to talk about all of the problems caused by marriage being redefined.

“It has become this sort of libertarianism gone wild, where everyone has a right to everything,” Meaney said. (Read more here.)

If You Want to Read the Church’s Teaching on Euthanasia, Here It Is

From the Vatican website:

SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

DECLARATION ON EUTHANASIA

 

INTRODUCTION

The rights and values pertaining to the human person occupy an important place among the questions discussed today. In this regard, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council solemnly reaffirmed the lofty dignity of the human person, and in a special way his or her right to life. The Council therefore condemned crimes against life “such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful suicide” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, no. 27). More recently, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reminded all the faithful of Catholic teaching on procured abortion.[1] The Congregation now considers it opportune to set forth the Church’s teaching on euthanasia. It is indeed true that, in this sphere of teaching, the recent Popes have explained the principles, and these retain their full force[2]; but the progress of medical science in recent years has brought to the fore new aspects of the question of euthanasia, and these aspects call for further elucidation on the ethical level. In modern society, in which even the fundamental values of human life are often called into question, cultural change exercises an influence upon the way of looking at suffering and death; moreover, medicine has increased its capacity to cure and to prolong life in particular circumstances, which sometime give rise to moral problems. Thus people living in this situation experience no little anxiety about the meaning of advanced old age and death. They also begin to wonder whether they have the right to obtain for themselves or their fellowmen an “easy death,” which would shorten suffering and which seems to them more in harmony with human dignity. A number of Episcopal Conferences have raised questions on this subject with the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Congregation, having sought the opinion of experts on the various aspects of euthanasia, now wishes to respond to the Bishops’ questions with the present Declaration, in order to help them to give correct teaching to the faithful entrusted to their care, and to offer them elements for reflection that they can present to the civil authorities with regard to this very serious matter. The considerations set forth in the present document concern in the first place all those who place their faith and hope in Christ, who, through His life, death and resurrection, has given a new meaning to existence and especially to the death of the Christian, as St. Paul says: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Rom. 14:8; cf. Phil. 1:20). As for those who profess other religions, many will agree with us that faith in God the Creator, Provider and Lord of life – if they share this belief – confers a lofty dignity upon every human person and guarantees respect for him or her. It is hoped that this Declaration will meet with the approval of many people of good will, who, philosophical or ideological differences notwithstanding, have nevertheless a lively awareness of the rights of the human person. These rights have often, in fact, been proclaimed in recent years through declarations issued by International Congresses[3]; and since it is a question here of fundamental rights inherent in every human person, it is obviously wrong to have recourse to arguments from political pluralism or religious freedom in order to deny the universal value of those rights.

I.
THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE

Human life is the basis of all goods, and is the necessary source and condition of every human activity and of all society. Most people regard life as something sacred and hold that no one may dispose of it at will, but believers see in life something greater, namely, a gift of God’s love, which they are called upon to preserve and make fruitful. And it is this latter consideration that gives rise to the following consequences:

1. No one can make an attempt on the life of an innocent person without opposing God’s love for that person, without violating a fundamental right, and therefore without committing a crime of the utmost gravity.[4]

2. Everyone has the duty to lead his or her life in accordance with God’s plan. That life is entrusted to the individual as a good that must bear fruit already here on earth, but that finds its full perfection only in eternal life.

3. Intentionally causing one’s own death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder; such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God’s sovereignty and loving plan. Furthermore, suicide is also often a refusal of love for self, the denial of a natural instinct to live, a flight from the duties of justice and charity owed to one’s neighbor, to various communities or to the whole of society – although, as is generally recognized, at times there are psychological factors present that can diminish responsibility or even completely remove it. However, one must clearly distinguish suicide from that sacrifice of one’s life whereby for a higher cause, such as God’s glory, the salvation of souls or the service of one’s brethren, a person offers his or her own life or puts it in danger (cf. Jn. 15:14).

II.
EUTHANASIA

In order that the question of euthanasia can be properly dealt with, it is first necessary to define the words used. Etymologically speaking, in ancient times Euthanasia meant an easy deathwithout severe suffering. Today one no longer thinks of this original meaning of the word, but rather of some intervention of medicine whereby the suffering of sickness or of the final agony are reduced, sometimes also with the danger of suppressing life prematurely. Ultimately, the word Euthanasia is used in a more particular sense to mean “mercy killing,” for the purpose of putting an end to extreme suffering, or having abnormal babies, the mentally ill or the incurably sick from the prolongation, perhaps for many years of a miserable life, which could impose too heavy a burden on their families or on society. It is, therefore, necessary to state clearly in what sense the word is used in the present document. By euthanasia is understood an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated. Euthanasia’s terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used. It is necessary to state firmly once more that nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity. It may happen that, by reason of prolonged and barely tolerable pain, for deeply personal or other reasons, people may be led to believe that they can legitimately ask for death or obtain it for others. Although in these cases the guilt of the individual may be reduced or completely absent, nevertheless the error of judgment into which the conscience falls, perhaps in good faith, does not change the nature of this act of killing, which will always be in itself something to be rejected. The pleas of gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthanasia; in fact, it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love. What a sick person needs, besides medical care, is love, the human and supernatural warmth with which the sick person can and ought to be surrounded by all those close to him or her, parents and children, doctors and nurses.

III.
THE MEANING OF SUFFERING FOR CHRISTIANS
AND THE USE OF PAINKILLERS

Death does not always come in dramatic circumstances after barely tolerable sufferings. Nor do we have to think only of extreme cases. Numerous testimonies which confirm one another lead one to the conclusion that nature itself has made provision to render more bearable at the moment of death separations that would be terribly painful to a person in full health. Hence it is that a prolonged illness, advanced old age, or a state of loneliness or neglect can bring about psychological conditions that facilitate the acceptance of death. Nevertheless the fact remains that death, often preceded or accompanied by severe and prolonged suffering, is something which naturally causes people anguish. Physical suffering is certainly an unavoidable element of the human condition; on the biological level, it constitutes a warning of which no one denies the usefulness; but, since it affects the human psychological makeup, it often exceeds its own biological usefulness and so can become so severe as to cause the desire to remove it at any cost. According to Christian teaching, however, suffering, especially suffering during the last moments of life, has a special place in God’s saving plan; it is in fact a sharing in Christ’s passion and a union with the redeeming sacrifice which He offered in obedience to the Father’s will. Therefore, one must not be surprised if some Christians prefer to moderate their use of painkillers, in order to accept voluntarily at least a part of their sufferings and thus associate themselves in a conscious way with the sufferings of Christ crucified (cf. Mt. 27:34). Nevertheless it would be imprudent to impose a heroic way of acting as a general rule. On the contrary, human and Christian prudence suggest for the majority of sick people the use of medicines capable of alleviating or suppressing pain, even though these may cause as a secondary effect semi-consciousness and reduced lucidity. As for those who are not in a state to express themselves, one can reasonably presume that they wish to take these painkillers, and have them administered according to the doctor’s advice. But the intensive use of painkillers is not without difficulties, because the phenomenon of habituation generally makes it necessary to increase their dosage in order to maintain their efficacy. At this point it is fitting to recall a declaration by Pius XII, which retains its full force; in answer to a group of doctors who had put the question: “Is the suppression of pain and consciousness by the use of narcotics … permitted by religion and morality to the doctor and the patient (even at the approach of death and if one foresees that the use of narcotics will shorten life)?” the Pope said: “If no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties: Yes.”[5] In this case, of course, death is in no way intended or sought, even if the risk of it is reasonably taken; the intention is simply to relieve pain effectively, using for this purpose painkillers available to medicine. However, painkillers that cause unconsciousness need special consideration. For a person not only has to be able to satisfy his or her moral duties and family obligations; he or she also has to prepare himself or herself with full consciousness for meeting Christ. Thus Pius XII warns: “It is not right to deprive the dying person of consciousness without a serious reason.”[6]

IV.
DUE PROPORTION IN THE USE OF REMEDIES

Today it is very important to protect, at the moment of death, both the dignity of the human person and the Christian concept of life, against a technological attitude that threatens to become an abuse. Thus some people speak of a “right to die,” which is an expression that does not mean the right to procure death either by one’s own hand or by means of someone else, as one pleases, but rather the right to die peacefully with human and Christian dignity. From this point of view, the use of therapeutic means can sometimes pose problems. In numerous cases, the complexity of the situation can be such as to cause doubts about the way ethical principles should be applied. In the final analysis, it pertains to the conscience either of the sick person, or of those qualified to speak in the sick person’s name, or of the doctors, to decide, in the light of moral obligations and of the various aspects of the case. Everyone has the duty to care for his or he own health or to seek such care from others. Those whose task it is to care for the sick must do so conscientiously and administer the remedies that seem necessary or useful. However, is it necessary in all circumstances to have recourse to all possible remedies? In the past, moralists replied that one is never obliged to use “extraordinary” means. This reply, which as a principle still holds good, is perhaps less clear today, by reason of the imprecision of the term and the rapid progress made in the treatment of sickness. Thus some people prefer to speak of “proportionate” and “disproportionate” means. In any case, it will be possible to make a correct judgment as to the means by studying the type of treatment to be used, its degree of complexity or risk, its cost and the possibilities of using it, and comparing these elements with the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources. In order to facilitate the application of these general principles, the following clarifications can be added: – If there are no other sufficient remedies, it is permitted, with the patient’s consent, to have recourse to the means provided by the most advanced medical techniques, even if these means are still at the experimental stage and are not without a certain risk. By accepting them, the patient can even show generosity in the service of humanity. – It is also permitted, with the patient’s consent, to interrupt these means, where the results fall short of expectations. But for such a decision to be made, account will have to be taken of the reasonable wishes of the patient and the patient’s family, as also of the advice of the doctors who are specially competent in the matter. The latter may in particular judge that the investment in instruments and personnel is disproportionate to the results foreseen; they may also judge that the techniques applied impose on the patient strain or suffering out of proportion with the benefits which he or she may gain from such techniques. – It is also permissible to make do with the normal means that medicine can offer. Therefore one cannot impose on anyone the obligation to have recourse to a technique which is already in use but which carries a risk or is burdensome. Such a refusal is not the equivalent of suicide; on the contrary, it should be considered as an acceptance of the human condition, or a wish to avoid the application of a medical procedure disproportionate to the results that can be expected, or a desire not to impose excessive expense on the family or the community. – When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted. In such circumstances the doctor has no reason to reproach himself with failing to help the person in danger.

CONCLUSION

The norms contained in the present Declaration are inspired by a profound desire to service people in accordance with the plan of the Creator. Life is a gift of God, and on the other hand death is unavoidable; it is necessary, therefore, that we, without in any way hastening the hour of death, should be able to accept it with full responsibility and dignity. It is true that death marks the end of our earthly existence, but at the same time it opens the door to immortal life. Therefore, all must prepare themselves for this event in the light of human values, and Christians even more so in the light of faith. As for those who work in the medical profession, they ought to neglect no means of making all their skill available to the sick and dying; but they should also remember how much more necessary it is to provide them with the comfort of boundless kindness and heartfelt charity. Such service to people is also service to Christ the Lord, who said: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:40).

At the audience granted prefect, His Holiness Pope John Paul II approved this declaration, adopted at the ordinary meeting of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered its publication.

Rome, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 5, 1980.

Franjo Cardinal Seper 
Prefect

Jerome Hamer, O.P.
Tit. Archbishop of Lorium
Secretary


FOOTNOTES

[1] DECLARATION ON PROCURED ABORTION, November 18, 1974: AAS 66 (1974), pp. 730-747.

[2] Pius XII, ADDRESS TO THOSE ATTENDING THE CONGRESS OF THE INTERNATIONAL UNION OF CATHOLIC WOMEN’S LEAGUES, September 11, 1947: AAS 39 (1947), p. 483; ADDRESS TO THE ITALIAN CATHOLIC UNION OF MIDWIVES, October 29, 1951: AAS 43 (1951), pp. 835-854; SPEECH TO THE MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL OFFICE OF MILITARY MEDICINE DOCUMENTATION, October 19, 1953: AAS 45 (1953), pp. 744-754; ADDRESS TO THOSE TAKING PART IN THE IXth CONGRESS OF THE ITALIAN ANAESTHESIOLOGICAL SOCIETY, February 24, 1957: AAS 49 (1957), p. 146; cf. also ADDRESS ON “REANIMATION,” November 24, 1957: AAS 49 (1957), pp. 1027-1033; Paul VI, ADDRESS TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED NATIONAL SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON APARTHEID, May 22, 1974: AAS 66 (1974), p. 346; John Paul II: ADDRESS TO THE BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, October 5, 1979: AAS 71 (1979), p. 1225.

[3] One thinks especially of Recommendation 779 (1976) on the rights of the sick and dying, of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at its XXVIIth Ordinary Session; cf. Sipeca, no. 1, March 1977, pp. 14-15.

[4] We leave aside completely the problems of the death penalty and of war, which involve specific considerations that do not concern the present subject.

[5] Pius XII, ADDRESS of February 24, 1957: AAS 49 (1957), p. 147.

[6] Pius XII, Ibid., p. 145; cf. ADDRESS of September 9, 1958: AAS 50 (1958), p. 694.

How Beautiful

is the Body of Christ

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Giving Up the Fight: Should Republicans Drop Pro Life; Should Evangelicals Give Up on Traditional Marriage; Should Everybody But the Catholic Church Run Away?

Losing. Sucks.

There has been a spate of articles and interviews, including one with no less a personage than former Presidential Candidate John McCain, expressing the hand-wringing dismay of defeat that many right-wing politicos and even some socially conservative Christians seem to feel because they got slam-dunked in the November 7 election.

I’ve ignored most of this, for three reasons.

1. It’s natural to go a little nuts after you get beat in an election. It’s a humiliating experience all around and it makes anyone who goes through it a little bit crazy for a while.
2. I’ve never taken the Republican position on social issues all that seriously in the first place. I know there are many sincere people who have an R on their voter ID card who believe in traditional moral values right down to the ground. But I have thought for quite some time now that these people are being tolerated, patronized and used by the party power structure. I think the Republican Party is really all about corporatism and is just using social issues to get votes to push for corporatism once it gets power. I’m basing this on what they’ve done when they do get power.
3. I’ve assumed that after the clothes-tearing, ashes on the head, woe is me, I wuz robbed, post getting beat emotions pass that most people will settle down and go back to thinking more carefully again.

One of the miseries of the internet is that it makes it too easy for people to pull down their own pants in public. There was a time when we confined our crazy grief from the getting whupped times in life to the safety of our homes, families and close friends. We kept our embarrassments within the circle of people who would never tell on us, and who, out of the blindness of love, would soon forget it as if it never happened.

Losing. Sucks.

But the internet makes it all to easy to spew out a bunch of hyped up, grief-ridden angst onto the screen and then, by hitting send, memorialize all our crazy stinkin’ thinkin’ for the ages.

My totally unsolicited advice and equally unsolicited but sincere admonition to all these woe-is-me sayers is to calm down, slow down, take a breath and wait. Give yourself the space to feel and think this through before you jump in there and start saying things you’ll have to explain away later.

If, for those of you this may happen to, somebody sticks a mike in your face and asks what you think, tell them you’re still too close to it to have thought it through and you’ll get back with them. They may argue. They may accept it. But who cares? The press doesn’t have subpoena powers. You don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to, and my advice is that when you’re feeling as shook up as a lot of people appear to be about this election, you shouldn’t want to.

As to the questions I posed in the title, Should Republicans drop pro life; should evangelicals give up on traditional marriage; should everybody but the Catholic Church run away, I have an answer for you.

No.

If you believe it, and you know it’s right, then why would you be dropping out and giving up and changing course?

If, right now, you’re too frazzled and frizzled and just plain scared to face the fight head-on, take a breather. Tomorrow is Advent. Go say your prayers. Take an honest look at yourself. Go to confession. Get right with God.

And also, clean up your house, hug your kids, tell your spouse how much they mean to you, go to a movie, read a good book, and spend an evening with your friends.

Losing. Sucks. Life is beautiful anyway.

Live. Breath. Get over it.

After the New Year is plenty soon enough to start gearing up for the next political war. I know that the boys and gals in DC are already threatening to push the whole country and the entire world along with it into economic catastrophe. If you’re going to do one political thing, I would advise you to send your Congressman and Senators an email telling them to stop show-boating and just do their jobs, at least until after Christmas. The New Year is soon enough for them to start whamming each other.

There. I’ve said my say.

If you’ve got any thoughts on any of this, feel free to chime in. I’ll even allow wailing and moaning and we wuz robbed complaints just this once.

The Sacramental Vending Machine vs The Highway to Heaven

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way …’” John 14: 1-6

 

Leah Libresco

When my colleague Leah Libresco enters the Church today, she will do so with the support and the presence of a sponsor.

Candidates for Baptism and Confirmation in the Catholic Church usually go through what is called a Rite of Election before their big day. During this rite, their sponsor vouches for them, affirming that they are, indeed, sincere in their desire to become Catholic.

The reason for this is ancient. In the early days of Christianity, there were those who would pretend to be converts in order to infiltrate the Church and then use the knowledge they gained to aid those who persecuted it. They were, in the parlance of the Cold War, double agents.

Back in the 1950s, there was a television show called I Led Three Lives about just such a double agent. It told the story of a man who pretended to be an ordinary citizen on the outside, was an active spy for the Communists in one of his inside identities and a double agent for the United States who was, in fact, spying on the Communists in his hidden, but true, identity. Evidently, a good many people once tried to infest the Catholic Church with their own version of I Led Three Lives  in much the same way back in the early days of Christianity.

Most Christians in those days led at least two lives; passing as best they could as ordinary citizens in their outside identity and living for Christ in their hidden, but true, identity. Thus, converts who go through the rite of election do so with a sponsor, who is a known Catholic in good standing and who vouches for their sincerity of intent concerning their desire to enter the Church.

Unfortunately, this part of the Rite of Election is no longer as archaic as it was, say, 30 years ago, not even here in the “Christian West.” More and more people seem to be attempting to enter the Church as what amounts to current-day double agents. They demand the sacraments of baptism and confirmation as if the Church was a sacramental vending machine and they’ve put in their dollar and deserve their sacrament in return.

These people approach entry into the Catholic Church with an arrogance they would never employ during pledge week at a university. The same people who will grovel and debase themselves to be part of a fraternal organization, think nothing of demanding entry into the sacraments without any requirements of genuine belief or fidelity. They are open and arrogant in their refusal to accept Church teaching.

History has made a turn into a full circle. We are once again back at a time when double agents inside the Church cooperate and aid those who want to persecute it. We have also come to a day when some of those who seek entry into the sacraments often do so with an arrogant assumption that this places zero responsibility on them to take this step with a sincere heart and genuine desire to follow what the Church teaches in their lives.

All of this makes the continuing rise in numbers of sincere conversions an even more powerful testimony to the love of Christ. One Leah Libresco is worth any number of false Christians. Leah is quite open about the fact that she is still seeking to understand certain Church teachings. Honest questioning from a sincere heart that is seeking to understand is not what I am talking about when I use phrases like “double agent.” The strongest followers of Christ grow from those who begin with honest seeking and the open hearts and minds of sincere questions.

Conversion is an on-going process. It’s a life-long process. None of us will get to the end of our growth in Christ in this life. Life in Christ is an ever-deepening miracle of love that grows and expands as we step out in our lives and live it. Questions, seeking answers to the confusions of living this faith in a fallen world, are a natural and honest part of it.

What is not honest are those who are not questioning but condemning the Church for teachings that fall afoul of the current world thinking. What is not sincere is someone who enters the Church with no interest in conversion for themselves and a hardened intention to defy the Church and support its attackers in matters of faith.

I found Christ while driving my car without any intellectual reasoning at all. Leah Libresco reasoned her way to Him in a way that reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ conversion. I think that speaks more to the kind of people Leah and I are than anything else. Jesus comes to you where you are. Then, if you give yourself to Him, He leads you gently to where He wants you to go. But the key is that you must give yourself to Him. He is the potter and you are the clay.

The Catholic Church has distilled its great wisdom of 2,000 years of Christian witness into simple, follow-able teachings that are accessible to the smallest child and challenging to the greatest scholar. I think of the Church’s teachings as a roadmap to heaven, and not just to the heavenly Kingdom but to heaven on earth as well. If we could truly follow the path of Christ in the here and now, we would re-create the paradise of before the fall.

But we can’t. Not now. Not yet. We are fallen people in a fallen world and there are tough times in life when the best we can do is just to hang on and do what God tells us. That’s when the teachings of the Church are most valuable. There are days when the confusions and griefs of life rob each of us of our judgement. There are times in every life when all we really want to do is just walk off, walk away and forget about it. Those are the times when this roadmap of Church teaching may be the only path we can see.

Go to mass. Say your prayers. Don’t lie, steal, cheat, rape, rob, kill or commit adultery. Care for the poor, stand for life, pray, even if grudgingly, for your enemies. Chose Christ by doing what He has told you to do, putting one shaky foot in front of the other … day by day by day. Stay the simple, clearly-defined course of Church teaching, and it will lead you through to the other side of whatever angst and dire is tearing at you. That is the truth of Christian living when the going gets tough as I know it.

I am not the intellectual wonderment of a Leah Libresco. I am just one of many battle-scarred veterans of living the Christian life in an openly hostile environment. In that world, sincerity and honest seeking is all.

History has made a turn into full circle and enemies of Christ attack the Church from within as well as without. But compared to the honest seeking of an honest convert who has truly found Him, they are nothing.

Welcome home, Leah. You are God’s gift to the rest of us.

 

Patheos Election Month: The Most Important Issue For Catholics Is …

I almost took a pass on this one.

Something about Catholics picking out one issue and saying “That’s it! That’s the only thing you need to care about in this election!” seems wrong to me. I don’t think you can trim the Gospels down to an issue, or for that matter to an election, or the democratic process itself.

Following Christ means giving all of you, your whole life, and not just your vote. Too many people these days have convinced themselves that voting right is the equivalent to living right, and living right is all the grace or goodness any of us will ever need. My main complaint about that tidy little approach to Christianity is that I don’t believe it’s Christianity at all.

What kind of Christianity can it be that leaves out Jesus, the Gospels and the Cross?

However, no matter how broad our call, we are also tasked with living out our faith by the decisions we make when we go to the polls and cast our votes. We do this not as a substitute for following Christ day by day, but as part of it.

Clearly, the one issue that threatens my Church, which is the Catholic Church, above all others is the HHS Mandate. I would argue that this Mandate threatens not only Catholics, but all churches. I would follow that argument with another; that the HHS Mandate threatens not just religious people, but secularists, as well.

The HHS Mandate is a broadside fired straight through the First Amendment. The First Amendment not only protects the right of religious people and churches to practice their faith without government interference, it also protects the rights of those who are not religious to ignore and argue against faith without religious interference.

The First Amendment is a wall built around individual conscience and freedom of belief which has allowed us to believe and not believe in harmony with one another for over 200 years. It’s ironic that the forces which seek to tear down this wall are the ones who benefit from it the most.

Atheists are fond of pointing to the excesses of religious practice in the hands of fallen people, even while they seek to practice those same excesses themselves in their attacks on religious faith. What they leave out of their calculations is that the same First Amendment they are working so hard to turn into an instrument of oppression can, once it is fashioned, become an instrument to be used against them.

We live in a time when political activists have become so enamored with their various visions of a brave new tomorrow that they seek to abandon the basic freedoms of speech and religion on which they base their own claims. They would deny those who disagree with them the same freedoms of self-expression and right to organize that they used in their own march to a successful presentation of their arguments.

Thus we have laws and campus rules that deny Christian clubs the right to organize on college campuses because they require their members to express a commitment to traditional Christian principles. The argument is simple: Those principles are opposed to views that other people want to further, in particular same-sex marriage and abortion. So, the clubs must either bend to those views or disband.

All these acts of religious oppression were forerunners and foundation builders for the HHS Mandate. They created a large group of people who have been taught to hate Christianity and Christians so much that they are willing to toss away their own freedoms, if those freedoms also protect the rights of Christians. When these people were presented with the HHS Mandate, they rallied around it in a knee-jerk, hating-Catholics-is-cool reaction.

That leads us back to the question of our votes in two weeks. There is no single issue that, to my mind, trumps the HHS Mandate. I view it as one of the most serious challenges to our Constitutional government since the Civil War.

All this is not to say that we should abandon every other issue and ignore whole chapters of the Gospels in order to fit our faith to political party dictates. Whoever wins this election, Christians are in for a real fight. Political candidates who patronize Christians in order to co-opt them are just as dangerous to our faith as those who attack us outright.

My hope is that no matter how this election turns out, Christians will awaken to the threat the HHS Mandate represents and realize that, even if it should be overturned in the future, it still represents a current threat.

To continue with my use of nautical terms, the hull has been breached. Simply rescinding this mandate does not change the fact that government has stepped over this line. It most certainly will happen again. We can not trust our freedoms to electoral whim, nor can we vest our defense of them in politicians.

We must begin, as Christian people, to take on the responsibility of standing up for our faith ourselves. Every time we have acceded to a diminishment of our rights, we have been faced with another, more extreme, demand that we accede further.

Catholicism is a comprehensive approach to the Gospels. If we are to be true to our Catholic faith, we must work to bring the Kingdom  by our faithful attempts to follow the whole Gospels. The reason why is simple: Jesus doesn’t ask for what’s left over after we give ourselves to everything else first. He wants all of us.

 
Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

Full Text of Wednesday Synod Interventions

I thought you might like to read the Interventions from last Wednesday’s Synod.

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Official Summary and Full Texts of Wednesday afternoon’s Interventions at the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith.
* * *
SIXTEENTH GENERAL CONGREGATION (WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17 2012 – AFTERNOON)
- RELATIO POST DISCEPTATIONEM
- AUDITIO AUDITORUM (III)
Today, Wednesday, October 17 2012, at 4:30 p.m, in the presence of the Holy Father, with the prayer Pro felici Synodi exitu, the Sixteenth General Congregation began for the reading of theRelatio post disceptationem (Report after the Discussion).
President delegate on duty H. Em. Card. Laurent MONSENGWO PASINYA, Archbishop of Kinshasa (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO).
Some auditors also intervened.
A period for free discussion followed.
At this General Congregation, which ended at 7:00 pm with the prayer of Angelus Domini 254 Fathers were present.
RELATIO POST DISCEPTATIONEM
The General Relator, H. Em. Card. Donald William WUERL, Archbishop of Washington (USA), intervened for the reading of the Relatio post disceptationem (Report after the Discussion).
In his second report, at the conclusion of the general discussion of the Synodal theme in the Hall, the General Relator summarized the different interventions heard in these days in the General Congregations and offered several guidelines for orientation to facilitate the works of the working groups.
Full text is published below.
Holy Father
Synod Fathers
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord
“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

The Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith began with the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy in Saint Peter’s Square. Our Holy Father offered us guidance with the reminder that one of the ideas that came forth from the Second Vatican Council and that has such an important emphasis in the New Evangelization is the understanding of the universal call to holiness and how every Christian is by definition a protagonist in the work of evangelization. “One of the important ideas of the renewed impulse that the Second Vatican Council gave to evangelization is that of the universal call to holiness, which in itself concerns all Christians (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39-42).”

The saints are evangelizers who bring the Word of God into the world through the witness of their lives. Two examples of this efficacious work of inculturation of the Gospel are St. John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen, who were declared Doctors of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning of this synod.

As we began our deliberations in this aula, once again our Holy Father offered us words of inspiration. In his meditation during the opening prayer, Pope Benedict reminded us that confessio is the first of the two great pillars of evangelization. We must know and proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. But the second of these pillars is caritas – love. It is only when we have the word inseparably lived in love that we achieve the evangelization so hoped for in this synod. “Faith has a content: God communicates himself, but this ‘I’ of God really reveals itself in the figure of Jesus and is interpreted in the ‘confession’ that speaks to us of his virginal conception at the Nativity, the Passion, the Cross, the Resurrection” (Meditation, October 8, 2012).
Also in the October 11th celebration at which the beginning of the Year of Faith was proclaimed and the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Council was recognized, the Holy Father indicated another important direction for our work. He said: “During the Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today” (Homily, October 11, 2012).

For the past several weeks, we have listened attentively to the reflections on what the New Evangelization means and how the Church might best address concerns that have led to this call by our Holy Father for a New Evangelization. Thoughtful interventions on the part of the synod fathers, as well as the auditores, fraternal delegates and special guests, have enriched our sessions. The ng1033 Ordo Synodi Episcoporum states that it is the task of the Relator Generalto produce a relatio post disceptationem that summarizes as best as possible the discussions so that the next step of the process can continue.
These following reflections are intended in some way to help the discussion in the language groups (circoli minori) as they prepare propositions to offer to the Holy Father at the conclusion of our work. With these observations I also include a number of points for development.

In this relatio, I will summarize some of the observations presented under the following headings:
1. The Nature of the New Evangelization;
2. The Context of the Church’s Ministry Today;
3. Pastoral Responses to the Circumstances of Our Day; and4. Agents / Participants of the New Evangelization.
1. The Nature of the New Evangelization

In the synodal discussions there emerged very clearly the understanding that the foundation of the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith is above all the work of the most Holy Trinity in history. God the Father sends his Son who brings with himself the authentic Good News of who we are in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is involved in this movement of Divine Self-revelation which begins with the Blessed Virgin Mary under the action of the Holy Spirit receiving in her womb the Word of God who became flesh in her to be able to be given to the whole world. It is the Word made flesh who offers his words of everlasting life to those who place their faith in him. After his death and Resurrection, Jesus sent the Church, his Spouse and new Body, into the world to continue his evangelizing mission.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).
Jesus has freed us from the power of sin and saved us from death. The Church receives from her Lord not only the tremendous grace he has won for her, but also the commission to share and make known his victory. We are summoned to transmit faithfully the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. The Church’s primary mission is evangelization.
In his opening reflection, our Holy Father reminded us that the Church has taken the word “evangelium” and interpreted it in a new and life-giving manner so that our proclamation of it is a share in the prophetic ministry of the apostles – of the Church.
In the same reflection, our Holy Father underlined the primacy of God in evangelization. It is God who speaks and acts in history. We, by means of the fire of the Holy Spirit, are called to work humbly with God through our profession of faith and love through which the Word of God passes through us to touch others.

The Church never tires of announcing the gift she has received from the Lord. The Second Vatican Council has reminded us that evangelization is at the very heart of the Church. In Lumen Gentium, the fundamental text and nucleus of the Council’s reflection on the life of the Church, the Council fathers emphasized “the Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the apostles and to carry it out to the very ends of the earth” (17).

The duty to announce the saving truth is not just the responsibility of clergy and religious. On the contrary, this synod highlighted the important role of every disciple of Christ in the mission of spreading the faith. The discussion accentuated the crucial and vital participation of every Catholic, especially through the eager dedication and gifts of the lay faithful to the mission of evangelization.

Question 1. Through baptism, all Christians are given a personal calling which gives them the dignity of being evangelizers. How can the Church foster greater consciousness among all the baptized of their missionary and evangelizing responsibility?

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8) and as such, he makes “all things new” (Rev 21:5). This Good News involves the many moments of evangelization. One is the mission ad gentes, that is, the announcement of the Gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus Christ. Another moment in evangelization is the ongoing catechesis and growth in the faith that is a normal part of Christian development. Then there is also the New Evangelization which involves the pastoral outreach to those who have heard of Christ and began once to practice the faith but for one reason or another discontinued.

Question 2. One urgent activity, usually part of parish life, involves the initial proclamation of the faith and its gradual development. How can the Christian community become more aware of the importance of this catechetical and educational activity?

2. The context of the Church’s ministry today
In the beginning of our efforts we were greatly aided by the reflections from bishops representing five continents who spoke to us of challenges and at the same time of the communion of the Church. All of the interventions expressed aspects of the actual situation making reference to continental synodal documents and apostolic exhortations offered by both Blessed John Paul II and our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.
Even as they were diverse in particulars, all of the continents manifested a need for the New Evangelization insofar as their own cultures are affected by the process of secularization, even though it is displayed differently in diverse geographic areas.
Signs of the New Evangelization in Africa, America, Asia, Oceania and Europe include the small Christian communities in a variety of forms that have become living centers of evangelization. Revitalized parishes continued to be the focal point of Church renewal. The action of the laity is an essential and fruitful development. Some also highlighted the mega-trend of globalization and its effects, especially on the young. At the same time, all emphasized that at the heart of the New Evangelization is Jesus.

One particularly delicate situation emerged in the interventions regarding the Middle East. We were reminded of the importance of the presence of Christians in that area and that those Catholics have great gratitude for the recent exhortation, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, and particularly for the visit for our Holy Father to Lebanon that was a greatly appreciated testimony to the Church in that part of the world dominated now by Muslim influence. There was a clear effort to promote interreligious dialogue as an instrument of peace. There was also recognition of the difficulties that Christian communities face.

The presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams and the fraternal delegates, demonstrated the strong ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church. This was also noted by a number of synod fathers.
Question 3. Many interventions made clear that there is a consensus that this is a moment of reappraisal of the ministry of the Church in a way that recognizes the new situation in which the Church exercises her perennial ministry of bringing the Gospel of Christ to the world. What have been some fruitful experiences of this activity?
Many fathers spoke of the secularism and indifference to religion that are a part of the culture in many parts of the world. Therefore the Church needs to face the challenges of a world that looks elsewhere for its inspiration.

Many interventions noted the great ignorance of the faith – even of the most basic elements of the faith – that is prevalent throughout even those countries that have a long Christian history.

Question 4. In view of the diminished knowledge of the content of the faith and the lack of appreciation for the Gospel message, what new steps have been taken to promote clear, engaging and complete teaching, particularly to the young?

Globalization also presents unique challenges. The emigration and immigration of large numbers of people have caused dislocation of them from the cultural, social and religious context of their faith. Many religious and human values have been overshadowed by secularism.

Much of culture today presents a vision that weakens the social fabric of society. Some fathers offered examples of local violence and others of a diminished religious freedom. All of this is a challenge the Church faces in many parts of the world. Many fathers spoke of the importance of the means of social communications, particularly new electronic media, as the Church attempts to carry out her ministry of proclaiming the Good News. Some pointed out that it is not enough simply to present Christianity and Christian values on the internet or in religious films. It is necessary to enter into the language of the new media. The Church needs to learn the art of communication from the actual practice of modern social communication.

Question 5. The synod highlighted the seriousness of the challenges facing the Church today that hinder the transmission of the faith, among them an absence of the transcendent in a secularized culture. What are some of the challenges of secularization and what are some potential and existing remedies?

3. Pastoral Responses to the Circumstances of Our Day
There is a need to reinforce the idea of ecclesial communion, a bonding with God and therefore among ourselves as Church. We heard of the need to address the sacraments, particularly the Sacraments of Initiation, the Sacrament of Penance, and above all the focus on the Eucharist.

The overriding need of this age is a spiritual renewal that is the task of the Church to proclaim and effect. Spiritual renewal is the most important element of the New Evangelization insofar as it involves the renewal of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and a catechesis that fosters our spiritual growth.

Question 6. The proclamation of the Gospel is primarily a spiritual matter rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the Church. How can the Church better create spaces and moments for an encounter with Christ, and better foster a spiritual renewal, conversion and faith formation among all the baptized?

Our personal commitment does not rest on our own individual resolve alone. The First Letter of Saint Peter reminds us, “You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pt 1:23).

The Holy Spirit enlivens our commitment as we seek to rediscover the truths expressed in the creed. The Spirit strengthens us as we entrust ourselves to the life of grace and virtue promised in the sacraments. The Spirit bolsters our confidence as we open the deepest places of our hearts so that his gifts might strengthen us to live our faith. The New Evangelization should overflow into the very society in which we live. Culture is the field of the New Evangelization. Culture refers to the daily ethos, the various networks of understanding and meaning that give rise to the many, everyday connections between the person, community and society. Culture forms the vital link that relates the person to the community and the community to society.

Along these lines the opportunity to promote the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” was highlighted as a great contribution to the evangelization of culture.

Still others reminded the synod that care of the sick and those who suffer participates in the very essence of evangelization. The sick, those who have disabilities and those with special needs are also able to be agents of evangelization.

One of the repeated themes is the need to highlight the role of the Church as the very presence of Christ in the world today. The Church is not extraneous to the plan of Christ for salvation. A number of bishops spoke of the need to reinforce the role of the Magisterium of the Church when dealing with all of those who are engaged in teaching the faith, whether at the level of theological speculation or teaching at the elementary, secondary or university levels, and in all the expressions of catechesis.

Question 7. The Christian life is characterized by the transformation of the whole person in response to the call to holiness. How can the Church assist all the baptized to live the Christian faith and serve as a witness to the transforming power of God in our history?

Among the pastoral responses that received considerable mention were the works of social justice and the works of charity as an identifying part of the life and ministry of the Church. The ability of the Church to carry out her many works of love, whether in the area of social justice, service, health care or education were seen as part of her identity and a sign for others to recognize the presence of God working in our world.

Question 8. Testimony to Christ’s charity, through works of justice, peace and development, is part of the New Evangelization. How can the Church’s rich social doctrine better proclaim and bear witness to the faith?

Many synod fathers called for a new Pentecost. They spoke of seeing the action of the Church today, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, as a reflection of the energy in the early Church when the apostles set out to bring the first disciples to the Lord. Many of the fathers spoke of the similarity between those early days of the Church and our moment in time today. In this context, it was suggested that there be a formal consecration of the world to the Holy Spirit.

Parishes throughout the Church are the recognized place where for the most part the life of the Church unfolds. Many times the significance of parishes in the unfolding of the New Evangelization was highlighted since this is the “locus” of so much of the experience of people with the Church.

At the same time, the need was affirmed to emphasize the importance of small faith communities as foundational to the work of the Church today in effecting a new Pentecost.

Several synod fathers drew attention to small communities and made the point that they should not become detached from the larger parish family. Each pastor has to be able to work with all of the people entrusted to his care and not be limited to one small part of it.

Question 9. Parishes and small Christian communities occupy a key place in the New Evangelization. How can the parish and these small faith communities better foster and coordinate pastoral initiatives for the New Evangelization? How can the customary pastoral practices in the day-to-day life of these Christian communities be moments in the New Evangelization?

We heard of education into the faith as the starting point for renewal or reinforcement of the New Evangelization, the reintroducing of the world to Jesus Christ. Some fathers highlighted the educational element, especially of the young, as constitutive of the New Evangelization and how we will be able to move into the future bringing people back to the experience of Christ. Synod fathers pointed to the need to find practical and concrete ways to provide young people the proper education in the faith. It is particularly apparent that these moments include instruction of children and adolescents.

Question 10. Since the release of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, great progress has been made in catechetical renewal. How can the Church devise a program of catechesis which is both basic, complete and inspiring in the search for truth, goodness and beauty? The youth are the future of the Church. How can the Church better educate and catechize the youth to the greatness of a relationship with Jesus Christ through the Church, challenging them to commit their lives more fully to Him?

In this perspective, there were those who spoke of putting a renewed emphasis on the minister of catechesis. Catechists can be of great help in the New Evangelization and particularly in the context of families as they communicate the faith to their children.
Question 11. Catechists play a crucial role in the transmission of the faith. Is now the time to give the catechist an instituted, stable ministry within the Church? How can the Church better assist catechists in their important ministry?

Synod fathers spoke of the need to reclaim the Catholic kerygmatic tradition in order to speak the Word of God boldly, in season and out of season, to reclaim the prophetic voice of the Church, to discern the signs of the times that call for the New Evangelization and to engage in proclaiming and living a Catholic response to these signs of the times.

In the same light, a number of synod fathers highlighted the importance of popular piety as an expression by the people of God of their faith.

There was considerable consensus around the value of pilgrimages, especially to Marian shrines. This phenomenon offers a great possibility for evangelization.

Finally, the New Evangelization was recognized as not just a program for the moment but a way of looking at the future of the Church and seeing all of us engaged in inviting, first ourselves to a renewal of the faith and then all those around us into the joyful acceptance of life in the Risen Christ.

4. The Agents / Participants in the New Evangelization
Attention was given to the role of the family. It represents the instrument by which the faith is passed on, even in the most difficult situations. Encouragement has to be given to family life and particularly today when it is suffering so much under the pressures of the new secular vision of reality.

Question 12. As the domestic Church, the family is indispensable not only to the transmission of the faith, but also to the formation of the human person. How can the Church better support and guide the family in its crucial ministry to proclaim the Gospel and take a more active role in the transmission of the faith and human values?
The synod also spoke about the fundamental role of women in the life of the Church and the place of the mother of the family in the transmission of faith.

Systemic and coherent pastoral outreach requires the ongoing permanent formation of priests in the understanding of the joyful proclamation of the Gospel to an age that has little formation into the mystery of Christ.

Those who are preparing for priesthood have to be formed in an understanding of the uniqueness of their ministry and its relationship to evangelization. They also need to be formed in a recognition that they will be dedicating their lives to the service of the Church as celibate priests.

Question 13. The priest occupies a unique place in evangelization and the transmission of the faith. How can the Church foster a renewed missionary imperative to the ministry of priests?

The Church has been blessed by the ministry and witness of women and men in the consecrated life who continue to bring Christ’s love to the world through a great variety of activities. Consecrated life is itself a sign that points out to others the truth of the Gospel.

Many highlighted the role of the laity in the work of the New Evangelization. At every level, whether in the professional areas of education, law, politics, business or in all of the areas of engagement of lay people, it is the task of the individual Catholic to invite people back to the practice of the faith. This is done in word but also and primarily in deed, action and our way of living.

Question 14. The laity are indispensable to the New Evangelization. How can the Church more fully integrate the laity in the organization of the local Church, so that both laymen and laywomen are involved with priests in the evangelization of the community?
A certain number of interventions also highlighted the phenomenon of migration, which is so widespread in our time. It often happens that Catholics arrive in a new environment and are no longer active in their faith. Welcoming and embracing them in the community can be a form of New Evangelization.

The emphasis of Mary, Mother of the Church and of the New Evangelization as a model and patron for our efforts was highlighted a number of times. Above all, her faith prompts us to respond in the same way. It was because of her faith that the Word of God entered into our world. In imitation of Mary, we can bring about through our faith and witness to the life of the Spirit, a change in the world in which we live.

As we begin our work now in determining the propositions that will guide the efforts of this synod in presenting to the Holy Father a frame of reference for his reflection, it seems appropriate therefore to list a number of points among many possible themes:
1. The gratuitous intervention into our existence of God’s love expressed in various ways, but finally and fully in his Word made flesh – Jesus Christ;
2. The gift of the Holy Spirit that enlightens our minds and strengthens our hearts to accept God’s Word and live it;
3. Christ is the subject of our faith and the personal encounter with him invites us to become disciples;
4. We encounter Christ in and through his Church which is his new Body;
5. Christ and his Gospel are at the heart of the Church’s proclamation;
6. All the faithful, laity, religious, and clergy are called to be open to a new Pentecost in their lives;
7. Passing on the content of the faith, the creed, is the task of everyone, but especially in families, in parishes and small communities.
8. The parish is the place where most experience the life of the Church;
9. Some themes of the New Evangelization include the family, marriage, faith formation, religious freedom, care for the poor and the role of the laity; and
10. Mention should be made of practical expressions of the evangelizing work of the Church that seem to be successful.

Conclusion
The growth of the seed takes time. The intentional and deliberate action of diligent and consistent outreach to inactive Catholics on a personal level will plant new seeds as we renew our efforts to proclaim God’s Word and repropose it to those who are now distant from the Church.

The Sower entrusts the seeds to us. We already know our difficulties, the tensions, our restlessness, our faults and our human weakness. Nonetheless, he calls us and places the seeds in our hands and entrusts them to our stewardship. The seed is the beginning of fruitfulness. Planting the seed calls us to live the Word of God and share it with joy.
May Mary, Star of the New Evangelization and example for every disciples, missionary and evangelizer, intercede for us that the work of this synod may result in abundant fruit for the glory of God and the salvation of all men and women.
Thank you.

[00228-02.05] [NNNNN] [Original text: English]

AUDITIO AUDITORUM (III)
The following Auditors intervened:
- Rev. Sister Maria Antonieta BRUSCATO, F.S.P., Superior General of the Society of the Daughters of St. Paul (BRAZIL)
- Mr. Francisco José GÓMEZ ARGÜELLO WIRTZ, Co-founder of the Neocatechumenal Way (SPAIN)
- Rev. Zoltán KUNSZABÓ, Permanent Deacon of the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest (HUNGARY)
- Dr. Michel ROY, Secretary General of “Caritas Internationalis” (ITALY)
- Mrs. Lydia JIMÉNEZ GONZÁLEZ, Director General of the “Cruzadas de Santa María” Secular Institute (SPAIN)
- Dr. Florence DE LEYRITZ, Member of Alpha France Association (FRANCE) and Dr. Marc DE LEYRITZ, President of Alpha France Association (FRANCE)
- Prof. Franco MIANO, President of Italian Catholic Action (ITALY)
The summaries of the interventions are published below:
- Rev. Sister Maria Antonieta BRUSCATO, F.S.P., Superior General of the Society of the Daughters of St. Paul (BRAZIL)

In my intervention I refer to numbers 59 and 62 of the Instrumentum laboris, which I find answers the challenges facing the Church today by the media and digital culture, “the forum of civic life and social experience” (IL 59) and a space for an evangelization, from which to widely spread the Good News of the Gospel.
I praise and bless God for the growing ecclesial sensitivity towards the communication known as new civilization (Ecclesia in Africa, 71), the first aeropagus of modern times (Redemptoris missio, 37), a true and proper culture: that is to say a way of existing, of being in the world.

Paul VI knew this well, from the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi he stated: “The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect. It is through them that she proclaims ‘from the housetops’” (no. 45).

The enlightened interventions by the last Pontiffs, especially on the occasion of the World Day for Social Communication, have moved and supported the local Churches and other ecclesial organizations to use professionally the various instruments of communication and today’s new media for the proclamation of the message of salvation.
No. 62 of the Instrumentum laboris indicates some of the dangers of the digital culture which however do not cloud the potential of this new communication, able to offer greater possibilities of knowledge, of exchange, of solidarity. The questions call with great for those in the Church that are bold enough “in entering these ‘new aeropaghi’”: how to be effective communicators of the Mystery of God who is communion, witnesses of the love of God who is hope?

In distant 1926, Blessed Giacomo Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family, wrote: “The world needs a new, long and profound evangelization… Proportionate instruments are needed, and souls lit by faith”.

And this is the big challenge that we must also answer today.
[00317-02.02] [UD037] [Original text: Italian]
- Mr. Francisco José GÓMEZ ARGÜELLO WIRTZ, Co-founder of the Neocatechumenal Way (SPAIN)
The Letter to the Hebrews states, “Since all the children share the same human nature, he too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could set aside him who held the power of death, namely the devil, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death”.

Do we really believe that men, for fear of death, are held in the slavery of the devil all their lives? If we do, then this Synod should say with St Paul: “Caritas Christi urget nos. For the love of Christ overwhelms us when we consider that if one man died for all, then all have died; his purpose in dying for all humanity was that those who live should live not any more for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life”.

St Paul says that God wanted to save the world through the foolishness of the kerygma, which announces this news.

Faith comes from listening and today we find ourselves in a secularized society that has closed its ears.

If we want to evangelize, we need to give the signs that open the ears of contemporary man. But how can a Christian community reach this stature of loving faith in the dimension of the Cross and perfect unity? Here we find the need for the post-baptismal catechumenate to make faith grow.
[00311-02.02] [UD031] [Original text: Italian]

- Rev. Zoltán KUNSZABÓ, Permanent Deacon of the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest (HUNGARY)
This intervention is based on twenty years of mission experience in Budapest, Hungary and central Europe. The lives of hundreds of people, often entire families have changed thanks to the following principals. This key is a very simple one: to hold fast and believe the spiritual law of evangelization, which the Church, explaining to us Holy Scripture reveals. These are also referring to Instrumentum Laboris points 131 to 141 on the first proclamation of the Gospel and in point 28 on the content of the Gospel.
Because of the Conciliar and post-conciliar documents the entire process of transmitting the faith is clear before us. It begins with a proclamation, which is the Kerygma, that is to say the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including a call to conversion and repentance. Then a process of catechesis, based on the faith born of the first hearing of the Good News. It is very important that we clearly see this process and we follow this order.
It is also very important for New evangelization to be clear about the content of the basic Gospel. We must make it clear that this is a salvific message today just as much as long ago. Sin tears men from God just as much today as it did in the time of the Apostles. If we preach the Gospel faithfully, we will also see that this leads to the sacramental life, people will want to be cleansed by the water of baptism, to be reconciled through the sacrament of repentance, and to commune with Christ through the Holy Eucharist.

The highlight of my mission work was the Budapest City Mission in 2007. When answering the call of His Eminence Cardinal Peter Erdö, the entire archdiocese, joined in unprecedented unity to declare and share the Good News. The Kerygmatic preaching, and the invitation to join the community of love that is the Church, has since changed many lives, especially among the poor, the homeless and marginalized people and many of the youth.

[00197-02.03] [UD014] [Original text: English]
- Dr. Michel ROY, Secretary General of “Caritas Internationalis” (ITALY)
The practice of charity is a constitutional element of the nature of the Church and her mission of evangelization, and all in the Church are involved.
The new evangelization must show that the diakonia of the faith and the diakonia of charity are not separate and independent, but it is a question of one single diakonia with two aspects. Even more: the motor of the mission, the bearer of the vision should always be the diakonia of charity.

Because of this, charity must be the structural element of the self-same nature of the Church if she wishes to be evangelizing. It is worthwhile for the Synod to give her the place due to her in the reflection on new evangelization and for her to be encouraged and reinforced in her evangelizing dynamism.

Charity lived in the Spirit not only makes us missionaries, but evangelizes us as well. And today, we joyfully recognize that there are many, every day more and more, workers of charity, volunteers and employed, who make of their work in the social-charitable action of the Church the explicit field of their involvement in evangelization. We would like for them to have a place among the topics dealt with, on the manner in which Christian faith should be transmitted today.

We acknowledge that the practice of charity is one of the signs of credibility of the Church. We can often see, in our Caritas, brothers and sisters who come to us from indifference, agnosticism and unbelieving, through the socio-charitable service, discovering what the joy of believing and placing one’s life in the same phase with Jesus Christ within the Church truly means. We would like for the evangelizing characteristic which they bear within themselves to be recognized in a great number of actions that are carried out in the service of charity and the way of exercising them.
This does not mean that we do not recognize the need, at the same time, to deal with the evangelizing dimension of charity and formation in this domain, so that we may know how to make this service raise questions on the reasons and meaning of what we do, inviting to conversion and easing the proclamation of Jesus and His Gospel. In the same way we must cultivate the spirituality that can give consistency to the evangelizing characteristic of charity. The Synod could provide a good service to the new evangelization if it would give us positive orientations on the attention to be brought on formation and spirituality in the charitable action, which allows the revival in her of her evangelizing force.

The fundamental question in new evangelization is not only in knowing how to proclaim the Gospel, but in asking ourselves if the Gospel we proclaim is a good news for the poor, and if we, as Church, can make this Gospel credible. The service of charity must be the motor of the mission and its sign of credibility.
[00233-02.02] [UD020] [Original text: French]

- Mrs. Lydia JIMÉNEZ GONZÁLEZ, Director General of the “Cruzadas de Santa María” Secular Institute (SPAIN)
The Instrumentum laboris (nos. 147-149) calls us to do the work of evangelization, education in the current difficult situation of the “educational emergency”. In this sense, how do we have to be Catholic educators, what should Catholic school be like? I would like to indicate some ways:
1. – Maintaining Catholic identity of our schools.
2. – Establishing in our schools serious and integral program of faith formation.
3. – Creative fidelity to the founding charisma.
4. – Practice of virtues through a serious program of education of the will.
5. – Affective Educational Program. Encourage the practice of charity.
6. – Personalized attention.We have seen, with sorrow , how many students in our Catholic schools, rigorously educated in the study, have become social leaders who are enemies of the faith and the Church. That our schools are not centers of very “educated” but “unbelieving baptized.” And we have also seen with joy, how in colleges, universities, where the identity is maintained and the education of the faith is carried out, vocations emerge from its own Congregation for all conditions of Christian life. The Bishops are asked to pay special attention to the Catholic-owned centers in their dioceses. Ensure that they do not disappear and maintain their clear Catholic identity as an effective contribution to the formation of new credible evangelizers.

[00306-02.03] [UD027] [Original text: Spanish]
- Dr. Florence DE LEYRITZ, Member of Alpha France Association (FRANCE) and Dr. Marc DE LEYRITZ, President of Alpha France Association (FRANCE)
The Alpha Board is an instrument of kerygmatic announcement in the service of parishes and chaplaincies created 30 years ago and proposed in 160 countries, in 110 languages. Close to 20 million individuals followed it, many of whom had vivifying encounters with Christ. What lessons can be drawn from this experience for pastoral conversion?

Three great processes structuralize evangelization: 1. A first evangelization lived as a time of initial conversion allowing for the personal encounter with Christ; 2. The formation of disciples favoring the apprenticeship of Christian life; 3. The development of leaders through the recognition of the missionary potential of the laity and their deployment within the Church and in society.

Few pastors effectively know how to articulate these three processes which are detailed in Evangelii Nuntiandi, Chap. 2: This transformation leads to not believing in the sympathy, the sympathy to conversion, the conversion to the life of the disciple, and the life of the disciple to the mission.

For New Evangelization not to be diminished to a mere slogan, and for the communities to be the fertile terrain where disciples-missionaries may grow, priests must develop the ability to lead the pastoral with an organized and systematic approach. It is key to articulate these processes amongst themselves in a pastoral continuum that links the first proclamation to the development of missionary disciples, on the basis of their spiritual gifts, that could make the Kingdom of God radiate around the Christian community.

The New Evangelization requires new pastoral competencies. The Munus Regendi is brought up here. We have conceived for the profit of priests and bishops formations of pastoral government. Experience shows us that we can conceive the Church like a community apprenticeship where one must find again to place oneself in the listening of the Word of God to grow in faith, to form as disciples and practice a pastoral government that is profoundly evangelical.

[00309-02.02] [UD029] [Original text: French]
- Prof. Franco MIANO, President of Italian Catholic Action (ITALY)
The laity is called to participate in the entire mission of the Church, “they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world” (LG, 31). The Council message thus places the lay vocation in a particularly meaningful light that expresses a lively feeling of co-responsibility in the local Church and in the Universal Church. The discovery-rediscovery of this vocation, of the profound feeling of lay participation in the whole mission of the Church, appears to be one of the fundamental tasks which new evangelization is facing.

New evangelization requires new abilities of relation and relationships, individuals who know how to tell, with their life, the marvels of God, needs ties to a good, beautiful, true life. Here then, the intrinsically community dimension of the life of the Church, which has its foundation in the great gift of communion, today, asks to be evermore valued, with the goal of a renewed announcement of the Gospel to men and to women of our time. Even in the consciousness of the plurality of itineraries which are so rich in our ecclesial life, we again think about the parish, the place where we find our houses, where our families live, where the first relationships are built.

In the life of the parish, and even before at the service of the diocese, Catholic Action may represent a privileged place where the proper dynamics of relations in an ecclesial way are activated, where each one learns to understand that the great gift of faith and all the gifts received have a community destination. The vocation proper to Catholic Action, according to the indications of Vatican Council II, is in placing itself at the service of the whole, in being associated diocesan laity, in being able to be the concrete laboratory for new evangelization in the reality of the particular churches, around the Bishop, giving perspective and activation to the pastoral orientations. We offer our availability to the pastors of our particular Churches on behalf of the many lay faithful who await demanding formative proposals, intense personal relationships which being an association helps to cultivate, committing ourselves to walk the path of holiness, following the many saints and blesseds to become witnesses and apostles in the contexts of life: youths, adults, children, families, teachers, students, professionals, workers… all involved and protagonists, all responsible in evangelization and in the new evangelization to favor in the individuals we meet daily a new encounter with the Lord.
[00312-02.02] [UD032] [Original text: Italian]


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