Friday, June 29, 2012

The Bishops's Statement and the Fortnight of Freedom

   I think it is important to realize religious freedom is won by obedience to conscience as informed by the Magisterium of the Church, and conscience is the consciousness arising from the experience of conformity to the "ontological tendency" of being image of the divine Person of the Son. Since 90% of American women in the child-bearing age use contraceptives, they have already forfeited this freedom. It would have to be won back in the internal forum by a life of self-gift in conjugal relations. Lacking that, we have nothing to defend. We do not have real religious freedom because, as the bishops say in their statement, we are Americans. We are Americans with religious freedom because the founding fathers reflected 159 years of the Christian experience (1620-1779) that had become consciousness. 

   What impedes our consciousness now? 44 years of contracepting since (at least) July 25, 1968 and a century and a half glut of things that has spun its web of impoverty about our souls dumbing down our minds into a dictatorship of relativism. The icon of freedom, as John Paul II wrote in 1993 in Veritatis Splendor #85, is Christ crucified. It is the gift of self to death. 

   Let it be clear: the opening salvo of the bishops' statement on Religious Liberty is flawed. It says that "We are Catholics... grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens." This last remark is a flawed assertion. Our true freedom comes from Christ crucified not from being Americans, and the religious freedom we enjoy as Americans does not come from the Bill of Rights and the Constitution but from the experience of imaging God as relation. 

 Consider the experience of Whittaker Chambers in Quakerism:

“Men may seek God alone. They must worship him in common. The words of Miguel de Unamuno also express my own conviction: ‘A Miserere sung in a cathedral by a multitude tormented by destiny is equal to a philosophy.’ The God it worships is what a nation is, and how he worships Him defines what a man is. I sought a congregation in which I could worship God as the expression of a common need. For I had not changed from secular to religious faith in order to tolerate a formless good will vaguely tinctured with rationalized theology and social uplift. I was not seeking ethics; I was seeking God. My need was to be a practicing Christian in the same sense that I had been a practicing Communist. I was seeking a community of worship in which a daily mysticism (for I hold that God cannot be known in any other way) would be disciplined and fortified by an orderly, and even practical, spirit and habit of life and the mind. Some instinctive sense of my need, abetted by a memory of a conversation with my grandmother Chambers, which I have written about earlier, drew me powerfully to the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers.”[1]

“Three hundred years after it was written, Fox’s Journal is still less a book than a voice for those to whom it speaks. It was a voice that spoke peculiarly, As Quakers say, ‘to my condition.’ It summoned me to a direct daily experience of God and told me that His revelation is continuous to those who seek to hear His voice in the silence of all distractions of this world. It summoned me to know the Inward Light of God within myself, as within all other men without exception. It enjoined on me a simplicity of the spirit whose first commandment is compassion, which is expressly commanded not to judge, and whose answer to the surging enmity of the word must be yea yea and nay nay ‘because more than this cometh of evil.’ In short, it summoned me to the most difficult of vocations – to be a Christian as in the first century….[2]

            “I was in fact, though not yet in name, a Quaker. An in ward experience itself, beyond any power of the mind, had reached me. For what had happened to me, Robert  Barclay has given the expression that all Quakers know because it is final for all who have suffered it: ‘Of which I myself, in part, am a true witness; who not by strength of arguments or by a particular disquisition of each doctrine, and convincement of my understanding thereby, came to receive and bear witness to the Truth, but by being secretly reached by that life. For, when I came into the silent assemblies of God’s people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart; and as I gave way unto it, I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up…’”[3]

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Alvaro del Portillo: Recognized by Benedict XVI For Heroic Virtue

June 28, 2012. ( The Pope signed a decree that recognizes the'heroic virtues' of Alvaro del Portillo. He was the first successor of  St. Josemaría Escrivá, who founded the Opus Dei. He was also his closest collaborator.

This step is actually key, as his beatification process goes further. It means, that Benedict XVI recognizes that “Don Alvaro” exemplified Christian virtues in his life.

Now, those working on his cause for beatification, must present a documented miracle to the Vatican. If it's approved by experts, theologians and of course the Pope, his beatification could follow. Alvaro del Portillo was born in Madrid, Spain in 1914. His mother was Mexican, his father was Spanish. He studied Civil Engineering, Philosophy and Theology.

He was one of the first members of the Opus Dei and  one of St. Escriva's main collaborators. In fact it was him who encouraged Portillo to become a priest.

He took part in preparing the Second Vatican Council and in that Council, he also served as  Secretary of the Commission for the Discipline of the Clergy and Christian People. This commission issued the Presbyterorum Ordinis decree, which deals with the role of priests. 

After the death of St. Josemaria in 1975, he was elected as his first successor. 

He led the Opus Dei for 20 years. During that time, he spread its presence to 20 new countries. He also launched social and educational initiatives in Congo, Nigeria, Philippines, Brazil, 
Spain and Italy, and with that development came the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. 

He died on March 23, 1994 in Rome, just days after turning 80. That same day, John Paul II, who considered him a good friend, went to pray before him. 

The beatification process also includes analyzing the pros and cons of his life and virtues.  So far, 133 people have been interviewed.  Of these, 62 are from the Opus Dei and 71, do not belong to the prelature. Among the witnesses there are 19 cardinals and 12 archbishops and bishops.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Real Epistemological Grounding of Religious Freedom

Blogger's Introductory Comment: 90% of the Catholic child-bearing population gave up their freedom to make the gift of self and be open to bearing children since the publication of Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968. The truth of Humanae Vitae  has never been authoritatively and ascetical confronted in this country. 
   The parallel can be made concerning Israel and Judah who lost their Abrahamic faith, worshiped the gods of the Gentiles, and were punished by God by the loss of their physical and social freedom by being taken in captivity to Babylonian. See the book of Jeremiah who was the prophet of the exile in 600 B.C. The captivity was a great grace for the Jews as well as the Gentiles, the beginning of a recovery of faith and the enlightenment of reason particularly for the Greeks and Greek metaphysics. See Benedict's Regensburg address. 

Below we have a presentation of the theo-logic of the freedom of self gift in the conjugal relation.

Self-Giving Love: Humanae Vitae's Paradoxical Wisdom

Part One
“Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). Who could have guessed that these words of God at the beginning of the Bible would become the center of intense controversy during the second half of the 20th century? After millennia of children being considered a blessing of God and marriage a lifelong union between one man and one woman, the so-called sexual revolution of North America and western Europe called into question the wisdom of the ages, rejected the constant teaching of Christianity and contradicted key moral principles of natural law. This conflict about marriage, family and human life came to a climax when Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae in July 1968.
Controversial but Needed Document
Humanae Vitae was, without a doubt, the most controversial encyclical of the 20th century. Issued during a tumultuous time within both society and the Church, it met immediate and sustained public opposition from some theologians within the Church and from prominent exponents of the popular culture. The reaction was so unprecedented that it caught off guard both bishops and priests, leading most to fall silent on these vital issues. Worse still, it planted seeds of doubt in their minds, especially as dissenting theologians raised the volume of their rhetoric and found ready amplification for their dissident ideas in key sectors of the popular media.
The result was a twofold disaster: on the one hand, uncertainty and silence by the clergy about the teaching of Humanae Vitae and related matters; and on the other hand, indifference and ignorance among a large sector of lay Catholics, bombarded as they were on a daily basis by distorted messages about sex and marriage. For a while, doubt and dissent seemed to have the upper hand, spawning further confusion among even active Catholics. Many, hardly aware of what was happening, got caught up in the contraceptive mentality with all its destructive consequences.
With the election of John Paul II in 1978, however, a new confidence began to emerge about all the teachings of the Church. This energetic pope from behind the Iron Curtain assured us that we could trust the truth, and that the truth would set us free. And he began a vigorous defense and more persuasive presentation of the key teachings of Humanae Vitae.
 Theology of the Body
Paul VI had touched off a firestorm of criticism when, at the apex of the sexual revolution, he dared to defend the constant teaching of the Church on birth regulation. But popular or not, whether convenient or not, he spoke with courage; he upheld the truth. In fact, the message of Humanae Vitae is not just true news; it is good news. Pope John Paul II understood this well and, while vigorously reaffirming what his predecessor had taught, he presented it in more convincing fashion. He called his formulation of the teaching “The Theology of the Body.”
This fresh formulation, so deeply rooted in the Church’s tradition yet so innovative and attractive in articulation, was first presented in the Holy Father’s Wednesday Audience talks of the early 1980s. Then, he elaborated it further in subsequent documents such asFamiliaris Consortio, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Evangelium Vitae. All these insightful papal teachings, together with major medical advances in methods of Natural Family Planning, have gone far to counteract the dissent that raged in the late 1960s and through most of the ’70s.
The voices of dissent began to ring hollow as well when the harmful consequences of the sexual revolution became all too evident. Since July 1968, when Humanae Vitae was released, America has witnessed catastrophic increases in venereal disease, out-of-wedlock births, hardcore pornography, marital breakdowns, and widespread confusion about what it means to be a man or a woman and about the true nature of love. Admittedly, other destructive factors have also been at work in society during this time but none with more damaging consequences for the happiness, health and dignity of human persons. When the first command of God is ignored, chaos and suffering follow. Man and woman, united in marriage, find meaning and true joy by heeding the words of the Lord, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
 ‘As the family goes, so goes the nation!’
In his January 1999 visit to St. Louis, Pope John Paul II reminded us that God’s plan for marriage impacts on the stability and well being of the whole of society. He said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation!” Who could argue that things in our nation are going well when we consider the sad state of family life today? Yet there is great reason for hope. Signs of a new springtime for marriage and family life are sprouting all around us. It will not happen without valiant effort, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But it will happen when we listen to the Lord and embrace His plan for marriage and family life. We need to begin by rediscovering the wisdom of Humanae Vitae, in other words, by seeing the wrongness of contraception and appreciating the goodness of Natural Family Planning.
Part Two
Good news about Natural Family Planning (NFP) is popping up all around the Diocese of Phoenix these days. In August, a new NFP-only clinic will be opening in the East Valley of Maricopa County. In October, St. Joseph’s Hospital will establish a new department of Natural Family Planning. A keynote address will celebrate its beginning, delivered by Dr. Janet Smith, the Father McGivney Chair of Life Ethics Professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. In concert with all these, courses on the Theology of the Body are being taught in the Kino Institute and various parishes. A graduate of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family, Mr. Michael Phelan, has assumed, in this month of July, leadership of our Diocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Life Issues. And Pro Life institutions in our Diocese as well as the number of NFP instructors are continuing to expand.
Who would have predicted all these wonderful things in 1968 when Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae? A great help in bringing it about has been the teaching of John Paul II entitled the Theology of the Body.
Theology of the Body
Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is a fresh re-presenting of the Church’s teaching on the gift of human sexuality and the mission of married couples. It lays out more clearly and persuasively what Paul VI taught in Humanae Vitae, while rooting the presentation in a richer biblical context.
Marriage, says John Paul II, is a visible image of the love of the divine persons of the Blessed Trinity, the dynamic love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is also a sign of Christ’s love for the Church, His spouse. It mirrors the love of Christ on the Cross (I John 3:16), “The way we came to understand love was that He laid down His life for us.” Certainly, every marriage here on earth is between two imperfect persons who stand in constant need of God’s mercy, but it is in their marital embrace, in their fidelity and in the care of their children that the reality of God’s love is revealed.
Two meanings inseparably joined
Through the marriage bond, God creates a communion of persons within which new life is brought forth as the fruit of conjugal love. This is God’s plan from the beginning. In other words, the two primary meanings of the marital embrace are joined together: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. The procreative meaning is that which is fulfilled in the blessing of children and the unitive meaning is that which comes from communion in love.
These two meanings (or ends) of marriage (the life-giving and the love-giving) are so bound together that the marriage itself is gravely harmed, should they ever be divided. More importantly, when both ends are embraced and lived to the full, abundant good comes to the family and to the larger society. Abundant good is always the fruit of obedience to God’s plan for our lives.
Totally yours
On the other hand, married love is not true to itself unless it remains open to new life. It must be both unitive and procreative, not either/or but both/and. Why? Because authentic love gives all. We hear this language of totality in the greatest of the commandments when Jesus says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” To love as Jesus loves is to give everything we are and have, no matter the cost.
In Humanae Vitae, #9, Paul VI writes that conjugal love “is total; that is, it is a very special form of personal friendship whereby the spouses generously share everything with each other without undue reservations and without concern for their selfish convenience. One who truly loves his spouse not only loves her for what he receives from her but also for her own sake. This he does joyfully, as he enriches his beloved with the gift of himself.”
To love totally in marriage means not withholding the fertile part of being a man or woman; that is, the wife gives all of her femininity and the husband gives all of his masculinity. Should one or both resort to contraception, they would be withdrawing their fertility from the giving. They would not be giving their all. Such action not only makes procreation impossible (preventing cooperation with God in life-giving love) but also damages the bonds of love (harming the love-giving end). It is no surprise that many marriages are weak because of the use of contraception. Every time that a married couple uses contraception they withhold love from one another. The marital embrace then becomes solely focused on pleasure and is not the self-giving, unifying, and potentially fruitful act that God created it to be.
The Blessing of NFP
Does that mean that married couples must have as many children as possible? Not at all. In fact, by God’s design the marital embrace cannot always be fertile. The woman’s cycle goes through times of both fertility and infertility. In light of this God-given fact, spouses can plan their families by taking into account the fertile or non-fertile times. We call this Natural Family Planning.
When Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, teaching that contraception is seriously sinful, he called for new research to provide couples with improved methods of family planning that were natural, ethical, and healthy. Since then, great advances have been made in understanding natural fertility and developing scientifically validated methods of fertility regulation (commonly known as NFP). Today, these natural methods are as reliable as contraceptives. Simply put, if a woman is not fertile, she cannot become pregnant. More importantly, they are morally good and have no harmful side effects on the woman’s health. The use of contraceptives, of course, is always morally evil and many of them have harmful side effects as well.
The personal benefits of NFP make it especially attractive. Natural methods strengthen the harmony and mutual understanding of husband and wife. They lead to a deeper awareness of the blessing of children. They foster respect for nature and for the personal dignity of all persons.
These natural methods are not well known, however. And prejudices about them still abound. Incidentally, NFP is not what many refer to as the rhythm method. There is solid science behind NFP. What makes this not knowing particularly tragic is that ignorance of these natural methods and a widespread contraceptive mentality have led to acts that are directly contrary to marriage and to life itself — acts such as abortion, sterilization, and test-tube fertilization.
Nonetheless, as St. Paul writes, there is no chaining of the word of God. The good news about NFP and the Theology of the Body, and the prophetic wisdom of Humanae Vitae, shine forth more convincingly each day. Can we not see the Holy Spirit at work in our midst, lifting up the Gospel of Life?
Part Three
Over the past few weeks, I have written about the paradoxical wisdom of Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, and of the way John Paul II gave a fuller and more convincing explanation to this prophetic document in his Theology of the Body. We have considered the nature of married love, namely that to be authentic it must be total, i.e. the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning always belong together. Something has gone seriously wrong when a husband or wife says, “I give you everything except my fertility;” or “I accept you entirely except for your fertility.” On the other hand, immense blessings come to couples that follow God’s plan for marriage and, when appropriate, practice Natural Family Planning (NFP).
Now, in part three of this series, it might be helpful to consider some questions that are frequently asked about Humanae Vitae, NFP and related issues. Many of these are related to the important question of conscience.
Following my Conscience
What if a couple does not agree with this teaching of the Church? Shouldn’t they follow their own consciences? What if a priest says not to worry about this? Is it true that this is just man-made teaching?
These questions deserve thoughtful consideration, for as the Second Vatican Council taught in Gaudium Et Spes (#16), “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey… His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”
To follow our conscience is to be true to this secret core of our soul where God’s voice echoes. Our very dignity as persons demands this conformity with our own conscience; it is unworthy of us merely to follow the fashions of the time or to go along with what others are doing without thoughtful reflection and firm decision of our own.

Forming my Conscience

Before following our conscience, we must form it in accord with the voice of God. Our conscience is not the origin of truth. Truth lies outside us; it exists independent of us and must be discovered through constant effort of mind and heart. This is no easy task for us who suffer the effects of original sin and must contend with the constant temptations of the devil. Recall the clarion summons of St. Peter (I Pet 5:8-9), “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1783) teaches, “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-informed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.”
As we see, to form one’s conscience well and to follow it with integrity is no small task. For a person’s conscience cannot invent what is true and good. It must search it out beyond itself. When acting correctly, we discover the truth through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the help of God’s word handed down to us in the Church. Then, when we submit our conscience to this objective truth, we act uprightly and grow to maturity in Christ.
An Erroneous Conscience
Sadly, as everyone knows, we humans do not always make good choices; we do not always form our consciences appropriately or we simply do not follow them. We can fail to make the effort to seek out what is true and good; we can be blinded by habitual sins or by the prevailing errors of our time. As the Catechism says (#1786), “Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.”
Humanae Vitae and the Theology of the Body, like all teaching of the Church on faith and morals, are reliable sources for forming our consciences in accord with the truth. If a couple decides to act contrary to these, they are acting contrary to the wisdom of the Church, which teaches with the light of the Holy Spirit. Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae #20, wrote, “The teaching of the Church about the proper spacing of children is a promulgation of the divine law itself.”
It could happen that a person, in mistaken yet good faith, acts contrary to this teaching. While a person with an erroneous conscience may not be culpable personally because of “invincible ignorance,” nonetheless the actions carried out as a result still cause great harm. “If… the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience”(Catechism, 1793). Let me illustrate this point by means of a parallel example. A mechanic, because he has not been given sufficient training, fails to replace a small but essential part of an airplane’s engine. Because of this failure, the plane crashes and all the passengers are killed. The mechanic is not guilty of the evil since he did not intend to cause it, yet the consequences are disastrous.
You and I are called to train ourselves to see correctly all that is at stake in our choices. Even if not guilty for a wrong that occurs, the wrong will still have harmful consequences.
We do well to follow the advice of the Church found in the Catechism (#1785), “In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.”
In the past 40 years, the failure to heed the teaching of Humanae Vitae has brought great suffering to many married couples and families. It has harmed the very fabric of our society. Perhaps these wrong actions were not culpable because of ignorance but the harm does not for that reason disappear. Now is the time for couples to consider again, or for the first time, the paradoxical wisdom of the Church on issues of married love and fertility.
Part Four
Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.” The seeds of truth planted by Humanae Vitae in 1968, while initially ignored or even rejected, are now beginning to bear fruit. This is evident in the lively interest of many in the Theology of the Body and in the desire of engaged couples to know more about Natural Family Planning. Now, pastoral efforts must be directed to respond effectively to this fresh desire and new interest.
In part four of this series, then, let us consider the roles and duties of married couples and of the clergy and others engaged in faith formation initiatives, at both the diocesan and parish levels. Just as past failure to heed the teaching of Humanae Vitae has brought suffering to many married couples and their families, so the faithful presentation of this teaching and obedience to it, now and in the future, will bring about a new springtime for couples, their children and the larger society.
A right to the truth
Love of neighbor requires commitment to the truth. Our contemporaries have a right to the truth about sexuality, marriage and family. They deserve to know what is good and true; they also deserve to know what is wrong and false. People, for good reason, expect us to teach what Christ teaches through His Church. Consequently, all Catholics, and the clergy in particular, have a grave obligation to proclaim this truth faithfully. In this regard, Paul VI wrote in Humanae Vitae, #29, “Refusal to compromise anything concerning the saving doctrine of Christ is an outstanding act of charity to souls; yet at the same time it is necessary always to combine this with tolerance and charity. When He spoke and associated with men and women, the Redeemer Himself exemplified this truth. Coming not to judge the world but to save it, He was severe against sin but patient and merciful to sinners.”
Not a peripheral issue
The issue of contraception does not stand on the edge of Catholic life but near its center. Every act of contraception is a serious sin that inflicts grave harm on the love between husband and wife and on their love for God. It tears apart the two meanings of the marital embrace: the life-giving meaning and the person-uniting meaning. No wonder so many couples that resort to tubal ligations, vasectomies and other acts of sterilization struggle to find meaning in their marriages. Conversely, it is not surprising that couples who follow the Church’s teaching experience few divorces and grow in mutual love.
Married couples are greatly helped to integrate the Church’s teaching into their lives when the teaching is done with fidelity, confidence and enthusiasm. Even though our Catholic teaching contradicts popular erroneous theories, we should never be embarrassed or intimidated. For Christ is and has always been a sign of contradiction. What seemed like failure in His life, namely the Cross, was, in fact, the greatest victory of love and truth. Indeed, His Spirit is at work in both those who teach and in those who receive the teaching, leading us all to obedience of faith and to fruitful living of the Gospel.
Listen again to the advice of Paul VI to priests (ibid), “Preach with full confidence and be certain that the Holy Spirit of God, who guides the Magisterium in its teaching, will illuminate the hearts of the faithful and invite them to give their assent. Teach spouses the indispensability of prayer; instruct them properly so that they may come regularly and with great faith to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance .”
New Invitation to married couples
How grateful I am for married couples that embrace and put into practice the good news ofHumanae Vitae and the Theology of the Body. Fidelity to the truth has its own rewards; as such couples will be the first to attest. Today more than 30 percent of all marriages end in divorce, but the rate is only 3 percent for those who use NFP. The truth sets us free; it also lays a solid foundation for love.
Unfortunately, many couples are still unaware of the Church’s teaching on marriage, or may have been duped by prevailing opinions that run directly contrary to it. To all of these I extend a new invitation and heartfelt plea to open your minds to this good news, and to examine your consciences about contraception and related issues. Do not forget that our conscience helps us grow to maturity in Christ only to the degree that it is formed by the truth. If you have fallen into the sin of contraception, seek the Lord’s forgiveness through a good confession. Or if, because of infertility problems, you have had recourse to procreative techniques that separate the unitive from the procreative meaning of marital love, techniques that mechanically substitute scientific manipulation for the marital embrace, seek forgiveness through sacramental reconciliation.
Take heart and do not be discouraged. To belong to Christ means to share in His Cross, i.e. to sacrifice for the sake of love. But remember that the Cross is the Tree of Life. It is the only way to Resurrection and eternal joy. To the world the Cross seems like foolishness. Once we obey, however, and become Christ’s faithful followers, we find a joy and peace the world can never give.
Future Plans for NFP and Marriage Preparation
What is the Lord asking of us now in the United States, and particularly in the Diocese of Phoenix? He is calling us, without a doubt, to make even greater efforts to hand on theTheology of the Body and to teach approved NFP methods.
To achieve this, our priests and deacons, as those ordained to teach and preach in Christ’s name, have a pivotal role to play. In addition, the Kino Institute, the Office of Catechetical Ministry, our Catholic Schools and RCIA directors, the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, and the Office of Marriage, Family Life and Respect Life Issues all have important contributions to make. We also need the assistance of our Catholic hospitals and the Natural Family Planning Office, the help of the Catholic Physicians Guild and Catholic doctors and other healthcare workers.
Already our diocese requires an introduction to Natural Family Planning for engaged couples preparing for marriage; it is time now to build upon this important beginning and to require a full course of instruction in an approved NFP method. We shall be able to do this as soon as we have enough NFP instructors for our expanding population. Major efforts are already underway to recruit and train additional NFP teachers in both English and Spanish.
Our late Holy Father John Paul II, shortly before he died, said, “The moment has come for every parish to have personnel available who can teach married couples how to use the natural methods of family planning.” May the Lord grant us the grace to achieve this goal very soon!
Part Five
When a wedge is driven between marital love and the procreation of children (which contraception does), countless other evils inevitably follow, evils such as sex being portrayed as a commodity for recreation with no relation to marriage and children, attempts to justify homosexual acts, and the proliferation of pornography.
Already in 1968, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, #17, Paul VI predicted, with accuracy, four dire consequences of rejecting the moral norms for birth regulation:
1. Contraceptive practices would lead to marital infidelity and a general lowering of morality;
2. Respect for women would decrease as they were seen increasingly as objects of pleasure rather than persons to be loved and to be treated as equals;
3. Governments would coerce persons to act against their consciences and moral convictions.
4. Couples would begin to think they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, thereby losing a sense of cooperating with God in bringing forth new life.
All four of these tragedies have occurred in the past 40 years, just as Paul VI had foretold. Divorce and pornography have increased in manifold proportions across America and Europe, and wreaked havoc especially for children and women. Increasingly the human body is seen as an object to be manipulated, perforated, and even eliminated if it is getting in “my” way, rather than being considered a sacred vessel where God wishes to dwell. The gifts of masculinity and femininity, motherhood and fatherhood, have been twisted and distorted by detaching them from their relationship with God our Creator and His providential plan for man and woman from the beginning. While all these evils harm society and tarnish the dignity of human persons, I should like to focus especially on the Third prediction of Paul VI, the coercion by public authorities of persons to violate their consciences.
Coercion by the Government and Courts
Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae, #17, asked the question: “Who will prevent public authorities from favoring what they believe to be the most effective contraceptive methods and from mandating that everyone must use them, whenever they consider it necessary?”
Here in America in the last few years, legislation is being proposed in many states, and has already passed in some, which coerces pharmacists and other healthcare workers to act contrary to their consciences in dispensing materials which are contraceptive and abortifacient.
In our own State of Arizona we have also seen several legislative attempts in recent years to force healthcare professionals and hospitals to prescribe or provide “morning after pills” (i.e. emergency contraception) that can act as abortifacients. While these legislative attempts have thus far been successfully defeated in Arizona, the pressure to deny “rights of conscience” continues to mount.
In response to these threats, the Arizona Catholic Conference worked proactively to introduce legislation this year to protect the “rights of conscience” for all healthcare providers, including pharmacists, especially in matters of contraceptives and abortifacients. After a hard fought battle, this bill was passed by the legislature; sadly it was then vetoed by Governor Janet Napolitano.
Healthcare providers are not the only ones currently being coerced to violate their consciences on matters of contraceptives and abortifacients. Arizona, like many other states, has a “mandatory contraception” law requiring all employers providing prescription coverage to their employees to also include insurance coverage for contraceptives.
While the diocese itself is exempt under Arizona law from providing this coverage, Catholic charities and Catholic hospitals are now being forced by the government to include contraceptive coverage with their insurance plans. An attempt by the Arizona Catholic Conference to remove this requirement, at least for faith based organizations, was similarly passed by the legislature in 2003, but ultimately vetoed by our Governor.
Rights of Conscience are basis of all rights
It is indeed ironic that many supporters of “mandatory contraception” legislation advocate for a “separation of Church and state” when persons of faith legitimately speak out on matters of public concern, but they have no problem with the government forcing Church organizations and its members to violate the tenets of their faith. The First Amendment, of course, does not advocate a separation of Church and state at all, but rather the protection of religious freedom from the state. Our founding fathers intended all persons to have the equal right to voice their opinions, including those with religious convictions. Even more, they knew that it was imperative that the state not infringe upon the religious beliefs of its citizens.
While the examples cited above provide proof of Paul VI’s prophetic claims, it is important for Catholics to continue engaging our culture, defending the dignity and rights of all persons, and working on legislation that will protect the “rights of conscience” in these matters.
We do well to remember the words of our late Holy Father John Paul II, “Respect for conscience on its journey towards the truth is increasingly perceived as the foundation of the cumulative rights of the person.” (Veritatis Splendor, 31) Whether the state respects the consciences of its citizens or not serves as a barometer of its respect for their dignity and basic human rights.
Copyright 2007 The Catholic Sun.
This item 7270 digitally provided courtesy of

Friday, June 22, 2012

God's Image Impressed Not On Coin, But On Humanity

An anonymous author wrote: “The image of God is not impressed on gold, but on the human race. Caesar’s coin is gold, God’s coin is humanity…. Therefore give your riches to Caesar but keep for God the unique innocence of your conscience, where God is contemplated…. Caesar, in fact, asked that his image be on every coin, but God chose man, whom he created to reflect his glory” (Anonymous, Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 42). And St Augustine used this reference several times in his homilies: “If Caesar reclaims his own image impressed on the coin”, he says, “will not God demand from man the divine image sculpted within him?” (En. Ps., Psalm 94:2). And further, “as the tribute money is rendered to him [Caesar], so should the soul be rendered to God, illumined and stamped with the light of his countenance” (ibid., Ps 4:8).

Since Christ's revelation of the Trinity is of three distinct Persons Who are One God ("I and the Father are one" Jn. 10, 30; "The Father is greater than I" Jn 14, 28; "I will send the Holy Spirit" Lk. 24,49), theo-logic demands that the divine Persons be understood as pure relationality such that they are not individuals who relate, but are Relations: the Father is the relation of engendering the Son; the Son is the relation of obeying and glorifying the Father; the Spirit is the opposing relationality of the Two

   That will mean that, as enunciated in Genesis 1, 26 [man has been created in the image and likeness of God], the imaging of God will involve a constitutively relational anthropology such such as we find in Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes #24: "Man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself." This anthropology is a Christian development beyond the Greek Stoic anthropology that man is an "individual substance of a rational nature." The ramifications of this are of great importance when it comes to understanding the impact of this turn to person as relation (subject) from an understanding of person as individual (object). 

Consider the logic of Humanae Vitae  that explains conjugal relations as the total and mutual gift of self [relation -proscribing the non-gift of self by the use of the contraceptive, IVF, etc., etc.], or the meaning of work as the self gift of the human person whereby capital and financial development must be at the service of the person, and the person not at the service of work and profit. Capitalism cannot then be presupposed as the economic structure of preference in that the workbench of tools does not belong to the working person as individual. Rather, he is at the service of the work-bench and tools and is expandable himself as tool of profit for capital. This is not socialism as ideology, but the dynamism of imaging the Triune God. 

And so, the Christian understanding of the Person (subject-"I") as relation is the dynamic and defining center of the entire social doctrine of the Church.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Archbishop Charles Chaput on Religious Freedom

 "Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we are going to lose it," Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia told members of the Catholic Press Association on the eve of the Fortnight for Freedom, the 14-day period beginning Thursday;

"The worst enemies of religious freedom aren't out there among the legion of critics that hate Christ or the Gospel or the church or all three -- the worst enemies are in here. It is us. All of us. It is the clergy, religious and lay when we live our faith in tepidness, routine and hypocrisy."

"Religious freedom is not a privilege granted by the state," Chaput said. "It is our birthright as children of God. ... We need to become people worthy of it, which means we need to change the way we live. Radically change. Both as individual Catholics and as the church."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

St. Cyprian on Christ Himself as the Kingdom of God on Earth

Thy kingdom come

The prayer continues: Thy kingdom come. We ask that the kingdom of God may appear to us, just as we ask that his name may be sanctified in us. For when does God not reign, or when does his kingdom begin, for it always has been and never ceases to be? We are praying that our kingdom, which has been promised to us by God, may come, the kingdom that was acquired by the blood and passion of Christ; and that we who started off as his subjects in this world may hereafter reign with Christ when he reigns, as he himself promised when he said: Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take up the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.

  But it may be, dearest brethren, that Christ himself is the kingdom of God, for whose coming we daily ask. For since he himself is our resurrection, since in him we rise again, so also the kingdom of God may be understood to be himself, since it is in him that we shall reign. We do well to ask for the coming of the kingdom of God – that is, the heavenly kingdom – for there is also an earthly kingdom, and he who has already renounced this world is greater than any of its honours or powers.

  We add: Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This is not that God should do what he wills, but so that we may be able to do what God wills. For who could resist God in such a way as to prevent him doing what he wills? But since the devil hinders us from obeying, by thought and by deed, God’s will in all things, we pray and ask that God’s will may be done in us. For this to happen, we need God’s good will – that is, his help and protection, since no-one is strong in and of himself but is kept safe by the grace and mercy of God. Moreover, the Lord, showing the weakness of the humanity which he bore, saidFather, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, and showing his disciples an example, that they should do not their own will but God’s, he went on to say nevertheless, let it not be my will, but yours.

  But it is the will of God that Christ both did and taught. Humility in dealings with others; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercifulness in works; discipline in morals. To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honour, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfil the will of the Father.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Self Contradicting Media

Go, figger!

We are awash in obligatory pro-homosexual spin by the media of every stripe. And at the same time, and in total contradiction, the media is incessantly scandalized at the homosexual activity between inevitably consenting adults, i.e. men (priests being the preferable disclosure) and teen-age boys.
 It is not pedophilia.
I just came across an article recalling Maureen Dowd’s affirmation of same, and wondering if she would be taken to task for connecting the dots. Apparently  not.

The New York Times' Maureen Dowd's most recent anti-Catholic hit piece (Sun., 5/19/11) contains a number of falsehoods. However, her article's biggest eye-opener is her apparent claim that homosexuality is a direct cause of child sex abuse.
Dowd's article lashes out against New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan's stance against the implementation of gay 'marriage' in New York. Dowd takes issue with a recently released report commissioned by the United States Catholic bishops that sought to examine the "causes and context" of the Catholic Church abuse scandals from past decades. Dowd belittles the report and writes, "It concluded, absurdly, that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were causes."
Whoa! Her opinion seems pretty clear: Homosexuality was a direct cause of the sex abuse of minors in the Catholic Church.
Indeed, the heralded 2004 John Jay report, which thoroughly examined Church abuse data from 1950 to 2002, reported that over 80 percent of abuse victims were male, and the vast majority were teenagers. (In society as a whole, most abuse victims are female.)
Most clear-headed observers reached the obvious conclusion that the scandals largely entailed criminal homosexual priests preying upon innocent adolescent boys. However, you would be hard-pressed to hear that conclusion in the politically correct "liberal" or "progressive" circles in which Dowd resides. (Even the authors of the study went out of their way to publicly state that homosexuality was not a cause, even though their own data suggested otherwise.)
Will Dowd be criticized for "demeaning" and/or "stereotyping" gays? Will there be a demand that Dowd retract her claim?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Norms Regarding Apparitions or Revelations

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Norms regarding the manner of proceeding
in the discernment of presumed
apparitions or revelations
1. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is competent in questions regarding the promotion and safeguarding of the teaching of faith and morals. It is also competent to examine difficulties regarding to the proper understanding of the faith, such as cases of pseudo-mysticism, presumed apparitions, visions and messages attributed to supernatural sources. Description: Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico City)In regard to these very delicate tasks, more than thirty years ago this Dicastery prepared the Normae de modo procedendi in diudicandis praesumptis apparitionibus ac revelationibus. This document, formulated by the Members of the Plenary Session of the Congregation, was approved by the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, on 24 February 1978, and subsequently issued on 25 February 1978. At that time the Normswere sent to Bishops for their information, without, however, being officially published, as the norms were given for the direct aid of the Pastors of the Church.

2. Over the years this document has been published in various works treating these matters, in more than one language, without obtaining the prior permission of this Dicastery. Today, it must be recognized that the contents of these important norms are already in the public domain. Therefore, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith believes it is now opportune to publish these Norms, providing translations in the principle languages.
3. In the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God held in October 2008, the issue of the problems stemming from the experience of supernatural phenomena was raised as a pastoral concern by some Bishops. Their concern was recognized by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, who inserted the issue into the larger context of the economy of salvation, in a significant passage of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini. It is important to recall this teaching of the Pontiff, which is an invitation to pay appropriate attention to these supernatural phenomena:

“In all of this, the Church gives voice to her awareness that with Jesus Christ she stands before the definitive word of God: he is ‘the first and the last’ (Rev 1:17). He has given creation and history their definitive meaning; and hence we are called to live in time and in God’s creation within this eschatological rhythm of the word; ‘thus the Christian dispensation, since it is the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Tim 6:14 and Tit 2:13)’. Indeed, as the Fathers noted during the Synod, the ‘uniqueness of Christianity is manifested in the event which is Jesus Christ, the culmination of revelation, the fulfilment of God’s promises and the mediator of the encounter between man and God. He who ‘has made God known’ (Jn 1:18) is the one, definitive word given to mankind.’ Saint John of the Cross expresses this truth magnificently: ‘Since he has given us his Son, his only word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything at once in this sole word – and he has no more to say… because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has spoken all at once by giving us this All who is his Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behaviour but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely on Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty’ (Ascent of Mount Carmel, II, 22).”
Bearing this in mind, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, notes the following: 
“Consequently the Synod pointed to the need to ‘help the faithful to distinguish the word of God from private revelations’ whose role ‘is not to complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history.’ The value of private revelations is essentially different from that of the one public revelation: the latter demands faith; in it God himself speaks to us through human words and the mediation of the living community of the Church. The criterion for judging the truth of a private revelation is its orientation to Christ himself. If it leads us away from him, then it certainly does not come from the Holy Spirit, who guides us more deeply into the Gospel, and not away from it. Private revelation is an aid to this faith, and it demonstrates its credibility precisely because it refers back to the one public revelation. Ecclesiastical approval of a private revelation essentially means that its message contains nothing contrary to faith and morals; it is licit to make it public and the faithful are authorized to give to it their prudent adhesion. A private revelation can introduce new emphases, give rise to new forms of piety, or deepen older ones. It can have a certain prophetic character (cf. 1 Th 5:19-21) and can be a valuable aid for better understanding and living the Gospel at a certain time; consequently it should not be treated lightly. It is a help which is proffered, but its use is not obligatory. In any event, it must be a matter of nourishing faith, hope and love, which are for everyone the permanent path of salvation.” (1)

4. It is my firm hope that the official publication of the Norms regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations can aid the Pastors of the Catholic Church in their difficult task of discerning presumed apparitions, revelations, messages or, more generally, extraordinary phenomena of presumed supernatural origin. At the same time it is hoped that this text might be useful to theologians and experts in this field of the lived experience of the Church, whose delicacy requires an ever-more thorough consideration.

William Card. Levada 


Vatican City State, 14 December 2011, Feast of Saint John of the Cross.

(1) Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church, 30 September 2010, n. 14: AAS 102 (2010) 695-696. See also those passages of the Catechism for the Catholic Church dedicated to this topic (nn. 66-67).

Origin and character of these norms
During the annual Plenary Session in November 1974, the Fathers of this Sacred Congregation examined the problems relative to presumed apparitions and to the revelations often connected with them and reached the following conclusions:
1. Today, more than in the past, news of these apparitions is diffused rapidly among the faithful thanks to the means of information (mass media). Moreover, the ease of going from one place to another fosters frequent pilgrimages, so that Ecclesiastical Authority should discern quickly about the merits of such matters.
2. On the other hand, modern mentality and the requirements of critical scientific investigation render it more difficult, if not almost impossible, to achieve with the required speed the judgments that in the past concluded the investigation of such matters (constat de supernaturalitatenon constat de supernaturalitate) and that offered to the Ordinaries the possibility of authorizing or prohibiting public cult or other forms of devotion among the faithful.
For these reasons, in order that the devotion stirred among the faithful as a result of facts of this sort might manifest itself in full communion with the Church, and bear fruits by which the Church herself might later discern the true nature of the facts, the Fathers judged that in this matter the following procedure should be promoted.
When Ecclesiastical Authority is informed of a presumed apparition or revelation, it will be its responsibility:
a) first, to judge the fact according to positive and negative criteria (cf. infra, no. I);
b) then, if this examination results in a favorable conclusion, to permit some public manifestation of cult or of devotion, overseeing this with great prudence (equivalent to the formula, “for now, nothing stands in the way”) (pro nunc nihil obstare).
c) finally, in light of time passed and of experience, with special regard to the fecundity of spiritual fruit generated from this new devotion, to express a judgment regarding the authenticity and supernatural character if the case so merits.
A) Positive Criteria:
a) Moral certitude, or at least great probability of the existence of the fact, acquired by means of a serious investigation;
b) Particular circumstances relative to the existence and to the nature of the fact, that is to say:
1. Personal qualities of the subject or of the subjects (in particular, psychological equilibrium, honesty and rectitude of moral life, sincerity and habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority, the capacity to return to a normal regimen of a life of faith, etc.);
2. As regards revelation: true theological and spiritual doctrine and immune from error;
3. Healthy devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruit (for example, spirit of prayer, conversion, testimonies of charity, etc.).
B) Negative Criteria:
a) Manifest error concerning the fact.
b) Doctrinal errors attributed to God himself, or to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or to some saint in their manifestations, taking into account however the possibility that the subject might have added, even unconsciously, purely human elements or some error of the natural order to an authentic supernatural revelation (cf. Saint Ignatius, Exercises, no. 336).
c) Evidence of a search for profit or gain strictly connected to the fact.
d) Gravely immoral acts committed by the subject or his or her followers when the fact occurred or in connection with it.
e) Psychological disorder or psychopathic tendencies in the subject, that with certainty influenced on the presumed supernatural fact, or psychosis, collective hysteria or other things of this kind.
It is to be noted that these criteria, be they positive or negative, are not peremptory but rather indicative, and they should be applied cumulatively or with some mutual convergence.
1. If, on the occasion of a presumed supernatural fact, there arises in a spontaneous way among the faithful a certain cult or some devotion, the competent Ecclesiastical Authority has the serious duty of looking into of without delay and of diligently watching over it.
2. If the faithful request it legitimately (that is, in communion with the Pastors, and not prompted by a sectarian spirit), the competent Ecclesiastical Authority can intervene to permit or promote some form of cult or devotion, if, after the application of the above criteria, nothing stands in the way. They must be careful that the faithful not interpret this practice as approval of the supernatural nature of the fact on the part of the Church (cf. Preliminary note c).
3. By reason of its doctrinal and pastoral task, the competent Authority can intervene motu proprio and indeed must do so in grave circumstances, for example in order to correct or prevent abuses in the exercise of cult and devotion, to condemn erroneous doctrine, to avoid the dangers of a false or unseemly mysticism, etc.
4. In doubtful cases that clearly do not put the good of the Church at risk, the competent Ecclesiastical Authority is to refrain from any judgment and from any direct action (because it can also happen that, after a certain period of time, the presumed supernatural fact falls into oblivion); it must not however cease from being vigilant by intervening if necessary, with promptness and prudence.
1. Above all, the duty of vigilance and intervention falls to the Ordinary of the place.
2. The regional or national Conference of Bishops can intervene:
a) If the Ordinary of the place, having done his part, turns to it to judge the matter with greater certainty;
b) If the matter pertains to the national or regional level; always, however, with the prior consent of the Ordinary of the place.
3. The Apostolic See can intervene if asked either by the Ordinary himself, by a qualified group of the faithful, or even directly by reason of the universal jurisdiction of the Supreme Pontiff (cf. infra, no. IV).
1. a) The intervention of the Sacred Congregation can be requested either by the Ordinary, after he has done his part, or by a qualified group of the faithful. In this second case, care must be taken that recourse to the Sacred Congregation not be motivated by suspect reasons (for example, in order to compel the Ordinary to modify his own legitimate decisions, to support some sectarian group, etc.).
b) It is up to the Sacred Congregation to intervene motu proprio in more grave cases, especially if the matter affects the larger part of the Church, always after having consulted the Ordinary and even, if the situation requires, even the Conference of Bishops.
2. It is up to the Sacred Congregation to judge and approve the Ordinary’s way of proceeding or, in so far as it be possible and fitting, to initiate a new examination of the matter, distinct from that undertaken by the Ordinary and carried out either by the Sacred Congregation itself or by a special Commission.
The Present Norms, deliberated in the Plenary Session of this Sacred Congregation, were approved by the Supreme Pontiff, Paul VI on 24 February 1978.
In Rome, from the palace of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 25 February 1978.
Francis Cardinal Šeper 

Jérôme Hamer, O.P.

May 30, 2012