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12/18/2008 5:11 PM
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Posted earlier today in the preceding page:
The Pope's day - He met with 11 new ambassadors today - VIS has an omnibus item about these meetings,
but Vatican Radio's Italian service has a much better one (that needs to be translated).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I've been wondering if something like this was going on since seeing the numbers for recent outdoors General Audiences, which seemed much smaller than in the past. Where are all our benaddicts?

Pope's weekly audience down 30pc

From correspondents in Vatican City
Article from: Agence France-Presse
December 18, 2008

THE number of worshippers attending the Pope's weekly general audience dropped by almost 30 per cent in 2008, according to official figures released by the Vatican today.

Some 534,000 worshippers attended Pope Benedict XVI's on Wednesday (local time) sermons in 2008, compared to 729,000 in 2007.

Attendance also dropped significantly last year.

During the first full year of Benedict's papacy in 2006, an average of more than a million people gathered in St Peter's Square for the weekly address.

The figures do not include the number of people attending the Pope's public meetings as well as worshippers at Sunday Mass.

In 2007, 1.45 million people attended the Pope's sermons on Sundays.


I held off posting the Anglophone news item about this because there is an Italian news item that explains the lower numbers - there were less general audiences in 2008 than in 2007, and some of them were held in Castel Gandolfo where the courtyard can only hold a limited number of people (3000 compared to 9000 in Aula Paolo VI and infinitely more in St. Peter's Square). Also, the item - I think from Avvenire - notes that the Vatican Prefecture report is only based on the number of tickets they give out, and that the attendance at St. Peter's Square is usually much larger.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/19/2008 1:16 AM]
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12/18/2008 6:47 PM
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Pope says Vatican must be
on Internet with words, sounds, images

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 18 (CNS) -- The Vatican media must unite their efforts to provide packages of word, sound and images to proclaim the Gospel to modern Internet users, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Today the Internet calls for a growing integration of written, audio and visual communications and therefore challenges the media at the service of the Holy See to enlarge and intensify their collaboration," the Pope said Dec. 18 during a meeting with employees of the Vatican Television Center.

The meeting marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the center, which is responsible for filming papal events, making documentaries and providing them to Catholic and other television outlets.

Pope Benedict told the employees that, because the Catholic Church cannot allow its message to be outside "the spaces in which numerous young people navigate in search of answers and of meaning for their lives, you must seek ways to spread voices and images of hope in new formats."

The Vatican Television Center has a small staff and limited resources, but the Pope asked the employees and members of the administrative council not to be intimidated.

"Many people, thanks to your work, can feel closer to the heart of the Church," he said.

For centuries pilgrims having been coming to Rome each year to see the Pope, he said, and "today this desire can be satisfied, at least in part, thanks to radio and television."

The advantage of providing audiovisual images of the Pope to television networks around the world is that they reach an audience well beyond the Catholic faithful, he said.

The access gives billions of people "timely information about the life and teaching of the Church in today's world at the service of the dignity of the human person, justice, dialogue and peace," the Pope said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who serves as director of the television center as well as of the Vatican press office and Vatican Radio, said almost every television image of the Pope people around the world see is an image filmed by the Vatican Television Center.

"Even if they are watching RAI (in Italy), Bayerische Rundfunk (in Germany) or CNN, we are the origin in almost every case," Father Lombardi said.

Father Lombardi thanked the Pope for his graciousness in allowing the Vatican camera operators to shadow his every public move, but he said that being there with the camera rolling "is our job. It is our obligation. We do it with passion and joy."

Pope Benedict said much of the work of the television center involves filming and distributing images from liturgical celebrations at the Vatican.

"The liturgy truly is the summit of the life of the Church, a time and place for a deep relationship with God," he said.

Filming the ceremonies requires not only professional expertise, but also a "spiritual harmony" with what is being filmed and with the devotion or desire for the spiritual nourishment of the audience, the Pope said.

Unfortunately, TV coverage of the Pope still leaves much to be desired - and most of the faults, as Sandro Magister's commentaries in the past make abundantly clear - could be avoided or corrected by simple common sense. Too bad the Holy Father himself probably never has a chance to watch how CTV covers his liturgies..

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/18/2008 7:46 PM]
12/19/2008 1:07 AM
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The liturgical year through
the eyes of Joseph Ratzinger

Patriarch of Venice
Translated from
the 2/19/08 issue of

On Thursday, Dec. 18, in Venice, at the Scuola Grande of St. John the Evangelist, the book OMELIE by Sandro Magister, a collection of Pope Benedict XVI's homilies during the past liturgical year, was presented, with Cardinal Angelo Scola leading the presenters. Here is the text of his presentation.

I think it must be a common experience of quite a few bishops and priests to see skepticism cloud the face of a publisher to whom the publication of a book of homilies has just been proposed.

Indeed, it is not rare that well-founded apprehension of meagre sales would lead the publisher to give a series of most valid reasons why it would be more opportune to transform the contents into a series of essays, omitting any references to the occasions on which the texts were delivered, without discarding the alternative - obviously thought much more preferable - of just writing a new text altogether that would be more able to interpellate the vaunted 'real problems' of man today.

But tonight we are presenting a true and proper collection of texts of liturgical preaching which, to top it all, dares to call itself OMELIE.

Obviously, it would escape no one's attention that the author is exceptional. To publish the homilies of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI is quite another order, even from the publisher's point of view.

But the profound reason for this challenge picked up by the Scheiwiller publishing house is very well specified by the book's proponent and editor, Sandro Magister.

He has identified one of the pillars of thought in Joseph Ratzinger earlier and Benedict XVI later in a statement taken from a famous intervention of Cardinal Ratzinger on the catechism: "God is the practical and realistic subject for man - then and always".

Such an affirmation, far from implying an a-historical consideration of the human adventure, lays claim instead to grasping its most radical and therefore most critical aspect: the question of the meaning, and thus, the sense and direction of history, of man's destiny.

The centrality of the 'God question' in human history accompanies the preaching of Pope Benedict, and justifies interest in this volume that is before us.

It is that very conviction that also guides the narration. The substantive is in the title and is doubly pregnant: the liturgical year is indeed the powerful expression of God's conversatus est cum hominibus, his conversation with man, in Jesus Christ.

And Ratzinger's theology, a fecund confluence of dogma and history, is in the fullest sense a narration of the event of Christ's personal encounter with the Church. A narration of the liturgical year by Pope Benedict - this alone indicates what great interest this book must raise not only among believers.

The Pope's preaching, like all the work of Ratzinger the thinker, is characterized by a profound theocentrism. But this term cannot be adequately understood if, even unconsciously, it is taken to mean an antithesis to the centrality of man, his story and all of created reality.

The centrality of God, in fact, far from being to the detriment of man and the cosmos, assures them of real consistency.

In his homily for Vespers of the First Sunday in Advent, in this volume, the Pope says in this regard: "If God is absent, there is no hope. Everything loses 'density'. It is as if there is no depth to anything, and everything is flattened, devoid of any symbolic relief, of its 'protrusion' with respect to mere materiality".

The metaphor thus points to the language of interpersonal relations. Christian symbolism has its vertex in liturgical action - it is the encounter in man of heaven and earth, eternity and time. It is history in the full sense because it is the present understood as a dynamic unity of past and future.

But in order that God may not be absent, it is necessary to be able to know him, to meet him in person. Indeed, if it is true that "the great hope can only be God", one must acknowledge that we are not talking here of "any god whatsoever, but of that God which has a human face - the God who manifested himself as the Baby in Bethlehem and the Crucified and Risen Christ".

It is the salvific event of Jesus Christ, eminently present in history through sacramental liturgy, that assures us that the centrality of God does not conflict with the centrality of man and cosmos.

God with the human face always precedes man - he awaits him, says Benedict XVI - so he may ask for salvation. For freedom and happiness, we might say, to use the preferred words of post-modern man.

The invitation to take part in divine life is the answer to the question, the answer that solves the enigma of man without pre-deciding his history, in the words of a great friend of the Pope, Hans Urs von Balthasar.

"Only the reality of Christ is 'sufficient'" - in which the word 'sufficient' means the only indispensable thing. Thus said the young theologian Joseph Ratzinger.

Now, in his preaching as Pope, he is permanently intent on proposing with humble tenacity the all-comprehensive power of this statement, "because faith must never be pre-supposed, but proposed".
These words which the Swiss theologian Von Balthasar used to thank him for a small book he had written in the immediate post-conciliar years, made an impression on our author, who has always been centrally aware that Christianity is "the encounter between two freedoms: the freedom of God, working through the Holy Spirit, and the freedom of man".

This encounter between two freedoms is best expressed in the liturgical structure of human destiny. On the Solemnity of the Epiphany in 2007, Pope Benedict, speaking of the mystery of God's fidelity, stated clearly that "the Church in history is in the service of this mystery of benediction for all humanity. In this mystery of God's fidelity, the Church fully carries out its mission only when she herself reflects the light of Christ the Lord, and thus can help the peoples of the world on the way of peace and authentic progress."

To reflect Christ's light to the world: this is the gift and the mission that the Church has received from the Lord. Gift and mission that ultimately are identified with her holiness. The Church is, above all, a gift permanently received from the Lord.

In this respect we cannot forget that the original and primary meaning of the expression communio sanctorum - contained in the apostles creed - is that of 'communion in holy things', that is, in the sacraments. The holiness of the Church, therefore, is above all, a gift received. That is why ultimately, it cannot do without it.

But this holiness is also a mission for Christians. To indicate the necessayr5implications of gift and mission, Pope Benedict, in his beautiful homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, uses one of his brilliant expressions of disarming simplicity and effectiveness. Speaking of the gift of reconciliation which should become the practice of reciprocal forgiveness, he says: "The Lord broadens the sacramentum to make of it an exemplum."

The holiness of the Church reverberates in the face of the Christian, of the saint (the 'heavens', Benedict says, citing Augustine), whose freedom was engaged decisively and permanently with Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Pope's preaching abounds in references to the saints. Emblematic of this are the catecheses that he dedicated first to the Apostles and then to the early Fathers of the Church.

In this way, the Pope takes up and deepens the great idea of Guardini that the Church should be reborn in its souls, in persons. And so, a decisive question for man today is "Who is the Church?"

More than 30 years ago, Joseph Ratzinger said of this in the book Dogma and preaching: "Whoever starts to consider the life of the saints finds an inexhaustible richness of stories that are more than just a homiletic example: they testify to the effectiveness of Christ's call through millenia filled with blood and tears. Only if we rediscover the saints will we also be able to recover the Church".

But the saints, in the life of the Church, are not just the documentation of the power of grace received in freedom. They are also the criteria, the canon of standards, for a profound examination of the mysteries of the faith.

The reader of Papa Ratzinger's homilies will find himself coming up at every step to references and citations from the great saints who have illumined the depths of mystery: Irenaeus, Augustine - whose presence is imposing - Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Chromatius of Aquileia, Germanus of Constantinople, Anselm of Canterbury.

The saints testify, better than any other reality, that "the Church is alive", as the Pope asserted in his homily in St. Peter's Square at the start of his Pontificate.

The saints, in a certain way, are the expression of "my memory of the Church", because "the Church as memory is ... the place of every faith. It survives all the times, high and low, but always as the common space for faith". The saints are the witnesses who nourish the present of mankind.

This attention to the subject Church which celebrates liturgy, which interprets Scripture, which contemplates and adores the mysteries of the faith, also explains the urgent calls to present conversion in the homilies of Pope Benedict.

At the Easter Vigil - mother of all liturgical vigils and celebrations, the Pope says: "Conversi ad Dominum- turn to the Lord. Always anew we should look away from the wrong direction, in which we often move in thought and deed. Always anew we should turn towards him, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Always anew we should become 'converts'", turned all our life towards the Lord. And always anew we must allow our hearts to be free of the force of gravity which weighs it down, and raise it high interiorly: in truth and in love".

The liturgy - the work of sanctification that the Spirit carries out in the Church - has its horizon in the adoration of God and the conversion of man. A conversion that is determined by the call to "turn from ourselves towards Jesus Christ and therefore towards the living God, towards the true light".

We can therefore ask ourselves if there exists - and eventually, what would be - the unifying key to read the homilies published in this volume. Such a key should obviously take into account the other pronouncements of the Pope, because his pastoral ministry is not divisible.

On another occasion, I stated that the thread which runs through Benedict XVI's teaching - of which the homilies form part - can be identified by the title of his first encyclical: Deus caritas est. God is love.

The Pope shows that all the questions which are now most pressing in the hearts of men deserve an answer. He does not tire of pointing out the thirst for truth in every man and the capacity of human reason to pursue an answer.

The texts published in this volume often refer - with obvious respect for their specific nature - not only to burning anthropological questions today, but also to social and cosmic questions. History and the destiny of man, in the horizon of the God who involved himself in human history, are continuously interwoven.

But the question of questions - that which reason never ceases to ask, in more or less elaborated way - is the question of love. Not so much the abstract question about the nature of love, but that which is concrete and personal, which touches on the experience of the individual: "In the end, who loves me?"

To this radical question, God himself answers, revealing his name: "Jesus has manifested the face of God, one in essence and triune in person: God is Love, Love in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit... Our story depends on the name of God; and our path, from the light on his face."

The experience of love comes for each of us from the experience of being loved which always precedes and constitutes us. A precedence which lives eucharistically in the Church.

In fact it is in the Eucharist that the God who loved us first comes permanently to meet us. Incorporating ourselves sacramentally in him makes us take part in the dynamic of his giving" (Deus caritas est, 13).

Thus the expereince of being loved generates the possibility of loving - which is the fulfilled expression of of a converted heart that is on its way to God.

In the famous book Introduction to Christianity, Joseph Ratzinger states clearly that "the Logos of the universe, the original creative thought, is at the same time, love. Indeed, it is this thought itself that is made extrinsic creatively, because insofar as this thought is love, so love is thought. There subsists a primordial identity between truth and love".

God-Love, who is the truth, asks man to express his freedom maximally in adoration. Says the Pope: "To adore the God of Jesus Christ, who made himself bread to be broken for love, is the most valid and radical remedy against the idolatries of yesterday and today. To kneel before the Eucharist is a profession of freedom."

They are words that recall those of the German Jesuit Alfred Delp, who was killed by the Nazis, and cited by then Cardinal Ratzinger in the Basilica of St John Lateran: "Bread is important. Freedom is more important, but most important of all is adoration."

With regard to the great Roman orators, he comments 0n (Giacomo) Leopardi [Italian poet, 1798-1837] in his Zibaldone [diaries he kept over 15 years, published only in 1898 under the original title Pensieri di varia filosofia e bella letteratura (Various thoughts on philosophy and literature)]: "Observe how true eloquence never flowered until he had the people for listeners. I mean a people who were masters of themselves, not servants, a living people, not dead".

The homilies of Pope Benedict certainly have such people as an audience, not just the faithful. The moving dedication and decision with which the Pope shows how seriously he treats this people explains the dense richness of his preaching and the extraordinary listenership that they get from everyone, young people and adults, simple folk and erudite, from children to intellectuals to heads of state.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2008 5:40 AM]
12/19/2008 6:12 AM
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Wasn't this book supposed to come out in English also at this time? Has anyone heard of it being released in English yet? I really want to give this book to somebody for Christmas. [SM=g27829]

12/19/2008 2:25 PM
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OR today.

Speaking to 11 new ambassadors, the Pope reminds them that justice is based on equity and solidarity
in international relations:
'Finance and development must be ruled by ethics'
Other Page 1 stories: The Pope asks for synergy and convergence among the media of the Holy See, addressing CTV staff
on the 25th anniversary of Vatican TV (above phot, right); Continued Gaza fighting effectviely cancels truce.


The Holy Father and the Roman Curia istened to the third and last Advent sermon of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa,
Preacher of the Pontifical Household, at the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

Afterwards, the Holy Father met today with
- H.E. Graziano Luigi Triboldi, Ambassador of Seychelles, who presented his credentials. Address in French.

- Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

- Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

- Mons. Rino Passigato, Apostolic Nuncio to Portugal

- Members of the Labor Office of the Apostolic See, led by Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, president.
Address in Italian.


The Vatican released the Holy See statement delivered to the UN General Assembly today to formally present
its objection to provisions in the 'Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual orientation and Gender Identity'.

The Holy See appreciates the attempts made in the "Declaration on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity" – presented at the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2008 - to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them.

At the same time, the Holy See notes that the wording of this Declaration goes well beyond the abovementioned and shared intent.

In particular, the categories ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’, used in the text, find no recognition or clear and agreed definition in international law.

If they had to be taken into consideration in the proclaiming and implementing of fundamental rights, these would create serious uncertainty in the law as well as undermine the ability of States to enter into and enforce new and existing human rights conventions and standards.

Despite the Declaration’s rightful condemnation of and protection from all forms of violence against homosexual persons,[S} the document, when considered in its entirety, goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms.

The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal penalties against them.

Vatican backs gay decriminalization,
but not the U.N. measure as proposed

By Phil Stewart

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 19 (Reuters) – The Vatican Friday urged governments around the world to decriminalize homosexuality but said a proposed U.N. resolution on the issue went too far.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Holy See's delegation explained the position at the United Nations late on Thursday, criticizing the wording of a European-backed text that champions decriminalization of homosexuality.

"The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination toward homosexual persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal penalties against them," read the delegation's remarks, released by the Vatican on its website ( Friday.

"At the same time, the Holy See notes that the wording of this declaration goes well beyond the above mentioned and shared intent."

The Vatican singled out the categories of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in the text, saying "these would create serious uncertainty in the law" -- in what appeared to be reference to its well-known concerns about gay marriage.

The Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, has previously warned the proposed European-backed text could lead to reverse discrimination against traditional heterosexual marriage.

"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations," Migliore told a French Catholic news agency. "For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made an object of pressure."

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It also opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official called homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity and a wound."

Sponsors of the European text point out that homosexuality is still punishable by law in 77 countries and by death in seven of them. This includes Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

An opposing Arab-backed statement, read out at the United Nations Thursday by Syria, said the European text could lead to "the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts including pedophilia."

"We note with concern the attempts to create 'new rights' or 'new standards,' by misinterpreting the Universal Declaration and international treaties," it added.

Lombardi told Reuters that the Vatican did not support the Arab-backed statement either. [Presumably because it defends Islamic criminalization of homosexuality, but not because it makes the same point the Holy See makes - that it would create 'new rights' and legitimize many acts considered morally wrong by traditional religions.]

Pope with the new
ambassador from Seychelles

VATICAN CITY, 19 DEC 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received the Letters of Credence of Graziano Luigi Triboldi, the new ambassador of the Seychelles to the Holy See.

"When speaking of your country", the Pope said, "its beauty and the many resources it possesses are always to be recalled. To increase your potentials you have made important efforts to reduce the lack of education. In an often difficult world context, I am pleased to note your initiatives, which should count on the support of international institutions".

In this context the Holy Father referred to the responsibility toward future generations and emphasized that it would be "unjust if the human beings of our age were to shirk their obligations and thus bring the weight of their decisions or their inaction onto the generations to come."

"This is not just in regard to stabilizing the economy, therefore," he said, "but above all means facing the questions of social justice. On the other hand, stabilizing national finances also offers a safer setting for economic activity and therefore protects the poorest and most vulnerable populations".

Benedict XVI greeted the Catholics of the Seychelles, inviting them to "build, together with your fellow citizens, a society in which each can find the path of personal and collective growth".


VATICAN CITY, 19 DEC 2008 (VIS) - At noon today the Pope received members of the Labor Office of the Apostolic See (ULSA), which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its establishment by John Paul II on January 1.

The Holy Father highlighted "the unique task that this office is called to carry out in the formation of personnel, so that the activity of the community of workers in the Holy See might be ever more effective and supportive"

Another important service of the office is "to foresee all possible discord regarding the workers of the Holy See and to seek, if necessary, solutions through sincere and objective dialogue, putting into practice the procedures necessitated by conciliation and arbitration".

"Those who work in the different offices and departments of the Holy See", said Benedict XVI, "form a unique 'family', whose members are united not only functionally but also by the same mission, that of helping the Successor of Peter in his ministry at the service of the universal Church. The professional labor that is carried out here thus constitutes a 'vocation' that must be cultivated with care and an evangelic spirit, seeing in it a concrete path to holiness".

"This demands", the Pope emphasized, "that the love for Christ and for one's brothers and sisters, together with a shared sense of Church, animate and inspire competency, commitment, professionalism, and an honest and proper dedication as well as an attentive and mature responsibility, in this way transforming the work itself, whatever it be, into a prayer. All of this can be considered a permanent formative and spiritual task to which all can give their support: cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, and lay persons".

The Holy Father affirmed that the nearness of Christmas brought to his mind, "almost naturally, the labor crisis that currently worries all of humanity. ... The Christ Child, who was born on that Holy Night of Bethlehem to draw near us in our difficulties", he concluded, "looks with kindness on those who are sorely affected by this world crisis, awakening in them feelings of true solidarity".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2008 6:42 AM]
12/19/2008 2:40 PM
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One of the more thoughtful statements so far (too rare, unfortunately) on DIGNITAS PERSONAE - and it is favorable.
The source is a surprise.

Science, technology and the human future:
A new instruction on bioethics from the Vatican

By Drew Christiansen, SJ.

Issue of 12/22/08

In his dystopian novel, That Hideous Strength (1945), the late C. S. Lewis embodied his fears for humanity’s fate in the hands of an unprincipled science in the N.I.C.E. (National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments) and its nominal leader, “The Head,” the decapitated head of an executed French scientist, that served as the spokesman for evil spirits (eldila).

As in his famous essay “The Abolition of Man,” Lewis’s concern was for the loss of genuine humanity to unscrupulous scientific invention, which in the novel consists in the suppression of natural human affections.

For many years, I thought that Lewis was a better theologian of the moral life than he was a moralist because of his curmudgeonly opposition to modernity and his fear of science.

He may have lacked the subtlety in moral matters required of a moral theologian or the penetrating insight of a spiritual director, though The Screwtape Letters showed him astute about the varieties of evil; but his grasp of the dangers inherent in the technological manipulation of human life has proved prophetic.

Louise Brown, the first child conceived by in vitro fertilization, is now 30 years old. Among the affluent a market has grown up in double and sometimes triple, side-by-side baby carriages to convey the twins and triplets born to older parents through in vitro technology.

Animal cloning, surrogate motherhood, even male pregnancy are realities. Stem cell research is advancing quickly, and experimental therapies using products of stem-cell generation are already being tested.

In a vexing development, the British government this year approved experimental development of human-animal hybrids. Human beings are threatened with becoming the instruments of utility and desire.

Scientific advances take place almost faster than law and ethics can keep up. And in some cases, like embryonic stem cell research, popular and special-interest agitation seems to be willfully antinomian, attempting to violate moral norms out of sheer defiance, even though adult stem cells already provide a proven and reliable source of biological material for research and therapy.

Even more than at the dawn of genetic revolution a generation ago, serious discussion is needed among scientists, ethicists, theologians and lawyers. Innovations like bioethics centers, institutional review boards and the President’s Council on Bioethics have failed to hold back the flood of ethically problematic biotechnologies and produce serious public examination of evolving technologies. A pragmatic attitude —“What we can do we must do” — has captured the media, the public and elites, especially in the field of law.

Dignitas Personae
Into this morally anarchic environment comes a new instruction on bioethical issues affecting the beginnings of life from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of a Person, released Dec. 12).

Addressed to “the Catholic faithful and to all who seek the truth,” it will most profitably be studied by physicians, biologists (especially embryologists), geneticists, philosophical ethicists and moral theologians because of the technical scientific problems it addresses and the dry philosophical language it employs.

But its significance for addressing the watershed we are crossing in the scientific control of human nature should not be underestimated.

The instruction reminds readers that the Catholic tradition favors science and supports endeavors that improve the human condition.

It shares the evaluation that “science [is] an invaluable service to the integral good of the life and dignity of every human being.”

It encourages the participation of Catholics in scientific research and the progress of biomedicine, expressing special hope that the benefits of research will be shared with the afflicted in poor regions of the world.

While the document is primarily concerned with problematic innovations in biomedicine, it commends the contribution of contemporary science in advancing knowledge of the beginning stages of life.

Furthermore, it regards new developments as “positive and worthy of support when they serve to overcome or correct pathologies and succeed in re-establishing the normal functioning of human procreation.”

Its criticism and condemnation falls on those developments that “involve the destruction of human beings” and on techniques that “contradict the dignity of the person” or are employed contrary “to the integral good of man.”

The Argument
The twin piers of the instruction’s argument are familiar from the moral teaching of Pope John Paul II and the congregation’s previous instruction, Donum Vitae (1988):

(1) “The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception,” and

(2) “The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family,” and so responsible procreation must be “the fruit of marriage.”

The text is strong, and sometimes eloquent, in expounding its insistence upon respect for the human person in every stage of its development and in whatever natural condition (of ability or disability).

It reminds the reader, however, that the role of the magisterium in declaring its moral judgments is not to intervene in medical science, but rather to call “everyone to ethical and social responsibility for their actions.”

The first chapter of the instruction lays out the suppositions about human life and procreation taken from “anthropology,” i.e., the philosophy of human nature, ethics and theology.

The following section addresses issues related to conception, in vitro fertilization and allied techniques; and a third takes up genetic engineering, commenting on gene therapy, stem cell research and hybridization. It is not possible here to list all the issues reviewed in the instruction or to summarize all its turns of argument.

What I present are some highlights of greater public and pastoral interest. Those interested in reading the full document can find it online at

Selected Topics
The instruction’s treatment of in vitro fertilization re-applies the teaching of Donum Vitae and elaborates it with regard to recent medical developments.

Briefly put, conception must take place as a result of the conjugal act, so only techniques that aid sexual intercourse and its fertility are licit.

The document encourages adoption for infertile couples and research to prevent sterility, and it deplores the destruction of embryos that takes place as a matter of course during in vitro fertilization.

Furthermore, it regards the freezing of embryos in connection with in vitro fertilization as weakening respect for the human person.

Finally, it explicitly rejects intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) as a technical intervention by a third party in what ought to be a fully interpersonal act between spouses.

With respect to genetic engineering, the instruction approves of strictly therapeutic interventions to bring an individual to normal functioning, so-called “somatic cell gene therapy,” but it prudently judges so-called “germ-line cell therapies” aimed at correcting an abnormality not only in the patient but also in his or her offspring as morally impermissible for the present, because the risks are considerable and the technique not fully controllable.

The congregation opposes nontherapeutic or eugenic uses of genetic engineering to improve the gene pool through the selection or elimination of inherited traits. These, it says, favor the preferences of some over the will of others and, as the example of Nazism has shown, are notoriously liable to ideological taint.

Rejecting the use of embryonic stem cells, it recognizes as licit the use of stem cells taken from adults, from umbilical cords and from fetuses who have died of natural causes.

Clinical use of stem cells from these sources is morally permissible; and “research initiatives involving the use of adult stem cells, since they do not present ethical problems” are encouraged.

Human cloning is rejected because it does not proceed from sexual union and because it violates the dignity of the unique individual person.

Therapeutic cloning, moreover, is regarded as especially heinous in that creating “embryos with the intention of destroying them, even with the intention of helping the sick, is completely incompatible with human dignity.” It would make one human being a means to the end of health and life for another.

Reaching Postmodern Minds
The instruction’s subject matter is technical. It offers a sustained and serious treatment of vital problems. Just as the sciences have their own languages, so moral theology needs technical terminology and patterns of argument.

The problems the congregation addresses are pressing; but the obstacles to communication are great. The language of natural law has limited power today to turn back the tide of technological transgression we face.

Pastorally, the Church needs to find an improved rhetoric to engage the postmodern mind, and in its apologetics it must experiment with varied genres of persuasion to affect the fluid imaginations of the Digital Age.

Who will be the C. S. Lewis for our day, defending human nature and celebrating the Christian vision of life for the 21st century?

The Pope’s real message for Obama
Op-Ed Page

Published: December 18, 2008

The roughly 67 million Catholics in the United States make up nearly one-quarter of the American population, but just 6 percent of the global Catholic total of 1.1 billion.

Ninety-four percent of the Catholics in the world, in other words, are not Americans, which may help explain why the Pope and his lieutenants do not always think American thoughts when they get out of bed in the morning.

That’s a useful bit of context to bear in mind in light of a tough new Vatican document on bioethics, released one week ago, that ratchets up the church’s condemnations of embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, the “morning-after pill” and a host of other techniques it regards as violations of human dignity.

In the United States, the tendency may be to see the document, titled Dignitas Personae (Dignity of the Person), as a battle plan for resistance to the incoming Obama administration. In reality, that amounts to trying to shove a square peg into the round hole of American politics.

For one thing, the document has been in the works for years, so it is hardly a rapid response to the American elections. Moreover, the Vatican doesn’t want to be at loggerheads with Barack Obama, because it sees a range of matters where it’s more in sync with him than it has been with President Bush.

On Dec. 3, for example, the Vatican simultaneously signed and ratified a new international treaty banning cluster bombs, a measure President Bush opposed — a reminder that Catholic social teaching and Republican politics are not always a match made in heaven.

What the Vatican may not fully appreciate, however, is that putting out a hard-nosed pro-life document right now, at least in the United States, may be the political equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

In the ’08 elections, pro-life Catholics emerged as the dominant voice of the religious right. To be sure, Mr. Obama won a majority among Catholics. Yet the sharpest anti-Obama rhetoric from religious leaders came not from old culture warriors like Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson but rather from some Catholic clergymen.

Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., for example, warned voters that their eternal salvation might be at stake if they supported Mr. Obama. A couple of pro-life priests even suggested that Catholics who voted for Mr. Obama should go to confession. (Their bishops, it should be said, quickly rejected that idea.)

Cardinal Francis Stafford, a former archbishop of Denver who today heads a Vatican court, described Mr. Obama’s rhetoric on abortion as “aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic,” and compared the election results to the Garden of Gethsemane — the spot where, according to the Bible, Jesus agonized before his crucifixion.

In that context, Dignitas Personae risks being read as encouragement for the most ardent pro-life forces in America to let slip the dogs of war. [This implies undue combativeness, and is, I think, uncalled-for. Dignitas Personae being simply the formal compilation of positions that have been well-known in various forms over the years, what it does is to give pro-life advocates clear and firm doctrinal ground for their fight.]

Of course, many Catholic bishops and many ordinary Catholics in America believe that while Mr. Obama’s positions on abortion and stem cell research are troubling, there are also important areas of common ground.

That seems to be the balance the Vatican is trying to strike. Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram of congratulations to Mr. Obama calling his election a “historic occasion,” and the two men later spoke by telephone. A papal spokesman said the Vatican hopes to work with him on Iraq, the Holy Land, Christian minorities in the Middle East and Asia, and the fight against poverty and social inequality.

To be clear, the Vatican yields to no one in its pro-life commitments. In effect, Dignitas Personae is a reminder that there will be no “truce,” no strategic silence, about the defense of human life from the moment of conception. The question now is whether the Vatican will find an equally effective way to mobilize those Catholics who hope to build bridges.

This is one case in which the Pope would do well to think a few American thoughts. [What thoughts? The Church will not modulate its position to accommodate American sensibilities. It is up to the American bishops to devise fresh and effective ways of communicating the message. The only sensibilities that can and will be 'offended' by hammering the message ad infinitum are those who already are against the Church's pro-life stand, anyway. And BTW, I do object to the simplistic, reductionist title given to this piece. Not Allen's fault, obviously, but the editor's.]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/19/2008 5:53 PM]
12/19/2008 6:32 PM
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This is the first year-ender I have seen so far, and it pleases me no end that my adopted city's all-news-all-the-time channel has such an upbeat report. It sure evokes all the magic and excitement of the Holy Father's nearness.

2008 In Review:
Pope Benedict XVI's triumphal visit to NYC

By: Cheryl Wills

December 18, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI's whirlwind visit to New York City last spring, the first made by a Pope since 1995, captivated the city and the world.

As Pope Benedict XVI touched down on American soil in Washington, D.C. on April 16, he was not only celebrating his first visit to the United States as Pope, but his 81st birthday as well.

Then came the next leg of his journey – New York City. The Pope’s airplane, “Shepherd One,” landed at John F. Kennedy Airport on April 18, where he was greeted by a cheering crowd, Edward Cardinal Egan of the New York archdiocese and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn archdiocese.

After the brief greeting, the Pontiff was off to the United Nations, where he addressed the world body in French and English on a number of issues including human rights and the environment.

“Victims of violence and despair, whose rights are trampled with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence and can then become violators of peace,” said Benedict.

Later, he became the first Roman Catholic Pontiff to visit a Jewish place of worship in the United States as he spoke in the Upper East Side’s Park East Synagogue, stressing the need to build bridges between faiths.

Friday evening, Benedict presided over an ecumenical service at St. Joseph's Church in Yorkville. Leaders of several dominations traveled to the church, which was originally built by German immigrants.

The next day, the Pope continued to make history as he celebrated Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. There, for the fourth time on the trip, he made public reference to the suffering caused by child-abusing priests.

"I join you in praying that this will be a time of purification for each and every particular church and the religious community, and a time for healing," said Benedict.

After Mass, Fifth Avenue exploded with excitement as the popemobile made its way back to his East 72nd Street papal residence, but not before meeting the masses.

Later Saturday afternoon, during a slow walk down the aisle of St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, the Pope blessed dozens of disabled children who had waited hours to meet him.

Meantime, more than 25,000 young Christians enjoyed a rock concert as they waited for Benedict to attend their outdoor rally on the grounds of the seminary. When he arrived, they greeted him with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” in his native German.

In a moving speech, the Pope spoke of his own youth in Nazi Germany.

On the final leg of his American journey, Pope Benedict blessed the World Trade Center site, praying and comforting families of victims.

The Pope's final event took place at baseball's cathedral, Yankee Stadium. On a cool Sunday afternoon, Benedict celebrated the largest public event of his tour - Mass before 60,000 people.

He was the last Pope to celebrate Mass in the iconic stadium, but the spiritual memory will remain. [The stadium is being torn down but a new stadium has been built next to it and will be inaugurated in April. The old stadium site will be converted to a mall, but its Memorial Park, which honors Yankee baseball heroes as well as the three Popes who said Mass there, will remain.]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/19/2008 6:35 PM]
12/20/2008 12:01 AM
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Continuity you can count on:
Curial nods reflect
Benedict's past relationships

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 19 (CNS) -- With a series of recent appointments and several more expected in coming months, the Roman Curia's "Team Benedict" is finally coming into focus.

Naming top Vatican administrators is a task Pope Benedict XVI has tackled with patience and deliberation. For a number of key positions, he has turned to people he knows best -- old colleagues from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Pope made it clear after his election in 2005 that he would not be cleaning house at the Vatican, and for the most part he's let the officials appointed by Pope John Paul II work up to their retirement.

In this sense, the transition could not be more unlike the selection of Cabinet members by a new U.S. President. If the Vatican had a slogan, it would be "continuity you can count on," not "change you can believe in."

In 2008, the Roman Curia saw the balance tip when, for the first time, more than half of the Vatican's 21 major agencies were headed by Pope Benedict appointees. With five more positions currently held by older cardinals, 2009 is likely to see a flurry of new appointments.

The heads of Vatican congregations and councils in or near the retirement zone include:

-- Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who turns 75 in January.

-- German Cardinal Walter Kasper, 75, a theologian who heads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

-- Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, 75, who has been president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry since 1997.

-- Italian Cardinal Renato Martino, 76, who heads two agencies, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

The Rome rumor mill has been fairly quiet on replacement candidates for these posts, although during the October Synod of Bishops there was speculation that Cardinal Peter Turkson of Cape Coast, Ghana, was under consideration to head the Christian unity council.

Pope Benedict's most recent appointments illustrate his inclination to look to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when it's time for a talent search. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope headed the doctrinal congregation for 24 years and made some lasting relationships with staff and bishop members.

In July, he named Italian Archbishop Angelo Amato, his No. 2 man at the doctrinal congregation for several years, to head the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

In November, he appointed Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera as head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. Cardinal Canizares has been a member of the doctrinal congregation since 1995, and he's known to colleagues as "Little Ratzinger" -- a nickname the cardinal attributes to their common thinking on doctrine and, perhaps, their comparable heads of white hair.

Two earlier appointments had similar connections: In 2005, the Pope named U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, a longtime member and former staffer at the doctrinal congregation, to be its head.

In 2006, he chose Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, for many years his right-hand man at the doctrinal congregation, as his new secretary of state.

Although many have doctrinal experience, the Pope's appointees do not fall into easy categories. In June, for example, he chose Italian Cardinal Ennio Antonelli to head the Pontifical Council for the Family, bringing in a man known for his moderate pastoral style to succeed the late Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who made headlines with his blunt talk on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception and the use of condoms in AIDS prevention.

Pope Benedict at times has reached around the globe, naming a Brazilian to head the clergy congregation, an Indian to head evangelization and a Frenchman to run inter-religious dialogue.

At the same time, six major department-head appointees -- and several others in lesser positions -- have been from Italy, pleasing Italians and restoring some of their influence in the Roman Curia.

What do curial retirees do with their time?

Some write books. At a Vatican gathering Dec. 16, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the former secretary of state, and Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, who recently left as head of the worship and sacraments congregation, presented new volumes and spoke about future projects.

Cardinal Sodano said he finally has time to comb through the Vatican's archives for material on his favorite historical subjects.

Part of Cardinal Arinze's time will be taken up by speaking engagements in the United States, where he's been a popular lecturer for years.

Cardinal Arinze pointed out that although cardinal prefects must submit their resignation from Vatican positions at age 75, they remain members of various Roman Curia agencies until age 80. Cardinal Arinze is a member of eight such agencies, so he's going to be spending part of his retirement in that favorite curial pastime: attending meetings.

12/20/2008 1:44 AM
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Vatican attacks French TV station
for decision not to broadcast
the Pope's Christmas Eve Mass

by Richard Owen in Rome

Dec. 20, 2008

In MSM-speak, no one simply 'criticizes' or 'reproaches' anyone - it is always 'attack', especially if it is the Church that is shown as the 'attacker'... As far as the substance of the news itself, one is tempted to see in this move a payback by the liberal ultra-secularists for the success - at least, in the immediate term - of the Pope's visit last September, much against their expectations.

What with the French-instigated Trojan horse on homosexual rights at the UN, the 'oldest daughter of the Church' - at least its secular powers - is as wilfully defiant as ever

The Vatican has attacked a decision by the French television channel TF1 to broadcast a comedy-variety show [and a replay of a 2005 concert by a French pop singer] this year instead of the Pope's Christmas Eve Mass as "a sign of superficiality".

Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the move was "not a positive sign". It showed a lack of sensitivity towards the "the culture and religious traditions of a vast part of France".

Pope Benedict XVI visited France, which has 35 million baptised Catholics, in September, and held talks with President Sarkozy.

He said then that "What gave Europe's culture its foundation — the search for God and the readiness to listen to him — remains today the basis of any genuine culture".

He added: "At this moment in history, when cultures continue to cross paths more frequently, I am firmly convinced that a new reflection on the true meaning and importance of secularism is necessary,"

L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, today attacked France, which holds the rotating EU Presidency until the end of the year, for proposing a UN declaration "de-criminalising" homosexuality. [It does not. The only mention of France comes in the opening sentence of the news item, to wit: "The French document proposed to the United Nations is not a document intended, first of all, to decriminalize homosexuality in the countries where it is still persecuted, as the media, in simplification, have reported." I will translate the item separately.]

It said the Vatican accepted that private sexual acts between consenting adults should not be punished by law as crimes. But the real purpose of the UN move was to put homosexual relations on the same level as heterosexual relations and thus open the way to the legitimisation of gay marriage and gay adoption. [Which is the naked truth. Not even the proponents have denied this!]

Here's how the French service of AFP reported the story. Its headline is correct:

The Vatican criticizes TF1
decision not to broadcast
Christmas Eve Mass this year

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 20 (Translated from AFP) - The decision by the French channel TF1 not to broadcast the Pope's Christmas Eve Mass this year was criticized today by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi.

Interviewed by the religious news service I-Media, Fr. Lombardi said the decision was 'not a positive sign'.

To replace the traditional Midnight Mass broadcast with a variety show, he said, was 'a sign of superficiality' that betrays 'a lack of consideration for the sensibility of a great part of the country'.

He pointed out that "many countries around the world broadcast this celebration because they know it is of interest to a great part of the public who see Christmas not only as an important event for the faith but also for the community in general."

Last year, the Papal midnight Mass was broadcast by 60 channels in 42 countries.

TF1, the premier French channel, had always broadcast the Pope's Midnight Mass which has an audience estimated at 1.5 million. This year, they have chosen to present instead a 'grand betisier de Noel' [an anthology of Christmas howlers or boo-boos] followed by the replay of a 2005 concert by pop singer Michel Sardou. [All the more, it seems like a petty, childish act of spite on the part of TF1!]

However, France 2, which is a public service channel, always broadcasts a midnight Mass. This year, it will broadcast the Mass from the cathedral of Evry.

The Papal Mass will be broadcast by the Catholic TV channel KTO.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2008 3:09 AM]
12/20/2008 5:37 AM
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This is an excellent presentation of the logic behind the Vatican rejection of the proposal being considered by the United Nations - The proposal would seem to amount to a Charter of Homosexual Rights that would override more basic rights such as freedom of expression and of religion.

See the text of Mons. Migliore's presentation at the UN yesterday in the post above about the Pope's day and other Vatican events.

Defense of rights
versus ideology

Translated from
the 12/20/08 issue of

The French document presented to the United Nations is not intended, primarily, to decriminalize homosexuality in nations where it is still persecuted as a crime, as the media, in simplification, have been reporting.

If that were so, there would have been no reason for the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations in New York to criticize the document.

The Catholic Church, moreover, respecting healthy secularity in a State, considers that free sexual acts among adults should not be treated as crimes to be punished by civilian authorities.

In this regard, the Church Magisterium recently affirmed that the dignity of homosexual persons" should always be respected in words, in actions and in legislation" (Letter on the pastoral ministry to homosexual persons, No. 10), and that in their regard, one must "avoid every form of unjust discrimination" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No, 2358).

The position of the Church on this subject, it must be recalled, has always been moderate and consistent with its moral teaching.

But the document in question actually addresses something else: it promotes an ideology, that of 'gender identity' and 'sexual orientation'. These categories do not have any definition in international law. They are being introduced as new categories of discrimination, and its advocates are seeking to apply them to the determination of human rights.

But these are concepts that are controversial on an international level, and not only to the Catholic Church - insofar as they imply that sexual identity is defined only by culture. and therefore, susceptible to being transformed at will, according to individual desire or historical and social influences.

In essence, to introduce these categories would negate the primarily biological anchorage of sexual differentiation and treat it as a mere limitation of its significance, rather than its intrinsic significance.

The concept would impel the false conviction that sexual identity is the product of individual choice, unchallengeable, and above all, meritorious of public recognition in every circumstance.

This promotes a false idea of sexual parity, which would define men and women according to an abstract idea of individuality.

Unfortunately, these are no longer marginal theories, if one considers the proposals to attribute family rights to homosexual couples - including those relative to adoption and to assisted procreation - based on the fallacy that heterosexual polarity is not a founding element of society but an arbitrary criterion to be nullified.

That is why the attempt to introduce these new categories of discrimination is tied to that of obtaining the equiparation of same-sex unions to matrimony, and to allow such couples the right to adopt or 'procreate' children [through assisted methods of reproduction using third parties]. Children who would risk, among other things, never knowing who one of their biological parents is.

That is not the only danger. The introduction of such new categories of discrimination places at risk the exercise of other human rights. Think of freedom of expression, or freedom of thought, of conscience, of religion.

Religions, for instance, could see themselves limited in their right to transmit their teachings, when they maintain - as the Church does - that the free exercise of homosexual behavior cannot be penalized even when they do not consider it morally acceptable.

That would violate one of the primary rights expressed upon which the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is based: the freedom of religion.

Where in this article does the Vatican attack the French government, as Richard Owen claimed in his Times of London article?

Thanks to Lella's example on her blog, here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about homosexuality:

Chastity and homosexuality

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.

They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

And this is from a 1986 instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the pastoral care of homosexuals:

8. ...increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it.

These latter groups are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual.

The Church's ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church's position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.

9. The movement within the Church, which takes the form of pressure groups of various names and sizes, attempts to give the impression that it represents all homosexual persons who are Catholics. As a matter of fact, its membership is by and large restricted to those who either ignore the teaching of the Church or seek somehow to undermine it. It brings together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behaviour.

One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.

There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing.

Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda.

She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy.

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2008 8:55 AM]
12/20/2008 2:14 PM
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OR today.

Benedict XVI to the Labor Office of the Holy See:
'Solidarity with those who have lost jobs because of the world crisis'

Other Page 1 stories: The Pope's address to the new ambassador from Seychelles; and the second major story this week
to defend Pius XI from recent accusations that he did nothing to protest Mussolini Nazi-inspired race laws of 1938.
The main world news story: Gaza in flames, as Hamas ends 6-month ceasefire.


The Holy Father met today with

- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (weekly meeting)

- Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope's Vicar-General for the Diocese of Rome.

- Officials of Italian Catholic Action, with Catholic Action boys and girls. Address in Italian.
He called on the young people to open their hearts to friendship with Jesus, and to pray that he changes the hearts of terrorists, arms builders and those who cause wars, in order that mankind may construct a better future for its children. He asked them to help him, too, with prayers for 'the not easy task that the Lord has entrusted to me'.

- Professors and students of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology. Address in Italian.
He exhorted them to pursue their studies on "the Christian roots of our society" in order to build a truly human civilization.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2008 6:24 PM]
12/20/2008 8:26 PM
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Speaking up for the Pope
and the Church: A response to
the 'intolerants' at 'Repubblica'

by Giuliano Ferrara
Translated from

Repubblica has been particularly engaged these days in a legitimate but fierce intellectual attack against the Church of Ratzinger.

Its senior Vaticanista, Marco Politi, dismisses the Pope as capable only of setting up ethical prohibitions - the man who should have instead the gentle comportment of pastoral benevolence according to the post-Conciliar 'progressive' Catholicism to which Politi belongs.

Which merited an elegant and measured response - perhaps too defensive - from the Osservatore Romano.

Gad Lerner then followed up the attack in the name of a supposed battle against neo-dogmatism, and reports happily that he has observed protests against the Pope in the parochial assemblies he attends. [But Lerner is Jewish! Does he then attend Roman Catholic parochial assemblies, perhaps Masses, even?]

As if to say, he claims, "Look, dear head of the Church of Rome, if you don't behave as we wish you to - we Martinians of the Church of Jerusalem (which has its seat in Milan) - then woe to you!"

As usual, the super-secularists want to lead the Catholic Church themselves, hand in glove with the dissenting prelates and priests whom they sup with.

But we are not in China, where for a half century now, it has been a so-called Patriotic Association that has the power to name bishops. In Italy, the Church still has freedom of self-determination!

Lerner also tries to sow more discord on issues that have flourished within and outside the Catholic Church since the first presentation of Rolf Hochhuth's play against Pius XII.

Lerner's intention is to re-brand the Church under John Paul II and Benedict XVI - a Church that has been making a pilgrimage from synagogue to synagogue in the wake of that glorious Council document Nostra aetate - to re-brand this Church with the label of Christian anti-Semitism, which was a historical reality in the past, but is neither an ecclesiological nor theological nor liturgical fact in the Church today, with its generous efforts at 'purification of memory'.

The recent signs of a campaign that has lasted decades in various forms now have the sense of a particular intolerance.

Intolerance is when, instead of understanding the reasoning of another and seeking to coexist amicably, someone seeks instead to deny the other his right to express himself and to stand up for his convictions.And that is precisely the case with the dogmatic fanatics of the battle against what they consider to be fanatical neo-dogmatism. [But this has always been the attitude of liberals, who would be liberal with everybody - unless you disagree with them. Then, "Watch out! We will tolerate you as long as you agree with us, otherwise don't even dare to speak out!" All the while not seeming to be aware that their entire posturing is sheer hypocrisy.]

In fact, the Church is only acting well within its rights, on the basis of a truth that it considers revealed, in both the Old and New Testaments, and an apostolic practice that has lasted two thousand years.

Part of this legacy are certain commandments, many of them positive (love your neighbor, honor your mother and father), but also some that are expressed as negatives (do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not covet your neighbor's wife or his possessions, etc).

Christ perfected the Mosaic law. Paul, before Damascus, had attempted with all his rabbinical rage a theological devastation of Christ's claim to be the alpha and the omega of life in the spirit.

But an ethical code, for better or for worse, has always been part of Christian living. Secularists cannot seem to understand - at a time when prohibitions have become socially unacceptable, and education makes boys and girls laugh instead of enchanting them - that the Church's pastoral activity today opposes the effects, not so much of individualistic libertinism, but of a permissive mass conformism that has skewed values in schools, families and large sectors of modern society in the past half century.

At stake here is not just the banal do-as-one-pleases criterion for behavior, but the very nature of the human being and even the Kantian consideration of man as an end and not a means. Really deep and heavy stuff, dear Gad!

But the basic, primitive, elementary and super-simplificatory idea has always been the same for obsessed secularists: "No one," they say, "is obliged to divorce, to abort, to commit euthanasia; and no one is forced to have test tube babies, to choose pre-natal eugenetic diagnosis, to select genes at will under the scientific seal of wellbeing; and no one who does not want to, has to work with embryonic stem cells, construct human-animal hybrids, produce babies as a source of new drugs or body parts, trade women's eggs or rent out their wombs. But let those who desire these things get what they want - and let those who disapprove go on purifying themselves." [See, everyone is thereby free!!!!]

But all this is almost comical - and you must know it yourselves, dear liberals. All the things I cited above, from abortion on, considered morally 'indifferent' in your society, are not 'equivalent' in a society where all these things are questioned, fought, and in some cases, prohibited!

Yes, you heard right: prohibited. Prohibited with all the pastoral benevolence possible, and all that magnificent composition of love and truth which is the rational essence - a most modern one - of Joseph Ratzinger's theological Magisterium and his idea of the dignity of the human being.

Instead of continuing to repeat neutralist banalities about the pluralism/relativism of human behavior, and even of the commandments (e,.g., Thou shalt not kill, except in certain cases), why don't you try what Marcello Pera did?

Honest work to look into the sources of classical liberalism would do you good. You would discover that John Locke and Immanuel Kant were the parents of modern Christian anthropology, not of your current moral laissez-faire!

In the words of the Anglo-Catholic Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir Ali, the world in the past 50 years has changed far more than it did in the century before that.

In some aspects, we have progressed well. In others, too much, in a way that has been too disoriented, and too free of some necessary and valuable prohibitions.

[Gad Lerner (born 1954) is an Italian Jewish journalist who currently hosts a TV talk show called L'Infedele [The Infidel]. He began his journalistic career as a reporter for various leftist newspapers and rose to become deputy editor of La Stampa at one point and then editor of Italian state TV's premier news telecast.]

And today, Avvenire has an editorial disputing Gad Lerner's Repubblica piece.

Towards common sense and reason
in criticizing the Pope and the Church

Translated from

Dec. 20, 2008

Gad Lerner is an intelligent person, and despite occasionally rough manifestations, he can be refined and affable. I know that from personal experience.

Therefore I know I am addressing someone who can understand my extremely secular discomfort in the face of his lengthy and resentment-ridden article in La Repubblica yesterday against the Pope and the Church.

Even if I do understand that in some newspapers, an attack against the Church is part of a marketing strategy, I do expect from certain writers of repute more respect, or at least, less spite, about this particular subject.

Arthur Rimbaud, with great irony, asked the devil himself to have a 'less irritated eye' and less rancor. I think I can ask that too of the 'infidel' Gad.

Taking off from many heterogeneous facts, Lerner sees the outlines of what he calls 'a neo-dogmatic offensive'. OK, secular attention to terms and their meaning would require us to understand well what is dogma, and how dogmas enter, if at all, into the issue at hand.

In this regard, I can understand excess journalistic zeal and propensity for slogans. What I can understand less, in a journalist with the long experience and great responsibility that Lerner has had, is the tendency to pile together facts, citations, effects and disparate situations to paint a picture of the Church in such dark colors.

This is an exercise that suddenly, in the past few weeks, has become something of a favorite sport.

In his case, Lerner links together disparate facts - starting from the ongoing controversy in Spain over state indoctrination (in place of religious instruction) in schools, to the Pope's writings, to the recent reactions by the Church to statements made by the Speaker of Parliament - in order to accuse the Church and the Pope of adopting a 'violent tone' in this alleged 'offensive'.

A violent tone from Benedict XVI? It almost makes me want to laugh. But I suspect Lerner finds the Pope 'violent' whenever he disagrees with what he says.

Besides, readers of Avvenire and other newspapers would have seen that the reactions of historians and experts to Fini's gross accusations about the Church and Mussolini's racial laws were calm but firm, simply citing documentary evidence refuting those charges. No one and nothing was violent about those responses.

This particular question is a complex and ongoing historical debate in which Jews and Catholics alike are not exempt from being cast in historical light and shadows, and to which neither the extravagant claims made by some politicians nor their extrapolated conclusions contribute little if at all.

To defend the Church - as historians and other Church scholars have done - from accusations that it considers unjust and tendentiously amplified in the media is not 'an offensive' but an honest effort to establish the truth.

With regard to the controversy over the various and repeated initiatives by the ultra-secularist government of Spain (from doing away with the terms 'mother' and 'father' in official records and forms, to abolishing traditional feasts and celebrations to allowing gay couples to adopt children), I think that the open discussion of these initiatives by social institutions - which the Church is, among other things - can only be seen as a normal contribution in a democracy.

If no one questions what the State does in matters that directly affect human life or other public issues, then that is totalitarianism, even if not formally so. That goes for Putin's Russia or Bush's America, as for Italy and Spain.

I can understand how the prompt response of the Church to defend itself and its values, with an utter lack of an inferiority complex, can annoy those who see the very presence of the Church itself as an anomaly. But that is not how millions of Italian Catholics see it.

If only out of respect for these citizens, sloganeering and grandstanding when dealing with issues of public interest should give way to ample and broad reasoning.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2008 9:51 PM]
12/20/2008 10:25 PM
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It's that time of year when editors and assorted enterprises decide to confer their recognition on the chosen few they consider to be people who matter in the affairs of mankind today. The choices are usually as arbitrary as the various criteria employed to make these choices. For what it's worth, apparently Pope Benedict XVI makes it to Newsweek's 'GLOBAL ELITE' described by the editor as

NEWSWEEK's highly subjective list of the most powerful people who will figure in the era over which Obama will preside.

It is arbitrary, but the choices are well considered, and each, we believe, represents a thread in the new global tapestry. Some are utterly surprising; others are not.

Perhaps most important, each meets the test of power as we have just defined it: they are men and women who are either in the business of bending others to their will or seeking to rearrange reality in ways they find more congenial. They are in command, or they seek control.

There is, naturally, more than a little overlap; the features are not mutually exclusive. (The reprehensible are also here — Osama bin Laden is one example — as an acknowledgment that evil can affect us, too.)

Unfortunately, the online presentation does not allow one to know who the rest of the 50 names are - without navigating from one presentation to another, which I haven't time to do - and whether the #37 before the Pope's name means he is ranked #37 in importance among the 50. Here's what they say about him:

American Catholics in particular, still bruised by the sex-abuse scandals of 2002, regarded the current Pope's election in 2005 with suspicion and worse.

They feared that Joseph Ratzinger (known to some as "God's Rottweiler," John Paul II's theological enforcer) would turn out to be a my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy.

But Benedict XVI's U.S. visit earlier this year — his first as Pope —bolstered one of his most traumatized flocks and added immeasurably to his stature. He came off as empathic, gentle, direct.

He addressed the sex scandal not once but repeatedly — finally in a tearful private meeting with a small group of victims.

Having convinced the world of his remorse, Benedict next year will travel to Jerusalem, where he will have to perform a delicate dance: welcoming interfaith debate while affirming his belief that the events described in the Gospels are real and his is the One True Church

As usual, the blurb must have been written by a non-professing person or a non-Christian, otherwise he would not consider interfaith dialog [not debate, as the writer puts it] something that needs to be balanced against affirming the truth of one's own faith!

Also, there's the characterization 'having convinced the world of his remorse' - which makes it look as though whatever the Pope did was an exercise in 'convincing the world' rather than doing what is right and proper.

I wonder what TIME magazine will do - or has done - about the Pope's 'derby ranking' this year. In 2007, he was a non-entity as far as they were concerned - not on their list at all!

P.S. I have checked out TIME magazine. Their POTY was predictable, of course, and they had four runners-up to the incoming AMerican President. But this time, they limited themselves to just TWENTY other PEOPLE WHO MATTERED IN 2008 - and the Pope was not one of them. Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe was, and the woman who wrote the new vampire book series that appears to have taken over the Harry Potter frahcnise among young readers, and George Bush who was not even among the 100 people who mattered to TIME in 2006 (he was back in the list the next year, 2007, when Pope Benedict was nowhere in sight)....And so on....Why am I bothering? I'm almost ashamed of myself for this weird kind of voyeurism....

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2008 11:15 PM]
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Beijing sets conditions
on Vatican ties

The China Post is a Taipei-based English-language newspaper.... There is nothing new about what's reported here, except the fact that Beijing has brought up the matter at this time, for no apparent reason.

BEIJING, Dec. 19 - Relations between China and the Vatican can only improve if the Holy See ditches ties with Taiwan and stops using religion to interfere in China’s domestic affairs, state media on Friday cited a top official as saying.

China’s 8 million to 12 million Catholics are split between a state-sanctioned church, and an “underground” one that rejects government control and answers only to Rome. China considers Taiwan sovereign territory. Beijing and the Vatican broke formal diplomatic relations shortly after the Chinese Communists took power in 1949.

They differ over who has the authority to appoint bishops but have been engaging in a secretive and cautious exploration of normalization.

Du Qinglin, head of the United Front Work Department which deals with religious and ethnic minorities and non-Communists, said it was up to the Vatican to improve relations, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“The Vatican must not interfere in China’s internal politics, including using religion to interfere in our country’s domestic matters,” the report paraphrased Du as saying.

The Vatican must also sever its formal ties with Taiwan, which has been ruled separately from China since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

“Only on the basis of these two fundamental principles can both sides have constructive dialogue, overcome difficulties, narrow differences and make real progress towards improving relations,” Du said.

Pope Benedict has made improving relations with China a main goal of his pontificate and hopes diplomatic ties can be restored.

12/21/2008 2:00 AM
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At noon today, the Holy Father held his traditional Christmas season meeting with the children of Italian Catholic Action, the Azione Catolica Ragazzi (ACR). Here is a translation of his words to them. His words are simple, moving, and wondrously inspiring:

Dear children of ACR,

I am very happy that once again this year, with the Holy Nativity near us, you have come to brighten up with your presence these solemn halls, in which, however, there is always joy in serving the Lord.

Along with you, I greet your educators, the President of Italian Catholic Action, your general spiritual counselor, and your national counselor, Fr. Dino.

Many say that children are capricious, that they are never happy with anything, that they use up one toy or game after another without ever being happy.

But you say to Jesus: you are all we need. [The expression in Italian is 'Ci basti Tu', which means literally, "You are enough for us', but it translates more idiomatically as 'You are all we need'.]

This means - You are our dearest friend, who are with us when we play and when we go to school, when we are home with our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, and when we go out with our friends.

You open our eyes so we can be aware of our friends who are sad and of the so many children in the world who suffer hunger, illness and war.

You are all we need, Lord Jesus. You give us true joy, which does not end like our games do, but which goes to our soul and makes us good.

You are all we need, especially when we pray, because you always hear our prayers, which we make so that the world may become more beautiful and better for everyone.

You are all we need, because you forgive us when we do something wrong. You are all we need, because if we lose our way, you come to look for us and you take us in your arms as you did the lamb who got lost. You are all we need, because you have a most beautiful Mamma whom, before you died on the Cross, you also wanted to become our Mother.

My dear young friends, will you help your companions to be that way with Jesus, too? A child of the ACR, when he goes to Jesus, also wants to bring along a friend so that he too may get to know him. The child of ACR does not think only of himself, but has a big heart that cares about others.

You have many teachers who help you to live together, to pray, and to grow in knowledge of the Gospel. The true purpose of Catholic Action is to help you to become saints. That is why it helps you to meet Jesus, to love his Church, and to be interested in the problems of the world.

Is it not perhaps true that you are committing yourself in behalf of the babies and children who are less fortunate than you? Is it not true that with the 'Month of Peace', you can even help so many adults appreciate peace because you yourselves know how to live in peace with each other?

Yes, dear children, you can pray to the Lord so he may change the hearts of those who make weapons, make terrorists come to their senses, convert the hearts of those who think only of war, and help all men to build a better future for all the children of the world.

I am sure that you will also pray for me, and thus help me in the not-easy task that the Lord has entrusted to me.

As for me, I assure you of my affection and my prayers, even as now I gladly bless you and all the persons dear to you. Merry Christmas to you, to your families, and all the children of Catholic Action!

The following essay in today's (Sunday) issue of OR begins with a reflection on how the Holy Father relates to children and how they relate to him, but modulates into a 'defense' of Benedict XVI against the outrages committed so cavalierly against him in the Italian press which hit a new low in the past week.

The children and the Pope
who explains the faith to them

Deputy Editor
Translated from
the 12/21/08 issue of

benedict XVI's capacity to listen is particularly evident during his encounters with children and young people. Of course, he knows very well how to listen to adults and to dialog with erudite people.

At the end of the general audiences, he stands around talking to the bishops. He does not take the attitude of a boss or a professor with them, but he speaks to them of the discoveries that he has ripened in the course of his cultural development. He communicates to them the doctrine of the faith by rooting it in daily life.

Last year, our photographer caught Benedict XVI very well in an attitude of listening, photographing him at the foot of the steps that leads up to his position at his study window facing St. Peter's Square - that famous window used only by the Pope but which, once a year, he shares with two youths from Catholic Action.

The photograph captures an extraordinary moment as papa Ratzinger stands in half-shadow, as the girl from Catholic Action is delivering her message at the window. Awaiting his turn, he looks very happy listening to her.

Benedict XVI has been called the theologian Pope, but the reason for his clarity and capacity to express difficult concepts in simple terms is that he is a great teacher of the faith. That is why children understand him. With him they do not feel they are in the presence of a stern teacher. Nor do they see in him a boring professor who is likely to come down on their desire for happiness and cheer.

Children can sense immediately when adults are unlikeable, overbearing, vain, tedious or needlessly demanding. Then they are uncomfortable and would not choose to stay around.

Pope Benedict, despite his inherent shyness almost to the point of timidity, succeeds with children in that educative criterion that Don Bosco asked of teachers: not just to wish children well, but to make them feel loved.

It is highly improbable that a person so exquisite in his manner and of such great intelligence could be capable only of saying only No or who would think that a fortress Church is the best possible Church! [An obvious reference to the absurdly dismissive and arrogant criticism levelled at the Pope last week by Repubblica's Marco Politi.]

In fact, Benedict XVI is very different from how he has been usually portrayed so offhandedly. He is even uses as a scapegoat for every type of accusation against the Church, but none can honestly maintain that compared to his immediate predecessors, he has erected barriers against other cultures, other religions, even against the expectations of justice and solidarity.

Benedict XVI is no less committed than his immediate predecessors to the realization of the directives of Vatican-II, and asks for greater responsibility from his listeners whatever their faith and culture.

Indeed, examination of issues in depth as he urges implies assuming greater responsibility for findings solutions to problems. By culture and by temperament, Benedict XVI goes beyond just the face of appearances in order to consolidate the gains made from the Council so far. Its reforms, in order to continue being of service to the faith, should become a mindset for the people of God.

I have been very much struck by an example which touches on one of the hottest debates in recent decades within the Catholic Church.
Ratzinger, whom haphazard journalism includes among the adversaries of liberation theology, as Pope, affirmed at Aparecida, in the heart of Latin America that :the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christologic faith in a God who made himself poor for us, to enrich us with his poverty".

Without undue emphasis, the Pope put a close, hopefully, in open and liberating terms, to a long and painful dispute.

Similar examples may be found with regard to other great issues of Christian living today, such as dialog with the Jews and members of other faiths. It is certainly a very sensitive front in which Benedict XI has inaugurated a stage of consolidation, necessary after the acknowledgement by the Church of errors made by its members in the past.

In the course of history, the emotional moments experienced during turning points are usually followed by a more difficult time - when substance must be given to these turning points in order to make the changes part of the shared common patrimony.

Basing the encounter with Judaism on Biblical tradition, Pope Benedict has definitely fortified the new stage of dialog with the Jews that the Council desired.

The presence of a rabbi who addressed the Synod of Bishops, maximal expression of collegiality in the life of the Church, may not necessarily have inspired emotion in most people, but it was a historic event.

Just as the start of a dialog in depth with Islam. The recent seminar at the Vatican proves that there is substance beyond the fascinating image of Benedict's visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. And to place inter-religious dialog within the broader context of intercultural dialog can only reinforce it.

Int he civilian sphere, Benedict XVI has placed at the center of international relations a real respect for human rights as an act of justice.

He has proposed nuclear disarmament, redirecting spending for weapons to conquering hunger in the world, as well as the right of all peoples to lawful hospitality and citizenship regardless of their provenance and geographic origin.

He has asked the Church and its ministers to respect the competences and responsibilities proper to the State alone, which must guarantee the common good and justice in every nation.

Even on the subject of bioethics - on the issues which most immediately concern the Western world - Benedict XVI has tackled questions and posed other demanding ones in order to help mature a common shared consciousness of faithfulness to God and to man in our time.

The Pope's modernity lies in his ability to pose sensible questions to science and to conscience alike. These questions may sometimes seem inconvenient, but they are never banal. And they show that his eyes look beyond the present to scrutinize the future.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2008 5:21 PM]
12/21/2008 1:33 PM
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OR today.

Benedict XVI speaks to the Children of Italian Catholic Action:
'For the children of the world, a future without arms, terrorism and war'

Other Page 1 stories: A front page commentary by the deputy editor of OR (translated in the preceding post) that
constitutes a deeply felt appreciation of Benedict XVI especially as teacher of the faith; a teaser on the inside-
page story about his speech to the Pontifical Council of Christian Archeology (left photo, above); and the UN
Secretary-General calls for an end to new hostilities in Gaza. Right photo shows Cardinal Bertone inaugurating
the Rome streetcleaners' traditional and now emblematic Nativity scene.


At the Noontime Angelus, the Holy Father spoke on the Gospel and Collect Prayer today, the Fourth Sunday
of Advent, which remind us of the story of salvation.

He also spoke - all in a few paragraphs that flowed together so beautifully - of the winter solstice which
takes place today, the Obelisk in St. Peter's Square which marks a meridian, the interest of the Church in
astronomy - studying 'the heavens that narrate the glory of God' - as manifested even by some Popes including
Gregory XIII to whom we owe our present calendar, and the celebration of Galileo Year in 2009.

Since I may not get around to translating more until much later today, please be informed that the Italian MSM
today are buzzing about a new canard - and this a genuinely big duck's egg - laid by LA REPUBBLICA, which
devoted a whole page to a prayer for the Jews said to have been composed by John XXIII on his deathbed.

It is an apocryphal text that was exposed and branded false decades ago, and about which the late Pope's nephew
and biographer, the respected journalist Marco Roncalli, writes for L'ECO DI BERGAMO today a definitive summary
of its long history, pointing out that in the archives of the John XXIII center in Bergamo, which holds all
his documents, the purported text is certainly not among them, but what the center does have is a file of
clippings about the canard through the years.

Repubblica's ulterior motive is to contrast the Good Pope John with the Big Bad German wolf Benedict
who is soooo insensitive about the Jews (and everything else) - and oh yes, with that heartless coward
Pius XII

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2008 4:53 PM]
12/21/2008 2:06 PM
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noontime Angelus today:

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Gospel on this fourth Sunday of Advent offers us once more the story of the Annunciation (Lk 1,26-38), the mystery that we return to daily when we pray the Angelus.

This prayer makes us relive that decisive moment when God knocked on the heart of Mary, and having received her Yes, started to become flesh in her and from her.

The Collect prayer in today's Mass is the same that we recite at the end of the Angelus which says:

"Pour forth we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen."

In these few days before the feast of the Nativity, we are invited to fix our attention on the ineffable mystery that Mary guarded for nine months in her virginal womb - the mystery of God made man.

This is the first cardinal point of redemption. The second is the death and resurrection of Jesus. And these two inseparable events manifest the one divine design: to save mankind and history, by taking them all on himself in order to take charge of all the evils that oppress man.

This mystery of salvation, beyond the historic, has a cosmic dimension: Christ is the Sun of grace who, with his light, "transfigures and lights up the universe in waiting" (Liturgy).

The occurrence of the feast of the Nativity itself is linked to the winter solstice, when in the northern hemisphere, the days start to lengthen.

In this respect, perhaps not everyone knows that there is a great meridian on St. Peter's Square. In fact, the Obelisk casts its shadow along a line that follows the pavement towards the fountain beneath this window, and these days, is the longest that it casts during the year.

This reminds us of the function of astronomy in marking the times of prayer. For instance, the Angelus is recited in the morning, at midday and in the evening, and clocks and watches are timed to the meridian which in the past served precisely to determine the 'true midday'.

The fact that the winter solstice falls today, December 21, at this hour, gives me the occasion to greet all those who will take part in various ways in the initiatives for the World Astronomy Year in 2009, proclaimed to mark the fourth centenary of Galileo Galilei's first observations through the telescope.

Among my predecessors of venerated memory, there have been those who were dedicated to this science, like Sylvester II who taught it; Gregory XIII to whom we owe our calendar; and St. Pius X who constructed sundials.

If the heavens, according to the beautiful words of the Psalmist, 'narrate the glory of God' (Ps 19[18],2), even the laws of nature, which through the centuries, the men and women of science have made us understand increasingly more, are a great stimulus to contemplate with gratitude the works of the Lord.

Let us now turn our attention to Mary and Joseph, who await the birth of Jesus, and let us learn from them the secret of recollection in order to taste the joy of Christmas.

Let us prepare ourselves to receive with faith the Redeemer who comes to be among us, the Word of God's love for man in every age.

In English, he said:

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus.

In today’s liturgy, we recall how the Virgin Mary was invited by the Angel to conceive the one in whom the fullness of divinity would dwell: Jesus, the "Son of the Most High".

As we prepare to celebrate his birth, let us not be afraid to say "Yes" to the Lord, so that we may join Our Lady in singing his goodness for ever.

May God bless all of you!

In Italian later, he had this special message:

I am most pleased to greet the 50 new priests of the Legionaries of Christ who yesterday received Holy Orders from the hands of Cardinal Angelo Sodano at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.

Dearest ones, may the love of Christ, which impelled St. Paul in his mission, always inspire your ministry. I bless you from the heart, along with your loved ones.

This is what AP took from the Pope's messages today. Not only does it selectively isolate just one of the many things the spoke about today - it also fails to mention the occasion during which it was said:

Pope marks Galileo anniversary,
praises astronomy

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 21 (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI is marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope.

Benedict said Sunday he wanted to salute all who are marking the 2009 anniversary and UNESCO's World Year of Astronomy.

Speaking on the winter solstice, Benedict said understanding the laws of nature can stimulate understanding and appreciation of the Lord's works.

The Catholic Church condemned Galileo in the 17th century for supporting Nicholas Copernicus's discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

In 1992, Pope John Paul II apologized, saying that the denunciation was a tragic error.

Who would ever think, just reading the AP report, that what he said came during one of the most beautiful, polished and informative gems among his mini-homilies? It is worthy of any anthology.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2008 2:56 PM]
12/21/2008 3:22 PM
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Will the Catholic Church
ever have a black Pope?

By Jeff Israely

Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008

The question is not 'ever' or 'if' but 'when'. The Holy Spirit knows.

Left, Cardinal Arinze with the Pope last month; right, Cardinals Gantin and Ratzinger in 2004.

Before the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, there was the papal "candidacy" of Francis Arinze.

The Nigerian Cardinal had been billed as the man who could become the first black Pope, garnering loads of media attention during the run-up to the 2005 conclave when Ratzinger eventually emerged as Benedict XVI.

Earlier this month Arinze, 76, retired from his top Vatican post, which for all intents and purposes ended any likelihood that he will ever be Pontiff.

Once a "Prince of the Church" gives up his day-to-day assignments, he is typically thought to be out of the running for the top job.

Arinze, who was once the world's youngest bishop at the age of 33, and a participant at the Second Vatican Council, rose to be a power player in the Roman Curia, serving for many years as the point man on inter-religious dialogue.

He served the past six years as the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, which will now be headed by Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain.

Let it be clear that the Vatican's top job (for life) is very much occupied by Benedict, 81, who shows every sign of being in good health, and set to lead Catholics through Midnight Mass for many Christmases to come. [Thank you, Mr. Israely, for stating a fact that is also our dearest wish!]

But Arinze's retirement raises the question of if and when the Catholic Church will be ready to follow the United States in choosing a man with roots in Africa — or anywhere outside of Europe — to lead its ever more diverse flock.

Vatican insiders are reticent to name names with Benedict so firmly in command, but there are several prominent clerics likely to take Arinze's place as most papabile African, alongside other better known possibilities from Latin America and Asia who might one day become Pope.

The College of Cardinals — once dominated by Italians — has become a much more diverse group. Still, Europeans continue to have a virtual lock in overall numbers: exactly half of the current 116 Cardinal electors (those under age 80) are from Europe, with Italy still counting 20. Latin America has 20 Cardinal electors, the United States and Canada a total of 16. Asia has 11 and Africa nine. Any Cardinal (any baptized male Catholic, in theory) can emerge from a conclave as Pope.

Among the up-and-coming Cardinals from Africa, Vatican watchers cite Peter Turkson of Ghana, 60, and Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, 67 of South Africa, as potential papal material. Archbishop John Onayiekan of Nigeria, who may soon be up for a Cardinal slot, is considered "strong here and back there," says one Rome insider, referring to Onayiekan's knowledge of the Third World and his skills navigating the ins and outs of the Holy See.

Still, the Vatican parlor game of trying to envision future papal candidates is slippery business. Perhaps the strongest African candidate of the 20th century was the widely respected Cardinal Bernardin Gantin of Benin, who died in May at the age of 86. [And who was Cardinal Ratzinger's classmate in that mini-consistory of 5 cardinals named by Pope Paul VI in Nay 1977.]

Having once headed the powerful Congregation of Bishops, some thought Gantin could be an ideal candidate to replace John Paul, whose health was long suffering. But the durable Polish pontiff lived much longer than many predicted, and Gantin eventually retired back to Africa.

Catholicism is expanding across much of the developing world, with the highest growth rate in Africa, now a source of ever more priests sent out to work in European and North American countries facing clergy shortage.

Latin American Catholics, who had high hopes back in 2005 that one of their Cardinals would fill John Paul II's papal slippers, are battling to hold onto their faithful, who have been moving to evangelical Protestant churches in droves over the past two decades.

The current German Pope has focused much of his attention on efforts to reinvigorate traditional Catholicism in Europe, the historical headquarters of the Church. After trips to Germany, Spain and France, as well as the United States and Brazil, Benedict is slated to make his first visit to Africa in March, with stops in Cameroon and Angola.

Thanks again to Mr. Israely for his Christmas spirit in not saying one barbed word in this item about Benedict XVI.

P.S. I also stand corrected: TIME did find place for the Pope in one of its year-end lists - and therein lies the malicious-as-ever barbs despite the apparently flattering headline:

Repeat after us: pastoral visits do not make Papal policy.

Benedict XVI stunned and impressed his hosts during his pontifical visit to the United States with his relentless engagement of the trip's most delicate issue, the church's sex abuse scandal.

Starting on the plane over, he issued a string of heartfelt apologies admitting "deep shame" about the tragedy, met privately with victims and accepted a book listing 1,500 victims — and their subsequent struggles — from archbishop Sean O'Malley, who inherited the scandal's ground zero, Boston, from Cardinal Bernard Law.

Benedict's rue was far more than a gesture, but less than a promise — the Vatican has done little since to address the systemic abuses of authority that allowed the sex scandals to occur. And now, retired Cardinal Law runs a Roman basilica.

What on earth can the Vatican do more "to address the systemic abuses of authority that allowed the sex scandals to occur"? The Magisterium has set the guidelines, with dotted i's and crossed t's - it is now up to the local bishops to follow the spirit and letter of these guidelines - and the Gospel in general! And yet the same pen that wrote this barb will write elsewhere that the Vatican is too centralized and wants to hold all the reins.



And by the way, about your last line which was non sequitur but maliciously added 0n (and I bet the writer felt smugly clever about doing it) since most readers would not be aware that Cardinal Law was assigned to Santa Maria Maggiore in 2002 by John Paul II - and so, Benedict XVI had nothing to do with it..

Also, this is one of Time's 48 choices for their Photos of the Year - but it did not make it to the top 10, even if it comes #10 in the list of 48. The other religious person in the 48 was the Dalai Lama photographed in an act of prostration in his private chapel in Dharamsala, India.

The Dalai Lama's picture is titled PRAYER.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2008 5:18 PM]
12/21/2008 8:38 PM
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The Vatican Press Office

released yesterday the text of an Apostolic Letter written by the Holy Father in October to Cardinal Joachim Meisner
of Cologne. The formal letter, written in Latin (translated here from the official Italian version), uses the first person
plural pronoun throughout to refer to the Pope.

Supreme Pontiff
Apostolic Letter

to Our Venerated Brother
Joachim Meisner, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church
Archbishop of Cologne
and to all participating from every part of the world
in the International Scientific Congress
on the occasion of the VII Centenary of the death
of Blessed John Duns Scotus

Rejoice, city of Cologne, that once you welcomed within your walls John Duns Scotus, a most gifted and pious man, who on November 8, 1308, passed from this present life to the heavenly homeland; and that you, with great admiration and veneration, keep his mortal remains.

Our venerable predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, have exalted him with high prise. We too at this time wish to wreath him with meritorious praise and invoke his patronage.

It is fitting and proper that the seventh centenary of his death should be celebrated. And while, for this happy occasion, articles and entire books in honor of the Blessed Scotus are being published around the world and congresses are held about him - among them, that for which Cologne now solemnly prepares to hold on November 5-9 - We feel it is a duty of Our service to say some words about a man so eminent, who earned such merit by contributing to the progress of the doctrine of the Church and of human knowledge.

He, in fact - uniting piety with scientific research according to his invocation "May the first Principle of all beings grant me to believe, taste and express what is pleasing to his majesty and raises our mind to contemplation of him", and with fine ingenuity - penetrated the secrets of natural and revealed truth, out of which he shaped a doctrine that led him to be called 'the Doctor of Order', 'the Subtle Doctor', and 'the Marian Doctor', becoming a teacher and guide of the Franciscan School, light and example for all Christian people.

Therefore, We wish to call the attention of scholars and everyone, believers and non-believers, to the itinerary and method that Scotus followed to demonstrate the harmony between faith and reason, defining the nature of theology by constantly exalting action, influence, praxis, love, rather than pure speculation.

In fulfilling this task, he allowed himself to be guided by the Magisterium of the Church and by a healthy critical sense towards the growth of knowledge about the truth, convinced that science is valuable to the degree with which it is realized in practice.

Firm in the Catholic faith, he tried to understand, explain and defend the truth of the faith in the light of human reason. Thus, what he tried to do was to show the consonance of all truths, natural and supernatural, that spring from one and the same Source.

Alongside Sacred Scripture, which is divinely inspired, he looked to the authority of the Church. In this he seemed to follow St. Augustine who wrote, "I would not believe the Gospel, if first I did not believe in the Church"(2).

In fact, our Subtle Doctor often highlighted specially the supreme authority of the Successor of Peter. According to him, "although the Pope cannot rule against natural and divine law (because his power is less than both), nonetheless, as the Successor of Peter, the Prince of Apostles, he has the same authority that Peter had". (3)

Thus, the Catholic Church, whose invisible head is Christ himself - who left his Vicars in the person of Peter and his Successors, guided by the Spirit of truth - is the authentic custodian of the revealed deposit of the faith, and regulates the faith.

The Church is the firm and stable criterion for the canonicity of Sacred Scripture. In fact, "she has established which books are considered authentic in the canon of the Bible". (4)

Elsewhere, Scotus affirms that "the Scriptures are always presented with the very same Spirit in which they were written, and thus, we must maintain that the Catholic Church has presented them in the same Spirit that the faith was transmitted to us - namely instructed by the Spirit of truth". (5)

After having shown, through various proofs drawn from theological reasoning, the fact of the Virgin Mary's preservation from original sin, he was also prompt to say he would reject this belief whenever it was not in accord with the authority of the Church: "If it does not contradict the authority of the Church or the authority of Scriptures, it seems probable to attribute to Mary that which is the greatest excellence". (6)

The primacy of will highlights the fact that God is love, first of all. This charity, this love, is what Duns Scotus had in mind in wanting to re-conduct theology to a single expression, namely, practical theology.

In his thinking, since God "is formally love and formally charity" (7), he communicates with the greatest generosity beyond himself the radiance of his goodness and his love. (8)

In fact, it is out of love that God "chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.., (and) destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ" (Eph 1,4-5).

Faithful disciple of St. Francis of Assisi, Blessed John contemplated and preached assiduously the incarnation and salvific passion of the Son of God.

But the charity or love of Christ is manifested specially not only on Calvary but also in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, without which "all piety would disappear from the Church, nor can one pay tribute to God with latria [in Orthodox and Catholic theology, 'adoration' - the highest form of worship or reverence and is directed only to the Holy Trinity] unless through venerating the Sacrament".(9)

Besides, the Eucharist is a sacrament of unity and love. Through the Eucharist, we are led to love each other reciprocally and to love God as our common good, and to be loved by others.

And just as this love, this charity, was the beginning of all, so also our beatitude can only be in love and charity: "Love or the will to love is simply life, eternal, blessed and perfect". (10)

Since We too have, from the start of Our ministry, preached charity, which is God himself, We note with joy that the singular doctrine of Blessed John has a special place for this truth, which We believe, to the utmost, worthy of being examined and taught in our time.

Therefore, in gladly responding to the request by our venerated Brother Joachim Meisner, cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Archbishop of Cologne, We are sending this Apostolic Letter through which We wish to honor Blessed John Duns Scotus and invoke over us his heavenly intercession.

Finally, to those who are taking part in anyway at this international congress and other initiatives regarding this eminent son of St. Francis, We impart Our Apostolic Blessing from the heart.

Given in Rome, at St. Peter's Basilica
on October 28, 2008,
in the fourth year of Our Pontificate.


1 DUNS SCOTUS, Tractatus de primo Principio, c. 1 (ed. MULLER M., Friburgi Brisgoviae, 1941, 1).
2 Idem, Ordinatio I d.5 n.26 (ed. Vat. IV 24-25).
3 Idem, Rep. IV d.33 q.2 n. 19 (ed. VIVES XXIV 439 a.)
4 Idem, Ordinatio I d.5 n. 26 (ed. Vat. IV 25).
5 Ibid., IV d.11 q.3 n. 15 (ed. Vat. IX 181).
6 Ibid., III d.3 n. 34 (ed. VIVES XIX 167 b).
7 Ibid., I d.17 n. 173 (ed. Vat. V 221-222).
8 Cfr idem, Tractatus de primo Principio, c.4 (ed. MULLER M., 127).
9 Idem, Rep. IV d.8 q.1 n.3 (ed. VIVES XXIV 9-10).
10 Ibid., IV d.49 q.2 n. 21 (ed VIVES XXIV 630a).

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2008 6:15 PM]
12/22/2008 1:16 PM
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No OR today.


Benedict XVI delivers his 2008 year-end message to the Roman Curia - The Pope reviews the highlights
of the year in the Church and the papacy. The Vatican has released the texts of both his address and
the tribute to the Pope read by Cardinal Angelo Sodano before the Pope spoke.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2008 6:16 PM]
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