Vatican re-states centrality of Catholic Church
In July the Vatican issued a new doctrinal statement, titled 'Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church,' with Benedict XVI's approval, which confirms the essential role of the Catholic Church in God's plan for salvation.
The short document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), presented in question- and-answer format, addresses questions about the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that the Church founded by Jesus Christ 'subsists' in the Catholic Church.
The CDF affirms that while other Christian bodies can play a role in bringing people to salvation, it is in the Catholic Church that 'the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.'
The Vatican document makes a further distinction between Orthodox churches that have preserved valid sacraments, and should be recognised as 'sister churches,' and Protestant groups that have not preserved the Eucharistic presence.
The document opens with the observation that the teachings of Vatican II 'contributed in a decisive way to the renewal of Catholic ecclesiology' and encouraged further reflection on the nature of the Church.
However, in some cases these reflections have been marred by 'erroneous interpretation which in turn give rise to confusion and doubt' about the Church's teaching.
In the first of five questions posed and answered, the CDF document asks, 'Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?' The answer begins with a straightforward statement: 'The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.'
Questions #2 and #3 address the teaching of the conciliar document Lumen Gentium (#8) that the Church of Christ 'subsists' in the Catholic Church.
The CDF document explains: 'It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.' Nevertheless, only the Catholic Church is characterised by the identifying marks of Christ's Church: being one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
The Christian communities separated from the Catholic Church, the CDF continues, 'though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation.' These communities can act as instruments of salvation, because of their partial participation in 'that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.'
In the fourth and fifth questions that complete the document, the CDF draws a clear distinction between the Orthodox and Protestant denominations. The Eastern churches, the document notes, 'have true sacraments and above all - because of the apostolic succession - the priesthood and the Eucharist.' They are therefore sister churches, even if they fall short of universality because of their separation from the Holy See.
The Protestant communities, on the other hand, 'do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders.' Because these communities 'have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery, they 'cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'churches' in the proper sense'.
Catholic World News
Catholic Church critical of Amnesty International
In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Cardinal Renato Martino, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said that the Holy See is ceasing donations to Amnesty International as a result of the group's public advocacy for abortion. He urged Catholic donors to reconsider gifts to the organisation.
Cardinal Martino said that the Vatican's decision was an 'inevitable consequence' of the new policy Amnesty has adopted which was a betrayal of the original mission of the human-rights organisation.
Bishop William Skylstad, the president of the American Bishops' Conference, issued a statement on 2 July in response to the Amnesty International executive council decision to take a pro-abortion stand.
Bishop Skylstad urged Amnesty International to reverse their 'deeply disappointing decision' made at their International Council meeting.
'The action of the executive council', he said, 'undermines Amnesty's longstanding moral credibility, diverts its mission, divides its own members - many of whom are Catholic or defend the rights of unborn children'.
If Amnesty International persisted in this course of action, said Bishop Skylstad, 'individuals and Catholic organisations must withdraw their support, because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, Amnesty InternationaI has betrayed its mission.'
Zenit News Agency
Violence against Christians in Iraq
In June, the Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad, Shlemon Warduni, rebuked the United States and Europe for their 'silence' in the face of the escalating violence against the Christian minority in Iraq.
Bishop Warduni pointed to the recent assassination of a Catholic priest, Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, and three deacons in northern Iraq as they were coming out of a church, and to the kidnapping of Father Hani Abdel Ahad as instances of this silence.
The bishop said that after the killing of Father Ganni, 'nobody showed us any solidarity ... Only the Pope sent a telegram of condolences and raised his voice to make known the tragedy of the Iraqi Christians.'
He continued, 'If this had happened in any Islamic population, the Muslim masses would have taken to the streets to protest and demand respect, just as what happened with the satirical comics some time ago.
'Christians, on the other hand, are doing nothing while here they are being killed, kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, to pay protection money, hand over their own daughters in order to avoid reprisals, or to flee, abandoning their whole life's work.'
Catholic News Agency
Bishop Malone wants no 'oath of fidelity'
The Herald newspaper (5 June) reported that Bishop Michael Malone of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese has rejected any introduction of the 'oath of fidelity' for principals, assistant principals and religious education co- ordinators in Catholic schools in his diocese, as was proposed in Cardinal George Pell's draft Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Bishop Malone was reported as saying that members of the general public in church pews would be shocked such a step was being called for, adding that the oath would be onerous.
'It's a bit extreme and archaic,' he said, 'that's why I would need to be quite emphatic about my own response, just to indicate to people we would not be returning to any previous days of mind games.'
A vow of fidelity to uphold Church teachings in everyday life would force some Catholics to subscribe publicly to some teachings about which they might have private reservations, such as homosexuality, Bishop Malone said.
'If I was a principal or assistant principal I would have second thoughts about putting my hand up for a role like that.
'Even as a bishop, I took a vow to uphold the teachings of the Church, which I try to do, but even I have some reservations about some aspects of Church teachings.'
Principals, assistant principals and religious education co-ordinators were already chosen because of their fidelity to the Catholic faith, he said.
US Bishop's Letter on why no women priests
Bishop John Steinbock of Fresno issued a pastoral letter in June reiterating Church teaching on the impossibility of women priests.
In his letter, the bishop said he believed the movement towards women's ordination had 'greatly died down with the understanding that men and women are equal but have different roles in life, and are not at odds with one another, but complement one another.'
However, he decided to issue the pastoral letter after receiving a few comments at a 19 May ordination about women not being able to be ordained.
A letter in the Fresno Bee had brought attention to a group called Action Purple Stole of Fresno that was asking households 'to light a candle on May 19 at 10 a.m. in remembrance and support for all women being called by God to the priesthood, yet unable to answer that call in the Roman Catholic Church.'
Bishop Steinbock, while praising the influence of women in the Church, quoted Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, in which John Paul II declared that the Church has no authority to ordain women.
A further reminder was needed, 'So that people, often influenced by the modern understanding of the nature of man and woman as explained by ideologies of our time, are not misled by unfounded expectations and hopes, which can lead people eventually to reject the very magisterium of the Church, which is the beacon of truth in this world to lead to eternal salvation.'
Catholic News Agency
Abortion debate intensifies in UK
Public debate on abortion intensified in the UK in June, with Parliament scheduled to take up a proposal that would require a woman to obtain counselling before procuring an abortion.
The proposed legislation would establish a week-long 'cooling-off period' between the time when a woman asked for an abortion and the time when the procedure took place. During that time the woman would receive information about abortion and about the life of the unborn child.
The recent announcement that 190,000 abortions were performed in Great Britain last year triggered new concern about the procedure. Public attitudes have also been influenced by the release of vivid three- dimensional ultrasound pictures showing the movement of an unborn child in the womb.
In May the medical journal Pulse released the results of a poll that showed 1 out of 5 doctors refuses to be involved in abortions. That survey drew criticism from proponents of legal abortion, but many doctors supported the right of colleagues to avoid involvement in a procedure they considered immoral.
Catholic World News
NZ bishop bars dissident American nun's talk
Christchurch Bishop Barry Jones said in July that he could not allow US Benedictine nun, Sr Joan Chittister, who was due to visit Australia later, to speak in his diocese over concerns about her stance on women's ordination and moral issues.
An independent group of Catholic lay people, the Adult Education Trust, had invited Chittister to Christchurch.
Bishop Jones wrote to his priests saying that Sr Chittister's scheduled visit was unauthorised. Permission for the event had not been sought or given, and he did not want it promoted through Catholic churches.
'The point is that silence generates the misunderstanding that this is all approved, when it's not. I have made my position clear to the priests,' he said. 'I don't see how I, as a bishop, can advance the teachings of the Catholic Church by appearing to condone other views'.
Sr Chittister, from Erie, Pennsylvania, has clashed with Church authorities internationally over her strong stance on issues such as women's ordination and contraception. She attended the first Women's Ordination Worldwide Conference in 2000, defying an order by the Vatican.
The pro-life US news service, Lifesite, commented that Sr Chittister had 'garnered a well-earned reputation as a vociferous advocate of contraception, abortion, and homosexuality', and had 'lambasted the Church's teachings on the latter as 'spiritual violence and abuse'.'
Sr Chittister encountered no such difficulties in the Broken Bay Diocese, where her public lecture to be given at Mount St Benedict College, Pennant Hills, on 19 July was a sell-out.