Cardinal Pell: Same-sex 'marriage' Senate Inquiry
The Australian Senate is holding an inquiry into the subject of same-sex marriage following a bill proposed by the Greens Party. On 8 February 2012, the Senate referred the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 for inquiry and report by the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
Cardinal George Pell recently released the text of the submission he made to the Senate. He said that the Commonwealth of Australia must continue to recognise and support marriage as meaning the exclusive and permanent union of one man and one woman.
Some proponents of same-sex marriage have argued that in the event of marriage being redefined, the Catholic Church and other religious communities will be protected or exempted from being required by law to perform same-sex marriages.
Cardinal Pell commented that such proposals fail to understand the immensely powerful role and influence of the law in our society. Changing the Marriage Act would, in practice, compel Catholics and other faith communities to recognise and accept same-sex marriages in their schools, social welfare, health care and adoption services.
When we permit same-sex relationships to mimic marriage we also say that children gain no benefit from the knowledge that they were created through an intimate act of love between their parents, Cardinal Pell said.
"Although the community formed by a homosexual couple may involve genuine caring, affection and commitment to one another, it is not an inherently procreative community, because their sexual relationship is not designed to generate children.
"Marriage is not simply a loving, committed relationship between two people, but a unique kind of physical and emotional union which is open to the possibility of new life.
"Marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to society because a stable, loving marriage provides the best conditions for raising children."
Catholic Weekly (Sydney)
Vatican dialogue with Society of St Pius X
Hopes are now being held that the traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX) might be on the way to communion with Rome. Reconciliation with the Society has been close to the Benedict XVI's heart, as he was at the forefront of the Church's efforts to bring reconciliation during his years leading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In recent months, the dialogue has moved to a new level, with the doctrinal congregation proposing to the Society last September a "doctrinal preamble" that the Vatican hoped would be the basis for finally achieving reconciliation.
The Society considered the preamble and in January 2012 gave a response to the Vatican, which was examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and judged insufficient by Benedict XVI.
The SSPX was informed in mid-March of the problems with their position and asked for further clarification. The most recent communiqué states simply, "On 17 April, as requested during the 16 March meeting held at the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Commission received the response of Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St Pius X. The text of the response will be examined by the dicastery then submitted to the Holy Father for his judgement."
Although there has been no further official word from the Vatican, nor from the Society, it is reported that Bishop Fellay's response was positive, raising hopes that the SSPX is on its way back to communion with Rome.
Zenit News Agency
Australia's Anglican Ordinariate due in June
The President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, announced on 11 May that Benedict XVI will announce the establishment in Australia of a Personal Ordinariate for Former Anglicans to commence on 15 June 2012.
A Personal Ordinariate is a structure for particular groups of people who wish to enter into communion with the Catholic Church.
In 2009 Pope Benedict announced special arrangements to cater for groups of Anglicans who wished to join the Catholic Church. This provision allows them to maintain some of the traditions of prayer and worship of Anglicanism.
Personal Ordinariates have already been established in the United Kingdom (2011) and the United States of America (2012).
The Australian Bishops have already put in place procedures to enable clergy and lay church members to join the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate.
Archbishop Hart said he was "confident that those former Anglicans who have made a journey in faith that has led them to the Catholic Church will find a ready welcome."
This new community will have the status of a diocese and will be known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross under the patronage of St Augustine of Canterbury.
Mexican bishops defend marriage and family
"The family, founded upon marriage, is a patrimony of humanity, an essential social institution," said Mexico's bishops in a statement released in April. "It is the vital cell and pillar of society. This affects both believers and non-believers. It is a reality to which all governments must give their full attention.
"The family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ, it is the first means of passing on the faith, and therefore families must be conscious of their own vocation and mission to bear witness to Christ Jesus in their own lives."
In today's culture, they added, "love is reduced to an emotional feeling and the satisfaction of instinctive drives, with no effort to build lasting bonds of mutual belonging."
The bishops recalled the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, who has urged families to resist attempts to redefine the traditional family, "in which all of us have lived."
Committing to another person "is not something to be feared," they said, for fatherhood and motherhood are "a gift of God."
US bishop calls for bolder public witness
While loving and praying for their enemies, Christians must unite to uphold their principles in public life, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria (Illinois) told Catholic men at a rally on 14 April.
"We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation," Bishop Jenky told over 500 men in his homily following a procession through downtown Peoria.
Organisers described the event as a "defence of faith, family, and the priesthood." It began with priests hearing confessions at the Peoria riverfront, before a silent march to the Cathedral of St Mary for Mass, which was followed by the Rosary.
During Mass, participants in the march heard Bishop Jenky explain the need to combine charity with boldness in their public witness. "As Christians we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us," he said, in remarks that touched on the federal contraception mandate and other threats to the Church. "But as Christians we must also stand up for what we believe and always be ready to fight for the Faith."
"The days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction. In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work ... we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ."
Bishop Jenky recalled the courage of believers under persecution throughout Church history and urged Catholic men to follow their example.
"In the power of the resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry" - as well as "the calculated disdain of the President of the United States" and "his appointed bureaucrats."
Pope praises role of classical music
Just a day after marking his seventh anniversary as Successor of Peter, Benedict XVI was honoured by a concert to celebrate his 85th birthday last April.
The Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, Germany, conducted by Riccardo Chailly, performed Symphony No. 2 "Hymn of Praise" by Felix Mendelssohn as a tribute to their papal countryman, as he became the oldest Pontiff since Leo XIII.
Following the performance, and having first expressed his thanks to the musicians and organisers, Benedict recalled how Mendelssohn had composed the symphony to mark the fourth centenary of the invention of printing, and that it was first performed at the Thomaskirche of Leipzig (the church of Johann Sebastian Bach) on 25 January 1840.
"Art as praise of God, supreme Beauty," the Pope said, "lies at the root of the way that Mendelssohn composed, not just as regards liturgical or sacred music, but his entire oeuvre. ... For him, sacred music was not at a higher level than any other kind; each in its own way had to serve and honour God."
Benedict concluded by quoting the words of composer Robert Schumann after having attended the first performance of the "Hymn of Praise": "Let us - as the text so splendidly set to music by the maestro says - 'lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light'."
Zenit News Agency
Spanish bishop defended over gay lifestyle criticism
An international group of Catholic doctors has voiced support for a Spanish bishop who had come under media fire for criticising destructive behaviours within the local gay community.
"Catholic doctors profoundly respect persons with homosexual traits," but "do not support the practice of homosexuality," said the International Federation of Catholic Doctors Associations in a statement on 17 April siding with the bishop.
Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcala de Henares has faced intense criticism after remarks given in a Good Friday sermon in which he condemned sexual practices known to be harmful.
As part of a larger cultural critique of sexual behaviour in modern society, he deplored how some with same-sex attraction "corrupt and prostitute themselves or go to gay night clubs" in order to "validate" their struggle. "I assure you what they encounter is pure hell," he said on 6 April.
Following outcry from local politicians and homosexual activists, the Catholic federation supported his remarks. They pointed out the broader issues Bishop Reig Pla brought up such as the scourge of sex trafficking in Europe and controversial sex-ed programs aimed at young children.
They joined the bishop in denouncing "the contents of some textbooks," especially those used in Spain's recently axed Education for the Citizenry course, which encouraged children "to 'explore' all areas of sexuality."
Pakistan's Christians need international support
Pakistan's Minister-in-charge for National Harmony, Dr Paul Bhatti, is the brother of Pakistan's Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti who was assassinated a year ago. He is a Catholic like his murdered brother, whose Ministry was renamed after the assassination.
The Prime Minister himself asked the murdered minister's brother to leave his physician's practice in Italy and work for national harmony in Pakistan as an advisor with ministerial rank. On the invitation of Aid to the Church in Need, together with the Archbishop of Karachi Joseph Coutts, he met with high-ranking politicians in Brussels, among them the President of the European Union.
His brother had "fought a good fight against every form of discrimination" and "always based himself on the teachings of the New Testament," Bhatti said. Pakistan's minorities "need the protection of the international community," he added.
Some 2.2 million Christians live in Pakistan, including 1.2 million Catholics. Christians account for about two percent of the population. In recent years the blasphemy laws have led to an increase in arbitrary actions against Christians and Hindus, and also against Muslims. Legal insecurity is growing alongside intolerance and fanaticism.
Aid to the Church in Need