The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World

John Paul II's address to Roman Rota

Indissolubility of marriage affirmed

On 21 January 2000, Pope John Paul II received members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota - as has been his annual practice. The Roman Rota is the Vatican's ordinary Court of Appeal, known primarily for its specific function in annulment cases. In his address the Pope warned the canonists against "certain opinions which have sprung up in the domain of theological and canonical research." These opinions, he said, cast a shadow over the indissoluble character of Christian marriage, which he insisted cannot be declared null simply because it was contracted in a society that accepts divorce.

The Holy Father recalled the doctrine concerning the absolute and indissoluble nature of ratified and consummated matrimony. He contrasted this with the "mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other" (which has an effect on) "the growing number of divorces."

Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Holy Father stated: "The Church maintains, through faith in the Word of Jesus Christ, that a new union cannot be recognised as valid, if the first marriage was valid."

The Church may, he said, after careful examination in an ecclesiastical court, declare the "nullity" of a marriage. In other words, the Church court may find that a valid Christian marriage never took place. However, such a declaration does not undermine the essential principle that a valid Christian marriage cannot be dissolved. A marriage cannot be annulled simply because the two parties were affected by the prevailing attitudes of the surrounding society.

Even if a couple enters marriage without a clear intention of remaining married for life, that lack of conviction is not, by itself, sufficient grounds for an annulment. The marriage can be declared null only if the couple actually denied the principle of indissolubility, and that attitude affected their decision to marry. The Pope pointed out that what he was saying was a direct contradiction of "a presumption that has sometimes, unfortunately, been formulated by some tribunals."

Vatican Information Service

Catholic hospitals under threat in Canada

Abortions, sterilisation, contraception demands by provincial governments

The ministries of health of Canada's various provincial governments are currently in the process of taking over hospitals run under Catholic Church auspices. Their justification for this move is that "universal health care" is necessary, but that the sisters running the hospitals have continued to resist pressures to provide abortions, sterilisations and contraceptives. There has been no compensation for the confiscated real estate, although this is the property of the religious orders that originally founded the hospitals.

Canada's first hospital was founded in Quebec in 1639, and for the better part of 200 years, the only hospitals in Canada were those brought into existence by congregations of religious women. This legacy of dedicated health care apparently counts for nothing in Canada's brave new world of political correctness.

'Challenge' (Canadian religious monthly)

Catholic education on the Internet

Resources made available for teachers

Concerned about the growing secularism in public school textbooks, which are often the only textbooks available for Catholic schools as well, a group of educators, academics and priests has joined together to form the US-based Catholic Educators' Resource Centre. The group works to identify areas of weakness in teaching materials and to develop educational resources that fairly present the Catholic contribution and perspective.

The group has set up a new website ( to provide resources to teachers, conveying the important role Christian culture has played in history. Articles are drawn from a wide range of journals and periodicals to provide articulate resources explaining the Church's position on a broad range of social, moral and historical issues. The website operates under a grant from the Homeland and Madonna Foundations.

Zenit News Service

New "Curia" for Broken Bay Diocese

Key areas of responsibility allocated

Last November the Australian Bishops Conference set up a committee to "prepare a response to Recommendations" drawn from the Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus report. One of the members of that committee, Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay, has recently placed key areas of his diocese's spiritual life in the hands of two religious sisters.

In a memorandum dated 22 December 1999, and headed "Curia Staff - Areas of Responsibility," Bishop Walker advises that Sister Phil Tiernan rscj, already due to begin work as diocesan Chancellor in February, would also take "particular responsibility" for such areas as sacramental programs, liturgy, ecumenism, youth, social justice and hospital chaplaincy. Sister Kerin Caldwell sgs, would have responsibility for parish visitation, "Support to Women," adult education, CCD, diaconate, pastoral associates and vocations.

Bishop Walker prefaced his announcement with the proviso that this would not "in any way " remove "my ultimate responsibility for these activities," but it remained unclear how far in practice decision-making discretion would be left in the hands of these appointees.

Year of Our Lord under threat

British proposal to ditch "AD"

Britain could soon completely sever all links with its Christian heritage if ministers succeed in scrapping the letters AD from the date.

Years have been labelled AD (Anno Domini, the Year of Our Lord) or BC (Before Christ) for at least 400 years. But ministers say the labels are inappropriate in a multi-faith country and are launching a consultation with a view to using the more politically correct CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before Common Era).

Under the new scheme, this year would be CE2000 instead of AD2000. The Romans would have invaded Britain in BCE55 and the American War of Independence would have ended in CE1781. But there is already growing pressure from churchmen for the scheme to be abandoned.

John Broadhurst, the Anglican Bishop of Fulham, told The Sunday Times: "It would be pathetic to try to bury the birth of Christ in some fashionable change." Father Danny McLoughlin, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said it was "absolutely absurd."

"I suppose next year we will have to count the years from when Prime Minister Blair came into office, as they do in some countries after a revolution," he told the Daily Record. "This year we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour. If the Government has missed that, it has a big problem."

Catholic World News

Fulton Sheen's canonisation cause to open

Cardinal O'Connor approves move

According to a report in Catholic New York (9 December 1999), Cardinal John O'Connor has given provisional approval to initiate the cause for sainthood of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a pioneer in the clergy's use of the airwaves and host of the Emmy Award-winning television series Life is Worth Living, which ran from 1951 to 1957.

The cause is being sponsored by the Archbishop Sheen Foundation, founded last year to reintroduce the public to the Archbishop's life and works. It is headquartered in El Paso, Illinois, the Archbishop's birthplace (address: PO Box 313, El Paso, Ill, 61738. Interested Australian readers can contact the Fulton Sheen Society of Perth (WA) at PO Box 803, Kalamunda, WA 6076, tel (08) 9291 8224.)

Cardinal O'Connor's approval was needed because Church law requires that causes be initiated in the dioceses where the proposed saint died. Father Andrew Apostoli CFR, who was ordained by Archbishop Sheen in 1967, will be postulator of the cause.

Vatican call for return to individual confession

Essential for Holy Year participation

Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, has called on the world's Catholics to recognise the Sacrament of Penance as an essential element of participation in the Holy Year. He warned that general absolution was no substitute for individual confession. Its wider use in recent years represented an "abuse."

The Cardinal was critical of local churches that had planned far in advance for jubilee penitential services in which general absolution was to be offered instead of individual confession. Bishops in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, for example, were told to drop plans for offering general absolution in their dioceses during Lenten jubilee services. In one English diocese, Cardinal Medina's congregation named priests it said should be reminded of the narrow conditions for general absolution.

While a shortage of priests was commonly cited to justify general absolution, Cardinal Medina, a native of Chile, said that when he was a bishop, his diocese had an average of one priest for 6,000 faithful [compared with one priest per 1,000 in much of Europe] and "we never needed general absolution." He said that in his pastoral ministry, he spent about 9,000 hours hearing confessions.

Catholic News Service

Glasgow's Cardinal on homosexuality

Calls for 'silent majority' to speak out

Speaking last January in support of businessman Brian Souter, who has offered millions of British pounds to help fight the repeal of Clause 28 - the so-called anti- homosexual law - Cardinal Thomas Winning of Glasgow said: "I deplore homosexual acts. I hesitate to use the word perversion, but let's face up to the truth. What pains me is that the silent majority are so silent that the silence is deafening. I wish to God they would speak up. But when you do say something about it, you are accused of homophobia, which is absolute rubbish."

He continued: "Homosexuality is promoted every day. It's promoted by people who are on the streets, it's promoted by people who are attracted to others. We only need to look at some of the pamphlets available to see just exactly what is in place to put into schools. I am concerned that children might be converted by some of the literature. There's no doubt about it."

Several British trade unions have advised members to boycott Stagecoach buses, the company owned by Souter and to avoid using Virgin trains and planes in which Souter is a major shareholder. But Cardinal Winning said such action was "unacceptable" and added: "I deplore the witch-hunt they have started against him."

Peter Tatchell, leader of the homosexual rights group OutRage!, accused Cardinal Winning of championing discrimination. "He is acting like the leaders of the Afrikaner Church in South Africa during the apartheid regime," he told The Times. "He is supporting discrimination against gay and lesbian people."

In an official statement, Cardinal Winning said: "In presenting the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on this issue I constantly return to the principle of loving the sinner while rejecting the sin. Unfortunately, this distinction is rarely reported, with certain sections of the press preferring lurid headlines.

Catholic World News

Beatification in 2000 for Pope John XXIII

Miraculous healing of Italian nun recognised

Pope John XXIII will be beatified on 3 September 2000. The beatification will take place in the last of three ceremonies scheduled for the Holy Year.

The story that this was to take place - which was leaked to the Italian press on 28 November - was confirmed by Archbishop Jose Saraiva Martins, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In October that Congregation approved a decree recognising that Pope John XXIII had lived a life of "heroic virtue." This was officially confirmed in the last series of decrees from the Congregation at the end of last year.

Before John XXIII can be beatified, the Congregation must also approve the veracity of a miracle attributed to his intercession. The Congregation has already recognised the miraculous healing of an Italian nun, Sister Caterina Capitani, who was cured of a gastric hemorrhage in May 1966 after praying for the intercession of the late Pontiff.

Catholic World News

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