Cardinal Bertone: Pope's focus on Christian identity
The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said in March that 'the main objective of the Magisterium and ministry of Pope Benedict is to recover the authentic Christian identity and to explain and confirm the intelligibility of the faith in the context of widespread secularism.'
The Cardinal made his comments during a gathering of the Ethics and Finance Association in the city of Milan.
In the eyes of the Pope, Cardinal Bertone continued, 'relativism has become the fundamental problem of the faith in our times.' It's an attitude 'that is expressed not only as a way of renouncing unattainable truth, but also by appealing to the ideas of tolerance and the knowledge of freedom,' he said.
'Relativism is presented as the philosophical basis of democracy, which is supposedly founded on the fact that no one can claim to know the correct way.' In this sense, the Pope has become a 'passionate promoter' of the truth that is the person of Jesus Christ, 'the only and universal Saviour,' and for this reason he proclaims to all the nations that 'Jesus cannot be relativised as one of many religious geniuses.'
Referring to current-day problems around the world, Cardinal Bertone said that Benedict XVI 'is facing a divided planet full of many problems: Islamic fundamentalism, the indifference of rich countries, confusion caused by sects, the disorientation caused by poverty in the third and fourth worlds, while at the same time a new economic vitality is occurring in the East. And then there is the issue of ecumenism. It is necessary that past differences with the Orthodox world, in Moscow and in other places, be overcome.'
Amidst such situations, the Pope promotes dialogue 'with the exponents of human thought, in science, philosophy, and theology, in order to discover that they are all expressions of authentic reason open to the transcendent, and that they all have the task of understanding that there is one reality and that mankind is one.'
Catholic News Agency
US theologian under fire from bishops
In a statement released on 22 March, and approved by the administrative board of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the bishops' doctrinal committee said that the writings of Daniel Maguire who teaches moral theology at Jesuit-run Marquette University in Milwaukee 'do not present Catholic teaching.'
Maguire is a former priest who has long been an active proponent of legal abortion and supporter of 'Catholics for a Free Choice'.
The doctrinal committee, chaired by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, addressed two pamphlets circulated last year by Maguire, covering the issues of contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. The Bishops' Conference concluded that Maguire's views on those topics, and his understanding of Church teaching authority, 'cross the legitimate lines of theological reflection and simply enter into the area of false teaching.'
In the pamphlets, Maguire had argued that 'the Roman Catholic position on abortion is pluralistic,' claiming that some Catholics have always endorsed the 'pro-choice' stance. He writes that on abortion - and on other issues such as contraception and same-sex marriage - there are two opposing Catholic views. 'Neither is official,' he says, 'and neither is more Catholic than the other.'
The US bishops flatly reject that claim. 'While there may be individuals who disagree with the teaching of the Church,' the USCCB statement observes, 'such divergent views cannot be considered authentic Catholic teaching or the basis for reliable guidance regarding faithful Catholic moral life.' The bishops encourage reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for 'correct and authentic teaching.'
Informed about the USCCB statement, Maguire did not budge from his position, saying that the bishops themselves are wrong. 'They're simply uninformed,' he told the New York Times, insisting that there are many different Catholic positions on controversial issues.
The USCCB statement noted that Milwaukee's Archbishop Timothy Dolan 'has made public statements affirming that the views expressed by Professor Maguire in his two pamphlets are erroneous and incompatible with the Church's teaching.'
Catholic World News
Anti-Nazi German's cause for Canonisation advances
After thirteen months of work, the diocesan phase of the cause of canonisation of Josef Mayr-Nusser, who was a leader in opposing the Nazis and died for his Catholic faith, ended in March in the Italian city of Bolzano.
Bishop Wilhelm Egger of Bolzano-Bressanone led the ceremony. The cause now moves to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints for the next step in the canonisation process.
'Thanks to the work of many volunteers, the diocesan phase was concluded in very little time, and this should be considered the fruit of the prayers of many people,' said the postulator of the cause, Father Josef Innerhofer.
Josef Mayr-Nusser was born into a rural household and blessed with very devout parents. He became leader of the Catholic Action movement in the German district of the Diocese of Trent in 1934.
Years later he secretly became a member of the anti-Nazi movement 'Andreas Hofer Bund.' When German troops overtook his region, he was forced to enrol in the Nazi secret police and was sent to Konitz, Germany.
When the time came for him to swear his oath of allegiance, despite the advice of his peers and of some of his superiors, he refused to comply saying he could not do so for reasons of conscience. He was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Dachau. On the way he was severely mistreated and was deprived of food and water. He died in the city of Erlangen on 24 February 1945.
He is buried at the Church of San Giuseppe in Bolzano.
Catholic News Agency
German Bishops and abortion counselling
Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, last March instructed the German Bishops to distance themselves from an abortion counselling group, called Donum Vitae, so that they will not be perceived as endorsing abortion.
German law requires counselling before a woman has an abortion and German clergy considered the program provided a way to persuade women not to have one.
However, the program also involves the issuing of a certificate 'allowing' the abortion if the woman is not persuaded to keep her baby. The Vatican sees this as an endorsement of abortion and a violation of Church teaching on life issues.
In 1998, Pope John Paul II asked German clergy to stop issuing certificates, indicating that they had counselled pregnant women considering an abortion.
The Catholic Church in Germany had officially asked parishioners in June 2006 not to work with Donum Vitae, but the Vatican now wants a more active enforcement of that request.
There are about 1,500 counselling clinics in Germany, about 250 of them being run by Donum Vitae.
Catholic News Agency
Benedict XVI's views on science pubished
Benedict XVI discusses the limits of the scientific method, and in particular of evolutionary theory, in a new German-language book issued on 11 April.
Schoepfung und Evolution ('Crea- tion and Evolution') represents the product of a seminar held last September at the summer papal residence in Castel Gandolfo when Benedict and his former theology students discussed the theory of evolution in the context of the Catholic faith.
The main speakers at the seminar were Cardinal Christoph von Schönborn of Vienna; Peter Schuster, the president of the Austrian academy of sciences; Robert Spaemann, a noted German political theorist; and Father Paul Erbich, a professor of natural philosophy from Munich. Their presentations, together with the Pope's reflections, form the basis for the new book.
In his own essay, Benedict acknowledges the many advances science has brought, but observes that scientific findings often prompt the further philosophical questions which science cannot answer.
While the use of scientific reason is necessary and proper, he explains, that form of reason cannot address certain questions - such as the origin of rationality itself.
Regarding evolution, whatever the scientific record demonstrates about the development of life on earth needs to be complemented by an understanding of the ultimate cause of life. The emergence of human life cannot be thought of as a purely random sequence of events, but understood as the work of a Creator God.
Catholic World News
Vatican censures liberation theologian
Two publications by the famous liberation theologian, the Jesuit Fr Jon Sobrino, have been censured by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The sentence was presented to Benedict XVI - who approved it - by his successor at the head of the congregation, Cardinal William Levada, on 13 October 2006. It was signed and put into effect on 26 November and made public on 14 March 2007.
Fr Sobrino, however, has made clear he will not accept the sentence.
Two of his books were under scrutiny and in July 2004 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent Sobrino a list of 'erroneous and dangerous' theses.
In March 2005, Sobrino sent his responses to the congregation. These were held to be 'unsatisfactory.'
The Vatican identifies as erroneous Sobrino's electing the poor to a 'fundamental theological place' - that is, as the principal source of knowledge - in the place of the 'apostolic faith transmitted through the Church to all the generations.' It accuses him of diminishing, in the name of the liberation of the poor, the essential traits of Jesus - his divinity and the salvific value of his death.
'One cannot impoverish Jesus under the illusion of advancing the poor,' wrote the bishop and theologian Ignazio Sanna, a member of the international theological commission, in a commentary on Rome's decision.
The publication of the sentence against Sobrino gives a preview of one of the guidelines that Benedict will hand down to the Latin American Church, many of whose leading cadres are influenced by the spirit of liberation theology.
In mid-May the episcopal conferences of Latin America will hold their fifth general assembly in Brazil. It is to be inaugurated by Benedict in person.
Distorting the truth of Jesus, as occurs, in the judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the books of the major author on Christology in Latin America, Sobrino, is the same as distorting the truth of the Church and the meaning of its mission in the world.
Sandro Magister (Rome)
European Union pressures Poland on 'gay rights'
The Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament in March ordered an investigation into a proposed law against homosexual propaganda in Poland, to determine if the norm will violate EU laws.
Earlier, Poland's Minister of Education, together with the Polish League of Families, proposed a law protecting school children from aggressive and obscene homosexual propaganda presenting the gay lifestyle as 'normal and acceptable.'
The law will require educational administrators to bar homosexual activists from entering schools so as to protect the rights of parents 'to educate their children according to the values system that they choose.'
'The homosexual agenda is a threat to that freedom,' explained the spokesman of the League, Krzysztof Bosak, a well-known pro-family activist. 'In Poland homosexual activists have tried to distribute obscene pamphlets in schools. This must stop, for the good of our children, so that their security and freedom are free of this harassment.'
He also specified that 'nobody is attacking persons with homosexual tendencies. What we are opposed to is the dangerous political and social movement that uses the problems of gays to promote an agenda that is dangerous for the foundations of our civilisation.'
If the review concludes that the Polish law violates EU norms, the EU Parliament could ask the Committee and the EU Council to act against Poland.
Catholic News Agency