Cardinal Schönborn on creation and evolution
Vienna's Archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has made new comments on the continuing debate on evolution versus intelligent design, saying both are complementary:
He presented his views on 2 October, in the first conference of what is to become a nine-month cycle of lectures, with the title "Creation and Evolution." Each lecture will take place at the Vienna Cathedral.
He stressed the absolute necessity to respect the line drawn between science and religion saying that he could believe both in divine creation and in evolution because one was a question of religion and the other of science, two realms that complemented rather than contradicted each other.
"I see no problem combining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution," he said, "under one condition - that the limits of a scientific theory are respected," he said.
Science studies what is observable and scientists overstep the boundaries of their discipline when they conclude evolution proves there was no Creator, said the Cardinal, a leading Church doctrinal expert and close associate of Pope Benedict.
"It is fully reasonable to assume some sense of design even if the scientific method demands restrictions that shut out this question," he continued.
In his lecture, Cardinal Schönborn said a recent article of his had led to misunderstandings and sometimes polemics. "Maybe one did not express oneself clearly enough or thoughts were not clear enough," he said. "Such misunderstandings can be cleared up."
He said he believed God created "the things of the world" but did not explain how a divine will to bring about mankind would have influenced its actual evolution.
Catholic News Agency
Broader use of the Latin Mass likely
Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, the former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, is a member of the Ecclesia Dei commission, set up by Pope John Paul II to serve the needs of Catholics who favour the Latin Mass. In an interview with the I Media news service, the Chilean-born prelate said last September that the Pope could act soon to liberalise Church regulations, allowing all priests to use the Tridentine rite.
Questioned about the outcome of the Pope's 29 August meeting with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the Society of St Pius X, Cardinal Medina observed that the meeting was preceded by "many other contacts" between Vatican officials and representatives of the Lefebvrist group.
He added that SSPX leaders are well aware that Pope Benedict "is concerned about full communion among all Catholics - all Christians - and particularly those who uphold the decisions and positions of Archbishop Lefebvre."
Reconciliation between the Vatican and the breakaway traditionalist group, the Cardinal continued, would require "addressing a list of doctrinal difficulties." He said that a working group could be set up to discuss those problems.
"But within the Society [SSPX], there are different currents," Cardinal Medina observed. While some members of the traditionalist group are "inflexible," others are more inclined towards dialogue with Rome. The Vatican, he said, would insist that SSPX members acknowledge the validity of the post-conciliar Mass and also be required to accept the teachings of Vatican II.
After his meeting with Pope Benedict, Bishop Fellay suggested that a first step toward reconciliation could be a Vatican recognition of the right for all priests to celebrate the Tridentine-rite Mass, using the liturgical form codified by Pope Pius V after the Council of Trent. Cardinal Medina saw "no difficulty" in expanding access to the Latin Mass. But he reiterated that such a step "would not resolve the fundamental problems with the SSPX."
Catholic World News
Pope to bishops: be teachers of the faith
On 19 September, Benedict XVI received a group of bishops who have been consecrated over the past 12 months.
In his address to them, the Holy Father said that among their duties, "I would like to underline that of being teachers of the faith ... As successors to the Apostles, you are 'doctores fidei,' true doctors who, with the same authority as Christ, announce to the people a faith in which to believe and which to live."
After recalling that during the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, Apostles, he had presented the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a summary of the complete Catechism, he said: "Today, symbolically, I give each of you these two fundamental documents of the Church's faith, that they may be a point of reference in your teaching and a sign of our communion of faith."
Benedict XVI went on to invite the bishops to remain close to the priests and catechists of their dioceses. Then, referring to the Year of the Eucharist that is now coming to an end, he exhorted them to ensure that it "leaves in the hearts of the faithful the desire to root their lives ever more in the Eucharist."
All bishops, he said, "should take particular care over the participation of the faithful in Sunday Mass, in which the Word of life rings out, and where Christ Himself is present in the species of bread and wine. Moreover, Mass enables the faithful to nourish the community significance which is also part of the faith."
Vatican Information Service
Spain's same-sex marriage law challenged
Spain's political opposition, the Popular Party, lodged a legal appeal in September challenging the country's new law allowing same-sex marriage.
In July, Spain became the third country (following the Netherlands and Belgium) to give same-sex unions all the legal status of marriages. The bill approving same-sex marriage was approved despite strong opposition from the minority Popular Party and the Catholic Church.
Opponents of the legislation have argued that the new law violates a provision of Spain's constitution which guarantees the integrity of marriage. Eduardo Hertfelder, the president of the Family Policy Institute, welcomed the appeal of a laws that he characterised as "regressive and unjust toward the family and children." He acknowledged, however, that despite the constitutional arguments against the law, judges might be under considerable political pressure to uphold it. Still, Hertfelder also called attention to the rapid development of a grassroots pro-family movement in Spain, which may counteract that political pressure.
Catholic World News
Pope approves ban on homosexual seminarians
Pope Benedict XVI gave his approval in September to a new Vatican policy document indicating that men with homosexual tendencies should not be ordained as Catholic priests.
The new document - which was prepared by the Congregation for Catholic Education in response to a request made by the late Pope John Paul II in 1994 - will be published soon.
The text, which was approved by Pope Benedict at the end of August, says that homosexual men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate, because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder which detracts from their ability to serve as ministers.
Priests who have already been ordained, if they suffer from homosexual impulses, are strongly urged to renew their dedication to chastity, and a manner of life appropriate to the priesthood.
The Instruction does not represent a change in Church teaching or policy. Catholic leaders have consistently taught that homosexual men should not be ordained to the priesthood. Pope John XXIII approved a formal policy in that regard, which still remains in effect. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, that policy was widely ignored, particularly in North America.
The resulting crisis in the priesthood - in which one prominent American commentator observed that the priesthood was coming to be seen as a "gay" profession - prompted Pope John Paul II to call for a new study on the question.
The pending release of the Instruction, in the face of certain criticism from liberal forces in America and Western Europe, demonstrates the determination of the Vatican to improve the quality of priestly ministry, and to protect the Church from some of the scandals that have recently shaken the Catholic community - and no doubt deterred many men from entering priestly training.
Catholic World News
UN program rejects abstinence group
A Nigerian organisation has been denied admittance to a UN program that solicits volunteers because the organisation's leader criticised condoms in the prevention of HIV on the African continent. The Action Family Foundation (AFF) was told that they were at odds with the UN's official position on AIDS prevention known as the ABC method which promotes abstinence, sexual fidelity and condom use.
Dr Emmanuel I.B. Okechukwu, president of AFF, was told in an email on 22 July that his organisation could not participate in the UN Volunteer's Online Volunteering service, which matches organisations with volunteers who can provide services from their own homes.
Annika Diederich, who works for the UN Online Volunteers office in Bonn, Germany, wrote in the email that "UN policy, as you must be aware, clearly outlines an approach with balanced ABC components as the most effective tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS."
Diederich said the UN Online Volunteers had "reservations about Action Family Foundation's position and information dissemination on the use of condoms as a legitimate method of HIV/AIDS prevention. UNV cannot endorse your criticism of condoms as voiced in your articles on the Abstinence Clearinghouse website, for instance."
In the articles, found on the AfricaAbstinence.com website, Okechukwu argued that widespread condom distribution in Africa has resulted in a "sense of false security" and "subtly engenders sexual initiation/experimentation by young people who otherwise were abstinent, and emboldens the already sexually active into multiple sexual partnering." The result, he says, is "that [the] condom and the activities it engenders constitute the single most important factor promoting HIV spread around the world."
An experienced UN observer remarked that this episode was "typical of the hypocrisy of the UN. They bend over backward for their ideological soul-mates and punish those they don't like."
Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute: www.c-fam.org
Ecumenical moves announced by Rome
The President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, is working to set up a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Cardinal is also exploring the possibility of a summit conference at which the Pope would meet with the heads of the Orthodox churches in one gathering. And in an interview in September with the Italian daily La Repubblica, the Cardinal said that a joint Catholic-Lutheran document on apostolic succession was to be published in October.
Noting an improvement in the climate of talks between Rome and Moscow, Cardinal Kasper said that he had encountered no major obstacles in his exploratory talks about a meeting between the Benedict XVI and Patriarch Alexei.
Cardinal Kasper told La Repubblica that he thought the Russian prelate's concerns about "proselytism" could be addressed in a carefully crafted joint statement, to be released at the meeting between the two Church leaders.
The argument over "proselytism" is complicated by the different meanings Rome and Moscow apply to that term.
Cardinal Kasper also noted that a joint Catholic-Orthodox theological commission, uniting Vatican representatives with those of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, would resume work soon after being dormant for several years.
In the longer term, he said, "we could think about a meeting between the Pope and all the patriarchs of the Orthodox churches." At such a meeting, the most critical task would be to find a mutually acceptable understanding of papal primacy.
Catholic World News