Benedict XV on problems in the Church in Germany
On 21 August, Benedict XVI addressed the bishops of Germany at the Cologne seminary, following World Youth Day, which he called "a sign of hope to the Church in this country."
He enumerated some of the positive features of Catholicism in Germany: "Many priests, religious and lay people carry out faithful service in pastoral situations that are often difficult. And German Catholics are very generous towards the poor ... Significant work is being done by the various charitable agencies ... Equally vast is the educational work carried out in Catholic schools and other Catholic institutions and organisations on behalf of young people."
On the other hand, he referred to many problem areas: "Secularism and de-Christianisation continue to advance. The influence of Catholic ethics and morals is in constant decline. Many people abandon the Church or, if they remain, they accept only a part of Catholic teaching."
The Church in Germany, he said, needed "to become ever more missionary, committed to finding the best ways to pass on the faith to future generations". Young people, he added, "are not looking for a Church which panders to youth but one which is truly young in spirit; a Church completely open to Christ, the new Man."
He noted that the teaching of religion and catechesis did not "always manage to forge lasting bonds between young people and the Church community" and urged the bishops to ensure the orthodoxy of religion teachers.
In this regard, he said, "a useful aid ... will surely be the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which collects and synthesises all the essential elements of Catholic faith and morality in clear and accessible language."
Benedict described the shortage of priests and religious in Germany as "reaching dramatic proportions" and called on the bishops "to promote the pastoral care of vocations with renewed vigour, in order to reach parishes, educational centres and families".
Zenit News Agency
Archbishop Hickey on Intelligent Design theory
"The theory of evolution is an inadequate way to describe the universe and life because it ignores too much and makes great presumptive leaps without evidence," said Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth in August.
He was commenting on the debate over whether Intelligent Design theory should be taught in schools. "The problem in our society is that the theory of evolution has been installed in our education system and is defended by too many educators as the sole scientific approach to the existence of the universe and the appearance of the many forms of life.
"One result is that too many students are unable to protect themselves from the conscious or sub- conscious assumption that human life has no purpose or meaning.
"They are asked to accept that all the marvels of nature and the complexity of living organisms, even intelligent human life, are the products of two laws, natural selection and the survival of the fittest, that is, the result of chance.
"Intelligent design is a far more elegant description of historical changes than an entirely evolutionary approach, and it therefore should not be ignored in the classroom.
"Intelligent design, while it does not demand belief in a creator, sits very comfortably with Catholics who believe that whatever came first came from God who has a clear design for the universe and for each human being in it."
According to a report in Discovery magazine published earlier this year, more than 100 winners of the Nobel Prize support Intelligent Design theory.
'The Record' (Perth)
Visitation of American seminaries imminent
The apostolic visitation of US seminaries and houses of formation, by Vatican congregations, was due to begin in late September.
In their Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted in June 2002 in the wake of the clerical sex-abuse scandals, the US bishops pledged their "complete co-operation with the apostolic visitation of our diocesan/eparchial seminaries and religious houses of formation recommended in the interdicasterial meeting with the cardinals of the United States and the conference officers in April 2002."
A previous visitation of seminaries and houses of formation was conducted in the 1980s.
The upcoming visitation will continue from late September until the end of the 2005-2006 academic year, according to the US bishops' conference. The visitation involves the Vatican congregations for Catholic Education and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The visitation will include schools of theology as well as college- level seminaries, houses of formation, and academic institutions that form future priests - both secular clergy and members of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life. There are 229 such institutions in the United States.
The Congregation for Catholic Education aims to examine the criteria for admission of candidates and the programs of human formation and spiritual formation aimed at ensuring that they can faithfully live in celibacy. The Vatican congregation also hopes to examine other aspects of priestly formation.
Particular attention will be paid to the intellectual formation of seminarians, to examine fidelity to the magisterium, especially in the field of moral theology.
Zenit News Agency
Pope meets Society of St Pius X leader
Benedict XVI met on 29 August with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the Society of St Pius X, for talks aimed toward reconciliation between the Holy See and the traditionalist group.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the director of the Vatican press office, reported that the meeting had been held "in a climate of love for the Church and a desire to arrive at perfect communion." He said that the Pope and Bishop Fellay were hoping to make gradual progress in overcoming differences, so that a full agreement could be reached "in a reasonable time."
The Society of St Pius X (SSPX), founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, broke from the Vatican in 1988, when the French prelate ordained four new bishops in defiance of a direct order from Rome. Pope John Paul II responded by announcing that the traditionalist group had committed a "schismatic act," incurring the penalty of excommunication for Archbishop Lefebvre and the bishops (including Bishop Fellay) he had ordained.
But the Vatican has repeatedly sought means of restoring normal ties with the traditionalist group. The latest meeting was scheduled in response to a request from Bishop Fellay, Navarro-Valls reported. The Pope met with the traditionalist leader at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. Also present was Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the president of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei, which is charged with the task of seeking reconciliation with traditionalist Catholics.
In a July interview, Bishop Fellay said that he wanted to meet with Pope Benedict, and ask him to give permission for all Catholic priests throughout the world to use the Tridentine rite in celebrating Mass. He said that he would also ask the Pontiff to rescind the decrees of excommunication for himself and the other bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988.
Informed Vatican officials speculate that Pope Benedict may be prepared to grant the traditionalist request for a "universal indult" allowing the use of the Tridentine rite.
Talks between the Holy See and the SSPX have been marked by frustration, with each prospect for reconciliation thwarted by the adamant opposition of hard-line traditionalists within the SSPX, or liberal prelates in Rome.
Serious negotiations began in 2000, when Pope John Paul launched a drive for a reconciliation during the Jubilee Year. But despite several rumours of an imminent accord - and a separate agreement that restored full communion between the Vatican and another breakaway traditionalist group in Brazil - the talks to date have been unfruitful.
Pope Benedict XVI is well placed to conduct negotiations. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he engaged in last-minute talks with Archbishop Lefebvre, in an unsuccessful bid to forestall the rupture in 1988. In 2002, he corresponded privately with Bishop Fellay in another bid to resume the theological dialogue.
Catholic World News
US Supreme Court judge critical of Court's role
Moral issues not addressed in the Constitution, such as abortion, gay rights and the death penalty, should be debated and settled by Congress or state legislatures, not by the courts, said US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
"I am questioning the propriety, indeed, the sanity, of having a value-laden decision such as this made for the entire society ... by unelected judges," he told a packed auditorium on 29 August at Chapman University in California.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Scalia blasted these "judge moralists" and the political aspects of judicial appointments.
"Each year the conflict over judicial appointments has grown more intense. One is tempted to shield his eyes from the upcoming spectacle," he was quoted as saying in a veiled reference to the upcoming debate on the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court.
He also criticised the current concept of the "living Constitution," on which Senators have based their appointment of politically "moderate" or "mainstream" judges, in a sense privileging political bent over credentials. "What in the world is a moderate interpretation of a constitutional text?" Scalia asked rhetorically. "Halfway between what it says and what we'd like it to say?" he offered to laughter and applause.
Scalia was at Chapman University to assist at the law school's tenth anniversary celebrations.
Catholic News Agency
Turin Shroud exhibition in Wagga Wagga Diocese
During October, an exhibition will take place in the Wagga Wagga Diocese (NSW) of the mysterious, lifesize, positive, negative and three dimensional images of the Holy Shroud of Turin.
Pope John Paul II, visiting Turin in May 2000, commented: "The Shroud shows us Jesus at the moment of his greatest helplesness and reminds us that, in the abasement of that death lies the salvation of the whole world".
The display includes historical and scientific research into the passion, death and reappearance of the Man of the Shroud.
The presentation is being conducted by the Missionaries of the Holy Face at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Ashmont Street, Wagga Wagga, from 10am-6pm daily, from Saturday 8th to Sunday 16th of October.
There will be special scientific presentations each day at 5pm.
Admission is free. For further details phone Fr Gerard Ryan, (02) 6931 3601.