World War II research vindicates Pius XII
Claims of papal inaction in the face of Jewish persecution during World War II have been further challenged by a German historian conducting research in the Vatican archives who says that Pope Pius XII may have arranged for the escape of 200,000 Jews from Germany in the weeks after the Kristallnacht Nazi attacks.
Dr Michael Hesemann based his claim on his research in the Vatican archives for the Pave the Way Foundation, a US-based interfaith group.
He said that in 1938 the future Pope, who was then Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, wrote to Catholic archbishops around the world to urge them to apply for visas for "non-Aryan Catholics" and Jewish converts to Christianity who wanted to leave Germany.
Hesemann reported that additional evidence suggests that the visas would have been given to ordinary Jews to escape persecution.
"The fact that this letter speaks of 'converted Jews' and 'non-Aryan' Catholics indeed seems to be a cover," said Hesemann.
"You couldn't be sure that Nazi agents wouldn't learn about this initiative," he continued. "Pacelli had to make sure they didn't misuse it for their propaganda, that they could not claim that the Church is an ally of the Jews."
The letter was dated 30 November 1938, 20 days after Kristallnacht, the "night of broken glass" when Jews were attacked in Germany. Cardinal Pacelli could request the visas because the 1933 concordat signed with the Nazi government specifically provided protection for Jews who converted to Christianity.
Dr Ed Kessler, who is director of the Cambridge-based Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths, told the Telegraph, "It is clear that Pius XII facilitated the saving of Roman Jews."
In an April 2009 interview with CNA, Pave the Way Foundation president Gary Krupp said that each time Hesemann enters the archive he comes out with an "astounding" document about Pius XII fighting anti-Semitism or saving Jewish lives.
"This information is so readily available, but nobody has gone to look," Krupp continued, saying historians and critics of Pius XII's pontificate do not have to wait for the sealed archives to open when they have so much material they can look at."
Catholic News Agency
Social benefits of religious practice
"It's little known to the public or to elite commentators in the national discourse," notes Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute at the Family Research Council.
"But an amazing phenomenon has been uncovered in the social sciences: the more frequently Americans worship the better they do on every observable outcome measured to date."
He continued: "This holds for rates of smoking, getting drunk, use of hard drugs, being charged by the police, theft, shoplifting, adultery, running away from home, watching x-rated movies, homosexual conduct, cohabitation, or the number of sexual partners that teenage girls have.
"The documented relationship of religious practice to other goods includes: children's positive social development, the quality of parent-child relationships, levels of happiness — including marital happiness — participation in charitable services, and pride in work."
Catholic World News
Benedict XVI: role of theologians
The people of God precede theology, thanks to the Holy Spirit's gift that brings them to embrace the faith, and which can leave theologians struggling to explain what the faithful already know.
This suggestion was made in July by Benedict XVI, when he spoke of Blessed Duns Scotus at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. Benedict focused on Scotus' contribution in Mariology, and also in his Christocentric teaching on the Incarnation, and his instruction on liberty.
Regarding Scotus' pivotal role in understanding the Immaculate Conception, the Pope said this: "In Duns Scotus' times, the majority of theologians offered an objection that seemed insurmountable to the doctrine that Most Holy Mary was free from original sin from the first instant of her conception. In fact, the universality of the redemption wrought by Christ, at first glance, might seem compromised by such an affirmation, as if Mary had no need of Christ and of his redemption. Because of this theologians were opposed to this thesis."
Benedict recounted how Scotus developed an argument that Pope Pius IX would go on to use in 1854 when he solemnly defined the dogma.
He noted how "faith in the Immaculate Conception or in the bodily assumption of the Virgin was already present in the people of God, while theology had not yet found the key to interpret it in the totality of the doctrine of the faith. Thus the people of God precede theologians and all this thanks to that supernatural 'sensus fidei,' namely, that capacity infused by the Holy Spirit, which qualifies us to embrace the reality of the faith, with humility of heart and mind."
He said he hoped theologians would always be able to "listen to this source of faith and have the humility and simplicity of little ones!"
Zenit News Agency
"War against God" in Argentine
In July, despite some 635,000 signatures in defence of marriage and family being presented to the Argentinean Senate and an Argentine bishops' statement, rejecting same-sex "marriage", being read in every parish church, the Senate passed legislation modifying civil law to read that marriage is between "parties united in marriage," and grants them equal standing with heterosexual couples in adoption programs.
Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires condemned the decision to legalise same-sex "marriage" as "a war against God."
He said the bishops of Argentina had repeated many times that same-sex unions "do not possess the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and of family. In this type of union the conjugal dimension and the openness to the transmission of life are lacking."
Meanwhile protests against the new law continue to be held by Catholics across Argentina.
Catholic News Agency
Church's spectacular growth in Africa
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) began its 15th plenary assembly in Accra on 27 July with the theme of "Self-Reliance and the Way Forward for the Church in Africa."
Today, Africa is the fastest growing part of the Catholic Church.
This spectacular growth began over a century ago and has accelerated in the past three decades. In 1900, there were two million Catholics in Africa, today there are over 165 million — triple the 1978 figure of 55 million. 14% of Catholics worldwide now live there, nearly half of the children in Catholic primary schools study there, and 43% of the world's adult baptisms — over a million a year — take place there. There are more Catholic hospitals in Africa than there are in North and Central America combined.
Between 1998 and 2007, the number of priests increased from 26,026 to 34,658, while the number of women religious grew by over 10,000, from 51,304 to 61,886. Over 14 million African children attend Catholic primary schools, while another 3.7 million attend Catholic high schools. Since 1978, the number of African seminarians has more than quadrupled from 5,636 to 24,034, and Africa is now the world's second most vocation-rich continent, exceeded only by Asia.
Catholic World News
Vatican women's ordination statement
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of the US bishops' Committee on Doctrine has welcomed the Vatican's recent clarification on the canonical penalties for the attempted ordination of women, saying the action shows "the seriousness with which it holds offences against the Sacrament of Holy Orders."
In a 15 July statement the Vatican said that the attempted ordination of women was a "grave delict," a Church crime that is always referred to the Holy See for adjudication.
In defending this Church teaching, Archbishop Wuerl said, "The seven sacraments are an integral and identifying part of the Catholic Church and the faith life of each Catholic. To feign any sacrament would be egregious. The Catholic Church through its long and constant teaching holds that ordination has been, from the beginning, reserved to men, a fact which cannot be changed despite changing times."
He noted that all Catholics are called to "Christian service."
Women, said the Archbishop, have responded to this call with "extraordinary generosity" and had an "essential role" in the life of the Church, serving in "Church leadership positions at all levels," including nearly half of all diocesan administrative and professional positions, and about 25 percent of the top diocesan positions, while making up about 80 percent of lay parish ministers.
US professor fired for stating Church teaching
On 29 July, an Introduction to Cath olicism professor, Dr Kenneth Howell, fired from the University of Illinois for stating Church teaching on homosexuality, was reinstated. It followed approaches to the University by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund and discussions with the Diocese of Peoria.
A friend of one of Dr Howell's students had sent an e-mail to university authorities in protest. Among the ideas in the email: "Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another."
Unwittingly, the author of the complaint gave a good summary of a tenet of Catholic teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes in No. 2357, "[...] 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law."
Senior Counsel David French of the Alliance Defense Fund protested at what he called the censoring of a professor's speech "including classroom speech related to the topic of the class — merely because certain ideas 'offend' an anonymous student."
"It's ridiculous that a school would fire a professor without even giving him a chance to defend himself when he simply taught Catholic beliefs in a class about Catholic beliefs," French added.
Howell had been teaching at the university since 2001 and been recognised by students for his excellence in teaching. He also had had a directorial position at the Newman Center on campus, which he had also lost since he would no longer be employed by the university. That has now been restored.
Zenit News Agency
Orthodox Patriarch and Pope in agreement
Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russias says he and Benedict XVI often agree on many issues, especially those of a moral nature.
The Patriarch said this in statements on the occasion of his trip to Ukraine, reported in July by the Russian agency Interfax.
"I must say that the position of the present Pope, Benedict XVI, leaves room for optimism," he said in an interview on Ukrainian TV, on the eve of his visit to that country.
He reminded journalists that the Pope is often criticised by "liberal theologians and the liberal mass media in the West" for his opinions.
"However, in his approach on many public and moral issues, the Pope coincides fully with the approach of the Russian Orthodox Church. This gives us an opportunity to promote Christian values with the Catholic Church, in particular in international organisations and in the international arena."
At the same time, the Patriarch acknowledged that "very dangerous phenomena" are taking place in contemporary Protestantism, in which Christians "let sinful elements of the world enter their interior and justify these elements that the secular society offers them."
As a result, "liberal secular philosophical slogans are repeated within the Protestant churches and grow roots in religious thought."
Patriarch Kirill cited the question of the ordination of women, which appears in the West when "the secular notion of human rights is incorporated to theology, to ecclesial practices".
"Another similar issue is the attitude toward homosexuality. The Word of God is distorted to please the liberal secular standard. It is very clearly written that it is a sin."
Zenit News Agency