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A Year After Dallas
BY Jim Cosgrove
A year after the U.S. bishops set their new national sex-abuse policy in Dallas, the bishops met in St. Louis. Commentators jumped on the opportunity to judge 12 months' worth of progress on the crisis.
Much of the commentary has been unhelpful. There seems to be an irresistible temptation for Catholics to assess the bishops harshly.
Too many Catholics react too quickly to emerging news about how bishops are handling the crisis. For instance, when California bishops balked at aspects of the review board's study questionnaire, uninformed and intemperate remarks were aired in the media and on the Internet.
When the facts were known, the California bishops' concerns were seen to be not only legitimate but also an enrichment of the review board's process.
The judgmental tone of poorly informed fault-finders in this and numerous other contexts illustrates a contemporary paradox. Commentators feel free to exercise a harshness toward the bishops that they would be the first to condemn if it were reciprocated.
If we balance the limitations of men and the severity of the problem, we can assess the bishops' progress more fairly and accurately.
Have the bishops done all things perfectly? No. As we have pointed out often before, the rights of accused priests need to be better taken into account in sex-abuse cases (many have been falsely charged). And many Catholics still say they feel like they are dealing with an impenetrable bureaucracy when dealing with their local bishop.
But have bishops ignored the problem altogether, engaging only in meaningless quick-fix solutions? No, that isn't true, either. An enormous effort is being made to solve this problem. Fairness demands the bishops receive full credit for it.
Two major things remain undone, however:
The Vatican-ordered seminary visitation.
When Pope John Paul II met with U.S. cardinals last year, he ordered an apostolic visitation of seminaries.
It's no wonder. Too many seminaries have been contributing to the very problems they are supposed to prevent.
The bishops had fair warning that this would happen, in a 1961 document that Pope John XXIII gave his authority to. Called “On the Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders,” the document spells out the dangers of allowing sexually incontinent candidates to become priests. Its teaching was echoed by the Second Vatican Council, which said in “On the Training of Priests” that the seminary's purpose is “to inculcate self-control.”
But more than a year after the cardinals' summit, seminary investigations have yet to be scheduled. It is vital that this be done soon.
A plenary council of bishops on root causes.
We said last June that there were signs that the springtime of the faith was permeating the bishops as well. Those signs became more obvious when a small group of bishops, soon joined by much greater numbers, proposed a plenary council that would address the root causes of the scandal.
What are those? John Paul spelled them out in his meeting with U.S. cardinals last year when he said American Catholics “must know that bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life.”
In St. Louis, bishops discussed three questions a plenary council would address: the need for catechesis, the role of laity and the spirituality of priests and bishops. These may not be the topics the media understand best, but they go to the heart of the crisis.
We applaud the plans to pursue seminary investigations and the plenary council. We hope that, by next year, there will be tangible progress to point to. In these initiatives, the bishops can find the lasting answers that will prevent today's bad headlines from being repeated again tomorrow.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Why Home School?
Home schooling is on the rise in the black community, and it's no wonder. Blacks in particular are often stuck in the worst-performing public schools in America. New York's mayor recently admitted that his city has schools where only 5% of students read at grade level and where only 20% meet a minimum standard in math.
But what about the more affluent families in the suburbs who have access to better public schools and are more able to attend Catholic schools?
Why is home schooling a trend among these Catholic families? There are three contributing factors.
Catholic schools are expensive, and multi-child discounts are rare.Often it's larger Catholic families who home school — and it isn't always by choice. The math is simple. The more children a family has, the more expensive schooling is. Where Catholic schools used to be able to offer multi-child discounts, dwindling donations and rising costs have made that increasingly difficult. This is especially true at independent Catholic academies. Now, large Catholic families often simply can't afford Catholic schools. The irony is not lost on them (nor, often, on the schools themselves): A Catholic school education is often out of reach for precisely those families who are most likely to be attuned to Church teaching and concerned with living their faith.
Parents fear a poisonous moral climate.Sending children off to school has always tugged at parents' natural protectiveness, and the world has always been a place of moral challenges. But the moral climate has gotten far worse for children at a far younger age than in memory. The pop-culture marketing machine pushes atrocious role models on very young children, reaching into the schools through libraries, students and “educational” Web sites. For example, one of the top Web sites for kids, Nickelodeon, features a recommended music list that includes the sex-drenched songs of Britney Spears, angry rapper boy Lil Bow Wow, Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera, who is notorious for a recent nude video. For parents, the line between being overprotective and exercising common sense has become very difficult to discern.
Academic excellence is often more possible at home. For parents who have the inclination and the natural gifts to teach, the student-teacher ratio in the largest Catholic family is better than most schools'. Parents can tailor their teaching to individual students much better, and by getting involved in specialized home schooling groups they can allow their children to pursue a particular interests much more easily than they could were the child attending a traditional school.
Parents who send their children to school have many good reasons. They point out that home-schooled children are deprived contact with the differing opinions and beliefs that they will face when they leave school behind. This can make them insular and leave their faith untested. Also, they say, if the families most committed to their faith take themselves out of the schools, how will the school environment ever improve?
Two very good points. Ultimately, many home-schooling families would send their children to school if they were able to and if the school had a strong moral environment.
Alongside the home-schooling movement are signs of renewal in Catholic schools. Parish schools are already proven to be top-notch academically and above-average in discipline. Now, many dioceses are shoring up the faith content of their schools as well, using the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a standard for religious instruction texts. In addition, many new independent Catholic schools are being built, often by concerned parents.
Ultimately, new interest in better schooling — at home or in new schools, by families of all kinds — is a sign of hope for the future of education. Like anyone else, educators have to adapt to the needs and desires of their customers. The more parents demand, the better schools will become.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Register Rosary War Effort
Terrorism. Iraq. Church scandals. A culture that could yet become a culture of life. With all of these consequential issues swirling around our Church and our nation, it is providential that Pope John Paul II declared the year from October 2002 to October 2003 as the Year of the Rosary.
John Paul began his pontificate saying the rosary was his favorite prayer. He credited Our Lady of Fatima with his rescue from death by an assassin's bullet. He asked shortly after 9/11 that we all pray the rosary every day for peace, and he has repeated the request many times since.
Now, in declaring the Year of the Rosary, he has asked that Catholics promote the rosary urgently, far and wide.
Register readers have done just that. Our special Year of the Rosary issue was an enormous success. Our supply of the original issue sold out within four days of publication. We printed 12,000 additional copies of a special reprint version and these quickly sold out, so we printed 10,000 more copies. Requests continue to pour into our office.
Readers told us that the meditations we provided inspired them to begin (or return) to the rosary. We've heard from people who say our rosary issue helped them fall in love with Christ all over again. A group in Mexico had the meditations translated into Spanish and printed as an insert in a national, secular newspaper. Seminaries and convents have asked for the meditations so they can help form new priests and religious with them. Protestants wrote to say it helped them discover the richness of the Church. One reader asked us, “Do you have any idea of the eternal benefits this special issue will cause?”
We've begun developing a Register rosary booklet that will be compact enough to carry in your pocket or purse and filled with the same colorful artwork that you saw in the paper. Each mystery will be presented the same way it was in the Register.
Think of it as a two-pronged war effort: one at home, the other abroad. We first want to promote daily rosaries for peace: John Paul's petition for “an end to terrorism and war.” And, if war begins, we want to pray for a minimal loss of life and an outcome that brings peace to the Middle East. But, second, we also hope to bring the rosary right to the front lines in the Persian Gulf.
It is a tragedy that, because of a lack of military chaplains, many of our Catholic service people will go into harm's way without benefit of the sacraments. The rosary is hardly a substitute, but it can help inspire and form military Catholics spiritually with its meditations and Scripture readings. It will sustain them in their faith and comfort them in a time of extreme stress.
We want to see a specially sized, durable booklet version of the Register rosary in the hands of every deploying and deployed Catholic service member of our armed forces. For many Catholic soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, this booklet may be their only exposure to Scripture and Catholic spirituality.
In order to provide copies to the military, we need the generous support of our readers.
The rosary is a very powerful prayer. If we can inspire more Catholics to turn to it, we can have a deep effect in their lives.
Just as importantly, as John Paul pointed out, Our Lady has called urgently for rosaries. When she appeared to the shepherd children in Fatima, she said that it's necessary to say many rosaries to change hearts in our time and avert international catastrophes. The Register rosary booklet is a response to her call and the Pope's.
To join in the Register war effort contact: Mike Lambert, Director of Development, National Catholic Register, 432 Washington Ave., North Haven, CT 06473; email@example.com; (800) 356-9916.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Dear Pro-Choice Friends,
It has been a perplexing three decades for those of us who are pro-life. We have been keenly aware of you, our acquaintances and close family members who don't share our pro-life convictions. It is baffling to us—you are decent, hard-working people, people who do much for our communities and much for us.
But you do it all while believing in, and voting for, a system that, we have learned, hurts women and kills children.
The next 30 years, we expect, will see a return to normalcy on the question of abortion. The last 30 years—since the Jan. 22, 1973, Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade—were abnormal.
The wrongness of abortion seems so obvious to us, we expect it to be just as obvious to you, our loved ones. Likewise, the objections that seem so obvious to you aren't obvious to us.
Abortion is good for women, you say. But is it? As one pro-abortion feminist put it, women “choose” abortion like an animal caught in a trap “chooses” to chew off its leg. Statistics show that women are backed into abortion by circumstance, unsupportive mates and negative family reactions. Abortion seems to us to be custom-made for men, who, let's admit it, are usually the ones who don't want children.
We oppose abortion only because we're religious, you say. We know that the opposite is true for many of us who returned to the faith. By seeing that abortion is wrong, we realized that there is right and wrong. We first learned to believe in the unborn child, and to hope for his future, and to love him. Only then could we believe, hope in and love an unseen God.
To support “a woman's right to choose” is the sophisticated position, you think. But we are startled by the extent to which it relies on ignorance.
—The very name you use—pro-choice—is tailor-made to avoid the issue. You don't support a woman's right to choose drugs, to choose to abuse her children or even to pay or not pay her taxes. Only to choose abortion. Well, if it's really okay to choose abortion, then why do you get so mad when we call you “pro-abortion”?
—Abortion is the most common surgical procedure performed on young women, but the television news has never explained its mechanics, explored its complications or exposed the many cases of the abortion industry's malpractice, let alone televised an abortion (as it has every other common surgery). Why?
—Most Americans don't know that abortion is allowed, and is common, through all nine months of pregnancy; in fact, you probably don't believe it even when you see it written here. The major sources of public information omit this basic fact. Why?
The next 30 years will be different. An argument that can only win if it isn't spoken can't last for very long.
And the pro-life answer will be heard. Countless women have had abortions. Mostly, psychologists tell us, they repress the memory. They don't talk about it. They don't think about it. When they do, it is with anger and pain. Abortion will fall in the next 30 years because more and more of these women will speak out against it. They've already started.
At any rate, even if you are for abortion, you are still our loved ones. In the past, perhaps we've offended you. We're sorry. Please know that our difference of opinion on this matter isn't personal. We want you to see what we see because we care about you.
Watch the 30th anniversary commemorations of Roe v. Wade, and you'll see that abortion's days are numbered. Abortion activists will make a show of celebrating Roe v. Wade, but America won't.
We all celebrate the Fourth of July in enormous crowds because we all know it gave us freedom. But we know in our hearts that Roe v. Wade didn't. The only enormous crowds this Jan. 22 will be crowds of protesters.
We hope you'll consider joining us.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Rome and Dallas Move Closer
The announcement in Rome that the Vatican would not approve the U.S. bishops' Dallas sex-abuse norms met with a calm and untroubled reception in the United States. Gone was the piling-on of Church critics eager to paint the Church as a harbor for perpetrators.
For that, both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops deserve credit. Both have learned important lessons since the onset of “The Crisis” last spring.
The Vatican learned that public opinion is not an inconsequential player in the handling of the sex-abuse scandal.
It was easy to dismiss the ramped-up accusations of the media before June. News stories sensationalized events, and by April, news stories had taken the less than half of 1% of priests who were accused of abuse (few even in that number were accused of abusing young children) and used them to denounce a culture of tolerance of “priest pedophiles” in the Catholic Church.
When the charges are that absurdly exaggerated, why change Church policy over them?
U.S. bishops who felt the sting of loss of credibility, loss of trust by the laity and crippling losses of missed donations were able to tell the Vatican why.
Meanwhile, U.S. bishops had to learn the opposite lesson. In Dallas, it seems that they were all too prepared to take the media's sense of the scandal at face value. In their zeal to show that there is no place in the priesthood for those who have abused children, rights of accused priests were overlooked.
Father John Beal, an associate professor in the department of canon law at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., spelled out in a recent article in America magazine how the Dallas policy violated the principles of canon law. Some examples from his article:
Shifting the Burden of Proof. The classic standard of “innocent until proven guilty” is reversed by the norms, says Father Beal. The process for priests goes like this: An accusation is received, the bishop removes the priest from clerical duty and then may or may not begin an investigation into the charges. “t is incumbent on the accused priest to prove, usually with little cooperation from the diocese, that the alleged offense did not occur,” writes Father Beal. The classic standard of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is thrown out the window by the new policy, too.
Statutes of Limitations. The Dallas charter and its Essential Norms also do away with any statute of limitations for the punishment of sexual abusers of minors. A fed-up public might not care: The sexual abuse of minors is such a horrible crime, why shouldn't a perpetrator pay, no matter how long after the fact his crime is discovered? But it makes priests very vulnerable to false accusations. It is easy to make false changes a long time after the fact and difficult for a priest to prove his innocence. In abuse claims stretching back decades, suggests Father Beal, “potential witnesses disappear, memories dim, relevant documents are lost or inadvertently destroyed, alleged crime scenes are razed or renovated.” It's already tough under the norms for a priest to clear his name. In older cases it would be nearly impossible.
Conflicting Responsibilities of Review Boards. The article next points to the difficult circumstances the structure of the review boards invites. “On the one hand, review boards are responsible for ensuring that the Church provides a safe environment for children,” writes Father Beal, and thus, “must err on the side of the safety of children.” On the other hand, review boards are supposed to assess the evidence supporting priests and would presumably need to err on the side of the priest. The two can't serve both masters and, as it turns out, don't. They tend to side against priests.
Combining the American emphasis on reassuring the public that bishops are doing the right thing with the Vatican's emphasis on protecting the canon law rights of priests, the work of the new mixed commission will be a genuine exercise of ecclesial communion. We can expect it will produce good fruit.
BY Jim Cosgrove
What's Wrong With the
It would be hard to overstate the importance of the debate that continues in American Catholic academia about the mandatum. It captures the top Catholic stories of the last decade in a single issue: The culture of dissent in many parts of the Church, the rejection of the Church's sexual teachings, and the consequences of that rejection that are seen so starkly in the sex-abuse cover-up crisis.
Starting in 1983, canon law required that a theologian teaching in a Catholic university receive a mandatum from the local bishop. When it became clear that Canon 812 was being overlooked by many dioceses, Pope John Paul II in 1990 brought it to the front of the debate again with the apostolic constitution for Catholic colleges and institutions, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church). He called it a “magna carta” for Catholic universities.
It took U.S. bishops 11 more years to implement that “magna carta.” Questions persist, however, about just whether the current U.S. version of the mandatum can be effective.
Canon 812 reads: “It is necessary that those who teach theological disciplines in any institute of higher studies have a mandatum from the competent ecclesiastical authority.”
Neither canon law nor Ex Corde Ecclesiae provides a definition of what such a mandatum is, exactly. So the U.S. bishops defined it in their June 2001 guidelines — in a way that all but strips the mandatum of significant normative content.
Even the bishops’ explanation of the mandatum seems to contradict the basic vocation of the Catholic theologian.
According to the Church's understanding, as elaborated in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1990 instruction “The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian,” one who has become a Catholic theologian has “freely and knowingly accepted to teach in the name of the Church” (No. 38). This is why a mandatum from the appropriate bishop is required in the first place.
But according to the U.S. bishops’ understanding of the mandatum, as explained in their June 2001 guidelines, “Theologians who have received a mandatum are not catechists; they teach in their own name in virtue of their baptism and their academic and professional competence, not in the name of the bishop or of the Church's magisterium.” (Italics added.)
This notion that a theologian teaches in his own name reverses the Catholic understanding. That a theologian teaches in virtue of his baptism is used, strangely, to justify keeping the mandatum secret. Baptism is a public, ecclesial event, and there is no reason a theologian's vocation shouldn't also be public and ecclesial. Nevertheless, college presidents are claiming that there is an “agreement” with the bishops that the granting or withholding of the mandatum may remain secret.
The fact is that the norm of the mandatum as it stands is hollow: It is a norm with no visible or measurable normative effect on the renewal of the Catholic character of our colleges and universities.
As such, it is a monument to ingenuity, not authenticity. It is a canonical breakthrough, an entirely new entity in canon law: a norm devoid of normative consequences.
And it comes at a time when the grave danger of dissent from Catholic moral teaching is on display.
“The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the Church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality,” said the Pope in April, addressing U.S. cardinals on the sex abuse cover-up crisis.
“People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. They must know that bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality,” he added.
The Church no longer has the luxury to pretend that aberrant teachings are simply an exercise in esoterica.
Rather, we should be insisting that the living magisterium of the Church be brought to bear on our culture's pressing problems.
Think of what could happen if Catholic universities reconnected themselves with the living tradition of the Church. The bioethics errors that have led to a culture of death could be given a massive response from our universities, and more scientists could be brought to recognize the dignity of every person. The crisis of marriage and family could be overwhelmed by many universities thoughtfully developing and applying the Church's liberating teachings on sexuality. Social and political questions could be enlightened by the wisdom of the Church's social teaching.
If the mandatum were truly a mandatum, it could help the Church reach these noble goals. As it is, don't look to a norm that is not always required, may be kept secret, and has no penalties if ignored.
What Have We Changed?
BY Jim Cosgrove
Thank you for Father Andrew McNair's column “Voice of the Unfaithful? New Group's True Colors” (Aug 18–24).
The reason I'm writing is very simple. Father McNair exposes a group that will do harm to the Church, but he fails to address the underlying reason for the existence of these groups. The fact still remains that, until Church officials stop allowing sexual abuse by priests and others, groups like this will easily find a following.
I suggest you stay a little more focused and in line with the reason for the reaction of the “laymen.” Groups like Voice of the Faithful will come and go, but will always be there when the Church does not solve its own problems. The current problem with homosexual priests is not a tough problem to solve — it simply requires a “tough Church.”
I was perplexed that Archbishop John Foley never mentioned the wonderful coverage of EWTN, the global Catholic TV network (“The Church & the News,” Aug. 25–31).
We saw EWTN's coverage of Pope John Paul II's trip to Poland while we were in Albany, N.Y., visiting my daughter. It was beautiful! In addition, we viewed many of their other excellent programs, featuring people like Father Benedict Groeschel, Msgr. Eugene Clark and Father George Rutler — all wonderful!
Here in Manhattan we are hoping to have EWTN added to our cable network soon. It is seen in most all the country and the world. It is made available free to cable systems like Time Warner and RCN. There are no commercials. They depend on donations. Their Web site is http://www.ewtn.com.
New York City
Meetings Don't Mend
I read recently that, when Pope John Paul II called the bishops together when the priest scandals first broke, he said dissent from the Church's teachings on sexuality was the root of the problem. We are still not hearing clear teachings on sexuality and, as far as I can tell, that issue was not addressed at the U.S. bishops' meeting.
In your editorial “Blaming the Pope” (Sept. 1–7), I still do not hear that addressed. It seems to me that more meetings will not solve the problem of lack of constant, clear teaching on the Church's stand on sexuality.
The Holy Father's style of leadership is superior to many of his predecessors and has been more than successful in the most important areas (“Blaming the Pope,” Sept. 1–7).
What disappoints many is the almost unbelievable patience with which he has tolerated those with positions of responsibility — bishops — who clearly have not defended the faith and actually seek to undermine Catholic teaching.
MARK E. MEDVETZ
Henniker, New Hampshire
Thank you for the article about Jennifer Granholm's pro-abortion position and her pastor's irresponsible defense of her position (“Abortion Politics: Tale of Two Parishes,” Sept. 1–7). In Michigan we have been blessed to have John Engler, a very pro-life governor, for the past 12 years. His current lieutenant governor, Dick Posthumus, is running against Granholm. Posthumus is solidly pro-life and voters have a clear and distinct choice this November.
Priests in Michigan should not miss this opportunity and should follow the excellent example of Colorado's Father Hilton by informing their parishioners of the voting records of pro-life and pro-abortion candidates and reinforcing the official position of the Church. Charles Rice said in your article: “There is no legal restriction to parishes informing people about voting records and telling them they should vote pro-life.” Sadly, so many Catholics are ignorant about these issues.
The Education Project
I was gratified by your “Making the Case for a Classical Education” (Sept. 1–7) because it highlights the need for the study of classical languages in any truly humane education. But I was mortified by the following offhand statement by Mr. Simmons: “Incidentally, make sure that the parents aren't running the school, because that's a recipe for an oozing demise of anything like real education.”
This statement betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the project of education and of what a school really ought to be. This misunderstanding, so common in our contemporary culture, is responsible for much that is wrong in education today. We Americans seem to have the attitude that we ought to stand back and let the “experts” educate our children (usually that means those “experts” hired by the state). But God has entrusted the primary responsibility for the education of a child with his parents. They should not abdicate that responsibility, even to such finely educated men as Mr. Simmons.
A school is really a moral institution of families who have come together to educate their children. They do this because they judge that they can do a better job educating their children in common than they could individually. But the creation of this institution never absolves parents from their responsibility as the primary educators of their children. So of course parents should oversee the school, no matter how fine the experts are whom they've hired to help them educate their children.
With that said, I hope Mr. Simmons' book does lead to a revival of the study of Latin and Greek in our schools. Classical languages are the foundation of a classical education, because they teach an elegance and precision of grammar that cannot be learned from modern languages. Grammar is the way that we understand and express the nature of reality, and so without it we can learn nothing else. That is why grammar is the first of the seven liberal arts: grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy.
We need scholars like Mr. Simmons to help us educate our children. We just need to remember that we parents are in charge.
San Antonio, Texas
The writer is principal of Our Lady of the Atonement Academy.
‘I Believe in Miracles’ — But ...
Ted Hickel's letter to the editor is false and offensive for insinuating that I disbelieve in miracles (“Miesel and the Miracle,” Letters, Aug. 11–17). What I'm skeptical about are the allegedly miraculous images in the Guadalupana's eyes. I've read both the description of the phenomenon in The Handbook of Guadalupe and seen the pictures themselves in The Image of Guadalupe. What the unenhanced photo shows — before considerable computer amplification — are random white blobs of fiber arbitrarily outlined to form heads and bodies.
How arbitrary? One half of a double blob is taken as a knee, but the rest of the leg is made out of nothing at all. And so on. I remain underwhelmed.
Why must we drown this lovely image of Mary in pious tosh about “God's miraculous Polaroid”?
How do the faces of Juan Diego and the bishop wind up facing the same direction in the Virgin's eyes when they were facing each other when the cloak was opened (as the “primitive account” describes)?
And if the reflections are taken from those in the eyes of an invisible apparition, as Mr. Hickel claims, how do those invisible eyes reflect light?
If they're the reflection in the eyes of the actual image, how much could the small Virgin held by a short man “see” with bent head and lowered eyelids? A whole crowd of people? Really? And where's the vanishing point of her field of view? (Try this yourself and see what I mean.)
I believe in many miracles, but I don't believe that we're dealing with a miracle here.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Don't Bomb Iraq
War is never a good thing. But sometimes it is necessary. Those who make the argument that war must always be avoided have to ignore the many circumstances in which — as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it — war is “the right and duty” of the state.
That said, Christians uniquely understand just how horrible war is — and it is our duty to remind the world that the dignity of man, made in God's image and redeemed by the Incarnation, can never be taken lightly. War's destruction is sick and revolting, intolerable to those who love God and know the worth of the men and women he created in his image.
Yes, war is sometimes necessary, but, as the Catechism also says, “all citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war” (for the whole section on war, read Nos. 2307-2317).
A year ago this Sept. 11, an attack was launched against the United States and an enemy forced us to respond to a very real, very present, threat.
It was possible then to look at the preconditions for a just war and see how U.S. action fit them. They are, according to the Catechism:
E ” The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain.” After the leveling of the Twin Towers and the directive to kill Americans, this was the case.
E “All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.” The Taliban were not going to relinquish the killers.
E “There must be serious prospects of success.”
E “The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.”
These last two can now be evaluated by looking at Afghanistan itself — reformed, recovering and rebuilding.
But what about Iraq?
Is the “damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations … lasting, grave and certain”? If it is, Vice President Dick Cheney, in his recent speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, didn't say so. That speech, considered one of the most thorough treatments of the case for invasion yet, is vague on the main question: Is Iraq a threat to our national security?
“We now know,” said Cheney, “that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.” He cites recent defectors and says “many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.” Cheney said Iraq is “enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents.”
Iraq has “resumed efforts to acquire” nuclear weapons. “Many of” the administration's members are “convinced” that he will some day. He is also “enhancing capabilities” in chemical and biological weapons. Are the threats scary? You bet. Do they constitute “lasting, grave, certain damage?” They do not. Why aren't we considering attacking nations where the weapons threat is more certain? North Korea? China?
In light of that, the rest of Cheney's case fails to convince us that a violent invasion of Iraq is the unavoidable response of the United States at this juncture.
To make matters worse, the United States hasn't been very just to Iraq in the years since the Gulf War. The sanctions that have been in place against the country — sanctions that the Vatican has repeatedly condemned — have greatly worsened the suffering of the Iraqi people while not easing Saddam's hold on the country at all.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said as much shortly after President Bush's inauguration. “The message I've consistently heard is that overdoing it with the sanctions gives [Saddam] a tool that he is using against us, and really is not weakening him,” said Powell.
In justice, we ought to end sanctions against Iraq on a quicker timetable. In prudence, we should continue to aggressively police the country's war preparations. But we should not invade Iraq.
Let's take to heart the words of the Catechism: “Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
wrap skirts and loose, sleeveless blouses.
Anybody can connect the evenly spaced, uniformly sized stars on Mary's cloak any old way and call them “constellations,” but so what?
Finally, there was no Aztec winter solstice festival nor did their year end then. Atemoztli, the 16th of their 18 seasonal festivals (held Dec. 11–30) celebrated the descent of water, honoring a water deity and sacred mountains.
BY Jim Cosgrove
The Summit's Lessons
For the sensation-hungry secular American media, the cardinals' summit in Rome on sexual abuse by U.S. priests must have been a major disappointment. No heads of American cardinals were served up on a platter to the waiting horde of reporters, and there was no instant “quick fix” on display at meetings' end. But for those looking for hope and direction from the Church, the gathering was anything but disappointing.
Pope John Paul II, whose own love and concern for youth is legendary, made it unmistakably clear that there is no place in the clergy for those who would misuse their priestly vocation to exploit young people sexually. Gone forever are the days when abusers could rely on a muddled understanding of sexual psychology to duck responsibility for their crimes.
A second unequivocal message was delivered, too. Rome has no intention of allowing Church dissenters to use the abuse scandal to launch an assault on priestly celibacy. Let no one claim that this is an example of the Church clinging to dead dogmas in the face of contemporary reality. As was repeatedly noted at the summit, there is no connection between a celibate priesthood and an increased risk of abuse. Indeed, all available data suggest that Catholic priests are considerably less likely than the general public to offend in this way.
As well, the rate of abuse among priests, at less than 2%, is only half that among married people — indicating that allowing more married men to become priests would yield no benefit in reducing such crimes.
Even less can the abuse scandal be used as an excuse to launch a new attack on the Church's immutable teaching that the gift of sexuality is expressed properly only within heterosexual marriage. If there is one thing that is crystal clear in this ugly mess, it is that reckless sexual behavior outside of marriage causes incalculable harm.
A key aspect of the Rome meeting was the growing consensus among Church leaders that the problem is primarily an issue of homosexual behavior, not of pedophilia. While the two highest-profile incidents in Boston involved predatory pedophiles who victimized scores of young boys, the vast majority of reported cases involve misconduct between homosexual priests and teenagers. This points toward action in two directions.
One, it is time to clean house vigorously in any seminaries that continue to admit homosexually inclined candidates and turn a blind eye to homosexual conduct among seminarians. U.S. seminaries must have zero tolerance toward disordered sexuality. The official Vatican communiqué issued at the end of the abuse summit instructed that bishops must visit seminaries to assure their fidelity to the Church's moral teachings and to study the “criteria of suitability of candidates to the priesthood.”
Two, the bishops must address the larger climate of dissent, within which prominent American Catholics have freely attacked Church teachings about homosexuality, abortion, contraception and other sexual issues. In this regard, the Vatican communiqué said that “the Pastors [that is, bishops] of the Church need … publicly to reprimand individuals who spread dissent and groups which advance ambiguous approaches to pastoral care.”
It will take time for the U.S. bishops to fully address these issues, but the housecleaning can begin right away.
Work also remains to be done to formulate national policies on implementing the new “zero tolerance” policy toward priests who commit sexual abuse.
Catholics can have faith that our bishops, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, will rise to the challenge. Lay Catholics can play a key role in the process by reaching out in charity to abuse victims, and by striving to unite themselves with the Church through prayer, penance and personal holiness.
Although this is a time of profound trial for the Church in the United States, let us also remember that we continue to celebrate the Easter season. We rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus and his triumph over sin — all sin, even that committed by his own priests.
And we can be confident that, in his own time, Jesus will lead us to the right solution to the scandal of sexual abuse — just as he has led his Church through countless other trials over the last two thousand years.
Of course, this attitude of patient trust isn't well suited to the needs of the news media, which require an unceasing stream of controversial soundbites for tonight's TV broadcasts and tomorrow's newspaper headlines.
But the Church has a different deadline — eternity. And, no matter what the circumstances, the Church proclaims the same Good News of salvation, purchased for every human soul through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Aborting George Bailey
BY Jim Cosgrove
Legal abortion turned 29 Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. In that time, were more than 38 million legal abortions in the United States— more than a million a year since 1978, nearly a million a year before that.
The age and productivity of the American abortion industry mean that there are literally millions of adults missing from today's society. We've seen the results in the worker shortages, particularly on the East Coast. But there are other, unseen consequences of so many men and women “missing in action”.
In the movie It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey gets a chance to see what the world would have been like had he never been born. It's not a pretty sight.
In place of his Bailey Park, a community built on Bailey Brothers Building and Loan's principles, which combine altruism and business sense, the town has become Pottersville, a cold, consumerist place that has unleashed its inhabitants' worst tendencies by allowing pure profit to decide all the important things.
We could very well look at America today and see Pottersville writ large— a place where 25% of cable-TV revenue comes from pornography, a place closer to Ayn Rand's theories than to Christ's heart.
One can't help but wonder if perhaps modern America was sent a George Bailey of its own— and we aborted him.
Or maybe the thousands who marched on Washington Jan. 22 are our George Baileys.
Despite the gloom of three decades of abortion, there are signs of hope in Pottersville. The hope comes not primarily from politicians (for instance, while Bush's words on abortion are wonderful, we'd like to see more actions) but from the American people.
The mothers. Today, abortion's “other” victims, the mothers, are rising up as never before. We can expect that the trickle of protests from mothers today will become a raging river in a short time. Mothers who have had abortions know the truth in their hearts— and, increasingly, they are willing to share it. They know that they killed their children. And they know that abortion supporters weren't interested in giving them “choices;” they were interested in giving them abortions.
The kind of devastation of spirit that Project Rachel and other post-abortion syndrome experts are dealing with now touches scores of women and their families. This is a ticking time bomb of protests, lawsuits and public outcry against the abortion industry and those who harbor it.
The new evangelization. The prayers of so many in the Jubilee year, and the efforts that have begun to rechristianize society, won't go unrewarded. The bottom-line truth is that Christ is the Lord of history. He gives human beings freedom— a freedom powerful enough to leave the world in ruins. But he also responds powerfully when men use that freedom to promote virtues of justice and truth.
And God answers prayers.
This year, as in previous March for Life crowds, Our Lady of Guadalupe was featured prominently. Pro-lifers are wise to put the situation in her care each year. She transformed America once before, said Pope John Paul II, and she can do it again.
A new openness. After Sept. 11, there was a great resurgence of religious faith and of interest in patriotism and time-honored virtues. Some have pointed out that the initial signs of a spiritual reawakening have faded. But it is really too soon to tell.
Perhaps there was a superficial return to churches early on after the attack. But there will likely be a more authentic reordering of priorities as the threats that exist in the world continue to dawn on us and convince us to look inward for what really matters. That deeper process will take more time.
In the end, we know that God delights in bringing great good out of great evil. If we cooperate with him, and persist in our prayers for peace in the world and peace in the womb, we will be surprised at the size of the good he will bring from the evil of abortion.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Solomon and the Babies
Some will remember wringing their hands over divisions among pro-lifers 20 years ago. Well, today a new generation is wringing its hands over the same divisions.
You'll find them spelled out in two opinion columns on Page 9.
Why spotlight the too-often rancorous dispute within the pro-life ranks? Two reasons.
First, this isn't a petty division over an inconsequential matter. It's over the basic question that the pro-life movement exists to answer: how best to end abortion in the Untied States.
Second, we think we have an answer.
One side says the best way to end abortion is to find the legal victories, short of a full ban, that can limit abortion right away. Eat away at abortion laws bit by bit, until they're gone. It's the “camel's nose under the tent” theory. Let the camel edge his nose into the tent, and he'll soon be standing in the middle of it. As this strategy has it, any little law that saves lives is a law worth enacting — as long as it doesn't preclude even better laws in the future.
The other side counters that in an area of grave moral confusion like abortion, such a strategy will only make a bad situation worse. If, say, 5-year-old children were being shot, we would be horrified by a legislative strategy that spent its energy saying: You can only shoot your 5-year-old if you have the permission of the grandmother (as with parental notification laws). So why do we accept a “camel's nose” strategy against abortion? Unless we treat abortion as killing that must be stopped, period, we send the signal that it isn't so bad, after all.
The question is complicated, the stakes are high and the emotions on both sides are intense. One longs for a Solomon to step in and give the answer that resolves the situation.
Providentially, one has.
In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Pope John Paul II acknowledges the problem of passing smaller laws while living under the regime of a big, permissive pro-abortion law:
“A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent.”
His way of resolving it is this:
“[W]hen it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects” (No. 73).
This statement doesn't let either side off the hook.
The Holy Father says that, with politicians, we can pursue a strategy of passing laws limiting abortion while allowing it to remain legal. But he also says that we can't fully endorse politicians who aren't publicly known to be 100% opposed to abortion.
This challenges some of us to admit the justice of an incremental strategy. It challenges others of us to examine our own pro-life consciences — and to carefully consider how we evaluate candidates.
That said, we can admire both of the organizations on the page opposite this.
A hundred years from now, abortion will be mostly a guilty memory in the human consciousness — a right-to-kill legal standard like ours can't last. When history books are written, organizations like these will be regarded as the heroes of our time.
The trick is to hasten that day's arrival.
The Pope's 'Secret' Agenda
BY Jim Cosgrove
The Church is changing the world. That's the secret Pope John Paul II knows that allows him to do such great things.
The Church is changing the world. Not the other way around.
The secular media has been speculating wildly about what secret agenda is on the table in the May 21-24 consistory. The fact is that the basic text of what the cardinals are discussing has been on the Vatican Web site for months: It's the January apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Beginning of the Third Millennium).
The tone is set in the introduction where the Holy Father declares that “the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative.” The Church is still at the center of human history, he says.
The document seems eager to correct a misunderstanding about the Jubilee. It was not an event that happened for one year in Rome; it was a renewal of the Church that is meant to have consequences in every diocese around the world.
The same paragraph continues by locating the place the Church will change the world: each of our neighborhoods: “It is above all in the actual situation of each local church that the mystery of the one People of God takes the particular form that fits it to each individual context and culture” (No. 3).
The document is written with authority and confidence. To the Holy Father, Christ is not someone from the past; he is God-with-us, the Lord of the universe, waiting only for man's cooperation to finish his work.
The Pope is not worrying about saving the Church. He's anxious to see the Church save mankind.
And he wants to see the task begun, right away, with concrete projects: “the experiences we have had should inspire in us new energy, and impel us to invest in concrete initiatives the enthusiasm which we have felt” (No. 15).
The Holy Father warns against expecting it to be easy, saying, “We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula” (No. 29).
Nonetheless, he adds, “It is not … a matter of inventing a ‘new program.’ The program already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever.”
And how will such an effort succeed? “Ultimately,” writes the Pope, “it has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem” (No. 29).
All that's left is that Christ's program “must be translated into pastoral initiatives adapted to the circumstances of each community.”
Then, the document directly addreses the bishops: “I therefore earnestly exhort the Pastors of the particular Churches, with the help of all sectors of God's People, confidently to plan the stages of the journey ahead, harmonizing the choices of each diocesan community with those of neighboring Churches and of the universal Church” (No. 29).
He even lists what he thinks are the priorities for the Church in the years ahead: the universal call to holiness, education in prayer, the Sunday Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
So, the Holy Father doesn't have a secret agenda to talk to the cardinals about. He's made his plans perfectly clear.
He wants Catholics to change the world.
BY Jim Cosgrove
IT WAS MERELY curious at first that Germans got so upset about Scientology and took the movement, which counts the likes of Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its adherents, to court. But, as Richard Cohen noted in The Washington Post, concern about a cult-like organization that puts a premium on raising funds from its members has gone to an extreme. Two of the country's states have now put in force provisions that bar Scientologists from entering the civil service. Scientologists took out a distasteful full-page ad in The New York Times, that, predictably, drew a parallel between the virtual outlawing of their “church” and the Nazis'treatment of the Jews. Despite the obvious hyperbole and hysteria of the message, the German people's dark past grants the allegations a veneer of credibility. Is there something “inherently spooky” about the Germans, as Cohen puts it?
Daniel Goldhagen suggested as much in his study of the role of ordinary Germans in the persecution of the Jews. While historians disagree about the ultimate merits of Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners, the author did clearly demonstrate that the killing of Jews was not perpetrated only by an upper echelon of Nazi officials, but enjoyed the active support and participation of average German men and women who apparently joined in the slaughter with relish. Goldhagen argues that a unique strain of “exterminationist anti-Semitism” is deeply embedded in the German soul and culture, and that the Holocaust, in a sense, was bound to happen there.
However, even as there are troubling signs of the reemergence of the spirit that once gave birth to Nazi terror—Holocaust revisionism; violence against immigrants, trends which, it should be noted, aren't limited to Germany—it would seem wrong to assume that there is something inherently evil in being German. Christians, of course, recognize the potential for evil in all of us. Historical circumstances, including Christian anti-Semitism, and a host of intangibles conspired to allow Hitler's emergence, but men and women in any time and place have free will. Barring extreme cases, indulgence in murderous rage or slipping into complicity of whatever nature is preceded by a moment of choice.
Pope John Paul II held up two Germans last summer who turned the other way, when he beatified two Catholic priests, Bernhard Lichtenberg and Karl Reisner, during a ceremony in Berlin's Olympic Stadium. Upon his arrest in 1941, Lichtenberg, who frequently angered Nazi officials with outspoken criticism of their anti-Jewish policies, was described by an official as “a fanatic who admits to having prayed for Jews publicly.” Lichtenberg died on his way to the Dachau concentration camp, where Father Leisner was ordained and said his one and only Mass. He too had dared to criticize Hitler publicly.
Such heroic testimony—and there are of course others who were willing to risk all in the service of truth—is a saving grace for the German people, past and present; it revitalizes the nation and puts the lie to the notion that there is something inherently evil in the German soul.
It is clear, in addition, that a process of collective acknowledgment of misdeeds and subsequent repentance have been vital for the psychological and political regeneration of the German nation, a pre-condition, one could argue, for being welcomed again in the family of nations. This should be instructive for a country desperate for international respect and acceptance, but as yet unwilling to come to terms with its own dark history—Turkey.
Turks recently marked the 58th anniversary of the death of Attaturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Not untypically, a tribute to the modernizer by scholar Bernard Lewis in The Wall Street Journal—praising the leader's advances with regard to the emancipation of women and the country's gradual move toward democratic rule—failed to mention the Armenian holocaust just before and during World War I in which at least as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished. The West, eager to pull Turkey into its economic and military sphere, turns a blind eye to that stain on its history. Even Israel, anxious not to offend now that its planes are allowed to use Turkish airspace, is publicly silent about the destruction of a people united to Jews in the spirit of suffering.
Turkey only stands to benefit by a soul-cleansing look at its past. Undoubtedly, untold heroes will come to the fore, leaders of the Armenian Orthodox community as well as Muslim clerics who dared to defy official policy. Recognition of their sacrifices and acknowledgment of the wrongs they laid their lives down to correct will make fruitful the modern Turkish experiment and put the lie to another myth of another people destined for evil.