Print Edition: March 8, 2015
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BY Jim Cosgrove
Here is the text of an address given Jan. 31 by Archbishop Renato Martino, permanent observer of the Vatican at the United Nations, to a UN committee that is organizing the World Summit on Children for September.
Eleven years have passed since leaders of the world gathered for the World Summit for Children. Once again, the Holy See joins other states in reviewing the progress that has been made regarding the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children.
The Holy See welcomes the draft document. My delegation hopes that the success of the Millennium Summit, held just this past September, will help to provide a spirit of good will as the United Nations focuses special attention on the needs of children, especially those situations that might keep them from enjoying their human dignity and rights. The Holy See also looks forward to the opportunity to participate in the substantive discussions that will lead to the adoption of the outcome document.
At this time, the Holy See notes three specific elements taken from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children which must have their proper place in the final document to be adopted:
First, the promotion and protection of the right to life as well as the human dignity and rights of the child, before as well as after birth.
Second, the fact that the family is the basic unit of society, and has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children from infancy to adolescence and, thus, should be afforded necessary protection and assistance so that it can duly assume its responsibility within the community. Accordingly, it is critical that children's rights must at all times be seen in the light of parents’ prior right to provide in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Third, the outcome document must include strong statements concerning sustainable development, debt relief and the eradication of poverty. These issues, which touch upon every aspect of the lives of more than a billion of the worlds children, especially basic health care, nutrition, and housing; peace, security and stability; opportunities for education; and the promise for a brighter future, must be discussed.
Madame Chairperson, there have been many successes during the past eleven years, but there are also many shortfalls and goals that have not been met.
The last line of the Provisional Outcome Document reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to serving the best interests of humanity through serving the best interests of the world's children.
Pope John Paul II voiced that same commitment in his Message for the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2001) when he stated: “Dear young people of every language and culture, a high and exhilarating task awaits you: that of becoming men and women capable of solidarity, peace and love of life, with respect for everyone. Become craftsmen of a new humanity, where brothers and sisters — members all of the same family — are able at last to live in peace.”
When it comes to children, the Family of Nations can no longer afford to say that we tried or we wanted to. The outcome of this special session must include our commitment to forever be a world of hope, a world of resolute action and a world of achieved goals.
Thank you, Madame Chairperson.
EXCERPT: Children in Need
BY Jim Cosgrove
The custom of trying to guess what a president's legacy will be is a good one: It forces us to think about how history will judge our times. But what will Clinton really be remembered for? Conventional wisdom says it will be summed up in one word: “Monica.” But this misses the point.
Monica will appear in history books, but decent people probably won'twant to dwell on her in the future, just as many wanted to ignore her in the past.
A counter-intuitive strain of thought says he'll be remembered as a conservative president who balanced the budget, reformed welfare and established NAFTA. Not likely. This is the Gingrich legacy after all (excepting NAFTA, which belongs to Reagan and Bush) — and what past budgets and spending slowdowns do we remember previous administrations for?
Unfortunately, these stabs at Clinton's legacy have missed what will surely emerge as the lasting effect of the last eight years.
What Clinton will be remembered for is violence.
For one thing, the most ubiquitous domestic news stories of the Clinton years — the Oklahoma City bombing, the O.J. Simpson trial and the Columbine massacre — were all about violence, though these had nothing to do with Clinton.
Other violence in the Clinton years will not, perhaps, be held against him: In Somalia, U.S. soldiers’ bodies being dragged through the streets. In Kosovo, U.S. troops ousting one violent regime … only to see another take its place. In China, a new level of U.S. friendship followed by a new level of anti-religious violence. In Northern Ireland, a celebration of Clinton, and then back to the killing. In the Middle East, a protracted (and noble) effort at peace, followed by new death, pain and hatred.
No, the violence that will become part of the Clinton legacy is violence against children. And that's not counting the strange mixture of big guns and little kids early in the administration at Waco and at its end in Elian's closet hideaway.
The Clinton legacy that will rank right up there with slavery and war is infanticide.
In 1993 came President Clinton's executive order legalizing fetal tissue research. One of his first actions as president, it was hailed as a great liberation for science: The sad reality of abortion could have some salutary use.
What was underreported (or ignored) at the time was that first-trimester fetuses are of limited use for fetal experimentation. Older, more developed babies were much more useful. The “problem” for pharmaceutical firms and medical research industries is that such babies were in short supply. Not surprisingly, a new class of entrepreneurs soon found ways to meet the demand.
In 1996, a growing late-term-abortion industry must have seemed in jeopardy when the U.S. House and Senate overwhelmingly supported a ban on partial-birth abortions. The bill banned the abortion procedure in which a baby is removed feet first from the mother's womb, its skull broken by a doctor's scissors and its brains removed.
But Clinton vetoed the ban in 1996. He vetoed similar legislation a year later.
He wouldn't sign last year's partial-birth abortion act either, even though new information about the trade in body parts shed light on the money motive behind the barbaric procedure. Partial-birth abortion keeps a baby's body intact so that it fetches a higher price from researchers — $500 for an “intact trunk (with/without limbs),” according to one report.
Clinton's executive order made partial-birth abortion possible, his vetos kept it legal and his administration's inaction has seen it grow profitable. And, as pro-abortion former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan has said, partial-birth abortion is infanticide.
This is what history will remember about the Clinton years: the legalization and fostering of infanticide. “And where were the decent people in America?” history will ask.
Let's hope that each of us can answer that question guiltlessly.
Why Cheer the Pope?
BY Tom Hoopes
Perhaps, just this once, we can excuse television commentators and the secular press for misstating the importance and meaning of Pope John Paul II's visit to St. Louis. After all, many Catholics will misunderstand it, too.
Of course, the media ought not do what they do. They see a gracious visit by a world-renowned peace-maker and moral leader to an enthusiastic flock. They report on the health of the peace maker; they measure the extent to which the followers have strayed from the moral leadership; and they suggest that the enthusiasm is a brief spectacle of garish excitement in a sad, divided flock. Then, they wonder aloud who the next Pope might be.
And, certainly, the Catholics who misunderstand the visit will not fall very far from the mark. They will respond with joy and gratitude to a man who has not just showed them signs of hope — but who is a sign of hope. They will cheer a spiritual celebrity whose personality has captured the imagination of the world.
So, what might their misunderstanding be?
The “celebrity” part.
One newspaper was told, by a Catholic, that a particular cardinal could very easily be the next pope because, after all… he has a personality that will capture the imagination of the world.
That is indeed a terrible prerequisite to put on the successors to Peter. New paradoxes immediately arise. There are all too many people who capture the imagination of the world — usually for a fleeting moment. And there are all too few who do anything useful with the world's imagination while they have it.
John Paul has captured the imagination of the world and done a great deal with it. He has deepened our understanding of so many things: our selves (“the human being is by nature a philosopher”) the family, (“a sovereign society,”) our nation, (“a nation has to have a soul”) our culture, (“different cultures are basically different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence”) and humanity (“man is the way of the Church.”)
We should be awe-struck when John Paul visits our country. But it is not his wisdom or charisma which should inspire our awe.
The people didn't line cots along the streets of Jerusalem hoping to be touched by Peter's shadow because they were attracted by a personality, but because they saw in him a rare power: the power to heal the sick and to speak words of rare truth.
These are the gifts that, from Peter to Linus, Cletus, and Clement; from Leo the Great to John Paul the Great, have stood like a bright sign pointing to the one reason to respect the Pope. He is the Vicar of Christ. He is the Father's way of reminding us that we belong to but one flock. He holds keys that open doors our imaginations will never penetrate.
We join the voices of confusion in the media when we allow the Holy Father to be demoted to celebrity status.
What will we do if the next Pope's personality doesn't capture the imagination of the world? What if we are glued to our televisions and the next Pope appears on the balcony over St. Peter's square to great fanfare and stands there for the whole world to see… an unattractive man who looks sincere, and vaguely uncomfortable, and doesn't know quite what to say? How many of us will frown, feel inwardly embarrassed, and never speak with the same enthusiasm about the Holy Father again?
We are — all of us — members of a media-driven, susceptible to its noisy excesses and its scientifically engineered enticements, market-tested to please us and all but guaranteed to mislead.
The Holy Father himself recognizes the disastrous effects our media culture can have on our attitudes. In his October ad limina remarks to bishops of the Northwest, he dwelled on the role of the priest and liturgy.
We must remember that the priest is “the servant of the liturgy, not its inventor or producer,” he said, and later warned, “In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.”
We certainly must be counter- cultural as regards the Eucharist, which is the “source and summit of the Christian life,” according to the Second Vatican Council. We must also be counter-cultural as regards the Pope.
“For,” the Second Vatican Council also said, “the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”
It is hard to imagine a more counter-cultural statement.
If that is the truth about the Pope — and (thank God for his foresight) it is — then we must have an entirely different attitude toward his visit to St. Louis.
We should cheer the Pope and lean out to see him as he passes by. But we should remember that we do it because Christ has given us an enormously important gift: a Church with a visible structure, a body of successors to the apostles — and, at its head, a face like ours.
And then the cheers should stop. We should pay our Lord the respect of a meditative quiet when his vicar speaks. We should show other Christians that Catholics follow Peter's successor the way Christ intended: as “belonging to the Church's very foundation,” to quote the Catechism.
Only in this way can we keep a proper distance from the culture of the media, and ground ourselves in the culture of faith.
Tom Hoopes writes from Falls Church, Virginia.
BY Romanus Cessario, OP
Vocation, a Grace from God
This week, the Church invites us all to think in a focused way about the grace of vocation. The occasion provides once again an opportunity to ponder the call to holiness that Christ extends to every member of the Church. We call this invitation the universal call to holiness, because no human being is excluded from the divine purpose realized in Christ. The Savior, then, calls everyone to imitate his perfection of charity. We rejoice in this vocation not only because it ensures that, when lived out in truth, we will inherit heaven but also because it constitutes here and now the fulfillment of our human destiny and nature.
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin verb, vocare, which means “to call.” What is interesting to observe, the word also carries the connotation: to call someone by name. For example, in the Gospel of Matthew, we read that Jesus “saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them” (Matthew 4:21). In the Latin version of the Bible, the last phrase reads, “et vocavit eos.” Since that call came from the same God who first called light out of darkness and created form out of chaos, we are not surprised to learn that these two brothers left their boats and followed him, as the Evangelist pointedly remarks, “immediately” (Matthew 4: 22). James and John, along with those other brothers, Peter and Andrew, received what, today, the Church calls the grace of a special vocation within the Church.
The Savior continues to call men and woman to follow him by building upon their original baptismal consecration through the more intimate consecration of the evangelical counsels. The kind of life that Jesus himself lived provides the model. The Incarnate Son of God choose not only to dwell among us as a man but also to observe a particular manner of life.
First, Christ chose to remain a poor man. He was born in a stable, lived in what is still the small town of Nazareth, worked as a carpenter in the house of Joseph, and during the course of his public life, maintained a poor life style. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that Christ's voluntary renunciation of material goods allowed him to devote all his time to preaching God's truth.
Second, Christ remained a virgin, and so revealed that the celibate state when consecrated to God gives glory to God. Just as he realized the perfection of every virtue, Christ lived his entire life in perfect chastity. By not taking a wife, moreover, Christ demonstrated that he had come to join to himself one spotless Bride, which is the Church.
Third and what most distinguishes the life of Christ is that he fulfilled perfectly the will of his Heavenly Father. Christ manifests the power of obedience on the cross. When he utters his final words, “It is finished,” Christ announces that the world has once again been opened up to divine love. Sin did not prevail, for God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8: 31).
Those who promise to observe the evangelical counsels are called consecrated persons, and they come in many different forms and shapes. The Catechism compares the variety of those who live out the counsels, whether in community or in solitude, to a “wonderful and wide-spreading tree.” What is most important to remember, however, consecrated life remains a grace in the Church.
Vocation also points to the sacrament of apostolic ministry, especially that of the diaconate and of the priesthood. Deacons and priests also imitate the life that Christ himself lived. They promise obedience to the local bishop and are bound to observe evangelical poverty, though not to hold all their goods in common. In the Latin Church, priests and some permanent deacons promise to remain celibate, whereas those deacons who are married recommit themselves to the practice of conjugal chastity. Like the call to consecrated life, the vocation to the priesthood comes only as a gift of grace.
Any person who today asked about a vocation would soon hear the word “discernment. They would be encouraged to scrutinize themselves about whether or not to embrace consecrated life or to prepare for priestly ordination. This kind of self-questioning is important, but it only accounts for a small part of what makes up a vocation. Above all, every vocation is a gift from God, a call to live out one's Christian life in a special way. Who could imitate Christ's own form of life unless Christ himself made it possible? Which man could fulfill Christ's own ministry unless Christ himself gave him the grace? What is our response? Pray for vocations!
Dominican Father Romanus Cessario is a senior writer at the Register.
BY George Weigel
A Tough Year Ahead
Here in Gomorrah-on-the-Potomac, the common wisdom is that the new Congress will not do much of anything in 1999, being paralyzed by the razor-thin Republican margin in the House of Representatives. Strangely, the new House leadership seems content with this sense of lassitude. Here, though, are four issues fraught with moral significance. Each requires the most serious attention from our national legislators in the new year.
Human Cloning. The ban on human cloning never made it through the last Congress, and without serious moral and political leadership it won't make it through the new Congress, either. Meanwhile, experimentation continues, the public is being slowly acclimated to the idea, the crucial “yuck factor” is being weakened and the net result is that we are getting closer to living the terrors of Aldous Huxley's brave new world.
One hesitates to say that anything is the “ultimate example” of our cultural crisis these days. But turning reproduction into a technological process is a form of narcissism that's hard to imagine topping. It is also hard to imagine anything more degrading to the human project. My friend Charles Krauthammer is no enemy of science, being himself a doctor. But the distinguished columnist has gone so far as to propose making human cloning a capital offense. I cite his proposal, not necessarily to endorse it, but to drive home what a thoughtful man, who cannot be accused of being a toady to Catholic morality, deems the gravity of the issue.
Saddam Hussein. The fecklessness of the administration's attempts to enforce an international legal ban on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is not simply embarrassing; it is extremely dangerous. To be sure, the Clinton administration is following in the footsteps of a Bush administration whose Gulf War endgame looks more irresponsible with every passing week. But like the administration it replaced, Clinton's wills the end in Iraq — the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime — without willing the means.
Meanwhile, there is every indication that Yassir Arafat will declare an independent Palestinian state on May 4, 1999. With such a state established on the west bank of the Jordan River, Israel between the Jordan and the Mediterranean will be narrower than Derwood Merrill's strike zone in last year's baseball playoffs, and its security will shrink accordingly. Suppose Saddam Hussein's Iraq becomes Palestine's arms depot, and the arms in question are chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons? A ghastly, bloody war in the Holy Land would quickly ensue, and on the threshold of the Great Jubilee of 2000.
The Saddam Hussein regime is not safe for the world. Something must be done about it, and about reconstructing an Iraq fit to live in for the suffering people of the country.
Strategic Defense. Iraq is not the only rogue regime actively seeking weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missile capability to use them over long distances. North Korea and Iran are others. Then there is Russia. Suppose, amid political chaos, instability, and food shortages, it seeks to reassert its superpower status and its leverage in world affairs by threatening to use the thousands of nuclear warheads it still retains?
Missile defense is not a moral option; it is a moral imperative, as a deterrent against rogue states and as a means of legitimate self-defense. And missile defense systems ought to be deployed in ways that demonstrate that the United States is not seeking to retreat beneath a space-based technological Astrodome, but will work with others to build a shield against preemptive missile attack against neighbors and democratic allies. The next time you hear someone dismiss missile defense as “Star Wars,” tell them to get morally, as well as politically, serious.
Saving Social Security. Yet another Congress has failed to discipline its spending habits and ensure the long-term viability of Social Security. This was bad enough when the country was running huge deficits. It is morally irresponsible when the federal government has an enormous income surplus. Guaranteeing the medium-term viability of Social Security while providing for a long-term conversion to a more private-sector-oriented mandatory retirement insurance program is another morally-grounded issue whose resolution won't wait for another presidential election cycle.
1999: Looks like a tough year at the end of a tough century.
George Weigel is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
BY Jim Cosgrove
John Paul's Defense of the Faith
On May 18, Pope John Paul II signed an apostolic letter entitled Ad Tuendam Fidem (To Defend the Faith). The letter, a complete surprise to many people, became public June 30, and was called a Motu Proprio, which means that it enjoys the prerogative of being entirely a work of the Supreme Pontiff himself.
The Pope stated that he undertook its writing as a very necessary aspect of his office, since he is the legitimate successor of the Apostle Peter, in order to defend the faith of the Catholic religion, and to confirm his brothers in that faith which cannot fail because of the promise made by the divine founder of the Catholic Church (cf. Lk 22:32).
The four-page letter, written in Latin, added several words to The Code of Canon Law. It was accompanied at its release by an interesting and important commentary (dated June 29) from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone. This official commentary is a key to a correct understanding of the letter. Although it involves some theological subtlety and qualifications, it deserves reading and study by all Catholics.
The letter and its accompanying commentary were welcomed by many orthodox and sincere Catholics, all the more pleased because of the unexpected timing of the publication. The “usual suspects,” some of whom make a career of publicly dissenting from the truths of the Catholic Faith, were obviously displeased and publicly upset, not in the least because their decades-long efforts to trade on doctrinal confusion and moral ambiguity were dealt another and perhaps fatal blow by the Holy See. It is unfortunately true that much of the secular and some of the religious media coddle and foster this dissent, but genuine Catholics almost instinctively recognize its total lack of merit and authenticity.
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz
In adding some words to The Code of Canon Law, the Holy Father made it clear that not only those matters proposed by the Church as directly revealed by God had to be assented to, internally and externally, by faithful Catholics. Also, those matters which are officially and definitively proposed by the Church regarding faith and morals, even if they have not been proposed by the Magisterium (the teaching authority) of the Church as formally revealed, must receive from all Catholics “firm and definitive assent, based on the Holy Spirit's assistance to the Church's Magisterium and the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium in these matters. Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church.”
The Pope's changes in Canon Law specify that persons in such denial are to be punished with “appropriate penalties.”
As Cardinal Ratzinger's commentary notes, sometimes matters in this category of belief and assent later pass, in the historic consciousness of the Church, into matters proposed as formally revealed. He cites as an example the doctrine of papal infallibility prior to the dogmatic definition of the First Vatican Council. The primacy and infallibility of the Bishop of Rome were “recognized as definitive in the period before the Council.” However, until then, it was licitly disputed as to whether that infallibility was a logical consequence of divine revelation or was a part of that revelation itself. The point of the Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger is that the inerrant and irreformable character of the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church in both categories is basically the same. While one who rejects what is formally proposed as directly revealed also incurs the grave sin of formal heresy, dissent from either category of faith and morals places the dissenter in the state of mortal sin, outside of the Church's full communion, and worthy of ecclesiastical censure.
Examples of infallible truths to which all Catholics must assent, in this second category, which are not (yet?) declared as formally revealed but are, at least, derived from and logically connected with divine revelation, are mentioned in the commentary. These are such things as the illicitness of prostitution, fornication, and euthanasia, and the doctrine that priestly ordination by God's will is reserved only to males. Archbishop Bertone notes that “this [latter] truth could later pass into the first level.” But even now it is among the infallible teachings of the Catholic Church.
As the commentary observes, there is a third category of matters to which all Catholics are required also to give their full assent of mind and will. It would be seriously sinful for Catholics to dissent even from these teachings. They are things which are connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but they are not able to be declared as divinely revealed. Examples would be “the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonization of saints (or other dogmatic facts) the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the apostolic letter, Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations, etc.” The matters in this third category are not directly affected by Ad Tuendam Fidem and remain unchanged by the Pope's latest additions to The Code of Canon Law. Archbishop Bertone notes that sinful Catholics who would dissent from this third category of truths, even if they would not immediately suffer from an esslesiastical penalty, would incur the stigma of an undisciplined attitude.”
St. Ambrose remarked: “Where Peter is, there is the Church…” Peter today continues to reside in the See of Rome and in its bishop.
There one finds the keys, the power to bind and loose, and the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail (cf. Mt 16:16-19). From there our Holy Father continues to feed the lambs and sheep (cf. Jn 21:15-17) and to protect Christ's flock from the poison pastures of religious falsehood and error, as well as from the wild beasts who would lead them astray toward eternal destruction. May God preserve this remarkable Pontiff, a divine and special gift to our time and place. Ad multos annos.
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz STD is ordinary of Lincoln, Nebraska.
BY Keith Fournier
A Call for Moral Leadership
Recently Attorney General Janet Reno told 1,400 Alumnae at Radcliffe College that gun violence in our nation's schools would require a change in America's culture. She was awarded the Radcliffe Medal for her leadership. Shortly after, she announced she was overruling the Drug Enforcement Administration's plans to prevent physicians from dispensing drugs for “assisted suicide.” She has decided that her justice department will not use federal drug control laws to prevent “physicians” from poisoning their patients and killing them if it can be shown that they only have six months to live.
That same day, Chinese “dissident” (freedom fighter) Wei Jingsheng testified before the U.S. House Committee on International Relations. He presented proof that the Chinese regime is killing prisoners, prior to their scheduled execution date, in order to remove their organs for sale. Soon after, Jack Kevorkian announced that he had some kidneys available from a 45-year-old whose death he “attended.” It seems the man was shot 21 years ago and, like Christopher Reeve, was left without the use of arms and legs. Unlike Reeve, however, this man was not encouraged to live a productive life, but rather to kill himself. All this in the name of “choice.”
Now, let me ask, is there an eerie congruence of events here, or have I missed something? We have the chief law enforcement officer of the leader of the free world, in effect, opening the doors to the wholesale killing of disabled, depressed, and elderly people through the distribution of a new hemlock. This is followed by news that the leader of this macabre effort to legalize death on demand, Jack Kevorkian, is now cutting organs out of a 45-year-old man who, rather than being talked out of suicide, was given a poison potion. Finally, the U.S. Congress hears testimony that the regime oppressing the Chinese people not only forces abortions and sterilizations, represses people of faith, jails champions of democracy … but now also harvests body parts for sale. Are we far behind? Will we see a retail network for this “new” market in America as well? Are we far from body harvesting in the name of “choice”?
The attorney general had it right at Radcliffe. We do need a change of culture in America. Only, she is on the wrong side. The epidemic of violence among our children is only one more bad fruit from the decay of our culture precipitated by poor leadership.
Kevorkian, emboldened by the state's inability to stop him from killing, mockingly proclaimed “They're calling this unethical, just like they call everything unethical.” How hollow are words when our actions betray our lack of moral, courageous, principled leadership.
A nation birthed by a declaration that recognized inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is being led astray by the proponents of an ideology of death, libertine license, and debauchery. Our current epidemic of violence begins in the silence of the womb where we continue to dismember, burn and, in the case of partial birth abortions, suck the brains out of our children calling our actions “freedom of choice.” It is promoted by a dominant media culture that cheapens life, disregards human dignity, disdains family, and cheapens the gift of sexuality. It is promoted by leaders who proclaim they “feel our pain” when their ideology promotes it. Finally, at life's end, this immoral leadership may soon, if not replaced, promote human body shops as a profane expression of the market at work. A market economy without the moral infusion of truth and a respect for human dignity, will market anything including death.
Is it any wonder that our children are confused? Is it any surprise that we continue to trade internationally with a regime in Beijing that openly promotes a culture of death and a disregard for basic human rights? Are we not currently walking down the same path as that regime being led by the pied pipers of self-ism and materialism dressed in the language of “free choice”? Where are the leaders of the third millennium?
In an address at Camden Yards in Baltimore in 1995, Pope John Paul II reminded all Americans: “Surely it is important for America that the moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation. Every generation of America needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
Moral leadership is about the “oughts” of our life as individuals, and our life together as a nation. America is desperately in need of moral leaders. The issues we currently face are not easily categorized as “liberal” or “conservative,” Democrat or Republican. They are, rather, issues that are foundational to our continuation as a free people. They concern our obligations to one another, to our children, to our elders, and to the least among us. They also have great implications for our international relations.
“From those to whom much is given, much more will be required” reads the biblical text. It's a principle of truth whether one professes religious faith or not. We are all accountable for what we have been given. In this nation we cherish, we have been given the greatest legacy of freedom. We dare not sacrifice this legacy at the altar of self-ism.
America needs moral leadership for a new millennium. Who will answer the call?
Deacon Keith Fournier is president of Catholic Alliance, a Catholic voter movement dedicated to life, family, authentic freedom, and charity.
BY Jim Cosgrove
The Transforming Work Of the Spirit
he April 13 issue of Newsweek confronts us with an unlikely question: “With more Americans feeling the Holy Spirit in their lives, what happens to the Trinity?"
It is not difficult to find the answer. Just remember the hymn the Church sings whenever she wishes to implore the Holy Spirit: Veni Sancte Spiritus; Per te sciamus da Patrem; Noscamus atque Filium (Come, Holy Spirit; through thee may we the Father know; through thee the eternal Son).
The end of the Easter season brings the feast of the Holy Spirit, the feast of Pentecost. The sending of the Holy Spirit completes the revelation of the divine Trinity, by disclosing that between the Father and the Son exists a third divine person. He is the person of love because, as St. Thomas Aquinas helpfully remarks in his Summa Theologiae, both Father and Son love through him.
In the Church's earliest preaching, its pastors taught about the Trinity. For example, consider Paul's discourse in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. He reminds his listeners of what is said in the second psalm: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you” (Ac 13:33). Within the Blessed Trinity, the eternal generation of the Son discloses the unique way that God is Father. That is to say, God is eternally Father by reason of his relationship to his only Son. This truth of divine faith embodies a mystery of salvation to which Jesus himself testifies when he says in the Gospel of John: “No one comes to the Father but through me” (Jn 14:6).
The Christian faith requires us to confess the blessed Trinity of persons. Only through the revelation of Jesus Christ is “Father” known to be literally the name of God. Apart from this precious gift of divine truth, we would be left to conclude that when we call God “Father” we are only using a metaphor, as we do when we say “The Lord is my shepherd.” Even though God transcends all human expression of fatherhood, God still remains uniquely Father. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it simply, “no one is father as God is Father” (239).
Christ's revelation of the Father is inseparably linked to the grace of Christ that saves us. Thus every Christian grace is filial, for no one is saved without being united with Christ, and through this union, entering into a filial relation with the Father. And so, Christ consoles his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places” (Jn 14:1).
Sons and daughters possess a home and an inheritance. Every time we speak a word of personal address to God, we are caught up into the knowledge and love that form the inner life of the Trinity. Every time we utter “Our Father,” we have already found our dwelling place, the one that Christ has prepared for those whom he has redeemed by his blood.
Personal love comes only from a God who is personal, indeed tri-personal. The real and exciting truth is that the persons of the Blessed Trinity first dwell in us before we come to find our proper dwelling place with them. “The indwelling of the Trinity in the souls of the just” is not so much a statement about where God is as it is an expression of a truth about our knowing and loving the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Such an extraordinary opportunity can easily incline us to ask with the Apostle Thomas, “How can we know the way?” Then, Jesus comes immediately to reassure us that he is the way, the truth, and the life. One thinks immediately of the priestly office: to govern (to show the way), to teach (the truth), and to sanctify (to bring new life).
God never fails to call some men to exercise this sacred ministry, so that the world will still have preachers of the Blessed Trinity. How else can we discover that the God of Jesus Christ is not merely a benevolent power that governs the universe, but a loving Father who from all eternity begets a Son? How else can we say at the center of the eucharistic sacrifice, “Our Father”?
In his letter to priests on Holy Thursday (1998), the Holy Father spoke about the transforming work of the Spirit. One effect of this love is the priesthood. This grace conforms some of our brothers to Christ in a special way, disposing them to cry out from the bottom of their hearts, “Abba, Father.” This grace is not for the priest alone. Every member of the Church is a beneficiary of a priestly vocation, and so we are encouraged to support our priests and to foster among young men the desire to surrender themselves to the unique work of this Trinitarian mystery. With more priests who are strong men of faith, then we will never need to ask, “What happened to the Trinity?”
Senior writer Father Romanus Cessario OP is a professor of systematic theology at St. John's Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts.
Always Our Children: A Document to 'Ignore or Oppose';
BY Jim Cosgrove
Last Oct. 1, a document entitled Always Our Children, A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children was published by the Committee on Marriage and the Family of the U.S. bishops’ conference. Although this document was evidently “approved” by the administrative committee of that conference, and it would seem the correct procedures outlined in conference rules were followed, it should be made clear that the document was composed without any input from the majority of the American Catholic bishops, who were given no opportunity whatever to comment on its pastoral usefulness or on its contents.
As almost always happens when such procedures are used by committees of the conference, the illusion is given, perhaps deliberately, and carried forth by the media, to the effect that this is something the U.S. bishops have published, rather than the correct information being conveyed to the public; namely, that most bishops had nothing to do with this undertaking. I believe one would be justified in asserting that in this case flawed and defective procedures, badly in need of correction and reform, resulted in a very flawed and defective document.
The majority of America's Catholic Bishops were allowed nothing to say about this document. Still less were they permitted any suggestions or comments about the “advisors” and consultants used by the committee, who, by their own boasting and the ordinary “rumor mill,” have been detected to be people whose qualifications in this area of moral conduct are highly questionable. The document, in a view which is shared by many, is founded on bad advice, mistaken theology, erroneous science, and skewed sociology. It is pastorally helpful in no perceptible way.
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz
Does this committee intend to issue documents to parents of drug addicts, promiscuous teenagers, adult children involved in canonically invalid marriages, and the like? These are far more numerous than parents of homosexuals. The occasion and the motivation for this document's birth remain hidden in the murky arrangements which brought it forth.
Not only does this document fail to take into account the latest revision in the authentic Latin version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality, but it juxtaposes several quotes from the Catechism in order to pretend falsely and preposterously that the Catechism says homosexuality is a gift from God and should be accepted as a fixed and permanent identity. Of course, the document, in order to support the incorrect views it contains, totally neglects to cite the Catholic doctrine set forth by the Holy See which teaches that the homosexual orientation is “objectively disordered.” Also, the document's definition of the virtue and practice of chastity is inadequate and distorted.
The character of this document is such that it would require a book of many pages to point out all its bad features, which sometimes cross the border from poor advice to evil advice. For instance, I believe it is wicked to counsel parents not to intervene, but rather to adopt a “wait and see” attitude when they find their adolescent children “experimenting” with homosexual acts. Parents have a grave moral duty to prevent their children from committing mortal sins when they can. It is certainly and seriously wrong to counsel parents to “accept” their children's homosexual friends. In my view parents should be vigilant about the friends and companions of their children. Of course, the document deliberately avoids distinguishing minor children from adult children in its advice to parents and seems to delight in this ambiguity, just as it confuses the acceptance of a person who does immoral acts with the acceptance of such a person's immoral behavior.
Sinners are always the object of Christ's love and so they must also be the object of ours. Loving sinners while hating their sins must mark the followers of Christ even when dealing with homosexual people. However, true love is never served by obfuscating the truth as this document appears to do. Homosexual acts, insofar as they are deliberately and freely done, are mortal sins which place a person who does them in the gravest danger of eternal damnation.
The document says to parents, “Do not blame yourselves for a homosexual orientation in your child.” Many scientists and psychologists say that the orientation is likely and often due to certain parental defects, which are usually unconsciously present, and proper therapy requires that these matters be confronted. The document claims something is “the common opinion of experts” when in fact it is no such thing. One critique of this document says that it is really an exercise in homosexual ("gay” and “lesbian") advocacy. It is difficult not to see it as such.
“Calamity and frightening disaster” are terms which are not too excessive to describe this document. It is my view that this document carries no weight or authority for Catholics, whom I would advise to ignore or oppose it.
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz is ordinary of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb. Reprinted with permission from Social Justice Review.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Heroine in the School Yard
The slaying of five students in Arkansas has fueled another round of soul-searching in our nation. Yet instead of asking why our culture breeds young murderers, let's pose a different question, also linked to the recent tragic events: What produces heroes and heroines, such as Shannon Wright, the teacher who sacrificed her life so that a student might live?
News reports have yet to offer an in-depth profile of Wright, but her actions alone testify to her extraordinary character. Confronted with a school yard transformed into a killing field, Wright scanned the periphery to find the gunmen. She quickly realized that one of her charges was in the line of fire. Throwing her body in front of the snipers’ target, she was shot mortally in the chest. Her last words expressed her love for her husband and young son.
Parents who struggle to guide their children in difficult times, surely must hope that if their offspring's photo appears on the front page of the newspaper it will be for a similar act of bravery—not an act of homicide. But what helps to instill the type of virtue that produces a Shannon Wright? The earliest thinkers of Western civilization pondered similar questions, and they sorted out a blueprint for moral education, based on the acquisition of the cardinal virtues—wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice—outlined in Plato's Republic. The classical world also agreed on the method of inculcating virtue, primarily a matter of instilling good habits and imitating morally upright adults and great heroes.
The rigor of the classical approach underscored the fact that learning to be good was an uphill battle. “Moral virtue … is formed by habit, ethos,” wrote Aristotle, in Nichomachean Ethics. “This shows, too, that none of the moral virtues is implanted in us by nature, for nothing which exists by nature can be changed by habit.’
To sweeten the labor of learning, the ancient world developed a kind of moral curriculum based on fables, myths, and parables. Virtue was taught through stories that typically hinged on the character of the protagonist that distinguished right from wrong, and that left the student with a compelling moral vision at the close of the narrative: in short, everyone wanted to be like Odysseus—or, perhaps, the faithful Penelope.
Until the 1970s, American moral education essentially followed this blueprint. Teachers in public and private schools encouraged children to imitate the courage of St. George, the honesty of George Washington. Catholic schools, while transmitting basic doctrine, also stressed imitation of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints, whose life stories personified specific virtues.
Then the blackboard was wiped clean: schools began to embrace a new paradigm called “values clarification.’
Values clarification departed from the virtue-based model in a number of ways, shaped by a utopian rationalism that contrasted with Aristotle's tough-minded realism. Abstract, open-ended conundrums replaced parables, fables, and myths as teaching tools. An explicit moral relativism reversed past efforts to aggressively transmit basic values.
We “see values not as eternal truths, institutionalized and stable, but as instruments that help one relate to the surrounding world of people, things, and ideas,” stated an early, 1966 text, Values and Teaching: Teaching Values in the Classroom. The best-selling 1972 handbook, Values Clarification, provided an assortment of dilemmas and questionnaires designed to provoke discussions on such matters as adultery, suicide, and cheating.
Proponents of values clarification believed in the innate goodness of children, and thus rejected “the dreary watch over the ancient values.’ Teacher-facilitators were trained to respect all values and choices equally. These ideas spread to many Catholic schools, where teachers ignored the doctrine of Original Sin, skirted moral absolutes, and frequently adopted the moral dilemma approach to “clarifying” individual values.
Like many untested theories welcomed in U.S. classrooms, values clarification survived a barrage of criticism. The strongest opponents were parents. They foresaw that taboo-shattering classroom bull sessions would complicate their efforts to discourage promiscuity and drug use. Mounting opposition forced proponents of the values clarification philosophy into retreat by the early 1990s. But its ideas still attract support in educational circles, and similar “non-directive” strategies continue to surface in many classrooms. Meanwhile, experts in the academy—such as Edwin Delattre of Boston University's Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character, and William Kilpatrick of Boston College, author of Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong and What You Can Do About It—have begun to revitalize classical moral education, training teachers to promote “moral literacy,” and providing lists of books that foster a solid moral vision in children.
This “character education” movement has fueled charter school initiatives and other start-up efforts. New studies in the field of psychology underscore the wisdom of using good literature to inspire a child's embrace of virtue. Psychologist Paul Vitz of New York University cites a body of research to show that the use of abstract conundrums, as a teaching tool, makes little sense when human beings are wired to understand almost everything, including themselves, as a story.
Now that we have rediscovered what fosters virtue in the classroom, we need to eliminate attitudes and programs that impoverish the moral imagination of our children. If we retreat from this challenge, then one must ask: Is moral deviancy “defined down” to such a degree in America that we dare not impose any demanding ideals on our young? Will we seek to nurture young people like Shannon Wright? Her story strengthens a nation's confidence that we still can do what is right.
Joan Frawley Desmond, a board member of Link Institute, which promotes character and content in education, writes from Menlo Park, California.
BY Susan Willis
A Tainted ‘Gift’ to the Third World
A high-stakes game of “chicken” is being played out between congressional leadership—committed to restore the Mexico City Policy—and President Clinton, who overturned that policy in January 1993. The policy would deny family-planning funds to international organizations that perform abortions and promote pro-abortion laws in foreign countries.
Sadly, worldwide access to abortion is high on the president's agenda. In light of this he has threatened to veto any bill containing the Mexico City Policy, including two bills he says are vital to American interests: the back payment of U.N. dues, and payment of about $18 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Congressional leaders plan to use all available leverage to reinstate this quite modest restraint on family planners' hegemony over the developing world's peoples.
The outcome of this stand-off is anyone's guess. What we can expect is no final resolution concerning abortion's role in international family planning as long as such funding is authorized by Congress. Congressional and public support for U.S. funding of international family planning rests on several assumptions:
l First, that these family-planning programs are voluntary: neither coercion nor serious abuses of human rights are involved.
l Second, that funds are exclusively used to provide access to contraceptive methods, not abortion.
l Third, that current family-planning programs improve the reproductive health of women in developing countries.
l Fourth, that voluntary family-planning programs are effective in reducing fertility rates.
l Fifth, that population growth must be curbed to spur economic development and reduce “overpopulation,” with all its perceived threats: mass starvation, environmental degradation, political instability, and natural resource depletion.
Wouldn't most Americans reject a policy that trampled on human rights, violated host country laws against abortion, endangered women's health, that was “effective” only when conducted coercively, and, finally, was unnecessary? Evidence continues to mount—from those suffering from these programs, from human rights groups, and from agencies that support, conduct, or monitor population-control activities—that none of the stated assumptions underlying support for population control remains valid, if they ever were.
Coercion and abuse of human rights: The Population Research Institute recently brought to Congress's attention the coercive nature of Peru's sterilization program, which is supported through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). A Peruvian doctor and two victims of coercive sterilization testified about the pressure and incentives on medical personnel to meet monthly quotas of sterilizations, the illnesses and deaths from sterilizations performed in unsanitary settings by poorly trained staff, the lack of knowledge and consent on the part of women who are sterilized, the coercive threats and incentives used to induce women to agree to a procedure they are told is temporary.
Peru is one of 38 countries on record for violating human rights in the course of enforcing their population policies. In many countries (including Mexico), women may be sterilized or have IUDs inserted immediately after giving birth without their knowledge or consent, and even against their express wishes.
USAID is not the only channel for funding such coercive programs. The World Bank loans $2.4 billion annually for “health, nutrition, and population” programs. Apopulation sector review issued by the World Bank refers approvingly to an array of family planning incentives and disincentives—for example, promising a new well or irrigation system to a village, provided all (or nearly all) villagers accept sterilization or another long-lasting form of contraception. The World Bank has long been accused of having tied lending and disbursement to the adoption of, and compliance with, “population measures.”
Abortions by any other name: “Contraceptive” methods include oral contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), long-acting injectables like Depo-Provera and Norplant. Each method has multiple mechanisms of action—and in each, an abortifacient action is a back-up when the contraceptive action fails. Although one cannot possibly calculate the rates of conception and abortion as a consequence of breakthrough ovulation under the various methods, in light of the number of women now using the methods worldwide, the level of non-surgical abortion must be staggering. Girls and women in the developing world who have had “unprotected” sex are encouraged to take “emergency contraceptive” pills or RU-486 or to undergo “menstrual regulation.” All three methods constitute abortion.
Health risks: Far from improving their reproductive and general health, these hormonal and surgical methods are inappropriate for women who may be malnourished and in poor health generally and who have no access to competent medical care. Procedures are often performed in unsterile settings by staff with little medical training. Typical short-term side effects of Depo-Provera include: heavy, irregular, or interrupted menstrual bleeding, depression, weight gain, headaches, and dizziness. In addition to these symptoms, Norplant may produce nausea or vomiting, mood swings, nervousness, hair loss, acne, and more. Long-term effects of Norplant include liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and blood clots. Life-threatening ectopic pregnancies can also occur. Sterilization poses a risk of ectopic pregnancy and increases the possibility of needing a hysterectomy. Is this the best we can do for women in the developing world?
Susan Wills is assistant director for program activities, NCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
BY George Weigel
An Exceptional Catholic Novel at Lent
What makes a great Catholic novel?
Does the author have to be a Catholic? Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop disproves that. Does it have to be populated by priests and nuns in a distinctively Catholic environment? Paul Horgan's A Distant Trumpet, an old-fashioned saga about the frontier on one level and a great Catholic novel on another, has no nuns whatsoever, and the only priest is fleetingly mentioned in a single sentence.
If the novel does involve a priest, does he have to be an unsullied paladin of the faith? Read Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory and you'll never make that assumption again. Must it have a happy ending? Try Shasaku Endo's Silence.
A novel is both great and Catholic if the author believes—and conveys with literary skill—the truth at the end of Georges Bernanos's Diary of a Country Priest: “Grace is everywhere.”
A great Catholic novel is filled with a sacramental sensibility. The old Baltimore Catechism definition helps here. A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by God to give grace. Translate that into a world view and you get a sacramental sensibility: the extraordinary is not located in some alternative universe; the extraordinary is just over there, on the other side of the ordinary. Everyday things and ordinary people become vessels of grace, not by magical transformation but by being what and who they are.
I was recently asked who today's great Catholic novelists were and after an embarrassed silence had to confess that I couldn't think of any. It seemed odd, in a century that had produced Bernanos, Greene, and Evelyn Waugh, Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, and Endo plus the Catholic efforts of non-Catholics like Willa Cather. But most of what passed for “Catholic novels” today struck me as banal, literarily or theologically.
Then I found Mr. Ives' Christmas.
First published in 1995 and now available in a HarperPerennial paperback, Mr. Ives' Christmas is the fourth novel by Oscar Hijuelos, a Cuban—American born in New York City in 1951. His second book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, defied all the odds by successfully portraying Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball's husband, as Aristotle's great-souled man. But what really makes Hijuelos an exceptional writer, according to my friend, the critic J. Bottum, is that Hijuelos may be the only American novelist who “still believes in the possibility of great-souled men” and has a literary technique that does “more than mock or demean them.”
Mr. Ives' Christmas is a far less exuberant book than Mambo Kings, which befits its subject: Edward Ives's struggle to reconcile his faith with the murder of his son (gunned down senselessly on a New York street just before entering the seminary) and to forgive his son's murderer. In less skilled hands, that plot line would be a sure prescription for literary catastrophe of the most saccharine sort. But Hijuelos's bare-bones narrative style and theological sophistication have given us a book that is sweet (itself a minor miracle in serious contemporary fiction) without being sentimental. Sharply chiseled three-page chapters are laced with an Augustinian determination to look life in the eye and an ineradicable, if deeply shaken, conviction that God must be doing something redemptive with all this sorrow.
The result is a novel that tells a wonderful story and makes Catholicism seem a faith for intelligent, serious adults. Mr. Ives' Christmas displays none of the hand-wringing neurosis that distorts other self-consciously Catholic novels these days. Ives is a very stricken man. He is a realist, but never a whiner.
Hijuelos has nerve as well as skill. How many other contemporary writers would dare end a novel like this?
“With pained but transcendent eyes, bearded and regal. He would come down the central aisle toward Ives, and placing His wounded hands upon Ives' brow, give His blessing before taking him away, and all others who were good in this world, off into His heaven where they would be joined unto Him and all that is good forever and ever, without end.”
The title bespeaks Christmas, but the story is about a lifetime of Lent completed by Easter. I commend it to you at this season, and indeed at any season.
George Weigel is senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
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