Category Archives: Feature

Pope: the archives on Pius XII will be opened next year

In announcing his decision, Francis stressed that the Pacelli Pope fought to “keep the flame of humanitarian initiatives lit during periods of more intense darkness and cruelty, of hidden but active diplomacy, of hope in possible good openings of hearts”

In the picture: Pius XII among the victims of the bombardment of San Lorenzo. (Rome, 19 July 1943).

Vatican City – The Vatican Archives for the pontificate of Pius XII will be opened next year, Pope Francis announced today during a meeting this morning with the Vatican Secret Archives officials, on the 80th anniversary of the election of Pope Pius XII.

In announcing the opening of the archives will take place on 2 March 2020, Francis noted how “The figure of that Pontiff, who found himself guiding the Barque of Peter at one of the saddest and darkest moments of the twentieth century, agitated and lacerated by the last world war, with the consequent period of reorganization of the nations and post-war reconstruction, has already been investigated and studied in many aspects, sometimes discussed and even criticized (it could be said with some prejudice or exaggeration). Today he has been appropriately re-evaluated and indeed placed in the correct light for his many qualities: pastoral, above all, but also theological, ascetic, and diplomatic.”

Affirming that “the Church is not afraid of history; rather, she loves it, and would like to love it more and better, as God does!” The Pope added that “that serious and objective historical research will be able to evaluate, in the proper light and with appropriate criticism, the praiseworthy moments of the Pontiff and, without any doubt, also moments of serious difficulties, of tormented decisions, of human and Christian prudence, which to some might have seemed to be reticence, and which instead were attempts, humanly also very hard-fought, to keep the flame of humanitarian initiatives lit during periods of more intense darkness and cruelty, of hidden but active diplomacy, of hope in possible good openings of hearts.”

Francis also recalled that the project for the inventory and preparation of the substantial documentation produced during the pontificate of Pius XII was elaborated by wish of Benedict XVI, after part of the documentation was already made available by Paul VI and John Paul II. – AsiaNews

St. Paul VI’s feast to be celebrated May 29

Pope St. Paul VI. Public Domain

Vatican City – The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope St. Paul VI’s feast day will be celebrated annually on May 29 as an optional memorial.

“Before and after becoming Pope, Saint Paul VI lived with his gaze constantly fixed on Christ whom he considered and proclaimed as a necessity for everyone,” Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, commented on the papal decree.

With this declaration, published Feb. 6, the pope who guided the Church through the Second Vatican Council will have his memorial inserted into the renewed General Roman Calendar and liturgical books that he promulgated in 1969.

The date of the memorial, May 29, is significant as the ordination anniversary of Paul VI — then Giovanni Battista Montini — to the priesthood in 1920. Just four years later, Montini began his service to the Holy See, serving both Pope Pius XI and Pius XII. He was made Archbishop of Milan and then a cardinal before being elected pope in 1963.

“A saint is someone who brings divine grace to fruition in what they do, conforming their own life to Christ, Pope Saint Paul VI did this by responding to the call to holiness as a Baptized Christian, as a priest, as a Bishop, and Pope, and he now contemplates the face of God,” Cardinal Sarah wrote.

The feast day for canonized saints is typically chosen as the date of their death, or “birth to eternal life,” Sarah explained, but Pope Paul VI died on August 6, 1978, a date which is already celebrated in the Church as the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Just before his death, Paul VI wrote in his meditation, “Pensiero alla morte,” “I pray that the Lord will give me the grace to make of my approaching death a gift of love to the Church. I can say that I have always loved her and I feel that I have lived my life for her and for nothing else.”

For Paul VI, “the Church was always, indeed his constant love, his principal concern, the object of constant reflection, the first and most fundamental thread of his whole pontificate. He wished nothing other than the Church would have a greater knowledge of herself in order to be ever more effective in proclaiming the Gospel,” Sarah said.

With the papal decree, the Vatican also published the new texts for the memorial of St. Paul VI to be added to the Roman Calendar, Missal, Liturgy of the Hours, and Martyrology.

“The Collect prayer resonates with all that God accomplished in his faithful servant: ‘who entrusted your Church to the leadership of Pope Saint Paul VI, a courageous apostle of your Son’s Gospel’,  and it asks: ‘grant that, illuminated by his teachings, we may work with you to expand the civilization of love,’” Sarah said.

He explained, “Here is synthesized the principal characteristics of his pontificate and his teaching: a Church, which belongs to the Lord (Ecclesiam Suam), dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel, as recalled in Evangelii nuntiandi, and called to bear witness that God is love.”

The second reading in the Office of Readings for Paul VI’s memorial is taken from passages of his homily during the last public session of the Second Vatican Council on Dec. 7, 1965.

Paul VI was canonized by Pope Francis on Oct. 14, 2018 along with Oscar Romero, and five other new saints. As pope, Paul VI oversaw much of the Second Vatican Council, which had been opened by Pope St. John XXIII, and in 1969 promulgated a new Roman Missal. He died in 1978, and was beatified by Pope Francis Oct. 19, 2014.

Apart from his role in the council, Paul VI is most widely known for his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was published in 1968 and reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception in wake of the sexual revolution.

Paul VI also made history as the first pope to leave Europe. With his first apostolic journey to the Holy Land in 1964, Paul VI paved the way for the frequent worldwide travels that characterize the modern papacy with trips to Jordan, India, the U.S., Turkey, Colombia, Uganda, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Iran, among others.

Cardinal Sarah explained, “Like Saint Paul he spent his life for the Gospel of Christ, crossing new boundaries and becoming its witness by proclamation and dialogue, a prophet of a Church facing outwards, looking to those far away and caring for the poor.”- Courtney Grogan, 6Feb2019, (CNA/EWTN News)

Eucharistic miracles

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication presents a documentary on Eucharistic miracles, interviewing scientists and witnesses, and raising awareness of this global phenomenon.

The documentary “Segni” (Italian for “signs”), is inspired by the venerable Carlo Acutis, a young boy who died at the young age of 15 from a sudden onset of leukemia. He dedicated his life to spreading awareness of Eucharistic miracles. He even opened his own exhibition to showcase past miracles that, to him, prove God’s love for us.

Modern miracle

The documentary focuses on events that took place between 1999-2013 in Argentina, Poland, Mexico and Italy. These miracles that occurred when science was already advanced enough to become involved in defining the phenomenon occurring. Science that could look into these consecrated hosts that suddenly turned red, taking the form of meat, of human flesh.

Constant wonder

The producers of this documentary travelled to the locations where some of these miracles are said to have occurred. There, they spoke to those who discovered them, those who studied them and those who, to this day, still wonder over them.

Matteo Ceccarelli, the director, spoke before the projection of the film and explained that part of what he wanted to transmit through the documentary was the ‘what happens after’. He wanted to show that as a consequence of these miracles many of the priests “learned to re-commit themselves”. This was supported by Fr Andrzej Ziombra, from the Church of St Hyacinth in Legnica, Poland, where in 2013 a blood stain was discovered on a host. Fr Ziombra says “I discovered the beauty of priesthood”, after understanding that “something important had occurred in my church.”

Fungus one time, a miracle the next

Part of the fascination behind these modern day miracles is the voice that science has given them. Science can be used, and has been used, to refute miracles. This was the case in one church in Poland, where red stains were discovered on a host. After having it tested, it was discovered that the red was simply fungus. Science is also used to accept miracles, as was the case in the situations explored in the documentary.

God’s sign of love

In all these cases, the host, having taken on the form of flesh, was studied in depth by scientists. Similarities were discovered in all these cases: the presence of white blood cells that usually disappear after a few minutes after death; the recurring AB blood type; the heart tissue found; and the other signs of life and vitality. None of these could be scientifically explained.
As Franco Serafini, a cardiologist, said in his opening remarks, “faith is not humbled by science”. There are certain things medicine can do when studying miracles, he said. “The miracles can now speak to us in a scientific and technological language, understood by people in this day and age”.

Ricardo Castañón Gómez, contacted in 1999 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to study the host that had turned red after it had been placed in water, to this day is unable to explain this occurrence, at least not through science. One explanation, chosen by many, including the initially skeptical Mexican Bishop Alejo Zavala Castro, is simply that “this is what God wanted”, and that this is “Him, showing us He loves us”. Francesca Merlo

Archbishop Chaput shares theological critique of youth synod prep document


– Archbishop Charles Chaput offered Friday on First Things a critique by a theologian of the working document for the upcoming Synod on Youth, which highlights five principal theological difficulties in the document.

The synod will be held Oct. 3-28 at the Vatican. Archbishop Chaput is one of five representatives who were chosen by the US bishops’ conference to attend the meeting.

In addition, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark; though Tobin has elected not to attend, citing pastoral obligations in his local Church amid the sexual abuse crisis.

The Archbishop of Philadelphia wrote Sept. 21 that in recent months he has “received scores of emails and letters from laypeople, clergy, theologians, and other scholars, young and old, with their thoughts regarding the October synod of bishops in Rome focused on young people.”

“Nearly all” of those “note the importance of the subject matter”, “praise the synod’s intent”, and “raise concerns of one sort or another about the synod’s timing and possible content,” he wrote.

Archbishop Chaput shared the text of a critique of the instrumentum laboris, which he received “from a respected North American theologian.”

He noted it “is one person’s analysis; others may disagree. But it is substantive enough to warrant much wider consideration and discussion as bishop-delegates prepare to engage the synod’s theme.”

The theologian identified five principal problems with the text of the instrumentum laboris for the youth synod: naturalism, an inadequate grasp of the Church’s spiritual authority, a partial theological anthropology, a relativistic conception of vocation, and an impoverished understanding of Christian joy.

The author said the document “displays a pervasive focus on socio-cultural elements, to the exclusion of deeper religious and moral issues,” and expresses a desire to examine reality through the faith and experience of the Church, while “regrettably fail[ing] to do so.”

Four examples of this naturalism are given. One of them is the discussion in section 144, where “there is much discussion about what young people want; little about how these wants must be transformed by grace in a life that conforms to God’s will for their lives.”

“After pages of analysis of their material conditions, the IL offers no guidance on how these material concerns might be elevated and oriented toward their supernatural end … the majority of the document painstakingly catalogues the varied socio-economic and cultural realities of young adults while offering no meaningful reflection on spiritual, existential, or moral concerns. The reader may easily conclude that the latter are of no importance to the Church,” the theologian wrote.

The theologian next discussed the document’s “inadequate grasp of the Church’s spiritual authority,” saying that “the entire document is premised on the belief that the principal role of the magisterial Church is ‘listening.’”

By its emphasis on listening and dialogue, the instrumentum laboris suggests that “the Church does not possess the truth but must take its place alongside other voices,” the author wrote. “Those who have held the role of teacher and preacher in the Church must replace their authority with dialogue.”

This misunderstanding of the Church’s teaching authority results in a “conflation of the baptismal and sacramental priesthood”, the theologian wrote, and it also “presents a pastoral problem”: “the Church as mother and teacher cannot through negligence or cowardice forfeit this necessary role of setting limits and directing (Cf. §178). In this regard §171, which points to the motherhood of the Church, does not go far enough. It offers only a listening and accompanying role while eliminating that of teaching.”

Third, the theologian discussed the “partial theological anthropology” of the instrumentum laboris, which they said “fails to make any mention of the will” in its discussion of the human person.

“It is the will that is fundamentally directed toward the good,” the author notes. “The theological consequence of this glaring omission is extraordinarily important, since the seat of the moral life resides in the will and not in the vicissitudes of the affect.”

Then is discussed the “relativistic conception of vocation” in the document, which gives the impression “that vocation concerns the individual’s search for private meaning and truth.”

An example of this problem is section 139, which “gives the impression that the Church cannot propose the (singular) truth to people and that they must decide for themselves. The role of the Church consists only in accompaniment. This false humility risks diminishing the legitimate contributions that the Church can and ought to make.”

The last principal difficulty of the instrumentum laboris is its impoverished understanding of Christian joy, according to the theologian.

Spirituality and the moral life “are reduced to the affective dimension, clearest in §130, evidenced by a sentimentalist conception of ‘joy.’”

According to the theologian, the document presents joy as “a purely affective state, a happy emotion …  Despite its constant reference to ‘joy,’ nowhere does the IL describe it as the fruit of the theological virtue of charity. Nor is charity characterized as the proper ordering of love, putting God first and then ordering all other loves with reference to God.”

Consequent upon this understanding of joy is a lack of “any theology of the Cross” in the instrumentum laboris.

“Christian joy is not antithetical to suffering, which is a necessary component of a cruciform life,” the theologian writes. “The document gives the impression that the true Christian will be ‘happy’ at all times, in the colloquial sense. It further implies the error that the spiritual life itself will always result in felt (affective) joy.”

“The pastoral problem that results from this comes to the fore most clearly in §137: Is it the role of the Church to make youth “feel loved by him [God]” or to aid them in knowing they are loved regardless of how they might feel?”

The theologian added that there are other serious theological concerns in the document, noting, “a false understanding of the conscience and its role in the moral life; a false dichotomy proposed between truth and freedom; false equivalence between dialogue with LGBT youth and ecumenical dialogue; and an insufficient treatment of the abuse scandal.”- CNA/EWTN News

Humanae Vitae 50 Years On

Fifty years ago, on 25 July 1968, the soon to be Saint Paul VI promulgated his great Encyclical Humanae Vitae, in which he reaffirmed the ban on the use of artificial contraception. In the intervening years, and in the aftermath of the disastrous sexual revolution, the fight for moral truth has been waged relentlessly, but it has to be said, not particularly successfully. Figures show a huge percentage of married Catholics have for one reason or another dismissed the clear and constant magisterial teaching that artificial contraception can never be justified.

In my opinion, I dare to say, it will not be contempt for the authority of the Church in areas of sexual morality– even if that is often the reason given– but a fear, and lack of trust in God’s divine grace to support and bless the marriage and family. As far back as 1968, Blessed Paul VI was well aware that changing historical and social circumstances were leading young couples to consider natural methods of responsible parenthood were bordering on the impossible. The poisonous narrative that individual freedom was being turned into a type of ecclesiastical slavery by those intent on promoting an anti-life agenda, was also exerting ever increasing pressure.

In essence, laicist anthropocentrism, working through various means and systems in the past century, has heralded an era where the only religion is the religion of man; a belief that man holds the key to his own destiny, and can find pleasure and fulfilment in whatever way he chooses, no matter what acts may contradict the natural moral law, or how devastating the consequences. This devilish temptation which reminds us of Satan’s words in Genesis chapter 3 “you will become like God”, has without doubt even seeped into the life of many Catholics– St John Paul II referred to it as a “silent apostasy” (Ecclesia in Europa).

It seems to me, that a landmark anniversary for such an important magisterial document, affecting the lives of millions of Catholics throughout the world, is an opportune moment to take stock and look at possible new ways of approaching the question of natural family planning that may, with God’s help, begin to reverse the attitude of so many.

One of the great aspects of the present Pope’s magisterium is that he takes a realist approach to doctrine, and how it is received by the faithful. In reality, the Holy Father long ago recognized–as did many moral theologians in the mid to late twentieth century– that a manual of “you can do this, but can’t do this” was an approach that sooner or later would be challenged by an ever increasingly educated laity. So what was missing in this approach? Quite simply the person of Jesus Christ! A moral theology manual absent of promoting a deep and loving friendship with the God of truth and mercy is decadent, and leaves more questions than answers. It does little to explain how the various prohibitions fit into the will of God, the theological reasoning for this, or address the reality of daily struggle for those trying hard to respect the teachings.

However, with St John XXIII’s announcement at the opening of the Second Vatican Council that the Church as Mother “prefers the balm of mercy to the arm of severity”, a new approach was taken up, one which Blessed Paul VI emphasised in Humanae Vitae “Then let them [married couples] implore the help of God with unremitting prayer and, most of all, let them draw grace and charity from that unfailing fount which is the Eucharist. If, however, sin still exercises its hold over them, they are not to lose heart. Rather must they, humble and persevering, have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.”

Today, I believe there is a need for realism to be taught in marriage preparation, particularly in the area of conjugal relations and responsible parenthood. Since the late 1990’s, positive catechises in this area has revolved around St John Paul II’s “theology of the body”, which was formulated by the great Polish Pontiff in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Unfortunately at times, this wonderfully rich body of magisterial teaching have been perhaps misunderstood a little, or used to present a vision of natural family planning that for many– after marriage–will seem far removed from the stress, anxiety and complexities of modern family life. Women who suffer from irregular cycles for instance, will often feel an immense pressure to interpret their signs correctly, while at the same time trying to enjoy this vitally important part of married life.

In my view, it is important to stress for young couples the sacrificial nature of married love, and to see natural family planning as part of carrying the cross Jesus has given them. True preparation must be open to the truth that nfp requires great sacrifice at times, and that it is the polar opposite of the instant sexual gratification that dominates the world of today.

But should this view be seen as negative, and a hindrance to helping young couples avoid artificial contraception?

It seems to me that sacrificial love, and the cultivation of virtues associated with faithfully practising nfp, (such as patience, humility, faith, trust, purity, self- control and understanding to name a few) are the paths to imitating Jesus ever more closely, and thus the couple should be reminded that their marriage vocation is their own path to sanctification. If properly understood, the idea of self- sacrifice in union with the will of God can allow those setting out on this lifetime journey to accept it with joy, knowing that divine blessings will fall on them.

The root of any success in promoting nfp cannot come from any other source than Jesus himself through the power of the Holy Spirit, and it is trust in divine providence that must be encouraged during marriage preparation. As I said at the beginning, I firmly believe many couples cannot see past the fear of having several or more children, perhaps for very good reasons such as economic, or the ability of parents to properly care for them. However as Blessed Paul VI pointed out, marriage is an invitation from the Lord for a couple to cooperate in the divine plan and to see that his divine will is carried out in those to whom he calls into being.

Thus a truly eschatological dimension must be instilled into marriage preparation, to encourage the couple to see past the ephemeral, and to look with wonder at the eternal and glorious future the Lord has planned for all his children. In this way, what may seem as a great and worrisome burden can take on new meaning and significance; that the sufferings and sacrifices involved in bringing up a large family will last only a short while (cf 2 Cor 4:17, Rom 8:18).

It seems no coincidence that the contraceptive mentality has grown in the same era that a loss of the sense of the supernatural has occurred. Eschatological hope is no longer the driving force for many Christians that it should be, and as such it sadly produces fruits of selfishness and aridity here and now. But eschatological hope is not restricted to a future beyond the end of time; in Jesus this hope is realized now as definitive victory, and he invites each couple to share in that triumph through a profound Christian witness and friendship with him.

Natural family planning ensures that within a marriage, a clear path between heaven and earth is never blocked off; that a chapter in the book of life always remains open. It reveals to the young couple that God has invested in them in the most awe inspiring way, that He entrusts to them the very keys of creation. It is a mission of such grandeur for husband and wife that the Church must never tire of announcing it, or search for new ways to explain it, and God willing, inspire these faithful to fulfil it.

But what of those struggling Catholics who cannot grasp this teaching? Those who cannot face more children and turn to artificial contraception? What role do confessors have in their spiritual life?

In the first instance, we must recall that nobody has permission to sin, and thus it can never be the case that artificial contraception can be approved of as a good moral choice. But the maternal nature of the Church can always look with compassion on those who make use of these methods to avoid pregnancy, and display the same mercy the Lord Jesus used often in his public ministry.

The confessor, for instance, with careful discernment can help the penitent in various ways: possibly utilising the doctrine of “good faith” as taught by St Alphonsus Liguori and approved by the Church (1), in which he may consider it inopportune to reveal the gravity of the sin if he feels material sin will become formal sin. He may encourage them to seek the “law of gradualness” taught by St John Paul II in which they honestly undertake a path to leave behind artificial contraception though a process of deepening their faith and trust in God’s help. As part of this process, ensuring the penitent does not make use of abortifacient pills could be a positive start. He can also discern–as Pope Francis has taught in Amoris Laetitia for the civilly divorced and remarried and the possible reception of Holy Communion–the amount of guilt, or the seriousness of the sin, and thus encourage them to receive the Holy Eucharist as a spiritual medicine for their weakness– when sin is venial rather than mortal. The truth about God and Catholic morality can never be simply about judgment and sin. It must include the revelation of divine mercy. This is not a weakness in doctrine, or a means to approve sin, but a magnificent divine attribute, so great that God lowered himself to share our humanity in order to save us.

In 1989, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a clarification entitled “The moral norm of Humanae Vitae and Pastoral Duty”, in which it sought to address criticisms made by certain theologians concerning this emotive subject. While reaffirming once again what successive popes have taught (2), the document did strive to make clear that mercy and loving compassion were an essential element of Christian doctrine applicable to souls bound by these particular sins, and certainly applicable to the Christian moral tradition:

“The same Christian moral tradition just referred to, has also always maintained the distinction – not the separation and still less an opposition – between objective disorder and subjective guilt. Accordingly, when it is a matter of judging subjective moral behaviour without ever setting aside the norm which prohibits the intrinsic disorder of contraception, it is entirely licit to take into due consideration the various factors and aspects of the person’s concrete action, not only the person’s intentions and motivations, but also the diverse circumstances of life, in the first place all those causes which may affect the person’s knowledge and free will. This subjective situation, while it can never change into something ordered that which is intrinsically disordered, may to a greater or lesser extent modify the responsibility of the person who is acting. As is well known, this is a general principle, applicable to every moral disorder, even if intrinsic, it is accordingly applicable also to contraception.” (3)

Interestingly, for those critics of Pope Francis, it is noticeable in this extract just how similar the language and teaching is to that found in Amoris Laetitia paragraphs 301-302, and we must recall that this CDF document originated during the intense middle years of St John Paul II’s papacy, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was Prefect.

In conclusion, we must stress that if a new openness to natural family planning is to occur, a deeper and more realistic approach is needed in which the couple see their exalted role in the history of creation alongside, and within the heart of Jesus. It is to guide them to a greater understanding of agape, that sacrificial love that places the other above themselves, and one that entrusts every struggle and effort to the divine will of God. It is to remind them that true Christian witness will inevitably involve carrying one cross or another, and the embracing of natural family planning is certainly one. However, if this truth can be lived to the full, the sexual relationship can be one of immense joy and one benefitting from true freedom; not the illusion Satan likes to offer, but one blessed and ratified by God in heaven. Pope Francis teaches this clearly in Amoris Laetitia:

“Moreover, moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection. Married couples shape with different daily gestures a “God-enlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord.”

The young couple need the witness–as Cardinal Farrell– recently stated, of experienced married couples even more than priests; those who can guide them and encourage them that living nfp is possible and a blessing. A Realism based on authentic witness can also tell them that navigating this truth in the early years of marriage may involve certain difficulties where intimacy is concerned, but that in no way should the couple be taught to act as if they were no more than brother and sister when they are abstaining from full sexual relations during fertile periods of time. Husband and wife will always remain just that; sexuality cannot be compartmentalised, but self- control with the grace of God can certainly be mastered.

Humanae Vitae reminds us that God never rescinds his invitation for married couples to participate in the unfolding of salvation history. It impresses on us the truth that sex without its procreative and unitive aspects becomes a tool of evil in many ways: sexual slavery, pornography, paedophilia, abortion, adultery.

For every married couple, the courageous “yes” that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave to the Archangel Gabriel should be a summons for their own courageous unending yes to God; one that with trust in divine mercy can live marital life with the expectation that God will never abandon them. On the contrary, he will sit at table with them and guide them to see children as the greatest blessing–the “living stones” of the family (cf Amoris Laetitia no 14).

It must be our prayer that the next fifty years will see marriage preparation take on a new dimension which places the call to holiness as central to the vocation of each spouse; that couples are made fully aware of the gravity and beauty of their undertaking. That sacrificial love and generosity of spirit remain the central components for true companionship to grow. Anything less than this, and there is little chance that the contraceptive mentality will diminish. Authentic love allied to eschatological hope will allow future young married couples to see the divine will of God far more clearly, while appreciating their own little “domestic church” as building blocks of the glorious communion of saints that will flower fully on that Sunday with no evening.  – Stephen Walford, Vatican Insider, 23 July 2018

* Stephen Walford is a theologian and lives in Southampton, England with his wife Paula and five children. Educated at Bristol University, he is the author of two books: Heralds of the Second Coming: Our Lady, the Divine Mercy, and the Popes of the Marian Era from Bl Pius IX to Benedict XVI (Angelico Press), and Communion of Saints: The Unity of Divine Love in the Mystical Body of Christ (Angelico Press). He has written articles for various publications on eschatological and mariological themes. He is also a pianist and teacher.  

1) Pontifical Council for the Family, “Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life”, February 12, 1997, no 8

2) “What is taught by the Church on contraception is not one of the matters that may be freely disputed by theologians. To teach the contrary is equivalent to leading the conscience of spouses into error.” St John Paul II, Address “To participants in a study seminar on responsible procreation” 5 June, 1987

3) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “The moral norm of Humanae Vitae and pastoral duty”, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, N. 9, 27 February 1989, P 7.

4) Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, no 317, March 19, 2016

The internet: an ecclesiological perspective

Internet cafe, Mega Qmart Edsa Cubao, Philippines, 13 Apr 2018.   Photo by Mike Taboy

We live in a period when it has become possible for people to communicate with one another instantly, no matter the distance. People can exchange ideas and experiences, thoughts and feelings, wherever they are.

They can engage in dialogue and conversation even if they live in different parts of the world. People can initiate, sustain, and deepen friendships even from a distance. They can even act together to further a cause and effect social and political transformation.

The internet has made all this possible through social networking platforms. Social communication is changing patterns of relationships and praxis in society and the world.

How does this affect the life and mission of the Church? What are the opportunities and possibilities that this technology presents?

A dominant ecclesiology promoted by the Second Vatican Council and the Second Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in the Philippines is ecclesial communion. The Church is communion in a state of mission. Ecclesial communion is based on Trinitarian communion — the indivisible and loving union of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The model of ecclesial communion is based on the Johannine image of the vine and the branches and the Pauline image of the One Body of Christ. It is, above all, based on the Lucan idealised portrait of the first Christian community that emerged after the Pentecost and recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

The Koinonia model is associated with the unity, fellowship, friendship, sharing and participation that characterised the relationship within each Christian community and between the Christian communities. Thus the early Church is understood primarily as a network of Christian communities, a communion of communions.

This is what Vatican II and post-conciliar ecclesiology tried to recapture. This ecclesial communion is to be experienced at various levels: in the home (the domestic church), in the neighbourhood in Basic Ecclesial Communities, the parish, diocese, regional and national levels, and at the universal levels.

The Church can therefore be regarded as a web of relations — a network of relationships.

For ecclesial communion to grow and develop, communication is necessary. Interpersonal, social and dialogical communication among the members of the Church can lead to authentic communion.

As early as 1971, the role of communication for fostering communion was recognised in the ecclesiastical document, Communio et Progressio, which states, “The unity and brotherhood of humanity are the chief aims of all communication and these find source and model in the central mystery of the eternal communion between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who live a single divine life.”

Communication among members is given priority to deepen ecclesial communion, “The Church looks for ways of multiplying and strengthening the bonds of union between her members. For this reason, communication and dialogue among Catholics are indispensable.”

Dialogue between lay faithful and their pastors is also an aspect of ecclesial communion: “The normal flow of life and the smooth functioning of government within the Church require a steady two-way flow of information between the ecclesial authorities at all levels and the faithful as individuals and as organised groups. This applies to the whole world.”

The document Aetatis Novae reaffirms the right of the lay faithful to dialogue and information within the Church through the use of the media of social communication as a concrete means of realising ecclesial communion.

“It is necessary to recall the importance of the fundamental right of dialogue and information within the Church … and to continue to seek effective means, including a responsible use of media of social communications, for realising and protecting this right,” it reads.

“This is a matter of maintaining and enhancing the Church’s credibility and effectiveness. But more fundamentally, it is one of the ways of realising, in a concrete manner, the Church’s character as communio, rooted in and mirroring the intimate communion of the Trinity,” it added.

The internet can, therefore, be a concrete means of communication that can enhance communion at various levels of the Church, especially at the diocesan, national, and universal levels. This was pointed out by the Pontifical Council for Social Communication in its document on The Church and Internet.

“It has a remarkable capacity to overcome distance and isolation, bringing people into contact with like-minded persons of good will who join in virtual communities of faith to encourage and support one another,” reads the document.

The internet can provide the technological means for realising the vision of the Church as communion. Through the internet, members of the Church can actively participate in the mission of new evangelisation and in social transformation that can bring about justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

The challenge for Church leaders and lay faithful is how to make use of the available social media technology and social networking to enhance ecclesial communion. This is what we have been trying to do in our efforts to promote the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities. Fr Amado Picardal (used with permission)

–Fr Amado Picardal, CSsR, is known for his activism and advocacy for human rights. He is executive secretary of the Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Mexican beauty queen makes ‘radical’ move to religious life

MEXICO CITY – Esmeralda Solís Gonzáles is a young Mexican woman who was crowned last year as a beauty queen in her native town – and now she’s joined the Poor Clare Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament.

Twenty-year old Gonzáles has watched her story go viral over the last week on social media over a post on the Miss Mexico Facebook page.

Esmeralda was born on 12 April 1997 in Valle de Guadalupe, Jalisco State, to a Catholic family. She currently resides at the convent of the Poor Clare Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament of Cuernavaca in Morelos State, after leaving her career as a nutritionist.

“You really don’t know what religious life is until you’re within it. So far I have been able to see from another perspective what the world is and what it offers you,” Esmeralda told CNA.

“I was very happy with everything I had, but it does not compare with the happiness that God now places in my heart.”

The young postulant met the Poor Clare Missionaries some five years ago at 14, when her concern for a religious vocation “was awakening” through “vocational days, missions and camps.”

In addition, she pointed out how it was hardly a month after this process of discernment concluded  when in March 2017 she gave her first yes to her vocation on the Feast of the Annunciation.

“God’s timing is perfect. During this time (of discernment) he allowed me to have some experiences such as being a beauty queen, and other experiences, which forever left their mark and which allowed me to learn a lot for what was to come later.”

The discovery of the vocation to which she had been called was always present in her life like a “little thorn,” Esmeralda said.

“I realised that I had to make room in my life to know what it was that God had planned for me. In the process of discerning my vocation there were also fear and doubts, but the love that Our Lord was showing every day made me overcome any feeling of discouragement,” she said.

Esmeralda said she had discovered that God was calling her “to serve him in a radical way,” that is, changing her “life to embrace the cross of Christ and live it more closely.”

“I have been in religious life very little time, but I truly have been very happy,” she said.

In order to discover her vocation, Esmeralda spent a lot of time in prayer and charity, “knowing from the outside or from the world” what this change would involve.

“Change is hard for the family because it involves detachment, but I have always had the the support of my parents, siblings and true friends. Even though I could have developed myself in some other setting, I feel that if the Lord needs me then I can bear fruit in a different way,” she told CNA.

Esmeralda had a few words for young people and said that in any vocation they will find difficulties, “but if you go and take God’s hand, you’ll always be able to take the next step.”

“In religious life every new day is a new beginning and a new opportunity to extend the kingdom of God. This involves making a lot of sacrifices but they are always rewarded with happiness,” she said.

The young postulant also said that it is true that “the reality and the supposed happiness that the world sells  is very attractive” but “it is necessary to fix your eyes on what lasts.”

“You mustn’t be afraid. If God is calling you, he’ll take care of everything. All you need to do is receive him with a lot of peace, joy and confidence. I believe fear is a big excuse that is responsible for truncating the true happiness that only God can offer,” she said.

The Poor Clare Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament are a Religious Institute of Pontifical Right founded by Blessed María Inés Teresa Arias in 1945 in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

The spirit of the Institute is Eucharistic, Marian, priestly, missionary, and is centred on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The missionaries work in clinics, youth groups, preschools and schools, university dorms, centres for the spiritual exercises, missions, among others. They are present in Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, the United States, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Russia, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Vietnam and India. – CNA, 30 Apr 2018

Music at liturgy: full expression of faith

Credit: Pexels

In a recent US Catholic survey, eighty percent of those questioned said that music at Mass was very important to them. However, only thirteen percent were totally satisfied with the music that they have and actually sing. The music at Mass is important, very important! It is not simply a performance by a soloist or choir, a background to accompany our prayer, a means to create a mood, or an incentive to shout and clap our hands. Music is integral to our liturgical worship.

Pope Francis has clearly defined the purpose of music at Mass. He said that it is “first of all a matter of participating intensely in the mystery of God, in the ‘theophany’ that takes place in every Eucharistic celebration, in which the Lord makes himself present among his people, who are called truly to participate in the salvation realized by the crucified and risen Christ” (Homily at Santa Marta, December 12, 2013). The Second Vatican Council called for full, active and conscious participation of the laity at Mass. Like the introduction of the vernacular in liturgy, music is meant to foster this participation.

However, Pope Francis has noted that the very “introduction of vernacular languages into the liturgy has raised many issues: of language, form and musical genre. At times, a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of the liturgical celebrations” (Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the International Conference on Sacred Music, March 4, 2017). Good liturgical music should be both aesthetically pleasing and theologically correct. For example, any song that refers to the Eucharist as bread and wine has no place in Catholic worship. The Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus and the songs we sing should express this reality.

Lifting our hearts to God in liturgy always goes beyond the boundaries of human speech. Thus, liturgy, by its very nature, calls upon the help of music and song to praise to God. Music varies from culture to culture. And so do the musical instruments. In liturgy, it is possible to enculturate the many types of songs and instruments in as much as they enhance the celebration and lead us to focus on God.

When it comes to the musical instruments that are played at liturgy, the pipe organ holds a primacy of place in the Latin Church among all other musical instruments. Like no other musical instrument, it can express the full range of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to sorrow. Invented in the 3rd century BC, by the Greek engineer Ctesibius of Alexandria, the pipe organ was introduced into our churches in the 10thcentury. It has become the desired instrument for sacred music. With its variety of sounds and tones, it reminds us of the immensity of God. The pipe organ has the ability to surround us with the beauty of music that leads us to experience the presence of God who holds us in the embrace of his love, bringing harmony and joy into our lives.

Music plays such an important role in our worship of God because we are both body and soul. Prayer rises from the depths of our heart. Words alone do not suffice to express all that we wish to say. But, music has the power to communicate the messages and emotions that words cannot capture. Music is a bridge between the world of matter and the realm of the spirit. It transforms our life path into a conscious spiritual path. Music takes us out of ourselves and opens us up to God. Sound liturgical music, therefore, never centers on the community. Liturgy is not about what we want. Liturgy is, first and foremost, praise and worship of God and our entering into what the Lord himself wants for us.

Many great composers, such as Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Brahms recognized that their musical talent was not enough to produce good music. They needed divine inspiration. God himself loves music! After all, the Book of Psalms is a song book. Music comes from God, and when we participate in it – whether by writing, performing, or even just listening – we are receiving a gift from God.

At Mass, there are times when we may choose to simply listen to the music and let our hearts rise in praise of God. But, moments of silently listening to music and song at Mass should be rare. Not joining in the songs of the congregation limits and diminishes our participation in the liturgy. The walls of our churches should reverberate with the sound of our singing at liturgy. In the words of the Letter to the Ephesians, we should “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” (Ephesians 5:18-19). – Bishop Arthur Serratelli, CNA, 2 May 2018 

OLL organises talk on Malaysia’s electoral system

KLANG – The Church of Our Lady Of Lourdes here organised a talk “ Malaysia’s Electoral System: A constitutional perspective” on 22 April 218.

The main presenter was Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, a Professor of Law in the University of Malaya and currently holding the Tunku Abdul Rahman chair as Professor of Constitutional Law.

Also present was Archbishop Julian Leow, parish priest Father Frederick Joseph, Alex from Pemantau the watchdog for Bersih and lawyer Sangeetha Jeyakumar who spoke on PACA

“Allowing the people to elect their governors is one of the finest achievements of democracy. The idea that the government must be elected and representatives be answerable, responsible and accountable to the wishes of society is a beautiful ideal,” said Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi.

Regrettably, he said, even in the liberal democracies of the North Atlantic, the above ideals of representative government are realised only imperfectly.

He added though democracy is the best form of government, there can be no denying that behind the folklore of democracy stand many myths and many utilitarian compromises. “Democratic” electoral systems often lead to undemocratic results.

Dr Shad Saleem cited that the electoral exercise in all democracies is so colossal, involves so many details, so many officials, and so much money that democracy’s undoubted virtues get sullied.

For example, he said, the 13th general election in Malaysia involved 240,000 workers, thousands of polling booths and a budget of RM400 million for the electoral exercise.

“How many millions or billions the political parties spent collectively is unknown because the disclosed election expenses are only for the campaign period and not for the expenses incurred and inducements offered before and after the campaign period. Regrettably, around the world elections have become an exercise in cheque book diplomacy,” he said, adding what happened in the USA during Barrack Obama’s campaign period. (According to published reports and campaign fianance data, the Obama campaign cost the incumbent president, the Democratic Party and the primary super PACs supporting his candidacy more than $1.1 billion in the 2012 presidential race.)

Coming back on the issue of our electoral system, Dr Shad Saleem highlighted that in Malaysia as in UK and India — it is “ single member, simple plurality system” meaning the candidate obtaining the most votes is declared elected.

He pointed out with graphics that in Malaysia, except for 1969 and 2013, the ruling coalition has secured absolute majorities of the votes polled at eleven out of 13 elections.

While explaining to participants on electoral law and that of other countries, Dr Shad Saleem summed by saying, “ There are no ideal systems and no quick-fix solutions to defects. The law walks a tightrope between what is ideal and what is workable; what is just and what is feasible. More than in other fields of law, the world-wide attitude is “that is best which works best.”

He spoke extensively on an impartial Election Commission:

— to draw up the electoral register impartially to ensure that no one is denied the right to vote
— No phantom voters or persons who have died
— No non-citizens are allowed to register Voters satisfy the requirement of residence in their constituency
— No one registers in more than one electoral district.

Fair principles for delineating constituencies

Dr Shad Saleem also stressed on fair principles for delineating constituencies as it should be about equal in population size so as to give reality to the principle of one person, one vote, one value.

“What is notable is that the rural weightage has ethnic implications because of the concentration of Malays in rural areas. But population patterns are changing. Rural areas are dwindling from 66 per cent in 1980 to 49 per cent in 1990. In time the ethnic significance of rural weightage may diminish,” he said.

He cited examples of malapportionment such as Kapar Parlaimentary constituency in Selangor having 144,369 voters as compared to Putrajaya’s 15,355 voters and Gopeng in Perak having 97,243 electors and Padang Rengas 28,572.

Sadly he said, almost all the re-delineation cases brought to court recently had failed.

He said wherever parliaments are involved in the drawing up of electoral districts, suspicions are aroused about the possibility of gerrymandering.

While calling for those aged 18 and above to be automatically registered as voters as per the current system, he said, this was to ensure that more come out to exercise their right to vote or more so to increase the proportion of voters.

The eligibility of voters

“We had 14.6 million registered voters in June last year who constitutes only 47.5 per cent of the 30.72 million population (2015 figure). If out of these 47.5 per cent eligible voters, one were to deduct 20-25 per cent voters who do not or could not show up, this leaves only 38 per cent of the population that participates in democracy’s show-case event! We must find ways to increase this proportion.”

Dr Shad Saleem is also of the opinion that bankrupts (those declared for standing as quarantors etc) should be allowed to vote besides the homeless, differently abled and criminals (need to be narrowed down as to who can vote). He also touched on rules for the eligibility of candidates, system of political parties before touching on pre-election and campaign period issues with emphasis on dissolution of parliament, caretaker government, rules about nomination and election, conduct of election campaigns, election expenses and election offences, right to speech, processions and assemblies, counting of votes and secrecy of the ballot.

In 1955, the campaign period was 147 days and then it became shorter to 60 days and now the minimum period is 11 days.

Election offences

Dr Shad Saleem said for Parliamentary elections in Malaysia, the maximum sum that can be incurred is RM200,000 under the Election Offences Act 1954, sections 17-27 and for state seats the limit is RM100,00.

“A glaring omission in the law in the UK and Malaysia is that while limits are placed on the expenditure of individual candidates, there are no statuory limits on how much a party can spend on its candidates. There is no control on what political parties may spend or receive by way of donation. There are no requirements for parties to submit audited accounts and to disclose the source and amount of donations received. The campaign expenditure limits apply to the campaign period, not to the period before or after,” he said.

This, he added, has aroused the criticism that electoral battles have degenerated into struggles between cheque books … giving of money, free transport, food and bribes to the electorate is forbidden.

But, he further added government after government gets around the law by promising or delivering “development aid” just before election.

He also stressed that under the Election Offences Act no bribery or undue influence or misuse of government machinery is allowed.

“Tampering with ballot papers, prevention someone from voting, permitting disqualified people to vote, arranging for phantom voters are all offences,” he said, adding racist and divisive speeches were illegal and any violation of the Act is a crime.

He stressed that enforcement of the law is the responsibility of the Commission.

“In Malaysia media monopoly is a serious problem. The internet is, however, open to everyone and provides an alternative, though not always reliable, source of information,” he said.

He told participants that the law requires the secrecy of the ballot and violating it would be a criminal offence.

Post election issues
Talking on Post-Election issues, Dr Shad Saleem explained on what is a Hung Parliament, the appointment of Prime Minister, summoning of parliament, double dissolution, crossing the floor, election appeals and vacancies.

He closed his presentation with the words, “I join you in fervent prayers that the forthcoming election will be incident free, that our racial and religious harmony will be maintained, and that the victors and vanquished will gracefully accept the results of the electoral process.”

He then took a few questions from the floor before the session came to an end at 5:15 pm with Fr Frederick presenting him with a Certificate of Appreciation. – Annie Cruez, Herald Malaysia

A guide to Catholic voting

“An authentic faith … always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it … . If indeed ‘the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,’ the Church, ‘cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’”

This May, citizens across the country will gather in schools, civic centres, and city halls to cast their votes. They will stand in line and slip into voting booths, where they will help choose our next line of leaders at the national and state levels.

For many trying to live out our Catholic faith, discerning for whom to vote can be challenging. To help Catholics better form their consciences during this election year, they should know what the Church teaches — and why — regarding our civic responsibility.

Why should I vote?
Voting: It is one of our most important responsibilities as citizens. Indeed, the Church teaches (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2240) that there are three primary responsibilities of all citizens:
–to pay taxes
–to defend their country
–to vote

Each of these responsibilities asks us to put the good of society and our fellow citizens above our individual desires and needs. Thus, a primary question we must answer as Catholic voters is whether the needs of the weakest and most defenceless among us are being addressed. In the voting booth, we have a privileged opportunity to contribute to our nation and promote the common good by bringing the values and teachings of our faith to bear on the issues facing our society.

Does the Church tell me whom I should vote for?
No. The Church does not tell us whom to vote for when we enter the voting booth. It does not endorse an official list of candidates or tell us which party Catholics should join. Instead, Catholics are to use their judgment and follow their consciences as they apply the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the core faith values to the choices they make in the voting booth.

As Catholics, following the challenging path of discipleship, we need to evaluate the issues and candidates in the light of our Catholic faith. Then, we are challenged to live out our faith by getting actively involved — by voting and engaging in other civic activities.

How does my Catholic faith help me to make these choices?
We are taught from an early age to form our consciences in the light of our Catholic teaching. “To follow one’s conscience” is often misunderstood as something that allows us to do whatever we want, following the “feeling” we have that something is right or wrong.

But our faith teaches us that “conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognises the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that the person perceives and recognises the prescriptions of the divine law’. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1178)

It is our responsibility as Catholics to form our consciences by developing the virtue of prudence to discern true good in circumstances and to choose the right means of achieving it by maintaining a willingness and openness to seek what is right through studying Scripture and Church teaching, using our reason to study key issues in light of this teaching, and by prayerfully seeking to understand the will of God.

What about the separation of Church and state? Can the Church ask me to vote according to my Catholic principles?
Four principles of Catholic social doctrine are key to making practical judgments to do good and avoid evil in voting:

1. Promoting and defending the dignity of the human person
2. Supporting the family and subsidiarity in local, state and national institutions
3. Working for the common good where human rights are protected and basic responsibilities are met
4. Acting in solidarity with concern for all as our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and most vulnerable (Faithful Citizenship, Nos. 40-52 and also EG).

If all of these are priorities, what is most important?
All of these issues are important, but they are not all morally or ethically equivalent. “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” (CCC, No. 2258).

At the same time, issues such as war, the death penalty, racism and care for the poor and the immigrant are enormously important. “These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, No. 29).

The moral teaching of our Church is about more than prohibitions. We Catholics are encouraged to respond to the basic needs of human beings — food, shelter, healthcare, education and employment. We are called to welcome refugees and immigrants, defend religious freedom, support marriage and family and protect the environment.

Four steps before voting

— Inform yourself about the Church’s teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great place to start.
— Inform yourself about the issues. Listen to the candidates. See where the candidates stand on critical moral and social issues.
— Seek input from Catholics you respect.
— Pray. Take your hopes, concerns and worries to the Lord and ask for his guidance.

This seems hard
In today’s political environment, voting as a Catholic is hard work. It takes serious reflection, knowledge of Church teaching and awareness of who the candidates are and where they stand on the issues.

The Church challenges us to vote for what is best for society and all of its members, particularly those least able to speak up for or defend themselves.

The great privilege of democracy is that we, as citizens and religious believers, can have a voice in the direction of our country by voting for the common good; this is both a right and a responsibility. The great privilege of being Catholic is that we have a community of faith and a body of teaching, going back to Christ himself, that can help us make good decisions in the voting booth.

Where can I find out more?
— Our bishops have issued a detailed reflection on Catholic teaching and political life, called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:
— Catechism of the Catholic Church
— United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCB Publishing)
— Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
— Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, by Pope Francis

Check your voter polling station online now
PETALING JAYA: Malaysians eligible to vote can now find out where they can cast their ballots during GE14.

Information on voters’ polling stations and channels were placed online Monday (April 16). The information is available via the following channels:

the Election Commission website at the MySPR Semak mobile app (available on the Apple App Store and Google Play) call 03-8892 7018 send an SMS to 15888.

The polling date for GE14 on is May 9, nomination date is on April 28, while early voting is on May 5.

May 9 has been declared a public holiday for the whole country in conjunction with polling day to enable Malaysians to exercise their right to vote. – The Star, Herald Malaysia

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