By Eric J. Lyman | Religion News Service,

Pope Francis: Acts of humility: The new prelate is rewriting the rules in his first year at the Vatican. Here are a few of Francis’s symbolic moves and statements.

Pope Francis: Acts of humility: The new prelate is rewriting the rules in his first year at the Vatican. Here are a few of Francis’s symbolic moves and statements.

ROMEPope Francis could be at risk from the ‘Ndrangheta organized crime organization, according to a leading anti-mob prosecutor who has himself been the target of threats from the mafia.


Nicola Gratteri, 55, a state prosecutor in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where the ‘Ndrangheta is most active, said the pope’s effort to reform the church is making the ‘Ndrangheta “very nervous.” 

The organization is considered by experts in Italy to be the most dangerous, most unified and most difficult to penetrate mafia-type organization in the country. “I cannot say if the organization is in a position to do something like this, but they are dangerous and it is worth reflecting on,” Gratteri warned. “If the godfathers can find a way to stop him, they will seriously consider it.

RELATED: Pope Francis and his acts of humility

“Those who have up until now profited from the influence and wealth drawn from the church are getting very nervous,” he added. “For many years, the mafia has laundered money and made investments with the complicity of the church. But now the pope is dismantling the poles of economic power in the Vatican, and that is dangerous.”

Gratteri noted that in southern Italy organized crime figures have strong and high-profile relationships with local church leaders, who help give the crime figures legitimacy.

He also said most Italian mobsters are practicing Catholics, despite their violent activities.

“A gunman from the ‘Ndrangheta will pray and kiss his rosary before shooting someone,” said Gratteri, who has been under police protection against the mob since the 1980s.

Gratteri was named by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta to head a special committee aimed at curbing the influence of organized crime.

Francis has spoken out strongly against organized crime in the past, specifically naming the country’s four main organized crime groups —including the ‘Ndrangheta — in May.

On Monday (Nov. 11), Francis spoke out against corruption, quoting Jesus from the Gospel of St. Luke: “It would be better for (the corrupt man) if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea.”

Security issues have been an area of concern since the early days of Francis’ papacy because of his willingness to break protocol to engage with the faithful.

Source:  Washington Post/Religion News Service LLC.



Multiple media reports have given rise to the misconception that Pope Francis is polling Catholics for their views on Church teaching and practices.




Pope Francis Portrait Painting

Pope Francis Portrait Painting (Photo credit: faithmouse)

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis wants to know about the state of marriage and the family in the Church, before the bishops meet in Rome for an extraordinary synod next year. However, the lay faithful should not expect to be receiving a survey on their views from the Vatican anytime soon. 

For one thing, the Vatican’s survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and the aim is to collect raw data, not opinions on Church doctrine or discipline, in advance of the 2014 synod. The data will help inform the bishops as they develop pastoral solutions for the challenges faced by modern families.

“Each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican,” said Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Clemmer said once a diocese completes its report, the data will be sent back to the USCCB and then forwarded on to the Vatican.

It is too early to say how each of the U.S. dioceses will handle the questionnaire. The Archdiocese of Denver’s communications office informed the Register that the archdiocese is studying how best to approach the questionnaire and will be forming a plan over the next few weeks. In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., according to the communications office, Bishop Kevin Rhoades has not yet had an opportunity to meet with his cabinet to discuss how they will gather the survey data.

The Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., said that it will be distributing the survey to all priests and deacons in its 15 counties and that it may include those involved in parish marriage ministries as well.

“It will be a big job to read and compile all the surveys in the short time allotted, but I feel that it will be worth it to share this information about marriage in central Pennsylvania with the larger Church,” said Victoria Laskowski, the diocese’s director of marriage and family ministries.

The responses from all the dioceses have to be returned to the Vatican by the end of January 2014.

2014 Synod

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Français : emblème pontifical Italiano: emblema del Papato Português: Emblema papal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The synod is set for Oct. 5-19 and will focus on “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” The bishops and Pope Francis will discuss pastoral responses to the problems of divorce and same-sex “marriage,” as well as other challenges to the health of families.

The 39 questions in the Vatican survey form part of a preparatory document that addresses such topics as “Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations,” the “Union of Persons of the Same Sex,” the “Education of Children in Irregular Marriages,” “Openness of the Married Couple to Life” and the “Relationship Between the Family and the Person.”

“This is huge, to have an extraordinary synod focused specifically on the family,” said Bill May, president of Catholics for the Common Good, a lay apostolate focused on evangelizing the culture.

May is the author of a recent book called Getting the Marriage Conversation Right, and his organization has been focused on presenting the Church’s teachings on marriage and family in a compelling way.

“The questionnaire reflects an interest in trying to understand the problems of the family more deeply as they try to prepare and address it,” he said.


Vatican City

Vatican City (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The Vatican’s worldwide survey, however, has been misunderstood by others and inaccurately described in a number of media outlets as an opinion survey or a poll of the views lay Catholics may have on marriage, family and sexuality.

Vatican officials involved with preparing for the synod have made clear that the preparatory document and questionnaire are geared toward finding pastoral solutions for the modern challenges to the family, not altering Church teaching.

Cardinal Péter Erdő, primate of Hungary, said at a Nov. 5 press conference that the aim of the Vatican survey is to obtain “concrete and real data” from dioceses to inform the synod’s discussions.

“The document contains, as well as a general presentation on the matter, various essential biblical and magisterial quotations on the theme as well as a questionnaire on the main challenges regarding the family,” Cardinal Erdő said.

One lay Catholic organization, however, has taken upon itself to publish an online version of the survey. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good — a separate and distinct organization unrelated to Catholics for the Common Good — has posted a truncated version of the Vatican questionnaire, under a heading that reads, “Communicating the Sense of the Faithful in the United States to Pope Francis.” The organization says it will send the responses to the USCCB “and to the appropriate officials in the Vatican, including the Holy Father himself.”

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has been criticized by some Catholic observers, who note that it is a politically partisan group that has acted to undermine Church teachings on abortion.

During the 2008 election campaign, then-Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver publicly criticized the organization, commenting that “… the work of Democratic-friendly groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue, instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”

Only a Preparatory Document

However, it appears unlikely that anything other than the diocesan responses to the official Vatican survey will be considered.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi explained that the Vatican questionnaire is “only a document sent to bishops’ conferences throughout the world” to help prepare for the extraordinary synod.

The USCCB Office of Communications also said it could not comment about third-party surveys — only on the official survey being sent to the bishops.

Pope Francis’ call for an extraordinary synod of bishops in 2014 was announced by the Vatican in October.

The synod’s discussions on the family are expected to be taken up again in 2015, at the regular worldwide synod of bishops, which falls on the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the synodal system by Pope Paul VI.

Source: Catholic News Register






Pope Francis

Pope Francis

There are more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide, and Pope Francis wants to know what they think — all of them. The Holy Father is having surveys sent to parishes all over the world, asking for churchgoers thoughts on previously avoided family topics. It’s a clear break with tradition, given that the Catholic Church isn’t usually known for being a grassroots organization. Francis wants to know what his flock thinks about same-sex marriage, divorce, single parents and other family issues that common in 21st-century life.

It’s not clear what, if any, changes might come from the surveys, but sometimes it’s enough to just ask the questions and take it from there, particularly on touchy topics. Boston College theology professor Thomas Groome told NBC News, “All of these things have been closed issues and you could be fired for even talking about them. Raising these questions and polling people — it at least signals something other than a closed mind.” 


By Dave Nodar

English: Pope John Paul II on 12 August 1993 i...

English: Pope John Paul II on 12 August 1993 in Denver (Colorado) Polski: Papież Jan Paweł II 12 sierpnia 1993 roku w Denwer (Colorado) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Pope John Paul II’s encyclicals, speeches and other writings he uses the term new evangelization. Catholics as well as other Christians have been intriqued and interested in his frequent use of this term. What is he referring to and what are characteristics of this new evangelization’?

According to the pope, “The expression New Evangelization was popularized in the encylical of Pope Paul VI Evangelization in the Modern World, as a response to the new challenges-that the contemporary world creates for the mission of the Church.”1 Pope John Paul II sees the need for a “great relaunching” of evangelization in the present life of the Church in a variety of ways.2 In Mission of The Redeemer (Redemptoris Missio ), John Paul II presents a new synthesis of the Church’s teaching about evangelization in modern times.

The pope’s call to a new evangelization is a prophetic and revolutionary calling to the Roman Catholic Church. As we approach the third millennium, Pope John Paul II is re-directing and re-focusing the Church’s priorities. John Paul II proclaims “the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”3 The Catholic Church committing all c of it energies to a new evangelization and mission to the nations is a radical change in emphasis. The reality is that the vast majority of Catholics (clergy and laity) are not inclined to evangelization. The term, evangelization, itself for most Catholics sounds Protestant. Additionally the Catholic Church is understood by many her own members, as well as by those outside her life, to be primarily liturgical pastoral and hierarchical. One might argue: “Isn’t evangelization and missionary activities something Protestants do?” Yet the Church teaches that she is missionary by her very nature, evangelization is a duty of every Christian.4 Pope Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi states, “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize. . .”5 While the notion of evangelization may seem foreign to Catholics, in light of the times we are living in, the changing world scene, the deterioration of western civilization, and the weak condition of the Church in many parts of the world, Pope John Paul lI’s urgent call to a new evangelization is imperative. The entire Church must come to embrace this calling and make it a normal part of Catholic life.

When Pope John Paul II uses the term “a new evangelization” he does not mean a new message. “Evangelization cannot be new in its content since its very theme is always the one gospel given in Jesus Christ.”6 In its writings about evangelization the Church means most fundamentally the proclamation of the basic Christian message: salvation through Jesus Christ.7 On this foundation of the basic message of eternal life in God, John Paul II extends the notion of evangelization. He notes that there are a diversity of activities in the Church’s one mission. He states that evangelization should not be limited to individual unbelievers but also addressed to non-practicing Christians and to entire cultures (those that need re-evangelizing and those who do not yet believe in Christ).8 When the pope talks about evangelization that is new he states “evangelization can be new in its ardor, methods and expression.”9 It must be adapted to the people of our day.

In Redemptoris Missio John Paul II sketches out some of the characteristics of the new evangelization. Although this presentation is by no means comprehensive I have attempted to point out some of these characteristics that distinguish the new evangelization.

1. The New Evangelization is Christocentric.

The new evangelization like all evangelization must be founded on the person of Jesus Christ and His gospel. “Evangelization will always contain — as the foundation, centre and, at the same time, the summit of its dynamism — a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ . . . salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy.” “The new evangelization,” according to John Paul II, “is not a matter of merely passing on doctrine but rather of a personal and profound meeting with the Savior.” This is not new in the Church’s proclamation. However I believe that Pope John Paul I l’s constant emphasis and exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord is very significant for the Church at this time in history. It is very easy for us as Catholics to be distracted with the riches that God has given to the Church: her history, apostolic succession, her liturgy, her theology, the church fathers and saints, her art, etc. With so many wonderful treasures we can be, it seems, distracted from the pearl of great price. From the beginning of his papacy’ John Paul II has held the conviction that he is to proclaim, “(the Redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, . . . the centre of the universe and of history.”12 He has helped us to see what is most important both in his encyclicals and in his life.

“Evangelization will always contain
as the foundation, centre and, at the same time,
the summit of its dynamism
— a clear proclamation that,
in Jesus Christ salvation is offered to all men,
as a gift of God’s grace and mercy.”
“The new evangelization,” according to John Paul II,
“is not a matter of merely passing on doctrine
but rather of a personal and
profound meeting with the Savior.”

Upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and His Gospel, which Pope John Paul 11 establishes clearly in all of his encyclicals, we can see some other characteristics that distinguish the new evangelization from previous times in history.

2. The New Evangelization is the responsibility of the entire People of God.

In the past (and even presently), for most Catholics evangelization was perceived to be the work of a special group within the Church, e.g., those with a special vocation, missionaries or priests. In the new evangelization, however, it is clear that the call is to the entire people of God. When reading Redemptoris Missio it is striking to see the number of times Pope John Paul II states that missionary evangelization is the responsibility and calling of all Christians.”13 In the Exhortation Christifldeles Laici, John Paul II says, “I spoke explicitly of the Church’s permanent mission of bringing the gospel to the multitudes. . . who as yet do not know Christ. . . and of the responsibility of the lay faithful in this regard. The mission ad gentes is incumbent upon the entire People of God. . . missionary activity which is carried out in a wide variety of ways, is the task of all the Christian faithful.”l4 “Missionary activity is a matter for all Christians, for all dioceses, and parishes, Church institutions and associations.”

The mission to the nations
is incumbent upon the entire People of God
. . . missionary activity which is carried out
in a wide variety of ways,
is the task of all the Christian faithful.”
“Missionary activity is a matter for all Christians…”

This is a remarkable shift in emphasis, one that I believe necessitates a pastoral plan by the bishops of the Church for helping the faithful to share in the responsibility of evangelization and the mission ad gentes In order for all of the Christian faithful to participate in this calling to the new evangelization the reality of the life changing, gospel message must be experienced as “good news” in each of their lives. The message of the Gospel must to be heard, understood, embraced, lived and shared by all membersof the Church! In order for this radical shift in emphasis to occur priority must be given to proclaiming regularly and clearly what the message of the new evangelization is.

Within this calling that is proper to all of the Christian faithful, Pope John Paul II makes distinctions of responsibility for bishops, priests, members of religious congregations, missionaries, and the laity.16 Bishops headed by the Successor of Peter are primarily responsible for work of evangelization. Priests are, by vocation responsible to stir up the missionary consciousness of the faithful. Members of religious congregations because of their consecration give testimony of the values of the Kingdom of God. Laity in their daily environments of family life and the market place have excellent opportunities to be witnesses of the Gospel. With declining number of priestly vocations in countries such as our own the importance of the laity’s responsibility in evangelization cannot be underestimated. In his address to the Latin American Bishops at Port au-Prince, Haiti in March 1983, John Paul II while speaking of the new evangelization noted three aspects which are fundamental to it. The second aspect had to do with the laity. He noted, “not only the lack of priests but also and above all the self – understanding of the church in Latin America, in light of the Second Vatican Council and Puebla, speaks forcefully of the place of the laity in the church and in society “. . . the bishops together with their churches [ought to be] engaged in forming and increasing the number of laity who are ready to collaborate effectively in the work of evangelization.” The laity must be trained and released into the service of evangelization as missionaries of the new evangelization. The Holy Spirit as the principal agent of evangelization and mission is calling all of God’s people to enter the harvest fields.

3. The New Evangelization is not just for the foreign missions

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

In Redemptoris Missio, the pope says that in today’s world from the viewpoint of evangelization we can distinguish three situations that need to be addressed differently. The first is the situation of the mission ad gentes in the proper sense of the term. Bringing the gospel to peoples, groups and socio-cultural contexts in which Christ and his Gospel are not known. “(T)o preach the Gospel and to establish new Churches among peoples or communities where they do not yet exist, . . . this is the first task of the Church.” 17
Second, there are healthy mature Christian communities that are fervent in their faith. have a sense of the universal mission, and in which the Church carries out her activities and pastoral care. Here he seems to describe a situation that requires pastoral care and not evangelization. Third, there is what the pope calls an intermediate situation. Within countries there are entire groups of the baptized who have lost a living sense of the faith, or no longer consider themselves members of the Church. “ln this case what is needed is a “new evangelization” or a “re-evangelization.”l8 In this third situation people need to be socialized into situations of vibrant faith.19 Some need their faith to be renewed and enlivened. Others have had little or no training in the Christian faith and essentially need to be evangelized with the basic gospel and receive formation in the faith (catechesis).

In Redemptoris Missio, this re-evangelization seems to be primarily what Pope John Paul II refers to when he talks of the new evangelization.

This re-evangelization is no small undertaking for the Catholic Church in the United States and in other countries such as those in central and eastern Europe as well as in Latin America. In our country it is painfully clear that many Catholics (and other Christians) have not been effectively incorporated into life in Christ. Baptized as infants many have never made a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel. As adolescents and adults many drift away from the Church. Evangelization must be directed to the Church itself. 20

… it is painfully clear that many Catholics (and other Christians)
have not been effectively incorporated into life in Christ.
Baptized as infants many have never made a personal commitment
to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
As adolescents and adults many drift away from the Church.
Evangelization must be directed to the Church itself.

In the face of directly anti-gospel proclamations that are constantly being proclaimed to Christians in many countries there needs to be the clear proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and his Gospel. People need to be regularly inspired, encouraged and formed in their faith in order to live a Christian lifestyle. (There is the need for orthodoxy and orthopraxy).

Pope John Paul’s helps us to distinguish between those situations needing primary evangelization (ad gentes), re-evangelization, or pastoral care. These distinctions are critical to recognize at this point in history. His summons to re-evangelization is an honest and essential assertion by the successor of Peter that must be heeded by the Church. The time is long over due to recognize that evangelization cannot he limited to the mission ad gentes.

4. The New Evangelization is directed to individuals and to whole cultures.

Pope John Paul II teaches that not only individuals but whole cultures need to be transformed by influence of the Gospel. In her missionary activity the Church encounters different cultures and becomes involved in the process of inculturation. By inculturation the pope means, “the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through the integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures 21 “The new evangelization must strive to incarnate Christian values and open the Gospel message to human cultures. Evangelization according to John Paul should lead to, “a civilization of love.” 22

5. The New Evangelization is not limited to the presentation of the basic Gospel message (kerygma) but is a comprehensive process of Christianization.

The proclamation of the Gospel is the essential first step. It is the foundation of a life long process. Evangelization according to the pope also involves catechetical instruction, moral doctrine and the social teaching of the Church. Those who are incorporated into Christ are incorporated into His Body. They are joined to God through the sacraments and the Church community. 23

6. The New Evangelization calls for a missionary spirituality

The basis of sharing the life of Christ with others is life in Christ. We are called to know Christ and to make Him known. The fundamental activity, therefore, of those called to be missionaries is receptivity to God, of complete docility to the Holy Spirit. Receiving is the condition for doing the work of an evangelist. “It is not possible,” John Paul II states,”to bear witness to Christ without reflecting his image, which is made alive in us by grace and the power of the Spirit.” 24 In order to pass on the Gospel to others it must have first permeated our lives. “An essential characteristic “of this missionary spirituality, the pope tells us,”is intimate communion with Christ.”25 John Paul II mentions some other elements of a spirituality that are essential for all those called to be missionaries. Reception of the gifts of fortitude and discernment are essential. “The missionary must renounce himself and everything that he considered as his own up to this point, and make himself everything to everyone.”26 This spirituality calls us to apostolic charity which enables us “to feel Christ’s burning love for souls, and love the Church as Christ did.”27 Furthermore, John Paul’s exhorts all to the way of holiness: “Holiness must be called a fundamental presupposition and an irreplaceable condition of everyone in fulfilling the mission of salvation in the Church. The universal call to holiness is closely linked to the universal call to mission. Every member of the faithful is called to holiness and to mission.”28 He also notes,”the future of mission depends to a great extent on contemplation. Unless the missionary is a contemplative he cannot proclaim Christ in a credible way.”29 The missionary is called to be a “person of the Beatitudes (poverty, meekness, acceptance of suffering and persecution, the desire for justice and peace, charity). He closes his call to a genuine Christian spirituality by telling us. “the characteristic of every authentic missionary life is the inner joy that comes from faith. . . the one who proclaims the”Good News” must be a person who has found true hope in Christ. ” 30

“An essential characteristic “of this
missionary spirituality,the pope tells us,
“is intimate communion with Christ.”

Pope John Paul II aims the call and the challenge of a new evangelization at each of us. He is practicing what he preaches. Missionary activity, he tells us, “renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive pope’s missionary activity is renewing and revitalizing faith among the faithful! John Paul II is preaching the Gospel to the Church and to the nations. The calling he proclaims is the calling of Christ to his disciples,”come follow me.” The pope is proclaiming the fundamental truths of our faith. He is inviting us to join him on the journey in Christ. For those who would participate in the new evangelization they are called to personal communion with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. For those who would be missionaries in the new evangelization they must first be disciples of Christ, in living relationship with the Lord and His Church.

Pope John Paul II is helping us to see how we as Catholics can enter into a new evangelization in a way that is consistent with the Church’s teaching and tradition. He also offers to us spiritual perspective that enables us to respond in humility and hope to the difficult times that we live in.

In his call to a new evangelization John Paul IT following the directives of Vatican II has helped to focus the Church on some of the crucial priorities necessary for the strengthening and renewal of the Church. Furthermore, I believe that he is proclaiming God’s call to the Church in our day in such a manner as to both address the Church’s past and present difficulties, and to prepare her for the third millennium. “How many internal tensions, which weaken and divide certain local Churches and institutions, would disappear before the firm conviction that the salvation of local communities is procured through cooperation in work for the spread of the Gospel to the farthest bounds of the earth!” 32 “Missionary activity, declares the pope, renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!”33

the new evangelizationis very much tied up with
“entering a new missionary age,
which will become a radiant day
bearing an abundant harvest,
if all Christians . . .
respond with generosity and holiness
to the calls and challenges of our time.”

In describing the main orientation of his pontificate Pope John Paul II declared in Mexico City, May 6, 1990, “The Lord and Master of history and of our destinies has wished my pontificate to be that of a pilgrim pope of evangelization walking down the roads of the world bringing to all peoples the message of salvation.”4 Since the beginning of his pontificate the Pope has taken over eighty missionary trips! He is personally committed to the priority of evangelization and the mission to the nations. He is leading the people of God into the third millennium with the conviction that the ‘nineties’ are an extended season of advent leading us to the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation. He believes that this new evangelization is very much tied up with “entering a new missionary age,which will become a radiant day bearing an abundant harvest, if all Christians, and missionaries and young Churches in particular, respond with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of our time.”35


The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships, but teaches that homosexual persons deserve respect, justice and pastoral care. The Vatican and Pope John Paul II are speaking out against the growing number of places that recognize same-sex marriages. 

Bishops Urge Constitutional Amendment to Protect Marriage

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for a constitutional amendment to protect the unique social and legal status of marriage. 

In Catholic belief, “marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman, joined as husband and wifein an intimate partnership of life and love,” the 47-bishop committee said in a statement released Sept. 10.

Marriage Day

Marriage Day (Photo credit: Fikra)


“What are called ‘homosexual unions,’ because they do not express full human complementarity and because they are inherently nonprocreative, cannot be given the status of marriage,” the committee said.

It warned that “the importance of marriage for children and for society” is under attack in U.S. courts and legislatures and in popular culture and entertainment media, which “often undermine or ignore the essential role of marriage and promote equivalence between marriage and homosexual relationships.”

The Administrative Committee — composed of the USCCB’s executive officers, elected committee chairmen and elected regional representatives — is the highest policy and decision-making body of the bishops apart from the entire body when it meets twice a year in general assembly.

The committee, which met in Washington, did not specify language for a federal marriage amendment.

Rather, it committed the bishops to promoting the “essential role of marriage … in our teaching and preaching, but also in our public policy advocacy at the state and national levels and in the important dialogue about how best to protect marriage and the common good in the U.S. Constitution and in our society as a whole.”

“We offer general support for a federal marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution as we continue to work to protect marriage in state legislatures, the courts, the Congress and other appropriate forums,” it said.

In May, a proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as “the union of a man and a woman” was introduced in Congress.

The bishops cited a recent Vatican document that called legal recognition of same-sex unions “gravely unjust.”

Citing marriage’s unique societal role in the procreation and raising of children, the Vatican said, “The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.”

The Administrative Committee said the church clearly teaches the dignity of homosexual persons and condemns “all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse.”

The bishops said their defense of marriage focuses “on the importance of marriage, not on homosexuality or other matters.”

The growing U.S. debate over granting marriage rights or equivalent legal status to same-sex unions is part of a contemporary cultural phenomenon across the Western world.

In the United States there have been a number of court and legislative battles over the question of legal benefits for same-sex unions since 1993, when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state could not exclude same-sex couples from marriage unless it could show compelling state interests and prove that its marriage laws were narrowly tailored to those interests.

That led to legislation in Hawaii granting domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples.

Vermont adopted similar legislation in 2000 following a similar court ruling there, and a case currently before the Massachusetts Supreme Court challenges that state’s marriage laws.

In the wake of the Hawaii court decision a number of other states amended their marriage laws to ban or strengthen existing bans on same-sex “marriage,” but provision of equivalent benefits and protections to same-sex partnerships has increased on a number of fronts, including companies and some local governments deciding to provide spousal benefits to same-sex partners of employees.

Canada’s federal government has been struggling since July to create new laws implementing a Canadian Supreme Court decision that the traditional definition of marriage violates the equality provision of that nation’s constitution.

Responding to a legislative proposal to redefine marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” the bishops of Canada Sept. 10 urged people to oppose “a redefinition of marriage that includes same-sex partners.”

When the Dutch Parliament voted to recognize same-sex unions as marriages in 2000, Pope John Paul II denounced the decision.

Calling marriage between a man and a woman a fundamental part of human reality and the basic unit of society, the pope said, “No other form of relationship between persons can be considered as an equivalent to this natural relationship between a man and a woman out of whose love children are born.”

In 1996 the heads of two bishops’ committees — domestic policy and marriage and family — issued a joint statement firmly opposing any “attempts to grant the legal status of marriage to a relationship between persons of the same sex.”

The following year the bishops’ conference sent all bishops a 77-page resource paper addressing the pastoral, legal, social and theological issues posed in the debate over treating same-sex unions the same as marriages.  

Source: Catholic News Service 


Pope Benedict XVI appealed for peace Friday at a time of deep turmoil in the Middle East, calling the flow ofweapons into Syriaa “grave sin” as the country endures a bloody civil war.

English: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition

English: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pope arrived in Lebanon for a three-day visit despite the recent unrest in region — including the war in neighboring Syria, a mob attack that killed several Americans in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador, and a stringof violent protests across the region stemming from an anti-Islam film.

“I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace,” the pope said upon his arrival in Beirut.

“As a friend of God and as a friend of men.”

But just hours after his arrival, violence erupted in northern Lebanon over the anti-Islam film produced in the United States called “Innocence of Muslims.” The movie ridicules the Prophet Muhammad, portraying him as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester.

According to Lebanese security officials, a crowd angry over the film set fire Friday to a KFC and an Arby’s restaurant in the northeastern city of Tripoli, sparking clashes with police. Police then opened fire, killing one of the attackers, the officials said.

At least 25 people were wounded in the melee, including 18 police who were hit with stones and glass. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to brief the media.

Lebanese authorities enacted stringent security measures for the pope, suspending weapons permits except for politicians’ bodyguards and confining the visit to central Lebanon and the northern Christian areas. Army and police patrols were stationed along the airport road.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane, the pope, who is 85, said he never considered canceling the trip for security reasons, adding that “no one ever advised (me) to renounce this trip and personally, I have never considered this.”

The pope denounced religious fundamentalism, calling it “a falsification of religion.”

He also praised the Arab Spring uprisings, which have ousted four long-time dictators.

“It is the desire for more democracy, for more freedom, for more cooperation and for a renewed Arab identity,” the pope said.

The turmoil stemming from the Arab Spring has deeply unsettled the Middle East’s Christian population, which fears being in the cross-fire of rival Muslim groups.

Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians in the Mideast — nearly 40 percent of Lebanon’s 4 million people, with Maronite Catholics being the largest sect. Lebanon is the only Arab country with a Christian head of state.

Benedict, the third pope to visit Lebanon after Paul VI in 1964 and John Paul II in 1997, will be addressing concerns by the region’s bishops over the plight of Christians in the Middle East. War, political instability and economic hardships have driven thousands from their traditional communities, dating to early Christianity in the Holy Land, Iraq and elsewhere.

Also Friday, the pope called for an end to weapons imports to Syria. Syria’s rebels have said they desperately need weapons to fight Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s authoritarian regime.

“The import of weapons must be stopped, because without the weapons import the war could not continue,” he said. “Instead of the weapons import, which is a grave sin, we should import ideas of peace and creativity and find solutions to accept each other with our differences.”

The pontiff was welcomed by top leaders, including the Lebanese president, prime minister and parliament speaker, as well as Christian and Muslim religious leaders. Cannons fired a 21-shots salute for the pope.

“Let me assure you that I pray especially for the many people who suffer in this region,” he said upon arrival.

After a ceremony at the airport, Bendict’s convoy drove through Beirut as army aircraft flew overhead for protection. The pope was on his way to the mountain town of Harisa, where he will stay at the Vatican embassy.

The papal visit comes amid fears that Syria’s conflict might spill over to Lebanon. Clashes in Lebanon between Syrian groups over the past months have claimed the lives of more than two dozen people and left scores wounded.

The Christian community in Lebanon is divided between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Among Assad’s supporters is former Lebanese prime minister and army commander Michel Aoun, a strong ally of the militant Hezbollah group.

Hezbollah’s leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah welcomed the pontiff’s visit, describing it as “extraordinary and historic.” “I cannot forget the sad and painful events which have affected your beautiful country along the years,” Benedict XVI said, referring to Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war that left about 150,000 people dead.

“Looking at your country, I also come symbolically to all countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs,” he said.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi did not rule out that the pope would meet some supporters of Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group that has risen steadily over the decades from anti-Israel resistance group into Lebanon’s most powerful military and political force. The U.S. considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Lombardi declined to say what the Vatican’s position is on the group.

Source; Associated Press


Humanae Vitae (Latin: Of Human Life)

Pope Paul VI Issued Humanae Vitae on 25 July 1968


Affirmation of traditional teaching

In this encyclical Paul VI reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s traditional view of marriage and marital relations and a continued condemnation of artificial birth control. There were two Papal committees and numerous independent experts looking into the latest advancement of science and medicine on the question of artificial birth control,[2] which were noted by the Pope in his encyclical.[3] The expressed views of Paul VI reflected the teachings of his predecessors, especially Pius XI,[4]Pius XII[5] and John XXIII,[6] all of whom had insisted on the divine obligations of the marital partners in light of their partnership with God the creator.

Doctrinal Basis

Paul VI himself, even as commission members issued their personal views over the years, always reaffirmed the teachings of the Church, repeating them more than once in the first years of his Pontificate.[7]

To Pope Paul VI, as with of all his predecessors, marital relations are much more than a union of two people. They constitute a union of the loving couple with a loving God, in which the two persons create a new person materially, while God completes the creation by adding the soul. For this reason, Paul VI teaches in the first sentence of Humanae Vitae, that the transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.[8] This is divine partnership, so Paul VI does not allow for arbitrary human decisions, which may limit divine providence. The Pope does not paint an overly romantic picture of marriage: Marital relations are a source of great joy, but also of difficulties and hardships.[8] The question of human procreation, exceeds in the view of Paul VI specific disciplines such as biology, psychology, demography or sociology.[9] According to Paul VI, married love takes its origin from God, who “is love”, and from this basic dignity, he defines his position:

  • Love is total — that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.[10]

The encyclical opens with an assertion of the competency of the

English: Pope Paul VI

English: Pope Paul VI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

magisterium of the Catholic Church to decide questions of morality. It then goes on to observe that circumstances often dictate that married couples should limit the number of children, and that the sexual act between husband and wife is still worthy even if it can be foreseen not to result in procreation. Nevertheless, it is held that the sexual act must “retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life”, and the “direct interruption of the generative process already begun” is unlawful.[citation needed]

Every action specifically intended to prevent procreation is forbidden, except in medically necessary circumstances. Therapeutic means necessary to cure diseases are exempted, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result, but only if infertility is not directly intended.[11] This includes both chemical and barrier methods of contraception.[citation needed] All these are held to directly contradict the “moral order which was established by God”. Abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, is absolutely forbidden, as is sterilization, even if temporary. Therapeutic means which induce infertility are allowed (e.g., hysterectomy), if they are not specifically intended to cause infertility (e.g., the uterus is cancerous, so the preservation of life is intended). Natural family planning methods (abstaining from intercourse during certain parts of the menstrual cycle) are allowed, since they take advantage of “a faculty provided by nature.”[citation needed]

The acceptance of artificial methods of birth control is then claimed to result in several negative consequences, among them a “general lowering of moral standards” resulting from sex without consequences, and the danger that men may reduce women “to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of [their] own desires”; finally, abuse of power by public authorities, and a false sense of autonomy.[12]

Appeal to natural law and conclusion

Public authorities should oppose laws which undermine natural law;[13] scientists should further study effective methods of natural birth control; doctors should further familiarize themselves with this teaching, in order to be able to give advice to their patients,[14] priests must spell out clearly and completely the Church’s teaching on marriage.[15] The encyclical acknowledges that “perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching”, but points out that the Roman Catholic Church cannot “declare lawful what is in fact unlawful”, because she is concerned with “safeguarding the holiness of marriage, in order to guide married life to its full human and Christian perfection.”[16] This is to be the priority for his fellow bishops and priests and lay people. The Pope predicts that future progress in social cultural and economic spheres will make marital and family life more joyful, provided God’s design for the world is faithfully followed.[16] The encyclical closes with an appeal to observe the natural laws of the Most High God. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed.[17]


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