Thursday, November 30, 2006

the Pearl of Great Price

The “Pearl of Great Price”

November 29, 2006

[Editor's note: This coverage of the pope's visit to Istanbul is made possible by exclusive arrangement with Inside the Vatican Magazine.]

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye." --Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Did you ever come to a place and time and sense, suddenly, with an odd certainty, that it was this place, this time, toward which all your travels had been tending? And at that moment, did you ever feel that your arrival was not "fated," "predestined," as if compelled by some iron law (because each step you had taken had been free, completely) and yet at the same time... not entirely your own work? As if your own free choices had "echoed" in their freedom, a mysterious providence, outside of and beyond you, that had been awaiting its revealing through the unfolding of your own free decisions?

Such an experience came to me yesterday, in a small Catholic church in Istanbul, as I awaited Pope Benedict's arrival in the city.

Yesterday, Benedict XVI did arrive in Turkey, and, against many predictions, all went well. In a last-minute change of plans, showing the importance of this visit for the Turkish government, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met his plane.

The pope then visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. He wrote a message in a guest book calling Turkey "a meeting point of different religions and cultures and a bridge between Asia and Europe."

He next met Turkey's head of religious affairs, Ali Bardakoglu. By this the pope, who is head of a state and of a world religion, displayed his humble willingness to meet a government minister as an equal.

Delivering his first keynote address, to Turkey's diplomatic corps (all those diplomats from around the world accredited to Turkey) he said, essentially, that leaders of all religions must "utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence as a legitimate expression of faith." He also decried terrorism and "disturbing conflicts across the Middle East" and ended by saying, simply, "I hope my trip will bring many fruits."

Then he retired to rest and sleep.

Today, Benedict will continue on to Ephesus, to see the house believed to have been the last home of the Virgin Mary, and then, in the evening, he will come to Istanbul.

I, waiting in Istanbul yesterday, could not be in Ankara to see Benedict. So I went to a morning press conference given by Bishop Brian Farrell from the Vatican and Metropolitan Demetrios, head of the Greek Catholic Church in the United States. The press conference was held at the Hilton Hotel, which will fill up tonight with the rest of the Vatican press corps.

In the lobby of the Hilton, busy with journalists and cameramen and security personnel walking to and fro, chatting on cell phones and walkie-talkies, I saw someone I hadn't seen for 15 years: François Vayne, editor of a journal called Lourdes which chronicles everything about the site in France of the miracle of St. Bernadette.


"Oui?" he replied, in French. For a moment he didn't recognize me, then, "Ah! Bien sur! Inside the Vatican!"

We shook hands and began to exchange news. He told me he was staying with the Dominican fathers who live by the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. (I did not even know there were any Dominicans in the city. I had been so focused on the Turkey's Orthodox and Muslims that I had forgotten the Catholics.)

"They are experts in Christian-Muslim relations," he said. "They have an important center in Cairo, and one Dominican, who lives in Iran, is Irish. He just arrived yesterday."

"Sounds interesting," I said. "Could I come over to visit and talk to them?"

"I see no reason why not. I'll ask them, and call you."

He gave me the address: Galata Kulesi Sok., #44, the Dominican convent next to the church.

I spent the next hour trying to improve my access to the upcoming events. The events in Istanbul this week will be so crowded that strict limits have been placed on who will be allowed into the various ceremonies. Journalists have been divided up, with small "pools" selected to represent hundreds of journalists who will not be permitted inside one or another of the churches or other venues.

I spend a considerable time talking with members of the American Greek Orthodox group I had seen the day before at Halki. The members are known as "Archons" because they support the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in Istanbul; without their support, it might vanish. (The comparable term for Catholics might be "Knights"). They represent the wealthy, committed leadership of the Greek Orthodox community in the US, and have come to Istanbul especially for these historic days. They will have special access to some ceremonies, and I wonder if they might find a way to include me.

But they are having difficulties, too. The Turkish government doesn't like the fact they are using the word "Ecumenical" to describe the Orthodox Patriarchate, and is threatening to void their credentials if they don't remove the word.

If the patriarch is "ecumenical," apparently, he would have some type of "supra-national" identity, and might escape the legal cage the Turkish government has constructed for him: that he must be a Turkish citizen, with a Turkish passport, not a Greek Orthodox from somewhere else, like Greece or America. But the Archons have written proudly on their identity cards "2006 Archon Pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate."

"Government agents have taken down our banners downstairs," says Xanthi Karloutsos, a dignified middle-aged American Greek Orthodox woman who is staffing the accreditation table for journalists. (Her husband, Father Alexander Karloutsos, a Greek Orthodox priest close to Archbishop Demetrios, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, is one of the leaders of the delegation of Greek Americans.) "They started to try to take them down up here and I said to them, ‘Don't you dare. The banners stay.' And they stopped."

But whether the dispute is over isn't clear.

I call François and he tells me the Dominicans will welcome me at their convent. I invite Dan Schmidt, an American Catholic philanthropist from Milwaukee, to come along with me, and in the late afternoon we set out in a taxi.

We reach the top of Galata Kulesi street. There is a huge tower which rises up into the darkening sky. I call François on my cell phone. "Nous sommes arrivés." "D'accord."

We start down the street, looking for #44. We don't see it in the dark, and pass by. I call François again. "I'm already at the tower," he says." "We're down below now," I say. "Come back up and I'll show you the way." (I am astonished at our phones; I am calling him on a number in France, and he is calling me on one in the USA, while all the time we are 100 yards apart on a dark street in Istanbul.)

Mary, Our Guide

We meet. We go in a dark door, down a dark corridor, and meet the Dominicans. There are four, two from Italy, one from France, and one from Ireland. His name is Father Paul Lawlor, about 50 years old, born in Kerry.

All four have devoted their lives to the east, and are experts in Muslim-Christian relations. And all describe a similar stark reality.

"Have you read the book From the Holy Mountain?" Father Lawlor asks. "It's the story of a journey from Mount Athos around the eastern Mediterranean toward Alexandria. Every place the author goes he finds monasteries which once housed 300 monks, convents which once housed 200 nuns, kept alive by a handful of religious, sometimes only one. The Christian presence in the Middle East is dying.

"Have you ever come to an old house where you and members of your family once lived, only to find it abandoned and decaying? That is the situation of the Christian churches in the Middle East. It is the end of a tradition. It is very sad.

"But it is a beautiful book, very well done, very moving. You must read it."

We watch the pope on the monastery television as he addresses the diplomatic corps, speaking of the need for religious faith to protect "the fundamental dignity of man." When the speech ends, we visit the monastery. The Dominicans of Istanbul have a vast library of Christian and Islamic texts.

Finally, we enter the chapel. And it is here that we come before the greatest treasure the church possesses: the famous icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary Odighitria (the Guide).

The icon, set high on the wall, is splendid, the face of Mary expressive, tender, serene. The tradition is that St. Luke himself painted this icon, that it was taken to the Crimea, and then returned to this church in the 1300s by the Genovese, who for several hundred years controlled this whole section of Constantinople (the old name for Istanbul).

"But it is not authentic," Father Lawlor says. "It is a medieval copy."

"But how do you know?" I ask. "Did you ever do any sort of scientific study?"

The Dominicans look at one another. "No," Father Lawlor says.

"You could at least carbon date the wood," I say. "That would only take a very tiny fragment, and would give a result within a decade or so." But they do not seem interested.

Nor am I, to tell the truth. For me, the icon goes back to Mary, even if it is not the original. And beneath the gaze of those iconic eyes, time seems to stop, Istanbul in 2006 seems to fade away, and a whisper of eternity seems to echo through the church's empty nave.

Then we have to leave.

"It Was Completely Greek"

"Do you know," Father Lawlor says, "that in this area, 100 years ago, you could walk a mile in every direction and not hear a word of Turkish spoken? It was completely Greek. But now there are only a handful of Greeks left. They are almost gone. And there is a small Jewish community, descended from Spanish Jews who left Spain in 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Jews. There are five synagogues just in this area. In 2004, one was bombed and completely destroyed.

"Now the area is home to hundreds of Iraqi Christians, who have fled Iraq because of the war. The children are very excited that the pope is coming, but they are lamenting the fact that they will not have an opportunity to pray with him. I was talking to some of them yesterday. They wanted to enter the church with him, but there is no room; they will have to stay outside. They will go to the Church of St. Anthony of Padua up the street, and watch on a big screen."

We walk up the street, along one of the most beautiful and busy streets in Istanbul. There are many shops, clean, well-lit. We come to a sign that says "Sent Antuan Katolik Kilisesi, OFM Conv." (Saint Anthony Catholic Church).

"Hundreds of Muslims come here each day to light candles and pray," Father Lawlor says. "You know, many of them venerate the saints, and the Blessed Virgin. In Iran, where I have worked since the 1970s, there would be a million new Christians overnight, if it were not for the present government. Iran is the pearl of great price. It is so beautiful there, and the people are so wonderful. But if you find the pearl of great price, and decide to buy it, you have to give everything you have, keeping nothing back. You cannot imagine how one suffers there."

Dr. Robert Moynihan is an American and veteran Vatican journalist with knowledge of five languages. He is editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine.

B XVI in Turkey yesterday

November 29, 2006
Small Christian Communities

(Photo from PRF)

John Allen reports:

On a beautiful fall afternoon on a Turkish hillside, Pope Benedict XVI, Supreme Pontiff of the 1.1 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, metamorphasized into a simple country pastor, celebrating an outdoor Mass for no more than 300 pilgrims – perhaps half Germans who belong to the nearby German-language parish of St. Nicholas.

It was the smallest crowd in recent memory for a papal Mass, though the turnout was mostly due to the remote location and the tiny size of Turkey’s Christian community. The event had an intimate feel, with the assembly physically closer to the pope than is often the case. The bank of concelebrating priests, bishops and cardinals almost seemed equal to the size of the congregation.

In a fitting pastoral touch, Benedict XVI spoke the opening collect of the Mass in Turkish, drawing appreciative nods from the assembly.

Predictably, the pope’s message centered on Mary. The Sanctuary of Meryem Ana Evì (the “House of Mary”) was founded by the Lazarist Fathers in the 19th century, based on the visions of the German mystic Anna Katherine Emmerick, who identified this spot as the place where Mary died.

Though even the official Vatican Radio trip book notes that there’s no archaeological evidence to support the claim, the sanctuary nevertheless boasts a unique distinction, in that it’s perhaps the only Marian shrine on earth which draws as many Muslim pilgrims as Christians. Inside are votive reliefs with quotations from seven passages of the Qu’ran praising Mary.

The Pope's homily:

In today’s liturgy we have repeated, as the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm, the song of praise proclaimed by the Virgin of Nazareth on meeting her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39). Our hearts too were consoled by the words of the Psalmist: “steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, righteousness and peace will kiss” (Ps 85:10). Dear brothers and sisters, in this visit I have wanted to convey my personal love and spiritual closeness, together with that of the universal Church, to the Christian community here in Turkey, a small minority which faces many challenges and difficulties daily. With firm trust let us sing, together with Mary, a magnificat of praise and thanksgiving to God who has looked with favour upon the lowliness of his servant (cf. Lk 1:48). Let us sing joyfully, even when we are tested by difficulties and dangers, as we have learned from the fine witness given by the Roman priest Don Andrea Santoro, whom I am pleased to recall in this celebration. Mary teaches us that the source of our joy and our one sure support is Christ, and she repeats his words: “Do not be afraid” (Mk 6:50), “I am with you” (Mt 28:20). Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany us always on our way! Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us! Aziz Meryem Mesih’in Annesi bizim için Dua et. Amen.

Nothing new under the sun...

China to Install Bishop Without Papal Approval

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2006; Page A19

BEIJING, Nov. 28 -- China's state-sanctioned Catholic church said Tuesday that it plans to ordain another bishop without approval from the pope, despite renewed diplomatic efforts to end long-standing hostility between China and the Vatican.

The ascension of Wang Renlei, vicar general of Xuzhou diocese in southern China, will mark the third time in seven months that a bishop has been installed by the government's Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association without Vatican approval. According to the association, he will be consecrated Thursday in a ceremony presided over by several bishops loyal to the government-sanctioned church.

Tell Your Story
Tell us, in 400 words or less, about a time of crisis that tested your faith, the person who most influenced your beliefs or a life-changing event that shaped your spiritual identity. E-mail your comments to and include a daytime phone number.

In Depth

Open House
A monthly visit to a house of worship in the Washington area.

My Faith
How has spirituality shaped your life? Readers share their personal stories.

Religion Features
We explore matters of faith and religion on the first Sunday of each month.

Photos, videos and panaromas of religious events and trends around the world.

Who's Blogging?
Read what bloggers are saying about this article.
Media Lizzy's MySpace Blog
Moderate - An Alternative to the Far Right and Far Left.
Media Lizzy: Red Carpets, Saw Dust & DC Insiders

Full List of Blogs (3 links) »

Most Blogged About Articles
On | On the web

Save & Share Article What's This?


Liu Bainian, the association's deputy chairman, said that the imminent retirement of Xuzhou's present bishop, Qian Yurong, 94, made choosing a replacement urgent and that there was no time to go through the procedure for Vatican approval. "I believe Rome will understand what we did," he said in a telephone interview.

But Wang's ordination appeared likely to complicate already difficult efforts underway by Vatican and Chinese diplomats to restart a dialogue designed to restore relations after a long history of enmity that began almost as soon as the Communist Party took power in 1949.

The dialogue appeared to be heading for success earlier this year after the Vatican let it be known it was willing to break relations with Taiwan as part of an overall agreement on church-state relations with China. That was seen as a major concession by Pope Benedict XVI, leading to predictions that relations would be restored soon.

Discord remained on the nomination of bishops for the approximately 10 million Catholics in China, about a third of whom recognize the association's authority. But church authorities and academics close to the Chinese government said the remaining problems could be overcome with relative ease as soon as a political decision was made by the Chinese government.

The optimism flowed from a growing practice under which the state-sanctioned association was generally naming bishops already quietly vetted by the Vatican, according to Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, the senior Roman Catholic cleric in China. In addition, Chinese authorities have displayed increasing flexibility as Catholic worshipers and their priests have frequently moved among sanctioned and unsanctioned churches.

But last spring's ordinations of the two other bishops -- Joseph Ma Yinglin in Yunnan province and Liu Xinhong in Anhui province -- disrupted the trend toward accommodation. The Vatican condemned the ordinations as illicit and in a statement qualified them as "a grave wound to the unity of the church" that caused "profound displeasure" to Pope Benedict.

The diplomatic contacts stalled and hopes for a swift resumption of relations were dashed. More recently, however, diplomats had renewed their meetings in a fresh attempt at dialogue -- an attempt that appeared to be threatened anew with Wang's ordination.

The Rev. Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman in Rome, said the Holy See would have no comment until the ordination took place. But the Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, director of AsiaNews, a service reporting on Middle Eastern and Asian affairs from the Vatican's point of view, said the Holy See was surprised and saddened by news of the upcoming ordination.

He said a Vatican delegation that visited Beijing in June came away with the impression that President Hu Jintao's government was eager to put the negotiations back on track. But the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, he suggested, appeared intent on building up a "hard core" of bishops loyal to the association instead of to the pope.

Special correspondent Sarah Delaney in Rome contributed to this report.

I'm a Mud Pie!!

You Are Mud Pie

You're the perfect combo of flavor and depth

Those who like you give into their impulses

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

'Tis the season to...not celebrate the season!

From Chicago via Rod:

News of the Christophobic
On the Right-wing Film Geek blog, Victor spies a particularly obnoxious form of seasonal Christophobia:

CHICAGO (AP) — A public Christmas festival is no place for the Christmas story, the city says.
Officials have asked organizers of a downtown Christmas festival, the German Christkindlmarket, to reconsider using a movie studio as a sponsor because it is worried ads for its film "The Nativity Story" might offend non-Christians.
New Line Cinema, which said it was dropped, had planned to play a loop of the new film on televisions at the event.
An executive vice president with New Line Cinema, Christina Kounelias ... said she finds it hard to believe that non-Christians who attended something called Christkindlmarket would be surprised or offended by the presence of posters, brochures and other advertisements of the movie.
"One would assume that if (people) were to go to Christkindlmarket, they'd know it is about Christmas," she said.

Victor points out that this is a classic example of free speech -- a benign form of it, one might add -- being chilled. And why? What sort of thin-skinned cretins are so sensitive that they're offended at being reminded of, you know, Christ at a German Christmas market, for crying out loud?! Here's a suggestion to the Christophobic and their spineless enablers in government bureaucracies: if you're offended by the idea of Christ, don't go to the Christkindlmarkt. For those of us, Christian and non-Christian, who actually enjoy the season, leave us alone. Victor adds, accurately:

Christianity = "controversial"; other religions = "celebrate our diversity."

From First Things : "I am not a saint"

Wesley J. Smith writes:

Like Fr. Neuhaus, I too was taken with the article “I’m Not a Saint, Just a Parent” by Simon Barnes in the Times of London. It recalled to my mind a speech I gave several years ago to a medical school in which I urged the students to always look at their patients through the lens of universal moral equality.

After the speech, an earnest young man approached me. “I am a genetic counselor,” he said. “What am I supposed to do when I meet with a woman carrying a baby with Down syndrome? I mean, I have to counsel her.” I suggested that perhaps he could bring in parents who have actually lived the experience of parenting a child with Down to keep the “counseling” from becoming a one-way street.

Barnes’ loving tribute to parenting a Down child is precisely the kind of input that I had hoped the earnest young genetic counselor could provide to his clients. Five-year-old Eddie has Down syndrome, and Barnes reports that he “is not to be pitied” for having to father a disabled child “but to be envied.”

Here are three key paragraphs from Barnes piece:

By the way, I hope you are not too squeamish. This piece is not going to pull any punches. If you find the idea of love uncomfortable or sentimental or best-not-talked-about or existing only in the midst of a passionate love affair, then you will find problems with what I am writing. I am writing of love not as a matter of grand passions, or as high-falutin’ idealism, or as religion. I am writing about love as the stuff that makes the processes of human life happen: the love that moves the sun and other stars, which is also the love that makes the toast and other snacks. Love is the most humdrum thing in life, the only thing that matters, the thing that is forever beyond the reach of human imagination. . . .

What is it like to have Down’s [sic] syndrome? How terrible is it? Is it terrible at all? It depends, I suppose, on how well loved you are. Like most other conditions of life. Would I want Eddie changed? It’s a silly question but it gets to the heart of the matter. Of course you’d want certain physical things changed: the narrow tubes that lead to breathing problems, for example. But that’s not the same as “changed,” is it? If you are a parent, would you like the essential nature of your child changed? If you were told that pressing a button would turn him into an infant Mozart or Einstein or van Gogh, would you press it? Or would you refuse because you love the person who is there and real, not some hypothetical other?

I can’t say I’m glad that Eddie has Down’s syndrome, or that I would wish him to suffer in order to charm me and fill me with giggles. But no, I don’t want his essential nature changed. Good God, what a thought. It would be as much a denial of myself as a denial of my son. What’s the good of him, then? Buggered if I know. The never-disputed terribleness of Down’s syndrome is used as one of the great justifications for abortion: abortion has to exist so that we don’t people the world with monsters. I am not here to talk about abortion—but I am here to tell you that Down’s syndrome is not an insupportable horror for either the sufferer or the parents. I’ll go further: human beings are not better off without Down’s syndrome.

By contrast, let us now consider Peter Singer’s harshly sterile views about the options parents should have if faced with a Down baby. One acceptable answer, Singer asserts in Rethinking Life and Death, is establishing the right of parents to have their unwanted Down child killed if they would prefer not to raise a disabled child:

To have a child with Down syndrome is to have a different experience from having a normal child. It can still be a warm and loving experience, but we must have lowered expectations of our child’s abilities. We cannot expect a child with Down syndrome to play the guitar, to develop an appreciation of science fiction, to learn a foreign language, to chat with us about the latest Woody Allen movie, or to be a respectable athlete, basketballer or tennis player. Even when an adult, a person with Down syndrome may not be able to live independently. . . . For some parents, none of this matters. They find bringing up a child with Down syndrome a rewarding experience in a thousand different ways. But for other parents, it is devastating.

Both for the sake of “our children,” then, and our own sake, we may not want a child to start on life’s uncertain voyage if the prospects are clouded. When this can be known at a very early stage of the voyage we may still have a chance to make a fresh start. This means detaching ourselves from the infant who has been born, cutting ourselves free before the ties that have already begun to bind us to our child have become irresistible. Instead of going forward and putting all our efforts into making the best of the situation, we can still say no, and start again from the beginning.

What a stark difference between the attitudes of these two men toward the weakest and most vulnerable among us, a difference that can be described literally as the distinction between loving and killing. And indeed, for those familiar with Singer’s writing, it is striking how often he writes of satisfying personal desires and how rarely he writes of sacrifice and love. Which, when you think about it, provides vivid clarity about the stakes we face in the ongoing contest for societal dominance between the sanctity/equality of life ethic and Singer’s proposed “quality of life” ethic: The former opens the door to the potential for unconditional love, while the latter presumes the power to coolly dismiss some of us from life based on defective workmanship. The choice we make about these contrasting paths will determine whether we remain a moral society committed to the pursuit of universal human rights.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. He is currently researching a book on the animal-liberation movement.

BXVI in Turkey

Tips from Amy:

The trip
Keep your eye on American Papist and Papa Ratzinger Forum

So far, the Pope has met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (in which he voiced his support for Turkey's entrance into the EU) at the airport, visited the tomb of Ataturk, and met with the Turkish president. Other meetings with government officials to follow. He will address the President of Religious Affairs and the Diplomatic Corps.

Allen reports:

In a brief visit to the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, Benedict XVI laid a wreath and wrote a brief message in the "Golden Book" maintained at the site. The pope wrote: "In this land, a meeting point among different cultures and religions and a bridge between Europe and Asia, I willingly make my own the words of the founder of the Turkish Republic, expressing the wish for 'peace in this country and peace in he world.'"

And the hits just keep on coming...

Memo to Bishop Schori: Open mouth, insert foot :)

From the Get Religion blog:

Presiding bishop wronged by shallow newspaper
Posted by tmatt

Thanks to the energy of GetReligion reader Greg Popcak, we now know that the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church does not share my enthusiasm for the contents of that strange little New York Times Magazine mini-interview with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

According to a letter from Robert B. Goodfellow, the new presiding bishop’s media aide, the brilliant primate, scientist and airplane pilot was quoted out of context by reporter Deborah Solomon and, if the remarks were read in context, all of those Roman Catholic and Mormon breeders out there in the blogosphere would not be as upset as they are at the moment (click here for background and URLs).

Here is the key part of that letter:

I am writing to thank you very much for the candid expression of your concern regarding the Presiding Bishop’s recent interview published in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

The reality is that media interviews do not always convey the whole nature of a conversation had between interviewee and interviewer. A few paragraphs of text cannot distill with complete accuracy a lengthy conversation.

I can also assure you that the Presiding Bishop does not think other Christians uneducated, ignorant, illiterate, or somehow or otherwise not smart simply because they are not Episcopalian.

Note the presence of the words “simply because” in that latter statement. Classic!

Now, I have — back in the days before I was a columnist — been involved in a few of these exchanges with the media aides of brilliant, nuanced, complicated mainline Protestant intellectuals.

Note that Goodfellow does not claim Jefferts Schori was misquoted. The controversial quote stands. In other words, the new leader of the Episcopal Church did, while discussing membership losses in her church, truly say:

Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children. . . . We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

Jefferts Schori’s office simply wants the world to know that she said many other things and that, as a reporter, Solomon did a poor job of selecting material from the longer interview when she was assembling this edgy little Q&A. I am told by people who spend more time than I do in The New York Times Magazine that this interview with the archbishop is a perfect example of Solomon’s style, which strives to humanize public figures by asking questions that are more personal and casual.

But here is my final observation. Many elite thinkers on the theological left have learned how to surround their beliefs in a kind of nuanced theological fog that serves as a protective barrier. Insiders know what the symbolic word clusters mean, but this strategy prevents many people in the pews — the kind of ordinary people who write checks — from understanding what is going on. There are exceptions, of course, such as the retired Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong of Newark, who never used a fly swatter when a baseball bat would do.

The problem for reporters is that when you select one crisp quote out of the fog this allows the offended intellectual to say, in effect, that the reporter simply wasn’t smart enough to understand the rich tapestry of the total interview and, thus, misquoted the speaker, even though the quote was accurate. It’s a sad thing, don’t you see, when leaders have to communicate high thoughts through such a low medium — like The New York Times.

Our sympathies go out to the poor reporter, who will surely learn from her error.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if Jefferts Schori continues — Spong style — to fire away as freely in interviews with news organizations that she trusts.

A Crunchy Thanksgiving

A farm-life story fromt he Dispatch . Go Crunchiness!!!

Thankful for farm life
Rural move gave family new direction — and most of their Thanksgiving dinner
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Matt Tullis

Kim Wilhelm checks out Henrietta, a female turkey she is keeping to breed. The Wilhelms call all the female turkeys Henrietta and all the males Tom.

Acey the cat hitches a ride on 14-year-old Missy Wilhelm’s shoulders as Missy’s mom, Kim, prepares to feed some of the family’s animals at their farm outside Canal Winchester. Missy’s brother, David, 10, is a bystander.

he Toms and Henriettas ran
Taround the grassy yard, gobbled up food and ran from a dog named Henry. It was little more than a week before Thanksgiving, and the end was near. Come Thursday, one of them will be the guest of honor on the Wilhelm family dinner table, and another will be in a freezer awaiting Christmas. The other 21 have been sold and will be on other dinner tables throughout this holiday season. "The taste and texture are by far the best," said Kim Wilhelm, who along with her children has cared for the birds the past six months on the family’s 28-acre farm outside Canal Winchester.

Because they raise almost everything they need, the family’s Thanksgiving dinner grocery list is a short one: dinner rolls and cranberry sauce.

The Wilhelms are living their dream of a self-sustainable lifestyle. But they wouldn’t be if not for a rough patch five years ago.

Roger and Kim Wilhelm’s painting business went bankrupt after three major customers failed to pay for jobs.

The couple paid for things with credit cards and took out a second mortgage to get through the lean times, but new business never emerged. They lost their Westerville house and a new pickup.

They moved to Kim’s father’s farm, which had fallen into disrepair since her mother died.

Roger already had rebuilt an old pig barn on the farm, with plans to use it as an office for his painting business. Instead, he has turned it into an apartment, where the family lives, and a woodshop from which he operates a home-remodeling business.

Kim reconnected with the rural lifestyle she loved as a young girl, when she spent summers at her great-grandmother’s farm near Marietta. She has passed that love on to her children, Missy, 14, and David, 10.

Now the farm has a new life. There are turkeys, steers, horses, goats, ducks and chickens. There is a vegetable garden that, among other things, yielded 63 pounds of green beans this past summer.

"Since we’ve been here, it’s drawn our family closer," Kim Wilhelm said.

Missy and David treat the animals like pets, up until the end. The family doesn’t think twice about eating the animals they raise. The children are home-schooled and handle a lot of the daily chores. They also do several 4-H projects each year.

Missy, who was bottle-feeding a calf one morning last week, said she "loves on" some of the animals. David said he likes the young bull named Meatloaf, a moniker that no doubt foreshadows its future.

"When an animal is meant to be food, we’re going to eat it," Kim Wilhelm said. "At least we know they’ve been raised in a healthy environment, and they were happy and well cared for."

The 23 turkeys, ranging from bourbon reds to royal palms and blue slates, have been on the farm since they arrived as dayold chicks. The males all go by Tom, the females Henrietta, Missy said.

"There are just too many to name," she said.

Of all the animals, the turkeys are probably the easiest to care for, Missy said. "We just let them eat and get fat."

Less than a week before the holiday, the birds were trucked off to an Amish farm where they were "processed."

The family loves the lifestyle, Kim Wilhelm said, but they worry about the constant pressure in the neighborhood to develop. They fear that open land across the road one day will grow houses instead of corn.

It’s a challenge making a small farm financially successful, but the family is committed. Kim Wilhelm likes what a self-sustaining lifestyle can teach her children. David, for instance, can learn valuable lessons as he nurses a duckling back to health in his bedroom.

He named it Lucky Duck because its six siblings were killed by an "evil rat."

Luck can carry a duck only so far, though, especially at the Wilhelm home. Lucky Duck is a Muscovy duck and has a very tasty, steaklike meat.

When he is well enough, Lucky Duck will go back outside. And when he is big enough, Kim Wilhelm said, even Lucky Duck will be plucked.

Eschatological realism

From Catholic Exchange....deep stuff!

Eschatological Realism


Jesus said to the chief of the Pharisees who had invited him to dinner: “Whenever you give a lunch or dinner, do not invite your friends or brothers or relatives or wealthy neighbors. They might invite you in return and thus repay you. No, when you have a reception, invite beggars and the crippled, the lame and the blind. You should be pleased that they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.” — Luke 14:12-14.

“Eschatology” is the study of the “last things” — death, judgment, heaven and hell. The Church speaks of these matters in order to train us to think of them as real. The more we do that, the more strength we find to shape our lives today in such a way that death and judgment will bring us to the joys of heaven. I call it “eschatological realism,” that is, the habit of taking into account today the “last things” in a way that’s just as real and influential on us as today’s weather.

Jesus advocated “eschatological realism” in the passage quoted above. He said that a consideration of what we would receive on the day of the resurrection should influence whom we invite to our next dinner party. And what he said also applies to our pro-life work. After all, the principle is the same. Just as we should be happy that the beggars whom we welcome to dinner cannot repay us, so we should be happy that the unborn children, for whom we speak and work and fight, also cannot repay us. “You should be pleased that they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.” The unborn are even less able to repay us than the beggars and the crippled and the lame and the blind. At least these people know that we are loving them, and can say “Thank you” and can pray for us. But the unborn cannot do any of those things. Indeed, love for the unborn is the most selfless form of love. Nothing comes from them in return.

Congressman Henry Hyde, one of the greatest pro-life advocates ever to serve in Congress, expressed this eschatological realism in relation to pro-life work when he uttered these famous words:

“When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I've often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God — and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there'll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world — and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!’”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Even at the OSU/UM game...

There is a Catholic angle. One of AMy's readers writes:

A reader writes:

This falls way down low on the scale of importance, but as an Ohio State fan, I wanted to pass this along.

Buckeye Coach Jim Tressel is Catholic. When I was living in Youngstown and he was still a coach at Youngstown State , I used to see him at mass downtown at St. Columba Cathedral on Holy Days.

At the end of the game last night, the reporter put the microphone in his face and asked him about the win. I couldn’t hear what he was saying over the screaming fans (on the TV and in my house), but one word did get through: Humility. He was talking about humility after one of the biggest wins of his career.

Like I said, this is all unimportant, but he is a highly visible, well-liked individual who is Catholic. I wish someone would ask him about how his faith influences his coaching. I was a reporter in my youth, and I think a bio piece that focused on his faith would make a great story...

The pope and Music

As a musician, I just had to post this (h/t: Amy)

Last night, Pope Benedict attended a concert given by the Berlin Philharmonia Quartet, "hosted" by Federal President Horst Koehler of Germany. He said, in part (translated by Teresa Benedetta at PRF):

When soloists make music together, each individual is required not only to give all his technical and musical capabilities in playing his part, but at the same time, to remain attentive in listening to the others. Only when each player does not seek to stand out but rather seeks to perform in the service of togetherness and makes himself an 'instrument' through which the composer's thought becomes sound and can reach the listener's heart, only then can a great interpretation occur - as we have just heard.

That is a beautiful image even for us, who work in the Church, to be 'instruments' or 'tools' to transmit to our fellowmen the thoughts of the great Composer whose work is the the harmony of the universe.


The compositions we just heard have helped us to meditate on the complexity of life and its little daily happenings. Every day is a weave of joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, expectations and surprises, that alternate eventfully and raise within us the fundamental questions of 'where from", "where to" and the real sense of our existence.

Music, which expresses all these perceptions of the spirit, offers the listener, within an hour like we have just spent, the possibility of scrutinizing, as in a mirror, the events of our personal life as well as universal history.

But it offers us more: through its sounds, it carries us to another world and harmonizes our intimate being. Finding thus a moment of peace, we become able to see, as from a high vantage point, the mysterious realities that man seeks to decipher and which the light of faith helps us to better understand.

In effect, we can imagine the history of the world as a marvelous symphony that God has composed and whose excution He Himself leads as a wise orchestra conductor. Even if to us, the score may often seem complex and difficult, He knows it from the first to the last note.

We are not called on to take the baton into our hands, much less to change the music according to our taste. But we are called, each in his place and according to his capacity, to collaborate with the great Master in executing his stuoendous masterpiece. And in the course of its execution, we would also be given gradually to understand the great design of the Divine score.

And so, dear friends, we see how music can lead us to prayer: it invites us to lift our minds towards God to find in Him the reason for our hope as well as support in the difficulties of life.

Faithful to His commandments, and respecting His salvific plan, we can construct together a world which will resound with the consoling melody of a transcendent symphony of love.

The same divine Spirit will make us all into well-harmonized instruments and responsible collaborators in the admirable performance through which the plan for universal salvation is expressed through the centirues.

Wow! Nice to know you, too!

From Rod:
Lovely, kind words from Bishop Schori of ECUSA, re: CAtholics and kids.

Comprehensive -- that's today's euphemism for "as eager as possible to drive this sucker off the cliff with the windows down and horn blaring." Here is is used by Presiding Bishop Kathleen Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, in an Q&A interview with the NYT Magazine:

Your critics see you as an unrepentant liberal who supports the ordination of gay bishops. Are you trying to bolster the religious left?

No. We’re not about being either left or right. We’re about being comprehensive.

Woo! Madame is even more enjoyable here:

How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?L

About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

Translation: We Episcopalians are too smart and care too much about the planet to have all those kids, unlike those troglodytic Catholics and Mormons.

They may be dying on the vine, but at least they'll go out thinking well of themselves. Since there's apparently no hope of stopping the ongoing suicide of the Episcopal Church, I think I'll probably have to stop worrying about it on behalf of the good and long-suffering Episcopalian friends I have, and learn to enjoy this kind of thing. You really can't make comic characters like Bishop Schori up.

Gee, how's aobut "well, we don't have a comprehensive doctrine, we really don't beleive what the Bible teaches, and we've long since given up on having any actual positions on anything...that's why there's only 2.2 million of us left."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

MOre than "natish, brutish and short"

All of this talk about preemie babies and "deformed" (or whatever PC term you'd like to use) kids, and their status, has given way to some deep thinking on my part.

Given my own circumstances, it is hard for me not to be moved to anger/frustration/resentment when I read these articles. So many of them are just poring with condescension and "we know better than you" attitudes. The phrase "Nazi-like" or "Hitler-like" (or their derivitatives) are so often overused today, but in these cases, they ring true. This is precisely what occured during WWII. It is precisely what people said would never occur again, that we have to respect human life and not devalue it to such a base and worthless thing. And yet we do, step by step. And we do it by sugar-coating it in terms like "the dignity of life," "dying with dignity", or that we're "saving" or "preventing" these children from suffering tremendous pain, or from being disabled. We read nice stories in Oprah's magazine about how old, dying women in Oregon get their deadly drugs perscriped by a doctor, filled at the pharmacy, and then just wait for the 'opportune' day to die, because they just can't live like this anymore. In Holland they commit infanticide regularly. Euthanasia on demand is a fact of life. Britain seems to be heading that way now. And in Oregon you can do it. Dr. Kevorkian did it for years before he was sent to jail. What used to be relegated to the Hemlock Society and the fringes of ethical debate is now something that mainstream medical journals (such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the British OB/GYNs talk about quite calmly and rationally. And there isn't any huge backlash. No editorials in the papers denouncing it. No shocked anchors on the news.

Is it because we, as a society, as a people, have become so unused to suffering, to struggle, to really feeling pain, that we can't abide thinking about it at all? Is it because since we know we have the technology to "take care" of these problems we can- and should- use it? I think it's just one more sign of the pervasity of the Culture of Death we are surrounded in. It is almost Darwinian. If you're too slow, too old, too sick, then we don't want you. You serve no purpose for us. But where does that leave us?

I know that suffering is not a picnic. It's not something anyone would wish to undergo. I don't wake up in the morning going, "Yay! How can I suffer today?" It just doesn't happen. But I have never, ever wished I was dead. Or that my parents had killed me when I was born, instead of giving me the rich, full, incredible life I've had. My parents say the same thing (we've discussed this). Have things be hard? Heck, ya! My parents and my siblings and I have done things, learned things, seen things and endured things that most people never will. And yet we are stronger for it. Life is a wonderful gift we cherish.

Think about your life for a minute. Think about the every day existence of it, the great things we take for granted. The first snowfall. Rain int he spring. Flowers blooming. A sunrise. A sunset. Playing with little kids. A baby's smile. Your first kiss. Eating chocolate. :) We are saying that some people are not worth having these experiences. That their lives are too disabled. They won't "Get it." How arrogant is that? Sure, maybe they won't experience it like you. But you know,they probably experience many, many more things on a more profound level than you do. Because they know than any day it could go to Hell. (heck, any hour it could go to Hell) Helen Keller once said something to the effect that the view from the mountain top isn't as rewarding if you haven't gone through any valleys. And she's right.

One of the things that can be gleaned about the value of suffering to the human experience can be seen in literature. In The Little Mermaid , the mermaid wants love so much that she gives up her family, and eventually dies, to become human. She suffers greatly as one, and knows she may, but still becomes human anyway. If you've seen the film The Last Unicorn , you know that the magician turns the unicorn into a woman to save her life and allow her to save her fellow unicorns from the ocean trap they've been placed in. At the end of the movie, she says that she's the only unicorn in the world who has known regret and love. She doesn't regret what happened...she regrets missing her true love, Prince Lear. There are other examples, I'm sure, but this is what I've got right now. (I guess Pinnochio could be an example, too) The human experience is full of love, joy, pain, suffering. The ying and yang of life. Yet we are willing to deny that to some of these. We are killing them, not even giving them a voice, or a chance to experience what we take for granted every day.

When we die, I wonder what these children will say to us? I cannot imagine God is pleased. He has given us this great gift and we treat it so callously, throw it all away. He gives us chances to grow, to become closer to Him. And we deny them. What does that say about our character?

"God loves those to whom he can give more, those who expect more from Him, those who are open, those who sense their need and rely on Him for everything." --Mother Teresa

new podcast!!

Got this in my email box today and checked it out....looks good!!! LIsa sent it to me:

I was hoping you may be interested in a new Podcast we are doing as part of our apostolate for the Third Order of Carmel (Secular Order). It is called Meditations from Carmel and features short meditations directly from authentic translations of the saints of Carmel like Sts. Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux and Teresa of the Andes.

If you could stop on by for a listen that would be GREAT! If you might let your readership know about us that would be even GREATER! We are trying very hard to get the word out, but it is slow going.

Please take a moment and visit us at:

Meditations from Carmel


How this man is ethicist...

is beyond me. ...

OK, I've read Arthur Kaplan for a few years now and he always, always ALWAYS manages to "get my dander up." Always. And his writing on the brouhaha in England is another piece of work:

American law was intended to protect the rights of the disabled. For many years children born with Down syndrome or spina bifida were not given aggressive treatment if their parents did not want it or if doctors deemed it inappropriate. But in the early 1980s, the Reagan administration and the famous Surgeon General C. Everett Koop protested these practices, resulting in the passing of a law that stopped discrimination of the disabled in the neonatal nursery.

But the federal law went too far. In its effort to ensure that children were not allowed to die simply because they had a disability, Congress wrote a law that was overly restrictive.

A 22-week-old premature baby is not in the same medical circumstances as a child born with Down syndrome who simply requires a surgical repair of his digestive tract to survive.

Extremely premature infants are the nightmare of every neonatal hospital and obstetrician. Medicine does not know how to save them and when it tries, if often produces a child whose life is very short and whose suffering is beyond description.

Oh, my goodness. Suffering beyond description. Life is very short. So let's just kill them! Yes, that's the answer!

We are so afraid of suffering, as a people. it really makes me kind of sick. Everyone suffers. Everyone has pain. There is no way to escape it. So let's just kill them before they can experience it? Eh??? Where do you draw the line? Who are we to decide these things?

There is a limit to what medicine can do. Tiny preemies should not be forced to endure care that does not work and that only prolongs dying, and most major religious traditions understand that. Existing American law is too restrictive — we wind up giving treatment when common sense and basic respect for human dignity say we ought not.

The new British report has the courage to take on this problem. It may go too far in the other direction of prohibiting care. The right answer lies somewhere in between

"Giving treatment when common sense and basic respect for human dignity say we ought not?" Look, I'm not going to listen to this guy lecture me about human dignity. His track record doesn't give him that much credit. This is the same guy that didn't want to give Terri Schiavo food and water. So y'know.

So the Brits have "courage," huh? Yup, courage to encourage infanticide. What in the world are we talking about? Can anyone else not read this and go, "we're crazy. Absolutely nutty." Because I sure can't.

Respectable baby killing

Respectable Baby Killing
Support builds for legalizing euthanasia for ill and disabled newborns.

By Wesley J. Smith

The push to permit infanticide has entered the mainstream. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology (RCOG) has recommended that a debate be had about whether to permit “deliberate interventions to kill infants.” The recommendation, which was widely reported in the media, was in response to a query from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics concerning ethical issues pertaining to health care which prolongs the life of newborns. It was at the urging of the RCOG that euthanasia of infants was added to the topics that the council would consider. As reported by the London Times, the RCOG’s recommendation states:

A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late term abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome.

The article goes on to quote a number of British doctors and professors who support euthanasia.

Consider carefully what has happened here. A prestigious medical association has seriously suggested that killing some babies because they are seriously ill or disabled might be ethically acceptable and, at the very least, is worthy of considered and respectable debate. It is about time that people start paying attention to this. Those who think that legal infanticide is unthinkable and preposterous are being naïve. Infanticide advocacy is no longer limited to rogue bioethicists, such as Princeton University’s notorious Peter Singer, who has famously argued that parents be given as much as a year to decide whether to keep or kill their babies.

In fact, it has been some time since Singer was the dominant voice of infanticide advocacy. In recent years, articles aimed at normalizing the killing of disabled babies have appeared in some of the world’s most established medical publications. For example, the March 10, 2005, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine published an article by Dutch physicians who have admitted to having euthanized 15-20 disabled infants. The NEJM provided them with a respectable forum in which to propose formal regulations to govern what amounts to eugenic infanticide. The so-called “Groningen Protocol” (named after the Dutch hospital where the infanticides took place) posits three categories of killable infants: babies “with no chance of survival”; infants with a “poor prognosis and [who] are dependent on intensive care”; and “infants with a hopeless prognosis,” including those “not depending on intensive medical treatment but for whom a very poor quality of life…is predicted.”

Such journal articles were reported on approvingly in the mainstream media. For example, the July 10, 2005, New York Times Magazine published a column by frequent contributor Jim Holt proposing the merits of the Groningen Protocol. Holt suggested that the decision to kill ill or disabled babies should be governed by “a new moral duty,” namely, “the duty prevent suffering, especially futile suffering.”

The debate over infant euthanasia is usually framed as a collision between two values: sanctity of life and quality of life. Judgments about the latter, of course, are notoriously subjective and can lead you down a slippery slope. But shifting the emphasis to suffering changes the terms of the debate. To keep alive an infant whose short life expectancy will be dominated by pain — pain that it can neither bear nor comprehend — is, it might be argued, to do that infant a continuous injury.

At first blush, this might seem reasonable, but Holt’s game of semantics does not provide him with traction on the slippery slope. The concept of suffering is not limited to pain, but must also take account of “quality of life,” as more liberal advocates of infanticide would surely point out. More insidiously, Holt’s advocacy could lead to a perceived duty to kill disabled babies since he argues that not killing a disabled baby could be to inflict injury upon the child.

Such arguments are really a veneer for the real issues, which are money and commitment. Disabled infants are expensive to care for, particularly if they don’t die young, and they require all sorts of attention. The nub of the issue isn’t about our supposed inability to alleviate the suffering of infants — a false supposition— but rather, about our not wanting to spend the financial and emotional resources it would take to do so. This position is clearly central to the RCOG’s statement — and was explicitly ratified in a November 9, 2006, editorial in The Economist calling the RCOG’s call to debate infanticide “brave” and urging that infanticide be seriously considered because “Disabled children are nine times more likely than others to end up in the care of the state.”

Infanticide, alas, has become a respectable notion, at least among some elite opinion makers. History shows that this is how baby killing begins — by convincing ourselves that there is such a thing as a human life not worth living, and hence, not worth protecting. By calling for a serious debate about infanticide, the RCOG has badly subverted the foundational moral principle that each and every human being has equal moral value simply and merely because he or she is human.

— Wesley J. Smith, a frequent contributor to NRO, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His website is

Rod on the bishops and "Courage"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Does it matter, anyway?
It occurred to me this morning, listening to an NPR report on the Catholic bishops' statement about homosexuality, that activists and interested observers on both sides are probably too worked up over this policy statement. Love it or hate it, does anybody believe it will actually change anything at the local level? It's not like the Catholic Church has been silent on its position on homosexuality. I believe that dioceses and parishes will do exactly as they have been doing, for better or for worse. One thing that struck me as someone coming to Catholicism from the outside years ago was how there is much less to the dogmatic and hierarchical nature of Catholicism than it appears. I thought that priests and bishops, at least, took marching orders from the Pope and from the Magisterium. Ideally, yes, but that's not how it works out in practice. For me, it was a real shock to discover, when I was living in the Archdiocese of Miami and preparing for marriage, that you couldn't find a single parish that taught Natural Family Planning. I found a Couple-to-Couple League teaching couple, who told me that they had been formally turned away by parish after parish, with the message that Catholic couples preparing for marriage didn't need to hear what they had to say.

The point being that the Pope's teaching, the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church, and even the official positions adopted by the bishops, can and do get undermined at the diocesan and parish level, by the diocesan bureaucracies.

What do you think? Do you think the bishops' teaching on homosexuality will filter down to the diocese and parish level? That is, will it make a bit of difference?

What my cousin says, yo!!

On the homosexual ministry thing:

Donald W. Wuerl, Washington's new archbishop, said the document should not be seen as a crackdown on pro-gay ministries. Rather, he said, "the starting point is the church living in a culture in which these things are being promoted, and our task is to keep saying: 'Remember, here are the true teachings of the church.' "

Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians and homosexuals...

a Change in doctrine? Read the WaPo story below...

ME: one note... here's one choice bit from the article:

The decisions are part of a mounting backlash in many U.S. denominations against church groups whose stated goal is not only to welcome but also to "affirm" gay congregants. For many religious groups, the biblical injunction to hate the sin but love the sinner is no longer sufficient, because many believers do not view homosexuality as a sin.

Um, homosexual acts are condemned throughout the Bible. It's pretty clear how the Bible feels on this. So how can these denominations, who claim to be "Bible based", or follow Sola Scriptura claim that the Bible is wrong? Or at least that it's not "current"? That's essentially what they're doing with these rulings. How confused must their adherents be? "Well, only part of what's in the Bible is true...the rest we can 'interpret.'"

Reason 5,670,025 why I'm glad I'm Catholic.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Rod on the COE's statement

This is more like it! Today, Rod is the man!!!!

Church of Mordor
One learns to expect outrage upon outrage from the poor old Church of England in her death throes, but even this took me aback: the C of E has endorsed infant euthanasia for the most severely disabled infants.

We keep crossing these bright red lines, all in the name of compassion, and the greater good. To be fair, the Anglican policy report does not call for the wholesale killing of disabled infants, and says only that it is in some cases compassionate to withhold or withdraw treatment when the situation for particular infants seem hopeless, and the cost of keeping a severely deformed infant alive is astronomical. It's worth having a discussion over when it is appropriate to allow a human being to die a natural death. But this report from the C of E, coming as it does in a time and place where the sense of the sacredness of human life is rapidly being lost, and replaced by a utilitarian and materialist ethic that judges the value of life on the basis of its absence of suffering within it and its usefulness to the wider community, ought to set off alarms. How is it that we can find the money to fund wars of choice in faraway lands, but are beggars when it comes to providing for the weakest and the sickest?

Where are the Cardinal Galens among us today? In his famous 1941 sermon condemning Nazi euthanasia programs, the Cardinal said: "[T]here are sacred obligations of conscience from which no one has the power to release us and which we must fulfil even if it costs us our lives. Never under any circumstances may a human being kill an innocent person apart from war and legitimate self-defense.

He went on:

If you establish and apply the principle that you can kill 'unproductive' fellow human beings then woe betide us all when we become old and frail! If one is allowed to kill the unproductive people then woe betide the invalids who have used up, sacrificed and lost their health and strength in the productive process. If one is allowed forcibly to remove one's unproductive fellow human beings then woe betide loyal soldiers who return to the homeland seriously disabled, as cripples, as invalids. If it is once accepted that people have the right to kill 'unproductive' fellow humans--and even if initially it only affects the poor defenseless mentally ill--then as a matter of principle murder is permitted for all unproductive people, in other words for the incurably sick, the people who have become invalids through labor and war, for us all when we become old, frail and therefore unproductive.

Then, it is only necessary for some secret edict to order that the method developed for the mentally ill should be extended to other 'unproductive' people, that it should be applied to those suffering from incurable lung disease, to the elderly who are frail or invalids, to the severely disabled soldiers. Then none of our lives will be safe any more. Some commission can put us on the list of the 'unproductive,' who in their opinion have become worthless life. And no police force will protect us and no court will investigate our murder and give the murderer the punishment he deserves.

Who will be able to trust his doctor any more?

He may report his patient as 'unproductive' and receive instructions to kill him. It is impossible to imagine the degree of moral depravity, of general mistrust that would then spread even through families if this dreadful doctrine is tolerated, accepted and followed.

Woe to mankind, woe to our German nation if God's Holy Commandment 'Thou shalt not kill,' which God proclaimed on Mount Sinai amidst thunder and lightning, which God our Creator inscribed in the conscience of mankind from the very beginning, is not only broken, but if this transgression is actually tolerated and permitted to go unpunished.

Well, OK then...NOT

Amy W. has more "clarification" on the story I just posted:

OK, Amy has calmed my reaction to the story's what the Anglicans really say (although I can't say I'm too thrilled with this, either!!)

***A few days ago, folks went predictably beserk about the "Anglican Church" supposedly affirming the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecology's statement about euthanizing severely disabled newborns.

Well, it just wasn't so:

The Church of England’s decision to support a policy of withholding or withdrawing medical treatment from very premature or disabled newborns was not a statement of support for infant euthanasia, pro-life leaders have clarified, after media reports, notably The Sunday Times- Britain, said the church was calling for legal euthanasia.

In a statement made to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics inquiry into treatment of premature babies, the Rt. Rev. Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark and vice chair of public affairs of the Mission and Public Affairs Council, wrote, “[I]t may in some circumstances be right to choose to withhold or withdraw treatment, knowing it will possibly, probably, or even certainly result in death.”

Although the church could not accept the argument that the life of any baby was not worth living, the submission stated, the church nonetheless felt there were “strong proportionate reasons” for “overriding the presupposition that life should be maintained” at all cost.

There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the ‘rule’ that life should inevitably be preserved.”

Wesley J. Smith, U.S. lawyer and leading opponent to the international pro-euthanasia movement, said inaccurate media coverage of the church’s statement implied the church was supporting euthanasia, when in fact “it appears that the Church has ratified the right to withdraw life-sustaining treatment in some circumstances, which is a different matter altogether.”

Dr. Peter Saunders, general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, explained the difference between withholding treatment and euthanasia, in an interview with The Guardian Nov. 12, “If it’s an underlying condition that’s causing the death and you’re withholding the treatment because you believe that the treatment’s burden far outweighs any benefit it can bring, then it might be quite appropriate.”

There’s a point in medicine where we say enough is enough, and sometimes the treatment can be worse than the disease. And in those cases it is good medical judgment to withhold.”

Mr. Smith criticized media coverage for contributing to public confusion on the issue by failing to make an accurate distinction between euthanasia and the withholding of life-sustaining treatment.

Now, I am not impressed by Butler's subsequent list of reasons tocease disproportionately burdensome treatment:

However, the church said the cost of care, potential parental burden and the price of the future education of the child should be considered in evaluating refusal-of-treatment to severely disabled newborns.

“Great caution should be exercised in bringing questions of cost into the equation when considering what treatment might be provided,” wrote Butler. “The principle of justice inevitable means that the potential cost of treatment itself, the longer term costs of healthcare and education and opportunity cost to the NHS in terms of saving other lives have to be considered.”

But the point is, he did not advocate direct killing.

ME: Well, great. Whoop de doo! the fact that this even has to be clarified by a church official is enough to make me reach for the (metaphorical) gin!!!! ARGH!!!

For the love of all thigns holy! IV


Outrage as Church backs calls for severely disabled babies to be killed at birth

By NEIL SEARS Last updated at 22:00pm on 12th November 2006

Reader comments (32)

Bishop: Argued cost of keeping ill babies alive should factor in life or death choices

breaks with tradition dogma by calling for doctors to be allowed to let sick newborn babies die.

Christians have long argued that life should preserved at all costs - but a bishop representing the national church has now sparked controversy by arguing that there are occasions when it is compassionate to leave a severely disabled child to die.

And the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, who is the vice chair of the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Council, has also argued that the high financial cost of keeping desperately ill babies alive should be a factor in life or death decisions.

The shock new policy from the church has caused outrage among the disabled.

A spokeswoman for the UK Disabled People's Council, which represents tens of thousands of members in 140 different organisations, said: "How can the Church of England say that Christian compassion includes killing of disabled babies either through the withdrawing or withholding of treatment or by active euthanasia?

"It is not for doctors or indeed anyone else to determine whether a baby’s life is worthwhile simply on the grounds of impairment or health condition."

The church's surprise call comes just a week after the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology sparked fury by calling for a debate on the mercy killing of disabled infants.

But it has been made in a carefully thought out official Church of England paper written by Bishop Butler for a public inquiry into the ethical issues surrounding the care of long premature or desperately ill newborn babies.

The inquiry, by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, began two years ago and its findings are due to be published in London - but the church's contribution to the debate has been leaked in advance.

The Nuffield Council, an independent body which issues ethical guidelines for doctors, began the inquiry to take account of scientific advances which mean increasingly disabled and premature babies can technically be kept alive.

In practice, doing so can be controversial - with the three months premature Charlotte Wyatt a case in point.

The Portsmouth baby weighed just 1lb at birth, and had severe brain and lung damage. Doctors wanted to be allowed to leave her to die, but her parents successfully campaigned through the courts against them.

Now that the child is three, however, and could be cared for at home, her parents have separated and are considered unsuitable to look after. In future cases doctors may work to guidelines proposed by the Nuffield inquiry.

In the Church of England's contribution to the inquiry, Bishop Butler wrote: "It may in some circumstances be right to choose to withold or withdraw treatment, knowing it will possibly, probably, or even certainly result in death."

The church stressed that it was not saying some lives were not worth living, but said there were "strong proportionate reasons" for "overriding the presupposition that life should be maintained".

The bishop's submission continued: "There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the 'rule' that life should inevitably be preserved.

"Disproportionate treatment for the sake of prolonging life is an example of this.

The church said it would support the potentially fatal withdrawal of treatment only if all alternatives had been considered, "so that the possibly lethal act would only be performed with manifest reluctance."

Yet the Revd Butler's submission makes clear that there are a wide range of acceptable reasons to withdraw care from a child - with the cost of the care among the considerations.

"Great caution should be exercised in brining questions of cost into the equation when considering what treatment might be provided," he wrote.

"The principle of justice inevitably means that the potential cost of treatment itself, the longer term costs of health care and education and opportunity cost to the NHS in terms of saving other lives have to be considered."

The church also urges all the parties involved in care for critically ill babies should be realistic in their expectations, demands, and claims.

The submission says: "The principle of humility asks that members of the medical profession restrain themselves from claiming greater powers to heal than they can deliver.

"It asks that parents restrain themselves from demanding the impossible.":

UK Disabled Peoples Council spokeswoman Simone Aspis said the group's members were appalled that the Church was joining doctors in calling for disabled babies to be left to die.

"It appears that the whole debate on whether disabled babies are worth keeping alive is being dominated by professionals and religious people without any consultation with disabled people," she said.

Out of babies born at just 22 weeks of pregnancy or less, 98 per cent currently die. In Holland babies born before 25 weeks are not given medial treatment.

Rod's take on the Courage debate

Over at Crunchy Cons:

Not exactly profiles in Courage
Courage is a very fine organization for same-sex oriented Catholics who wish to live chaste lives in accordance with Church teaching. I've had several friends who are now or who once were part of a Courage chapter. It's not a group that tries to force same-sex-oriented members to "become straight." As I understand it -- Courage Man, who posts here sometimes, correct me if I'm wrong -- the group supports members who do attempt reparative therapy, but mostly it's there as a support group.

Anyway, the US Catholic bishops, gathered today for their annual meeting, took up a proposal by one archbishop to explicitly recognize the Courage ministry. Read Amy's liveblogging of the event for a sense of the debate. Especially this: Bishop Sullivan: Against the Burke amendment - it's a divisive issue. Such a complex issue.

The amendment failed -- but it will be relegated to a footnote in the eventual document. Think of it: a majority of the Catholic bishops of the United States of America voted down a proposal to recognize what may be the only Catholic ministry to gays and lesbians that actually supports Roman Catholic teaching.

Me: Amen, brother. Shouldn't the bishops be encouraging this sort of minisry? In Amy's post she mentioned that some bishops have a lot of problems with the Courage ministry. I cannot see what they are, given that it teaches what the Church teaches, are far as I know.
Can any of you enlighten me as to what the problems may be? Or is it just the USCCB being its normal, controversial self?

To follow up on the last post...

And to follow-up...
There are

these who don't use birth control at all.



Not even NFP.


Another reason not to use birth control...

ME: OK, not that I ever have, or ever will use any type of birth control other than NFP, this would certainly help make me think otherwise:

This is startling - or not. Years ago, a friend of mine commented that there was a hidden "epidemic" of strokes among young women who used birth control pills and (usually) smoked as well. Although the former, in patch form now, seems to be doing the trick:

According to Johnson & Johnson's third quarter SEC filing for 2006 , there are over “1,000 claimants who have filed lawsuits or have made claims regarding injuries allegedly due to Ortho Evra.” [1] Ortho Evra, also known as the birth control patch, is a transdermal hormonal contraceptive which is applied weekly to the skin. In addition to being a contraceptive, the patch can act as an abortifacient by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg.

Serious health problems have been associated with Ortho Evra including fatal and non-fatal blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, and death. From April 2002 to December 2004, over 27,974 'adverse effects' were reported by users of Ortho Evra.[2] Many of the complaints are serious, and the patch is alleged to be responsible for over 23 deaths, including the death of 14 year old Alycia Brown.[3]

The claims keep mounting – last week a lawsuit was filed on behalf of 40 women against Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson and the manufacturer of Ortha Evra.. The lawsuit alleges that the Ortho Evra patch was responsible for the serious health problems, including the death of one user.[4]

(from are most things today!)

Amy's presser notes USCCB

(What would we do without Amy?)

Some notes from the press conference, but then I'm working on other stuff, and am not going to allow myself to watch the afternoon session...

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter asked why there was the resistance to Archbishop Burke's suggestion about Courage. Bishop Serratelli said that had been discussed in committee, and there were many different groups, and it made no sense to single out one.

Reporter pursued it, asking - well, even though Courage is an official apostolate, approved by the Vatican? That doesn't play into giving them more....(trailed off)

Bishop S. shook his head.

The NCR(egister) asked a strange question - is a contracepting heterosexual couple doing something as sinful as an active homosexual person?

Bishop Naumann (KC, KS) said that both are serious sins.

Rachel Zoll: Trying to welcome people, but also telling them they have to live a difficult life. How can this be you think it is welcoming while at the same time ther'e soemthing wrong with your sexuality?

S: Presenting the truth is welcoming

Niederauer: Disagreement about behavior, not the worth of the person. Yes it is difficult.As it is with many cases proclaimingt the gospel.

NCR(egister) is a heterosexual couple as sinful as a practicing homosexual?

Naumann: They're both very serious sins. They're both grave matter. Then you have to get into culpability and so on.

There was much discussion on the whole "disordered" thing again, as well as Rachel Zoll of the AP asking how this can be "welcoming" if you're telling homosexual people they are disordered.

The bishops restated Church teaching. Alan Cooperman of the WaPo asked about the analogy of homosexual inclinations with malice,envy and greed, which he said was in the document, but, as another reporter cleared up, wasn't - but was in Bishop Serratelli's speech introducing the document.

Bishops Serratelli and Niederauer explained about the proper direction of human sexuality, etc. They said that anger could be properly ordered and improperly ordered. Sexual desires are the same thing.


The quite difficult thing here is that the bishops who speak on this are just one step away from stating the full story on Catholic teaching on this. It is such a challenging thing to just say, "This is dis-ordered because it is not consistent with God's design for human sexuality that men have sex with other men or women with other women. There is a mystery at the heart of these temptations, there is goodness in deep affection between persons of the same sex, but yes - it is sinful to engage in this activity and to embrace it as a good. There are many holy people past and present who have struggled with this. They are not a "they" - they are us, a part of us, a part of the Body of Christ. But we can't and won't do what activists would like us to do which is, frankly, to throw Catholic teaching on sexuality completely out the window, and remake it in a completely different image, unrecognizable in the context of the broader and deeper tradition and, we believe, revelation of God."

USCCB: On homosexual orientation

More Amy (this AM):

They are going through amendments there has been a request to consider separately. They have the amendments in front of them, but we don't know what they are. So it's hard to follow.

Archbishop Burke is speaking about Courage and EnCourage . It seems as if his amendment is calling for explicit recognition of the ministry. Saying that there is no support group that is more faithful or has more history.

Bishop Serratelli: says the committee agrees with Bishop Burke. It's not a question of the group. The committee felt with a generic statement and not to recommend or mention any particular group.

Bishop Paproki gets up and speaks in support of Archbishop Burke and poitns out since this is a document for bishops, it would be helpful to have specific suggestions.

Bishop Niederauer speaks against Archbishop Burke's amendment. I want to support the committee's judgment for a generic mention. No reason given.

Bishop Kinney speaks in favor of Burke's amendment -

Cardinal George: in favor of the amendemnt, strongly, saying that Courage has been unjustly attacked and falsely misrepresented. The effectiveness of the group has struck him: "they are not only striving to be chaste, but they are striving to be saints. They are holy people." The problem with it is that it is an anonymous ministry. It is a 12-step program. This is one way that should not be overlooked.

Bishop Sullivan: Against the Burke amendment - it's a divisive issue. Such a complex issue. People who are really inately oriented will not be cured.

Serratelli: What about a footnote?

Burke: I was hoping for more than a footnote. Not adequate.

Vote on the amendement as Burke proposed it. Voice vote inconclusive.

Go to the computers: The amendment is defeated 121 to 105.

Now Serratelli has proposed a footnote - put Courage and Encourage in a footnote.

Discussion: Bishop Sullivan, again, against. Many associated with national association of diocesan directors of ministries to gays and lesbians will be offended. They should be mentioned too.

Bishop Morlino: Why can't Burke's amendment be amended?

It's kind of a morass right now. And I've got to go.

Lest you think this is a small matter - it's not. There are many, many in Church structure who are very hostile to Courage and what it stands for.

(Just so you know - Niederauer is now speaking in favor of including Courage and Encourage in a footnote.)

Voice vote on footnote - passed by a wide margin.

USCCB: Talking about Music

From Amy this AM:

They just voted on the Music Directory issue (approved w/88% yes) but before that considered an amendment from Bishop Vigneron of Oakland. He proposed a process similar to the conformity guidelines for catechetical textbooks. His point was "what we sing at the liturgy is a liturgical text." He said the bishops should take a serious approach to these texts, and proposed a central conformity review process. If something like that didn't happen, he said, he feared that the music directory idea, as proposed, would be inadequate to meet the call of Liturgiam Authenticam.

Bishop Trautman said no. The committee decided it would be better to give any guidelines to the bishops of Portland (OCP) and Chicago (GIA) and let them determine what content was appropriate or not. A centralized process would present an insurmountable amount of work.

They took a voice vote, and Bishop Vigneron's amendment was not approved

Monday, November 13, 2006

B XVI and the Latin Mass

More developments:

Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) will gather the leaders of the Roman Curia for a meeting on November 16, to discuss critical questions including the bid for broader use of the traditional Latin Mass.

According to the Italian ANSA news agency, the items for discussion will also include the case of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who was excommunicated in September; and the call to ordain some married men as priests.

(h/t: CWN)

The Pope in Turkey

Part of the schedule...

On Tuesday, November 28, the Pope will arrive in Ankara at 1pm. The day’s activities will include a visit to Atatürk Mausoleum, the welcome ceremony, a visit to the President of Turkey followed by meetings with the deputy prime minister, the president for religious affairs, Ali Bardakoglu, and the Diplomatic Corps. Bardakoglu, who was one of the harshest critics of the Pope’s lecture in Ratisbona last September, has since said that the visit would be “a positive step toward developing dialogue between Islam and Christianity.”

Amy W. on the Bishop's conference this morning

Amy Welborn provides an overview of what happened this AM (EWTN is showing it, but since I don't have EWTN, I'm using other sources for my blogging...and watching it on my sloooow dial-up isn't too practical. And I'm practically deaf, I wouldn't understand it anyway w/o captions. Anyway: (my thoughts in bold)

This morning at the bishops' conference, there have been preliminary discussion of several action items. They've been interesting, for those among us who are inveterate people-watchers and fascinated by organizational dynamics. This morning did not involve any deep, drawn-out discussions or lengthy exchanges, but there was just enough.


There is a statement about the war in Iraq on the table. The suggestions offered were primarily semantic, with one bishop suggesting that one particular line veered over into suggestions on public policy. However at the end, retired retired Archbishop Hannan stood up and spoke about the threat of terrorism, with no specific suggestion, but more of a reflection on how the military personnel he knew in Iraq said an immediate withdrawal (more or less the theme of the document) would be disastrous. I like the way this guy thinks. Thank you....


Bsihop Trautman was the point man here, dealing with two proposals: one a revision of the lectionary - the Advent readings are up for discussion at this meeting.

However, he preceded those discussions by talking about the refusal of the Holy See to expand the indult re/purification of Communion vessels by lay ministers. He went to great pains to emphasize that this by no means, in any way means that Communion under both species shouldn't still be a model - he never said "the best" - but he quoted from the various liturgical documents expressing the symbolism and so on.

One bishop - and I think I caught who it was, but I'm not sure, so I'm not going to post it. Someone who knows can let me know who it was - honed in on this and asked if Trautman was absolutely, positively sure that this refusal to extend the indult had really and truly come from the Pope. Well, yes, said Trautman, we met with Arinze, there were two Cardinals who met with him, and we can be very certain the Pope is on board with this. The bishop didn't give up. Really? No revisiting? Is that the feeling of this body that we shouldn't revisit it? Can we take it directly to Pope Benedict? Bishop Trautman said, literally, "I do not believe it would be advisable."

(Update: Thanks to Fr. Guy for helping out - it was Bishop Brom of San Diego. I knew it was either Brom or Brown, but could never quite make out exactly what Bishop Skylstad was saying when he addressed him)

Heh. It sort of amazes me that there would be a bishop who is so unfamiliar with Benedict's writing on liturgy that he would think that with just a little more begging, Benedict would be on board with this. What is this, kindergarten? "Plllleeeaaaassse, Mrs. Teacher Lady, just let us skip naptime!" How does one get the nerve to suggest "revisiting" something the Pope has already been pretty firm on? No idea....

Bishop Trautman said they'd come back to that later.

Back to the lectionary: Bishop Finn asked about one point of substitution of language. He asked if there were principles involved, and what they were. Bishop Trautman said that "people with credentials" had determined that for clarity of pronunciation, the substitutions should be made.

Now, the Directory on Music

There was a lot that was said here, and since there will be more discussion on this later, I won't spend too much time on it, but the startling thing was that the gist of the concerns of Bishop Trautman and the other committee bishop represented were how any culling down of acceptable music would hurt music publishers and Catholic composers. I mean, I'm sure they really are concerned about more than this, but they brought it up several times, so much that the innocent viewers' response is, "WHO CARES?"

Or, as Bishop Weigand said, gently - let's think ahead and plan so that this sort of thing is not "sprung" on publishers. In other words - if they know the standards, they'll only produce materials that fit the standards - he compared it to the bishops' renewed efforts to oversee catechetical materials. Hey, good idea!

Bishop Trautmann said that what they are moving towards is not a White List of acceptable songs, but a "core" or "common" repertoire of (and these are his numbers) 60-100 hymns that must be included in every Catholic hymnal or worship aide. There were various issues raised, mostly in terms of language, with some bishops very reasonably asking - English only? What about Spanish? Bishop Trautman said they were focusing on English. I'll say, though, that Bishop Grosz, the other committee member at the podium, did mention Jubilate Deo twice.

Cardinal O'Malley commented that a core repertoire would be valuable because there was so much music, and so much variety in the way hymns were sung that it was really a bar to "full, conscious and active participation."

Contraception (Dude, why are we even discussing this?!

Bishop Serratelli had the heaviest load to carry from this point on into the press conference, in his role with the Committee on Doctrine, which has responsiblity for the documents on receiving Communion and ministry to homosexual persons.

In regard to the former, Bishop Curtiss of Omaha was insistent that a media storm was going to break out when it was released and that the bishops really needed help from the committee to deal with it. Could they be sent "sound bits" to help explain it?

Bishop Serratelli responded that the document was actually pretty thorough in presenting its own justifications.

In regard to the second document, Bishop Serratelli explained the origins of it: concerns with the doctrinal fidelity of certain ministries to homosexual persons. There were some procedural concerns (apparently the whole body of bishops had never actually approved the idea of the document - so they had to do that), and then the questions.

Bishop Rassas asked about the language - why did it use "inclination" rather than "orientation?" Bishop Sarratelli responded that they wanted to avoid limiting personal identity to this issue.

Bishop Bruskewitz asked if whether the teaching authority of this document should be clarified - that it would not be of "magisterial" authority (he went into what would make that so), and commenting that "Always Our Children" was a disaster"

Bishop Serratelli: "Thank you."

Bishop Vasa presented a challenge. He wondered what Catholic medical and psychological experts had been consulted because it seemed to him that the document accepted the assumptions of the secular world on some counts - he specifically cited statements like, "homosexuals are victims of scorn, of more violence than other segments of the community." He said he didn't know if that would stand up to testing.

Bishop Serratelli, after consulting with what looked like a Franciscan on the side, said that this not the purpose of the document - to explore sociological issues.

(I missed most of the discussion on the Receiving Communion document)

Press Conference:

There were a few bishops at the press conference, but again, Bishop Serratelli had most of the questions because he is in charge of the most controversial documents. All of our favorites were there - you didn't see them, but you heard them - Julia Duin of the WaTimes, Ann Rogers of the Pittsburgh paper, Alan Cooperman of the WaPo, as well as Fr. Tom Reese.

The first couple of questions, though, were from television reporters, and concerned sexual abuse issues, which had not been brought up this morning, and the questions, especially of one reporter, were so spectacularly uninformed, you could almost see this struggle on bishops' faces not to say, "HUH?" It was as if these reporters had just found out there was a sexual abuse crisis in the Church and were wondering what exactly was going on. It was strange.

An NCR(eporter) reporter, in a shocking departure from the NCR(eporter) template, asked if the homosexual and contraceptive documents were going to alienate gays and contracepting couples. Oh for the love of Pete!

Bishop S. (I'm tired of typing the poor man's name) - said (close paraphrase):

Whatever the reaction /response is, the thing to keep in mind is that the presentation of the fullness of the truth is a grace and a gift to those who receive it. This is meant to help people achieve happiness. The reception depends on the disposition of those who hear it.

The bishop on his right, whose name I could never catch because the graphic telling us this was a press conference was right over the nameplates and never went away, agreed saying, the moment was right - that John Paul II's Theology of the Body had opened a lot of hearts to the Church's teaching on sexuality, and that the experience of the past 30 years has caused a lot of people to reconsider the effects of separating sexuality and procreation.

Julia Duin asked about the Communion document - it applies to the Catholic faithul. Does it apply to the Catholic faithful who are politicians? A question asked because the document, as it stands now, doesn't explicitly reference politicians.

Bishop S. said it applies to everyone .

Julia also asked about the homosexual pastoral care document, raising the issue of this group of Catholic medical professionals who objected to certain aspects of the document. Bishop S. said he wasn't sure who was consulted.

The NYTimes and USA Today reporters harped on the issue of consultation for the homosexual document. Did you actual consult with real, live homosexual people? Bishop S. repeated that the process had been that bishops who pulled the document together consulted with people engaged in the ministries in their dioceses. The USAToday reporter seemed to think she had a gotcha moment when she asked, "So the people who are being cared for were not consulted?" And Bishop S. said, "Not directly."

What is difficult and perhaps impossible to say, I suppose is that when you get a bunch of Catholics, lay and clerical, who are involved in ministry to homosexuals in a proverbial room to consult on a document on care of homosexual persons, chances are good that there will be some homosexually-inclined folks in the group. I suppose it would be tacky to say as much, but it seems fairly obvious, don't you think?
Yes, Amy, yes I do....but then again, this is the NYTimes we're talking about....

Ann Rogers, Alan Cooperman and Fr. Reese all asked about the status of Always Our Children - Bishop S. downplayed it, but subtley, saying it was still there, it was still available, but reminding them that it was the product of one committee and no more.

Rogers and Cooperman also tried to get the bishops to connect dots between the various documents - so what about an active homosexual or contracepting couple - should they receive Communion?

The way that bishops generally answer these questions is to step back and generalize - all sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful, so persons engaging in that activity are doing something seriously sinful. Which is what they did here, which is fine. The bishop on Bishop S's right - ah, I see - it was Archbishop Naumann - went a little further, saying that it was a priest's responsiblity to catechize, say, a couple who was contracepting, present them with the truth, and if, after hearing that truth presented to them, they continued to contracept, no, they shouldn't receive Communion. The point of distinction being that the Church has the responsibility to present its own teaching, clearly and fully.

(NOTE: All emphasis mine)

ME: Overall? Um, about time the bishops come out and say what we've been teaching all along! Yaayyyy! It'll be interesting to see how the music discussion plays out, especially since I'm in a choir and such. We'll see...more updates as they come...