Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ask the Bishop, Show #7


"Ask the Bishop," is a show on KFEL-970 AM where Bishop Michael Sheridan answers questions about his life and the faith. The show is produced by The Colorado Catholic Herald and Catholic Radio Network/KFEL.
This episode, recorded in February 2008, is the first of two parts about the topics of sin and penance.

Ask7.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Obama embryo research policy ‘a step backward,’ bioethics council members say

It seems the President's own council for bioethics have pointed out some ethical contradictions inherent in Obama's policies. One member of the president's council stated, "Ethically, I cannot support any policy permitting deliberate production and/or destruction of a human fetus or embryo for any purpose, scientific or therapeutic."

See more here: Obama embryo research policy ‘a step backward,’ bioethics council members say

God bless,


Friday, March 20, 2009

Polish press reports John Paul II to be beatified on April 2, 2010

Polish press reports John Paul II to be beatified on April 2, 2010

.- Pope John Paul II could be beatified on April 2, 2010, exactly five years after his death, according to a report in the Polish newspaper Dziennik, which claims the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has already made the decision.

At the beginning of this month, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow said the beatification process of Pope John Paul II was about to be concluded and that Benedict XVI himself wanted to close the process “as soon as possible” because that “is what the world is asking for.”

The beatification process of John Paul II began on June 28, 2005, two months after the death of the Pontiff thanks to a dispensation granted by Pope Benedict. The dispensation waived the normal five-year waiting period after a person dies that the Church requires before a cause for canonization can be opened.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sebelius nomination ‘source of greatest embarrassment,’ Archbishop Burke says

Astonishing. The person nominated to be responsible for the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services has a record of promoting the destruction of human life.

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.
-- Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic Party

See more here:

Sebelius nomination ‘source of greatest embarrassment,’ Archbishop Burke says

.- Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services is "sad" and "the source of greatest embarrassment" because she has repeatedly betrayed her Catholic faith through her "well known" support for legal abortion, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke has commented.

The archbishop, formerly of St. Louis, Missouri, is now Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. His duties in that office include ensuring that the Church operates correctly under canon law.

In a written interview with Thomas J. McKenna of Catholic Action for Faith and Family, Archbishop Burke remarked that the governor’s nomination to President Barack Obama’s Cabinet "saddens me on several scores."

"First of all, it is sad for our nation to have a person who favors the right to kill the unborn in the womb placed in charge of the federal office with responsibility for health and human services. No matter how good Governor Sebelius’ record regarding other human life concerns may be, if she is not committed to the safeguarding of human life from its very inception, she should not be entrusted with the questions of health and human services for our nation."

As a Roman Catholic, Gov. Sebelius’ appointment is "the source of the greatest embarrassment because she has publicly and repeatedly betrayed her Catholic faith, in the most fundamental tenet in the most fundamental tenet of the moral law, that is, the law to safeguard and foster human life from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death."

"Her position on the question of procured abortion is the source of the greatest scandal to Catholics and to all who uphold the natural moral law," he continued.

Additionally, Archbishop Burke said, the governor "obstinately remained in her moral error" despite being admonished by at least three of her bishops, including Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph Naumann. More...

Despite increasing foes, U.S. funding ban for human embryo killing endures

This is rather confusing. Pres. Obama is *FOR* embryonic stem cell research, but then he signs this bill opposing embryonic stem cell research. Did he sign it by mistake? Talk about confusing messages coming from the Obama administration.

Addendum: Ah...now I get it. Embryonic stem cell research using federal funding is OK, so long at they are derived from embryos DESTROYED with non-federal funding. Still, experimenting with human beings is an abomination no matter if private funds destroy human life or federal funds are used.

See here:

Despite increasing foes, U.S. funding ban for human embryo killing endures

.- A longstanding amendment banning federal funding for research in which human embryos are destroyed, discarded, or "knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death" was part of an omnibus bill signed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday. However, some backers of embryo-destructive research are advocating the amendment’s repeal.

The provision, known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, has been included in the annual appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) since 1996. According to CNSNews.com, it is located in Section 509 of Title V, on page 280 of the 465-page H.R. 1105, the Omnibus Appropriations Act 2009.

Barring repeal, the amendment will be in force through September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The amendment defines the human embryo as "any organism… that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid cells."

On March 9 President Obama overturned President George W. Bush’s executive order barring federal funding for new stem cell lines derived from destroying human embryos. While embryonic stem cell researchers may not use federal funds to create and destroy human embryos for their stem cells, they may acquire stem cells from human embryos destroyed with non-U.S. government funding.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who has sponsored the House version of a bill that would have legalized federal funding of embryonic stem cell research using embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics, has said she is considering the possibility of repealing the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.

"Dickey-Wicker is 13 years old now, and I think we need to review these policies," Rep. DeGette told the New York Times on Monday. "I’ve already talked to several pro-life Democrats about Dickey-Wicker, and they seemed open to the concept of reversing the policy if we could show that it was necessary to foster this research."

However, other pro-life Democrats are against the embryo-destructive research. More

President Clinton’s ‘confused’ embryo remarks raise credibility questions

President Clinton’s ‘confused’ embryo remarks raise credibility questions

.- Former President Bill Clinton’s recent comments about embryo fertilization and stem cell research have been “confused” and call into question his credibility on the issue, two bioethicists say. The president has made interview remarks incorrectly implying that embryos are not fertilized. more

Universalis: Morning Prayer (Lauds)

Universalis: Morning Prayer (Lauds)

O Lord, open my lips.
And my mouth will proclaim your praise.

Antiphon: Come, today, and listen to his voice: do not harden your hearts.

(repeat antiphon*)

The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness,
the world and all who live in it.
He himself founded it upon the seas
and set it firm over the waters.

(repeat antiphon*)

Who will climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who will stand in his holy place?
The one who is innocent of wrongdoing and pure of heart,
who has not given himself to vanities or sworn falsely.
He will receive the blessing of the Lord
and be justified by God his saviour.
This is the way of those who seek him,
seek the face of the God of Jacob.

(repeat antiphon*)

Gates, raise your heads. Stand up, eternal doors,
and let the king of glory enter.
Who is the king of glory?
The Lord of might and power.
The Lord, strong in battle.

(repeat antiphon*)

Gates, raise your heads. Stand up, eternal doors,
and let the king of glory enter.
Who is the king of glory?
The Lord of hosts
– he is the king of glory.

(repeat antiphon*)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

(repeat antiphon*)

* If you are reciting this on your own, you can choose to say the antiphon once only at the start of the psalm and not repeat it.

A suitable hymn may be inserted at this point.

Psalm 92 (93)
The magnificence of the Creator
Over the sound of many waters, all your promised are to be trusted, O Lord.
The Lord reigns! He is robed in splendour,
clothed in glory and wrapped round in might.
He set the earth on its foundations:
it will not be shaken.
Your throne is secure from the beginning;
from the beginning of time, Lord, you are.
The rivers have raised, O Lord,
the rivers have raised their voices.
The rivers have raised their clamour.
Over the voices of many waters,
over the powerful swell of the sea,
you are the Lord, powerful on high.
All your promises are to be trusted:
and holy is your habitation,
O Lord, to the end of time.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Over the sound of many waters, all your promised are to be trusted, O Lord.

CanticleDaniel 3
All creatures, bless the Lord
Springs and fountains, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all his works,
praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, you heavens;
all his angels, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, you waters above the heavens;
all his powers, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, sun and moon;
all stars of the sky, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, rain and dew;
all you winds, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, fire and heat;
cold and warmth, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, dew and frost;
ice and cold, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, ice and snow;
day and night, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, light and darkness;
lightning and storm-clouds, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, all the earth,
praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, mountains and hills;
all growing things, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, seas and rivers;
springs and fountains, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, whales and fish;
birds of the air, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, wild beasts and tame;
sons of men, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O Israel,
praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, his priests;
all his servants, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, spirits of the just;
all who are holy and humble, bless the Lord.
Ananias, Azarias, Mishael, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him for ever.
Let us bless Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
praise and exalt them for ever.
Bless the Lord in the firmament of heaven,
praise and glorify him for ever.
Springs and fountains, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him for ever.

Psalm 148
An anthem to the Lord, the Creator
Kings of the earth, and all peoples, praise God!
Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the highest heavens.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his powers.
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all stars that shine.
Praise him, waters of the heavens,
and all the waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were made.
He set them firm for all ages,
he made a decree that will last for ever.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
sea-serpents and depths of the sea,
fire, hail, snow and fog,
storms and gales that obey his word,
mountains and hills,
fruit-trees and cedars,
wild beasts and tame,
serpents and birds.
Kings of the earth, all peoples,
all leaders and judges of the earth,
young men and women,
old people with the young –
praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted.
His splendour is above heaven and earth,
he has raised up the strength of his people.
This song is for all his chosen ones,
the children of Israel, the people close to him.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Kings of the earth, and all peoples, praise God!

Short readingNehemiah 8:9,10 ©
This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.

The Messiah and his forerunner
‘Destroy this sanctuary,’ says the Lord, ‘and in three days I will raise it up.’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has come to his people and brought about their redemption.
He has raised up the sign of salvation
in the house of his servant David,
as he promised through the mouth of the holy ones,
his prophets through the ages:
to rescue us from our enemies
and all who hate us,
to take pity on our fathers,
to remember his holy covenant
and the oath he swore to Abraham our father,
that he would give himself to us,
that we could serve him without fear
– freed from the hands of our enemies –
in uprightness and holiness before him,
for all of our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High:
for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his path,
to let his people know their salvation,
so that their sins may be forgiven.
Through the bottomless mercy of our God,
one born on high will visit us
to give light to those who walk in darkness,
who live in the shadow of death;
to lead our feet in the path of peace.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
‘Destroy this sanctuary,’ says the Lord, ‘and in three days I will raise it up.’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body.

Prayers and Intercessions?
Let us bless our Redeemer, who in his goodness has given us this time of salvation. Let us turn to him in prayer:
Lord, create a new spirit in us.
Christ our life, in baptism you have mystically united us to your death but also to your resurrection:
give us the gift of living our new life today.
Lord, create a new spirit in us.
Lord, you did good for everyone:
make us also care for the common good of all.
Lord, create a new spirit in us.
Grant that we may work in harmony to build the earthly city
while always seeking the heavenly one.
Lord, create a new spirit in us.
Healer of body and soul, heal the wounds of our hearts:
may your holiness still support us.
Lord, create a new spirit in us.

Our Father, who art in Heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

O God, you are the source of all goodness and all compassion:
you have shown us a remedy for sin in fasting, prayer and acts of charity.
Accept our humble confession.
We are bent over under the load of our conscience:
by your mercy make us upright again.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Varieties of Intolerance: Religious and Secular by Cardinal George Pell

Here's a well-written description of the kind of intolerance that's happening in our world today. Enjoy.

God bless,



Let me begin with two tales of intolerance.

On November 4 last year, the day Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, California and two other states also voted to amend their constitutions to define marriage as between a man and a woman only. This brought to 29 the number of American states with constitutional amendments recognizing only marriage between a man and a woman as valid, including Arizona which amended its constitution in 2008 after rejecting a proposed amendment in 2006. 42 states also have statutes defending the traditional understanding of marriage1. Only Massachusetts and Connecticut have legalized same-sex marriage - by court decisions, not legislation – and California's Supreme Court had also legalized same sex marriage in May 2008, when it struck down a marriage amendment made to the state constitution in 2000. The new amendment passed last November – known as Proposition 8 – is now itself before the California Supreme Court, which yesterday [March 5] heard argument in three cases claiming it is unconstitutional. We can expect a decision from the court within the next three months2.

Proposition 8 passed with a little over 52 per cent of the vote, with a turnout of just under 80 per cent of registered voters3. Supporters of same sex marriage have not taken this defeat well. Mormon temples in particular, as well as Catholic and Evangelical churches, have been the focus for demonstrations, often attended by violence, vandalism and intimidation4. White powder has been sent to places of worship5, and some blogs are calling for them to be burnt down6. Individual supporters of Proposition 8 have received death threats and been assaulted7. Businesses which contributed to the campaign in favor of Proposition 8 are being boycotted8, and individuals who made personal donations are being blacklisted and in some cases forced to resign from their jobs9. The situation is so serious that the non-partisan Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which takes no position on same-sex marriage and works with churches and organizations on both sides of the question10, ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on 5 December condemning the harassment and anti-religious bigotry being directed at Proposition 8 supporters11.

Little about this prolonged campaign of payback and bullying has been reported internationally, and I suspect that for some, or even many of you here tonight this is the first time you have heard anything about it. It is being waged against Christians and others who have done nothing more than take part in a political campaign in a democracy, endeavoring to persuade a majority of the electorate to their point of view. Few human rights activists have objected to the vilification and hate-speech that has been directed at supporters of Proposition 8. In general, the media has shown scant interest in a form of organized intimidation, which even extends to making people unemployable, simply because they do not agree with same sex marriage. And you have to search long and hard if you want to hear the stories of those who have been assaulted or abused because they believe that marriage can only mean the marriage of a man and a woman. It hardly needs saying that there would have been no strange lack of attention if supporters of same sex marriage were being targeted for bullying and blacklists.

Before beginning my second tale of intolerance let me make clear a number of presuppositions.

I approve of legislation outlawing incitement to violence and acknowledge that tightly limited anti-hate legislation is appropriate. But this second category of legislation should be used sparingly, lest it stifle robust legitimate criticism, so deepening tensions and exasperation under the surface, indirectly encouraging what it aspires to prevent. No-one has tried to use anti-hate legislation (so far) against Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens!

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 an increased number of Muslims came to live outside Muslim majority societies, a practice not encouraged traditionally. In the new situation Western countries with Islamic minorities must respect their full range of democratic freedoms, encourage participation and foster inter-community and interreligious dialogue. Both within Australia and internationally in South East Asia I have been a regular participant in these dialogues.

However I believe it is a mistake in principle and prudentially to try to prevent criticism of any major religious tradition, religiously, sociologically or philosophically. In a democracy criticism can be made and can be answered. No‑one today in the West would suggest that criticism of Christianity should be outlawed. A recent Prime Minister of Australia claimed that if Catholics were to riot every time they were criticized there would be regular riots!12

My second tale of intolerance is really a collection of tales following the same narrative. Some of these you will know. In separate cases in Canada last year, human rights tribunals brought charges of hate crime against the publisher Ezra Levant (for republishing the cartoons of Muhammad which were first printed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005), and the weekly magazine Macleans (for publishing an excerpt from Mark Steyn's 2006 book America Alone under the title "The Future belongs to Islam"). In 2006 Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci was charged with vilifying Islam in her book The Force of Reason, and in 2004 two Australian evangelical pastors were brought before a tribunal in the Australian state of Victoria for critical remarks about Islam which were alleged to be in breach of Victoria's "religious tolerance" legislation.

The charges against Ezra Levant were dismissed, and Macleans was grudgingly cleared13. Fallaci died of cancer before her case came to court, and the verdicts against the two Australian pastors were set aside on appeal. While a retrial was ordered, this was abandoned when the complainant, the Islamic Council of Victoria withdrew its complaint. It would be a mistake, however to think that all these complaints came to nothing. Levant was left with legal bills of $100,00014, and one estimate puts the legal costs of the two Australian pastors, whose case and appeal ran for two and half years, at somewhere between $750,000 and $lmillion.

I have not used the examples of Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian ordered to stand trial for inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims in his short film Fitna. As I have not seen the film I am unable to judge whether it does incite hatred, although I note Wilders has not been charged with inciting violence.

The expense of defending frivolous hate speech allegations, the time consumed in dealing with them, and the anxiety that comes from being enmeshed in a legal process straight out of Kafka all have an effect on the climate of openness, stifling robust discussion and fermenting intolerance under the surface. Since Ayatollah Khomeini placed a death sentence on Salman Rushdie twenty years ago last month, many in the West have grown used to practicing self-censorship when it comes to Islam, just as we seem to accept that ex-Muslims who criticize Islam and extremism, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, require round the clock police protection.

What do these two tales of intolerance' tell us? We should note the strange way in which some of the most permissive groups and communities, for example, Californian liberals in the case of Proposition 8, easily become repressive, despite all their high rhetoric about diversity and tolerance. There is the one-sidedness about discrimination and vilification. Opposition to same-sex marriage is a form of homophobia, and therefore bad; but Christianophobic blacklisting and intimidation is passed over in silence. You can be prosecuted for hate speech if you discuss violence in Islam, but there is little fear of a hate speech prosecution for Muslim demonstrators with placards reading "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas15.

It is a fundamental truism that not all religions are the same. This might be an obvious point to us, but the idea that all religions are basically concerned with the same things and more or less morally equivalent in the goodness and badness they have brought to human history is very pervasive. Major differences exist between religions, within religions, and in the contributions they make to culture and society. In a democracy, believers and non-believers must be free to talk about these differences, to criticize each other's beliefs (what Catholics used to call apologetics), and to evangelize, (or propagandize) while always respecting the freedom of the individual. Reciprocity in this is essential: it is not a one way street.

Some secularists seem to like one way streets. Their intolerance of Christianity seeks to drive it not only from the public square, but even from the provision of education, healthcare and welfare services to the wider community. Tolerance has come to mean different things for different groups.

One of the preferred means for addressing perceived intolerance is anti­discrimination legislation. As experience from across the Anglosphere has shown, the idea of anti-discrimination has enormous power to shape public opinion. It has been used very effectively to redefine marriage and to make a range of relationships acceptable as the foundation for various new forms of the family. Anti-discrimination legislation in tandem with new reproductive technologies has made it possible for children to have three, four or five parents, relegating the idea of a child being brought up by his natural mother and father to nothing more than a majority adult preference. The rights of children to be created in love and to be known and raised by their biological parents receives scant consideration when the legislative agenda is directed to satisfying adult needs and ambitions.

Until relatively recently anti-discrimination laws usually included exemptions for churches and other religious groups so that they could practice and manifest their beliefs in freedom. These exemptions are now being refused or defined in the narrowest possible terms in new anti-discrimination measures, and existing exemptions are being eroded or "strictly construed" by the courts.

In the United States the exemptions granted to churches and their agencies vary from state to state, and in the extent of protection they afford. The effort to wind these exemptions back has focused initially on contraception. At least eighteen states have enacted "contraceptive mandate" laws, usually with names such as The Women's Contraceptive Equity Act or The Women's Health and Wellness Act, which require employer health insurance plans to cover the costs of contraceptives on the basis that failure to do so constitutes sex discrimination. Catholic health insurance usually did not cover these costs.

The state of New York passed such a law in 2002, which like a similar law passed by California in 1999, grants an exemption defining religious employers so narrowly that church welfare agencies, schools and hospitals do not qualify. Appeals to the two states' highest courts (in 2006 and 2004 respectively) to broaden the definition were rejected, and the US Supreme Court declined to review the Californian decision. While most states with contraceptive mandates make broader exemptions for religious employers, only one grants protection to individuals who conscientiously object to them.

Exemptions for church hospitals or medical services are increasingly contentious in the United States, with opponents describing them as "refusal" or "denial clauses". When exemptions are granted, the standard of care provided by these services is criticized as second-rate, on the grounds that they fail to offer patients the full range of options. Individual healthcare workers have been sued and dismissed from employment for adhering to their convictions. In 2007 the New England Journal of Medicine published a study claiming that almost 100 million Americans are at risk of being denied "legal medical interventions" by doctors who, because of religious or moral objections, either decline to inform patients about possible treatments or refuse to refer them to other doctors who will provide them16.

It will be a major escalation in the culture wars if President Obama keeps his commitment to sign into law a proposed "Freedom of Choice Act", which will sweep away any restrictions on abortion in state laws. It will also remove any protections in legislation for doctors, nurses, and hospitals with moral objections to abortion. I am still hoping against hope that the President will not trigger such a massive confrontation with pro-life Christians.

In Australia last year, the act of parliament which decriminalized abortion in the state of Victoria included provisions which made a mockery of conscientious objection, requiring doctors who object to abortion to refer patients seeking abortion to medical practitioners who will provide them. Where an abortion is deemed necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman, doctors and nurses are legally obliged to provide it, regardless of any conscientious objections they may have17.

The debate surrounding the Victorian abortion law was significant for a number of other reasons as well. Pro-abortion commentators attacked the concept of conscientious objection as nothing more than a way for doctors and nurses to impose their morality on their patients18. Victoria's statutory charter of rights, which purports to protect freedom of religion, conscience and belief, was shown to be a dead letter when it comes to abortion, thanks to a clause which expressly excludes any law concerning abortion from its coverage19. The human rights industry ran dead on the freedom of conscience issues which the legislation raised. Amnesty International seems to have been completely missing in action. While Amnesty was founded on respect for conscience, it adopted abortion as a human right in 2007. As we know, abortion corrupts everything it touches; law, medicine and the whole concept of human rights. It would be another tragedy if it has so quickly corrupted Amnesty's commitment to its foundational belief in freedom of conscience.

As a number of commentators have pointed out, the legalization of same sex marriage has momentous potential to curtail religious freedom. Generally churches and ministers of religion who decline to bless such marriages are protected by exemptions. But in places such as Canada this protection is not extended to civil marriage celebrants, even when the plain meaning of the statutory exemption suggests they are protected. Anti-discrimination laws are also raising serious freedom of religion issues for churches in the areas of relationship counseling, sex and relationship education in secondary schools, the hire of parish, school and church facilities, and accommodation arrangements in emergency housing, retreat, conference and aged care centers.

How should Christians respond to this growing secular intolerance? Clearly, there is an urgent need to deepen public understanding of the importance and nature of religious freedom. Having the freedom to search for answers to questions of meaning and value, and to live publicly and privately in accordance with our answers is an essential part of human fulfillment and happiness, and gives rise to other important freedoms such as the rights to freedom of expression, thought and conscience. Believers should not be treated by government and the courts as a tolerated and divisive minority whose rights must always yield to the minority secular agenda, especially when religious people are overwhelmingly in the majority. The opportunity to contribute to community and public good is a right of all individuals and groups, including religious ones. The application of laws within democracies should facilitate the broadening of these opportunities, not their increasing constraint.

Modern liberalism has strong totalitarian tendencies. Institutions and associations, it implies, exist only with the permission of the state and to exist lawfully, they must abide the dictates or norms of the state. Modern liberalism is remote indeed from traditional liberalism, which sees the individual and the family and the association as prior to the state, with the latter existing only to fulfil functions that the former require but which are beyond their means to provide. Traditional liberalism understood the state to exist to assist (provide subsidium) to the association; the association does not exist to further the function of the state. All this is clearly articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which provides, for example, that parents have "a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children"(Article 26(3)); and in the International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights (1966) which provides that the state is to respect the liberty of parents "to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions" (Article 13(3)).

It is important to keep an eye on the bigger picture too. The great question which exercises modern culture is the meaning of human autonomy and especially sexual freedom. But this struggle is fundamentally a struggle over a religious question, which can be formulated in various ways and revolves around the reality of a transcendent order, or its denial. One way of putting it is: "Did God create us or did we create God?" The limited scope that secularism is prepared to concede to religious beliefs is based on the assumption that we created God. As long as the supremacy remains with man, as long as faith is understood as a private therapeutic pursuit that can be picked up, changed or discarded at will, it is permissible. But when people insist that faith is more than this and that the supremacy is not ours, it is resisted; increasingly through the law.

The use of anti-discrimination law and human rights claims to advance the autonomy project is not new in itself, but the withholding or retrenchment of exemptions for church agencies and conscience provisions for individuals is a newer and dangerous trend. A number of factors are at play here, but the broad effect is to enforce conformity. It seems that just as the faith and convictions of individual believers have to be privatized and excluded from public life, the services that church agencies provide to society have to be secularized. The service the church gives has always been a source of its growth and strength, and church agencies working in the areas of welfare, family, education, health and aged care bear witness to the values that Christian leaders put forward in public debate. Part of the logic in attacking the freedom of the church to serve others is to undermine the witness these services give to powerful Christian convictions. The goal is to neutralize this witness to the reality of Christian revelation. There is no need to drive the church out of services if the secularization of its agencies can achieve this end.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s remains the greatest modern example of cultural change. It was made possible by a range of factors, including the development of reliable contraceptives and the rising economic prosperity of Western life. Individualism ousted the family and the community from the first place. The ideas supporting free love and liberated sexuality that flooded the world in the 1960s were also important for generalizing confusion and for pushing the issue beyond sexuality to the more fundamental goal of radical human autonomy. These ideas were quickly taken up by a musical revolution (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones) which had an unprecedented cultural impact on that generation, reinforcing individualism and irreligion.

Two key premises of the revolutionary developments of the 1960s were that radical cultural change requires a significant proportion of the population to adopt new assumptions about love and sex, and that living out these assumptions will commit these people and the culture to further radical change. When Christianity was brought to the Roman world it also worked from these premises, for radically different purposes and with world-transforming results20.

The definition of the human person in the present age depends on which understanding of love and sexuality prevails in the culture. This is one reason why conflicts over the meaning and purpose of sexuality often seem to be at only one or two removes from public arguments over issues as disparate as religious freedom and biotechnology. The issue will be resolved differently in Europe and the United States, if Brussels wins its battle for secular conformity.

The question of autonomy, freedom and supremacy plays itself out, among other places, in the contest between religious freedom and sexual freedom. Absolute sexual freedom lies at the heart of the modern autonomy project. It extends now well beyond preferences about sexual practices or forms of relationship to preferences about the method and manner of procreation, family formation and the uses of human reproduction in medical research. The message from the earliest days of the sexual revolution, always barely concealed behind the talk of "live and let live" and creating space for "different forms of loving", was that few limits on human sexual autonomy will be tolerated. This is generating the pressures against religion in public life.

But there will be limits. There are already abundant indications of human autonomy being diminished from the left as sexual freedom becomes a driver of consumption and an organizing principle of economic life, with the re-emergence of slavery in Europe and Asia, the booming exploitation of pornography and prostitution, and the commercialization of surrogacy, egg donation, and the production and destruction of human embryos and human stem-cell lines. At the level of the individual, the possibilities of happiness are greatly restricted by the lovelessness, fear and despair that the assertion of the autonomous self against others usually leaves in its wake. Limits are an inescapable part of the human condition. The only questions are whether they will be the limits of servitude or the limits of freedom, and whether self love or love of others will be predominant.

Resolving these questions requires us to expand the boundaries of what is thought possible, especially by bringing into focus the experiences and ideas which are not acknowledged or legitimized by the secularist worldview. Put simply, Christians have to recover their genius for showing that there are better ways to live and to build a good society; ways which respect freedom, empower individuals, and transform communities. They also have to recover their self-confidence and courage. The secular and religious intolerance of our day needs to be confronted regularly and publicly. Believers need to call the bluff of what is, even in most parts of Europe, a small minority with disproportionate influence in the media. This is one of the crucial tasks for Christians in the twenty-first century.

George Cardinal Pell


  1. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, "States with Voter-Approved Constitutional Bans on Same-Sex Marriage, 1998-2008". 13 November 2008 (http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=370).

  2. Judicial Council of California "Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments on Prop. 8 Cases on March 5, 2009". News Release, 3 February 2009.

  3. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, "Statement of Vote, November 4 General Election" (http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/sov/2008_general/sov_complete.pdf).

  4. Michelle Malkin, "The Insane Rage of the Same-Sex Marriage Mob", RealClearPolitics, 19 November 2008 (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/11/the_insane_rage of_the_samesex. html).

  5. Heather Sells, "Gay Marriage Battle Still Rages in Calif.", CBN news, 22 December 2008 (http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/503597.aspx).

  6. Malkin, "The Insane Rage of the Same-Sex Marriage Mob".

  7. Ibid; and Sells, "Gay Marriage Battle Still Rages in Calif."

  8. Alison Stateman, "What Happens if You're on Gay Rights 'Enemies List'", Time, 15 November 2008 (http://www.time.com/time/ination/article/0,8599,1859323,00.html?cnn=yes).

  9. Steve Lopez, "A Life Thrown into Turmoil by $100 Donation for Prop. 8", Los Angeles Times, 14 December 2008 (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lopez14-2008dec14,1,6229461,full.column); and Stateman, "What Happens if You're on Gay Rights 'Enemies List".

  10. Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, "Brief Explores Looming Conflicts between Same-Sex Marriage, Religious Liberty". News Release 2 August 2007 (http://www.becketfund.org/index.php/article/693.html).

  11. Available at NoMobVeto.org (http://www.nomobveto.org/nytad.php).

  12. Tracy Ong and Natalie O'Brien, "Pope Row in Past, PM tells Muslims", The Australian, 20 September 2006 (http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20443538-2702,00.html).

  13. Joseph Brean, "Maclean's wins Third Round of Hate Fight", National Post, 11 October 2008 (http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=874166).

  14. http://ezralevant.com.

  15. Nina Shea, "'Insulting Islam': One Way Street in the Wrong Direction", Hudson New York, 26 January 2009 (http://www.hudsonny.org/2009/01/insulting-islam-one-way­street-in-the-wrong-direction.php).

  16. Farr A. Curlin, Ryan E. Lawrence, Marshall H. Chin, and John D. Lantos, "Religion, Conscience, and Controversial Clinical Practices", New England Journal of Medicine, 356:6 (8 February 2007), 593-600.

  17. Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 (Vic), s.8 (available at www.legislation.vic.gov.au).

  18. See for example Leslie Cannold, "Conscience Vote Meaningless Unless it is a Two-Way Street", The Age, 10 September 2008 (http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/conscience-vote-meaningless-unless-it-is-a-twoway-street-20080909-4cy3.html?page=-1).

  19. Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic), s.48.

  20. Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ: 1996)

Papal Letter Concerning the Lifting of the SSPX Excommunications

Benedict XVI explains why he remitted the excommunication of the four Bishops from the Lefebvre movement known as the Society of St. Pius X...




concerning the remission of the excommunication

of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre

Dear Brothers in the Episcopal Ministry!

The remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre without a mandate of the Holy See has for many reasons caused, both within and beyond the Catholic Church, a discussion more heated than any we have seen for a long time. Many Bishops felt perplexed by an event which came about unexpectedly and was difficult to view positively in the light of the issues and tasks facing the Church today. Even though many Bishops and members of the faithful were disposed in principle to take a positive view of the Pope’s concern for reconciliation, the question remained whether such a gesture was fitting in view of the genuinely urgent demands of the life of faith in our time. Some groups, on the other hand, openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council: as a result, an avalanche of protests was unleashed, whose bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment. I therefore feel obliged to offer you, dear Brothers, a word of clarification, which ought to help you understand the concerns which led me and the competent offices of the Holy See to take this step. In this way I hope to contribute to peace in the Church.

An unforeseen mishap for me was the fact that the Williamson case came on top of the remission of the excommunication. The discreet gesture of mercy towards four Bishops ordained validly but not legitimately suddenly appeared as something completely different: as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and thus as the reversal of what the Council had laid down in this regard to guide the Church’s path. A gesture of reconciliation with an ecclesial group engaged in a process of separation thus turned into its very antithesis: an apparent step backwards with regard to all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council – steps which my own work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support. That this overlapping of two opposed processes took place and momentarily upset peace between Christians and Jews, as well as peace within the Church, is something which I can only deeply deplore. I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news. I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility. Precisely for this reason I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which – as in the days of Pope John Paul II – has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues to exist.

Another mistake, which I deeply regret, is the fact that the extent and limits of the provision of 21 January 2009 were not clearly and adequately explained at the moment of its publication. The excommunication affects individuals, not institutions. An episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate raises the danger of a schism, since it jeopardizes the unity of the College of Bishops with the Pope. Consequently the Church must react by employing her most severe punishment – excommunication – with the aim of calling those thus punished to repent and to return to unity. Twenty years after the ordinations, this goal has sadly not yet been attained. The remission of the excommunication has the same aim as that of the punishment: namely, to invite the four Bishops once more to return. This gesture was possible once the interested parties had expressed their recognition in principle of the Pope and his authority as Pastor, albeit with some reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority and to the authority of the Council. Here I return to the distinction between individuals and institutions. The remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline: the individuals were freed from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level. The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

In light of this situation, it is my intention henceforth to join the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" – the body which has been competent since 1988 for those communities and persons who, coming from the Society of Saint Pius X or from similar groups, wish to return to full communion with the Pope – to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes. The collegial bodies with which the Congregation studies questions which arise (especially the ordinary Wednesday meeting of Cardinals and the annual or biennial Plenary Session) ensure the involvement of the Prefects of the different Roman Congregations and representatives from the world’s Bishops in the process of decision-making. The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.

I hope, dear Brothers, that this serves to clarify the positive significance and also the limits of the provision of 21 January 2009. But the question still remains: Was this measure needed? Was it really a priority? Aren’t other things perhaps more important? Of course there are more important and urgent matters. I believe that I set forth clearly the priorities of my pontificate in the addresses which I gave at its beginning. Everything that I said then continues unchanged as my plan of action. The first priority for the Successor of Peter was laid down by the Lord in the Upper Room in the clearest of terms: "You… strengthen your brothers" (Lk 22:32). Peter himself formulated this priority anew in his first Letter: "Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses "to the end" (cf. Jn 13:1) – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.

Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time. A logical consequence of this is that we must have at heart the unity of all believers. Their disunity, their disagreement among themselves, calls into question the credibility of their talk of God. Hence the effort to promote a common witness by Christians to their faith – ecumenism – is part of the supreme priority. Added to this is the need for all those who believe in God to join in seeking peace, to attempt to draw closer to one another, and to journey together, even with their differing images of God, towards the source of Light – this is interreligious dialogue. Whoever proclaims that God is Love "to the end" has to bear witness to love: in loving devotion to the suffering, in the rejection of hatred and enmity – this is the social dimension of the Christian faith, of which I spoke in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.

So if the arduous task of working for faith, hope and love in the world is presently (and, in various ways, always) the Church’s real priority, then part of this is also made up of acts of reconciliation, small and not so small. That the quiet gesture of extending a hand gave rise to a huge uproar, and thus became exactly the opposite of a gesture of reconciliation, is a fact which we must accept. But I ask now: Was it, and is it, truly wrong in this case to meet half-way the brother who "has something against you" (cf. Mt 5:23ff.) and to seek reconciliation? Should not civil society also try to forestall forms of extremism and to incorporate their eventual adherents – to the extent possible – in the great currents shaping social life, and thus avoid their being segregated, with all its consequences? Can it be completely mistaken to work to break down obstinacy and narrowness, and to make space for what is positive and retrievable for the whole? I myself saw, in the years after 1988, how the return of communities which had been separated from Rome changed their interior attitudes; I saw how returning to the bigger and broader Church enabled them to move beyond one-sided positions and broke down rigidity so that positive energies could emerge for the whole. Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church? I think for example of the 491 priests. We cannot know how mixed their motives may be. All the same, I do not think that they would have chosen the priesthood if, alongside various distorted and unhealthy elements, they did not have a love for Christ and a desire to proclaim him and, with him, the living God. Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity? What would then become of them?

Certainly, for some time now, and once again on this specific occasion, we have heard from some representatives of that community many unpleasant things – arrogance and presumptuousness, an obsession with one-sided positions, etc. Yet to tell the truth, I must add that I have also received a number of touching testimonials of gratitude which clearly showed an openness of heart. But should not the great Church also allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth, in the knowledge of the promise made to her? Should not we, as good educators, also be capable of overlooking various faults and making every effort to open up broader vistas? And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles? At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.

Dear Brothers, during the days when I first had the idea of writing this letter, by chance, during a visit to the Roman Seminary, I had to interpret and comment on Galatians 5:13-15. I was surprised at the directness with which that passage speaks to us about the present moment: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." I am always tempted to see these words as another of the rhetorical excesses which we occasionally find in Saint Paul. To some extent that may also be the case. But sad to say, this "biting and devouring" also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom. Should we be surprised that we too are no better than the Galatians? That at the very least we are threatened by the same temptations? That we must always learn anew the proper use of freedom? And that we must always learn anew the supreme priority, which is love? The day I spoke about this at the Major Seminary, the feast of Our Lady of Trust was being celebrated in Rome. And so it is: Mary teaches us trust. She leads us to her Son, in whom all of us can put our trust. He will be our guide – even in turbulent times. And so I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many Bishops who have lately offered me touching tokens of trust and affection, and above all assured me of their prayers. My thanks also go to all the faithful who in these days have given me testimony of their constant fidelity to the Successor of Saint Peter. May the Lord protect all of us and guide our steps along the way of peace. This is the prayer that rises up instinctively from my heart at the beginning of this Lent, a liturgical season particularly suited to interior purification, one which invites all of us to look with renewed hope to the light which awaits us at Easter.

With a special Apostolic Blessing, I remain

Yours in the Lord,


From the Vatican, 10 March 2009