NEWS:  January 31, 2000

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

Today I will take a look at some significant events relating to the present day situation of the Revolution vs. Counter-Revolution in the Church. The news briefs are so numerous that the best way to provide a bird's eye view of the major happenings is to analyze some of them in summary fashion.

A SPLIT IN THE HOLY SEE - There are interesting signs of a split between the Cardinals in the Roman Curia. In its report on the pan-religious meeting at the Vatican, the French magazine Actualité des Religions (Paris, October 1999, pp. 8f.) indicates symptoms of a serious division among those who are deciding the future of the Church. Let me translate the pertinent parts: "It is unanimously admitted that the meeting [the October pan-religious assembly] is the work of John Paul II. With his legendary obstinacy, the Pope, a true militant of inter-religious dialogue, first attempted to overcome the reserve of certain members of his circle of collaborators, who are little disposed to this type of activity, before deciding to disregard their counsels. 'In the Vatican there is a movement of prudence with regard to this event,' commented Msgr. Fizgerald soberly. A person closer to the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue spoke in stronger tones about the make-up of the two irremediably opposed parties: 'On one side the conservative right defends a certain Catholic exclusivism; on the other side is a leftist group open to dialogue in general, including with the different religions, which is fighting for a Church in evolution,' this observer emphasized."

The article continues: "It is almost certain that the subjects that are causing divisions will not be touched. In the wings, the arm wrestling between the two Roman blocs will continue. 'It runs the risk of becoming accentuated,' a qualified witness assures us. 'The partisans of the dialogue know that they have the papal blessing. They are trying, therefore, to take advantage of what they have already achieved. But, in face of this, the conservatives, who also count upon hierarchical support, are determined not to cede.'" With this background, it is clear why the pan-religious meeting received less publicity than was expected.

O'CONNOR AND THE JEWS - In its October 1999 edition, Origins (Catholic News Service Documentary Service) printed the official letter that the Cardinal Archbishop of New York John O'Connor published in the The New York Times (September 8). It was directed to members of the Jewish religion on the occasion of the feast of Yom Kippur. It is interesting to see some excerpts. In the beginning, Cardinal O'Connor defends the election of the Jewish people even in the New Alliance. He affirms: "G-d [God], who gives all humanity the dignity of being made his image, has chosen Israel as his particular people that they may be an example of faithfulness for all nations of the earth. With sincere love and true admiration for your fidelity to the covenant, I am happy once again to send my greetings for a blessed new year." It is, in fact, singular that an important North-American Cardinal makes a public acknowledgement of the "election" of Israel - I consider Israel as synonymous with the Judaic religion, without any racial connotation - including indiscriminately the Old and New Alliances. It is clear doctrine of the Church that the Synagogue rejected Our Lord and that the New Alliance was sealed with the other peoples: the Gentiles. The Cardinal of New York "forgot" this part of Catholic doctrine. Another curiosity that cannot pass unnoticed: the religious Jew does not refer to God using the complete name; according to Judaism, this "irreverence" deserves chastisement. For this reason, the vowels of the name of Yahweh are omitted. Cardinal O'Connor, to please the Jews, adopts the same custom, and throughout his whole letter he refers to God only as G-d.

He concludes his document stating, "I ask this Yon Kippur that you understand my own abject sorrow for any member of the Catholic Church, high or low, including myself, who may have harmed you or your forebears in any way." Here the Cardinal is shocking. First, because he condemns the whole Catholic tradition of rejection of the errors of the Jewish religion. Second, because he employs extremely denigrating language -"my own abject sorrow" - to refer to the innumerable popes, councils and saints who have combated Judaism.

VATICAN III - A future ecumenical council is gaining new supporters. After the statement of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini proposing a council to resolve pending problems, the next in line was Cardinal Godfried Daneels of Brussels. Origins (November 4) summarizes the statements. With regard to the suggestion of Martini, Daneels offered this opinion (October 21): "I think it is a good idea, but I don't think you can organize it immediately for the next year or the year after, because it should be a world council for the whole Church." Martini had said such an assembly should look at issues such as the priesthood shortage, women's roles, the laity in the Church, marriage discipline, ecumenism, and the relationship of moral values and civil law. "Those matters," Daneels said, "represent only a partial agenda for the future world bishop's assembly. It should also look at ways of evangelizing, collegiality, inculturation, the possibility of ordaining married men and social issues." Such statements suggest the inevitability of a Vatican III or Jerusalem II , as well as its agenda. This agenda is so broad and general that it allows everyone's favorite topic to be included.

ECCLESIASTIC OLYMPICS - "The Vatican has now stepped into the world of sports: it is the 211th country inscribed in the list of the World Federation of Sports. This inclusion was applauded: As part of the jubilee year commemorations, a Sports Jubilee is planned for October 29, 2000 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome" (Actualité des Religions, October, p. 6). Will it be only the Swiss Guards who participate in the games? Or will we also see seminarians, nuns, priests or perhaps even bishops trying to place in sports events?

UNWELCOME PILGRIMAGE - In August John Paul II directed a letter to the schismatic primate of Greece, archbishop Christodopoulos, expressing his desire to go on a pilgrimage to the hill of Pnyx, where the Apostle St. Paul announced the Gospel. The more radical "orthodox" launched a campaign against the visit and won the support of numerous members of the church's holy synod. The Greek holy synod threatened its primate with raising a general insurrection if the visit were to take place. (Actualité des Religions, October, p. 18)

SUPPORT FOR SISTER GRAMICK AND FATHER NUGENT - It is common knowledge that Sr. Jeannine Gramick, who has dedicated herself to "pastoral" work with homosexuals, was prohibited by the Holy See from exercising her function. However, fewer know that the National Union of American Sisters made a protest on September 30 against the Vatican measure and gave official support to the controversial religious (Adista, Rome, October 18, p.2). National Catholic Reporter" published an extensive report of the support for both Sr. Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, SDS, also prohibited from exercising his ministry with homosexuals. Among the signatories are 50 different religious Congregations established in the U.S. (November, 19, p. 23).

FOILED ECUMENISM - The Lutheran church of Italy reaffirmed its intention of boycotting the celebrations of the Millennium. In France, the comment was made that there is a "very high risk of discord in ecumenical relations" (Actualité des Religions, November, p.12). In England, the British government has refused to change a law forbidding an English monarch to marry a Catholic or become a Catholic. Prime Minister Tony Blair announced he has no plan to repeal the 1700 Act of Settlement as part of reforms of the British Constitution (Origins, November 18, p. 2).

VISIT TO THE HOLY LAND - Pope John Paul II will visit the Holy Land sometime during the last 10 days of March 2000, Vatican officials announced at a November 17 press conference. However, specific dates for the visit are yet to be confirmed. At the Vatican press conference, it was also announced that the jubilee-year "Request for Pardon" ceremony originally planned for Ash Wednesday, March 8, has been moved to Sunday, March 12 and will be held at St. Peter's Basilica. The ceremony involves "acknowledging current and past faults of the church's people" (Origins, November 25, p. 2).

EXTREMELY INCONVENIENT? - On the Mount of the Temptation in Jericho, the place where Our Lord Jesus Christ fasted for forty days, two restaurants are being built, with full sanction of the Palestine Authority. There, in the same place where Our Lord was carried through the air to the mountaintop by the demon to tempt Him (Mt, 4:1-11), an air lift was installed to transport tourists and pilgrims. (Actualité des Religions, November, p. 6). A coincidence? A blasphemy? Or two extremely inconvenient measures? There is no report of any protest by the Catholic religious authorities who, nonetheless, have a great influence with the Palestinians.




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