NEWS:  April 15, 2000

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

MARTYROLOGY: A STEP BACKWARD - The Vatican announced that the common martyrology, to be proclaimed in an ecumenical service at the Coliseum in Rome on May 7, will no longer have a list of names. After having asked the Bishops of the whole world to send names to be included - in the U.S., for example, we saw the proposal of the name of Martin Luther King - Jesuit Fr. Jozef Maj announced on January 14 that "the Vatican has opted to avoid promulgating or publicizing the thousands of individual martyrs worldwide because it could give rise to misunderstanding or even division." Maj is a member of the commission planning the event and an official of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (National Catholic Reporter, January 28, 2000, p.12). Without a doubt, the strong and salutary traditionalist reaction to the absurd new martyrology contributed to this measure being taken.

TEMPLE OF SOLOMON - On the cover of the February issue of Inside the Vatican, there was a photo of John Paul II dressed in a colored mantle with gold, red and blues stripes. This mantle will be used for specific special ceremonies, such as the "opening of the door" that took place at the Basilica of St. Peter on Christmas Eve. The magazine reported that, according to Vatican sources, the mantle, "the likes of which had never before been seen in St. Peter's," represents the Temple of Jerusalem, without adding any other explanation (p. 12). The mantle is certainly extravagant, contrasting with the seriousness of the traditional vestments of the Pope, and the information causes a certain surprise because of its symbolic link to the sacred edifice constructed by Solomon in the Old Testament. Still, I can remember photographs of Paul VI innumerable times wearing a Jewish symbol as a fastening for one of his pontifical stoles - the exact same symbol that the Hebrew high priest wore (or still wears, I'm not sure) on certain occasions. This was a rectangular jewel, inlaid with twelve precious stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel, that some incorrectly called the efod. (Actually the efod is a type of vest worn by the high priest, which bore the aforementioned jewel called rational.) Now it seems that something like this is being repeated. Would the new mantle of John Paul II be another symbolic manifestation to link the Papacy with the Jewish high priest? It would be useful to know more details about its alleged symbolism relating to the Temple of Jerusalem.

ECUMENICAL CHAPEL - John Paul II has a profound admiration for the spirituality of the Eastern schismatics. He has recently restored and inaugurated a chapel in the Vatican incorporating images from that "spirituality" to give his chapel a new "ecumenical" decoration (Inside the Vatican, January, pp.16, 59-61).

IDOLS AND SAINTS - Princess Diana appears as Our Lady, Leonardo di Capro as St. Sebastian, Elvis Presley as St. George. The statues and painting are being shown at the Tate Gallery of Liverpool to illustrate the theme that the media celebrities have replaced the traditional Saints. Many Catholics expressed shock over the exhibition, but the Catholic bishop of Liverpool accepted the factas though it were perfectly natural, without considering a protest. (Actualité des Religions, February, p.6)

APATHETIC YOUTH - Among the pioneer bodies of the ecumenical movement is the Protestant monastery of Taizé, in France. For a long time it was a pole of reference for ecumenism. I cite only one example: for the commission that prepared the reform of the Ordo Missae, representatives of Taizé were invited, among them Max Thurian, the "abbot" of the monastery. The present-day community of Taizé recently sponsored an international ecumenical youth conference in Warsaw (Poland). Directing himself to the 70,000 participants present there, the superior, Roger Schutz, attempted to address the problems confronted by today's ecumenical youth by affirming that "our life is not shaped by fatalism or blind predestination." Further on, he emphasized that "God is not calling us to apathy" (Inside the Vatican, February, p. 23). It is interesting to note that in times past the keynote of speeches addressed to youth attempted to bridle and direct their excessive enthusiasm. Now, they seek to challenge their excessive apathy and fatalism. A "sign of the times" is this apathy of the youth toward ecumenism, which points in the direction of a failure of ecumenism, since the youth are supposed to represent the future.

RETURN TO THEIR ORIGINS - On Flores Island (Indonesia), the Nuba Nara stone, which served as the altar of sacrifice for the indigenous cult, was taken by a Catholic missionary in 1938 and placed, as a sign of the victory of the Church over paganism, under the altar of the Chapel of Nawokotek. To close the year 1999, Fr. Matheus Bala, from the Larantuka diocese, returned it to the indigenous chiefs. The latter, taking possession of this symbol, bathed it anew with the blood of animal sacrifices, in order to thus enter into contact with the supreme being, Lera Wulan Tana, i.e., sky, moon and earth (Actualité des Religions, Paris, February, p.7). Another supposed "benefice" of the inculturalization that in reality steals from the glory of God.

FRENCH PRIEST AND MASON - On December 9, 1999, the obituary section of the newspaper Figaro (Paris) announced "the return to the eternal East of Fr. Jean-Claude Desbrosse," a priest from the diocese of Autun. Intrigued by this announcement, the Catholic daily La Croix went to the Bishop of the city, Msgr. Armand Le Bourgeois, to ask him about it. He responded: "Yes, I gave my authorization to this priest. He wanted to join the national French Grand Lodge, a 'spiritualized' [Masonic] obedience and I allowed him to do so." The authorization was given in 1980. At that time, every Catholic who became a Mason in France was automatically excommunicated (Actualité des Religions, February, p.15). It is impossible not to question whether the Bishop received this orientation from his superiors, and further, to ask how many more priests, Bishops, etc. affiliated themselves with Freemasonry.

WE ARE CHURCH AND THE FUTURE COUNCIL - The Italian section of the international We Are Church movement issued a document in which they expressed their longings for the Church in the year 2000. There one can read: "We have a dream: that the Church in 2000 begin to take the road that will one day lead to the celebration of a great conciliar assembly to deal with all the problems that the announcement of the Gospel confronts today. The road will be long and difficult, but no ambitious goal is attained until one makes the decision to take the first courageous steps. The inevitable reform in the way of exercising the papal primacy, openly desired by Wojtyla himself, will never take on concrete form until all the people of God assume the responsibility of challenging the reigning centralism, which the Roman Curia defends at all cost. This itinerary must be crossed, only God knows how, along the broader path of the whole of all the Christian churches moving toward the celebration of an authentically universal council that will fulfil one decisive stage in the reconciliation of the churches and the full eucharistic communion among all. This will be done in such a way that, in this 'reconciled diversity,' all together will serve the world and, above all, serve the immense mass of oppressed and marginalized persons" (Adista, Rome, February 14, 2000). The same dream of an ecumenical council of this nature was expressed by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan in the last Bishops Synod, was sanctioned by Cardinal Godfried Daneels of Brussels, and more recently, by Cardinal Pierre Eyt of Bordeaux.

NEW MORALS - The St. Louis archdiocesan Pro-Life Office recently said that using a hepatitis vaccine derived from cell lines developed from an aborted fetus is morally acceptable because it is the only available alternative to the spread of the disease. The office said it had received inquiries about the ethics of such vaccinations when a bill was passed in St. Louis County ordering food handlers to be vaccinated. Some of them refused to get the vaccine. (America, March 4, 2000, p. 5). It is shocking that the archdiocesan office approved this vaccine, because if the material for the vaccine can only be taken from a dead fetus, it is a clear invitation to accept abortion, as well as to negotiate a good price for the murdered bodies. If pragmatic reasons like this would be morally acceptable to avoid the disease of hepatitis, analogously the use of condoms would be morally acceptable to avoid the transmission of AIDS. Then this would be an acceptance of the principle that the end justifies the means, which is totally contrary to Catholic Morals.


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