NEWS:  October 15, 2000

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

DÉJÀ VU - In an August 3 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Russian Schismatic Patriarch Alexis II continued to complain about major obstacles that still disturb Catholic-Schismatic relations. Alexis II cited Catholic "persecution" and proselytizing of schismatics as the main problems standing in the way of a visit to Russia by John Paul II. Calling the obstacles "open wounds," Alexis appealed for an end to the "persecution of Orthodox Christians by Greek Catholics in western Ukraine and the work of proselytism carried out by Catholic Church structures among the traditionally Orthodox population" (The Tidings, August 11, p. 2).

The Vatican is making many efforts to cooperate by abolishing these and others "obstacles." An outstanding example that could be cited is the recent de facto abolition of the anti-Communist character of the Fatima message and its reference to the "conversion of Russia," which obviously supposed that the Schismatic Church is wrong and favorable to the Communist establishment. The real situation, which cannot be changed, is different from the story told by Alexis. It is not difficult to summarize it here.

The Schismatic Russian Church, as many other Schismatic confessions, lacks the vitality to make a real apostolate and convince the people. It is an arid structure, almost dead, that "lived" from the favor of the State and from the consequent elimination of any serious rivalry. After the fall of the "iron curtain," our Ukrainian brothers of the Eastern Catholic Rite felt free to leave the "Church of the Silence," return to the light and give free course to their exuberance of Faith and life. They fought for their right to their religious buildings, stolen by Stalin. Many times they took them by force. After that, they began to exercise their normal right to live as Catholics and to disseminate Catholic ideas. The result is a healthful movement of conversion of many schismatic adepts who are leaving their lethargic structures for the Catholic Church. That is to say, what is taking place is a significant erosion in the schismatic milieu. This cannot be forgiven, neither by Alexis nor by his sectarians, and his constant whining has become part of the background. The Vatican has tried several times, without success, to brake the zeal of the brave Ukrainians. Therefore, once again an important progressivist plan has been halted by a healthy reaction of the Catholic traditionalist grassroots. And Alexis continues to weep...

SAME-SEX UNIONS - New Zealand's Catholic Bishops supported legal registration of same-sex unions, although not as a steppingstone to legal marriage, in a position that contrasts with recent statements by Pope John Paul II condemning such civil unions. The 10 members of the New Zealand Episcopal Conference responded to a request for comments regarding same-sex couples made by the country's Justice Ministry. The Bishops told the government they supported allowing same-sex couples to claim rights similar to those of married couples in income support, tax credit entitlement, legal aid and division of property. Where same-sex couples share responsibility for child care, the Bishops said, they should have a right to parental leave like married couples and unmarried opposite-sex couples (National Catholic Reporter, May 12, p. 14). Even though the Prelates did not follow the Vatican orientation, there is no report of any public censure by the Holy See of the New Zealand Bishops.

CAMDESSUS - Pope John Paul II has named Michel Camdessus, former head of the International Monetary Fund, a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The nomination was announced August 7 at the Vatican. Camdessus joins about a dozen non-bishop members of the council, which assists the Pope on matters of Catholic social teaching. Camdessus, a French Catholic, retired as managing director of the IMF in February after serving an unprecedented three terms. He was regularly consulted by Vatican officials on economic matters, particularly on the Pope's call for a cancellation or reduction of international debt of developing countries in the jubilee year (The Tidings, August 11, p. 25). This marriage of a representative of high world finances with the Vatican is quite unusual. It seems to me that some important initiative is being prepared with this incorporation of Camdessus into the offices of the Holy See. Affaire à suivre [A matter to watch].

CANONIZATION OF RELATIVISIM - The simultaneous beatification of Pius IX and John XXIII is the canonization of relativism. This can be concluded from the words of Daniele Menozzi, professor of Church History at the University of Florence, Italy. Until now, the Catholic Church has canonized only two Pontiffs of the modern and contemporary age: Pius V in 1712, the most rigid interpreter of the Counter-Reformation - it was not by chance that St. Pius V became the patron of the Inquisition - and Pius X in 1954, protagonist of the battle against Modernism. Menozzi notes, "The logic was clear: the Popes who fought with the greatest resolution and tenacity were made Saints …. because they tried to defend the Church like a besieged citadel." There was a policy [in determining] the sanctity of the Popes, thus revealing a precise and coherent political line of government of the Church herself.

With John Paul II, explains Menozzi, things have become confused with his plan to simultaneously beatify two Popes, Pius IX and John XXIII, who incarnate two visions of the world and two models of the Church that are profoundly different from one another: "On one hand, the Syllabus and the fight against modernity of Pius IX, and on the other, the visualization of John XXIII of the modern world as a bearer of positive values. There is the temporalism [the influence of the Church on the temporal order and her corresponding possession of earthly goods] of Pius IX - and the Poor Church and Church of the poor of John XXIII; the principle of just war that conforms to the Catholic doctrine of Pius IX - and the Pacem in terris and repudiation of all war of John XXIII; ….. the dogma of infallibility and the primacy of the Pope proclaimed in Vatican Council I by Pius IX - and the valorization of local churches and episcopal collegiality affirmed in Vatican Council II by John XXIII."

Is it possible to point to a logic underlying the beatification of the two Popes who seem absolutely irreconcilable? After raising less probable solutions, Menozzi inclines toward a "more subtle" hypothesis, which would be the following: "The perception, on the part of Roman Curia, of an irremediable contradiction that defies any logic in the beatification of the duo Pius IX-John XXIII" could be explained by the "desire - that comes from above - to create a coherence at all costs, even where it seems impossible." (Adista, Rome, July 1, pp. 4-5) Or, to present it in clearer terms, if Rome wants to impose two blatantly contradictory beatifications, we are facing the canonization of relativism.

UNDER FIRE - Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, the recently named most important Prelate of the Catholic Church in England, is under fire for a pedophile case. The Prelate was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton in 1983 when he removed Fr. Michael Hill from his parish after the priest was accused of sexual abuse. After undergoing therapy, Hill was assigned by his Bishop in 1985 to be a chaplain at Gatwick Airport. According to The Times of London, Msgr. Murphy-O'Connor received documents from two priests and a doctor from the therapeutic center in Gloucestershire where Hill was treated which recommended that he not return to ministry. Nonetheless, the Prelate favored him with a new pastoral assignment. Hill was later accused of abusing a boy with learning difficulties whom he met at the airport chapel after the boy missed a flight. In 1997, he was sentenced to five years in prison for 10 sexual assaults on altar boys and other children.

Murphy-O'Connor stated July 19 that he had acted correctly on the information available to him. According to The Times, the Catholic Church has compensated two of Hill's victims, and legal proceedings are continuing in a third case (National Catholic Reporter, July 28, p. 12). Following the steps of the late Cardinal Basil Hume, the new Primate of England has shown an attitude of public complacency toward homosexuality in the clergy.

COPYRIGHT - An image of Jesus with a lemon slice replacing His traditional halo around His head was part of a widespread advertising campaign of PETA - People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. The movement designed its ad with the slogan "Jesus Was a Vegetarian." There were no reports about any indignant reaction against the extremely awkward campaign, which bordered closely on blasphemy. The only complaint was made by the Priests of the Sacred Heart who claimed ownership of the image of Jesus that the animal rights group was using in its materials. "The image of the Sacred Heart has been tied to the Priests of the Sacred Heart for many years, and for those who have a devotion to the Sacred Heart. We would like to have it kept for use of the priests," said Mary Gorski, a spokeswoman for the Order (National Catholic Reporter, August 11, p. 9).

IN THE SPIRIT OF THE COUNCIL... - At the beginning of this year, several Swiss Bishops judged the affirmations of Catholic theologian Herbert Haag "unacceptable." According to him, in certain circumstances the entire Mass, including the Consecration, could be celebrated without the presence of an ordained priest. Now, ninety Swiss Catholic personalities, among them theologians Othmar Keel and Herman Venetz, have signed a common statement expressing their surprise at the censures directed against "a theologian who, following the spirit of Vatican II, has worked hard in biblical and theological formation." The Bishops, say the signers, should accept discussion on all the controversial questions, "and should not be afraid of the new arguments presented. ... The reforms [proposed by the theologian] can be carried out in the spirit of the Council: fidelity to the Gospel is linked to the 'sign of the times.'" (Actualité des Religions, July/August 2000, p. 13). Undoubtedly, it is a bold step of the first wave of progressivism, which deserves complete repudiation. However, according to the progressivist strategy that we have been watching, after some time, dilutions of this same measure will gradually be accepted by many moderate progressivists and even by some Catholic "conservatives."

A similar tactic is being applied in other fields. For example, the vanguard progressivist wave asks for the ordination of women. This is rejected. However, in accordance with the "spirit of the Council," women have entered the altar-place as lectors, acolytes, and Eucharistic ministers. Can anyone doubt that these steps are preparing the way for the deaconesses of tomorrow and the priestesses of the day after tomorrow? Who today still are opposed to women-lectors or altar-girls?

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