NEWS: December 31, 2000
Bird’s Eye View of the News
by Atila Sinke Guimarães
IRONY – I was waiting to see, but until now I haven't heard of anyone who has commented on a very significant fact. So, here is my analysis. Chinese authorities arrested two Bishops and a priest of the underground Catholic Church last September. The arrests came on the same day that a senior Vatican official, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, arrived in China for a government-hosted conference on "religion and peace" (National Catholic Reporter, September 29, 2000). Cardinal Etchegaray is being presented as diplomatic heir to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who spearheaded the Vatican Ostpolitik with the Communist countries. This expression of the disapproval of the Chinese government at the representative of the Holy See could not be more truculent and ironic. It is curious to note the general silence surrounding this "success" of Vatican Ostpolitik.
... BUT IT'S NOT A CHASTISEMENT – On November 24, 2000 the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations released an official report on the status of the AID/HIV epidemic. The statistics are impressive: the number of people infected by the virus tops 36 million. The estimates by WHO are that there were about 5.3 million new cases of AIDS infection the year 2001, including 600,000 children younger than 15, and that 3 million people died of AIDS last year (Los Angeles Times, November 25, 2000, p. A15). In my opinion this is a serious document from a source that seems to have no special interest in falsely inflating the numbers. I am against UN as a fermenting ground for the Universal Republic, but I do not doubt these numbers.
Before going on, I would like to remind my reader of two pieces of data. First, the 14th century was marked by the "Black Death" in Europe, which killed around 25 million people (Almanac 1997, p. 101). To my knowledge, that was the greatest plague the West experienced for quite some time both before and after the 14th century. Second, the official registered number of men killed in wars of the United States is 2,340,262. Let me be more specific: in the Civil War (1861-1865) the U.S. lost 646,392; in the Spanish-American War (1898) it lost 4,108; in World War I (1917-1918) it lost 320,518; in World War II (1941-1946) it lost 1,076,245; in the Korean War (1950-1953) it lost 157,530, and in the War in Southeast Asia it lost 211,470 soldiers (Almanac 1997, p. 385).While there is no official death toll, I do not believe that the total would surpass 600,000 in the War of the Revolution (1775-1783), the War of 1812 (1812-1815) and the Mexican War (1846-1848). Based on these figures, the total deaths in all of the American wars is less than 3 million.
If we compare the Black Death statistics with the number killed by the AIDS epidemic up to now, we can see that the AIDS plague is reaching the 25 million deaths caused by the most devastating plague known in Western history. And if we compare the number of deaths caused by AIDS only in the year 2000, i.e., 3 million, it exceeds the number of deaths caused by all of the wars in American history.
Given the magnitude of the epidemic, who can exclude that the AIDS scourge is a chastisement of God? Nevertheless, when the Vatican was asked some time ago how it understood this plague, it categorically denied that it would be a chastisement. So, this is the conclusion we are being led to take: the time of chastisement to which the prophecies of Fatima refer is over; Cardinal Ratzinger does not acknowledge them… And the AIDS plague would not be a chastisement; the Vatican denies it… If we would conform our thinking to Vatican directives, then we would have to adapt to the optimistic climate of the "new Springtime" in the Church. Every interpretation of the AIDS plague is permitted, except for the one that considers it a chastisement of God.
THIRD SEX – The book The Changing Face of Priesthood, by Donald B. Cozzens (The Liturgical Press, 2000, 148 pp.), was released last November. I am basing my notes here on a book review by Larry Stammer (Los Angeles Times, November 25, 2000, p. B2). According to Cozzens, the hot-button issue of the day is homosexuality. There appears to be a disproportionate number of gay men among seminarians and priests. No one really knows what the percentage is, but Cozzens cites sociologist James Wolf’s 1989 estimate that 48.5% of priests and 55.1% of seminarians have a homosexual orientation. The author contends that no one can doubt that priests who are gay make an enormous, helpful, and healthy contribution to the Church. Indeed, Cozzens states that their sensibility may be a special strength and quality required of one who seeks to minister to others. The Church should not waste time wrestling with how well parishioners appear to accept a gay priest in their individual parishes, according to the author. Instead, she should be grapping with the concrete fact that the Catholic priesthood overall may be heavily populated by men with a homosexual orientation. Therefore – and here I make my commentary – we are heading toward an admission of a kind of third sex, neither man nor woman, which would depict the normal way to be a representative of Our Lord. This would be a de facto acceptance of an aberration against nature that can only contribute to the demoralization of the priesthood and the attempt to destroy the Mystical Body of Christ. I really don’t know which is worst, the progressivist plan to impose women priests or its attempt to make Catholic public opinion accept these anti-natural “third-sex” priests.
THEY TAKE CARE OF THEIR PEOPLE – Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, 73, finally earned his doctorate in music from Columbia University last year, nearly 50 years after other duties interrupted his graduate studies. In the meantime, he has received 36 honorary doctorates (The Tidings, December 22, 2000, p. 22). This is a significant number of honorary doctorates. Those who direct the agenda of international progressivism always take care of their own people, and especially the most radical.
THE ECUMENICAL MARTYROLOGY GAME – Eight bound volumes containing the names of more than 13,400 men and women judged to be “martyrs” since January 1, 1900, were given to Pope John Paul II on December 4 by a Vatican commission charged with the compilation. Fr. Marco Gnavi, secretary of the commission, told Vatican Radio that 70% of those named were Catholics or non-Catholics from Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Catholic Church does not have a monopoly on martyrdom, participants in a December 5 conference on African and Asian martyrs said. “We do not have the right to hijack the entire meaning of the term ‘martyr’ for ourselves,” affirmed Fr. Nazareno Contran. As examples of other “martyrs,’ the Italian priest cited Steven Biko, the anti-apartheid activist murdered by South African police in 1977, and Vietnamese Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire in response to U.S. involvement in their country. “Couldn’t the millions of people who die each year from hunger be called martyrs?” asked Contran (Origins, December 14, 2000, p. 2).
The criterion to proclaim someone a martyr is no longer shedding blood for love of the Catholic Faith. It seems that those who suffer death from any form whatsoever of oppression – religious, military, political, social, or economic – would be justified in claiming inclusion in this ecumenical list of “martyrs.” When there are too many irons in the fire, none of them gets really hot. And when everyone can be a martyr, no one will take the title seriously.
INVERSION OF STYLE? – It seems that Pope John Paul II took a step backward in the growing desacralization of the ceremonial that used to surround the prior Pontiffs. Certainly the readers recall that all of the Popes up until John Paul II used to employ the majestic plural “We” in their speeches. The present day Pope abolished this custom, and began to employ the “I.” It is with hope that I register that last December for the first time for as long as I can remember, John Paul II returned to the use of “We.” But, unfortunately, it was not clear that his intention was to re-assume the traditional royal “We.” It could have been just a common use of “we” to add himself to the ensemble of sick persons whom he was addressing. In fact, in his homily of December 3 at a Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, he directed these words to the handicapped present: “We are aware that we have bodies that are too impaired to contain souls that are too large” (Our Sunday Visitor, December 17, 2000, p. 6). The press interpreted his use of the word “we” as an intent to include himself among the ensemble of handicapped persons assisting at the Mass. I raise the possibility that it could signify a return to the traditional ceremmonial formula. Is it only wishful thinking on my part? I hope not.
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