Signs of the Times

Pope Says Politicians Must Conform Civil Laws to God’s Law

Pope John Paul II said political leaders must conform civil laws and policies to God’s objective moral law and to principles of solidarity and justice. An estimated 15,000 public officials from 92 countries attended the Jubilee for Politicians and Government Officials on Nov. 4-5.

During an all-day assembly on Nov. 4, some 3,000 participants unanimously approved three motions calling for the cancellation of foreign debt to poor countries, the defense of religious freedom and human rights, and greater international cooperation in fighting negative aspects of globalization.


At the end of the assembly on Nov. 4, the pope condemned modern injustices created by a growing gap between wealthy and poor individuals and nations, as well as continuing warfare and the spread of disease. Speaking in an animated and clear voice, he especially highlighted the plight of prison inmates, who he said were often cast aside by society, and he renewed his worldwide appeal for a jubilee gesture of clemency. Modern injustices should prick the consciences of those called to political activity, the pope said, as they formulate policies and laws; there needs to be a greater spirit of solidarity in the world, as a means of overcoming the selfishness of individuals and nations.

Interrupted more than a dozen times by sometimes sustained applause, the pope said that harnessing the unbridled market to the laws of justice and solidarity was the only way to ensure a peaceful future for our world and remove the root causes of conflicts and wars: Peace is the fruit of justice.

Civil laws, the pope said, must conform to God’s objective moral law, which is written in human hearts. A law that does not respect the right to lifefrom conception to natural deathof every human being, whatever his or her conditionhealthy or ill, still in the embryonic stage, elderly or close to deathis not a law in harmony with the divine plan, he said. Consequently, Christian legislators may neither contribute to the formulation of such a law nor approve it in parliamentary assembly, although, where such a law already exists, it is licit for them to propose amendments which would diminish its adverse effects, the pope said.

He said the same principle holds true for laws that would do harm to the family, striking at its unity or indissolubility, or which would give legal validity to a union between personsincluding those of the same sexwho demand the same rights as the family founded upon marriage between a man and a woman.

The pope acknowledged that the concrete application of the principles might differ from case to case. At the same time, he said, politics should never be reduced to the mere balancing of interests or, worse yet, to a matter of demagogy or of winning votes.... If legislation cannot and must not be coextensive with the whole of the moral law, neither can it run counter’ to the moral law, he said.

He said the example of St. Thomas More, the 16th-century English martyr named patron of politicians and statesmen by the pope on Oct. 31, teaches the virtues of service to the poor and weakest, interior detachment from wealth or honor and strict fidelity to one’s conscience.

Philippines Church Rally Calls for President’s Resignation

More than 70,000 people gathered to invoke Mary’s intercession for peace in the country and for Philippine President Joseph Estrada’s resignation amid allegations of corruption. The people said the rosary at the rally on Nov. 4 and prayed, Mother Mary, we beg you bring peace to our land after Scripture readings and reflections on the seven sorrows of the Blessed Mother, reported UCA News. Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila, who called for the prayer rally, said, We are here to pray for the president...because he needs enlightenment and live in the grace of God. The cardinal said resignation from the presidency would be good for [Estrada’s] soul, as the office has become an occasion of sin for him.

His immoral lifehigh-stakes gambling, his women and mistresses, his drinking sessions, his association with friends of doubtful characterhas worsened through the past two years since his election, Cardinal Sin said. His speech was interrupted occasionally by applause and chants of Estrada resign.

In early October a provincial governor accused Estrada of taking payoffs of more than 400 million pesos ($8.6 million) from illegal gambling and 130 million pesos from tobacco tax funds for farmers. An impeachment complaint against Estrada in the House has been signed by 99 representatives. Only 73 signatures are needed to forward the complaint to the Senate for trial.

Bishops, priests, nuns and political leaders, including Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Estrada’s potential constitutional successor, attended the rally. Former President Corazon Aquino, who spoke after the cardinal, called again on Estrada to resign. The crowd gave the cardinal thunderous applause when Aquino cited his role in the 1986 people power uprising that ousted the government of former president Ferdinand Marcos. The cardinal and the presbyteral council of the Archdiocese of Manila were among the first to urge Estrada publicly to relinquish his office, saying he has lost the moral ascendancy to govern after Gov. Luis Singson’s revelations.

Vietnam’s Communist Party Praises Catholics’ Help to Nation

The head of Vietnam’s Communist Party lauded Catholics for their significant contributions to nation-building since the country began opening to the outside world more than a decade ago. The party and the state wish to warmly express gratitude to Catholic individuals and communities for their great services, not only to Catholic compatriots but also to the entire nation, party Secretary-General Le Kha Phieu told some 150 priests, religious and lay people Oct. 25, according to UCA News.

Vice President Nguyen Thi Binh, Communist Party adviser Do Muoi and Tran Van Dang, head of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, attended the meeting on Oct. 25-26, organized by the government-approved Catholic Committee for Solidarity. Phieu told the Catholic visitors that the party and the state appreciate religious ethics and give due recognition to citizens who act to benefit their compatriots. I firmly believe God never teaches people to tolerate corruption or to do evil, he told his visitors. The party chief also observed that social evils are virtually nonexistent in areas with a high proportion of Catholics. Phieu promised to look into alleged violations of state policy by local party and government officials, especially regarding property formerly owned by the church.

Palestinian Christian, Muslim Leaders Condemn Israeli Actions

Christian and Muslim religious leaders in the northern Palestinian district of Janin issued a joint statement condemning Israel’s actions during recent Palestinian-Israeli clashes. The dangerous procedures and orders taken by Israel are really a violation of human rights and international law, which has a destructive blow on the peace process, the religious leaders said. Emphasizing the unity of the Christian and Muslim Palestinians in the Janin district, they called on world leaders to support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right of repatriation of refugees, water rights, trade rights, the removal of Jewish settlements from Palestinian lands and the refusal to accept any territorial changes made by Israelis in Jerusalem.

Kansas City Star Follow-Up on Priests with AIDS Criticized

Spokesmen for the U.S. bishops and the Diocese of Kansas City have again criticized The Kansas City Star for its coverage of priests with AIDS - this time for a follow-up the newspaper did in response to the earlier criticisms. The Star said it did a comprehensive review of priests’ death certificates from 1987 to 1998 in 14 states where those documents are public records.

The newspaper said that the average annual AIDS death rate for priests in the states where death records were available was 6 per 10,000, which is more than double that of the adult male population in those states and more than six times that of the general population in those states. Through those records and other sources, it said it had documented a total of more than 300 AIDS-related deaths among U.S. priests since 1983. It said if the documented death rates among priests in the 14 states were projected proportionally to the entire country, it would work out to about 28 AIDS-related priest deaths per year nationwide.

Father Patrick J. Rush, vicar general of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said The Star’s accusations of alleged church silence and denial on the issue and on the death rate of priests from the disease are not consistent with the experience of our local diocese. The editor of The Catholic Key, the diocesan newspaper, noted that The Star’s own survey of priests for its earlier series found that most of them felt priests with AIDS found compassion and care from the church. Less than 5 percent described the church response as negative. He said that in the 20-year history of AIDS, many people, not just clergy, suffered in silence out of fear for their reputation, and survivors of many of those who died, whether they were clergy or not, covered up the cause of death.

The U.S.C.C. statement questioned The Star’s focus on Catholic clergy. It noted that after the original Star series came out last Jan. 30-Feb. 1, U.S. News & World Report reported that the higher incidence of AIDS among clergy was not just a Catholic issue. At least one major study has found that clergy overall face about twice the risk of dying of AIDS as white males in all occupational groups combined, the magazine reported. The Star’s research demonstrates that less than half of 1 percent of the approximately 75,000 men who served as priests since the H.I.V.-AIDS infection was identified have died of AIDS-related illnesses, the U.S.C.C. statement said. [O]ne also must question why The Star seems determined to create the image of a crisis, using its own criteria for what constitutes a crisis, the statement said. It added, The justification for these stories given by The Star in the pastthat through them, it is trying to help the churchis patronizing, condescending and offensive to bishops who have tended caringly for priests and others with the HIV infection.

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