Signs of the Times
More Than 60 Dead in Sudan Bombings
More than 60 people, most of them women and children, died in a series of bombing raids carried out by the Sudanese military on towns and schools in southern Sudan, a missionary news agency reported. The situation is becoming more serious day by day, Bishop Cesare Mazzolari of Rumbek, Sudan, told MISNA, the Rome-based agency. Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei said the bombardments are war crimes for which Gen. Omar el Bashir, the Sudanese president, should be prosecuted.
Vatican Official Seeks Better Monitoring of Altered Foods
The genetic modification of plants and animals offers new opportunities to feed the world’s hungry, but the risks demand better international monitoring, a Vatican official said. The advance of transgenic modification has been more determined by commercial interests than by safety standards or even by the food needs of developing countries, said Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, the Vatican’s permanent observer to U.N. food and hunger agencies. Archbishop Marchetto made the remarks in a lengthy and detailed speech at a biotechnology conference in Rome.
Document Urges Christians to Respond to India’s Problems
An ecumenical document says that now is the favorable time for Indian Christians to respond to the nation’s problems, and it warns of immeasurable losses if churches miss the opportunity. Catholic and Protestant theologians formally released the Indian Kairos Document in New Delhi on Nov. 27, reported UCA News. In the document, the theologians ask churches to respond to the nation’s social, political, economic, cultural and religious concerns.
Kairos, a Greek word meaning a particular point of time, denotes a decisive moment for God’s people to make decisions by reading the signs of the time, the document explains. Indian Christians have failed to recognize the kairos from God, says the document, regretting Christians’ indifference and callousness to the millennia-long injustice perpetrated on members of low castes, tribals, women and others.
Catholics and members of the Church of North India, the Church of South India and Methodist and Evangelical Churches worked together on the 52-page document, which had 42 signatories. It laments that Christians remain divided, caste-oriented and gender-biased even when they face attacks from right-wing groups. The attacks, it adds, are part of extremist groups’ plan to exterminate Christians from India and declare it a Hindu nation after putting up a seemingly harmless facade of cultural nationalism.
Vatican: AIDS Problem Involves More Than Condoms
Vatican officials fended off insistent questions about the church’s condemnation of condoms in AIDS prevention, turning attention instead to church education programs they said tackle the roots of the problem. The officials, opening a conference on AIDS at the Vatican on Nov. 30-Dec. 1 with a press conference, stated categorically that condoms could never be morally allowed. But they lamented that the condom issue had overshadowed broader questions of human formation.
The condom issue is not the human reality and the reality of the suffering that we are living, and we must combat [AIDS] in a way that goes to its roots, and not only superficially, said Bishop Jose Redrado Marchite, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. The officials said that freshly released U.N. statistics showing an unpredicted boom in new H.I.V. infections demonstrated the ineffectiveness of condoms in fighting AIDS.
[T]hey’ve filled South Africa with condoms, and the cases [of AIDS-H.I.V. infection] have increased instead of lessening, said Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the health care council. Experience tells us that they are not so effective, he said. Fiorenza Deriu Bagnato, an Italian social researcher also on the press conference panel, said international attention should be given to the church’s AIDS prevention campaigns in countries like Senegal, Ivory Coast and India. Let’s ask if, observing the specific action of the church in determined contexts, the results that these give can in some way contribute to the containment of AIDS more effectively than condoms, she said.
The Vatican officials also completely rejected the use of condoms. The position is very clear. The church does not accept condoms, Archbishop Lozano said. Because the church teaches that all sexual relations outside of marriage are immoral, the question of condom use in those circumstances is superfluous, said Camillian Father Felice Ruffini, the health care council’s undersecretary. Within a marriage, even one in which one partner is infected with H.I.V., condom use is always prohibited, he said. Certainly, it’s difficult, it’s tough to be able to maintain matrimonial chastity in this case, Father Ruffini said, but moralists cannot craft an exception to Christ’s law. He said, however, that given the difficulty of couples in that situation, the church entrusted to God’s mercy those who used condoms.
Bonifacio Honings of the Discalced Carmelites, a Dutch moral theologian who consults for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said an H.I.V.-infected husband had no right to request sexual relations from his healthy wife. If it is true love on the part of the husband, he will do everything possible to not demand such a dangerous relation from his wife, he said. At the same time, the wife could choose to consent to sexual relations to avoid worse thingsher husband becoming intractable, or the husband being unfaithful to her, etc., he said.
On the other hand, bishops in France and Zimbabwe have said that in marriages in which one person has H.I.V., the spouse may use a condom as the lesser of two evils. Despite the Vatican officials’ categorical rejection of condoms, other moral theologians, including some close to the Vatican, have said that scholarly debate continues on whether condom use might be allowed in certain extreme caseslike AIDS prevention. In recent months, some theologians have even said that Catholic couples in which one partner has AIDS could use a condom to defend the healthy partner as long as their intent was not to prevent conception.
The Vatican also announced plans to publish a document giving Catholics moral and practical guidelines for AIDS ministry. The document, in the form of a vade mecum, will provide Catholics who serve people with H.I.V.-AIDS with specific principles for how to deal with diverse problems that present themselves, Archbishop Lozano. He said that Catholic agencies accounted for nearly 25 percent of all care provided worldwide to people with H.I.V. or AIDS.
Catholic-Jewish Group Addresses Hatred, Environment
A national Catholic-Jewish dialogue group has expressed alarm at new acts of religious hatred and urged joint action by Catholics and Jews to combat environmental hazards to children’s health. We are alarmed by a wave of attacks on synagogues and Jews that have occurred in North America and Europe in the past several weeks, the first statement said. There is no justification whatsoever for the violation of any people’s religious liberties. Nor can anyone excuse despicable acts by appeals to religion, it said. The statement was developed at a meeting in Baltimore on Nov. 20 of the National Council of Synagogues and the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. In its joint reflection on children and the environment, the group said, Jews and Christians infused with the spirit of the Psalms view nature as a living testimony to a living God.
Black Priests See Bankruptcy and Hope
The U.S. Catholic Church and the African-American community are spiritually bankrupt, two African-American priests told a Catholic audience in Raleigh. The priests, twin brothers who are members of the Society of the Divine Word, said too often Catholics get caught up in churchianity, not Christianity, and too many members of the black community are hurting. But the power and passion of Jesus Christ can put things right, they said. African-American children are growing up in communities where the only factory is selling dope, said Father Charles Smith at the Diocese of Raleigh’s annual African-American Ministry Day of Reflection on Nov. 11. We’ve got a lot of brothers who are hurting. They’re in pain. A lot of the sisters are suffering, too.
Bishops’ Task Force Studies Due Process for Pastoral Workers
A task force of U.S. bishops is studying the feasibility of setting up due process guidelines to deal with cases of pastoral workers accused of being in disagreement with church teaching. Heading the task force is Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly of Louisville, Ky. Sharon Euart, a Sister of Mercy who is the associate general secretary of the N.C.C.B., said the task force was asked to look at the feasibility of developing guidelines [for due process] for pastoral workers in situations of accusations of dissent from church teachings.
Synagogue Council: Bishops’ Mideast Message Helpful
Responding to criticisms from two other Jewish groups, the National Council of Synagogues has called the U.S. bishops’ recent message on the Middle East crisis constructive. Overall, the statement is a balanced one, in places aggressively so, the council said in a memo dated Nov. 27 to U.S. congregations of Conservative and Reform Jews. It is worth noting, the council added, that this statement, and others by the Catholic Church, stand in stark contrast to the much more one-sided statements coming from some Protestant denominations. We urge you to reach out to the Catholic leadership in your communities, to beginor continuea dialogue on these issues.