Signs of the Times

U.S. Peace Activists Visit Vatican

On the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq, three U.S. Catholic peace activists paid a discreet but significant visit to the Vatican. The officers of the Indiana-based Catholic Peace Fellowship were in Rome in mid-March to promote the issue of conscientious objection to war. They did not know what kind of reception they would receive from Vatican experts, but after a week of talks and meetings, they left feeling they had received a sympathetic hearing. It’s been a miraculous trip, said Joshua Casteel. We’ve received great support and open ears here. It’s encouraging to see that we are part of a tradition that’s very sensitive to peace issues. Casteel, who works as conscientious objector liaison for the fellowship, served in an Army intelligence unit in Iraq in 2004 and was an interrogator at the Abu Ghraib prison. After concluding that systematic torture was being used against mostly innocent people and that his own participation in the war was compromising his Christian witness, Casteel applied for and received conscientious objector status and left the Army. Deacon Tom Cornell, co-founder of the Catholic Peace Fellowship, and Michael Griffin, the organization’s director of education, arranged the trip to Rome to promote more visible backing for conscientious objection by the church hierarchy.

Israel Delays Negotiation Session With Vatican

Israel postponed a major negotiating session with Vatican officials on questions regarding the church’s legal and financial status in the Holy Land. The meeting of the joint commission on church-state issues had been scheduled for March 29 at the Vatican and would have been the first plenary session of the commission since 2002. On March 26, Israel told the Vatican the meeting would have to be delayed because it coincided with important developments in the Middle East. The Israeli officials cited the March 28-29 Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s trip through the region. In a statement made public March 28, the Vatican said it understood the reasons for Israel’s decision, but expressed its regret at the delay and said the meeting should be rescheduled quickly. One knowledgeable church source in Rome said the Israeli decision was especially discouraging because it was part of a pattern of last-minute delays and cancellations over the years.


I.C.E. Raids Continue to Disrupt Families

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has conducted raids in recent weeks at workplaces across the United States to round up workers who are in the country illegally. In two communities where raids took place on March 6South Bend, Ind., and New Bedford, Mass.members of the Catholic community and the wider community continue to help families torn apart by the federal action, especially children left without caregivers. A majority of the detainees in both places were women, many of them single parents with babies or toddlers. In South Bend, 36 candles lighted during a prayer vigil and information session on March 6 at St. Adalbert Church commemorated 36 members of the parish’s Hispanic community who were detained in the raid on Janco Composites, a plant in Mishawaka that makes fiberglass products for a variety of industries. In Massachusetts, Bishop George W. Coleman of Fall River asked parishes in the diocese to take up a collection to help Catholic Social Services serve the immigrant community in New Bedford. Deportation is likely for many of the 361 illegal immigrants jailed following the March 6 raid at a manufacturing plant there, but freeing the jailed mothers with young children as well as providing for the immediate basic needs of affected families has become an around-the-clock battle for Catholic and other agencies.

U.S. Bishops Correct Marquette Professor

The mistaken views on contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and other church teachings expressed in two pamphlets published in 2006 by Daniel C. Maguire, a theology professor at Marquette University, should not be confused with the faith and moral teaching of the Catholic Church, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine said. The doctrine committee’s Statement Concerning Two Pamphlets Published by Professor Daniel Maguire was approved for publication by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee during the latter’s March 20-21 meeting in Washington, D.C. The pamphlets, titled The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion and A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage, were sent by Maguire to all U.S. bishops on June 19 last year, the doctrine committee said. Since it is apparent that considerable efforts have been made to give these views the widest possible distribution as if they were a valid alternative to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the U.S.C.C.B. doctrine committee considers it important to offer a public correction of the erroneous views proposed in these pamphlets, the statement said.

Zimbabwean Archbishop Ready to Risk His Life

Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo urged Zimbabweans to continue their protests against government oppression and said he was willing to risk his life by leading them. We must be ready to stand, even in front of blazing guns, Archbishop Ncube said at a news conference on March 22 in Harare, the capital city. I am ready to stand in front, he told the news conference, organized by the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance. Noting that starvation stalks our land, Archbishop Ncube said people should fill the streets and demand that President Robert Mugabe steps down now. Inflation in Zimbabwe is more than 1,700 percent and there are severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Unemployment is close to 80 percent. The biggest problem is that Zimbabweans are cowards, myself included, the archbishop said. He was quoted by Reuters, the British news agency. We must get off our comfortable seats and suffer with the people, he said.

Vatican Paper: Sobrino Right on Gospel and Injustice

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said that Jon Sobrino, S.J., whose work was recently criticized by doctrinal authorities, was right in trying to apply the truth of the Gospel to concrete situations of global injustice. Where Father Sobrino risks going astray, the newspaper said, is in proposing a new type of Christology that seems to prefer the Jesus of history to the Christ of faith and downplays his transcendent nature. The article, published on March 24, came 10 days after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a note warning of erroneous or dangerous propositions in the work of Father Sobrino, a leading proponent of liberation theology. The newspaper article was written by the Rev. Antonio Stagliano, director of a theological institute in Naples, Italy. Typically, such follow-up articles are arranged by Vatican officials to emphasize and explore arguments in the original notification.

On March 15 the Praesidium of the European Society for Catholic Theology released a message in response to the notification. They said, in part: At first sight, the text of the Notification seems to be written very prudently and clearly avoids any condemnation of the person. A closer reading, however, reveals some problematic aspects, of which the disregard of the theological developments of the last 50 years would seem to be the most serious and disturbing one. Irrespective of the results of recent exegetical, historical-theological and systematic-theological research, the text develops a foremost deductive argument which suffers from a remarkable lack of hermeneutical-theological consciousness. For example, quotations from Scripture, conciliar documents, and recent papal statements are indiscriminately put together with theological concepts and arguments from a diverse provenance. Moreover, the particular historical nature of the questions, along with the hermeneutical complexities, concerning the self-consciousness of Jesus, the way Jesus might have interpreted the salvific value of his own death, seem to be overlooked, at the risk of causing confusion between historical and theological discourses.

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