Signs of the Times

New Book Illustrates Mother Teresas Strength

Vatican officials said a new book that recounts in detail Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcuttas long crisis of faith illustrates her spiritual strength in the face of doubt. This is a figure who had moments of uncertainty and discouragement, experiencing the classic dark night that God gives to chosen people in order to forge them on the road to holiness, said Cardinal Julian Herranz of Spain, a member of the Congregation for Saints Causes. These moments of crisis felt by great saints are normal and in line with the churchs tradition, Cardinal Herranz said Aug. 26.

The letters are being published in English in the forthcoming book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, a priest of the Missionaries of Charity order founded by Mother Teresa and the postulator of her cause for canonization.

Raniero Cantalamessa, the Capuchin priest who is preacher of the papal household, told Vatican Radio that what distinguished Mother Teresas dark night was that it apparently continued throughout her life and was not a preparation for a new spiritual stage as was the case with other saints.


Progress Made Toward Code for Evangelization

n many parts of the world, church authorities look disapprovingly on conversion from one Christian denomination to another as sheep thievery. Now the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches have announced progress in discussions on a common code for evangelization. The World Evangelical Alliance has also indicated it will support the project, a significant development given the centrality of evangelizing activity in the life of the evangelical churches.

Premised on the right to religious freedom, the proposed code would strike a balance between that liberty and the right to explain and promote ones belief. According to a World Council of Churches report, the discussants agree that Freedom of religion connotes the freedom, without any obstruction, to practice ones own faith, freedom to propagate the teachings of ones faith to people of ones own and other faiths, and also the freedom to embrace another faith out of ones own free choice.

The proposals reject illegitimate means of evangelization, commonly referred to as proselytizing. These include taking advantage of vulnerable people, like children and disabled persons, and not employing humanitarian aid to recruit converts.

The project was first announced in May 2006. Formal drafting of an accord will begin in October. The project is expected to be completed in 2010.

Causes Not Confronted, Says Book on Abuse

The bishop who developed the Australian Catholic Churchs protocols for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy says the church is failing victims and not confronting the systemic causes of sexual abuse and making changes that will make ministries healthier places.

In a new book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, 70, a retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, writes, I am convinced that if the pope had spoken clearly at the beginning of the revelations, inviting victims to come forward so that the whole truth, however terrible, might be known and confronted, and firmly directing that all members of the church should respond with openness, humility, honesty and compassion, consistently putting victims before the good name of the church, the entire response of the church would have been far better. Even now I cannot see evidence that a true confrontation of the problem is occurring, the bishop wrote; the staff of those clinical facilities specially set up for the treatment of priests and religious who have offended against minors have not been asked by Roman authorities for their findings on the causes of abuse.

Table Talk: Pope Shares Pastoral Ideas With Italian Priests

In a wide-ranging conversation with the priests of Belluno-Feltre and Treviso, Pope Benedict XVI shared his thoughts on pastoring in todays sprawling parishes where people live out their lives in a postmodern culture. The exchange took place July 24; the Vatican Press made an English translation available in late August. We reproduce here some selected remarks.

On todays parish. [The priest] should be the one who holds the essential reins himself but can also rely on collaborators. I believe that this is one of the important and positive results of the Council: the co-responsibility of the entire parish, for the parish priest is no longer the only one to animate everything. Since we all form a parish together, we must all collaborate and help so that the parish priest is not left on his own, mainly as a coordinator, but truly discovers that he is a pastor who is backed up in these common tasks in which, together, the parish lives and is fulfilled.

On post-conciliar turmoil. The great legacy of the council, which opened up a new road, endures; it is still a magna carta of the Churchs journey, very essential and fundamental.... A postconciliar period is almost always very difficult. The important Council of Niceawhich for us really is the foundation of our faith; in fact, we confess the faith formulated at Niceadid not lead to a situation of reconciliation and unity as Constantine, who organized this great council, had hoped. It was followed instead by a truly chaotic situation of infighting.

It seems to me very important that our eyes are now open and can see all that is positive which developed in the period subsequent to the council: in the renewal of the liturgy, in the synods, the Roman synods, the universal synods, the diocesan synods, the parish structures, in collaboration, in the new responsibility of lay people, in the great intercultural and intercontinental coresponsibility, in a new experience of the churchs catholicity, of the unanimity that grows in humility and yet is the true hope of the world. Thus, I think we have to rediscover the councils great legacy. It is not a spirit reconstructed from texts but consists of the great council texts themselves, reinterpreted today with the experiences we have had which have borne fruit in so many movements and so many new religious communities.

On evolution. I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called creationism and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance. This is what I wanted to say in my lecture at Regensburg: that reason should be more open, that it should indeed perceive these facts but also realize that they are not enough to explain all of reality.

On interreligous dialogue. Our dialogue cannot move on suddenly to the great mysteries of faith, although Muslims have a certain knowledge of Christ that denies his divinity but at least recognizes him as a great prophet. They love Our Lady. These are consequently elements that we have in common, even in faith, and are starting points for dialogue. A perception of fundamental understanding on the values we should live is practical, feasible and above all necessary. Here too, we have a treasure in common, because Muslims come from the religion of Abraham, reinterpreted and relived in ways to be studied and to which we should finally respond. Yet the great substantial experience of the Ten Commandments is present, and this seems to me a point that requires further investigation.

Timor Leaders Dismayed by Rapes and Arson

Officials of the Diocese of Baucau have expressed dismay over the rape of girls at a convent school and the burning of church property following the announcement of the appointment of East Timors new prime minister. The Rev. Francisco Pinheiro da Silva, vicar general of the Baucau Diocese, told the Asian church news agency UCA News that unidentified men raped about nine girlsone of them only 8 years old and the others 15 to 17at around 2 a.m. Aug. 10 in the Salesian-run convent school in Baucau. Indications show that the brutality and immoral actions were done by Fretilin supporters, said Father da Silva, referring to the former ruling party. The British news agency Reuters reported Aug. 13 that police arrested a 16-year-old male on suspicion that he raped an 11-year-old student at an orphanage attached to the convent. Father da Silva told UCA News Aug. 13 there have also been attacks on church and public buildings. On Aug. 7-9, the offices of the diocese, the Caritas aid agency and the U.S. bishops Catholic Relief Services and a Catholic-run kindergarten were burned down, he said in a telephone interview.

Specialized Youth Ministry in Mexico

Noe Ruiz, 27, teaches elementary school in Saltillo, Coahuilas state capital, about 200 miles south of the Texas border at Laredo. Like many in northern Mexico, Ruiz is Catholic and actively practices his faith. Unlike many in his hometown, he is openly gay and coordinates a gay Catholic youth group, which operates with the blessing of the local diocese and serves 40 young people. But it has not always been easy, he said. The environment here in Saltillo is very traditional, Ruiz said, although he added that attitudes were softening. Ruiz said Comunidad San Elredo is the only gay Catholic youth group in Mexico.

While accepted within the diocese, Ruiz acknowledged some unease among Catholics in other parts of the country. The church in Mexico is very conservative, he said. At the moment were being supported [locally], but there are many people who disagree with us. Last January, Ruizs home state of Coahuila passed Mexicos first civil union law, extending legal benefits to same-sex couples. The issue divided Catholic leaders across Mexico and in Coahuila, which is served by three dioceses.

Lay Ministry Traditional and Radically New

One of the top three or four most important ministerial shifts in the last 2,000 years has been the emergence of lay ecclesial ministry over the past 40 years, said Edward P. Hahnenberg, assistant professor of theology at Jesuit-run Xavier University in Cincinnati. He said it was on a historical par withand in fact may even eclipsethe changes to the church brought about by the rise of communal forms of monasticism in the fifth century, the birth of mendicant orders in the 13th century, or the explosion of womens religious communities in the 19th century.

Hahnenberg, who is also a theological adviser to the bishops, put the development of lay ecclesial ministry within a broad historical context as being both traditional and radically new. He was one of the keynote speakers at the National Symposium on Lay Ecclesial Ministry, held July 31-Aug. 3 at St. Johns University in Collegeville.

Lasallians Address Teacher Shortage

The Midwest province of the Christian Brothers has begun a program to combat the growing shortage of male teachers. The province offers the Lasallian Teacher Immersion Program at universities run by the religious community to provide male college students with classroom teaching experience and opportunities to serve those in need while earning college credit. The program is, in many ways, a return to our original mission, said Patrick Conway, F.S.C., the provinces director of formation and director of the teacher immersion program.

St. John Baptist de La Salle began his educational mission in the late 1600s with a teacher-training program, preparing laymen to serve the church as teachers, explained Brother Patrick, a longtime educator and former university vice president. This is my 35th year in education. One thing Ive noticed is the shrinking pool of male teachers, particularly as related to theology and religion teachers, he told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper. In the United States today, 19 percent of all Catholic school teachers are men. In public schools its 21 percent...and 40 percent of children are growing up without a biological father in the house. Couple those things together and there is a real need.

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11 years 4 months ago
American bishops' Dallas Charter: Ratzinger's view... It’s hard to believe that it was one of Cardinal George Pell's former most respected auxiliary bishops, Geoffrey James Robinson, that wrote the book just published in Australia,“Confronting Power and Sex in the Roman Catholic Church”. Since Robinson is three-years retired, Rome is not likely to silence him or prevent him from teaching in our Pontifical Universities or Seminaries. Retirement does help a bishop speak more frankly and with greater freedom. Not being a bishop, I mustered enough courage on July 11, 2002 to write a rather frank letter to the editor of our weekly Catholic San Francisco, expressing my true raw feelings about our American bishops’ “zero-tolerance” June 2002 “Dallas Charter.” After some weeks, it became clear that, as I might have expected, my letter would not be published. A number of friends, however, with whom I had shared it and whose judgment I trusted, urged me to send a copy to Cardinal Ratzinger. That I did, together with a copy to my good friend Cardinal Francis Arinze and a copy to Dr. Robert Moynahan, whom I had known at the Vatican in the late 80s during my four years as director of the documentation, information and press office of Caritas Internationalis, while he was Time correspondent in Rome. Moynahan happened to publish the gist of my letter in his monthly Inside the Vatican (August-September 2002), and that proved of sufficient reassurance to the folks here in San Francisco. It was finally published in Catholic San Francisco (Oct. 4, ‘02) under the title “Unchristian, Unaccountable.” The note which I received on Cardinal Ratzinger’s letterhead from his own personal secretary gave all of us an early idea of how the Vatican was viewing our American bishops’ Dallas Charter. “Dear Father Lorenzoni, “wrote Msgr. Josef Clemens on October 8, 2002, “His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your kind note dated September 6, 2002, which accompanied a copy of your insightful but unfortunately unpublished letter to the editor of Catholic San Francisco regarding the proposed response of the Bishops to the scandals that are presently receiving so much media attention in the United States. With kind regards and prayerful best wishes, I am Sincerely yours in Christ, Msgr. Josef Clemens, Personal Secretary.” And this short note was the postscript to a letter to me dated October 4, 2002 from the new Prefect of the Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum: “My dear Father Larry: I agree with your newspaper letter to the editor on what you wrote about the June Dallas stand. Francis Card Arinze.” And here is the letter finally published also in San Francisco: Unchristian, Unaccountable I am becoming increasingly convinced that the US bishops’ one-strike/zero-tolerance Dallas charter is a document which years from now our church will regret having produced. It stands as an unfortunate, un-Christian statement, written under pressure, provoked more by a national media frenzy and by a deep dread of mounting financial problems than by Gospel principles. It’s a document the church will not remember with pride in the future. The bishops missed a unique opportunity to take a heroically Christian stand for repentance and for the possibility of redemption. This harsh, no-exceptions-considered, shamelessly unforgiving attitude toward some elderly Catholic priests who, yes, may have sinned once, thirty/forty years ago, in a moment of weakness, of depression, of loneliness, but for nearly half a century have proven themselves, through an unblemished life of service, beloved and revered by parishioners and friends. Suddenly, one is mercilessly and publicly shamed, legally forbidden to continue to serve as he has done for decades with loving efficiency, with humility. Yes, it is a Christian given that the humility which is ours after a fall is often a greater grace from God<


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