Signs of the Times

Conscientious Objector to Nazis Beatified in Austria

A Vatican cardinal beatified Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who was beheaded in 1943 after he refused to fight in Hitler’s army. Presiding over the beatification Mass in Linz, Austria, Oct. 26, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins said Blessed Jägerstätter offered an example of how to live the Christian faith fully and radically, even when there are extreme consequences. Blessed Jägerstätter was beatified as a martyr, which means he was killed out of hatred for the faith. Many Austrian church leaders attended the beatification liturgy, and the Austrian bishops’ conference recently called Blessed Jägerstätter “a shining example in dark times.” In 1943, however, his refusal to serve in the Nazi army was not supported by his priest, his bishop or most of his Catholic friends. Particularly because he had a wife and three daughters, many advised him to think of his family and put aside his conscientious objection to the Nazi war machine. Cardinal Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said in his beatification sermon that Blessed Jägerstätter’s decision represents “a challenge and an encouragement” for all Christians.

Vatican Official Supports Nuclear Energy in Iran

A leading Vatican official expressed support for the development of a nuclear energy program in Iran, as long as it serves peaceful purposes. “Nuclear energy is something that can do good for humanity”—a principle that “is certainly valid for Iran, too,” said Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Cardinal Martino spoke Oct. 23 at an interreligious gathering in Naples, Italy. His remarks, reported by the Italian news agency ANSA, came as Iranian and European officials met in Rome to try to resolve growing tensions over Iran’s nuclear capability. Cardinal Martino defended the right to develop a peaceful nuclear energy program, and said any risks of improper use of nuclear technology “depend on the intentions of those who manage the program.” He said, “Anything is possible, in the sense that I can use a knife to cut bread but also to kill someone.” In dealing with such questions at a global level, he said, the international community must balance the need for peace and security with the necessary development of populations.


Orders Grappling With Complex Realities

Sister Mary Whited, the new president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, likes to keep doors open and the conversation going. And she promises “not to back down” when discussions grow difficult. That’s good, because her national organization, whose leaders represent more than 90 percent of all women religious in the U.S. church, has a lot to talk about, and not much of it will be easy, according to Sister Whited, who officially became president of L.C.W.R. in August. The native St. Louisan also is superior general of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, based in St. Louis, Mo.

L.C.W.R. has approximately 1,500 members, who are the elected leaders of some 370 congregations of women across America. They represent about 67,000 Catholic sisters. The conference develops leadership, promotes collaboration within the church and society and serves as a voice for systemic change. Women religious leaders, she said, are grappling with some of the most “complex realities of today,” including reorganization, consolidation of provinces, decisions about congregational property, underfunded health care needs, vocations, fundraising needs and the very survival of some orders.

Christian Views on Homosexuality Varied

At an Oct. 24 press briefing in New York, university professors representing the Catholic, mainline Protestant and evangelical traditions expressed very different views on what Christianity says about homosexuality. The Catholic Church is seeking “a middle road between homophobic repression and an ethic of autonomy,” while emphasizing that “sex really does mean something and we can’t just treat it any way we want,” said Stephen J. Pope, a professor of theology at Boston College.

Mainline Protestant denominations are generally welcoming to homosexuals “but nonaffirming” of homosexual activity, said William Stacy Johnson, a lawyer who is an associate professor of systematic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. Stanton L. Jones, provost and professor of psychology at Wheaton College in Illinois, indicated that evangelicals would favor the Baptists’ stand: “We really must choose—do we accept what the Bible says or do we say that the Bible is in error?” The daylong press briefing was sponsored by Fordham University.

Vatican Press Publishes Text of 1962 Missal

As part of a collection of studies on ancient liturgical texts, the Vatican publishing house has published a copy of the 1962 Roman Missal, the book of prayers used for the Tridentine Mass. Published Oct. 19, the book is basically a scholarly commentary on the old Mass, but it includes in the back a copy of the missal the Vatican had issued 45 years ago, said Edmondo Caruana, a Carmelite priest who is secretary of the publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. “We have inserted an exact copy of the 1962 text in the book together with the study. It is in the form of a small altar missal so it could be used for the liturgy,” Father Caruana told Catholic News Service.

But he said it would be inaccurate to say the Vatican has republished the missal for liturgical use. In a July decree, Pope Benedict XVI said the Tridentine Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal should be made available in every parish where groups of the faithful desire it. He also said the Mass from the Roman Missal in use since 1970 remains the ordinary form of the Mass, while celebration of the Tridentine Mass is the extraordinary form.

Cardinal Danneels Reflects on Liturgy

Understanding the liturgy begins with experiencing and living it, said a Belgian cardinal. “Understanding the liturgy is far more than a cognitive exercise; it is a loving ‘entering in,’” said Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium, in a talk on liturgical renewal Oct. 25 at The Catholic University of America. “The uniqueness of the liturgy is that it gives pride of place to experience.... First experience, first live the liturgy, then reflect and explain it,” said the cardinal, who as a young theologian and liturgical expert in the 1960s was involved in drafting the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.” He said those who did not experience the liturgy before the council must have difficulty now imagining how much it has changed in less than half a century, since today “the new liturgical model is evident practically everywhere.”

He noted that one major change after the council was in the “the relationship between the minister and the people.” Even church architecture, with the Communion rail dividing the church space, emphasized a distance between priest and people before the reforms, he said. The separation was so great that the liturgy often consisted of two parallel celebrations, with the priest celebrating the “official liturgy” in Latin while the people “set about their personal devotions,” he added. “The active involvement of the people in the liturgy is an unparalleled gift of the council to the people of God,” he said.

Utah Governor Supports Voucher Plan

A school voucher referendum facing a Nov. 6 vote in Utah would benefit public and private schools, students and families, said Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, who described it as a “win-win referendum.” The bishop said he agreed with Utah’s Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who has said that the state will see a tremendous increase in students over the next 10 years and needs to come up with creative ways to educate them. “Public and private schools together must find ways to address the challenges of the days ahead,” Bishop Wester said.

The voucher referendum—called Referendum 1, or the Parent Choice in Education Act—would give parents the choice of sending their children to public schools or receiving scholarship funds to send them to a private secular or sectarian school. Depending on family income, students could be awarded scholarships of $500 to $3,000 a year for school tuition. Payments would be sent directly to the family’s school of choice. During an Oct. 17 press conference about the referendum at the Utah Capitol, Huntsman said he supports the measure as a means, other than raising property taxes, to meet the upcoming flood of new students entering Utah’s public schools.

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