Thursday, January 29, 2009

End to Blogging Hiatus in Sight

All: I have been off the radar for a week, due to some heavy work - most of it expected, but some of it not, and so... you know the story. Also the SSPX situation, the Vatican's handling of it, the SSPX's response to it, the world's misunderstanding of it, etc., are all on my mind and I do not want to open my mouth until I am sure I can be completely committed to what will come out. Bear with me.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama's Inaugural Address - A Lazy Disciple Gloss

My Gloss in Blue:

UPDATE: further comments in LD (color code):

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents. Here is the beginning of what Yuval Levin called the "implicit traditionalism" of the speech. I am not entirely sure this assessment will hold up to scrutiny.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met. Rhetorically, this is overkill. It could have read simply: "Fully cognizant of the challenges before us, we are here today to reaffirm our hopefulness and our unity of purpose..."

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. Good. We do need to put these things aside. Once we have put them off, however, there remain the original commitments of the nation, that cannot be "worn out" and that have, in our better moments as a nation and a people, directed and informed the conduct of our discourse. Our national conversation is precisely our way of managing the conflicts and tensions that legitimately and inevitably arise in our lives and in our common life. America exists entirely in the idea - proven in history - that people (this people, our people, We, the People) are capable of disagreeing over the most important of questions reasonably and in a spirit of civility. The president will quote the Apostle Paul to the effect that we must put off childish things - though we would never tolerate, even in our children, to disagree with civil tongues. Levin also talks about this on the corner.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. Mr. President, the precise language of our national commitment is as follows: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Our national commitment to the self-evident truth of every human being's equal creation is not without consequence; Mr. President, your answer to the question, "When does human life begin?" was not simply, "too glib," as you admitted - it was inconsistent with the plain sense of the authoritative expression of our national ethos.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. Excellent. Our society is sick with greed and drunk with dreams of fame and fortune. Our history teaches us that the real good is elsewhere.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh. What about Helmand and Fallujah? What about Pearl Harbor and the Pentagon? Quite apart from the impression of ingratitude, I was very surprised not to hear these places mentioned in this list, in light of the president's apparent striving not for mere traditionalism, but for the creation of a palpable sense of the American present's continuity with the American past.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. This is disconsonant, and quite possibly inconsistent. Had he said, e.g., "and rededicate ourselves to the advancement of the noble project we have received," or even more simply, "and dedicate ourselves once more to realizing the dream that has guided America from her founding," or anything, really, except "remake America," it would have been alright. Up to this point, he has stressed continuity. Beginning and remaking are words of rupture.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, Until now, my comments have been with one important exception (and that exception will hardly surprise the readership of this blog) confined to the rhetoric, to speechifying successes and failures. This is the first point at which I really heard alarm bells. I agree, we do need to restore science to its rightful place; in light of the president's stated policy positions, however, we disagree basically about what the rightful place of science is. This is, therefore, one of those real differences. It is a policy difference that may be rooted in a more profound disagreement. and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. This is very well done.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. Not the stale ones, no. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good. The market does need regulation - but the rules need to be informed by a way of thinking about the world, and the freedom of the market is an integral part of, but not the guarantor of a free society - a society in which people are free not only to bring their material goods to market, but are free first to bring their intellectual and spiritual goods to the public square - where, incidenally, they will debate the rules by which to guide the market.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. Were this last more than mere repetition of the president's remarks in his victory speech, it would have been more effective. As it actually went, this sounded rather hackneyed. The president, after rightly calling us back to the Lincolnian idea that: "What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, every where. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors." The president needed to say that our enemies, if they do not unclench their fist, if they do not sway from the path of violence, will feel the force of our arms, and our arms are mighty. Americans are not spoiling for a fight - but by God, we are not afraid of one, either.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace. True, but what are the cultural commitments that make this possible?

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. Well done. No vague expression of good feeling, here. No vacuously chauvinistic platitude about Islam being a religion of peace: interest and respect. Now, the question becomes, "how do we go about determining the limits and legitimacy of the first, the terms and conditions of the latter?" These are answerable questions.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all. Again, this is the right sentiment, the right idea, though it is rhetorically misplaced. Again, this is not a criticism of the contents: it is a criticism of the elocutio.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith faith, as in fides, ei, a Roman juridical term that was used as such by the Founding Fathers and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. More continuity. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. Liberty and duty are not mutually exclusive; they flow from the same source, though the duty we owe to the Authority that guarantees our freedom in time can never come before our duty to time's own Author, who is also the Author of our rights in time and our hope in eternity.

This is the price and the promise of American citizenship. American citizenship is a difficult business.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. No. The source of our confidence is in our knowledge that God does not abandon those who call on Him - and listen with docility to his promptings. Our confidence is in the knowledge that He does not command what He has not already disposed. As a matter of speech-writing technique, this is the sort of turn that comes from the pen of one, who is not a true believer. Rhetorically, it sounds like the slightly stretched Latin maxim in the mouth of one, who is not master of the language.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. V.s.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. This is perhaps hyperbolic - I am not convinced, as some conservative commentators seem to be, that our present circumstances are not as dire at those of the nation in 1929 or 1861 - though it certainly strikes me as effective. An excellent conclusion to a solid speech.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

A Few Brief Updates - Including Prayer for Sen. Kennedy

The pageantry was magnificent yesterday, and I was proud of my country.

I have already exressed my feelings on the matter of the new president's election.

I join with my fellow Americans and with Pope Benedict XVI, who said:


Also, I would ask that you readers pause and say a prayer for Senator Kennedy, who, as you know, has brain cancer, and apparently suffered a seizure during the inaugural luncheon: ask God to grant him healing and conversion.

the 91 year-old Senator Byrd also left the inaugural luncheon yesterday, though he seems to be fine.

I will have more fulsome thoughts on the speech later.


Sen. Kennedy seems to be doing better.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stay Tuned for Inauguration Commentary

I will be blogging the inauguration and will gloss the new president's address as soon as practicable.

A Prayer for Government - by John Carroll, SJ

Today is a great day in the history of our nation. Those of us who have basic disagreements with Barack Obama's life policy and legislative agenda, may yet take heart in his election as a sign that America has fulfilled an important part of her great promise.

It is fitting and proper to pray for our new president, to ask that God grant him strength and wisdom; that before God and in the eyes of posterity, his conduct of the office with which the American People have entrusted him may give no reason to impeach the content of his character.

The first US bishop and first US archbishop, a Jesuit missionary priest and founder of numerous works including churches, schools, hospitals and universities, John Carroll, S.J. composed this prayer in the infancy of our Republic, less than a year after George Washington became the 1st president of the United States.

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Scott P. Richert at is proposing this prayer as his Novena of the Week.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Please Pray for Fr. Foster, OCD

The Vatican's best Latinist, and the world's greatest living teacher of Latin, is very ill, and possibly in extremis. Please pray for him, Fr. Reginald Foster, O.C.D.


Fr. Zuhlsdorf is doing Spiritual Bouquet for Fr. Foster.

A Reply to Fr. Michael Tegeder

A Reply to Fr. Michael Tegeder
By Christopher R. Altieri, Ph.L.
Copyright, 2009 - All RIghts Reserved

Fr. Michael Tegeder of Minneapolis-St. Paul., has written a piece for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, ostensibly regarding a tactical element of the US Catholic Bishops’ planned opposition to a bill for the regulation of abortion law in the United States, proposed for passage into law during the last Congress, and known as the Freedom of Choice Act, or FOCA. Fr. Tegeder’s remarks call for a reply.

There is so much wrong with the form, the matter and the presentation of Fr. Tegeder’s considerations, that the critic of them is embarrassed – he knows not where to begin. So this critic will begin at the beginning, and treat Fr. Tegeder’s remarks point-by-point.

Fr. Tegeder’s incipit contains language that, while perhaps not technically incorrect, certainly strikes a tone that is rather inconsonant with the Catholic understanding of priesthood. He says, “When I signed up 35 years ago to be a priest...,” language that, if not strictly incorrect, conveys nothing of the Catholic understanding of priesthood as vocation. This is not only imprecise as a matter of technical usage. It is misleading to the larger public, and as such is especially irresponsible from a journalist who is also a Catholic priest.

In the same opening paragraph, indeed in the same opening sentence, Fr. Tegeder claims that mass mailings play a central role in the Church’s ministry, and implies shock at learning this particular. “Little did I realize,” he says, “that postcards would become an essential tool of ministry in the Catholic Church."

He proceeds to instance two occasions, beginning “a few years ago, " in which the Catholic Church has engaged in mass mailing regarding specific political questions. By Fr. Tegeder’s own account, only twice in his three and one-half decades has the Church conducted such campaigns, beginning in the early years of the first decade of the 21st century, with a statewide initiative of the Church in Minnesota. This hardly qualifies mass mailing as an essential tool even of political advocacy, which is the object, for the advancement of which they were employed in the first place. To assign mass mailing so much as an ancillary role on the margins of ministry were utterly impossible, based on the evidence, unless Fr. Tegeder understands, or would have his readership believe, that Catholic ministry consists essentially in political advocacy.

Catholic ministry, however, consists utterly in winning souls for Heaven. Everything pertaining essentially to it is related directly to this one, great object. Other of the Church’s activities, e.g. participation in the political life of the larger community, have only an indirect, or mediate relation to the great object. Confusion on this central point has been largely responsible for disastrous damage to the body of Christ and to the body politic. Fr. Tegeder’s remarks, insofar as they arise from and extend this confusion, beg for denunciation.

If Fr. Tegeder’s confusion were confined solely to the formal misunderstanding of ministry, we could stop here. The matter that has occasioned his confused expressions, however, is of such pitch and moment, that we cannot omit further indictment of his writing.

The first instance of mass mailing is a postcard campaign undertaken in the early years of the present decade, advocating amendment of the Constitution of the United States, so that the instrument would define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The prudence of such an amendment is admittedly debatable, but the danger to civilized society that occasioned the action is unquestionable. Marriage is the basic natural institution, on which society as such is built. When governments arrogate to themselves the power to alter the structure of marriage by positive law, by fiat, they essentially arrogate to themselves ultimate power over nature. A government that is not naturally limited in the scope of its power is total and absolute – the presence or absence of divisions within the elements of its machinery, of internal checks and balances, to use the current political coin, were entirely irrelevant. There was a manifest tendency toward political absolutism, under the guise of “civil rights” as these pertain to marriage law; it shall ever be the duty of free peoples to combat such tendencies.

Fr. Tegeder says, “I did not see this [mailing measure] as necessary,” and announces, “it seemed a waste of time and money.” This may or may not be the case, but it is also beside the point. Fr. Tegeder betrays no understanding of the gravity of the political crisis that occasioned the measure, in the first place. When he goes on the say, “[The measure] also generated some unnecessary ill will,” his readers may be sure he has no such understanding, for though the mailing may have generated some ill will, the nature of the case makes it more likely that the measure acted as a lighting rod for the ill will there already was. In any case, Fr. Tegeder’s is precisely the kind of claim a responsible journalist would instance. Instances are not, however, forthcoming.

More to the point, sometimes, it is necessary to take a stand, and as the actions of dozens of states in the wake of Goodridge attest, such a time had come. Recent developments in California show that the time is not yet passed.

The recent election cycle, which ended with the victory of Barack Obama, has given the nation much cause for rejoicing, though our joy is tempered by some of the president-elect’s stated policy and legislative aims. Specifically, he has promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. The Catholic bishops have promised to oppose the FOCA, even as they endeavor to work with the new administration in areas of common concern and interest. Tegeder casts aspersions on the opportunity of the bishops’ planned opposition, citing the ongoing wars, economic uncertainties, and crises both ecological and social, saying, “This should be a time to focus on what unites us.” This is true. It is precisely the point. The bishops wrote in their November letter congratulating the president-elect:

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.

The bishops’ opposition to the FOCA is aimed precisely at keeping the nation’s focus on what unites us. It invites the president-elect to avoid pursuing a legislative agenda that would permanently alienate millions of Americans who would otherwise be happy to support him. When Fr. Tegeder says, “Yet at this very moment, the Catholic bishops have declared that they have this more pressing need,” we are forced to ask whether government has any more pressing need than the protection inviolate of all innocent life? Can a society that is indifferent to the plight of its weakest members be expected adequately to address challenges of such magnitude as those presently facing the American people?

Fr. Tegeder says, “FOCA is a phantom threat.” It has, according to one commentator he quotes, “as much chance of passage as the Detroit Lions have of winning the next Super Bowl.” It seems Fr. Tegeder has a low opinion of the president-elect’s coattails, on which he would, however, stake the government’s ability to address the other issues facing the nation.

To be sure, the face of FOCA is heinous. It would vacate all state-level legislation restricting abortion, and make it virtually impossible for states to enact abortion legislation of any kind. Thus, Fr. Tegeder’s claim to the effect that the FOCA is destined to fail because it would limit the power of Congress to regulate abortion is absurd. A Federal act is a creature of its enactor, so the enactor, Congress, could at any time destroy its creature, which exists entirely at its pleasure. As it stands, the FOCA, far from limiting Congressional power, would place all power to regulate abortion squarely with Congress. Fr. Tegeder’s claim is not simply false; it is so ridiculous as to be beyond cavil.

Section 4b (1) & (2)
[go to and search the legislative database for s. 1173 ] of FOCA makes it virtually impossible for states to restrict abortion in any way, shape or form. In proposing to grant women effectively unlimited access to abortion, the legislators are motivated by a concern that “[I]ndividuals are free to make their most intimate decisions without governmental interference and discrimination. [@2.(1)]” This concern of the bill's proponents is a consequence of their belief that, “The United States was founded on core principles, such as liberty, personal privacy, and equality.” The bill, in short, is designed to protect the right of certain citizens to act according to conscience. In effect, the bill would guarantee this right to one class of citizens, namely women, by denying it to another, namely medical professionals. Pro-life doctors are no less conscientiously motivated in their refusal to perform abortions, than are women who seek abortions. To require a doctor to perform abortions as a condition of his practice of the medical profession at all (and this would be the effect, or a direct consequence, of the current language of the bill), is precisely to deny doctors the right, “to make their most intimate decisions without governmental interference and discrimination.” This is precisely the right, the exercise of which by a certain class of citizens the bill is designed to protect. So the FOCA is what Martin Luther King, jr. called in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “an inequality made legal.”

Without clear exemptions for those medical professionals conscientiously opposed to abortion, the FOCA will not only be unjust, as the plain language of the bill itself amply attests, it will be unjust in precisely the same way that Jim Crow was unjust.

Fr. Tegeder, this is why the Catholic bishops oppose the FOCA. More to this, they oppose it because, as Cardinal George says in the aforementioned letter he wrote for the bishops in November of 2008:

Symbolically, this is a moment that touches more than our history when a country that once enshrined race slavery in its very constitutional order should come to elect an African American to the presidency. In this, I truly believe, we must all rejoice. We must also hope that President [sic] Obama succeed in his task, for the good of all. The odds against success are formidable. We are internally divided and, in a global order, we will be less the masters of our economic and political fate. Nevertheless, we can rejoice today with those who, following heroic figures like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were part of a movement to bring our country’s civil rights, our legal order, into better accord with universal human rights, God’s order. Among so many people of good will, dutiful priests and loving religious women, bishops and lay people of the Catholic Church who took our social doctrine to heart then can feel vindicated now. Their successors remain, especially among those who quietly give their lives to teaching and forming good and joyful children in Catholic schools in African American and other minority communities.

In other words, the President-elect's pro-abortion stance seriously curtails and quite possibly impeaches his standing to claim the magnificent heritage of America's civil rights movement.

In light of this, we see that the FOCA is not a “phantom threat.” It is a most serious menace to our whole way of life; if it is passed, it will make the very propositions to which our society is committed, and on which our whole mode of governance is based, contentious. That man is endowed by his creator with certain unalienable rights, first among them life, will become an unavoidable matter of legal contention.

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:

From the dawn of the republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations. (South Lawn Address, 16 April, 2008)

Let us be a part of the tradition, to the greatness of which our Holy Father has given such eloquent tribute.

Fr. Tegeder, revisit the bishops’ November letter, and ask yourself whether the plain language of it is really so “divisive” as you say, or whether the bishops have not already extended good will to the president-elect; then ask yourself whether opposition to the FOCA in some form is necessary, and if you find that it is, ask yourself whether a mass mailing campaign is really imprudent. Finally, take your own advice, and be gracious.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Archbishop Schwietz of Anchorage: Vigilance! FOCA threatens conscience rights

The Archbishop of Anchorage, Roger Schweitz has defended the rights of Catholics to participate in the national discourse. Money quote:
“We’ve got to convince all our people that we all have a right and a responsibility to be active members in the democratic process in our country. Otherwise, we may lose our democracy, at least elements of it that are precious to us.”
Hat tip to Deo Adiuvante.

Cardinal George Writes Letter to President-elect Obama

Below is the text of Cardinal George's letter to the president-elect (dated January 13th), with my comments interspersed.

Once again, Cardinal George strikes the right tone in saying the right things.

Link to USCCB page text here:

If imitation be the sincerest form of flattery, then let this be an homage to Fr. Zuhlsdorf...

The Honorable Barack Obama President-elect
Presidential Transition Team Washington, D.C. 20270

Dear Mr. President-elect,

As our nation begins a new year, a new Administration and a new Congress, I write to outline principles and priorities that guide the public policy efforts of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). As President of the Bishops' Conference, I assure you of our prayers, hopes and commitment to make this period of national change a time to advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially the vulnerable and poor. We continue to seek ways to work constructively with the new Administration and Congress and others of good will to pursue policies which respect the dignity of all human life and bring greater justice to our nation and peace to our world. This is exactly right: positive and upbeat, cordial and sincere, while also principled; the bishops will work with the new administration, not for it.

As Bishops, we approach public policy as pastors and teachers. We have a duty and a mission to be in the public square, and we do not stop being bishops when we stand in the square and talk. Our moral principles have always guided our everyday experience in caring for the hungry and homeless, offering health care and housing, educating children and reaching out to those in need. We lead the largest community of faith in the United States, one that serves every part of our nation and is present in almost every place on earth. You want us on your side. From our experience and our tradition, we offer a distinctive, constructive and principled contribution to the national dialogue on how to act together on issues of economic turmoil and suffering, war and violence, moral decency and human dignity.

Our nation now faces economic challenges with potentially tragic human consequences and serious moral dimensions. We will work with the new Administration and Congress to support strong, prudent and effective measures to address the terrible impacts and injustices of the economic crisis. In particular, we will advocate a clear priority for poor families and vulnerable workers in the development and implementation of economic recovery measures, including new investments while strengthening the national safety net. We also support greater accountability and oversight to address irresponsible abuses of the system that contributed to the financial crisis.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States have worked for decades to assure health care for all, insisting that access to decent health care is a basic human right and a requirement of human dignity. We urge comprehensive action to ensure truly universal health care coverage which protects all human life including pre-natal life, and provides access for all, with a special concern for the poor. We are also the largest health care provider in the country and indeed in the world. As a matter of fact, you can't come close to making good on your health care promises without our help, so... Any such legislation ought to respect freedom to choose by offering a variety of options and ensuring respect for the moral and religious convictions of patients and providers. We're not spoiling for a fight, but we're not afraid of one, either, and we have a real, legitimate interest in this. It makes sense for you to work with us on this. Such an approach should seek to restrain costs while sharing them equitably.

On international affairs, we will work with our leaders to seek a responsible transition in an Iraq free of religious persecution. We especially urge early, focused and persistent leadership to bring an end to violent conflict and a just peace in the Holy Land. You are inheriting several messy situations, and you need to deal with them responsibly. Administrations start wars, but countries win them and lose them, and invaders have duties under the moral law. We will continue to support essential U.S. investments to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through increased and reformed foreign assistance. My reading knife may be too sharp by half on this one, but I think the bishops are saying, "Look, we know the economic times are tough, and some of our pet programs will simply have to be dropped. We will do our part to help the nation's leadership keep their eyes on the ball, but we will not fight tooth and nail - we know how to play politics. [Just to be clear, the L.D. thinks this is a good thing. Prudence is the essence of governance, and so, in a democracy, it is the essence of citizenship.]" Continued U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV-AIDS and other diseases in ways that are both effectively and morally appropriate have our enthusiastic backing. Recognizing the complexity of climate change, we wish to be a voice for the poor and vulnerable in our country and around the world who will be the most adversely affected by any dramatic threats to the environment.

We will work with the new Administration and Congress to fix a broken immigration system which harms both our nation and immigrants. Comprehensive reform is needed to deal with the economic and human realities of millions of immigrants. It must be based on respect for and implementation of the law. Equally it must defend the rights and dignity of all peoples, recognizing that human dignity comes from God and does not depend on where people were born or how they came to our nation. Truly comprehensive immigration reform will include a path to earned citizenship with attention to the fact that international trade and development policies influence economic opportunities in the countries from which immigrants come.

We stand firm in our support for marriage which is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman and must remain such in law. Again, no need to rock the boat on this one. Dozens of states have either passed statutes or amended their constitutions to protect marriage. You have said you are for the traditional understanding of marriage. All you have to do in order to see that prevail is, well, avoid touching anything. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children. No other kinds of personal relationships can be justly made equivalent to the commitment of a man and a woman in marriage. This is a very carefully and precisely worded pair of sentences, and worthy of our attention. The first sentence in the pair states matters of fact about the institution of marriage as such. Marriage - the institution, and not this or that more or less successful coupling in and under it - has a basic role to play in the creation and maintenance of right social order. The second sentence, in using the word, 'justly', which is rooted in the Latin ius, iuris, meaning "Body of Right or Law", "legal regime", or "power to make law", is saying that an act of positive law cannot change the basic structure of marriage. There is a corrollary to this: if marriage is a natural institution, and a lawmaking body is competent to alter its structure, then that lawmaking body is competent to alter basic structures in nature; a body that is competent to alter basic structures in nature has power over nature itself; that, which has power over nature, is not limited by nature; ERGO, a lawmaking body that claims competence to change the definition of marriage thereby claims to be entirely free from any and all natural limit on the scope of its power. A government with such pretenses is generally described as absolute - the total state.

With regard to the education of children, we will continue to support initiatives which provide resources for all parents, especially those of modest means, to choose education which best address the needs of their children.

We welcome continuing commitments to empower faith-based groups as effective partners in overcoming poverty and other threats to human dignity. We will work with the Administration and Congress to strengthen these partnerships in ways that do not encourage government to abandon its responsibilities, and do not require religious groups to abandon their identity and mission.

Most fundamentally, we will work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill. We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death. Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all to seek common ground that will reduce the number of abortions in morally sound ways that affirm the dignity of pregnant women and their unborn children. We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion. We're not spoiling for a fight, but we're not afraid of one, either. We will work to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of health care providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion. The Hyde amendment and other provisions which for many years have prevented federal funding of abortion have a proven record of reducing abortions. Efforts to force Americans to fund abortions with their tax dollars would pose a serious moral challenge and jeopardize the passage of essential health care reform. In other words: it is politically insane to alienate us. If you work with us, nothing can stop you. If you fight us on this, we will withdraw our support.

This outline of USCCB policies and priorities is not complete. There are many other areas of concern and advocacy for the Church and the USCCB especially: religious freedom and other civil and human rights, news media and communications, and issues of war and peace. For a more detailed description of our concerns please see Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (USCCB 2008), pages 19-30.
This last reference to the FC doc is unnecessary.

Nonetheless, we offer this outline as an agenda for dialogue and action. We hope to offer a constructive and principled contribution to national discussion over the values and policies that will shape our nation's future. We seek to work together with our nation's leaders to advance the common good of our society, while disagreeing respectfully and civilly where necessary for preserving that same common good. Don't listen to the press reports. We are not what they make us out to be. We are reasonable, and we want to help, but we are also prepared to be good citizens, by bearing true Christian witness in the public square. Over 54% of Catholics voted for you. They want to be proven right. Do not betray their trust.

In closing, I renew our expression of hope and our offer of cooperation as you begin this new period of service to our nation in these challenging times. We promise our prayers for you, that the days ahead will be a time of renewal and progress for our nation and that we can work together to defend human life and dignity and build a nation of greater justice and a world at peace.
Perfectly executed conclusion.

Friday, January 16, 2009

(March for) Life News and Reflections

The American Papist is reporting that Holy Mass will be offered in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite during the MfL.

The Papist also has a wealth of valuable information and useful links to other web resources for the March.

Regarding the FOCA - nationally-known Catholic personalities such as Prof. Douglas Kmeic, and other lesser-known figures have recently argued that the FOCA has slim chance of passing, and therefore need not be contested as vehemently as, e.g., the USCCB has and would contest it, as concrete expressions of the Church's commitment to work for the real good of society, a commitment rooted in Her duty to proclaim, teach and advocate a rightly ordered understanding of the human person (Cf. CIC 1983 c.747.2)

It is true that the bishops' opposition to the FOCA, while rooted in their duty to teach truth and judge matters of basic concern to the good of society, is a prudential one - and therefore its opportunity is in principle open to criticism, in a way that the bishops' decision to teach the truth of Catholic faith is not.

The following remarks aretherefore designed to explain why the bishops' opposition to FOCA makes perfect political sense.

I begin from a few basic points of fact, points the bishops themselves have articulated, and about which I have written in these pages, to wit: the election was basically about the economy; Catholics' support of Obama on election day was, in the main, given not because of, but despite his position on abortion.

Given these facts, the Catholic bishops are right to say that to interpret the election as a referendum on abortion would be to risk permanently alienating millions of voters who are happy to support the bulk of his legislative agenda.

Still, in his campaign speech to Planned Parenthood, the president-elect promised to sign FOCA into law. He cannot really back away from this promise without exposing himself as an insincere political panderer. The terms of the promise, however, do not bind the president-elect to push for FOCA's passage. The president-elect will be less likely to press legislators for passage of FOCA if he sees the strength and breadth of opposition to it among the citizenry.

Principled, responsible, organized and vocal opposition will help the president-elect see which way the wind is blowing, so to speak, and make it more attractive for him to let the FOCA live or die in the legislature, without his influence.

The preceeding remarks point to another important group of people: legislators. The likelihood that lawmakers will support FOCA will decrease in direct proportion to Catholics' outspokenness on the issue. Lawmakers, no less than the president-elect, are anxious to keep their support base, and many lawmakers rely on, or benefit heavily from, the Catholic vote. No intelligent lawmaker can be indifferent to it.

Finally, in pressing their opposition to FOCA, the bishops create a situation in which the president-elect can stick to his guns insofar as his promise to sign the FOCA, letting the chips fall where they may in the legislature, and also offer some concrete gesture of good will to citizens who do not share his agenda. Concretely, the president-elect will be able to say to pro-lifers, "Look, I made a promise; when and if the time comes, I'll have to make good on it. I'll tell you what, though: remember the idea I had about releasing federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research? I'm beginning to think that I need to take time to get a better handle on all the issues involved, there. Get my drift?"

I am not saying the president-elect will behave this way. I do not have a crystal ball and I am just as concerned as the next pro-lifer over his agenda. I also know how the political game is played, and the bishops' opposition to FOCA, on this reading, looks like a good play.

Everything will depend on Catholics and others committed to the pro-life cause, though. We need to keep ratcheting up the pressure, not only on the president-elect, but also and perhaps even primarily on our Senators and Representatives.

Blogging update

I am planning/writing a lengthy piece on joy as the vocation - hence the duty of a Christian. It is hard going, and slow, and long. Bear with me. In the meantime, there is my day job and a thousand things in between me and the blog. Bear with me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For Those of You Who May Yet Need To Be Convinced of the Urgency of Action in Defense of Life:

Dawn Eden has this story about an abortionist who assisted a welfare mother in looking over her finances to find a way to cover the $350 price tag of the abortion the mother was seeking for her 17 year-old, mentally disabled daughter.

As far as I can tell, there is no record of any effort being made to ascertain whether a crime had been commited against the pregnant girl's person.

I found the story at Mark Shea's place.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI Addresses Neocatechumenal Way

Below, please find the full text, in Italian - I don't translate these things for free - of Pope Benedict XVI's remarks to the Neocatechumenal Way during the Vespers and Te Deum in St. Peter's Basilica to mark the 40th anniversary of the Way's activities in the Rome Diocese.

A couple of thoughts:

  1. Those of you who know me, know also the issues I have with this group. For those of you who do not, my issues extend from the systematic liturgical abuses that brought about curial censure, the Way's subsequent handling of the disciplinary letter sent by Cardinal Arinze at the instruction of Pope Benedict (especially the Gennarini "spin" explainable only as utter foolishness or else deliberate and contumaceous manipulation of the facts), the persistence in liturgical irregularity and/or refusal to obey with a spirit of religious obsequy; their catechetical methods and practices; the embarrassing theological shallowness and narrowness of the few parts of the basic catecheses that are even intelligible; etc., etc., etc.,... ad infinitum.
  2. The group is, however, here to stay. Their Statutes have been approved, and their numbers, at least in Italy, are growing (though not as rapidly as they were at one time). The Pope is therefore doing what good leaders do in these situations: praising the spirit and calling patiently for obedience, explaining in language as unmistakably clear as it is gentle, that sustaining and directing the energy of the group requires that they be submitted in intellect, spirit and will to the bishop of Rome and his brother bishops in communion with him everywhere.
  3. The group, like many others, has real potential and real problems, and it is as hard for people who have been adversely touched by the problems to see the potential of the group, as it is for those who have benefitted from the group's vitality, to see that it has serious problems.
  4. If the group is going to flourish - I mean really flourish, they are going to need to learn to be in parishes, to be part of the life of the parish - it is not enough to be present physically. They need to develop a mode of expression that is not so obviously and crudely imitative of the artistic and musical tastes and talents of the group's founder - mimicry is sincerest flattery; it is, therefore,flattery, however sincere. Most importantly, they need to end the liturgical abuses. I do not mean they need to become Latin Mass freaks. They do, however, need to stick to the books.
More later, maybe.

A couple of

Cari fratelli e sorelle!

Con grande gioia vi accolgo quest’oggi così numerosi, in occasione del 40° anniversario dell’inizio del Cammino Neocatecumenale a Roma, che conta attualmente ben 500 comunità. A voi tutti il mio cordiale saluto. In special modo saluto il Cardinale Vicario, Agostino Vallini, come anche il Cardinale Stanisław Ryłko, Presidente del Pontificio Consiglio per i Laici, che con dedizione vi ha seguiti nell’iter di approvazione dei vostri Statuti. Saluto i responsabili del Cammino Neocatecumenale: il Signor Kiko Argüello, che ringrazio cordialmente per le parole entusiaste ed entusiasmanti con cui si è fatto interprete dei sentimenti di tutti voi. Saluto la Signora Carmen Hernández e Padre Mario Pezzi. Saluto le comunità che partono in missione verso le periferie più bisognose di Roma, quelle che vanno in "missio ad gentes" nei cinque continenti, le 200 nuove famiglie itineranti, e i 700 catechisti itineranti responsabili del Cammino Neocatecumenale nelle varie Nazioni. Grazie a voi tutti. Il Signore vi accompagni.

Questo nostro incontro si svolge significativamente nella Basilica Vaticana costruita sul sepolcro dell’Apostolo Pietro. Fu proprio lui, il Principe degli Apostoli che, rispondendo alla domanda con cui Gesù interpellava i Dodici sulla sua identità, confessò con slancio: "Tu sei il Cristo, il Figlio del Dio vivente" (Mt 16,16). Voi oggi siete qui riuniti per rinnovare questa stessa professione di fede. La vostra presenza, così folta ed animata, sta a testimoniare i prodigi operati dal Signore nei trascorsi 4 decenni; essa indica anche l’impegno con cui intendete proseguire il cammino iniziato, un cammino di fedele sequela di Cristo e di coraggiosa testimonianza del suo Vangelo, non solo qui a Roma ma dovunque la Provvidenza vi conduca; un cammino di docile adesione alle direttive dei Pastori e di comunione con tutte le altre componenti del Popolo di Dio. Voi questo intendete fare, ben consapevoli che aiutare gli uomini di questo nostro tempo ad incontrare Gesù Cristo, Redentore dell’uomo, costituisce la missione della Chiesa e di ogni battezzato. Il "Cammino neocatecumenale" si inserisce in questa missione ecclesiale come una delle tante vie suscitate dallo Spirito Santo con il Concilio Vaticano II per la nuova evangelizzazione.

Tutto ebbe inizio qui a Roma, quarant’anni or sono, quando nella Parrocchia dei Santi Martiri Canadesi si costituirono le prime comunità del Cammino neocatecumenale. Come non benedire il Signore per i frutti spirituali che, attraverso il metodo di evangelizzazione da voi attuato, si sono potuti raccogliere in questi anni? Quante fresche energie apostoliche sono state suscitate sia tra i sacerdoti che tra i laici! Quanti uomini e donne, e quante famiglie, che si erano allontanate dalla comunità ecclesiale o avevano abbandonato la pratica della vita cristiana, attraverso l’annuncio del kerygma e l’itinerario di riscoperta del Battesimo, sono state aiutate a ritrovare la gioia della fede e l’entusiasmo della testimonianza evangelica! La recente approvazione degli Statuti del "Cammino" da parte del Pontificio Consiglio per i Laici è venuta a suggellare la stima e la benevolenza con cui la Santa Sede segue l’opera che il Signore ha suscitato attraverso i vostri Iniziatori. Il Papa, Vescovo di Roma, vi ringrazia per il generoso servizio che rendete all’evangelizzazione di questa Città e per la dedizione con cui vi prodigate per recare l’annuncio cristiano in ogni suo ambiente. Grazie a tutti voi.

La vostra già tanto benemerita azione apostolica sarà ancor più efficace nella misura in cui vi sforzerete di coltivare costantemente quell’anelito verso l’unità che Gesù ha comunicato ai Dodici durante l’Ultima Cena. Abbiamo sentito il canto: prima della Passione, infatti, il nostro Redentore pregò intensamente perché i suoi discepoli fossero una cosa sola in modo che il mondo fosse spinto a credere in Lui (cfr Gv 17,21), perché tale unità può venire solo dalla forza di Dio. E’ questa unità, dono dello Spirito Santo e incessante ricerca dei credenti, a fare di ogni comunità un’articolazione viva e ben inserita nel Corpo mistico di Cristo. L’unità dei discepoli del Signore appartiene all’essenza della Chiesa ed è condizione indispensabile perché la sua azione evangelizzatrice risulti feconda e credibile. So con quanto zelo stiano operando le comunità del Cammino Neocatecumenale in ben 103 parrocchie di Roma. Mentre vi incoraggio a proseguire in questo impegno, vi esorto ad intensificare la vostra adesione a tutte le direttive del Cardinale Vicario, mio diretto collaboratore nel governo pastorale della Diocesi. Grazie per il vostro «sì» che viene ovviamente dal cuore. L’inserimento organico del "Cammino" nella pastorale diocesana e la sua unità con le altre realtà ecclesiali torneranno a beneficio dell’intero popolo cristiano, e renderanno più proficuo lo sforzo della Diocesi teso a un rinnovato annuncio del Vangelo in questa nostra Città. In effetti, c’è bisogno oggi di una vasta azione missionaria che coinvolga le diverse realtà ecclesiali, le quali, pur conservando ciascuna l’originalità del proprio carisma, operino concordemente cercando di realizzare quella "pastorale integrata" che ha già permesso di conseguire significativi risultati. E voi, ponendovi con piena disponibilità al servizio del Vescovo, come ricordano i vostri Statuti, potrete essere di esempio per tante Chiese locali, che guardano giustamente a quella di Roma come al modello a cui fare riferimento.

C’è un altro frutto spirituale maturato in questi quarant’anni, per il quale vorrei ringraziare insieme con voi la Provvidenza divina: è il grande numero di sacerdoti e di persone consacrate che il Signore - Kiko ce ne ha parlato - ha suscitato nelle vostre comunità. Tanti sacerdoti sono impegnati nelle parrocchie e in altri campi di apostolato diocesano, tanti sono missionari itineranti in varie Nazioni: essi rendono un generoso servizio alla Chiesa di Roma, e la Chiesa di Roma offre un prezioso servizio all’evangelizzazione nel mondo. E’ una vera "primavera di speranza" per la comunità diocesana di Roma e per la Chiesa universale! Ringrazio il Rettore e i suoi collaboratori del Seminario Redemptoris Mater di Roma per l’opera educativa che essi svolgono. Sappiamo tutti che il loro compito non è facile, ma molto importante per il futuro della Chiesa. Li incoraggio pertanto a proseguire in questa missione, adottando gli indirizzi formativi proposti tanto dalla Santa Sede quanto dalla Diocesi. L’obiettivo a cui occorre mirare da parte di tutti i formatori è quello di preparare presbiteri ben inseriti nel presbiterio diocesano e nella pastorale sia parrocchiale che diocesana.

Cari fratelli e sorelle, la pagina evangelica che è stata proclamata, ci ha richiamato le esigenze e le condizioni della missione apostolica. Le parole di Gesù, riferiteci dall’evangelista san Matteo, risuonano come un invito a non scoraggiarci dinanzi alle difficoltà, a non ricercare umani successi, a non temere incomprensioni e persino persecuzioni. Incoraggiano piuttosto a porre la fiducia unicamente nella potenza di Cristo, a prendere la "propria croce" e a seguire le orme del nostro Redentore che, in questo tempo natalizio ormai al termine, ci è apparso nell’umiltà e nella povertà di Betlemme. La Vergine Santa, modello di ogni discepolo di Cristo e "casa di benedizione" come avete cantato, vi aiuti a realizzare con gioia e fedeltà il mandato che la Chiesa con fiducia vi affida. Mentre vi ringrazio per il servizio che rendete nella Chiesa di Roma, vi assicuro la mia preghiera e di cuore benedico voi qui presenti e tutte le comunità del Cammino Neocatecumenale sparse in tutto il mondo.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baptism of the Lord - Christmas Reflections

The passing Christmastide has been for me a season of grace unmatched in my years of Earthly pilgrimage.

I have known and continue to know my sinfulness; that knowledge is leading to ever greater knowledge of God's mercy. The former must have an end, even if it is to be found just short of the principle of my creation. The latter endures forever.

There have been graces, some in the corners and recesses of my memory, made present by that which seemed chance, but could not be.

I wept, for instance, at "The Little Drummer Boy", having heard a few strains of the song that brought to mind its lyrics, at a moment in which I was being sorely tempted to the kind of false humility that is rooted in laziness and leads to ungrateful shiftlessness - the burying of talents.

I have been reminded of the brevity of Earth, and the depth of eternity.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Eugenics in England - Truly Chilling

Hat tip to the American Papist:

The first child in Britain known to have been screened as an embryo to ensure she did not carry a cancer gene was born Friday, a spokesman for University College London told CNN.

Her embryo was screened in a lab days after conception to check for the BRCA-1 gene, linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

People with the gene are known to have a 50-80 percent chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer in their lifetimes.

British newspapers have dubbed the girl the "cancer-free" baby.

"The parents will have been spared the risk of inflicting this disease on their daughter. The lasting legacy is the eradication of the transmission of this form of cancer that has blighted these families for generations." (CNN)

A Point of Ecumenism, Sacramental Theology, Theological Anthropology, etc., all in 5 Paragraphs (or thereabouts)

Fr. Zuhlsdorf's What Does the Prayer Really Say? blog had the following post up yesterday (I saw it right before retiring last night), which has occasioned a moment of specific clarity in my thinking on a question that has been with me for as long as I can remember.

Before beginning, though, an appeal: "Fr. Z" as he is often styled, is way out in front of the 2008 Weblog Awards religious blog category, thanks in part to the votes I have cast for him in the "best religious blog" category; other Catholic blogs are in the 2nd and third positions. It is important that Catholics continue to dominate the religious blogosphere, so keep voting - once per 24h cycle.

Now, here goes...

Christians receive the faith in baptism. Those validly baptized in Churches and ecclesial communities not fully united to Rome also receive the faith, whole and entire, when they receive the sacrament of Baptism.

Christians therefore have an innate desire for the font of the fullness of the truth into which they have been reborn. They can be confused, deluded, taught to deny that the font really is the font. They cannot, however, as Christians, cease to desire it.

This, it seems to me, is the truth of faith behind, or beneath, the late Fr. Neuhaus' affirmation:

I became a Catholic in order to be more fully what I was and who I was as a Lutheran.
I understand that this is not the formulation that Fr. Zuhlsdorf might have chosen for his 25-word answer to the question, "Why did you become Catholic?" It does, however, explain the structure of the experience that occasioned the expression.

It also has the advantage of underpinning the other lines of Fr. Neuhaus' essay that Fr. Zuhlsdorf quotes, saying he can resonate with them:
Mine was a decision mandated by conscience. I have never found it in his writings, but a St. Louis professor who had been his student told me that the great confessional Lutheran theologian Peter Brunner regularly said that a Lutheran who does not daily ask himself why he is not a Roman Catholic cannot know why he is a Lutheran.
This is, indeed an important question. It strikes me that it is an especially advanced formulation of a basic question, indeed, the basic question, that must be at the center of our very being: "Lord, what do You want of me? Where would You have me go?" No one, Catholic or non-Catholic, ought to cease asking this question in every second of every day. no one who asks it assiduously, and listens to the answer, will be forever lost, or so we pray: Utinam hodie vocem eius audiatis / non obdurare corda vestra...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Roman Branch of Italian UNion Issues Anti-Semitic Appeal, Issues Retraction

I simply do not have the time or the energy to translate this right now.

The nuts and bolts are that the Rome office of a small labor union issued a statement calling for a boycott of Jewish commercial interests in the city. The reaction was immediate and appropriately outraged, from Jewish leaders, civic leaders and the civil authority. A parliamentary inquest has been requested.

The FLAICA - Cub issued a clarification, saying they are not out to damage Jewish interests in Italy, but to make it economically impossible for Israel to purchase more war materiel.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the piece below is its incipit, "FLAICA-Cub probably did not think it would attract the attention of the political world," when it launched its boycott of stores that do business with the 'Israelitic community'. Sadly, I think that is probably true.

In any case, the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno called the declarations "lunatic and criminal", while provincial and regional leaders called the FLAICA statements "aberrant" and "infamous".

They are right, of course, but the union needs to be punished. At the very least, the present FLAICA leadership must go. The Italian government ought flatly to refuse to negotiate with them until they fire their senior management.

Money is tight, these days, but I am going to spend some at Jewish stores this weekend. It's been awhile since we had a nice meal in the ghetto, too.

Probabilmente non pensava di attirare l'attenzione di tutto il mondo politico il Flaica-Cub, il piccolo sindacato di base che ha lanciato il "boicottaggio degli acquisti nei negozi del commercio a Roma che si rifanno alla comunità israelitica". L'iniziativa è stata subito condannata sia da destra, che da sinistra. Il sindaco di Roma Gianni Alemanno l'ha definita "folle e criminale", il presidente della Regione Lazio Piero Marrazzo "aberrante", presidente della Provincia di Roma "infame". Per Cgil, Cisl e Uil di Roma si tratta di una "iniziativa meschina e spregevole". E' intervenuto sul fatto anche Massimo D'Alema, presidente della fondazione Italianieuropei, definendolo un "messaggio grave e assurdo", mentre i deputati Pdl Alessandro Ruben e Isabella Bertolini hanno presentato una interrogazione parlamentare al Governo.

Il Flaica ha immediatamente fatto un passo indietro, correggendo il tiro e sostituendo il riferimento alla comunità israelitica con un più politicamente corretto "prodotti israeliani". Ma il presidente della comunità ebraica Riccardo Pacifici non ha accettato la precisazione ha annunciato una denuncia nei confronti del sindacato per istigazione all'odio razziale. Lo stesso Pacifici si è recato oggi nei negozi delle vie del centro che appartengono a membri della comunità accompagnato da Alemanno. Presenti anche il vicepresidente del Codacons-Roma, Roberto Polidori, venuto a manifestare la solidarietà della propria organizzazione e il presidente del consiglio comunale, Marco Pomarici. Strette di mano, larghi sorrisi e un bottino di alcune camicie, rigorosamente bianche e azzurre, e qualche cravatta.

Anche Zingaretti ha incontrato alcuni commercianti ebrei, nella zona del ghetto e Marrazzo ha annunciato che domattina incontrerà i rappresentanti della comunità ebraica. Ma la notizia dell'iniziativa di boicottaggio ha spinto anche alcuni politici nazionali a pronunciare parole di condanna. "Appelli di questo genere - ha detto D'Alema - non fanno altro che alimentare un pericoloso clima di contrapposizione, dannoso a tutti coloro che vogliono impegnarsi per la pace in Medio Oriente". Mentre Ruben e Bertolini hanno presentato una interrogazione "affinché sia fatta luce sulla vicenda, sulle eventuali responsabilità e siano prese misure per stroncare sul nascere l'iniziativa".

Intanto le iniziative a sostegno dell'una e dell'altra parte in conflitto si moltiplicano. Il 'Forum per la Palestina' che sabato scorso ha sfilato in quindici diverse città italiane, ha indetto una nuova manifestazione nazionale per sabato 17 gennaio per dire "basta con l'impunità del terrorismo di Stato israeliano e rompere ogni complicità politica, militare, economica tra lo Stato italiano e Israele. Le bombe - sottolinea il Forum - uccidono le persone, l'informazione manipolata uccide le coscienze", mentre domani a Milano a partire dalle 18.30 partirà da piazza Duomo una fiaccolata promossa da Cgil insieme ad Acli, Arci e Legambiente. Mercoledì 14 gennaio si terrà invece davanti a Montecitorio una manifestazione a sostegno dello Stato di Israele, dal titolo "Con Israele, per la libertà, contro il terrorismo". A promuovere l'iniziativa, presentata oggi alla Camera, è l'associazione parlamentare di amicizia Italia-Israele, a cui aderiscono oltre 150 parlamentari, di Camera e Senato.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Some thoughts of PBXVI's Speech

There is an enormous amount of good in this speech, which is the Holy Father's annual "state of the world" address.

Especially significant are his remarks regarding the disastrous effects of what he calls, "moral poverty" and discusses as at the root of religious discrimination, violence and all manner of inhumanity. With regard to religious discrimination and even violent anti-Christian persecution, Pope Benedict is frank:
to the civil and political authorities, I urgently request that they be actively committed to ending intolerance and acts of harassment directed against Christians, to repairing the damage which has been done, particularly to the places of worship and properties; and to encouraging by every means possible due respect for all religions, outlawing all forms of hatred and contempt.
Note that, and how, the Holy Father also distinguishes Christianity from other world religions:
As a way of reaffirming the lofty contribution which religions can make to the struggle against poverty and the building of peace, I would like to repeat in this assembly, which symbolically represents all the nations of the world, that Christianity is a religion of freedom and peace, and it stands at the service of the true good of humanity.
It is, in fact, the religion, without which the notions of individual dignity and liberty are quite literally unthinkable. Remember that Pope Benedict is essentially an Augustinian, for whom religio est vera religio, vel verum cultum veri Dei - religion is true religion, the true worship pf the true God. This is hermeneutically important. Read the following text through this Augustinian lens:
[A] society which is “secular” in a healthy way does not ignore the spiritual dimension and its values, since religion – and I thought it helpful to repeat this during my pastoral visit to France – is not an obstacle but rather a solid foundation for the building of a more just and free society.
Later, in the context of Asia, Pope Benedict will say that the Church demands the full application of the principle of religious freedom, because:
[Christians] wish to contribute in a convincing and effective way to the common good, stability and progress of their countries, as they bear witness to the primacy of God which sets up a healthy order of values and grants a freedom more powerful than acts of injustice.
I am so pleased to see the emphasis on Christians' potential precisely as Christians to serve the common good - that the best thing they can bring to their societies is their living witness to the truth of the faith - that I am going to let the reference to "values" slide all but silently. Those who know this blogger know he finds the semantics of value to be critically useless and generally dangerous (the best evidence of this being the intellectual tour de force that was required from Prof. Joseph de Finance, SJ to make the term "moral value" intelligible): here the term appears in the context of an order that is rooted in the primacy of God, a moral understanding de Finance was at pains to show is required in order to make "values" meaningful.

Earlier, the Pope addressed the following remarks to Westerners:
I also express my hope that, in the Western world, prejudice or hostility against Christians will not be cultivated simply because, on certain questions, their voice causes disquiet...Christ’s Gospel is a saving message meant for all; that is why it cannot be confined to the private sphere, but must be proclaimed from the rooftops, to the ends of the earth.
There is an obvious concern over the voices propounding an unhealthy vision of the saeculum (itself an essentially Christian idea, albeit one that, like fides, is rooted in Roman technical juridical terminology), but there is something more. We have a duty to exercise properly the freedoms we enjoy in the temporal sphere. In other words, religious freedom is freedom to be Christians. It were ingratitude to heaven for people living in free lands to treat their faith with levity, or to behave as though it were an embarrasment.

I will have more later, on some of the weaker points.

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See - FULL TEXT

Thanks to Vatican Radio, who will have audio of ambassadors' reactions on their webite in just over an hour (after the PM newscast)

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The mystery of the incarnation of the Word, which we re-live each year on the Solemnity of Christmas, invites us to reflect on the events marking the course of history. And it is precisely in the light of this hope-filled mystery that this traditional meeting takes place with you, the distinguished members of the diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See – a meeting which, at the beginning of this new year, offers us a fitting occasion to exchange cordial good wishes. I express my gratitude to His Excellency Ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza for the good wishes he has kindly offered me, for the first time as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. My respectful greeting also goes to each of you, along with your families and staff, and, through you, to the peoples and governments of the countries which you represent. For everyone I ask God to grant the gift of a year rich in justice, serenity and peace.

At the dawn of this year 2009, I think with affection of all those who have suffered – whether as a result of grave natural catastrophes, particularly in Vietnam, Myanmar, China and the Philippines, in Central America and the Caribbean, and in Columbia and Brazil; or as a result of violent national or regional conflicts; or again as a result of terrorist attacks which have sown death and destruction in countries like Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Algeria. Despite so many efforts, the peace we so desire still remains distant! Faced with this reality, we must not grow discouraged or lessen our commitment to a culture of authentic peace, but rather redouble our efforts on behalf of security and development. In this regard, the Holy See wished to be among the first to sign and ratify the “Convention on Cluster Munitions”, a document which also has the aim of reaffirming international humanitarian law. On the other hand, while noting with concern the signs of crisis appearing in the area of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, the Holy See has continued to reaffirm that peace cannot be built when military expenses divert enormous human and material resources from projects for development, especially the development of the poorest peoples.

It is towards the poor, the all too many poor people on our planet, that I would like to turn my attention today, taking up my Message for the World Day of Peace, devoted this year to the theme: “Fighting Poverty To Build Peace”. The insightful analysis of Pope Paul VI in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio has lost none of its timeliness: “Today we see people trying to secure a sure food supply, cures for disease, and steady employment. We see them trying to eliminate every ill, to remove every obstacle which offends man’s dignity. They are constantly striving to exercise greater personal responsibility; to do more, to learn more and to have more, in order to be more. And yet, at the same time, so many people continue to live in conditions which frustrate these legitimate desires” (No. 6). To build peace, we need to give new hope to the poor. How can we not think of so many individuals and families hard pressed by the difficulties and uncertainties which the current financial and economic crisis has provoked on a global scale? How can we not mention the food crisis and global warming, which make it even more difficult for those living in some of the poorest parts of the planet to have access to nutrition and water? There is an urgent need to adopt an effective strategy to fight hunger and to promote local agricultural development, all the more so since the number of the poor is increasing even within the rich countries. In this perspective, I am pleased that the recent Doha Conference on financing development identified some helpful criteria for directing the governance of the economic system and helping those who are most in need. On a deeper level, bolstering the economy demands rebuilding confidence. This goal will only be reached by implementing an ethics based on the innate dignity of the human person. I know how demanding this will be, yet it is not a utopia! Today more than in the past, our future is at stake, as well as the fate of our planet and its inhabitants, especially the younger generation which is inheriting a severely compromised economic system and social fabric.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if we wish to combat poverty, we must invest first and foremost in the young, setting before them an ideal of authentic fraternity. During my apostolic visits in the past year, I was able to meet many young people, especially in the extraordinary context of the celebration of the Twenty-third World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. My apostolic journeys, beginning with my visit to the United States, also allowed me to assess the expectations of many sectors of society with regard to the Catholic Church. In this sensitive phase of the history of humanity, marked by uncertainties and questioning, many people expect the Church to exercise clearly and courageously her mission of evangelization and her work of human promotion. It was in this context that I gave my address at the headquarters of the United Nations Organization: sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I wished to stress that this document is founded on the dignity of the human person, which in turn is based on our shared human nature, which transcends our different cultures. A few months later, during my pilgrimage to Lourdes for the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the appearances of the Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette, I sought to emphasize that the message of conversion and love which radiates from the grotto of Massabielle remains most timely, as a constant invitation to build our own lives and the relations between the world’s peoples on the foundation of authentic respect and fraternity, in the awareness that this fraternity presupposes that all men and women have a common Father, God the Creator. Moreover, a society which is “secular” in a healthy way does not ignore the spiritual dimension and its values, since religion – and I thought it helpful to repeat this during my pastoral visit to France – is not an obstacle but rather a solid foundation for the building of a more just and free society.

Acts of discrimination and the very grave attacks directed at thousands of Christians in this past year show to what extent it is not merely material poverty, but also moral poverty, which damages peace. Such abuses, in fact, are rooted in moral poverty. As a way of reaffirming the lofty contribution which religions can make to the struggle against poverty and the building of peace, I would like to repeat in this assembly, which symbolically represents all the nations of the world, that Christianity is a religion of freedom and peace, and it stands at the service of the true good of humanity. To our brothers and sisters who are victims of violence, especially in Iraq and in India, I renew the assurance of my paternal affection; to the civil and political authorities, I urgently request that they be actively committed to ending intolerance and acts of harassment directed against Christians, to repairing the damage which has been done, particularly to the places of worship and properties; and to encouraging by every means possible due respect for all religions, outlawing all forms of hatred and contempt. I also express my hope that, in the Western world, prejudice or hostility against Christians will not be cultivated simply because, on certain questions, their voice causes disquiet. For their part, may the disciples of Christ, in the face of such adversity, not lose heart: witness to the Gospel is always a “sign of contradiction” vis-à-vis “the spirit of the world”! If the trials and tribulations are painful, the constant presence of Christ is a powerful source of strength. Christ’s Gospel is a saving message meant for all; that is why it cannot be confined to the private sphere, but must be proclaimed from the rootops, to the ends of the earth.

The birth of Christ in the lowly stable of Bethlehem leads us naturally to think of the situation in the Middle East and, in the first place, in the Holy Land, where, in these days, we have witnessed a renewed outbreak of violence provoking immense damage and suffering for the civilian population. This situation further complicates the quest for a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, something fervently desired by many of them and by the whole world. Once again I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned. I express my hope that, with the decisive commitment of the international community, the ceasefire in the Gaza strip will be re-established – an indispensable condition for restoring acceptable living conditions to the population –, and that negotiations for peace will resume, with the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the use of arms. It is very important that, in view of the crucial elections which will involve many of the inhabitants of the region in coming months, leaders will emerge who can decisively carry forward this process and guide their people towards the difficult yet indispensable reconciliation. This cannot be reached without the adoption of a global approach to the problems of these countries, with respect for the legitimate aspirations and interests of all parties. In addition to renewed efforts aimed at the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I have just mentioned, wholehearted support must be given to dialogue between Israel and Syria and, in Lebanon, to the current strengthening of institutions; this will be all the more effective if it is carried out in a spirit of unity. To the Iraqis, who are preparing again to take full control of their future, I offer a particular word of encouragement to turn the page and to look forward in order to rebuild without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic group or religion. As far as Iran is concerned, tireless efforts must be made to seek a negotiated solution to the controversy concerning the nation’s nuclear programme, through a mechanism capable of satisfying the legitimate demands of the country and of the international community. This would greatly favour détente in the region and in the world.

Looking to the great continent of Asia, I note with concern that, while in certain countries acts of violence continue, and in others the political situation remains tense, some progress has been made, enabling us to look to the future with greater confidence. I think for example of the new negotiations for peace in Mindanao, in the Philippines, and the new direction being taken in relations between Beijing and Taipei. In this same context of the quest for peace, a definitive solution of the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka would also have to be political, since the humanitarian needs of the peoples concerned must continue to receive ongoing attention. The Christian communities living in Asia are often numerically small, yet they wish to contribute in a convincing and effective way to the common good, stability and progress of their countries, as they bear witness to the primacy of God which sets up a healthy order of values and grants a freedom more powerful than acts of injustice. The recent beatification, in Japan, of 188 martyrs brought this eloquently to mind. The Church, as has often been said, does not demand privileges, but the full application of the principle of religious freedom. In this perspective, it is important that, in central Asia, legislation concerning religious communities guarantee the full exercise of this fundamental right, in respect for international norms.

In a few months, I will have the joy of meeting many of our brothers and sisters in the faith and in our common humanity who dwell in Africa. In anticipation of this visit, which I have so greatly desired, I ask the Lord to open their hearts to welcome the Gospel and to live it consistently, building peace by fighting moral and material poverty. A very particular concern must be shown for children: twenty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, they remain very vulnerable. Many children have the tragic experience of being refugees and displaced persons in Somalia, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are waves of migration involving millions of persons in need of humanitarian assistance and who above all have been deprived of their elementary rights and offended in their dignity. I ask political leaders on the national and international levels to take every measure necessary to resolve the current conflicts and to put an end to the injustices which caused them. I express my hope that in Somalia the restoration of the State will finally make progress, in order to end the interminable sufferings of the inhabitants of that country. In Zimbabwe, likewise, the situation remains critical and considerable humanitarian assistance is needed. The peace agreement in Burundi has brought a glimmer of hope to the region. I ask that it be applied fully, and thus become a source of inspiration for other countries which have not yet found the path of reconciliation. The Holy See, as you know, follows with special attention the continent of Africa and is pleased to have established diplomatic relations with Botswana in the past year.

In this vast panorama embracing the whole world, I wish likewise to dwell for a moment on Latin America. There too, people desire to live in peace, liberated from poverty and able freely to exercise their fundamental rights. In this context, the needs of emigrants need to be taken into consideration by legislation which would make it easier to reunite families, reconciling the legitimate requirements of security with those of inviolable respect for the person. I would also like to praise the overriding commitment shown by some governments towards re-establishing the rule of law and waging an uncompromising battle against the drug trade and political corruption. I am pleased that, thirty years after the start of the papal mediation between Argentina and Chile concerning their dispute over the southern territories, those two countries have in some way sealed their desire for peace by raising a monument to my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II. I hope, moreover, that the recent signing of the Agreement between the Holy See and Brazil will facilitate the free exercise of the Church’s mission of evangelization and further strengthen her cooperation with the civil institutions for an integral human development. For five centuries the Church has accompanied the peoples of Latin America, sharing their hopes and their concerns. Her Pastors know that, to favour the authentic progress of society, their proper task is to enlighten consciences and to form lay men and women capable of engaging responsibly in temporal affairs, at the service of the common good.

Turning lastly to the nations which are nearer at hand, I wish to greet the Christian community of Turkey, while recalling that, during this special Holy Year marking the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle Paul, numerous pilgrims are making their way to Tarsus, his native city, a fact which once more indicates how closely this land is linked to the origins of Christianity. The hope of peace is alive in Cyprus, where negotiations for a just solution to problems associated with the division of the Island have resumed. As for the Caucasus, I wish to affirm once more that the conflicts involving the states of the Region cannot be settled by recourse to arms; and, in thinking of Georgia, I express my hope that all the commitments subscribed to in the ceasefire of last August – an agreement concluded thanks to the diplomatic efforts of the European Union – will be honoured, and that the return of the displaced to their homes will be provided for as quickly as possible. Finally, with regard to the Southeast of Europe, the Holy See pursues its commitment to stability in the region, and hopes that conditions will continue to be created for a future of reconciliation and of peace between the populations of Serbia and Kosovo, with respect for minorities and commitment to the preservation of the priceless Christian artistic and cultural patrimony which constitutes a treasure for all humanity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, at the conclusion of this overview which, due to its brevity, cannot mention all the situations of suffering and poverty close to my heart, I return to my Message for the celebration of this year’s World Day of Peace. There I recalled that the poorest human beings are unborn children (No. 3). But I cannot not fail to mention, in conclusion, others who are poor, like the infirm, the elderly left to themselves, broken families and those lacking points of reference. Poverty is fought if humanity becomes more fraternal as a result of shared values and ideals, founded on the dignity of the person, on freedom joined to responsibility, on the effective recognition of the place of God in the life of man. In this perspective, let us fix our gaze on Jesus, the lowly infant lying in the manger. Because he is the Son of God, he tells us that fraternal solidarity between all men and women is the royal road to fighting poverty and to building peace. May the light of his love illumine all government leaders and all humanity! May that light guide us throughout this year which has now begun! I wish all of you a happy New Year.