Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday's ReadingsROME, MARCH 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from this Sunday's liturgy.
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Jesus the Preacher
Third Sunday of Lent
Exodus 3:1-8a,13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10,12; Luke 13:1-9
The Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent offers us an example of Jesus' preaching. He takes his cue from some recent news (Pontius Pilate's execution of some Galileans and the death of twelve persons in the collapse of a tower) to speak about the necessity of vigilance and conversion.
In accord with his style he reinforces his teaching with a parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard...." Following the program that we have set out for this Lent, we will move from this passage to look at the whole of Jesus' preaching, trying to understand what it tells us about the problem of who Jesus was.
Jesus began his preaching with a solemn delcaration: "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). We are used to the sound of these words and we no longer perceive their novelty and revolutionary character. With them, Jesus came to say that the time of waiting is over; the moment of the decisive intervention of God in human history, which was announced by the prophets, is here; now is the time! Now everything is decided, and it will be decided according to the position that people take when they are confronted with my words.
This sense of fulfillment, of a goal finally reached, can be perceived in different sayings of Jesus, whose historical authenticity cannot be doubted. One day, taking his disciples aside, he says: "Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it" (Luke 10:23-24).
In the sermon on the mount Jesus said among other things: "You have heard that it was said (by Moses!) ... but I say to you." The impression that these words of Christ had on his contemporaries must have been fairly uniform. Such claims leave us few options for explanation: Either the person was crazy or simply spoke the truth. A lunatic, however, would not have lived and died as he did, and would not have continued to have such an impact on humanity 20 centuries after his death.
The novelty of the person and preaching of Jesus comes clearly to light when compared to John the Baptist. John always spoke of something in the future, a judgment that was going to take place; Jesus speaks of something that is present, a kingdom that has come and is at work. John is the man of "not yet"; Jesus is the man of "already."
Jesus says: "Among those born of woman there is none greater than John and yet the littlest one of the kingdom of God is greater than him" (Luke 7:28); and again: "The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached and everyone enters it violently" (Luke 16:16). These words tell us that between the mission of John and Jesus there is a qualitative leap: The littlest one in the new order is in a better position that the greatest one of the old order.
This is what brought the disciples of Bultmann (Bornkamm, Konzelmann, et al.) to break with their master, putting the great parting of the waters between the old and the new, between Judaism and Christianity, in the life and preaching of Christ and not in the post-Easter faith of the Church.
Here we see how historically indefensible is the thesis of those who want to enclose Jesus in the world of the Judaism of his time, making him a Jew just like the others, one who did not intend to make a break with the past or to bring anything substantially new. This would be to set back the historical research on Jesus to a stage that we left behind quite some time ago.
Let us go back, as we usually do, to this Sunday's Gospel passage to glean some practical guidance. Jesus comments on Pilate's butchery and the collapse of the tower thus: "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." We deduce a very important lesson from this. Such disasters are not, as some think, divine castigation of the victims; if anything, they are an admonition for others.
This is an indispensable interpretive key which allows us to see that we should not lose faith when we are confronted with the terrible events that occur every day, often among the poorest and most defenseless. Jesus helps us to understand how we should react when the evening news reports earthquakes, floods, and slaughters like that ordered by Pilate. Sterile reactions like, "Oh those poor people!" are not what is called for.
Faced with these things we should reflect on the precariousness of life, on the necessity of being vigilant and of not being overly attached to that which we might easily lose one day or the next.
The word with which Jesus begins his preaching resounds in this Gospel passage: conversion. I would like to point out, however, that conversion is not only a duty, it is also a possibility for all, almost a right. It is good and not bad news! No one is excluded from the possibility of changing. No one can be regarded as hopeless. In life there are moral situations that seem to have no way out. Divorced people who are remarried; unmarried couples with children; heavy criminal sentences ... every sort of bad situation.
Even for these people there is the possibility of change. When Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, the apostles asked: "But who can be saved?" Jesus' answer applies even to the cases I have mentioned: "For men it is impossible, but not for God."
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Pope's Meeting With Roman Clergy (Part 2)
"Do Not Extinguish Charisms ... the Church Is One"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the second part of the Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Feb. 22 session of questions-and-answers with Roman clergy.
Part 1 was published Thursday. Part 3 will appear Sunday.
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Fr Maurizio Secondo Mirilli, Parochial Vicar of Santa Bernadette Soubirous Parish and head of the Diocesan Youth Programme, emphasized the demanding task incumbent on priests in their mission to instil faith in the new generations. Fr Mirilli asked the Pope for a word of guidance on how to transmit the joy of the Christian faith to youth, especially in the face of today's cultural challenges, and also asked him to point out the priority topics on which to focus in order to help young men and women to encounter Christ in practice.
Pope Benedict XVI: Thank you for your work for teenagers. We know that the young really must be a priority of our pastoral work because they dwell in a world far from God. And in our cultural context it is not easy to encounter Christ, the Christian life and the faith life.
Young people require so much guidance if they are truly to find this path. I would say -- even if I unfortunately live rather far away from them and so cannot provide very practical instructions -- that the first element is, precisely and above all, guidance. They must realize that living the faith in our time is possible, that it is not a question of something obsolete but rather, that it is possible to live as Christians today and so to find true goodness.
I remember an autobiographical detail in St Cyprian's writings. "I lived in this world of ours", he says, "totally cut off from God because the divinities were dead and God was not visible. And in seeing Christians I thought: it is an impossible life, this cannot be done in our world! Then, however, meeting some of them, joining their company and letting myself be guided in the catechumenate, in this process of conversion to God, I gradually understood: it is possible! And now I am happy at having found life. I have realized that the other was not life, and to tell the truth", he confesses, "even beforehand, I knew that that was not true life".
It seems to me to be very important that the young find people -- both of their own age and older -- in whom they can see that Christian life today is possible, and also reasonable and feasible. I believe there are doubts about both these elements: about its feasibility, because the other paths are very distant from the Christian way of life, and about its reasonableness, because at first glance it seems that science is telling us quite different things and that it is therefore impossible to mark out a reasonable route towards faith in order to show that it is something attuned to our time and our reason.
Thus, the first point is experience, which also opens the door to knowledge. In this regard, the "catechumenate" lived in a new way -- that is, as a common journey through life, a common experience of the possibility of living in this way -- is of paramount importance.
Only if there is a certain experience can one also understand. I remember a piece of advice that Pascal gave to a non-believer friend. He told him: "Try to do what a believer does, then you will see from this experience that it is all logical and true".
I would say that one important aspect is being shown to us at this very moment by Lent. We cannot conceive of immediately living a life that is 100 percent Christian without doubts and without sins. We have to recognize that we are journeying on, that we must and can learn, and also, gradually, that we must convert. Of course, fundamental conversion is a definitive act. But true conversion is an act of life that is achieved through the patience of a lifetime. It is an act in which we must not lose trust and courage on the way.
We must recognize exactly this: we cannot make ourselves perfect Christians from one moment to the next. Yet, it is worth going ahead, being true to the fundamental option, so to speak, then firmly persevering in a process of conversion that sometimes becomes difficult.
Indeed, it can happen that I feel discouraged so that I am in a state of crisis and want to give up everything instantly. We should not allow ourselves to give up immediately, but should take heart and start again. The Lord guides me, the Lord is generous and with his forgiveness I make headway, also becoming generous to others. Thus, we truly learn love for our neighbour and Christian life, which implies this perseverance in forging ahead.
As for the important topics, I would say that it is important to know God. The subject "God" is essential. St Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians: "Remember that you were at that time... having no hope and without God.... But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near" (Eph 2: 12-13). Thus, life has a meaning that guides me even through difficulties.
It is therefore necessary to return to God the Creator, to the God who is creative reason, and then to find Christ, who is the living Face of God. Let us say that here there is a reciprocity. On the one hand, we have the encounter with Jesus, with this human, historical and real figure; little by little, he helps me to become acquainted with God; and on the other, knowing God helps me understand the grandeur of Christ's Mystery which is the Face of God.
Only if we manage to grasp that Jesus is not a great prophet or a world religious figure but that he is the Face of God, that he is God, have we discovered Christ's greatness and found out who God is. God is not only a distant shadow, the "primary Cause", but he has a Face. His is the Face of mercy, the Face of pardon and love, the Face of the encounter with us. As a result, these two topics penetrate each other and must always go together.
Then of course, we have to realize that the Church is our vital travelling companion on our journey. In her, the Word of God lives on and Christ is not only a figure of the past but is present. We must therefore rediscover sacramental life, sacramental forgiveness, the Eucharist and Baptism as a new birth.
On the Easter Vigil, in his last mystagogical Catechesis, St Ambrose said: "Until now we have spoken of moral topics; it is now time to speak of the Mystery". He offered guidance in moral experience, in the light of God of course, but which then opens to the Mystery. I believe that today these two things must penetrate each other: a journey with Jesus who increasingly unfolds the depths of his Mystery. Thus, one learns to live as a Christian, one learns the importance of forgiveness and the greatness of the Lord who gives himself to us in the Eucharist.
On this journey, we are naturally accompanied by the saints. Despite their many problems, they lived and were true and living "interpretations" of Sacred Scripture. Each person has his saint from whom he can best learn what living as a Christian means. There are the saints of our time in particular, and of course there is always Mary, who remains the Mother of the Word. Rediscovering Mary helps us to make progress as Christians and to come to know the Son.
Fr Franco Incampo, Rector of the Church of Santa Lucia del Gonfalone, presented his experience of the integral interpretation of the Bible, on which his Community has embarked together with the Waldensian Church. "We have set ourselves to listen to the Word", he said. "It is an extensive project. What is the value of the Word in the Ecclesial Community? Why are we so unfamiliar with the Bible? How can we further knowledge of the Bible so that the Word will also train the community to have an ecumenical approach?".
Pope Benedict XVI: You certainly have a more practical experience of how to do this. I can say in the first place that we will soon be celebrating the Synod on the Word of God. I have already been able to look at the Lineamenta worked out by the Synod Council and I think that the various dimensions of the Word's presence in the Church appear clearly in it.
The Bible as a whole is of course enormous; it must be discovered little by little, for if we take the individual parts on their own, it is often hard to understand that this is the Word of God: I am thinking of certain sections of the Book of Kings with the Chronicles, with the extermination of the peoples who lived in the Holy Land. Many other things are difficult.
Even Qoheleth can be taken out of context and prove extremely difficult: it seems to theorize desperation, because nothing is lasting and even the Preacher dies in the end, together with the foolish. We had the Reading from it in the Breviary just now.
To my mind, a preliminary point would be to read Sacred Scripture in its unity and integrity. Its individual parts are stages on a journey and only by seeing them as a whole, as a single journey where each section explains the other, can we understand this.
Let us stay, for example, with Qoheleth. First, there was the word of wisdom according to which the good also live well: that is, God rewards those who are good. And then comes Job and one sees that it is not like this and that it is precisely those who are righteous who suffer the most. Job seems truly to have been forgotten by God.
Then come the Psalms of that period where it is said: But what does God do? Atheists and the proud have a good life, they are fat and well-nourished, they laugh at us and say: But where is God? They are not concerned with us and we have been sold like sheep for slaughter. What do you have to do with us, why is it like that?
The time comes when Qoheleth asks: But what does all this wisdom amount to? It is almost an existentialist book, in which it is said: "all is vanity". This first journey does not lose its value but opens onto a new perspective that leads in the end to the Cross of Christ, "the Holy One of God", as St Peter said in the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John. It ends with the Crucifixion. And in this very way is revealed God's wisdom, which St Paul was later to explain to us.
Therefore, it is only if we take all things as a journey, step by step, and learn to interpret Scripture in its unity, that we can truly have access to the beauty and richness of Sacred Scripture.
Consequently, one should read everything, but always mindful of the totality of Sacred Scripture, where one part explains the other, one passage on the journey explains the other. On this point, modern exegesis can also be of great help to us.
Let us take, for example, the Book of Isaiah. When the exegetes discovered that from chapter 40 on the author was someone else -- Deutero-Isaiah, as he was then called -- there was a moment of great panic for Catholic theologians.
Some thought that in this way Isaiah would be destroyed and that at the end, in chapter 53, the vision of the Servant of God was no longer that of Isaiah who lived almost 800 years before Christ. "What shall we do?", people wondered.
We now realize that the whole Book is a process of constantly new interpretations where one enters ever more deeply into the mystery proposed at the beginning, and that what was initially present but still closed, unfolds increasingly. In one Book, we can understand the whole journey of Sacred Scripture, which is an ongoing reinterpretation, or rather, a new and better understanding of all that had been said previously.
Step by step, light dawns and the Christian can grasp what the Lord said to the disciples at Emmaus, explaining to them that it was of him that all the Prophets had spoken. The Lord unfolds to us the last re-reading; Christ is the key to all things and only by joining the disciples on the road to Emmaus, only by walking with Christ, by reinterpreting all things in his light, with him, Crucified and Risen, do we enter into the riches and beauty of Sacred Scripture.
Therefore, I would say that the important point is not to fragment Sacred Scripture. The modern critic himself, as we now see, has enabled us to understand that it is an ongoing journey. And we can also see that it is a journey with a direction and that Christ really is its destination. By starting from Christ, we start the entire journey again and enter into the depths of the Word.
To sum up, I would say that Sacred Scripture must always be read in the light of Christ. Only in this way can we also read and understand Sacred Scripture in our own context today and be truly enlightened by it. We must understand this: Sacred Scripture is a journey with a direction. Those who know the destination can also take all those steps once again now, and can thus acquire a deeper knowledge of the Mystery of Christ.
In understanding this, we have also understood the ecclesiality of Sacred Scripture, for these journeys, these steps on the journey, are the steps of a people. It is the People of God who are moving onwards. The true owner of the Word is always the People of God, guided by the Holy Spirit, and inspiration is a complex process: the Holy Spirit leads the people on, the people receive it.
Thus, it is the journey of a people, the People of God. Sacred Scripture should always be interpreted well. But this can happen only if we journey on within this subject, that is, the People of God which lives, is renewed and re-constituted by Christ, but continues to dwell in its own identity. I would therefore say that there are three interrelated dimensions. The historical dimension, the Christological dimension and the ecclesiological dimension -- of the People on their way -- converge. A complete reading is one where all three dimensions are present. Therefore, the liturgy -- the common liturgy prayed by the People of God -- remains the privileged place for understanding the Word; this is partly because it is here that the interpretation becomes prayer and is united with Christ's prayer in the Eucharistic Prayer.
I would like to add here one point that has been stressed by all the Fathers of the Church. I am thinking in particular of a very beautiful text by St Ephraim and of another by St Augustine in which he says: "If you have understood little, admit it and do not presume that you have understood it all. The Word is always far greater than what you have been able to understand".
And this should be said now, critically, with regard to a certain part of modern exegesis that thinks it has understood everything and that, therefore, after the interpretation it has worked out, there is nothing left to say about it. This is not true. The Word is always greater than the exegesis of the Fathers and critical exegesis because even this comprehends only a part, indeed, a minimal part. The Word is always greater, this is our immense consolation. And on the one hand it is lovely to know that one has only understood a little. It is lovely to know that there is still an inexhaustible treasure and that every new generation will rediscover new treasures and journey on with the greatness of the Word of God that is always before us, guides us and is ever greater. One should read the Scriptures with an awareness of this.
St Augustine said: the hare and the donkey drink from the fountain. The donkey drinks more but each one drinks his fill. Whether we are hares or donkeys, let us be grateful that the Lord enables us to drink from his water.
Fr Gerardo Raul Carcar, a Schönstatt Father who arrived in Rome from Argentina six months ago and today is Vicar Cooperator of the Parish of San Girolamo at Corviale, said that Ecclesial Movements and new communities are a providential gift for our time. These are entities with a creative impetus, they live the faith and seek new forms of life to find the right place in the Church's mission. Fr Carcar asked the Pope for advice on how he should fit into them to develop a real ministry of unity in the universal Church.
Pope Benedict XVI: So I see that I must be briefer. Thank you for your question. I think you mentioned the essential sources of all that we can say about Movements. In this sense, your question is also an answer.
I would like to explain immediately that in recent months I have been receiving the Italian Bishops on their ad limina visits and so have been able to find out a little more about the geography of the faith in Italy. I see many very beautiful things together with the problems that we all know. I see above all that the faith is still deeply rooted in the Italian heart even if, of course, it is threatened in many ways by today's situations.
The Movements also welcome my fatherly role as Pastor. Others are more critical and say that Movements are out of place. I think, in fact, that situations differ and everything depends on the people in question.
It seems to me that we have two fundamental rules of which you spoke. The first was given to us by St Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians: do not extinguish charisms. If the Lord gives us new gifts we must be grateful, even if at times they may be inconvenient. And it is beautiful that without an initiative of the hierarchy but with an initiative from below, as people say, but which also truly comes from on High, that is, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, new forms of life are being born in the Church just as, moreover, they were born down the ages.
At first, they were always inconvenient. Even St Francis was very inconvenient, and it was very hard for the Pope to give a final canonical form to a reality that by far exceeded legal norms. For St Francis, it was a very great sacrifice to let himself be lodged in this juridical framework, but in the end this gave rise to a reality that is still alive today and will live on in the future: it gives strength, as well as new elements, to the Church's life.
I wish to say only this: Movements have been born in all the centuries. Even St Benedict at the outset was a Movement. They do not become part of the Church's life without suffering and difficulty. St Benedict himself had to correct the initial direction that monasticism was taking. Thus, in our century too, the Lord, the Holy Spirit, has given us new initiatives with new aspects of Christian life. Since they are lived by human people with their limitations, they also create difficulties. So the first rule is: do not extinguish Christian charisms; be grateful even if they are inconvenient.
The second rule is: the Church is one; if Movements are truly gifts of the Holy Spirit, they belong to and serve the Church and in patient dialogue between Pastors and Movements, a fruitful form is born where these elements become edifying for the Church today and in the future.
This dialogue is at all levels. Starting with the parish priest, the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, the search for appropriate structures is underway: in many cases it has already borne fruit. In others, we are still studying.
For example, we ask ourselves whether, after five years of experience, it is possible to confirm definitively the Statutes for the Neocatechumenal Way, whether a trial period is necessary or whether, perhaps, certain elements of this structure need perfecting.
In any case, I knew the Neocatechumens from the very outset. It was a long Way, with many complications that still exist today, but we have found an ecclesial form that has already vastly improved the relationship between the Pastor and the Way. We are going ahead like this! The same can be said for other Movements.
Now, as a synthesis of the two fundamental rules, I would say: gratitude, patience and also acceptance of the inevitable sufferings. In marriage too, there is always suffering and tension. Yet, the couple goes forward and thus true love matures. The same thing happens in the Church's communities: let us be patient together.
The different levels of the hierarchy too -- from the parish priest to the Bishop, to the Supreme Pontiff -- must continually exchange ideas with one another, they must foster dialogue to find together the best road. The experiences of parish priests are fundamental and so are the experiences of the Bishop, and let us say, the universal perspectives of the Pope have a theological and pastoral place of their own in the Church.
On the one hand, these different levels of the hierarchy as a whole and on the other, all life as it is lived in the parish context with patience and openness in obedience to the Lord, really create new vitality in the Church.
Let us be grateful to the Holy Spirit for the gifts he has given to us. Let us be obedient to the voice of the Spirit, but also clear in integrating these elements into our life; lastly, this criterion serves the concrete Church and thus patiently, courageously and generously, the Lord will certainly guide and help us.
© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Friday, March 09, 2007
"Equality Can be Achieved When Antagonism Gives Way to Respect"NEW YORK, MARCH 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, delivered today to the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly on the topic of "promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women."
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61st session of the U.N. General Assembly
Informal Thematic Debate on the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women
New York, March 8, 2007
At the outset, my delegation thanks you for convening this Informal Thematic Debate of the General Assembly on the Promotion of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and its subsequent panel debates on women in decision-making and empowerment of women including microfinance. This timely debate is a significant contribution to the reflections on the issues of the dignity, rights and duties of women and to their role and achievements in the various sectors of society.
The legitimate quest for equality between men and women has achieved positive results in the area of equality of rights. This quest needs to be accompanied by the awareness that equality goes hand in hand with and does not endanger, much less contradict, the recognition of both the difference and complementarity between men and women. Without this recognition the struggle for equality would not be authentic.
It seems, in fact, that oftentimes the ideas on the equality of rights between men and women have been marked by an antagonistic approach which exalts opposition between them. This approach juxtaposes woman against man and vice versa, while the identity and role of one is emphasized with the aim of merely diminishing that of the other. Success in the quest for equality and the empowerment of women can best be achieved when such antagonism gives way to mutual respect and recognition of the identity and the role of one towards the other.
A second tendency is to blur, if not entirely deny, the differences between men and women. In order to avoid the domination of one sex over the other, their differences tend to be obscured or viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. Physical difference is often minimized, while the purely cultural dimension is maximized and held to be primary. This blurring of differences has impact on the stability of society and of families and, not least, on the quality of the relations between men and women. Equality between women and men and the empowerment of women will be attained when the differences of the sexes are recognized and highlighted as complementary and the cultural element of gender is understood in its proper context.
Empowerment of women refers to increasing their social, political, economic and spiritual strength, both individually and collectively, as well as to removing the obstacles that penalize women and prevent them from being fully integrated into the various sectors of society. Concretely, it means addressing discriminatory practices that exclude women from decision-making processes, oftentimes caused or aggravated by discrimination based on a woman's race, ethnicity, religion or social status.
That women in society must be involved in decision-making is not only right for reasons of equality, but also for the specific insights that women bring to the process. This "feminine genius" will prove most valuable, as women increasingly play major roles in the solution of the serious challenges the world is facing. Empowerment of women also means equal pay for equal work, fairness in career advancement, and equality of spouses in family rights. Likewise, it means that women who choose to be wives and mothers are protected and not penalized.
With regard to empowering women through microfinance, my delegation takes pride in the fact that for decades some institutions and agencies of the Catholic Church have been active in microfinancing. Just to cite one example, Catholic Relief Services, which operates in 99 countries from all continents, began microfinance programs in 1988 in five countries. Now programs are operational in at least 30 countries, with more than 850,000 clients, of whom almost 75% are women. The program focuses on the poor, especially poor women, in remote rural communities where there is no access to financial services. Moreover, in order to build managerial capacities and assure program sustainability, the clients are directly involved in the management and administration of the services they receive.
Studies have shown how microfinance has led to a wide-ranging improvement of the status of women, from earning greater respect from men to being acknowledged as society's important contributors; from achieving better family health to greater awareness of the value of education; from greater self-esteem to taking a leading role in poverty reduction. These and other positive effects on the daily life of women tell us that microfinance is warmly to be supported. However, we must be aware that it is hardly a panacea for all the ills afflicting women in developing countries. Further, the system is not immune from abuse. It is, in fact, noted that in some circumstances and places, men ask their wives to get loans from microfinanciers, and then they take the loan and run the business themselves, or even, use the money for other purposes.
Hand in hand with the empowering benefits brought about by initiatives like microfinance, goes the need for education and awareness-raising, especially at the level of the local community. Education for women in particular remains the most vital tool in the promotion of equality between men and women and in the empowerment of women to contribute fully to society. The Holy See desires for its part to continue to educate boys and girls, men and women, to foster and uphold the dignity, role and rights of women. With tools such as these, women's empowerment can begin to take root and flourish in those places where it is still largely lacking.
Thank you, Madam President.
Too many concessions to the modern mindset? "Empowerment of women refers to increasing their social, political, economic and spiritual strength, both individually and collectively, as well as to removing the obstacles that penalize women and prevent them from being fully integrated into the various sectors of society. Concretely, it means addressing discriminatory practices that exclude women from decision-making processes, oftentimes caused or aggravated by discrimination based on a woman's race, ethnicity, religion or social status. That women in society must be involved in decision-making is not only right for reasons of equality, but also for the specific insights that women bring to the process."
Searching for Equilibrium in a High-Pressure World
By Father John Flynn
"Abortion Is Ironically Employed …"
Interview With Author Michele SchumacherFRIBOURG, Switzerland, MARCH 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Although women's "genius" is as old as woman herself, the work of articulating the theoretical basis of this reality through a new feminism is a relatively new development, says author Michele Schumacher.
Schumacher, a wife and mother of four, is the editor of and contributing author to "Women in Christ: Toward a New Feminism," published by Eerdmans.
In this interview with ZENIT, Schumacher, who is a professor of theological anthropology at the European Institute of Anthropological Studies, Philanthropos, and external research collaborator in theology at the University of Fribourg, comments on the importance of articulating this theoretical basis, and the challenges in doing so.
Q: In his 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" Pope John Paul II put forth a challenge to found and articulate a new feminism based on the "genius of woman," a challenge you said three years ago had "barely been taken up." Has the situation changed?
Schumacher: I meant by that statement the challenge to articulate the anthropological -- that is, metaphysical -- foundations of a new feminism.
The precision is important, because although the theoretical articulation of a new feminism is recent, the lived reality -- the practical counterpart of the so-called theory -- is as old as woman herself.
From the practical perspective of acting in accord with our female genius -- which is in fact the basis of the theoretical formulation -- it is almost impossible to measure the scope of a new feminism and its influence. There is, however, no doubt that many women are effectively heeding Pope John Paul II's call and challenge to put their female genius "to work" in the promotion of a culture of life.
From the more theoretical perspective, the theme of a new feminism has "gone public": I am aware of a growing number of university classes dedicated to the subject, of conferences, articles and even books. Beyond this, and perhaps more significant, a lot of work is being done under the broader guise of Christian anthropology: from both philosophical and theological perspectives. I need only cite the recent and growing number of international institutes and journals dedicated to this important subject.
I esteem all of this more theoretical interest in a new feminism to be a good thing, for although the priority must be awarded to action -- by which I mean also contemplative "action" -- theory does influence practice. I have read enough mainstream feminist thought, for example, to realize how much these theories have infiltrated our culture -- both for the good and the bad.
Q: Why is that anthropological foundation of a new feminism so important?
Schumacher: It is important for many reasons, one of which is the intrinsic connection between nature -- who we are -- and operation -- what we do.
The very metaphysical anthropology that the Catholic tradition has espoused, and that I emphatically hold as true, presents nature as being both given and achieved.
Nature is the principle of operation; hence we become who we are by the exercise of our freedom and thus by our own -- including shared -- actions. This allows for real self-realization and thus also for vocation.
Another important reason for insisting upon anthropological foundations is the challenge posed by mainstream feminism in its reaction to two significant attacks upon a traditional metaphysics: biological reductionism and the social construction of nature.
The first attack would reduce women to their bodies and their vocation to motherhood, understood in the most diminutive sense of having babies and giving birth.
The second would allow society to dictate what is and what is not "natural' and to educate girls to this end. Hence, women are "maternal," for example, because girls are raised to be mothers and not because of some innate quality.
It is in this context that was born -- with due regard for the influence of Jean-Paul Sartre -- the very influential slogan of Simone de Beauvoir: "One is not born but becomes a woman."
Beauvoir's philosophy is a good example of feminism adopting the "divide and rule" mentality that it would ascribe to "patriarchal" thinking: the setting at odds of nature and nurture -- and thus also of the individual and the community -- of body and soul, of nature and grace, of man and woman.
With regard to that last dualism, allow me to interject that I do not regard male and female "natures" as absolutes: There is, as I have argued in my book, one -- human -- nature which exists in two modes or expressions: the expression of a man and the expression of a woman.
Q: Isn't the process of articulating the philosophical and anthropological nature of woman one that could continue endlessly? Shouldn't a new feminism begin to work simultaneously in other areas -- education, politics and culture -- instead of waiting for the anthropological foundations to be laid first?
Schumacher: I have in part already answered this question above by insisting that we cannot separate -- no more in the epistemological realm than in the practical realm -- the intrinsic connection between nature and its operation, which is to say that our articulations of human nature follow upon our observations of human action.
Similarly, the question of what might constitute our female genius -- and thus what is most proper to a new feminism -- will require that women take seriously John Paul II's call to exercise that genius -- our "unique and decisive" thought and action, as he puts it -- in the promotion of a culture of life.
I am not proposing a paradox. We are capable of living our genius without necessarily articulating it, but the task of articulating it is as important as the connection between the practical and the theoretical spheres.
In other words, the theoretical articulation of that genius should, in turn, incite a wise and well-reflected praxis. Genuine culture requires both, and it is precisely the promotion of a healthy and faith-filled culture of life that is the goal of this endeavor.
Q: You've spoken a lot about the woman's genius. Could you explain what that is?
Schumacher: Pope John Paul II has some wonderful insights into this theme. He addresses, for example -- in "Mulieris Dignitatem," No. 30 -- a certain feminine "sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance," which he attributes to women in view of God's special entrustment to us of the human person.
By this, he certainly has a regard for our maternal vocation, by which we not only receive another human being, but also give of ourselves.
Our unique and privileged contact with the children God has entrusted to us -- already from the moment of their conceptions -- fosters our attentiveness for all human persons, he explains.
Beyond this, or still more fundamental, our experience of menstruation might lead us -- as Sister Prudence Allen has aptly argued in "Women in Christ," page 93 and following -- to a more or less conscious awareness of our natural, bodily orientation to another human being -- our suitability for motherhood.
This is a potential origin of the so-called maternal instinct: an "instinct" which can, however, be cut off by technical or psychological means.
Besides the notion -- disputed by some mainstream feminists -- of a maternal instinct, I tend to agree with many feminist epistemologists who argue -- in a manner altogether compatible with this notion of women's genius -- that we tend to have more relational manners of thinking than do men.
This is to say that we tend to view ourselves within a complex, or tissue, of relations and not as isolated monads: a view which is more likely -- these feminists argue -- to be had by male thinkers.
This is an area where contemporary feminist philosophers and so-called new feminists, who often refer to the works of the 20th-century philosopher Edith Stein, find common ground.
According to Stein's phenomenological analysis, women are much more relational in our self-conceptions and more sympathetic of others than are our male counterparts who tend to be more individualistic and isolated in their thinking.
Q: Given recent trends such as women "donating" their eggs for embryo research and the increasing promiscuity of young girls and women, what is the idea of the nature of woman promoted by mainstream feminism?
Schumacher: These phenomena are excellent examples of the negative outgrowth of the dualistic understanding of nature espoused by mainstream feminism.
The donation of eggs is consistent with a philosophical anthropology that would set a woman at odds with her body -- "my body is a thing that I can do with as I like"; the person with the community -- an embryo is also "a thing" in no need of a mother; nature and grace -- "what does God have to do with it?"; woman and man -- "what need is there for the sexual union if babies can be produced in test tubes?"
Similarly in the case of sexual promiscuity, an artificial wedge is drawn between the person and the body. The "giving" of the body does not imply the gift of the person. From this originates a series of other dualisms: that of the person and community -- "the right to choose" is the name we give to taking another's life; man and woman -- hence the phenomena of contraception and mono-parent families; nature and grace -- "what sense is there in a sacramental marriage anyway?" Or, "what does faith have to do with sexuality?"
Q: In his audience address of Feb. 14, Benedict XVI spoke of the important role women played in the early Church. What contribution can women make to the Church in these modern times?
Schumacher: To answer that question, I suggest we look to the woman who has definitively changed history and continues to incite all Christians -- women and men -- to live faithfully their respective vocations: Mary, who is praised by Benedict XVI, in the words of Elizabeth, as "blessed because she believed," Luke 1:45.
It is Mary's faith -- already at the Annunciation -- that inaugurated the new covenant. Beyond this, the deposit of faith -- all that the Church presents to us as true and worthy of faith -- is born of the "mysteries of faith" that Mary lived, first of all, in obedience to God's word and with hope in his promise. Hence Mary's personal act of faith -- her "yes, I believe" -- to even the most difficult of Christ's mysteries, has effectively become our faith: the "we believe" of the Church and the "I believe" of each one of her members.
Like Mary, we too -- women and men of the Church today -- are called not only to proclaim and live the Gospel message, but also to realize and live heroic acts of faith and most especially to help "bring to birth" the personal faith -- the "yes, I believe" -- of others, especially that of the children entrusted to our care.
This, I believe, is the most important contribution that we have to make to the Church: One that is timeless and one that can be realized in as many vocations as there are persons.
A Saintly Chef; Constantine's Conversion
Cardinal Baronio's Canonization Cause Revived
By Elizabeth Lev
ROME, MARCH 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The virtue of patience is hard to come by in any day or age, but the extraordinary example of Cardinal Cesare Baronio should give us all heart.
Not only did he dedicate long hard hours to his studies and writing, and suffer the ceaseless practical jokes of St. Philip Neri, but additionally his cause for canonization has been stalled since 1745 when Pope Benedict XIV conferred on him the title of venerable.
But Cardinal Baronio's spirit of forbearance has paid off. This year, the 400th anniversary of his death, Cardinal Baronio's case has been reopened by the general attorney of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, known as the Oratorians.
"Peace and obedience" was the motto of this extraordinary man, and he lived both virtues throughout his life in such an exemplary manner that Pope John XXIII, an admirer of Cardinal Baronio's, took the same words and inverted them to become his own dictum.
While his contemporary St. Peter Canisius traveled to heretical hot spots to preach -- personifying the daring, brilliant charism of the Jesuits -- Cardinal Baronio embodied the nurturing nature of the Oratorians by remaining stably in his parish, and writing steadily as he tended to his flock.
Both men, however, gave a troubled world the tools to perceive the truth. St. Peter Canisius wrote the first catechism and Cardinal Baronio wrote 12 volumes of meticulously researched Church history.
Cesare Baronio was born near Naples in 1538 to a poor but noble family. At the age of 19 he came to Rome to study law at the Rome University and found lodgings in Piazza Farnese around the corner from the Church of San Gerolamo della Carità where Father Philip Neri lived.
The young student was soon introduced to his saintly neighbor and, attracted by the great magnet of Father Neri's holiness, he started to frequent the oratory.
Father Neri recognized the immense potential in Baronio and took an interest in his formation. Although Baronio's natural inclination lent toward subjects such as death and final judgment, Father Neri called him back to the here and now by setting him to study Church history.
Baronio knew he was called to the priesthood, but wanted to join one of the new orders such as the Jesuits or Theatines, and to live among his brothers in the priesthood. After much discernment, however, he was ordained a secular priest in 1564.
He took up his ministry in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, the Florentine national church in Rome in the care of Father Neri. Together with two other priests, they were the nucleus of the congregation of the Oratorians which was officially established in 1575.
Every day Father Baronio went from preaching and hearing confessions at San Giovanni to tending the sick and moribund at the hospital of Santo Spirito, and then returned home to cook for community of the Oratorians.
When he realized that the kitchen duty was always left for him, Father Baronio's patience and good humor came to the fore and he inscribed above his oven "Caesar Baronius coquus perpetuus," "Cesare Baronio, cook in perpetuity."
Father Neri saw the many honors conferred on Father Baronio as a danger to his humility, and so the future saint would play tricks on the young priest to keep him from becoming too proud of his accomplishments.
Father Neri once told Father Baronio to sing Psalm 51 "Miserere" at a wedding, although it was reserved for Good Friday or funerals. The startled guests looked at Father Baronio with disgust, but he took the lesson to heart, and always remained gentle and unassuming.
While Pope Gregory XIII was reforming the Julian calendar in 1580 to fashion the Gregorian version still in use today, he set Father Baronio to reorganize the liturgical calendar, entrusting him with the task of revising the stories of the saints and martyrs. The Roman Martyrology has undergone numerous additions and alterations (the latest version was released in 2004). Father Baronio's careful work forms the basis of this beloved and useful book.
During the writing of the martyrology, Father Baronio's passion for relics grew, and he was one of the first people to come running when the Catacombs of St. Priscilla was rediscovered in 1578.
He was elevated to cardinal in 1596. Although he was very poor, he took great pains to care for his titular church, St. Nereo and Achilleo. He even obtained the return of their relics which had been transferred to the Church of St. Hadrian.
A scholar without intellectual arrogance, a cardinal who performed the humblest tasks for his fellow priests, a man inclined to solitude who spent most of his day caring for others, Cardinal Cesare Baronio offers a resonant example for our own time.
To revive the memory and commemorate his great scholarly contributions, the Oratory has organized a year of special Masses with various members of the College of Cardinals, symposiums, concerts and conferences. Not bad for the humble house chef.
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Lessons From Sylvester's Chapel
The Lenten season brings the great consolation of the station churches and the opportunity to pray and meditate in old and beloved sites. The Church of the Quattro Coronati -- Four Crowned Martyrs -- a few short steps from St. John Lateran, is the station for the Fifth Week of Lent, but I went to visit it this week.
Once a jewel of a church, with inlaid marble floors and elegant architecture, today Quattro Coronati retains little of its former glamour.
One notable exception is the little Chapel of St. Sylvester, consecrated in 1247. The paintings have been beautifully restored, and when one walks into the little room, the images shine out brightly and vividly, recounting concerns that are still alive today regarding the relationship between Church and state.
The chapel was painted by an unknown artist working at the height of the struggles between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. It was built in part by a member of the Segni family which produced two of the most important Popes on the Middle Ages, Innocent III (1198-1216) and his nephew Gregory IX (1227-1241). These two dynamic men struggled valiantly against the Holy Roman Emperor's continual encroachment on Church authority.
The Quattro Coronati Church suffered bitterly during these battles. During the Investiture Controversy in 1075, when the Pope and the emperor disputed the right to nominate bishops, Quattro Coronati had been sacked and destroyed.
Undaunted, the Popes rebuilt it, with even more beautiful decor and the addition of the little St. Sylvester Chapel. The decoration was completed under Pope Innocent IV, who also maintained the same uncompromising policies against the Holy Roman Emperor as his predecessors.
The chapel is dedicated to St. Sylvester, the Pope who, in Church lore, convinced Emperor Constantine to convert. During the Middle Ages, he became an excellent model for the Popes struggling against Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen.
The Holy Roman Emperor, since the time of Charlemagne in 800, received his authority to rule from the Pope, and in return protected the Church against the violence of her enemies. Over the centuries, the emperors had begun to usurp the Church's role in ecclesiastical decisions.
In the wake of the reforms of the 10th century, the Popes tried to disentangle the Church from its secular manipulators, but the battle proved long and difficult. The city was sacked, prelates imprisoned and Church property confiscated.
In this Chapel of St. Sylvester, the artist painted with a vigorous freshness that declared from the very walls that the tides had turned. A series of panels right above the head of the visitor tell the story of how St. Sylvester converted Constantine.
The story is taken from the Golden Legend, which in this case is not historically accurate, but more important than historical accuracy the artists makes a contemporary point about the emperor.
According to the legend depicted, Constantine started his tenure as co-emperor as a persecutor of Christians. For his sins, he was struck with leprosy. This illness is dramatically rendered in the fresco. The emperor, replete with crown and jeweled robes, is depicted as covered with red spots while his head droops in shame.
There was only one supposed cure for leprosy in that age, which required that the victim bathe in the warm blood of babies to expunge the disease. An astonishing scene represents the leprous emperor, sitting on his throne and giving the order to have the babies gathered up for slaughter. Mothers and fathers plead, wail and clutch their children to no avail -- the emperor must be cured.
It won't escape many modern viewers how we have come full circle to the same barbarities. In the modern debate over embryonic stem cells, the chief argument used for the destruction of these tiny human lives is their putative power to cure other diseases.
Constantine, however, was troubled by this solution and rejected the cure, speaking some of the most resonant lines of the Golden Legend: "The honor of the Roman people is born of the font of piety, which gave us the law that anyone who kills a child in war shall incur the sentence of death.
"What cruelty would it be then if we did to our own children what we are forbidden to do to aliens! What do we gain in conquering barbarians if we allow cruelty to conquer us!"
Constantine was rewarded with a dream of St. Peter and St. Paul telling him to seek out Pope Sylvester in Rome. Upon finding the Pope, Constantine had himself baptized, and, in cleansing his soul, his body was healed.
Constantine's gratitude to the Pope was boundless. Kneeling before the Pope, he recognized the importance of the spiritual power of the Pope.
Constantine paid honors to St. Sylvester and even led the Pope's horse on foot, something Frederick II was unlikely to be repeating.
This story, which tries to define the realms of the temporal and spiritual, how the overlap and interact, shows the sophisticated medieval understanding that Church and state are not so easily divided. Separated from any moral authority, the state weakens and loses sight of what is best for its citizens.
Ironically, we use the term "medieval" to refer to what we perceive as an ignorant and violent age. I can't help but wonder what the Middle Ages would make of us today.
* * *
Elizabeth Lev teaches Christian art and architecture at Duquesne University's Italian campus. She can be reached at email@example.com.
In response to the not-so-far leftists who run the GOP, self-described conservatives call for a restoration of conservative principles. This is one of the besetting follies of American conservatives, the delusion that “ideas have consequences,” a pretentious phrase foisted on Richard Weaver by his publisher and inevitably picked up by the same Trotskyists who think that arguments between the kids at two City College cafeterias constituted a world-historical event. In Washington, think tankers who may behave as complete cynics still profess to believe in conservative principles, and even a Republican Party waterboy like Rush Limbaugh, improbable as it may seem, thinks he is engaged in a battle of ideas. If they are to accomplish anything, conservatives have to face the unpleasant truth that ideas mean very little to politicians in the postmodern political arena and even less to voters, who think of government the way children think of Santa Claus.
In a trivial way, we all know this: Money and media access win elections, while lofty principles, if a politician is unwise enough to articulate them, are so many weapons in the hands of the enemy. Defenders of “family values” are homophobes; believers in a moral order are fascists; critics of imperialism are traitors and cowards; and supporters of states’ rights and the Old Republic are racists and bigots.
Conservatives concede the point and advise cowardice or, what is the same thing in such cases, caution, perhaps because they know intuitively that the real struggle is not over principles but over the interests of constituencies. In a simple way, we know that the oilmen who back the Republican Party have certain interests, as do Jewish and Christian Zionists who want to exterminate the enemies of Israel, agribusinessmen who want price supports and a guest-worker program for Mexicans, to say nothing of the ethnic, religious, sexual, and erotic minorities who all demand special privileges for their identity, sect, or perversity.
Even conflicts over principle are played out by parties that act as interest groups. Abortion, as a legal and political issue, is not the center of a moral contest over principle so much as it is a conflict among voting blocks and funding sources: Committed Christians and religious Jews oppose a woman’s right to kill her babies, while organized feminism, Hollywood, and secularized Jews are in favor. If the former group has numerical superiority, the latter is richer in the stuff that dreams are made of, which is why abortion is unlikely to be recriminalized in the lifetime of anyone alive today.
There is no one who takes the most passing interest in politics who does not understand this fact. The men who have got rich and famous as political advisors have not been studying moral philosophy: They have been counting votes and laundering money.
A cynic would be tempted to say: “Thus it has ever been.” Perhaps, but, while there is always a grain of truth in blanket condemnations of the human character, such condemnations tend to obscure the details in which the Devil is said to lurk. Modern states have elevated the political to a plane that supersedes all other loyalties. In premodern societies, economic interests naturally play a part in political disputes, faction fights, and civil wars, but family connections, religious differences, and territorial divisions may often be more important. Ancient Athens or Rome would provide good examples, but one might as easily take the Venetian republic, 17th-century England and France, or the United States of 200 years ago. In America, the states used to play a major role in politics, giving identity to the citizens and sending politicians to Congress who represented the states’ interests. To a limited extent, this goes on today. As states lost sovereign power and mass politicking became the norm, however, other identities—socioeconomic class, union membership, minority status, ideology—began to take precedence.
So-called democracies, while they may continue the pattern of clan wars or religious struggles, tend to diminish the authority of Church and clan and focus ever more narrowly on the interests of individuals or abstract groups, such as classes and minorities. Since everyone thinks he has a stake in getting something from the treasury, his political identity (if he has one) tends to be defined by the noisy groups he is identified with. Machiavelli pointed out (in his Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio) that ordinary people have no interest in the state beyond personal security and a decent system of justice. In consequence, they spend very little time on political activities, because the rewards are comparatively slim in proportion to the time they would have to spend. However, interested minorities, such as aristocrats, know that a modest amount of effort can be rewarded with contracts, monopolies, lucrative positions, and the irresponsible power they are itching to abuse.
The political economist Mancur Olson reached a parallel conclusion about citizens in a modern democracy. They pay scant attention to the state, whose policies and politics are controlled by small cliques with large appetites, and they are content if the laws are enforced, taxes kept moderate, and benefit checks sent out on time. Ultimately, the increase of the number and influence of interest groups leads to national impotence. What kind of practical strategy on the environment, for example, can be adopted, when the debate is entirely controlled by radical environmentalists and industrial polluters?
In the realm of “ideas,” the politics of special interests are supported by an ideology of acquisitive individualism. Each individual, according to this theory, has the “right” to get as much of what he wants out of life as he can by any legal or nonaggressive means. Although this view is traditionally associated with classical liberals, and, thus, with Americans who have misappropriated the term conservative, it has also been adopted by the soft-Marxist European left that wants to give every male, female, and shemale the right to be as swinish as any old-school capitalist pig.
Mr. Larison's responses:
What Do You Have to Say to That?
Oh, No, Not That!
His comment about the Rebirth of Reason website? Objectively Horrible.
Info on Tibor Machan
He is as libertarian as they come... and an adherent of Objectivism? [The Ayn Rand Institute: Introducing to Objectivism; Objectivist Center; Leonard Peikoff]
Tiber's Place on the Web
Hoover Institution Fellow; Cato Institute page; Chapman University page; Free Market News Network; Advocates for Self-Government; The Independent Institute; AnthonyFlood.com; Liberty Haven
Lew Rockwell archive; Mises Institute; another archive
A Brief Defense of Free Will
Morality and Illiberal Democracy
Individualism and Political Dialogue
The Myth of Just Taxation
Human Rights and Poverty
Natural Rights as Derived from Ethical Egoism
Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Dobbs: Democratic hacks embrace lunacy of amnesty
POSTED: 5:12 p.m. EST, March 7, 2007
By Lou Dobbs
Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears every Wednesday on CNN.com.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- This new Congress was supposed to be different. Instead, it is being led by a gaggle of partisan hacks pandering to the same special interests and corporate masters as the previous Republican-led Congress.
So-called comprehensive immigration reform legislation is about to take a privileged position on the Democratic agenda in the Senate. It will likely succeed, just as it did in that august chamber last year, when 38 Democratic senators sided with the president to pass the bill and tried to slam amnesty down the throats of the House of Representatives and their 300 million constituents.
And the now Democratic-controlled House is likely to embrace rather than combat the lunacy of amnesty.
The same characters are already shoveling the same nonsense that overwhelmed reason in the Democratic Party and the Bush administration last year. Front and center in their march to madness: The bill's sponsor, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force Rep. Luis Gutierrez and House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren.
Also meeting with Sen. Kennedy this week is the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahoney. The good senator is rounding up all of the usual suspects to lead the charge in advance of his introduction of the amnesty legislation, expected within the next week or two.
Cardinal Mahoney has said point blank that his followers should disregard laws on immigration as a matter of Catholic conscience. This is the same Cardinal who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep secret all documents related to pedophilia among priests. But the Cardinal and other Catholic leaders are quick to embrace the laws of bankruptcy protection in order to not compensate victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy and keep them out of the U.S. judicial system. So far, five such dioceses have done just that.
The same corporate lobbyists and dominant special interests that drove last year's legislation are even more energetic this year, and they're enthusiastically helping Senator Kennedy write the new legislation. The biggest business lobby in the country, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and its associated organization, the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, are actually writing parts of the bill, presumably so that none of our other senators would be unfairly burdened by actually doing their own work. Or perhaps in Senator Kennedy's estimation, they simply don't have the intellectual wherewithal to tackle the required mental heavy-lifting.
Senator Kennedy and his staff claim they're not being secretive about the details of the so-called comprehensive immigration reform, but they're just not willing to tell the public or other senators how the bill is being constructed. Notable Republicans are growing increasingly frustrated by their exclusion from the process, taking some umbrage at the immigrant advocacy groups replacing them in that process.
The Chamber of Commerce itself is feverish with expectation, confident their reform bill will certainly keep wages depressed. The Chamber claims there's a labor shortage in many of these industries: construction, housing services, leisure and hospitality. And that's where the cleverly named Essential Worker Immigration Coalition comes in. Founded, staffed and supported by the Chamber itself, the coalition is made up of the same industries claiming they desperately need more workers.
But there is a non-trivial disconnect here: In each of those industries, a labor shortage leads to higher wages. Unfortunately for the EWIC and the Chamber, and really for American workers, real wages in those industries have been declining, suggesting a very real surplus, not a deficit, of unskilled labor. Yet this President and this Congress continues to push the adoption of a guest-worker program. It's no wonder they have matching approval ratings in the low 30s.
Real wages in the overall construction sector have fallen nearly 2 percent since the start of the decade and nearly 4 percent since the recent wage peak in 2003. Construction workers in 2006 were making the same per-hour salary as they did in 1965 (measured in 1982 dollars). Landscaping workers have also seen real wages fall by nearly 4 percent since 2001. For the leisure and hospitality sector, workers are making the same per-hour salary as they did in 1972.
I've said for years that we cannot reform immigration if we cannot control it, and we cannot control it unless we secure our borders and ports. Once again it is clear that corporate America, special interests and the out-of-touch elites of the Senate have little regard for truth, working Americans, the common good and the national interest.
The Democratic Party is now putting working Americans and their families in the exact same position as the Republicans: last.
This Democratic-led Congress and this Republican President seem intent on pushing middle-class Americans, and truth, into the shadows. We asked for bipartisanship. But I don't think we can stand any more of it.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.
I don't think he goes far enough in addressing the economic structures and practices that prevent state autonomy from being a reality (he's too much of a liberal with respect to economic matters).
Walter D. Kennedy
2008 Provisional Platform
After seventy-five years of Republican failure it is now obvious that we must change the Republican Party if we are ever to correct the growth of government and the loss of liberty.
Jeffersonian Republicans, that is, Southern Conservative Republicans, must force a change in the G.O.P. and therefore America if we hope to reduce the size, scope, and power of big brother government.
One year after Appomattox, Robert E. Lee noted that with the loss of State’s Rights and the growth of the power of the central government America would become “aggressive abroad and despotic at home.” Fellow Southerners, this “aggressive and despotic” big government that recognizes no limits on its power, must be reigned in.
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: We demand that the Federal government live within the limitations of the Constitution. Therefore, we must restore real State’s Rights.
ABORTION: Abortion is murder. The Federal government is not authorized by the Constitution to play any role in the murder of unborn children. Roe v. Wade is a violation of State’s Rights and therefore unconstitutional.
ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: Illegal immigration is ILLEGAL! Criminals should never be rewarded for their illegal activity. The Federal government is obligated to protect the borders of these United States—force the Federal government to abide by the Constitution and the Illegal immigration problem is solved.
TAXES: The greatest threat to individual liberty, property, and prosperity is the malignant growth of taxes. All governments federal, state, and local together should not tax the working people of these United States more than 10% of their income. The Federal government should be limited to only 4% of that 10% taxing power.
THE DRAFT: Free men in a free society should never be compelled by government to act against their will. Historically, Americans have always volunteered to defend their homes from enemy attacks. Empires create armies to prop up the empire by the use of the draft; therefore, only in cases of declared war (only Congress can declare war) shall a draft or apparatus of a draft exist.
HEALTH CARE: Nowhere in the Constitution is the Federal government given the authority to provide health care. Each State of the Union has the right to choose or not to choose to provide some form of health care but the Federal government does not have that authority. The Federal government’s role in health care such as Medicaid and Medicare must slowly be eliminated.
ENVIRONMENT: A clean and wholesome environment is desirable for all citizens. Nevertheless, the role of the Federal government is limited by the Constitution to policing interstate environmental issues. It is the responsibility of the people of the state and local community to police their environment.
SOCIAL WELFARE: Few phrases have been more misrepresented and abused than the phrase in the preamble of the Constitution, “promote the general welfare.” This welfare spoken of in the Constitution is the welfare of the member states of the union, not the welfare of individual citizens of the states. The Federal government has no Constitutional role to play in social welfare.
CORPORATE WELFARE: Just as surely as the Federal government has no role to play in social welfare, it has no role to play in corporate welfare. In a free market environment the market will reward and punish businesses according to their ability to satisfy the consumer. Corporate welfare serves only to protect poor business practices. Corporate welfare causes the cost of poor business practices to be passed on to the consumer—the consumer pays for the unconstitutional actions of the Federal government’s corporate welfare.
INFLATION: Government, not the consumer is the source of inflation. In 1909 an ounce of Coke cost approximately 1/2 cent. Today an ounce of Coke cost 6.2 cents. Has the value of Coke increased 12 times in the past 98 years? No, the value of your money has been deflated 12 times in the past 98 years by an out of control Federal government. The unrestrained printing of money unsupported by commodities of real value, such as gold and silver, by the Federal government must be abandoned.
GUN CONTROL: The Second Amendment of the Constitution is not a political inkblot (Rorschach) test, it simply states that the Federal government has no right to interfere with a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. All such interferences by the Federal government must be declared null and void.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: Nothing demonstrates the out of control nature of the Federal government more than Federal agents removing the Ten Commandments from the Supreme Court Building of a (once sovereign) state. Men with strong Biblical worldviews founded these United States. The further we remove ourselves from that philosophy and embrace a secular humanist worldview of communist, socialists, and radical liberalism the less free we become as a nation. The Declaration of Independence boldly announces that our rights are a grant not from government but from our Creator. We must maintain respect for the Bible and keep the Federal government under control.
STATE’S RIGHTS: As Jeffersonian Republicans, we recognize the damage done to this once free society by the death of State’s Rights. We demand the passage of a State’s Rights Resurrection Amendment to the Constitution. Such an amendment must recognize the right of the sovereign state to nullify any unconstitutional act, measure, or decree of the Federal government. Likewise, the right of the people of a sovereign state to determine how they shall be governed including the right of secession from the common union of free states, shall not be abridged. Every aforementioned problem herein discussed shall cease to exist once “we the people” of the sovereign states have the ability to enforce the limits of the constitution upon the Federal government.
"Contemplation Is Expressed in Works of Charity"VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the first part of the Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Feb. 22 session of questions-and-answers with Roman clergy.
Parts 2 and 3 will be published on Friday and Sunday.
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LENTEN MEETING WITH THE CLERGY OF ROME
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Hall of Blessings
Thursday, 22 February 2007
The first question was addressed to the Holy Father by Mons. Pasquale Silla, Rector at the Shrine of Santa Maria del Divino Amore at Castel di Leva, not far from Rome. Mons. Silla recalled Benedict XVI's Visit to the Shrine on 1 May 2006 and his request to the parish community for powerful prayer for the Bishop of Rome and his collaborators, as well as for the priests and faithful of the Diocese. In response to this request, the community of Our Lady of Divine Love attempted to give the best possible quality to prayer in all its forms, especially liturgical prayer: one of the results of this commitment is the Perpetual Adoration of the Eucharist that will begin at the Shrine on 25 March. In the field of charity, the Shrine is concentrating on broadening its outreach, especially in the area of welfare for minors, families and the elderly. In this perspective, Mons. Silla asked Pope Benedict XVI for practical instructions to enable the Shrine to play an increasingly effective role in the Diocese.
Pope Benedict XVI: I would like first of all to say that I am glad and happy to feel here that I am truly the Bishop of a large Diocese. The Cardinal Vicar said that you are expecting light and comfort. And I must say that to see so many priests of all generations is light and comfort to me. Above all, I have already learned something from the first question, and to my mind this is another essential element of our Meeting. Here I can hear the actual living voices of parish priests and their pastoral experiences; thus, above all I can learn about your concrete situation, your queries, your experiences and your difficulties, and live them not only in the abstract but in authentic dialogue with real parish life.
I now come to the first question. It seems to me, basically, that you have also supplied the answer as to what this Shrine can do. ... I know that this Marian Shrine is the one best loved by the people of Rome. During the several Visits I paid to the ancient Shrine, I also felt the age-old devotion. One senses the presence of the prayer of generations and one can almost tangibly feel Our Lady's motherly presence.
In the encounter with Mary, it is truly possible to experience an encounter with the centuries-old Marian devotion as well as with the desires, needs, sufferings and joys of the generations. Thus, this Shrine, visited by people with their hopes, questions, requests and sufferings, is an essential factor for the Diocese of Rome.
We are seeing more and more that Shrines are a source of life and faith in the universal Church, hence, also in the Church of Rome. In my Country, I had the experience of making pilgrimages on foot to our national Shrine of Altötting. It is an important popular mission.
Young people in particular go there. As pilgrims walking for three days, they experience the atmosphere of prayer and an examination of conscience and rediscover, as it were, their Christian awareness of the faith. These three days of pilgrimage on foot are days of confession and prayer, they are a true journey towards Our Lady, towards the family of God and also towards the Eucharist.
Pilgrims go on foot to Our Lady, and with Our Lady they go to the Lord, to the Eucharistic encounter, preparing themselves for interior renewal with confession. They live anew the Eucharistic reality of the Lord who gives himself, just as Our Lady gave her own flesh to the Lord, thereby opening the door to the Incarnation.
Our Lady gave her flesh for the Incarnation and thereby made possible the Eucharist, where we receive the Flesh that is Bread for the world. In going to the encounter with Our Lady, young people themselves learn to offer their own flesh, their daily life, so that it may be given over to the Lord. And they learn to believe and little by little to say "yes" to the Lord.
I would therefore say, to return to the question, that the Shrine as such, as a place of prayer, confession and the celebration of the Eucharist, provides a great service in the Church today for the Diocese of Rome. I therefore think that the essential service, of which, moreover, you have spoken in practical terms, is precisely that of providing a place of prayer, of sacramental life and of a life of practised charity.
If I have understood correctly, you spoke of four dimensions of prayer. The first is personal. And here Mary shows us the way. St Luke says twice that the Virgin Mary "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (2:19; cf. 2:51). She was a person in conversation with God, with the Word of God and also with the events through which God spoke to her.
The Magnificat is a "fabric" woven of words from Sacred Scripture. It shows us how Mary lived in a permanent conversation with the Word of God, and thus, with God himself. Then of course, in life with the Lord, she was also always in conversation with Christ, with the Son of God and with the Trinitarian God. Therefore, let us learn from Mary and speak personally with the Lord, pondering and preserving God's words in our lives and hearts so that they may become true food for each one of us. Thus, Mary guides us at a school of prayer in personal and profound contact with God.
The second dimension you mentioned is liturgical prayer. In the Liturgy, the Lord teaches us to pray, first of all giving us his Word, then introducing us through the Eucharistic Prayer to communion with the mystery of his life, the Cross and the Resurrection.
St Paul once said we do not even know what to ask for: "we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rom 8:26); we do not know how to pray or what to say to God. God, therefore, has given us words of prayer in the Psalter, in the important prayers of the Sacred Liturgy, and precisely in the Eucharistic liturgy itself. Here, he teaches us how to pray.
We enter into the prayer that was formed down the centuries under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and we join in Christ's conversation with the Father. Thus, the Liturgy, above all, is prayer: first listening and then a response, in the Responsorial Psalm, in the prayer of the Church and in the great Eucharistic Prayer. We celebrate it well if we celebrate it with a "prayerful" attitude, uniting ourselves with the Mystery of Christ and his exchange as Son with the Father.
If we celebrate the Eucharist in this way, first as listening and then as a response, hence, as prayer, using the words pointed out to us by the Holy Spirit, then we are celebrating it well. And through our prayer in common, people are attracted to joining the ranks of God's children.
The third dimension is that of popular piety. An important Document of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments speaks of this popular piety and tells us how to "guide it". Popular piety is one of our strengths because it consists of prayers deeply rooted in people's hearts. These prayers even move the hearts of people who are somewhat cut off from the life of the Church and who have no special understanding of faith.
All that is required is to "illuminate" these actions and "purify" this tradition so that it may become part of the life of the Church today.
Then comes Eucharistic Adoration. I am very grateful because Eucharistic Adoration is being increasingly renewed. During the Synod on the Eucharist, the Bishops talked a great deal about their experiences, of how new life is being restored to communities with this adoration, and also with nocturnal adoration, and how, precisely in this way, new vocations are also born.
I can say that I will shortly be signing the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, which will then be available to the Church. It is a Document offered precisely for meditation. It will be a help in the liturgical celebration as well as in personal reflection, in the preparation of homilies and in the celebration of the Eucharist. And it will also serve to guide, enlighten and revitalize popular piety.
Lastly, you spoke to us of the Shrine as a place of caritas. I think this is very logical and necessary. A little while ago I read what St Augustine said in Book X of his Confessions: "I was tempted and I now understand that it was a temptation to enclose myself in contemplative life, to seek solitude with you, O Lord; but you prevented me, you plucked me from it and made me listen to St Paul's words: "Christ died for us all. Consequently, we must die with Christ and live for all'. I understood that I cannot shut myself up in contemplation; you died for us all. Therefore, with you, I must live for all and thus practise works of charity. True contemplation is expressed in works of charity. Therefore, the sign for which we have truly prayed, that we have experienced in the encounter with Christ, is that we exist "for others'".
This is what a parish priest must be like. And St Augustine was a great parish priest. He said: "In my life I also always longed to spend my life listening to the Word in meditation, but now -- day after day, hour after hour -- I must stand at the door where the bell is always ringing, I must comfort the afflicted, help the poor, reprimand those who are quarrelsome, create peace and so forth".
St Augustine lists all the tasks of a parish priest, for at that time the Bishop was also what the Kadi in Islamic countries is today. With regard to problems of civil law, let us say, he was the judge of peace: he had to encourage peace between the litigants. He therefore lived a life that for him, a contemplative, was very difficult. But he understood this truth: thus, I am with Christ; in existing "for others", I am in the Crucified and Risen Lord.
I think this is a great consolation for parish priests and Bishops. Even if little time is left for contemplation, in being "for others", we are with the Lord.
You spoke of other concrete elements of charity that are very important. They are also a sign for our society, in particular for children, for the elderly, for the suffering. I therefore believe that with these four dimensions of life he has given us the answer to your question: What should we do at our Shrine?
[Translation issued by the Holy See]
© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Posted by A. Millar on March 07, 2007
Perhaps because the English – unlike the Scottish or Welsh or even Cornish – have lost all memory and knowledge of their ancient language, and have only a vague idea of their ancient culture, that England more than Wales or Scotland can be equated with liberalism. The Welsh and the Scots want to preserve their language and culture, while the English, in a feeling of intellectual superiority, feel that the tiny island of the United Kingdom should be multilingual, just as it should be multicultural. Or, at least that has been the trend.
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G.I. Joe Not Really G.I. JoeI've never heard of Action Man before; it's another cartoon hero for children... at least G.I. Joe was geared for teenagers.
A buddy movie with Action Man?!
March 7, 2007 - Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has revealed that Skip Woods (Hitman, Swordfish) is writing the screenplay for the live-action feature film version of G.I. Joe. Woods reportedly segued to the project after completing rewrite work on Live Free or Die Hard.
But fans should expect the G.I. Joe movie to be G.I. Joe in name only -- if the name is used at all. "Do you know Action Man? Action Man is the equivalent of G.I. Joe internationally pretty much. It's a different character, but pretty much the same idea and his name is Alex Mann. So we're creating a buddy movie between Duke and Alex. That's what we're doing," di Bonaventura told LatinoReview.com.
"All the characters will be there, and it'll be really fun but unfortunately our president has put us in a position internationally where it would be very difficult to release a movie called G.I. Joe internationally in a lot of places. I'm a big G.I. Joe fan and to add one character to the mix is sort of a fun thing to do."
The producer added that "Snake Eyes is a really difficult character" to translate to film and that the filmmakers will probably include Heavy Duty rather than Roadblock.
Di Bonaventura's biggest problem is with how to bring the Joes' adversaries, Cobra Command, to the screen. "If you saw Cobra executed the way that it's executed in the animation and in the comic book onscreen you would laugh, I believe."
He also reiterated that he wants Mark Wahlberg to play Duke.