Monday, August 31, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
(CNN) -- Shortly before he died from brain cancer, Sen. Ted Kennedy wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI. President Obama delivered the letter to the pontiff during his visit to the Vatican in July.
The following are excerpts from the letter as read by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick at Kennedy's private burial service Saturday in Arlington National Cemetery:
"Most Holy Father, I asked President Obama to personally hand-deliver this letter to you. As a man of deep faith himself, he understands how important my Catholic faith is to me, and I am so deeply grateful to him. I hope this letter finds you in good health."I pray that you have all of God's blessings as you lead our Church and inspire our world during these challenging times. I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago, and although I continue treatment the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old, and preparing for the next passage of life.
"I have been blessed to be part of a wonderful family. Both of my parents, particularly my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives. That gift of faith has sustained and nurtured, and provided solace to me in the darkest hours.
"I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path. I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination, and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty, and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and been the focus of my work as a United States Senator.
"I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field, and I'll continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone."I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic Your Holiness. And though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God's blessings on you and on our Church, and would be most thankful for your prayers for me."
Two weeks later, Kennedy received a response from the Vatican. McCarrick read the response in part, as follows:
"The Holy Father has read the letter which you entrusted to President Obama, who kindly presented it to him during their recent meeting. He was saddened to know of your illness, and asked me to assure you of his concern and his spiritual closeness. He is particularly grateful for your promise of prayers for him, for the needs of our universal church.
"His Holiness prays that in the days ahead, you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God, our merciful father. He invokes upon you the consolation and peace promised by the risen savior to all who share in his sufferings, and trust in his promise of eternal life."Commending you and the members of your family to the loving intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father cordially imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of wisdom, comfort, and strength in the Lord."
Reuters August 29, 2009 11:34pm
"It is a serious problem. If we do not re-establish contact we will lose the spacecraft," said S. Satish, spokesman for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
The $79-million mission was launched amid national euphoria last October, putting India in the Asian space race alongside rival China, reinforcing its claim to be considered a global power.
A probe vehicle landed on the moon a month later and sent back images of the lunar surface.
But a critical sensor in the main craft, orbiting the moon, malfunctioned in July, raising fears that the two-year mission may have to be curtailed.
One of the mission's main aims was to look for Helium 3, an isotope which is very rare on earth but could be an energy source in the future in nuclear fusion.
ISRO has plans to send a manned mission to space in four years' time and eventually on to Mars.
The world's first truly dual-screen laptop, which will allow computer users to multi-task while on the move, is due to go on sale by the end of the year.
The pioneering PC, known as the Spacebook, is the brainchild of Alaska-based technology firm gScreen...
The gScreen Spacebook will boast two 15.4 in screens which can slide away to fill the space of a single screen when the laptop is being stored or transported.
Friday, August 28, 2009
The poll is on the left in this article in The Times-Tribune:
What is your reaction to Bishop Joseph Martino's expected resignation?
As early as 2004, he said he would "very, very seriously consider" denying Holy Communion to politicians who have supported abortion rights, then strengthened that promise during the prelude to the 2008 election, when he said he would deny Communion to public officials, including then-vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, "who are Catholic and who persist in public support for abortion and other intrinsic evils."
His most striking interjection into the debate came after his unannounced arrival at a political forum at a Honesdale church in 2008, when he criticized the crowd for discussing a document released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that defined abortion and euthanasia, as well as racism, torture and genocide, as among the most important issues for Catholic voters.
"No social issue has caused the death of 50 million people," he told the audience at St. John's Catholic Church, then added, "This is madness, people."
In several public letters, Bishop Martino criticized the abortion-related voting record of Sen. Bob Casey - a Catholic Democrat from Scranton opposed to abortion rights - whom he accused of "cooperating with ... evil."
He threatened to close St. Peter's Cathedral during Scranton's St. Patrick's Day celebrations if local organizers honored elected officials who support abortion rights; he sought documentation from four local Catholic universities to prove they do not provide or encourage the use of contraceptives; and, at the national bishops' meeting in Baltimore last year, he told fellow bishops they eventually will have to address their collective "reticence to speak to Catholic politicians who are not just reluctant, but stridently anti-life."
Three in ten Catholics who do not “oppose” bringing back the Latin Mass say they would attend such a Latin Mass if it was readily available at convenient times and locations. This is equivalent to about one in ten adult Catholics (11 percent overall) or approximately 5.7 million individuals.
If the Latin Tridentine Mass were made readily available at convenient times and locations, and you were able to attend, would you?
Respondents who “Favor” or have “No opinion” about easing restrictions on the Latin Tridentine MassIf the Latin Tridentine Mass were made readily available at convenient times and locations, and you were able to attend, would you?
No opinion: 46%
Among those who do not oppose the return of the Latin Mass, interest in attending a Latin Mass is more likely among frequent Mass attendees. More than four in ten of these respondents, who attend Mass at least once a month, say they would attend a Latin Mass if it was available.
Respondents who “Favor” or have “No opinion” about easing restrictions on the Latin Tridentine MassThe World Over and Una Voce Carmel
Weekly or more
No opinion: 35%
Less than weekly but at least once a month
No opinion: 42%
A few times a year or less
No opinion: 52%
|Father Leo Patalinghug, who appears in the program, “Grace Before Meals,” will engage in a cooking competition with Bobby Flay on the Food Network, Sept. 9. (Courtesy Grace Before Meals)|
Father Leo Patalinghug is not the kind of guy who steps down from a challenge. The 39-year-old priest is a former national full-contact stick fighting champion, a black belt in tae kwon do and an 80s break dancer who can still bust the moves with the best of them.
So when Bobby Flay, a world-class celebrity chef, recently showed up in Frederick County and challenged the well-known “cooking priest” to a “throwdown” on the Food Network, Father Patalinghug’s response was simple: bring it on.
The challenge came in the form of an ambush.
Father Patalinghug, director of pastoral field education at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, had been invited to film a cooking segment for the Food Network based on “Grace Before Meals,” his popular cooking show that airs on the Internet and a Boston-based Catholic television station.
While Father Patalinghug was preparing a steak “fusion fajita” during a June 8 taping at the seminary, he noticed that his 100-member audience started “rustling around” and got unusually excited while he was talking about ginger and the dry ingredients for his marinade.
“I glanced up and the producer pointed to Bobby Flay,” said Father Patalinghug, a self-described “huge fan” of Flay and his fusion style of cooking.
“There he was standing with his arms crossed and nodding approvingly,” the priest said. “It shocked me and I said something like, “Oh good Jesus! What the heaven are you doing here?’”
The master chef threw down the cooking challenge to see who could produce the best fajita.
“It was so surreal,” Father Patalinghug said with a laugh. “I think my hands were shaking – which was bad because I had to cut onions next. I said something like, ‘With God as my witness, I’m not afraid of you!’”
Standing side-by-side, the two chefs went to work on their dishes as a team of cameras filmed their every move. A panel of judges evaluated their work and will announce the winner when the episode of “Throwdown! with Bobby Flay” airs on the Food Network at 9 p.m. on Sept. 9.
Father Patalinghug isn’t allowed to talk much about what happened during the competition or how he prepared his dish. But the priest said his fajita draws on a wide range of cultural influences including those of the Philippines, where he was born.
“The marinade has a smoky component, a sweet component and a spicy component,” said Father Patalinghug, who first learned to cook from his mother and other family members while growing up in Baltimore. The former parishioner of St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn got further hooked on the culinary arts when he cooked for his fellow seminarians while studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
“For the fusion fajita, I drew on every country I’ve ever been to,” he said. “I don’t think my recipe was anywhere near as complicated as Bobby Flay’s. He’s the Iron Chef going against little old me.”
During part of the taping, Father Patalinghug held his rosary – “a force of habit,” he said. The priest noticed that others in the audience did the same. They prayed as he cooked.
“Bobby Flay looked over and said, ‘Oh no! They pulled out the beads. I’m done,’” Father Patalinghug said.
Grace Before Meals has become a sensation on the Internet. During each “Webisode,” Father Patalinghug visits a family, prepares a meal and engages in meaningful discussions. A cookbook by the same name has sold more than 10,000 copies. Father Patalinghug hopes sponsors will soon step forward so the program can air nationally on PBS.
“A regular family meal can become a real moment of God’s grace – not just because of the prayer that’s said before the meal, but also by the interaction between people who love one another,” the priest said.
Father Patalinghug hopes his program will inspire families to spend their dinners together. He also is convinced food can unite people of different cultures.
“I honestly think if we got together more around a dinner table, we’d break down stereotypes,” he said.
As for the competition with Flay, Father Patalinghug noted that the word “competition” literally means “with petition.”
“That means ‘prayer’ for us,” he said. “I was really grateful that by providence, the whole idea of competition became a prayer. With prayer, anything is possible with God.”
Father Patalinghug will host a block party outside Di Mimmo’s in Little Italy on Sept. 9 for the premiere of his appearance on the Food Network. More than 500 people are expected to watch the program with him.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I only met Edward Kennedy once.
I had been invited to visit then-senator Phil Gramm, who was contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996. Having read some of my musings on the topic, Senator Gramm wanted to brainstorm about some innovative welfare-reform policies that would simultaneously make economic sense and really help the poor.
After we had chatted for some time in his office, a bell rang and Senator Gramm rose. “I need to take a vote. Walk with me and let’s continue this conversation,” he said.
As we walked down the corridor, I could spy familiar names on the various Senate office doors. We came to an elevator that would take us down to an underground subway connecting the Senate offices to the Senate chamber. It was a small elevator, no more than a large closet. Senator Gramm, an aide, and I tucked ourselves in and the door began to slide shut.
Just before closing, an arm came through to stop the door’s close. As it reopened, I found myself standing face-to-face with the Lion of the Senate, arguably the most prominent Catholic layman in the country, scion of the most prominent Catholic family, perhaps, in U.S. history. Kennedy immediately looked me up and down, and then quizzically glanced over to Senator Gramm trying to figure out why his colleague was hanging out with a priest.
As Senator Kennedy stepped into the elevator, Senator Gramm welcomed him with his Southern tones, “Come on in, Teddy. We’ve called you here to pray for you.”
Without missing a beat, Senator Kennedy tossed a mischievous wink in my direction, nudging me with his elbow in Catholic camaraderie and replied in his Bostonian accent, “Uhh [there was that familiar pause of his], uhh, no Phil, Father and I have called you here to pray for you.”
There was laughter as the elevator door slid closed. It was my turn to speak so I decided to enter the spirit of the moment.
I stood erect, place my hand on Senator Kennedy’s broad shoulder and said, “Actually, senator, this is an exorcism.”
The laughter in that elevator, which spilled out onto the train platform, was electric, causing the by-standing senators to look in our direction and wonder what in the world would have Senators Kennedy and Gramm in such uproarious laughter with a Catholic priest.
And so, I had mixed feelings on the news of Ted Kennedy’s passing. A memory of a pleasant encounter, but knowledge that despite our common baptism, Senator Kennedy and I differed in some very radical ways on issues of public policy, economics, heath care, marriage, and, most fundamentally, on matters related to life.
James Joyce once remarked that the Catholic Church was “Here comes everybody,” and while I relish the experience of being part of a Church rather than a sect, a Church in which there are a host of matters on which faithful Catholics can disagree, I also recognize that there are some defining issues from which are derived the very sense of a shared identity. From my own life and in my pastoral work, I understand that not everyone lives up to the demands of the faith all the time. Graham Greene’s famed “whiskey priest” in The Power and the Glory was the prototype of an essentially good, yet flawed man.
Yet there are some matters so grave that they go beyond mere flaws and work to diminish or even fracture an identity. I fear that this will be part of Ted Kennedy’s legacy, notwithstanding his other personal weaknesses.
What might the face of the Democratic party, indeed American politics, today look like if Ted Kennedy had, instead of reversing himself, maintained the unflinching stance of his late sister Eunice in her consistent defense of vulnerable human life — whether that of a mentally handicapped child or sister or an infant in the womb? Instead, the senator took the dubious advice of certain Boston Jesuits to abandon that tradition and hence those most vulnerable.
Many will speak and write of the legacy of Ted Kennedy in the days ahead. For me, as an East Coast “ethnic” grandchild of immigrants, Kennedy’s death symbolizes several cogent moments in Catholic America.
It marks the passing of a generation that thought that being Catholic, Democratic, and pro–New Deal were synonymous. We now live in an age where many Catholic Americans are very happy to be described as pro-market and are suspicious of New Deal–like solutions — as, of course, they are entitled to be in a way that they are not on, for example, life issues. Senator Kennedy had it exactly the wrong way around.
Kennedy’s death also brings the Church face-to-face once again with the fact that there is a massive problem of basic Catholic education — catechesis — among the faithful. So many Catholics — even some clergy — make an absolute out of prudential issues such as economic policy, while relativizing absolutes, such as abortion, euthanasia, and marriage. This is done in the face of clear, binding teachings from John Paul the Great, who said that no other right is safe unless the right to life is protected, or, as Pope Benedict wrote recently in Caritas in Veritate, that life issues must be central to Catholic social teaching.
This also marks the passing of a certain type of cultural Catholicism — Northeast, Irish and increasingly Italian, concerned with obtaining political power while maintaining an identification with the Church, yet happy to relinquish the substance of the faith if it gets in the way. Indeed, today such cultural Catholics have dispensed even with the identity aspect and are often outright hostile to the Church of their baptism.
I would like to think that the letter, reported to have been ten pages, that Ted Kennedy wrote and asked President Obama to hand to Pope Benedict early in the summer renders an account of his life before God and the Church. I certainly pray he died at peace, reconciled with the Church of his fathers, and in God’s merciful grace. And I shall pray for his eternal beatitude.
— Rev. Robert A. Sirico is president and co-founder of the Acton Institute.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Last week a British Catholic journal, in an editorial titled “U.S. bishops must back Obama,” claimed that America’s bishops “have so far concentrated on a specifically Catholic issue—making sure state-funded health care does not include abortion—rather than the more general principle of the common good.”
It went on to say that if U.S. Catholic leaders would get over their parochial preoccupations, “they could play a central role in salvaging Mr. Obama’s health-care programme.”
The editorial has value for several reasons. First, it proves once again that people don’t need to actually live in the United States to have unhelpful and badly informed opinions about our domestic issues. Second, some of the same pious voices that once criticized U.S. Catholics for supporting a previous president now sound very much like acolytes of a new president. Third, abortion is not, and has never been, a “specifically Catholic issue,” and the editors know it. And fourth, the growing misuse of Catholic “common ground” and “common good” language in the current health-care debate can only stem from one of two sources: ignorance or cynicism.
No system that allows or helps fund—no matter how subtly or indirectly—the killing of unborn children, or discrimination against the elderly and persons with special needs, can bill itself as “common ground.” Doing so is a lie.
On the same day the British journal released its editorial, I got an e-mail from a young couple on the East Coast whose second child was born with Down syndrome. The mother’s words deserve a wider audience:
Magdalena “consumes” a lot of health care. Every six months or so she’s tested for thyroid disease, celiac disease, anemia, etc. In addition, she’s been hospitalized a few times for smallish but surely expensive things like a clogged tear duct, feeding studies and pneumonia (twice). She sees an ENT regularly for congestion, she requires a doctor’s prescription for numerous services—occupational therapy, physical therapy, feeding, speech, etc.—and she needs more frequent ear and eye exams.
I could go on. Often, she has some mysterious symptoms that require several tests or doctor visits to narrow down the list of possible issues. On paper, maybe these procedures and visits seem excessive. She is, after all, only 3 years old. We worry that more bureaucrats in the decision chain will increase the likelihood that someone, somewhere, will say, “Is all of this really necessary? After all, what is the marginal benefit to society for treating this person?”
What do we think of the (Congressional and White House health-care) plans? A government option sounds dangerous to us. The worst-case scenario revolves around someone in Washington making decisions about Magdalena’s health care; or, worse yet, a group of people—perhaps made up of the same types of people who urged us to abort her in the first place. In general, we feel that policy decisions should be made as close as possible to the people who will be affected by them. We are not wealthy people, but our current set up suits us just fine. We trust our pediatrician, who knows us very well, who hears from us personally every few months, who knows Magdalena and clearly sees her value, to give us good advice and recommend services in the appropriate amounts.
We are unsure and uneasy about how this might change. We worry that we, and Magdalena’s siblings, will somehow be cut out of the process down the line when her health issues are sure to pile up. I can’t forget that this is the same president (Obama) who made a distasteful joke about the Special Olympics. He apologized through a spokesman … (but) I truly believe that the people around him don’t know—or don’t care to know—the value and blessedness of a child with special needs. And I don’t trust them to mold policy that accounts for my daughter in all of her humanity or puts “value” on her life.
Of course, President Obama isn’t the first leader to make clumsy gaffes. Anyone can make similar mistakes over the course of a career. And the special needs community is as divided about proposed health-care reforms as everyone else.
Some might claim that the young mother quoted here has misread the intent and content of Washington’s plans. That can be argued. But what’s most striking about the young mother’s e-mail—and I believe warranted—is the parental distrust behind her words. She’s already well acquainted, from direct experience, with how hard it is to deal with government-related programs and to secure public resources and services for her child. In fact, I’ve heard from enough intelligent, worried parents of children with special needs here in Colorado to know that many feel the current health-care proposals pressed by Washington are troubling and untrustworthy.
Health-care reform is vital. That’s why America’s bishops have supported it so vigorously for decades. They still do. But fast-tracking a flawed, complex effort this fall, in the face of so many growing and serious concerns, is bad policy. It’s not only imprudent; it’s also dangerous. As Sioux City’s Bishop R. Walker Nickless wrote last week, “no health-care reform is better than the wrong sort of health-care reform.”
If Congress and the White House want to genuinely serve the health-care needs of the American public, they need to slow down, listen to people’s concerns more honestly—and learn what the “common good” really means.
Bishop R. Walker Nickless’ column can be found at www.catholicglobe.com
Archbishop John Michael Miller approaches the altar during the convocation at Thomas Aquinas College welcoming students to the first day of classes on Monday. The college will soon select a new president, only the third since Thomas Aquinas was founded in 1971.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Speaking to the Bosnian daily “Avaz,” Rourke said, “God gave me a second chance in life and I thank Him.”
Rourke achieved fame in the 80s with action films and erotic thrillers. At the beginning of the 90s he left film for boxing and fell into heavy drug and alcohol addiction.
According to the newspaper, during the most difficult moments of his life, his psychiatrist and his priest were his best friends.
“When you fall people push you down even more. The world is full of materialism and envy. When you are famous and you fall, people don’t want you to come back. It is almost impossible to come back. It’s hard enough the first time, but the second time it’s like you don’t even exist …God gave me a second chance, the guy upstairs helped me out,” he said.
Several years ago Rourke began his return to the big screen and this year he won his first Golden Globe Award for the film “The Wrestler.” Rourke was also an Oscar favorite.
Now, he says, he doesn’t think about Hollywood much. “I don’t care about Hollywood and what the people of Hollywood think. I don’t think about how it works because I simply don’t care. I don’t even dream about it.”
In 2005, when he began to land bigger roles in films, he revealed to a magazine that he was meeting often with his pastor in New York and was on the verge of suicide. “If I weren’t Catholic I would have blown my brains out,” he said.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Won’t recant despite excommunication
The Rev. Roy Bourgeois spoke at a Congregational church yesterday. (Maisie Crow for The Boston Globe)
WESTON - A prominent priest whose support for women’s ordination has him in trouble with the Catholic Church ratcheted up his confrontation with the hierarchy yesterday, calling the church’s refusal to ordain women a “scandal’’ and “spiritual violence...’’
The Catholic Church views Marchant and Bourgeois as having been automatically excommunicated for participating in unsanctioned ordination ceremonies...
The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday declined to comment on the event in Weston, referring instead to a statement it issued last year saying, “The ordination of men to the priesthood is not merely a matter of practice or discipline within the Catholic Church, but rather, it is part of the unalterable Deposit of Faith handed down by Christ through his apostles...’’
In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,’’ citing both tradition and the fact that Jesus’ apostles were male...
Church officials say women play other valuable roles in the church, and the answer to the priest shortage is a combination of prayer and efforts to help young men recognize and accept callings to the priesthood...
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Federico Fiori Barocci
Oil on canvas, 290 x 177 cm
Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 23, 2009 / 09:45 am (CNA).- Before Sunday’s Angelus prayer with pilgrims in the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about today’s Gospel, in which Jesus' teaching about his presence in the Eucharist is met with resistance from the Jews and his own disciples. Followers of Christ must respond to his challenging teachings with lifelong commitment instead of trying to adapt his teachings to the fashions of the times, the Pope said.
"The fourth Evangelist,” Pope Benedict explained, “relates the reaction of the people and disciples, shocked by the words of the Lord to the point that many, after having followed him until then, exclaim, ‘This saying is hard, who can accept it?'”
Benedict XVI continued reading, reciting, “And from that moment on ‘many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.'”
The Pope then noted, “Jesus, however, does not lessen his claim. Indeed, he directly addresses the twelve saying, 'Will you also go away?’”
"This provocative question,” the Pope taught, “is not only addressed to listeners of the time, but to believers and men of every age. Even today, many are shocked by the paradox of the Christian faith.”
Because “Jesus’ teaching seems too hard, too difficult to accept and put into practice,” Pope Benedict observed that, “As a result there are those who reject and abandon Christ, those who attempt to adapt his teachings to the fashions of the times distorting its meaning and value.”
“Will you also go away?' This unsettling provocation resounds in our hearts and awaits a response from each one of us. Jesus in fact is not contented by a merely superficial or formal belonging, an initial and enthusiastic adhesion is not enough for Him. On the contrary, we must take part in 'his thinking and his will' throughout our entire life,” the Holy Father said.
Drawing his words to a close, the Pope said, “Faith is God's gift to man and is, at the same time, man’s free and total trusting of himself to God.” “Docile faith, listening to the word of the Lord, that lamp for our feet, light for our path…We ask the Virgin Mary to keep alive in us this faith steeped in love, which has made her, a humble maiden of Nazareth, Mother of God and mother and model for all believers,” he prayed.
After the Marian prayer, the Pope greeted participants of the lay movement Communion and Liberation, who are gathering for their 30th annual Friendship Among Peoples meeting, which opened today in Rimini, Italy. Commenting on this year's theme, “Knowledge Is Always An Event,” he referred to his recent encyclical “Caritas in Veritate”: “'Learning is not only a material act, because…In all knowledge and in every act of love the human soul experiences something ‘over and above,’ which seems very much like a gift that we receive, or a height to which we are raised.”
In the wake of many disappointments we have all seen in the press, continually see from people who should know better, concerning even Christians, Catholics, even whole Christian communities which betray both reason and Scripture and Christian Tradition, here is a Sunday sermon.
The Gospel is included and a prayer for vocations which is customarily recited after the Gospel in this parish.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Most Holy Virgin Mary, tender Mother of men, to fulfill the desires of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the request of the Vicar of Your Son on earth, we consecrate ourselves and our families to your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, O Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and we recommend to You, all the people of our country and all the world.
Please accept our consecration, dearest Mother, and use us as You wish to accomplish Your designs in the world.
O Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and Queen of the World, rule over us, together with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, Our King. Save us from the spreading flood of modern paganism; kindle in our hearts and homes the love of purity, the practice of a virtuous life, an ardent zeal for souls, and a desire to pray the Rosary more faithfully.
We come with confidence to You, O Throne of Grace and Mother of Fair Love. Inflame us with the same Divine Fire which has inflamed Your own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Make our hearts and homes Your shrine, and through us, make the Heart of Jesus, together with your rule, triumph in every heart and home.
--Venerable Pope Pius XII
St. Alphonsus Ligouri
from: St. Joseph WEEKDAY MISSAL, volume 2
Friday, August 21, 2009
In this August 2009 handout photograph provided by The Denver Zoo, one of the emperor tamarin monkey twins is groomed with a toothbrush by a handler. The tamarin twins named Lara and Lucy were orphaned on July 30 when their mother died of cancer, three weeks after giving birth. As a result, zookeepers are feeding the monkeys by hand. (AP Photo/HO, The Denver Zoo, Dave Parsons)
From the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Solemn High Mass in the extraordinary form on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Sat 8/22/09 8:00 AM ET / 5 AM PT
Update - photos from NLM:
The new website, which was launched on August 21, includes background material on the process of the development of liturgical texts, sample texts from the Missal, a glossary of terms and answers to frequently asked questions.
A press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says that content will be added to the website on a regular basis over the next several months.
Bishop Arthur Serratelli, who chairs the bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, welcomes the faithful to the new site in a video, saying, "In the years since Vatican II we have learned a lot about the use of the vernacular in the liturgy and the new texts reflect this new understanding."
Describing the translation, Bishop Serratelli says, "The new texts are understandable, dignified and accurate. … They not only strive to make the meaning of the text accessible for the listener, but they also strive to unearth the biblical and theological richness of the Latin text..."
The Vatican's investigation of women religious in the US was a long time coming.
By Ann Carey
The unprecedented decision by the Vatican to undertake an apostolic visitation to assess the quality of religious life in orders of sisters in the United States came as a big surprise to many people when it was announced in January. That surprise was doubled with the news two months later that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) will be conducting a doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents most of the leaders of US women religious.
But people who have been closely watching the deterioration of many of the women’s religious orders in this country were not at all surprised that the Vatican initiated these assessments. Indeed, many sisters themselves have asked and prayed for Vatican attention to the condition of women’s religious communities. Certainly there is concern that the numbers of sisters are plunging and ecclesial properties are being converted to secular use, but even more critical problems are evident: many sisters no longer work in apostolates related to the Church and no longer live or pray in community, and sometimes sisters even openly dissent from Church teaching on matters such as women’s ordination, homosexuality, centrality of the Eucharist, and the hierarchal nature of the Church.
Likewise, the LCWR has had a stormy relationship with the Vatican for the past 40 years, and the LCWR has been very clear about its determination to “transform” religious life as well as the Church itself.
The Vatican has said very little about the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR by the CDF, but an April 2 letter from the LCWR to its members informing them of the CDF notification was obtained by the National Catholic Reporter. That newspaper reported that the CDF was undertaking the assessment because doctrinal problems that were discussed with LCWR leadership in 2001 still remain.
Specific issues identified were acceptance of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and women’s ordination, as well as acceptance of the doctrines reiterated in the CDF document Dominus Jesus that Christ is the savior of all humanity and that the fullness of his Church is found in the Catholic Church. The February 20, 2009, Vatican letter also reportedly said that talks given at the LCWR annual assemblies since 2001 were evidence that the doctrinal problems continue to be present.
LCWR INFLUENCE ON WOMEN RELIGIOUS
The doctrinal assessment of the LCWR is said to be unrelated to the apostolic visitation of the women’s orders, but in fact, much of the disorder in women’s communities today can be traced directly to the influence of the LCWR. The leaders of about 90 percent of the women’s religious communities in the US belong to the LCWR, which has a powerful influence on its members and their religious orders through its workshops, publications, and affiliated organizations.
Lora Ann Quinonez and Mary Daniel Turner, two sisters who were executive directors of the LCWR between 1972 and 1986, related in their 1992 tell-all book, The Transformation of American Catholic Sisters, that, “The 30-plus years of the Conference’s existence coincide with a major transitional period in society, church, and religious communities. Whether one celebrates or deplores the fact, it is widely acknowledged that the LCWR has been a force in the transformation process.”
Thus, the back-to-back occurrence of the two assessments is not just a coincidence, and a look at the record of the LCWR sheds significant light on the Vatican decision to undertake both of these initiatives at this time.
Church-recognized organizations for heads of religious orders began in the early 1950s, when the Vatican encouraged superiors to form national conferences. At that pre-Internet time, the idea was to help superiors exchange information, support each other in building up religious life, and coordinate and cooperate with bishops and the Holy See. Canon law says that the Holy See alone has the power to erect superiors’ conferences and that the conferences are under the “supreme governance” of the Holy See, which must approve their statutes. Members of religious orders do not belong to these conferences or have any voting rights; only those in positions of “leadership” in religious orders belong.
In 1959, the Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Women’s Institutes was canonically established, but within 10 years, varying interpretations of documents issued by the Second Vatican Council encouraged activist sisters to transform the conference from an ecclesial body into an independent organization of like-minded professionals focused on women’s liberation issues.
REMAKING THE CONFERENCE
In 1970, new by-laws were written by conference leaders and implemented before the membership could vote on them and before the Vatican approved them. These new by-laws drastically altered the nature of the conference by extending membership to entire “leadership teams,” not just the superior of an order. More progressive orders had already adopted team leadership, and thus acquired many more votes than orders maintaining the traditional, canonical model of one major superior. And this paved the way for the 1970 election of officers who were determined to re-make the conference.
Controversy over the direction of the conference, as well as the expansion and implementation of membership criteria not yet approved by the membership, caused an open rift within the LCWR. Some members complained to the leadership that the new version of statutes eliminated the ecclesial character of the organization and replaced it with a sociological and civil character, and they expressed concern about sweeping new powers given to those in charge of the LCWR.
As the leadership prepared for the September 1971 national assembly where a vote on the new statutes would occur, the Vatican asked that “particular consideration” at the assembly be given to Pope Paul VI’s new apostolic exhortation Evangelica Testificatio, which was his reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of renewal in religious orders. That request was ignored, as were concerns of members who thought the assembly program lacked a spiritual dimension. Some members also objected to the theology expressed by scheduled assembly speakers, including Father Richard McBrien and (former) Father Gregory Baum. Some superiors even boycotted the assembly because of these concerns.
The new statutes were approved at the assembly, which again allowed voting by members admitted under the expanded definition of membership that had not yet been approved by the members or the Vatican. A last-minute amendment changed the name of the organization to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, reportedly because the former name had “militaristic and hierarchic connotations.”
In a pattern that would be repeated over the years, the LCWR leadership neglected to inform its membership immediately about a critical issue: the Vatican was not happy about the new statutes. The LCWR president finally wrote members seven months later to inform them that the officers had been negotiating with the Vatican over their differences but thought it best to keep the matter quiet. The Holy See eventually insisted that the new statutes be amended to include acknowledgment of the authority of the bishops and the Vatican. Only after three years of negotiation did the Vatican agree to the new name, provided that the new title be followed by the sentence: “This title is to be interpreted as: the Conference of Leaders of Congregations of Women Religious of the United States of America.”
In the US bishops’ conference, some bishops suggested that they discontinue their liaison committee with the LCWR because the conference had changed its name, nature, membership, and statutes. One bishop even noted that the superiors’ conference was now defunct because it had dissolved itself and morphed into a different entity, but some sympathetic hierarchy smoothed over the differences. Many more disagreements with the Vatican and the bishops would occur over the years, some of which followed the pattern of a leadership that did not consult its members before taking controversial stands.
THE NEW AGENDA
The LCWR assembly in 1972 featured a canon lawyer who spoke on “Religious Communities as Providential Gift for the Liberation of Women” and suggested that women bring lawsuits against the Church in both civil and Church courts and stage economic boycotts of parish churches.
At the LCWR 1974 annual assembly, the membership approved a resolution calling for “all ministries in the church [to] be open to women and men as the Spirit calls them.” Also in 1974, the LCWR published the book Widening the Dialogue, a response to Evangelica Testificatio, the Pope’s exhortation on renewal of religious life. The LCWR book was highly critical of the Pope’s teachings and was used by the LCWR in workshops for sisters.
When the first Women’s Ordination Conference was being organized in 1975, the LCWR president appointed a sister as liaison to the group planning the event. The Vatican curial office overseeing religious subsequently directed the LCWR to dissociate itself from the ordination conference, but the LCWR officers refused, and the sister went on to become coordinator of the organizing task force for the event.
At the 1977 assembly, the new LCWR president, Sister Joan Doyle, BVM, related that sisters were moving into “socio-political ministries” in or out of Church institutions, and she called for women’s involvement in decision-making at every level of the Church, as well as “active participation in all aspects of the church’s ministry.” It was during the 1970s that the LCWR board voted to join the National Organization for Women’s boycott of convention sites in states that had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, and the board obtained NGO status for the LCWR at the United Nations.
The 1978 LCWR publication Patterns in Obedience and Authority reported tensions both within religious congregations and between congregations and the US hierarchy: “US women religious and bishops often appear to have significantly different awarenesses, interpretations, and acceptance of new insights deriving from recent church teaching and the human sciences. There are differing concepts and expectations of authority, of the structures and processes of decision-making; differing images of religious life; differing ideas of ministry and minister.”
As president of the LCWR in 1979, Sister Theresa Kane, RSM, was selected to represent US women religious in greeting Pope John Paul II on his first visit to this country. Even though the Pope had recently reiterated the Church teaching that ordination is reserved to men, Sister Theresa included in her public greeting a demand for including women in all ministries in the Church. Her action caused a further rift within the LCWR, and even more members quit the conference.
As Pope John Paul II became increasingly concerned about religious life in the US, in 1983 he appointed a commission to evaluate American religious life, and he approved a document of guidelines titled Essential Elements in Church Teaching on Religious Life. It broke no new ground, but simply summarized some key elements of religious life. Nevertheless, the LCWR was very vocal in repudiating the document.
For the 1985 LCWR assembly, Mercy Sister Margaret Farley, RSM, was invited to be a featured speaker. She was one of 40 religious who had signed a 1984 statement published in the New York Times that claimed more than one legitimate Catholic position on abortion, and she had not yet resolved her situation with the Vatican, which had directed the religious signers to recant. The US bishops’ conference and the Vatican asked the LCWR to withdraw the invitation to Sister Margaret, but the leaders refused to do so. Consequently, both Archbishop John Quinn and the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Pio Laghi, also scheduled to speak at the assembly, cancelled their appearances.
The 1988 LCWR publication Claiming Our Truth further revealed the LCWR’s socio/political agenda and highlighted the LCWR concept of religious life, declaring that sisters are “moving from maintaining existing structures to creating alternatives,” are seeking “new patterns of relating to church hierarchy,” including working for “patterns of mutual accountability with structures for responsible dissent,” and laboring for “the ongoing conversion and continual transformation of our society and our church.” This activity, the book states, may often put sisters “in conflict with established centers of power in society and church,” and “fidelity to society and church may, at times, mean loyal dissent.”
This view of religious life was reflected in the five-year goals and objectives of the LCWR for 1989-1994, which included the goal, “To develop structures of solidarity with women in order to work for the liberation of women through the transformation of social and ecclesial structures and relationships.”
Further transformation was urged in a document developed at the joint LCWR-Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) assembly in 1989 and published in a brochure titled “Transformative Elements for Religious Life in the Future.” The elements were never voted on by the membership, but the LCWR has continued to encourage their discussion within religious communities. Among the more startling “elements” is one predicting that by 2010, religious communities will be ecumenical and open to married couples and people of different genders and sexual orientation, and vows will be optional.
In an unprecedented move, in 1992 the Vatican canonically erected an alternate superiors’ conference for US women superiors who were increasingly reluctant to maintain any formal connection with the LCWR. The LCWR was quite unhappy about approval of the new Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, and complained to the Vatican that approving the alternate conference was “contrary to a primary function of leadership—to promote unity and understanding.” (Superiors from about 10 percent of the women’s orders now belong to the alternate conference.)
Speakers at the 1993 LCWR assembly continued to distance women religious from the Church. Sister Mary Ann Donovan, SC, noted that “women find their efforts to live the varying forms of religious life complicated both by the view of women proper to a given society, and by the conservative nature of ecclesiastical law and custom.” Sister Margaret Brennan, IHM, a former LCWR president, said in her address that “Religious are a global movement, not just a religious phenomenon; they have a message and mission from and for the world and not merely an agenda from or for any one church.”
THE HOMOSEXUALITY ISSUE
Also in 1993, the national board of the LCWR issued a statement, “Concerning the Rights of Gay and Lesbian Persons.” That statement charged, “Recent Church documents invoke religious principles to justify discrimination against homosexual persons.” This no doubt referred to a 1992 background paper from the CDF intended for bishops but leaked to the press and misinterpreted. Also ongoing at the time was a Vatican-commissioned evaluation of public statements and activities of Father Robert Nugent, SDS, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, SND, co-founders of New Ways Ministry, an outreach to homosexual persons that had been banned in some dioceses because of its flawed philosophies.
After an 11-year study of the work of these two religious, the Vatican in 1999 permanently prohibited them from any further pastoral work involving homosexuals because: “The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church.” Father Nugent accepted this disciplinary decision, but Sister Jeannine did not, and the LCWR rushed to her defense.
At the 1999 assembly, where the theme was “Change at the heart of it all,” the LCWR passed a special resolution regarding the Gramick case, complaining about “a pattern in the exercise of ecclesiastical authority experienced as a source of suffering and division by many within the Catholic community.” The LCWR leadership then laid out a one-year plan to engage the bishops and the Vatican on the issue.
LCWR past president Sister Camille D’Arienzo, RSM wrote in the LCWR 2000 annual report that, in speaking to Vatican officials, the LCWR leadership found it necessary to interpret cultural differences in their discussion about Sister Jeannine’s notification. “Homosexuality is often a subject of conversation in the US, but not necessarily in other countries or the Vatican,” she explained. Similarly, “questioning and disagreement are acceptable interactions in our society, but in other settings they may be seen as disloyalty.” And referring to the visit to the Vatican, she further opined: “There are times when we question the significance of supporting a structure that is so foreign to our commitment to right relationships, to our expression of a living faith and to our desire for an inclusive Church.”
The year of lobbying and “dialogue” with the hierarchy about the Vatican’s discipline of Sister Jeannine Gramick culminated in the LCWR August 2000 assembly. In her presidential address, Sister Nancy Sylvester talked about LCWR’s “tension and conflict” with the Vatican, stating, “We believe in the power to change unjust structures and laws. We respect loyal dissent.” She continued that the sisters had been “disappointed, frustrated, angered, and deeply saddened by official responses that seem authoritarian, punitive, disrespectful of our legitimate authority as elected leaders, and disrespectful of our capacity to be moral agents.” She then presented what she called a “casualty list” sustained from dealings with Church officials. That list of injuries included: sisters who had signed the New York Times 1984 abortion statement; the 1995 Vatican letter on the ordination of women; theologians and scholars who had been silenced by the Church; the canonical approval of the alternate superiors’ conference; and the CDF discipline of Sister Jeannine Gramick. In conclusion, Sister Nancy observed: “I do believe that we are at an impasse with the official church that we love,” and she speculated about whether the Vatican would de-legitimize the LCWR.
THE CDF AND LCWR
The events of the previous few years no doubt set the stage for the CDF to give the LCWR leadership a doctrinal warning in 2001. No public indication was given then that the CDF met with LCWR leaders about doctrinal concerns, but the LCWR leaders’ determination to reform the institutional Church through “loyal dissent” remained very public. In fact, the 2009 CDF notification reportedly indicated that the tenor and doctrinal content of addresses given at LCWR annual assemblies since the 2001 CDF-LCWR meeting were evidence that the doctrinal problems continue.
In the LCWR 2001 annual report, Sister Mary Mollisson, CSA, LCWR president, reiterated the long-held conference strategy to keep “dialoging” with Church authorities to keep the issues open. She wrote: “In keeping with our desire for right relationships among church officials and members of the Conference, the Presidency continues a dialogue with bishops and Vatican officials. We approach this dialogue with a sense of urgency and with a passion to stay in conversations that will decrease the tension between doctrinal adherence and the pastoral needs of marginalized people. We also continue to express our desire for women to be involved in more decision-making within church structures. The risk of this part of our journey is being misunderstood and being perceived as unfaithful to the Magisterium of the church.” And she characterized Church officials as just not comprehending the sisters’ message: “Understanding of authority, obedience, communal discernment, and the prophetic nature of religious need further conversations.”
The LCWR national board agreed in 2002 to write letters of support to New Ways Ministry and chose as the theme for that year’s assembly “Leadership in Dynamic Tension.” In her presidential address to the assembly, Sister Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP continued the LCWR mantra that the Church needed to be reformed, and that LCWR sisters were the very people to do it: “The challenge to us, how best to speak clearly, to act effectively to bring about necessary change, reform, renewal, and healing within our wounded world, our nation, among ourselves, and particularly in our church.… Call for change or reform of structures, modes, and methods of acting that perpetuate exclusivity, secrecy, lack of honesty and openness, all of which foster inappropriate exercise of power, is tension-filled.”
A LCWR press release after the 2003 assembly reported that “LCWR president Sister Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM challenged the [LCWR] leaders to maximize the potential to create change that is inherent in religious life. ‘We have uncovered within ourselves the power most necessary for the creation, salvation, and resurrection of our church, our world, and our earth. It is the power of relationship, of our sisterhood with all that is. This power is prophetic; it is the most radical act of dissent.’”
In 2004, the LCWR assembly was held jointly with the Conference of Major Superiors of Men. At that event, Father Michael H. Crosby, OFMCap. spoke on “Religious: A Prophetic Voice in the Midst of a Violent World.” He expanded the definition of violence to include “the sinful, structural, and systemic violence that has come to be canonized in a certain understanding of holiness that is increasingly promoted by the highest clerics and their house prophets in our own church.” And he noted that many of the religious at the assembly consider some of the teachings of the Magisterium to be “unjust, violent, and sinful.” He told the group: “We have not been public enough in our protest of patriarchy,” and he accused the “‘official’ patriarchal” Church of “unjustifiable violence against women, and, I would also say, against gays.”
Also in 2004, the LCWR published An Invitation to Systems Thinking: An Opportunity to Act for Systemic Change, a handbook for religious orders. One of the issues addressed in that booklet is the fact that some sisters, schooled in “a holistic, organic view of the world” and in “process, liberationist, and feminist theologies…believe that the celebration of Eucharist is so bound up with a church structure caught in negative aspects of the Western mind they can no longer participate with a sense of integrity.” The views of these sisters, the booklet advises, must be respected.
At the 2005 assembly, LCWR President Sister Christine Vladimiroff, OSB declared: “The future of religious life is in our hands to shape for those who will follow us.” Sister Christine showed similar independence from the Church in 2001 when, as prioress of her order, she refused a directive from the Vatican to tell one of her sisters, Sister Joan Chittister, to decline an invitation to give a talk at the Women’s Ordination Worldwide conference in Dublin, Ireland.
The same Sister Joan Chittister, a former president of the LCWR, gave the keynote address at the 2006 LCWR assembly, telling the sisters: “If we proclaim ourselves to be ecclesial women we must ask if what we mean by that is that we will do what the men of the church tell us to do or that we will do what the people of the church need to have us do.”
The presidential address at that 2006 meeting was given by LCWR president Sister Beatrice Eichten, OSF, who noted: “We religious have shifted from being ‘obedient daughters’ and a religious work force to being adult educated women with a mature identity who believe we have something to say about our church, its teaching and its practice. This shift has strained our relationship with the hierarchical church, where we experience the pain of often being invisible, relegated to third class status, and absent at the table of decision.
“…We are challenged to keep open the door of dialogue with the hierarchical church, as we continue to ‘claim responsibility for determining [our] own identity and the meaning of religious life.’”
In accepting the LCWR 2007 Outstanding Leadership Award, Sister Joan Chittister again repeated her complaint that “women leaders have been kept out of leadership in church and state for no good reason for far too long.” And she repeated the LCWR goal of transforming religious life: “…we ourselves are now the new small groups of women leaders who must come from one kind of religious life to begin another kind in a new and different world.”
“GROWN BEYOND” RELIGION
Perhaps the most startling talk at that 2007 LCWR assembly was the keynote address by Sister Laurie Brink, OP. Sister Laurie said that some religious communities were “sojourning,” and such a group is “no longer ecclesiastical,” having “grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion.… Religious titles, institutional limitations, ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is Post-Christian.” And she went on to observe about this kind of community: “Who’s to say that the movement beyond Christ is not, in reality, a movement into the very heart of God?”
Sister Laurie also predicted a “coming conflagration” for the American Catholic Church because of a hierarchy out of touch with the faithful: “Lay ecclesial ministers are feeling disenfranchised. Catholic theologians are denied academic freedom. Religious and lay women feel scrutinized simply because of their biology. Gays and lesbians desire to participate as fully human, fully sexual Catholics within their parishes.”
A keynote speaker for the joint LCWR-CMSM 2008 assembly was Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, who complained about “patriarchal values that, by any objective measure, relegate women to second-class status governed by male-dominated structures, law, and ritual.” And she went on to compare the Church hierarchy to the prodigal son, saying that Church officials should apologize to dissident members who reject the teachings and authority of the Catholic Church.
In her presidential address at that assembly, LCWR President Sister Mary Whited, CPPS compared the institutional Church to the Old Testament Pharaoh who enslaved the people and led an oppressive regime. And she compared the LCWR to Old Testament midwives, who refused to act on Pharaoh’s orders so that they could bring new life and hope to the people.
The Vatican obviously took note of these public declarations, and the LCWR leadership reportedly received the letter from the CDF notifying them of the doctrinal assessment on March 10, 2009. Yet the LCWR leadership did not inform their members until April 2. In a public statement later in April, the leadership indicated surprise and disappointment with the Vatican decision, and insisted they want to continue to “dialogue.”
However, with sisters openly saying that some religious orders are post-Christian, with some sisters boycotting the Eucharist, and with LCWR leaders insisting that they have a role in determining Church teaching, the marathon dialogue may be reaching the finish line.
Ann Carey is the author of Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities. This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of CWR.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico enacted a controversial law on Thursday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs while encouraging government-financed treatment for drug dependency free of charge.
The law sets out maximum “personal use” amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities will no longer face criminal prosecution; the law goes into effect on Friday.
Anyone caught with drug amounts under the personal-use limit will be encouraged to seek treatment, and for those caught a third time treatment is mandatory — although no penalties for noncompliance are specified.
Mexican authorities said the change only recognized the longstanding practice here of not prosecuting people caught with small amounts of drugs.
The maximum amount of marijuana considered to be for “personal use” under the new law is 5 grams — the equivalent of about four marijuana cigarettes. Other limits are half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams of LSD.President Felipe Calderón waited months before approving the law.
From Matt C. Abbott:
Below is the English translation of the E. Michael Jones interview:
1. According to a report issued by the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI had defrocked the Catholic priest Tomislav Vlasic, responsible for establishing a cult of Our Lady in Medjugorje in Herzegovina. This happened 28 years after the first Medjugorje apparition and raises many questions. First, and as is known, the question of Medjugorje has been neglected by Vatican for such a long time. Does the new Pope have some new visions about this phenomena or some new facts, that is what has made him make such a decision?
Jones: No, I don't think there has been any new information about Medjugorje for at least ten years. The main difference is the pope himself. When I met with then-ordinary of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, Bishop Pavao Zanic, in 1988, he told me that Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, was in complete agreement that the so-called apparitions of Medjugorje were a hoax orchestrated by the renegade order of Franciscans in his diocese. Bishop Zanic then told me that he presented the same evidence to Pope John Paul II. 'And what did the pope say?' I asked. 'The pope said nothing,' Zanic replied. This confirms what I learned in my meetings with Cardinal Ratzinger. He was convinced that Medjugorje was a hoax from the beginning. The main reason for the inactivity in Rome was Pope John Paul II. The main reason for recent activity is Pope Benedict XVI, not new evidence.
2. Stripping of rank is the most severe punishment for severe crimes. In this case they have been tolerated for 28 years. In the Middle Ages one could easily be burnt at the stake... Does the pope's decision mean that Vatican is determined to stop the whole story about Medjugorje or just to punish one of its culprits, one big Franciscan businessman?
Jones: I think this is the first step in the Vatican's campaign to de-legitimatize Medjugorje. Anyone familiar with the story knows that the apparitions were the creation of two Franciscan priests: Tomislav Vlasic and Jozo Zovko. Children do not create world-wide movements generating millions of dollars a year in revenue.
3. What do you expect to happen next?
Jones: When the true story gets out, bishops across the world will begin to ban the 'seers' from their dioceses. This has already happened in the Diocese of Joliet, outside of Chicago. Ivan Dragicevic cannot longer show up in parishes their and fleece unsuspecting Catholics of their money.
4. How will the Croatian bishopric react?
Jones: The Croatian bishops in general will say that the findings on Vlasic confirm their verdict of 'non constat supernaturalite,' which was handed down in 1990. Bishop Ratko Peric will say that the defrocking of Father Vlasic will confirm what he and the late Bishop Pavao Zanic have said all along. Medjugorje was the invention of a renegade and rebellious group of Franciscan priests who have used this hoax to enrich themselves financially at the expense of unity in the Church and of good relations with the Orthodox.
5. Apart from Franciscans, some other monastic orders have also supported Medjugorje. What will happen to them?
Jones: Juridically, nothing will happen, but there will be widespread disillusionment when the denial that has been going on for so long becomes impossible to maintain any longer. Bishop Zanic said that the ultimate fruits of Medjugorje will be division and disillusionment in the Church.
6. Medjugorje has to do with abuse of the psychological and spiritual state of the people from the areas suffering from poverty and faced with various turbulences. It was easy to manipulate with them, as testified by the earliest historical events all over the globe. In this case, huge amount of money were at stake, people even bequeathed their inheritances to the church, leaving their families without them. How will this problem be solved?
Jones: If you're talking about donations to the rebellious Franciscans of Caplinja, Siroki Brijeg, Medjugorje, etc, those assets are held by the Franciscans in trust for the Church and could be appropriated by the bishop of Mostar. Whether they can be returned to the people who gave them under false pretenses is another matter. However, the real issue here is not Church law. The real issue is police enforcement of the law. When Bishop Peric when to Caplinja to talk to the rebellious priests there, he was physically assaulted. Neither the Vatican nor the bishop has a police force that can enforce canon law.
7. If we look back, we can see that all through the history and in many regions, during turbulent times, social crises, insecurity, spiritual fall... take place, there are many more such things and phenomena attributed as miracles, salvation, etc. People believe in seeing saints on tree barks, there are stones in churches and monasteries which are only to be touched and one is saved from all troubles and sufferings... Does this happen today in developed and peaceful countries?
Jones: It depends on what you mean by developed and peaceful countries. It certainly has happened in the United States. Why it happened is a matter of conjecture. In my book The Medjugorje Deception, I claim that Medjugorje was one of the sequelae to the cultural revolution which took place in the United States in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. When confronted with a Church that seemed determined to destroy itself, many Catholics sought refuge in what seemed to be a reassuring message which came directly from the Blessed Mother. The result of the Church's inadequate response to modernity was a host of phony apparitions, and of the Medjugorje was the most famous, largely because it corresponded in time to the Reagan Administration's eventually successful crusade against Communism.
8. None of the pilgrims to Medjugorje have ever seen anything; there is always some medium who can see the Virgin Mary, whereas a large crowd of people 'communicate' with her, believe in what they actually don't see. Visions can be hallucinations rather than actual seeing, but all this goes so far so that the medium is glorified. What will happen to those media? It could happen that they now claim that they have seen Gospa again sending word to the Pope to bring the Franciscan back...
Jones: First of all, I disagree with you when you say that the pilgrims who have gone to Medjugorje have ever seen anything. Shortly after the publication of The Medjugorje Deception, I got a call from a Unitarian from Boston who had gone to Medjugorje with a number of pious Italian ladies from Boston. He then related the following incident: While standing in his room waiting to go down to dinner, he saw a naked woman walk through the open doorway to his room. She then walked across the room and then walked through the wall. Medjugorje, I learned from a priest who heard confessions there for years, is infested with evil spirits. This charge came out one year ago when the bishop of Mostar released his dossier on Tomislav Vlasic. In addition to sexual improprieties, Vlasic was also guilty of trafficking in spirits. Hence, the demonic infestation at Medjugorje. As St. John of the Cross said, 'The devil rejoices when people seek private revelations.' That is so because they are so easy to fabricate.
9. Based on some talks with some Croats and some reports, it can be concluded that Medjugorje is a mass movement which, on a subconscious level, excuses the bloody things done, mostly, against Serbs, but also against Gypsies and Jews, unfortunately, by certain number of Croats known as Ustashas? What is your opinion about this?
Jones: There are many levels to the Medjugorje phenomenon, and one of them may very well be the collective guilt which the village felt because of its role in the massacre of Surmanci, which took place just on the other side of the apparition hill. There were also numerous links between the Medjugorje branch of the Franciscans and the Ustashe. I personally saw the pictures of Ustashe soldiers on the wall of the monastery at Siroki Brijeg when I visited there. Jozo Zovko deliberately injected a political note into the apparitions when he put the grb on the altar during the early celebrations of Mass at the time of the first apparitions in 1981.
10. What is your opinion about the fact that some Croatian government officials have neglected, or even supported, Medjugorje? What is the importance of such a political support?
Jones: Medjugorje was a crucial element in the resurgence of Croatian nationalism which led to the break-up of Yugoslavia. After the break-up the late Franjo Tudjman went to Medjugorje. From a nationalist point of view, it didn't matter whether the apparitions were genuine or not. What mattered was whether they could be mobilized politically. I do not know how the current Croatian government feels about Medjugorje or the still significant tourist revenues which it brings in. But I do know that in places like Split whenever I talked to Franciscans, I encountered skepticism about the apparitions. Medjugorje is an operation of one particular group of Franciscans who have had a long history of rebellious behavior and who are a disgrace to the Catholic Church.
11. What do we do with Medjugorje? What do we do with the fraud lasting for 28 years now?
Jones: All we can do is to continue to tell the truth. My hope is that the recognition of the truth about Medjugorje at the highest level of the Catholic Church will lead to reconciliation — particularly between Catholics and Orthodox in the Balkans — and the healing of the wounds which this hoax has caused.
12. What you claimed 20 years ago and what you have proven in your book has been justified at the highest place by the Holy See. A nice satisfaction for your long-lasting work. How do you feel about it?
Jones: I believe that the truth is great and that it will prevail. But in the meantime 28 years of inactivity on the part of Rome has allowed this lie to take root in parishes all across America (and in Europe as well). Uprooting that error after so many years of negligence is going to be a formidable task. On a personal level, I live in a diocese which allows advertisements for pilgrimages to Medjugorje to run in its diocesan newspaper. I live in a diocese which writes positive articles about each year's Medjugorje conference, also held in this diocese. The local bishop in fact was scheduled to concelebrate Mass with Jozo Zovko, even though Zovko's faculties had been suspended by both Bishop Peric and Bishop Zanic. So in terms of the local church, there is no recognition whatsoever on the part of the clergy or the laity that I was right about Medjugorje. Whether that will change is something I cannot predict, but as Christians we are told not to look for vindication in this life. Our reward is in heaven.