Fr. Peter West

A Benedictine response to the Culture of Death

Fr. Peter West
By Fr. Peter West
Image

July 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On July 11, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Benedict of Nursia – the founder and patron of Western Monasticism.  St. Benedict (ca. 480 to 547 AD) was born in the small village in the high mountains northeast of Rome. His parents sent him to study in Rome, but he fled the city to live in the remote area of Subiaco because he was disgusted by the decadence of his fellow students. 

Soon after, St. Benedict was discovered by a group of monks who asked him to be their leader. He reluctantly accepted, but his leadership was too rigorous for the lukewarm monks. They even tried to kill him by offering him a pitcher of poisoned wine; but as the story goes, when he prayed over it, the pitcher miraculously shattered in his hands. St. Benedict left the “unruly” monks and went on to establish twelve other monasteries in the area before moving to Monte Cassino on a hilltop between Rome and Naples in 529 A.D.  There he destroyed a pagan temple dedicated to Apollo and built the monastery where he wrote his Rule and lived until his death. The Rule of St. Benedict is still used in many monasteries and convents today.

Pope Gregory the Great in his Dialogues presented St. Benedict as a “luminous star” who led humanity out of the “black night of history.”  St. Benedict lived in a time when the Roman Empire had collapsed.  Civilization was in ruins. It is said that the Benedictine monks brought civilization to Europe through “the cross, the book and the plow.”  Benedictine monks built monasteries where learning and ancient manuscripts were preserved for the ages. What we think of as the Christian culture of Europe is very much indebted to these monks whose monasteries were centers of piety and learning in medieval times.

In our times we might be able to identify with a civilization in ruins, or at least a civilization that appears to be hurtling toward ruin. Many, including and perhaps especially such Catholics as Melinda Gates, have abandoned the Christian faith and culture that St. Benedict was so essential to spreading, and human life is under attack in unprecedented ways. In these times, we need to call on St. Benedict’s intercession and ask for his intercession to point us out of the darkness of the culture of death and help us reform society.

Pope John Paul II said that St. Benedict’s vision for the reform of society included three main ideas: the value of the individual, as a person; the dignity of work, understood as service of God and brothers; and the necessity of contemplation, that is of prayer: having understood that God is the Absolute, and we live in the Absolute, the soul of everything must be prayer: “Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus.” [That in all things God may be glorified.] 

The challenges are great. Europe is dying in large part because it has abandoned the Christian culture on which it was founded and has embraced a neo-pagan ideology.  Fewer and fewer Europeans are having children. Even worse, Europeans are trying to spread their anti-natalist ideology around the world. 

Case in point: a summit will be held in London today sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who are announcing a massive project to spread contraception in the developing world.  It is clear that while Melinda Gates has called her campaign “No Controversy,” many other countries, especially Catholic and Islamic countries, think her campaign is very controversial. 

Many Muslims, like many Christians in the developing world, justly see population control as a new form of imperialism. Indeed, early in the population control movement, before the destructive ideology was wrapped in the language of “reproductive health” and “sustainability,” population control advocates were much more open about their aims. In 1929, British atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in his book Marriage and Morals: “It cannot be expected that the most powerful military nations will sit still while other nations reverse the balance of power by the mere process of breeding.”

There are too many examples of such blatant eugenic imperialism to list here, although now the same practice is ironically cloaked in the more deceptive language of “justice” and “women’s health.”

In the face of such challenges, we need to embrace the Benedictine motto Ora et Labora [Pray and Work] as we seek to restore that a Christian civilization of life and love.

St. Benedict wrote in his Rule “Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to bring it to perfection.”  He said that nothing should be preferred to Opus Dei [The Work of God], which is what he called the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office. 
Both prayer and work are essential in rebuilding Christian culture and overcoming the culture of death. 

The Founder of Human Life International was Father Paul Marx, O.S.B. – a Benedictine monk who also was called to evangelize. As both a scientist and a man of faith he pointed out, even at a time when many clergy were in open rebellion against Humanae Vitae, that a contraceptive mentality inevitably leads to abortion and other assaults on life.

Fr. Marx in his 1993 book The Warehouse Priest laid out the case for supporting the Holy Father’s prophetic encyclical, saying that the Church must:

consistently proclaim that abortion is the fruit of contraception, that foresight contraception often leads to hindsight abortion, and that massive contraception has caused increasing abortion worldwide. Having visited and studied eighty-five countries, I challenge any bishop, priest, professor, or scientist to show me the contrary. Abortion is the end point of the abuse of sex, which begins with the unleashing of the sexual urge by contraception. (Page 262)

In 2004, Father Marx said that euthanasia is now following abortion just as surely as the latter followed contraception: “If you can be killed before birth, why not after?”  Noting that pro-lifers have been dismissed as foolish for making those claims, he continued: “It becomes more evident every day that you’re right… Europe is dying out. The United States is growing only because of immigration.”

Ora et Labora. We have to continue to pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on us. Melinda Gates’ new eugenics campaign is a challenge to all of us, we must spend time in prayer and allow Him to form our hearts and minds, so that we may think and respond in accordance with His will.

St. Benedict, pray for the conversion of those who have rejected their faith and are working to promote a culture of death.  You destroyed the Temple of Apollo and built the magnificent monastery of Monte Cassino. Help us to follow your example of work and prayer. Pray that the defenders of life and family will be successful in our mission to defeat the culture of death and build a culture of life!

Father Peter West is vice president for missions of Human Life International, the world’s largest international pro-life organization.

Support hard-hitting pro-life and pro-family journalism.

Donate to LifeSite's fall campaign today


Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Shutterstock.com
Lisa Bourne

, ,

Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

Click "like" to support Catholics Restoring the Culture!

However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Diven Family / GoFundMe.com
Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

‘His bones are basically like paper’: Parents refuse to abort baby with rare condition

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
By Kirsten Anderson

At just 11 weeks old, little Layton Diven is not like other babies. Every time his parents pick him up or cuddle him, there is a chance they will break his bones. In fact, Layton has already suffered more than 20 fractures in his short life – beginning at the moment of his birth.

Layton has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a rare disease that makes his bones brittle and prone to breakage. There are several types of OI, and Layton’s type, OI Type III, is the most severe type found among infants. Most babies born with the disease, like Layton, are born with multiple fractures, especially along the rib cage. Many struggle to breathe or swallow. The incurable disease is progressive, so it will get worse as he gets older.

Layton was diagnosed with OI in the womb, but abortion wasn’t an option for his parents, Chad and Angela Diven, who considered their baby a gift from God, no matter his condition.

“We weren't going to have an abortion, so he was born with the disease,” Angela Diven told KSLA. “God chose me for him, to be his mom, so I have to take that huge responsibility and do what's best for him.”

That responsibility comes with a heavy price. Layton requires 24-hour care, but both Angela and Chad have full-time jobs. He can’t go to regular daycare, because it’s not safe for him.

“You can't just pick him up like a normal baby,” Diven said. “You can't dress him like a normal child; his bones are basically like paper. He can't go to daycare because of his condition. He's medically fragile, and a daycare can't handle him."

Childcare costs are just the beginning, though – the treatments Layton will need throughout his life are expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Layton is currently receiving pamidronate IV therapy, which will help to strengthen his bones. But in order to be able to stand or walk, he will need metal rods implanted in his legs – an operation that will cost the Divens $80,000. The OI specialist coordinating Layton’s care is in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Divens live in Louisiana. As he grows, Layton will also require special equipment, such as a wheelchair, along with extensive physical therapy.

Despite the hardships they knew would come, the Divens stepped out in faith to bring Layton into the world. Now, they are reaching out to the internet for help to shoulder the financial burdens that came with their baby blessing. The family has set up both a GoFundMe and a Facebook page called “Lifting Up Layton Diven,” where people can receive updates on Layton’s condition and contribute to the cost of his care.

To donate to baby Layton’s medical trust fund, click here.

Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry
By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

Click "like" to support Catholics Restoring the Culture!

Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

Share this article

Advertisement

Customize your experience.

Login with Facebook