Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Pope to U.S. bishops: reform of Catholic universities the ‘most urgent challenge’

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, May 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Against a backdrop of institutionalized opposition to Catholic teaching in much of American Catholic academia, Pope Benedict XVI has told visiting U.S. bishops that Catholic colleges need to return to being a bastion of orthodoxy against an increasingly hostile and aggressive secular world.

While improvements have been made, Pope Benedict said, “much remains to be done,” particularly in “such basic areas” as compliance with Canon 812 of the Code of Canon Law. That section mandates that theology professors at Catholic universities be faithful to the teaching of the Church.

Canon 218 says, “Those who are engaged in the sacred disciplines enjoy a lawful freedom of inquiry and of prudently expressing their opinions on matters in which they have expertise, while observing due respect for the magisterium of the Church.”

This lack of progress, the pope said, has created confusion by “instances of apparent dissidence” between academics and the bishops. “Such discord harms the Church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom.”

The issue of religious freedom is at the top of the American bishops’ agenda at the moment, in the midst of their fight against the Obama administration’s attempt to mandate coverage of artificial birth control by Catholic institutions. Even as the U.S. bishops have fought the Obama mandate, prominent Catholic organizations have expressed their support, undercutting the efforts of the bishops. Most recently Georgetown University, a Catholic Jesuit university, invited Kathleen Sebelius, who as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services was the architect of the birth control mandate, as a commencement speaker.

The pope called the need to reform Catholic academia the “most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community” in the U.S.

“Catholic identity, not least at the university level, entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus.

“All too often, it seems, Catholic schools and colleges have failed to challenge students to reappropriate their faith,” Benedict continued.

In the decades since the 1960s, most Catholic universities and colleges in the U.S., and around the world, have shifted their focus from being bastions of Catholic orthodoxy against the outside world’s secularism, to playing along with the zeitgeist, especially in areas of sexual morality. Most critics agree that this shift in Catholic academia was the source and engine of the more general shift in the same direction throughout the Church’s institutions and among the laity.

In recent years, this shift toward a secularist orientation has shown itself prominently in Catholic academia’s quiet, or even open support first for contraception use, then legal abortion, homosexual behaviour and most recently euthanasia.

The scramble of American Catholic academia away from Church teaching on sexual matters began to be seen in public in 1967 when Fr. Charles Curran, a former theological advisor or “peritus” at the Second Vatican Council, was re-instated at his tenured professorship at Catholic University of America (CUA) after having been sacked for opposing Catholic teaching on artificial contraception.

Curran, who was barred by the Vatican from teaching Catholic theology and now teaches at a Methodist university, became a herald of the new, updated and heavily secularized version of Catholicism when in 1968, he, together with 600 other theologians, authored an open letter formally dissenting from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on contraception, Humanae Vitae.

This new, and increasingly popular version of Catholicism became highly fashionable, first at CUA, the American Catholic Church’s flagship educational institution, then throughout most of the Church’s most prominent colleges, seminaries and convents. From there, the idea of the “loyal dissenter” in the Catholic intellectual establishment spread out into the political world, leading finally to the advent of the “pro-choice” Catholic politicians who now represent the majority of Catholics in public life.

In the current, highly politicized climate since the reaction of the U.S. bishops against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, some Catholic colleges are starting to pull back from full support for the secularist agenda.

In an address to Catholic academic loyalists at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) President Patrick J. Reilly said that a return to Catholic orthodoxy, far from being a retreat to the “Catholic ghetto,” would create a strong line of defense for religious liberty in the U.S.

“There is little question that the apparent hypocrisy of some Catholic colleges, charities, schools and other entities—which may dissent from church teachings, or may have watered down their religious identity in search of state and federal funds—reduces public sympathy for groups whose rights are threatened,” Reilly said.
 
“There is no question that the threats to Catholics’ religious liberty are wrong. But it is the failure of the Church to respond adequately to dissent, to clearly distinguish Catholic from secular identity, that endangers even the most faithful Catholic apostolates by feeding suspicion in a culture already suspicious of the Church,” he continued.

Reilly’s remarks are in line with Pope Benedict’s previous messages to visiting American bishops this year. Speaking to the bishops of Baltimore and Washington in January, the pope said, “The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.”

He noted that the founding American political “consensus” of political, social and religious liberty, “has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents” that are “directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition” and “increasingly hostile to Christianity as such”.


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

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By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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