Izabella Parowicz

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Cardinal Burke on faith, the right to life, and the family: English exclusive

Izabella Parowicz

Editor’s note: The following interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura, by Izabella Parowicz was conducted in English January 7, 2014 and originally published in Polish by Polonia Christiana magazine (http://www.pismo.poloniachristiana.pl). It is republished exclusively here in English with permission.

1. Your Eminence, is it at all possible to be partially Catholic? Frequently we hear statements like: “I am Catholic but...” To what extent are Catholics allowed to compromise when it comes to defending human life, marriage and family? 

The notion of “partial Catholicism” is a contradiction in terms, which reflects the current cultural tendency to individualism and relativism, in other words, the tendency to accommodate any reality, without respect for its objective nature, to one’s own thoughts and desires. Catholics who have such a notion of their Catholic faith and practice are sometimes called “cafeteria” Catholics, because they pick and choose what they want to believe and follow from among the Church’s teachings on faith and morals. A true Catholic accepts, without compromise, all the truths which the Church teaches regarding the faith and the moral life.

2. Why is innocence downplayed nowadays? I refer to the life of unborn babies, to children who are psychologically raped during compulsory sex education classes, and to innocence understood as purity of thoughts and (premarital) purity of flesh?

The totally secular agenda, if it is to succeed, must win children and youth to its way of thinking. Education is the ultimate key to its victory in society. The only way to capture children and youth is by usurping the solemn duty of parents and teachers to educate in accord with what is true, good and beautiful. Parents and teachers, who work with parents in the correct education of their children, must necessarily respect totally the period of innocence of children and young people. Respecting that natural innocence which is a reflection of God’s gift of conscience to every child, parents and teachers will prepare children and young people to respond clearly and courageously to those forces which would rob them of their innocence, both from within themselves – due to the effects of original sin – and from outside, for example, from bad companions and from bad communications like pornography on the internet. Parents and teachers should be vigilant that nothing is introduced into the curriculum which violates a child’s innocence and even attempts to instill in the child gravely wrong ways of thinking, for example, a curriculum endorsed by a certain major government which teaches 4 and 5 year olds that marriage can take other forms than the lifelong, faithful and procreative union of one man and one woman.

3. Hippocrates was not a Catholic, yet he swore to his gods the following: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.” Nowadays attacks on human life are becoming stronger and stronger. Even nominally Catholic doctors, who also take (a modern version of) the Hippocratic Oath, tend to take the sacredness of human life lightly and allow solutions which involve killing (i.e. abortion and euthanasia) in order to ensure personal fulfilment, comfort or to eliminate a “problem” of an individual. How can we prevent this intrinsic, disguised evil from spreading further?

The situation you describe is tragically real. Often, I am deeply saddened to see the medical art, which by its nature is directed to the healing and preserving of human life, reduced to a technology of mutilation and death. It is critical to give children, among whom are the future physicians of the world, a solid catechesis, including essential formation in respect for the inviolable dignity of innocent and defenseless life, for the integrity of marriage and the family, and for the free exercise of a rightly-informed conscience. It is also critical to provide occasions for medical doctors and other healthcare professionals to come together for continued education regarding the ethical and religious dimensions of healthcare, and for the building up of their solidarity in the battle against the culture of secularism and death. An excellent example of such a work is the St. Gianna Physician’s Guild which has developed “The St. Gianna Physician’s Guild Catholic Hippocratic Oath."

4. There is a growing pressure being put on Poland to legalize in vitro techniques, public funds have already been allocated to selected hospitals to “help” desperate couples. Catholic doctors who stand up publicly for the human life and do not hesitate to protect it are often referred to as lunatics or fanatics even if they support their position with strong, well-based and honest research. The same label is applied to ordinary people engaged in pro-life activities. What arguments can be used to persuade the red-headed (and frequently confused) minds which do not want to listen to ‘the Papists’?

It is important to underline that the Church’s opposition to “in vitro” techniques for human conception is based on the natural moral law and not on a specifically Catholic precept. In discussing the question publicly, it is important to show how right reason regarding the inviolable dignity of human life and the integrity of human procreation makes the artificial generation of human life, even if for some good purpose, always and everywhere gravely wrong. Regarding the question of “in vitro” fertilization, one should have reference to the Instruction Donum Vitae of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published by order of Blessed John Paul II on February 22, 1987. It presents the foundation of the Church’s teaching in the natural moral law and then addresses specific questions like “in vitro” fertilization.

5. The world today is often contemptuous of numerous families (especially of the “reckless” parents), on the other hand many families try to give their children the best possible upbringing and education and in order to be able to do so (in the time of economic crisis), they decide not to have “too many” children. Undoubtedly, the knowledge of contraceptive methods (whether approved by the Church or not) has influenced the modern family model. How can we promote openness to new life when so many families, also in developed or developing countries, are preoccupied with financial uncertainty? Aren’t also we, Catholics (i.e. Catholic marriages) tainted with a certain fear of having more children? Aren’t we seeking for excuses to justify our closing off to new life? 

Two fundamental ethical and religious principles must be kept in mind. First of all, the conjugal bond is by its very nature procreative. A husband and wife will, therefore, welcome the procreation and education of children as “the crowning glory” of their marital love, to use the words of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (no. 48). Secondly, the procreation and education of children is a most serious responsibility of parents which they exercise with full respect for the nature of human procreation, not employing either devices or chemicals to alter artificially that nature. Pope Paul VI provided for us the perennial teaching of the Church on responsible parenthood in his Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968). Blessed Pope John Paul II devoted his Wednesday audience addresses during the first years of his pontificate to the discussion of marital love and its particular expression in the procreation of offspring. It is instructive to note that Pope Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, makes special reference to Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, underscoring that the teaching in Humanae Vitae is not simply a matter of “individual morality” and that a right understanding of human sexuality is essential to true human development (no. 15). In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, it is necessary “once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person” (no. 44).

In the end, what is essential is to understand that marital love is a sacramental participation in divine love which is pure and selfless, that is, totally generous. Parents, then, while they will take care to provide for what is essential for the correct upbringing of their children, will be generous in accepting every gift of new human life from God, recognizing in the act of procreation a cooperation in the mystery of God’s love which is particularly theirs. In that way, they will teach their children to love in the same way, to accept the sacrifice of material goods for the sake of loving God and neighbor. The contraceptive mentality, which radically distorts the beauty of marriage and family, teaches us to seek material goods above all else and, therefore, to become selfish. It is no wonder that the contraceptive mentality leads individuals to justify in their minds procured abortion, an intrinsically evil act.

6. In the last 50 years the ecclesiastical annulment has become a relatively easy way out of a difficult or inconvenient marriage. Valid reasons for declaring a marriage null and void are often confused with mere excuses to start life anew. There have been cases in which one or both spouses fictitiously change their address to obtain a favourable decision from another, fast acting or more “open-minded” diocese tribunal. It also happens that, while one spouse pushes for the annulment, the other is negative about it and – if the annulment is granted - eventually suffers greatly or even loses faith. Additionally, there seems to be a new market niche for lawyers specialising in these annulment cases. Could Your Eminence offer us some insights into how the highest judicial authorities of the Church prevent the abuse of the institution of the annulment? How can lay people resist the temptation of using the annulment as an “emergency exit” from unbreakable marriage?

The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura has the responsibility to oversee the right administration of justice in the Church. This includes the justice administered by the matrimonial tribunals in the case of the accusation of the nullity of a marriage on the part of one or both parties to the marriage. By means of the process employed at the matrimonial tribunals, a process set forth in the universal law of the Church, the judge or judges arrive at a decision regarding the truth of the claim that a marriage was null from the beginning, even though it appeared to be a valid marriage. The universal law of the Church also establishes the grounds upon which one or both of the parties can make such a claim. The process is directed solely to the discovery of the truth regarding the claim, for only the truth can serve the good of the parties involved. The decision of the tribunal is correctly called a “declaration of nullity,” not an “annulment,” so as not to give the impression that the Church is annulling a valid marriage. The declaration signifies that the judge or judges, by means of a process in which all of the arguments in favor of the validity of the marriage and all of the arguments in favor of the nullity of the marriage have been carefully weighed, have concluded with moral certitude that the marriage was null from the beginning. Moral certitude means that the judge or judges, having weighed all of the arguments – having God only before their eyes – , have no reasonable doubt regarding the nullity. The process also includes the means for parties to seek effective remedies if they believe that the truth is not being served by the process. 

The breakdown of a marriage can be owed to a cause other than the nullity of the marriage consent from the beginning of the marriage. For instance, it can be owed to the sinfulness of one or both of the parties. A party should only make the claim of marriage nullity when he is convinced that his marriage, which he previously thought was valid, was in fact invalid.

Apart from receiving complaints about possible injustices committed at local tribunals, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura also receives an annual report on the status and activity of each matrimonial tribunal. After studying the report, it sends observations to the matrimonial tribunal to assist it to carry out its work more correctly. The Apostolic Signatura also sometimes requests a copy of the definitive decision in a marriage nullity case, in order to verify that justice and, therefore, truth was served in the process leading to the decision. On the other hand, the Apostolic Signatura has the competence to grant certain favors to tribunals for the more efficacious administration of justice.

7. I would like to touch upon the issue of nominally Catholic politicians who act against the teaching of the Church by, for instance, publicly supporting the abortion or the legalisation of homosexual “marriages”. Your Eminence frequently emphasises that these politicians must not be given the Holy Communion so as to avoid the sin of sacrilege. How should priests proceed in order to ensure that this ban fulfils not only a punitive but also a corrective function?

The exclusion of those who persist in manifest and grave sin, after having been duly admonished, from receiving Holy Communion is not a question of a punishment but of a discipline which  respects the objective state of a person in the Church. Even as Saint Paul, in chapter 11 of the First Letter to the Corinthians, admonished the early Christians: “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (v. 29), so also the Church, down the ages, has admonished those engaged in manifest and grave sin not to approach to receive Holy Communion. In the case of a politician or other public figure who acts against the moral law in a grave matter and yet presents himself to receive Holy Communion, the priest should admonish the person in question and then, if he or she persists in approaching to receive Holy Communion, the priest should refuse to give the Body of Christ to the person. The priest’s refusal to give Holy Communion is a prime act of pastoral charity, helping the person in question to avoid sacrilege and safeguarding the other faithful from scandal.

8. The gender ideology poisons in many countries the state politics towards family. It is now brutally forcing entrance into educational systems of several European countries. How should Catholic parents react to elements of gender ideology whether planned or already introduced into the school curricula? Is the Catholic Church able to offer a philosophy of femininity that could counter the narratives proposed by the feminists?

Parents today must be especially vigilant in instructing their children in the truth about human sexuality and in safeguarding them from all of the false messages regarding human sexuality conveyed in the schools and by the communications media. Parents should insist that their children not participate in lessons or activities in school which betray the truth about human nature, male and female. Particularly pernicious is the so-called “gender theory” which is promoted ever more aggressively, especially through educational curricula for children and young people.

In fact, the Church’s Tradition offers a powerful model of true femininity in the Blessed Virgin Mary and in many female saints. Blessed John Paul II addressed the question of true feminism in his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (August 15, 1988).

9. What is Your Eminence’s opinion of the American Catholic universities and their faithfulness towards teaching of the Church? What does Your Eminence think of their acceptance for the so-called birth control policy?                               

Sadly, many Catholic universities in the United States are no longer faithful to Catholic teaching and practice, in contradiction to the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae (August 15, 1990) of Blessed Pope John Paul II. They permit teaching contrary to the doctrine of the faith in various courses, especially courses of philosophy and theology, and allow activities which are directly opposed to the moral law as it is taught in the Catholic Church. There are, however, a few universities which are outstanding for their Catholic identity. Certainly, no Catholic university should teach contraception to the students or provide to them contraceptive services.

10. The policy of the President of the US towards the Christian civilisation becomes more and more aggressive. Does Your Eminence notice any symptoms of Catholic reactions against this policy? If yes, what are they, if not why?

It is true that the policies of the President of the United States of America have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies. Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship, that is, he holds that one is free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions. Such policies would have been unimaginable in the United States even 40 years ago. It is true that many faithful Catholics, with strong and clear leadership from their Bishops and priests, are reacting against the ever-growing religious persecution in the U.S. Sadly, one has the impression that a large part of the population is not fully aware of what is taking place. In a democracy, such a lack of awareness is deadly. It leads to the loss of the freedom which a democratic government exists to protect. It is my hope that more and more of my fellow citizens, as they realize what is happening, will insist on electing leaders who respect the truth of the moral law as it is respected in the founding principles of our nation.

11. I would like to touch upon the issue of legalisation of same-sex “marriages”. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen said: “A religion that does not interfere with the secular order will soon discover that the secular order will not refrain from interfering with it”. The liberal media eagerly support the secular order in this respect. How can public opinion be made aware of the fact that the reason why the Church interferes with these new practices is because the politics has been more and more interfering with the natural law? Can - according to Your Eminence’s opinion – the recent reaction of the French society on the arrogant introduction of the ‘right’ to contract a same-sex‘marriage’ give us hope for a Catholic awakening in Europe?

The issue in question is precisely the natural law, which is the irreplaceable foundation of all legislation. The natural law written upon every human heart, as Saint Paul observes in the Letter to the Romans (2:15), teaches those non-negotiable principles of law without which it makes no sense to speak of justice and love. I refer to respect for the dignity of human life, for the integrity of marriage and the family, and for the exercise of religion. Governments which impose legislation recognizing the relationship of two persons of the same sex as matrimonial violate the natural law, which teaches that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and that the sexual union belongs properly to marriage. The recent response of the citizens of France to such legislation both points to the truth of the natural law and calls the government to reform an unjust law. The logo of Manif pour Tous is powerful; it points to the truth that, according to nature, according to God’s plan for us and our world, a child comes from a father and mother, and needs a father and mother for his or her healthy growth and development. The action of the French has become a model for other nations who are facing or will face similar governmental action. If such gravely unjust legislation is to be corrected, the citizens must be alerted and must be ready to take action by manifesting their firm objection to it.

12. Is there any hope that the evil trend in the US legislation concerning the life protection be reversed? Are the pro-life activists able to act effectively in this matter? Why was the tactics adopted by the abortionists so effective and how can it be successfully countered?

There is hope that the evil anti-life laws of the United States can be overthrown and that the anti-life movement which urges yet more of such legislation can be resisted. The pro-life movement in the United States has been working since 1973 to reverse the unjust decision of the Supreme Court which struck down state laws prohibiting procured abortion. It is true that the Supreme Court decision stands, but it is also true that the pro-life movement has grown ever stronger in the United States, that is, that more and more citizens, especially young citizens, have been awakened to the truth about the grave evil of procured abortion. 

There are a number of reasons why anti-life legislation and decisions of the courts have prevailed in the United States until the present. The forces of secularization have been and remain powerful, and are supported by the greater part of the mass media. There has been a gravely defective catechesis in the United States for several decades, which has left adults and young people ill-equipped to defend the truth of the moral law. There has also been the tendency for the Church to be timid regarding its solemn duty to defend the truth in the public forum, coupled with an erroneous interpretation of the non-establishment clause of the Constitution of the United States. The non-establishment clause prohibits an established religion or religion of the state in the USA, but it does not prohibit the Church from witnessing publicly to the truth. The false interpretation is usually called “the separation of Church and State” and would restrict the activity of the Church exclusively to ecclesiastical matters. These are some of the factors which have favored the anti-life and anti-family movements in the USA.

13. What should countries like Poland do in order not to repeat the mistakes of Western countries (legal acceptance for deviations, giving up the legal life protections, e.g. allowing abortion regardless of the age of the unborn baby)?

Adults, young people and children must be educated about the central moral questions of the day. Education regarding the natural law and its application to current issues is fundamental. For the Church, such education takes place through the Sunday homily, catechetical instruction, Catholic schools and universities, and educational events dedicated to deepening an understanding of the Christian witness demanded of us in our times. In addition to education, the media should be regularly used to present the teaching of the Church. We should not be hesitant to repeat the teaching of fundamental truths. Nothing today can be presumed in terms of moral education. Public manifestations in favor of sound legislation, in accord with the moral law, are also important. We need to demonstrate publicly the strength of our convictions.

14. Unless we truly love God, we will not be able to love our neighbours. How can our worship of God help us stand up in defence of human life?

According to the ancient wisdom of the Church, the law of worship is essentially connected to the law of belief and the law of practice. Christ comes into our midst through the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and of Penance, to cleanse our hearts of sin and to inflame our hearts with His own love through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Only when we have a strong sense of the reality of the encounter with Christ in the Sacred Liturgy will we understand the truths of the faith and the moral life, and what they mean for our daily living. This sense is fostered by a manner of celebrating the Sacred Liturgy with our eyes fixed on Christ and not on ourselves. It should not surprise us that the period of post-Conciliar experimentation with the Sacred Liturgy, a period which was marked by so many liturgical abuses, was accompanied by a loss of faith and by moral decline. If the Sacred Liturgy is seen as a purely human activity, an invention of man, it will no longer be true communion with God and, therefore, will no longer nourish the faith and its practice in everyday living.



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BREAKING: In historic meeting Pope, Russian Patriarch decry abortion, defend traditional marriage

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Feb. 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A joint declaration signed by both Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, head of the Orthodox Church of Moscow and All Russia, issued today after their historic meeting in the Havana Cuba airport issues a strong call for the defense of life and family. 

The declaration commenced with a wish to reestablish Christian unity, stating a “determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited.”

The religious leaders expressed the wish to combine the efforts of Orthodox and Catholics “to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world” since “human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change.”

"We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience."

After discussing the violent Christian persecution underway in the Middle East and North Africa, the Pope and Patriarch turned their attention to the West. “At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them.”

“In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom,” they said. “It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.”

The declaration expresses concern about the “crisis in the family in many countries” and notes “Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family.”

“The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman,” it says. “We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.”

Marriage, they said, “is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.” It is “a school of love and faithfulness.” Love, says the declaration, seals the union of the husband and wife “and teaches them to accept one another as a gift.”

The Pope and Patriarch called for an end to abortion. “We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life,” said the declaration. “Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).”

The declaration also condemned euthanasia and immoral reproductive technologies, which would include IVF and destructive research on human embryos.

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general. We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

The declaration decries the persecution of Christians, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, where “whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.” 

They called on the international community to act urgently since “churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed.”  With “pain” they called to mind “the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.”

They specifically called on all Christians to pray that may “not permit a new world war.”

 

The complete text of the joint declaration follows:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the  Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way.  The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate.  Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom.  It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!
 
Francis                                  Kirill
Bishop of Rome                      Patriarch of Moscow 
Pope of the Catholic Church    and all Russia



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Congress subpoenas StemExpress, notorious late-term abortion facility in body parts investigation

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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Planned Parenthood has declared itself innocent - but it forgot to consult Congress.

The special committee investigating Planned Parenthood, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, announced on Thursday night that it is issuing subpoenas to three organizations involved in the possible trafficking of human organs.

StemExpress, the company that partnered with Planned Parenthood to extract tissue and organs from aborted babies' cadavers, is the most conspicuous of the three.

Former StemExpress technician Holly O'Donnell described how a technician restarted an aborted baby's heartbeat, then told her to cut through the child's face to harvest his brains.

The National Institutes of Health paid StemExpress thousands of dollars for fetal tissue samples, records show.

Undercover videos depict the biotech company's CEO, Cate Dyer, boasting, "I have a picture from Hillary" Clinton on her desk. In another video, she jokes about shipping the fully intact bodies of aborted babies to unsuspecting lab technicians.

StemExpress publicly cut ties with Planned Parenthood last August.

The University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options have come under investigation after it became clear the university had a close relationship with one of the nation's most notorious late-term abortionists to receive aborted babies' tissues and organs for scientific experiments.

Last year, investigators discovered that the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center obtained its samples from SWO, where Dr. Curtis Boyd is one of a handful of people in the nation willing to perform abortions in the third trimester.

University officials told the Albuquerque Journal they had no documentation of the specifics of arrangement - how many organs Boyd supplied, for instance. But the New Mexico Alliance for Life uncovered a document containing the information.

"Fetal liver and kidney samples were obtained 15 minutes after termination from six fetuses ranging from 12 to 22 weeks gestation," the document states.

The group questions whether he changed the abortion technique to obtain the greatest number of organs, and whether he employed the illegal partial birth abortion method.

As part of the arrangement Dr. Boyd, who was deemed "faculty" in university documents, also trained UNM students in his industry. The university later ended that program.

All three organizations had been asked to comply with the Congressional investigation but had failed to do so voluntarily, according to the panel's chairwoman.

“By failing to fully cooperate with our investigation, these organizations have compelled our panel to subpoena these documents in order to acquire information that is vital to the completion of our work,” said the panel's chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN. “Without these subpoenas, the American people and the House itself would be left to speculate about what is going on in the fetal tissue industry."

"We cannot leave questions unanswered,” she said.

StemExpress has stonewalled before, seeking a legal injunction forbidding David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress from releasing undercover footage of its CEO. A judge in California ruled against the company last summer.

Meanwhile, New Mexico pro-life leaders welcome the focus on their state.

"The fact that UNM HSC disbanded its late-term abortion resident program at SWO is a tacit acknowledgement of guilt in violating their own policies, procedures and blatant misuse of public trust and funds," said Elisa Martinez, executive director of the New Mexico Alliance for Life. "The flimsy agreement between UNM and late-term abortionist Curtis Boyd, signed by UNM's Dr. Eve Espey, appears to be constructed to conceal the potential sale of late-term baby body parts to UNM, which to date, has withheld any documentation as to the compensation of Curtis Boyd, the compensation of residents and any record of their late-term baby body parts inventory."



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Clinton and Sanders commit to fund abortion worldwide by gutting the Helms amendment

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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Both candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have endorsed a key pillar of the population control agenda, for the first time pledging to "fix" a U.S. law prohibiting foreign aid from funding abortion overseas.

Hillary Clinton makes the new promise in a new video posted online by the Population Connection Action Fund, formerly Zero Population Growth.

An unidentified activist for the group asks if the former Secretary of State will "help fix the Helms Amendment" - a 1973 law that blocks federal dollars from paying for abortion “as a method of family planning" overseas.

"Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm on record on that," Clinton replies on the video, which was publicized by The Huffington Post.

She continues, "One of the reasons why I -" before abruptly interrupting herself and giving the activist a thumbs-up as the video ends.

Despite her comment, Clinton had not publicly said she would change the way the law is implemented in any way. In an Iowa town hall meeting last November, she said she would "we have to take a look at this for conflict zones" where rape is used as a weapon, but held out the possibility that a future government "maintains our prohibition."

Her chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, went further, promising to fund global abortion providers by executive order.

“Sen. Sanders is opposed to the Helms amendment,” Arianna Jones, Sanders' deputy communications director, told The Huffington Post. “As president, he will sign an executive order to allow for U.S. foreign aid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is at risk. He will also work with Congress to permanently repeal both the Hyde and Helms amendments.” The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortions for American women except in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

The question is the latest in an ongoing attempt to siphon money from the U.S. Treasury into the hands of abortionists, at home and abroad.

While the late Sen. Jesse Helms, who was staunchly pro-life, intended to prevent taxpayers from underwriting abortion, population control advocates and others who promote abortion say the law he authored never did that - but three Democratic presidents somehow missed that fact.

"The restriction has been wrongly implemented by all eight presidential administrations since its inception, as a total ban on abortion care," according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Feminist activists and non-governmental organizations like the Global Justice Center have lobbied President Obama to reinterpret the rule and fund abortion for African women raped by Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations in the region.

Although President Obama shown little restraint in recasting the law - for instance, claiming that civil rights laws banning sexual discrimination apply to transgender people - he has declined to do so in this case.



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