Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Archbishop Gomez analyzes future of Hispanics in US Catholic Church

Los Angeles, Calif., May 28, 2010 / 06:02 am (CNA).- As he prepares to lead the largest archdiocese in the United States, Archbishop Jose Gomez, spoke with CNA in an exclusive interview addressing the role of Hispanics in the U.S. Catholic Church.

The full text of the interview can be read below:

CNA: What is your own background?

Archbishop Gomez: I grew up in Monterrey, Mexico. My father was a medical doctor in Monterrey. My mother was raised in San Antonio, Texas, where she completed high school. She also went to college in Mexico City, and although she completed her course, my mother married my father instead of graduating. Education was always very important in my family.

I am both an American citizen and an immigrant, born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. Some of my ancestors were in what’s now Texas, since 1805. (At that time it was still under Spanish rule.) I’ve always had family and friends on both sides of the border.

CNA: As the next Archbishop of Los Angeles, you will be the most prominent Hispanic prelate in the Catholic Church in the United States. What is your view of the state of Catholicism among U.S. Hispanics?

Gomez: The number of Hispanics self-identifying as Catholics has declined from nearly 100 percent in just two decades, while the number who describe themselves as Protestant has nearly doubled, and the number saying they have “no religion” has also doubled.

I’m not a big believer in polls about religious beliefs and practice. But in this case the polls reflect pastoral experience on the ground.

CNA: What questions do you see as key for Catholic ministry to U.S. Hispanics?

Gomez: As Hispanics become more and more successful, more and more assimilated into the American mainstream, will they keep the faith? Will they stay Catholic or will they drift away—to Protestant denominations, to some variety of vague spirituality, or to no religion at all?

Will they live by the Church’s teachings and promote and defend these teachings in the public square? Or will their Catholicism simply become a kind of “cultural” background, a personality trait, a part of their upbringing that shapes their perspective on the world but compels no allegiance or devotion to the Church?

Hispanic ministry should mean only one thing—bringing Hispanic people to the encounter with Jesus Christ in his Church.

All our pastoral plans and programs presume that we are trying to serve Christ and his Gospel. But we can no longer simply presume Christ. We must make sure we are proclaiming him.

We should thank God every day many times for the good things we have been given. But we also need to give thanks to God through service, through works of mercy and love.

CNA: What is the most serious problem Hispanic Catholics face in the U.S.?

Gomez: The dominant culture in the United States, which is aggressively, even militantly secularized. This is a subject that unfortunately doesn’t get much attention at all in discussions about the future of Hispanic ministry. But it’s time that we change that...  Read the whole article.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Copernicus re-buried: an interesting but misleading story

by Phil Lawler

An interesting AP story is making the rounds this week, reporting that the Catholic Church has finally given due honors to Copernicus. Unfortunately the story is chock-full of statements that are severely misleading if not downright wrong.

Start with the opening sentence:

Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th-century astronomer whose findings were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical, was reburied by Polish priests as a hero on Saturday, nearly 500 years after he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave.
That sentence implies that Copernicus was denounced as a heretic before he died, and thus deprived of a proper Christian burial. In fact he was never denounced; he died in good standing with the Church. He was buried not in a pauper's grave but in the cathedral in Frombork (a city that is now a part of the Archdiocese of Warmia, Poland).

The heliocentric theory that Copernicus advanced was indeed controversial during his lifetime. So controversial, in fact, that Copernicus delayed for years before publishing his masterpiece, De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium. Yes, he delayed because he feared an adverse reaction-- not from Church leaders, but from his fellow scholars. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Copernicus was worried about a hostile reaction from the Church. De Revolutionibus was published under the auspices of a Catholic bishop; it was dedicated to Pope Paul III.

Nor did Church leaders turn on Copernicus after his book was printed. Actually they didn't have time. Because of the author's delays, De Revolutionibus did not appear in print until the astronomer was on his deathbed.

There is a grain of truth to the notion that Church authorities were suspicious of Copernicus during his lifetime. At one point he was suspected of keeping a mistress; later he was suspected of Lutheran sympathies. But his scientific work never caused him any conflict with the Church.

Later, during the unfortunate and avoidable dispute over the works of Galileo, De Revolutionibus was placed on the Index of prohibited books. (The book was soon republished with a few sentences amended, and taken off the Index.) But the questions raised about the Copernicus book in 1616 obviously did not affect his burial in 1542.

Copernicus was buried in the Frombork cathedral, where he had held the title of canon. At the time, burial sites for such officials were not precisely marked, and in that sense it's true that he lay for almost 500 years in an "unmarked" grave. But a plaque in the cathedral testified to his burial there, and the circumstantial evidence pointing to his gravesite was sufficient to guide the search that, in 2005, pinpointed his remains.

The truth about Copernicus can be found, even in the AP story, by those readers who persist beyond the first few sentences. After the unusual ceremony honoring the great astronomer, an honor guard took the coffin and "lowered it back into the same spot where part of his skull and other bones were found in 2005." The mortal remains of Nicolaus Copernicus now lie exactly where they had lain for most of the past 500 years: in a place of honor, in a Catholic cathedral. Read the original story here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pope's In-Flight Briefing with Journalists

"The greatest persecution of the Church comes from within"

by Edward Pentin

Below is the full transcript of Pope Benedict XVI’s briefing with journalists on the papal plane to Portugal this morning, courtesy of Vatican Radio:

Q. - What message will you bring to Portugal, a deeply Catholic country in the past and a bearer of faith in the secular world of today. How can the faith be announced in a context which is indifferent, and sometimes hostile, to the Church?

First of all, good morning to all of you. I hope we will all have a good trip, despite the famous ash cloud which we are above right now.

In terms of Portugal, first of all I have feelings of joy and gratitude for everything this country has done and is doing in the world and in history, the deep humanity of this people which I have come to know through a past visit and so many Portuguese friends. I would say it is true that Portugal has been a great force for the Catholic faith, and it has carried that faith to every part of the world. A courageous, intelligent, creative faith, it has known how to create great cultures, we see this in Brazil, in Portugal itself, but also the presence of the Portuguese spirit in Africa and Asia.

On the other hand, this presence of secularism is not entirely new. The dialectic between secularism and faith has a long history in Portugal. By the seventeenth century, there was already a strong current of the Enlightenment. We need only think of names such as Pombal. In these centuries, Portugal lived this dialectic which today naturally has been radicalized and is reflected in all of the signs of the current European spirit. This seems to me a challenge, but also a great possibility. In these centuries, the dialectic between the Enlightenment, secularism and faith always had people who wanted to build bridges and to create a dialogue. Unfortunately, the dominant tendency was to see a contradiction and to see one as excluding the other. Today we can see this is false. We have to find a synthesis and be able to dialogue. In the multi-cultural situation we’re all in, it’s clear that a European culture which aims to be solely rationalist, without any sense of the transcendent dimension, would not be in a position to dialogue with the other great cultures of humanity – all of which have this sense of the transcendent dimension, which is a dimension of the human person. To think that there’s a pure reason, even a historic reason, which exists entirely in itself, is an error, and we are discovering this more and more. It touches only a part of the human person expressed in a given historic situation, and is not reason as such. Reason as such is open to transcendence, and only in the meeting between transcendent reality, faith and history is human life fully realized.

I think the mission of Europe in this situation is to find a path to this dialogue, to integrate faith, rationality, and modernity in a single anthropological vision of the concrete human person and render that vision for the future of humanity.

For that reason, I think the task and mission of Europe in this situation is to find this dialogue, to integrate faith and reason in a single modern anthropological vision of the concrete human person and thus also render it communicable to other human cultures. So I would say that the presence of secularism is a normal thing, but the separation, the opposition between faith and secularism is anomalous. The great challenge of this moment is that the two meet, so they may find their true identity. It is a mission for Europe and a human necessity in our time.

Q: - Thank you, Holy Father. Continuing on the theme of Europe, the economic crisis has recently gotten a lot worse in Europe, especially in Portugal. Some European leaders think the future of the European Union is at risk. What lessons should we learn from this crisis, including at the ethical and moral level? What are the keys for consolidating the unity and cooperation of the European nations in the future?

I would say that this economic crisis, with its undeniable moral component, is a case of applying and making concrete what I said earlier, that is of two separate cultural currents meeting, otherwise we will not find a path to the future. Here, too, I believe there is a false dualism. There is an economic positivism that thinks it is possible to realize itself without an ethical component, a market that regulates itself according to its own economic strength, by a positivistic and pragmatic reasoning of the economy. Ethics is something different, something extraneous. In reality, we can see today that a pure economic pragmatism which ignores the reality of the human person, who is inherently ethical, has no positive ending, but creates irresolvable problems. This is the moment to recognize that ethics is not something exterior, but rather interior to all forms of rationality, including economic reason.

On the other hand, we also have to confess the Catholic-Christian faith often has been overly individualistic. It left the concrete things of the economy to the world, thinking only of individual salvation and its religious aspects, without recognizing that these imply a global responsibility and a responsibility for the world. So here too we must enter into a concrete dialogue. I tried to do as much in my encyclical Caritas in veritate, and the whole tradition of the social teaching of the church moves in this sense, broadening the ethical aspect of the faith from the individual to a responsibility for the world, to a reason that is perforated by ethics. On the other hand the most recent events on the markets, in the last two or three years, have amply shown us that the ethical dimension is an internal one and that it must enter into economic action, because man is an one. A healthy anthropology that takes everything into account. Only in this way will we solve the problem. Only in this way will Europe deliver and succeed in its mission.

Q: Thank you. Now we come to Fatima, which will be the spiritual culmination of this trip. Holy Father, what meaning do the apparitions of Fatima have for us today? When you presented the Third Secret of Fatima in a press conference at the Vatican Press Office in June 2000, many of us and other colleagues asked if the message of the secret could be extended, beyond the assassination attempt against John Paul II to other sufferings of the popes. Could the context of that vision also be extended to the suffering of the church today,for the sins of the sexual abuse of minors?

First of all, I want to express my joy to go to Fatima, to pray before Our Lady of Fatima, and to experience the presence of the faith there, where from the little ones a new force of the faith was born, and which is not limited to the little ones, but has a message for the whole world and all epochs of history, and touches history in its present and illuminates this history. In 2000, during the presentation, I said there is a supernatural impulse which does not come from the individual imagination but from the reality of the Virgin Mary, from the supernatural, that impulse which enters into a subject, and is expressed according to the possibilities of the subject.

The subject is determined by his or her historic, personal, temperamental, situation. Therefore, supernatural impulse is translated according to the subject’s possibilities to see, imagine or express it. But in these expressions, formed by the subject, a content is hidden, that goes beyond, goes deeper. Only in the passage of time is the true depth, that was clothed in this vision, revealed to us, only then is it possible for concrete people.

Here too, beyond this great vision of the suffering Pope, which we can initially circumscribe to John Paul II, other realities are indicated which over time will develop and become clear. Thus it is true that beyond the moment indicated in the vision, one speaks about and sees the necessity of suffering by the Church, which is focused on the person of the Pope, but the Pope stands for the church, and therefore sufferings of the Church are announced. The Lord told us that the Church will always be suffering in various ways, up to the end of the world. The important point is that the message, the answer of Fatima, it not substantially addressed to particular devotions, but is the fundamental response: permanent conversion, penance, prayer, and the three cardinal virtues: faith, hope and charity. Here we see the true, fundamental response the Church must give, which each of us individually must give, in this situation.

In terms of what we today can discover in this message, attacks against the Pope or the Church do not only come from outside; rather the sufferings of the Church come from within, from the sins that exist in the Church. This too has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies on the outside, but is born from the sin within the church, the Church therefore has a deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the need for justice. Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice. In one word we have to re-learn these essentials: conversion, prayer, penance, and the theological virtues. That is how we respond, and we need to be realistic in expecting that evil will always attack, from within and from outside, but the forces of good are also always present, and finally the Lord is stronger than evil and the Virgin Mary is for us the visible maternal guarantee that the will of God is always the last word in history... Read the original.


About Me

My photo
Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.