Blessed Óscar Romero: The Church Elevates an Evangelical Champion of the Poor to the Altars 


The Oscar Arnulfo Romero beatification committee via flickr

A procession in San Salvador for the beatification Mass of Oscar Romero.

SAN SALVADOR — Archbishop Óscar Romero’s beatification is a “cause of great joy,” and his elevation to the altars is a call “to sanity and reflection, to respect for life and harmony,” Pope Francis said in a letter to mark the May 23 beatification in San Salvador.

In the message to Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, the Holy Father said Blessed Óscar Romero “knew how to lead, defend and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the Gospel and in communion with the whole Church.”

Around 250,000 people gathered in Salvador Plaza of the Mundo de San Salvador for the beatification Mass, celebrated in the city’s cathedral.

Archbishop Romero, a vociferous defender of the poor and oppressed, was killed in hatred of the faith on March 24, 1980, when he was shot dead by a gunman as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel. His martyrdom came in the midst of the birth of a brutal civil war between leftist guerrillas and a far-right dictatorial government.

His cause was opened in 1990 but stalled due to concerns over whether he was killed in hatred of the faith or for political reasons. Benedict XVI unblocked the process in 2012, and Pope Francis confirmed his beatification earlier this year. The date of his death will now be the blessed’s feast day.

Blessed Romero’s ministry was “distinguished by a particular attention to the most poor and marginalized,” the Pope wrote in the letter, read at the beginning of the Mass, adding that, in the moment of his death, while celebrating “the Holy Sacrifice of love and reconciliation, he received the grace to identify himself fully with the One who gave his life for his sheep.”

The Pope said his beatification is “a favorable moment for a true national reconciliation” in the face of today’s challenges. The Salvadoran is a “bishop and martyr, pastor according to the heart of Christ, evangelizer and father of the poor, heroic witness of the kingdom of God,” the Holy Father wrote.


‘Not Ideological, but Evangelical’

In his homily, Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who presided over the beatification, said that “the figure of Romero is still alive and giving comfort to the marginalized of the earth.”

“His option for the poor was not ideological, but evangelical. His charity extended to the persecutors.”

In a May 23 article for L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of Archbishop Romero’s beatification cause, said Blessed Romero is “linked in a strong way to the Church of today and her mission,” especially the pontificate of Pope Francis and his Church “of the poor, for the poor.”

The newly blessed could “smell the sheep,” and they “listened to his voice and followed it,” he continued. The postulator, who is president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said Romero was a bishop “in the best tradition of Trent, who was then enriched by the teaching of Vatican II.”

He was not an intellectual, theologian, manager or administration, he added, “neither was he a reformer, let alone a politician, as some have wanted to see him, exploiting his name.” Instead, he was a “man of God, a man of prayer, a man of obedience and love for people,” he said.

Chris Bain, director of the British Catholic aid agency CAFOD, said “labeling Romero left or right did not fit the man.” He added that he is sure there are “many reasons” why it is perceived that the left hijacked the Romero story, but to him, a key one is that El Salvador at the time was “run by a repressive, self-styled right-wing regime whose brutality was justified as doing what was necessary to stop the country becoming communist, an approach supported by the U.S. government at the time.”

For this reason, Bain argues, the political left “made him in their image without understanding him fully, and the right colluded.”

“Neither wanted to understand how he was a critic of the way some liberation theologians had embraced Marxism or that all the evidence suggests he was a social and theological conservative,” Bain continued. This, he said, “was evidence of the repression, affecting both ordinary people and servants of the Church, that led him to speak out — his belief that every person was a child of God, and the brutality was unconditionally wrong.”

CAFOD honors Romero because at the time of his martyrdom he was a CAFOD partner, and the aid agency supported many of his archdiocesan social and communication programs, including the diocesan radio station that broadcast his homilies.


Strength Through Prayer

Archbishop Paglia stressed that, through prayer, Archbishop Romero found “rest, peace and strength.” He recalled how the archbishop had written of his fears that his life was in danger just a few days before his martyrdom but took solace in the fact that the Lord assists the martyrs, who “feel his closeness when offering their last breath.”

Archbishop Paglia also noted how much the martyred archbishop was surrounded by a climate of persecution and had lost 30 priests from his diocese — either killed, deported or expelled. Hundreds of catechists and faithful had also been killed or disappeared.

“The leaders of [Romero’s] killer wanted to silence the Church of Vatican II by his death,” said Archbishop Paglia, one of the founders of the Sant’Egidio lay community. “So he was killed at the altar.

“His martyr’s death occurred in odium fidei [in hatred of the faith] because, as shown in the carefully documented examination carried out in the process of beatification, it was caused not only for political reasons, but for hatred of a faith that, imbued with charity, would not be silent in the face of the oppression of the people.”

“John Paul II — who knew well the lives of two other saints killed at the altar, Stanislaus of Krakow and Thomas Becket of Canterbury — effectively noted: ‘They killed him right at the most sacred moment, during the highest and most divine act,’” Archbishop Paglia said. “The killers, preventing Romero from concluding the Mass, wanted to divide the worship of God from his mercy.”

“The martyr Romero reminds us,” Archbishop Paglia concluded, “that one cannot separate the Eucharist from the poor. And Pope Francis never ceases to show us this with words and gestures.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Population Control Has China Headed for ‘Demographic Disaster’ 


courtesy of Reggie Littlejohn

Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers

Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers

– courtesy of Reggie Littlejohn

ROME — The Chinese Communist Party will never end the “one-child policy” because the policy is effectively terrorizing the Chinese people into keeping the Communist Party in power, according to Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, who gave testimony on April 30 to the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China on the effects of the country’s population-control measures.

The 35th anniversary of the policy, which continues to impose forced abortions on countless Chinese mothers, will be marked on Sept. 25. In this May 8 interview with the Register in Rome, Littlejohn explains in more detail what is keeping the policy in place, why reports about China ending the policy are incorrect and why a more accurate name for it would be “China’s forced-abortion policy.”

What have been the effects of the one-child policy?

First of all, you have to look at the demographics. The Chinese Communist Party is very aware that its one-child policy has caused, and is continuing to cause, an increasing demographic disaster — in three ways.

One, because of the traditional preference for boys, girls are selectively aborted, so they have approximately 37-40 million more men than women living in China. This is driving human trafficking and human slavery in China and is also a recipe for domestic instability.

Two, they have a rapidly aging population. The reason why they instituted the one-child policy 35 years ago is that, during the Mao era, fertility rates among women became very high — 5.9 births per woman. Under the one-child policy, it has plummeted to approximately 1.3 to 1.5 births per woman, depending on who you ask. But the population explosion under the Mao era is now heading towards retirement, so they don’t have a young population to support that elderly population, and they don’t have social security as we know it. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Then the third problem is that China’s workforce is actually beginning to become depleted. 2013 was the first year when the trend went down, and the number of workers is going down. It’s actually too late. Taiwanese demographers say that the recent modification of the policy is too little, too late to stave off the threefold demographic disaster they’re heading into.

Why do they keep the policy?

China’s population problem isn’t that they have too many people — it’s that they have too few young people and too few women. I believe I can answer the unanswerable and explain the unexplainable. I believe that the reason the Chinese Communist Party has not abandoned and will never abandon the one-child policy is that the one-child policy is keeping them in place.

How does it keep them in place?

In four ways. No. 1, when the one-child policy was instituted 35 years ago, China was experiencing a population explosion, and I believe it was originally instituted as population control. The terror that is caused by forced abortion and forced sterilization was a by-product of the policy and was not the purpose of the policy. Now that the policy makes no sense whatsoever, I believe terror is the purpose of the policy.

China has many different human-rights abuses — they have problems in terms of executing prisoners to harvesting organs for transplant, persecuting of Christians, Falun Gong and other faiths, overuse of the death penalty and the detention of human-rights lawyers and journalists. All of these are human-rights abuses of the Chinese Communist Party, but they affect only a thin sliver of the society.

The one-child policy is unique because it affects everyone. It is a way for the Chinese Communist government to instill terror across the board in China and to demonstrate to people that the reach of its power extends from Beijing to every single woman in China — the power to declare life or death over the baby in that womb. That is terrifying. So I believe this is social control masquerading as population control.

The spirit of the “cultural revolution” lives on in the family-planning police. The family-planning police function as domestic terrorists; and in my opinion, forced abortion is official government rape. That’s what they’re doing to the population.

What are the other reasons for maintaining the policy?

The second reason is that they’re making a lot of money out of it. According to one estimate, the Chinese Communist Party has taken in $314 billion in fines through the family-planning police, so women are fined in all kinds of different circumstances. These fines are arbitrary; they’re not uniformly imposed throughout the country.

But if you get someone pregnant without a birth permit, a fine can be 10 times your annual salary. And these fines are completely not regulated. They’re not accounted for. There’s complete opacity, there’s no transparency in where this funding is going, and local officials have been accused of pocketing the money. So that’s a big reason not to get rid of the policy.

The third reason is that the family-planning officials, the family-planning police, form a wide infrastructure of coercion. According to one estimate, there are approximately 1 million people engaged in coerced population control in China. If that were a standing army, it would be the sixth-largest standing army in the world, on par with the army of North Korea. Social unrest is on the rise in China; it’s sharply increasing. They can use this army of family-planning police, turn it in any direction, to quash dissent in any direction. So why would they get rid of this elaborate infrastructure of coercion? They need it to keep the population down, to keep security in China.

The fourth reason, I believe, is to deliberately rupture the natural relationships of trust with the Chinese people. In China, they employ a system of paid informants, where anyone can inform on a woman who is pregnant without a birth permit.

It can be her neighbors, her friends, her co-workers, people in the villages, who are paid to look at women’s abdomens to see if they’re a little bit bigger. So since anyone can inform on you, there’s no relationship of trust.

Do you have any examples of this?

A couple of years ago, I testified in Congress about a woman who had had five forced abortions in a factory in China. She said that, in her work unit, if one person became illegally pregnant, the entire work unit would be punished, so all the women were spying on each other to report on each other about an illegal pregnancy. Then, if a woman runs away because she wants to have her baby, because she wants to run away from the family-planning police, they can detain her family, her parents, her husband and her extended family. They can be detained and tortured.

So if the one-child policy can be used to rupture relationships with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, it can be used to keep down organizing for democracy. If you cannot trust anyone, you cannot organize for democracy.

Could China be forced to end the policy?

I don’t think that the Chinese Communist Party will ever abandon the one-child policy. What’s frustrating, for me, is there’s such a misunderstanding of the one-child policy, because it has been misnamed. The one-child policy is actually not a one-child policy: There are many exceptions to the policy, and the Chinese Communist Party is heading towards this demographic disaster and creating exceptions of small segments of population that can have another child.

There were media reports not long ago about China ending the policy. Can you explain why this was not correct?

On Jan. 1, 2014, they [the Chinese government] said if one member of a couple is an only child, that couple can have a second child. Because it’s called a one-child policy and a couple can have a second child, Western media blares out, “China Abandons One-Child Policy,” and people say, “Oh great, I’m so glad they’re not doing that anymore.”

But, actually, you need a birth permit for the first and second child. The core of the policy is not that the Chinese government allows a woman to have one child or two children. The core of the policy is that they’re telling people how many kids they can have, and they’re enforcing that limit coercively, including through forced abortion and forced sterilization.

It should really be called “China’s forced-abortion policy” because that doesn’t end. The forced-abortion policy doesn’t end, no matter how many children they allow you to have. So that would be a better name for the policy.

Of course, they didn’t name it that — because it sounds so terrible — but it’s much more accurate.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent

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Five German Bishops Back Bishop’s Public Criticism of Lay Statement


Bistum Passau

Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau

Five German bishops have written a letter in support of Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau who last week openly criticized a document released by the German Church’s top lay organization, the ZdK.

In the letter published over the weekend, the bishops said they thanked Bishop Oster for his opinions on the ZdK statement and that they agreed “wholeheartedly” with his remarks on the importance of Church teaching, especially concerning Christian marriage “based on the teaching of Jesus in Scripture and on the tradition of Church.”

Last week, the ZdK — the Central Committee of the German Catholics — released a declaration that called for the admittance of civilly remarried divorcees to holy Communion, acceptance of all forms of cohabitation, the blessing of same-sex couples and the reconsideration of the Church’s teaching on contraception.

Bishop Oster criticized their statement for being “incomprehensible” and said that, if enacted, it would mark a “dramatic change of much that has been valid concerning marriage and sexuality” based on holy Scripture, Tradition and the magisterium.

Congratulating Bishop Oster, the five bishops said: “We live in a highly secularized society in Germany. This fact should not discourage us and make us look at harmonizing ourselves with the mainstream, but rather be an opportunity to rediscover the uniqueness of the Christian vocation in the world today.”

They agreed with the bishop that “an essential condition” to accomplishing this is “a frank and faithful proclamation of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels and the development of a relationship with Him as a richness for our lives.

“We are therefore convinced that many believers are also most grateful for your clear words,” they concluded.

The letter was signed by Bishops Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Gregory M. Hanke OSB of Eichstätt, Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Friedhelm Hofmann of Würzburg. All but one of their dioceses are in traditionally Catholic Bavaria, including Passau. Germany has 27 dioceses in total.

The bishops’ letter, and the statement of Bishop Oster, show the beginnings of a possible backlash against the general direction of the episcopate which is generally sympathetic to the kind of vision put forward by the ZdK. However, they continue to be generally silent regarding any public criticism of the bishops’ conference itself, headed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

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Top German Lay Catholic Group Pushes Communion for Civilly Divorced-Remarried and More


Wikipedia Commons

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, issued a statement May 15 saying “several claims” made in the ZdK statement were “theologically unacceptable.”

PASSAU, Germany — A public dispute has broken out between Germany’s top lay Catholic organization and a German bishop, after the organization issued a statement calling for a raft of new pastoral practices, which the bishop and other critics say are opposed to Church doctrine.

The Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken (Central Committee of the German Catholics, or ZdK)  issued a statement Sunday calling for the admittance of civilly remarried divorcees to holy Communion, acceptance of all forms of cohabitation, the blessing of same-sex couples and the reconsideration of the Church’s teaching on contraception.

The organization is heavily financed by the German bishops and overseen spiritually by Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.

The ZdK’s appeals were contained in a document called “Between Teaching and Building Bridges With the Living World — Family and Church in the Modern World.” The statement, unanimously agreed upon at the organization’s general assembly in Würzburg in early May, was written in anticipation of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in October.

The document states that nonmarital forms of lived partnerships “make a great contribution” to social cohesion and have to be “treated justly.” It goes on to say that “values” are found in other forms of communal living, which “have to be honored, even if they are not to be found in the form of the sacramental marriage.”

“We think here of enduring partnerships [cohabitation], civil marriages, as well as civilly registered partnerships [i.e., homosexual unions],” the ZdK states. The document also calls for a “re-evaluation of the methods of artificial contraception” because of a “great discrepancy between the papal magisterium and the personal conscientious decisions in the daily life of most faithful Catholics.”

The organization further calls for “blessings of same-sex partnerships, new partnerships of divorcees and for important life-changing decisions within families.” It says liturgical forms should be developed for such couples and asks that the Church recognizes the “pastoral change that Pope Francis has called for, both as an encouragement and as a chance for the bishops’ conferences to develop pastoral paths concerning marriage and the family that are appropriate and theologically responsible.”


Bishop Oster

But the document met some stiff resistance from Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, who said on his Facebook page the document was “incomprehensible.” If enacted, what the ZdK is proposing would mark a “dramatic change of much that has been valid concerning marriage and sexuality” based on holy Scripture, Tradition and the magisterium, he said.

Bishop Oster, 49, added that, through Revelation, the Church has always taught that “lived sexual practice has its only legitimate place within a marriage between a man and a woman, both of whom are open to the procreation of life and both of whom have made a bond that lasts until the death of one of the spouses.”

“This bond is called a sacrament and is strengthened with the help of God’s explicit promise to be the third party in this bond between the two,” he reminded. “He is the one who binds this relationship, who sanctifies it, makes it indissoluble and who is also again and again the source of salvation for them.”

Bishop Oster’s stance places him at odds with other members of the German bishops’ conference, who appear to favor some of the things the ZdK is proposing. The bishop criticized the ZdK’s emphasis on blessing same-sex couples because of the “values” they show and stressed the Bible’s teaching that any sexual relations outside of marriage are either fornication or adultery and have “very dramatic consequences for those engaging in them.”

He added that if blessings of such unions were allowed, would people supporting them only limit them to couples and not three or more people of the same sex? “Why not also bless these relationships?” he said facetiously. “They would nevertheless have lived ‘values’ within them.”

Bishop Oster said the ZdK omitted the “biblical image of man and the biblical understanding of Revelation” and that he found the lay organization’s unanimous desire to go along such a path “very troubling.”

He added that he did not see any statement from Pope Francis coming “remotely close” to what the ZdK was proposing and said the group was “instrumentalizing” the Holy Father for its own ends. Many Catholics, he said, “no longer feel represented by the ZdK today.” He closed by asking if it can really be the organization’s goal to confuse the faithful.

The ZdK responded to Bishop Oster, saying on May 12 that it wasn’t proposing a new understanding of marriage but was trying to “bridge a gap” between the magisterium and “experienced reality.” ZdK’s secretary general, Stefan Vesper, said it was not meant as an attack on Church teaching, but had to be read in the context of the entire statement. He said those who wish to implement these new pastoral practices are not “turning away” from the teaching of the Church, but, rather, towards it.

Vesper added that the faithful had been asked by the Pope to give their opinions ahead of the synod, and these “must be perceived” to be part of the synod’s deliberations. Critics, however, point out that the number surveyed was only 1,000-2,000 people — so few that the German bishops’ conference preferred not to reveal the exact numbers questioned. They also argue that such responses should refer only to the catechized faithful rather than the laity in general.


‘True Meaning of Marriage’

Prominent German Church commentator Mathias von Gersdorff noted that the ZdK’s initial statement failed to mention the “true meaning of marriage” and that the organization has shown that it fails to adhere to the magisterium, preferring to propagate ideas more common to television soap operas.

“No one needs a Catholic Church that falls to this level,” he said. “No one needs a ‘Central Committee of German Catholics’ that is no longer Catholic.”

Von Gersdorff also called the ZdK’s response to Bishop Oster “a joke,” adding that it merely “repeated its own points,” and the bishop’s arguments were not engaged.

Further comment on the ZdK statement came in a May 13 article penned by Felix Neumann, editor of, the official Internet news site of the German bishops’ conference that is heavily financed by the church tax. Noting that Bishop Fürst did not veto the statement, he said the ZdK’s document was “not a provocation” and called the homosexual lifestyle a “matter of conscience.”

Neumann added that Tradition is “hollow, formal and unfeeling” and that any scandal lies not over same-sex unions per se, but “that it is still necessary to demand respect and appreciation for love.”

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register May 13 that he had “no comment” in response to the ZdK’s statement, nor to the recent decision by Germany’s bishops to amend the Church’s labor law to allow “remarried” divorcees and those in homosexual relationships to work in Church institutions.

“I think it is a matter for the episcopate,” he said. German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also declined to comment.

Despite the gravity of the potential consequences on the universal Church, the reasons for the Vatican’s public silence are not immediately clear. Subsidiarity and a decentralized system of authority is probably a primary reason, yet some critics speculate that hesitation may be related to fear of jeopardizing revenues from a wealthy German Church, as well as some sympathy for the pastoral innovations favored by many in the German Church.

On May 15, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, issued a statement saying “several claims” made in the ZdK statement were “theologically unacceptable.” He added that the blessing of same-sex unions and civilly remarried couples, and the “unreserved acceptance” of cohabiting same-sex couples, was contrary to “the teaching and Tradition of the Church.” Both issues “require further theological clarification, not hasty, bold claims,” Cardinal Marx said, adding that “theological debate and an inner-ecclesial dialogue are not promoted that way.”


Poles Apart: Cardinal Marx Rebuffed

However, Cardinal Marx’s May 15 intervention did not establish that he has abandoned his own promotion of changes to the Church’s pastoral practices with respect to some of the same issues.

The Register has learned via well-informed, high-level sources that Cardinal Marx was recently rebuffed by Polish bishops when he proposed that the two episcopates meet in Berlin to strive for a consensus on revising the Church’s approach to marriage. The Polish bishops have been firm about their continued support for Church teaching.

Well-informed sources say that Cardinal Marx made the proposal in early May, during lunch with Polish bishops at the 70th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. The cardinal is understood to be anxious to win all-important Polish support ahead of the October synod.

Observers say this is another attempt by the German hierarchy aimed at increasing the pressure for change at the synod and carried out by bypassing the Vatican and, in particular, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This would be consistent with comments from Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a close adviser to Pope Francis, who said in a recent interview that the Curia “is not an essential structure” and that the Pope need only rely on himself and the “College of Bishops” to serve the people.

And yet the will of many in the German episcopate seems to be to continue the trajectory of imposing its vision on the rest of the Church in a way that many believe to be both heretical and arrogant.

It’s also an approach that has long been rejected by key German Churchmen.

In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, Cardinal Josef Frings, then archbishop of Cologne, said, after praising the Church’s heroism in resisting Nazism, “Our German people must listen to the word of God and must pass voluntarily on the way of conversion! That arrogance [of thinking] that we are a master race which other nations must serve has to disappear from every strata of society.”


Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Father Lombardi: Eco Encyclical on Track for Expected June Publication


Courtesy the Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, rector of the Universidad Católica Argentina in Buenos Aires.

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has denied that Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical has been delayed because the Holy Father feared the first draft would not be approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register May 14 that the “preparation procedure of the encyclical took place, and is taking place, in a completely normal way, and there has not been, and there isn’t, any delay compared to what was expected.”

He added there have “never been reliable predictions” about the time of the publication of the encyclical, which is expected to reaffirm the Church’s teaching on safeguarding the environment and controversially endorse the science of anthropogenic climate change.

Those who have claimed to know the date of its release have based their comments on “rumors and fantasies,” Father Lombardi said.

The Vatican spokesman did say he has always thought it would appear “before the summer,” but added that it has already been “announced and repeated that the final text is being translated, and it’s reasonable to expect the publication within a few weeks, probably in June.”

Father Lombardi’s comments came after veteran Vaticanista Sandro Magister claimed on his blog “Settimo Cielo” May 11 that the Pope had “binned” the first draft of the encyclical when he spent a week in March examining the document.

Magister said the Pope feared the first draft — which had been ghostwritten by his theologian friend from Argentina, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández  — would have been “demolished” by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “once it had gotten into his hands.”

But Father Lombardi said it is “normal and obvious” that, as with any encyclical, the CDF would check the document before publication and that he was unaware of “any cause of delays or problems.” He called the speculation “totally unfounded” and said it “seems almost unbelievable that such things are written.”


Archbishop Fernández’s Interview

Speculation over whether the CDF would be involved in checking the encyclical derives in part from comments made by Archbishop Fernández in a revealing May 10 interview with Corriere della Sera.

The rector of the Universidad Católica Argentina in Buenos Aires, whom Francis made archbishop in 2013, disparaged the role of the Curia, saying it “is not an essential structure” and that a prefect of a dicastery was essentially not necessary to prevent the Church from “falling into ignominy.”

“Catholics know from reading the Gospel that it was to the Pope and the bishops that Christ granted a special governance and enlightenment — and not to a prefect or some other structure,” he said. “When one hears such things, one could almost get the impression that the Pope is merely their representative or one who has come to disturb and must, therefore, be monitored.”

He added that the Pope “is convinced that what he has written or said cannot be treated as an error,” and, therefore, all his utterances can be “repeated in the future, without having to fear receiving a sanction for it.” Then, he added, “The majority of the people of God, with their special sense, will not easily accept turning back on certain things.” The theologian also said the Pope is surrounded “in a theological sense” by the “College of Bishops in order to serve the people.”

Later in the interview, Archbishop Fernández is asked whether the papal rapport, by having a direct approach with the people, is risky, as it can marginalize Church leaders. “Cardinals could disappear, in the sense that they are not essential,” the archbishop replied. “The Pope and the bishops are essential.”

The archbishop’s comments come after Cardinal Müller stated in an interview in April that the CDF’s role was to “provide the theological structure of a pontificate.”

As well as ghostwriting the Pope’s truly first encyclical, Archbishop Fernández also contributed to the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World) and was appointed by Pope Francis as vice president of the commission that drew up the final message of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family last October. The Pope considers the archbishop, who has written for a large number of publications in Latin America and Europe, to be a “consultant” who is part of his inner circle.


Timed to U.N. Events?

It is generally perceived that Pope Francis is keen that his encyclical be published in time for his visit to the United States in September, which will include an address to the United Nations in New York. More importantly, he wants it to be a contribution to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris in December.

A workshop at the Vatican last month, attended by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, was aimed at supporting the encyclical. The meeting, spearheaded by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the Argentine chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, was organized to “raise awareness and build a consensus” on protecting the environment in ways coherent with “leading religious traditions.”

Voice of the Family, a coalition of pro-life and pro-family groups, criticized the meeting for hosting Ban, the economist Jeffrey Sachs and others who strongly advocate abortion and population control. Sachs is contributing to the encyclical.

Ban said at the event that the Pope’s encyclical may be ready in June, but he was not aware of its contents.

“That’s not my responsibility,” he told reporters, but added that he was “very encouraged” that Pope Francis is “very committed” to the issue.

During their meeting at the time of the workshop, Ban said, the Holy Father had assured the U.N. official that he would cooperate “with the U.N. and world leaders, scientists and faith leaders to have this realized for humanity.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Cardinal Pell to Pro-Lifers: Synod Will ‘Massively Endorse’ Tradition 


Catholic News Agency

Cardinal George Pell addressed the Rome Life Forum on May 9.

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal George Pell gave encouraging messages to pro-life leaders on Saturday, upholding the Church’s established teachings on marriage and the family and stating his belief that the upcoming Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family will “massively endorse” Tradition.

Addressing the Rome Life Forum, the prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy spoke on the topic of parents as the best educators of children.

He pointed out an irony in contemporary society, which we realize better than we did 50 years ago: If we violate the laws of physical nature, mankind must reap the negative consequences. But he added that we find “almost no public acknowledgement” of the harmful human consequences that follow “if we violate the natural moral order.”

Cardinal Pell wondered if we aren’t “digging our own graves” by “removing the laws which defend the ideal of exclusive, lifelong marriage.”

He began his talk by appealing to those working in the pro-life field to live out Christian virtues in ways that non-Christians can admire. This is a “very significant challenge,” as sometimes pro-life activists “don’t always achieve it,” being “extremely congenial to ourselves but off-putting to those outside.”

The cardinal then underlined the crucial importance of the family and flagged plenty of “anecdotal evidence” of the effects of marital breakdown on children.

He cited findings from 2009 showing that children from broken families are two to three times more likely to suffer from social pathologies and that children of religious couples are more likely to leave the religious tradition of their childhood if their parents divorce.

He highlighted the widespread use of pornography and its related addictions, saying that many marriages are destroyed by such vice.

Connected with this, he recalled the catastrophic effect of the contraceptive pill on society and, quoting author and ethicist Mary Eberstadt, said it has brought societal changes greater than the communist revolution. He also remembered how Blessed Paul VI foretold the radical and unfortunate consequences of contraception in his encyclicalHumanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth).

The dictatorship of relativism and changes in moral teaching have also played their role in a demographic collapse, he continued, observing how very few pilgrims visiting the Vatican seem to have more than two children.

Having more children, Cardinal Pell said, means a greater likelihood of handing on the faith to the next generation, as it forces parents to be unselfish. By contrast, children in small, nuclear families may be “too isolated from the hurly-burly of life.”


Words of Hope

But in words of hope, the former archbishop of Sydney said it was worth recalling that the pagan Roman Empire was much more disordered than today’s Western culture, and yet Christianity “spread steadily in those hostile climes,” when there were no churches or established charitable agencies.

“Grace works through nature,” Cardinal Pell said. “God doesn’t intervene unilaterally; God intervenes through us.”

Families need to be centers of Christian virtue, pray often and show regular service and the ability to forgive, he added. They need to provide what the early Christians provided “and more,” he said.

Cardinal Pell reiterated there can be no holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and stressed that no parent should forget the importance of “fidelity to the core teachings of the Church.”

He also recalled how, in the early Church, adulterers were shunned in public, even after they had repented. Mercy, he said, needs “tough disciplines and penitential processes,” although he said he was inclined to feel that the early Church’s approach was “too tough.” The Church “shouldn’t go back to very stiff disciplines,” he said in a question-and-answer session following his speech. “We defend values sociologically.”

The cardinal alluded to the words of Cardinal Walter Kasper, who once said in support of holy Communion for remarried divorcees that, “after the shipwreck of sin, the shipwrecked person should not have a second boat at his or her disposal, but, rather, a life raft” in the form of the sacrament of Communion.

“More important than a lifeboat,” Cardinal Pell said, it is necessary to guide the faithful so “they’re not shipwrecked and don’t need a lifeboat.”

“We defend what we value through the [Church] law,” he said. “To deny that will increase the decline, and we will slide into the wrong direction.”

Asked about whether he agrees we are now in the “Fourth Great Crisis of the Church,” Cardinal Pell noted that today’s crisis is “quite different” than the Reformation, because, then, both sides agreed on the importance of Christ and God.

“Now, the tension is between godlessness and the Godly,” he said. “The tension is between those who believe growth comes from starting with Gospel teaching and those who believe it comes from adaptation to the modern world.”

“The second option brings death,” he continued. “No doubt, we have a challenge on our hands.”


Explicit Teachings

Turning to the synod on the family, he reaffirmed that St. John Paul II’s teaching on marriage and the family “will not be abrogated because it is based on the teaching of Christ.” And Christ’s and St. Paul’s teachings on holy Communion for remarried divorcees are “very explicit.”

“The synod will massively endorse Tradition,” he said, while “certainly wanting to help people to be compassionate.” He said he didn’t anticipate “any deviation at all” from St. John Paul II’s teachings.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Images from Rome’s March for Life


Thousands of participants from all over the world took part in Italy’s 5th March for Life on Sunday. Here below are some photographs of the march which began on the Via della Conciliazione close to the Vatican and ended near Circus Maximus in the center of Rome.  The organizers described the march as an “extraordinary success.”

Below the images are comments from some prominent participants: Mary Rathke who was conceived through rape and is now a pro-life activist, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Church historian Professor Roberto de Mattei, and Maria Madise, director of Voice of the Family.

Photos: Edward Pentin

Some comments on the March for Life from some key participants:

Church historian, Professor Roberto De Mattei:

“This march has been a great success, greater than last year, because we have many more people. But the number is not important, rather the fact that there are many groups coming from everywhere: the US, Australia, New Zealand, Croatia, Romania, Russia. And there is great enthusiasm. We are happy to have the presence of Cardinal Burke who is participating for the 4th time, also many priests, Italian and foreign. This shows the public acknowledgement of the rights of God rather than the so-called pseudo rights of man, as abortion is defined. This is a strong protest against abortion, euthanasia, and we are all here to defend innocent life from the very beginning to natural death. So this is a strong message to the political class, to bishops, media and anyone who wants to understand what this crowd signifies.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta:

“It seems to me that the march grows stronger every year, giving a more powerful witness to the absolute respect to defenseless life. I’m very pleased. I’m no good at judging numbers, but we’re covering a long distance here with the marchers.

In Italy and Europe in general there are a number of initiatives that are anti-life so this kind of manifestation is very very important. The spirit is very positive, people are filled with hope and happy to give themselves to this kind of witness.”

Maria Madise, director of Voice of the Family:

“I’ve been really impressed with the presence of clergy and the international presence of prolife leaders. This is a beautiful witness, and shows a great cross section of the whole of society, from children to high ranking people who made the effort to come and be with us here. There’s no better time for speaking out… This is the chance to speak the truth to help guide people.

It’s not only about the unborn but for all life, no matter how vulnerable, how infirm or how old. We are marching for everyone, for those in the womb, in the hospitals, for those too old to enjoy life, for our children and our grandparents, and ultimately for ourselves and the whole good of humankind.

This is the strongest lay and clerical message to be given to the synod: that the laity and clergy can come together in such a way in such a great crisis, to celebrate life and marriage. To celebrate openness to life, that is the purity that resists the contraceptive mentality, which is the greatest destroyer of families, lives, and parenthood primarily. This really is the best way to urge the synod fathers to concentrate on the gravest issues members of our families face.”

Mary Rathke, conceived through rape and now a pro-life activist:

“I’m from Michigan and this is the second time I’ve taken part in this march. In many places they use the exception of rape to make abortion legal … There’s this social stigma, that if you’re raped and have this child, then it’s the rapist’s child, the monster’s child and I can tell you that I’m not a rapist’s child, I’m not a monster’s child, I’m a mother’s child and I’m a child of the most high God. I’m made in His image, and my life matters and if my life matters then we must defend all life. When a woman is raped there are two victims and we don’t kill one victim to make the other one feel better. People think that abortion is the answer but honestly it doesn’t make the memories of the rape go away. It just compounds the trauma, and women who do have their children say it was the best thing that came out of it. What man meant for evil, God used for good. I was adopted, adoption is a beautiful option. You give the child a family and life, you’re not giving them away, you’re giving them a gift, you’re saying their life matters. So I’m very thankful that my mother had me. She was raped on her way home from work, and I am here to speak for all women who are too ashamed to speak about the pain they have gone through, and for all the children of rape who think it’s a shameful thing. They can look at me and see they can love their life, and be happy and proud of their own lives.”

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Will Rome Hold Germany’s Bishops to Account?


Germany’s bishops have been increasingly criticized for leading the Church into heresy with impunity.

The latest example of this came on Tuesday when over two-thirds of country’s bishops voted to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and those living in homosexual unions to continue employment in Church-run institutions, almost without exception.

The German bishops also recently released the results of a pre-synod survey which unsurprisingly showed the majority of German Catholics dissented from Church teaching.

The hierarchy has clearly shown that it wants the Church to accommodate these views, and had these results translated into five languages in a bid to influence the upcoming Synod on the Family along these lines.

In a March 6 article that drew on the preparatory questionnaire results, Vaticanist Sandro Magister highlighted just how dissenting the German Church has become. To give some examples:

  • In almost all the dioceses of Germany, sacramental absolution and Holy Communion are given to the divorced and remarried;
  • The majority of bishops express the hope that civil second marriages be blessed in church;
  • They hope that Holy Communion be given to non-Catholic spouses;
  • They would like to see the “positive aspects” of homosexual relationships and same-sex unions recognized.

But despite these positions, Rome appears powerless, and no matter how much this dissent is reported, the German bishops are expected to carry on regardless (in fact plenty of evidence shows they have a well orchestrated campaign to see their pastoral innovations adopted at the synod). The consequences of this could be very grave, with some believing it could lead to schism.

The Vatican has been strong in holding bishops accountable when it comes to clerical sex abuse within their dioceses. Pope Francis has even asked his commission on the protection of minors to draw up a system for bishops on handling sex abuse cases.

It therefore raises the question why the Pope and the Vatican cannot be equally strong in holding Germany’s bishops accountable for driving the episcopate into heresy, leading many souls astray, and causing significant harm to the Church.

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Fighting for Eternal Life in the Eternal City



Lauren Cater/CNA

Participants carry banners in Rome’s March for Life on May 4, 2014. – Lauren Cater/CNA

ROME — Catholics must engage in the public square if the tide is to turn in favor of a culture of life, the chief organizer of Rome’s March for Life has said.

Virginia Coda Nunziante, in an April 29 interview with the Register, also drew attention to anti-life legislation currently passing through the Italian parliament and underlined the importance of having prelates, priests and religious take part in marches to uphold the sanctity of all human life.

She was speaking ahead of Rome’s fifth March for Life on May 10, held to show there are people “who have not given up hope and want the rights of those who have no voice to prevail over the logic of utilitarianism, exasperated individualism and a notion of law that allows the rights of the weak and innocent to be victimized.”


What is the overall significance of the Rome March for Life for Italy and society in general?

What is very important today is that Catholics especially understand the necessity to go in the public square, because this is something Catholics never usually did in the past, except for some political groups, but there are few of them. They, and especially young people, need to understand that if they want to achieve something and change our society, we have to go into the public square.

This is for two reasons: Firstly, because we have to give an important signal to our politicians: that we are there, that we exist, that we don’t accept these laws that go against the natural law. The non-negotiable values are very important to us, and we’re ready to defend them.

The second reason is to give especially young people an idea of the necessity of a fight. Young people understand that, but usually today Catholicism [in society] is presented as “peace” — “accommodation.” This is one reason why young people leave Catholicism or don’t follow it, because there is nothing to give them the idea of really fighting for the good. So going into the public square gives them this idea; and for young people, this is very important.


The current legislative situation in Italy is of concern to many pro-lifers. Could you explain more about this?

Yes, this is very important. We have two items of legislation that are very dangerous. The first one concerns homosexual unions. This is already going through parliament, and, probably, in the next few weeks, it will be approved. The second one is euthanasia. Against these kind of laws, the only way we can resist them is to go into the public square. We have always had conferences, debates and other things, but these have always been held in conference centers and churches, never on the street. For our enemies, this doesn’t present them with any problems, if we’re in a conference hall or a church or in a closed-door meeting, because we don’t address public opinion. But by going into the public square, everybody sees us, and so this is a way of generating some kind of reaction in favor of life by people on the street. They see the witness, and it gives them courage, especially to understand that they’re not alone in thinking these things are wrong.

The media promotes the idea that now we can’t do anything because all these countries have these laws — Italy has to accept them, and public opinion is in favor of that. But in Italy, and I’m sure in other countries, it’s not true that the majority is in favor of them. So we have to give voice to the vast majority who have no voice.


It’s therefore important to stress that the perceived juggernaut of the anti-life agenda that seems unstoppable actually isn’t.

Exactly; it seems unstoppable, but, in fact, it can be stopped. As in the past, in various times throughout history, the Church and Catholicism had to face some difficulties, so they reacted in the public square. And, now, we have to do the same. Before, it wasn’t so necessary, because we were the majority, but now we are a minority. We need a little minority who will lead a majority who don’t think they can do anything, but, in fact, they can.


Some have stressed the importance of Church participation at the March for Life, but, until now, very few cardinals and bishops have taken part. Would you like to see more doing so?

We as laypeople insist on saying that the march is not an ecclesiastical march. It’s not promoted by the Church — it’s promoted by laypeople, and it’s open to all people of other faiths who want to come, because, of course, the problem of life is also understood by other faiths. But, for us, being Catholic, it is very important, and we hope in Italy and in other countries to see more cardinals and bishops on the street. In America, there are many diocesan cardinals and bishops who are in the public square and participate in the march. In France, it’s the same. This year, Cardinal [Philippe] Barbarin [of Lyon], who is the primate of France, took part.

And so this is also, of course, very important for us in Italy. Of course, they’re not used to that, so we don’t see more foreign cardinals and bishops take part in the Rome march than Italians. But I really hope it slowly will change and that Italian bishops and cardinals will be present in the public square, because it’s important for the faithful to see that their pastors understand the problem and are with us in this fight.

It’s really a fight today between the culture of death and the culture of life — the culture of death, which is imposed on us by abortion, euthanasia, gender theory, homosexual unions and unethical reproductive technologies. All these kinds of things are, in fact, against life.


Italy has also just passed a law significantly speeding up divorce proceedings. How is this also a concern for March for Life participants?

It’s related to family and to children, as we know very well from statistics that couples who are not married, who don’t see a future together, don’t have children, because, of course, they don’t see a long future. The result is that this couple doesn’t have children and doesn’t procreate.


How many abortions have there been since Italy legalized abortion in 1978?

From the beginning of the abortion law, we’ve had 6 million abortions, and now the country has one of the lowest birthrates in Europe. Also, of 500,000 children born in Italy each year, 2 million never see the light of day. This is through not only abortion, but also the morning-after pill, the freezing of embryos and so forth. So, more or less, 2 million individuals are destroyed for every 500,000 who live. And in our situation in Italy, the birthrate is so poor that, if it continues, the population cannot go on — and in the next decades, there’ll be no Italians left.


Will Pope Francis say something to the marchers?

We’ve asked him to do so, as we did in the past. Usually, he always sends pro-life messages to us and to other marches: He did so for the Washington march and the Paris march, so we think he will give a message.

In recent months, he has intervened a few times against abortion, a culture of death and gender theory, so I think he’s concerned about these issues, and we can expect a message from him encouraging us.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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German Bishops to Allow Employees in Same-Sex Unions, Civil Remarriages to Keep Jobs


BONN, Germany — With potentially far-reaching consequences, the bishops of Germany have voted by more than a two-thirds majority to relax Church labor laws to allow civilly remarried employees or those living in same-sex unions to retain their jobs with Church institutions.

In an announcement Tuesday, the German bishops’ conference in Bonn said the majority of bishops had ruled that immediate dismissal will only be a “last resort” for employees who are divorced and subsequently “remarry” or those living in a registered partnership.

Until now, such employees were required to be dismissed from such employment, although the rules were often ignored. The Church is the second-largest employer in Germany.

“An automatic dismissal may now in future be ruled as out of the question,” said Alois Glück, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, the country’s top lay Catholic organization. From now on, he said, any public violation of loyalty to Church teachings must be examined on a case-by-case basis.

The amendment, when enacted by a bishop, explicitly overturns a 2002 ecclesiastical law, which stipulated that all Church employees need to be loyal to the magisterium. Glück said the change “represents a substantial paradigm shift in the application of ecclesiastical law,” adding that the new regulation will “open the way” for decisions to be made in accordance with “human justice.”

The lack of unanimity among bishops means the new regulation is left to Germany’s 27 bishops to implement the reform in their dioceses. But in practice, it could be unlikely that any bishop will be able to resist the new measures. According to the official statement, the bishops’ conference is setting up “an additional working group” to examine the question of whether the Church’s labor law can be “more institutionally oriented” in a bid to make it a nationwide and uniform labor structure. The bishops’ conference has also instructed dioceses to publicize the changes in their diocesan newsletters. This is required to formally enact the law.

“I expect and hope this will happen everywhere,” Cardinal Rainer Woelki, the archbishop of Cologne, said in a May 6 interview with The cardinal, who headed the committee that drew up the new law, said the first objective of the amendment is to ensure “compliance with lived practice,” but denied the amendment in any way undermines the principle of the indissolubility of marriage.

Caritas Germany, which employs 591,000 staff, welcomed the change. President Peter Neher said Church institutions need a “broader understanding of the concept of loyalty” and that ecclesiastical labor law should reflect how the Catholic Church “stands alongside” those who live broken lives.


Unilateral Action

The law reform is viewed as affirmation of recent remarks made by the president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who said the German episcopate is “not just a subsidiary of Rome” and that it “cannot wait” until the upcoming synod on the family in October.

Some Church observers see the change as representing a kind of “gradualism” whereby the magisterium must continue to be upheld among those employed as “proclaimers of the Gospel” — that is, priests, deacons and pastoral workers — but not for others. The critics argue that it is instilling a kind of schizophrenia in the Church whereby an openly active homosexual Catholic can be employed in a Church institution but a pastoral assistant or catechist must “stick to the rules.” They also point out that faithful Catholics will now be supporting active homosexual employees and public adulterers through the Church tax.

For this reason, according to the critics, the move represents a striking break with fundamental Church teachings.

“What they are pushing is not Catholic anymore,” said one source close to the German hierarchy. “This is an arbitrary law that is against divine law, the natural law and ecclesiastical law. It’s Protestant what they are doing, and they must think we’re idiots not to realize this.”

The reform has been considered for years, the German bishops said. The episcopal conference had planned to vote on the new law last November but postponed it after a federal court ruled in favor of current Church labor law regarding dismissal of a divorced-and-civilly-remarried employee.

Following the announcement Tuesday, the bishops’ conference organized a campaign throughout the German Catholic media in support of the decision, drawing on members of Catholic institutions favorable to the decision.

And Jesuit Father Hans Langendörfer, secretary of the bishops’ conference and one of the key figures behind the new law, wrote a letter to all bishops instructing them on the change, stressing that the law should be implemented by Aug. 1.

The date is notable, as it is well before the October synod and just ahead of the German bishops’ ad limina visit to the Vatican in September. The visit fulfills the Church requirement that all bishops must report to the Vatican every five years on the status of their dioceses. With characteristic German efficiency, observers say, the bishops’ conference is working on presenting the change as a fait accompli in time for the synod.


Cardinal Woelki

The leading figure behind the labor reform is Cardinal Woelki, who has not only headed the commission on changing the labor law but also heads the bishops’ committee for overseeing Caritas Germany.

In 2012, when he was archbishop of Berlin, the cardinal caused controversy by saying that if two homosexuals “take responsibility for each other, if they take care of each other permanently and faithfully, this must be viewed in a similar manner as with heterosexual relationships.” During last year’s synod, a move to see positive aspects of such unions was roundly rejected by synod fathers. This latest development will therefore be viewed in some quarters as a victory for the homosexual-rights proponents.

The news of the change to labor law comes after the disclosure of a pre-synod questionnaire, which revealed that only 54% of priests there go to confession even once a year; only 58% of priests pray daily; 60% percent of parishioners don’t believe in life after death; and 66% don’t believe in Christ’s resurrection.

It also showed that German bishops hope that civil second marriages will be blessed in church, that holy Communion will be given to non-Catholic spouses and that “positive aspects” of homosexual relationships and same-sex unions will be recognized.

Whether the labor amendment really is in line with canon law and doctrine and, if it is not, how Rome will react has yet to be determined.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent

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