A Call for ‘Ecological Conversion’


VATICAN CITY — In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis has issued a lengthy warning on the “destruction of the human environment” that draws on theology and “the best scientific research available today” to challenge all people to be better stewards of creation.

The six-chapter, 184-page document, whose subtitle is “The Care for Our Common Home,” also uses environmental concerns to provoke wider discussions on the deeper questions of human existence, as well as the need to safeguard all creation and all people, however poor, small or vulnerable.

“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” is the question at the heart of a document that the Pope directs at all people, not only Catholics.

The encyclical, which has a chapter dedicated to the “human roots of the ecological crisis,” clearly accepts the science of anthropogenic climate change — the first such papal document to so overtly endorse the science. But at the same time, it says the Church has “no reason to offer a definitive opinion,” knowing that “honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.”

The encyclical frequently speaks on behalf of the poor, while often chastising governments for poor governance and businesses for placing “speculation and the pursuit of financial gain” ahead of the common good.

As per tradition, the encyclical takes its title from its opening words — “Laudato si, mi Signore” — (Praise be to you, my Lord). The words come from the canticle of St. Francis of Assisi that “reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us,” the Pope writes.

He then cites further words of his namesake on creation, stressing that “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”

The Pope often refers to teachings on the environment from his recent predecessors, as well as Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I. And, throughout, he draws on previous papal and Church documents, as well as the teachings of some of the doctors of the Church: Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Benedict, Thérèse of Lisieux and Bonaventure. The 20th-century theologian Romano Guardini, a favorite of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is frequently cited, as are statements from various bishops’ conferences.

Rejecting ‘A Throwaway Culture’

Calling on the “whole human family” to seek a sustainable and integral development, the Pope urgently appeals for a “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” In the face of this, Francis criticizes “obstructionist attitudes” and calls for a “new and universal solidarity.”

The encyclical’s first chapter presents the crisis affecting the environment, saying that the Earth “is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” and that its environmental problems are “closely linked to a throwaway culture.”
Climate change, it goes on to say, is a “global problem with serious implications” that represents “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” It notes other factors, such as volcanic activity, variations in the Earth’s orbit and axis and the solar cycle, but adds that “a number of scientific studies” show that “greenhouse gases” are released “mainly as a result of human activity.” This unsettled issue is shaping up as a main criticism by analysts.

“If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us,” the encyclical says, adding that the “worst impact” will probably be felt in developing countries. It goes on to call for the drastic reduction of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases, substituting fossil fuels and developing renewable energy.

It points to the “tragic rise in migrants,” escaping poverty caused by environmental degradation, and tackles shortages and the poor quality of water in many parts of the world, saying it is a “basic and universal human right” and that to deprive the poor of water denies them the “right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.” The loss of biodiversity and extinction of species are also mentioned.

It speaks of the decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society, citing the “unruly growth” of cities, the effects of technological innovations and the omnipresence of the media. The encyclical also focuses on global inequality and calls for a “true ecological approach” to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.

Lack of Leadership

The encyclical draws attention to “weak responses” and a lack of leadership, noting, “It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been.” It criticizes a “superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness.”

In Paragraph 60, Francis places the Church in between two ideological extremes: those who “doggedly uphold the myth of progress,” thinking that ecological problems will solve themselves, and those who view mankind as “no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem.”

Early on, Laudato Si also rejects population control as a means of helping the environment, saying demographic growth is “fully compatible” with an integral and shared development.

“To blame population growth, instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues,” the encyclical says.

The document then draws on the “wisdom of biblical accounts” in relation to the environment and rejects the notion that, having been created in God’s image and given dominion over the Earth, mankind is justified in having “absolute domination over other creatures.” Furthermore, it says that when we see God reflected in all that exists, “our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship him in union with them.”

In a later section, the document criticizes those who show “more zeal” in protecting other species than in defending human dignity or addressing “enormous inequalities in our midst.” Every act of cruelty “towards any creature is contrary to human dignity,” the Pope writes.

The Gaze of Jesus

Under the title “The Gaze of Jesus,” the document notes that Jesus lived in “full harmony with creation” and that the destiny of all creation is “bound up with the mystery of Christ.”

Chapter 3 is given over to what the encyclical calls technocracy — the dominance of technology over everyday life — and economic and political life. The Pope says this is reflected in architecture that “reflects the spirit of an age.”
He argues for a “bold cultural revolution,” in which society needs to slow down and look at reality in a different way.

Also in the chapter, it says modernity has been “marked by an excessive anthropocentricism” that actually obstructs ways of strengthening social bonds. It calls instead for “responsible stewardship” and says failure to acknowledge the worth of “a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities” makes it difficult to recognize that “everything is connected.”

Failure to protect the human embryo, it says, makes it impossible to teach concern for the vulnerable.

The document further decries a culture of relativism that objectifies others, and Francis stresses the need to protect employment, saying it is “essential” to “prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.”

Laudato Si steps back from issuing a definitive statement on genetic modification, but it does say that a “number of significant difficulties” should not be “underestimated.” It also criticizes those who wish to impose limits on such research, while failing to “apply those same principles” to issues, specifically citing experimentation on human embryos.

Human Ecology

Chapter 4 is given over to “human ecology” and stresses the importance of “relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.” It says it is “not a healthy attitude” to “cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,” it says, “whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.”

Chapter 5 concerns “lines of approach and action,” in which the Pope proposes dialogue to achieve a “broad consensus” on action. He says there is an “urgent need of a true world political authority” to deal with these global problems and that the environment cannot be “adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces.”

The final chapter discusses education and spirituality and invites everyone to “ecological conversion” and a “new lifestyle,” even through small actions, such as carpooling and turning off unnecessary lights.

“Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction,” it says. “If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.”

It also calls for “sobriety and humility.” And towards the end, it says the Eucharist is a “source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.”

Closing Marian Reflection

Ending with a reflection on Mary, the Queen of All Creation, he says that “we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom,” as well as implore St. Joseph to “teach us how to show care” for the world.

The Pope ends with two prayers, one from Basil the Great and the other by Pope Francis himself, to close what he calls his lengthy, “joyful and troubling” encyclical.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/a-call-for-ecological-conversion/#ixzz3kvK35dak

Vatican to Prosecute Former Nuncio for Sexual Abuse


VATICAN CITY — A former papal nuncio will be tried in Vatican city state for sexual abuse of children and possession of child pornography.

The Vatican announced on June 15 that Polish-born Józef Wesołowski will be tried July 11 by the Vatican’s criminal court, the jury of which will be made up entirely of laypeople. This is the first time an archbishop will have been sent for trial in Vatican city state and subjected to criminal prosecution for child abuse and possession of child pornography.

The first hearing is expected to be held in public, after which the trial will take place behind closed doors in the same courtroom used to try Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, who was found guilty of leaking papal documents in 2012.

Wesołowski was stripped of his diplomatic immunity and laicized last June, after the first stage of a canonical trial. Since September, he has been under house arrest, rather than a more restrictive detention, because of health reasons. The former archbishop has appealed against the decision to laicize him.

The Vatican said in a statement that Wesołowski is accused of a number of offenses, “some committed during his stay in Rome from August 2013 until the moment of his arrest, on Sept. 22, 2014.” Other offenses were allegedly committed when he was nuncio to the Dominican Republic and apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico, from 2008 to 2013, the Vatican said.

It added that, with regard to the period spent in Rome, Wesołowski is “charged with the offence of possession of child pornography” under a new law introduced by Pope Francis in 2013. It added that the allegations referring to the preceding period “are based on evidence transmitted by the judicial authorities of Santo Domingo in relation to the sexual abuse of minors.”

The Vatican added that these serious allegations will be carefully investigated, together with civil authorities in the Dominican Republic if necessary.
“This will be a delicate and detailed procedure, requiring the most careful observations and insights from all parties involved in the trial,” the Vatican said.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told journalists June 15 that no request from the Dominican Republic has yet been submitted by Vatican authorities with regard to the case.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Resignations

News of Wesołowski’s forthcoming trial came on the same day that Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, following accusations of mismanagement of clerical sex-abuse cases. Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché, who had been investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against Archbishop Nienstedt, also resigned.

The Pope has appointed Newark, N.J., Coadjutor Archbishop Bernard Hebda to serve as the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese until a new residential archbishop is appointed.

Wesołowski’s trial and the U.S. resignations follow Francis’ approval last week of guidelines to make bishops more accountable for sexual abuse in their dioceses, even if the bishops were not directly responsible for the offense.

The new process, originally devised by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was also approved by the council of nine cardinals that advises the Holy Father on Curial reform and Church governance.

A Vatican official told the Register June 16 that Wesołowski’s trial is not directly related to last week’s announcement, as the former nuncio is to be tried under Vatican civil law, like any other Vatican citizen.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, set up to improve safeguards against abuse, is also not involved in the case, which is ultimately the responsibility of the Congregation for Bishops and the Pope.

The Archbishop Nienstedt case will now be examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, although Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi said he did not know if the two former bishops will be judged according to new accountability guidelines.

The resignations in Minnesota come on the heels of the resignation in April of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Bishop Robert Finn, who in 2012 was convicted for failing to report suspected child abuse in connection with child pornography found on the computer of Father Shawn Ratigan, a priest of the diocese.

Questions About Cardinal Danneels

In the wake of the sexual-abuse-related resignations of Bishop Finn and Archbishop Nienstedt, who were both known for their orthodoxy, some observers are wondering if the Holy See will be equally willing to take action involving bishops known instead for their public variance from Church teaching and whose actions as local bishops regarding sexual abuse are similarly open to question — such as Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium.

Despite evidence showing he personally covered for a former priest who for years had sexually assaulted his own nephew, critics say he has never been held accountable.

In fact, Pope Francis made him a pontifical appointee at last year’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, and he received him in private audience in January of this year.

Cardinal Danneels is well known for dissenting opinions.

In April, two prominent Belgian politicians substantiated long-standing reports that the cardinal tried in 1990 to persuade Belgium’s King Baudouin to sign into law a bill that would have legalized abortion in the predominantly Catholic European nation. Cardinal Danneels reportedly did so because, while he personally opposes abortion, he also interprets the separation of church and state to mean that the Church should have no political power at all.

And with respect to the redefinition of marriage, Cardinal Danneels said in 2013 he thought it was a “positive development” that states are “free to open up civil marriage for gays if they want, but such unions should be given a different name than marriage.”

Meanwhile, in March 2015, the Pope appointed Msgr. Juan Barros bishop of Osorno, Chile, despite accusations that he had protected Father Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty of child abuse in 2011. His installation Mass had to be cut short due to protests. Bishop Barros is also known for his orthodoxy. The Vatican said it had “carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Bishops who have resigned or were removed, 2000-2015, for reasons other than age:
Name Diocese Year
Archbishop John Nienstedt St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn. 2015
Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn. 2015
Bishop Robert Finn Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo. 2015
Archbishop Józef Wesołowski Dominican Republic (apostolic nuncio) 2014
*Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano Ciudad Del Este, Paraguay 2014
Cardinal Keith O’Brien St. Andrews-Edinburgh, Scotland 2013
Bishop Daniel Walsh Santa Rosa, Calif. 2011
Bishop Seamus Hegarty Derry, Ireland 2011
Bishop James Moriarty Kildare and Leighlin, Calif. 2010
Bishop John Magee Cloyne, Ireland 2010
*Bishop Joseph Martino Scranton, Pa. 2009
Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Field Dublin 2009
Auxiliary Bishop Eamonn Walsh Dublin 2009
Bishop Donal Murray Limerick, Ireland 2009
Bishop Raymond Lahey Antigonish, Canada 2009
Bishop Eleuterio Rey Zárate-Campana, Argentina 2006
Bishop Kurt Krenn Sankt Pölten, Austria 2004
Cardinal Bernard Law Boston 2002
Bishop Brendan Comiskey Ferns, Ireland 2002
*Resignation not associated with clergy sex abuse
Source: Register staff
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Medjugorje Decision Will Take ‘Months,’ Says Vatican Spokesman


VATICAN CITY — The Vatican downplayed intense speculation that Pope Francis will decide very soon on “certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects” of alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, saying it will most probably take months, rather than days or weeks.

In comments to the Register June 11, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said it is “hard to say” when a ruling might be made, but that it’s certainly not likely before the Vatican’s summer break.

He noted that there has not yet been a feria quarta (a monthly meeting of cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) on the subject and that he doubted there would be one before the summer break.

“So if you ask me: days, weeks or months? I think it would be safest to say a few months,” Father Lombardi said, and he warned against feeding expectations that an announcement is “very imminent.

His comments follow the Holy Father’s remarks June 6, in answer to a question from a Bosnian-Croat journalist on the papal plane back from Sarajevo, that a decision could be coming soon.

“We’re at this point of making decisions [and] then they will be announced,” Pope Francis said, but gave no indication of any timeline.

He recalled how, in 2010, Benedict XVI asked the CDF to create a commission, presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, emeritus vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, to study the reports surrounding the alleged apparitions. The commission aimed to further investigate “certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the phenomenon of Medjugorje.”

Pope Francis told reporters on the papal plane that the commission “made a study, and Cardinal Ruini came to me and consigned the study to me after many years. I don’t know, three or four years, more or less.

The commission, which the Pope said “did good work,” handed its findings to the CDF in January 2014. The congregation subsequently has been undertaking its own examination before giving its conclusions to the Pope, who will have the final say.

Last Week’s Comments

In his comments last week, Francis revealed that Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the CDF, told him that “he would do a feria quarta, in these times.” The Pope said he thought that meeting had been held on the last Wednesday in May but that he was “not sure.” He said a decision could be made soon and that “some guidelines will be given to bishops on the lines they will take.”

In comments to the Register June 11, a Vatican official close to the issue was slightly puzzled by the Pope’s remarks, saying, “There’s no novita [news]” and stressed that the Holy Father was speaking extemporaneously.

“We’re not sure where he’s getting the information from, as we don’t know anything about this decision being imminent,” he said. “His comment may result in expediting a decision, or perhaps be intended to help push things along.”

A few days after making the remark, the Pope cautioned against basing one’s faith solely on predicted visions or anything other than Christ himself.

In a homily during his daily Mass at the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse June 9, he cautioned against those who look for God “with these Christian spiritualties that are a little ethereal,” calling them “modern gnostics.”

These “modern gnostics,” Pope Francis said, are tempted to avoid the scandal of the cross and are content to seek God through their “rather ethereal Christian spirituality.”

He also spoke of those who forget they have been anointed and given the guarantee of the Holy Spirit, so they are always searching for some “novelty” in their Christian identity. They ask, the Holy Father said, “Where are the visionaries who can tell us exactly what message Our Lady will be sending at 4 o’clock this afternoon?”

Some who base their faith on such novelties “live from this,” he said, but added that “this isn’t Christian identity. The ultimate word of God is named ‘Jesus.’”

The Alleged Apparitions

The alleged apparitions originally began June 24, 1981, when six children in the town of Medjugorje, located in what is now Bosnia, started to experience phenomena that they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to the four girls and two boys, the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children — who are now adults — continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because, they say, not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer. A significant number have claimed to have experienced miracles at the site. Others believe the visions are not credible.

In April 1991, the bishops of the former Yugoslavia determined that “on the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

On the basis of those findings, and because the commission was still in the process of its investigation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed last October that clerics and the faithful “are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vatican-spokesman-medjugorje-decision-will-take-months/#ixzz3kvHgAZNO

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