Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cardinal Wuerl: "Acting on Faith"

The Washington Post: Opinions
January 25

Cardinal Donald Wuerl is archbishop of Washington.
The Catholic Church is no stranger to criticism from those who disagree with its teachings, but the petition posted recently on the White House Web site to label the church a “hate group” is beyond the pale, even in an age when an aggressive secularism seeks to marginalize the influence of religious belief

The church has long been criticized as “too dogmatic.” Demands are constantly made that it change its 2,000-year-old teachings on marriage, family, sexuality, morality and other matters related to the truth about human beings. But even if others do not agree, the church understands that what it proclaims is revealed truth — the Word of God. The church’s teachings are timeless. They cannot be changed, even though adherence may be upsetting to some. That the church is built on a rock with fixed beliefs is a positive feature, both because it can withstand the shifting winds of public opinion and because of the cherished content of our faith itself, which fosters love among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. 

Although these precepts may be misunderstood by many today, the fundamental vocation of the Catholic Church is to provide the witness of love and truth to the world, including offering the voice of an informed conscience. Catholics are taught to respect the fundamental, inherent dignity of every person, each made in the image of God, and to work to establish a just society. The church teaches that it is our obligation to manifest love of neighbor, to provide charitable service to others, and to promote truth, genuine freedom and authentic humanism. We work for the poor, the oppressed and the suffering, because that is what our faith teaches we must do. There is thus a positive side to being dogmatic: The teachings and works of the church advance the common good throughout civil society. Just as our dogma is constant, so is the work it commands.

The Archdiocese of Washington is the largest nongovernmental provider of social services in our area: Seventy-five programs in 48 locations offer assistance to whoever needs it, regardless of religion, race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation. Each year, more than 100,000 people in the Washington area rely on Catholic charitable organizations for housing, food, job training, immigration assistance, legal aid, dental care, mental health care, lifespan services for those with disabilities and their families and prenatal care and assistance for vulnerable pregnant women and unwed mothers.

Catholic hospitals provide millions of dollars’ worth of uncompensated care every year to our poor and vulnerable, and Catholic schools save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually in per-pupil costs.
The church does not do these things for money or profit or because they’re nice to do. When the church treats the sick and injured, or feeds the hungry, or teaches, or provides assistance to those in need, it does so as an answer to the call made by Jesus Christ. We are obligated to do these and other works of mercy and to give voice to moral truth because He asks us to.

The church has made these and other indispensable positive contributions for two millennia. Indeed, the Catholic Church was essential to the formation of Western civilization as we know it. Scholars point out that it was the church that established the modern university and hospital systems. Modern-day music, art, architecture, economics, philosophy and our legal system all have their roots in the Catholic Church.

Concepts such as natural rights and social equality, not to mention the idea that government and religion are separate spheres, were developed in Catholic thought. And it was Catholics supported by the church — with its dogmatic ideas that faith and reason are complementary and that the universe is orderly — who led the way in the sciences, including astronomy, cosmology, physics, chemistry, genetics, optics and seismology

The church is dogmatic, and that is good — even if it means that the church is a sign of contradiction in the world and the object of animus and disdain. It is a positive, attractive feature that what we profess is unchanging and unchangeable — the good news of a love and truth that we are called to share with the world. It is good for Catholics and non-Catholics. Were the church to compromise its creed, if we were to simply go along with today’s secularized culture, not only would the church cease to be the church but the common good would suffer greatly.

"Activists mobilize around White House’s Catholic ’hate group’ petition"

The White House’s novel online system for allowing citizens to petition the administration on any number of causes has led to various unintended consequences: petitions to secede from the U.S. following President Obama’s re-election; a petition for Vice President Joe Biden to star in a reality show; and a petition for the government to disclose its secret archives on extraterrestrials.

Now there is a petition to designate the Roman Catholic Church as a hate group for its opposition to gay rights, and it may wind up generating almost as many press releases as signatures.

The “We the People” petition was filed on Christmas Day and was prompted by Pope Benedict XVI’s Dec. 21 year-end address to Vatican administrators in which he denounced gay marriage as a threat to Western civilization.

The petition blasts Benedict for “hateful language and discriminatory remarks” and for implying “that gay families are sub-human.” The petition says that as a result of those remarks, the Roman Catholic Church “fits the definition of a hate group as defined by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.”

As of Monday (Jan. 7), the anti-Catholic petition had garnered just over 2,200 signatures, well short of the 25,000 signers it needs by Jan. 24 to reach the threshold for consideration by an administration officials. (The federal government does not designate hate groups; it only prosecutes certain hate crimes.)

But conservative Catholic media and activists were already leveraging the petition to highlight their opposition to President Obama.

On Jan. 4, Catholic News Agency published a story quoting Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council — which gained notoriety when it was designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010 — saying the petition reveals an “underlying agenda” to “stigmatize any disapproval of homosexuality at all and essentially to silence us.”

Catholic Advocate, a lobbying group with ties to the Republican Party, followed up with an email blast later that day citing the petition and asking for emergency donations to “help us launch an all-out campaign against the Obama Administration’s hateful, secular agenda.”

And Thomas Peters, a conservative activist who blogs at, asked that the White House “declare once and for all that it does NOT consider the Catholic Church to be a’hate group.’”

The ADL also responded, with national director Abraham Foxman calling the petition’s claim “an outrageous and offensive conceit” and saying it was “irresponsible for the promoter of this petition to use our name.”

The originator of the petition is only identified on the “We the People” website as “Zach N” of Atlanta.
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pope Benedict at Epiphany: To love men pastors must be "restless for God"

"Following a tradition begun by Pope John Paul II, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord also as the day when episcopal ordination will be conferred on four priests who will now cooperate in different ways in the ministry of the Pope for the unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ in the multiplicity of the Particular Churches. The connection between this episcopal ordination and the theme of the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jesus Christ is evident. It is the task of the Bishop in this pilgrimage not merely to walk beside the others, but to go before them, showing the way. But in this liturgy I would like to reflect with you on a more concrete question. Based on the account of Matthew, we can gain a certain idea of what sort of men these were, who followed the sign of the star and set off to find that King who would establish not only for Israel but for all mankind a new kind of kingship. What kind of men were they? And we can also ask whether, despite the difference of times and tasks, we can glimpse in them something of what a Bishop is and how he is to carry out his task.

"These men who set out towards the unknown were, in any event, men with a restless heart. Men driven by a restless quest for God and the salvation of the world. They were filled with expectation, not satisfied with their secure income and their respectable place in society. They were looking for something greater. They were no doubt learned men, quite knowledgeable about the heavens and probably possessed of a fine philosophical formation. But they desired more than simply knowledge about things. They wanted above all else to know what is essential. They wanted to know how we succeed in being human. And therefore they wanted to know if God exists, and where and how he exists. Whether he is concerned about us and how we can encounter him. Nor did they want just to know. They wanted to understand the truth about ourselves and about God and the world. Their outward pilgrimage was an expression of their inward journey, the inner pilgrimage of their hearts. They were men who sought God and were ultimately on the way towards him. They were seekers after God.

"Here we come to the question: What sort of man must he be, upon whom hands are laid in episcopal ordination in the Church of Jesus Christ? We can say that he must above all be a man concerned for God, for only then will he also be truly concerned about men. Inversely, we could also say that a Bishop must be a man concerned for others, one who is concerned about what happens to them. He must be a man for others. But he can only truly be so if he is a man seized by God, if concern for God has also become for him concern for God’s creature who is man. Like the Wise Men from the East, a Bishop must not be someone who merely does his job and is content with that. No, he must be gripped by God’s concern for men and women. He must in some way think and feel with God. Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God’s own restlessness for us. Since God is concerned about us, he follows us even to the crib, even to the Cross. “Thou with weary steps hast sought me, crucified hast dearly bought me, may thy pains not be in vain”, the Church prays in the Dies Irae. The restlessness of men for God and hence the restlessness of God for men must unsettle the Bishop. This is what we mean when we say that, above all else, the Bishop must be a man of faith. For faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth and love. On this pilgrimage the Bishop must go ahead, he must be the guide pointing out to men and women the way to faith, hope and love.

"Faith’s inner pilgrimage towards God occurs above all in prayer. Saint Augustine once said that prayer is ultimately nothing more than the realization and radicalization of our yearning for God. Instead of “yearning”, we could also translate the word as “restlessness” and say that prayer would detach us from our false security, from our being enclosed within material and visible realities, and would give us a restlessness for God and thus an openness to and concern for one another. The Bishop, as a pilgrim of God, must be above all a man of prayer. He must be in constant inner contact with God; his soul must be open wide to God. He must bring before God his own needs and the needs of others, as well as his joys and the joys of others, and thus in his own way establish contact between God and the world in communion with Christ, so that Christ’s light can shine in the world.

"Let us return to the Wise Men from the East. These were also, and above all, men of courage, the courage and humility born of faith. Courage was needed to grasp the meaning of the star as a sign to set out, to go forth – towards the unknown, the uncertain, on paths filled with hidden dangers. We can imagine that their decision was met with derision: the scorn of those realists who could only mock the reveries of such men. Anyone who took off on the basis of such uncertain promises, risking everything, could only appear ridiculous. But for these men, inwardly seized by God, the way which he pointed out was more important than what other people thought. For them, seeking the truth meant more than the taunts of the world, so apparently clever.

"How can we not think, in this context, of the task of a Bishop in our own time? The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain. Anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church is on many points out of step with the prevalent way of thinking, even in our own day. Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs. Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous. And this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking. The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves. “Those who fear the Lord will not be timid”, says the Book of Sirach (34:16). The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates." - Pope Benedict, Epiphany Homily, 2013

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