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Posts Tagged ‘Pope Benedict XVI’

Urbi et Orbi: Christmas, 2010

From his Christmas Address Urbi et Orbi (To the City and the World), Pope Benedict XVI:

“The Incarnation is the culmination of creation. When Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, was formed in the womb of Mary by the will of the Father and the working of the Holy Spirit, creation reached its high point. The ordering principle of the universe, the Logos, began to exist in the world, in a certain time and space.”

What beauty. Creation reaches its culmination when Jesus was formed in the womb, not at birth. Pope Benedict understands that creation of the human person is complete at fertilization, when in the zygotic stage a whole and complete human, in form and function, exists at the single-celled stage.

Creation is complete.

From that point on, the human person is engaged in its development, a process that exists on a continuum until death, and beyond.

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November 27, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Saturday evening Pope Benedict XVI held an unprecedented “vigil for all nascent human life” at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The vigil was held in union with thousands of similar events in parishes and dioceses across the world.

At the request of the Holy Father, a letter had been sent to all the episcopal conferences of the Catholic Church this past June, asking them to organize the pro-life prayer vigils on the eve of the beginning of the liturgical season of Advent in all local churches.

The following is a complete transcript of the pope’s remarks during the vigil, courtesy of Vatican Radio:

Dear brothers and sisters,

With this evening’s celebration, the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new liturgical year beginning with its first stage: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord. In this Advent period we will once again experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and cared for us to the point of becoming a man. This great and fascinating mystery of God with us, moreover of God who becomes one of us, is what we celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas. During the season of Advent we feel the Church that takes us by the hand and – in the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary – expresses her motherhood allowing us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.

IMAGE: ©LWA-Dann Tardif/CORBIS

While our hearts reach out towards the annual celebration of the birth of Christ, the Church’s liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord in the splendour of glory. This is why we, in every Eucharist, “announce his death, proclaim his resurrection until he comes again” we hold vigil in prayer. The liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole Bible concludes, the last page of the Revelation of Saint John: “Come, Lord Jesus “(22:20).

Dear brothers and sisters, our coming together this evening to begin the Advent journey is enriched by another important reason: with the entire Church, we want to solemnly celebrate a prayer vigil for unborn life. I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages. The beginning of the liturgical year helps us to relive the expectation of God made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself small, He becomes a child, it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is near, who wanted to experience the life of man, from the very beginning, to save it completely, fully. And so the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord and the beginning of human life are intimately connected and in harmony with each other within the one saving plan of God, the Lord of life of each and every one of us. The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in an amazing way, that every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity.

Man has an unmistakable originality compared to all other living beings that inhabit the earth. He presents himself as a unique and singular entity, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of a material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in the spiritual dimension and the corporal dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First letter to the Thessalonians which was just proclaimed: “May the God of peace himself – St. Paul writes – make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ “(5:23). Therefore, we are spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limits of our material condition, at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome Him in us. We operate in earthly realities and through them we can perceive the presence of God and seek Him, truth, goodness and absolute beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and we long for total fulfilment.

God loves us so deeply, totally, without distinction, He calls us to friendship with him, He makes us part of a reality beyond all imagination, thought and word; His own divine life. With emotion and gratitude we acknowledge the value of the incomparable dignity of every human person and the great responsibility we have toward all. ” Christ, the final Adam, – says the Second Vatican Council – by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear…. by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. “(Gaudium et Spes, 22).

IMAGE: © Vladimir Godnik/beyond/Corbis

Believing in Jesus Christ also means having a new outlook on man, a look of trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and reason show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love. He has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests. The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought. Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. In this vein we find the Church’s concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences. The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: “from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care ” (ibid., n. 51).

There are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary’s womb, so it was for all of us in our mother’s womb. With the ancient Christian writer Tertullian we can say: ” he who will be a man is already one” (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.

Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence or exploitation. The many violations of their rights that are committed in the world sorely hurt the conscience of every man of good will. Before the sad landscape of the injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make mine Pope John Paul II’s passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: ” respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!”(Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 5). I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.

To the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with faith, with her maternal womb, with loving care, with nurturing support and vibrant with love, we entrust our commitment and prayer in favour of unborn life . We do in the liturgy – which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us – worshiping the divine Eucharist, we contemplate Christ’s body, that body who took flesh from Mary by the Holy Spirit, and from her was born in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!

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This photoshopped picture, swiped from a hate-filled site, is actually quite the catechetical tool in light of the recent dust-up on the Pope’s comments about condoms.

New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan said something rarely uttered in public during an interview published on November 22 in the New York Times. From the article, which can be read here:

“The Pope didn’t say, ‘Oh good, you should use a condom,’ ” Archbishop Dolan said, referring to a controversial comment the pope made in a book that is being released worldwide on Tuesday.

In the book, the pope said that a male prostitute who used a condom to prevent the spread of AIDS might be taking a first step toward moral responsibility. Some Catholic analysts claimed that the pope was floating a possible exception in the church’s ban on birth control. But Archbishop Dolan said the church could not simply change its doctrine.

“You get the impression that the Holy See or the pope is like Congress and every once in a while says, ‘Oh, let’s change this law,’ ” he said. “We can’t.”

Those last two words hang in the air, pregnant in their implication.

“We Can’t”.

In truth, bishops are bound, not free, as Paul alluded to in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4:1-6.

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

A prisoner for the Lord. ONE Lord. ONE Faith. ONE Baptism.

The moral law comes from God, not man. That is why the Pope speaks infallibly in matters of Faith and Morals, because as the Apostle Paul tells us, there is but ONE Faith. The Pope speaks infallibly when he speaks as the voice of the Apostolic Successors (the Bishops) on a topic dealing with faith and morals. Their job is to hand on the faith that was revealed to them. Consider some of the admonitions of the Apostle Paul to one of the first of the Apostolic Successors, the young Bishop Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:13-14

” 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

1 Timothy 1:3-4

” 3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.”

1 Timothy 4:11-16

“11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

1 Timothy 6:20-21

” 20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.”

2 Timothy 1:6-7

“6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.”

2 Timothy 4:1-5

” 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

They are bound, not free.

“We Can’t.” are two of the most truthful, humble, and powerful words ever spoken by a Bishop. Prisoners for the Lord.

So long as they remain bound, we are authentically free.

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Many have written asking for my take on the Pope’s comments about condom usage. I cannot, and will not comment on the moral dimensions of this issue as regards the use of condoms in light of Humanae Vitae. However, I think there is a scientfic dimension that has been overlooked here, and that dimension yields to a larger moral dimension.

Over at Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog, Reverend E.J. Cappelletti writes the following on this subject:

“I was ordained in 1950. The teaching at that time was quite clear on this matter. It is a case of double effect. If an action has two effects one good and one bad, provided that one does not will the bad effect, he or she is free to choose the good effect.

“Using a condom to avoid infecting a spouse is a good effect, preventing conception is the morally bad effect. One is free to choose the good effect.”

My response to Rev. Cappelletti:

The problem that I have with all of this is that the Pope is speaking on a more academic plane. The reality of condoms is that they have a 15% failure rate during typical use, as opposed to ideal use. This failure rate is established for use in married couples as evidenced by pregnancy as the definition of failure, and is contained within the textbook: Contraceptive Technology, which is the family planner’s bible.

With that number, 80% of all couples using condoms as their sole means of contracepting will conceive within ten years.

Now, this failure rate is established for pregnancy, which involves a five day window out of a 30 day month. Condom failures take place on the other 25 days, but are not included in the failure rate, because pregnancy is being used as the indicator of failure.

Even when having sex without any contraception at all, on an every-other-day basis, people have only a 15% chance of conceiving. So the truth of the matter is that condoms have a much, much, higher failure rate than 15% during typical use. In dealing with the transmissibility of HIV, this is catastrophic.

Improper storage temperatures during shipping and handling in summer and winter weaken the structural integrity of the latex, with the consumer having no way of verifying how well the condoms have been handled. The list of issues is endless.

So when the Holy Father spoke, his commentary didn’t seem to include the issues surrounding condom integrity and failure rate. Quite frankly, I’m alarmed at the Pandora’s box that has been opened. In light of the failure rates of condoms, the ONLY loving response on the part of the HIV+ person is to refrain from sex for the rest of that individual’s life. No loving person would take the chance of endangering the life of another.

My wife is a nurse and I am a medical microbiologist and this issue was vetted fully when we were engaged. We both agreed that if either of us ever contracted HIV during an occupational exposure that we would never again have sex, and that our abstinence would be the highest expression of intimacy and authentic love.

We stand by that today, eighteen years later. This has nothing to do with double-effect. This is about learning sacrificial love by dying to self so that others might live.

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I must confess that I devour books by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. He has a style of writing that leaves me feeling as though I have just been on a weekend retreat.

In recent comments to the Roman Rota (The Supreme Court of the Church), the Pope spoke of the role truth plays in relationship to love and the indissolubility of marriage:

“Without truth, charity (love) slides into sentimentalism. Love becomes an empty shell to be filled arbitrarily. This is the fatal risk of love in a culture without truth.”

Sex and marriage are not our own inventions, toys, or roles. We don’t each have our own rules that we make up as we go along. The truth of the matter is that God has a wise design for His creation, and yes, there are plenty of rules that are a part of that wise design to protect the holiness of marriage and marital union.

For our own sake, our love is most authentic when it is an expression of God’s eternal truths and not a grotesque sentimentalist shadow.

St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “In the end, three things remain: Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is Love.”

The authentic Love of which both St. Paul and Pope Benedict speak begins with Faith. Lived faith. Practiced faith.

That faith then fills us with Hope, without which couples have no basis for facing an uncertain future together. And as Paul tells us, our Hope will not leave us disappointed.

That’s because Faith and Hope are the soil in which Love grows and comes to fruition, blessing us with its fruits of fidelity and belonging, of simultaneously defining ourselves by giving and receiving the gift of self. Love enables us to know ourselves and to perfect ourselves through daily acts of faith and hope, which are the driving force behind devotion.

And these acts of devotion, of love, drive out all fear, as St. Paul tells us.

Of course, none of this is possible without the truth of which Pope Benedict speaks. That truth is this:

We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and for a purpose. That purpose is nothing less than eternal life with Him, after learning to love here on our Pilgrimage far from Home. He has given us the tools to learn love, our sex and sexuality being a large part of that.

Recognition of our complementarity in marriage is the key to mutual submission, which is an icon into the radical self-donation between the Father and the Son. In our radical self-donation, we generate and nurture new life, which is the iconic window into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, as the radical reciprocity between Father and Son generates the Holy Spirit.

We come to know ourselves in relation to God by imitating the inner life of God, the life of the Trinity.

That is the great truth and dignity of or love. That is the foundational reality of a culture of life and a civilization of Love. That is what our efforts in the pro-life movement must ultimately have as their goal, nothing less than a civilization of Love.

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“Today we can dispose of vast material resources. But the men and women in our technological age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart. That is why it is so important for us to open our minds and hearts to the Birth of Christ, this event of salvation which can give new hope to the life of each human being…

“The modern age is often seen as an awakening of reason from its slumbers, humanity’s enlightenment after an age of darkness. Yet without the light of Christ, the light of reason is not sufficient to enlighten humanity and the world…

“At Christmas we contemplate God made man, divine glory hidden beneath the poverty of a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; the Creator of the Universe reduced to the helplessness of an infant. Once we accept this paradox, we discover the Truth that sets us free and the Love that transforms our lives. On Bethlehem Night, the Redeemer becomes one of us, our companion along the precarious paths of history. Let us take the hand which he stretches out to us: it is a hand which seeks to take nothing from us, but only to give.
”

Pope Benedict XVI
Christmas 2005

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