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Why your family is the way it is…

“The future of humanity passes by way of the family…”

A Family Manifesto: How to Read Familiaris Consortio

Joseph C. Atkinson

Pope John Paul II was a brave man. Speaking the truth in unstable and unfriendly countries, standing boldly against the popular demise of morality, traveling furiously even when weakened by sickness — no one could deny his courage.

But the pope did more than just model strength for us: He called us to it. His apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World [1981]), was such a call. This papal document sets out the seemingly impossible mission facing every married couple and every family in the world today: It alerts us to the fact that “the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it” and then reveals strategies for overcoming them. It shows a dying society the root of its problems and offers a renewed vision of human life, marriage, and family that will bring healing to a wounded humanity.

Given its urgent call to action, its sense of impending danger, and the fact that the pope himself called it a summa of the Church’s teaching on the family, it’s strange that this document has remained largely neglected since its publication 30 years ago. Why this reaction?

The answer lies in the fact that the teaching of Familiaris Consortio is incompatible with the secular belief system that has deeply affected our culture. The pope showed that there are two incompatible visions of reality. In presenting a biblical vision of man, he challenged the presuppositions of all secular rationalists (whether in society or in the Church) about the nature of man and woman, marriage and the family. In proclaiming “the plan of God for marriage and the family,” the pope called us all to a fundamental conversion, to the “acceptance of the Gospel.” Implied in this call is a conversion from the secular to the biblical view of reality. In this way, Familiaris Consortio stands out in the modern intellectual landscape as a sign of contradiction. While such signs are rarely welcomed, they are, nonetheless, a source of hope.

The Real Danger

Familiaris Consortio gives us a plan of action. First, it identifies the real and present danger: “At the present time, [there are] ideas and solutions which are very appealing, but which obscure in varying degrees the truth and the dignity of the human person…. These views are often supported by the powerful and pervasive organization of the means of social communication, which subtly endanger freedom and the capacity for objective judgment. Many are already aware of this danger to the human person.”

To respond to these ideologies, the pope constructed what is known as a “theological anthropology” — a view of the human person that respects his dignity by respecting his specific created nature. In the early Church, the very nature of salvation was threatened by the Christological heresies: A misunderstanding of Christ’s nature led inevitably to a misunderstanding of the nature of salvation. The Church fought vigorously against those early enemies of the truth. Today, the heresies that have arisen are not Christological but anthropological. Now, the very nature of man and our fundamental relationships with one another, as well as with God, are severely threatened. The pope’s construction of a theological anthropology was his answer to the modern heresies. Secular ideologies have systematically imposed their vision of reality on society. That vision has included a faulty egalitarianism, a reduction of all sexual differentiation to mere biology, and an understanding of the body and sexual relationships as merely instrumental. In this view, life is devoid of any metaphysical dimension (see the pope’s Letter to Families [1994]).

In contrast to these destructive “heresies,” Familiaris Consortio‘s vision of human nature is based on the revelational witness of Scripture and grounded in the theology of creation. Like the Lord Himself, it takes us “back to the beginning” (cf. Matthew 19:1-6). This alone can overcome the false views dominating our society; the enemy must be revealed and a response formulated.

The Enemy Exposed

At the heart of the flawed secular view of reality lies a false notion of freedom. This faulty view leads inexorably to a disintegrative and destructive understanding of the person. Speaking about abortion, divorce, contraception, and other depersonalizing practices, John Paul II astutely revealed their root cause: “At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God’s plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one’s own selfish well-being.”

This distinction is difficult for the secular mind to grasp. As with every age, ours has been seduced by the First Temptation, the temptation to reject creaturely obedience to God and replace it with the lordship of “self.” While this grab for power may initially feel liberating, it ends in the isolation of self-captivity. Familiaris Consortio exposes the truth about the autonomous, self-referential individual. In rejecting his dependent relationship with God, man becomes depersonalized and destructive. Only by a fundamental reorientation toward the Creator and the acceptance of the structure, meaning, and purpose of human nature as it is divinely revealed can man discover his true self. For this reason, Familiaris Consortio begins with a fundamental call to conversion and states that “the Church is deeply convinced that only by the acceptance of the gospel are the hopes that man legitimately places in marriage and in the family capable of being fulfilled.” But a sophisticated modern society finds the simplicity and humility required for such a conversion difficult to accept.

Image and Likeness

Every good battle plan has a strategy. Familiaris Consortio is no different, but unlike the elaborate designs drawn by generals past, its power lies in its fundamental simplicity. The apostolic exhortation shows that the answer to the modern crisis lies in recovering the theology of creation as a vital part of any anthropological discourse. The fundamental reorientation toward the Creator requires our acceptance of creaturely status. Only in this way can the vertical dimension to human existence be rediscovered.

Of course, in a society that worships “self,” it’s extremely difficult to recall people to this saner view of reality — the view that we’re not the creators of our own nature. Nevertheless, Familiaris Consortio unabashedly proclaims that only in his relationship to God can man (and hence marriage and family) ever come into fullness of being: “Willed by God in the very act of creation, marriage and the family are interiorly ordained to fulfillment in Christ, and have need of His graces in order to be healed from the wounds of sin and restored to their ‘beginning,’ that is, to full understanding and the full realization of God’s plan.”

Human nature, marriage, and family are not social constructs subject to manipulation for the advancement of specific agendas. Rather, they’re formed and informed by God’s loving plan and interiorly oriented toward Christ. We’re called to be faithful to this will — not to any political expediency.

In calling us to battle, the pope isn’t leaving us unarmed. Familiaris Consortio provides tools that effectively defeat the destructive hold that secularism has on the modern mind. The document’s implicit critique of rationalism is fully developed in Letter to Families. There the pope shows that at the heart of modern rationalism lies its rejection of the metaphysical dimension. “Modern rationalism does not tolerate mystery…. Rationalism provides a radically different way of looking at creation and the meaning of human existence…. What is left except the mere temporal dimension of life?”

In the destructive framework of secularist thought, human nature and human acts have only temporary, utilitarian value. Meaning, if attached to any particular phenomenon, is only subjective. Inevitably, in the area of sexuality, the “other” is quickly reduced to a mere object, and the dignity of the human person is lost. The deeper dimensions of the human person, the marital covenant, and the family are incomprehensible to those who think this way. The modern world, having lost the capacity to reject the self-centered secularist framework, has also lost the language of love. Familiaris Consortio counters this by insisting on our essential identity as creatures made in the image of God:

God created man in His own image and likeness…. God is love and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.

Man is free only insofar as he is faithful to his created nature. Ultimately, he can only know love to the extent that he realizes his relationship to God. The pope showed that at the heart of human nature itself is the vocation to personal love and communion, which is a reflection of, and participates in, the life of the Trinity. This is possible precisely and only because man is made in God’s image. Because of this, human relationships possess a meaning far beyond mere biology. Indeed, “the love of husband and wife is a unique participation in the mystery of life and of the love of God himself.”

Interpreting Reality

Part of our mission in today’s world is to recover the sense that there’s a profound symbolic dimension to the human person. The prevailing ethos is all against this. As Henri de Lubac noted in Sources of Revelation(1968), “If we said that our age repudiated… every kind of symbolism, we would still be stopping at appearances. What it does, rather, is to institute an anti-symbolism.” In contrast, Familiaris Consortioarticulates a profound hermeneutic of reality — one that allows for the intersecting of the physical and the spiritual. This hermeneutic is essential if the nature of human relationships is to be correctly understood. In reflecting on the meaning of the spousal covenant, Familiaris Consortio states: “Their belonging to each other is the real representation, by means of the sacramental sign, of the very relationship of Christ with the Church… the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross.”

This transcendent dimension to human life has been virtually eradicated by the dominance of scientific rationalism, according to which whatever is not replicable in a laboratory is not real. But human nature, relationships, and actions can never properly be understood as only biological phenomena. They carry meaning far beyond their physical or temporal dimensions. All human reality (and its valuation) is tied to what the pope called the inscribed “vocation to love,” which is, in turn, linked to the divine nature and reflective of it. All of this depends on man’s status as imago dei (the image of God), which John Paul II considered “the most profound truth of man.”

This is incomprehensible to the secular mind. True to its own flawed logic, this view has provided for the development and acceptance of an increasingly depersonalized vision of human sexuality, one that includes contraception, in vitro fertilization, abortion, same-sex unions, embryonic stem cell research, and the like.

Body-Persons

To counter this perversion of the human person, Familiaris Consortio confronts the dualistic tendency of our age by “going back to the beginning” and grounding our thinking in the original creative act. The anthropology the pope developed protects the essential dignity of the body and the human person: “In this way sexuality is respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension and is never ‘used’ as an ‘object’ that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God’s creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person.”

At issue is the value of the human body and its actions. Precisely because they have transcendent meaning, neither our gender nor our sexual relationships are without consequence. “Sexuality… is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such.”

This is diametrically opposed to secularism’s valuation of the human person and his actions. Love worthy of its name must involve the totality of the person. As Familiaris Consortio states, “Conjugal love involves a totality…. It aims at a deeply personal unity, the unity that, beyond union of one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility.”

The nature of love, the nature of the human person, and the nature of marriage require the total engagement of our human nature and an openness to life. By reiterating these truths, Familiaris Consortio not only explicitly endorses Humanae Vitae, but also provides a cogent theological and psychological defense of it. John Paul II reminded us that the teachings of Humanae Vitae provide the way to engage our sexuality in a fully human manner. “When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman… they act as ‘arbiters’ of the divine plan and they ‘manipulate’ and degrade human sexuality — and with it themselves and their married partner — by altering its value of ‘total’ self-giving.”

Sadly, it’s precisely this cogent defense of the teaching of Humanae Vitae that makes Familiaris Consortiosuch a hard sell in a secular environment.

Male and Female

A second hard sell was the pope’s rejection of modern reductionist ideas about gender. Society wants to force a sexless humanity (and the ubiquitous generic “person”) upon us. In contrast, Familiaris Consortiodevelops the idea of incarnational reality — that is, the belief that the physical can be expressive of a spiritual reality and that these two realities are intrinsically bound to each other. In particular, the body can never be separated from the person. The body itself is expressive of the person and bodily acts affect the person at the most profound level of his being. Secularism’s rejection of this connection has left many wounded in their bodies and in their souls. “As an incarnate spirit, that is a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love.”

Fundamental to created human nature is gender; maleness and femaleness are not arbitrary but essential to identity. Any reductionism on this point perverts our conception of the person. As Eric Mascal wrote inMan, Woman, and Priesthood (1978): “We have come to look upon sex in far too superficial a way, as if there were a kind of undifferentiated human nature…. Humanity is, so to speak, essentially binary; it exists only in the two modes of masculinity and femininity, and we can only understand it by studying them.”

This led the pope to encourage the genuine advancement of both men and women, but never in a reductionist manner. A proper anthropology allows for, values, and protects the similarity and distinctiveness of each gender. He wrote, “In creating the human race ‘male and female,’ God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity, endowing them with the inalienable rights and responsibilities proper to the human person.” But this never collapses into a homogenous interchangeability. Only by respecting the uniqueness and irreducibility of maleness and femaleness can we secure the positive and rich dynamic that is at the heart of gender. “All of this does not mean for women a renunciation of their femininity or an imitation of the male role, but the fullness of true feminine humanity which should be expressed in their activity.”

This is the great disease of the modern world: the rejection of the truly feminine. An adequate anthropology would prevent this. Similarly, the nature of maleness is unique, and the pope hinted at what this means: “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family.” To lose the language of differentiation is to lose the language of love. Familiaris Consortio reveals that sexuality and acts proper to it are never only biological but are revelatory of both the human person and God’s relationship with man: “Sexuality… concerns the innermost being of the human person as such…. Their bond of love becomes the image and the symbol of the covenant which unites God and his people.” To nullify the value of the human body and its gendered specificity is not only to reject reality but also to diminish the way in which God’s salvific will is communicated to us. Screwtape himself could not have found a better means of attack.

Family: The Ecclesial Community

The attack isn’t only on the individual but on the context that brings the individual into integrated wholeness; it’s an attack on the family, which is the most basic and essential of human communities. The family must figure prominently in any authentic anthropology because man is never an isolated individual. As the pope stated: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” The attack against the family logically proceeds from modernity’s embrace of radical individualism, which pits the individual against any communitarian dimension of the person. Familiaris Consortio overcomes these destructive forces by discovering the original purpose and structure of the family. It urges “the rediscovery of the ecclesial mission proper to the family.”

Just as the incarnate soul can discover its purpose and meaning only in its relationship to God, so the communitarian aspect of man, embodied in the family, is only intelligible by its relationship to God’s will. “The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission…. Family become what you are. Accordingly, the family must go back to the ‘beginning’ of God’s creative act, if it is to attain self-knowledge and self-realization in accordance with the inner truth not only of what it is but also of what it does in history.”

The modern attacks against the family will succeed if the transcendent nature of the family is not fully grasped. If the spiritual dimension of reality is rejected, and if, like the body, the family is merely instrumentalized, then it can and will be distorted and destroyed. But for Familiaris Consortio, this is a falsification of the nature of family. According to the pope, the true interior structure of the family is found in its relationship to the body of Christ, the Church. “The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of the ecclesial communion, and for this reason too it can and should be called ‘the domestic Church.’ …But it is through the Cross that the family can attain the fullness of its being and the perfection of its love.”

The family cannot be understood as a social phenomenon subject to manipulation; to understand it thus is to distort its nature. The true purpose of the family lies in its relationship to the Cross and the salvation that was bought there. Indeed, “the Christian family is grafted into the mystery of the Church to such a degree as to become a sharer, in its own way, in the saving mission proper to the Church.” Attacks against the person, whether in terms of the body, gender, or his corporate reality (in the family), are ultimately attacks on the divine plan.

We’ve been given a mission. Sadly, the secular mind (whether in society or in the Christian community) disregards it because it doesn’t fit with the values of the age. The late pope’s insistence on the authentic value of the body, gender, and family as constituted by God is unacceptable to this mindset. That’s why the first call in this apostolic exhortation is to conversion. Familiaris Consortio confronts us with one of the key spiritual struggles of modern times and asks what vision of reality will win out.

So, the question remains: Will we become what we truly are — families created to reflect and participate in the very love of God Himself? And will we love one another totally with a covenantal love, faithful until death, respectful of our fecundity, icons of Christ’s own self-sacrificial love?

A difficult mission indeed, but for the grace of God.

This article originally appeared in the December 2001 issue of Crisis Magazine.

EDITORS NOTE: I would like to thank insidecatholic for reprinting this (unfortunately) still timely article… I had not read it before. May souls and their families benefit greatly from it being found here on The Orate Fratres as well.

An award winning film nobody wants to watch…

Our sad times… From the Party of Death over at Blue Oregon comes the story “How To Die in Oregon”. Winning top prize for best documentary over the weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, this indy examines Oregon’s 1994 euthanasia law. Here’s the promo featuring the producer filmmaker Peter Richardson. A Catholic teaching on end of life issues, assisted suicide, and euthanasia follows…

Declaration on Euthanasia

Vatican, May 5, 1980

His Holiness Pope John Paul II approved this Declaration, adopted at the ordinary meeting of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered its publication.

INTRODUCTION

The rights and values pertaining to the human person occupy an important place among the questions discussed today. In this regard, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council solemnly reaffirmed the lofty dignity of the human person, and in a special way his or her right to life. The Council therefore condemned crimes against life “such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful suicide” (Pastoral Constitution “Gaudium et spes,” no. 27).

More recently, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reminded all the faithful of Catholic teaching on procured abortion.[1] The Congregation now considers it opportune to set forth the Church’s teaching on euthanasia.

It is indeed true that, in this sphere of teaching, the recent Popes have explained the principles, and these retain their full force[2]; but the progress of medical science in recent years has brought to the fore new aspects of the question of euthanasia, and these aspects call for further elucidation on the ethical level.

In modern society, in which even the fundamental values of human life are often called into question, cultural change exercises an influence upon the way of looking at suffering and death; moreover, medicine has increased its capacity to cure and to prolong life in particular circumstances, which sometimes give rise to moral problems. Thus people living in this situation experience no little anxiety about the meaning of advanced old age and death. They also begin to wonder whether they have the right to obtain for themselves or their fellowmen an “easy death,” which would shorten suffering and which seems to them more in harmony with human dignity.

A number of Episcopal Conferences have raised questions on this subject with the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Congregation, having sought the opinion of experts on the various aspects of euthanasia, now wishes to respond to the Bishops’ questions with the present Declaration, in order to help them to give correct teaching to the faithful entrusted to their care, and to offer them elements for reflection that they can present to the civil authorities with regard to this very serious matter.

The considerations set forth in the present document concern in the first place all those who place their faith and hope in Christ, who, through His life, death and resurrection, has given a new meaning to existence and especially to the death of the Christian, as St. Paul says: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Rom. 14:8; cf. Phil. 1:20).

As for those who profess other religions, many will agree with us that faith in God the Creator, Provider and Lord of life–if they share this belief–confers a lofty dignity upon every human person and guarantees respect for him or her.

It is hoped that this Declaration will meet with the approval of many people of good will, who, philosophical or ideological differences notwithstanding, have nevertheless a lively awareness of the rights of the human person. These rights have often, in fact, been proclaimed in recent years through declarations issued by International Congresses[3]; and since it is a question here of fundamental rights inherent in every human person, it is obviously wrong to have recourse to arguments from political pluralism or religious freedom in order to deny the universal value of those rights.

I. THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE

Human life is the basis of all goods, and is the necessary source and condition of every human activity and of all society. Most people regard life as something sacred and hold that no one may dispose of it at will, but believers see in life some thing greater, namely, a gift of God’s love, which they are called upon to preserve and make fruitful. And it is this latter consideration that gives rise to the following consequences:

1. No one can make an attempt on the life of an innocent person without opposing God’s love for that person, without violating a fundamental right, and therefore without committing a crime of the utmost gravity.[4]

2. Everyone has the duty to lead his or her life in accordance with God’s plan. That life is entrusted to the individual as a good that must bear fruit already here on earth, but that finds its full perfection only in eternal life.

3. Intentionally causing one’s own death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder; such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God’s sovereignty and loving plan. Furthermore, suicide is also often a refusal of love for self, the denial of the natural instinct to live, a flight from the duties of justice and charity owed to one’s neighbor, to various communities or to the whole of society–although, as is generally recognized, at times there are psychological factors present that can diminish responsibility or even completely remove it.

However, one must clearly distinguish suicide from that sacrifice of one’s life whereby for a higher cause, such as God’s glory, the salvation of souls or the service of one’s brethren, a person offers his or her own life or puts it in danger (cf. Jn. 15:14).

II. EUTHANASIA

In order that the question of euthanasia can be properly dealt with, it is first necessary to define the words used.

Etymologically speaking, in ancient times euthanasia meant an easy death without severe suffering. Today one no longer thinks of this original meaning of the word, but rather of some intervention of medicine whereby the suffering of sickness or of the final agony are reduced, sometimes also with the danger of suppressing life prematurely. Ultimately, the word euthanasia is used in a more particular sense to mean “mercy killing,” for the purpose of putting an end to extreme suffering, or saving abnormal babies, the mentally ill or the incurably sick from the prolongation, perhaps for many years, of a miserable life, which could impose too heavy a burden on their families or on society.

It is, therefore, necessary to state clearly in what sense the word is used in the present document.

By euthanasia is understood an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated. Euthanasia’s terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used.

It is necessary to state firmly once more that nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity.

It may happen that, by reason of prolonged and barely tolerable pain, for deeply personal or other reasons, people may be led to believe that they can legitimately ask for death or obtain it for others. Although in these cases the guilt of the individual may be reduced or completely absent, nevertheless the error of judgment into which the conscience falls, perhaps in good faith, does not change the nature of this act of killing, which will always be in itself something to be rejected. The pleas of gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthanasia; in fact, it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love. What a sick person needs, besides medical care, is love, the human and supernatural warmth with which the sick person can and ought to be surrounded by all those close to him or her, parents and children, doctors and nurses.

III. THE MEANING OF SUFFERING FOR CHRISTIANS AND THE USE OF PAINKILLERS

Death does not always come in dramatic circumstances after barely tolerable sufferings. Nor do we have to think only of extreme cases. Numerous testimonies which confirm one another lead one to the conclusion that nature itself has made provision to render more bearable at the moment of death separations that would be terribly painful to a person in full health. Hence it is that a prolonged illness, advanced old age, or a state of loneliness or neglect can bring about psychological conditions that facilitate the acceptance of death.

Nevertheless the fact remains that death, often preceded or accompanied by severe and prolonged suffering, is something which naturally causes people anguish.

Physical suffering is certainly an unavoidable element of the human condition; on the biological level, it constitutes a warning of which no one denies the usefulness; but, since it affects the human psychological makeup, it often exceeds its own biological usefulness and so can become so severe as to cause the desire to remove it at any cost.

According to Christian teaching, however, suffering, especially suffering during the last moments of life, has a special place in God’s saving plan; it is in fact a sharing in Christ’s passion and a union with the redeeming sacrifice which He offered in obedience to the Father’s will. Therefore, one must not be surprised if some Christians prefer to moderate their use of painkillers, in order to accept voluntarily at least a part of their sufferings and thus associate themselves in a conscious way with the sufferings of Christ crucified (cf. Mt. 27:34). Nevertheless it would be imprudent to impose a heroic way of acting as a general rule. On the contrary, human and Christian prudence suggest for the majority of sick people the use of medicines capable of alleviating or suppressing pain, even though these may cause as a secondary effect semi-consciousness and reduced lucidity. As for those who are not in a state to express themselves, one can reasonably presume that they wish to take these painkillers, and have them administered according to the doctor’s advice.

But the intensive use of painkillers is not without difficulties, because the phenomenon of habituation generally makes it necessary to increase their dosage in order to maintain their efficacy. At this point it is fitting to recall a declaration by Pius XII, which retains its full force; in answer to a group of doctors who had put the question: “Is the suppression of pain and consciousness by the use of narcotics…permitted by religion and morality to the doctor and the patient (even at the approach of death and if one foresees that the use of narcotics will shorten life)?” the Pope said: “If no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties: Yes.”[5] In this case, of course, death is in no way intended or sought, even if the risk of it is reasonably taken; the intention is simply to relieve pain effectively, using for this purpose painkillers available to medicine.

However, painkillers that cause unconsciousness need special consideration. For a person not only has to be able to satisfy his or her moral duties and family obligations; he or she also has to prepare himself or herself with full consciousness for meeting Christ. Thus Pius XII warns: “It is not right to deprive the dying person of consciousness without a serious reason.”[6]

IV. DUE PROPORTION IN THE USE OF REMEDIES

Today it is very important to protect, at the moment of death, both the dignity of the human person and the Christian concept of life, against a technological attitude that threatens to become an abuse. Thus some people speak of a “right to die,” which is an expression that does not mean the right to procure death either by one’s own hand or by means of someone else, as one pleases, but rather the right to die peacefully with human and Christian dignity. From this point of view, the use of therapeutic means can sometimes pose problems.

In numerous cases, the complexity of the situation can be such as to cause doubts about the way ethical principles should be applied. In the final analysis, it pertains to the conscience either of the sick person, or of those qualified to speak in the sick person’s name, or of the doctors, to decide, in the light of moral obligations and of the various aspects of the case.

Everyone has the duty to care for his or her own health or to seek such care from others. Those whose task it is to care for the sick must do so conscientiously and administer the remedies that seem necessary or useful.

However, is it necessary in all circumstances to have recourse to all possible remedies?

In the past, moralists replied that one is never obliged to use “extraordinary” means. This reply, which as a principle still holds good, is perhaps less clear today, by reason of the imprecision of the term and the rapid progress made in the treatment of sickness. Thus some people prefer to speak of “proportionate” and “disproportionate” means. In any case, it will be possible to make a correct judgment as to the means by studying the type of treatment to be used, its degree of complexity or risk, its cost and the possibilities of using it, and comparing these elements with the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources.

In order to facilitate the application of these general principles, the following clarifications can be added:

–If there are no other sufficient remedies, it is permitted, with the patient’s consent, to have recourse to the means provided by the most advanced medical techniques, even if these means are still at the experimental stage and are not without a certain risk. By accepting them, the patient can even show generosity in the service of humanity.

–It is also permitted, with the patient’s consent, to interrupt these means, where the results fall short of expectations. But for such a decision to be made, account will have to be taken of the reasonable wishes of the patient and the patient’s family, as also of the advice of the doctors who are specially competent in the matter. The latter may in particular judge that the investment in instruments and personnel is disproportionate to the results foreseen; they may also judge that the techniques applied impose on the patient strain or suffering out of proportion with the benefits which he or she may gain from such techniques.

–It is also permissible to make do with the normal means that medicine can offer. Therefore one cannot impose on anyone the obligation to have recourse to a technique which is already in use but which carries a risk or is burdensome. Such a refusal is not the equivalent of suicide; on the contrary, it should be considered as an acceptance of the human condition, or a wish to avoid the application of a medical procedure disproportionate to the results that can be expected, or a desire not to impose excessive expense on the family or the community.

–When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted. In such circumstances the doctor has no reason to reproach himself with failing to help the person in danger.

CONCLUSION

The norms contained in the present Declaration are inspired by a profound desire to serve people in accordance with the plan of the Creator. Life is a gift of God, and on the other hand death is unavoidable; it is necessary, therefore, that we, without in any way hastening the hour of death, should be able to accept it with full responsibility and dignity. It is true that death marks the end of our earthly existence, but at the same time it opens the door to immortal life. Therefore, all must prepare themselves for this event in the light of human values, and Christians even more so in the light of faith.

As for those who work in the medical profession, they ought to neglect no means of making all their skill available to the sick and the dying; but they should also remember how much more necessary it is to provide them with the comfort of boundless kindness and heartfelt charity. Such service to people is also service to Christ the Lord, who said: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:40).

At the audience granted to the undersigned Prefect, His Holiness Pope John Paul II approved this Declaration, adopted at the ordinary meeting of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered its publication.

Rome, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 5, 1980.

Franjo Cardinal Seper
Prefect

+Jerome Hamer, O.P.
Tit. Archbishop of Lorium
Secretary

ENDNOTES

1. “Declaration on Procured Abortion,” November 18, 1974: AAS 66 (1974), pp 730-747.
2. Pius XII, “Address to those attending the Congress of the International Union of Catholic Women’s Leagues,” September 11, 1947: AAS 39 (1947), p. 483; “Address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives,”October 29, 1951: AAS 43 (1951), pp. 835-854; “Speech to the members of the International Office of Military Medicine Documentation,” October 19, 1953: AAS 45 (1953), pp. 744-754; “Address to those taking part in the IXth Congress of the Italian Anaesthesiological Society,” February 24, 1957: AAS 49 (1957). p. 146; cf. also “Address on reanimation,” November 24, 1957: AAS 49 (1957), pp. 1027-1033; Paul VI, “Address to the members of the United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid,” May 22, 1974: AAS 66 (1974), p. 346; John Paul II: “Address to the bishops of the United States of America,” October 5, 1979: AAS 71 (1979), p. 1225.
3. One thinks especially of Recommendation 779 (1976) on the rights of the sick and dying, of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at its XXVIIth Ordinary Session; cf. Sipeca, no. 1, March 1977, pp. 14-15.
4. We leave aside completely the problems of the death penalty and of war, which involve specific considerations that do not concern the present subject.
5. Pius XII, “Address” of February 24, 1957: AAS 49 (1957), p. 147.
6. Pius XII, ibid., p. 145; cf. “Address” of September 9, 1958: AAS 50 (1958), p. 694.

New video: The Warm List — Global Warming’s effects, A to Z (via Watts Up With That?)

I’m sure many of you have heard of the “complete list of things caused by global warming” Dr. John Brignell, a retired professor of industrial instrumentation at the University of Southampton in Britain, compiled an impressive list of alarmist claims cited in news reports that man-made global warming has caused, or will cause. There’s 826 things on that list, some are even contradictory. Now, to put a visual face on this list, we have a video. Wh … Read More or watch the video…


via Watts Up With That?

END OF POST

CCHD Update — Hundreds of parishioners petition bishop to withdraw support for 2010 Catholic Campaign for Human Development

Association of Community Organizations for Ref...
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Here’s your backdrop headline to the stories below:

ACORN Is Very Much Alive; Funding Ban Dies This Week

There’s a New Catholic Citizens Statement on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

According to the report:

It appears that there are still questionable grantees; and, in fact, there has been strong criticism of the participation of members of the staff of the CCHD at the national offices of the USCCB and their membership in various controversial organizations and coalitions that work in opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church, promoting abortion and gay “marriage.” A full report [See the full report here] of the organizations receiving grants that are not in conformity with the teachings of the Church was sent to all of the bishops in the United States by REFORM CCHD NOW.

Bishops are scheduled to debate reform of the troubled program in November.

Catholic Citizens report:

All members of the USCCB have been asked to respond to a document – “The Review and Renewal of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.” Although it has gone through five successive drafts, there is still no agreement among the bishops. Supporters of the CCHD are fearful that the bishops may call for sweeping changes at their November meeting, and are asking their allies to contact the bishops and express their satisfaction with the document, thereby halting any attempt at reform.

Meanwhile, hundreds of parishioners from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, are already urging  Bishop Loverde to withdraw his support of CCHD through a prayerful petitioning effort. I received this tonight…

Dear Editor,

Most devote Catholics would never knowingly support pro-abortion groups.

Yet on November 21st, many Catholics throughout the Arlington Diocese will unwittingly donate to organizations that promote abortion, homosexual marriage, and contraception.

That is because, despite the extensive publicity regarding CCHD’s funding of questionable groups, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington plans to go forward with the collection next month for CCHD.

Most people already know that CCHD gave millions of dollars to ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) before news of ACORN’s scandalous activities made national headlines. However, many people are not aware that CCHD continues to fund dozens of similar groups that promote abortion, contraception, homosexual marriage and other activities that are in direct conflict with Church teachings.

Hundreds of parishioners have already urged Bishop Loverde to withdraw his support of CCHD by signing the Prayerful Petition found at http://www.NoMoreCCHD.com We remain hopeful that Bishop Loverde will join other American bishops who have already withdrawn their support for CCHD.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey E. Knight

466 Long Mountain Road
Washington, VA 22747
(540)675-1440

The petition simply states:

We the undersigned parishioners of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, respectfully urge Bishop Paul S. Loverde to withdraw support for the 2010 National Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and, in lieu thereof, sponsor a collection for the more worthy needs and programs of our diocese.
I personally find this portion of the petition statement attractive, much needed, and worthy of exploration by the Bishop’s conference next month: 
[…in lieu thereof, (CCHD Collection)…] sponsor a collection for the more worthy needs and programs of our diocese.
That’s the ticket.
END OF POST

Diocese of Harrisburg: Catholic Campaign for Human Development Replaced

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg will no longer take part in the U.S. bishops’ anti-poverty program, choosing instead to create a diocesan fund to receive money that formerly went to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The diocese sent nearly $95,000 to the campaign last year, but only a quarter of it was retained locally.

The newly created Matthew 25 Collection — to be gathered by parishes the week before Thanksgiving — will allow the diocese to track the funds and give parishes the ability to provide poverty relief on a local level, said diocesan spokesman Joe Aponick.

“The Matthew 25 Collection will provide more funding in southcentral Pennsylvania for direct material assistance and for addressing the root causes of poverty,” he said.

Matthew 25 will support local initiatives such as jobs programs and other projects aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty, as well as emergency needs, such as food, shelter and clothing, Aponick said. Ten percent will be retained by the local parish for human assistance as they see fit, and the remainder will go toward parish-based organizations that can apply for funding.

“Matthew 25” refers to the Gospel writings of the apostle Matthew that discuss compassion for the less fortunate and mercy for the sick, hungry, thirsty and imprisoned.

The bishops of other dioceses — including Allentown, Altoona-Johnstown and Greensburg in Pennsylvania — have also stopped taking collections for the campaign.

Get the rest of the story here.

END OF POST

Text — TO THE CATHOLICS OF IRELAND: PASTORAL LETTER OF THE HOLY FATHER POPE BENEDICT XVI

1. DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF THE CHURCH IN IRELAND, it is with great concern that I write to you as Pastor of the universal Church. Like yourselves, I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious. I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.

As you know, I recently invited the Irish bishops to a meeting here in Rome to give an account of their handling of these matters in the past and to outline the steps they have taken to respond to this grave situation. Together with senior officials of the Roman Curia, I listened to what they had to say, both individually and as a group, as they offered an analysis of mistakes made and lessons learned, and a description of the programmes and protocols now in place. Our discussions were frank and constructive. I am confident that, as a result, the bishops will now be in a stronger position to carry forward the work of repairing past injustices and confronting the broader issues associated with the abuse of minors in a way consonant with the demands of justice and the teachings of the Gospel.

2. For my part, considering the gravity of these offences, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country, I have decided to write this Pastoral Letter to express my closeness to you and to propose a path of healing, renewal and reparation.

It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Church. Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination. No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly. Real progress has been made, yet much more remains to be done. Perseverance and prayer are needed, with great trust in the healing power of God’s grace.

At the same time, I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children. Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future.

As you take up the challenges of this hour, I ask you to remember “the rock from which you were hewn” (Is 51:1). Reflect upon the generous, often heroic, contributions made by past generations of Irish men and women to the Church and to humanity as a whole, and let this provide the impetus for honest self-examination and a committed programme of ecclesial and individual renewal. It is my prayer that, assisted by the intercession of her many saints and purified through penance, the Church in Ireland will overcome the present crisis and become once more a convincing witness to the truth and the goodness of Almighty God, made manifest in his Son Jesus Christ.

3. Historically, the Catholics of Ireland have proved an enormous force for good at home and abroad. Celtic monks like Saint Columbanus spread the Gospel in Western Europe and laid the foundations of medieval monastic culture. The ideals of holiness, charity and transcendent wisdom born of the Christian faith found expression in the building of churches and monasteries and the establishment of schools, libraries and hospitals, all of which helped to consolidate the spiritual identity of Europe. Those Irish missionaries drew their strength and inspiration from the firm faith, strong leadership and upright morals of the Church in their native land.

From the sixteenth century on, Catholics in Ireland endured a long period of persecution, during which they struggled to keep the flame of faith alive in dangerous and difficult circumstances. Saint Oliver Plunkett, the martyred Archbishop of Armagh, is the most famous example of a host of courageous sons and daughters of Ireland who were willing to lay down their lives out of fidelity to the Gospel. After Catholic Emancipation, the Church was free to grow once more. Families and countless individuals who had preserved the faith in times of trial became the catalyst for the great resurgence of Irish Catholicism in the nineteenth century. The Church provided education, especially for the poor, and this was to make a major contribution to Irish society. Among the fruits of the new Catholic schools was a rise in vocations: generations of missionary priests, sisters and brothers left their homeland to serve in every continent, especially in the English-speaking world. They were remarkable not only for their great numbers, but for the strength of their faith and the steadfastness of their pastoral commitment. Many dioceses, especially in Africa, America and Australia, benefited from the presence of Irish clergy and religious who preached the Gospel and established parishes, schools and universities, clinics and hospitals that served both Catholics and the community at large, with particular attention to the needs of the poor.

In almost every family in Ireland, there has been someone – a son or a daughter, an aunt or an uncle – who has given his or her life to the Church. Irish families rightly esteem and cherish their loved ones who have dedicated their lives to Christ, sharing the gift of faith with others, and putting that faith into action in loving service of God and neighbour.

4. In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.

Only by examining carefully the many elements that gave rise to the present crisis can a clear-sighted diagnosis of its causes be undertaken and effective remedies be found. Certainly, among the contributing factors we can include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person. Urgent action is needed to address these factors, which have had such tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families, and have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.

5. On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future. I have sat with them, I have listened to their stories, I have acknowledged their suffering, and I have prayed with them and for them. Earlier in my pontificate, in my concern to address this matter, I asked the bishops of Ireland, “to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected, and above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes” (Address to the Bishops of Ireland, 28 October 2006).

With this Letter, I wish to exhort all of you, as God’s people in Ireland, to reflect on the wounds inflicted on Christ’s body, the sometimes painful remedies needed to bind and heal them, and the need for unity, charity and mutual support in the long-term process of restoration and ecclesial renewal. I now turn to you with words that come from my heart, and I wish to speak to each of you individually and to all of you as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

6. To the victims of abuse and their families

You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including your relationship with the Church. I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred. Yet Christ’s own wounds, transformed by his redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope. I believe deeply in the healing power of his self-sacrificing love – even in the darkest and most hopeless situations – to bring liberation and the promise of a new beginning.

Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God’s children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ’s infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.

7. To priests and religious who have abused children

You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.

8. To parents

You have been deeply shocked to learn of the terrible things that took place in what ought to be the safest and most secure environment of all. In today’s world it is not easy to build a home and to bring up children. They deserve to grow up in security, loved and cherished, with a strong sense of their identity and worth. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person, to be inspired by the truth of our Catholic faith and to learn ways of behaving and acting that lead to healthy self-esteem and lasting happiness. This noble but demanding task is entrusted in the first place to you, their parents. I urge you to play your part in ensuring the best possible care of children, both at home and in society as a whole, while the Church, for her part, continues to implement the measures adopted in recent years to protect young people in parish and school environments. As you carry out your vital responsibilities, be assured that I remain close to you and I offer you the support of my prayers.

9. To the children and young people of Ireland

I wish to offer you a particular word of encouragement. Your experience of the Church is very different from that of your parents and grandparents. The world has changed greatly since they were your age. Yet all people, in every generation, are called to travel the same path through life, whatever their circumstances may be. We are all scandalized by the sins and failures of some of the Church’s members, particularly those who were chosen especially to guide and serve young people. But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb 13:8). He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his Church, for he will never betray your trust! He alone can satisfy your deepest longings and give your lives their fullest meaning by directing them to the service of others. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and his goodness, and shelter the flame of faith in your heart. Together with your fellow Catholics in Ireland, I look to you to be faithful disciples of our Lord and to bring your much-needed enthusiasm and idealism to the rebuilding and renewal of our beloved Church.

10. To the priests and religious of Ireland

All of us are suffering as a result of the sins of our confreres who betrayed a sacred trust or failed to deal justly and responsibly with allegations of abuse. In view of the outrage and indignation which this has provoked, not only among the lay faithful but among yourselves and your religious communities, many of you feel personally discouraged, even abandoned. I am also aware that in some people’s eyes you are tainted by association, and viewed as if you were somehow responsible for the misdeeds of others. At this painful time, I want to acknowledge the dedication of your priestly and religious lives and apostolates, and I invite you to reaffirm your faith in Christ, your love of his Church and your confidence in the Gospel’s promise of redemption, forgiveness and interior renewal. In this way, you will demonstrate for all to see that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (cf. Rom 5:20).

I know that many of you are disappointed, bewildered and angered by the way these matters have been handled by some of your superiors. Yet, it is essential that you cooperate closely with those in authority and help to ensure that the measures adopted to respond to the crisis will be truly evangelical, just and effective. Above all, I urge you to become ever more clearly men and women of prayer, courageously following the path of conversion, purification and reconciliation. In this way, the Church in Ireland will draw new life and vitality from your witness to the Lord’s redeeming power made visible in your lives.

11. To my brother bishops

It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. I recognize how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness. I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes and to guarantee that they do not happen again. Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence. Clearly, religious superiors should do likewise. They too have taken part in recent discussions here in Rome with a view to establishing a clear and consistent approach to these matters. It is imperative that the child safety norms of the Church in Ireland be continually revised and updated and that they be applied fully and impartially in conformity with canon law.

Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives. This must arise, first and foremost, from your own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal. The Irish people rightly expect you to be men of God, to be holy, to live simply, to pursue personal conversion daily. For them, in the words of Saint Augustine, you are a bishop; yet with them you are called to be a follower of Christ (cf. Sermon 340, 1). I therefore exhort you to renew your sense of accountability before God, to grow in solidarity with your people and to deepen your pastoral concern for all the members of your flock. In particular, I ask you to be attentive to the spiritual and moral lives of each one of your priests. Set them an example by your own lives, be close to them, listen to their concerns, offer them encouragement at this difficult time and stir up the flame of their love for Christ and their commitment to the service of their brothers and sisters.

The lay faithful, too, should be encouraged to play their proper part in the life of the Church. See that they are formed in such a way that they can offer an articulate and convincing account of the Gospel in the midst of modern society (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) and cooperate more fully in the Church’s life and mission. This in turn will help you once again become credible leaders and witnesses to the redeeming truth of Christ.

12. To all the faithful of Ireland

A young person’s experience of the Church should always bear fruit in a personal and life-giving encounter with Jesus Christ within a loving, nourishing community. In this environment, young people should be encouraged to grow to their full human and spiritual stature, to aspire to high ideals of holiness, charity and truth, and to draw inspiration from the riches of a great religious and cultural tradition. In our increasingly secularized society, where even we Christians often find it difficult to speak of the transcendent dimension of our existence, we need to find new ways to pass on to young people the beauty and richness of friendship with Jesus Christ in the communion of his Church. In confronting the present crisis, measures to deal justly with individual crimes are essential, yet on their own they are not enough: a new vision is needed, to inspire present and future generations to treasure the gift of our common faith. By treading the path marked out by the Gospel, by observing the commandments and by conforming your lives ever more closely to the figure of Jesus Christ, you will surely experience the profound renewal that is so urgently needed at this time. I invite you all to persevere along this path.

13. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is out of deep concern for all of you at this painful time in which the fragility of the human condition has been so starkly revealed that I have wished to offer these words of encouragement and support. I hope that you will receive them as a sign of my spiritual closeness and my confidence in your ability to respond to the challenges of the present hour by drawing renewed inspiration and strength from Ireland’s noble traditions of fidelity to the Gospel, perseverance in the faith and steadfastness in the pursuit of holiness. In solidarity with all of you, I am praying earnestly that, by God’s grace, the wounds afflicting so many individuals and families may be healed and that the Church in Ireland may experience a season of rebirth and spiritual renewal.

14. I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation.

At the conclusion of my meeting with the Irish bishops, I asked that Lent this year be set aside as a time to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country. I now invite all of you to devote your Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention. I ask you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland. I encourage you to discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace.

Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.

I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God’s own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32).

Furthermore, having consulted and prayed about the matter, I intend to hold an Apostolic Visitation of certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations. Arrangements for the Visitation, which is intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal, will be made in cooperation with the competent offices of the Roman Curia and the Irish Episcopal Conference. The details will be announced in due course.

I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious. It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church.

In this Year for Priests, I commend to you most particularly the figure of Saint John Mary Vianney, who had such a rich understanding of the mystery of the priesthood. “The priest”, he wrote, “holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods.” The Curé d’Ars understood well how greatly blessed a community is when served by a good and holy priest: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy.” Through the intercession of Saint John Mary Vianney, may the priesthood in Ireland be revitalized, and may the whole Church in Ireland grow in appreciation for the great gift of the priestly ministry.

I take this opportunity to thank in anticipation all those who will be involved in the work of organizing the Apostolic Visitation and the Mission, as well as the many men and women throughout Ireland already working for the safety of children in church environments. Since the time when the gravity and extent of the problem of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions first began to be fully grasped, the Church has done an immense amount of work in many parts of the world in order to address and remedy it. While no effort should be spared in improving and updating existing procedures, I am encouraged by the fact that the current safeguarding practices adopted by local Churches are being seen, in some parts of the world, as a model for other institutions to follow.

I wish to conclude this Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which I send to you with the care of a father for his children and with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalized and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church. As you make use of this prayer in your families, parishes and communities, may the Blessed Virgin Mary protect and guide each of you to a closer union with her Son, crucified and risen. With great affection and unswerving confidence in God’s promises, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.

From the Vatican, 19 March 2010, on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

Prayer for the Church in Ireland

God of our fathers, renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation, the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal, the charity which purifies and opens our hearts to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ, may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.

Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide, inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal for the Church in Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears, your sincere effort to redress past wrongs, and our firm purpose of amendment bear an abundant harvest of grace or the deepening of the faith in our families, parishes, schools and communities, for the spiritual progress of Irish society, and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace within the whole human family.

To you, Triune God, confident in the loving protection of Mary, Queen of Ireland, our Mother, and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints, do we entrust ourselves, our children, and the needs of the Church in Ireland.

Amen.