DAY 6: PRESS BRIEFING ON THE SYNOD – VATICAN PAPER: U.S. BISHOPS ON ASSISTED SUICIDE IN CALIFORNIA

POPE FRANCIS TWEETED TODAY: Work is important, but so too is rest. Shouldn’t we learn to respect times of rest, especially Sundays?

….and that is just what I will do tomorrow, respect the Lord’s Day and bring you up to date on the synod on Monday

 DAY 6: PRESS BRIEFING ON THE SYNOD

I was unable to cover today’s press briefing but bring you Vatican Radio’s report on Fr. Lombardi’s briefing along with His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, president of the Indian Bishops Conference and head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. (photo news.va)

HIS BEATITUDE THOTTUNKAL

A number of issues were spoken about and addressed in interventions from Synod Fathers at the Synod on the Family on Friday evening and Saturday morning. The Fathers continued with their interventions on part two of Instrumentum Laboris. Once they had completed this section they began to listen to interventions on part three, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, told the media

Fr. Lombardi told journalists that there were 75 interventions in the plenary session. There were a good number of interventions from Fathers representing Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. He noted that there were few interventions from North America.

A number of themes emerged from the interventions including the spirituality of family life, the missionary responsibility of families to look after and foster good marriages, the role of various family movements in the church and ways that the church can remain close and show tenderness to families that are struggling.

There were also a number of interventions on the relationship and balance between justice and mercy. The media were told that there are divergent views on this issue amongst the Fathers. One of the Fathers said that mercy does not mean an abandonment of the church’s teaching.

His Eminence Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, president of the Indian Bishops Conference and head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, was a guest at the press briefing. He told the media that mercy means conversion which is reciprocal.  “The Gospel demands this as a condition. The Kingdom of God is at hand, be converted,” he said.

Concern was also expressed for military families. Many military personnel are far from home and often separated from their families for extended periods. These men and women, as well as their families, are in need of special pastoral care.

The Fathers acknowledged that due to diverse situations and contexts there is no such thing as a “typical family.” Many of them spoke about indissolubility being one of the essential elements of Christian marriage.

A number of Fathers also spoke earnestly about marriage preparation. Many considered pre-marriage formation to be seriously lacking. One Father suggested that the bishops themselves needed to penitentially admit that they had failed to provide formation for the lay faithful in this regard. There was a suggestion in another intervention that couples, like those in formation for the priesthood or religious life, also need a “noviciate” time before the sacrament of marriage is entered into. It was thought that the crisis in religious and priestly vocations is directly linked to the crisis in family life.

Fr. Lombardi was asked questions about the process of the Synod after it was reported that a suggestion had been made that, in future, synods are longer processes that begin with continental meetings first. This means that issues would be more focussed and refined when they were brought to the universal synod. His Beatitude Cardinal Thottunkal responded by saying that things have to start in local contexts so that it can be brought to synods like this one. He said that he saw no contradiction in this kind of methodology and thought that the fruits of such a process could be much better for the whole church.

Fr. Lombardi explained that the Instrumentum Laboris could be changed if, in the small groups, an absolute majority proposed changes. This proposal would then go to the Synod Committee. He reminded the media that interventions in the plenary were not proposals to the Synod; they are part of the “conversation.”

The effect of migration has been a reccurring theme in this Synod for the whole of the first week. Cardinal Thottunkal said that he agreed with Pope Francis’ request that people welcome migrants and are generous to them. He added, however, that he also has his own personal view on the matter. He believes that the world community and leaders should make it possible for people to be accommodated and sustained in their own countries. “We must work to keep these people in their own countries,” he said.

The Synod Fathers will return to work on Monday morning when they will, again, break into small groups to discuss part two of Instrumentum Laboris.

VATICAN PAPER: U.S. BISHOPS ON ASSISTED SUICIE IN CALIFORNIA

L’Osservatore Romano, in its October 9 online edition, offered the following article entitled, “U.S. Bishops on Assisted suicide in California – The Sick are being Discarded”:

California’s legalization of assisted suicide, which took place a few days ago when Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, signed the law, has been defined by U.S. Bishops as “a great tragedy for human life.” In a letter, adding to the firm stance of local bishops, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed his grief over this “deeply flawed action.”

The law, which will be brought into effect in the coming months, will allow terminally ill adults who are in full possession of their mental faculties to choose voluntary death through lethal drugs. The law requires the prior approval of two doctors and for many witnesses to be present – of which only one can be a relative – at the time the lethal substance is administered. According to O’Malley, “Governor Brown said he signed this law because it should not be a crime for a dying person in pain to end his life.” However, the Cardinal stressed, “suicide itself is a tragedy, not a crime. The crime is for people in authority such as physicians to facilitate the deliberate deaths of other, more vulnerable people. That crime will now be permitted in California.”

Cardinal O’Malley also said this legislation will create “confusion”, because “seriously ill patients suffering from depression and suicidal feelings will receive lethal drugs, instead of genuine care to help alleviate that suffering.”

The result, he said, is that “where such ‘assistance’ is legal, most people taking the lethal drugs do so not because of pain but because they feel they are helpless and a ‘burden’ on others. The state of California in effect is now confirming this judgment. A government that legalizes assisted suicide sends the terrible message Pope Francis has so eloquently warned us against, that there is such a thing as disposable people.”

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ACADEMY FOR LIFE PRESIDENT: “ASSISTED SUICIDE AN ABSURDITY” – POPE FRANCIS TO MEET FOUNDER OF ARGENTINA’S GRANDMOTHERS OF PLAZA DE MAYO – “THE NONEXISTENT RIGHT” – RUSSIA NOT EXTENDING PERMITS FOR RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES IN CRIMEA

To save you some time, here are some links to ordering Pope Francis’ Italian-language book, “Il Mio Breviario” (My Breviary), online. It is Kindle version only but you know you can read Kindle books on your iPad or other tablet. These links are for the US, the UK and Italy:

US – Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/Il-mio-breviario-Italian-Francesco-ebook/dp/B00O4KCF1Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415101941&sr=1-1&keywords=Il+mio+breviario

UK – Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Il-mio-breviario-Italian-Edition-ebook/dp/B00O4KCF1Y

ITALY – Kindle: http://www.amazon.it/Il-mio-breviario-Francesco-ebook/dp/B00O4KCF1Y

ACADEMY FOR LIFE PRESIDENT: “ASSISTED SUICIDE AN ABSURDITY”

On its English language site with Vatican news. ANSA, the Italian news agency, reported today that “a senior Vatican official on Tuesday condemned the suicide of American brain cancer sufferer Brittany Maynard at the weekend. ‘We don’t judge people, but the gesture in itself is to be condemned,’ Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told ANSA. “Assisted suicide is an absurdity. Dignity is something different to putting an end to your own life’.”

ANSA noted that “Maynard, a 29-year-old American afflicted with terminal brain cancer, announced weeks ago that she was planning to end her life. The video Maynard posted on Youtube in conjunction with the non-profit Compassion & Choices, in which she announced her decision, has been viewed 9.8 million times and made her a key advocate in the US’s right-to-die movement.”

POPE FRANCIS TO MEET FOUNDER OF ARGENTINA’S GRANDMOTHERS OF PLAZA DE MAYO

Pope Francis on Wednesday will receive the founder and leader of an Argentinian grandmothers’ association that seeks children stolen and illegally adopted during the country’s Dirty War, Vatican sources said Monday. The Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo) were set up to track down grandchildren abducted from female prisoners who gave birth in secret detention centers during the military dictatorship of 1976-1984.

“We are proud of the Argentine Pope,” Estela de Carlotto told ANSA ahead of her audience with Francis. She will be bringing several family members, including Ignacio Guido, her grandson, the son of her daughter Laura, who was abducted while pregnant, tortured and killed by the military 36 years ago. While Laura’s bullet-riddled body was returned to her mother, Laura’s child was not. Estela recovered him in August this year, thanks to a DNA bank set up by families and survivors of the dictatorship.

“We will all be there, a total of 18 Carlottos,” she said. (http://popefrancisnewsapp.com/)

“THE NONEXISTENT RIGHT”

The Vatican newspaper, in its November 5 edition that is on newststands the afternoon of November 4, carried a front page editorial entitled “The Nonexistent Right,” which is a commentary on the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The following is my translation:

The editorial starts: “This is the great weakness of many Western societies, the fact that they confuse what is moral with what is legal. And what is no longer condemned by law quickly becomes the object of a right.” This sentence by Patrick Verspieren. Jesuit and bioethicist, is from the editorial of the latest edition of the magazine “Etudes” and refers to the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in several countries.

Fr. Verspieren, in commenting the position of Corinne Van Oost, the author of a book published in Belgium in mid-September with the provocative title “As a Doctor and Catholic, I practice Euthanasia,” denounced the risk of the banalization or almost becoming a habit of morally unacceptable acts when they are permitted by the law. This, for a doctor – especially for those who seek to assure the dying the best possible conditions of life – represents the enormous risk of “losing the sense of transgression that every homicide represents” and of becoming accustomed to the idea that one can serve life through giving death. Fr. Verspieren’s words can also be read in a broader context with respect to the fundamental questions of bioethcs and bio-law (bio-right) that, often in a very emotional and not-meditated-upon fashion, run through our societies.

It has often been said that the law would tend to regulate several hidden practices with the goal of making them safer. The basis from which the legislator would move (act), in other words, (is) a behavior already present in society; hidden euthanasias, clandestine abortions, the use of drugs, to list only a few examples. The problem is that often to give “legal feasibility” to such behavior can end up – and this is what Dr. Verspieren says clearly – making them also “morally acceptable,” demolishing in the eyes of many, and what is more, in the name of the law, the last obstacles to their realization. It is as if one had started a vicious cycle of extreme consequences: this would rapidly become a “right” which, until not long ago, was illegal. Just as quickly the law would lose its proper educational function, truncating all moral reference, and medicine would find itself overwhelmed by its own deontological principles.

It is clear – as can be seen in the words of both Patrick Verspieren and Dr. Van Oost – that apparently it is easier to give in to the wishes of society, even if obscure, than to refer to clear moral principles that have been and should continue to be the founding pillars of law in so-called evolved countries. It is also clear that, to second (give in to) such wishes by bending to presumed nonexisting rights can, on the one hand, push the law to go in the same direction and, on the other hand, generate a sense of profound suffering and anxiety. “To practice euthanasia,” says Van Oost, “means risking becoming accustomed to it. As the years pass, I do so with ever less fear, but I also have the impression of being the first to lose. As a doctor and as a Christian.”

The doctor and the legislator have equal responsibilities and are both called to have courage, the courage to go in the right direction. Breaking that vicious cycle that tends simply to legitimize and, in the end, to incentivize every desire.

RUSSIA NOT EXTENDING PERMITS FOR RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES IN CRIMEA

Forum 18 News Service reports that, “Russia’s Federal Migration Service is not extending residence permits for foreign citizens who have been working for Crimean religious communities, leaving Simferopol’s Roman Catholic parish without its senior priest, Polish citizen Fr. Piotr Rosochacki, who had worked in Crimea for 5 years. All other Catholic priests and nuns will have to leave by the end of 2014. Similarly, almost all Turkish Muslim imams and religious teachers have been forced to leave Crimea.

“The Federal Migration Service in Crimea told Forum 18 News Service that only registered religious communities can invite foreign citizens. No Crimean religious communities have registration, and under a Russian law that entered into force on 1 July all religious communities must apply for re-registration by 1 January 2015. There is uncertainty about what will happen to applications from communities under bodies outside Crimea or Russia – including Crimea’s Armenian Apostolic, Old Believer, Moscow Patriarchate, Roman Catholic and Kiev Patriarchate parishes.

(Forum 18 News Service, as it says on its website, “is named after Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the similar Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a core international human rights treaty. We work for freedom of religion or belief for all on the basis of these articles. Article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”)