Social Doctrine Compendium Has a Companion
Prelate Encourages Laypeople to Apply Principles
DUBLIN, Ireland, SEPT. 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The compendium of the Church's social doctrine is a "theological reading of the signs of the times," and a recently published companion makes its wealth more accessible, says an Irish prelate.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, primate of Ireland, said this Wednesday at the launching of the Companion to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, written by Father Padraig Corkery.
The Compendium was released in 2004, prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
"Curiously, interest in Catholic social teaching waned with the coming of Vatican II," Archbishop Martin said. "Many were unhappy with the term doctrine, preferring social teaching or social reflection or social thought.
"There was the feeling in many places that the social teaching of the Church should be a form of social ethic which could be shared by people of various viewpoints, religious or not."
The prelate encouraged getting back to the "grass roots in the formation of laypersons […] for the 'secular nature of their Christian discipleship,' their duty 'to proclaim the Gospel with an exemplary witness of life rooted in Christ and lived in temporal realities.'"
He added, "Irish society and Irish democracy would benefit from a new generation of laypeople, prepared and capable of informing public opinion, on the contribution that can be derived from the message of Jesus to establishing values to inspire pluralistic Irish political and social life."
Archbishop Martin explained the nature of Catholic social doctrine: "A book on Catholic social teaching is not a recipe book, or a catechism old-style with a list of ready made answers to the social and political questions of the day.
"It presents a unified corpus of principles and criteria which draw their origin from the Gospels and which are applied to the realities of the times in order to form Christians to make their own personal responsible judgments on the best manner to stimulate the ideals proposed by the Gospel in contemporary culture.
"Catholic social doctrine does not take away the risk of politics, but it aims to provide an in injection of purpose, idealism, integrity and truthfulness into the way politics is carried out."
The 62-year-old prelate continued: "The social teaching of the Church is an admirable instrument for community formation. […] As I said at the launch of the Compendium, the Compendium is too important a document to be usurped by episcopal commissions or professional Church bureaucrats.
"There is a sense in which the real 'translation' of any social encyclical or any document of the social teaching of the Church is written not by professional interpreters, but by the action of Christian laypeople in the world -- who try, day by day, to apply these principles in their life and commitment."
For his part, Father Corkery, who is also the director of postgraduate studies and a lecturer in moral theology at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, said he hopes his Companion has two effects: to "introduce people to the richness of Catholic social teaching; and to move them toward action so that we can construct a society and local communities that live the virtue of solidarity and treasure the gift that is the human person."
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Dignity in Life and Death
Debate Continues Over Euthanasia
By Father John Flynn, L.C.
ROME, SEPT. 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The issue of euthanasia came to the forefront of news again recently, with the publication of a note Sept. 14 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The statement, written in reply to questions sent to the Vatican by U. S. bishops, stipulated that providing nutrition and liquids to people who are in what is often termed the vegetative state is, with rare exceptions, morally obligatory.
After the fierce debate over the 2005 Terri Schiavo case in Florida, news came from Arizona a few months ago about a man who unexpectedly woke up from a coma. Jesse Ramirez suffered brain injuries in a May 30 car crash, reported the Arizona Republic newspaper June 27.
On June 8 his wife, Rebecca, had asked his doctors to remove the tubes providing him with food and water. Jesse's parents objected and obtained a court order to reconnect the tubes. Subsequently, Jesse suddenly woke up from his coma.
Earlier this year another case was reported, from Denver, Colorado. Christa Lilly had been in coma since the mid-'80s in the wake of a heart attack and stroke. In the past, Lilly had woken up for brief periods, but until this year the last time was on Nov. 4, 2000, reported the Denver Post newspaper March 8.
According to the article, a neurologist from the University of Colorado Hospital, James Kelly, thinks that Lilly might have been in a "minimally conscious state" during these years, as opposed to a persistent vegetative state.
Euthanasia came up for debate in Germany recently, after the announcement by Roger Kusch, ex-justice minister in Hamburg, that he has designed a machine to help people commit suicide.
According to a report in the Sept. 9 edition of the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, a simple push of a button injects a lethal solution into the terminally ill patient. German federal law prohibits helping someone commit suicide, but does not make illegal the actual act of suicide by the person involved. So with his machine Kusch hopes to avoid any legal difficulties in helping people die.
News of the invention drew immediate criticism, both from politicians and Archbishop Werner Thissen of Hamburg. Kusch is a candidate in Hamburg's October elections.
Meanwhile, in Switzerland, protests by residents in a Zurich suburb have forced the assisted-suicide group Dignitas out of its premises, according to a July 13 report on the Web site of the German magazine Spiegel Online.
Since 1998, around 700 people have come to the Dignitas center to put an end to their lives. According to the article, the largest group of clients is from Germany, with Britain in second place.
Earlier, in June, the Swiss Senate called on the government to draft a law aimed at improving controls of organizations offering assisted suicide. The National Commission on Biomedical Ethics, a government advisory panel, has also recommended increased state supervision of organizations such as Dignitas.
July also saw a court in the Swiss city of Basel sentence Peter Baumann to three years in prison for having helped three people with psychological problems commit suicide, the agency Swissinfo reported July 6.
Baumann, a retired psychologist, helped the people die between January 2001 and January 2003. According to the court, Baumann acted out of egoistic motives, hoping to obtain public recognition of his methods. The judges, however, defined his conduct as "inhuman," and criticized his behavior as negligent.
Care, not death
During his trip to Austria, Benedict XVI raised the issue of euthanasia in his Sept. 7 speech to members of government and the diplomatic corps. Saying that the issue was of "great concern" to him, the Pope added that he feared tacit or explicit pressures on the elderly and ill to put an end to their lives.
"The proper response to end-of-life suffering is loving care and accompaniment on the journey toward death -- especially with the help of palliative care -- and not 'actively assisted death,'" the Pontiff stated. He also called for reforms in the social welfare and health systems in order to assist people who are terminally ill.
Some of Canada's bishops also addressed euthanasia earlier this year. In April the Ontario episcopal conference published a brochure titled "Going to the House of the Father: A Statement on the Dignity and Destiny of Human Life."
"It seems a cruel twist of history that societies with such great medical capabilities are turning against the disabled and sick -- with lethal results," the introduction stated.
The bishops insisted that protecting life is not just a Christian or religious argument, but a basic human right. "To permit the killing of the disabled, frail, sick or suffering, even if motivated by a misplaced compassion, requires a prior judgment that such lives are not worth living," they said. "No one forfeits the right to life because of illness or disability."
"Unless the right to life is secure, there can be no sure foundation for any human rights," they added.
The statement also explained that there is a difference between deliberately causing death and unduly prolonging life. We are not morally obliged, the bishops said, to prolong life if the means used are unduly burdensome or cause additional suffering and when there is little hope of recovery.
The bishops also recommended that Christians not neglect the soul and that they should draw comfort from the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. Suffering and death for Christians, they continued, is not only a matter for medicine.
Another source of opposition to euthanasia comes from groups representing disabled people, as the Los Angeles Times reported Aug. 6. According to the article, one of the reasons why legislative proposals to allow medically assisted suicide have failed in California in the past few years is the hostility of the disabled's rights movement.
A combination of legalized euthanasia and pressure to cut increasing costs in the health care system could lead to the withdrawal of treatment for the disabled. The Los Angeles Times quoted a number of disabled people, active in groups who have fought against assisted-suicide proposals.
"The conditions I have are expensive to treat, and it would be a lot cheaper for the health care system to just let my health go to the point where I would want to die," said Los Angeles activist Laura Remson Mitchell, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, kidney disease and diabetes.
Other concerns arise from the increasing reluctance by some courts to punish family members who help a sick relative commit suicide. The application of the law in Britain in recent years has been eroded to the point where courts are reluctant to punish those who say they help kill someone out of love, commented Robert Verkaik, law editor for the British newspaper the Independent in an article published May 8.
Among other examples, Verkaik noted a case from October 2006, when a man who helped his terminally ill wife to die was set free with just a nine-month suspended sentence.
Earlier, in March, a French court convicted a doctor for poisoning a terminally ill cancer patient, reported the Associated Press on March 15. In spite of his guilt, the tribunal in southwestern Perigueux sentenced Laurence Tramois to just a one-year suspended prison sentence for his role in the Aug. 25, 2003, death of Paulette Druais in the nearby town of Saint-Astier.
Misguided compassion seems destined to lead to the deaths of still more people as pressures to ease restrictions on assisted suicide continue.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Vindicated Thinker to Be Beatified
Father Rosmini's Writings Were Condemned
NOVARA, Italy, SEPT. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The beatification of a 19th-century priest whose writings were once condemned by the Holy Office will take place in Novara this fall.
Father Antonio Rosmini, a theologian and philosopher, will be beatified Nov. 18 by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.
Some of his works were condemned because of erroneous interpretations promoted by a few of his followers.
Ordained a priest in 1821, he went on in 1830 to found the Institute of Charity, a religious congregation recognized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.
Despite his absolute fidelity to Pope Pius IX, in 1849 the ecclesiastical authorities placed two of Father Rosmini's works on the Index of banned books. Condemned later with the doctrinal decree "Post Obitum" were 40 of his propositions, taken especially from posthumous works and others published in his lifetime.
It was not until July 1, 2001, that a note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by the then prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, stated that "the reasons for concern" regarding the work of Antonio Rosmini have been surmounted.
"The beatification of Father Rosmini," said Bishop Renato Corti of Novara in a press conference, "will be a singular event for the Church in Italy because it will focus the attention of today's Christians on the example of a person who dedicated his life to bringing together faith and reason. This is exactly the challenge facing us today."
According to the bishop, "The beatification will be above all a moment of great celebration for the men and women religious of the Rosminian order, who are present today throughout the world, and also for the city of Novara."
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