Perhaps one day, without a film crew or a movie script or an air-conditioned trailer full of bottled water and prepackaged snacks, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez will find themselves walking along Spain’s El Camino de Santiago–the way of St. James.
The 800-kilometer historic pilgrimage trail–treaded upon by popes, saints, and seekers from all faith traditions for centuries–will take father and son from the quaint French village of St. Jean Pied de Port through the grandiose Pyrenees Mountains across the sun-drenched northern Spanish region of Galicia to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
They will perhaps carry backpacks and scallop shells–the sign of St. James and a pilgrim on El Camino–and follow the warm Galician sun by day and brilliant Milky Way by night.
They’ll sleep at the “posadas”–hostels–and have their “credencials del peregrine”–Camino passports–stamped at the spiritual stops along the way.
And just maybe, as Sheen explained, they’ll “go inside and hear the heartbeat and awaken the voice.”
“I’m determined to do it,” said the 71-year-old Sheen during an interview in Cleveland with the Catholic Universe Bulletin, the diocesan newspaper. He and Estevez were in town as part of a cross-country bus tour to promote their movie, “The Way.”
“I long to do it. And seriously to have that time, that freedom, to make the journey physically but also to go inside and hear the heartbeat and awaken the voice and be ruled by that, the transcendent pilgrimage which is inside,” Sheen said. “That I long for. If I only had the time.”
“But you have to promise not to sign any autographs or take pictures,” quipped Estevez to his father, who enjoys spending time with his fans, allowing them to take photos and get autographs no matter how long it takes or how tired he is after shooting a film.
“The Way” tells the story of four Westerners walking the 500-mile pilgrimage route from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. It opened nationwide Oct. 7.
Estevez wrote, directed and produced the movie, which is about a widower doctor, Dr. Tom Avery (Sheen), whose grown son (Estevez)–his only child–is killed in a storm while starting to walk El Camino. The doctor decides to reconnect with his faith and express his grief by walking the Camino for his son, bringing his son’s ashes with him. Along the way, he is joined by three other pilgrims who are struggling with their own life challenges and help each other find inner peace.
While placed in a Catholic setting, the film has universal appeal for not only fathers and sons but anyone searching for answers in their lives.
“This movie has the potential to address all the big life themes–grief, loss, family, faith, lapse in faith,” Estevez said.
Back in February Estevez and Sheen were at Georgetown University in Washington for an interview and screening of the movie. At the time they announced they would be conducting a 30-day, 30-city cross-country promotion bus trip from Los Angeles to New York. The tour brought them back to Washington Oct. 1 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In Cleveland, Estevez said in the interview that he has “always been a storyteller. I started out as a writer. …The acting was somewhat of a vehicle that I used to get there. I really enjoy being on both sides of the camera. I like directing myself. I have a ball when I’m doing it.”
At the film’s Los Angeles premiere Sept. 23, Sheen and Estevez were among the celebrities who strolled down the red carpet outside the Nokia Theatre, where the film was screened as part of the AARP’s Movies for Grownups Film Festival.
In a brief interview on the red carpet, Sheen told The Southern Cross, newspaper of the San Diego Diocese, that the film depicts “the spiritual journey that all of us have to make.”
“We have to do our pilgrimages, and we have to carry all the things that we’ve accumulated along the way,” he said. “Nobody else can carry that stuff, nobody else can go in our shoes. You have to do it alone, but you cannot do it without community.”
Sheen said he grew up hearing stories about “this sacred pilgrimage” from his father, who was born about 80 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela, “and so, I had this kind of romantic image that someday I would do this journey.”
Raised a Catholic, Sheen fell away from his faith for a time but returned to it some years ago and today is active in social justice causes.
In the summer of 2003, while on a break from filming the television series “The West Wing,” Sheen navigated the pilgrimage route by car with his grandson Taylor and a close friend. At their first stop on the Camino, Taylor met the woman who would become his wife.
“That was the first miracle. That inspired me to want to do a story on the Camino,” said Sheen, who suggested Estevez write a screenplay.
In a separate red carpet interview, Estevez noted that pilgrims have been walking the Way of St. James since the ninth century.
“Hollywood has had a hundred years to make a movie about this, and they haven’t,” he said. “It was time.”
Estevez considers his film especially relevant today.
“Our business doesn’t really celebrate faith, and family, and community, and meditation and prayer in a way that it should,” he said, “and I think that there is a hunger now, especially in these economic times. People are banding together in ways that they never have before and certainly leaning on family.”
Contributing to this story was Denis Grasska in Los Angeles.
Retired Abp. Philip M. Hannan of New Orleans, a World War II paratroop chaplain who befriended and secretly counseled John F. Kennedy during and after his historic run for the White House as the first US Catholic president, died Sept. 29 at age 98.
“Abp. Hannan in every way was a good shepherd of the church who was modeled after Christ, not just for Catholics of New Orleans but for the whole community,” Abp. Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans said in a statement.
“We will miss him, but at 98, he has lived a full life. We truly believe in faith that he will feast not just at table of the Eucharist but at the table of the Lord in heaven,” he said.
Abp. Hannan had become increasingly frail in recent months because of a series of strokes and other health problems. He moved in June from his private residence in Covington, La., to Chateau de Notre Dame, a senior apartment complex and elder care facility he first envisioned and then dedicated in 1977 to provide for seniors in archdiocese.
“From the time Abp. Hannan came here right after Hurricane Betsy in 1965, he truly made New Orleans his home,” Abp. Aymond added. “This was his parish and his archdiocese, and it had no boundaries. He was there for anyone and everyone. That was his goal in life.
“He always quoted St. Paul, and he truly believed that his mission and ministry was to preach the Gospel untiringly both in actions and in words.”
Abp. Aymond will receive the body of the late archbishop at 5 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Notre Dame Seminary Chapel. A special evening of prayer will be celebrated by the priests of the archdiocese, followed by a wake service and public viewing. Public viewing will take place at the chapel all day Oct. 4 and until noon Oct. 5, when a horse drawn procession will take the body of Abp. Hannan to St. Louis Cathedral. Public viewing will be held at the cathedral.
Abp. Aymond will celebrate a funeral Mass for Abp. Hannan Oct. 6 at the cathedral, followed by his burial in a crypt beneath the sanctuary.
Abp. Hannan was the third-oldest US bishop, after Abp. Peter L. Gerety of Newark, NJ, who turned 99 July 19, and Aux. Bp. Bernard J. McLaughlin of Buffalo, NY, who will turn 99 Nov. 19. He was one of the two last surviving US bishops to have attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) as a bishop. The other is retired Abp. Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle, who is 90 years old.
A staunch defender of civil rights and the unborn as well as a fierce proponent during Vatican II of the morality of nuclear deterrence, Abp. Hannan burnished his reputation for fearlessness in 2005 by riding out Hurricane Katrina alone at age 92 in the fortresslike studios of Focus Worldwide, an offshoot of the television network he created in the 1980s.
Although the building’s backup generator failed, the veteran 82nd Airborne chaplain had a ready supply of water, peanut butter and crackers–as well as a trusty 3-wood to ward off potential looters. Five days later, he talked his way through police barricades and drove across the 24-mile causeway bridge over Lake Pontchartrain to give emotional pep talks to weary first responders.
Never the master of understatement, he called it “the easiest drive of my life.”
He was ordained auxiliary bishop of Washington in 1956 and was attending the final session of Vatican II–with the responsibility, because of his background as a Catholic newspaper editor, of coordinating the daily press briefings for English-speaking reporters–when Pope Paul VI appointed him as the 11th archbishop of New Orleans Sept. 29, 1965.
The appointment came 20 days after Hurricane Betsy had flooded and damaged large swaths of New Orleans.
As archbishop, he endeared himself to a Catholic populace that could be wary of outsiders through his plain talk against abortion–which drew the ire of Catholic politicians who supported keeping abortion legal–and through his outreach to the poor, the elderly and those of other faiths.
He was a dynamo in building affordable apartments for the poor and elderly, navigating government channels to finance many of the projects. The result was Christopher Homes, the housing arm of the archdiocese that now provides thousands of affordable apartments.
In 2010, Abp. Hannan published his memoirs, “The Archbishop Wore Combat Boots,” which documented his career as a seminarian in Rome in the 1930s during the buildup to World War II, his service as a paratroop chaplain for the 82nd Airborne and his confidential relationship with Kennedy when he was an auxiliary bishop of Washington.
Abp. Hannan and Kennedy were so close that first lady Jacqueline Kennedy asked him to deliver the eulogy at the assassinated president’s funeral Mass on Nov. 25, 1963, at St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington. According to church protocol, that responsibility normally would have fallen to Washington Abp. Patrick O’Boyle, who graciously allowed his auxiliary to deliver the eulogy.
In 1968, Abp. Hannan returned to Washington from New Orleans to deliver the graveside eulogy at the funeral of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. In 1994, he offered graveside prayers at the interment of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in Arlington National Cemetery.
Abp. Hannan retired one year after the historic 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II to New Orleans, an event he often called the highlight of his life as a priest.
Abp. Hannan started educational television station WLAE in the 1980s and was still filing television reports as late as Hurricane Katrina in 2005. One week after the storm, when an Army helicopter carrying Abp. Paul Cordes, the papal envoy, and several other bishops landed in a field in Biloxi, Miss., Abp. Hannan–along with his cameraman–was waiting for them to conduct interviews for his TV show.
Born in Washington May 20, 1913, Abp. Hannan was the fifth of eight children. His father, an Irish immigrant, came to the United States at 18 and found work as a plumber, building his trade into a flourishing business that weathered even the Great Depression.
A leader in both scholastic work and sports activities, young Philip captained the winning cadet company his senior year at St. John’s College High School in Washington. As graduation approached, he startled his family by announcing that instead of taking the test for the US Military Academy at West Point, he would enter the seminary.
He attended St. Charles College in Catonville, Md., and the Sulpician Seminary in Washington, receiving a master’s degree from The Catholic University of America before going in 1936 to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he experienced firsthand the growing tensions in Europe and the preparations for World War II.
He earned a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and later earned a doctorate in canon law from Catholic University.
Ordained in Rome Dec. 8, 1939, by Bp. Ralph Hayes of Davenport, IA, then rector of the North American College, Father Hannan remained in Rome until the following summer, when all American seminarians were ordered by the US secretary of state to leave to ensure their personal safety. He celebrated his first Mass in the United States June 16, 1940, at St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington.
He then served as assistant pastor for two years at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Baltimore.
In 1942, he volunteered as a wartime paratroop chaplain and served with the 505th Parachute Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. After cursory instructions on the ground, he took five practice jumps to earn his official status as a paratroop chaplain.
After his first jump, he was appointed “jump master” to a small crew of greenhorn jumpers and he affectionately became known as “The Jumping Padre.”
In 1945, as the horrors of Nazi prisoner-of-war camps became widely known, Chaplain Hannan liberated a German camp of emaciated prisoners at Wobbelin.
After the war, Father Hannan was assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Washington. In 1948 he was appointed vice chancellor of the newly established Archdiocese of Washington. In 1951 he helped organize the Catholic Standard, the archdiocesan newspaper, and was its editor-in-chief for the next 14 years.
“We mourn the loss of Abp. Hannan, our founding editor and founding father, a great man who served his church and his country with honor and faith,” Mark Zimmermann, editor of the Catholic Standard, said in a statement.
Named a bishop by Pope Pius XII, he was ordained Aug. 28, 1956, in St. Matthew Cathedral. In 1962 Bp. Hannan went to Rome for the first session of Vatican II.
Appointed to two council posts, the Committee on Government of Dioceses and the Committee on Christian Unity, Bp. Hannan also served on the US bishops’ conference committee established to assist secular press members covering the council’s proceedings.
During the second and third sessions of the Vatican Council, Bp. Hannan addressed the council fathers twice, during the session on the role of the laity and the session nuclear warfare. The latter address persuaded the council to accept the morality of nuclear deterrence.
In New Orleans, one area in which Abp. Hannan had the greatest impact on the community was social work. Shortly after his arrival, he walked the streets of a housing development and immediately determined the church needed to institute a social action program.
Beginning in the summer of 1966, with only 25 volunteers, the archdiocesan Social Apostolate program developed into a year-round activity at nearly a dozen centers, focusing on educational, recreational, cultural and social activities.
When the city’s public swimming pools developed mysterious problems–meaning they could not be opened for blacks and whites to swim together–the archbishop decided to make the swimming pool at Notre Dame Seminary available to the children who attended his Summer Witness camps. Abp. Hannan said he received some negative attention from whites but paid it no attention.
The archbishop was successful in bringing to New Orleans the Second Harvest Food Bank program, and the Elderly Supplemental Food Program.
Following the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, through Catholic Charities, was one of the leaders in the nation assisting in the resettlement of thousands of Vietnamese refugees.
In the conclusion of his autobiography, Abp. Hannan wrote: “The road to heaven begins–and ends–with faith in God from whom all blessings, wisdom, tolerance, joy and forgiveness have always–and will ever–flow. Consequently, I have come to believe that only when we actually get to heaven will we truly understand what we accomplished here on earth–especially when it concerns the priesthood.
“From my perspective as a priest–I will accomplish in death what I could not in life because as priests we are most fully alive when we die,” he wrote. “If we don’t feel that way, we certainly have not served the cause of Christ as we were meant to. In the final spiritual analysis, to fulfill the will of God, a priest must die in life as did his own Son. And when that times comes, with the grace of God, I am ready.”
Anglican Abp. Desmond Tutu might seek to turn off the spotlight that has shone on him for the past three decades, but as he approaches his 80th birthday Oct. 7, he has not been able to withdraw from public life completely.
The former Anglican primate of southern Africa now lives with his wife in the middle-class Cape Town suburb of Milnerton. Neighbors are used to seeing the diminutive archbishop on his brisk morning walks. Their greetings are met with a friendly wave of the hand, but the archbishop does not stop for a chat. Extrovert as he appears in public, the private Abp. Tutu is reserved and, indeed, shy.
Once always available to the media, the archbishop now denies all interview requests. He still writes occasionally and speaks at selected public events. When he does so, his comments on current issues invariably make headlines. In this way, he still serves as the conscience of the nation.
That role has lost him many friends among those who fought with him against apartheid. The supporters of ex-President Thabo Mbeki could not forgive Abp. Tutu’s strong criticism of government policies denying AIDS, and supporters of President Jacob Zuma would prefer the archbishop keep quiet about issues such as corruption.
After the archbishop called for a South African academic boycott of Israel in response to what he sees as that country’s human rights abuses against Palestinians, Jewish groups in South Africa and Israel accused him of anti-Semitism. And in August, the archbishop was called a racist by some white South Africans when he suggested that they should pay a “wealth tax” as a sign of repentance for having benefitted from apartheid.
It was apartheid and his prophetic witness against it that propelled Abp. Tutu to international prominence when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, a few weeks before he was named the first black Anglican bishop of Johannesburg.
His episcopal position afforded him some protection from the brutal regime of P.W. Botha and, like several other Christian leaders, he used his privileged position to speak out against the injustice of apartheid. With his charisma and conciliatory but firm statements, the archbishop became a spokesman for the struggle, at home and abroad. There were more radical clergy–many of them, including Catholic priests, were detained and even tortured–but the untouchable archbishop frustrated the regime the most.
Like Catholic Abp. Denis Hurley of Durban–“on whose shoulders we stood,” as Abp. Tutu once put it–he condemned apartheid as a heresy. The blasphemy of apartheid, Abp. Tutu said repeatedly, “is that it can make a child of God doubt that he or she is a child of God.” “I believe that everyone is a saint until the contrary is proven,” he said in a 1989 interview.
Abp. Tutu has always emphasized God’s love and encouraged an active prayer life.
“God loves you not because we are lovable. No, we are lovable precisely because God loves us,” he once wrote.
Coming from the High Anglican tradition, Abp. Tutu’s spiritual life is in many ways close to Catholicism. At one point the baptized Methodist considered becoming a Catholic priest. Instead he married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a Catholic, and went on to become an Anglican minister.
When he headed the South African Council of Churches in the late 1970s, he instituted a daily 7 a.m. Eucharist and the Angelus at noon.
Had he become a Catholic priest, he probably would have been in frequent conflict with the hierarchy, and not because of his political engagement–of which many Anglican clergy also disapproved. Abp. Tutu has expressed liberal views on topics such as homosexuality and bioethics. He was an early supporter of the ordination of Anglican women and has said that the procedure of electing the archbishop of Canterbury, the primate of the Anglican Communion who is recommended by the British prime minister and appointed by the monarch, is neither democratic and nor representative.
Abp. Tutu’s social and political engagement is rooted in the mandate of the Gospel to stand with the poor and oppressed. During apartheid, he subscribed to the principle of nonviolence in the struggle.
By the late 1970s he and other church leaders, including the Catholic bishops of South Africa, concluded that apartheid could be fought peacefully by means of international economic sanctions.
Calling for sanctions was not without dangers, because agitating for “economic sabotage” was outlawed under the stringent Terrorism Act. Historians now increasingly conclude that South Africa’s weak economy and pressure from business were decisive factors in the death of apartheid.
The other factor was, of course political protest. Abp. Tutu was instrumental in staging the event that, in 1989, signaled the death of apartheid.
During protests on the day of the final apartheid elections in September that year, police in Cape Town killed more than 20 people, many of them innocent bystanders. In response, Abp. Tutu called a protest march. After negotiations, new President F.W. de Klerk allowed the march to go ahead, the first such concession under apartheid. The march drew an unprecedented multiracial crowd of 35,000 “rainbow people,” as the archbishop named them that day, and was replicated throughout South Africa. De Klerk later said it helped push apartheid over the cliff.
The rainbow metaphor to describe the South African nation stuck after democracy became a reality in April 1994. Abp. Tutu has remained the most ardent advocate for the Rainbow Nation, even as racial divisions still mark South Africa’s public discourse.
After 1994, Abp. Tutu and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela became agents for reconciliation. As head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990s, the archbishop and his colleagues on the commission worked toward the very Christian cycle of confession, penitence and forgiveness. The commission has served as a model for reconciliation in several damaged societies–how effective it was as a tool for national reconciliation remains a matter of dispute.
As he enters the ninth decade of his life, the man who once admitted that he loves to be loved is held dear by millions all over the world. His legacy will long survive the faithful servant of a loving God.
Stem-cell research is once again making news in Congress and the courts. But this time, it’s on the sports pages too.
And instead of the embryonic stem-cell research that was once all the rage, the news is in the field of adult stem-cell research, which does not involve the destruction of human embryos.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, sidelined with a neck injury, reportedly went to an unidentified European country in recent weeks to obtain a treatment involving adult stem cells that is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the US.
Free-agent wide receiver Terrell Owens, whose football career was put on hold because of knee surgery, went to South Korea for the collection and storage of his own stem cells in an effort to speed his return to the NFL.
It remains to be seen how successful those treatments will be, but adult stem-cell researcher Theresa Deisher knows that the two football players chose “the clinically superior solution” over research involving stem cells derived from human embryos.
Deisher is working to develop better delivery techniques for adult stem-cell therapies. Researchers in Europe and elsewhere “are doing very well treating patients” with their own stem cells, but “they have some delivery issues,” she told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from Seattle, where she runs AVM Biotechnology. “If we could improve delivery, we could have even better outcomes.”
When his or her own stem cells are injected into a patient’s heart tissue, for example, “that patient’s (likelihood of) survival is improved and very significantly,” said Deisher, who holds a doctorate in molecular and cellular physiology. But 90 percent of the stem cells “are sequestered in the spleen” and “what we are working on is to figure out how to block that accumulation in the spleen,” she said.
Deisher, who is Catholic, was committed to adult stem-cell research from the beginning because of her belief that life begins at conception.
“My faith kept me from working with them,” she said. “But over time my objections also became scientific and clinical and economic–embryonic stem cells are outrageously expensive.”
The researcher said she has faced increasing pressure in recent years to become involved in embryonic stem-cell research and when she has declined she has found that proponents of the use of embryos “want to try and use people’s morals to destroy their scientific credibility.”
The pressure has only served to solidify her conviction that “it is morally wrong to exploit another human being.”
“It’s only a tiny clump of cells that you can’t really even see, and it can be difficult for people to embrace the importance of something like that,” Deisher said. “But that is a human being, and once you start exploiting any human being you open the door to exploiting all human beings and that is wrong, to treat human beings as commodities.”
Deisher believes the Obama administration’s moves to expand federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research violates the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which bars any funds for research that destroys human embryos. She is one of two plaintiffs judged to have standing a lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health’s revised criteria that permits funding of embryonic stem-cell research.
Although Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of US District Court for the District of Columbia initially ruled that the lawsuit was likely to prevail and briefly stopped all NIH funding of embryonic stem-cell research, he was overturned by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and later dismissed the lawsuit.
In mid-September, attorneys for Deisher and Dr. James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute filed notice of their intent to appeal the dismissal.
Seeking to achieve a similar goal through a different route is the bipartisan Patients First Act, reintroduced in the US House of Representatives Sept. 20 by Reps. J. Randy Forbes, R-VA, and Dan Lipinski, D-IL.
The legislation would direct NIH “to prioritize stem-cell research that has the greatest potential for near-term clinical benefits, by directing both basic and clinical research toward what is currently showing benefits in treating patients”–in other words, adult stem-cell research, which has made advances in the treatment of spinal-cord injuries, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and heart disease.
“As public servants, we have the responsibility to consider both the medical and ethical implications of the research we support with US tax dollars, particularly at a time of budgetary constraints,” Forbes said in a news release.
“The Patients First Act recognizes that the twin goals of scientific advancement and the protection of human life are not mutually exclusive; rather they should be one in the same,” he added. “By setting aside divisive political battles and prioritizing research with proven clinical success, we can finally make long-awaited progress in beating dreaded diseases, from diabetes to breast cancer.”
The Catholic Church’s position on capital punishment has evolved considerably over the centuries.
And as a result, “it is not a message that is immediately understood–that there is no room for supporting the death penalty in today’s world,” said a Vatican’s expert on capital punishment and arms control.
Because the church has only in the past few decades begun closing the window–if not shutting it completely–on the permissibility of the death penalty, people who give just a partial reading of the church’s teachings may still think the death penalty is acceptable today, said Tommaso Di Ruzza, desk officer at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
St. Thomas Aquinas equated a dangerous criminal to an infected limb thereby making it “praiseworthy and healthful” to kill the criminal in order to spare the spread of infection and safeguard the common good.
However, over the centuries, justice has evolved from being the smiting arm of revenge toward a striving for reform and restoration, much like today’s medical science, where amputation is no longer the only recourse for curing an infection.
Modern-day popes have reflected that change in attitude.
As far back as the 19th and early 20th centuries theologians pondered the seeming paradox between the Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill,” and the church’s dark history of condoning state-held executions to deal with heresy and other threats and crimes.
Pope Paul VI took concrete action in distancing the church from this form of punishment, first by formally banning the use of the death penalty in Vatican City State, although no one had been executed under the authority of the Vatican’s temporal governance since 1870.
Pope Paul also spoke publicly against planned executions and called for clemency for death-row inmates. Pope John Paul II also would punctuate his Angelus and general audience talks with impassioned appeals to spare the life of a prisoner on the verge of execution.
It was the Polish pope who “earnestly hoped and prayed” for a global moratorium on the use of capital punishment and the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.
Pope Benedict, too, continues to send appeals for clemency in high-profile cases via telegrams either through a country’s bishops or nuncio, and he has praised a UN resolution calling upon states to institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
The 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church recognized “as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.” At the same time, it said, “bloodless means” that could protect human life should be used when possible.
The “extreme gravity” loophole was tightened with changes made in 1997, which reflected the pope’s 1995 encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae.” It specifies that the use of the death penalty is allowed only when the identity and responsibility of the condemned is certain and if capital punishment “is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”
However, given the resources and possibilities available to governments today for restraining criminals, “cases of the absolute necessity of the suppression of the offender ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent,’” it says.
Pope Benedict, then-Card. Joseph Ratzinger, had a major role in drafting the 1992 Catechism and, especially, its 1997 revised passages. When he told journalists about the changes in 1997, he said while the principles do not absolutely exclude capital punishment, they do give “very severe or limited criteria for its moral use.”
“It seems to me it would be very difficult to meet the conditions today,” he had said.
When a journalist said the majority of Catholics in the US favor use of the death penalty, Card. Ratzinger said, “While it is important to know the thoughts of the faithful, doctrine is not made according to statistics, but according to objective criteria taking into account progress made in the Church’s thought on the issue.”
Di Ruzza said the divergence of many Catholics in the US from the Church’s current position is a sign that “the universal church must also accompany the particular churches a little bit” and help guide them on this “journey of purification,” which is more a process of “maturity rather than a revolution or change in tradition.”
Without reading Popes John Paul and Benedict’s clear condemnations of the death penalty, the catechism will “unfortunately have the risk of being ambiguous or taken out of context,” he said.
The church upholds the inherent dignity of all human beings, even the most sin-filled, and believes in hope, conversion, and mercy, he said.
There is always room for conversion, he said, and forgiveness does not mean being naive about the real evil the human being is capable of committing.
The death penalty does not solve much; a victim still feels loss and crime is not deterred, he said.
Communities must strive to promote the common good, and it’s dubious “that you can kill someone for the good of all,” he said.
“The beauty of forgiveness must also be truly discovered; it’s this that saves us,” said Di Ruzza.
Otherwise, “by killing the just or the unjust without understanding that they have dignity, we will find ourselves after 2,000 years in the same courtyard shouting, ‘Kill him!,’ like they did with Jesus.”
“God forgave us. He did not call us to death. Jesus let us overcome death” so as to more fully embrace life, he said.
What makes a law school–or any educational institution, for that matter–Catholic?
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia considered that question during appearances Sept. 24 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Duquesne University School of Law.
His talk at the A.J. Palumbo Center was part of a public event for about 1,200 that included an invocation by law school alumni Cardinal Adam J. Maida, retired archbishop of Detroit, expressing gratitude for God’s many blessings through the decades.
Charles Dougherty, Duquesne’s president, explained that the centennial celebration began in February with an appearance by US Attorney General Eric Holder. The law school has previously hosted Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Samuel Alito.
Besides the law school’s milestone, the events, including a black-tie gala in the evening, recognized the 25th anniversary of Scalia’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
But the heart of his afternoon speech focused on the essentials of a Catholic law school–first establishing that there is no such thing as Catholic law, unless you’re referring to canon law.
“There is a distinctive contribution that a Catholic law school can make,” Scalia said. “One would expect it to place a special emphasis on teaching and scholarship and fields of particular interest in the church, such as the religion clauses of the First Amendment, family law, canon law, the law governing medical research and experimentation, education law and legal philosophy.”
He said Catholic law schools can make an important difference by creating a Catholic environment that encourages students to live their faith.
“This has nothing to do with making the students better lawyers, but everything with making them better men and women. Moral formation is a respectable goal for any educational institution, even at the law school level. But it’s indispensable, though, for a genuinely religious educational institution.”
A Catholic environment includes a readily available chapel for prayer and daily Mass to encourage the moral formation of its students and staff, the justice said.
“The Catholic law school should be a place where it is clear, though perhaps unspoken, that the here and now is less important, when all is said and done, than the hereafter. It should be a place that takes the law seriously, but not so seriously as to forget that the law is, as James Madison pointed out in the Federalist Papers, ‘only a remedy for our human failings.’”
A Catholic law school could not exist, he said, without a faculty that is generally committed to the school’s religious values. “Needless to say, the faculty members do not all have to be Catholic, but they must share the transcendent worldview and moral values that Catholicism holds,” Scalia said.
Even though religious educational institutions are “as American as apple pie,” he said, they often run counter to the prevailing cultural climate.
“While our educational establishment these days, so tolerant of and even insistent upon diversity in all other aspects of life, seems bent upon eliminating diversity in moral judgment, particularly moral judgment based upon religious views,” Scalia said.
He mentioned the American Association of Law Schools, which has denied membership to schools that failed to share its views on homosexuality.
“I hope this place will not yield, as some Catholic institutions have, to this politically correct insistence upon suppression of moral judgment to this distorted view of what diversity in America means.”
Following the keynote, three former law clerks got a chance to say what it was like working for Scalia at the Supreme Court, prompting some good-natured “roasting” of their former boss.
Ken Gormley, dean of Duquesne’s law school, moderated the discussion, asking the trio about the natural tendency to want to emulate Scalia’s legal mind.
One of the former clerks, Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the 6th US Court of Appeals, said, “I think the secret to writing like Scalia and thinking like Scalia is just having this incredible passion for getting it right.”
The event concluded with Scalia receiving the Carol Los Mansmann Award for excellence in the legal profession, followed by an operatic performance–a favorite of the justice–by students in Duquesne’s Mary Pappert School of Music.
As she talked to the elementary school children, Francesca “Chessie” LaRosa could have focused on how she is scheduled to sing in front of 25,000 young people who are expected to come to Indianapolis in November for the 2011 National Catholic Youth Conference.
Instead, the 18-year-old singer-songwriter chose to share a defining moment from one of those tough, soul-searching times that most teenagers eventually face–a time when she had to decide what really mattered in her life.
It happened during the summer of 2008, a season of excitement, uncertainty and change before her freshman year at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.
For most of her years at St. Barnabas School in Indianapolis, LaRosa didn’t have many friends. She often considered herself as “weird” to her classmates and viewed herself as “shy,” “awkward” and “not good enough.” But that perception began to change in her eighth-grade year when she wrote a song called “We Are” that became her class’ theme song.
People began to see her in a different light. She found confidence and new friends. Soon, she also found herself facing a choice.
“A lot of people were telling me to be a certain way–to dress a certain way and act a certain way–to be popular,” LaRosa said. “I was really frustrated. It was killing me. I just really wanted to be with God and be for God. I started to realize my goal was to get to heaven.”
So LaRosa did what she has done most of her young life. She poured her heart into the lyrics of a song, writing one called “Who I Want to Be.”
“It’s reaching out to the girls and guys who feel they aren’t good enough,” LaRosa told the students at St. Roch School in Indianapolis during a program about her music inside the parish church. “It’s about being who God wants me to be instead of who other people want me to be.”
Then LaRosa sat at the piano in the church and sang the song in the same way that she encouraged the children to live their lives–sharing from the heart and staying focused on God.
“The world is telling me that I should change the color of my hair,
“And everything about me
“I’m supposed to wear the tight shirts, the short skirts
“And change my personality
“Why is the world so caught up in all this vanity?
“Why can’t I just be me?
“Lord, help me be who I want to be
“Teach me how to live
“My life the way you did
“Help me put away
“The things that take away from giving my whole life up to you
“Oh, Lord, just help me be who I want to be.”
Everyone who knows LaRosa says she has always wanted to be involved in music.
Her mother, Chris, said her daughter could literally sing before she could talk. LaRosa started to play the piano when she was 4.
By the third grade, she was singing at Masses at St. Barnabas Church with her father, Joseph. She also began filling notebooks with song lyrics. And she had completed her first professionally produced CD of her music by her freshman year at Roncalli.
She also was chosen recently to sing the ballad version of “Called to Glory”–the theme song for the 2011 National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis Nov. 17-19.
“I was really, really excited,” LaRosa said. “Singing brings me close to God. I can feel him when I sing. I feel embraced by his love.”
Her selection also thrills Kay Scoville, the archdiocese’s director of youth ministry.
“I feel a sense of joy for the archdiocese to have such a witness of our faith be chosen for such an important role,” Scoville said. “And the fact that it is a young person who felt called to evangelize in this manner affirms that we need to continue to reach out to our young people, and encourage them to share their gifts with the church.”
Social media sites are a popular way to connect with family and friends, and a new diocesan Facebook page will do just that with Catholics who have left the Church in Arkansas.
“At the Chrism Mass, (Bp. Anthony B. Taylor) talked about the need to welcome home those Catholics who’ve been away. I thought ‘we’ve got to offer more.’ Statistics out there say that fallen away Catholics are the third largest denomination in the United States,” said Chuck Ashburn, diocesan director of religious education and Christian initiation.
More Catholics live in Arkansas than most think, if you count those who no longer count themselves as members of the Church.
Ashburn, who began working for diocese in July, wants to extend that reach to Catholics who have left the Church or don’t come regularly.
“That is one of the greatest media sites to reach people. I never would have been on Facebook if it wasn’t for Bp. Taylor,” he said. “I know how I’ve found friends from high school that are all over the country. And I thought that is a great forum to give those who have fallen away–to offer them a way back home.”
“Arkansas Catholics Coming Home” debuted on Facebook Sept. 10, coinciding with the bishop’s homily, “Open Your Hearts in Welcome.”
The page will host weekly discussion on issues and topics related to those who have left the Church. It will also guide them to information available at the Diocese of Little Rock Web site and to parishes in their area.
“We’re not looking to find the Catholics who’ve gone away and teach them about the Catholic faith. This is a healing ministry. These people who’ve left the Church in some way have been wounded–in countless ways from the sexual abuse scandals, to the myths about being excommunicated, to a priest who said something that they didn’t like or hurt them,” he said. “We need a program in place that will let them tell their stories and let them experience healing, and then integrate them back into the parish and educational things.”
Ashburn’s not new to the Church in Arkansas, as he began studying for the diaconate four years ago. He worked for 11 years at Catholic High School in Little Rock, serving five years as vice principal.
His journey to the Office of Religious Education and Christian Initiation ties in with the theme of returning home.
“When I came back in 2000, it was like coming home. Catholic High is my home. I loved being there and working with the boys. I loved my job,” he said. “Now, I have the opportunity to reach out and touch the lives of 110,000 Catholics. At Catholic High, I had 700. God had been preparing me along the way for this.”
As part of his welcome process, he plans to travel to as many parishes as he can. He wants to help the people working in the parishes, by providing tools they can use in reaching out to others.
“In the Scripture, Jesus uses the parable of the lost sheep,” Ashburn said. “The shepherd who has a 100 sheep and he loses one; wouldn’t he leave the 99 to go find the one? And the rejoicing that will happen when he finds the lost sheep. In my mind if we find the one, only one, then we have rejoicing because we brought one person back home.”
Several parishes around the state are already using programs to welcome back Catholics. To make the process easier for those who want to start a ministry to welcome Catholics back to the Church, Ashburn wants to offer a selection of programs and resources for parishes.
His goal is to eventually have a program welcoming back Catholics in all parishes.
“We are the body of Christ. We have to be his open, welcoming arms,” he said. “As Christ put the sheep on his shoulders–the lost one that he found–and carried him back. That’s why we need to welcome them home, because that’s who we are, that’s what the Catholic Church is.”
Bp. Taylor’s video and audio recordings in English and Spanish, and many other resources: www.dolr.org/bishop/ openhearts.php
Printed with permission from Arkansas Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Little Rock, AR.
JOHNNETTE S. BENKOVIC–Johnnette S. Benkovic is the founder and president of Living His Life Abundantly International, a Catholic evangelization apostolate that includes radio, television, Internet, and print communications. Benkovic addressed 400 women during the 11th annual Women of Grace National Conference in Indialantic, FL, Sept.23-25. She is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Johnnette S. Benkovic)
By Laura Dodson Indialantic, FL
Johnnette Benkovic urged women at a national meeting in Indialantic to ask God for one thing they could get from the conference, that “you have an open and receptive heart, open to the call that the Lord has for each one of us.”
“We give our yes to God and it becomes very fruitful leading to additional yeses and God working through us,” she told 400 women at Holy Name of Jesus Parish for the 11th annual Women of Grace National Conference Sept. 23-25.
The women came from four countries and 20 states. Eighty also had participated in the one-day pre-conference Benedicta Leadership Institute.
After experiencing a deep conversion in 1981 in which she felt called to spread the Gospel, Benkovic founded Living His Life Abundantly International, an apostolate of radio, television, print and Internet communications. She also founded Women of Grace, an apostolate for women that has conferences, study groups and much more.
Benkovic is the author of two books, “Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life” and “Grace-Filled Moments,” published by Servant Books.
She wrote the books, she explained, after the publisher “asked me what was on my heart, and I replied ‘women’ because I could see how wounded we are by our personal sin and the sins of others against us.”
“Rather than relieving the burden, the burden increased and I knew God was asking for an apostolate that would meet the spiritual needs of women in our day and time by affirming their dignity and vocation as daughters of God and their gift of authentic femininity,” she said in an interview.
Benkovic recognized that Catholic women were attending Protestant Bible studies and conferences to meet their spiritual hunger and although they remained in the Catholic Church, they had a Protestant understanding of who they were.
“Through events in my life that someone called tragedy, I have experienced the greatest graces and God has used those losses to draw me into a deeper relationship and union with him.” Benkovic said. “Sorrow is the training ground of strong souls–the crucible in which God makes gold. Women of Grace is the fruit of suffering.”
More than 50,000 women have taken the Women of Grace Bible study series in all 50 states and in Canada, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, and at military installations–Germany, Japan, even Afghanistan where a woman soldier led a group.
Peggy Pritchard and Vicki Crispo have been involved since October 2003. They traveled from York, PA, for the conference.
“We’ve seen the healing and transformation in women we’ve journeyed with through the study,” Pritchard said. “I’ve done women’s groups before, but this has all the elements: It’s true to the church, includes the saints, Scripture and spiritual reading. Through the study, women are transformed.”
“There was our own interior conversion as well,” Crispo added. “We’re trying to find new ways to bring the Women of Grace mission to all women, especially those who are hurting. We know that we know that we know and we have to share it.”
The pre-conference Benedicta Leadership Institute included a lecture, workshop, group activity and liturgical celebrations.
“The charism of my order is the development of women,” said Sr. Mary Brigid Agbenyo, a Handmaid of the Divine Redeemer who was attending from Ghana. “This institute and convention is another big push for me to continue what I started–to bring the Women of Grace into our society, into the church.”
The first Benedicta Leadership Institute was in 2006 and named in honor of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). Benkovic considers her a teacher and mentor.
“We began to see that given the opportunity available to women today, she has the capacity to be used by God to mend the Christian fabric of society and bring about a culture of life,” Benkovic said. “The Catholic woman leader seeks to use her gifts and talents and feminine genius to bring Jesus Christ into the world and the world to Jesus Christ.”
At the end of Mass Sept. 23, Holy Cross Fr. Edmund Sylvia, co-host of the Abundant Life and Women of Grace television and radio programs and theological adviser to Living His Life Abundantly, installed graduates of the Leadership Institute as the first regional coordinators for Women of Grace.
Next year’s Women of Grace conference will be in Ireland.
“I’ve worked with Johnnette for 20 years, beginning with the series on EWTN,” Fr. Sylvia said. “I’ve seen her grow. I was there for the death of her son (in 2003). I was there for the death of her husband (in 2007) and I have seen what God has brought from her sorrow and which she generously gives. The gift-giving has brought her to an openness to share what the Lord has given and she has shared generously.”
Benkovic’s said the inspiration for her work is Pope Paul VI’s address to women Dec. 8, 1965, at the close of the Second Vatican Council.
“The vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved,” the pope said. “That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.”
Benkovic considers those words even more relevant today.
Catholics across the US are mobilizing against a proposed Health and Human Services mandate that requires health insurance to cover contraception and provides a narrow exemption for religious groups.
“Under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics,” explained Card. Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the US bishops’ pro-life committee.
“Although this new rule gives the agency the discretion to authorize a ‘religious’ exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers,” he warned.
The HHS department announced federal rules on Aug. 1 that will require nearly all new health plans, including those of most religious agencies, to cover all government-approved methods of contraception as well as surgical sterilization.
The guidelines, which were created in response to the 2010 health care law, require new health insurance plans to cover what it calls “women’s preventive services.” These include breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance, or a deductible.
The proposed mandate, announced by department secretary Kathleen Sebelius, offers exemptions only if a religious employer “has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose,” “primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets,” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.”
Bishops and Catholic organizations across the US have reacted strongly against the proposition for weeks now, urging the faithful to oppose the measure by contacting HHS before the Sept. 30 deadline.
“The administration’s brazen attempt to attach the binding strings of its secularist agenda to something as basic as health insurance constitutes an unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom,” Abp. Timothy P. Broglio of the Military archdiocese said on Sept. 23.
“Never before has the government required private health plans to include coverage for such morally objectionable procedures as contraception and sterilization,” he noted. “In a free society, women and men of faith cannot be compelled to fund medical practices that violate their religious principles.”
On Sept. 21, Bp. Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn added to criticism of the mandate, saying that US Catholics should send a clear message “that pregnancy is not a disease.”
“We must insist that sterilization prescriptions and contraceptives be dropped from the list of preventative services that the federal government is mandating,” he emphasized. “This is especially important to exclude any drug that may cause an early abortion,” Bp. DiMarzio said, referring to contraceptives like Ella.
In recent weeks, other American bishops have also drawn attention to the potentially negative effects that the proposal could have on Catholic institutions.
“Unintended or not, this mandate is an attack on Catholic beliefs and on the religious liberty of Catholics to adhere to their beliefs as they serve the community in which they live,” Bp. David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to Sebelius.
The bishop noted that Catholic Charities in his diocese alone has served over 80,000 people last year “without regard to the religious belief” of those to whom they ministered.
But “under this mandate, Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh would either be forced to cease to exist or restrict its employees and its wide-ranging social services to practicing Catholics alone.”
In a Sept. 21 letter to HHS, the bishops of California reiterated Bp. Zubik’s concern, saying that the Catholic Church “has an unparalleled record of serving the poor and needy through its religious institutions.”
However, the mandate “disregards the firmly held belief of Catholics and ethical and religious directives by which their religious organizations abide.”
The Catholic Health Association was also critical of the exemptions, with executive director Sr. Carol Keehan saying that she is “very concerned about the inadequacy of the conscience protections with respect to the coverage of contraception.”
“As it stands, the language is not broad enough to protect our Catholic health providers,” Sr. Keehan added.
“Catholic hospitals are a significant part of this nation’s health care, especially in the care of the most vulnerable. It is critical that we be allowed to serve our nation without compromising our conscience.”
The proposed rules are set to take effect in August 2012.