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EWTN Announces New
“Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation”

Bishops to Lead Novena Prayers on Network

Irondale, AL (EWTN) –EWTN Global Catholic Network has collaborated with one of the pre-eminent Marian theologians in the U.S. on the creation of a new “Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation.” Fr. Frederick Miller, Chair of the Department of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., composed the meditations and prayers which invoke Mary’s intercession for our nation. The Novena will be prayed publicly beginning on the Feast of the Archangels, Saturday, September 29th through Oct. 7th, the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary,

“Catholics have always turned instinctively for help to the Mother of God in times of need,” says Fr. Miller, “And so, in 2012, we turn to Our Lady for help. Many of the values that have shaped our country from the beginning seem to be at risk. Pope Benedict XVI and the American Bishops have noted the erosion of religious freedom, the first value guaranteed by the Constitution. This novena challenges all of us to a deeper conversion to Christ and a more generous life of charity. The proximity of this novena to the 2012 Presidential Election also offers an opportunity to pray for all of our government officials and to seek Divine assistance in the election.”

The Novena is available in both English and Spanish and can be downloaded for free from EWTN’s Novena website atwww.religiousliberties.org/novena. “This is a critical time for our nation,” said Michael P. Warsaw, President and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN. “My hope is that as many people as possible will obtain a copy of this powerful Novena and join together in prayer. I also hope that people will spread the word about this important devotion to their friends and neighbors, prayer groups and parishes and in every way possible.”

During the Novena, leading bishops from across the nation will be celebrating the televised Mass from Our Lady of the Angels Chapel in Irondale, Alabama at 8 a.m. ET each day. Each bishop will deliver a homily highlighting the importance of prayer in the fight for religious liberty and will lead the novena prayers for that day. Celebrants will include Most Rev. James D. Conley, Bishop-designate of Lincoln (Neb.), who will open the novena; Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann; Mobile (Ala.) Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi; Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput; and Birmingham (Ala.) Bishop Robert J. Baker, who will close the novena.

EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 32th year, is available in over 200 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories. With its direct broadcast satellite television and radio services, AM & FM radio networks, worldwide short-wave radio station, Internet website www.ewtn.com, electronic and print news services, and publishing arm, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world.


Rome’s Chief Exorcist Finding Blessed John Paul II Effective Prayer For Exorcism


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Fr. Gabriel Amorth, Vatican’s Chief Exorcist.

ROME, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) – The chief exorcist of Rome is seeing a rising number of young people coming under the influence of evil, but he has found in recent years that Blessed John Paul II is a powerful intercessor in the battle for souls.

A small, unassuming office in south-west Rome seems a rather ordinary setting in which to play out a grand battle between good and evil. It is here, though, that Father Gabriele Amorth has carried out most of his 70,000 exorcisms over the past 26 years.

“The world must know that Satan exists,” he told CNA recently. “The devil and demons are many and they have two powers, the ordinary and the extraordinary.”

The 86-year-old Italian priest of the Society of St. Paul and official exorcist for the Diocese of Rome explained the difference.

“The so-called ordinary power is that of tempting man to distance himself from God and take him to Hell. This action is exercised against all men and women of all places and religions.”

As for the extraordinary powers used by Satan, Fr. Amorth explained it as how the Devil acts when he focuses his attention more specifically on a person. He categorized the expression of that attention into four types: diabolical possession; diabolical vexation like in the case of Padre Pio, who was beaten by the Devil; obsessions which are able to lead a person to desperation and infestation, and when the Devil occupies a space, an animal or even an object.”

Fr. Amorth says such extraordinary occurrences are rare but on the rise. He’s particularly worried by the number of young people being affected by Satan through sects, séances and drugs. He never despairs though.

“With Jesus Christ and Mary, God has promised us that he will never allow temptations greater than our strengths.”

Hence he gives a very matter-of-fact guide that everybody can use in the fight against Satan.

“The temptations of the Devil are defeated first of all by avoiding occasions (of temptation), because the Devil always seeks out our weakest points. And, then, with prayer. We Christians have an advantage because we have the Word of Jesus, we have the sacraments, prayer to God.”

Not surprisingly, ‘Jesus Christ’ is the name Fr. Amorth most often calls upon to expel demons. But he also turns to saintly men and women for their heavenly assistance. Interestingly, he said that in recent years one man – Blessed Pope John Paul II – has proved to be a particularly powerful intercessor.

“I have asked the demon more than once, ‘Why are you so scared of John Paul II and I have had two different responses, both interesting. One, ‘because he disrupted my plans.’ And, I think that he is referring to the fall of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. The collapse of communism.”

“Another response that he gave me, ‘because he pulled so many young people from my hands.’ There are so many young people who, thanks to John Paul II, were converted. Perhaps some were already Christian but not practicing, but then with John Paul II they came back to the practice. ‘He pulled so many young people out of my hands.'”

And the most powerful intercessor of all?

“Of course, the Madonna is even more effective. Ah, when you invoke Mary!”

“And, once I also asked Satan, ‘but why are you more scared when I invoke Our Lady than when I invoke Jesus Christ?’ He answered me, ‘Because I am more humiliated to be defeated by a human creature than being defeated by him.”

The intercession of the living is also important, though, says Fr. Amorth. He reminds people that exorcism is a prayer and, as such, Christians can pray to liberate a soul or place from the Devil. However, three things are needed.

“The Lord gave them (the Apostles) an answer that also for us exorcists is very important. He said that overcoming this type of demon, you need much faith, much prayer and much fasting. Faith, prayer and fasting.”

“Especially faith, you need so much faith. Many times also in the healings, Jesus does not say in the Gospel it is me who has healed you. He says, you are healed thanks to your faith. He wants faith in the people, a strong and absolute faith. Without faith you can do nothing.”
– – –

Founded in continued response to Pope John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization,” the Catholic News Agency (CNA) has been, since 2004, one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world.

A Reflection On The Meaning Of Baptism


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Commentary by: James Mary Evans (Reblog from The Orate Fratres)

I found the description of the sacrament of baptism below to be personally true within the soul. To be “born again” by the action of the Spirit in these modern times reveals, (among a great many things), the historical reality of the presence of God in the flesh (Jesus) on earth . One learns of that visitation to his people, his death, and resurrection over 2000 years ago in one way–through the very same heart that was pierced by the soldiers following his death on the cross. They wanted at that time in history to insure, with their own eyes, the death of the guilty ones; Yet, today, it is the same innocent blood and water mercifully flowing forth from the side of the Savior of the world which washes clean our sinful fallen souls, and enlightens the eyes and ears of our hearts in his bringing our souls into union with the Father—face to face in beatific communion with the Trinity. And there is no power, seen or unseen, nor evil spirit or sin which plagues us, greater than this love of the Trinity, which God in His fullness of Glory desires to share with all men in the sacrament of baptism–Baptism reveals the meaning of life in the search for truth: To come to know, love, serve God in this life, and be joyful with him forever in the next.

The following is from ‘Jesus of Nazareth, by Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, pg. 20:

“Jesus’ Baptism, […] is understood as a repetition of the whole history, which both recapitulates the past and anticipates the future. His entering into the sins of others is a descent into the “inferno.” But he does not descend merely in the role of a spectator, as in Dante’s Inferno. Rather, he goes down in the role of one whose suffering-with-others is a transforming suffering that turns the underworld around, knocking down and flinging open the gates of the abyss. His Baptism is a descent into the house of the evil one, combat with the “strong man” (cf. Lk 11:22) who holds men captive (and the truth is that we are all very much captive to powers that anonymously manipulate us!). Throughout all its history, the world is powerless to defeat the “strong man”; he is overcome and bound by one yet stronger, who, because of his equality with God, can take upon himself all the sin of the world and then suffers it through to the end—omitting nothing on the downward path into identity with the fallen. This struggle is the “conversion” of being that brings it into a new condition, that prepares a new heaven and a new earth. Looked at from this angle, the sacrament of Baptism appears as the gift of participation in Jesus’ world-transforming struggle in the conversion of life that took place in his descent and ascent.”

A Brooklyn Retiree’s Last Trip To See A Special Friend in Rome


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One day in 1969, the pastor at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, made an announcement to his parishioners. A cardinal from Poland, the archbishop of Krakow, was coming to say Mass.

Stella Gryziec, a beautician, brimmed with excitement. Krakow was not far from her hometown. ”So I strayed for a day from work,” Ms. Gryziec recalled Friday. ”I wanted to see him. Very much.”

Ms. Gryziec, now retired but still quite excitable, is pretty sure she was the first lay person in Greenpoint to see the 49-year-old cardinal, because she pushed her way onto his bus before he took his first step in Brooklyn.

”All the priests were coming off the bus and I just walked past them,” she said. ”They didn’t expect it.” She snapped a photo that sits on the dining room table in her house on Lorimer Street. It shows a handsome man in a priestly robe standing at the front of a bus and looking a little bit surprised.

Thus began Cardinal Karol Wojtyla’s brief stay in Greenpoint, then as now home to the largest Polish community in the city. For those who were there, the memories are still fresh.

Outside the church, Ms. Gryziec (pronounced GRIH-zhets), approached the cardinal again. ”I had the guts to ask, ‘Can I have a picture with your Holiness?’ The pastor said, ‘Stella, how can you pester a cardinal for a picture?’ But the cardinal said, ‘Why not?”’

Cardinal Wojtyla put his arm around Ms. Gryziec’s shoulder.

”Oh, he was strong,” she said. ”Young and strong and very friendly. People were petrified to touch him, but he said, ‘Come on, I’m one of you.”’

After the cardinal’s Mass at St. Stanislaus, an ornate white-and-blue church on Humboldt Street, there was a reception for him at the parish school where he charmed the women some more, said Estelle Jones, 71, now a parish trustee.

”When I got up to meet him, I was with my mom,” Ms. Jones said. ”He asked me in Polish, ‘Are you a good practicing Catholic?’ I said, ‘Yes.”’

The cardinal shot a sly look at her mother. ”Is she?” he asked. Ms. Jones’s mother vouched for her. The cardinal turned back to Ms. Jones, smiling, and said, ”And do you listen to your mother?”

”He was very funny and warm,” Ms. Jones said. ”When he was talking to me he was holding onto my hand, and I was the only person in the room, that’s how it felt. He never was looking around; he looked directly at you.”

Skip ahead nine years. Ms. Gryziec had just returned from a vacation in Poland when she heard the news on the radio. Cardinal Wojtyla was now Pope John Paul II.

She bought a ticket to Rome, then told her boss at the beauty salon that she was going to see the new pope celebrate his first Mass.

”My boss said: ‘Impossible. You’re not going. You just got back from vacation. If you go, you’re fired.’ I said, ‘I’m going, I don’t care; I’ll find another job.”’

Once in Rome, Ms. Gryziec, with three cameras around her neck, bluffed her way after Mass into a private reception for the pope.

”The security asked me, ‘Where’s your ID? Who do you represent?’ I said ‘I’m representing St. Stan’s in Brooklyn.’ When that did not work, she said that she worked for a major American newspaper, that she was a beautician who helped out at the paper at night.

”It’s not nice to tell lie stories,” Ms. Gryziec said, ”but I lied.” (Ms. Gryziec’s job at the salon was waiting for her back in Brooklyn, by the way. ”My boss couldn’t fire me,” she said. ”I was too good of a beautician.”)

In 1996, St. Stan’s celebrated its 100th birthday. The church sent a delegation to the Vatican to give the pope a gift, a model of the church. Estelle Jones presented it to him.

”I got to kiss his ring,” she said. ”That just blew me away. After that, I was worth nothing. I was sobbing by that time.” Over the years, Ms. Gryziec kissed the pope’s ring four times. Tonight, as the pope lies in state, she will get on a plane bound for Rome one more time.

”I have to go,” she said yesterday. ”I want to finish the circle.”


How History Sees the Blessed Mother Mary As A Powerful Intercessor.


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The Annunciation

When her womb was touched by eternity 2,000 years ago, the Virgin Mary of Nazareth uttered a prediction: “All generations will call me blessed.” Among all the women who have ever lived, the mother of Jesus Christ is the most celebrated, the most venerated, the most portrayed, the most honored in the naming of girl babies and churches. Even the Koran praises her chastity and faith. Among Roman Catholics, the Madonna is recognized not only as the Mother of God but also, according to modern Popes, as the Queen of the Universe, Queen of Heaven and Seat of Wisdom.

The succeeding article of the late Fr. Michael O’Carroll, C.A. Sp. documents historical accounts and practices of the Church on the question of why the Mother of Christ should be addressed as Mary the Mediatrix. (ed)

The theology of mediation in Sacred Scripture has been built on New Testament passages. In the light of this theology, mediators are retrospectively identified in the Old Testament, in moments of special divine power or illumination, as with the prophets. Angels also intervene between God and man. A mediator is, in religion, one who unites God and man. Christ is the perfect Mediator as the Son of God and true man. “For there is one God and there is one mediator (mesites) between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time” (1 Tim 2:5).

What then of Mary as Mediatrix? (1) As will be abundantly clear from the historical evidence to be set forth later, the question arises from the life and practice of the Church.

The practice of addressing Mary as Mediatrix was not and need not be impeded by the Pauline text. The use of “one” (eis not monos) emphasizes Christ’s transcendence as a mediator, through the unique value of his redemptive death. The context is the salvation of the infidel, as the following verse makes clear: “God, our Savior, desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This is a statement of the universality of salvation, not of Christ’s relationship towards those who have already come to him. On this relationship, Paul gave the fullest doctrine found in the New Testament (2). Existence “in Christ” is a transformation: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21); “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). “Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). The absolute character of Paul’s affirmation of the unique Mediator is paralleled by Peter’s words: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

But these ideas must be seen in the full plan of salvation. Therein the initiative lies wholly with God, and this initiative is seen in the mission of the Son. Mediation is linked with mission, and depends on it (3). Thus St. Paul tells us how the Mediator appeared: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal 4:4). The two texts are closely linked by the idea of ransom, the verb exagerazo in Galatians and the noun antilutron in 1 Timothy. This time our role or status is described, “adoption as sons.” A still closer union with Christ is offered us: “And because you are sons, the Spirit of God has sent his Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Gal 4:6).

To describe his own lifework, Paul frequently uses the word apostolos, radically the same as the word in Galatians 4:4 (exapostello); he has been given a mission. Though the synoptics often speak of Christ as one sent (Mt 15:24; Mk 12:6-11; Lk 4:18, 9:48, 10:16), it is in John that the mission is explicitly related to the program of our salvation. “For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (3:17). “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (4:34; cp. 5:30, 6:38, 10:36; and 1 Jn 4:9-10). This mission Christ formally and explicitly shared with the apostles: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (20:21, the words used are apostello and pempo). Of the Baptist, John says: “There was a man sent from God whose name was John” (1:6).

It is not only Christ’s mission which is shared with men, but his very divine sonship (Jn 1:12), by which gift we are entitled to the name “sons of God” (1 Jn 3:l). The idea is in harmony with Galatians 4:4. It is the basis of all our kinship with the incarnate Son of God, with participation in his life and functions, with due attention to his infinite majesty. Participation in his eternal relationship with the Father surpasses immeasurably any share in his temporal function as Mediator. That this should be shared intimately by the one through whom his mission as Savior was effected, is a truth which was grasped early in Church history.

History of Marian Mediation

History will show that the truth is complex. The seeds were in the Eve-Mary analogy, though not all proponents of the view saw its implications. St. Irenaeus (qv) wrote: “Mary, espoused but yet a virgin, became by her obedience a cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race” (4). The same Irenaeus saw Christ’s mediation as a work of obedience: “He was made Mediator of God and men, atoning on our behalf to the Father, against whom we had sinned, and by his obedience effacing our disobedience” (5). Here was an interesting convergence of ideas. By the fourth century, the Eve-Mary doctrine was being expressed thus: “Death through Eve, life through Mary” (6). The use of this preposition in all languages hereafter will always have some reference to a mediating role. Pseudo-Theodotus of Ancyra (d.c. 446) was elaborate: “Through you, the sorrows of Eve have ceased; through you, evils have perished. Error has departed through you; through you, affliction has been abolished, condemnation destroyed” (7).

This formulation needed a wider context than the Eve-Mary idea. The Council of Ephesus provided this context, and the doctor of Ephesus, Cyril, in “the greatest Marian sermon of antiquity,” related Mary’s mediation to her office as Mother of God, to her relationship with the most Holy Trinity. Cyril’s authorship of the sermon has been fully vindicated by R. Caro, S.J. (8) “Hail Mary Theotókos, venerable treasure of the whole world, light unextinguished, crown of virginity, scepter of orthodoxy, indestructible temple, which contains the uncontainable… it is through you that the Holy Trinity is glorified and adored, through you, the precious cross is venerated and adored throughout the whole world, through you that heaven is in gladness, that angels and archangels rejoice, that demons are put to flight, through you that the tempter, the devil is cast down from heaven, through you that the fallen creature is raised up to heaven, through you that all creation, once imprisoned in idolatry, has reached knowledge of the truth, that the faithful obtain baptism and the oil of joy, churches have been founded in the whole world, that peoples are led to conversion.” The reason is that, through Mary, the only Son of God shone as a light on those who are in darkness and the shadow of death, “… the prophets have foretold, the Apostles announce salvation to the nations, the dead are raised.… (9)

Proclus of Constantinople spoke of Mary as “the only bridge between God and men.” With Basil of Seleucia (qv), the word “Mediatrix” itself appears, and significantly in the context of the Annunciation: “Hail full of grace (highly favored): set up as Mediatrix (mesiteuousa) of God and men, so that the walls of enmity should be torn down, heavenly and earthly things come together as one” (10). It is in the Annunciation context too that Antipater of Bostra (qv) addressed Mary by the same title: “Hail you who acceptably intercedes as a Mediatrix for mankind” (11). These words occur in a section of Antipater’s homily considered authentic by R. Caro. The exact word used by St. Paul, in the feminine, was applied to Mary in the sixth century by Romanos the Singer. Mary is pictured speaking to Adam and Eve: “Restrain your tears. Take me as your Mediatrix (mesitin) with the one who is born of me” (12). In the same century, a homily attributed to St. Anastasius of Antioch described Mary as “the ladder stretched towards heaven, the gate of paradise, the entry into incorruption, the union and harmony of men with God” (13)—a rhetorical expression of mediation.

The much disputed homily of Modestus of Jerusalem, which certainly is seventh century, contains a passage wherein the author attributes—in the manner of St. Cyril—universal benefits to the Dormition: “O most blessed Dormition of the most glorious Theotókos, (this formula is repeated in each sentence) through whom we have been mystically recreated and made the temple of the Holy Spirit… through which we have received forgiveness of all our sins and have been ransomed from the tyranny of the devil… through which the whole universe is renewed, earthly things have come together with heavenly, and in unison with them cry out in praise, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to men of good will’… through which the same one is God on earth and made man, is in heaven unchangeably and without division by reason of mercy and the economy (of salvation)… through whom we have ‘put on Christ and been made worthy to be ‘the sons of God.’ (Gal 3:27; Jn 1:12) ” (14). Note the Pauline doctrine of life in Christ, to which allusion has been made.

Not later than mid-seventh century, Theoteknos of Livias (qv) styled Mary, “ambassadress (presbis) of mankind with the immaculate king.” The Akathistos Hymn (qv) adopted, for liturgical use, the idea now current of Mary as one “through whom” certain spiritual effects were achieved. “Hail, through whom creation is renewed…. Hail, through whom and in whom the Creator is adored…. Hail, heavenly ladder, through whom God has descended. … Hail, bridge leading those on earth to heaven.”

The eighth-century eastern Fathers taught the doctrine of Mary’s mediation in an explicit plenary manner. St. Andrew of Crete (qv) called her “Mediatrix (mesitis) of the law and grace,” saying also: “She is mediation (mesiteusasa) between the sublimity of God and the abjection of the flesh, and becomes the Mother of her maker” (15). St. John of Damascus (qv) addressed Our Lady thus: “You also by fulfilling the office of Mediatrix (mesiteusasa), and being made the ladder of God descending to us, that he should assume our weak nature, and join and unite it to him (16)… You brought together what had been separated.”

St. Germanus of Constantinople (qv) is the doctor of Mary’s universal mediation. If the Oratio V in Annuntiationem SS. Deiparae, in which he called her “truly a good Mediatrix (mesiteia) of all sinners,” is of somewhat doubtful authenticity, there is no doubt about the second homily on the Dormition. “Man was made spiritual when you, O Theotókos, became the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. No one is filled with the knowledge of God save through you, O most holy one. No one is saved except through you, O Theotókos; no one is ransomed save through you, Mother of God (Theometros), no one secured a gift of mercy save through you, who hold God; … you cannot fail to be heard, since God, as to everything, through everything, and in everything, behaves towards you as his true and unsullied Mother… in you all peoples of the earth have obtained a blessing, for there is no place where your name is not held in honor” (17).

Even with these words, we have not reached the summit of Byzantine Marian theology. In the tenth century, John the Geometer (qv) proclaimed Mary, “second mediatrix after the first Mediator.” But it was in the fourteenth century that the climax came. Nicephorus Callistus described Mary as an abyss of mercies, and mistress and mediatrix of the world. For the Palamites, Mary’s mediation is part of their total vision of the cosmic Christ, center and purpose of creation. Thus Gregory Palamas (qv) saw her “standing alone between God and the whole human race,” making God the son of man, and men the sons of God; no divine gift can reach men or angels save through her. Nicholas Cabasilas (qv) also saw Mary as the intermediary (meses) between God and man, a moving cause and end of the Incarnation, cause of graces, and mediatrix by her intercession.

With Theophanes of Nicaea, we reach the peak; he is unequalled in all literature as an exponent of Mary’s universal mediation. “It cannot happen that anyone, of angels or of men, can come otherwise, in any way whatsoever, to participation in the divine gifts flowing from what has been divinely assumed, from the Son of God, save through his Mother.” Theophanes used the metaphor of the neck, found in western medieval writing, to express Mary’s place in the Mystical Body, “the only way leading to the Head of all.” Mary, for him, is the “dispenser and distributor of all the wondrous uncreated gifts of the divine Spirit” (18).

The Latin Tradition

The first mention of the word “Mediatrix” in the West occurred in the sixth-century Pseudo-Origen: Vitae Mediatrix (19). It is next found in Paul the Deacon’s (qv) translation of the Theophilus Legend. There is a solitary text in the tenth century from Geoffrey of Soissons (c. 950): “You, who are first before God, be a Mediatrix for your own, bearing hope of forgiveness, lest they sink in the guilt of vices” (20). In the next century, Gottschalk of Limburg (qv) wrote in his sequence Fecunda Verbo: “Mediatrix, Mother of the Mediator, in whom man is joined to God, God to man” (21). In a liturgical hymn for the Assumption of the same time, we read: “Our Mediatrix, who art, after God, our only hope, present us to your Son, that, in the heavenly court, we may joyfully sing the Alleluia” (22).

A framework of thought was created which would contain the idea of Mary’s mediation. Thus St. Peter Damian (qv) stated the principle: “As the Son of God has deigned to descend to us through you, so we also must come to him through you” (23). St. Anselm used the word “reconciler of the world,” but he was clear that it was “through” Mary that “the elements are renewed, the lower world healed, the demons trodden under foot, men saved and angels restored.” This is a comprehensive statement of Mary’s mediation. Anselm’s disciple, Hermann of Tournai (qv), first used the metaphor of the neck to describe Mary’s role between the Head and the Mystical Body.

R. Laurentin has counted 50 texts in the twelfth century in which Mary is called Mediatrix. Abelard (qv) is among the authors. So is St. Bernard, who struck an immortal summary of the doctrine: “God wills us to have everything through Mary.”

St. Bonaventure (qv) used the title Mediatrix—”between us and Christ, as Christ is between us and God,” “Mediatrix of all with God.” St. Thomas Aquinas (qv) called Mary “Mediatrix” in commenting on the Cana episode. His whole conception of her place in the scheme of things implies a mediatorial function. She took the place of all mankind in the moment of the Incarnation

The word “socia” appeared in the literature from about this time. It did not displace “Mediatrix,” which came almost spontaneously to Pseudo-Albert (qv), Richard of St. Laurent, James of Voragine (qv), and Engelbert of Admont (qv), and appealed too to the author of The Ancrene Riwle (24). Thinking on the subject, most ardent with St. Bernardine of Siena, was not neglected by his namesake, Bernardine of Busti, John Gerson, and Denis the Carthusian (qv). From the thirteenth century, the word occurs occasionally in hymns (25).

From the fifth through the fifteenth century, Fathers, Doctors, preachers, and hymn writers explained or assumed Mary’s mediation without contradiction. It was the Easterns, using Paul’s own language, who borrowed his word, mesitis, without stirring the slightest fear that the dignity of the one Mesites would be compromised. The word was not used in a strictly homogeneous sense. The contexts varied from age to age and culture to culture, though certain essential aspects are distinguishable: Mary’s essential role in the work of salvation; and her ceaseless, heavenly activity on our behalf. There is, in each, much scope for reflection.

Instead of reflection, the sixteenth century brought rejection in wide areas. But the Counter-Reformation Doctors—Peter Canisius (qv), Robert Bellarmine (qv), Lawrence of Brindisi (qv), and Francis de Sales (qv)continued the tradition, and clung to the title, with the exception of St. Francis, who preferred “treasurer of graces,” “advocate,” and “collaborator (coopératrice) in our salvation.” Suarez penned a sober passage: “Thus, therefore, the Church and the Fathers speak to the Virgin whom also as we have already seen, they at times call reparatrix and mediatrix, because she brought forth our Redeemer and with him has the greatest influence. … Which view is the sense of the Church and known to all” (26).

In the vast output on the subject from the seventeenth century to 1921, some items claim attention. The two most popular books on Our Lady through those centuries—St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s work on True Devotion, and The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori—were composed on the theme of Mary’s universal mediation. That would indicate the sentiment of the faithful, an important factor in the development of doctrine. Perhaps M.J. Scheeben may provide the complementary theological judgment: “Not only Mary’s whole position as Mediatrix, but also her preceding mediatorial functions are entirely designed for a universal mediation of grace, and condition the communication of all grace without exception” (27).

Teaching Authority

Our Lady’s mediation has been a fundamental theme in the teaching of the modern Papacy from Pius IX’s Ineffabilis Deus (qv) on. St Bernard’s dictum, that God wills us to have everything through Mary, is found in the writings of Pius IX, Leo XIII (qv), St. Pius X, Pius XII, and John XXIII (qqv) (28). The word “Mediatrix” is applied to Mary by each of the six Popes from Pius IX to Pius XII— more than once by each of the last five of these, eight times by Pius XII (29). Paul VI solemnly promulgated it, as it is included in Lumen Gentium. In Signum Magnum, he changed the Council wording to make it stronger. “She makes herself their Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Aid-giver, and Mediatrix.” The Popes deal with different aspects of Mary’s mediation, and some of the pronouncements do not present an analysis in depth.

A new phase was opened in 1921 by the initiative of Cardinal Mercier (qv). He sought and obtained Roman approval for a Mass and Office of Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces, and urged his fellow bishops throughout the world to request them for their dioceses; 450 sent favorable replies. Thereon, Pius XI set up three commissions—Belgian, Spanish, and Roman—to study the possibility of a dogma on Mary’s universal mediation. Members of the Belgian commission were: J. Bittremieux, author of a treatise on the subject; J. Lebon, a patrologist and writer on Marian theology; and C. Van Crombrugghe. The Spaniards were: J.M. Bover, S.J.; Canon D.I. (later Cardinal) Goma y Tomás: and A. Ruibal—all writers on the subject. The membership of the Roman commission was not published. A committee, appointed by Pius XI to advise on a possible recall of Vatican I, included Mary’s mediation, as well as her Assumption, on a suitable program (30). In 1950, the first International Mariological Congress, held in Rome, approved this votum, which was submitted to Pius XII: “Since the principal, personal attributes of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been already defined, it is the wish of the faithful that it should also be dogmatically defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary was intimately associated with Christ the Savior in effecting human salvation, and, accordingly, she is a true collaborator in the work of redemption, spiritual Mother of all men, intercessor and dispenser of graces, in a word universal Mediatrix of God and men” (31).

Vatican II

Between 1950 and the announcement of Vatican II by Pope John in 1959, theological interest was centered first on Mary’s part in the Redemption, and then on her relationship with the Church. The two themes met in competition at the Lourdes Congress. Yet in the pre-Council consultation of the world’s episcopate, 382 bishops asked that Mary’s mediation be defined. The first Marian schema referred in one section to Mary as “the minister and dispenser of heavenly graces,” because she was the noble associate of the suffering Christ in acquiring them. In another section, added after the meeting of the Theological Commission in March, 1962, the wording was firmer and fuller. “Since, therefore, the humble ‘Handmaid of the Lord,’ for whom ‘He that is mighty has done great things’ (cf. Lk 1:49), is called Mediatrix of all Graces, because she was associated with Christ in acquiring them, and since she is invoked by the Church as our Advocate and as the Mother of mercy, for she always remains the associate of Christ glorious in heaven, she intercedes for all through Christ, in such wise that the maternal charity of the Blessed Virgin is present in the bestowal (conferendis) of all graces to men.”

The previous passage had explained Mary’s mediation very fully, showing that Christ’s unique mediation was not in any way compromised, for, despite the uniquely close bond between Mary and him, and the uniqueness of her share in the Redemption, “in her predestination, holiness, and every gift, she depends on Christ and is wholly beneath him.” To the passage quoted above, there is also an addition to state that Christ’s mediation is neither obscured nor lessened, but extolled and honored by Mary’s role, which is assigned by divine good pleasure and bounty. It does not spring from any necessity (32). The notes to the schema reveal the problems which Mary’s universal mediation raise: Old Testament graces; direct and indirect intervention by her; and Sacramental grace. The phrase, “the maternal charity,” was chosen to allow freedom of discussion.

After the schema had lapsed in 1963, sharper, more exacting attention was inevitably given to the title and idea of mediatrix, for the indirect influence of the non-Catholic Observers was now at its peak. The analysis of opinions, forwarded on the first schema to Rome by some 235 Fathers, showed that, already at that stage, the subject was one to stir lively comment. Those drafting the new schema would take note of this material and of the different draft-texts submitted. The Spanish hierarchy used the words “Mediatrix of all graces” for which they claimed the support of the Popes, the Liturgy, and the sentiment of the faithful (qv). Fr. E. Dhanis, S.J., spoke of Mary as a “universal (generalem) Mediatrix in dispensing the graces of the Savior.” The Chilean bishops, Mgr. Philips, Dom (future Bishop) Butler, O.S.B., and R. Laurentin did not use the title, though the first three applied the abstract word “mediation” to Mary’s lifework. The Chileans spoke of “maternal mediation,” and Mgr. Philips of “noble (generosa) mediation in the order of grace.” At a meeting of experts held in Rome on 25 November, 1963, the problem of mediation, as understood by the Easterns, was raised with diverging views. The two experts, responsible for a new text, Fr. K. Balic, O.F.M. (qv) and Mgr. Philips, aided by friends, worked through five successive drafts, submitting the fifth to the higher commission on 14 March, 1964, and in revised form on 4 June.

This agreed text referred to Mary’s “cooperation and mediation in the order of grace,” which, it said, “continues ceaselessly.” The phrasing was not considered adequate by the commission, and an important passage was added. The statement, on Mary’s part in the Redemption, was amplified in scope. These words were added: “Wherefore the Blessed Virgin Mary has been customarily adorned (condecorari consuevit) in the Church with the title of Mediatrix as well as with others.” A sentence then followed which gave more significance to this apparently factual, almost superficial, assertion: “The Church does not hesitate to profess such an office of Mary, she constantly experiences it, and commends it to the hearts of the faithful that, relying on this maternal help, they may adhere more closely to the Mediator and Savior.” Though the Pauline text from 1 Timothy was already quoted, and its idea repeated, though Mary’s maternal office was related to it, still another restrictive clause was deemed necessary to safeguard the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator. This repetitiveness of an idea, universally accepted, was to remain, to disfigure textual draftsmanship to the end. Even the notes, supplied with the draft text, restated the idea, while listing some quotations with the word “Mediatrix,” or its equivalent, from the eastern Fathers of the Church.

Archbishop (future Cardinal) Roy presented the document to the Council on 16 September. Mary’s cooperation in universal salvation, he said, was treated in the section on the Blessed Virgin and the Church. “In that context along with other titles, the designation Mediatrix is quoted, something not acceptable to several (pluribus) members of the commission; it is explained in such wise that the excellence of the unique Mediator is in no way impaired thereby” (33).

Of the 33 Fathers who spoke in the aula, a number dealt with mediation; (34) a proportionately high number of the 57 written submissions did so (35). In the aula, three Fathers—Cardinals Bea, Leger, and Alfrink—urged the elimination of the title “Mediatrix” from the schema. The Dutch Cardinal spoke on the last day on behalf of 129 Fathers. Cardinal Leger based his argument on the Pauline text; Cardinal Alfrink wished to emphasize the seriousness of committing the Church to a doctrine, especially a title of Mary, which he thought potentially difficult and divisive. Cardinal Bea, known as president of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, a biblical scholar and adviser of Popes, had, at the 1950 Rome Congress (see congresses), outlined the theological argument for Mary’s mediation of all graces (36). Now he spoke lengthily to explain why, in asking for the elimination of the title, he was not denying the doctrine which, as taught by the Popes since Leo XIII, he fully accepted. He thought that it was not sufficiently clarified for a conciliar pronouncement, and feared difficulties between Catholics and the separated brethren.

Cardinal Ruffini, Bishop Rendeiro, O.P., Archbishop van Lierde, and Bishop Gasbarri defended the retention of the title, appealing to theological and pastoral reasons. Bishop Rendeiro was supported by more than 98 other Fathers. Bishop Cambiaghi called for fuller, clearer affirmation of Mary’s universal mediation. The thesis, as it stood or with additions, would be accepted by others. Thus Archbishop Djajasepoetra, supported by 24 others, found the title unhappy, but would be satisfied if it were not exalted—which could be done by setting beside it other titles (Advocate, Helper, and Mother of mercy). Cardinal Silva Henriquez, spokesman for 43 Fathers, found the phrasing about Mary’s mediation sober—more would be inopportune.

One speaker, Cardinal Wyszynski, representing the 70 Polish bishops, referred to Mary as Mediatrix of all graces as to an accepted doctrine. Those who did not express any view are assumed to have had no objection.

In the written submissions, some 15 urged retention of the word “Mediatrix,” some asking for stronger phrasing, one for other accompanying titles. One of the six statements, which asked that it be dropped, was signed by 56 Fathers, another by Bishop (future Cardinal) Willebrands, and another by the Dutch bishops. The eastern Fathers had not made a mark in the public debate, so one submission from Bishop Malanczuk of Syria would have been welcome (37). He aimed at presenting the oriental doctrine on the subject of Mary’s mediation. Though he thought that “the eastern tradition, both ancient and more recent, was, on the whole, silent on Mary’s cooperation in the acquisition of graces,” he emphasized teaching on her mediation, distributing grace, “not as Christ, but under him, in him, and through him,” totally dependent on his mediation. Mary’s mediation transcended that of all others, and, while the inner reality awaited investigation, it was, he thought, a dogma that she participated in the Redemption through her motherhood, and seemed certain that, as Mother of those to be saved, she cooperated in the distribution of grace. Fr. A. Wenger, A.A., the Byzantine scholar, sent a memorandum to the commission, drawing attention to the importance, for the Easterns, of Mary’s mediation, but was told by a commission member to practice moderation! (38)

The amended text (39), distributed on 27 October, had the words: “Wherefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked (for is adorned) in the Church by the titles of Advocate, Helper, Aid-giver, Media-tress.” A passage was added to explain this cooperation of Mary in the order of salvation, on the priesthood and divine goodness, used here analogically. The notes indicated the state of opinion within the Council: (i) 191 Fathers asked that the statement on Mary as Mediatrix be retained or strengthened. Two others wanted mediation to be of all graces. One sought a definition, another the title dispenser of graces; (ii) 196 wished the title “Mediatrix” to be removed; (iii) some 40 asked that the title be maintained, but with Advocate, Helper, and Aid-giver added.

Almost unanimously the commission, which was not entering “problems debated by theologians,” chose the third solution, as most likely to win a majority. They said that Pius XII never used the word “Mediatrix” (he did so eight times); and they thought that, as the “title was declared at the same time as other non-controversial ones,” they were attuned to Eastern usage. “They do not construct a theological system,” a poor tribute to Theophanes of Nicaea.

With the favorable vote of 29 October, a number of textual amendments (the Modi permitted) were submitted. The central sentence was still the prime object of interest: (i) 132 Fathers wanted “by” the Church rather than “in” it, and 121 of these sought to elevate Mediatrix above the other titles, adding also after this “deservedly” or “rightly and devoutly.” These Fathers would add further Marian privileges; (ii) 15, though in agreement, wanted a rephrasing which would appease ecumenical disquiet; (iii) 61 still asked for deletion—eight would accept sequestra. The commission thought the best hope now was to make no change. Vatican II had not defined, nor unequivocally declared, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces. Theologians retain the freedom granted them by Lumen Gentium 54. Was the Church thwarted in a great hope by the Council? History will tell.
The late Fr. O’Carroll wrote widely on theological and ecumenical topics and was an internationally known Mariologist. He was a member of the Pontifical Marian Academy, the French Society for Marian Studies, and an Associate of the Bollandistes. This article was excerpted from Theotókos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Michael Glazier Inc., 1983.


(1) For bibliography, cf. G. M. Roschini, O.S.M., Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza (4 vols.) Rome, 1969, II, 235-252. Cf. M. J. Scheeben, Mariology, II, (English tr., St. Louis, 1956), 238-273; J. B. Terrien, La Mère des Hommes, (Paris, 1902), I, 533-606; C. Godts, C.SS.R., De definibilitate Mediationis universalis Deiparae, (Brussels, 1904); J. Bittremieux, De mediatione universali B. M. Virginis, quoad gratias, (Bruges 1926); C. Friethoff, O.P., De alma Socia Christi Mediatoris, (Rome, 1936); J. Lebon, “Comment je conçois, j’établis et je défends la doctrine de la médiation mariale,” in Ephermides Theologicae Lovanienses (henceforth ETL) Louvain, 16 (1939), 655-744; id., “Sur la doctrine de la médiation mariale,” in Angelicum, (1958), 3-35; id., “A propos des textes liturgiques de la fêtes de Marie Médiatrice,” in Marianum, Rome (henceforth MM), 14 (1952), 122-128; Serapio de Iragui, O.F.M.Cap., La Mediación de la Virgen en la himnografia latina de la Edad Media (Buenos Aires, 1939); id., “La mediación de la Virgen en la Liturgia,” in Alma Socia Christi, Proceedings of the Rome International Mariological Congress, 1950 (henceforth ASC), II, 193-233; E. Druwé, S.J., “La mediation universelle de Marie,” in Maria, Etudes sur la Sainte Vierge (8 vols), ed. H. du Manoir, S.J., 1949- (henceforth Maria) I, (1949), 417-572; J. M. Bover, S.J., Mediazione di Maria, (Florence, 1956); G. Giamberardini, O.F.M., La mediazione di Maria nella Chiesa Egiziana, (Cairo, 1952); W. Sebastian, O.F.M., De B. V. Maria universali gratiarum mediatrice, Doctrina Franciscanorum ab an. 1600 ad an. 1730, (Rome, 1952); Th. Koehler, S.M., “La foi du XIe siècle en la Médiation de Marie,” in Nouvelle Rev. Mar., 6 (1955), 144-163; J. Bur, Médiation Mariale, (Paris, 1955); id., in Maria, VI, 471-512; id., in Divinitas, 12 (1968), 725-752; A. Louis, “Maria omnium gratiarum mediatrix,” in Ephermides Mariologicae, Madrid (henceforth EphMar), 12 (1962), 423-494; H. M. Koester, S.A.C., “Maria-Mittlerin aller Gnaden,” in Marianisches Jahrbuch, 1 (1963), 49-80; ibid., Die Mittlerschaft Mariens, (Leutesdorf am Rhein, 1967); T. Gallus, “Zur Frage der Mitwirkung Marias am Erlösungswerk,” in Osterreich. Klerusblatt., (1968), 232-233; id., Jungfraumutter “Miterlöserin,” (Regensburg, 1969); M. O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., “Vatican II and Our Lady’s Mediation,” in Irish Theological Quarterly, Maynooth (henceforth ITQ), 37 (1970), 24-55; G. M. Roschini, O.S.M., La mediazione mariana oggi, (Rome, 1971). Cf. esp. EphMar, (1974), fascicules (i)-(iv), and (1976), fascicules (ii)-(iii) for inter-faith series of articles on Mediation of Mary based on La Médiation de Marie et la doctrine de la participation by Pastor H. Chavannes, in EphMar, 24 (1974), 29-38.

(2) Cf. L. Cerfaux, The Christian in the Theology of St. Paul, (London, 1967), 312ff.

(3) Cf. I. Ortiz de Urbina, S.J., in De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, ed. K. Balic, O.F.M., Rome, 1962 (henceforth MO), 145ff; J. MacPolin, S.J., in ITQ, 36 (1969), 113-122.

(4) Adv. Haer. III, 22, 4. in Patrologia Latina, ed. Migne (henceforth PG) 7, 959; Sources Chretiennes, Lyons (henceforth SC) 34 (M. Sagnard, O.P.), 380.

(5) Adv. Haer. V, 16, in Patrologia Graeca, ed. Migne (henceforth PG) 7, 1168.

(6) St. Jerome, Epist. 22, 21, in PL 22, 408, and others quoted Lumen Gentium, n. 56.

(7) Patrologia Orientalia (henceforth PO) 19, 331, ed. by M. Jugie, A.A. On authenticity, cf. Corpus Marianum Patristicum, ed. S. A. Campos, O.F.M., Burgos, 1970- (henceforth CMP), IV, 1, 107; R. Caro, S.J., “La Homiletica Mariana Griega en el Siglo V,” Marian Library Studies, Dayton, I and II, 1971 and1972 (henceforth La Homiletica) I, 189-194.

(8) Hom. IV Ephesi in Nestorium habita…, in PG 77, 992BC; Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum, ed. E. Schwartz, Strasburg, 1914- (henceforth ACO), 1, 1, 8, 104. Cf. R. Caro, S.J., La Homiletica, II, 269-283.

(9) Hom. in Deiparam, in PG 65, 681.

(10) In SS. Deiparae Ann., in PG 85, 444AB. On authenticity, cf. R. Laurentin, Courte Traité de theologie mariale, Paris, 1953 (henceforth Traité, I) 167; R. Caro, S.J., La Homiletica, II, 288-308.

(11) In S. Joannem Bapt…., in PG 85, 1772C.

(12) Hymn for the Nativity, in SC 110, 103.

(13) Serm. II in Annunt. S. Mariae, in PG 89, 1389. For authenticity, cf. R. Laurentin, Traité, I, 169.

(14) In Dorm. SS. Deiparae…, in PG 86bis, 3293. For authenticity, cf. R. Laurentin, Traité, I, 168; A. Wenger, A.A., L’Assomption de la Tres Sainte Vierge dans la Tradition Byzantine du Vie au Xe siecle, Paris, 1955 (henceforth L’Assomption) 103-104.

(15) In Nativ. Mariae, Serm. I and Serm. IV, in PG 97, 808, 865.

(16) Hom. I in Dorm., in PG 96, 713A.

(17) PG 98, 321, 352-353.

(18) Serm. in SS. Deiparam, 4, 55; 15, 205.

(19) Hom. in Mt 12:38, in Florilegium Cassinense, II, 154B.

(20) On Mediatrix in Latin authors, cf. H. Barré, C.S.Sp., in Etudes Mariale: Bulletin de la Societe francaise d’Etudes Mariales, Paris (henceforth BSFEM), 96ff; R. Laurentin, Courte Traité sur la Vierge Marie, Paris, 1968 (henceforth Traité, V) 68, n.53, while awaiting the latter’s monumental monograph on the subject.

(21) G. M. Dreves. Hymnolog. Beitr., 2, (Leipzig, 1897), 170.

(22) E. Druwé, S.J., “La médiation universelle de Marie,” in Maria, I, (1949), 430.

(23) Serm. 46, in PL 144, 761B.

(24) The Ancrene Riwle, tr. by M. B. Salu, (London, 1955), 17.

(25) Cf. Serapio de Iragui, O.F.M.Cap., La Mediación de la Virgen en la himnografia latina de la Edad Media, (Buenos Aires, 1939), esp. 182-216; F. J. Mone, Lateinische Hymnen des Mittelalters, 2, (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1854), 21, 48, 57, 67, 306; Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, ed. G. M. Dreves, Leipzig, 1886- (henceforth AH) 42, 79, 107, 112.

(26) Fr. Suarez, “De Mysteriis Vitae Christi,” Disp. 22, 3, 2, ed. by Vivès, vol. 19, 328. Cf. Disp. 23, 3, 5, 336.

(27) M. J. Scheeben, Mariology, II, (St. Louis, 1956), 265.

(28) Papal Teachings: Our Lady, ed. at Solesme, trans. publ. Boston (henceforth OL), 57, 132, 185, 241; Acta Mariana Joannis PP. XXIII, 29.

(29) OL, 81, 132, 148, 172, 184, 191, 196, 209, 223, 254, 265, 276, 285, 295, 360-361, 422, 427.

(30) Cf. G. Caprile, S.J., “Pio XI e la ripresa del Concilio Vaticano,” in Civiltà Catt., (1966), 27-39.

(31) ASC, 1, 234.

(32) Quotations from section 3, Schema Constitutions dogmaticae de B. M. V. Matre Ecclesiae, (Vatican Press, 1963).

(33) For text of report, cf. G. M. Besutti, O.S.M., in MM, 28 (1966), 32.

(34) Speeches in Acta synodalia sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, Vol. III, Periodus IIIa, Pars 1,435-544. Cf. G. M. Besutti, O.S.M., in MM, 28 (1966), 35-117.

(35) Acta synodalia…, Vol. III, Periodus IIIa, Pars 2, 99-188.

(36) ASC, VI, 1, 31.

(37) Acta synodalia…, Vol. III, Periodus IIIa, Pars 2, 139-141.

(38) BSFEM, 23 (1966), 51-52.

(39) For text of 27 October with notes and report, cf. G. M. Besutti, O.S.M., in MM, 28 (1966), 124-138; Modi, (Vatican Press, 1964), 16-17

A Radical Theology Challenges Rome


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Taming the Liberation Theologians

Reprint from TIME issue of February 04, 1985

In Nicaragua, four Roman Catholic priests remain as officials in the Marxist- led Sandinista government in defiance of canon law, which prohibits priests from holding public office. One of the priests was expelled from the Society of Jesus in December; the other three priests were forbidden in January by the Vatican to perform their sacerdotal duties if they did not resign in two weeks. Insists Fernando Cardenal Martinez, the former Jesuit and Nicaragua’s Education Minister: “There is no basic religious problem between the church and the revolution. What exists is a political confrontation.”

In Brazil, a mild-mannered Franciscan friar awaits a ruling from Rome over possible “theological errors” in his latest book, Church: Charism and Power, published in 1981. In the book, Theologian Leonardo Boff attacks the “monarchic and pyramidic” structure of the Catholic Church, which, he says, inevitably aligns the church with the rich. Father Boff wants the pyramid of power turned upside down, so that “the church would be, not for the poor, but by the poor.”

In Peru, a diminutive parish priest chooses his words carefully as he discusses the controversy over his writings that virtually paralyzed the deliberations of his country’s 54-member Episcopal Conference for 13 months. Father Gustavo Gutierrez, 56, is a psychologist and author of the 1971 seminal work A Theology of Liberation, which critics have said is imbued with Marxist concepts. Says Gutierrez: “I preach the gospel, nothing else.”

When Pope John Paul II set foot on Venezuelan soil last week, a familiar challenge awaited him. On his sixth evangelizing mission to Latin America in six years, the Pope is once again being asked to put his formidable energies and charismatic appeal to work at resolving a conflict of potentially continent-wide proportions. John Paul is determined to prevent that conflict from distorting what he sees as the true nature of Catholicism. The challenge: liberation theology.

Originally minted in Latin America in the 1960s, liberation theology is a controversial current of religious thought that has, in less than two decades, gained widespread currency. To many, it is the duty of Christians to support the rights of the poor and oppressed. But among its extreme proponents, liberation theology has been used as an apologia for revolutionary upheaval in the Third World that strives to link the imperatives of Christian charity with the dictates of Marxist class struggle.

What distinguishes liberation theology from the mainstream of church thinking is its strong emphasis on social change in the process of spiritual improvement. As Father Jon Sobrino, a Jesuit liberation thinker living in El Salvador, puts it, the aim of liberation theology in Latin America is to “give a new form to a now wretched reality.” In analyzing that social reality, some liberation theologians make heavy use of left-wing social science, and in that sense, writes Sobrino, “the influence of Marx on the conception of theological understanding is evident.

So far as John Paul is concerned, liberation theology in its most militant form has come to embody a struggle over the fundamental values and even the institutional nature of the church. Says Monsignor Carlo Caffarra, a theologian at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University: “It is a contest that now aims at the very truth of the Christian creed and hence the truth of the church itself.”

The intensity of that contest varies widely in Latin America, the home of 42% of the world’s 810 million Catholics. Strikingly diverse in political circumstances, geography and ethnic makeup, the countries of the area share staggering social dislocations caused by rapid modernization, near intolerable combinations of inflation, unemployment and foreign debt, and enormous economic disparities. Says Radomiro Tomic Romero, a former Christian Democratic candidate for President in still dictatorial Chile: “We see a region crossed with injustice. Then we ask ourselves: Is this what God wanted for us?”

Answering this question has divided the Latin American church. The struggle harks back to 1968, when the second Latin American Bishops’ Conference met in Medellin, Colombia. A liberal minority at the conference won approval of a series of documents supporting the church’s newly stated “preferential option for the poor,” which denounced “institutionalized violence” and other social ills, thus providing the opening wedge for liberation theology. In the ’70s, as armed insurrection and military dictatorship spread across Latin America, liberation theology took on a more explicitly political dimension. The radical fringe of liberation theology eventually seemed to find its model of change in the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution. Priests and Catholic laymen united with the Marxist-Leninist Sandinistas to overthrow Dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. In the ensuing euphoria of the Sandinista triumph, the Rev. Paul Schmitz, a U.S. priest who is now a bishop in Nicaragua, declared that the country “is a laboratory for all of Latin America.”

In fact, a swing away from revolutionary fervor had already begun. Five months before the Sandinistas took power, at a third bishops’ conference early in 1979 at Puebla, Mexico (the scene of the newly elected John Paul’s first visit to Latin America), the assemblage followed the Pope’s lead in striking a careful balance in defining Catholic activism. While endorsing a strong mandate for church involvement in social issues, the Puebla conference condemned Marxist strategies and cautioned priests to “divest themselves of all political ideologies.”

/ Ever since Puebla, during his globetrotting papacy, the Pope has consistently spoken out on behalf of the poor and against social injustice, more often and more vigorously than any of his predecessors. He has relentlessly continued to stress both the evils of Marxism and the need for priests to avoid direct involvement in politics. In effect, his aim has been to co-opt the acceptable themes of liberation theology, while trimming away its objectionable elements. As one high official of the Roman Curia puts it, John Paul’s strategy is “to show that he is the premier liberation theologian.”

Despite the furor that it has aroused, liberation theology has never swayed all Latin America. In Venezuela, the Pope’s first stop last week, church officials estimate that liberation theology has scarcely had any impact at all. The same is true of Argentina and Mexico.

The influence of liberation theology is strongest in Brazil, the world’s largest and most populous (131 million) Roman Catholic country. Nonetheless, the debate over the propriety of that support continues to rage within the Brazilian hierarchy. Eugenio Cardinal de Araujo Sales, the conservative Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, charges that liberation theology “constitutes one of the gravest risks to the unity of the pastors and the faithful.”

Sales was referring to the significance that some liberation theologians have bestowed upon “base communities,” Latin America’s most notable evangelizing innovation. Perhaps as many as 150,000 of these grass-roots Christian communities are scattered across Latin America, roughly half of them in Brazil. In the main, the base communities are a promising attempt to solve an endemic problem in Latin America, the chronic shortage of priests to instruct the majority of the impoverished but deeply religious masses of citizenry and see to their spiritual and social needs. (In Latin America, there is one priest for every 7,000 Catholics, vs. one for every 880 in the U.S.)

Within the base communities, which average ten to 30 members each, the stress is on shared religious instruction, prayer and communal self-help. Local priests provide guidance to community leaders, but the principal focus of the groups is on relating the lessons of the Bible to the day-to-day activities of their members, be they urban slumdwellers or rural campesinos.

At a typical base community in the town of Campos Eliseos, 14 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro, 30 local residents meet every Friday night in a cinder- ^ block home to read the Bible and discuss their problems. Antonio Joinhas, 44, a railroad signalman, relates how one study session inspired a local public health center. “After reading how one biblical community helped another to overcome a problem, we decided we could work together too. We all supplied the manpower and raised money for materials from the community. Now we’ve got a health center, and it came from the Bible.”

For liberation theologians like Brazil’s Boff, the base communities are also the true pillars of a church-to-be–as he puts it, the “church being born from the faith of the poor.” Boff’s views provide a theological underpinning for the so-called Church of the People, a grass-roots vision of Catholicism that sees the base communities as a separate source of spiritual inspiration for the faithful–an alternative, in other words, to the inspiration of Rome.

Last September Boff was invited to Rome for a discussion with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Vatican’s watchdog Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Boff recalls the four-hour meeting as “cordial–Ratzinger mainly just sat and listened.” The cordiality may have been influenced by the presence at the Vatican of two of Brazil’s most influential Cardinals, Paulo Evaristo Arns, Archbishop of Sao Paulo, and Aloisio Lorscheider, Archbishop of Fortaleza, who accompanied Boff on his trip.

Boff’s escort underlined the delicacy of the meeting, and perhaps even signaled to the Pope the need for compromise in dealing with the liberation theology issue. In Boff’s case, the Vatican’s concern was that if the friar took a defiant stand, he might gain further support from important elements of the Brazilian church, turning a disciplinary action into a no-retreat showdown.

Similar diplomatic considerations may have played a role in the publication in early September of a 36-page Ratzinger “instruction” on liberation theology, castigating those forms of the doctrine that “uncritically borrow Marxist ideas.” The report promised a companion document that would deal with the “great richness” of the theme of liberation for church life and doctrine. The study has not yet appeared, and Rome has reportedly found the subject more complex than initially expected.

The problem of grappling with liberation theology is nowhere more evident than in Peru, the third stop on John Paul’s itinerary. Nearly two years ago, the Doctrinal Congregation urged the Peruvian bishops to pass judgment on the acceptability of the writings of Radical Theologian Gutierrez. In September those bishops met with the Pope and managed to forge a fragile consensus: no explicit censure of Gutierrez, but an agreement to the condemnations of Marxism outlined that month by Ratzinger.

No such maneuvers were necessary last month when Rome issued the suspension order to Cardenal and the three other rebellious political priests in Nicaragua: Foreign Minister Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, Culture Minister Ernesto Cardenal Martinez, and Edgard Parrales, Ambassador to the Organization of American States. In the Vatican’s view it was merely a question of enforcing canon law.

The tensions and maneuvers that accompanied the Boff and Gutierrez affairs are quite likely to continue. However successful the Pope has been so far in fixing the limits of church orthodoxy, an informed Jesuit in Rome acknowledges that “the church in Latin America is changing, and everyone accepts that a long-term process has begun.” For the Supreme Pontiff, the task of defining liberation also may be a long one.

Religion: Discord In The Church


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A decisive John Paul confronts challenges to his papal authority.

Reprinted with permission from TIME Issue of February 4, 1985

On a gray and misty morning late last week, Pope John Paul II arrived at a $ Rome airport in a Mercedes-Benz limousine, quietly bade farewell to Vatican aides and boarded an Alitalia DC-10. Once again the Pope was airborne, setting forth this time on a strenuous twelve-day “pilgrimage of hope” to Latin America. Arriving at Caracas’ Simon Bolivar Airport under a warm afternoon sun, the Pontiff, his white robe flapping in the soft Caribbean breezes, was greeted by Venezuelan President Jaime Lusinchi. Waving to the crowd, the Pope traveled in his converted Land Rover Popemobile along a twisting hillside road into the capital.

Meeting with Venezuela’s bishops that evening, John Paul issued decisive marching orders. He called upon the region’s hierarchy to correct errant Catholic thinkers “with charity and firmness.” Too many theologians, said the Pope, “proclaim not the truth of Christ but their own theories,” a theme that may recur during the current journey. By the end of his 18,500- mile trip, John Paul will have flown from Venezuela to Ecuador to Peru to Trinidad and Tobago, delivered 44 other speeches, lunched with steelworkers, met upcountry Indians and visited a sector of Peru rife with Maoist guerrillas.

Indeed, one of the most enduring images of this pontificate is surely the white-garbed figure of John Paul descending from an aircraft, his arms spread wide, the familiar smile bestowed on a welcoming crowd. In his six years as Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, he covered 210,000 miles during the 24 foreign voyages prior to his current trip. No other religious leader has ever traveled so extensively or been seen in person by so many millions of people. No previous Pope, moreover, has placed such a determined emphasis on the unifying message that John Paul II has proclaimed as the reason for his travels: to assure each local congregation, no matter how remote, of its important role in the universal church.

The 1980s mark a historic turning point for Roman Catholicism. Beneath all of the gloss and spectacle of the papacy, beyond the wealth, power and influence of the Holy See, a profound struggle is taking shape, one that is of crucial importance to the church’s 810 million members–and to many not in its fold. At stake is the future direction of a strong, dynamic, yet deeply perturbed institution.

In recent centuries the church has apportioned a substantial part of its energies to battles against external enemies–skepticism, nihilism, secularism and atheism. Today Rome finds itself under a strong challenge from some who & profess to be loyally Catholic. Latin America, a region that the Pope is visiting for the sixth time, grapples with such problems as poverty, unemployment, crowded housing and political turbulence. The church hierarchy is divided over the growing influence on the area’s 338 million Catholics of a radical movement, partly influenced by Marxism, that is known as liberation theology. In the U.S., the papacy confronts restiveness and even anger among sisters and laywomen who are unhappy about the church’s rigid stands on abortion, birth control and an exclusively male priesthood (see following stories). In Europe as well as in the U.S., the Pope and his aides face challenges from theological scholars whose reinterpretations of traditional dogma verge on what Rome considers heresy. In the Third World, notably black Africa, where Catholicism is flourishing, there are large and puzzling problems of what to do about “inculturation,” the desire to adapt the church’s rituals and procedures to local customs.

A fundamental issue underlies these concerns: the authority of the papacy. In a pre-Christmas address to the Curia (Vatican bureaucracy), John Paul applauded “wholesome pluralism” within the church. But he warned against the dangers of “isolationist” and “centrifugal” forces that threaten the unity of Catholicism. The mission of the Pope and the Holy See, he said, “consists precisely in serving . . . universal unity.” The center, in other words, must remain the center: Rome must decide what is Catholic and what is not.

There are, however, dissident church members who believe that in a democratic age Catholics should have the right to decide troublesome issues for themselves. The challenges occur in several crucial and overlapping areas: worship, the claims of national and local autonomy, issues of family life and morality, discipline among priests and nuns, and doctrine.

Although papal authority has emerged as the overriding issue, there are also important debates about church involvement in contemporary social matters. John Paul has led the way, denouncing economic injustice and insisting on the rights of the downtrodden. Taking their lead from the Pontiff, American bishops are issuing strong moral stands on their nation’s nuclear arms strategy, the U.S. economic system and the evil of abortion. Bishops in Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uganda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and other lands have boldly denounced human rights abuses by their governments. In South Africa, white Archbishop Denis Hurley will go on trial in February because of his public protests against police brutality toward blacks in Namibia.

Some flamboyant manifestations of this activist spirit disturb more traditional Catholics. To protest nuclear arms spending, Seattle’s Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen flatly refuses to pay half his income taxes; the Government has garnished his salary. In Arizona, two priests and three sisters in the “sanctuary” movement face federal charges of harboring illegal aliens from Central America. In Latin America and the Philippines a scattering of priests have taken up arms with Marxist guerrillas. Father Conrado Balweg of the Communist New People’s Army, on the most-wanted list of the Philippine military, proclaims that liberation from oppression is “the essence of the Mass.”

The roots of much of this tumultuous activity were planted two decades ago during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Such an ecumenical council is a policy-setting meeting of the world’s bishops presided over by the Pope. In a surprise announcement last Friday, Pope John Paul II said that he was summoning an extraordinary synod of bishops from around the world next Nov. 25 to Dec. 8 to re-examine the changes made by Vatican II. The gathering will involve patriarchs of the Oriental Rites and the presidents of the 101 national and regional conferences of bishops. The purpose: to clarify what the council said and how its decrees are to be interpreted.

The changes wrought by Vatican II were the most radical in Catholic life in centuries. The council decreed that the central act of worship, the Mass, could henceforth be celebrated in the language of the people rather than in Latin. Against centuries of tradition in heavily Catholic countries, it declared for freedom of religious belief without interference from the state. Along with greater social concern, the council urged work toward unity with other Christians and closer relations with Jews. There was to be a greater involvement of the laity in church worship and work.

In terms of the authority of the hierarchy, however, Vatican II decrees were essentially conservative. They enhanced the role of bishops in governing along with the Pope in accordance with “collegiality.” They continued to declare that in matters of faith and morals, members were to show “religious submission of mind and will” to their bishops and especially to the Pope. The old magisterial structure emerged substantially intact, although harsh abuses in the exercise of authority were to be eliminated.

John XXIII, who called the council, was succeeded by Pope Paul VI (1963-78), who completed its work, implemented its decrees and then suffered in anguish while the church seemed to begin eroding at the edges. Legions of priests and nuns in the West quit their vocations. Paul’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, reaffirming the church’s ban on artificial contraception, was attacked by theologians and largely ignored by married Catholics. Says Neoconservative British Author Paul Johnson: “The fear grew that there was no tenet of the faith of ordinary Catholics that was now immune to reinterpretation . . . or indeed outright abandonment.”

When Pope Paul’s successor, John Paul I, died after only 33 days in office, the Cardinals’ second conclave of 1978 produced a surprising choice for the papacy: Poland’s Karol Wojtyla, who took the name John Paul II. He was something new to the church. A onetime actor and factory hand who had dated women before discovering his priestly vocation, he wrote poetry and loved skiing and folk singing. Above all, he had the presence of a religious superstar, and his magnetism attracted not only Catholics but millions who did not share his faith.

To be sure, some Catholics were quick to notice limitations. Although the Pope comes from bourgeois stock, he is, says Chicago Sociologist William McCready, something of a “peasant intellectual Pope. He understands the life of a peasant, whether in the Third World countries or European countries like Poland. But he doesn’t understand urbanized, pluralistic societies.” Sister Amelie Starkey, an archdiocesan official in Denver, says that the Pope’s Polish anti-Communism gives him a “horrendous bias.”

Within John Paul, there is unquestionably a fierce, determined belief in the lessons learned from his early life. During the days of Hitler and the Stalinists, the young Polish priest concluded that the church is strong only when individualism makes way for the requirements of unity. Indeed, Catholicism has thrived in Poland as in few other places, making its church both inspiring and atypical.

Early in his pontificate, a new Vatican strategy took shape. Unlike the cautious, introspective Paul VI, John Paul decided to strengthen his authority over his flock, and he was unafraid to apply punitive sanctions when necessary. He laid out crystal-clear lines. The ordination of women was beyond discussion. Priests and nuns must get out of political office. Religious orders must regain lost discipline. Bishops were expected to uphold Rome’s policies. Meanwhile, a re-energized Curia began questioning theologians who strayed too far from official teaching. Disillusionment has been building ever since among progressive Catholics who want a more flexible church. Swiss Theologian Father Hans Kung, an early target of the papal crackdown, charges that “a new phase of Inquisition” has begun. Says Kung: “The present Pope suppresses problems instead of solving them.” One renowned U.S. commentator on the Vatican, Redemptorist Father Francis X. Murphy, pronounces this Pope “very dictatorial.” Some Protestant ecumenists say the papacy does not look as attractive as it used to in the decade or so after Vatican II.

On the other end of the ideological spectrum, however, there is celebration. James McFadden, editor of New York’s scrappy, right-wing Catholic Eye, says that under Pope Paul VI “the realization that the leadership wasn’t there led many conservative Catholics not to give up, but to cease fighting. These people have been reinvigorated by this Pope. They believe that something can be done.” Encouraged by the new signals emanating from the Pope, conservative Catholics have flooded the Vatican with letters of complaint about all manner of alleged infractions by U.S. bishops, priests and sisters.

Some moderates worry about the impact of the conservative lobbying. Says one Italian theologian: “Even if the Pope does not intend it, certain actions encourage conservatives who have been waiting 20 years to roll back the effects of the council. This creates a climate of anxiety and distrust.” Vatican observers say that in his own mind, John Paul is totally a man of Vatican II. Yet he does insist upon holding to the letter of what the council said, despite liberals who contend that the “spirit” of the council inspires openness to further changes not specifically endorsed by it. Confusion over this point is precisely the reason the Pope called next fall’s special synod.

In the face of criticism that the Pope is turning back the clock to precouncil days, one of his closest advisers declares that this is a misinterpretation of papal aims. John Paul, says this observer, looks to the future, viewing his mandate in terms of three core concepts. They are integrality, identity and clarity: the integrality of the Christian message; the identity of the priests and nuns who present it; and, above all, clarity that will let everyone know exactly what the church stands for.

Integrality is a concept that explains what to some is a paradox in John Paul’s vision of the church’s mission. One common interpretation categorizes the Pope as liberal on social issues but conservative on doctrine. Says a close Vatican adviser: “Such talk is totally incomprehensible to Pope John Paul. To him, Christian doctrine is one unified whole, a package deal that doesn’t break down into social and theological, this-worldly and otherworldly. There is a social message in the Eucharist, just as there is a doctrinal basis for social action. In fact, he sees the Eucharist as the primary social action, a moment when all people are unified with each other and with Christ, when division and class struggle are impossible.”

The second of John Paul’s concepts, identity, explains his concern about restoring firmer discipline among priests and sisters, and distinguishing their role from that of the laity. One of his first decisions as Pope was to tighten up on official approval of requests to leave the priesthood, a process known as laicization. He quickly followed with a worldwide letter to priests stating that celibacy is a lifelong commitment. Turning to priests in religious orders, the Pope reproved the leader of the Jesuits, the largest and most influential of male orders, because its members were too frequently challenging church policy. He later installed his own temporary administration at Jesuit headquarters. Though the order is on its own again, it is not yet clear how much new Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach will bend the society to the papal will. John Paul’s strictures do not seem to have discouraged vocations: six years ago the worldwide total of candidates for the priesthood was 61,000; in 1982 it had risen to 73,000.

All of John Paul’s actions are part of a strategy leading toward a high- profile identity for priests, brothers, sisters and nuns (in technical usage, nuns are a distinct category of sisters who take solemn vows). Explains one Vatican staff member: “You wonder why a man would bother to take holy orders if he is going to do the same job he could do as a layman.” Rome has ordered a study of all U.S. seminaries, and a principal reason for this, says the Vatican source, is to guarantee that these institutions “are not turning out psychiatrists and social workers in collars.” For similar reasons Rome, concerned that women’s orders could vanish if sisters appear little different from laywomen, is investigating the orders in the U.S. and requiring distinctive garb and community life.

The same principle explains the Pope’s controversial demand that priests and sisters give up political careers. The effects in North America: Jesuit Father Robert Drinan of Massachusetts left the U.S. Congress; Father Bob Ogle is no longer a member of the Canadian Parliament; and, in a reverse decision, Sister Arlene Violet decided to quit her order to serve as Rhode Island’s new attorney general.

Some critics accuse John Paul of undercutting his own call for social justice by limiting the roles of priests, brothers and sisters. Others say that he seems to be applying a double standard, in light of the church’s active political role in Poland. He believes he is consistent, however, in wanting bishops and priests to preach social justice. It is probable that never before has Catholicism been so engaged in this crusade as under John Paul, who continually hammers away at the themes of peace, poverty and human rights.

On the other hand, as the Pope understands Vatican II, the church should let the laity work out policy details and fill public offices. The Pope has praised and encouraged lay organizations that attempt to put Catholic ideals into practice in everyday life. Two of his conservative favorites are Opus Dei, a tightly disciplined international organization of 74,000, and Comunione e Liberazione, a less structured group with about 60,000 adherents in Italy and growing numbers in Europe and Latin America.

Clarity, the third theme, may be the most important. John Paul seems determined to make it plain that there should be unquestioning allegiance where basic church doctrine is concerned, which critics see as a denial of intellectual freedom. Asks the Rev. Richard McBrien, chairman of Notre Dame’s theology department: “Are we back to book bannings, blacklistings, suspensions, expulsions and even excommunications?”

To the Pope, the important question is, rather, whether the church’s teachings are accurately presented and clearly understood by the laity. Says a person who often chats informally with John Paul: “The Pope believes that the youth of today demand a crystal-clear presentation of the Christian message and resent it when their bishops try to accommodate them by watering down that message.” New York Archbishop John O’Connor says that in appointing bishops, John Paul looks first and foremost for “a very clear articulation of church teaching.”

This expectation extends to theologians. The dissenting Hans Kung, who has questioned the personal infallibility of the Pope, among other dogmas, has been denied the right to teach as a Catholic theologian, though he remains a priest and is still a professor at the University of Tubingen in West Germany. John Paul combats the radical strains of Latin America’s liberation theology, even while endorsing some of the terminology, because he believes Marxist concepts like the class struggle conflict with the message of the church. One liberationist, Brazil’s Leonardo Boff, has been asked to justify his views.

One long-running dispute between Rome and a dissenting theologian has resulted in a partial settlement. The subject: Belgian Dominican Edward Schillebeeckx’s 1980 book, Ministry, which argued on historical grounds for a more democratic church that to some looked suspiciously like Protestantism. The Vatican announced in January that in his next book the liberal theologian will declare support for the church’s teaching that only validly ordained priests can celebrate the Mass. Schillebeeckx insists he is not retracting his views under Vatican pressure; he simply changed his mind. In the ongoing quest for clarity, perhaps the most controversial aspect since Vatican II has been the family and personal morality, particularly the stricture against birth control. Last year John Paul drove home this teaching in a series of weekly sermons delivered at his general audiences in Rome. The widespread rejection of that papal view by lay Catholics in Western nations is the most glaring instance of what U.S. gadfly Priest Andrew Greeley calls the arrival of the “do-it-yourself Catholic.” Father Charles Curran of the Catholic University of America, a frequent critic of the birth-control tenet, could well be the next theologian summoned to Rome for questioning. Curran says only that he is “in correspondence” with the Vatican. John Paul is not budging on other issues. In his 1979 U.S. tour and since, he has condemned abortion, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality and all sexual activity outside marriage.

Opposition to abortion, a burning issue in the U.S., is one of the most deeply held commitments in Catholic tradition. There was consternation when 28 , U.S. sisters, priests and brothers signed a New York Times advertisement that countered what the ad called the “mistaken belief” that the abortion stance of the Popes and bishops “is the only legitimate Catholic position.” The Vatican response: Retract or face expulsion.

The Catholic condemnation of homosexual behavior underlies Archbishop O’Connor’s resistance to a New York City executive order demanding that the archdiocese, as a contractor receiving city funds for child care, must pledge nondiscrimination against homosexuals. The church hires “homosexually inclined” people, O’Connor says, but wants the right to do so on a “case-by- case basis, to find out whether an individual would be able to operate in a Catholic agency within the strictures of Catholic teaching.”

In asserting control over doctrine and discipline, John Paul’s Vatican often runs up against a striving toward more freedom for local and national expressions of Catholicism. In Africa’s churches, problems involving the inculturation of Christianity range from the kind of dancing and drumming to permit during Mass to ways of dealing with polygamy. If Vatican officials have trouble with Latin America, says Simon E. Smith, an American Jesuit missionary, “they will be infinitely less able to understand and accept the developments under way in Africa.” He warns, “Excessive interference in legitimate and responsible inculturation projects could provoke schism.” For the most part, Rome so far has gingerly handled the young African churches, whose growth rate is among the fastest in the world.

In the U.S., progressive Catholics tend to talk about disagreements with Rome in terms of their own democratic culture. They demand civil rights within the church, often sounding like “Don’t Tread on Me” revolutionaries attempting to overthrow the rule of Europe. Says Sister Monica Asman (known as “the mosquito nun” because she teaches entomology at the University of California at Berkeley): “In Rome they don’t understand us as Americans, that we have democratic roots.” The untitled leader of the U.S. hierarchy, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, handles the question of national vs. universal Catholicism rather cautiously: “I think the American experience is very important and that the church can learn from us–and we can learn from the rest of the church too.”

A difficult challenge to Rome on the autonomy issue has arisen in The Netherlands, which John Paul will visit next May. For many years the bishops there followed a live-and-let-live policy, as activists in the parishes tested liturgical novelties, ignored Vatican dictates on matters like interfaith communion and called for married priests. A close adviser to John Paul calls it “our worst-case scenario in Western Europe. A whole generation has been lost there.” But there has been a recent slowdown in dissent, he thinks, and the Pope’s activism is the reason. Meanwhile, the Pope has appointed several conservative bishops who have called a halt to much of the experimentation. One result of the clampdown, however, is that large numbers of liberal Dutch Catholics are so discouraged that they do not bother to deal with the official church any more, much less attack it. An influential progressive, Ton Crijnen of the Catholic weekly De Tijd, says, “Young people are turning away from the Catholic Church in huge numbers. The church has split down to its foundation.”

Since Vatican II, national bishops’ conferences have gained considerable power, coming to share the role of mediation and communication with Rome that was formerly played exclusively by the Vatican’s diplomats. Some U.S. bishops are privately wary of the accumulating power of the hierarchy’s national agencies, while liberals say that Vatican officials prefer to deal with individual bishops, rather than with a more powerful national phalanx.

The American bishops have had to fight a series of minibattles with Rome over liturgical details. Last year, in one decision dealing with worship, one Roman congregation appeared to violate Vatican II’s concept of collegiality. This was the decision to allow a carefully restricted use of the traditional, or Tridentine, Latin Mass, which was suppressed after the council. The decision went against the preference of 98% of the bishops, according to a worldwide survey.

Despite these marginal squabbles, the Mass remains, as always, the powerful unifying center of Catholic life. Says Gerald Costello, editor of Catholic New York: “I think the average Catholic is very impatient with all these debates. He’s much more concerned with his church as a place of worship: ‘I want to be inspired. I want to be reassured. I want instruction. I want a place to pray.’ ”

In light of that, there are significant revelations in an ongoing large-scale study by the University of Notre Dame of 1,100 American parishes two decades after the Vatican Council. More than 85% of respondents in the survey felt & that their own parish did a good job in meeting their spiritual needs. A hefty 24% of the adult laity were involved in Bible studies, catechism classes or spiritual renewal and prayer groups. Most accepted the changes in the Mass. On the other hand, Gallup polls show that only 51% of U.S. Catholics attend Mass in a typical week, down from 74% in 1958. And the situation is far worse in parts of Western Europe (30% in West Germany, 20% in France).

The challenges are huge, but in the effort to solve the controversies of his far-flung dominion and give it a sense of direction and purpose, John Paul can employ not only his personal gifts but also considerable institutional powers. “In the Roman Catholic system, it’s very hard in the end to buck the Pope,” says Dale Vree, editor of the conservative New Oxford Review, and a convert from the latitudinarian world of the Episcopal Church.

In fact, Catholic canon law and tradition give great potential authority to the Pope. To help apply his program, John Paul has gradually been building a Vatican Curia with a core of tough disciplinarians who will play a key role in future events. Remarks one Vatican observer: “If the Pope wants an iron hand, he’s got the team that will provide it.”

Without doubt the most influential man in John Paul’s Curia is Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 57, the German-born prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pope’s theological watchdog. Though Ratzinger and John Paul are not close personally, they see eye to eye on theological orthodoxy, and the Pope respects the onetime professor’s intellectual skills. Extremely hard working, articulate and reserved, Ratzinger was a progressive adviser at Vatican II. Disillusioned with its aftermath, he turned conservative, and now says, “Not all valid councils have proven, when tested by the facts of history, to have been useful.”

In a reshuffle in the Vatican last year, John Paul installed two other key hard-liners. Jean Jerome Hamer, 68, a Belgian, was dubbed “the Hammer” during his years as No. 2 man at the doctrinal congregation. He was John Paul’s choice to replace the indulgent Eduardo Cardinal Pironio and keep a tight rein on the congregation that supervises religious orders. Hamer, now enmeshed in the crucial test of wills with U.S. nuns over the abortion issue, is deemed by some leading sisters to be uncommunicative and insensitive toward women. Augustin Mayer, 73, a German workaholic, was for years the top aide to Pironio, handling the tough jobs that his boss had little stomach for. He now runs the congregation that regulates liturgy and the sacraments.

Silvio Cardinal Oddi, 74, the Italian member of the in group, runs the congregation that deals with priests not in religious orders, managing, for instance, the crackdown against priests in politics. Affable and highly conservative, he is a friend of John Paul’s; the Pope enjoys his dry humor and no-nonsense air. Another Italian, Agostino Cardinal Casaroli, 70, is nominally the Pope’s top aide, but has little influence on internal church affairs: he is now largely restricted to temporal and diplomatic matters, in which the Pope recognizes his supple mastery.

Besides his Vatican appointments, of course, the Pope names all new bishops, and, says one of the leading figures among the U.S. bishops, “He’s trying to change the makeup of the hierarchies so he will have more control.” Some liberals question whether papal authority can be so easily imposed. Father Greeley points out that U.S. Catholics no longer constitute an immigrant culture, and are far more likely to attend college than are Americans as a whole. Says he: “The American hierarchy and the Vatican simply haven’t realized that we have a well-educated population out there whom you cannot coerce or talk down to.” Joseph Pichler, an active lay Catholic and president of a retailing chain, agrees: “People won’t stand for getting nailed any more. The risk the Pope runs is that in exercising his authority, he may lose it. People will quietly engage in spiritual disobedience.”

Still, it is obvious that John Paul sees no choice but to clarify and unify the church’s public voice and preserve its heritage, although it is not certain what further disciplinary measures he might impose to achieve that goal. Like most previous Popes, he is planning strategy not for tomorrow but for the centuries. His church has experienced persecution, wars, internal venality and schism, and yet survived and thrived. It is quite possible that John Paul II, who is only 64, will see Catholicism into the third millennium, a calendar point to which he often refers. He looks to that day mindful of the words of Jesus Christ to St. Peter that the powers of death and hell will not prevail against the church, and convinced that his own program of consolidation will help to secure that promise.


Women Demand New Role

Religion: Women: Second-Class Citizens

Reprinted from TIME February 04 , 1985

By: Otto Friedrich; J. Madeline Nash/ Chicago with other bureaus.

“The Pope doesn’t understand American women,” says Donna Quinn. “This is our church, and we are not going to let a few men who work at the Vatican make it un-Christian.”

“There was a time when the church sanctioned slavery and cheerfully burned heretics,” says Maryann Cunningham, “and the patriarchal church still does not see that there is anything to be sorry for in its treatment of women.”

“The bishops are all hunkering down in the grass like a bunch of guinea hens,” says Margaret Traxler. “Wait a minute, I don’t want to insult the hens. They (the bishops) don’t stir a feather because they fear for their own tails.”

These passionate outpourings of indignation come from dedicated women religious of the Roman Catholic Church, to which they have pledged lives of poverty, chastity and obedience. They are among the 24 sisters who signed a statement that ran as a full-page ad in the New York Times last October, in the midst of the election-campaign dispute over abortion between Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate Geraldine Ferraro and New York’s Archbishop John O’Connor. Declared the ad: “A diversity of opinions regarding abortion exists among committed Catholics.”

The Vatican soon struck back. The Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes charged that the religious signers were “seriously lacking in ‘religious submission’ ” and must publicly recant their view or be expelled from their orders.* Of the four priests and brothers among the 97 signers, three have recanted. But so far not one of the sisters has backed down. On the contrary, at a strategy meeting in arctic Chicago last week, they considered an array of countermeasures: another ad soliciting support for free speech, a series of nationwide prayer services, counterhearings to coincide with the bishops’ planned hearings in Washington in March on the role of women. “This is a pivotal moment in the history of the church,” says Maureen Reiff, one of the lay signers of the ad. “We all feel that the attack on us appears to be a rescinding of Vatican II.”

*The first actual disciplining took place in Los Angeles, where Catholic welfare officials were instructed to cease referring anyone to a shelter for the homeless run by Signer Judith Vaughan.

To many leaders in the church hierarchy, the sisters’ activity is misguided and muddleheaded. Any support of abortion, which the Second Vatican Council branded an “unspeakable crime,” is “not a debatable view or opinion,” according to a pastoral letter by Philadelphia’s John Cardinal Krol. “When it comes to speaking about the doctrine of the church, we are not free to make up our own minds,” says Archbishop John May of St. Louis. “For a sister or priest to deny the teaching of the church is a scandal . . . a flagrant, flashy and deliberate affront.”

The sisters’ public fight for a more liberal policy on abortion is only one of several such controversies between the church’s hierarchy and Catholic women, both lay and religious. No less emotional is the issue of birth control; no less deadlocked is the question of whether women may be ordained priests. Underlying these disputes is a disagreement over the basic role of women in the church and in the world at large.

“The major issue facing the Catholic Church in the U.S. is how it deals with women,” says Eugene Kennedy, a former priest who teaches psychology at Chicago’s Loyola University. “A fair argument could be made that the Catholic Church in this country is what it is because of women. The whole parochial school system was built by women. So if you lose women, you sustain a loss that you can’t make up.” That is exactly what is happening in women’s religious communities now, says Pat Reif of Immaculate Heart College Center in Los Angeles: “Women are voting with their feet. It’s a sharing of power we’re after.” The statistics, however, are ambiguous. The number of sisters has fallen from 180,000 to 120,000 since 1966, but the drop leveled off in 1978, and the total has even risen slightly since then.

Women represent, of course, about half the nation’s 52 million Catholics, and their feelings about their place in the church are of great importance to its welfare. The signing sisters’ strong views are far from shared by all women religious, or even by Catholic women in general, but there is a growing conviction among large numbers of U.S. Catholic women that they are second- class citizens in the church–and that something must be done to correct that situation soon.

This view has taken strong hold among a significant segment of women religious, who are in the vanguard of the drive for fuller rights for women. American women religious have changed greatly since they began shedding their wimples and bibs and emerged from the convents into the streets. For one thing, many are now highly educated, even more so than their bishops. Sixty- five percent have master’s degrees, and 25% have earned doctorates (vs. 24% and 10% among bishops). They are also more mature; most became novices after age 24. And their social views have changed. Says Sister Marie Augusta Neal, who has polled tens of thousands of other sisters as a sociology professor at Boston’s Emmanuel College: “If you asked what the primary mission was in 1966, most would have listed their work. If you ask the sisters that today, they would say the mission of the church is justice and peace.”

Such shifts reflect the changes in U.S. society. According to one poll taken in 1982 by the National Opinion Research Center, 41% of Catholic men and 57% of Catholic women could be considered feminists. Among Catholics ages 18 to 30, 42% of men and 47% of women approved of women priests. The Rev. Andrew Greeley, whose writing ranges from pop novels (The Cardinal Sins) to detailed sociological surveys (The American Catholic), believes the figures indicate that hundreds of thousands of young women are not attending church regularly because of discrimination against females. “For a church that has spoken repeatedly in recent years about the need to ‘evangelize,’ ” Greeley writes, “this very large number of alienated young women represents a significant evangelistic challenge.”

Many parishioners prefer the old traditions, however, and so do perhaps one- third of the nuns. Sister Mary Helen of Boston’s Daughters of St. Paul is editor of a religious monthly. She wears a black habit, devotes three hours daily to prayers and believes that a Vatican decision means “it’s a finished issue, and to keep hacking over it is like digging up somebody after they’re buried.” Says Sister Claire Patrice Fitzgerald, principal of a Catholic parochial school outside Los Angeles: “The Mother herself was obedient to her son, Christ. The authority of the church comes from Christ, who gave it to St. Peter and his successors, the Popes. If we truly believe that’s the origin of authority, how can we challenge the Popes?”

They cannot, according to the Vatican. Officials in Rome tend to regard the American women’s criticisms as a peculiarity of U.S. society; they hear relatively few such complaints from the rest of the world. The church’s new code of canon law, which took effect in December of 1983, spells out the rules for all orders, down to such details as living in “their own religious house” rather than an apartment and wearing some kind of religious clothing “as a sign of their consecration.” The constitutions of all 300-odd U.S. orders of sisters must conform to the new code. “The issue is simple,” one official in the Vatican says of its rulings, “either (the sisters) accept the church’s teaching or they don’t. Either they are in or they are out.”

Many dissenting U.S. women Catholics, however, feel the Pope is out of touch. Joan Leonard, who teaches theology at Emory University in Atlanta, recalls meeting John Paul at a philosophy congress in Switzerland. “We were wearing slacks, and he was having difficulty with that, I could tell,” she says. “He tried to ask us about it in a very light, offhand way, saying something like, ‘Do all sisters in the United States wear slacks?’ I told him that we sometimes did, at least when it was appropriate, on campuses. He didn’t seem pleased by my answer. I remember that we were both drinking wine and looking at each other across a small table, when it dawned on me that he simply didn’t understand the dynamics of the American church, much less American women. We were from two different worlds, and we both knew it.”

Leonard is not the only one who blames the disagreements about women partly on the Pope’s personal background. “He thinks of nuns as a servant class,” says Rosemary Ruether, professor of theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. “He brought nuns with him to Rome to cook his sausages. All his statements about women have only one thing to say: motherhood.” The Pope got a taste of such criticisms on his visit to the U.S. in 1979. Sister Theresa Kane, then president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Union, declared in his presence that the church should ordain women; John Paul remained unmoved. “The joke went around,” says Suzanne Hiatt, an Episcopal priest, “that he had been told he should step on the ground and kiss the women, and instead he kissed the ground and stepped on the women.”

The demand for ordination is perhaps the most fundamental conflict between the church’s hierarchy and its militant women critics. “It is the central issue because without it, there is no route to power within the church,” says Mary Gordon, a lay activist and author of the novel Final Payments. Arlene Swidler, who teaches religion at Villanova, says simply, “Ordination remains the central issue because it includes everything.”

Church officials insist that the matter of ordination has nothing to do with discrimination. Says Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications in Rome: “The ordination of women (is) not a concept emerging from sociological considerations. Jesus clearly did not ordain women to the priesthood, nor did he authorize the church to do so.” As for further discussion, another Vatican official says categorically, “The verdict is in. It is simply not worth discussing for the duration of this pontificate.”

More than 1,000 American women have publicly declared their ambitions to become priests, and some of them plan to gather later this year to discuss their goal. “The people who feel some kind of call have an obligation to witness to that call,” says Kathy Larson, director of religious education at a parish in Roswell, N. Mex. She has wanted to be a priest since childhood. She worked at an Episcopal church but felt thwarted: “I know in my bones that I am a Catholic, and I always will be. I feel that I have an obligation to witness within my own church.”

One trend that aids such an ambition is the acute shortage of priests. Already thousands of women fill in by doing chaplains’ work, counseling, Bible readings, indeed, all the tasks of a priest except consecrating the Eucharist, hearing confession, confirming members and administering last rites. Some feminists complain that such assistants are underpaid and exploited, but the more important criticism is that they are still forbidden to conduct the central rituals of the faith.

Some Catholic women have responded by organizing religious ceremonies of their own. In an apartment 88 floors above Lake Michigan, 13 women in slacks and sweaters sat in a circle last week and sang, “Lean on me, I am your sister.” They read the passage from Luke in which a group of women told the Apostles that Christ had risen, and the Apostles did not believe them. Then, although the women do not regard such ceremonies as Eucharists, they passed a loaf of French bread and two pottery mugs of wine. “We share this wine now,” one of them prayed, “knowing that we are walking with a lot of people in their lives of joy and pain . . .”

Despite the seeming impasse, a number of thoughtful bishops are trying to find ways to respond to women’s cry for dignity in the church without weakening church doctrine. “What we need today is a very frank exchange on religious life,” says Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago. San Francisco’s Archbishop John Quinn has already been assigned by the Vatican to undertake a major study on the future of all religious orders, and Sister Margaret Cafferty, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, credits him with providing “a forum for the religious to sit down with the bishops and talk about change.” Bishop Joseph Imesch of Joliet, Ill., is planning a meeting with both church leaders and women’s groups in March to begin drafting a bishops’ letter on women in the church, a major project that will take until 1988. “I think the leadership realizes that it needs to listen to people,” says Imesch.

Listening and “dialoguing” are commendable, but they have limits. Says one authoritative conservative, Notre Dame Philosophy Professor Ralph McInerny: “The idea that we have moved into a populist church, that doctrine should be arrived at by consensus and dialogue, is wrong. That’s not how it is at all.”

John Paul II’s Mission To The Only Catholic Nation In Asia


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By Ross H. Munro; Richard N. Ostling; Wilton Wynn MANILA Monday, Mar. 02, 1981

The Pope on human rights—and wrongs

After eight international tours that have covered IS nations, tumultuous motorcades and clamoring multitudes have become familiar when Pope John Paul II is on the road. But the papal procession across the Philippines last week—his ninth foreign journey and his first to Asia—also displayed ample elements of stagecraft along with spontaneous outpourings of devotion.

Enthusiastic crowds greet John Paul II as he enters Manila's Baclaran Church

On the one hand, there were memorable eruptions of unprogrammed exuberance. At Manila’s Baclaran Church, John Paul’s mere appearance sent 2,000 nuns into a wave of near ecstasy. During a pep rally at the University of Santo Tomás, tens of thousands of students lustily chanted “J.P. Two, We Love You—You Are Super.” The highest pitch came in Cebu, the cradle of Philippine Catholicism, where the city’s population doubled for the day. Thousands had waited in the open air since the previous night to catch a glimpse of the Pontiff.

There were also rehearsed spectacles that were part of a careful plan laid down by autocratic President Ferdinand Marcos and his powerful First Lady Imelda, who had much to gain from a festive association with John Paul. Everywhere, as if on cue, Filipinos were on hand to enact earnest welcoming playlets, sing, dance or pose as “tribesmen” in outdated garb. During one motorcade, a phalanx of trained water buffalo knelt in reverence just as the pontifical car swept by, while at another point a beaming bride and groom in a mock wedding paused in mid-ceremony to wave to the Pope from a bamboo roadside chapel.

The former President and the First Lady Madam Marcos lead the Papal entourage at the Manila International airport.

Throughout, the Filipinos saw and heard a many-sided Pontiff. John Paul was, as always, the charismatic Pope who set multitudes cheering. He was the political Pope, at once scolding his presidential host with a sermon on human rights and admonishing priests and nuns against revolutionary activism. He was the diplomat-Pope, extending an olive branch to the People’s Republic of China and appealing for Muslim-Christian harmony on blood-soaked Mindanao. He was the doctrinaire Pope, zealously condemning artificial birth control in a nation with one of the most rapidly growing populations on earth. And he was the pastoral Pope, fondly kissing each member of a delegation of deaf-mutes, or impishly chiding singers who struggled through a rendition of the song Sto Lat (100 Years) in Polish. “The melody is good,” he laughed, “the words so-so.”

It was the second papal visit in only a decade to Asia’s one predominantly Christian nation. Pope Paul VI had gone in 1970, and narrowly escaped serious injury when a crazed man attacked him with a knife. John Paul, history’s most traveled Pope, laid on a punishing 20,000-mile, twelve-day itinerary that included an initial stopover in Muslim Pakistan on the way to Manila, and was to be followed this week with a stop on Guam, four days in Japan, a touchdown in Anchorage, Alaska, and a first-ever papal flight over the North Pole en route to Rome.

The journey in the Philippines was officially billed as “pastoral,” and included a beatification ceremony in Manila’s Luneta Park. But the Pope knew he was ministering to a troubled flock. Just last month, in an effort to stave off criticism in advance of John Paul’s visit, Marcos had slightly softened his autocratic rule by decreeing an end to more than eight years of martial law. It was largely an empty gesture; the President retains most of the government machinery in his own hands.

The long absence of democracy had deepened rifts in the country—rifts that have polarized the Philippine church. Some of the 7,000 nuns, 4,500 priests and 99 bishops support the Marcos regime, but many others openly criticize its social and economic priorities and have spoken out against political abuses or military atrocities in never ending counterinsurgency campaigns. Seeking to throw some sort of unity over this divided church has been Manila’s Jaime Cardinal Sin, 52, who follows a policy toward the Marcos regime known as “critical collaboration.” Lately, Sin has been more critic than collaborator, however.

Into this arrived John Paul II, carrying his own message of muscular but peaceful Christianity. He went to preach human rights to the Marcoses and moral obligations to the Philippine people, to speak of a revolution of the spirit rather than of the gun, to depoliticize the church and dissociate it from the political left and political right.

From the outset, the Pope wasted little time before plunging into polemics. Within eight hours of his rousing arrival at Manila International Airport, John Paul was feted at a formal reception in Malacanang Palace, the glittering presidential mansion. With the Marcoses seated stiffly at his side, he scolded the President in some of the sternest language that diplomacy admits. He said that he was pleased at “recent initiatives”—meaning the lifting of martial law—but proceeded to challenge the rationale upon which Marcos had built his strongman rule. “A legitimate preoccupation with the security of the state,” warned the Pontiff, “could lead to the temptation to subjugate the people, their dignity and their rights to the state.” Discarding a prepared reply, Marcos seemed chastened in his first response: “Forgive us, Holy Father. Now that you are here, we resolve that we shall wipe out all conflicts and set up a society that is harmonious, to attain the ends of God.” After the Pope, the President, the First Lady and their two daughters had retired for a 50-minute conversation, Marcos emerged looking unusually solemn. He later went on television to report that in private the Pope had expressed concern over “the influence of the liberal as well as the Marxist elements in the church.” Said Bishop Francisco Claver, an outspoken anti-Marcos progressive: “The visit is go ing as we government.” feared. It’s being used by the government.”

It is a continuing paradox of John Paul’s pontificate that he exerts profound personal political impact at the same time that he pleads for a less politi cized priesthood. In the Philip pines, that meant criticizing Marcos at the palace, while is suing, in meetings with nuns and priests, now familiar warnings against direct political action. Partisan politics and concerted social action, said John Paul, should be left to the lay Christians, while the clergy provides spiritual leadership.

The Pope greets one of Tondo's slum-dwellers with a kiss.

The political tension was nowhere more evident than in a midweek visit to the Tondo section of Manila, one of the most notorious slums in Asia. It was there in 1970 that Paul VI had dramatically entered the shack of a modest laborer, Carlos Navarro, and had given him $500. Tondo this time became another Marcos stage setting. The Pope appeared in a square that had been beautified with a manicured park and freshly painted public housing. Just two blocks away lay the ram shackle shanties and filthy, un-Jubilant paved alleyways. In his speech, The John Paul renewed his plea to the who are “trapped in injustice and powerlessness.” But, paradoxical again, he also cautioned the poor that “violence, class struggle or hate” cannot produce true liberation.

The failure of the papal party to explore the slum was due not only to stage-managing but to justified worries about the Pope’s safety. Police had earlier received a tip that a religious cult was bent on assassinating John Paul. Jitters increased when a student plunged toward the Pope during the frenzied youth rally at Santo Tomas. Even before he reached the Philippines, during the stopover in Karachi, a handmade bomb had gone off, killing a man who appeared to have been holding it just before John Paul arrived to celebrate a stadium Mass for 100,000.

The beatification rite at Luneta Park

After Tondo, the Pope moved to the bayside park for the lavish outdoor beatification, the first held outside Rome in modern times, for 16 martyrs slain for trying to preach the Gospel in 17th century Japan. One of them from the Philippines, Lorenzo Ruiz, thus became his country’s first candidate for sainthood. That night, after the ceremony, at a meeting with ethnic Chinese from several Asian nations, John Paul issued his most direct appeal yet for normalized church relations with Peking. “Whatever difficulties there have been,” he said, “they belong to the past, and now it is the future that we have to look to.” From China, however, came a less than enthusiastic initial response. Bishop Michael Fu of Peking, a spokesman for China’s “Patriotic” church, which broke ties with the Vatican more than two decades ago, said: “It will be very difficult to alter the present situation.” For one thing, he asked, was the Vatican prepared to end its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan?

After a bit of sleep, the Pope was off to the port city of Cebu, where the chaplain to Explorer Ferdinand Magellan said the Philippines’ first Mass in 1521. There John Paul was accorded his most thunderous welcome. Cheering, weeping crowds along the route engulfed the papal car. The jubilant procession carried the Pontiff to an airfield, where he celebrated Mass beneath an 80-ft. cross carved from the trunk of a palm. Prominent on the altar, in the Pope’s honor, was a replica of Poland’s omnipresent Black Madonna, constructed of butterfly wings.

There John Paul reaffirmed his stern opposition to priests marrying, divorce, polygamy, abortion and artificial birth control. Filipinos have one of the world’s highest population growth rates (2.6% a year), and the sermon was another rebuke to the Marcos government, which has pressed for family planning and voluntary sterilization.

The most grueling leg of the trip was an island-hop to five cities in the central and southern archipelago. John Paul encountered a notably more subdued reception at Davao, on the island of Mindanao where 60,000 people have died since 1972 in a Muslim insurrection. After a Mass for Catholics, John Paul met 65 Muslim representatives who had come from other parts of Mindanao. He made an eloquent plea for an end to warfare and interreligious discord. The entire world, he said, “needs to see fraternal coexistence between Christians and Muslims in a modern, believing and peaceful Philippine nation.”

Next he was off to Bacolod, a region of sugar plantations and grinding rural poverty, where Communists have been gaining influence. Nearly 200,000 Filipinos were on hand as John Paul declared: ‘The church will not hesitate to take up the cause of the poor and to become the voice of those who are not listened to when they speak up, not for charity but for justice.” He also said it is inadmissible to use the gift of land to serve the few, while “the vast majority are excluded from the benefits the land yields.” But again he warned against political violence and class struggle.

What impact would the Pope’s alternating pleas for social justice and cautions against activism have upon the highly politicized Philippine priests and nuns? Sister Pilar Verzoza, who had opposed the whole idea of the papal visit because it would help Marcos, paused to ponder the Pope’s statements as she made her social welfare rounds in a Manila slum. “We’re certainly not going to be closing our eyes to the injustices around us.” Added her colleague, Sister Christine Tan, “I will study what he says, and then decide whether it is true.”

Whatever the sisters and other activists decide about John Paul’s social stands, none would deny that he had been crystal clear on one issue. Under Marcos, strikes are forbidden and labor unions are government-controlled. Thus it was a final act of outspoken opposition when the Pope strongly upheld the right of workers to organize free trade unions and “guarantee the pursuit of their social welfare.” If the word Solidarity did not cross his lips, Poland and its laborers could not have been far from his thoughts.

—By Richard N. Ostling. Reported by Ross H. Munro and Wilton Wynn/Manila.

The Last Triumph Of Fatima


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By: David Van Biema

Pope John Paul II with Sister Lucia

VATICAN February 29, 2008. It is a Vatican rule: candidates for sainthood wait five years beyond their deaths before the Catholic Church begins its investigation of their “heroic virtue,” the first step toward canonization. Only two figures in recent history have received a fast-track exemption: Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, both of them superstars in the Catholic and wider popular firmament. So, when the Vatican recently added Sister Lucia dos Santos, who died in 2005 at age 97, to this list, many wondered why she had been put in that esteemed company.

The answer is that to the men now running the church, Sister Lucia meant a great deal. She was the longest-lived of three children to whom an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared in 1917 in the Portuguese parish of Fatima. And, as Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone makes clear in his upcoming book, The Last Secret of Fatima (May, Doubleday) she was the key human figure in a drama that eventually transformed the very nature of John Paul II’s image of himself, and of his papacy. Lucia’s superstar days may have waned in the memory of post-Vatican II American Catholics, but for people like Bertone and Pope Benedict XVI, who made the journey with the late John Paul, she remains an important symbol.

The story of Fatima began in 1915, when three shepherd children were first visited by what they thought was an angel. By 1917, a figure who identified herself as the Virgin appeared to them, eventually delivering a message for humankind. The children became a focus of massive interest, and in October of that year, the Virgin’s presence seem to be confirmed for many others when a crowd of 70,000 — mostly Catholics, some skeptics — saw the sun appear to zigzag in the sky as the Virgin again addressed the children. Fatima almost immediately became a global pilgrimage site.

The message delivered there, however, remained a mystery, because the children refused to reveal the content of the vision they had been vouchsafed. Two of them died in childhood during an epidemic; but in 1941, Lucia, the survivor and by then a nun, released a description of the first two “secrets” from the Virgin that made headlines all over the world. One was a vivid vision of Hell; the other was a prediction that World War I would end, but “if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI.” Both would have qualified as prophecy back in 1917. So would an even more topical prediction: that if Russia were not converted to Catholicism, that nation would “spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the church.” From that moment on, Fatima provided mystical expression, and became inextricably entwined, with Catholic anti-communism.

Unlike other famous apparitions of Mary, such as the one at Lourdes, the Fatima message was focused less on holiness than on geopolitics. And in 1952, Lucia sent an even more dramatic “third secret” — rumored among millions of “fatimists” to predict a schism in church or even the world’s end — which she sent to Rome in 1952, where three successive popes remained either indifferent, or ambivalent enough to keep it under wraps.

That changed with the 1981 near-assassination of John Paul II by a Turkish gunman. According to The Last Secret, it was while in the hospital recuperating from a bullet that had improbably bypassed his most vital organs that John Paul first asked to be shown Lucia’s third secret, and in it read these words: “We saw… a Bishop dressed in white,” who reminded the children of “the Holy Father… killed by group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him.”

John Paul, aware of Fatima’s earlier Russia prophecy and already in 1981 deeply engaged in his own fight against world communism, became convinced that he was the Bishop in white in the vision described by Lucia; that Our Lady had prophesied that he would be shot, but had then turned the path of the bullet at the last instant. In 1982, he made the first of several pilgrimages to Fatima. In 1990, he donated the near-fatal bullet to the shrine there, a gesture that sent fatimists into a renewed frenzy of speculation. In April of 2000, he resolved to respond to their curiosity. He sent Cardinal Bertone to visit the by-then 93-year old Lucia at her convent, and confirm John Paul II’s interpretation that he had been the Bishop in her vision — which she did. In May, the pontiff beatified Lucia’s two deceased playmates. And in June he made public the third secret, and had it announced that his hair’s-breadth escape “seems also to be linked” to it.

As Cardinal Bertone’s book helps make clear, the announcement served several purposes. The double beatification and the publication of the third secret endorsed the kind of potent popular piety inspired by Marian apparitions, a trend in popular Catholicism that had gained momentum in the 20th century. But the Vatican response also reined in the flip-side of such enthusiasm: unfettered religious hysteria that can occur when white-hot supernaturalism seems to rupture the staid rhythms of modern institutional religious life.

“Apparitions represent a [necessary] provocation for both theologians and the church,” Giuseppe De Carli, whose interview with Bertone is the core of The Last Secret, told TIME. In the book, Bertone seems relieved that all the Virgin’s prophecies were now safely in the past tense, and could no longer be seen as portending the world’s end: “It’s all quite different from the massive carnage certain fevered brains like to imagine taking place,” he writes. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger must have felt the same. In a “Theological Interpretation” that accompanied the publication of the third secret, he suggested that the Bishop in White could represent many popes, and put John Paul’s personal pet interpretation as a question: “Was it not inevitable that he should see in it his own fate?” Fatima had simultaneously been reaffirmed, and domesticated.

The centrality of Fatima to the second, “suffering servant” stage of John Paul II’s papacy, and his involvement with the two men who would become the Vatican’s numbers one and two after his death, may help explain why Lucia’s cause has been fast-tracked for beatification. Of course, there are other reasons: Fatima still receives 5 million pilgrims a year, and there is no real downside in pleasing them. And since the Vatican had already carefully vetted the circumstances of Fatima to beatify Lucia’s two companions, how much more work need be done to establish the heroic virtue of the third shepherd child?

While the end of the 20th century and the death of Communism may have reduced Sister Lucia’s profile among Western Catholics far below those of Mother Teresa or Pope John Paul, the most powerful men in the Catholic Church remember her significance. In a forward to the The Last Secret, Pope Benedict waxes nostalgic about how he and Bertone had “lived” the chapter “that addresses the publication of the third part of the Secret of Fatima in that memorable time of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.” He ends his thoughts thus: “I invoke upon all who approach the testimony offered in this book, the protection of Our Blessed Lady of Fatima.” Whatever that means to a new generation of Catholics, it undoubtedly remains deeply meaningful to the pontiff.

Reprinted from the archive of TIME, February 29, 2008

Galileo And Other Faithful Scientists


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VATICAN, Monday, December 28, 1992 – Popes rarely apologize. So it was big news in October when John Paul II made a speech vindicating Galileo Galilei. In 1633 the Vatican put the astronomer under house arrest for writing, against church orders, that the earth revolves around the sun. The point of the papal statement was not to concede the obvious fact that Galileo was right about the solar system. Rather, the Pope wanted to restore and honor Galileo’s standing as a good Christian. In the 17th century, said the Pope, theologians failed to distinguish between belief in the Bible and interpretation of it. Galileo contended that the Scriptures cannot err but are often misunderstood. This insight, said John Paul, made the scientist a wiser theologian than his Vatican accusers. More than a millennium before Galileo, St. Augustine had taught that if the Bible seems to conflict with “clear and certain reasoning,” the Scriptures obviously need reinterpretation.

The Pope’s speech was the latest episode in the age-old struggle to reconcile science and religion. The year’s most intriguing book about God was produced not by theologians but by 60 world-class scientists, 24 Nobel prizewinners among them. Cosmos, Bios, Theos gives their thoughts on the Deity and the origin of the universe and of life on earth. For instance, the co- editor, Yale physicist Henry Margenau, concludes that there is “only one convincing answer” for the intricate laws that exist in nature: creation by an omnipotent, omniscient God. While many scientists are skeptics or are still seeking their own theologies, others are true believers — not just in some mysterious cosmic force but in the God of the Bible or the Koran.

Religious leaders generally value scientists, whether believers or not, for their curious bent and careful explorations of the mechanisms behind the Almighty’s work. Though determined Fundamentalists adhere to creationism, most Christian denominations no longer demand strictly literal interpretation of – the Genesis creation account. Catholicism encourages pursuit of scientific knowledge but opposes certain applications, from artificial contraceptives to human genetic engineering.

Some scholars bridge the gap between religion and science in the mode of Gregor Mendel, the 19th century Austrian monk who discovered basic laws of heredity. Stanley Jaki of New Jersey’s Seton Hall University is both priest and physicist. He believes that science can describe the Big Bang beginning of the universe but is incapable of fathoming the ultimate origins of matter and energy, which will always come under the realm of religion. George Coyne, a Jesuit astrophysicist who directs the Vatican Observatory, warns against reducing science to religion, or vice versa. For instance, when the Big Bang theory was brand new, Pope Pius XII wrote that “scientists are beginning to find the finger of God in the creation of the universe.” Coyne thinks the Pope was wrong to “take a scientific conclusion and interpret it in favor of supporting a theological doctrine.” Working scientists “don’t need God for our scientific understanding of the universe,” he says, because “we don’t pretend to have all the ultimate answers.”

Judaism has been a fertile breeding ground for scientists, many of whom have no difficulty squaring their work and their faith. In his 1990 book Genesis and the Big Bang, Israeli nuclear physicist Gerald L. Schroeder argues in detail that there is no contradiction between the Bible’s account of creation and current science. Schroeder also notes that the Ramban, the great medieval commentator on Scripture, had the remarkably modern insight that at the moment after creation, all the matter in the universe must have been concentrated in a tiny speck.

Though Islam has factions hostile to science, it has spawned quite a few of its own researchers. Mustafa Mahmoud, an Egyptian physician, is host of the TV show Science and Religion and operates an education-and-research complex built around a mosque. In Islam, properly understood, Mahmoud contends, “if a believer ignores science and knowledge, he is not a true believer.” Sounding like St. Augustine, Mahmoud says that “God, the creator of the universe, can never be against learning the laws of what he has created.”

But he might get a strong argument from America’s Protestant creationists, who still insist that life on earth was created about 10,000 years ago and that a Flood engulfed the entire planet. In recent decades, creationists promoted their own brand of science and even persuaded a few state legislatures to decree that schools give Fundamentalist theories equal time with Darwin’s evolution. Those laws were eventually struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Opposing the creationists is a group of devout, mostly Protestant scientists who are also conservative but willing to consider evidence for evolution. They are organized into the American Scientific Affiliation, based in Ipswich, Massachusetts, which counts nearly 1,000 Ph.D.s among its members. The A.S.A. has distributed 100,000 copies of a booklet urging schoolteachers to be aware of the unanswered scientific questions about Darwinism and to avoid slipping in the unwarranted assumption that evolution in effect displaces God. A.S.A. executive director Robert Herrmann, a biochemist, advises fellow Bible believers to remain open to “evolution as the process the Creator may have used to bring life and mind into being.”

For Harvard astrophysicist Owen Gingerich, an Evangelical Protestant, the real choice is not “creation or evolution” at all, but “purpose or accident.” Like millions of ordinary folk, he says, “I passionately believe in a universe with purpose, though I cannot prove it.” Purpose, like origin, is a point where the wisdom of empirical science ends and the quest for religious faith begins.

By Richard N. Ostling, John Moody (TIME Correspondent ROME and Amany Radwan (TIME Correspondent Cairo)